Marie didn't even bother going to her locker the next day. Instead she went straight to Mr. Edison's classroom. He was working on the small device again, which he immediately set down when she walked inside. He saw her face and didn't say a thing. She knew she looked horrible. She spent all last evening trying to stay in control of her emotions, and most importantly, pretending to be okay around her dad. Eventually she spent most of the evening in her room, claiming she needed to study. With midterms a couple weeks away, he didn't question her.
Mr. Edison looked like he was about to speak, but it was Marie's turn to put a finger to her lips and point to his office. Mr. Edison nodded and picked up his device. They walked into his office. Once again Mr. Edison locked the smaller device in the top drawer, then took out the bigger one. He turned it on and handed it over to Marie who held it by her ear.
"What's going on?" Mr. Edison asked.
Marie felt her body tremble again. Tears she was forcing back leak out. She gripped his desk with her free hand, trying to gain control. She couldn't sing. Not here. Somehow, despite how impossible it sounded, she had to not sing until this all died down.
"Mr. Germain called me into his office yesterday." Marie closed her eyes, forcing her breathing to calm down. It was like repairing leaks in a roof during a bad storm. The ceiling of her emotions was going to cave. "Do you know him?"
Mr. Edison nodded.
"He and his wife tried to get me to confess. Probably find out how much I knew about you." Marie dug her fingernails into the wood. "They wanted me to spy on you, on your inventions, and I wouldn't. They're... they're forcing me to drop math and science."
Mr. Edison sank into his chair. He covered his mouth with his hand, staring at his desk. Marie took a few steady breaths. It was harder to control her emotions when she was away from the S.E.A. The Germains were terrifying enough, she could hold it in, but being in a false security was worse. If she sang, the S.E.A. would still read what she sang about.
Mr. Edison looked at her, noticing her trying to control her breathing.
"You didn't sing in their office?" he asked.
Marie shook her head. Mr. Edison stood up and pulled the smaller device from the locked top drawer again.
"I've been trying to make this so it's not a onetime use, but it's too much of an emergency to ignore. I'll make a new one later. Turn around."
Marie did as requested. Mr. Edison found her scar from the chip implant and placed the device over it. There was a faint electronic whir before it died down. Mr. Edison put the useless device back in the top drawer before taking the bigger device from her hand, keeping it a close distance to her ear.
Marie moved her hair back over her shoulders. "What does it do?"
"For a half an hour, the chip is disabled. You can't hold your emotions in forever, Marie."
Marie stared at him, then slid into the fold up chair beside the desk. At first she didn't know what to feel. Now that she had the freedom to feel anything without the threat of having it turn into a song, she felt strangely numb.
"So they're forcing you to drop math and science?" Mr. Edison asked.
The reminder was all it took. Tears started to leak, and then more, and before she knew it, the ceiling of her emotions crashed, and she began to sob.
Mr. Edison let her cry. Giving her this chance to let it all out was the best thing he could do for her, though the occasional passing of a tissue was appreciated. Marie went through everything, the stress of the S.E.A., the stress of knowing there was something between Mr. Edison and President Arnold she was unwittingly caught between, even the stress of Presley. What Adolf said to her all those weeks ago and midterms were added in the mixture of her emotions which came out in the form of tears. A minuscule part of her admitted a few of her tears were from missing her mother.
It was embarrassing to cry, and she felt like someone in the halls would undoubtedly hear her, but it was also freeing. Her whole life she guarded her emotions because she was terrified people would make fun of her voice, but here was her first opportunity to cry about her emotions instead of sing about them.
When her sobs died down, she realized how much of a mess she was. What little make up she wore was gone, and she was not a graceful crier. She had tears mixed with snot on her face and she tried hard to put herself back together, even though the tears continued in a steady stream.
She never cried so hard in front of anyone, not her guy friends, not her dad, not even Sophie. Mr. Edison saw a vulnerable part of her soul no one else witnessed before. She couldn't exactly thank him and leave.
Mr. Edison pushed the box of tissues in her direction now she was aware enough to know where they were.
"Feel better?" he asked.
Marie nodded. "I do. Thank you."
"Marie, you are a brave young woman. You proved it yesterday. But I want you to drop the classes. It's not worth it," Mr. Edison said.
Anger burned through her veins as Marie looked up from her tissues. The sudden anger surprised her, but maybe the liberation of feeling without singing made her anger so potent.
"Seriously? That's your advice?"
Mr. Edison winced before getting distracted with the designs in his desk.
"I'm not allowed to fight back even though they're ruining my life?"
Mr. Edison struggled before he sighed in defeat. "This isn't something you can do alone, Marie, nor something you can do at your age."
"You keep saying that," Marie said.
"Because it's true. There are others fighting this. Older people." Marie couldn't help but roll her eyes when he emphasized older. "If pushed, the S.E.A. will not be afraid to..." Mr. Edison trailed off. Marie waited, feeling irked he wasn't willing to give her the information she needed. Mr. Edison met her gaze. "People disappear, Marie. Sometimes permanently. Young and old. It's not something to play with."
