Monday, April 9, 2001
It had been a crazy idea.
Of course it had been a crazy idea: it had been Leo’s, and he hadn’t been sane since –
since, well, Eriko. But Leo had had an idea, and Cya had gone along with it just because it was Leo wanting to do something.
And because if it succeeded, she would find a way to be clear of this place if she had to cut it out of her mind with a scalpel, and then she could do the same for her friends, and THEN she could find a way to fix what had been done to Leo if she had to practice on every since insane person in America first.
For about half an hour, she’d actually allowed herself to think they were escaping.
But now they were back, and Dysmas –
She had never gotten Dysmas angry with her before. All this time, all year belonging to him, watching what she said, watching what she even thought, and she’d blown all of her time being a perfectly good Kept.
She sat quietly in a corner of Dysmas’ room, feeling the way the guilt and his disappointment in her washed over her, pulsed through her, and she realized two very important things.
She would do it again. For Leo, for Howard, for Zita. She would do crazy or stupid or just bad-Kept things over and over and over again. Forever and ever, amen, for the way she felt sneaking down the side of the road with them.
She would probably do anything Leo asked her, even if it meant leaping to her death off of a cliff. If all your friends jumped off a cliff…? Wasn’t that what parents were supposed to ask? Or maybe teachers?
Her father had asked her – she let her pen move silently across the paper in the words she had heard countless times.
If you hear people are jumping off a cliff: first ask, what’s in it for them. Then ask, what’s at the bottom. Thirdly, look for a ladder.
She hadn’t looked for anything. No, that wasn’t true; she’d looked for an exit. She’d looked for the best places to start their distraction, to make the most fire with the least long-term destruction.
Dysmas hadn’t been that furious about her leaving, if she gauged by the yelling and the cold words. He’d been angry they’d made a scene. He’d been angry she’d gone off with That reject Kept that used to be Eriko’s and Magnolia’s boy that doesn’t have any idea how to be owned.
Dysmas, she realized, was jealous.
She started to write, stared at her pen, and thought very carefully about her words.
If your friends are going to jump off a cliff, Professor Drake had said, as calmly as ever, although he was smiling at her, the questions you should think about are: how do you land safely. How do you get them down safely. And what can you give up to get to the bottom of the cliff. Write about the consequences of your actions in a way that will inform me and you – and no others – how you will avoid those consequences, the next time cliff-jumping, metaphorical or otherwise, comes up.
He’d made it a challenge. She studied her page and her pen for a moment, as if they would give her answers, and started taking notes.
- Dysmas is angry.
- Loss of privileges.
- None of our Keepers got in any trouble. Why not?
“What are you doing?” Dysmas looked up from his book.
She found she wanted him to be happy with her. “Homework from Professor Drake.”
“I don’t know why you wanted him as a Mentor. You’re a clever enough girl when you take the time to think. You could’ve gone with Solomon or Mendosa, especially with Intinn being your best Word.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She folded her shoulders forward and hung her head. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” She’d told him more than once – more than three or four times, before she’d realized that he didn’t know because he didn’t want to know – why she had gone to Professor Drake. He just liked to complain about it, probably because Professor Drake saw more than, perhaps, Mendosa would have chosen to.
“We’re all entitled to a stupid decision once in a while, but this one is going to affect the rest of your life. I suppose you could still change, if you wanted to.”
“Professor Solomon said that he wouldn’t allow a change of Mentor until I wasn’t collared anymore.” She hung her head and looked as apologetic as possible.
What Professor Solomon had said had been exactly that. What his eyebrows had suggested – and what the whispered rumors that he was a mind-reader had helped her suggest – were a different matter altogether.
“Oh? Hrmph. They’re too worried about interference. Your Keeper ought to be the most important thing in your life, not your schoolwork.”
“I-” Cya swallowed everything she wanted to say and gave him a small nervous smile. “Of course you’re the most important thing. But you wanted me to do good, right, to make you look good?”
“In classes. What does you doing good with your Mentor do for me?”
There were a lot of answers to that. None of them would make him happy. Cya closed her notebook. “Would you like me to do something for you? Right now? Nothing I have for Professor Drake can’t wait.”
“Nothing you have at all can’t wait until you serve me. What are you going to do for me, hrrm?” He raised his eyebrows. “After that ridiculous stunt, it had better be pretty impressive.”
She slid her shirt off and let it drop on the floor. “I think you’ll enjoy it. I’ve been doing some reading, you see-” She dropped to her knees in a move she’d practiced in the bathroom.