Liedecker Institute #11: A Very Kura Christmas Part 1

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

“Tesla-girl!”

Tammy Kaine, in the interest of concealing her heroic identity as The Irrepressible Spark and thus her connection to her brother’s status as Alloy of the Descendants, had settled on the codename Tesla after many days scouring thesauri and online encyclopedias and lamenting the lack of really cool and original names related to electricity.

Almost immediately, her best friend had co-opted it into ‘Tesla-girl’ in order to better match her own newly minted code ‘Omni-girl.’.

Her new, measurably less cool codename was the first thing she heard upon getting out of her brother’s car after Thanksgiving vacation and the only warning she had before catching one hundred and twenty-two pounds of Japanese hyperactivity full in the chest.

Kura Akagi’s favorite greeting involved getting up a good head of steam on foot and then gliding into an unsuspecting object of platonic affection like a happy freight train. She gave Tammy a huge hug as her weight added to the bags the other girl was carrying bore them both to the ground.

She landed on top and bounced up almost instantly with a smile and a hand extended to help her friend to her feet. No apology offered, none asked. Kura thought an apology was for things you did on purpose and got caught for, and Tammy was used to Kura by at this point.

Tammy accepted the help to get to her feet. Then they hugged hello. Without anyone hitting the floor this time. “Kura,” She smiled. “You have a good Thanksgiving?”

Kura nodded enthusiastically. “You bet! We had Thanksgiving at the suite in San Francisco and Chef Voight made this really awesome stuff turkey breast this year, and he taught me and dad how to make the cranberry dipping sauce that goes with it, and then we went fishing in our boat and we almost caught a marlin!”

Everything came out in a breathless tsunami.

“So what’d you do?”

“Um…” Tammy had known in a sort of roundabout way that Kura’s family had money. The other girl had the latest palmtop with top of the line applications, had bought her Halloween costume (a full gorilla suit with a motion capture controlled face) outright, and was very free with treating her friends to pizza, trips to the arcade, or what have you. But she didn’t expect it to be ‘catered Thanksgiving and deep sea fishing on our boat’ money.

“Just dinner in New York with the fam.” Tammy’s brother, Warrick supplied in her stead. He unloading her bags and a care package full of foil and plastic crock ensconced leftovers from the trunk.

Tammy relaxed a bit and asked exactly what was on her mind. “Do… well… are all your Thanksgivings fancy like that?”

Another happy nod. “Yeah! My mom and dad love holidays; they’re the only time they really spend a lot of money outside birthdays.”

“But…” Tammy couldn’t help herself. “Isn’t that stuff really expensive?”

“That’s okay. We make our money on fish sticks.”

“Fish stick?” Warrick brought the bag of leftovers and Tammy’s backpack over for his sister to carry. Kura took them instead.

“Yep.” She said, slipping on the backpack unopposed by Tammy, who had little interest in carrying anything she didn’t have to. “You ever get anything from Hikamura Prepared Foods?”

Warrick thought for a second. “Oh! They’re the ones with the happy little fish in an ice cube for the logo?” Kura nodded, and it all clicked for him. “Ballfield Frank’s mini-corndogs!” He exclaimed as if he’d solved a difficult brainteaser.

“That’s us!” Kura chirped proudly. “My grandpa was one of the guys that invented the rehydration oven and the guy that figured out how to add one to a microwave. Grandma gave the company to mom as a wedding present, but she doesn’t like business stuff, so dad runs it for her.”

Ignoring the fact that he was inside the gates of possibly the most secure grounds in Mayfield, and the cruel reality that no one ever would want to steal his beater of a car, Warrick locked the doors before picking up the rest of Tammy’s bags. As he did, he let out a low, appreciative whistle. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Way more money than Betty’s dad does designing dresses.” Tammy added.

Kura only shrugged. “I guess.” She followed them as they headed for the Liedecker Institute’s main building. It didn’t take long for her attention to move on to something else. “You know… It’s not too long until Christmas.”

Tammy grinned at her friend’s flash-pan enthusiasm. “That’s true. We should get wreathes or something for your doors.” Something glittered beyond Kura’s eyes and she started to float off the ground without breaking pace with them. “Um… Kura?”

Seeming to shake off the reverie, Kura dropped the inch or so back to the ground without seeming to notice. She slipped inside, nodding her thanks to Warrick for holding the door. “Hmm?”

“You just looked kind of far away there.”

Kura observed the wide, large, mostly empty lobby of the Institute’s main building, with its sign-in desk for visitors and/or delivery people. It was currently being manned by the computer science teacher, Faith Duvall, who she only recognized by virtue of her also being the older sister of a fellow student. The woman hadn’t noticed them yet, thanks to being engrossed in some game on her palmtop.

“I was just thinking…” Kura finally replied in a dreamy tone. “This is LI’s first Christmas, right?” Tammy nodded. “And there’s not a lot of seniors or juniors, or even sophomores, right?”

Tammy didn’t know exactly where this was going, but when Kura started ending sentences with ‘right?’, it was a symptom of something amazing (for good or bad) bubbling in her brain. She replied in the affirmative and waited for the magic to happen.

And happen it did. Kura straightened her back, thrust out her chin, and loudly exclaimed, “Then it’s up to us Freshmen!” For emphasis, she pounded her fist into an open palm. The outburst nearly scared Ms. Duvall off her desk chair.

“What’s up to us?” Tammy asked in an encouraging tone, a grin expanding over her face that set off warning bells in her brother’s head.

Kura went into sudden motion, dashing back to Warrick and grabbing the rest of Tammy’s bags. “We’ve got to get you unpacked so we can head out and shop quicker!”

Warrick flexed his hands in disbelief at how quickly and effortlessly he’d been disarmed of the bags. “Wait. What are you up to?”

By the time he’d asked, Kura was in a long legged sprint for the elevator behind Ms. Duvall. “This school is brand new!” She shouted. “And it’s up to us freshmen to give it some traditions!”

***

Hours later, Annette St. John, known alternately around the school ad Ineffable and Tantrum was in front of her mirror, trying to decide if she wanted her hair up for the evening or not. She had it gathered in her fist to make a bushy ponytail when the door to the room she shared with Kura unlocked and swung open on its own volition.

Annette groaned even before she saw Kura float in carrying an armload of bags and Tammy following close behind.

“Merry Christmas, roomie!” Kura sing-songed, dumping her bags on her bed. They spilled packages of tinsel and candy canes, and other fare of the season, including a plastic dreidel, two plastic kinaras, an unadorned aluminum pole, and, inexplicably a placemat featuring a pumpkin wearing a witch’s hat.

“Noél” Annette scoffed. “It is almost a month away, and I know that you do not know enough to celebrate la fête de Saint Nicolas or any other such thing.”

Kura blew a raspberry and floated over to the nearest wall. “Well almost none of us is actually going to be here for real Christmas.” She slapped her hand against the wall and it turned a festive shade of green. With an appreciative nod, she floated off to the next wall.

“But,” She continued, turning the next wall red. “while we’re still here, we should make it feel like Christmas. That’s why me and Tammy are coming up with stuff to do that we can make traditions out of!”

Annette gave the pile of holiday cheer Tammy was unpacking a dismissive wave. “It look like you have more than enough already.”

“This?” Tammy asked, waving the flipper of a stuffed penguin wearing a Santa hat at her. “This is just inspiration.”

“Yeah!” Kura made the wall opposite the first green too. “Traditions aren’t stuff, they’re the things you do!” She finished up by turning the last wall red. “There. This is holiday central: where the magic happens. All we’ve got to do now is brainstorm ideas.”

Annette ignored them to go back to her hair. She’d decided on putting it up with a flip.

Tammy say back against Kura’s headboard and looked over all the stuff they’d gathered. “We could have a party. You know, most schools have a Halloween thing, and maybe Homecoming, or a Fall Formal; we didn’t get any of that.”

“The Academy had Fall Formal.” Kura said, making a face. “It was boring. You had to get dressed up all poofy and the food sucked and they had this orange punch that tasted like melted popsicles.”

“Well our party doesn’t have to be like that.” Tammy insisted. “It could be fun, and special!”

“Special how?” asked Kura, sitting on the floor with her back to her chest of drawers.

Tammy shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe we need a theme.”

“Besides Christmas?”

“Okay, you’ve got a point…”

Kura brightened. “Hey! How about if it’s one of those things where the girls ask the guys?”

“We couldn’t ask before?” Tammy asked, confused.

“I saw it on TV once.” Kura said sullenly. “But you’re right, it’s stupid. And all the other girls would be fighting over Summit.” She smirked at Tammy. “You’ve be fighting over Summit too.”

“And you wouldn’t” Asked Tammy, haughtily. Kura shrugged. “Huh. Well who is the kind of guy you like?”

“Hmm…” Kura tapped her lips with her fingers thoughtfully. “Well I like Phil’s hair, but he doesn’t appreciate a good prank. And Finny’s teeth scare me. And that’s all the guys we’re friends with. Maybe The Gnome. Have you met him?”

“The guy with the red hat?” Tammy asks. “Yeah, he’s in my English class.”

“That’s him.” Kura said, laughing. “He’s funny: always calling himself The Gnome when he talks. ‘The Gnome says good morning.’ ‘The Gnome needs to borrow yesterday’s notes.’ I don’ even know his first name!”

Giggling, Tammy sifted further into their pile of goods. “I need to talk to him then, he sounds hilarious! But… he sure doesn’t look like Summit…”

Annette gave an unladylike snort.

“What?” Tammy glared at her.

The french girl turned to face them, hands on hips, a plane of telekinetic force shaped into an unstable comb still in her hair. “Oh please. Neither one of you have any chance to catching Jacob’s eye. You are too much the tomboy.”

“Tomboy?” Tammy clenched her hand into a fist. “I’ll show you a…” She noticed her fist and unclenched it. “I can be a lady if I want, damn it.”

Annette gave her a noble woman’s laugh, high and piercing.

Kura only giggled at her. “Not like you’ve got better chances. I heard he thinks you’re a great ‘friend’. And where I come from, that puts both me and Tammy way ahead of you.” She didn’t give Annette any time to recover before shifting gears. “But that’s got nothing to do with Christmas. How do they do Christmas in France?”

If she were a bird, Annette’s feathers would have been fluffed up so far, she wouldn’t be able to see. “In France… in…” She fumed. “Why do I not ask you how they have Christmas in Japan?”

She received a few moments of silence and a blank look before Kura got what she was saying. “Oh! Well I’m not from Japan. And I’ve only been there in summer the times we went, so I don’t know how they do it. But you’re from France, aren’t you?”

Annette sniffed. “Well, not everyone celebrates Noél the same. Some do not celebrate it at all, yes?”

“Yeah, I know.” Kura got up and rummaged though her purchases. “We only got like two baby Jesuses… Jesusen… Jesi? Christs. And we also got stuff for Hanukah, and Kwanzaa, Festivus… there’s a book about Eld in here somewhere, but that’s the wrong time of year… oh! And winter solstice.”

Tammy held up the pumpkin placemat. “Also, Halloween. We’re good on the all inclusive dealie.”

“It’s more about something fun for everyone.” Kura chimed in. “Christmas is just a fun excuse. Also, it’s the only time you can buy forty-five flavors of candy cane!” She thrust a fistful of various colors of candy cane in Annette’s direction. “Want one?”

A half dozen fruity flavors tickled her nose and she was tempted, but in the end, she shook her head furiously. “I have fallen for this trick before. I take the snack you offer and then suddenly, my mouth is being black! Non. I will not fall for it again.”

“Aww, come on.” Kura whined. “It’s not trick this time. This whole thing is so everyone can have fun… even you…. and maybe Hightower.”

Annette’s eyes narrowed in consideration. “And Rapunzel?”

“If we have to.” Tammy conceded and Kura nodded along.

With more caution than was strictly needed, Annette took a cherry-lime cane and gave it an experimental sniff. “I almost do believe you are being serious about this.”

“That’s because we are!” said Kura. “Now come on! You went to a school for people like us before, right? What kind of things did they do?”

“Ugh. Arceneaux.” Annette said dismissively. “He gave us a large dinner, small gifts and money in cards. I suppose he think that was Noél for us. But not I. Nothing about that place was home.” Her disgust melted into a fond remembrance. “At home, papa bring home a goose and while I helped mama prepare the rest of the meal, the goose was all belonging to him.”

For a second, she smiled at the memory, then the memory of something darker passed behind her eyes and she cleared her throat conspicuously. “And that is that.” She said quickly. I do not want to be a part of your ‘Christmas’ traditions, whatever they become.”

The other two girls were quiet for a while, staring at her in quiet contemplation. She gave them a look that said any mention of adding a roast goose to the festivities would cook theirs.

Tammy played idly with a snowman puppet. “No matter what we do, we’ve gotta have a tree.”

Kura floated up to the ceiling until her back was against it. “That’s right, we do. But it can’t just be a regular tree. We can have one in the big room with the TV, but it’s gotta be special.” Her eyes brightened, “Or in the really big room where you come in. We could fit a huge tree in there!”

As it was when they planned pranks, he idea was now ping-ponging between them, working up to a steady rhythm.

“We could have a tree decorating party!” Tammy said.

“And everyone could bring something to decorate it with.” Kura said, then shook her head. “Something that says something about them, or something special to them. It’ll be like a share circle like we used to have back in my old school.”

“Or… a potluck with a tree.” said Tammy with a smile.

“Perfect!” They chorused.

“Ugh. Terrible!” Annette complained. “If no one knows what the others will bring, the tree will be a… the pain of the eyes!”

“Eyesore?” Tammy guessed.

“Yes. It will be hideous.” Annette said. And then she crossed over to her closet to find something to wear.

Tammy looked up at Kura with a frown. “She’s kind of got a point. A tree with stuff I like probably won’t look good with stuff that, say, Finny likes. Plus, even with a huge tree, there’s a lot of us.”

“I guess you’re right.” Kura frowned. “Maybe we need to get two.” Then she gasped. “One for everyone!”

“I thought we just said that wasn’t going to work?”

“No…” Kura pushed off the ceiling and glided down to the floor. “No, I mean one tree each. One little tree you decorate yourself! We’ll put ’em all over the school.”

Tammy quickly joined her in her excitement. “And then we can have a party to decorate the big tree and show off the little ones!”

“Yes!” Kura exclaimed. “That’s it! The Liedecker Institute’s First Annual Holiday Tree Festival!” She planted on fist on her hip and used her free hand to point defiantly at Annette. “What do you think of that, Tantrum?”

The target of her challenge gave her a withering glare. “I am not called Tantrum!”

Kura wobbled a bit on her feet from the outburst, recovered, then pointed anew as if that hadn’t just happened. “What do you think of that, Annette?”

Annette sighed in frustration and more or less ripped a dress and legging combination off its hanger. “It is still very stupid. But it is not as stupid as whatever else you were thinking before.”

That was the best she could hope for and Kura knew it. She grinned broadly. “This is going to be awesome!”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #10: Make Your Own Luck Part 3Liedecker Institute #12: A Very Kura Christmas Part 2 >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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