Melisandre sat at the back of the classroom, as usual, although only Cersei Lannister was there with her (and that dolt science teacher Pycelle, but no one at Westeros High really counted him as a person). She sat a few rows behind Cersei and watched as Cersei exasperatedly looked out the window, sighing with annoyance at being trapped in the dingy classroom for an hour. “Pycelle, how much money do you want? You know I can get my dad to pay you whatever you need to get me out of here,” she snapped at the teacher, who sat grading papers and twirling his beard at the front desk. Pycelle looked up at Cersei. “But then your dad would know that you’re in detention, and I’d have to tell him why. Would you want that?” Cersei knew she couldn’t argue with that. Although Mel couldn’t see Cersei’s face, she could perfectly imagine the eye roll on her face. Cersei’s class presentation in homeroom, where all students had been required to present on a social issue they felt passionately about, was already infamous although it’d happened only hours ago. Only with that much money, power, and privilege would you think you could get away with giving a presentation called “Why Incest Should Be Accepted” and expect no repercussions , Mel thought to herself. Mel wasn’t in Cersei’s homeroom, but apparently her teacher, Mr. Selmy, immediately stopped her after the first powerpoint slide. He was a stern man, and immediately sent Cersei to the principal’s office. And here she was now, with Melisandre, but not recognizing or noticing the girl behind her who looked at her with such longing.
All the money and privilege Cersei had, Mel lacked completely. Cersei was able to buy her way out of suspension and get stuck in mere detention by reminding the principal that her dad paid for the entire gymnasium renovation, all the better to showcase his son Jaime’s athletic skills. Not just now, but when she was caught snorting coke in the bathroom, and the many times she got called her teachers “useless cunts.” But Melisandre couldn’t buy her way out of anything. “Remember how lucky you are to be here,” the school guidance counselor constantly reminded her during their required weekly meetings, during which Melisandre hardly ever spoke and just glared at the counselor. “A girl with no family, who lives in a group home for teens-- most people in your place wouldn’t have the chance to come to a school like this. But our funders gave us money to recruit students from... disadvantaged backgrounds…” “So here I am. A charity case,” Melisandre replied. As if she needed any reminder that no one else at Westeros High had a past like hers. She had no time for sleep, for she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death . Some nights she slept, but rarely for more than an hour, and she prayed that one day she’d never sleep at all. For when she did, she felt the pain of the belt as it hit her back and the slaps that struck her face, all the cruelties her long chain of foster parents had inflicted upon her. Whoever her parents were, when they saw the baby with red eyes they didn’t want her, and neither did anyone else. Only R’hllor did. Only faith in the Lord of Light kept her going, told her that although the night is dark and full of terrors, the fire burned them all away. That accidental fire that consumed the home of her last torturers while she just happened to be out? Not so accidental.
So there she was now in the group home, miles and worlds away from the Lannister mansion, staying silent throughout most of the day and not responding when people purposefully tripped her on her long skirts in the hallway (“why do you dress like it’s the fucking Renaissance Fair, you freak?”), when they pulled on her nearly-floor length hair (R’hllor demanded she keep her hair pure and uncut for Him), when they called her a “firecrotch” because of her red hair and called her a witch, over and over. Not that her classmates were wrong about that. During science lab that morning when she had to dissect a dead frog, she decided to try out a new spell she’d been practicing instead. As Mr. Pycelle yammered on about anatomy, Mel chanted to herself, her hand on the frog’s body, until she felt it move. The frog leapt up and started jumping frantically around the room, as the other students scurried around to avoid it. Mel sat calmly in her seat as they all pointed at her and whispered. “That weird witch, why is she even here again?” Mel heard that rich snob Margarey Tyrell say to a friend. With all the money and family support Margarey has , Melisandre thought to herself, she can’t see how much she needs the Lord of Light, how only the Lord truly can save us from darkness . “I don’t know what you’ve done, Melisandre,” Pycelle said, “But you’ll be with me in detention in room 310 at 3pm sharp. For now, just go to the guidance counselor. We don’t need any more disruptions in this class. “As you command,” Mel replied, her long red skirts trailing behind her as she left the room. She might lack money and privilege, but her power only grew each day.
