Part 1 is here. (I posted this more than two weeks ago, but it turns out it was just saved as a draft. Oops.)
“When you were a child,” Garth began unsteadily, “did you ever misbehave?”
“Our observation doesn’t extend that far,” Johnathan piped in, although his attention remained focused on his blade.
Garth shrugged at Lily helplessly, hoping she wouldn’t judge him by the company he keeps and begging her to just answer the question. At least that’s what he thought he was doing; Lily just saw even sadder puppy-dog eyes, which caused her to take the requested action anyway.
“I guess so,” she said. “Not much, but, you know, who doesn’t?”
“And when you did, were you punished?”
Brief terror flickered across Lily’s face. “Yes,” she declared.
Garth noted her steel gaze. “No, no, nothing like that. Just, did, well, did your parents ever do anything to make you mad?”
Lily replied immediately. “All the time.”
“Did you punish them?”
“No. I was a kid. Kids don’t punish parents.”
Garth nodded his encouragement. “All perfectly normal. But did you ever wonder why kids don’t punish parents?”
“No.” Lily considered this question. “I guess it’s because we punish them enough by our misbehavior.”
Johnathan put down the knife and dropped his face into his hands.
“What, that’s not right?” Lily panicked.
“No, no, no. I mean, yes. I mean, no. I mean…” Garth took a breath to compose himself. “It’s not bad, it’s just not right. You know?”
Lily shook her head, bewildered.
“It’s a mentality, a victim’s mentality. Right? You accept your parent’s misbehavior, and even justify it, even though they don’t extend you the same consideration?”
“I still don’t understand.”
Johnathan smiled at her warmly—the first warmth he’d demonstrated in her presence. “What Garth means is, forgiveness is what you do when you don’t have the power for revenge.”
“No,” Lily insisted. “No, that’s not… I mean, yeah, but…”
And her face erupted with the ecstasy of discovering a new world.
“My work here is done,” Johnathan declared. He sheathed his blade, and jauntily high-fived Garth on his way out of the room.
“Couldn’t have done it without you, buddy.”
Johnathan’s guffaws disappeared well after he did.
“He really is an okay person,” Garth explained. “Once you get to know him. And good at what he does.”
Garth looked around instinctively for something snide from his partner before it fully hit him that yes, he was alone. This realization provided the same agreeable awkwardness that Johnathan’s presence would have, a point that Garth knew he could bring up at the next meeting to make the fellow do a rare bit of squirming. It also put him into a familiar, if not calm, place to explain.
“I thought you realized,” he said with a goofy giggle. “He stabs people.”
“Oh,” Lily responded, nearly a minute later. She knew it was wrong, yet she suspected it was also right.
“He might slice, I guess. I’ve never really watched or asked. Probably slicing makes more sense, though. Would you need to sharpen the edge to stab?”
“Oh, you won’t need to stab anyone. Or slice or do anything violent. Reg is very clear on that. Not unless you want to.”
“I might want to,” Lily blurted, which she immediately followed by clasping her hands to her mouth.
“Don’t worry,” Garth assured her. “There will be plenty of time to decide that.”