Letters From Tomorrow
I'll probably use different character POVs on some of the scenes which closely match up with game canon, just to give an alternate perspective on them. Starting with everyone's favourite self proclaimed Queen of Blackwell Academy for chapter 1. Be advised that the age-rating may increase in future chapters.
"God, his soft voice is, like, so dreamy."
Victoria Chase tried to repress a smirk and concentrate on Mr Jefferson's lecture as Taylor whispered into her ear.
"He's so refined and wise. It makes it sound so much more naughty when he bitches out some famous artist in the class. Calls their work bullshit."
Victoria was now chewing her lower lip. Taylor Christensen, Victoria's number one slave (best friend) had long known Victoria was hot for teacher. But a few days ago she'd discovered that Victoria would literally melt if you whispered the right things about him during one of his lectures. Needless to say Taylor had been exploiting this at least once a photography class.
"And, oh my god, just imagine if he had a primal side. He'd go full caveman on you one day. You know, knock you out and take you back to his lair, to use you for his own satisfaction."
Victoria subconsciously began shifting her legs under the desk, as if she couldn't quite find a comfortable position for them, but was determined to keep searching for it.
"And maybe he does. I totally caught him checking out my legs yesterday. He looked hungry."
WHAT THE FUCK. Victoria's expression of angelic pleasure dissolved into that of a jealous gorgon, causing Taylor to almost jump out of her chair in terror. Moment fucking ruined.
Victoria tried to calm herself. Taylor had probably just made up that last bit to wind her up. And so what if Mr Jefferson briefly looked at Taylor's legs. They were practically the eighth wonder of the world, and just like the other seven were on permanent display. Taylor's jean shorts, which were as short as they were tight, saw to that. Everyone looked at them. Even a significant portion of the girls struggled to keep their eyes off them, or so Victoria had been told.
In the end, Victoria decided to let them both Taylor and Mr Mark Jefferson off easily. She'd probably just make Taylor publicly display her status as a slave on her dorm room's whiteboard or something. Oh wait, she already did. Well, whatever, Taylor was already trying to make amends anyway. She'd made herself busy penning a rather concise note to resident "naïve religious girl" Kate Marsh. Always an acceptable target, but even more so since she had displayed (and been recorded displaying) certain behaviours at odds with her sanctimonious "true love waits" act at the last vortex club party.
As for "Mark", all he needed to do was continue the lecture in that soothing baritone. Oh, and declare her the winner of the "Everyday Heroes" contest. Not that it should be that difficult. She was quite confident that her entry was the best.
Fishing her everyday heroes entry out of her purse, Victoria laid it down on the table with reverence. It was a photo of her father, a mix of adoration, exhaustion and relief on his face. It was taken after he spent a week pouring over Chase holdings' finances, desperately trying to dissuade Inland Revenue from bankrupting them. The photography judges didn't need that much background detail though. Victoria's Father worked very hard to support, even save the family, and still found the time and humour to indulge his daughter's photography habit in spite of being exhausted. The mix of adoration and exhaustion his eyes were giving said it all. Details would just muddy the emotion with envy.
Victoria took a second glance at her photo, just to confirm in was every bit as perfect and immaculately detailed as she had imagined, and looked around the class triumphantly. Most of her peers were talentless hacks with no imagination. They'd take the most obvious interpretation of "hero" imaginable. Probably take a photo of a fireman or something. Fools. That would almost certainly be the correct choice for a newspaper job. Something that would appeal to the peanut gallery, people who don't like to think or interpret. The art elite in San Francisco would be expecting something less obvious. Something that they could pour over and analyse intently.
There was only one person in the class that gave Victoria pause for concern. Max Caulfield, midget hipster from the back row of class. The only serious competition Victoria had. What would she enter? Though she handed in a range of photos for class assignments, Max was best known for her obsession with selfies. Would she actually enter a selfie? It would be outrageously arrogant, essentially declaring herself as the "hero". But what if the judges, tired of false modesty, thought such an arrogant approach was 'fresh'. What if they went for it? Or if she somehow eliminated the arrogance angle completely, portrayed herself as a stand-in for the everyman? She was certainly plain enough for people to project themselves onto.
Well, to be fair, Max wasn't completely plain. Her lips were rather impressive, both full and of an alluring if understated colour. The only issue Victoria had with her own body was her small pursed lips, which she mitigated to some extent with skilled lipstick application. Max's had no need for embellishment. And her wrists were far more feminine that Victoria's chunky ones. But that came from her whole "fragile little fawn" aesthetic. Anyway Victoria's expensive gold bangles and watch were more than up to the task of concealing such minor imperfections.
Victoria put her head in her hands and sighed. Why the hell was she worried about the pedo-bait in the back of the class. Max Caulfield had nothing on her. Victoria aced almost every class, with a GPA of 3.9. She was deeply troubled by that last 0.1, but sure she could claw it back with extra credit from somewhere. Max averaged B-, hanging on by the skin of her teeth to a photography scholarship she'd somehow managed to score. Victoria hated the fact that Max was the "photography scholarship student". It wasn't like Victoria couldn't have won a scholarship too. It's just her parents were more fiscally competent that others, so she didn't need one. How did Max get that scholarship in the first place? Oh right, Mr Jefferson had personally selected her because he liked her work. And he was the first round judge of the competition too. Fuck.
Of course, there was at least one more reason Max bothered Victoria, and it went well beyond a single photography competition. Victoria knew that deep down the two of them were quite a lot alike. Victoria was a closet geek who secretly enjoyed many of the things she chided Max for partaking in. But while Victoria concealed her power-level beneath designer clothing, Max openly wore her geek and hipster interests like badges of honour. Victoria could never get away with that. It would be the end of her, socially speaking, displaced by some upstart. Her number two slave (homework mule) and budding Starscream, Courtney Wagner, for example. She shuddered at that thought, then at her use of a transformers reference to articulate it. Her mask was slipping again. Victoria was at the top of the school's totem pole, but with the position came obligations. She was under constant pressure to maintain her popular public image, her designer fashion sensibilities, the refined inflections in her speech, and her consistently high grades. Max, on the other hand, could apparently get away with acting however she wanted. That kind of pissed Victoria off.
Another thing Max could apparently get away with was sleeping in class. Victoria stared at Max's petite form, collapsed serenely over her desk. She caught herself picturing young Bambi curled up in a tussock for some reason, but quickly banished that thought and assumed what she hoped was a look of contempt.
Weighing her options, Victoria decided not to draw the class's attention to this sleeping fawn and getting her chewed out by Mr Jefferson. It would probably just backfire on her. For whatever reason Max seemed to be Mr Jefferson's favourite. It was infuriating how he doted on her, complimenting and encouraging, and all she did was back away into the corner like some terrified little woodland creature. That only seemed to encourage him. She' call it a lame gimmick, but damn if it wasn't effective. In fact, he'd probably use Max being caught mid-siesta to try to build her up in front of the class. Offer a token reprimand, then "surprise" her with an easy question that anyone could answer and heap praise upon her. No, Victoria's best bet was just to let sleeping hipsters lie. If that innocent doe faced waif wanted to rest her eyes, then fine! She was all the more likely to end up as a deer in the headlights when this class's content came up in assessment.
A feeling of warmth spread from Victoria's shoulder, interrupting her sudden inexplicable fascination with local fauna. She turned to see Taylor gently resting her hand on her shoulder, a concerned look on her face.
"Victoria, Calf-field's got you zoning out again."
Victoria had confided in Taylor about the little problem she was having with Max. For reasons she could not fathom, Victoria was finding Max and her little eccentricities incredibly disruptive during class. Taylor had seemed surprisingly aggravated at this, and immediately come up with the name Calf-field in retaliation, hoping to imply Max was a cow. Victoria had warmed to the nickname after a Google search revealed some subspecies of young deer were also referred to as calves. Taylor agreed this only made the name more appropriate, but secreted grave concerns. Firstly, that revelation seemed to take most of the sting out of the insult, almost making it a term of endearment. Secondly, Victoria's obsession with Max was so great that she apparently needed to fact check her insults, just to make sure they were "good enough" to use on Max.
At that moment, Max snapped back to life, as if awakened from a nightmare. Probably about the current price of Polaroid film, Victoria smirked. How the hell did someone so financially challenged afford film for all those throw-away selfies anyway? Claiming them as an expense against her scholarship?
Taylor gently tapped her leg against Victoria's.
"Victoria, you're still totally bewitched. Is there, like, anything I can do to get your focus off Calf-field. Do I need to get Bambi tattooed on my leg, or something?" Taylor ran her hand along her long, toned thigh for emphasis and shot Victoria a wicked smile.
Victoria found herself stifling laughter. It was the most amusing thing Taylor had managed all month. And the way she sold her reaction, feigning sadness and disappointment at Victoria laughing in response. Brilliant. It was almost like she was serious. There was certainly more to her than the leggy vapid ditz she presented.
The intervention by Taylor turned out to be just in time too: Mr Jefferson was just about to ask the class questions. Victoria's favourite part of class, she was responsible for over ninety percent of the answers given. A figure that would be even higher, if Mr Jefferson didn't 'volunteer' inattentive students instead of just selecting those with raised hands.
"Now, can you give me an example of a photographer who perfectly captured the human condition in black and white?"
"Diane Arbus". Victoria quickly replied with a smirk. "Because of her images of hopeless faces. You feel like, totally haunted by the eyes of those sad mothers and children." She had read Mr Jefferson's photography books cover-to-cover several times, and knew he held certain derisive opinions about her. But as Taylor had discovered, she rather enjoyed hearing them straight from the source. It made him seem like such a rebel.
"She saw humanity as tortured, right. And frankly, it's bullshit. Shhh- keep that to yourselves. Seriously though, I could frame any one of you in a dark corner, and capture you in a moment of desperation, and any one of you could do that to me."
Taylor shot Victoria a knowing glance, who's lower lip was finding itself thoroughly chewed for the second time this lesson. He was doing it again, bitching out the greats. Also the way he talked about cornering her in a moment of desperation. God. Still, she couldn't have Mr Jefferson thinking she had tastes in opposition to his own.
"I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of her work." She interjected. "I prefer Robert Frank."
This was a safe choice. Mr Jefferson's own books spoke very highly of him as a major influence, and sure enough, she was rewarded with an enthusiastic recounting of how Frank's "The Americans" accurately portrayed the plight of all levels of society in 1950s America. Victoria drank in his enthusiasm, feeling slightly giddy at the idea her answer could engender such a passionate response from her teacher. She knew, deep down, that she was being rather pathetic if not outright deluded. Still, surely nothing that serious could result from indulging in a one-sided crush, just a little?
For the second time this lesson, Victoria found a rather enjoyable moment rudely interrupted, this time by the flicker of a camera flash and the click of a shutter. The culprit was revealed almost immediately, the quiet whir of an old Polaroid mechanism the dead giveaway. Oh My God. Max actually took a selfie in the middle of Mr Jefferson's class? With the fucking flash turned on?
Most of the class had redirected their collective gazes toward Max, who seemed momentarily lost to the world, eyes sweeping around bewildered. It sort-of reminded Victoria of Kate's behaviour during her drug-fuelled bender at the last Vortex Club party. Max taking drugs immediately before the only class she was any good at seemed pretty unlikely, though. Then again, so was the idea of Kate Marsh taking drugs in any circumstance, let alone doing so then indiscriminately lip locking the nearest ten people.
Mr Jefferson had noticed Max's impromptu photography session too, and expertly changed tack on his lecture to cover the history of self-portraiture. Victoria was awed at how he could continue to educate while simultaneously chastise a misbehaving student. A wicked smirk formed on Victoria's face. Maybe once she won the "every heroes" photography competition, and was alone with Mr Jefferson in San Francisco, he could simultaneously chastise and educate her too.
At that moment, Taylor decided to send her little note to Kate, by way of airmail. The note, now scrunched into a ball of paper, was making a perfect shallow arc for Kate's head when Max Caulfield shot out a hand, and without even looking, caught it. Both Taylor and Victoria immediately began to give Max the evil eye, only to quickly break eye contact, completely taken aback by Max's expression.
"She looks like a postal worker." Taylor whispered.
Victoria agreed this was an apt comparison. Max looked haunted, worn down and murderous all simultaneously, hunching over her desk and desperately searching the content of her pencil case. Victoria felt like something awful was about to happen. Like this possessed Max was going to pull out a craft knife, leap from her chair and slash someone's throat. Surely Max hadn't gone full meltdown over an innocent little joke between Kate and themselves?
A blink of the eye later revealed that Max had not, in fact, tried to murder anyone. Yes, she still looked completely mental, but rather than attacking, she had put pen to paper and begun furiously scribbling something. Victoria carefully re-examined her thoughts over the past couple of seconds. Had she really used the word murderous to describe Max Caulfield? Waif hipster suddenly going Rambo? Well, Stallone was pretty short too. Then all of a sudden, Max's face returned to normal. She looked confused, disorientated. At that moment, Mr Jefferson decided to strike.
"…Now Max, since you've captured our interest and clearly want to join the conversation, can you please tell us the name of the process that gave birth to the first self portraits?"
Max stared blankly for a second, then looked desperately around the room. Victoria noted with some relief that Rambo-Max had reverted back to Bambi mode. She chided herself for actually being intimidated by Max. Sensing a chance to reassert herself, she raised her hand, eager to volunteer an answer.
"Max, are you still with us?" Jefferson inquired.
"I don't think Max was ever with anybody." Victoria sniped, hand still raised. After a brief pause, Taylor chimed in with sycophantic laughter, while hoping Victoria could explain the joke after class.
Meanwhile, Victoria couldn't believe her luck. This was like a "good" version of her original prediction. Jefferson had asked a question, but Max was a deer in the headlights, no clue how to answer. Victoria knew the answer and would prove herself in front of everyone that mattered. And everyone besides Mr Jefferson and Max Caulfield as well.
It almost went Victoria's way. Jefferson had waited long enough for an answer and was about to throw the question to the class. Due to the general level of class apathy, that meant asking Victoria. But at the last second Max realised she was tightly gripping a pen for some reason, and looked down at her exercise pad.
"The D-Daguerreian process, invented by French painter Louis Daguerre around 1830. This process made portraiture hugely popular, mainly because it gave the subjects clearly defined features. Following which, the first Daguerreotype self-portrait in the United States was by Robert Cornelius."
Max's delivery wasn't the most poetic. In fact it sounded like Max had read a model answer out rather than come up with it herself. None the less, the substance of the answer was perfect.
"Outstanding." Jefferson replied. "A little slow to begin, but exactly the answer I would have given. I don't suppose you want to take over the class Max?"
Victoria's teeth ground like millstones. Her original prophecy had come true after all. The school bell rang and class was dismissed. She barely noticed Mr Jefferson's reminder about the everyday heroes contest, particularly to Stella, Alyssa, Taylor and Max, whom had not at least publicly displayed much intention of competing. Instead, Victoria stayed motionless at the desk, her eyes latched onto the still bewildered Max in a death-stare. "Fucking Max Caulfield," she muttered, over and over.
Taylor sighed. Victoria was like a broken record when it came to Max, always getting stuck repeating her name over and over. Slightly ironic considering Max was the one with the vinyl collection. Speaking of Max, she'd apparently noticed Victoria's attempt at laser vision, gesturing for Taylor to do something. God it was lame having your best friend labelled weird by the official class weirdo. Victoria had to get it together.
Picking up a ruler, Taylor gently brought it down gently on Victoria's head, like a monk chastising her disciple for failing to empty their mind during meditation. Victoria sprung up as if a spell had been broken and proceeded to perform her normal after-class activity. Fail miserably at chatting up Mr Jefferson. Well, she actually had a few good excuses this time: handing in her everyday heroes competition entry, and trying to get that extra credit to boost her GPA the final 0.1 point. It was just kind of sad Victoria never obsessed over anyone who'd actually return her affection.