By Princess Alexandria
Christy sat at her desk staring at the inbox and the computer as if it was the strangest thing she'd ever seen. The handwriting on the notes reminding herself what the passwords were was very familiar and exactly where she thought she would have hidden it.
A familiar blonde head poked in her office door and Janet smiled at her teasingly, "What, did you forget what your supposed to do here?" Her voice was just as upbeat and friendly as she remembered. "Wish I could have had the summer off. Some of us were stuck here doing next to nothing."
"Well, if you weren't so greedy you too could have the summer off." Christy gave a forced smile to her friend.
"So what did you do with your summer? Go anywhere or did you just write all night and sleep all day like last summer?"
"I cleaned out my files and organized my journals." Christy smiled at Janet's fake shocked expression. "Yeah, I know… Me cleaning, it must be the Twilight Zone." She sighed, "I also did a lot of surfing on the Internet."
"Janet?" Another familiar voice could be heard and even though Christy couldn't see Marcie she couldn't help cringing. This was too hard.
"Well, I'll see you later." Janet slipped out leaving Christy alone in the office to try and start planning her syllabus for the classes she was going to be teaching in the Fall. She had a month to get ready, which was really more than enough time.
It took her an hour to read the e-mails that her account accumulated during the summer, because she actually read them all.
"Hey Christy!" A man she didn't recognize stepped into the office with a smile on his face. God this was so hard. He obviously was someone that she was supposed to know. "You are recycling right? Cause if I find more paper in the trash I'm going to have to punish you." He winked as he moved to empty her trash can.
"Haven't been here long enough to dump paper yet." She gave a weak smile as she realized that this was the janitor.
"Well, you be good this year." He left and she just stared after him.
The bag from the local Deli swung from her hand as she walked back towards her car. From behind the building she heard a word that stopped her in her tracks. "Mutie! Get out of here, we don't serve your kind." She turned slowly while her heart hammered in her chest to see who the angry man was talking to. The pale green teenage girl looked like she'd been kicked, the comment obviously hurt her. Christy's eyes widened a little. This was the first obvious mutant she'd seen. "Get out of here before I call the cops!" He was still yelling.
Christy felt an overwhelming urge to just walk away and not get involved. Instead she walked back towards the deli with her eyes glaring at the man. She knew how dangerous this world was, but she didn't let that bother her. "Come on, lets get out of here." She spoke gently to the girl while ignoring the jerk. She would normally not get involved with a stranger but things had changed, and it had changed her. She'd like to think for the better, but her nightmares sometimes made her wonder about that.
"Ms. Taylor?" The girl sounded surprised to see her, and Christy didn't know who she was. Apparently she was supposed to know this girl too.
"Come on." Christy addressed the green girl and motioned towards her car. She really wished that she had a name to go with the girl. She looked about the right age to be one of her students. She was going to make the guess that she probably was.
"Your not going to tell the school are you?" The girl sounded close
"Tell them what?" Christy asked as she drove towards the campus. She was taking the girl there because she didn't know where else to take her.
"That I'm a mutant." The girl whispered. They stopped at a red light and Christy could feel the eyes of the driver in the nearby car looking into her car. "You don't recognize me do you?" The girl sounded surprised. "I'm Annie Thompson."
Christy turned to look at the girl, looking past the pale green skin and black hair. She glanced at the manicured nails and rings on her fingers.
"Annie?" This girl was from her Winter class. She'd done an incredible web page about her poetry for her final project. She almost forgot to go when the light turned red. Annie didn't want the school to know, so taking her back to her office wouldn't work. "Where can I take you?"
"I…" Annie started to sound like she was about to burst into tears. "I don't know. My dad kicked me out."
Christy stared out the window while trying to think. "I have to go back to work." She turned to glance at the girl. She was a good girl. Christy remembered that about her. "I could drop you off at my house and we can talk when I get back from work." The girl wasn't safe walking the streets like this. Her skin made her a target and that man at the deli wasn't unusual in this world. Annie's look of shocked gratitude was enough. Christy pulled onto the freeway to head home. She was going to be late back from lunch. She lived a half hour away, but the house actually had a lot of privacy. Her neighbors weren't close enough to see a green girl walking into the house.
