Fokus på: Cecilia Tan dag 2

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Så er vi nået til 2. dag i denne “fokus på”-tour, og i dag er der læsning på tapetet. Cecilia Tan og jeg blev enige om, at vi gerne ville give jer et godt indtryk af hendes bøger, så vi blev enige om at lægge en god bid af første bog op, så I rigtigt kan fornemme hvordan denne fantastiske historie er skrevet, og hvordan det hele starter. For mig personligt, fangede denne del af bogen virkelig meget, for jeg fik en helt Harry Potter-agtig feeling ved at læse dette, og jeg var helt hooked efterfølgende. Det håber jeg selvfølgelig også at I derude bliver, og så er der blot at ønske jer alle rigtig god læselyst!


***

Kyle looked at the map in his hand, then at the red brick buildings in front of him, standing like sentinels all around a grassy courtyard crisscrossed with pedestrian paths. The map was artfully done in cheery colors, with helpful tips and descriptions in word bubbles, as if each building were a cartoon character describing itself to the visitor. But the buildings he was looking at didn’t match the map. For one thing, there were too many of them.

Maybe this is all a test to see if you’re REALLY smart enough to go to Harvard? he wondered.

He quashed that thought quickly. Kyle Wadsworth hadn’t always led a privileged or easy life, but the scholarship he was slated to receive proved he was good enough for Harvard. The interview was merely a formality, they said. The scholarship was as good as his, and with it, a new life could begin. He shifted his tie nervously. Now if only he could arrive on time, he might be getting somewhere. He’d been looking forward to this trip East desperately. Once the interview was out of the way, he would have the whole weekend to explore the city and the campus and—and whatever. Kyle didn’t even know what exactly he wanted to do, only that his blood had sung when he’d realized it meant a chance to get away from the house, away from Great-Aunt Agatha, away from the life he couldn’t wait to leave behind.

He was already eighteen, a high school senior, and desperately ready to start his adult life. Or, at least, college student life.

But adults and students alike were supposed to be able to read maps.

Perhaps the map was merely an artist’s rendition and not to scale. He checked the printed e-mail he had folded in his jacket pocket. Enter through the gate and then third building on your right, it said.

One, two, three. The third building looked older than the one next to it, with its archway of solid stone and double doors of heavy wood. But when he pushed on the brass handle, the door swung inward easily.

Kyle found himself in a carpeted hallway, which was a good sign. Jove had told him once that at universities the administrative buildings had carpets, and classroom buildings didn’t, so he must be on the right track. At the very least, there was bound to be a secretary here who could tell him if he was in the right place. The first door on the left was open, and he was about to step through it when a raised voice stopped him.

“Miss Torralva! You know perfectly well I do not believe these vile rumors, which are clearly nothing more than an attempt to undermine our authority and create hysteria.”

It was a man’s voice, speaking in clipped tones. He didn’t have an accent, but the way he spoke reminded Kyle of British actors on TV.

A woman answered him. “Come now, Quilian, there’s no need to be so harsh on the girl.”

“Mistress Finch, I would appreciate if you would stay out of these matters…”

“And I would appreciate if you would not shout at my students.”

Then a younger woman’s voice. “I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Dean Bell. Never mind, Ms. Finch. It was a waste of time to come here.”

“See that you don’t do it again,” the man said, and strode forcefully from the room, colliding with Kyle outside the door. Kyle found himself on his ass, looking up at a blond man in graduation robes. He scrabbled backward as if the man were about to kick him.

The man frowned and demanded, “Who are you?”

“Er, Kyle Wadsworth,” he said, climbing to his feet and straightening his jacket. “I’m here for an admission interview?”

The two women he had heard were now standing in the doorway, too, looking at him curiously. “Interview?” said the older of the two, who looked to be perhaps forty. She’s a librarian, Kyle thought, taking in a quick impression of her hair in a bun and glasses perched on her nose.

The librarian called behind her, “Helena, was a prospective student scheduled to come in today?”

Kyle looked back and forth between the imposing, angry man and the younger woman in the door, who was presumably a student. She had wavy black hair, pinned back with barrettes, and eyes such a dark brown, they were almost black. No, maybe they were black, but her expression was warm. She was looking at him with a mix of sympathy and curiosity, stifling a smile.

“Um, hi,” Kyle said in her direction, then turned back to the man still staring at him. “I’m the Pollock Scholarship recipient?” he ventured, hoping this might ring a bell. “I’m sure the e-mail said my interview was today, two o’clock…”

“You’re in the wrong building,” the man said, and pointed at the wall in the direction of the next building over.

“But Dean Bell,” the girl piped up, “how could he even find…?”

“Silence.” Bell’s glare was as sharp as his voice. “Mr. Wadsworth, was it?” When Kyle nodded he went on slowly, as if Kyle might be too stupid to understand if he spoke any faster. “You. Do not. Belong. Here.”

“Um, okay, sorry, I was just following the directions, third building and all,” Kyle stammered. “I guess I wasn’t supposed to count the one on the corner? Or maybe I was supposed to—”

“Mr. Wadsworth.” It was the librarian again, and she and Dean Bell glared daggers at each other for a moment. “Before you move on, would you sign our visitor register? Our department doesn’t get very many, you see, and our funding for tea and cookies will be cut if we can’t prove a certain amount of interest. Right through here.” She stepped aside and indicated the open doorway.

“Oh, sure. Anything to help…?” He dared a smile at the girl, who was watching him with that same open curiosity and a hint of a smile. She was wearing brown corduroy jeans with a flower embroidered on the pocket and he wasn’t sure why he noticed little details like that, but he tucked it away in his head for later. Maybe he’d get a chance to run into her again.

Inside the office was a large, wooden reception desk which, like much of Harvard, was either from pre-1800 or at least made to look that old. Behind the desk sat a pretty blond woman whose lipstick was rather bright. She set a large, leatherbound book on the desk, facing Kyle. The leather creaked as she opened it and she pointed to a cup of pens next to it.

They were all watching quite closely while Kyle took a step forward. Maybe this was the psychology department and this was all some kind of experiment on him? He reached into the pens and pulled one out, hissing sharply as he felt something prick his finger. Great. Now I’ve cut myself and I’ll be bleeding all through the interview. Way to make an impression. He decided he had best just sign his name and get out of there as soon as possible. Maybe he could hurry next door and stop the bleeding in the men’s room or something.

He touched the pen to the first empty line in the ledger and felt a curious shock go through his arm. This has got to be some kind of weird experiment! Or maybe a reality TV show. But he signed his name in flowing letters, hoping the reddish tinge to the ink didn’t mean he’d bled onto the page, or at least hoping they didn’t notice.

As he lifted the pen, he heard a bell tolling. Was he late? He whirled around to find they were all staring at him still. “Um, I…um…better be going…”

That bell kept ringing though, so loud it was as if it were right in this building. What was going on? None of them moved until the bell ceased to ring, the women sighing in relief and Dean Bell crossing his arms over his chest.

“Well, thank you very much, Kyle Wadsworth,” the librarian said. “I’m Madeleine Finch.” She held out her hand to be shaken, and Kyle reluctantly set down the pen, but he didn’t seem to get any blood on her hand as he shook it. “Welcome to Veritas. It would appear there’s been a bit of a mix-up in your matriculation papers?”

Kyle stared at her. “Wait a second. That’s it? I’m in? I only just sent the application. I thought I wouldn’t hear until March…”

Dean Bell made a disgusted noise. “He’s your stray puppy to deal with now, Mistress Finch. If anyone needs me, I shall be in my office.” His tone of voice made it clear that anyone who needed him had best take a leap into the Charles River. He stalked out, robes fluttering behind him.

The receptionist immediately began digging in a file cabinet behind her, while the other two women kept looking at him with growing curiosity.

Kyle tried again. “Look, I’m supposed to have this interview today. I guess maybe I’m already pre-approved because I had to apply early in order to qualify for the scholarship, except I’m supposed to have this interview to, um, make sure I’m not an idiot in person, I guess, because Harvard doesn’t admit idiots, or at least, that’s the theory…uh…” He trailed off, realizing how much like an idiot he sounded. The student hid her smile behind her hand.

“Mr. Wadsworth, may I ask you a personal question?” Mistress Finch folded her hands in front of her.

“Um, sure, please.”

“Are you, by any chance, an orphan?”

He blinked. “Yes, I am, actually.”

“But is Wadsworth your family name?”

How did she know these things? “Yes, yes, it is.”

She paused. “Helena, did you find anything?”

The receptionist sighed. “Nothing, Ms. Finch.”

Okay, and why do the women call her Ms. Finch, but the dean call her Mistress Finch? He knew university society was supposedly different from everywhere else, but he’d never heard of that. Which one should he use? “Um, find what?”

“A record of your birth,” Ms. Finch answered. “Well, you are a mystery but hardly the first one, Mr. Wadsworth. I’ll spell it out and see if it makes sense to you. The building you’re standing in right now is not a part of Harvard. Well, it is, but it isn’t. There’s a secret university inside Harvard, known as Veritas.”

Kyle blinked. “But isn’t that what’s on the signs outside? Harvard’s motto…”

“The two institutions have an intertwined history,” she went on. “Harvard is for the elite scholars, the future leaders of the world. Veritas is for, well, those with more arcane talents.”

“Arcane?”

“Magical.”

“Magical?” Kyle could still hear the bell ringing in his head. “You mean like wizards?”

The student snorted behind her hand. “We prefer the term ‘magic users.’ ‘Wizards’ is so patriarchal and un-PC.”

Kyle shook his head, but although everything was as weird as some dream, it still seemed to be real.  “So, sorry to be skeptical, but…you’re saying I’m magical?”

“You wouldn’t have even been able to see this building if you weren’t at least a little Sighted,” Ms. Finch said, “and you certainly wouldn’t have been able to sign the matriculation register if you didn’t have the power in your blood.”

He checked his finger reflexively, but the bleeding had stopped and he couldn’t even see where the pen had pricked him. “Um, the Dean didn’t seem as convinced.”

“Yes, well, that was another test. He has the power of Voice. If you’d been a non-magical person, you’d have simply turned and walked out as soon as he told you to.” Ms. Finch sighed. “We’re already two weeks into the semester, you haven’t registered for any classes, and we need to find you a place to live.”

Kyle looked back and forth between them. “You mean, start now? I, um, I’m supposed to, um…” Supposed to go back to a house where they didn’t want him, a school where he didn’t fit in, and count the days until he could leave. Maybe this was exactly the chance he had been waiting for. Hadn’t he felt like this weekend was going to be the first step into a new life? Maybe it was a bigger step than he’d thought. His skepticism shredded in the face of what felt like a real chance to change his life in a drastic way. “I mean, I’d love to start now.”

***


Lyder det ikke bare godt? Jeg kunne i hvert fald ikke slippe denne fantastiske start, og jeg lover jer, at det ikke går stille for sig, når Kyle starter på denne skole! De to første bøger kan købes i paperback versioner på fx saxo.com, og hos diverse udenlandske internetboghandler, og til de af jer som ikke kan klare ventetiden, kan de altså også købes som e-bog. De to første bøger er blevet frigivet, den tredje udkommer i denne måned, og den fjerde bog udkommer lidt senere på året (med mindre man kan overleve at købe den med den gamle forside, for så er alle bøgerne lige til at købe som e-bog)…

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