- All thanks to Sara for the banner above! -
- All thanks to Sara for the banner above! -
- All thanks to Sara for the banner above! -
- All thanks to Mel for the banner above! -
- All thanks to Sara for the banner above! -
- All thanks to Beth for the banner above! -Eeep! We made it to thread two!
For convenience, I\'m going to post all the old stuff.
I was eight years old the first time my mother told me the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows. This is one of my most vivid memories of my childhood, curled up with my mom on our run-down old couch, my piping little-girl voice asking, “Mama, what does Deirdre mean?”
My mother then commenced telling me of the first Deirdre, who was predicted at birth to grow up into the most beautiful woman in her land, and was promised to the king because of this. At first, this idea delighted me—me, a princess! Then the myth continued, speaking of how Deirdre fell in love with not the king, but one of the king’s soldiers, Naosie. Deirdre and Naosie fled the country, so as to escape the wrath of the king at having his bride stolen. Again, this appealed even to my small self; it was so romantic, running away for the sake of love. I could appreciate it then.
But the story continued. The king was so jealous and furious that he sent his soldiers after Deirdre, chasing her, Naosie, and his two brothers all around the world, finding them again every time they nearly escaped. It was a long hunt that lasted many years. Eventually, though, the king’s many soldiers and resources caught up with them and—here’s where the story starts to get sticky—Naosie and his two brothers were killed in front of Deirdre’s eyes.
The king then took Deirdre back to his land, and forced her to be his wife. Deirdre was, however, so distraught at the loss of Naosie, her one true love, that she died of sorrow. In some versions, she leaned out of her chariot and dashed her head against a rock, effectively committing suicide. Having always been the irresponsible type, my mother didn’t seem to have a problem with telling this story to her young, impressionable daughter.
When she was finished, I’d asked, “But, Mama, why did you name me after someone so sad?”
She’d giggled at me and tugged on my ponytail. I didn’t particularly like having my ponytail tugged, but I allowed it from my mother. I was her best friend, her only friend, perhaps, and so I gave her certain best-friend liberties. “I named you after Deirdre of the Sorrows, my darling,” she’d answered in her melodic voice, “because it is a beautiful name, a strong Irish name. But the name doesn’t mean anything, my Deirdre.
Deirdre lived the life she did because of the choices she made. You are Deirdre Clements, not Deirdre of the Sorrows. The name means nothing, darling.” My nose had then been tweaked, an action on which I had the same opinion of ponytail tugging.
I’d nodded agreeably, eager to please, but even then I disagreed with that final point. It seemed like me that Deirdre hadn’t had any choices; she’d been fated, predestined to live the pattern that she did. And later, when I’d found out that the name Deirdre meant “sorrow” in Gaelic, my opinion on this matter had only been cemented: from the moment of her birth, the first time she was named, the Deirdre of myth was destined to spend her days in sorrow.
My mother was wrong on another point as well: I was not merely Deirdre Clements, though that was the name I bore.
I am Deirdre of the Sorrows.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
I responded to the angry call of the alarm clock by pulling the blanket over my head. On the other side of the room, Katy jumped from her bed with great energy, for the first and last time this year. For every day from now until mid-June, with the possible exclusion of graduation day, I would be the one to face the harsh green light that spelled out my sentence: 6:00.
My duties were relieved from my shoulders, however, on this, the first day of school, in deference to Katy’s excitement. Me, I didn’t see what was so interesting about it. The first day of school was just like any other day, except you had to stress over what unpleasant surprises teachers would throw at you for the next one hundred and eighty days. And, sure, studying gave me something to do with my over-abundance of time, but it still wasn’t exciting. Certainly it wasn’t grounds for leaping out of bed.
The blanket not being exactly the best shield against the shrill assault designed to wake me, it was a relief when Katy finally made it stop. My relief—which soon would have been accompanied by a slip back into dreamland, had I been left undisturbed—was short lived, due to an attack of a different kind. If my blanket did a poor job at protecting me from sound, it was even more a failure at stopping light. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to burrow deeper into the pillow.
This, apparently, was not behavior acceptable to Katy. “Deirdre! Wake up!” she sang shrilly, with alarming proximity to my ear. “Summer’s over! It’s the first day of school!” All her eagerness may make it hard to believe that within the week, she would be whining about schoolwork, and longing once again for vacation time. I, however, have had the experience of living nearly nine years in the same room as my cousin, and have been taught the contrary.
Instead of responding to this behavior—it wouldn’t do to teach her that she can get things without saying please—I clenched my fists around my comforter. It was awfully snuggly and warm inside my blankets, and it was most likely chilly in the house. Besides, school didn’t hold any appeal for me. Unlike the entire rest of my class, I didn’t think that senior year would be any different than freshman, sophomore, and junior years were.
I was only given the half-second’s warning of a knee’s pressure on the side of my bed before my comforter-shield duo was ripped from my body. The cool air hit me like a shot, causing me to pull up into a sitting position and reach for the blanket, which Katy was keeping far from my grasp. Clever girl had learned all my tricks.
Sleepily I slumped forward, defeated. “Are you awake now?” Katy asked, too cheerful on the whole, peering into my face. I shook my head drearily, brushing the hair from my eyes with the back of one hand. Morning is a cruel mistress.
“I thought you were,” Katy sang, apparently taking my denial as a confirmation. “Get up and get ready, Deirdre. It’s the first day of school.” It was almost as if she hadn’t said this already.
