Chapter 40: Cynara

Monday, January 15, 2001

Something had to change, and it had to change before she lost control of her emotions.

Cya was not taking combat classes.  She hadn’t asked.  She wasn’t with a Mentor who taught combat.  She wasn’t the sort of girl one thought about when one thought about violence and such things.

She had come to school knowing three ways to kill someone if she had to and had come up with two more already in the course of her Workings.  She would have to be quick, and clever, and would have to put all of her power into it, but she was fairly certain she knew where the mental processes were that controlled breathing.

Unlike that bitch Eriko, who did it accidentally with an order.  What a stupid, ridiculous, hateful bitc…

Cya put her smile on a little more carefully.  She couldn’t kill Eriko.  Killing someone could, she heard, get you expelled, and if she got expelled, then that would leave Howard to try to look after Leo and Zita on his own.  

And Leo… Leo needed more looking after than one person could handle.  Eriko didn’t seem to care anymore, if she ever had. Cya wouldn’t trust her with a pet rock, much less with a person.

Dysmas was in a good mood, the way he always was after he’d fed. “I was thinking…”   Cya began, trying to sound casual rather than cautious. “Maybe we could do some sort of, mmm, Kept club?  Just an afternoon out once in a while, get some fresh air, practice cooking?  Zita has a lot of good recipes, and I know Lily and Leofric can’t really boil water without help, but if we managed to give them some help…”

Adding Lily in was a gamble.  She barely talked to the girl – almost nobody did; if anyone was angrier than Arnbjorg, it was Lily – but Zita and Howard had managed to make friends with her, and what they said – or didn’t say – was nearly as worrisome as what Cya saw with Leo.

On the other hand, not adding in Lily made it the crew, and the problem was, their Keepers were pretty sure – even Howard’s Keeper, who generally seemed like a decent sort for a mind-raping monster – that first-year students in general and Kept for definite could not have crews.

It didn’t seem to matter.  Dysmas frowned down at her.  “You know Eriko doesn’t want Leofric spending time without her.  That kendo thing is too much, if you ask me.”

“I know,” she ducked her head in apology.  “But he is still a person, too, who might be able to use a little breathing room?  Maybe he’d be better…” stop getting himself punished so badly, “if he had a little room?  And learning to cook better really behooves all of us…?”

She’d said the wrong thing.  She knew it as soon as she finished the sentence, even without looking at Dysmas’ face.  His body language had changed.  The way his hand was on her had changed.

“There’s plenty of time for all of you to be people next year.”  It didn’t quite sound like a quote, but it definitely had the feeling of something someone had said to him before.  “Leofric will survive this year just fine without any ‘room’, just like any Kept, and you do just fine at doing the cooking for this crew.”  In a voice that was almost gentle, he added, “I wouldn’t worry too much about breathing room, if I were you.  Wiggle room just gives you more room to hurt yourself.  Look at Leofric – Eriko gave him too much room, and look where he ended up.”

Cya felt sick and numb inside, but there was nothing to be done to argue with that tone.  She’d tried to do something to give them all a little space and it had failed.  If she was quick and careful, it might not backfire horribly on all of them.  “Of course.”  She looked up at him through a fringe of hair with a small smile, one that bordered on coy.  Bordered on was important.  Dysmas wasn’t stupid.  If he was, everything would probably be a lot easier. “You know everything here better than I do.  I’m still learning.”

She really was still learning.  She’d learned she couldn’t say anything about being a person – about any Kept being a person.  That was a little new, but it did not surprise her.  “Thank you for explaining,” she added.  “Sometimes I can be impulsive…”

That, that was very close to a lie, so she let herself look guilty for the fib and let him think she was guilty about the so-called impulsiveness.  She certainly had a lot of impulsive urges, right?  Like the one where she strolled up behind Eriko and…

No, no.  She let her guilty look slide into a blank smile.  She could not kill Eriko.  Not now.

Don’t ever commit something you know is a crime unless you have your escape route planned and are fairly certain your can cover your tracks.  Always know the local laws as well as you can manage, so you don’t accidentally commit a crime.

Her father’s lessons might have been punctuated a few too many times by the exceptions – “well, pumpkin, I knew it was a crime but I knew they’d never prove it was me, see?  And we did have a back door and three escape routes, right?  Just have to wait a few years before we go back there…” but she’d certainly learned a lot.

And right now she was ignoring a very important one of his lessons. Pay attention to the problem in front of you.  The other problems can wait.

Luckily, Dysmas hadn’t really noticed much.  “You can’t go around being impulsive while you’re mine.  Then you do stupid things like try to Know the mind of nothingness, and look where that gets you, mmm?  Just be a good girl and do what I tell you do, and you’ll be fine.”

If she was a good girl, maybe it wouldn’t make her teeth set so much when he said things like that.  She smiled at her, what she thought of as her cops-and-truant-officers smile.  “What do good girls do?”

“Well, sweet thing,” his hand settled on the back of his neck.  “You know most of it already.  They look pretty for their masters – which you’re fairly good at – and they don’t argue with people where it would  cause a problem.  They take care of the household troubles and they don’t talk back.  Leofric is not very good at being a good Kept, but you can see all the things not to do from looking at him.”

Don’t fall in love with your Keeper, check.  Don’t be Kept by a miserable bitch, check.  “Yes sir.”  She gave him her best good-girl look.  “You know I want to be a good girl for you.”

“I know you do.”  His hand in her hair felt nice.  She tried to ignore the part where it also felt like he was holding her in place.  “And you’re very good at it, my adorable angel.”

She could be a blank little angel for a year.  She smiled a little more and let the feeling fill her.

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