Act 1: Chapter 2, Part 2

Posted on March 26, 2017

In Which Terminology is Disputed

Megan. First Day of School. Exact Same Time.

“Hey Meeegan!” Lauren said the moment Megan stepped out of the locker room into the hall, chipper voice matching her wide smile. Megan jumped and nearly dropped gym bag. “What in the light of the Moon were you doing this morning?” Her tone didn’t change, still bright and friendly, belied by the actual words.

“Lauren! Hey! Uh—“ she replied, panic seizing her breath. She looked up at her elegant friend’s midnight eyes, and focused on what Angie had said. It was true, in a way. In elementary school it had been Megan who was one of the most popular girls in school. Katie Kay and Beth had been her friends, and Angie her right-hand girl, and no one had even questioned her friendship with Ryan and Evan or anyone else. She’d been friends with everybody.

So she said, “Lauren, can we just not do this?” and started walking.

A puzzled expression flowed onto Lauren’s face as she fell into step beside Megan. “Pardon?”

“The only things I want to talk about right now are deets on the New Boy,” Megan replied. She couldn’t stop a hint of eagerness from creeping into her voice.

Lauren didn’t bite. “You’ll get deets. We’re on a different subject right now. I thought we had settled this. I don’t understand why it’s suddenly not settled. Is this just because we’re in high school now?”

Megan considered. “No. I should have done this sooner.”

Lauren pouted in frustration. “This is ridiculous. You have to think of your image. What will people say?”

“Evan’s father was a captain in the militia, and he’s apparently died,” Megan said, her own frustration creeping into her voice. “Something I’m ashamed I didn’t know. How’s that not respectable?” Lauren opened her mouth and Megan cut her off to say, “And there’s nothing wrong with Angie and Ryan, either.”

“There absolutely is, and you know it.” Lauren said, pointing at Megan. “And the militia is not exactly on our level either. Your father is the COO of the Pacific India Company. I apologize for my rudeness, but… you’re better than this.”

“Lauren,” Megan said, “I’m not talking about this.”

“Ryan doesn’t even know the face of his mother,” Lauren said. “His name’s not even a name. And Angela’s mother is a shopkeep.”

“Lauren!” Megan snapped, turning toward her, “I have been friends with them for half my life. More than that, with Angie. No one had any problem with who I chose to be friends with before you came along!” She paused a moment, then threw in, “And Angie’s mother is a well-known enchantress with her own storefront.”

Lauren’s dark eyes flashed. “We’re not children anymore, Megan! Who you spend time with matters!”

“Angie was my best friend, Lauren!” Megan said, her voice creeping into a higher register, which she hated doing but couldn’t stop.

“That’s insane!” Lauren said, her voice raised as well. People were starting to stare at them. “If anything, Beth was your best friend, and now I am!”

This threw Megan’s train of thought into neutral and she stared at Lauren in amazement. “What?”

“Come on, Megan,” Lauren said, almost sounding like she was confused too, “Obviously, I’m your best friend. There’s no one you’re friends with who’s better than me.”

The nature of Megan’s stare changed to dumbfounded. She’d known Lauren was a little full of herself, that was the nature of someone from a Light Bearing family, but that was—

A mild tenor voice, smooth and pleasant, with a gentle Southern accent put words to her thoughts before she could think them. “Is that what that means here in the Northwest? Or just in the Light Bearing families, maybe? I don’t think that’s what most people mean when they say that, though.”

She and Lauren both turned to face the speaker. It was the New Boy.

Up close, he took her breath away. He was taller than her, but not by a ton. Maybe an inch shorter than Evan, but broader, his arms and shoulders well defined even beneath his shirt. He had fine features, with high cheekbones and an almost delicate jawline. He was almost pretty, in a really appealing way. His clothing was clearly handmade, the tailoring incredible; the green of the shirt and the blue of his jeans were rich and striking, the dye jobs masterful. The copper lantern on his belt, she could see, was a work of art, traced in runes of silver. His hair was rakishly shaggy, and it really did seem to be even blacker than Lauren’s, somehow.

