In which we finally, finally get some proper small town pettiness and bullshit.
So remember last chapter where he was explaining how people were going to get in trouble when Ridley’s destructiveness was thought to be their shoddy construction? Apparently that’s disappeared and somehow it was Lena.
And you know? Fine! The book has had a good two dozen chapters to show people being unfair and small-minded to Lena and it has dropped the ball every chance it got. On its foot. If it wants to just forget all that and start over, fine, it’s been shitty enough so far I don’t even care.
Also, the whole town’s empty as they drive to the Disciplinary Committee Meeting Of Doom because small-town Gatlin has everyone showing up for it.
We drove past the Stop & Steal. Even Fatty wasn’t there.
Except employees, who continue to not be people. If they were, it’d mention the place was closed, not just that the prime loiterer is elsewhere.
He wishes it was him.
But the thing was, it would never have been me. No matter what I did, no matter what I said, I would always be one of them. Lena never would. And I think that was the thing that made me the angriest, and the most embarrassed. I hated them even more because deep down, they still claimed me as one of their own, even when I dated Old Man Ravenwood’s niece and took on Mrs. Lincoln and wasn’t invited to Savannah Snow’s parties. I was one of them. I belonged to them, and there was nothing I could do to change that. And if the opposite were true, and in some way they belonged to me, then what Lena was up against wasn’t just them. It was me.
The truth was killing me. Maybe Lena was going to be Claimed on her sixteenth birthday, but I had been claimed since birth. I had no more control over my fate than she did.
Right, because people thinking you’re one of them because of an accident of birthplace is exactly the same if not worse as having your fate and personality decided at age sixteen by some unknowable malicious force.
You know, I’ve seen this sort of setup before, but never quite like this – never where all that matters is that people think count you among their number. Not worrying that perhaps you are like them, or loathing yourself for staying silent enough they consider you one of their supporters. Just that they claim you as one, in a way with no obligations and expectations, no enforcement at all.
And it’s especially weird because this book’s been full of biology as destiny, and I don’t just mean the obvious with Lena. Listen to what he says last chapter, about the two clothing stores, about how some girl’s families buy those and they end up pregnant before graduation and then they’ll buy their kids the same dress for her dance when she’s sixteen, and how the other, better off group buys the frilly dresses because that’s what they do instead, and they go on to get married and then pop out babies they’ll end up dressing in frills instead.
“Is your uncle coming at least?”
I just took it as a given that he can’t/won’t, given we’re talking about a guy who hasn’t left his house in a generation or two. But apparently that was totally possible and all that holds it up is that he can’t do anything before a certain time, because he’s a vampire or whatever, so she kept quiet entirely, and somehow his magic dog isn’t around to let him know anyway. No, seriously Emothan points out that indeed for no reason, no doggie!
Inside are people and we get the charming lynch mob comparison yet again, and lots of kids wearing the Jackson Angels outfits:
The front of the shirts had a picture of an angel that looked suspiciously like Emily Asher, with her huge white angel wings spread wide open, wearing what else—a Jackson High Wildcats T-shirt. On the back, there was simply a pair of white wings designed to look like they were sprouting right out of the person’s back, and the Angels’ battle cry, “We’ll Be Watching You.”
Those sound pretty good, especially since you’ve made it clear everything else involving fashion in this town is a complete disaster. I guess the old appeal of being able to describe how something looks and what it evokes without having to slave over actually making the physical object won out.
Emily was sitting next to Mrs. Asher, her leg and its huge cast propped up on one of the orange cafeteria chairs. Mrs. Lincoln narrowed her eyes when she saw us, and Mrs. Asher put her arm around Emily protectively, as if one of us might run over there and beat her with a club like a defenseless baby seal pup.
Yeah, it’s as if someone actually really did cause her a bad injury and could easily do worse to her.
And it’s not like it much matters it wasn’t Lena – Lena’s main objection was not wanting to deal with this afterward, morality, and remember, Emothan himself speculated Lena was behind Emily’s top of the pyramid clumsiness. It’s possible she’s had many close calls before.
I made my way back toward the row where the Sisters and Amma were sitting.
Aunt Grace stood up, resting on her cane. “Ethan, over here. We saved you a seat, darlin’.”
“Why don’t you sit down, Grace Statham,” an old blue-haired woman sitting behind the Sisters hissed.
Aunt Prue turned around. “Why don’t you mind your own business, Sadie Honeycutt, or I will mind it for you.”
And we see things still aren’t in perfect lockstep.
They don’t have to be hiveminded for us to have the small-town pettiness – having a few decent people in town is pretty much expected. But you’d think the three oldest people in town would be wielding some degree of power in a place obsessed with memory and tradition. These women are the past of the town everyone’s trying to preserve. Plus, they know all the family histories, which includes the fact Lena’s related to a historical Gatlin family besides the Ravenwoods – so she’s not an outsider, she’s the prodigal daughter.
Anyway, the lynch pretty white girls mob announces Lena’s in trouble for assault and destruction of school property, to which Lena telepathically objects to only the first.
I was on my feet before he even finished. “None of that’s true!”
Good god are you bad at this. Just shut up and then give your own testimony.
The principal claims to have plenty of witnesses and also proof she was a monster at her old school too. Lena is more confused by them knowing at all about her school than the accusations despite claiming nothing went down there, which sounds incredibly fishy but it makes no sense with anything else we’ve seen for the stuff to be true.
“Of course. Miss Ravenwood, I mean, Miss Duchannes, moved here several months ago, and since then there have been all sorts a problems at Jackson. First, she broke a window in the English class—”
“That came close to cuttin’ my baby to shreds,” Mrs. Snow called out.
“It came close to seriously injurin’ several children, and many a them suffered cuts from the broken glass.”
“No one except Lena was injured and that was an accident!” Link yelled from where he was standing in the back of the room.
If they were going to claim kids were bleeding out left and right, they could’ve done it then.
The problem the book has is it can’t decide if they need evidence or not. If they can just say anything they want, there’s no need to exaggerate or really have much of a trial at all, they can just kick her out. If they have to limit themselves to the plausible, the fact Lena punched a window is a perfectly good reason to want her gone and there’s no need to add in that their poor babies were hurt too, needing hundreds of stitches that didn’t leave any scarring because Jesus or something.
Then we’re told the angel group was formed in response, which she doesn’t even try to make sound anything but sinister. Then finally we hear the interpretation of the dance.
she pulled the fire alarm, ruinin’ the dance and destroyin’ four thousand dollars worth a audio equipment. As if that weren’t enough, she pushed Miss Asher off a the stage, causin’ her to break her leg
I mean, really? You have exploded lights everywhere and burning, and that’s what you go with?
Look. Here’s a good one. Lena took advantage of the poor wiring to cause an electrical short/actually just straight up lit a fire, depending on what seems more plausible, either way triggering the sprinklers and causing the rest of the mess, including Emily’s broken leg, as a result. Much more dangerous than pulling a fire alarm, connects more smoothly with Emily’s injury, better fits the physical evidence. Maybe even admit there was that mishap with the fake snow and say you think she reacted to that, and while you can understand how she was upset, someone who overreacts to a minor little mishap with such dangerous and malicious actions is clearly not someone who can be trusted around other children.
“I have records from Miss Duchannes’ previous school in Virginia. Although it might be more accurate to call it an institution.”
I wasn’t in an institution. It was a private school.
And why lie? And from a meta POV, why bother with this?
If it was an open question if Lena’s magic powers are actually real, then this would be a good moment – casting doubt on everything she’s told him and everything he believes. Let’s say generally weird stuff is going on, but instead of Lena and company constantly doing obvious magic, she’s given excuses, like that she’s not supposed to or can only do it at certain times. There would be actual suspense here! But no, the only thing there is to wonder is if this is utterly baseless or a ridiculous warping of the facts.
Plus, it’s crucial to the storyline that they go to a normal school, or else all the stuff we’ve been getting about how mean the mundanes are doesn’t make sense, and because we know the girls did it in the first place because they wanted to experience normal teenagerhood.
“Miss Duchannes is a very disturbed girl. She suffers from a mental illness. Let me see…” Mrs. Lincoln ran her finger down the page as if she was looking for something. I waited to hear the diagnosis for the mental illness Mrs. Lincoln thought Lena suffered from—the state of being different. “Ah, yes, here it is. It appears Miss Duchannes suffers from bipolar disorder
Oh boy it’s bipolar disorder showing up to be the cool kid diagnosis, because bipolar means troubled and different! If you hear someone has “bipolar disorder” it’s just the adults not understanding how awesome they are! Tell them not to take their meds because drugs are bad and conformist and they they don’t need it anyway because they’re not bipolar in the first place! And when they’re accused of punching out a window, it was just magic and also totally reasonable regardless.
Anyway, she then goes for the bad-blood connection saying “In fact, her mother murdered her father fourteen years ago.” and okay, how does she know this stuff?
(Also, this means there was a one or two year period between her birth and her mother killing her father. I’m going to guess her dad stole her after birth and her mom finally tracked them down to get Lena back, only for her dad to pass her on to another relative. The real reason they don’t use their kids’ real names? Because half of them are on the missing children list for pulling this stuff.)
I knew Mrs. Lincoln was lying. I didn’t believe Lena had been in an institution any more than I believed the Angels wanted to protect the students at Jackson. What I didn’t know was if Mrs. Lincoln was lying about the rest, the part about Lena’s mother murdering her father.
Why does it matter?
Obviously Lena went to a regular school or else the subplot doesn’t work. And it’s not like it’s a surprise to think her mom killed her dad, since the book has said her mom’s tried to kill her and is inherently evil.
But I knew I wanted to kill Mrs. Lincoln.
Meanwhile Ridley doesn’t appear to have killed anyone. But she’s got to wear the evil hat, so she must be worse than you.
She didn’t seem like the woman who ripped the cable box out of the wall or lectured us for hours on the virtues of abstinence. This didn’t seem like one of her annoying, yet ultimately innocent causes. This seemed more vindictive and more personal. I just couldn’t figure out why she hated Lena so much.
Okay, since the book’s pointed it out we’ll hopefully get some explanation. I’m not sure why it’s needed – earlier, Emothan claimed she ruined people’s lives on at least a semi-regular basis, and Lena’s window-smashing and not-Gatlinness seems a perfectly good explanation.
Mr. Hollingsworth tried to regain control. “All right, everyone, let’s settle down. Mrs. Lincoln, thank you for takin’ the time to be here tonight. I’d like to review those documents, if you don’t mind.”
I stood up again. “This whole thing is ridiculous. Why don’t you just set her on fire and see if she burns?”
Mr. Hollingsworth tried to gain control of the meeting, which was bordering on becoming an episode of Jerry Springer.
Yes, why the fuck are you doing such a terrible job of this? Why are you being the disruptive elements here?
I mean, there’s just so much he should’ve done! I don’t expect it to work, but if you want to tell me this is all inevitable because of the forces stacked against you, maybe you should do something other than frantically shooting yourself in the foot every chance you get.
Macon Ravenwood strode casually into the gym, dressed in a black cashmere overcoat and sharp-looking gray pinstripe suit, with Marian Ashcroft on his arm. Marian was carrying a small, checkered umbrella just large enough to shield her from the downpour. Macon didn’t have an umbrella, but he was still bone-dry. Boo lumbered in behind them, his black hair wet and standing on end, making it obvious he was more wolf than dog.
And here we go.
This is supposed to be the moment of the good guys arriving in the nick of time to speak truth to power.
It’s not. Horrifyingly so.
He’s told he’s not supposed to have a dog in here, so he lies and claims it’s a service animal because the rules don’t apply to people like him.
Macon waved his hand toward Emily, Savannah, Charlotte, and Eden. “Are these your witnesses? An imaginative band of little girls suffering from a bad case of sour grapes.”
Neither are a pack of mere lower class girls allowed to testify against people like him.
