“She’s a freak.”
There were no three words in the English language that Lydia hated as much as those three and, after being subjected to them for most of her life, she had become particularly good at singling them out among the throng of voices that tended to accompany the crowd at lunch. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, pulling her red shawl closer around her shoulders. Her ears that tuned into the snotty tone of one Krystyl Baldock, and she poked at her pasta salad, resigned to overhearing the remainder of the conversation.
“I had to sit next to her in biology, and I was actually a little frightened for my life.” Lydia frowned. She didn’t have bio this semester. “After dissecting the frog, she hooked it up to some sort of weird battery and made it jump around.” Lydia looked studiously downwards, half-smiling. “And the worst part was that she told me afterwards that she could do the same thing with a human body.” Krystyl’s voice rose. “And she said that if she did it to me, no one would notice the difference!”
“What a bitch,” one of the Groupies sympathized.
“We would totally notice the difference, Krystyl.”
“Where is she now?”
“She stayed behind to suck up to Mr. Eckstrom.” Lydia quickly began to pack up her lunch. Leaving the small single serving of cheesecake Barbara had packed for her, she tucked the Tupperware containers into her shoulder bag and left the cafeteria behind. The biology labs were on the other side of the school, and Lydia tried to pretend that she wasn’t eager to see the girl Krystyl had been talking about. Hopefully a kindred spirit. It was…not exactly refreshing to not be the subject of the Groupies’ disdain, but it was interesting that there was more than one person now being subjected to the scrutiny. Krystyl and her friends had been the banes Lydia’s existence since she had left Miss Shannon’s School for Girls and returned to the public education system. The girl was a bitch, and needed to be taken down a few pegs. While Lydia had been tempted to go “Carrie” on her ass, she had resisted at the insistence of Barbara and Adam. Beetle…her other friends had been all for it.
Reaching the biology lab, she hung back from the door, but angled herself to get a look inside. Despite Krystyl’s words, Mr. Eckstrom was nowhere in sight but there was a girl Lydia’s age, garbed in black, standing beside a terrarium.
“Theraphosa blondi.” The girl said without turning around.
Lydia smiled. “The Goliath birdeating spider.” She stepped into the room.
“Yes. Despite its name, its diet consists mainly of insects.” The girl turned slightly. “And, if I happen to be lucky, perky blonds.”
“In that case, I hope your luck is better than mine.” Lydia approached the girl, studying her. She had pale, aristocratic features and silky black hair pulled into a severe bun behind her head. Hazel eyes, sharp and searching, watched Lydia’s approach warily, but when Lydia simply came to stand beside her, she returned her attention to the spider. He was huge, probably about half a foot long, and was sitting quite content in his enclosure. “I didn’t know Mr. Eckstrom had adopted such a cutie.”
The girl seemed torn between pleasure and annoyance. “He didn’t. Adonis belonged to me, but the ‘responsible adult’ with whom I’m currently residing decided that I would not be permitted to keep him. Mr. Eckstrom is providing a temporary home until either she shuffles off this mortal coil or I do.” Her lips tightened.
“Adonis is a perfect name for him,” Lydia stated. “Can I hold him?”
The girl coughed. “I believe that societal conventions dictate that you introduce yourself before you fondle my spider.”
Lydia couldn’t prevent a smile from curling her lips. “Lydia Deetz.” She held out her hand. The girl looked at it for a moment before finally taking it.
“Wednesday Addams.” Wednesday opened the terrarium and reached inside. Adonis’s legs recoiled a bit, but he allowed her to pick him up without offering much resistance. It seemed to Lydia that he thrived under the attention, and relaxed at her touch. Lydia held out her hand, and after a few moments of hesitation, Adonis finally crossed from Wednesday’s palm to hers. The weight in her hand was strangely comforting.
“Are you new to J.W. Grimm?”
“Unfortunately.” Wednesday’s nose twitched a bit, and Lydia had the feeling she was fighting a sneer. “I was tutored until now, but with the death of my parents and my introduction into the foster system, it has become a requirement for me to attend.”
