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a kiss with a fist is better than none

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Gideon sleeps through the Canaan Camp announcement. Like all the announcements, every morning. She only gets so many hours a night, so homeroom really is the perfect time to nap. There’s a warm spot in the back right corner, by the hissing bank of radiators nestled beneath the windows, and Gideon makes a beeline for it every morning. Gideon shrugs off her backpack, slumps into the chair, and tugs her hood over her head. Her eyelids are already drooping by the time an annoyed-looking Miss Simons turns on the TV, and she’s off to dreamland before the student anchors finish saying the date.

In the hallway, while she's at her locker trying to decide if she should go to math today, she hears students talking about it.

"Jonah should obviously apply," the girl at the locker next to Gideon's is saying, smacking loudly on gum. Gideon thinks her name is Sarah? Sally? "He'll definitely be selected."

"Just because you talk him up, doesn't mean he's ever going to leave his girlfriend for you," her friend sniffs.

Gideon slams her locker door with a bang that makes both students jump. "What're you talking about?"

"Canaan Camp," Sarah or Sally says, eyeing Gideon and frowning. "Didn't you listen to the announcements? A highly selective leadership camp. A team of two students is chosen from each school in the county and they spend all summer at First Estates."

Gideon snort-laughs. "Why the fuck would anyone want to do that?"

She can think of a hundred better things to do with her summer. Starting with nothing at all. Gideon thinks about burrowing into the sweaty pile of sheets and blankets piled up on her bed, sleeping until she's drunk off it.

Sarah-Sally's friend twirls a lock of hair around her index finger. "Because no matter what, if you're chosen, you get into your first-choice college. Well, that's the rumor anyway." She lowers her voice and edges closer, tightening her grip on the textbook she's clutching in her arms. "The last time they opened Canaan Camp was ten years ago, my cousin told me. Apparently the guy who owns it is this, like, super reclusive billionaire."

"Super weird is more like it. What do you even do when you get there?"

The two girls exchange shrugs. "It's not like my cousin went," Sally-Sarah's friend says defensively.

Gideon grunts and shoulders her backpack. "Sounds like a scam."

"You're just jealous," says Sally-Sarah. "You don't stand a chance of getting in."

"Because you're going to?"

Sally-Sarah flips her perfectly-coiffed blond hair over one shoulder. "Maybe. Better chance than you, anyway. Jonah could choose me as his teammate."

"Sure, if the camp's about who can suck him off the best in the girls' bathroom," Gideon says as she turns away. "Good luck!"

 

*

 

Gideon obviously doesn't go to math.

Every morning she thinks about going to math, as if she might actually go to math. She still has her math notebook, her calculator in the bottom of her bag. Some days she finds herself heading that way before she turns away. At this point, both she and Crux should know better. She's been on his shitlist for four years, ever since he caught her smoking outside his office window when she was a freshman, and it obviously didn't get any better when she turned up in his math class in September.

She was, of course, a shitty student. Crux hadn't liked that either.

They have an unspoken arrangement now. As long as Gideon stays out of his way, he won't try to get her suspended. Gideon has ducked, rolled, and jumped out of his path when she sees him lumbering down the hallways. It's worked — it's almost summer. If Gideon doesn't get into any more trouble, she'll be out of Drearburh in a few months, and absolutely nothing is going to get in her way. She turns eighteen in July — and while her foster mom Melanie has said Gideon can stay until she finds her own place — she doesn't want to stick around that long.

Maybe she'll join the army or something.

Outside, the ground is wet with spring rains, and Gideon has to skirt around the dumpster. She leans against the brick wall and lights a cigarette, taking a deep drag. Her phone will let her know when it's time to go back for English — but maybe Gideon won't go to that either today.

She notices Harrowhark Nonagesimus before Harrow sees her. Fucking great. Her least favorite person. They've known each other forever, and Gideon's loathed her for just as long. It's a mutual hatred, a simmering thing between the two of them that bubbles up every so often. Gideon savors it. They haven't talked much since school started in September — Gideon can't even remember the last time Harrow looked her in the eyes — but when you've moved as much as Gideon has, holding onto the familiar things becomes important.

