I hadn’t told the strict truth when I said I had homework. Missin’ Aris was the worst mornings and evenings, ‘specially wakin’ up in my dorm room with Chrian. I didn’t have anything against my new roommate, ‘cept that he weren’t Aris, and he couldn’t help that, but it still hurt to wake up and see him. Most mornings I woke up with a sick feeling in my stomach, my eyes sore from unshed tears, and just lay in bed tryin’ not to cry so that I could get up and go to class. Most evenings I went to bed feelin’ sick and dreadin’ the dreams that would come. The best remedy I’d found was to be exhausted to the point a’ death when I went to bed, and to wake up still tired. Weren’t healthy, I know, but I weren’t sleepin’ well anyway and it made it easier to get outta bed in the morning if I was mostly thinkin’ about how tired I was instead a’ how much I missed him and how—I don’t know how to put it—how he was still dead. How I was going to get up and go to class and face Eastwick and he wouldn’t be there.
And it helped me be nice to Chrian. I was too tired to resent him.
One a’ the things the placer had mentioned about Chrian while I weren’t listenin’ was that he was a spark, a truly powerful one, and a scholarship kid, and that he’d had to put off comin’ for a semester cause his parents didn’t have the money to get him here. He was quiet, and he didn’t have the pride most sparks had cause he was so poor, and he had a sensitivity to him that made it real important that I never showed how much his presence hurt me. We didn’t talk much. He was too shy and I was too busy with other stuff. I didn’t know if he’d get less shy after a couple weeks. I didn’t think so, and the thought didn’t bother me at all.
One thing I had learned from havin’ a spark for a roommate though, and that was that it was a lot easier to get a grasp on magic theory if yeh had some knowledge a’ the practical side a’ things too. I couldn’t get an insider’s knowledge, obviously, so instead I’d taken to stayin’ at the library as late as I could readin’ accounts a’ spark scraps, and the few spark diaries that had been published. From what I gathered, havin’ magic was a little like havin’ another body. Practical magic was a lot more like learnin’ to fight than anything else. Yeh learned to see and hear and move with magic, rather than with eyes and ears and arms and legs, and to react with magic.
Chrian and I had had a brief conversation about Eastwick the second day a’ the semester, and he’d said a’ couple things that put me on to studying practical magic, and since then I spent the evenings at the library doing all the homework and all the extra work I could do to wear myself out.
So, as I say, it weren’t exactly homework, but it was pretty close. Close enough, anyway.
Chrian was in the library when I walked in, and so was Cor, the other fasher from my magic theory class. Cor ignored me, which he’d been doing all week, mostly I think cause he had no idea what to say to me. He weren’t a very pleasant person—he was shy, but the sorta shy that comes from feelin’ inferior, and he’d never made any particular effort to be nice in spite a’ himself, ‘specially to me and Aris. Chrian nodded at me, and managed a tiny, shy smile, and in a burst a’ self-sacrificing friendliness I joined him at his table. I could tell he appreciated the gesture, and that he had no idea how to show it, and the result was that we studied together in complete silence for about half an hour till he said he was headin’ back to the dorm and he’d leave the light on for me, he didn’t mind. That was the difference between Chrian and Cor. Chrian was cripplingly shy but at least he tried.
So I said thanks, but I was stayin’ somewhere else that night and I’d probably not be back till Sunday, and he whispered an embarrassed goodbye and left.
Aris would a’ liked him, I thought. Poor kid. I hope Eastwick doesn’t get to him.
That was why the first week was miserable. School reminded me too sharply a’ Aris, and I wanted to be doing somethin’—I really wanted to lay into Eastwick—and I hadn’t heard anything from Sebas or Lawrence since I’d seen Lawrence last full moon, two weeks ago, and I hadn’t seen or heard anything from the GypCirc either. I knew enough a’ Eastwick’s moods to know when he was what passed as happy for him, and when he was pissed off, and he’d been nothin’ but pissed off whenever I saw him, so I guessed that the battle of Ferdinand’s heart had interrupted business somewhat, but that weren’t satisfying. I knew Mund was takin’ his Stars out every night, and that they were attackin’ the southside vamps, and I wanted to scrap with them and I couldn’t. A part a’ me still wanted to find however had done that to Aris and rip into them with everything I’d got. I was angry and grievin’ and above all helpless. So I studied as hard as I could and looked forward to the every trip to the river like it was my birthday.
This time I was ostensibly going to tell Aid that he was comin’ to my house tomorrow, but really the whole occasion was an excuse to go down again, and this time, with the awful week only just behind me, I wanted to talk. I wanted to know that somethin’ was bein’ done about Eastwick.
I left shortly after it got dark. Cor had been fidgetin’ for a good hour, and I knew what that was about. For some reason he’d always tried to be a better student than Aris, but he didn’t have the brains for it, and now that it was just me he was determined to be a better student than me. If we ended up in the library at the same time he hung round till I left, whether he had anything to do or no. It was startin’ to get real annoyin’.
I headed down the street and paused on the corner to look back. Sure enough, two minutes later I saw Cor leavin’. My instinct was to be angry but he weren’t doing anything that actually affected me, ‘cept by annoyance, so I just shrugged moodily to myself and walked on. Two hours later I was crossin’ the field by the light a’ the waxin’ moon.
Aid hailed me joyfully. He didn’t usually get to see me more than once a month and the surprise made him even more twitchy and jumpy than he was usually. He clawed his way onto my back and I had to shove him off to keep the skin on my shoulder. I told him about comin’ to my house the next afternoon and he showed no apprehension. I asked Victor and Paka if they’d come to, and Paka said she’d love to and Victor said he wouldn’t take responsibility for Aid if he broke something.
I went to the mer-elves next. Whenever I got to the GypCirc I always spent a few minutes alone with the mer-elves. Atella, Orseki and Terian each had a memory a’ Aris, a memory that they’d gotten along with a piece a’ my soul, and I made them tell me the memory every time. It was odd, feelin’ them slide into place in the holes in my own memory. They had my pain, too, or a piece a’ it. They could say, with more truth than anyone else, that they knew what I was going through.
They’d been soulless till I’d given them part a’ my soul, and it was comfortin’ to me in a way to teach them how to mourn. They had their own pain as well as mine, their own memories a’ Aris, and we talked about that too. They didn’t even know how to cry.
I didn’t talk much with the others about him. They hadn’t known him long, just long enough that each a’ them said, in their own half-veiled way, that they wished they’d known him longer. New moon, the first time I went back, Riair sang an ancient mourning song for him and Suora lit candles a’ passing, and Ella, Sek and Ter learned how to cry, really cry, and I was teachin’ by example. That was the one time I’d seen Sebas and his command since I’d left the mansion after Aris died the second time. Lydia was the only one cryin’, but it was easy to see that she weren’t the only one grievin’.