Sever Ch9

Last time, the rapist is plotting something and manipulating the girls. He may in fact be working together with Evil Mad Scientist.

This time, long chapter is long.

Rhine is scrubbing all the blood with Reed’s homemade soap. Homemade soap isn’t actually cheaper just because it’s rustic. She is actually doing it out of consideration for Cecily to hide the reminders of the miscarriage.

“Doll . . . ”

I keep forgetting to mention that he doesn’t use her name and after refusing to be referred to by a dead woman’s name she was bought as a replacement for, he’s compromised with this. I don’t think I need to say anything further.

Rhine is at least sort of consistent in that she begins thinking that maybe it’s really her fault that Evil Mad Scientist hurt Cecily, just as it was really Cecily’s fault he hurt Jenna.

This is impossible based on timeline, though – if he was advising Rapist-chan to get her pregnant again, either he was intending to kill Cecily or he felt it didn’t matter if she died. It may still be related to Cecily, though – she helped Rhine escape originally, so he may feel the whole batch of wives is tainted and it’ll be better to kill them off and get his son another set.

My back is sore and I’ve definitely pulled something in my neck, but how can I possibly fixate on that? I can’t, not when Linden’s eyes are so puffy, and not while there’s so much cleaning to do.

not when Linden’s eyes are so puffy

She starts off motivated by Cecily, but you can see how immediately this turns into being about the rapist. From there, she rants again to herself about how terrifying and all-powerful Evil Mad Scientist is.

The rapist’s uncle does try to get her to stop. She says she will if she can ask him questions. The book is really stuck on this point. He’s never expressed a desire to avoid questions, the closest it got was Rapist-chan saying if she kept quiet about herself he’d respect that – which turned out to not be particularly true.

She asks if he was married.

“I rather like being by myself. Had a dog for a while; it followed me around and never talked. I imagine a wife wouldn’t grant me that level of peace.”

Bear in mind what marriage means in these days. But he’s fine with that, so he has to have some other reason.

Rhine doesn’t get the not wanting people around thing so she asks why didn’t he want kids, not getting that even if somehow kids were better than wives you can just adopt them rather than marrying someone for access to their womb.

“Now that we know about the virus, it’s worse than reckless. It’s cruel. No offense, doll; you had as much a right to be born as any first generation, but if I wanted to watch something live its course and die, I’d get another dog.”

This is a jumble. He’s both saying this is a personal choice and it’s good that she’s alive AND that it’s morally wrong for them to be born at all.

Rhine is just flabbergasted by the revelation that her lifespan is barely more than a dog’s. Rhine is often blindsided by basic facts. Then she says his dumbface brother thinks there’s a cure. Uncle Perfect is just lol he’s crazy. Then he adds that by amazing coincidence Bowen is named after the rapist’s dead older brother. Because.

Cecily is a broken wreck when they get her back because the hospital sent the stillbirth to a research lab without ever letting her see it. This is dumb because the hospital would be quite experienced with stillbirths and the girls wanting to see the remains and it really doesn’t cost them anything.

Rhine continues to be surprisingly decent, saying she’s made the bed up for Cecily just the way she likes it.

He’s murmuring nice things to her the whole time, saying that she’s important and that she’s strong, but she doesn’t react, not even when he tells her he loves her.
And then I hear her slight gasp, see the way her bottom lip curls back with a sob. The dam is finally breaking.
When Linden peels away the covers, I backpedal from the doorway and into the hall. They should be alone. Husband and wife. There’s no room for an awkward, unmarried third.

OH GOD RHINE YOU WERE DOING SO WELL WILL YOU EVER STOP WHINING ABOUT THIS.

She goes downstairs to sulk with Uncle Perfect.

working on some project that involves soil and glass jars. “Compact watermelons,” he tells me, not looking up. “If I can make the seed grow in a jar, it’ll take its shape. No bigger, no smaller.”
“I like it,” I say. “Modifying something without changing its genetics.”

Rhine thinks putting things into containers too small to force them into the shape you like is better than something that wants to grow to the shape.

See, this is why they’d never modify the women to be subsapient. That’s wrong. Breaking their will is right.

then Reed says, “That child looks like she’s been to hell and back.”
I like that Reed sees Cecily for what she is.

Do you. Because if he sees her as a child, why didn’t he say anything about his nephew fucking her?

Uncle Perfect agrees that sure, his brother may have plotted to murder Cecily because he’s one of those hunters who likes to use the whole animal. In fact, he appears to have already assumed this. Despite being a social equal, he has no interesting in doing anything about it.

The seeds are tiny, unborn things, and I resent them. They’ll be planted and they’ll grow into exactly what they’re meant to be.

