the academy, chapter two


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“Wasn’t it wonderful?” Joan sighed, her eyes glazed.

Joan was a house fairy, small and slight boned, and a little beer went a long way. And she had consumed more than a little beer. As a result, she was now having trouble focusing.

Or rather, Bea corrected herself, Joan was having trouble focusing her eyes; her conversation, on the other hand, had remained determinedly fixed on the Royal Wedding they had attended a few days ago, the grand finale to the Plot she had completed.

Melly, a red-haired elf, raised an eyebrow. “Wonderful,” she agreed dryly. “All that pomp and ceremony? Who wouldn’t enjoy it?”

“Oh shut up,” Joan grinned. “I saw you having fun, you know. Bea saw you too, didn’t you, Bea?”

Bea held her hands up, narrowly avoiding knocking over her glass of wine. This took a lot more skill than might initially be apparent. Their table, situated in a corner of the type of pub that would consider spit and sawdust to be showing off, looked like a battle was being fought between two opposing armies.

It was obvious already who the victors would be.

The empty glasses had taken control of the field, their troops amassing in greater numbers around the perimeter, while the full drinks were fighting a losing stand from the centre. With all the inevitability of war, it was clear they would soon be joining their fallen comrades, only to be replaced by younger troops.

“Don’t get me involved,” Bea said. “It’s my last night here before leaving for the Academy, I don’t want to spend it sitting in judgment over whether Mel had fun or not.” She took a sip of her drink. “Although you clearly did, Melly.”

The elf glared at her, but Bea knew Melly well enough to know she was trying to mask a smile.

“I might have enjoyed it. In parts,” Melly admitted.

“Esh’pesh’ly that part where you were dancing on the table,” Joan said.

“I think everyone enjoyed that part,” Bea added.

“Well,” Melly said, “I wanted to blend in. It was a wedding.”

Joan stifled a burp. “I know what we should talk about. S’more important than Melly dancin’ on tables.”

Melly feigned puzzlement. “What’s more important than me dancing?”

“Bea,” Joan said, waving her hand enthusiastically at Bea, “Is wearing a new dress. And, I reckon, because it’s still in one piece, it’s one she had made. I’m right, aren’t I? Bea? Bea? Bea? Or should I say, Miss Godmother!”

Bea fiddled with the sleeves of her grey dress, silently cursing the fact that when you owned so little, everything new was noticeable.

“I thought I needed a change. A fresh start, a new me, that kind of thing. I was thinking I might even let the grey dye grow out of my hair – you know, get back to my roots. Ahaha. And there’s this meet-and-greet thingy tomorrow morning, before we leave for the Academy. I want to make a good impression. Make friends. Influence people.” Bea coughed, aware she was babbling.

Melly stared at her. And then she shook her head, obviously deciding that now wasn’t the right time to say what was on her mind. Instead, she reached into her sleeve and pulled out a slim onyx case. She opened it up and extracted a thin, black cigarette, which she lit and drew on deeply.

Bea felt the whole activity was done with very pointed and over-the-top exactitude, but she didn’t say anything, either.

“It’s amazing, really,” Joan said, the beer apparently making her oblivious to the sudden atmosphere between Melly and Bea. Or possibly she was choosing to ignore it. Growing up in a large family, Joan was used to what she called ‘friendly disagreements’. “You’re goin’ to the Academy! All your dreams comin’ true – the firs’ fairy to ever be accepted to train! I never thought I’d see the day when the GenAm recognoged, no, no, I mean, recognished a fairy.”

“Yup, that’s me,” Bea said, pasting a smile onto her face. “Cabbage fairy made good. Well almost, anyway. I’m not actually a Fiction Management Executive yet. For some reason I have to finish the training before I can call myself that.”

Joan’s eyes were beginning to cross. “You’ll finish,” she said, “And then you’ll become the best godmother ever, and then, then, after that, you’ll be a Plotter too, and then Narrator.”

“Woah, woah," Bea laughed, aware Melly’s eyes were still on her. "I just want to keep my head down and get through training. I’m not going to cause any trouble. Not like last time.” She wondered if she’d said that for Melly’s benefit or her own.

“No, no, no,” Joan said, shaking her head vigorously. “That’s not right at all. I know you’ll do something amazing, Bea. You will. You’re gonna fall in a mystery or, or, or solve a love. You’re gonna do a’nother Rags To Riches, or one of the Hero Quests. You’re not gonna sit around like some sitting around fairy. You’re stubborn. You’re nosy. You’re-”

And with that Joan’s head hit the table, the beer suddenly getting the better of her.

Bea reached across to check on her friend. “It always surprises me how quickly she goes when she goes. There’s never any warning.”

Melly drained her glass of red. “I don’t think she gets any warning either. Let’s get her home. And then you and I need to have a talk.”