Teenage sociopathy just speaks to me, y'all. Don't judge.
You get there early and don't notice until she answers the door, shirt half-untucked and hair mussed in the back. The lines of her face redraw themselves in time with the ticking of the hall clock, scratch into confusion; to realization; to polite, acceptable sheepishness.
You surprised me, she tells you. But you knew that already.
When she leads you into the living room, she's talking about how lucky it is that the two of you got paired up. She's got no head for history, all those dates, the names—but you knew that, too; you have already documented and catalogued her faces in every hour of the day that you see her, and recognize the difference the way she takes notes in most of her classes and the way she takes notes in Biology, the fervent scrawl of her pen the only noise in her head, and in yours. She understands systems, cause and effect, is excited by the pragmatism of life. It's part of the reason you talk to her.
She asks you if you want a drink, and you shake your head and smile. You hope it fits the right way, doesn't stretch your face into the Halloween mask you know it is. She only sits down next to you and opens her book.
We should start with the Church, you say, prodding her, and what you mean is: Talk to me about God. Preach to me, sermonize, and I will sit here your disciple, enraptured, my damnation hanging off your lips. Tell me that God is dead and I'll believe it. Tell me that you are God and I'll drop to my knees in front of you without question. Only explain it to me in that simple, rational way of yours, and I will drink in every word until I am full to bursting. I will worship the amoral, cogent order of your mind.
What she says is: Selling salvation to those who didn't know any better. Christ, was there every a holy man that wasn't a shithead?
And snorts. It…is not what you were expecting. The science of it is flawed. There is a practical beauty to symbiosis, to parasitism. A god that feeds on fear, chokes on the cold of it like a ravenous child, should in no way be less effective than any other. You frown and let her ask you questions about Martin Luther and indulgences, and you watch the precise drumming of her fingers against her textbook. You're not wrong about her; she is.
Something rattles the window on the far side of the room and she jumps, lets out a shriek.
Did you hear that? she asks, and no, you didn't, not when the sound of her racing pulse is so near to you; how could you be expected to pay attention to anything else?
Probably just the wind, you say.
You're right, she laughs. Silly of me. She settles back into the sofa but tucks her feet underneath her now, and leans the slightest bit closer to you. Talk to me about the Diet of Worms, she commands; you obey.
But she doesn't relax; tension screams out in her body, taut like a wire two seconds from snapping.
I'm not, she protests. It's a feeble lie. Her fear pours off of her in waves, sweet-scented and virginal. Part of you wants to lean in and devour it, to sink into the dark places of her and be buried there, but the rest of you gags on the saccharine. Rationally she should know that the wind is the likeliest cause of the noise and therefore accept. Rationally she should know that she isn't frightened of a cracking shutter but of your dangerous proximity. Rationally, you understand that she is just a girl, unpretending, not your partner, not your kin. She is not you.
You sigh. We could go look.
Really, I'm fine, she tells you, but then another gust rattles the door and she cries out. Yeah, okay, she amends, breathless, and rises off the couch with silent, conservative movement.
You follow close behind her—her heart beats so loud but so light, like bubbles in champagne magnified and amplified in your ear. You wonder if she hears it, too, or just feels it, if it is a tremor through her whole body or just a lump at her throat that pounds like a fist at a door, begging access, admission.
When she opens the door there is nothing there; you see the stillness of the landscape clearly through the curtain of her hair. Her laugh is nervous and vaguely unhinged. Only the wind, she says, and it stings you to hear.
It's cold, you say. Close the door. When she turns, she finally notices you, how she has to tilt her head just slightly to meet your eyes, the way your size translates to bulk in the threshold. The closeness of you. The oh is forming on her lips when you reach around her to press the door shut, and it dies there when you wrap one hand around her wrist, one around her throat.