Winter’s Heart (2)

Carrie discovered the red ink when she dropped the bag in the tiny hallway of their apartment. The ink was from a red marker with the top screwed off, something that did not just happen by itself. 

For a moment, Carrie trembled and had to bite her lip to gain control of her emotions. Then she left the bag and went into the living room, which also doubled as her mother’s room, without saying a word.

She had intended to go straight to her room, but unfortunately, her mom was at home, on the couch as usual. For once, she wasn’t watching TV but reading a book, which wasn’t a great improvement since she was reading *The Celestine Prophecy* for the tenth time. Carrie hated that book.

“Was school okay today?” Deborah Sawyer asked, shooting a glance at Carrie over the top of the book.

Carrie didn’t answer.

“A-ha,” her mom said. “I’m sorry. You know it says here that all people compete for energy but—”

“Does it say anything about high school?” Carrie snapped.

“No—”

“Then it does nae matter, does it?”

Her mom put the book down. “Hon, I want you to have new friends. Don’t you think it breaks my heart that it is so difficult for you?”

“Well,” Carrie said, looking at the TV and wondering if she could borrow it later tonight when her mom was finished watching her crime shows, “A new girl in class who comes from a country where there are more sheep than people does nae exactly start first place in the popularity contest.”

“I don’t think it should be a popularity contest,” her mom said, tapping the book’s back cover with her fingers. “Is it Ann Salcroft again?”

Carrie didn’t answer. She dropped going to her room and began heading for the kitchen door at the other end of the living room.

‘The Sharks’—as Carrie had dubbed Ann Salcroft and her followers—were constantly circling her for blood. 

The whispering behind her back about her Scottish accent, her old clothes, her good grades, her bad grades, and all of that just went on and on. 

It had been like that since August.

“Besides,” Carrie said when she was about to open the kitchen door, “I have one friend. And as long as she is there, the rest does nae matter.”

That was intended to end the conversation, but her mother frowned.

“You know, I think Lin Kouris is a sweet girl, but after her father died she has hardly been herself, has she?”

“What do you mean?” Carrie said, gripping the door handle more tightly.

“She might need help,” Deborah continued, “professional help.”

“But nae me?”

“Carrie…” Her mom tried to smile reassuringly, but it didn’t work. “I’m sorry. I just want to help. But I’m going over to Eric’s tonight, so we can talk about this tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay, Mom.”

“There’s some pizza in the freezer.”

“Okay.”

Carrie went into the kitchen to start making tea. It was her daily ritual, and it was long overdue. She sipped her Earl Grey tea, which was still too warm, so she left the cup alone for a while on the cracked kitchen counter. 

Mom had talked about replacing it a zillion times, but of course, she didn’t have the money, like she didn’t for most other things. 

Part-time substitute teacher and part-time unemployed didn’t leave a lot of options for interior decorating, or much else.

If only that guy from school who had moved in across the street—Lars—had been a bit more talkative, the whole day wouldn’t have felt like a complete loss. 

Oh, yeah, it was that Lars Anestad—the guy everyone was raving about with his band and so on. Carrie had seen them at a party, but the rock music was a bit too edgy for her, so she hadn’t really followed their ‘career’.

And it was not like she fucking fancied Lars or anything like that! 

It just felt… nice to be able to talk to someone without worrying if they wanted to turn around two seconds after and make a knowing face at your enemies. 

She tried the tea. It still burnt her lips.


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