“My condolences. I’d rather have bamboo shoved under my fingernails than spend eight hours of my day here.” Lydia began stroking Adonis’s head. He settled happily under the attention. “Have you at least been able to find your way around?”
“Thus far.” Perhaps noticing Lydia’s disappointment, Wednesday shifted. “But I’m confident that my navigational skills will disappoint me, as has everything else today.”
“I have a spare next. I could show you around.”
Wednesday inclined her head. “I would appreciate that. My next class is French, but I have a basic grasp of the language already.” Lydia nodded, and they descended into comfortable silence. The bell rang a few minutes later, and Adonis was carefully placed back in his habitat.
J.W. Grimm High School, after years of renovations and changes, was slightly labyrinthine, and Lydia had spent hours between classes exploring some of the more derelict corners. The northwest wing was roped off due to ongoing construction to which there was neither an end nor sign of actual work, and Lydia found herself leading Wednesday through the barricade of desks and old chairs. It was effective at keeping everyone out except students, and Lydia knew that a lot of students came here to smoke or skip classes.
Of the abandoned classrooms, three were currently being used. They picked out a fourth, and Lydia easily picked the lock to get them inside. The room was crowded with cobwebs and dust, but Wednesday picked out a spot near the window, seemingly right at home. Lydia sat on a nearby desk, her gaze going out the window. The leaves were changing on the trees outside, and the pale autumn sun was making them glow.
“When did you lose your parents?” Lydia asked.
“I didn’t lose them,” Wednesday said sharply, “they were taken from me.” Lydia waited as Wednesday took a steadying breath. “They went on their eighth honeymoon over the summer and were caught unaware by an indigenous cannibalistic tribe who assumed they would make an appealing entree. While they were probably correct, the assumption robbed me and my brothers of everything.” Wednesday cast her gaze out the window. “My uncle sued for custody, but was unfortunately deemed unfit by the judge, who I believe shared several previous unpleasantries with my father. Since last week, I have been in the care of a Ms. Dorothy Nesbitt, who has expressed some fundamental disagreements with my family’s customs.”
Lydia nodded. “My parents are unfortunately still alive.” Wednesday raised an eyebrow. “Though according to my stepmother, living in this town is the rough equivalent of being trapped in purgatory.”
“We could arrange for her to conduct an in-depth study of her hypothesis.”
“Thanks, but I shudder to think of what my father would bring home as the next prospective maternal unit.”
Lydia decided that she liked Wednesday.
“Adam, will you come down here, please? Lydia and her friend are going to be here any minute.” Adam sighed, and glared in annoyance at the miniature acropolis he had been working on. He was barley down the landscaping.
“I’m trying to get my rocks to stick!”
Predictably, he heard footsteps on the stairs, and a second later Babs was throwing open the door to the attic.
“Adam, this is important to Lydia. She wants to make a good first impression and needs our help.” Adam looked up at his wife. Her face had been contorted to resemble an unidentifiable cross between a bird of prey and a velociraptor, her eyes sticking out from the spinal cord which had been shoved up out of her neck.
“Barbara, I’m not sure that Lydia really needs us hovering over her while she has company over.”
Barbara shifted her features back to normal. “Adam, Lydia never has friends over, and the way she talks about this girl…” She paused. “I think it’s something special, Adam.”
“What do you mean she never has friends over? She…” Adam paused. He couldn’t remember the last time Lydia had anyone over. He frowned. “She never has friends over.” Barbara nodded. “How is that possible? I thought she was making lots of friends at school.” Barbara shook her head and he stood. “Well, in that case…” Barbara returned to sculpt her features, and he did the same. He wasn’t sure why Lydia had requested they present themselves at their goriest, but there had been a rare sparkle in her eye that made him happy to oblige. It wasn’t like it hurt. Of course, if they left it too long, their faces might freeze that way. Juno had been particularly vehement when pointing that out.
