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« a faint and faraway sound » ([personal profile] thelittleone) wrote in [community profile] otherearth6262006-08-12 03:53 pm

"For once..."

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

From the suitcases she pulls out her old school jacket—the one they’d all been required to own, and runs her fingers over the white stitching, each letter intertwined over the left breast. The fabric was of the best quality, the color was black, not dull, but alive in its crispness.

She remembers the first time she ever wore the academy uniform, how she had spent thirty minutes that sunny September morning years ago in front of her mirror turning this way and that, looking over her appearance with an almost starry-eyed fascination. She had thought it cool once, the clean uniformity of students attending a prestigious school that only few could ever afford. The thought had gone side-by-side with the hope that she could make friends. Both had sadly lost their sparkle two weeks into the school year.

She doesn’t remember now why she packed it. She searches her memory and settles on the thought that she must have slipped it in without realizing that she had.

Folding the jacket neatly, she puts it away in the drawer she and Lee had decided would be hers, closing it in the same way that she might close a chapter in her own life.

She stands and walks to the computer, clicking on the iTunes icon so as to select her playlist from those enumerated on the left side of the program. She needs to unpack, and will do so, setting aside what she can before Lee returns from her classes.

* * *

From the point-of-view of fifteen-year-old Ellie Ridley, high school had gone from being a proverbial hell to a literal one. Her life was set, other than the fact that she was what she was, an inconsistency in the realm of human genetics, she would follow the path that was set before her and take this life as it was. Never mind that she wished it didn’t have to be so. She was going to remain in this high school until she graduated—with honors, preferably, if she could manage to keep her grades up. That is, if she didn’t suffer a complete emotional breakdown before she had time to rent out her toga.

“Hey look, it’s the deaf-mute.” The giggles and titters that followed this statement were muffled, but not enough to hide that they were meant as barbs. “Oh, she’s not really a deaf-mute; she’s just mute.” She shifted in her seat, one of the many stone benches that wrapped about the trees on the school’s campus. Math. Why did it have to be math?

“But I thought deaf and mute went together.” Focus Ellie. Her hand trembled as she tried to recall the formula for the word problem. “Naw girls,” it was a male voice this time, deep in its baritone and just as spiteful. “She’s just a mutie.”

Laughter followed the pun, and Ellie resisted the urge to turn around and tell them to jump off a cliff. The memories of what had happened last year with George Tyler still far too fresh in her mind and those of the teachers who’d taken to watching her life a hawk when she went down for lunch.

Deciding that it was best to simply retreat, she stood up, piled her homework into her bag, and began to head for the library, seeking solitude in the silence.

“What do you think, Ridley?” They called after her, the air punctuated with their laughter. “Think I need a little work on my puns?”

Ignore them. She told herself, hugging the strap of her backpack close as her pace picked up. Keep your head down. Don’t stop. Just move. It took all her will not to yelp when a hand shot out from nowhere and grabbed her arm, holding her fast. What was more surprising, was that when she turned around it was that new girl—Lee—who held her fast and solid. “Don’t.” She said, her voice firm in the likeness of a command. “Don’t let them do this to you.” Ebony eyes locked with hers with a solidness that lent a measure of comfort. “Don’t give them the satisfaction.” She murmured, softer this time.

Unable to find any appropriate words, Ellie’s eyes fluttered a moment and her gaze dropped as she shook her head, pulling her arm away before she ran off against the wind that picked up. The dust it brought strung her eyes.

The new girl couldn’t understand. She couldn’t possibly understand that Ellie Ridley was a name synonymous to the word ‘alone’. Whereas every other kid out there had the chance to have someone, she could never have that. That was the way of the world.

* * *

It’s funny how roughly seventy-five percent of the music which takes up a good ten percent of the new hard drive belongs to Lee. Ellie’s constantly fascinated at the amount of music that the girl has decided to store. Seven playlists belong to Lee, one for every mood that she’s ever had, and will possibly repeat.

One selection reads: Chill Music, and is filled with the sounds that she often plays when writing up posts for the online journal that she’s maintained for the past four years. It’s a selection that Ellie’s familiar with, Lee having played it a number of times when Ellie had stayed over at the Delgado household when her parents had been away.

She clicks it now, setting the list onto random play and minimizing the program so that it’s neatly hidden on the bottom taskbar. There are boxes still to open, things still to unearth, but at least armed now with Vienna Teng singing about sailing seas and reaching harbors, she can at least pass the time with a measure of peace.

* * *

The covered area of SCPA’s indoor pool was a place she graced twice every week. She wasn’t the team sport type, wouldn’t dare risk playing with others, neither did she develop a skill with the tennis or badminton racket. She’d learned long ago that when faced with an opponent that held grudges that wouldn’t go away she might as well offer herself up as a dartboard with her face painted with the scores. Deflecting a bright yellow-green ball that bounced was dangerous. Gym in general with her school mates was dangerous.

So that left swimming or track, and as the latter was dominated heavily by the boys, swimming class it was. Girls she could handle better than boys. And it would mean that she could avoid George, who’d gathered a number of new friends since the incident the previous year.

It was days like these when she felt more or less comfortable despite the number of other individuals cramped together in one particular space. She wasn’t required to talk to anyone, merely listen to instructions and execute them as best as she could. While the other girls constantly fretted about whether or not they looked good in their swimsuits, or whether or not the swim cap they were wearing did any wonders for their looks, Ellie just did as she was told: swam as best as she could, as fast as she could, and didn’t look for praise in any way, shape or form.

She was an average swimmer, by her standards as well as compared to the rest, capable of only doing enough to keep her grades at an acceptable level. This wasn’t one of her better classes, as there were no written exams and papers to write and grades depended heavily on physical performance, but that was fine. Everyone was allowed one or two bad classes in the entire of their high school career.

Normally, she would come to the area, dress up, and approach the coach and find out what she needed to do. She would then do these instructions, following them as best as she could to the letter. If coach said twenty laps, she did twenty. If she lost count in the middle, she’d stop counting and keep on going until coach herself said to stop.

But no, today had to be different. Coach Faye had called in sick and a substitute had been sent in, one who seemed more intent on pointing out why her form was wrong, and why Ellie’s grades in the basic swimming course were as bad as they were.

“Ms. Ridley, if you insist on swimming that way, you’re going to promptly wear yourself out.” It also hadn’t helped that Ellie had made a mistake coming back from the other end of the pool, turning the wrong way underwater and thus getting the chlorine-coated liquid in her lungs, forcing her to stand before she could complete her run. “You need work, Ridley,” was the last thing she heard before her eyes focused fully, just in time for her to see the substitute scribble something down in the class log.

She’d pulled herself out of the pool, quiet and ignoring the burning sensation in her throat that mimicked the one in her blood. Silence was better than all the possible consequences of what might be if she so much as opened her mouth. She just had to cling to the hope that Coach Faye would ignore whatever comments their sub had put next to her name. She couldn’t afford to get a C if she wanted to make the honor roll again.

But life is funny, and just when a person doesn’t need it, Murphy’s Law comes barreling down the way. It didn’t take long for the other students to pick up on what their instructor had started, and as soon as the substitute had left, people started picking on her anew.

Ellie had been watching the new girl’s progress in the pool even after the class was done. Lee Delgado was like a fish in water, cutting through the pool’s pristine surface as gracefully as a dolphin. Word was going around that she’d been petitioned for the swim team, but had declined. “Hey, Ellie, why didn’t you say something?” Ellie’s shoulders tensed as the voice cut into her thoughts. “Yeah Ridley, why’d you put up with that?”

She looked over her shoulder and noted the girls who she’d once sat with at Sheridan’s table. “Why didn’t you tell her to drown herself? You can do that, right?” Their laughter was collective. “No, she can’t,” came the giggled taunt. “She’s too chicken to do it.”

“Yeah, she’s too scared,” came the affirmation. “Scared to talk, scared to say anything at all. Jeff was right; she might as well be mute.”

It was too much. Just too much. Didn’t they know that she knew all that already, and that she didn’t need any more reminders? “Leave me alone.” She whispered, turning back to looking over the railing and onto the pool below.

The laughter stopped and footfalls came closer. “What did you say?” Ellie turned her head and saw the looks in their eyes. “Come again?” The dare was there and they were all waiting for her to take it.

“I said leave me alone,” she whispered again, turning away.

“No really, Ridley. Speak up.” They should have left, but they didn’t, and instead, spiteful and childish as it may have seemed to older individuals, these kids enjoyed power-tripping and what better way to do so than to put down one of their own. Ellie felt her towel and gym bag being pulled away and she struggled to get it back, her fingers a vise around the strap and cloth as the girls pulled back.

“Come on, Ellie, speak up. We can’t hear you.”

So she gave them what they wanted, she opened her mouth to speak up and she screamed: “WILL YOU JUST PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!

* * *

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.

She smiles down at the dedication on the first page of one of the books that she’d set on the floor outside of the box. The book is full of poetry written by a woman called Merlie M. Alunan. Lee had given it to her on a whim the day before they’d driven to the airport. Lee had said then that since they would be living in the same place anyway, Ellie could keep it as her own.

The quote is from Mother Teresa. I heard lolo say it once, Lee’s penmanship reads, the ink a deep maroon. I know you love reading about falling in love, and you probably want it amazing and brilliant like a shooting star, and while these poems aren’t all about love, I hope they inspire you to keep on dreaming.

There are bookmarks and pencil highlights and marginal notes on the poems she read again and again. Lee’s favorite, she knows, is the one entitled The wisdom of travelers, and Ellie finds it so fitting, as her friend has traveled a long way from home.

* * *

For Ellie, summer meant two things: freedom and a cage. Freedom, because she did whatever she wanted and didn’t worry about classes and classmates for the better part of two-and-a-half months, and a cage, because it meant staying at home, all alone, unless her parents came back from Washington to visit, which was rare.

She noticed how the air warmed so much of late, and how most of the conversations between classes began to revolve around who planned to go where at the end of the year. Places like Paris and Rome were bandied about as if they were nothing, while others spoke of Martha’s Vineyard or Santa Barbara. These were none of her concern. This summer, her concern was centered on the friend she called her own in recent months, and the promise that the next few weeks would be a worthwhile break from the previous year.

“What’s it like?” She asked softly, her books held at her side. The sidewalk had emptied itself of other people, and at the curb, a dark-blue BMW waited for them. She knew that the driver parked it there short of an hour before; she had seen it pull over from her classroom window.

She and Lee had walked in each other’s company numerous times, and the familiar sound of their footfalls were almost unison on the floor. Ellie enjoyed the rides she hitched in the Delgado’s car, amused herself by watching grandfather and granddaughter discuss the finer points of a number of subjects. Sometimes, she had been included in the conversation herself, Lee genuinely enjoying being her interpreter. It had been Ben who had understood her ability to use sign language at first, having acquired the skill himself years before. Lee had picked it up later, apparently pressuring her grandfather to impose the skill on her.

But today Lee was hitching with her. They were completing a project for their science lab class and Ellie had volunteered that Lee sleep over at the Ridley house for once, since Ben had a conference to go to for the weekend. “Flying from one country to another?” Ellie smiled at the other girl, her eyes betraying her curiosity.

“Like any other plane trip, I guess,” Lee replied, “except longer.” Ellie frowned. She’d ridden a plane only once, when she was younger, and the memory of that was faded and long ago. When Lee looked over, the shorter girl laughed, amused at Ellie’s expression. “The Philippines is an archipelago, so most of the places need a plane trip or two, depending.” She shrugged then, and Ellie noted how their reflections were visible against the gleam of the car’s surface. “Manila is in Luzon, and Bacolod is in the Visayas, so I’ve been on one-hour trips from one place to the other ever since I was a baby.”

Ellie nodded her head, filing that new tidbit of random information at the back of her head for future reference. She wasn’t Filipino, but through Lee and Ben Delgado she had come to love a country that was not her own, to appreciate a culture that she thought so much warmer, so much more welcoming, than the one she’d grown up with.

When Lee spoke of family, there was always a smile ready on her lips, and so many anecdotes that showed a child who had grown up loved, if not spoiled and adored for the better. She knew now that Lee had grown up not just an only child, but a fatherless one, because her dad had apparently died just a few months before she was born. Mike Delgado had been a pilot, and the eldest of two boys that Ben had lovingly called his own. Lee didn’t know anything else beyond that, but the girl proclaimed this man the love of her mother’s life.

As the two of them slid into the car to rest their backs against the leather seats, Ellie smiled slightly as she closed the door against the heat and the oppression of the world. She looked forward to summer, because now it didn’t look so bleak. Summer didn’t have to be a cage, and though Lee probably didn’t know it, Ellie already considered her the key that had undone the lock.

* * *

She opens to a page, her fingers skimming over the smooth paper. She loves one poem in particular among the many written there. The title is Bringing the dolls, and unlike The wisdom of travelers, it is sad.

