Friday, February 24, 2012

Fae In The City, Chapter 2

Diana Jean Morgan!”

Diana felt the weight of sixteen years of being in trouble whenever her mother invoked the Middle Name. She shifted her feet, feeling claustrophobic behind the driver's seat. Her dad always needed more leg room. So why hadn't Bobby let her sit behind mom? Because he's a turd. That was the only possible explanation. She sighed and stared at the back of her mother's head, hoping her frustration didn't conjure an insect in her mother's hair. In what world did the Middle Name get invoked for blowing a straw wrapper at your snot-nosed thirteen-year-old brother?

Her mother turned in the seat up front and looked Diana in the eyes. “I would like you on your best behavior for the rest of the trip.”

Bobby stuck out his tongue, feeling validated as he tossed the straw rapper back at his sister.

Diana looked between him and their mother, the wrapper dangling in stark contrast to her curtain of dark hair. A bump in the road made it move like a crumpled streamer. “You're not gonna yell at Bobby for that?”

We're on this little getaway because of you, young lady. If you hadn't put a toad in that girl Chelsea's locker...”

Diana brushed the straw wrapper out of her hair and sat back, sighing to calm herself. Rise above it. “It was a frog, mom.”

Her brother laughed from the other side of the back seat.

Don't conjure anything.

Diana looked at her phone, going over her text messages from her friends at the school. They hadn't been close before the frog incident, but that was true of the other dozen girls that were now flooding her phone with messages. She looked at the last four again.

Tanya: omg u totally punk'd Chels. ur like a hero now!

Tanya: party at my place! =)

Erin: Thanks again! I talked 2 my dad. He was gonna pull me out of school, but i told him id b OK. Heard there might be a party? :)

Heather: i think ur a witch like me. Come 2 my house 2nite & my aunt can tell 4sure. Stay calm. Don't conjure anything else.

Diana stared at the last message. Don't conjure anything else. If not for this trip, she felt sure she'd be at the center of some witch ceremony right now. She slurped her drink and watched the landscape fly past as they drove up the highway to Napa Valley. She finished her cheeseburger and adjusted the headphones for her iPod so she could rest her eyes. She hated long trips in the car.

Diana woke to the sound of gravel under the tires and jostling as the car came to a stop.

We're here!” Mom called.

Diana grumbled and got out, watching her perky parents unload the luggage from the Mercedes. The Bed & Breakfast consisted of a quaint Victorian farmhouse with a separate two-story building that might have been a converted barn. The small compound sat nestled at the edge of a vineyard, with row after row of grapevines stretching across a small valley. The sun cast a warm glow as it tucked itself in on the horizon. The vineyard drew her like a magnet, and she strolled past the wraparound porch.

Bobby settled in to a chair with his Nintendo, and the parents were busy checking in, so Diana headed down to the vines.

She walked among the leaves, feeling better almost immediately. She always felt something magical when she was around living things; a soothing, regenerative energy. She felt refreshed the more she caressed the leaves. Their soft green textures bounced under her fingers, dancing on the breeze.

Diana! It's getting dark! Come back here!”

Ah, the dulcet tones of mother's loving voice, she thought. That's what dad always said. “Coming Mom!”

She made her way back, and took the key her mother offered.

Your room is upstairs. Bobby's is next to yours. Ours is here on the bottom floor. Set your alarm for seven, so we can make it to the workshop for troubled teens on time.”

Diana glared. “Mom, can you say that a little louder? I don't think everyone here heard you.”

Go on. We'll see you in the morning, bright and early.”

Bobby snickered.

Diana grabbed her suitcase and walked to the stairs, ignoring her little brother's smirk. When she got to her door, she turned back and saw a flicker of fear cross his eyes. She wondered if he was still afraid of the dark. Before she'd moved to the school, she would find him asleep on the floor in her room. Feelings warred inside her; but love won out. “You gonna be okay, little bro?”

He held up his chin and stood straight. “Who, me? Ha! I'm fine.”

She nodded and tried not to smile at the thanks she saw in his eyes before he trudged next door to his room.

She opened the door to her room, a space large enough for a queen-sized bed, a small table with chairs, a vanity, an entertainment center, and a vintage claw-foot cast iron bathtub, with room to spare between them. A folding divider blocked off what she guessed was the toilet. She closed the door and walked over to the tub to start the water running. A bath before bed sounded perfect. There was even a bottle of bubble bath soap! She poured some into the running water.

She groaned as she set the bedside alarm for seven AM, hoping it would miraculously never come, and tossed her dirty clothes in a pile. She sank into the hot water and rested her head on a folded towel, fanning her hair off the back of the tub. She closed her eyes for a few minutes of rest.

The alarm was going off.

Diana stretched the kink out of her neck, and opened her eyes. She felt cold, tired, waterlogged, and her back was sore. Something was poking her in the spine. She looked at her hands, and did a double-take.

Her fingernails were like inch-long claws, and her skin was pale.

Claws? She scrambled out of the tub, feeling like she was dragging something on her back, and saw claws on her feet as she stepped on the bath mat. Sunlight was streaming in under the curtains to the room, and the alarm was blaring.

Claws? A ringing in her ears drowned out the sound of the alarm, and she thought for sure her heart was going to jump out of her chest.

She stepped over to the mirror next to the tub, her toe-claws clacking on the hardwood floor, and stared in horror.

Where her hair was normally dark and straight, it was now a light reddish-brown and wavy. Long, pointed ears jutted out like slender shark fins from either side of her head. Her face looked angular, and her eyes were cat-like around a sharp nose that wasn't hers. Her teeth looked like they all came to sharp points... and the pain in her back stretched out toward the most beautiful set of butterfly-like wings she'd ever seen.


Diana swallowed her scream.

(Go to Chapter 3)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fae In The City, Chapter 1

Why don't you just do the world a favor and jump off the Golden Gate like your mother did?” Chelsea said, laughing.

Erin, the brunt of Chelsea's wicked attack, covered her mouth in shock, her eyes suddenly wet.

Diana stood next to Chelsea, feeling guilty by association, and once again hating having the locker next to Chelsea's. The whole scene froze in Diana's mind: everyone getting dressed after PE class, the locker room echoing the ringing sound of Chelsea's evil laugh, the misery in the new girl's face. Erin wasn't completely dressed yet, so she couldn't run away to cry someplace else. Everyone would see her tears.

Diana stared at Chelsea's open locker, a crisp and clean school uniform hanging inside, and thought about all the other vicious things Chelsea had said since the beginning of tenth grade. But nothing Chelsea had said to Diana could compare to the evil that had just come from the blond Princess of Lanebrook Preparatory Academy's vicious little mouth. Directed at an innocent new girl, still reeling from her mother's suicide.

Diana felt rage sweep through her body like a wildfire, pooling in her hands and behind her eyes. She clenched her fists to keep from throwing a punch. She had to do something. Anything. She closed her eyes on the world, a silent prayer for a way to save the new girl from following her mother off the Golden Gate.

Then she remembered Chelsea's reaction to the frog dissection in biology class. The wild, scared look on her face when the frogs had come out. She imagined a frog attacking Chelsea, and wished it could be that easy. Something tickled in Diana's mind, and she opened her eyes. Movement caught her eye on the bench next to her, and she looked down.

In the heartbeat of time that had passed since she'd closed her eyes, a large frog had appeared.

Diana stared in shock for a second, wondering if wishing it had made it so; but she dismissed the thought as insane. She scooped up the frog, and without thinking, tossed it into Chelsea's locker.

It landed on her uniform, and let out a large croaking sound. Something oozed from it.

Chelsea turned, her eyes widening at the frog. “Ew! Shoo!”

The frog jumped. Diana watched in amazement as it made a perfect arc through the air, landing squarely on Chelsea's face.

Chelsea screamed. She batted at her face and screamed again. The whole locker room descended on them. She fought to grab the frog, but it hopped around her head, leaving some kind of goo behind as it moved. She screamed again, grabbing, missing, feeling the frog on her back and screaming again.

One of Chelsea's clique of debutante friends rushed in to swat at the frog, and after several minutes of screaming and hopping and twirling, the frog jumped over the row of lockers and disappeared.

The sound of a hundred girls laughing had Chelsea shaking with fury. Chelsea looked over at Diana, and saw Diana's defiant smile. She stepped into Diana's personal bubble and the two girls stared each other down.

How did that frog get in my locker?” Chelsea said, tilting her head. “Hmm?”

Diana's smile faded as she heard a girl behind her say “I saw her put it in there.”

Diana turned to see her accuser, and saw that Coach Lewis had arrived and was standing next to Lisbeth, the girl who'd spoken. Diana rolled her eyes. Isn't it so cute that Lisbeth is being so helpful, pointing at me? Not.

The look on Coach Lewis' face said she'd heard everything she needed to hear, and she launched into drill sergeant mode.

Diana looked back at the new girl, Erin, ignoring the tirade coming from Coach Lewis and Chelsea. They had all kinds of things to say, but none of it mattered. Diana locked eyes with Erin, and mouthed “Are you okay?”

Erin nodded, smiling, and mouthed back a silent “thank you.”

Something in the universe shifted, and Diana knew that Erin would be okay. Erin wouldn't follow her mother over the Golden Gate, because Diana had proved that someone cared. Diana smiled, getting dressed for the perp-walk that was being promised by a grown-up and the sixteen-year-old embodiment of evil.

