([identity profile] wrote in [community profile] otherearth6262006-08-09 12:21 pm

…you irresponsible, stupid child…

Written by: Kam Martinez & Noelle Pico
Beta readers: Kam Martinez, Noelle & Nathan Pico

The manor lacks the garlands and wreaths that signal holiday cheer, something that is common to most American homes before Thanksgiving. It’s just November after all, and the Christmas season is still yet to come. Yet, for some strange reason, Ellie finds the house bare as it is, and can’t help but turn her thoughts to a previous Christmas—one spent without her father or her mother and instead with family not her own.

Back home, Christmas starts when the months begin to end with ‘ber’. Lee had told her, as she played with the velveteen horns of what seemed to be a dark-chocolate colored moose with eyes that looked up them forlornly. So… September, October… her friend’s laughter had been slightly sheepish. It’s a Filipino thing.

The Delgado household had been decorated shortly after the second of November. There had been no tree in the living room, but red and yellow firefly lights, hand-made Christmas balls made from plastic globes and cheery-looking cloth, and small stuffed toys had hung from the false greenery that lined the windows and staircase banisters. Songs by a man called Jose Mari Chan played from the cassette player, and Lee would later let her know that the tapes had once belonged to her mom.

It’s kind of nice. Ellie had responded in turn, the rich taste of home-made Spanish chocolate still on her tongue. A plate of churros sat between them on the couch, the crumbs clinging to the china. Though I need to get used to the idea itself. Lee had simply smiled and said nothing more about the matter until Ellie herself had broached the topic again, weeks after.

She thinks back on that Christmas, on how hanging out with Lee had made the school year bearable, pushing away the thoughts of her freshman year. And she sits down at the top of the stairs for a moment, enjoying the quiet and the company of her thoughts.

There is a hand-woven bracelet on her wrist, one of two that were made and exchanged in the spirit of teenaged fancies. She ponders briefly on the number two, and how the best times in her life always fell on that.

The only pictures chronicling her father smiling and looking at her with pride and joy were when she had been two, and Lee had walked into her life in the second year of high school.

Silly. But comforting.

* * *

“Hey there, George.”

George Tyler blinked at the softly-spoken words that came from the mouth of one who rarely ever spoke. He smiled slightly, knowing that when Ellie Ridley talked, it had to be something important. “Yeah? What’s up, Ellie?” He set down the prints he’d been viewing under his magnifying glass and figured that he could work on putting the rest of the pictures for his portfolio together later.

Ellie offered him a small smile, noting the tired look in his eyes, the strain of what would be the insomnia he’d been telling her about. He looked thinner than he usually did, and she surmised that that could be credited to the fact that he’d been stressing himself out more and more. She might have joked George, we’re only in our freshman year. You don’t have to worry about your college portfolio. But it didn’t seem the right thing to say.

When she started talking again, George had to lean in just so he could catch her words. “How are things with you and Lisa?”

At the mention of his current sweetheart, George sighed, and sat down beside Ellie, the chair scraping floor a bit as he pulled the chair closer. “Still not so good, I’m afraid.” A wry smile crossed his face. “I don’t think they’ll ever be good again.” He looked down at his hand, the callus on his index finger stained a little with pen ink. He rubbed it with his thumb, a habit that had been with him ever since they’d been required to use ball-point pens instead of pencils.

“So I guess you’ve going broken up with her then.”

George looked up at the soft-spoken words, the words ‘broken’ slicing him deep. “Huh?” A deep frown furrowed his brows and he swallowed deeply, blinking as if doing so could erase the words Ellie had spoken from the black screen of his mind. “Why would you think that?” It wasn’t that he hadn’t considered the thought himself. But really. Was he giving that impression to others already? “Is that what people are saying? That she and I have called it off?” Lisa was his first love. They’d been together since the year before and while he hadn’t deluded himself to thinking that they’d live happily ever after, he didn’t think that things would go bad this soon.

Ellie shook her head at his question, and fell back to silence, her gaze on the upturned palms of her hands. “It’s just that you’ve said it a couple of times…” her voice trailed and she twisted her thumb before she looked back up, smiled weakly, and dropped her gaze again.

“I know you care about her, George.” She started, “but you said it yourself, things aren’t working out so well.” George looked away from Ellie, though he stayed where he was, seated in the chair beside her. “And you deserve to be happy.” Yeah. He thought as he looked helplessly down at his own hands, the memory of his last conversation with Lisa—not really heated, the shouting, he could handle--devoid of any warmth, making what he figured was his heart hurt. He did, didn’t he? Ellie was right. He deserved to be happy.