Two dolls in rags and tatters, / one missing an arm and a leg, / the other blind in one eye— / I grabbed them from her arms, / “No,” I said, “they cannot come.”” Her eyes water a bit, feeling the images coming crisp and clear in her mind. She had never ridden on a boat before—she hadn’t done a great many things, and only in books had she ever traveled the world.

Each tight luggage
I had packed
only for the barest need:
No room for sentiment or memory
to clutter loose ends
my stern resolve. I reasoned,
even a child must learn
she can’t take
what must be left behind.

She thinks back now to that night, the one when her father had come home, alone, from his world of politicians and prestige. Ben Delgado had found out about her mutant powers that week, how, Ellie is still unsure.

Maybe Lee had told him about that day at the poolside, she didn’t know, but the old professor had approached her with concern in his eyes and kindness on his lips and he’d told her about a place up in New York where children like her could endure the highs and lows of high school in a place where she didn’t have to worry about people who were afraid of what she could do. Where people understood and did their best to help.

* * *

No! You are absolutely not going to that school!”

Ellie stared at her father, her eyes wide and burning with unshed tears. This wasn’t fair. Didn’t he see? This was her chance to learn about what she could do. To get help. To find out all about what her voice was doing to the people around her. If she could learn to control it the way Dr. Delgado said that man—Xavier—could teach her to, then she would be able to stop being a burden to people. She would be able to live normally, start having friends without being afraid that she would make them do something that could quite possibly kill them.

She would become normal again. He could love her again. They would be a family again. Didn’t he want that?

“But... Dad...” Her voice was raspy, a croak, almost, made hoarse by the tears that would not stop from spilling down her cheeks. Her fingernails were digging into the fabric of her woolen pants, as if holding onto something that would keep her still as the world around her spun out of control.

Papers rustled as she watched him put together his things. He didn’t have a meeting, so that meant he was going upstairs, to his room, or to the library to have a drink. “My word is final, Ellie.” His voice was steady, the anger gone and replaced by the cool and collected tone of a composed adult.

“If you would just listen…”

No is no, Ellie!” Arthur Ridley’s hand chopped through the air like a scythe, effectively cutting off her protest. His jaw set itself tight and he stared her down in a way that she never would have thought he could. He had always been detached to her, as if uncaring of whatever she went through as long as she carried on like a responsible daughter who brought home straight A’s and good conduct reports. “No daughter of mine is going to attend a school for mutants!” The last word was said no different from the rest of the sentence, but it stung as if he’d slapped her himself.

“But Lee, she’s going—” Ellie cried out, unable to do anything else than to weep while sitting where she was.

“She—” Arthur’s eyes darkened, and his lips set in the thin line. Ellie regretting saying what she had instantly, sure now of what her father had thoughts. He hadn’t known that her new and very much only friend had been like her and had treated Lee with the welcome warmth that he’d never given Ellie.

To see the look in his eyes now, that glimmer of betrayal, that he’d been deceived into believing that his daughter had associated with people he would approve of, hurt more than anything else.

“Lee is a mutant?!” His voice was barely a whisper when he spoke, and Ellie, wishing she could take back he words shut her eyes instead and buried her face in her hands. The disbelief in her father’s voice was quickly replaced by the tone of controlled rage, and his words closed over her like the stone slab of a tomb. “My decision is final, Elisabeth Claire. You are staying at St. Christopher’s. This discussion is over.”

For once, Dad,” it seemed as though her anger had melted away into desperation. “Just once,” She was so tired, so hurt, so exhausted to hate him. Hating a person took so much out of her, whereas praying that they would love her back so little. “For once in your life,” the tears spilled hot now, unchecked and raw. “For once can’t you think about what’s best for me?”

But, like many times before, her cries fell on her father’s selectively deaf ears. Anger bubbled and roiled in her blood and in her throat as he turned his back on her, as if shutting a door that she knew she would never be able to open again if she didn’t do something now.

Dad…” she pleaded, “for once, could you just please do everything I ask?!”

The silence hung the way a mantis paused, unmoving, ready to strike. She watched her father pause in the doorway for a moment, and Ellie’s heart thudded in her ears, anticipation a knife at her throat.

But Arthur moved out the door and that was that.

Ellie slid bonelessly to the floor, her knees kissing and her legs positioned awkwardly over the newly-vacuumed carpet. She momentarily hated herself for having hoped in that brief pause, that maybe, just once, maybe her powers had decided to take effect on the only other person who had been immune before Lee walked into her life. That way, she could just ask him to let her go. Somewhere inside her though, she was also relieved.

