Author’s Note: This story takes place a few weeks after the events of “The Tempest and the Teapot.” Thanks again to Nancy Taylor and DebC.
“Really, I can handle it. You don’t need to come up.”
Blair shifted the car into park and craned his head to look into the back seat. What had been one duffel bag had multiplied as Ariel’s stay at the loft had extended. When the young woman had decided yesterday that she was finally ready to face her half-empty dorm room again, it had taken all three of them to carry the luggage she had accumulated down to the car. Jim had even joked that maybe putting French doors on the couch might be a simpler solution after all.
“It’s not a problem,” he reassured her. “Besides, it’ll save you a trip or two.”
Ariel colored a little looking at the collection in the seat behind them. “Poor Jim,” she murmured. “He must have thought I was moving in permanently.”
Blair snorted mildly in amusement. “That’s okay, he’s used to it. Did I ever tell you I was originally supposed to stay for only a week?”
“Seriously?” she laughed. “What happened?”
Sandburg shrugged. “I don’t really remember. Somehow the arrangement just turned permanent.”
Lifting the lock on his door, Blair pushed it open with a decisive movement. He released his seatbelt and climbed out. The redhead followed his example, reaching around the door after she was out to unlock the back and shoulder a bright red backpack.
With both shoulders and both hands occupied, the two finally started towards the dorm. Fortunately, a student just coming out of the building spotted them and held the door. She grinned in cheeky recognition at the doctoral student.
“Hey, Mr. Sandburg, you moving in?”
“Not unless my roommate threw me out when I wasn’t looking,” he returned merrily, answering the grin with a charming smile. “Sorry to disappoint you, Lisa.”
The brunette shrugged. “A girl can dream, can’t she?”
She let the door fall closed behind them and disappeared down the sidewalk.
Ariel giggled. “Oh, man, I can’t wait for you to meet Heather.”
“My roommate. She’s spending a semester in England.”
Blair nodded with a wary look in his eyes. “And why can’t you wait for me to meet her?”
“Because,” was the teasing reply thrown over Ariel’s shoulder as she moved towards the stairs. “She’s the only person I know who could probably out-flirt you.”
The anthropologist perked up with visible interest and hurried to follow. “Oh, yeah?”
“Here it is.” Ariel gestured with a shoulder at the door to room 315. Letting the bag fall from her left hand, she fumbled in her pocket until she pulled out a dull gold-colored key. The key slipped into the lock and the door swung open with a little help from the young redhead.
She let out a breath of relief when one foot finally managed to force a wooden block under the door, bracing it open. “Boy, why do they have to make these doors so heavy,” she muttered.
Blair stepped into the room and looked at its inhabitant with a question in his eyes. She shrugged, indicating for him to just drop the stuff anywhere. Which he did. Once the burden had been shrugged, he let his eyes drift around the room in curious inspection.
Those blue eyes narrowed as he took in the decor. “Um…Ariel?”
His friend looked at him, then followed his gaze and began to laugh. “Which one? Me or her?”
There was a definite motif to the room. A large poster of “The Little Mermaid” hung over one of the beds, with a smaller one decorating the door of the closet on that side of the room. A Little Mermaid toothbrush holder sat on top of the bookshelf, with a matching pencil holder on the desk. The cartoon Ariel also stared at him from the top of one dresser in the form of a porcelain figure in a pink dress, running a fork through her hair, and from several other places around the room.
“‘The Little Mermaid’ came out when I was thirteen, in junior high,” Ariel (the student) explained with a smile. “It was pretty much inevitable that someone would pick up on the similarity and tease me about it, so I circumvented the problem by beating them to it.”
Blair nodded, picking up a pencil with a plastic mermaid curled around the eraser. He chuckled and held it up. “She does look a bit like you.”
“It’s the hair,” Ariel agreed with a smirk.
