Deep Red, Chapter Thirty

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July 27, 1973: Third summer at Haven. Every time I come, I feel like I’m getting closer to something, and I want to know what. Derek tells me to be patient. I ask with what. He says, “Everything.” I told him I’m ready, and he said that he had to be sure this time. It’s a big change from last summer when he was telling me to be rebellious. Now he’s telling me to keep my head down, follow the rules, find a balance. He sticks me in a room for hours at a time, having me translate all this old information from the Otherworld. At night, I continue learning Latin. I told him if I wanted to go to summer school, I would go learn something useful–I still haven’t mastered transmutation. He said this is useful, and I need to learn discipline. This summer, Derek’s protege Kenneth is studying with me. He’s a couple of years older, but he’s nice. He doesn’t talk down to me. His family is one of the old families, but he doesn’t talk about them much. His dedication is infectious. It keeps me from throwing the books against the wall and walking out…July 27, 1974: Fourth summer. I’ve been here since May this time. Each summer gets longer. I wonder how soon it will be before I’m living here. Derek says only the unlucky live here…Kenneth kissed me. He said it was a happy birthday kiss, but I think he wanted it to be more. He doesn’t understand. I have never told anyone, but I don’t find men appealing. I know I should. I also know that I won’t have a choice when the time comes. No one talks about it, but the charter my grandfather put into place is still in effect. Everything melts away when I’m here, but somewhere bitter responsibility is waiting for me…July 27, 1977: Seventh summer. There’s a storm coming, Derek says, a firestorm. When fire hits the mountains, it eats away the rot and makes way for new life. What’s left after, he says, will be the result of the long struggle that came before. I don’t know what to say when he talks like that. I usually just nod, but today I realized that all these summers, all this time, has been preparation for the fire. Kenneth is here full time now. Derek made him one of the unlucky. Kenneth says he’ll marry me when I’m old enough. I see now it’s what was supposed to happen all along. Derek is getting married, too. He doesn’t seem very happy about it, but it’s time, he says. His new wife will be here when I come back next summer. What I think is that Victoria told him it’s time. She came back a few days ago. I haven’t seen her since I was five or six and now she’s back and everything’s changed. The Cabin is off limits. When I study, I do it in my room. Derek says she can’t know anything that’s happened up to now….

from The Journal of Bobbi Cayce, untranslated.

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Chapter Thirty

Testing Your Nature

Marlo moved through the next month like an automoton. She stopped trying to build the wall between her active mind and her inner child, but the wall continued to build itself, and the more she pushed to break it down, the stronger it became. Consequently, she avoided being alone with Katrina. Marlo saw Katrina during the occasional physical therapy session, on the running track, and in the dining hall, but no where else. When they spoke, they kept to casual topics and never mentioned Katrina’s eye or her problems with balance. Yet every time Katrina beamed her saucer eyes at Marlo’s progress, Marlo’s insides squeezed. Marlo began to feel more alone than before she met Katrina.

After a month of socially masked solitary confinement, of Drew trailing her everywhere with his abstruse intentions, of footing and hand-to-hand and drills with Alexis, of Q teaching her how to meld her body with her spirit, of lectures from Jack, of lying in her room reading the books Steve gave her, of consistent, impersonal interactions, Marlo finally came to a conclusion: the only way to beat the game, indeed, was to play the game.

Going through the motions made one other thing clear: she was not getting out of Haven any time soon. Jack said “years,” but Marlo didn’t understand years. Other than working toward earning a piece of paper for a human college degree, she only needed years to get older. Everything else came so easily. Each new art in magic had taken her days to learn, sometimes weeks. Otherworld language, a month. Latin, two months; fluency in both, five months. Her natural aptitude, and the belief of those around her in her talents, had kept her sufficiently deluded about her competency.

Her first bout with Alexis taught her what it looked like to stare down the barrel of years.

They had toe’d off with Marlo expecting Alexis’s easy defeat. After all, Marlo was Super Hybrid and a quick study. Isabelle had gotten her up to benching three-hundred and pressing four. After the first week of classes, Alexis taught Marlo all Marlo believed she’d need to know about martial arts.

Marlo hit the mat so many times during that brief sparring session that her ego had permanently melded with the blue, plastic fibers.

Though she had every right to be condescending, Alexis had been encouraging. “It takes time,” “This isn’t easy,” “Everyone has to learn in steps,” and other platitudes followed. Alexis was no Yoda, but she seemed to believe Marlo was capable of matching her at some point. Jack also pointed out that Alexis had been in combat training for more than twenty-one years.

“It’s going to take some time,” Jack repeated.

Marlo hated the thought of time. Time meant planning, which was something she wasn’t very good at, not when it came to herself. In the human world, she had been going to college to become a paralegal. She was good with memory and language and jargon. She researched and wrote documents, but she had no working strategy for afterward. The longest plan she made for herself was the trip she took to Austin, TX to see her favorite band perform. That was four days, including the driving.

Anything else difficult that came up in life was, generally, easily solved by magic or arduously solved by therapy. Garrett’s money helped solve any sticky middle bits.

This plan she had to grow for herself would need to encompass a lifetime, she realized after her match with Alexis, and it had to be a plan that included herself. As the full moon loomed closer, Marlo knew she could not skirt or cheat her way through, which meant no more checking out. Passivity and impatience would cost her. There were rules to follow in this game.

Chapter Thirty-One→