Chapter 52: Cynara

Friday, March 9, 2001

There was this moment when they parted way after classes that Cya tried not to think about anymore.

She gave Howard a nice hug and smiled warmly at Zita, gave Leo a smile that he managed to respond to, and very slowly turned towards their – towards Dysmas’ suite.

She could hear them talking for a few minutes.  She didn’t so much track the conversation as she held on to the sound of their words.  She could feel it almost like a touch.

“It’s better this way.”  She didn’t say it out loud.  She’d learned not to say much at all out loud.  You never knew who was listening, and being invisible was a pretty simple Working, from what she’d seen.  “It’s better this way.”  She barely even mouthed the words, the mantra.  It’s better this way.  Leo didn’t actually look happier, true, but maybe the – the damage wouldn’t get worse.

“This fucking place,” she muttered, almost voicing it.  She would never forgive this place for the damage won’t get worse being her new standard for good.

It’s better this way.  He was out of Eriko’s hands and, although not everyone was better than Eriko, Zita and Howard trusted Sheba and if they did, she’d trust their judgement and, by association, hers.

The voices faded away.  Cya murmured a little Working to partition those thoughts off until she heard their voices again.  It was not an easy Working, but Professor Drake hadn’t even questioned why she wanted to learn it.

She smiled a little, the sort of expression that didn’t go past her lips and wasn’t supposed to, shifted her posture until she looked almost mechanical, and walked home with a quicker step, feet lifted instead of dragging.

Dysmas didn’t notice, of course.  She was pretty sure Dysmas would only notice if she let the mask crack at all.  She broadened her smile by a millimeter for him, then held nearly-still while he kissed her and took a nip from the side of her neck. She couldn’t freeze; she had to be responsive or he complained.  On the other hand, she couldn’t be too responsive or he complained.

“Did you have a good day?” he asked.

She’d learned by now that this was formula, not something he expected a real answer to.  “Professor Pelletier was interesting today, and I enjoyed my magic class.”  She hung her book bag on its hook, just inside Dysmas’ room, and started making dinner.  “How was your day?”

“Ridiculous.  Professor Valerian was on another one of her spiels – and how she expects anyone to keep up with that, I don’t know.  And then there was PE, which was, as always, a farce.”  He kept going.  Cya took enough mental notes that she could put in the appropriate question about the appropriate ongoing complaint at the right moment, while her hands chopped vegetables automatically and the rest of her mind considered meals for the next week.  

“She doesn’t believe that you know the information?” she put in, and was rewarded – such as it was – by a continuing rant.

She didn’t mind.  Ranting was one of the easier things to handle, and it let her work on dinner, scaling her favorite recipes up for four fae appetites –

No.  Three.  Three fae appetites.  She struggled with a sudden surge or pain and looked down at the vegetables for a minute, pushing the tomatoes off the board.

“Are you listening?”  Dysmas was peevish.  Oh, good.  She pushed that thought and the other thought from her mind and looked up with a faint smile.  

“Of course.  Professor Pelletier was being rude, and she seems to have decided she wants to target you unfairly.  She does that in my class, too.  There’s people she just doesn’t like.”

“There’s no reason she shouldn’t like me.”  Dysmas kept going.  Cya thought about Dysmas’ Kept from last year, Nydia, the very thin one. One of the very thin ones, and if Eriko was any indication, Cya didn’t have to ask why.  Nydia was cy’Pelletier, wasn’t she?

Professor Drake never stated any opinion on Dysmas.  Then again, Professor Drake also taught Shahin and Emrys, and Emrys had been crew with Dysmas.  Before Shahin, Dysmas would sneer when it came up, so Cya made sure it didn’t come up. And Dysmas was not taking Law nor learning Old Tongue.  Dysmas thought Old Tongue was a waste of time and didn’t see why he needed to know more Law than that which everyone in the school knew.

It was one of a very few opinions Cya kept for herself, in a little locked box in her mind where they wouldn’t come out at the wrong time.  The Law was important, because the Law steered what they physically could and could not do.  She could no more disobey Dysmas than she could fly, or shoot lightning from her hands – although, since they knew people that could do both, that was probably not the best example.  

Leo.  Leo shot lightning from his fingers.  She finished dicing the carrot and slid it into the microwave.  “I don’t think Luke likes anyone.  I’m not even sure he likes his cy’ree.”  She wasn’t sure she liked anyone here, except her crew –

– first-year students didn’t have crews.  Kept didn’t have crews.  And off out of this horrid suite, they wouldn’t need her anymore, anyway.

The onion died a very precise and horrible death.  Dysmas was commenting on Luke’s uselessness.  But he’d noticed something, damnit, he wasn’t supposed to notice things.

“They’re trying to imitate real life, you know.  That’s why oaths and Keepings work, and that’s why they don’t intervene.  Well.”  H smirked. “They did when it got bloody, but it had to get really bloody.  Shadrach went a little off the rails, but who could blame him, with someone like Eris for a Kept?”

Eris.  Eris who had Kept Zita.  “Why’s that?” she asked, forcing herself to casualness.

“She’s nuts.  And she wasn’t any saner when she was Kept.  She was always fighting him, looking for loopholes, getting into shouting matches in the halls.  Nobody wants a Kept like that.”

Nobody wants a Kept like that.  It got really bloody.  Cya thought about Leo, fighting everything and then moving like a puppet, only when Eriko pulled his strings.  “Of course not.”  The smile she gave Dysmas was wan and thin, but it was all she could manage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *