Mason smiled as he pulled his car up in front of the pale blue house
on Lillian Avenue, looking over at his daughter Genevieve, who was
sitting in the passenger seat. They had just finished having dinner
to celebrate Genevieve's sixteenth birthday. This was going to be the
last time Alexander saw her before she took off to the elemental city
of Nevaline to enroll in the Wallace T. Wentworth Academy for
Elemental Education. Alexander was worried about her, as he was prone
to do about anything involving elementalism. But Genevieve was the
only elementalist amongst his three children with his ex-wife, and
whether he was worried about her or not, federal law stated she had
to go to an elemental school to be properly educated.
“Gen,” he started softly, his smile widening when she turned her head and looked at him with the dark brown eyes that he knew would be changed the next time he saw her. “I'm going to miss you.”
“You hardly ever see me,” Genevieve said. “I don't see how this will be any different.”
“It's good that you're here with your mother and your siblings,” Alexander said, reaching out to gently tuck a lock of hair behind his daughter's ear. “I'm worried about you at that elemental school, teaching you how to do all sorts of dangerous things.”
“It'll be fine, Dad,” Genevieve said, smiling. “At least that's what Mama keeps telling me.”
“Then we should both listen to her, because she's the one with the experience of being at one,” Alexander said, looking past Genevieve and at the house when he noticed the front porch light come on. “Looks like your mother is waiting for you. Can I walk you to the door? I need to speak to her.”
“Sure,” Genevieve said.
Alexander followed behind her as she made her way up the sidewalk, a polite smile crossing his face when the door opened and his ex-wife stepped onto the porch. “Noëlle.”
“Alexander.” Noëlle tried to sound clipped, but her French accent rounded it out, making it softer than intended. “Did you enjoy your dinner?”
“Yes,” Genevieve said, letting her mother wrap her up into a big hug. “Dad says he's going to miss me.”
“Of course he will,” Noëlle said, her voice still tense. “I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t.”
“Gen, how about one last hug and then you go inside so I can talk to your mother?” Alexander said. “You'll be amazing at this school. I just know it.”
“Thanks Dad,” Genevieve said, taking a step back when his arms released her. “I'll see you at Christmas.”
“I'm looking forward to it,” Alexander said, smiling at her one last time before she turned and walked past Noëlle and into the house.
Once the door was closed behind Genevieve, Noëlle turned to Alexander. “What do you want?”
“Have you told her yet?” Alexander asked. “I couldn't tell at dinner.”
“No,” Noëlle said, looking away from his gaze. “I haven’t found the right time.”
“You’d better find it soon, Noëlle. She's leaving tomorrow.”
“I don’t need you to tell me these things.”
“Apparently you do, because I've been telling you for twelve years that she deserves to know the truth. All the kids do.”
“Alexander, I want you to leave now.”
Alexander sighed heavily. “Tell her Noëlle. This is not something she should discover on her own.”
“Leave, and don't bother coming back.”
Alexander looked at Noëlle one last time before shaking his head and turning away, walking back to his car.
Noëlle was still standing there as he started the car and drove away. Once she was certain that Alexander's car had disappeared, she walked down to the end of the sidewalk and opened the mailbox. She retrieved its contents and started to walk back up to the house as she looked through items. She came across a plain envelope that was addressed to no one, and she stopped on the porch to open it.
Inside was a simple handwritten note. She is beautiful, it read. I will meet her soon.
Noëlle looked around the street to see if there was any sign of the person who had written it, but she saw no one. She knew in her heart who the note was from, however, and it made her more resolute in her decision.
She was absolutely not telling Genevieve a thing before she left. If she figured it out on her own, then so be it.
For as long as she could remember, Genevieve Mason had lived in the pale blue house at the very end of Lillian Avenue with her mother Noëlle, and her siblings, Dashiell and Ariane. The house was big enough for everyone to have their own room, and from a very early age, Genevieve's bedroom had been the center of her universe. It had started out in shades of pink and lilac, with a flowery border around the top of the walls, and sheer ruffled curtains hanging from the window. It had been the perfect room for a little girl who had dreamt of becoming a princess, but as time had gone on, and her mother had begun to explain to her how she was different from her siblings and friends, the pinks and lilacs no longer seemed to fit.
So for her twelfth birthday, her gift from her mother had been a redecorated bedroom. She spent the week leading up to her birthday helping her mother with the transformation, laughing as they changed the walls to the brightest shade of red paint that they'd been able to find. The wallpaper border had come down, and the ruffled curtains had been replaced by sheer black ones. The redecoration had caused Ariane to complain about not having her bedroom redone, while Dashiell, who had been studying sapien-elemental interactions at the time, had taken one look at the room and called her a typical fire-bearer. Genevieve had taken great satisfaction in slamming the door in Dashiell's face. Dashiell didn't understand, and she knew there was no way he ever could. Dashiell was a sapien, after all, and homo sapiens didn't really understand elementalists yet, even if they were the son of one and the brother of another. Her room had been her red and black sanctuary ever since, the place where she had tried desperately to come to terms with what lay before her.
But now the time had come to leave, and she wasn't sure that she was ready for it.
Genevieve turned on the radio on the bedside table and listened to the music for a moment before zipping up her red and black backpack. She set it on the bed next to her two bulky suitcases, then took a long look around the bedroom she'd called home since she was four. Her mother assured her that her room wouldn't be touched while she was gone, but she just knew that Ariane would end up using the room, because she’d heard her asking their mother to use the solid black vanity that sat at the end of Genevieve's bed.
Genevieve walked over to the vanity and sat down in the chair, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She didn't think there was anything particularly remarkable about her appearance, from her round face and slender nose to her long, raven-colored hair, but she knew that was about to change. Her sixteenth birthday had passed a couple of weeks earlier, and every day since she'd sat in front of that mirror and searched for some sort of change.
Sixteen was the age that an elementalist's abilities began to emerge, and part of that was a transformation of hair and eye color. She didn't understand why the physical change was necessary, but according to everything she had read and been told, the transformation should have started, but it hadn't.
All that did was reinforce her belief that this was some sort of mistake, that she really wasn't an elementalist after all, and she was about to go off to this special school only to be sent home when they realized she couldn't do anything they expected her to do. But it wasn't a mistake. A blood test done a few hours after her birth had confirmed that she was a homo elementus like her mother, not a homo sapiens like her father and siblings.
She took a deep breath and reached towards her hair, running her fingers through it and looking for a hint of red amongst the black. But just as it had been every morning and night for the past several days, she didn't see a thing, and she dropped her hands to her lap and slumped down in frustration. She didn't entirely understand the frustration though, because the longer she stayed normal looking, the longer it would be before people began to regard her as a freak.
Elementalists had been part of the world's society for longer than anyone could remember. The truth of their origins was lost to history. Theories from leading experts were abundant, stretching from them having evolved alongside humans but from a different species, to the first of them being aliens from another Earth-like planet somewhere in outer space. The only thing that was truly known was that in every ancient civilization that had written their history down, elementalists had been there. Some of the ancients worshiped them as though they were gods; others enslaved them for their own purposes. Somewhere along the line, they had intermarried with the humans of the day, and the clashes between the two species became less frequent.