So, maybe, in a way, Harrow's the most important thing to her.

But Gideon doesn't like to think about it like that. Instead she watches Harrow stalking across the concrete, squinting around walls and poking into corners. She looks like a pinched ferret with too much eyeliner, small and skinny, the sleeves on her oversized black shirt rolled up three times to expose knobby wrists and pale skin.

She's scowling. Gideon doesn't think she's seen Harrow with another expression.

"Griddle!" Harrow says when she finally notices Gideon.

Her eyes narrow at the cigarette Gideon's holding. Gideon drops it, still lit, onto the ground.

Oops.

Harrow stalks towards her, grinding the butt out with one Doc Martened heel. "I've been looking for you."

Gideon tries to lean her elbow on the lid of a nearby trashcan as she casually says, "Yeah?"

"And here you are, rolling in the trash. What a surprise."

"What do you want, Nonagesimus?" Gideon asks, already tired of this conversation.

Harrow folds her arms across her chest and tilts her head to look up at Gideon. Her face is white, like, actually white from the foundation Harrow cakes herself with. A line of angry-looking acne peeks out from beneath the powder, along the sharp point of her chin. Gideon can see the studs in Harrow's ears, outlining the curve, until they disappear beneath a greasy crop of Harrow's short dark hair. Gideon certainly wouldn't call herself fashionable by any stretch, but Harrow makes Gideon look, well, normal.

"Did you hear about Canaan Camp?"

It's not what Gideon's expecting. She doesn't know what she expected. "Yeah. What about it?"

"I assume you're not applying."

"No," Gideon says slowly.

"Naturally," Harrow almost hums. "I thought as much. I mean, what would you do at a university, I can't even begin to think. Unless they're giving out degrees for seducing girls."

"I think you feel that's insulting, but really it's a very good compliment," Gideon says, puffing out her chest a bit.

She doesn't even need to ask if Harrow's applying. Of course she is. Gideon knows it before the words leave her mouth. Harrowhark Nonagesimus may not need help getting into her first-choice college, but she'd certainly apply to anything that billed itself as a highly selective leadership camp. Harrow's an absolute slut for that kind of stuff. Awards and scholarships and anything that can tell Harrow how much better and smarter she is than everyone else. She's got her head so far up her own ass.

She doesn't even dignify Gideon with an answer. "You're going to apply," she says crisply.

Gideon lets out a bark of laughter. "Because you told me to? Not a chance."

Harrow shrugs. "Well, I don't like it either. It's not like you're my first choice of partner."

"Hang on, you're crazy if you think — first of all, I'm not applying. And secondly, I'm not applying with you." Gideon wants to laugh again. Harrow's utterly delusional now. But even so, there's a small flare of anger in her chest at Harrow's presumption. "Eat shit, Nonagesimus."

"I asked Ortus first, but he can't do it, so it has to be you."

"Ortus?!" Gideon explodes, more insulted now than ever. "Your first choice was that drip Ortus?! Isn't he permanently attached to his mother? I wouldn't be surprised if something else was going on there, let me tell you — I'm not saying it's incest, but I'm not not saying it's incest."

"They going on a Disney cruise this summer, just the two of them. Apparently they're celebrating her divorce. But, I thought, since your mother's dead — it's not like you're likely to be doing something with her, are you, Griddle?"

"Well, she's in welcome company with your mother," Gideon throws back. The bit about her dead mom stings though. Harrow always knows how to get under her skin.

Harrow makes a noise in her throat, like that was barely a comeback. It's true it wasn't Gideon's best work. "God, it's always exhausting talking to you. I'm not asking you to do this out of the goodness of your heart. I'm prepared to compensate you handsomely."

Gideon's about to say something exceedingly mean and creative and totally called for, but this stops her. "Like with money?"

Harrow rolls her eyes. "No, with cupcakes. Of course with money, imbecile."

"I like cupcakes," Gideon grumbles. Wary, she leans back against the wall. "Why would you want to be on a team with me? I'm pretty sure I'm failing math."

"You are failing math. I checked your grades after homeroom. You haven't gone to class in three weeks."

