Issue Date: September 2003
Story Title: Higher Learning - part 2
Staff: Karl Bollers (writer), Randy Green (penciler), Rick Ketcham (inker), Pete Pantazis (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Greg Horn (cover artist), Annie Thornton (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)
Emma recovers after passing out but, instead of revealing her secrets to the doctor and headmistress, Ms. Cruikshank, she lies and tells them that she skipped breakfast and must have gotten light-headed. As a result, Ms. Cruikshank has postponed the midterm exams until the following day. The other girls celebrate but Matilda Brant still has a go at Emma for not being as bright as her. Mr. Kendall can’t believe her story and Emma wants to tell him the truth but feels unable to, despite his attempts to be as much a friend as a teacher to her. That evening, at home, her father, Winston, reveals it was he who postponed the exam after hearing about the accident. Because she says she missed breakfast, Winston fires the maid Felicia who he holds responsible. Emma’s protests go unheard. She meets her brother, Christian, on the staircase and he asks what’s going on with her but she refuses to say. He can’t ignore the headaches and the voices however and heads off to inform his father about them. Before he does, though, Emma uses her telepathic powers to threaten to expose who he is meeting that evening and Christian tells her she’s made her point and keeps quiet. During the exam the next day, Emma hears the voices again and aces the test but Matilda isn’t pleased. Emma fights her once again in fencing class and, using her power, overcomes her but collapses again. Later, Ms. Cruikshank informs her that accusations of cheating have been made and she must take the exam again. She does so and receives top marks again but she reveals to Mr. Kendall that she purposely missed some questions out so she can’t have aced the test again. When Mr. Kendall asks to see the exam, Ms. Cruikshank tells him that she doesn’t care what her results were. She didn’t even finish grading her exam paper as Winston Frost called and his donations are more than enough to make her look the other way on this. Emma overhears this and begins to cry.
After collapsing in Mr. Kendall’s arms at the Snow Valley School for Girls, Emma slowly regains consciousness and wakes to see two blurred figures, which gradually become Ms. Cruikshank, the school’s headmistress and Dr. Davenport. Ms. Cruikshank asks the doctor what happened to her but she doesn’t exactly know. The smelling salts do their job as Emma sits up in the bed, wearing a green gown and appearing a little dazed by the experience. The headmistress is relieved to see her recover, as Emma looks around, surprised to find herself back in the infirmary. She asks if she did something wrong but Dr. Davenport asks her to relax and Ms. Cruikshank informs her that she fainted in the hall.
The doctor asks Emma what the last thing is she recalls before blacking out. Emma rubs her forehead and replies that she was taking to Mr. Kendall, getting ready to take the midterm and then she found herself in the infirmary. Dr. Davenport tells her that she was unconscious for several minutes and asks how her head feels but Emma tells her she’s fine. The doctor then asks about the migraines she’s been having but Emma assures her that there’s nothing to worry about; she did something moronic and, like an idiot, she skipped breakfast. She says she must have got light-headed and passed out but she’s fine now and asks if she can take her midterm. Ms. Cruikshank tells her that it’s been rescheduled for the following day. Emma is surprised at this but Ms. Cruikshank points out that as headmistress of the school and, in light of her mishap, she thought it was the best decision. The other girls are still very shaken.
Sometime later, now dressed in her school uniform, Emma wanders into a corridor to see the other girls celebrating the postponement. ‘Right; absolutely traumatized’ thinks Emma as she walks past them. “Well, look who’s out of her self-induced coma,” says Matilda Brant, the bane of Emma’s existence. She stands before a group of her friends in order to mock Emma, telling her she managed to postpone the midterm with her MTV Movie Award-level performance of ‘Teacher, I’m not feeling so well.’ She adds that it was a pitifully desperate stunt, even for Emma and says that she must have really needed the extra day to study. As she walks away she says with a smirk that some of them didn’t, though, leaving Emma feeling more embarrassed and isolated than ever.
Later, in Mr. Kendall’s classroom, she tells him what happened but he is incredulous at her excuse that she simply skipped breakfast. He leans over the desk where she sits and tells her that he saw her cry out, fall to her knees gripping her skull in pain. “There was blood for god’s sake. What aren’t you telling me?” he asks. Just about everything, she thinks, but it’s not because she doesn’t want to; it’s because she can’t. The voices inside her head, the nosebleeds, the headaches; if she told him anything about them he’d think she was a total freak. She stands and clutches her books to her chest, telling Mr. Kendall she has to go as her chauffeur’s waiting. As she departs, he tells her that he wants her to know that he’s more than just a teacher; he’s a friend and she can trust him with any secret, no matter how big or small. He is on her side. She says that she knows and he watches her leave, picked up by Bryce in the Rolls Royce.