Even though the neighbors probably wouldn't see Christy didn't risk it. She didn't know the neighbors and wasn't about to risk some sort of hate crime. She pulled into the garage with Annie and then closed the garage door behind them as if it were a habit of hers so that the girl wouldn't realize she was being hidden.
"You have a nice house." Annie whispered. She hadn't even gone inside yet to see the half empty home. The two story house was far larger than Christy needed.
Originally Christy, her brother and her mother had lived in the house. Dan moved away to go to college and then stayed in California. Her mother started dating a guy from work and eventually she was staying the night there more often than coming home. Finally Christy told her mother that she could move out if she wanted to. Christy made enough to pay the bills, not much more than enough, but she was doing alright. That had happened months before. Christy frowned just a little as she lead Annie inside.
"You can use my computer if you want, or watch T.V. or
whatever." It felt very strange to take the girl here and let her lose on
Christy's home. Christy never had people over. When she really looked at Annie
she could see the girl was tired and looked like she hadn't showered in a
while. The girl could have been living on the streets for a while. Christy's
voice got softer with her concern. "Or you could just take a shower and
hop into my bed. I'll be back with dinner around six."
"Thank you so much for doing this." Annie's voice cracked.
"Sure. No problem." Christy sighed as she watched the completely lost look on Annie's face. Her family abandoned her, and it had to be because of the mutation, because the girl was no troublemaker. Christy showed her to the bedroom, and was a little embarrassed at her unmade bed. She never made her bed.
While Annie was in the bathroom getting ready to shower Christy went out to the car to leave. When her eyes fell on the sandwich she grabbed the bag and went back in to leave it on the table for Annie to find. Christy wasn't feeling very hungry right now anyhow.
Annie could hear the door close and was still a bit stunned that the teacher that barely seemed to know her name while she was in her class had taken her into her home and left her alone there. Ms. Taylor did that even though she knew full well that Annie was a mutant.
She got into the shower and glanced at the shampoos. They were for color treated hair. Ms. Taylor had streaks of blonde and red in her shoulder length brown hair. Annie's hair was black and fell to below her shoulder blades. It had been black before her mutation, and that hadn't changed. It was her skin that did that. Annie grimaced. If it had been her hair she could have pretended that she'd dyed it, but no… she was marked so obviously as a mutant and still had no idea what her powers were, or if she even had any. She could just be green.
The smell of soap and the feel of warm water on her body made Annie sigh happily. She hadn't been able to shower in three days. Her father had kicked her out of the house with nothing shortly after she woke up changed. She took a nice long shower even though she was very tired.
When she got out of the shower she stared at her dirty clothes and didn't want to put them back on. The walk to Ms. Taylor's bathroom took her past the laundry room. Annie took the robe hanging on the bathroom door and put it on. She started up some laundry. These were luxuries that didn't exist on the streets and she'd take advantage while she had the chance. She looked around the downstairs of the house. That was all Ms. Taylor had shown her. The room right off the garage had the woman's computer, her two drawer file cabinets, and a small bookshelf full of computer related books, which only really took up one side of the large room. The other half was empty. The desk with the computer on it was barely visible underneath what must be hundreds of printouts. Annie didn't turn them over to look at them even though she was curious what her teacher was researching.
She moved back into the other room. It was the master suite of the house, but in the larger room Ms. Taylor had her living room furniture. A couch and loveseat sat along two walls, an entertainment center with a few things on it sat on the other, and the last wall was entirely the closet doors. It was a bit strange to have a closet in the living room like that. The entertainment center had a few toys on it. The stereo didn't look like that great of one. Ms. Taylor had a Tivo, a VCR, and a DVD player, along with a wide selection of CD's. The walls were painted strangely. Annie first thought it was a wallpaper, but it wasn't. The light beige walls had darker paint stamped across it. It looked nice.
Annie turned the stereo on and had to quickly turn it down. It was set pretty loud. Annie started to look through the music selection and was pleased to find some CD's that she liked. She got them playing even though she felt uncomfortable snooping around like this. She just needed to stay awake long enough to put her clothes in the dryer, and it gave her something to do other than think. She was tired of thinking right now.
