August 17, 2015 by Lyn
Shira Pelletier was in her office, grading papers, as she made a point of telling all her students she did every Sunday for a couple hours. It got her out of the house – a necessity, after Saturdays spent with Megan and her children – but, more importantly, it made her accessible to students in a more or less private setting.
She had delayed, today, going through the homework with a fine-toothed comb, because she had a feeling, a sort of nervous resolution at the bottom of her stomach. Just as she was about to pack up and head home, a knock on her door proved her stomach right.
Rather than calling out, she set down the last paper – she was going to have to have a talk with that boy. Her class should not be that hard for him – and opened the door.
She was less surprised than she wanted to be to find Channing sh’Sylvie cy’Pelletier standing in her doorway, her always-tidy sandy hair in disarray, her lip split and bleeding, her face red and swollen, with tears still streaking down her cheeks.
“Come in, come in,” she said, stepping aside to let the girl in and not really at all surprised to find herself clung to in a desperate hug. Well, she’d worn older clothes today on a hunch she’d be getting them mussed. She patted Channing’s shoulders carefully while toeing her door shut. “Shh, shh.” Some days it seemed as if she’d been holding crying girls and drying their tears forever. “It’ll be okay.”
She let her cry it out, making reassuring noises and telling comforting lies until the girl was down to sniffles and tremors. She grabbed the box of tissues always on her bookshelf and handed them to Channing. “Okay, sweetie, what happened?”
She sniffled into the tissue for a minute before getting control of herself. “Rand,” she whimpered. “He was so nice yesterday. He even punched that funny-looking demon for me. And then, today, he got mad at me and…” her hand went to her lip. “Professor Pelletier, I don’t know what to do! He got so angry… I’m scared,” she added in a tiny whisper, as if being afraid of a bully was a shameful thing.
How much Shira could help would depend a lot on how deep in the girl had gotten herself. She muttered a quick Know Mind Working under her breath.
“What’s that, Professor?”
“Nothing important, honey. Just taking a look. Let me see your eyes.” She took the girl’s chin and looked into her red-rimmed blue eyes, looking for connections, bindings, ties.
No Belongings, that at least was lucky, no ties outside those of school and Mentor except a couple weak little promises. It helped that she hadn’t gone through her Becoming yet; there wasn’t much for such connections to hold on to.
She patted the girl lightly on the head. “What did he get angry about, Channing?” she asked as gently as she could.
“I – it’s stupid,” she hedged. “I…” She was talking to her shoes now. “He wanted me to say I was his, and – someone, one of the older students, told me that it was a good idea to be careful what you said around here.”
Shira noted wryly that she was already learning to treat the teachers as the enemy, protecting her unnamed source. Good girl. Trust the people who gave you information, not those that withheld it.
“But,” Channing continued, “Rand, he kept asking if I belonged to him. And I told him he was being silly, this wasn’t 1950.”
Nineteen-fifty. Shira repressed a smirk at the girl’s naïveté; she wasn’t entirely wrong. “And he didn’t like that?”
She shook her head. “No. He got really pissed- really angry. Just a little at first, and he’d change the subject, and then come back to it a few minutes later, and then, finally, I got annoyed.” She looked embarrassed. Good girls often did, until they learned better. “I told him that this wasn’t the Neolithic age, and I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you, and then,” she gulped, “I might have called him a caveman. And then he shoved me against the wall, and,” she struggled with the resurging tears, “And he told me the only way I’d ever get a boyfriend is by submitting.”
Shira realized she was clenching her jaw, and popped it, finding a reassuring smile to give the girl. “Well, a boy who couldn’t get a girlfriend without forcing her to submit would say that, wouldn’t he?” she pointed out, gently. Caveman, indeed.
That got a giggle, which was more or less what she’d been aiming for. “Listen, sweetie,” she said firmly, consciously echoing the words of her mother to a much, much younger Shira. “Never stand for a man hitting you. Ever. Walk out, even if you have to leave everything behind to do so.” She’d done that, with her first daughter on her back. “And you won’t have to do that, not here.” She squeezed Channing’s hand. “There are other men.” And sometimes life was just easier without them, but that was a lesson that came with much more time.
“But I really, really liked him,” she said in a small voice. “”Maybe…” Shira cut her off.
“I know, honey. Come on, let’s get you to the doctor. I want to be sure he didn’t cause any internal bleeding.” Let her think about that while telling herself he’d just been overreacting because he was angry.