It was a secret that she’d harbored over the years, a little prayer that maybe her own father’s immunity to her abilities was because maybe—just maybe—he was a mutant too. But he hadn’t said anything, hadn’t reacted, and that hope was discarded for something that she felt deep down inside, was something that she wanted more.

She wanted to go. She wanted the chance to find out what exactly was wrong with her. Why couldn’t her father see that?

* * *

She isn’t proud of what she’s done. While other kids her age might jump for joy at the ability to make their parents do whatever they want, and willingly at that, she feels nothing but shame.

Already she knows that less than two weeks from now, Arthur Ridley will wake up and realize his mistake. All the things that he’s done… or rather, all the things that she’s made him do: the bank account that would replenish itself with a certain amount of money from his own every month—the paper that authorized the exchange. It had his signature and hers, and would require both to nullify the agreement. Then there was the immediate shipping of all the personal belongings she thought necessary to take with her, and finally, her withdrawal from St. Christopher’s Academy two months into the school year.

All the things she’d need to guarantee that she was independent from him were taken care of. And it is all her doing.

She feels the tears come, fast, hot and sudden, as they trickle down her cheeks. Her fingers curl around a small Polaroid picture that Lee had taken the night her father had driven her himself to the Delgado house. That was a few days before, the evening before they would fly early in the day to New York.

She’s kept the picture as a bookmark on this same page where a Filipina poet talks about dolls and the difference between letting go of things that are unnecessary, as well as bringing along what matters most.

I miss you, Daddy…” She shuts her eyes and hugs the book tight against her chest, each tear matching the apology that she recited over and over in her head. She wants to start fresh and leave all the lies behind, because it hurts her so much to know that the conversation her father held with Lolo Ben, the smiles he’d given Lee, and the hugs he’d given her, are all lies of her own making. All lies that if she wants to be free, she can’t take back. “I’m so sorry…”

Forgive me, please, Daddy… I didn’t mean to…

* * *

It was the clatter of Cecilie’s high heels as she walked towards the kitchen that made Ellie pause between putting her spoonful of ice cream into her mouth and replying to a question her father had posed to her. She turned her head to the kitchen door, and watched as Cecilie walked in, all class and polish in her cream and ivory ensemble.

The older woman blinked, blue eyes taking in the scene with surprise: father and daughter leaning on the kitchen counter, not bothering with separate bowls and instead opting to eat communally from a carton of ice cream. “What’s going on?” She asked as she set down her shoulder bag on the nearest flat surface, her smooth and willowy arms crossing over her chest as she walked closer. Suspicion didn’t glimmer in her eyes, but Ellie knew it lurked, just like a snake, hidden behind the clear-blue surface.

Ellie looked at her father, who grinned at her before turning to Cecilie, smiling at her as well. “You came home just in time, honey.” He straightened and gave his wife a kiss on the cheek, making them the picture of a happy family. “Ellie and I were just finishing this ice cream before we head off to Dr. Delgado’s place.”

Cecilie frowned, though not so much, and glanced towards Ellie, her viper’s fangs showing briefly before she turned back to her husband and asked, “Why?” with what seemed to be apparent concern. “I just got back, Arthur, you might want to fill me in. Is she sleeping over at her friend’s place again? I know it’s fairly normal for most girls to do so, but really, this is becoming a bad habit.” The way Cecilie said the words made her uncomfortable, and Ellie braced herself for the storm that she was certain to come. “Dr. Delgado might start thinking that we don’t want Ellie home.”

Arthur blinked and shook his head, “Sleepover? Oh no darling, it’s not a sleepover,” he turned to his daughter again, winking as he took another spoonful of ice cream for himself. “She’s going with Lee to another school,” he put some in his mouth and reached for the handkerchief he always kept on-hand.

“Another school?” Cecilie seemed to sputter, and a worried look crossed her face. “Did the board of trustees call? Did something happe—”

Arthur took her by the arm and kissed her soundly then, an action that while making Ellie queasy—she never could find it in her to love her mother like most kids her age—was sufficient enough in shutting the woman up. “Sweetheart, you worry too much.” He let her go and sat back down across from Ellie, murmuring softly about whether or not the girl had checked her things to make sure that everything was set.

“Arthur.” Cecilie stepped close, discreetly throwing a wary glance at the daughter she preferred to ignore. Nothing was apparently making sense to her, and Ellie hid a small smile as she shoveled out another spoon of ice cream. She watched how Cecilie curled her exquisitely manicured fingers around her father’s wrist, a gesture that she’d noticed was habit on her mother’s part. “You can’t be serious, Arthur!” Cecilie whispered, though none-too-softly.

Typical, Ellie mused to herself. Cecilie had never once given much thought to anything that had centered on her, preferring always to think that as the adult, she was perpetually in the right. “I’m serious, Ceci,” Arthur replied, passing his daughter the tissue box while he savored the ice cream in his mouth. “Ben says that the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters is a good place for Ellie to have a chance at a healthy teenaged life.” He looked up to Cecilie. “He knows the headmaster personally, and guaranteed me that Charles Xavier has the best interests of youths with special gifts at heart.”

Cecilie seemed to gape, and Ellie tensed at first, her fingers frozen around the piece of Kleenex that she was about to pull out. “What did she do to you?” Arthur glanced up, the look in his eyes worried at the words that had just left his wife’s mouth. “What did she say? She must have said something if you’re talking like this.” Cecilie pulled back, the horror in her eyes directed now at Ellie. “What did you tell your father?” Her voice was harsher now, and Ellie couldn’t help but wince. Ceci was smart, Ellie didn’t deny that. Having grown up with her, Ellie had no delusions about Ceci being unaware of her capabilities. That was why the woman spent so much time away from her in the first place. There was that constant fear of Ellie suddenly instructing her to do something that would humiliate her.

“Ceci, stop that.” Ellie felt her father’s larger hand close over her own, the warmth in them so comforting. His breath was warm against her forehead. “You stay here, alright, Bethie, I’ll be right back.” He hadn’t called her ‘Bethie’ since she was four. Most kids might not remember, but she did. She clung to those memories like they were the only thing she could ever hold on to.

Her father took the conversation outside, in the hall where their voices were muffled by the wall that buffered the sounds. “What’s gotten into you?” Ellie could still hear them though, and as it was her nature, she slid off the chair to move closer. “Nothing! I ought to be asking you that question. Did Dr. Delgado suggest this idea, Arthur? Or have you let your daughter brainwash you the way she’s done so many other people in the past?”

“I’m serious about this, Ceci.” Arthur seemed to growl back, something he rarely did unless under incredible stress. “I don’t see why you can’t see it too. This is perhaps the best thing that’s ever come Ellie’s way. She explained it to me, and she’s right,” he continued, “regular school just isn’t doing it for her. She needs to learn more about what she does, and she needs to be around people who understand her and how these things work. Besides, Lillian Delgado is the only friend she’s got, and if Ben sees the school fit enough for his granddaughter, I can see nothing wrong with sending Ellie there too.”

She could see them from where she stood, how Cecilie’s face seemed to go livid, while Arthur appeared to be the epitome of calm. The older woman inhaled and exhaled for a few moments, as if steadying her breathing before her eyes lifted to focus on Ellie, and then the look in them turned quickly to violent and accusing.

“You ungrateful, little brat,” she started, stalking over to Ellie with a finger pointed in accusation. “How dare you turn your freak abilities on your father?!” A hand lifted to slap Ellie across the face and Ellie backed up against the door, her eyes shutting tight as she braced herself for the impact.

But the slap that resounded wasn’t against her skin, and when Ellie opened her eyes, Cecilie stared up at her father with a mix of betrayal and shock written all over her face. “Arthur…” she whispered, her voice trembling as her hand came up to her cheek, the skin there red from the backhand slap that he’d administered.

“I have never once lifted a hand to my own daughter.” He started, his voice low and almost dangerous. “Whoever said I’d let you?”

“Are you blind?!” Cecilie cried out in anguish, her world turned upside-down, “She set you up! She used her powers on you and now you’re doing what she wants you to do!”

In the silence that hung between the three of them, Ellie watched Cecilie, who watched her as well out of the corner of her eye. For years they had played a game of tug-of-war with her father as the rope in-between. It was a game that Cecilie played with grace and confidence, one that she had always won. Can I come with you to Washington? It’s Christmas, Daddy. I don’t want to be alone here. Ellie had once said, and while Arthur had seemed to consider the idea, all Cecilie had to do was whisper a few things in his ears and he’d denied them the holiday together.

But the stakes had been raised the moment Ellie had learned about a school that could change her very life, and Ellie wanted so badly to win this time, no matter what.

