Freedom. It never used to be a word Raven used. She knew that no one really had freedom. Not in the grand scheme of things. Everyone could choose what they could wear, but not who they'd marry. They could choose where to eat, but not what they would do. No one could choose anything that mattered. It made everything so blitheringly simple-minded. So few people thought anymore because there was no point. Every occurrence in their life was written bout for them. No matter how intelligent, well-spoken or kind Raven was, she'd end up ostracized ad in chains.
Or so she'd though. But last night everything had changed; the entire school dynamics. Everyone was wary. A few, like Daring Charming or Hunter Huntsman or Ashlynn Ella, still acted like nothing had changed, but everyone else was lost. Raven asked for a new schedule. She'd be darned if she had to sit through Home Evilnomics one more time. She was going to take Good Kingdom Management. She was going to learn how to make her kingdom really, truly happy.
Everyone had changed in regards to her. Before she refused to become the Evil Queen she was invisible or terror-inducing. But since she'd declared that she'd find herself a happily ever after, she had risen from Pariah status. Rebels who were afraid to look at her now ate at her table at lunch. She was making friends with Kitty Cheshire, of all people. And Cerise was more comfortable spending time with her in public. Of course, that came with the downside of a very depressed Apple locking her out of her dorm-room and banned from Maddie's by the headmaster.
Those weren't the only issues, though. While the Rebels had universally warmed up to her, impressed and admiring, the Royals who didn't interact with her suddenly and completely despised her. They blamed her for ruining Apple's life. They were afraid for their own stories, too. And anyone who had known her...well, they were really taking it upon themselves to make her new, non-evil life difficult.
But Raven would never, ever regret the choices she made. She was not going to jail for something she was forced to do. She was not going to raise her children with the mindset of being like her.
Only one thing worried her. Dexter hadn't said anything to her since she chosen her own life. He hadn't sat at her table, hadn't sought her out, nothing. Normally she'd chalk it up to just not really being able to, but ever since their not-date, he'd talked to her everyday, even sometimes walked her to class. They were becoming close, and it had been five days since he'd even looked at her.
"Raven, kitten, you need to stop frowning like that." Kitty materialized next to her. "A grin will make you happy. Life is good. You've changed everything for all of the people in this school, now and forever."
Raven grinned at her. "You're totally right, Kitty. For the first time in forever, I am really my own person." As she finished her sentence, she heard a clang. She turned her head as Dexter walked away from his locker, head high. She stared after him. "Excuse me Kitty. I'll see you at lunch." She ran after Dexter.
"Dex! Dex, wait!" She grabbed his arm. He turned to look at her, face blank.
"Yes, Raven?" Dexter looked down at her. She felt a flash of hurt.
"I was wondering if you wanted to eat up at the balcony. I thought we could," she hesitated "you know, um, talk," she finished lamely.
"I don't think so Raven. I've got some stuff to take care of." He turned away and started walking.
"Then Bookend, after school. The Tea Shoppe. Please."
"I don't think so." He returned firmly.
"Don't shut me out," she implored. "Why are you mad?" Dexter looked at her for the first time, straight into her eyes. He opened his mouth, then shut it and walked away. Raven slumped against a locker. What is wrong? Is he mad about Legacy Day? She shut her eyes. Then she straightened. I'm not going to chase him anymore. I've never needed anyone before. I refuse to depend on him. She turned and walked away. Maddie was waiting for her.
And her best friend, of course, picked up on what was bothering her. "He isn't mad. He's confused."
"Well, he's not the only one." Raven had long since stopped questioning her friend's uncanny intuition.
"He doesn't know what he'll do now."
"He never has known."
"I think he's figured it out."
"You know what? Let's go to class."
Raven decided she would not even thing about anyone who didn't want her. Not her mother, not Raven, not the headmaster and not Dexter Charming. She was through with inferiority. She was a person and she wasn't going to put up with being treated as less.
At lunch, she sat with Cedar, Kitty, Maddie and Cerise. Maddie was telling them a funny story about her shift at the Tea Shoppe, when Raven was tapped on the shoulder. She turned and saw Blondie Lockes, hip cocked, Hopper Croakington, Holly O'Hare and Daring Charming. "Can I help you?" She smiled.
"Come." Blondie commanded. Raven blinked and shook her head. "I said come."
"And I refused."
"If you know what's good for you..."
"I'm fairy certain what's good for me is not going to some unidentified location with people out for my blood."
"You can bring one of your friends."
Raven twisted back around. "Maddie and Cerise, please come." They nodded. People knew better than to mess with Cerise. Blondie led them out of the school and toward the Enchanted Forest. Raven stopped on the path. "This is far enough."
Blondie turned with a smile. "Yes, it is." She nodded to the boys, who pulled Maddie and Cerise away. The girls struggled but they still disappeared over the rise of the hill. Raven turned back, raising her hands for a spell, but the remaining girls each grabbed one.
"Now you listen to us," Holly began, trying to sound understanding, "you have officially ruined everything for Apple and maybe Briar and who knows who else. You've made a permanent decision. A horrible decision. That can't change." Holly's eyes turned menacing. "We are going to make sure you regret it. How could you? Apple did everything to be nice to you, even though you are just a pathetic girl who no one likes. You are going to pay."
Raven growled. "What are you doing with my friends?"
"Them? Nothing. My wand, you watch too much spellevision. We just had to speak with you, alone." Blondie smiled at her innocently.
"I'm not going to stop. I am a real person. I will live my own life. Everything everyone has ever told me up to this point is wrong. I will be free, and you can’t pull e down. After everything I've been through, bullying me won't work. You don’t scare me."
"We can make your social life nothing. Do you understand the potent of rumours?" Holly smiled menacingly.
"I have five friends. I have been subject to every rumour in the fairy-tale book. You can't touch me." Rave wrenched her arms out of their grasp and walked away.
Blondie smirked. "Five friends? I was under the impression that Dexter didn't even want to look at you." She called to Raven, who froze midstep. She turned and looked at her tormentors, tears in her eyes.
"Enough!" She screamed, a spell shooting out of her hands. The girls found themselves unable to make a sound as Raven ran off.
She collided with Cerise who fell over. "Are you alright?" she demanded. She didn't give Raven the chance to answer as she picked her up and glanced at her. "I'm so sorry we didn't get away from them in time. I didn't want to hurt them. For someone who spends most of his time staring at himself, Daring is strong enough that I couldn't get away without hurting him."
Raven wiped her tears away. "I'm glad you're OK. Where's Maddie? Did she get away? Where were they taking you?"
"Just to the Grimmnasium. No one goes there at lunch. She'll be here soon, I ran fast to get here."
Raven breathed in shakily. "Good. Let's go." She knew the Royals harbored animosity, but she didn't expect it to become physical. Not from girls raised to be good Queens. But then, Blondie wasn't a princess, and Holly probably just wanted to be with the "in" crowd.
And Dexter. They knew about him. Had he spoken to them? Told them about why he was angry? She took a welcome respite from these thoughts when Maddie collided with her in a bone crushing hug. "Oh Raven I was so worried! The narrators said you were in a dream within reach, don't stray beyond, some fight hard! I can't believe Blondie would do that!" Raven smiled. Don't worry Raven. Everything will be just fine. They can't hate you forever, not when they see you've given them a chance at a real life. She comforted herself.
Behind a tree, Dexter watched her with her friends and sighed. She was fine. He'd been so worried. He watched Raven as she pasted on a smile and walked away with her friends. Dexter remembered her tears at his name. Maybe she wasn't so OK, after all. He sighed. "I can't talk to her right now. I need to think. Who knows what havoc will be unleashed because of her choices." He looked at her fading outline. Maybe he had to put his feelings aside, once and for all.