There were server problems overnight, so final prep on this post was about a half-hour late. I’m not sure anyone cared (or even noticed) but me, but there we are anyway.
Nine parts into Lovelace 1/2. It’s kind of wild to me how quickly this is going — at least in one sense. Having a novel unfold at this pace is… well, interesting, for certain. In one sense, we’re in Part 9. In another sense, we’re almost finished the beginning, if that makes sense.
Either way, I hope you enjoy!
*** *** *** ***
Andi paged through Chemical Compounds Volume One, flipping one page after the next. Next to her, a pile of books had slowly grown, grabbed from across the length of the library. Economics, philosophy, magic tricks, fiction… students had milled through through much of the Sunday, but she’d pretty much stuck to what she was doing. She didn’t much want to discuss it with people anyway — there’d been some talk since the Lacrosse game. It didn’t take long for rumors to begin spreading in a place like Brooks-Carillon.
Admittedly, spending a day in a library by yourself flipping through books probably wasn’t the best form of spin control. Andi wasn’t going to worry about it today. Not with everything that had happened, and everything that was happening. Instead, she’d spent her time seeing what she could do.
The main doors to the library squeaked when they were opened. Andi had begun to get used to that squeak — glancing up to see who came in, pausing the book-flipping while she did so. Friends she’d nod to, then get back to what she was doing. Other folks she’d ignore, unless they waved to her or something. No reason to be rude.
This time, the squeaky door opened wider. Two people came in instead of one — Robert and Paul Lévesque were coming in — they were twins from Quebec. Brown hair, brown eyes — kind of cute. They were third years. Andi had been introduced to them her first week since they were other international students. Since then, she’d never really had much to do with them. «Je ne peux pas croire que j’ai raté mon test de l’histoire,» Robert was saying. «Bien pourquoi doit-j’apprendre l’histoire américaine quand je ne suis même pas américain?»
«Je n’ai aucune idée,» Paul answered, before looking over and seeing Andi. «As-tu entendu la dernière?» he said to his brother, still essentially full voice. «Gannett est devenue super-bizarre.»
«Elle est toujours un peu cinglée, mais bien jolie.»
«Vous deux rends compte que je peux vous entendre, non?» Andi asked. She realized even as she spoke that her accent was shifting — sounding more like the Québécois dialect they were speaking than the more traditional Parisian they had been encouraged to learn in French I — or the horrible South London-flavored butchery Andi had actually managed. «Et pour la petite histoire, c’est Gannett-Moore. Cela me rend plus mignonne?» She blinked twice, looking innocent.
Paul froze, flushing slightly. He opened his mouth, then closed it, before backing up and heading back out of the library. Robert paused, looking at Andi as well, before getting a bit of a smile on his face and following his brother.
“So you’re speaking French now too?”
Andi turned. Mister Stone was approaching her from the other side. “I read three textbooks, two old copies of Le Monde and a dog eared Le Petit Prince a couple of hours ago. This was my first field test, though if you want I can recite my last oral report in French and we’ll see how it goes.”
“Don’t bother, I don’t speak it. Though I want to get Mrs. Martin to come down at some point. I’m curious if you can translate Ethan Fromme into French as quickly as you do everything else.”
“Why are you obsessed with that bloody book? Tell you what — I’ll do Silas Marner instead. Or Piers Plowman. Or Passion Untold.”
“What’s Passion Untold?”
Andi dug into the pile, pulling out a dog-eared romance novel, waving it in her other hand. “Before I translate this one, I’m going to need a few more minutes to read through a French dictionary and maybe a thesaurus. I don’t believe I have the right vocabulary for ‘throbbing’ or ‘bodice.'”
“I think ‘bodice’ is French.” Mister Stone sat down on the other side of the table. “You seem to be in better spirits. today.”
Andi shrugged, smiling exaggeratedly. “I’m just tapdancing on my own grave, Mister Stone. So, want me to write a computer program for you longhand? Best to give me a topic — I couldn’t think of one. I’m not entirely sure what people write computer programs about. The book suggests it should just output ‘hello, world,’ but I’m not one to make that kind of unambiguous welcome to a planet I’ve barely even seen before.”
Mister Stone chuckled — somewhat charitably, Andi thought. The joke was pretty weak and she knew it. “So you’re pretty scared, huh?”
Andi looked down. “Yeah. But… it’s weird. I can put it all away.”
“Put it all away?”
“It’s not even that. I… it’s like I can take all the time I need to to think about things or feel badly or freak out all at once, and most people wouldn’t even notice I’d done it. Or else I… I don’t know. Store up what happens so I can freak out about it later.” She laughed weakly. “I don’t even have tantrums right any more.”
“And you were so famous for tantrums before now, too.”
“Hey, you never saw me in the stands for a good football game. I could turn over a car and set it on fire with the best of them, Mister Stone, and don’t you forget it.” She took another deep breath. “So my parents will be here tomorrow.”
“I know. I spoke to them on the phone yesterday.”
“I’m aware. They called me at three nineteen this morning and asked me a maths question.”
“Three nineteen? They woke you up to ask you—”
“Oh, it gets better. They asked me to multiply three different numbers they gave me on three different birthdays. A nicely preprepared exam, and I passed with flying colors.”
Mister Stone narrowed his eyes. “You’re saying they expected this?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I even had an awesome experience remembering being in hideous pain as a toddler, with boffins surrounding me. And then them being disappointed by something, so they handed me back over to my parents who brought me home with almost no reaction whatsoever.” Andi hehed. “So yay. Apparently I’m a late bloomer. Who knew?”
Mister Stone looked at Andi for a long moment, then took a deep breath. “There’s almost no way we could prove any of that, of course.”
“Oh, no way at all. I mean, who would buy such a ridiculous story?”
Andi arched an eyebrow. “That’s all it takes? Me saying it?”
“That’s all it takes. With everything that’s happened? I don’t think you’re going to lie to me, Andi. I mean, hey. You’re scared, and right now I’m a friendly face.”
“You’re more than that, Mister Stone. You… you’re… I trust you. You’ve never messed about with us, you give it to us straight… you’re not patronizing…”
“I’m a pretty good baritone and I’m darned good at ping pong too.” He smiled.
“…I just said you weren’t patronizing.”
“Well, I don’t want to be predictable.” His smile turned into a grin.
“And… you don’t seem scared or freaked out by all this.”
“Really?” He laughed. “So I’m a good actor too, then? Good to know. Good to know.”
Mister Stone scratched the back of his neck. “So… your parents abused you.” He said it softly, almost matter of factly.
“I… well, someone else did. But they condoned it.”
“Have they ever struck you or otherwise inflicted physical pain directly?”
Andi considered. “No.”
“I’d ask if you’re sure, but at this point that would just be silly. They’ve obviously been emotionally abusive—”
“I’m not certain we can say that. They’ve just been… distant. Neglectful, for certain, but they’ve always ensured I had someone responsible for my—”
“Andi — of course we can say that. Your parents barely acknowledged your existence. You’ve been raised by hired help and shipped off to boarding schools since you were old enough to use a toilet instead of your drawers. Andi — this is a cruel question to ask someone with your memory, but have either of them ever said they loved you? Once?”
“Oh God,” she whispered. “Oh God.”
“Andi… I’m sorry.”
“I don’t think they’ve ever said anything affectionate. The occasional acknowledgement of some award or the like, yes, but otherwise…” she shook her head. “It’s… I can’t believe it’s wasn’t clear to me. They don’t love me. They don’t even like me. Were they just… disappointed because I didn’t become this kind of brain at three?”
“I don’t know, Andi.”
“Why are you dredging all this up?!” she snapped. “Why… I felt badly enough about all this — why make this all so clear to me? Damn it, Mister Stone — can’t I have one bloody delusion left? Can’t I pretend my parents don’t see me as some kind of— I don’t know. Analyst, or weapon?”
“Why? Because we need to have this out in the open, at least between the two of us, before they get here tomorrow.”
“So we can keep them from bringing you home. So we can keep you at Brooks-Carillon, even through the summer. So we can make sure you’re in a safe and supportive environment until you’re eighteen years old and can tell them to go sit and spin.”
Andi blinked, and looked at her teacher, still across the table from her.
Mister Stone looked back at Andi, earnestly.
“This has to be dangerous talk, Mister Stone. Can’t you — or the school — get in trouble? Why would you go to all this for me?”
“You’re my student, Andi. You’re our student. I know kids love to think their teachers hate them or that a private school like ours just sees you as dollar signs, but we’re not here for the paycheck and teaching’s too much work to do if we hate our kids. It’s not just me. It’s all of us — or most who matter. Look, I want you to talk to the school counselor. Maybe she can help work out a strategy — or at the very least give you someone you can talk to about this. I don’t know how we can make this… scientists making you super-smart thing into a justification for keeping you here. We need to find something else. You deserve that much, Andi.”
Andi felt a tear go down her cheek. “God… Mister Stone… I….” She snuffled. “No. No, that’s insane. The school would get sued and so would you, and who’d believe us?”
“No, this is how it has to be, Mister Stone. I’m going to just… I’m fifteen years old. If this stuff had had the decency to wait a few more years, I’d be fine, but it didn’t. Hell, even if you call this abuse, think of how many people out there who’d just laugh at that. A wealthy kid calling ‘abuse’ because she’d been given costly private education from a young age? Think about how a real victim of—”
“Don’t go down that path, Andi. Every case is unique — and it’s not a competition. Are there kids who have it way worse than you? Sure. Of course there are. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered, and it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help.”
“Maybe.” She took a deep, somewhat ragged breath. “I want this all to just go back to normal. I want it all to be done.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“Maybe not. But I’ll have to reach for as normal as I can possibly get. Look, whatever their plans, they’re not going to risk injuring me. Not if they’ve waited this long to get me. So… I just need to wait it out.”
“That’s how it has to be, Mister Stone,” she said firmly. “I… God I appreciate what you’re doing — what you’ve done. I appreciate it more than I can say, but… but this…” she waved her hand. “All this is too much. Anything the school does to try and block this will just cause trouble for the school or for you. That’s not going to happen. I’ll just… do what I’m told, like a good child.”
Mister Stone closed his eyes and bowed his head, steepling his hands. “I… all right. All right, I see what you’re saying. Will you please talk to the counselor?”
“There’s nothing she can say to me that you haven’t, and I don’t want to go through all this again with someone else.”
“Well… I can’t make you go.” Andi could tell Mister Stone dearly wished he could. “All right. So what can I do. Can I help you with your research?”
“No. No, I think I’m done that for the day, too. I know what I’m going to know before my parents get here. The only other way I can learn anything….”
‘Is go to sleep and hope Tatum Parrish shows up,’ Andi wanted to say, but she didn’t. Mister Stone had already gone deep for her. She realized that while he wasn’t quite right about ‘everyone at the Brooks-Carillon being on her side’ or whatnot, he was right that the teachers and staff would be behind her. And while she wasn’t going to fight… she needed that sense of… well, that sense someone cared. The moment she said that dream monarchs were showing up in her sleep….
Mister Stone would believe her, she realized, but most of them wouldn’t. It would seem too crazy, too unreal. They’d want to institutionalize her — which would be a perfectly rational response if Andi were delusional. Since Andi wasn’t delusional….
No. No, for now, Andi had to keep Mister Stone and the rest of Brooks-Carillon in the dark about the talented, the Parrishes, the old war and all the rest.
“…is to do what I’m told and hope my parents will explain it,” she said, smoothly, not having paused.
“Yeah, well, I don’t think there’s much chance of that,” Mister Stone said.
“Maybe not, but it is what it is, Mister Stone.” Andi sighed. “May I be excused from study hall tonight?”
“Yeah, sure. I think Dean Forrester’d already arranged that.”
“Thank you. Do you think I should pack tonight?”
“Not on your life. Don’t make it look like you want to go with them.”
“That’s me.” Mister Stone said, smiling wanly. “Until yesterday, I was the smartest guy in the room.”