The new girl was a distraction.
Well, technically all the girls were "new"; St. Bartleby's had only become a coeducational institution in the last two months, and the decision was still widely controversial. Of course, the school's male population still greatly outnumbered the females, but no one seemed to notice. Not with that girl around.
The girl in question glanced back at Artemis as though picking up on his thoughts. He realized that, to an outside party, it may seem as though he had been staring at her. He scowled and dropped his eyes. This didn't stop him from hearing her clear peal of soft laughter and he noticed out of the corner of his eye that she had turned back around in her chair to talk to the girl sitting next to her. Whatever her neighbor had said must have been hilarious, because she was still chuckling a minute later when their teacher walked in to begin the lesson, a small smile curving her lips. Artemis leaned back and closed his eyes- he already knew the lecture, why bother giving his attention?
That girl. Viola Sommers. Something about her was just…distracting. He couldn't quite put his finger on what it was, and that frustrated him even more. She was like an itch he couldn't scratch. Don't dwell on it, he advised himself. Only one more week before you're home for the holidays anyway.
He snorted softly to himself. It was ridiculous that he had to leave home at all, let alone go to school. He'd had all the requirements to graduate from this place years ago, but Mother insisted…
"You will have a normal life," Angeline Fowl had said sternly. It was a few weeks after Holly and Butler and the others had brought him home and the chaos had begun to die down. "I don't care if it's only until you graduate high school. You will go, and you will do your work, and you will make friends, and you will not constantly be putting yourself in danger, and that is final." At that point her eyes had begun to well up and Father had tried to calm her down and what was he supposed to do then, really? Tell her no?
Perish the thought. No, no, the world may have changed a bit, but as far as his mother was concerned the basic principles of being a normal teenager had not. And so off to school he'd gone, though not without a few things to keep him entertained. A fairy communicator, for example.
He was pulled from his thought by the sound of chairs scraping back and the aimless chatter of his peers. He sighed and kept his eyes closed, not quite ready to plunge back into the painful monotony of the day. I really should give Holly a call. There hasn't been enough saving the world lately. Yes, he'd promised Mother to stay out of trouble, but surely there had to be a way to keep that promise and not be bored to death.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty. You gonna go to lunch or stay here all day?" A voice with a Welsh lilt intruded on his solitude.
He opened his eyes to find Viola's face just inches away. He started and she grinned, dark brown eyes sparkling.
This was why she was distracting. She constantly insisted on engaging him, unlike his other classmates who left him alone for the most part. He frowned at her slightly. "I was not sleeping," he informed her coolly.
She rolled her eyes and perched on the edge of his desk, swinging her feet like a child. "It was a joke, Fowl," she said, raising an eyebrow and blowing a stray lock of long, curling, dark brown hair off her face.
"Of course. How silly of me. Hilarious," he said dryly, standing.
The instant he was on his feet Viola swung her legs around so her knees were on either side of his waist. He found himself flushing and suddenly very glad that unlike most of the girls she had opted to wear slacks with her uniform instead of a skirt.
Apparently unbothered by the proximity, Viola gave him a lopsided smile and asked, "What now? I've got you trapped."
He sighed, looking up to avoid looking at her. The strangest thing about this girl was that she seemed to have no ulterior motives. At first he'd been suspicious of the casual way she talked to (and touched) everybody, but after having several classes with her over the past few months he'd begun to see that it was just the way she was. "I would appreciate it if you would let me pass, Miss Sommers."
She tsked at him and muttered, "Always so serious," but pulled her legs up onto the desk to give him room. He nodded and attempted to leave at the same time she jumped off the desk, consequently crashing into him.
"Oh-" She laughed and grabbed the edge of another desk to prevent them both from hitting the ground. Artemis realized he had grabbed hold of her waist automatically to steady her and quickly let go. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said, still laughing while her eyes danced with easy self-mockery.
Despite himself, he found a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "It's…fine." Though he usually found her to be a slight annoyance, there was something utterly charming about her in that moment.
"Oh my God." Her eyes went wide with feigned shock and she covered her mouth with a hand. "Is that a smile? Is Artemis Fowl smiling?"
The smile disappeared and he stepped sharply around her. "Good day, Miss Sommers."
There was a soft sigh behind him and a murmured, "Good day, Master Fowl."
As per his usual routine, Artemis took his lunch in a rather secluded corner of the school cafeteria, away from the aimless chatter of his classmates. For about five minutes, there was blissful quiet. Then the chair next to him scraped against the ground as it was pulled out with no warning and a veritable hurricane of teenage female plopped herself into it.
"Hey," Viola said easily, as though this was a daily routine. She didn't appear to have food with her, which seemed odd, but he didn't really waste time dwelling on it.
"What are you doing here?" he asked shortly, not caring if he seemed rude. Surprising moments of charm aside, this girl was a puzzle that he couldn't solve and it irritated him.
"Well, now, that's a loaded question, isn't it?" she said airily, waving a hand above her head. "What am I doing here, let's see- well, I'm living, for one. Living on this great big blue marble spinning through endless blackness. Kind of amazing when you think about it, really. If you're talking about St. Bart's, I'm supposed to be getting a decent education, but that can have all kinds of definitions, can't it? And if you mean "here" as in at this table…"
He gritted his teeth. She seemed to make a hobby out of being infuriating. "Yes, that is what I meant," he practically growled, surprising even himself at his tone. Pull yourself together.
"Oh, that." She grinned at him. "Just thought I'd stop by to chat, that's all."
He blinked at her, utterly bemused. "Chat," he repeated as though the word was alien. She nodded, still smiling. "Why?"
She shrugged, scooting her chair closer. "Because I'm curious," she answered simply, meeting his eyes.
Now, Artemis considered himself to be quite good at reading people, and for the life of him he could see no dishonesty in Viola Sommers. She seemed to really mean what she said- she was curious. "About what?" he asked cautiously, eyes never leaving her face.
"Oh, lots of things," she said casually. "Psychology, computer programming, the idea of the perception of colors, why a raven is like a writing desk, and why exactly it is that you, Master Fowl, have a fairy communicator in your pocket."
For a moment he swore his heart stopped. How could she possibly know that? Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face, because Viola's smile widened and she leaned in to murmur, "Perhaps we could talk somewhere a bit more private?"