I give up. There will never be aliens.
In case we didn’t realize that Rory is speshul, she reminds us right at the top of chapter seven:
I didn’t drink coffee, tea, soda, or hot chocolate. If I drank anything but water, my throat would feel dry and raw.
I will take farthing wagers that this never comes up again. Or that it does come up again, when we inevitably discover that Rory is an alien. Rory believes she’s inherited this trait from her mother, who didn’t drink anything other than water until she turned forty, and then got into white wine. Maybe this is an indication that she’s an alien, and her mother was an alien, and aliens killed their whole family. I’m just trying to find some tenuous link to science fiction in all of this. Rory remembers how beautiful her mother was, how she looked in the middle of their ordeal, the terms of endearment her father would use, and it all ties into another flashback of what happened the night Rory’s family died.
“Charlotte,” my father had said, “sit still, love. It will all be over soon. Just let them get what they came for, and we can go home.” He looked at me with calm eyes. “It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s going to be okay.”
So, the people who killed them were looking for something. Something science fiction-ish I hope.
She was a mother bear, unleashing her wrath on anyone who dared mistreat me or disrespect me or made me feel anything less than the amazing being she thought I was. Watching the knots being tied around my wrists and then behind my head, the begging in my eyes, and the torture on my face when I had to watch them hurt my best friend, who I’d known and loved since I was three, killed her hours before she died.
Holy run on there. Look, I write a lot of run-on sentences, and I generally don’t mind reading them; that’s how people think, so it sounds natural to my head. They can, however, become very confusing if they cover too much narrative ground in one shot. Writing Tip: if you’re faced with a run-on sentence, you’ve got to know which information you can leave out. In this case, it’s “who I’d known and loved since I was three.” What we’re supposed to get from that sentence is that watching her child being bound and tortured killed Rory’s mother before her actual physical death. That’s a powerful statement, but one that gets lost in construction. I had to read it several times to understand that it wasn’t Rory’s best friend who died hours before her physical death. The reason this happened was that throwing in “who I’d known and loved since I was three,” moves Rory’s thoughts and the reader’s thoughts away from her mom:
Watching the knots being tied around my wrists and then behind my head, the begging in my eyes, and the torture on my face when I had to watch them hurt my best friend, who I’d known and loved since I was three, killed her hours before she died.
In that blue section, Rory has gone from telling us about her mother to telling us about her friend. But her friend isn’t the important part of this statement. We’re hearing her thoughts about her mom. There’s some word rep in there, and some unnecessary detail, as well (she could have easily just whittled the first part down to “Seeing the knots tied around my wrists, the begging in my eyes and the torture on my face,” for example), but the important part to take away here is that if you’re going to write a monumental run-on sentence, you should at least stick to one object.
I was standing outside of Microphysics class, frozen.
Another really good example of Rory’s PTSD, in a realistic way, is the suddenly realizing where she is without knowing how she got there, because she’s been checked out in her memories as she’s been walking.
“You look lost,” Benji said.
“Isn’t everyone?” I said, leaving him alone in the hallway.
Benji chuckled as I passed. “That’s deep, Rory. We feeling a little emo today? Hey… I’m just kidding… Rory?”
Writing Tip: Write your actions in the order they happen. Rory can’t leave him alone in the hallway and still be in the hallway to hear all of this. Leaving implies that she’s gone. The “leaving him alone in the hallway” part needs to fit in somewhere after the dialogue where he’s watching her leave.
Ice-cold fingers found their way to my chest to touch the stained hair that was no longer there. When I needed to remember her, I would reach for my hair, but I’d shaved it off so that I could forget.
Rory shaved off her stained chest hair, is what that passage is saying.
Forget my mother. Who does that? Was it too much for me to keep the one tangible thing I had left of her? It wasn’t only my blood that had saturated my hair but hers, too. And I’d thrown it in the trash.
Okay, but hang on a second. You’re switching tenses mid-sentence. “It hadn’t only been my blood” is how that sentence should have started. And the way this is worded makes it sound like she’d thrown her mother’s blood in the trash.
