Last time on manipulative rapist apologism, men are very important.
CECILY STANDS at the bedroom mirror, frowning. Her shirt is rolled to her chest, and she dusts her fingers over the pink ribbons of shining skin that run up her stomach. “Horrible, aren’t they?” she says. “Bowen stretched me out as far as I could go.”
It really is. It’s not just that she’s a young teen, she’s one that’s the size of a ten year old.
Rhine’s response is to continue ignoring her in favor of some book from Uncle Perfect, which she’s not even reading because lol Rhine read, just looking at the pictures, although she does slip up enough to notice Uncle Perfect’s mutilated that to the point it’s just about illegible because it’s a history book and those are all lies.
Cecily is still going on about how she’s lost her youth, and how her body will never be the same, but how happy she is to be a part of it all. Some kind of miracle, reinforced hope.
Oh, that Cecily. Always going on about things.
And of course she’s happy to be pregnant anyway, her husband only notices her when she’s pregnant and her kids are the only ones who don’t hate her.
Rhine attempts to claim she’s ignoring it because she doesn’t like the idea of Cecily being pregnant after the horrible first birth, but trips up because she immediately goes back to being all me me me about it and how upset she’ll be having to go through it.
Cecily, unaware of this, cuddles up with Rhine and falls asleep.
Within minutes she’s breathing that disquieting pregnancy snore that makes me worry. We were brought to Linden as breeding machines, and Vaughn saw no greater opportunity than in the most naïve among all the girls to tumble from that line: Cecily. I’ve no doubt that’s why she was chosen. He saw that determination in her eyes, that vulnerability. She would do anything, anything to belong to his son after a lifetime of belonging to no one at all.
What does it do to a young girl to birth two children in less than a year’s time? There’s a rash across her cheeks; her pianist’s fingers are swollen. In sleep she clings to my shirt the way Bowen clings to hers. The way a child clings to its mother.
Rhine does not resolve to be kinder to Cecily. Instead, Rapist-chan comes in to see how Cecily’s doing and Rhine whines about how Rapist-chan isn’t paying attention to her: I’m nothing—candlelight on the wall.
So Rhine heads out to sulk, leaving the rapist with the pregnant child. But don’t worry! Rhine is the most importantest, and Rapist-chan promptly ditches Cecily and heads back after her to talk about how when he was little his uncle let him use the books to build houses.
They never came out exactly like I’d planned, but that’s good. It taught me that there are three versions of things: the one I see in my mind, and the one that carries onto the paper, and then what it ultimately becomes.”
For some reason I’m finding it difficult to meet his eyes. I nod at one of the lower shelves and say, “Maybe it’s because in your mind you don’t have to worry about building materials. So you’re not as limited.”
So obviously this conversation is happening for poetic reasons. But what’s the meaning?
The one that jumps to my mind is the wives – his desire, the ones he picks, and who they really are. If only he didn’t have to bother with the flaws in his building materials and his dolls could stop having minds of their own.
“That’s astute,” he says. He pauses. “You’ve always been astute about things.”
I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a compliment, but I suppose it’s true.
Being smart is not a positive trait for women. Cecily’s desire to learn is hated by Rhine and even Jenna made the mistake of reading romance novels instead of confining herself to looking at pictures.
So much silence passes between us after that, with nothing to sustain the atmosphere but impassive crickets and starlight, that I become willing to say anything that will end it.
He’s so innocent. So innocent and so perfect and so hurt and he must not even know how much it tears at her that he feels this way, and the fact everything he does is built around grinding her face into that is just a coincidence.
Try to picture what’s next. Guess what shape “anything” takes.
The words that come out of me are, “I’m sorry.”
If you weren’t ready for that, you have only yourself to blame. Rhine’s told you already that she’s the bad guy here.
I hear his breath catch. Maybe he’s as surprised as I am.
You know what’s a much better piece of media? Frozen. That understood much better than Rhine what’s going on here.
I mean, sure, you wanted it, sure, you were planning how to get it, but the moment the dumb bitch just falls into your lap like that, ready for the slaughter…that’s something magical.
