Chapter ten of Xenia the Warm-hearted contains some meaningful conversations and ends with a shocking development. The next chapter deals totally with the immediate results of that. Let’s start with the chatty stuff — less stressful that way.
Poor Xenia can’t catch a break. She went through the humiliating experience of blurting out a spoiler to a roomful of mystery-lovers, and she doesn’t even get to just fall into bed afterwards. We’ve heard a little about this guy that Xenia used to hang out with. He didn’t come off very likable in the text exchange Xenia had with him back in chapter four, and he doesn’t sound a lot better on the phone. Giggly, rude, self-centered. But what was his reason for calling? All we have to go on is his cryptic question: “Do you think you’re a good person? Or a bad person?”
If he hadn’t gotten Xenia into the habit of assuming that he is just trying to prank her, she might actually try to answer the question. As it is …
She still wasn’t sure if he was serious and waited to see how he would respond. But the silence went on too long, and she felt her patience slip away. “Look, it’s really late right now. Do you think we can talk about this another time?”
A second or two passed before he said yes. (page 160)
If you’re thinking that just has to mean something later on, you’d be right.
Much easier to talk with Vanessa, who can always be trusted to get to the heart of things and be straightforward with her opinions. She finds out what happened at the meeting and can’t sugar-coat things for Xenia — she blew it. But she leads her through some other reflections as well. Xenia usually needs a translator to help her understand what other people are saying, and so it’s helpful that Vanessa steps in. It offers us all a chance to step back from the younger half of the Society and try to assess what’s going on. There aren’t a lot of answers right now, but at least, she can set Xenia straight on a couple things.
“Why did she ask whether I thought the house was too warm for Charlie or what temperature he was or whatever? Who does that?”
There was a muffled laugh on the other end of the phone.
“Yeah, well, … about that,” Vanessa replied, making an obvious effort to stay serious. “When she asked you if he was hot, she was asking you if he was cute or not.” (page 162)
I just love that Xenia was so clueless she got that wrong. It’s exactly the type of mistake I would’ve made at her age. I was never as worldly as the other teenaged girls — a fact that both mortified and pleased me.
Maggie and Abigail
It’s up to Maggie and Abigail to allow Xenia more of a chance to put the events in a different light. In case we thought Xenia had stopped thinking about the job of fixing what’s broken about her interactions, we see that that’s not so. Watching how easily Maggie shows concern for her brothers and sisters, Xenia’s guilty conscience flares up.
Maggie gave her such a searching look that Xenia felt as though she needed to explain. “That question I asked earlier, about the fire alarm? Well, that happened in the social hall a few weeks ago, remember? It was just a false alarm, but I didn’t know that. When the alarm went off, I left. Just me. I didn’t think of anyone else, and Father told me I almost knocked some little kids down. My brain said, ‘Leave,’ so I left. That’s not the kind of thing a motherly person would do.”
“Oh. But …” Maggie stopped, uncertain how to argue the point. “But I mean, you just forgot or something, right?”
“Well, yeah. But it’s not something you would’ve forgotten, is it?” (page 173)
And as for Abigail, she seems to have a great deal to communicate, but she hasn’t been feeling well, and it shows. There are things that are coming through between the lines. It seems as if Abigail’s unusual insight is working overtime. But also, she has just been more and more impacted physically, mentally and emotionally by whatever is going on. And it leads to that very unhappy ending to the chapter, where our dear Abigail falls down the stairs(!)
I was surprised how hard it was to write this scene, and the degree to which it traumatized me afterwards. I knew that it was going to happen, of course. I had always needed Abigail’s special gifts to be dialed up in this book (for reasons that become apparent at the end), and in order for that to be so, it seemed logical somehow for her to be seriously ill. My calculation was that if the physical world wasa little out of focus, it would be easier to see what is usually unseen. So the stage was set, and it figured that Abigail’s ongoing ailment would come to a crisis point. I just felt sorry to have to do it to her.
In chapter 11, we find out what happened after Abigail’s fall — and thank goodness, the only injury is a broken arm. Now, finally, Abigail will have to begin to get real care to find out what is going on with her, since she can’t hide it from her parents anymore.
But then, in walks the feckless Mr. Rogers — brash and clumsy as ever. It goes without saying that there is no acceptable reason to follow someone into a hospital room without their permission. Especially if you’re a grown man and that someone is a teenaged girl. But that’s what he does, stupidly mistaking it for a considerate gesture. But after he leaves, Xenia doesn’t even have a chance to shake it off before Abigail makes a curious pronouncement.
A voice next to her disturbed her thoughts, and she had to ask Abigail what she said.
“I said, that man was lying,” Abigail repeated, crunching on the ice in a contemplative way.
Xenia’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
Abigail turned mild blue eyes on her. “Well, you know how it is. You can always tell when someone is lying … you know?”
“No,” Xenia answered, astonished into blunt honesty. (page 181)
If you’re a mystery fan, you know a hook when you see it. This is a little moment you’ll want to remember. Xenia definitely does.
As a little “programming note,” I should mention that my husband and I have been down with a bad flu for days. I just got test for coronavirus yesterday, and I’m hoping to eliminate it as a possibility. But whether it is or not, I may find that I have to postpone some of these blog entries, depending on my energy level. So for now, I won’t put a deadline date on when the next one will appear. I would invite all my read-along friends to check the Facebook page — I always post there when a new one goes up. Thanks for reading!
Coming up next:
Chapters 12 & 13 — Another “fun-filled” Society meeting; news about Blakkdogg; some very necessary perspective from Fr. Andrew
Chapter 14 & 15 — Xenia gets help on her mission. We finally find out what the Weeks treasure is. Another unhappy ending to a Society meeting.