“Hey, Susanna, can we talk?” I asked as Susanna and I left the kitchen after breakfast.
“Oh, yeah, sure, Jen.”
“In your room?”
“Hm? Of course.”
We headed upstairs and went into her room. I closed the door behind us. We sat on her bed and she waited, smiling at me.
“Kenny was in the park the other day and - yes, don’t worry, I avoided him, but I heard him talking to someone and ... he was saying some quite worrying things.”
“What kind of worrying things?”
“Well, he was talking about that earthquake... You know the one he thought you and Joel caused.”
“What did he say?”
“He said that the only Guardians in that area at that time were Guardian Angels - and they don’t have the power to cause earthquakes unless they do something forbidden - and that nothing in the plate activity would have suggested an imminent earthquake: he said it happened on the day we went to Oxford.”
Susanna looked upset.
“Jen, why are you telling me this? Do you want me and Joel to break up?”
I looked at the bed, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Maybe Kenny was right to stop me having a more active role. No matter how much I could justify it to myself by wanting to help stop Chaos, people would undeniably be hurt.
“I just find myself convinced by what he said about you two being dangerous... I know you’d never want to cause anyone harm and I’m sure Joel’s heart is in the right place too, but ... can you really just disregard it if your being together causes natural disasters to happen? Is it worth it?”
“But can you trust Kenny?” Susanna asked. “He wiped your mind! After saying he wouldn’t.”
“He was just following an order, Susanna. And ... I’m sure there are so many terrible things he could have done to me while he was using me as an informant. But he didn’t. He just cares about the human race. He didn’t want me to feel bad for what he’d made me do.”
“I don’t want to break up with Joel,” she whispered. “I don’t even get how people can ask that of me. I love him.”
“It’s a big sacrifice, Susanna,” I said quietly. “But ... isn’t it the right thing to do?”
“But don’t I have the right to be happy? It’s not that I don’t care, Jen, but being in love... it’s like completion. Can I really just give up the biggest thing in my life? Can I really surrender the event which has made all the pain, all the frustration, all the pessimism worthwhile? Isn’t that like throwing myself into a black hole?”
“Y for the yawning chasm we braved,” I quoted absently.
“What’s that?” Susanna asked, confused. “Is that a line from a play?”
“No, it’s a line from a poem Kenny told me before he mind-wiped me. D was for deaths or something, U was for ... the universe saved? T was ... for tears, I think, and Y was the line I just quoted.”
“It’s his life. It’s the life of a Guardian of Order. Don’t you think that’s so brave, Susanna? You’re ... you’re not the only one who’s had to suffer.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Not at all. If there’s more than one person suffering, you just want to rebel against the cause of the suffering even more...”
“I know,” I said softly. I stood up, deciding I couldn’t even tell Susanna ‘the choice was hers to make’. And really, what did I know about anything she was going through? “I’m sorry,” I told her. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Have a nice day.” I walked out, feeling extremely awkward.
“You too,” she mumbled.
I walked back to my room and sat on my bed for a while, trying not to think. ‘Kenny, you have to do the impossible,’ I thought. ‘How do you stay sane?’
I went downstairs to ask Uncle Mack if we needed any groceries. He said that we did, dictated a list of which ones, and, picking up my handbag, which contained the report Kenny had given me the day before, went out to get them, stopping by the apartment on the way to slide the report under the door. I wanted to knock on the door, tell Kenny he was amazing, beyond belief, but that was such a petty reason to cause him inconvenience that I just walked away. I bought the groceries and came home to find Susanna sitting on a garden chair on the front lawn, reading, apparently waiting for Joel. I put the groceries in the fridge, went up to my room to pick up a book and a blanket and went to join Susanna, laying out the blanket on the grass before arranging myself in a comfortable position on it and beginning to read.
Joel picked Susanna up but they returned a surprisingly short time later; Susanna with her hands in the pockets of her jeans looking sad but resolved; Joel looking both distraught and serious.
“Let’s go make lunch, Jen,” Susie said to me, her voice quavering slightly.
Wondering what had happened, I stood up, replying “Okay” and put the blanket on the chair before following her inside. Joel didn’t come with us.