Freshman Year
Warrior Kat
[Uber] [Alt PG-13] [Modern]
Part I of the Minerva/Terry Series

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Joxer, and Perdicus are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

This is Uber. These characters resemble our favorite heroines, but are situated in a different time, different place (in this case, modern times in California), in different enviroments. If you haven't tried it, try it. You just might like it.

Violence: A little bit at the end. The sequel, though, has lots of violence.

Language: Er, a few four-letter words. Nothing too terribly bad, but enough to land a PG-13 rating. (They're only human, for crying out Solstice!) Also some Spanish. I apologize in advance to Spanish speakers if I skewered the grammar.

Racial Tension: No town's perfect. However, the attitudes are property of the characters and not me. If you think I feel that way towards the minorities and majorities (racial and otherwise), I'm hurt.

Subtext: Yep, it's there. However, it's real clean, and as far as sex, you're going to find more on an actual high school campus than here. But since some people get their panties into a wad over the issue, if you are underage or intolerant of it, please find another story.

I do mention a show named "Xena:Warrior Princess," but in this alter Xenaverse, plots and character associations are different. Click here for timeline if you want a clarification (not that it's necessary). Also of my warped mind are the towns of Rockwell and Wilton. They are entirely fictious so no actual town gets smeared.

Freshman Year

by Warrior Kat

Chapter One
First Day Jitters

The weather seems cooler than normal for this time of year, Minerva Garcia thought. She stood towards the back of the bus stop, casually observing the horde of other bus riders that were starting to gather here. Nervous about her first day of high school, she glanced at her watch, and twitched, drummed, and twiddled her fingers.

Not that she was a stranger, or a newcomer. A good fourth of the people gathering around were people she had gone to school with last year, and she knew just about everyone, even the seniors. She stuck her hands in her jean pockets, leaned against the pole, and peered over everyone's head.

She was tall for being of Mexican heritage. In fact, she towered over nearly every guy. Nearly six feet, with gray-blue eyes that startled anyone who looked into them. Some people had the nerve to speculate that Miguel, her father, was not the biological father. Minerva shook her head. Anyone that knew Miguel and Dolores knew that they were very devoted to each other, their family, and their church. Just because they were Mexican illegals working in the fields didn't mean they didn't have pride in who they were.

Blue eyes were a gift of genes. As explained by her mother Dolores, both her maternal grandmother and great-grandmother had them, but it had seemed to skip her mother's generation.

Minerva, dressed in baggy jeans, black boots, and a short sleeved light plaid shirt, shook her head at the styles girls liked to wear. She found the styles to be too revealing, "too slutty" was the term she used to coin the degrading styles women were expected to prance around in these days.

"Hola, Minerva," she heard. Turning around, she saw Esteban, another nervous freshman like herself. He had a little baby mustache, and a cut on the tip of his chin from shaving. "Está nervioso tambien?"

"Sí." She stepped away from the pole as she saw the bus come down the street. "He escuchado que los maestros son malo, y los gringos nos odian."

Esteban looked up at her. "Y ellos les pelean los freshmen en el baño. Tengo que se usan las plantas."

Minerva grinned at the remark. Silly Esteban. Scared of bullies in the bathroom. They wouldn't make him use the bushes instead, would they?

Minerva glanced at Esteban, who stood nine inches shorter. Maybe Esteban wasn't so silly after all. This is high school we're talking about here, right?

The bus pulled up and a few freshmen and sophomores got rudely shoved out of the way by the upper classmen who wanted, and had decided it was their rank privilege, to take up the back seats. Esteban and Minerva waited to get on, not willing to get into a fist fight just to reserve a place in line.

It took five minutes to load up the forty-plus students at the stop, and then the bus driver pulled away from the curb to run the remainder of his route in the countryside, through orange and olive groves, past derelict barns, sheds, and luxurious million dollar mansions that the farmers owned out here. Wouldn't it be nice to be a farmer? That way we wouldn't have to worry about where our next meal's coming from, or if something happened to my parents, we'd still have a roof over our heads.

Minerva sighed. "Problemitas?" asked Esteban, who was sitting across from her.

"No. Solamente estoy pensado." She was sure Esteban and everyone else on the bus felt the same way about the farmers. Goddamn gringos, think we're slaves. Make us work in one hundred degree plus weather all day, and pay us shit. Somedays, the "American Dream" seems to be more of a nightmare.

Minerva was one of the few people on the bus to have been born in the United States. Most of the students were illegals, too. Her mother had always said how great it was to live in America, but Minerva didn't seem to understand.

The bus was nearly full, and there was one more stop to make before heading to the high school, a twenty minute drive on the highway, past orange groves and empty, fallow fields. Minerva glanced towards the back, to see a couple doing some heavy kissing in the backseat of the bus. They should get a room. I don't like playing the role of the unwilling voyeurist.

The bus came to a halt, and the passenger climbed aboard. No one noticed at first, and then suddenly, everyone's eyes looked up front, to the honey blonde girl who just got on. They're going to give her hell for being white any minute now. And as predicted, insults were hurtled at the unsuspecting freshman.

"Chingadera!" "Puta!" "Pinche!"

She did not belong on this bus. Her clothes were clean, pressed, and stylish. She must have just moved here, 'cause all the white people know you shouldn't ride the bus.

She ventured to the past Minerva, and headed towards the back, looking for a seat. Nasty things were whispered around her, and giggles were heard throughout the bus.

"We don't want you back here, whitey."

"I need somewhere to sit down and..."

"I said that we don't want you back here, whitey. Now go back up front or I'll kick your gringa ass up there for you!"

Minerva looked back to see hurtled that insult. Eduardo Rodriguez, a sophomore, a small, fat sophomore with a stubly beard and mustache.

"Give her a break," one of the girls in the back told him.

"Them gringos don't give us a break. Why should we give her one?"

"Because if you lay a hand on her, I'll kick your ass into next week."

The bus became silent. Eduardo scanned the area to see to whom that bold feminine voice belonged to, and cringed when a pair of icy grey-blue eyes pinned him to his seat. No one messed with Minerva. That was the unspoken rule around this small farming town. She could kick anybody's ass, and had done it on occasion to prove it wasn't "just talk."

"Sorry, Minerva," Eduardo creaked out.

"That's more like it." I bet this girl will never ride the bus again, especially after putting up with this crap. So glad I'm not white.

The girl found a seat in front of Minerva and sat down, and the bus rolled.

She hung around her soccer buddies for lunch. Maria Gonzales, Raquel Medrano, and Mirabel Nuñez. Although none of them were tomboyish like Minerva, they had a sense of pride not to dress like sluts or obsess endlessly over cute guys who Minerva knew were all pricks who liked to use girls and then dump them, sans virginity. After all, she had overheard older brothers brag to their sibling about their prowess, and the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

"This cafeteria food tastes like crap," Maria grumbled. She was short, wiry, and a spitfire, the type everyone took an instant like to.

"I agree. You can't raise rabbits and like green peas," Raquel added. Tall, skinny, and with shoulder length hair, she was Maria's constant companion, and they egged each other on.

"We're trying to eat," Minerva grumbled.

"Geez, Minerva, you don't have to have a cow. Lighten up," said Mirabel.

Minerva let her eyes wander over the campus center, where the white kids and Mexicans who acted white hung out. Everyone looked like ants, milling about the center, intent on getting wherever they were headed.

Then eye-sharp eyes spotted the honey-blonde head of hair, the girl who had the misfortune of stepping onto the hostile bus this morning. She seemed quite animated, talking to her friends. Then one of them draped an arm across her shoulders. Minerva let her grey-blue eyes wander to the girl who seemed to be consoling the blonde.

"Shit," Minerva swore under her breath.

"What's wrong?" asked Raquel, noting the lines of tension in Minerva's face.

"Ah, nothing." Raquel gave her a look, then continued gabbing to Maria.

Minerva continued to watch the blonde and her friend. I dare say that girl knows her way around the school. Seems to like to hang out with the most popular kids around. If I'm not mistaken, that girl she's talking to is the volleyball protege Morgan Keir.

Disappointment settled over Minerva. Get a grip. It's not like she knows you or anything. Maria had noticed Minerva's sadness, and sent a knowing glance to Raquel, who nodded, and then continued their conversation. Hope she doesn't get caught up in the rumor whirlpool around Morgan. But watching the blonde talk animatedly to Morgan put some hope into the last thought. She can probably defend herself. A chorus of giggles from the two pranksters broke the trance Minerva was in for a minute, then she dipped into her own world once again. Face it, Minerva. You were hoping the girl was naive innocent, and lost, so you could go explain everything and look like a goddess in her eyes. Great, first day of school and I'm already falling for girls. Good thing Maria and Raquel don't know. If they don't outright kick me out of the clique I'll never hear the end of their jokes and "humor."

It was funny, Minerva deduced. Her, the blonde girl, and Morgan Keir, the freshman who everyone put on a pedestal, had signed up for 6th period weightlifting.

Morgan picked out a squat rack to occupy, and the blonde girl followed. "Have you ever lifted free weights, Terry?" The blonde head shook "no."

"Start off with fives. You'll be sore enough for days without adding excess weight."

Morgan went off to grab a pair of five pound plates when a tall guy came up and grabbed a forty-five pound weight to put on the barbell.

"Excuse me, Morgan and I are using this station." The guy looked up, and saw Morgan coming back. He backed away and started looking elsewhere to do his squats.

Morgan handed her a plate to put on one side, and she slid the five pound weight onto the other side. "Stand in front of it." Morgan adjusted the height that the bar came to.

"What's that bungee cord at the bottom there for?" asked Terry.

"That's how far you have to squat down. Till your butt hits it."

"That's awfully far."

"Here, I'll spot you."

Minerva tore her eyes away and proceeded to do her set of squats. Being a soccer player, she was incredibly strong and agile. Despite rumors, Morgan doesn't seem to be a cruel hearted bitch everyone paints her to be. Seems to be nice, actually. She stole another glance at the pair, and then scanned the other squat stations. Seems like all the guys are dropping weight plates and dumbells in front of her.

Of course Minerva couldn't see that guys were doing the same around her. She was used to being a tomboy, and well, guys didn't like to date tomboys. So the concept of a guy thinking she was pretty was totally alien to her.

Walking back to the locker room, Minerva was startled by a voice.

"Ah...hi...I don't know your name but thanks for defending me on the school bus this morning."

Minerva turned her head to see the honey-blonde girl talking to her. "No problem."

"What's your name?" she asked.


"Mine's Theresa, but everyone calls me Terry."

"Listen, I'm sorry about the mess on the bus this morning---"

"Not your fault," Terry said.

Minerva was tongue-tied, and struggled to think of an apology. "A lot of people on the bus resent white people....can't blame them....but you shouldn't have had to put up with it though."

Terry looked up at Minerva, and shyly replied, "Thanks." Then frowned. "I really don't want to ride the bus back home."

"I'll sit with you. They won't give you any crap if I'm around."

"I noticed," Terry said, flashing an appreciative smile. "Thanks." Then the blonde disappeared into the row of lockers to go change.

"That's the girl you said came to your defense on the bus this morning?" Morgan asked.


"She's sure tall for being a Mexican."

"Everyone's so short at this school. I mean, even I stand taller than most of the guys."

"Same here, and I'm only 5'5"," Morgan said, with a chuckle.

"Hmm," Terry sighed. "Actually, she looks more Mediteranian than Mexican. You seen her eyes?"


"You should see them sometime." Then Terry realized what she said, and felt embarrassed. I hope she didn't pick up on that.

"Kind of like a Greek sculpture."

"Uh, what did you say?" Terry said, caught unaware.

"She looks like a Greek sculpture."

"That would explain the blue eyes, wouldn't it?"

"Blue eyes? That is strange." Morgan packed her backpack. "Then again, I've seen red-haired, green eyed Mexicans around too. Anything's possible, girl."

"You've lived here for a while, haven't you?"

"Most of my life. I used to live here, but I moved to the mountains about two years ago," Morgan said. "You're new to the area, aren't you?"


"I'm glad you found an ally on the bus. I'd be scared to death to ride that bus, you know that? All those Mexicans and--"

"What about Mexicans?" asked Minerva, who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Fear flashed across Morgan's face for a moment. "I was telling Terry how lucky she was to find an ally on the bus."