“It’s just that you haven’t been happy.”

No. He hadn’t. Not lately. He’d been losing sleep and lacking any interest in food, unless of course his mom coaxed him into eating dinner. But it was just so much effort. And these everyday things: going to school, acing an exam, hanging out with friends—all of these had taken on the quality of doing three week’s worth of chores, and that sucked. A lot.

“Break up with Lisa,” His attention returned to Ellie, who was still looking down at her hands. No. He couldn’t. But why not? It’s not as if Lisa was as broken up about things as him. “Go out with someone else.” Who? “Someone like Sheridan McQueen.” Sheri? They had absolutely nothing in common.

But there was something about the way Ellie talked. Something about the way the things she said washed over him, that seemed to gradually make sense as his mind toyed with the idea.

He had never been particularly close to Sheridan. In all those times that he’d photographed her for the school paper, he’d listened to Lisa joke one time or another that Sheridan was so passionate in her topics because winning gave her a prolonged moment under the spotlight.

Not that there was anything wrong with having the spotlight focused on Sheridan. The girl was more than just pretty—she was gorgeous. And while her smile wasn’t the infectious, mischievous sort like Lisa’s, he’d heard the boys in the locker room swoon over the fact that she could single a guy out in a room. He’d crushed on her once before himself, though his ego hadn’t been able to take her indifference to his admiration.

But now that he was on the subject of Sheridan, he couldn’t help but recall that in all those times that he’d tagged along to take pictures, she’d always looked really passionate about the topics that she talked about on the podium: the gun ban, environmental concerns—and while she’d never really actively talked about it in the day to day, or found any of the clubs that did marine-watches and similar things more appealing than planning for the Pep Rally, she had to have a measure of passion for her debate topics… right?

“She’s really liked you for a while now, George, and if things aren’t working out well anymore with Lisa, then why suffer when you could be happy again?” Ellie looked up at him then, and her smile was that small, shy smile that she tended to give people before she scuttled away to do whatever it was she occupied herself with in her free time. “It’s a good idea, don’t you think?”

George shrugged, but his thoughts went back over and over the idea, like the photocopy machine in the school paper’s office. Why fix what was, as far as he knew, hopelessly broken? He was in his freshman year, smart and not bad-looking in the least. He deserved a girlfriend who would treat him well and not give him grief over wanting to have different opinions about things.

Laughter caught on his ears and his eyes flicked up to the hallway beyond the partially opened door. Sheridan stood by the lockers with her friends—one of whom was checking herself in the mirror hung on the locker door. Why was it that he never liked her in the first place? With a smile like that and those gorgeous eyes, it was no wonder that she was the hottest and most popular girl on-campus.

He glanced back at Ellie, saying nothing at first. She seemed to be watching him nervously—typical, really, when it came to her. She always had this look about her that made it seem as though she was perpetually worried for the people in her company. Picking up his things, he smiled at her and lightly pinched her cheek, a habit he did with most of his younger, female friends. “Thanks for the advice, Ellie.” He beamed at her, his heart beating with anticipation as he ran an impromptu script through his head. Would he keep it casual or serious? Should he wait a day or just come right out with it? “I’ll give it a lot of thought, I promise.” Maybe better to wait a day or two. He had to break things off with Lisa first. Make it clean, so that the whole mess wouldn’t put Sheri off.

The bell rang then, signaling the end of lunch break, and as George turned to go, he didn’t see the look on Ellie’s face change from nervousness to something akin to guilt. Guilt, that she had just done something very, very stupid.

Something very, very wrong.

* * *

The Xavier School intrigues her. In any other school children would not be wandering the grounds, but as she walks across the vast green of beautifully sculpted lawn, she sees youths of every age, shape and size grouped together or all alone in their own little worlds.

Her hands are in her pockets. She loves the feel of the gray cotton pants that she had ordered via catalogue over a year before. Cecilie had applauded her good taste in cut and fabric, but Ellie hadn’t been seeking praise or approval from her. Her father had simply smiled, barely glancing up from whatever it was that was lying flat on his desk.

She feels their eyes on her, the new girl, and can sense their curiosity of the morning’s earlier incident. If Lee were with her now, she wouldn’t really mind as much, but Lee is in class with others who will probably smile and talk with her the way the other kids at SCPA did not so long ago.

