Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Other F Word


Amazon August 2013


Here's the first chapter:


Angry buzzing surrounded the hollow cypress tree where Dekram and her friend, Layol hid.
Dekram's wings quivered like a rainbow oil slick on a puddle as she wrapped them around her body and scooted further into the hollow of the cypress. Her wings parted, and, with a gasp, sage-green eyes worried a look at her friend. "Oh, for the love of Disney, Lay! Get back in here!" Dekram rushed a whisper. "They're swarming, you idiot."
Layol giggled over her shoulder then wiggled back into the tree and perched on her heels, wings vibrating excitement. "Pixin' enchantin', right? I've never seen so many Fire fairies in one place. Don't ya wanna know what's up with that?"
Dekram's wings shivered. "No! The Skulls are out there!"
"You think they're working the rest of the Fire fairies up to go all lost boys on us during the mock missions?"
"Really, Lay?" Dekram spread her wings so Layol could see her eyes roll. "It's not like they've been allowed to go into the human world for the last century or so."
"Well, they're not playing soccer with a roly-poly." Layol popped her head out of the hole in the cypress.
"Do not! Attract them!" Dekram shrieked, pushing farther into the shadows. "They file their teeth wicked pointy, their tattoos scare me, and they always stink of rancid honey."
Layol turned, hands flipped out, palms up. "And we care about their personal hygiene, why?"
"Did you not hear, 'always stink of rancid honey'? They're in-ee-bri-A-ted!" Dekram rapid fired. "We're a gnat's butt away from getting a mission. If you attract them to us and we get caught-"
"Okay! Do I look like I'm rushin' out to ask them anything?" Layol said, butt in the air, upper body hanging out of the hole in the tree. "Impin' right, I'm not. Besides, they're leaving, and it's just as well."
Layol back-winged a half circle until she hovered in front of Dekram. ''We need to get to class. You so totally do not need another deficiency mark, gal pal. So, unless you can pull a Wendy and wish us to Neverland, we best get our wings on."
"I will never understand why Fire fairies are not institutionalized by the time they turn eighteen. All they care about is drinking and mating." Dekram unfolded her wings, stood, and fingered her long red curls. "You sure they're gone?"
"Yesssss," Layol said, working a fist with her hip. "Give it a rest. Maybe I wouldn't go lip-to-lip with a Skull—those buzz-saw teeth—and sure, the whole drunken bad-boy fairy thing could be a big carnal thrill-kill, but c'mon, if they stayed sober they'd be a major attraction in an 'I know I'm not supposed to be doing this' kind of way."
"Grimm calamities! You so didn't just say that!" Dekram made a fist and worried two front teeth with a thumbnail.
"Just sayin'—not doin'."
"I can only hope, because that would definitely be a series of unfortunate events." Dekram glanced at the exit. "Can you see Renrad? Is he still tethered to the bush by the pond?"
Layol blew a melodramatic sigh and looked out of the hole in the trunk. "Your dragonfly is safe. Now can we get to school before the first bell rings?"
In second period humanities, Mrs. Ecarg, an Earth fairy with reddish-brown hair cut short around her face, and a tent-like flowered dress covering her bulbous body, wrote homework assignments on the blackboard. Behind her, students passed notes, their faces dressed in dramatic expressions, while others whispered exaggerations, teased or taunted.
Dekram half-listened to the students while she watched the bun on the back of Mrs. Ecarg's head bob to the beat of the chalk moving on the blackboard. Her eyes wandered to the clock on the wall over the door and she mentally counted off seconds, willing the minutes to move along. After two-hundred-and-seventeen seconds—three ticks of the big hand on the face of the clock, thirty-one seconds to the next—her eyelids felt heavy and her mind wandered back to the cypress tree and the swarm. The stupid Fire fairies are the least disciplined and most unsupervised kids in Wandermere. So totally not fair. Why does the council put up with them? If I had my way...

