I'm trying to think of a way to say all the things I need to say in this post. Just get ready for it to take a while.
For those who don't know (in fact, I've only just realized that you couldn't know), Ava Conquest and I have been exchanging emails and chatting and such quite often for the last couple of months -- you know...when it was possible. She's been a real comfort to me, and a good friend who fully understands the situation.
A week or two ago, Zeke posted an entry to his blog, and I commented on it. Ava was very angry about Zeke's actions (the post recorded his experiences in the red building), and said so. We engaged in conversation and...well, in case you don't feel like looking it up, here is the exchange (I've taken out some line breaks for the sake of space and comprehension):
Ava: ZEKE, FUCK MY FUCKING LIFE WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU FUCKING DO THAT YOU STUPID FUCKING FUCKER. DO YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK IT. FUCK YOU ALL. I'M TELLING YOU.
Me: Ava, you wouldn't even tell us WHAT we weren't supposed to do -- now you're angry that we did it?
Ava: Celie. It was the Catch-22 to end all Catch-22s. Tell you and damn you. Not tell you and HOPE TO HELL you picked up on my animosity. Celie, please, are you SAFE from that woman?
Me: You mean Mary-Ann Compton? She's in Sheppard Pratt, Ava, she's not getting out of there anytime soon. Not that she's violent or anything in the first place. She's not dangerous, just creepy as hell. You've got to mean her, right? Who else could you mean?
Ava: NO, CELIE. NOT LITTLE MISS MENTAL, YOUR FUCKING STEPMOTHER. ARE YOU FUCKING SAFE FROM HER?!
Me: What...what are you talking about? I live with the bitch. I can keep away from her, but my bedroom door is my best protection. Why? Ava, why do I need to be safe from my stepmom?
Ava: Celie, I love you, you're the closest thing I have to a best-girl-friend. I'd email you if I could, but FUCK MY INBOX. She's not SAFE, Celie. And I have a feeling that she will SERIOUSLY fuck shit up if you don't GTFO ASAP. And that door will not save you.
Me: Where am I supposed to go? To my mom's? She barely has room for herself. If I can find a place before the fall, then I'll get out. But I barely make enough as it is. I'll figure things out, okay? And besides, if I'm not out before the fall then it doesn't matter, because I'll be at college, six states away from her. Don't worry about Angel. She's crazy...but I don't think she's violent. Yet.
To be honest, this freaked me out more than the visit with Mary-Ann Compton. I didn't know what to do about it. I don't feel safe in this house as is, and now this warning. And Zeke has been told that the proxies are getting more aggressive, more confident. And they're marking their victims. Maybe they're mocking the idea that the symbol keeps him away? Maybe they're planning something bigger? I don't know. I'm not sure I should know, although my immediate instinct is, as always, to investigate.
Now for the next part. This might be a little harder.
91.9 percent of Americans receive no inheritance. None. I've looked it up.
Today, I went to see Aunt Michelle, like I have every day for quite a few weeks now. I wish I could say she's still as good at conversation as she was a month ago, but she isn't. Sometimes we only talk for twenty minutes before she has to rest, and I stay with her while she sleeps until I have to go. Fortunately, those are only the bad days. On good days, she can keep up with me for my entire visit.
She's fading fast and we all know it -- her most of all. Maybe that's why she told me all she had to tell me today.
The visit started off as it always has; she was sitting up in her adjustable bed in her room, reading. I came in, said hi, we talked about how work and things were going. She asked about when I would set up my housing information with Miskatonic, what the student forums were like, whether I'd already met any nice people who'd be going to school with me (incidentally, there is one person I've already kind of made friends with). After we finished talking, she looked at me strangely for a few minutes. Like she was suddenly really really happy about something, but also very sad about it. If that sounds like it doesn't make sense, then that's too bad.
"Celie," she said. "You know, when you were born, we didn't think you'd make it."
I'd heard this story before. I was born two months early after my parents had been in a car accident on I-95; the actual damage wasn't bad, but the stress from the crash sent my mom into labor and they couldn't get her out of it at the hospital, so there I was, a December baby instead of February. I kept quiet; I didn't want to interrupt.
"Your mom gave you the middle name Victoria because she knew you'd beat the odds," Aunt Michelle said. "And I knew it was right for you. Your name was queenly."
I smiled a little. I'd heard this before too --Victoria, after mom and Aunt Michelle's favorite queen.
She paused for a minute and looked at me. "You've come so far from there."
"Well, yeah," I said. "I'm older now."
"We never expected to see you kids grow..." her voice trailed off for a moment. "...grow up so fast."
She reached over to her bedside table and sipped the glass of water sitting there.
"You've been wearing that jacket a lot more often lately," she said, gesturing to what I was wearing -- Rose's jacket, the gray one. "I guess you've gotten over your qualms about it."
"Well...it's kind of weird, but I guess I have," I said, not really thinking. "I guess it's sort of a safety thing --"
I nearly jumped out of my chair. The realization was like a physical slap.
Aunt Michelle laughed so hard she started coughing. I waited until she calmed down.
"How did you --"
"I read your blog, stupid," she said. "Believe it or not, I'm not too old to use a computer."
I blinked. My throat was too closed with shock to speak.
"You don't have to look so surprised by it," she said.
"No!" I nearly shouted. The smile faded from her face as I ranted, "No, no! You can't know. Nobody's supposed to know, but especially not you! You can't even know what this -- about -- him -- and -- Rose --"
She'd struck me speechless. She watched me calmly for several minutes as I sputtered and faded, trying to make sense of exactly why I didn't want her reading this blog. I was trying to say that she was just too inherently good to be aware of anything as evil as the Slender Man, but any attempt at spitting it out just sounded silly in my head.