The sun felt good on Diana's face, streaming in through the Assistant Dean's window. She played with her long black-brown hair and wondered if she should curl it, as she tuned out the Assistant Dean trying to talk Chelsea down from hysterics.

Chelsea's tantrum settled, and she finally addressed the man behind the desk in a calm voice. “Daddy...”

Don't call me that here. I told you.”

You need to expel Diana for this. Bringing a frog on campus and assaulting a fellow student with it is unacceptable behavior for a student at Lanebrook.”

Diana looked up as the door opened, and then sighed as her parents stepped through. She hadn't wanted to disturb them; but seeing them after so many weeks, she felt like a hole in her heart was suddenly filled. Had she missed them that much? She struggled to calm her racing heart.

Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, so glad you could make it. Please have a seat.” The Assistant Dean said, motioning them over to the chairs nearest Diana.

What's this about?” Diana's father said, taking a seat.

The Assistant Dean told them the story of what had happened. “We will need to take disciplinary action. Normally, the student in this case would be expelled.”

Diana squirmed in her seat, hoping her father didn't tear the Assistant Dean apart. Not that he'd literally tear him apart, but he might destroy the man socially. She knew her father. He'd see what the Assistant Dean said as an attack on the family. She could see it in the pinch around her father's eyes. He was always quick to defend her, but she knew that it was because they were so alike. Did she really care if she got expelled? She thought about it. No. She missed home, even with her little brother going through an especially obnoxious phase. Her mother appeared calm and cool, which meant there would be yelling later when they were in private.

Across the room, Chelsea straightened in her seat and glared at Diana. An evil grin threatening to lift the corners of her mouth.

Diana's father steepled his fingers. “In consideration of Diana's exceptional academic record and our considerable donations, I'm sure expulsion is not necessary.”

It's a case of assault on another student. The rules are quite clear.”

So expel the frog.” Diana's father said, then patted his daughter's shoulder. “All Diana did was put something on another student's unattended things. That's not assault. Check your legal definitions.”

The Assistant Dean's face turned red, and his teeth ground together. “I'm sure the Dean will not see it that way.”

I guess it's a good thing my husband plays golf with the Board of Directors then.” Diana's mother said, crossing her legs and sitting back.

Diana couldn't help the smile that tugged at her mouth, as she watched Chelsea's eyes grow wider.

The Assistant Dean also noticed, and the oversight of breaching protocols and allowing Chelsea in the room for a private parent-teacher conference broke through the red haze clouding his vision. “Chelsea, you're dismissed.”

But Daddy!”

He cringed when he saw John Morgan's eyebrow raise, and stood to escort Chelsea out. She hesitated, so he grabbed her by the arm and led her out, whispering reassurances in the anteroom outside before coming back in and closing the door. He paced over to his desk, and sat. He opened a drawer and pulled out a brochure, tapping it on his desk a few times before passing it to Diana's parents. “I can recommend a suspension, with return to the school contingent upon attending this Workshop for Troubled Teens.”

John Morgan got up and leaned forward, staring down at the Assistant Dean. “I can recommend your replacement for professional misconduct.”

The man behind the desk swallowed, and for the first time since Diana had seen him, he looked scared.

Daddy, it's okay. I'll go to the workshop.” Diana heard the words come out before she could stop them. She almost cursed herself until she saw relief on the Assistant Dean's face.

He was quick to hide the reaction, pulling out another paper. “Just fill this out for Diana's file, and we're done.”

John Morgan leaned forward again. “Let me be perfectly clear. Nothing goes in her file. We'll take her to this workshop; but there will be no suspension on her record. If a whiff of it ends up in her file, you'll be looking for a new career.”

As Diana walked out to the car with her parents, she looked back at the brick walls and marble columns of Lanebrook, with the pest control people scurrying around looking for frogs.

If you'd wanted to come home, you could have just asked.” Diana's father said, unlocking the car with the remote. The chirp-chirp sent a squirrel running toward a tree.

Diana's mother sighed as she opened the front passenger door to get in. Once they were all settled in the car, she turned back to Diana and waited until Diana met her gaze. “I'm disappointed in you, young lady. This is your future you're sabotaging. What were you thinking?”

It wasn't-”

I expect you to try from now on.” Her mother said, interrupting.

Diana couldn't think of how to explain. The frog had appeared as if she'd willed it into being, and then just disappeared. Just like the time when she was supposed to be watching her baby brother, and he'd crawled out the open window when she wasn't looking. She saw him fall out of the second-story window, and a surge of fear had flowed through her body. Little Bobby's potentially fatal landing on the hard earth was cushioned by a huge pile of leaves that nobody recalled putting there.

But she remembered hoping that there would be one.