like a fish swimming upstream.

Like a Fish Swimming Upstream

This is a stitch of Norah, an unbound story. Write the story with us.

The bell rings and with it comes the merciful release from Nathan’s burning stare on the back of her neck and from the droning of Mr. Rothstein. Norah hates The Great Gatsby. It’s not her fault; she doesn’t sympathize with Nick Carraway. Or Daisy. Or Myrtle. What did Daisy even see in Gatsby anyway? Norah wonders as she pushed her way through the halls to math class, like a fish swimming upstream to the old wing.

At her old school, math was Norah’s favorite subject because numbers just seemed more friendly and straightforward and more importantly, she never had to talk in front of the class. She was used to feeling at home among them because she didn’t have to try understand why x would leave y for z, when it made no logical sense whatsoever. That was at her old school.

Here, math is the last class before lunch and Norah can’t concentrate because her stomach is growling and the classroom is freezing. Outside it’s August and 100 degrees, but the school’s blast-chiller keeps the inside temperature at a chaste 67. For math class, she always brings an extra sweatshirt, but it’s not enough. Her eyes keep flicking to the clock above the teacher’s head, watching the second hand tick around until finally, the bell rings again.

In the lunchroom, Norah sits at a large empty table in the corner, she feels protected by the wall at her back until she notices Nathan, three tables over, is staring at her again. He’s sitting with his friend, the pudgy one with glasses. Norah doesn’t know his name.

She feels hot a wave of embarrassment flushing her cheeks and fueled by a surge of adrenaline she summons the courage to look a challenge directly at him. Why are you staring at me? her eyes ask. He averts his gaze in a panic, studiously examining his lunch. Some frantic conversation ensues between Nathan and his friend and suddenly Nathan jerks out of his seat and speed walks on his long, lanky legs to her table. He towers awkwardly over her.

“Hi.” He holds out a hand. “I’m Nathan.”

“I know,” she whispers. The moment of courage has passed and she can’t look up. She mumbles into her sandwich, “Norah. Nice to meet you.”

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