Previous Next

Jess / Liana

Posted on Wed Feb 7th, 2024 @ 12:16 by Jessica Leigh & Liana Zhao

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Avalon Institute
Timeline: Sunday, 6 December
1800 words - 3.6 OF Standard Post Measure

"Good morning, Liana." Jess walked through the door like a gentle breeze, two steaming mugs in her hands and a notepad tightly tucked under the crook of one arm as she used her heel to nudge the door behind her. "The kitchen was out of decaf, I hope you didn't mind." Being eager to please was something that seemed to have come more naturally to her in the first week of her time at the Institute. Particularly around Liana, someone she hoped might be a mentor and guide for her learning path. "I can get some tea instead if you prefer?"

"Oh, you're a saint." Looking up from her newly appointed desk, Liana reached out towards the offered mug with barely contained grabby hands. "I think I need the real thing this morning, I'll worry about the headache later." Cradling the coffee to her chest, the counsellor dropped her gaze to the files spread out in front of her and held her breath a moment before releasing it as a putter of lips. "Claire wasn't kidding, we really will have our work cut out here."

"If this was a normal school for teenagers, we would have our work cut out. Teenagers from exotic backgrounds with even more exotic abilities?" Jess raised her eyebrows in an expression that mixed excitement with a feeling of being overwhelmed. "I know academic professors that would kill for an opportunity to work with some of these kids. I just hope we can do a good enough job."

"So many new names since the last time I was here." It had been closer to the school's opening, Liana had been an integral part of the initial establishment and a key figure on campus during the first semester. Finally having an opportunity to settle into a more substantial position, even if the timeframe was a little indeterminate, brought a great deal of personal fulfilment but that wasn't going to come without its fair share of paperwork, by the look of things. "Claire has worked wonders, their enrolment figures have really taken off."

"Which comes with challenges, too. Many of these new arrivals come without any prior records; we don't fully understand the capabilities and limits of their mutant powers, not to mention their mental capacity to deal with them," Jess replied, her brow lightly lined with concern. "Dare I say, there are many for whom having power at such a developmental age is particularly detrimental."

"Well, we've all dealt with that gem," Liana observed, moving one pile to the side to create its own secondary pile. "Being a teenager is hard enough and in the case of these kids, that will be an important factor to keep in mind. They're still going to have all the usual angst, amplified tenfold by the fact that a good majority of the world currently wishes they didn't exist."

"So what's our approach? Interviews? Peer support?" Jess asked, sipping her tea and looking at Liana for some sort of steer. As academic as she was, there was a need for a more nuanced approach that her colleague certainly had over her.

Nursing her tea in silence for a moment, Liana gave the question some thought. It wasn't unusual for this to be their dynamic, the younger woman had a tendency to over-think or at the very least felt compelled to over-plan. Liana, for all her mastery of process and procedure, still tended to put a lot of weight on intuition and timing, neither of which were easy to anticipate with any accuracy. "I would suggest we find some ways to get involved," she eventually said. "It's so close to the holidays and they've already been through enough without us trying to cram in formal assessment. Avalon provides stability," Liana reminded her friend. "Most of these children will be somewhat more resilient than what we've been working with recently. There's time enough for us to simply settle in and get to know everyone."

Jess' lips pursed for a few moments. Just being friendly wasn't always her first choice. "Perhaps we use that opportunity to gain a baseline?" she suggested, steering the idea back towards the comfort of a structured approach. "Establish an understanding of their individual emotional states, identify the most pressing needs..."

"Jess," Liana soothed, hold up a hand to request a pause in the litany of obligation pouring from the woman. "It's the holiday season, it won't be long before some of these students depart to spend time with their families. Those who are left will look to the adults who stay with them to set the mood. Take the time to get to know people, the staff here do an amazing job and will be a first point of information on where we should focus our attention in the new year." The counsellor lifted her coffee and took a long drink. "It'll be good for you to mingle anyway," she added. "Spending time with people socially is an important part of the work we do."

"Mingle?" Jess spoke the word like it was both alien and terrifying. " do you 'mingle' while reading up on the latest papers on..." She trailed off. "Oh. You mean...mingle." She looked over the rim of her glasses at Liana for a few moments. "Do I have to?"

"They're good people." Though Liana's expression was somewhat sympathetic, her tone left very little room for negotiation. "I think you'll enjoy their company if you let yourself."

Jess sighed, but caught herself before a complaint slipped out. "Yes. Well. I suppose if you think it would be wise..." she answered, brow slightly furrowed at the notion. "But how exactly do you...mingle?"

A soft laugh escaped before Liana could stop herself. "Well, there's the staff lounge. That's usually a good place to start. But I would honestly recommend exploring, Avalon has such a rich history and Claire really has done an astonishing job of preserving a lot of the original features." She paused and then relented, adding, "The library is impressive, and there's always the trip into town if you want to explore further."

The younger woman nodded thoughtfully. A long walk did sound slightly less intimidating than her first impression, which was some sort of large social gathering involving copious amounts of alcohol and a need for embarrassing one's self. "I think I can just about manage that. What will you be doing?"

"I haven't decided yet." It was an evasion, one that indicated an awareness that the younger psychologist was growing wise to her older mentor's fondness for 'do as I say'. "There are still a few old faces I'd like to catch up with, not to mention meeting some of the new ones. We're just about set up in here at least." Liana surveyed her desk, which was meticulously arranged, and then gathered up the file she'd been reading to set it aside. "That can wait for later."

The idea of leaving work for 'later' felt almost alien to Jess, who eyeballed the set-aside file but said nothing immediately. Instead she bit her lip for a few seconds to push aside her need to call it out. Instead she distracted herself with a different question. "Old faces? You already know some of the people here?"

The older woman sat for a moment, just staring at her friend. Jessica was a brilliant scholar but sometimes Liana despaired at coming up with strategies for ensuring her colleague was actually paying attention to anything outside her blinkered view. "I was here when Avalon was first established," she reminded. That had been part of her entire preamble for why she was moving her practice to the school grounds and taking on an entirely different case load, though if Liana was honest, she probably hadn't referenced it much since. The preparations to leave had been somewhat distracting. "So I know a few of them, though there are a number of new faces I've yet to meet."

"Anyone I should meet too?" Jess wondered, hoping that if anything Liana might make an introduction happen and smooth things over for her.

"Well, you've met Claire briefly, I would recommend touching base with her regularly. In terms of social networking..." Sat back in her chair, Liana looked thoughtful. "You know, I think you'd find a surprising kindred spirit in William. He struggles to fit in at times, and tends to bury himself in his work to compensate." She hid the mischief of the comparison behind a sip of coffee.

"William?" Startled, Jess sifted through her stack of papers. "I don't have a file on a 'William'," she exclaimed, as if that were some sort of nightmare scenario. For someone focused on paperwork and correct profiling, her alarm bubbled-up. "Is he another new recruit?"

The twitch of a smile would have given Liana away had she not hidden it behind her mug. "You won't find a file on him, dearheart, he has existed at Avalon well before the advent of meticulous written record. An excellent storyteller though, once you can coax him into it." With effort, she rose from her chair and set what remained of her drink down on her desk. "He works the grounds here and most of the gardens are his handiwork. I'm sure he wouldn't say no to a little help once in a while."

The explanation did little to allay Jessica's fears. In fact, the nature of Liana's explanation actually deepened them. After chewing her lip for a few moments, she peered over her glasses. "Staff, then. Okay, I can work with that; making sure they're as balanced as the young men and women they're teaching is just as important I suppose." She grabbed a pen and notepad eagerly. "Tell me more about this William."

A glance down the length of her nose said everything Liana needed to regarding her opinion of being interviewed as a preparation for social interaction, though she crossed to pat the younger woman on the arm before moving off towards her desk. "I'm afraid you're just going to have to ask him yourself, I have a meeting to keep with our head mistress." Gathering up her diary and a few of the files she'd been reading through, Liana paused on her way back past to offer a smile of encouragement. "Just go out and wander around for a bit, get to know the place. Work will wait." And with that double standard set, she took a final glance at the clock and slipped out.

"Work will wait?" Jess echoed, a frown forming. She looked down at the empty notepad, with the name 'William' scribbled there and nothing to accompany it. " that doesn't sound right..." she mumbled, scooping up her things and heading out herself.


Previous Next