Regardless of the history, all of that didn't mean that things were necessarily peaceful. The more studies that scientists did on elementalists, the more the separation between homo elementus and homo sapiens grew. Most elementalists lived in the great elemental cities of the world, but for those who didn’t, some states required elementalists to live in protected colonies. Other countries had passed laws allowing business owners the right to refuse service to elementalists, and with every name that was added to the international registry meant to keep track of them, the more the elementalists were feared. The Elemental Freedom Movement and their attacks on what they referred to as their “sapien oppressors” didn't help things either.
Genevieve didn't want to be feared. She didn't want to be different. She didn't want her name in some super computer on some registry, she didn't want to live in a colony, and she didn't want to be told she couldn't shop in her favorite stores. All she wanted was to be a normal sixteen-year-old girl.
“Authorities warned earlier today that wanted elemental terrorist Callan Murphy had likely entered the country earlier this week. A large scale manhunt is underway in Maine, where officials say that Murphy crept across the U.S.-Canadian border under the cloak of darkness. President Clarkson is sched—”
Genevieve looked up as the radio shut off to find her mother standing there, a knowing look on her face. “Nervous?”
“Yeah,” Genevieve said. “I think this has to be a huge mistake.”
Noëlle walked over to where Genevieve was sitting and crouched down next to her chair, placing a gentle hand on her knee. “I was nervous before my first trip to school too,” she said. “But I promise you, Genevieve, this is not a mistake.”
Genevieve stared at her for several moments, taking in her mother's long, white-blonde hair and green eyes, the two physical characteristics that defined her as an air-bearer. “Yeah right. Why should I believe that?”
“Well, there is the blood test, for one. But it's more than just that. You cannot be burned by flames, Gen. Your skin accepts fire like it’s water instead of harming it. Don’t you remember sticking your hand into the flames of a candle when you were six? You’ve been fascinated with fire your whole life. I've been around a lot more elementalists than you, and even though I know you hate it when Dash calls you a typical fire-bearer, you really are. The colors, the heat, and quite frankly, the only other people I've ever met who can just sit and stare at a burning candle have all been fire-bearers.”
“Then why hasn't the transformation started?”
“It has. You may not realize it, but your eyes are getting darker than they used to be. I've noticed it a lot the past couple of days.”
Genevieve stared into the mirror and examined the reflection of her eyes. “They look exactly the same to me.”
“They probably will until they start to turn black,” Noëlle said softly, reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind her daughter's ear. “Come on. We have to leave soon if you're going to catch your flight in time.”
“Yeah, I’ll be down soon.”
Genevieve watched as her mother stood up and walked out of the room, then slowly stood up herself. She walked over to the bed and slung the backpack onto her shoulders, looking around before grabbing both suitcases by their handles and hauling them off the bed. She paused in the doorway and let her eyes sweep over the room one last time, then took a deep breath and headed towards the stairs.
She was so not ready for this.
Three hundred and fourteen - that was Genevieve's current guess at how many corn fields they had passed since leaving home. She was in the backseat of the car, staring out the window in utter boredom, and she was ready for this to be over. Her mother had been driving since dawn, and she had that resolute look on her face that told Genevieve they weren't going to stop until they got to the airport in Denver. From the front seat, Dashiell was playing with the radio, trying to find a new station that would come in clearly, while Ariane was sat next to her, complaining about how every station played nothing but country music.
“There isn’t going to be anything like back home that plays that ridiculous indie shit that you're into,” Dashiell said, turning around to glare at Ariane.
“Oh, shut up, Dash. I’m sure you can find something top-40 at least. It’d be better than this country crap,” Ariane spat, reaching for her headphones. “Turn it down so it's not drowning out my iPod.”
Genevieve rolled her eyes and met her mother's gaze in the rear view mirror. “Mama, how much longer?”
“Not much further,” Noëlle said. “We passed the Colorado border a few miles back. Maybe another two hours?”
“Doesn't the GPS give a time frame?” Dashiell asked, pressing a few buttons on the device. “Wait, you're not even using this right. You've got a map of Boston up, not Colorado.”
“I’ve never been able to get that thing to work correctly,” Noëlle said, sending a smile in Dashiell's direction. “I’m following the signs on the interstate. The letter we received from Wentworth said that the exits for the airport are very clearly marked.”
“So are you excited about going to Nevaline?” Dashiell said, looking over his shoulder at Genevieve. “And why did you pick a school so far away?”
“Nevaline terrifies me,” Genevieve said, slumping down as far as she could in her seat. “And I didn't pick it.”
“You should be more excited, Genevieve,” Noëlle said, staring at her in the mirror again. “Wentworth is the best school in the country for elementalists. I cannot wait to hear what you think of it, but I am sure that it does not compare to l'Académie Élémentaire. I wish that you could have gone there, just like I did.”
“I don't speak French well enough to go to a French school. Just wake me up when we're there, alright?” Genevieve slid her headphones on and let the movement of the car lull her to sleep.
She awoke later to the sound of a slamming door and glanced up to see her mother climbing out of the car. She sat up straight and stretched, and a quick look at her phone told her she'd been asleep for a little more than two hours. She jumped when someone tapped on the window, fighting off a sigh as her mother's grinning face stared back at her.
“Get out of the car, sweetheart. We're at the airport.”
Genevieve unbuckled her seat belt and pulled the headphones off her ears, making sure everything she had brought was stuffed into her handbag before climbing out of the car. “I'm nervous,” she said as she looked around the drop off area. “I've never been on a plane before.”
“You'll be alright,” Dashiell said, walking over to her and slinging an arm around her shoulders. “Now, Gen, you've got to remember to take lots of pictures of the campus. The ones on the website look so awesome. I wish I could see the inside of it.”
“Dashiell, help Genevieve get her stuff out of the trunk, please,” their mother said, walking around to the other side of the car and tapping at Ariane's window.
Dashiell nodded and led Genevieve to the back of the car, popping open the trunk lid and reaching inside for one of the suitcases. “I'm serious. Take tons of pictures and email them to me, okay? I’m fascinated by the look of the building. Also, I’ll be needing pictures of all the hot chicks on campus.”
“Dash, I appreciate your love of architecture and the female body, but I won't have time for that,” Genevieve said, reaching for her backpack.
Dashiell pulled the other suitcase out of the trunk, then shut the trunk lid as their mother led a reluctant Ariane over to where they were standing. Genevieve took a deep breath as she looked at her watch.
“It's time? We've cut it that close?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Noëlle said, stepping forward and wrapping Genevieve up in a big hug. “The sooner you get inside, the sooner you will meet others, and then your nerves will go away. I know that you are apprehensive, Genevieve, but please, try to remember that this is for the best. You will learn so much.”
“I'll try,” Genevieve said, trying to smile at her as she stepped back.
Dashiell swooped in, reaching up to mess with her hair. “You’re going to be great at this, sis. I know it.”