Returning the writing utensil to its matching receptacle, Sandburg wandered over to study another poster on the far wall, this one of a painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style. In it, a red haired woman was standing on a cliff, looking down on a fierce storm that was battering a forlorn ship in the distance. One hand controlled her wind-whipped hair while the other was clasped to her chest.
He turned back to look suspiciously at Ariel. “Is this–?”
“Waterhouse’s ‘Miranda’ or ‘The Tempest,'” she admitted with the same mischievous smile. “I couldn’t find any nice paintings of Ariel at the poster sale.”
He next studied a smaller image, this one of a rampant lion before a large, blue Star of David. Next to it was another image of a lion, this one with the name, Ariel, its definition and “attributes” embossed over the picture in gold-toned foil leaf script.
Even Ariel’s bookshelf continued the theme. Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel and Other Poems,” sat next to a book entitled Ariel Ascending, which contained essays about the poet. Tad Williams’ quasi-sequel to “The Tempest,” Caliban’s Hour, was next on the shelf, followed by a video cassette labeled with the words, “The X-Files: Kaddish,” an episode which, if he remembered correctly, had featured a character named Ariel. Next were pre-recorded tapes of “Footloose,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Prospero’s Books” and a space for the copy of “The Tempest” that he and Jim had read with her at the loft. They were separated from the shelf’s other contents by a “Little Mermaid” porcelain bookend.
Watching his inspection, Ariel colored a little. “I know it might seem a little overboard–”
Blair shook his head. “No, I think it’s great that your name means so much to you. Names should have meaning. Did you know that in a lot of tribal cultures, individuals rarely kept the name they were born with? They’d take on a new name when they came of age, something that described them and their accomplishments–”
“Like ‘Dances With Wolves’?” she teased.
He grinned. “Exactly.”
“Do you know what your name means?”
Blair nodded. “‘Child of the fields.'”
“It suits you.” Ariel smiled. “And it sounds a whole lot easier to live up to than ‘Lion of God.'”
He chuckled. Tilting his head to one side, he tried to picture her as a stern, protective lioness. The image didn’t quite fit. “So, how did you get your name?”
“My dad’s family has this nutty tradition that no two children can have the same first name. I think Mom chose my name as a protest vote against the practice.” She shook her head in amusement. “When she and Dad saw ‘The Tempest’ in London, the character of Ariel was played by a woman, so she didn’t realize until after they named me that it was a man’s name in the original Hebrew.”
“I’ve met women with my name, too,” Blair sympathized with a smile as his fingers and attention wandered over to yet another “Little Mermaid” piece, this one a snow globe with a daydreaming Ariel flanked by several creatures from the “Under the Sea” segment of the movie. Including a sullen Sebastian whose expression looked amusingly familiar.
“She’s my favorite,” the redhead confessed. “Of all the characters with my name I’ve ever seen, she’s the one who most reminds me of myself.” She sighed, glancing over at the empty bed on the other side of the room, a wistful expression on her face. “Boy, I can’t wait for Heather to come back.”
Blair felt a pang of regret–he knew it was hard for her to be stranded here with most of her friends abroad, which was why she’d stayed with them for a while. “Are you sure you were ready to come back?” he asked, his voice soft with concern.
Ariel nodded. “Yeah. As long as you and Jim don’t mind if I still drop by for a visit once in a while.”
He grinned. “Anytime. Hey, you want to go down to Mountain Grown and get a cup of coffee or tea or something? Since I’m here anyway.” Mountain Grown was the new cafe on campus, named as the result of a competition within the student body.
She smiled. “That sounds like a great idea. I love their Chai.”
“They serve Chai? God, I haven’t had Chai in years!” He handed the snow globe to her, and she set it back on the bookshelf en route to the door.
“Hey, Ariel?” he asked as he watched little starfish dance inside the globe, suddenly realizing who the fussy little crab reminded him of. “Just one thing…”
“Yeah?” One of her eyebrows lifted suspiciously.
Blair grinned and pointed back at the decor as he followed her out of the room. “Does this make me Flounder and Jim Sebastian?”