Hobbits in the Basement Part III
In which a past is revealed
Sarah and I slept all throughout that Saturday after Pansy was taken to the hospital. A full night without sleep will do that to a person. When we finally did wake up, it was four o’clock and (oh darn) school was over. (Yes, we have classes on Saturdays. Horrible I know.) We left Togo a note saying that we’d be back the following evening and that Pansy was going to be okay. We sincerely hoped he’d learned to read in his early days.
We parted at the steps to the great hall, and went to our separate rooms, still in our pajamas from the night before. I for one, felt a bit gross. A shower would do me a world of good.
My roommates were all sitting on their beds pretending to do their homework. Nobody really cared about Saturday classes, not even the teachers. Saturday homework was rarely ever counted. Why we even had homework I can’t figure out.
“Where’ve you been?” Anna asked
“I don’t believe it’s any of your business.” I replied. Grabbing my soap and towel, I headed for the bathroom. This time, I didn’t even mind when they flushed the toilet.
There was a big crowd gathered around the bulletin board in the great hall the next morning when Sarah and I got there.
“What’s up?” she asked
“Beats me.” I said and stood on tiptoe to try to see over the crowd. A large glittery poster was tacked to the board. I groaned.
“What is it?” Sarah asked impatiently
“It’s the Spring Formal.” I said gloomily
“Spring Formal? You have formals here?”
“I keep forgetting how new you are.” I said. “Yes, we have it every year.”
“Well, is it any good?”
“I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been.”
“Never? Why not?”
“Didn’t have anybody to go with.”
“Oh you don’t need to go WITH someone to go!”
“Well, they don’t want me there anyway.” I jerked my head towards the crowd of students. Sarah folded her arms across her chest.
“See, there’s your problem Amelia,” she said, putting on her philosophical genius voice, “you just lay down in front of them and let them walk all over you. Stand up for yourself, you can go to that dance if you want to!”
“That’s the thing, Sarah, I DON’T want to.”
“Why ever not?”
“Because… Because I wouldn’t… be able… to find a dress.” I said lamely.
“That’s not a problem, I’ll help you. What’s your color d’you think?”
“Sarah, I’m a redhead, redheads don’t HAVE a color.”
“Come on Amelia, work with me here!” She said with a laugh. I laughed too.
“Well, sheesh! I don’t want to go to any dumb old dance, can we leave it at that?” I was still giggling.
Sarah put on a fake pout and stuck her tongue out at me.
All anyone could talk about the rest of that week was the formal. It got really annoying really fast.
“Oh Anna, do you think Ray will ask me to the formal?”
“Of course he will Nicole, you know he likes you.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
Scenes like this are funnier for someone who knows the truth. I would always smirk and say to myself:
“What Anna doesn’t know is that Nicole is plotting a way to get Ray to ask HER.”
Several catfights and dramatic arguments broke out in the halls over dates. There was a lot of, “he said that she said that you said” type of thing going on. By Wednesday, I was losing track of who was mad at who and why. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The average teenage life is a perpetual soap opera. Gee whiz! Get a life people! I thanked God that I at least had Sarah.
Or did I have Sarah?
It all started on the day Pansy was supposed to come home from the hospital. Mentha still hadn’t come back from wherever she had gone and I was getting a bit worried, I mean she’d been gone a week now. Although I can’t say I minded missing class too much. Anywho, I was waiting in the library for Master Burton to come with Pansy when Sarah burst in.
“You’re late,” I said good naturedly “We were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I got a little… Side tracked.”
Her face was a flushed and she looked like she’s just run a marathon.
“Side tracked how?”
“Just side tracked, it doesn’t matter.”
Now I was SURE something was going on.
“It does too matter! What happened? Something must have!”
Sarah sighed and then looked around nervously again.
“You know Daniel McAffee?”
“Yeah, what about him?”
“Well, he’s just stopped me in the hall and he… um…”
Her face said it all.
“He asked you to the formal didn’t he?”
She sighed her relief and nodded.
I was at a loss for words. Sarah? Have a date? It took me a moment to comprehend.
“You’re not upset are you?” Sarah asked.
“Upset? Of course not why would I be? I’m happy for you.”
I was. I really was. But if I was so happy for her, how come I suddenly had a sick feeling in my stomach?”
“Yeah, Daniel’s… very… good looking.”
“Oh I’m glad you think so. I think he kind of looks like Hayden Christiansen.”
Pansy got home half and hour later. A little paler than normal, but mostly back to her talkative bouncy self. She spent fifteen minutes regailing us with tales about how they put an IV in her arm and repeatedly showing us the bandaid she got from it. It was purple with little stars printed all over it. Pansy thought it was the coolest thing since mithril armour.
We finally got her settled in with Togo and left them alone to catch up. They’d never been apart for more than a few hours in the past three years. There was a lot for them to talk about.
As we headed up the stairs, I said,
“Well if you’re planning on going to that shindig, you’re going to need a gown.”
Sarah stopped dead.
“Would you help me find one Amelia?”
“Why not? Maybe we’ll find my color while we’re at it.” I plucked at my skirt.
“Whatever it is, it sure isn’t green.”
We went dress shopping the following Sunday. We caught a bus into town and spent the whole day there, not returning until well into dinner. When we reached the entrance hall, we could hear the clatter of plates and chatter of students. Sarah’s stomach growled loudly. I took her shopping bags from her and said “Save me a seat, I’ll take this stuff upstairs.” She readily agreed and went into the great hall.
I clunked up the hall thinking gloomily of the dress that had been chosen for me. It was indeed… green. Mind you, not a forest green like our school colors but a lighter shade, with little shiny beads were sewn into the bodice. It was a beautiful dress. I was more worried about the girl wearing it. I was no great beauty. I never was nor am I now. But I was SURE I would go to the dance looking like a sugarcoated booger. If I went at all.
To add to my misery, Sarah had received a SECOND invitation to the formal. This time from a great looking guy named Luke Carter. Two! TWO guys wanted to take her to the dance. TWO in the space of three days! I’d never even had ONE in the space of fifteen YEARS! Not that I wanted a date. Did I?
I dumped the shopping stuff in my room and headed back down the hall to dinner. I didn’t notice the wall of students in front of me until I almost walked on top of them. There were six students spread out across the hall. There was no other way to go but back. I noticed with a sinking feeling that Tony and Ray were leading the group. They’d already tried to rip my book apart, what on earth did they want?
“Well well.” Tony said “If it isn’t the headmaster’s pet.”
I didn’t say anything. It was just better not to open my big fat mouth. I knew that when stupid people massed in large numbers, the results could be bad. I attempted to keep walking around them but they moved into my path.
“Where d’you think you’re going?” Ray stepped in front of me.
“To dinner?” I offered.
“I don’t think so.” Tony circled me like Madame Humbert does when I’m in trouble. I started to get a little bit scared.
“Wh- What do you want?”
“I think you know.” He said maliciously. I noticed that the others were beginning form a wall between the stairs and me. My stomach twinged.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play dumb Godwin.” Ray joined in. “You turned us in to the headmaster for the harmless little tricks we play on you.”
I opened my mouth before I realized what I was doing.
“Oh, so you actually admit to them now?”
Bad idea. Ray grabbed me by my shirt collar and lifted me almost off the floor so he could yell in my face.
“Shut your trap! You’ve done enough damage already with your blabbing mouth!” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pink slip of paper. “See this? This is my ticket to three weeks worth of detention. We all got one.” He got right in my face, so close I could smell his breath. “We’re not very happy about that Godwin. You have to pay.”
He threw me down face first onto the floor. I got on my hands and knees and tried to crawl away, protesting.
“I swear! I didn’t tell anybody!” They weren’t listening.
Ray grabbed my ankle and pulled me back on my stomach. I kicked out and hit him in the shin. He yelped and released me. I got up and started to run. Out of nowhere a fist came flying and hit me full in the face. My glasses shattered sending broken glass into my cheeks and around my eyes. I screamed in pain and flew backwards. They were both on me in an instant, pummeling me as if I was a punching bag. I was trapped, there was nowhere to go I could only lay there covering my face feebly with my arms and take the beating. Ray was beside himself with rage, screaming at me as he bloodied my nose and split my lip.
“You’ve already ruined one member of my families’ life Godwin! If I get one more detention I’m expelled!”
I wondered briefly why he was beating the crap out of me if he didn’t want to be expelled. I couldn’t focus on anything, just blinding pain. My thoughts skittered here and there. For some odd reason I remembered Sarah’s words: “…You just lay down and let them walk all over you… Stand up for yourself.”
By God I’d had enough of this! I flung out blindly with both fists, making contact on both of them. I kicked and struggled and fought. They finally released me and staggered away, holding their hands to their faces.
“Will you just LEAVE ME ALONE!?” I shouted. “What have I EVER done to you? Why do you hate me this much?!”
My nose and mouth were bleeding freely and I felt dizzy, but I struggled to stay standing. Ray glared at me through his own bloodied nose.
“You’ve ruined my family Godwin! You and your Mother! When she gets back I’m going to give her the same I gave you!”
