A Learning Experience: Chapter One, Turn One

The morning is clear and cool as Larry K. Dixon Junior-Senior High School opens its doors for the first day of another school year. After a summer-long silence, the campus suddenly brims with activity. Both new and returning students make their way noisily into the large stone building, calling greetings to friends, finding homerooms, and trading ideas about what might happen this year.

Dr. Jean Summers, the headmistress, stands in the doorway to her office on the first floor, greeting the students as they enter the building. The early autumn sunshine coming through the windows picks up red-gold highlights in her perfectly-coiffed red hair as she exchanges pleasantries with passing students. Her dark blue linen suit is immaculate, set off by a cream silk blouse and black leather pumps.

To fae eyes, however, Lady Janelle Summerstree ni Eiluned is clad in a cotehardie of midnight-blue silk that seems to glimmer when the light strikes it, intricately embroidered with the pentacle-and-crescent arms of her house. Her gleaming red-gold hair is woven into intricate braids that have been decorated with silver ribbons and wound about her head. A long silver girdle set with deep blue sapphires encircles her slim waist and extends down the front of her skirts almost to the floor. Everything about her radiates the beauty, grace, and nobility of the sidhe as she welcomes the students, both kithain and mortal, back to school for another year.

***

Niko shifts his black bookbag higher up onto his shoulders and sticks his hands into the pockets of his black jeans to make sure he has his wallet. Afterwards, he puts his auburn hair into a ponytail, checks his schedule and then the clock. Then he goes and introduces himself to Dr. Summers.

Dr. Summers smiles graciously at Niko as he introduces himself and then gives him a firm handshake. "Welcome to Larry K. Dixon, Mr. Rayne. I hope you enjoy your time with us."

"I think I will, Dr. Summers." Niko releases her hand and makes sure to memorize her features, deciding that she will be the next picture in his sketchbook. He starts for his locker, making a mental note of the girl snapping photos and anyone else who looks interesting. After putting his stuff in his locker, he grabs the books he needs, his sketchbook, and his cd player, and goes to homeroom.

***

Layla throws her bag over her shoulder and hurries to drop her books in her locker. Then she hurries back into the entrance to take out her camera and start taking shots of students entering school for the first time, making sure to get a few of Dr. Summers. Her dark brown hair is lose around her face and her skewed top hat seems slightly out of place in the large crowd of people. To fae eyes her floppy black rabbit ears are the reason for her hat's precarious position.

***

A pale blonde, dressed in the latest in pre-faded low-rise jeans and a midriff-baring peasant top with fanciful sleeves, comes racing up from the parking lot. Amazing that she can run in those shoes! She isn't carrying a backpack, but the corner of a notebook can be seen peeking from the top of her oversized fringed purse.

Bess slows down to a deliberate walk when she sees that she isn't late, and pauses to make sure her hair is in its artful disarray. She won't let herself make a bad impression on the first day, certainly.

She pauses to greet a knot of girls that look as if they've been cloned from her. Giggles and shrieks of welcome (and was that an impromptu cheer?), drift across the lawn as the cheerleaders assimilate another of their own.

Baroness Erzabet Lilas Ariel Callandria Maggan Dumond is tall, slender, even paler than her human guise, and her hair is the silver of moonlight. She's dressed in a long, flowing gown of deep purple, with a low, square neckline and flounced sleeves. The color accents her metallic lavender eyes very nicely. She wears a silver belt, wrapped twice about her narrow waist, and tied with two knotted silver cords that trail near to the ground.

Her only jewelry is a brushed silver heart on a purple velvet band around her neck

***

This is the one day out of the year that Jennifer Carole Ashford is willing to take off work to see her daughter to school. Therefore, this is the day out of the year that said daughter hates most. Mercedes Ashford comes trudging up the walk, an ominously silent figure whose glare just plain dares anyone who knows her to say word one. She's another blonde, trapped for the day in a pale-blue lightweight sweater and casual-looking jeans, and if it weren't for the surly look, the lack of makeup or artful hair, and the dubious taste in jewelry (both ears lined with piercings, three tiny silver rings set through one eyebrow, and a cheap-looking ring on quite literally every finger) she might almost pass for a wannabe cheerleader herself. Almost.

