I spend a few hours in bed with my hand curled over my head, hiding away the anxiety and shame of the events that have just happened. I still don’t understand why they let me off unless they have something bigger planned. They must have something planned, my mother was way too calm down there.
I didn’t manage to sleep, because of worry for Nathan, so I stared at my window until the sky turned a bright, fluorescent orange as the sun began to rise. I kept my phone close to me, in case he used his phone call to get in touch--but I’ve heard nothing.
It’s a few hours into the morning now, and I’m scared to leave this bedroom. I’m scared of facing whatever is waiting for me downstairs, because this situation is unusual. Hitting me I can deal with, cursing me I can deal with, even isolation, I can deal with--but forgiveness? I can’t deal with that. I want them to be angry, I want to provoke something out of them, I want them to find me so hopeless that they kick me out.
I don’t intend to leave yet, but I suddenly have no choice as my bedroom door swings open dramatically. I sit up against my headboard, rubbing my eyes tiredly as my mother strolls inside with her hands entwined behind her back.
“Are you ready to renounce your sins, Elizabeth?” she says as she walks straight over to my window and blinks up at the sun.
“No,” I say. “Screw my sins.”
“You need to start watching that attitude of yours, it won’t protect you where you’re going.”
“What do you mean?”
She runs a hand along my bedroom wall, staring at the spectacles of dust that gather on her fingertips. She rubs her fingers together, yet again, not giving anything away.
“Where am I going?” I demand.
“Sin won’t be tolerated in this house,” she says mechanically, as though she’s reading from a script. “You need to be cleansed.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I say. “Seriously, you don’t need God, you need a therapist.”
“Therapy,” she repeats, almost smiling at me, almost. “I couldn’t agree more. Therapy is exactly what is required.”
I lean my head deeper into my headboard. “You’re crazy.”
“We will be leaving in exactly ten minutes.”
“To go where?”
“An Academy that specializes in these particular situations,” she says. “You are dirty. And you must be cleaned. You must be cleaned.”
I stay silent for a few moments, as she repeats that same sentence to herself over and over again, I watch her in a strange type of pity. I always knew there was something mentally wrong with her, but it’s like she’s suddenly malfunctioning. She still repeats the words, while patting down her apron against her knees.
“Do I need to reboot you?” I say, holding in a laugh.
“Clean and tidy,” she says while compulsively flattening her apron. “Too much dirt.”
“I’m not going to an Academy,” I say. As much as I actually love the idea of leaving them for a long period of time, to go join some delinquents like myself that also stick their fingers up at their parents, I can’t leave Nathan.
Not after what happened last night. I need to know that he’s okay and I actually really want to yell at him for being so stupid. But most of all I just need to know that he’s okay.
“This is a special academy, Elizabeth,” she says, finally breaking herself out of her repetitive, robotic pattern, maybe she comes with a reboot button after all. “And you are enrolling today.”
“For how long?”
“As long as it takes.”
“For what?” I say quietly. “To become a robot?”
“To become committed to the faith,” she says, narrowing her eyes at me. “To be good.”
I think about that. This is most definitely still an aberration and is a consequence from my defiant abjure nature--but to abscond to this academy, and to make my parents believe, for once, that I might be making progress, is almost a victory. It won’t change me, nor will it push me towards becoming like her, but the prospect of coming back and laughing at their expense is almost equivalent to winning a medal.
As much as I hate the thought of leaving Nathan, and not saying goodbye, I really don’t want to stay another night in this house, and an academy for people like me doesn’t sound so bad. We can share war stories, bond over how much we hate our lives, eat forbidden cake after dark when we think the coast is clear and probably get caught.
My parents may see it as a training exorcise for me, but I see it as a vacation. It’s not as though I’m out on the streets every night taking drugs and robbing corner shops--the academy will barely have anything to do with me, there’s nothing they can change for the better. I am for the better. Every day I get just a little stronger, and I better myself from becoming like Jonas and Amelia.
Every day I’m proud of myself, even if no one else is.
I meet my mother’s eyes and I accede to her. “We better get going then.”