112: Changing Histories

on December 7, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Mackenzie Is Taken By Surprise

Steff and Dee had evidently waited for me… they caught up to me as I came out of the bathroom. Dee looked utterly impassive. Steff looked exultant.

“Was that righteous, or what?” Steff said, looking at the crowd of students with bemused and bewildered expressions on their faces, some of whom were still filtering out of the classroom. “Fuck… did everybody walk out?”

“She canceled class,” I said.

“The professor became infuriated when Mack refused to leave and then dismissed everyone,” Dee said. She cocked her head slightly to the side. “Did you not hear?”

“I heard Ariadne going orcshit, but I couldn’t really make out what she was saying,” Steff said. “Or what exactly happened before. My question is, does all this make you all the more hot for her, or less?”

“I’m not ‘hot for’ her!” I protested.

“I guess that means ‘more’,” Steff said. “Anyway, how about our Dee here? Maybe I had you pegged wrong, girl,” she said to Dee. “Not that I’ve ever pegged you… or I would peg you… or I’d need a peg… but seriously, hon, you just might want to think about changing your major from divine magic to high sassery.”

“I spoke hastily, and in anger,” Dee said. “It’s nothing to be proud of.” She gave a curt bow. “I apologize to both of you for my rudeness.”

“Um… it wasn’t directed at us,” I said.

“You were witness to it,” she said, looking at me expectantly.

“Oh,” I said. “Um… that’s okay, really. Uh… apology accepted?”

“Thank you,” she said, making a small bow. “I must go make an act of contrition, after which I shall proceed to the office of the registrar.”

“Okay,” I said. “And… thanks for standing up for me.”

It sounded inadequate, but it had to be more adequate than nothing, right?

“There was no other possibility,” Dee said. “Her behavior was indecent beyond the bounds of tolerability.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked.

“Did you find it particularly tolerable?” Dee asked.

“No, I mean… do you really believe that there was no other possible action?” I asked.

“There were perhaps other ways in which I could have acted… some perhaps better than others,” Dee said. “But under the circumstances, there was no alternative to action. Now, if you will excuse me, I must ask my gods to forgive me, on behalf of all the others I wronged.”

“Okay,” I said. “Bye, Dee.”

“Goodbye.”

She put up her cowl and headed down the hall towards the exit.

“She knows what she did was right,” I observed to Steff. “To the point she feels it was literally necessary… but she’s going to ask her gods’ forgiveness for her ‘outburst’, all the same.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty fucked up, alright,” Steff said.

“That’s not what I meant,” I said, a little irritably.

“No, really, I think it’s adorable that she talks to her imaginary friends,” Steff said. “Maybe next time you lose your temper, you should try talking to your stupid Mecknight dolls?”

“Steff, will you give it a rest?” I said. “Please?”

“Sorry,” she said. “I meant to say ‘stupid Mecknight enaction figures.'”

“Not that!” I said. “Though I’d appreciate you laying off… but I meant, why can’t you leave Dee alone?”

“What do you mean?” she asked, in tone of wounded innocence most people only adopt when they know exactly what they’ve done and why it’s wrong.

“You were so upset when I insulted your religion, but you have to cut Dee’s down every time it comes up,” I said. “Doesn’t that strike you as just a little bit hypocritical?”

“Well, yeah, but… it’s okay for me to be hypocritical,” Steff said, giving a crooked smile and a wink. “It’s only bad when other people do it.”

“I’m serious!” I said.

“Shit, okay,” Steff said, rocking back. “You don’t have to get all upset about it. I’m only joking around, honestly…”

“Well, Dee doesn’t have the same sense of humor you do,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be all bitchy about this… but with so much shit happening on this campus already, do we have to add to it?”

“I guess not,” Steff said. “Look, I wasn’t serious… let’s just drop it. And, talking about dropping things… you wanna head over to the reg office and get this unsightly blemish removed from our schedules?”

“I’ll walk over with you,” I said. “But I’m not letting her run me out of there.”

“Come on, Mack… there’s principles, and then there’s being stupid,” Steff said. “And principally, this is stupid.”

