Tuesday, October 31, 2000
Leofric studiously took notes as Professor Pelletier wrote another equation on the board. Physics was a good class for not thinking about what was going on. And even if some of it had been pretty cool — he was growing antlers, Dr. Caitrin said, and now he had some kind of awesome electricity powers — most of it was… Well, he was trying not to think about it.
He’d gotten the worrying thing sorted, at least, after spending a few days convincing himself that a desire to help was not worry — and if he had to abatu his hugr every now and then, well, nobody had told him not to do Workings on himself. And using magic to destroy the feeling was the only reliable way to stop worrying that he’d figured out.
But math. Physics was mostly math and math was almost comforting, having something he was good at and not hopelessly screwing up, like everything else in his life. Almost everything else.
If only Eriko would let him do something, even just talk to Luke about it. She just wanted to stay out of everyone’s way, which he understood completely, but he wasn’t trying to get her involved in anything. Just him.
“They’ll hold me responsible if you get in trouble,” she’d said. But there had to be some way…
After that last attempt, though, he’d just about given up. If something was really wrong, Luke would find out, right? And do something… right? Whatever else the other students seemed to think.
Maybe it wasn’t going that badly. Maybe he was just—
Leofric jumped, startled, as his textbook crashed to the floor with a loud bang. He stared at it on the floor in confusion; he hadn’t even touched it, and it hadn’t been hanging off the edge or anything. Had someone else moved it?
He glanced around, but there wasn’t anyone sitting near enough to where he’d put the book to have done it. The rest of the class was staring at him, however, including the disapproving gaze of Prof. Pelletier.
“Um… sorry.” Feeling his face turning red from embarrassment, Leofric ducked down and picked his book back up, placing it back on the desk — making extra sure it wasn’t anywhere near the edge. Getting in trouble in class was the last thing he needed right now.
Focusing on not causing any more loud disruptions kept him from thinking about how badly everything else was going, at least, until class finally wrapped up.
Next was literature, which he spent every day both dreading and looking forward to. He got to see Howard and Zita again and talk to them — really talk, even if it meant he and Zita were dancing around orders, sometimes. But it also reminded him, yet again, of how useless and stuck he was. He put his books away in his backpack, trying not to sigh out loud. Maybe today would be a good day, he thought as he headed out, navigating the short distance down the hall through the narrow, crowded hallway.
Stepping into the doorway of Professor VanderLinden’s classroom, Leofric looked around and stopped short. Howard was usually there first, since he had gym the period before, but all three of their usual seats were empty. Leofric felt a stab of panic — was Howard in trouble, too?! — and struggled briefly with a sudden urge to bolt.
There might be some effects on your personality, Dr. Caitrin had said, after he Changed. Some people have referred to it as their “animal side”. This must be what she was talking about. Deer ran away all the time, didn’t they? But he wasn’t really a deer. And besides, Howard was fine, he was probably just talking to Luke or chatting (or, you know, “chatting“) with Magnolia…
The panic subsided, and with it the urge to bolt. With another sigh, Leofric made his way over to his normal spot and sat down before taking his literature notebook out. At least having Prof. VanderLinden teaching made the class more interesting than most English classes; he was even getting decent grades, for the first time.
Leofric’s grade-related musings were interrupted as Zita pranced into the room, looking pleased with herself and with Howard in tow. The tall cowboy was in fact perfectly fine, but he was also carrying something. A plate…? Into Literature class? Lunch was next period, why—
“Leo!” The tiny girl flung herself into her chair next to him. “Guess what?”
“What?” He looked from her to Howard; he looked pleased, too. “What’ve you got?”
“It’s fer you.” Howard placed the plate down on Leo’s desk; under the cellophane wrap was a couple of chocolate brownies. “Zita gave me the recipe an’ Mags helped bake them.”
Leofric stared at the plate, then looked at his friends in confusion. “What?”
“Happy birthday, Bambi.” Zita grinned, showing a mouthful of pointed teeth. “Halloween, right? That’s today.”
“You…” Leofric stared down at the brownies. Even with everything going on, she’d still found a way to get him something for his birthday. She’d remembered.
And he couldn’t do anything for her.
“You didn’t have to—” he started, only to be cut off with a wave of her hand.
“Of course we did. We’re crew, right?” Zita nodded decisively. “I expect you both to remember my birthday, too.”
Crew. Right. All the groups in Addergoole; not exactly friends, but always looking out for each other. “You’re just first-years,” Eriko had said. “You don’t have a crew.” And when he tried to ask why he and his friends didn’t count as a crew, she’d frowned and look hurt, like she always seemed to whenever he said something lately.
“I’ll remember,” he assured Zita, taking one of the brownies out from under the wrapping and trying to at least not look as guilty as he was feeling.
Remembering a birthday was easy enough, at least; even he could manage that. And there were plenty of classes he could use to make a gift. It wasn’t like he was going to be baking anything, even if Eriko let him. She’d told him to make dinner, once. Fortunately for him, Cynara had moved in not too long afterwards and she could cook, so he wasn’t forced to repeat that particular disaster.
Leofric was starting to think that maybe he was just as hopeless as Eriko said.