New story! AU high school set-up, but set around a school paper publishing theme (since I used to be an editor in my school's paper when I was in high school). This project is just me having fun. Hopefully you'll indulge me with your readership, support, and constructive critique as it comes along.
I do not own The Legend of Zelda.
The Gossip Stone
"What do you do for yer extra-curricular activities?"
Zelda Harkinian, 16 year old third year student at East Castle Town Prep School, simply stared blankly at her guidance counselor, Miss Telma Louise, in response to the question. "…Sorry?"
Miss Telma, as she liked her counselees to refer to her as, smiled back. "Extra-curriculars, honey. Not to say yer grades aren't good; they're fantastic, even!" She turned Zelda's transcript to her so that she could see across her desk and pointed somewhere near the top of the page. "See there? Yer ranked eighth in your class of 350 students."
Zelda leaned forward to get a better look. She knew that she must have been doing well in school, but she didn't think anywhere that well.
"But y'see, honey," Miss Telma slipped her glasses back on from the chain that hung them around her neck. "Grades these days aren't enough to get'cha into a good university. They like the well-rounded kids; they do well 'n school—and outside of it. I'm sure you've heard that kind of thing before."
That'd be understating it, to be honest.
"Have you done anything? Playin' a sport? Student government? Be a club member or officer, even?"
"…No," Zelda replied. Despite both her parents and teachers all over campus advocating student involvement in such things, she'd been so caught up in school and trying to do well, she didn't really have time to consider anything like that. Or more like, she had spent the first two years of high school under the impression that if her grades were high enough, it'd be enough to forgo putting any more effort than she was already expending studying.
"Yer in yer third year right now, so it's not necessarily too late to join a club or a sport or something." Miss Louise got up from her desk and walked over to a bookcase behind her. On top of it were individually stacked club membership applications and sports teams' registration forms. "But if you're going to start, now's definitely the time to do it. Yer third year is the one they're 'specially lookin' at. What sports interest you?"
"I don't play sports, Miss Telma." Of all things Zelda couldn't do, anything athletic was at the top of the list.
"Not even any interest?"
"How about a club? It's the beginnin' of the school year, so there'll be clubs settin' up orientation booths around campus. You never looked at any of em?"
"…No, I haven't," Zelda shook her head, and she looked down at her lap where her hands were folded. This wasn't really the kind of talk she was expecting when she first stepped into Miss Telma's office. She'd always kind of known it, but all of those questions were making her realize just how one-sided her high school life has been.
"Hmm…" Miss Telma glossed over the row of forms, adjusting her blouse as she did so to accommodate her ample bust. "…What do you have interest in?"
Zelda looked up at that. "I'm sorry?"
"Hobbies, child!" Miss Telma smiled back to her again. "Interests! Anything you like to do for fun! I take it you don't know just how many different and really active student-run clubs we got here on campus. Just throw somethin' out at me and we'll match you up with something you might like."
Zelda furrowed her brow in thought. When it came to self-introductions, or just talking about herself in general, the one topic she hated discussing was her hobbies. Not that she did anything outrageous or socially unacceptable… but just the fact that she didn't really know what her hobbies were. Call her plain or whatever you like, but doing homework, going out with friends, and spending hours on end killing time on the internet didn't sound like activities warranting entire clubs dedicated to them.
"Well… I like to write?"
"Write what?" Miss Telma asked. "Poetry? Fiction?"
Blogs. Arguing with people online. Dirty short stories. Maybe the most latter could have fallen under "fiction." But no way in hell was she going to divulge publicly—to an educator, of all people, that those were the kinds of "writings" she put everything she learned in English class to use to.
"I don't know," she shrugged. "Creative writing?" Yeah, "creative" was definitely an appropriate term for all that.
"…How about the school paper?" Miss Telma suggested earnestly.
The school paper? People actually read that stuff? "But… isn't that kind of writing more expository than creative?"
"The Gossip Stone ain't just news, dear," Miss Telma laughed. "They got all sorts of articles in there, and they're all student-written! Editorials, opinion articles, sports recaps, entertainment reviews… If you just dropped by and asked, I'm sure they'd have something open for ya."
She handed Zelda the application form. "On top of that, involvement with a school paper reflects real well on you when you'll be applying to universities next year. Even more so if you can manage to land an editorship."
