Tales of Lawndale
Daria and The Demon
"What are you?" Jane Lane turned on her bedroom light and saw a small boy watching her television. "What are you doing here?"
"The television in the living room didn't work and I wanted to watch the fourth game of the World Series." The strange boy explained. "The confused look on your face tells me I haven't answered your question."
He turned down the volume on the television.
"As to the what...I'm a minor demon." The odd creature slowly unfolded his bat like wings. "As to what I am doing here," he said politely in a polite and generic European accent, "call it curiosity?"
"I don't believe in demons or angels." Jane approached the odd creature with her arms folded and a look that demanded answers. He stood a full head shorter than her and appeared quite harmless except for his dark green bat wings and visible fangs. The fierce wings set his cute face and his long dark green hair set in a pony tail with a gold hair clip in sharp relief. "Why have you intruded into my private space?"
"My name is not Wormwood and I have no supernatural powers to speak of. I'll give you a walk on that one." He stood up and folded his wings and bowed. "My name is Amisha. In your culture, since one Deity has a monopoly on true believers and the others haven't got a powerful enough lobby; I may be a minor deity or minor demon depending on your theology of choice."
"Hold on!" Jane waved her hands. "You're one of those Japanese spirits that live in trees or carp ponds?"
"Finnish – actually." He corrected Jane politely. "I also often am mistaken for a Japanese tree spirit"
"What are you doing here in my house!?" Jane insisted.
"The demand for my services as the spirit of the fall has declines precipitously because of global warming and the rise of Monotheism." Amisha shrugged. "I turned the leaves to their fall colors signaling the approach of winter. In recent years, I've had little to do and so I decided to take a vacation. I have a dream – a dream of making my name as a famous concert pianist but my timing was all wrong."
"And you're watching my TV because?" Jane leaned forward.
"You're sort of scaring me." Amisha said carefully. "I didn't mean any harm but certain locations in Lawndale intersect with my dimension but I didn't want to wind up in the high school gym showers so I came here instead. Besides that, the school was locked and your back door wasn't."
Jane examined Amisha and his strange dark green hair and wings and his green freckles and decided upon classifying him as 'mostly harmless'. He dressed well and Jane found that immediately suspect since none of his clothing looked 'off the rack' and spoke of a being fully aware of color and looks. He had a delicate leaf green robe with gold trip and accents and a suit of silvery clothes under the robe. He had green and black leather like heavy boots with gold buckles and in spite of his casual approach to break and enter; he tipped the scales on the upper end of the fashion conscious.
"I came over here in the rain because I thought you had lost your mind." Daria told Jane in a quiet voice as she waited for a commercial break to interrupt Amisha's baseball game. "As an agent of Satan; he looks harmless enough."
"I'm not an agent of Satan." Amisha spoke indignantly. "Consider me an employee of the agents who work for the middle managers who want to meddle in human affairs – and not an important one at that."
Put out your hand." Daria requested unemotionally.
Daria pressed her two fingers on his wrist. Amisha had a racing pulse and a human like warmth – normal for him since he looked greenish but healthy. He breathed faster than her but he had a skittish nature that fit his small stature and delicate features.
"He has a pulse." Daria told Jane. "He must be alive in some sense of the word."
"He likes sports – he must be a guy." Jame murmured sarcastically. "He has pretty looking green boots with gold buckles – draw your own conclusions."
Daria stepped back and let Amisha watch his game.
"I think we can safely assume immigration has no procedure for dealing with spirits or elves." Daria adjusted her glasses as she pondered the situation. "Where will he stay and which one of us can house a demon."
"We have lots of room but only one working television set." Jane told Daria as Amisha cheered a home run. "Let me ask a few questions."
"Amisha – what sports do you like?" Jane interrupted the game.
"Baseball and basketball as well as golf – why?" Amisha hastily replied and then went back to watching the game. "What you Americans call soccer. I'm a big fan of European football."
"We have the room to put him up." Jane said hesitating over her words. "We don't have another TV set. If I have to watch sports; I'll kill him or myself."
"We have a guest bedroom and four TV sets but my parents would have lots of questions." Daria snapped her fingers after she finished that sentence. "He'd drive Quinn nuts though..."
Daria sat next to the oddly cute demon and noticed his odd, cat like pointed ears twitching as he listened to sounds in the room.
"I have a few questions...do you mind?" Daria interrupted his game again but he was polite about it.
"You can go ahead." Amisha nodded.
"Can you hide your wings?" Daria asked quickly as if making a decision on a job candidate. "If you can hide those, we can work around your pointed ears."
"I have to remember humans don't regard them as natural so I can cloud their ability to see them – but this takes effort on my part." He looked at Daria. "I can choose who sees me in my full form but I can't guarantee I won't slip up."
'I'm going to have fun with this.' Daria thought as she stood up.
"I'll put up our friend." Daria told Jane. "Hello Amisha – I'm Daria and this is my friend Jane."
"I suppose you don't feel the cold?" Daria walked beside Amisha who now twitched his ears as a dog in the distance barked.
"I feel the cold." He said and nodded as his breath made a cloud. "I can tolerate it though. I hail from Finland so I have no choice." He ended his sentence with a kind chuckle.
"Do you have heightened senses?" Daria's glasses had begun to fog up.
"I can hear better than you but I can't see." Amisha made this admission with candor. "I look like a bat but am blinder than most of them. Unlike bats or you, I can use the eyes of other creatures; borrow them so I can make my way around just fine."
"That must be confusing as hell." Daria stuck on the word hell wondering if it was too ironic. "Are you looking through my eyes?"
"You don't see very well in the dark so I'm using an owl in a tree some ways ahead of us." Amisha told Daria. "Not a comment on you or your glasses but people don't have good night vision and they use those ugly pinkish orange streetlamps."
"I didn't think you had any supernatural powers." Daria said skeptically.
"I don't. I can't read minds, bend spoons or teleport myself." Amisha swapped to a cat's vision. "I have eyes but am a lazy person – so I use the ones around me."
"Isn't that unethical? What about privacy?" Daria turned up the walkway of her house.
"Your sister is watching out her window." Amisha told Daria. "Take another step and she'll see you in the porch light."
"Dammit!" Daria hissed. "I'm late. My parents have gone to bed – I'll get grounded."
"Follow me." Amisha said as he walked around the garden gnome in the front yard. "You must have a back door."
"So you can tell what she sees?" Daria asked the rhetorical question as she tapped Amisha's shoulder. "I could find this useful."
"Ethics depends on whether the demon works for you or the other guy?" Amisha wryly commented to Daria as he held out his hand to keep Daria from hitting a large chestnut tree.
Quinn screamed when Amisha flew into her window.
She had made the mistake of leaving it open to better see Daria arrive and Amisha knew this.
"Excuse me." Daria heard Amisha recite the first part of the script they had decided upon. "I am the Finnish exchange student your parents are billeting. I must have used the wrong way to get in."
"You flew in." Quinn stopped when she heard a knock on the door.
"I see you two have met." Daria opened the door. "You've met my sister Quinn. Quinn this is Amisha. You two will be seeing much of each other but right now I'll show him to his room."
"He flew in my window." Quinn objected.
"What's going on here?" Jake Morgendorfer shouted from the main bedroom.
"Our Finnish exchange student just arrived and I'm introducing him to Quinn." Daria paused and looked to Amisha who sat on Quinn's bed and to Quinn in her pink night shirt with a bunny on it then resumed the big lie. "Don't you remember doing the paperwork during the summer? The Finnish government pays a thousand bucks a month plus expenses to billet him. You said you could use that money to fix up the house."
"I could use the money..." Jake muttered. "I don't remember that though."
"You saw my pet blue jay – Sontula – fly through the window." Amisha lied very well which Daria found quite remarkable as Amisha didn't look like he could lie convincingly. She could see a blue jay standing on his shoulder looking around the room. "He escaped his cage on my way over here after Jane dropped us off. I didn't want to see him hurt."
Amisha had charm and was cute and Quinn held onto a facial expression that hovered between surprise and reluctant acceptance. He had enough of an accent to make his Finnish origins acceptble and Quinn had already grown tired. He was very cute and so was the bright little jay glancing sideways at her.
"We should have discussed this – Jake!" Helen said loudly. "We can use the money but such decisions should not be made unilaterally."
"Just don't hang out with Daria too much...she's a brain and you won't be popular at school." Quinn said dismissively. "So don't you have to show our guest to his room and make sure his pet is back in his cage."
"We're going to talk about this in the morning." Helen got in the last word.
"I didn't know you had a blue jay." Jane walked with Daria and Amisha to his first day at high school.
"Sontula is my 'seeing eye jay' or some as traditions call him, a familiar." Amisha told Jane happily. "He looks out for me you might say."
In the morning sunlight; Amisha and Sontula made a colorful pair in Jane's eyes. His hair had yellow highlights and his gold trim now almost sparkled like the kind of art she'd seen in colorful Asian comics.
"Amisha's blind." Daria said in order to clarify matters for Jane. "His blue jay lets him see – look I can't explain it."
"Won't he have trouble fitting in?" Jane whispered back to Daria just at the moment she realized it was pointless as Amisha's ears moved around and homed in. "He'll be ostracized for the way he looks and for his pet bird."
"I wouldn't worry about that." Amisha spread his wings and Sontula flew off. "I don't fit in with humans without resorting to tricks so I'm use to it. Since I'm faster and can fly; any cruel teenage boy won't land a blow on me without regret."
Amisha flew off in a blast of cold air and swirling leaves.
"I wouldn't worry. He has a plan and he can look out for himself." Daria walked through a cloud of leaves. "He charmed Quinn into taking him shopping for 'American' fashions at Cashman's and they're both be dodging morning classes so he'll look stylish when he does attend. Anyone dumb enough to pick a fight with a four foot tall bat with huge wings will get what they deserve."
"Kevin will try to get a rise out of him." Jane watched Amisha soar in the sky with great trepidation as she wondered what such a flying creature could do to a dumb teenager.
"And evolution will weed Kevin out of the gene pool when Amisha drops him onto a picket fence from a thousand feet in the air." Daria adjusted her pack. "Don't ask me why he came to Lawndale but he'll have to meet the natives at some point. I still don't understand why he decided on Lawndale as a vacation destination: perhaps he wants to witness the slow decline of American civilization for himself." Daria looked to Jane. "Once civilization falls, he might get his job back as minor seasonal deity."
"Following the job market?" Jane grinned.
"Jamie and the other two." Amisha stood at his locker and dialed the combination. The idea of sneaking up on him made no sense since he could see himself through the eyes of the person trying to ambush him and his keen hearing could hear heartbeats and breathing. "I have trouble putting faces to names but one of you has dyslexia."
"Sandy said she saw you and Quinn at Cashman's." Jamie said accusingly if a little unnerved by Amisha's very confident reply. "Aren't you a little young for her?"
Amisha closed his lock with a click.
"The dial of the lock only goes up to 50 – how could I have dialed 72?" Amisha spoke with grave irritation but he could see the loose grasp of order one of the boys had on the proper order of written characters. Amisha had all the evidence of a shopping trip with Quinn – loose fit charcoal black button fly jeans, a deep green loose fit cotton shirt her tucked in and a gold hairpin with a fine green enamel leaf that held his pony tail. "I went with her to shop for clothes at Cashman's - yes she helped me buy clothes. What business is it of you three oafs?"
Joeys fist never touched Amisha for obvious reasons. The green haired boy was just that fast.
"What are you four doing!?" Mr. Di Martino bellowed. "You think you can vandalize school property? The school barely has enough money to pay me a living wage."
"All warfare is based on deceit." Amisha explained. "I wanted to give a simple demonstration of the ideas of Sun Tsu as applied to football but it went too far – an accident caused by Joey's misstep. I'll pay for the broken locker door and our friend should have appropriate medical insurance."
"I broke my wrist!" Joey had tears in his eyes.
"Go see the nurse." DiMartino commanded. "Alright! We'll go see Ms. Lee and discuss the appropriate costs."
"Very well." Amisha said in a charming voice.
Jane looked up as Daria fetched books from her locker.
Daria knew the difference between the sound of a locker door slamming shut and the sound of a fist hitting a locker door at the proper speed and force to break the door and the wrist of whoever had struck it.
"All warfare is based on deceit." Daria recalled the words of Sun Tsu. "Amisha may have met Kevin or the three guys who stalk Quinn."
"He may face a lynching if he cripples every guy on the football team." Jane tapped her lip.
"That herd needed some culling." Daria slipped her textbook into her knapsack.
"Quinn is a friend of mine and we went shopping." Amisha had a new locker in that awful brownish red next to Jane's and a new lock. He examined himself as if standing in front of a mirror as he pirated the feed from Sandy's eyes. "No need to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention."
"You look apprehensive but you want to talk to me?" Amisha turned around to face Sandy and took in the view from Stacy and Tiffany who stood obsequiously beside her. "What can I do for you?"
"As President of the Fashion Club, I must tell you that we're concerned about all the time she has spent with you and we want to know what your intentions are with regards to Quinn." Sandy glared into the odd eyes of Amisha which glared back with unsettling confidence.
Amisha turned around and reached for his math textbook.
"Well." Sandy tapped her foot impatiently as Amisha slid his book into his backpack.
"Never argue with a fool: people might not be able to tell the difference." Amisha let out a slow breath as he pondered the exact kind of verbal pitch to throw Sandy. "I don't think that kind of question needs an answer."
"What!" Sandy eyed Amisha and stepped back as she subconsciously realized Amisha wasn't quite human. "Are you calling me a fool?"
"I have no intentions regarding Quinn." Amisha could see himself and the girls standing in the hallway through the frames of Daria's glasses. "She helped me shopping for new clothes because she likes to shop for clothes and that is all there was to it."
He hopped from Daria to Jane's eyes. Daria had a slight nystigmus or twitching of her eyes and this made it hard to gain detail: Jane had near perfect vision.
"Can he see their shallowness through my eyes?" Jane had noticed Amisha blinked as he jumped from one set of eyes to another. He trusted Daria to take a look at what he needed to see but he preferred Jane's because of her acutely tuned artistic vision and had told her this. He had sent his familiar home because the school didn't allow animals in most places like the cafeteria and he relied on the students to see.
"Oh yeah...he looks like someone cornered by a drunken Amway salesman." Daria leaned against a locker and bent down to tie her boots.
"Are we done?" Amisha stepped one step closer to Sandy; heaved his backpack over one shoulder and scuffed his foot on the ground as if to ready himself. "I might have ninety years on this planet, 32,876 days and if you work your way down to seconds, you'll find out you have about two and three quarter billion of them. After that, you die, cease to be, become worm food or wind up playing chess with death." Amisha held up his hand for silence as Sandy wanted to speak up and he got it. "I make two points: talking with you has made me long for the release of death. Second, I've spoken to you for about two hundred seconds I won't ever get back and thus far consider a conversation with you a complete waste of my time – go away. In a just legal system; I ought to receive monetary conversation for this utter waste but life isn't ideal."
Sandy made an indignant noise and turned around and the other two girls followed.
"You broke the hand of one of our players." Kevin approached Amisha and as the little green haired demon opened his locker. "Joey's out for six to eight weeks. Do you want Lawndale to lose? Do you have anything against football – I noticed the baseball and glove in your locker."
"I didn't say anything against football," Amisha told Kevin; "you're putting words in my mouth. Joey broke his wrist and he did it himself – I had nothing to do with it. Get the full story first before making groundless accusations – some might think you have presidential aspirations."
Amisha saw through Kevin's eyes and found it very unpleasant: Kevin had his own screen saver program. Kevin lacked the brain power to walk and chew gum and the grave challenge of speaking and seeing kept making Amisha see a dimming and loss of focus whenever Kevin spoke.
"I happen to enjoy baseball." Amisha admitted as he reached past the ball that nestled in his green leather glove to retrieve a notebook.
Lawndale High had no baseball team but Amisha kept a baseball and a glove in his locker and this made him appear odd to the simple minded Kevin who had always found baseball boring.
"You're a brain though." Kevin sounded surprised.
"As opposed to what!?" Amisha shook his head as Kevin's vision dimmed annoyingly. "Do you have something to say to me? If not, please let me collect my stuff from my locker and go on home. I think I'm starting to get a headache."
"Hey Kevin." Jordan walked by and Amisha immediately jumped to use his vision.
"Hey Mac Daddy!"
Amisha stood at his locker and placed his notebook in his backpack.
"Don't call me that!" Jordon said in annoyance.
"Hi Amisha; we have Science class together – name's Jordan." Jordan said and held out his hand. "My nickname is Mac Daddy for some reason."
"Amisha – please to meet you." Amisha shook Jordan's hand.
"I hope you like Lawndale High." Jordan found Amisha had a surprisingly firm handshake
That revealed a self confidence he could appreciate. Jordan had heard of the incident with Joey and Amisha's exotic appearance and fashion sense gave him reason to want get along with him.
"Kevin just wanted to welcome me and invite me to try out for football." Amisha answered back as he watched Kevin's confused look spawn across his face and realized Kevin had no understanding of sarcasm.
"I had hope to try out for baseball this school has no team." Amisha let go of Jordan's hand. "I'll see you two tomorrow. Have a nice night."
Quinn entered his room to go on a 'snoop'.
Amisha had a complex personality that intrigued Quinn who had known the intelligent but cynical Daria who was plagued by a lack of confidence. Amisha had to be at least as smart as her sister but he had a confident, outgoing and rather likeable nature. Amisha lacked the self defeating cynical nature of her sister and yet as his encounter with Joey earlier that day had proven; was fiendishly smart.
She looked around his room.
He had refined tastes. He had a poster of the Berlin Philharmonic at the baton of Herbert von Karajan in a triumphant pose on the inside of the door. He had a gold music stand and a padded chair in one corner of his room with a violin case next to the chair.
'William Walton...Violin Concerto...what's this?' She read the sheet music but could only make sense of the title and not the score which lay open on the stand.
Unlike Daria, he made his bed neatly. Quite unlike Daria, he had no television and his room was very neatly ordered around an aluminum frame, glass shelved stereo stand that held records, tapes, CDs and a thirty or more year old high end German stereo system topped by a turntable with a wooden base.
The three foot varnished stands held up large high end speakers that faced his bed.
In the corner nearest the closet, he had a gold bird cage but Sontula wasn't in it.
He had a row of exotic houseplants on his windowsill.
He had a bedroom set with his bed, night stand, desk, shelves with more albums and dresser made of a fine white pine.
She resisted the urge to snoop on his Apple laptop on his desk. She had the impression he would notice things out of place.
Quinn felt a modernist mid century vibe from the room. His clock radio was a flip leaf type lit by an orange neon lamp and it all oddly fit together in a pleasing manner.
"Can I drop the needle on some Shostakovitch?" Amisha asked Quinn as he opened the door.
"I'm sorry...I wanted to talk to you." Quinn put her hands behind her back.
"Not like I own anything worth stealing." Amisha had Sontula on his shoulder and they kept their heads moving oddly in synch.
Quinn realized Amisha lied. He had a baseball under plastic and a stand with a glove on it. He had a stereo that some would still pay thousands to own. The turntable alone could fetch a grand, the reel to reel tape deck lived on only in studios and the tape deck had a look of 'very expensive and no expense spared'.
"What do you want to talk about?" Amisha picked out a record, handled it like an ancient scroll and placed it on the turntable. He switched on the stereo and it lit up like the cockpit of a passenger plane. "Have a seat."
"You sure own a lot of records." Quinn blushed.
"I like them." Amisha walked over and checked his collection of baseball memorabilia neatly set upon it. "I have CDs but the music doesn't sound right to me."
"I grew up with Daria – she's very smart but always so negative – you must have noticed. Until I met you, I thought all smart people were like my sister." Quinn tried to find something to do with her hands. "You are just as smart but you're happy and you don't hate people. Why the difference?"
"I don't know if I'm as smart as your sister." Amisha pondered. "I don't know if she is unhappy but she tries to be decent in her way. Perhaps you're judging her unfairly."
Bach Brandenburg Concerto Number Four played softly through the room.
"Amisha: The Finnish spirit of the harvest and fall."Jane held her brush as she examined her canvas. "He is said to have the magic to change the colors of the leaves in the fall and the Finns believed he brought good harvests and gentle winters."
"So far his story makes some kind of sense." Daria lay back on her bed.
"Paintings of him show a green haired fairy like boy with a bird on his shoulder." Jane began to start work on her canvas. "He sees through the eyes of others and is blind but legend says he's fast, cunning and has the ability to place curses on people if angered."
"What angers him?" Daria cleaned her glasses.
"More to the point, what kind of curse can he put on you." Jane conjured a face out of a few brush strokes. "He can ruin crops, kill livestock and is a cousin of Loki – the Trickster – and can deceive people."
"If you end up walking into traffic thinking the road was clear – you probably pissed him off?" Daria knew the answer to that question given that no one had noticed his bat wings but she wanted to know – given the capricious nature of spirits or demons what might make him angry.
"I couldn't find out." Jane began to fill in the face of Amisha. "I think we have nothing at all to fear since he's had to deal with the dumbest of Lawndale High offers and Kevin is pustule free."
"Quinn hasn't been pecked to death by a blue jay." Daria added. "He caught Quinn snooping in his room and made no big deal about it which makes me wish he wasn't so nice."
"Cute, nice, sociable and very smart." Jane tried to remember exactly what shade of green Amisha's hair should be. Jane realized Amisha made Daria feel like a misfit – her intellectual equal was a cheerful, well liked and personable fellow. He could match her sarcasm but had a positive view of life that made him appear a contradiction to Daria and to Jane.
"Kind of makes me jealous." Daria lay back on the bed. "Blind, a dwarf and yet he's well adjusted for a magical being."
"Do baseball players count as jocks?" Jane mixed paint on her palette in a quest to make a set of autumnal colors.
"Ms. Morris..." She corrected Amisha as she read the letter given to Amisha from the school board.
"The school authorities and the principle have my doctor's recommendations on file and so issued me this letter to give to you." Amisha ignored her polite correction and spoke in his formal, European manner. "Although you do not have any need to know anything, I'll satisfy your curiosity; I have Wilson's disease which causes accumulation of copper in bones and skin and no treatment exists."
Since the state and school had a legal obligation to hold Amisha's medical information in confidence; Ms. Morris would have had no idea of the nature of his medical problem if he had not told her. A few other students also had medical 'buys' from physical education and Amisha's letter contained the same brief legal boilerplate. She had what amounted to a 'buy' for her class. She had to keep the letter on file. The state required she grant him a 'C' and full attendance credits but didn't require he do anything to earn it (anti – discrimination laws made it illegal to fail to grant credit to a student physically incapable of completing a required course).
"My work here is done, Misses Morris." Amisha amiably concluded the hand off of the letter.
"I go by the name Ms. Morris." She said angrily and waved the letter. "I'll put this letter in my files."
"Why are you correcting me?" Amisha thickened his generic European accent and gave a self satisfied response. "We won't have to talk to each other much."
Amisha turned like a soldier on the parade ground and walked off.
"I can still grant you detention." Ms. Morris made an 'I'm watching you' gesture.
"School discipline is unenforceable in my case due to my medical circumstances." Amisha turned around ten steps away from Ms. Morris. "You can ask the principle if you wish to double check this. You can give me detention but you'd only do it once and then you'd face legal ramifications."
Ms. Morris glared at him. She understood medical exemptions exempted a student from school discipline but she assumed (wrongly) he didn't know this. A student had died a decade ago of insulin shock while in detention and so the state paid out thirty million dollars, sent a teacher to prison for negligent homicide and fired a half dozen others.
"You have a strange set of priorities. Mispronouncing a name is a trivial social error compared to leaving the toilet seat down." Amisha pitched for the last word. "I'm Finnish...have you seen Finnish names? I took seven years just to get my first name straight – if you had to learn to pronounce my full name; you'd be planning your funeral by the time you got to the end."
She struck out and walked off in a huff.
"Mr. Titakimen...This is Ms. Lee...please report to my office." An announcement came over the public address system.
"What did you do?" Jane asked Amisha coyly as she walked with him and Daria to history class.
"I ruffled Morris's gender insecurities." Amisha explained casually. "Finnish as no words for gender so some English words make no sense to me. "The lack of gender in Finnish explains why there are only four million of us."
"Good luck." Daria droned as Amisha turned around.
"Thanks dude." Amisha joked.
Amisha knocked on Ms. Lee's door.
"Come in." She said formally.
Amisha stood in front of her desk.
"Please take a seat." She asked.
"Ms. Morris says you showed disrespect for her." She told Amisha as he sat down.
"Is that it?" Amisha began to stand up. "I'm sitting in your office in an American High School and I haven't shot anyone."
"Keep your indignation to yourself." Ms. Lee had taken the time to research Finnish culture and they considered bluntness a show of politeness and respect and more to the point; Amisha had already gained a reputation among staff and student for being 'frighteningly intelligent'. He now wore the look of someone out by a bleeding waste of time. "I'm not finished – please remain seated."
Ms. Lee had a moment of vagueness.
"What was I saying?" She looked the laptop on her desk. A routine email from the superintendent was open on the screen.
"You told me to go." Amisha nodded. "You have to tell Misses Morris that you had to apologize to me for her conduct and if she continues to show cultural insensitivity, she will have to attend a course on sensitivity training."
"Yes...you may go."
In his true form, Quinn had to admit two things about Amisha: he was resplendent and gorgeous in his true form dressed in his own style of fine fashion and he made the odd socially awkward mistake which didn't support his reputation as some kind of demon.
He had just flown through her open window and now looked at her blushing as he realized the mistake. He folded his wings tightly and bowed.
"Why did you scream – honey?" Helen called from outside her door. "Are you okay?"
"I saw a spider – a big one." Quinn lied.
"They come in the house in the fall – they like the warmth." Helen said as she walked down the hallway. "Your father saw one in the tub the other day. I had to squish it because he's a congenital coward."
"I apologize but I lost my way." Amisha explained to Quinn. "I went to hear Trent and his band play and it was dark when I decided to come home. While they strive for creative expression; they succeed mainly in being miserable."
Daria had told Quinn to leave her window closed if Amisha had not yet return home after dark.
Quinn knew why he had dressed in his own clothes and not human clothes. He thought he might have had to fly home and while she had modified his human wardrobe to accommodate his folded wings with some skillful sewing; he couldn't wear human shirts without ripping them if he flew. She was concerned that he had chosen to fly home. He could use the eyes of others to navigate his way around but this ability required others like Daria or Jane to look for him – not possible if he flew.
"You should have come home with Daria." Quinn reminded him of that 'rule'.
"My ears had begun to bleed." He said in that dry witty manner that sounded humorous when spoken in a European accent. "Since I left in a hurry, I should try to explain this to Daria."
Quinn liked Amisha because he could have a dry wit but not a mean spirited one. She had no doubts he didn't share her tastes in music: someone with five recordings of the Shostakovitch Violin Concerti wasn't listening to boy bands but he ranted to Daria about that.
"Don't worry, he can look after himself." Jane told Daria reassuringly as they left the grunge club. "Mystic Spiral isn't for everyone."
"Tell that when his Uncle Loki asks why he fried to death on a high voltage electric line." Daria said with far less confidence in her voice. "We'd have to adopt Sontula."
"Your dad likes watching TV with him." Jane scanned the streets but saw nothing in the streetlight. "We'll check at your house – okay."
Jane didn't expect Daria to show open concern but Daria genuinely cared about Amisha. Daria hinted at a deep fondness for Amisha because she put up with his cheerful disposition and genuine happiness. Jane found it more telling that Amisha had a keen desire to dress and look nice and he wasn't excoriated by Daria for this 'sin'. Unlike Quinn, in Daria's eyes, Amisha didn't commit the moral sin of trying to please other people – he was a narcissist and wanted to please himself.
"I didn't see him in the club." Daria told Jane. "I should have known better than to expect him to connect with Trent's music. He plays the violin and loves classical music – what was I thinking?"
"Let's go out and have fun with a friend?" Jane suggested with a hint of bemusement.
Amisha caught Jane's sight a few blocks from where they walked and homed in quickly.
He landed in front of Jane and Daria under a pumpkin orange streetlight.
"I'm sorry Daria. I'm sorry Jane." He said as he landed in his fine garb. "The club got too loud. My ears are sensitive and I need them to find my way around."
"Don't fly at night." Daria forced her voice to calm down. "We didn't know where you went and we were worried."
"Yes...I panicked when I couldn't hear." Amisha admitted. "I wasn't expecting that and so I am sorry."
Amisha hugged Daria.
"Uh please...no need to crush my bus schedule." Daria quipped.
"You came to Earth to find a nice girl." She said as Amisha let go.
"Well...no." He replied honestly. "I found two nice girls."
Jane blushed but it couldn't be seen in the dark.
"And God commanded the angel to find the two most valuable things in the city." Amisha let go of Daria and told Jane. "The angel returned with the broken lead heart of the statue of the prince and a dead swallow."
Daria was stunned. Amisha had given a concise summary of the story of The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.
"You are the two most valuable things in all of Lawnsdale." Amisha said solemnly.
"Hold on Sandy..." Quinn watched as Amisha lay at the foot of her bed, curled into a tight ball of wings, yawned and went to sleep.
"Amisha?" Quinn said kindly. "You wandered into my room."
"Oh...sorry." Amisha muttered as he uncurled himself.
Amisha had no one to help him see at night as his friend Sontula went to sleep with the setting sun and he had to rely on the dim sight of people to find his way about. He slept at the foot of Daria's bed because he found it frightening to be blind at night. Quinn found it strange she put up with this behavior but on this night, Amisha had come into her room.
He politely stood up in his green night robe and bowed in his way and left the room.
"I'll be back." Quinn told Sandy and set the phone on the table next to her bed.
Amisha had a bad sense of direction and Quinn feared he might take a header down the stairs – he had done that. He had wings and he didn't hurt himself but the noise of flapping and fumbling made her feel sorry for him.
"Turn around." She said. "Daria!"
"Follow my voice." Daria told Amisha. "Don't bother Quinn."
"Hi Sandy – my sis um cousin wanted to ask me something." Quinn lied.
"Can you put your glasses on please." Amisha insisted. "Ah good – the world looks much less impressionist now."
"Isn't that your exchange student's voice?" Sandy asked accusingly.
"Yeah...he's - um - brushing his teeth." Quinn lied again. "Our house has thin walls."
"I need the clapper." Daria switched off the light but left the door open. "All curled up and in a little ball – good. I never thought I'd see the day when I had to worry about kicking a sleeping demon in the head."
"How come he hangs out with your loser cousin and her strange friend?" Sandy proclaimed over the phone. "He takes a popularity hit when he's seen with them."
"I don't know – he's French – they have different ways." Quinn took her best guess at his nationality.
"Can you turn around!?" Daria complained concisely. "Get your freakishly hairy feet out of my face."
"I guess you aren't a Mystic Spiral fan?" Jane walked with Amisha and Daria as they headed to school early on a cold but clear Monday morning.
"Either I don't understand the subtle metaphors in their lyrics or they don't have any subtle metaphors in their music." Amisha came back with his honest opinion. "I appreciate the Romanticism they strive to show in their music. I may just be old fashioned when I expect music to have form and structure. When I heard 'Psychic Refugee' I thought Trent had cleverly quoted Alban Berg's Violin Concerto – but then I realized he had played the wrong chord."
Daria held onto the strap of her backpack.
"Isn't Alban Berg's Violin Concerto the piece you use to torment Quinn?" Daria had heard Quinn's complaints about Amisha's music.
"It depends on what boy band she happens to choose to listen to." Amisha said coyly. "I own the bigger stereo so if she has the Fashion Club Diva's meeting in her room; then I like Mahler's Sixth Symphony – The Finale."
Jane held on to Amisha's shoulder to keep him from walking into traffic as they approached the school. Daria's glasses had fogged up which meant Amisha now had less than perfect vision.
"Oh...Daria can you clean your glasses?" Jane asked on Amisha's behalf.
"We have History first class on a Monday." Amisha sighed unhappily. "Mr. DiMartino will have a hangover and will be in an awfully unpleasant mood."
"Answer his questions and he'll rant at Kevin or Brittany." Daria explained as she cleared the fog off her glasses. "He thinks you have promise – for a foreign exchange student."
"I hope the school got the heat working in that class." Jane arrived at the school doors first and held the door for her two odd friends. "I can't sleep if I'm freezing."
"Welcome to Lawndale High. If Schopenhauer was right, pain gives life meaning." Amisha said in a sarcastic tone. He didn't like high school but he had grown bored as only a long lived demon could and decided he needed a vacation but had the feeling he had booked it with a bad travel agency. "Well enjoy – I'm going home to bed. I'd like to refute Schopenhauer."
"No you're not." Jane said as she grabbed his arm. "You can talk to Schopenhauer later"
"I know I don't occupy the high rung on the caste ladder enjoyed by football players." Amisha leaned over his desk and told Kevin quietly just before the history class began. "I want to appeal to your better human nature and ask you to try to not send our teacher into a heartfelt tirade about human stupidity. I'm learning far too many bad words."
"The blank look tells me you're brain hasn't booted up." Amisha said a moment later as he placed his notebook on the desk and uncapped his pen. "I'll have to wait until I get to log in prompt."
"Okay class..." Mr. DiMartino walked into the class in a foul mood. "We begin our unit on The First World War. Kevin wake up! We have a French exchange student who, judging by his fancy clothes and stuck up ways, comes from French nobility. Personally, I don't want to look bad in front of the French – right Amisha?"
"Rather than tormenting me on a Monday morning; why not run me over with your car?" Amisha replied dryly. "Likely far more economical in the long run."
"Why did he go off on me?" Amisha asked Daria as they walked out of history class after the bell.
"He likes to test his students." Daria wiped her glasses and reached for Amisha as he shook his head in disoriented confusion. "He'll leave you alone because you answered his questions without looking like an idiot."
"You didn't give him a second heart attack." Jane followed Daria and Amisha.
"Ms. Lee is waving to us." Daria groaned.
"I want to have a word with you, Amisha." Ms. Lee said with grave purpose.
"I counted nine in that sentence which makes nonsense out of that statement." Amisha told Ms. Lee with an open honest manner that disguised his sarcasm. "I'll see you two later."
"The school psychologist informs me that she hasn't had a chance to interview you." Ms. Lee spoke with a dishonest enthusiasm irritating to Amisha. "We need to know if you have issues with self esteem."
"Self esteem? You mean self confidence?" Amisha asked for clarification. "Why take an interest in such nebulous and subjective aspects of my character when my mother country paid up front for me to attend school? I have classes to attend so tell her I consider this a complete waste of my time. Tell the school psychologist to forget it – psychology is to science what Ancient Alien Theory is to archaeology and history."
Ms. Lee looked up at the flickering fluorescent lights as if seeking guidance. She could force the issue but then Amisha would dig in his heels on a matter of principle and he had access to legal advice.
"We require this for your student records." Ms. Lee decided against using threats and tried to appeal to his sense of logic.
"I will have an incomplete record. You know full well that you can make recommendations but can't legally force me to take such a test. Any plans of school discipline such as detentions are unenforceable and so you will have to accept my stance on this issue." Amisha scowled and dug in. "I now consider the matter closed. I plan to have a look at my own permanent records to make sure they reflect the academic performance and not include any 'psychobabble'."
"I'm late for class." Amisha snapped and turned and walked off.
'How I hate the French.' Ms. Lee decided to let the matter rest as that thought rattled in her head for a moment as she watched Amisha walk away.
"Will Mister Titakimen please report to the principle's office?" Ms. Lee announced over the public address system.
"Excuse me." Amisha told Mr. O' Brien apologetically. "Unlike Mohamed, I doubt the voice will bring religious enlightenment to humanity."
"She holds a grudge against you." Jane whispered from her desk.
"A pity for her because holding a grudge is like being stung to death be one bee." With that one line, Amisha left the room.
"I would like you to meet Misses Manson." Ms. Lee said to Amisha as he walked through the open door. "She is the psychologist for the school district."
"Couldn't this have waited for a more convenient time?" Amisha asked with a combination of his charm and a hint of annoyance. "Mr. O'Neill had almost shown signs of a personality. I wanted to witness this because it occurs so rarely."
"Please take a seat." Ms. Lee looked around the room nervously.
"I made my opinions on the matter of taking a psychological test for trivial purposes." Amisha crossed her arms. "Unless required for clinical purposes, I see no reason to submit to testing – and I have no legal obligation to do this."
"Why do you object to taking such a test?" Misses Manson asked in a professional and calm manner that didn't placate Amisha.
"I consider it a waste of my time that could lead to three weeks of endless, dreary 'self esteem' classes." Amisha didn't hesitate for a moment to give out his thoughts on the subject. "I also have reason to believe that you are unknowingly helping Ms. Lee with her grudge against me."
"Alright...I thought you might agree if you met the person who would test you but that hasn't had any effect on your opinion." Ms. Lee told Amisha as she made a mental note to avoid meetings with him in the future: his government had paid to place him here and he caused no discipline problems within the school and yet she found him able to undermine her authority and humiliate her with words alone. She had insecurities and Amisha skillfully exploited them.
"Very well." Amisha closed the door.
Amisha and Ms. Lee ended their meetings in the traditional manner. He left without being dismissed and she accepted this. Misses Manson wondered if she might see her breath in the cold chill between the two of them but also didn't see any reason to waste her limited time administering tests to someone who didn't want help with self esteem issues.
"He doesn't have any self esteem issues. I have such limited resources; I don't want to waste any on someone who objects to being tested. I have a hundred other students with real psychological issues I need to help." Misses Manson told Ms. Lee a moment later. "He has an abundance of arrogance and tremendous confidence. You can put that in his record if you don't want that line left blank."