Varvara Dragova spent an entire day literally hiding out in her room after posting serious accusations against Persephone Marchand on her alternative news blog. She expected to hear from Persephone, but didn’t receive so much as a phone call. However, on the second day, the mainstream media picked up the story and focussed more attention on Varvara’s blog than the disappearance of Skylar Randall. (She’d been officially missing for 48 hours at the time of the broadcast!)
“According to self-proclaimed independent journalist, Var… oh, I can’t even say that name!” the television news spokeswoman mocked her in the opening line of the report.
The male co-anchor of the news chimed in, “Don’t worry, Shelly, no one can say that kind of name! It just goes to show you what happens when they start bringing in all these foreigners from the camps, you know? We go out of our way to extend hospitality to these people, and they just come in here with these ideas that we’re somehow responsible for all their misfortunes.”
“I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to our viewers that this so-called journalist is also naturally blonde, if you get my drift,” joked the female anchor.
Varvara shut off the television, feeling disgusted and insulted. She told herself, “Whatever, it doesn’t matter what they say, my readers know I’m not like that.” She quickly headed to the study to post a response to the news report.
She couldn’t help but notice that her subscriber base had dropped significantly though, and some of the comments on her earlier posts were full of vile hate and nasty lies. “This is too much,” she thought, and went to seek out a housemate to talk to.
She went into the kitchen but it seemed Zaida was in a serious conversation with Ariadne and Dustin about their upcoming “graduation” from Harmony House. It didn’t seem like a good time to talk with Zaida, so Varvara pretended she was on her way to the bathroom.
“Hey V,” Ariadne called as she walked by. “I read your blog!”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Varvara responded quickly and politely ducked around the corner.
She scooted into the main floor bathroom and enjoyed a refreshing shower, then took the back hallway and quickly headed upstairs. She failed to avoid anyone though–Martialis and Zaida were exercising together, and Dustin followed her up the stairs, saying, “Wait up, V!”
“Ariadne asked me to take her out sometime!” Dustin announced.
“Congratulations,” she said. She was just about to give him a little advice when her phone rang. Looking at the caller information displayed, she excused herself from her friend to take the call.
“What do you want, Persephone?” she asked sharply.
“Hello V, I just called because I saw an unfortunate story about you on the news. They were quite rude toward you–in my opinion,” Persephone said politely.
“What’s going on here?” Varvara questioned impatiently.
“What’s going on is that someone said terrible things about you, and I thought perhaps you might like if I paid a visit to those people,” Persephone continued, “and I could teach them a lesson… about hospitality.”
“No, thank you,” Varvara declined. “I don’t want you to teach them a lesson.”
“Oh, that’s too bad…” Persphone’s pout could be heard in her voice, but she perked up when she suggested, “How about then, I teach you a lesson?”
“What?!” she gasped.
“How about I teach you a lesson,” Persephone repeated, now in a cold monotone, “because the way I see it, you do not understand friendship very well.”
“Neither do you, but I dare you! You want to teach me a lesson? Then bring it!”
Just as she pushed the button to hang up the phone, Martialis asked her, “Is everything all right, V?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
She thought she sounded convincing, but Martialis was concerned and went downstairs to talk with Zaida about it. She had just prepared a party sized protein platter for everyone. Martialis sat down and shared his concerns. “It sounded like V is some kind of trouble.”
Tim Gray was the most shy resident in the house, but he’d been able to chat with Varvara in the middle of the night when she posted the news story about Persephone, so he immediately explained what he knew to Martialis and Zaida. “She has all kinds of proof that something is going on, but maybe she was wrong about part of it,” Tim said. “But I was there when that woman called and asked V to help her hide a body, so it’s pretty legit.”
Meanwhile, across town Jared Patton was also concerned about Varvara after seeing the news. They’d chatted over the internet the previous day, when she posted the story and evidence in her blog, but she didn’t want to go on a date with him that night.
“I saw they did a hit piece on you on the local news,” he said when she answered the phone. “I thought I’d congratulate you on officially stickin’ it to the machine!”
“I think the machine is going to chew me up and spit me out, but thanks.” There was a hint of defeat in her voice.
“Are you still laying low then?” Jared wondered. “I know what it’s like to be attacked in the media and maybe I could cheer you up with some of my stories, maybe some dancing and we can grab a pizza or whatever.”
“Like a date?” Varvara wondered.
“No, not like a date,” he explained, “how about we make it a real date?”
She agreed, but insisted she would need to take a bath first. After hanging up the phone, Jared said out loud, “Man, I hope it helps!” He could tell she was uneasy, or very high-strung.
Their first real date meant so much to him! He tried to think of everything. He pulled out his portable stereo in case she would like to dance with him, he researched healthy recipes so he could cook something that would satisfy her special dietary needs, and he even wore his lucky t-shirt.
Varvara arrived at Jared’s trailer clean and fresh, but certainly not in a pleasant mood! Jared saw the look on her face when he stepped out onto the porch to greet her. He held his arms out to her, “Let me give you a hug.”
“Oh no, no, no, no!” she repeated shaking her head and waving her hands for extra emphasis. “I don’t want a hug! You turned me into the laughing stock of the District!”
“No I didn’t–and you’re not!” Jared reassured her. He tried to explain it to her, “This is what they do.”
“Oh, this is what they do?” she repeated questioningly. “That must be easy for you to say because it’s not you losing subscribers! It’s not your income at risk.”
“No, that’s true,” Jared sympathized. “But believe me, this will lead to twice as many new subscribers than the ones you lost, or ten times as many!”
“That’s not all!” Varvara exclaimed. “I can get over being mocked and lied about on tv, but I can’t get over being murdered. She threatened to teach me a lesson. I don’t know if it’s going to be like ‘GISH GISH’ with a knife in my back, or ‘THUMP THUMP’ on my head with a bat!”
She was very animated, but when she admitted, “I don’t know what to do!” she finally let go of those emotions, and was left feeling nothing but vulnerability.
Jared realized what a position he’d put her in, and he felt ashamed of himself. She was his friend, and he hoped to win her heart as well, but he’d been selfish and foolish.
“I don’t blame you for being angry with me, V, but I will protect you,” Jared promised. “Even if you leave right now and never go on another date with me, I will defend you with my own life.”