Zelda examined the application. It asked for her contact information, class schedule, grade level, a copy of her transcript… But it was all a formality, right? It's the school paper. Not exactly a world class publication.
"You'll need this if you end up applying," Miss Telma handed her one of the copies she made of her transcript. "Which I hope you end up doin', child."
"Thank you…" She slipped the papers into her binder. "Where's their meeting room?"
"Their office is in the north building, room 308."
'Office?' She made it sound like it was something official.
Miss Telma glanced at the wall clock. "They should be meeting now, actually. But their office is open any time after school, usually until grounds close. Really, Zelda. Stop by and just see if you like it. You might be surprised."
Zelda looked up at the doors to room 308. They were double doors; each with translucent windows with staining that read THE GOSSIP STONE across them. Seemed like the whole school paper thing was a lot more official than she initially thought; she had never had a class in the north building before, so how could she have known that such a room for such an underappreciated student organization existed on campus?
She opened one of them, and was surprised to see what kind of room it was inside. It was probably three times the size of a normal classroom that went horizontally, with desks lined up against each other like they were office cubicles without the barriers, and at each of them a computer with students clicking and typing away on word processors. On the far left end of the room were more students at the white board who seemed like they were making some sort of presentation, scribbling and erasing things across the board.
"Can I help you?" A female student, who sat at one of the desks closer to the doors, turned to Zelda.
"Oh," she started kind of nervously. "I'm, actually here to inquire about working for the paper? …Is this where I come to drop off the application form?"
"Yeah," the girl smiled, extending her hand. "I'm Karane."
"Zelda," she smiled back with a nod, accepting the handshake.
"You just need to give it to our editor-in-chief," Karane turned to the far right end of the room, where eight two-seater desks, each with their own computer, were assembled so they made one long table. At them, eight students sat at each of the computers, and at the head of the table, in front of the wall, was a male student addressing them.
"Looks like the editors just finished their meeting," Karane mumbled softly. She turned to Zelda again, gesturing for her to follow her. "Come with me."
Zelda followed a few steps behind, taking her binder out of her tote bag and slipping her filled application out as they approached what apparently was the editor's section.
"Link," Karane called. In response, the male student who sat at the head of the editor's desk, looked up from his computer monitor. Zelda leaned to the side to get a better look at him as she stood behind Karane.
His hair was a pretty shaggy yet somehow kempt dirty blond, almost like a brownish color, which contrasted with his light blue eyes that hid behind thin wire glasses and his light tan complexion. He wasn't wearing his black uniform jacket; his white dress shirt was untucked with the sleeves rolled up, and the top few buttons undone; the red tie he was supposed to have been wearing was hanging off the chair's back with his blazer.
"She'd like to apply for The Stone," Karane gestured to Zelda and stepped aside for her.
"Hello," Zelda smiled politely, extending her hand out. "I'm Zelda Harkinian."
"Link." Was all he said in his baritone voice with a simple nod. "Your application?"
Zelda slowly withdrew her hand, her eyes and smile sheepishly faltering; he didn't even bother to lift his in return. She quietly gave him the application packet as he asked.
"Thanks, Karane," he nodded again to her, and she smiled quickly before turning and walking back to her desk.
"I know you don't write this messy normally," he said coolly, eyes quickly reading through the papers. "What, you fill this out while you were walking here?"
Zelda's face hardened at that. He wasn't exactly wrong, but why did he have to be so harsh about it?
"Got writing experience?"
Zelda swallowed quickly. Why was she getting so nervous? "Not for something like this, exactly. But I do a lot of writing on my spare time, as a hobby sort of."
"Got a sample of your writing on you?" He looked up at her. "It'd help to see what kind of writing you're best at."
Almost immediately, she averted her eyes lower so that they didn't meet. "No… Sorry."
Link sighed, almost irritated at that. "Seriously? Well I don't really accept people on the spot and I can't necessarily tell if your writing is up to par for us… But I'm not really in any position to turn you down since not a lot of people applied this year."
Okay, he was taking this school paper thing way too seriously.
"Look, if you're good with meeting deadlines and following directions," he started again, "Then you're in. We meet every weekday afterschool until four or so, but most of us come in during lunch and stay even later when deadlines approach, so be prepared to do a lot of clearing of your schedule. We'll make a badge for you tomorrow so you can get into school events for free and out of class and all that, so make sure you look good if you care about how you look in front of a camera."
He reached into his desk drawer for his staff badge and showed it to her. "Looks like this."
She leaned forward to get a better look. It was decorated in East Castle Town Prep School's colors, blue and gold, with a picture of him on the left side. On the right read:
THE GOSSIP STONE STAFF 20XX-20XX
LINK AVALON, 4th YEAR
Oh, so he was graduating the coming spring.
"The staff writers started their meeting not too long ago, so you can go on up ahead and join them." He pointed his pencil over to the large group of students on the opposite end of the room at the white board. "There are two different kinds of writers: staffers are first-timers like you. Executive writers are returning members who didn't get editor spots, but they know their stuff and it's not like they're completely incompetent so don't hesitate to ask them for help. The executives'll be talking about the first issue and explaining how to write to the other newbies, so be sure to take notes."
Link spoke up in a loud voice, addressing the staff. "Everyone!"
The entire room turned back to him. "Got a new staff writer." He motioned his hand over to her. "Name's Zelda."
She timidly waved at them all as they greeted her in scattered voices.
"Make her feel welcome," he finished. "That's all."
As the class resumed their business, Zelda thought about what Miss Telma said for a second. 'Involvement with a school paper reflects real well on you when you'll be applying to universities next year. Even more so if you can manage to land an editorship.'
"Just a question," Zelda started slowly as she turned back to face him. "I'm not expecting it right away, but how long does it take to get an editor position?"
Link cocked an eyebrow at that. The others at the table turned to face her, almost in disbelief.
"Were you expecting to get one right now?"
"...N-no, that's not—"
"Do you even have experience editing anything?"
"Let me tell you now." Link turned his swivel chair so that his body was facing her. He crossed his legs so that his ankle rested on this high and leaned back slightly. "If you stay here at The Stone even for your senior year, you can expect graduating still a staff writer," he said flatly.
Zelda stared at him for a second. Did this guy let anyone get a word in edgewise?
"Editors are almost always fourth years," one of the editors quipped. She glanced to the source of the voice. "Sure we get a third year editor once in a while, but you know what they say about not treating yourself like you're an exception."
Zelda furrowed her brow in confusion. What's with them all! It's just the school paper!
"You wanna be an editor?" Link asked almost teasingly. "Start off learning the basics: the different writing styles; graphic design for creating the pages; journalism ethics… Don't wanna bother with any of that? Find an internship at a tabloid."
Zelda glared at him for a few seconds. What's his deal! It was just a question!
But then he started chuckling. No, it almost sounded like he was mocking her. "Don't tell me that Miss Telma sent you here for some extra-curricular credit or some shit."
She swallowed hard. Her face burned; she could tell her face was flushing a deep, embarrassed red.
He laughed even more at her reaction, taking his glasses off and running a tired hand through his hair. "Nail on the head, right? Damn, I told Miss Telma to quit doing that to us…"
"I'm sorry," Zelda's voice shook. She felt a myriad of emotions boiling in her blood at that moment, and none of them were positive. Once again, this Link wasn't entirely wrong about her. Yes, she half-heartedly filled the application. Yes, the only reason she even bothered with it was because Miss Telma told her to. And yes, her primary concern was to land a high position in the staff as fast as possible for her future college application's sake, but none of that gave him the excuse to be so… "But aren't you taking the school paper just a seriously—"
"A little too seriously!"
The entire room fell silent; the staff writers, who were in the middle of a surprisingly productive meeting, all turned to the editors' desks. Link was now at his feet, intimidatingly shadowing Zelda. Her head was turned up so she could face him, her wide violet eyes drilled into by his light blue. Wow, she didn't expect him to be so tall.
"Have you even read an issue of The Gossip Stone?" His voice was firm and low, but the room was so silent it echoed off the walls and it almost sounded like he was yelling still. "I don't need staff members who're using The Stone for icing on their college apps. And you wouldn't even be able to handle it in here anyway, so why not join some other org? We need members who actually give a damn about doing shit. Maybe it doesn't mean jack to you or the rest of the school, but everyone in this room actually cares. That kind of half-assed attitude of yours won't fly in here. Not with the writers, not with the editors. And especially not with me."
