Chapter One: Meeting At The Mirror
Vivica stomped her way down the corridor, snarling at any girl who crossed her path. Her skirt and leggings were still damp with the zing she’d fallen in after Scarlet had humiliated her, clinging unpleasantly to her skin. Her cheek still throbbed from where she’d been forced to slap herself, the heat fueling the furnace of rage blazing in her chest.
Spotting a bathroom, she slammed the door open and glared around, but no one else was inside. “Lousy star dippers, humiliating ME in public like that!” She hissed as she pulled a cleaning wipe from a dispenser and wiped off her hands. It would take hours for her cloths’ self-cleaning fibers to purge the smell of hot zing from themselves, and she was sure at least one of the students in the Celestial Café had taken a zap-pic of her in the air. If that got uploaded to the star-net and her parents saw it… Ice filled her veins as she imagined her mother’s words. “No, I won’t let that happen!” Clenching her eyes shut, she fought to get her emotions under control.
A sudden vibration from her star zap caught her attention. “Now what?” She groaned. Flipping the silvery blue device open caused a growl to fill her throat as the projection of an older girl with deep blue hair appeared, her silvery dress shimmering even in the see-through hologram. “What do you want Serena?”
“Hey, that is no way to greet your dear older sister,” the girl smirked. “I was just calling to check up on you, see how your second month at the academy was going.”
“I’m doing just fine thanks, not much to talk about,” Vivica said. “Certainly nothing you’d be interested in.”
“Thought so; I didn’t think you’d be able to make any influential friends yet. You’re not me after all.”
“Why are you even taking the time to call me?” Vivica demanded. “Don’t you have some event to attend or something Little Miss Wish Granter?”
“Funny you should say that,” Serena grinned. “I granted my tenth wish yesterday, so Mother and Father are having a little celebration at the house tomorrow night. They wanted me to ask you if you’d like to attend.”
“You know I have tests coming up; the same ones you took your second month here. I can’t take half a day off to be your window dressing.” Vivica could still recall the last time she’d attended one of Serena’s events with her parents, where she’d been put in front of so many glameras for family pics she’d nearly gone blind despite never being asked a single question by the hundreds of socialite attendees.
“Oh I know, I just wanted to tell you about it,” Serena chuckled. “After all, Mother and Father are so proud of how quickly I reached my Ten Mark. Assuming you even manage to qualify as a wish granter, I wonder how many star-years it’ll take you to get there.”
“I’ll beat your record, just you wait!” Vivica snapped.
“Oh I’ll wait, forever,” Serena laughed. “I’ve beaten you at everything since you could walk, and I very much doubt that’ll change now.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Vivica growled.
Serena giggled again. “Keep thinking that if it makes you feel better, but deep down you know that you’ll never beat me. Remember the Starland Hall Talent Show?”
“As if I could forget,” Vivica clenched her free hand, still able to feel the warm, sticky embrace of starberry syrup in her hair and cloths even after two years. “I know that was you, and one day I’ll prove it. THEN we’ll see how mother and father see you, once they know you embarrassed the family name in public.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the holographic girl smirked. “But honestly, if you can’t even win a simple talent show, how do you ever expect to graduate top of your class like I did? Not all Academy students go on to become wish granters after all. I’m sure you’ll end up a very successful secretary or something. Maybe Father will even give you a position out of pity.”
“Shut up!” Vivica snapped. “I’ve wasted enough time talking to you. Enjoy your party!” She reached to shut her star zap.
“Always running away when you’re outshined,” Serena sneered. “Just remember that no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be nothing more than a star dipper!”
Her sister’s laughter echoed through the restroom long after Vivica cut her off. Fists trembling, Vivica shut her eyes and tried to get her breathing under control. Her anger, already high after the Café, threatened to boil over as memories rose to the surface. Faces surrounded her, cruel laughter echoing through a crystal hall as pink glop dripped down her face. “Viver The Dipper! Viver The Dipper!” The words tore through her thoughts, faces blurring together into a never-ending leer. “Shut up,” she whispered, holding her hands to her head. But the voices only got louder, until her eyes snapped open and for an instant she could see the faces reflected ghostlike in the mirror. “Shut up shut up SHUT UP!” She shouted, her fist rocketing forward and crashing into the mirror. All her emotion poured into her strike, sending a spider web of cracks across the glass. Bright crimson slowly ran down the fractures, sparkling in the bright light, her hand feeling as if it was on fire. “I am not worthless,” she hissed, tears running down her cheeks as a sudden exhaustion filled her. “I’m not a failure.” Steadying herself with her right hand, she looked into the ruined mirror, her reflection tinted crimson.
