Now Jenny is chanting, not out loud, chanting in her head, chanting for the last half hour.
Rain’s all right, rain’s all right.
She follows the road up into the cloud and within minutes the dash is muddy and her Dijon-yellow blouse has turned to glue. Beneath her the Beast hacks and coughs, protesting the incline, and she flexes her feet against the wheel-wells to keep blood in them. Outside, warm bubbles of air drift past like clear lenses, and within them she glimpses the hypnotic curvature of mountains far below, their waves of vegetation rising like steam. Rain’s all right. She is deep in the Blue Ridge now, at the edge of the dream she has had each night since accepting Penland’s invitation.
The first night it came, she lay in her old bed following six nervous hours spent packing, struggling to fall asleep, at last licking her fingers and sliding her pajama bottoms down in an effort to slow her mind. As always she dreamt of Jeremy, his delicate collarbones and bony hips, his long hair smelling of the Arboretum. In the dream they are together again, traveling side by side in the Beast; he has agreed to come with her to Penland, and when they arrive she chases him through the grass to the top of Resident’s Hill over the main studios, capturing him between her legs.
Then a rain begins to fall, and without warning the dirt under Jeremy’s back starts to soften and liquefy, sucking his pale shoulders down into the earth. He screams, but Jenny sets her knees squarely on his ribs and slaps his hands away until at last she kneels naked and alone on a bare shield of mud. She feels the rain move off then, and looking around, confronts the dripping underbelly of a gargantuan ship’s bow which has suddenly appeared, bloated and ancient, sheltering her from the heavy rains that blanket the School and the surrounding valley. She huddles there each night, staring out at the wet sheets, perched beneath the hull or pacing its soggy lengths, watching her bare skin turn slowly blue until morning.
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