"Ah. Good. Because if you're bad-mouthing my people, I'm going to get mad and there's people on campus who can attest to what happens when I get mad."

Fearful glances were cast in the locker room from the other girls who had seen Minerva get into fights. Morgan did not miss the looks.

"I don't want to start any trouble, honest."

Minerva stood there for a minute, pinning her with her eyes, then resumed to what she was doing. Funny, first day at school and I got the great Morgan Keir scared shitless. Minerva smirked. Chalk up another one for the Great Garcia.

Terry found Minerva quickly through the crowd of people waiting to board the bus. Minerva motioned her over and shot daggers at the people who didn't let her through.

They sat in the middle of the bus, two to a seat. Minerva's knees were crammed to the seat ahead. "Wish they'd make these goddamn buses a little bigger..." she swore under her breath.


"Hmm??" she said, looking up.

"That wasn't nice what you did to Morgan. She thought you were going to beat her up on the spot."

"Dare say she's lucky, 'cause that's usually what happens when people bad-mouth me, my family, or my people."

"Sounds like you got a reputation to keep."

"Easy enough."

The bus was more crowded than this morning, and it hauled its 78 passengers off from Rockwell High School to the farm town Wilton where they all were condemned to live.

It was one hell of a day, Terry decided. Scary people on the bus, an even scarier Minerva, who scared the crap out of my poor friend Morgan. I would not want to get on Minerva's bad side. No way. Hope I can convince my parents to drive me in tomorrow. I do not want to ride the bus ever again.

Chapter Two
Drive to the Middle of Nowhere

The drive into the main town of Rockwell that morning was quite boring, Terry decided. Miles upon miles of identical rows of orange trees, with the occasional farmhouse on the verge of falling apart breaking up the monatomy, colored the drive in a shade of blah gray.

Her mother fished a cigarette out of the package and lit it, flicking the ashes out onto the road. Jeanette, her mother, seemed to be bothered by driving her into Rockwell every day, but after hearing horror stories of what they did to white kids in the tiny farming community of Wilton from the neighbors, she decided it was best to take fifty minutes, twice a day, out to make sure her daughter didn't come home as ground beef.

Silence pervaded the car. Her little sister Sarah sat in the back, chewing her fingernails, which made their mother nervous.

"Sarah, stop biting." Sarah took the piece of cuticle between her teeth and ripped it, blood soaking her fingernail. "See what you did?" her mother scolded.

Terry minded her own business. Jeanette was a nag, and Sarah was a nail biter from the day she was born, and cayenne pepper nail polish never did seem to stop her from chewing, except for one two month period where she reverted to picking her nose instead. Luckily, that was ten years ago, and Terry tried to think about something more pleasant instead of her sister's annoying nervous habits.

"Don't waste my kleenex," Jeanette scolded, throwing the cigarette butt out the window of their sedan and lighting another cigarette. Terry rolled her eyes and continued to stare ahead. Coming to school smelling like cigarette smoke is going to win me points there.

She interlaced her hands, put them on her lap, and sighed. A sadness permeated her thoughts. Was the bus that bad? Minerva would have kept them in line. She turned her head to stare aimlessly at the rows of orange trees. Agh! Can I not think anyone else but Minerva? Geez! She has her own life. Doesn't need me pestering her.

Houses began appearing on the side of the road at a more frequent pace, and Terry knew they had arrived on the outskirts of Rockwell.

She raced out of the car once it parked at school, to get the heck away from her chain-smoking mother. Ah, another marker to reveal what white trash we seem to be at home. Terry mentally shook her head. Mother, at least, seems intent to embarrass Sarah and I. Personally, I aspire to do better than live in trailer parks swigging beer all my life.

Morgan waved her over to where they were sitting. "Hey, girl."

"Hey, Morgan. Did you finish your essay for English?"

A nod. "Yeah."

"What did you write about?" The assignment was to write about a scary incident that happened to them sometime in their life.

Morgan smiled, her brown eyes lighting up. "The time my older brother Rook, short for "Pembroke," got the Range Rover caught in a ditch and we almost tumbled down the mountain.

Terry grimaced. "Yikes."

"I can still hear my dad say, 'Don't anyone move a muscle!'" Morgan glanced about the campus center, then asked, "What did you write about?"

"Yesterday's bus fiasco." She waved her hand, "I know, real original," she said sarcastically.

"I wouldn't say that. Who have you told the story to in English?"

"Just you."

Morgan nodded, a pained look in her face. How do you explain to this poor, naive girl that you shouldn't mention you live in Wilton unless you want to be laughed at? The first thing people conjure of white people and Wilton is trailer trash, and it wouldn't be fair to have everyone form that first opinion of her. "Terry..."

Green eyes darted to the voice, noting the concern. "Hmm?"

" might not want to mention where this happened." A look of regret flashed across her face. I'm just looking out for you, kiddo.

Terry picked up the subtle hint. I see. Living in Wilton is considered to be an embarrassment. Thanks a lot.

The first bell rang, and students began to head towards class.

They passed Terry's house that morning and Minerva noticed Terry wasn't there to ride the bus. Who could blame her? The bus sped down the street, took a turn, and headed straight to the high school. A feeling of sadness came over her, but she shoved it back down. I did fall for her big time, didn't I? Then she mocked laughed at herself silently inside. Honeymoon over. She looked out the window, at the endless fields of dried golden brown springs of grass, foxtails, and tumbleweeds; she crossed her ankles, leaned back, and sighed.

"La gringa no está en el autobus esta mañana," said Esteban.

"No le faulta," replied Minerva. "Yo oigo que ellos le pelean su hermana." She heard snickering in the seat behind her, and turned around and pinned the two girls with her eyes, which silenced them immediately.

"Ay. Pobresita," Esteban said quietly, shaking his head. Loud bullies like Eduardo kept most of the bus from saying anything to stop the verbal harassment of the blonde girl on the bus yesterday.

The bus parked on the school grounds, and the students unloaded. Esteban took Minerva aside, and whispered, "You like her, don't you?"

"I like her as a friend--"

Esteban grinned. "No, you LIKE her. Come on, I've seen you fall for girls before."

Minerva blushed. "Am I that transparent?"

"No, but I know you."

Minerva looked sadly on the ground. "Just because I like her doesn't mean she LIKES me. Esteban, she hangs out with the most popular kids at this school."

"Like who?"

"Morgan Keir."

"Holy shit!" Esteban looked up at her. "She runs with the big dogs!"

"Yeah. I mean, she doesn't want to hang out with the daughter of migrant farm workers. Caught Morgan saying something about us Mexicans."

"Did you kick her ass?

"Should have." Minerva saw a cockroach skitter across the asphalt, and squished it.

Esteban smiled, and shook his head. I see. If Morgan wasn't Terry's friend, she would have gotten her ass kicked. But can't go around beating our crush's best friends up, now can we?

The bell rang. "See you later."

"Adios, Minerva," Esteban said, heading the other way.

It was a very uneventful day, Minerva mused while eating the beans in the catefetia food, Maria and Raquel giggling on the other side of the table, in all likelihood Maria said something raunchy. Very ladylike behavior, of course. Mirabel would listen quietly, but she was not much of a talker. Short, shy, hanging out with Maria and Raquel gave her somewhere to belong. And Maria and Raquel were protective of her, like a little sister.

Minerva felt quite depressed. If I told her how I felt, she'd label me a perv and never talk to me again. She scooped up another spoonful of beans and chewed on them. And her friend Morgan's quite strong. I mean, Morgan lifts heavier weights than most of the guys. If Morgan got mad enough at me, I'm sure she could probably kick my ass. She put her spoon down and tried to scoop up some more beans, but they were all gone. Looking down, she decided to take a bit of the cornbread. It was awful tasting, but she wasn't paying particular attention to it, too caught up in her thoughts. Actually, that's an admirable trait to have in a friend. One that will stick up for you.

Her trance was broken when Mirabel whispered in her ear, "What's wrong?" Minerva shook her head. Then Mirabel said, "It's that blonde girl, isn't it?"

Minerva felt her face get real hot and flushed. "Answers my question, then," Mirabel whispered. "Listen, you're still my friend, us three know."

Minerva turned to face Mirabel, and whispered, "Am I that transparent?"

"Maria and I thought you two would look cute as couple."


Mirabel grinned. "But don't let her break your heart, okay?"

"Too late," Minerva whispered. Mirabel gave her a pat on the back and resumed to catching up on her reading she was supposed to do last night.

Chapter Three
On the Other Side of the Tracks...

It was delightful torture, Terry decided. Beautiful girl here, beautiful girl there. She slyly, but shyly looked at Morgan, who she thought of as being one hot babe, but in the back of her mind she still thought Minerva was cuter. Mysterious blue eyes, raven hair, beautiful lips...

Then the thoughts registered. Theresa Gabriella O'Roarke! What the hell were you just thinking about Minerva?! She felt herself blush. Hope no one sees it. Since when did I start getting crushes on girls?

Morgan turned around, and noticed Terry's blush. "Cute guy?"

"Ah...yeah." Morgan smiled. "Greg's a nice guy. I can set you guys up."

"No, no."

"Religion doesn't let you date yet?" asked Morgan.

"It's not that. I don't know him, and I don't like going out on dates without knowing the guy first."

"Ah. You're lucky. Us Mormons have to wait until we're sixteen."

Terry glanced the other way. Another nail in the coffin. If I ever told Morgan, she'd run away screaming. Morgan, the matchmaker, had lured Greg over in the meanwhile. This is one of the things I hate about small towns. In the big city, it was okay to be "different."

Greg, his sandy blonde hair cut short, his tall, lean, skinny yet muscular frame, and deep brown eyes startled Terry out of her thoughts. "Hey," he said, with a smile.

"I'm Terry."

"I'm Greg. Nice to meet you."

So he seemed nice, was cute, the type of date that was funny, charming, but nothing would quite match the date Minerva would be. Or so I wish, sighed Terry inwardly.

Morgan walked a little ways away to let them get acquainted.

Terry recognized Greg in the weightlifting class and smiled at her when she was getting the weightplates for the bench press. She could see his face more clearly in the fluorescent lighting of the gym than under the shade of the trees in the campus center.

It was an endearing face, she decided, with fine sand blonde baby hairs on his upper lip. But not as cute as Minerva's. Then she realized what she thought. Listen, Missy, it's okay to think Greg's cute, but not Minerva, or even Morgan for that matter, 'kay?!

Minerva noticed the tall, sandblonde boy flirting with Terry, and felt a twinge of jealously. C'mon. Get over it already, she chastised herself. She's straight and you damn well know it. She also noticed Terry looking at Morgan quite often. Could that be? Nah, she's straight, remember?

Minerva smiled bitterly to herself. No room for the daughter of a migrant farm worker.

One of the football players decided he had more priority to the bench she was using than she did. "I need to use that bench."

"You'll get it when I'm finished with it."

"Coach Barnett said the football players need to do the bench press."

"Listen, I have one more set and you can wait that long," she growled.

"Matt," another voice said, "you better not piss her off, she'll flatten you."

The fat boy turned around. "She's just a girl, Robbie. She's no match for me."

"The hell I'm not. Want me to prove it?" she growled. Robbie covered his eyes, afraid, as she socked the fat boy in the face, and he stumbled backwards over the bench and fell.

Matt sat there on the ground, dazed. "Told you not to piss her off. Don't say I didn't warn you," Robbie said, giving the boy a hand up.

Lucky for all involved, Coach Barnett was outside chatting with another teacher. Minerva wouldn't get in trouble and Matt would maintain some of his dignity.

Heads turned on the opposite side of the room when Matt decided to challenge Minerva.

"I guess Matt's never heard of Minerva's reputation, has he?" asked Terry.

"I haven't," said Greg.

"Don't piss her off," replied Morgan. "I almost gone my head handed to me yesterday by a wayward remark."

"Loose cannon, eh?" asked Greg.

"Can be," diplomaticly stated Terry. "You either be the bad guy or the good guy."

Morgan nodded. "The type who will rescue damsels in distress."

Chapter Four
They Were Right, School is Hell

It was a lonesome week, Minerva thought. Few people were able to talk to her, even fewer were interesting to talk to. And luck dictates I can't talk to them. She got dressed after 6th period PE that Friday, the only girl left in the locker row, packed her bag, and left the locker room.

