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April 20, 1990
Professor Weem shared some interesting things with me about the Rising Sun prophecy. It's no secret that he's on the side of the Rising Sun being a person, not a metaphor or anything else. He takes the prophecy really, really seriously. I was floored and flattered that he wanted to talk to me about it. I've been spending time with him nearly every day.
I thought Palomino would be asleep by the time I got back to my room. But when I snuck back in after Jason picked the lock on the front door for me, she was sitting on her bed pouring over her biology textbook. She didn't look up when I came in. I collapsed on my bed, not in a particularly good mood. I kept thinking about the way Jason had pulled away from me after we had sex.
I'd originally thought of this whole issue as my problem, but now it was affecting Jason too. And it was stupid, because there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. He was perfect. How could he think that there was something wrong with him? There was something wrong with me.
"Mina?" I said.
"Huh?" She didn't look up from her book.
"When you have sex, do you, you know . . . like . . ."
She slammed her book. "Why are you asking me this?"
I sat up on my bed. "I just wondered."
"Yeah. I mean, not always, but yeah."
"Did you always?"
"Not right at first, I guess. But since then. Do you think that's why I got pregnant? Because I read this thing online that said that the female orgasm is designed by nature to like spasm the sperm deeper—"
"Eew!" I cut her off. "That's my brother's sperm we're talking about."
She rolled her eyes. "Maybe if I was just one of those frigid chicks who just lies there, none of this ever would have happened."
"Frigid?" I said. What did that mean?
"You know, like a prude," she said.
"That's what you called me last night," I said. And I wasn't. I'd gotten busy tonight. I'd wanted to. I liked having sex with Jason. That wasn't the problem.
"I have hormone issues. You can't blame me for stuff I say."
"I wasn't blaming you." I was worried. Was I frigid? Was there something seriously wrong with me? "So . . . how did you have these orgasms?"
"I don't know, they just happened," she said. "Why are you bothering me with this? I have a biology exam tomorrow, and I'm pregnant, and I'm alone. Spare me another lecture on how much of a slut I am."
"I didn't say that about you," I said, confused. "Besides, you don't have to be alone. Just talk to Chance."
"I'm not talking to Chance. And that is totally what you said last night. With the whole I-was-just-randomly-hooking-up-with-Chance comment."
"Okay, I kind of remember saying that," I said, "but I never called you a slut or implied that you were one."
Why was she attacking me? None of her problems were my fault.
"They just happened?" I asked.
"Yeah, they just happened."
"So . . . um . . . what did they feel like?"
"Oh my God," she said, "you've never had an orgasm, have you? I knew that Jason guy was too good to be true, with his big, dark eyes and his 'we talked through it' stuff. Pretty and sensitive? And willing to defend your honor? Maybe, but only if he sucks in bed."
That was uncalled for. I stood up and went into the bathroom. "He doesn't suck in bed," I told her. "He's amazing."
"Sure he is," she said.
I got out my toothbrush and ran it under the sink. Palomino appeared in the doorway. "Why can't you just admit he's flawed, Azazel?"
Flawed? Jason? Well, there was the fact that I'd watched him kill more people than I could count on one hand. But that didn't matter, did it? Not when I'd killed for him too. Held a gun to the head of a girl who'd once been my best friend and pulled the trigger. Watched her brains spray everywhere, her skull shatter. Neither Jason nor I was perfect. "He's flawed," I said flatly. I popped my toothbrush into my mouth.
"So he can't get you off?"
I didn't answer.
"You're going to have to show him how to do it."
"I don't know how," I said, but my voice was muffled by the toothbrush in my mouth.
I spit into the sink and glared at her. "I don't know how."
She laughed and went back into the bedroom.
I rinsed out my mouth. "You're in really nice mood," I called after her.
"Hormones," she shot back, "or did you forget I'm pregnant?"
"If you hate being pregnant so much," I said, "then why don't you just get an abortion?"
She reappeared in the doorway, a horrified expression on her face. "I can't believe you'd say that. Abortion is murder."
"Okay," I said.
"Don't tell me you think it's okay."
"I . . ." If I were pregnant, there was no way that I could bring a child into the world Jason and I inhabited. Better for the fetus to be terminated in my womb than to live only to get shot in the head by the Sons. "The Sons are so freaking Catholic," I muttered.
"Azazel, are you telling me you'd have an abortion?"
"My life is too screwed up as it is," I said. "I don't have anything to give a kid." I pushed past her, through the bathroom doorway, and lay back down on my bed. "I'm going to sleep." I changed into my pajamas and crawled under the covers.
"God," said Palomino, "what am I going to do?"
"Tell Chance," I said, switching off my bedside lamp.
"I'm not telling anyone," she insisted.
"Sooner or later, people are going to figure it out."
"Maybe not, if I wear the right clothes."
"Jesus." Was she crazy? Did she really think she could keep this a secret?
"And you can't tell anyone either. Promise me you won't."
"Fine," I said. I closed my eyes and burrowed into the softness of my pillow. It was late. I just wanted to go to sleep.
For several minutes, it was quiet. I heard Palomino climb back on her bed and open up her biology book. "Azazel?" she said.
"If you don't know how, you're going to have to figure it out. You're the only one who can."
"Figure out what?"
"You know what. It's your body. You can't be afraid of your own body."
I wasn't afraid of my body. Not exactly. My thoughts were getting sluggish as sleep crept up on me. I would worry about how to have orgasms in the morning. I drifted. My last thought was that I'd forgotten to drink before bed tonight again. But I was tired. Maybe I wouldn't dream . . .
I dreamed. In my dream, I was in a cheap hotel, lying on the stained bedspread, completely naked. I could feel the air from a chugging ceiling fan, which was badly fastened to the cracked ceiling.
My arms and feet were tied to the bedposts. I struggled, but I couldn't pull away. I looked around the room, panicking. At the foot of the bed stood two figures. They were wearing long black hooded robes. They were holding a bell. I wasn't close to the bell, but I could see that it had an engraving of the sun rising over the ocean. I couldn’t see their faces.
They were speaking to each other.
"If we do this," said one, a female voice, "do you think it means we're evil?"
"Evil?" said the other male. "It's just what comes naturally."
"Naturally to you," she said.
"Naturally to everyone," he countered. "Everyone wants her. Everyone wants to take her violently. Look at her skin. So soft, so vulnerable. Imagine how it will sound when she screams."
The female giggled. "I like it when they scream."
"I know you do, my sweet," said the male.
I thrashed against the ropes on the bed. It was clear that something very bad was going to happen to me here. I was going to have to do something about it. If only I had a gun.
Magically, the way it sometimes happens in dreams, I looked over on the bedside table, and a gun was there. I reached for it, but, of course, I couldn't even brush it with my fingertips.
"I'm not vulnerable," I told the black-robed people. "I'm tough. I can take care of myself."
"No," said the female. "You're weak and scared. And flawed. We're the strong ones."
"If you touch me, I'll kill you," I said.
The black-robed people laughed. "You won't kill us," they said together.
"I can hear you now," said the male. "No, don't. Not like this."
Not like this. That was what I'd said, a long time ago, to Jason in hotel when his hands were ripping at my clothes—
And the male in the robe lowered his hood. It was Jason. He climbed over the foot of the bed to lie on top of me, laughing. "Not like this," he said again, mocking me.
I shook my head. "No," I said. "No, don't be Jason."
Jason was opening his robe over top of me. He wasn't wearing anything under it. "You know you want it," he said to me, his face hideously close to mine, twisted into a grotesque leer. "You love me."
"No," I said. "No."
The female lowered her hood. "Of course we love Jason," she said.
She was me.
I glanced from Jason's grinning face to my own. She (me) looked at me, laughter in her eyes. "We love Jason, because he taught us to kill."
"You're mine," Jason whispered to me, his hands on my body, twisting and pinching me. It hurt.
"No," I said again, but it was barely a whisper.
She (me) was pushing Jason off of me. "No, no," she said. "You don't know how to do it. I'm the only one who knows how to do it." She shoved Jason off, onto the floor.
He climbed back up, a wounded look in his eyes. "Am I that bad at it?"
She (me) brandished the bell and pushed my legs apart. "I'm the only one who knows how to do it," she said, cackling.
