When Chloe returned to the table, her father was babbling. There were no actual words, or rather there were words, but they formed little to no actual narrative. It was all about sinners and Jesus and it’s in the Bible, but all of it was as mish-mashed as Bruce Barnes had presented it.
Chloe was sure it made sense to someone. It had certainly made sense to her mother and it was now making sense to her father. She glanced over at Buck as he sat there panting during her father’s monologue. He seemed to hang with desperate glee at every mention of a powerful male authority and another two was added to the fourth column.
Chloe glanced over at Hattie who was looking at her with a look of immeasurable pity. Chloe knew what was encoded in that glance. Chloe knew exactly what fate was being groomed for her. She bit her lip in sad irony. She was being groomed as a heterosexual, being rewritten down to the last inch in order to be a gay man’s beard.
In bitter self-pity, she tuned out of the rest, letting tears stream down her face as she watched her father and Buck engage in very literal verbal intercourse, a type of foreplay she remembered fondly indulging with Maggie after her Intro to Western Philosophy classes back in Freshman Year.
With thoughts of Maggie, her self-pity grew worse and her depression spiraled yet again into the forefront. What would happen to that connection? If she went through with Hattie’s crazy plan and this world was the only one, would she be able to find Maggie in this God’s Hell? What would the Deity’s Hell even look like anyway? What if she didn’t go through with it? What if she hid enough to keep a small piece of herself? Would it still remember her fondly as Buck fastened the leash around her neck?
The tears kept flowing as she glanced up, Buck was putting away his World War II era tape recorder and microphone and glanced at her. His eyes were filled with the same disdain he had seen in her father’s eyes as she was walking away from the table.
One piece…if she was lucky. But likely not that at all. Any Deity that would choose these men as its champions, which would uphold the values of her self-hating mother, would never allow that little piece. And given the transference of hatred. The way the Deity’s hateful views of the very idea of her being her and more to the point in a “her” context were being adopted so flawlessly with each convert into the cult…
She couldn’t stop weeping silently. Her options were both bare and pressing.
“Can I have your opinions on the deathly serious issue of the trip and fall guys or even the tedious affair of the disappearances? Off the record, of course.” Buck asked Hattie almost as a formality.
“Why off the record?” Hattie snapped, deciding to go out with a bang. She adopted an entirely sarcastic tone of voice as she continued. “The opinions of a pilot are important, but the opinions of a flight attendant aren’t?”
As the two men were focused on to express the feelings of shock and dismay and right manly responses under the close watch of the Deity, Hattie slipped a quick wink to Chloe that made her involuntarily stifle a giggle before she slipped into despair again.
It wasn’t long before she was being dragged from the table and forced to mosey to the lobby.
“I’m going to say my good-nights,” Hattie said. “I’ve got the earlier flight tomorrow. Thank you oh so much for the dinner, Rayford.” She shook his hand firmly and then embraced Chloe in a tight hug and whispered in her ear so lowly that Chloe was nearly sure it had been a trick of her mind.
Hattie had said, “Good night, good bye. Perhaps I’ll see you in your better world.”
Hattie pulled away before the Deity could be suspicious, but Chloe wanted to cling to her more. It was stupid and pointless and entirely because she was scared, but she wanted to force Hattie to stay, long enough to say a proper goodbye.
It would attract attention, but Chloe started after her and stopped mid-step. She felt the Deity’s force in her mind, all focus on her in all of its divine hatred. Fear gripped the last of her neurons. Was she going to lose herself in this last instance?
Her head moved against her will and looked longingly at Buck. Her brain reeled and rebelled, trying to roll right out of her head as the crushing weight of the Deity dug deeper into place, pulling her like a puppet.
“Give us a minute, will you, Daddy? I’ll be right up.” The words came out of her mouth all sickly sweet and schoolgirl-like. What was the Deity’s obsession with making her sound and act like a prepubescent child?
“Your dad is a pretty impressive guy,” Buck said. His voice was filled with wistful longing and an unconscious self-hatred. His face looked as if he was still headily recalling the smell of her father’s old man sweat and it’s nauseatingly masculine odor.
“I know,” the words came out of her mouth as she felt further boxed in. She could feel the tendrils of the Deity feeling their way trying to find the core of her sexuality and pervert it, establish its dominance. She sacrificed early memories; even fond memories of her mother and brother to protect that special bit of her self. “Especially lately,” she forced out of her mouth in order to continue the dialogue and hopefully give the Deity a reason to let her go another day before domination.
The Deity seemed to hesitate. This was her last chance at freedom.
“I just met you and I’m really gonna miss you,” Chloe acted at Buck. It was a desperate first-grade level pantomine of an act, but it was desperate. “If you get through Chicago, you have to call.”
It didn’t have quite the same submissive ring as her earlier dodge, but she had to pray it was enough. She cowered in the back of her head as the Deity watched her warily and suspiciously. It was the look the nice Christian boy had given back in that car in High School. The exact same look that emphasized that her future was at its mercy and none other.
Chloe held her breath wishing and praying for what freedom she could steal. After who knows how many clichéd hours, years, or centuries one could conjure, the Deity retreated to its pride. She fell limp with relief.
Buck smiled at her, all manner of predatory behavior flashing in his eyes. “It’s a promise. I can’t say when, but let’s just say sooner than you think.”
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