That evening at sunset, after Emma has returned to Frost House, she meets her parents after changing from her school clothes. Feilcia, the maid, pours some tea while Winston pours over the newspaper. Hazel asks Emma how her test went but Winston replies that it’s been postponed until tomorrow. Emma asks how he knows and he grimaces as he informs her that he postponed it after her headmistress told him about her accident that morning. “Accident? Emma, what accident?” enquires her mother. Emma replies that it isn’t really a big deal but her father interjects, telling his wife that she skipped breakfast and collapsed in the hallway outside of class, in front of everyone. Her mother looks furious as Winston turns to Felicia and tells her she’s fired, effective immediately. She tries to protest but he says that he doesn’t intend to keep anyone on his staff who can’t make sure his children are fed before school. “It’s not radial keratotomy, you know. Now get out, don’t dally,” he adds.
As Felicia scuttles out of the room, Emma tries to stop this from happening but Hazel tells her not to interrupt her father when he’s chastising the servants as it undermines his authority. She also reminds her to remember to eat. Emma continues to point out that Felicia didn’t do anything wrong but Winston dismisses her protestations and asks her to leave them.
She leaves the room and discovers her brother, Christian, is sitting at the foot of the staircase. He asks why she didn’t tell them about the headaches and the voices. He places one arm on her shoulder and she looks down as she tells him she’s okay. He knows that she isn’t and tells her that he’s glad Ms. Cruikshank told the ‘old man’ what happened. Something’s not right with her and he tells her that the symptoms may be the result of something more serious, something they can’t ignore. Christian heads towards the arched doorway saying that he’s going to tell them, before it’s too late.
Emma can’t allow this to happen and uses her burgeoning telepathic powers to scan his mind quickly. She asks him if he isn’t supposed to be somewhere this evening? Dinner at Spago’s, eight-ish if she’s not mistaken? That’s why he had the car waxed, right? She says that she can see the suit he’s picked out; Hugo Boss, single breasted, four button, taupe (brownish-grey), with matching stretch wool slacks. “Very natty,” she adds. Emma continues with his fragrance, saying he should go with the Acqua Di Gio, as it’s more understated than the Escada. It seems he’s trying awfully hard to impress somebody; the question is who? Christian is shocked by her knowledge but Emma now has him where she wants him. She tells him that they all have secrets they don’t want anyone finding out about. He concedes that she has made her point, “But if I see you as much as swoon…”
The next day at Snow Valley, Mr. Kendall hands out the test papers to Emma’s class. There will be twenty true or false, twenty multiple choice, three short essays and five extra credit questions to complete and he wishes them good luck. Emma stares at her paper, thinking that she’s going to need it. She swears she knew all the answers yesterday but now she’s drawing a complete blank. She’s so dead if she doesn’t pass this, she thinks. She looks at Matilda and wonders why every subject is a breeze for her. She checks her paper and sees a question asking for eight categories of Modern Art, describing each briefly. Emma thinks of Realism but struggles to think of a second, let alone another seven. Suddenly, two more, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism pop into her head and she realizes a voice seemed to tell her the answers. Symbolism, Art Nouveau and Estheticism follow and she determines that it is Ian’s voice she can hear. Her mind wanders around the room and she gets Abstract from Francine, Primitivism from Matilda and Expressionism from Joon. Emma doesn’t understand how or why she can do this but she just closes her eyes and goes with it.
The following week, Mr. Kendall hands out the results. Matilda has done excellent as usual but Emma’s result has put him in a state of utter shock. It’s an A-Plus. Emma says the words before she even reads the card. Mr. Kendall tells her it’s the highest mark in the class and he’s pleased. Matilda glances behind her giving Emma the daggers.
It’s time for fencing class with Ms. Grizette and the girls don their white fencing outfits and stand waiting for instructions as the teacher tells them to be attentive. Matilda stands right behind Emma and whispers into her ear that there’s no way she could have aced the midterm. She says she cheated and she’s going to prove it one way or another. Emma turns and tells Matilda that she’s just bent out of shape because she got a better score than her. “Maybe you’re the one who needed a few extra days to study,” she adds. Ms. Grizette points at the pair of them and tells them that since their hearing appears to be quite impaired, she’ll have to test their fencing skills instead.
“En garde!” says Ms. Grizette as the two girls face each other. Emma, without even trying, reads Matilda’s thoughts as she inwardly promises to kick Emma’s scrawny butt. As they take their first strikes, Matilda thinks about how she should have got the highest grade and how she can’t let Emma beat her at this too. Emma blocks a shot and wonders what’s happening to her. She can hear what Matilda’s thinking. More strikes follow as she hears Matilda thinking about how she doesn’t know how Emma knew about her folks being bankrupt either. Emma now knows she was right about her as Matilda continues to think about how she told the other students she was a liar, but when she eventually has to leave school they’ll know she was telling the truth. Matilda thinks that maybe they could have been friends if she’d have given her a chance in spite of their differences.
Emma is surprised about the reference to being friends but continues to read Matilda’s thoughts as she thinks about how she doesn’t really like Emma; she scares the hell out of her, not that she’d ever find out. Emma attacks quickly to get the fight over with and not only knocks Matilda’s rapier from her hand, but puts on her behind too. Emma then whips off her facemask and shouts, “Enough!” Suddenly, though, she bends over and Ms. Grizette grabs her before she collapses. Emma whispers that she needs air.
Back at Frost House, Emma gets ready for bed. After her bath, she continues to think about the changes that are happening. She now knows that it wasn’t her imagination. She knew exactly what Matilda was thinking and feeling and sensed her vulnerability. She couldn’t have won the match otherwise. She brushes her hair, telling herself once again that she can’t tell her father. It’s too much to believe and he would lock her away in a mental institution for the next sixty years. She has to keep this to herself, no matter what.
Later, back at the Snow Valley High School for Girls, Emma finds herself seated before Ms. Cruikshank with Mr. Kendall standing beside her. Ms. Cruikshank tells Emma that she hates to be the bearer of bad news, but she’s afraid that Emma will have to take the midterm all over again. Emma doesn’t understand, as she got the highest grade, but Ms. Cruikshank replies that she’s well aware of that. However, given her prior academic standing, some parents are questioning the validity of her score. Emma insists she took it fair and square and Mr. Kendall assures her that he can attest to the amount of studying she did in preparation for the examination. Ms. Cruikshank points out that a fellow student claims that Emma knew the results of her test before it was returned, which is highly suspect. She says that they won’t waste any more time and asks Mr. Kendall to find an empty room for Emma.
Soon, Emma is sat alone in a room and sits with the test again, watched by Mr. Kendall. When her time is up, she waits with him while Ms. Cruikshank scores the paper. While they wait, he assures her she shouldn’t have anything to worry about but Emma is more concerned that Matilda would go as far as having her parents fight her battles for her. Mr. Kendall figures she is probably more than a little upset by Emma’s grade than anything else. Emma says that she feels she’s not the only one, asking Mr. Kendall if he isn’t wondering how she pulled it off and if he thinks she’s a cheater too. He replies that nothing could be further from the truth but he is baffled by the ease with which she answered the extra credit questions, all of them, despite not having reviewed the material in class.
Emma says that she is baffled too and tells him that a part of her feels like she doesn’t deserve that first score. He asks what she’s talking about and her instincts are to trust him and tell him the truth. She tells him that when he handed out the midterm, she didn’t remember any of the answers, completely freezing. Then, she heard a voice… Her confession is halted by Ms. Cruikshank, who appears in the doorway and says, “Congratulations, another perfect score.” Mr. Kendall smiles but Emma is a little taken aback. As the headmistress leaves the room, Mr. Kendall places his hands on her shoulders and tells her she did it but Emma backs off and lowers her head. She tells him there’s no way she could have. She purposely left some of the questions blank this time. Mr. Kendall is shocked and storms into Ms. Cruikshank’s office, demanding to see the exam. When asked why, he replies that she left some questions blank and couldn’t possibly have gotten the same grade as before. “What difference does it make?” says Ms. Cruikshank, “As long as it makes her father happy.”
Mr. Kendall suddenly realizes the truth as Ms. Cruikshank continues to tell him that Winston Frost contacted her a short while ago and found out what was going on. She never got to finish grading Emma’s exam and its remains are in the shredder. As far as she is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether she cheated or not. Her family’s donations to this institution make her more than willing to look the other way on this. She suggests Mr. Kendall does the same, otherwise he’s just asking for trouble. Just outside the door, Emma overhears everything that the headmistress says and tears begin to stream down her cheek.
Ms. Cruikshank (Snow Valley School for Girls headmistress)
Mr. Ian Kendall
Snow Valley School for Girls students including Matilda Brant and Margo
Hazel and Winston Frost
Felicia (Frost family maid)
Radial Keratotomy is a surgical procedure used to decrease nearsightedness, first performed in 1973.
Aestheticism, the devotion to and pursuit of artistic beauty and refined taste, is spelled in Europe as “Estheticism.”
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Emma Frost Vol. 1: Higher Learning (Digest) (Trade Paperback)
Emma Frost Ultimate Collection (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex