Friday, November 2, 2018

The Dark Inside Her Bones: Back at School

"Oh hey! How are you..." Julian hesitated. "Wait, are you new here?"

Kate stopped, turned, looked at Julian with quiet deliberation. "We've been in school together since third grade. You spent most of fifth and sixth grade trying out charms to trip me, make me stutter, undo my bra, or take my voice. Or, you stole my books. Last year in Geometry we swapped tests for grading, and when I handed yours back you put an acne curse on me because I pointed out that you'd done half the problems wrong. Why are you even talking to me?"

Then she put a hand over her mouth. She couldn't believe that she'd just said that. She'd only barely even articulated it to herself; she certainly hadn't readied any kind of rehearsed speech on the off chance that one of her tormentors suddenly and unwisely decided to treat her like a human being.

"I'm sorry," said Julian, stepping back. "I didn't mean... It's just, you've..."

Kate stared at him, genuinely puzzled.

"You're an initiate," he said. "I thought you belonged to one of the Families."

Julian was a Dismore, part of a sprawling semi-aristocratic family that featured a number of remarkable sorcerers, and a great many lesser talents. The bully's arrogance didn't just come from being born to power; his family also had wealth and connections to ensure that the consequences of his behavior were never too severe. Saint Ann's was supposed to be an egalitarian school, where the brightest students would learn everything they could regardless of their background, but sorceries were still the closely-guarded secrets of the various High Families. They weren't taught in schools, and knowing them still set someone like Julian apart. So this was just some new prank, some odd and juvenile attempt to make her think that somehow things had changed.

"You know that's not true," Kate said evenly. "I'm not a name. I don't belong to a Family. I'm just one of those people you step on, on your way up. Why are you even talking to me? Don't you have better things to do with your time?" The anger felt good, cleansing and righteous, and she stepped past him and walked on to her first class.

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