Nuria grabs a plate and fills it with just strawberries, grabbing a glass of fruit punch on her way to the myriad of tables. She freezes and scowls, cursing inwardly as it seems her eyes are magnetically drawn to her former best friend. She stares wrothfully at the back of Tyra’s dark kimono, the picture of a white rose atop a thorny red stem in the center. Nuria shakes her head and turns away before she burns her strawberries. With her normal crew out of the question, she opts to rejoin her clique from the morning train ride.
“What do you guys think of this Ibri house thing?” she asks as she takes the seat beside Aven.
Rum gives her a look. “You’re that angry at Tyra that you’re thinking of changing classes?”
Shuri says, “You’re changing classes?”
“Not sure yet. I need a second opinion.”
“It might be worth it for you. Neth clearly has high hopes if he brought all those news stations here to broadcast the unveiling,” Aven states.
“I just hope they got a good shot of me in this,” Pan says, gesturing to her green jersey. “It was pretty dark in there.”
“Because they didn’t want it to be seen that attendance is extremely low. Even if you discount the lack of new freshmen, all the other classes as a whole are much smaller than last year,” Aven explains.
Nuria looks around at all the other tables, glossing past Tyra’s, and some of the faces from the Vanusi Star Derby team are absent, such as Harrigan. “Oh, wow. This is crazy.”
Pan starts to pout, but finds a reason to smile instead. “I told you he was weirdly observant.”
“That you did,” Rum replies. “But without a new freshman class, are we technically demoted from sophomore?”
“Why would we be?” Shuri asks. “This is our second year, so based on that technicality, we’re–”
“Sophman!” Pan blurts.
Nuria laughs alongside Aven and says, “Sophman, huh?”
“A perfect in-between. The school has its historic moment, but now we have our own. FHA’s first Sophman class!” Pan raises her glass.
“Here, here!” Nuria cheers as she the boys raise their glasses, minus Aven.
“Here, here!” the boys chant.
“What are you guys toasting?”
The summery voice crushes Nuria’s jubilance into a fine dust that scatters into the air and dissipates. Nuria lowers her hands away from her strawberries and clutches her jeans firmly. She has very little time to end this conversation quick enough to keep calm, but she finds being mean out loud is not her forte. With as much venom as she can muster, she says, “None of your business.”
“Nuria, can we talk?”
Nuria decides to throw all caution to the wind and readies to be as mean as necessary. “Listen, bi–”
“Leave my sister alone,” Rum says crossly. Nuria’s growing fury hits a standstill when she sees an unfiltered, like-minded frustration on her brother’s face. “It’s what you’re best at, isn’t it?”
“But I just–” Tyra cuts herself off when Nuria whirls around and faces her with the same glare from the auditorium. The combined wroth in both siblings’ faces cows the young angel into an early retreat. “I’ll try again later, I guess.”
Nuria whirls around at the same time as Tyra leaves. She stares down at her strawberries and mumbles, “Don’t waste your time.”
“Are you sure you didn’t want to hear her out?” Shuri asks.
“Would you hear your grandfather out?” Nuria asks back.
“Nuria shouldn’t have to hear her out,” Aven says. “From the sounds of it, Tyra’s been ignoring her, too.”
“Nuria?” the phoenix asks, puzzled. “What happened to Feathers?”
“I thought you didn’t like it.”
Nuria shakes her head. “I don’t share my brother’s aversion to nicknames. It’s not like I ever call him by his real name either.”
“Isn’t Rum his real name?” Shuri says.
“Nope, it’s short for Aurum.”
Aven snorts. “And here I thought Tameri was just trying to rub in the fact that he’s her golden boy.”
Pan snickers. “I assumed he was named for a drinking problem when we first met.”
Rum rolls his eyes as the others take turns laughing at him. “You wanted to talk about Ibri house, didn’t you?” he asks to derail the roast.
Nuria stops laughing and blinks once, her mind resetting itself promptly. “Oh, yeah. Any of you guys thinking of doing it?”
“No,” Rum says, then turns to Pan. “Unless…?”
“Not gonna happen,” she says. “I’m too comfortable having an entire dorm to myself.”
“That might not be the case,” Aven states.
Pan commits to her pout this time. “Oh, great. What weird observation did you make this time?”
“It’s no mistake that all of the previous professors laid it on so thick during the assembly. They’re all trying to hold onto their current classes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to even encourage other students to abandon the class they attended last year. Too bad for Tameri, but I’m stuck with her.”
Nuria steals a glance at Shuri and when he rolls his eyes, she frowns. Guess he’s still stuck on Ohaida this year, and Rum’s gonna stick with Pan. Looks like it’ll just be me changing classes. Here I come, Sulublei.