Everything went black.
I woke up breathless and sweaty, spasms racking my pelvis and thighs. I gasped, opening my eyes.
Sunlight was pouring through the windows of my dorm room. I leapt out of bed, tumbled into the bathroom, and threw up in the toilet.
There was nothing in my stomach for me to vomit. Instead, my empty stomach heaved on itself, bile rising in my throat. I spit, wiped my mouth with my hand, and collapsed on the floor next to the toilet.
"You okay?" called Palomino from the bedroom. "I thought I was the one who was supposed to have morning sickness."
"I had a nightmare," I told her, getting up off the floor. I crawled back into the bedroom and back towards my bed. Once there, I felt under the mattress for the bottle of vodka I had there.
"Was it a gross nightmare?" Palomino asked.
"Yeah," I said, taking a long swig of vodka and gagging at the taste.
"Jesus, Azazel!" exclaimed Palomino.
"I just . . ."
I just couldn't face the dream. You didn't have to be Carl Jung to figure out what it meant. But I didn't want to think about it. Not Jason's violence. Not my violence. Not the fact I couldn't have orgasms. Okay, so I was bothered. Fine. Did it mean I had to have those horrible nightmares?
"I just need this," I said, taking another long draught.
"I think doing that is just going to make you throw up more," said Palomino, looking concerned. She'd never seen me drink in the morning. She'd never seen me drink so much. I kind of felt guilty about that . . .
. . . but then the easy swimming sensation of liquor took over my thoughts, and I didn't feel guilty about anything.
"I don't throw up," I told her. "Not anymore."
"Whatever," I said to her. "Shut up about it, or I'm calling Chance and telling him he's about to be a dad."
"Don't you dare!" she said, sitting up straight in her bed.
I shrugged. "Don't worry," I said. "I was joking anyway."
"It wasn't funny," said Palomino.
"I'm taking a shower," I said. "I have class." I took another nip from my vodka bottle. It was almost empty, but that was okay. I had more bottles of vodka underneath my bed. I'd probably be taking one with me in my purse today.
"You're going to class that drunk?" Palomino called after me.
"I'm not drunk," I told her.
"What do you think about the pole shift theory?" asked George Churchill.
I was in my science class. My drunkenness was fading away, and I didn't like it.
Professor Halverson sighed. "George," he said, "what does this have to do with plate tectonics?"
"I just want to know your stance on it," said George. "I know it's not accepted by the mainstream scientific community, and I want to know why."
I still had most of the small vodka bottle I'd brought with me to class left. I could go to the bathroom and take a few gulps of it. I raised my hand.
Unfortunately, someone else did too, at that exact moment.
Professor Halverson called on her first.
"What's a pole shift?" she asked.
Professor Halverson sat down at his podium heavily. "Okay, okay," he said. "You've succeeded in derailing me from my lecture for a few minutes. But all the information in Chapter Seventeen is on the exam, no matter what."
I lowered my hand. He was going to talk for a while, wasn't he?
"The theory goes that the earth's north and south poles will shift to a completely different location suddenly," continued the professor. "This would cause massive climate changes and disastrous consequences like floods and storms. Essentially it would be apocalyptic."
"Why would that happen?" asked the same girl.
"That's why it's so ridiculous," said Professor Halverson. "People think it will happen in 2012, when the Mayan calendar ends. They think the world will end. But there's no scientific basis for this theory. It's nonsense."
I raised my hand again.
"Ms. Smith, you have a comment?" asked Professor Halverson.
"May I use the restroom?" I asked.
Professor Halverson looked annoyed. "Fine," he said.
Chase was sitting at our usual table when Jason and I arrived at lunch. I didn't see Palomino anywhere. I considered walking around the dining room, trying to find her, but I was really too drunk to walk in an actual straight line, so I didn't think it would be a good idea. I'd had to lean on Jason just to get to the table to sit down.
"What's wrong with my sister?" Chance demanded when I sat down.
Jason just shook his head.
"I'm fine," I told Chance.
Jason heaved a huge sigh. "Azazel, you stay here, okay. I'm going to get us both some food. You need something in your stomach to soak that liquor up."
