|Sophie's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Pt. 1
||[Apr. 16th, 2007|02:00 am]
The next day, Sophie's slowest flower blooms. |
It . . . hasn't come out quite like she imagined. It's certainly pink; it looks a little like an orchid, if that orchid had had a very tragic childhood. It has a plump center and its four petals stick out in various unlikely directions.
As she's staring at it in some bemusement, the peanut gallery shows up: "If you were expecting an ultra-violet violet or an infra-red geranium, you got it wrong, Ms. Mad Scientist," says an amused Howl.
"It looks to me like a squashed-baby flower," Michael volunteers, from around the other side.
Howl blinks at him, and then picks the flower out of its pot to see the root. His face goes oddly pale. "I might have guessed - it's a mandrake root. Sophie strikes again. You do have a touch, don't you, Sophie?"
Get with child a mandrake root - oh dear, thinks Sophie fretfully, putting the plant back into its pot. Almost all of the curse come true, now. Still, the last thing left is the wind and the honest mind, and if the Witch is waiting for Howl's mind to go honest, Sophie tells herself, she will be waiting a very long time.
All the same, she feels more than a little guilty, and goes to distract herself by arranging some of the flowers in the shop. She's putting a bunch of lilies in a seven-league boot when she hears a rhythmic, unnerving thumping coming from outside.
She recognizes that sound. It's a stick hitting stone.
Her heart is already starting to thump oddly when she pushes the curtain aside to look out into the square. It's the scarecrow, of course, looking more haunted and disheveled than ever as it hops its way steadily towards the shop. The people in the square scream and run as it passes, but it takes no notice of them.
Her heart speeds up, more and more erratically. She can't seem to move. All she can do, idiotically, is hide her face in her sleeve and whisper, "We're not here. You don't know we're here! You can't find us. Hop away fast!"
The noise slows. The scarecrow must be approaching the shop. "We're not here, we're not here," Sophie mutters. "We're not here! Go away fast!"
And - wonder of wonders - the noise outside starts to speed up, get more distant.
The scarecrow's hopping away. Her words have worked.
Sophie takes a deep breath, feeling shaky with relief. At least she knows that if the scarecrow comes back, she can send it away again. She goes to tell Howl, but he's gone out, Michael says, and Michael shortly goes out too, leaving a still-shaken and rather depressed Sophie alone in the shop with the dog-man.
Everything seems to be coming to a head. First the mandrake root, and then the scarecrow - and just as she's thinking about that, the dog-man snuffles in morosely to check on her and then, putting forth a great effort, turns himself back into a distraught ginger-haired man.
By this point, the transformation hardly phases Sophie. What does disturb her is his subsequent confession: that not only was he the dog in the hedge that she helped on her way to the castle, but he was also the Witch's companion the day that Sophie was turned old. It's as much as he can do to get this out before shrinking back into a dog - a different one, this time, huge and shaggy, but just as dejected-looking as ever.
Sophie stares at him. His face as a man is so - well, lacking in personality - that she had never made the connection between him and the ginger-haired man who was with the Witch. That makes another person that knows she's under a spell, and can't do anything about it.
And she can't seem to do anything about his spell, either. Or about Calcifer's. They're all equally helpless.
She's still absorbing this new grim understanding when the door opens.
Sophie and Calcifer both look up, expecting it to be Howl. It turns out, however, to be Miss Angorian.
Miss Angorian looks just as surprised to see them as they are to see her. "I beg your pardon - I thought Mr. Jenkins might be here," she says, apologetically.
"He's not," Sophie says, barely managing not to snap, and expects her to leave, but instead she comes pleadingly up to Sophie and starts to tell her all about her long-lost fiance Ben Sullivan. Sophie is in no mood to listen. "There's no Mr. Sullivan here," she announces, even as she remembers that Ben Sullivan is the real name of long-lost Wizard Suliman.
"Oh, I know that," Miss Angorian assures her, "but this feels like the right sort of place." She slides around Sophie and begins to remark on the quaintness of the room and the further quaintness of the town outside the window, and to ask about the rooms beyond the stairs and in general poke her nose into all the corners of the castle. She stares at Calcifer, too, but doesn't seem to see him.
Only people who understand Calcifer are really welcome here, Sophie thinks, self-righteously, and feels better about being unfriendly. But by now Miss Angorian has dived around the room again and snatched up Howl's guitar. "Ben had a guitar like this!" she cries. "It could be Ben's!"
Miss Angorian goes on about the guitar, and Sophie resists, with an effort, the urge to roll her eyes, and also the urge to tell her that the skull in the corner is also her darling Ben's. But that, she reminds herself, would be unkind. It's not Miss Angorian's fault. She probably does feel very bad about her fiance . . . even if there seems to be no good reason that she would choose Howl's house as a place in which to reminisce about him.
"May I take this guitar?" Miss Angorian asks, pleadingly, with a sorrowful throb in her voice. "To remind me of Ben."
. . . this is taking kindness a little too far. "No," Sophie says, irritably. "There's no need to be so intense about it. You've no proof it was his." She marches over, intending to take back the guitar, but Miss Angorian clings to it, staring over the top with her large, tragic eyes. There follows an absurd sort of tug-of-war. The guitar makes horribly out-of-tune noises.
This is ridiculous! Sophie thinks, and says, as patiently as she can, "Look. Don't be silly. You've no right to walk into people's castles and take their guitars. I've told you Mr. Sullivan's not here, now go back to Wales. Go on." Shoo! she adds, mentally, and uses the guitar to maneuver Miss Angorian back out the door into the nothingness that leads to Wales.
"You're hard," Miss Angorian tells her, sadly, over the guitar.
"Yes, I am!" Sophie retorts, and slams the door in her face.
"And don't you dare tell Howl she was here!" she adds to Calcifer, unreasonably. "I bet she came to see Howl. The rest was just a pack of lies. Wizard Suliman was settled here, years ago. He probably came to get away from her beastly throbbing voice!"
Calcifer snickers. "I've never seen anyone gotten rid of so fast!"
This does not make Sophie feel better. Instead, it makes her feel guilty and cruel. It's not Miss Angorian's fault if she was caught by the suit; it's Sophie's, really, and all she's done is shout at her.
"Gah!" she mutters, storming around, and feels herself growing grumpier and grumpier and grumpier by the second.
Which is, at least, better than brooding on how she's made a mess of everything yet again.