August 28, 2014

In Which Rina Is an Insufficient Exception

January 5, 1187

It had taken Rina until halfway up the school's stairs to realize just how pointless coming in early had been.

The fall term had been Severin's last at the school, and Rina had known that. She knew very well--too well--that he would not be joining her in the sixteen-year-olds' self-guided university preparations any more, that he would spend January writing diagnostic exams and comparing course syllabi and otherwise charge ahead with the practical side of readiness, even moving himself into one of the student houses near the end of the month so he was settled in for his first classes in February. She knew that.

And yet, she'd left early anyway, as if she'd meet him in the library well before anyone else like they'd done before. Habit, she guessed. That or sheer stupidity. Either way, it was an embarrassment she wasn't quite sure how to handle, and didn't much care to with her cornucopia of pre-existing problems.

But with the mistake came the kick-in-the-gut re-realization that her only friend was gone. She was past the point of disliking her other classmates, even if she wasn't fond of them, but... just that. She hadn't managed to forge a connection with any of her other peers. She might have been close with Alina, maybe--Alina had always been nice, and Alina was popular enough that her approval of Rina had brought with it a number of allowances from others--but of course it would be that Alina was Severin's twin, and was therefore on the same timeline as he was.

Rina wasn't due to start at the university until October. She had little overall cause to wish for a hastened rate of time, but the prospect of nine lonely months was even less promising than what she could gather of the rest of her life. The only upside she could see was that this particular misery, at least, had a concrete end date.

"You're here early."

Roddie--one of only three others currently working on their university preparations. He also had the distinction of being the only student Rina knew who'd be starting university in the same term she did, what with Farilon and Mernolt leaving them in the summer. She supposed she had no problem with him, or hadn't in the past. He'd been friendly on the off-chance they'd talked, but aside from that, he'd been rather skilled at leaving her alone, which she appreciated more than he or any of the others could have known.

But he wasn't leaving her alone just now, probably for the sheer convenience of talking to her. As if sitting in silence hadn't been an option. "I'm usually here at this time. You're early."

"I need to brush up on my biology--and I figured you'd start showing up at a normal time now that Severin's gone."

"Well, I haven't, have I?" she snapped, no thought required or considered. Might not have been the way to discourage him. "Besides, where you're weak in biology, I'm weak in history."

"I don't see a history text."

"And I don't see a biology one."

"Because I just got here?" Was that meant to be spiteful? He didn't sound spiteful, though the words could have been so. He did sit down beside her, as someone who liked her would--or as someone who obsessively loathed her would. If he did mean to be spiteful, she'd leave.

"It's all right to miss him, you know. You seem like the type who'd rather not miss people, if you don't mind me saying."

What the hell did that mean? "You think people are supposed to go out of their way to miss each other?"

"No. You just... you seem like someone who'd find it easier to keep everyone else at arm's length. Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong with that, but... you know. Everyone deserves a few welcome exceptions."

No, not spiteful. Just a little presumptuous. "It's not as if I'll never see him again. We still do things outside of school."

"Severin does things outside of school?" His head turned, blinking the information in like most did when she said almost anything about Severin. Apparently the Severin she knew was hers and hers alone. "Huh. Maybe you don't want him to be your exception, but you'd definitely be his."

Eh? "Severin could find a much better exception than me."

"Are you sure? I mean, you wouldn't be my first pick--no offense--but there's nothing outright wrong with you."

Rina's gut tied itself in a knot and tugged. If he'd known a damn thing... then yes, that would have been spiteful. "There are a lot of things outright wrong with me."

"Maybe." But he shrugged, as if he didn't really care either way. Good. Rina preferred it if he didn't care. If he cared, then she would have had to care, and she didn't have much capacity for that. She'd already given the bulk of it to Severin. "But I think he sees those outright wrongs as something else entirely."

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