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Puddles
Topic Started: Jun 1 2015, 06:09 AM (1,289 Views)
frogue
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[Georgia Lee Day, continuing from Silence is Golden]

The ground was wet, though the skies were clear. It was louder outside, but the sound was ambient and indistinct. White noise. Georgia Lee blocked it out.

She'd always gone outside, when she'd needed to clear her head. It was a habit she'd picked up young, born of living in a small house with too many people. There was precious little privacy to be found in 600-odd square feet, and it was safer, always safer, to venture outdoors. There were less distractions, it was easier to calm yourself, and if you couldn't manage that, then at least there were less eyes around to see it.

The memories were of little comfort to Georgia Lee. She didn't feel any connection with her younger self: the girl she recalled was like a stranger to her, like someone she'd seen in a dream, or a film a long time ago. The thought of herself running out to the garden, where her tormentors' voices couldn't reach her, filled her with a strange mixture of pride and shame. Shame, that she had been so weak. Pride, that she wasn't anymore.

Yet hadn't she done just that? Surely, if she had any strength, she would have stood up for herself, confronted Fiyori. She had the right of it, she knew that. The rules were on her side, and her request had been more than reasonable. That she had kept an even, steady pace walking out was just a matter of semantics. She’d run, and anyone who might have been watching the little scene would know that. She’d let some... some moron get under her skin with a word he wasn't even using correctly, and then she'd turned tail and ran like the scared little girl she'd worked so hard not to be.

Georgia Lee realized her breathing was fast. There was a picnic table nearby, and she sat down at it. She was feeling a little unsteady. Disturbed, perhaps.

Was it the pressure? Usually she thrived under it, but maybe it'd simply become too much. She was afraid she wouldn't make it, didn't have what it took to get into Columbia, and now she was flailing around for excuses. She'd let herself get distracted because she wanted to be distracted, because it would be so much easier to not get in and say "oh, see here, this was because of Ty Yazzie". Better that, much better, than to stay the course, try her heart out and simply not be good enough.

Was that what was happening, here? Was she really that weak? All feelings of pride were gone, as Georgia Lee regarded herself with outright disgust. Taking her phone from the front pocket of her bag, she examined her face in the blank, black screen. Her eyes were dry, and clear. Her makeup was intact. She looked strong.

In that, at least, she could take some comfort.
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She turned the phone round, holding up the sleeping screen.

"Mirror surrogate".

There was a sheepish little smile on Georgia Lee's face as she said this, and she hated herself for it. What had she to be ashamed of? There was nothing abnormal about her minor vanity, nothing embarrassing about how she'd been comporting herself. She'd been calm. She was keeping her cool.

What she was feeling was annoyance, but it was at herself, not this... person. Vincenzo's arrival had startled her a little, which was itself probably a bad sign: Vincenzo could generally be heard from three classrooms away. Her thoughts were clearly running in circles, and a diversion was welcome.

What's another word for "diversion", Georgia Lee?

Was she just looking for a distraction? Was that what she wanted? The next two years stretched ahead of her, then: her free time frittered away gossipping and giggling and worrying about what people thought of her. She'd make some lovely friends, of course, and then after graduation she could spend the rest of her life with them, stuck here in Kingman. Wouldn't that be nice?

No, she was being ridiculous. Her concentration was already shot, and a conversation was no less likely to fix that then sitting out here alone, making herself anxious.

So when it's someone pretty distracting you, it's suddenly okay? There are words for that type of girl, Georgia Lee.

She knew those words. Some of them she'd called herself before. One of them she'd been called today. She also knew, though, that it wasn't a fit for her. Sitting outside is a reasonable situation to be talking to someone in. In a study space is not. There was a valid distinction between the situations, and as for Vincenzo's smooth skin and dark eyes... those had nothing to do with anything.

There was value in self criticism, of course, but Georgia Lee suspected she was now being indulgent. Wallowing in her negativity was getting her nowhere. She banished those thoughts, and gave her full attention to the student sitting across from her.

Vincenzo, sometimes Vincenza, was another Cochise celebrity for obvious reasons. Harder to pick from a crowd than Ty Yazzie, perhaps, but a much more common object of conversation. There were all sorts of whispers and stories, especially Freshman year, when the whole idea of Vincenzo was new to most of her fellows. There were names, too. Georgia Lee had repeated some of them. She wasn't proud of it, and she was glad she'd never done so to their face.

Thinking about it now she'd never said anything to their face, nor they to hers. What did they want, exactly?

"I'm sorry, can I help you with something?"


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"Just getting some air. I had a... difference of opinion, I guess, with some people. We disagreed about the appropriate volume for personal conversations in a student learning environment. When people are trying to study. Which I was."

Georgia Lee spoke slowly, choosing her words with care. Knowing of someone wasn't the same as knowing them. Did Vincenzo and Ty know each other? Were they friends? Was Vincenzo the sort to keep things to themself, or would anything she said be all over the school come the end of the day? Worrying about what others thought of her was a waste of time, she knew that, but there was also nothing to be gained by actively making them resent her.

What's more, on top of that rickety pile of conversational traps sat her utter lack of knowledge of how to address Vincenzo. The preferred pronoun was "they", that much she knew. She remembered thinking that it was bad english: they implies plurality, and he/she is preferable in situation of gender ambiguity. Though here it wasn't ambiguous so much as it was unfixed. Perhaps the plurality was intentional? In some ways Vincenzo did very much seem like two people. They had two names, after all. She wondered how they were registered in the school's systems. She wondered what they'd do, once they graduated.

A different gender every day wouldn't be an easy sell to an employer, especially in Arizona. It shouldn't set colleges off, though: it probably couldn't, what with anti-discrimination provisions and all that. Should she ask about that? No, better not. Still, there was so much she didn't know, so much she wanted to know.

She tried to picture what it would be like, if people constantly had questions for her. There was little about Georgia Lee's existence that provoked anything in the way of questioning. She went to school. She went places after school. She worked on her admission. Everything she did was straightforward, everything made sense. It was hard to imagine people always needing her to explain things to them: who she was, why she wore what she was wearing, what was it like to ber her, was it hard, how was she so strong? The gaggle of questioners had the faces of her sisters, and they filled her with an almost palpable revulsion. She resolved then to not be one of them. No questions.


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"I'm not saying people should stay outside, when it rains. Of course they should come in when it's raining. And then, you know, of course there are people who are going to be loud, too. They can't help it, it's just their nature."

She faltered a little, hoping Vincenzo didn't think she was talking about them.

"Not that anything's wrong with that. I don't blame them, they're fine. So I simply pointed out that, given that the library is a space designated for study, perhaps their larking about might be better located... elsewhere? Or even that it could be continued at a lower volume. I didn't even say they needed to leave! I didn't say they needed to do anything, just that their conversation was making it hard to concentrate. That's not rude, right? That's a fact. That's, objectively, a fact. You can prove that."

Well that was... a rant. Georgia Lee looked down at her phone, as if some option to delete her little outburst would pop up on screen.

It remained stubbornly blank. She didn't need to see her reflection to know that a flush was creeping into her cheeks and neck. Her hand raised to scratch her nose, but she caught the gesture and turned it into a half-hearted patting of her hair into place, not wanting to draw attention to her reddening complexion. Her eyes stayed fixed on the phone.

"And then they call me a hypocrite. How on earth does that make me a hypocrite? I wasn't breaking the rules. I like the rules! without rules you just have... people running around, doing whatever they want."

People... screwing around, you might say?

There was no way that Vincenzo wouldn't take that as a dig at them. She chanced a glance up, but their expression was unreadable. Amusement, maybe? They didn't look particularly offended to her, though she'd never seen offence on that face before. Would she even recognize it if she did see it? She couldn't be sure. It was best to play it safe.