It was hard not to ignore Terry and Morgan chatting away two rows away, and passing them proved to be torture. PE was torture. That sand-blonde kid Greg was flirting with her girl, and her girl seemed to be flirting with Morgan, even though she told herself it was usual girl banter.

Lunch was torture. She could not help but scan the campus center for her girl. Maria seemed to be a little worried about Minerva, and had said during lunch, "Poor you. She seems to have taken your heart." Minerva arched her eyebrows as a way of saying, "Yeah. How could I be so stupid."

The bus ride proved to be the worst of it all. She remembered the first day, how they sat side by side, just her and her girl. Terry wasn't aware of how Minerva felt, and the adage of 'love is blind' was especially true to Minerva until she realized she lost Terry. How can I be so goddamn stupid?!

Minerva got home, and went to her room. It's weird, really. It was like the moment I saw her, it seemed like I knew her. Maybe that's why I'm acting so stupid. She's not my first crush, but crushes come and go, and yet it still hurts to look at her.

Morgan had invited Terry to spend the night at her house. The drive up to the mountain community was quite breathtaking, Terry decided, with dark green live oaks contrasting with the golden yellow of the grass in the fields. Cattle grazed in the fields, unaware of the busy road that laid so close their their pasture.

The car turned off onto another road, and came to a stop in front of a cow in the middle of the road.

"Move, you dumb bovine!" Morgan's mother yelled out the window. The cow turned her head, as if to say, "What are you going to do about it?" Carefully, her mother drove around the cow, who was quite content to stand in the middle of the road, eating the grass that poked through the cracks in the asphalt.

The Keir house was huge. Morgan led Terry up the stairs to her room.

"Sheesh! This is bigger than our living room!"

"What'd'ya mean?" asked Morgan.

Can't tell her I live in a crappy looking mobile home. "Ah, nothing."

Morgan could tell Terry was trying to hide something, so she let it go.

It got too dark to continue swimming, so the two girls got out of the pool, dried themselves off, and went into the house. Morgan turned on the TV, flipped it onto the show Hercules, then went into the kitchen to get something to drink while Terry sat on the couch.

The opening scene showed Hercules slithering through the forest, looking for Amazons to slaughter. Morgan came into the living room, drinks in hand, and sat beside Terry on the couch. "Here."

"Thanks." Then Morgan looked up at the TV screen, and grimaced to herself. There was a repelling nature to this scene, one that Morgan couldn't explain. It was as if Hercules was hunting down her sisters.

"Morgan." Worried brown eyes met Terry's bright green emeralds. "If it bothers you, change it."

She looked at the TV, then at Terry. Come on, Morgan, it's just TV. But each slaughtered Amazon depicted felt like a stab through the heart.

"Okay." She picked up the remote and changed the channel. Truth be honest, each kill was an arrow through Terry's heart too, but she didn't want to appear to be a wuss in front of Morgan.

Neither of them could remember what show they ended up watching. In the darkness of the twilight, they fell asleep on the couch, Terry nodding off in one corner and Morgan asleep at the other end.

Romans had surrounded their village. Too independent to cede their hard-fought independence, the women decided to fight them, even though they all knew it would be a loosing battle. But it was better than to die a slave.

She took her sword out and charged with the rest of the troops. Valiantly, they fought. She stepped back and let two soldiers charging her with spears impale each other instead. She turned around and ducked under a battle axe, then skewered the unfortunate fellow. She put her boot on his stomach and yanked the sword out, feeling the suction of the sword being lodged in a corpse.

A skilled soldier engaged her in a sword fight. She sensed someone was behind her, and kicked back, nailing someone in the beloved sector of their anatomy. Seeing his opening, he attacked her with all his might, and it took all her strength to deflect the blows. He seemed to be tiring, so she made the offensive. Her lighter sword let her move more quickly, and he could not wield his heavier sword to where she tried to strike very well, and she found an opening and split his shoulder blade from his chest. Sinking to the ground on his knees, he screamed. She turned around, and saw the sword headed to her midsection. She tried to deflect the blow, but the soldier skewered her. All time seems to stop as she felt the blade pass through her intestines, and then looked up to see the battle weary face of Brutus grimace to get the blade back out. Her world started to spin, she felt the ground hit her, and feminine voices yelling at her, in worry. Then Brutus walked away, the battle resumed, and everything went black.

Morgan woke up in a sweat, breathing hard. That was a horrible nightmare, she thought, trying to slow her breathing down and hoping the beating of her heart in her ears would at least diminish. I suppose I could blame it on that Hercules episode, she thought, grimacing.

The princess laid there in her arms, an arrow through the chest, dying. She had tried to get her out of the way in time, but the arrow still managed to hit her. Then she walked out of the dream state, and into another one.

She didn't like leather, she decided, walking down the main road into the village. Hushed whispers were about how young the girl was, too young to be an Amazon queen. Then she saw the Regent, in her bird mask, and she joined her. Then they took off their bird masks.

The face startled Terry half to death. It resembled Morgan's, except Morgan's hair was straight as an arrow and the Regent's was curly, and blond. Morgan was a blonde wannabe; the roots of her dark brown hair showed. Then she walked out of the dream state again, become conscious of the gentle wind rattling wind chimes outside.

She opened her eyes, to see Morgan on the other side of the couch, asleep. She shut her eyes again. What the an Amazon queen? How absurd. Too much TV.

She heard Morgan lurch forward, waking up from a nightmare, and saw her grimace.

"Everything okay, Morgan?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah. Just a nightmare. That'll be the last time I watch Hercules."

"What happened?"

"Dreamed I was fighting a battle, and Brutus skewered me."

Terry smiled. "I guess I'm not the only one having absurd dreams, am I?"

"What did you dream of?"

"I was an Amazon queen. And everyone was complaining I was too young."

Something absurd surfaced to Morgan's mind. She was too young. Then she sat there and thought about it. Huh? How the hell would I know if she was too young?

"Didn't know I was so tired," said Morgan, then glancing at the clock. "It's late. I'm going to go take a shower and go to sleep."

"Good idea." They both went upstairs. Terry unrolled her sleeping bag, changed into her nightclothes, and fell asleep.

Fifteen minutes later, Morgan walked out of the bathroom, her wet hair wrapped up in a towel, and saw Terry. How cute. She looks so young. She tried to dry her hair as much as possible with the towel, then put it back in the bathroom, crawled in her sleeping bag, and fell asleep.

This section finished July 6th, 1999; revised July 16th
Chapter Five

She couldn't quite recall what her dream was about, but Minerva woke up feeling sad and abandoned. She could vaguely remember something important, no, someone important walking away hand in hand with someone else. She could still feel the wetness of the tears in her dream coursing down her face. Don't leave me.

Feeling the ache, she rolled over on her stomach and hugged her pillow with her arms, to reclaim what she lost, even if it was simply an illusion. She shut her eyes and tried to forget the dream, but it would not go away. Allowing herself to open her eyes, she saw it was morning. Monday morning, dammit.

She rolled over on her back and stared at the ceiling, watching the way the shadows of tree branches swaying in the wind danced. Distant crows of roosters greeted the morning sun, singing, crooning, and shouting in a discordant, yet harmonious chorus.

She stretched her limbs, then sat up and got out of bed.

"Buenas dias, mija," Dolores said, setting a pot of water and bones on the stove to stew.

"Buenas dias, mama," Minerva replied. "Qué cocina Ud.?"

"Soapa para comida," Dolores answered. "La neccessita toda de la dia para cocinar."

Her famous chicken and rice soup for dinner, Minerva thought. "No quiero ir a la escuela este mañana," she muttered softly.

"Pues, mija, tú neccessitas una educacion o tienes que trabajar con la tierra."

Minerva grimaced inwardly. Well, I don't really want to be a farm worker when I grow up. Dolores and Miguel came to America before she was born as illegals, working odd jobs in the fields and in orange groves trying to support the four children they already had. It had taken a toll on her parents, the decades of manual labor evident on their faces and in the way they walked. Three of her four older brothers had gone to a trade school after high school, and the other brother managed to secure a college scholarship. Likewise, her parents held high expectations of Minerva, too. They did not want their children to suffer the hardships they had to face.

Minerva poured herself a bowl of cereal, added a splash of milk, and sat at the kitchen table to eat her breakfast. Her little sister Callida was a late riser, and would probably wake up in time to hog the bathroom and potentially make Minerva late. When her four brothers still lived at home, Minerva mused, it was very crowded, but ever since they left the nest the living quarters were more bearable to live in.

Breakfast was dispensed with quickly, and she went to her room to go change. As luck would dictate, Callida was hogging up the only bathroom in the residence, and Minerva was hoping to take a quick shower before school.

"Hurry up, Callida! I would like some hot water to bathe with!" Minerva yelled through the bathroom door.

"I'm just about done!" a girlish voice yelled back.

"Mom's going to be pissed if I miss the bus!"

Someone cleared their throat, and Minerva looked at the kitchen doorway, at her mother. "Chica, no te usas mal lingua."

"Pero fue en ingles!" Minerva protested.

"Puedo comprender ingles un pocito."

Minerva turned her attention to the door, waiting. At least the shower's not running anymore.

The door opened, and a sand blonde girl came out of the shower. No one knew from where in the family Callida's hair color came from, and she had been teased as a little kid by fellow Latinos for looking white.

"Thank you," Minerva said, barging in the bathroom.

"Que está la problemita de Minerva?" Callida asked Dolores, to which she shrugged.

"Es Minerva."

The ache in her heart had diminished to a dull throb every time she saw Terry. But Minerva still found it odd that her heart still ached for her crush. Well, life goes on.

Not that the fact that her crush didn't notice her stopped Minerva from stealing glances at her during lunch. Maria and Raquel would talk about Minerva's poor heart after she would leave.

"Hey, chica, what's so interesting out there?" asked Mirabel.

"Hmm. Just wondering how the other half lives."

Mirabel scooped up a spoonful of peaches. "The farmer's kids? The luxuries of life? Must be nice not having to worry where the next meal's coming from, or if you're going to be able to buy anything for Christmas."

"Or if a devastating freeze this winter will send you packing to the welfare office," Maria said, with a frown. "I remember that year. Mi madre felt so bad, having Uncle Sam support her."

"I remember that year," Minerva said quietly. "My four brothers were still living at home. It was hell. Our utilities had to be shut off. Mama was scared to death we were going to be evicted. Luckily, our landlord Mr. Cervantes had heart enough to spare her the difference."

"My mom was too independent to accept aid from the feds. We were living in the orange groves for about two weeks."

All eyes turned to Raquel. "Poor chica."

"That's how come I'm here living with my aunt," Raquel added, looking down. "Someone found us there, shivering in the cold. Deported my mother and Josephina and I managed to escape to our aunt's house, 'cause they were going to deport us too."

Where the conversation went from there, Minerva did not know. The sand blonde haired kid who watched her girl with puppy dog eyes had his left arm wrapped around her shoulders, and they, along with Morgan, were laughing.

He's nice but he's not my type, Terry thought. Oh well, I better play the game for Morgan. Wouldn't want to dispoint her, now would I?

6th period came around. "I'm so sore," Terry complained.

"You're going to be sore for a couple of weeks," Morgan said, slapping her own thighs. "You'll get used to it."

"You got to be kidding me."

"Trust me."

Terry rolled her green eyes. Just then, Greg "The Flirt" Collins came over, and gave her a squeeze on the back of the neck. "Hey, Terry."

"Hi, Greg."

He glanced over to Minerva. "You know, that girl over there keeps staring at you."

"Hmmph," she grunted, shrugging, standing under the bar and lifting it from the rack, and mentally counted the reps, gritting her teeth to do the last two, then setting the bar back and letting Morgan do her set.

Wait a minute! That goddess over there? Suddenly she felt giddy, and then, realizing the inappropriateness of it, shoved it deep down inside before Morgan or Greg could find out.

She was very confused, walking back to the locker room ahead of Morgan, who was talking to Coach Barnett after class about something. Sure Morgan's cute, but... She racked her brain trying to figure it out. But Morgan never made me feel this way. A dull sense of disappointment. Ah. Silly me. Confusing a platonic friendship for something that it isn't!

