"I had never learned
What friendship could mean
But I think that now's a great time to start"
I was unhurt, courtesy of Diane's timely interference. However, I couldn't speak for her. She was immediately swarmed by Mr. Po, Principal Guiney, and Mrs. Taigon, receiving everything from cursory diagnostics (in the case of Taigon) to harsh reprimands (in the case of Po). She was to be immediately whisked to the nurse's office, but she turned around as she was led away. Catching my eye, she smiled goofily and waved, her cheek swelling from having taken a nasty uppercut sometime in the madness of the fight. Reddening, I melted back into the crowd, hurrying to my next class.
What was she thinking? Getting into a fight for the sake of a boy she had literally just met? Where was her logic, her reasoning? It bewildered me. I didn't like being bewildered, simply because I wasn't used to it. Perhaps the same psychology was behind Diane's actions. Maybe she didn't like school bullies because she was unaccustomed to school violence-no, Artemis, you fool. She obviously knew what she was doing just then. Compared to Icarus O'hare, Diane looked like she had been assaulted by throw pillows. So why had she taken the punch for me?
The question continued to plague me as I sat down for my next class, to the point that I didn't even get around to jotting down notes for my next scheme. I spent the whole period fuming about this elusive puzzle. Funny how one girl's meaningless actions can mess with your head so badly that you forget to do anything else. But I couldn't shake the feeling that there was some ulterior motive, some bigger picture that I had failed to glimpse. Had she been looking for an excuse to get back at Icarus because of some childhood grudge? Did she have a violent disorder of sorts? Was she trying to suck up to me in order to bolster her own reputation? Everything was a blur, as if I had taken a black eye rather than Icarus and his two cronies. I went through the motions of school life, but I wasn't really there. Before I knew it, I was sitting at the lunch tables with a trayful of unappetizing nonsense in front of me, staring at the steel tabletop in front of me.
Sighing, I ran my hands through my hair, as if trying to awaken myself. I rested my head on my hands, propping myself up by my elbows. I stared into the depths of my dollop of cherry-flavored jello, as if trying to discern its mysteries rather than the the inner workings of Diane Sullivan's mind. It didn't make sense to me. I was too used to crime and criminals. My superior brain refused to believe that Diane had merely fought for the sake of fighting. People didn't do that. People were selfish, people had reasons. People don't jump in to the rescue of other people that they barely know, at the cost of a lost tooth and sore ribs. People pick on other people that appear to be weaker, in order for self-betterment. Icarus was normal. Diane was not. The whole scenario baffled me.
A hand waved in front of my face, causing me to blink and pull my head back. Sitting across from me was the dreaded girl herself, as cheery and debonair as ever. For half a moment I was thrown-after indirectly causing her such pain, she decided to be the first student to sit next to Artemis Fowl at lunch? She grinned wide, revealing a missing molar.
"There you are!" she jested, stabbing a brussels sprout with a spork. "I was wondering where Arty went. From the vacant look in his eyes, I thought he'd gone off to peruse the galaxy, or unravel universal mysteries." She waved her spork around for emphasis, bugging out her eyes and fixing them on me as she deliberately put the sprout in her mouth. I watched her chew for a moment, neither of us blinking. But it couldn't last for long. I had to ask her.
"Why did you do it?" I asked quietly. She blinked at me.
"Do what?" she queried through a mouthful of veggie. She took another bite, obviously not paying much attention to me. I resented that outwardly, but it was my inner confusion that seeped into my voice.
"Why did you fight for me?" I clarified, my voice trembling slightly. By her nonchalant shrug, I deducted that she didn't notice my weakness.
"Because Ike was a jerk for picking on you." she explained simply. Too simple. I wasn't happy with her answer; any moron could come up with such a cover story. So either she was so basic in her brainwaves that she was telling the truth or she was so bad at improvisation that she was lying.
"So you don't know Icarus?" I pressed. She inclined her head, as if she didn't hear me quite. I thought I was onto something, and so leaned closer as well.
"Who?" she replied. My face contorted in annoyance.
"Ike," I repeated. "You two don't hold grudges against each other or anything?"
"We will now!" cackled Diane, shooting Ike some eye lightning from across the lunchroom. He scowled and hid his bruised, ugly head behind some other gangbangers. "I don't reckon anyone's given him a beating like that for a while. Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall."
"So this is about your reputation?" I seized the possible lead. But it turned out to be nothing. Diane furrowed her brows at me.
"#*$ , no!" she retorted. Admittedly, I winced a little at the language. "I never do anything for publicity. That's like trying to please everyone."
Ignoring the fact that she had in fact perfectly described doing things for publicity, I continued. "Well then, why did you fight? Is this normal for you?"
"It was back in America," drawled Diane, smiling to herself as she recounted her war stories. Bingo-violent disorder it is. "Lemme tell ya! There wasn't a week when I wasn't sent to the VP's for pummeling some sorry sod! Those were the days…,"
I was certain I had her motive nailed, but I had to be sure. "So you didn't really do it for me? You did it for the thrill of the fight?"
Diane looked at me oddly then. In her eyes was a concoction equal parts concern, hurt, and outrage. I suddenly felt a little ashamed for asking.
"I did it for you. Simple as that."
It couldn't be.
"No, it's not 'simple as that!'" I snapped, sounding crosser than I intended. She didn't recoil, which either helped or didn't. "You wouldn't do that, you barely know me!"
"Does it matter?" She shrugged again, cocking one eyebrow and pressing the other one into the top of her eye. Courtesy of Diane, I now felt like a humbled idiot. She took a long slurp of her drink, and I sighed and sat back, closing my eyes for a relaxing instant.
"I guess not," I relented. When I opened my eyes, Diane was looking at me funny again. The sad concern was still there, but now it was paired with a selfless camaraderie I couldn't fathom from a total stranger.
"I have a feeling you haven't had many friends, Arty," she diagnosed. I glared at her sullenly, which didn't faze her.
"Who needs friends?" I growled, taking a drink myself.
"Everyone," answered Diane. I wasn't sure if I wanted to never see her again or remain in her company. "Including thinkers and fighters. We kids, we're all the same inside. Our strengths, weaknesses, personality quirks-none of it matters when it all boils down. We just need a friend."
I couldn't find a snappy retort to put an end to her heartfelt speech. My heart felt it in a manner that I wasn't accustomed to. I took a deep breath, unsure as to why my chest had suddenly gone claustrophobic.
"And I'm..," For the longest moment, I lacked the mettle to look her in the eye. "...I'm presuming that you would be mine?"
"Easy tiger," she brassed suddenly, carving a hunk out of her jello. All in a rush the thoughtless cliche of my statement hits me. "It's just like you said-I barely met you!"
I roll my eyes, smiling with a chuckle. For once in my term here at Bartleby's, I mean every move that I make.