Chapter Seventeen – Calm Before the Storm
Bethany and Xavier are now joined at the hip.
Although we made a conscious effort not to disconnect from everyone around us, at times it just couldn’t be helped. We even tried allocating specific times to spend with other people, but when we did, the minutes seemed to drag and our behaviour felt so contrived that we inevitably gravitated back together within the hour.
Yes, because that’s healthy. They talk in the cafeteria, and the topic turns to the elephant in the room – the fact that Bethany might have to return to Heaven at any time.
Xavier turned to look at me, his turquoise eyes dark, his mouth narrowed into a hard line. “They, whoever they are, shouldn’t have control over our lives,” he said. “I’m not about to lose you. I’ve been through that before, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
OK, so Bethany is worried. She does say that there’s nothing to be done about the situation. What she doesn’t really do is respond to Xavier’s little speech up there, at least not in a way you would expect. Let’s have a look at this, shall we? Bethany is an angel (a rubbish angel, but still). Angels love God, and serve Him. What Xavier is proposing is that she should not follow Heaven’s orders – in effect rebelling against God. Bethany should be horrified and frightened by the very thought, no matter how strongly she feels about Xavier.
This is one of the major problems with Halo, I feel. The author seems to forget that she’s dealing with angels – beings who aren’t human and don’t necessarily have the same background and motivations as human characters. So far, you could take all the angel stuff out of the book and have it be about a girl from a strictly religious family without it changing much at all.
Bethany mentions that she hasn’t seen so much of Molly lately, but that her friend has been accepting of Bethany’s infatuation.
While Xavier and Bethany are walking into town, they see Ivy being hit on by a student from the school. He’s wearing a backwards baseball cap, so we know he’s a jerk.
I’d never seen my sister look so flustered. The boy had her cornered; she clutched a shopping bag with one hand and nervously tucked her hair behind her ear with the other, clearly seeking a means of escape.
Xavier distracts the guy, telling him that the water polo coach wants to see him, and Ivy gives him a grateful look as he leaves her alone.
The angels are all bad at technology (despite that proclamation of Bethany’s that ‘we only had to do something once before we were perfect at it.’ Any reason that wouldn’t apply to IT skills, hmm?) so they get Xavier to help them, having him teach Gabriel and Ivy how to use email.
And of course, he’s been keeping a close eye on poor, fragile little Bethany.
Entrusted to look after me by Gabriel and Ivy, Xavier was determined to keep his word and convince them of his moral fiber. He was the one who reminded me to drink plenty of water and the one who deflected questions about my family from curious classmates. He even took it upon himself to answer for me one day when Mr Collins asked why I hadn’t managed to finish my homework by the due date.
“Beth has a lot of other commitments at the moment.”
Wow. That right there is… ok. I’m going to have to break this down.
I already had a mini-rant last chapter about how dumb it is that Bethany needs a bodyguard, so let’s skip over the first sentence.
Reminding her to drink water… this I think is the return of that strangely popular trope of the hero telling the heroine to eat. I am pretty sure this is also a Twilight reflection – Bella was always having to be reminded to eat, drink, breathe regularly, etc.
Now, imagine you’re one of the other kids at Bryce Hamilton. There’s a new girl at the school, and trying to be friendly, you try and make small talk with her. However, every time you do, her ever-present boyfriend butts in, answering the question for her and making it clear that he doesn’t want you to talk to her. What would you infer about their relationship? Have a think about that.
As for the part with the teacher, well, here’s a mini-spitefic for you:
Mr Collins: Might I congratulate you on your ventriloquism skills, Miss Church? Speak to me after class, please. Without Mr Woods.
Xavier also controls who Bethany associates with, warning her away from a boy who talks to her because ‘he’s off with the green fairy most of the time.’ He drinks absinthe? No, he’s ‘good friends with Puff the Magic Dragon’. Could have just said ‘pothead’, rather than mix your drink and drug euphemisms.
And because this chapter wasn’t already stuffed full of fail, we have a G-rated rape!
There’s a group of boys hanging out in the parking lot. The three of them flank Bethany, and one of them, Kirk, tells her ‘[he’d] like to get to know [her] better – if [she] knows what [he] means’. When she tries to get away from him, he grabs her by the shoulder.
Of course, this is when Xavier shows up, angrily telling them to get away from her.
He was significantly broader in the chest than Kirk, and I saw the other boy do a quick evaluation of his strength.
‘Let it go, man,” one of his friends advised and then lowered his voice. “That’s Xavier Woods.”
Intimidated by Xavier’s sheer blinding manliness, the boys leave.
I called this a G-rated rape scene, because lets face it; that’s what it is. A very mild example, but the elements are there: the sexual threat, Bethany’s discomfort, Kirk’s insistence.
And no matter how toned down, rape is not something you should throw into your stupid book just so you can show off the male love interest and live out some distressed damsel fantasy. It’s a way, way too common trope and one that needs to die.
Bethany is totally ok with Xavier’s control of her life, though, because of course he knows so much more about humans than she does. There’s more stupid stuff where he gets her to eat a cereal bar, even – and I swear I am not kidding – doing the airplane thing with flying it into her mouth.
Adornetto, you have issues.
Xavier tells her stories about his family, including the argument between his mother and his eldest sister about the location of his sister’s upcoming wedding.
Xavier chuckled as he told me the story, amused by the irrational antics of the females in his family.
Oh yes, those silly females, with their irrational antics!
I’m starting to really dislike Xavier. Y’know, in case you couldn’t tell.
And then they start talking about introducing Bethany to Xavier’s family, and agree that she should go for dinner at theirs on Sunday.
Cue dramatic rainstorm. Xavier mentions that there is a new student at the school, on exchange from London. He’s rumoured as a troublemaker who’s been expelled from three schools already, but has rich parents. He’s in Beth’s class, and Xavier suggests that she might be able to help him. You sure you want to let your precious fainting flower near someone like that, Xavier? Troublemakers are ok, but she’s not allowed to try and help the potheads?
Speaking of which, Bethany is completely shirking her helping-people duties by this point in the book.
And we have a very dramatic paragraph to end. The change in the weather is Symbolic, you see. Paraphrasing, Bethany says that everything’s been mostly hunky-dory so far, but there’s a bump in the road coming up.
The bump came all the way from England and had a name: Jake Thorn.
Next chapter, the plot shows up. Sort of.