“Thanks Dash,” Genevieve said as she broke their embrace, looking over at her sister and biting back a laugh as she noticed Ariane was focused on her phone. “Something earth-shattering happening with Rachelle, Aria?”
“She says there's a bunch of emergency response vehicles down at our end of the street, but they aren't letting anyone close enough to find out what's going on,” Ariane said, not looking up from the phone. “She says she'll keep me updated.”
Genevieve gave her mother a concerned look, and Noëlle smiled at her. “The neighbor's cat is probably stuck up that tree again. I will send you an email and let you know what happened once we get home, okay? You've got to get inside. Airports can be extraordinarily busy places. Best to be there nice and early to make sure you don't miss your flight.”
“Mama,” she said with a sigh.
“We have to leave now too, if I'm going to have any chance of making it back to get some sleep before work. Remember that we love you, and I promise I'll send that email when we get home.”
“Mama,” Genevieve tried again, her hands shaking from nervousness. “I don't know if I can do this.”
Her mother stepped forward and gave her another hug. “Of course you can, Gen. You were born to do this. Your professors will teach you everything that you need to know, I promise. Go inside, sweetheart.”
Genevieve nodded and watched as her mother ushered her siblings back into the car, waving quickly out the window after she climbed inside. She waved back as her mother started the car and pulled away, leaving Genevieve standing there with no other choice than to go inside.
Genevieve took a deep breath and picked up her suitcases, stepping onto the sidewalk and slowly walking towards the door. She entered the terminal and looked at all the ticket counters, walking through the corridor until she saw the sign with the Nevaline city logo. She set her suitcases on the floor, digging through her handbag for the paperwork she was going to have to present. She found it and reached down to grab her suitcase, starting when she realized there was someone next to her.
“Wentworth newbie, right?”
Genevieve turned towards the girl, her eyes widening slightly at her shoulder-length shimmering silver hair and ocean-like eyes. “Is it that obvious?”
“Of course,” the girl said. “Welcome to Wentworth.”
“Thanks,” Genevieve said, swallowing hard when the girl picked up one of her suitcases and took a couple of steps forward. “You don't have any luggage?”
“My stuff's already there,” the girl said. “You get the option to store it there over the school breaks, so I just did that.”
“Oh,” Genevieve said, feeling incredibly dumb.
“You're nervous, that’s okay. I think everyone is nervous when they first come to Wentworth. My hands shook for almost two weeks when I first got there,” she said, inching them forward. “But once you get used to things, you'll calm down.”
“Name and paperwork?”
Genevieve looked up and realized she was at the ticket counter, quickly handing over the paperwork she was holding. “Genevieve Mason.”
The woman behind the counter started typing into her computer, checking something on the screen. “Welcome to Wentworth, Miss Mason. Please place all suitcases on the conveyor belt. Any backpacks or handbags may be taken on board with you. When finished, please hold out your right hand, palm down.”
Genevieve put the suitcase she was holding onto the belt, making sure the girl put her other suitcase on there as well. She turned back to the woman and held out her hand as directed. The woman reached for a stamp and pressed it to her hand, revealing a large W in red ink as she pulled the stamp away.
“Your boarding pass,” the woman behind the counter said, turning her attention to the other girl. “I've already seen you today, Miss Rousseau.”
“I know, just helping out a newbie,” the girl said, holding out her right hand to reveal the same W, but in blue ink. “Come on, Genevieve. I know the way to the gate.”
Genevieve turned and walked quickly to catch up with the girl, who was already several feet in front of her. “So, um, what's your name?”
The girl burst out laughing, lightly smacking herself on the forehead. “I knew I was forgetting something! Sorry! I'm Marie-Hélène Rousseau, but don't ever call me that. I only answer to Marilène.”
“You have a very French name, but you don't sound French,” Genevieve said as they approached the security checkpoint.
“Oh, I was born in France, but I grew up in New York,” Marilène said, pointing Genevieve towards a specific line. “My parents really wanted me to go to l'Académie Élémentaire because that's where they both went, but after the attack in Kaladrine, they decided it was probably safer for me to accept the invitation to Wentworth.”
“My mother went to l'Académie Élémentaire,” Genevieve said, putting her backpack and handbag on the conveyor belt and stepping into the scanner. “She thinks it's the greatest school in the world.”
“Sounds like she'd fit right in with my parents,” Marilène said, stepping into the scanner after Genevieve was told she could continue. “So your mother is French?”
Genevieve nodded as she reached for her backpack and her handbag. “She's from Valenciennes. Probably would have stayed there her whole life, but she met my father on a trip to Miami and ended up moving here to marry him.”
Marilène exited the scanner and then they stepped onto the escalators that took them to the underground trains. “I wonder if my parents would know her,” Marilène said as they descended. “I'm guessing they would have been there around the same time.”
“I don't know. Mama doesn't really talk about the people she met there,” Genevieve said as they stepped onto the train platform. “We'll have to exchange their names and ask.”
Marilène nodded and pulled Genevieve onto the next train that arrived. “Concourse B, regional jet terminal,” she said.
Genevieve nodded and grabbed onto a pole as the train began to move. “So you're a, um, water-bearer? The only elementalists I've ever been around are my mother and her parents, and they're all air-bearers, so I'm not entirely certain what to look for to identify the others.”
“Well, the silver hair is a total giveaway to a water-bearer,” Marilène said. “I'm about to start my second year at Wentworth. What about you? What kind of bearer are you?”
Genevieve glanced around the train, taking note of several people staring at them, probably because of Marilène's hair. “Fire-bearer,” she said softly, hoping that no one else heard her. The general public was notorious for their fear of fire-bearers being much stronger than the other three types.
“Sweet. You’re going to look amazing when your transformation begins. I don't know too many flamers that well, but I'll introduce you to the few that I do know.”
“Nicknames,” Marilène said, glancing up at one of the monitors as the train slowed. “This stop is Concourse A, so not us. One more. Anyway, earthies, oceans, flamers, and breathers. School legend is that the first ever class came up with them. I hate ours, but I think the other three are decent.”
Genevieve moved out of the way as the train stopped and several people got off. “I don't know that much about the school, to be honest. I didn’t read through all that paperwork they sent.”
“Don't worry, no one ever does,” Marilène said, catching the eye of an elderly man as the train began to move again. “What are you staring at?”
The man quickly looked away and Marilène laughed. “You're lucky you're not a water-bearer like me. At least when your hair changes, it'll be to a color that's considered somewhat normal.”
“Red, right?” Genevieve asked. “Mama said it would be red.”
“Yup. When's your birthday?”
“It was a couple of weeks ago.”
“I bet the transformation kicks into high gear within the first few weeks of school,” Marilène said, reaching out and tugging at the ends of Genevieve's hair. “I can't believe how long your hair is. I've never seen someone with hair that hangs halfway down their back. Once it's all turned, we'll have to decide on an awesome hairstyle for you.”
Genevieve reached up and pulled Marilène's hands from her hair, smoothing her long locks back out. “Can't I just leave it the way it is?”
