Michael came up with two bags and two bottles of pink stuff, looking like a fierce warrior . ” You know, there are 3 ways you can change things! ” He slid a bottle over to Sam. Michael’s expression was dark with pure anger as he looked at me from on high. “You can shove your way of doing things,” He set the bags in the middle of a table to the left of the couches. “on all the others as you did. OR YOU can” Michael unloaded the dishes and wrapped food for two. ” CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY, tell them THEY ARE WRONG AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DO IT!. WHICH YOU DID !” Looking down at me, He took a long swig from his bottle. I sank down as far as I could, as we were attracting attention from below. There were scary characters on campus and Michael is definitely one of them.
“You asked if you had the liberty to talk? ” He loomed over me, shaking his bottle near my seated head. ” NO! you do not have the Liberty when you have done all that you have done!” .He dropped his bottle on the table, sounding like a chairman’s gavel. “YOU did everything NOT to EARN THE LIBERTY. LIBERTY MUST BE EARNED”. Michael’s ears were pink as was his face. “LIBERTY is NOT deciding to quit all the actions that have BEEN DONE BEFORE, BECAUSE YOU DECIDE TO DO. ” Sam sat at the table and began eating, watching Michael roared, and ignored him.
Michael looked at his watch, sat down and took a bite of his pile of mushed beans, sauce and crusty bread. He ate for a few minutes, finished and then, glancing over at Sam, and rubbing his eye, before he continued. His roar soft er but stern. He glanced down at the hallway and moved his chair towards the table and away from below. ” LIBERTY is the CHOICES to follow the rules so all survive in a group together.” His hands smoothed out the napkin that was covered in crumbs. ” No-one person can decide to make up rules of their own! THERE WOULD BE NO AGREEMENTS AND NO WAY TO LIVE TOGETHER.” I grabbed some of Sam’s fries . “So, what is the third way?” I asked and gave him a small smile, really curious about what WAS the third way of changing things.
Joshua got up from the top of the can where he had perched, and he walked to the outline and erased it. Looking in the direction of our group in front of him, he straightened his back and kicked the bottom of the can. The reverberations echoed off the rounded high ceiling, as if a high note sounded from a choir member. Angie looked up from her group’s rows and rows of cards, and smirked. ‘ So like him.’ she thought “Whoever you are, you are causing disorganization of a project all of us have been working on, for months. I am guessing that you are in the research group with Michael and Sam, so I will just ask them to take you out! Since we have a lot of ideas to put together and we don’t have this space for all the time.” He nodded at the jazzy headband guys to move towards the door. Sam and Michael caught me by the elbows and — nodding at the Headband guys, Michael walked me sideways and straight to the back entrance. I twisted my elbows and looked behind me at the girls . Sherriel held up my backpack and nodded, before laying out the pictures and the formatted pages we had worked up last week. I sighed, all the evenings we had verified and cross checked. That part had been so boring, but as Sam said we would be ripped and thrown away, if we had wrong facts. Michael’s hold on my elbow pinched and his expression was stone faced with no emotion at all. Sam had an arm across my waist. He kept his eyes on the big safety door until we reached it and Michael stopped. Sam pointed back to our table. ” Tell the others, we will meet them in the 2nd floor study wing.” He smiled at Michael . ” Thank you for staying with us. It is stellar.” Michael eyes opened up and I saw their soft buttery brown, ” D’Accord!” .
We sat in the over-plumped, sink- into-and-never- get-out couches. Overlooking the entry into the library and the south hallways, we would be easily seen by the others. ” Oh my Lord, I may just hide here for good.” i sank even farther out of sight, Sam frowned, and his eyebrows drew together knitted in that funny rosette. Sam, the punster, my buddy, the trivia fountain and guide to all things campus, was not now. “Do you decide what words you are using or is there a ball that just jangles?” he was NOT amused like he usually was. He was fiercely angry and I was stunned. I just crumbled, drawing my knee up ( losing a shoe), I dropped my head to my knee, and sobbed. All the condemnation, the anger and the spite caused my brain to just shut down. ‘I just wanted to be back on my couch, buried in the corner, cocooned in my blanket. I would just leave’. I thought. ” Look at me!!- you are not a little kid and you can’t hide from the wrath caused by your actions.” He sounded so closed and yet so loud! ” Look at me- I want to hear! What means did you think you were going to get?” I cracked open an eye, his navy blue shirt was so close, I could see the tiny orange details were fruit. I blinked and raised my head, wiping my eyes on the crumpled handkerchief,crammed in my pocket, I drew in a deep breath. ” I WASN’T TRYING to do anything? ” My face must have shown all the hurt I felt.
He pressed a blue knobbed bottle into my hand. I took a sip glad to have the cold tickle on the back of my throat. Sam took a sip of his. ” Words matter, they decide who goes where and how actions are started. Words can build and create smiles or describe the beauty of the skies. They can start to lay the ground for the strongest grid ever to be found. ” He scratched the back of his head. “Especially here, -where the rebuild is just starting to congeal.” He looked hurt and bewildered. He also looked stunned, he kept looking and me and then away, hurt washing over in waves. He swallowed a large amount of the blue drink and barely shook his head. My eyes teared up again. I felt like I was being slapped by my good friend and I don’t know what I did. ” I didn’t mean to cause trouble . I just thought that we were discussing the project,I would start an outline and we could add to it when everyone else gave their ideas.” Sam twirled his bottle.,looking at the ceiling. “Sherriel has done something like that on the 1854 project.”
Sam reached for my hand and narrowed his eyes. Those were the eyes of thunder and a boiling sea under darkened clouds so there was no warmth! He squeezed my hands and his face was the saddest I had ever seen it. “and THAT is the scariest part of all this- you can’t imagine you did anything wrong! ,like it was your birthright ? ”
I looked out the library window. The sky was bright with a pale white sunshine. With its dark,fluttering leaves dotting the sky, it matched the students. Things had settled down. There were no people sitting around, angrily ,spitefully, yelling at other people . The calm was welcomed but you could sense the submerged opinions . After the address from Mr. Joffrey, of all people, the temper of the grounds cooled.
Last night, we started to plan on how to start on the project’s write up. The others were sketching or digging through cards and packets. There were plenty of people, so I went to the large board in the front and starting writing the outline. I wrote Subjects on the left and Topics on the right. The topics had not been decided upon, hence tonight’s meeting. Under subject, I wrote Chemistry, circled it in fluorescent blue ink and arched branches of Solutions, Compounds and Results, pyramid style. Claire held her clipboard and began sketching while looking at the board. She and I were late arrivals who had worked in the Library, catching up. The guy with red curly hair pulled in place with a jazzy headband, looked up from the lay out and smiled . Angie was the girl I had talked to about the project when I first arrived. She and the others were making the packets that would be given out. He poked her and both stared at me. Frowning, she looked at him, ” What is going on? I thought we were working on the titles first and then the topics.?” The guy with the headband they all seemed to prefer, nodded as he moved the cards into piles. “Yes, that is what we are doing, using the large tables to get everything together. Angie pointed at the board. Claire and the guy looked at what I was writing. “Why is that group ignoring what we are doing?”
I stared back at Angie and the research group. “I was getting ready for the discussion, I thought this would be a way where everyone could see, you know,” as I changed the color of the pen – I stopped as everyone looked up, Angie and her guy was angry ]. (‘why?’ I thought ). Sam looked at the board with the subject on the left side and the lines descending from it. He frowned and scratched his lip. ” I thought we were settling on the Titles and the topics before we decided on the subjects.” The guy with the headbanded red hair nodded. ” They is exactly what we are doing. I got the cards laid out. We just need to discuss”- his eyebrows furrowed together. – “Why?” He pointed to the board and squinted as they looked at the cards comparing what I had written. “I was organizing points for the discussion.” My marker pen pointed to the diagram, proudly. ” I just thought writing it out would be a good map to shake out the ideas,” feeling like I had made a good contribution. Sam arched his eyebrow, and I turned to watch the reactions of everybody in the room. The expressions made me feel like I was one of the solution slides on the side table. Meghan, stepped away from the slides she was preparing, wiping her hands off, stood in front of the board. She stood back and back some more. Looking at the cards on the table and at the board, ‘I had seen that expression last week, numerous times.’ Meghan was a ponderer, always careful about what she said. She read what was on the board and smiled in the manner of a cat observing an odd fluffy bird. ” You have an odd way of organization. I will tell you, but I supposed that there are more than one way to do everything? ” She smiled and tilted her head, still the far away look in her eyes, the gears were turning.
The building was tucked in between the outer walk and the lecture building. The dirty, turquoise, huge A/C was humming making a pleasing barrier between the outside world and the inner peace of the refuge inside. Pancakes, eggs and slightly burned coffee greeted anyone in need of rest , food and strong brew to keep on. The navy blue cushion sank in a squishing whisper underneath me. I stared at a plate nearby smelling of something that I would NOT eat. The guy was carving into it with vigor, while reading an engrossing paper. It was amazing that he found his mouth. I snorted while I pulled out my kleenex. Smells of bacon and fried apples made my stomach sing and the clamor was just enough sound to be reassuringly alive. Of all the times, I have been here, I have never eaten much. Always, there had been assignments, worries and class lectures in which to be overwhelmed. There was a familiarity here that I had missed, not like the last few hours. With a little tugging, I sipped the tangy, bitter, hot cup. My tears spilled over, I missed my mild, creamy mochacchino with the foam deep inside that buried my nose.
The woman in the matching mask and bear t-shirt ( she always seem to wear), came by, lifting the pot inquiringly. She spoke an order into her wrist band. “Aren’t you empty? ” She asked me, as always, putting some silverware down. ” Cavern toast will solve that. ” and she rushed away to the next crowd. I shrugged and nodded, not sure what I would be eating and too tired to care that my own mask was around my neck. I shook my head and wiped my tears. I sipped more of the hot, bitter brew. Wrinkling my nose at the burned smell. I had no luck in getting any other drink. I stared at the pictures on the walls around me. They were pictures of food, plates with mounds of grits with pools of butter or white peppered gravy, eggs staring up and wheels of sausage. The photos were all faded and tinged with brown. Pictures, showing events on campus, were crammed into sort of a grouping. Some of the pictures had lots of bushes, trees and flowers in large beds. Some were of floral paintings on the walls around dirt piles. The buildings were somewhat the same, but the pictures were so different and yet full of people. I looked around glad to be back and to have someone else serving me food.
Joy shifted her load and walked away. I swept the path with my hands and looked at the birds circling over head. The clouds were moving in . Getting up , my scrapped knees groaning. ” I guess I should go over and help her. ” I said to the birds or the worms or whomever. Catching up with her, I opened the squeaking metal door, and cringed . The air was dank and dirt was floating on the beams of light coming in from sides “Orders?” I said. ” No. I was thinking of my mother and how she always knew what to do.” I moved some wood laying in our way with my foot and caught my heel on something that shifted quickly. “Hold on ! ” catching my arm, Joy shoved at a cord hanging down in her way. and dropped the box. ” You really have NO IDEA of what is worrying anyone?” I looked at the light beams and shook my head feeling like I had failed a pop quiz flat. “No, my Dad taught us to examine things that we didn’t know especially if we got afraid. He had a very precise way of dealing with the unknowable and the unseeable. He did research at the college.” I was speaking fast,I knew. ” He would say.’ When looking at samples and examining unknown pathogens, the researcher has to know how to treat fear. You have to treat the fear as you would the virus or organism. Virus’s have to be starved, cut off, prevented from reproducing. Fear has to be contained, prevented from reproducing as well’ ” I shifted the box over, so nobody would trip.
Joy turned and walked out. I followed. Squirrels were running all over the place. I smiled, shook my hair to loosen the dirt that I felt was in my hair. “Perhaps that is what the study group needs, treat the fear like a virus, Cut it off, respect it, lessen it by paying attention to all that is warm and loving, stronger than the fear. Wash our hands and our emotions, frequently! Support each other, but somehow, lessen the fear and the cause. ” I turned to her. “We may not be able to get close to other people outside . ” Joy handed me a basket filled with grasses and corn. I twirled around, enjoying the sun peaking out and the smell of the garden. ” That doesn’t mean that we can’t work out how to treat the questions-AND the fear.” I twirled as I shouted at the campus buildings. Joy put her arm around me and turned me back towards the manor as she gazed out on the open grounds. ” Perhaps, we should use our imaginations and try to – see what we CAN achieve.”
