Disclaimer: Sonic The Hedgehog and all related characters are titles are trademarks of Sonic Team/SEGA and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only.' My Life: Anything But Ordinary' is © 2003-2011 to Hamato Kameko. Ki The Echidna is © 2003-2011 to Hamato Kameko.
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence, and mild gore.
My Life: Anything But Ordinary
Chapter XII: Comfort from an Unexpected Source
"All right, Chris, see you after school!" Kianna waved to her cousin and then crossed the street to the high school. Looking up the steps, devoid of students at a quarter to nine, she sighed and resigned herself to her fate.
It was the third time this week alone that she and Chris had been late to school. Grandpa understood, of course, and so did Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Norman, so there were no concerns of reprimands from them.
Unfortunately, the teachers and administrators were unaware of the activities that occupied so much of their free time. They certainly didn't know that Sonic the Hedgehog himself was living with them.
And so, the teachers were unhappy with the fact that Ki was falling behind her normal grades in her first period geography class. Not that she really cared about geography anyway—heck, she was even making an '85'—but it was a required class, and her repeated tardiness was becoming a real issue.
Ki wondered, as she pushed through the glass doors, if she should simply go straight to the principal's office instead of her class. Cut out the middleman, so to speak. Then again, if she was lucky, maybe she could sneak to class unnoticed—Coach Farwell routinely fell asleep during first period.
"Miss Thorndyke. Late again, I see."
Ki's shoulders slumped as Mr. Reffington, the vice principal, dropped a plump hand on her shoulder.
"Good morning, Mr. Reffington," she muttered.
"I think you'd best stop by Mr. Young's office before going to class."
The teenager didn't bother to argue. She adjusted her backpack and turned around, entered the principal's secretary's office, and dropped wearily onto the hard wooden bench that stood along the wall.
"Back again, Kianna?"
"No, I'm just a figment of your imagination," Ki snapped. The secretary ignored her attitude; she was used to it in her profession.
"What a surprise." She went back to her keyboard.
Ki dug through her backpack and came up with a math paper and pencil. She rushed through the assignment she'd failed to get to the night before, and by the time the principal turned up a good thirty minutes later, she had finished it and skimmed the important stuff from the two chapters she'd been assigned to read in her history text.
If nothing else, these 'breaks' in the principal's office at least let her get her homework done.
"Miss Thorndyke. My office, please."
Ki stuffed her belongings back into her bag and walked past the secretary's desk and through the door behind it.
"Y'know, I wouldn't be nearly as late if ya'll'd let me go straight to class. I'm absent for first period, now."
"You wouldn't be late at all if you'd stop slacking off."
"I'm on the A/B honor roll; I'd hardly call that 'slacking off.' So I miss part of geography sometimes, big deal. I'm making a B." And helping save the world in my free time... she grumbled inwardly.
"Your grades aren't the issue, young lady, and you had better lose that attitude before I call your grandfather."
"Go right ahead; he knows I'm late and he's okay with it. Heck, he drove us to school."
"Then perhaps I should interrupt your Aunt and Uncle at work, hmm? I'm sure they'd appreciate that."
Ki didn't even bother to try to correct her accent. She was just too ticked off to care. "Be my guest, if you can get through to 'em. Aunt Lindsay's filmin' on location in Africa an' Uncle Norman's always in meetin's until at least noon. An' they know about mine an' Chris's bein' late, too. Long as we keep our grades up, they ain't worried about it."
"'Ain't' is not a word, and as I've already said, your grades aren't the issue, here. Your consistent tardiness is disruptive, you're missing lessons, and—"
"An' my grades are among the best in the school. An' 'ain't' is so a word—it's in the dictionary. Look it up."
"That's it!" The principal snapped, and Ki cringed; she'd pushed to far. "One hour detention this afternoon, and tomorrow as well."
Ki stared at him. "Two days? But—"
"Care to go for three?"
She slumped back in her chair, glaring at him. "No, sir." She sighed. Tails was supposed to start giving her piloting lessons today... "Any way I could serve some of it during lunch? I have... stuff I have to do after school."
"This is meant to be a punishment. It wouldn't be punishment if it was convenient for you."
"One more word and you get another day."
Kianna closed her mouth, but continued to glare as the principal continued.
"Additionally, I will be sending a letter home to your grandfather, and just to make sure, I'll be sending one to both your aunt and uncle, as well. Though I suppose they can only do so much to control you." He muttered more to himself than to her as he shuffled the papers on his desk. he seemed to have forgotten she was even in the room. "Teenagers today... Seem to think they know everything, even though they're just heading themselves straight to the welfare line. Or prison... Well, Ernest, you can't save them all, can you?"
Ki gawked at him. "What the h—" she just barely managed to catch herself before winning a few more days of detention. "What is that s'posed t'mean?"
The principal sighed in a dramatic, exasperated way. "Never mind. You get yourself to class, and hurry it up. I'm done with you."
Ki couldn't stop staring at him. How dare he make a comment like that, and right in front of her? He was supposed to be a mentor, someone that kids could trust, someone who guided kids through their teenage years! And now he'd made it clear that despite his constant harassment, he's written her off? What the hell?
"What are you staring at? I told you to get to class. Now go, before I give you more detention!"
Ki didn't remember getting up, but suddenly she was walking down the hall to her second period class, grumbling at the tile floor.
"Where's he get off, anyway, talkin' t'me like that? Yeah, I'm sure he was a perfect student in his day, too... walked t'school uphill both ways in the snow, no doubt, and barefoot... Someone oughta report him to... well, whatever you report this kinda thing to. Jackass. God, I wonder if Sonic realizes how good he's got it... Sure, he's gotta save the world and stuff, but at least he don't have to put up with this bullshit. Anyone tried to talk to him like that, he'd probably just say somethin' smartass and run off. Wish I could just run off..."
With a heavy sigh, Ki reached out and turned the doorknob to her second period algebra class. Not bothering to look up, she shuffled over to a desk along the back wall and slumped into the seat, pulling her book out of her bag as she did so.
When she finally looked up, she discovered that everybody was staring at her. Odd, they never bothered to pay attention when she'd been late before. Narrowing her eyes, she snarled, "What're ya'll lookin' at? Mind yer own bus'ness!"
Well, she hadn't been popular in the first place. She envied her cousin; he was friends with everybody. She, on the other hand, didn't have a friend in the school: she was either taunted and bullied or ignored entirely. It seemed to be her lot in life, socially—she'd never been very popular, at any of the dozen-plus schools she'd attended. She apparently lacked the necessary social skills. The class turned back around to face the teacher, presumably to gauge his reaction. Satisfied, Ki looked back down at her book and pulled out her homework.
"Nice of you to join us, Miss... well, well, well, who have we here?"
Kianna nearly jumped out of her skin when the teacher addressed her; Mr. Joraden never gave her the time of day but to tell her to be quiet, and anyway, this voice didn't belong to him. This voice was different. Not the tired and jaded, two years from retirement fifty-something year old man with the droll, monotone voice.
No, this voice was different entirely. Younger, much younger. A very much alive sound, one that could easily command the attention of anyone it wished. Smooth as silk. No, 'greasy' was a better word. Greasy and threatening, calculated and cruel, sarcastic and sly. It could be any of these things, and more.
And it was familiar. She knew this voice. Knew it all too well.
The blood draining from her face, Ki pressed her hands against the desktop to stop the shaking that had abruptly beset them. It couldn't be him. It just couldn't. Not here. Not in her new life. It just couldn't be. It wasn't fair!
With wide eyes, and unable to hide her horror, she slowly looked up, swallowing in an attempt to relieve the sudden dryness in her throat.
"B-But... how... Wh-What are you doing here?"
The addressed smiled at her as he recapped his dry erase marker. But the smile wasn't one of happiness, no. In fact, she'd grown to recognize this expression. A dark sort of pleasure, the kind that came from making other people suffer. She'd seen it frequently on the face of another: Eggman.
The man shrugged, a not-so-innocent gesture. "I got an offer, and the pay's better out here. Mr. Joraden has apparently decided to retire a bit early. Can't say I blame him, if he's got students like you to put up with." The smile widened. Ki blushed, feeling the eyes of every student in the room bore into her. "But what are the odds that I'd have you as a student again? Hmm, small world, isn't it? So, how are you doing? How're those parents of yours—Oh! That's right. I'm so sorry." His tone made it clear he was anything but. "I forgot. Silly me. I forgot, everyone's supposed to overlook it when you do something wrong, because it's not your fault. After all, what else can we expect from an..."
Ki shook her head in mute protest. 'Please don't say it, please don't say it; please, please, don't do this to me!'
She tried to glare at him, but she couldn't. She was in too much shock. No, Coach Freeman didn't belong here. Not in her new life. No, it wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. She shouldn't have to sit through an hour of his taunts every day. It wasn't right. She'd escaped that life, escaped him. No. No, no, no!
The class oooh'ed at her defiance, then swiveled their heads to watch the teacher's reaction. Coach Freeman, for his part, stalked down the middle aisle to her desk. Ki shrunk back against the wall as the coach slapped his hands on her desktop and leaned over her, until his nose was only inches from hers. She struggled to stay in control of her emotions, when all she wanted to do was shove him away and throw the desk at him. The coach's smile had vanished, and he glared at her threateningly.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I-I said, 'shut up.' Just leave me alone. I haven't done anything."
"You were late."
"I was in the principal's office. Call him and ask him yourself."
"I thought you said you hadn't done anything. Why were you in the principal's office? Trying to make him feel sorry for 'Little Orphan Ki-Annie?" The class snickered and that damnable smile returned to the coach's face. Ki felt her own face growing hot again, until it was all but unbearable. She'd hoped she'd never have to hear that nickname again, but thanks to Coach Freeman, the whole school would likely be calling her by it within a day.
"N-No, I was just late to first period!"
"Oh, you were just late. I see. Can't get dressed without Mommy and Daddy's help?"
"It has nothing to do with my parents!"
"Oh, come now, you don't have to be brave for us, does she class?" More snickers. "Poor little Ki-Annie. It's so sad, really. No parents. All alone in the world."
"That's not true!"
"Oh? Tell me, you really think these relatives of yours took you in because they wanted you? It doesn't work that way. They took you in for the same reason the rest did; they feel sorry for the ickle wittle orphan."
"They do too want me! They love me!" Ki blinked back tears; she knew they loved her, never doubted it, but the words still hurt. Because they had been true, so many times in the past. But they weren't true now. They weren't. ...Were they? No! Of course not! She had her aunt and her uncle and Grandpa Chuck and Chris and Ella and Tanaka, Tails and Cream and Amy and Sonic, her hero and best friend in the world, and they all loved her; they were a family, no matter what anyone said! Even Knuckles, she knew she could trust with her life, and they'd barely spoken! She had a family and she had friends and he was wrong, wrong wrong WRONG!
The coach just chuckled, a condescending 'look at the naïve little girl' kind of laugh, and straightened up. Taking their cue as if he'd been their teacher for years, the rest of the class laughed as well. Coach Freeman started back to the front of the room. "Yes, you keep telling yourself that, if it makes you feel better. Oh, by-the-way," he turned around in front of his white board to face her, "do you have your homework, or is Little Orphan Ki-Annie too busy feeling sorry for herself to get it done?"
Ki narrowed her eyes at him, ignoring the tears that slid down her cheeks, and picked up her homework. "Right here, sir."
"Well, pass it up, then."
She handed it to the closest student in front of her, and they passed it down the row and up to the front of the class. The coach examined the paper with a critical expression. After several excruciatingly long seconds, he spoke again.
"Hmmm... Well, it's just too bad I don't accept papers after the tardy bell has rung, Miss Thorndyke." The class sniggered again; they were very much enjoying the downright cruel display the teacher was putting on at her expense.
"B-But, I told you, I was in the principal's office! I got here as soon as he let me go!"
"Excuses, Miss Thorndyke, are merely the skin of a truth stuffed with a lie. I don't accept them. And I don't accept late work, either." He promptly tore her homework into several pieces and dropped it ceremoniously into the trashcan. "I'm afraid you get a zero for the day. Though I doubt you'd have done all that well, anyway."
Ki could take no more. She simply couldn't. That last insinuation had pushed her over the edge. With her hands shaking so violently that she could barely make them function, she shoved her textbook back into her bag and stood up, making for the door.
"Where do you think you're going? Class isn't over yet."
She glared at the door. "What difference does it make? I'm getting a zero anyway."
"That doesn't mean you get to skip class. Sit down."
"I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. I told you to sit down."
"And I said, 'No.'"
"Little girl, if I have to—" But he didn't get to finish his sentence, because the school bell cut him off. Ki was the first person out the door, not only from her class, but out of the entire hallway. Foregoing the front doors, which would have forced her to walk past the office, where she'd likely be stopped, Ki shoved her way through a side door that led out onto a patio where some of the students ate their lunch. First lunch was already in session, and the students around her barely noticed as she strode through the picnic tables and rounded the corner of the building, breaking into a run when she was out of sight.
She ran until she reached the sidewalk, barely slowed to check for traffic before barreling across the street, then turned sharply when she reached the adjacent sidewalk and took off in the direction of home. She ran as fast and as hard as she could, expressing her emotions in a way that didn't hurt quite so much as crying did, and didn't slow until she saw the familiar white gates of home just a block away.
Home. Her home. Her family. She had a family. She wasn't alone. She was loved. She was. The coach was just a monster. She hated him, God, how she hated him. But she couldn't do anything about it. She'd tried reporting him, before. But no one had ever listened. They'd always assumed she was trying to get attention, to make up for what was lacking at home. It's what everyone assumed. She was used to it, really.
What she couldn't understand was what cruel, horrible reason fate had for throwing this curveball at her. High School for a country girl in a big city was bad enough, but this? What possible reason could there be for sending the tormenter from her old school to teach here? Station Square was her haven, it was safer, it was much kinder than back home, even if the teachers did have a bit of an obsession with tardiness and even if she did got shoved into her locker almost daily.
Scrubbing at her eyes to dry them, she punched in the security code to unlock the small side gate. She shoved through it and slammed it shut behind her, then kept going toward the back of the house. The front door would likely be locked, to discourage paparazzi and her aunt's fans and anyway, she wasn't sure she wanted to go inside. If she went inside, she'd have to deal with her family, and she didn't want to have to answer the question of just why she was home so early. Instead, making sure her bag was secured over both shoulders, she took a running start and pulled herself up into the massive branches of one of the larger trees on the property, seeking someplace to be alone. She considered climbing across and jumping onto the balcony, from where she could sneak into the house and spend the afternoon in her own room, but, tired, decided to just hang out in the tree for a while.
Taking off her bag and hanging it from a smaller sturdy branch, she arranged herself securely on her own branch and leaned back against the trunk of the tree, closing her eyes. She sighed, frowning and briefly fighting back another wave of tears before deciding to just let them come because she was alone anyway. No, it just wasn't fair. She'd only been living here a month, and already old troubles were catching up with her.
She nearly fell out of the tree when a voice emanated from the branches above her.
She looked up sharply, clutching at branches to regain her balance. "Sonic! I-I'm sorry; I didn't kn-know anyone was u-up here... I'll go..."
He smiled and shrugged. "No, it's okay; I don't mind the company. You're home kinda early, though, aren't you? I thought you didn't get out until 2:30. It's only about eleven."
Ki shrugged, not bothering to puzzle out how he knew the time without looking at a watch, and looked back down. Sonic climbed down to a branch that sprouted from the tree only an inch or two from hers, and at near the same level. She tried to ignore his concerned scrutiny.
"Hey, are you crying?"
Ki leaned back against the trunk of the tree and scrubbed at her eyes with the cuff of one sleeve.
"No, not really... it's nothing."
"Doesn't look like nothing."
"I'm fine, Sonic, really." Sonic sat sideways on his branch, swinging his feet and scratching the back of his neck in thought. Ki thought it funny that a hedgehog, of all creatures, should be so at ease this far from the ground.
"I don't believe you." The comment was softer than she would have expected from him, and she looked up sharply.
"Look... I just... I don't wanna talk about it, all right? I just had a bad day, that's all."
"I've never seen you cry. Not even when you're hurt—not even when you had to have all those stitches in your leg. Must take a lot to make you cry. Musta been something serious." He scooted toward the trunk of the tree and leaned back. The arrangement of the branches meant that his shoulder was right against hers—an odd bit of comfort that Ki was grudgingly thankful for.
"It's no big deal, really. I'm okay."
"Y'know, we Mobians can sense it when someone's lying."
Ki considered that for a moment, then had to bite back a giggle. "You liar! Than how do you explain Knuckles?"
Sonic grinned. "Oops. I guess you caught me there. Still... You sure you don't wanna talk about it?"
Ki sighed and grew serious again. "No, I just—" But her voice broke, and before she knew it, she'd spilled out the entire story, including the things that had happened at her last school, all in between sobs. Sonic put his hand on her shoulder and just listened. When she'd finally finished, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve again, her face flushing with embarrassment.
"I-I'm sorry, I shouldn't've bothered you with all that."
"Hey, what're friends for, right? Besides, I don't mind. Hey, it's okay, really. I can't believe this jerk still has a job; I mean, I've heard of people getting arrested for less."
Ki shrugged. "He's good at it. And since he only harasses me, and makes friends with everyone else... I dunno. They didn't listen at my old school. They won't listen here. I'm not exactly a popular kid, with the students or the teachers. I'm not really a people person, y'know. Not a human people person, anyway."
Sonic grinned at this. "Sometimes I think you're really a Mobian at heart. Come to think of it, maybe you are, if Tails' theory that this planet and Mobius are somehow the same planet is true."
"Why the heck I can relate to a supersonic blue hedgehog better than I can to other humans is beyond me. Maybe Tails is right."
"Or maybe it's just that we're the only teenagers in the whole house."
Kianna laughed. "There's that, too. ...Well, there is Knuckles..."
"Yeah, but he doesn't really count. We hardly eversee him."
"And you can't really talk to him, either."
"Tell me about it. You either bore him, annoy him, or flat-out piss him off."
"...I don't think I've ever heard you swear before."
He shrugged. "Happens. And I have to admit I sort of enjoy pissing Knuckles off. It's just so easy, y'know?"
Ki grinned and closed her eyes. After a moment, her expression hardened. "The jackass wouldn't even take my homework. And it wasn't even my fault that I was late to his class. You watch, Sonic. I'm gonna fail this class, now."
"Not if I have anything to say about it."
Ki's eyes flew open. "Huh? What are you—Sonic?" She looked all around—the branches above her, the ground below her, she even scanned the manor grounds.
Sonic was nowhere to be seen.