To Seal Our Happiness (Part 2)
A Whateley Academy Tale
To Seal Our Happiness
Parents' Day 2007
E. E. Nalley
You're in the car on the way to the movies
And you're mortified your mom's dropping you off
At fourteen, there's just so much you can't do
And you can't wait to move out
Someday and call your own shots
But don't make her drop you off around the block
Remember that she's getting older too
And don't lose the way that you dance around in your p.j.s getting ready for school
Taylor Swift, Never Grow Up
October, 27th, 2007
Room 316, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy
“It's good to know things never change,” Shelly announced as she came back into the room and shut the door behind her. Outside, the hallway was a riot of people coming and going, parents greeting children and the din of a hundred different conversations.
“I guess everyday is Parent's day for you,” Maggie Finson agreed as she looked up at her roommate from her desk. Shelly shrugged.
“It wouldn't be so bad if getting in trouble with the Headmistress and my Mom weren't the same thing,” Carson complained, even though she was smiling. “When do your folks...?”
“Oh, they're not coming,” Maggie told her as she turned back to her laptop and the story she was writing.
“Tough break,” Shelly said by way of apology. “Ironically, my mom is gonna be so busy with everybody else's parents, I always cut her a wide swath today. You want to go into Berlin? We could catch a movie...?” Maggie shook her head.
“No, thanks, I'm gonna work on this.”
“Suit yourself,” Shelly declared jauntily as she grabbed her purse and a jacket. “Don't wait up.” The door closed and Maggie sighed as she looked at the empty desk and bed. A tear rolled down her cheek to be wiped away and a sniff to keep her sinus' clear.
She closed the laptop once she was sure Shelly wouldn’t return due to having forgotten something and fished her Book of Shadows from its hiding place. It opened on her desk to the spell formula she'd been working on for six months practically of its own accord. A casual mention in a history book had sparked the idea, then some very judicious and carefully worded research let her understand about spirits and hallows and the human body.
Of course, the school library would never let her have access to the restricted section for the teachers research, but the school library was a member of several public and collegiate library systems that offered inter-branch transfer. She couldn't get a hold of the school's copy of the Mali Scientiam, but that wasn't the only copy of the work.
And the library of Boston University had a fine collection of magic books for their Sorcery program, and they were a member of the New England Educational Library System. Maggie opened the tome of black magic and continued her research into spells of spirit banishing from hallows.
Ironically, the spell of resurrection she had worked on so hard would serve nicely when reversed properly.
“Soon, Lanie,” she whispered. “I'll have you free soon.”
October 27th, 2007
The Fixer's Patio, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Adam Carlyle was having the time of his six year old life.
Being on an airplane had been exciting, the flight had lasted so long it had quickly gotten old and boring. Then the train ride was nothing special either, as America looked like a greener, colder, hillier Australia. Sure, the cars were made backwards, and they drove on the wrong side of the road and talked funny, but it wasn't that different. What was different was now that they were finally on the grounds of Whateley Academy.
It was the coolest place, ever!
Not only was his brother here, which just by itself would be awesome, but there were lots of cool other kids too! Kids who could fly or were made of rock, or looked like funny animals, it was amazing! He couldn't take it in fast enough, constantly pulling on his parents to look too and fro and understand just how awesome this place was!
Mom had to go sit in some boring room and listen to some other adult talk about rules and Gee something, but he didn't care because Jack had been in the room. He had squealed with delight and run up to hug his big brother, much to the shock of some of the other adults filing into the room. Then the boring adult said Jack could go and the best words Adam ever heard came from his mom.
“Jack, why don't you take Adam and play outside while I finish the orientation?”
Within seconds, Adam was on his brothers back outside in the open air and loping off around this amazing place. “Faster! Faster!” he yelled, absolutely thrilled.
October 27th, 2007
Homer Gallery, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Amelia Hartford always was a bit envious of how easily Mrs Carson could work a crowd. In many ways, Elizabeth Carson was like a social chameleon, stern authoritarian when needed to the kids, sympathic mother figure to those in need, shameless socialite completely at home with presidents to paupers and everyone in between; it was always a treat to watch her work a room. To the donors and trustees she was the wise, diligent accountant, making sure every penny was well spent, to the parents she was the calmly capable educator personified, able to stare down a charging rhino of a student or gently inspire a wall flower to come out of his or her shell and bloom. It was just amazing to watch.
Yet, for all her white hat, super heroine Scion of Justice public persona, Amelia Hartford was closer to Elizabeth Carson than most, and she knew the dark side of the Headmistress. She knew that in some matters, Elizabeth Carson couldn't care less about fairness, or rules come to that when she persued justice. And God help you if you threatened one of her kids; she had a mean streak a mile wide, six fathoms deep wrapped around the truly terrifying patience of a professional torturer.
It went without saying that she considered every student on this campus one of her kids.
In defense of her students, Elizabeth Carson was a force of nature, implacable, irresistible and every bit as relentless. So when her boss casually walked up to one of the parents Amelia knew to be a threat to their own child, her disconcerting smile spread across her face as she settled in to watch, wishing she had popcorn. She gently ribbed her fiance with her elbow and discretely directed his attention to the headmistress as she arrived at a well-dressed man with a woman half his age who was not appropriately dressed on his arm. “Ah, the show is about to start,” Fredrick murmured.
“Now this,” Tansy declared as she indicated the manikin wearing a blue body stocking with a pair of stylized white capital 'M' letters splashed across it. “Is the uniform of...”
“Ms. Might!” exclaimed Mrs Dawson.
“You knew her, mom?” asked Marissa, genuinely surprised.
“Oh, no, not really,” Penelope declared. “But I did meet her several times. In the seventies, she was active in Boston, and the Girl Scouts was one of the charities she felt strongly about. She attended several banquets and functions I put on.”
“Really?” Tansy asked.
“Oh, your mother was just a toddler, but I remember being very impressed with her. Goodness, she must be dead by now, how...”