“It's kind of way too long to be practical for some of the stuff you'll be doing,” Marilène said. “Though I suppose you could always just put it up.”
Genevieve took in Marilène's hair, noticing that it fell just below her chin. “I've always had long hair,” she murmured. “I don't know if I could handle having it as short as yours.”
“We'll see. Totally depends on what the professors think, but you won't start activities until second semester. First semester is all book stuff.” The train slowed to a stop and Marilène checked the screen. “Concourse B. This is us.”
Genevieve followed Marilène off the train and up a couple of escalators until they were on the concourse, laughing when Marilène jumped onto one of the moving sidewalks. “What are those for? People who are too lazy to walk?”
Marilène laughed as Genevieve walked alongside. “I don't know. I just like to use them. They're fun.”
Genevieve shook her head as she got off at the end, looking around the concourse. “So where are we going?”
“Regional jet terminal,” Marilène said, bypassing the next moving sidewalk to walk alongside Genevieve. “End of the concourse, then to the left and across a jet bridge. Wentworth operates out of the very last gate.”
“I'll never remember that.”
“Well, if you do forget, then just follow the people who have silver hair like mine.”
Genevieve laughed and they walked the rest of the way to the gate, finding a few other kids hanging out in front of it. Marilène walked straight up to the counter and Genevieve followed her, unsure of what to do.
“Names,” the man behind the counter said, his fingers poised on his keyboard.
“Thank you,” the man said, typing away on the keyboard. “Hands.”
Marilène held her hand up so the man could see the stamp, so Genevieve said the same.
“Thank you,” the man said again, handing them each a slip of paper. “You two are the last we were waiting for. Boarding begins in two minutes.”
“Perfect timing,” Marilène said, walking away from the counter and towards where a girl with blonde hair and a boy with silver streaks were sitting. “Raven! Why are you flying out of Denver?”
“I'm not sure,” the blonde girl said, standing up and hugging Marilène tightly. “We got the paperwork for the new school year and it said we were flying from here instead of LA, which of course made Mom furious. What about you? Shouldn't you be flying in from New York?”
“I always fly in from Denver. Long story,” Marilène said, pulling back and waving Genevieve towards her. “But, I've already found a newbie! Raven, this is Genevieve Mason. Genevieve, Raven Blackwood.”
Genevieve held out her hand tentatively and shook the one Raven offered, the sparking sensation she was becoming so familiar with spreading through her hands. “It's nice to meet you.”
“Same,” Raven said, turning and kicking the boy she'd been sitting next to in the leg. “Get up and introduce yourself.”
Genevieve watched as the boy looked up from his phone. He was tall and lanky, a pair of baggy jeans and an obscure band’s t-shirt hanging on his thin frame. His eyes were the same color as Marilène's and he smiled at her as he held out his hand.
“Genevieve Mason,” she replied, letting Sparrow take her hand and shake it. The sparking sensation was much stronger than it had been when she'd shaken Raven's hand, and she pulled her hand away quite quickly. “Sorry, I'm not used to it yet. It‘s hard to touch people sometimes.”
“I totally get it, trust me,” Sparrow said, smiling at her again before looking over at Marilène. “So this is the infamous Marilène.”
“So this is the infamous Sparrow,” Marilène echoed, laughing. “Raven has told me so much about you, I almost feel like you're my little brother, not hers.”
“Great,” Sparrow said, sending a quick glare in Raven's direction. “How long is it going to take me to correct all the lies you’ve been spreading to everyone else?”
“Oh, probably years,” Raven said, turning to pick up her backpack as the man behind the counter announced the plane was boarding. “Don't worry. I'm sure that some of your fellow first-years will take pity on poor, friendless you.”
Marilène and Raven started walking towards the gate, and Genevieve followed, smiling at Sparrow when he fell into step next to her. “This is your first year? Mine too.”
“Cool,” Sparrow said, adjusting his backpack on his shoulder. “Don't listen to a thing Raven says about me. It's all wrong.”
“I won't,” Genevieve said as they stepped out of the tunnel and onto the plane. She glanced down at the paper in her hands, frowning when all she saw was the Wentworth logo and her name. “I have no idea where I'm supposed to sit.”
“Raven told me you sit anywhere,” Sparrow said, walking to the middle of the small plane and picking a window seat on the left.
Genevieve glanced over at where Marilène and Raven were sitting down next to each other, deeply engrossed in conversation, and she decided against taking the empty seat next to them, not wanting to intrude.
“Genevieve.” She turned her attention back to Sparrow and smiled when he pointed to the seat next to him. “Sit here.”
Genevieve sat down next to him, offering up a thanks as she went. “So, do you know anyone besides your sister?” she asked as she tucked her backpack on the floor next to her legs.
“Nope. We live in Berkeley, not one of those places the news calls a colony,” Sparrow said, shifting around until he could get his phone shoved into his pocket. “What about you?”
“Not a soul,” Genevieve said softly. “My mother is from France, and she hates the idea of those colonies, so we lived in Omaha. My dad's hometown.”
“Nebraska, huh? Never been there. We always go places where we can surf, or to Texas or Ireland.”
“Yeah, definitely nowhere to surf in Nebraska. Texas or Ireland?”
“Mom's from Texas. She's a Wentworth grad, a water-bearer like me, and my dad's an earth-bearer. He's from Xendaine, went to the British & Irish Elemental Institute,” Sparrow said, his voice dropping to a whisper. “He was roommates with Callan Murphy, but don't tell anyone that. He has no contact with him now, but he thinks INTERPOL are monitoring all of his communications anyway.”
“Callan Murphy, the head of the Elemental Freedom Movement?” Genevieve asked. “That Callan Murphy?”
“That Callan Murphy,” Sparrow echoed, reaching for his seat belt. “Dad says he thought was a nice guy until he realized Murphy was just trying to recruit him to join the EFM. Dad would never do that though. He fully believes that sapiens and elementalists can exist peacefully. He runs a whole student organization on campus about it.”
“Campus?” Genevieve asked, picking up the pieces of her seat belt and figuring out how to lock them together.
Sparrow held off answering as a tall woman with long, white-blonde hair walked onto the plane, stopping at the front of the aisle and looking out at everyone who was already seated. “Good afternoon, students.”
“Good afternoon, Professor Starkey,” several of the older kids called out, prompting the woman to laugh.
“Hopefully that will be the last time I'm called that this semester,” she said, smiling at the confused look on the other kids' faces. “My name is Georgiana Starkey, and I will be your guide through A Study of Sapien-Elemental Interactions. Call me Georgie. Only my mother calls me Georgiana and only Professor Miller calls me Professor Starkey. Do remember that, will you? I hate having to correct everyone all the time.”
Georgie looked behind her as someone else stepped onto the plane, and Sparrow leaned over to whisper to Genevieve. “Raven's told me about her. She's an air-bearer, but she teaches everybody. She's supposedly the most popular teacher in school.”
“Everyone take a glass of water,” Georgie said, standing to the side as a woman with long black hair pushed a cart into the aisle. “It's going to be a few minutes before takeoff. And then, well, I'll see you all when you wake up.”
“When we wake up?” Sparrow asked, sending a confused look in his sister's direction.
“And we have our first student who didn't read the paperwork,” Georgie said, setting her bag down on a seat as the woman pushed her cart down the aisle and started distributing the cups. “You are going to fall asleep. The water will ensure that. Your parents have been informed of this and given their consent for you to drink it, or else you wouldn't be here right now. And if you had read the paperwork that was sent to you, you would have known that.”
“Don't feel bad,” came a voice from the back of the plane. “No one ever reads all that paperwork!”
“Thank you for your help, Mr. Martínez,” Georgie said, before sitting down. “Drink the water, everyone. It won’t harm you in any way.”
Sparrow looked at Genevieve hesitantly as the woman stopped next to their row and handed them each as small glass full of water. “So that must mean there's drugs in this, right? I don't take them unless I have to. Mom and Dad are all into these homeopathic methods.”
“Well, I've taken sleeping meds before,” Genevieve said, setting the water on the small tray in front of her. “It'll be fine, Sparrow. It won’t hurt you, you’ll just feel weird when you wake up but it goes away quickly.”
Sparrow watched as Genevieve drank the water before doing the same with his own. “Alright. If you say so.”
“Oh, my father's the head of the Department of Elemental Studies at UC-Berkeley. He's very involved in campus life and making sure that the sapien-elemental interactions are smooth and understanding.”
They looked up when the woman stopped the cart next to them again. “Empty glasses?” Sparrow handed his to Genevieve who then handed both of their glasses to her. “Thank you.”
She glanced over at Marilène as the woman continued down the aisle. “What?”
“You two will get taken to a bunch of freshers stuff when we get to school, so we won't see you till dinner. Find us there, alright? Then I'll introduce you to those flamers I was talking about.”
Genevieve nodded. “Okay.”
“Flamers?” Sparrow asked, smiling when Genevieve turned her attention back to him. “You're a fire-bearer?”
“Lucky me, right? I'll get to spend the rest of my life trying to convince people that there's really nothing to be afraid of.”
“Don't think of it like that,” Sparrow said, leaning back in his chair. “Besides, you have no idea what things will be like ten years from now when we graduate.”
“I know I don't,” Genevieve sighed, “but I'm not optimistic. The EFM scare me, and they’re getting stronger every day.”
“Alright,” Georgie called out. “I need you all to sit back, relax, and close your eyes. When you open them again, we will be in Nevaline.”
Genevieve glanced over at Sparrow nervously. “I've never been on a plane before.”
“Nothing to worry about,” Sparrow said, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “By the time we get to Nevaline, you won't remember having been on one.”
“Good point.” she smiled as she made herself comfortable, glancing around the plane one last time before letting her eyes drift closed.
She awoke to the feeling of someone gently shaking her shoulder, opening her eyes to see Sparrow looking over at her with sleepy ones. “What?”
Genevieve yawned and sat up, glancing around the plane and noticing that everyone on board was slowly gathering their things and standing up. “How long were we asleep?”
Sparrow glanced at his watch as he yawned himself. “About nine hours or so. I bet we've been sitting here on the plane for awhile. Nevaline isn't a nine hour flight away from Denver.”
“Weird,” Genevieve said, reaching for her backpack and standing up. “Guess we’d better follow everyone.”
“Yeah,” Sparrow said, grabbing his own backpack. “I wonder how long until dinner? I'm starving.”
“Dinner’s soon,” came Georgie's voice, and they looked up to see her standing at the end of their row. “It doesn’t take long to get to campus, and then Professor Miller always speaks to the first-years. After that, you'll all be let loose in the cafeteria. Now come on, we're waiting for you two.”
Genevieve and Sparrow followed Georgie off of the plane and into a tunnel that led them through into a building. Georgie began to lead the group to the left as Genevieve looked around at her surroundings. The interior of the building looked like it had been carved out of one gigantic stone, and the result was utterly stunning. She stared open-mouthed until Sparrow gently put his hand on her elbow, bringing her along to catch up with everyone else.
“You've never been to an elemental city before, have you?” Sparrow asked.
“Never,” Genevieve murmured. “...how?”
“Elementalists don't build from metal or wood,” Sparrow said as they fell into step with the group. “Architects are all types, but for the most part, the builders are just earth-bearers and water-bearers. They start with gigantic stones, and they go from there. It's totally awesome what they can do, isn't it? Sometimes I go to my mom's building sites in Xendaine and just watch them work.”
“Your mom's building sites?”
“She's an architect,” Sparrow said, smiling. “One of the best in all of Xendaine. She just finished designing the new transport station. You'll totally have to come see it sometime.”
“Isn't Xendaine in Ireland or something?”
“Trust me, once you get used to being in elemental cities, you won’t want to go back to the human ones.” Sparrow said, quickening his steps. “Hey, I've gotta ask Raven something. Be right back.”
Sparrow jogged up through the group, leaving Genevieve to walk by herself until a girl with long brown hair dropped back and started walking with her.
“Are you as amazed by this place as I am?” she asked.
“I'm definitely amazed,” Genevieve said, taking a deep breath and turning towards her. “I'm Genevieve Mason.”
“Madelaine Lindahl,” the girl answered. “Is this your first year too?”
“Yes,” Genevieve said. “So, um, what kind of bearer are you?”
“Fire,” Madelaine whispered, then raised her voice. “I guess I’ll get used to not being ashamed of that one day, huh?”
“You and me both. It's nice to meet another flamer,” Genevieve said with a smile.
“C’mon, let’s find Marilène Rousseau,” Genevieve said, pulling her forward towards the group. “She can explain it to you like she explained it to me.”
They arrived at the campus after a short train ride, with Georgie pointing to a door and announcing all the first-years had to go through it. Genevieve and Madelaine were walking towards it when Sparrow caught up with them, and the three of them walked through the door to a large classroom. There were small tables situated around the room, each at least partially facing the desk and gigantic chalkboard in the front. The tables sat two people and they made their way to the nearest empty ones, Sparrow with Genevieve and Madelaine by herself.
Everyone in the room was looking around at the walls that looked entirely of books.The room fell silent as another door opened and in walked an elderly man. His skin appeared wrinkled and his eyes looked old, and to Genevieve, slightly sad. He walked with a cane in his left hand, so his steps were slow and wobbly. The pale blue leisure suit he wore was straight out of the seventies, but it went well with the shimmering silver of his hair, which hung to just past his shoulders.
As he made the trek between the door and his desk, Sparrow leaned close to Genevieve and whispered, “That's Professor Miller.”
Genevieve nodded as the man reached his desk, watching as he came to a stop behind the chair that was there. He stared at the students for a moment, and then suddenly a loud clap of thunder echoed through the room and it began to rain. Several of the others gasped and ducked underneath the tables they were sitting at, but Genevieve looked up, seeing the clouds that now covered the ceiling. She started to laugh when she realized she wasn't getting wet, smiling at Sparrow as he realized the same. Sparrow turned his gaze back to the front, and he nudged Genevieve to do the same. The man was still standing behind the desk, but unlike the students, the rain was pouring down upon him.