"Celie," she said, cutting me off. "Celie. My Celie."
She looked at me in that way again.
"I am so. Proud. Of you," she said, emphasizing each part.
"I...what?" I said.
"You heard me," she said. "In fact, it's about damn time you heard it from somebody."
One of the interestingly annoying things about me: I don't cry when people say negative things about me. Not when my dad yells at me, not when Angel screams and bitches me out, not when anybody else insults me or says awful things. I didn't bat an eye when I was scared when Keaton questioned me or when Mary-Ann Compton freaked me out. But for some reason, any time somebody says something positive about me, I'm caught completely off guard and start gushing tears. And I wasn't expecting her to say anything like this.
"You are everything your mother and I hoped you'd be, Celie. You and Nikki and Milo are the most amazing souls. You never should have happened, but you did, and all three of you are talented, and smart, and completely your own, even so young," she said. I grabbed a tissue from my purse and she ignored my pathetic sniffling. "You mom and I didn't deserve to have such amazing things in our lives. But now Nikki and Milo don't ever have to know, because you're so strong, and I know you'll stay strong. With your inheritance, you'll know exactly how special you are. There'll be poems and songs, baby girl. If I had the strength, I'd write them myself."
"Wait," I croaked. I blinked several times and got a hold of myself. "What did you just say?"
We stared at each other for a long, long moment.
"Celie, I'm so sorry," she said. "There's something I need to tell you."
"A lot of people seem to need to tell me things lately," I said, thinking about Ava and Mary-Ann Compton.
Aunt Michelle took a slow breath.
"When I die -- don't argue, lass, just listen -- when I'm dead, you'll be summoned to a reading of my will. It's very specific as to what I want done, trust me. I've left a lot of things to a lot of people, and you're one of them. Do you remember the little condo in Ocean City where you went for a few summers on vacation?"
"Umm...a little," I said.
I did remember, vaguely. The Ocean City place was one of Aunt Michelle's first aquisitions. Mostly, I remember staying once when I was little and going to a beach bonfire one night. My dad played a guitar for a group of strangers around a driftwood flame like we were all good friends. He doesn't play anymore. I don't think he remembers how.
I was so caught up in trying to remember that almost didn't catch it when she said, "I'm leaving it to you."
I blinked. "What?"
"You heard me," she said again. "I know how much you love the ocean, and I've made preparations. But you have to follow a few rules, Celie. Call it making me a few promises."
"What?" I said again.
"First, and maybe most important," she said. "Don't let anybody take it from you. I've left you the apartment, but also everything in it. And it is rightfully yours. Don't let them guilt you, don't let them convince you you're too young. I've set up a fund specifically so that you don't have to worry about the taxes or upkeep until you're out of college, so they don't have a single excuse. I left this to you."
"O...okay," I said. I wasn't sure what else to say.
"Promise me, Celie."
"Second," she said. "You're going to learn some things. And you're going to be angry at them."
"In good time," she said. "But rest assured, you'll know. And you won't like it. But try not to let them come between you and your mother. She did what she could. You can be angry at her, but just don't let it end you two. She loves you, Celie. One day you might understand how much."
"I don't understand."
"I know," she said. "But that's all right."
We sat in silence for a little while. For a moment I thought she'd fallen asleep.
"When she left your father, she wasn't abandoning you, you know."
I looked at the floor to try to hide the tears of mixed shock and surprise that were suddenly in my eyes.
"I know," I lied.
"Good." She took another slow breath. "You have the advantage of not being alone. Don't waste it, Celie. Help whoever you can. But don't be afraid to ask them for help, too."
"I won't," I said.
"You don't know how much hope you bring."
"How do I bring hope?" I said, suddenly finding my voice through the shock and emotions. "I can't do anything! I'm a stupid teenage girl! How can I change anything?"
"You'll find out. Soon enough," she said. Then she added, after seeing me open my mouth, "And I know -- you want to know. Your desire to know things is what makes you who you are. But don't let it get away with you."
"Fine," I said. I didn't feel like arguing with her.
Eventually, I had to leave. She made me promise again that I wouldn't do anything stupid. I told her I love her. I came home. I haven't told anyone in my family about what happened; just Violet, and now you guys. I don't know how to do it.
After thinking about it for a good portion of the night tonight, I feel really angry about this. Am I supposed to just sit back and let information come to me? I can't do that. I've never been able to do that. It's why I'm a journalist.
And there are lives at stake here. People could be dying -- people have died already -- and I'm supposed to just stay here and just...just....be?!
I love my Aunt Michelle. But I can't do that. A good journalist doesn't do that.
She knows something I don't. She knows about him, obviously, and I think she may have before she read my blog. Does she know about Zeke? About Ava? About Zero and Ulryc and Lucien?
The last few weeks have been hell. I don't know if Practical Cat is still around, and I'm always looking over my shoulder. I can't feel safe at home with Angel. I'm constantly worried about my friends, and especially Vi and Ava and even Zeke -- the latter of whom seems to not want to listen to me about anything. I feel like I've been too passive a player in this big game.
If I'm not a Runner, I'm technically a Fighter. And if I'm a Fighter, then what the fuck am I actually doing to help the fight?
I won't pester Aunt Michelle for her knowledge. I wouldn't do that to her.
But it's time to get productive.