Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book 5, 24: Just a Dream?

Free associating a bit.

Just heard this song referenced as a joke. Like, someone makes a geography mistake and you say, "Don't know much about geography."

Maybe pay more attention to the lyrics?

Also, Harrison Ford does a surprisingly good dumb and dumberer in screencaps, doesn't he?

Book 5, 24: Just a Dream? 

Well, Charlotte thought, I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t thinking about this while I was doing it. Yes, she was in Scout’s arms, feeling the strength of his shoulders and the gentleness of his hands, the warmth of his body and of his lips, looking into his deep eyes, familiar in that way where you walked into a place and you were sure you’d been there before, even though you never had, eyes that looked back at her and through her, and possessed her, and it was all she ever wanted.

Oh, and there was just a suggestion of tongue, which she focussed on, because she was going to get such a grilling later about it, later. But then there was the other thing, her thinking about what was happening as it was happening. First of all, there was the thought that this had to be a dream, the kind where you were sure that everything you ever wanted, was happening to you, just before you woke up. 

She remembered those dreams, of kissing Jamal, or Taylor Kitsch, or Scott Baio. Even Brian Ferguson, as much as that embarrassed her now. And . . . Well, that wasn’t important right now. That was like kissing your brother. Yuck. And if this wasn’t one of those dreams, if everything that was happening was real, what was going to happen next? It was a thought she almost couldn’t think. 

Except, well, that was the thing about thinking things, because that same part of her brain that could manage to not be in this moment, could notice the sound of a door opening, imagine what it would be like to explain this to Auntie Ma and Uncle Henry. 

And so, at last, Charlotte pushed back. But, as she did so, she reached up and took the lapels of Scout’s buckskin jacket, curly, ticklish frills and all, with hands that she oh-so-deliberately drew across his chest to feel the warmth of his flesh through his denim shirt. Holding the lapels, she held him in place, looked into his eyes some more, willed herself not to kiss him more, conscious that her blazing cheeks gave away every secret through she was thinking, and said, “My aunt and uncle are coming. When will we see each other again?”

Scout looked back at her, and an expression of pain crossed his face. “I told you. There’s things you don’t know about me, Miss Wong.”

Charlotte looked back at him, and was awed to realise that she didn’t just love Scout. She liked the big cowboy galoot, too. “I kinda guessed that from the fact that you’re wearing a mask.”

“We all wear masks. You’re wearing a mask.”

“You know who I am. You know where I live. Your mask? You’re keeping a secret.” She stopped for a moment, held a thought, turned it over, wondered at the strange wrongness of it, before saying, “I’ll figure it out, you know.”

“No you won’t,” Scout answered. “It’s protected by. . .” He stopped, swallowed, started again. “It’s a lie. I’m using magic to protect my identity from you. You should hate me, Miss Wong.”

“I don’t, and I don’t think I should.” Although, Charlotte thought, the way that he kept starting and stopping with his accent ought to be a pretty big clue. Must be the way the magic worked, if she couldn’t figure it out by now. Funny how familiar the idea was, too. Like someone had just been talking about this? Magic. A wizard did it.

“I can get rid of the magic,” Scout said. “Ah should. That’d be the honest way of doing it.”

“Would we lose this?” Charlotte asked.

“Yes,” Scout said, simply. He looked awful, and, Charlotte realised, even if she could give this up for herself, she could never hurt Scout that way.

So, “No,” she answered. “We shouldn’t.” The look of relief, of happiness, in his eyes, mirrored hers, she was sure. “Though depending on who you turn out to be, I reserve the right to kung fu your heinie.”

His face went unreadable, and she pushed, lightly. He stepped back. 

“Ahem,” Auntie Ma said, from behind them.

“Ah. Mrs. Wong,” Scout said. “I was in the neighbourhood, and saw I could be some help to Miss Wong.”

“Thank you for your . . help, son,” Uncle Henry said from behind her. “And you are?”

Charlotte turned, and looked, the warmth of her cheeks giving way to the prickle of embarrassment. Somehow, you forgot how big Uncle Henry was. There was something a little unfair about a kung fu master having size and leverage to go with his skills, but it was still a fact that he was eye to eye with Scout, both of them 6’2”, then, with Uncle Henry shrinking with age, and Scout still, Charlotte somehow knew, growing. 

Scout took Uncle Henry’s out-stretched hand. “Scout, Mr. Wong.”

“Call me the Furious Fist,” Uncle Henry said, his voice low and steady. “Have you been helping Charlotte very often, recently?”

“Some,” Scout conceded.

“Well, she’s a very special girl who has been through a lot in the last two years. So I hope that you’re mature enough to help her in a helpful way.” Uncle Henry continued to look at Scout as he said it, and Charlotte’s attuned senses caught the way the strength in his hands increased, the qi-enhanced strength of an Eight Spirit Dragon master.

Scout, though, showed no sign of pain. “Charlotte is wonderful. I just want to help.” 

“So I’m gathering.”

“Would you like to come in for some chai, Scout?” Auntie Ma asked into the silence, gesturing towards the Yurt.

“No, ma’am, thanks for the offer, but someone has to take care of the Fourth Sword, here. Ah hope no-one objects if Ah turn him over to Piper & Norton corporate security?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Uncle Henry conceded. “They can bring him up on charges in Babylon, and it gets our dimension out of the White Fleet’s sights.” 

He paused for a moment, and Charlotte could sense as much as see the nudge from his wife. “But we’d be glad to have you over for dinner on Friday.”

“Ah don’t know. . .”

“Oh, come on. We’re having Beef Stroganoff!” Charlotte could feel her Aunt stir. They might call it “Beef Stroganoff,” but it was an old steppe recipe, and for the boyfriends she liked, Auntie Ma famously cooked it with mare’s milk, an ingredient she had to ration with great care, with the weddings coming up. 

Scout looked like he recognised an inside joke when he heard it, and didn’t make the obvious comment about Beef Stroganoff not being Chinese food. “Ah’ll be there with bells on!” 

“Six on Friday. Don’t be late,” Uncle Henry said. 

Charlotte was still trying to figure out a balance between knowing that she would see Scout again, and when, and being embarrassed about the way that her Aunt and Uncle had stuck their million-year-old noses into her business. Plus advanced embarrassment at the thought of sitting at the dinner table across from Scout in his mask (would he take his hat off?) and with May and Amy and Jason all sitting there, chatting away. Weird. Plus embarrassing plus. Maybe Emily and Jamie could come over?

“Char-Char?” Her aunt said.

“Yes, Auntie Ma?”

“I forgot to ask. You don’t have any plans for Friday, do you?”

Charlotte couldn’t help herself. She gave her aunt the squinty eye, like she wasn’t the Overscheduler-in-Chief. Yeah, no, she thought, time for the magic power of sarcasm. “Yeah, no, I think I can find time in my busy schedule to have dinner with Scout.”

Auntie Ma, instead of reacting to the smart mouth, pointed at Scout with her eyes. Charlotte’s gaze followed them, and she was amazed to see the lines around his mouth change, his hands, at his sides, like he wasn’t sure what to do with them, relaxed from their self-conscious curl to lie along his buckskin pants. 

Charlotte knew those signs. He was He was anxious, and, when he heard Charlotte say that she would come, he was relieved. 

Like, Scout had doubts that she’d say yes? That Scout, of all people, could be insecure?

The heck with embarrassment. Charlotte walked up to Scout, took his hands, looked up into his eyes, said, “Actually, I’m looking forward to it.” And willed him to hear those words as, “I’m looking forward to seeing you.” That was the thing about having a telepathic cousin. You learned pretty quick that it was harder than it looked.

Before she had any more time to think awkward thoughts, Scout squeezed her hands, looked down into her, and said, “See you Friday.”

Charlotte was, well, she thought, you can’t be walking on air when you’re, strictly speaking, not so much walking as turning around, and your eyes are crossing round the McCallum’s front yard, and you can’t help seeing Mrs. McCallum in the window, giving you thumbs up. 

The next morning, Charlotte returned to school for the first time in a million years. Or, since yesterday. A million years was also what it had taken her to figure out what to wear to school, before deciding on her pink Forever Sixteen sweats with sparkles over comfy jeans. Because, for a change, she felt pretty and girly, and not like some kung fu fighting tomboy, but, also, you know, comfy. 

Also, having been on chat with Dora and Rose since 7, and doing meat space talking with her cousins about the epic events of the night before, she could, just barely, manage not to be all about showing off with a boyfriend sweater like Little Miss Smug. Not that that resolution would have lasted one second if Scout actually had a boyfriend sweater she could borrow, instead of wearing her Old Navy one. Which she liked just fine, but in this situation was kind of cheating. 

No, Scout had other stuff, like, something about a wizard did I t? The thought came and went before Charlotte could nail it down, like it had been important the night before, and now she couldn’t even remember what he’d said about magic or something.