“Will everyone take their seats please?” he called out, letting the rain fall upon him until everyone was seated and looking in his direction, upon which it suddenly stopped. “Welcome to the Wallace T. Wentworth Academy for Elemental Education. I am Professor Augustus Miller, the school's president, and I will also be teaching your History of Elementalism classes. I hope that you all liked my little demonstration of my abilities, because that will be the last demonstration of anyone's abilities within my class. There are plenty of others in which you will get to use your emerging abilities, but in here, we learn strictly about the history of our people.”
Professor Miller walked around to the front of the desk and leaned against it, surveying the group of students with his eyes. “I can see that some of you have already begun your physical transformations, while others of you have not. Fear not if that is the case, because the length and speed of the physical transformation can vary from person to person. The physical transformations are purely that – physical. Your personalities will remain very much the same, but you will be gaining abilities that can be overwhelming and overpowering, and that is where you will need the support of your fellow classmates. I encourage you all to become friends, to learn about elements other than your own, and to understand that you are not going to be the only one who feels this way. Now, tell me, how many of you are having trouble touching other people?”
Genevieve tentatively raised her hand, and she looked around as Sparrow and almost every other student eventually did the same. Professor Miller did little more than nod.
“How many of you find that you seem to be stronger than you were before your sixteenth birthdays?”
Hands went up again.
“And how many of you feel your senses are heightened?”
Those with their hands raised kept them up.
“Finally, who is finding it difficult to sleep as much as you once did?”
When the hands stayed up again, Professor Miller let out a smile. “Congratulations, your abilities have begun to emerge. One more question. Is everyone hungry?” Everyone in the room called out a resounding “yes!” and began to laugh. “Alright, off to the cafeteria then. I'll see you all for your first class on Monday.”
Genevieve watched as Professor Miller walked out of the room before turning to Sparrow. “So I guess we find our own way to the cafeteria?”
“Only one way to find out,” Sparrow replied, standing up. “Come on.”
Genevieve stood up and they followed Madelaine, who was conversing heavily with the girl who had shared her table with her, and the rest of the group out of the room. Sparrow smiled as a woman with long silver hair came into view, directing everyone towards the cafeteria. “Aunt Billie!”
The woman looked up and smiled back at Sparrow, waving him over. “Sparrow, dear.”
Sparrow walked over to her, and was immediately wrapped up in a hug. “It's good to see you, Aunt Billie.”
“And it's good to see you as well, my dear. How has it been so far? Has Raven been a help?”
“Raven's been a pain as usual,” Sparrow said, laughing. “But this’s been okay so far. I feel like I'm an alien but at least I have the prettiest girl in school by my side.”
Genevieve blushed as Sparrow and Billie turned to look at her. “Sparrow, don't be ridiculous.”
“I'm not,” Sparrow said honestly, reaching out and tugging her closer. “Genevieve, this is Billie Hernández, my aunt. Aunt Billie, Genevieve Mason.”
“It's a pleasure to meet you, Genevieve,” Billie said, shaking Genevieve's hand. “You two need to get into the cafeteria, but how about you come see me and Rafael this weekend and we'll catch up? I'll send you an email with where our house is on the map.”
“Sounds good to me,” Sparrow said. “See you then!”
Billie walked off and Sparrow smiled at Genevieve. “Cafeteria?”
“Please, I'm starving,” Genevieve responded as they started walking in the direction everyone else had gone. “So your aunt works here?”
“Yeah, she's a professor. She's an ocean like me, so I'll have her for classes. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.”
“All depends on how she grades you.”
“Good point,” Sparrow said, smiling as they caught up with the rest of the group of students. “Don't be surprised if Marilène and Raven make a big show. Raven loves to embarrass me.”
“Hey, I have an older brother and a younger sister. I know all about family embarrassment,” Genevieve said as they each grabbed a tray and got in line.
“You have a younger sister? Me too,” Sparrow said, sliding his tray along the counter and looking at the food on offer. “How are you supposed to eat healthy here when it all looks so unhealthy?”
Genevieve walked around Sparrow and started to make herself a sandwich from the sandwich bar. “Make a sandwich.”
Sparrow started to say something but he was cut off by arms wrapping around his shoulders. “Sparrow!”
“Raven!” Sparrow exclaimed, sliding out from her embrace. “How do you stand to eat this stuff every day?”
“Easy,” Raven said, walking around him and leaning up against the counter. “I don't eat here.”
“Where do you eat then?” Genevieve asked.
“In town. In fact, Marilène and I were talking, and we've decided we're taking you two and this other newbie we've adopted out on the town tomorrow. You need to know the cool places to go, and where freshers are not welcome. Finish making your sandwiches and come sit with us, and we'll explain it all!”
“Thanks Raven,” Sparrow said, looking over his shoulder as she practically skipped to a table. “Well, at least she's not going to leave me to fend for myself. And that means I won't have to ask Aunt Billie every time I want to know something. Thank God, that’d suck.”
Genevieve finished making her sandwich and looked over at Sparrow. “At least you’ve got support like that. It’d be nice to have a sibling here who knew it all already.”
“Hey,” Sparrow said, nudging her with his shoulder. “I might know a little more about elementalism than you, but that doesn't make me an expert. You can ask Raven or Marilène or even Aunt Billie anything. As for you not being an elementalist, well, you obviously haven't been paying attention.”
Genevieve frowned, confused, when Sparrow snagged a piece of her hair and brought it into her view. It was the typical black all the way down, but her face broke out into a grin when her gaze reached the tips.
The fiery red tips.
“It's started,” Genevieve choked out.
“It's started,” Sparrow repeated, letting go of her hair. “Now come on, let's go eat and see what Raven and Marilène have planned for the night.”
From: Noëlle Moreaux
To: Genevieve Mason
Subject: The email I promised you.
I am writing to tell you that there is nothing to worry about here at home. Just as I thought, it was the neighbor's cat again. Enjoy your first night at Wentworth and feel free to email me whenever you want.
Genevieve sighed and closed the email, going through the rest of her inbox until an email from Dashiell caught her eye.
From: Dashiell Mason
To: Genevieve Mason
Subject: DO NOT LISTEN TO MAMA
Mama wants keep this a secret from you, but I think you deserve to know so I'm telling you the truth. It wasn't the neighbor's cat, it was a fire at our house. But it was a strange fire, because it didn't burn the whole house down, or even more than one room. It was just Mama's office, and even then, all there was was a message in French burnt into the wall. J'ai pris soin d'elle. Personne ne le saura. I don't know what that's supposed to mean but Mama was very upset about it. Remember how I told you something was up? Well, I'm telling you again. Something's up, and it involves elementalists, and I'm worried about you, so be careful.
Genevieve read through Dashiell's email again, the French words running through her head until she thought of the translation. “I took care of it. No one will know.”
“What?” came Madelaine's voice, interrupting Genevieve's thoughts.
Genevieve quickly shut her laptop and slid it underneath the bed she was sitting on. “Nothing.”
