July 29, 2016 by Lyn
December, Year 2 of the Addergoole School
It had been a calm few days, and Jo had managed to get a full night of sleep for several nights in a row; after a series of problems that had left her running on soda and adrenaline, she was glad for the rest but restless enough to wake up before dawn.
“Dawn,” down here, of course, was a habit more than a fact. When she had the time, she’d taken to having her breakfast outdoors, but the snow was two feet deep around the school’s exits now, and she had never been very good at Working heat.
Instead, she turned on the daylight bulbs in the infirmary’s waiting room, settled her cap onto her hair with three hairpins and a tiny, habitual Working, and started a pot of coffee and a tray of corn muffins in the infirmary’s kitchenette. The smell of baking made the waiting room smell more homey, and sometimes, all the kids who came in here needed was a little bit of home.
When Dr. Mendosa’s daughter Magnolia came in, a little after seven in the morning, Jo could tell by the look on her face what she needed, and faculty gossip (they tended to talk over her, but that meant they didn’t stop talking when she was in the room) had told her, as well, who was to credit or blame.
“Ah… I think I need to see the doctor, please?” The girl’s drawl, always a bit syrupy, got thicker the more intense she was feeling. Today, it was thin and faint, much as Magnolia herself was. “I don’t feel so hot…” Her hand was curved over her lower stomach, and her jaguar spots stood out against her pallor.
“Have a seat, dear.” Jo bustled around, muttering a diagnostic Working under her breath while she got the girl a cup of herbal tea. “What’s not feeling well?”
“My stomach’s all cramped up, and I haven’t gotten my… you know. My friend.”
Her friend. Sometimes Jo wondered if anything had really changed in the last hundred and fifty years. “Well, have you been engaging in the sort of fun and games that might lead to your friend going missing for, say, eight or nine months?” She pulled up a chair next to the girl and offered her a muffin.
Magnolia stared at the muffin in growing horror. “Eight or nine… oh, hell. My daddy’s gonna kill him. And then he’s gonna kill me. And then he’s gonna bring us both back to life so he can make us get married.”
Considering what Josephine had read about Lyell Nolan, and considering what she could guess about the father of Magnolia’s child, that was a fight she would pay money to see. “Well, dear,” she says gently, “I take it that means you have some idea of the father?”
She flushed darkly in response and picked at the muffin. “He said it was all right,” she muttered. “He said no-one would mind, but I don’t wanna get him in trouble.” She glared at Jo suddenly. “You’re not gonna tell my daddy, are you?”
No, but I might tell your mother. She shook her head reassuringly. “That’s entirely up to you, Magnolia. Now, do you have any idea how far along you might be?”
She seemed a bit mollified. “I figure I’ll have to tell him eventually,” she muttered, “but it might be easier to just hand him a grandbaby. A baby. Oh god in heaven what am I going to do with a baby?” It seemed to finally hit her, and she curled up, still clinging to the corn muffin, her knees to her chin. “Nurse Jo, what’m I gonna do with a baby?”
Josephine patted her shoulder gently. “Come on, sweetie. Come on back into an exam room.” She gently coaxed the girl standing, and led her back to the homiest of the little rooms, carrying the tea with her. “Now, we’ll need the Doctor to figure out how far along you are, but you and I can work on the rest. What do you want to do with a baby?”
She rubbed her flat stomach thoughtfully. “I always thought I’d get married and have a passel of kids,” she admitted. “Little farmhouse out somewhere, raise peaches and strawberries and babies. But I figured I’d finished school first, and marriage was always part of that, first. Mike’s not the marrying kind, I guess?”
Her suspicions confirmed, Jo shook her head. “I’ve never heard that about him,” she agreed, “no. But that doesn’t have to stop you from getting married, Magnolia, or from having a passel of happy babies. And I bet this will be a very happy baby indeed. Your eyes and skin, do you think, or his?”
