July 29, 2016 by Lyn
One month before the beginning of classes, Year One of the Addergoole School, August 5th, 1995
She was the last teacher to arrive, months after some and years after others. It had been harder than expected for Regine to find a romance-languages teacher who met all of her stringent qualifications, and, looking at the woman standing in the airport – posing. She’s not standing, she’s posing – Luke had to wonder if she’d settled for “willing” rather than “qualified.” She certainly looked willing for just about anything.
Mike’s gonna love this one. Mo’s going to hate her.
Her leopard-print skirt could not have been tighter if she’d painted it on, which appeared to be how she put on her make-up. Her shoes had high enough heels to qualify as stilts; the leg between shoe and skirt was long and, Luke had to admit, very nice. On second thought, Mo might like her. She has a soft spot for whores. The boys, at least, were going to be paying attention in French class.
“Bonjour,” she greeted him, in an overdone accent that would have made real French women sneer (if the halter top didn’t do it). “You must be Luca, oui, my ride?”
The thing was, for all of her heavy-handed sweetness, he didn’t think she was actually flirting with him. Maybe centuries of Mike had deadened his palate to such things. “I’m Luke,” he agreed. He was glad she wasn’t flirting – her paperwork said she was barely older than she looked, younger than the boy-toy Regine still kept around, younger than Luke’s great-great-grandkids. “You must be…” Let her say it. He couldn’t, not with a straight face.
“Ginger,” she agreed, “Ginger Cayenne.”
“Luke Hunting-Hawk. Let me get your bags.” He didn’t expect her to argue, and she didn’t. She murmured “merci” with the same thick fake accent that made him want to pull out the French he’d learned two centuries ago from Shira’s fur-trapper uncle.
“De rien,” he said casually.
“Oh, you speak French?” she chirped, and he immediately regretted the impulse.
“Just the little you pick up here and there, you know. Live long enough, you can’t help but learn something.”
She frowned at him, an expression he’d gotten used to in the last twenty years – the peculiar expression of someone being forced to confront a bigger world than they were used to. “Oh.” For a moment, she sounded almost subdued. “Do you speak Spanish, too? Italian?”
“Nothing I’d say in front of a lady.” Or in front of you.
“Ah, that’s a pity. Italian is a lovely language.” She moved quickly in those absurd shoes; she was a good bit taller than him in them, and probably out of them as well – another sign of her youth, though no-one would be unkind enough to point that out. Mike, oldest of them all, barely came to Luke’s chin.
“Regine tells me you’re very talented,” he said instead, as he tossed her bags in the back of the SUV. The speculative look with which she replied made him wish he hadn’t – or that he’d brought along a chaperone.
Day One, Year Three of the Addergoole School
The two girls in the back seat of the SUV were chattering. They’d been chattering when Luke picked them up at the airport, and had barely paused for breath to acknowledge him. He gathered that they’d met on the last leg of the flight, that the lean, athletic-looking strawberry-blonde girl was Callista and the lush, cocoa-skinned girl with the wide eyes was Ioanna, and that they had bonded instantly over their nerves about this weird school.
Having bonded, they seem to have lost all nerves, and were cheerfully chatting about – well, he had no idea. Something – but he could only assume that because he didn’t think even teenage girls could carry on a conversation about nothing for that long.
You’re getting cranky, old man, he laughed at himself. Truth was, his pride had been a little bit pricked. He wasn’t Mike, to go chasing after students, but nor was he used to being so completely ignored, as if he was…
As if you were the porter you claimed to be. Get over it, old man. He smirked as he turned the SUV off the main road and onto the long, winding driveway to the school.
“Hey!” It took him a minute to realize the girl was talking to him. Ioanna, it was, the shorter one. “Hey, mister, where are we going?”
“To the school,” he answered shortly. It always amused him when the students realized how far out in the middle of no-where Addergoole West really was.
“Um… there’s nothing out here but wheat fields.”
“Oat fields, actually. It was wheat last year.” He was having far too much fun with this – they really had twitted him, and it was nice to give it back.
“But there’s still nothing out here but field,” Callista continued. “There’s no school. There’s no town, barely any roads even.”
“We’re getting there, don’t worry.” He smiled at them in the rear-view mirror. “It’s a little out there, is all.”
Because he was watching them in the mirror, he saw the look they exchanged, one that didn’t take another teenage girl to interpret.
“Um…” Ioanna said, and Callista picked up,
“There’s just a barn out there. Are you sure you’re with the school?”
