As usual, Harry was missing the point. It was not why it was done, it was the way he did it. I told him so and he just shook his head in that "Ylaine knows so much and yet she knows nothing" way and I wanted to kick him. Hard. "I know what you're doing," I told Harry, "and it's going to stop."
Crossing through the lobby, I spotted Pavel sitting on one of the couches with a man I had not seen before, talking. They seemed busy with their conversation, which was fine, because I was busy with mine.
"And what is that, Ylaine? What, pray tell, am I doing, oh great and almighty one?"
"You're being condescending," I informed him, and he barked in laughter.
"That's rich. I'm being condescending? Ylaine, have you never listened to a single word coming out of your own mouth?"
I could hear the mumble of Pavel's conversation in the background. There was a note of concern in his voice, but as it didn't concern me, I ignored it. "Do you seriously think you're my equal?"
Harry stopped and put his hands on his hips. I had said something to make him truly angry for a change. Pleased with myself, I kept walking, intending on leaving him to catch up at the door, but a noise stopped me. It was almost like a creaking, a choked-out painful mix of whimper and bleat. It was followed by a quick, high-pitched, gasping scream, and Pavel's voice raising to a shout: "Mitka!"
Harry and I both turned, our petty disagreement forgotten in favor of the commotion. I suspected we would revisit the topic later. The man Pavel was speaking with had bent over and was clutching his head. There was terror in his voice as he cried painfully in short bursts, rising in intensity with each passing moment. Pavel could only repeat, "Mitka! Mitka! Что случилось? " and clamp his hands on the man's shoulders.
He truly screamed then, a horrible sound that prompted Harry to move to try and help. I decided that was probably the "right" thing to do and followed, sighing. The sooner this was dealt with, the sooner we could get on with the shopping trip. Just one time I would have liked to make it out of the hotel without some form of drama en route.
Whatever was wrong, Pavel's friend seemed to be in great pain, which bored me. Humans were so susceptible to pain. The slightest bit of discomfort seemed to them a world-shattering event. Perhaps if they all came into this world in as excruciating a process as I myself had they would have some perspective on the matter. "Dmitry!" Pavel yelled, loud and firm in a way that would have snapped most people out of their anguish. It did not help.
Dmitry screamed out, "Сделать он исчезнет! Сделать он исчезнет!"
Pavel looked at Harry and I. "I don't know what wrong!" He sounded genuinely worried, which was a new emotion from him. Usually he was worried in that sort of half-concerned, "it'll turn out fine" way.
"I'm sure it's nothing," I muttered.
Harry glared at me for a moment, thoroughly disgusted by my inhumanity, and crouched down to help. So now you see me as I truly am, I thought, deriving a measure of petty satisfaction for proving yet again that I did not belong grouped in the same category as everyone else because I was an inhuman monster.
It is a difficult thing to surprise me, but those words, eking out from the anguished man, did.
Apparently, the words made Harry think of me, because he looked at me. So it was true. All that pretending I was somehow normal, pretending to treat me like any other person. Fury rose in my chest. In the end, he did think I was a freak.
"Stop thinking that!" I shouted at Harry, stamping my foot.
"Oh my God," said Pavel, realizing what had happened. He grabbed Dmitry's arm and Dmitry screamed anew. "Help me get him out of here!"
"I don't--" Harry tried, but I knew it was the truth.
It was like someone had punched the wind out of me. My lips trembled and my eyes watered. I dropped my purse and ran.
They finally managed to pull Dmitry out into the deserted street and the terrible pain seemed to lift, Dmitry's screams reducing to weak sobs as he lay curled up on the pavement. "Should I call Jack?" asked Harry.
"No," said Pavel, pulling Dmitry into his arms like a child. "I'll take care of it." He looked at the hotel doors with a frown. "He must have read her mind. Can you imagine? She has everything in the universe stored up there."
"Damn," said Harry sympathetically.
Dmitry mumbled something in Russian into Pavel's shirt and Pavel smoothed Dmitry's hair in comfort. A crowd of people gave Dmitry a headache. A single mind with the wealth of information Ylaine possessed must have felt like a building being dropped on his head. It was a pain Pavel could not imagine even in his most torturous dreams. "Go on," he said to Harry. "I think the worst is over." Harry hesitated a moment, then disappeared into the hotel to go find Ylaine.
"I don't want to be psychic any more," Dmitry said.
"I know." Dmitry had never wanted to be psychic, but tried to use his gift in a way that helped people as if somehow that justification made it worth enduring all the pain it caused him.
"I mean it." He sniffled. "I hate tears."
"You never cry. That's not good, you know." Pavel's tone lightened, trying to stir in some degree of hope for Dmitry to cling to. Dmitry fell silent, a few convulsive shakes still slipping through. Then he covered his face and cried in earnest until his sister arrived.
I would have tried to go somewhere Harry would not find me, but in the end my room was the only place that truly felt like a sanctuary to me. It must have been several minutes later that Harry arrived, but it felt very sudden. When he knocked on the door I jumped.
I did not answer. This never worked.
"I know you're in there. Open the door."
"Go away." This also never worked.
"I have your bag." I had dropped it in the lobby, Harry had picked it up. My makeup was in it, and my tampons, and while I had more of those things in my bathroom, it suddenly seemed very important to get back what was outside.
Harry did not try to force his way into the room, he just held out my purse to me and I took it. Then he asked, very sincerely, "May I come in?"
It took me a long moment to answer, "Only if you think I'm a freak." I wanted to be unreasonable, and I wanted Harry to be unreasonable, too. He didn't take my bait, for which I was somewhat grateful.
"Those weren't my thoughts, Ylaine."
I knew that, of course I knew that, but it was an uglier truth than I wanted to admit. I wanted them to be his thoughts more than anything, and not simply because it would justify my treatment of him.
"Please let me in."
So I stepped aside and he entered, and I sat back down on the floor where I had been before he came knocking and picked at the fraying drawstring of my purse. He sat down next to me with his arms resting on his knees.
"You don't think you're better than me, do you," he said, voice low and raspy.
There was very little point in lying to him about what he knew already, but it was still hard to admit anything. All I could manage was a nugatory, "Nn." The oh sound didn't even form.
That was an easier question. "People like you. You're smart." He snorted faintly, as he always did when someone tried to tell him he was intelligent. There was one other thing, the fact that he was afraid of nothing, but I kept it to myself for the moment.
"Ylaine, I'm not smart--"
It made me so angry when he said that. I growled under my breath.
"--and I'm not perfect and I'd wager anything I've done things ten times more terrible than you'll ever do. I'm from a poor neighborhood and I beat people up for a living. I've even killed a few. That said, there is absolutely no reason you should think you're the monster in this room, because you are a good person and people love you."
I wanted him to keep talking, so I prompted him to continue, asking, "What was it like to kill a person?"
"Terrible," said Harry flatly. "The first time, I threw up. And the second. And the third. You don't know what evil is until you've watched someone's life end in front of your eyes because of something you did. Your knife, your fist, your gun." I wondered how many people he had actually killed. His criminal record had never officially listed any murders, as there had never been enough evidence to pin one on him, and after his death the police no longer bothered to try. Several of his associates had tried to use him as a convenient scapegoat because he was not there to defend himself, but all of them eventually went down for crimes of their own. Probably at least a few of their claims were true, but there was little tangible justice to be found in prosecuting a dead man with no real assets.
There was something else he had said, something I dearly wanted to know. "Do you love me?" When he did not answer, I looked at him, demanding a response with my glare, but he was now totally clammed up and avoiding eye contact. "Do you love me!"
He stood up and put his hand on the door handle. It was his own logic I wanted to use against him. "If I am deserving of it, you are, too," I informed him, determined there be no argument on the subject. He opened the door.
"Have a good day," he said, and stepped out, pulling the door quickly shut behind him.
Have a good day? Have a good day!? I kicked the door as hard as I could. What kind of an answer was that? "I hate you!" I yelled, fully aware he could hear me in the hallway. I kicked the door again. I could have sworn, but such words simply never occur to me in the moment. Only long afterwards when there is no point to them any more.
I was alone in my room, staring at the closed door, wondering where he would go, what he would do. He had many friends, many sanctuaries, and was not so predictable. Probably he would go to Jack. "I love you," I quietly said to the door. Even if he had been standing on the other side with his ear pressed to the wood, he would not have heard me. "You came back for me." And then you left.