T Minus Three Days
Outside of Fallowfell, following a long winding road, is the Orchard, ancient home of the Havenius family. In the Atrium, the sounds of girls laughing, glass clinking and the smell of nail polish flow out. It’s a girls night out, after all.
” The rules of the evening are straight-forward”, Elena says. She looks each of the attendees in the eyes, taking their measure. Stella and Shirin nod. Amanda is patterning her nails with the colors of a famous hockey-team, one ear cocked in her direction. Amina Pavlov elbows Marika Söder and whispers in her ear which makes her snort. Chiyo and Hannah are playing some kind of board-game, Asian, one with small stones of either white or black. Linnea Hexer has a arm around Signe Revsand- and not for the first time Elena speculates regarding Hexer’s sexuality. Alone, adrift and aloof Sara Eksjö sits apart from the others. Not that Elena hasn’t tried to bring her into the fold, but Eksjö remains something of a loner.
“There will be no talk about boys. No talk about their annoying ways, their sweaty bodies and definitely no talk about beards. Today is for us. And Amanda, would you stop polishing your nails? I don’t want the Atrium to smell like your cheap nail-polish.”
Elena listens to the conversations around her as she plonks down in a loveseat next to Sara.
“… did you hear about that new gym? They’re opening a new section, where only girls will be allowed to exercise…”
“… see that blouse that Shanrei wore? Pretty much transparent….”
“…what are you wearing for the Bonfire Ball? I am thinking about this ankle-length dress, but yellow tends to make me look pasty..”
She focuses her attention on Sara, who is currently looking down on her phone. She makes a count in her head.
One…. ten…. fifteen….twenty… thirty…. at forty-five Sara glances up and meets her eyes.
“So”, Elena starts conversationally in a voice that fools nobody, “what is your favorite color Sara? What is your favorite television-show? Do you like boys? Girls? Neither?”
Sara’s brown eyes widens, then narrows. “What’s with the thousand questions?”
“It’s just that I don’t really know anything about you, Sara. Other than that you like to sneak away to smoke at breaks. You said you like traveling during our introduction-dinner at Charlie’s. Where would you like to go, if you could travel anywhere you want?”
Something bitter passes through her eyes. “If I could travel anywhere I wanted… I’d travel to- do you know where Nice is?”
Elena shakes her head despite the fact that she actually knows where Nice is.
“It’s in the south of France along the coast, not far from Marseilles. Pretty city. I’d go there, hire a cab, have it drive me out to this cove that is about some odd forty kilometers to the west of the city. I would bring a chair to the beach of this cove, I’d sit down, and I would just enjoy calm, you know?”
“I can picture it clearly before me. Now this is what I am talking about- this type of detail is the sort that you should share with us.”
“Us?” The question holds equal parts hostility and resentment.
“Class 1A. Your classmates. Us, your friends.”
Sara mutters something that Elena pretends not to hear. She tries a different approach– a technique she usually employs when handling boys.
“Look; you’re stuck with us for three years, barring a change of class. And actually changing classes won’t solve your problem.” Elena speaks the last sentence a bit more hotly than intended.
“Yeah, and what is my problem?”
Elena sighs. She had intended to ease up to this particular point, but what the hell she figures, some things need to be said.
“Sara; you are a bitch and I am starting to think that you don’t even know it.” She raises a hand to avert the protests that are sure to be coming. “When we introduced ourselves, at Charlie’s, you barerly listened. When Rune said he liked fantasy books, you snickered. You show up at our lunch-breaks smelling of smoke and cigarettes, not even caring or for that matter knowing that Marika has asthma- a detail she slipped the first time we had P.E had you listened, once again. You vomited on Shirin’s shoes, her new shoes, bought specifically for a party, and you didn’t even apologize nor offer to buy her a new pair, which anyone except Shirin would have asked you to. Heck, these things are just a few samples from a really large catalogue of shitty things you have done, or continue to do.”
With every delivered sentence of the diatribe, Sara has gone paler and paler, smaller and smaller. She fumbles for words.
“I… I should… I didn’t…I didn’t think….”
Her eyes have accquired a sheen, and tears are threatening to spill. She gets up from the loveseat, only to have a hand like steel grip her wrist.
“I am not finished”, Elena remarks. Sara look downs on the ground, not meeting Elena’s eyes.
“All of these things are terrible, but they’re not malicious. Nobody thinks that you are a sadist that enjoys other people’s pain. Uncaring maybe, but not sadistic. I want to stress that it is never, ever, too late to change. To turn a new leaf.”
Elena have kept their conversation low, as to make sure that nobody hears and Sara dissects her words. After a while, Sara looks in Shirin’s direction, uncertain and shy.
“Go on”, Elena says, and pushes her lightly in that very direction.
“Hey Shirin… there is something I wanted to talk to you about…”
Elena nods to herself. She had planned the Girl’s Night with two aims; one to relieve some stress and the second was Sara. Now to talk to Nevena about her and Rune’s relationship, a relationship she has had some doubt about, but that appears to work.