I don’t look up to see what his expression is.
That’s okay. You’d just have misinterpreted it.
“I know you think that I’m awful. I don’t blame you.” That’s it—all I have the courage to say.
With luck that’s enough and the book will be satisfied and move on.
Rhine then turns her attention to the vital issue of her clothing and how she’s back in proper clothes porn finery.
It’s one of Deirdre’s creations, of course.
You might be thinking this is about to lead into some guilt. You haven’t been paying attention, have you? It will do no such thing.
Emerald green embroidered with gold gossamer leaves. Since having my custom-made clothes returned to me, I’ve been sleeping in them.
And to avoid the seething rage a second, this, like just about everything, doesn’t even sound comfortable. But it is, because she says it is.
getting dressed into something that fits every angle and curve feels like rematerializing into something worthwhile.
You look at this book and you can’t shake the feeling that she must be doing this kind of thing intentionally, but what is the intent? Does she mean to criticize some of it? Is Rhine’s shallow, self-centered viewpoint meant to be condemned to some degree?
But then, she mentions Deirdre without the slightest hint of guilt. She’s wearing clothes made by a little girl who probably died because she left. Deirdre cared about her so much more than she ever deserved, and she doesn’t even think to ask her precious perfect innocent Linden to find out if Deirdre really was sold and if she’s okay now.
So is this really all just a fantasy of luxury, and everything else is just an inconvenient detail?
At any rate, she’s given the rapist precisely what he wants, so it’s time to move to the next step.
“I don’t know what to think,” Linden says quietly. “Yes, I’ve told myself that you’re awful. I’ve told myself you must be—that’s the only explanation. But my thoughts always go back to the you I remember. You, lying in the orange grove and saying you didn’t know if we were worth saving. You held my hand then. Do you remember?”
Something rushes through my blood, from my heart to my fingertips, where the memory still lingers. “Yes,” I say.
“And about a thousand other things,” he says, pausing sometimes between his words, making sure he has them right. I get the sense that words are not sufficient tools for him to build what’s going on in his head as he stands before me. “While you were gone, I tried to take all of those memories and turn them into lies. And I thought I’d done it. But I look at you now, and I still see the girl who fed me blueberries when I was grieving. The girl who was in a red dress, falling asleep against me on the drive home.”
I get the sense that words are not sufficient tools for him to build what’s going on in his head as he stands before me.
What’s going on in his head, Rhine, is a search for the words to manipulate you. That’s what he’s building.
He’s tying two things together – he will not believe you about what his father did, something you have no reason to lie about and which you have plenty of supporting evidence, unless what you did under duress was also true, because it is the greatest crime to lie to protect yourself from the person who put you in that position.
I think the problem is the author wants all of the guilt and misery but as usual, she doesn’t want it attached to anything because that’d make a villain and suggest maybe it’s something wrongly being done to Rhine. Things just happen. Words just happen that make Rhine feel guilty and miserable, and they just happen to be perfectly chosen to twist everything around.
He takes a step closer, and my heart leaps into my mouth. “I try to hate you. I’m trying right now.”
He doesn’t hate her yet even though she deserves it. So she’d better not do anything more to make him, you see?
he touches my hair instead. Something in me tightens with expectancy. I hold my breath.
When he pushes forward, my mouth falls open, expecting his kiss even before it comes.
Look at the flow of this scene. “I did not want to believe you. But I thought you seemed sincere when you behaved like my wife. I wanted to hate you but I can’t shake the thought you were sincere then. So perform for me now and prove it.”
Not that Rhine will ever, ever see it that way.
His breaths are shallow. I’m holding his life against my tongue, between my rows of teeth. He’s offering it up.
Remember girls, guys can die if you don’t put out.
Because love triangle, it has to halt. Because it’s not for any of the right reasons instead, the explanation has to be terrible.
it doesn’t belong to me. I know that.
It never belonged to you. You’re his property.
Your life belonged to him.