Terry sat down and got her regular clothes out of her locker. Then why do I worry so much about disappointing her? She changed, and was tying her shoes when Morgan came in.

"Go ahead, leave without me." Terry looked up, noting the serious, sad overtones to the voice, and saw a grin on her face. "Just pulling your leg, girl."

"That was rather rude on my part, wasn't it?" Terry replied. I know why I'm so worried about disappointing her. I'm still the new girl here, remember?

"Nah. It would have been rude for me to expect you to stick around and listen to a totally boring conversation." Morgan sat on the bench, and changed rather quickly. The bell rang, and everyone poured out of the locker room. It was silent, except for a clanging of a few lockers by the few girls still in there, and the footsteps of someone approaching the two.

"Hey, Morgan," a low voice said. Morgan looked up and Terry turned around, to see a tall, blonde girl at the corner, leaning on the lockers, the other hand on her hip. She wore black jeans, a dark red knit top that clung to her body, and a silver bracelet on her right hand. She looked down at Terry. "Oh, you must be the new girl." Bicep muscles rippled under the shirt, and she turned her head towards Morgan. "We need to talk," she said quietly.

"Not now. Look, Brandy, I need to get ready for volleyball practice," Morgan said, annoyed.

"Everytime I turn around, you say, 'Not now.'" Morgan proceeded to tie her volleyball shoes, ignoring the blonde's scolding. "When will it be 'now?'"

"You know how busy I am, Brandy," Morgan said, heisting her backpack and sports bag over her shoulder and walking out of the locker room, Brandy on her heels.

"Well maybe you should take a timeout and smell the--" Terry couldn't hear the rest of the words as they walked out of the locker room.

"That girl gives me the creeps," she quietly whispered to herself.

"She should," a low voice rumbled behind her. Terry whirled around, afraid it might have been this Brandy chick or one of her friends.

"Ack--sorry," Terry said, blinking her eyes so they didn't look bugged out, and she tried to stop shaking.

"Sorry I scared you," Minerva said, sitting beside her. She turned to Terry, and looked in her eyes. "Be careful of that girl. She's a loose cannon, a spoiled brat, and will mow down anyone in her path between her and what she wants."

"That would be me, wouldn't it?" Terry said quietly. "I seem to be in the way between her and Morgan."

"Just be careful, okay? This school is swimming with piranha fish."

"Thanks." Terry stood up and slung her bag over her shoulders. "I guess I'm a little too naive around here," she said disgustedly at herself.

"You're not the only one, chiquita," Minerva said, with a smile. "I dare say your buddy Morgan is too."

"What do you mean?" Terry asked. "Duh. That Brandy chick."

"I get to listen to them fight in geometry after lunch everyday."

"You're in geometry? Holy shit! I'm only in Algebra!"

"Shh. That doesn't need to be common knowledge. They hate "preppies" in Wilton."

"You're not a preppy."

"If you take geometry, you are. Even if you don't think you're one, or dress like one. That's why it doesn't need to be common knowledge."

"Hmm. I have a hell of a lot to learn!" Terry said, throwing up her hands.

"I'll teach you." Minerva glanced at the locker room clock. "Oh shit, I need to go or I'll miss the bus!"

"Bye!" Minerva walked out of there quickly.

Chapter Six
Sweet Dreams

She shot out of bed, breathing hard and sweating like a pig. Minerva looked across her room, to the picture of the Virgin Mary and the candle beside it, and tried to find solace in it.

She could still feel the touch of warm lips on her skin, unwelcome lips. Lips that asked for more than she wanted to cede at the moment. Minerva lifted her arm and ruffled her hair.

She was about two years older than Minerva, a freshman in high school. Letitia. She had dark brown hair with a hint of auburn in it, and hazel eyes that were almost yellow. She was about Terry's height, and looked like she was of college age. She would brag about being able to get into bars without ID, she looked so much beyond her age. Guys would drool over her.

And I was the "lucky" one to get her. A bitter smile came to Minerva's face. It was a rocky time. She had just put the pieces together of her emerging sexuality, and it still scared her, it was too new to her. Yesterday she was but a child; today, she had to grow up, TOO FAST. And then Letitia, who had their relationship on the sly, wanted to go TOO FAST.

She could still hear the conversation she had when she snuck into house that one night.

"My princess in shining armor has come to my balcony," Letitia said, opening the window and letting Minerva crawl through. She put her arms around Minerva's neck and softly kissed her. "My hero," she sighed huskily.

"Only for you, my lady," she said, kissing Letitia on the lips softly. "My queen, the diamonds in my eyes."

Letitia moved her hands to Minerva's waist. "Of all the fish in the pond, I managed to snag the prize fish," she whispered in Minerva's ear, then biting the earlobe softly. "Take me tonight," she whispered softly. "All the way, no stopping."

Of course I was too damn naive to know what she meant, Minerva thought with a shudder.

She could still feel Letitia's hands move up and down her waist, then under her shirt onto her bare skin. She could feel the hands navigate to the front and up north, and when Letitia tugged her bra she panicked, and broke the heated kiss.

"You're wearing too much," Letitia said, moving her hands to the back, supposedly to unclasp her bra.

"Letitia, what are you doing?" Minerva said.

Letitia laughed. "My silly warrior, playing hard to get." She leaned further and kissed Minerva again, and she could feel wandering hands on her back, then Letitia stopped the kiss. "Or does my silly warrior princess not know how to make love?"

Fear and hormones clouded her thoughts, and she stood there, letting the words register. Letitia looked at her impatiently, then tried to kiss her, but Minerva pushed her away gently. "Give me a moment," she said breathlessly, "to think."

"Honey, you're not supposed to think, just act," then she kissed Minerva on the collarbone, and on the neck.

"Letitia!" Minerva growled.

"You are so beautiful when you growl," Letitia suggested, growling the last word and tugging at Minerva's shirt. "Come on, I can't wait any longer!" She grabbed Minerva's shirt and tugged her down on the bed. "I'll guide you through, honey. Don't think, just act."

She realized she was straddling Letitia's hips, and Letitia was beginning to strip. The words she was trying to comprehend finally sunk in past the fear and hormones. No!!! I'm not ready for this! NO!!!

In a hurry, she got off the bed. "You shouldn't keep me waiting, I might explode."

"Letitia, you are going too fast. I'm not ready to do what you're asking me to do."

"They say you should push yourself to the limits, and then beyond."

"You can't take 'no' for an answer, can you?"

"Of course not. You like playing hard to get."

Minerva was getting more and more scared. She couldn't do what Letitia asked her to do. But Letitia was leaving her no way to get out of her politely. Letitia stripped off all her clothes, and stood up, in all her glory. "Guys would kill for this sight, but I save it only for you."

She felt her knees shake, in fear. She's too demanding, and this is just lust, not love. What am I going to lose if I jump out that window right now and never return?

She thought, and felt Letitia pressed up against her, tugging her towards the bed again. Nothing to lose. Minerva wrestled herself free of the wench's hold and jumped out the window and ran home, heart pumping, afraid.

She had seen Letitia twice at school within the past two weeks. And each time it hurt. Letitia was too busy flirting with the guys to notice. Thank goodness. She was so horny about me the last time, she might try to latch onto me again. And if I don't give her what she wants, and she spills the beans, this time I have so much to lose. Minerva got out of bed, and sat in the chair on the desk that the picture of the Virgin Mary rested on. She took a match out and lit the candle, and tried to push the scary memory out. But it would not disappear. What do I have to lose? Minerva thought. Terry? Well, she's one of the few people who dare talk to me at school.

Images then flashed through Minerva's head. Images of her straddling Terry, kissing her, doing things that Letitia only dreamed of her doing...

She shook her head and escaped the trance. Oh gods. She tried to calm her breathing, and stared at the candle. Did I just think 'oh gods? Another image flashed through her head, of Terry screaming her name into the night. No!!! She shook her head fiercely, trying to get rid of the sight. I could never do that to Terry! That would be hurting her----just like Letitia tried to hurt me. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek. Maybe Father Zepeda was right. Homosexuals are godless heathens. She laid her head on her desk and cried. Why, Virgin Mary, why am I tormented with this? I never asked to be different, I dreamed of growing up, getting married, having kids, having the 'normal' life. And instead I'm facing the possibility that I may never have anyone, I'm not worthy of having anyone, I may die being a dirty old butch hanging around dyke bars swigging beer.

She sat there, sobbing quietly. She felt it all come out, the loss of innonence, the pain of growing up. After she felt the sobbing decrease, she looked up the the image of the Virgin again. Lucky for me I was the butch and the bigger of us two there. If I was the smaller femme----and she wanted to take me----she just might have--- Minerva glanced out her window. ---taken my innonence completely. She felt herself shake. She blew out the candle, crawled back into bed, and hugged her pillow, holding on for dear life. It eased the ache a little, as if she was still a little kid and Mommy was there to chase the nightmares away. And as she eased herself back into Morpheus's realm, she saw the face of Terry, looking her in the eyes, telling her it was going to be okay.

Terry knew she had stayed up too late talking to her little sister. Sarah was having boy problems and it was up to big sis to give advice. It was not until the wee hours of the morning that Sarah trapzied back to her own room and left her alone.

Ah, the same Sarah who used to make fun of me because of all the dates I had. She could remember the words. 'You fall for every little cute country boy, don't you?' Wait a minute, Sarah, we're talking about when we still lived in LA, not when we moved out to the boonies. But the voice didn't quite sound like Sarah's, but Terry was too tired to figure it out, so she shut her eyes and dared to let Morpheus take her wherever.

She woke up to find herself in a canvas tent, in the middle of the night, the faint glow of the lantern at the other end of the room. There was a woman there, dressed in a style that was distinctly 1940s, chewing on the end of a pencil, and taking notes while reading a brown piece of parchment. The woman resembled Minerva, but she was much older. And definately not a tomboy. She rolled over, to get a better glimpse of the enigmatic woman across the tent from her. Look at that lipstick! I would pay ten dollars to get Minerva to wear that! Then she let her mind empty. Where the hell am I? She rolled over again, to her other side, and saw a fedora, whip, and revolver on a stand. Who the hell am I? When the hell am I? She turned over to her other side again, to gaze at the dark, gentle beauty.

Who had noticed her thrashing about. "Problems? Nightmares, dear?" the woman said in a Southern drawl that was quite adorable, and definately not Minerva.

What do I say? Well, it is a little hot in here, isn't it? I'm sweating like a pig under all this blankets. "It's too damn hot in here," she grumbled.

The woman gave her a strange look, and then resumed to what she was doing. "Go back to sleep and stop cussing."

She rolled over. Definately not Minerva! Then fear. I want to go back now! She rolled over a little more, and saw a paper on the floor beside her cot. It appeared to have drifted from its original spot, and was dated 1940, and signed, "Melinda Pappas."

She opened her eyes, and recognized her own bedroom. Thank the gods. She stretched, and stared at the ceiling. I've been watching too much Hercules.

That seemed to resemble the Xena Scrolls episode. It was a tale of two archaelogists who sought to find the tales written by a bard who was believed to be Hercule's wife that told fearsome tales of a vicious warlord named Xena who conquered half of Greece before Hercules stopped her and slaughtered her in a fearsome battle. Of course, they were Uber characters, and the seemly gentle and naive Uber representation of Xena turned on the bard's Uber representation and then Hercules came in to save the day. Right?

But that doesn't match up with the dream quite. If I was the bard's representation, then how couldn't I save myself with a whip and a gun? Well, they say Xena was a demi-goddess, so I suppose you need another demi-god like Hercules to level the playing field.

She felt her lids get heavy once again, and drifted to sleep.

Sunlight filtered through the canvas tent. Oh shit, I'm back again. She swallowed her spit, and cautiously looked over to see the dark haired beauty, asleep at her desk, scroll in hand.

But this time, Terry noted, she wasn't in control of the body she seemed to possess. She felt herself get up, and walk over to the desk. "Melinda, wake up."

No response from the woman. "Mel, wake up, you're drooling all over the scrolls."

Startled deep blue eyes looked up. "Oh no!" she said, wiping drool off her chin, then looked back with embarassed, and apprehensive eyes. "Melinda Pappas! Look at what you done! If don't be more careful you're going to get sent back to South Carolina!"

