Chapter 49: Anteclimactic

on December 2, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Doesn’t Climax In Public

“Is she coming this way?” I asked.

“No,” Nicki said. “She’s not even looking… do we need to vanish?”

I looked around, sparing only a quick glance behind me at where Twyla was talking to a couple friends, rather animatedly from the way she was waving her hands around. I supposed that might mean she was in a good mood, but on the other hand it could mean she was ranting. The Twyla I barely knew wasn’t usually that animated.

The pre-dance crowd was spread out widely enough that it was only a crowd by numbers rather than density. Short of leaving or heading inside the union for a while, there weren’t a whole lot of options… ducking out until things got a little darker and a little busier in the vicinity of the dance wouldn’t exactly be a terrible thing. I’d still be talking to Nicki, so it wouldn’t be like going to hide alone in a dark corner… in fact, it might make it easier to get to know her if we went somewhere more quiet.

That sounded reasonable inside my head, but it felt like an excuse… a way of taking my desire to not face Twyla and spin it around into something where I was actually being confident and sociable.

The conflict left me standing there frozen for a second, during which I fully expected Twyla to turn a bit, catch a glimpse of me, and take the decision out of my hands. She didn’t, though. She just kept talking to her friends. It was weirdly reassuring to realize that I wasn’t the center of her world. Whatever she blamed me for, she wasn’t invested enough in her anger to be seeking me out everywhere she went. If she did see me, maybe she would just feel frustrated for a second and then brush it off.

As thoughts went, “maybe we can coexist” wasn’t as nice as “maybe we could be friends” but it was better than having another self-proclaimed enemy.

On the other hand, maybe it would be better to know for sure than to dwell forever on maybes.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and it was only after I had done so that I realized that I probably should have felt self-conscious about doing that in front of Nicki.

“Are you okay?” she asked me.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Do you want to bug out? Because I can try to stand between you, or cover you… or make up a cover story. Oh, but that would only matter if she sees you… I could…”

“Actually, I can’t believe I’m saying this,” I said, “but I might as well go over and ask how she’s doing… I mean, if we don’t bump into each other on the dance floor, we’re going to see each other in class, right?”


“Yeah,” I said. “I can’t do anything if she’s going to flat out hate me, but just ignoring her now doesn’t give her any reason not to. You can only live your life as a soap opera for so long before it starts to feel ridiculous.”

She kind of smiled faintly at that, and I wondered if it sounded corny to her… probably. I had no idea where I’d pulled that line out of. It was the sort of thing I usually thought but kept to myself. That seemed like the better move. Something about being around Nicki was making me kind of… I don’t know, careless.

“Do… do you want moral support?” she asked me. The way she hesitated, I thought it was possible that she’d rather stay out of my drama, but I couldn’t help clinging to the offer like a lifeline anyway.

“If you don’t mind,” I said. I smiled weakly. “This way it’s like we’re all classmates.”

“Um, we are all classmates,” Nicki said.

“I mean, it’s not just me going up to talk to her because of the awkward misunderstanding,” I said. “I mean, I am doing that, but it’ll seem less like it’s just that.”

“Is it possible that you overthink these things?” Nicki said.

“Excuse me, but what were you saying about using Professor Stone’s class as an excuse to talk to me?” I asked.

“That wasn’t thought, that was action… seeing an opportunity, and seizing on it,” Nicki said. “Um, and on a related subject… I think your mark is on the move.”

Twyla and her friends were heading across the plaza towards the entrance to the union. In fact, they were almost to it.

“Um… should we go after her?” Nicki asked.

“…no,” I said. “It’s hard to be casual and discreet when you’re shouting across an open lot, and running… never ends well. I’m not going to chase after her. If I see her again, I’ll go up and say hi… that’s all.”

“After a suitable period of reflection?” Nicki said.

“At the first opportunity,” I said. “The first good one, anyway… halfway good, at least. I won’t be too picky.”

“Let the fates decide,” Nicki said. “That’s what I usually do.”

“That works better if the fates like you,” I said.

“Maybe it does for some people,” Nicki said. “Mostly it’s what I call it when I put off something until it’s too late to do anything about.”

“Why do you do it if it doesn’t work?” I asked.

“Because I hate worrying about things,” Nicki said. “The alternative is… not worrying about them. Though that never really works out, because I’m still worrying about it most of the time.”

“Why do you do it, then?” I asked, aware that I sounded like an echo.

“I don’t know, I’m talking about ingrained tendencies… not something I’ve ever like sat down and done an analysis on the effectiveness of,” Nicki said. “And even when I’m sitting there telling myself that I’m just making things worse by not facing up to what’s going on, it still seems… well… easier than facing up.”

I nodded. It seemed like the better move than questioning her more or pointing out how wrong that was.

“I’m sorry,” Nicki said.

“What for?”

“I distracted you,” she said.

“Oh, Nicki, no,” I said. “The only thing that happened differently than if you hadn’t been here is that I was saying more stuff out loud. Seriously, you have no idea what it’s like inside my head.”

“Are you sure? I was just worried that I got you talking and threw you off your stride.”

“I don’t have a stride,” I said. “My stride throws me off my stride. Do you know how many times I fell down the stairs in Harlowe? I’m just glad I’m in a building with lifts now… at least this way it’ll be impressive when I fall down one of them.”

It was such a lame, forced joke. Nicki rewarded it with a forced laugh.

“So… what if you don’t see Twyla again?” she asked.

“What, ever?” I said. “We’re in the same class.”

“I mean tonight.”

“I’ll still see her on Tuesday,” I said.

“It’s just… it kind of seemed like you were building up to something,” Nicki said. “Like your mind was made up, and it was all… I don’t know, momentous or something.”

“Yeah, I don’t really do momentous,” I said. “I try sometimes, but honestly… my life is… it’s like a study in perpetual anti-climax. Which sounds boring, but it’s not… sometimes it’s downright exciting, but it never leads anywhere. It’s like having all the stresses of a big build-up and never having the pay off. That probably makes no sense.”

“It actually sounds like really bad sex,” Nicki said.

“That’s actually the part that’s pretty good,” I said. I was about to add that apparently I climaxed pretty easily, but that seemed like more than enough information for someone I’d barely met… and anyway, it seemed like there was a better than even chance that she already knew it. I laughed. “You know, I can’t remember the last time I talked to someone like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like… I don’t know,” I said. “You’re really easy to talk to.”

“I am?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Has nobody ever told you that before?”

“No,” she said. “Most people… don’t really talk to me. Oh, I do have friends!” She didn’t sound defensive so much as… okay, she did sound defensive, but it was less like she thought she was under attack and more like she was afraid of losing my interest. “I just… I hang out with them. I like them. They like me. We do things for each other. But I’m always… I guess I’m the quiet one? I mean, usually.”

“I can sympathize,” I said.


“Yeah,” I said.

“But you’re… you’re clever,” she said.

I laughed.

“And… you’re laughing at me,” she said.

“Nicki… I’m not. I’m laughing at the idea of me being clever,” I said. “Okay, I like to think of myself as clever in the gets-an-A kind of way, or the solves-tricky-problems kind of way, but I’m… I’m not the… I’m just someone whose head is full of things she doesn’t know how to articulate.”

“See? That. That’s great,” she said.

“It’s not!”

“The way you said it,” she said. “Mack, I watch you…”

“You shouldn’t,” I said. “I’m not that interesting, I promise.”

“Not like all the time. I mean, I have seen you, and your life just seems so…”

“Well, it’s not,” I said. I tried to sound earnest, but I think it just came out forceful, verging on harsh. I wasn’t trying to lecture her or yell at her, I just wanted to… correct the record. What kind of person would see a life like mine and be so desperate to get inside it? “Not so. It isn’t at all so. Okay? My life is just… a series of events. Stuff happens. Sometimes I do it. Most of the time it’s done to me.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. She was smiling when she said it, but there was a brightness in her eyes. “I… I’m screwing this up, aren’t I? I’m not… I’m seriously not a creep. Kosh, you probably get people all the time trying…”

“Nicki… I’m sorry,” I said, and just like that something fell into place. It would have been one of those glorious moments of epiphany that are the closest things to a flash of pure divinity that a demonblood can experience, but the fact that she’d stood there and told me the truth that now stood revealed before me kind of muted all that.

