Nicola Mae Hodges
date of birth
aura reading & death warning
instructor at The Institute
Nicola has been described before as 'almost too nice'. There have been jokes made how she must be a super villian in disguise, because nobody is that perfect. Which is, of course, true, because she isn't perfect. She gets snappy sometimes, expects too much of herself, and if she becomes disappointed in someone or something, she will likely hold onto that feeling for awhile. But she's genuinely happy, extremely generous, and nuturing almost to the point where it's annoying. If she finds out someone close to her is having a hard go of things, she will immediately insist that they come to stay, insisting that there's plenty of room, and of course Alexander won't mind. She is the queen of hosting impromptu tea parties, even if that means shoving the normal every day clutter that accumulates in any house into the nearest closet a moment before her guests arrive. She always deals with it later. Almost always. She was always the type of girl to name the bumblebees she saw in the flowers outside her window, and give away the dessert from her lunch to the kid who had only a dry bologna sandwich from home. And she held onto most of that sweetness as she grew, ready to thrust it upon the nearest person she deems worthy. She will mother people as if they were her own flesh and blood, which can get irritating if she keeps insisting perhaps they shouldn't come to the sushi dinner that's been planned for weeks because they've got a little sniffle.
Once upon a time, in the grey and dreary town of Basildon, England, a baby girl with a shock of dark hair was born in the creaky upstairs bedroom of her grandparents house. Nicola Mae Woodworth arrived nearly a month early, but when she entered the world with a screech of protest, she was surprised the doctors with how robust and ruddy she was. And she was vocal for a preemie; her mother likes to say that Nicola spent the first month of her life screaming, and the second month sleeping it off. Rinse and repeat for the first year, almost.

Nic's childhood was a happy one. Her parents adored her, and doted on her without spoiling her. When she was eight, her sister Imogen was born, and to little girl this sweet, pink baby was brought here for her. Gennie was a doll for her to play with. There was no sibling rivalry, no bickering, and the Woodworth house was a happy and quiet one. It was noted on several occasions that Gen didn't scream the way Nicola did, and thank god for that.

When Nicola was ten, she casually brought up at the dinner table that her teacher's colour had changed. Curious, her parents asked what she meant by that, and while building a volcano from her mashed potatoes, she explained that everyone had a colour. And her teacher, who had been happier lately, had changed from a kind of turquoise to a greyish blue. Bemused, her mum asked her what colour she was, and Nicola finally looked up from her dinner with a cheery smile and told her that she was golden yellow, and that dad was 'kind of green, but also kind of purple'. A year ago, Elaine had given her daughter her old mood ring from the seventies, so both adults just assumed that she was making up colours, based on people's attitudes, and cross-referenced by the mood ring guide that came folded up in the box.

Several months later, Nicola came home from school, looking very upset. When her mother asked her what was wrong, she explained that her teacher's colour had been getting progressively more grey lately, but today it had been completely black. Like she was surrounded by a 'painted rain cloud'. Elaine tried to explain to her distraught daughter that the colours didn't mean anything, if they were really there. She gave Nicola a hug, some Arrowroots to share with Gennie, and went to go and make an appointment for Nikki with the optometrist.

The very next afternoon, Nicola came in crying. Her teacher, the once turquoise woman who brought the fifth year class candy the first day, had died. What she didn't know, and would not find out for many years, was that Mrs. Eaton had been depressed for a long time, and had taken her own life. And somehow, Nic knew that the change in colours had something to do with her beloved teacher's death. She just knew it, but she didn't know how she knew. Call it her very first instinct that was stronger than 'I don't think I'm going to like eggplant because look at it that is gross'.

After the situation with her teacher, Nicola decided to keep the colours she saw a secret from others. She hadn't missed the look in her mother's eyes when she'd talked about Mrs. Eaton, nor could she forget the multiple vision tests she'd had. The pressure test, in particular, had been traumatizing. To this day she gets a bit funny when things come near her eyes. Nic became a little more solumn, her own colour dimming a little. She was not a moody child, exactly, just a serious one. Her parents noticed, naturally, and the worried creases between their brows took to deepening when they watched her play with Gennie with less enthusiasm, or pass up a trip to the park. They didn't know that she passed these trips up because she had no desire to see anyone else with that black cloud painted around them. It was too much for a child of nearly eleven to handle.

Over time, however, her cheerfulness returned. Time heals all wounds, after all, and Nicola was a naturally happy girl. Moodiness weighed her down, and unknowingly her own colour had shifted a little. It had become duller, the way she herself had become duller. But as she approached her teenage years, she found that keeping herself at a distance from other people was just too difficult. She was a social butterfly at heart, flittering around and perching lightly on the lives of people she cared about, leaving a lasting impression on them. Elaine and Alister were relieved to find that their daughter was coming out of that dark spot, and easing into the happy life she'd had before.

Fast forward three years. Nearly sixteen, Nicola was a busy young woman, juggling as active a social life as she could while still taking a twelfth year English course, and studying for the GCSE. She had a boyfriend, a sweet boy who lived across the street, and walked her home from school each day. For a teenager, the age where everyone was meant to feel miserable, Nic was surprisingly happy. She still enjoyed the company of her parents, and was outstandingly patient with Imogen when the little girl, whose colour had changed over time from the white innocence of babyhood to a rosey pink, would come to her bedroom when Nicola was meant to be studying. She was always quick to paint her sister's nails, or help her mother with dinner, or go for a bicycle ride with her father. Life really couldn't get better. Until the day that her father came home from work, looking tired and pale. And surrounded by a haze of black. A stab of fear so acute it actually hurt rocked Nicola, and she spent the rest of that afternoon and evening practically glued to her father's side. She asked him a hundred times if he was feeling well, and was always assured that he was fine. He was just tired, it had been a long day at the office. That night, after Alister had gone to bed early, Nic sat up in bed, too shaken to sleep. She sat there, holding an old doll her father had gotten for her when she was six, watching the colour of the sky outside her window change. She sat there until she heard her mother's panicked voice, down the hall. It was half four in the morning when Alister suffered a heart attack that killed him before the paramedics could get there. After a long, hellish day full of telephone calls, tears, and neighbours bringing over casseroles and boxes of cakes, Elaine and her daughters sat in silence in the kitchen. Every so often, one of them would make a remark about how Daddy wouldn't want them to be sad, or recalling a happy memory of him, and after tearful laughter, or just tears, they would fall silent again. An hour and a half into this routine, Nicola brought up the fact that she should have known this was going to happen. Because his colour had changed, just like Mrs. Eaton' had so many years ago. Her mother bade her to stop that nonsense, that this was not the time, nor was it appropriate to bring up the ridiculous colours. When Nicola insisted, saying she had seen the blackness enveloping her father all the previous evening, Elaine slapped her hard enough to leave a mark on her daughter's cheek. In a low voice, she told Nicola that she didn't want to hear anything else about colours, ever again. Stricken, Nicola ran up to her room and didn't come out again until the funeral, three days later. She didn't speak to her mother, save for what was necessary, for another week after that. Only Imogen, the sweet girl who was still very much Nicola's doll, was spared the wrath of the distraught teenager.

It was also Imogen who told her that she not only believed Nicola when she talked about the colours, she had also looked it up online. A month after their father's death, when things were very slowly starting to get back to normal, she brought Nicola printed pages from their computer. Pages printed off a website about auras, and the people who were able to read them. She excitedly pointed out the fact that Nic was by no means the only person who could see the colour of a person's aura. And she told her, with all the earnestness of a child who was desperate to do something right, that she would go to their mother. She would tell Elaine, who had forbidden the talk of auras, that her beloved big sister was not lying. And while the little girl did so, choosing to tell their mum when they were out at the shops, Nicola poured over the printed pages. She read them over so many times she had them memorized. A full sheet of printer paper was dedicated to what the different colors of auras meant. Her father's green aura with the purple swirls had meant that he was peaceful, content, but sometimes jealous. He was faithful and wise, and very capable. The black that had taken over that last day he'd been alive was simply the imminence of his passing. A warning, of sorts, to anyone who was able to sense it. Reading that caused the grief that Nicola had pushed back while she'd been upset with her mother to resurface, and when Elaine and Imogen returned from shopping, they found the girl sitting in Alister's favourite old recliner, weeping. Grocery bags were dropped in the foyer, and the entire family huddled into that big chair that smelt faintly of cigarettes and bacon crisps, crying together. It was the beginning of the Woodworth's healing process. It also marked the beginning of something else in Nicola. She did research, as much as she could handle with her exams coming up, about auras. About other people who could sense them. And how she could use it to help other people. Because there had to be some way that seeing those beautiful swirling colours surrounding people could benefit them in some way. She began to look at her friends and family more closely, even going so far as to chart any changes to their auras. If dark spots appeared, she would immediately pull them aside and talk to them. Everyone noted how attentive she was, and commented about how sweet and compassionate a girl she was. Not wanting to explain the auras to people who might not understand, or who might think she was crazy, she simply deflected their compliments easily. Peace was beginning to return to her life, though she would forever mourn her father. His passing left a dark spot on her own aura, a splotch of inkiness just over her heart.

