Saturday, March 3, 2001
“Focus.” Doug glared at Arnbjörg from the other side of the heavy bag. “Don’t just be angry. Be violent in a direction.”
That was practically a speech for Doug. Arnbjörg glared at him anyway.
“I’m being violent in a direction.”
“Be violent with focus,” he countered. “Hit the target. Hit it every time. Hurt it.”
“Hurt it.” Arnbjörg closed her eyes for a moment and thought about that. “Hurt my target.”
Who was her target? Magnolia, who thought babies were wonderful? Sheba, who thought she was in charge? Who had bought Leo, like she wanted a full set or something? Regine?
Someone had made this damn breeding project. She pictured Regine, lined her up on the heavy bag so that the place where a normal person would have a heart was at the center of the target, and nodded. “Ready.”
“Ready,” Doug agreed. He was either using a Working to brace himself or he was just that good. Arnbjörg wasn’t sure which was more reassuring.
Throat, eyes, groin stomach. She went at the targets with a sort of cold focus she’d never had before. She was going to take apart this target – Regine – one step at a time. Groin, bent, eyes, rake, throat, choke and make it hard to do Workings, Stomach, make it hard for them to get back up again. Back. She couldn’t do back with a heavy bag so she moved back to groin-eyes-throat-stomach. Again. Again.
She could picture Regine perfectly. She could see her choking, bleeding, her perfect smile shattered. She could see the way she’d grow more and more weak with each strike.
It felt great. If only she could really do it.
Breeding program. Babies. Slave collars. Kept. She hit the heavy bag over and over again.
“Enough!” Doug’s bark was loud enough that she wondered how many times he’d already said it. “Enough, enough, STOP!”
She stepped back, hands up in a guard position. “What? I was focusing my anger.”
“You were doing fine. Then you flailed. There were too many openings. Here.” He stepped around the bag and put his own hands up. “See, when you punch like this,” he demonstrated with a wide swing, and looked at her expectantly.
“Shit. I leave myself open. But I was doing fine at first?”
“At first. Then your anger got to be too much.” Doug’s smirk was way too knowing. “Think of your target, sure. But don’t let your anger eat you alive. Focus. Or something bigger than you is going to take you down while you’re flailing.”
“But…” Arnbjörg rasberried in frustration. “When I’m angry, I have more energy and more power. Picturing – picturing someone I was angry with let me get some really powerful hits in.”
“Does you no good if your enemy guts you. Work on focus. Pin-points. Be angry when you need to and not the rest of the time.” He tapped her on the top of the head before she saw him coming. “Anger is fine, Arnbjörg. Lots of things to be angry about. Don’t let anger steer.”
Don’t let anger steer.
“All right, sir.” She bowed and headed off to the showers, chewing over that. Don’t let anger steer. It wasn’t like she didn’t know she had an anger problem, even if it wasn’t upsetting Jaya. She’d gotten suspended from school more than once! She’d broken someone’s nose! Well, he’d deserved it. She’d –
Someone grabbed her arm in the hallway. She fought against the urge to twist and punch the interloper in the face and smiled instead, turning to see who it was.
Rand. Of course. “Not interested. Besides, you have your own.”
“Yeah, well, she’s been good this week. Thought maybe she’d like someone more her own type to play with.”
She swallowed a surge of nausea. “I’m not available.” Did she want to ‘play with’ Lily? Not if Lily didn’t have any choice in the matter, that was for sure. Not with Rand there. “You could send her over to our suite for an hour. We’ll bake her cake and do her hair or something.” If she could manage doing Lily’s hair without losing a hand.
“Oh, right, I’m going to send my Kept into the cy’Linden suite. Not to mention the takes in strays suite. I’d either never see her again or she’d come back fucked seven ways from Sunday and pregnant.”
“Lesbians don’t, as a rule, get each other pregnant,” Arna pointed out, mostly because he was pissing her off. Okay, everything was pissing her off, but Rand had a special place in her anger.