The thing about Rory’s memory of these horrible murders and the psychological trauma she’s experiencing is, it’s more interesting than any other part of the book. I don’t care about the space rock. I don’t care about the love triangle or who is or isn’t an alien. If McGuire had written this book and it was all about just this girl trying to get through college with the memory of her family’s grisly murder haunting her every waking thought, that would have been enough plot. And you know how I know that? Because every other part of the plot is standing in the wings, waiting for its entrance. Writing Tip: if your character’s backstory is so overwhelmingly wrought that it would be unrealistic to take time away from it to tell the story the character is in, you’re either starting your story in the wrong place in the character’s life, or you’re telling the wrong story. Seriously, if your character has so much baggage that it becomes more interesting and engaging than the plot of the story, then either do something with their baggage (move the murder of her parents back a few years, or the story forward a few years) or make that baggage the plot.
After class, Rory is still so shaken that she runs to Dr. Zoidberg’s office for comfort. She tells Zoidberg that she she needs her mom, and he tells her she shouldn’t have cut her hair.
Once I got a handle on my breathing, I noticed someone sitting in the swivel chair on the other sice of Dr. Z’s desk. It startled and embarrassed me, and then that embarrassment flashed to anger.
“What are you doing in here?”
Cy didn’t answer. He just watched as my eyes darted between him and the professor.
Zoidberg tells Rory that he and Cy had a meeting, and Rory is furious that she wasn’t asked to be there.
“You’re assuming it was a research meeting,” the doctor said, his voice low and calm as always. “Remember, Cyrus is also my student. We do have other things to talk about.”
Rory tells Zoidberg to just call Cyrus “Cy” because it’s what he prefers, and then she’s all like, wondering why Cyrus didn’t tell Zoidberg that himself. And I’m like, because that’s his professor, and maybe he wants to maintain some kind of student/teacher boundary that he obviously doesn’t feel the need to create with you, Rory. Damn.
Since Rory’s there, Zoidberg decides they can talk about the research.
“I’ve determined that this project should be kept between us. All the data should be recorded and put into an encrypted file, and then all the paperwork should be shredded and taken to the incinerator.”
That’s good thinking, Dr. Zoidberg. The best thing to do with new scientific developments is to spend hours studying them, writing all the stuff down, and then never, ever sharing this information with anybody. Also, you should definitely keep all your data in one single file, and destroy any other record of it.
I know that there are lots of secret scientific studies and experiments going on out there, and I know there is a reason people keep the lid on a lot of science things in competitive fields. But I still can’t suspend disbelief enough to buy it here. One, there’s no way this space rock is a secret. It’s just not. Dr. Zoidberg brought it back from the arctic. It’s not like he just drove up to the north pole by himself, grabbed a rock, and brought it back without telling anybody. He would have been part of an expedition. After that, he would have had to bring the rock through customs from Canada. Someone knows about this rock. Two, we’ve already established that this rock wouldn’t be in Dr. Zoidberg’s hands from the moment he discovered it, because that’s how reality works. If you find a mineral that’s not native to earth, there are bigger institutions that snap it up and then they probably keep it pretty secret, at least until they know what they’re dealing with. And third, they’ve been working on this rock for at least two months, and:
“And we shouldn’t speak of it,” Cy added, “to anyone.”
At this point, isn’t it a little too late for that? “Oh, by the way, that thing you’ve been working on every day for the past two months? The thing you probably mentioned to Benji a couple times? Don’t tell anyone about it.”
Dr. Z intertwined his fingers and rested his hands on his desk. “I’ve been receiving emails from a Dr. Fenton Tennison. He’s from a special division at the CIA, one of the heads of a committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials. In some circles, this committee is known as Majestic Twelve. He’s… interested in the specimen.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with the CIA, they’re basically the single scariest agency in the United States. They’re independent of the government, have offices all over the world, and answer to pretty much no one. They’re super secretive, they have dabbled in shit like, oh, nonconsensual human experimentation, extreme and illegal methods of torture, and planned assassinations of world leaders and shit like that. Some people actually believe they could have been behind the assassination of President Kennedy (conspiracy theories involving the CIA’s role in the assassination range from absurd to plausible). Long story short,
if the CIA wanted that rock, Dr. Z would have already been found dead in his car with a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound and a suicide note that matched his handwriting impeccably. Even Rory knows it’s unlikely that Tennison wouldn’t be able to take the rock:
“We’re going to keep it from him? Can’t he just take it?”
“Hopefully not without a court order. Theoretically, that gives us some time to finish recording the data before we move the specimen to a safer location. It’s more important than I could have dreamed, Rory. We need to keep it out of hands that might exploit the knowledge there is to learn from it.”
“Those special departments don’t usually wait on court orders, Dr. Z.”