The rest of secondary school passed by with no further results. Her mother had begun working, and found that she quite enjoyed not being a stay-at-home mum. Imogen was like a beacon of light and happiness, and had a different house to spend time at after school each day, and a new best friend every week. Nicola's smile had lost the sadness that had lingered there since her father's death. She had begun tending his beloved vegetable patches in the garden, and found that she quite enjoyed working with her hands in the dirt. By the time she was eighteen and ready to sit her A-Levels, she was a vivacious, happy woman who was looking forward to university, and moving on to the next step of her life. She never stopped watching the auras of the people she loved, but she became less obsessed with it. Her notebooks filled with charts and notes were tossed into the big bin when she was cleaning her room out in preparation to move from her mother's house, never to be given a second thought. And while she was sad to leave her mum and sister, she had been accepted to the University of Manchester. And she was excited to move on to the next stage of her life. So it was with many tearful hugs and promises to write and call that Nicola piled into her beaten up Honda and began the four hour drive that symbolized the start of her new life.

Nicola had known that she wanted to be a teacher for several years, so she began the grueling process of getting her degree. There was more than one occasion where she would be in the university library, scrambling to finish a paper that she had put off for too long, and all she wanted to do was give up. The memory of her father was a constant inspiration, because if she had ever told him that she wanted to give up on something, he would level a look on her that said more than words ever could. And so she toughed it out. And the friends that she met on campus more than made up for the occasional coffee fueled all-nighter in the library.

It was one of the girls in her small circle of close friends that put the idea of teaching abroad in her head. After all, she reasoned over coffee one day, they always talk about needing teachers in the States. To say nothing of the fact that Americans loved British accents. And while she had giggled with the rest of the group, that had planted a seed in her mind. What if she did travel to find a teaching job. What if she weren't trapped in grey, dreary England for the rest of her days? What if she went out and had an adventure?

Of course, it wasn't as simple as just jumping on a plane and going to America. She had to jump through a circus' worth of hoops to get her visa, including making sure she had a job lined up in the States. And so, after successfully getting her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, she planned a trip to the States. To pacify her mother, who was rather tearful at the thought of her baby living halfway across the world, she bought three tickets, and made it a family trip.

The three of them made it to Louisiana unscathed, for the most part. It was just before Mardi Gras, and the entire city was a swirl of colour and noise. It was overwhelming, but addicting, and she fell in love immediately. While her mum and sister were at a local voodoo museum, Nicola began looking into teaching jobs in the area. The stars were in her favour, it would seem, because the third school she went to was looking for a fourth grade teacher. She spent a good portion of the rest of their vacation applying for the job, attending interviews, and finding out the channels to go through in order to get her working visa. She managed to enjoy most of the trip, but found herself on complete edge, waiting to hear if she'd gotten the job. Because New Orleans felt right to her. It felt like it could very well be home, some day. The trip home was a sombre one, because for the first time in her life, Nic didn't want to go back to England. New Orleans was like a beautiful song that she had never heard before, but she wanted so badly to learn. But she moved forward with her plans to relocate, determined to get back there as soon as she could. She spent most of the rest of her time in England either packing, filling out paperwork, or consoling her mother, who was desolate to be 'losing her baby'. It took both Woodworth girls to talk her down from her ledge, Imogen politely (and then not so politely) reminding her that she wasn't going anywhere. Nicola promised to write to them, to call at least once a week, and to come back for important holidays, and eventually Elaine stopped calling her ungrateful for leaving. It was as good as it would get, and Nic had a bounce in her step when she boarded the plane, once more, for the long trip from London to Louisiana.

