Study in Blue, No. 1

In a class a few weeks ago, our professor mentioned that fanfiction is a viable way to get your work seen. As may or may not be known, I was quite the fanfic writer back in the day. I cringe at about 98% of those fanfics, of course, because I was between 12 and 15 when I wrote them and they were objectively terrible. However, there’s 2% that were written when I was older, and this is one I’m still exceptionally proud of.

I’ll get right to it, or else I’ll go into too much teary detail about how fanfic writing shaped me into the writer I am today. This one was written for the Lucifer Box series by Mark Gatiss, which about 14 people have heard of, and hopefully it reads well enough without context.

If anyone were to ask Lucifer Box if he was a sentimental man, the most they would get would be a light scoff, a toss of his long, dark hair, or possibly a simple raise of the eyebrows that (very obviously) showed his doubt in his questioner’s intelligence.

In Lucifer’s eyes (and they were very fine eyes, he would tell you so himself), sentiment was only useful in situations where one was to be won over. Need to get some information out of the man working at the bank? Ask him about the family and tell him (or make up stories) about your own. Running a bit low on cash? Keep chatting up the old bird at that charity luncheon who mentioned you look like her deceased husband; nine times out of ten, they agree to sit for at least one portrait to help keep you fed, you poor dear.

As for Lucifer himself, he had no need for real sentiment. He could fake it beautifully, of course; the RA had made sure he could, and there was something romantic in playing the sympathetic artist. But really, if he allowed himself to be sentimental, then he opened himself for attack.

Which is precisely why Charlie-and anyone else, for that matter–never knew about the time Lucifer painted his eyes.

It started, of course, by pure accident. When customers were low and Lucifer ached to paint something, Charles Jackpot, valet (and secret lover, to some degree) to Lucifer Box, was often trussed up in period costume or, as he preferred, draped nude around some curtains and sheets, and Lucifer would paint to his heart’s delight. Young Jackpot really was a delightful study, save for when he grew bored and began fidgeting. Then, he would fix those impossibly blue eyes on his boss with every ounce of impudence he could manage, and more often than not the painting was left unfinished, and the sheets would end up in the wash.

It was one such day, when Lucifer’s fingers were practically twitching for want of a brush, that he decided to do a study in blue. Blue drapes in the background, blue jacket on Charlie, and Charlie’s arse in blue velvet and set in a blue chair. Lucifer took a moment, making sure everything was adjusted just so and giving Charlie a light box to his ear to get him to hush, and then he began to paint. He sighed in relief, the feel of oils gliding from brush to canvas as good a release as any drug, illicit or otherwise, and very nearly as good as other illicit acts. And it certainly helped that blue was a wonderfully flattering color on young Charles. The contrast between his dark hair and brows vs. the brilliant blue vs. his pale skin was superb and his eyes…

At this, Lucifer did something he did not often do. He stopped painting, and he simply stared at his subject. He didn’t notice the smug smile his valet gave him, no doubt assuming his employer was ready to forgo the piece and have a tumble in these blue sheets. He didn’t notice when Charlie’s charcoal-dark brows drew together curiously, or when his face softened into a look of somewhat hopeful confusion. And what Lucifer Box definitely didn’t notice was the fact that his own expression had become soft as well, and he simply took in the boy’s beauty (and yes, even on his most callous days, he would assert that Charlie was indeed beautiful in a wonderfully impudent way.) and pondered over those impossibly blue eyes. How long would they be here? Manservants, Lucifer learned, were frightfully fragile. How long before a bullet brought this one down? Before a knife slashed that lily-white neck, or a bomb blew the whole man to pieces? Would he even get a chance to see those blue eyes before they shut forever? Something unpleasant twisted in Lucifer, but before he could address it, he was broken out of his reverie by an uncharacteristically soft, “Mr. Box?” and his vision in blue starting to get to his feet.

“Sit down,” said Lucifer briskly, pulling the canvas off his easel and going to find another. “And sit up straight. Your slouching’s thrown off the whole piece.”

