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Ideal With It
"It wasn't even my fault, though..."
"Look, I'm sure it wasn't." Harmony paused. "...No, not sure of that at all, actually. I mean, if you think she deserved it, then who'm I to..."
I rapidly shook my head. "No! That would just be mean, mom! It just -"
"Well, either way, Melissa," she interrupted. "Things won't always go your way. You know that, right? So what do you do -"
I heard a muffled voice from another room. "Har?"
She looked toward the door. "Gotta go. I'll let you think about that one."
I did think about it. I... wasn't really sure what she meant, though.
But for the time being, I just wanted to be sure there were no hard feelings.
I'd like to believe that after a couple of months, anybody would get used to having a Gorgon (or something like one, but let's keep it brief) for a classmate, so long as there were no petrification incidents. In the case of me and my school, that belief was proven right.
But after winter vacation, there was another new student to get used to: Luna.
I would hesitate to say there was much in common between my entry into the school and Luna's. Both of us seemed like we didn't fit in at first... but for completely opposite reasons.
In contrast to my initial repulsiveness, it was immediately apparent that Luna was stunning. Dark-skinned, pretty tall for her age, with black hair that curled just a bit at the ends, some of it wrapped around a pearly white horn.
...Wait, did I forget to mention the horn until the end? Whoops.
Luna was considered a minor unicorn hybrid - "minor" because everything about her but her horn was pure human. I had to admit, the horn really added to her aesthetics.
I actually found myself feeling jealous of how readily Luna was accepted, and subsequently feeling bad about that feeling. I mean, she was perfectly nice and deserved it and all. But we were both hybrids, so... oh, I don't know.
I'd like to believe that's not why the thing that later happened did.
It was nap time once again. Okay, okay, that's probably a little too harsh. A little.
Harmony and Irma had taught me all my life, so when they went to enroll me in an actual school, no one was sure where to put me. I ended up with the students my age; part of my reason for wanting to attend school was to meet other kids, and they considered it better to be safe than sorry.
This meant I was still sleeping during most of my classes. The lectures were getting a little more difficult, but it was still nothing new to me, and god the teacher was boring.
Since I was no longer sitting in the back corner - once people realized I wasn't a monster, they felt bad for ever putting me there - I had to be a bit more crafty about sleeping in class, even if it didn't really matter much if I was caught.
Somehow, having my snakes hold a book in front of my face while I napped didn't fool clever Luna. "Hey, wake up," she whispered.
Oh, yeah. Did I not mention Luna sat next to me, either? Well, I kinda forgot until then, too.
I didn't listen; maybe one of my snakes made a sort of shooing gesture at her, I don't remember. Luna leaned over and nudged me.
"Wake up, you doofus, the teacher's gonna yeEEEAAAAAAAAAAA!!"
The book fell from my snakes' grasp, I was pulled out of my seat, and I think Luna fell on purpose just to complete the scene. That
opened my eyes - upon which I saw a snake wrapped around Luna's horn.
I quickly had it let go, but the damage was already done. All eyes were on me, and Luna's were the most furious.
"Don't EVER touch that!
I could have explained how I was sleeping, and thus wasn't fully in control of my snakes... but who would I be kidding. I just had to take the blame.
"...I'm sorry. I won't do it again."
The teacher didn't seem to trust that I'd keep my word for the rest of the class, much less forever. So I was excused and given after-school detention.
Although... I can't imagine why, but I was offered high fives on my way out.
I spent my whole detention time thinking about the incident. I decided I'd have to try and explain myself to Luna, though I was a little unsure about that; I wouldn't see her until tomorrow, and while she did seem very mad, it would be extra awkward to bring it back up then.
Luckily, that wasn't an issue - Luna was there when I got out of detention. "Oh, good," I said with relief.
"What's good?", she grumbled.
"I-I mean, that you're here. Look, I'm really sorry. I was sleeping, you know, so I couldn't fully control my snakes. I swear I would never do something like that on purpose."
Luna sighed. "I kinda figured that might be it. Not sure if it makes me feel better or worse, though." She looked up at me with what felt like a glare. "Well, that taught you to stay awake, didn't it?"