The pain went deeper this time, straight to my heart. I held back tears of rage and resisted the urge to hurl myself upon him and give him what he deserved. But I would NOT sink to his level.
“S-sorry to disappoint you Ray,” I said my voice shaking. “But my mother is dead!”
There was dead silence throughout the hall.
“What are you waiting for?” I thought. “Run!”
And run I did. I took off in the opposite direction, though every step hurt worse than anything I can remember. I was covered in blood and could barely see without my glasses.
I heard voices behind me. They were following me. Where could I go? Where could I hide? Were they trying to kill me? WHERE WAS I SUPPOSED TO GO? Then I saw the big oak doors at the end of the hall. The library.
The edges of my vision were starting to turn black. I shook my head to try and clear it but it only made it worse. I COULDN’T pass out! They’d find me! The doors were barely ten feet in front of me. I just had to get inside. They would never find me where I was going.
I reached the doors, growing weaker by the second. My heart pounded in my ears. The pain was engulfing me now. I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled to the window seat. I slammed my hand down on the leaf that looked out of place. The door popped open. I heaved myself behind the bookshelf and shut it behind me not a moment too soon. They entered the library.
“Where did she go?” “I saw her come in here!” “She’s here somewhere, look, there’s blood on the window seat…”
I didn’t hear the rest. I couldn’t hold on any longer. I lost consciousness sprawled on the hidden staircase
“The road goes ever on and on…”
Why did my head hurt so bad? Where was I? Who was singing? Something cool was placed across my forehead. OH! My head HURT!
“Pansy, I think she’s coming around.”
I knew that voice.
“Togo?” I said hoarsely.
“Yes, it’s me, just relax.” He took the cold cloth away from my face.
“What? How did I get down here?”
“Pansy and I heard the commotion and found you on the steps. What on earth happened? Why were they hurting you?”
“I don’t know.” I said truthfully
“I do.” Said another voice I knew.
“Sarah? How did YOU find me?”
“I found your shattered glasses on the landing and knew that something had happened and I’m sorry to say it was all my fault.”
“Your fault? How is it your fault?”
“I… I couldn’t stand it Amelia! Watching them pick on you all the time! So I… I told Master Burton.”
“You did?” What the heck was she thinking? Was she crazy?!
“Can you forgive me? I didn’t know they would beat you up! I was trying to protect you!”
I shook my head slowly. What was done was done.
“It wasn’t all your fault Sarah.” I said. “I’ve had it coming.”
“Amelia, I think it’s time to tell us why they hate you this much.”
I sighed. “You don’t want to know.” I said. “And I don’t know if I want to remember it again.”
“Please Amelia, It will make you feel better.”
I stayed stony silent. But then I subconsciously started talking. I didn’t even realize it, but my whole past which I had tried so hard to forget came pouring out.
“My mother was a teacher. She was a teacher here, at this very school. She was a beautiful and intelligent person and I’ll never figure out why my father left us. But, we did all right without him. She raised me to always speak out about what I thought was wrong, and stand up for what I thought was right. She read me Tolkien every night before I fell asleep. I guess that’s why I like him so much.
My first year at Greenwynn, my mother was appointed head of the girls houses, and was second in command to Master Burton. She was so excited about my going to her school and made sure that I was all right whenever she saw me in the halls. We both had dreams of how successful I was going to be, and how much fun and how many friends I would have. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
The other students thought that I was going to get special treatment because of my mother’s position. That made finding friends difficult. But I stuck to it and tried my best to be nice to everyone. Soon they began to warm up to me a bit and things were going well.
Until one day after gym class, I was heading back into the locker rooms when I heard a cry of pain from behind the equipment shed. I went to see what was going on and found an older boy, treating a younger boy like a football, kicking him and pulling his hair over and over.
My mother had taught me to stop what I thought was wrong and this sure looked wrong to me. I walked up to him and told him to stop. When he ignored me, I told my mother what I’d seen and the older boy got two weeks detention.
Later, this same boy cornered me at the steps to the great hall and shoved me down them. I ended up breaking my arm and spent the next six weeks in a cast. To make matters worse. My Mom was just around the corner and saw the whole thing. The older boy was expelled from Greenwynn, and last we heard, he was flipping burgers at a fast food joint in Kentucky. That boy, was Ray’s older brother.”
Sarah gasped audibly.
“So they blame you for his expulsion?”
“Aren’t they right to? Isn’t it my fault? I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth. I was wrong to think that I could fix things! All standing up for yourself does is get you into trouble! It’s not worth it!”
I didn’t notice I had started crying.