When the communication device above Mrs. Ecarg's desk screeched a shrilly sound, the teacher jumped out of her Birkenstocks', bare feet kicking the hem of her muumuu.
Two hollow taps echoed and a winded sound reverberated the speaker, before Principal Nrets stern voice came through loud and clear. "Mrs. Ecarg, please send Dekram to the office."
"Right now," the voice of Dekram's mother snapped.
Dekram bolted out of her chair, wings all a-flutter. "Pandora's box," she groused under her breath. "What now?"
"Yes, sir, she's on her way," Mrs. Ecarg warbled, wings beating themselves invisible as she waved Dekram toward the door.
Soahc, Miss Everybody-Has-My-Number-On-Speed-Dial, snickered. "What'd ya do this time, half-breed? Eat the family pet?"
Accompanied by a chorus of giggles, rapid comments filled the air:
"Her mother doesn't have wings."
"Lucky she got some from Daddy."
"Skype 'er, man. Two words: Pond scum."
"Why do all of you have to be so rude?" Detaf blushed. His dark blue Air fairy skin turned purple. He ran a hand under his ball cap, palmed his black hair, and lowered the brim of the cap over deep blue eyes.
Soahc curled her lips at Detaf. "Even gnats have wings…unless you pluck them." She flipped her blonde hair with some major attitude.
"That's enough, missy!" Mrs. Ecarg snapped, back in her shoes that were firmly planted on the floor. "Do I need to enforce my no-tolerance policy in regards to species prejudice? Because I certainly will. Each of our species' individual Elements is essential to everyone's survival in Wandermere. No single species…"
While Mrs. Ecarg yammered on, Dekram thought, Yeah, lotta good that does me, Little-Miss-Ethnic-Misfit. Why'd my father have to get all domestic with a Water sprite? He's a Human Services officer. Surely, he could have found another Air fairy to attach himself to? I hate being the only half-breed in Wandermere.
"Nymph's granny undies! Where does she fit into the Elements that rule each individual species?" asked a girl sitting behind Soahc.
"This is getting old." Detaf's mouth pushed disgust in the group's direction.
With a garish grin, Etah held Detaf's attention. "She's mottled our Elements—I say we put her in a cage before she mates and makes more anomalies!"
Soahc adjusted the shoulders of her saffron-dyed dress and chided, "Bet you didn't have a policy until she came along, anyway."
"A Merrybegot's dreaded existence—that's my life! I hate it!" Dekram caught Detaf's sympathetic expression and her delicate wings turned pink as she grimaced and tried to ignore the bell-like giggles of her classmates. She bolted for the classroom door, bright curly hair billowing around her heart-shaped face, and flew down burnt-orange halls, past closed classroom doors and blue lockers dotted with colorful padlocks.
Mrs. Laretil was standing at the library door when Dekram rocketed by. "Slow down, young lady. We do not bolt, we flutter!" The Librarian's voice warbled and rose in pitch.
Dekram shouted over her shoulder, "Yes ma'am," and the whole hallway distorted and wavered like heat rising from hot pavement behind her as she shot up through a whirling hole that shimmered on the tiled ceiling.
On the other side, while flying toward the office, Dekram remembered the last incident that brought her mother to school. So totally not my fault. It was all because of my transportation bug. I didn't ask for a lime-green Darner dragonfly with boring translucent wings for my 16th birthday. I wanted a butterfly, but no, my mother goes and snags Renrad at the pond—I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with him eating her precious larvae. Dekram blew a sigh. He'd gobbled up three other kids' transportation bugs, it became all my fault, and now I have to tie him to a tree at the pond and fly the rest of the way to school. Thank the Elements the stupid dragonfly didn't devour Soahc's Monarch.
"Really, how smart was that gift?" Dekram mumbled as she darted into the office through another shimmering hole, halfway up the oak tree. I hope whatever they deem my fault this time doesn't get me another deficiency mark.
Coming to a hummingbird stop in front of the secretary's desk, she yanked her camo low-riders up over her belly-button ring and fastened two more buttons on her midriff blouse.

A tsking noise from behind made Dekram look over her shoulder to find Mirg, Soahc's best friend, staring at her with a disparaging look through a curtain of black bangs.
Bacs, the only boy in Soahc's tight group, elbowed Mirg. "Camo and Dr. Martens. Bet half-breed's got herself a troll, too." He snickered, "Do much muddin' half-breed?"
With fingernails painted maroon, Mirg pulled a black lace veil down over her nose and lips. "Oscar Wilde said, 'I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it is simply a tragedy'."
Blinking, Dekram ducked her head; pale khaki skin flickered pink as she hid behind red curls.

