Miss Chapman felt sick. She felt sick with embarrassment that her entire class was proven wrong in a single sentence. She felt sick with guilt for judging a student too fast. And she felt sick with anxiety knowing anyone could catch her in confidential files.
And it was still only her first day.
The black text stared back at her from the file she held in her hands.
Amelia Vause. GPA: 4.25.
It was kind of like a slap in the face, and the kind that she would just accept. Sure, she was being hard on herself. Amelia, or whoever the hell she was, probably didn’t give two shits about the ordeal. She probably left it behind the door of room 177A before she strode out of the classroom. But Miss Chapman did give a shit. And she hated herself for caring so much.
She gingerly slipped the file in its spot, guiding the metal drawer back in place and snuck out the door. Spending her first lunch break meddling in student files wasn't the most tasteful way to pass the time. She could admit that. But what she couldn't figure out was why even she looked at it in the first place. Why did she have to care? Why did she feel the need to sneak into a fucking teenager’s confidential files to begin with? She pondered these things as she walked down the near vacant halls of the school. Her sensible heels echoed down the corridors as she passed the foreign classrooms she still had yet to see. She smiled at colleagues who she had yet to become acquainted with as they ambled past, not returning the gesture. She was nearing the end of the hallway until she heard laughter and chatter coming from the room a few doors down. She apprehensively advanced towards the noise and peered in the window from afar.
Of fucking course.
It was Amelia Vause. She was with another boy and girl who she didn't recognize. They were all busy on something. They were all equipped with paintbrushes and focused on something she couldn't see on the table. Even though she cursed herself for it, Miss Chapman was genuinely curious. About who Amelia was. What her deal was. Why she had tattoos at such a young age. And before she knew it, she was placing one foot in front of the other until she was in the art room. Face to face with the student she had already once confronted. The other boy and girl looked up from their work, but Amelia didn't bother to break her focus.
"Hi, um." Miss Chapman began. "Can I talk to Amelia really fast?" The brunette stopped painting at the mentioning of her name, keeping her gaze fixed on what she was doing. The red-haired girl beside Amelia grinned at her.
"What did she do now?" She jabbed Amelia's sides, causing the three to laugh and Miss Chapman to smile.
"We'll finish this next week. Do you mind taking it with you for the weekend?" The boy started to untie his apron and dropped his brush in a paint-stained cup of murky water.
"And don't forget, Miss Diaz will kill us if we don't get those anatomy pieces in by Tuesday," the redhead added along with a slicing motion across her throat.
"Yeah, of course. Thanks for everything, guys." The door shut behind the two as they left. A bitter silence sank in the room. Amelia never looked up from her work. She continued to paint in long strokes with her brush and laser focus that could burn through the table. Miss Chapman looked over at the piece and studied it. It was a painting of Native American war horses in vivid colors that soared off the canvas. It was like she could practically hear the falcons shrieking and the traditional flutes playing in the background of the work. The teacher was taken aback by what the young artists had created and tried her best not to show it.
"That's really beautiful." Miss Chapman broke the silence. And her promise of not giving her approval.
"Thanks," Amelia replied dryly. She finished her stroke and dipped her brush again in the red paint. The cool silence began to settle over them again. Miss Chapman was scouring her mind for the right words to say as the dwindling temperature dropped between them.
"Look, I just came to apologize. For earlier. I shouldn't have made assumptions. About you, I mean." Amelia stopped mid-stroke to look up at her through her dark lashes. "You're a smart kid and I think we should try again." Amelia looked long and hard at her teacher, who pressed her lips together in a smile of sorts. She looked ashamed almost. Almost. Her guilty expression showed through the cracks of her makeshift mask of “teacherly pride”. However the girl's face was tense and unmoving, but it loosened into a subtle smile after a few short moments. She saw right through that shitty facade.
"I appreciate that, thank you." Miss Chapman returned the smile.
"Can I sit?" Amelia motioned her approval. "So you do art?" She sat down on the wooden stool across from her. It screeched as she pulled herself closer to the table.
"Yeah," She pulled out a beaten leather sketchbook from her bag and handed it to her. "My mom used to let me trace over her tattoos when I was little and when I finally outgrew that, she put me in art."
"And your dad?" She took the brown book in her hands and began to turn a page.
"He's dead to me. But my other mom left when I was 14, so it's just us." Miss Chapman stopped to look at Amelia, wondering if she heard her correctly. She was careful to word the next question in a decent way. She had just made amends with this student; the last thing she wanted was for her efforts to be in vain.
"So your mom's-"
"A dyke?" Amelia cut her sentence short.
Her expression returned to being as hard as it had been before in a second. The blonde held her breath, scared that she ruined the chances of earning this student's trust. After a few deadly seconds of sheer silence, a smile crept back on her cheeks and she let out a chuckle.
"Nah, it's cool. It's nothing that I'm ashamed of."
"Fuck, that was close," Miss Chapman thought as she released an internal sigh.
"Well, you're really mature to think that way." She voiced aloud. She continued to turn through the sketch book and her eyes grew wider with each page. "And talented too. These are gorgeous." The small, yet beautiful paintings of architecture, detailed sketches of insects and plants, and other abstract portraits were nothing to Amelia. They were just practice. But to her teacher, they were some of the most incredible things she had seen a young artist create.
"Thank you, really." Amelia was handed back her sketchbook and she promptly slid it back in her bag. They continued to make small talk over the course of the lunch break. They conversed about literature, art, and other cultivated topics. Amelia went ahead and mapped out the social standings of Litchfield. Who to avoid, who to talk to, what days to eat lunch. Like a favor from one new ally to another. It was like a flashback to high school, except Miss Chapman was friends with the girl her mother warned her about.
"You know, I've never been proven wrong by anyone before. Let alone a student. And I'm almost glad I was." Amelia furrowed her puzzled brow at the comment.
"Really? May I ask why?" The blonde woman smiled at Amelia's question.
"Because if you didn't, I would've never come here and learned a little about you. You're different. I like you, Vause."
"Thanks, Chapman." The blonde rose from her stool and bid her young friend goodbye. Neither one thought that this unlikely friendship would ever happen. But it did, and neither of them were complaining.
Alex was damn good at her job. Genius. Though it was illegal and Amelia was well aware of it, the two addressed being a heroin importer as regularly as being a businessman. Like anyone in the field, she often regretted her choice in career. Especially since she had a kid on her hands. But then she remembered why it was so damn great. It made her feel in dominant and in control. It highlighted who and what she was- tactical, realistic, elusive. It was like a game for her. A game of power and danger. But she knew to play and she knew every angle of the board. This to her was child's play.
She had finished booking six different flights across the globe for mules and successfully transported over $50,000 from Manhattan to Prauge. She released an easy sigh and doused herself with internal praise for the work she did. Now all she could do was kick back and let the easy money roll in. She imagined the numbers on her paycheck going higher and higher, like the numbers on a slot machine. She smiled to herself as the satisfying images danced about in her mind.
But her luxuriant thoughts were interrupted by Amelia bursting through the door, singing an off-key version of Happy Birthday. Alex turned to the crooning and laughed. She shut her eyes and let out a genuine, pleasant stream of surprised laughter. She rose from her spot on the couch to meet her daughter, who was leaning a large canvas against the glass table and still singing proudly. As she finished her celebratory tune, Alex applauded for the girl.
"Don't think I forgot your birthday so easy."
"Thanks, kid," Alex smiled and lightly pushed Amelia's shoulder.
"I have a present." Amelia wiggled a neatly wrapped gift out from inside her backpack.
"No," Alex's face was still alight as she attempted to stop her. But the girl was already clutching the gift tight in her hands.
"So, I didn't know what to get you. At first, I thought about getting you something shitty. Like a shirt or something. But then I thought I should give you something personal." Amelia was looking down at the present the whole time she spoke. But she finally gazed up at her mother, who was already blinking back the sting of oncoming tears. "So uh, happy birthday, Mom." She handed her the the gift along with a flattened smile. The woman peeled open the gift and she felt her heart swell when she realized what it was. It was a watercolor pencil drawing of herself.
"I know it doesn't seem like a whole lot after all you do for me and all the stuff you went through for me, but I hope you like it." Amelia looked down at the floor beneath her feet. Alex remembered the moment which the drawing depicted. It was one of those candid moments she wouldn’t forget.
Their favorite hour of the morning was 4. They’d never be tired then, they’d be up so often. The city around them was quiet and dark and the only people that mattered were them. Only the overhead lamp and the distant buildings the served as a source of light. Which was perfectly fine with the both of them.
Alex wore a dark v neck and a loose pair of sweats. Her fingers were intertwined around a cup of tea and she was was gazing longingly outside the window. Amelia’s clothing was relaxed as well. She sat across from her, tinkering with the settings on a camera she had gotten from an obscure website. The crisp buttons clicked and snapped beneath her small fingertips.
"Mom look here."
"You better not take a picture of me." Alex still looked directly in the eye of the camera.
"Why not? You look fine." Amelia adjusted the lens to focus in on her.
"Bullshit," Alex took a long drink of tea.
"What? It's just to test it. And at least I'm telling you that I'm taking it instead of taking a surprise shot." A mischievous smile reached the corners of her face. "Like this," She snapped a picture with a quick tap of her finger. Alex furrowed her brow and tried to hide a smile.
"Did you seriously?" Amelia giggled and continued to snap pictures of the unprepared mother. Alex was now fully grinning and protesting. She attempted to shield her face with her hands, but her laughter weakened the quality of her guard.
"Okay, I think I got it. Thanks," Amelia lowered the camera and winked teasingly at her.
"Glad I could help," Alex scoffed before chuckling to herself.
It was the one where she had her eyes shut and she was laughing, free of any arms to shield her. Amelia had captured it all. The dialogue that happened moments before, every feature of her bare face and the intricate details of her beloved tattoos. All of it sang out on the page. Alex felt the hot tears bloom from the corners of her eyes as she recounted that stupid memory. That goddamn, sentimental, memory that always made her emotional. She first gazed at the precious gift in her hands. Then looked at the child she had fought so hard for and allowed a few tears to escape her eye. She folded her quivering lips inward before a sob could leave her lips.
"Jesus, I promised myself I wouldn't get emotional about having a kid. Fuck you, for making me cry," Alex laughed in the midst of her emotional state. Amelia's smile illuminated her face and her brown eyes sparkled. Her mother brought the precious girl into a warm embrace and rested her chin atop the girl's head. Alex relished in the moment as she pulled her closer still.
"Now the final part of the present is that you go have fun!" Said Amelia as she pulled away.
"What?" Alex wiped her eyes before sliding her glasses back her nose.
"Yeah. Some of your friends or colleagues or whatever the hell you wanna call them invited you out for drinks. They all sound the same to me. Go out, get a little drunk, go find someone, it's your day." She poked Alex’s shoulder. She scanned Amelia's face, which held a smile that awaited her answer.
"You know the drill,”
“Don’t fuck anything up,” Amelia quoted her mother’s rule and Alex sent her off and she scurried to the room to work on her painting. She watched her daughter go until the large sliding door shut behind her. She smiled quietly to herself as she looked at her gift once more. She set it gently on the coffee table and went to prepare herself for the night ahead.
Alex cleaned herself up. She took a long shower, letting the hot beads massage her back and seep through her jet black locks. She lathered herself with lotion, making her pallid skin soft to the touch. She dressed in the outfit that most accentuated her voluptuous figure. Tight leather pants and a white blouse with a deep cutting V. Her long hair cascaded down her head and curled gently past her chest. She colored her lips a dark red and gave herself a spritz of perfume that left seduction on her scent. She wasn't planning on going home alone. She almost never left a bar empty handed to begin with. But tonight was important. After all, what was a birthday without some special birthday treatment?
Alex walked out of her bedroom, finding the house seemingly empty. The sun had long gone to sleep and the only restless city outside lit the apartment. She slowly headed towards the studio and knocked softly on the white door. She stepped in the room when she was granted a polite "come in." The girl was finishing homework on the plush, white covers of her bed, already in sweat pants that swallowed the lower half of her body.
"Hey, kid. I'm heading out," Her outfit earned the resounding approval from her daughter. "But I wanted you to do the honors. Amelia motioned for her mother to come closer and stood up on her bed to see a little over tall woman's head. Alex handed her the black eyeliner and Amelia took it in her hands. She gracefully maneuvered the pen over her subject's eyes, effortlessly creating identical dark wings on both lids. It was a little “tradition” between the two. Alex knew how to do her eyeliner. She was an adult for God’s sake. But something about Amelia doing it was almost comforting. Like a pre one night stand pep talk. It was one of those things she knew she could go without, but one of those things she couldn’t at the same time.
Amelia took a small step back and studied her model. After giving a subtle nod of approval, she placed her hands on Alex's shoulders and looked at her with a solemn expression.
"Go get 'em, tiger," they exchanged a smile and Amelia sent her mother off. "What a badass," she thought to herself as the sound of stilettos grew quieter and quieter.