Since this morning’s class was postponed, I still haven’t heard why. The garden is calling as are the birds. They stay up high but if anyone appears in the upper windows, there is such a quick series of tweets, calls, high pitched wails and back to tweets again and again. The garden walkway was ill kept. Grass and weeds were growing in a motley green, overgrown path. I started pulling the beige, sharp grass, wishing I had a digger tool and garden gloves. ‘ I don’t know what is going on, ‘ yanking on a tough patch lodged in the corner. ‘ I can feel it, walking this morning. The air was warm, flowers smelled springlike, but the fear was there when any other person approached. It was all over the campus. ‘ My thoughts causing me to shiver. Joy was walking towards the supply shed, pausing and coming over said. ” You have little memory of the times of ill and hurt, the helplessness, the unknown, the unseeable, the indefensible”. The way she stated it. I found myself wishing I could have my dog to hold on to, right then. I brushed off my scratched knees, ‘ The walkway is going to have to take some time’. I made a mental note. ” the unseeable? like a virus?” I shoved the grass pieces in my pocket. ” No, I don’t understand. What there is to fear.” She stared at me. I brushed off my hands and smiled. Joy’s smile was sad and her eyes were the haunted fear that was all around. I rubbed my hands on the back of my pants. to get rid of the dirt . I chuckled ” Keep your hands, legs, and face away from other people.!! Don’t get up in their space!” Tears clouded my eyes, but I wiped my eyes with the top of my shirt. Remembering my mother instructions flooded my eyes, then I smiled . ‘How many fall and winters had we heard?’ ” Wash your hands, frequently . Sneeze or cough INTO tissues and keep you hands away from your face!” I intoned like my mother, who reminded us all of the things that needed to be done. Joy smiled, puzzled at my outburst. ” orders? from the plants?”
I brought in the plate of small crescents -with all kinds of stuffings. There were some of our favorites and they seem to appear on the hall table every afternoon. I bit into a sweet nutty cream one. Marie choose the biggest round biscuit on the plate, as usual. I crossed my legs and sank back into my chair. Marie was sitting at her table, still notating something? I started again, telling her about the night drama. ” I felt like I was out of depths, like there was a first act that I had no inkling about and yet it was confusing. Everyone got scared and there was a shivering , like deep, deep fear that was in everyone. from the moment when the senior scholar talked.” I sipped my hot, citrus, mint tea and wiped corners of my mouth, where the crumbs were dropping on my pants. ” Nothing had changed – the lights were the same, although everything seem dimmer. The air smelled the same -that cool, antiseptic inside smell . Only? Now – there was a fear, coming in, a fear tangible, poking at different places, different members,” ‘ fear descending. There was a fear, not knowing when, where or how Fear’s object would suddenly land. It’s a kind of waiting, a not knowing, not understanding, helpless like boxing a shadow that just moves on its own. ‘ I thought as I chewed the melted cheese in one of the biscuits. Marie pulled out her case from the pocket of the Desk pad . She began flipping pages and frowning . ” There was Pink stating her complaints and Ginger standing looking at her, but also at the others seated behind her. They were watching the senior gentlemen whom were gesturing and conversing so that nobody could hear.” I tried to describe again. “The whole campus is stocking up for what I wasn’t sure. For how long, the guesses were all across the range. ” I frowned as the cat strolled to the crack in the door. ‘ Should I stop her?’ I thought. “We were all waiting, only the guys who were the closest to the Black gentleman were rubbing the shoulders of the people in front of them. They had a blank, non-emotional expression but their bodies were straight and stern like they were working at not showing their fear.” Their concern for those in the room, scared me. These guys were the hardy, nonchalant daredevils. Fear seeped into me like a cold, light cape. I chewed on the side of my thumb . ” There is a kind of instability, a unknowing that shifts the community, even those that aren’t hurt.” I looked down at my thumb and shook my hand out. Marie kept make notes and not saying a word . She hadn’t all afternoon, I realized. I felt confused, well, fine, helpless and unsafe? Fear seeps in and doesn’t leave – until?