Right up till a glance over her shoulder shows her that the car she was dropped off in is gone - and she pauses outside the school doors and pulls off that sweater, shoving it disdainfully into her backpack. The T-shirt she's wearing underneath is a plain and battered gray, with words written on it in black permanent marker: "i hate it here." It's nowhere near as scruffy as she usually prefers to look, but it's better than Mother Insisting, and that's the way she heads into the school itself. Her entrance is strategic, designed to keep as many other incoming students as possible between her and the headmistress, and give her the best possible chance of reaching her locker and eventually classes without being interrupted. Overtly, it's not surprising - in the two years Mercedes has been at the school, she's had more than enough sessions in Dr. Summers' office already.

To fae, on the other hand, the other reason she's trying to keep out of Lady Janelle's sight is perfectly clear. She's shorter, stocky, with unpleasant gray-white skin and one lock of her white-blonde hair dyed a dull crimson. Torn and stained leather for voile, a corkscrew worn as a piercing -- the circle-and-square pattern brand-scarred into her right forearm is new over the summer -- Ashes' simply being a redcap is more than enough reason for her to be dodging the gaze of a noble sidhe.

***

A slender brunette, her braid bouncing against the middle of her back, makes her way up the walkway, hitching her dark blue backpack higher up on her shoulders. She's clad in black leggings, a white short-sleeved top, and black sneakers. A silver pendant, a unicorn's head, hangs around her neck on a slender silver chain.

Valerie McSkeath waves to her friends with one hand as she glances at the class schedule in the other on the way to deposit her backpack in her locker.

To fae eyes, young Valeria ni Scathach is clad in a full-sleeved white shirt over tight black trousers and soft leather boots, also black; a belt of linked silver discs, each about the size of her fist, cinches the shirt at her waist. Her eyes are ice-blue, and her delicately pointed ears are clearly visible due to the intricate braid with silver ribbon worked into its strands.

***

Mr. Peter Wethersfield, the deputy headmaster, stands in the hall, gesturing for those students who are pausing on their way to the lockers to move along. "Let's move things along, ladies and gentlemen." He makes a small shooing motion with one hand to a group of younger students -- probably freshmen.

To faerie sight, Lord Preston Weatheringstone ap Dougal is engaged in much the same behavior, though he is clad in black and red Tudor garb.

In the doorway of room 107, a raven-haired man in a charcoal-gray suit and silver-rimmed glasses watches the deputy headmaster's attempt to guide the procession of students with an amused glint in his gray eyes. Mr. Ravenscroft, English teacher for the sophomores, juniors, and seniors, pauses to exchange greetings with some returning students, then returns to his desk, no doubt to prepare for his first class of the day.

Mr. Wethersfield slants a glance at Layla as she snaps pictures. As he finishes shooing the freshmen to their lockers, he pulls a small notebook from inside his jacket and starts writing something on it.

As he finishes writing, Mr. Wethersfield catches sight of Ashes and looks decidedly uncomfortable. Flipping to a fresh page in his notebook, he scribbles furiously in it before retreating to his office.

***

A red sports car pulls up to the front of the school and the passenger door opens. A pair of feet clad in black sneakers emerges, followed by white socks and bare legs, a plaid ski--- make that a plaid /kilt/, worn with a clean white dress shirt. It being a "great kilt", narrow wedges of plaid emerge from under the belt of the kilt in front and back, meeting at the left shoulder where the two swaths are secured by a brooch.

Trevor Hamilton's maroon backpack, stylishly carried in one hand, complements the reds predominant in the plaid of his kilt, as well as the reddish hues of his dark hair. The outfit seems to suit Trevor well, though with his captivating appearance he'd probably look good wearing some muddy rags. While slim, he has enough muscle to be athletic rather than delicate.

He heads for the school, flashing grins at gawkers and anyone else who happens to catch his roving eyes. He enters the school and heads toward the lockers, confidently greeting Dr. Summers as he passes by her.

In addition to his new outfit, Trevor has another surprise for fae eyes. At the end of the last school year, Trevor was no more than a handsome mortal. Now he is a gorgeous sidhe, so magnificent as to be beyond the ken of mortals. To fae eyes, his outfit is similar to what mortals see, though of finer materials. The most notable differences are that his brooch now is obviously a lion, and that he has an empty dagger-sized sheath strapped to one ankle.

Dr. Summers' eyebrows go up a fraction as Trevor greets her, then a small smile appears on her face. She looks satisfied, as if she's been proven right somehow.

***

Everyone proceeds to their homerooms, and after a few minutes all the students find their seats.

At 8:00 am, Dr. Summers' voice comes over the public address system: "Good morning. May I have your attention for the following announcements:

"I would like to personally welcome all the students back to Larry K. Dixon Senior High School.

"Today, we will follow a special schedule teachers, please remind students that periods one through eight will meet in the morning. Following the eighth period, lunch will be served in the cafeteria at eleven forty-five. At twelve thirty, all students will proceed to the auditorium for the assembly. After the assembly, students will return to their homerooms and then be dismissed for the day.

"A reminder to all students as per school rules, backpacks must be kept in lockers; they are not permitted in the classrooms.

"The first meeting of the Larry K. Dixon School Parent-Teacher Association will be held this Friday at 8 pm in the school auditorium. Students, please remind your parents.

"Thank you very much, and have a good day."

Following the announcements, the students salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Just after this, the bell rings, and the students head off to their first class.

***

The first two class periods pass without incident, and at 9:15 am everyone finds themselves in Room 107 for Mr. Ravenscroft's Period 3 English 11 class.

Looking around, everyone sees that, interestingly enough, the class is composed entirely of fae, even to the instructor.

Mr. Ravenscroft stands beside the chalk board upon which he's written his name, his carriage erect and confident, clad in charcoal-gray pants, a white oxford shirt, and well-worn leather shoes. He's wearing a narrow black tie with a light gray diamond pattern, and a charcoal-gray suit jacket is hanging over his desk chair. His eyes are a clear gray behind his silver-framed glasses.

The classroom is adorned with a number of posters; on one wall, a poster displaying the Ringwraiths' charge from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the motto: "Moving Words Inspire Moving Pictures" is displayed next to a smaller poster of Ian McKellan as Gandalf in the same film, with an enormous book in his hands. The poster bears the motto: "READ. Discover Magic." On another wall, Sean Connery exhorts viewers to "READ" while displaying a copy of The Spirit of Scotland. Above a wheeled bookshelf packed with a variety of books representative of nearly every genre, from classical works to recent best-sellers hangs a dark blue poster, reading "Open it." in large white letters; beneath those are smaller white letters arranged in two-line sections that wriggle down the poster like a snake.

Niko chooses to sit in the back unless a seating chart was made. He listens intently to Mr. Ravenscroft. With the last few minutes of class, he makes a few quick sketches of the more interesting looking students, paying attention to facial features and expressions. Niko tries to stay unnoticed and doesn't speak to anyone unless approached.

Trevor stops to look at the dark blue poster that reads "Open it". He takes one hand and puts it on the poster and muscles bunch under his shirt sleeve. Nothing happens, so Trevor goes to look for a seat. His priority seems to be guided by the pretty and interesting, especially if they're willing to talk to him before class starts.

Valerie sits in the desk directly behind Trevor, and pays at least as much attention to him as to Mr. Ravenscroft during class.

Trevor mostly pays attention to Mr. Ravenscroft/Sir Dariun during class, though he's not hard to distract - especially if someone were to start flirting with him. He does take time during class to check out each of his classmates - and their teacher. After all, it is his first day in school as one of the fae...

On a table in one corner near Mr. Ravenscroft's desk are a computer, monitor, and printer; against the simple blue background, the familiar icons of Windows are clearly visible.

On Mr. Ravenscroft's desk, amid an in-basket labeled "Homework" and various books and other paraphernalia sits a realistic-looking skull, on a small block of some ivory-colored substance bearing the legend, "Yorick." When viewed with fae sight, twin points of light can be seen flickering in the depths of its eye sockets.

To faerie sight, Sir Dariun ap Scathach is clad in a suit of sidhe plate armor so black it seems to absorb rather than reflect any light, over top of which is a gray surcoat emblazoned with a black unicorn's head. A sword rides easily on his left hip, peace-bound into a plain black leather scabbard; its hilt is a curious ivory color (about the same shade as the skull, oddly enough), and is shiny with wear. His hair is a rich raven-black with blue highlights when the light strikes it right, and his eyes -- minus the spectacles in fae mien -- are a clear silvery-gray. His bearing has the air of a resting tiger's relaxed, but able to spring into action with lethal grace at a moment's notice.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen." His voice is low, calm, and carries the accent of the British Isles. "I hope you all had a relaxing summer and didn't neglect your summer reading while you were enjoying your vacation." A small smile lifts the corners of his mouth for just a moment. "Many of you may recognize me from last year for those who don't, I am Mr. Ravenscroft, and this is English 11." He takes roll, then turns to the desk with a fluid, unhurried grace, picks up a stack of papers, and proceeds to pass them out.

The handout proves to be a course syllabus; it notes that English 11 will cover a variety of genres, and that the drama selection this year will be Macbeth. There is also a breakdown of how the final grade will be arrived at, as well as mention of the various types of assignments that will be required during the year.

After going over the syllabus, Mr. Ravenscroft says, "We have a few minutes left; are there any questions?"

Layla, sits as close to Mr.Ravenscroft as possible. She raises her hand. When called on she says, with the cutest blush you've ever seen "Umm, Mr. Ravenfeather, I couldn't possibly get a class picture, could I?"

Mr. Ravenscroft (Sir Dariun)'s eyebrow goes up at Layla's request. He glances at his watch, then gives her a brief nod. "We have enough time for that, Miss Grim -- provided, of course, your classmates have no objections."

He looks around at the rest of the class. "Would a picture be all right with everyone?"

Niko writes what the "Open It" poster says on the back of his sketch pad, before participating in the group photo. He reties his hair back, as it has probably fallen out during the first two periods.

No one objects to a picture, so Layla quickly "hops" up and helps get every one started. Putting some of the more interesting people in prominent places and the teacher just slightly to the side. The kilt boy(Trevor), the Poe look-a-like (Niko), and Brand-y (Ashes) are some of the most noticeable movements. She would attempt to do it really quickly and make it look nice.

"Yay! okay, kilt boy I want you there" (She points across the room; if he starts to move she guides him someplace different. She continues until everyone is placed) "Say Rutabaga!" A really nice class photo is taken. "Now everyone, could you be just a little more uptight? Do something or nothing or everything... just say, umm... Papaya!" (She attempts to take a surprise pose pic before they all move off, then hug's the teacher and a few class mates, giggles sweetly and skips back to her seat, dropping her top hat in the process)

"Kilt boy" cooperates with the pooka for the picture, as much as one can.

Sometime in the turmoil of the photo arrangements, Trevor notices the writing on Ashes' shirt. He stares momentarily at her chest and says to Ashes, "I'm surprised they let either of us get away with our clothes." Then he grins mischievously at her and says, "I was sort of looking forward to the look on someone's face when they had me take the kilt off."

Also during the turmoil, Trevor runs into Bess and says to her, "Are you head of the cheerleaders? With your looks you should be..."

Niko picks up Layla's fallen top hat. "Excuse me miss, I think you dropped this," He then plops it onto her head, paying attention to where her ears are.

"Thanks, Lestat. So where's Modious? He is the cute one after all." (This is all said very sarcastically but with a cute little wink to off set the tone. When Niko sets the top hat on straight it promptly slides to one side again; it's about two sizes too big)

Layla attempts to sneak up behind Trevor without being seen and whispers to herself, " So what does the Scotsman wear under his kilt? (insert adorable under the breath giggle here) The class hears a really loud "Eeep!!!!!!!" and sees Layla running away from Trevor as fast as she can, blushing furiously.

Trevor seems rather startled by the "Eeep!!!" behind him, and turns around to locate the source of the noise.

The source of the "Eeep!!!!!!!" is clear across the room, hiding behind "Lestat" (Niko).

Niko turns towards Layla "Are you okay?" He stops and quickly gathers up his sketch pad and pencil, as the picture of Layla peeking under Trevor's kilt is to silly an image to pass up, but he still attempts to hide Layla. "And why do you call me Lestat?" He says, still sketching.

Trevor scans the room and actually manages to notice Layla hiding behind Niko. He looks at her, apparently puzzled. Trevor makes his way across the room to her.

"Eeep!andhebutButt!ummyeahelpandohno!please!hideingnow,OMG--he'slooking,hecaughtme,nohedidnthelpinneedYipesHELP!!!

This is followed by a hands on the hips headsideways look that screams "Are you crazy?" and a quite calm, "Do you really need to ask either of those questions?"

"Nope, nope, nothing wrong. nothing at all." She pauses a moment and shakes her head violently, as though trying to rid herself of an unwanted image, sending her top hat flying. She's still blushing, by the way.

Trevor catches her hat and hands it back to her with a smile. "I'm Trevor. If you do have a problem, let me know - I promise if you ask, I'll show you my best side."Then Trevor turns to Niko and says, "Sorry I didn't introduce myself right away - I was concerned about our friend here. I'm Trevor."

Niko closes his sketch pad and gathers his books. He turns towards Trevor, " Name's Niko, but she calls me Lestat." He sends a slight glare that would be angry, if he weren't smiling.

"Back to your seats, please, ladies and gentlemen." Though not that much higher in volume, Mr. Ravenscroft's voice carries the unmistakable ring of authority.

Trevor grins at Niko "Well, she was calling me 'kilt boy' earlier." He looks in Mr. Ravenscroft's direction. "I guess we ought to sit down." He gives a little bow to Niko and the pooka and then heads for his seat.

Just after everyone finds their seats again, the bell rings.

***

At 11:45, everyone files into the cafeteria for lunch.

The cafeteria is surprisingly attractive -- large windows let in light and offer a view of the school's large green campus. Seating consists of oval tables rather than the long rectangular ones more common to educational institutions, and there is a juice machine against one wall.

The menu offers a choice of salad plate, chicken salad sandwich, or hamburger and fries. There are also bags of snack chips and small packages of cookies available.

As the students arrive, Miss Kapatelis, the girls' gym teacher and cheerleading and girls' volleyball and softball coach, is just picking up a chicken salad sandwich. Her ivy-green eyes shining, she waves to Bess and some other female students. With her slim, athletic build and her auburn hair tied up in a ponytail, she almost looks like a student herself.

(In satyr mien, small horns curl up into Amalia's hair, and her goat's legs are covered by a russet pelt. She wears a short, simple green shift, its hem ornamented with a black Greek key design).

Bess happily waves back, and scoops up a salad and a bottle of water.

Niko gets a bottle of juice, and tries to find Layla.

Layla is sitting by herself near a window, attempting to avoid notice, dodge Trevor, and go through her newest pictures simultaneously.

Her top hat is sitting on the table full of freshly developed pic's. She has a half done collage of the students in her English class started on the table in front of her. No food, just a overly large bottle of water.

Niko plops down the freshly drawn sketch of her peeking up Trevor's kilt and then plops down next to her. "You're good." says he as he picks up one of her photos.

Valerie picks out a chicken salad sandwich, a package of chocolate chip cookies, and a container of chocolate milk, and then approaches Layla and Niko's table. "Hi, I'm Valerie," she says. "Is it OK if I sit here?"

Niko stands at the approach of the young lady, "It's okay with me" He gives a slight bow and sits back down. "Layla?"

"Nope not at all! I didn't think we could sit at lunch, I mean isn't it against the rules or something? After all this isn't a free country. If you're willing to break every rule ever made I guess you can.

Valerie sits down at an empty seat and digs in. After eating a little while, she asks, "You're both in my English class, aren't you -- what do you think of Mr. Ravenscroft?"

"Nice enough man. Could you turn your head a bit to the left?" Niko returns.

"Um, sure." Valerie responds, looking a little puzzled by the request. She turns her head to the left, though the puzzled expression doesn't entirely leave her face.

"Thanks, I had to make sure that I had your profile right." Niko smiles and starts flipping through his sketch book. "You know, you're adorable when you look puzzled."

***

Trevor collects lunch and then takes a look around the cafeteria, presumably trying to figure out where to sit. Bess waving attracts his attention, so he goes over to her.

"Excuse me, but aren't you in my English class?" he says to Bess.

Bess smiles at the lovely kiltboy and says "Indeed I am. Yeuck! Macbeth!" She makes a face.

"And no, I'm not captain of the cheerleaders, but that's only because I don't want to be. I'd have no time for anything else." Bess grins.

"Hmmm. You've a choice - my best friend is over there," she gestures at a pretty black girl who is busily writing or drawing (it's hard to tell from a distance), "or the cheerleading team. Sia would kill me if I let someone like you slip out of her artistic clutches, but the team would want to get their hands on you in a much different way." Bess blushes a little. Then grins. Then giggles. "You aren't going out for one of the teams, are you?"

Trevor returns Bess' smile. "I want to try out for the soccer team and I'm thinking about football too. But I suppose being on too many teams might not leave me enough time for other important activities." Trevor winks at Bess.

"I'd like to meet your best friend, but I have to admit I have a weakness for cheerleaders. How about you introduce me to the cheerleading team now and to your friend later. And if she feels shortchanged, you can tell her that to make up for not meeting her first I promise to pose any way she wants me to for one picture.

"I doubt they're going to do anything, but if they're half as enchanting as you are, I wouldn't mind if they got their hands on me." Trevor grins at Bess, "Besides, if you introduce me, doesn't that give you first dibs?"

"I figure we can let the cheerleaders have at you - I can explain to Sia after school, since I'm probably driving her home anyhow.

"And go for football. Soccer is cool and all, but I don't get to cheer for it." Bess grins. She glances over the uniform blonde heads of the cheerleaders. "I don't think that any of them would respect 'dibs' if there was a yummy guy involved somewhere."

"You think I'm yummy? How cool!" Trevor seems flattered, which is rather odd for someone with his looks. Then then again Bess is sure he didn't look as good last school year. "I'm definitely going for football now!" he continues enthusiastically. "With you and your friends cheering, it'll be great!"

He calms down a bit, though he still seems pretty happy. "So let's go meet your friends." As they start walking over to the cheerleaders Trevor says to Bess, "Thanks for introducing me to everyone - Sia too." He eyes the cheerleaders and then grins at Bess, "If they swarm me, I'll try to save enough of me so you can have dessert!"


Time: 12:15 pm, Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Current weather: Partly cloudy. Expected weather: Partly cloudy


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This web page copyright 2002 by Midori Hirtzel-Church.
This page first posted -- October 9, 2002

First uploaded to mirror site -- January 10, 2003

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