parts 4 and 5
Morning found Joyce wandering through long corridors, certain that she smelled coffee. All she had to do now was find Emma’s kitchen, or possibly a dining room…
“Morning, Joyce,” Emma’s voice called out. “I have coffee and paperwork for you.”
“I assume the coffee is the bribe to get me to do the paperwork?” Joyce teased, following Emma’s voice. Instead of a dining room, she found herself in a room that was almost cozy, with thick, soft carpets and overstuffed leather couches around a gleaming steel and glass table. It would have been wonderfully cozy if not for the fact that the carpets and the couches were both white. “Em, there is such a thing as taking the frosty thing too far.”
Emma chuckled, and patted the couch beside her. Today, she was clad in a pair of white trousers and a white blouse with pearly buttons, the fabric thin enough to cling and look almost translucent along the sleeves. The first impression was business-like formality, the second was a powerful sense of Emma as a sexual creature. There was also a stack of papers in front of her, beside a half full white coffee mug.
Pouring a cup of coffee for Joyce, Emma just chuckled. “Actually, I didn’t decorate this room, my father did.”
Joyce accepted the coffee, wrapping her fingers around it as she inhaled the scent. “Are those school papers for my girls? You mentioned that your school was fairly exclusive… I know that Buffy’s not the best of students. She’s smart enough, but she’s so easily distracted.”
“As a small secret, not all of the students at the Frost Academy are intellectually gifted,” Emma admitted. “Some of them are merely average academically or athletically, but they happen to be their wealthy parents’ little darling. There are also a few that are listed as special students, for abilities that aren’t academic at all…”
“You mean mutants, don’t you?” Joyce took a careful sip of the coffee, not wanting to burn her tongue. “Would there be any danger of uncontrolled mutant powers causing problems? Or, considering Astrid from college, of controlled mutant abilities causing them instead?”
“Yes, I mean mutants, and we are very careful to avoid any accidents, be they from mutant abilities or any other source,” Emma replied, sipping at her own coffee. “Were you worried?”
“Emma, they’re my girls. It’s my job to worry about their safety. I don’t want any buildings to collapse on them, or for them to be unfortunately caught near explosions or fireballs, or to have someone meddle with their minds the way Astrid apparently did to me. I’m just as worried that some bully might try to push them into a wall as some mutant accidentally causing an explosion,” Joyce paused, and sipped at her coffee while trying to gather her thoughts. “I have faith that you’ll be trying your best to watch over everything, but you can only be in one place at a time, and I worry about them.”
“That does make sense,” Emma agreed, sipping at her own coffee. Handing Joyce some papers, she sighed, “I wish more of the parents were as honestly worried as you are. Too many worry about whether their precious spawn will meet the children of wealthy businessmen, political figures, or those who simply have more wealth than they should have access to.”
“Are any of them the sort of people that my girls might become friends with?” Joyce asked, worried about her daughters being thrown into such a den of status-obsessed shallow twits and conniving twerps.
“Honestly, Joyce, all of them aren’t like that. I think there are some that would get along wonderfully with Dawn. Why don’t I introduce them over lunch?” Emma offered, smiling over her coffee. “The Stepford girls are just about Dawn’s age, and they find it rather hard to make friends.”
“Why? Surely the students in your school wouldn’t be thinking of that movie, it’s probably older than most of them,” Joyce snickered. “How many Stepford girls do you have in your school anyhow?”
“They’re a set of identical quintuplets.” Emma sipped at her coffee, and then added, “They’re also considerably smarter than most of their age group, which doesn’t help.”
Joyce considered that. Dawn had more problems making friends than Buffy, and it might be nice to give her a chance to meet some of her future classmates ahead of time. The question became what to do with Buffy to prevent her from being bored to tears at a meeting of eleven-year old girls. Of course, Buffy would probably say that she needed a whole new wardrobe for her new school…
“I can have one of my assistants take Buffy shopping while Dawn meets the Stepfords,” Emma offered. “She can also try to get some idea what kind of classes Buffy should be in at the Academy. Her transcripts were less than helpful, and her test scores seem to have been rather erratic over the past year.”