Madelaine smiled at her from where she was making the bed next to Genevieve's. “Fine, be sneaky. How awesome is it that we ended up roommates though? I was totally afraid of having to meet someone new again. I mean, I know we're still waiting on the other two girls, but you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do,” Genevieve replied. “I'm not great at making friends.”
“Neither am I!” Madelaine exclaimed. “I wonder if it's some natural sapien-elemental thing. Like we're just not meant to be friends with them or something,”
“Do you come from an elemental family?”
“Yeah. But we lived in Ohio, and you know how Ohio is.”
Genevieve knew exactly what that meant. “So you lived in a colony.”
“Yep. Surrounded by a bunch of really frustrated elementalists who didn't have the cash to move to Nevaline or Aceltaine. It was kind of my parents' dream to be able to come back to Nevaline. They both went to Wentworth, so that meant that I had to go here too. It's costing them a fortune so one of the first things I'm doing is going to the city and finding a job. I need to help pay for my expenses.”
“I probably should do that too,” Genevieve murmured. “I know it's costing a lot for my family to send me here. And my brother's about to start university this year, so Mama's got that to pay for too. At least he's getting in-state tuition rates.”
“Want to go tomorrow afternoon with me?” Madelaine asked. “Raven was saying something about an ice cream parlor that's only a couple of blocks from here that usually hires freshers.”
“Sounds great,” Genevieve said. “So what's it like? A colony, I mean.”
Madelaine looked over at her for a moment then sighed. “It's like government housing in an inner city, I guess. Tall apartment buildings that are old and rundown and always in need of repair. We live on the eighteenth floor, and it's just this tiny little hallway with hardly any light, and wallpaper straight out of the seventies. And there's just tons of these buildings concentrated in a little area around the center of the colony, and then around them are all the little businesses we get. There's a grocery store, and a clothes store, and the hardware store that my dad works at. There's a really good Italian restaurant, or at least I think it's a really good Italian restaurant, but I've never been to another one to be able to compare.
“Then there's the school, which is old and dilapidated and overcrowded because it was built in the fifties when there weren't as many elementalists near Cincinnati so the colony was smaller. They taught us basic math and science, and how to read, basically an approved curriculum from the state of sapien things that we would need to know before elemental school. And as you get close to sixteen, they let representatives from Wentworth and from Bedell in Aceltaine in to talk about your elemental schooling options. Most kids end up going to Bedell because it's cheaper, but like I said, my parents wanted me to go here. That's why I knew no one earlier today. All the friends I've ever had are at Bedell.”
“Is it really chained off from the rest of the city?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh yeah. There's a huge, electrified chainlink fence with barbed wire on top that goes around the whole place. You can get out through the gate, obviously, but you have to have a good reason for leaving, and state when you're returning, and if you're not back by then, they alert the Cincy police that there's elementalists on the loose. It's all about fear-mongering and trying to shame us into thinking that we're so dangerous to the world, but my mom always said I wasn't allowed to think like that. 'There's nothing wrong with us, Maddie,' she'd always say. But I don't know. I kind of can't blame them for being scared.”
“I get it. When I was in kindergarten, the parents of the other kids tried to get me kicked out of school because they were afraid my powers would manifest early and I'd kill all their kids during naptime. Didn't work, because my mother came in and put them all in their place about how harmless a five-year-old elementalist was, but I never had many friends after that. They were too scared to let their kids go anywhere near me.”
“So what's it like, living in a real sapien city?” Madelaine asked, trailing off as the door opened and two girls came walking in, deeply engrossed in conversation.
“--so Slade poured the whole pitcher of juice over Mom's head and stalked out of the house. God only knows where he's going. Hopefully he shows back up tonight or Dad's going to have the whole police force looking for him.”
“I can't believe he did all of that just because your mom reminded him that it wasn't time for him to start school yet.”
“Yeah, well, I can. Slade's a little prick.”
Madelaine coughed and the two girls looked over at them as though they hadn't even realized they were there. “Hi,” she said weakly. “I'm Madelaine Lindahl. Are you two our roommates?”
The girl who had been talking about her parents strode over. “Madelaine, it is so great to finally meet you! God, you have no idea how much I've been looking forward to moving into the dorms. I'm Sloane Howard, second-year earth-bearer. What type of bearer are you?”
“Fire,” Madelaine said. “And this is Genevieve.”
Genevieve stood up and Sloane smiled at her. “Genevieve Mason, first-year fire-bearer.”
“Sweet, two flamers. Evanthia, come and say hello.”
The other girl walked over and shook Madelaine's hand. “Evanthia Malone, second-year air-bearer. Nice to meet you.”
“It's nice to meet you too,” Madelaine said, watching as Genevieve shook Evanthia's hand. “Are you two from Nevaline?”
“I am,” Sloane said, walking over to the other side of the room and sitting down on one of the beds. “Evantha's from Aceltaine.”
“Wow, you guys are so lucky,” Madelaine said, her voice tinged with jealousy. “I'm going to try so hard not to have to move back to that stupid colony.”
“Colony?” Evanthia asked. “You actually lived in one of those pitiful places?”
“We have no choice,” Madelaine said with a sigh, turning back to her bed and tucking the sheets into place. “Trust me, if my parents had the money to, we'd be living in Nevaline.”
“Well, maybe some day money won't be an issue any longer,” Evanthia said, turning her back on Madelaine and Genevieve. “Sloane, we better go get our stuff out of storage before they close it down for the night.”
“Good point,” Sloane said, pushing herself off the bed. “Be right back, girls. And then get ready to stay up all night gossiping, because that's what Evanthia and I will be doing. We haven't even gotten to her summer in Aceltaine yet.”
Madelaine and Genevieve walked out the front door of the school and took a good look at their surroundings. It was the first time Genevieve had seen the school in sunlight, and if she'd been in awe of the little bit she'd seen the night before, she didn't know how to describe the way she felt now. The collection of buildings rose high into the sky, and if she remembered correctly from one of Dashiell's lectures on architecture, she thought the style was Baroque. Whatever it was, it looked both ancient and new, buildings completely made of stone. The area in front of the school was rather small, just a short yard before the parking lot began, but Genevieve knew from the website that there were acres of land behind it that was used for various training purposes. It was like nothing either of them had ever seen before, and they stood there in wonder until an arm slung across both of their shoulders.
“Rule number one – don't just stand around gawking at things like a couple of freshers. That is the most obvious freshers thing that you can do.”
Genevieve laughed and turned to look at the person standing between them. “Hi, Marilène.”
“Hi, Genevieve. Your hair is so awesome looking today.”
Genevieve reached up and ran a hand through the long strands which now all had red tips and streaks of red scattered throughout it. “I didn't think the change would be this fast.”
“Faster the change, stronger your powers are. I notice some red in your hair as well, Madelaine. Sweet. I love flamers. So, where are you going?”
“We're job hunting,” Madelaine said, shaking off Marilène's arm and turning to look at her. “Raven said something about an ice cream parlor that hires freshers.”
“King's! My favorite place in all of Nevaline. Well, besides the cathedral. Want me to show you the way? It's where I'm headed anyway.”
