The Basketball Bagatelle
“Hey, are you alright?”, Kai asks. We’re walking out of Ochre to the Hangar. I touch my ribs, which right now are bruised, rather than broken. “I am peachy-keen.” Goddamn Greyscale. He woke me up by slicing through my bed, my second bed like some kind of demented Jack in the Box.
Ochre has got many things going on for it as a good place to locate a school within, with some few minor exceptions. One of them being the lack of a place where you could hold P.E. You see, when Ochre was built, physical exercise meant porking the maids and hunting foxes. That all changed in the early 1900’s. One of Kai’s relatives built this monster of an hangar, intended for the use of airships. However, as we all know, Hindenburg burned, and with it, any chances of a booming business of penish-shaped air-balloons.
City Hall bought the hangar, refurbished it, and thus the young men and women of Fallowfell earned a place where they can be screamed at, sweat at, and in general fear.
Nevena dunks the basketball in a graceful movement. I hear a basketball coming my way, and I bend my head just in time to avoid getting struck. I do however miss the second ball, which hits me below the waist. Mother of….!
I gasp for air and sink down on the cold floor, clutching my privates. Kai and Pontus run up to me. I lie there on the floor, just breathing. “Who the hell threw that ball”, Pontus shouts.
“Sorry, that was me”, Amanda says, demurely. But it’s the way she says it. Coy and all demurring, like a piranha who wants to invite you into the water. I get up–
–only to have Kai put an arm on my shoulder. “You don’t wanna start a fight-” “I could take her” I say, remembering my little episode in the junkyard. I can dent steel with my fists, and let her fight her way out of that. These petty, childish things that she keeps on doing are ridiculous, and while she might have started it, I will certainly end it. “If she was just an ordinary werewolf, then yes, you could probably take her, but she isn’t”, Kai rebutes. I blink. Amanda is a werewolf?! “Besides you don’t wanna fight in a public space like this. The First Council would have kittens, and you never want them to be mad at you.”
I calm myself, and in doing so, I come up with an idea that will allow me to make better grades in P.E while at the same time trouncing Amanda. I turn to left side of the Hangar. “Hey Coach, what do you say– how about we play a match?”
Gomagog pushes away from the wall he is leaning on, an action which causes the steel beam behind him to vibrate slightly. In my experience there are two kinds of teachers that teach Gym. One that wears tracksuits and eats chocolate, and the other still wears tracksuits, but actually participates in his or hers teachings.
“You know what, Fallowfell, that sounds like a real good idea. You can be the captain of the first team and ….” he looks around at the class, who have started to gather around him”… and Elena will lead the second. Make your picks.”
I look at the crowd. “Pontus.” “Stella”, Elena croons, smugly. “Kai”, I say with a smile. “Marika.” “Chiyo.” “Signe.” “Shirin.” “Amanda.” “Sara.” “Linnea.” “Nevena.” “Hannah.” “Amina”, I say in the end.
Jonathan throws us a basketball. “Let the games begin.”
“Captain, they’re kicking our asses”, Amina says in a jolly voice. “I have eyes, Amina”, I say more curtly than intended. Twenty minutes into the game and it’s just now that I realize why Elena picked Stella first. I mean, looking at the warm-ups, I could understand that she had some skills. That height, with those long arms and that mobility? But not this good. It doesn’t surprise me for a second that Elena had some background information and acted on it.
I watch Stella dunk another ball again, yet again. Pontus passes me the ball, I launch it to Chiyo who returns it—
–and Amanda comes out of nowhere. Blue eyes meet mine in a challenge, and she fouls me in a swiping motion that draws blood. “Hey Coach! She fouled me!” He just shakes his head. Oh, so that’s how it is going to be?
I turn to the others.” Again”. Pontus takes one look at my face and tries to defuse the situation. “I don’t know what kind of beef you have with Amanda, but this-” “I said, again.” He nods, reluctantly.
We try a different variation on the play. Amina slings the ball to Shirin who loses it to Marika, who in turn has her shot overtaken by Sara, who passes the ball to Kai who throws it in a long arc to me.
I close my eyes momentarily, and draw on the power of Verde. One helix becomes three. When I open my eyes, everything is moving slightly slower. Not Superman slow, but slow enough for me to make a map of the court. Stella is making giant strides the field, coming for me. Elena is saying something slowly. And Amanda is right in front of me, right where I want her.
I bounce the ball, once, twice and then I jump.High. My left foot lands on Amanda’s shoulder, and as I use her as a stepping stone I make sure that I ‘accidently’ kick her in the face. I sail through the air, grab the hoop with my left hand, and with my right I dunk the ball. I release the power and my perceptions go back to normal.
The entire court is frozen. I think Elena is actually scrubbing her eyes. Then the whistles and cheers from my team starts.
We lose, and we lose hard, but I can live with that, especially in lieu of Amanda’s face.
Later on, as we’re standing in the showers, a scary notion hits me. I have read enough books, seen enough movies to know a thing or two, I think, about werewolves. Pontus have already left the showers, in what I think is the 214th attempt to sway Hannah, and it’s only me and Kai left. And it’s going to take me a long, long time to get used to only shower with only two other guys. I am so used to a locker room’s worth of guys shouting and slapping each other with towels.
“Psst.” Kai looks around. “It’s me.” “Sup?” “You know this whole magical thing?” He smiles and laugh. “Yea, I know a thing or two ’bout’ this whole magical thing.” “You said that Amanda is a werewolf?” “She is.” “She scratched me.” Kai rolls his eyes. “You don’t have to worry. They can only change someone by dragging them to death’s door, and that only applies to humans. With you being a berserker– well I don’t think there is enough human left in you to change.”
Kai continue to lather himself up and I just stand there, looking up at the shower head. What I did in that baskball court wasn’t something a ordinary human could’ve done. Oh, I am sure someone in the NBA could have replicated my move, but other than that…. I hold my arms out and inspect them. They don’t look like the arms of something supernatural. They look like the arms of a fifteen-year boy. Guy. Dude. Whatever. Brown, with fine black strands of hair. I glance at my hands. They still look pink and mushy, thanks to the warm water. My nails are stubby, and I should probably stop biting on them.
What does it mean be human? Greyscale sure as hell isn’t human, but he acts human most of the time. I step out of the shower and dry myself. Should I consider ‘human’ to be an ideal then, rather than a state of being?
The French lesson goes much better. Language is like math, with it’s exceptions and its rules, but infinitively much, much more interesting.
To the right of me Stella sits and weaves her hair into braids. When she catches me looking, she points at one braid in particular, which to me has the appeareance of an Egyptian ankh. “Seems fine to me”, I say. Stella just sighs, and mutters something about unfashionable boys.
I complete the task of the lesson; translating a piece of text about a figure called ‘Renart’ out French folk-lore and lean back in my chair. I wonder to what degree supernaturals have played a role in the history. And speaking of such beings, there is one in front of me. Perenelle Flamel– who supposedly was married to Nicholas Flamel, the Nicholas Flamel, and who engineered the later versions of the Plague, if Kai is to be believed.
I wait until the lesson is over and I make sure that I am packing my bag as slowly as possible. “Is there something, Rune?” I glance around, realizing that my gambit has worked better than I’d intended. We’re alone in the classroom. I am alone with someone who created the Plague. Someone who, you could make an argument, makes Bin Ladin look like a saint.
“Is it true?” Her light blue eyes widen at the question. She doesn’t ask what is true. She is silent for so long, that I am beginning to think this was a very stupid idea. I hoist my bag around my shoulder and I have begun to walk out of the room when she speaks.
“Yes.” That stops me in my tracks. “But why? I mean, you teach kids French now. You seem to like it. So why….” Why would you murder millions of people? Can you still be Perenelle Flamel, my kind French-teacher, admired by all , and at the same time a mass-murderer? Mass-murderess?
“What would you do if Hermann died. Or Elena? Or both?” I blink at the non-sequitur. I run through the scenario. “I would be so mad. Sad. Furious. Angry at the world” I add, with a rhetorical touch, which in itself answers my question.
She looks out through the window.
“His name was Nicholas. And he was my world.” She turns to stare at me with dread-filled eyes. “I am telling you five-thousand times. Rune Fallowfell; protect what you love. Without the people you hold dear, life is but a big bruise, reminding you of things lost.”
Having enjoyed my lunch a bit too much, I am late to Social Studies, with the consequence of Amanda having taking my seat and Lena giving me the Evil Eye. I break one of my rules, and I plant myself right behind Wolf Girl. Close enough that I can touch her sidecut.
I have to fight the initial nausea, that edge across my throat I always develop when I am in close contact with a stranger I don’t feel comfortable with. I write a message on small piece of paper; “This has gone on too long. Peace?”, and I pass her the note.
She doesn’t react, but a few minutes I get the same note back, only someone has erased my words and written something else. “You started it.” I sigh, and erase the words. “Because you took my seat, which is mine. But I am willing to concede that I should have been a touch more flexible. Cmon, this is ridiculous.”
I pass her the note. She sends me a quick reply.” I accept you apology.” I open my mouth. Close it. Heck, I close with with enough force that my teeth chatters. I guess that is as close as an armistice that I am going to get.
With the end of the lection I decide to catch up with Nevena. After the initial ephoria of having finished a date and not making her cry/burn down Rome settled down, I realized that I don’t know what happens after the First Date. Seven romantic flicks later, and sadly, I am more confused than assured. In one movie the guys waits seven days before calling. In another he doesn’t call at all. In the third movie he actually stalks the girl.
So I decided to just walk up to her, say ‘ hey, I really enjoyed last night, and maybe we could it again’, and well– that’s the plan.
“Hey Nevena”, I say. She turns around and looks at me with those yellow eyes, and that musky scent and any thought, anything I have planned to say flies out the window. “I like you”, I blurt out. I put a hand on my treacherous mouth. Crap. Really crap. Megacrap. “Ehrm, I mean, that, erhm, I really enjoyed last night.”
Nevena folds her arms across her chest. I realize what I’ve just said, and how it can be misinterpreted. My nascent blush blooms. “What I meant to say is that had a good time yesterday, and you seemed to have one too.” Oh, that did not sound presumptous, not the least.
Nevena places a hand on my shoulder, and oddly enough, I am okay with it. I don’t usually do well with physical contact. “Relax. Yeah, I had a good time. So …next time.” “Is that a statement or a question?”, I ask. “It’s a presupposition”, she fires back. “What about…. tomorrow then, maybe?”
“Nope, he’s busy on a Friday”, Elena adds from behind me. She puts a hand on my non-occupied shoulder. “We’re going to the Orchard. But you can have him on Saturday.”
“Saturday it is then”, Nevena concludes with a chuckle. She disappears down the hall, and when I turn around, Elena is gone too.
“Girls”, I say experated, to nobody in particular.