Title: From the Desk Of Archivist12
Author: the mina_de_malfois author, of course, who may be contacted at mina_de_malfois or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Permissions: All rights reserved. Permission is granted by the author to svmadelyn to reproduce this work on her summer project website and the related zine; all other reproduction is prohibited unless the author is contacted beforehand and grants specific permission.
I shook my head. That Nancy was signing letters with her online pseudonym was a bad sign of fannish overinvolvement; that she still imagined any of the others accepted her only grudgingly was a worse. I know the subtext vs. friendship arguments had been heated at the time, but really, she needed to move on from X:WP and stop projecting it onto her own life so persistently. After all, the Council have been friends since prep. school--it’s not as if we hadn’t known about Nancy all along. The periodic and very public crying jags of her many favourites would have been an adequate tip-off in themselves, not to mention that her dorm. room always overflowed with flowers from her conquests and admirers.
I was pleased that she’d seconded Mina for one of the scholarships, though. I assumed she’d put one of the Tented Tartanists up as well--though as it turned out, I was mistaken about that.
I let myself into Val’s beach house, and saw that I wasn’t the first to arrive. From the window I could see someone sprawled on a beach chair. A pitcher and glasses were placed on a table close at hand, so I grabbed a chair from the deck and accepted the unspoken invitation. The corpse proved to be Eva; she sat up when I approached.
‘About time somebody else got here,’ she said approvingly. ‘I was in imminent danger of having my conscience kick in over the whole ‘drinking alone’ thing. Are all four spots filled, d’you know? Because I’ve got two probables, and I’d dearly love to squeeze them both in.’
‘I’m putting Mina up, and Nancy’s sent her candidate in,’ I said, pouring myself something horribly neon but blessedly ice-laden, ‘so I suppose it’s up to Val, really.’
Eva dug her toes into the warm sand thoughtfully. ‘Poor old Valerie,’ she said. ‘D’you suppose she minds, Judith?’
I knew what she meant at once, because we’d had this conversation before. We had it regularly, really, returning again and again to this question of whether we were somehow taking advantage. None of us wanted to, of course, but we couldn’t quite shake off the worry. There was Valerie, the only one of us who’d chosen not to pursue any form of higher education --‘St. Ursula’s was enough for me, darlings,’ she always said; ‘I vowed that once my deb ball was over I’d be done with obligations and live only for pleasure, and that’s what I’m doing,’-- underwriting the whole cost of our scholarship scheme. We all could easily have contributed, especially Eva and I--no one knew precisely what sort of income Nancy had, much less where it originated--but Val would have none of it. And yet more often than not she didn’t bother to put up a candidate. ‘You’re the bookish types, you choose our four promising fanwomen,’ she’d insist. ‘I’m happy just writing the cheques and watching the fireworks.’
‘I don’t know,’ I answered Eva truthfully. ‘She says not...’
‘And the only one she’s likely to confide in wasn’t here four years ago, and isn’t coming now, is she?’ Eva said shrewdly. I sighed.
‘I tried,’ I said defensively, ‘but you know Nancy.’
‘Not as well as some,’ she said, smiling slightly. I scowled, and she went on innocently, ‘I think my son talks to her more often than I do, lately, what with that game of theirs.’
‘I’m surprised you haven’t taken it up,’ I said. ‘Sanguinity’s marvellous. Val was right when she said it was a shrewd investment.’
‘Val always is, about things like that,’ Eva agreed. ‘Financial genius, that’s what it is. I wish some of it would rub off on me. But no, to answer your question: my son and I try not to cross fandom paths too often. It’s inevitable with the classics--I raised him right, after all--but for the newer stuff, I let him have his space. Frankly, I’m happier not knowing or seeing too much of what he gets up to.’
‘Something like Nancy and I,’ I pointed out wryly, and she laughed and refilled her drink.
‘Something like. My son speaks highly of her, you know--he has a kind of idea she’s looking out for him, out of loyalty to me, and he might be right. It sounds like her. I just wish she wouldn’t be so pig-headed. She was wrong about Gabe and Xena, but really, it’s past time she forgave me for being right, and for my blatant heterosexuality.’
‘Darlings!’ cried a voice from behind us, and we looked back to see Val on the deck, wearing an enormous floppy hat and dark glasses. I sometimes suspect Val of a slight degree of deliberate self-parody, but I suppose it’s harmless. She dashed down and hugged us both, and then sat down cross-legged in the sand, looking wistfully at the empty pitcher.
‘I’ll get you a deck chair, and mix us up more drinks,’ Eva said promptly, grabbing the pitcher and heading up the path.
‘So are we all set, selection-wise?’ Val asked me happily. ‘Nan’s gone with someone from Sanguinity fandom--’
‘So have I,’ I confessed.
‘Oh, dear,’ she said. ‘Well, with any luck we can rely on Eva to come up with two girls from two different fandoms. Should be a breeze for her, she’s into everything. Remember the last lot? Beyond tiresome, all that shippy squabbling.’
I did remember, vividly. We’d erroneously thought that in awarding the scholarships to four women in the same fandom we’d be fostering solid friendships based on a shared interest. Unfortunately they’d all belonged to the wankiest fandom ever, and we’d ended up fostering internecine warfare and simmering paranoia. We’d all sighed with relief that all four, upon graduating last spring, had announced their intentions of finding work, thereby clearing the decks for four new people. If they’d applied to do further degrees we’d have felt honour-bound to fund them, as they were all scholastically brilliant even if they were deeply socially impaired.
‘Here’s to smooth sailing for our new girls,’ Val proposed when Eva returned, and we clinked glasses.
‘Speaking of schools,’ Val said, setting down her drink and struggling to open her chair, ‘your son must be starting this fall. Too bad St. Scholastica’s is still all female.’
‘He wouldn’t have chosen it anyway,’ Eva said. ‘He’s got his heart set on eventual specialization in entomology, and chose on that basis alone, as far as I can tell.’
‘So, let’s see our four bright young things, then,’ Val suggested, and Eva and I pulled out our neatly-typed suggestions. We laid them out on the table alongside the handwritten note from Nancy that Val produced, and studied them in silence. Eva’s choices looked good: one Age of Sail-er with a focus on Austen, and one ScFi-er with a passion for television series. I didn’t recognize either their names or their pseudonyms, and the name of the woman Nancy has suggested was an unknown as well...but Nancy’s candidate’s screenname was quite familiar. I almost gasped.
I almost said, ‘There’s been a mistake,’ but then I paused. It wouldn’t be the first time Nancy realized something the rest of us simply hadn’t.