bounced a little on the less-than-comfy bed. So. Laurel.
School for the Gifted. This is home for the next year.
She looked around at the spartan surroundings. The only real
spots of color were her green duffel and her red sweater. Everything
else was white, except her brown suitcase and cardboard boxes, but
they didnt count for much in the color department. She stuck
out her lower lip and blew a wisp of hair out of her face.
She was exhausted. Born and raised in an uptown neighborhood and fairly sheltered, this boarding school was her first real venture out of the nest. She glanced at a crumpled piece of paper in her hand. Maxine Moss. Her roommate. Wonder what shes like.
The door was flung open. Ivy gaped. In it stood someone who appeared to be Ivys extreme opposite. She had startlingly dark eyeliner, holes in her jeans, four piercings in each ear and a nose-ring, but the most striking thing about her was her hair. Long, jet black, but with wide streaks of electric blue. She embodied all the girls back home about whom Ivy had whispered behind their backs.
Her dark eyes came to rest on Ivys, and she grinned.
Hows it goin, roomie? she said in friendly greeting, extending a hand. Ivy watched it warily. You must be Ivy. Funny, how they put all us plants together, huh?
Excuse me? Ivy asked coldly.
Um, names Max Moss, you know, like Ivy and Moss?
Ivy just sat there. She didnt even blink.
Max laughed and shook her head. Man, oh man, youre one of those.
Whats that supposed to mean? Ivy demanded hotly.
Nothin. Nothin at all. Max smiled. She dropped a frayed black duffel and a backpack patched with duct tape. By the way, nice contacts.
Ivy bristled. Theyre not contacts! Ivys forest-green eyes were her pride and joy, and one of the few things that made her stand out. It infuriated her that people always thought she was wearing contacts.
Max held up her hands in mock-fear. Whoa, no offense, man. You just dont see that color that often.
Ivy stayed silent, still burning with indignation.
Hey, listen. Im starving, so you wanna go find a McDonalds?
Im not really hungry, replied Ivy. I think Im going to stay here and . . . do something. Write, maybe, she added. Thats one up on the weirdo, she thought, smirking.
Oh, youre here for the English crap? Me, I dont go for words. Im here for the killer art department.
What was it about this girl that just got on Ivys nerves?
Ah.Max ran a hand through her fantastic hair. Well, if youre not coming, Im just gonna go, she said, dropping her stuff.
Fine. You go do that.
Max turned. Want anything?
Max shrugged. Okay. She stepped into the doorway and said, Man, I dunno how you can stand it. And with that cryptic statement, she spun on her heel, letting the door slam behind her.
Ivy stared at the door, seething. How dare she? What was all that supposed to mean, anyway?
Angrily, she rummaged through her suitcase for her laptop and powered it up. She needed to vent. Once it was on, she opened up Word and waited for a new document to come up. When it, came, her fingers were poised over the keyboard, just like they always were--but the words didnt come.
Ivy frowned. She sat and chewed her thumbnail for a moment, then quickly pulled it out of her mouth. She had to break that habit; it was so childish, and her mother would kill her. She lifted her dark russet hair off her neck and let it fall again. Her hair was her other major vanity besides her eyes. She hated it when people said she had brown hair. Brown was boring. Russet sounded much prettier and more poetic.
She sighed, annoyed. Get a grip, Ivy, she muttered. She shook out her hands and took a deep breath. Okay, here we go, she said decisively, smiling. She smiled for about two more seconds, and then it died away.
Her mind was completely frozen. It was like all the inspiration had just been sucked out of her. Sure, she was still angry, but she didnt have the ability to put it into words. This was a totally new experience.
Whats happening to me? she wailed internally. I cant write, my roommate is a freak, Im homesick . . . Tears pricked at her eyes. Stubbornly, she wiped them away and swallowed the lump in her throat. No. Im stronger than this. I can handle anything. Just you watch me. She didnt know who she was talking to, of course, but it helped.
Dammit! she fumed. Whats wrong with me? Why cant I write? She tried to sit still, tried to calm her mind, and then abruptly realized that there was nothing there to calm. Ivy stared at the wall of white filling her screen. It sucked her into a maelstrom of nothingness. She couldnt breathe. She had never been so scared in her life. I cant stop this, how do I get out?! Ohgodohgodohgod--
Hey, forgot my wallet, said Max, flinging the door open again. She glanced at Ivys pale face and remarked, Whoa. You okay?
Ivy took huge, heaving gulps of air. Yeah. Yeah. Im all right. She shuddered.
You dont look so good. Max cocked her head. You sure you dont want pizza or a burger, or something?
Ivy just looked at her for a moment, at the honest concern in her eyes, and made a decision. She closed her laptop and looked up, meeting Maxs eyes squarely. Sure. I could go for a burger.
Max flashed a smile. All right! Girls day out!
Not the whole day, just lunch, Ivy cautioned quickly.
Gotcha, said Max, winking.
Ivy sighed. What were her friends going to think? She picked up a purse and a jacket, then followed the grinning Max into the hallway.
Staring, just staring at nothing.
A frozen expanse of white lazily sprawls,
Filling my eyes and my mind.
That distant horizon lies smooth as milk.
There should be a raging tempest,
Roaring, swarming chaos demanding recognition.
But there is only empty.
dont you like me? asked Max, moments after she and Ivy
had grabbed a booth in McDonalds. The table was sticky and
there were used napkins and crumpled straw wrappers strewn under the
Ivys head shot up from where she had been regarding the table dubiously. Pardon me? she asked, not sure if she had heard correctly.
Why dont you like me? Max repeated. She watched Ivy earnestly, which was odd, because Ivy had never heard anyone ask that who didnt sound like a petulant child. Max sounded like she was asking a teacher what the quadratic formula was.
Um, well, I, uh-- Ivy sputtered.
Max smiled warmly. (Was that a hint of sadness in her eyes?) Its all right. I just like to know peoples reasons behind their actions.
Ivy felt a little lightheaded and very flustered. What was she supposed to say? Because youre a freak like all the other freaks and you represent everything I think is wrong with the world? But no. That wasnt fair.
I guess its because youre intimidating, Ivy said, to her own surprise. The way you look, the way you speak, and the way you act all come together to create a very frightening individual.
Max didnt say anything, but she continued to watch Ivy with undiluted interest.
Ivy squirmed. Im not used to people like you, she confessed. Everyone I know is very clean-cut and I suppose you could call them white-bread. My friends back home would be scandalized if they knew I was talking to you right now.
Max leaned forward over the table. Would they dump you?
Ivy opened her mouth, then shut it. She had been about to say, No, of course not, are you crazy? Theyre my friends, for chrissake! But she stopped. And she knew, heart sinking into the pit of her stomach, exactly what they would do.
Yes, she mumbled, yes, they would.
Max peered at her for a little while longer, then shifted her weight back. Dont sound like very good friends, if you ask me.
Ivy almost snarled, I didnt, thank you very much, but stopped. This whole conversation had taken all the fire out of her. No, theyre not, she whispered.
Well, at least youre just afraid of me and you dont think Im a freak, or anything, said Max cheerfully.
Ivys lips twitched briefly. She dipped a couple of fries in ketchup and chewed.
After a couple of minutes, they both had only nibbled at their food. Ivy set her burger down and pushed it away. Max did the same.
Ivy cleared her throat. Well, its getting late, and I still have work to do, she reminded Max.
Max had a weird look in her eyes, like she wasnt all there. Hmm? Oh, sure. Yeah, I guess we should go back already.
Ivy rose gingerly, trying not to touch the table. Max slapped her hands down and pushed herself up. She rubbed her dirty palms on her jeans. Ivy wrinkled her nose when she wasnt looking.
They didnt talk on the way back. Ivy had never felt so low and awkward in her life. She felt almost like she was slithering along the sidewalk. Did I do or say something really wrong? she wondered. I didnt think I was that candid.
They reached their room and Max opened the door for her, waiting expectantly.
Oh--thank you, said Ivy.
Ivy slipped over to her bed; she reopened her laptop. She refused, feared, to look at Max. The tension was almost unbearable. Her eyes flicked up to steal a glance at the other bed. Max had opened a beat-up sketchbook and was gnawing on her pencils unfortunate eraser.
Ivy quickly looked back down at her blank screen. At least now she had something to write about.
September 3. Well. Today was my first foray into the unknown, my first day at Laurel. I didnt have any classes, so I cant write about those, but I did meet my roommate. Her name is Max Moss, and she is an anomaly. The things she says, the things she does, how she dresses, how she acts, all of these things come together to create a huge conglomerate of confusion.
Ivy paused and bit her lip. Everything she is and represents seems to go against the grain of everything Ive been taught. Be modest, dont run, dont shout, play nicely, dont stand out, be a part of the crowd. Max, on the other hand, practically screams, Here I am! Look at me!
Ivy stopped. There was something here she wanted to say, but she didnt know what it was.
Max looked up from her sketchbook. Wow, youre fast.
Ivy shook her head. Im not done, Im just--stuck.
Max closed the book and sat up. Anything I can help you with?
Um, I dont think so--hey! Ivy protested, as Max snatched the laptop from her. She quickly scanned the screen, then handed it back to Ivy with a sheepish grin.
Huh, she chuckled. Shows you the kind of student I am. I only understood about half of that, she confessed.
Ivy smiled nervously. What was she supposed to say now? It always made her squirm when people compared their intellectual ability to hers.
What I do know, Max continued, is that its about me.
Its a journal entry, Ivy blurted defensively. I keep a journal in my laptop and I write about what happens to me every day. For example, today I met you. Thats what Im writing about.
No kidding? Max grinned. Im honored.
What was that thing near the bottom? Looked like a poem or something.
It is, Ivy admitted reluctantly. Im not very good at poetry, just regular prose, so with the entries I write poems for practice.
Youve got a lot more drive than me, Max laughed. But seriously, can I help you with it?
Cmon, Max wheedled. I bet I can get you unstuck.
Oh, all right, Ivy conceded. Its just-- (oh, how was she supposed to do this diplomatically?) --Im trying to decide what I think about you.
Fair enough, said Max. I was doin the same for you a couple minutes ago.
Ivy didnt know what to say to that, so she ignored it. Well, the point is, I dont know what to make of you.
Max laughed. Most people dont, Ive. Ive?
What do you make of you? she asked.
That is a good question, Max admitted, and one which I dont really have an answer to.
Great, thought Ivy.
Im still trying to figure myself out, Ive, she said. And before anyone else tries to figure me out, Id like to have myself figured out first.
It was a little confused, but Ivy mostly understood.
Heres what Ive got so far, Max continued, rather unexpectedly. I dont like boxes. Thats why Ive got the hair and the earrings and stuff. I think Im pretty lucky. My parents let me do what I want, so long as Im not hurting anybody, and Im here, where I get to do what I do best: draw.
Something clicked in Ivys head. She could have sworn she heard the faint tick when it settled into place. I envy you, she muttered.
Max leaned forward. What?
I envy you, she repeated. Youre here, you love what you do, you know what you want and how you want to live, and here Ive been having this stupid superiority complex over you this whole time and I DONT HAVE A DAMN THING GOING FOR ME! she finally shouted. You have everything I want! Confidence, poise, none of this goddamn anonymity. What am I? Who am I? Just another blank face in a crowd. I live in a box, you dont, and the walls of my box are clear to torture me, just to show me what I cant have!
Max only sat, listening sympathetically to Ivys tirade.
I dont even know what the hell Im doing here, Ivy spat bitterly. Sure, I like writing, but its not what I want to do for the rest of my life! This was all my parents idea, they always pushed so hard. Well. Look what they have now: their little prodigy turned screwed-up teenage meltdown. Look at me, she said, to no one in particular. What have I become? What do I want to become? She smiled wryly, but it was empty. I dont even know who I am, much less who or what I want to be.
Max finally spoke. You. Need. To. Chill. She stood up and gently shook Ivys shoulders. Jesus Christ, youre what, fifteen? Sixteen? Its okay if you dunno what you wanna do! Youve got how many years ahead of you to figure that out. Right now, this is your time to live, to have fun. Do what makes you happy. Thats what I do, anyway.
You dont understand, Ivy explained. You see, my parents rule my life. I eat, sleep, piss, and breathe only at their behest.
Max shrugged. Well, then Ive only got one thing to say: break the chains, man, break the chains. She climbed back up on her bed and picked up her sketchbook. She even pulled out a CD player and put the headphones on, making it perfectly clear that she did not want to talk anymore.
