“So, Magnolia. Have you thought about what you want to do when you leave here?”
Professor VanderLinden had its professional face on: pleasant, smooth, no flirtation even suggested.
Magnolia was not impressed. “I don’t know,” she snapped. “Are you ever gonna let me leave?”
“You’re not still mad at me over that, are you?” He almost sounded pleading.
“You flunked me! You held me back a year!”
“You didn’t do any homework your entire fourth year here.” He was definitely pleading.
“I was a little busy sucking your cock!” she bellowed.
“Nevertheless.” He didn’t answer her point – probably because he couldn’t. And probably because he knew as well as she did that Magnolia could have done her homework; she’d just thought she didn’t have to. “You also failed History, if I recall correctly.”
“That’s just ‘cause Professor Valerian hates me,” Magnolia scoffed. “I mean, she wanted me to be in her cy’ree, I guess, but it wasn’t going to happen.”
“You can see why she’d want you, though.”
“I am not a plant Change! I am a jaguar! And just ‘cause she likes to get matchy-matchy with her cy’ree doesn’t mean I have to. Nobody else sorts by Changes.”
Professor VanderLinden coughed. “Actually…”
“Yeah, yeah, you got a Daeva, I know. But it’s not like everyone does. I mean, Pelletier doesn’t—” She floundered, having never seen the science professor’s Change. “Well, Luke doesn’t— He doesn’t take the winged people.”
“He didn’t take Lucian this year, and he didn’t take Ib. But I could tell you why he didn’t take Ib, and it’s got too much to do with those wings.” He flapped his hand, dismissing the gossip. “Magnolia, Professor Valerian hating you or not, she does not fail based on dislike, or we would all still be talking to Meshach and Shadrach, as well as several others. So. How are you going to get through this year so that you can leave, and what do you plan on doing when you leave?”
Magnolia flopped back in her seat and sulked. “Raise babies and baby plants, I suppose.”
“Aah.” He raised an eyebrow. “Babies and plants?”
“Babies is pretty obvious, isn’t it? I’ve got two of them, Sheba’s got one and one coming. We’re going to be full up with babies if we stick together like we’ve been talking. And I want to be an organic gardener.” She smirked a little at the term. “Best organic plants in the country. Make people happy, make a bit of scratch, everyone’s happy, yeah?”
He looked impressed. She didn’t know whether to be offended it took so little to surprise her Mentor or pleased she’d manage to do so. “So you do have a plan?”
“Only the starts. I don’t know the good schools for plant things, and I oughta get a degree if I’m gonna pretend to be legit. And I can’t ask Valerian…”
Professor VanderLinden took pity on her. “I’ll ask Laurel for you. In the meantime, let’s get a more concrete plan laid out, mmm? Where do you want to farm? Where you were raised?”
“Oh, no, I don’t think so. I’m thinking more in the northwest.” She tried to make it casual, but she could tell from Mike’s small smirk that she failed.
“He’s growing on you, is he? Your big lunk?”
“He’s not a lunk,” she grumbled. “And yes. He’s a pain in the patootie and he has no sense of being subordinate and he’s likely to get me into seventeen million fights by the time the year is over, but he’s growing on me. An’ I wish I’d gotten him to give me a baby before he found out about the — well, the graduation requirements and sendin’ the kids here an’…” Her drawl was thickening. She cleared her throat and sat up a bit straighter.
Professor VanderLinden raised his eyebrows yet again. “He’s your Kept. Surely you could ‘get a baby out of him’ if you wanted one.”
“Oh, come on,” she scoffed. “I want him to like me when the year is over. Too many people don’t think of that. Eris, for one.” She growled it. “That girl, I know she had trouble, but that’s not reason to spread it. And talking about trouble, Eriko.” She shook her head as if she could shake Eriko. “That girl…! Do you have any idea what she was doing to Leo?”
“As I understand it,” Professor VanderLinden answered slowly, “the problem was that she wasn’t doing anything actionable, right up until she did. And now… well, nobody’s quite sure what she did do.” He shook his head sadly. “I suppose she probably knows.”
“Well.” Magnolia looked Mike in the eye. “Someone oughta ask her, then. And keep on asking her until she tells.”