It was a bright summer's day in the small fishing village along the Jade Lake. The sun was high in the sky, the cloud bare of all clouds save the prettiest, poofiest white ones here and there, and the breeze was just enough to keep it from being too hot. The children running down the streets and playing made it clear that school was certainly out for summer. It really was the most beautiful day of the summer thus far… but for one small girl, it felt like there was a constant ice storm hovering around her head, and her heart.
A small girl of seven was being escorted by an older man in a business suit. They had just stepped from a car, another man going to the trunk to grab a few bags. The girl was dressed in simple shoes, a skirt, and a t-shirt, all in a bright shade of pink that she didn't feel inside. She tightly clutched a stuffed doll to her chest, a bunny that had quite a bit of wear and tear to it from plenty of playing, but with plenty of stitching to keep it together for more. Her eyes were on the ground as she was led up the walkway of a large three-story building, the sign above it identifying it as Jade River Orphanage.
A woman stood at the doorway, a friendly smile on her face as she looked at the young girl, although there was a sadness in her eyes to betray her real feelings. It was never a happy thing when children had to come here, all it meant was that they didn't have anyone else.
Still, the woman, Ms. Neon, tried to look as friendly as possible, wearing a simple dress as she approached the older man first, shaking his hand and thanking him, telling him where he and the younger man could take the girl's bags. As they moved past her, the woman knelt down, putting herself on the little girl's level as she softly said, "Hello there honey." The little girl's eyes didn't raise to look at her, simply holding her bunny and looking down, orange bangs hiding her face from view.
Ms. Neon frowned some at the lack of response, but it wasn't in frustration, but in sympathy. She took a breath, replacing it with her warming smile as she said, "My name is Ms. Neon… I heard your name is 'Nora Valkyrie', right?"
The young girl still said nothing, but Ms. Neon pressed on, her voice soothing as she said, "That's a very pretty name you know… may I please call you 'Nora'?" Finally, a nod, even if it was a really small one. Smiling a bit wider, she said, "Well, Nora, I know that this isn't like what you had before, but I do hope you'll be happy here. C'mon, I'll show you to your room, okay?"
Standing up, Ms. Neon held her hand out to the girl. It seemed like Nora wasn't going to take it, Ms. Neon nearly lowering her hand, but at the last second the small hand found her own. 'Strong grip,' she thought to herself as she walked with the little girl into what would become her new home, along with many other children who had lost their families.
Nora held onto the nice lady's hand tight. The old guys in the suits hadn't tried to hold her hand… no one had since before her parents left on their trip. She gulped, shaking her head a bit to clear that thought away, peering up through her orange bangs to look around.
The building was as large as a mansion, or a small apartment complex. It definitely wasn't like the orphanages in the movies, all dirty and stuff with mean ugly people yelling at the kids in between songs. Ms. Neon definitely didn't seem like the kind of lady who would do that, and she wasn't ugly or mean. She didn't see any kids, but she could hear them playing outside and in a few of the rooms around her.
Ms. Neon led her to a room, smiling warmly as she said, "You're actually in luck. We have an odd number of kids in your age range, so you can have a room all to yourself." Nora looked down some, frowning as she thought about being all alone. Ms. Neon couldn't see her face, but could sense the uneasiness from the little girl, quickly adding, "But don't worry. The room you'll be in is actually just two doors down from mine. If you ever need anything, day or night, you just need to come over and knock, okay, Nora?"
Nora gave a small nod at the question. It didn't take long to get to her room, the two old guys were waiting outside of it and the door was open. She peeked in while Ms. Neon and the two old guys started talking about something, looking at her new room. It looked a bit bigger than her old one, even though it had a bunk bed instead of a regular bed. It looked like there was a closet and a desk too. It had a few toys and fashion accessories laying around on the floor. Her stuff had been put on the lower bed's mattress.
She heard Ms. Neon sigh in frustration and looked up to her, wondering if she'd done something wrong, but Ms. Neon was looking at the stuff on the floor, saying, "Da- ahem, darn it. I'm sorry Nora, it looks like some of the other girls got in here and used it to hang out in. Listen, go ahead and have a seat, okay? I need to talk with these gentlemen about a few things, then I'll be right back to clean this mess up for you and help you unpack, okay?" Nora nodded, taking her bunny over to the bed and sat down next to her stuff. Ms. Neon smiled, giving a little wave before she left with the old guys.
Nora sat on the bed, just holding her bunny. The room really was nice, probably nicer than her old one… but she wanted to go back to her old room. Tears began to run down her cheeks, the young girl beginning to softly cry. She wanted her old room in her old house, and she wanted to be back with her old parents. She wanted to hear her parents call her princess again, and play pretend that her room was a castle and that they were the queen and king… she wanted to go home.
A voice, older than her own, caused Nora to let out a gasp of surprise, the grating tone of an older girl asking, "What are you doing in here?!" Looking up, she saw that the girl was either a teen or close to being one. She was tall, sporting long, pretty blonde hair and wearing a very nice dress.
There were two other girls behind her, both not quite as pretty, but still pretty compared to the blonde and wearing clothes similar in standard. The blonde girl sneered at Nora, causing her to quickly look down, wiping at her eyes as she said, "Oh, guess they finally found a crybaby to be in here."
Nora winced at being called a crybaby, feeling more tears threatening to fall while the blonde's friends laughed in a nasty way. The blonde smiled, walking over to stand in front of Nora, the orange-haired girl holding her bunny tighter, keeping her gaze down. Blondie looked from Nora to the bunny she was holding, grinning wickedly as she said, "Ooh, nice bunny… I think it would look even better… in the trash!"
With that, Blondie reached down, snatching it from Nora's grip. Nora gasped, looking up at the girl, holding it much too high to reach while the other two girls laughed loudly. Blondie sneered at her, asking, "What're you gonna do about it, crybaby?" Tears came to Nora's eyes as she stared at this horrible, mean girl, the laughter of the three like nails on a chalkboard… then the little girl's gaze narrowed into a glare and she balled her tiny hands into fists.
Ms. Neon sighed as she finished signing the last of the paperwork, handing it over to the older gentleman, saying, "Alright, there it is. Hope you have a safe drive, Mr. Green." Mr. Green nodded politely before he left, the other man giving a polite nod before following after.
Getting up from her desk, she made her way out into the hall, just in time for one of the boys to come running. He was panting, quickly saying, "Ms. Neon, Ms. Neon!"
She smiled, asking, "Yes Zinc, how can I help you? Did Phos get his hand stuck in something
Zinc shook his head quickly, saying, "No, it's Honey, you said you wanted to know when she got back?"
Ms. Neon frowned, sighing in frustration. Honey had been grounded for bullying one of the other children… again. Ms. Neon loved the children as if they were her own, she really did. Everyone of them she loved and treated like her own… but Honey was such a little bitch! She hated to think of her like that, and she'd never voice it, but she was. She took a soothing breath, asking, "Thank you for letting me know. Did you see where she was going?"
Zinc nodded, pointing towards the young children's rooms, saying, "Down there, to the empty room with Fuschia and Verty."
Ms. Neon's eyes went wide in fear, terrified about how awful Honey would be to Nora, saying, "Oh fu-… f-fudge." She blushed at her near potty mouth, Zinc just tilting his head in curiosity. She quickly went past him, saying, "Thank you Zinc, go play now, okay," as she ran as quickly as her heels would allow towards the bedrooms.
She was nearly there when she heard a scream of… pain? Fear? It was hard to tell, but she could tell it came from Nora's room. The few children who were still in the home began peeking out their doors while Ms. Neon picked up the pace. She turned the corner for the hall and was nearly knocked over by Honey's cronies, the two looking afraid.
Ms. Neon could still hear shouting and crying from Nora's room over the two girls babbling, "Ms. Neon, she's crazy-" "Nuts!" "Just attacked for no reason!"
Ms. Neon felt more confused than ever, confusion that only grew as she finally saw Honey come out of Nora's room in a stumbling run. Her hair and clothes were a mess and she was crying hard, her lip cut as she quickly ran behind Ms. Neon. That was when Nora came into view. Her own clothes were a bit more messy than they were before, as was her orange hair.
She was crying as well, but she didn't look hurt, her bunny held in one hand as she shouted, "THAT'S RIGHT, YOU BETTER RUN! I am not a crybaby, I am a princess, and this is my castle, you bully! No one touches Maggie, no one! If you come back, I'm gonna kick you in the butt!"
Ms. Neon had a hand covering her mouth, her eyes wide, seemingly in shock. All three girls instantly began babbling, wanting her to kick the girl outside, Honey complaining about her cut lip, etc. Ms. Neon's mind was on a one track thought though, 'Don't laugh, don't laugh, don't laugh,' her hand covering the biggest smile instead of a shocked expression. It was wrong that Nora had fought, that was true… but she'd be lying if she didn't think Honey deserved it. She took a breath, doing her best not to burst into laughter on the exhale before lowering her hand.
Looking to the troublesome trio, she said, "You three, go. I will handle this. Take Honey to the bathroom and help her bandage that cut." Ms. Neon turned away from the three older girls, the three making a rapid exit with much sniffling and sobbing from Honey, too much to be totally genuine, and started walking towards Nora.
The little girl was still breathing hard, though she was looking less angry and more of a mix between embarrassed and afraid. Clutching the bunny, which Ms. Neon supposed was the 'Maggie' in question, she turned and ran back into her room, though she didn't close the door. Ms. Neon sighed softly, heading into the room.
Nora wasn't in sight, but she could hear a soft sniffling coming from under the bunk beds. Nodding to herself, she slowly walked over to the bed, sitting down on the mattress. She didn't say anything for a few seconds, just listening to Nora's soft sniffling, giving her a moment to calm down. Once the moment was past though, she softly asked, "Would you like to tell me what happened, Nora?"
There wasn't a reply at first, but Ms. Neon simply waited, giving Nora time. Finally, Nora said, "She was being mean… and she tried to take Maggie… She was gonna throw her in the trash… she made me really mad… I'm sorry."
Ms. Neon nodded, smiling slightly before saying, "Nora, it's alright. You shouldn't have hit her, but she definitely shouldn't have taken Maggie from you. I'll be sure to talk to her about that, and make sure she apologizes to you, but I'll need you to apologize to her as well, okay?" There was just a sniffling from beneath the bed, so she went on, "If she ever does anything like this again, you come get me right away, okay? I'll handle it. Violence isn't the right way to deal with people like Honey, and I'm sure you'll feel better after apologizing."
There was a soft 'okay' from beneath the bed, Ms. Neon nodding before she got up and began to gather the things in the room, apparently Honey's and her friend's possessions. As she gathered them, she saw Nora's hand peek out as she pushed things out from under the bed, Ms. Neon smiling and saying, "Thank you very much, Nora," before gathering those as well. She gathered them outside of the room in a pile to take care of later.
With that done, she went to kneel next to the bed, asking, "Want to come out so I can help set your room up the way you want?" Her smile turned to one of amusement as she added, "Besides, the castle dungeon is the last place a princess should be, right?"
There was a faint giggle from below the bed before Nora said, "Yeah." She began to crawl out, Ms. Neon giving her a hand. Her clothes were dusty and still mussed from the fight with more dust on her face, sticking thanks to her tear-streaked cheeks.
Ms. Neon smiled warmly, pulling out a cloth from her pocket as she began to wipe her face clean, saying, "Quite the messy princess, aren't you? We'll get you cleaned up before lunch, alright sweetie?"
Nora frowned, looking down while her eyes began to tear up once again as she softly said, "My mommy called me that."
Ms. Neon felt a pang of pain in her heart at Nora's sadness, staring at her for a second before gently pulling her into a hug, one the little girl quickly, and strongly returned. She couldn't hear her, but she could feel wetness on her shoulder as Nora began to cry again, Ms. Neon reaching up to gently stroke her hair, her voice gently soothing as she said, "It's okay Nora… it's alright to cry. Don't worry sweetie, I'm here for you."
About half an hour later and Nora's things were unpacked, she was freshly finished with a bubble bath, and in a nice, clean set of clothes, another pink skirt, shirt, and socks. She held Maggie to her chest with one hand, the other holding Ms. Neon's as she was led to the second floor. She was frowning some, but not in sadness.
Instead, it was the frown of a child who was about to do something she didn't want to do. Ms. Neon led her to a door, the older woman knocking upon it, calling within, "Honey, open the door." Her tone was stern, as was her expression, but it very nearly cracked into one of amusement as the door was opened. Honey's hair and makeup was once again flawless, her 'friends' in the room behind her, but the blonde's lip was fairly swollen, a bandage over the cut. Honey looked from Ms. Neon down to Nora, her eyes widening some as she took a step back from the little pink-clad girl that was nearly half her age.
Ms. Neon brought her hand to her mouth, pretending to cough in order to hide a smile, thinking, 'Not so high and mighty anymore, are you dear?' She felt a little guilty for thinking that way about one of her children… but only a little. Lowering her hand, she said, "Honey, Nora here is here to apologize for hitting you like she did."
She saw a look of triumph in those blue eyes, and the smirk. Honey opened her mouth, probably to say something snarky, but Ms. Neon cut her off, saying, "She's also here for you to apologize to her for trying to take her bunny."
Honey rolled her eyes, letting out a lough sigh, as if having to apologize was the most trying thing she'd ever been asked to do, drawing a reproachful frown from Ms. Neon. She didn't even look at Nora as she said, "Fine, sorry for trying to take your stupid little bunny."
Ms. Neon's anger came to the surface as she nearly shouted, "Honey!"
Nora frowned, looking down before looking back up to Honey, a smile that looked sweet, but didn't match the challenging nature of her gaze as she said, "It's alright. I'm sorry for kicking your butt as if it was nothing." Both Ms. Neon and Honey blinked in surprise at Nora, Honey glaring at her while Ms. Nora once again was struggling not to laugh.
Nora let out a happy little sigh, saying, "Wow, you were right Ms. Neon, I feel a lot better!" A faint 'snrrk' came from Ms. Neon, her free hand flying to her mouth to keep it from turning into full-blown laughter, Honey glaring at the older woman while Nora looked Ms. Neon sweetly, asking, "Is it okay if I go outside?"
Ms. Neon had to keep her hand over her mouth to hide her smile, though there was the ghost of laughter in her voice as she said, "Sure sweetie, just don't leave the front yard, okay? I don't want you getting lost." Nora nodded, giving her hand another little squeeze before she skipped to the stairway. Ms. Neon could practically feel Honey's anger and annoyance radiating off of her, only making it harder to keep from laughing. It took a few breaths, but she finally calmed down, turning to look at the angry teen, saying, "You need to go down and get the things you had in Nora's room. I left them just outside her door. Oh, also, you're grounded for two more weeks."
Honey snapped, shouting, "What?! You didn't ground that little pink monster, why am I grounded when she hit me!?"
Ms. Neon frowned, saying, "I'm not grounding you for the fight, you're both at fault for that. I'm grounding one extra week for sneaking out when you're already grounded. The other extra week is for sneaking into an empty room and using it as a club house. If a room is empty, it's not to be used, you know that."
Honey groan of annoyed anger, saying, "Guh, you are the worst!" With that, the little girl slammed the door in Ms. Neon's face.
Ms. Neon frowned at that, rolling her own eyes as she left, hearing the three start bickering, Honey's voice being the loudest. She smiled though, making a mental note to make sure Honey was on dirty dishes for a week for her behavior.
(Shout out to Challos on Reddit, where I'm known as Graxdon, for his mad editing skills on this chapter!)