Link walked over to the wall behind him, and Zelda's gaze—along with everyone else's in the room, followed him. He pointed to a wall of gold plaques and trophies resting on wall shelves. "See these? The Stone wins national and worldwide competitions for quality, editing and design every year. And as the one in charge of this year's staff, I'm not going to let that change anytime soon. So yeah, to answer your dumbass question. We take this—" he grabbed one of the archived issues off a desk and waved it at her forcefully, "this school paper very seriously."
He walked back to Zelda, and his gait was so intimidating she took a step back until the violation of her personal space was unbelievably close and uncomfortable. The paper in his hand was rolled up like he was going to hit her with it, and she flinched in anticipation of a strike; but all he did was point it accusingly at her right in her face.
"You can walk out now if you think you can't handle it and save yourself the embarrassment." He narrowed his eyes at her. "But if you think you can make it in here, then good for you. And if you stick with it and by some wild stroke of luck you do become an editor next year, cool. But as long as we're both in this room, I'm your editor-in-chief, and you're my subordinate. Any and all final decisions on anything go through me—and that includes any changes to staff positions."
With that, he angrily tossed the newspaper aside, its contents flying out of order in the air before settling into a mess on the floor by Zelda's feet. He fell back down in his chair, slipped his glasses back on, and casually went back to his word processing document, his voice back to its normal and deep tone. "And half-assing everything straight down to your fucking handwriting on the application was such a bullshit way to start."
Zelda stared emptily back at him as he clicked away on whatever he was working on. Tears welled up in her eyes; she could feel them about to fall, but she quickly blinked them away; luckily for her, her light blonde hair was long enough that it obscured view of her face from the rest of the room. She lowered her head for a second; no way was she going to let an entire room of strangers, much less this Link guy, see her cry.
"Let me tell you…" She started slowly with a quiet voice. "I apologize for what impressed you as a half-hearted attitude." She shot her head up. "But I won't let you talk to me like that!"
He glanced at her from the corner of her eye. It sounded like such an incredibly weak defense against his tirade; even she acknowledged that. But she had to say something. Anything.
"I'm staying here at The Stone. And I don't care whether you're older than me or you're editor-in-chief, or anything like that!" She slammed her hand against his desk and leaned forward, invading his personal space almost as much as he did earlier. "I'll show you I have what it takes to become an editor!"
His eyes were wide for a second; he didn't expect her to make such a comeback like that—never mind that it sounded weak as hell to him. He thought that she'd start crying right there and walk out, never to come back, just like all the others. But he could hear the conviction in her voice.
And that conviction was enough.
Link sneered mockingly at her. "You think you can be an editor?"
She scoffed, rolling her eyes. "I know I can take your job."
He leaned forward even closer. It kind of made her nervous for a second; their faces were close enough that not even an inch together and they'd end up kissing. But she didn't back down; that's exactly what he wanted her to do. And she wouldn't dare give him the satisfaction of doing what he wants her to do.
"…Do you really now?"
"Count on it."
He just chuckled in response after a long pause. Withdrawing slowly, he raised a brow and pointed the pen he held in the hand he used to prop his chin up over to the staff writers. He lowered his voice, soft but filled with authority, to such a volume that only she could hear.
"Then get to work."
Zelda slowly stood back up straight, her eyes not once disconnecting with his, before adjusting the shoulder straps of her tote bag and walking over to the other staff writers. Slowly they started their meeting again as she silently pulled a chair over and sat down with the rest of them, taking out a pencil and notepad, and the room's atmosphere returned back to normal.
And every so often, Link would look up from his computer monitor and surreptitiously watch Zelda from across the room as she diligently listened and took notes.
I really hope you enjoyed so far. Unlike the oneshots I've been publishing so infrequently over the past four years (wow, it's been so long), this one's going to be going on for a little while. AND IT WILL BE FINISHED. But in between updates, feel more than welcome to contact me through my profile, if only to make sure I'm still alive and pester me with when new chapters will be coming out. Please let me know what you think so far; feedback is greatly appreciated.
Enjoy Life and Smile.