"...Yeah. I just wanted to be sure there were no hard feelings, especially since we're the only hybrids here."
Luna paused, seemingly a bit surprised to hear the fact she no doubt already knew. "That we are," she eventually said.
I thought she might end it there. But she was still standing around, so I carefully pushed further. "I know what you said about touching it... But if it's not too personal... how did you, um, come to have that horn?"
"Doesn't everybody want to know. But nobody does, do they?" She shrugged. "My parents are both non-hybrids."
I was immediately surprised to hear that. "As in... the parents that take care of you?"
"...What else would I mean?" She raised an eyebrow.
I realized her situation wasn't necessarily so strange, but had to explain now. "Oh, well, it's just... My parents were non-hybrids too, but they abandoned me."
Now it was Luna's turn to be surprised. "T-They...?"
"It's okay, though! My new moms are great, and..." I trailed off, feeling myself turn red by Luna's gaze. So that's what it feels like to be turned to stone...
I coughed. "Um... look, I got off-topic. Sorry about today. Bye."
Then I left, unsure if I'd succeeded at what I set out to do.
Har was a little peeved, since I'd forgotten to text her about staying late. And while she couldn't bring herself to fly off elsewhere without knowing exactly when I'd arrive, she was also not the world's biggest fan of standing still. Good thing she never stays mad long.
Though I naturally had to explain why I got detention to Harmony and Irma, not much came of it. They understood why I was sleeping in the first place, and trusted I would keep my word - and it was up to me to decide how to handle everything else.
I did feel like things were still left awkward between Luna and I. Unfortunately, I found little opportunity to get close to her; she was definitely a popular one. Probably it didn't matter to her whether or not she was friendly with the other hybrid, I considered.
Then one day, while I was eating lunch, Luna came and sat down next to me. I was pleasantly surprised, and curious what she wanted to say.
But she didn't say anything. She just awkwardly sat there twiddling her thumbs.
Finally, I asked her, "Did you want to say something?"
She jumped back ever so slightly, then, as if pretending she hadn't been there until just that instant, spoke. "Hey, that sandwich looks really good! Really expertly-cut. Who made that? ...One of your moms, I guess?"
I smiled at how she remembered my rambling comment about my "new moms," though felt shy thinking back on the circumstances. "Uh, neither, actually."
"Oh?" She seemed unsure what that response could mean.
"I usually make my own lunches. One of them is a mermaid, and... well, ocean cuisine is made to be eaten underwater. And Harmony - she's a bird - she can cook okay, but she wants me to learn to make my own meals. ...Actually, she can be kind of lazy, but don't tell her I said that."
I looked at Luna; she had her chin in her hands, but I wasn't sure what to make of her expression. At the time, I was sure it was boredom. So I apologized. "Oh, sorry for going off on a tangent again..."
Her eyes widened slightly. "No, no, it's fine! That sounds really nice, gosh... It must be great to have parents like that."
I stopped in thought. I didn't disagree, but I found it weird how Luna came to think that based solely off what I'd told her - that one of my moms was incompetent and the other was lazy. Well, "incompetent and lazy" would be a somewhat extreme assumption from what I said, but so was hers.
While I thought, Luna stayed quiet. She turned her head to look around the room, and I found myself wondering why she was alone today.
Then she leaned in close. Her horn got rather close to my face, but I think that was the point.
"If it were anything but this," Luna emphasized, pointing to the horn, "they would have disowned me. ...Same as you."
I stared in surprise. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, I've heard it happened a lot." Her gaze slowly drifted away, then she looked back at me. "Guess it's true, huh."
"...But do you think your parents would really...?"
"They're not in it for me
. They're in it for this
. Scientific interest and all that. Which is... fine," she sighed with no small amount of defeat. "But being the one attached to it, well, I've got a lot of expectations to let down."
"Like what?", I asked, trying to show my concern but unsure how.
"I have to be
a unicorn. Have to be pure, proper, anything less than the best just isn't going to cut it. And even when I live up to their ideal, they're not happy, they just want more. As if this stupid thing actually does me any good there."
I still wasn't sure what to say. "...You don't like your horn, I take it."
