Sadie Hawkins Chapter 2

With this chapter, we shift perspectives a bit — and get into one of the central mysteries in this first book. Watch out for new characters, unsolved crimes, and time-slips. Well, really, just the one…

Chapter 2

As Viola Hawkins turned her car, nicknamed Lil Abner, into the student parking lot, she could think of nothing but skipping class and going home, watching television, and feigning illness. She’d gotten pretty good at it, over the years, although it helped that her mother was always a little bit paranoid about her only daughter getting sick. When her brother Francisco fell ill, that was a different matter – even though he was a macho man, athletic soccer player and all, the boy was ridiculous when he got sick. He would claim, with a runny nose and a mild fever, to be in so much pain that everyone in their family pretty much assumed he was crying wolf whenever Franky so much as muttered the word ‘unwell.’ Now that he was a freshman in high school, their parents were taking less and less of his particular brand of bullshit – he’d already tried to get out of coming to class today; their mother had checked his symptoms so thoroughly he’d had to give up and admit faking.

            Why is today so terrible? Viola thought, sitting in her car and not wanting to get out – well, obviously, because I’m a melodramatic idiot. The night before, she had confessed to one of her best friend’s that she’d been crushing on him all summer – at which point Nick Howell, the boy with the brightest green eyes and the best ass in school, had admitted that he’d been crushing on her a little bit, too. The only problem was that they’d had this conversation in the midst of a board game night with their mutual besty, Vidisha Banerjee. Vidisha, to her credit, had merely raised an eyebrow, pursed her lips, and huffed in annoyance; for her, that was practically a record in not bitching. Video, as everyone called the film-loving Indian American girl, was not known for her patience.

            This was the source, alongside general giddiness, of Viola’s nervousness. She frowned as she allowed herself to wallow in her thoughts. Today, she noted, was not altogether bad. For instance, it was the first day of a new school year; she, Video, and Nick were no longer freshmen. They were full-fledged members of the student body, sophomores and one year closer to getting the heck out of dodge.

            None of them was a fan of their high school. Calydon was not the worst place in the world to live, but it was far from a good one. It was, in fact, one of the most socially unequal communities in the country, although that statistic was a little biased because their town was so small compared to the competition. Unlike other contenders, Calydon did not have a large base of people to begin with, so the fact that the wealthy tended to outnumber the poor was not quite so bizarre. The poorer members of the community just accepted the huge gap between the rich and themselves as a matter of fact – life was a bitch and all that. Viola and her friends, though, understood there was a larger problem when one side of town was overrun with gigantic homes that only 2 or 3 people lived in, while the other was home to tiny houses, often in disrepair, and with barely enough rooms for everyone living in them.

           The source of their hatred for Argo High School, though, lay in the attitudes of most of the students and staff who tended to view the wealthiest students as clearly the most talented and worthy of praise. The poorest, of course, were suspected of gang activity or worse, ignoring the fact that crime was not really a problem in the small-ish city of Calydon. The worst thing that had happened in decades was a recent wave of burglaries on the wealthy side of town that most people, being not-so-rich, viewed as just desserts for the spoiled inhabitants of the North Side.

            She, Video, and Nick already had plans for how they would get out. While Nick was planning to rely on his athletic abilities in basketball, Video was bulking up her film-making skills in order to attend NYU. Viola, for her part, had plans to go somewhere awesome, but she had yet to choose where, or how, or with what kind of skills, background, or resume building. In the back of her mind, she supposed she might end up working for her mom for a while and then starting up her own private investigation service. It wouldn’t be so bad to do the kind of work she had grown used to – filing, calling, backing up evidence, and helping dig up dirt on people.

            A knock shook Viola from her reverie, and she realized that she had not turned her car off. I’m such a dumbass, she thought, letting the engine rest, pulling out her keys, and stashing them in the pocket of her jean jacket. She looked out the driver’s side window to find her now-boyfriend Nick looking in at her, smiling fondly. She returned the smile, allowing herself to admire his bright green eyes, ferocious smile, and the somehow adorable dent in his nose.

            “Hey, sugar-tits,” Viola said as she opened her car door, “I didn’t order a blow job this morning.” Nick backed away, giving her space to get out, even as he held the door back for her.

            “What?” Nick said, looking surprised and cutely devastated, “You mean I gagged while perfuming my mouth and all for naught! What do I tell my pimp?” Viola winced at how far he took the joke, but Nick did that all the time. He would take any joke or kidding comment and push it farther than anyone felt comfortable with. It was his trademark awkward style, something that Viola had used to mock but now felt very fond of – much like she did his baggy jeans and vintage t-shirts. The one he was wearing today – emblazoned with a bear and the words ‘Crazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger’ – was for the restaurant where they’d had their first couple-like moment. She’d been eating a veggie burger when Nick had taken a napkin and gently wiped some ketchup from her cheek. For a moment, she’d been disturbed, but then, suddenly, considered the fact that she had found the touch to be okay, maybe even nice. A week later and she’d been in full crush mode.

            “Okay, it wasn’t that bad – you don’t have to give me the silent treatment, lady,” Nick said, as he turned to walk toward school. He was smiling still, but Viola worried that he would eventually get tired of her tendency to meander in her thoughts and randomly zone out. She slammed her car door, walked toward him and managed to catch up as he headed for the entrance, grabbing his ass as she did so. “Whoa, I get it, you like my ass,” he said, still self-conscious despite his fantastic bum.

            “Just checking on my investment,” Vi responded, smirking and then slipping her hand into Nick’s. She gazed up at him for a moment, taking in his black, curly hair, brownish skin, and the height of him – he was not actually all that tall, but at 5 feet 9 and growing, she worried he would start to tower over her with the 3 inches already separating them. Viola noticed Nick noticing her staring at him. “You been keeping up your beauty regimen? Moisturizer, hair oil, and whatnot? All you gots your looks – so you better keep ‘em up,” she said, poking fun as a means of alleviating her nerves.

            ‘What will people say? Will they even notice that I’m dating Nick?’ she thought, only to realize she didn’t really give a shit. ‘People were people; let them talk their vapid talk. Not that we’re remotely popular enough to matter,’ Viola thought, realizing she was probably having a teenage-melodrama moment. She shook it off, enjoying the day with its cool breeze and the smell of lakes that permeated much of Michigan.

 SHGQ Ch2 IllusB

            Viola and Nick were already at the front entrance to the school. It was still a good 45 minutes before the first bell, which would signal to students that they had 5 minutes to get to their first hour classes, so they were two of only a sparse population of students who were up and around. Looking up at the sky, Viola noticed the pale blue turning warmer and then took in the school building itself. Argo was a strange thing – it had originally been a private junior high, before being renovated and transformed into the local, public high school. Sometime just before 1990, the community had started another high school on the South Side that catered to the poor kids. Still, a good half of Argo’s student body was comprised of poorer kids that slipped through the cracks and into better classes with higher tech and more opportunities to prepare for college.

            Viola leaned onto Nick’s shoulder briefly as they walked through the open doors and into the main hallway, lined with lockers and doors on either side. There was little light beyond the oppressive halogen bulbs running down the length of the ceiling, though an alcove on the right led to the back entryway, which was all glass and so filtered sunshine onto a few lucky students’ lockers. She broke away from Nick when she spotted Video sitting in front of her locker, reading through their Chemistry text book with a confused look on her face.

            “Hey, Video,” Viola called out as they got closer. The Indian girl looked up, and Viola had to admit to herself that this was probably the most beautiful girl in school. She was wicked smart, witty, and always up for adventure, but Vid tended to cover up her physical beauty with punky haircuts and baggy, black clothes. That was Vidisha — she would rather stick out for being tough and artful than for being pretty. It didn’t stop the jocks in their class, and even a few upperclassmen, from grabbing her ass or talking shit about her, but either she or Viola would usually trash talk them into submission. Yes, they were sophomores, but that didn’t mean they had to take shit lying down – though it did help that no one really knew where they lived and so they could avoid getting T.P.-ed in revenge.

            “Hey,” Vidyun said, turning back to her book after greeting them. Viola turned to her own locker, just four down from her friend’s, while Nick walked over and clumsily sat down beside Video.  The two of them were pretty much on damage control today, as Vidisha had warned them at some point over the summer that their getting together, and then eventually breaking up, would inevitably hurt her more than anyone. Earlier that summer, after learning that they’d spent most of a long weekend hanging out at a regional film festival together, Video had even given them a mini-lecture on the risks and responsibilities of sleeping with friends. Viola had not been offended, but had been glad when, weeks later and just yesterday, Nick had decided he was up for both the risks and the responsibilities.

            Viola took the History books she would need for first period out of and shut her locker. Having them would just prove she’d gotten the textbooks already, as the first day was inevitably just introductions and random busy work. Viola had left her small backpack inside; she detested the impracticality of purses, so she tended instead to carry a light backpack or shoulder bag, generally covered in badges and pins related to her favorite bands and noir films: Cake, Liz Phair, Kiss Me Deadly, The Maltese Falcon . It helped that the bags’ slightly larger size would allow her to carry anything that might come up – whether that be extra homework, presents, or case files for her mom.

            “Hey, so, um,” Vi started, walking towards her two best friends, “do you guys want to do something this weekend? By that, I mean something un-couple-y, of course – maybe watching some Bollywood shows on the Hawkins’ family stolen cable.” She was trying to plan for something that Vidyun would like, knowing that Video loved the nights where the three of them got together, ordered pizza, and played board games while making fun of the impossibly complex storylines on the one international channel that her family’s TV got.

            They were less interested in planning, though – something Viola recognized by the annoyed glares that Video and Nick were directing just above her own left shoulder.

            “To what do I owe the displeasure, Z-man?” Viola said, turning to face the person she supposed was her high school nemesis, Joseph Zielinski. She added, “And why are you here so early? Decide to do your beauty regime in the locker room?” Zielinski stood behind her with his hands in his pockets and an overconfident sneer on his lips; here was the one person that would cause both Video and Nick to glare and the most popular sophomore in their class, to boot. His family was probably the richest in town, having established themselves through a wealthy father-in-law and a mother who was a part-time legal secretary. Their son Michael, who Viola despised, went by the nickname Z, via his last name. She glared at him now, taking in his pretty-boy looks, the pale blue eyes that entranced other girls, and the black spiked hair she supposed he suffered over each morning. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you about your nickname – it’s not short for Zod, is it? Because, and back me up here guys,” she said, gesturing to Nick and Video, “I don’t think any of us would be surprised if you turned out to be a super-villain. I mean, you’ve already got the bad hair.”

            “You know, you should really be careful with your geeky references to popular culture. You see, Superman is fairly passé now – I would have gone with Batman. But then, I’m not a social misfit destined to sleep with half of town, starting with Jessie Silva,” Zielinski replied, referring to a nasty rumor that Jessie himself had started about Viola seducing him and several other boys at a summer party. She had not even been at the party, but that was Argo High – 2 parts gossip for every part truth. “And though I’d much rather be watching jocks slap each other’s naked asses with towels in the locker room this morning, I have the unfortunate need to ask you something. P.S. – you think I’m pretty? Really? I mean, I do try, unlike you and your…friends,” he finished, sneering more deeply and gesturing to Video and Nick. Her friends ignored him, laughing and chatting about something else entirely. Viola just wanted to get rid of Z as quickly as possible – whatever he wanted.

            “Well, you’re not my type. I prefer my guys with brains and a backbone – but never mind the verbal sparring. What do you want?” Viola asked, figuring he was just fucking around as usual. Once upon a time, in elementary school, Viola and Michael had been best friends for a few years – hanging out at each other’s houses, going on trips to museums together, and generally getting close. Then, sixth grade had arrived, Michael started going by Z, got a starter jacket and cooler-than-thou attitude, and a deep resentment had grown between them. Viola disliked his haughtiness, his sense of owning everyone and everything in Calydon just because his family had money – she wasn’t sure what Z disliked about her, but it probably had something to do with her being smarter than him. And just a shade prettier.

            “Whatever – Mr. Hepburn told me to ask you for help with Algebra 2. It’s the condition on which I wasn’t held back in Algebra 1. And, apparently, you’re a whiz at it or something,” Z said, avoiding eye contact and making air quotes as he spoke the word whiz. He was clearly uncomfortable asking her for help, albeit probably not as much as she was having him ask her for it. Viola glared at him, feeling angry and annoyed, and then remembered her math teacher’s promise to give her extra credit for tutoring other students. It was supposed to be a way to puff up her resume by adding some volunteer hours to show she gave a shit about her community. It was part of the admittedly vague Viola Hawkins 4-year plan, in which she would grow from slightly above average sophomore to outstanding senior and finally a college freshman with a world of possibilities ahead of her.

            “So?” Z asked, annoyed and a bit too loudly. The few other students in the hallway turned to look at the sound of his raised voice, for something to do and to keep up on today’s gossip. Viola glared at the nearest person, a privileged sophomore named Alicia Ready, who turned back to reading on the floor in front of her locker. Viola turned, then, to Z and put her hands on her hips, pissed but willing.

            “Fine, meet me after school tomorrow in the Guidance Office,” Viola said, “and come prepared. In other words, read the first chapter and do some practice problems so we know where you’re having trouble. Think you can handle that, pretty-boy?” She was sneering herself now, realizing that the rest of her sophomore year would involve biweekly meetings with the most-hated person at her high school, well most-hated by her at least.

            “Oh, you’d be surprised at the things I can, and have, handled. See you then,” Z retorted, turning and skulking back down the hall and toward his own locker. Christian LeBeau, Z’s best friend and the son of the freshmen and sophomore math teacher, was waiting for him there, leaning on the lockers. Christian nodded in Viola’s direction, a gesture that would have made many of her peers smile and come hither to him. After all, along with being one of the most thick-headed students in their class, he was also one of the hotter ones – with coiffed blond hair, a chiseled muscular body, and a deep, gravelly voice.

            But Viola just widened her eyes, snorted, and turned back to where Video and Nick were sitting. They were both smiling, eyebrows raised. There was an in-joke among the three of them that Viola and Z, due to the massive amount of tension between them, would eventually hit it off and be the hottest, heaviest, most PDA-using-est couple ever. Video compared the potential romance to The Princess Bride, while Nick imagined something closer to Dirty Dancing, with Viola raising up a demure Z at a dance competition. Sure, there could be romance, some day, some how – right before the world ended, in Viola’s opinion. But it was a fun game, mostly to poke fun about how much she and Z prickled each other.

            “Shall we go soak in some sun before being battered with Mrs. Haversham’s questions about our summer reading lists?” Viola asked, hoping to sneak away and bitch about Z and various and sundry other things with her friends before their first hour class.

            “Or lack thereof?” Video retorted as she and Nick stood up, all three of them heading toward the nearby alcove that was also an exit. “All I read was a couple of my dad’s historical fiction books. There was one really good one about the history of blacksmithing.”

            “Um, please talk about that in class?” Nick replied, eyes wide in interest as he pushed the door open and held it for both Video and Viola, “because that will be so much better than hearing Seraphim Reynolds talk about Jane Austen again. That girl is so annoying!”

            “Ugh, I still cannot believe she told us all that her mother keeps her from eating to help her get skinny. That’s so fucked up!” Video added, speaking to neither of them in particular.

            “Plus, Jane Austen’s a stupid bitch – I mean, how many times can you have random misunderstandings that lead to massive emotional and psychological turmoil?” Viola asked. She despised Pride and Prejudice, preferring the works of Raymond Chandler and Ursula K. Leguin, where the plots were about crime or had a strong female character who didn’t compromise herself for some penis. 

            “More importantly, how could those people wear those clothes?” Nick added as they sat down on the lawn of Argo High, which faced South and was bathed in morning sunlight. “I mean, the boots are pretty cool for guys, and some of the dresses look okay, but those giant ribbon ties and everything else just look ridiculous and super uncomfortable.”

            “Oh my god, Nick, did you just watch the film version of Pride and Prejudice?” Video asked, sounding annoyed and humored at the same time. “Because I swear to god, you totally reamed me out last spring when I told you about my plan to watch the film versions of The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms – which by the way, the former rocked and the latter was like unto eating at White Castle.” Viola rolled her eyes at Video’s quick review – her addiction to film-watching really became obvious when she inserted her comments into random conversations. Both she and Nick tried to avoid talking about films, as they knew that hours and hours of criticism and commentary were lurking just beneath the surface of Video’s comments and generally calm demeanor.

            “Ah, whatever – but seriously, I am most looking forward to seeing what Mrs. Haversham wears this year. How many times can one person wear denim jumper skirts in a month?” Nick commented.

            “I counted – on average, about 11 times a month last year,” Viola added, barely realizing she was talking. She had a tendency to note these little details in her mind, to make calculations and detailed observations about people and places. Her mother told her that these skills would make her a fantastic detective, professor, artist, or whatever she chose – but Viola tended to think of them as mostly useless. “Not that I was counting, really,” she added, noticing that Nick and Video were already looking at her weird.

            “Well, whatever – point is I didn’t waste my time on that damn list,” Video said. Mrs. Haversham was the English teacher for Freshman through Junior years, mostly since the previous teacher for the first two years had retired only a few years back, so they hadn’t found anyone new yet. She had given out a list of books to read over the summer on the theme of important American novels – but most of them were either ones they had all already read in grade school, like Where the Red Fern Grows, were utterly boring, see Jane Austen, or were overly long, like Moby Dick. Of the three friends, Viola was probably the only one who had read more than one or two of the novels on the list – she’d breezed through about 10 of the 20, even though they were only supposed to read 5. She figured it would make the year easier, as her friend from the school paper and now senior Jonothan had told her the list was going to be the same one from which students would have to choose 10 more books to review over the academic year.

            “Earth to Viola,” Video said, waving her hand in front of her friend’s face.

            “Sorry guys, I’m just completely out of it today!” Vi replied, realizing she’d zoned out staring at one of the nearby pine trees. They were on the back lawn, near the visitor parking area that was almost always empty, because the South side of the building was all pavement and no comfy grass. Viola put her hand to her head, which had started to ache, and said “I almost didn’t come to school because I feel a bit out of sorts.”

            “Bull. You just didn’t want to have to feel awkward about finally hooking up with Nick,” Video said, half-smiling and stunning both Nick and Viola into silence. They exchanged a glance that said, ‘Shit, we have to deal with this now? But it’s still morning? Can’t we have a few more hours of how-things-were-before?’

            “Look,” Video said, noticing their exchanged glance and reading its meaning herself, “It’s fine. Just be careful – remember that when you start sleeping with your friends, you start messing with group dynamics and shit. And don’t fuck me over, okay? Like, don’t come over to my house to hang out and then start macking or something.”

            “We wouldn’t,” Nick replied, leaning in towards her in concern, “We talked about it for hours and how we have to still be good friends, not spazzy, weird ones.”

            “Right. No spazzy, weird people here. Just high school sophomores with buckets of crazy hormones running through their system,” Viola replied cynically. She had expressed doubt when she and Nick had talked on the phone the night before, discussing their plans for how not to fuck up their mutual friendship. They both valued the trio that they had slowly become last year, and neither was willing to sacrifice it. Viola, though, realized it would probably self implode at some point, had in fact felt that way before. She didn’t trust the good things in life, at least not lately. “Sorry,” she started, feeling her friends’ icy stares on her, “I don’t mean that we’re going to be asshats. I just mean that drama is part of being in this age bracket.” Viola turned to Video specifically, now, adding, “We’ll do our best to keep the couple-i-ness to a minimum and not let our romantic entanglement threaten our friendly one.”

            “Okay,” Video replied, reaching out and grabbing Viola’s hand, “I get that. Just don’t screw me over, all right? Don’t get all All-My-Children or something, okay?”

            “Wait, did you just imply that I should avoid burying one or both of you guys in a well while I enact my evil plan of being accepted by the larger community?” Viola said, trying to make a joke that only she and Video would get. They had first bonded while talking about television shows in their English class the year before – the two of them had been the only soap-opera fans in the class, or at least the only ones willing to admit it. “Wait, why aren’t you asking Nick, too?” Viola asked, offended that she was the one being doubted. She felt herself to be a truly good friend, better than anyone she knew. She’d do anything for her friends, at least anything within reason.

            “Vi, no offense or anything, but you get stupid when you fall for a guy. Remember what happened when you had that crush on Simon last year?” Video was referring to a relatively infamous incident when Viola had accidentally messed up her Physical Science final project because she’d been busy talking to Simon while setting up. “Just be careful, for your sake and Nick’s and mine.”

SHGQ Ch2 IllusA

            “I resent being called a guy,” Nick said, breaking into their moment of intimate conversation. Viola suddenly became self-conscious that she and Video had leaned in so close to one another. They both looked at Nick, though, whose face was a bit red. “I mean – I’m totally one of the gals, right? You guys talk about all sorts of stuff around me – menstruation, boys being hot or dumb, how to sew a stitch – oh, wait, that last one was me. Sorry,” he continued, smiling at them. They glared in response.

            “Just be glad I’m not asking you to take an oath, he-who-fails-at-keeping-promises,” Video interjected, sitting a bit straighter. Nick enjoyed making jokes at his own expense – especially ones about his doing things that boys generally don’t do. He had learned to bake and sew from his Uncle Oz, his only living family and guardian. After meeting him, Viola understood where Nick got his sense of humor, not to mention his good looks.

            “Hey, now, your Sega Genesis was already on the fritz when you leant it to me – and I couldn’t help dropping that root beer on it. And I’ll totally replace it if you’re still mad at me,” Nick replied, his face a bit less red. “Plus, I apologized like a million times back in junior high.” Viola often forget how sensitive Nick could be, especially to not being included in things or just not being part of particular conversations. She guessed that he didn’t really have that many friends, if she thought about it – just herself, Video, and a fellow basketball player named Trevon.

            “Anyway, Nick’s right, this is directed at both of you – be careful, okay?”

            “You know I will,” Vi replied, feeling slightly offended. She shook her head and tried to brush it all off, the sense of anxiety and fear that Video would let their friendship fall apart over she and Nick getting together. “I can’t beleive – look, okay, I get stupid with boys sometimes, but who doesn’t? I mean, look at – look at Brittney Spears,” she said, regretting the reference immediately, “or someone who’s not a celebrity and kinda crazy. Look, we all know my kryptonite is cute boys – but I’ll do my best to not get stupid about our friendship, okay?”

            “Yeah, I concur – what she said. That was far more coherent than I could put it. I get crazy about girls, too, and that’s just part of falling for someone. You know? But we’ll do our very best because we all love each other.”

            Viola and Video turned with raised eyebrows to stare at Nick, each of them smiling.

            “What? I can be cheesey and overly-Hallmark-Greeting-Card-esque, so?”

            “Okay,” Video said, smiling and looking at both Nick and Viola in turn, “granted, we are in high school, so no matter what, we’ll probably get in ridiculously overblown fights and shit. But,” she continued, pausing to put her hands out on Nick and Viola’s shoulders, “I know you guys will be an awesome couple – so let’s just be clear, I am only good for the break-up ice cream, nothing else. No calling late at night to talk about each other, or –“

            “Oh, whatever,” Nick said, laughing and interrupting Video, “I don’t think either of us is that emotional and/or melodramatic, Vid.”

            “Nick, totally Nick,” Viola said, smiling now, “he definitely eats his emotions. Remember when he got so stressed out about Algebra last year that he ate an entire pizza and two sundaes?” Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to find fellow sophomore Tina Johnson standing behind her. Tina was one of the more popular girls in their class, mainly because she was a bit of a knockout when she tried. Her dark hair glistened in the sun, pulled back into a bun a bit too tightly, so that the large hoops in her ears shone too. She was wearing a classically Tina outfit of a dark purple top and bright green floral skirt with kick-ass black calf boots. Viola definitely envied Tina and her fashion sense, as well as her parents’ budget that allowed for the jewel-toned wardrobe.

           “What’s up, Tina?” Viola asked, a bit astonished. She and Tina were not friends, having barely exchanged a few words in their History class last year when making fun of some goofball boys. Other than that, Tina pretty much hung out with the rich kids whenever she could, though her being black was occasionally a source of tension with the mostly white wealthy kids.

            “Hey,” she said, clearly tense, “it’s Viola, right? I need to ask you a favor.” Tina came down on her haunches to get close to Viola, who leaned back herself. Looking more closely at Tina, she realized her eyes were red, as if she’d been recently crying, and there were circles under her eyes. The girl clearly had a problem, and Viola understood just then exactly what was happening.

            She had her first case of the year.

            “I hear you solve mysteries,” Tina said, almost whispering, “and I need your help solving mine.” Viola turned to look at Nick and Video, who both had confused and concerned looks on their faces. She turned back to Tina.

            “Well, you’ve got my attention Tina, but it depends on the nature of your…mystery. And how much you can pay – girl’s gotta have an income,” she said, feeling bad to ask for money, as she always did. If it were up to her, there would be a great deal less social inequality in Calydon and the wider world, but as it stood, Tina was one of the haves while the Hawkins family was on the cusp between poor and getting by. “Nick, Vid, I’ll see you guys later, okay? And Video, we’re good, right?”

            “Definitely,” Video said, her hair falling in her eyes as it always did. She smirked and stood, turning to walk away. Nick, meanwhile, waved at Viola as he got up and blew her a kiss, walking backwards toward the school until he practically ran into Video, who had been smiling mischieviously, ready to trip him up. Nick kiddingly punched her on the shoulder, and they then turned and walked back into the school, talking avidly about something that made them both laugh.

            Viola, still sitting, turned back to Tina, who was had sat down opposite her. The girl was looking down at an envelope in her hand, frowning in concentration. She looked like she was deciding whether to open Pandora’s Box, sitting there in the sun. Viola reached out and touched Tina’s hand, trying to provide some kind of comfort.

            “Hey, it’ll be okay, whatever it is,” she said, “but you’ve kinda gotta tell me before I can help you. Not so much Professor Xavier over here.”

            “All right. But – but it won’t be okay,” Tina replied, tears in her eyes despite herself, “My life stopped being okay 4 months ago.”

To be Continued in Chapter 3…



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