"Not that anything's wrong with that."
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They were calling her "Rainy", Georgia Lee realized. She'd simply been taking it as repeated references to the weather. Strange, but no stranger than anything else about her companion.

She'd had nicknames before, and all of them had been cruel. Was this one? If it was a joke, it wasn't one that she got, but that wasn't anything new. A lot of her classmates' humour was wasted on her, and she knew that. She'd made her peace with that, but if someone was having a joke at her expense, she still wanted to know. She had the right to know, she felt.

Vincenzo was friendly. Charming, even. There was an air about them, a total lack of tension, which set her at ease, somehow. Georgia Lee didn't trust it. Vincenzo was pleasant company, relaxing to be around, and when people relaxed they made mistakes. They slipped up. She herself made a habit of relaxing as little as possible.

There'd be plenty of time to relax after graduation.

She wanted to trust that smile, and so she made herself suspicious of it. Was it amusement? Was she just some idiot junior to them? Were they laughing, thinking about how they'd tell their good friend Ty about this later?

She wanted to respond, to make some joke, some comment, and so she said nothing. She wanted to stare into those dark eyes, and so she looked away. The ground was already drying up.

Georgia Lee was glad she'd come outside when she had. She loved it, after the rain. The air was clearer, the heat less oppressive. It was quieter, too: the roar of the rain passed, but people were still indoors. It just felt more real, somehow. Perhaps it was that you never saw this sort of thing in films. Georgia Lee had noticed that, though she couldn't remember when. Did she like this time because of the observation, or make the observation because she liked this time? You saw rain in movies, and sun, but no inbetween. It was a fleeting time, she supposed, tricky to shoot in before the puddles were all gone.

It was nice, she'd decided, that you couldn't see this at the pictures. It made it more special, somehow. She'd always run out, after in the rain, to be the first one outdoors and have the whole world just be hers, and it always felt special. Perhaps it was a Kingman thing. They'd been 10 inches of rain last year, she stayed updated on these things. Rain here was always an event. Perhaps she'd get sick of it in New York. Perhaps she'd get homesick, even. She hadn't thought there was anything about Kingman she'd miss, but she might miss this.

"Are you staying here? Not now, I mean, but when you graduate."

Her eyes were still on the puddles. She turned towards Vincenzo, their face bemused, hers hopefully blank. She liked to think herself hard to read, but it was one of those things where you simply couldn't tell.

"Do you have a plan, at all? For when you leave here? The school, not Kingman. I mean, not necessarily."
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Vincenzo's smile lost some dazzle as they pondered Georgia Lee's question, and she regretted asking it. She'd spoken thoughtlessly, she'd let her insecurities dictate her speech and now she might have hurt someone. How was she any different from Ty?

Her father'd always said she was a girl with no middle gears. An "all-or-nothing kinda gal" was another of his favourites. Georgia Lee preferred to think that she simply took things more seriously than most. She'd never seen the point of doing half a job, of doing anything and not trying her hardest at it. She was good at trying her hardest, bth from temperament and from practice. She was less good at nuance.

There was a long stretch of ground, she knew, between chaining herself to the whims and opinions of her peers and deliberately alienating them. Betweens, though, had never been her strong suit - it was either/or for Georgia Lee. Having resolved herself to resist Vincenzo's charms, it seemed she had no other way for that resolve to manifest than by making herself as deliberately off-putting as possible.

Georgia Lee didn't like relying on people, and she didn't like being distracted, and she didn't have many friends as a result. She'd thought this was a choice, a sacrifice she'd made at the altar of her future success. Was that an excuse, though? Was she deluding herself in thinking that she was isolated on her own terms, when in truth she was just unlikeable?

So test it. There wasn't much of lunchtime left, it wasn't as if she'd be risking a lot. Do it, Georgia Lee.

"You make "online stuff"? Is that like a blog? Or a website?"