“I mean, look at my mother! Just two months after Ray’s brother got expelled, she heard that the city was planning on tearing up some Wildlife reserve land to build a mall. So, she took her car and went to the site where they were planning on building and parked her car right in front of it. The bulldozer coming didn’t see her until it was too late.”
I choked on tears.
“She died in the hospital three days later. And now I live with my long-gone father’s sister who refuses to let me stay at her house more than three weeks, but sends me here where the memories bombard me every day. I keep expecting to see my mom come down the hall with some new book she wants me to read, or a new assignment she’s planning on giving in her next class. But she’s not going to.”
I was sobbing now. I didn’t even care.
“And everybody here ends up hating me anyway so I don’t even try to make friends anymore. It’s not worth the effort, or the pain of watching them realize what I did. I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m a freak and it doesn’t matter anyway!”
There was an awkward silence. Nobody said anything as I got my tears under control. Then Sarah said softly.
“I don’t care Amelia. I don’t care that you got someone expelled. I don’t care that everyone else hates you. And I would never ever stop being your friend.”
I opened my eyes a crack and saw her sitting by me, smiling. In that smile that I had once found so irritating, I now found an ocean of hope and comfort.
“Don’t you ever let ANYONE tell you’re a freak.” She said. “Because you aren’t. None of this was your fault. There is no reason for you to shut people out like you do.”
A small hand slipped into mine. I saw Togo kneel next to me through blurry eyes.
“Your Mum wouldn’t want you to hide like you have been.” He said. ” I’ve been hiding for three years. It’s no way to live. But believe me Amelia, you’re not alone. We all love you.
“Darn right we do!” Said Pansy from across the room. She got up and picked up the stick she always used for her sword. “And if anyone threatens you again… Great Arda they’ll have to answer to me!” She took a heroic stance, brandishing her stick.
We all had a good laugh then. And I realized that, if I had to be freak, at least I had other freaks to hang out with.
“Amelia, are you aware that you blackend one boy’s eye and bloodied another’s nose?”
We all jumped. We didn’t notice that a short blonde woman had entered the room.
Both hobbits jumped up and ran to her. She embraced them, one under each arm.
“Calm down, my halflings, calm down.” She said with a small smile.
“But where did you go? What took you so long?”
“That’s a story for a rainy day with a good cup of tea.” She said. “I’ll tell you when it concerns you. Now, best get to bed you two.”
They groaned like two children. I half thought they were going to try and bargain for a few extra minutes. But all Togo said was
“Just you wait until I turn thirty-three! I’ll go to bed any time I like!”
Sarah and I giggled at their antics as they ambled off to bed.”
“Mentha’s face turned grave as she stepped toward the bed I was lying on.
“Amelia, why didn’t you tell me all of this?” She asked “I would have helped you, I would’ve done anything in my power if I would have known…”
“It doesn’t matter Mentha-” I started to say.
“It DOES matter!” The little librarian said forcefully. “I knew what was going on with the other students- if I would have said something… I mean… Great Arda Amelia! Look at you!”
she held up a hand mirror on the small table next to the fire place. I peered through swollen eyes at my reflection.
It almost looked worse than it felt. My right eye was blackish-greenish-blueish which is an interesting color if you’ve never seen it before. There were small cuts all over my cheeks from where my glasses had shattered, I guess I was just lucky none of it went into my eyes. There was a long cut running from the left side of my forehead to the left corner of my mouth and my bottom lip was split and swelling. All over my arms legs and stomach were an assortment of bruises in many colors.
“Wow.” I said. “Impressive.”
“And all you gave them was a black eye and a bloody nose? I’m disappointed in you Amelia.” Sarah said.
That forced a chuckle out of me so I could forget the throbbing pain in my head for a moment.
“So, how am I supposed to get back upstairs?” I said.
“You don’t.” Mentha said. “You’re staying right there until your headache goes away. You can’t tell me you haven’t got one because I can tell by looking at you.”
I rolled my eyes. How did she know these things?
“Are you sure that’s a good idea Mentha? I mean, I can only miss class for so long before someone misses me.”
“Good point.” I thought for a moment that I had actually won an argument with Mentha but then she said “But I’m still not letting you out of here until you can see straight. I think that Tony kid knocked you silly!”
I gave up. There was no point and she was right. My head hurt like somebody was pounding it with a battering ram. I didn’t even have to ask Sarah if she would stay with me. She just started setting up her own bed.
As we turned out the light she whispered from across the room.
“You know what we have to do now right?”
“No. What do we have to do?”
We have to find some nail polish the same color of your bruises so it matches for the formal.”
“Oh let’s not even go there tonight!” I said and fell asleep listening to Sarah’s muffled giggles as she buried her face in her pillow.
To be continued…