[Pt. II] Ch. 44: [Interlude – Violet] “How did you get interested in Obdresti literature?”
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Saturday, September 26th [Second day of the Festival of Nations], mid-morning
Second classroom building, Literature department elective classroom

Violet was a little lonely.  Last year, the club’s room had been bustling with activity, and today it was very quiet with no one she knew.  Last year, as a third-year student at the lower school, she’d helped with a few shifts greeting people and serving food, and a lot of people had stopped by, not just parents and family members of students in the club.

Things this year were much quieter.  Because of everything going on in their home country, most of the other Obdresti students had returned home for this year rather than continuing to go to school in Feldaren.  She wasn’t sure if there were a few others who hadn’t volunteered to help, but there were only a few Obdresti students left to take shifts in the room, so she would miss a lot of the festival.  This morning, there were three of them including her – and a parent who was helping.

The parent had brought in in an urn of iced coffee and a tradition Obdresti white cake with caramel filling.   The urn itself was a common bit of magic back home; it could boil water and then chill the coffee once made, but they were uncommon with the weaker magic they had on this continent.  Her own parents were going to stop by later and had promised to bring roast lamb.

A few curious students had stopped by, and she and the other two students had taken turns greeting them.   It wasn't her turn when Joel arrived, but she recognized him at once and was the one to greet him.  She was happy to see someone she knew, even a little, from class.  There had also been an incident a few weeks back when he'd come to her rescue. Some local boys had been bullying her, and he had driven them off, recovered her backpack, and walked her home.

She wasn't sure if he'd remember her, and she approached him cautiously.  "Hi Joel, welcome to the Obdresti Club," she said trying to hide her nervousness.

"Hi!  You’re Violet, right?" Joel said, smiling as she approached him.

"Yes, right," Violet replied, relieved that he remembered her name.

He looked happy to see her, and Violet felt her cheeks flush a little. She knew she had to say something more, so she mustered up the courage to thank him properly.  

"I'm sorry I never got to thank you properly for stepping in back then," she said, her voice a bit shaky.

Joel's smile grew wider, and Violet felt a flutter in her chest. "It's no problem," he said. "I meant to ask how you were doing the next time we had class and never got to."

“Can I get you a piece of cake and some coffee?  Or we have punch if you’d prefer it.”

“Cake and coffee would be great,” he said.

Violet went to get them, and after Joel had tried them, he said, “This is great.  Is this typical Obdresti coffee?”

“Yes,” she said, “it’s usually served chilled and very sweet.  I put in a little more cream than we usually would have at home because that seems to be the usual preference around here.”

“It tasted good to me, but I’ve only been here a few weeks, so I wouldn’t know how most people around here take it.”

“Really?  You seem like you grew up around here. Where are you from?” she asked.

“America,” he said.

“America? Where’s that?” she asked.  Before Joel could answer, something from history class dawned on her and a surprised look crossed her face.  “Wait, do you mean on the other side of the Gate?”

Joel gave an embarrassed grin.  It was cute on him. “I get that a lot,” he said.  “Yes, I’m a visiting student this year, and it’s a long story how that came about.”

Violet's eyes widened in amazement as she looked at Joel, and she took a moment to gather herself after hearing such a surprise.  She wanted to ask him to tell her the long story, and about what another world was like, but she dismissed the thought as too nosy.  It was safer to ask about class, so she asked, “How did you get interested in Obdresti literature?”

“English has always been one of my best subjects, and I needed another elective.  I didn’t want to take the Advanced Honors English, so the two other choices were both foreign literature this year.”

“The other was literature from the Great Kingdom, I think.  Why Obdrest?” she asked.

“I chose Obdresti literature because one of the diplomats who were involved in setting up this exchange was from Obdrest, and I heard stories about the country from him.”

“I hope only good ones,” she said.

“Mostly good ones, but also a bit about the country’s current troubles.”

She couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed as she looked around the almost empty classroom. Last year's festival had been so lively and colorful, with music and a much broader menu. Now, there were only a few people, and the only sounds were a few conversations.

“This was so much livelier last year, I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the festival then.  There was even a group of girls who did a traditional dance out on the stage.  My mother ordered a dress in the hope that I’d join in this year.” She gave a sad smile.

Joel shrugged and then smiled.  “Your club did a nice job setting this up.  It’s a lot nicer than what my friend put together for the American booth.”

“Thanks,” said Violet, “I’d like to see it when I take a break from helping out here. Will you be at the booth later?”

“Some of the time, yes.   I’m helping out in my classroom, too.”

“Would you like another piece of cake?”

Joel shook his head.  “I don’t want to eat too much this early.  There’s a meat-skewers booth I really want to try.”

“Thank you again for helping out that day,” said Violet in a quiet voice.

“I really was glad to.  Before I go, have you been getting home OK since then?”

“Yes,” she said. “My mother has been driving me on days when my friend Tess can’t come with me.”

“I’m glad!   It was nice to talk a little,” said Joel. “Maybe I’ll see you at the booth?”

“Sure, see you then,” said Violet, and with that he gave her a little bit of a wave and she watched him walk out the door.  She hoped that she’d get a chance to talk to him again soon.