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June 3, 2012

I Hraet You (11)

Beat 11: No Bees in This Chapter, Thankfully

Sunlight started spilling into Lloyd’s room.  As the heat tickled her body, Trixie shifted her way out of the sheets, and rubbed the last bits of the sandman’s dust out of her eyes.  She was a bit surprised she’d even fallen asleep -- but of course, the drool gathered atop the bed gave her all the proof she needed.  She rubbed her head, trying to smooth her ruffled hair…and to massage her brain before the prince’s inevitable antics gave her a migraine.

She threw off the sheets with a wide swing of her arm.  “All right, so whaddya gonna do to me today?” she asked.  But to her surprise, she didn’t get an answer.  She stared at the door ahead; no Lloyd in sight.

“The jackass already left,” said JP.

Trixie catapulted out of the bed and hit the floor.  When she crawled up its side, she locked eyes with JP, leaning casually against the wall with his hands in his jacket pocket.  “What, are ya tryin’ to give me a heart attack?!” she yelled.

JP stared at her for a while, and then turned toward the door.  “So you sleep in that swimsuit of yours, too?” he asked the door.

“Just gonna ignore me then, huh…?”

“You’re a fast learner.  I like that.”  He reached into his pocket and tossed a rolled-up sheet of paper at Trixie -- specifically, at her head.  “You know how to read, right Tex?”

“Course I do.  Whaddya think I am, some kinda moron?”

“You don’t want me to answer that.”

Trixie grumbled and clenched her teeth, but decided not to bite back.  She unrolled the sheet and opened it wide, allowing her to bear witness to a slew of beautiful black strokes. 

Dear Miss Walters,
You’ll forgive me for being absent upon your awakening, but I could hardly stand sitting still when my body and mind refused to let me have a moment’s rest.  The mere opportunity to make good on the day’s potential and promises left me buzzing -- buzzing, my fair lady! -- with far greater energy than a storm set in motion by Zeus himself!  So much so that I had to expend that energy or risk a degradation of my form and senses; hence, I had to resort to writing to you in calligraphy with my right hand.  Rather impressive, eh?  It’s a shame so few women can stand my company; if they could, they might learn how much fun it is to play with the handwriting arts!  Why, if my guess is correct --

“Is he at the part where he’s talking about calligraphy?” JP asked.  “You can ignore that.”

Trixie nodded, and skipped the next five paragraphs.

And that’s why you must always exercise caution when becoming entangled with the sea.  Anyway, I’m off to school.  I’ll leave the particulars of your stay to JP and my dad; they should have something for you to entertain yourself with until I return.  And when I do, we can keep strengthening our bonds.  Because bonding is a pre

“He ran outta space,” said Trixie, noticing how he’d been forced to cram the last few lines into the corner.  She tossed the sheet aside.  “So what happens now?”

JP folded his arms.  “I’m guessing that now’s as good a time as any for you to wash up.  With Lloyd out of the house, you won’t have to worry about any lusty young men trying to get a look at you.  After all, my dad’s just one little incident away from getting the death penalty, and I still think girls are icky.”

“Y-yeah, I guess ya got a point.”  She’d practically been bathing in salt water for days; bits of her hair looked more like seaweed than her typical straight locks.  “I think I’ll take a shower, if ya don’t mind.”

“And you’ll need new clothes too, won’t you?  We can’t have you walking around like that.  We might be able to get you in some of Lloyd’s clothes since you’re almost the same size…of course, a woman like you probably needs something a little more feminine.”

“Maybe yer right.”

“If that’s the case…”  JP pulled out his calculator.  “Let’s crunch some numbers.”

And suddenly, Trixie felt like throwing up. 

*

Lloyd sat on the steps leading to L. Bernstein High’s auditorium, unmoved as the sun bobbed higher and higher above the horizon.   Neither heating morn nor rustling tree could move him from his spot in the shade; freshman passing by thought he could pass for the school’s purple-haired gargoyle.  While he took note of the new students filing out of buses and walking in front of the building, gripping the straps of their backpacks like the edge of a cliff, he paid them little mind.  He just kept his hands clasped, unaware of the sweat starting to gather on his face.

What do I do?  What on earth do I do now? he thought, his smile straining into a wobbly line.  Here I am at school -- my stomping grounds, without question -- and yet I can summon no more courage than a beaten mongrel!  One would think that by now I’d have taken strides toward my lovely republic…yet here I am, paralyzed with fear!

He stared at his palms.  By touching a woman -- in this case, Miss Walters -- I managed to access that audition room and affect her heart.  That much I know.  But if that rule holds true…  His eye swept about as a bevy of girls passed by him.  …Does that mean that from now on, every female I touch will be put to the test? 

A pair of girls stopped for a moment to stare at Lloyd.  With nervous smiles they waved at him.  Lloyd smiled cheerfully right back at them, and offered a casual wave…and then, chomped on his hand.  No, Lloyd!  No!  You mustn’t let the fairer sex get the better of you!  Stave your hand and your charms until you can sort out the full extent of your powers!

The girls watched for a moment as Lloyd continue to smile -- even while eating a self-served knuckle sandwich -- and then, they realized that they should skedaddle.

I’ve no choice.  I absolutely, positively must not touch any women, he thought, spitting out his hand.  If I do…wait.  Who’s to say that not touching en masse won’t help me accomplish my goal?  If the idea is to spread my influence as quickly and thoroughly as I can, then surely a maelstrom of physical contact should work wonders.  As they say, fortune favors the bold.

But wait.  If my reputation of my hands-on approach spreads, doubtless my name will be slandered before I even get a chance to explain myself.  I’ll be facing repercussions on a massive scale -- with the school faculty, least of all.  And should something happen to me in that regard, my progress would be positively crippled.

He turned aside.  On the other hand, honesty is a policy that has brought nothing but solace before…well, solace and the occasional broken limb.  Regardless, if I remain open and act according to my whims…  He turned aside again.  No, wait.  I may have uplifted Miss Walters’ heart, but I came very close to doing the opposite.  If I merely strut about, touching and invading hearts at my leisure, then I’d be putting too many fair maidens at risk.

Lloyd sighed, and nodded slowly.  Then as it stands, my course is set.  I’ll need to develop my abilities slowly and discreetly, so that when the time comes for me to act publically, I’ll have all the experience necessary to enrapture the populace in one fell swoop.  He cast an eye behind him, and to the auditorium’s doors.  I wonder…a full season has nearly passed, but my true bastion no doubt remains.  If I could use that platform to my advantage…hmmm?

The rustling of some nearby bushes drew his eye.  He caught glimpses of something between the brush, -- a wild animal, perhaps?  He’d heard rumors of a bear wandering about Porbeagle.

But his hopes were quickly dashed.   It -- she emerged with little fanfare, unfazed by the leaves clinging to her body.  Judging by her petite frame, she had to be a freshman; for seconds at a time, Lloyd thought there was something almost fairy-like about her.  Even with a twig or two stuck in her socks, she had a certain air about her -- cocoa-hued skin with a fair, albeit soil-caked, shine; short hair that reminded Lloyd of a tumbleweed, half-hidden by a thick beanie; a tanktop, cargo shorts, and boots that wouldn’t look out of place on a safari.

She rubbed the back of her neck.  “Not here, either,” she muttered, though judging by her laid-back tone she didn’t seem too bothered. 

Lloyd raised his eyebrows.  Another girl looking for something?  Normally I would think this little more than a stroke of good luck, but…  He raised a hand.  “Excuse me.  Do you have a moment?  I’d like to ask you something.”

The girl turned toward him.  As expected, she had the round face of a child, and a nose that wouldn’t look out of place on a doll.  Lloyd couldn’t say the same for her eyes; those brown orbs of hers looked so bored and glazed-over that he thought she might fall asleep in the middle of their conversation.  “By the sound of things, you’re on a mission to find something.  Correct?”

The girl stared blankly at him, but nodded lazily a few moments later.

“By any chance, you wouldn’t happen to be looking for some sort of treasure?”

She just kept staring at him. 

“Ah -- you know…”  Lloyd spread his hands wide.  “The sort of treasure you’d see in pirate movies.  Treasure chests, packed to the brim with gleaming doubloons!  Unearthed by malcontents looking to make good on utilizing the hidden fortune!”