Needless to say, I did eventually get out of bed, despite my deepest desire to simply not. Sleeping was peaceful and painless, two adjectives that weren’t easily applied to school. My sole motivation for wakefulness was that the sooner I got this early morning routine established, the sooner it was that I would feel only a dull ache of exhaustion, instead of a sharp pain.
When I made my way down the stairs some twenty minutes later, dressed with my hair and teeth brushed, my Aunt Mo had pancakes waiting. Somehow I’d managed to forget that my aunt shared her daughter’s opinion on the first day of school. I sank into my customary kitchen chair, across from my Uncle Mack who was sullenly reading the newspaper. Perhaps it was because he and I were related by blood—Uncle Mack being my mother’s older brother—that Uncle Mack shared my utter disdain for anything and everything that happened before the sun was up.
He and I sat across from each other wordlessly, each eating pancakes at our own paces, while Aunt Mo—short for Maureen—moved with immeasurable grace around the kitchen, flipping batter about with precision.
As I continued forward steadily and a bit queasily—I was never much one for a large breakfast, but I knew that Aunt Maureen would be offended if I didn’t have at least one—my yet empty messenger bag slung at my feet, Katy and Molly bounded down the stairs with, well, boundless energy, chattering eagerly.
“Do they really have Freshman Friday?” Molly squeaked nervously. Katy merely smiled mysteriously. “I hear that they shove the freshmen in their lockers the first Friday of school, and make them wait there until the janitors hear them. And then, if the freshmen can’t remember their locker combinations, they’re stuck until the guidance counselors come back in on Monday.” This was the most ridiculous rumor I had ever heard—guidance counselors didn’t have anything to do with lockers—but Molly genuinely seemed to believe it. I tried and failed to remember being so gullible upon starting freshman year.
Aunt Maureen put down yet another plate of pancakes. If memory served me, we’d be having pancake peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for the next week or so; Aunt Mo always over estimated when making batter. “There’s no such thing as Freshman Friday,” she soothed. “And don’t let your brother hear you talking about such nonsense, or you’ll get him started worrying already.”
That was true enough; Jack was our resident worrier, more like his father than mother, but he was also only starting eighth grade, which meant that he was still sleeping, which made me jealous.
“Way to ruin the fun, Mom,” Katy complained, rolling her eyes and hefting her stylish faux-designer backpack. During the conversation, she had bolted down a single pancake, and was now glancing at her watch with creased brow. “Let’s go,” she said to the room at large.
Glancing at my half-empty plate, Aunt Mo bit her lip. “Won’t you be hungry, Deirdre?” she asked me as she handed a brown bagged lunch to each of the three girls in front of her.
“No,” I answered plainly, bending down to reach my bag. By this point, both Katy and Molly were at the door, having thrown a hasty, “Bye Mom; Bye Dad” over their shoulders. I lifted the flap of my slouchy bag, tucked my lunch inside, and then trailed behind my cousins.
Still fretting, Aunt Maureen followed. “Won’t you be hot in those clothes?” she fluttered, looking as if she were about to kiss my forehead, or pat my cheek, or perform some other equally maternal action. I sure hoped that she didn’t.
“No,” I answered again. One would have thought by now that my aunt had grown accustomed to my regular outfit, but this appeared to not be the case. I had, after all, worn my customary black-shirt-and-dark-wash-jeans combo throughout the summer, despite the Pennsylvanian heat.
Mornings were simply easier when I had a makeshift uniform.
She looked prepared to ask me yet another question—a railing assault against my decrepit backpack, perhaps—but Uncle Mack interrupted her. “Let the girl go, Maureen. She’s going to be late for school.” Aunt Mo turned to him with a reproachful glare. “Goodbye, Deirdre,” he intoned, returning to his newspaper.
While my aunt was otherwise occupied, I escaped to the driveway, where Katy and Molly waited. “Could you be any slower?” the elder of the two sisters asked plaintively, leaning against the car.
Katy merely rolled her eyes and jumped into the driver’s seat with an exasperated snort, slamming the door behind her. Molly climbed into the passenger seat, leaving the back for me. I entered obligingly. After making sure that everyone was buckled in—Katy was most likely the most meticulous driver that I’d ever met—Katy pulled out of the driveway, expertly maneuvering past the neighbor’s garbage can, which had rolled into the street.
This car was Katy’s baby; she’d been saving up for it ever since she’d first gotten her permit. This summer and the one before our junior year, she had worked ridiculously long hours at a summer camp, sleeping in tents and enduring bug bites just to turn a buck. I couldn’t imagine being at the beck and call of fifteen ten-to-twelve year old children for twenty four hours a day, for six weeks, but my economic demands were much less. My mandatory summer job had been, since freshman year, at a local bookseller, stocking shelves. And, instead of blowing all my earnings on a automobile that I didn’t need—there was nothing around that I couldn’t walk to—every penny I’d earned had gone towards
college, only a year away.
I leaned my head against the window, watching the scenery flick past. At least the sun was up now, but that innocent pleasure would be gone by approximately mid-October. But still, the daylight made is possible to pretend that it wasn’t quite so early. It may have been lying to myself, but it wasn’t exactly a real lie, so that was fine.