They establish that it might be ever so slightly illegal to hide something from the CIA, but nobody is like, “Um, maybe we shouldn’t fuck with the CIA, because they’re super scary and they probably are watching us right now, since they’re interested in this rock and also one of us is an orphan with no family to ask questions if she were to disappear.” Instead, Rory is like:
Thanksgiving break began in two days, and the campus would be desolate. It was the perfect time to hide out in the Fitz and dedicate all our time to recording Dr. Z’s data. It was also perfect timing for me. I wouldn’t have to spend Thanksgiving alone, and the project might even help to keep my mind off my orphan status.
“Perfect,” the idiot thought. “Running from an all-powerful intelligence agency is just the thing to take my mind off the grisly murder of my parents, thus opening me up to the possibility of further psychological and physical torture at the hands of people who really know what they’re doing.”
“I’m in,” I said. Cy and Dr. Z traded knowing smiles.
That doesn’t seem sinister. After a break, Rory is eating pizza in the lab, hoping that she can somehow entice Cy into a conversation with the promise of pizza.
After every class, Cy was waiting for me with a smile on his face. He would offer his arm and ask me every question he could think of about everything but my family or my past in general, which I appreciated. We talked about fun things like concerts and food, and we talked about things people weren’t supposed to talk about, like politics and religion. Cy wanted to know my opinion about everything but not because he wanted to argue. He just wanted to know.
This section begins with Rory trying to get Cy’s attention, because he’s not giving it to her in this scene. Then she goes on to talk about how much attention he’s been giving her. They’ve got this important research going on, and they know the CIA is breathing down their necks, but Rory wants him to stop lining up specimens–that’s what they’re doing, because it’s one of the two things they ever do in the lab–and pay attention to her. She tries to get Cy to eat pizza, and he says:
“I’m not sure if I should.”
My nose wrinkled. “Why?”
“Because I…I’ve never had pizza before.” ”
You’ve never had pizza,” I deadpanned. “You’re lying.”
This should scream alien to everybody, because I know for damn sure and certain they have pizza in Egypt, because here is the Pizza Hut Egypt store locator. They have fucking pizza.
“Unless you’re lactose intolerant, take a bite or forever be a pussy in my eyes.”
“A-a,” he stuttered. “I presume you’re referring to one of two definitions for that word. The less vulgar possibility doesn’t make sense. The second is preposterous. How could one become a vagina when not taking a bite of pizza? I’m clearly a male–”
I assume he was going to end that sentence with “–human, of the genus homo, species sapiens, native to the planet Earth, located in the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy in the Virgo supercluster. I assure you, I am not an alien.” He eats the pizza and then a few minutes later starts violently upchucking.
As quickly as his groaning, moaning, and hurling started, it stopped, and he sat, leaning against a file cabinet, breathing hard. A thin sheen of sweat covered his olive skin.
Can I just say how much I love the juxtaposition of him having “olive” skin while she’s eating pizza?
“I am so sorry. Are you on a special diet?”
He wasn’t a skinny man. He stood at least six foot and filled out his height fantastically. He yanked off his tan twill jacket, and for the first time, I saw that his arms also filled out his shirtsleeves.
“I need to describe how super hot this guy’s body is,” the author thought. “I can’t do it anywhere in the first seven chapters of this book, for reasons. Ah, I know. I’ll do it immediately after he has vomited copiously.”
Cy tells Rory that he is kind of on a special diet, and she asks him why he didn’t tell her.
He stood up, almost a head taller than me. “You’re a bit intimidating, Rory Riorden.”
Did we know her last name before now? If so, how did I miss how awkward and bizarre that name sounds when you say it out loud? Keep in mind, I love names that have the same first letter (I wrote Sophie Scaife and Penny Parker, for god’s sake), but try saying it. Try saying “Rory Riorden”
Rory asks what Cy’s last name is, and he won’t tell her because he doesn’t think she’ll be able to pronounce it. His last name is Kazemde. Which Rory doesn’t think is that hard to pronounce, and I’m in agreement with her. Especially because he like, said it out loud to her, so she knows approximately how it sounds. And if she can say “Rory Riordan” without swallowing her own uvula, she can say Kazemde.
Cy also tells Rory about his favorite food:
“It’s hard to explain.” When he realized I was waiting for an answer, he continued, “It’s called mahallajharad. It’s similar to what you call seafood.”
