Andromeda Jackson has always been different.
Since she was a child, she has been something other. Her teachers saw it, kids around her saw it, and her Dad definitely knew it.
Andromeda has accepted the fact that she will never fit in.
Since she's been old enough to have her own thoughts and emotions, she has known that she does not blend into the grand painting of modern American society. Her oddities course through her blood and they will never leave her until she takes her last breath.
She is accustomed to the harsh words of teachers who become exasperated by her inability to learn, has gotten used to the disapproving looks from older women as they assess her lack of femininity, has learned to ignore the jabs at her race from her classmates. She has come to terms with her otherness, has resigned herself to people's hostility.
She has come to terms with it.
However, this does not mean that she particularly likes being mocked and ridiculed for who she is. She rather hates it, you see.
Especially when it comes from girls like Nancy Bobofit, who go to schools like Yancy Academy and think they deserve more than everyone else just because their family has some cash and her parents didn't care enough to teach her basic morals.
If Andromeda had a dollar for every time a kid like Nancy Bobofit curled their upper lip at her, she would probably have enough money to keep her Dad out of work.
They always mocked her for one thing or the other. From her range of learning deficiencies to her lack of grace, they always found something to pick at her for.
Right now, it is her hair.
"It looks like a fucking bird made its nest on your head and then decided to murder its family on it," Nancy says, her face scrunched up in a snarl as she reaches towards Andy and pulls a lock of hair.
Andy growls and slaps her hand away.
Nancy and her friends snicker amongst themselves, and Nancy starts taunting Andy again.
Andy should honestly care less for their half-assed insults and their aggressiveness. She should be used to them.
Andy grits her teeth to keep from launching herself at the girl. Andy tries really, really hard. Her anger begins to rise up, and it burns the blood beneath her skin until she feels like she might explode.
She tries to calm herself, but she's no good at it.
That's where her friend, Grover, comes in. Grover is her only friend at Yancy, and he is a bit odd. He has a muscular disease which prevents him from ever playing in P.E but never prevents him from running for enchiladas. Grover looks older than all the kids at Yancy, he's the only one with a goatee or any facial hair at all, but he cries easier than the any of them. And he likes plants. But Grover is kind and patient with her, something almost no one ever is with her.
Grover places a hand on her arm and tries to calm her down, whispering soothingly, something along the lines of 'she's not worth it.' Andy can't hear all too well with the blood rushing in her ears, but she tries hard to calm herself.
They are currently standing in line as they wait to board the bus. The class is off to some field trip which will apparently help them understand Ancient Greece better or whatever. Andy's just trying really hard not mess this up because she hasn't got a good history with field trips (she's blown up a school bus and swam with sharks before, they're both too long of stories to tell at the moment). And Andy is already on probation, she really can't afford to mess up, again.
Especially not now, not at this school.
She's finally made a friend for once, and she's determined not to worry her Dad too much this anymore. Andy knows her Dad has too much on his hands right now.
Finally, they get let onto the bus and Andy leads Grover to a seat not too far from the front and not too far from the back. It's the perfect medium, the perfect seat. And then, of course, Nancy chooses to sit behind them.
"Something really stinks in here, we should open a window." Nancy laughs and shoves Andy into the leather seat while she moves to sit behind them.
Andy rises to fight but is pulled down once again by Grover.
"Andy, you have to stay strong, you can't let them ruin it for you."
That's what Andy likes most about Grover. He knows how much she struggles with control and he never loses his patience. Andy hasn't met anyone like him, ever. Except maybe Mr. Brunner, but Mr. Brunner is his own case altogether.
Then, just as if he were summoned by Andy's thoughts, Mr. Brunner's voice carries across the bus.
"Kids, calm down! It's not a long ride to the museum, but let's keep it together till then, okay?"
The children all call out a chorus of okays and the bus roars to life soon after. They are on their way to the museum, weaving through the city streets under the darkness of the cloud-ridden sky.
