“Just talk to them,” Reddic said as he held open the door for Nuria. “Speaking honestly knocks down many barriers. Misunderstanding, animosity, jealousy, etc. Just be calm and so shall be the resolution. Trust me.”
Yeah, easier said than done, Nuria ruminates. She keeps her head down as she peers over at a nearby table. Her former classmates appear to be having a good time. Carnya is slurping from three bowls of ramen at the same time. Syl’s sketching the moment, his head looking from his notebook to the feast intermittently. Her former best friend doesn’t show any loss of spirit, laughing when Carnya ends up choking and Syl gives her the Heimlich maneuver.
The phoenix looks back down at her bowl of ramen, feeling much like the noodles swirling around in the hot broth. It’s not that I don’t trust Reddic, I just don’t…trust myself. If I go over there and lose control…who knows who may get hurt. And even though I don’t like her, I wouldn’t want to harm Tyra.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Sure,” Nuria answers absent-mindedly.
“So, you and Tyra on the outs, how’d that happen?”
Nuria finally looks up when a pair of dark boots slam down on the table. Aven sits leaned back, arms crossed, unfiltered curiosity on his face. “Why do you care?”
“Because it looks like you wanna make amends. I’d like to know how you intend to do it.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but why do you want to know? Why do you even care? Why aren’t you with your class?” Nuria takes a look around the cafeteria. “Wait, where’s Rum?”
“He’s, um, busy,” Aven says with a snort.
“Trade? You tell me, I’ll tell you.”
“Deal. You first.”
“He went into Pan’s room and she put a do-not-disturb sign on the knob. You do the math.”
“Oh,” Nuria replies, blinking. “Gross.”
“You asked. And now you answer. What happened between you and Tyra?”
“Yes. I’m curious, too,” Shuri announces once he joins them, his own bowl of ramen in tow.
Nuria looks both boys in the eyes, finding empathy in one pair and unyielding curiosity in the other. She concedes to the wisdom that they may have advice to help her and explains to them the months of radio silence on Tyra’s part. She looks to Shuri first for a response, but while he gathers his thoughts, Aven speaks up.
“Get in her face.”
“Get. In. Her. Face. She left you hanging all spring break. She owes you an explanation, and you have all the right to demand it on your terms. Go and force one out of her.”
“How’s that gonna help us make up?”
“Who says she had a good reason to ignore you? You might not want to after hearing it.”
“And on the chance we do, you want me to tell you how the talk went down.”
“You’re not the only one who likes Tyra,” Aven states.
Shuri says, “You like–”
“Stay in your lane, Shuri,” Aven cuts him off gruffly. “Go and handle your business, Feathers.”
Guess head-on isn’t the worst idea. Nuria nods. “If things get heated, be ready to make a run for it.” She sees the questions in their gazes but turns away to tackle a larger obstacle.
Nuria can feel the heat building in her shoulders the closer to Tyra she gets. Only with steady deep breaths does she keep her shirt from combusting. She nearly slips following a sudden gasp, unnerved when Tyra’s sapphire eyes lock in on her. The phoenix presses forward briskly, even as Syl and Carnya turn her way, also. She rams her thighs against the table, too focused on holding Tyra’s gaze only.
“You have a lot of nerve, you know that!” Nuria accuses instead of addressing the pain in her thighs, letting that momentum roll forward. “I texted and called you every day for four months and you just ignored me! And then you show up today and smile at me like nothing happened! Not a single apology, but you expected me to just hear you out, no harm, no foul! I don’t think so!”
“I’m not finished!” Nuria shouts. “I wanted to talk to you so bad! To tell you about the song I was working on, the concert I went to, and all the strides I made while mastering how to fly! But I guess I wasn’t important when you were back home! You probably had a whole host of unique Vanusi to tickle your fancy!”
“Nuria,” Tyra says with barely contained urgency, “can we talk about this in private?”
“Hold up,” Carnya says. “What do you mean unique? That just because Syl and I can’t fly, that we don’t count?”
“What?” Nuria states. “I’m not talking about you.”
“Or to us,” Carnya clarifies. “You haven’t acknowledged either of us, but guess what? Tyra has. So, how about you lay off of her!”
Nuria leers at Carnya. “Stay in your lane,” she says harshly, mimicking Aven’s tone.
“Nuria, stop it!” Tyra urges, gesturing to the onlookers in the vicinity.
“No, Tyra,” Carnya states as she rises and gets in Nuria’s face. “It seems Nuria’s the one who needs to stay in her lane. After all, she joined Ibri class just to stay away from us!”
Nuria growls as her left shoulder lights up. “That has nothing to do–”
Shuri slaps his hand down on Nuria’s shoulder, extinguishing the flame before it becomes noticeable. “It’s time to go,” Shuri says pointedly in response to Nuria asking, “What are you doing?” He lifts his palm slightly to show the burn hole beside her collar. Nuria nods and puts her hand over the hole in his stead.
Nuria turns to the angel and says, “I’ve said all that needs to be said, anyway. Let’s go.”
“And what gives Carnya the right to have an attitude? I wasn’t even talking to her!” Nuria fumes as she paces back and forth along the edge of the flagpole. “She acts like I’m not Ibri. I chose that class because I wanted to. Nothing more.”
“So, your issues with Tyra had nothing to do with it either?” Shuri queries.
“Not for Ibri class. Before I made that choice, I was considering Sulublei this year. I’ve spent the last year and a half dedicating more than a fair share of time on my Vanusi side. I figured now would be a good time to revisit my flame training.”
“Why’d your shoulder catch fire?” Nuria turns on him sharply and his piercing gaze tells her that he’s already put two and two together.
“Because I’m not capable of the best self-control at the moment,” she admits slowly, sitting down beside Shuri. “I’ve gone through this before. I got too overzealous during my old music classes and melted a lot of instruments. It’s why Rum and I were homeschooled for a while.”
“But didn’t you learn control? You blew up that wooden target so easily last year.”
Nuria shrugs. ‘I still have control, but whenever I think of Tyra, it goes out the window. I chose not to join Vanusi class to avoid setting the dorm on fire…again. I chose Ibri class because…I don’t wanna let down my inner self.”
Shuri hums, then stays quiet for a time, finally smiling when he says, “I know you were in the back, but I saw Rum fighting to keep his hands down. He definitely thought about joining. And to be honest, so did I.”
“Then why didn’t you guys volunteer?”
“That’s easy.” Shuri leans back and looks down at the slightly blackened skin on his palm, then directly up at the sun. “Neither of us are as brave as you are.”