"Mel," she felt herself growl, in a Yankee drawl. "Stuff happens. At least you didn't get much on it. Why don't you go to the water basin and rinse your face? You'll feel much better."

The dark haired woman got up and left the room. She's as tall as Minerva. A minute later she walked back in. "Janice, do you remember waking up last night?"

"Yeah, why?"

"I never knew you could speak such a devastatingly clear Okie accent."

Terry mentally winced at herself. Damn, damn, damn! If I had the money I'd send myself to voice school to clear up my bad grammar!

"Hmph," Janice grumbled, putting her fedora on, an off-white shirt, laced up her boots, and then asked, "What's for breakfast? I'm starved."

She felt her mother shaking her awake, which was very unusual. She opened her eyes, and noticed the sun was shining brightly. I'm in trouble, aren't I? If Mother had to wake me up--

"Aren't we the sleepyhead this morning? You shouldn't stay up so late, dear."

Chapter Seven
Face Thyself

Minerva made sure she didn't catch a glance of Terry this morning. She still felt bad about the nightmares last night, and felt shamed and dirty, even though she scrubbed her skin raw this morning to try to get rid of the feeling. Callida yelled at her afterwards for not leaving any hot water.

She froze when she heard a familiar, unwelcome voice behind her, but it was deeper than the last time she had heard it. "My warrior princess returns," she said seductively.

Minerva turned around slowly, afraid to confirm her fears. Yep, it was Letitia Fernandez. "Your warrior princess did not return," she said coldly. Don't give her the hint you might be willing, even though deep down you aren't.

Letitia smiled bitterly. "I was still a virgin that night, and you could have been the one to open that gift. I was hoping you would open it. But oh no, you were TOO FRIGID. My FRIGID WARRIOR BITCH!"

Minerva scowled at her, putting on her most menacing look. "I don't have to listen to this," she hissed dangerously before walking away.

"Don't you walk away from me, damn it!" Letitia yelled. "You fucking dyke! You take little girls' hearts and break each one into a million pieces! Go fuck yourself to hell!"

It took every effort not to let the mask down and blush a deep crimson hue in abject, total embarassment as Letitia spilt the beans. Bad enough I woke up wanting to crawl in a hole and die without you bitching at me.

And as luck would dictate, Terry was passing by. "What's that bitch yelling about?" she asked, unaware of what was happening.

Minerva rolled her eyes, making sure Terry couldn't read pass the mask. However, Terry, Miz Emotions Reader, could see embarassment, apprehension, tension, and a hint of fear of rejection in those blue eyes that had paled to steel gray. "Don't ask," she said cooly, flatly.

Letitia came up behind them. "Hey, chiquita, I don't know your name." She turned around, since she gathered the dark auburn-brown haired girl was talking to her. "But be careful, and enjoy the fuck, 'cause it'll be over before you know it."

This bitch is plain obscene! I gather she was addressing Minerva in that tirade earlier. The more she thought about it, the madder it made her. She was hounding Minerva, and poor Minerva, who knew only the ways of the fists and feet, and not how to verbally spar, being beat up to a pulp inside. Someone needed to defend her, NOW.

"Speaking of the word 'fuck,' I suggest you "FUCK OFF" and mind your own damn business!" Terry hissed. Shock registered in Letitia's eyes and she turned around and headed back to where she had come from. Morgan walked over, and asked, "What's going on?"

In unison: "Don't ask." Morgan nodded.

"You know, my older sister Gwen got into a fight with her last year. Hair all over the place. That Letitia is a bitch on wheels."

Morgan cussed. I thought that was an oxymoron, thought Terry. She glanced over at Minerva, who seemed to be putting shields down, and she could only begin to see the depth of the hurt she had caused Minerva. She started to put an arm around Minerva, who then lifted the shields back up and said, "Don't touch me." She could see jaw muscles clenching and forearm muscles rippling as she fidgeting. "See you in sixth." Then Minerva walked off.

"Ouch," was all Morgan could say.

If it wasn't for the fact that she'd catch hell for going home sick, Minerva would have been long gone by now. What started out a dull throb in her head had become a full blown headache behind the eyes, and the fluorescent lights weren't helping. To top it off, all the noise in the classroom was beginning to make her nauseous, and she thought she'd have to dash out and make a run for the restroom to vomit any minute now.

Brandy stopped bickering with Morgan long enough to see Minerva's look of agitation on her face. "Well, good afternoon, Minerva," she sassed. "In a grumpy mood, I see? Oh, like you're not in a grumpy mood all the time," she said, comment laced with poison.

"Shut up and mind your own business," Morgan said.

"Don't tell me to shut up."

"Maybe if you shut up and did your work Mr. Marshall wouldn't have had to call for a parent confrence two weeks into the school year, now would he?"

Luckily, the two of them were too preoccupied yelling at each other to notice Minerva had to suddenly leave for an impromptu restroom visit.

Maybe ditching next period wouldn't be such a bad idea. Don't think I could weightlift without tossing again.

Everyone had left the locker room to go to gym class, and Minerva just sat there, her stomach and neck muscles in knots. It hurt to move, and she wasn't about to get up and go to P.E.

"Hey, Minerva, feeling okay?" a concerned voice asked. "I noticed you left Mr. Marshall's class last period for a couple minutes."

"Just fine and dandy," she said, trying to muster up all the strength to get up and sound okay. She stood up, and felt nauseous.

"Sit down, you look like shit," another voice chimed. It was Terry's; Minerva could recognize it from anywhere. She felt Terry sit beside her and put a gentle hand on her back, making small circles. "Why don't you go home?"

"Mom won't let me." Because of that American Dream work ethic. Noble, yet bothersome when you're really down. She remembered her mother's words about the olden days. 'In the olden days, they gave you no maternity leave. You had your baby out in the fields and then had to jump back up and go to work before the foreman out in the fields caught you slacking and whipped ya.' Thinking made her hurt worse, and her stomach clenched again, forcing her to stoop. She felt little hands on her neck and shoulders, rubbing and kneading.

"Lean your head a little bit forward," Terry said quietly. She understood migraines only a little too well, and Minerva was displaying telltale signs: agitation, shutting eyes whenever possible, paleness, to list a few. Nimble fingers went to work on extremely tight muscles, and for the first time in four hours, Minerva felt a little better, tiny fingers working their magic.

She drifted off, and Terry gently laid her down on the bench, her head in her lap, and she leaned back against the lockers, absent-mindedly stroking the dark, raven hair that cascaded in her lap. Morgan sat beside her and did the same.

"Her hair's so pretty," Morgan whispered to Terry. "So lively. At least it isn't a colorless mousey-brown like mine is." Then added, "That's why I dye it blonde."

Terry yawned. "Well, I'm not about to go to PE and leave her like this."

"Me neither." Terry rested her head on Morgan's shoulder and shut her eyes.

"Terry, if you fall asleep, I'm going to fall asleep, and if people return from PE and see us like this, Minerva is going to kill us both."

Sleepy green eyes fluttered open. "You're right." She sat up, and tucked loose dark hairs behind Minerva's ears. "Sleep tight."

Chapter Eight
"Oh, where have we met before?"

Despite their attempts to keep awake, both Terry and Morgan fell asleep.

She felt lost, alone, and headed somewhere, walking in the woods, leading a golden mare and and walking with a staff. It was a beautiful day, the sun bright outside, the leafy shade of the forest a refreshing retreat from the heat of the day. So untouched by civilization, so pristine. The staff felt oddly familiar to her, and the weight of her sadness made it nearly impossible to walk. She supposed she could ride the horse, but she didn't like heights. She had a flashback to dozing, feeling the rhythm of a horse rocking and a warm, leather covered body swaying to the rhythm of the hooves, and she remembered be contented. Happy. In love. And it only served to remind her of what she had just lost.

She heard rustling in the trees, and recognized who they wear. She dropped her staff and grabbed her hands together above her head. A woman rapelled down from the tree, and immediately saw her sadness. She pulled her bird mask away and gave her a big hug. Then she asked, "Where's Xena?"

Terry woke up, and heard people banging on the locker room door. She lifted her head from Morgan's shoulder, and looked at her face. Asleep too. She looked down, and saw Minerva asleep, peaceful, content.

I've been watching way too much Hercules. But Callisto, Xena's lover, never was an Amazon! And the regent, Ephiny, was killed by Callisto! There's no way that Ephiny was hugging Callisto. They were blood enemies. So where the hell did this come from? Ah. My twisted imagination at work again. She sighed.

She saw her queen drop her staff and give the Amazon salute. She rapelled down from the trees, and saw the lost look in her queen's eyes. Oh gods, where's Xena? She saw Argo, sans her leather covered, dark warrior rider. Poor thing. She gave her little, petite queen a big hug, and she felt her queen cry on her shoulder. Her little heart's broken.

Morgan felt someone tapping her shoulder, and saying, "Morgan, wake up. Morgan, wake up. Morgan..."

She shook herself awake, and heard the girls kicking the locker room door. She glanced down at Minerva. She's actually quite adorable when she's asleep, Morgan thought.

"You better wake her, Terry." Terry gently woke up Minerva, calling out her name softly. Baby blue eyes flickered open. "Oh."

"I suppose we should return to our respective lockers so no one gets any silly ideas, right?" Morgan said. Terry and Minerva nodded, got up, and moved.

The dream confused Morgan, too. Hercule's wife Gabrielle was never an Amazon, yet she was dressed in a bilous green sports bra and Amazon skirt. I could say she stole that horse Argo, but the look on her face gave it away that she didn't. She looked like she lost family. But Xena? Wait a minute, Xena and the bard hate each other, right? And Xena's only family is her lesbian lover Callisto, isn't it? Morgan frowned. This makes no sense. I guess it's just my twisted mind at work again. She grinned.

Minerva got off the bus, feeling better than she had all day. Her headache mysteriously disappeared 6th period. Well duh. A lazy grin fixed itself on her face. Funny. I positively hate people touching me, much less put my head in their laps. You goof.

I swear, it is so funny. It's like I've known her from somewhere else. Every time I see someone being mean to her, I feel...protective. All the walls I put up inside seems to crumble, and every mask I put up she can read through. It's so weird, she knows me like an old friend, yet we've known each other for less than two weeks. And Morgan seems slightly familiar---weird, weird, 'cause we've never spoken to each other, just heard of each other. However, it is not the same feeling I have about Terry, though.

Minerva yawned. "All this thinking is making me sleepy."

Morgan was laughing the whole time they were walking out of the locker room. "Morgan! What's so funny?" But Morgan kept snickering. Finally, the blonde-wannabe circled around, then grabbed her wrist gently and pulled her to the side.

"Who would have thought the Ice Queen would have melted at your touch? Taming the tiger?" Morgan had a silly grin on her face.

"Poor thing had a migraine, I think. Probably averted World War Three by calming her down. Whenever I get one I feel ready to annilate everything in my path."

"Yuck." Morgan began to get jittery, and nervous. She quickly changed the subject and walked on. Terry turned around and got a glance, to see what was bothering Morgan. She saw Brandy leering at her, leaning against the side of a building, a devilish grin that was up to no good.

That look seemed achingly familiar, too, but it wasn't a welcome feeling. She's up to something.

Terry couldn't go to sleep that night, and when she finally did go to sleep, it was fitful.

She was bound by rope around the wrists and ankles, and dangled precariously over the fire. She craned her neck down below (it was rather hard to move with a gag firmly in place) and saw two women fighting: a woman dressed in brown leathers and armor, who bore an uncanny resemblence to Minerva, fighting a blonde woman dressed in black leather and armor, a manical woman who bore resemblance to Brandy.

She began to panick, and struggled. The blonde demon laughed, as she struggled. Then she heard a familiar, but a voice she could not readily put a finger on: "Gabrielle, I'm coming!" It was the dark haired woman.

Terry woke up, sweating. So my subconscious paints Brandy as the bitch from Hell. Better make a note of it. Terry then rolled over and went back to sleep.

Chapter Nine
Luck at Every Corner

Another typical day at school, it seemed to be. She rode the bus as usual, went to first period like a zombie, and twirled her pencil in her fingers, every once in a while doing a small, cartoonish sketch, ignoring the immature freshmen boys who were daring each other to eat meal worms from the empty fishtank in biology.

"Hey, Minerva, I bet you can't eat one, can you?" someone taunted her.

She narrowed her eyes at the short, boyish freshman. "Pul-leaze. Grow up." She turned around and ignored them.

"Minerva! You sure you don't want one? Too sissy to try one?" The boy put two mealworms on his desk.

An evil smirk overcame her face. "Don't tell me you are actually going to eat one!" Maria, who sat next to her, whispered. "For crying out Christmas, they're too sissyish to try them!"

"Care to join me?" Minerva asked Maria, picking up one of the mealworms and feeling its little legs crawl on her skin. "C'mon, you want to try one too."

"Well, I don't back down from challenges," Maria replied, picking up the critter. "Ick, I can feel its little legs crawling on my skin."

Minerva laughed. "Hey, Roberto!" The boyish freshman turned around, and Minerva put the mealworm in her mouth, shut her teeth on it yet let her mouth remain open so the crunch was audible.

"Oh sick! She actually ate it!" another boy, a blonde boy, Justin, cried out.

"Are any of you man enough to eat one?" Minerva asked. "They don't taste all that bad." The boys sat there, mouths agape.

"At least I respond to a challenge," Maria said, popping her mealworm in her mouth. "Tally: girls two, boys none."

She was walking out of biology when another student rounded the corner and ran right into her, which knocked that student down.

"Hey, Terry, you alright?" she asked the honey-blonde, offering her a hand up, which Terry gladly took.

"Yeah. I hate these blind corners."

"I gather you have biology next."

"Yeah." Justin joined up with them.

"Psycho girl ate a meal worm," he said, pointing to Minerva.

"I wasn't the only girl," Minerva said. "See you later, Terry."

"See you later."

"So," Terry asked, "who else ate the mealworm?"

"Oh, Minerva's crazy friend Maria."

"Sounds like an interesting crowd."

"Weird crowd, if you ask me," Justin said, shaking his head.

They had the weirdest habit of wandering around campus aimlessly at brunch, Minerva noted. It was okay the first couple of days, but it was starting to drive her crazy, being the girl stuck behind the rat pack. They'd seen everything worth seeing the first day, and now every brunch was a desperate prayer not to run into someone she didn't get along too well with.

"Oh Minerva..." a seductive voice purred. Minerva recognized it immediately. Leave me alone, Letitia, you bitch. Get over it, it was over two years ago! She walked on, closer to the group, hoping Letitia got the hint.

"My knight in shining armor, I am so sorry about yesterday!" the voice called, closer behind.

"Maria, this is going to get real ugly in a moment," Minerva said quietly. Maria turned around.

"Ah, Letitia the bitch." That's an understatement, Minerva thought.

They rounded the corner, and were caught in the middle of a bottleneck, so the rat pack had to come to a standstill.

"Hey, look, there's Minerva," Terry said to Morgan. "Let's go talk to her."

"Good idea. I'm sick of seeing Brandy's face around for the moment."

Terry nodded in agreement. Brandy gave her the creeps.

"Hey, Minerva!" Terry said, nudging her way through the crowd. She stopped in front of Minerva, and saw the mask creeping into place. Oh no, I must have made her mad. She doesn't look too happy to see me.

The stone cold face warmed up a little. "Hey, Terry." That moment, the honey-blonde could see tension in her face. No, I think she's about to get into a confrontation.

And true to her conjecture, Letitia shoved her way through the crowd. "Minerva, my love!" Her face went white. Don't you dare embarass me in front of Terry!

Letitia saw her prize, and ran towards Minerva, and jumped on her, and kissed her. "You're mine and you know it!" Then she tried to kiss Minerva again when she felt herself being pushed away. Morgan, Terry, Maria, Mirabel, and Raquel could only watch in horror.

"I'm shocked. I was told you didn't waste opportunities on willing girls like me."

"Go away, Letitia," Minerva growled.

"You are such a leech!" Maria hissed. "You never get enough of anything! Just want more, more, more..."

Morgan stepped forward, and Letitia turned her head. "Oh, it's you," she spat. "Gwen's sister."

"Yes I am," Morgan surly said, walking towards Letitia and driving her away from Minerva.

"Get out of my way. This is between Minerva and I, not you, bitch."

Morgan refused to be baited. "I don't think you have anything between you and Minerva."

"You wouldn't know. You weren't there in my bedroom..." Terry followed Morgan, Maria following her.

"Her sister got into a fight with Letitia," Terry whispered. Maria's eyebrows rose.

Pastor Torrance was right, thought Morgan. Homosexuals are sex-crazed maniacs. "Look, I don't like it when people badger, harass, and upset my friends. And you are wrong if you think you're going get away with it." Morgan narrowed her eyes, to make sure Letitia know she meant business, then turned around and walked away, ignoring her insulting comments being hurtled at her.

Morgan had a meeting to attend to at lunch, so Terry decided to go sit with Minerva. Maria noticed the newcomer. "Hello. Hey, come sit down."

Terry welcomed the seat, and fished the sack lunch out of her backpack. "That was some defense your friend Morgan put up," Maria noted.

"Lucky that didn't turn into a fight." Terry took a bite of apple. "Then again, I've met her older sister, and Morgan's too cool tempered to act irrationally like that."

Minerva was pleasantly surprised when she walked over to the table to see Terry there. "Good afternoon."

"Hi, Minerva," Terry replied. "Things going better?"

"Yeah," the dark-haired, blue eyed beauty replied. "Embarassed the hell out of me, though. Oh well, could have been worse." She took a spoonful of what she presumed was mashed potato and put it in her mouth. "Shit! This doesn't taste like mashed potatoes! What did they do, make it and let it sit for four days?"

Terry bent closer to see. "Minerva, they're grits."

"What the hell are grits?"

"Don't eat 'em unless you got tons of maple syrup and butter," Terry hinted. "And Pepto-Bismal."

Minerva smiled. "Thanks for the warning."

"My grandma, being the Okie she is, makes them all the time. Actually, she's a pretty good cook. Let me warn you, the food will give you the worst heartburn you ever had though."

"When my family used to go to Mexico for Christmas, my grandma made killer mole. Boy, I am not used to the richness of chocolate and bananas in the turkey sauce!"

Terry finished her apple and grabbed another item out of her lunchsack. It was a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. She made a face and complained, "I'm sick to death of this stuff!"

Minerva looked at the sandwich. "Peanut butter and jelly. How cliché. Goes well with the apple."

Terry stopped chewing her first bite. "My mother. Always inventive."

Maria, Mirabel, and Raquel got up and left, saying they were headed to the bathroom. After they left, Minerva asked, "Why do girls always travel in packs, especially to go to the bathroom? What do they do, hold hands while they go pee?"

"Minerva! I'm trying to eat!" She fished the last item out of her lunch sack, a bottle of apple juice.

"Sorry," Minerva said guiltily.

"So," Terry said, lowering her voice, "I wonder why that girl Letitia's alway stalking you. What happened between you two?"

Minerva was caught unaware. "Uh...I really don't want to talk about it, especially here."

Oops, dumb question. You crossed the line, and you damn well knew you were crossing it. "Sorry. That was inconsiderate of me."

"I suppose I should explain, after her being rude to you and all that."

"I didn't mean to pressure you. But if you want to tell me, I'm all ears."

"Thanks." Minerva picked at her lunch, not too fond of today's entree. Let's see how I could skewer that story so Terry doesn't figure out I'm gay. Eiw, she's figured out Letitia isn't exactly straight, hell, everyone in the crowd knows that. I suppose I don't have to tell her that I asked her out two years ago. I mean, everything after that makes her look like the villian. Good. Minerva took the last sip of milk from the carton. Maybe not. Letitia's played the role of the jealous ex very well. Shit. C'mon Minerva, God gave you a brain and you're supposed to use it!

Terry sat there, looking around the cafeteria and taking the occasional swig of apple juice. Poor Minerva. I wouldn't exactly feel like talking about whatever happened if I was kissed in front of a bunch of strangers by another girl I didn't even like. Damn that girl's a hormone-crazed witch on wheels! Terry drained the last drop out of the Mott's Apple Juice bottle. I'd almost swear that girl was acting like a jealous ex-girlfriend of Minerva's, except Brandy acts the same way and I know for a fact Morgan is not gay.

Both girls were lost in their thoughts, when Terry suggested, "Hey, Minerva, are you busy this weekend?"

"Besides Mass on Saturday, no."

"How would you like to come to my house on Sunday? Watch football, do whatever."

"Sounds like a good idea to me." Inside, Minerva felt giddy, and immediately labeled it as inappropriate, and dealt with it in her usual manner. Minerva Cristena Garcia! You're acting like a little kid in a candy store! Shame on you! It's just a get-together, nothing more!

She couldn't recall a time when she went to sleep more happy than tonight, Friday night. She looked across the room, to see the image of the Virgin Mary, who seemed to be smiling tonight. Even baby Jesus was smiling too. She sighed, rolled over, and shut her eyes, so unaware of what danger lurked when she slipped into the realm of Morpheus.

The next thing she could recall was waking up and strangling her left hand with her right, and feeling absolutely panicked and shamed. What the... Minerva's eyes darted around the ceiling, trying to figure out what she just dreamt about. I dreamed I raped Letitia. She went bug-eyed. 'You want it?! Well, you got it!' And Letitia was screaming in pain, and I wouldn't listen. She was shaking now, upset, and very mad at herself for dreaming of such dirty things.

She decided the best thing to do was to go to the bathroom, drink a glass of water, and hope it filtered out of her mind so she could go back to sleep. Terry would probably stop talking to me if she knew what horrible things my mind conjures. Not that I'd blame her. If I had a choice, I'd stop talking to myself! She walked back to her room, feeling marginally better, but still not calm enough to go back to sleep.

Terry's right. Whatever is bugging me, I need to deal with it. Before it metamorphizes into something like that. Okay, Freud, what's that dream supposed to mean? She hurts me emotionally, and the only way to deal with it is hurting her back physically? Is that it? A dream for revenge, the supposed panacea for all hurt? She mulled the thought over. Guess so. Maybe I should talk to someone about it. I don't want to hurt anyone, to be honest.

Chapter Ten

She had no idea of what kind of place Terry lived, or how her parents were, or even where outside the outskirts of Wilton her family lived. She was used to presuming every white kid lived like royalty, owning acres upon acres of orange groves, and never had to clean their rooms, that a maid did it for them. So when Terry's mother arrived to pick her up in a crappy looking Sedan, Minerva had presumed someone was lost in downtown Wilton, and ignored it.

She heard the knock on the door, and was surprised to see no fancy car out there. Her mother Dolores opened the door. "Sales, gringa! Ahora! Pronto!" Dolores said, getting the broomstick.

Poor Terry. I better go rescue her. "Madre, solamente Terry."

"Terry es una gringa? Chica, tu no me la dices! Digo que tener cuidad con los gringos, comprendeslo?"

"Si, madre." She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. "Le vez más tarde, mama." Then she left.

She entered the car and was almost overwhelmed by the stench of cigarette smoke. Terry's mother was busy puffing away on another cigarette, and she looked horrendously fat in her t-shirt and cut-off jean shorts. Luckily Terry didn't seem to inherit her mother's bad taste in clothes.

It was a quiet ride to Terry's house, quietly observing the rows of orange trees, broken up by the occasional olive grove and pasture. One such pasture had an middle aged man leading a llama by the halter and the llama spit on him. She had to grin.

"That poor guy just got spat on." Terry turned around.

"Yeah. He doesn't look too happy."

The sedan turned into the driveway, which was flanked by a fence covered with ivy that obscured sight of the house. Past the fence, old cars lined the front lawn, in various stages of being remodeled.

The sedan parked and they got out. "You'll have to excuse the mess," Terry whispered to Minerva. "And my father's friends. They're pretty noisy and obnoxious."

"No problem." Minerva looked around. It was about three acres they lived on, most of it covered with foxtails and other pesky weeds that liked to burrow in socks and dog ears.

She walked into the house and was immediately repelled by the noisy laughing and burping of the men. The sound of the pre-game show could be heard blaring, and beer bottles were everywhere. Junk was piled high on the kitchen counter and dining room table. "This is worse than usual," Terry commented, walking towards her bedroom. She opened the door, and they went in.

"Whew," Minerva said under her breath, relieved that the noisiness in the other room was not too present.

A belching contest at half-time finally chased them out of the house. Minerva and Terry sat in the hammock under the oak tree, talking.

"So, what's this thng about you and Letitia?" asked Terry. Minerva, who was laughing and letting her guard down the previous moment, had put the barriers up again, and her face hardened into a mask. C'mon, you owe her an explaination. After all, you almost got Morgan into a fight over it.

"Terry, watch out," and Minerva grabbed her shoulders and moved her just out of the path of a bird bomb. She looked down and saw it go plop. "Just saved you a trip back in the house there."

"Now you know why I don't sit under trees often," Terry remarked. "I'm just kidding." Her shoulders felt warm where Minerva grabbed her to get her out of the way. "Hey, want to take a walk?"


Terry had tossed her a walking stick. "Got dogs and coyotes out here. They'll leave you alone if you have a stick."

"Ah. I never have taken a walk out in the country, so I wouldn't know." They walked down the rows of orange trees, taking their time.

"It's pretty cool for this time of year," Minerva commented. Terry was about to open her mouth when Minerva put her hand on her shoulder and whispered, "Shh." The tall raven-haired girl dug into her pockets and got out a switchblade. "Ground squirrel." She pulled her arm back, then let the blade fly. It hit the squirrel in the heart.


"At least it's not a cute little bunny!" She looked over Terry's shoulder and saw two cottontails skitter by. "These suckers burrow under your house and collaspe the supports! 1"



Terry walked along, her own walking stick in hand, pondering it. "You're pulling my leg."

"I bet you your house has been affected."

"Prove it."

"Does the sidewalk contain a lot of cracks?"


"You might have a ground squirrel problem. Or you live on a small fault line. Possibly both."

"Minerva, that proves nothing."

"If I got out a level and laid it on the linoleum floor, would the bubble be even or tilt to the side? No one is stupid enough to build a lopsided house, it would have to be the work of a ground squirrel."

Terry shook her head. "How would a ground squirrel be able to do that?"

"The holes collaspe and the dirt foundations shifts. The house is no longer level."

"Oh." Terry looked down one of the aisles. "Look, a coyote!"

Minerva looked over. "Yep, it is. They eat cute little bunnies..."


"What? It's true."

Terry sighed, and checked her watch. "We better head back before my parents have a cow for being gone so late."

"Ah." They turned around, to walk back past all the orange trees. Minerva took a deep breath, and decided to let the cat out of the bag. "You asked earlier about Letitia, and perhaps if I told someone, I could let that demon go."

"I'm listening," she said kindly.

"Letitia used to live in the same apartment complex as my family. She's about two years older than me, and it was my 7th grade year she started to hit on me. Ah, the naivety of childhood, I was too stupid to realize what she was doing. Next thing I know, she's trying to get me into bed, so I jumped out the window and didn't see her again for two years."

Obviously there's gaps, but she's brave for saying that much, Terry mused to herself. "And it sounds like your absence has made her heart grow fonder, eh?" She gave her a poke in the ribs. "I'm just kidding, you know."

I can't believe she took it that well. Was I not clear enough that I'm gay? Sends everyone running in this town. Now it's really killing me to know she doesn't know. Minerva bit her fingernails.

"What's wrong? I'm sorry about that joke, that was rotten of me. Minerva?"

"I'm surprised that you took it so well."

"Took what so well? That you're gay?"

She felt her face blush deep crimson colors. "Yeah," she said timidly.

Terry was trying to figure out Minerva's reaction, and the message it meant. "Doesn't bother me."

Minerva let her breath out. "At least there's one human being around here who isn't so quick to condemn gays."

"I did notice a little bit of homophobia when I moved here," Terry remarked, holding the walking stick like a golf club and taking a swing at a desiccated orange on the ground and sending it tumbling down the aisle.

"Just a little bit?" Minerva said, astounded. "Terry, you've underestimated this area. It's hotbed for the Religious Right and various fruitcake groups like the Ku Klux Klan. They almost moved into Rockwell a couple of years ago, you know."

Terry's face turned ashen. "You're kidding me."

"No I'm not. Guess the farmers decided we were getting too many rights, and that had to be stopped, since God forbid they pay us a wage to live on."

Minerva's attent ears caught the low murmur of masculine voices in the distant. "Terry, we need to hide."

"They're just the grove managers."

"And we're trespassing. They might not mind you, but they won't be too happy to see me." Then Minerva pulled the blonde between two orange trees and hoped the voices would disappear.

Instead, they got closer, and the bits of the conversation could be heard.

"These trees don't look too healthy, Gunther."

The gray-haired, bearded man readjusted his old, faded, dusty, sweatstained cap. "It's Mr. Creighton's oldest grove out here. I'm surprised the trees were able to produce as long as they did."

Minerva grabbed Terry's arm and they hid under one of the orange trees. "Be very quiet," she whispered.

The younger, blonde haired man with a mustache stopped at the tree next to where they were hiding. "Shit. Gunther, come over here."

The grey-haired man walked over to his younger companion. "It looks like some kind of rot, Mark. This is not good. We'll have to burn the whole grove, and hope it hasn't spread to the younger trees." The two men proceed to walk on down the aisle, right past where they were hiding.

Terry opened her mouth to let out a sigh, but Minerva put her hand over her mouth to make sure she didn't give their presence away. She put her other arm over Terry's shoulders to calm her. Terry let the breath she was holding out slowly, and Minerva removed her hand and signalled, "Shh."

Minutes later, the sound of the two men had grown softer, and they crept out the other side of the tree and ran at a breakneck pace across about ten rows and all the way to the street to head back to Terry's home.

"You're making me nervous with all that pacing, Minerva," Terry said, annoyed.

"Sorry," the tall raven-haired girl said, sitting down beside Terry and picking at her fingernails. "It's just that those damn Creightons own everything!!!"

"Who's the Creightons?"

Minerva looked at her with amusement to her naitivity. "The family that raised that little hellcat Brandy."

"Oh. Yuck."

"All the kids are spoiled Daddy's girls. That's why they act so mean and bitchy, 'cause they're used to getting their way all the time."

"Well, Brandy's just plain evil, I think," Terry added. "She seems to like stalking Morgan and I, especially after PE."

"Why, that little---"

"Morgan and I are going to do something about it."

"The principal won't listen to 'silly' complaints. Trust me."

"We weren't going to do that. We are going to---surprise her."

"Ah." Minerva had stopped fidgetting so much, and leaned back against the wall. "Am I in the surprise? I've dreamt of pulverizing that---"

"Not our style," Terry said slyly. "That's what Brandy wants us to do. Of course, Morgan and I don't dare stoop to that level. That would only reflect our inner immaturity. Leave that to the guys to display so unabashedly."

A smile flickered over Minerva's face. "Guys are pretty good at that. Hmmm---if Brandy does the same, does that imply she's a guy in girl's clothing?"

"You are so rotten!!!"

"Thank you," she said.

"Smart ass."

"You're welcome."

"Minerva!" she said, giving her a slight shove sideways.

They heard the chorus of guys cheering outside amidst the clanking of horseshoes. No one was inside.

"So, what was your first kiss like?" Terry asked.

Minerva wasn't prepared. "Huh?"

"What was your first kiss like?" Terry repeated. "Guy or girl?"

"Girl. Excuse me, bitch. And she was aggressive. I can still feel our teeth clash when she reached up to kiss me."

"Letitia?" asked Terry.

"Yeah," she said disgustedly. "Thought I was some teutonic prince or something, and she was some sort of harem girl. I begged to differ. Now it's your turn to spill it."

Terry took a breath. She admitted her non-standard preference of the kiss. This will be cake, silly. "Guy. He was only a boy, had cute toe-blonde hair in a bowl cut. Lousy kisser. If you asked me, he saw too many macho movies."



"Have you ever kissed a girl?" Minerva asked, deciding to push the limits.

"Not yet," Terry said, then blushed a maroon hue when she realized what she said.

"So you're planning on kissing a girl someday, eh?" Minerva teased, which made Terry blush even more.

"Well, it's a good thing I admitted it to you and not Morgan. An upright, devote Mormon like her wouldn't like to hear that."

"That's disappointing. And here I was thinking she was actually a decent person," Minerva said, crestfallen.

"Don't say that," Terry retorted. "Maybe she has yet to have her horizons be expanded. She admitted to me she used to hate Mexicans until she met one. So it might be the same here. And don't get mad at her for that, either. She's grown past that stage."

"I hope so," Minerva quietly said. "I didn't know nice people existed until I met you and Morgan."

They sat there, absorbed in their own thoughts, listening to the hum of the cooler, the sun setting beneath the horizon, the light getting dimmer and dimmer. Then someone called it was time for dinner.

"Good grief, I'm full," Terry said, patting her stomach.

"I certainly hope so, after all you ate. Got a little worried you were going to burst at the seems from so much food comsumption."

"I was a little worried that one of the guys was going to put a 'possum or a couple of squirrels on the grill for dinner. Nothing's quite as tasty as roadkill," she added sarcastically.

"The last time I visited my grandma in Mexico that's what we had for dinner one night. It was so delicious, especially when accompanied by that secret rice dish she cooks. No one can figure out what she puts in it."

"Guess I'll have to come down with you sometime," Terry said. "Bring back some squirrel recipes."

"Won't be back down there for sometime," Minerva said sadly. "We almost didn't make it back in the country. Immigration service."

"You're an illegal?"

"No, but my parents are."

"You were born here?"


"That makes your mother a US citizen, and your dad a US citizen because he's married to one."

"No it doesn't," Minerva blurted. "We almost got shot by the Border Patrol the last time we went down there."

"Couldn't you do something about?"

"I don't know. But we don't dare walk into Immigration, who knows that they will do when they find out we're illegals."

Terry's father walked into the living room and turned the TV volume up to blaring loud, so they decided to go outside to some peace and quiet. Terry walked over and jumped in the hammock.

"C'mon. I promise it won't dump you on the ground."

Minerva shrugged and sat down, leaning back. "Look at the sky, you can see the planets emerging in the sky."

Silence; the frogs began to croak, crickets chirped, bats squeaked and screeched through the sky, their sillouttes barely visible against the midnight navy blue of the evening sky. The occasional scratchy screech of the screech owl disturbed the night serenade, the coyotes joining in every once in a while with their discordant, multi-toned chorus.

More and more stars began to appear in the sky.

"I've always those stars looked like a bear."

"I say rabbit," Terry retorted. "See the ears?"

"No. If that's a rabbit, it's on steroids."

Terry shook her head, and looked right across at Minerva. "Steroids?" Silence, the sound of breathing the only sound they could hear. Oh shit. She's less than a foot away...c'mon, get a hold of yourself! Just because she's gay doesn't mean she wants you kissing her!

Pale blue eyes tore themselves from gazing at the adorable face. Minerva! She doesn't need a weirdo like you kissing her! Shame on you for thinking like that!!! Shame, shame, shame! Minerva put her hands behind her head. Don't ruin it now---you just found her and you can't ruin it like some dumb sex-crazed butch. Worse, she might call you 'Letitia.' Unpleasant shivers ran down her spine. Disgusting.


"No, just thought of something unpleasant."

"That food gave me some of the worst gas." Terry squeezed her eyes shut. "Ugh. Feel like a human pincushion."

"Shouldn't have eaten so many baked beans, Terry. What d'ya expect?"

"Very helpful now," Terry said sarcastically, sighing. "I'll be back." She got off the hammock, which almost dumped Minerva on the ground.

I've been feeling this way since the first day of school. And the more I'm around her, the worse it gets. I feel like I'm going to explode any minute! I love her so much it hurts. Every look sends a double edged dagger to my heart---one side awed by her cute looks and beautiful eyes, the other side knowing I can never have her. It's just as well. I obliterate and destroy. She doesn't deserve that. She felt tears sting her eyes. I'm too close. I need to get away before something happens. The tears that were only threatening moments earlier were now cascading down her face. I have to. She doesn't need you, she doesn't need you, she repeated the mantra repeatedly in her mind. Images of Terry, girlish golden locks with a touch of honey-strawberry tint, emerald green eyes that held the key to innocence that so many teens had left behind long ago. She doesn't need you, doesn't deserve you, doesn't...

She felt a weight settle at her side again, and could feel it shift again. "Hey, Minerva, what's wrong?"

She swallowed several times, to wash away the dryness of her throat from the crying. "Nothing's wrong." Nothing wrong my ass. C'mon, get over it. But it made her feel sadder, and it took much effort not to start tearing up again.

She became still when she felt a hand on her cheek. "Minerva, you've been crying."

"Got an insect in my eye." Shit, Terry's not buying it.

"Sorry, can't fool me," Terry said quietly, but with a gentle, reassuring smile, wiping the tears away with her hand. "So spill the beans. What's wrong?"

She looked into the emerald orbs, which sent another barrage of emotions coursing through her. She felt a hand stroke her hair, and her heartbeat increased. I think I'm caught. So say nothing. It's best to be presumed a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it. Tears started to course down her face again, much to her changrin.

She heard Terry lean closer, which only intensified the anxiety and fear. Please don't hurt me now, it's going to be an ugly mess trying to clean all the blood from the dagger to my heart. Minerva suddenly realized why she was a loner, because it hurt too much to let anyone near. She had been in such a cloud, she forgot the nasty part of the package "friendship" brought. Vunerability. And people, being born of an evil, disgusting nature, played on it. Letitia was the first name to come to mind. Don't tell me you're going to do the same, Terry. Please? At least let me down gently. Slowly. Carefully, so Humpty-Dumpty here doesnt shatter into a milion pieces.

"I won't hurt you, Minerva, promise." She felt the other hand grasp hers and fold itself within her larger palm. "It's not my style."

"This forsaken earth could use more people like that, you know?" Minerva said, trying to shake the tears, but a few more came down. Get a grip and stop crying like a big baby.

"I love you, Minerva. For who you are, I don't care what lecherous people say, I still love you." She gave Minerva a light kiss on the forehead. "Don't forget that."

"Thanks," Minerva said quietly. "I guess I'm not used to people accepting me for who I am."

"I do." She felt an arm around her shoulders, and Terry leaning in even closer, like that was possible. She shut her eyes as the blonde girl traced little circles gently across her back. Little lips left a tingling sensation on her brow, then on each of her eyelashes, which surprised her. Fluttering her blue eyes open, she saw Terry's looking at her, a mixture of adoration, concern, sympathy, and love. "Don't cry, I'm here, I'm not leaving you." Spellbound, Minerva could only lay there as Terry leaned in and softly touched her lips with hers, gentle, re-affirming, loving, not lustful like Letitia's. And in that moment, she forgot her worries, her fears, her worthlessness of being worthy of Terry. Her heart pounded in her chest, her mind exploding into a million vibrant colors that danced on a virtual tapestry before her eyes, colors so vibrant and deep to make Georgia O'Keefe envious. Too soon, lips parted, reality shot back like a rubber band, two sets of lungs breathing hard.

Minerva reached her hand out and grabbed Terry's hand gently, needing to feel some human contact, to verify Terry was actually there, that really happened, this was no dream, that Terry wasn't going to climb out of that hammock and leave her. She laced her fingers with the honey-blonde's smaller hand, enveloping it like a big paw. Terry began to shake, and she became fearful again. Damn you, Minerva! Look what you've done to the poor girl. She's shaking now! Minerva chastised herself.

Terry opened her mouth. "Wow," she breathed, still out of breath. "I never knew kissing a girl was so...exhilirating." Terry gave her a little squeeze with the hand that was holding Minerva's, then a friendly scratch on the back. "I won't leave you, promise. It's just begun..."

Minerva smiled at the reassuring words. "It's just begun." They laid there, side by side, quiet, gazing upon each other with adoration, praying the spell wouldn't be broken, at least for a while, anyways.

"Minerva! Your mother's here!" Mrs. O'Roarke's voice crowed out into the night.

"Coming!" Minerva affirmed, then turned to Terry. "See you at school tomorrow. Going to come by at lunch?"

"Definately planning on it."

"Bye." She gave Terry a kiss on the forehead. "Love you, bud."

Chapter Eleven
Devil in a Green Shirt

Minerva left 4th period, and got in line for the conventional cafeteria lunch. It had been quite a distracting day; she still was in a daze over the kiss the previous night, and she hoped Terry was going to keep her promise to join her homies for lunch.

She saw the cafeteria workers slop today's mystery meal on the styrofoam trays. Chicken with cream sauce, baked potato, sliced tomato, and pears. Oh joy.

She took the tray, along with her plastic silverware and carton of milk, and walked towards the table, to see that Terry had managed to drag Morgan along. Wonder if she spilt the beans to her best friend yet. Urgh, why does Morgan have to be one of the farmer's kids? She's going to make fun of me 'cause mi familia's too poor to afford what all the farmer's kids buy, tasty stuff like pizza, tacos, burritos, nachos, sandwiches...

"Hey, Minerva."

"Hi, Morgan." Terry dug out her sandwich and sighed.

"Peanut butter and jelly, again?" Morgan and Minerva echoed at the same time.

"Yeah." She looked at her sandwich disgustedly.

"Hey, let's go get something palatable at one of the snack bars."

"I don't have any money with me."

"C'mon, I'll pay," Morgan offered.

"No," Terry politely declined. "Anyways, Mom said the food at school is fattening." Two pairs of eyes, one brown and one blue, looked at Terry, as if to say, 'Thanks a lot!' Then the sound of loud laughter made them turn their heads, to see Maria and Raquel giggling. "Oh look. The class clowns are coming."

Maria and Raquel set their cafeteria meal down, then sat.

"Where's Mirabel?"

"Miz Bernard let her class out late," Maria told Minerva, who took her fork/spoon hybrid silverware and cut up the tomato and took a bite.

"How can you stand tomatoes?" Morgan said, grimacing. Minerva looked up. "That stuff looks so disgusting."

"And this is one of the better menus," Minerva added, taking a bite of chicken in cream sauce.

"Why don't you go to the snack bar and buy something there?"

Minerva set her silverware down. "If I had the money, I would." It was laced with a tad bit of bitterness, and Morgan knew she just crossed a boundary she shouldn't have.

"Sorry," she muttered.

"S'kay." Then they all heard a crash, and whirled around to see the commotion.

"You fucking ---" a pissed blonde yelled.

Brandy had run into Mirabel headlong and spilled the cafeteria goop all over the floor and managed to splatter it all over each other.

"-- bitch!" Brandy finished, looking at her shirt. "All ya goddamn farmworkers should go back to Mexico and leave us alone!"

Wrong words to spit in front of a cafeteria that consisted of about three-quarters people of Mexican heritage. Minerva was off in a flash, and Morgan trailing right behind, hoping to diffuse the situation before World War Three erupted in the cafeteria.

Brandy grabbed Mirabel's shirt and continued to yell at her. "I'm going to tell my daddy and he's going to fire your mama's sorry ass the minute he hears you threw cafeteria food all over me, you fucking whore---" Mirabel looked at her, terrified.

"Brandy---" Morgan growled.

"Look what this stupid bitch did to me!!!" Brandy yelled, Morgan standing there, hands on hips, not buying it. "Oh, I see, you're going to believe the goddamn illegal, not your friend."

Eyes pinned Morgan at that comment, then Minerva stepped up. Hope returned to their eyes, as they saw their defender step up to the plate, and they chanted, "Minerva, Minerva..."

Brandy, why the hell did you have to put your foot in your mouth here? I don't think I'm going to be able to get you out of here intact without a miracle.

Minerva could only see that the stupid blonde bitch was terrorizing her poor friend Mirabel. "Let go of her now," she growled at Brandy.

"Going to boss me around?" Brandy spat. "What d'ya going to do if I don't do as I say?"

"You don't want to find out."

"Minerva, Minerva..." "Kick that gringa's ass!" "Kill, Minerva, kill!" the cafeteria shouted.

"Fine, then," Brandy said, throwing Mirabel down. All rational thought left Minerva's head as she lunged for Brandy, tackling her, then throwing punches in her face. Brandy managed to squirm out of Minerva's pin and kicked her in the jaw. Not feeling the blow, Minerva took her shoulder and crushed it on the tile. Morgan jumped and tried to get Minerva off, and got elbowed in the face. Not deterred, she grabbed for Minerva again and managed to pull her off. Both contestants standing now, Morgan wedged herself between the two hellcats, and shouted at them over the din.

"You two are acting like five year olds." By this time Terry had managed to squirm her way throw the crowd, and was at Morgan's side.

"That stupid beaner bitch started it," Brandy said, and Minerva lunged again, without regard for the referee in the middle. Morgan was knocked down again, and Brandy and Minerva exchanged nasty blows. Morgan scooted back up, and grabbed Brandy and hauled her away from the mess while Terry backed Minerva away from it. Boos echoed through the cafeteria as the fight had come to a halt. They were hoping to see Brandy's carcass splattered all over the school, but had to settle for a lot of blood instead.

"Minerva! What the hell got into you?!" Terry lashed, like a mother disciplining her child.

"The bitch can't go running into people unchallenged!" Minerva babbled. "Someone needs to stand up to her."

"Getting into a fistfight is not the way to go."

"Seems to be the only 'language' she understands. Words go in one ear and out the other. Don't believe me, go ask Morgan."

Terry stood there, arms crossed, disgust plainly written on her face. "Well, if she attacked one of my friends like that I'd be beating the crap out of her too. I'll cede you that point."

Minerva let her shoulders relax. Maybe next time you'll realize what you just put at stake to get a few punches at Brandy "The Bitch from Hell" Creighton. "Sorry."

"You're a mess," Terry said, tucking a loose strand behind Minerva's ear. "Let's go to the bathroom and get you cleaned up."

"What the hell got into you?!!!" Morgan hissed at Brandy as soon as she dragged her out the other end of the cafeteria.

"I'd like to know what the hell got into you! Since when the hell did a farmer's daughter stand up for those wetbacks? They laze around, don't do their work, refuse to learn English, and prefer to fritter our tax dollars away on welfare! Or, in that's big bitch's case, start trouble!"

Morgan wasn't sure which 'troublemaker' Brandy was referring to: the person she accused of throwing cafeteria food on her or Minerva. And Brandy was not finished with her tirade.

"When we won the Mexican War, we could have taken all of Mexico! No, we split it in half and took the northern half and left them the southern half so they couldn't come and bother us! But oh no! they aren't content to let things be. No, they got to come up here, infiltrate our system and try to reclaim the northern half of Mexico. They're frigging lucky we gave them back half their land! But oh no, these ungrateful wetbacks still want more from us. They got to---"

"I get the point," Morgan said disgustedly. "Listen, Brandy, accidents happen. It gives you no reason to go terrorize them." She looked Brandy in the eyes, and lowered her voice, "You're damn lucky you survived with all your body parts attached."

Brandy shook her head in disbelief. "I still can't believe you sided with that wetback."

Morgan was about to walk away, but had one more word to say. "It's not "Mexican vs. White" nor "Friend vs. Stranger," Brandy. It's about "Monster Brutalizing Victim." And I cannot let that happen."

Brandy grew mad. "You calling me a monster?"

"You were sure acting like one. Too bad I don't have a tape of that incident. It'd be funny to see what an ass you made out of yourself in front of the whole school." Morgan turned around and left.

Damn bitch Terry does have you under her spell, doesn't she? thought Brandy. A month ago you would not have dared stand up to me like that.

Morgan went to the bathroom, wet a paper towel, and dabbed the dried blood off her face. A miracle happened. We all stayed intact. She glanced in the mirror. That cut is pretty nasty looking. Guess I'll be explaining that for a while. She shrugged her shoulders, glad the incident was over.

Not realizing it was only the calm before the storm....


Continued in sequel Vices and Their Devices


1. Ground squirrels can destroy the supports of your house. That's what's happening to mine.

About the setting: Based on where I live. And the infamous bus incident: I was in Terry's shoes, but at least they made sure to keep all their degrading comments out of my earshot. And no, I was on my own, no princess in shining armor to save the day ;)

Started July 3rd, 1999; revised plot started July 16th, 1999; finished July 21st, 1999.

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