“—and I’m so worried that I won’t be able to find my classes. Jessica told me that if you’re late, even on the first day, you get detention.” Molly’s skittish anticipation was partially irritating, partially endearing. Thinking about it, I supposed that freshman year had been somewhat more exciting than all the others, even if all the made-for-TV-movie clichés had proven false.
Katy laughed at her sister’s naïveté. “You don’t get detention, Mol,” she reassured, no longer playing the part of mysterious insider; now she was the knowledgeable contact. “Not in the first few days. If after a few weeks you’re stupid enough not to have figured out where everything is—and you will, it’s easy—then maybe some really nasty teachers’ll give you detention. But you’re fine for now.”
“I don’t even know where my homeroom is!” Molly wailed.
Fog was covering the football field as Kelly pulled into her much-coveted parking spot with precision. It was pretty, but it would be burned off by the summer sun soon enough. Already the day was relatively bright, considering that it was only seven in the morning and all.
“I think your homeroom is close to Deirdre’s. What homeroom’re you in?” Katy turned the key in the ignition, and the comforting rumbling of the engine died beneath me.
“Two hundred fifteen,” Molly replied after digging through her backpack for her schedule.
“Deirdre?” Katy inquired, turning to look at me.
“Two thirteen.” I didn’t need to look at my schedule. I have a good memory.
Katy clapped her hands together once, like a child presented with a new toy. “There you go, then, Mol. You can follow Deirdre.” Clearly my year was kicking off to a momentous start.
School was noisy. Having spent the last three months in a stockroom by myself had gotten me adjusted to silence. After that, coming back into an environment that contained nearly three thousand adolescents, aged fourteen to eighteen, was like being woken up in the monkey pit of the zoo. In fact, a zoo was a good description for the whole thing.
Surely these people had seen their friends at some point during the summer, hadn’t they? One would think, judging from the shrieks of, “You look so tan!” and “Omigod, I missed you so much!” that they hadn’t. But, unless the world was playing a giant trick on me, friends did things like hang out and see each other over the summer months. This kind of noise simply wasn’t necessary.
Thankfully, my schedule was filled to the brim with Honors and AP courses, which meant that as soon as I entered a classroom, the chatter of the spider monkeys I went to school with decreased in pitch and increased in intelligence. Though, the discussion of what they had each learned at Harvard Summer Camp that year—as opposed to gossip about who had hooked up with who—was both less annoying and more. I don’t know how I ever thought that school would be relieving in its regularity.
But, for my classes at least, the bell would then ring, and everyone would quiet down so they could hear what requirements each teacher had, save for a stifled groan when we found out that we had to do oral translations for French every morning, or that for each lab in AP Chem we had to do a formal lab write up. I was not among the groaners.
By the time third period Poetry Crafting had rolled around, I had more or less had enough. For the past three hours I had sat silently, reading the spec sheets that were passed out to me, and ignoring my peers while they scribbled furious notes. I couldn’t fathom what they were writing down, as it had been handily typed out and given to us by even the most hard core of teachers. I had written down a thing or two per class, but I was finished long before everyone else, and I wrote so much more slowly.
But for Poetry Crafting I had Ms. Moreno, who also happened to be the advisor of the Middletown High School’s literary magazine, Memorandum, which also happened to the only extra-curricular I had ever bothered joining. Ms. Moreno knew me, which was relaxing, because she knew that just because I didn’t raise my hand didn’t mean I didn’t know the answer. She knew my poetry, and had a relatively high opinion of it. She may even like me, for all I knew. She was the only teacher who I could think of going to for a college recommendation letter.
Her welcome lecture was the least stupid of all the ones I’d had to listen to so far. Instead of talking about getting-to-know-you, she dove right into the parameters of the class. Unlike my others, this class wasn’t full of Harvard-Summer-Camp-goers (those kids all took AP Physics for their elective); this class consisted mostly of the “emo” kids, or the “art nerds,” the quieter group that, while they talked, didn’t so much prattle. It was refreshing, that, and the fact that I knew most of the faces in the room—all but two—because many were Memorandum staff, and the rest had taken poetry classes like these with me since they were first offered.
“Deirdre,” Ms. Moreno whispered to me on my way out of the classroom, “come by after school this afternoon and I’ll give you the new staff list.” I nodded once, as if I hadn’t known this already. The big event of the first day of school for the lit magazine staff was the release of the officer positions; it was a big deal to see if you had gotten the job that you’d so coveted. It was assumed by general consensus that I’d be Editor in Chief for this year—I was the only student of my year to have started Memorandum at the advent of freshman year, I had held an officer position since sophomore year, and had been production manager (literary magazine code for second-in-command) the year before, being the only junior in memory to claim a typically senior position.
Ms. Moreno smiled at me, and I made my way to AP Calc, to merge once again with the Brains. The noise of the hall wasn’t as numbing as it had been, so presumably I was adjusting. The spider monkey’s voices seemed to be less a single mass, and I could pick out individual conversations.
For example, after sinking into one of the chairs in the back of the room in Calc, I absently tuned into that of the two girls in front of me. “…he’s in my second period, and again in this class, and my God, he’s gorgeous,” said the first, a brunette with Shirley Temple style curls.
The second—dirty blonde—sighed dramatically. “New boys never show up around here. Did you get the scoop on him?”
Brunette nodded. “He’s an athlete, and on the newspaper or something.”
Dirty Blonde gave an appreciative mmmmm. “Sport?”
