February 2022’s short story of the month
All right, maybe it wasn’t the best way to start off a conversation. In my own way, I was trying to take her side. It’s not easy to take her side, and very few people do. She has two, maybe three real friends in the world. There’s me, there’s Tilly, and of course, Mitchell.
As soon as the words left my mouth, she glared at me with those solid black eyes that seemed to reflect everything they were seeing, and at the same time, suck everything in like a black hole. It was really hard to turn away from that stare, even if it made me question my sanity.
“What did you say to me?” Finch asked through clinched teeth.
“Um…” I couldn’t gather my thoughts. How did she do that to people? “What I said was despite what Conner said, I think your new outfit looks very traditional. Great choice for picture day.” I took a step back as I finished repeating myself.
Finch’s beak snapped shut, and she blew air out of her nares. “I don’t care what you think. I don’t need you or anyone else to approve of my choices.” When she said approve, she made air quotes and rolled her eyes. She stomped away.
I didn’t move for several seconds, and before I had a chance to decide whether or not to go after her, I felt something land on my shoulder. I didn’t have to turn and look. It was Tilly.
“What’s ol’ Finchy mad about this time?” asked Tilly.
“Don’t call her Finchy. She hates that.” I didn’t answer Tilly’s question because I was too busy trying to figure out why what I’d said made Finch so angry. Harpies were hard to get along with, but I thought after years of being friends, I was finally understanding Finch—apparently not though. I shrugged and Tilly giggled. I’d forgotten she was on my shoulder. “Why don’t you just teleport to class? Why do you like hitching a ride with me so much?”
“Oh, I see, the crankiness is contagious. Later then.” There was a popping sound as she disappeared.
I was still trying to replay the incident with Finch in my mind. I got the books I needed and supplies from my locker. Putting my forehead on the locker, I sighed.
“What’s eating you?” asked a raspy voice beside me.
“Hi, Mitchell,” I answered without looking up. “I made Finch mad again.”
“Hmm…” he didn’t finish his thought but kept repeating the same sound over and over.
It took me a few seconds to realize he was having phasing problems. Today was really not off to a good start. In only a few minutes at school, I’d managed to anger a harpy, spread my crankiness to the happiest creature on the planet—a leprechaun—and send a ghost into a loop that wouldn’t allow him to fully form on our plane of existence.
What else could possibly go wrong today?
I should know better to think things like that. It’s like directly challenging the universe to make things worse for you.
The challenge was apparently accepted by my history teacher—Mr. Avenue. As I sat at my desk, waiting for class to begin, Tilly ignored me, and Mitchell and Finch were no where to be seen.
“Attention class! Attention everyone!” He stamped all four of his hooves until everyone settled down. He brushed his mane over his right shoulder before he continued.
“That’s better,” he said. “I have a big announcement. Today you will be paired up with one another and the subject of your final projects for the year will be assigned.” He clapped his hands and stomped again.
The room shook a little whenever he got excited. I often wondered if the school had recently had any structural checks done. How many centaur teachers did we have now? Three? Four? I couldn’t remember just then, but I was sure that too many horses trapsing through the building had to be bad for the support beams.
“Okay. I’m going to use my magic hat to select names,” Mr. Avenue said, and with a flourish, he pulled the baseball cap out of thin air. A few of the brown nosers timidly clapped.
The rest of us just waited. Pulling things out of thin air was Mr. Avenue’s favorite pastime. We’d only seen him work that spell every day of the school year.
He started listing pairs of names.
“Morgana and Finch.”
Good news, I was working on my final history project with my best friend. Bad news, she was mad at me—again. It’d been happening more and more lately. Everything I said to her was the wrong thing, and somehow, I managed to offend her harpy sensibilities.
Mr. Avenue was still talking. “Okay, now that everyone has a partner, I will use my magic hat to assign topics.”
The pairs were given things like the First Magical World War, the Leprechaun Rebellion of 1920, or The Great Fairy Migration. All the subjects were big moments in magical history that were easily researched.
“Morgana and Finch,” Mr. Avenue looked at me as he reached into the hat and pulled out a little slip of paper. “The Fall of King Arthur.”
I groaned and buried my head in my hands. How on Earth could I possibly be expected to write about that? My ancestors were directly linked to it, and in my house, it was a subject that was forbidden.
My ancestors were on the wrong side of history with that one, and we did NOT bring it up.
“These projects will require you to learn your subject area backward and forward. You will each present them during the showcase.” There was a collective groan from the whole class. “Settle down. You’ll live through it. As I was saying,” Mr. Avenue continued, “you will present your subjects at the end of the year showcase that your parents are invited to.”
I was wrong, things could always get worse.