In case you’re wondering, no. The science fiction element still has not shown up.
Rory isn’t studying with Benji anymore. For two weeks, he’s been calling her, and she’s almost thinking she wants to make up, but she’s holding onto her anger like Marty McFly on a hoverboard behind a car. When Benji is missing from class, Rory concludes that’s either sick, or he’s committed suicide:
I started feeling curious if he was sick, out of town, or something much worse.
When he doesn’t answer her texts, she goes to Charlie’s to look for him, and finds his room unlocked. A passing rando explains:
He shook his head. “No, but he never locks his door unless he’s home,” he said, turning the knob.
Is this one of those too-science-to-function things, like Rory’s coat?
So, Rory goes to Gigi’s. Let me reiterate a Writing Tip: Rory is going to Charlie’s and then Gigi’s to look for Benji, and only two of those names belong to people. No.
Rory decides to check The Gym, but first, something amazing happens:
It wasn’t as if he had anyone here to take care of him, including me–the jealous bitch, who didn’t even give him the chance to explain, much less apologize.
Rory finds Benji at The Gym, where he’s lifting weights:
There he was, red-faced, drenched in sweat, and squatting about three hundred and fifty pounds.
Hmmm. This is an indication that Benji has some pretty awesome strength for a guy who spends most of his time doing sedentary stuff on computers. I would say that it’s probably believable, but outside of the norm, for your average college student who isn’t being coached to squat that kind of weight. I wonder if he’s an alien, too. They go outside to talk about their fight:
“I’m sorry I didn’t answer your text,” he said quietly, looking at the asphalt. “I just couldn’t go to class another day and see the anger in your eyes when you look at me, knowing you were just a few feet away and I couldn’t talk to you.”
“I’m sorry. That was cruel and unusual punishment.”
Benji is worried that Rory hasn’t eaten (couldn’t go a chapter without remembering that Rory doesn’t eat), so he takes her Gigi’s for food, where he explains the Ellie thing:
“Then who is she to you?”
Benji shook his head and spoke with a nervous smile. “I guess she was sort of a coworker, but it was never anything more than that.”
“Coworker?” I asked.
“She was my lab partner spring semester last year. That’s why we have each other’s phone number.”
Hey, you know how we could have avoided the Rory-runs-around-town drama of this chapter? By having a conversation that went:
Rory: Why do you have that bitch’s phone number?
Benji: She was my lab partner last semester and I guess I never took her out of my phone.
Tada! Rory asks him:
“You had a bunch of weights on that bar. Were you lifting that much all morning?”
“Pretty much. I’ve been blowing of stress like that since high school.”
Okay, he’s been squatting 350 all day? He’s an alien. Or a genetically modified super soldier. This is what I’m putting my money on. Not that he couldn’t have just really upped his game training for years, but I’m thinking this is too inconsequential a detail to just drop in there for it to lead to nothing.
“What stress? You seem like someone who had the perfect childhood.”
Yes, Rory. Perfect childhoods exist, and if you had one, you never have any source of stress in your life ever again ever.
“My parents were great,” he said, nodding, “but they worked a lot, and my dad was gone most of the time. We made sacrifices, just like anyone else.”
My muscles tensed. I had to stop myself from informing him that he had no idea about sacrifice, but it was just a knee-jerk reaction. Just because his parents weren’t murdered didn’t mean he didn’t have the right to complain.
Benji asks Rory if she’s been to a lot of concerts, and gestures to her Ramones t-shirt, and she said she did go to a lot of concerts during the summer of her senior year. I hope Rory didn’t go to a Ramones concert three years ago, because they broke up in the 90’s and three of them were already dead in 2010.
Since he doesn’t know that Rory’s parents are dead, Benji imagines that they’re super cool, which is not the impression I would get about a family who raised Rory:
He smiled. “That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m sure they know that you would have found a way to do what you want. Makes me wonder what they’re like. Raising such a free spirit.”
When I think “free spirit” I definitely think, “Misanthropic college student who listens to The Ramones because her family was murdered.”
I’d never felt like a free spirit. More like someone who was weighed down by her horrific past.
Writing Tip: Show, don’t tell, is really important, and I think the author has done a fair amount of showing already that Rory is weighed down by her horrific past. Trust that your readers can take the hint. Show, don’t tell, or show and tell a little, but don’t show, and tell, and tell and tell and tell and tell until the reader is already like, “Enough with the murdered family already, ya crybaby!” in chapter five.