Bacs wore a big silver-toothed grin, black jeans, and a long-sleeved ebony t-shirt with skull-and-crossbones laminated on the chest. A studded black ball cap, brim hiding one ear, sat over red hair and a cloud-blue, ghost-like face. "Toe-jam! She smells like flies' feet." Bacs flung a leather jacket haphazardly over one shoulder and fanned his face with a hand full of papers.
"Maggot's breath would have been a darker, more suitable description, especially since she's dead to us." Mirg, dressed in all black, casually kicked the stiff tulle under her skirt with a cyberpunk boot laced up to her knee.
Dekram thought, I'm almost positive Mirg and Bacs have Fire fairy in their lineageprobably all Soahc's friends have some demon blood running through their veins. Her wings vibrated and red sprinkles dusted the floor in front of the secretary's desk.
Mrs. Edia, a middle-aged Earth fairy with curly black hair and overly large wings, walked up and stared at the red fairy dust on the floor. She huffed her way into the chair behind her desk, and then glared at Dekram. "Four marks this month, young lady." She scribbled on a piece of paper. "Three more and you spend mission's week at home. Go on in. They're waiting for you." She waved her off and then motioned an office monitor over. "Can you please get the broom and clean this mess up, Dren?"
Dren pushed horn-rimmed glasses up his nose, grabbed the broom and jumped right to it. His friend, Keeg, flew behind him with a dustpan.
Mirg shot Bacs a set of grim eyes. "You know, back in human history they'd impale those of lower stature for insubordination." She tsked at Dekram. "They used a long wooden stake..."
Over a background of keyboards clicking, file cabinet drawers sliding, phones ringing, and papers shuffling, Mrs. Edia cleared her throat loud enough to get Mirg's attention.
Mirg took in a long dramatic breath. "But Dekram'll probably just get another deficiency mark." She glared at the secretary. "Beatlejuice. Beatlejuice," Mirg mumbled, and then paused to smile at the secretary before mouthing, "Beatlejuice."
Bacs covered his face with the papers in his hand and snickered. "Yep, another one down, two more to go."
Dekram's wings flickered angry-red as she buzzed toward Principal Nrets' cubicle, knowing everyone in the office would hear the conversation that was about to take place.