Andy tries not to pay attention to Nancy's taunts. She has had practice with girls like her, and she knows how to handle her anger, but she's been more on edge than usual lately, and she feels a second away from getting into an all-out brawl. Grover tries to distract her by talking about nonsense like he usually does.
Grover and Andy don't bond over a lot of things because Grover can't skateboard and he doesn't like the Ramones (or any of Andy's music for that matter) and Andy doesn't really care about animals, and she can't sit still for yoga. They settle on a topic eventually, like they always do, and Andy quite likes feeling comfortable like that. Grover makes his nervous jokes, and Andy laughs harder than she should. Andy will make her snarky comments every once in a while, and Grover will laugh instead of getting offended. Andy has never had a friend like this, and she hopes she can keep it.
Eventually, after a long ride of trying to ignore Nancy and trying to make Grover laugh, they arrive at the museum. Mr. Brunner eases them out of the bus with the help of Mrs. Dodds. When Andy jumps off the bus after Grover, Mr. Brunner smiles faintly at her. He opens his mouth, and Andy can practically hear him saying, Miss Jeung, with that tone in his voice that reminds Andy of her Dad, but Andy scurries off before he says anything.
Andy doesn't understand Mr. Brunner because she has never met a teacher like him. He is the only teacher in school who calls her by her real last name, instead of the Americanized one listed on all the school documents. He listens to her and is understanding even when she messes up. But he expects so much from Andy. His belief in her is scary, to be honest.
Andy thinks he must enjoy being disappointed with the way he continuously expects Andy to be a model student. Andy can hardly spell model student.
Her dyslexia makes letters salsa dance around a page whenever she tries to read, and it makes it nearly impossible for her to spell. No matter how much Andy works to get better, she remains stubbornly incompetent.
Andy is pulled from her reflection by Grover's yelp.
Andy turns to see Nancy giggling with her friends while Grover tries to stand while taking a piece of sandwich out of the curls on his head.
Andy's anger returns as suddenly as it left while she watches Grover struggle. She hauls Grover to his feet roughly, despite her attempts to be gentle. Andy pulls out the piece of sandwich from his hair (its ketchup and peanut butter, seriously what the fuck?). She must have pulled Grover's hair while she pulled out the piece of the sandwich because Grover winces, but Andy's mind is elsewhere.
Andy throws the sandwich to the ground and turns to glare at Nancy. She starts stalking towards her, ready to stick something less pleasant than a bit of food in the girl's hair.
"Nancy, you little shit!" Andy growls at her once she's close enough.
Nancy howls with laughter and Andy's anger just grows. She pulls back her arm, just about to punch that disgusting grin off the girl's face when Mrs. Dodds appears behind her.
Grover suddenly pulls Andy back by her uniform's shirt, and Andy stumbles to the ground.
Mrs. Dodds glares down at her, her wrinkled face upturned in distaste.
Grover rambles on next to her, fumbling as he tries to pick her up from the ground.
"I'm so sorry, Andy, I just didn't want you to get in a fight. Andy, are you okay?" Grover's anxious face is shoved up in her own, and Andy nods to his question.
The pavement is cool under her palm, and the abrupt contact with the ground stung a bit, but not enough to make her acknowledge it.
Kids are snickering around her, but Mr. Brunner silences them.
Mrs. Dodds stares at Andy, an empty look in her eyes, "Honey, do control yourself, insolence is not attractive."
Andy stands up and glares back at her before Mr. Brunner guides the children into the museum.
Mrs. Dodds has had it out for her all year, and Andy is sick of it. Stupid Mrs. Dodds with her stupid face and her weird eyebrows.
Mr. Brunner tries to pull her aside to talk to her, but Andy pointedly plants herself next to Grover.
She would be embarrassed by the whole scene if she weren't still so angry.
Grover bumps her shoulder with his and points to one of the marble statues as they walk in.