“So, it’s a fish?”
“Similar to a fish.”
RORY HE IS A FUCKING ALIEN. Space rock? CIA? Guy who has never eaten pizza, and eats a sort of fish? Is an alien.
Mahalla, by the way, is a term denoting an Arabic language neighborhood or enclave in a country. Jharad is a name. So what the author did was just pick a couple “Middle-Eastern sounding” words and smashed them together.
But just when you thought this whole thing was only sliiiiightly racist, like a grandmother’s surprisingly liberal opinion that still doesn’t quite break away from Fox news, this happens:
“What do you do for fun?”
“My culture is different from yours, Rory.”
I raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Are you saying Egyptians don’t have fun? Bullshit.”
“I’m saying our fun is studying, learning and exploring. It’s just different, and I know your culture has a difficult time with different. You practice much…disbelief.”
Look. You and I both know he’s an alien. He knows he’s an alien. But he’s supposed to be Egyptian for all intents and purposes. The only fun in Egypt is studying, learning and exploring? Explain to me, then, why they have nightclubs, live music, movie theatres, restaurants, you know, stuff that’s entertaining? I’m uncomfortable about the portrayal of Cy as an Egyptian in so many ways. We know he’s going to turn out to be a fucking alien, it’s been telegraphed for a while now. So, he’s pulling a Mork and trying to disguise himself as an Egyptian. That’s fine, okay, whatever. But in the universe of the book, he’s doing a good job pulling this ruse off. And every bit of it is based on tropes like honor culture and mystical brown people. This is like if Cy burst into the story pretending to be an American by talking incessantly about how hard it is to pronounce Smith and saying his favorite food was EthnicsuburbDave, everyone would see through it. But to all the characters, these stereotypes don’t seem to be the obvious CBS sitcom characterization that they actually are.
“I disbelieve that you think I’m intimidating. You really have the angel-living-in-the-garden-of-evil thing down.”
That’s a Lana Del Rey lyric. Bullshit Rory listens to Lana. She’s not “alternative” enough.
The conversation gets heated:
“I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”
“The feeling is mutual!” he said, taking off his glasses.
Once again, I found myself hating him while lost in his weird and amazing golden eyes.
Rory can’t handle working around those weird, amazing eyes, so she gets her coat to leave.
“But…we have this stack and the core samples and–”
Yeah, Rory. You have all this work to do, on the project that has to be done before the CIA kills you all, and you’re worried about losing your position as a research assistant. So… I’m at a loss here. Why, exactly, are you about to run out on your work? I thought you were going to work extra hard to prove your dedication.
Cy feels the same way. He tries to get her to stay:
“I’m really very sorry,” he said, an edge of begging in his voice. “I felt weak because I was ill, and I disguised it as anger and directed those feelings toward you. Inexcusable. Please forgive me.”
I turned. “What are you?”
Ohhhhh myyyyy gaaaaaaaaaad…
“What?” he said, shifting nervously in his chair.
“You’re at KIT, but you sound like a Psych major.”
Nope. This is not our, “I know what you are”/”Say it” moment. Which is bullshit.
Also, the science school is called KIT? SUBTLE AS FUCK.
“It doesn’t make you weak to forgive someone, you know,” he said.
“No, but it gives people another chance to hurt you.”
I’m confused about Rory’s emotional scars here. Did Rory’s parents get murdered for forgiving someone? Was it like, a Snape/Dumbledore thing? I understand not trusting people, and not wanting to get close to them. I don’t understand the “fool me once, etc.” attitude.
“Did I? Hurt you?” The thought seemed to wound him.
I swallowed. “No one can hurt me. It’s like trying to fill a cup that’s already full.”
Aww, Rory is one of those “glass half full” people. I knew she was positive deep down.
She leaves anyway, because you know, the CIA breathing down their neck can wait for her temper tantrum.
Running up the stairs, I didn’t stop until I burst through the double glass doors. Once outside, I took a deep breath, as if I’d just come up for air. Still going to The Gym on occasion with Benji, I wasn’t as out of shape as I used to be, but I was pissed off. No one confused me, angered me, or made me want to tackle-kiss him like Cy Kazemde.
Let me assure you, reader, that I, Rory “Rural Juror” Riorden, have amazing sexual chemistry with this character. I know you don’t see it on the page, but believe me, it’s definitely there, and you can tell because I just stated it as fact.
What was it about him that made me feel such conflicting emotions? And what was it about me that I couldn’t shake off the feelings I had for him?
I don’t know. You’re both aliens and you’re the last two remaining kinds of your species, so you’re going to have to make frick-frack or something? I honestly can’t tell whether that plot twist would be predictable, or if it’s simply impossible because there’s too much of a science fiction element in it.
A person popped up beside me. “You okay?”
I jumped. “Damn it, Benji! What are you doing here?”
Benji wants to get his nose broke a second time, I guess, because he has still not figured out not to sneak up on or abruptly touch Rory. How is he smart enough to be going to this school?
He tells Rory he was waiting for her, so he could walk her home:
“You’re approaching stalker status.”
Right. I mean, she’s got a dude hanging around every single one of her classes and waiting patiently to walk her to the next one, the same dude who came to her dorm in the middle of the night on the very first day he met her, but Benji is the stalker.
What is the obsession with everyone wanting to walk Rory home? Does she get lost easily? Is GPS confusing for her? Oh, no, I get it. Men feel very protective toward her, because of how vulnerable and fragile she is. Rory is a cactus made of exquisite spun glass, and the light that plays off the prickly nubbins of her boring personality inspires a caveman instinct to the male brain.
“I thought about that. I didn’t really mean to. I just waned to make sure you got home okay and thought maybe it was my turn.”
Your turn? YOUR TURN? Bitch, she is not a slide. If she wants that alien guy to walk her around like she’s a horse who needs to be led, that’s her prerogative. You are not owed a turn.
Rather than point this out, Rory tries to pull the “I don’t need anybody” routine with Benji. Which, of course, gives him an excuse to continue badgering her:
“I know. You don’t need anyone. Maybe it’s me who needs a friend. Have you ever thought about that?”
First of all, if you’re such good friends with Rory, you know that she doesn’t think about anyone but herself. Second, even if you need a friend, she doesn’t have to be your friend. She’s choosing to for some reason, even though she can’t stand you, but no one is obligated to give you their friendship.
The crowd of students usually heading to a party now was nowhere in sight, which meant one thing–
that there isn’t a party?
the warehouse. I sighed. That meant paying for a taxi.
Or just… not going to the warehouse?
People were not my thing, and parties were definitely not my thing, but at the moment, I would take any distraction to get my mind off of Cy.
I predict the distraction will be constant complaining about being at the party.
They go to the party (Benji lets Rory drive), and right away I’m seeing a problem with how it’s run, but we’ll get to that in a second:
The warehouse was home to two parties a year, hosted by students belonging to a secret society. No one saw it being put together or taken down. No one knew it was going to happen until it did.
Because this is a science fiction novel, this better turn out to be an actual secret society. Here’s a thing I notice occasionally in a paranormal romance or a science fiction romance. The author will use words like, for example, secret society, or phrases like, “see into my soul” or whatever as a metaphor. Writing Tip: if your book has any elements that fall outside the realm of realism, you have to be careful that your wording can’t be taken literally. In this case, we’re dealing with a space rock and the CIA, and now there’s a “secret society.” Is this a secret society for real, or is it like, a frat thing? The possibility is open, and if a reader is expecting a literal secret society, they’re going to be disappointed or confused or possibly both.
I could barely hear the clanging of the iron catwalk under our feet. I wasn’t sure what the warehouse had been used for before,
It was probably used as a warehouse, Sherlock.
but now, it was a maze of debauchery–new couples making out, keg stands at every other corner, dark rooms filled by couples having drunken sex, and people surrounding a few makeshift tables covered by lines of coke.
Here’s my problem with the warehouse party thing. I know Jamie McGuire was alive for the rave boom. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, raves used to be these crazy illegal dance parties where you and a couple hundred other people would trespass at some huge, usually abandoned public space like an old warehouse or a field in the middle of nowhere or what have you, and you’d take a bunch of hallucinogenic drugs and dance badly to EDM until the authorities arrived to break it up.
I used to go to raves pretty regularly, some legal and some illegal, and both A) were shut down by cops, and B) could never be held in the same place twice because it made A) too easy. If this is a party known for public sex, booze flowing without ID checks, and mountains of coke just lying around (what is this, Tony Montana’s house?), it’s going to get busted, and the people in charge of it, no matter how secret they are, will likely get caught and arrested setting up the next one. So this is super unrealistic, and one of those things that should be fairly obvious to anyone.
Also, is coke back in style? I know that during my early twenties, any self-respecting person wouldn’t be caught dead with coke because it was so démodé. I saw it at approximately two parties, and they were both with the community theatre crowd. Is coke making a comeback?
It’s finals week, and that’s why everyone is getting so rowdy:
We all had to find an outlet or pop, but no one wanted students screaming, vandalizing, wrecking their cars into trees, secluding themselves, or wielding guns.
They would rather they pass around STDs, get alcohol poisoning, and overdose on coke. Also, screaming, vandalizing, and car accidents rarely follow out of control parties at which numerous young adults are engaging in the aforementioned activities.
Benji pulled open a heavy metal door, and then we walked outside into the courtyard.
Warehouses have courtyards?
Once we made our way to the front, Benji held a cup under a keg nozzle and waited as the beer dribbled out. He looked at me apologetically. We arrived so late that the kegs were nearly dry.
It doesn’t matter, though, because at the very beginning of this chapter we learned that Rory won’t drink anything but water.
Ellie was standing in a doorway with a random stranger.
How do you know he’s a stranger? You don’t know Ellie. Maybe that’s her boyfriend.
His jaw worked as he kissed her so deeply and sloppily that it made my stomach turn. His lips were sealed and working impatiently over hers. I anticipated that the skin around her mouth would be glistening with a ring of his spit when he pulled away, and a shiver ran down my spine. She had one of his legs trapped tightly between her thighs, and she was moving her hips ever so gently against him.
My favorite part of this is that immediately after this paragraph, a guy comes up to Rory and she’s instantly repulsed. She has a suuuuuuuuuuper good reason to be, but the juxtaposition of the breathless, sapphic prose immediately above just tickles me. The guy has a reputation around campus for being a rapist who keeps getting away with his assaults. How fucking sad is it that with all the other stuff in here that is so incredibly not right about college life, this is the one thing that was common knowledge enough that it couldn’t escape the author’s research? What the fuck does that say about rape on our college campuses?
Rapist jerk backs Rory into a wall.
I could smell the alcohol on him before, but now it was pungent, saturating my skin–just like the breath of the men who murdered almost everyone who ever cared about me.
It’s a good thing she can defend herself, like how she ninja-flipped Benji that one time.
I looked around for Benji.
Or not, depending on the needs of the plot, I guess.
Benji shows up and tries to intervene while the rapist rubs Rory’s hand on his crotch. When it turns physical, that’s when Rory’s ninja instinct kicks in:
Before either of them could make another movie, I moved my hand in a downward motion, forcing Kevin’s hand off of Benji. I grabbed the thumb on his offending hand and bent it backward, and with my free hand, I grabbed his throat and slammed him against the wall where I once stood.
Or, Writing Tip: “I grabbed Kevin’s hand and bent it backward, grabbed his throat, and slammed him into the wall.” Or whatever. If you’re writing a fight scene, you need to use an economy of words because it makes the sentences tighter and the action move faster.
Kevin runs off, and Benji is super impressed at her skills:
“You…wow. How’d you learn to do that?”
I glanced around, seeing that now, of course, everyone was paying attention. “I took a class. C’mon. This was a bad idea.”
I bet he’s relieved that she’s now answered his identical question from the first time he found out Rory was good at self-defense in chapter two.
Lest you think this is a Rory-gets-protected-by-a-guy scene turned on its head in a positive, empowering way… it’s not over yet.
Once we turned the corner, I stopped dead in my tracks. Kevin was against another wall–this time, being held by Cy.
Writing Tip: Be careful not to make your action-packed scenes read like tender moments in M/M romance.
It’s not enough to have one guy rush to protect her. Both guys have to.
Cy released me and looked to Benji. “You’ll see her home?”
Benji nodded. “Of course.”
Cy cupped my face, kissed my forehead, then walked away.
I’m convinced that Rory doesn’t know the way back to her dorm, or to and from classes. She’s so helpless and lost and must be protected at all costs.
What’s so infuriating about this is that we know Rory really can do fine on her own. We’ve seen her do it. And until the beginning of this book, three years after the trauma she’s faced, she didn’t need protection from either of these clowns, she was doing it. But now that they’ve suddenly shown up, she has no further need for personal autonomy, because if she had it, there would be no room for the contrived drama that is overshadowing the alien rock plot of what was supposed to be a science fiction novel.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense compared to what we know about Rory. When Benji touched her shoulder, she immediately defended herself. It was an autopilot reaction. When the rapist guy backs her into the wall, she looks for help and tries to assert herself verbally three times. Now, I get that this time she could see rapist guy’s intent to touch her, rather than being immediately triggered and acting without thought. But it’s only when Kevin threatens Benji that she makes a move. As long as the male love interest is present, Rory isn’t interested in helping herself.