No, they’ll be planted and be crushed as they grow to take on the shape he wants from them.

Or would in theory. The author doesn’t know what watermelons are, so it seems the seeds are being planted directly into the jars meant to hold the watermelon.

Rapist-chan checks in on his first rapebaby and then goes back to Cecily, and Uncle Perfect chimes in about poor Rapist-chan finding out his dad’s evil.

When she heads back up, she hears Cecily and Rapist-chan talking.

“Your father is definitely doing something down there.”
“We didn’t see anything,” Linden says. Both of them are trying to recover from crying; I can hear it in their voices.
“I would hear things in the walls. People. I don’t think Rhine was lying. She wouldn’t lie to me.”
“Love, I used to think that too. . . . ”

Would you look at that.

To Rhine, he claimed he realized she’d been honest and listed all the things they did together and how she just couldn’t be a liar like his dad said. With her out of the room and Cecily begging him to do something, he’s right back to saying it’s a lie and Rhine can’t be trusted.

“I believe her. I believe her whether you do or not.” She breaks with a sob. “Stop it—don’t touch me like that, like you pity me.”
“We’ll talk more about it when you’re well,” he says.

What his plan is, I have no idea. But this is calculated.

Cecily will not be put off and so he pulls out his next card – his previous dead baby.

“My god,” and a new round of sobbing kicks up from the both of them. “Why didn’t you tell me? Something like that.”
It’s hard to make out his words after that, because his voice has been reduced to a teary whisper, “Rose said . . . couldn’t believe her . . . didn’t want to think it . . . thought it would frighten you.”
I hear her respond, “You can always tell me anything. Anything.”

And so he has successfully positioned himself as the one who needs her support.

Here’s an interesting fact. As you may know, women abused by their husbands usually drop the charges. It was believed by social workers and others trying to help that they did this because their husbands would threaten worse things to scare them into compliance. But when they got permission to record calls between them, it turned out very differently. The husband would be sorry, he would be contrite, and he would be in so much trouble and they’re trying to turn her against him too, and it’s them against the whole world, they need to be united, no one else understands…

This seems a similar situation. He’s setting himself up as a fellow victim of his father who was just so considerate of Cecily he kept it quiet, and she’s responding by promising to support him.

Across the hall Bowen is crying, and his parents are forgetting their own tears to tend to him. It occurs to me that they’re a family, every bit as real as the one I once had

“Mom, how did you meet Dad?”

In the morning, the rapist has food for Rhine, because doing things she doesn’t ask for works well.

a bowl of cubed fruit floating in its own juices.
“Sorry,” Linden says from the doorway. “I know you like fruit for breakfast, but my uncle is big on canning all his food, except for some apples that looked a bit mealy.”

So apparently he’s supposed to be growing all this stuff himself? Seriously? Farms are noticeable and take up a lot of time.

“I owe you an apology,” he says, looking at the clock like it’s holding a gun on him. “Everything you said—it was staring me in the face, and I chose not to believe it. I made excuses not to.”
I can’t blame him for not trusting me. After all, I did most of the lying in our marriage.

You know, I’m not even angry about this. It’s so fucking repetitive I can’t even care. Let Rhine carve open her wrists in apology or whatever else she has to do to prove she’s sorry for how evil she was and then let’s move on.

He says that she should’ve been willing to come to him for protection from his dad, because the only valid reason for her running is that she was too scared to stay. She can’t have wanted to leave because she’s her own person. He also talks about not believing Rose.

“I lied to you,” he says. “The truth is, I believed everything you were saying. I just didn’t want to.”

That’s not what you said to Cecily last night. You just keep having the same revelation over and over again, and it never sticks.

Rhine continues to try to escape the conversation, and he continues to insist he needs to tell her this and rambles on about everything bad that’s happened that he’s been told about, and how he realizes it’s true.

“But are you sure? You really believe everything you’ve just said?”
“Cecily still swears my father is to blame. She thinks he knew about the baby and that he was just waiting for it to kill her. My father, of course, will insist she’s being unreasonable.”
“Your father is wrong about a lot of things,” I say.

No, Rhine. The correct response is “That doesn’t sound like a yes.” He just said he believes it, and yet he won’t commit. I understand you’ve missed every other red flag so it’s not like I really expect you to get this, but it’s incredibly manipulative. He says things and then he goes back on them within sentences.

He was wrong about his own son. He told me that Linden’s unrequited love for me had turned violent. But Linden had the chance to turn his back on me—nobody would have blamed him for it—and he didn’t.

What the fuck? Rhine, the guy was just lying to you! If he’d thought that was actually true, he’d have told the rapist and been done with it. You knew this last book! You knew this at the start of this book!

“It still doesn’t make sense,” Linden says. “I don’t understand why my father would want to hurt her. Maybe it’s a big misunderstanding. But I had to choose a side, and I chose Cecily.

So that’s very solidly a no. You don’t believe any of it but you’re charitably supporting the girls. If they give you any reason to reconsider the side you chose, that’s it.

And you’ve even helpfully mapped out what you consider evidence of “truthfulness” – a willingness to behave, obey you, and be physically available.

She told me a lot of things that she was afraid to tell me earlier. She thought I would feel betrayed and cast her away.”

We aren’t told what those things were.

“She doesn’t want to lose her marriage,” I say. “It’s her whole world.”
“Mine too,” he says.

He tends to make these sort of declarations only after he’s been prompted.

We agreed to be honest with each other. And we agreed to support each other, no matter what.”
“That’s good,” I say.
“Which is why, when she told me we should help you, I agreed.”
“Help me?”
“We want to help you find your brother,” he says. “And that attendant.”

So. That’s what he’s been planning.

He’s probably telling the truth about this, to some degree, but she’s not here, so he has a lot of leeway – was he the one to bring the subject up, what did Cecily mean by help, etc. He has a lot of room to paint exactly the picture that fits what he wanted.

I’m suddenly unsure what to do with my hands. I tuck them between my knees. My cheeks feel hot, and I feel at once the need to cry and to laugh, but I find I have the energy to do neither.
“I know it isn’t my place to ask what’s gone on between the two of you,” Linden says.

Bam. She’s not saying yes and acting upset, so rather than risk her saying no, he reminds her she betrayed him and he’s so nice and good.

“Even before the annulment, I see now that I was wrong to expect all of your affections to be for me.”
“It wasn’t wrong of you,” I say. “We were married.”
“Foolish, then,” he says. “But I admit that I’ve wondered, since the day you both went missing, what existed between you and him. I wondered what made you love him instead of me.”
“It wasn’t what you think,” I say, too quickly and too loudly. I force myself to look at him. “I couldn’t leave him behind. I loved the idea of being free again, and I loved the idea of Gabriel being free, rather than carrying on in servitude until the end. It doesn’t seem right to me, Linden, people only seeing the world through daydreams and windows.”
I think I’ve hurt him. He stares past my shoulder and nods.
“He’s been good to you, then?” he says. “Gabriel?”
“Better than I’ve been to him,” I admit.

What’s horrifying, though, is how little work he has to do. She does so much voluntarily, tearing herself down before he can even get there.

Rhine says that he obviously wants to ask if she fucked Gabriel and has this whole time but doesn’t because talking about sex is something only fallen women like Cecily and Jenna do and he’s so nice he won’t and oh Rhine is so terrible to be so mean to someone so good and nice.

Rapist-chan then goes in for the kill. He wants to help her find her brother. He won’t just use their existing car, or use his money to hire someone, or buy a new car. They’ll stay longer for Uncle Perfect to fix another car and he’ll then teach her to drive.

I already know how to drive. My brother taught me on the delivery trucks he used for work. But now’s not the time to add another thing to the list of what Linden doesn’t know about me, so all I can offer is my most sincere, “Thank you.”

Certain ideas echo, don’t they?

We’ve seen this before in more common situations, with girls being uncomfortable about being more competent or knowledgeable than their love interests. This series, as usual, is showing us the underlying rule without bothering to dress it up in anything more acceptable.

Girls should not be able to do things.

Any ability they have is something men might try to teach them and then be embarrassed when they already know. And as the rapist illustrates, men want blank slate girls and it would never occur to them to ask if a woman’s able to do something before telling her they’ll teach her.

It doesn’t matter that Rhine only learned this skill from another man. That just means she’s an intellectual slut rather than a proper virgin ready to be taught the ways of everything by her true owner.

“It’ll mean postponing your trip a bit longer, but it’ll still be faster in the long run, and I’d feel much better about your traveling this way, for what it’s worth.”

Delay + promise it’s better in the long run + guilt. At least the fact he keeps repeating the exact same thing means I’m just numb to it.

Rhine just tells him that she totally didn’t fuck Gabriel so don’t be mad at her please!!!!! She’s so terrible and betrayed him so many ways by having other people she cared about but at least she’s still pure for him.

Then Rhine forces herself to eat despite still having no appetite.

I have no desire to, but I know my body is craving it. I can feel the emptiness in my stomach gnawing at my bones.

Rhine has said this about not wanting it but her body wanting it before. Last time it seemed like she meant that she didn’t feel hunger but knew she must need food, but here we see that actually, she does feel hunger and that’s what she’s referring to as her body wanting it.

Aside from her acknowledgement she does need to eat, this sounds incredibly like anorexic talk. Another way Rhine is perfect – “she” doesn’t feel base needs like a desire for food, just her treacherous and sinful body that she masters now without effort, and her grief and misery serve only to slim her down. Despite the fact it’s been, what, at least a week or two, no one has said anything about Rhine looking like a bony corpse. After nearly dying from whatever the fuck was up in Fever with virus candy withdrawal, then two months getting new poisoning while strapped to a bed being fed by often removed IVs, then nearly bleeding to death, then living on an apple a day, she still looks exactly like pre-virus Rose, who was breathtakingly beautiful.

Starve yourselves, girls. You can never be too thin.

After I’ve eaten, I shower under the rusty tap. I ignore the want to collapse under the blankets and sleep away the next three years.

She’s also displaying the lethargy and depression you’d get from starvation.

But then, Rhine always struggles with motivation. Kidnapped, she lounges around the mansion. Falling into the carnival, she remains until Evil Mad Scientist comes to get her. Reaching New York, she finds her way into an orphanage and again remains until she’s forcibly removed.

If Linden and Cecily can make an effort to go through the motions and be strong, after all that they’ve lost, so can I.

While we’re here, I know real medicine doesn’t apply here but both Rhine and Cecily should be barely able to move. It’s not about motivation. It just flat out takes forever to regenerate blood cells, and blood cells are how the rest of your body works. In modern times, people bounce right back because you can get around this by just pouring blood back in. But Cecily should be bedridden and Rhine probably although I’m not clear how much she actually lost, because when she tries to move her muscles need oxygen and they get that from blood cells and if there aren’t enough of them to carry sufficient oxygen your body will just not work.

Rapist-chan, of course, is still bright eyed and bushy tailed because he’s been injured all of zero times and all he went through was the intellectual shock of losing a future baby, while Cecily’s brain is currently stewing in hormones and misery because she knows there’s supposed to be a baby and it’s gone. My dad cried when I was born, he was so happy – but my mom cried all the time at the thought of failing to protect me. Consider this story for a look at the sort of mindset pregnant women and new mothers can have.

Cecily’s domestic arrived the other day. I’m not sure what Linden told his father that made him relinquish control of her and let her stay with us, but she seemed unharmed, if quiet, when she stepped out of the limo.

This would appear to support the idea the rapist is just playing good cop.

[Cecily] lays Bowen on his stomach and tries to coax him to crawl, though all he does is grab at the earth and hold it up to the sun in offering. She decides he must be worshipping his secret god.
“There are so many colors in his eyes,” she tells me one afternoon when I come to sit next to her in the dirt. “Sometimes I wonder where he gets that.”

The writing of this has been less impressive than previous books, but here’s a nice section.

Cecily asks about Rhine’s eyes and history, because of course Cecily doesn’t know that for herself. Rhine says her mom had blue eyes like her blue eye.

“I wonder how far down the line genes go,” she says. “Your mother had blue eyes, and maybe her mother, and her mother. It could be this one gene that’s gone on for thousands of years just to get to you. You could be the last one to ever have that exact shade of blue.”

Depending on how the superbabies thing works.

But this also illustrates the weird thing about these books. They’re vile, but the characters seem so real. Cecily is dreaming of lineage because she has no such link to her own history.

I don’t tell her that my brother has the same shade of blue

Because. She just doesn’t. Rhine is wracked with guilt at the secrets she kept by accident from Rapist-chan, all because he didn’t give a shit about her life to ask. But she goes out of her way to avoid telling Cecily, at times outright lying.

Rhine says Cecily’s more self-sufficient than ever ignoring that she’s usually not self-sufficient because she’s locked up.

She’s insisted on having her meals with us at the table, politely declining Linden’s offers to bring a tray to her in bed.

Which is different than those times she was forced to stay in bed despite desperately wanting to be with the rest of them in the first book, because.

She’s even been cleaning the house, though nobody asked her to and I’ve never known Cecily to be at all domestic.

But all this can have nothing to do with her being physically prevented from it before.

Cecily then demonstrates that she is all things good in this series, in not only magnitude but scope, but pointing out that Rhine needs to get moving.

She knows that I’ve been dawdling. Trapped in the mansion, I could think of nothing but home. But now my home is gone. I’m frightened of what I might find when I’m reunited with Rowan.

As if you didn’t dawdle before.

Also, apparently getting back to her brother so he’ll know she’s alive is more motivating than getting back to her brother so he’ll know she’s alive and also stop murdering people in the exact way that got her parents murdered along with all the babies she remembers and destroyed her life and also led, in its way, to everything else bad that happened because her parents were no longer there to protect her and her brother.

Time almost seems to stop here on Reed’s middle-of-nowhere piece of land. It’s oddly comforting.

I suppose the problem is, the author hates women acting, but she’s not good at using external forces to get them to move because she thinks those should be endured/excused and apologized to. She doesn’t want things to happen. I wonder what exactly was going on between her and the publisher – was she told she needed to have events when all she wanted to write was Rhine lounging in a mansion feeling trapped and anxious?

“I used to daydream how nice it’d be if you had one of your own,” Cecily says. “A baby, I mean. And Jenna, too.” She watches Reed lower himself under the car while Linden toys with things under the hood. “This isn’t where I thought we’d all be a year into our marriage. I thought we’d all be happy.

And this is why Cecily is the only good person here, because she’s the only one left who could say this.

She’s not always right – she sabotages Rhine’s escape attempts when she should have helped, but you can understand completely why she did it, especially when Rhine never talks to her about anything. She was on Evil Mad Scientist’s side, but he’s the one who acts nicest and it completely makes sense she’d look to him to try to protect Rhine from his son, who even Rhine admits is jealous, stupid and controlling.

Cecily may even understand why Rhine wants escape and freedom. Rhine’s confinement is nothing compared to what Cecily goes through, for one thing. But if you don’t believe escape is possible, it’s better to sabotague it early than risk them actually trying it and being found out.

She tells Rhine she doesn’t know what to do now that she’s had this baby when she was promised he’d be saved and he won’t, and she’ll be dead and won’t even be around for most of this life.

She shakes her head. “I hate that man,” she says. “He ruined everything.” Something dangerous and ugly flashes in her eyes. It’s only there for a moment, but she doesn’t look quite the same after that. And now I know: The winged bride that fluttered ahead of me is gone. She’s been conned, ruined, left for dead, and she’s not going to forgive any of it. She will soldier on, if only out of spite.

Some interesting words here.

dangerous and ugly

She’s been conned, ruined

The first is somewhat of a cliche to just mean someone’s been pushed to the point they’re willing to do extreme things, but I’m inclined to take the author at her word here, especially when it goes on to say Cecily is ruined (conned, ruined also brings to mind that she was ruined by the sex she was conned into), and the author completely erases Cecily’s driving motivation of love for her son or her caring about the other girls in favor of saying she has nothing to live for but revenge over this being ruined – not that she wants to be there for Bowen or Rhine or even Linden.

The author may be entirely on board with hating Evil Mad Scientist, but the desire to fight back is just as evil, if not more. Cecily’s desire to take action, even without even doing it, is part of the same ruining. Eve’s bitten into the apple. This is Cecily’s sin.

It doesn’t matter if she plans to have him torn limb from limb or simply to run away with his grandson and deny him that. To be active in opposing even evil men is to be ugly regardless. Cecily no longer has anything to live for but to remove an obstacle from Rhine’s life, because Rhine is the only unruined girl left.

8 Comments

  1. Ember says:
    ! Stealth rec! :D That made my day, thanks.

    …huh. You know, my stories (and my enjoyment of your and Coz’s stories) come(s) at this theme from exactly the opposite angle. You keep pointing out how Destafano likes to inflict suffering on her heroine without anyone being to blame for it, whereas I’m more-or-less projecting my general anxieties about the misogynistic world I live in onto a flesh-and-blood monster that can (eventually) be destroyed.

    1. Ember says:
      And also, I guess, regarding the protagonist herself: rather than the idea that purity can protect you from the worst of the world, the idea that the worst can happen and things can still be relatively all right. There’s something wonderfully cathartic to me about the idea of a heroine who can be ground down to dust and still piece herself back together.
    2. Farla says:
      And these books are part of increasing that misogyny! Perhaps the author is in turn motivated by seeing works where misogyny is the enemy instead of the treasured ideal world, and this is all a beautiful cycle of media.
      1. Ember says:
        You’re joking, but remember, during NaRe you actually encountered someone who told you they were intentionally writing their female lead as weaker than her male love interest because they thought it would be an interesting change of pace.
  2. Socordya says:
    “If I can make the seed grow in a jar, it’ll take its shape. No bigger, no smaller.”
    “I like it,” I say. “Modifying something without changing its genetics.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding

    Nothing else to say really.

    1. Farla says:
      The real thing is, is that exactly what the author meant?
  3. Sazuka57 says:
    Oh man the manga you linked made me bawl my eyes out in the end.
  4. cecamire says:
    Petshop of horrors!! That was my first ever manga – it’s so good

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