The Quest – part 1

Georgina was about to embark on a quest. She was sure it was a quest; it did after all have all the trappings. There was, first and foremost, an evil queen to vanquish. Blocking Georgina’s righteous path, stood the monarch’s trusted henchmen, (or was that henchpeople now?). These villains, in turn, could count on the deluded masses for a steady supply of mindless minions to do their dark bidding. To prevail, Georgina could not act alone, valiant, and cunning, as she was; no, she would need a fellowship…

 

Her trusted comrades of adventures past would answer her call, but new, potent, allies would also be needed. The puissance of such a formidable band would be inadequate still, unless they could locate a talisman of rare power, thought lost for many years. All Georgina had were whispers of the artefact’s possible re-emergence; and yet those whispers gave sufficient hope that now might be the time to strike. Any further delays could see the dark queen’s authority made inviolate.

Lisa Traquaire must fall, and her rule over Multrees Secondary School must end. Georgina McDougal would give her all to see this happen, her conscience would allow now less. After all, hadn’t Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”? If that was the consequence of ‘good men’ doing nothing, there was no telling the utter calamity resulting from the inaction of good women.

Her purpose was pure, her goal clear; the plans were made, and the time was now.

Georgina lifted her phone from beside her one the bed, where it lay. Manicured fingers swiped and tapped, and moments later Duncan’s deep voice sang out a cheery, “Hi Georgina, what’s up?”

“Duncan! Hi there. I just thought you’d like to know that it’s time.”

“It’s time for what?” Duncan asked?

“Duncan! We discussed this only a few weeks back. You know, time for you to call in the favour that Gary owes you.”

“Oh yeah. I’m sure I can do that George.” A pause …”What for again?”

Georgina sighed, sometimes she was surprised Duncan remembered his own name. This was the boy who, after complaining for a whole term that being so long limbed left him with cold feet and hands when the weather turned chilly, Duncan had thanked Georgina for the lovely woolly mittens she’d given him for Christmas. Taking the lack of thumbs as a novelty, Duncan had proudly snapped himself wearing thermal socks on his hands, and made it his profile picture. Before Georgina could tactfully rectify the situation, Lisa had coined the moniker ‘sock puppet’; they had been 12 then, and now at 14, the name still followed him around.

“Ok Duncan, just call Gary up and ask him if he has, or can get a copy of the essay. You can do that, yes?”

“No problemo George! What essay?” he asked, cheerful, as he was simple.

Georgina’s frustration with Duncan had run dry long, long ago, and she replied serenely, “Don’t worry about that Duncan, you just tell him it’s me asking, and Gary will know what to get for you.”

“Oh Ok George will do! Is it urgent, only I’ve got to take Bryan to Primark to get new pants. He put his last good pair on the dog, and it buried them in a flower bed. Dad says he’s not prepared to have the gardener dig up perfectly good roses for a pair of pants.”

Georgina wondered for a disturbing moment why Duncan’s younger sibling only had one pair of underwear, before regaining her senses and replying,

“It can wait till you’ve done that, the world doesn’t need your brother going commando. But soon as you’ve done that, you’re getting on the phone, or preferably, going over to see Gary.”

“Rightyo George, I’ll get it done.”

Georgina had Duncan repeat back exactly what was to be done twice, before releasing him onto his own quest to find pants for his brother.

It was risky, leaving Duncan’s mission this late, but any earlier and word would surely reach Lisa, and Georgina worried what damage control she might mount given any amount of time. Still Duncan was reliable, and Gary owed him a whopping favour; assuming it existed, and assuming Bryan didn’t eat it, Georgina was confident of obtaining the essay.

Georgina brought up her phone memo app and ticked then ‘Deploy Duncan’ box. Next up was, ‘Visit Bastian.’ Georgina took a few seconds to tidy the bed where she had been sitting, and to confirm her computer was locked. That done, she was out of her door and heading downstairs towards the front door.

“Darling!” came her mother’s bright tones, “Is that you?! Can you do me a favour?”

Georgina considered temporary deafness before replying, “Yes mum, it’s me. Just heading out to see Bastian for a little. Won’t be long!”

“Oh how lovely, do say hello to Amani for me!” her mother replied chirpily, “Tell her not to slave too hard in the kitchen for the next meeting! I can’t compete with her exotic treats!”

Georgina made a mental note to omit, “slaving” from the relayed message; she didn’t know what was worse, her mum’s well-intended quasi-racist inclination, or Bastian’s mum who spent Friday afternoons cheerfully digging up recipes on YouTube™ since the family cook book(let) ran dry.  Still they were best-friends, and Georgina diagnosed it as mutually beneficial Stockholm syndrome.

“Ok mum, will do!” Georgina replied, making it to the bottom of the stairs. She turned seeing her mother, through the kitchen door, wreathed in a glowing aura of flour and sunlight, fingers tracing a cookbook held in the stand.

“Was that it?” Georgina asked hopefully. Her mother chirped,

“No no, darling, I was hoping you’d be able to pick up some coconut milk from the shop. No tearing hurry, you can get it on your way back from Bastian’s!”

Georgina considered for a second, decided this wouldn’t hamper her quest, and said she would, before giving her mother a wave and making for the door. One summer jacket from its peg, and her bag checked for keys and other essentials, and Georgina was off to see the boy who would be king.

Ten minutes brisk walk through Autumnal avenues brought her to Bastian’s house. Amani ushered Georgina inside, exuding a calm delight with the world which Georgina had never seen falter. In many ways, this was her life’s model, an associate professor in Psychology at 39, widely expected to be their next MP, and always so beautifully turned out. She’d actually thought her attendance at the local SWI meetings a calculating bid for political support. That was until she’d seen Amani’s undisguised glee over “innovations in sausage roll pastry” when her mother had needed help carrying shopping bags full of flour to an ‘open baking day.’ Georgina wondered whether all powerful people were doomed to such eccentricity, and what bizarre interests she would be heir to.

Bastian, hearing her arrival, sloped into view, and waved limply. “Hi George” he said with muted enthusiasm. The contrast between mother and son was stark in Georgina’s eyes. Where Amani was capable, palpably self-possessed, and beautiful, all Bastian had going was beauty. That beauty was, however, all Georgina needed; the rest could be supplied for him.

There was no time to lose, “Bastian, we have work to do if you’re going to be ready for tomorrow. Let’s get to it!”

Bastian docilely followed her to the living room, sitting where she indicated, across the coffee table from her. She opened her bag and took out three flyers, each with a slightly different brand of lurid colouring.

“This, ” she said pointing to the flyers, “is what we’re up against.”

A girl’s face stared from the centre of each psychedelic  print, pretty with big eyes, slightly oval face, and alabaster skin.

‘Vote Lisa, and keep the party started!” read the tag-line.

“We’re up against a witch, Bastian. Not only has she perverted the role of student-board president into a personal celebrity show; she’s doing it with slogans that make bugger-all sense!”

“Aye, but if I stand against her, she’ll make my life a misery. Are you sure it’s a good idea?”

Bastian wasn’t wrong. Lisa would make his life a misery; if she were given the opportunity. Not even Georgina would be able to field the lies and meanness that Lisa would throw their way. Never directly from her, of course, butter must always be seen to melt in her mouth; but her creatures would do their duty. Frankly Bastian didn’t make it a challenge, he slouched all the time, and had a disturbing habit of surreptitiously picking his nose. You never wanted to sit at a desk Bastian had used before you; he never had tissues.

Georgina wasn’t going to give her the chance. “Don’t you worry about that Bastian, I’ll take care of her. All you need to do is to stop having a hunch-back for a few days. Also use these for god’s sake.” She extracted a multi-pack of tissues from her pocket and slapped it into his hand. “Got it?”

Bastian looked at her gift in some bemusement, but nodded all the same.

Georgina continued on, “Right, last, choose one of these.” With that she extracted 2 further flyers from her bag, these in an IKEA sandwich bag. She opened the bag, and laid them before Bastian. In muted tones, they showed a Bastian who looked capable and statesmanlike. It had taken her hours to get the light just right, so that the sun sparkled from honest, brown eyes, and glinted from long, glorious eye lashes. Bastian had drawn the line at mascara sadly.

‘Vote for Bastian, see some Action’ read the embossed lettering.

This was the second edition. The first tag line, “Vote for Bast, vote for Class!” had seemed catchy. That was until Bryan had run away with an earlier print-out. A second or two with a felt-pen and he’d come back waving the defaced flyer, hooting, “Vote for Bast, Vote for ass!” Sensing a missed bullet, Georgina had gone back to the drawing board.

Bastian, predictably, selected the flyer without the White-tailed tropic bird motif. Georgina was sure adding the Bermudan national bird would add international flavour and increase his cache. Bastian, on the other hand, was sure people would just ask why he liked seagulls.

Bastian whined, “Georgina, are you absolutely positive we have to do this?”

Georgina sighed, “Bast, do you remember when Lisa suggested that Chess club move out of the old gym on Friday afternoons, because dance club had expanded to need more than just the new sports hub?”

Bast looked up glumly, “Aye, chess club has never recovered. When I started the room was always full. Miss Toolin took teams to play competitions all the time. We came second in the Edinburgh league my first year. Since we had to move it’s just me, a few others, and anyone who gets sent to detention.”