Anyway, she goes on about how it’d be wrong because she’s doing it out of loneliness and Linden is here. Brilliantly here. And it would be too easy to make him a substitute for all those things, to take advantage of his desire for me.
No, that’s what he did to you!
But then logic sets in.
By now you’ve learned not to expect anything here, I hope.
I won’t hurt him the way I did before, manipulating his affections while I worked for the freedom I wanted.
There is really nothing more that can be said here.
Rapist-chan takes this as an excuse to ramble about how he didn’t fuck her because he thought she needed time and then how he just liked being with her so much.
I liked the way you breathed when you were asleep. I liked when you took the champagne glass from my hand. I liked how your fingers were always too long for your gloves.”
A smile tugs at one side of my mouth, and I allow it.
“Looking back, those feel like the most important parts. They were real, weren’t they?”
The only problem with the deaths is that it’ll make Cecily feel bad, but then again, they make her feel bad alive too.
He slides the ring down my finger, and it hitches on my knuckle, like part of me is still trying to hang on. My body lilts forward, tethered to the ring for only an instant more before letting go. This was it. This was why I kept wearing my wedding ring, why it never felt right to remove it myself. There was only one person who could set me free.
That’s what all of this was building toward. That’s why her whole trip in Fever seems to be forgotten here.
That was trying to show us girls can never save themselves. Girls are saved by outside forces at the . They can only ever be objects acted upon, and to try to take an active role and do things on their own is a crime.
“Let’s call this an official annulment,” he says.
I can’t help it. I throw my arms around him and pull him tight against me.
Mixed messages here, Rhine. Also, pay attention, he’s doing this to control you.
The few people you believe are evil you have no problem fighting against, but you’re passive and helpless facing anyone else. You won’t fight back in self-defense or even for the sake of other people – even other male people! As long as you think he’s good, you’ll do what he says.
And note he has not said you can leave.
I find the choice of annulment interesting. A divorce is something everyone’s far more familiar with, so it feels like the author is going out of her way to avoid that. An annulment means the marriage is considered to have never happened, and I suspect it’s related to the fact he just reminded the reader that she’s still a virgin. While I and all legal systems and religions with this concept would agree that kidnapping and being dragged to a wedding ceremony where you don’t even speak amounts to a marriage that is legally void, this does not appear to be a factor in the least. Other reasons for an annulment are that there was fraud involved, and I think the even this author would balk at saying Rhine’s “deceit” was to that degree…or that the relationship was never consummated.
So it’s sort of a Persephone thing. Don’t eat your captor’s food/have sex or you’re stuck forever. I also can’t shake the thought the author thought giving her an annulment was specifically necessary to fix up her reputation, because even if you didn’t sleep with him, you’re still used goods if you marry someone and no one will ever want you again, but an annulment lets you say that all never happened. It’s like how you can become a virgin again if you have sex then sign a purity pledge.
Linden says, “What’s your brother like?”
I blink. It’s the first time he’s asked me about Rowan. Maybe he’s trying to get to know me, now that he knows I’ll give him the truth.
His whole guilt trip was based around the idea he could never ever imagine you lying to him you mean person who lied to him.
She explains that as a boy, her brother is better than her in all ways. He’s also the younger twin. I’m not sure if this is a subversion of the boy always being the older in charge one or a reminder the boy being the always in charge one is so inherent it doesn’t even matter what order you’re born in.
That’s one of the many things I really liked about AtLA – Katara was the younger sibling and the more mature one.
“It’s just—twins,” he says, leaning against a row of paisley cloth-bound books. “That changes the entire way I look at you.” He keeps his mouth open, struggling for the right words.
“Like I’m half of a whole?” I say, trying to help him.
“I wouldn’t put it like that,” he says. “You’re a whole person by yourself.”
Good recovery there, manipulative asshole.
We know the twin thing is super important, like her eyes. He must know that there’s something important, which is why he’s so stunned he has to lean on something for support while gaping openmouthed at her. But Rhine quickly gives him an out, presenting some clearly irrelevant piece of information, so he just recites the standard platitude about how no he values her as an individual to cover it. Note he does not then explain what else it is if that’s not it, but Rhine isn’t the smart twin, so she just angsts about how terrible it is she’s a whole person rather than waiting for him to tell her what exactly he did mean.
I’m not kidding.
“You know what scares me?” I say. “I’m starting to feel like you’re right.”
Rapist-chan doesn’t reply for a while, presumably still stuck on whatever the twin thing means and only sparing a stray through for how glad he is she’s so fucking stupid. Finally, he gets back to the conversation on this topic thread, having successfully avoided ever talking about why it matters she’s a twin. Instead, it’s back to how he understands because he cared so much about Rose, remember Rose, remember how tragic and sad he is?
“When I lost Rose, I kept going, I still do, but I’ll never be what I was when she was alive. It’ll always feel like something’s . . . not right, without her here.”
And Rhine says that’s so like not being with her alive brother, because like I’m evolving into something that doesn’t include him.
Now, if this was because they used to be very close and equals, I’d be sympathetic, but we know their relationship was her being an obedient child to her brother, so it’s her lamenting that she’s doing anything on her own and growing as a person at all.
Then they sit quietly. Rhine just drifts and imagines she’s on a boat on the ocean. Rapist-chan’s mind is presumably whirring about this revelation and how he’s going to use it.
Finally, Cecily stumbles into the room.
She’s standing in the doorway, her knuckles white from clutching the frame. Everything about her is white: her face, the quivering misshapen O of her lips, the nightgown that she’s got bunched up to her hips as though she’s unveiling her body to us. But sliding down her thighs is an abundance of red. It’s pooling at her feet, from the trail of blood that followed her into the room.
There’s the obvious horror here, but there’s also the fact Cecily didn’t call for help. She walked trying to find them, and it’s not “as though she’s unveiling her body”, she is.
It’s as if she thinks the only way anyone will care is if she walks to them and shows them. No one would come if she called and even seeing she’s bleeding to death might not matter if they didn’t see it was the baby.
Rapist-chan rushes over to grab her. Rhine says that this makes Cecily “come alive” by screaming and the sound is so awful that he has to brace his hand on the wall to keep from falling. Which is to say, he must have hurt her picking her up.
You could say he’s worried about her, but I think he’s worried about the baby, because he’s not even slowed by the fact she’s still making pained sounds while he runs to the car. Cecily is just the holder for the baby, so there’s no point sacrificing seconds to her well-being. Personally, I’d assume that she’s already miscarried, but he may not know that, or he may be concerned she’ll be sterile and not able to have another one without treatment.
“I lost the baby,” Cecily chokes.
“No,” I say. “No, you didn’t.”
I would assume Cecily said this because she saw it come out. I’m not sure if Rhine is actually confused about how miscarriages work and thinks Cecily could only be worried about the blood or if she figures Cecily is totally out of it so now is the time for presumably well-meaning gaslighting. (Rhine usually states it when she’s being intentionally cruel.)
Linden holds Bowen, whose eyes are wide and curious, and shushes him even though he doesn’t cry. I’ve always thought Bowen was intuitive. He just might be the only child of Linden’s to live.
I don’t understand what the connection between these sentences is.
I feel a gentle pressure around my finger, and I look down to realize Cecily is touching the place where my ring used to be. But she doesn’t ask about it, the bride who has always made it her mission to know everything about everyone in her marriage.
It’s sort of like she’s dying of blood loss, isn’t it.
“It’s only another minute from here,” Linden says. “Just keep your eyes open.” The gentleness is gone from his voice, and I know he’s trying to stay in control, but he looks so frightened.
The gentleness is gone from his voice because the gentleness is for the baby. All he cares about now is making sure his fucktoy works for next time.
Cecily stops breathing right as they get there, and attendants rush her away while Rhine is sad about how she’s gone forever now.
While in modern times I’d expect they could get her heart going again and stuff, she seems pretty doomed given the only thing that could help her is a blood transfusion and Rhine just explained that this is impossible due to the magic of author fiat.