Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 3

Echo could not stop thinking about the green-eyed boy. About the potential of there being another Apsu, and of how strange an Apsu he seemed to be. If he was, that is, if Echo was not just thinking she was hearing things. She tried to hear him again at their next introduction lecture, but there was only the faint hum she had heard to start with, nothing distinct, nothing clear. The lecture ended, and Echo collected up her things and headed towards the University Café in search of a cup of tea in the hour she had until her next class.

 

Finding it across the campus, away from the humanities building, Echo walked into the café through its glass sliding doors. It was a surprisingly small café, given the size of the campus, lined with dark wood tables and chairs with blue and white cushions. Echo ordered her tea, and looked around for a place to sit, seeing that there were no empty tables. She scanned the room, looking for somewhere she could sit without disturbing anyone. In the left hand side sat a fairly tall girl with straight long blonde hair and ice blue eyes, with cheeks flushed pink against her pale skin. She was sitting, alone, at a table with four seats, text books sprawled out over the table, chewing at the end of the Biro that was in her hand while scribbling down notes. Echo walked towards her, as she was one of the few people in the café who was there alone.

 

“Is it okay if, um… I mean, is anyone sitting here?” Echo asked as the approached the table, gesturing to the chair opposite the blonde girl.

 

The blonde girl looked up from her notes, still chewing the end of the pen, “What?” She asked, looking around, “Oh, no, you can sit there.” She nodded.

 

“Thanks.” Echo said, while pulling out the chair and placing her tea down, careful not to put it too close to the girls books for fear of spilling it. She sipped her tea in tiny, quiet sips, waiting for it to cool. “I’m Echo, by the way.” She smiled, not entirely sure of how to interact in these sort of situations. Back in Stony Oaks, everyone knew everyone, and even outside of Stony Oaks most of the Lu seemed to know each other too. Echo had never sat down next to a complete stranger like this before.

 

“I’m Sophia,” the blonde girl replied, “Nice to meet you, are a first year too?”

 

Echo nodded, “Yeah, sociology, and you?”

 

Sophia held up the text book she had been working from, “Pure Mathematics.” She replied.

 

“Wow,” said Echo, “And you have work to do already?”

 

“Kind of, it’s just catching up after the summer, really.” Sophia blushed.

 

“Oh, okay, yeah, we haven’t had anything either yet.” Echo replied.

 

A couple of moments of slightly awkward silence passed, the kind where you don’t notice it is silence for a while because you are constantly thinking of things to say to break it and discarding them before speaking. Echo sipped her tea, and decided she would wait for Sophia to continue their small talk.

 

“One of my flatmates is first year Sociology actually,” Said Sophia, after some time had passed, “I wonder if you know him? Aiden Darvill?

 

Echo shook her head, “To be honest, I don’t really know anyone at all here yet, let alone on my course.” She replied.

 

“Oh, okay, are you not living in halls?” Sophia asked, slightly confused as to how Echo could not know anyone if this was the case.

 

“No, I’m living on my own in a little flat about a 15 minute walk away from here.” Echo replied, hoping Sophia would not question it too much further. She had not realised until recently that most first years lived in Halls, and she had not yet thought up a good explanation for why she, trying to appear a perfectly normal Lu, did not. Her family, or rather, her father, had not wanted her to live with Lu, for fear both that she would forget who she was, and for fear that she would start fraternising with Lu boys, as he put it. His prejudice all but made Echo’s skin crawl at times, but it was just the way things were. 

 

“Oh, alright, how come?” Sophia asked, much to Echo’s dismay.

 

She thought about her response, not wanting to scare away her first acquaintance here with her story of being raised in a “religious” Community, “I was, I mean, my family are quite, um, my father, he didn’t want me living with, um, boys. He’s, um, He’s kind of old-fashioned.” She finally came out with.

 

Sophia nodded, before the silence resumed. Echo realised this time it may be up to her to break it.

 

“Where abouts are you from?” Echo ventured.

“Brighton,” Sophia replied, “Right by the sea, and you?”

 

“Dorset, a little village called Stony Oaks, kind of nearDorchester.”

 

Sophia nodded again, and once more the silence resumed, Echo annoyed that she could not have picked a better subject to talk about. Sophia looked at her watch and began pack up her books.

 

“I’m sorry, I have a tutorial introduction to get to,” Sophia said, putting her cardigan on and standing up. “Hey, are you free tonight?” Echo nodded, “My flatmates and I are going for a drink at The U, the student bar? You should come if you want.”

 

Echo smiled and nodded her head, “Sure, yeah, what time?”

 

“’Bout 9pm? Here,” Sophia ripped a piece of paper out if her notebook and scribbled down her phone number, “Give me a call later on and I’ll let you know.” She said, handing the paper to Echo. 

 

“Okay,” Echo said, as Sophia began to walk away, “It was nice meeting you.”

 

“Yeah, you too,” Sophia replied, as she headed off down the corridors.

 

Echo sat there, at the empty table, smiling to herself and sipping her tea. It may have been a slightly awkward meeting, but Echo was happy none the less. Sophia had seemed nice, and she was looking forward to getting to know her better, and to meeting her flatmates, including the one from her course.

 

Her next class seemed to drag by. It was an introduction to the structure of the course, which was covered in the first five minutes, and which the rest of the hour was spent re-iterating in slightly different ways. Her mind drifted between trying to hear the voice again, and between thinking about Sophia, and the chance of having made a friend within Lu society.

 

And yet, despite her happiness, Echo felt torn. On the one hand, she was here to learn, not just in class but in life, about Lu culture, to experience something new, and yet, she so longed to find what she was so sure to be the other Apsu, to have someone like her in this alien place that she was now in. She longed to have someone to Become with, someone who maybe knew the area better, so that they could really explore. Someone who knew where there were grass and fields, woods to explore and places new and exciting that she could share with someone. It was something she had not anticipated, but it had been lonely that night that she Became on her own. With no one to share the experiences with, all she had was them in her mind, unverified and alone.

 

The lecture drew to a close, and again Echo packed up her notebook that this time had only proved useful for doodling sketches of feathers and flowers, with her pen hooked in the ring bound spiral, and picked up her bag, before shuffling across the rows of seats to the exit of the lecture theatre, taking a mental note to sit closer to the door next time to make for a simpler exit. She walked up the two steps to the door, to the place where she had heard the voice so clearly the day before, and listened; still only hearing the low hum. She looked around, and realised the green-eyed boy must have left, as he was not in the room any more.

 

Echo wasn’t sure what it was about him, but there was definitely something drawing her in about him. His eyes were so bright, so sharp, like they saw through you, the way they did when Echo sent out the message to find them as her reply. She wasn’t sure if it was him who was the Apsu, she wasn’t even sure that there was an Apsu, but whatever it was there was something that stuck out about him. Echo wanted to talk to him almost just to see what his voice sounded like, but also because she wanted to ask. She tried to think up subtle, sly ways in which one can ask another if they are Apsu, but could not think of any that wouldn’t sound ridiculous if he was not.

 

It was only then, leaving the room, that she realised she may not have to ask. She saw one of the girls in the class waving to another, and the heart shaped tattoo on her wrist jogged Echo’s memory. How could she have not thought of that? Growing up where she had, it was just so normal, that she had forgotten Lu did not have Birthmarks too.

 

At least, not the same sort of Birthmark. The Mark of the Apsu, the only clue to what a child Apsu has to their other form, it’s shape outlined from birth somewhere on their body, looking somewhat like a cross between a tattoo and a normal birthmark, vague enough to often not be deciphered unless one knew what it was they were looking for. If the boy with green eyes had one somewhere open, somewhere easily seen, then Echo would not even have to ask in order to know for certain.

 

Even more upbeat now than she was before, Echo practically ran home, eager to decide what she would wear that evening when going out for drinks. She had never been out for drinks before, not really. She had gone to the pub with friends from Stony Oaks, but that was a pub in Stony Oaks, and it was very different, she imagined, to what a Lu bar would be like. There, in Stony Oaks, they would do thinks like levitate each others drinks for fun, or, when they were younger, cast flavour-changing tricks on the different drinks, making the beer taste like lemonade and the like. She didn’t imagine that there would be any of that here, especially not with the open use of magic! Echo wondered what it was the Lu did for fun when they drank, and was excited to find out.

 

Now home, Echo started looking through her wardrobe, trying to decide what would be the most appropriate thing to wear. Growing up, like most of the children in Stony Oaks, her clothes were handmade by her mother, or more technically, handmade by her mother with a lot of help from magic, as Fawn was not a skilled semesters. The reasoning for this were not monetary, but rather for the use of natural fabrics which were harder to find in the outside, and for the sake of ease, as one could, with enough fabric, replicate the outfits for many children with one spell. Once could not magic something out of nothing, but rather magic something into a different form, much like how Apsus transformed. As Echo got older, herself and other Stony Oaks kids from her age group had started to go shopping, getting interested in the fashions of the Lu at their schools. Alder, more as a Zagmi than as her father, disapproved of this, and saw it as yet another way in which their culture was getting lost by the youth.

 

Echo gave up on looking after a few minutes of not finding the right thing, realising it would be a couple of hours before she went out anyway. She went into the living room and placed her nine stones around in a circle, before stepping into the middle of it and sitting down, cross legged, to meditate and centre herself to relax before tonight.

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