Sipping my tea, I pulled my blanket over my lap and tucked it around my knees, drawing my knees up with my interlaced fingers. ” We were talking about the farms, the towns and the problems people were having now. Then someone said that the places needed more security, the usual cooperation discussion went on. One of the senior scholars started talking about how the issues were SO critical and began sounding so scared. Ginger, all of a sudden, threw a yarn ball towards Pink and hit her. “ Marie stopped writing and glared. “What ?” “She didn’t mean to, she apologized. She just wanted to hear from someone’s new. She did it so quickly, But” I leaned forward ,” it was somehow different. Frantic, fast ” I steepled my fingers. Marie looked puzzled, and made a scribble on the desk pad underneath her cup. ” But that is just it. The tension tightened. The words took on a submerged anger. Pink wasn’t hit that hard. Ginger was 4-5 ft away, it was a yarn ball.” I tossed an air ball. ” Pink reacted as if the governor had ordered her to leave. The people sitting around weren’t angry, they weren’t standing or yelling in her defense. They were staring at him.” I chewed on my lip. “That is when Ginger threw the yarn ball from her bag, that is when I looked around. They were in fear. Nothing was said but all eyes were hooded, guarded, hesitant .” Scratching my forehead,I brushed hair out of my eyes. “The senior scholar, the black gentleman, was warning, saying that what he had heard was bad, serious, unknown. At the point, when he was sounding scared? He and the other senior were talking together, whispering . “ I reached over and poured myself some tea. Marie leaned back, sipping on her tea cup, watching me.
Pink stance drooped and shook her hands which had balled up . ” That is the important question! ” She tucked her head and snuggled back into the group of white haired girls , who moved in closer and protected her . Ginger stood up and reached for a piece of fruit, absentmindedly . She seemed to have grown old. Her hair had fallen around her pale face. Her forehead was creased deeper than when we had stayed up most of the night, finishing our project several days ago . She toss the fruit in the air and gasp when the fruit slipped through her fingers and caught on the edge of the table before hitting the floor. Her hands were shoved into the front of her tunic. . ‘ I hadn’t even notice the very large,deep pouch at waist level and going down to the thigh length edge of the tunic? ‘ Such a deep teal color, it looked really good on her.’ I noted to myself. I hunched forward like I was watching– a play, in a close dinner theater . ( only it wasn’t a play and I wasn’t leaving here and driving home.) Sam leaned forward and cocked an eyebrow at me. I quit smiling and leaned back into the cushions.
” I am hurt by my actions in hurting you. It WAS NOT PLANNED. I didn’t – I wasn’t trying to hurt you . My emotions were strong and I wasn’t concentrating on what I should have been. ” Ginger held up her cupped hands, with the ball of yarn . ” The ball was a means of making warmth for cold times, to help others who you want to help. It is not for creating more bruises.” Ginger held out her hands and hugged Pink , trying to keep her balance and not step on girls’ toes. She nodded at the white haired girls seated there in their green dyed leather pants and jackets. The smiles were small and the eyes were a buttery warmth with broccoli green hues .
Ginger pulled the ball up from under the edge of the couch and threw it across , hitting the pink haired gypsy girl. Pink startled and tears gathered. “I am – I didn’t meant to throw it so hard. I sorry!. ” Sam frowned as did the Parliamentarian . ” I was just trying to hear from someone new!” The girls who were sitting on the arms of the far couch reached over and patted her . The black gentleman went over -stepping across legs and brushing Pink’s hair, he checked her cheek. ” This is NOT the place in which to invite steam in. Burns are hard to heal. ” He rubbed her chin. ” Actions are hard and words keep living all around us.” Pink rolled the ball in her hands. She frowned and glanced at all the staring , confused faces. Rubbing her ear, she darted a look at Ginger and at the people behind her. She stood, her forehead all crinkled and her face pale, bruises fading in several spots on her face and neck. ” We have survived and are doing well ,at last but there are others who want to submerged us and control – ” she drew up her shoulders and then dropped them as she squared her head. She met Tom’s, Sam’s and Ginger’s eyes. ” I am not from here, I was NOT INVITED! ” She moisturized her lips and looked at Diamond ” I know nothing about the issues you talk and talk and dislike. I am a Tag!” She rubbed the tight ball of yarn and teared up. ” All this talk! all the pushing and pretending ! ” She faced Diamond. ” All your complaints and disagreements. -” She wiped the tears from her cheeks. ” All the yelling about OTHERS – It’s just heading for the destruction again ! “I was a child , BUT I REMEMBER! ” She skidded the ball across the table at Sam. She looked at him ” Who brings weapons to a place where middle Hope is? ” She picked up and held her cup against her reddened cheek, bit her lip and shivered.