But more than anything, his eyes were like nothing she’d ever seen. Even from a distance of six or seven feet, they were impossible not to notice, and she could see them clearly. They were two distinct colors; mostly a brilliant emerald green, but a thin band of stormy grey encircled the pupils, with narrow spikes of the grey jutting into the green at various points. Megan knew, instantly, she would dream of those eyes. Probably every girl in the school would.

“Pardon me?” Lauren said, taken off guard.

“I mean,” he said, in the tone of someone trying to figure out a crossword puzzle, the faintest trace of a frown gracing his brow, “in the Raleigh, ‘best friend’ means your closest, dearest friend. The friend you like and/or love the most. Is that… is that not what that means here? I’ve never heard anyone use the term as a measurement of quality.”

Incredibly, impossibly, Megan found her voice, despite his presence. “I’ve also never heard anyone use it that way,” she said, giving Lauren a dubious look. As much as anything so she wasn’t staring entranced at him.

It was Lauren’s turn to try on bewilderment. Directing the statement at Lauren before she could formulate a response, the New Boy said, “When I met you this morning, I would have never guessed you’d be the type of person to shout at some other girl in the middle of the courtyard between classes. Not in an aeon.”

Leaving Lauren to her world crumbling around her, he turned his attention to Megan, giving her a smile that could have been in the dictionary next to “smile” and extending a hand, and said, “I’m Chris Gramyre.”

Megan shook his hand, shivering at the touch. His hand was warm and firm, and she was mortified; her own felt weird and clammy. Was Chris noticing? Did he think she was weird? She realized she was still shaking his hand and it had been too long and she wasn’t speaking her name either, like she was starring in a bad teen comedy, and she dropped his hand like it was burning her and blurted, “Megan!” He blinked. “That’s me. I’m Megan.” This was not her. She didn’t do this. She pulled herself together and tried to salvage things with a smile. “Megan O’Sadie. That’s my name.”

He seemed completely unperturbed. “Cool. Listen Megan, we’ve got like three minutes before the bells, and I have no idea where my next class is. You mind helping me find it?”

She opened her mouth without any idea of what she was about to say, and just said, “S-sure!”

“Cool.” He smiled warmly at Lauren, who still seemed stunned. “Lauren, I’ll catch you later, yeah?”

“O-oh-okay?” Lauren managed.

“Cool.” He stepped closer to Megan, pulling a crumpled schedule out of his pocket with one hand. With the barest touch on her arm with the other, he set them walking, leaving Lauren behind.

“Erm,” Megan said.

“I know where my next class is,” he said, showing her the schedule. “I mean, there’s totally a map, which is something I know how to read. It just seemed like that was a conversation that was going to make you both late, which seems like an unnecessary mark against you this early in the year.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Probably. You… you have Freshman Common1 next. I have Freshman Common next.” She realized her voice made it sound like she couldn’t quite believe it. She couldn’t quite believe it.

“Hey, perfect!” Chris said brightly. “We can just walk on over, then.”

Megan felt faint. “Great?” That came out totally wrong. “Uh I mean, great!”

“Probably!” Chris replied, grinning. Which took Megan completely off guard, and she couldn’t help it—she burst out giggling. Chris started chuckling as well, and for several moments there was nothing in the world for Megan except the two of them, looking at each other and laughing.

As their amusement tapered off, Chris shook his head, smiling in a way that suggested he didn’t quite know how he’d gotten to that moment in his life. Megan could empathize. This first day of school had gotten more… momentous… than she had even anticipated.

  • 1. More properly the Fredonian Common Tongue, the primary language spoken in the Fredonian Union of City-States. Originally a trade tongue, Fredonian Common (there are other common tongues in the world, but most Fredonians just refer to it as Common) is a hybrid language formed by the continuous adoption of words and phrases from the languages of a wide variety of Fredonian immigrants into the British Common tongue (itself a hybrid trade language in the British isles, developed over centuries of incorporation of vocabulary from the various insular Celtic languages into Anglo-Saxon’s overall semantic structures). The majority Fredonians speak Common as their native language in the modern era.