She was lonely.

Practically everything she’d been telling me had been about that.

She had friends. She was active in campus groups, or had been. She played stone soldiers. But she felt lost on her own, and it seemed like she never felt sure if anyone really liked her. When people talked about feeling alone in a crowd, I always assumed that they meant someone who was ignored or overlooked, if not outright shunned… I’d been alone for half my life, no matter how many people were around me. Nicki seemed like everything I wasn’t… well, some things I wasn’t, and one of them was sociable. But something was missing there, and she was looking to me for it.

I didn’t really know why she’d latched onto me of all people, but… well, it didn’t really matter. She was here. She was fun to talk to. If someone had made a chart of our personalities and interests and asked me if I thought I would get along with her based on that, I probably would have said no… but here we were.

“Let’s get something to drink,” I said.

“I don’t drink,” she said, really quickly and with an air of bracing herself and getting something over with.

“I don’t, either,” I said. “I meant punch or soda or whatever it is the activity council put in those bowls. Let’s just forget about Twyla and everything else and just… have fun.” I had a thought that I was pretty sure Amaranth would approve of. “We can see if your friend Tasha wants some refreshment before the whole gig thing gets busy. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, and that seemed to be that.

Tales of MU is presented this month by Amy Amethyst.

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31 Responses to “Chapter 49: Anteclimactic”

  1. Alex says:

    Good writing. Enjoying the story. Particularly the bits discussing how magic works. Also for the bits of insight into social relationships.

    Current score: 1
  2. DeNarr says:

    I’m really enjoying seeing Mackenzie grow as a character. You’ve really been doing a great job with her lately.

    Current score: 1
  3. Zathras IX says:

    You can only live
    Your life as soap opera
    For only so long

    Current score: 1
  4. Angnor says:

    This was a particularly enjoyable chapter. Great job!

    Current score: 0
  5. Alico says:

    Ok, I have to say that Nicki is my new favorite character. The amount of character growth in Mack is amazing, I really do like what Nicki brings out in her =D.

    That being said, I am kind of glad she did not go up to Twyla right now. Probably would have ruined her night with Nicki, and that would have been a terrible way to start of such a great relationship.

    Also, your new update schedule and the fact that you are sticking to it so well is awesome! Thanks for the great story!

    Current score: 0
  6. Kevin Brown says:

    Lonely and latching onto someone for reasons unknown… in my experience that results in a stalker. Glad it doesn’t here though I don’t ever want to see the person who would stalk a demonblood.

    Current score: 1
  7. Grant says:

    Fantastic Chapter! I’m really liking the slightly-street-smarterer Mack that often has at least half a clue. I also think that Nicki is a really promising character.

    Current score: 0
  8. Iason says:

    Morning tea with MU. Lovely. Lovely chapter too. Thanks and more thanks.

    Current score: 0
  9. “She was lonely.”

    I sniffled. Powerful stuff.

    Current score: 0
    • Fred says:

      I sniffled too! This chapter made me really happy. Yay for character growth 🙂

      Current score: 0
  10. Krey says:

    I can’t help but laugh as she says her life’s not interesting after we’ve all been reading it for… what 1000+ chapters now?

    Current score: 1
    • tierhon says:

      It is all about perspective, that And the grass being greener on the other side.

      //ooc writing on a tablet for the first time, auto complete is bothersome.

      Current score: 0
      • Erianaiel says:

        In the hand of a good writer even a day in the life of fieldworker picking lettuce can be made to sound interesting, even if said fieldworker would vehemently disagree.

        Mackenzie’s life is quite a bit more interesting and in the hands of a better than good writer it becomes outright epic. But Mackenzie would also still disagree about that n(and she would be right as 95pct of her time is filled with mundande tasks).

        Current score: 1
  11. N'ville says:

    Great story and now wondering how Nicki is going to react to and with Amaranth, Ian, and Steph, also Two and a few others when they turn up. Should be interesting stuff, also will Mack start seeing them all in a different light at some point in the future?
    A.E., you have quite a challenge to make all that both work well, and interesting.

    Current score: 0
  12. Burnsidhe says:

    Mack is perceptive when she wants to be. 🙂 It’s good to see. And it’s true; sometimes even if you appear to be constantly busy and surrounded by friends, it’s possible to be very lonely at the same time.

    Current score: 0
  13. Gregdov says:

    I feel like I can relate more to Nicki than any of the other characters so far. I have been thinking a lot about loneliness lately. Specifically the idea of looking for validation in others and learning how to love myself. I am really excited to see Mack start a new friendship/relationship intentionally and as more equals than due to the happenstance that has congregated her group of friends so far.

    Current score: 1
  14. Month says:

    You call that perspective? It took her about 3 chapters to figure out that they both suffered from the same malady…

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      There are some people I know who wouldn’t get it. Ever. And the majority of people probably wouldn’t twig to it after only two meetings. Which is how many times Nicki and Mack have met and talked with each other.

      Current score: 0
  15. Heron says:


    There’s something so sweet about Mack intentionally making a friend who might not be a sex-friend.

    Current score: 1
  16. Greenwood Goat says:

    It suddenly occurs to me to wonder whether Nicki is a virgin. And whether she’d be up for making the odd donation to (sate) Mack’s blood drive.

    Current score: 1
  17. Karr says:

    Has it ever been stated what Mack’s stomach actually considers a virgin? I’m curios where the line is for her dietary needs exactly…

    Current score: 0
    • Greenwood Goat says:

      No it hasn’t, but the “which acts make you not-a-virgin?” question has. And put put that way, it would be hard to find a more definitive test than a half-demon’s stomach. “So it’s good, huh? Then I guess it’s official: anal doesn’t count!” Indeed, line those students up, and lets get some research done!

      Come to that, here’s another future sideline for Mack: virginity testing. Let our half-demon mage taste a drop of the subject’s blood, and you can have your result instantly! No need for exams or undressing! No arcane or mundane restoration can defeat this test!

      Current score: 1
      • Eris Harmony says:

        That would be even more interesting if different ‘acts’ left different tastes. “She’s a virgin, aside from all the anal…”

        Current score: 1
    • erianaiel says:

      From what has been described in the story it follows the virginity definition of our big three monetheistic religions (i.e. not having had sexual intercourse), and not the older definition of being an independent (i.e. unmarried) woman.

      Current score: 0
  18. Xi says:

    Mack just made me proud. And Nicki is a wonderfully endearing combination of Naive, knowledgeable (kinda geeky really heh) and earnest. She actually reminds me of a friend of mine.

    Current score: 1
  19. readaholic says:

    Aww. Cutely awkward conversation that is still successful socialising

    Current score: 0
  20. WorBlux says:

    Is the inspiration a bit of her mother’s gift?

    Current score: 0
  21. Eric M. says:

    Did you mean to spell the title with an ‘e?’ “Ante-” means “before,” which you probably knew already–I was just wondering whether that was intentional.

    Current score: 0
  22. Daezed says:

    Loneliness is so damned awful. It’s kind of cliche, the whole alone in a crowd’ bit, but…it’s cliche because it so often true…..

    I really enjoy Nicki and Semele chapters, because I can see myself in each of them, or at least in Mackenzie’s mental interpretation of them, so freaking often….! 🙂

    Current score: 1
  23. Mickey Phoenix says:

    Oh, Nicki! I so want to give her a hug!!!

    Also–taking into account what she said earlier about being a bisexual freshman, I suspect she’s had a really hard time finding emotionally satisfying sexual relationships. The specific kind of lonely she seems to me to be radiating is the “not anybody’s special somepony” kind. Doesn’t mean Mack should be her lover. Just that I think part of what she sees, and envies, about Mack’s life, is the people to whom she is special.

    I hope Nicki finds her special someponies soon!

    Current score: 0