That Berger Kid

Working on more character involvement in the story, looking at characters I've established, adding a bit of back story which are a bit vague now but will serve useful later. Here are two I've been thinking about recently:

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The junior class 2B had spent the better half of the morning with lined paper and blunt pencils, scribbling down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now they were out in the playground, chasing each other, skipping over ropes or hopping around squares. It was the last day of the year and Ms Bishop had organised a picnic for lunch and was going to spend the afternoon finishing the book they were reading and handing out the prizes to the children with the most stars by their names. It had been a good year, she had been thinking to herself as she collected the extra blank paper off the desk and tidied away the pencils. The year before she had had a student who always threw tantrums, and he had been sent to another school after he had pushed a girl off the top of the jungle gym, breaking her arm. No, she thought. Lovely students this year. Except maybe for that Berger child. There was something about that child. He always sat with his group of friends, which was pretty normal. He was definitely the leader, but he always looked like he was unsatisfied with what was around him. While the rest of the kids got excited on Fridays when the cafeteria served fish fingers and chips, and could spend hours throwing around a ball, Berger always looked indifferent to it all. It had been that way since he had arrived at the school four years ago. She went over to the desk at the back of the class where he normally sat and picked up his sheet of paper. There was much less text on it than on the others’. When I grow up, I want to be powerful. And that was it. Ms Bishop looked at it for a while, re-reading the sentence. Maybe she should have looked deeper into it. Maybe she should have rang up Mr and Mrs Berger. Instead, she heard the bell ring and picked up all the paper from the desks and waited at her desk while her students filed back in. When I grow up, I want to be powerful. Maybe somewhere there, there was a hint.

and for one of the heroines, Salli:

The city felt good to her. Salli leaned out of her balcony, breathing in the fresh air. Today had been a big day and there had been a lot of celebrations, although she had left a particularly large fireworks display at seven, to go home. She had spent the rest of the evening doing nothing she would remember, occasionally looking out of her double-doored balcony to the parties outside. There was a loud roar of amazement as a set of fireworks exploded into a battle between a knight and a dragon. A few seconds later, the dragon had its head cut off and the whole scene dissolved into the stars. The cold started getting to her, and she realised she was only wearing a thin strapped nightgown in the middle of the winter. It had snowed recently but the council had hired the local wizards, or whatever they wanted to be called, to clear the town for the celebrations tonight. Fires crackled and spat in every square and piazza as people gathered around to sing songs and bring in another year. Salli went back inside and wondered why she hadn’t asked Kall if he had wanted to spend the New Year with her, but now it was far too late. It was only about ten o’clock, she noticed. She relaxed, lying on her bed, the electric chandelier she had hanging from her high ceiling wasn’t on, and the only lights around were the moonlight and the brief coloured flashes of fireworks. Special fireworks, made by the local warlock, or something, she thought. If these are the ones we’re getting now, I wonder what the midnight ones are going to be like. She thought about going back outside, now that it had gone completely black, and take a long walk around the city, in all the small alleys and side roads she loved. Eventually she made up her mind and slid off the bed, changed out of her nightgown, into a few layers of considerably warmer and public-appropriate clothing. As she struggled to put on her socks with her cold-numbed hands, she spotted an old walkman on her dresser. She considered picking it up and listening to music while she walked, maybe some atmospheric instrumental, but decided against it. Leaving her room and moving into the darkened entrance hall, she picked up her large brown fur-lined coat and opened her door to leave. The stairway echoed with clicks as her shoes hit the cold stone steps. She descended three flights and finally made it to the huge double-doors leading outside. Her route took her down dark streets, where the people were out or asleep, and half the streetlights didn’t work. These were streets far away from the celebrations and the noise. The only sound she could hear was that of her own footsteps. The faint light of the moon reflected in puddles, adding bright spots of grey and blue to the otherwise black roads she walked on. Monday it was back to work, she thought. More papers to file, people to chase down and interview, possibly giving them legal aid. She liked her job. It was well-paying, and her family, who had for generations been friends with the biggest names in the country, had secured a very good job for her after she had left Oxford and moved back home. Life was, she had to admit, certainly very good. And then she thought about Kall. She didn’t like to, because it never ended well in her head. She briefly considered finding him, wherever he was, and spending the rest of the evening with him, but thought it best not to. She remembered a lesson her grandmother had taught her about men when she was young. Never let them know you want ‘em, she had said, they need to think getting’ ya was the best thing that happened to them. You’ll be never be strong if people don’t think you’re worth it. Her grandmother had often told her things like that. It had gone completely over her head when she was young, but ever since she had first left for England, alone and scared in a place she didn’t know, it had come to her that you had to work hard and prove yourself. She had, in time, edited those lessons she had been taught, fixed them to fit more with her experiences. Never ask for help, she had remembered, but had added a mental footnote: Unless you are truly stuck. Not wanting to be wrong is only worse when you actually are. It was a fair concept, she had thought that night. And now there she was. Twenty-seven and her life had taken almost every right turn she had wanted. She couldn’t help but find the humour in most of it being due to her heritage, with it having not a great deal to do with her skills as a strong and confident woman. Oh well, she thought. Everything has its place. She snapped out her thoughts, and noticed she had wandered somewhat blindly much closer into the centre of town, where the cheers, music and singing were increasing steadily in volume. She reached Mattias Plaza – a small, out-of-the-way square where local bands came to play on weekends and market stalls were normally set up on broken tables. The usual mess of benches and awnings had been removed or replaced, to make a circular seating area surrounding a large bonfire. Behind it she could see a man on an accordion being accompanied by a tambourine. She smiled as she watched the families and the groups of friends talking excitedly and singing along to whatever folk tune was playing. One of the elder men, red in the face, holding a large stone beer mug and wearing a rather interesting chequered hat noticed her and beckoned her to join them, spilling beer on the floor all the while. Salli shook her head shyly and left the way she came. By the time she had returned to her apartment, it was almost midnight. She went into the lounge, found a bottle underneath her globe drinks cabinet and poured herself a small glass of whiskey. Midnight rolled around. Outside the noise grew bigger and the scream of fireworks was constant. Salli smiled to nobody and raising the glass to the air in front her, toasted the New Year.

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