Chapter 4: ShahinDiscuss
...the way you're not impressed
Shahin’s last class of the day was Phys Ed, which had never been her favorite class in her old school. The first “sport” for this year happened to be gymnastics, however, taught by the laconic Luke to a class of about twelve; the small class size made it much less oppressive than huge classes playing violent touch football, and Shahin found herself almost having fun.
Upside-down on the uneven bars, she caught a glimpse of a kid from her History of English Literature class, Jamian. He looked pale and drawn, sort of shell-shocked, moving through the routines as if he was in a trance. She had the sudden urge to smooth his tousled brown hair and hug him, but she squelched the desire and looked away. He didn’t know her and probably wouldn’t welcome the sudden affection, and touch was always such an iffy proposition for her, anyway.
She glanced his way again as she left the gym, but he was still lost in his own private misery, so she let him be. She had a little while before dinner, and she’d agreed to meet Yngvi and Aelgifu back at her room.
Back in the quiet, dimly-lit haven she’d already made of the room, she sprawled on the wide bed and frowned at her fingernails.
“Did you guys notice anything strange about this place?” she asked.
“You mean, other than the fact that this whole facility is underground?” Yngvi asked,
“Or that there’s less than a hundred people in the whole school,” Aelgifu added,
“Or that our teachers actually seem to enjoy their work,” Yngvi joked.
“Or that we all have single dorm rooms the size of some hotel suites, yes,” Shahin added, frowning at them. “I mean about the people.”
“Not really. They’re all kind of friendly.”
“They still look at me,” Aelgifu said. A short chill ran down Shahin’s spine at that; something was horribly wrong. She shook it off and smiled at her friend.
“You’re gorgeous, Ayla. Of course people are going to look at you.”
“I know.” The shiver repeated itself; Shahin pushed it aside and looked at her friends.
“I mean… they might look at you, but they’re not looking at me. Not like they did in my old school.”
They looked at her curiously, and she could tell that they really didn’t know quite what she meant. She plucked at the blood-red taffeta of her skirt. “Like a freak,” she said shortly.
“But… isn’t that a good thing? Not being looked at like a freak?” Aelgifu’s question was very hesitant, but it failed to send cold twinges down Shahin’s back; she thought carefully about her answer.
“Not… not really. It’s kind of complicated, but if they’re not staring at this,” she gestured at her outfit, “then why not? I mean, what does that make normal to them?” She shook her head ruefully. “What does it take to get a rise out of these people?”
“You mean you want to make a scene?”
“Well…” She thought about the nasty bigoted idiots at her last school, and about the trio of bullies she’d seen shoving their way around classes here, and a wicked smile slowly grew on her face. “Yeah, I think I do. I think I want to see what it takes to get some attention around here.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Yngvi asked mildly, but she had the bit in her teeth already and wouldn’t be swayed.
“Probably not. But it will be fun anyway.” She giggled softly. “C’mon, Vi, haven’t you ever wanted to really freak someone out?”
“Well… no,” he admitted. “It seems sort of counter-productive.”
“It can be amazingly productive. Besides, people who are going to be good friends usually aren’t going to be swayed by an excess of sable – you two weren’t.” She began digging through her suitcases, looking for the more extreme of her accouterments.
“But weren’t you just complaining that no-one was being swayed by your… um… sable?” Aelgifu asked very, very quietly.
“Yeah, but…” She frowned and began pulling bits of leather out of her suitcase. “I kind of got used to the attention… being the creepy one, you know?” She hadn’t had a lot of choice in the matter, but it had, after a while, grown on her.
“Not really… but if it makes you happy,” the other girl shrugged, “go for it.” She frowned at the chain-and-leather pieces Shahin was laying out on the bed. “That will probably do it, yeah.”
“I think so, too.” Grinning, Shahin stripped off her jewelry and replaced it with a heavy chainmail collar, jangling with O-rings. She added a few more leather-and-metal accessories, trying to ignore the unhappy looks Aelgifu was giving her, then frowned at her outfit. “Over the top. ‘Scuse me, Yngvi.”
Politely, he turned around, and she dug into her closet, changing outfits until she found something that pleased her. “Better?” she asked Aelgifu, who seemed to have relaxed a little bit, enough, at least, to give the outfit a critical once-over.
“Better,” she finally said, smiling mischievously at Shahin. “You’ve gone from elegant Victorian funeral to classy-but-understated mistress of the night. The chainmail collar is a nice touch.”
Shahin fought down a blush, uncertain if she was being teased, and tried to relax and find her earlier defiant equilibrium. “Thank you.”
“Shall we go to dinner, then, if you’re done with your wardrobe adjustments?” Yngvi asked drolly, bowing to the two women.
“If your hunger threatens to overwhelm you, certainly,” she smirked, and followed him out the door.
The hallways were never very full, but they were to the stairs before they ran into another student. Shahin had the brittle self-conscious feeling of being on stage that was familiar from years of public school, and for a moment she berated herself for this particular idea – especially when the student in question stopped dead to look her up and down.
She held a little smirk on her face and studied him while he inspected her – he was in one of her classes, but he sat in the far back and she’d only gotten a quick glance at him. Hair so dark brown as to look black hung straight down to the middle of his back and flopped, unkempt, over half his face; his skin was as fair as hers but his nose more pronounced. He was wearing a leather coat and black jeans, big tough-guy sort of look, but under the shagginess he was startlingly attractive.
He seemed to have come to a similar conclusion about her. “Nice,” he drawled, sounding amused, “but I’d be careful around here with things like that. People might interpret it differently than you’d intended.”
His superior tone grated on her, and she responded coolly. “And how’s that?”
His smile grew to a toothy grin, and he stepped up right in front of her. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of flinching away, but his slightly greater height made it impossible not to look up at him when he was this close. “Like this.”
He grabbed, suddenly, the three O-rings on her collar with one hand and pulled, tugging her roughly to him. The chain mail dug into the back of her neck, but before she could push him away, he hooked his free hand into the rings on her wrist bands and pinned her wrists to her body. She gasped despite herself, and he leaned down and pressed a rough kiss on her.
Rather than struggle, she kissed him back, not fighting against his hands. The tug of the collar on the back of her neck was almost sexy, his kiss hungrier than she had expected, as if he wanted to devour her – and she began to think it might be a good idea.
He let go of her as quickly as he had grabbed her, an expression of unbearable smugness on his face. She struggled to control her face and voice, and, after a few shallow breaths, managed to smile politely at him.
“You’re right,” she said coolly, “that’s not quite how I wanted to be interpreted. Thank you for your advice…”
“Emrys,” he offered, clearly amused.
“Emrys,” she filled in calmly. “Thank you. I’ll go change now.” Her hands were twitching, but she managed to keep her voice level and her face blank and cool as she turned and glided – not strode, not ran, as much as she wanted to – back to her room, Yngvi and Aelgifu following, and shut delicately, not slammed, the door.
Once inside, however, she removed the chains and collar with short, sharp, angry movements, her hands trembling. “I want to tie that man up and hurt him,” she muttered, ignoring the sharp frisson that went through her at the thought.
“I think he has the same ideas about you,” Yngvi said dryly. “Is it time for another wardrobe change?”
“Don’t worry, I won’t make you starve to death.” She set the O-ring-less jewelry quickly and centered a robin’s-egg-sized pendant of garnet over her sternum. “There.” Her hands were still trembling, but she could contain the shaking with effort. She could still feel the way the collar had felt as the chain links had dug into her skin.
As she let her friends lead her to dinner, the feel of Emrys’ hand on her collar would not leave her, nor would the smug look on his face. She wanted to wipe that look off of his face. She wanted to beat him.
This is an updated, edited, revised chapter. For the original, click here
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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