Yuri, on his way out to his first Poli Sci class the next day, ran into Yulia, who was returning from her first Biology class. "So, I met Calista," he said, grinning, "and she's at least as much of a character as Berjes. And her table manners are atrocious--I had breakfast with her this morning."
"She's nice, though, right?" asked Yulia, hopefully.
"I'll let you draw your own conclusions. She's playing chess right now--why don't you join her?" He laughed to himself as he headed to class.
Yulia introduced herself to Calista and sat down with her at the chess table.
"I completely feel I know both you and your brother!" Calista exclaimed. "Granddad used to write to me all about you kids in his letters. He said having you two to take care of made him miss me less."
"Oh. I guess Berjes didn't get to England much, huh?" said Yulia. "I don't remember him being absent for any length of time while we were growing up."
"Well, he and Mummy don't get on at all well," explained Calista. "He disapproves of her lifestyle--especially that she never married my father."
Yulia felt a surge of fondness for the family's elderly butler, and a twinge of sadness for Calista. "Hey, I'm going over to the Student Union to play pool with some friends--do you want to come?"
"I would," said Calista, "but I haven't got a thing to wear."
Yulia thought this was an odd remark, since Calista was dressed in a pretty blue sweater, short skirt, and flats, and looked rather nice.
"Oh, this stuff isn't mine!" Calista laughed. "The airline lost my luggage, so I had only the clothes I came over in. And since I flew standby, and had a few layovers, I stunk to high heaven!" Calista seemed to revel in this. "So I showered as soon as I got here, left all my clothes in a huge filthy pile, and went around looking for something to wear. Some girl lent me this, and I took my clothes over to the dry cleaners. I can't wait to get my luggage back--my clothes are all like individual friends of mine!"
The next day, the airline delivered Calista's lost luggage, and it was immediately apparent to everyone why she had felt underdressed in a mere skirt and sweater.
She and Yulia hung out in the upstairs reading room. "I'm glad your clothes showed up," said Yulia. "Were you worried they were lost forever?"
"Not at all," Calista stated with confidence. "If you live your life right, and don't hurt anybody, good things always come your way, even when life looks a bit bleak. Like that scholarship, right? I was all set to do a gazillion odd jobs around campus to support myself, and then this totally weird scholarship comes through? And it pays for everything? And I'm the only person in the entire student body who qualifies for it? It's karma, love--karma. 'Cause I never could have gotten an academic scholarship," she continued, barely pausing to breathe. "Oh, sure, I was good at music and art, but not at any of the usual subjects."
"So, are you planning to major in music or art here at Uni?" inquired Yulia.
"Not sure," answered Calista. "I think eventually I'd like to do something with the occult, perhaps go into the paranormal field."
"Though you can't major in that here," Calista continued, "so it's just a question of finding the appropriate background classes. Philosophy, maybe."
One day, Yuri was on his way to the Campus Lounge to meet Leonid Chan, a drummer to whom Yulia had introduced him. He asked Calista whether she wanted to come along to listen. "I'm really good," he bragged.
"So you've told me," Calista smiled. "Maybe I'll join you on bass."
"You play bass?" Yuri asked. "Are you any good?"
"Yeah, I'm great," said Calista, stating this as if it were a fact, and seemingly without an ounce of ego.
On their way into the bar, they ran into Brittany Parker, whom Yuri introduced to Calista. "Can you stay and listen, Brittany, and maybe help us with a sound check till Leonid gets here?" Calista asked.
"Sorry, no," replied Brittany. "I'm meeting my project partner, Lilly Thompson, and we're going to do some work."
Yuri looked interested. "Lilly Thompson? George and I met her the other night at Chestnut Park."
"She's a sweetheart," said Brittany. "She might be the nicest person I've ever met."
"And drop-dead gorgeous," Yuri added, enthusiastically. Brittany looked slightly annoyed. She left the bar, and Yuri and Calista began to jam.
Calista turned out to be an incredible bass player--fluid, inventive, and passionate.
She was so good that Yuri was almost embarrassed that he'd crowed about his own musical ability.
After they had played for a while, Leonid called to say he was running late, so they decided to take a coffee break. They were just putting their instruments down when a streaker ran into the bar,
and stopped in front of Yuri, clearly waiting for a reaction.
Without missing a beat (though he bobbled putting his guitar in its stand a bit), he turned, looked her straight in the eye, and asked, "Would you be interested in doing some life modeling? Because I'm in the 'Human Form' art class, and we're always looking for models. And the pay's decent," he added.
The girl walked away, clearly disappointed not to have received the shocked looks her behavior usually elicited.
Calista had gone back to riffing. "Smooth recovery, Yuri," she teased.
"Hey, if some beautiful chick wants to take her clothes off in front of me, I'm all for it," Yuri replied. "I just wish I knew how to encourage more of this behavior."
Yuri and Calista sat down with their coffee and chatted about their favorite artists.
After a few minutes, Yuri saw Brittany exit the reading room and head up the stairs. "Hey, Brit!" he called. "Come take a break and listen for a while."
"I will," she called over her shoulder. "I just have to go to the bathroom."
Leonid came in the front door, gave Yuri a wave, and went in to the bar to begin adjusting the drum set.
A minute later, Calista looked up and said, calmly, "Oh, the naked girl's come 'round again." Sure enough, the streaker had returned. She ran through the doors into the bar, just as Brittany was coming back down the stairs.
Yuri jumped up and grabbed Brittany's hand. "Come on, Brit--there's somebody I want you to meet!"
The streaker got the reaction from Leonid and Brittany that she hadn't gotten from Yuri and Calista.
Yuri, devilishly, hauled Brittany over to the girl and introduced her. "This is my friend, Brittany. Brit, I'm trying to get this lovely example of the feminine ideal to model for my art class." Brittany, who was exceedingly well mannered, actually shook the girl's hand and offered, hesitantly, "I'm sure that would be very nice," and then looked lost for anything more to say. The streaker and Yuri burst out laughing at Brittany's obvious discomfort.
The girl, whose name was Opal, told Yuri that she had decided to look into the life modeling gig, and would probably see him in class some time soon.
"Thanks, Yuri," she called alluringly over her shoulder as she exited the bar.
As soon as the door shut behind Opal, Brittany rounded on Yuri. "You jerk!" she yelled. "What is wrong with you--humiliating me like that?!"
Yuri was taken aback. "Oh, come on, Brit. It was just a joke."
"Not a very funny one! Or a very nice one!!" she said, and stormed out of the bar.
"Not very well played," Calista murmured as they picked up their instruments.
"Not you, too," said Yuri, mystified.
"Anyone can see Brittany likes you," replied Calista. "Or at least she did, until just now."
After they had played for about an hour, Yuri, Calista, and Leonid took a break. Yuri, figuring Brittany should have calmed down by now, went looking for her in the reading room. He found Lilly Thompson studying by herself. "Hey, Lilly, I was looking for Brit Parker. I thought she was back here."
"Oh, Brittany left about an hour ago. She was really upset about something. I think she was crying." Lilly seemed genuinely concerned. Calista had followed Yuri into the room, and Lilly looked up. "Who's your friend?" she asked Yuri.
Yuri introduced Calista as his bass player, then was interrupted by some guy who wanted to talk about music. Yuri kept one ear open to eavesdrop on the two girls' conversation.
"I was listening through the door when I went up to the ladies' room," Lilly said to Calista. "You two are really good!"
"We're working on it," laughed Calista.
"And I just love your outfit--where did you get it?" Yuri noted that Lilly had that sort of breathy, little-girl voice that made everything she said sound sincere.
Calista launched into a complicated explanation of how she had assembled that particular day's outrageous attire. "Well, I went out to hear Mercy Hellhole--they're quite my favorite band these days--and afterwards I went backstage to hang with the musicians, and later I couldn't find my coat. And I looked everywhere, and I never did find my coat, I guess someone went off with it. But I did find all sorts of other great stuff--you'd be amazed what people leave behind at concerts! This corset, for example, I found in the loo. And then this belt ...."
Back at Pinenut Plaza, Yuri had to contend with his sister. "I heard from Meadow," Yulia said sternly. "Brit's really steamed at you."
"She'll get over it," Yuri assured his sister.
"I don't know," said Yulia. "Meadow said Brit was going on and on about what a colossal jerk you are, and how you'd throw over your lifelong friends for new 'casual' acquaintances."
"That doesn't sound like Brit," Yuri observed. "She's always been so even tempered. Meadow must be exaggerating," he said confidently.
"Nope," said Yulia. "Tosha overheard her, and so did George, and so did Orlando, Meadow's new boyfriend."
"Oh, well, if some 'boyfriend' of Meadow's overheard, well, there's a really reliable witness," Yuri said sarcastically, pretending to have missed his sister's point. "I'll call Brit and sort this out."
George answered the phone at Landgrabb House, but Brittany refused to take Yuri's call. "She's even saying that she's not going on that mountain vacation at the end of term with you and Yulia and Alvin," George reported.
"That's ridiculous," Yuri scoffed. "That trip has been planned forever, and Alvin's her best friend. If he's going, she's going."
"Well, if she doesn't," said George, "can I go? I'd love to learn some of the local folk dances they do up there."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week for Thanksgiving with Yelena and Kennedy (and who else?), the end of the first semester, and the mountain vacation (who ends up going?).