"You never listen to normal music," Penny whines at me as I hunch over my computer.
"I didn't know music could be normal or strange."
"You know what I mean. I can't understand a word they're saying."
"I'm not surprised, unless you've been studying Japanese."
"But you don't speak Japanese either. Or German. Or Norwegian or Gaelic--"
"I do know Gaelic."
She ignores me. "The only songs you listen to in English are those ye oldee English crap."
"I like those songs. They tell stories. There's more to music than understanding the words. And sometimes a message is more than whining about a broken heart."
She huffs, and gives up.
"I don't understand you," Soren says as I shrug out of my jackets from the winter cold and my rosary dangles around my neck, like always.
"What do you mean?"
"You're so...smart. You're rational, and objective, and...and stuff. But I don't ever see you without that on."
"Does faith scare you?"
"That's a pretty deep question. But the majority of intellectual people I know are either atheists or unsure."
"Well, if you want to believe and you're rational, Catholicism is kind of the way to go. They don't turn a blind eye to evolution, and they hold the stance that science is a way of coming to know the mind of God."
"Please, Soren, don't. Just don't. Some people don't need it. But I do."
"We need to talk," Soren says as he takes me by the wrist and leads me into his dorm room, away from the party two doors down. His drinks make his hands more desperate. He needs a haircut; strands fall around his hazel eyes and my head swims.
"Something doesn't...doesn't add up with you."
"What was the book you wouldn't let me look at today? You don't keep a journal."
"It's not my journal. I haven't even looked at it, either."
"Then how do you know whose it is?"
"She gave it to me. But I'm not supposed to look in it yet."
"How do you know?"
"It's...complicated, okay? It's just complicated."
"You say that so much."
"It's because things are complicated."
"Is that why you won't even give me a cha --"
"I -- I'm sorry, I just -- I...Somebody hurt you...didn't they, Celie?"
"Yes," I choke. "And no. Always, and never. Chasing, and running. It's..."
"Complicated. I know."
"Don't be sorry. You're always sorry. Not everything is your fault, you know."
"Yes it is."
"No, it isn't."
My face is in his hands now.
"I've ruined your birthday, haven't I?"
"But I made you upset."
"No. I make me upset. You make me better."
Then he's kissing me and -- god help me -- I'm kissing him. He's warm and soft and familiar and solid against my shaking body.
He says, "What are you so afraid of?"
I say, "Everything."
"Everything's been quiet," Violet says as I set my purse on the counter and flop on the couch, exhausted from the flight.
"Where'd you get that?"
"The bruises on your arm."
"Dropped my phone under the couch."
"Yes. I did."
I don't push it. I know better.
"How were finals? You were dead to the world for like a week. Must've been studying like a beast."
"I was. I got honors, though. First time ever."
"I'm sure your father was happy about it."
"Yeah, as far as I know."
"Are you gonna go back to see him?"
"For Christmas, but not for long."
"What about New Year's?"
"We'll figure it out."
"We always do."
"It's good to be home."