Note: there might be formatting issues–I don’t think stuff like italics and such copied and pasted properly from Open Office. In any case, this is the first draft for chapter 1 of Faerie, introducing a few of our characters.
I envied my sister, once. Daria had the sort of face that would look good with anything, and would probably always suggest youth, even after wrinkles settled in like lunar colonists upon her face. When she started modeling, first as a whim and later as a way to supplement her college scholarships, nobody was particularly surprised. Disappointed, perhaps.
“Bird-faced bitch.” Mitch Cannon (ass) told me that, when I refused to make out with him after a particularly un-fun date. We were in 8th grade. I had no idea what he’d meant by that, but it was effective nonetheless, and I spent a year after that agonizing over how my eyes and nose were too big, and how I in general looked like a darker-skinned version of that awkward girl in the second Spider-Man movie, the one living in Peter Parker’s apartment building. Sure, it turns out that the actress is actually a model, but I didn’t find that out until later: watching the movie, I was just thinking about how her fate was my own: a peripheral character, forced into the sidelines, and utterly incapable of getting the guy.
I know better now.
I’ll never look like Daria. I probably will never have an agent interrupt me while I’m having lunch to tell me how much he’d like to hire me. And that’s fine: my face is mine, and I quite like it. It didn’t stop me from getting into the cheerleading squad last year, or from being told by my boyfriend that I’m the hottest girl in his world. I do feel hot, which I guess is the important thing.
It was Monday morning; I was all dressed up in my school cheerleading uniform and trying to manipulate my hair into a loose bohemian sort of side braid that would indicate flirtiness, effortlessness (the sort that usually took me some fifteen minutes to get right), and carefree attitude. Not very Muslim of me, but then, I wasn’t a very Muslim girl. If God was anything like I hoped him to be, he’d understand: my hair is Serious Business.
Mom, as usual, had left early one her crazy long commute to work, leaving me with the task of making sure everything was off, closed, and locked before leaving the house. Once that was done, it was time to make my not-so-long commute (via legs) to Randolph High School, just as soon as–
“Pari Okhovat, hurry the fuck up! I’m freezing my ass out here!” I heard Madison Bauer yell from outside the front door.
“Just a second!” I called back. After putting on myjacket and picking up my backpack, I rushed to meet my best friend since forever. Like me, she wore the navy blues and whites of the cheerleading team—unsurprising, since she was the captain. Looking the part is fundamental. “Hey, Maddie!” I said, glad to see my best friend.
“C’mon, let’s go! I wasn’t expecting it to be cold as hell today.”
Madison and I walked apace to school. It was something we’d done since we were thirteen, even when we felt like we hated each other. No matter what, the walk was a neutral space, a sanctum for a our friendship. It would become very important in he months to follow.
“So the party’s set, next week at my house. All I need is money for the keg—can you chip in? Ten dollars would be fine.”
“’kay. Count me in. I’ll ask Nick if he’ll pitch in as well.” He wasn’t a big fan of huge parties, but he’d allowed me a chance to try to convince him otherwise. Not that it took much effort—this was my birthday party as much as it was Maddie’s. “So your parents are really okay with it, then. Wow.”
“Yup. They say that if I’m going to drink, it’s going to be under their roof. Just as long as we don’t try to drive home, perform any satanic rituals or have more than fifteen people over.”
“We can do that. Let me know if you need anything. I know your parents insisted, but…” We’d been holding these joint birthday parties—we were born a day apart on the same hospital—but this year, she and her mom had insisted on doing the prep themselves.
Randolph High School was the sort of place that was impossible to quantify in any superlative terms. Aesthetically, the outside was utterly nondescript, and its insides could only be distinguished from a hospital’s by the various decorations and posters put up by the faculty and students. We had a decent basketball team and several other non-decent teams, a couple of clubs that did well at the state level, even if nobody cared about most of them. Most of the students were white and received new or almost new cars before graduating, unless your parents had gotten into trouble because of the economy. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough, usually.
“Don’t blame me: you brought this upon yourself the moment you decided to become an artfag.”
…and for at least one person, this was not one of those times. The asshole was Adrian Lane, a junior; the one being called homophobic slurs and had just gotten the crotch area of his pants drenched with water was Adam McKinsey, a sophomore whom I’d worked on the school play last year. We were all just outside the main entrance; while there were several students entering the school building—including some who took pained glances at the scene before passing by—no adults were in sight. This would not do.
After telling Maddie that I’d meet back up her later, I approached the two boys. Adam looked like a smaller, blonde version of Nick, with a face that seemed to have taken a look and puberty before running away in the other direction . Adrian, on the other hand, was tall—I’m 5’8, and he was at least a head taller than me—and had the expression of somebody three seconds away from smashing you into a wall; while he didn’t play any sports that I knew of, he did quite a bit of weigh lifting, if his arms were any indication. “What’s going on here?” I asked, forcing casualness into my voice.
Adrian turned his attention to me; although he still had the cockiness from a second ago, it was now mixed with something else: confusion. I don’t think he expected anyone to actually try to stop him, especially me. “You stay out of this,” he intoned. He inched closer, trying to be intimidating; he smelled of Axe body spray.
I met his gaze.“I’d rather not. You see, I don’t like it when my friends are bullied.” I inched closer to him. “So back off.”
I was fairly confident that Adrian wouldn’t do anything to me. As scary as he could be, there was nothing he could do without incurring the wrath of people higher up the school social ladder than he, and he knew it. Still, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that he wouldn’t just punch my headlights out there and there, damn the consequences. And that uncertainty? It excited me.
Sure, he could probably kick my (athletic) ass without much trouble, should he decide to. Under different circumstances, I would be terrified of the things he could do, if he wanted. And later on, after events forced me to look back at everything I’ve done in my life, I would wonder: what is wrong with me? But right there and then? I relished the prospect of pushing him too far, of having to punch and kick and grab and pull in order to defend myself and my stance.
Nothing like that happened, though: after a few hours (seconds) he stepped back. “Fine. He’s not worth my time anyway.” Adrian sauntered away, as if pretending he didn’t care, or maybe he actually didn’t, leaving me with his victim, who had grown less apprehensive after his tormentor had left. “Not that I’m ungrateful, but why did you do that? You know he’s just going to pile on me worse next time, right?”
Did I know that? It was definitively a possibility—obvious, in hindsight—but it was something I hadn’t been thinking about a minute ago. It made uncomfortable: so what if that was the case? If the entire world didn’t care about stopping bad things because it could make things worse, then why not just set fire to the whole thing and be done with it? At least that way the bullies wouldn’t win. “I just…had to, I guess,” was all I could say.
“Well, next time, don’t. Dealing with Super Dimensional Asshole Adrian McKinsey is hard enough already.” And with that, he shambled away, leaving me feeling somewhat stupid for doing what had come naturally for me.
The homeroom bell rang, meaning, well, homeroom. Seeing Nick would have to wait.