Break the chains, she says. Like its so easy! Ivy burned. The injustice of it all was infuriating. But, regardless, her fingers moved to type three little words.
in Ivys head turned furiously as she walked up the stairs to
her shared dorm room. She muttered to herself, made unintelligible
gestures with her hands, and every so often would stop, shake her
head, then keep walking. She walked into people coming down on the
other side of the stairs several times. She barely noticed.
She reached the room and fumbled with the doorknob. When she successfully got the door open, a blast of raucous music shattered her concentration. It took her a moment to orient herself.
MAX! she screamed, clapping both hands over her ears. TURN IT DOWN!
I SAID, TURN IT DOWN!
Exasperated, Ivy uncovered one of her ears long enough to stretch out a hand to switch off Maxs portable speakers.
Jesus Christ! she swore. What in the hell were you doing?
Listening, replied Max innocently.
Ivy rubbed her face with both hands. Do you have to do it so loudly?
Yes, said Max, winking impishly.
Ivy threw up her hands and turned away. Max grinned and spun the little volume dial back up to 25.
CUT IT OUT! Ivy shrieked.
Max turned it off again. Aw, cmon, Ive. Dont be such a whiner.
Whiner? Me? I have homework! I need quiet in order to do it! Dont you have headphones or something?
Yeah, Max admitted, but those arent as fun. Then I cant bug people.
Max laughed at Ivys stunned and utterly dismayed expression. Fine, fine, if thats how you want it. She reached into her beat-up backpack and pulled out a much-abused set of headphones.
That is how I want it, thank you very much, Ivy huffed. She jerkily grabbed her laptop and opened it violently. She drummed her fingers on the keys and was dismayed to discover that all of her careful planning on the staircase had completely left her. She couldnt really remember what she had been going to say--
This bloody road remains a mystery, sang Max. This sudden darkness fills the air.
Ivy rolled her eyes and then shut them tightly, as if that could make everything go away. She put her fingers to her temples and rubbed in slow, clockwise circles.
What are we waiting for? Max continued loudly.
The least she could do is sing on-key, Ivy thought bitterly. Max, Im really trying to work, here. Can you please stop?
Cmon, missy, its a free country, said Max, and went on belting out her song. Its Pat Benatar, from The Legend of Billie Jean, you gotta know it.
Ivy just glared at her coldly. I mean it, Max. Cut it out.
Max slid her headphones off. She looked at Ivy for a long minute. Ivy looked back.
What to you want me to do? You want me to leave? asked Max. She looked down and pressed the stop button on the side of her CD player.
That would be nice, said Ivy acidly.
Max looked taken aback and no little hurt. All right. If thats how you want it. She stood up and walked out the door. She didnt even look back.
Well, that was easy, thought Ivy. She was rather satisfied with herself, and allowed herself a smug little smile, but she did feel a little bit guilty about booting Max out. Oh well. It was for a good cause. My writing and my grades.
No matter how deep my fingers press in my ears,
There are voices.
Muted, screeching, hissing, coaxing, blaring.
They buzz and tear into every crevice,
Slithering into my mind with insidious tendrils,
Barring the way for reason.
There is nowhere to run.
Max out of the way, Ivy could get down to business. She rolled her
head and rubbed her shoulders. She cracked her knuckles, then shook
out her hands and sighed gustily.
Okay, she mumbled. Starting in five, four, three, two . . . one. She clicked in the upper right hand corner of the page and typed in her name and the date. She left an empty line for the title.
Hm, she muttered. Her fingers rested idly on the keys. She lightly tapped her index finger restlessly on N. When I was walking up the stairs, I was thinking about--yes--and then I walked into that guy when I was thinking about--of course!--then that girl said something to me but I wasnt paying attention because I was--
Yes! she exclaimed, triumphantly punching the air with her fist. Her fingers started to fly over the keys. She didnt even watch the screen. When she made typos, she hurriedly deleted them and impatiently continued. She worked like a demon for hours.
She wasnt always like this; just on special occasions. This was a special occasion. It wasnt often she got to rant about something in a paper. Oh, she ranted in her journal, all right, but it wasnt the same as when someone else saw and understood what she felt. It was even more delicious when they agreed with her. Which they almost always did.
She loved this. It felt so good to be on a roll about something you knew and felt passionately about. It was a rare treat; Ivy savored every keystroke of it.
Ivy had read a book once where the author described a journalist as being in the zone when she was working on a piece. Ivy was in the zone. In fact, she was so in the zone that she didnt even notice when Max came in and sullenly sat down on her bed.
Ivy was just about finished, except for the title. As she scrolled back up, she felt Maxs eyes on her and looked up. Oh, hello, she said cheerfully. I didnt see you come in.
Obviously, muttered Max.
Oh, come on, dont be sulky, Ivy chided. I finished my paper.
Whoop-de-doo for you, said Max sarcastically, lazily twirling a finger in the air.
Stop it, Ivy said angrily. Look, Im sorry if I hurt your feelings--
Really? Are you sure? You dont sound like it to me--
--but I really needed to do this paper and you wouldnt take me seriously! Ivy finished. You brought it on yourself, you know. I wouldnt have been so--
Bitchy? Max suggested.
--if you hadnt been so antagonistic!
Oh, I see, Max shot, rolling her eyes. The little Princess couldnt concentrate, so she threw out her friend who was only trying to have some fun.
Youre not my friend, Ivy whispered.
Max stared and shook her head. Whatever. But that was cold. Really cold.
Then go put on a sweater, Ivy replied haughtily. She strode to the window and looked out. It was raining heavily. Was she out in that? Ivy wondered. Then she folded her arms over her chest. Who cares if she was, anyway. I dont care. I dont owe her anything.
There was absolute silence in the room. Ivy imagined she could hear every individual drop hitting the pavement and the roof outside.
She heard Max shifting around and then some footsteps. She didnt turn.
Ivy, Max said suddenly. Ivy whirled around to find her nose practically touching Maxs. She quickly stepped back.
We cant keep doing this, Max continued. If were gonna be roomies for the rest of the year, we might as well learn to like each other.
Ivy watched her dubiously. What was she trying to pull?
So . . . Truce? Max held out a hand. The nails were bitten down to the quick, and the fingers were creased with dirt, but Ivy shook it anyway.
Fine, Ivy agreed, quickly dropping Maxs hand. She wiped her own on the back of her pants. Just dont bug me anymore.
Dont you get all high-and-mighty on me again. Were supposed to be on the same team.
I dont play team sports, Ivy hissed.
Max shrugged. Sucks for you, then.
Ivy gaped. You are by far the most insufferable human being I have ever had the misfortune of meeting!
Max grinned smugly. I know. I kinda like it.
Ivy didnt know what to say to that, so she just hmphed and spun on her heel. She indignantly shut down her laptop and realized too late that she hadnt saved her paper. She growled and dug her fingernails into the mattress. She squeaked in anger since to scream would be even more undignified. Gritting her teeth, she restarted her computer and started writing again.
Rolling upon a seemingly endless sea,
I find myself caught up in Rhythm.
It thrums through my body,
Making me shiver with excitement.
Or is it fear?
The fear that this heart-song will die,
The fear that my newfound buoy
Will suddenly cease to be.
of rain splattered against the window. Ivy leaned her forehead
against the cool glass, watching people scurry around, trying not to
get wet. A few of the crazier ones were sliding in the mud. Ivy
smiled. She bet that Max was one of them.
Reluctantly, she turned away from the window and back to her all-encompassing work. Well, maybe not all-encompassing, but it sure feels like it. She stubbornly tried to take as long as was humanly possible to get back to the bed. Once there, she got out her cell phone and checked her voicemail.
You have no new messages, announced the electronic voice brightly.
Great, she muttered. She was about to turn her phone off, but changed her mind and decided to leave it on. Maybe someone would call and shed have another excuse to procrastinate.
In the meantime, she really did need to revise her paper. It was the same one shed been working on during that fight with Max. In class, there had been a peer revision session. Ivy hated those. She never seemed to get anything done. Nobody ever said anything useful. She kind of felt like that piano player in Catcher in the Rye . Holden said that the guy couldnt ever really tell when he was good or bad, because everybody always clapped. She never really knew when her writing was good, because everyone always praised it. She always had to go by her own measuring stick, and sometimes thats the worst way of measuring something.
Her mind started wandering. She just couldnt concentrate on the words before her. She started thinking about everyone back home. All of her so-called friends. She wondered if they thought about her, if they talked about her for other reasons than gossip fodder. She felt rather smug. None of them could ever make it here, especially with Max. Theyd all be crying to go home within the first five minutes.
It was so quiet that when her phone rang, she jumped and her heart skipped a beat. She clutched at her chest and muttered, Jesus! She pressed the OK button and said, Hello?
Ivy! exclaimed a rather high-pitched and excited voice.
Oh, hey, Cassie.
Thats all I get? Oh, hey, Cassie?
What? Ivy yawned. Sorry, Cassie, Im kind of tired.
Oh. Cassies voice wavered. Is this a bad time, or something?
No, no, no, its fine, Ivy assured her.
Okay, good, because, omigod, I have so much to tell you!
For the next half-hour Ivy sort of listened to Cassie rave about who was going out with who now, and who had broken up, and who wasnt speaking to who, and everything else that Ivy had completely forgotten to care about. And, surprisingly, now that she was thinking about it, she found that she didnt care anyway. Finally, the door blew open, and a grinning, dripping mass of mud walked in.
Hey! Hey! Ivy scolded, getting up to shoo Max back out. Youre getting the floor wet!
Whos that? Cassie asked immediately. Is it a boy? Omigod! You have a boyfriend and you didnt tell me? What kind of best friend--
Shes not my boyfriend, shes my roommate, said Ivy absently, still trying to push Max out the door.
Wanna hug? asked Max, holding out her arms and walking forward.
No, I do not want a--get away from me! Ivy shrieked.
Ivy? Whats going on? Are you okay? Do you want me to call--
No, Cassie, no, its fine. My crazy-ass roommate is trying to--ewww!!! Max!
Cassie gasped. Did you just say ass?
Max laughed and danced beyond Ivys reach. Cant catch me! she taunted, twirling out of the room.
Go take a shower! Ivy yelled after her. Max just stuck out her tongue.
Ivy wiped the mud off of her shoulder only to discover that now, it was on her hand. So she wiped it on her pants. Hello? Cassie?
There was stunned silence on the other side. What was that? Cassie asked slowly.
That? That was Max, Ivy chuckled. Shes my roommate.
What does she look like?
Ivy frowned. That was an interesting first question, and not one that she liked. Well, shes a couple inches taller than me, she has dark hair that has bright blue streaks in it--
She has blue hair? Cassie squeaked.
Yes, she does, Ivy continued, taking a perverse satisfaction in making Cassie uncomfortable. And she has holes in her jeans and a nose-ring and four piercings in each ear. Ivy could hear Cassie trying to speak, but apparently it wasnt working.
Then, much to Ivys dismay, it did. Omigod, Ivy, we have to get you out of there! Cassie insisted.
Why? Ivy asked flatly. I really dont see a problem.
Well, I do! Cassie declared. I wont stand for it, Ivy! I wont see you corrupted!
Corrupted? Ivy repeated hotly. You dont even know Max!
I know enough that shes bad news! Cassie screeched.
Cassie, listen to me--
No! You have to come home now! Shell make you do drugs and shoplift and youll end up being the dregs of humanity just like her, and--
Ivy experienced one of those rare moments of clarity, when the metaphorical lightbulb in your head is so full of light that it shatters. Shut up, she said quietly.
I have to tell your mother, shell be horrified--
SHUT UP, CASSIE!
Cassie shut up.
Jesus, you dont even know her! How can you say these things when youve never even met her? You know what? I think Max is the best thing thats ever happened to me, and you know why? Its precisely because she doesnt care about all that crap about so-and-so are dating now, and ooh, theyre not speaking. Heres the bottom line, Cass: I dont care anymore. Thats all there is to it. I dont care.
There was a long silence, then Cassie said, You know what, Ivy Spinner? Youve changed. Youre not the friend I used to know.
Neither are you, Ivy returned placidly.
Ooh! Cassie steamed. I swear Im going to tell your mother about you!
Go ahead, but they already know about Max, said Ivy. And they already know about you.
And whats that supposed to mean? Cassie demanded hotly.
It means, Cassie, that I dont like you. And Ive already told my mother all about it.
Well! was all Cassie could manage at that point.
Well. I have changed, Cass, and I like it. I like it a lot. Im not going to let you and your petty, gossipy ways change me back. Goodbye, Cassie Richmond. Dont ever call me again. Ivy swiftly pressed the END button. She erased all of Cassies information from her directory, phone number, address, birthday. She erased all of her other friends information too. She didnt want to know anymore.
She tossed the phone onto her bed. She stretched her hands above her head and smiled to herself.
The door opened again, and this time Max was just dripping, not dirty.
Who was that? she asked.
Nobody, Ivy replied. She was nobody.
Ah. Max nodded. I see . . . So, she said casually, vigorously toweling her hair, howre you doin?
I feel very . . . liberated, Ivy announced, smiling.
Max grinned back. Good. I knew you would.
Ivy opened her mouth then shut it again. Better not to ask.
Wind sweeps through russet leaves;
The shutters rumble.
Words begin to swim and twirl in my ears.
Blurred and garbled, they create their own language
Of boredom and indifference.
And then: time slows.
The still serenity of just-before-dawn,
Cool, spellbound, sleeping.
Splintering that perfect moment of clarity.
For an instant, I lose focus on that water-ballet of words.
I see past them, through them,
Into somewhere I cant even begin to comprehend.
stalked into her room. She threw her backpack against the wall,
grabbed a pillow, and screamed into it. After about a minute, she got
tired of that and snapped several unfortunate pencils. Then she
pulled out some blank sheets of paper and proceeded to tear them to
shreds. After that, she prowled around the room like a caged tiger,
looking for some other prey to pounce upon.
Max walked in on this scene of destruction and stopped dead in her tracks. Broken pencils littered the carpet. Tiny pieces of paper danced in the air and fluttered gently to the ground. Whoa, whoa, what happened?
How dare she! Ivy shrieked. HOW DARE SHE!!!
How dare . . . who? asked Max tentatively.
The bitch who failed me on this paper! Ivy jerked several crumpled pieces of paper from her bag and shoved them at Max.
Max scanned them quickly. Lets see . . . This has nothing to do with your thesis . . . You obviously had no understanding of the assignment . . . I am seriously beginning to doubt our admission departments judgment . . . F.
She let out a low whistle. Whoa, this one did a number on you, huh?
Uh, yeah, no kidding! Ivy shot, nodding sarcastically.
Max pursed her lips. Well, was this a major paper?
What? Not really, admitted Ivy.
Will it bring down your grade?
Not that much--
So whats the big deal?
Its the principle of the thing! Ivy fumed. How dare she say these things, how dare she? I got into Laurel on pure talent and--
So did everyone else, Max observed.
Well, then, she should know that, and treat me and the rest of her students accordingly!
Tears pricked at Ivys eyes. She didnt care. Let Max see.
Ive, Max said gently, its really not that big of a deal. So you got a bad grade. Its one paper, it wasnt even a major one. Its not going to ruin your life. How much is all of this going to matter anyway? Dont worry about it.
Did you read it? Ivy choked. Did you read what I wrote?
READ IT! Ivy screamed. By now, there was a veritable river of tears pouring down her cheeeks.
Okay, okay, simmer down, said Max, holding up her hands defensively. Im reading it.
Ivys breath came in ragged sobs, and her eyes never left Maxs face. She watched her brow crease in concentration or perhaps confusion, and her green eyes flicked to Maxs mouth when she chewed her lip thoughtfully. Finally, after what seemed like forever and a day, Max lowered the paper and looked up at Ivy.
Well, Ive, I think its pretty good, but . . . she paused, and sighed. Ive, I dont have any idea what the hell this is about.
What?! Why not? What is there about it thats so hard to understand?
Well, I mean, you start off talking about your eighth birthday party, and then you go to something about your uncles death, and I mean, whats your point?
Whats my point? Ivy sputtered. Its about the jump from childhood innocence and idealism to real-world cynicism and realism.
Well, then, you should say that.
Its supposed to be understood! Ivy wailed.
You know what I think it is? said Max. I think you expect people to be every bit as smart as you are. News flash: we arent. Generally, people are kinda dumb. So, you have to write stuff they can understand. Also, this paper seems like a very personal deal. Sometimes, Ive noticed, when theres something you really care about, that you think really expresses who you are--well, nobody can understand it. Ive done sketches and things like that. Ive learned to deal. But its different with writing. With visual stuff, the only person whos really supposed to understand the art is the artist. People ooh and ah but they dont really get it unless the artist explains it to them. Sometimes not even then.
Ivy stood, frozen. Then, softly, she whimpered, So what am I supposed to do?
Max shrugged. Id rewrite the paper if I was you. Whos your teacher again?
Baxter, Ivy mumbled.
Oh yeah. I heard about her. Very . . . conventional, apparently. She likes boxes. Maxs lips twitched wryly. Good thing Im not in her class, huh?
Ivy didnt even try for an empty smile. I had a teacher once . . . He told me that one of his English teachers had told him about things called blue darlings.
Max cocked her head. Whats a blue darling?
Ivy took a deep breath. A blue darling is a piece of writing which expresses the writer so purely and precisely that nobody else can understand it.
Max nodded. Sounds like your paper, Ive.
Ivy rubbed at her reddened eyes.
Look, like I said, you cant worry about it that much. Youll go crazy. Max came around with a tissue box in hand. Ivy took a bunch.
You are going to have to deal with it, though, she continued.
But I worked so hard! Ivy protested. And I really thought hard about it, and I thought that it said something deep and meaningful, if not about life and stuff in general, then at least about me!
Max shrugged again. I dunno, Ive.
Ivy slumped onto her bed and rested her forehead in her palms.
If you really care about the grade, rewrite the paper Baxters way. If you want to do what you want to do, thats great. But its your decision. Nobody else is gonna make it for you. Max held out the paper.
Ivy took it and tossed it on the bed beside her, but without any real anger or vehemence. Its just so hard, she whispered despairingly.
Max sat down next to her and swung her legs back and forth. Well, if you dont want to deal with it right now, lets take your mind off of it. Whos your favorite actor? she asked suddenly.
That was a bit random, thought Ivy, but instantly replied, Johnny Depp. No contest.
Are you serious? Max squealed. Me too!
For how long?
Since Sleepy Hollow.
Im serious! Max held up her right hand. I swear to God!
Thats really weird, said Ivy.
Why? I think its cool, said Max, grinning. Its like we were made for each other.
Perish the thought! Ivy gasped, in mock horror.
Max stuck out her tongue. So, lets see how well you know him . . . age?
Names of his children?
Lily-Rose Melody Depp and Jack John Christopher Depp the Third.
Hmm . . . Whats the name of the club he owns?
The Viper Room.
How many tattoos does he have?
Twelve, including the famous Wino Forever, and most recently Lily-Rose above his heart and Jack on his forearm.
Max raised an eyebrow. You do know your Depp.
Ivy smiled primly. I try.
So how come you like him? asked Max.
Well, first of all, hes an excellent actor. Secondly, have you ever seen anyone so gorgeous?
Max laughed. Not in my lifetime.
Thank you! shouted Ivy. Thank you! All my friends laugh at me because they think hes so old.
Ive already told you you need new friends.
Ivy didnt really respond to that. Anyway, I mostly like him because of what hes done with himself. I mean, after 21 Jump Street, he never did anything he didnt want to again. For most of his career hes been completely true to himself and his goals, and I really admire that. Its something I wish I could do, she concluded, a little bitterly.
Max nodded thoughtfully. Good reason. But what about Pirates of the Caribbean? You know, theres lots of people saying that Johnny Depps finally sold out to the mainstream and stuff. What do you think?
Are you kidding? Ivy snapped. With his looks and talent he could have gone mainstream at any point in time. But he didnt. Not until he wanted to. And come on, like Jack Sparrow was so hero-like and conventional.
Max threw her head back and laughed. You got me there, Ive. But I was just testing you. Seeing where you stand.
Oh yeah, sure, Max, said Ivy, rolling her eyes. Ill bet.
Dont you get all uppity and sarcastic with me, missy, Max warned playfully.
Ivy opened her eyes wide. Moi? Non, non, pas moi.
Oui, oui, toi, Max countered.
You took French? Ivy inquired, curious.
For a year, Max admitted. Hated it. Thought it was absolute crap.
Ah, said Ivy, nodding. Of course.
Max punched her lightly on the shoulder.
Ow! she yelped indignantly, rubbing her arm.
Max roared with laughter. Thats what Ive been telling you! You gotta grow some thicker skin--HEY! she yelled through a mouthful of pillow. She retaliated by grabbing a pillow in each hand and hurling them into Ivys stomach.
After a few hours, at nine thirty, they decided that they were too exhausted to continue, and both raised white flags of surrender. Max fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, and Ivy was about to do the same, but every time she moved, the bed crackled. She sat up, and found what was causing the noise: her paper.
She picked it up, now much more crumpled because it had been trampled so many times. She stared at it for a while, then tossed it to the floor. It fell face down.
Ivy yawned widely and climbed into bed. Then she climbed back out. The room seemed much colder now. She quietly slipped her laptop out of its case and opened it. She picked the paper up and smoothed out the creases. She sighed, and her fingers slowly began their long trek across the keys.
There are no true words to describe
The quiet beauty of snow slipping off the boughs of trees,
The dark treasures of sleep, waiting to be found,
The moment of clarity before a droplet hits a still pond,
Nor the joyous song of a new mothers love.
My own song spirals within me,
Twisting and turning in Elations gale,
Soaring above and beyond the realm of my own understanding--
But now no one understands
My blue darling.
My hand hovers.
slipped on her headphones and turned up the volume on her CD player.
It had been a rough day.Well, after three tests and two papers,
what did you expect? Happy, bouncy, and hyper? Try worn-out and
brain-dead. She closed her eyes and fell backwards onto her bed.
When the door crashed open, though, the sound sliced through her
music and she sat bolt upright, eyes wide with surprise.
Max was dirty, disheveled, and clearly distraught.
Ivy quickly yanked her headphones off. What happened to you? she asked anxiously.
Max glanced at Ivy furtively, then tried to shake her off. Its nothing, really. I fell down.
B. S. Ivy said rudely. Tell me. Now.
Maxs eyes kept darting all around, like she was looking for a way out. I--well . . .
Tell me, Ivy repeated. I wont tell anyone, if you dont want me to.
I--um . . . Okay. Fine. There was this guy-- Max began.
What kind of guy? interrupted Ivy.
Will you just chill? Max barked, even though her voice was shaky.
Ivy was completely taken aback and stunned into silence.
Max heaved a gusty breath. Okay. So I grabbed a snack after school at McDonalds, but on the way back, there was this guy following me. She paused, and took a few more deep breaths. Ivy waited this time.
Max continued. I finally just turned around to ask him what he wanted, and he asked me How much. I didnt know what he was talking about, and said so. He said, Cmon, a girl like you must know the ropes. It took me a little while, but I figured out what he wanted and I freaked, and started running. He chased me, so I ducked into the park and hid in some bushes until he was gone. Max was shivering by now. I had to stay there for a while. He wouldnt leave, he kept calling, Hey, Bluey, cmon out and well just have a little chat. Thats all. A little talk. I didnt move, I barely breathed until a cop came and asked him what he was doing. The bastard lied and said he was looking for his dog.
Ivy couldnt have said anything if she had even known what to say.
Anyway, said Max, turning her head to the side, its over now. I got back fine, just dirty, and Ill probably never see him again. She tried to smile. It came out strained and fake.
Ivy finally found her voice. What did this guy look like?
Maxs eyes flicked up, then down again. Oh, I dont remember. Its not that important anyway.
Excuse me? said Ivy incredulously. Dont give me that, Max, its hugely important. You have to report this guy.
No! Max cried, suddenly and vehemently.
Ivy raised her eyebrows. Why not? What he did to you was sexual harassment. Thats illegal. Therefore, you can put him behind bars, or at least make him pay a pretty penny for what he did to you.
Max shook her head violently. Tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes.
Max, Ivy said quietly, was there something else that happened? What arent you telling me?
Max opened and closed her mouth soundlessly. Ivy waited.
But I was going to report him! Max protested. I was! I got out of the bushes when the cop was there, and I was almost going to tell him, but the guy saw me first. She stopped, visibly fighting back tears. She sniffled, and said shakily, He said, Oh look, officer, theres my little blue bitch now! The cop looked at me, laughed, and said, That looks like a rare breed. He said something else but by then I was running again. She sniffed again and wiped her nose on her sleeve. Ivy absently handed her a tissue.
Max blew her nose and raged, I hate our justice system! It never helps anyone except the people with their fat asses sunk in money and power.
Ivy nodded. Nepotism is a problem too.
Nepotism is when people in power like government officials or in this case, a policeman, openly favor their friends and relatives by putting them in positions of power themselves. The officer was probably that guys friend, and thats why he didnt do anything.
Max ran a hand through her tangled blue-and-black mane and said thickly, I just never thought about anything like this happening to me.
Ivy sighed and sat down. Max plopped herself next to her. Well, it did, and now you have to deal with it. What are you going to do?
Nothing, said Max definitively. Nothing.
Nothing? repeated Ivy. That doesnt sound like such a good plan to me.
Well, what am I supposed to do, then? Max shouted. The justice systems screwed up, what do you want me to do, go get hit on by some other slimy cop? I dont think so!
Theyre not all like that, you know, said Ivy.
Yeah? Prove it. Go find me one thats not.
Okay, said Ivy, standing up and walking to the door.
What the hell do you think youre doing? Max jumped up and grabbed Ivys arm, pulling her back to the bed.
Im going to find you a decent policeman, Ivy replied smoothly.
Because you promised you wouldnt tell!
Ivy sighed. Max, you know this is something I have to tell.
No, it isnt! Max argued.
You were sexually harassed and by an officer, too.
So I have to tell.
Do you have any idea what theyd do to me? Max asked, panicked. Id never win! And Ill have made a personal enemy of a cop! Theres all kinds of things they could do to make my life hell!
Max, chances are, if both of these guys are such bastards, then most people wont like them. They might even loathe them, if were lucky.
Well, I dont want to take that chance, said Max through clenched teeth. It sounded very final to Ivy.
Fine. Fine. So youre going to sit here and do nothing. Ivy stood up, hands on hips.
Thats the plan, said Max, crossing her arms and refusing to look at Ivy.
Ivy turned to the window and looked out. Dead leaves rolled around on the gray concrete. You know, she commented, turning back, when I first met you, I thought, Now, Ill bet nobody ever steps on her. Dont you dare prove me wrong.
Max stared at Ivy with red and puffy eyes. Is that who you think I am? Is that what you think this--she gestured to her hair and clothes--is all about? She let her hands fall, lifeless, on her knees.
Im still human, Ivy.
I never said you werent, Ivy shot back.
But youre always trying to make me into more than what I am! Im not this whole rebel, punk, kinda badass-chick you seem to think I am! Maxs ribcage heaved wildly.
I never said--
But you thought it! Max accused.
Ivy just shrugged. Okay, so maybe I did. So what.
So what? Max asked in disbelief. So your view of me has been totally wrong from the beginning! You dont know me at all!
You think you know me? murmured Ivy.
You think you know me? You know my favorite actor, you know I hate my teacher, I have idiotic friends, so what. You know stuff about me. You dont have a clue who I really am.
Then tell me, Max challenged. Tell me who the real Ivy is.
I cant tell you if I dont know, Ivy admitted. But you cant accuse me of not knowing who you are when you dont even know who you are. You said so yourself, remember?
Max started to speak, then shut her mouth. She almost smiled weakly. Got me there, Ive.
Ivy smiled. I know.
Max wiped her face on her sleeve again and hugged Ivy. After a moment of surprise, Ivy tentatively hugged back. Max pulled away.
Look, Im sorry I yelled at you. Its just been a really, really rough day.
Yeah, I know, said Ivy.
But Im still not going to do anything, Max said quickly.
Ivy sighed. If you really dont want to, then I guess thats your prerogative. I wish you would, though. And if you dont want me to, I promise I wont tell.
Maxs eyes lit up. You swear?
On my grandmothers grave, Ivy swore solemnly. Before she died, she told me I could say that whenever I needed to.
Sounds like a nice lady, Max said, straightening up and brushing back her hair into something resembling tame.
She was, replied Ivy, staring at the blank, white wall.
Hey, Ive? Max suddenly asked.
Hm? What? said Ivy, coming out of her reverie.
Whatd you ever do about that paper?
Oh, that. I-- Ivy stopped. I . . . guess I didnt do anything with it. I guess I just forgot. Oh well. Its too late now, the deadline was yesterday. She chuckled dryly. It doesnt really matter. Im past the point of caring. It can stay under my bed, gathering dust, for all I care.
Max tsked. Ivy Spinner, Im surprised at you.
Ivy threw an empty paper cup at her. Evidently, as was ascertained two minutes ago, I am not the only apathetic person in this room.
Max rolled her eyes and blew a blue strand of hair out of her face. Point taken.
Ivy stood up and drummed her fingers on the windowpane. What are you going to do now?
You already asked me that, and I said--
No, I mean, are you going to do homework, or sleep, or--
Oh! Shower, I think, then sleep. Possibly work, but only if I feel like it. Max winked.
Ah, of course. Ivy nodded sagely.
Max pushed her gently, picked up a wrinkled towel and a plastic bag of toiletries and sauntered out the door with much more life in her step than when she came in.
Ivy shook her head and sat down with her computer as a lap-warmer.
It squats in a corner, gathering dust.
And not that golden fairy-tale stuff, either.
Grimy, gritty dust,
The kind that shrouds, settles, and stains.
Its a blanket now.
Where are you going? asked Max, one chilly December
Ivy looked up from her suitcase. Home. It is winter break now, you know.
No, its not, Max insisted.
Well, Ivy conceded as she rolled her eyes, almost. Im leaving a little bit early. My parents want to see me. And they want to go on a trip.
Skiing in France. Ive always wanted to go, and they finally said yes. Ivy picked up a pink skirt and folded it. She felt a little guilty about leaving Max, even though it was only two days early. Didnt I tell you?
No. Max sounded just the tiniest bit sulky.
Sorry, I thought I did. Anyway, dont be mad. Ill let you open your Christmas present early, Ivy coaxed.
Max unfroze enough to smile. Okay. You better have gotten me something good, though.
