The march routine at the Cadet Org.
Last Lines: The teacher yanked the girl up and reminded the rest of the cadets, “All right. Back at attention. Remember—the greatest good for the greatest number. Reset the clock!”
Amory awakes early the next morning after her first Int Rundown, before the sun is up, feeling like she never really slept. She spent the entire night tossing and turning on her cot, her mind carried away by a wave of new thoughts and emotions. Her decision to leave The Church is too painful to contemplate, the enormity of the decision too overwhelming, that the only thing she can think about is her immediate escape plan. She decides that her first step must be to disconnect from those around her, to sever all ties that hold her to her current life and strangle the personal agency she will need if she ever wants to leave.
She determines that she must route out properly—finish the Int Rundown, testify before the examiner that she is “rehabilitated,” and then still decide to leave. At that point, she would not be considered a threat and would be judged to be of sound mind when she left. She could walk out without being declared and still communicate with her loved ones.
But finishing the Int Rundown means playing by the rules of The Church and lying to do so. She would have to “realize” that the good people of The Church have done everything they can to help her, but that she is an insane criminal pervert for rejecting their goodwill and leaving the group. Since she is not very good at lying, she decides to practice the stories she will tell in session.
Amory finally accepts the fact that she won’t sleep any longer and grabs her book. She sits on her cot reading under the dim light of her lamp until daylight begins to shine through the bars on her window.
At what must be seven o’clock, she hears Adam’s voice calling, “rise and shine sleeping beauty.” The butterflies are back. She tries to stifle them, acting upon her recent decision to disconnect, but they remain in her stomach.
Rather than rushing into the hallway to see Adam like she truly wants, Amory forces herself to take her time getting dressed. When she pulls on her clothes, she can see how three weeks of heavy labor has changed her body. She must cinch her belt to the next tighter hole so her jeans stay around her hips. Her arms show the definition of every muscle, and her core is stronger that it has ever been. Amory spends an extra minute admiring her new physique in an uncharacteristic act of vanity, proud of how far she has already come.
She opens the door and runs past Adam, shouting “Back in five minutes” over her shoulder.
The bathroom is deserted, as always, since she’s one of the only people on this floor. She finds herself in the mirror and is startled by what she sees. There isn’t one in her room, so she doesn’t glimpse her face much these days. Despite her lack of sleep, her eyes are bright, sparking even, as they catch the light. Her cheeks have a healthy color, growing brown in the natural light of the job site. She brushes on some neutral eye shadow and waves some mascara on her lashes. She even dabs some tinted gloss on her lips. She feels silly putting on makeup before a day of hard labor, but she does it anyway.
Amory finds Adam sitting in the chair stationed outside her door. He’s whistling a tune she’s never heard.
“What took you so long?” she asks.
“We should get going.” He tries to act annoyed, but Amory see the left end of his lip curl up in a smile. “You might want to grab a sweater. It’s starting to get cold outside.”
Leaving the building, she feels a warm winter sun on her face, giving her hope that the months ahead won’t be so bad.
“Ready for another day in paradise?” He asks as they wait for the bus outside the HI. Adam places his hand on the small of her back.
At first Amory’s body tenses. He is close, too close. This is the first physical contact she’s had with anyone in months. Not even a handshake. As the tension lifts, she pauses for a moment longer than she should. Being so near to him sends a rush through her body. She turns and looks him in the eyes, a mere inches away. After a lingering moment, she turns her head so they’re cheek to cheek, then whispers in his ear, “Ready.” She can feel her warm breath bounce off his neck.
As soon as she hears herself, she cringes. This is exactly the behavior she resolved to avoid. She wipes the gloss from her lips and steps away from Adam.
Acts of flirtation are new for Amory. She has certainly never kissed anyone. Even close proximity to other people is a foreign sensation. It’s not that the The Church prohibits intimate relationships outright, it just makes them very difficult. Working over one hundred hours a week, Sea Org members don’t have time to develop relationships. Unofficial Church policy is to split up families because each Sea Org member’s ultimate loyalty needs to be to The Church—not to herself, not to her family, not to anyone else. Amory has not been close with many people, or anyone really, in her life. The sensation Adam gives her is strange and new.
The bus pulls up to the curb. Most of the seats are taken already. Amory walks down the aisle looking for an empty spot at the back, past all the eyes that look away as soon as they see her and her dirty gray scarf. She’s grown so accustomed to being shunned by everyone in a Sea Org uniform that she has stopped looking at them. If they’re going to avoid her, she will save them the hassle by not seeking their engagement.
But today, something strange happens. Halfway down the bus, she hears, “Hi. How’s it going?”
At first, the greeting doesn’t register. When Amory hears people speaking, other than Adam, she assumes it’s directed at someone else. Not looking up, she hears it again, a little louder this time. “Hi Amory.”
My name? Someone said my name? she thinks, confused. Amory looks up, surprised to see her old friend Kimberly directly addressing her. “Hi …” Amory says, startled by the act of kindness. “Thanks.”
Amory has worked with Kimberly for a few years and made her grovel more than once before signing off on her conditions formula. And now Kimberly is fraternizing with the downstat and putting herself in jeopardy. They catch each other’s eyes, and Kimberley looks back down, staring awkwardly at her feet. Amory does the same, embarrassed by her past behavior.
But she keeps smiling as she sits down in the last row. Amory rests comfortably for the first time in weeks. She is reminded about how deeply she is tied to these people, and if she will ever, really, be able to disconnect.
Scenes from the Next:
Amory installs ductwork at the Celebrity Center, and Daisy overhears a conversation.