I think purity was the main cause driving most of The Compound's rules, but another reason was because The Leader wanted to eliminate pain from people's lives. He thought avoidance was the only way to do this.
Titanium, Camo, and Zinfandel are in class. The teacher starts the lesson off with the word 'relationship.'
"We in this house are happy because our lives are perfect. The Strangers deal with pain and misfortune every day. Some of them are abused, have to live on the street, and go hungry for days, causing them to be very miserable. Most of these problems stem from bad relationships. The Strangers don't know how to love like we do. A lot of them will say they love you under false pretenses and then many years later, will abuse you and make your life fall apart. The only way for you to ensure a good life for yourself is to remain in this house. What kinds of abuse are there? Does anyone have any examples?"
"Beating someone up."
"That's right Camo, that is physical abuse."
"Saying mean things to someone."
"Good, Titanium, that is mental abuse."
"Yes, Zinfandel, that is also mental abuse. Very good class. This is why we keep everyone platonic in this house. It is true that sometimes abuse happens among friends, but the pain of a break up is much more damaging and will cause you to do things that lead to impurity. Do everything in your power to stay away from relationships."
From as early as I can remember, my parents were not happy. I didn't find out why until I was old enough to understand their arguments. It turns out I was the reason.
Mom would always get on Dad's case about not talking to me or spending time with me and then Dad would yell at her because he never wanted me in the first place. After a while, Dad just stopped coming home at night, probably so he could get a good night's sleep instead of arguing with Mom till the wee hours of the morning. This caused Mom to get really suspicious of his whereabouts, so she started sitting in the kitchen waiting for Dad to come home. I woke up early one Saturday morning to screaming from downstairs.
"WHERE THE FUCK have you been, Enigma Marseilles?! Don't tell me you were working late, nobody works till 7am the NEXT morning!"
"Fine. I wasn't working late."
"Don't get all smart ass on me, you- you..."
"Ooh, I'm so insulted, Andromeda. Have you forgotten how to talk?"
"Are you going to answer my question?"
"Fuck you, Enigma."
"Yeah, we used to fuck. Remember? Then you had to go and get fat."
"I didn't 'go and get fat.' I got pregnant because-"
"Because what? You thought it would change me? I told you when we got married that I didn't want any children. I still think you skipped your birth control that day, you bitch."
"Don't you call me that! I thought you would like Absolon because he looks so much like you."
"You don't get the point. I didn't want children, no matter what they looked like!"
I got dressed and went to the beach by myself, slipping out while my parents were ripping each other's heads off. My parents never really cared that I came and went. My mom loved me, but she was always too busy fighting with my asshole dad to pay attention to me. That was the day I first saw Titanium. He was wearing a t-shirt at the beach and sitting with Camo. I thought it was strange that they weren't just wearing swim trunks, but I chalked it up to them being shy. Some people aren't comfortable with their bodies, and I knew that all too well. My mom was always working out because Dad kept calling her fat. I think she may have developed some eating disorder because it seemed like she'd go days without eating. She got all health freak too, making kale shakes and becoming a vegetarian. She tried to make me do that too, but I preferred the fruit smoothies and there was no way I was going to give up meat.
The Compound was trying to protect people from feeling pain. Did you think pursuing a romantic relationship was worth the potential pain you might experience?
I believed what they taught me, but I couldn't deny the strong attraction that had manifested in me. I still didn't know how to separate their teachings from things Camo made me think about because at the time, I could see advantages to each side of the argument.
Absolon takes a break from playing and has a cup of coffee. Titanium happens to be in the break room eating lunch. Absolon sits down with Titanium.
Titanium looks up, surprised.
"Hi. You sing really well."
"Thanks. Sorry I've been ignoring you, I was just upset."
"You're welcome. I'm sorry about that, I didn't mean to hit a nerve."
"I realize that now."
Absolon smiles at Titanium, and both boys feel a sense of relief, having cleared up the tension between them. Titanium feels a warm, fuzzy feeling in his stomach that he's not quite sure how to describe. It's unlike anything he's ever felt before.
I want to ask Camo to be my boyfriend, even though I am pretty sure he's not seeing anyone else but me. I don't know much about him other than he's blunt and he has his name tattooed on his arm. I do the usual and ask him to go on break with me. I know we've both already eaten, so I'm hoping that this time I can get to know him a little more since we won't be stuffing our faces.
We don't go far, sitting on the couch next to the book counter. I look at him and he looks back at me. I can't stop staring at him. He's so perfect looking. I keep racking my brain trying to think of how to ask him why his name is tattooed on his arm without sounding like I'm interrogating him. I don't even know if that's how he would take it since I know he is perfectly okay with my bluntness. I don't know what is wrong with me. I've never been this nervous around a guy before. I wasn't even nervous the first time I asked him out. Maybe I should just blurt it out, it worked the first time when I told him he was cute. Luckily, I am saved when Camo notices that I'm staring at his wrist.
"You want to know why my name is tattooed on my wrist?"
I nod as I look up and get lost in his twinkling brown eyes.
"It was something I had to do when I turned sixteen. Everyone where I live has one."
I'm fascinated by this because I've never heard of anything like that. It's a little creepy and it kind of reminds me of branding cattle. I also find it slightly cruel that it was done to a human, but I acknowledge that at least Camo didn't get a branding iron pressed onto his smooth skin. I shudder to think of the pain he would feel if his body were marred like that.
"Oh. Where do you live?"
"The Compound. It's a shelter. Where do you live?"
"With my parents."
"That's cool. I don't know who my parents are."
"It's okay, they didn't die or anything, I just never met them."
Camo is certainly an interesting guy. I find it curious that he never met his parents and then I get sad that he might be an orphan. At least he had that shelter to take care of him, despite that creepy tattooing thing. Oh my god, Camo is smiling. He's got an adorable little smile. I keep staring, but I don't think he cares. My eyes wander to the buttons on the front of his shirt. It's too bad the store is open right now because I really want to get that shirt off of him.
I'm not sure what happened to Kalya. She's really different from when I first met her. I don't love her any less, but she's definitely being unfair to Verona. She seems to like our son Victor better, and I don't know why Verona seems to rub her the wrong way all the time. She's so beautiful sitting there at the vanity.
"Kalya, honey can I ask you something?"
"Of course, dear."
"Why do you have this obsession with social status? I wasn't very high in society when you met me. What changed?"
"I just feel like now that we've moved up in society, we don't need to be a part of that low class stuff anymore. We need to appreciate the finer things in life and leave the past behind."
"Oh Kalya, darling. Everyone starts somewhere. You can't look down on that. You can still appreciate the expensive stuff, but you don't need to be mean to those who don't have it. I've also been meaning to ask you why you give Verona such a hard time. You love her, don't you?"
"Of course I do. She's our beautiful daughter. I just want what's best for her, but galivanting around with the pool boy isn't going to give her a good life. She'll be living in a trailer park if she continues to socialize with people like that. I just don't want Verona to have to deal with the hardships we dealt with when we were young."
"Kalya, you don't really think that everyone who doesn't have a big house lives in a trailer park do you? Besides, Verona has us as her parents, she won't ever have to start from scratch. We'll always be there for her, no matter who she falls in love with."