"That guy is from the story from the other day, right?" Grover asks, looking at Andy with something like hesitancy in his soft brown eyes.
Andy smirks, "Yeah, it's the loser who fell off a flying horse."
Grover snickers and Andy brightens instantly. They continue to mock the heroes and villains of Ancient Greek mythology, and Andy feels right for once.
When Mr. Brunner calls the group together, Andy makes sure to keep her and Grover far away from Nancy.
Mr. Brunner lectures them as they walk around the museum, repeating lessons when they found objects which corresponded to lessons he had taught before.
He chooses volunteers to tell the stories sometimes, and he makes jokes which Grover finds funny, but Andy doesn't understand.
When Mr. Brunner suddenly calls on Andy, Andy stumbles along her words as she tries to remember names and locations."Um, that picture?" Andy asks, clearly stalling, pointing to the painting Mr. Brunner had asked about.Mr. Brunner nods, smiling patiently.
"Well, it's showing Kronos, the, uh, king of the gods-no, the Titans. Um, he was the father of the gods, but he ate almost all of them 'cause he was scared they were gonna overpower him."
She pauses, staring at the painting for a moment before her eyes start flitting between Mr. Brunner's face and Grover's.
She clears her throat and Nancy snickers.
God damn it, Andy, get it together.
"So, yeah, the king titan ate his kids, but this painting shows his kids getting revenge after they were vomited out."
Andy allows herself to feel proud when Mr. Brunner smiles. Grover elbows her and gives her two thumbs up.
"All I hear is ching, ching, chong." A voice, sounding suspiciously like Nancy's, snarks and the group dissolves into snickers.
Mr. Brunner glares at them. "Now, I will have no disrespect of this form going about. This ignorance shall be dealt with as soon as I have a private moment with you, Miss Bobofit. There shall be no hostility tolerated amongst students."
The group is silent for a while, and Mr. Brunner just keeps glaring at the group until he turns his gaze to Andy.
Andy's cheeks flush with embarrassment. She doesn't like to be defended like this. She feels kids staring at her, and she wants, so desperately, to be invisible.
"It's not like any of this Greek stuff matters anyway," Nancy murmurs as soon as the teacher is no longer looking at her.
Mr. Brunner turns his gaze to Nancy once again, looking quite tired. "Nancy, you must work on controlling your tongue."
Andy almost feels better at the sight of Nancy's freckled face turning red from humiliation.
"However, you did bring up a good point. How will this apply to our lives, Miss Jeung?"
Andy freezes at the attention, and she desperately tries to find a way to bullshit herself out of the question. "Well, uh, the ancient Greeks told these stories to teach morality?"
Andy could've sworn she saw a flash of disappointment flicker across Mr. Brunner's face, which angers her because she'd actually thought she'd done well, but he only nods. "Yes, well done."
They decide to stop for a break there, and the chaperones lead the kids outside to the museum's lawn for lunch.
Grover and Andy decide to sit down by a water fountain, and they both settle in the grass (Grover with much more difficulty due to his sick legs), pulling their lunch from their bags.
Andy stares at the sandwich, her stomach grumbling but her face pinched in distaste."I hate the cafeteria sandwiches. They always taste like cardboard." She grumbles, but still unwraps the sandwich and starts devouring it.
Grover hums, taking the ham out of the sandwich."I can go ask Mr. Brunner to get you something else. I think they brought extra lunches for kids who are allergic to certain ingredients."
Andy contemplates for a moment, chewing rapidly, "I don't know, I wouldn't wanna waste something someone else needs just 'cause I'm picky."
Grover shrugs. "Okay. I'm gonna go drink some water, then."
Grover starts standing when someone pushes him over.
Nancy and her friends run off laughing as Grover groans, struggling to sit upright. Andy steadies him even as Grover tries to wave her off, then she catches sight of Grover's watery eyes, and his trembling lips and Andy feels her anger take over her form.
