Wednesday, February 13, 2008

jamie and eric-6 1/2-Bridgett and Jamie head out

* * *

Jamie opened the door absent-mindedly and was walking back to his desk, still thinking about the matrix of data on his laptop, when it registered that it was Bridgett that had knocked.

She laughed as he pivoted back towards her, “Bridgett!” the word stumbled out of his mouth. They hugged.

“It’s good to see you too,” Bridgett said, “Your bonded on the other hand freaked when he saw me.”

Jamie grimaced, “Sorry..”

“No matter.” Bridgett grabbed Jamie’s shoulder. “When was the last time you got out of here.” She was referring to mock-lab that Jamie had set up in the corner of the living room.

“Yeah,” Jamie admitted, “I have to leave to get data.”

Bridgett gave a sigh and rolled her eyes. “We’re leaving. We’re going to a coffee shop and we’re getting coffee.”

Jamie protested as Bridgett began physically dragging him out of the door as she spoke.

“I can’t just leave in the middle of what I’m doing. And I’m not wearing shoes. Or my coat.” Bridgett let him go, and he continued to list things as he turned back into the room. Bee-lining for his desk. “And I don’t know where my wallet is. I should ask Master Brown if…” His voice dropped into mumbling.

“I’m only letting you save your data.” Bridgett sat on the edge of the couch, near Jamie’s workspace. “And I’ll treat you. I don’t want to wait a century.” She watched Jamie rustling through papers on his desk.

The living-room wasn’t square. A nook closest to the kitchen entrance housed the dining table. On the adjoining wall, the width of the room narrowed slightly to define the entry-way. A nice, polished wooden table complete with a doily runner and a vase of flowers stood to one side of the front door. Hooks for coats and a short shelve for shoes on the other side. Keys and mail litter covered most of the doily. In the middle of the room, in front of the windows on the far way, two couches and a TV made a sitting area perfect for teenagers, and even young adults, to enjoy. Jamie’s desk was in an awkward corner. He faced it along the wall on the entrance wall, beyond the entry-way partition. Jamie tacked important documents on the wall. Bridgett was sure that Master Brown would have allowed Jamie to put his desk in front of a window.

Jamie’s computer, a blue-backed laptop, sat in the middle of neat stacks of papers. File cabinets flanked Jamie’s sides when he sat at his desk. The file cabinet on his left was a good two inches from obstructing Dahlia’s door. His bookcase, filled with loans from the library, stood between Dahlia’s and Eric’s doors. Every morning Jamie folded his blankets and put them up with his pillow in the linen closet in the bathroom. So Bridgett didn’t realize that Jamie slept on the couch.

Jamie saved the information on his computer and shut it down crouching over his chair. “Okay, almost done.” He pressed a button. Watched the screen for a moment and closed his laptop. Hopping out of his death trap work area, he grabbed his shoes and coats on his way out the door. Bridgett followed more slowly behind him, selecting his keys from the hall table as she left. Bridgett found him sitting in the hallway tying his shoes.

“I’ve missed you.” She mused as she locked the door.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

jamie and eric-24-reprecussions

“I’m so sorry!” Dahlia exclaimed as she threw her arms around him. Eric backed off instinctively, but she was only hugging him. “I didn’t realize you couldn’t remember anything! Things must have been so hard for you this past few months. And I’ve been so mean!” She was almost sobbing.

Eric patted her head.

* * *

While Dahlia was distracting Eric, Bridgett pulled Jamie aside, “You know something you aren’t telling me.”

“Maybe.” Jamie met her eyes challengingly.

“You want to help Eric, don’t you?” Bridgett appealed.

“Yeah,” Jamie said in an obscure manner, “I’ll help him”.

Bridgett eyed him, both suspicious and annoyed at being excluded. But Jamie was normally so open that when he decided to keep something secret, it was secret.

* * *

Eric woke up early for work the next day. The evening had ended with Dahlia asking Eric endless questions. Mostly for reassurance. No he wasn’t mad at her. Yes he remembered when her birthday was. Jamie had chosen to remain silent the rest of the evening. How could Jamie be so cold? Eric hated that feeling of not being cool enough to get the cool kid’s attention.

Eric dreaded the day. He stared at the amorphous pile of clothes on the floor. Always shifting. Sometimes disappearing when Master Brown demanded he do laundry. More often now that Eric did manual labor. Dahlia had done a complete 360. Gone from snide little monster child to doting little monster child. Too sweet. Too enthusiastic. Eric had no idea how to, to keep her back. To be what she wanted him to be, now that he had this out-of-his-control excuse. And he had a huge test today. Huge mental test after hours of hot sun manual labor.

Eric blinked. Realizing he was supposed to be getting dressed.

He found himself at the breakfast table, clothed, mostly awake. Dahlia bubbling voice in the background. Eating porridge, when “Eric, Eric. Is that true?” Master Brown asked him.

“Wha?” Eric rubbed his eye, focusing harder on his surroundings.

“Do you really have trouble remembering the five years you spent here?”

“Oh, that. No” Eric took another bite of his porridge. In the corner of his eye Master Brown turned again to Dahlia.

She said, “Well he won’t admit it—he wouldn’t admit it last night—because he can still remember general ideas, but nothing specific.”

“That would certainly explain your test scores.” Master Brown declared. Eric shrugged. He had never been a good student.

Master Brown was tapping the table, mumbling “…who do I know…” Eric kept eating. Respecting Master Brown’s need to think, Dahlia was forced into silence. And Eric ate in silence several bites.

Master Brown placed her hand on Eric’s arm from across the crowded table. Her sleeve threatening to dirty itself in dishes of food. “I’m going to cancel your tests. You need a physical and psychological-“ Eric groaned at the word. Master Brown ignored it. “evaluation to determine why you’re having memory lapses. But we’re going to have to send you somewhere else. Since Master Carter left, we haven’t had anyone trained in psychology.” Master Brown was tapping the table again. Standing to leave for her office.

Dahlia turned to Eric. “This is great!” She beamed. Eric groaned tiredly. This meant he was still going to work today.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

jamie and eric-23-dinner's discovery

“Uh-huh,” Eric grumbled. The ring thing was stupid, but it was really the way the girls were treating him had Eric in a bad mood. The girls giggled again, as if Eric’s annoyance fueled their secret little joke.

“Eric,” Bridgett asked, suddenly going serious, “do you remember how we met?”

“No,” Eric spat out, wishing the girls hadn’t come along.

“Well that was a while ago. And it was just like ‘oh hey Eric this is Bridgett.’ What do you remember about me?”

Eric held his tongue, holding back the your annoying comment. “Dunno, you were kinda weird when you first came back to campus.” Eric shrugged.

“Before that.” Eric was a little suspicious where this was going. “Think carefully.”

“Uh…” Eric eyes strayed upwards in memory. “I dunno. I remember you being around.” He shrugged. “Oh and that you couldn’t help me with math.”

Eric caught the tail end of a meaningful glance between Bridgett and Jamie after a sip of soda. Dahlia looked confused and eager to share the gossip.

“What?” Eric asked.

“Eric why didn’t you tell anyone you couldn’t remember anything before the accident?” Bridgett asked frankly.

Dahlia exclaimed wordlessly. Jamie was looking at him too now.

“Oh come on I remember stuff.” Pause. “I remember that I’m Master Brown’s apprentice or I was, I’m not sure what I am now, and so are Jamie and Dahlia. I remember that I took a bunch of stupid classes. And did stuff. I’m telekinetic. And Jamie’s an illusionist… And we’re bonded.” Bridgett had a concerned quirk to her mouth. Jamie’s expression was surprisingly neutral. Dahlia looked almost horrified.

“What about me? What’s my natural ability? Do you remember meeting me?” She asked worriedly.

“Uh…” Eric was blanking. He was sure he knew. “Yeah I know… Uh… You do stuff… We meet when you were little.” Eric rubbed the back of his head, his checks feeling hot. Another test he was failing. “Hey, I remember how I met Jaime” Eric said, pointing in his direction to add emphasis. “I remember how stupid we looked in those red wool jackets with shoulder pads. We were visiting the college for ‘conflict resolution training’ and I found him in the bathroom, cry- ing.” Eric let the last word die realizing that was a personal detail that he probably shouldn’t have shared with the girls.

Jamie was staring at his plate, wide eyed.

“So you’ve lost a period of time in your memory. You have just enough left to string together a congruent past.” Bridgett concluded cheerfully.

“Hey I don’t have memory problems, and if I did you shouldn’t be so happy about it.” Eric demanded.

Bridgett through up her arms in surrender, “Woah, I’m not happy that you have a problem. I’m happy that we figured it out. The first step to recovery is recognizing the problem after all.”

“Yeah…” Eric answered skeptically.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

jamie and eric-22-girly talk

“So,” Dahlia asked in that woman gossipy voice, “did you meet your ring counterpart yet?”

“No.” Bridgett rubbed her bare index finger on her right hand. “It was just my town ceremony though, so I might meet him next year.”

Were they speaking gibberish? “What?” Eric spat out incredulously.

They giggled. Eric glared at him as he took his next bite.

“I’m sorry Eric. I thought you would have remembered.” She placed her hand reassuringly on his arm, but the words bit. “My people are assigned spouses through a very powerful ancient spell that matches people based on residual energy stored in rings given to us at birth.”

“I wish we did something like that here.” Dahlia commented, “It would be so much easier.”

“That’s retarded.” Eric couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be paired off like that. “Why would you want to be just stuck with someone.”

“It’s not like that Eric.” Bridgett replied, “the idea is that you’re matched with the perfect person for you.”

“I didn’t get a ring at birth.” Eric argued, realizing somewhat belatedly that it could be construed as flirting.

Dahlia gagged between French fries, and Eric shot her a look. Bridgett giggled. “It’s true that the system is very elitist, very isolated. My government is slowly allowing outsiders to apply for citizenship and ring privileges, but there’s still a strong bias against foreign people, ideas.”

Eric took another bite of his burger, still a little against the idea.

Dahlia spoke up again, “What’s the longest it could take you to get matched up with someone?”

“Well towns tend to hold ceremonies once a year. Then sister cities hold ceremonies every other year or every three years. I’m a Ranga resident, and we’re part of Willington District which holds ceremonies every other year. States are required to hold ceremonies every four years Then there’s a national ceremony every six years. Most cities and districts try to time their ceremonies so that unmatched participants wait the least possible amount of time before entering the national ceremony.”

Eric didn’t realize that Bridgett was going into excessive detail for his benefit, but he still didn’t understand. “Your people like to party it up then?”

“No,” Dahlia retorted, “The ceremonies are to match rings up.”

“The system is a little complicated, but it was designed to be as efficient as possible. Most people find love in their own town. For those people who aren’t matched they move up to the next geographical level. And they keep doing that until they find their match.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

jamie and eric-21-transition to dinner

Eric laughed nervously, glancing at his peers. “I’m in trouble now.” He added more to the air than to anyone. Getting no response, he rushed off to Master Brown’s room mumbling under his breath, “well I was just saying…”

Master Brown’s bedroom was split into her office and her sleeping quarters. She was at her desk, her spectacles on, writing letters. She took off her brown speckled glasses as Eric approached her. He handed her the thick sealed envelope.

“So how was the testing?” Master Brown asked conversationally as she opened the package.

“Long.” Eric ran his fingers through his hair boyishly. Master Brown smiled knowingly.

“Yeah. He’s a very thorough evaluator, but he captures how people think. You’ve already had so much instruction, I didn’t want to have you retake everything.” She was looking through the papers. Just scanning them. He watched her brow furrow, confused. Eric swallowed, a sinking anticipation in his stomach. “Eric, were you applying yourself? Did you understand what he was asking?” Master Brown set the papers down and looked up at Eric. The soft glow of her desk light made her seem older.

“Uh.” Eric smiled. Shuffled his feet. “Yeah…”

“Okay.” Master Brown nodded, glancing at the papers again. “Okay, well you weren’t lying.” She pressed the score sheets down with her palm. “I’ll go through these later. Just glancing through though, I think we’ll find someone to tutor you over the summer and in the fall we’ll place you into a class.” She patted the paper, filing that thought away for later. “Tomorrow you have nothing, but on Wednesday you have a chemistry test, which will be similarly long. On Thursday you have a biology test, and on Friday you have physics. You have the weekend off. “ Master Brown smiled at him. “It will take a while, but by fall you will be on track again.”

She waved him off in a playful dismissal gesture. Eric laughed a little bit and left. His hands in his pockets.

* * *

His original optimism faded with Jamie’s silence. Bridgett and Dahlia had started a lively conversation about Bridgett’s homeland to cover the awkwardness. Jamie drove on the way over, Bridgett taking shotgun. Leaning over her left shoulder to talk to Dahlia in the backseat.

He sat kiddy-corner from Jamie in the booth, and was mostly silent during the meal. Talking to order. The conversation had shifted to boys. Dahlia, apparently, hadn’t met anyone during the spring quarter, nor during the summer quarter so far.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Picture of grocery bag

This is the first of several grocery-bag-tipping-over images that will constitute a progress bar.

jamie and eric-20-direct interaction

With a new confidence, Eric headed back down the stairs.

The stairs emptied out into the bottom floor, into the lobby. White marble floors and grandiose arches. They really wanted to keep their masters around. Unlike the hallways that had soft unintrusive lighting the lobby was brilliantly lit. Eric didn’t like the ground floor because of the pretentious splendor, but he thought he had seen Master Brown give it a little smile of "

Another level of pretention was the separation of the wings. Four towers wrapped in the same brick fa├žade. Four separate stairwells that only met at the lobby. Master Damien lived in the south wing, which was the quiet tour. Reserved for masters without apprentices, masters that didn’t teach, masters that kept irregular hours dictated by the timing of experiments. Whereas in the north wing, masters were supplied with extra rooms for student charges, the masters in the south tower had extra space that they could convert as needed. Eric wasn’t sure how they dealt with construction noise. Maybe the south wing had such little turnover, that it wasn’t a regular problem.

Eric skipped across the lobby, to where North was painted in green and gold leaf above the open stairwell. Up the identical set of stairs to the fourth floor, where he resided with Master Brown. Padding down the carpeted hallway to 423. The shiny brass letters on the door incited a thrill in Eric. Converting his forward momentum into the door as he turned the knob, fortunately unlocked – he hadn’t even thought about that possibility, Eric very much so burst into the room. And immediately felt self-conscious as his entrance caused three sets of eyes to pop up.

He smiled goofily, still holding the door with one hand.

Jamie’s clear voice broke the silence, “We’re going into town for dinner, come with us.” Clear, even, kind but uninflected by emotion.

“Yes.” Breathy and giddy, he answered. And then Jamie’s eyes fell back to his book. Dahlia looked dumbfounded, and Bridgett was trying to hide a very smug smile.

Dinner wasn’t far off, but Eric wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He closed the door behind him. Feeling eyes watch him even if there were none. Three doors branched off the living room Dahlia’s and Eric’s bedrooms were along the left wall, behind the sitting area and Jamie’s desk. The entry to the kitchen and Master Brown’s bedroom were on the opposite wall. The trio sat at the dining table, covering the round table with their books and papers.

They had a television in the sitting area, and it got cable, but it was rather taboo to watch TV for non-educational reasons. He could make himself a sandwich in the small kitchen area that was just adequate to prepare simple meals. But they were going to dinner soon. He could just go sit in his room and stare at the wall to avoid standing awkwardly in the middle of the floor.

Glancing up, Jamie noticed Eric’s discomfort. With a resigned look of pity, Jamie called out, “Master Brown, Eric got back.”

“Okay. Eric bring me your test scores.” Her voice boomed from beyond the door.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

jamie and eric-19-the suggestion

Bridgett smiled. And tried to hide her smile. “Excuse I need to get something from my lab.” Leaving her books strewn across the table she gilded out of the suite. The heavy wood door giving a solid thunk behind her.

Jamie’s head fell to the table. He groaned. Dahlia looked confused.

“What? It’s not like she could possibly make that happen.” Her eyes darted to the main door and back to Jamie.