“I think that’s related to the divorce,” Joyce offered, her voice dropping as she remembered the whole horrible mess. She didn’t want Emma to think badly of her older daughter, after all. “It wasn’t precisely quick or painless, and Buffy was always closer to her father.”
Emma nodded thoughtfully. “Then, as a certified psychologist, I prescribe retail therapy. What you’ve mentioned about her and some of what I’ve learned about people in general suggest that it will help her, a great deal in the short run, and if she has an experience like that so soon after moving here, it will give her a better attitude to start the classes with, setting her off with a much better start. I insist that you let me handle everything.”
“But Emma, she’s my daughter. How can I let…” Joyce started to protest, aware of her daughter’s expensive shopping trips.
“Token protest lodged and ignored, darling. I have far more money than any one woman personally needs, and absolutely no reason not to use some of it to help you out. A few shopping trips in the area will be absolutely no problem. If I were being extravagant, I’d send her and an assistant to Paris, but her transcripts make it rather clear that she doesn’t speak French.” Emma grinned, and then winked. “Besides, I think the Stepfords will have a lot more problems with the school than Buffy, so I can also justify this as helping quite a few of my students as well as a favor to you.”
Joyce smiled, remembering several occasions in college where Emma had taken a similar approach. “You’re dangerous when you combine that attitude about your money with a few drinks. Remember our junior year?”
“It isn’t my fault that Amber brought up tattoos,” Emma protested.
“No, you just offered to pay for them for the whole group,” Joyce returned. “I’m just glad that mine was something small. I still don’t know why you decided that you wanted yours there…”
Emma just laughed. “That was a long time ago, Joyce. You just have Dawn ready to go out for lunch, and I’ll make sure that Karen has Buffy out for at least six hours shopping.”
End part 4.
Buffy hadn’t really even tried to protest the shopping trip. She’d asked a few questions, but once she found out that Dawn wouldn’t be going, and that her mom would have to stay behind to take care of some paperwork, she was content with the idea, and then ecstatic at the idea of having the whole day to find ‘a whole new wardrobe to fit in at the new school’. It almost hurt Joyce’s feelings to see how eager Buffy was to leave without them.
“Mom, aren’t I going to need new clothes too?” Dawn asked, her eyes fixed on the door that Buffy and one of Emma’s assistants had closed behind them. “I mean, it’s not like I had that much, and I have been growing lately…”
“Yes, but there was something else that we had planned for today. Emma thought that you might get along fairly well with some of the current students, and she wanted to introduce you to them today after lunch. She said the girls are about your age,” Joyce smiled, and patted Dawn’s hand. “You’ll have your chance for a shopping trip too, don’t worry.”
“Why does she think I’ll get along so well with these girls? Or maybe she’s just hoping I will…” Dawn muttered, twisting a small gold ring around her finger. “You know that Buffy’s the popular one, not me.”
For a moment, Joyce debated asking Dawn where she’d gotten the ring, but decided that it had probably been one of Hank’s many apology-gifts for his daughters. “Maybe she is hoping. But Emma said that the Stepford girls were ahead of their age group academically, like you are, and that quite a few people find them unsettling.”
“Why? Is there something wrong with them?” Dawn asked, looking up. “Do I need a jacket?”
“No, you don’t need a jacket. As for why, Emma said that the girls are identical quintuplets, and that they really don’t have any friends besides their sisters.” Joyce moved towards the door, wondering which car they’d be going to lunch in, and what sort of place it would be. “I suppose most people would find five look-alike girls moving around together a bit unusual.”
“Like clones… I’m not sure if that would be cool or freaky,” Dawn mused.
“Why don’t we meet them before making that decision?” Joyce commented, picking up her purse. “Emma mentioned that Mrs. Stepford would rather that the meeting take place at the school…”
The trip from Emma’s mansion to Emma’s school wasn’t particularly long, though some of the scenery was impressive, in a rich and not terribly personalized sort of way. The school looked more like an expensive college, with multiple buildings, immaculate flowerbeds, shade trees, and a small pond with a fountain. Joyce wasn’t surprised that all of the buildings seemed to be composed of steel, glass, and white marble, continuing the ‘frosty’ color scheme that all of Emma’s possessions seemed to follow.
“Wow… I’m going to be going to school here?” Dawn whispered, eyes wide.
“Of course you will, Dawn. Looking at your transcripts, you’re certainly qualified, and if Joyce wasn’t such a good friend as to have been in touch with me, I’m certain that one of the school’s people would have been paying you a visit to try to lure you over here in a few years anyhow. We also cover college, though some of the classes share building space,” Emma replied. “If you keep studying and applying yourself, there’s very little reason why you couldn’t have a degree from the Academy by the time you're twenty.”
“What if I want to have a life as well as good grades?” Dawn whispered, glancing at Emma.
“Then it might take you a little longer,” Emma shrugged. “I don’t forbid my students from having friends, from dating, or enjoying themselves, within certain ethical and legal limits. I also urge certain cautions, which I doubt that you’d be old enough to be needing.”
Joyce frowned, thinking about some of the implications. Did Emma mean sex, drinking, or tattoos – all of which she knew that Emma had indulged in at least once. Dawn probably wouldn’t even think about those things, hopefully not for quite a few years yet.
:Yes Joyce, I mean sex, alcohol and tattoos or piercings. If I can’t keep the little terrors from experimenting, I can at least try to keep them relatively safe while they figure out things. I monitor for binges, I keep a mental ear out for any sort of extreme fear that would indicate an attack, and I try to be alert for any signs of meddling like what Astrid used: Emma’s voice slipped into Joyce’s mind, entirely bypassing her ears. :But you’re right, Dawn’s too young to be considering sex, alcohol’s got a vague presence as one of the things at her father’s dull office parties, and tattoos or any peircings past the ears are in a box labeled ‘not for me – too scary’ in her mind.:
Joyce blinked, slightly reassured and slightly worried. Pushing the worry back for now, she decided to have a few words with Emma later about snooping on her daughters’ thoughts. For now, they would be meeting the Stepfords. She really hoped that Emma was right about the girls getting along with Dawn, and not just academically.
Emma led them down a hallway with pale gray carpeting, and pushed open a pale wooden door. Inside was an oval table, with a woman about Joyce’s age, dressed in a rather expensive pale blue suit with a triple strand pearl necklace gleaming against a pink blouse. Her face had a curiously taut look, leading Joyce to suspect some measure of plastic surgery, and the woman’s light brown hair was coifed sleekly into something that looked like it belonged in a magazine. There were five girls, slightly shorter than Dawn, with light blond hair just touching their shoulders, pale blue eyes, and flawless skin. They were dressed identically, in white blouses and blue and white checked skirts, with black patent leather shoes. Their expressions were almost as blank as their mother’s.
Emma gave a small smile, “Joyce, this is Maria Stepford, and her daughters, Phoebe, Esme, Sophie, Celeste and Mindee. Girls, this is Dawn Summers and her mother, Dawn will be joining you at school.”
Joyce nodded politely, privately deciding that the girls might be better off with a bit of distance from their mother. The impression that she got was that their mother was trying to control them quite firmly, though she wouldn’t have been able to explain that idea for all the tea in China, to borrow an expression from her grandmother. She really hadn’t seen enough to tell more than that yes, the Stepford girls did seem identical, and they were pretty.
Speaking in unison, the Stepford girls offered a polite, “Hello Mrs. Summers, Dawn. It’s very nice to meet you.”
End part 5.
- as a note, Joe, whom I'm counting as the obsessive expert on the Cuckoos, has pointed out that Mindee is supposed to be spelled with two e's on the end. I've hereby corrected that.