Between breakfast and lunch on Saturday, Susanna and I decided to go bowling, something which I thought would take her mind off Joel. I hadn’t told her about seeing him: I knew it would only hurt her if I told her he had been nasty about Kenny, even if I did consider him no longer good enough for her.
We had only just started playing when I saw Kenny and an unfamiliar girl with long curly black hair and green eyes approach the counter where you ordered a game.
I tried not to watch though secretly I hoped Kenny was on a date with a fellow Guardian, avoiding the human Joel said he was in love with.
Susanna got a strike and I cheered for her; the way she smiled back at me made me feel light-hearted and like I didn’t need to worry about her re-entering a relationship with Joel.
By chance, Kenner and his friend were given the lane next to ours. Susanna didn’t appear to notice the presence of Joel’s adversary: she sipped at her lemonade as I bowled, not doing very well at all. It was probably for the better, since I was sure Kenny would have reminded her of Joel. I wondered what she thought of him now. I, considering myself on his side, though unwilling to delve as deep into the painful Chaos-averting as a Guardian, found it hard to imagine being able to hate Kenny, but it struck me that Susanna had good reason to.
After my turn, Susanna told me she was going to visit the ladies’ room and I took this opportunity to go over to Kenny and his friend.
“Hey,” I said shyly, hoping I wasn’t interrupting. Kenny’s friend was the one bowling but she smiled at me.
“Oh, hi, Jennifer,” said Kenny, looking startled. He looked as though he hadn’t slept very well the previous night: his hair was tousled and there were shadows under his eyes.
“Everything all right?”
“On the Order/Chaos front, yeah. We’re just sticking around to make sure the threat doesn’t resurface.”
“Well, I hope it doesn’t. That’s the last thing Susanna needs.”
Kenny’s friend came to join us.
“Hey, Jennifer,” she said, startling me.
The girl laughed.
“It’s me, Svetlana. I’m using a Disguise Feather. Good thing I did, us ending up next to you and Susanna. I don’t know what she’d have thought if she had seen me hanging out with Kenner.”
“You’re still volunteering at the Cattery, aren’t you?” I asked, remembering what Joel had said. I frowned at the memory. “I saw Joel in town yesterday.”
Kenny looked instantly alert.
“What did he say? Did he threaten you?”
“No, he was more concerned about being mean to you actually. Said you were in love with a human and that he hoped you could never be together.”
“Well, we couldn’t.”
“Yeah, but it was still a cruel thing to say. I myself hoped you would ... well, find a Guardian to take your mind off her. When I saw Svetlana, I thought that maybe you might indeed be dating one.”
Kenny looked insulted.
“You think I’d do that?”
“I mean, only if you genuinely liked that Guardian,” I said hurriedly. “I was hoping that your love for this human wasn’t all-consuming.”
Now Kenny looked sad.
“So that’s what would be the right thing to do? To find someone else?”
“Well, ... yes,” I replied, confused by the way this seemed to be distressing him. “Better than to be caught up on someone you couldn’t have.”
“You’d want me to give her up?” Kenny’s gaze was startlingly penetrating. It was as though my opinion was the most important in the world.
“If she knew about Order and Chaos, wouldn’t she want you to too?”
Kenny looked down.
“When I told her I loved her, she made me make her forget.” He looked up, anger in his eyes. “I think that was pretty selfish of her, don’t you? To take the copout option and leave me to be tortured.”
I was startled by the animosity in Kenny’s tone.
“I’m sure that’s not how she saw it, Kenny. She probably wanted to avert Chaos at all costs.”
“I dreamt I had to let her fall into an abyss to stop Chaos,” Kenny said bitterly. “I still don’t know whether it would’ve been worth it.”
“What? Of course it would have been worth it!” I responded, shocked. “You’d have saved the world. It’s what Guardians of Order do: their Duty.”
“Maybe I just wanted her,” Kenny retorted.
“Oh, I’m sure she’d be flattered!” I said sarcastically. “That the person she loved would rather let the apocalypse happen than let her be sacrificed. Where’s the romance in knowing the two of you are only going to be happy for a few moments before the world blows up, or whatever happens?”
“Where’s the romance in knowing she’s going to die?!”
Painfully, I said “Neither is romantic, Kenny. But one of them has to be done. Say that, despite your dream, she’s not in imminent danger. Would you rather spend your whole life knowing she’s safe or go out with her, knowing everyone’s going to try to stop you two being together?” Softly I added “I’ve seen how hurt Susanna is. No one should have to go through that.”
“D’you want me to prioritise Order over love, Jennifer?”
I wondered, once again, what it meant that my opinion to him was so significant.
“Kenny, it would be prioritising Order over heartbreak. And heartbreak, don’t you think, should be avoided as much as Chaos?”
“But it’s heartbreak already...”
“But she’s safe and she’s well and the world’s still turning. I think the girl you’re in love with would want you to get over you, Kenny. That’s why she asked to be made to forget.”
Svetlana returned from the bar, carrying a tray with two glasses on it. She put it down on the table behind the computer.
“She’ll make you make her forget every single time, Kenner,” she said softly, sitting down (it was Kenner’s turn to bowl).
“I think she’s heartless,” Kenny said coldly.
I saw that he was in pain but I found it difficult to forgive him.
“Isn’t that what Joel thought of you quite recently?” I found myself asking. “He might change his mind now, but I’m disappointed that you’ve lost yourself. I never thought you’d stop caring. I hate that I’m wrong.”
I walked back over to the lane where Susanna and I were playing. She was returning now and I put on a smile as she reached our lane.
“Thanks for suggesting this, Jen,” she said as she picked up a bowling ball. “I’m having a really great time.”
“I’m glad,” I told her. “We should do this more often.”
But hopefully without re-encountering Kenny, I thought to myself.
“She hates me,” he whispered.
“No, not that,” Svetlana insisted. “She just ... thought a lot of you.”
“And now she doesn’t.”
“She understood what it meant to you to be a Guardian of Order, Kenner. She really respected you for it. Don’t you remember, when she asked you to mind-wipe her, she told you she’d lose all her respect for you if you sacrificed your principles for her? Now you have, she’s kept her end of the deal.”
“She’s as unbending now as she was before,” he stated.
“Would you love her as much if she wasn’t?”
Kenny thought about it. He imagined a situation where Jennifer had asked that they run away together. In these scenes she was frivolous, superficial: she didn’t care about anything. And Kenny realised it would make him fall out of love for her. He loved Jennifer for her heart: a heart which encompassed the world and put others before her. He loved Jennifer for understanding Duty: for seeing the justification behind the ruthlessness. She had read into his core when she had seen that he was a Guardian of Order for caring. And just now she had been right. He had lost himself in the blur of the pain which was impossible love.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he told Svetlana. “She wouldn’t be Jennifer.”
“I still care about avoiding Chaos. But now she thinks I don’t. I’m so frustrated, Svetlana; why did I let myself get angry with her?”
“Because you love her and she only reminds you of why you can’t. It’s only logical. But I think you should find some way to let her know you’ve not lost yourself. I think that was a hard blow for her.”
“I’ll write her a letter,” Kenner decided. “I can’t approach her while Susanna’s there. I’ll let her know that I’m not lost yet. And then she’ll respect me again.”
“Of course she will,” said Svetlana smiling. The smile was slightly wistful. “She believes in you.”