The Bad Project

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Chapter 41. Forscher Award is Announced/ Marianne

Crystal grabbed Marianne’s arm after music class and said, “I gotta talk to you.”

Marianne said, “Sure, just a second.” She stuffed her notebook into her backpack. By that time, everyone else had left the room.

Crystal broke into a huge grin. “I won! I got the Forscher!”

Marianne dropped her backpack and hugged her tight. “Congratulations, I’m so happy for you!’ Her mind raced with disbelief. How had this happened with Mandy on the committee? It seemed impossible. It jolted Marianne out of her misery and she felt joy for the first time in days.

“You sure deserve it. It is so exciting! Did you tell your family yet?”

“No one answered their phones, but I left messages to call me. I’m not supposed to tell anyone until after the Carson Clarion comes out, so keep it quiet, huh?”

“People could tell just by how you look.”

“I know. I don’t have a poker face. But I’m trying to look normal.”

“Shall we go down to NoHo to celebrate tonight?”

“Sure, that would be fun. Maybe Italian food at Pinocchio’s?”

“Great, my treat!” Marianne had to rush to a meeting for the lit magazine but she gave Crystal another hug before she left. As soon as Crystal was gone, she felt like she was rocketing down on a fast elevator. How could she go out and celebrate when she felt so terrible? But she tried her best to overcome the depression for Crystal’s sake. Her roommate had done so much for her, surely she could make a small effort to cheer her on in her big accomplishment.

She ran into Mia on the way across campus, and invited her to dinner too. With any luck, she and Crystal could keep the conversational ball going without much help from her. She wished she knew how to get in touch with Bronnie, but she didn’t.

As she passed the math building, Bronnie was coming out. She walked up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Crystal’s roommate. We’re having a secret celebration dinner tonight at Pinocchio’s, can you come? It’s my treat!”

“Sure, if Crystal is celebrating, I’ll be there,” he said, with shining eyes.

Jim had a half smile and a raised eyebrow for her as she arrived. She sank into the chair next to him and put her backpack on the table.

“Hey, I got a tidbit of gossip for you,” he said. “Tell you after.”

“Okay, I can hardly wait,” she said.

Lindsay called the meeting to order and had each of the editors recap the status of their sections. “Jim and Marianne, nonfiction is good, right?”

Jim said, “We’re all set; four pieces. You should have them all.”

“Yes, I looked everything over again today, and they are good, fit the theme well. Remember I sent you email about the art pieces that are approved. Did you have a chance to look at the art Carol has selected? You and Marianne have the last word on placement of art with your any pieces. The rest will go in a special section of art alone.”

“That art section’s new this year, right?” Jim asked.

“Yes, it’s something our advisor suggested.”

“We looked at the art,” Jim said, “and we liked the one of the girl with the tear. We want to put it between the India/Pakistan story and the college pregnancy essay.”

Marianne said, “Funny how we both thought the same drawing fit our pieces. Is it possible to get it placed between the two?”

Lindsay said, “Carol isn’t here today, but where it goes is up to you guys. It can be done that way, no problem.”

After several other items of business, Lindsay adjourned the meeting. Jim and Marianne walked towards the snack bar. When no one was close by, Jim said, “Mandy got in trouble over that award. She said things about Crystal but Sandstrom stood up to her, said he had dinner with your dorm group and thought Mandy was wrong about Crystal being antisocial.”

Marianne felt her face flush, but tried to ignore it. “Sandstrom? But he’s dead.” How could she say that and sound so calm? She felt a pulse beating fast in her temple.

Jim said, “Yes, but they had the selection meeting before that.”

Marianne was quiet for a minute. She told herself she had to seem normal. Jim wasn’t going to find out she had been involved with Sandstrom from her if she could help it. “That’s great. I thought he didn’t knew Crystal at all, but it’s lucky he remembered her.” She thought about how she had suggested that he be invited to dinner because of her secret attraction to him earlier in the semester, how things had gone way beyond that, and now it was all ended. It made her shake to think of him now. She hated to have him come up when she was around other people. It felt like they could read her mind.

“But that’s not all. They said Mandy was not being fair, and the dean was unhappy about how it went. She supposedly called Mandy in and asked her if she was racist.”

“How did you find that out?” Marianne asked.

“Howie works in the Dean’s office and the door was not quite closed when they talked,” Jim said. Marianne had met Howie when Jim brought him to a lit mag party at Professor Wing’s house in early November. She thought they might be a couple, but they had been pretty discreet so she wasn’t sure. She had been overwhelmed by the artsy atmosphere at Morgan Wing’s place, and had been glad she hadn’t brought someone so she could kibitz around looking at everything. That seemed so long ago that she felt like she was looking through the wrong end of a telescope when she thought about it.

Jim smiled at her and said, “I also heard that the new Associate Dean who sent out the letters to the finalists caught hell. He shouldn’t have included the names of the committee members at all.”

“I’m not surprised. Crystal was totally freaked about how to act around Zuniga, and we have him for Music. It puts a lot of pressure on the finalists to do that. Pretty stupid.”

“Yeah, but it all came out right in the end.” Jim raised his eyebrows at her. She got a cold chill wondering if he had heard anything about her and Andy.

“I just hope Mandy can’t do anything to hurt anyone,’ Marianne said softly. The dark shadow fell over her mind again. It almost seemed like Crystal had never won.

“Less likely now that the Dean has a clue,’ Jim said.

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