In the restaurant, Chloe continued her pose, willing herself to slip outside of the gaze of the Deity. Finishing up her meal as her father bribed the waiter with Ron Paul bucks in order to rent out the table for another hour or two. She willed herself not to comment on the faux pas.
She glanced at Buck who unpacked some sort of World War II era recording device with the big spinning tapes and the large microphone.
“I’m ready,” Buck said “to ask your idea of what happened on that fateful flight to London. Do you have a theory?”
Chloe shut her eyes and grimaced. Two and two and two and two were adding up in her head multiplying and expanding down the line she had already deduced. It fit with what she suspected when she was first paired off with Buck. The sick Deity wasn’t going to be content with just forcing her into the role of obedient house slave, but it was going to need her to convert first. So like her mother, the Deity was.
She knew she needed to escape, while the Deity was focused on dad’s new speechmaking on the Gospel of the Antichrist and All. But certain conventions needed to be upheld if she was going to complete her quest.
Chloe put on her best 50s housewife impression and gently touched Buck’s arm and asked if he minded if she excused herself. She nearly beamed at pride at the turn of phrase. It was so neatly submissive. She began to shift to walk out of the frame of vision, out of the direct line of sight of the Deity, when she caught Hattie’s eye.
Chloe nodded her, the nonverbal equivalent of “Fly, you fools.” She didn’t know why she made the gesture, as it was risky, but it had been involuntary necessary. Hattie may have been her father’s mistress, but she was an innocent caught in the middle of the Deity’s Madonna-whore complex. It would have been a sin not to help her.
“I’ll join you,” Hattie said to the men and joined her. Chloe gave a fain smile, but she could see her father bubbling into fury. In his eyes, she could feel the Deity’s very thoughts etching themselves in her skull. It went, you two have meddled in my affairs long enough, resisted me in no uncertain terms. This will not do.
Chloe grabbed Hattie’s hand and quick-marched her in the direction of the bathroom, hoping that the Deity’s hatred for all feminine affairs would prevent it’s interference in the land of female bowel movements.
“What’s all this about,” Hattie growled when Chloe dragged her into the one stall restroom and frantically locked and blocked the door. “If you’re going to preach at me like your sick little control freak of a father, I swear I will cut you.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Well if you’re trying to hit on me, I’m afraid I don’t swing that way. While that sounds tempting considering what your father put me through, I could never get down with the female body.”
“What? You’re not my type-And anyways who said I was gay?”
Chloe glared for a second and then shook her head. “Listen we got off to a bad start-“
“Nah,” Hattie interrupted, shifting out of her hostile body language into a more neutral stance. “I’m just being a bit spiny. Your dad got my back up a bit earlier and I’ve been chewing daggers ever since.”
“I’m sorry…” Chloe didn’t know what else to say, so she went with her heart. “I’m sorry my dad’s an unrepentant bastard.”
Hattie scoffed. “It’s cool. I’m mostly over it…No, no, okay, it still pisses me off. How can you stand it? How did I stand it? It’s…It’s stupid. I’m being stupid. I’ve been getting dumber and dumber all the time.”
Chloe leaned against the sink and let Twos multiply. “How so,” she asked though she already suspected the answer.
“I don’t know. I keep saying dumb things lately, not caring at moments. I mean, I called up your dad and said my sister was bummed because she was out of work at Planned Parenthood. Why would I say that? She’s busier than she’s ever been what with all the people with disastrous miscarriages and working on the infertility problem. But it’s not just that…”
“You feel like your body is being used against your will.” Chloe ventured her theory cautiously. She imagined that Hattie would be a bit tired of theories from Steeles at the moment.
Hattie’s façade cracked for a moment. Her voice naught but a murmur. “…yeah.”
Chloe began to move closer to Hattie. She wanted to give her a hug, but could see the defensive body posture. She extended her arms slightly, offering the opportunity. When enough time had passed to be sure of a decline, she lowered her arms again and leaned against a closer sink.
They waited in silence for a minute before Hattie spoke again. “I’m going to say something and I want you to be a different kind of Steele than your parents, okay?”
Chloe just nodded.
Hattie took a deep breath of air. “God, I’m going to sound like such a psycho like your father…I think there is something out there. Something…malevolent. I don’t-I don’t think it likes us do…I don’t think it likes us. I think we’re getting in its way.”
Chloe’s mouth muscle twitched in a concerned way. It was one thing to work it through. It was another thing to have corroboration. It had a way of making things, even things you were certain were true of feeling realer, more pressing.
