The cat purred loudly with her belly upturned to the sun, and Bella rubbed the patch of off-white fluff, keeping a careful watch for that thinnest of moments when pleasure turned back on itself in a rage of claws and teeth. She no longer held against cats, this strange fury that came when pleasure seemed at its highest; instead, she began to see it in her own life - pleasure and fury. At least, she experienced something of the same outer manifestations, let the mystery of the cat's mind remain locked behind devilishly slit opal eyes.
Mr. Van Zandt was her geometry teacher - a kind, wild-haired old man who was married to his wife in matching clown costumes on Halloween - and he enthused over geometry with the sort of giddiness appropriate for small children. But he was not a small child nor was she, a sophomore in high school.
It was triangles that started it, her reciprocal giddiness. The way the sides would slide around and open and close the angles, all the while bound by the magic of 180 degrees. They were vivid; she could hear their movements, like great stone tombs closing, labyrinths of vines sliding, the booming and the slithering, boundedness and freedom. For the first time in her life, she loved math class. Proofs were almost intuitive; they were natural, common, seemed a part of her.
Mr. Van Zandt called on her a couple of weeks ago; called on her to turn to a page of problems that had not been assigned and to solve the first proof at the bottom of the page. She ran her finger down the page to find it, words unseen as a triangle and circle intersected.
"Forty-two" she said, "forty-two degrees."
Then she realized she had answered as he had been assigning the next proof to Scott, who sat in front of her and smelled of farts. She had answered too quickly.
Mr. Van Zandt paused, looked at his book, looked up at her. She could feel her heart beating, flushed with the joy of power, confidence, and above all, power. He stepped sideways to see her better around Scott.
"And the next one?"
A rhombus intersected by two line segments, were triangles BDF and ABC congruent?
"BDF is congruent with ACD."
"The next proof, please?"
The bell rang and the class stampeded out, carrying her with them, and as she sat in English for the next 50 minutes, ignoring Silas Marner, she trembled a bit with pride, with excitement, and then with fear. She has found her place in the sun, and she wanted to freeze this moment, never going back to geometry, always being victorious, and the more her soul wandered in this direction, the more she felt as though she must scheme to get out of next class, and the one after that and after that. He must never be allowed to question her again. What if she missed one? What if she forgot the formula or pi or, just, what if the magic didn't come?
Panic tossed her baby bird heart against her chest.
She heard her English teacher call her name.
"I DON'T KNOW, ALREADY!"