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Chapter 7: Belfreja

14

October 17, 2012 by Lyn

Monday, October 13, 2003

Porter was late for their date, and Belfreja was a beginning to grow a bit concerned.

She hadn’t called it a date yet, and neither had Porter: one point in his favor.  Then again, he hadn’t asked her himself.  His roommate’s girlfriend, Timora, had asked her (in elegantly-written signs): a point against him.  Bel liked Timora, however, so she was willing to overlook that one for someone the girl liked enough to write calligraphed invitations for.

Porter hadn’t drooled on her yet, either, another gold star, and the date that wasn’t had none of the “date” elements that others had tried: no seclusion, no bottle of wine or something stronger, no creepy romantic movie.  In short, Porter was really coming out ahead in the points.  But if he was going to score – she winced, and changed the term, mentally, to win.  Win?  Well, to be honest, she had gotten used to thinking of herself, or at least the option of dating her, as a competition. The Tour de Bel, the Bel Series, the B-Bowl, the Belfreja Cup.  And if Porter was going to come home with the pennant, trophy, whatever, he was at least going to have to start the race.

She looked around the uncomfortable living room, frowning and not afraid to show it.  She’d already discussed homework in their Biology class with Timora and the antics of their professor in History class with Garfunkel.  She didn’t share a single class with Sylvia, which left Trig with Arundel and Timora.

“Does Professor Solomon ever slow down?”  She grimaced playfully. “I know that everyone says that Professor Valerian just keeps on going, but I swear -” She caught herself.  People did not like it if you said that around here.  Nobody would tell her why, of course; nobody wanted to tell her anything except a few salacious things she really didn’t want to know – but they sure got their noses out of joint if she started in on the “I swears.”  “That is, if I was writing any faster, my pencil would light on fire.”

“He’s not that bad.”  Sylvia frowned at her.  Bel wasn’t sure if it was her, or the missing Porter, or something else altogether. “I’ve found him quite patient if you ask for help.”

“Oh, come on, make small talk.”  Gar glared at what Bel had thought, until tonight, was his girlfriend, in exasperated and helpless-seeming anger.  “I mean, come on, Reid can be a bit much, wouldn’t you agree?”  He smiled at Bel.  “I like math and all, but I think the man lives, breathes, and eats math.  Sometimes he needs to be reminded to come down to the level of us mere mortals.”

“Technically we’re no more or less…”

“Yeah, we know, Sylvia.  We’re fairies and so is he.  Which class do you have Solomon for, Bel?”

She had stepped into the middle of a pile of steaming conflict, and she didn’t know why or how, or how to get out without smearing it all over herself.  “I’ve got him for Trig; Arundel’s in the class with me.”

“Yeah, I’m the sleeping one in the back.  I’m not really all that good with math, but he sort of lets me pass, as long as I don’t snore.”  Arundel grinned abashedly.  “I just have to not fail for four years.”

“That’s how I feel about the science classes,” she admitted.  It wasn’t entirely the truth.  She knew she could pass science; she just didn’t really care all that much.  She liked things more hands-on than even Professor Pelletier’s classes.  “But the magic… woo.  That’s something else again.  It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?  I mean, wasn’t it, when you started?”

“Oh, departed gods, yeah.” Arundel grinned at her.  “I almost set my hair on fire a couple times, but that was okay.”

Bel checked Timora’s expression, to be sure she wasn’t stepping on any toes.  The other girl was smiling cheerfully, no malice or distress in her expression.  Good.  Bel had that problem, sometimes.  It wasn’t just single boys that wanted to race in the Tour de Bel, and sometimes girls thought she was passing out entry forms, or running qualifying laps.

Truth be told, Bel liked the race a lot more than the winning, and there were times she was tired of both.  But you couldn’t say “not interested, sorry,” not and have anyone pay you any heed at all.  You had to name a winner.

She hoped Porter showed up soon.

“I’ve just never been all that into science,” she shrugged, keeping up her half of the conversation.  “Not even the biology stuff, truth be told.”

“What do you hope to pursue as a career when you leave here?”  Now Sylvia, she was a tough nut.  Almost no inflection, almost no emotion to anything she said.  Hard to say if she was curious or critical or just, finally, making conversation.

“Wellll,” Bel frowned. “That’s a hard one, isn’t it?  I mean, when I came here, I was thinking this would be something I could put on my college applications, something that would get me into an Ivy-League school.  Because the sort of jobs I want, you don’t get without knowing people.  And, I mean, I do know people, I’m very good at knowing people, but I need to meet the proper sort of people to know, oh, dear, I’m going on again.”  She gave them all an apologetic grimace.  She was getting nervous, and that was never a good sign.  “Diplomacy, you see.  That’s what I want to try, I mean.  A career in international relations.”  She ignored Gar’s mostly-suppressed snigger.  Everyone always did that.

“You can still do that, you know.”  Sylvia was frowning, but Bel didn’t get the feeling it was aimed at her.  Porter still wasn’t here; that had to be bothering more than just her.

“I can?  But…” She gestured at herself, and the buds of horns growing from her hair, and then, for good measure, at Arundel’s wings.

“Hasn’t anyone explained Masks to you, yet?”

“Well, Calvin made an attempt at it, but it wasn’t a very… helpful attempt.”

Timora hissed.  “Nothing Calvin does is helpful.”

“That… That’s pretty accurate.”  She didn’t want to admit something that unkind about anyone, but when it came to Calvin, he probably deserved it. “Calvin doesn’t seem like, ah…”

“Calvin wants to help Calvin.”  Gar was smiling as he said it.  “He’s very helpful when it comes to that, from what I’ve seen.”

“That is… yes.”  Bel nodded guiltily.  “What were you saying about Masks… oh.”  Because Sylvia looked like a normal human girl now, not like an otter-girl.  And Arundel, he looked like an attractive human guy.  Timora, she was relieved to see, still looked horsey, and Garfunkle still looked rocky.

“It takes a bit of time to learn,” Gar explained.  “But talk to your Mentor about that – VanderLinden?”

“Due to an accident of biology, yes.”  She had spent more time than was comfortable explaining or apologizing for her cy’ree since her Mentor had picked her.

Gar sniggered. “Don’t worry, we won’t make blanket assumptions based on Mentor.  Will we… Arundel?”

Arundel smirked right back at Gar, although Bel got the feeling the eagle-Change boy was a lot more friendly about it than her Cohort-mate was.  There was a lot of anger in Gar, and, it seemed, none at all in Arundel.  Good for Timora; she’d gotten one of the quality guys.  “No, we don’t judge at all on Mentor here.  Look, Professor VanderLinden ought to be able to help you learn Masking pretty easily.  That will help you get through pretty much any situation you’d get in, politically.”

Bless them, for not ever saying the word naked and hardly looking like they were thinking it.  “Cameras?”

“Even cameras.”  Arundel nodded enthusiastically. “As far as we know, your Mask is un-breakable once you learn it. I mean, normal humans can’t see you as a fae no matter what you do-”

“Except on Hallowe’en,” Sylvia corrected.

“Right, Hallowe’en.  But other than that, yeah.  Learn your Mask and you’re golden for politics.  I bet you’d be really good at it, too.  You seem really friendly, and, a, um, pretty.”

Nobody could miss the elbow to the ribs Timora gave her boyfriend.  He just grinned, and patted her between the ears.  “She knows she’s pretty, honey, it’s okay.”

Bel laughed out loud at that.  “I know I’m pretty,” she admitted.  “I… thanks, guys.  Nobody’s bothered to tell me that before.  It makes it seem like I can still have a future, and I appreciate that a lot.”

“Dr. Regine will subsidize your education, once you leave here, as well.  I am planning on going into medical school.  Neurosurgery.”  Sylvia said it as calmly as she delivered every sentence.  “I believe I’ll have a knack for it, and the mind fascinates me.”

Nobody could miss the way Gar’s hands went to his collar, either.  They all did their best to pretend they didn’t see it, though.  Bel cleared her throat, bringing the attention back to herself.  “So… have you heard about the goings-on down in the lower level?”  When in doubt, gossip.  As her mother (foster-mother, but she refused to think too hard about that one, certainly not at dinner) had taught her, by chatting and revealing a little, you often learned quite a bit more.

“Lower level?”  Gar leaned forward.  “Is this more of the handprint stuff?”

“I was talking with Howard the other day – the bull?  And he told me his crew-mate Cynara’s boyfriend Kheper – he’s in Trig with us, and in American Lit, too, right, Timora? – he got ambushed in the basement last week.  And those creepy notes and handprints that have been appearing all over the place, well, there was one written in Kheper’s blood.”

“Is he okay?”  Timora leaned forward in her seat. “In his blood?  Do they know who did it?  Does Luke?”  Bel did her best not to lean back, but she had to grit her teeth for a moment.  She waited until the urge passed to answer.

“Luke doesn’t.  And that’s the thing; Kheper was going on about another level, another stairway.”  Bel shook her head. “I hear that he stopped talking like that once the Doctor looked at his head, but until then, well, he just kept babbling.”

Arundel frowned. “Luke should have seen it. The cameras…”

“They don’t cover much of the third floor.”  Gar colored as everyone looked at him.  “What? This… uh.  Sylvia?”

“The collar Gar is wearing was gifted to me, originally, by my boyfriend two years ago, although I am not certain if he made it or had it, in turn, gifted to him.  It is both an offering of, and a means of gathering in turn, information, primarily about the school and fae.”

It was interesting for Bel to note that both Arundel and Garfunkle looked surprised by that series of revelations.   And Arundel looked, for the first time Bel had noticed, angry.

Bel focused on the information, hoping the surprise and anger would blow over.  “So it knows where the cameras are?”  She paused.  “Wait, what cameras?”

“They have this place bugged.”  Garfunkle grimaced.  “Not the whole place, and not the suites or dorm rooms – sanctity of the Home and all – ask your Mentor, Bel, he really should stop staring at your tits and start teaching you – but…”

He kept talking, but Bel had stopped listening.  Her face was bright red, she knew, and she was clutching her fork very tightly.  “I’m sorry.” Her voice sounded to her own ears like it was very far away.  “I’m not feeling all that well, and it seems Porter can’t make it.  I’ll see you guys in class?”

“Shit.” Gar had the grace to get upset, small bits of stone jutting out from his arms.  “Shit, Bel, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean….”

One point for realizing what he’d done, negative ten for doing it at all.  Bel let her voice drip ice.  Sometimes, it wasn’t worth trying to be friendly; sometimes people just made it far too hard.  “Professor VanderLinden,” she informed him icily, “is my mother.“

Never mind that she’d been ignorant of her entire lineage until the Professor had pulled her aside.  Never mind that she felt no family kinship.  Some things you just didn’t say.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

“Professor VanderLinden, I was wondering if I could talk to you after class for a few moments?”

Everything else aside, one thing she’d heard at last night’s abortive dinner had stuck in Belfreja’s mind.  Ask your Mentor.

Of course, there was also the He ought to stop staring at your tits to contend with, and the professor seemed to be doing his best to prove Gar right, mother or no.  “Please, Belfreja, call me Mike.”

She stepped back, wishing she’d worn a higher-necked shirt today.  “Professor, I’m your daughter.“

That elicited a sigh.  “I should have waited to tell you.  I waited to tell Ty, and that worked out all right.”

“Ty?”  She shouldn’t, she supposed, be surprised that the professor had more than one child in the school – more than two; she already knew about Lolly, an eighth-Cohort girl she found frankly terrifying.

“Ah.  Ty, Tya, was my first child to attend Addergoole.  A true hermaphrodite, and also my Student, with all that normally entails.”

“If I had know that that was what it normally entailed, Professor, I would have chosen a different Mentor.  Perhaps Ginger Cayenne?”

That got the professor’s attention, finally.  He stared at Bel, his mouth open.  “Even if you were not my daughter, biologically?”

He liked to make that distinction.  Bel wondered if he had any children he’d actually raised.  He didn’t seem the type.  “Even if I weren’t your daughter.  Sir, I don’t sleep with professors.  Ever.”

The ever seemed a bit much, but he’d really shaken her.  Did everyone think that he was going to sleep with her?  Did everyone think that was all right?

“Ah.  Well, then, I apologize.”  He coughed, clearly taken aback.  “Maybe you should have gone with cy’Luca.  But, that being said, I have had Students I have not slept with in the past and, now that I’m aware that it bothers you, I won’t make the attempt again.  You were saying you wanted to meet with me?”

That seemed too easy, but it also seemed like it had made the professor really uncomfortable.  Bel smiled at him, hoping to assuage the unhappiness a little bit. “It seems as if there’s a lot I’ve missed out on learning already, and we’re only in the second month of classes.  I was hoping you could bring me up to speed.”

The professor’s fair skin – the same fair skin Bel had been seeing in a mirror for sixteen years – turned an even darker shade of peach.  “Oh, well, certainly.  Are you sure you don’t want to change Mentors?”

“I’ll admit it’s occurred to me, but I don’t think I’m Luke’s sort of student.  For one, I’m female.”

“He has Niassa.”

“And she’s an Amazon.  Ginger, if anyone.”

“We’ll work it out.  Right after your magic class, then?  What are you in this week?”

“Just starting unutu, sir.  With Professor Akatil.”

“Meet me in my apartment then?”  At the faintest hit of darkening of Bel’s expression, he added hurriedly, “nothing ‘improper,’ I promise, but it’s a shorter walk for you from Akatil’s dungeon and it’s more comfortable.”  He shook his head, the air making a whistling noise through his horns.  “I swear you must somehow be Luke’s soul-daughter.”

“That doesn’t quite sound like a compliment, sir.”

The professor winced.  “If not ‘Mike,’ would ‘Michael’ or ‘Michelle’ or maybe ‘mom’ work?” he pleaded.

No, it won’t.  Bel unbent and made her frown only a tiny thing.  “I could perhaps handle Michelle,” she allowed.  “Since the other seems to bother you.”

“It’s more formal than I’m used to, anymore, certainly from family.  And you are family, Bel, no matter how much you try to deny it.”

“It’s isn’t so much denying it, sir… Michelle.  It’s just that it’s so strange to come to school and suddenly gain a second set of parents.”

“Second… I suppose it can seem that way to you, yes.  Well.  Michelle it is.  And I hope we can find a way to get along, Bel.”  She frowned, and gestured vaguely off into the distance. “I haven’t always gotten along with my daughters.”

“I have a feeling I’m a bit different from your other daughters.”  She smiled, gently, to show that she meant no harm from the statement, but the professor winced anyway.

“I think much of that is your father’s doing.  It will be interesting, when you meet him.  I think he’ll be as lost as I am.”  She smiled, now, seeming pleased with the idea.  “Well,  we should start class soon, I think.”

“Of course.  I’m looking forward to your interpretation of last night’s reading.”

“Ah, Walt.”  The smile that touched the teacher’s lips now was fond and sensual.  “Quite a man he was, quite a man, and quite the poet.”

Bel found herself growing increasingly uncomfortable.  “I’ll take my seat, then.”  She made her escape, taking a place in the back of the room.

Right beside Porter.  Between Porter and Timora, who had been scribbling furiously in her notebook.  She closed it with a slam, glaring at the abashed-looking tiger.

“Hi?”  Bel looked between the two of them.  “I get the feeling I’m missing something here, guys.”

“I’m really sorry about yesterday.”  Porter took his hat off and held it to his chest.  “I really am, Belfreja.  I was looking forward to it; I’m hoping you’ll let me make it up to you and Timora?”

Bel was getting to the point where she was going to need complex mathematical formulae to keep track of Porter’s points. She was pretty sure that one counted in the imaginary-number category.  “You want to…”

“Well, the whole thing was Timora’s idea, and I feel bad that I made her plans go all sideways.  And it was supposed to be a dinner for you, and then I was late – I was really, really late – and I hear Gar made a mess of it anyway.  I’m sorry about that, by the way, and so is Timora.”

She was?  She twisted in her seat to look at her friend, who was holding up a pretty sign that said just that: [I’m sorry.]

“Hey, it’s not your fault.  It really isn’t his fault, either.  He didn’t know it was a land mine.”

“Hey, is VanderLinden really…”

“Really my mother? Yes.”  She frowned down at her notebook.  “Believe me, I was as surprised as everyone else.”

“Well, ah, I mean… not really.”  He turned his fedora in his hands, his tail making brushing noises against the back of his chair as it lashed.  “I mean, you’re beautiful.  There aren’t many people here that pretty, and most of them are Daeva-blooded.  And you’re prettier than all of them.”

Bel looked between him and Timora, whose smile looked more nervous than encouraging, and then back at her notebook.  It wasn’t giving her any answers, either.  “So everyone says.  Ad nauseum.” She pushed the mood aside, but not quickly enough to avoid the horrified look on Porter’s face.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think.  I know everyone’s all over you, and…”

More points to the boy, plus another one for her bad mood ruining what had been a decent conversation.  Bel gave him her best no-my-bad apologetic smile.  “It’s all right.  It’s nice to be wanted, it really is.  And you’ve been really sweet about everything.”

“Except the date I missed.”

“That’s all right.  This place is crazy; I understand things coming up.  Besides you said you were going to make it up to me – and Timora?”

“I was hoping you’d let me, yeah?  Timora didn’t like that part of the plan, but I figure… maybe if there’s three of us, it won’t look so much like a scheme?  And Arundel said it was okay.”

“Of course he did.”  This place was awfully possessive with its dating arrangements.  That… could be a positive.  If she was seen as someone’s, then the rest of the boys (and girls, and squirrels) would probably leave her alone.  She glanced at Timora, to see what she thought of that.

She was holding up her thumbs-up card.  Bel shook her head. “You get far too much enjoyment out of those, don’t you?”

Timora switched to the card saying [You betcha.]

“Well, I suppose it’s easier to think about what you’re saying, when you’ve gotten it down to a few words. Do you talk Arundel’s ear off when you’re at home with him?”

Again, the “You betcha” sign, and on the other side of Bel, Porter had gotten appropriately squirmy.  “Do you want to let Porter make this up to us?”

Timora paused, her ears doing something interesting that looked like testing the wind.  Then she nodded, and held up another sign: [Seems like a nice idea.]

“You and the Librarian should have a three-way chat with a magic 8-ball.”  Porter’s grumbling seemed good-natured enough.  “So that’s a yes?  I can pick you both up at seven tonight?”

“I have no other plans,” Bel agreed.  “How formal is this date?”

“Well, ah, I’ll be wearing this.”  As far as she could tell, Porter was always wearing “this:” white button-down, dark pants, and a cheap tie with the knot somewhere around his sternum.  He’d worn it to the dance, to classes, and, as far as she’d read from Timora, on Hell Night rescuing damsels.

Resigned that he was going to be no help at all, Bel smiled anyway.  “Tonight at seven it is.  Timora, can I borrow your notebook?  We need to coordinate wardrobes.”

“I’m doomed, aren’t I?”

Timora smiled brightly at him.  Bel was somehow not surprised to find she had a sign that read [Yes.  But only in a good way.]


Tuesday, October 14, 2003, 7 p.m.

It had taken some doing, but they’d arranged their outfits – including a quick trip to the Store with Arundel in tow and sworn to silence – and their make-up, and Bel had still gotten back to her room by 6:55 to await Porter picking her up.

