Sever Ch12

I AM HAVING a hard time reading your twin because there is something about this person that you won’t admit even to yourself. That’s what the fortune-teller said. Maybe she’d made a lucky guess, or maybe she really did have a gift, because she was right.

Indeed, how much is planned and how much is being made up as we go?

Fever seemed plotless but was different enough it didn’t feel too retcon heavy – just the usual Rapist-chan stuff. I wasn’t sure where the plot was going, though, and perhaps the same was true of the author. At what point did she decide on this particular “something about this person”?

I hadn’t wanted to admit that my brother was capable of these awful things.

The fact that Rhine’s spent a book and a half flipping between “my brother blows stuff up!” and “oh my god what a shock, you mean my brother blows stuff up!”, though, means that just because something’s incoherent doesn’t tell us anything about if it was planned.

The guy tries to tell them about the cure and Evil Mad Scientist, But Linden takes one look at my bloodless face, and he says, “That’s enough.”
I open my mouth to argue, but before I can utter a word

So he’s acting out of consideration for her, except he doesn’t care what she says.

Anyway, Rapist-chan, continuing to drag the plot out, says they’ll go find her brother and ask him, and no more information until then.

“Why isn’t anyone stopping him?” Linden blurts.
He looks at me. “Your brother has obviously gone crazy. Why aren’t there any authorities stopping him?”

This is a really good question. What’s even more surprising is that Rhine has an answer.

“He isn’t crazy,” I say with a calm I find disturbing. “He’s right. We were abandoned when things didn’t go as planned. Nobody really cares what we do.”

This sounds very poetic, but it works as a literal statement. The only authorities we’ve heard of are the men who guard the parties so wives can’t run.

And for once, this is a moment where he seems like who Rhine always says he is – a sheltered child who’s been kept insulated from the disasters outside. When something happens in his world, there’s “authorities” to go to, but they’re just men his father hired.

Rhine continues to keep her intelligence for the moment, realizing Uncle Perfect already knew all of this.

“All us crazy old men pay attention to the news, doll. I’d have told you myself, but I didn’t have the heart.”

This is the last area the book seems to bother keeping up pretenses. The idea of the rapist being just unaware of the outside world is falling apart, but when people keep information from Rhine, we still get excuses about how they’re doing it out of their deep consideration for her feelings, even when they’re people who won’t even dignify her with her own name.

“Linden is planning to go with you to find your brother,” she says finally. “He thought you would object and try to run off on your own, so he didn’t tell you.” Her head feels heavy when she rests it on my shoulder. “But please let him do this. He thinks this whole thing is his fault. He thinks that he’s the only one who can protect you if his father comes after you, and he’s probably right.”

Ah yes. Remember how suspicious it was when he told Rhine privately about how Cecily wanted him to help? It was his plan all along.

Rhine is stupid again, so all she thinks is that’s how wonderful he always is and of all the times he tried to coddle and console me during our marriage. And I think of how many times, despite my resentment, he was the only one who helped.

None of the times, Rhine.

Cecily says she doesn’t want to leave her baby, but she keeps dreaming of chasing a shadow that gets smaller as she goes, and says she’s afraid the longer she waits the less likely she’ll be able to find the cure.

Later Uncle Perfect shows Cecily how to shoot a gun in what’s obviously a setup for later. The only real question is, will Cecily have to die in removing Rhine’s problems? Meanwhile, Rhine reminds us that her brother had a gun that she was afraid of. Also, she explains Uncle Perfect is so great teaching Cecily and would’ve been a great dad.

Then Rapist-chan runs out to object to this and the two defend themselves.

I can see that Linden wants to tear the gun from her hands, but he’s too afraid. Not just of the weapon but of this startling vision of the wife he’s always coddled.

I’m not sure if he has the awareness to be afraid of what Cecily might do to him with the gun, or if he’s simply upset that they’re ruining his designs by giving her any ability to impact things.

He yells at them.

He looks like he wants to cry. When he’s very frustrated, his eyes take on that sort of sheen. I want to comfort him. And I want to defend Cecily’s actions, because I understand. I do. She’s small, and she never had the opportunity of an education, and she just wants a little control. She wants to be taken seriously.
But this isn’t my marriage. This isn’t my battle.

Oh please, Rhine. You didn’t defend her then either. And indeed, what she imagines saying is in defense of the rapist, how he only wants to protect his property. As they refuse to back down, the rapist flies into a rage

Linden is calling him an insane old man, saying his father was right, which throws Cecily into hysterics and how-dare-yous and how-can-you-say-thats, because Vaughn is her sworn enemy now. I’ve never seen Linden and Cecily argue like this, and it makes me feel like the world is coming undone.

How terrible it is that she’s finally able to stand up for herself. How terrible that unlike Rhine, when the rapist changes his story she doesn’t go along with it meekly.

Rhine goes inside to see Elle, their child slave, is looking ready to drop after being forced to look after the baby all day. Rhine graciously decides to hold the now tired baby, but Elle claims she’s fine holding him. Even more belatedly, Rhine realizes Elle’s acting scared. She does not consider that maybe Elle is only keeping a hold of the baby out of this fear, because that would mean questioning the whole child slave thing in general.

“And you aren’t comfortable around me? Because you’re afraid you’ll get caught in the cross fire of the trouble I attract?”
She hesitates.
She nods.

But it’s not really a crossfire of trouble. The real reason she’s so dangerous to be around isn’t just that bad things will happen but Rhine won’t do anything to help.

Case in point:

“I didn’t want anything to happen to Deirdre.” I stop myself from saying anything more, because Deirdre exists as two people in my mind—my child domestic, and the ruined girl I met in the basement. I am still trying to tell myself that the latter was some nightmare, a trick. It’s the only way I can move forward. I don’t have many years left, and I have to choose which mysteries remain unsolved.

When bad things happen to other people that Rhine can’t ignore, she sobs about how horrible it is she knows about them and then moves on.

This is exactly what happened last book. Grace is physically stopped from escaping with them at the time. Rhine’s response is to assume she’ll never leave, then that her family doesn’t need to know she’s even alive because she’s ruined. Deirdre is also ruined, so the only issue is if Rhine wants to know if she’s still alive. It doesn’t matter what ruined girls want.

Rhine has no interest in mysteries at all. Her one goal throughout the entire series has been to find her brother, something she made only token attempts at and then gave up. It certainly isn’t to stop his bombings now because she’s decided she’ll meet him in person or not at all. And she doesn’t seem to think it’ll take much time anyway, now that she knows about him.

Meanwhile, the basement is right there. Deirdre was supposedly sold, so she can ask if they can check to who and if they ever got her. All that takes is a phonecall. If they didn’t, then she’s still being tortured or has been murdered. They’ll have proven she’s down there, and supposedly her precious former husband isn’t evil and doesn’t want to believe his dad is, so he should be fine issuing an ultimatum to his dad to produce the kid alive or admit he tortured and killed a little girl.

Solving the mystery wouldn’t take very long. The biggest impediment is if whoever Deidre was supposedly sold to knows to say she’s there when she’s not, and that’s an excessive lot of caution for Evil Mad Scientist when he can’t even keep his lab experiments locked up properly. Furthermore, verifying it should be easy if they ask to talk to Deirdre.

It’s not as if following up on this would’ve taken up too much of the story. We’re a third in and there has been no story, so if the author wasn’t morally abhorent and getting off on Rhine’s helplessness and the other girls’ suffering, we could have spent this time on Rhine trying to save Deirdre. If letting ruined girls live is so horrible, well, it’s not like there’s much chance Deirdre’s still alive at this point. The most likely outcome is Rhine finds a corpse, either from what was done to her or because she was killed after Rhine’s escape. But even a bad person would want to be sure there was nothing that could be done to save Deidre before giving up.

Down the hall the storm door opens, and footsteps pound down the hallway and toward the kitchen. Cecily is small, but she can rattle an entire house when she’s mad.
Only, when she gets to the kitchen, she doesn’t look angry at all. She looks frightened.

Rhine is not a bad person, though. She’s unremittingly hateful.

Incidentally, Cecily here is rushing in to tell Rhine to hide because Evil Mad Scientist is back, because Rhine doesn’t save other girls, other girls save Rhine and suffer for it. Cecily goes on to lie to him and Rhine helpfully informs us that yes, she’s terrified but she’s facing him to protect me. Everyone else suffers to save Rhine. Is it because she’s the main character or because she’s the only remaining virgin? I’m not entirely sure. The only other girl who made it through the last book safely was young, mentally ill, and deformed, so even the author wasn’t interested in having her raped.

Evil Mad Scientist claims he’s just there to pick up his family and doesn’t care about the whereabouts of the special eyes.

“I’d like to see him,” Vaughn says, nothing forceful about his tone at all. “May I?” And I realize: Linden has the power here. Vaughn has always manipulated his son, but he’s never used force.

This is not followed by Rhine realizing he’s always had this power. She just coos over Linden’s newfound sternness and how he’s protecting them this one time.

“Rhine is dangerous for you,” Vaughn says. “You know that I was only trying to protect you, don’t you? I saw how devastated you were by her absence. You understand why I didn’t tell you when she returned.”
“I understand,” Linden says.
“Everything I have ever done has been to protect you.”

I’m much more willing to believe this. His motivations make sense, and even the over the top torture of the last book at least had a point to it. He needed Rhine for whatever reason, and hurting/killing her by accident would upset Linden if he knew. And Rhine wasn’t a good wife in the first place, since she didn’t love him utterly and rejection like that hurts his son’s delicate feelings.

Rhine even says that yes, Evil Mad Scientist definitely loves his kid.

His only living child is his greatest weakness; Linden is what he lives for, what drives him to madness and at the same time fills him with these rare bursts of humanity.

Which is why so much of what the book claims he’s doing makes no sense. If Linden dies, he might limp along for the sake of his grandson, although his willingness to kill one of them and the fact he switched the kid to formula just to hurt Cecily makes me think he doesn’t love the baby in the same way – knows better to get attached, maybe. If anything, he’s the one I’d expect to start setting off bombs when he loses Linden, because if the cure didn’t save his son, no one else deserves to live.

He would rather someone else find the cure than that his son die. He would have absolutely no interest in preserving the human race by impregnating preteens – it’s Linden, not glory or the continuation of the species, that he cares about.

But he would destroy everything in Linden’s life. He would dissect his wives. He would murder an imperfect child before he’d ever allow such a flaw to burden his son.

And this is horrifying. It’s just not the horror the author presents us with. The horror isn’t that after Rose dies months past when she wanted to, her body is cut up. The horror is, knowing it to be only a delay, he keeps Rose alive in agony because his son loves her and it makes him happy. And it’s not about the kid being imperfect. The horror is that this man will kill children for the sake of his kid. The kid could’ve been fine and he might have decided to smother it because he thought his son would be sad at the idea he couldn’t see the kid grow up, or spend time worrying about the kid’s safety. No one else matters to him.

At any rate, he accepts his son’s refusal to leave yet and goes.

Cecily comes from the bedroom, eyes full of tears, collar of her shirt in her fist. “I’m sorry I yelled at you before,” she says to Linden. “Please don’t bring me back there. Please.”

This is supposed to show how great it is of him when he stands silently for ages, then finally says they need to run for it.

What it really shows is that he’s so horrible Cecily’s first impulse is to apologize and beg him not to let her be killed horribly as a punishment for yelling. Rhine constantly acts like Cecily is an arrogant brat, but you can see that she knows exactly who’s in control and exactly what can happen to her if she causes trouble.

And this is not unusual. He’s not surprised she’s crying and terrified because she’s afraid of this. He just quietly thinks about his next move while Cecily sobs.

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