She wandered over to the large opening, too large to be called a doorway. What was obviously meant to be the study of the master bedroom actually served as the bedroom. The walls were so dark purple to look black without any light. The blinds of all the downstairs windows had been shut, but some of the summer sun leaked in anyhow. Annie found the dimmer switch and turned on the bedroom overhead lights, or one of them at least. The other seemed to be burnt out. This was another room that looked like it had been wallpapered, but it hadn't. There were brush strokes on the dark walls of lavender and white. It actually looked pretty good, but this wasn't at all what she'd imagined her teachers bedroom would look like. Instead of nightables, on both sides of the bed sat pedestals. One held the alarm clock and the other held a tablet of paper. The bed itself wasn't made and the soft fuzzy throw on it was dark with the sun and stars on it. The wall across from the bed was nothing but bookshelves.
Annie pulled the robe closed more tightly as she started to glance at the dragon figurines and then moved her attention to the books. A couple of shelves were about writing. She remembered hearing her teacher talk about the novel she was working on a few times in class while the students were working on the computers. She had been impressed that Ms. Taylor wanted to be a writer too. Annie never would have the patience to write novels. She did write poems though. She had several notebooks at home of her poetry, if her father hadn't tossed it out. She had to swallow around the lump in her throat and moved her attention to the other shelves. Ms. Taylor had a lot of psychology text books, and other books that must have been for school.
Annie's eyes widened a little when she kneeled down and noticed the books on the bottom shelves. Books on human sexuality, erotic novels, and… several books with the words lesbian or homosexual in the title filled the entire bottom row. Oh wow. Her teacher was gay. That would explain all those Melissa Etheridge CD's. She must have had every one. Annie felt embarrassed for having been snooping now. It was fine that her teacher was gay, it wasn't like Annie didn't have a gay friend. Ms. Taylor was nice. Still Annie felt a bit uncomfortable. She sighed heavily and decided to see if there was anything on T.V. It wasn't like she even really noticed the show as she got lost in her thoughts. Her father had tossed her out of her home with nothing, and if this lesbian was going to be nice to her, and help her out like this, she wasn't going to treat her funny because of her being gay. Still, she'd never met a lesbian before.
When she reached up to rub her tired eyes she noticed her green skin and grimaced. She was still not used to seeing that. It felt like it wasn't even her body anymore. Would her friends still care about her if they knew? That was why she hadn't called any of them when she was tossed out on the streets. Sean was a good friend and he'd be okay with it, but the others might not. Unfortunately Sean was using the summer vacation to visit his family in California.
Christy got back to work just fifteen minutes late, and no one seemed to notice. That was the good thing about being salary, no timeclocks. The first thing she did was walk over to the student files. Annie was with her program, so one of her co-workers had to be her advisor, since Christy wasn't. She hunted through the files of their students until she found it and pulled it out. She took it with her to her desk to study.
Christy had so many students each quarter in the computer class that she didn't usually get to know them very well, but the other instructors didn't have quite as high a student count. Annie's advisor had a very nice file made up for Annie that included the final goals paper all students were required to write. Christy usually glanced at her own advisees files but not the others.
Annie wanted to finish the requirements for her high school diploma and go to a four year school. She wanted to either major in computers or English, and she was thinking about teaching. Annie's transcripts were decent, she got mostly B's but in college level classes that wasn't bad, especially since it looked like the girl was sixteen. Her father kicked out a sixteen year old just because her skin turned green. That was so sick.
The file stayed on her desk while she mechanically worked on her lesson plans. Annie kept coming into her mind, and how she was green. Christy remembered something about an image inducer to cover up mutations like that, but did they really exist? And how could Annie get one? Were they expensive? She just didn't want Annie to have to drop out of school for this.
Janet came in with a newsletter. "I know you hate these." She smiled and set it down. Christy noticed Janet glance at the file she'd stolen from Janet's files. "What's up?" she indicated the file.
"I need to hire a new teacher's assistant." Christy glanced at the file. It was a half formed idea, but since this was the time of year that she normally looked at the student files to try and find someone that might work well, it had crossed her mind. She preferred to hire her students, because she knew if they understood the material and after having them for a quarter had some idea if they had the right attitude to help teach. Annie's comment about wanting to be a teacher started this line of thought.
"Well, she's a pretty responsible one." Janet started to try and sell Christy on the idea. "Her English teacher actually caught me in the halls at the end of Spring quarter and thanked me for sending such a wonderful student to her." Janet grinned. Praise like that was pretty rare. Usually the college instructors weren't thrilled with having such young students in their classes.