Though she was eager to get out and begin teaching immediately, it took some time before she found a job in the education system. Desperate for money, because she didn't want to let her roommate -- the same sweet woman who had played hostess for her first trip over -- down, she found a job at a grocery store that at least paid the bills, and applied for any and all teaching positions she could, picking up the occasional substitute shift for this school or that, all over the lower mainland. She was twenty-four. And it wasn't until she was twenty-six that she finally got a job -- a substitute job, mind you -- at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School. One of the teachers was going on maternity leave, and would be gone the last three months of the school year. It was a forth grade class, and Nicola was over the moon. A job as long as that would definitely help her find something permanent.

And it did. That July, just as she was getting ready to go to her job at the grocery store, she got a call. And at first, she wondered about that call. Because the person on the other end of the phone should have had no way to know who she was, where she was, or how to contact her. But when she heard what they had to say, she quickly understood. They were calling from a place that they simply called The Institute - a place that had a far longer name, she learned later - that was a place in Seattle that catered to people with pyschic abilities. Abilities like being able to see the colours surrounding people, knowing if they were unhappy, or excited, or if something terrible was about to happen. And this place, this Institute, was looking for people who would help out. Act as an instructor of sorts, someone to be both a mentor and a teacher. Someone to help run tests, to work with the students if they needed help, and to be there if anyone was afraid, or homesick, or just needed to talk to someone. It was like being a teacher, but she would be working with adults instead of children. And instead of teaching maths and spelling, she would be helping telekinetics float things, and chart the progress telepaths made honing their abilities. In a way, it was even better than teaching. She would be making a difference, and making it so nobody would have to go through what she did. Thinking that it was her job to track and chart the colours of everyone she came across, just to make sure they all stayed happy and healthy. She made the move from Louisiana to Seattle, and the fact that the dreary weather reminded her of England made it feel more like it was meant to be.

She'd been there for almost a year when she began to notice Alex. When he came into the communal kitchen of the main house, it seemed to get warmer. His laugh filled her stomach with butterflies, and his smile made her weak in the knees. She spent what felt like an eternity hoping that he would ask her out, and when he finally did her head swam with happiness and she almost forgot to actually answer him. They clicked immediately, and she knew after they'd been dating for a couple of weeks that he was the one. He was warm, the way he acted with the students melted her heart, and his Scots accent did funny things to certain parts of her anatomy. All too soon, some of the more astute students at the Institute began to take notice of how they would stand close to each other in the kitchen in the mornings, letting their fingers brush together ever so as they lingered over the coffee pot together. "Miss. Woodworth is in loooo~oo~ooove!" some would tease her, and Nic would have to try to keep from smiling too widely as she waved them off.

But she was in love. And when he brought her home to meet his family over the holidays, she quickly came to love them as well. Her own small family, consisting of her sister and her mum, couldn't hold a candle to the loudness and brightness and excitement of Alex's three siblings and his parents. And they welcomed her into their crazy fold immediately, which made Nic glow with happiness. She flew back to England for the second week of winter break, and told her mum and sister that she had found the man she was going to marry.

And marry him she did, on the first of May, four years after they met over the coffee machine in the ancient kitchen of a house meant for psychics. They've been together for nine years, married for almost five, and they are so happy that people often call them disgusting. On January sixth of 2016 they had their first child, a daughter named Sorcha. January twenty-first of 2018 they welcomed their second daughter, Ellie. They have a pretty house about twenty minutes from the Estate, with a backyard that looks into a patch of woods, with a stream running through close enough that you can hear the water on still nights. And things are pretty much perfect.

Alexander Hodges
Her husband, the father of her children, and the proof to her that true love isn't just a thing in sappy romance novels. He's made her life into a sappy romance novel.