He seemed wedded to the film noir look, and it was a good look on him, so Bel had echoed the classic forties dresses for both her and Timora.  Timora liked her skirts long and flowing, so she got something a bit longer (and pastel), while Bel’s skimmed her knees.  Demure… but still sexy, the dipping neckline just low enough to be suggestive without being revealing; the synopsis, not the whole play.  Bel had decided at the tender age of thirteen that dressing sluttily was a sucker’s game.  She liked a little bit of mystery.

It seemed to be working. Porter knocked on her door at 6:59, his shirt clean and pressed, his hat newer and fresher, and his tie an actual silk tie, actually properly tied.

Bel had, on a last-minute whim, topped her outfit with her own white fedora at a cocky angle; she wasn’t sure if it was the hat or the dress that did it, but Porter’s eyes widened and his mouth opened soundlessly.  “Wow, I, ah, need a nicer tie.  Bel, you look beautiful.”

“You said that earlier,” she teased, to push aside the warm feeling inside her.  He liked her.  He really liked her!  Come on, Bel.  Not getting swept away.  Not getting lost in this; it never ends well.

“Well, yeah.  Earlier you were pretty.  Right know you’re jaw-dropping gorgeous and you did it all in noir!  For me?”

“For you.  It’s a date, Porter, I wanted to look nice.”

“Yeah, it is. Ah.”  He offered her his arm and, graciously if amused, she took it.  “I told Timora we’d be back to pick her up, but I wanted a moment with you alone.”

She had enough practice not to roll her eyes in his face; instead, she tilted her face up just a bit so he could claim his kiss.

And he kept talking instead.  “Look, I don’t want you to think I’m trying to avoid you, inviting Timora along, missing our first date.  But I’ve heard guys talking about you in the locker room…”

Now, she did tense.  “Oh.”

“Not like that! I mean, well, they want to make it sound like that, but mostly what they make it sound like is that they’re morons and you’re classier than they give you credit for.  And so I figured, you’re classy, and I should be every bit as classy.  Take this slow.  Let you get to know me without it looking like I’m just trying to, well, get to know you.

“The missing the first date part, that was an accident,” he added, while Bel was still reeling.  “I can’t think of any way at all that that’s classy, and I really will explain what happened, once we get Timora and get out of the building.”

“Out of the…”

“Well, it’s hardly taking you out if I just take you to the hot springs or something.”

“Oh!”  In her head, Porter’s points counter clicked over and over faster than she could watch.  “You really are a dear, aren’t you?”

“No, that’s Leo.  All tiger here.”  He grinned widely at her.  “And here we are back at my abode.  Let’s gather the fair Timora and be on our way.”

Timora collected, Porter led them down the hall, one girl on each arm, humming happily.  Bel didn’t recognize the tune, but it had a jaunty beat that seemed to fit him perfectly.  She found herself humming along, dancing a little bit in step with the beat; on the other side of porter, Timora was doing the same, none of their feet making any sound at all in the thick carpet. Porter would hum, Bel and Timora would echo the tune back to him, and they’d all do a little jig.  It was one of those strange and perfect moments, and Belfreja mentally threw out her points counter.

Only to hastily grab it back as Porter led them… straight into a dead end.  Still smiling.

“My power,” he explained to her, “the way everyone has powers, is to open doors.”

“Well, I knew you were a gentleman…”

He doffed his hat, freeing Timora’s arm to do so, and grinned at her. “That, too.  Haven’t you heard how I fearlessly rescued Timora?”

“I heard fear was involved quite a bit, actually.”  She grinned back at him, still feeling rather cheerful, despite this strange detour in their date.  “Considering her power and all.”

“Well, my door-opening is a bit more than just being gentlmanly.  Here, may I?”  He bowed again, and the reached for the blank wall…

…and swung open a door to the outside.  “Here we go.  One magic exit, coming up.  As long as you promise not to say, try to run away from the school or anything wacky like that.”

“I promise not to try to run away from the school or anything equally wacky.”  She winked at him, and stepped through the new door, waiting for him and Timora to follow.