Hattie continued. “I think…it’s going to change us one way or another. I think we are…God I sound insane…offending its delicate sensibilities or some other shit…No, no, this is too crazy. I’m just going nuts after all your father’s head games, seeing his views get all magnified. I’m sorry. I-I don’t even know why I’m saying this. Maybe I haven’t escaped as much as I hoped. I mean I’m here with-“
“Hattie,” Chloe tried to interrupt.
“My most slinky dress on all so I can tell your father how over him I am. Hell, maybe I’m just hoping to get one over on him so that I won’t have wasted my time like my mother, making the same mistakes she did and-“
“You’re not the only one…”
Hattie sunk to the floor. “Oh God, so it isn’t just me.”
“I think it’s happening to everyone in a general region of my father.”
“It happens around Buck as well and Nicky Mountain-range now that I think about it.”
“The weirdo who quoted every country in the U.N.”
“Yeah, I think I’m being prepped to be his hussy by the way it looks.”
“And I’m being set up as Buck’s child bride.”
Hattie smiled sardonically and let out a sharp breath of air. “How much of ourselves do you think will make it…in the end?”
“Well considering everything…none. Not one red cent.”
“I thought so,” Hattie nodded. It was a resigned sort of observation with not even a hint of sadness. “Well sucks to be us.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We can escape.”
Hattie focused for a moment. “How? I mean…if we’re right, then we’re up against something akin to a God. I mean what are we supposed to do? Walk out of reality? Let me just slide these bathroom tiles away and we can hop out of the narrative.”
“You don’t have to be…” Chloe froze. What had been her plan? She blamed the way the Deity had muddled her thoughts. How could she have forgotten to think of a way out? Something more fleshed out than just running away to where the Deity wouldn’t be able to find her and hope for the best. She felt like an idiot.
“We could pray,” Chloe ventured pathetically.
Chloe’s cheeks went red with embarrassment. A competent student at one of the top universities in the country and all she had was this. She began to take it all back, resign herself to her fate, when the twos began to add again.
“Yeah,” Chloe said earnestly, her eyes again breathing with life. “Yeah, it could work. I mean, there obviously is a supernatural or else none of what is happening could occur. There may be some other force we can appeal to.”
“Like God? Like your fath-“
“Like God, Artemis, a moon Goddess, Billy the Kid, I don’t know. Something, anything that can take us out of this reality.”
“A razor to the wrists can do that handily enough.”
“Something else, something that won’t trap us in this Deity’s version of Hell.”
“I’d trust it over its idea of Heaven,” Hattie began, but stopped.
Chloe glanced into the mirror and saw her own face wracked with desperation. She averted her eyes and fell silent. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t want to-“
Hattie grabbed her gently at the shoulders and stared her down. “Let’s give it a shot, eh?”
Chloe nodded, feeling stupid nonetheless. She grabbed Hattie’s hands and stared at the sky willing her soul open to anything that wasn’t that control-freak of a Deity that her mother had worshipped so many times.
“To any who would hear us; to any who would have compassion; help us, please,” Chloe whispered the words earnestly; tears already beginning to release down her face. “I commend our souls to any who would take us, to anywhere where we can be us in all our pride and folly.”
With that she felt something, a glimmer, an eye seemingly watching. Not glaring like the Deity, but just sort of taking it in. Chloe continued in hope of enlisting a further response, but there was none to be had. As soon as she tried to force the issue, force her hope on that presence, it was gone as if it had never been there. Chloe’s heart sank.
“It didn’t work,” Hattie said getting up. She seemed grittily determined. Chloe wished she had Hattie’s newfound confidence.
“Listen, kid. It was a good effort,” Hattie continued. “Maybe it will be there for you…But, if you want some advice,” Hattie pressed something into her hand that felt like a bottle. “I’d take all of those tonight before whatever it is that’s watching us catches on and completely rewrites us. As for me, I’ve got a few non safety razors left that I can use once I get back to my hotel room.”
Chloe looked blankly in horror, daring not to look Hattie directly in the face and get the full force of her earnest plans for self-destruction. She willed herself to just look down into her own hands where she held the bottle of sleeping pills in a death grip.
Hattie kissed her forehead and hugged her as Chloe finally broke down into tears. “You’ll be okay,” Hattie whispered into her ear. “It’ll all be okay.”
The lies weren’t at all comforting but they were enough to compose herself as best as she would be able to. She could feel rays of the Deity wondering about the bathroom. It was time to go back for better or worse.
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