Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter 107: Oona Catches The Dark Side

Sun, December 13, 2074 2:23 pm: Arbormoor Manor- Arbormoor, Pleasantview

Despite what her mother may have insisted, Oona's life did not begin with her parents sweating and sighing in an underpass while an oil drum fire splashed light against the concrete behind them like some pornographic retelling of Plato's cave analogy. Nor did her life begin upon a hunter green evacuation cot in the hallway of a bomb-threatened maternity clinic where all patients, regardless of caste, had been treated equally. Oona's life began here, at thirteen-years-old, in this drafty corner of Jorge's attic. She felt so insignificantly new to the world then among the few remaining possessions of the previous owners. There was the matriarch's blue taffeta gown fading beneath the window with its high and narrow collar standing testament to the straight neck that once fitted it. Isabella Fiorello had been touted as one of the greatest turn of the century thinkers by men like Lord Ishmael Harp and Augustin Nicholaevna. Today, her poetry was hardly known, let alone read. Most of what remained of her was right here in this little room. Sometimes, Oona imagined that Mrs. Fiorello had simply evaporated into the air, leaving that empty dress like a signpost: I.F. was here. Mrs. Fiorello was a minor character in the annuls of history, just another disintegrating relic in house full of disintegrating relics. Oona's life began with this tactile certainty of her own impermanence.

It was funny, really. Macaulay too slipped beneath the arches of Arbormoor Manor when he did not want to be seen, finding some long abandoned corner of the house to wallow in. It occurred to her to look for him here the instant she realized that the house was a little too still without the music from his piano or his giant, clomping feet. Maybe his life began here too. Maybe when the wind whipped around the turrets and the window panes shivered, it seemed to Macaulay like the rocking of an all-too-familiar cradle. It had seemed that way for Oona at that age, in any case. Macaulay prized his solitude above all things. He was in touch with his thoughts in a way that Oona suspected most people were not.

Needless to say, he had not been delivered in the melee of an evacuation while a bunch of harried nurses failed to notice the woman whose infant was already crowning . Macaulay was born at Queen Isis IV under the watchful eye of one of the best doctors in the country. Oona's mother let her hold him when he was less than an hour old and before he had even been named. He seemed so alien to her then, maroon and wrinkled and startlingly blue-eyed. His big ears hearkened back to some long dead fae ancestor that the two siblings did not share. Already, Oona could see the beginnings of a jawline that squared off like her own, a head full of wiry curls that were so dominant in their family, eyebrows that would curve just as their mother's did, and an inherent disapproval of the world that only the two of them would share. If Macaulay was eerie to her at birth, it was because she could sense that he was her doppelganger, equal and opposite. He offered his new bird an arm to perch on.

"What's its name?" Oona thought this announcement of her presence would startle him, but it would seem that he had known she was there.

"Merrick," he said, petting the bird's breast with the backs of his fingers. "Dad's idea of a surprise." His voice trailed in rather a telling way. It said to her that he wanted to be thought of as too old to be as excited about the gift as he really was. He had wanted a pet for many years, but Jorge always shut him down. If Macaulay wondered at his father's sudden acquiescence, he might have reasoned that the bird was here because Lavinia and Hunter were not. She loved Jorge, but he really was clueless about how to approach his son in difficult situations. Oona proceeded into the room. The floorboards creaked noisily beneath her. Macaulay transferred the bird to his shoulder, where it craned its neck this way and that. Oona didn't like birds. They unnerved her.

"So did this surprise occur before or after you caved Enoch Goth's face in for him?" Macaulay shot her a glare.

"Save it," he snapped. Oona knitted her brow. This conversation was beginning to give her a sense of déjà vu. Yesterday, her father met her and Jack at the front door, his eyes smoldering with that preternatural knowing of his. Sometimes, she felt that she alone could see the machinery turning in her father's head. The problem was that even after a lifetime of studying the mechanics, Oona was still ignorant about the function of the machine. Her father excused Jack from the room and pushed her into the wall, demanding to know what she had done. She thought that he suspected her of having murdered Horace Goth, but she was not an animal. That was Kvornan's department. Anyway, whatever she was, she had succeeded. The vineyard was theirs. They could fence it off, pave parts of it over, secure it. If her father took her advice, they would plant melaleucas to dry the mire up then burn the melaleucas down. When the melaleucas came back, as they surely would, they would set the trees alight again. Oona imagined generations after her razing the forest over and over again until they no longer knew why they did it. She cleared her thoughts.

"Tell me what happened," she said.

"Why should I?" Macaulay eyed her skeptically while the bird rifled through his hair with its beak. She supposed that it must have been uncomfortable but Macaulay gave no sign. Oona exhaled through her nose.

"Because this is your big chance to talk to the one person who's going to understand you and not judge you for it. Who in this family has had a more complicated relationship with the Goths? If anybody has your back on this, it's me. Cully, put the bird away." Macaulay hesitated but eventually opened the cage. He made a few nonsensical twittering noises at the bird and lifted it onto its perch.

"The first thing you need to know about Enoch is that he's a jerk. He's a jerk to everyone in general and a jerk to me in particular." Oona waited while Macaulay latched the cage shut. "He doesn't like that he has to associate with a half-Townie Mid-Caste kid, and he's jealous of me getting all of Laurie's attention. I normally put up with his name calling bullshit because if I let it irk me then that would be giving him power, you know?"

"I know." Macaulay brushed a few stray plumes from his epaulet.

"He just pushed the buttons the other day. And no, I'm not sorry that it happened. And no, I can't promise that it won't happen again." A cloud passed over the sun and for a moment, the room was in shadow. Macaulay wrung his fingers. He was not defiant. He was putting forth simple truths of which he was ashamed. Oona knew what that was like too.

"You grounded," she asked.

"Very." Macaulay cracked a smile. She supposed that he had surprised himself with the sarcasm of that last. He shook his head ruefully. "I spent my whole life watching Vin getting pushed around, and I couldn't do anything about it."

"Cully..." She didn't know what to say to that. Oona knew what it was to be a thirteen-year-old at the mercy of adults. She knew what it was to catch the dark side of the world in snapshots and to try to make sense of it with a child's discernment. If there was a sure way to navigate those sorts of experiences, Oona never learned it.

"I don't hate him. I can't, he's my dad. I don't even think Vin hates him, not really. But he hates himself, and he takes it out on the rest of us. I don't want to be that. I want to feel bad about Enoch." The bird shuffled in its cage. Oona took her brother by the arms and squeezed.

"Want to know a secret? It's not about being a good person or a bad person. It's about working with what you've got in order to create the most harmony that you can manage. If you don't have it in you to feel bad about Enoch, or even to stop yourself from pummelling him a second time, don't dwell on what kind of a person that makes you. Really, don't. The key is to figure out what you want from what you've done. Do you want Enoch to be afraid of you? Do you want him to leave you alone? Do you want him to forgive you? Do you want him to respect you? You determine what you want to come of this, and that's the angle you work. You're in the shit now Cull, and from the sound of it, you're going to stay there. So turn it into lemonade." Macaulay lifted his head.

"You don't really believe that, do you? I'm not sure I believe that." There was a mouse scratching behind the wall. Oona stepped in closer to her brother.

"You are going to trip over unresolved emotional crap down the road. That's a given. Question is, are you going to fall and scrape your little knees, or are you going to roll?" Macaulay shook his head.

"I think I'd rather just stop walking," he said.


  1. I like Cully's response there. I don't know. I get told the "roll with the punches" stuff quite a bit and have never found it helpful. But given Oona's life, I can see where she's coming from.

    I'm also not surprised that Enoch managed to get Cully to the point where a punch in the face would be necessary.

  2. I was having a lot of trouble writing this chapter, so I asked Mr. Pen to do it for me, keeping in mind that he has never read DBL (he's not allowed to). I told him that the basic premise was that there were two sets of siblings and that one pair had beaten the crap out of the other pair on separate occasions for completely unconnected reasons. Here was Mr. Pen's version of this chapter:

    She'd beat up on them too,
    the old one not the young one,
    I beat up on the young one.

    And they were brothers.
    And she's my sister. What's
    a sister beating up anyone

    for? She'd beat up me if
    I'd let her. She's an idiot.
    The old one's probably an idiot

    too. The young one had eyes
    like a cow when I'd finished
    wailing on him. I went home

    and ate a pound of sliced
    corned beef. She's always
    leaving the top on the mustard

    ajar, and it gets crusty. It
    got crusty this time too. I hate
    her. I wish I could beat her.

    I have no idea where the corned beef came from.

  3. That response felt like pure Cully to me. He's a little morose on the inside. If Oona is going to go down, she's going to go down swinging. Cully, on the other hand, would probably just fold over and declare himself done. :\ There are advantages to the way that Oona operates, but that isn't for Cully. He's too genuine to manipulate another person or to spin an unfortunate situation for personal gain. In a way, Oona is right-- Cully does need to be true to himself. But part of being true to himself is going to involve not listening to Oona.

  4. In a way, Oona is right-- Cully does need to be true to himself. But part of being true to himself is going to involve not listening to Oona.

    Funny how that works sometimes. XD

    Oh man, Mr. Pen's retelling reminds me of the early days of Naroni, when my brother used to get a kick out of cycling through my images with no context and making up nonsense stories. I believe there was a point where some guy was lamenting that his wife didn't let him play with fire.

  5. Heh, I wonder which Naroni couple that was. For some reason, I am imagining that it was Octavius and Medea. You should have written these things down for posterity! :p

    The line about Enoch's eyes being like a cow cracked me up because it seemed somehow so accurate to actual events.

  6. You know, it may have been Octavius and Medea! It was way back in the early days, in any case. I think their introductory post had some candles in it, so that might have done it.

    Enoch does have rather cow-like eyes. XD

  7. hehehe

    I feel bad to be making fun of Enoch right now, because I know that he's not just contending with a broken nose right now. He feels awful about setting Cully off like that. Still kinda funny though. XD

  8. Pssst! You've been nominated for a Sims blogging award: