01-09-2007 08:13 PM
Jill stacked the essays into a neat pile and slid them into her briefcase. Her Friday office hours were nearly over. Only one girl had stopped in for clarification on the weekend’s assignment leaving her ample time to finish her grading. And in turn, leaving her an actual free weekend. She looked out the window at the Commons. Several girls were braving the late Fall chill to soak up some sun through their long sleeved jackets and jeans. None of them wore the blue wool blazer, white blouse and black watch plaid skirt of the school uniform. Those were shucked off as quickly as possible after last bell.
Sister Margarethe walked out the doors of the little girls’ hall and a gaggle of fourth graders spilled out after her. It would take until Christmas break before they felt comfortable enough to not move as a group. Jill remembered when she first started here, she'd thought she was lucky to be a day student and go home after last bell. She’d been wrong about that. Day girls were outsiders among the Academy students and among the kids in their neighborhood. She’d felt dislocated and unwelcome just about everywhere.
Jill turned away from the window before she started pondering how she ended up back here again and looked through her small library for books she could use in class next week. She brushed a lock of fair hair out of her eyes thinking she should go to town over the weekend to get it trimmed.
Rachel scuffed her feet across the threshold and dropped into Jill’s office chair. At thirteen, her feet were almost always too heavy to pick up no matter how much Sister Veronica scolded her. Jill smiled at the girl. Her sign. The child who should have been hers. The child who, for all the attention either of her parents paid her, was hers.
“He’s coming to visit.”
Jill’s blood went cold. She felt herself irrationally hoping Rachel meant her stepfather or her maternal grandfather or even her paternal grandfather, but her stepfather would not come without her mother who automatically took precedence. She adored her maternal grandfather and wouldn’t use that tone for him. Not even at thirteen. Her paternal grandfather never visited the school, though on occasion her paternal grandmother was known to appear with a large box of homemade cookies. Which could only mean one thing.
“Your father?” Jill asked, not quite managing to keep the squeak out of her voice.
“Yes.” Rachel flopped her head back, thumping her head hard on the wall. It had to hurt, but Rachel was too cool at thirteen to feel pain. Physical pain anyway, emotional pain was her stock in trade. “I don’t want to see him. He’s never visited before. Why couldn’t he just stay away like he has been?”
Jill felt herself sliding into her own private hell. She should have known she wouldn’t be safe forever, but like a mountain climber believes the rope won’t break, she had believed that Marcus would never visit his daughter at school. She leaned on the front of her desk.
“You don’t think my mother will show up do you?” Rachel moaned. “Oh God, I’ll die.”
“Don’t let the sisters hear you say that.” Jill cautioned automatically.
“But you know what she’ll be like if she comes. She’s such a nightmare. Last time she tried to convince Sister Elizabeth she was my sister.” Rachel wailed.
Jill didn’t remind Rachel that Sister Elizabeth wasn’t stupid and knew the name of St Bridged’s Academy’s most scandalous alumnus. Victoria hadn’t made it easy to not slander her to her daughter. Jill reached out and patted Rachel’s arm. “We’ll handle them both when and if they come. Now when is your father supposed to arrive?”
Rachel jerked upright in an amazing display of posture. Jill cringed backward, almost slipping off the corner of the desk. Marcus filled the office doorway. He still had a quarterback’s physique. His brown hair was shorter than it had been in high school and his worried brown eyes were focused, fortunately for Jill, on his daughter. “Hi honey, did you get my email?” He asked lightly.
Rachel shot out of her seat. “What are you doing here?” She shrieked.
“I came to visit my little girl.” Marcus offered.
“I am not a little girl.” Rachel shouted.
Jill glanced from Rachel’s four foot ten pubescent frame to Marcus’ six three height and irrationally wanted to laugh.
“Ok, ok then I wanted to see my big girl.” Marcus amended. His broad brow furrowed as this new comment brought tears to Rachel’s eyes.
“I am not fat.” Rachel howled. She lunged through the door, shoving her father out of the way. Marcus was too stunned to even grab her.
“Rachel, you come back here.” Marcus thundered when he’d recovered.
“That won’t help.” Jill said.
Marcus turned on her ferociously, and faltered. “Jill?” He asked softly. His eyes seemed to drink in her face. Jill felt the spring of her life returning to her. Did he remember what it had felt like between them? Was it coming back to him now after all this time? Then his eyes narrowed dangerously. “What are you doing here?”
“I teach here.” Jill pulled herself up to her own full, if diminutive height and tried to remember that she hated him.
Marcus glanced over his shoulder at the brass plate on the office door. “Mrs. Morganstern. So you got married after all and here you are all cozy with my daughter.”
“Neither you nor Victoria seems to have much interest in her.”
“You don’t-“ Marcus cut himself off in mid-shout. He tightened into a familiar battle pose. He’d always looked this way right before a game. Focused. To think that once upon a time she’d been jealous that football could take him so completely away from her. Losing him to the game had only been preparation.
“Who are you working for?” He snarled.
“The school?” She hated the uncertainty in her voice. She began to wonder if Marcus’ years on remote drilling stations had warped his mind. If they had she had a problem because he stood between her and the door and since her office was on the third floor, the window wasn’t an option either. She would have to do as he had taught her when they were kids and she was being bullied. Go on the offensive.
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I really don’t.” Jill snapped. “I work for the school.”
“And that’s all you’re doing here so close to my daughter.”
“Yes. I teach history and supervise the archeology club. You might have heard about that, your daughter is a member. Last summer she went with us on a dig in Mexico. I know she sent you a postcard, because I made her.”
“Why are teaching here?”
“I went to school here. The sisters offered me a job when I needed one.”
“And you cozied right up to my daughter.”
“She seemed to lack parents.”
“Yes. Lack parents. Even Vanessa Farique from Algeria has a family member or two here for Parent’s Weekend, but I guess you can’t be bothered.” Jill couldn’t believe venom spewing out of her. There was a fine line between going on the offensive and just being offensive and she thought she’d crossed it. Had she been storing it up all this time and not known?
Marcus glowered at her.
“Mrs. Morganstern, is there a problem?”
Marcus turned allowing Jill to see Sister Veronica, the head mistress, and Sister Bernadette, the lacrosse coach, standing in her doorway looking unhappily at Marcus.
“No problem, Sister.” The leftover anger in her voice made a liar of her. “This is Mr. Borden, Rachel’s father. He’s come for a visit.”
“Really?” Sister Veronica asked coolly. “Will you be staying long, Mr. Borden?”
“I don’t know. I’m between assignments right now so I thought I would spend the break with my daughter.” Marcus, oddly, sounded subdued. Nuns had always intimidated him.
“I see.” Sister Veronica studied him. “I would appreciate it if, for the duration of your visit, you would try to maintain some decorum. Shouting is not appreciated here. We try to teach the girls to behave properly and we teach by example.” Sister Veronica shot Jill a glance reminding her that his voice hadn’t been the only one raised.
“I’m sorry, Sister. I’ll try to behave correctly. I was just taken by surprise when I realized that the Mrs. Morganstern my daughter had written to me about used to be Jill Wallace.”
“I don’t need to know the specifics, Mr. Borden. I only need to know that it won’t happen again.”
“It won’t, Sister.” Marcus said contritely. “Excuse me.”
Sister Veronica allowed him to walk past her out the door. Sister Bernadette followed him away while Sister Veronica stepped into the office, pulling the door closed behind her. “You knew he would come here eventually.”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Jill asked lightly. She knew she couldn’t get anything past the canny older woman, but she couldn’t resist trying.
“Jill.” Sister Veronica whispered. “I know what happened. Rachel is well protected here. Don’t worry about her. Worry about yourself this once.”
Jill sunk back into her office chair. ‘Worry about yourself this once.’ How could she worry about herself when Rachel needed her more? How could she worry about herself when it was so much easier to worry about someone else? She picked up the phone and dialed the barn extension. “Hello Lise, is it too late to reserve two horses for tomorrow, nineish? … Great. I’d like Dickens if I can get him and I think Rachel usually rides Aristophanes. Thanks so much.” She disconnected with the barn and called the desk in the older girls’ dorm. “This is Mrs. Morganstern, can you deliver a message to Rachel Borden’s room, please. Tell her I have two horses reserved for tomorrow at nine if she’d like to go riding with me. Thank you.”
There, two hours when she could talk to Rachel and try to get her to listen to her father without her father looming over them like an avenging angel. Marcus had many skills, but horseback riding wasn’t one of them. Unfortunately, hounding a person to the point of insanity was and Rachel would not take to hounding at all.
01-10-2007 06:50 AM
I got a bit muddled in the paragraph about maternal/paternal grandparents, but I don't really know how else you could give that information, if it's really important. Maybe by using nicknames? Perhaps Leigh has an idea.
01-10-2007 10:24 AM
Jill's blood went cold. "Your father?" she asked, not quite managing to keep the squeak out of her voice.
The other thing this editing will do is take out an apparent contradiction -- you've said that Rachel's grandmother sometimes brings cookies, but later Jill says something about Rachel having no family members appear at all. (I see how that can all be true, but why cause the reader to have to stop and sort it out, especially so early in the story?)
If the grandparents are indeed important in the story, it'll be easy to bring them in later, one or two at a time, and introduce them as needed.
01-10-2007 01:21 PM
First, the grandparents also muddled me, but I know that's been said. The exchange between the girl and her father is priceless, though I thought the conversation with Jill and the girl was a bit abbreviated. She came to Jill to talk, but didn't talk much. It would give the father a much better reason for his reaction in Jill's eyes. That in turn would create misunderstanding and conflict. Jill would believe him to be angry at what he'd overheard and paranoid about her intentions, when his paranoia is really from a different cause altogether, a more serious one. If I were her, as things stand, I would be very confused. Unless of course, they ended so badly that anger and bad feelings can be expected.
"There was a fine line between going on the offensive and just being offensive and she thought she’d crossed it. Had she been storing it up all this time and not known?"- Very good line.
It has to be good because I can't wait to see what these two say to each other next.
Then bloody swords and armor should not be:" Thomas Campion
01-13-2007 02:21 PM
I guess this answers my question about whether you plan on using the same characters for the exercises. I'm glad you are.
One thing that I guess would bother me about the hero, and it might be nice to clear up soon, would be his lack of parenting interest. I would not personally be attracted to a man who ditched his kid for years and then showed up because she was in danger. But maybe he had really good reasons for being absent?
I am also curious about his being a Gemeni. Do you tend to make your hero characters air signs? Or signs you yourself would like? I am also into astrology-on a personal, not professional way. I think my heroes tend to be Earth signs or cusps.
01-13-2007 06:17 PM
I don't usually set out to make my characters anything, they just are. I let the story stew for a long time in the back of my mind so the moment they open their mouths they are whole. Then i look back and think "of course, you're a ______." I studied astrology for a long time and I sort of internalised a lot of it. I've done a really stubborn Taurus, a Pisces, another Gemini, a Leo, I have a Libra waiting in the wings and an Aries whose story I haven't finished. My heroines do all tend to be cusp fire signs because I'm a Leo on the Cancer cusp.
(As everybody else on the board yawns and wonders what we're talking about.)
01-23-2007 05:39 PM
I love astrology and have studied a little of it for my own characters. But I was wondering what a cusp side was. That was a term I didn't come across or I just missed it.
01-24-2007 12:35 PM
I actually didn't believe half this stuff was for real until I started doing charts at psychic fairs and having dubious people sit down and devout believers get up.
My characters are usually true to their sign because once you get into cusps and houses and other planet signs it gets really messy and confusing. I think the fact that I spent so much time studying it gave me a set of linked traits that I don't have to think about. Of course the talkative guy is going to be fast thinking, doing at least 2 things at all times and hard to hold onto, he's a Gemini. He's also probably going to have round eyes (a la Paul McCartney who is a Gemini on the Cancer cusp which is why he was married to one woman for 29 years, and would still be if she hadn't died, but in the same period he was through about a dozen bands and any number of musical styles.)
(I didn't actually mean to write a essay. It's the arrogant Leo in me showing off what I know.)
01-30-2007 04:54 PM
01-31-2007 09:15 AM
You write wonderfully! I can tell you've done this before?
I don't believe I have any other constructive criicism that hasn't already been remarked upon.
I would like to know more about her relationship with Rachel, and how this is to ultimately connect with her working at the school, and the past relationship with the father. All good questions that make a reader want more.
- The Fiery Cross, Diana Gabaldon
01-31-2007 10:57 AM
02-04-2007 02:03 PM
Yes, I was right. I should have read this first. Now I know who Rachel is. Seems to be a spitfire.
It will be interesting to see how all this works out. Jill and Marcus have a history. Are they both married?
My bdate is 12-20, does that make me Sagitarrius on the Capricorn cusp?
My mother was Gemini, she did the work of twins. Always had two jobs to support her two girls. Making me the first ever in her family to graduate from college. More since me, though.
02-04-2007 05:45 PM
Then bloody swords and armor should not be:" Thomas Campion
02-04-2007 06:28 PM
Does that mean you are a day older than me?
I had a student for three years, self-contained special class. His birthday was 12/19. On his birthday every year I would ask him how old he was. 13, 14, 15. Those years I became 13, 14, 15, too. He laughed, but seemed to believe me. Some kids trust their teachers too much.
Example, the other day a student told me I was mean. I thanked him and said now I could call downtown to the school offices and tell them and I would get a raise. Some were disbelieving, but one boy asked if that was true. I admitted that no it wasn't, but he believed me. The boy who had said I was mean immediately said that I was nice. He didn't want me to get a raise.
02-04-2007 08:06 PM
Cariann, your story about the students is funny. I had kids in Korea who thought I spoke Korean because I knew what they were saying. They didn't realize I was watching their body language and listening to their tone.
Ah, the joys of teaching.