He took his hands back. “Well, I did know you were a manipulative bitch,” he said.

Zahra smothered a laugh. I was surprised. I’d never heard him use the word before. I heard it now as a sound of frustration. He wasn’t going to leave. He was a last bit of home that I didn’t have to give up yet. How did he feel about that? Was he angry with me for almost breaking up the group? He had reason to be, I suppose.

“I don’t understand how you could have been like this all the time,” he said. “how could you hide your sharing from everyone?”

“My father taught me to hide it,” I told him.” He was right. In this world, there isn’t any room for housebound, frightened squeamish people, and that’s what I might have become if everyone had known about me–all the other kids for instance. Little kids are vicious. Haven’t you noticed?”

“But your brothers must have known.”

“My father put the fear of God into them about it. He could do that. As far as I know, they never told anyone. Keith used to play ‘funny’ tricks on me though.”

“So … you faked everyone out. You must be a hell of an actor.”

“I *had* to learn to pretend to be normal. My father kept trying to convince me that I was normal. He was wrong about that, but I’m glad he taught me the way he did.”

“Maybe you are normal. I mean if the pain isn’t real, then maybe—”

“Maybe this sharing thing is all in my head? Of course it is! and I can’t get it out. Believe me, I’d love to.”

— Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower, p. 194. (Grand Central Publishing, 2007 edition.) 

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