So now she sat with only Cersei Lannister in detention, a girl who had everything she never had, watching from behind as Cersei twirled her long golden hair in boredom, noticing her write “Mrs. Jaime Lannister” over and over in her notebook so many times that it filled a sheet of paper. But Cersei didn’t notice her. Cersei was the Queen Bee, and Melisandre was the weird witchy girl that everyone avoided like the plague and called “scary.” No one seemed to particularly like Cersei-- she didn’t have a kind word for anyone, and hallways cleared in fear when she stormed through them-- but she was part of the city’s richest family, so everyone acted worshipful towards her. And, of course, because she was beautiful. So beautiful , Melisandre thought longingly as she gazed at her, but the last thing Mel needed was for anyone to know she was a lesbian. She got teased enough as it was, and although the Lord’s protection and her faith made her indifferent to her peers’ taunts, being teased about something so personal would just feel different.
“The hour is up, ladies” Pycelle said with relief. “Tomorrow, you’ll be back at the same time, with a draft of an essay on why you were here and how you’ll improve your behavior.” Cersei snarled, “I didn’t do anything wrong! I should be allowed to express whatever I want; ever heard of the first amendment, you fool that smells like dead cats?” “I’m sure your father will love to hear from the principal personally about this incident if you don’t comply” Pycelle said, and Cersei’s smirk dropped. Pycelle gave his own smirk and left the room. Mel began gathering her bags, when she head Cersei cough, “ahem!” Mel looked up at her. “Yeah you. I’m talking to you, weirdo. You’re writing my paper for me. Got it?” She threw a hundred dollar bill at Mel.
Mel picked up the bill and looked at it for a moment, before walking up to Cersei and looking her in the eyes as she handed it back to her. “What?” Cersei asked, stunned. “Aren’t you, like, some broke bitch? I mean, you wear the same fucking outfit every day, the same red dress. What the fuck is up with that?” “It’s what my Lord commands of me,” Melisandre responded calmly. Her heart was racing from talking to Cersei, finally, for the first time after gazing at her for years, but when she talked about R’hllor she felt no fear. “Right, I forgot, you’re into some weird pagan shit” Cersei said, rolling her eyes and smirking. She’s heard of me, at least! Mel thought to herself. “I wasn’t aware you knew I even existed,” Mel said. “Of course I do” Cersei replied, still seated at her desk, her green eyes looking upwards into Mel’s red eyes “you’re kind of hard to miss with your crazy long super-red hair and dollar-store Stevie Nicks outfits.” “You like Stevie Nicks?” Melisandre asked. She didn’t know much about Cersei besides that she was haughty, rich, and someone she wanted to kiss but she never imagined Cersei would be into her beloved Stevie. “Obviously” Cersei replied. “I have taste. Unlike most of the morons in this school who listen to EDM and top 40. Even my brother Jaime, if he plays DJ Khalid one more time…”she huffed with frustration. “Do you have a favorite Stevie song?” Mel asked, excitedly. “It’s so hard to decide, I have to think about that. I have such a sweet vinyl setup at home, I’ll have to listen to all her albums again to decide. Obviously yours is ‘Sisters of the Moon’”
“How did you know that?” Mel asked, her heart jumping. “Because that’s some weird witchy shit” Cersei said, and tiled her head as she smiled to herself. “So you’re really going to write my essay for free?”
“Not for free,” Mel replied. The flame of R’hllor made her heart burn, and she felt braver than ever.“Only if you let me check out that vinyl setup you talked about. But I don’t have a car, so you’ll have to drive me over.”
Cersei scanned Melisandre from head to toe, a judgmental look in her eyes (as always). “You really think I’m going to let an unwashed monochromic religious freak be seen with me? In my car?”
“Fine,” Melisandre said. “Write a ten-page essay in one night on your own.” She turned away to leave the door, and then she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Wait.” Cersei’s eyes widened. “Just...get in quietly, okay?” Mel smiled. “Okay.”