Marian spends her time with witty little asides as she throws out quotes and mocks them for not recognizing them, because of course intelligence is solely based on your ability to recognize what someone else said one time. Mrs. Lincoln tells her to stop her “Harvard talk” and this just gets extra sneering because of course she was quoting someone who didn’t go to Harvard, never mind that Mrs. Lincoln was obviously talking about the fact she’s spitting out memorized quotes based on the who’s who of Harvard ciriculum and implying they’re idiots to not recognize them.
Pretty Suit also enjoys getting in on the insult-by-quote:
“‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ Mrs. Lincoln.” Macon paused for a second, as if he thought Mrs. Lincoln might need a moment or two to get her mind around that.
These are not the heroes, and by this point it’s obvious. These are the powerful, belittling everyone else for daring to go against them. They have no evidence on their side but they don’t think they need it when they can just show off how smarter and prettier they are, and that should be enough for the masses to realize they shouldn’t step out of line.
He also throws out the fact that if they do kick Lena out, he’ll just have to bring in all her cousins, like Ridley who he thinks they remember from that ball of theirs, because oblique threats, why not?
“It wasn’t a masquerade ball—”
“My apologies. I only assumed those dresses were costumes, based on the garish nature of the plumage.”
Sorry, threats and insults. Because of course you should insult what sixteen year olds are wearing as publically as you can.
But hey, that’s nothing. When they don’t back down, he just switches up to direct threats and humiliation.
It would be a grave error for you, for anyone in this town, really, to pursue this matter. You see, I have a great deal of means. I’m a bit of a spendthrift, if you will. If you try to prevent my niece from returning to Stonewall Jackson High School, I will be forced to spend some of that money. Who knows, perhaps I’ll bring in a Wal-Mart.” There was another gasp from the bleachers.
Haha, Walmart will crush their economy and lower their life expectancies. Silly bumpkins getting upset about that.
I also own the land upon which the Southern Comfort Hotel resides. Its closure would be most inconvenient for you, Mrs. Snow, as your husband would have to drive a great deal farther to meet his lady friends, which I’m sure would make him late for supper on a regular basis. Now we couldn’t have that, could we?”
And it just keeps going like that.
He doesn’t do this and then say that also any examination of the facts will show his niece’s innocence. He doesn’t say that the fire alarm was never pulled, that there’s burns all over the wiring, that there’s no way she could have made it to the stage to shove anyone off.
He just says he has money and he’s been illegally spying on everyone in town and if they don’t obey him he’ll do everything in his very substantial power to hurt them.
His niece is untouchable because he owns the town. She can break whoever’s legs she likes. And so can he. I mean, really, there is no way to avoid the rich and powerful man saying multiple girls making the same accusation are just making it up because sixteen year old girls are always lying having a rape subtext.
Only Mrs. Lincoln won’t give in to him.
Macon spun around and their eyes met. There was something about his expression— it was the same expression he’d had when I showed him Genevieve’s locket. Boo growled menacingly. “Be careful, Martha. You never know when we’ll run into each other again.”
So that’s the end. He says they have to do what he says, then specifically threatens the last person who refuses to be cowed. And the bit earlier about how Mrs. Lincoln seemed to have something against Lena, how she seems to blame her for all the magical goings on, how she seemed to recognize the weird magic barrier at Emothan’s house, as if she knows there’s magic shit. So she’s still standing up to him even when she must know there’s a third and even more terrifying aspect of power he has and will use.
Marian opened her umbrella again, even though they weren’t outside yet. She smiled diplomatically at the crowd. “Now, I hope to see all of you at the library. Don’t forget, we’re open till six o’clock on the weekdays.”
She nodded to the room. “‘Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.’ Just ask Ray Bradbury. Or go to Charlotte, and read it for yourself on the wall of the public library.” Macon took Marian’s arm, but she wasn’t finished. “And he didn’t go to Harvard, either, Mrs. Lincoln. He didn’t even go to college.”
With that, they were gone.
These are horrible people, and this is a terrible book.