Catching Up: Part Seven
Therisa came to class early one day the next week. The Fire Faerie didn't remember ever doing that before. She always came on time, but never early.
She had never really enjoyed a class before this one, she thought, dropping her books onto the grass a little ways from where the class would gather. And she hadn't even enjoyed this one until Patricia had asked her to be in their group.
The Fire Faerie frowned, looking down at her schoolbooks. She still didn't know quite why the Dark Faerie had done that. After all, she didn't know Patricia, or any of the others, for that matter. She had a few friends among the Fire Faeries of her year, but most of them only counted as acquaintances, anyway.
So why her?
"Therisa!" Lianar smiled, dancing up to her. "Early to class today?"
"Something like that," the Fire Faerie said, turning to greet Lianar. She couldn't help but smile at the Light Faerie's eternal cheerfulness. "You, too."
"My class before this is close," Lianar said by way of explanation. "How do you like the group? It's coming along well, I think. Maybe Ms. Evea will let us try flying in the group one of these days. Wouldn't that be fun?" She beamed.
Therisa nodded, hiding a smile. "It would be. We still have the regular flying lessons, though."
"Oh, those." The Light Faerie shrugged. "I suppose. We don't get to do group things. That's the only thing I don't like about them. But the flying part is fun, on the Racers. It's like flying--you know, with wings, except you don't have to do anything."
"I'd hardly call concentrating on your opponent nothing," Therisa said, raising her eyebrows.
"I hope we get to fly the Racers with the smoke sometime, making the trails and all that, instead of just coasting around and trying to not crash into each other's fliers. I think we're ready for it, don't you?"
The Fire Faerie shrugged, only half listening any more. She watched the others as they came in for class: the other members of their group, and the other students, who knew only the dreary, crash-and-restart side of Faerie Cloud Racers.
Therisa almost pitied them. They had no idea what else was out there. She didn't either, of course, but she knew she didn't.
Evea watched the Faerie students come down the lawn towards her, and flicked a glance towards where Therisa was talking with Lianar as an afterthought. She evaluated their postures in that glance, observing the nuances, how they moved their hands and their bodies as they spoke and listened, and smiled. Therisa had come a long way already.
She hadn't even noticed her before the group meetings started, Therisa was so good at hiding her height and her abilities. The young Fire Faerie was learning to let them out now, and to not be ashamed of who she was. Her posture reflected that: before, she had walked hunched over, pinching herself in to look of a height with the other Faeries in the class. Now she stood tall, unconsciously so, and she didn't look around to compare herself to others.
Lianar tugged at Therisa's sleeve the next moment to drag her over to stand with the rest of the class. Therisa pulled free after a step or two, smiling, and caught up with the Light Faerie, her stride long, easy, loose.
Evea nodded. Therisa was making progress. So were the others: it wasn't just the Fire Faerie who had changed over the past week. Lillian was still shy, but she was slowly learning to overcome that, and Emm was pulling herself back in a little to make room for the others.
Arielle, she thought, and looked over at the neat column of Air Faeries. Arielle stood in the center, smiling demurely at a comment that one of her element-mates had made.
She would come around, or drop out. Evea frowned. That left Lianar and Patricia, out of the rest of the group. She looked back at where Lianar was talking with Therisa.
The Light Faerie seemed a natural leader. She had the charisma for it, at least. If the others didn't know why they followed her yet, they would eventually. Maybe they never would. Either way, she was their leader.
Patricia, on the other hand, might be a problem. Evea didn't even need to look at the Dark Faerie to know that she stood alone, watching everyone and everything that was happening. She was the other founder of the group, and should have been a close second for leader.
But that wasn't the way things worked, the Fire Faerie knew. Patricia didn't have the charisma. She was wiser than Lianar--old beyond her years--and probably more clever than any of the other Faeries in the group. But right now she wasn't using that mental ability for anything more than subverting the team. She participated in the team-building exercises willingly enough, but Evea could see her heart wasn't in it.
Ah, well, Evea thought. She shouldn't meddle. If Patricia came to her, she would help all she could to get the Dark Faerie back to supporting the team, but she wouldn't approach her student first.
She realized then that the bell for the beginning of class had rung nearly a minute before, while she was lost in thought. The Fire Faerie kept from shaking herself out of it physically and smiled instead, looking around to include all of her students in the smile.
"Right," she said. "First off. You may have heard that there's going to be a gala at the school at the end of first term, that's right around when you get to leave for winter break. Groups of students from all classes and all years will be participating in the grand show we put on. My students--that is to say, anyone in one of my classes, that's including you--will also lead off the parade. You'll be in the Racers, flying two-by-two in a line along the parade route. Boring, maybe, but it helps show off that something's happening in these classes." Evea shrugged.
"Some of my more advanced students will be flying rings around you. Literally, that is. They'll be showing off their skills in the air. But for now all you have to do is learn how to not crash into each other and fly in a line."
She grinned, showing all her teeth. "Ready to give it a try?"
Patricia left as soon as class and their group lesson were over. She knew that Ms. Evea had been watching her throughout the former, at least: the Dark Faerie had felt her teacher's eyes on her when she thought Patricia wasn't looking. By the time the rest of the class left, Patricia was irritated enough to not pay attention at all to whether or not the Fire Faerie was watching her during the group time.
She made a face, storming through the thick oak doors into the Academy's purple corridors. Why was it always the Dark Faerie who got thrust out of the spotlight and into the shadows? She bet that Jhudora had had that happen to her, too. People saw dark purple wings and dark hair and they assumed you were evil and conniving.
Not that some Dark Faeries weren't, Patricia allowed, but not all of them were. There were probably exactly the same number of evil Dark Faeries as there were evil Light or Water or Fire Faeries. If there were any more, it was because people expected them to be and forced them to fit those expectations.
It just wasn't fair, she thought angrily. If she hadn't been there at the start, too, there would've never even been a group. And even if there were, Lianar would've had to find all the other Faeries for herself, and Patricia bet she wouldn't have ever thought of asking Emm or Therisa. Patricia was the one who'd persuaded Lillian to try it that first time, too.
And yet Lianar was the leader of the group. They all orbited around her like she was the sun, smiling at her jokes, laughing when her optimism grew too much for them to swallow. Her flaws gave them something to bond over. But she had flaws too, Patricia thought irrationally, so why not her?
She sighed, turning a corner and stepping out of the way to let a Fire Faerie barrel past her. She knew she was being irrational. When it came down to it, Patricia didn't think she really even wanted to be the leader. It still seemed unfair, though, that the Dark Faerie didn't merit even some attention.
Maybe she should talk to Ms. Evea. The Fire Faerie had been teaching for years now here. Odds were she'd seen more Dark Faeries being discriminated against. Maybe she'd have something to do that would help Patricia.
But no, Patricia thought, if that were the case her teacher would've been suggesting subtly to the other Faeries that they should pay more attention to what she said. Not just looking at her when she thought Patricia wouldn't notice.
The Dark Faerie sighed and looked around. She was standing just inside the bounds of the Dark Faeries' dormitory halls. Patricia hadn't realized she had walked so far so quickly, but then, she'd been preoccupied.
She went to the door of her dormitory and pushed it open. All she really wanted to do now was lie down and sleep, if she could. She had another class in a couple of hours, but she didn't feel like going to it. Maybe this once she'd skip, Patricia thought, sitting on her bed to take off her shoes. She curled up on her blankets and let her eyes fall shut. Or maybe she'd wake up in time to go to it. Either way, she was tired, and she needed to sleep.
To be continued...