Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 12

The Blood Bather

Chapter 12 - November

            Oh, November, thought White Rose, the most wretched month. No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day... That was a poem about November her old Irish nanny used to rhyme to her before bed. Strange that she should remember it now.
            Naked, White Rose carefully lay down on the cold plastic tanning bed, with her earphones blaring Britney Spears 'Toxic' and a pair of tiny sun goggles balanced on her nose. She hit the 'ON' button and the lamps sprang to fluorescent life. Her chilled body covered in goose bumps began to warm up and relax.
            '...your toxic tongue slippin' under...
            From a distance the squealing headphones sounded like a Bollywood film.
            Honestly, what would she do without the tanning bed? The heat from the lamps began to work its magic and immediately White Rose felt her spirits lighten. Her skin, never without a golden glow, began to pink under the carcinogenic light.
No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
            Yes, the poem was definitely on her mind. But it was understandable. If late summer was the most beautiful time of year on this campus then November was definitely the ugliest. It was bitterly cold but not snowing, the trees were bare and the leaves were gone from the relentlessly whistling wind that tangled her hair. The sky was always grey.
            White Rose peered down at her body, her large fake breasts standing at attention on her chest. She remembered begging Mother for breast augmentation for her 18th birthday, but the old battle ax refused, citing her rhinoplasty, her Lasik surgery and the cost of her upcoming tuition as financial reasons. That was utter bullshit! Her father could definitely afford it. With his taste for whiskey and whores he had no right to judge. It was torture being the only one who was flat-chested at her private boarding school. These were her peers and they looked up to her. What her mother didn't understand was that her reputation was at stake, it was no longer a simple exercise in vanity.
            White Rose, who by all accounts was a very resourceful person, had figured out an alternative source of revenue and applied for a student loan under an assumed name. No way would they have approve her if she had used her real name.
            Anyway, it worked! She had booked an appointment as soon as she had moved on campus in her freshman year. It would be a least 6 weeks before she would see her parents again, even more if she was really deceptive, or rather resourceful in her reasons to stay away. Having no one to be there before and after the surgery had been a gut check for sure. At the last minute, after she couldn't argue or hiss or fight with the nurse anymore, she had eventually capitulated and called Audra to come and get her from the plastic surgeon's office. Audra had been a first year student like herself assigned to the dorm across the hall and had quickly become White Rose's first friend. Audra in her typical dry way and taken one look at the situation and sized up correctly that White Rose was probably hating life, being in a moment of need. She had taken upon herself and driven to the pharmacy for a series of cold packs, hot packs and pain medication, then to their dorm and put White Rose to bed. The pain had been literally excruciating for three days. In a moment of weakness, White Rose had gasped to Audra, "Do they look really fake?" Without missing a beat, Audra had responded "They're real once they're in, m' dear". In the tanning bed, White Rose smiled now at the memory.

            But the pain had been worth it because it had landed her the biggest prize of all, Micah Ballantree. The uptown old money scion of the Ballantree fortune and foundation. After rushing her sorority, the best on campus, with the full intention of one day becoming its illustrious president she had cornered Micah outside a bathroom at one of his frat's wild keggers. He was pretty drunk which made it easy to convince him to lie down in his room. She was careful to give him a taste but not too much all at once, whetting his desire for her. Mostly she just talked, telling him every little thing he wanted to hear. Young men were so easy to manipulate. Her father had taught her that.

            Micah had probably had sex all of four times by the time she met him. His family no doubt had kept him on a very tight leash. He had woken up with just a vision of her, and no one knew her name or claimed to have seen her. It drove him crazy. That kind of thing drove all men crazy, White Rose mused, and she worked it completely to her advantage. It was several weeks before he saw her again and this time it him pursuing her. Perfect for how she wanted to be seen among her sisters. And especially Audra. It was strange; as a woman she liked and respected Audra, she even trusted her, but nothing could stop her from hating her and wanting everything Audra had - everything every woman had - for her own. Except Sherrise. Sherrise was so different; so strong where others were weak and so smart where others were stupid. She loved talking to Sherrise because she felt so calm when she did. Even thinking about her made White Rose blush a little.

            Slowly the air temperature around White Rose changed. The air that was warming up so nicely was beginning to cool. Had some fucking asshole left the outer door open? The place was cheaply constructed and the walls of each room containing one tanning bed did not go all the way up to the ceiling. Never one to hide her annoyance or miss an opportunity for vulgarity she plucked out her earphone and screamed "Shut the door assholes, I'm practically naked here." There! That should get their attention. That always got their attention.

            The tanning bed hummed and Britney squealed through the rest of her song. The next track started up, something about being lonely despite huge fame and fortune. Figures the dumb southern belle wouldn't know a good thing when she saw it, thought White Rose, she isn't so much a dancer as a gymnast who can lip-sync. But that didn't stop wealthy Japanese businessmen from propositioning her. White Rose marvelled at the power of fame, it made people see what they wanted to see. Fame was really just an act. Anyone could do it.

            The air was still chilly and it was seriously annoying. White Rose felt her frustration level rise and, of course, her rage kicked in shortly thereafter; one followed the next like night and day. Still stark naked, she kicked the clamshell of the tanning bed open with her long legs and opened the door to scream obscenities at whomever was out there. Her tiny goggles clattered to the floor as she was met with an icy blast of winter wind coming in from the outer door. It was practically off its hinges. Instinctively, she made a move to cover her breasts and crotch with both her arms to protect her from the teeth of the gale.

            "What the fuck-", whispered White Rose. Was there a tornado? In November? She was momentarily taken aback and speechless, which was so rare. Despite the wind, there was no movement. The person at the front desk appeared to be absent. The calypso music they usually played over the speakers was silent.

            White Rose heard a noise behind her, it was coming from the spa at the end of the hall. This tanning salon boasted a small but beautifully appointed Jacuzzi and shower as well as a massage table. For the all the underclassmen that want a rub and tug between classes, White Rose thought unkindly. Still naked and very cold, but inflamed by her desire rage against someone anyone, she march down the icy hall and into the spa.

            The air was considerably warmer in here. White Rose scanned the room with her eyes. The counters were clad in fake marble and the ceiling sported subdued pot lights. The whole ambience was a study in post-modern airport lounge. Even so, it was very relaxing in here. White Rose felt her pulse slow and she exhaled slowly as her Pilates instructor had taught her. Feeling more herself, she began:
            "Hey, asshole, your fucking door is broken"
            "If you are busy shitting, you need to pinch it off!"
            Still more silence.
            This was stupid. Better to get her clothes and get out of her. Heaven forbid these jerks try to blame her for the damage. White Rose turned to go and came face to face with a beautiful brunette, with long shining hair. Who was also naked.

            The woman was shorter than White Rose, and older, she noticed with disdain but everything about her was luminous and warm. There was a heat emanating off her tight little body unlike anything she had felt before. The woman took her wrist and delicately held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. White Rose was almost hypnotized by the sight and did not resist. In fact, she felt calmer than she had in years. This woman reminded her of something... something from her childhood?

            White Rose was struck from her reverie by a sudden and urgent dripping sound. The woman had thrust a nail into her wrist and blood was dripping on the floor. But there was no pain. White Rose was magnetized by the sight of such rich redness spilling and dripping and oozing in every direction on the floor.

            "Beautiful, is it not?"
            White Rose snapped her head to the woman but her lips had not moved. In fact, her face was no longer beautiful but menacing, there was a flashing hunger in her eyes that White Rose recognized. It was a feeling she was very familiar with: rage. No, jealousy. Actually a combination of both.

            It sparked a flurry of thoughts and images flooded her consciousness. All the years and all the people and all the conversations she had ever had in her young life. Twenty one years of acting lessons and the best shampoo and this is all she had to show for it. A few fake friends and a faithless boyfriend. From her perspective now, everything she had ever cared about was useless. She gasped as her lungs fought for breathe, her blood pressure dropping fatally, but it was more a gasp of realization that she had wasted so many precious resources on such selfish pursuits. Then she was sad. Utterly, dismally sad that no actual part of herself had ever been cultivated in all her years and with all her education. The sadness seemed to start in the her heart but then it flung itself down her arm, making it numb. She was mildly aware that her heart was gasping for oxygen, pumping irregularly in her delicate rib cage, beneath her gorgeous fake breasts. She was devastated to know that she was going to die never really knowing herself. It broke her heart and she felt dull ache echo through the right side of her chest and down her arm making the fingers in her right hand tingle.

            The last thing White Rose thought about, as the blood draining from her brain released seemingly unrelated synaptic connections, was her father. White Rose flashed on her earliest memory: Her father swinging her in his arms as she walked along the sidewalk, one two three wheeee onetwothreewheeee
        The thing that was Dr. Elzbeta Nadasdy watched as the girl began to swoon and caught her as she began to fall. She dropped her body into the empty jacuzzi and began to massage the girls arm under warm water, filling the tub with a crimson fluid. The blood flowed faster in this way and underneath the fake glow, White Rose took on a grotesque pallor. Then Elzbeta slipped into the tub next to the girl and sank down, willing her hungry body to absorb the blood directly into her pores. For a moment she was relaxed and all was still. White Rose sighed her last and slipped beneath the water.

But something was wrong.
            Elzbeta dropped her head beneath the water and lifted it out again, hissing with pain and frustration. She was coated in bloody water, making her hair hard and it was steaming on her skin, burning and wrinkling it, but it wasn't because it was hot. She knew what the problem was. Moving quickly with superhuman strength she lifted White Rose up and out of the water dropped her lifeless body on the tiled floor. As her head hid the hard marble it made a vile sound of overripe fruit hitting the ground, and a lesser sound, one that only animals could hear, was the ring of a necklace striking the ceramic. Not just any necklace, it was a gold crucifix purchased for White Rose by a loving relative on a trip to Italy when she was a girl. It had the added benefit of being actually blessed in the presence of the Pope. But Elzbeta heard it.
            "Go to hell" she hissed again and the cross moved away from the sound of her voice, straining the filigreed chain of the necklace; it shook but did not break.
            Having effectively created holy water, the bath was useless to Elzbeta. She sat placidly on the edge of the jacuzzi like a renaissance painting of a woman at her toilet. She should know since she had posed for more than one portrait in her life, but her mind racing was ferociously. Finally, she simply roared in frustration like a wounded lion.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 11

The Blood Bather

Chapter 11

            Audra could hear Belinda giggling as she approached the Rare Book Library. Honestly, did those two ever stop? It was like formula for a young adult novel with them. Audra was terrified at any moment that Edward was going to jump on the nearest sofa and declare that he had carved Belinda's name into his chest. Belinda seemed to be more level-headed, though, and would probably take that all in stride. Plus she was outrageously wealthy and could probably have Edward "disappeared" if it all got to be too much.
            Maybe Audra was jaded, or just simply jealous. After all, the most "love" she received tonight was when Micah rang her landline as she was walking out the door to the library. She had ignored it though. She was trying to put an end to obvious booty calls from Micah. She was trying to quit him altogether and for the most part it was working, as long as she stayed busy. Very very busy.
            Apropos of nothing, Audra's little "sister" Song Le had advised her sometime ago that the best way to get over a man was to get under a new one, which - coming from such a conservative woman - was equal parts horrifying and hilarious. But the saying did have some truth to it. Audra would have to keep her radar out for an equally jaded man who could ease her aching spirit...
            "Hiya Audra! What took you so long?" Edward broke his gaze from Belinda as Audra hefted the unbelievably heavy oak door aside and bounced up to help her. "Anyway, take my chair, I need to sharpen my pencil."
            "Is that some sort of clever euphemism?" wondered Audra.
            "No," laughed Belinda,"he really is just using pencils. He thinks it's more authentic than pens or something. Everybody searches for their college experience in their own way, I guess."
            "Ain't that the truth" muttered Audra, it was her night for one-liners obviously. "So, what have you uncovered so far, Victorian detectives?"
            "Well, as you know, our assignment was to research the solitary nature of the English gentlemen of the 1820s; his work ethic, his opportunities for marriage as a function of his becoming gainfully employed. It was different than today. Women made prudent choices based on class expectations and financial forecasting. For men, it was a sincere achievement to convince a woman to marry him based on his merits as a provider. It was far more realistic and a greater indicator of success than today's love matches.
            "Hmmm," said Audra. Her mind was on Micah. Faced with purely economic conditioning, would she choose him? The answer was yes, unequivably yes, entirely due to his wealth and privilege. For some reason that made her stomach turn. It was hot to have an affair with someone who was hot, redundant phrasing aside, but to be tied to him forever was a different was his infidelity that made her judge him harshly and see him as weak. His privilege made him slightly less capable in her eyes. What a little hypocrite she was! Obviously, it would be different if she were starving, opium-addicted waif...
            ..."and how much time men spent apart from women. There was no real co-mingling, or 'cross-pollination' of the sexes. The risk of losing what was available in the hopes that something better might eventually come along forced an entirely different set of decision-making skills."
            I can relate, thought Audra.
            But she didn't think it for long because at that moment Edward came flying down the corridor and slammed a book down on the table. Dust flew up causing everyone to cough and sputter. Edward was lit from within but still maintained his sage exterior.
            "Hey! Look what I found!" said, brandishing his pencil and turn a page of the heavy thick book. The first few pages where a soft moss green, it took a minute to realize, it was actually a delicate type of mold.
            "Oh! It's rotting!" exclaimed Belinda.
            "That's right," nodded Edward, ever the scholar. "It's vellum, or sheep skin, and it has not been well-preserved."
            "What the hell are you touching it for, then?" asked Audra. They were absolutely going to get in trouble for this. "And where did you get it?"