“Do you think anyone else should have to deal with nonsense like that? ” she asked pointedly.

“No, I suppose not. I’ll do it!” Bastian straightened in his seat, and Georgina thought a student president might lurk inside him yet.

“Right, I’ll get the print-run done when I get home. You know the drill for tomorrow. Look sharp. Get your mum to dress you.”

She said goodbye to Amani, and then Bastian saw her to the door, grumbling that he didn’t need help to get dressed. Georgina thought that Bastian definitely needed help, but said nothing, wanting her man to be confident for the day ahead. Then she was gone, and ‘Shore up Bastian,’ was checked on her memo app. The reluctant hero was going to fulfil his destiny, or Georgina would see him die trying.

Next up, the memo app read, ‘Close the Alterton twins.’ Georgina headed for the bus stop.

It took Georgina about 30 minutes to make the trip, and morning was tipping towards afternoon as she arrived. She’d never visited before. The 2 story house was nice enough, clipped hedges and tidy flower beds flanked the path to the door. It certainly didn’t look like the lair of erstwhile enemies, but Georgina was ready for anything.

She never saw the point in hesitation or self-doubt, and so she pressed the door-bell and waited. A minute or two later, a figure darkened the frosted glass of the door, and it swung open.

Percy Alterton stood there, and just looked. Georgina took the lack of instant hostility as a positive and bulled on, “Hi Percy, is Sammy in? We need to talk.”

Percy, in active-wear, as always, and slightly shorter than her, just kept looking. His sister walked up behind him, looking over his shoulder to see their visitor. She too, looked. Sans make-up, and with her hair shorn, she might have been her brother. They spoke together, “What do you want?” emphasis on the ‘you.’

“I’ll keep it simple. Lisa screwed you both over, you didn’t deserve it. It’s time for you to make new friends.”

The two-headed creature seemed to consider her words, and then both replied in unison, “Why should we talk to you?”

Georgina had been prepared for this, “Because I’m offering you a path to justice.” The words had sounded good when she’d rehearsed them in her head; it sounded a tad ‘Batman’ when she uttered it. The twins continued to stare, and then Sammy replied, “We can get out our own back thanks. We don’t need your help.” Emphasis on the ‘you.’

Georgina was, as ever, prepared, “I’m not offering revenge, like I said, you can have justice. I’m not interested in getting at Lisa, all I want is her to lose the presidency, and realise she can’t go on treating people the way she does. You can help.”

“How?” Percy asked before his sister could verbally scowl in response. “We look like idiots after what Lisa did. No one’s talking to us.” Lisa had voted against school trips to M&D’s saying it was too dangerous. The twins had spent weeks getting student support for an end of school year trip, counting on their best mate Lisa to ‘sort them out.’ When Lisa had voted against it, it had scuppered the idea before staff even considered it; the responsible vote of the student council even made it to the local papers. It had left the twins looking stupid; it only got worse when the school bus was reserved, only a week later, for a cheer-team competition held the same day.

“Guys, guys,” Georgina’s hands came up urging forbearance, “people like me, know what happened to you. We can spread your story, and let people know how you were let down. We can let the pupils know that friendship, and a trip that would be good for everyone, was less important than the cheer-squad. A cheer-squad, that Lisa is captain of!”

“People just think we’re whining, ” Sammy offered, glumness creeping into her tones, “we tried explaining. Didn’t help.”

“You didn’t have me helping then though.” Georgina offered confidently.

“Oh really! And what can you do then?!” asked Percy sceptically. Georgina was getting tired of the ‘you’ emphases. It wasn’t like there was anyone else here offering to help these two twits out.

“I can get you on board with Bastian’s campaign. When he’s elected, we’ll see to it your trip is back on.” She gave them a smug grin; she’d earned some smugness. “All I need from you is to be seen handing out flyers tomorrow morning, and to share your story. That could be all some people need to see Lisa for what she is.”

The twins did the twin-telepathy thing, and a few seconds later they nodded. She shared the meeting time and point. They did eventually invite her in for some juice. They were Netflix-ing and she could join them. Georgina considered this particular chill session, and politely declined. She had places to be, and mental-scarring to avoid.

Another tick beeped into life on her phone screen. The 30 minutes it took to make her way home was time enough to tick off yet another. She was busy on her phone the whole way, martialling the marginalised, and bolstering the confidence of comrades. They would be there tomorrow morning, they would be ready.

A few minutes diversion took her past the ScotMid, and Coconut Milk in hand she strode back to her homestead with a righteous hunger for lunch ready for sating. She turned into her driveway and stopped dead.

Lisa Traquaire was waiting on her doorstep. Her bitterest foe lowered gleaming Aviator shades, smiled and said, “Hello George.”

To be continued …

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