Marie felt disturbed. She rubbed her upper arms. The bell rang and Marie realized she still had her lunch box.
Mr. Edison sighed again. "Go change your classes. Stay low. Be careful."
As though in a daze, Marie nodded. Mr. Edison turned off the device, and she again had no choice but to silently leave his classroom. She walked the halls and went to her locker, unloading all her stuff before closing it and headed toward the main office. By the time she got there, the second bell rang, and the halls were empty. She had the door opened and walked inside.
"You're Marie, right?"
Marie turned and saw Mr. Freud leaning against one of the secretary's desks, a few papers in his hand. Marie didn't know what to do but nod. Mr. Freud straightened.
"Come with me. We'll get your classes changed."
Marie was incredibly grateful to Mr. Edison for allowing her to cry. She didn't feel as shaken or scared as she followed Mr. Freud back out of the main office, down a hall, and into his own office. He sat down behind his desk, and Marie sat down in the chair across from him. Mr. Freud tapped a few keys on his computer before smiling.
"You are clearly past the okay date to change classes, but it's not often you get a personal call from Ambrose Germain's secretary, so I'll let it slide. I'm sure your new teachers will as well."
Too exhausted to say anything, Marie sat still. Mr. Freud glanced through Marie's schedule, then pulled out a book.
"These classes here are during the morning where your old ones are. This is for A schedule, and this is for B schedule. Take your time," Mr. Freud said.
Marie stared at the book but had no desire to inch any closer to it. What was the point of starting new classes right before midterms?
Marie glanced up at Mr. Freud, before returning to the book, not interested in those classes.
"Let's start with this simple question. What do you want to be when you grow up?" Mr. Freud asked.
Marie glanced at him once more before studying her hands in her lap. She closed her eyes and imagined what she wanted to be. She saw herself in a lot of random places, studying everything around her. She saw herself in a lab coat, peering through a microscope. More than anything, she remembered the thrill at discovering new things. The delight when two unrelated concepts connected inside her brain to give her a new concept entirely. She was passionate about science in a way she could never understand with the arts. She craved the knowledge, craved the discovery which gave deeper meaning to life. She could create like any artist, just in a different format.
Marie opened her eyes. "I want to be a scientist."
Mr. Freud frowned, his brows furrowed. "If you want to be an actual scientist, I know the S.E.A. hires occasionally, but they only take the best of the best. If you want to work toward it, I'll be happy to help."
"Isn't there some other way I can be a scientist?" Marie tried not to sound pleading.
"I mean, you could teach it. But we can't offer any teaching classes here. Those are more a college level." Mr. Freud drummed his fingers on his desk as he stared at something just past Marie, deep in thought.
"Let me take chemistry. I'm ready for it," Marie said.
That brought Mr. Freud back from whatever thought had taken him. "I was given instructions to steer you clear of Mr. Edison, and he's the only one who teaches it."
It didn't take much for Mr. Freud to take the book back from Marie. He glanced through the classes, then snapped his fingers. "Cooking class! Cooking is basically chemistry, right?"
Anger pumped more blood through her heart. She wanted to argue and fight, but knew it wouldn't do any good. Yeah, maybe cooking was like chemistry, but in other ways it was completely different.
"It's better, even! You get to eat a yummy treat afterwards. Any other classes interest you?" His fingers flew over his computer, clearly not hearing anything Marie said.
Marie made a point to not look at it. "Nope. Not one."
Mr. Freud plastered on a fake smile. "You didn't even look."
"I'm not interested."
The fakeness melted from Mr. Freud's face for a second, then returned in full force. "Come now, Marie. No need to get defensive. I'm not supposed to say this, since it leans too much into favoritism, but the arts are something girls are better at then boys, on average. If you applied yourself, you'd be surprised at what you could do."
The muscles in Marie's jaw began to ache as she clenched them and spoke through her teeth. "But I don't want to."
A different look came over Mr. Freud. "You know, being the school counselor I am trained to help in other matters, not just academic. You seem hostile. How's your home life? How's your relationship with your parents."
Marie gave him a blank stare before grabbing the book. She pointed to the first class she saw. "Pottery. I'll take pottery."
Mr. Freud didn't look at the book. "I think you need to-"
"No, Mr. Freud. No I don't." She tried not to sound too angry. "Sign me up, do what you need to, I'm already late for my class when midterms are close."
The hesitation was there, but he made the changes and printed off her new schedule. "I'll write a note for your new teachers, so they are lenient on the tests and homework assignments you missed, since you're entering a class almost half a semester late. You're going to have to study hard for these new classes, get a lot of good grades. After midterms I will chat with you about your GPA, and the direction we need to go."
At his words, Marie felt a wave of anxiety hit. She was losing her two A classes. She didn't even think about what this would mean for her GPA.
He handed her the freshly printed paper. "Looks like cooking will be your new morning class."
Marie grabbed the paper and got out of his office as fast as humanly possible.