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Best, Janet

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It was Janet Chant's sincere dream to be a doctor someday and help people. This would have been slightly unusual but totally possible in the world that she came from, and because she was both displaced and determined, Chrestomanci made sure it would be possible in her adopted world, as well. When she was seventeen, she joined the third class of female undergraduates at one of the more progressive colleges in London, and by doing so, left behind her family for a second time. This time, luckily enough, she was close enough to receive letters, and this was a very good thing. After all, there were people at the Castle who needed her, and she wouldn't let down her almost-brother or her friends.

In contrast to Janet's scholarship, the courtship between Cat Chant and Marianne Pinhoe was a slow, uncertain thing, and Janet thought it could be nothing else. After all, the post office had limitations and only delivered once a day, and Janet had other things to do besides coaxing Cat into reacting to girls like a normal person. That was a full-time job, and she had a lot of homework. Just because they'd let her into medical school, it didn't mean the professors were very happy about it. After a day of whirlwind lectures, it was almost relaxing to find a letter in her mailbox.

She wasn't sure why Cat didn't do his teleporting trick to visit her at school, instead relying on correspondence to half-mention, reluctantly, arguments several weeks old that he was completely unsure how to end. Perhaps it was that he knew that Marianne wrote too, and he wanted to do things she would approve of. She had learned a lot about enchanter's magic, but was still much better with dwimmer, and in response, Cat had become quite good with it too. That had been the cause of one of their earliest arguments, as Marianne couldn't admit her jealousy. Janet had had to do a lot of work on that one, and one Sunday evening when she should have been reading her anatomy textbook, she spent half an hour on the phone, trying to convince Marianne that Cat was a prodigy simply because he'd be half-useless otherwise; it was impossible to explain things to him.

Janet was practically his sister, and much nicer than his actual one, so she didn't feel any shame telling Marianne that. Anything to stop the sniping back and forth. She could feel the undercurrents of it in their letters, the straight-backed stubbornness that allowed these arguments to last for days. In fact, Janet sometimes despaired ever getting them to realize that they really liked each other in a way that should last. But she remembered how quiet and yet steel-spined Millie was, and how Chrestomanci hardly ever paid attention but was really just as stubborn in a more slippery way. And that gave her hope. Love wasn't as simple as her crush on Jason had been. She had realized that quite early on, although she figured she was allowed at least one ridiculous heartbreak to give her the revelation.

Cat and Marianne fought over silly things too, in Janet's opinion. It was as if once they realized that they liked each other in a special way, that they began looking for excuses not to. She looked forward to coming home between terms and knocking their heads together. Perhaps she could lock them in a room somewhere until they sorted things. Millie and Chrestomanci never said anything, but she figured they would appreciate it too.

"Of course he's not going to apologize," she scribbled to Marianne, on a drab Tuesday evening when she felt like giving advice was much more fun than memorizing bones. "He doesn't realize why you're mad because you never told him. This is Cat. Will you just think a little? And not with your heart or any of that claptrap. He's sulking because he doesn't know why he's in trouble, and he hates it when people don't tell him things."

When she finished that one and set it aside for the ink to dry, she looked at the textbook underneath the paper on her desk, and considered the humerus. It was not very interesting, so she found another piece of paper.

"You could consider asking her, you know," she wrote. "If you don't know why she's mad, that's a start. Or just apologize. And don't ask why you should be apologizing afterward. That makes you seem insincere. Honestly, Cat, sometimes I think you need an instruction manual for people. It would make things easier on everyone if we each had one, don't you think? You could flip it open and show Marianne that you didn't mean to, really, and it was all a misunderstanding."

Janet pressed the pen against her lip. She nearly sucked on the nib before realizing that it wasn't ballpoint, and that she didn't want to come in and be featured in the dentistry theatre again.

She went back to Marianne's letter and added a few lines about life in the dorms, and asked her to give Chrestomanci and Millie her love. Then she finished Cat's letter by saying that she was going to come home for a few days over Easter, and that he and Marianne had better be sorted by then, because she planned to eat a great quantity of ham and gross everyone out with dissection stories, and she couldn't do that when he was looking all hangdog.

"Best, Janet," she finished both, looking out and studying the darkening afternoon, considering the trip to the post office. Perhaps she'd go tomorrow before lunch. She smiled a little to herself as she lifted her text back into her lap and began reading the tiny print.

 

Falling in love was an experience she herself could take or leave for the moment. She had more important things to deal with. But she did like feeling connected to everyone at home. Maybe she didn't mind their writing as much as she pretended. No one had to know that.

There was more than one way to help people.