They made their way downstairs, hovering in the front foyer until, finally, the door opened.
Lydia grinned when she saw them, and stepped aside to allow her friend in past her. The girl, probably Lydia’s age, or close thereto, merely looked them over with a critical eye.
“Studies into incorporeal phenomenon suggest that your appearances would have been effectively supplemented had you screamed ‘boo.’”
If Adam hadn’t stripped all the skin off his face, he would have raised an eyebrow.
“Adam, Barbara, this is Wednesday Addams. Wednesday, these are my friends and our resident ghosts, the Maitlands.”
Barbara was the first to shift back. “We are so pleased to meet you, Wednesday. Any friend of Lydia’s is a friend of ours.” Wednesday nodded in acknowledgement, but did not return the smile. Adam couldn’t help but think that any such expression would have been out of place on her features. “Can we get you girls anything? Soda? Tea? Lemonade?”
She didn’t smile, but Wednesday sure could smirk. “I have a recipe for lemonade. We should trade sometime.” Barbara nodded enthusiastically. Lydia, suppressing a grin, steered Wednesday upstairs to her room, leaving them alone in the front hall.
“She seems nice,” Barbara stated. “I think I’ll go and bake them some cookies.” Adam’s eyes narrowed slightly as Lydia and her friend made their way upstairs. Lydia’s hand hovered at the small of Wednesday’s back in a familiar way that had every paternal instinct screeching in his mind. “Adam? Come on. Let the girls be.”
“Adam.” There was a definite edge in her tone. With a sigh, Adam joined her in the kitchen.
The clock was steadily ticking towards three in the morning. Lydia watched the procession of the second hand, each fractional movement making her irises shake minutely. She felt like throwing the damn thing across the room, but resisted the urge. It wasn’t the clock’s fault that she was insomniatic. And throwing it against the wall would just wake her parents and get Barbara’s attention, which she for some reason wanted desperately to avoid.
She rolled over to face the wall. It wasn’t any more interesting, but at least her eyeballs weren’t twitching any more. Of course, with the blank canvas, it just became easier to project the memories that were keeping her awake.
“I believe that I am experiencing an intense sexual attraction to you. I’d like permission to explore this sensation.”
“Umm…okay?” Her skin tingled from the feeling of Wednesday’s lips trailing kisses up the inside of her forearm.
“Lydia? You’re still awake?” Lydia turned over and sat up when she saw Barbara standing in her doorway.
“Yeah. I think I’m worried about my math test tomorrow.” She felt like slapping her own forehead. With the exception of English, math was her best subject. She could skip the rest of the term and still ace the final. From the look on Barbara’s face, she knew it, too.
Barbara crossed the room and sat down on the bed beside her. The silence that settled between them was charged, but not uncomfortable. Barbara seemed to be waiting for Lydia to speak, and sighed when a full minute passed without a word between them.
“I only ever loved one person before Adam.”
Lydia blinked. “Oh?”
“Yes. My next door neighbour. We went to the same school, and each day we would walk there together but we never talked. I was shy, and they were much more sophisticated than me.” Barbara paused. “I think you can guess that I’ve always been a bit of a homebody.” Lydia offered her a reluctant smile. “But they saw past that, and it was never an issue. I remember our first kiss being one of the most magical moments of my life, right up with when I heard Adam say ‘I do.’” A wistful expression crossed her face, quickly replaced by one of sadness. “When their parents found out, they were unhappy, to say the least, and we were forbidden to see each other. They moved not soon after, and I was heartbroken. But my memories of Emily—” Lydia’s eyes widened “—are some of the best I’ve ever created.” Lydia reached out to touch Barbara’s hand. It was always strange, touching a ghost; a bit like brushing against something electric.
“I’m glad you found Adam,” Lydia whispered.
“Me too,” Barbara said. “At the end of the day, Lydia, you have to do what’s best for you, without regards to anyone else.” She stood. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Lydia waited until Barbara had disappeared through the door and lay down.
She had no further problems falling asleep.