Last time, Cecily is suffering. Rhine whines. Linden manipulates.
Today, Rapist-chan informs her that she should probably hide because he called his dad.
Linden pushes the hair from her forehead and leans close and says, “You’re getting the best possible care. My father will see to it.”
At that her pupils dilate. I can see her immediate fight to regain awareness. It’s like watching a person that has fallen through the ice and has nothing to grab for. “No,” she says. The acceleration of her heart makes the beeping on the monitor intensify. “Linden, no. Please, no.” She looks to me for help, and I grip her hand.
“What’s the matter, love?” Linden says. “Nobody is going to hurt you. I’m right here.”
Cecily backed Rhine up about the basement. She wanted to stay with Rhine to avoid Evil Mad Scientist, and only his threat to take away her child made her leave the first time.
Linden is pretending she hasn’t said anything and that he has no idea she’s scared too. It lets him do this without taking any responsibility for it.
Evil Mad Scientist shows up to be evil in the same way.
“Oh, Cecily,” he says, “I’m so sorry about the baby. Perhaps if you listened to me about staying in bed, it wouldn’t have happened. You always were too reckless for your own good.”
Of course he’s blaming her for this.
Pots and kettles.
What’s interesting is how synchronized the two men are:
She’s kicking her legs, propelling herself away from him. I’ve never seen her so frightened. The girl who has spent the last several hours asleep is now squeezing my hand with enough brute strength, I’m certain, to bruise bone.
“Please, love, you have to lie back down,” Linden urges. “You’re not well.”
The both of them avoid reassuring her in favor of attacking her perception. First Evil Mad Scientist begins talking as if she isn’t desperately trying to escape, then Linden acts as if he has no idea why she’s acting like this and she needs to stop.
Evil Mad Scientist continues to ignore her in favor of checking out her treatment.
“No,” Cecily says. “No.” She turns to Linden, pleading. “You have to make him leave. He wanted me dead. Me and our baby.”
The hurt in Linden’s eyes is immediate. He blinks several times before he can speak. “Cecily, no . . . ”
You know, I’ve been assuming the two of them were fighting over the girls, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is good cop/bad cop. They worked it all out in advance.
The two of them leave, presumably to plan out the next stage, and Rhine reassures Cecily that at least they still have Uncle Perfect guarding Bowen, unless he’s in on it too. She’s delirious and handling it particularly badly because before getting pregnant and taxing her body to near death, she’d never been sick before. That’s probably true for most kids, actually – superbabies are superimmune to everything, which fits with how Rhine didn’t see anyone sick of anything but the magic death virus in the lobby.
Part of her nightmare is Evil Mad Scientist killing her but at the last second he turns into Jenna. She doesn’t even sound perplexed by it, so she’s probably had nightmares about how Jenna blames her and hates her for some time now, ever since Rhine explained that the real monster was Cecily for accidentally helping someone else murder Jenna.
I weave small sections of her hair into braids, untangle them and start again. It’s something Jenna used to do to our hair when she was bored, which was often, and doing it now makes me feel like Cecily and I are still a part of that trio
The author’s said her original idea for this came from an image of three girls clinging together and devoted to each other. That her version of that idea is this series says a lot, but there’s still these rare flashes of what could have been.
“He tried to murder me,” she says.
“If he tries again, I’ll murder him first,” I tell her.
“Not necessary.” Her voice is slurring. “I’ll do it myself.”
There’s something about this I really don’t like.
I guess part of it is that even if Cecily is capable of protecting herself, she shouldn’t have to. Rhine is older, more worldly, significantly bigger and stronger physically (no one has mentioned her looking small for her age, while Cecily is tiny even by their standards for malnourished kids), and she’s in far better health.
And Cecily has more to lose than Rhine. Rhine has something Evil Mad Scientist wants, but Cecily is just a baby factory. They can always get another one. And Cecily has more to live for – she has a baby that needs her to protect it too, while Rhine’s goals have always been to get back to the men who protect her.
The way this is phrased isn’t just Cecily declaring a willingness to fight back if she needs to, it’s giving Rhine an out so it’s no longer Rhine’s responsibility. If Cecily lives or dies now is on Cecily – she said she could do it, so Rhine won’t help.