“It’s like Dee said… there’s no other choice,” I said.

“Sure there is,” Steff said. “Quit. Drop it. There’s no shame… you beat her. You won.”

“Not if I quit,” I said.

“If she fails you, you’ve lost,” Steff said. “Anyway… Amaranth would want you to avoid the conflict, right?”

“That’s a low blow,” I said.

“It’s true, though,” Steff said.

“It’s true that she’d want it, but you don’t have a problem with conflict,” I said.

“I don’t want you turning into a martyr,” Steff said. “I mean, I don’t want to pry into your private stuff… well, I want to pry really deep into your private stuff… but can you afford to fail a class?”

I sighed. The thing was, she was right.

“Probably not,” I said.

“And what good are you going to do for anybody here if you wash out?” Steff asked hotly. “Anyway, what will you accomplish if you keep the class?”

“I might learn something,” I said. “There’s a rumor that says that’s what we’re here for.”

“You’re an enchantment major,” Steff said, suddenly angry to the point of tears for some reason. “So don’t give me a bunch of ‘love of knowledge’ crap… you’re a gold farmer, pure and simple.”

“That’s uncalled for,” I said, a little detachedly. Where had this hostility come from? It was a little bit baffling… and that made me want to get even angrier in turn. I didn’t, though. Partly because Steff was my friend and I loved her, but partly because I think I’d already hit some kind of emotional overload. Things had been coming at me so fast and so strong for so long that I’d really kind of hit the bottom level of the dungeon in some regards. “Yeah, maybe I don’t want to be poor all my life, but I like learning.”

“I’m sorry,” Steff said, and she sounded like it. “It’s just…”

She sniffled and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

“What?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said. “Look… you should do what you feel is best, okay, hon?”

She started inspecting her fingernails for minute flaws, raised her hand to her mouth and started to bite one, and then quickly lowered it, looking very briefly ashamed, and then began the examination again.

“You’re afraid that I’ll leave,” I realized. “That I’ll fail the class and lose my scholarship.”

“It could happen,” Steff said, speaking with a weird rapidity that reminded me of Mariel at her most manic. “Don’t think it couldn’t… a lot of people end up screwing themselves that way. Don’t kid yourself, Mack. It could happen.”

“I know, but I mean… you’re really upset by the idea,” I said, looking up into her face.

“I’m not in love with you!” Steff blurted out in response.

Okay, that wasn’t random.

“I didn’t say you…”

“It’s only been like a week and a half, anyway,” Steff went on. “So the whole idea is ridiculous. Anyway, I don’t even believe that romantic love is possible, without sex, and you haven’t exactly been… so… I’m not.”

“Okay,” I said. I could have added “I believe you”… but that would have been a total and abject lie. Steff was in love with me. In terms of weird thoughts, that maybe ranked above Steff has a penis. “Look, I’ll go to the registrar’s office and find another class to join… something else that looks interesting. Another history class, if I can.”

“Oh, okay then,” Steff said. She seemed a little bit spellshocked. “Good. I’m… I’m glad you came around.”

“I mean, if I am here to learn… I’ll probably learn more from a teacher that doesn’t hate my guts, anyway,” I said. It felt like I was backing down, but I figured there was more than one principle worth acting on… if Steff was that worried, that distressed, over the possibility–likelihood–of me washing out of school, that was something I couldn’t avoid acting on. Like Dee, my choice was already made. “And what you said makes sense.”

“What I said?” Steff asked, sounding as though she’d already forgotten it.

“That I won’t be able to do much good if I’m not even on campus next semester,” I said. “That.”

“Oh,” Steff said. Her brain seemed to reset itself. “Oh! I totally forgot! After I gave him suitable praise for his artistic genius, Viktor told me he wants to meet you… no, actually, he said he needs to meet you.”

“Um, okay,” I said. Had Amaranth spoken to him about my request to take Steff out on a real date? For that matter, was it actually a good idea to go through with it, if there was a chance Steff was in love with me? Or did that just make it an even better idea?

“Alone, too, he said,” Steff said. “But don’t worry… I’ll kind of introduce you guys, to break the ice, you know?”