"Liquor?" said Chance. "You're drunk?"
"Shh!" I told him. "Someone might hear, and I might get in trouble."
"Just watch her, please?" Jason said to Chance.
"I don't need watching," I told Jason, but he was already walking over to the food line to get our trays. I turned back to my brother. I was feeling a little unsteady. It probably hadn't been a good idea to excuse myself to the bathroom during science and kill the bottle of vodka. I wasn't sure how much I'd had to drink this morning, but it was a lot. I tried to smile at Chance. "I'm fine," I said.
"Why are you drunk, Zaza?" asked Chance. Chance was the only person alive who was allowed to call me Zaza. Everyone else who used to call me that was dead. Usually, it just reminded me of them. But with Chance, it didn't feel bad. It felt comforting.
I bit my lip. "I've been having dreams," I said. I picked up the napkin on the table and began twisting it. "Chance, you know, there are things that Jason and I did. Things that I did. You don't know this, but Gordon and Noah aren't off doing some weird job for Grandma Hoyt together in California. There's no easy way to tell you this. They're—"
"Who says you get to sit at this table?" interrupted a voice.
It was Palomino. She was gripping her tray so tightly her knuckles were losing color.
"Mina," said Chance, looking both happy to see her and concerned by her anger. "Sit down."
"I'm not sitting with you," she said. "You'll have to move."
"I'm not moving," said Chance.
"I don't have anyone else to sit with," said Palomino.
"Well, neither do I," said Chance.
"Azazel is my friend."
"She's my sister. Besides, I have to watch her. She's drunk."
"I know. I watched her get wasted the minute she woke up this morning."
Jason returned the table, sliding a tray full of steaming mashed potatoes and gravy in front of me. "Hi Palomino," he said. "Are you and Chance trying to work it out?"
"I want him to leave," Palomino said.
I looked up at Jason. "I can't eat this," I said.
"You have to," he said, sitting down. "It'll make you feel better."
"Smelling it is making me nauseous," I said.
"Eat," Jason said. He turned back to Palomino. "Are you joining us?"
"Not with him," she said.
Chance hung his head. "You know what? Fine. I'll move."
"No," I said. "I don't want you to move. This is all silly anyway. She just needs to talk to you." I looked at Palomino. "You should just tell him."
Palomino sat down. "Don't even think about it, Azazel," she growled.
"Tell me what?" said Chance.
"Nothing," said Palomino icily.
And then everyone was quiet.
I looked down at my mashed potatoes, which seemed a little blurry. I wondered if the amount of alcohol I'd had to drink was impeding my vision. Could alcohol do that? I picked up my fork and poked at the potatoes. They kind of smelled good, but in a foreign way, like something I liked in a different state of consciousness.
I looked over at Jason, and he gave the potatoes a meaningful look. Ugh. Fine. I took a tentative bite of potatoes. They did taste good. The cafeteria staff at the Sol Solis School used the real thing, not instant potatoes. I chewed and swallowed, then took another bite, bigger this time. As I swallowed that, I felt sanity returning, my drunkenness beginning to fade. I didn’t want that. I put down my fork.
"This is stupid," I said. "Palomino's pregnant."
I don't know why I said it. I wasn't thinking clearly. Drinking tended to fuzz out my brain. I wanted my brain fuzzed out, because I didn't want to face my dreams or myself. But it had the unfortunate side effect of making everything else fuzzy too.
Jason dropped his fork.
Chance choked on his bite of roast beef.
Palomino stood up, her chair squeaking against the floor. "I hate you, Azazel," she said. She stormed off. I was pretty sure she was crying again.
Jason and Chance both gaped at me.
I shrugged. "Well, Chance, don't just stare at me. Go after her," I told him.
I took another bite of mashed potatoes. Maybe it would be better not to be so drunk after all.
For several seconds nothing happened. I shoveled mashed potatoes into my mouth, feeling less and less drunk with every bite. Then Chance stood up. He was shaking.
"Chance . . ." I started.
But he walked away without looking at me.
I took another bite of mashed potatoes. A big one.
"How long have you known this?" Jason asked me.