“Awesome,” Genevieve said, smiling at Marilène when she took her arm off her shoulders. “Where's Raven?'
“She went with Sparrow to their aunt and uncle's. Don't get me wrong, Billie and Rafael are nice people, but it's not really my thing to hang with teachers outside of class, if you know what I mean.” Marilène started walking and then waved behind her for them to follow along. “So who're your roommates?”
“Sloane Howard and Evanthia Malone,” Madelaine said, fighting off a yawn. “They kept us up all night talking.”
“Sloane and Evanthia will totally do that to you,” Marilène said. “Better get used to it. Those two are two of the school's gossip queens. Don't tell them anything you don't want everyone else to find out.”
“You know them?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh yeah, had all the freshers classes with them last year. Evanthia's a little weird, but she's from Aceltaine so that's to be expected. Aceltaine thinks it's much better than Nevaline in every area except the school, and they are crazy jealous about the school. So if she's a bit snobby around you, just ignore it. She doesn't know how to be any other way. Sloane, on the other hand, is cool. Her dad, Stanton, is the Nevaline police chief and her mom, Sabra, is the lead anchor on the evening newscast. Her younger brother Slade is a prick though.”
“That's exactly what Sloane said about him,” Madelaine laughed.
“Yeah, well, having met him, I can attest to it,” Marilène said. “There's just something not right about that boy.”
“Well, I like them. I think Gen's a little hesitant though,” Madelaine said, glancing over at her.
Marilène turned her gaze to Genevieve as well. “Why?”
“I'm not used to being around elementalists. I'm like that around everyone.”
“You aren’t with us,” Madelaine pointed out.
“I am, though.” Genevieve sighed and reached into her pocket for a hair tie, quickly whipping her hair up into a ponytail. “I'll get over it as I get more comfortable.”
“If you say so.” Marilène started scanning the crowds as they approached the block where King's Ice Cream Parlor stood. “Now to just find Juan and Benjamin.”
“Who are Juan and Benjamin?” Madelaine asked.
“Juan Flores is a third-year earthie who took me under his wing when I first showed up here last year, and is one person you will learn to love as much as I do,” Marilène said as they got closer to King's. “Benjamin is one of the flamers I was telling you two about yesterday. He's also Raven's boyfriend, and they can be completely gross when they're around one another. So, early warning. He's a second-year like me, and he already knows that I've met some flamers who he needs to be friends with. Expect both of them to be totally cool with you.”
They arrived at the ice cream parlor after a couple of minutes, and Genevieve was quick to spot the Help Wanted sign in the window. “Madelaine, look, they're hiring.”
“Fantastic,” Madelaine said, straightening her hair and smoothing down her shirt. “Do I look okay? I want to make a good first impression.”
“You look fine,” the other two girls said in unison, causing all three of them to laugh.
Marilène got to the door first and opened it, holding it so that Madelaine and Genevieve could go inside. The interior of the building was decked out like it was straight out of the fifties, from the jukebox in the corner playing oldies to the paper hats on the heads of the people behind the counter. Records decorated the walls along with pictures of old film stars and musicians, and the menu was written on chalkboards that lined the wall behind the counter. Genevieve thought it was awesome.
“I'm gonna go ask about getting applications,” Madelaine said, walking towards the counter. “I'll get you one too, Gen.”
“Thanks,” Genevieve called out before turning towards Marilène. “So, see your friends?”
Marilène was surveying the tables when suddenly she heard her name from around the corner of the counter. “That would be Ben. Come on.”
Marilène led her around the corner and to a table in the very back, where three guys were sitting and eating ice cream. “Ben! Juan! New guy!”
“Marilène!” The dark-skinned boy with fiery red hair stood up and embraced her. “It's so good to see you.”
“It's good to see you too, Ben,” Marilène said as she broke their embrace. “Juan, you better stand up and give me a hug.”
“Of course, of course,” the Hispanic boy with the hair and eyes of an earth-bearer said, standing up and walking around the table to hug Marilène tightly. “How you doing, sweetie?”
“Brilliant. But then again, I don't have homework yet.” Marilène broke away from him just as Madelaine walked up to them, two sheets of paper in hand.
“Got our applications, Gen,” she said, smiling at everyone. “But the manager said he's likely to hire both of us.”
“Alright, gentlemen. This is Genevieve and Madelaine, and they're new to Wentworth so you're going to be super-duper to them just like you were to me. Girls, this is Ben and Juan, and they can introduce their new friend.”
“This is Oliver Findlay,” Juan said, sitting back down next to him. “Earthie like me. He's a fresher too.”
Marilène sat down in the seat next to Oliver and waved at him. “Marilène Rousseau. Second-year ocean. Nice to meet you.”
Oliver waved back. “Nice to meet you too.”
Madelaine and Genevieve both sat down and Genevieve took one of the applications from Madelaine's hands. “This doesn't look too complicated to fill out.”
“Nope. God, if getting a job is this easy, I'm going to be so lucky.”
“You and me both, Madelaine,” Genevieve murmured as she took one of the pens Madelaine was holding out to her. “Let's get these filled out and turned in before they can give the jobs to someone else, hm?”
“Oh, don't worry too much,” Benjamin said. “He hires practically everyone who turns in an application.”
“Are you sure?” Madelaine asked.
“Yup. Worked here myself last year.”
“Ben,” Marilène interrupted, “are you meeting up with Raven tonight?”
Benjamin leaned back in his chair and gave Marilène a smile. “Of course. Why?”
“Can we crash the party?”
Benjamin shook his head quickly. “Hell no, Marilène. My first chance to see my girlfriend since last semester? You are not interrupting that.”
“Sweetie, you can hang out with me and Oliver,” Juan said, reaching across the table and squeezing her hand. “Leave the lovebirds be.”
“Perfect. Take Sparrow with you too. He's been following Raven around like a lost puppy today, apparently.”
“Fine,” Marilène pouted. “But you're not monopolizing her, Benjamin! I get time with my best friend too!”
“Of course,” Benjamin said. “Just not tonight.”
“So it's settled then,” Juan said, smiling at where Madelaine and Genevieve were filling out their forms. “And bring them too. We'll hang out in the cafeteria and eat all the pizza on offer, and anyone who doesn't like it can just deal with it.”
Marilène glanced over at the girls before nodding. “Yeah, they had a night with Sloane and Evanthia last night, so they definitely need something else tonight.”
“Sloane and Evanthia?” Juan gave her an incredulous look. “You're not bringing gossip queens are you?”
“No, no, no.” Marilène sighed. “They got Sloane and Evanthia for roommates.”
Juan reached out and stopped Madelaine and Genevieve's hands from writing any more. “Oh God, that sucks so hard.”
Genevieve gave him a strange look. “They aren't that bad, are they?”
“You have no idea.”
Marilène laughed. “So what do you say, ladies? A night in the cafeteria with crazy Juan, quiet Oliver, and Sparrow?”
Madelaine looked over at Genevieve and after a moment, they both nodded. “Sure. Sounds fun.”