Friday, November 3, 2000
“What I don’t get is how that’s supposed to help anything!”
Arnbjörg and Jaya – Jamian, whatever – had been arguing on and off for days. It had started with Jamian’s spare genitalia, but it everything that bothered Arnbjörg about this place had just been coming out, in whispers and hisses and shouts, every time she saw her Keeper.
Today, she’d run into an argument with Sheba without even meaning to. She’d been in the kitchen, working on dessert, when Sheba had commented on her jacket. It had escalated from there. Sheba’s ears had gone back and she’d hissed at Arnbjörg – which had just barely missed leading to violence.
“I mean, what, she wants to be my friend? Now? If she wants to be my friend, why isn’t she just telling me things? Anything? Instead of talking about how I look?”
“I think she was just… saying you look nice? Noticing that the jacket fits you well? I mean,” Jaya offered slowly, “it does look really nice on you?”
Arnbjörg did her best to ignore the warm surge of happiness that came with that. Do you really think so? “So she’s flirting with me. Well, I guess almost everyone else in the school does. But why Sheba? I mean, she’s got Niki crawling over her. Is she even into girls?”
Jaya’s expression turned wry. “She was with Ty her first year here, and I’m pretty sure she knew she was bisexual even before that. It’s not a switch for everyone, you know, boys or girls.”
“It is for me, you know.” Arna flopped on the bed – no, on Jaya’s bed. She just stayed here. “I like girls. Not boys. Not… People pretending to be girls. Girls.”
There was a moment of silence. Had she finally gotten Jaya’s attention? She’d been trying and trying, but nothing seemed to get through. She turned over slowly, giving herself time to savor the expression.
There was absolutely no expression on Jaya’s face. She wasn’t showing anything She wasn’t saying anything. She wasn’t doing anything except standing there, looking at Arnbjörg as if she’d just grown a second head.
Anything was possible in Addergoole, but the smart money – Phelen – said Changes hurt. She wasn’t hurting, she was just angry. Very angry.
“Say something!” As retorts went, it was pretty stupid, especially as a retort to silence.
Jaya shook her head slowly. “I’m not sure you want me to say, Arna.”
“I want something. You’re sitting there like a rock, after keeping a secret like that from me, after keeping secrets on top of secrets from me, and now Sheba, the world’s best example of someone too far into everyone else’s business, is hitting on me and you don’t even think that’s strange and…”
“Why don’t you just stop complaining for a day?” Jaya’s tail lashed as she snapped at Arnbjörg. “One day. No complaints. That’s an order.”
Arnbjörg shut her mouth. Jaya hadn’t even been listening and now, now she didn’t even want to hear it. “I…” She couldn’t come up with anything to say.
“I’m not pretending to be a girl.” Jaya had turned her back to Arnbjörg, and she was speaking quietly enough that it was a strain to hear her. “I wasn’t born a guy or anything.”
“But,” Arnbjorg spoke carefully, “sometimes you’re a guy?”
“I was born intersex, hermaphroditic. I spent a lot of time, uh, hiding it, pretending I wasn’t, living as a guy. But I got here and I Changed, and uh. Turns out I’m a Daeva, which is a kind of fae.” She sat down on the floor, still not looking at Arnbjorg. “There’s three ‘full-blooded’ fae groups – Mara like Luke, Daeva like me and Mike, and Grigori like Regine. But the thing is, Daeva are whatever gender they feel like being, I mean, like from on minute to the next.”
Arnbjorg was looking at Jaya’s back, but the shift was still obvious: one moment Jaya was a girl, the next, she was a guy. Taller, broader, the haphazard curls shorter and wilder. And then Jaya was back again.
“I’m not pretending to be a girl,” she repeated. “I’m a girl sometimes and a guy other times. It’s just what I am, Arna.” She turned around now. Her face was tight, her jaw set, and she didn’t say anything else.
Arnbjorg didn’t know what to say. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Everything that was running through her head was frustrated, angry. Complaining. Her head was killing her. “Why,” she managed very carefully, “couldn’t you tell me?”
“Because, for one, ‘I’m a magical shapeshifting fairy,’ if off limits for the first week. And you were angry.” Jaya shrugged. “You were angry at everything. I didn’t really want to give you one more thing to be mad at.”
That didn’t really make me any less angry. Arnbjörg felt guilty, and she felt angry. She punched at her legs, then wondered if that, too, felt like complaining.
“Hey, hey.” Jaya grabbed her hands. “None of that. No hurting yourself, okay?”
Apparently so. She held her hands still in Jaya’s hands, not trying to get away and not trying to hold on. “I—.” I’m so frustrated. I just need to hit something. “It—.” It’s hard. I don’t understand this place. “You—.” You want me to be happy with you, but everything is new and weird and I don’t know what you expect!
The words wouldn’t come out. Nothing would come out at all. She put her hands over her face. Had she been complaining that much? Had Jaya really expected her to be happy with the situation? Had she (He?) been happy, when she was Kept?
“Arna? Arna, what’s wrong?”
The question was so absurd – don’t complain, tell me what’s wrong – that Arna just dropped her hands and stared at her… at her Keeper.
She couldn’t even say I can’t tell you; that would be complaining, because if she managed to get the words out, she’d probably be complaining about the order. Lord knew she wanted to complain about the order.
She put her hands back over her head and said nothing, while the air in the place dropped to freezing. She thought her skull might split open. She couldn’t quite swallow a whimper and she couldn’t fight the guilt that came after the sound escaped.
“Shit. Shit, Arna. Here, stand up, come on. Please, Arna, please?”