Note #1: this premise is not as absurd as it first sees, calves actually did escape into the streets of Edmonton in the past, when it had a holding area and slaughterhouse. Funny times.
Note #2: after my experiences with An Eccentric and a Gentleman, I have realized that FictionPress responds better when I upload pieces saved from a word processor with formatting, in this case, LibreOffice Writer, rather than something saved in a text editor, in this case gedit. I still prefer writing short fiction (my definition: anything shorter typically than five LibreOffice pages, so not my novel or any of my script work) in an editor though, it feels sleeker and is certainly faster to load (dual core processor and I am still complaining...), but I am going to be uploading them this way. I am also going to be going through my other work to correct those much loathed formatting issues everyone is always telling me about.
The game was going well for their team, and Emily could not have more reason to be pleased. And yet, somehow, this did not really feel right. It was silly though, she could not help but think. Even if her own actions were a bit malicious, was she really destroying the entire game for them by distracting one player? She had wanted to get back at Gordon for months, and now finally here she was, or rather here she had. Gordon was doing his best to ignore her now, and no amount of feminine charm was going to win him over this time. The score was at present 2:0 against him, and with the second resounding defeat, he had seemed to have finally been able to get himself sorted out and truly devoted to his team. Well, perhaps she had already done enough, and should simply focus on helping her team finish this.
Where was the ball? She had completely and utterly forgotten by now. She stopped meandering around aimlessly, and stood straight, and raised a hand to shelter her eyes as she glanced around in search of the artifact. There it was, heading out towards Gordon's team's net yet again. All right, with that in mind, what should she do about it? It would do her no good to chase after it, as plenty of her compatriots were already giving their full attentions to that. Well, in that case, she had better start doing that which she had been giving the pretense of doing: of guarding her team's side should the ball return their way. Decided, she made her way to the centre of their half of the field and waited for anything to change. Nothing happened.
Bored, she turned away and saw Gordon alongside his brother, as they tried to deflect the ball away from their net and their slight goalie. She wondered if any of his brothers had noticed his failure, and whether or not any of them were going to comment on it. Heh, that would be good. Discord and distrust within the top ranks of the Brotherhood power structure. Juicy sweet. Madame Jacqueline would be plenty proud of her for that. Oh, what was this? Too late again, another score for them! 3:0. She did not know if she had ever played a game in which her team had won so absolutely before. Smiling, she turned away... and then had the fright of her life.
It was a for me a most familiar sight, and that alone is what made it so striking. There was nothing familiar to me about this place, not even after all the months I had been driven down at the crack of doom, tired and usually starving. Besides, what was three months or so compared to fifteen years? My farm was what was truly in my mind and in my heart, it is what I see when I close my eyes. Strangely though, it was also what I saw when I opened them. Well, a part of it was there that is. The calf was just standing there, confused and weary, just a few metres away from where that girl sat. No wait, not just any girl, but Emily! This was about to get interesting. ..
I flagged down Harry, and pointed in the direction of Emily and the bovine interloper. He turned his head unwillingly, not believing that I had any rational reason to distract him from the game: did I want us both to miss kicks? Soon however, he turned back to me and his face was a perfect neutral. He did not know how to react to this.
"Must have escaped from those trucks that go to the slaughterhouse" I commented. He nodded.
"Yeah" he said, "but it is not really our problem." I frowned.
"Oh?" I asked, "why not?" He glared at me.
"This is not our place, and that is not our calf" he stated, "we should just tell Farenby."
"What does Farenby know about cattle?" I replied. He sighed.
"Alright" he allowed, "do you have some sort of plan then?" I nodded.
"Get it confined so that it will not cause too much trouble" I explained. He shook his head.
"One small problem" he began, "do you see a corral anywhere around here?" I grinned.
"Why, that tennis court of course" I noted, pointing in its direction. It was mostly enclosed with tall chain-link fence, and had a single entrance for persons to go in and out of. If one of us held that position as 'gate man' we could keep it in quite easily. That would require moving it across the field though, and we did not know this calf. We had no idea of its disposition, whether or not it was naturally jumpy or not. Not even to mention that it must have been in quite the mental state just then. Still, were we cattlemen or were we not? It would be great to prove ourselves at a 'sport' I actually gave a damn about. Rather than all of this mucking about with balls, birdies and whatsits.
"You take up a position over there" I stated, gesturing outwards, "to try and cover it should it bolt, and I will get it moving."
"What about Matthew?" Harry asked, and I glanced around to check up on that point. He was leading the pack of our ball chasers, and was actually making progress in perhaps getting us our first goal of the game. I shook my head.
"No" I said, "we'll manage, he can try and win this for us." Harry sighed, but did as I instructed. Meanwhile, I started to, as stealthily as possible, make my way along the outer fence and get behind the calf. I needed to get in the right position so that its fear response to me would instinctively get it to move in the direction we desired. When ready, I stretched out my arms and prepared to pounce. I would have preferred to have a stick or metal bar to divert it and direct it with, a baseball bat would have been handy, but I would just have to work with the appendages I was born with. I came up to the calf, who just blinked at me confusedly.
