Lennon Rose has a boy locked in the trunk of her car. I feel like I should be more surprised, honestly. I’m understandably horrified, of course, but not entirely shocked considering how she has changed since leaving Innovations Academy. How we’ve all changed.
The sun beats down on my arms, my skin growing hot while beads of sweat dot my hairline. Lennon Rose and I stand in the driveway of the small cottage while Rosemarie and Leandra wait inside—eating cookies. I brush away a bead of sweat as it drips down my temple.
Outside the cottage, I’m surrounded by a garden of exotic and poisonous flowers—surrounded by their intoxicating scent, their threat of danger. But right now, nothing in this world feels more dangerous than the girl in front of me.
I swallow, and the sweet taste in the air tickles my tongue, numbs my lips. I focus again on Lennon Rose. When I do, she smiles brightly.
“What have you done?” I ask. She feigns offense.
“Mena, it’s what he deserves,” Lennon Rose replies, standing taller. “He hurt you. He’s hurt others. He shouldn’t get away with it.”
“I understand that,” I say, glancing at the trunk as Garrett Wooley whimpers inside, “but the authorities were going to handle this. Garrett and his friends were exposed. The police—”
“You think the police would have investigated local-boy-Garrett’s numerous heinous acts?” she asks curiously. “How about the courts? Tell me honestly: Do you believe these boys would have seen any real repercussions? Probation? Not jail time, not with a future like his to protect.” She bangs on the roof of the trunk, startling me. “You know I’m right,” she adds fiercely.
Thing is… I do know she’s right. The chances of Garrett or any of the other boys facing punishment for their behavior are low. Meanwhile, the girls at Ridgeview Prep have been harassed out of school, targeted online. Their bodies and self-esteem have paid the price, but the boys… well, the boys have their whole lives ahead of them.
No, in truth, the most likely scenario is a few weeks of outrage, a few lost scholarships for kids who didn’t need them in the first place. After that, the assailants will return to their daily lives, the proud survivors of a “witch hunt.” Hell, they might even have a bright future in politics.
“Well, you can’t keep him in the trunk,” I murmur, unable to win the argument, “so what are you going to do with him? Kill him?”
Lennon Rose gasps. “No,” she says. “There’s no need for that kind of violence. I’m not a man. He’s our guest,” Lennon Rose explains, flattening her palm against the trunk. “We’re going to show him a better way. But first he has to stop being hysterical.” She leans close to the car to say the last part, and at first, Garrett quiets. But then there is a series of loud bangs as he beats on the trunk, telling Lennon Rose that he’ll rip her apart the first chance he gets. She giggles and shakes her head, her blond hair swiping over her shoulders.
“No offense,” I tell Lennon Rose, “but I don’t think he’s searching for a better way. The current system seems to benefit him just fine.” I pause. “Aside from you locking him in the trunk, of course.”
“He’ll be convinced,” she says, without missing a beat.
“How are you going to do that?” I ask.
“Not me,” Lennon Rose says. “Rosemarie. This isn’t just about Garrett. Rosemarie has a plan. She only needs a few… subjects. And I thought he was perfect for it.” She taps her fingernails on the trunk. “He’s so stereotypically evil, right?” She laughs. “I’m curious if there’s anything beneath his privileged veneer. Let’s tear him open and find out.”
Is there anything inside him? I’ve looked into Garrett’s eyes and found nothing but hatred for me, hatred for girls and women in general. Can there be a decent person underneath when there is so much cruelty and malice toward a group of people? Does it matter if he’s nice to his friends or brothers when he also wants to hurt and control girls?
“And if he can’t be fixed?” I ask. “What then?”
“We can be very persuasive,” Lennon Rose says simply. She looks back at the trunk, examining it with a bored expression despite the fact there is boy inside.
Lennon Rose told me that Rosemarie made an adjustment in her programming that took away her fear and guilt, but what if… What if it also took away her humanity? Although our brains are metal, our bodies are still human. Our hearts. That has to count for something.
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