The problem was that when she saw Professor Paradigm hanging in the hall in his corduroy jacket with the patches on the elbow and his briefcase, chatting with his werewolf boys.

If it had been Madison and Eve, Charlotte might not have done it, but these kids? Charlotte walked right up to them, said, “Hey, Mr. Burcato, can I ask you something? What’s up, dawgs?” The last was addressed to the weres, of course.

They didn’t meet her eyes, of course. Werewolves healed quickly, but that just meant that they’d taken a lot of hurt off the Pearl Harmony Sword last summer, and Charlotte now knew that even without her sword, she could put them down with her Eight Spirit Dragon Fist, and they knew it, too. 

“Uhm, later, Wong,” the bigger one said. She looked back at him. “Bye, Felicia” she said, like she couldn’t remember his name, which wasn’t actually true, but was meant to be heard as telling him that he was making a huge mistake with his life, that being a werewolf wasn’t cool at all.

Paradigm looked back at her, a smirk on his face. Charlotte wasn’t going to enjoy this. Professor Paradigm was one of those people who was sure that he was just so much smarter than you were that nothing you said, mattered. He was good at hiding it, or he wouldn’t be a drama teacher. On the bright side, he wasn’t all smarmy and stuff about pretending like you were just as smart, since you were hanging out with him, like Bruce’s Dad. On the other side, which no-one ever said was the dark side, for whatever reason, he was just impossible to reach.

Well, try, Charlotte thought. “Nice trap you set for us in Vale, dude.”

“Even if I set a trap for you in Vale, which I did not, the city has ordnances against random teenage thugs wandering through the streets, threatening citizens and vandalising their livelihoods with oversized cutlery.”

“Oversized cutlery is a thing on the Old World. I would have thought you’d have noticed, Dr. All-Your-Dimensions-Are-Belong-To-Us. You want to explain what you were doing over there?” Old-time meme for the win! 

“I do not need to explain myself to a member of the student body who has just discovered push-up bras.”

Charlotte narrowed her eyes at that, focussing on letting the (totally not true) insult roll off. Of course there were no witnesses. But God he was irritating. The insult probably came to mind because he said ‘student body,’ and it was the next thing to come to mind. She hoped. ‘Cuz otherwise he was being a dirty old man, and, frankly, he was awful enough already.

“Actually, you kinda do. Vale’s going to get back to us shortly about who hijacked the anicons, and you better not be counting on them not fingering you. So, was this little prank about Auralia being on Vale?”

Another thing about thinking that everyone else was dumb. You weren’t always that good at hiding your expressions. Gotcha! Charlotte thought. 

“Oh, look, Mr. Burcato’s gone the wong way!”

Eve, behind her. Lame. 

“Like the top. I’ve got a My Little Pony one from my thirteenth birthday,” Madison said.

Charlotte counted to five in her head before she turned to acknowledge Maddie Chung. That way, it looked a bit less like whirling in rage. “Broniedom seems a bit, I don’t know, sane, for you, Maddie?” 

“Crazy is as crazy does,” Madison replied. “So which one of us is out in the open one on three?”

Charlotte looked at her nemesis. “You’d have to be idiots to start something in the hall between periods.”

“You’re standing next to you-know-who. We could start something next to a volcano on a hellworld just as easy.”
“Now, now,” Professor Paradigm said. “We are working on an investigation. Yes, there are some cross-purposes, but I think that we are all agreed that Auralia is too dangerous to be left in the hands of the cultists who took it.”

Charlotte turned back to Mr. Burcato. “Cultists?”

“Let’s just say that our investigations are running on parallel tracks. Our track is productive, yours rather less so. Not surprising given the relative brain power involved. So, yes, we have an interesting clue involving some cultists, and if you stumble across it on your track, you might actually develop some independent leads of value. Now, I believe that you are late for maths, Miss Wong? I shouldn’t want tardiness to become any more of a trait that is seen to run in your family than it already is.”

Despite his bringing her brother into it, Charlotte managed to not cut Mr. Burcato in two, just nodded. “Yes, on my way to class now, sir.” 

It was feeble sarcasm, she realised as she said it. 

"Careful, Miss Wong. You have the air of someone walking in a dream this morning. REality can reassert itself very quickly. Have a good day."

Charlotte walked away knowing that however bad he was as a teacher, he was just a master of making sure that excessively good moods didn’t get in the way of learning you some algebra. Jerk.

No comments:

Post a Comment