"Go on" I called out, and clapped my hands to encourage it. It did reply to that, and started to trot away from me out towards the field and, hopefully, the tennis court. It did seem to be a fairly calm calf, probably not one raised in some factory beef farm then. I kept it going, until suddenly I saw a problem. The way out in one direction was open, and open to the least wanted of places: the nearby street. No doubt that was from where it had come from. Damn it, that would make the route familiar to it and potentially its first choice should it bolt! Well, I could just hope that it had enough car sense to see the folly in that.
Sadly, I was wrong, as with another bit of encouragement from me it took off and turned, and started heading right for it. I cursed to myself, and tried to think about what I should do. Could I cover the hole in time? If I did, it would probably head right back to where I started from, but that was preferable to it going out and getting hit by a car. No, even that was not an option, I may be a faster runner than most or all of the other student's here, but a calf can ambulate pretty damn fast. It would beat me easily, and my actions might just encourage it outwards. I needed someone else to block it, but Harry was still in position in the other spot. It was then that I saw the answer.
Things had just gotten weirder and weirder. Emily had been the first to see the calf, but her first response had been to slowly back away from it. She had never been near one before, and had no idea what it would do. Now she was caught in the middle when Gordon of all people was tailing after it. Emily glanced from the calf to Gordon and back again. On the calf's face was a continuing look of bewilderment, while on Gordon's was a look of hard determination, of the sort he had never exhibited while playing any of the games. Suddenly, horribly, Emily sensed the calf change direction and start making right for her. She turned back to Gordon, who was now facing her. His expression was now a grimace, but it suddenly lit up when he caught her gaze.
"Cover the hole!" he shouted, and Emily temporarily forgot the situation she was in.
"What?" she asked, utterly confused. Gordon cringed.
"Don't let it go out onto the road" he reiterated. Emily stared at the exit passage.
"I don't want it to go near me" she replied, timidly.
"I can not get there fast enough, it will not run through you. Just hold firm." Emily looked back to the calf and back to him quite a few more times, before finally getting the courage to do as he ordered. She made for the hole, and stood there, shaking from the exertion and from her fear and uncertainty. Gordon suddenly gestured something to her by raising his arms out, much like the crucifixion, with his fingers splayed out. Again, the signal took a bit to translate into her reckoning. The calf had not stopped coming towards her though, and her first reaction was the exact opposite of what he was asking. She wrapped her arms around herself, and braced for an impact.
"Urrgh" she whimpered timidly. Gordon came towards her, trying to communicate with her verbally this time, as signals were not really working all that well.
"No, get your arms out, make your presence felt!" he yelled, "Do not curl into yourself!" Emily opened her eyes again, stared at him, and then finally followed orders. She stretched her arms out and made herself into the shape of an X, with her legs matching. The calf came inexorably towards her, before suddenly stopping in its tracks, staring at her. Emily gritted her teeth, and just wished that the beast would go away. With Gordon still hot on its tail, it finally relented and started to run away down the line of the chain link fence. It took a few moments before Emily was relaxed enough to step away from her position, and track Gordon's progress.
He had managed to take a corner faster than it and catch it on the other side, getting it to turn out in the direction of the tennis court. The calf made for it, as was intended, and he and Harry started to close in around it, trying to cut off its options for escape. Emily thought of her panic, and her fear. She suddenly felt very guilty for trying to have ever distracted anyone, now that she had herself felt paralyzed. She never wanted to use her femininity for evil again, she did not want to get in the way of anyone again. As she thought this, the calf ran around and through the entrance to the tennis court, and Harry stepped in to guard the hole. It was now contained. Gordon stepped away and started to make for Coach Farenby, who had by this time noticed and started to go up and check just the hell was going on. Out out of curiosity, Emily made to hear what they were saying.
"What is this?" Farenby asked, visibly dismayed.
"It is alright" Gordon said, "we dealt with it."
"That does not answer my question." Gordon sighed.
"What does it look like then?" he replied. Farenby frowned.
"It looks like a cow." Gordon nodded, mockingly.
"So it is." Emily could not help but smile at that.
"What is it doing here?" he asked. Gordon shrugged.
"Can't say for sure, but have you not heard about the few times in the past when calves have gotten loose from their transportation? I think the city's slaughterhouse is not too far from here."
"Alright" Farenby stated, "I think I get your point, but what am I supposed to do?"
"Well" Gordon considered, "you are the adult, but I suppose you should try and find who this fellow belongs too."
"Are you sure that you've got it under lock and key?" Farenby inquired. Gordon nodded.
"Harry would not let it get past him, it should be fine there - though you might have to clean up the mess later on."
"Oh god" Farenby cursed to himself, "dung on my patch." Gordon could only just shrug again.
"I suggest you get a move on then" he said, "they can not just hold it in." Farenby frowned yet again, and then trod off in the direction of a phone and a directory of local agricultural businesses. Emily walked up to Gordon, nervously given their recent and eclectic experiences together.
"I am sorry I made you miss that kick" she stated repentantly, before stopping a few steps away from me. I turned to face her, somewhat surprised that she had come over here.
"Well, you did do something to make it up to me: you did plug that hole." She frowned.
"Eventually" she conceded, "I am sorry that I am such a wuss." I wiped the sweat from my brow.
"Life is not all skirts and make-up you know" I stated, "but you held together rather well."
"I can run when I need too" she agreed. I nodded at her.
"Yes, I remember that, you do not always look where you are going though" I grinned. She blushed and looked away from me.
"Sorry" she stated again. I stepped closer to her.
"If it is not too much" I asked, "I sometimes have trouble understanding why you act the way you do." Emily blinked at me.
"That is a rather odd thing to say" she replied defensively, though the look on her face made me know she got what I meant.
"Alright, forget about it. Let me just say: I find you pleasant half the time, confusing the rest." She giggled.
"Well, you do not have to keep up with Madame Jacqueline" she replied. I raised up my forefinger.
"Ah" I realized, "I see, that is what gets you so nervous. Why do you even try though?" She shook her head.
"All girls want to be popular" she explained, "and to do that here, you have to be around her." I considered that statement.
"I think perhaps you should decide whether or not you want to be liked for you you really are, or whether you would prefer to keep basking in the glow, or shadow, of someone else." She turned away from me, and slammed her foot down onto the ground.
"You sound just like my mom" Emily pronounced. I frowned.
"Perhaps you should listen to her then" I replied, "you do not look comfortable when you don't." That angered her.
"You are an arrogant prat" she stated, red faced, "you know that?" I shrugged.
"At least I know what I am doing and why, rather than letting me be directed by someone else." She glowered back at me.
"I will take your advice then" she began, "by choosing not to talk to you any longer. Goodbye." With that, she started to turn away and back towards where, despite everything, my team had apparently just made its second goal. Hmm, 2:3, we might just win this yet, or at least grant us a tie. Meanwhile, I could not say that I understood her feelings, but at least I had a clearer idea of why she did what she did. I still did not understand what it was about her that held my interest, given her bipolarity at times, but I was now sure that with my new knowledge of her character that my interactions with her could perhaps be a bit less... foolish. Perhaps I could restore the 'nice girl' in her with time. Meantime, Harry was probably getting tired of holding that calf all on his own.
Truth be told, she did not feel all that angry at him. She had created the impression as she felt the desperate need to leave, before she said something that she would regret. It had been quite an afternoon for her, an emotional roller coaster. She did not knew where her loyalties lay now, and to whom she wanted to leave her trust. Madame Jacqueline may have given her profile, but Gordon was right that all she cared about was herself, she did not really care about her or any of her girl's. Who else could Emily place herself with then? With Gordon and his group of arrogant and mean worded jerks?
Where was her resentment coming from? The question had never occurred to her before, but it now had suddenly surfaced from the maelstrom that was her thoughts. Why did she feel about Gordon the way she did? After all, what had he said to her that was so terrible? She had just recognized that he might have had a point about Jacqueline, just like her mother, so what was it that had made her angry? Then in a flash she remembered the morning of rejection, when he had just gawked at her in pained disbelief. The torment came flooding back to her, and she then also recalled how Jacqueline had just taken her under her wing.
Her loyalties made sense when she thought of them like that. What had Gordon ever done for her? Well, other than pick her up before she was about to fall into a mud puddle. Still, he had rejected her, and that was worse than a little mud in the face. Wait a second, her mind stopped her, what was it he had said: "I find you pleasant half the time, confusing the rest"? What did that mean? What was it about her that he liked, and what was it about her that he disliked? He seemed pretty condescending about her usual attire, evidently he did not care for her when she dressed up, well, like a girl. Of course, that was it!
He had grown that look on his face after her makeover. If she had just kept on being boring old Emily, with her dull wraparound hair, her dull pale freckled face wearing her dull black pants, he probably would have been just as receptive of her as he had been that first day. She did not know how that made her feel, as she had done all of that for him in the first place. It made her feel quite upset that it may have in fact counted against her. Had it even made her feel all that happy? She remembered her own anxieties and frustrations about her skirt, and she considered what a pain it was to put makeup on and off. Was it worth it?
Well, it had made her popular, it had made her one of Jacqueline's girls. That was something, and despite what Gordon had suggested, status had made her feel more comfortable, and more secure, even with all the demands made of her by the Madame. Then again, perhaps she could have it both ways. She remembered what Jacqueline had said about her "having promise", back during that stage when she had treated her so well. That was when she had done so much to stick out, and when she had just simply followed her orders, she had started to get more cold with her. Maybe what she needed to do, what the Madame was looking for, was for her to be more independent again?
It was an interesting theory certainly, and one that would allow her perhaps to get closer to Gordon again. Because, yes, that is what she wanted to do, most of all. He had been the anchor for her in this new place, it had not really been Jacqueline. Two outsiders, two outliers, coming to grips with their new surroundings; she admired him for his stability. That is who they were, and they were supposed to have stayed that way. She could still be popular, she could still be one of Jacqueline's girls, without dressing like an oversexed idiot. She could have her cake and eat it too. From now on, she decided, things would be different. Just like in back in September and the start of term, it was a new dawn.