Ms. Neon was almost positive she was going to be fired. After leaving Honey's room, she'd gone to adjust the chore schedule and take care of some of the more pressing paperwork. After ten minutes, she'd gone out to check on Nora, only to find the orange-haired girl was gone. She didn't panic, she just assumed Nora had gone to the backyard. Upon checking there, she began to feel a twinge of worry.
That twinge turned into full-blown panic after she'd finished checking Nora's room, the bathrooms, and the closets. She called the sheriff immediately, asking him and his men to help find Nora, which he said he'd do, although he didn't sound nearly as concerned as Ms. Neon, who was in a full blown terror, pacing up and down her office, glancing at her scroll every few seconds for a call.
She'd gone out to check the yard again, just in case Nora had come back, only to see Honey and her friends come walking up the walk, laughing in a horribly smug way, each with an ice cream. That was when Ms. Neon knew. She wasn't sure how she knew, she just knew that the three of them were responsible.
Ms. Neon ran up to them, Honey giving a little show of fake shock, saying, "Oh no, sorry Ms. Neon, sorry we snuck ou-OW!"
Honey was cut off as Ms. Neon closed the distance and tightly gripped the younger girl's arm, yanking her closer and asking in a forced voice, "Where's Nora, Honey!"
For the first time that Ms. Neon could remember, there was a look of genuine fear in the blonde girl's eyes. She was quiet for a moment before Ms. Neon squeezed a bit harder, drawing a sharp intake of breath and a pained wince. Ms. Neon could see her tearing up as she started saying, "I-I don't know, Ms. Neon, w-we were just getting-"
Ms. Neon cut her off, leaning down and looking even more furious, shouting, "Don't you dare lie to me, Honey! Where is she!" When Honey started to cry, stammering out what was clearly another denial, she let go of her, pointing to the front door, shouting, "You three, your rooms, NOW!" The three instantly ran past, Honey holding her arm where Ms. Neon gripped her, crying while Ms. Neon shouted after them, "And if anything happened to that girl, then you're going to be in far more trouble than you can even IMAGINE!"
Ms. Neon was breathing hard. She felt… she didn't feel good. She was worried sick about Nora, infuriated with Honey, and was starting to feel physically ill. How could she have let this happen? After all that girl had already gone through, now she was missing because of a petty brat! Ms. Neon practically ran back to her office, checking to see if the sheriff had called, only to find disappointment. Surely it shouldn't take this long, the town wasn't that big, was it?
After another hour of nothing, she really did become physically ill, almost not getting to the toilet in time. She had just left the bathroom, wiping at her mouth and looking for something to drink and get rid of the aftertaste when she heard a knock at the front door of the orphanage. Ms. Neon wasted no time, running to answer it.
She opened it, only to first find herself face to face with Mrs. Lie from across the street. Ms. Neon was confused at first, not having really spoken with her much. Mrs. Lie gave a smile, stepping to the side as she gestured behind her, asking, "I believe you lost someone?"
There, in the front yard was Nora, smiling and playing with Mrs. Lie's son. The little orange haired girl turned, beaming as she gave a little wave, saying, "Hi Ms. Neon!"
Nora was about to say more, explain why she was gone so long, only to be interrupted as Ms. Neon ran to her, practically sliding on her knees to pull the girl into a tight hug, crying, "Oh Nora, thank goodness you're alright!"
The older woman held her for a moment, squeezing her before pulling back. Nora saw tears in the woman's eyes as she asked, "You're alright, aren't you? You're not hurt?"
Nora blinked twice before she began to tear up, but she was smiling, hugging the woman as she responded. "I'm okay, Ms. Neon." She felt Ms. Neon's arms wrap around her in return, only making her cry harder as she apologized, "I'm sorry… I shouldn't have listened to Honey… I'm so sorry I worried you."
Ms. Neon let out a little chuckle, eyes shut tight. "It's okay, Nora, you don't have to be sorry." She did feel a hint of anger as Nora confirmed her suspicions about this being Honey's fault. Taking a breath before breaking the hug, she wiped her eyes, returning the smile to the tiny girl.
Nora wiped at her own tears, smiling in return before gasping happily, "Oh! Ms. Neon, I want you to meet someone!" She ran to Ren, the young boy having just been standing there in a kind of daze. He smiled a bit, opening his mouth to say something before the small girl grabbed his hand and tugged him over, causing him to stumble more than walk over. "This is Ren! He's my new best friend! And," pulling him along, Ms. Neon giggling a bit at the adorable display, she brought him to stand next to Ren's mother, who looked similarly amused, "And this is Ren's mom!"
Ms. Neon giggled softly before walking over, crouching down some while offering her hand, "Well, it's nice to see you again, Ren, and I'm very happy to hear you're Nora's friend." Ren smiled nervously, but took her hand and gave it a little shake. Looking to the other adult, she bowed her head some. "And thank you, Mrs. Lie, very much."
Mrs. Lie bowed her head just as deeply before saying, "Anything for a friend of Ren's. According to our young Ms. Valkyrie, the one to blame for this little situation is that Honey girl."
Ms. Neon frowned, sighing in annoyance as she replied, "Yeah, I worked that out… and believe me, I'll be dealing with that." Her smile returned as she looked down at Nora, giving her hair a little tousle as she continued, "First, I think Nora could use a nice bath and a warm dinner."
Nora gave a rather adorable pout as she asked, "Can I just have the dinner, Ms. Neon?"
The two adults laughed softly, causing Nora to pout while Ren gave her a rather solemn pat on the shoulder for such a mundane situation. Mrs. Lie looked at her watch, realizing the time. "Alright Ren, say goodbye to your friend, it's getting late."
Ren nodded before looking to Nora, smiling some as he gave a little bow, saying, "It was really nice to meet you, Nora, and I hope we can play together more."
The young girl tilted her head in confusion at the bow before smiling and pulling him into a hug instead, saying, "I'm glad I met you too, Ren. Now Maggie and I have a new friend… I'm glad Honey left me there."
Ren blinked in confusion before smiling and returning the hug before they parted ways. Mrs. Lie led her son across the street to their home while Ms. Neon placed a hand on the young girl's shoulder, leading her back in the home, Nora almost skipping while hugging Maggie close.
After a warm bubble bath, a hot dinner, and even some ice cream for dessert, the young girl happy to finally get it after Honey's lies, and Ms. Neon was tucking the little girl into her bed, Nora yawning softly while snuggling Maggie close. Ms. Neon smiled, asking, "You remembered to use the bathroom and brush your teeth, right, sweetie?"
Nora smiled sleepily, nodding as she said, "Yes Ms. Neon, and thanks again for the ice cream."
Ms. Neon nodded, saying, "Then goodnight, Nora… and if you want, you can come by my room again, okay? I'm always here for all you guys."
The young girl nodded, smiling some before saying, "I think… I think I'll be okay tonight, but thank you… did you yell at Honey?"
Ms. Neon sighed, nodding as she said, "I… had a word with her, yes. Don't worry, I'll do my best to make sure she doesn't bully you again, okay?"
Nora nodded before closing her eyes, still smiling as she said, "Yeah, she stinks… but at least, because of her, Maggie and me got to make a new friend."
Ms. Neon chuckled, nodding as she gave the young girl a peck on the forehead before getting up and heading for the door, softly whispering, "That's right, sweetie… always look for the bright side." She didn't shut the door all the way, letting a small amount of light from the hallway come through before she made her way back to her office/bedroom.
She changed into her pajamas once there, but she couldn't sleep, not yet. Thanks to Honey's little 'prank', she'd been too busy working to find Nora to actually take care of the paperwork that still needed taking care of. She sighed softly, mumbling to herself, "Who needs a boyfriend when you have legal documents."
(First off, sorry it's been so long since I've put up an update, there's no excuse for that, and thank you all for all the support. This chapter isn't as long as the previous two, and I'm sorry about that as well, hope it's still enjoyable though.
Shout out to Challos on Reddit, where I'm known as Graxdon, for his mad editing skills on this chapter as well.)