Her mother, Diuqil, stood by the principal's desk. She wore a drab twig outfit over a slug-skinned algae and tan colored body. Her dreadlocked, brown and moss-green hair wiggled around an oval face as though it had a life of its own. So not appealing, Dekram thought.
The minute her mother saw her, brows met over angry, apple-green eyes. "I knew when I saw the empty shopping bag and price tags in your bedroom trash container, you'd worn that blouse! It's very inappropriate, especially for school. We talked about this, young lady—you were supposed to return it today. If your father…"
Dekram landed on a yellow and white mushroom in the far corner of the office and shot Nrets a look of embarrassment. "All the kids dress-"
"I don't care what all the other kids wear," Diuqil snapped, arms slinging algae on the floor. "You will not dress like a, a-"
With a sharp phlegmy cough, and wings mottling shades of fall color, Principal Nrets nipped a possible uncomplimentary adjective. He pushed a hemp rug in Diuqil's direction. "You're dripping." Like most of the staff at the school, Nrets was an Earth fairy and although they tend to be more nurturing, Nrets was a stern nurturer.
Water sprites were not known for their housekeeping skills. Diuqil stepped on the rug and shook. "Sorry, just left the pond, been harvesting mosquito eggs all morning."
Dekram heard snickers in the outer office and knew this conversation would be all over the school before lunch. "Do we have to discuss this now? Can't we wait until I get home?" she asked, wishing her mother would just leave, and trying to cover more of her stomach with her splayed fingers.
"No-we-can-not! I will not have you blatantly disobeying me." She reached into a burlap bag hanging on her arm, adjusted a jar half-filled with water and floating foam, pulled out a soiled purple t-shirt, and tossed it at Dekram. "Put this on and give me that blouse."
Dekram's wings fluttered in a cloud of pink sprinkles. She gripped the shirt. "Could you have picked a more clashing color?" She asked, and immediately regretted it. Water Sprites are colorblind. Dekram gritted her teeth, knowing she probably shouldn't have drawn attention to that, but when she got flustered, words just popped out of her mouth before her brain caught up.
Diuqil stomped a bare foot on the hemp rug, sending slimy water droplets into the air, then whipped a finger at the office bathroom. "For the love of larvae, move it. I need to get back to the swamp before the dragonflies start another feeding frenzy."
More snickers erupted on the other side of the wall. Dekram's arms turned bright red and color moved quickly over her shoulders and neck then puddled on her face in ugly patches.
Mr. Nrets pushed his horned-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his hawk-like nose as he toe-cleaned some moist slimy spots on the floor. "I strongly suggest that you do what your mother says without further conflict. Your next class begins in fifteen minutes. Mrs. Evol will be handing out mock mission assignments. You wouldn't want to miss yours, would you?"
The principal's eyes wandered to the pink fairy dust settling around the base of the yellow and white mushroom. "Today's visit has already won you another deficiency mark. Control is very important if you wish to be accepted in the Human Services Department. Unlike here, the department has a no tolerance level."
Dekram stared at the dust, thinking, Nope, I probably won two marks, counting the mess in the outer office. She batted her long black lashes, and sighed. "Yes, Sir." Without another comment, she flew through a tiny hole in the wall to change.
Laying a palm on the center of her chest, eyes closed, she worked the gift of glamour that all fairies were born with. The blouse melted from her body and reformed in her hand. She grabbed the t-shirt. I won't be doing some menial job, like gathering stupid herbs and flowers with Earth fairies, or skimming mosquito larvae like my mother for the rest of my life. I will be a H S field agent! Laying the t-shirt on her chest, Dekram felt the garment mold over her body, and softly tugged her wings until the shirt melted under and around them.
The first bell rang, and as Dekram turned to leave through the shimmering ring that lead into the hall, she heard the principal softly say, "Diuqil, we all have concerns, and being her…mother, I assume you feel more responsible. However, overreacting to small situations such as this could jeopardize everything."
Dekram's mother said, "But her lack of a relationship with Detaf and the evident relationship simmering with the..."
Detaf??? What the heck? The way Detaf had just stood up for her in class, rushed her memory, but Mr. Nrets' words pulled her back into the conversation.
"...I assure you this is an area we are watching very closely," the principal said. "Everyone is pushing the experiment toward a climax."
Experiment? Dekram bolted for the exit, heart sinking. Is that what I am—the half-breed experiment? Are they wondering if I will have both my parent's powers? And what's with Detaf?
As she darted toward class feeling weighted by the conversation, Dekram thought, What if I can't even go through the impin' portal? "Well, I sure hope my mother's inability to stay on the right side of the tracks didn't rob me of that, too!"
A few minutes later, Dekram flew into class and headed directly to her seat in the back of the room as the last bell rang. Layol was already sitting at the desk beside hers. At least Layol doesn't think I'm an anomaly.
Her friend was beautiful, with pastel-colored wings and the delicate sky-blue body typical of Air fairies. She had almond-shaped navy-blue eyes, lavender brows, corn powder hair, full deep-purple lips, and a pale blue tongue with a gold stud through the tip. Layol's favorite color was pink; today she wore an asymmetrical, gauzy, pale pink dress and deep fuchsia hip boots.
"Heard you sprinkled old lady Edia's desk and got ya another deficiency mark," Layol said.
"Two," Dekram dropped her head, "and it was the floor in front of her desk."
"Swell. One more, gal-pal, and you're yesterday's fairytale."
"I know," Dekram said, "and this time I blew it. Not my moth-"
"Yep, heard that too," Layol said, staring pointedly at Dekram's purple shirt. "Soahc and her caustic bunch were exchanging text messages from Bacs and Mirg and being very verbal about it in the hall before class."
"Oh, Peter's woody!" Dekram sighed as she tried to twist her t-shirt into a knot to hide most of the muck her mother had gotten all over the front.
Layol grinned. "Don't go gettin' all lewd-Disney on me." She laughed, shook her head and said, "Oh yeah, that looks sooo much better," pointing at the wad of material settled in the center of Dekram's chest. "How about this?" Layol pulled a light blue, loosely knit shawl out of her backpack and handed it to Dekram.
"Sh-yeah-right, like the color of my pants isn't already screaming at my shirt. I put that on and there's gonna be a riot."
"What got ya the second mark?" Layol stuffed the shawl back in her backpack.
"I sprinkled in Nrets' cubical."
"Pixie-girl, you've got some control issues," Layol said, and when the teacher clapped her hands and called the class to order, she whispered, "Well, at least homeroom is a no Soahc zone. No wasp brigade, either."
"Yeah, one hour out of my day," Dekram whispered back, "right before lunch where they all gather and rapid fire the insults."
"All right, class." Mrs. Evol said, getting everyone's attention. "I've paired you off and assigned a different mock mission to each pair. The academy will be sending out three groups over the next couple of weeks. When each pair from our classroom returns, we will discuss their missions before moving on to the next group."
Mrs. Evol folded her slender fingers together on top of her desk and the lacy Victorian collar of her crisp white blouse cupped her neck like Prairie Larkspur petals. "Does anyone have any questions before I begin handing them out?"
Not even a fluttering wing disturbed the edgy anticipation.
"All right then," Mrs. Evol said, crossing her legs under a black silk skirt. "As I call your name, come forward and pick up your folders."
Dekram grabbed Layol's hand and an electric crackle of hopeful understanding passed between them.
By the time the teacher was halfway through the third group, Dekram's wings hummed with excitement.
"You're cutting off the circulation in my fingers," Layol giggled.
"I can't help it!"
"I know! We're gonna be on-"
"Dekram and Layol."
Both fairies bolted into the air, slapped hands, let out shrill giggles, and whipped over classmate's heads toward the teacher's desk.
Detaf threw down his pencil and the teacher quickly challenged his outburst with a furrowed brow and then addressed Dekram and Layol with encouragement. "Let's hope your enthusiasm carries you through your mission."
"Pan's pledge!" Layol said, grabbing her folder.
Dekram slid her own folder under her arm and gave Mrs. Evol a quick hug.
With their heads together in a mess of mingling hair and quivering wings, the girls did a chaotic hummingbird dance all the way back to their desks.

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