Grumbling in his usual manner and none the wiser to Lucifer’s thoughts, Charlie acquiesced and sat up straight as he could, blue eyes fixed in a glower and full lips in a petulant moue. Lucifer sent him a smirk and a “Good boy,” then ducked behind his easel to mix his colors, then, with more care than he’d ever taken, painted Charlie’s eyes, making sure there was just enough blue, white, and that touch of green only seen in bright sunlight. This, he was determined, was going to be his best painting yet.

And it was, though no one ever saw it. Once finished, Lucifer threw a tarp over it to make sure Charlie didn’t see, citing the piece was a failure and he’d throw it out in the morning. No need for the boy to get a big head, he was already too confident. And, young thing that he was, he might take it as something more than artistic interest. Which, of course, it was not. It was so incredibly not that that Lucifer couldn’t help but remind himself of it over and over as he shut the painting away.

It was fifteen years later when he next looked at it. The Great War was won, the boys were back home, and Lucifer was recovering after the terrible affair at Lit-de-Diable that stole something dear from everyone involved. For Christopher Miracle, it was his good looks and peace of mind. For Lucifer, it was the boy with the impossibly blue eyes. They hadn’t even found Charlie’s body; now he was nothing more than a name on a granite stone a hundred miles away.

Lucifer Box was not sentimental. He would defend that to the end of his days. And yet…in those quiet days after coming home, and several more over the course of his life, he found himself stealing to that little cupboard where he kept the best piece he’d ever painted. And, for a few moments, those beautiful eyes fixed their impudent gaze on him, brilliant blue under coal-black brows, and perhaps Lucifer’s met them with something that was more than artistic interest.


Wax Wings

Last week we were challenged to re-write the myth of Icarus and give our reasoning as to why we chose our method. I ended up going with a WWII pilot to explore not only the fairly new concept of flying, but also to examine the effect that two wars being fought within 20 years of each other had on fathers and sons. It’s not very long, but I think I managed to get what I wanted to say across.

It was awful to admit, but when he heard that England had declared war on Germany, Artie Sheridan couldn’t help but be excited. After all, if there was a war, there would need to be pilots, and at just eighteen years old, he was eligible to be a pilot. Not just a pilot, even, but an ace, just like his old man.

For as long as he could remember, Artie had been told story after story of his father’s time in the Great War. By the time the war ended, Capt. Albert Sheridan had over twenty confirmed kills under his belt, making him by far the most impressive man in the village. He was modest, of course, and really only told the barest details of his service to company. But, with Artie begging night after night for more stories of how his daddy had shot down all those nasty Germans, he opened up more, showing his boy how he would sit in the plane, lowering his voice as he played up the tension right before firing, reliving the terror of having an engine blow out and the relief of reaching ground safely. The men in his company, he would tell Artie, always said he had a knack for flying.

Then the war came, and it was like a prayer had been answered. Artie was first in line at Town Hall to sign up, and before long he was shipped off to Warwickshire with many tears from his mother and proud pats on the back from his father, assuring that he would, no doubt, be the best ace England had ever seen. Feeling his destiny was sealed by his father’s words, Artie set forth to his training.

The seventeen weeks of earthbound training dragged by, full of endless books and safety lessons, until finally, it was time to move on to operational training. Artie was suited up and warned to remember his training, but he was entirely too focused on the beautiful plane in front of him. It felt like years of doing checks and assuring that he remembered his training, but he was here. He settled into his seat, feeling years of preparation guide him through the motions of starting. He knew every bit of this plane, and, though his takeoff was a little shaky, it wasn’t long until he was up in the air. God, he knew flying would be grand, but he hadn’t expected this…this freedom. He pulled himself higher up, ignoring the radio calls to come back down. He knew had a knack for this, just like his father had; why, he could probably go out and fight right now if he wanted! And how would they stop him? Beneath his oxygen mask, he smiled. Up in the air was where he was meant to be.

He got a mention in the newspaper the next day; nothing fancy, just a little corner on the fifth page. “Pvt. Artemus Sheridan killed in airplane crash after engine stalled mid-flight.”

Miss Palisades, Second Runner Up

Our second assignment in our course was to write a monologue following the Hero’s Journey formula. This was actually my second attempt at it; my first just wasn’t gelling at all, and I’m much happier with how this one turned out.

[Robin’s room. He is young, around sixteen years old. He sits on the bed and speaks quietly to the viewer.]

Okay, I’m gonna be honest. This whole thing started as a joke. It was just meant to be funny. See, James’ sister Emma does this pageant thing every year, and every year she loses and throws the biggest fit. So this year, when she signed up, James said that any one of us was more likely to win the pageant than she was. That pissed her off, so she told him to put his money where his mouth is. Up until this point, he was bullshitting. We all knew it, but then Liam looked up the pageant. You can get $10,000 if you win first place! Do you even know how much money that is? Do you know how much shit that would buy? I can’t even imagine it! So at this point, we’re like, what the hell, let’s do it. So we took a vote, right, and I was picked as the face of our campaign. Robin’s usually a girl’s name, and, let’s be real, I have the best legs out of all the guys in the group. [knock on the door] That’s Chuck’s girlfriend, she’s loaning me some of her clothes for our photoshoot. If nothing else, this should be pretty funny.

[cut to later that night]

Holy crap, you should have SEEN Emma’s face when we did that photoshoot! She was PISSED! Hoo, god, well, it went well enough. I really don’t want to talk about how well the clothes fit, but they were pretty comfortable—I’m still wearing the leggings, don’t tell anyone—Makeup is terrible, though. It feels like it never comes off! Anyway, we sent in the application, so now it’s just sitting back and waiting to hear back. I’m not holding my breath, obviously, but the sight of me in some frilly hippie skirts should at least give them a laugh. Maybe they’ll give us a hundred bucks for that?

[cut to a few days later]

Holy. Shit. I was accepted. I was accepted into the beauty pageant. Jesus Christ, I didn’t think they would! I thought they’d laugh and toss it out! Shit, I didn’t plan for this. I don’t really want to parade around in a dress and makeup for six hours! I’d need, like, a prom dress! I saw how much it cost Emma, I don’t have that kind of money! That’s why we applied in the first place! Aw, man, and I’m pretty sure there’s a swimsuit portion. What would I even do with my penis, man? I can’t just…shove it in or whatever! [stands up, starts pacing] No, I can’t do this. I’ll call the guys and we’ll have a good laugh and then I’ll call and drop out. It’s not worth all the shit I’ll have to do to actually do the pageant. [beat] Then again…$10,000 is a lot of money…and if they accepted me, that means I could win all that money. Huh. Is it worth parading in a dress and taping back my balls? I think it might be…I’ll think on it.

[cut to Robin in his room, leg propped up with ice on the ankle.]

I can’t do this, I cannot do this. I nearly broke my ankle just now trying to walk in some goddamn heels, and I had to try and explain to Mom how it happened without mentioning that it was heels. Because, y’know, every mom wants to hear about how her son is running around in pumps. Man, though, what’s the point, even? I mean, yeah, they make girls’ asses look good—hell, they made my ass look good—but if you’re just gonna fall over, then why? And then there are drag queens—they make it look easier than most girls do. Man, though, let me tell you, they do some tough shit. I was watching videos, right, trying to figure out what all to do to make myself look like a girl for six hours. I mean, I’ve seen things done with duct-tape that literally made me scream at my screen. [sigh] But I can’t drop out. We already picked out some dresses at a charity shop; Chuck’s girlfriend’s into “upcycling”, whatever that is, and so she’s already fixed them all up and made them look really good on me. At this point, it’s a waste for me not to go just because my ankles can’t manage heels. [huff and a wince as he moves his ankle] I really don’t think this is for me, though. All this makeup and dresses and heels business. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m just good ol’ Rob. I’m a normal guy who just really wants the money. That’s it.

[cut to a few nights later, Robin’s room]

I have to finish this—all the girls are required to write a little five-hundred blurb about themselves. I’m not lying—girls can do track and really like baseball, right?—but there’s also stuff about being passionate about animals and humanity and all that stuff that sounds good. [bites pen] Y’know, it’s really weird. Like, we’re really just doing this for shits and giggles, but…well, we did a test today, with my dress and makeup and hair and everything. And…there’s just something really satisfying when I saw myself properly dressed up. I just…I felt kind of…sexy. Which is a really weird thing to be feeling, because, y’know, I’m still a dude. I’m still Rob, I still really like girls, and there’s no way in hell I’m dressing like that all the time. Still, seeing myself in all the soft, sparkly fabric…it’s really something, y’know? I felt…I felt so…[laugh] I felt so pretty.

[cut to Robin’s room, daytime. He’s in full makeup and a curly brown wig, wearing a silky robe.]

Oh my god, it’s almost time to go. Can you believe this is actually happening? It’s so freakin’ weird. Like, I was telling myself “Aw, you know what, you won’t make it past introductions before they kick you out” but now I’m like, well, why can’t I win? I mean, if they couldn’t tell I was a dude in my photos, then how would they know if I just keep my voice soft? Girls have deep voices sometimes! And let’s be real, I look as good as any of those girls I’ll be competing with. I have just as much chance of going home with $10,000 as they do. [car horn outside] Ah, damn, that’s James. He’s driving me to the hotel. Wish me luck!

[cut to hotel bathroom. Robin is trying to clean the mascara running down his face]

God, this is so stupid. I never cry. Seriously, I haven’t cried since my dog died when I was six. But—[voice breaks] Fuck. This is so stupid. Some…[takes a breath] These two asshole girls made fun of my dress. Called it ‘Goodwill Couture’ and told me…told me to enter Miss Homeless 2015. And this is so FUCKING stupid because I’m just some asshole playing dress up because I wanted some money. But I…god, throughout all of this…like, it’s been weird, but I’ve felt so good and I was actually really happy with how I looked and then these stupid goddamn bitches come along and…fuck it. I’m not pretty, I’m just a stupid guy in a stupid thrift store dress. [Over the speakers: “Contestant number 86 to the main ballroom, please.”] Shit, that’s me. I…I need to tell them I’m dropping out. I can’t do this. [exits the bathroom]

[cut to Robin in the bathroom again, this time pulling off his false lashes]

It was too late for me to drop; the lady backstage pretty much shoved me on stage the minute I got there. I almost rolled my ankle again. I didn’t end up winning, but, really? It’s all right. I’m still really glad I went through with it, even with those girls making fun of me. No, y’know what, because those bitches made fun of me. Because fuck them for what they said. I was sexy and confident and I did just as well as they did with my Goodwill Couture, and they can suck my taped-up dick for all I care. [starts unpinning hair, laughs] Gonna be honest, I was really tempted to tear off my wig and announce I was a guy. That’d happen in a movie—guy announces that it doesn’t matter he’s a dude, he gives a long speech on acceptance and how he deserves to feel as pretty as the girls or whatever, then the whole crowd cheers and he wins. But that’s not me. [takes off wig, ruffles his hair] I’m still just Rob, y’know? I’m just a guy who looks really freakin’ fantastic in a dress and heels. I don’t need to shout it out to everyone, even if it costs me a chance for 10k. Although…[looks down at wig] Liam said something about another pageant in the next town over next month. You think I could get away with wearing this twice?


Here’s the piece that got me where I am today (meaning it’s the one I submitted to Falmouth so I could get in.) It’s been almost a year since I’ve written it, and I’m still rather proud of it.

For Emma, order was the closest thing to divinity she could imagine. Her bag and locker were always meticulously organized; her notes were color-coded, with tabs to denote her cross-references. And, naturally, she always dressed neatly: her long, brown hair was always up in a neat ballerina bun, and her clothes were never wrinkled and always fit her perfectly. She was the picture of organization. So she had no idea how she ended up here, at the edge of the woods beside the school with her hair in tangles down her back and a boy with a wide grin and unearthly eyes beckoning her to him.

Well…she had some idea.

This whole mess began a little over six months ago, when Robin Goode spoke to her in math class. She had no idea where Robin had come from. No one did; there was sort of a vague, general recollection of him appearing at the school one day in October, and everyone somehow knew who he was, but there was a big, group blank on how that happened. It was generally accepted that the teachers decided it’d be cruel to introduce a new student who had come two months after school started, so Robin just seamlessly and quietly inserted himself into the school’s community, and about a week after he arrived, he was the most talked about kid on campus. Something about him promised something…different, and no one could pinpoint what it was. His tumbled golden curls and bright green eyes? His wide grin and loud laugh? There were quite a few things there that could be considered charming, but Emma thought it was just because he had a guitar and looked carefully rumpled all the time.

Personally, she thought the whole thing was a bit of a joke. Obviously his whole persona was fake, and she wasn’t about to let herself get sucked in like her friends. So when Robin had asked her for a pencil in math class, she was genuinely surprised at how affected she was at his broad smile of thanks. Her heart raced, her skin prickled; it honestly felt like she was frightened, but in a nice way (if there was such a thing). She scowled back at him in response and resumed her work.

“You’re smart, aren’t you?”

Emma jumped at the quiet voice, looking up only to catch that smile again. She frowned and held a finger to her lips, then resumed her work. Robin merely turned in his seat to look at her paper, eyebrows raising at her neat writing.

“Very smart. How’d you get through the questions so fast?”

“Why did you ask for a pencil if you’re not going to work?” Emma hissed back. Robin blinked, then smiled, a more muted one this time as his green eyes looked over her curiously. He nodded approvingly–though approving of what, Emma wondered–then turned back around to get to work.

“And he just gives me this weird smile and nods and acts like nothing happened.” Emma huffed as she finished telling Lizzy what happened in Math. “Tell me that’s not weird.”

“It’s not weird,” Lizzy replied through a mouthful of sandwich. “It’s cute and I’d kill for him to do that to me. Any girl would.”

Emma rolled her eyes. Of course Lizzy would want that. Five years of friendship had made it clear that Lizzy would chase after anything with a cute face and a pulse.

“For real, though, you could have been a little nicer,” Lizzy added as she took a sip of soda. “He’s the new kid. He’s probably trying to make friends.”

“He has friends,” Emma argued. “Everyone loves him.”

God, you’re dumb!” Lizzy rolled her own eyes with such exaggeration that she tossed her hair in the motion. “He has admirers. He’s like a rock star.” She sighed lightly, resting her chin in her hand. “A lonely rock star who has all the fans in the world but not a single friend.”

Emma had given up on listening by this point, so Lizzy’s sudden whack to her arm came as a shock. “Ow!” she cried. “What the hell, Liz?”

“He just came out! Go apologize for being so rude,” Lizzy demanded, pointing out the window. Emma looked up to see Robin walk out of the main building to one of the trees on the quad, guitar slung on his back.

Emma scowled at her as she rubbed her arm, but thought over Lizzy’s words for a moment as she looked at Robin, who had sat down and begun plucking at his guitar. Douche, she automatically thought, but even so, she did feel a little bad for being so mean. He was new. She huffed, then grabbed her bag and headed out, shooting Lizzy a glare before she exited the cafeteria. She buried her nose down in her scarf as she marched, shielding it from the cold autumn wind. She stopped as Robin looked up from his guitar. He automatically gave her another wide smile. “Ah, Miss Math! Come to tutor me? I’d appreciate it, you know.”

Emma frowned behind her scarf, looking over him. Her brow furrowed, though, as she noticed something missing. “Where’s your lunch?”

Robin looked beside him, as if to search for the missing lunch, then shrugged. “No time to pack one.”

“You could get one inside.”

Robin smiled. “If you buy it.”

Emma pressed her lips together tightly, about to argue, but the obvious answer hit her. Oh. He likely didn’t have money on him. She glanced down at her bag, then held it out to him brusquely. Robin looked at it, then back up to her. She huffed in response.

“Take it. I wanted to buy something anyway,” she said gruffly, making sure not to make eye contact with him. “It’s just a honey sandwich, nothing special.”

She hazarded a look down, and Robin looked genuinely surprised.

“What do you want in return?” he asked, his eyes meeting hers steadily. Emma, surprised at his sudden gravity, shook her head. The last thing they needed was some sort of agreement.

“Just take it, all right?”

Robin blinked, and once again a broad, bright smile lit up his face, almost brightening the gloom of the day. Again Emma was transfixed, the spell not breaking until Robin took a bite of the sandwich.

“You’re very kind. Thank you, Miss Math.”

“Emma.” The name felt loose as it left her lips, as if her mouth had gone slack. Robin looked up, eyes nearly glowing green in the cloudy light.

“Emma,” he repeated. “Short for Emily?”

Emma awoke as he said her name, and she scowled again. “Just Emma,” she replied, then gave a quick goodbye and hurried back into the safety of the warm cafeteria. He was weird. She didn’t like him one whit.

Well. Maybe one whit.

A few weeks passed and an understanding silently formed between them, earning smiles from Robin and awkward waves from Emma as they passed each other in the halls. Robin quietly asked her questions in math, and Emma found herself willing to help rather than simply focusing on herself. She wouldn’t call them friends, no, still acquaintances, but…better acquaintances, if that made sense.

Even so, nothing happened outside of school, and that was fine. So it was understandable that Emma, slightly nervous already from the thunder that shook her windows, nearly jumped out of her skin when she glanced up to see Robin’s amused expression visible through her second-story window with the lightning flash. She took a moment, recovering from her fright, then frowned as she marched over to the window. With a little bit of effort, she managed to push it open, and was greeted by the cool, clean scent of rain, a wet leaf blowing into her hair, and Robin’s bright laugh.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Emma demanded before he could say anything. “How do you even know where I live?”

Robin’s eyes shone merrily from beneath his soaked bangs, sitting as easily on the big oak’s branch as a bird. “We don’t live in a big town, Miss Math; I live right down the street, not that you’ve noticed.” He gave her an entreating smile. “Invite me in?”

She huffed, crossing her arms as she frowned at him. After a moment, she gave a short nod. “What…what were you even doing outside? It’s awful out there!”

Robin gracefully stepped inside, pushing back his soaked hair and tracking in mud and tree bark. “I don’t mind it. And I didn’t have much choice; my parents kicked me out,” he said breezily. He noticed Emma’s hand go to her mouth, and he quickly added, “Oh, not forever! Just for now. They’re fighting and I mouthed off at the wrong time.”

Emma pressed her lips together, unsure what to do with that information. Should she be sympathetic? He didn’t look that upset, though. Why did he even tell her all of that in the first place? A sharp, cold breeze blew in from the window, and she moved to shut it.

“Why’d you even come here?” she asked, turning her head to see Robin wander around her room, nose wrinkling as he left a trail of filth on the clean wood. He shrugged.

“Well, you gave me a sandwich and helped with my math. I figured you were naturally a kind soul,” he said with a half-smile. Emma huffed. “No, really. You’ve talked to me more than anyone else. You must be nice.”

Emma frowned. “Really?”

Robin nodded, green eyes sincere and steady. He looked up as he heard a woman’s voice call up  Emma’s name from downstairs, face sharpening in alarm.

Emma pressed her lips together before going to the door and calling back, “I’ll be down in a sec! I’m finishing my homework!” She looked back up at Robin with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry.”

“Is that your mom?”

“Yeah.” Emma’s eyebrows rose as Robin quickly made his way back to the window.  “I-it’s fine, though! She won’t mind; I mean, she’ll probably—” She stopped as Robin held up his hands. His face relaxed, and he gave her a reassuring smile.

“I’ll leave. Your mom’s probably not anymore fond of intruders than you are.” He opened the window again. Emma squinted against the hard breeze that blew in, mussing up her bun and sending a wave of rain over her now-dirty floor. She watched as Robin carefully exited and perched himself upon the branch. Did he really find her that trustworthy from a sandwich? And what was that reaction when her mom called her? Something was going on with him, something that needed help. She bit her lip, then said, “Emmeline.”

Robin, steady on his branch now, looked up at her. “What?”

Emma shifted her weight, moving an escaped strand of hair behind her ear. “That’s what Emma’s short for. Emmeline.”

Robin looked up at her, face serious for a moment before a bright smile lit up his face. “That’s a pretty name. Emmeline.”

Something stirred in her as his warm voice glided over her name. Something that felt…out of her control. Should she like it? It felt like she should, and yet her chest tightened as she felt it. She played with another loose strand of hair.

“Um…erm, is there…how did you…” She shook her head, getting herself together. “Can you show me how to get on there? From the window?” she asked.

Robin raised his eyebrows. “You’ll get wet. Your hair might even come down,” he teased.

“That’s…” Emma glanced back into her room. The shelves and bed were just as neat as they were before, but the floor still covered in earth and leaves. She took a breath and turned back to him. “That’s okay.”

Robin smiled, and that seemed like enough to settle her nerves. “Here,” he said, holding out his hand for her. “It’s really not that hard.”

Emma hesitated, but she forced herself to take it. It was warm from the few minutes he’d spent inside, and she could feel the strength in his fingers as he wrapped them around hers. Carefully, he pulled her out onto the branch. She fought against it for a moment. However, all it took was one quiet phrase, just loud enough to be heard over the rain, to convince her to come out and join Robin in the tree, regardless of whether she became soaked and dirty.

“I’ve got you.”

That phrase ended up being truer than Emma had expected. Something about that day prompted a change in her. In the weeks that followed, she found them to have moved from better acquaintances to friends, and maybe then some, and as a result, she began to relax. Notes weren’t color-coded, outfits weren’t planned two days in advance, and she even began wearing her hair loose, even though it meant enduring joke after joke about “letting her hair down.” However, everyone–her friends, classmates, even her parents–encouraged her change, saying how nice it was to see her finally stop being so uptight.

As winter passed and edged toward spring, things began to change. Robin’s focus on her seemed laser-pointed. Lizzy assured that this was prompting a declaration of love, but Emma…wasn’t sure. It seemed like a natural progression, but would it change her even more if they actually went somewhere with this…thing they had?

At lunch a few days later, Robin, in a voice breezy as the day, whispered for her to come with him to the wooded area beside the school. Emma bit her lip at the suggestion, glancing up at the clock over the gymnasium. She would have to skip class, something that was complete heresy in Emma’s eyes. Well, it had been. She wasn’t sure if it still was.

Robin’s laugh, still bright as the sun, broke through her thoughts. “Don’t tell me you’d rather sit through history, Miss Math.”

Emma bit her lip. Would she really go against one of her most sacred rules for Robin? She looked up at him, all golden curls and bright green eyes that she’d never been able to read. That first feeling she’d had around him, the pleasantly frightened one, returned to her, though it didn’t feel quite as pleasant this time around. However, there was no malice in Robin’s eyes. She could trust him. He had her. So she offered her hand to him. He grinned as he pulled her up and led her toward the edge of campus. He couldn’t hear the way her heart rattled in her chest as they reached the forest. Emma slipped her hand out from his and stood back. He turned to look at her curiously.


She was someone she hardly recognized. She didn’t care about schoolwork, her hair hung wildly down her back, that neatness she had so loved laid by the wayside in light of this earthy, carefree boy, who for all his mystery and charm she knew next to nothing about, and she hated it. This wasn’t what she wanted.

“Emmeline?” How nicely her name sounded with his voice, how it made the vowels crisp and the consonants glide. Was that why she was here? Because he said her name nicely?

Finally, Emma broke from her six month trance and shook her head. “No.”

Robin frowned, and, as if on cue, a hard wind blasted through the trees. “No?”

Emma shook her head. “I don’t…I don’t want this anymore. I’m not me.” She backed away from him, and to her surprise, Robin remained still, as if rooted to the spot.

Emmeline!” was all he cried. Was he shocked, or did he know that her name was what drew her to him? She shook her head, gathering her windblown hair and attempting to tame it with a hairtie.

“My name is Emma!” she cried back, then turned and ran back to the school. To safety, to warmth, to order.