The air was fresh, the sun hanging red and low in the sky, the meadow around them full of gently rolling hills and wildflowers waving in the breeze.  It looked like the perfect autumn day, the trees on the horizon on the last days of their orange foliage.

The door shut, and vanished.  Smiling, Porter offered them his arms again.  “It’s lovely, isn’t it?  I spend a lot of time out here, after classes. It makes it seem less cramped, inside.”

Living with two couples, one of which barely got along, she could understand how Porter would need to get out once in a while.  “It’s very nice,” she agreed.  “It even smells lovely.”

“Wait until you smell dinner.  And see the rest of the place.  Bel, this is… the meadow is nice, but the Village is a bit surreal.”

Timora giggled, making both Bel and Porter try to hide a wince.  She had a card, it seemed, for [Surreal?]  and another for [I never would have guessed.]

“I don’t recall you being this sarcastic before your Change.”

Timora smiled back at Bel in lieu of a response, and gestured down the path.

“Ah, yes.” Porter seemed to be regretting bringing both of them, or maybe he just felt a little bit surrounded.  “Dinner, shall we? Ladies, this way.  To the Village.”

The Village.  They came around a bend in the brick path and, as if it was popping out from behind a hill, there was the village, every bit as surreal as Porter had suggested.  Not because it was weird, but because it wasn’t.

There, in the middle of a meadow, in the middle of the cornfield, adjacent to a school for delinquent fairies and their every-bit-as-delinquent parents, was Main Street America.  Two three-story brick buildings: one was labeled Town Hall, the other Library – flanked a footpath into the town, a small village main street lined with shops for a block and a half in each direction, over a turn in a picturesque little creek, the narrow roads and footpaths leading off, it seemed, into residential areas.

And then there were the people.  Children, running to the ice cream shop, ducking into the Library or the comic store, one hiding behind a tall potted tree, reading a book that looked a bit big for her.  The children looked human.  The grown ups, going about their routines every bit as mundane as their children’s, did not.

Bel spotted a slim-looking person, probably male, with a long whiplike tail, carrying groceries back from Mr. Hooper’s Corner Store.   She saw a beautiful Mexican woman, jaguar spots running up and down under her purple dress matching the ears and tail with the same pattern, chatting with a sylph-like Japanese girl with peacock markings.  A woman in Victorian corset, two fox tails sticking out under her skirt, juggled three red-haired children and one puppy into the ice cream store.

“Surreal,” she muttered.  “You weren’t kidding.”

“I don’t normally.  Kid, that is.  Ah, yeah.  It’s a bit out there, isn’t it?  But it’s pretty boss.  I  mean, the Director built all of this.  Not the people, I mean, though she brought them here.  But all of the stuff, the Village, the meadow, even the river.  This was all cornfield before she came here.”

Timora scribbled something in her notebook.  [I thought the facili school was here before?]

“Well, the school, yeah, I guess.”  Porter shrugged.  “You hear stories, of course.  And with what I saw yesterday… I guess the stories are more believable.”

“So, what did you see?” Bel could read a prompt when it was cued that clearly for her.

“Let’s sit down, all right?”  He tilted his head at a bright neon “Cafe” sign.  “Here look good?”

“There are options?”

“Well, there’s the pub, and the cafe, and a couple years ago  they opened a fancy restaurant for students to practice in.  but the Cafe’s still the best.  And they know me there.”

“I imagine they know you everywhere.”

“Well, only by sight.  I’m sure the same goes for you?”

“It tends to,” she allows.  “Cafe fine for you, Timora?”  It was far too easy to ignore someone who didn’t speak, although she was sure Timora could get their attention if she needed to.  Now, she was nodding and holding up her thumbs-up sign.

“Great.  Through here.”

The waitress was green, which was interesting, her hair a darker shade of the same emerald as her skin.  She saw them to a table, studied them for a brief moment, and left two menus, one for Porter and one for Bel.

“Hey,” Bel called.  “You forgot my friend.”  The waitress was already out of ear shot, though.

