Silenced: Chapter 1, Part 1: Wintermas, Part Deux
Keeping up the tradition of Soon, Silenced begins the story proper during the Stepola/Decenti celebration of Wintermas. Last year at this time, Paul was an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who also happened to be an atheist. This year, everything has changed, because Paul has “undergone the greatest transformation a man could“: he is now an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who happens to be a born-again Christian.
…there were days when he wondered how long he could go on. That wasn’t like him. He had been military, a man’s man…
Heh, therein lies much of the problem, methinks. Atheist or Christian, Paul has never been a good fit for a world in which women are the equals of men.
…he could think of nothing he would rather do than tell his wife and children and include them in his new life. But he could not. Without knowing in advance Jae’s reaction, or whether she would tell her father, Paul could not risk it.
Yet Paul is, of course, insufficiently self-aware to realize that had he only treated his wife like a human being over the ten years of their marriage, they might have a trusting enough relationship that he could tell her anything and feel safe.
But Paul is too busy patting himself on the back for being a New Man:
For all Jae knew, their reconciliation and renewed attempts to repair the marriage were her ideas. He was finally ready and even equipped to make the changes, but she had to wonder why. If only he could tell her.
Like last year, the Stepolas are spending Wintermas at Jae’s parents’ home in Washington, D.C.
Oh, and Jae’s brother and his wife are there, too.
What, didn’t you know that Jae had a brother? Well, neither did I, because he is not so much as mentioned in the first book, even during the Wintermas celebration.
He’s Jae’s older brother.
Now, I may have mentioned this before, but I am usually not that great at figuring out the endings of stories. I rarely guess the killer’s identity, for example. Yet the character of Berlitz Decenti is so clunkily inserted, his age so ham-fistedly emphasized, that I called exactly what would happen in the final chapter.
And it did.
Okay, I’ve given you all the clues. Any guesses?
Back to the fraught Wintermas celebration: Paul is all butthurt because he can’t celebrate what he wants to celebrate:
…he wished he could sing what was in his heart, that he could pray aloud, that he could celebrate the birth of Christ rather than “the bounty of the season.”
All the while he was privately celebrating the events in Los Angeles, but of course that could never come out.
Well, yeah, I guess. I mean, Paul would seem pretty awful, celebrating the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women, and children.
And bear in mind that it has been months since the dessication. And Paul is still celebrating the death and destruction.
What a nice guy. What a New Man.
And how suspicious of his wife, who has found it in her heart to forgive him for his serial cheating and years of emotional abuse:
For Jae’s part, she seemed genuinely appreciative of the new Paul. She commented more than once about his getting along with the difficult personalities and his attentiveness to her and the kids.
“It’s not me,” Paul wanted to say. But all he could do was smile. How could he know if she was genuine? Was she onto him, looking for ways to trip him up?
Huh, it’s almost as if Paul has given Jae no reason to trust him, ever. But again, Paul doesn’t make any connection between his past treatment of Jae, and his distrust of her now. He simply puts Jae into the same box as everyone else in his life—someone who might be “onto him.”
Paul spends the evening in the den with Ranold and Berlitz, and we see that Berlitz is not to be trusted, what with being short and “spiky-haired.” But even if Ranold and Jerry Jenkins are no fans of his, I kinda like him: he is good at his job (salesman), and seems to have a decent relationship with his third wife,
Margene Aryana. He’s also witty and unafraid to stand up to Ranold (much less afraid than Paul, that’s for sure).
Ranold seemed embarrassed when his son was gone [to bed]. “Don’t let Connor grow up to be like that,” he said.
Paul couldn’t imagine it.
I bet he couldn’t. I imagine Paul “shooting a double take.”
“Connor? Oh, Connor. My son. Sure. Of course. Him.”
Suspecting Ranold of also being Onto Him, Paul heads off to the comfort of his despised wife’s bed.
But more on that next time.
Welcome back, Paul Stepola. I think you were actually kinda missed.