Friday, April 6, 2001
“Good.” Doug nodded at Arnbjörg. “Much better. Focused.”
Arnbjörg bowed back, trying to hide a smile. “Thank you, sir.” Much better was practically shouted praise from Doug. She was getting better. Focused! “I’ve been practicing.”
“On?” There was a challenge in his question.
“Oh, just the air. Jaya doesn’t really want me getting into fights…”
She didn’t like admitting that. She sounded – well, she sounded controlled, which was accurate, as such things went. She was controlled. She ran her hand over her necklace. She was owned. And with everything else going on, nobody seemed to think being owned was even weird, as long as you weren’t badly owned.
“She doesn’t like the fuss, I guess?” she added lamely. Doug had this habit of making you want to fill in the silences.
“Good.” Doug nodded. “Good practice for picking your own fights. Fight people who need it, not the wall, not strangers, not crew. Not,” he snorted, “family.”
“He still started that one! Well, I mean, the physical part.” She paused. “How is he, anyway?”
He had almost escaped. Leo and his crew, which was weird enough, all four of them Kept, had broken out of the school. Arnbjörg couldn’t decide whether to be more impressed or jealous – or angry someone had dragged them back after that. “I mean, after everything…?”
“Don’t know. Luke doesn’t say.” Doug frowns. “Maybe you should find out.”
“Me? He hates me.”
“Ask his friends? Not everyone is antisocial.”
“Just us, hunh? You and me, the cranky pair.” She smiled crookedly. “All right. I’ll ask.”
She’d nearly forgotten about Leo and Doug’s request by the time she got out of the shower. She was humming a tune she didn’t even recognize, something off the radio before she left for Addergoole, by the time she got halfway to the suite.
And then there was Melchior.
Arnbjörg stopped dead in the hall. She hadn’t meant to, but Melchior had been staying out of way for the last couple months, and there he was, looking like he was heading for Jaya’s.
He flushed and looked away. “Arnbjörg,” he muttered.
“Melchior.” She didn’t bother hiding her distaste. “Off to bother my girlfriend?”
“He’s my friend, too, you know. And he has been longer than you two were together!” He glared at her.
“That was made pretty disgustingly clear to me, yeah. You two were a thing.”
“Are. We’re still friends. We’re still. You know.”
“You’re not still lovers. Are you?” She swallowed a moment of worry.
“Wouldn’t you know? You’re the one that made him stop. His last girlfriend didn’t care.”
“From what I heard, her last girlfriend was half the problem. Ty didn’t care about anything, did he? I mean, cy’Linden parties…” She’d seen more than she wanted to of cy’Linden parties in the one Jaya had taken her to. It was – well, it was definitely something, and she supposed there were probably people who enjoyed it, but that wasn’t going to be her.
“Ty loved – loves Jamian.” Melchoir jutted his chin out at Arnbjorg. “And so do I.”
“Obviously not enough to get her pronouns or name right. Look. Be friends with her all you want. But I’m not going to sit still and watch my girlfriend have sex with someone else, and if you want me to be sorry for that, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Seriously.” She shook her head. “You wanted that, you should have volunteered for her collar yourself and saved me the whole Keeping problem.”
“What, you think if he hadn’t Kept you, you wouldn’t have been Kept by someone else? This is Addergoole. Everyone does their time their first year.”
“Everyone?” She was pretty sure it wasn’t everyone, not to hear Phelen talk.
Melchior shifted backwards and to his left. “Okay, almost everyone. Most people. And you, so angry and righto us and sure you know how the world works-” his mouth twisted and his words were bitten out, snapped out – “Come on, even I could have gotten you. With my Mask down.”
“I don’t like guys.”
“Yeah, yeah. Everyone knows that. For one, you’re dating a Daeva, maybe time to get over your little hang-ups about gender? Seriously, before you give Jamian a complex and we both end up with someone we don’t really want to know. I mean, I assume you actually want to know him. And not just, I don’t know, some cute girl in a skirt that managed somehow not to piss you off in the first week here.”
“That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, seriously.” Arnbjorg glared at him. “You know nothing about me or my relationship with Jaya.”
“I know everything Jamian told me. Which is just one side. But like I said, I’m Jamian’s friend, even if you’re going to be a bitch about the rest of it-”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting my girlfriend to be faithful to me!” She turned on her heel and started stomping back towards the suite.
“Your girlfriend-” Melchior was keeping up with her with what sounded like a little effort “-is a Daeva. I’d suggest you think about what that really means. And how you feel about what that means. And how complicated that can get. Soon. Before you seriously hurt her. And I’m not saying this because I want to sleep with him again – I mean, I do, don’t get me wrong. I’m saying that because you could be hurting him. And that’s just not okay.”
Arnbjorg turned to stare at him for a minute.
He was serious. She could tell. That was the scariest part.
She swallowed hard and nodded, then turned around. “I have to-”
He didn’t say anything. He didn’t follow her as she ran for the suite, as she hurried into the room.
Before you seriously hurt her.
“Arna! Arna, what-”
She wrapped her arms around Jaya. Jamian? Your girlfriend is a Davea. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t even know what she was sorry for. “I – I love you. I don’t mean to hurt you. I won’t ever hurt you again. I promise.”
Your girlfriend is a Daeva. How was she going to wrap her brain around that, for real? How was she going to deal with that?