Fangirl - Seite 2
Maybe Reagan would spend all her time in her boyfriend’s room. Or at his apartment. Her boyfriend looked older—he probably lived off campus with twenty other guys, in some ramshackle house with a couch in the front yard.
Even with the room to herself, Cath didn’t feel safe changing in here. Reagan could walk in at any minute, Reagan’s boyfriend could walk in at any minute … And either one of them could be a cell phone–camera pervert.
Cath took her clothes to the bathroom and changed in a stall. There was a girl at the sinks, desperately trying to make friendly eye contact. Cath pretended not to notice.
She finished getting ready with plenty of time to eat breakfast but didn’t feel up to braving the dining hall; she still didn’t know where it was, or how it worked.…
In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?… Bah.
Cath broke open a box of protein bars. She had four more boxes and three giant jars of peanut butter shoved under her bed. If she paced herself, she might not have to face the dining hall until October.
She flipped open her laptop while she chewed on a carob-oat bar and clicked through to her FanFixx account. There were a bunch of new comments on her page, all people wringing their hands because Cath hadn’t posted a new chapter of Carry On yesterday.
Hey, guys, she typed. Sorry about yesterday. First day of school, family stuff, etc. Today might not happen either. But I promise you I’ll be back in black on Tuesday, and that I have something especially wicked planned. Peace out, Magicath.
* * *
Walking to class, Cath couldn’t shake the feeling that she was pretending to be a college student in a coming-of-age movie. The setting was perfect—rolling green lawns, brick buildings, kids everywhere with backpacks. Cath shifted her bag uncomfortably on her back. Look at me—I’m a stock photo of a college student.
She made it to American History ten minutes early, which still wasn’t early enough to get a desk at the back of the class. Everybody in the room looked awkward and nervous, like they’d spent way too much time deciding what to wear.
(Start as you mean to go on, Cath had thought when she laid out her clothes last night. Jeans. Simon T-shirt. Green cardigan.)
The boy sitting in the desk next to her was wearing earbuds and self-consciously bobbing his head. The girl on Cath’s other side kept flipping her hair from one shoulder to the other.
Cath closed her eyes. She could feel their desks creaking. She could smell their deodorant. Just knowing they were there made her feel tight and cornered.
If Cath had slightly less pride, she could have taken this class with her sister—she and Wren both needed the history credits. Maybe she should be taking classes with Wren while they still had a few in common; they weren’t interested in any of the same subjects. Wren wanted to study marketing—and maybe get a job in advertising like their dad.
Cath couldn’t imagine having any sort of job or career. She’d majored in English, hoping that meant she could spend the next four years reading and writing. And maybe the next four years after that.
Anyway, she’d already tested out of Freshman Comp, and when she met with her adviser in the spring, Cath convinced him she could handle Intro to Fiction-Writing, a junior-level course. It was the only class—maybe the only thing about college—Cath was looking forward to. The professor who taught it was an actual novelist. Cath had read all three of her books (about decline and desolation in rural America) over the summer.
“Why are you reading that?” Wren had asked when she noticed.
“Something without a dragon or an elf on the cover.”
“I’m branching out.”
“Shh,” Wren said, covering the ears on the movie poster above her bed. “Baz will hear you.”
“Baz is secure in our relationship,” Cath had said, smiling despite herself.
Thinking about Wren now made Cath reach for her phone.
Wren had probably gone out last night.
It had sounded like the whole campus was up partying. Cath felt under siege in her empty dorm room. Shouting. Laughing. Music. All of it coming from every direction. Wren wouldn’t have been able to resist the noise.
Cath dug her phone out of her backpack.
“you up?” Send.
A few seconds later, her phone chimed. “isn’t that my line?”
“too tired to write last night,” Cath typed, “went to bed at 10.”
Chime. “neglecting your fans already…”
Cath smiled. “always so jealous of my fans…”
“have a good day”
“yeah – you too”
A middle-aged Indian man in a reassuring tweed jacket walked into the lecture hall. Cath turned down her phone and slid it into her bag.
* * *
When she got back to her dorm, she was starving. At this rate, her protein bars wouldn’t last a week.…
There was a boy sitting outside her room. The same one. Reagan’s boyfriend? Reagan’s cigarette buddy?
“Cather!” he said with a smile. He started to stand up as soon as he saw her—which was more of a production than it should have been; his legs and arms were too long for his body.
“It’s Cath,” she said.
“Are you sure?” He ran a hand through his hair. Like he was confirming that it was still messy. “Because I really like Cather.”
“I’m sure,” she said flatly. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.”
He stood there, waiting for her to open the door.
“Is Reagan here?” Cath asked.
“If Reagan were here”—he smiled—“I’d already be inside.”
Cath pinched her key but didn’t open the door. She wasn’t up for this. She was already overdosing on new and other today. Right now she just wanted to curl up on her strange, squeaky bed and inhale three protein bars. She looked over the boy’s shoulder. “When is she getting here?”
Cath’s stomach clenched. “Well, I can’t just let you in,” she blurted.
“I don’t even know you.”
“Are you kidding?” He laughed. “We met yesterday. I was in the room when you met me.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know you. I don’t even know Reagan.”
“Are you going to make her wait outside, too?”
“Look…” Cath said. “I can’t just let strange guys into my room. I don’t even know your name. This whole situation is too rapey.”
“You understand,” she said, “right?”
He dropped an eyebrow and shook his head, still smiling. “Not really. But now I don’t want to come in with you. The word ‘rapey’ makes me uncomfortable.”
“Me, too,” she said gratefully.
He leaned against the wall and slid back onto the floor, looking up at her. Then he held up his hand. “I’m Levi, by the way.”
Cath frowned and took his hand lightly, still holding her keys. “Okay,” she said, then opened the door and closed it as quickly as possible behind her.
She grabbed her laptop and her protein bars, and crawled into the corner of her bed.
* * *
Cath was trying to pace her side of the room, but there wasn’t enough floor. It already felt like a prison in here, especially now that Reagan’s boyfriend, Levi, was standing guard—or sitting guard, whatever—out in the hall. Cath would feel better if she could just talk to somebody. She wondered if it was too soon to call Wren.…
She called her dad instead. And left a voice mail.
She texted Abel. “hey. one down. what up?”
She opened her sociology book. Then opened her laptop. Then got up to open a window. It was warm out. People were chasing each other with Nerf guns outside a fraternity house across the street. Pi-Kappa-Weird-Looking O.
Cath pulled out her phone and dialed.
“Hey,” Wren answered, “how was your first day?”
“Fine. How was yours?”
“Good,” Wren said. Wren always managed to sound breezy and nonchalant. “I mean, nerve-racking, I guess. I went to the wrong building for Statistics.”
The door opened, and Reagan and Levi walked in. Reagan gave Cath an odd look, but Levi just smiled.
“Yeah,” Wren said. “It only made me a few minutes late, but I still felt so stupid—Hey, Courtney and I are on our way to dinner, can I call you back? Or do you just want to meet us for lunch tomorrow? I think we’re going to start meeting at Selleck Hall at noon. Do you know where that is?”
“I’ll find it,” Cath said.
“Okay, cool. See you then.”
“Cool,” Cath said, pressing End and putting her phone in her pocket.
Levi had already unfurled himself across Reagan’s bed.
“Make yourself useful,” Reagan said, throwing a crumpled-up sheet at him. “Hey,” she said to Cath.
“Hey,” Cath said. She stood there for a minute, waiting for some sort of conversation to happen, but Reagan didn’t seem interested. She was going through all her boxes, like she was looking for something.
“How was your first day?” Levi asked.
It took a second for Cath to realize he was talking to her. “Fine,” she said.
“You’re a freshman, right?” He was making Reagan’s bed. Cath wondered if he was planning to stay the night—that would not be on. At all.
He was still looking at her, smiling at her, so she nodded.
“Did you find all your classes?”
“Are you meeting people?”
Yeah, she thought, you people.
“Not intentionally,” she said.
She heard Reagan snort.
“Where are your pillowcases?” Levi asked the closet.
“Boxes,” Reagan said.
He started emptying a box, setting things on Reagan’s desk as if he knew where they went. His head hung forward like it was only loosely connected to his neck and shoulders. Like he was one of those action figures that’s held together inside by worn-out rubber bands. Levi looked a little wild. He and Reagan both did. People tend to pair off that way, Cath thought, in matched sets.
“So, what are you studying?” he asked Cath.
“English,” she said, then waited too long to say, “What are you studying?”
He seemed delighted to be asked the question. Or any question. “Range management.”
Cath didn’t know what that meant, but she didn’t want to ask.
“Please don’t start talking about range management,” Reagan groaned. “Let’s just make that a rule, for the rest of the year. No talking about range management in my room.”
“It’s Cather’s room, too,” Levi said.
“Cath,” Reagan corrected him.
“What about when you’re not here?” he asked Reagan. “Can we talk about range management when you’re not actually in the room?”
“When I’m not actually in the room…,” she said, “I think you’re going to be waiting out in the hall.”
Cath smiled at the back of Reagan’s head. Then she saw Levi watching her and stopped.
* * *
Everyone in the classroom looked like this was what they’d been waiting for all week. It was like they were all waiting for a concert to start. Or a midnight movie premiere.
When Professor Piper walked in, a few minutes late, the first thing Cath noticed was that she was smaller than she looked in the photos on her book jackets.
Maybe that was stupid. They were just head shots, after all. But Professor Piper really filled them up—with her high cheekbones; her wide, watered-down blue eyes; and a spectacular head of long brown hair.
In person, the professor’s hair was just as spectacular, but streaked with gray and a little bushier than in the pictures. She was so small, she had to do a little hop to sit on top of her desk.
“So,” she said instead of “hello.” “Welcome to Fiction-Writing. I recognize a few of you—” She smiled around the room at people who weren’t Cath.
Cath was clearly the only freshman in the room. She was just starting to figure out what marked the freshmen.… The too-new backpacks. Makeup on the girls. Jokey Hot Topic T-shirts on the boys.
Everything on Cath, from her new red Vans to the dark purple eyeglasses she’d picked out at Target. All the upperclassmen wore heavy black Ray-Ban frames. All the professors, too. If Cath got a pair of black Ray-Bans, she could probably order a gin and tonic around here without getting carded.
“Well,” Professor Piper said. “I’m glad you’re all here.” Her voice was warm and breathy—you could say “she purred” without reaching too far—and she talked just softly enough that everyone had to sit really still to hear her.
“We have a lot to do this semester,” she said, “so let’s not waste another minute of it. Let’s dive right in.” She leaned forward on the desk, holding on to the lip. “Are you ready? Will you dive with me?”
Most people nodded. Cath looked down at her notebook.
“Okay. Let’s start with a question that doesn’t really have an answer.… Why do we write fiction?”
One of the older students, a guy, decided he was game. “To express ourselves,” he offered.
“Sure,” Professor Piper said. “Is that why you write?”
The guy nodded.
“Okay … why else?”
“Because we like the sound of our own voices,” a girl said. She had hair like Wren’s, but maybe even cooler. She looked like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby (wearing a pair of Ray-Bans).
“Yes,” Professor Piper laughed. It was a fairy laugh, Cath thought. “That’s why I write, definitely. That’s why I teach.” They all laughed with her. “Why else?”
Why do I write? Cath tried to come up with a profound answer—knowing she wouldn’t speak up, even if she did.
“To explore new worlds,” someone said.
“To explore old ones,” someone else said. Professor Piper was nodding.
To be somewhere else, Cath thought.
“So…,” Professor Piper purred. “Maybe to make sense of ourselves?”
“To set ourselves free,” a girl said.
To get free of ourselves.
“To show people what it’s like inside our heads,” said a boy in tight red jeans.
“Assuming they want to know,” Professor Piper added. Everyone laughed.
“To make people laugh.”
“To get attention.”
“Because it’s all we know how to do.”
“Speak for yourself,” the professor said. “I play the piano. But keep going—I love this. I love it.”
“To stop hearing the voices in our head,” said the boy in front of Cath. He had short dark hair that came to a dusky point at the back of his neck.
To stop, Cath thought.
To stop being anything or anywhere at all.
“To leave our mark,” Mia Farrow said. “To create something that will outlive us.”
The boy in front of Cath spoke up again: “Asexual reproduction.”
Cath imagined herself at her laptop. She tried to put into words how it felt, what happened when it was good, when it was working, when the words were coming out of her before she knew what they were, bubbling up from her chest, like rhyming, like rapping, like jump-roping, she thought, jumping just before the rope hits your ankles.
“To share something true,” another girl said. Another pair of Ray-Bans.
Cath shook her head.
“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.
He was so focused—and frustrated—he didn’t even see the girl with the red hair sit down at his table. She had pigtails and old-fashioned pointy spectacles, the kind you’d wear to a fancy dress party if you were going as a witch.
“You’re going to tire yourself out,” the girl said.
“I’m just trying to do this right,” Simon grunted, tapping the two-pence coin again with his wand and furrowing his brow painfully. Nothing happened.
“Here,” she said, crisply waving her hand over the coin.
She didn’t have a wand, but she wore a large purple ring. There was yarn wound round it to keep it on her finger. “Fly away home.”
With a shiver, the coin grew six legs and a thorax and started to scuttle away. The girl swept it gently off the desk into a jar.
“How did you do that?” Simon asked. She was a first year, too, just like him; he could tell by the green shield on the front of her sweater.
“You don’t do magic,” she said, trying to smile modestly and mostly succeeding. “You are magic.”
Simon stared at the 2p ladybird.
“I’m Penelope Bunce,” the girl said, holding out her hand.
“I’m Simon Snow,” he said, taking it.
“I know,” Penelope said, and smiled.
—from chapter 8, Simon Snow and the Mage’s Heir, copyright © 2001 by Gemma T. Leslie
It was impossible to write like this.
First of all, their dorm room was way too small. A tiny little rectangle, just wide enough on each side of the door for their beds—when the door opened, it actually hit the end of Cath’s mattress—and just deep enough to squeeze in a desk on each side between the beds and the windows. If either of them had brought a couch, it would take up all the available space in the middle of the room.
Neither of them had brought a couch. Or a TV. Or any cute Target lamps.
Reagan didn’t seem to have brought anything personal, besides her clothes and a completely illegal toaster—and besides Levi, who was lying on her bed with his eyes closed, listening to music while Reagan banged at her computer. (A crappy PC, just like Cath’s.)
Cath was used to sharing a room; she’d always shared a room with Wren. But their room at home was almost three times as big as this one. And Wren didn’t take up nearly as much space