“When?” I asked.

“Not tonight,” Steff said. “He’s going to be revising. But he said this weekend, for sure.”

“Okay,” I said. “As far as I know, my schedule’s wide open.”

“Only… remember to be respectful to him, okay?” Steff said. “You see, ogre relationships are kind of… unilateral, in nature. I mean, the word which usually gets translated as ‘lover’ literally means the sole of your boot. I’m beneath him, Amaranth is beneath me, and you’re beneath her, so…”

“So, I’m way beneath him,” I said. “That’s… nice.”

“Oh, it’s not like that!” Steff said. “I mean, it isn’t anything to take personally. It’s more like a… propriety… thing. Also… um… don’t mention diluted pomegranate nectar in front of him.”

“Um… I’ll do my best not to?” I said uncertainly.

“It’s kind of a signal we’ve arranged,” Steff said. “Like a safe word… only kind of in reverse.”

“Do I want to know what that means?” I asked her.

Steff laughed.

“Honestly?” she said. “Probably not… though maybe. Actually, you might even be into it.”

“Into wha… you know, never mind,” I said. “I’m going to stick with my instincts on this one. I don’t want to know.”

That, of course, made Steff really want to tell me… but I held firm. It was part of my whole “willpower” thing I was working on. I must say, it was a lot more dignified than blowing my top… even if there was some plugging of ears and singing of “la la la” involved.

When we got to the registrar’s office, I dropped from elven history and got myself signed up for a course in early republican history instead. Okay, so it wasn’t as exciting as elven history, but it would still be interesting. I also made myself a promise: even though I’d dropped out of her class, I wasn’t going to surrender to Professor Ariadne. Now that she had less leverage over me, I would try talking to her and find out exactly what it was about me that she hated–or feared–so damn much.

I could only deal with one problem at a time, though. I wasn’t going to be good for much at the floor meeting if I had a bunch of thoughts jumbling around in my head about Ariadne and her bizarre vendetta, or Steff and her semi-half-unprofessed love for me, or Viktor and his extracurricular activities.

Luckily, there was a test paper waiting on our desks when I got to my logic class. The professor had arrived early so that people could jump right in, which meant Sooni missed out on her customary passing swipe. An hour of working out the best structures for layered spells did a pretty good job of clearing out my head. The work was intricate, but not unduly challenging… that made it almost meditative. It was such a very orderly subject, and I left the class feeling ready for anything the evening might bring.

It is a sad… though inescapable… fact that no amount of logic test questions whatsoever will do jack shit to prepare you for dealing with an ogre’s fist.

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6 Responses to “112: Changing Histories”

  1. beappleby says:

    I spotted a typo:

    “What do you mean?” she asked, in tone of wounded innocence…

    Should be “in a tone” or “in that tone” or possibly “in tones”…

    Current score: 0
  2. pedestrian says:

    I went back to college several years ago trying to figure out what the hell i’m going to do with the rest of my life. i refused to give up courses i was obviously failing. i would rather fail then quit. must be my maternal stubborn-as-an-oxen peasant dutch/finn blood overriding my paternal border english hillbilly laziness.

    Current score: 0
  3. Erm says:

    “I know, but I mean… you’re really upset by the idea,” I said, looking up into her face.
    “I’m not in love with you!” Steff blurted out in response.

    Suspiciously Specific Denial.

    Current score: 5
  4. Lunchbox says:

    Ughhh, Mack’s logic classes sound incredibly simular to my computer science.
    Logic, algorithms, logic, layering, logic…

    I do not find it meditative.

    Current score: 0
    • chrisleech says:

      So far I’ve only had one semester of CS classes but it’s pretty calming for me. At least until I find out that something went wrong and I have a mad rush trying to figure out what it was. That’s only happened a few times though and I am learning a lot about coding, even if I’m just starting out.

      Current score: 0
    • Athena says:

      It’s a personality thing. Some people do, some people don’t.

      Kinda like binary algebra. I adored binary algebra; I wish there’d been an entire course for it, not just a week or two within another class…

      Current score: 0