Scene 40: Almost Caught

They ride the bus across town to the Celebrity Center. Amory looks in awe as they enter the building. After a month of constant work by at least twenty Sea Org members, the place is coming together.

Previously On:

Amory is greeted by a fellow Sea Org member on the bus to the Celebrity Center for MEST work.

Last lines: 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 questions if she will ever, really, be able to disconnect.

They ride the bus across town to the Celebrity Center. Amory looks in awe as they enter the building. After a month of constant work by at least twenty Sea Org members, the place is coming together. What began as an empty shell is taking shape and becoming a beautiful space. The ballroom is being transformed into an auditorium with a removable stage, the perfect venue to host a range of events, from live shows and fancy parties to workshops and lectures. Everything an established or aspiring actor could need.

Even though it’s not finished, she can see how it’s going to look, in all its opulent splendor. She has mixed feeling about The Church and how they will use the space, but she feels good about the work she has done. Seeing such an immediate transformation is deeply satisfying.

Amory is glad to be back at work. The thought of laboring towards a definite goal is reassuring to her, not nearly as confusing as what happened between Adam and Kimberley. She knows how to set a goal, and she knows how to work. People are a different story.

As usual, Adam checks in with the foreman and gets their task for the day. He says to Amory, “They got us on ductwork today. Ever done it?”

She wants to rehearse her new strategy for auditing—make up stories The Church wants to hear. Let them believe she is being “rehabilitated” while she is really just routing out. “Let me think …” she says. “Yeah, I did ductwork once. It was in 1748, and I was a homeless girl who needed a job to buy some food. That was the job I got.”

Adam rubs his chin skeptically. “1748 huh?” he asks. “Ductwork wasn’t around then.”

“Oh, right.” Amory’s cheeks turn red in embarrassment. Making up stories with plausible events can be difficult since she lacks knowledge about most non-Scientology topics.

“What’s with the story?” he asks.

Without thinking too much, Amory confides in him, saying, “Just practicing. I need to be ready for my next session.”

Adam steps in closer and asks, “Ready for what?”

She wants to trust him. She is never like this with anyone, but she needs to change. She responds, honestly, “I’m going to route out. I need them to think I’m rehabilitated.” The words sound strange in her voice. Impossible even.

He gives her a wink, just a quick flash of his right eye. She thinks that he understands her. With his look, Amory’s body tenses up again. She can’t tell if it’s just the attention or a true attraction, but she doesn’t care either way. Between this and the greeting from Kimberly earlier, Amory no longer feels invisible.

They organize their supplies and figure out a plan for the day. The amount of silver tubing is intimidating. It loops back over itself so many times that the pile is as tall as she is. Amory needs order, though, so she asks Adam what a reasonable goal for the day would be. She’s lost without her battle plan and stats.

When Adam admits that he doesn’t know how people measure progress for ductwork, Amory gives him a flirtatious sigh, and asks “You mean you don’t know everything?”

“Ha, ha,” he says with a sigh and rubs the back of his neck with his right hand. “I’d guess they measure it in linear feet.”

Amory scans the pile of silver tubing. “How about we finish this room?”

“You’re the boss, apparently” Adam replies.

As they begin the ductwork, Amory stops what she is doing and asks Adam, “Can you do me a favor?”

He wipes the sweat from his brow and pauses to give her his full attention. “Sure,” he says. “Anything you need.”

“Will you go through the Int Rundown commands with me?” She asks, looking around to be sure no one is listening. Her eyes plead for help.

“Amory, I …”

“That’s fine if you don’t want to…” she says, avoiding eye contact. “I was only kidding.”

He grabs her hands and pulls her close. “I’d be happy to help you.”

She releases an audible sigh of relief and her body relaxes into his arms. “Thank you,” she says, resting her head on his strong chest.

A long moment later, a familiar voice interrupts them. “I’m glad MEST work is so … comfortable,” Daisy says.

Amory and Adam both jump back a foot at the sound of Daisy’s voice. Adam snaps into a salute and Amory follows his lead halfheartedly. “Sir.” Adam stammers for the correct words. “We didn’t expect to see you here.”

“No,” Daisy says, inspecting them like a drill sergeant. “Obviously you didn’t. Adam,” she trains her sights on him. “Can I speak with you … alone.”

Daisy leads Adam away, and Amory watches them cross the room. Before she even realizes what she’s doing, she finds herself pacing back and forth between the pile of silver tubing and the opposite wall, unable to stop the constant motion of her feet. It is twelve strides side to side. Amory tries to breathe to the pace of her feet as she races back and forth. Adjacent to her is the building’s exit. The neon-green exit sign catches her eye, and she considers running—just leaving everything and starting again. Truly disconnecting.

She turns to finish her current lap, so her back is to the door. Just as she is about to change direction again, she sees Daisy and Adam returning from around the corner. Her heart races as she pivots to complete her lap. The exit is directly in front of her. All she needs to do is run. Adam is far enough away that she could probably make it out of the building and disappear somehow before he could catch up to her.

But she hesitates a second too long. Adam sees her eying the exit and runs over to her. He grabs her upper arm like a prisoner and whispers in her ear, “What are you thinking?”

She flexes her bicep and instinctively pulls away. She silently implores him to release her.

He whispers, more softly this time, “Just come with me. You need to let me help you if you don’t want to be declared.” She holds the tension in her body. She doesn’t feel like she has a choice with his hand gripping her arm.

Daisy catches up to them, calmly, never increasing her pace. “Let her run if she wants,” she says to Adam. “The ethics project is voluntary, after all.” She sets her sights square on Amory and continues, “You can leave whenever you want.”

The color red floods Amory’s vision. She takes a deep breath and counts to five before exhaling. With a long, slow release of air, she lets herself relax into Adam’s grip.

“That’s what I thought,” Daisy says, and exits the room.

Once Daisy is clear of earshot, Adam lectures Amory. “What were you thinking? You can’t just run. Where would you go? What money do you have?” His voice grows louder with each question. “And what about your family? You’d never see them again.”

“What family?” Amory fires back. But she knows he’s right. She must continue her strategy of routing out properly if she ever wants to build a real life for herself one day.

Scenes from the Next:

Daisy stands before Amory’s Comm Ev committee

Scene 39: Voluntary Disconnection

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.

Previously On:

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.