“Oh, she's not dead,” Tansy replied with a smile. “Well, not yet.”
“I haven't heard of her...” started the Dawson matriarch, but her husband chuckled and kissed her temple.
“Come now, Penny, you remember she changed her name to Lady Astarte, don't you?” He asked, and Tansy shared a glance with her own mother. Penelope rolled her eyes and made a gesture of self deprication.
“Oh, how silly of me!” she declared with a smile. “Goodness gracious I feel so silly. And she works here, you said, Marissa?”
“That's right, mother, she's the Headmistress.”
“Well, I should go pay my respects. Perhaps us old ladies can have some punch and reminisce about the good old days!” She paused, then leaned into her granddaughter's ear. “Tansy, dear heart, where is the ladies room?”
“I'll take you, grandma,” the blonde replied, with a gesture toward the gallery's entrance. After they were gone, Marissa turned to her father with some concern.
“Dad? What's going on with mom?”
Mr Dawson's face was uneasy and that immediately got his daughter more worried. He warred with himself behind his eyes before he finally sighed and nodded. “I'm sorry, sweetheart, it's Alzheimer's.” Marissa's hand went to her mouth in horror. “It's still in the early stages so far, she forgets things, where her keys are, getting dates confused. She had always been so sharp I realized something was wrong right away. Part of the reason we went to Venice was a top ranked neuroscience practice there, and the EU has a trial for a new treatment that is based on Solon-4...”
Marissa felt her alabaster complexion pale even more. “Dad, devisor drugs are so dangerous...”
His eyes were sad and desperate at the same time. “I can't lose her, Marissa,” he told her quietly. “I...I just...can't.” He sighed and squared his shoulders. “We're going back next week if she's accepted into the study.”
“At least give me the names of this trial and the practice, dad,” she admitted urgently. “I've made some excellent friends here. Let me find out for sure it's legitimate...”
“Alright, that's fair,” he declared.
October 27th, 2007
Back Patio, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Mrs Nalley raised her hand in greeting as she caught sight of the unmistakable form of Wyatt Cody. The young man was already a mountain of a man, and both a sweet, thoughtful gentleman and physical specimen practically without equal. She was certain her daughter would be well taken care of by him and was pleased with her choice. He was talking with her son, Stephen, and the boys seemed to have become friends, which was also something of a blessing, but she didn't recognize the woman with him.
Although she could guess.
What she didn't see was her husband or her daughter, which likely meant he had engineered some time for them alone to discuss her letter. As she stood, JoAnn put a welcoming smile on her face, but there was worry in the back of her mind. Elaine had seemed quite adamant that, despite her preference and her mind still shied away from it, she was in love with and intended to marry Wyatt. Why write a letter to her father admitting her experimentation now? She wondered as she embraced her future son-in-law. “Wyatt, how are you?”
“Well, Mrs Nalley,” he said with a smile and a gentle return squeeze showing his mastery of his abilities. JoAnn had seen him lift up the front of her husband's tow truck so he could change a tire, and hold it without effort the whole time. “Can I introduce you to my mother, Dr Catherine Cody?”
The teacher in JoAnn Nalley could not allow the mistake to pass. “I don't know,” she replied with an arched eyebrow. “Can you?”
Wyatt rolled his eyes. “May I introduce you to my mother, Dr Catherine Cody? Mom, this is Lanie's mother, who it is now obvious is a teacher.”
“Charmed,” Dr Cody declared as the two women shook hands.
“A pleasure,” Mrs Nalley replied with a gesture to the table. “Won't you join us? I understood from my daughter you wouldn't be able to attend.”
Dr Cody smiled a somewhat tight smile as her son found and pulled over extra chairs. “Something came up that allowed me change my plans at the last minute. What do you teach?”
“High school art and Latin.” She indicated Marty as she settled into the familiar role as hostess. “This is Martine Penn, a friend of my son's. We...” She trailed off as she caught sight of what looked like a dinosaur running through the field below the courtyard with what looked like a young child riding him. “Should...should I be worried?” she asked.
Wyatt and Marty followed her gaze and Marty shook her head. “That's Jack, the student I told you about in how I met Stephen.”
“Stephen was protecting the boy or the dinosaur was the other student...?”
Wyatt laughed. “Jack is the dinosaur,” he said. “I don't recognize the boy, maybe a relative of Jacks.”
“Yes, I'm very glad I don't have to deal with things like this at my school,” Mrs Nalley declared. “Now, Marty, I don't know if he had forgotten, but I asked Stephen to ask you if you would join us for Thanksgiving this year?”
“I would love to, Mrs Nalley, but I haven't had a chance to talk with my parents yet. They're here, but in the first visitor class because this is the first year they could make it. That should be getting out about now, too...”
“Is anyone hungry?” Wyatt asked as he caught sight of Mr Nalley and Lanie coming outside and stood to welcome her. “We might want to get a head start on lunch, if we want to avoid the crush.”
“I could certainly stand a bite,” Mr Nalley announced as he and his daughter arrived at the table. “Dr Cody, would you and Wyatt join us?”
“I wouldn't miss it!”
October 27th, 2007
Hallway outside the girls restroom, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Tansy stood outside the girl's restroom and worried. She hadn't meant to look into her grandmother's mind, but her dress left her arms bear and Penelope had taken a hold of her as they walked. She clearly heard the mental gymnastics the older woman was using to keep track of things in her mind, chanting them over and over so she wouldn't forget. Tansy had felt the frustration of a towering intellect at being so easily confused and heart wrenching agony now that she finally had her daughter and granddaughter in her life, she was literally loosing her mind.
And that made Tansy livid.
It was bad enough she had been robbed of her childhood, been twisted and tortured by a wicked man for his own selfish ends, but that he had used her to hurt others had Tansy seething. What was worse, she better than anyone could look into her grandmothers mind and see just how much she was being affected by something, but she felt powerless to act. Her grandmothers mind wasn't suffering from delusion or inability to see things for what they were, it felt damaged. As though a broken computer, the programs were fine but the hardware wasn't working right.