She had tried to sound interested, and she was, too. No plan? The thought was dizzying. How would you know what to do, if you didn't know what your aims were? Why would you even do anything? She imagined a life of simply acting for acting's sake, without goals or direction.

It seemed like a waste.
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Vincenzo smiled, and Georgia Lee smiled with them. This was nice. Talking. Engaging.

She'd never been particularly social, even when she was younger. She was shy. Quiet. She hadn't understood why people would want to be friends with her, she was so small and weak and ugly and stupid. They'd been some, of course: the bar for friendship is very low, at a young age, and there'd been a number of girls who'd reached out to her, past her weakness and insecurity.

And then she'd pushed them away.

It hadn't been entirely intentional. They tended to make demands on her time that she simply couldn't fulfill. They couldn't understand why she had to be so busy, she couldn't understand why they couldn't understand; there was a general breakdown in communication. When what's important to you and what's important to someone else are so different that they can never be reconciled, any discussion that stems from that simply becomes pointless. They may as well have been speaking different languages.

There were people, people she knew, who'd see Vincenzo banned from the school, or forced to choose a gender or not given a choice at all, and simply made to be a boy. You could talk about liberty and equality and fairness with those people all you wanted, and it wouldn't make a difference because they didn't see inherent value in those things, or if there was value it was superseded by the importance of God's will, or of security, or social order.

She'd told her friends that she was unwilling to mortgage her future to simply "hang out" in high school, not accomplishing anything. She'd stressed that there was no higher priority for her than college admission, and they hadn't understood because such things had no value to them, and then they'd drifted apart. She'd liked her friends, but there wasn't any preventing how things had turned out.

At church she talked to people. In baseball too, and there were people she studied with. A lot of them she liked, but she wondered if any of them thought of her as a friend. Should they? A friend was someone you could count on, and Georgia Lee had more important things to do than coming to other people's rescue. For her own part, she hated counting on anyone. There was only one person you could rely on in life, and that was yourself. Not friends, not parents, not teachers, not Jesus. Thinking otherwise made you reliant, and it made you vulnerable, and Georgia Lee had long ago resolved to cease being vulnerable.

Still, this was nice. Meeting someone. Learning about them. Not thinking about College, or study, or applications. She could see why people did it. Georgia Lee knew it couldn't last, knew she couldn't afford to sit around, talking with someone all the time. Still nice, though. It was the end of lunch, and she'd been working hard, recently. Didn't she deserve a little break?

There was a little voice at the back of her head that chastised her whenever her thoughts strayed. Whenever her run times were too slow or she didn't get enough reading done or she ate that extra scoop of ice cream, it was there to remind her of how worthless and pitiful she used to be, to ask her if she wanted to be that way again. Her sisters had long stopped berating her for her failings, but Georgia Lee had learned to berate herself. It was better like that. Even for criticism, you shouldn't have to rely on others.

That voice was still there, still shrieking at her for not focusing, for wasting time, warning her that she'd get to attached to this person and that she'd get hurt. Those thoughts were always there, and Georgia Lee wouldn't want to stop thinking them, even if she could. For the time being, though, she stopped listening to them.

Instead, she listened to Vincenzo.

If there were two things Georgia Lee admired, they were passion and strength. Being whoever you wanted to be in spite of what people told you, that showed the latter. When Vincenzo spoke about their online stuff, she could see the former. Their face lit up, their hands got animated; the enthusiasm was infectious. Was their money in that sort of thing? Georgia Lee didn't know, but Vincenzo seemed to think it was a career, and they knew more than she. Perhaps they'd more of a plan than they'd realized, or perhaps things would simply fall into place for them.

Would she begrudge Vincenzo, if they found success? It didn't seem like something they'd worked very hard at, and what work they'd done was hardly work at all, to hear the joy in Vincenzo's voice. Was that fair? She supposed it wasn't, though expecting life to be fair was a habit she'd long since abandoned. She'd known for a long time that the path to her success wouldn't be easy, but she didn't begrudge people their shortcuts.

