Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 16
“Hey, um, Holly?”
Holly looked up to see another girl looking uncertainly down at her. Black girl, average height, just a little heavy, big poofy hair she’s forced into two huge ponytails . . . dammit, brain, give me her name!
Steve knew he was usually bad with names, so he’d been working on trying to do some mnemonic associations with the classmates he’d heard the names of. Hair wasn’t tied back, looked like a starburst first day, name was strange, and like stars . . . Japanese name . . . “Hi . . . Seika, isn’t it?” Let me be right, please. . .
The dark brown eyes lit up. “That’s me! Look . . . um, this might sound a little weird . . .”
“I’ve heard weird before, I’m from California,” she answered. And you have no idea how much weird I’ve heard.
“Okay.” Seika glanced around the library almost guiltily, then sat down in one of the chairs near the computer terminal Holly was using. “My parents . . . well, they keep bothering me about, you know, talking to people at school, having friends? And they made me promise to talk to three new people this week.”
Holly burst out laughing, then immediately cut off. “Sorry! Sorry, not laughing at you, just . . . that’s so parents, isn’t it?”
Seika, who had looked momentarily mortified, gave a relieved grin. “I know, right? But I promised.”
“Totally okay. So why me? I mean, there’s lots –”
“Your shirt, really.”
Holly looked down, to see the colorful assortment of human and trollish characters splashed across her current T-shirt. “You’re a Homestuck?”
“Yes!” Seika looked almost unreasonably overjoyed.
“I just got into it,” Holly admitted. “It’s, well, like one of the only new things I’m into.”
She rolled her eyes in what she hoped was a properly embarrassed fashion. “This is the first school I’ve been in and I didn’t know many other kids before now.”
“First school . . . oh, you were homeschooled until now?”
“Right.” Holly-Steve was proud of that idea. Homeschooling would easily explain most of the gaps in Holly Owen’s “teenage-ness” and any inconsistencies in the kind of knowledge she had and whatever media or books she liked.
“I wish I could’ve been homeschooled. At least then people wouldn’t bother you for reading books all the time.”
“Well, yeah, but I sometimes wish I had been going to regular schools. I wouldn’t have been so, um, freaked at my first day.”
“Religious homeschooling?” Seika asked, then suddenly clapped a hand over her mouth. “Ohmigod, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t poke into things like that, it’s not my business –”
Holly grinned. That’s actually pretty sweet. “Don’t worry, it’s cool. No, my dad moved around a lot and didn’t like regular schools much, so he decided he’d rather make sure I was educated at home and not have to worry about yanking me out of schools every couple years.”
“So why’re you here now?”
“I kinda insisted once he said he was staying here for at least five years. And he agreed that I had a right to at least try public schooling and see what I thought about it. Dad’s pretty reasonable, actually.”
“So you got yourself into this mess?” Seika suddenly shifted her voice to a high-pitched, rough, angry tone: “What the fuck kind of fucking moron would fucking choose to come to a fucking high school?”
Holly instantly recognized the voice and its pattern of constant swearing. “Holy crap that’s a good Karkat, Seika! Oh, wait, I should say that’s a good fucking Karkat!”
Seika giggled delightedly and looked a little embarrassed. “I practice a lot of the Colab Let’s Read Homestuck voices, but that’s the one I do best.”
Holly kept talking with Seika through the period (Well, there’s some more work I’ll have to do at home!) and learned that she really was a lot like Steve’s usual friends, a science-fiction and fantasy geek who even did role-play in her spare time. Have to ask her if she’s got a gaming group or something. That’s a social activity I understand, and if I can get a social “in” — even a very geeky one — that’ll be a big help in establishing myself here.
Silvertail, currently in his Trayne Owen form, shared her enthusiasm when she got home. “That really is a stroke of luck. Or fate, I suppose, in that you will need to make friends for this to work at all.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “You know, I think as your father that I would recommend you follow Seika’s example. Speak to three new people this week.”
She squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, but unwillingly came to the conclusion that Mr. Owen was more right than he knew. “Okay, yeah. I guess. With the homeschool excuse I can even be straight-up curious about stuff that I’ve read about but never was clear on.”
“Speaking of that, how was your first gym class?”
She felt her face go red. “Embarrassing, but not anywhere near as bad as I thought. The class isn’t the problem, of course, it’s the changing rooms and showers. There’s stalls you can use to change clothes and you’re not forced into a big communal shower like they used to do when I was a kid in school. So I didn’t feel quite so much the pervert as I thought I might be. Still . . . there’s not much chance to avoid sometimes looking in the wrong direction, no matter how shy I make myself, especially since I’m not pretending to be some weird religion that would give me an excuse for running in first and waiting until everyone else is gone.”
“You actually are a fourteen-year-old girl, of course. It is not like you will somehow get caught and arrested.”
“Sure, but *I* still know that I am, or was, or will be — you know, this is like totally hard to talk about! — a thirty-five-year old guy. Who remembers being a teenage guy, so I can’t completely ignore the whole situation. Even though I’m not a guy right now.”
Mr. Owen’s smile had a wry edge to it. “I understand the problem, Holly. And undoubtedly this will be an uncomfortable conversation to have at points in your career. But your cover depends on being a teenage girl, and I cannot think of a reasonable excuse for you to not be included in the general run of physical education activities.”
“No, I know there isn’t one.”
“The fact is that it is not possible to prevent you from looking, nor from thinking things that may be inappropriate for your society, given your most unique situation; even if Holly Owen is inherently interested in the opposite sex, you have twenty years of learned responses in an entirely different direction. The question is whether you act on those thoughts. I know you now well enough to be certain you will not. And that, Stephen — and Holly — is all that matters.”
She gave an embarrassed snort of laughter. “Stop it, you make me sound almost like a saint, and that I am not.”
“No saint. A basically decent person — which in some ways is better. Someone who can be completely detached from temptation and corruption has a great difficulty understanding it, and understanding is vital.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Holly said, picking up her plate and bringing it toward the dishwasher.
“Speaking of which, I understand now some of your reasons for wanting your room and mine well separated, but I still have the hearing of a rat. The soundproofing may require improvement.”