The girl continued staring.

I didn’t think I was this bad at talking to women, Lloyd thought.  I mean, I haven’t been good at it in years, but still…oh, don’t tell me she’s thinking about what sort of attack she wants to use against me.  A slap in the face?  A kick to the gut?  She wouldn’t dare use the dreaded Boston Crab, would she?  I don’t think my body can --

“Treasure is stupid,” the girl declared.  She pointed to her cap, just above her left eyebrow, to the beetle-shaped pin fastened onto the cloth.  “Looking for bugs.”

“B-bugs?”  Lloyd leaned forward, eyes wide, and adjusted his glasses.  He stared at her exposed hands -- covered in old, unraveling work gloves, and shrouded in enough dirt to plant a tree.  “I see.  Fascinating.  I wasn’t aware that one could pursue that scientific branch so early -- but whatever the case, I commend you for being so…er, dedicated to your craft.”

The girl’s eyebrows twitched.  “Don’t diss bugs.”

“I wasn’t, I wasn’t!  It’s just --”

At the sound of that, the girl relaxed.  “You like them?”

“Er…well…I wouldn’t go that far,” Lloyd said with an awkward chuckle.  “But that’s not to say bugs in and of themselves are awful.  It’s just that they have a rather poor reputation.”

“That’s true.”

“In fact…” Lloyd held up a finger.  “I think they’re actually rather pleasant creatures -- no more unworthy of life than the mockingbird or the manatee!  Why, if only people were more exposed to them and given a chance to enjoy their company, we would see that they’re as enjoyable to be around as the average dog!”

The girl stared blankly at him again.  For a second, Lloyd wondered if she just processed words slowly; between the blank stare and her lethargic, almost zombie-like posture, even a phrase like “off-kilter” seemed inadequate for describing her. 

Finally she shifted her head a bit.  “You’re weird.”

“Is that right?”

She nodded.  “But you kind of like bugs, so I guess you’re all right.”  She shifted her head again, turning absentmindedly toward the auditorium.  “For a weirdo.”

I wonder if this is how JP feels when he deals with me, Lloyd thought. 

The girl looked back at Lloyd.  “Bugs are great.  Know why?”

“I can’t say I do.”

“Wanna learn why?”

“Er…well, sure.  What could it hurt?  The new school year is about to begin, and a bit of learning beforehand couldn’t possibly bring me any bodily harm.”

The girl patted her hands against the sides of her shorts, rubbing them against the bulging pockets.  She reached inside them and pulled out two hefty clumps of dirt -- two hefty clumps of dirt bursting with hundreds of incensed ants.  “Touch them.  They’re cool.”

But Lloyd had already leapt back three feet.  “Absolutely not!” he wailed, pulling up his arms in defense.  “I’ll do a lot for the fairer sex, but even I have my limits!  And I’d like to think that being stung a thousand times is upon or very near that limit!”

“You won’t get stung.”  She glanced at a passing cloud.  “Much.”

“Once is too many, my dear!  Please, throw them away!”

She shrugged, and set the clumps on the ground; on contact, the ants crawled all over the concrete looking for human flesh to assault.  “They hate pockets anyway.  Not enough sugar.”  She stepped back a few paces.  “Maybe I’ll find a nice dragonfly for you.  You look like the dragonfly type.”

“I do?”  With his heart rate finally slowing down (and having avoided every ant that came his way), Lloyd offered a friendly smile.  “Well, I suppose you’re the expert.  I’ll leave the bug-finding to you, Miss…er…um, I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name.”

“May.”

“Ah, like the month!  Splendid!  It suits you…though I’d prefer to call you by your last name.”

May stared blankly at him again.

“Or perhaps I can make an exception.”  Lloyd patted a hand to his chest.  “And you, my fair lady, can call me --”    

“I know who you are, Lloyd,” said May, no more emotionally than she had anything else so far.  And with that she headed off, hands in her pockets and eyes locked on a butterfly bobbing through the air.

Lloyd just stood there, watching her back as she stepped down the sidewalk.  She knows me?  From where?

TO BE HEARTINUED…



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