Now that there has been a blow-up, we see what the aftermath is in these two chapters. Xenia’s slip-up gives her father a conniption fit (or at least that’s what we used to call it, back in my day), and from there, we get to hear from Fr. Andrew and then the rest of the Every Tuesday Club (ETC). All of that begins to throw more light on what the situation has been with Xenia. Apparently, there was cause for concern after all. Bringing in different people gives a different sense of how things had been looking, and in the end, we’ve got a bit more understanding what needs to happen. Let’s look at those three in turn.
If you’ve read the other books in the series, you might remember Xenia’s quiet, long-suffering dad. In Queen Abigail the Wise, he was the one who finally put his foot down — as long-suffering dads are wont to do — and helped get control of his rowdy sons. So it’s not too surprising to find out, a few years later, that part of his outrage over Xenia’s behavior at present is that he never expected her to be a source of trouble for him. He had, as Xenia suspected, been angling for an opportunity to talk to her about the remarks her teachers made on her report card. But it turns out there are other things he wants to get into as well:
“The impression I get,” Fr. Andrew said, “is that the game isn’t the main problem here. It may actually be a good thing that it happened when it did. Maybe it gives us a chance to talk about some other things.”
Father Andrew wasn’t finished, but unfortunately, Mr. Murphy saw an opening for one of the other subjects he had in mind.
“That’s right, Xenia. You know what your teachers put on your report card about your behavior this last year. Your mother and I had noticed it, too. You just seem to be pulling away from everyone lately. We don’t understand how you’ve been acting.”
Father Andrew suppressed a sigh and took another sip of coffee. (page 34)“
Father Andrew always has a bit more luck getting to the heart of things, but that may just be because he has a lot of experience at it. All through the books, he has been someone the girls could talk to. And someone who you just knew would find a way to talk to them, if he thought they could benefit from some course correction.
So this time, he gently spirits Xenia away from the tense atmosphere in his office and offers her more chances to talk. And he finds out a few things that her parents probably didn’t know:
“Mom and Dad got a book,” she explained. “I don’t know why. Maybe I did something weird, or some other teacher talked to them. How do I know? But all of the sudden, they got this book called Psychosocial Parenting for Gifted Adolescents, or something like that.”
Fr. Andrew looked thoughtful. “And you read it.”
“Well, yeah. I thought I probably should,” she answered drily. (page 39)
Typical of Xenia’s rational approach to miss the basic point and use her intelligence as a way to deflect any unwanted criticism. But when Fr. Andrew reminds her of an incident in church, she does begin to see what everyone is getting at. She ran from the false alarm of a smoke detector without considering anyone but herself, and she can see how that might be a problem. She begins to get defensive, but he is ready for her:
“Well,” she countered, “it’s not like a church problem. It’s doesn’t affect my relationship with God or anything.”
“Of course it does. How we can say we love God, Whom we can’t see, when we don’t love our fellow human beings, whom we can?” (page 41)
Trust a priest to bring Bible verses into the argument. Good thing Xenia has her friends to fall back on.
“I’ve been saying,” Photini began fussily. “You guys don’t go to our school, so you haven’t seen it. She’s changed. I mean, she’s always been a little hard for people to understand — we know that. People that don’t know her think she’s a weirdo. But underneath, she used to care. She’d at least try to say the right thing, and it bothered her if she hurt someone’s feelings. But sometimes now she acts like she doesn’t give a rip. I’ve told her people think she’s being rude, but she won’t listen to me. I worry about it. I don’t think she hears how she sounds.” (page 48-49)
So now, we begin to get the idea that these changes are real, after all. They’re not just something that makes her hit one wrong button, or even run away from a smoke alarm. The way she talks, dresses, interacts … all of them have undergone subtle changes in the last year. Xenia has always been a bit of an oddball, but she was a lovable oddball. And at least willing to try to please people. It seems that a year of junior high school — and perhaps the company with a group at school that are rough around the edges — have eroded some of her goodwill.
Just as well, then, that she made a deal with Fr. Andrew. But as for what it is, or how it will work itself out, we’ll have to wait and see.
Monday: Chapter 4, 5 and 6 — Xenia’s deal and her internet blackout
Wednesday: Gaming culture, part 2 — What we get from computer games