It was Thursday before Rune's friends were far enough away for Henry to talk to her in maths, while Avery was ill in the sick bay. He slid into Avery's usual seat, and flashed a sickeningly white smile. "Hello, Rune," he said, grinning like a mad dwarf. "We haven't spoken in a while. How are you?"
Rune stared at him, considering whether to punch him with words or fists. She decided on words. "Alright til you showed your muckle ugly face around here. Go away."
"This is my seat, Rune," he argued with wide eyes, feigning innocence.
"It's actual Avery's seat, Henry. And a dinnae want tae talk to you, I'm working on this the now, so unless you're some crazy genius, I'd suggest you leave me alane."
"Hey, Rune!" Giselle squealed suddenly, making her jump. "Aw, is Avery not here still? That sucks. Do you want to sit with me?"
She pulled Rune from her chair, smiling and skipping slightly. The teacher frowned, but didn't say anything. Clearly, he was glad Giselle had done something. "Sorry, my brother's an ass hat sometimes. I hope he wasn't bothering you too much."
"Nah, it's fine," Rune lied. "He's just annoying."
Laughing, Giselle got Rune's stuff from her desk for her, elbowing her brother as she did so, much to his annoyance. "I think he's the only one who doesn't really get that, if I'm honest with you." She giggled. "But anyway, what question are you on?"
Henry glowered at them for the rest of the class, not-so-subtly flipping them off, which everybody but the teacher saw. Once the class had ended, he tried to talk to Rune, but she scurried off to her and Suzanne's room across the grass, Giselle in tow, babbling nonsensically. The two of them fell through the room's open doorway, catching Suzanne off guard as she played her violin.
"Geez, Rune!" she exclaimed. "Don't you ever knock?"
Rune frowned. "The door wis open."
"Oh. Well, fine then. Hi, Giselle." The girl smiled tightly.
Rune had done to discover over the last few days that Suzanne and Laelia did not like Giselle one bit, though they tried to hide it from Avery. Apparently, when they were in primary school, Giselle had bullied Suzanne for not fancying boys, and had effectively turned the entire class on her. It was rather ironic, Suzanne had said. Because the main insult she'd used was 'gay', and no one could really correct her without lying. But still, even if Giselle acted like it was all okay now, Suzanne and Laelia didn't really like her, and as a result, Rune was wary around her. Avery, of course, was completely unaware of this, only knowing that they 'didn't want him to get too caught up in her and forget them and his studies' or something like that. Rune couldn't remember exactly.
"Oh!" Giselle squealed suddenly. "Avery's feeling better now, he's in his room. Well, I'd better go, guys. See you later!" She skipped out of the room like a child, humming to herself softly.
"You know, he could have told us first," Laelia groaned. "You know, so we didn't have to sit through her being in there with him, fussing like a grandmother. I'm not going in, just so you know. She'll be there for ages."
Rune rolled her eyes. "I'll go later, if you guys dinnae want tae. Besides, Giselle isnae all that bad. She saved me from Henry's over inflated ego in maths today, so she cannae be all bad. Maybe just mostly." The three of them laughed. "Och, an they've put the sign up sheet for Wicked up. I'm thinking ae auditioning, but am kindae nervous aboot it, ken?"
"You should totally audition, Rune," Suzanne said. "You'd be awesome. And I'm playing in it too, in the band."
"Wow, never widdhae guessed that," Rune said, which made Laelia laugh. "Anyway, I'll probably put mi name doon after dinner. I've got like, loads of homework for Modern Studies, but I cannae be bothered going to study class. Naebdy talks tae me."
Laelia laughed. "Whatever you say, Rune. I don't really like the talking. I'd better get back to my room, now. The girls'll be wondering where I am. See you at dinner."
It was just Suzanne and Rune left now, and Suzanne took up her violin again. "Hope you don't mind if I practice in here just now."
Rune waved her hand as she began to dig in her bag for her Modern Studies jotter, laying it on her desk. The question was about the independence vote, and why there shouldn't be another referendum, but Rune didn't really care. It wasn't like she got a say in it, after all. She never got a say.
A message flashed up on her phone screen, and she opened it. Taylor. "Hi." It said, full stop and all. She frowned, tapping out a quick reply, before turning back to her homework. Reasons against Scottish independence.
SNP incompetence, she supposed, scribbling it down. Economic instability. Lack of global influence. And then reasons for Scottish independence.
She groaned, laying her head down on her desk. It was just so difficult, she thought, to think of any reason to support independence. "Suzanne," she called to her friend. "Can you think of any reason to support independence? I'm stuck on Modern Studies homework."
"Difference in political views with England," she said. "England controlling Scotland. Being held back by England. Stupid people in England, Tory twats in - "
"In England, yeah, do you have any that aren't about England?" She shrugged. "Okay. I only needed the one, anyway."
She scribbled it down, and stared at her notes, trying to put her thoughts into words. On her phone, she saw a handful of messages from Taylor.
'We miss you.'
'I miss you.'
'I broke up with Alli for you, take me back.'
'I love you.'
'I don't blame you.'
'Why aren't you replying?'
'Are you okay?'
She sighed, and blocked him, locking her phone and tossing it onto her bed. Struggling through her homework, she snuck glances out the window at the grass outside. There were a couple of first years straggling across the grass, yelling about something to do with a girl named Charlotte, whoever that was. Rune didn't care, and glanced at the time on her phone. Quarter to five. Surely Giselle would be back at her own room by now.
"I'm gonna see Avery," she announced to Suzanne. "Do yi want tae come?"
Suzanne shook her head. "I'm fine. Tell him I hope he's feeling better."
Swiping her phone from the desk, Rune stalked towards Avery's room, knocking. "Is it safe?" she yelled through the door. "Or am a gonnae have tae run away."
She heard a chuckle from inside the room, and footsteps coming towards her. A grinning Avery opened the door. "Not unless I start spewing, no. Come in, Rune."
There was one other boy in there, with ashy blonde hair and a mischievous smile that reminded Rune - annoyingly - of Taylor. She waved at him, but he just laughed and whistled, as Avery led her past him. "So, how've yi been coping, Ave?" Rune asked, sitting down in a chair.
"Alright, I guess," Avery said. "I'm feeling a lot better now than I was before, but I've missed loads of notes. Speaking of, have you got the notes from Maths? Drama, too, if we had any. I'm soooo behind."
"I'm sure you're fine, Ave," Rune said. "You'll catch up in no time. Here're the Maths stuff - we didnae really get any in Drama, we were just doing our research stuff for the presentation on Monday."
"Oh. Right. Was that the one about the themes? That I was doing capitalism?"
"That's the one. We didn't get much notes in Maths, but just get them down anyway." Rune noticed that the other boy had left the room, so it was just the two of them in there. She bit her lip.
As Avery scribbled down Rune's notes in his strange, almost illegible handwriting, she took in the room, which, to put it nicely, was a tip. Half of what was strewn over the floor she didn't want to know what it was, and the rest seemed like sheer stupidity had thrown it onto the ground. But Avery's side of the room was the neatest she'd ever seen, kind of like how her friend Rhia's used to be like.
"You know, I would have thought Giselle would have brought your notes, for Maths at least, when she was in earlier."
"Hmm?" Avery turned to her, grey eyes clouded. "Giselle didn't come in here. Just been me, you and the boys."
"Oh. Sorry, I thought she said she'd been. Sorry." She smiled weakly.
"It's fine. I'm sure I'll see her sooner or later, at dinner at least."
As Avery turned back to his notes, Rune noticed an iciness crawling up his right hand, which he tapped on the desk absentmindedly. She wondered suddenly, what would happen if she touched his finger tips with hers, if she ignited a flame. Would she melt him, or burn him, scar him? Would he flinch away from her touch, would he jump, or would he just smile like he always did?
She blinked, shaking her head, and the ice on Avery's hand was gone, faded. A gust of wind blew in through an open window, and Avery's papers scattered across the room. He yelled a stream of curse words, as he and Rune leapt about trying to catch the paper, slamming the window shut.
"There's a bit under this bed here," Rune giggled. "You can go and get that yourself."
"Oh, are you too delicate and precious to fetch a bit of paper, my dear?" Avery mocked.
"No, actually, it's just that a dinnae really fancy the idea ae searching under a boy's bed, if you know what I mean. There's some nasty stuff could be under there."
Avery laughed, bending down and reaching for the paper. "I'm sure there is, Rune. Maybe even a monster!" He gasped in mock horror, crawling out with the paper clutched tightly in his hand. "Rar!"
Throwing her head back, Rune roared with laughter. "Wow, Ave," she laughed. "You sure are a frightening sight."
"As are you, Oakey," he laughed, clambering to his feet and staring at Rune. "I can barely bear the pain of looking upon your face."
"Shut up," Rune laughed. "Also, Oakey? That sounds ridiculous."
"You get to call me Ave."
"Yeah, but that disnae sound ridiculous. Can yi no see what I'm trying tae say here?"
"Not really, no," Avery laughed, running a distracted hand through his hair. "But whatever it is, it's making us kind of late for dinner. I'm assuming you don't want to be late for dinner, right?"
Rune smirked despite herself. "Of course not. Do you?"
She raced out the room, Avery shouting an indignant "Hey!" from behind as she giggled. "Wait on me, Rune! I'll throw up otherwise!"
That made her turn around, rushing back towards him. "You - you feel sick?"
"I might, if I have to run. No running, please. I'm hungry enough as it is."
Rolling her eyes, Rune took her place beside Avery. "Fine. No running. Annoying as you are sometimes, I don't really want you to throw up. Especially not near me."
He laughed, and the two of them scampered down the stairs, bursting out of the door. The sun was still bright, and it hindered Rune's vision somewhat, so much that she very nearly couldn't see where she was going, and stumbled over a rock. Fast as lightning, Avery caught her, and she could hear his momentary gasp of fear as she lay in his arms. "You alright there?" he asked weakly. "I thought you were about to pure skunner yourself for a moment."
Skunner? It made Rune laugh at the sound of such a word escaping from his lips. "Skunner?" she laughed. "Where'd yi learn that word from?"
He fixed her with a pointed glare, and let her back on her own two feet. "You didn't answer my question. Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she reassured him. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Ave, seriously, you're no ma granny. I. Am. Fine." After a moment of thought, she added, "Except for the fact that I'm super hungry. Come on."
With a grin, Avery followed her across to the main building, a slight skip in his step. But his face fell as they entered the hall, the colour draining from his face like a river cascading down a hill.