“So come on over and don’t get my lesbian pregnant.” He leered at her. “It’ll be fun.”
“How about you just let me take her to the Village? No cy’Lindens involved. Just us Kept.”
He sulked. “Man, I have never tried so hard to get a girl naked. You’d think waving my dyke girlfriend in front of you would help, but no…”
“Rand, you have three seconds to walk away before I punch you.” She pushed it through gritted teeth. She was supposed to be being calm. She was supposed to focus her anger.
“What,” he sneered, “you think I’m afraid of a little First Year? You may play big and tough, but you’re still in your first year, you’re still collared, and you’re still-”
She focused. She smiled. Rather calmly, she punched him right in the nose.
“You know, being calm really does help,” she told him.
“You bit!” That might have not been quite what he meant to say, but he had both hands over his nose. “You fuddin’ bit!”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She walked away, humming a happy tune.
She was still humming when she made it back into the suite, humming even though Sheba was there – Sheba who bought people and sold them like they were things, and Howard had actually been happy to have Leo around – humming right until she almost ran into Jaya. Glaring.
“..What did I do?” She walked around Jaya and into their room and flopped down in a chair. “… Did I do something?”
“Your hand is still covered in blood and you have to ask me that? Arna, I thought we talked about this temper problem.” Jaya pulled up the second chair and sat in it, looking stern and sad.
“I thought you said you had my back when it was a creep,” Arnbjörg countered. She struggled against the bad Kept, Bad Girlfriend feelings and pushed on. “If you know about this already, you already know it was a creep.”
“We can’t get involved in every battle in the school-” Jaya started.
“Translation: Sheba doesn’t care about Lily. What, not her type?” Arnbjörg knew she ought to stop, but she was on a roll. “Come on, we get involved all over the place. Zita. Leo. Callista. I’m sure there’s other I don’t know about. And he was creeping on me and being awful about Lily. So I told him to get away and when he didn’t, I punched him.”
“I punched him, you mean. Remember, I’m your Keeper. So when you get in a fight with someone in the halls, I just got in a fight with someone.” Jaya threw her hands up.
“And that was just fine when I got in a fight with Callista, remember?” She was getting good and angry again, which did her absolutely no good when it was Jaya. She couldn’t punch her girlfriend. She couldn’t even punch the walls in here without upsetting Jaya.
Not that Jaya wasn’t upset already. “And if you’ll remember, I asked for some warning if you were getting the crew in fights with people.”
“And you told me about the time when you fought Ofir for Kendra! Come on, Rand is a stinking piece of shit. Besides, I wasn’t getting the crew in a fight with anyone. I was getting me out of having a fight by breaking his nose and leaving!”
“Arnbjörg!” Okay, that was just stupid. She sat on her hands and glared.
“Arna, your power is literally stopping people from doing things you don’t want them to! You could have said no. You might even have been able to tell him not to sell Lily out if you got clever enough. But no, no, you had to punch him, and now he wants retribution, so I’m going to have to punch him some more, and really, Arna, what’s the point of being magical if you don’t use your power?”
“You tell me. You’re a Daeva or something, right? Why don’t you just, I don’t know, calm people down when they’re mad at you?”
“Like you?” Jaya glared at her. “How would you like it if I just ‘calmed you down?’”
“I’d love it! Because I can’t stop being angry and you hate it and —” Arnbjörg took a breath and found she wasn’t angry anymore. “… That feels weird.”
“It ought to.” Jaya wrinkled her nose, then closed the distance between them to kiss Arnbjörg on the forehead. “I can’t follow you around making you calm all the time.”
“You could, I don’t know, order me not to do things you don’t like. Oh, god, what am I saying?”
“I’m not going to do that. But please, think before you punch someone.”
“I’ll try,” Arnbjörg offered. She wondered if Jaya noticed that had been an order.