PREVIOUSLY: Megan’s actions seem to be interfering with Chartreuse’s mystic readings. Chartreuse, Corry and Megan have gone to Linquist’s old cabin in the woods, looking for Laurie.
PART 79b: CROSS PURPOSES
“What did Corry say this was? A sonic grenade?” Megan peered at the object on the table. Corry had gone out to scout around the vicinity of Linquist’s old cabin, looking for signs of Laurie, leaving the roughly spheroid object behind. He’d said to ‘use it in case of trouble’.
Chartreuse looked over her shoulder. “Yeah, I think Frank’s been getting, like, bored this month. He also said he might try to make me a sonic lipstick, he must be watching reruns of that, you know, British TV show again.”
Megan shook her head, then looked back around the room. Aside from the table, there were a couple chairs, a small bed, some sort of cooling unit plugged into an old portable generator, and a filing cabinet that Chartreuse was revealing to be empty. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here in months. Why would Laurie have wanted us to come out here? Why would SHE have come out here?”
“I’m kinda thinking it was to, you know, get us to talk more,” Chartreuse offered. She closed the last cabinet. “For instance, have any of us people whom you associate with Corry ever, like, congratulated you for getting that short story published?”
Megan eyed the pink haired girl warily. “Only Laurie did. Why, did she suggest you use that as a way of getting on my good side?”
The pink haired girl sighed. “No, Megan. I’m not… or rather, I like to THINK I’m not as bad as you, like, perceive. But in thinking on it, every time we’ve crossed paths, I’ve tended to see you as an obstacle. Perhaps I should be the one taking Corry’s story to heart. I haven’t been, you know, getting the facts about you before opening my mouth.”
So this was apparently Act Two of ‘let’s get Megan to behave the way we want’? “Self awareness is nice, Chartreuse, but you have a LONG way to go if you’re aiming for redemption.”
Chartreuse sat down on the corner of the bed. “Redemption… Megan, are you Catholic?”
“Oh, the cross on my necklace tip you off?”
“Plus the story you wrote, now that I think about it. I did, like, read it, you know.”
“Of course you did. But only because of how it related to Laurie’s picture, right?”
Chartreuse pursed her lips. “Is it, you know, difficult for you? Living in a town that doesn’t have a separate Catholic high school, I mean.”
Megan sighed, gripping the edge of the table as she leaned in. “I’m not the only Catholic in the school, Chartreuse.”
“That’s not what I meant… um, wait, is religion, like, a touchy subject?”
“No. Though it sure doesn’t come up much with Corry or Julie, so you MIGHT want to stop before you dig yourself into a deep pit.”
Chartreuse sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I can’t help it, I gotta know – are my mystical ways part of the problem here? Does it offend more religious people like you?”
Megan nearly fired off a blanket ‘if that’s what you think, sure’, but something told her that Chartreuse was trying to be sincere. So she took a second to gather her thoughts, resting her elbows on the table instead of her hands.
“No,” she admitted. “Granted, I think your talk of crystals and visions is not at ALL the sort of spiritual guidance Laurie needs. But I don’t hate you for your beliefs. I try not to hate at all, frankly. You may be aware of how it’s rather against our underlying philosophy?”
“So it’s more you think I’m destined for Hell, and you don’t want me, you know, dragging Laurie down there with me.”
“Wrong again.” Megan looked up for a moment, trying to figure out how to put things in a way that Chartreuse would understand. “Chartreuse, the whole point of us being on Earth is that we have free will. No one is predestined for Heaven or Hell, and as such, what I’m trying to do at school – and with you – is better educate people about their own consciences. Granted, some of you seem beyond my ability to educate.” She eyed the door, wondering what was taking Corry so long.
“And so instead you… what? Hold such people up to your followers as, like, examples of what’s wrong in the world? Try to, you know, tempt them with evil, in the hopes that they’ll reveal that fact to everybody? What?”
“I…” Megan frowned, starting to feel a bit uneasy as she realized that Chartreuse wasn’t exactly wrong in her assessment. “I do what I can to illustrate the dangers of hubris, envy, wrath and so forth.”
“Then you do think you’re, you know, influencing people.”
“It’s more helping to illuminate the…”
“Darkness already there,” Chartreuse finished. “I got that on our way out here. But isn’t the very act of, you know, doing the illuminating having influence? Like, consider, it’s only by ignoring big problems in society, like religion, race and politics, that those things don’t, like, change. Change happens when people like you shine the light, pointing the bad stuff out.”
Megan raised her eyebrows. “Are you seriously proposing that I ignore what Corry does around the school instead? To keep the status quo?”
“No, no… it’s more about, you know, accepting responsibility. And admitting that you’re influencing things and people a lot more than you might want to take credit for.”
Megan pushed herself back from the table, equal parts fascinated and disturbed. When she’d entered into the conversation, she hadn’t thought that Chartreuse had a prayer of making any coherent arguments, but Laurie’s pink haired friend was making surprisingly good points. Granted, the girl had missed out on something rather obvious. “Chartreuse, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t take the credit. Hubris is one of the seven deadly sins.”
“Megan, you totally shouldn’t take pride in everything you’ve been doing anyway. For instance, there had to be better ways for, like, Sue Simmons to get her counselling. Right?”
Megan’s lips tightened. Now she saw where Chartreuse was steering them. “I’m still not going to issue orders about the talent show for your benefit.”
“Megan, no, this isn’t, like, about that any more!”
“No? Then what IS is about?”
“I… I don’t know!” Chartreuse flopped back completely onto the bed, a puff of dust rising around her. “But, you know, the Lord’s Prayer says ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’, and our talk is making me wonder if we’re both here now because there’s forces out there trying to, like, remind us of what that really means.”
As Megan attempted to parse the inclusion of ‘both’ of them, there came a scream from outside the cabin. Chartreuse jerked back up into a sitting position, while Megan grabbed for the ‘sonic grenade’ and ran to the doorway.
‘Oh no, not now,’ Chartreuse thought, scrambling to push herself back up onto her feet. She succeeded on the second attempt.
“Laurie? Is that you?” Megan called out. She ran out of the cabin.
“Damn,” Chartreuse cursed, fumbling in her pocket for her phone. She switched it to video recorder mode as she charged to the door after the dark haired student.
A few metres away, slumped at the base of a tree and illuminated by light from a nearby phone, was a redheaded form in a dress. “Laurie, what’s wrong?” Megan asked, hurrying over.
Chartreuse hesitated, her finger over the record button. Then, with sudden resolve, she reached up, turned her device off, and jammed it back into her pocket.
“Laurie, are you–” Megan’s voice became a high pitched shriek as a form in a lab coat jumped down out of the tree above her. She tried to backpedal, but stumbled, belatedly attempting to throw the grenade. Except she was already falling backwards by then, so the spheroid slipped out of her hands, arced behind her, and cracked the glass of one of the cabin windows where it hit.
“Don’t you come near me!” Megan yelped, sprawled on the ground. She crossed herself. “I have friends, I’ll be missed, I’ll… I’ll…” Her panicked shouts ceased as she realized that the person in the lab coat wasn’t advancing, but rather continuing to dangle in the air. Then, with the release of a rope, the “person” collapsed on the ground like a bundle of clothing. Which it was.
The redhead in the dress started to rise, leaning back against the tree. “Chartreuse, did you get it?”
Chartreuse didn’t respond. Instead, she walked over to pick up the nearby grenade. In her haste, Megan hadn’t even hit the trigger button; Chartreuse wondered idly if the device would have actually added to the confusion, or been a complete dud.
“This was a setup,” Megan gasped.
“Chartreuse, do we have Megan’s reaction on tape or not??”
Chartreuse looked back up at him. “No, Corry, we don’t.”
Corry tried to take a step closer, only to lurch back against the tree he’d used to claw himself to his feet. “Are. You. KIDDING. Me?! I twisted my ANKLE getting that rope set up!”
“You two… you LIED to me!” Megan accused, pushing herself back up into a seated position.
“A bit, but we mostly ‘suggested’,” Corry countered, raising one hand to make a set of successive air quotes. His other palm still busy acting as support against the tree trunk. “Remember, you brought yourself out here, by your own choice. Does that methodology sound familiar?”
Chartreuse sighed. “Okay, Corry? Don’t help. That won’t, you know, help.” She moved to crouch down next to Megan, wincing at the glare she was receiving. “Megan, this was, like, the nuclear option. We really were, you know, hoping that the talk on the way up here would be enough.”
“What was Laurie’s part in it?”
“Minimal. She, you know, recorded that bit of phone conversation for us. That’s it. She’s probably asleep at home right now.”
“Yeah, I would NOT have let Laurie up and run off like this,” Corry said, attempting to limp in their direction. He nearly tripped on the hem of the dress. “You really DO have a low opinion of me, huh, Megan?”
“I’d say my low opinion has been more than justified tonight.”
Chartreuse winced. “Corry, can you please let me do the, you know, talking from here? Please?”
“Oh, FINE. I’ll need to find a branch that I can use as a cane anyway.”
Chartreuse turned her full attention back on Megan as Corry moved off. “Okay. So Corry brought up the blackmail, and I went along with it, and we brought all this stuff up here in advance… but I, like, purposefully turned off my camera then. Not that I expect you to believe it, or, you know, anything I say at this point, but I did. Because I think I get it now. Like, not all of it, no way, but I get you a little better, and, you know, maybe I finally realize what the spirits have been trying to tell me too.”
The intensity of Megan’s glare seemed to subside, even if her overall expression didn’t. “That freaked me the hell out, Chartreuse. Laurie will hear about this, mark my words.”
“Oh, I know. I’ll tell her myself. I’ll even let you tell her first, if you want. Thing is, Laurie really did want us to talk, you know? That’s why she provided the recording. She’s desperate for everyone that she likes to get along, particularly now that she’s got the extra cheerleader responsibility on her mind.”
“Sounds like Laurie.” Megan looked up towards the sky. “That girl is SUCH an optimist, huh? Trouble is, me and Corry, we are NOT compatible.”
“I get that. Perhaps because he involves himself too much… while maybe you imply some of the same stuff, then don’t involve yourself?”
“Meaning?” Her glare was back.
Chartreuse nibbled on her lip. “Words can be, you know, very powerful. They spark emotions, ones which can lead to a total override of a person’s, like, higher reasoning… and while, as a writer, I’m sure you already knew that… maybe you’re not always testing what you think you’re testing in people?”
Megan eyed her, then finally lifted her shoulders in a small shrug. “Okay. Okay, maybe I talk too much. And God does not tempt us to sin, so perhaps there were times I should have been leading more by example.”
The dark haired junior started to push herself back up to her feet. Chartreuse quickly straightened up, reaching down out a hand to help her. After a hesitation, Megan accepted her help and was soon brushing herself off. “What you’re saying is about MY beliefs though,” Megan pointed out. “What about you? With that reference to ‘the spirits’ telling you things?”
“Oh. That was, um…” Chartreuse sighed as Megan looked at her expectantly. “Okay, long story condensed? Something’s gonna happen with Carrie at the talent show. But she’s being evasive with me. So I sought spiritual guidance, except instead of Carrie, I got visions of all the stuff you were stirring up. Hence me going a bit crazy this week, trying to negate your influence.” She exhaled. “Which was a mistake. Because maybe, the spirits were trying to get me to stop being tempted by their gifts. They wanted me to put my faith in Carrie instead, the same way you test the faith of the people you talk to.”
“Hmmm. Reaching a bit?”
Chartreuse shrugged. “As mere mortals, can we ever TRULY know what the cosmic forces are trying to tell us?” Chartreuse ventured a smile, and was relieved when it was reciprocated, however tentatively, by Megan.
“Got your talent show deal figured out yet?” the male Veniti twin asked, hobbling up next to them, leaning on a large branch. “Because if so, I find I’m in considerable pain and would prefer to leave these woods sooner rather than later.”
Chartreuse nodded. “I have my answers. Let’s get going.”
She received a message from Carrie later that Friday.
NEXT: Vanishing Act
ASIDE: During edits, the last two parts were completely gutted and rewritten from how they were before. Read this Sunday’s Commentary for more info. We’ve now reached the talent show; a vote for T&T is always appreciated.