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Wielding the Pen

by Máire O’Reilly

Susan hurried down the school corridor towards the Superintendent’s office. She already been late twice this week, so she’d probably get a detention this time. And all that just because she’d been chatting on-line when Mom thought she was studying. Her blood boiled at the memory.

“What on earth are you doing, Susan?”

“So what does it look like I’m doing, Mom? Duh!”

“You do know your grades have fallen?”

“Yeah! So?”

Her mother began unplugging the computer. “Okay, you’ve had your chances. I’m taking this away until we get some results here!”

“Mom! You can’t do this! Please, Mom! I need the computer for my homework.”

“Too late, young lady! You’ll be writing your schoolwork for the next two weeks. Maybe that way something will register.”

Dad agreed with Mom, naturally; and her brother, Bobby, jeered her mercilessly. Now she was missing a couple of hours sleep each night to complete exercises that would take half the time on her computer. No wonder she was late.

She knocked on the office door. Inside, she heard the muffled sound of the Superintendent talking on the phone. There was no one in the corridor. She kicked the wall. Not fair! Mom was downright bloody-minded these days. Life would be so much easier without her.

Slipping her bag off her shoulders, she bent to set it on the floor and noticed a shiny gold object in the bottom of the otherwise empty rubbish bin beside the door. She fished it out, and instantly felt a surge of pleasure. It was an old-fashioned fountain pen; a Mont Blanc, just like the one those gorgeous tanned businessmen advertised in Dad’s Condé Nast magazines.

“Come in!”

She pocketed the pen and entered the Superintendent’s office. Ten minutes later, she was back out with a conditional reprieve: she had to write a short story to submit to the Inter-County Schools Competition by tomorrow morning. This was hardly a tough assignment. She patted the pen in her jeans and grinned. She could write well; her story would win, and then she’d be sure of a passing grade.

On the way home, Susan stopped off and had the newsagent check that the pen wasn’t leaking. “It’s in perfect condition,” he said, filling it with black ink from the bottle he sold her. “You’re lucky to have such a lovely object. They’re rare these days.”

Now her new treasure lay beside the block of paper on her desk. Solid and gleaming, superior in every way to the cheap ballpoints she usually used for handwriting, it taunted her to wield its power. She picked it up and shivered with excitement. This pen would produce the effect she wanted. She’d take first prize, and teach Mom, Dad and Bobby a lesson to boot.

The pen felt comfortably heavy in her hand. She held it poised over the pristine page for a moment. Fantasy would be good; she could use what she knew of the Irish myths for inspiration. Dismissing an unexpected twinge in her heart, she began to write.

Lír refused to accompany her to the Crossroads; yet despite her disappointment, Medb knew she would go alone.

Nobody’d know it’s pronounced Mev; nobody’d know Lír’s pronounced Leer, either; but the pen had written those names, so they’d stay.

Tomorrow was the Solstice, when she and Lír were to marry. After coupling with one of the Tuatha-De-Danaan, she would become like them, ageless. Then, her chance to die with her own kind among the Children of Eireann would be lost —

“Susan? Are you still up there?”

“I’m working, Mom.”

“Time to come down now. It’s past seven o’clock.”

No way, lady! The pen raced across the page.

She must escape tonight. A sharp pain shot through her heart and made her gasp. Medb entered the dark woods and leaned against a tree. Susan paused, caressed the pen, and continued. The pain subsided and she started to run, evading the clutches of the branches that clamored around her.

“Susan? Come down here immediately and help your mother!”

Now Dad’s involved... and irritated. Mom’s probably made him wear that Call Me Boss apron again. They’d be sending Bobby to fetch her soon. Susan winced, stretched her arms up to relieve the pressure squeezing her heart. The sound of dishes breaking followed by a tremendous commotion downstairs startled her. What the...? She clutched her aching chest and went back to work. Words tumbled onto the page, drawing her into the story.

The Tuatha had rescued her when marauders killed most of her clan. Her gratitude had grown into love, but it was time to leave their strange land. Medb’s eyes blurred in the agony of her heartbeat. If she could just make it to the Crossroads of the Worlds, she could go home. Her life among these people was over...

Footsteps pounded up the stairs and the bedroom door crashed open, slamming back against the wall. Susan dropped the pen.

“Jeez, Susan,” her brother panted, wild-eyed. “You’d better get downstairs quick! Mom’s collapsed and Dad’s gone next door for Dr. Flanagan.” He turned and ran, jumping the stairs two or three at a time. “Dad thinks it’s her heart,” he called as he went.

Susan retrieved her Mont Blanc, capped it, and set it on her desk. She needed another sentence; two, perhaps, but she knew there was no urgency now. She’d finish the story on the computer after dinner. Meanwhile, the pain in her heart had stopped.

Copyright © 2005 by Máire O’Reilley

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