Go to Chapter Two
Elise Ryan was wearing a black dress with thin straps and Go Eun-Ji was wearing a dress too. A greenish one that reminded Nel of that horrible sweater. Eun-Ji also had a bow in her hair, causing Nel to figure that she had totally missed something.
“What are you guys dressed up for?” Nel asked as she joined them at their usual table.
They looked at her like she had forgotten something obvious. “It's a Free Day, silly. We're allowed to leave the school all day long!”
Nel had completely forgotten. Normally the “students” (or inmates) were allowed to leave for specific reasons and for limited time. Yes, they were nearly adults but they were supposed to be monitored because of their power. Until they reached eighteen, and they were all close.
“They even gave us cell phones.” Eun-Ji said, waving hers. “I finally get to see what it feels like to be really normal.”
It wasn't the first Free Day, Nel thought. Sometimes Eun-Ji said things that seemed odd for such a brainy person. This time was different though, they would be allowed to keep the cell phones for good and they would get every Saturday as a Free Day starting next week. Plus the pocket money.
“I have no doubt they are tracing these phones.” Eun-Ji told them, “But I guess we have to put up with some stuff like that.”
After Nel went to the administrative office to get her own phone and pocket money, she rejoined Elise and Eun-Ji near the main entrance.
“A hundred bucks won't go far.” Nel told them.
Elise Ryan laughed, “I didn't need their money. I have plenty of my own, and today is shopping day!”
As soon as they were outside of the main gate and standing on the sidewalk they all paused to look around. “Where should we go?” Nel asked.
“I checked online, and all the best stores are this way!” Elise told them and started walking. Nel shrugged and followed along with Eun-Ji. Sure enough they quickly came to a string of shops with display windows.
“This seems rather old-fashion.” Eun-Ji said, “We can order anything on the internet.”
Elise gave her a weird look. “Seeing it in person is much better than seeing it on the internet, plus we can try some of them on. Maybe I should buy something for Kareem.”
Elise entered the shop first and Nel happened to glance across the street. Norm was standing there watching her again. She quickly followed her friends into the shop. The guy was going out of his way to try and creep her out. It was like some overacted movie, but she was creeped out nonetheless.
The more Nel thought about it, Norms' power was similar to the one Elise had. Although she had never seen Elise try and use her full strength. Even at the demo she had been measured, when she used her mind to make a large wooden table rise up into the air and then break in two.
“Don't even think about trying to get me in a dress.” Nel told Elise and Eun-Ji who were conspiring over some flower-pattern sun dresses.
“It's really modest, Nel.” Elise tried to coax her. “We've never seen you dressed up before.”
“Yeah, today is the perfect day to dress up. We can get our hair done together and stuff.” Eun-Ji chimed in. These two were partners in crime.
“I don't have that much hair.” Nel told them, although it had grown almost to her shoulders since she came to the Adama Boarding House.
“Just once, we'd like to see you get prettied up.” Elise said, putting an arm around Nels' shoulders.
“Prettied up? Do people still talk like that?”
Nel had originally planned to lose these two and make a break for the ballpark where there was supposed to be a noon game. After seeing Norm stalking her again, she thought it would be better to stay with her friends.
“The dress really is more modest than my clothes.” Nel said about her short sleeved t-shirt and shorts, looking down at what she was wearing. “I forgot to wear my denim jacket.”
A couple of hours later she had Else and Eun-Ji fawning over her. Nel tried to play along as best she could but the dress, the shoes (“You can't wear sneakers with the dress!”-Elise) and then the makeup (“Just a little, it'll be natural-looking I promise!”-Elise) and a bow in her hair (Eun-Ji, of course), was starting to make her feel strange.
“Don't you feel like a girl, now?” Eun-Ji asked, as they crowded her sitting at an outdoor table in front of a coffee shop, sipping on something Elise had ordered. Nel wanted to avoid their looks but looking at the colorful fingernails holding her cup also made her annoyed.
“Feels airy down there now?” Elise asked,
“Well.” Nel said.
“You didn't wear boxers?” Elise asked.
“Earrings!” Eun-Ji said, “She needs some.”
“No!” Nel said, putting her hands over her ears. “I don't want holes in my ears.”
Elise looked shocked, “They're not even pierced? I was three when mine were pierced!”
At one point they stopped for a snow-cone and Elise handed her purse to Nel. Eun-Ji took a picture on the cell-phone. “Now we have proof.”
“Not funny.” Nel told them, scowling at little Eun-Ji. Suddenly she noticed Norm a ways off, near a pole at the corner that held up a traffic signal. The creep was following them or something. Nel turned and got closer got her friends near the snow cone stand. “Cherry!” she told them.