I swallowed my potatoes. "She told me not last night but the night before."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I just did," I said.
"No," said Jason, "you just announced it to the entire table, and you said it kind of loud, so who knows who else heard."
I flinched. "I didn't realize I said it so loud."
"Well, you did. And you kept things from me. And we promised no more secrets."
"It wasn't my secret," I said. "It was Palomino's. I didn't think I should tell you."
"But you didn't have any problem blurting it out just a second ago."
"I'm drunk," I protested.
"Right," said Jason. "Well, that makes everything better." He stood up. "I'll see you in Calculus." And he walked off too.
I bit my lip. I sure knew how to clear a table, didn't I? I took another bite of mashed potatoes. They really were very good. It would be a shame to let them go to waste.
"Jason!" I screamed, rushing across the courtyard outside the dining hall. "Stop!"
I'd walked out of the dining hall, using the back door. Most people didn't go out that way, but it was the closest way to get to my next class. I just had to cross a small courtyard. Usually nobody was ever on the courtyard. But today, I'd been greeted by the sight of George Churchill punching my boyfriend in the nose. Jason's head had been whipped to the side. He'd stumbled backwards. But I could see that Jason's fists were clenched, and he was about to use the momentum from George's punch to fuel a punch of his own. I just didn't want Jason to put George in the hospital.
Luckily, at the sound of my voice, Jason looked up to see me. George looked up too.
My feet pounded against the ground as I raced over to them.
"What did you just call him?" George asked.
Damn it! I'd forgotten that Jason and I were undercover. Jason was going by Jeremy. Jeremy Black. How could I have been so stupid? I ran faster.
In the second that George looked away, Jason balled up his fist and undercut George, hitting him on the chin. George's head snapped back. He cried out.
Jason didn't let that stop him. He followed up his first punch with a second one, this one hitting George's cheekbone. George's head whipped the other way, blood spilling out of his mouth.
I was still running, but closing in on them. I leapt into the air and tackled Jason. We tumbled into the grass, both breathing hard.
Jason pushed me off of him, struggling to get to his feet.
"Jason, no!" I said.
George wiped his mouth with his hand, looking at the blood on it in shock. "Why are you calling him Jason?"
"Shut up," said Jason to George. "You really need to learn to keep your mouth shut."
"You plan on teaching me?" George said, still studying the blood on his hand. It was as if he didn't quite believe that he could bleed.
"Hell yes, I do," said Jason.
"Let it go!" I shrieked. "If you hurt him bad, it will draw attention to us."
George looked up from his hand. "Don't hurt me," he said. He suddenly looked really afraid. "Are you . . . ?" He looked back at the blood on his hand. "I won't say anything. I won't say a word. Just . . ." He held up both his hands, palms outward. "I'll back off."
Wait. Did he know who we were? Did he know who Jason was?
Jason clenched and unclenched his fist. "You're not going to say anything?"
"Nothing," said George. "Especially not about what she called you. I wasn't here, okay?" He started to back away. "And I'm sorry about that Palomino girl. I'm sorry I said anything."
"You won't say anything like that anymore," said Jason. It wasn't a question.
George shook his head fervently. "No. Nothing like that." He took a few more steps backward.
"You say anything, and I'll kill you," Jason said. He sounded so serious.
George swallowed. Then he turned and ran.
Jason and I watched him go.
"Maybe I should kill him anyway," Jason muttered.
"Jason," I said in horror.
"He knows who we are. Why did you say my name?"
"I'm sorry," I said. "I just freaked out. You were punching him."
"You should have heard what he said about Palomino," Jason said.
"You know," I said, "you can't just go around punching people every time they say something you don't like."
Jason laughed dryly. "You sound like your parents."
I didn't respond. Sure my parents had spouted lots of psychobabble about nonviolence and making constructive decisions, but in the end, they'd engineered a really disturbing ritual, which was supposed to culminate with my getting raped. Jason should know better than to bring them up.
"That guy could use beating up," Jason said.
"It doesn't matter!" I said. "We can't afford exposure, and you know that."
"Whatever," Jason said. He started to walk away.
He stopped. Looked at me. "I can't talk to you right now."
I started to say something. Then I stopped. I just let him go.
