Words in the description. Just watch it.
Words in the description. Just watch it.
Hi guys, I’m not dead. I’ve been creating another human. I’m not done yet, but my brain threw this at me during a bout of insomnia last night, possibly a last splash of colour in my mind before parenthood takes away my (in)sanity.
Memories of my childhood – precise ones, that is – are few and far between. There is one, however, clear and cold as day even now. I don’t know why this memory is the one that remains, it wasn’t of any grandiose moment in my small existence. Just something that occurred (“happened” sounds too dramatic) on an ordinary day in my ordinary life.
I was coming in from some outdoor activity that my mother never approved of – sea fishing, or hiking up the mountain for plants, or climbing trees and catching monkeys for soup; I could climb higher than the boys, being smaller and thinner than all of them. There was a general air of festive excitement – it must have been Midsummer – and my mother, seeing me enter the kitchen through the back door, immediately turned off the gas cooker and grabbed my wrist, steering me into her bedroom – the only room with a mirror – and sat me down in front of it.
“Dana!” she shouted, “Come here for a moment.”
My twin, though quieter, was no more obedient than I was, and in the end my mother had to go and fetch her from our room (leaving me with a stern order not to move), where she would be mixing some potion or other from the plants I brought home. She entered our mother’s room reluctantly, face straight but eyes betraying her annoyance at having been interrupted in her experiments.
“Sit,” our mother said, pushing her down on a chair next to mine. Glaring at our reflections, she tutted. “You’d think I’d picked one of you up on the roadside.”
I looked at my reflection, and then at Dana’s, wondering who she meant. Me, gold-skinned and wiry, coarse cropped hair bleached blonde by the sun and the sea? Or Dana, pale and thin, her shoulders stooped from leaning over her work, her hair a brown-ish shade that was almost grey? Neither of us resembled her, with her cascade of auburn curls and eyes that changed colour in the light, and which men and women alike had lost their souls to. I concluded that Mother meant that we didn’t resemble each other enough for her liking. When we were little, she used to boast that even she had trouble telling us apart. Now our respective hobbies had taken their toll. Even our eyes were different, I noticed then – Dana’s were a deep, dark blue, whereas mine were paler, more opaque, and streaked in green, as though coloured by the sea.
It was the first time I’d noticed the difference in our eyes, and a sudden shiver shot down my spine despite the midsummer heat, as I was hit with the impression that we were alone in the middle of the ocean, floating away from each other. I felt her hand close on my own, to comfort me or her I didn’t know, and I squeezed it. Her fingers were colder than mine.
THAT’S RIGHT GUYS, I WROTE A SONG
You can applaud now because I’m not sure you’ll still want to after hearing it, but nevertheless, I’m rather proud of it. Especially since I wrote it on a day when I’d actually been trying to work on Glimmerlands and was failing miserably.
So here it is:
I may have mentioned that I’ve been feeling the pressure since going back to uni. Depression has abated, only to be replaced by increased anxiety, including barely-controlled panic attacks, mainly on the morning bus or during morning lessons because I really do hate mornings just that much. Did I say I was going to see a doctor about it? I can’t remember. Most of my working memory right now is taken up by Piaget and Developmental Psychology.
I’d contacted what is basically the equivalent of a school counsellor with the panic attack problem, and we made an appointment for last Friday. Then on Thursday evening I got sick of having this cough that I’ve had for like three weeks now and which has been preventing me from sleeping, and since I was going to see a doctor anyway, BF suggested I tell him about the panic attacks, and I’d already decided that if someone wanted to give me anxiety meds then I might as well take them while we’re waiting for BF to get a job that can pay for me to have therapy again, so I did.
The doctor is a new doctor. He’s a little bit patronizing, but generally nice, he listens, and he’s not stingy when it comes to handing out prescriptions if he thinks you need it. Right now I’m still on antibiotics, cough syrup, paracetamol and that gross sea salt stuff you put up your nose that works like a charm only with a lot more gagging, and that’s just for the cough/cold.
For the panic attacks, he recommended that as soon as I have the money, I go see this collegue of his who does hypnotism, because apparently I look like I’d be very susceptible to that (which is actually quite scary when you think about it). But in the meantime, he prescribed anxiety meds. One to take each evening before bed, and if ever I felt a panic attack coming on I could put a half-pill under my tongue. He also insisted on giving me a little plastic bag, even though I’ve been managing fine (-ish) with just a scarf over my nose and mouth and pretending I feel sick. I don’t want to use a plastic bag because then everyone in the bus will know I’m hyperventilating, and then I’ll have to explain, and whenever I start talking about it I cry, and I hate crying in public. So when he said not to hesitate to take a half-pill when I felt an attack coming on, I thought, great. I probably won’t even need the bag or the scarf.
When my boyfriend saw the meds, he said “Wow.” And he got this worried look on his face, because apprently he’d already taken those particular anxiety meds and they basically knocked him out. I thought, well yeah, that’s normal, I must have a sleep debt several days long by now. I only had two lessons on Friday morning and then my meeting with the counsellor, and then it would be the weekend. And I mean, I had to revise and work on my NaNo novel and all, but health comes first, right? Right. So I took the pill on Thursday night and went to bed. Before I went to sleep, the boyfriend asked me how I felt. I giggled, because my basic overall feeling about everything right then was that I didn’t care much about anything. Then I went to sleep very, very quickly.
I slept like the dead. It was great. Having to get up at half six was not so great, but never mind, I’d sleep on the bus. When I got to the bus stop I found a 17-yr-old classmate and casually told her that I was on anxiety meds so I might fall asleep, and she should wake me up if I didn’t wake up when we got there. It’s worth noting that very, very few people in my class know I’ve ever had panic attacks, or been depressed, and practically nobody knows that I still suffer from anxiety, because admitting it means having to explain and talking about it makes me cry and I hate crying in public. I think she didn’t really know how to react to this information, and it was like half seven for her too, so she just nodded.
I didn’t fall asleep on the bus, but I did almost trip quite a few times on the walk from the bus stop to college. I kept bumping into tables and people when we got into class, and even though it was music, which is one of my favourite lessons, I wasn’t very reactive at all. By the time we got into Maths, I was having trouble staying awake. In fact I might have fallen asleep through the lesson if we hadn’t had to group up to create a preschool-adapted math activity. There was a lot of noise, a lot of interrupting, and I couldn’t follow any of it but I was expected to participate, and gradually it started to feel like that Russian prank video where they put a metal pot over the guy’s head while he’s sleeping and bang spoons on it and yell to wake him up, only sort of more constant, and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster, and I could feel the neckline of my top strangling me even though it wasn’t touching my throat…
The doc had said not to hesitate, so I slipped one of the half-pills I’d prepared the night before under my tongue. It worked, of course, though even as I was taking it I wondered what it would do to me, if the whole one from last night was knocking me out this much.
The lesson ended. People left. I stayed, because I had my meeting, and ate in the classroom. Or tried to. I took one bite of my cheese and egg salad sandwich, gagged and spat it out. So it was one of those days. Ok. I ate the yoghurt and the apple and bought a packet of gingerbread slices from the vending machine, and wasn’t hungry any more. I sat on my own and tried not to cry. A class delegate came in, I jumped and concentrated on my food, hmm-ing a greeting. She left. I tried to pull myself together. It was nearly time. I went down to the counselling room.
There are like three teachers who look just like each other, and the counsellor is one of them. I told her everything, through tears that I’d known were inevitable. She was very nice and understanding, and she gave me some phone numbers for therapists that are either cheap or reimbursed by social security, but as I’d suspected, it wasn’t really her role to help me with this particular problem. She’s really there to help people with learning difficulties, disabilities, or difficult circumstances (like the few girls who get pregnant every year) to keep up with their studies. I couldn’t stop crying, and when she said that it looked to her like I was still depressed it occurred to me that perhaps taking the pressure off, medically, had put me back in depression. Pressure – de-pression. That’s how it always works with me.
I dried my eyes, pulled myself together somehow and left. I was elsewhere. I was really very absent, and it occurred to me that I should take care when crossing roads, and that I was glad my campus is mostly pedestrian. When I got to the bus stop there was still half an hour until my bus came, so I sat down to wait.
Five minutes later a girl sits down next to me with a Lush bag. I stare at the Lush bag. I can smell it from there. Suddenly I want something from Lush. If I get something from Lush, it’ll make this whole day worthwhile. I ask the girl where the Lush shop is, and she tells me, and I jog off for some impulse shopping.
