Lexie's character flows pretty naturally for me, but Rivera requires thought - "what goes on in that girl's head? What would she, with her background, think would be appropriate now?" Maybe I should have made her the main character! Wow, Rivera and Grabiner ... I think I'm fic-ing my own fic ...
At school two weeks, and I'm already missing home. I spend the rest of my Sunday tucked up a tree, arms wrapped around my knees and sniffling like a two-year old. I desperately fight a pity party, but it's a losing battle. And soon enough, I have company.
Manuel is at the base of my tree, searching up through the leaves. He spots me, says something I can't here, and I wipe my eyes, push down my misgivings, and climb down. I don't want company right now, but Manuel's face is drawn down in his own distress. Even his fluffy ears are laid flat, further evidence of his negative mood. Tentatively, I ask, "What's up?"
Damien isn't speaking to me anymore. He kicks the dirt as he holds up the notebook, and his tail whips behind him, displaying his frustration.
I don't know! He scribbles, looking miffed. Everything was fine yesterday. We had a great week, and I know that he hung out with me because it was his job as part of Initiation, but I really thought we'd become friends. But today he just brushed me off.
His shoulders sag, and he sighs. Poor kid, sounds like he's been used up and tossed away.
Unsure what exactly to do to help or reassure him, I wrack my brain for what makes me feel better when I'm down. "Um ... have you been to the library here yet?"
Manuel glances at me, confuses by the change of topic. "What?"
"The library. I haven't been yet, and I've been wanting to go. I was wondering if you wanted to go with me, pick up some books ... hang out?" I add the last part questioningly, wondering if I'm getting my point across.
"Um, I guess?" His reply is slow; he still looks confused.
I shrug. "Books always cheer me up. Better than people, anyway."
He doesn't look convinced, but he nods. We set off, but he tugs at my sleeve and slips his notebook in front of me.
It reads, Do you know where the library is? I'd rather not get lost again.
"Yep, Professor Grabiner made me translate a map in detention."
He smiles and makes an addition to the page. He had me read an essay on the psychology of the mob mentality. It was weird.
True to my word, I get us to the library without a hitch. Manuel and I pour over the selections our magical school has to offer, soaking up the variety and laughing at some of the more absurd titles. He finally settles at a table with a small stack of adventurous fiction, home gardening, and animal care. I leave him to his reading for quite a while, still wandering through the stacks, intrigued by hardbound covers and glossy lettering. When I join him, I possess a modest stack containing more on magic runes and higher level Blue magic applications. By the time they close up, Manuel has checked out several of his books and is smiling happily, clutching the volumes to his chest.
Mission accomplished, we part ways and I head to bed early, only to get up late (for me) on Monday morning. On my way to breakfast, I am accosted by a girl from the Horse Hall. She seems excited about something (don't all Horses?) and it takes several tries before she gets the idea and takes my notebook (I've starting wearing one around my waist on a string threaded through the binding coils, since I haven't needed a backpack) to introduce herself.
"Like William Danson?"
"Yeah, that's my brother." She grins, obviously proud, and then catches herself and writes what she just said. I don't bother to tell her I caught it the first time—I'd rather her repeat herself than assume I can magically deduce everything she's saying from lip reading.
I'm sure you know that club signups are this week-
We have clubs?
-and I'm making a sports club. I just need enough people to join and it's official! Are you in?
"Uh ... " I want to say no, I'm not in. I'm not a Horse. Do I look like a Horse? I don't play sports. I'm a Snake. But that would be rude and I'm just in a bad mood because of yesterday's slump. "Sorry, I'm not really interested in sports."
"Are you sure?" She bites her lip and starts writing again. I just made the club, so we aren't even sure what sport we'll be playing—it's just about exercising and having fun!
Virginia's smiling ear to ear, obviously pleased with her club. Signups are on Wednesday in the gym, if you change your mind.
With a wave, she's running off again, pinning someone else down to try and recruit them. Wow, that girl has a lot of energy.
She said she made the club herself, so I begin wondering if I would be able to make my own club. I want to ask—but I don't want to ask Professor Potsdam. Resolving to ask Professor Grabiner, I go ahead and sign up for Blue Magic classes the rest of the week.
I figure I'll go ahead and finish off the month with Blue classes, and then try something else for a month. Red Magic sounds cool. I'm a little uneasy about White Magic, though—with all the talk of the 'spiritual realm' I really don't want to go near it anymore than I do Green Magic, and that's saying something. So while Black Magic doesn't interest me that much—charming items doesn't really sound like my kind of thing—I will probably try it before the other two.
When I step into Professor Grabiner's classroom, I feel a sense of continuity. This is normal, this is what I do. I'm in class, going to listen to the Professor teach, give a few students detention, and generally bite kids' heads off. All apart of my life now. Normal.
My family and even Rivera and Manuel aren't apart of this little section of my life. I don't have time to worry about friend issues or missing my family when I have to concentrate on not getting scolded and learning something new and cool about how to change the world around me. My problems disappear in the classroom.
We learn Darkness today. It's hilarious to watch the students mastering it, because it engulfs the room in pitch black and everyone stumbles around, tripping over things and bumping into each other until Professor Grabiner lights the area again. It's amusing but also unnerving, as that leaves me with two senses down instead of one like everyone else, and it's not nearly as funny. I get through it happening two or three times before I can calm down and laugh about it like everyone else.
After class, I take a moment to ask Professor Grabiner about clubs. He simply passes me a form to fill out and turn back in for approval before signups on Wednesday. I do so quickly and return it to him the next class period.
My week continues like this, with class keeping me on my toes and in relatively high spirits. On Wednesday, I fall in love with our newest spell: Teleport Other. And yes, it's as fun as it sounds. Professor Grabiner says he fully expects this spell to take a few days, as students are starting to fall behind. Completely normal at this stage, apparently, since I seem to be the only constant student in the class. Most switch between other classes and aren't at this level yet.
While the other kids are attempting to teleport random objects (and peers) across the room, I immerse myself in a quieter study. Even after class is over, I plan keep at it. I know the next step after this spell is learning to teleport myself, and I'm extremely excited about the idea. Being able to teleport is fascinating, and I want to master it quickly, and that means going over every safety precaution I can find first.
But my immersion into the art of teleportation can't begin until after club signups. There's a surprising amount of booths set up in the gym, seemingly with no attempt at organization at all. I arrive early to set up my table in a nice, out of the way spot, and wait as the students begin to trickle in. Two guys jump up on stage at one point, apparently advertising for the chorale. I take it they're pretty good from people's reactions. One I recognize after a few moments as that fire boy from detention—oh, another Danson! I knew that name had sounded familiar.
Rivera suddenly appears at my table without me noticing. She signs right up, gives me a smile, and walks away without a word.
I bite my lip and blink rapidly for a few seconds. Gonna be close, huh?
Three more students I don't know sign up: a fellow Snake who stares at me considerately for several minutes before she jots down her name, a pretty, friendly Butterfly who seems honestly enthusiastic about the idea, and sullen looking Wolf who I'm almost certain didn't even look at my sign before wrote down his name and hurried off.
Manuel comes scurrying up close to the deadline, takes a look at my table, and pulls out his notebook. I didn't know you had your own club, Lexie!
"Seemed like a good idea." I shrug at the end of my signing.
He eyes the page and then smiles brightly. I'll join, too! If that's okay.
I smile back, and he scribbles his name onto the paper.
Nobody else stops at the table after that, but I don't mind. People had looked over my flyers, asked me questions, and expressed interest without committing, but five members is already more people than I'd expected. I'm a Freshman nobody offering a club that's more of another mundane class than a fun hobby, after all.
The stress of staying seated in the gym, with it's high ceiling and wide open area, while it is crawling with students, takes it's tool, so when it's time to put up our tables, I work in a rush. Throwing myself into my studies once I'm back in my dorm helps dampen the panic I've been holding down, and soon enough the event is forgotten in favor my teleportation study. By the end of the week, I have Teleport Other down pat, and am fairly certain that teleporting myself is going to be no problem.
I skip another mall trip, opting instead for a day of relaxation. I receive a letter from my parents, and am so I excited I tear it open. It isn't anything special, of course. Just a typical letter, responding to what I'd written and filling me in on the simple things going on at home. It's little more than half a page, yet I'm grinning ear to ear when I finish, and set to writing back immediately.
And I have nothing but good things to say all around. Quite a big difference from how my week had started. It just seems to cement in my mind that having friends is a problem I don't need. Class and books made me happy, and I have all I want in a potential friend with Rivera, so why should I bother with the effort of making more when I could end up failing and getting hurt, like Manuel (who still has his depressed moments and speaks longingly of missing his one-week friend)? If Rivera and Manuel still want to hang out, fine. Otherwise, I'm on my own, and prefer it that way. Besides classes and my new club work, I don't need any more people in my life.
On Thursday after class, Professor Grabiner announces that he will be holding a review session for the exam the next day.
I wasn't aware there was going to be an exam.
I mean, it's obvious we have to be tested, but nobody had said anything about an exam coming up. I'm floored, and immediately signed up for the study session.
It's organized in a rather small room lined with cabinets and a few boxes. Obviously, this isn't a regularly used classroom—more like a large storage closet. There isn't a chalkboard, but Professor Grabiner notices Rivera poised beside me, ready to take notes, and gives us a nod before launching into the study session. Despite his comforting opening words (really, if it wasn't Professor Grabiner saying them, they would be encouraging), I can tell no one can concentrate with him for an instructor. His demeanor seems to discourage any form of relaxation and keeps the nervous freshman in a constant state of panic—which I find amusing and rather relaxing in it's own right.
Manuel is called on first, and he practically jumps in his seat. He gets the right answer, though, which makes me smile. I think Professor Grabiner notices that and decides to try and kill my good mood, because he taps on the back of my hand to have me answer next.
Miss Wilson. What color of magic would you use to transform a lump of coal into a diamond?
I perk up. Having studied Blue Magic all month, I know it's possible with that type of Magic, but I haven't learned to do it. "Blue, sir."
I'm right, and Professor Grabiner goes back to torturing other students.
The study session continues this way for quite a while, and I have to work to keep the grin off my face. Professor Grabiner has to enjoy his job—he's just too good at making students miserable not to be doing it on purpose. He stops in the middle of a sentence at one point to give a boy detention. It's Donald Danson again. I wonder what he did to get detention. I hadn't noticed anything, but that doesn't mean much, as I was taking notes and still trying not to appear to be having any form of fun.
The night passes, and I head back to the dorms.
Hours after Rivera has gone to bed, I'm still awake, hiding under my covers with a Light spell going, pouring over my notes. I know I should be resting up for the exam, but Friday I'm taking the day off, so I can just rest all morning until test time. I feel wide awake, so I keep on studying. When I can't concentrate anymore I know I'm pushing my limits, and finally call it a night.
I wake up to Rivera at my bedside, shaking me lightly, eyes half-lidded and glazed over. I'm used to being woke up on the fly back home, so I roll out of bed before I'm even aware of why I'm getting up. Rivera waves grumpily at the door before falling back into her bed.
With the face of a zombie, I answer the door.
And am met with a face full of glitter. It takes several seconds to realize they are spelling out words.
Joyous morning to you, Alexandra.
Okay, so I'm used to being woken up suddenly. What I'm not used to is people around me being chipper about it. When you get up at 5 am to help deliver a foal, no one is flowers and sunshine. You do what you have to and go back to bed. Seeing Professor Potsdam while I'm operating off of a still half asleep stupor is like sitting in a dark room and then having somebody shine a flashlight in your eyes.
So my reply might be an incoherent grunt.
She rambles on happily for a minute about our exam instructions, and I try to follow. At some point, two pieces of paper appear in my hands. Now how had these gotten here?
I'm afraid there is one other thing.
I look up from staring at the pages, vaguely aware that Potsdam isn't being all Potsdam-y anymore. Her expression is more serious. Alarms bells sound in my head.
You haven't been broadening your magical palette as much as you could be.
My ... palette? Does this have to do with breakfast?
I know you're capable of more than this, Alexandra.
Capable of more what? What are we talking about? I haven't even had breakfast yet, why is she talking about eating more?
She's still talking. I try to focus. I catch the word detention in the air and suddenly I don't feel so tired anymore. I instantly blurt out, "I don't want detention!"
Then I'm afraid I have no choice but to assign you ten demerits. You may receive more, depending on your performance during the exam. Please consider your choices carefully. I can't protect you from the consequences of your own actions.
She pauses then, like she expects me to say something. I stare at her, still not exactly sure what has just happened. What about the exam? I hadn't even known we were having an exam until yesterday!
My stunned silence is apparently answer enough, however, and suddenly Professor Potsdam is all smiles and dimples again. She says something about using my strengths and waves, prancing off.
I stare after her, frozen. A few minutes later, Rivera pokes her head out the door and finds me in the same position, unmoved. She passes me her notebook gently
It reads, I have decided to make almond pancakes. Shall I make you some as well?
From my spot in the hallway, I've been trying to sort out the morning's events. I've figured out that by my palette Professor Potsdam had been talking about the classes I have—or, more aptly, haven't—been taking. My lack of variety seems to be the root of my problem, which is ironic since her parting words had been to use my strengths. Mixed messages, anyone?
I shake my head and turn to Rivera, aware of having not responded yet. "Sorry. That was Professor Potsdam with our exam schedules. Here. And yes, I'd love some pancakes."
Rivera takes her schedule, eyes it without concern, and returns to the room without any more questions. I stand here a moment longer, grumbling to myself about how I would have studied more different types of Magic if I had known an exam was coming up before yesterday. I glance down at my schedule, check what time my exam is, and then go back to my room to sleep the rest of the day. It's too late to try and learn a new Magic now, after all.
Rivera wakes me up when her pancakes are finished (evidence of her work is messily coating the room, but I have no idea how she's cooked them with no stove), and we spend our traditional quiet time together munching on them. They aren't bad, but I have the distinct feeling they don't have almonds in them. They taste like oranges. I don't question it.
I report to the testing room at the appointed time, rested and still slightly annoyed—and nervous. I've already gotten ten demerits today, what will happen if Blue Magic isn't enough and I completely bomb this exam?
I knock, feeling queasy. The world around me going all fuzzy and junk doesn't help-
Wait ... that's not normal.
My surroundings right themselves after a few seconds, and I find myself in a stone room. Literally, everything is stone. Four stone walls, a stone ceiling overhead, a stone floor beneath my feet. Instantly, I have the urge to lay down on the floor. I bet it feels gravely and cold ...
But I have no chance to act on that odd desire as the same infuriating glitter-fog Professor Potsdam always uses materializes before me. You are now in Dungeon Level One, Layout Five-B.
"Cool." I comment, my nervousness lightening. A dungeon. I love this school.
The exit from this dungeon lies beyond the wall in front of you. There are no doors in your room. You must use magic in order to escape. Good luck.
"Okay, thank you."
No one replies. Guess that's my cue to get to work.
I grin, no longer nervous. And Professor Potsdam was worried about my exam performance. Blue Magic is the perfect solution to being trapped in a sealed room—just teleport out! That's how they'd gotten me in there in the first place, isn't it? It's true that I haven't actually practiced teleporting myself, but I can teleport other things and have done all the research—how different can it be? Just concentrate on myself instead of an object, and-
That's all I have time to think before I come crashing down. Thankfully, I hadn't materialized that far from the ground, and land on my back in one of the flower beds out front of the school building. It knocks the air out of me momentarily, but I've fallen off of horses higher up than this, and the flowerbed is extremely soft, so I'm okay.
Being upside down when I'd first materialized had been pretty cool. I wonder why that had happened, though.
A shadow falls over me, obscuring what had been a nice view of the blue sky. It's Professor Grabiner—where did he come from?—and I'm surprised at his expression. There is absolutely no way around it, no matter how you try to deny it. He looks concerned. An angry, Professor Grabiner version of concerned, yes, but concerned none the less.
"Are you alright?"
He looks pretty good from this angle. The sun is back behind him, casting as shadow over his face, obscuring his age lines. Light finds it's way through his dark hair, emphasizing the waves. His eyes are a light milk chocolate, a color I rather like. It reminds me of ... something ...
"Yeah, I'm good." I reply, smiling. I figure I should probably demonstrate this by climbing out of the school's flowers. I really hope I don't get in trouble for crushing them.
He looks exceedingly frustrated as he stands over me, like if he were the type to fret, he'd be doing so. Hoping it would help, I hold up my notebook (the last thing I want is Professor Grabiner taking to Professor Potsdam's method of glitter-fog).
He takes it with a sigh and writes.
I had not expected you to be capable of a full-body teleport at this stage. I should have given you better safety instructions. My apologies, Miss Wilson.
Distracted, I stare from the paper up at him. Wow, Professor Grabiner is apologizing to me again? I might need to completely reevaluate my views of his personality.
"Well, that was actually the first time I'd really done the teleport, which is probably why I'm out here and was all-" I point up, wiggling my finger, before going back to signing. "I probably should have practiced more first, but after all your classes I really thought I could handle it."
I realize how irresponsible that sounds only after I've said it. I think for sure Professor Grabiner will take that statement and run, chewing me out for being all around reckless, but to my surprise he doesn't even comment on it—instead, he proceeds to praise me.
Well, you have succeeded with distinction. Ten merits to you.
Dude. There is nothing I can say to that. And I've gotten my lost merits back! In your face, Potsdam!
In future exams the dungeons will be warded to prevent exit by teleportation, so do not expect to replicate your success so easily.
Ah, there it is. Back to his usual self, shooting me down. I smile happily. "Yes sir, thank you, sir."
He looks at me oddly, obviously thinking my reaction is abnormal. But he's distracted after a moment and turns around to peer at a new arrival joining us.
Professor Potsdam, with her pointy hat and bouncing ginger locks, looks me up and down worriedly. After this morning, I'm not very excited to see her, but considering how very wrong I've just proved her, the feeling doesn't linger.
"Everything is fine." He says to her, and glancing at me again, I can already feel the dismissal coming on. He passes me the notebook back with a wave of his hand.
But I don't want to go. We were almost having a conversation—a real conversation. I bet none of the other students have conversations with Professor Grabiner, and here I've almost had two of them in a month.
Professor Potsdam tsks and says something about not being rude, I think.
Professor Grabiner ignores her, walking away, and my potential conversation is lost. Over her shoulder, Professor Potsdam gives me a smile before following after him. A bit miffed at her stealing Professor Grabiner away, on top of this morning, I don't return the gesture. In fact, I kicks some of the unsmashed flowers as I leave.
I didn't get in trouble for trampling the flower bed, at , I return to my room, where I throw myself onto my bed in a childish huff. Rivera joins me not long after, looking oddly ruffled.
I push myself up. "How'd your test go?"
She puts her hands on her hips, nodding. "Oddly."
She pulls her notebook from her shoulder bag and sits beside me to write.
I escaped the dungeon by magic. I received detention for my methods.
"Detention? What did you do?"
I had the teacher teleport me out. She asserted that I gave up and deserve to fail. I assert that I used magic—which was not my own, but the rules did not say it had to be—to escape, just as required, and never said I was quitting or giving up.
"You ... tricked your teacher?" I ask in awe, horrified.
Rivera raises her eyebrows. It was not difficult. Her injured pride, however, prevents her from seeing the situation unbiasedly.
"Who was your instructor?"
Instantly, my horror vanishes, and instead I grin in camaraderie with my roommate. "High five."
She eyes me curiously before returning the gesture. I saw no reason to use my own magic for such childish accomplishments.
"I don't think I've ever heard a test called a 'childish accomplishment.' You are gonna get yourself in trouble."
Does not concern me. She pauses, head cocking to the side. Your aura is especially bright today.
"Uh, thank you?"
She smiles finally, placing an evaluative finger on her lips before scribbling away deviously. I would like to perform a ritual for you. It could possibly set the room on fire.
"I'll ... move my valuables into the hall for a bit, okay?"
Saturday, I skip the mall trip. Five dollars won't do me much good at the stores anyway, and I'm not feeling up to the crowded bus and streets and shops, anyway. So, I stash my allowance away and instead hit the library again. I enjoy myself and even manage to finish the book of runes I borrowed from Professor Grabiner.
Sunday rolls around, and I spend it wandering the campus idly with no real destination in mind. I have decided to take the day off. It just seems like I'm too into my studies lately, and despite the fact that that's just fine with me, it probably isn't a good thing. I don't really know what to do with myself on days off, but I'll figure it out. After all, my club is about to start taking over my empty Sundays, so this is really for the best.
Promising myself not to open a book for the rest of the day, I make a point of exploring the wooded areas on campus more, and end up taking a nap under the afternoon sun. I stay out late into the evening, admiring the navy sky and scattering of stars. I go to bed early again, falling asleep watching Rivera bleach a small pouch full of tiny bones.