She put her hand up to the horn as if to adjust the hair coiled around it - but then clutched it hard enough it looked like she was going to rip it out.
"...Would probably kill me, though," she chuckled as she let go, albeit half-heartedly, as she knew it was nothing to chuckle over.
After a long silence, Luna asked, "Ever felt like doing that with your snakes?"
"Yeah," she sighed. "Well, thanks for letting me vent, anyway." She stood up and left.
I went back to my sandwich, and wondered if Luna'd already had her lunch.
After that, things seemed better between Luna and I. Sure, I hadn't expected her to open up as much as she did, but I was glad to help her when I could. She appreciated my company both when she was struggling to meet her parents' expectations, and when she failed to do so.
I was still just a minor slice of her schedule, which was fine. She had her hands full with plenty of other girls and boys.
Though I had to wonder sometimes.
Julian came up to me in the hallway one day. "Hey, you seen E&I?"
"...E and I?" At first I thought it was the setup for a joke, then realized it probably referred to a person, but the only E I could think of was Edward, and his last name didn't start with...
"I mean Luna, duh. You know, ebony... ah, forget it. You seen her?"
"No, sorry. I don't usually know what Luna's up to. Probably fooling around with someone or another," I chuckled, though Julian frowned at that for some reason.
"Okay, sorry to bother you." He started to walk off, then stopped. "You really never heard E&I before?"
"...Man, okay. Whatever."
As I watched him leave, I wondered if Luna hadn't either.
"He called me what
No, she hadn't.
Evidently the nickname was being used behind her back, and Luna was not happy about it, tracking down and talking to those who were using it. So much for Julian, it seemed, though I was unsure what their relationship was like prior.
I also wasn't exactly sure what the nickname meant, but trusted that it was bad if Luna thought so. Yes, I knew I was oblivious, but I felt like I might want to remain that way.
"I can't believe
them," Luna sighed. "Can't a girl trust anybody?"
"No," my inner Har instinctively replied. "Maybe."
She looked at me. "Can I trust you?"
"Er... How can I prove myself as trustworthy?"
"I mean, not saying you haven't done that well enough already," she quickly clarified. "I'm glad you told me before I got anywhere with those jerks."
"Well," I supposed, "maybe you can tell me what was so jerky about them so I can avoid being that."
Luna thought it over, then nodded. "More or less the same problem as my parents, really. They don't see me as me
, just... yeah."
"Okay, that should be easy. Since I can't even think of what I'd see you as except you."
Luna looked at me with slight awe, then spoke accordingly. "That... is remarkably sweet, Melissa."
I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"I just sort of told you what I was thinking as a repetition of -"
"It's really sweet.
I mean it."
Luna smiled and looked absentmindedly upward. "Y'know, for how much you get me, sometimes I don't get you."
"Um, I think you're mistaken, because I don't get what you mean by that."
"Exactly." She grinned at me, then burst into laughter.
I couldn't help laughing with her. I think she was just trying to confuse me, honestly.
It was after school on a Friday. It had been raining most of the day, but cleared up around two. Which was nice, because having a wet Harmony carry me was... doable, but not entirely pleasant.
I noticed Luna standing around by a wall, with no one accompanying her. This was, as ever, a rare sight. I wondered if she was waiting for someone.
I decided I'd ask. "What's up?"
Luna seemed to only just notice me once I spoke. "Oh, um... I'm waiting for someone."
"Ah, I thought so. Do I know who it is?"
She played with her hands. "Uh... are you asking if it's a person you know
, or you made a guess and are asking if you're right
"Wow, you're sounding like me," I smiled.
"S-Since when are you so self-aware?!", Luna questioned. "...Look, I told my parents I'd be going over to a friend's house, so they should pick me up later. But... um... I think I... decided I don't want to ask her. So I'll just... wait those hours out instead."
"Wait, really? ...What if it were still raining? Would you have just stood around waiting then?"
"Maybe in the rain, yes!", she hastily admitted.
I assumed a thoughtful pose. "Well, if it were me, I'd probably prefer to have fun at a friend's house."
"W... would you, now?"
"Yeah, I'd probably just ask. I'm a little shy, but I'm sure it'd seem promising enough to overcome that."
"I, uh... see."
"But yeah, that's just me. See you, Luna!"
She reached for me as I started to walk away. "Oh come on
do you realize I'm talking about you or not?!"
I turned around, surprised. "What do you mean, you were talking about me?"
"...Can I come to your house?", she flatly asked.
Luna let out a big sigh of relief. "God, finally. ...I really just need some time away from my parents. Part of the whole reason I wanted to go to school in the first place. So it's not... necessarily about you or your house."
Despite my usual obliviousness, I could read between the lines. "Though I'm the one you trust most?"
"...Yeah. You are."
"Aw, thanks, Luna!"
We smiled at each other. Luna looked like she was about to say or do something else...
But I was already running off to Har.
"Mom! Second passenger! And don't grab the horn!"
is your house?"
"It's not that
bad, is it...?"
"Look, I know you're bad with tone and all that, but you have got to be joking this time. This place is incredible!"
"Oh! Yeah, that's something I can reasonably agree with, yes."
Luna turned her head to Harmony. "...Not joking, huh." Har shook her head and laughed.
She turned around to face her. "Oh, but before I forget. Thank you for the flight, miss... er, Harmony."
"No problem, I've done heavier. Well, wanna take a look around?"
It turns out Luna really wanted to take a look around.
First of all, she seemed very fond of both Harmony and Irma; she'd known very little about them before, but even then thought they were great, so I could have predicted that. She was even impressed by Irma's approach to dealing with her lack of legs, though I'm pretty sure plenty of mermaids thought of using a wheelchair before her.
She thought my room was very cozy, which definitely seemed to imply her own room was not. Thus, I gladly obliged when she asked if she could lie on my bed, though she seemed insistent on me lying down with her.
Lastly, she was blown away by both the layout of the study and all the books it contained. Har took her up the little cliffs to the upper shelves, and we spent hours reading together. There was a lot there she had never known about - especially when it came to hybrids.
However, we easily lost track of time this way. Come to think of it, I don't think either of us mentioned anything about a set time Luna had to leave by, so Harmony and Irma must have assumed it was a sleepover.
This was confirmed when we told Har that Luna would probably have to stay the night, and she got more excited than anyone about the prospect of a sleepover. I'm still not sure why.
Like before, Luna and I were lying in my bed in my room. Only now the lights were out, and we were trying to fall asleep.
However, apparently Luna wanted to talk, and I certainly wasn't going to just ignore her.
"Can I... get a little closer?"
I looked over. "You're already pretty close, so I don't know how much that would change things. Are you cold?"
"Well, no... I mean, um, maybe."
I wasn't sure how to respond to an indecisive answer like that. Luna seemed to be inching closer anyway.
"I kind of feel like... you're my best shot."
I tried to figure out what that meant for myself this time. But I wasn't sure if I was on the right track. "How so?"
"Well... in a couple of ways, but... I do trust you, a lot. And this kind of thing is... comforting, and not just your bed." She paused, then sighed. "Even if you're oblivious."
"No, I think I get it. Really."
"...You saying you "get it" is the one thing I don't trust," Luna giggled.
"You feel like you need another person to comfort you, right?"
Her surprise told me I was right.
"I know I'm probably not the best person for that. But I'll try to do what I can for you. As a friend."
"...As a friend," Luna confirmed after a pause.
"So yeah, you can come closer."
"I already did."
"Well, she seems nice," Irma smiled, climbing into bed.
"Yeah, Melissa knows who the good ones are. Would be a lot more trouble if she didn't... Guess we raised her right."
"I wonder how a narwhal hybrid ended up at that school, anyway? I haven't seen one in so long."
Harmony looked at Irma. "Uh, change of topic much?"
"What? We're talking about Luna, right?"
"...Isn't Luna a unicorn?"
Irma laughed. "Oh, Har, you're unbelievable. You really still believe in those silly old stories?"
the unbelievable one?! Everyone says she's a unicorn! Her included!"
"Ah, well. That seems a bit far-fetched, but if she says so... Still, that's really what you all assumed? It's so clearly a narwhal tusk. Or given its placement, maybe we can just call it a horn."
Har sat up. "No, seriously, Irma. You gotta tell her tomorrow, 'cause I'm... 99% sure she's never even considered she was a narwhal."
"Ooh, percentages. So I have rubbed off on you after all."
Har grumbled, and Irma rolled over to put an arm over her. "I suppose I can't blame you. There was a time when people passed off narwhal tusks as unicorn horns."
"You say that like we actually knew
that for it to influence us. ...So, wait, do you think unicorns exist or not?"
"You know I like to believe in things with evidence. And currently, the existence of unicorns has none."
Irma looked up at the ceiling. "But if she feels better thinking she's a unicorn, I'll certainly make an exception."
"...I'm a narwhal?"
"Just said it was a possibility," Harmony insisted. "That's what you said, Irma?"
"...I'm a narwhal," Luna blankly repeated.
Suddenly, she ran up to hug Har so fast, she almost forgot to turn her head to the side. Har was surprised, but gently put her wings around her.
She turned to Irma. "Told you she needed to know."
I didn't want to interrupt the scene, but I wanted to ask while I had the chance. "Um, Luna, are you sure?"
She slowly - reluctantly, I'm sure - left Har's wings. "Well... not in some ways, no. Don't get me wrong, I'm so
relieved I'm not a unicorn. ...Possibility, whatever, I know I never was."
Luna sighed. "But... my parents. I let them down enough as it is, but if I tell them I'm really a narwhal? Either they're not gonna believe me at all, or worse..."
The three of us looked at one another. I'd never explained Luna's situation to them in much detail, but my moms were good at picking up on that kind of thing.
Irma spoke first. "I can understand your hesitation. But if you're that sure... then you really should tell them. I imagine it would be a weight off your shoulders."
"Yeah, she's right, tell them," Har continued. "Though let's be honest, if you're that eager to get away from your parents, they may just be lousy, no offense."
"...None taken," Luna said.
Har put a wing back around her. "Which is why we'll be here for you."
Luna looked startled. "R-Really? But... why?"
Harmony thought. "Well, I could say 'cause you're Melissa's friend. But truth is, I'd be a total jerk to dismiss anyone
who needs that kind of help." She looked down at Luna. "So you're welcome here anytime. Just tell us when you and Melissa wanna have a -"
"Playdate," I completed.
Luna gave me a smile. "Yeah... I guess that's the word."
Luna became a regular visitor to our house, though I think we all knew that would have been the case regardless of her family troubles.
"Seems a lot happier, huh?", Harmony remarked to Irma a few weeks later.
"Absolutely. I just can't believe she thought she was a unicorn for so long."
"...Not to discredit your ocean knowledge, 'cause that would be stupid, but can you really be sure about the narwhal thing?"
"Of course not," Irma laughed. "No one can. You could argue the other case, that unicorns existed as a horse-narwhal hybrid, which went on to be picked up by humans, but... There are still a lot of unknowns. Biology just hasn't reached that point yet."
"Huh. ...And when it does?"
"Well... it might be nice to know exactly how a person is made up, at least for the sake of science," admitted Irma. "But I should hope no one considers that the final word. There are more important things to consider. The actual person, for example."
Har gave Irma a peck - uh, kiss - on the cheek. "You always know just what to say, Irma."
Meanwhile, Luna was telling me what was going on at home with surprising cheerfulness.
"...So I think their expectations for me have dropped a lot. No, that's a good thing, strange as it sounds," she laughed.
"That's good," I nodded. "Even I could tell how much strain was on you not to let them down."
"Yeah... but, then again, I feel like a letdown in other ways now. Obviously they didn't kick me out or anything, but they're disappointed they lost their "unicorn." It's taking time, and I'm not sure they'll ever get it like you guys do."
"Oh," I mumbled, then reminded her, "You know, you can stay here as long as you like."
She smiled and shook her head. "Nah, Melissa, it's fine. I never expected everything to go the way I wanted. This is a lot
better than I expected, trust me."
Luna's cheery attitude was contagious, but I still felt uneasy. "But how do you handle living with people who... can't even understand who you are?"
She laughed. "What, that's
what you want to know? Come on, Melissa, it's easy."
"...I deal with it."