I haven’t been to Lush in over a year, since I left France. I’m so out of it that I walk past the shop before the smell of it entices me back. I wander in, listen to the nice lady do her talk at me, then tell her I have a budget of no more than 5€ for a present (I don’t mention that the present is for me), because even when I’m heavily medicated I remain a stingy and paranoid, thank god. She shows me those fizzy bath things, and I spend a little while sniffing them until they start making me sneeze uncontrollably; then I buy the first one I can grab. They give me a little free sample of solid shampoo and I am ridiculously pleased. I leave the shop, return to the bus stop, realise I’m ten minutes late, and ring my boyfriend to come and pick me up. He tells me to wait for him in the car park, so I find a wooden stool to sit on and wait.
There are lots of dead leaves on the ground. When I stare at them for too long, they start moving in my peripheral vision, shifting gently back and forth like waves in the sea. I frown, focussing on the moving leaves, and they stop. It’s ok, I think just an optical illusion, like the ones you see on the Internet. I try again, staring at one point but watching my peripheral vision. It starts again. I stop it. Start again. The movement seems to shift closer to me, and I wonder what will happen if I let it reach my feet, or the stool I’m sitting on. I stare again, and this time I let the shifting get wider and closer, until it’s at my feet. I swear my feet are moving. I can even feel a tiny stone being displaced underneath my shoe, and hear it scratch the ground. Am I the one moving my feet without realising it? I let the movement reach the stool. It feels like I’m sitting on a boat, or a swing, or a hammock. It feels peaceful. It occurs to me that I should probably be worried about this. I don’t care much.
Boyfriend rings. He’s waiting at the other car park. I abandon my vision and walk over, watching out for cars. We bicker about which car park he meant, I start to cry. He hugs me, we get in the car. I cry all the way home. I curl up on the sofa, then he walks me to bed (it is 4pm), and the next thing I remember is waking up there the next morning, fully clothed.
I slept 14 hours. On the way home he called my name eight times before I answered. I told him not to worry about the hallucination. I wonder how I appeared to the counsellor, or the Lush saleswoman, or my classmates, but I don’t remember any of them acting any different towards me than usual. I think what really knocked me out – on top of the meds – was fatigue.
Needless to say, I’m not taking them any more. Yesterday was spent at a write-in, alternately working on my novel and doing coursework. I’m still in picky-food mode, I still had to go to the loo to cry last night. But I’m feeling more myself today, whatever that means. Tomorrow I’m going back to the doctor’s to try and find an alternative solution to the panic attack problem – one that doesn’t involve hallucinogenic tranquillizers.
I haven’t been posting much. I haven’t made any videos lately, either. This is mostly because since I went back to uni, I’ve been busy studying, socializing and stubbornly not thinking about how terrifying both these activities are for me.
I’m very good at this. Better than I realised, even after all that introspection and self-tolerance I was forced to learn last year. You have less time for introspection when you’re studying and socializing all the time, and when your environment reminds you of high school, self-tolerance is hard to keep up. You can’t think “it’s ok, I’m allowed to cry” because you’re in public and people will look askance and want a rational explaination. I hate to lie, but even if I didn’t, the dead uncle excuse only works for a few weeks tops.
But today I’ve been forced to take a day off by a minor physical illness which is the latest in a long series since I went back to uni. I went to the doctor, who took my tension, said it was a bit low, and gave me two days off instead of just the one I intended to take. I was going to go in tomorrow anyway, but the boyfriend has put his foot down, which is a rare thing and a sign that I should pay attention.
After an afternoon of reading webcomics, sleeping, and otherwise idling in bed, I realised that in the absence of anything to do, I was spending all my time worrying. Anxiety is my big nemesis right now, so this doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but what got me thinking was the extent to which this worrying was, in fact, ruining my life, and had been since I started uni.
The classroom environment is a particular one: everyone knows you, but they don’t really know you. Nobody knows I’m bi. Very few people know I get panic attacks, and I only mentioned them in passing, like they were something that used to happen a long time ago. Nobody knows I’ve ever been depressed, or mentally ill at all. I’m that girl who dresses like a geek and who’s a bit older than everyone else – what, twenty-eight? Jesus. Quite a lot older, then. I get along with most people, though I know several think me odd for not wearing any make-up or straightening my hair every morning. I’m nice, not bitchy, a morning zombie, I complain a lot about the price of syllabi, take notes faster than anyone else (though not many people can read them) and I can draw, sort of. Occasionally I’m a bit cold and distant, but I think people are beginning to understand that it’s unintentional, and just means I’m preoccupied.
Nobody knows just how preoccupied I am, though. When I think about it, I always have some worry running in the background of my mind. These days the worries closest to the surface are a) that I’ll fail my studies, b) that I’ll somehow ruin my carefully constructed normal-person class persona and everyone will hate me, and c) that my boyfriend will go from interview to interview without ever landing a job and in the end it will break him and I’ll have to quit uni to go back to nannying while he finds an antidepressant that doesn’t interfere with his epilepsy meds.
When I dig a little deeper, there’s more: I worry about the friends I haven’t seen in a while, who are unemployed or depressed or have some other really bad shit going on that I can’t directly help with. I worry about my mum not being able to make ends meet, about my little sisters never getting to do the things they love, about my dad working himself to death. I don’t actually think about these background worries very often. I’m just always very glad to see those people, to be able to hug them and see them smile, and reassure myself that the bad things that I’ve imagined for them haven’t happened, that we’re safe for another while.
Because part of my worrying process is imagining all these bad scenarios. Initially, I guess it was a reflex used to reassure myself (this might seem contradictory, but hear me out). And it has served me: for instance, I was so anxious about not being allowed to sign up for uni because I had the wrong papers that when it actually happened, I already had plans B and C mapped out in my head. My boyfriend, who wasn’t expecting it, was more devastated than I was, and in the end I got back in within less than a week because I reacted quickly.
The fact that this habit has been useful in the past obviously doesn’t help me get rid of it, so I’m trying to concentrate on why it’s bad for me. Obviously, imagining getting mugged by that aggressive-looking guy lurking on the street corner is never going to help me in any way. My brain is too realistic to let me imagine winning in a fight (I have taken one self-defense class), and too paranoid to accept that he’s probably just had a bad day and wants to be left alone. The same goes for my vengeance fantasies for if ever anyone sexually assaults one of my sisters: I can imagine leaving that to my dad (though he would probably leave it to the police because he’s not crazy), but I’d prefer not to think about that kind of stuff happening to them at all, because a) the chances of it happening are definitely lower than my paranoid brain will admit, and b) even if it did, I’m 500 miles away and wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop it.
Hell, even when I was living with them, I probably couldn’t prevent such things from happening. I have to trust their judgement (which as far as I know has served them well enough up till now), and hope I’ll have dropped this habit before I have kids of my own.
Except that I no longer think it’s that simple. The only times I remember being worry-free in my life (apart from early childhood, and odd moments when I’m on holiday) have been when I was so depressed I’d decided there was no point in trying to do anything. In a way, it was a relief to be that depressed. But in the same way, it’s a relief being anxious after so long being depressed, because anxiety means I have a goal in my life. It’s just that the anxiety also spills over into every single aspect of my existence.
Today, I finally admitted to myself that I was having doubts about my decision to become a teacher. I’d been in denial about this for weeks, but I’m glad I did address it, because I’ve realized that the reasons behind my doubts all have to do with my anxiety. Because of the anxiety I feel even on good days, I have trouble relaxing at home, and feel the need to spend hours and hours on the internet to disconnect from my classroom mindset and become myself again. And recently it’s stopped working – I’m always in the classroom mindset. So I spent longer and longer on the internet, and don’t write up my classroom notes, and do my homework at the last minute, which makes the anxiety worse. Then I sleep badly and wake up feeling unstable and panicky, and spend the whole day trying not to burst into tears in front of the whole class. When I get home I cry there instead, which worries my boyfriend, which makes me feel guilty, because he has enough on his plate already, and I really should be doing my best to concentrate on my studies to make it worthwhile for him to be supporting me, and he senses that guilt and it makes him feel guilty for making me feel guilty, and then our roommate sees us upset and doesn’t know what to do to make us feel better, and so on.
And I know that being a teacher is a more than full-time job. Being responsible not only for the continued well-being but also the education of 30 kids at a very impressionable age is not a job to choose lightly, and I now wonder, with my obsessive worrying and need for me-time, if I will be able to do it and continue to write, have a family, a social life, a love life. Lesson planning takes up a lot of personal time, and so far I haven’t been very organised with my homework. What happens if I get ill? What happens if I have a nervous breakdown? What if my mental kids-first barrier breaks one day and I have a breakdown in front of a class?
All this doesn’t mean I don’t want to become a teacher any more. I just don’t know if I’m capable of it. I used to consider my mental health to be my problem, a private matter that nobody I worked with needed to know about, since it didn’t affect them. And for a long time, it was. But the goal I’ve given myself requires me to rethink that. I can no longer put off doing something about this, because if I do, other people will get hurt.
PS – this blog post counts as my NaNoWriMo daily wordcount, even though it really doesn’t, because I need to feel like I’ve achieved something today, please.
So this happened this morning.
Winter is coming… and with it, NaNoWriMo.
I’m apologize for the overused pop culture reference. I’m tired, and can’t think of anything better.
This year I’m going to try and write tome 2 of the Glimmerlands. Given that I’m quite far from having finished the first rewriting of tome 1, the results with probably be laughable, but I’m sick of my own snail’s pace, so I’m trying to speed things up a bit. Hopefully it’ll inspire me to stop dithering over Wingroots.
I have no name for tome 2, as yet. Suggestions welcome, though I’ll probably just end up choosing a combination of fairy-ish words like with the first one.
This is what I’ve been getting up to in lessons.
In my defense, I’m very good at taking notes. I didn’t miss anything in order to draw this. Also, it was necessary for medical reasons.
Arwyn was lost. She hadn’t left the castle, but three moons of living there weren’t nearly enough to memorise the endless tunnels, halls and chambers that riddled the hill. It wasn’t so much the rooms themselves, than the ways in which they sometimes disappeared, reappearing elsewhere, or led to someplace completely different. There were certain patterns to their wandering; however, each place had a different pattern, and Arwyn hadn’t figured all of them out yet.
Usually, finding her way around was a question of willpower. The will of the castle could be overpowered with glamour, just like a living being, as long as one remained alert. Arwyn, however, had come to the Glimmerlands with a dangerous tendency to let her mind wander, which would have made her excellent prey to certain rare species of man-eating fairies, had she truly been human. As it was, it meant that Orren had spent much of their first moon home fetching her back from secret courtyards and hidden wine cellars with fast-waning patience.
Since then, she had learned to glamour her way back from wherever she found herself, although Orren would have been alarmed if he’d known how often she still had to do it. Lack of incentive had a lot to do with it: secretly, Arwyn liked getting lost.
Today she found herself wandering down a tunnel so long that she couldn’t see either end of it. She walked down it for a little while longer, but it didn’t lead anywhere interesting so eventually she put her hands on the earthen wall and asked the castle to take her back. The trick was to try to sound like a brownie, as they were the guardians of hearth and home, and homes obeyed them. She’d met some of the castle brownies, but they didn’t talk much. They were always occupied with some task, and got irritated if you kept them from it.
“Hello Castle,” she said, making her voice a little deeper and more gravelly than usual. “Take me back to the moonlit courtyard please? I’d much appreciate it.” She stroked the wall, and it hardened into a wooden door. “Many thanks,” she said, opening it.
The circular moonlit courtyard was Arwyn’s favourite place in the castle so far. It was usually empty and always brightly lit, even on moonless nights, by floating spidersilk lanterns that drifted here and there like so many brightly-coloured ghosts. The courtyard also held a series of odd wood-root statues that in turn held small mirrors, probably sneaked in from Cat’s Court by an inventive ancestor. These placed in such a way that, depending on what phase of the moon it was, the light they reflected cast shadowy images on the walls. Orren had told her there were stories behind the images, but these had been lost in time, when writing had been banned and before tellers began to learn the lesser histories.
The statues rose from gaps in the mosaic that covered the ground, the image of which shifted according to the mood in the castle. Today it depicted a tall yellow beauty surrounded by bowing subjects, all lined up to with gifts: Arwyn had accidentally introduced her to the notion of birthdays, and Yorwen had decided to overlook the fact that it was a human tradition and adopt it as yet another excuse to have a party. Today, she had decided, was her own birthday, and every one of her Borderland subjects had to give her a present. Gifts had indeed been arriving since moonrise, and piles of them now littered the entrance hall. Orren had managed to persuade her to have them displayed in store rooms, where she could open them later, and was now occupied giving orders to the team of servants charged with carting them away.
This suited Arwyn. Her brother had barely left her alone of late, and she was getting tired of his company – and that of Echo. It was good to be alone again.
Movement nearby caught her eye. She turned as though to walk away from it, then spun when she saw it again – to find Tarendal facing her.
“Ah,” he said, a little ruefully. “I didn’t expect to find you here, my lady.”
“Nor I you,” she said. “But it surprises me more that you tried to sneak out without greeting me. Are we not supposed to be lovers?” She smiled at the surprise on his face.
“Not that I’d refuse should you choose me to be your lover, lady,” said the elf, licking his lips, “but I fear I might get you into trouble, should you be found with me, ah, right now.”
She frowned as she noticed how his glamour flickered, leading her eyes away from… where?
“What’s that in your pocket?”
For a second she doubted that she’d seen anything in his pocket, but then his glamour dropped altogether.
Arwyn stared at one of the first unglamoured fairies she’d ever seen, and wondered what she was about to hear. Fairies dropped glamour on the rare occasions when they took oaths, for though they couldn’t lie, it was traditional to show one’s true self as proof of honesty in such times. Nervous under her gaze, Tarendal glanced around before pulling her to a bench in the shadow of a statue.
“Please forgive me for even thinking of hiding this from you, my Lady, but I didn’t know how you… how I should…” He stopped. Without glamour, his long, thin fairy traits were exaggerated, and yet his awkwardness made him look almost human. He took a deep breath.
“I know I said I couldn’t find anything about the identity of the girl you used to be,” he began, “but what you said about her reminded me of a – no more than a rumour, really – about a child who had been found in the woods one day and adopted into a certain household. What struck me was that when I went in on a routine mission for artefacts to sell, I asked around, and the humans of the village all seemed to have forgotten about it. They did mention a young lady who had disappeared into the woods quite recently… that would be you.
“One of the humans was particularly talkative, and she showed me where the girl had lived. I went back in the night to see if I could find out anything else, and while I was searching I came across a woman… and this woman could see me for what I was. She didn’t seem alarmed. On the contrary, she looked like she’d been waiting for me, and before I could speak, she said ‘I know you’re not the one who took her. I know…'” he stopped, troubled. “I… can’t remember all of it. She made it clear that she knew where you were, and who had taken you, and she asked me to give you this.”
He opened his hand.
Arwyn clapped her hands over her mouth. She reached out her hand to touch the silver object, making sure it was real, then withdrew.
“There is glamour on this.”
“It is not mine,” said Tarendal. “That’s what I found curious. I could feel a fixed glamour on it – an unbreakable one, if you will, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were magicked, too. But the oddest thing was that I also felt glamour on the woman who gave it to me, and yet there wasn’t another fairy in sight.”
On Mother? Arwyn thought. Somebody was lending her their glamour, the way Orren had lent Arwyn his? Who? And why?
She picked up the locket and opened it. In one side was a cracked mirror, in the other, a watch. Leah had often let her play with it as a child. She remembered playing in the forest with Kieran and John, and…
The names surprised her, coming so readily into her mind after three moons of them slipping through her fingers like water. If only the rest would come as easily… there had been something special about this locket, she remembered. The watch never worked, but it had been an essential part of their games.
Questions spun in her mind. She picked one at random.
“Can humans use glamour?”
“No,” said Tarendal. “But they can lie without consequence, which is a much better power, if you ask me. Glamour can be sensed, whereas lies cannot.”
“My father… her father, he always knew when I was lying.”
“But he is a wordsmith, is he not?” Arwyn looked at him, surprised. “The woman who showed me where your foster family lived mentioned it. A man who writes lies and sells them for a living must surely be an expert on the matter.”
Arwyn nodded slowly. It was fairy logic, certainly, but she had learned that fairy logic was far more often applicable in Cat’s Court than its inhabitants would think – the grown-up ones, at least.
The memory of a dream fluttered through her consciousness. She strained to maintain her glamour over the blush that warmed her cheeks, then felt oddly guilty for maintaining it before Tarendal’s pure honesty. She hesitated, but had to know.
“Tarendal, did you meet a dark-haired boy called John? He was a chandler’s son. We were… friends.”
Tarendal shook his head. “I spoke to several people, but most of them were of higher rank than a chandler would be, or else house slaves.”
“Servants,” she corrected him.
“What’s the difference?” he asked.
“Servants are paid. They can leave for better employment if they wish to.”
“So they are allowed to choose their masters.” Tarendal seemed to consider this, then shrugged in the face of what appeared to him to be a purely human distinction.
Another question pushed its way to the front of her mind.
“The person who showed you the house… what did she look like?”
“Quite fairy-ish, actually, for a human,” he said. “Long, silver hair, pale, delicately pointed features. If you don’t mind my saying so, Lady Arwyn, you look more human sometimes with glamour than she did without it.”
Arwyn frowned, and Tarendal’s smile wavered. “Sorry,” he added, “I didn’t think you’d take that badly, since you grew up there and all…”
“Oh! I’m not offended.” And she laughed, because after three moons of trying to fit into fairy society, she still clung to her own humanity. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know who you’re talking about. She was called Lucy, am I right?”
“Miss Farrel was the name I addressed her with.”
“We didn’t get on very well, so I’m not in the least surprised that she would gossip about me. What does surprise me is… Tarendal, when you are in Cat’s Court, who do you pretend to be?”
Tarendal grinned. “A historian,” he said proudly. Then he added, “Or an explorer, or an auctioneer, depending on where I am. But in Edgewood, I’m a historian.”
“How can you be a historian without knowing how to read?”
Terror flooded his face for an instant before reflex kicked in and he glamoured it over. “Lady Arwyn, such topics are taboo,” he murmured.
“Sorry,” she said, even as she wondered if he had indeed taught himself to read. Tarendal was fascinated with all things human; that was part of what had drawn her to him in the first place. Another part was his refreshing disregard for fairy rules. It wouldn’t be surprising, she realized, if he could read.
She looked at the silver locket in her hands again. “How does it work?” she wondered.
“It looks to me like a finding or scrying device,” Tarendal said, visibly glad to change the subject. “They’re quite common in the Seelie Court, as true magic is permitted there. This one is unusual in that it has both magic and glamour on it, though I can’t tell what the glamour is supposed to be for…” He bent over her hands, peering at the locket. His hair tickled them and she wondered if he’d done it on purpose.
He straightened. “It doesn’t seem dangerous. I recommend experimenting with it.”
“How?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Tap it, shake it, throw it at things. Speak to it. Ask it questions. Try to glamour it as something else and see what happens. Sleep with it under your pillow… but glamour your room first, and lock your door.” He chuckled. “Don’t show it to Orren, whatever you do. I hesitated to give it to you in case it put you in danger somehow, and I came here to think alone, but I’m glad you found me. You asked me to help you, and you are not a child to be coddled. I can only trust your judgement in this.”
Something about him in that moment sent a rush of nostalgia for Cat’s Court through her, and suddenly she wished she could return there, if only for a day, to embrace the people who had once been her family. And John. Loneliness filled her chest.
“Arwyn? You seem upset.”
Tarendal touched her face, and she leaned into his hand. “I miss them,” she whispered. “I understand that my whole human identity was a lie from start to finish, but the bonds I shared with those people… they were real, Tarendal. I loved them. I loved Edgewood. I didn’t know it, but I loved being Darcy Sullivan.”
Tarendal pulled her into his arms, and she let her glamour drop the way he had before. Oh, but it felt good to cry real tears! She buried her face in his shoulder and tried to sob quietly as he stroked her back and murmured reassurances, like a father to his child.
After a while she pulled back and wiped her eyes, then looked up at him, smiling ruefully. He looked troubled.
“Arwyn,” he said. “Did you love being Darcy Sullivan more than you love being Arwyn of the Border?”
Yes, she thought. Of course she did. But she couldn’t say that aloud in her mother’s house. Not after the trouble and grief both Yorwen and Orren had gone through after her disappearance. Not now that she was back home, and everything was alright again.
“I’ll be fine,” she said instead. “I just need to get used to it. It’s harder than I thought.”
He smiled back at her then. “That’s alright, then,” he said, just the way John would have, and she wondered if he’d managed to lie to her after all.
A rough translation of a facebook post I wrote after getting royally fucked by the system yesterday.
“Yes, hi, sorry to bother you…
To help you understand, I need to explain my situation from the beginning. This may take a while, my apologies in advance.
I’m of British nationality, but I’ve done all my past studies in France. I have a completely useless DUT [2-year technical diploma], a CAP in Childcare [more or less A-Level, specific to a certain job], and the Baccalaureat [actual, general A-Level equivalent].
My CAP got me work as an agency nanny in France for 4 years, but when I moved up to Belgium to be with my boyfriend, the agency didn’t want to sign me off because then they would have to pay me a redundancy allowance. So I had to quit, which meant that I wasn’t allowed the dole in France, and since I had no rights there, they couldn’t transfer those rights here in Belgium. The ONEM [organisation in charge of unemployment benefits in Belgium] has informed me that in I want benefits, I’ll have to work for one year here in Belgium, and then get signed off.
Therefore, I’m entirely dependant on my boyfriend, who was employed when I got here, but isn’t any more. We’re currently living on his benefits and savings.
Last year, I wanted to send my diplomas to the equivalence service to see what they were worth in Belgium, but they told me there wasn’t a Belgian equivalence for the French diplomas I had (aka – they were worth nothing). They did say that if an employer saw them, he or she might accept them anyway – at the very least, they’d see that, since I’d been to university, I must have a higher education level than the Baccalaureat. Therefore, I didn’t need to get the equivalence for my Baccalaureat. It’s a French diploma, I’m living in the French-speaking part of Belgium, and besides, everyone here knows that the Bac is equivalent to their CESS.
Unfortunately, since my diplomas (CAP and DUT) had no equivalence in Belgium, I spent a year looking for a job with no luck whatsoever (unless you count undeclared babysitting). In the end I took a course put in place by the job centre and Manpower, during which we were coached in order to find a job, or at least another course which would allow us to find a job afterwards.
The coach, after studying my CV, my equivalence problems etc., advised me to go back to university and become a preschool teacher. I thought carefully about it, but with his encouragement, I finally decided to go back to school.
I knew it would be another 3 years of being financially dependant on my boyfriend, as I’d have little time to work. I knew it would be difficult at first, since he’s lost his job after his third nervous breakdown (and 3 epileptic fits). The fees are around 800€ per year, not counting bus fees, syllabi and the art supplies I’d need for certain lessons. If I was allowed benefits, it would be easier, since preschool teacher is a job very much in demand and so usually you get to keep your benefits, if you had them in the first place. Since I didn’t, I looked into grants, which I could ask for once I was signed up for the course, and if I didn’t get that, well the school itself had a social service with a certain budget for students in financial difficulty. I imagined finding a week-end job, or babysitting in the evenings. My boyfriend supported me once he realised it was what I really wanted to do.
I made my decision on the 17th of July. But in the list of documents needed to sign me up, there was the Bac equivalence, or at least a paper saying I’d sent for one. The deadline to send off for the equivalence was the 15th of July, two days before the decision. We spoke with the school and with the equivalence service, and they said it would be fine as long as I sent off for the equivalence as soon as the service reopened on the 15th of november. I had the Bac, it was just a formality, so I should be able to sign up and attend lessons, and I’d have the papers dealt with in time for the first exams in January.
I did the pre-application thing as soon as the school reopened ont the 18th of August. I started attending on Monday 15th of September, two days ago, with everyone else. I had my appointment to sign up today. The secretaries informed me that without the equivalence, or the paper saying I’d sent off for one, they couldn’t let me apply, and – this was the worst part – I couldn’t attend lessons without being insured.
I could wait for the 15th of November, when the service opens for next year’s candidates, but by then I’ll have missed more than half the semester, the first week of my internship, and the prep lessons leading up to it. Many of the lessons are practical; if I can’t attend, photocopying somebody’s notes and revising with the syllabus isn’t going to cut it during the January exams.
And let me tell you that after the year I’ve just spent unemployed, on this perpetual paper chase (despite not being allowed any form of aid), between the depression, panic attacks, desperate job hunting and my growing collection of rejection slips; the prospect of another year like that, waiting to receive that one piece of paper that will allow me to finally move forward, doesn’t appeal to me one bit.
It’s funny, because during my first (and perhaps only) lessons yesterday, I learned that one of the rules applied to French-speaking schools in Belgium is that all teachers must allow their students to acquire the competences necessary to find their own place in society, become responsible citizens, and – most ironically – emancipate themselves from whatever poverty or financial difficulties they were born to, or found themselves in before they arrived in school. How am I supposed to become a responsible citizen and escape my own financial difficulties if I’m not allowed to attend lessons and get a diploma that counts in this damn country?
Don’t get me started on the Bologna declaration, the so-called free movement of students between European countries thanks to the ECTS… I stopped believing in that fairy tale a while ago, when one of my friends with a Spanish Master’s degree in Art was informed that according to Belgian law, her level of education doesn’t go any higher than primary school.
So I’m applying for a derogation to the diploma equivalence application deadline. I’m told you make exceptions for circumstances outside of applicants’ control. Personally I can’t remember what it feels like to have any form of control over my life, so please, Mr. or Mrs. Bureaucracy, give me the damn paper, so I can finally become a productive member of society. That’s all I ask.”
“Can’t guarantee you’ll get it, but that’ll be 170€.”