“Cross country,” Brunette grinned wickedly. Was there some odd cross country significance that I didn’t know about? Sometimes I wonder if I even live on the same planet as everyone else. Either I don’t, or I’m missing the popular culture gene.
Groaning, Dirty Blonde flipped her flatteringly-cut pageboy. “I love athletes. All those muscles…” I find it on the whole difficult to communicate with my gender, I really do.
They continued on this vein for a while, discussing the school’s various athletic programs and how “hot” they considered the participants of this sport to be. There were six minutes between classes, but Poetry Crafting was close. If this obnoxious, insignificant nonsense was a preview of what I would have to spend my year listening to, clearly some sort of greater power was conspiring against me.
The bell rang, and the room became mercifully silent, dependable honors students that we are. The teacher stood up from where she had sat at her computer, and leaned against her desk to address us, stack of spec sheet handouts at the ready. Just as she had opened her mouth to speak, the door creaked open, and a boy stuck his head in sheepishly. He was one of the two unknowns from my Poetry class.
Brunette’s arm shot out to claw the wrist of Dirty Blonde, in a grasp that looked like it hurt. “That’s him!” she hissed—unnecessarily, in my opinion. Ms. Evened cocked an eyebrow, and beckoned to the boy with her stack of handouts, flagging him into the room. He obeyed. “Let’s hope that this isn’t an indication as to what can be expected for the rest of the year,” she said airily, as if her comment had no direction. I disliked her already.
Having plunged into the closest seat, presumably as to not disrupt the class further, the boy spread his hands in an apologetic gesture. “Sorry, ma’am, I got lost.” He ducked his head, as if to say “meaning no disrespect.” I had to hand it to him, the “ma’am” was a nice touch.
Ms. Evened wasn’t having that, though. “One would think,” she snapped, no longer pretending to be speaking to the class at large, “that by senior year, you would know your way around the school.”
The boy shrugged. “I’m new,” he offered. Well, that accounted for my not knowing him. He wasn’t yet part of the poetry clique.
With a dissatisfied hmph! Ms. Evened turned back to the class at large. She was a bit bitter, wasn’t she, for someone who was only maybe twenty five? But then again, hardships aren’t mutually for the old, so I may be too quick to judge.
The school in the state of near deserted was how l liked it best. It wasn’t creepy, like an empty school would have been, and it wasn’t as crowded as during the day. If not for all the residual stress from classes, it would be almost peaceful.
Residual stress was what I was feeling as I strolled back to Ms. Moreno’s classroom after school. So far, my experience with Psychology was exactly one day old, but I could already tell I was going to hate it. I hadn’t elected to be in Psychology, even though it was technically my elective. It just fit my schedule. Actually, they’d (they being the Powers That Be, aka Guidance) originally wanted me to take Child Development, but I’d refused. I don’t think I’m mistaken in saying that no parent wants me near their child. Not that I’m irresponsible, or anything.
When I got to the room, Ms. Moreno wasn’t there, so I sat down in my usual desk and started my Psychology homework. Now, while some individuals (my cousin in included among these) might consider it cruel and unusual for teacher to assign homework on the first day of school, it was something I’d become accustomed to. High-level classes meant a high-level workload, which ate up time, like I wanted it to. Psych wasn’t my only class with homework, either—I’d been given assignments also in French, AP Chem, and Calc.
Ms. Moreno sauntered in a good ten minutes after the final bell—good thing my ride wasn’t waiting for me. Neither of us much bothering the other, I began to patiently pack up my books while she rifled through some files to find the list that I’d been dying to see all summer. Well, maybe dying is a bit extreme. But I did want to know what it said.
She passed it off to me, and I scanned my eyes down the list that was handily alphabetized. There were only three names before mine: Abbot, Branwen, Brody. Then, me. Clements, Deirdre: Production Manager. For a moment I was confused, thinking she had handed me last year’s list, with last year’s jobs on them. But, no, Liz—last year’s editor-in-chief—wasn’t on this list.
I turned my eyes to Ms. Moreno in a baleful stare, and waited. One of the things that I liked best about Ms. Moreno was that she understood me as well as she needed to, and knew that I – well, that I didn’t talk.
Well, that’s not strictly correct. I speak. If someone asks me a question, I answer. It would be rude not to. But I don’t really say anything unless I am asked a question. I just didn’t really see the point.
When Ms. Moreno didn’t notice me immediately, I looked back down at the paper to see who had been the beneficiary of what was obviously a mistake. It took me a moment—the jobs weren’t in order—but I found it just the same: Morrison, Bane: Editor-in-Chief. Who was Bane Morrison, anyway?
If I hadn’t thought that this was a mistake before, certainly I did now. I didn’t recognize the name Bane Morrison, and as Production Manager last year, I had made up the staff lists. He was probably just a freshman.
I stood up and went to stand at the foot of Ms. Moreno’s desk, so to stare at her with more efficiency. This time, she noticed me almost immediately. Well, good. This magazine being one of the few things I really cared about, I wanted this fixed. “Is there a problem, Deirdre?” she asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“I’m production manager,” I muttered. Ms. Moreno flushed slightly. She knew about all of this nonsense?
“Well, congratulations Deirdre!” she exclaimed with false enthusiasm. “Production manager is an excellent position, and you should be very proud.”
I cast my eyes back down to the list in my hands. “Bane Morrison?” I asked, only slightly bitterly. At least if I wasn’t going to get the position I deserved, someone who almost deserved it should. Not some clueless newcomer who had only learned what a literary magazine was three weeks previous.
Ms. Moreno shifted uncomfortably. Well, if she didn’t want to have this conversation, maybe she should have given everyone the jobs they deserved. I probably hated confrontation more than she did. “He’s very well qualified, Deirdre, so don’t worry that the magazine will suffer. He has some excellent ideas, and wants to do big things with Memorandum.” As if good ideas and qualifications beat out hard work and loyalty. “And you don’t exactly talk during meetings, Deirdre. I have no guarantee that you could conduct them. Bane is very charismatic, I think. You’ll like him.”
Somehow, I doubted this. If someone who had worked on a literary magazine before had the gall to walk in and ask for editor-in-chief, I probably wouldn’t like them. Particularly because they had received said position. And that position should have been mine. But I didn’t say anything to Ms. Moreno. I just turned my head, shouldered my bag, and headed for the door. That was fine, though; I doubted she’d expected anything else, from me, anyway.
Just as I’d laid my hand on the doorknob, it was jerked out from under my hand, to reveal Dirty Blonde and Brunette’s “gorgeous” boy, the athlete from Calc and Poetry. I stepped aside to admit him, and he gave me a smile and nod of thanks.
Probably he was here to switch out. Poetry and cross country seemed to be a bit like oil and water, at least judging from the significant lack of athletes to take poetry in the far side of forever. Well, in any case, it wasn’t my problem, or my business. “Hey, Ms. Moreno,” said the boy, causing her to jump a little in her chair—she hadn’t been paying attention.
I put out a hand to catch the door, which was slowly swinging closed, when Ms. Moreno called out, “Deirdre, wait.”I paused, turning my head in response. She flapped a hand at me. “Come here, silly girl.” I let my hand drop, and sidled closer with an inward sigh. I made my way forward until I stood in front of her desk again, hands clasped loosely behind my back.
The boy looked at me quizzically, one eyebrow raised. That’s right boy, stare, why don’t you? “Deirdre,” Ms. Moreno said with a cheerful tone so forced that I knew what was coming had to be bad. “This is Bane Morrison. Bane, this is Deirdre Clements, your production manager.”
I did a full turn to look at him. This was the editor-in-chief, the bozo who had seen fit to steal my job? He was still in running shorts, for goodness sake! And what kind of name was Bane, anyway? I, on the other hand, have an actual name, of which I know the root and history. Take that, Bane.
He stuck out his hand, and I was so surprised that I actually took it. “Nice to meet you,” he said politely. I nodded once. He released my hand, and slowly I let it fall back to its place by my side. Yet, his eyes never left mine, each silently assessing the other. Already I was certain that most of this year’s responsibility would fall to me—like last year, when Liz had gone to France during final production—and that I would be in charge in everything but title.
Ms. Moreno stood and we both turned back to look at her, him, easily, me, kind of reproachfully. I could at least see what she meant about the charisma. She seemed more relaxed with him in the room, and he was clearly relaxed, leaning against a bookshelf—very blasé. Too bad I seemed to be immune.
“Why don’t you tell Deirdre about your plans for Memorandum, Bane?” Ms. Moreno suggested easily. “I’m sure she’ll be invaluable help to you—she knows how to put out a magazine unlike anyone else.” Strange, wasn’t it, how Ms. Moreno was defending my position in this dispute?
Bane’s cool detachment melted into enthusiasm. That was unexpected. Who would have thought that an athlete could summon an interest for art and poetry? Still, I harbored no doubts that for him, this was nothing but just another check that he could put on his college applications.
“Well,” he began, spreading his hands out in front of him. For the first time, I noticed two sizeable booklets in his hand. “I have here a copy for each of you of my old magazine.” He handed one to Ms. Moreno, and put the other down in front of me when I made no move to take it. It seemed that Ms. M had warned him about me, or something. That was both flattering—I was a force to be reckoned with—and insulting—she thought I would be difficult enough that I deemed a warning.
I looked at the magazine in front of me. There was no title, just a quote: “The man who tries to do something and fails in infinitely better than the man who tries to do nothing and succeeds.” Well, wasn’t that charming.
“It was a monthly publication,” Bane explained. Without turning my head, I shifted my eyes up to him. “Every month had a different quote.” Unless I’m very much mistaken, he grimaced slightly at this. I agreed—how ridiculous. “And, while I wouldn’t think to touch your title, I would like to change one thing to match my old magazine.” Of course he would.
Both of the people in the room seemed to be waiting for me to speak. Apparently this was some sort of test, for me as well as for Bane, to see how this whole deal was going to work out. Well, I wasn’t going to get angry. It wouldn’t help, and besides, I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.
“Tell her,” Ms. Moreno squeaked excitedly after a moment.
Bane shrugged. “Well, I’d like to make Memorandum monthly, as well. I’ve seen the issues, and I think it can be done. Particularly last year’s spring issue—fabulous.” He fluttered his hands around in a makeshift sign language, indicating at myself and Ms. M at seemingly random intervals. “I want to channel that talent and turn it into something that’s as big in this school as it was at mine.”