Now Nel looked around a lot, trying to be on guard against the menace.
“I can't believe you have spent so much.” Eun-Ji told Elise, “Four hundred dollars is a lot of money.”
“How do you know how much I spent?” Elise asked and then shook her head. “Never mind. I keep forgetting you have a brain like a super-computer.”
“Anybody want to ride a roller coaster?” Nel asked.
“We just had our hair done.” Elise told her, “Don't be silly.”
Nel wasn't going to be able to see her team play the Yankees this day either. She would be safe in a crowd, right?
“Maybe we could get a massage before we go back?” Elise asked. Eun-Ji was excited. Nel didn't know if that was something she'd like but if it got them off the public sidewalk for a while, it was worth it.
They were walking and then suddenly there were arms around them.
“You girls look so good!” Randy the clown said, pretending to give Eun-Ji a smooch on the cheek while back hugging her. She blushed.
“Yes, I think we could all be on a triple date!” Rocky said with him arms around the waist of Elise, who didn't seem to mind it.
“Maybe a movie, in a really dark theater.” Marcus said into her ear, hanging onto Nel. His arms had wrapped her arms and body together, like some kind of wrestling move. She noticed that the arms of Elise and Eun-Ji were free.
“Let me guess.” Elise said, smirking “There's some action movie at the theater you want to see and it'd be embarrassing to go without girls. Am I right?”
“It's Jacks 3 with Hark Rodding!” Randy told them. “It's supposed to be pretty good.”
Actually Nel had wanted to see that eventually. Not that she would admitted it.
“I don't like to have my arms retrained, Marcus.” Nel told him. He pulled her back against his own body and whispered, “I'll protect you.”
“Marcus!” Nel aid, struggling to get free. He laughed and loosened his hold on her. Finally it was just an arm draped over her shoulder.
“Seriously, though. It wouldn't hurt you to go to a movie with us.” Marcus told them.
Elise and Eun-Ji wavered. Actually they seem to waver on Nel's account. She suddenly felt more affinity for them as friends. Then she saw Norm hanging back, watching the scene unfold. His face had looked neutral all day, but now he looked angry.
“I wouldn't mind seeing a movie.” Nel told them.
Elise looked at Marcus. “What did you do?”
“Nothing!” He answered, looking bewildered and holding his arms in the air.
“Seriously, I like those sorts of films.” Nel added. She would feel much safer with Marcus there with Norm hanging around.
“I guess so.” Elise answered, sounding confused.
“Okay by me.” Eun-Ji said, sheepishly grinning at the red-haired Randy. He looked like a giant next to her, but whatever.
Nel grabbed Marcus by the hand, “Let's go. And watch where you put your hands!”
She spent the whole movie expecting something bad to happen. She had a feeling that Norm was probably right there in the theater with them. Fortunately Marcus and Rocky were too much into the movie to try anything. Elise looked very bored, but Eun-Ji and Randy were getting along like old friends. Weird.
The movie had an unexpected twist ending. The villain was the girl posing as the victim. The star had been trying to protect the person who was sending all the bad guys after him. She was right there with him the whole time. Oh and she was a PME.
“That's messed up.” Rocky pointed out, “Why are we always the bad guys?”
“Maybe we should demand our money back.” Randy said, but Eun-Ji squeezed his cheek playfully and said “It'd be better not to advertise ourselves.”
So they left the theater before the final scene, which was going to be predictable. The six of them stood there awkwardly for a moment.
“I think we should just walk back together.” Nel advised, still wary abut Norm. No way that idiot would attack her with all of the rest of them around. He wouldn't stand a chance.
Finally back in her room she took off the dress and threw it on the bed along with the bag containing her normal clothes. Nel was glad to get those shoes off, even low-heels were uncomfortable, she didn't know how Elise managed in her real heels.
Nel was cleaning the makeup off of her face in the tiny bathroom when she got the chills again. She stood up straight and looked at herself in the mirror. The bathroom door had been left open and she could see Norm holding and looking at the dress.
“You looked real nice, today.” He told her.
“How did you get in here?”
“Ordinary locks are easy to open.” Norm explained. “It's hard to keep secrets around here.”
She turned around to look at him directly but stayed in the bathroom. “What secrets?”
“You and Marcus. I guess it makes sense, with his powers he can seduce a statue. You aren't quite as cold as that.” Norm said with a sneer, putting the dress back down. “I'll either have to take care of Marcus or wait until he's graduated, I guess.”
Marcus was a few months older. He would be out of here before her and Norm. Nel started shivering with the chills. Norm simply opened the door and walked out of her room.
Bad things were going to happen. Very bad things.