Saturday, February 17, 2001
She was trying, she really was.
She wasn’t trying, perhaps, as hard as she ought to or as often as she ought to, but Arnbjörg was trying hard to accept this place. It was just…
“It’s so fucked up.” She threw up her hands.
“What?” Jaya turned to look at her. They were studying together on their bed, Jaye’s head on Arnbjörg’s shoulder. They hadn’t been talking at all; Arnbjörg had been glaring at her textbook and attempting to focus.
“This school. Everything about it. Babies.”
“Arna – “
“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me that it doesn’t suck!”
“As a matter of fact.” Something had changed in Jaya’s voice. It sounded harsh and unhappy. Arnbjörg resisted the urge to flinch away. “I don’t think it sucks. I got to be myself – all of myself – for the first time in my life, without having to hide it. I have two beautiful children that I love. I have new friends, friends I never would have met out there,” Jaya gestured vaguely upwards, “and, to top it all off, I get to be a magical fairy, which is actually pretty awesome. I could be a doctor. I never thought I could be, well, anything before.” She was sitting up straighter and glaring at Arnbjörg.
Arnbjörg just sat up even straighter in response. “That’s great for you, but I mean, what about me? I don’t want kids, I don’t like guys, and, other than the horns, this place still kind of sucks.”
Jaya took a deep breath. This time, Arnbjörg did flinch, thinking her girlfriend – girlfriend? Keeper – was about to shout at her.
“That’s enough.” Jaya went a little limp. “I can’t do this anymore, Arna. I’m sorry. I really like you, I really like being your girlfriend, your Keeper, but – you hate everything. You want to fight about everything.”
“Didn’t you? When you were collared and Kept and finding out all of this stuff?”
“Shahin and Kai and I, we started trying to change things. We worked around our Keepers – well, my Keeper – and, well, when something made us angry, we tried to find a way to fix it. It wasn’t easy. Kai got really hurt. Shahin got really hurt. So did Emrys. But we did some good, too.”
Arnbjörg looked at her Keeper in confusion. “Is that what you want me to do? I mean, you weren’t happy when I picked a fight with Callista, were you?”
“I wasn’t angry, either. It made sense. Callista was hurting her Kept. Your half-brother. She probably didn’t mean to, considering everything she’s been to, but she was still hurting someone that was your family.” Jaya paused to consider. “I should really make someone tell me who my family is here, all things considered. But I didn’t mind you doing something. I just – would rather know before I’m getting in a fight.”
“You and Sheba didn’t have to–” Arnbjörg stopped. “Shit, that’s something else about this place, isn’t it? Someone in a crew gets in a fight, we all get in a fight? Even if, for instance, Phelen decides he wants to make trouble with someone because he’s bored?”
“Magnolia’s the bigger risk there,” Jaya confided. “Yeah, we back our crew up, because that’s why we have crews. Out there in the world, if you’re going to go up against a monster – you are cy’Doug, after all – you’re going to want buddies to back you up.”
“I don’t… I don’t like ‘buddies’,” Arnbjörg complained. “I don’t like people. I like you, I like… Doug. A couple other people… but I don’t like, well people in general. I don’t want… people all around me all time. I can barely stand this.”
“I know. And that’s – that’s a point for another day.” Jaya visibly shook herself and brought herself back on track. “And we’ll talk about it. The thing is, right now – you’re wearing me out. You hate everyone, you hate everything, you don’t like people, you don’t like the school, and nothing is good enough for you. It’s exhausting. And it’s making me miserable.”
Arnbjörg swallowed around a lump of guilt. “You didn’t say anything. You’ve never said anything.” She knew it was a lie even as she said it, but – “you didn’t tell me.”
“Because I know what the bond is doing to you right now, and I didn’t want to do it. I don’t want to be the sort of Keeper that jerks you around all the time or makes you feel miserable just because I’m having a bad day. But I – well. I was erring too far the other way.” Jays sat up very straight and looked at Arnbjörg. “This is not an order, but it is an ultimatum: If you can’t find a way to not be miserable about everything, then we’re going to break up. You don’t have to be happy about everything, but you need to find something to not be unhappy about, or – well, or. Or I help you move back to your room and I release you, and you can be your own person and angry in your own room.”
Arnbjörg felt her throat tighten. “You can’t…” you can’t be serious. But from the look on Jaya’s face, Jaya could indeed be very serious about this. “You mean… what do you mean, not be unhappy? Not shout about it?”
“I mean, something you can be actively not unhappy about. Something you talk about. Something that you are not miserable about that you talk about, something you enjoy. Something you like.”
“I like my power?” Arnbjörg offered in a small voice. Since her power involved saying no to anyone and everything, she was pretty sure that didn’t count.
“That’s a start.” Jaya still wasn’t smiling, but she didn’t look quite so dour. “But really, Arma, you don’t really hate the whole world, do you?”
“A whole bunch of it?” She’d never felt this guilty about it before, though. “I mean, most people? Most things.”
“Well, do you think you could aim your dislike? Hate people who deserve it in, uh, a way where you could be pleasant about something?”
“Something other than punching people, right?”
“Yeah, that would help. Geez, Arna, what did you do back home?”
“Punch people? Not often, because I got suspended for that back home. And uh. Not have a lot of friends, and no girlfriend, and-”
“Yeah, I get it, I get it.” Jaya frowned at her. “Can you work on it? Because otherwise – otherwise we really have to call it quits. And I don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t either.” Arnbjörg touched the necklace around her neck. “I really don’t.”