Two Ionas in a Shell

One ripe afternoon, two college girls sat on the steps of the stairs that skirted out of a great hall. One seemed haphazardly flung, almost in a sunbathing manner. Her head tilted upward, towards the sun – as if absorbing solar power. Confidence emanated from her manner –the one who was the taller of the two.

The shorter girl kept more to herself, it seemed. Her palms were wedged in the space pressed between the back of the thighs and the calves – a curious folded position that almost mimics that of a fetus. Clearly, what sprang forth from her was an impression of subjugation and reserve.

The taller girl suddenly hoisted herself up and faced the shorter one. She was bent on saying something – a confession?… an idea?… an unveiling?

“I must open this up to you,” the taller girl began. “I’ve been meaning to tell you something since I truly appreciate you.”

“Gee, thanks,” responded the shorter one.

“I’ve been ruminating about this,” and looked pensive in an instant. “I believe you need a little push – a little encouragement, so to speak.”

“And why do you think that is necessary?”

“Because you barely talk in class; you don’t recite! Not once have I heard you speak. If it weren’t for your written outputs… there’s no way of telling you’re smart.”

“But I’ve had this fear of speaking up since we started college. You know that.”

The taller one let out an exasperated exhalation. “I understand that. I’ve had that kind of fear, too, remember? We felt the same way back then. We wallowed in the false cosiness of silence. But it changed somehow when I decided that enough is enough; I have to speak up.”

The shorter girl eyed her companion. There commenced a gloomy quietness between the two friends.

The taller of the two, Iona Sauvre, meant to relay to her shorter friend, Iona Waldn, what it felt like to speak up and voice out her ideas and thoughts to a certain number of people for the first time. Taller Iona meant to say that it was all worth it – breaking free from one’s confining shell.

“You know what, there’s a different kind of high when you speak before a number of people.”

“Really? What happens?”

“I can’t describe, unfortunately. You have to see and feel it for yourself. That one time paroxysmal behavior of mine – it made me realize a lot of things; it made me see things.”

“Oh? What things?,” and stopped herself short. “I suppose you couldn’t tell me.”

“I want to, but you really have to see what happens within…”

Shorter Iona Waldn has brains. And to top it all off, she’s the nicest person that Iona Sauvre had ever met. Taller Iona thought that shorter Iona deserved some sort of acknowledgment for this remarkable trait, at least. Hence, a little push is necessary. Genuinely nice people need a little push sometimes…

“I think you deserve to be heard, too. I believe it’s high time you prove yourself worthy of your grades. You know… show people that you deserve that meritocracy so lavishly and generously given to you.”

“Don’t you think I’m giving enough?”

“To be honest, no. It’s hard to reconcile with the fact that you get the highest grades, but you don’t talk in class at all; you don’t recite. You’re giving others the idea that you might be doing something “extra” to deserve that much credit. It just doesn’t add up, you know. I think you have to show them, at least, that you deserve your grades.”

“But I am adhering to all the requirements. You know that. I do what we’re supposed to do – what we’re required to do. That’s the right thing to do!”

“I know. I used to think that, too. But it hardly gives you credibility.”

“What credibility are you talking about?”

“I’m not sure, really. I just think we need to be heard. We have to earn the respect of people through the things we say. Do you know what people really think of non-reciting scholars like us?”

“What?”

“They say we are stuck-up alluring bitches who get away with mere charm and coyness. They think we’re the teachers’ superficial pets… that we wear the discreet coquette mask!”

“Do they think that, really?”

“Yes! Really! I overheard Nerys Blevins and her posse in the washroom the other day. The term superficial pets came from her – not me! and she said it contemptuously.”

“Nerys said that? But she is such a sweetheart. She’s nice to me.”

“Of course, she’s nice to you. You’re so naïve! You’re gullible! You believe that everybody’s nice! Do you know what Nerys said about you?”

“What?”

“That you’re the type who plays the nicey-nicey card.”

At that point, shorter Iona felt something dark and brooding inside of her. She thought that her friend was right; she needed to do something. She had to speak up. If only for the sake of her reputation… she didn’t feel nicey-nicey at all.

“You’re right… So, what do you plan to do? We have to have some sort of a breaking out… like a debut…” acquiesed shorter Iona.

Taller Iona beamed, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

From that afternoon thereon, the two Ionas felt more at liberty speaking up and expressing their intelligent selves. Never again were they branded as the superficial pets because they proved Nerys, her posse, and their like, that there was something more to them than written output and beauty…

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