And indeed, Rhine next goes on about how Cecily is so old now.
She’s grown so much since I ran away. Her pert chin has elongated just enough for her face to lose its permanent pout and give her an air of assuredness instead.
She’s lost weight and it’s made her face look narrower and older.
Her bratty sense of superiority has matured into a cool, practical certainty
Ongoing emotional abuse has dulled and numbed her reactions.
which is perhaps why Vaughn grabbed her arm that morning, why he seems to fear he has lost control of her. Her ferocity is palpable now; it’s the very strength that brought her spluttering and gasping from death itself, as if to say she were promised twenty good years and she’s going to have them.
She is coming to terms with the knowledge she’ll probably be killed and has nothing to lose by struggling.
“Jenna would be proud of you,” I whisper.
Jenna did not want to force a fourteen year old to be as old and miserable as she was. She wanted to protect them.
Eventually, the rapist returns. He asks how Cecily is doing. This seems like avoiding the issue – he’s not opening by saying he’s dealt with the problem of his father, nor is he asking Rhine’s advice for how it should be dealt with.
Rhine does not follow the script quite perfectly and responds by addressing Cecily’s fear of Evil Mad Scientist anyway as the primary problem she’s facing.
“My father agreed to leave for now, so she can rest. But he wanted to take her home tonight. He thought she’d get the best care in her own bed, with the doctors we have at home.” He watches her eyes roving busily as she dreams. Her eyelids break apart, revealing a sliver of white. “I said it wouldn’t be a good idea.”
I’m impressed. It’s the first time he has overridden one of his father’s decisions.
He plays Rhine like a fiddle.
He doesn’t acknowledge any culpability of his own in bringing his dad there, and he spends most of his time on all the stuff his dad wanted to do so that it’s clear he’s the only one standing between them and Evil Mad Scientist.
He then does this exact same thing:
“My father warned me that you’re an interloper. He told me I should make you leave, since we’re no longer married and you’re not my concern,” he says. The thought gives me a chill. Yes, I’m sure Vaughn would love for his son to abandon me, so that Vaughn can swoop in and reclaim me the second I’m alone.
But Linden adds, “I told him that wouldn’t be a good idea either.”
Someone good would be putting the reassurances at top. Instead, he delights in telling her just how precarious her position is but that, for the moment, he’s on her side.
I listen to the rain and the thunder, and I think I hear Jenna’s voice in them, sounding out a warning.
She’s probably trying to remind you that your precious Rapist-chan got her sisters killed.
She’s been gone for months now. But sometimes it feels like she’s more alive than ever. She’s one of the indecipherable things that make sounds in the wind
Truly, it is only when fridged and turned into an indecipherable thing that a woman is truly alive.
The next morning, Rapist-chan keeps hammering on how tragic and sad he is and how unbelievable it is Cecily hates his dad he thought they were buds.
I hear the scrape of stubble when he rubs his chin. He opens his mouth like he wants to say something, but then he looks away.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Do you think—” He swallows something painful. “Do you think my father had something to do with this?”
Like a fiddle.
The thought is sinister for him. Even I didn’t want to entertain the possibility. But now that the fear and the shock are subsiding, I know it’s the best explanation.
After he deliberately prompts you to think it, you think it’s the answer.
Vaughn is so good at his wicked craft that he can ruin his daughters-in-law without even being under the same roof, without even being in the same city.
What’s “ruining” Cecily is the pregnancies. And even we believe that Evil Mad Scientist evilly said it was fine, he’s not the one who was fucking her.
“It would’ve destroyed me if I’d lost her. My father knows that, doesn’t he?”
Just in case you think either of them are actually upset on Cecily’s behalf.
Rhine exposits how evil Evil Mad Scientist kept things from Rapist-chan by not telling him about his dead older brother or dead mother.
He didn’t want Linden to feel a shred of love for them.
Yes, that is definitely the reason he only let Rapist-chan know about the members of his family who were still alive and could actually throw a spanner in the works lovewise. That is the only possible explanation. Good job, Rhine. You’re a genius.
I can feel his rage. This is where it starts. This is the spark that will eventually consume him.
I hope this is actual protagonist knowledge and not a fakeout like when you said Cecily was definitely dead, because I want him to burn.