"I'll look into it." Christy glanced at the file again. If she could just find an image inducer she could give the girl a job. Annie really needed it now that she no place to live. It would only be part time, but it was better than nothing.
Once she was alone again Christy opened up her web browser and started to do a hunt for the device. It was a long shot, but she didn't know what else to do. Every time she heard someone walk close to her office door she made sure she was ready to hit the other window on the computer screen that had actual work on it. She could put together her class in next to no time. She'd taught it enough times that it wasn't really work to do it.
Later she turned off her computer after finding nothing useful, just a few articles that mentioned the device, but no mutant catalogue with image inducers and spandex costumes. Somehow that wasn't a surprise. At least she knew that the thing existed. There had to be somewhere to buy one. Hopefully they didn't cost too much.
She picked up the pizza from Papa John's on the way home, hoping that Annie liked pizza. It seemed like a safe bet.
When she thought about all the research she'd done over the summer, and the research she'd spent a few hours doing at work, Christy felt like she finally had something to do that mattered. She sat up straighter in her car seat as she drove the last three miles to her house. She needed to make a new life for herself, and maybe finding Annie was what she was supposed to do here. Perhaps she could help in her own way.
Annie stared in the mirror and she felt like she was finally seeing herself again. Christy had let her live in her house for the past few weeks and had even bought a bed for one of the three empty upstairs bedrooms for her. She'd given her some money to get some clothes, not a lot of money, but second hand clothes were good enough for now. Christy had also bought the image inducer for Annie, and Annie felt a little bad that Christy was now in the process of selling some of her things. Christy never said it, but that image inducer had obviously cost more than Christy could afford if she was selling her comic collection on E-bay, along with her table saw.
When she came out of the bathroom she went to the computer room, knowing that was where Christy would be. Christy was so busy organizing the piles of printouts on history and mutants that she didn't even notice Annie in the room. Annie just stood there and looked at the woman. She'd dressed in baggy jeans and a t-shirt today and actually looked a lot younger when she wasn't dressed for work. Annie would say the woman looked like she could be one of her own students. Just some different clothes and she could make Christy pass. Her hair was already like many of the girls in class, with the different colors going on.
"Well?" She stood a little stiffly while Christy turned from sorting her huge pile of printouts. Christy's eyes studied her face carefully and Annie felt self-conscious when she didn't say something right away.
"I guess I was getting used to your greenness." Christy smiled. "But it looks good." Annie felt the urge to hug Christy, but she held back and just shifted nervously from foot to foot. She was going to be able to leave the house without people staring at her. "Annie, you need to read that book that came with it. If anything happens to it you need to know how to repair it."
"I will." Annie nodded just a little as she answered. "I have a week before school starts and I'll have that book memorized by then."
"I was thinking…" Christy trailed off and Annie moved to sit in the chair beside the desk at the hint that this was something serious. Her heart started to pound a little wondering if Christy was kicking her out soon since she could pass as human now. She still didn't have anywhere to go. Sean lived with his parents and they couldn't take her in. "I need a TA. It's only about twelve to fifteen hours a week, but its some money and it won't mess with school."
Annie's lips started to curve into a smile. "Really?" Oh, this was perfect. She could work with Christy and go to classes. She knew what the TA did, they'd had one in the class she took with the woman.
"Do you want it?" Christy asked but Annie could see from the smile on the older woman's lips that she already knew the answer.
"Thank you." Annie was a little embarrassed at how serious and grateful she really sounded. It wasn't just the job. She was thanking Christy everything. Her eyes started to tear up and she had to look away and take a few deep breaths. Christy always got embarrassed when Annie thanked her like this, but Annie just couldn't seem to stop.
"Your welcome." Christy spoke quietly. "I'll get the paperwork tomorrow and bring it home."
"I'm gonna go make breakfast." Annie got up and started to turn to go upstairs. They still had an hour before they went out and she'd quickly become the cook of the house. She wasn't that good a cook, but she was better than Christy and didn't hate it nearly as much.
She was just dishing the plates up when there was a knock on the door. Christy was up the stairs and answering it in no time at all. Annie glanced at her reflection in the mirror on the dining room wall before moving out of the kitchen. She just wanted to make sure the image inducer was still working. She could hear the conversation at the door while she set out their plates.
"Here are the keys, but you'll need to get gas. I was running too late to do it." Christy's mom traded the keys for her van and took Christy's keys for the Honda Civic. "You take everything that Annie needs." Christy's mom sounded a bit angry with Annie's dad. They were going to go to Annie's home and try to get her stuff back while her dad was at work. "Make several trips if you have to."
"Thanks." Christy sounded a bit depressed and Annie looked at her back with concern. Christy's mom was really nice, but Christy always seemed to get a little upset when she talked to her. "You better get going or you'll be late for work again. And no smoking in my car." Christy sounded just a little better.
"I don't smoke." Her mom sounded just a little confused.
"Oh, well…" Christy seemed a bit flustered, "Just don't make a mess."
Once Christy closed the door Annie watched her just stand there for a moment and the feeling that something was really wrong hit her. "Christy? Are you okay?" She couldn't see what would make the woman stand there in silence like that. She'd heard everything and nothing was remotely upsetting or sad.
"What? Oh, yeah I'm fine." Christy sighed and started up the stairs to the dining room and breakfast. "We should take off in a half hour." She sat down and spoke a little more normally, but Annie started to think Christy was just good at faking being okay. "Thanks for making breakfast."
Annie stayed quiet on the drive, only speaking to give Christy directions. It was scary having to rob her own home to steal her own things. She still had the key to the house and doubted that her father had changed the locks. Annie's dad worked in a warehouse from eight to five, and they were going in at ten. It would give them plenty of time to get in and out long before he came home. Annie and him had been the only ones that lived in the small two-bedroom Tacoma house.
Christy backed the van up to the house, and Annie could tell the woman wasn't used to driving something this big. She was being very careful. "Well, lets get this over with." Christy gave Annie a small smile in an obvious attempt to make her feel better.
The key worked. Annie took a deep breath and glanced around the living room. Aside from dishes sitting on the various flat surfaces it looked the same. Her dad was a bit of a slob, and Annie had been the one to clean up after him.
"Okay, lets move fast." Christy sounded very in charge after Annie had stood in her room looking around for a moment. "Take what is most important first in case we run out of time." Christy glanced out the window towards the van. "We can move faster if you pass stuff out the window. I'll move the van closer." Christy left quickly.
"Okay." Annie was a bit surprised at Christy's no nonsense get it done attitude. She was sounding like this was some sort of mission. Annie moved to open her window and could see Christy hopping in the van. She then moved to her closet and just started to grab huge armfuls of stuff and piled her clothes on her bed. They didn't have a lot of boxes, so she'd just wrap it all up in the bedspread.
After a half hour of quickly tossing things out to Christy, Annie had run out of her absolutely essential items. They'd packed up her clothes and her things for school, using bedspreads, sheets, and blankets whenever possible. Annie only had the one bedsheet set with the bed Christy got her, so she also used the sheets for her bed that were in the hall closet. From there she could look into the dining room, and the computer that her father had bought her when she'd started classes at the college. Her eyes hardened as she looked at it. It was her's, and it was coming with them.
"Christy, my computer…" Annie called out the window. She didn't want the woman to wonder what she was up to. She could hear the footsteps on the porch and Christy came in the front door minutes later while Annie was laying underneath her desk trying to undo the cables so that they could take it.
Christy knew that taking the computer would probably piss off the man, and found herself even angrier at him. The clothes and other items were obviously Annie's and any court if they got caught would recognize that. The computer was the most expensive thing in the house as far as she could see and it wasn't old. She didn't say anything. She just took the monitor when it was disconnected and carried it out to the van. After putting it in carefully and making sure it wouldn't slide around she headed back into the house, while glancing at the neighborhood. She'd been loading up a van in front of a house for almost an hour and no one seemed to notice.
Annie crawled out from under the desk and grabbed the computer. Christy followed her out with the printer. They were in the front yard when a car pulled up quickly and the man behind the wheel looked pissed. Christy could see Annie tense up and had a pretty good idea of who he was. "Put it in the van now." Christy spoke clearly while keeping an eye on the man as he threw his car door open. She followed her own advice and put the printer down on the van floor before moving to face him. Her eyes narrowed at the man easily a foot taller than her and while he wasn't muscle bound he did look like he would pack a punch and was thinking of doing it. Annie seemed frozen in place. "Annie, put it in the van and close the door." Christy kept her eyes on him while Annie finally moved. This is where mutant powers would have been handy. Too bad Annie didn't know what hers were and Christy didn't have any.
"Annie what are you doing back here?!" He spoke loudly and Christy took a deep breath to calm her nerves. She'd spent some time awake last night imagining everything that could go wrong and this had been on the top of the list.
"I'm just picking up my things." Annie said as she closed the van door and took a step closer to Christy. It made Christy feel like Annie was trying to hide behind her, and she stood a little taller because of it. If she had to play at being the protector she was going to have to change tactics, because hitting the guy wasn't an option. Going to jail wasn't going to make anything better.
"Those aren't your things." He hissed at the girl and then turned his eyes to Christy, "And who the hell are you? One of her little mutie friends?" He then dismissed her from his awareness and glared at Annie. "Your skin isn't all green."
"Daddy, I'm just picking up my things." Annie's voice held a painful pleading and it broke Christy's heart. "I'll get out of here now."
He took a menacing step closer to Annie and Christy growled out, "Touch her and I will make you pay." Her eyes glared into him with obvious threat. "I'm one of her mutie friends, and you don't want to see what happens when I get mad." He stopped his menacing approach and stood still while giving Christy a measuring glance. He looked nervous. Good, cause Christy was just bluffing and it had better work. She didn't take her eyes off of him while she spoke. "Annie, get in the van. We're leaving."
"Wait just one fucking minute!" He took a step towards them and Christy growled.
"Dickweed, touch her and I will make you regret it!" Christy's heart was pounding as she moved to block his way to the back of the van. She could feel Annie staring at her in stunned silence. "Annie, Now!" She yelled out her order again. They needed to get out of here. She could hear the van door opening and then slam shut. Christy then moved sideways keeping him in front of her while she moved to the driver's side door. With one hand she reached into her pocket to get the keys and he took that moment to step closer.
"I mean it." She growled at him and noticed his hands clench into fists. "You never even thought that its your fault she's a mutant did you? It's inherited, you have it in your genes. Fucking asshole, blaming her for something like that." She sneered at him. "Your pretty mad. Did you know your eyes glow green when you're pissed?" His look of shock and fear were what she was waiting for. "Go check out a mirror. You're a mutie." She lied to him with a straight face. He couldn't see his own eyes unless he moved away to his car or the house.
In his sudden fear he bolted for the car mirrors and Christy quickly moved to grab the van handle and got in. She started it and pulled out onto the street quickly. She could hear boxes moving around in the back of the van, but she didn't want him chasing them or getting a good look at the license plate. Her shoulders were tense and her knuckles were white on the steering wheel.
It wasn't until they were a couple blocks away that she started to relax a little and glanced over at Annie. The girl had tears on her cheeks and was staring out the window looking completely lost. The anger in Christy's veins started to cool and she felt pity and a real wish that she was better with comforting people. You'd think with all the crying and terrified people she'd seen in her life she'd have picked up that skill, but it always made her feel inadequate and uncomfortable when she was put in the role of comforter. She had no idea what to say, or how to make Annie feel better. They drove in silence for a few more blocks while Christy thought of things to say and dismissed each one.
She looked at the clock on the dash and it was almost noon. "Want lunch?"
"Not really hungry." Annie practically whispered.
"You can stay with me as long as you like." Christy spoke while staring at the car in front of her. She'd get used to less privacy. In the few weeks that Annie was with her the girl seemed easy enough to live with, almost like she was trying to stay out of Christy's way so she wouldn't be kicked out. Not that Christy would have done that. She couldn't make the girl live on the streets, she'd never respect herself again if she did that. "I could use the help around the house and it is too big for just me."
"Thanks." Annie's voice was still quiet. The hand that reached over to rest on Christy's arm drew Christy's attention to the girl and the look of pain and gratefulness was an odd mix.
"It won't be for free." Christy wished that she could afford to just give Annie that no strings. "I'll need you to contribute to some bills." Having another person in the house added a little to the monthly grocery bill and might affect the others a little. Annie also needed things for classes and other things, Christy couldn't afford to supply all that. She'd already spent five hundred dollars on the image inducer and a couple hundred on the bed. It wiped out what little cushion of savings she had in the bank.