July 27, 2016 by Lyn
The summer between years one and two of the Addergoole School
“Are you sure?” Even as she asked, Ginger was setting out food on Maureen’s wide patio table.
“I’m sure. You’re doing fine, dear, and people have relaxed around you. Now the trick is to make them think twice.”
“But you said it. They’re relaxed around me; they’ve started talking to me like a person. Even Agmund.”
“And that’s an achievement in itself, yes. Although I’d have a nice long talk with Laurel about Agmund before things go further than talking.” Maureen was, as always, calm. Ginger had never seen Lady Foxglove anything but calm. Sometimes she envied it. Today, she thought it made her want to scream.
“I wasn’t planning on it going any further,” she snapped, and then winced. Maureen had a way of making you pay for being snappish.
But she also had a way of defying expectations; today, she simply nodded. “That’s probably best. But Agmund can be very persuasive – so have that talk with Laurel, why don’t you?”
“Laurel… okay,” she conceded meekly. Laurel and she could get along, if they tried really hard. But she knew Laurel and Agmund had a past, and she was pretty sure talking about it wouldn’t endear her any more to the temperamental history teacher. “So… you really think today’s the day for the bombshell?”
“Well, it’s as good a day as any. The students are mostly gone, the teachers are bored, and they have time to process complicated thoughts that don’t involve the drama of teenagers.” Maureen rolled her eyes; Ginger, who found the drama of teenagers to be interesting, perhaps because she was one of two members of the staff who could remember her own teen years, kept her mouth shut on the matter.
Maureen was still talking, anyway. “I know you’ve been plugging away, and it will do you good to have someone other than just me admire your work, too. Trust me, Ginger.”
“I do,” she agreed. They would be here any minute now, all the staff, the teachers who, even if they had relaxed around her, still didn’t really know how to treat Ginger. DJ, and Valentina, and the rest of the Village residents, the weird little community of Ellehemaei and Faded who seemed to be perfectly content here, away from humanity. Poor Ambrus, who eyed her nervously; it had been months before someone had told her he was a receptive empath. She’d worked hard at keeping her feelings for him under wraps after that; he wore the collar. It couldn’t be easy for him, and she didn’t want to make it any harder.
“I trust you,” she repeated. Maureen had been patient with her all year, helping her to fit in. “I just… what if it backfires?”
“Well, then, you’ve lost a year of work with them, at the worst, and you try something else. Time is eternal, dear, and they’re not boogeymen.”
“I do not boogey,” Agmund Fridmar agreed, coming up the hill around Maureen’s house. “What are we doing?”
“Agmund, dear.” Maureen had a way of making a greeting sound scolding, even as she kissed the great big bear of a man cheerfully. “We’re just talking about Ginger’s latest project. Now, come and taste this punch for me and tell me if it has enough, mm, punch, would you?”
Maureen did the little deflection dance for a while as her guests arrived, one after another or in bunches. Ginger, acting in her de facto position as Maureen’s assistant, circulated, making sure people had drinks and food. It was, of course, a good party; that was the only sort Lady Foxglove threw. It wasn’t until several hours into the fete that she had an occasion to mention, as they’d practiced, offhanded in conversation to Maureen, while several other people were within earshot, “that latest paper I had published.”
Shira, the blessing that she was, picked up on the cue. “You’ve been published, Ginger?” she asked, out of one sort or another of curiosity (“…like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”).
And then Ginger could talk, all-so-casually, and then, as other people seemed interested, with genuine enthusiasm, about the papers she’d been doing on the progression of language and its alteration through cultural upheaval, and, of course, the much-more-quiet study she’d been doing on loan words to and from the Old Tongue and their evolution through the centuries.
When she talked about things she had passion in, Ginger forgot to be nervous. She forgot to worry about the full-blooded Daeva sitting at the next table, or the monstrous tail hidden under her Mask, or the fact that she was the youngest one here by decades if not centuries. She forgot that they all hated her (or at least had genteel disdain for her youth and bubbliness), that she wasn’t as smart as her father or as pretty as her mother. All that mattered was the project.
And, once she got talking, she found that Agmund and Shou were talking, as well, and Shira and Laurel, taking parts of her theories and running with them. And then, miracle of miracles, Drake sat down between Ginger and Laurel.
“Fascinating,” he allowed. “I’ve never heard that described in quite that light before.”
That seemed to be the signal, the brief nod from the terrifying Law professor: Ginger had earned her place at the grown-ups’ table.