“So, will you confess?” Muriel held one hand out, settling down on the picnic blanket with her legs crossed beneath her. “All your precious little bookish secrets?”
“We’re not even friends,” Annie grimaced. But she sank down on the cheerful checkered cloth an reluctantly held out a hand. They were archivist-students-in-training and had just become roommates in this new graduated level of learning.
“Do we have to be?” Muriel tossed her hair over one shoulder with a practice flip. “We just need to be close to that. We’re going to be stuck with each other for the next five years.”
Annie’s grimace darkened. “Please do not remind me,” she said. “Though I’m surprised all you wanted was a picnic. Your last roommate said something about trust exercises?”
“Oh?” Muriel said, interestedly. “Is that all she said?”
Dark blue eyes narrowed softly. “She might not have said it at all.”
“Oho! You’re one of those.” Muriel’s lips twitched with something that might have been a smile. “I’ll pretend I accept that answer,” she said, imperiously. “Now take my hand, here.”
A few seconds later, they lapsed into half-hearted thumb wrestling.
Pale-faced and dark-eyed, Annie’s thin shoulders hunched forward and her head angled down, curled wisps of soft brown hair dancing along her jawline.
Muriel frowned. She wanted a loyal roommate yes, but not one that acted like a doormat. “Okay, let’s do this.” She licked her lips. “Media. Modern media. Books. Movies. That sort of thing. Ones we haven’t really seen. These are harmless secrets, yes?”
“Nothing is ever truly harmless,” Annie’s blue eyes glinted in the afternoon light. “And we will be archivists, someday, will we not? Harmless secrets like these could be our downfall.”
Muriel swallowed. “I’ll be the judge of that.” She squeezed the pale hand in hers a little tighter than necessary. “I’ll go first, if it makes you feel better.” Her smile was bland. “The first classic that I never read was The Velveteen Rabbit.”
Annie perked a brow. “That was a children’s book. Hardly falls under the classics.”
“Children consider it classic.”
“It’s depressing.” Annie snapped. “Fine then. I never read Pinocchio.”
Muriel’s eyebrows danced upwards. “Really? I would’ve thought that—didn’t you-”
“Or that stupid Cat in The Hat.”
“That’s a baby book.” Muriel sniffed. “Classics. How about the classics? Or ones close to it. I never read the Three Musketeers.”
Annie frowned. “You gave a presentation on it.”
Muriel flashed a smile. “So I did.”
“I never read,” Annie began, carefully. “The Great Gatsby, Catcher In The Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird.” Her head lifted slightly, in challenge.
Muriel blinked. “That’s,” she stopped. “Wow. I mean, I could’ve sworn that you gave a presentation on-”
“I did.” Annie’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “I didn’t have to read them to present them. I just had to talk to my mother and read the seniors’ book reports.”
“That’s actually smart.” Muriel stared at her. “You didn’t check the ‘net?”
Annie gave her a withering glare. “I am an eight ranked archivist in training.” She said, scathingly. “I would be a poor example of a student if I resorted to such ridiculous routes. I am not dedicating my life to protecting the kind of information that is easily found everywhere in the world. I am pledging my mind to a solemn duty for future generations.” She pulled her hand free and stood, abruptly. “Of which, I have the memory of an elephant.” Dark blue eyes narrowed.
Muriel snorted. “Meaning?”
“Meaning that I haven’t forgotten everything that I’ve heard this week and the past few months. I accepted your invitation to be roommates, however, I will not be playing your ridiculous games of blackmail. I have more important things to focus on. Stay out of my way and I shall return the courtesy.”
“And in the future, do not skip your required reading and believe whatever the ‘net spits out at you. Ask your teacher for an abridged review. They will recommend the senior reports that are the easiest to read.” Annie gave a tight smile. “This career choice is not for the faint of heart or mind. If your heart is not into our cause, then take it elsewhere.”
Muriel’s jaw dropped. “What-?” She spluttered. "You little-!”
“I have a lecture to deliver.” Annie faked a smile. “Good afternoon.”
“Who do you think you are?”
Thin shoulders relaxed. “Nobody. Just the Caravel Headmistress’s daughter.”
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