“I don’t believe you.” Arthur murmured, and Ellie watched him swallow hard. “You’re saying that my daughter would control me. That she would stoop so low as to manipulate the way I think?” Arthur’s voice may have been shaky, but it was cold, growing so infinitely cold, that there was a pause as Cecilie fell silent.

“Arthur… I’m—”

“I am not changing my mind on this,” He turned away and cupped Ellie’s cheek, his eyes growing softer and sadder as the seconds ticked by. “She wanted this, and I’m giving it to her. I don’t see anything wrong with everything that she’s asked me to do.”

“What did she…? Arthur, what have you done?”

It made Ellie want to smile to hear those words come from him. She felt vindicated, in a way, that her father was no longer ignoring her pleas, her requests, as he had done so often in the past. It felt good to know that her father was taking charge for her sake, that he was, for once, doing something for her.

Will you just snap out of it?!” Cecilie all but shrieked as she reached out and grasped Arthur’s hand, desperately trying to make him see her way, trying to make him realize that she was right. The girl had done something. And when mother and daughter looked at each other, both knew that it was true. “You don’t know what’s gotten into you,” Cecilie cried as Arthur led Ellie to the door, his hand solid against the small of her back. “I’m just trying to protect you.”

But Arthur was deaf to Cecilie now, and he turned his reassuring smile to his only child. “It’s okay, honey. I’ll take care of everything. You just go and do your best at the new school.” He touched her cheek, a gesture that she’d been denied for the last five years of her life. “You asked me to be happy for you, and I really am.” He kissed her forehead then, before he opened the door as he shrugged on his coat. “I might be back late.” He called over his shoulder, the tone of his voice frosty as he addressed Cecilie. “Don’t wait up.”

Ellie kept her head bowed as they walked to the car, barely listening as her father waved the driver to sit, telling the man that he’d be driving the car tonight. She knew that she’d start to cry if she looked up. It was all a lie. A great, big lie that was swallowing them both whole.

He wanted her to be happy because she asked him to without even thinking. And though this was what she’d wanted for so, so long, having it now, like this, it hurt more than she could ever have imagined.

* * *

Shouts from down the hall snaps Ellie’s attention back to the present. That was Lee. That was Lee shouting. “Make it stop Ms. Munroe, I can’t hear a thing. I don’t know what I did.”

Lee. Something is wrong with Lee.

Standing up, the book falling forgotten to the floor, Ellie stumbles over the overturned boxes and piles of unorganized books and out the door of their dorm room. Other kids have come out of their rooms to check what is going on, and voices join Lee’s panicked tone.

“Clarice, hold her firmly.” The woman Ellie knows to be Ororo Munroe is coming up the stairs, her hands curled around the arm of one Lee Delgado. One of the students—a pink-skinned girl that Ellie can only surmise is the Clarice Ms. Munroe was referring to holds Lee by the other arm. The look on her face speaks of worry as they lead the girl carefully up the steps. “Yes, Ms. Munroe. Hold on, Lee. We’ll get you to the Professor.”

“I doubt she can hear us, Clarice.” The older woman murmurs as they steady Lee. “But I’m sure if she could, she’d appreciate your concern.” Lee’s face is ashen, the look in her eyes terrified. She speaks, but the words are shaky, and the way she says them holds an uncertain quality about them, as if she is unsure of the way she is forming them. Her voice modulation is off as if she were a radio with the volume control broken.

Ellie starts to rush over, and is stopped when a boy her age with dark, shoulder-length hair halts her by the arm. What is going on? She wants to ask, but too afraid to speak, and equally scared to find the answer, she stands there, watching as her friend is led down the other end of the hall.

(Anonymous) 2006-08-12 08:39 am (UTC)(link)
simply wonderful.

on how badly she wants to go to Xavier's:
it's a very very very good description of how a mutant would react and feel.

on the father:
a very good display of powers and development of character. can't wait for 21 days.

on the ending:
you're just as much of a tease as me.XD guess who dark-haired boy is!?XD

[identity profile] 2006-08-13 02:25 am (UTC)(link)
*bursts into tears*

I know that I made Ellie up, that I gave her her name and her family and her powers and a chunk of her history, but you were the one who brought her to life on the page. I know that I helped in writing this one, but I have to say that this is you, all you.


Now I'm squirming in my seat to read all about Lee this time.

*waits eagerly for next Special Issue - or the next regular issue, whichever comes first*