I felt the foreboding as I walked into school the next Monday. There were stares and whispers. Girls around me looked surprised. I knew what they were all saying. I, Zalika M'yoni'n (Gertrude Baker in their instance) was Edmund Kelly's new conquest. I was "his girlfriend". I had barely been here a week. Word spread like wildfire as though I was in understanding with the human. We made no such accordance, much to their dissatisfaction. I had agreed upon one date with the human nothing more than that. I walked to Mrs. Robinson's English class, relieved to be hidden from looks and arbitrate commentary. The other students slowly began to file in; taking their places assigned beginning of class.
Maggie gasped when she saw me. Hastily, she made her way across the room to sit in front of me as she did every class. She sat down, turning quickly around to give me a look. Hers was a look of pure excitement and joy – unlike the other looks of consternation and incredulousness.
"Margaret Allen, tell me what is being said of me. It has barely been one week since I arrived and I feel as though I am the school display." I hissed, angrily.
"The word is – Edmund Kelly and you, Miss Gertrude Baker, are an item. You are now his girlfriend. Is this true?"
I sent her a sharp look as she looked down, hiding her overbearing smile. I released a heavy sigh and shook my head.
"If I were, do you not think I would have told you something like this? I am not his girlfriend – nor will I ever be!" I exclaimed, loudly.
We glanced at the other students as they quietly looked our way, listening to our conversation. Some of the girls looked away when Margaret and I glanced back at them.
"I think you'd be pretty lucky to be Edmund Kelly's girlfriend. Half the girls at this school are jealous. Everyone knows Edmund and Johnny – they're all jealous of the two of us. It was rather uncomfortable for me when I first started dating Johnny but all the girls know now that he's mine. They wouldn't dare dig their claws into my beau." Maggie explained, quietly so I could only hear.
"But I barely know Edmund. I would rather be his friend. Certainly it is quite lovely to have an admirer, but I wish to be nothing more than friends. Please, Maggie, help me entertain this thought to everyone else. They cannot really believe that simply after one outing – with friends mind you – I suddenly agreed to this. It is rather a ridiculous notion."
"Alright, I believe you but it may take more convincing for everyone else. You may have to make it public. Lunch for instance. Everyone is together at lunch. If Edmund were to try to flatter you in public, just be honest."
"That is a marvelous idea, Margaret Allen. I think I shall do just that."
We all settled in and quieted down as Mrs. Robinson prepared today's work. She wrote on the chalkboard, several simple words and their Germanic background. We would begin reading Beowulf further in depth. I was thrilled to be reading such an epic poem of Terran mythology. I pulled out my copy that Mrs. Robinson gave when she handed out books to the class, turned to page one.
"Last class we discussed the prologue and remember I read it to you all in Old English. Did you write your one page essays on the review for the prologue? I would like you to pass your assignment to the front row and I will pick them up. Miss Allen, would you begin reading the first ten stanzas of the mead hall and then Miss Baker will continue."
The world seemed to disappear as I envisioned the heroic Danes in their mead hall – drinking and feasting the night away, unaware of the sinister terror that dwelled in the distance, waiting to ravage the village.
"Afterwards a boy
child was born to Shield,
A cub in the yard, a comfort sent
By God to that nation. He knew what they had
long times and troubles they'd come through
Without a leader; so the Lord of Life,
The glorious Almighty,
made this man renowned.
Shield had fathered a famous son:
Beow's name was known through the north
and a young prince must be prudent like that,
Giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line. Behaviour that's admired
is the path to power among people everywhere*."
It was a place of magic, of dark deeds – plots whispered behind closed doors in the late hours. It was a world of bitterness and enemies planning to attack the Danes at their weakest. But the hour came when a hero amongst them was born to save them victorious from the wicked Grendel. I was entranced, seeing the ancient human world before me – dancing in my mind. As my classmates continued reading the stanzas, we briefly stopped to discuss what we had read. Every once and a while, I would be snapped out of my imagination as Mrs. Robinson called on me for answers. She was always pleased with my responses. I knew by the nod she gave me once I was finished. I was thwarted when the class was over. I would be seeing Edmund next and I dreaded it.
The only thing I could do was sit as far away from Edmund as I could. When I looked his way, his eyes met mine. My thoughts swarmed and I knew I could not avoid him forever, but I would do my best. Perhaps it had been a mistake to agree to another date with the human. It was causing too much disruption. I determined that I needed to do something of the matter. I could not go on the other date with him. I feared it would cause more gossip. All I wished was to stay unknown, not that I had a predicament having friends. That was not the case. Rather I did not enjoy being made a public spectacle. That was entirely Edmund's fault. He enjoyed teasing me the moment he met me. I was not surprised if he passed on the news that we did have an understanding.
I flinched as something was thrown at me. Turning my head to my left, I glared at Edmund. How immature and dim could a seventeen year old boy be? I raised a brow, my lips pressed together and I clenched my jaw to hide my frustration. That boy is nonsensical, I thought to myself. He deserved neither my time nor my attention at this point in our friendship. I sat in Mr. Lee's class in agitation. This class was dragging. Edmund wasn't helping the situation. If I did not control my temper, I would be sent to the principal's office.
However despite my anger, I maintained a calm nature and chose to focus on the study. This was much to Edmund's disappointment. At last when I paid no attention to the boy, he sighed heavily and slumped back in his seat. I could hear him tapping his pencil on the desk incessantly. I was eternally grateful I had only one class with this boy.
The bell finally rang! At last! I might as well have wept with joy as I gathered my things quickly.
"Gertrude!" Edmund exclaimed loudly as I walked down the hall to the cafeteria. "Gertrude, hey—,"
Before he could stop me, I slapped him in front of everyone during lunch. The cafeteria went deathly silent at my action and there were whispers. Edmund looked at me shaken. His smile had disappeared quickly.
"How dare you assume that I would want to be your girlfriend after one outing, Edmund Kelly? I agreed to no such thing!"
"Trudy, I - I didn't say -,"
"Hear me very plainly: I will never be interested in being your girlfriend, nor will I go on another date because of what you have done!" I exclaimed, anger steaming within me.
I strode off with my small sandwich and drink in hand, the noise once again resuming. The students were bustling about, and I could hear them talk of what had just happened. I spotted Maggie as she waved at me.
"That was not really how I meant to make it public - a little too dramatic but now it's known that you and Ed aren't a thing." Maggie said, sighing.
"You aren't upset with me?" I asked.
"Oh! No! I - it's just the baby. I'm feeling a little morning sickness. I could never be upset with you, Trudy."
"I don't suppose Edmund will be too hurt by my actions?" I asked, noticing as he walked through the cafeteria, looking rather downtrodden.
"He'll be alright. I don't doubt he'll be snatching up another lovely damsel soon. He's not like that all the time. It's just he's nice to all the girls and a gentleman. The girls here love him because of that. He respects girls even when they chase him."
I couldn't help but glance at Edmund ever so often during lunch. He leaned up against a wall, speaking to another girl with red hair. I looked away before he noticed I was glancing at him. When I glanced at him again, I caught his gaze - without a doubt he smirked at me before kissing the other girl. I raised a brow. With my elbow I nudged Maggie. She looked up from her lunch and I tilted my head towards Edmund and the red haired girl. Maggie's jaw dropped as she gasped lightly. Her eyes widened.
"Oh that good for nothing - he's only trying to make you jealous. Don't let him see you envious, Gertrude."
"I don't mind. As long as he doesn't tease me anymore in class I am perfectly content." I muttered, finishing my lunch.
Edmund and I shared a look as he walked out of the cafeteria with the girl he had kissed. A smirk, somewhat of a smile played at the corners of his mouth as he saw me staring. He raised a brow as if to say, "You had a chance, Zalika." That was quick of him to change his mind. I would not allow him to have this victory. I would never be invidious of Edmund Kelly showing interest in another girl. Of that I was certain.
"So, Maggie, when are you going to tell Johnny?" I asked, finishing off the last of my lunch.
She looked down, picking at her food. Maggie hesitated before deciding what to say.
"I think I may just put an end to it. I don't know if I can have a baby at seventeen. Johnny will never have to know. It's making miserable just thinking about it!" Maggie said softly.
"Maggie, you can't put an end to it! I think that may be more damaging than anything else. I could never imagine ending a child's life. Would you at least consider telling Johnny? If you like I can be there with you. I can only imagine how difficult this must be, but please think on it before you make any critical decisions. Who knows – Johnny could be beyond thrilled that he's going to be a father."
Maggie looked at me, tears clouding her brown eyes. I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her closer.
"Trudy, I don't know if I'm ready to be a mother. I haven't even graduated high school! But – I suppose that sooner or later I'll have to tell Johnny about the baby. Do you think your parents would mind if we went to the diner after school today in downtown? We could do homework while we're there. Edmund and Freddie may join us and his new redhead."
"Would it not be better to tell Johnny without everyone there?" I inquired, as we got up from the lunch table.
"I'll ask Johnny to come outside to talk. But just make sure it's alright with your parents before we go."
I nodded. The end of lunch bell rang. The rest of the school day was uneventful. After the final bell rang, the students rushed out to the buses and some to their cars. I spotted my father's Ford pickup truck and walked there.
"Father, I was wondering if I could come home a little later. Margaret and Johnny wanted to know if I could go help them study for a test and do homework at the diner today. It would be proficient to study together that way it would help all of us for the test we have tomorrow."
"Zalika, it is a school night."
"I understand but—,"
"It would not benefit you to do such a thing. You must focus on your studies."
I felt a knot growing in my throat. I desperately wanted to go – to be with Maggie and to have fun while studying. Ever since we left home and lost contact with Karis, I had been lonely at home. I had no one besides my parents. It was undoubtedly special to me that I had made friends. And these were friends who wanted me to come along and enjoy my adolescence. Father was denying me a chance to enjoy my life on Terra.
Before I could speak, Maggie walked up to me rather slowly and cautiously. She glanced at my father.
"Oh! Hello, Mr. Baker, I'm Margaret Allen. I'm one of Gertrude's friends. I was hoping to find out if it was alright that Gertrude would come with us to the diner for study. We've been reading Beowulf in our English class and I'm having trouble with it. Gertrude seems to know a great deal of it and I asked her if she could help me study for the test. We wanted to ask you of course if you approved of Gertrude helping me study. I wouldn't have wanted Gertrude to make any promises without askin' her folks first."
My father raised a brow and hummed. I could see now that he was in a debacle. Maggie and I waited in an intense silence for several minutes. I realized that I had been holding my breath. He started the truck and it picked up with a kick before spewing.
"Alright, but Gertrude, I would like you to be home before eight." My father handed me some Terran currency for the diner.
"I will be! I promise!" I exclaimed, more ecstatic than I should have been.
There was a ghost of a smile as my father and I shared a look. He then glanced at Maggie.
"It was a pleasure to meet a friend of my daughter's. Good luck with your studies, Miss Allen."
"Thank you, sir." Maggie said, with a smile.
We started the walk towards the diner, giddy with talk. Once in the diner, we pulled out our notebooks, homework assignments and began to work. I assisted Maggie with the more difficult questions even as I did my own. In no time, we had eaten and by the end of the hour, the assignments were all completed. During the study session for Beowulf, Johnny, Freddie, Edmund and the redheaded girl had joined us. They too did their school assignments. We sat there little while longer talking and enjoying the afternoon. Edmund had introduced me to Edna-Mae. This was his redheaded conquest. She was a lovely girl; rather playful with Edmund, I noticed. But that did not really seem to sway me in any way.
Edmund was surprised at how well I took the meeting of Edna-Mae. He had planned to make me utterly envious of his new sweetheart. However, I would not allow him that victory. Not this time. I was not to be any man's latest conquest. I wanted something so much more than that. I wanted romance and a life-long committed relationship. The trip to the diner was over as we gathered our things to go for a walk. I decided to walk behind the pairs with Freddie. There was a brief moment when Johnny and Maggie stopped. I knew what was going to happen, though they told the rest of us they would catch up. I glanced at Freddie. We walked in silence for a little while. At last he broke the silence and struck a conversation.
"Edmund doesn't really like Edna-Mae." Freddie said, quietly as we watched the two ahead of us. "I mean he likes her but not in a romantic way."
"She is rather childish, isn't she?" I replied, with a smile.
"I suppose." Freddie answered, ever so often glancing at her. "I don't like the fact that Edmund's using her to make you jealous. I want to ask her to the movies. But I don't think she will."
"Oh, Freddie, I think you should! You are a wonderful person. I think she would be thrilled if you asked."
"Ya think so?"
"Yes. I am certain of it."
Freddie smiled before chuckling. He looked towards Edna-Mae again. This time she looked back. There was a faint smile as she looked at Freddie. I then glanced at Edmund. He was looking at me. Why was he looking at me again? Maggie and Johnny were just the distraction I needed. Once they found us, I gave Maggie an embrace.
"You were right, Trudy." Maggie whispered.
She smiled at me. I knew she was relieved, happy that Johnny was excited about their baby. She had feared the worst but he promised to be a good father. That was what I was told later on.
"So, what do you think of Edmund and Edna-Mae? I don't like it as much as I like you and Edmund. Imagine, Mrs. Edmund Kelly." Trudy playfully nudged me. "Imagine your name as Mrs. Gertrude Kelly. It sounds so much more appealing than Mrs. Edna-Mae Kelly."
"Maggie, please stop." I exclaimed, feeling my cheeks go hot.
I looked away, embarrassed.
"You do like Edmund." Maggie whispered.
"No – I – I do not like that boy. He is entirely insufferable."
"That's what Elizabeth Bennet said about Mr. Darcy." Maggie continued, smiling at me.
"He kissed me after he brought me home from the football game." I said, softly.
"What?" Maggie shrieked, causing our crowd of friends to turn their attention to us.
"Maggie please!" I cried. Before I could convince her otherwise, she was already interrogating Edmund.
"Edmund Andrew Kelly, what gave you the nerve to kiss my best friend? Now look at you, using poor Edna-Mae as a conquest. Edna, I'm sorry I don't mean to upset you, none of us do."
Edna laughed and shook her head.
"It's alright, Maggie, I'm just here as a friend. I thought it'd be nice to get acquainted with Gertrude – since she's new and all. I was quite impressed with her bold statement at lunch today. And I think she's the bee's knees. Don't you, Ed?" Edna-Mae inquired.
Edmund blushed with embarrassment. I could no longer hold my laughter. Poor Edmund, indeed – I thought.
"Yeah, yeah, don't be such a put down," he muttered, looking away.
The others continued walking ahead even as Edmund and I stayed behind to talk. What did he even want with me? I had no feelings for him romantically. Why did he find me so fascinating? We both spoke simultaneously.
"I was wondering—,"
"Please don't be—,"
I chuckled as we shared a look. I noticed his cheeks flushed pink as he smiled.
"Go ahead," he insisted.
"Why do you find me so interesting? I'm no one of importance."
"When you like someone you just know I guess. I think you're smart, you're real pretty – sometimes serious but I like talking to you, Gertrude Baker. You're not like the other girls at school. You've also proven yourself a good friend to have around."
"Alright," I replied. "What were you going to say?"
"Oh – that. Er, I hope you're not too upset for what I tried to do. It didn't seem to bother you that I tried to make you jealous." said Edmund.
"No, I'm not upset. I am rather annoyed that you would go through all that trouble with Edna-Mae. She is a lovely girl…far too good for you, Edmund."
"I know," Edmund sighed. "I think honestly that she wasn't all too bothered either. What do you think of her and Freddie?"
"I quite like that idea." I replied, smiling as I saw them. "But Edmund, why did you tell people at school that we were romantically…together?"
"I didn't, Gertrude. The whole football team was at the diner Friday. It could have been anyone. But I am honest when I say that I never said that we were romantically together. I like you and all, sure, but we only went on one date. But I would like to take you on that second date still. That is, if you would like to go with me."
"I would like that, Edmund Kelly. I would like that very much." I answered.