“She’s going to cast a suggestion spell.” Jamie answered.

“Oh give me a break; those things never work.” Dahlia tucked her fluffy brown hair behind her ear. As much as Bridgett took to plotting, and as annoying as it was, she really couldn’t do anything.

“Bridgett can do suggestion spells.” Jamie said matter-of-factly.

“No she can’t! The concept of a suggestion spell is inherently flawed. Not only do you have to form a connection with the target’s mind,” Dahlia counted the action on her finger, “which, I might add, has to be voluntary on both sides, but you have to give them thoughts, “ Dahlia counted this action as well, “while overcoming the mind’s sense of self and foreign.” Dahlia ticked this final action on her fingers as well. Throwing her arms up into the air, “You can’t ask for a connection and then tell the person to do something without them realizing it was you telling them to do it.”

“I never asked Bridgett how she does it. We should stop talking, though, and get our work done before dinner.”

* * *

Eric was fiddling with the window casement. There was a certain trick to opening it.

Below wasn’t as deserted as he had hoped though. Classes were out for the underclassmen, and there was a sprinkling of them enjoying the last of the sun before dinner. Beyond the building next door, students were walking along the paths.

Eric leaned his head against the cold glass pane. Eric had never been the one to run away before. Well, not like this. He had avoided authority too many times to count. Much of the reason he had ended up in St. Margot’s School for Misbehaved Children. Failure, he guessed. He was running away from failure.

Jaime could help him, he realized. Jamie had helped him before. He remembered a day when he Jamie and Bridgett had been working on homework together. They all had the same math class. Bridgett had almost gotten angry that Eric hadn’t gotten the problem when she explained. But you just take the integral of both sides and… Jamie went through the problem with Eric and knew just exactly what to say so that it would make sense to him. Part of being bonded, he thought.

Eric was resistant to the idea of asking Jamie for help, but he felt the need to see him. Maybe Jamie would just know.

Friday, February 1, 2008

jamie and eric-18-a decision is made

Jamie sighed, marking his page he got up and headed into the kitchen.

Bridgett let her thought drop as Jamie left the room. She tapped her pencil. “I just want us to get along like we used to.”

Dahlia rolled her eyes. “I don’t think that will ever happen.” Dahlia examined her homework problem again. Bridgett looked down at her book sadly. She really didn’t want to read this article. Although every article was important background information, there was so much overlap and so many words… Keeping her place with her finger she flipped forward to the end of the article, and contemplated the thickness of the article.

Jamie came back into the room carrying three glasses of strawberry lemonade, much to the appreciation of the girls. “I think cool drinks help with hot tempers,” he smiled.

“Uh-huh,” Dahlia commented as she gulped down the sweet drink. Jamie settled in front of his book again and before he could find his spot on the page Bridgett asked, “Don’t you miss Eric?”

Jamie started a little. Bridgett hadn’t asked this specific question before. Or any question along those lines. The answer was yes and he didn’t want to say that.

“Yes.” Jamie said at last. Looking at his page, he waited for her next question.

“Invite him to go to dinner in town with us.” Bridgett pleaded. Jamie squirmed. “Or I could.” Bridgett offered. Dahlia snorted. She had already heard about Bridgett’s and Eric’s reunion. Bridgett shot her a dirty look, but relented. “I bet he would come if you invited him, Jamie. Please invite him.”

“Are we going to dinner in town tonight?” Jamie avoided answering. “Yes,” Bridgett declared, “you, me, Dahlia, and… I rustle up a couple of kids from class, and Dahlia will invite Tonya.”

“Tomorrow’s a school day, thank you very much Miss I-can-get-up-whenever-I-want!”

“Take one for the team,” Bridgett shot back.

“I still think he’s an ass.” Dahlia retorted.

“Well?” Bridgett asked turning to Jamie.

Jamie so rarely left this room. Neat, quiet room. With its comfy brown couch and Jamie’s black-topped lab table over in the corner. In the past he had never felt so scared to leave, but now he realized how dependent he was on the nice quiet world Master Brown provided him with.

“Sure, fine. If he shows up before dinner time, I’ll invite him to join.”