            "I ...found it. There are cabinets back there. Some are unlocked." Edward squirmed under the scrutiny. He was lying. He had picked the lock. It was a problem he had, fairly compulsive. But he was keeping a lid on it. That and the fires...he hadn't started one in ages. "But actually check it out because it's not in English, it's in Latin. Or rather, it's an old English translation of a Latin court record. A Vatican court record."
            "What?" both girls in unison.
            Edward, speaking in his most professorial tone and foreshadowing the great scholar he would eventually become, began: "Follow me, folks, this isn't hard. It's a book, a 'modern' translation -for the time- of a much older tribunal held in...," Edward squinted and peered flipping the first few pages back and forth, creating cracks in the dry binding. "...what is now Hungary by three priests ...and overseen by a cardinal. It's a court case, see? Here it has the allegations made by the prosecuting priests and responses from the accused and evidence from various witnesses, mostly peasant folk."
            "How are you reading this?" Audra wondered aloud.
            "Um well, I've just been practicing." No, that wasn't true. Edward had been here before. He had actually been in every building and every room in the entire campus. When his insomnia kept him up at night, he found it relaxing to explore his environment. The various keys and lock picking equipment he had accumulated over the years came in helpful but he didn't always need it. People had a way of not seeing him. And he had a way of using that to his advantage. Specifically in the Rare Book Library, he had been through all these books before. This was just the most interesting one and the one he most wanted to show (and show off!) to Belinda. He loved sharing stuff with her. He felt so smart around her. They were so different and they had so much to teach each other.
            "But that's not the best part-"
            "What's the best part?” Audra asked dryly. Edward ignored that and Belinda smiled at him.
            "The best part is that they seem to be talking about possession... by the devil... and an exorcism..."
"...Or rather, what to do when the exorcism doesn't work."
            The room seemed to still around them. This was fairly off-putting. Audra felt a small chill go up her spine and began to wonder about her walk home. Maybe she should ask Belinda and Edward to walk with her... it was dumb to take risks on campus.
            The question hung in the air.
            Finally: "What do you do when the exorcism doesn't work", Belinda whispered flatly, not a question.
            "It seems the accused was a ...let me see... a woman. No surprise there, heh."
            Silence from Audra. Rolled eyes from Belinda. Edward could be annoying.
            "Ahem, yes, ...'found to be possessed but various attempts at ridding her of the demon were wholly unsuccessful', so...
            "So?" Audra now. Both these girls were hanging off his every word and he was seriously enjoying it. Edward was flipping through pages quite quickly now. There were vast tracts of biblical passages that had been inscribed in colour plates, not faded with age. Vibrant greens and golds, iridescent blues seemed to jump from the page even in the low light of the Rare Book Library. There were images of various rituals, priests holding talismans to the foreheads of the masses, doves and angels framing the corners of the pages, shapes of the cross with crucified bodies upon them - no, impaled bodies on single trunks of wood, completely gruesome - there were even pencil marks in the margins, proof that someone had been here before.
            "She was bricked up in the tower of her castle and passed food through a small hole" Edward said finally.
            "The tower of her castle. She must have been rich, nobility?"
            "Yes, it would seem so." Edward, the wise man.
            "So, to recap," Belinda said. "The Vatican in Rome thought enough of this situation to send three priests and a cardinal to a small backwater in Hungary on the word of some peasant folk that a woman - a castle-dwelling noble woman - was possessed by the Devil and all the conventional methods of devil-removing were not effective. And their solution was to brick her up in the Hungarian equivalent of the Tower of London. I can see why the Victorian gentleman would enjoy this book." They all laughed.
            "Well, yes, but..." Edward began again.
            "But what?" asked Audra.
            "She was accused of murder. Actually, torture, murder and something that reads exsanguinatore maximus per virginus dolore ... 'full bloodletting of sorrowful virgins'..."
            "Holy moly," breathed Audra.
            "But no, that is not what it says. The English translator makes it clear that is not what the Hungarian word really means, at least not colloquially among these peasant folk. Apparently these Hungarian farmers were fairly coherent Third-Wave feminists because, while they did have a word for virgin, that is not the word they are using. They had another word for a young woman. A word meaning she had never had an orgasm. In their culture, fertility was a function of whether or not a man could give his woman an orgasm. No orgasm, no babies, at least as far a local folk knowledge goes. The Hungarians weren't accusing her of killing virgins, as in women who had never had sex as some of these victims were very married women, it means the woman had never had an orgasm. And the accused could somehow smell it. These were the women she killed. These were the maidens whom she bathed in their blood!"

            Then the lights went out.

Friday, June 17, 2016

How To Ride The Subway in Toronto

The subway came to Toronto in 1949. We call it the TTC; not the Metro, and not the underground. If you are exclusively riding the streetcar you can call it The Rocket. If you are coming home from the bar then it's called the Vomit Comet. If you are going somewhere you say, "I'll take the TTC". If you someone asks how you are getting home you say "subwayyyy" in a tortured voice. If someone asks if they can your use TTC pass, you say yes (because it's transferable). If that same someone asks why you didn't answer their texts, you say it's because you were on the subway. 

When the train pulls into the station it is essential that you don't stand directly in front of the doors. We will call this, for ease of reference, Rule#1. Standing directly in front of the subway doors prevents those who want to exit - who are currently occupying the space you want to occupy - and confounds the process entirely. 

It's simple psychology. Animals that can not see a way out won't move. Remember that hamster you lost up your butt? Same concept. It's also simple physics. A metal container full of humanity must first be emptied before it can be re-filled with fresh bodies. It can't - and never does - work the opposite way. You can't jam yourself into a loaded coach and then expect people to filter past you. This isn't a coffee machine. 

The correct method of loading on a subway car is lining up at the edge of the doorway - parallel to the car itself!- and entering once everyone has gotten off. When in doubt, repeat the following mantra: "It is logical to let them off". 

Congratulations! You have now successfully boarded a subway car! You are now trapped in a metal cylinder with strangers, speeding through time and space in the dark. You are an astronaut! But give yourself a minute. Because the only thing worse than what I just described is if you are all of those things and elderly /pregnant / you get the idea. Rule#2 is: Look around before you grab that seat.

Use your PRESTO card, asshole.

Hey White Men who are gainfully employed in jobs where they can sit all day! I'm talking to you! You always grab the seat because you are the fucking fastest not because you fucking deserve it. You never ask if someone else wants it. Never. 

Hey young men with your legs spread wide like you have elephantiasis of the scrotum! I'm talking to you! I get that it's a subconscious offer of sexual congress in my direction. I'm vaguely flattered. Now shut it down and close your legs. Because the woman with all those shopping bags needs a seat. 

Super Misogyny: It's cool that her time and purpose is less valuable than the men who work. Who the fuck do you think she is "shopping" for, anyway? 
A family! Because if she was single, she would be working too.

Hey pretty ladies with your gigantic purses staring at your image in the reflective glass! I'm talking to you! Put it on the ground when the carriage is packed. No exceptions. If the purse is too expensive for that, then make better life choices going forward. 

Hey teenagers and workmen with your gigantic backpacks! I'm talking to you! What the actual fuck do you have in there, anyway? The Ministry of Health warns against children carrying that kind of load on their shoulders and grown men should know better. Everyday I watch one of you literally knock over a little old lady - one who was standing because no one offered her a seat - and then mumble a half-hearted apology as you blunder away under your enormous burden like some ancient turtle. Old people are fragile.

Rule #3 corresponds to the correct way to de-train: Look before you leap (off). As the doors close on your second-to-last stop, begin to gently get up and move toward the doors. You have a whole two minutes to complete this task and it will be enough. Pack up your book and begin to stand slowly. This will indicate to those around you that you mean business. Make eye contact to convey your intent. Ensure you are gripping the handrails so you don't go flying when the train careens to a stop. Straighten you clothes BUT REFRAIN FROM DONNING YOUR GIGANTIC BACKPACK. It's still way too early for that shit. 

Now that you are pointed in the right direction, exit peacefully onto the subway platform. Remember how we talked about not blocking the doorways of the subway car? Take a moment to notice the fools who are doing that very thing right now. Annoying, right? Don't be like them.

Don't push past people in a rush at the last minute. 
Don't become irate because people are moving more slowly than you would like. 
Don't breathe down their necks and wriggle like a salmon trying to swim upstream. No one wants you to spawn right now.

Me, reading on the subway.

You are almost at your destination! Just one thing left to do and that is, properly ride the escalator to the surface. Riding the escalator is tough because it's basically stairs that move and I can see how that would be confusing. Theoretically, you just get on it and stand still. That is what it was designed for. After all, one "rides" the escalator, one does not "walk" the escalator. It wasn't designed to help people who could easily use the stairs get to their destination faster. It was designed for the slow people, the people with a lot of bags, or a lot of children or a lot of age, or a lot of weight, or a lot of all of the above. If you are so interested in racing up the stairs, use the ACTUAL stairs, Big Guy, and show us all how it's done! Feel free to show off and hoot a bunch so we know who you are.

It is important to remember when using the escalator that, while "walk left, stand right" is a commonly understood rule of decency, it is not - as some able-bodied assholes would have you believe - a federally mandated municipal bylaw enforced by police and punishable by up to 6 months in prison. The person who is causing the hold up on the escalator is exactly the right person to be using the escalator. YOU are the interloper. So Rule#4 is: "Walk left, stand right - unless that does not suit the situation and then use common decency". People can't make their bodies smaller so you can squeeze by, touching them in an uncalled for manner BTW, and thereby decreasing your commute by a 10th of a second.

Let's recap:
Rule #1: It's logical to let them off. Stand parallel to the carriage.
Rule #2: Look around before you grab that seat.
Rule #3: Look before you leap (off).
Rule #4: Walk left, stand right - unless that does not suit the situation and then use common decency.

This raccoon is offering others his seat because he is Canadian.

You are all set to ride the subway in Toronto. Oh, and don't forget to bring your wallet because it will cost about $10,000 USD per trip. 
Good Luck and Enjoy our fair city!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 10

Image result for the blood bather
The Blood Bather

Chapter 10
            Belinda and Edward sat huddled together in the dark recesses of the Rare Book Library, illuminated by weak sconces made to mimic the effect of candlelight in order to protect the delicate pages of the old books. The room they were in was sealed off from the general library by a series of heavy oak doors, and coupled with the thick carpet created a silent womb, or tomb, depending how maudlin one was feeling. The books that Belinda and Edward had open on the long library tables could only be visited at night under the supervision of the librarian in order to keep their exposure to ambient light down to a minimum. To confound matters, most were handwritten in difficult to read script and spelling that was reminiscent of a 4th grader.

            Belinda and Edward were snuggled side by side in a pair of very comfortable chairs, Edward curled around Belinda like he always somehow found a way to be. Belinda giggled as he moved a strand of strawberry blond hair behind her ear.

"You are a love addict, Eddy. Did you know that?"

This gave Edward pause for a moment. "It's true." he nodded sagely. "I am exhibiting signs of serious addiction for you and it's probably unhealthy. We are always together. I feel like I need to protect from everything, anything, the dumbest things. And I've forced you to become dependent on me because I do everything for you. It's almost like I'm a vampire and you are my blood source."

Belinda giggled again, but responded. "What should we do about it?"

"We should break up. Or immediately get married."

"You are right, Eddy. Those two equally dramatic events are the only natural responses that well-educated, emotionally balanced people can come up with. And by "break up", you mean where you leave me for weak reasons and I collapse utterly, have a bonafide nervous breakdown and never leave my bed for three months. And by get married, you mean we should have a small but tasteful ceremony against our parents’ wishes that interferes with our educations and future earning potential causing us to eventually resent each other and ultimately break up, where the above-mentioned collapse happens anyway. A third option, acknowledging that we are in too deep and taking a break from each other while still remaining friends, is just too..."

"Boring?" asked Edward.

"Yes, I was going to say boring, but also ... banal", she mused. "I mean, what would we talk about to others, if not each other and how we feel about each other. By slowing down the pace of our romantic fervour we would lose status in the eyes of our peers who kinda expect us to be over-the-top. There really is nowhere else for us to go at this point. Our love has trapped us in a pre-manufactured story that only leads to tragic oblivion."

"Unless one of us is very wealthy, or has a superpower, or both! Then we could move into a ruin of a Scottish castle and become happy heroin addicts that never get out of bed all day in a swoon of love and drugs," Edward was beginning to take notes. "We could even get our own reality show".

"It's a good thing I am outrageously wealthy," said Belinda.

"And it's a good thing that we've both decided to wait until marriage to have any physical contact," said Edward. "Or we really would be in too deep."

They were both silent for a moment.

Looking into her eyes, longingly, Edward said: I really love you Belinda.

Belinda giggled again: I know you do, Eddy. I love you too.

Because Belinda and Eddy knew, unlike many of their peers, that "I love you" is always a question.