A loud clatter snapped Vivica’s attention to the door, a jolt of fear rushing up her spine as she realized she’d been seen. Pulling her fist from the ruined mirror she rushed toward whoever had the nerve to spy on her, but before she’d taken two steps she fell. Her elbow struck the floor sharply, drawing a cry of pain as lightning races up and down her arm. Looking back she saw her shoes tangled in the strap of her purse. “Starf!” She cursed as she held her arm. It didn’t feel broken, but her entire left arm now throbbed and burned.
The door opened quickly and, to Vivica’s mixed surprise and anger, Sage ran inside. “Vivica, are you ok?!” She asked as she knelt down.
“Do I look ok?!” Vivica replied, stunned that anyone could ask such a dumb question. A shard of glass fell to the floor behind her as if to prove her point. Pushing with her good hand she managed to sit up and tried to untangle the strap of her purse from her ankles.
“I’m sorry! Here, let me help,” Sage offered, reaching forward.
“Don’t touch me!” Vivica snapped, swatting Sage’s hand away. The pain in her injured hand doubled as she put weight on it, and looking down she saw a shard of glass embedded between her knuckles. “I can take care of this myself.” Carefully getting two of her nails around the shard she slid it out, hissing as her wound met open air and blood welled up in the gash. Flicking the glass into a trash can she managed to free her purse strap and get to her feet. Leaning on one of the sinks she ran her hand under the water which instantly changed to a soothing cool as it cleaned the blood off and dulled the pain slightly. Her hand was covered in scratches and cuts from the mirror, but none of them were still bleeding. The mirror itself was already glowing as the cracks in the glass repaired themselves. The blood vanished in a putt of crimson some.
“I have some first aid patches in my bag,” Sage offered. “Or I can help you to the nurse’s office.”
“You’ve sent me to the nurse’s office enough,” Vivica replied as she opened her purse with her teeth and pulled out a small sphere with blue jell nside. Giving it a quick pulse of wish energy to remove the seal, she rubbed it over the gash, wincing as it spread and covered the damaged skin.
“What? I never sent you to the nurse,” Sage said, confused.
“You remember when you sent me flying down the hall outside Lady Stella’s office?” Vivica asked. Getting a nod from Sage she went on. “You didn’t stick around, but your little energy blast bounced me off three walls and sent me down a flight of stairs.”
“What?! I never meant to-“
“Don’t interrupt! When I landed I hit my arm, and the pain from that was way worse than this,” she thrust her hand forward. “I went to the nurse and you know what she told me?” Sage’s only reply was to widen her eyes and take a step back as Vivica moved forward. “I had a bruised bone that took two weeks to heal. But she also told me that if I’d landed just a BIT differently I would have broken my arm! So yeah, you have sent me there.”
“I…I never...” Sage stuttered.
“Never cared to ask I know,” Vivica kept up her advance, with Sage soon running into the wall. “And now you want to help me, after standing by and doing NOTHING while your friend Scarlett assaulted me! Do you have any idea what it feels like to not be in control of your own body? To feel your own hand slapping you in the face?! And you and your friends just sit there and laughed!” New tears formed as Vivica felt the strike again.
Sage felt like she’d been punched in the stomach. Tears streaked down her cheeks as her breaths came fast and shallow. “I’m so sorry,” she managed. “I swear I never meant for my energy to do that! If I’d known you were hurt I-“
“You’d have what?! Sent me a fruit basket? Offered to do my homework? I don’t need help, from you or anyone! Now just leave me alone,” she sighed as she pulled a glove from her purse over her hand and shuffled to the door.
“Wait, please!” Sage begged. “I’ll make this up to you, I promise!”
“Then forget you saw me. The last thing I need is to have the whole school laugh at what I did here,” Vivica said as she left, the door hissing shut behind her and leaving Sage alone with her thoughts.
Vivica stepped into her dorm, relaxing slightly as the door closed behind her. Inara’s side of the room was dark and her bag was gone, meaning she was likely at the starball game. “At least I’ll have an hour of peace,” she sighed. Lowering the lights on her side she collapsed onto her bed. Her hand still burned under her glove, and slowly she pulled the indigo fabric off. The patch would take days to heal the damage she’d stupidly inflicted. “At least I have an excuse to wear Mother’s present,” she grunted. Letting out her anger at Sage was a weight off her shoulders at least, but now she just felt tired.
Opening her star zap, she accessed her schedule and saw she didn’t have anything important for the rest of the day. Kicking off her shoes and shutting the curtains with a wave of her hand, she pulled the light azure sheets over herself and closed her eyes. Inara would serve as her alarm when she got back, especially if the Academy team won. Doing her best to ignore the pain in her hand, Vivica eventually drifted off and entered the land of dreams.