She admits that she feels a stab of jealousy, if only because she wants to be a part of that world more than anyone she’s ever known. It passes though, and she walks to the place right beneath the broken window, her eyes searching the grass.

“Hello.” She looks up and sees him watching her—a small boy no older than ten. “I’m Seth.” He smiles, around his wrist is a piece of string, several knots tied onto it at intervals. “You’re Elisabeth. Why can’t you talk?”

His forwardness startles her and she can’t help but offer a small smile. “I… can talk.” She responds, her voice soft and scratchy until she clears her throat. “I just choose not to.” She tells him and falls quiet again, her closed-mouth smile a shadow on her lips.

“The older kids are saying that you made Mr. Logan jump out the window.” He tilts his head to one side and his eyes are steady on hers. “Why’d you do that?”

She finds that any answer she provides will seem stupid. It had been a request from the beautiful, cool, Ms. Frost. Don’t worry, dearest. He heals fast, so he’ll be fine. We just need a demonstration of your powers. At the time, she had wanted nothing more than to please all those who were gathered in the room. She worries now though, that the man called Logan is angry at her, and she hopes that she won’t have to bump into him soon.

“It’s a little hard to explain.” She clamps her mouth shut. She shouldn’t talk; shouldn’t be so impulsive. But it feels nice to be approached, and this child doesn’t know sign language. Silly as it sounds it makes her feel good to know that someone as young as he is isn’t afraid of what she could do with a few careless words.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” He states simply and slides the string off his wrist. “Being afraid to say something that’ll hurt people. Sofia said that your powers might be something like Laurie’s.” He lifts his open palm, the string limp against his skin. “If you want, I can lock it away for awhile.” He smiles innocently. “That way you could talk to me.”

Lolo Ben always used to rant about what a shame it was that people forget basic kindness nowadays. She remembers Lee saying that the day Ellie gathered the courage to ask why the girl had begun to call her ‘friend’: It doesn’t take much to be nice to a person. And it’s not that far to friendship from there. Thinking on these now, Ellie is thankful for the kindness that Seth is showing her, but she shakes her head and reaches over, closing his fingers over the string. Thank you, she mouths, “But I’m fine.”

“Oh,” He seems to deflate, “It’s okay. Maybe next time then.” He nods exuberantly and turns around, pausing only once to wave and say, “bye, Elisabeth!” He scampers off to wherever his feet may take him and she stands under the sun, watching.

* * *

It was three weeks later when the world took a turn for the worst. Ellie had long since realized that her powers, like any form of hypnosis, had a limit on the effect. Hers was precisely twenty-one days, and while she might have hoped that a truer form of affection on George’s part might blossom towards Sheridan, it wasn’t all that surprising—though hardly pleasant—when things started to go from inconvenient, to bad, to the equivalent of hell.

The changes were gradual, nothing out of the ordinary given any other affair. George and Sheridan were together after a brief dance of courtship, so to speak. They looked like the happiest couple in school: Sheridan the sweetheart of a captive audience, and her boyfriend a staple attendee at her functions and debate meets, supporting her from the sidelines, snapping pictures of her as much as he could. If they had been adults, they might have been like any number of politics-inclined couples, such as Arthur Ridley and his PR and wife, Cecilie, or as some joked, the future Madam President and her husband.

As for Ellie, there was a place for her at Sheridan’s table, and while she didn’t really engage in conversation, she was visible at last, to her fellows. Invites to parties came and went—all of which she declined for practical purposes, though it was the invite that mattered and the thought that counted. While Sheridan didn’t state it publicly, George had expressed their gratitude to Ellie enough in private, stressing heavily on how her advice was the best George had ever taken to heart.

But all good things must have their end, and after the honeymoon period of a little short of three weeks, things were no longer as smooth as they had been.

Rumor had it that over the weekend of their third week as a pair, George had walked away from Sheridan at the Cineplex after feeling insulted that she had found what he had considered a deeply-moving piece of art as boring. The next few days were no better, as it became more apparent to George that he was nothing more to Sheridan than her newest trophy. The rose-colored glasses had been shattered underfoot, and there was nothing else for him to do but to confront the one person who was responsible for everything.

What the hell did you do to me!?