Benji drives Rory home and walks her to her door. He apologizes for leaving her alone at the party and that the guy harassed her. He also says he knows she’s been through something terrible:
“No, I know you don’t want to talk about that. My point is, I’m sorry that it happened, and I’m sorry that all I can think about right now is the image of you in his arms and how relaxed you looked.”
I’m really sorry that you’re obviously affected by some deep trauma but FEEL MY MAN PAIN.
Rory tries to change the subject, then tells Benji that he doesn’t know what she feels about Cy.
He looked up, and his eyes met mine. “If you’d let me, I could make you feel like that. Safe, I mean. I’m here, you know. I’m not going anywhere. But he’s…Cyrus is temporary.”
Look at the balls on Big Ben, damn. He’s saying he’s permanent, though Rory hasn’t made any kind of commitment to him. They aren’t even dating.
I tried really hard to think of another reason to say no besides the truth, but I didn’t have a single one other than my own fears. I was afraid about what might happen if I invested in a real relationship with someone again. There were far worse things than giving Benji a chance, and telling him my fears and why they existed was one of them.
I guess the moral of this story for her is that she needs to open up to love or whatever, but it’s okay if you don’t want to get into a relationship with someone just because you don’t. “No” is a good enough reason.
I pushed my hands and arms through the space between his arms and his sides and then held my palms flat against his back. After the shock wore off, Benji pulled his hands out of his pockets and pulled me closer to him, resting his cheek on my hair. He moved a fraction of an inch to kiss my temple.
“This isn’t so bad, right?” he said.
Ah, yes. That moment of wonder when you wear a girl down and finally, finally, she realizes that physical contact with you is not so bad. It’s what the greatest romances are made of.
He was right. I felt just as safe and warm in his arms. It was different but in a good way. He held me tighter. This was the way a man held a woman when he loved her. Salty tears burned my cheeks. I didn’t even know why, but I just wanted to stay there–in a pair of arms that belonged to a man who would never let me go if I didn’t want him to.
Or if you did, really. He’s already worn you down this far.
See the part where it says “salty tears burned my cheeks?” Writing tip: if you’re describing one sense (in this case, the tactile sensation of burning), don’t use an adjective from another (taste, for example) to portray that. This is something I struggle with a lot, much like mixed metaphors.
One of the main lobby doors swung open, and Ellie sauntered out. “My, my…you’re just making the rounds, aren’t you, Rory?”
Everybody is taking turns hugging Rory, Ellie. Catch up.
“Who’s the new man?” Ellie joked, tapping her chin with her index finger. “I just know that I know him from somewhere.”
“If we’ve met, it must not have been a memorable moment for me.” Benji said.
I couldn’t help but smile.
If Ellie doesn’t turn out to be some kind of alien monster by the end of this book (which seems unlikely, as there is absolutely no science fiction in this science fiction novel), then I will be so furious. I’ll still be mad at the amount of girl hate we’ve seen, but I’ll be even more angry if it turns out that there’s nothing, absolutely no reason, for it to have been included. I would forgive sloppy internalized misogyny in the writing before I would forgive a side character who exists merely so the main character can snipe at another girl.
Ellie leaves and Rory and Benji joke about how she’s probably going off to fuck a professor (ha ha, girls who have sex with men with whom they share an imbalanced power dynamic are such sluts), and Benji suggests:
He hesitated to say his next words. “I can stay, you know. I can sleep on the floor if you don’t want to be alone.”
Seriously, that is as creepy as when Sam Merlot disguised himself as a dog to sleep on Sookie’s floor. Hey Ellie, I can come sleep on your floor and watch you while you sleep and count your breaths, holding each one close to my stalkery little heart.
Rory is like, nah, I’m good, and he’s like, are you sure, and she’s like yes, and she goes inside.
As I walked to my room, I could still feel Benji on my skin. For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t shake that Cy was supposed to be in my life, and no matter how much Benji wanted to believe it, Cy didn’t feel temporary.
And yet again, there is absolutely no science fiction.