“It’s the collar,” Porter explained.  “Sorry, Timora, I should have said something sooner.”

She shrugged, clearly not bothered.

“The collar?”

“One thing at a time.”  He grinned, and delayed, putting his hat on the coatrack, taking her stole and Timora’s shawl and hanging those as well.  “Which do you want first?”

Ciara

She knew her stalker’s name by now. He almost never wore his Mask down, showing his feral teeth and those creepy, creepy eyes, but he liked to show up to the dances that way, so she’d managed to put the two men together into one wolfish upperclassman.

He knew her name by now, too. That was a bit less on the positive side of the ledger. Creepy enough to have him pop up unexpected. Creepier to have him drawl out her name like he was tasting it, licking it.

He was out in the halls after her Hiko class, following her from the gym down towards the suite she’d moved in to. “Keeee-aarrrr-uh,” he growled. “Come and play with me.”

“No, thank you, Amadeus,” she answered politely.

“Call me ‘Deus,” he retorted, stepping in front of her. “Everyone else does.”

“I’m sure they do, Amadeus. I’d rather not play with you.”

“It could be a lot of fun.”

“For you, I’m sure,” she agreed. “Please let me by.”

As always, the politeness seemed to work, and he let her flee.


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14 comments »

  1. LilFluff says:

    Heh. Yeah, Timora and Wysteria should get together and compare cards. Ooh, maybe make a starter set of, Cards for Non-Speakers, to sell in the store?

    “the way everyone has powers, /it/ to open doors.” swap out the it for an is?

    • Lyn says:

      Fixed. Apologies for all the typos this time.

      I’ve been pondering having them in a Zazzle store, some of the more clever ones.

  2. Rix says:

    small typo – ““Hi?” Bell looked between the two of them. “I get the feeling I’m missing something here, guys.”” – double ‘l’ on ‘Bel’.

  3. Rix says:

    “enough to acoid the horrified look on Porter’s face” – ‘avoid’ instead of ‘acoid’

    “to get out onces in a while” – ‘onces’?

    Porter gets many, many points. Also Timora and Bel.

    Garfunkle needs lessons in taking his foot out of his mouth.

  4. Gudy says:

    Eeee! I was all full of squee until the bit about Ciara. I do so hope it works out between Porter and Belfreja.

    Typos:

    “setpped” -> stepped

    “the meadow around the full of gently rolling hills” There is something missing between “the” and “full”.

  5. Clare says:

    Huh… so Ginger doesn’t sleep with students? Well, not as a rule, I suppose 😉

    Why does Timora need a thumbs-up sign? XD Can’t she just do a thumbs-up? I mean, she doesn’t have hooves for hands, does she?

    I also hope Bel and Porter work out! They do seem suited thus far. I mean, any child of Bel’s parents is going to be intimidating…

    Typos: “the Store with Arundel in two”–should be “tow”
    “the classic fourties dresses”–forties

    • Lyn says:

      Darn it, I fixed all these typos in, I think, the wrong document 🙁

      Timora has a thumbs-up because it amuses her, mostly.

      Ginger doesn’t really sleep with anyone! She just acts like it.

      • AlpineBob says:

        The first time she pulled out a thumbs-up card it flew by me, but the second time it hit me, like it apparently did Clare, that using her actual thumb would be faster than pulling out a card. Good to know that there is some reason for it.

        Does Timora have some magic going to help her quickly find the correct card in her stash? ‘Cause once you have more than a few…

  6. Arkeus says:

    This chapter made me loath Timora a little. Hopefully that will pass.

  7. Wis says:

    Ooh, I like her. Her points system and how Porter totally broke it~ very nice. I wanted to go into international affairs myself, at one point. Now I just want to move. Best of luck to her, anyway. I wonder who’ll wear the collar for these two?
    Amadeus is… interesting.

    • Lyn says:

      @Wis 🙂 I’m glad you liked this.

      There’s a story about Bel later in life somewhere on my DW; I could find the link if you were interested.

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