Seriously, that’s how I’m reacting to every mention of her murdered parents now. Just with this eye roll of, “This? Again?”
I should not feel that way about a girl with murdered parents.
But Benji made me see something about myself that I hadn’t seen before–the bright side.
THANK YOU, JESUS!
Rory checks her phone and realizes that not only is she an hour late to her research assistant gig, but Cy and Dr. Zoidberg have already called her. And immediately, Rory jumps to the conclusion that we all knew was coming.
“I just need to get there fast before I lose my position. Shit!”
It has now been weeks since Cy started working with the space rock, and Rory hasn’t been fired yet. And as I have pointed out numerous times, Dr. Zoidberg is basically Rory’s guardian, who has looked out for her and gotten her into college and is one of the only people who knows her entire sad backstory. If we had seen any interaction with Cy at all–besides sitting beside him and glumly spitting on the floor– or with Dr. Zoidberg that indicated that Rory was going to lose her job, then fine. But this is false tension, just like the fight with Benji was false tension.
Benji drops Rory off at the lab and asks if she’ll study with him and sit with him in class again, and she says she will. Then she goes inside:
Both Cy and Dr. Z were rushing me, asking where I was, why I was late whom I was with, and a dozen other questions.
I held up my hands. “I’m sorry! I’ve been working every night for six weeks! I needed a break!”
You’re an hour late for work without calling, and you’re worried that you’re going to get fired, so the way you enter this conversation is by blowing off their concern with, “I needed a break.” That’s an interesting battle strategy in the war to remain employed.
Dr. Z tells Rory that she should have called, then he leaves her alone with Cy:
“Selfish!” Cy growled behind me.
I flipped around, preparing to let him know that I didn’t report to him, but the second I faced him, he crashed into me, wrapping his arms around me, his fingers digging into my skin.
“I thought…” he said, his voice thick with worry.
Wait… what? Why is he doing this? We’ve had absolutely no screen time with this dude, other than when Rory is arriving at or leaving from work. He sat next to her in class and stuck up for her once two weeks ago. She’s watched him draw dots. That’s it. There’s nothing else that has gone on in this book that has made the reader anticipate that Cy would have any concern for her above that of a coworker other than the fact that he has been telegraphed as a love interest by virtue of the genre he is in.
And here’s the thing: even if Rory doesn’t notice and comment on it in the narration, we need to see something going on with Cy, so that this exchange doesn’t look clumsy. Maybe a scene where Cy expressed concern over how hard she was working, or telling her that he’s not competition. Or something. Anything. Literally any interaction at all would have made this at least a little bit more convincing, and less like smashing two Barbies together so they can get married. This also ruins the fun of reading to find out which one of the two guys she’s going to pick. In The Vampire Diaries (the real Vampire Diaries, not the shit the franchise turned out after they booted L.J. Smith to the curb), I honestly wondered whether Elena would end up with Stefan or Damon at the end of the series. It was less of a question in Twilight, but I did have the thought at the back of mind that maybe the author would pull a switcheroo and make Bella fall for Jacob (though I can’t decide if that would be a better or worse ending than turning him into a creepy child molester grooming his future bride).
The point is, we have no idea where this came from, so we have no reason to care about it or believe it. It doesn’t feel real. Especially when it becomes this overwrought:
I just stood there, not knowing what else to do. No one had touched me like that in a long time, yet it felt natural, as if he’d held me a hundred times before. I slowly hugged him back and rested my chin on his shoulder. The longer he held me, the better it felt.
After a full minute, Cy finally relaxed his grip and took a step back.
I think we’re being asked to believe that this is a hate-covering-deep-affection scenario, but you know what? It’s not working. Because we don’t know Cy at all.
Cy apologizes for giving her the world’s longest hug, and she assures him that she’s not depressed. Okay… so. You’re not depressed, but you’re haunted by the grisly murder of your parents that almost left you dead, as well, you isolate and refuse to care for yourself, but you’re definitely not depressed. Cy tells her that he doesn’t want anything to happen to her.
I grinned, dropping my backpack beside my desk. “Something has already happened to me. You should stop worrying.”
Cy opened his mouth to say something, but he decided against it.
And with that POV skew, the chapter ends.