Ivy laughed. Oh, dont you worry, its good. She pulled out a big red package studded with snowflakes and penguins.
You sure know how to pick wrapping paper, Max teased.
Shut up! I like penguins, Ivy informed her.
Ill bet, laughed Max, taking the gift and tugging at the ribbon.
Wait! Read the card first, Ivy ordered.
Yes, mother dear, Max cooed. And shall I keep the ribbon intact? And save the wrapping paper as well?
Ivy shoved her. Just read the damn card!
Okay, okay, okay, keep your pants on, said Max, shoving Ivy back. Hm . . . To: Max. Merry Christmas! Very original, Ive.
Shut up and keep reading! And not out loud, Ivy added.
Why not? You know what it says, cause you wrote it, and Im gonna know what it says anyway, and nobody else is here, so whats the problem? Max looked at Ivy quizzically.
Ivy squirmed. I dont like it when people read my stuff out loud.
Max held up the card in disbelief. This counts as your stuff?
Well, why not? I wrote it. Anything I write counts as my stuff.
Too bad! Max exclaimed gleefully. She cleared her throat and continued, This is for you, not just because its Christmas, but because of you. Youve given me so much in just a few short months, and I really wanted to thank you for that. Before I met you, I was preppy, opinionated, and an all-around bitch. Max looked Ivy up and down. Id say that bitch was a bit strong.
Thank you, said Ivy dryly. I appreciate that.
Now Im just preppy and opinionated, and I like to think that the bitch part is gone. Max laughed. I like to think that too, Ive.
Ivy colored happily.
So, have a very merry Christmas, and Ill see you in two weeks! Love, Ivy. Aw, Ive, that was very sweet. Max got up and squeezed Ivy hard. Thank you!
Youre welcome, Ivy gasped. You know, youre kind of choking me!
Whoops, sorry, Max apologized quickly.
Now you can open it, said Ivy. She was still slightly embarrassed from Maxs emphatic reading.
All right! Max exclaimed, tearing the ribbon with her teeth and slipping her fingers under the tape. She enthusiastically ripped the bright paper off of the large white box.
Hm . . . I wonder what this is . . . too heavy to be clothes . . . Max drew out the moment.
Just open it, said Ivy, exasperated.
So Max did. Her mouth dropped open. Ivy positively glowed.
Im glad you like them, Ivy mumbled shyly.
Maxs eyes were glued to the contents of the box. In it was a set of drawing pencils, colored and regular, of the highest possible quality. There was every color that Max had ever seen. There were several erasers, and a sharpener. Underneath it all was a large case, presumably to keep it all organized. But why was it so big?
Ive, Max stammered, I really dont know what to say . . . Um . . . Why is the case so big?
Ivy laughed and her green eyes sparkled. Open it.
Maxs jaw dropped even further. You got me more stuff?
Ivy shrugged. I get a lot of allowance, and I dont even use half of it. Dont worry about it, just open it!
Max tenderly slid the case out from under the pencils, erasers, and the sharpener. Her hands shook a little as she undid the shiny silver clasp. She gasped as she pulled out the most gorgeous sketchbook she had ever seen. It was made of dark blue leather. It had a design of the night sky pressed into it. The centerpiece was a laughing moon. The border was embossed with twining roses.
Max delicately ran her fingertips over and over the beautiful blue leather.
I thought you might need a new one, Ivy said quietly.
Max looked up, eyes bright with happy tears. Oh, Ive--thank you! She moved the sketchbook off her lap and hugged Ivy again. She sniffed, and Ivy felt a lump in her throat, too.
I feel horrible now, Max wailed.
Why? Ivy asked, bewildered.
Because I didnt get you your present yet! I was going to go shopping tomorrow afternoon, because I didnt know you were leaving early!
Youre a terrible procrastinator, Ivy admonished solemnly. When Max leaned back to see if she was really serious, Ivy couldnt hold it in anymore. She fell off the bed because she was laughing so hard.
Max soon followed suit.
Finally, worn out, they simply lay where theyd fallen, staring up at the blank, white ceiling.
You dont really have to get me anything, Ivy said, turning her head towards Max.
Max rolled her eyes and pushed herself up on her elbows. Of course I do. Now I really have to. And I know youd be devastated if I didnt. She poked Ivy in the ribs.
Ow! Ivy rubbed her side and glared at her. Then she grinned. Maybe.
Hah! Max crowed. I win.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ivy grumbled.
Oh! she cried, jumping up. What time is it?
Uh, almost five--
Jesus! Ivy ran a hand through her hair. Im going to miss my plane!
No, youre not, Max insisted. She threw a few more things into Ivys open suitcase and shut it firmly. There. Now youre ready.
Ivy picked up the suitcase and shouldered her backpack. I am going to miss you, you know.
Of course you are. Id miss me too, Max joked, but she stepped forward and hugged Ivy again anyway. Have a good trip.
I hate planes--wait a minute. Ivy scribbled on a slip of paper. Here. This is my cell number. Call me when you have the chance.
Max grinned. I will.
Ivy grinned back and opened the door. See you.
Yeah. Hey, Ive, Max called.
Ivy turned back. Yeah?
Dont you go changing back on me now.
Never, Ivy affirmed. Not in a million years, I promise.
Im gonna hold you to that, reminded Max.
I know. Ivy began walking down the hallway.
And Merry Christmas! Max yelled, just as Ivy was turning the corner.
You too! Ivy yelled back. She still felt like she was glowing. She had loved it when Maxs eyes lit up upon seeing the boxs contents. She had never felt like that before. Before, it had always been about me. I was never really happy unless something happened to me. I was glad when I made other people happy, but it wasnt like this.
Ivy reached the bottom of the stairs and looked back at the way she had come. Ive reached a point which I cant turn back from anymore. No matter where I go from here, Ill never be the same. She opened the door and was blasted by the snow-laden wind. She squinted against its force. She smiled through the biting cold. Ive started something--and I think its my life.
A weavers work is never done.
There are always snapped threads,
Rips and tears in the delicate fabric of Beauty.
Spin, scurry; weep, weave,
Only to discover new holes,
Places where the cloth has been worn through
By over- or mis-use.
Embellish, fortify, and cherish:
This is the work of the weaver,
And there is always something more.