A/N: Yes, another fandom! I loved this movie, and well.. this was pretty much inevitable.
"Dad! Dad, answer me!" Norman could hear himself screaming desperately in the darkness. Why was he so upset? His brain felt like frozen molasses as he struggled to think.
"DAD! Can you see anything? Tell me what you see!"
The boy wondered in a vague, disconnected way if he was losing his mind. Should he be worried? He was almost certain that he should be worried. Hm, should he be worried that he didn't feel any particular anxiety over his lack of worrying? It was all so confusing. And why was it so dark? Was it night time?
"Norman! LOOK OUT!"
The eleven year old sat bolt upright with a gasp, gulping precious life-giving air as though he'd been drowning. His zombie alarm clock had not yet begun to twitch and groan yet its fitful signal of the start to a new day. The boy pushed a hand across his face, grimacing at the sweat that clung to his brow. Great, he was going to have to shower. At least he might actually have time, if he could chase Courtney out of the bathroom. With a heavy sigh, he wrested himself out of bed and shambled in what he liked to think was a grotesque way towards the bathroom he shared with his sister.
Courtney wasn't as obnoxious to him now as she had been before the "Agatha Incident" two weeks prior. In fact, the bullying and torment that had once been part of Norman's everyday life had nearly disappeared. His locker wasn't defaced on a daily basis, his books weren't dumped in the fountain, and no one had pointed at him and laughed cruelly since the anniversary.
Now they just seemed to stare, for the most part.
But they still didn't know him. Norman had giddily entertained the thought that acceptance might be his after putting Aggie to rest. The rest of the town still saw her as a witch. He fully intended to tell his parents and sister the truth about what had happened. He'd given them the basics that the witch had been a misunderstood person who had been unjustly killed. They'd been able to handle that. He just had to find the right time to tell them the whole truth. The town had been given the same explanation. They seemed much less able to accept it.
The town's identity being built so heavily on the lie probably had a lot to do it that.
By and large, the town still saw him as a freak. A useful, heroic freak, but still a freak. There were still whispers behind his back, but now they didn't precede a kick me sign being taped to his back. People still gave him a wide berth as he moved through town or the school hallways, but now he wasn't tripped when he least expected it. A few girls still came up to him and acted nice, but now they were trying to up their social cred by convincing him to date them instead of leading up to a cruel "JUST KIDDING, DORK!" in front of the entire cafeteria.
So far, he hadn't taken any of them up on their overtures of admiration and friendship. Two weeks of acting decently towards him wasn't enough to make him forget an entire scholastic career's worth of teasing.
Was he being oversensitive? Maybe. But like Grandma Babcock liked to say "Forgive, but don't forget." The phrase usually lead into a long digression about someone who'd swindled her and his grandpa out of money, or the time she'd caught neighborhood kids breaking into her garage. While the little old woman had forgiven the transgressions, she clearly recalled who had done them and what their rationale had been at the time. In fact, her recollection about the events was almost frighteningly perfect. In life, she had paraded the recall to tremendous, unnerving effect against those who had wronged her. Norman suspected that the huge turnout at his grandmother's funeral was at least in part due to many of the citizens wanting to be certain that Grandma Babcock actually was dead, and therefore unable to keep hanging the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads by the single, hair's breadth thickness of her forgiveness.
The boy perked up when he realized that the bathroom was abandoned. He'd awakened early AND Courtney had already been and gone? Clearly, this was an ill omen. There was probably a huge influx of penguins in the underworld right now. Norman decided to celebrate the apparent apocalypse with an extra-long shower.
His alarm had begun to spasm and moan by the time he returned to his room to dress. Just as he was pulling his favorite red hoodie on, the floating apparition of his grandmother appeared through the door. "Norman! Better wake- Oh, you're up?" The elderly phantom almost looked put out by his early morning activity. "When did you become a morning person?"
The boy laughed the comment off as he reached for his shoes. "I woke up early. I was having a weird dream," Norman's face fell as he struggled to recall the details. "I.. I don't really remember what it was about, just that there was a lot of yelling."
Grandma Babcock snorted. "That narrows it down, doesn't it?" she asked with a rueful chuckle. Her eyes glittered fondly as she watched her grandson fight with the gordian knot that composed his left shoelace. "True," the boy sighed. "Way too true. I wish I could remember it. It almost seemed important, but I can't remember why. I can't remember feeling anything about it. It was like watching a movie you've seen a million times before, but one that you're having to fight to stay interested in."
"Casablanca," his grandmother intoned.
"Casa..?" Norman echoed, bewildered at the interjection.
"Casablanca," the ghost repeated, "I've seen that movie a thousand times if I've seen it once. It's supposed to be this huge, significant movie with all this meaning and drama. And for MY money, reruns of The Price is Right will beat it for suspense and heartbreak every time." So saying, she followed him as he moved down the hallway and into the kitchen. His mother, completely unaware of the supernatural guest in the room, walked right through the old woman on her way to the front door to see his father off. Norman did his best not to wince as she patted him on the head. Despite his full intention not to, Norman found himself turning to watch his dad leave for work. His father had been looking at him with disappointment for so many years that Norman couldn't even remember when it started. Since the Incident, however, it was almost as though his dad couldn't quite bring himself to look Norman in the eye. On the occasions that he did, the man was clearly uncomfortable, like he'd somehow put on shoes that were two sizes too small.
Honestly, it was uncomfortable for both of them. Norman dropped his gaze and turned his attention to an in-depth study of the kitchen table when his father appeared at the front door. Some small, mean part of him wanted to shout "I was right! I knew what I was talking about all this time and you never believed me!" His conscience always beat that impulse down with a giant mallet of guilt as soon as it appeared, but the game of emotional whack-a-mole would start up again soon enough.
The fact was that he WAS right. He HAD known what he was talking about. And his father had, in his awkward way, asked to be forgiven.
Norman had forgiven his dad, but like Grandma he had not forgotten. And neither had his dad. The mutual acknowledgement that they wronged each other in deed and in mind hung heavily between them.
A bowl of cereal appeared before him, causing the boy to blink in surprise.
"Better eat fast hon," his mother said with a tired, diplomatic smile. "You don't want to be late!"
A glance at the kitchen clock revealed that all of his extra time had evaporated like ectoplasm under a microscope. How long had he been sitting here that his mom thought he was waiting to be served? He nodded in gratitude to her, and began shoveling the tasteless stuff down. He didn't want to be a bother. He really didn't.
Things just always seemed to happen that way with Norman Babcock.