Tansy's spinning thoughts were interrupted by a small, dulcet voice and a gentle tug of her blouse. She looked down to see the rosy cheeks under the raven's wing curls of Angelina Cromwell, and she almost didn't need her power to know she was upset. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying and there were tear stains on her cheeks and her nose was running which tugged at her heart strings as the little girl was wearing her best dress and had obviously taken great pride in her appearance. Kneeling down, she asked, “Angie, what's wrong?”
“I can't find my parents!” she managed around her desperate attempts not to cry. “Gene said everybody's parents would be here today and I can't find mine and...”
Tansy gasped in fright and suppressed outrage. Angelina's parents were dead, having died in the fire that consumed their home when her powers activated. This had been kept from the little girl to give her time to grow up without the burden of accidentally killing her mother and father. Gene must be Gene 'Mega-Boy' McDonald who probably had a crush on Angelina because he delighted in tormenting her.
And now Angelina was upset and Angelina didn't have a good grip on her powers in the best of circumstances, but least of all when she was upset. Tansy took the girl into her arms and sent out soothing feelings of warmth, love and acceptance as she picked Angie up and cuddled her. “Oh, Angie, You know how much Gene loves to tell you fibs...”
“But, they have to, Miss Tansy! I...I...”
Tansy gently increased the calm feelings as she cradled the little girl in her arms. “What about if I was your mommy for today?” she asked. “How would that be? You could meet my mommy and my grand mommy and you could show us all the cool things about the school?”
The temperature, which had been getting uncomfortably warm, began to cool. “And...if my mommy comes she could come with us?”
“Of course she could,” Tansy assured her. “But for now we'll pretend I am your mommy, right?” Angie giggled and nodded, her good humor restored. Tansy returned the girl to her feet and fished out a napkin from her purse she used to clean Angie's face.
“Hello,” Angie greeted someone behind her and hugged Tansy around her neck. “This is my mommy!”
“I heard!” Mrs Dawson replied with obvious delight and a touching expression on her face. “And I am your mommy's grand mommy...”
“Grandma!” Angelina declared, releasing Tansy to hug her grandmother. Tansy stood up and smiled a sheepish smile.
“Grandma, this is Angelina.” Tansy reached out and touched Mrs Dawson's arm. She has control issues with her fire powers so we need to keep her calm, she pushed her thoughts at her grand mother, surprising her. Yes, it's me, grandma, telepathy is one of my...abilities. Out loud, she said, “Angie, why don't you take grandma and I to the Homer Gallery?”
“This way!” the young girl declared, taking Mrs Dawson's hand and pulling her forward. The women were pulled by a force of nature back into the Homer Gallery where Angelina came to a stop in front of the little pallet of gold bricks. Seeing her daughter's predicament, Marissa and her father ambled over, only for Mr Dawson to suddenly discover he had a new granddaughter and was quickly caught up in hugs of introduction.
“What's going on?” Marissa quietly asked Tansy as Angelina launched into a detailed, and likely factually incorrect lecture about the gold, its owner and their motives.
Tansy quietly informed her mother of the little girl, her history and difficulty with her powers. “She's getting better,” Tansy commented at the end of her summation. “Now she's only having trouble when she's upset, and of course with Gene's teasing...well, crisis averted.”
Marissa looked at her daughter in an entirely new light. Placing a hand on her shoulder, Tansy felt her mother's emotions and was surprised by them. “I'm so proud of you, Tansy,” she whispered back. “What a wonderful mother you will make!”
Tansy smiled and blushed. “Well, time enough for lots of things.”
The intercom system in the building crackled to life and Ms Hartford's voice rolled out of the nearest speaker. “May I have your attention, please? Could the On Duty Legal Council report to administration please? Could the On Duty Legal Council report to administration please? Thank you.”
Marissa tapped her daughter on the shoulder. “That's me. Mom? Will you and dad be alright here for a few minutes? I need to run to admin for moment.”
“They need you?” her father asked. “I'm sure we'll be fine with our new granddaughter to tell us all about this wonderful museum!” Angelina giggled as Marissa turned back to her daughter.
“Come with me, you'll enjoy this.”
October 27th, 2007
Doyle Medical Center, Nuclear Medicine Theater
John sat in the well shielded Nuclear Medicine Theater and sighed. It was just as well his parents weren't coming, seeing your parents naked was a nightmare no one should be subjected to. Thanks to Tansy, the doctors and Jericho had discovered that what his power actually was doing was not, strictly speaking, to do with his eyes.
Jericho had been able to discover that he was emitting some narrow wave, energetic particle that was below Extreme Ultra Violet, but also not an X-Ray. Dr Tenent had dubbed it Turner's Radiation and they had worked out that John's optic nerves were interpreting the 'bounce' of the particle as a kind of natural radar in the visible spectrum, which began to explain why he could see through some materials but not others. Fortunately the particle was not ionizing, so skin stopped it, which was why everyone appeared naked to John.
Jericho had insisted that the unit of measure for Turner's Radiation, when they developed a way to measure it, would be scandals. Dr Tenent had rolled her eyes, but made the notation.
That left them with the task of finding a material that was opaque to the particle, but transparent to the visible spectrum. Shelly had just dropped off a series of materials she had created, all of which were UV opaque to test with Peeper. Most of them either blocked or did strange things to colors, leaving the world in shades of gray, black and white or odd violet tinting which Jericho had laughingly called 'Purple Haze.'
It was tedious work, picking up the material, looking at a color wheel and adjusting a computer program to what he saw to see how far off his perception was. But it was progress; even the first black and while failure had allowed him to finally see a computer screen.
John picked up a new sample and looked through it. No haze, no obvious distortion, this was promising. He picked up the wheel and began to adjust the program one value at a time. The computer beeped and he stared, somewhat in shock at the result. One hundred percent. Quickly, he did the other colors on the wheel and each time the results were either perfect or in the high nineties. John looked down and realized the shirt he was wearing was green.