Ellie all but jumped out of her skin at the menacing tone in George’s voice, and spun around to see him stalking over to her from the hall. His eyes narrowed and the look in them told just how betrayed he felt inside. “What the hell did you do to me, Ellie? Why’d I end up dating Sheridan McQueen? I know it might’ve made sense these past couple of weeks but now I don’t even know why I thought her the most amazing thing since men landed on the moon!”

Ellie didn’t want to be around for this—not when the whole school was watching. “You—you did it, DIDN’T YOU!?” She picked up her books, and stood up, intending to go someplace where George couldn’t yell at her. “SHIT! I don’t believe this! I trusted you, Ellie, and this is what you do to me?” The library. She needed to get to the library.

But George wasn’t about to let this whole thing go.

“That’s right,” he snarled at her back, “run away and hide like you always do.” His fist collided with the blackboard, the math equations still visible where their teacher had failed to erase. “You and the rest of your kind are good at that, right, mutie?”

The slur caught Ellie like a punch to the gut, and she stopped dead in her tracks. She knew that the other students called her that behind her back, but she never realized how much it would hurt to hear someone tell it to her right to her face.

Pain quickly turned to anger, and Ellie whirled around to face George, words coming out her mouth faster than she realized: “I won’t take this from you or from anyone else, George. If you haven’t got anything better to do than insult me, go and jump out a window.”

Almost instantly, she paled, regret coming three seconds too late as George turned around, running straight for the nearest window.

Shouts erupted and someone screamed and it was only blind luck that they were on the first floor; had it been otherwise...

Ellie felt herself knocked to the ground as a whole bunch of students fell on her, pinning her to the floor, each shouting things that she would barely remember. The teachers came running and through it all, the only thing she could think about was how upset her father would be, and how it had been a mistake to think that she could ever do anything good with her voice. She didn’t protest or run away when she was hauled to her feet. She deserved it. All of it. The way to hell, after all, as the cliché went, was paved with good intentions.

She had done more than her fair share.

* * *

She’s hungry; the kitchen isn’t too far, so she makes her way to the nearest door and the nearest halls. Her thoughts are still on the day she lost George’s friendship. The subsequent events that followed—meeting with her parents, confronting the school board—are all blurs; and as always, Ellie is only too glad to leave things that way.

The use of her powers had become a necessity at that point, and while the memories haunt her like ghosts in the attic, she tries her best not to think about what she had done to stay at St. Christopher’s: are going to convince the school board to let you stay on, your father will write the speech… …you irresponsible, stupid child… …be grateful that your father’s respected in the alumni and that he can get them to let you stay on… …for God’s sake, Ellie, why couldn’t you be normal!?

She shudders and silences the voices from her past. She won’t think of those now. Not yet. Not when her life has just started anew. The hunger passes and she trudges past the kitchen where two girls laugh and talk.

With a sigh she heads back upstairs, her eyes catching a glimpse of a bright yellow jacket and pink shades perched atop the head of an oriental-looking girl. “Yo… niiiiice. Häagen-Dazs.”

“Don’t touch. That’s Warren’s.” There is laughter and the sound of the fridge closing and the girl disappears from view. “Aww c’mon, Rhia. Feather-head won’t mind.” A smack as skin collides smartly with skin. “Jubilee! Put. It. Back. No really—put it back. I don’t want to get sued by Mr. Billionaire. I bought Dreyers and shoved it in there and I will share if you actually listen to me.”

Ellie inhales and heads upstairs, comforting herself by thinking that while she may never get a shot at normalcy in the way that most of the world defines the word, she has a chance at making ‘mutant’ a word that is far from synonymous to pariah in this place.

[identity profile] 2006-08-09 02:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my gosh, I was not prepared for this chapter. Poor Ellie... >.< This is so plausible and real and I can seriously imagine George roaring at poor Ellie. Damn that Sheridan.. -.-

thelittleone: (otp)

[personal profile] thelittleone 2006-08-10 12:15 am (UTC)(link)
*huggy* It's already on the way. :D

[identity profile] 2006-08-11 07:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Really no better way to put it than "great" or "ouch". The screaming in the hallway was was painful it was real. Great work! >:D<

Loved that Jubilee felt like Jubilee. Would you believe that in an alternate future she will be the headmistress and leader of the X-Men? But right now I just love her stealing people's ice cream.XD
thelittleone: (kissed)

[personal profile] thelittleone 2006-08-12 08:06 am (UTC)(link)
*LAWL* Jubes and her ice cream. Rawr. :3