Chapter 1: The Assignment

Miranda sat in class waiting for Mrs. Radican to come in. She'd finished her paper on Pelayan writings and the Fates the night before. She knew that it wasn't due for a few more days, but she liked to be proactive in her assignments. She was glad that they were switching to Columbian authors soon. It wasn't that she didn't like discussing the Fates or Pelayan writings in class, she did. It was just that she was the only Pelayan in class. And, she was the only Pelayan in a class with Wade Croft, the "reborn" Ordained girl that made her life a living hell.

Miranda didn't know what to think about Wade. She was odd. She was so hard and cold, but it was obvious it was a mask to hide her vulnerable emotional side. She could only guess how hard it was to be the daughter of Lennox and Marj Croft. She didn't dwell on it too much, but she felt for the girl. She didn't understand her home dynamic. All she wanted to do was befriend the girl, but Wade had made it obvious that it wasn't going to happen. Between the names and the soda showers, Miranda never thought that Wade could appreciate another person caring for her. Maybe, it was just part of her DNA or something.

She was brought out of her thoughts, when Mrs. Radican came into the classroom and sent them across the hallway to the school library. She looked a little flush, like she'd been a hurry to get there. She dropped the items in her hands on her desk and addressed the class, bringing them to order.

Miranda could only speculate about why they were in the library that day. She figured it was to allow some of the students to work on their papers that were due soon. She moved through and found a table near the circulation desk. Shawna and Conrad sat down with her.

"Now class, I know that your papers on the Fates is due at the end of next week," Mrs. Radican told them only to be followed by some groans. "But, I've been thinking about your term paper for the end of this term."

Miranda was intriguied by the assignment. She wondered what their topics were going to be, or what list she'd be able to pick from. She knew that it had to be something of some length. She sat in her seat and waited patiently for the rest of the information about the assignment. She heard the moans and groans from the other students, but she liked learning.

"It will be at least ten to fifteen pages on the literary works of a Columbian author. You will have until the end of this term to write it and then beginning next term, you will present it and your finding to the class. Now, because we've read enough and I've had some of you before in lower level Literature class or in my Creative Writing seminars, I've chosen the authors that I want you to do," Mrs. Radican explained and Miranda immediately looked over at her two friends, wondering which one she would work with.

She figured Shawna because Conrad was already eyeing Jadeham. She just wished that Conrad would finally admit that he liked Jadeham Racoco and go for it. She was tired of watching him pine. But, she was his friend and didn't say anything.

"Now, because of the size of the project and the amount of information that I expect you to find during your research, this is going to be group effort," Mrs. Radican started to tell them. "And to make sure that everyone does their equal share and it is a topic that you will both enjoy in your groups, I've assigned your partners."

This was not going to bode well and Miranda knew it. She looked around the room and studied her classmates. She doubted that she would get someone that she wanted to work with. This meant that she would do the brunt of the work, which really wouldn't bother her, but she didn't want someone to get a good grade because of her work ethic.

She watched as Mrs. Radican moved around the class. She finally stopped and looked at Miranda. Cocking an eyebrow, she waited for her fated partner.

"Wade Croft and Miranda Raphaeli..."

Miranda's mouth dropped. Her ears were ringing. She didn't hear anything else from Mrs. Radican for a few minutes. This had to be a joke. There was no way that Mrs. Radican could expect her to work with Wade Croft. Sure, she was blond, beautiful and athletic, but she was mean, hateful, and...well, Ordained.

"Now that everyone is paired off, please find a table together and I'll be around to assign your topics," Mrs. Radican told them with as much glee as she could.

Deciding that she would have to be the bigger person in this, Miranda gathered her things. She looked around until she locked eyes with Wade. She could tell that the blond wasn't happy with the assignment, but she would make the most of it.

"Where would you like to sit?" Miranda asked her shyly as she worked her way closer to Wade.

"In the back, over there," Wade said as she grabbed her bag and headed back to her Study Hall table.

Miranda just followed with a nod of her head. Her messenger bag firm in her right hand as it hung across her body from her left shoulder. Wade wanted to scream as she sat down. Miranda sat down on the other side of the table, sensing the tension brewing inside the blonde.

"Okay, ladies. I put you together because I knew that you could come up with something magnificent. I'm kinda going easy on you with your author. I want you both to find out as much obscure information as you can, though. I want you to be thorough. I'm giving you Turnbull," Mrs. Radican told them both before heading to another table and giving out another author.

She couldn't believe that Mrs. Radican would give her something so simple. Turnbull was the greatest playwright ever. She had book upon books on him, his plays and his works. When she looked into Wade's dark eyes, she saw mirth. Turnbull would be a good topic for them to work on, and looked like Wade agreed.

"This is going to be pie," Wade mused aloud.

"His plays are quite emotional, even if they are loosely based on history."

"His words make you feel things that no one else can," Wade added.

"Did you want to meet tonight?" Miranda asked.

"Umm..." Wade started to answer before she pelted with a paperball to the head.

Turning around Wade realized that it was from Izzy. Miranda was watching the interaction between Izzy and Wade. It didn't take her long to figure out that Izzy was questioning She was making some sort of gesture when Wade just shook her head and dismissed her. She really wanted to work on this project even if it was with Miranda.

"I don't know. I have weight training and then work. I won't be home until around dinner time or later. I keep really weird hours, Miranda."

"I know it must be hard in your situation, but we can make this work. I'll just give you my number and you can call me. I have play rehearsal after school for Sour Man, so just shoot me a time," Miranda told her.

Wade seemed to be lost in thought. Miranda couldn't read her. Not that she was really trying. She knew that Wade was still mad at her for Luke dumping her, but Miranda hadn't honestly pursued him. He had pursued her. But, she could understand where Wade was coming from. She didn't blame her for her anger. Luke's break up with her had been just another nail in Wade's popularity coffin. Miranda wasn't a bad person, but she'd never gotten the chance to talk to Wade about it. Wade had made her opinion and it stuck. So, all of Miranda's attempts to be friends with the girl had been rebuffed.

"That is still odd to me..."

"What is?" Miranda asked curiously as she saw a strange look on Wade's face.

"Nothing," she replied with a shake of her head, completely dismissing the question.

Miranda let it go. It was obviously not important to the assignment. Another paper ball sailed across the room and hit Wade in the head. She turned and glared at Izzy. Miranda dropped her pen on the notebook she'd been writing notes down on.

"Is she always like that?" Miranda inquired with a little ire in her voice.

"Yes," Wade answered simply.

"So, what do you think that we should focus our research on first?" Miranda asked as she pulled out a copy of Turnbull's catalog, trying to get them back on task, and setting it down by her notebook.

"His body of works?"

"Poetry or plays?"

"I like the poetry and you like the plays," Wade stated.

"So why don't we pick some that coincide together?"

"Sounds goods," Wade replied as she reached into her bag and pulled out her copy of the Sonnets, which surprised Miranda.

The book was obviously well worn. There appeared to be notes in the margins. It was well read and loved. This was something that Wade didn't show everyone. She kept things like this close to her chest, but it seemed she was relaxing somewhat with Miranda now. There had been no names, no gestures. Wade was actually being...nice.

They read for a few minutes. Wade was skimming through her book, but she kept looking up at Izzy and then Miranda. The obscene gestures were getting more and more dramatic and deadly. And, for some unknown reason, it was making Wade angry. Miranda could see it in her periphery.

"If you don't like it, tell her to stop," Miranda said without looking up.

"She's...I just...nevermind," Wade stammered.

"If you don't like, tell her," she repeated, hoping that this time Wade would heed her advice, unsolicited as it was.

"She's my friend."

"If you say so."

Miranda was watching her now. She could see the flash in Wade's eyes, but for her credit, she said nothing back. Instead she started fishing through her bag. Her eyes lit up at something and she turned to look at Miranda. There was a question in her eyes that Miranda couldn't place. She didn't know what it was, but it made her want to do something. She just didn't know what.

"Have you ever wondered about something for so long that you..." she started to ask, breaking her silence.

"Forgot what it was that made you begin to wonder in the first place?" Miranda continued.

"Yes."

"Daily. Have you ever felt something so raw that you couldn't explain it completely? Like there weren't words for it?"

"Like a sailor adrift in the sea with no one to explain his feelings to?" Wade asked.

Miranda smarted. She studied Wade's eyes. That feeling she had before t. Just then the bell rang, breaking their silence.

"I'll talk to Mr. Hillerman and see if I can leave early tonight or something," Wade said as she stood up and gathered her things.

"You work at Hillerman's hardware?" Miranda asked her, unsure why this information was so strange and new to her.

"What can I say? Jorgen likes me for some reason. I think it is just because I get him tickets to all the ballgames he wants."

"He is a good man."

"He told me about some story called the Balls of Work," Wade told her.

"Not Balls of Work, but Balls of Worth. It is a Pelayan myth. They tell it in Temple a lot," she explained to her.

"What's it really mean then?"

"Something along the lines of we all have our worth, but it is up to us to see how much each little bit of us is worth to those around us. We give out balls of worth to everyone we meet. Some are huge and some are tiny, but in each interaction, the ball is forever changed. At the end of the day, we have to decide if we can plug up our holes with the balls from others or if we are just empty inside."

"He's trying to plug my holes?" Wade asked, with a cock of her eyebrow at the innuendo.

"I would assume so. He's a good and generous man. And his wife likes hard people to crack. You are a big ball of worth for them both," Miranda told her as she found Conrad and Shawna in the hallway.

She left Wade standing there, amazed, she assumed by the tale. She didn't have time to doddle. She needed to get across the school and to the drama classroom. Mr. Griffith was hardly on time most days, but she always tried to be punctual.

She also shared the class with Luke. He had been boyfriend for the last year and half. He was tall, dirty blond, and gorgeous. But, he was self-absorbed, a jock, and not very accommodating. He was the quarterback and popular, so she gave him a lot more slack on some things than she probably should have. She loved him in her own way and knew that he cared for her.

She sat down in her desk and pulled out her copy of Sour Man. She started reading over the scenes that they should be reading over. She looked up as soon as someone sat down beside her. Surprised to see that it was Shawna and not Luke.

"Oh, girl..."

"What?" Miranda asked, giving her a look.

"I can believe that you got stuck with Wade on that assignment."

"You've got Izzy Ciccone. I think I got the better end of that deal. Besides, Mrs. Radican gave us Turnbull."

"Oh, that's not fair. That's like handing you a paper and telling you to grade it. I guess I can't complain too much, though. I'm not working with my arch-rival. Sure Izzy has her moments, but I doubt that she's going to be contradictory the whole time just be that way," Shawna stated.

"I am not worried about it. She seemed to be quite pleasant, but distant while we worked. It isn't like she has to like me for us to do well on this report. We just have to get along long enough to work on it. We are supposed to meet up after work today to plan some more tonight," Miranda told her.

Luke sat down beside her. He had a confused look on his face, but he smiled at her. He leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head like she was a kid.

"Hey, babe," he stated.

"Hello, Luke," she replied.

"Who you meeting up with later?"

"Wade," she said simply.

"Why?" he asked, his voice laced with concern and worry.

"We have an assignment to work on together for AP Lit. Mrs. Radican paired us together for our major paper this term. It should be easy enough to do."

"Wade Croft?" he questioned.

"Yes, Luke, Wade Croft."

"You need to get another partner," he demanded.

"I can't. Mrs. Radican assigned them. It'll be fine. I can handle her, Luke. Don't worry about it," she told him.

"It wouldn't hurt to ask her tomorrow."

"Luke, I am not going to change partners just because you don't like her. I'll be fine. Now, we need to work on the play."

"Go out with me tonight," he said quickly.

Miranda looked at him. He was cute. He was popular, but he was dumb as a box of rocks. Too many hits to the head in football, she mused.

"I can't, Luke. I have school work to do. Besides, it's a school night. You know that I can't out with you tonight."

"I bet if Wade asked you..." he mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Nothing," he said.

She shook her head. He was a good leading man. They looked good together, but lately she was beginning to wonder why she dealt with it all. She was beginning to wonder if he was worth it.