She had confidence she would emerge from the crucible of her studies remade, and would be the better for it. "Adversity is character building", her father would tell her, and she was planning on building an awful lot of character. Vincenzo, meanwhile, seemed to have a lot of character already. Well, that made sense. It wasn't as if life'd been easy for them either, she imagined. No, she hoped they found success with their online endeavours, and she said as much.

"That sounds really interesting, I hope it works out! Could I see some of this, sometime?"

It was something of a rhetorical request. Would she ever see any of it? She wasn't sure, but she doubted it. There simply wasn't a lot of time that she could allot to watching Vincenzo's videos, as funny as they might be. Not a lot of time she could allot to talking, even. Still, it had seemed like the right thing to ask, in the moment.

Maybe not every moment needed to have a purpose, needed to be leveraged towards some future endeavour. Maybe some moments were allowed to just exist, and to simply be... nice.
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"VinneyGatti. I get it."

She did get it. She didn't find it funny, but she got it. VinneyGatti. She might even look it up, given some time. What could it hurt?

And then Fiyori was there, and she knew what it could hurt. She knew she couldn't afford distractions like this, knew that this was the universe's way of punishing her. What else could it be? Had she gone to an empty classroom to study, as she sometimes did, she'd be well away. Instead she'd stayed here, and now here was Fiori.

Georgia Lee wished she could retreat into herself. Pull up her collar, tuck in her head like a tortoise and just hide in there until Fiyori went away. She wanted to run, wanted to be anywhere else other than here. But no, how would that look? All it would do was signal to the bigger girl that she was weak; that she'd allow herself to get picked on.

And she wasn't weak, and she wouldn't allow herself to get picked on.

Instead she stayed. She sat there, wishing she was somewhere else, but she stayed. She shrugged, when Fiyori asked how it was going.

"It's fine. Quiet."

She wouldn't make a scene. Georgia Lee didn't make scenes. She wouldn't allow herself to get pushed around, though. It seemed like Fiyroi and Vincenzo were friends, and that could be awkward, but Vincenzo also seemed sympathetic to what she'd said, so maybe they'd mediate. She wouldn't be a doormat, but she'd be civil, and she'd weather this conversation and she'd leave and she'd learn. Georgia Lee had made the choices that had put her in this position, and she wouldn't make them again.

Punishment was the universe's way of telling you that you're on the wrong track. No lesson worth learning comes without pain. This might be ugly, but she'd been faltering in her resolve and this'd set her straight. Now all she had to do was grit her teeth and bear it.
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Georgia Lee Day would never admit to being proud of her height, but she was. How stupid was that? Taking pride in something she had nothing to do with? It was her parents work when you really thought about it; did that mean she was proud of them?

Her feelings towards her parents were complex, and confused, and many. Pride wasn't one of them.

When you really really thought about it, her parents weren't responsible for their genetics either. They didn't chose them, what did they do? Just met each other and fallen in love, and not even on purpose at that. Wow, that must've been tough. They'd kept having daughters long after it ceased to be financially prudent, or even viable. That must've been kind of tough, she supposed.

So thanks for that one, guys.

These weren't thoughts she liked, and they were ones she generally avoided. She wasn't overly interested in the "why" of things. She knew her height was good, she knew she liked it, and she tried not to concern herself with the reason that her thoughts on the matter weren't more developed.

Tall enough to reach every shelf in the kitchen. Short enough that if she ever wanted to go dancing with someone, she wouldn't need to wear flats. So what if it wasn't her doing? It was a good height, and she liked it.

Fiyori was much too tall. She probably knew it too, she hunched over all the time. Her bony face and stick limbs and hunching posture made her look like a praying mantis, and even with the hunch she'd see clear over the heads of 3 quarters of the girls in Georgia Lee's grade.

She stuck out like a sore thumb. A bony, sore, dark-skinned thumb, bent slightly forward, vicious little eyes searching for a boy-thumb to bite the head off of. She was too tall and she looked like an insect and her hair may have been nice but tucking it behind those ears was doing her no favours. Her breath hit Georgia Lee's face when she spoke, and it was sour.

Georgia Lee kept this to herself. Her mouth was shut, and she kept it that way. She lifted her phone again, as if she barely registered Fyori's presence. There was only one face reflected in the dark of the screen, and it was Georgia Lee's and it looked strong. It was like she was alone there, in the blackness. Like she was floating in space all by herself.

It was an image she liked, and she kept looking at it, long after she'd ascertained that no, she did not look shaken, and yes, everything's fine. She kept her eyes on the screen and breathed through her mouth.
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Robert Day was frugal to the point of miserly. This had served him well, raising four daughters on what was basically a starting salary, but even now with three of those daughters left home he hadn't abandoned the habit of penny pinching. Spending money seemed to almost physically pain him, so much did he dislike it. He would sigh and grimace, rub his temples and grit his teeth and roll his eyes whenever he had to open his wallet, as if every dollar he spent was a drop of his own blood he was shedding. Georgia Lee could recall vividly her childhood mortification, visiting a grocery store with her father, seeing the clerks' look on with a mixture of concern and exasperation as he groaned and grumbled and counted out nickels to pay for milk.

When it came to his money he was careful. Every purchase would be inventoried, every expense recorded. He didn't make investments: those were far too risky. He didn't play lottery, didn't give to charity, never tipped over 30%, never returned a library book late or overparked or incurred any fee of any kind, ever. Did he have a credit card? Did he even use a bank? Georgia Lee didn't know, but she wouldn't've been at all surprised to learn her family's savings lived in a shoebox under her parents' bed.

She had once, and only once, seen her father willingly part from money when it wasn't absolutely necessary.

It was the 2014 NFL season, the Cardinals were 9 from 10, and Arizona had football fever. It was all that was on the radio, the only thing worth mentioning on the TV. Bruce Arians had gotten settled, people were saying, and this year he was fixing to take the Cardinals all the way. This was the season. Her mother described it as a wave of "Statriotism", which crashed over and washed away all his frugality and care, making him place the one and only bet of his adult life.

Georgia Lee didn't know how much he'd bet. A lot, she thought, though it'd probably've hurt him just as much if it were only a few dollars. The Cardinals went two to five for the rest of the season. They wildcarded their way into the playoffs and exhibited the worst offense in playoffs history. It was all that was on the radio. The only thing worth mentioning on the TV.

Her father's face as they'd lost that last game was another of Georgia Lee's clearest memories. He'd stared at the TV like it was lying to him, like it'd crack and admit that they'd won, that he was rich, if he only applied enough pressure. The TV didn't crack, and Robert Day was quiet for weeks after that. Perhaps the dollars were a little like blood, to him. Certainly, to Georgia Lee, it seemed as if this had cost him a little part of himself.

There was a lot that Georgia Lee got from her father, she suspected. Her meticulousness. Her stubbornness. Her dedication. More than any of those, though, she credited him with the lesson that there is never a reason for compromise. If you're going to do something, do it absolutely, and don't do it because you think that the universe will reward you for it. That if you save and scrimp enough, the lottery ticket you buy will be the big one, or the bet you place will come through. She worked to take what she wanted, not to somehow persuade the world to give it to her. She worked hard, and she was very, very, very careful about slipping up.

Georgia Lee knew her vices and her triggers, and she took a level of care around them that would've done Robert Day proud. She watched herself around them like her father had watched those last, losing games. Unblinkingly. Nervously. Not without a certain amount of pain.

Food was Georgia Lee's weakness. She'd cooked for herself for years, initially to simply assert her independence, to show she could feed herself. There was power, though, in controlling what you ate. She monitored calorie and nutrient intake with rigor, avoiding processed sugars and saturated fats like her father avoided buying a car manufactured in her lifetime. She'd loved to eat as a child, could do it all day, every day, piling forkful after fistful into her mouth and never getting full. That was the hunger of a tiger, and a tiger left unwatched and uncaged will cause no end of havoc.

Sometimes, still, she'd lose control. Things would get too hard, she'd have a moment of weakness, and she'd gorge. It had been worse when her sisters still lived at home, and there were more temptation foods available, but even now, walking past a store after a particularly grueling practice, or struggling with study at night, knowing there was ice cream in the freezer... the temptation was still there. She had to watch it.

It could be hard, really hard, maintaining self control. Other times, though, it made things easy. Like, now, for example.

Was the burrito a peace offering? Was it some kind of trap? It didn't even matter. It was full of grease and beans and probably some spit, and even that didn't matter either because Georgia Lee had already eaten a nutritionally optimised and balanced meal at the start of the lunch period, because she was responsible and she managed her time well and prepared food based on her dietary needs unlike some people who were apparently so lacking in self-knowledge that they could prepare two more burritos than they needed, which was simply a ridiculous surplus to have. How many burritos did she think she could eat? How many had she eaten already? Was her freakish level of burrito intake the secret behind Fiyori's freakish height?

She was probably new at this whole cooking thing, Georgia Lee decided. The burritos were unlikely to be very good anyway, then.

"I already ate. Thanks."

If she was unable to cook a sensible number of burritos, she'd have to work that out herself. It wasn't Georgia Lee's problem.
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She nodded her goodbyes, keeping her eyes on Fiyori as the older girl strode away. Even her walk was like a praying mantis, all long legs and jutting head. Georgia Lee felt a faint revulsion. She liked mantises on the whole. They kept to themselves, they didn't bother her, they ate flies. She was much less fond of flies so on the whole it seemed like her and the mantis species had a good dynamic. Perhaps this one was the exception.

No, she decided, Fiyori was a mosquito, not a mantis. A giant, ungainly mosquito that would keep coming back, again and again, to make noise in her ear and feed on little pieces of her. Sooner or later she would need to be swatted.

Georgia Lee's next class was nearby, leaving the last few minutes of lunch hers, to do with as she wished. It wasn't enough time to do any serious study, but it was a nice opportunity to read.

She fished a book out of the front pocket of her bag: a thick, battered volume with yellowed pages and an ugly, pea green cover. A mustard yellow copperplate proclaimed the title to be Monsters of the Dark Continent: The Fauna of Africa, and added that it was complete with original illustrations! According to the title page, it was first published in 1889.

Georgia Lee had leafed through the book, after getting it out, looking for those original illustrations. Most of them had been ripped out. She flicked to one of the few that remained, an antelope or deer of some sort, surrounded by dark silhouettes. The text above it continued midsentence from a page that one of the book's previous borrowers had seen fit to remove.

...and the priest there told me the negroes could track them for the better part of a day, without once setting eyes on them. I asked if they could follow a man in such a way, but he told me it would be quite impossible.

"The beasts of the earth" he explained "are just such: of the earth. Their destinies are writ in clay. If you kick a dog, it will always howl. If you chase a gazelle, it will always run, and if it is thirsty it will always stop to drink. Men are not such creatures. It is only our flesh that is of the earth, while that which steers us is of heaven. Our destinies are not in clay, but writ in jasper, or perhaps they are not yet writ at all and falls upon us to enscribe them."

"That is a great responsibility," I replied, "to be the master of one's own fate."

"Of course. We are the subjects of the heavens, and so are not bound by the laws of the earth. This world is as an egg, and one day you will will hatch from it to your eternal reward, God willing. Until then you are free, absolutely, to do whatever you will, but know you this: if everything you do is your choice and your choice alone, then no one but you can be held accountable for how you act, or what fate befalls you, and know you too that there most assuredly will be an accounting."


The line, she thought, was particularly profound.

[Georgia Lee Day continued in Pitches]
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