Andy stands quickly, her head darting around to catch Nancy talking loudly with her friends, walking towards the fountain in the middle of the grass.
Andy growls as Nancy waves at her.
"Andy, no, please don't start something," Grover is struggling to his feet, but Andy is already stalking towards Nancy.
She has dealt with Nancy's shit all day, and while she would usually brush it off like she has been taught to, Andy's patience has snapped under pressure today.
"What the fuck, Nancy?" Andy yells.
"Ooh, the ugly little guard dog has come to defend her master. Oh, wait, you can't be a dog because you eat them don't you? Don't you eat dogs and cats because you're Chinese?" Nancy says, her mouth curling in a disgustingly triumphant grin.
Her friends around her laugh loudly like Nancy is some sort of comedic genius. She smirks with them, crossing her arms across her chest and looking down at Andy with an air of superiority about her.
Andy wants to punch that smirk right off her freckled face."I'm sick of your shit. I've had to deal with it all year, and I'm not putting up with it anymore." Andy snarls, her facial expressions twisted to make her seem as feral as the kids say.
Nancy scoffs. "Watcha gonna do about it, bitch?"
Andy's anger ripples just under her skin and it's pulling wildly at her. She feels like burning, she feels like drowning. Andy feels so engulfed by her own emotion that she almost can't remember what happened next. She feels her gut clench and then, the next thing she knows, Nancy is on the ground, soaking wet as if she decided to take a swim in the fountain, and the other kids are scrambling to pick her up.
"Mrs. Dodds! Mrs. Dodds! Andy pushed Nancy! Andy's gone wild!" A girl, Giselle, yells as she clutches Nancy's arm.
You'd think I stabbed her or something, Andy thinks to herself.
Andy isn't yet satisfied, but her arm is suddenly grasped in a tight grip, and she smells old lady breath behind her, and she knows Mrs. Dodds has come to punish her.
"Now, honey, what happened here?" She asks, and when Andy turns to look at her face, there is a cruel gleam in her dark eyes.
A kid runs up to her and babbles on about Andy being a threat to all of the poor, innocent children of Yancy Academy. Mrs. Dodds' grip on her arm tightens, and she lets out a deep, sinister sound which might have been a chuckle.
Grover whimpers somewhere near Andy and Andy can't help but feel offended by that sentiment. It's not like Andy hasn't been punished before, she can handle this easily.
Grover begins stammering about how it is his fault and not Andy's, but Mrs. Dodd's hears nothing of it.
Mrs. Dodds hauls her away from the children and into the museum.
Andy stumbles when she is pushed further into the room. She turns around, her heart beating wildly in her chest but her mouth open, ready to protest. But Mrs. Dodds is no longer behind her.
Andy lets out a shaky breath.
"Um, Mrs. Dodds?" She calls out to the seemingly empty museum.
A sound resonates throughout the museum in response, a sound like sharp metal digging into marble.
Andy shivers and turns to leave the museum, thoroughly freaked out. Before she can reach the door, she hears wings flapping before a terrible creature lands in front of her.
The creature has the body of an old lady, and she wore no clothes (which was a truly horrifying sight), but the skin that stretched over her skeleton looked like a used cleaning rag, so wrinkled and dirty. She had the face of an old lady, too, but she had far too strange features. Her beady, dark eyes protruded out of her skull and her mouth was too large for her face. The teeth inside her mouth were not really teeth but yellowed fangs. She had no hair to hide the two horns which grew from her head, twisted and sharp as they were. She held her arms close to her body, with her clawed hands bent at the wrist, not unlike a T-Rex. The wings which sprouted from her back were large and leathery, opened wide as if about to take flight.
Andy took all of this in, fear rattling within her like a caged bird. She stumbles back, and the creature laughs a wicked sort of laugh.
"Weak child!" She says in a voice similar to Mrs. Dodds', but more scratchy and growl-y.
With horror, Andy realizes that the creature which crouches in front of her is actually Mrs. Dodds.
She scrambles to stand, but the creature steps closer to her.
The creature's form flickers, going from the monster Andy had seen to the old lady clad in leather that Andy recognizes. "Give me the lightning bolt, you thief. You have tricked us for far too long. Give it now, and I will give you a quick death."
Andy hears herself whimper, and she cowers away from a swiping claw. "I don't know what you're talking about! Get the fuck away from me!"
The creature snarls viciously, and Andy thinks, Shit, I'm dead.
Then Mr. Brunner busts into the museum, his wheelchair's wheels moving quicker than she's ever seen them move and he throws an object into the air, towards Andy.
Andy catches it out of reflex and sees its a pen. She stares at it, confused before she's forced to act as Mrs. Dodds starts swiping at her again.
Andy scurries out of Mrs. Dodd's way and uncaps the pen as she runs, thinking that maybe she can stab the creature with the point. But as she opens it, the pen grows longer and wider. Where there was once a pen, there is now a shining, double-edged broadsword.
Andy stumbles with the weight while running and her chest constricts as she hears wings flapping behind her. She turns and sees the creature bounding down towards her, dark wings open and her face cruel. Andy raises the sword, fright spreading through her chest while an unknown strength steadied her limbs.
The creature comes close, her talons sharp and reaching towards Andy. Andy whimpers with fear, but she slices the sword through the air and digs it into the creature's moving body.
Her arms struggle to hold onto the sword as the body falls to the side, the sword still in it. Andy finishes slicing the sword out through where its wedged in the body's waist and then Mrs. Dodds crumbles and slowly turns into a golden powdery substance.
Andy looks down in horror, her mind running a million miles per hour, her whole body thrumming with adrenaline. She doesn't know what she's done or what is going on.
She stumbles as she scrambles away from the dust.
Andy runs outside, in search of Mr. Brunner. Somewhere along the way, her sword turned back into a pen.
She finds Mr. Brunner sitting close to the fountain reading his book as though he had never moved. Grover is sitting in the same place as before.
Nancy is leaning against the wall near the door with her friends, still soaking wet and fuming angrily. She snarls when she sees Andy. "Did Ms. Kerr finally set you straight, mutt?"
Andy ignores her nonsense and runs towards Grover.
"Grover, I need to talk to you!" Andy whispers or tries to whisper, as she slumps down next to Grover.
"What do you wanna talk about, Andy?" Grover asks nervously, his eyes skirting across the lawn and settling on where Jordan and Allen, Grover's roommates, are pick-pocketing a family of four.
Andy's hands are shaking, but she tries to calm her voice. "I need to tell you something. The craziest thing just happened to me, and I don't know what to do."
Grover glances at her from the corner of his eyes, and he shoves his sandwich into his mouth. "What happened with Ms. Kerr?"
"Who the fuck is Ms. Kerr?" Andy asks impatiently.
Grover swallows his sandwich and murmurs softly, "Ms. Kerr, the math teacher. You got in trouble, right? What'd she do?"
Andy's eyebrows furrow with confusion and she starts pulling at the hem of her jeans nervously.
"No. What? No." Andy shakes her head, and she starts anxiously pulling the grass out from underneath them.
Her mind is still running too quick to process, and her whole body is burning with an ache to run, to scream, to do something.
"So she didn't get you in trouble? I thought she would since you pushed Nancy." Grover says through a mouthful of sandwich.
He still looks nervous, he's fidgeting with his bracelets, and his eyes won't settle on anything for too long. He finishes his sandwich and stuffs the trash in his bag. Rain starts sprinkling down from the heavens and his face becomes marked with small water droplets.
Andy narrows her eyes at him in suspicion as the rain starts growing stronger. Grover doesn't act like this unless he's hiding something and Andy doesn't like it when things are kept from her.
"No, Mrs. Dodds got me in trouble. Then she turned into a she-demon, and I killed her with this pen that turns into a sword." Andy says slowly and quietly as if speaking to a child.
Grover's eyes widen, and he looks at Andy in alarm, the first time he looks at her directly since she sat next to him. But he quickly recovers and laughs shakily, gathering his things and slowly standing.
"Ha, ha, Andy, what are you talking about?" He says, a wavering smile forced onto his thin lips as he raises his bag over his head.
"Grover-" Andy starts but is interrupted by Mr. Brunner's booming voice.
"Miss Jeung! I see you've made good use of my pen, now I'd like it back if you will."
Andy turns to see him sitting serenely in his wheelchair on the sidewalk. A tall, plump woman stands next to him, holding an umbrella over the both of them.
"Miss Jackson," Mr. Brunner calls again.
Andy stands and walks towards him cautiously as if he might turn into a monstrous creature like Mrs. Dodds.
Andy hands him his pen, and he smiles brightly. "Thank you, Miss Jeung. Ms. Kerr and I will call you to board the bus soon, get ready to leave. Try to find some cover, we wouldn't want you getting sick, now would we?"
Before Andy can ask about Mrs. Dodds, Mr. Brunner pockets the pen then turns around. The lady next to him, the infamous Ms. Kerr, sends Andy a stern look and walks off.
Andy stares after them, lost as to what to do.
How much does Mr. Brunner know? And who the fuck is this Ms. Kerr?
"Hey, Andy!" Nancy calls as she saunters by.
Her friends follow her closely, all with their bright, glittering umbrellas. Andy almost groans because this is not the time for Nancy to be annoying, God damn it.
"Are you finally getting expelled? Ms. Kerr said this was your last chance. I hope it's true." Nancy's freckled face scrunches up as she snickers.
She and her friends then wander off to terrorize other innocent children.
Maybe this is some sort of prank.
Grover calls her, but she can't quite hear him with the rain pouring down and the ocean roaring in her ears.
Is Grover in on it, too?
She feels a hand on her shoulder, and she startles, swirling around and almost slipping in her haste to get away.
Grover stands behind her, his face pinched with worry and their lunch bags in his hand. "Hey, are you okay?"
Andy stares at him for a second, taking in the sight of his anxious eyes, his shaking hands, and the flattening, wet curls on his head.
What is going on?
"Are you eating your food? 'Cause Ms. Kerr is already rounding up everyone to get in the bus and you never finished your sandwich." Grover stumbles over his words, hurriedly pushing them out like they pain him.
Andy looks at him. This boy who offered to show her around Yancy, who comforted and calmed her, who supported her throughout the year and never once called her anything but her name. This boy who feeds the mice that lurk in the halls, this boy who talks to the flowers in Yancy's garden, this boy who enjoys yoga of all things. She thinks, Grover wouldn't do anything to hurt me.
"Nah, you can have it if you want," Andy says, her eyes now fixed on the darkened sky.
Storm clouds have been brewing all day, and she wishes she were home. Her Dad would know what to do.
She looks onto the streets and imagines going home. She imagines the feel of her Dad's embrace, the comfort of his strong arms, his laugh rumbling in his chest and his hand ruffling Andy's hair. She can hear him calling her name and Andy thinks she would do anything to be home.
"Hey, Andy, we should get on the bus now," Grover says, and Andy is snapped back into reality.
"Yeah," Andy murmurs.
Just like that, they leave the museum and go back to Yancy Academy.
Andy tries to bring up Mrs. Dodds again that night, right before she heads off to the girl's dorm. Grover just looks at her with that same anxious stare and assures her that there has never been a Mrs. Dodds in Yancy Academy.
Andy tries the same thing with the girls in her dorm, but they just look at her like she's crazy.
Andy doesn't know what has happened, but something within her has snapped.
Andromeda Jackson has awoken.