“Blonde’s a recessive, ain’t it?” she asked thoughtfully, showing more clarity of thought than Jo would have credited her with, “although Lord only knows with the funny faerie genes and stuff. Daddy’s brown-haired, brown-eyed, and I imagine my momma must have been dark, ‘cause I’m a lot darker than Daddy’s family. The horns are just the purebreds, right? I don’t want a baby with horns.”
“Not just the pure-bloods, no, but it’s not all that common. Considering your father, I imagine you’re more likely to have a pretty, dark-eyed dark-haired baby with some feline features,” Joe mused. “Though I imagine they’ll be a real charmer.”
“Charm ain’t genetic,” she scoffed.
Jo risked a knowing smile. “Magnolia,” she teased lightly, “I’ve met your father.” And no more on that one, thank you very much. “I think it’s fair to say that a great deal of charm runs in your family.”
She colored, smiling a little bit. “And not just charm, either,” she murmured ruefully. “I guess if he wants to holler and yell, I can point out the part where he clearly never married my momma, either.” Her drawl was thickening as she relaxed. “Oh, Lordie, this baby’s gonna get a double dose of well-hello-there-ma’am, ain’t they?”
That one took a little translating, and Jo had practice. “Yes. Although there’s no indication that that is genetic, either.”
Magnolia gave her a level, amused look. “I’ve met Ty. And even if Ty can’t see it, that nose is Mike’s – not to mention some other parts I won’t mention – so I’m willing to bet it runs in families.”
Jo couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “All right, you have a point – though don’t mention that to Ty, if you don’t mind?”
“I figure if Mike ain’t told yet, Mike has its reasons,” she agreed. “Either Ty will pull its head out of its ass and figure it out, or he won’t.” She shrugged. “I figure, though, that’s a pretty good indicator about this baby, isn’t it?”
Jo smiled approvingly at her. “You’re on top of the genetic ideas, aren’t you?” She’d always wondered at Magnolia’s apparent lack of intelligence, considering both of her parents were rather bright. It seemed the girl just hid it well.
“Farm girl, ma’am. Some of this comes with the territory. And besides,” she added drolly, “if I’m thinking about the nitty-gritty of ‘is my baby gonna grow up to be a Daeva or not,’ I’m not thinking about the whole ‘oh dear God in heaven I’m pregnant by a professor’ bit.”
Jo nods. “I understand,” she murmured. “Finding out you’re pregnant is always a bit of a shock… more so if you weren’t planning on it.”
“Not right away at least,” Magnolia answered tartly. “You’d think a Daeva like Mike would be able to handle basic birth control. I certainly expected him to.”
Jo studied her teacup, wondering how much the geasa she’d submitted to would let her say. It was different when it was a teacher; they couldn’t rely on the Professor to tell her what another student would, or, really, anything at all.
“He could manage that if he wanted to, yes,” she tried, and found it didn’t give her a headache. “It’s a fairly complex working of tlacatl, but not an impossible one for someone as practiced as Professor VanderLinden.”
She looked back up, to see the comprehension dawning on Magnolia’s face. “So. He meant to. Or he was totally okay with this.” She made a raspberry noise, a little disgruntled. “And it’s not like I’m the only one. Aella popped, what, just before Hallowe’en? And Amanada looks like she swallowed a couple watermelons, and no-one seems to think this is surprising. Dita slipped and mentioned a baby at one point, too.” She chewed on her lip. “So this is entirely non-surprising to any of the grown-ups around her, now is it?”
Jo shook her head, and sipped her tea. “Not really, no,” she admitted when she’d swallowed. She felt as if she should apologize, but it would feel a little hollow.
Magnolia thought that over for a few minutes, her left hand on her stomach, her right hand rubbing idly at her bare ring finger. “So…” she said, after a moment. Jo tensed for uncomfortable questions and the headache that would come from trying to answer them. “…what’s with the funny hat, ma’am?”