Great, old man, now they think you’re a kidnapping rapist. Considering where he was taking them, he didn’t know how much moral ground he had to argue the point, but he had to try, or he’d have to chase them down.
“The school’s just ahead. And, yes, I’m with the Addergoole school. Would you like to see my staff ID?”
“Um… yes, please.”
He fished it out of his pocket and passed it back to them, just as he pulled the SUV into the barn.
“This looks kind of sketchy,” Ioanna whispered. He wasn’t surprised; it was the only one of its sort. Addergoole wasn’t big enough to need staff ID’s.
“Did you notice… he’s pulling into a barn. Christ, Ioanna, we have to get out of here!”
He hit the power locks a moment before they grabbed the handles, and kicked the elevator remote. Fuck, the last thing he wanted was screaming, terrified girls running around the hallways panicking…
“Aistrigh hugr panikos eis eirene Ioanna, Callista.” He spat out the words quickly, regretting the necessity, just as they both popped the locks of their doors.
“What?” They said it in unison, both settling back down in their seats as the calm overtook them.
“Nothing,” he lied, “just talking to myself. And here we are.” The elevator settled down to the floor of the bay, and he smiled in the rearview at both of them. “Welcome to the Addergoole School.”
Day One, Year Three of the Addergoole School, a couple hours later
It was the last run after a long day of driving back and forth. His last carload had been a raucous crowd of seven kids, First and Second Cohorts with two lost Third Cohorts trying to be invisible – a situation they normally tried to avoid. This last run was supposed to be just two boys, both new; Luke hoped they were the quiet sorts. If they were more loudmouths, he might do something they’d regret.
He didn’t see anyone as he strode into the airport, except the ticket-counter girl, Noemi, who had gotten used to seeing his face over the last few years. “Hiya Luke,” she waved cheerfully. “Your boys are over there by the vending machines. Poor lambs were a little lost, so I gave them a fiver for the soda.”
“Thanks, Noemi.” He dug his wallet out of his pocket, even though he knew what she was going to say.
“Now you put that away,” she scolded. “I like being nice to your boys, and besides, your fancy school keeps me in a job.”
“All right, ma’am,” he agreed, putting his wallet away. He’d get Mo to send her and the others here a gift basket or something – Mo would know what was appropriate. “Down by the soda machine, you said?”
“That they are, and an odder couple I haven’t seen in a long time – even from your kids.”
That was saying something; Addergoole students tended to be a little strange even to the Blind, and Luke was not convinced that Noemi didn’t have some Ellehemaei back in her tree somewhere.
“I’m sure,” he laughed, blowing it off. He didn’t want the airport staff thinking too hard about how weird “his kids” were. “Thanks again, Noemi.”
“Any time, honey.”
The boys were as advertised, sitting on the bench by the soda machine drinking Coke, and, although not the most mismatched pair Luke had ever seen, they came close.
The tall one was either old for the school or an early bloomer, with a fuzzy black mustache and a bit of a beard coming in. He wasn’t the tallest Luke had seen – not by a couple feet – but, then again, he hadn’t Changed yet, either. He was certainly taller than Luke, broader in the shoulders, a hulk of a kid in an olive-green army greatcoat that just made him look bigger.
The other one – for a moment, he questioned Noemi’s eyesight. The person curled up in the hulk’s shadow, grinning widely at some joke, was beautiful enough to make some parts of Luke second-guess his “no students” rule.
They saw him coming and stood up, and Luke’s first impression died a quick, brutal death. Unless she was the tomboy-est, flattest-chested girl ever, the beautiful girl standing there was a boy. And girls that pretty rarely went the tomboy route.
Fucking Daeva, he grumbled to himself, with more embarrassment than anger. The boy bore a superficial resemblance to a younger Mike – they were both pretty, curly-haired blondes – just enough that it was dredging up old, uncomfortable memories. Nothing that was the kid’s fault.
“Come on,” he said gruffly, trying to ignore the wide, knowing smirk of the blonde’s face. “You’re already late.”
“Late for what?” the blond asked innocently. “And who are you?”
“And how do you know we’re late?” added the hulk.
“I’m Luke, you’re Joff, he’s Abe, and you’re late to the opening announcements at Addergoole. Come on.”
“Do you think he’s always this grumpy?” the blonde – Joff, he was pretty sure – asked the hulk.
“Nah, kid, I think you just have that effect on people.”