Rather than replying, I set my bag down at my feet; all my new textbooks were getting heavy. This actually made sense, now. Ms. Moreno had wanted to make Memorandum come out more often than bi-annually for as long as I’d been working on the magazine. She’d suggested it to Liz and me last year, but we’d insisted that it wasn’t possible, not with the number of submissions we were getting. Though she surely didn’t see it this way, Ms. M had seen her dream come knocking and had sacrificed me for it.
“Any questions, Deirdre? Comments?” Ms. Moreno asked me as if I were a first grader. Although, I supposed her question was justified. I wouldn’t have offered an opinion, or asked anything that needed asking, if I hadn’t been prompted for it. How else was I supposed to know that what I had to say was actually wanted?
I reached out and picked up Bane’s magazine. It was thicker than Memorandum typically was—I wondered how they’d possibly gotten enough submissions in a month to fill this many pages. If this Bane character wasn’t a marketing genius, his idea was going to crash and burn. But if it worked… I nearly smiled. If it worked, we’d have something really good happening.
“We’d have to start soon,” I offered, mentally calculating how quickly this was going to have to get done if we wanted a publication at the end of September. Ms. M smiled beatifically—I was her best –and she knew it, despite this miss-assignment of roles— and I was in.
“Oh, there you are, Deirdre,” smiled Aunt Maureen the moment I walked through the door. “How was school? Did you stay after for Memorandum? What job do you have this year, love?” It remains a mystery to me how Aunt Mo always knows what’s happening in my life. I seriously suspect she might be clairvoyant. Because I know that I don’t tell her, and I don’t know who else could.
I put my bag down on one of the kitchen chairs, nearly sighing in relief. One of the worst things about having a messenger bag is that the weight isn’t evenly distributed, and it cuts into your shoulder when you’re carrying heavy things. It is a sacrifice I make, though, because I really do like my bag. “Production manager,” I answered my aunt, deciding that the one answer was enough. It established that I was at Memorandum, and was a direct impact on how my day had gone, and how it would go for the rest of the year.
Aunt Maureen nearly dropped her spatula in excitement. In my mental picture of Aunt Mo, she’s always baking because, honestly, she’s almost always baking in real life. She runs a small business making really beautifully intricate (and delicious) cupcakes and cakes, which she sells to catering businesses and local families when they’re having parties. And, when she’s not baking something for work, she’s just baking things for us, because she says baking relaxes her. “Production manager is good, isn’t it, love? Second in command or something like that?”
I nodded once, but Aunt Mo wasn’t looking, so I replied, “Yes, second.”
I didn’t mention how I should have been first, or that I had been stabbed in the back by the only teacher that I’ve ever really liked, or that I would almost certainly be left out of everything, which certainly wasn’t fair seeing as I’d put together the entire spring issue single handedly last year.
Even though I knew for a fact that the cupcakes Aunt Mo was making were for work, she handed me one, because she knew for a fact that those type—chocolate cake with chocolate icing, with her pretty spun-sugar flowers on top—were my absolute favorite. I accepted it without
I made my way upstairs, with my cupcake and my book bag, and sank down onto my bed, across from where Katy was happily chattering into her cell phone. I didn’t have a cell phone because what would I have done with one? I could hardly remember the last time I’d spoken on the phone. I began to peel the paper off my cupcake.
“And Daniel looks so good, Netta.” Annette was Katy’s best friend, who went to the s(*&%$#$$%%y private school across town. “Just wait until you—aah!” She had spotted me. “Deirdre has a cupcake. No fair!”
I bit into my cupcake, and opened my Psychology book. What was there to do besides study?
The next day was better, even though I did have to turn off the alarm myself. Aunt Mo didn’t make pancakes, so I didn’t have to eat, so Katy didn’t get mad at me for being so slow, because I was outside first. Which meant I had time to prepare myself for the noise, which meant that it wasn’t such a shock (I was getting used to it already), which made my day better.
Of course, I also didn’t have the hopeful anticipation of becoming editor-in-chief, but that meant that I didn’t have the disappointment of finding my hopes to be in vain. And by this point, everyone was starting to feel the exhaustion of summer, so the exuberance level was down a notch or two. Besides, it was really hot—a point of irritation for me, causing my apparel to be an open button-down over a t-shirt, both black per my usual—and nobody really wanted to move or talk or, really, be in school.
During third period, as I was working on our first assignment of the year (write a poem using a simile or metaphor—easy), someone laid their hand on my arm. I turned in my seat to see that it was that Bane boy sitting behind me, a friendly and welcoming smile on his face. “Want to meet up during lunch—you do have second lunch, right? Ms. Moreno said you did—to talk about getting started on the magazine? In my old school, we started during the summer, but I didn’t meet you until yesterday, so we have to get working fast.”
I stared at his hand on my arm. It was bad enough that he had come in and taken my job, but now he was touching me? My nose wrinkled ever so slightly at his skin’s contact with my sleeve, as if it might melt away, leaving my arm exposed. Bane followed my line of sight, and pulled his hand away. That taken care of, I turned my eyes up to his. He had oddly blue eyes, for a brunette. They were a rather pretty color, I had to admit. “Want to meet over lunch?” he asked again.
I really would rather not have met with him over lunch. I had been planning on doing my French homework over lunch, so that I didn’t have to take my rather heavy book home that night. And, if the discussion of Brunette and Dirty Blonde yesterday was any indication, my sitting with Bane at lunch might lead to people asking me questions, and that wouldn’t be fun.
I nodded once, and turned back around.
My pencil was in hand again, but I couldn’t concentrate on my poem anymore. Bane had distracted me, and I couldn’t get back into it now. And, oh great, I had to have a “meeting over lunch”. Who called having lunch together “meetings”, anyway? But maybe this would turn out to be good. Maybe I could explain things to him, and then he would leave me alone. I had trained the entire rest of the world to ignore me; why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with Bane. The thought was a comforting one.
The odds of my beating Bane to the cafeteria were nearly nil, considering we were coming from the same place. I had on my side the fact that I knew this school like the back of my hand, and Bane had only been haunting it for one day. He had on his side the fact that—the constant thorn in my cousin’s side—I walked slowly. And besides, I’d had to go to my locker. I wasn’t going to beat him there.
And, because I wasn’t going to beat him there, which meant that I would have to go sit with him, I was going to be made to look like his subordinate. Even though I technically was his subordinate, I didn’t want him to have that idea fixed in his head.
Or, maybe because I would most likely be making him wait for me, I would look really important, like so many people wanted to have lunch meetings with me that I could keep one or two of them waiting if I wanted to. Of course, this really wasn’t the image I wanted to give off, either. I wasn’t particularly eager to have Bane cut me out of the magazine completely because he thought I was nasty and self-important.
But, probably I was just over thinking this whole thing. I have this tendency to over think. I think (there I go again) that this is because I keep all my thoughts inside my head, instead of letting them out. I’ve been told that saying things aloud helps you sort them out, but I’m not entirely sure I believe it.
My brown paper bagged lunch in hand, I made my way down that final stretch of hallway, with its endless and timeless dull green lockers. I looked out over the sea of students, feeling that it must be impossible to find a single face among them. Brunette was the most common color of hair, being the most dominant in the gene pool, I knew courtesy of AP Bio last year. And Bane didn’t have any really discerning physical features, despite apparently being “gorgeous.”
“There you are,” said a voice in my ear. My eyes widened—I was startled at the voice’s proximity—but I’m proud to say that I didn’t jump or squeal or any of that other nonsense that I’ve seen other girls do. I turned slowly to see Bane, standing at a reasonable distance, leaning down towards my ear slightly. He had been looking for a reaction, I could see. Disappointment shone through assessing eyes.
I made no move to respond, and Bane’s open smile wavered ever so slightly. Before me, I knew, I had a boy that was used to being liked. He had charisma, and a bright, friendly personality. He was used to winning people over, and was angry that he couldn’t get me. Are you willing to step up to the challenge, Bane Morrison?
He made a gallant gesture at a nearby table, which had two open seats across from each other. “Shall we?” he asked in an overly proper tone. If I had been the giggling type, I may have giggled at that. But, as things stood, I merely sat where he had indicated, putting my lunch on the table between us, yet making no move to open it. Bane, it seemed, didn’t have lunch, or was going to go buy one.
“I forgot lunch money,” he explained, answering my unformulated question. Silently I pushed my brown sack towards him; it wasn’t like I was going to eat it, anyway. I wasn’t often hungry. I pulled the hand I had used for this wordless offering back into my lap. “Oh, no,” Bane protested. “I couldn’t eat your lunch.”
I said nothing. Even if he didn’t eat it, I wasn’t going to, and then it would just go to waste. I didn’t much care either way. Pancake-peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches aren’t exactly my favorite. A couple of minutes of silence passed, Bane fidgeting with nervous energy. I sat in infinite patience—sitting still wasn’t something that bothered me. In fact, I was an expert. I could sit without moving for hours.
“You don’t do much of anything, do you?” Bane asked suddenly. I didn’t move—I was already watching him, though, so it was okay. In my head, this had become a competition: Who Could Move the Least. I was winning by a landslide. Again, this was okay, since Bane didn’t seem to need much prompting. “You don’t talk, you don’t move, and you don’t eat, either. Do you do anything, Deirdre?”
Well, there was a direct question. I was going to have to answer, which meant I had to move. So much for my competition. “I do speak,” I said quietly. I think I disliked Bane already.
Bane snorted, reaching for my lunch. I’d known he was hungry. “Fine, you talk. And I guess you move sometimes—you walked here. And you must eat sometimes, otherwise you’d be dead. But you don’t talk much. And you move so slowly.”
Observant little thing, wasn’t he? At least he clearly thought he was, if that self-satisfied look meant anything. So what? It didn’t take a genius to notice that I was pretty quiet, and that I didn’t waste my energy with stupid little twitchy movements. And the eating comment was just so grossly misconstrued that it didn’t even merit a response, even inside my own head.
He narrowed his eyes, watching me. “You only answer questions,” he said slowly. Wow, that was actually pretty good. I definitely disliked him. “You don’t talk unless it’s to answer a question, do you?”
“Not really,” I replied truthfully. So what if he thought I was a basket case? The entire rest of the school already did, so it wasn’t like I was facing anything new. I could deal with Bane’s judgments.
He pulled out my sandwich. Well, I supposed that it was his sandwich now, seeing as I’d given it to him. “That’s going to make it a bit difficult to work together,” he said with the genteel mien of a Southern gentleman of old. “I mean, if you won’t talk to me, it will be hard to get things done. I can’t put a magazine out by myself.” I didn’t see why he couldn’t. I had.
He took a bite of the sandwich, and then looked down at it in surprise. “What kind of bread is this?” he asked, staring at the sandwich like it had sprouted legs.
Bane was seemingly impressed. I don’t know why—pancakes as bread is a rather disgusting transition. “That’s delicious,” he muttered. Liar. He looked back up at me. “It’s also progress. You’ve now said three words to me in exchange for the hundred or so that I’ve said to you. The ratio is improving.”
He wanted movement from me? I would give him movement; I narrowed my eyes into a malevolent stare. He was so obnoxious. And “gorgeous.” So why did I, the only girl in the school who had no appreciation for that, have to get stuck with him? This is yet another sign—one of many—that my life is so deeply unfair.
Just then, Katy plunked down into the seat next to me, providing an excellent reason to just ignore Bane. Uncharacteristically, my typically boy-crazy cousin ignored him, too. Perhaps, then, he wasn’t as “gorgeous” as Dirty Blonde and Brunette had led me to believe.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m staying after for practice, Deirdre,” she said, not addressing the presence of Bane at all. It was extremely childish, I knew, but at that moment, I really loved my cousin. Take that, Mr. Editor-in-Chief. I could have snapped my fingers at him so easily at that moment. “I already got Molly to get a ride with someone, because I didn’t want her taking the bus, and I would let you drive yourself home, but I need some way to get home.” That was sweet of her, to consider offering up her prize to me. “Promise me that you won’t take the bus.”
Katy didn’t like it when I took the bus because I always sat in the seat across from the crack head, and she was afraid that he was going to sell me drugs, or slip something into my drink (her idea, not mine—because what would I ever be drinking on the bus?), or something equally heinous. Personally, I just liked sitting across from him because he was always too high to ever attempt to make conversation. Which is why I really hated it when he got drug tested and got suspended for two weeks. Katy loved this, because she was actually a very sweet girl, all in all, and seemed to genuinely care about my well-being. She’d always been like this, really.
I was about to insist that I could walk home—which probably wouldn’t be the most fun experience of my life, seeing as it was ninety degrees outside and I was dressed all in black—when Bane interjected with, “I’ll take her anywhere she needs to go.”
We both turned to look at him, Katy whipping around, I turning more slowly. So maybe Bane’s observation about my moving slowly had been accurate. I preferred to think of it as having some modicum of physical restraint. Bane shrugged, looking like he considered us nuts. “What? It’s not a big deal,” he protested.
“Who are you?” Katy demanded. I recognized the signs; her motherly instincts were kicking in, and she wouldn’t pawn me off to just anyone. I was her charge as much as her cousin, the way she saw it sometimes, anyway, and she would ensure that I had a way to get home.
Bane stuck out his hand and Katy shook it, looking at me oddly. I shot her back a look that said I understood—Bane was a weirdo, wanting to shake everyone’s hand. It was very polite, sure, but also extremely odd. Katy raised an amused eyebrow before turning back to Bane. We’d perfected the art of unspoken communication years earlier. When you spend half your lives living in the same room, these things just happen, I suppose.
“Bane Morrison,” he introduced himself. “I work with Deirdre on the literary magazine.” Katy looked at me, and I averted my eyes, as if to say, ‘whatever.’ There were worse things than being driven home by Bane, I supposed—like walking. Walking would have been thoroughly unpleasant. And, besides, how much could he bug me in the ten-minute drive home?
Katy shrugged. My acceptance was good enough for her. “Thanks then. And nice to meet you…Bane.” I got a sick sort of glee at the fact that she paused before his name. Because it wasn’t really a name. “I’ll see you at home, Deirdre.” I nodded once.
“Your sister seems nice,” Bane offered when Katy had walked away. I didn’t bother to correct him. What did it matter, really, if Bane thought that Katy was my sister instead of my cousin?
When I didn’t make any move to answer, Bane leaned forward, elbows on the table. By now he was done with my sandwich, and had pulled a cupcake from the bag. If I’d known there was a cupcake in there, I never would have given him my lunch. “Here’s the thing, Deirdre,” he said in all seriousness, usual smile gone. “I need you. You’ve been here for four years, and you know how this magazine works. You know everyone on it. You know where we’re going to get willing work, and where we’re going to have to beg for submissions. You’ve got everything that I don’t.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “In fact, the only thing that I’ve got that you don’t is that I talk.” Clearly he didn’t know about the charisma. “What I’m saying is that you’re gonna have to work with me on this one. We can work on this together, right?”
I turned my head away, settling my gaze on one of the school’s many murals. After a few seconds of this, I heard Bane sigh. It probably would have been more mature of me to say something like, “Okay, Bane (which is a weird name), we can do this together!” or some other peppy comment. But I wasn’t entirely sure I was up for talking. This pseudo conversation with Bane was the longest I’d had in a while, and I’d only said, what, three, four words? Anyone I who knew me also knew that I didn’t really talk, and so didn’t engage me in conversation. I didn’t think I could go reverse Cold Turkey like that.
The bell signaling the end of lunch rang, and I hefted my bag onto my shoulder. Bane crumpled up my lunch bag, having finished the chocolate cupcake that should have been mine, and tossed it in the garbage can on the way out the door. “I’ll meet you outside the front doors three minutes after school’s done,” he said. Then, he seemed to reassess the speed at which I was moving. “Five minutes.”
I nodded once, as per my usual.
Edited by Ari-san, 31 December 2008 - 11:28 AM.
We're all going Winter and Vertigo (Awards)!