His eyes filled with tears as he understood he could see a green shirt.
“Dr Tenent!” he yelled, his voice cracking with the overwhelming sense of joy mixed with disbelief that he felt. “My shirt is green!”
October 27th, 2007
Lecture Hall One, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
“Mr. Walcutt,” Mrs Carson greeted. “So nice of you to attend.”
Theodore Walcutt straightened the tie of his likely five figure silk suit without real need and did his best not bristle at the tone the Headmistress choose to use. Instead, he turned on the charm, Mrs Carson was a beautiful woman after all, and while he enjoyed playing the field he did have a weakness for blondes. “Your messages were certainly dire enough, Mrs. Carson!” he replied with just enough invective to carry the subtle message he didn't consider her issue, what ever it was, an emergency. “Still, for what I pay for this school, I would think a courier's expense could have been covered.”
“Where the welfare of our students are concerned, Mr Walcutt, we at Whateley are always willing to go to extreme measures,” Mrs Carson replied, refusing to rise to the bait. The business man, who likely considered himself tall was eye to eye with the Headmistress, thanks to just a touch of help from Mario Prada, and it was throwing him off his game not to have the psychological advantage.
“If I had known this was some kind of holiday...”
“Parents day is a yearly event,” Mrs Carson cut him off. “We invite all of our parents to come to an understanding of how special their child is and to help them embrace that gift.”
“I am well aware of my daughter's gifts and talents, thank you. I pay her tuition for her education and the social contacts she will doubtlessly make here,” Walcutt shot back. “I have neither the time, nor the interest to press flesh with these...people...so if you will kindly conduct whatever business required my presence we can both get on with our busy lives.”
Mrs Carson's smile was the smile of a jungle cat, just about to pounce. “Of course. If you'd like to join me in my office? Amelia? Would you be so kind as to fetch your Notary Stamp so we can get Mr. Walcutt on his way without delay?”
“I would be delighted, Dr Carson.”
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, but while Theo was comforted by the pistol under his armpit, his cellphone with its speed dial function to his lawyers assured him he was untouchable. He followed the two women upstairs to the Administration Offices. Mrs Carson blithely led the way into her office, not bothering to close the door. “Amelia, we'll need the council on duty,” she reminded her assistant who immediately walked over to the master control for the intercom system.
October 27th, 2007
Apartment A16, Faculty Housing Complex, Whateley Academy
The door to their apartment was barely shut before Maria and Donna were kissing. Not casual or friendly kissing either, these were deeply passionate and, with a yelp of surprise and a somewhat embarrassed grin, Maria introduced Donna to French Kissing. As the two girls kissed, each began to pour out their heartache and loneliness as they clung tightly together.
Lunch, they were forced to admit, was really just an excuse and they had been circling each other for weeks, each trying to suss out who or how would the first move be made. Breaking for a moment, Donna looked into Maria's endless amber eyes and, pricked by her conscience, forced herself to whisper, “Maria, I...I'm not her.”
The lovely Hispanic girl pulled back for a moment, her eyes and lips still smiling. She raised a hand and lovingly stroked Donn's cheek. “I know,” she told her gently. Leaning forward, she kissed Donna's nose and touched her forehead to the other girls' each staring deeply into the others eyes. “Donna, I'm not her either.”
Donna couldn't keep in a giggle as she nodded and bit her lower lip. “Well, I'll swear off Blondes if you swear off Redheads...?”
“Deal!” Maria returned enthusiastically then their lips rejoined and they had better things to do than converse.
October 27th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
From her desk, Mrs Carson removed a folder and opened it while perching her glasses on her nose. “Please, make yourself comfortable,” she invited, gesturing to the chairs before her desk. “I apologize for the inconvenience, our attorney insisted these documents be updated. I'm sure you understand.” She took the top one and handed it over her desk, while offering a pen. “This is a renewal of the statement of in loco parentis, stating you grant us the authority to act on your daughters best interests and to hold us without indemnity for those actions.”
“Hardly the kind of thing a courier could not have brought,” Walcutt replied as he quickly read over the document and signed it.
“Oh no,” Mrs Carson declared, all smiles. “I'm just taking advantage of you being here for this. The council will be here in just a moment with those papers.”
“So noted,” Ms Hartford declared as she notarized the paper and returned it to Mrs Carson.
“And, while you're here, our itemized summary and authorization for the remainder of Miss Walcutt's tuition and board expenses.” The Headmistress handed a sheaf of papers across the desk while Amelia noted the blanks for him.
“Signature, initial, initial, initial, sign and date,” she murmured, taking them and signing herself along with affixing her seal as a notary public.
“Now,” Mrs Carson declared, turning an icy glance on the woman Mr Walcutt had brought with him. “These are matters of a family nature, and privileged, Miss...?”
“I'm Teddy's fiancee!” the brunette protested, but Walcutt patted her hand.
“It's alright, my dear, merely legal matters, you understand?” He smiled. “Why don't you wait for me outside?” She stood, obviously used to taking orders and gathered her things before strolling out of the office. “Now...” he started, but was interrupted by a firm voice walking up to him.
“Theodore Darryl Walcutt?”
Walcutt flinched in surprise as his head jerked around. “Marissa? What...?”
“Am I doing out of the little hospital prison you dropped me in?” she demanded archly. “My duties as an officer of the court.” She held out several blue envelopes in her hand. “You've been served.”
“So noted,” added Ms Hartford with a positively evil smile.
“What is this?” roared Walcutt in outrage, jumping to his feet. She held out the first envelope.
“This is a notice of my filing of a civil suit challenging our divorce decree on the grounds you acted in bad faith having me committed against my will, setting yourself up as my legal guardian and then divorcing me without due process!” Marissa purred, obviously enjoying herself.
“You want to annul our divorce?” he demanded, stunned.
“I would become a lesbian before taking you back,” Marissa snarled. “But you're not going to give yourself a sweetheart deal acting on my behalf in our divorce!” She took the next envelope and presented it with great relish. “This is an order from Judge Masters suspending your rights as custodial parent of our daughter until such steward ship can be reviewed and adjudicated by all parties concerned, naming Elizabeth Carson, Headmistress of Whateley Academy as Tansy's legal guardian in the interim, as well as the Trustee of her Collegiate and Inheritable Trust Funds!”
Walcutt whirled to snarl at Mrs Carson, his face flush and enraged. “You bitch! You're in on this, aren't you? Do you have any idea what I am going to do to you...?”
Mrs Carson held up the in loco parentis form. “You won't do a thing to me, my school or my students,” she declared icily. “And you can rest assured whatever I can do to you in the best interest of Tansy Penelope Walcutt I will do without a second of hesitation!”
“This,” interrupted Marissa once more, “is a notice of the freezing of all of your assets and chattel pending the refiled divorce proceedings, any attempt by you to move off shore or conceal our marital assets will be considered contempt of court and so sanctioned, govern yourself accordingly! And last, but not least a federal restraining order that compels you to stay no less than five hundred feet from me, my parents and Tansy!”
Looking around for some ally in the collection of hostile women, Theo reached out to his daughter. “Tansy, I...” His lips froze as a wave of sheer, stark terror enveloped him, radiating out from his daughter and the terrifying gaze of rage and contempt she held for him.
“You can't fool me,” she snarled. “Not any more! I know exactly who and what you are, daddy! Don't you ever speak to me again!”
Mrs Carson rose and took her glasses off. “I'm inclined to be charitable, Mr Walcutt, so I will give you two minutes before I call my security department and have you arrested for violation of a restraining order. Get off of the grounds of my school!”
With a final, wordless growl of impotent rage, Theo Walcutt snatched the envelopes from Marissa's hand and stalked out, slamming the door behind him. After a long moment, Marissa sighed and hugged her daughter. “Didn't I tell you you'd enjoy it?”
“Not as much as you did!” Tansy shot back with a grin.
“You haven't seen anything yet, my darling!” Marissa Dawson permitted herself a cruel chuckle. “I have not yet begun to bitch!”
October 27th, 2007
Main Foyer, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Schuster Hall was more than a bit iconic in it's shape and thus held a center stage position in the memory of most of the school's alumni. Of course, the Schuster Hall of Fredrick Coveanus memory did not include the current buildings most recognizable feature, the Crystal Hall. As the man known to the world as Lord Paramount awaited the return of his fiancee he milled about in the front foyer of the building lost in thought, remembering his boyhood.
The school had changed considerably since he had been a student and the sense of nostalgia was bitter sweet as he remembered times gone by. Sticking his hands into the pickets of his silk suit he gazed up at the portrait of a Vermont assemblyman from nearly a century ago. He chuckled at how his curiosity had lead to a term paper on the man, the most successful of the original Whateley Academy graduates, and what a chore finding any information on the obscure man had been.
His perfect recall meant he would go to his grave knowing far too much about a man history had largely forgotten.
As he meandered from the little clutch of leather backed chairs to the stairway up to the second floor and leaned against the wall to glance into the standing open Homer Gallery, Fredrick reflected on his long life and ruefully shook his head. Having been an orphan, Parents Day' had always been a holiday of mixed emotion for him. He had taken the opportunity to volunteer to be an assistant during his tenure, both for the extra credit and for the good will it bought him with the staff.
Dr Alexander had always looked at him askance as he did so, but grudgingly came to be friendly by the Parent's Day of Fredrick's senior year.
“You don't fool me, Mr Coveanu,” he was fond of informing him on the rare times he had run afoul of the Headmaster. The Prince of Wallachia smiled as he remembered the last thing the old Headmaster had told him. “I will be proud to say 'I knew him when,' Mr Coveanu.” News of his passing had hit the Prince much harder than we would have guessed.
The Headmaster had been dead before he had reclaimed his kingdom, well on his way to becoming a fading memory before the Alumni Association admitted that Lord Paramount was, in fact, the new highest achiever of the school. Fredrick smiled as he recalled the incensed, outraged diatribe of Joe Wilkins, the previous holder of the coveted title and the unfair Western Civilization bias of the committee in placing a higher value on a 'Postage Stamp Country of Europe' over his Island Paradise.
He smiled as he remembered his taunt of, “Perhaps you should give more to the school and endow a chair or two.”
“Bribes!” Wilkins had sneered.
Ah well, He thought to himself as yet again he realized the chief failing of the technology track kids was their inability to allow themselves to understand how the world really worked. Dr Alexander was gone, but Lord Paramount remembered him and tried to see that others did too. He had, anonymously, funded the remembrance garden and paid for the cenotaph bust of the first Headmaster there from his own pocket. Some men deserved the judgment history passed on them, but some deserved to be remembered and honored for the roll they played in the shaping of the world and Lord Paramount would do what he could to see that the world remembered Clifford Alexander.
Fredrick directed a lost couple towards the cottage their child resided at and even gave a smiling selfie to them on the strict request they be discreet. His thoughts were returning to yesteryear before a smooth, powerful baritone interrupted them. “Your Highness.”
Turning, Fredrick took in a tall, well built man who looked to be in his early thirties, but he knew that with Exemplars that was never accurate. He extended his hand to return the handshake being offered. “Mr. Turner,” he greeted. “You're looking well. How are things in Providence?”
“Robert,” he corrected. The hero smiled and shrugged causing his polo shirt, a black one with the school's crest in gold on his breast with the legend Alumni under it to strain slightly. “As well as can be expected. Awaiting my wife and our daughter before we head to the Crystal Hall for lunch. You?”
“We both seem to be waiting on the women in our lives, Robert, and since we're both incognito, it's just Fredrick. I await my lady Amelia from some business in administration. So I was loitering around here remembering old memories.”
He chuckled as the men looked out over the small crowd of somewhat awestruck parents touring the Gallery. “This place has that effect on me, too. They say you never leave High School.”
“I was just thinking you can't go back,” Coveanu replied with a laugh the two men shared. “Of course, my campus had no Crystal Hall, and our beloved Headmistress was just an English teacher.”
“Mrs. Carson has been many things, but I don't think 'just' will ever apply to her.”
Coveanu grinned and nodded. “You have a point! Still, a part of me keeps expecting Dr Alexander to come around one of these corners, puffing on his pipe with book under one arm.”
Robert shook his head with a chagrined expression. “Funny, I can't imagine anyone smoking in this place.”
“It was a different time,” Fredrick allowed. He looked down his nose a bit at the pile of gold and tsked between his teeth. “Things have become a bit more shallow and tolerant of gauche display these days.” Robert followed his gaze and rubbed his chin.
“In a way though, don't all of us in The Life go a little over the top when we want to make a statement? What is a ton of gold verses conquering a country?”
Fredrick smiled thinly, but was genuinely amused. “Touche, Robert.” A man in a very expensive suit came storming down the stairs, shouting obscenities as he went, being chased by a woman who had all the ear marks of an experienced miner sticking with a claim. “I see my beloved's trap has been sprung.”
“Only Amelia Hartford can get under a man's skin like that,” he elaborated, nodding his head in the direction the man had stormed out. “Some trouble with a student who's father doesn't understand that the needs of his child come before his own.”
“I used to think being a parent taught that lesson pretty quickly, but there are always statistical outliers I suppose.” He caught sight of his wife and daughter and raised a hand in greeting. “I should be going, but I wanted to say that it was a pleasure talking with you, your highness. And also to say how much I respect the seriousness and diligence with which you're treating your role as a Trustee. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but somehow I'm certain Dr Alexander would be proud.”
The two men shook hands. “Robert, I'm pleased to be able to give out of my success for the success of our future, like your charming daughter. Who knows? In a few years, Amelia and I might be in the family way and I certainly want to make sure the school is here for our children. Speaking of, when can we coax you into taking a more active hand here? The school could use a man of your ability and conviction.”
Robert Turner shrugged. “Who knows what the future holds?”
October 27th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Catherine Cody had listened to her son's stories about the Crystal Hall.
She had even seen the photographs and how proudly he bragged about spearheading the renovation of the space as the legacy of the Class of 2007, but even with all of that she was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of the space into which she entered. The Nalleys were obviously old hands, but Mr Nalley did stare a bit at the tiers rising over their head and the massive stone waterfall cascading down from it so it was apparent that they were new to him. The sheer scale of the building was mind boggling, and then the smells hit her.
She hung up her jacket on the wall of hooks for it and follow the small crowd of her party into a wonderfully understated serving line from which came the odor of dozens of items that set her mouth to watering. First was a buffet line the likes of which she hadn't seen since before her son was born. Barrow had a grand total of eight restaurants, two pizza parlors, three diners, one Mexican place, one Japanese place, and a Subway; and everything had to be flown in. She hadn't seen a buffet in years. There was a chef carving roast beef off what looked like a quarter of a cow, next to it were two hams that looked to be in the twenty-five pound range one smoked, the other brown sugar glazed and the carcass of a complete roasted turkey that was being swapped out with a fresh one. There were steam table trays with fried, baked, roasted and rotisserie chicken, four different fish entries and a tray of meatloaf and that was just the meats.
Around the way was a steam table with just about every kind of side or vegetable you could serve hot. Across from it was a salad bar that looked like a complete farm was required to stock by itself. In addition there was a cook doing short order with hot sandwiches and burgers, and a build to order cold sandwich line. There was a fountain and drink cooler that would have been at home in a mega gas station anywhere. “Good grief, Kody,” she whispered to her son. “Who eats all of this?”
Wyatt chuckled as he picked up a pair of trays from the bin and handed one to his mother. “Oh, you'd be surprised, Mom. There isn't much waste here.”
She looked over his shoulder at a girl whose tray had five plates on it and an almost cartoonishly gluttonous amount of food. The girl saw her staring and blushed, obviously self conscious about her tray, but she couldn't have weighed more than a hundred and twenty pounds. Wyatt followed her gaze and gave an apologetic wave. “Mom, some of these kids, well, me included, have really high metabolisms. The energizers can eat their own body weight every day. These powers take a lot of energy.”
“But her stomach can't be physically large enough to hold all of that!”
“Mrs Cody, most of it won't reach her stomach,” Lanie replied, having taken note of the conversation. “A number of energizers absorb the water out of the food in their esophagus. Here, look at this,” she said, taking out her phone and fiddling with it, before turning the screen to Mrs Cody. She saw an MRI of someone sitting and drinking a glass of some liquid and it vanished before it could reach his stomach. Next came a mouthful of food that seemed to melt into his teeth and by the time he swallowed almost nothing reached his stomach.
“Lord have mercy!” she whispered, captivated. “I had read a few papers on mutation, but I never dreamed...!”
In her ear, Wyatt whispered, “Try not to stare, mom, some of these kids feel really bad about how much they eat.”
Catherine smiled and kissed her son's cheek. “Every time I worry you will turn into your father, Wyatt, you go and show me what a good man you are.”
He grinned a lopsided grin. “Thanks, I guess...”
“Oh, its a compliment,” she assured him. “Yes, I'll have some roast beef, please, au jus on the side.” The remaining space on her plate quickly filled with a selection of vegetable side dishes, she followed her son to what looked like a pay island. The lady manning it quickly worked a touch screen and then took the plate and weighed it while he tapped a card against a device built into the island. She started to offer her own tray, but the lady smiled and shook her head.
“You're fine, ma'am, we only track the students.”
That settled, Wyatt led the party over to the elevators and up to the top tier. From there, he went to the Alpha Dais and sat down his tray at the head table to do a quick head count. “I think we'll all fit,” he declared as he sat down.
“What a magnificent view!” Mrs Nalley declared as she took in the waterfall and its cascade down to the planters below. There was a general commotion of people getting settled, removing coats and passing condiments. This was repeated as the Penns, being led by Marty arrived and were introduced to the Nalleys.
Catherine leaned over to her son and whispered, “We have the makings of our own clan here!”
Wyatt grinned and sweetened his coffee. “Well, if there's one thing I've learned at this school it's how to network.” Taking a sip he became a bit more serious. “So, mom, what's going on that changed your mind about coming down? Everything ok back at home?”
Mrs Cody sighed as she poked at her green beans and decided to add some salt to them. “You always were perceptive, son,” she said softly as she took a bite to buy herself time. Her son frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. Finally, she decided there was no point in delaying the inevitable. “Wyatt, your father and I are getting a divorce.”
October 27th, 2007
Hawthorne Cottage, Whateley Academy
“Bigger crowd, this year,” muttered Gunny as he adjusted the tie on his service alpha uniform to sit a bit more comfortably on his neck. The shirt was a bit close and he made a mental note to up his personal PT regimen to make sure he didn't exceed weight requirement. Next to him, Mrs. Cantrel chuckled in her floating chair and playfully slapped at his hand.
“You look fine,” she scolded him. “The very model of a...”
“Don't say it,” he growled, but there was no bite to his bark and she knew it. “You know how much I hate show tunes...”
“And what is Jazz?” she demanded.
“Jazz is life,” he retorted and then softened his scowl with a lopsided grin. “As you well know.”
“What I know is my man has no sense of humor,” she said as she got the floral print dress she was wearing a bit better settled around her knees. With a certain amount of concentration she got each leg to raise slightly and then be resettled. She wasn't paralyzed, but it had been years since she had walked, and it was debatable if she ever would again. Still, she had it better than many and she still had feeling so the nerves weren't damaged. There was hope at least.
“If there is anything I have acquired here,” Gunny drawled, “It's a sense of humor.”
“Amen,” Debbie agreed as she put on a smile to welcome the parents making their way down to her cottage from Schuster Hall.
October 27th, 2007
Hallway Outside Administration Offices, Schuster Hall
“I need to hit the ladies room, Mom,” Tansy lied to her mother. “I'll catch up in just a second.”
Marissa smiled at her daughter, riding high on feelings of accomplishment and coolly served revenge, she failed to notice the tell tales that Tansy was being coy. “Alright, sweetheart, we'll be in the Gallery.” Tansy smiled at her as they parted ways at the stairwell, but upon reaching the bench outside the girls restroom, the smile faded from her face and she sank down onto the bench in shock.
She hadn't meant to read her mother's mind. They had hugged in the exaltation of scorned women that had vented their fury on their tormentor and behind the elation in Marissa's mind was an ugly word that gave a name to the confusion she had discovered in her grandmother's.
It was such an ugly, simple word for so horrible an affliction. It made everything she had seen in her grandmother's mind make sense. And it meant that the lovely woman in that mind she had seen in Penny's memories of herself, Tansy would never know. It meant the woman she had met today would not be the woman she would see at the next family gathering, assuming Penny even remembered her. It meant she would never know the love and affection of her grandmother and it was one more sin to lay at the feet of Theodore Walcutt.
The tear rolled, hot and wet down her cheek and she tried to wipe at it, for a moment desperate to keep up at least the appearance of the cool senior. But the monumental weight of all that had been taken from and done to her at the hands of her own father had her loathing that she even shared the last name of Walcutt. Inside her, the eight year old who lost her mother wailed and the tears became a flood.
Tansy sat on the bench and sobbed, her body wracked with spasms as she tried to breathe and cry all at the same time until her broken heart cried out, “Why God? Why did you curse me with this name? Why do You hate me so much?”
“He doesn't hate you,” a voice declared softly as someone sat down next to Tansy and gathered her into their arms. Normally, Tansy would have been mortified to be seen like this, so uncomposed and vulnerable but the welcome touch of human kindness was a rare, sweet nectar to her tongue and she hugged hard back.
Tansy's mind was filled with memories of warm caramel pecan rings, Jane Austen, and pranking Malachi. “Believe me,” Jadis soothed her. “I know what it's like to hate your last name.”
Tansy sat up, knowing her face was a mess and for once she didn't care. “Oh, Jads!” she sobbed. “He took everything from me! And he just keeps taking it!”
Jadis nodded, her own eyes a little moist at seeing Tansy in this vulnerable state and her conscience pricked her. Before her was not the Alpha who had turned a blind eye to her torment, nor the prettiest girl in school, distancing herself from her ugly friend now that she had bloomed, but rather Jadis saw the real Tansy. Jadis saw the tall, awkward nerd who had showed her that science fiction and fantasy could be just as much literature as Gothic romance. The friend who had introduced her to her greatest guilty pleasure; author C. S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia and through them, the realization of who her real mother might be. And she remembered the selfless defender who rushed to her aid against the ceaseless torment of Cathy Pressman at Westchester Montessori and hid her heroism behind purposefully taking the contrary opinion of Jadis's favorite poet so they could argue and she could take Jadis' mind off the torment.
And finally she remembered the young woman, who had taken over the room of the girl who had been grace personified and was trying to live up to an impossible standard. The young lady who went so far out of her way to try and apologize to Jadis, to accept responsibility for what she had done and do her best to make it right. Practically the only person to ever apologize to Jadis, and easily the person who had put the most effort in the attempt.
A person she had told she would 'get back with her soon,' for that thoughtful apology and then put it out of her mind for weeks. Jadis felt like a first class heel and bit her lip in shame. Taking the other girls hands, despite knowing how her powers worked, she met Tansy's eyes. “Tans, I am so sorry I didn't say this sooner, but apology accepted, ok?” The blonde nodded and tried to force a smile and hugged her friend when she couldn't, still crying. “Hey, what's going on? What happened?”
Around her sobs, Tansy was able to tell her friend the joy of meeting her grandmother, the satisfaction of helping her mother give her father his comeuppance and then the horrible realization that her grandmother, her namesake, had Alzheimer’s so that, in a real sense, Tansy would never get to know her mother's mother. How every time it seemed like she had earned a little happiness for all the penance she had served it was snatched away from her and her nose was rubbed in the very sins she was trying to atone for.
Jadis wasn't sure how much of the horrific combination of rage, despair and heartbreak was her own and how much was leaking from her empathic friend, but at that moment she didn't care. She helped Tansy to her feet and into the restroom, constantly encouraging her and assuring her it would be alright. That she would do whatever she could to help. In the sink, she helped Tansy wash her face clean of the mess her makeup had become. The two girls, friends once more, hugged and swore they would never let anything come between them again. Tansy sighed and dried her face that, even without make up, just fresh and clean was radiant and Jadis had to bite down hard on her jealousy. “Jads, thank you so much!” Tansy told her earnestly from the mirror.
She knew she didn't have the materials to redo her face with her as it had been, and so quickly switched to a minimalist, 'fresh face' look with what she had on hand. “Tans, are you ok, now?” Tansy nodded from her hurried work.
“I have to get back to my folks, but tonight, Jads! You and me in my room! We'll do a sleep over and I have a bottle of Kendal-Jackson Riesling from '84 we're going to open and catch up on everything!”
“I'll be there!” Jadis promised. “Are you sure you're ok, Tansy?”
The blonde forced a smile from her frantic application of make up. “It...it just all hit me at once, Jads, but I'll be ok. Promise.” Jadis nodded, hugged her friend a final time and sighed as she left the restroom. As she walked, a decision cemented in her mind and she dug out her phone from her purse. Dialing in a secret code, it unlocked a small suite of hidden features and uplinked with a satellite that was masquarading as a piece of space junk.
“Hi,” she greeted when the call finally went through. “I need a favor. No, that's not right, not a favor. I need to cash in a solid.”
The voice on the other end of the line was intrigued. “I'm listening.”
October 27th, 2007
Room 308 Twain Cottage, Whateley Academy
While Jack's room was ok, Adam had eyes for only one thing.
Laid out on the bed, gleaming like polished stainless steel was the coolest thing ever. His eyes drifted over it as he just imagined how awesome getting to play with it would be. He turned to Jack just in time to see him donning a red cape with a fake saddle with it. “For me?” Adam asked, his eyes tearing up as Jack chirped his laughter and clearly had a merry prank in mind.
From the speaker around his throat, the voice of Stephan Hawking declared, “One land, one king! And the sword of power!”
With the glee that shows your gift is the child's favorite, Adam threw himself at the bed and began to get dressed. There were damsels in distress, and they weren't going to save themselves!
October 27th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Marissa noticed the changes in her daughter's make up, but was too much of a good person to comment on it. She led her family into the quickly filling Crystal Hall reliving vicariously through her parents how special the school was as they marveled at the architecture and selection. Holding back a bit in the line to have a discreet conversation with her daughter, Marissa asked, “Tansy, has Elaine and Wyatt told their parents about your...relationship?”
Tansy blushed a bit and picked up a tray to lead the way over to the salad bar. “I think Elaine was going to talk to hers today, mom, but I don't know if she has yet or not.”
Ms Dawson nodded to a few of the tech track students who she had assisted with legal matters as she built her salad. “Best to be discreet then. And Wyatt?”
“Wyatt is a good man,” Tansy declared as she sprinkled chopped hard boiled egg on her lettuce. “And I have no doubt he will be a great father, but he is a procrastinator of the first order. His parents might know about us before our fifth wedding anniversary, if Lanie and I remind him enough.”
“YOU!” Someone shouted, drawing Tansy's eye out past the pay islands.
“What?” asked Marissa as she turned and both women took in a tall, strong woman who was marching across the Crystal Hall towards someone with their back to Marissa.
“You're under arrest!”
“Really?” the other woman asked. “I don't see a rest...” Marissa started to put down her tray to intervene, but Tansy took her arm to stop her.
“Oh no, Mom, you don't want any part of this.”
“Aunt June!” shouted one of the kids as he jumped up from a table and began to run over. “Please don't...!
The muscled woman charged, one hand cocked back in a classic cartoon punch pose that the woman neatly avoided, then its follow up and several other attempts. “Really?” Imp demanded, for that was who the woman was. “In the Crystal Hall? With a bunch of kids watching?”
“You aren’t getting away from me this time!” the muscled woman shouted, obviously becoming angry and frustrated. She lunged again, and again Imp neatly side stepped her, taking the opportunity to begin to run in the opposite direction and with a series of impressive Parkour moves was out the door. 'Aunt June' was hot on her heels, much to the dismay of the nephew who was chasing her.
“Oh, that won't end well for 'Aunt June',” Tansy smirked as she pointed out the clear wall of the Crystal Hall to show Mrs Carson had joined the chase. “You don't want any part of that, Mom.” Marissa opened her mouth to say something, then saw something so completely fantastic, even for Whateley, she had to blink her eyes to be sure of it. Chasing after Mrs Carson was Razorback.
But not just Razorback.
The reptilian looking student was wearing a cross between a cape and a horses barding in scarlet that also seemed to have a saddle. In the saddle sat a midget wearing mirror polished full Gothic plate mail armor, complete with a plumed helm and a gold and silver sword he was waving about, urging Razorback to greater speed.
And somehow, through the transparent substance the Crystal Hall was made of, she distinctly heard the thunderous orchestration of Carl Orff's O Fortuna blasting from somewhere only slightly below the threshold of pain. Razorback was also running after Mrs Carson and 'Aunt June'. Closing her mouth, Marissa watched them go, straightened her dress and calmly walked back to her salad.
“You're right, my little flower,” she told her daughter. “I don't want any part of that.”
* To Be Concluded *