When I got back to my room after classes that evening, they were all there. Jason, Chance, and Palomino. Palomino was standing by the door, holding her book bag, looking angry. Her face was red and puffy. Jason and Chance were standing next to our beds, both of them staring at the floor with their hands jammed into their pockets.
"How did you guys get in here?" I asked. Guys weren't allowed in the girls' dorms, and vice versa.
"Jason snuck us in," said Chance. "We just got here actually."
"They were here when I got here too," said Palomino. She didn't sound happy.
"Mina," said Chance, "we need to talk."
"No," she said. "There's nothing to talk about. You aren't even supposed to know, but thanks to Azazel, here—"
"Chance is right," Jason cut her off. "You guys need to talk. Azazel shouldn't have blabbed it the way she did, but Chance deserved to know."
"Deserved?" demanded Palomino. "Why?"
"Because it's not just about you," said Chance. "It's about us."
"I don't see how it's about you," said Palomino. "It's my body."
"Of course it's about him," said Jason. "He's part of it. Obviously."
No one said anything.
"Unless I'm not," said Chance finally. "Unless Skylar's a part of it and not me."
"I knew you would say that," Palomino said. She turned to me. "Didn't I say he'd just blame it on Skylar?"
"I don't think he's—" I started.
"How many times do I have to tell you that I never had sex with him?" Palomino said, stomping across the room and throwing her book bag on the bed.
"So it is . . . mine," said Chance.
"Of course it's freaking yours!" said Palomino.
Chance made a confused face. "So why did you break up with me?"
"Because I knew you'd break up with me when you found out, and I wanted to beat you to it," she said.
Chance looked confused. "I don't want to break up with you," he said.
"See?" said Jason. "You guys need to talk." He looked at me. "And I need to talk to Azazel."
We snuck out of the dorm through the fire escape stairs, which no one used. Jason had figured out how to get them open without setting off the alarm. Once outside, we crossed campus to Jason's dorm. One of the fire escape doors was propped open slightly. Jason had left it that way for us. We crept up the steps and into his dorm room.
I'd never seen it before, but I was prepared for the mess, since I'd lived with Chance for most of my life. The boys hadn't spent much time trying to keep it clean. Their clothes were strewn all over the floor and in piles on their desks and chairs. Neither of their beds were made. Instead, their covers were flung on the floor or tangled together in the middle of the bed. I didn't even want to look in their bathroom. I was afraid of the horrors that might greet me there.
Jason led me to his bed, and we sat down on it. He took my hand.
"I'm sorry I yelled your name out in front of George today," I said, figuring we were gearing up for apologies and getting mine out of the way.
"Don’t worry about that," he said. "I brought you here, because I was thinking that maybe if we weren't in that old church, things would be easier for you. Like, maybe you'd be more comfortable, and then—"
"Wait," I said. "I thought you wanted to talk."
"Later," he said, leaning over to kiss me. "We can talk later."
I pulled back. "Jason, I think we—"
He cut me off with another kiss. His pulled me close, one of his hands sliding under my shirt. His kisses were insistent, like he was devouring me with his mouth. His hand slid up my rib cage, pushing under my bra.
He shifted, pushing me down on his bed and settling on top of me before claiming my mouth with his again. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Jason's hands kept moving on me, thrusting my clothes out of the way, so his fingers could assault my bare skin. I tried to break away from his mouth, to tell him to slow down, to give me a chance to think, but he didn't seem to notice that I wasn't into it.
I started to feel a little panicky. I wasn't sure I wanted to be doing this right now. Jason was moving too fast. He was pushing too much. I loved Jason, and I loved being with him, but he was scaring me. There was too much urgency in his hands, in his tongue. It reminded me of . . .
Of the hotel room. In Pennsylvania. A hotel room that looked eerily like the one I'd dreamed about last night.
Thoughts of the nightmare immediately quelled any possible good feelings I might be having. I struggled under Jason, pushing at his shoulders.
He didn't seem to notice, and he didn't stop. It was no good pushing at him anyway, because he was stronger than I was.
I thrashed beneath him. Jason just kept kissing me, his lips crushing mine with his own.
Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers