Act 1: Chapter 4, Part 3

Posted on June 04, 2017

In Which Unreasonable Requests are Made

Angie. First Day of School. Sixth Period.

So in Art they were doing introductions: name, where you’re from, ‘one interesting fact about you.’

Art had two rows of these long work benches, with three seats per workbench and five benches per row. Angie had snagged the inside row seat of the far back table in the far row. The back corner had already been taken by a girl wearing a light-weight, dark blue hooded long sleeve blouse, slumped in her seat with the hood up, and there were a couple of awkward looking guys at the back table of the near row, so Angie had chosen Blue Hood’s table, leaving the seat between them empty. Most of the seats in the class were full, but neither middle seat in the back was filled. No one had wanted to sit between either the weird girls or the awkward guys.

Beth was three tables in front of Angie. She’d smiled at Angie again when she’d come into the room, but she hadn’t come sat near her; she and Tate had sat up front instead. When the introductions reached Beth, she stood and said, “I’m Elizabeth Mishra, but you can call me Beth. I’m from Seattle. My grandparents were all born here as first generation immigrant children, and my paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, and maternal grandmother are all involved in city-state politics.”

“Yes,” their art teacher, Ms. Iravani, said. She was in her twenties, and there were going to be boys with crushes on her. “Your grandfather is Councillor Chand Mishra, correct?”

“Yes Ms. Iravani,” Beth replied, nodding.

Tate was next. He ignored the resultant murmur as he said, “Tate Fisher. Local. I was the captain of the basketball team last year at Asphodel.” Their middle school, Asphodel, had won state last year, Angie knew. Whether that had anything to do with Tate or not Angie did not know. She wasn’t much for non-combat sports, and had not been to any games. She suspected she would not have that luxury this year.

The introductions wound back and forth around the room, until it was down to her and Blue Hood. She stood up. “Name’s Angie McMillan. Don’t call me Angela. I’m from Seattle too. I can talk to birds and small mammals.”

Another murmur rippled through the class at that. Blue Hood made a noise almost of disgust, and Angie frowned over at her, but she was still slouched, hooded, and facing forward. It’s not like it was super rare or anything, having magic, but a lot of people didn’t know anyone who was magical, innately or otherwise. Some people had dumb opinions about it.

“How marvelous,” Ms. Iravani said. “To understand the songs of birds!”

“Not really,” Angie replied. “They’re mostly vulgar, foul-mouthed little jerks. The only polite birds are the big smart ones, but they’re still creepy flying dinosaurs.”

Ms. Iravani, and most of the rest of the class, appeared taken aback at that. “Oh. Well, um.” She turned her attention to Blue Hood. “Aubrey, we can pass over you, if you’d like, but I would like you to take your hood off, please.”

Blue Hood was silent for a moment. Then, without standing up or removing the hood, she said, with a trace of a southern accent, New Orleans maybe, “I’m Aubrey Balfour-Contois. I really don’t like talking in front of groups of people, I have a note.”

For a moment, that seemed like it was going to be it, but then as Ms. Iravani was opening her mouth to speak, Aubrey said, “She’s right about birds.”

“Thank you, Aubrey,” Ms. Iravani said after absorbing that. “I’d still like you to take your hood off, though.”

Aubrey made another little noise of disgust, and, clearly unwillingly, reached up and drew back the hood. She had long, mostly straight, rich chestnut hair. Angie thought she was quite pretty, with full lips and a heart-shaped face, a dainty chin and high cheekbones. She wasn’t wearing any makeup, though, and there were huge dark circles under her eyes.

Everyone looked at her for a long moment, during which Aubrey’s face flushed, her eyes on the table in front of her as she fidgeted, shifting and squirming as if the eyes upon her were causing her physical discomfort. Then Ms. Iravani said, “Okay class,” drawing eyes back to her, and a little bit of the tension left Aubrey, though her cheeks were still flushed red and her eyes still down. “So,” Ms. Iravani continued, “we have a little time left, but not a lot, so why don’t you all--” and here she reached behind her desk and picked up a bowl of fruit, “--begin a sketch of this bowl of fruit. The still life is a good way for artists to practice fundamentals, and this sketch will allow me to gauge what skill level each of you currently possess.”

There was a general rustling bustle as a roomful of teens produced drawing implements and started sketching fruit.

Angie caught movement in the corner of her eye, and turned to find Aubrey glancing her way. The girl’s eyes were a pale blue-grey, closer to grey than to blue, like a December sky. They were striking, lovely, but just a little eerie as well. “Talking to birds was going to be mine,” she said quietly.

“That’s why you made that noise,” Angie said, smiling at the girl. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

The girl returned Angie’s smile with a faint one of her own, though she seemed unpracticed with the expression. “‘Sokay. I’ll forgive you this time.” She turned her attention back to the paper and pencil before her, bending over it and starting to work.

Angie watched her for a moment, but ultimately decided that, A, she didn’t know how Ms. Iravani felt about conversation while they worked, and B, the day had been eventful enough already. She would have time to learn what Aubrey’s deal was.

Evan. First Day of School. After Sixth Period.

Katie Kay waited until Evan and Ryan left the classroom.

“Heeey, guys!” Katie said, walking up to them from the right, smiling widely. She was wearing a grey and blue plaid knee length skirt, and a relatively tight dark blue blouse, and sharp looking  grey heels that were at least an inch and a half, which pushed Katie to slightly taller than Evan. “How’s it going?” Behind her, Nisha Twiggs looked on with cool disinterest.

Evan glanced at Ryan. Ryan rolled his eyes.

Evan looked at Katie and said, “Katie, you do realize it’s been close to three years since you last talked to us, right?”

Katie’s smile cracked. “Yes, well, these things happen sometimes,” she said, clearly only keeping the friendly note in her voice with effort. “It certainly wasn’t my idea. Not much you can do when a Bakili heiress wants a thing, after all. Still, seems like the winds are blowing a different direction, so I’m willing to let bygones be bygones.”

“Katie,” Ryan said, “What part of me shaking my head at you before class didn’t you understand?

At this point Katie was more or less just baring her teeth at them. Speaking through her teeth as well, she said, “Well, I just thought that maybe if we take a minute to talk, we could smooth things over. Have a fresh start, you know?”

“Katie,” Evan said, not bothering to hide his puzzlement. “You hated us while we still hung out. I don’t know what you’re trying to do now.”

Katie closed her eyes, taking several deep, audible breaths through her nostrils, before opening her eyes again and saying, “I wouldn’t go that far. You may not have been my favorite people, but I didn’t hate you. And you know, people change, we’re all adults now, and it seems like Megan wants to reconnect with you guys, so I thought I’d be the first to say we support her, totally.” She tried one last, unconvincing smile.

“Oh,” Ryan said, snapping his fingers. “Chris told you guys about what happened this morning with Megan, didn’t he? You’re just trying to do damage control because you know he’s not going to turn on us under regular circumstances, huh?”

Katie sighed, her shoulders sagging. “Your ridiculous fucking birthday thing,” she said, the last of the forced friendliness gone from her voice. “I can’t fucking believe it. Just, can you please not bad mouth me around them? I don’t understand how he doesn’t see that you’re total weirdos, but the world we live in is not perfect. I will rise to the challenge.”

They both regarded her for a moment as she regarded them in turn, an expression of irritation and something like defiance on her face. Evan glanced at Ryan.

Ryan sighed too. “That was a bad start, Katie,” he said. “If you think you can be polite to us, we won’t blow up your spot. By which I mean tell Chris or Megan what a jerk you are. How Megan hasn’t figured it out by now I don’t know.” He grinned. “It’ll be fun watching you try and be polite in front of them.”

“I can manage,” Katie said. “I was trying to be pleasant when we started this. You’re the ones who were rude.”

"You stopped talking to us for three years,” Evan pointed out again. “Along with two-thirds of the rest of the school.”

Katie nodded, looking wistful. “And what a fun three years it was,” she said.

“Okay,” Ryan said, sounding annoyed, “I want to point out that my condition of you being polite to us includes when Megan and Chris aren’t around, too. That wasn’t particularly nice.”

Katie gritted her teeth a little bit. “I apologize,” she said. “Let’s go, Nisha.” She started walking, passing them in a moment.

“Whatever,” Nisha said, rolling her eyes. She started to follow Katie, but slowly, looking at Evan and Ryan, consideringly. Nisha was wearing a loose cream sleeveless blouse with a black collar, tan kapris, and burgundy flats. The blouse offset her warm, russet skin nicely. Evan couldn’t help but wonder how long it had taken her to do her hair; short on her left side with a thick, tightly curled, rather elaborate coiffure on the right that extended out maybe four inches from the side of her head. The florescent lights brought out blueish highlights in her dark curls.

Her dark eyes didn’t give away any of her thoughts. After a moment, one of the corners of her lips curled up as she paused, a cool smile with a touch of amusing interest. “I’m looking forward to seeing her try and be polite too,” Nisha said. “Lauren and the Katies try and keep the claws sheathed around Megan and Beth. You’ll put that to the test, I’m sure.”

Evan didn’t know much about Nisha; they hadn’t gone to elementary school with her, Lauren, or Katier, and they certainly hadn’t associated with each other in middle school. He knew she was a Tourney girl, as was clear from the muscles in her arms, and purportedly skilled, but that was about it. “And you?” he asked.

Nisha shrugged. “I don’t know nothing about you fools. You never talk to people, or when you do you’re pretty cold, and you’re friends with that redhead, and you were in the smart kids classes in middle school. Beyond that, I’m reserving judgment. I know why Lauren and Katie don’t like you; I wanna see why Megan does. Maybe I’ll see what the new guy has to say about you in a few days, too.”

“Appreciate the consideration,” Ryan said, a little dryly.

“Sure,” Nisha said, sounding dubious. Then she was gone, taking off after Katie.

“Why’d we agree to that?” Ryan asked.

“It’ll make Megan happy,” Evan said, but he felt pretty dubious himself. “And she did seem to be making an effort.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Ryan said with a sigh.