"I didn't give you permission to look at my — "

"Oh, use your brain, Nav! I hacked in," Harrow grinds out, nostrils flaring, looking somehow both bored and pissed off.

"Okay! Jesus, don't bite my head off. Anyway, if you've seen my grades, I don't know why you'd want to pick me as your teammate."

"Normally I wouldn't. Normally, you'd be the last person I'd pick as my teammate. Frankly, I'd pick a talking goat before I picked you, Griddle. No offense."

"Full offense, Nonagesimus — "

"Canaan wants their teams well-rounded. Physically and academically. I have the academic part in the bag, of course, but I admit that on the physical side, I could use a leg up."

"Then saw someone else's off and leave me alone — " Gideon starts, but she stops herself.

Gideon gets it. Harrow needs her. She starts to grin.

Harrow's expression shutters immediately. "Shut up," she says. "Shut up."

"I didn't say anything," Gideon says, the grin growing wider.

"Shut up!" Harrow says, two bright splotches of pink appearing in her cheeks. "I told you I'd pay. Five thousand for the application process. Then, if we get selected and we succeed at the camp, ten thousand more."

Gideon's eyes practically bug out of her head. She stares at Harrow, dumbfounded. "For...a fucking camp?"

"They only put it on once every ten years," Harrow says, her tone mild. But Gideon can see a kind of nervousness around her eyes. Damn, Harrow must really want this.

Gideon would never pay someone fifteen grand for something so stupid as this, but she doesn't have fifteen grand to pay anyone anything. She barely has twenty bucks, and half of that is probably in loose change. She always forgets just how obscenely rich Harrow is, even for Drearburh. It's all that dead people money her parents made. They owned a chain of funeral parlors — Gideon used to see the commercials on TV when she was a kid, and their billboards on the side of the highway when she was being shuttled to and from new foster families.

Fifteen grand though. She swallows. That would give her enough to get out of this town for sure.

"Fine," Gideon decides. "But — I have a few stipulations."

Harrow looks her over coolly. "All right."

"All right?" Gideon's thrown. She hadn't expected Harrow to actually let her bargain. She scrambles for something to say. "Uh. I want...six thousand for the application! And — pizza. All the pizza I can eat. If I want a pizza, you have to buy me one."

"A pizza."

"Multiple pizzas! With toppings. And not shitty ones, like mushrooms. Pepperoni and sausage."

Harrow turns up her chin. "Very well. All the pizzas you can eat, Griddle."

She sounds so stuck up, like it's so beneath her. Pizzas. What Gideon would really like is to punch Harrow in the face. She immediately regrets not making that one of her stipulations.

She'll keep the pizza request though.

Harrow takes a step back. "So we're agreed then. Meet me here after school. Don't be late."

She starts to walk off, and Gideon lets out the breath she didn't know she was holding.

"Any chance this camp might result in your bodily harm?" Gideon calls after her, hopeful.

Harrow doesn't turn around. Just flashes her middle finger at Gideon.

"A girl can dream," Gideon mumbles to the ground.

 

*

 

The House that Corpses Built, which is privately what Gideon calls Harrow's house, is one of those massive Victorian mansions on a street full of massive Victorian mansions. It's a fifteen-minute walk from school and Harrow is impatiently waiting for Gideon by the dumpsters as soon as the bell rings. After informing Gideon of her three-minute tardiness, Harrow takes off at a rapid clip. Like she's being chased. Gideon lets her. She could catch up with Harrow in like three steps, but she shoves her hands in her pockets instead and walks at a leisurely pace.

Gideon's only been here one other time, back when they were really young, and both playing in the youth soccer league. Well, Gideon played. She doesn't remember Harrow doing anything except read on the bench. But Harrow's parents were still alive then, and they had a pizza party after a particularly big game. Gideon had never seen a house so large in her life. The rooms seemed to extend on and on, a maze she lost herself in. She walked into a fancy study and stole a pen before an adult found her.

She might still have that pen.

The house is much shabbier than Gideon remembers it being. The lawn is shaggy-looking, overgrown with weeds thickly knotted through the grass. The windows are dirty, the paint peeling from the sides. In the driveway sits an old sedan with a grimy windshield. Gideon definitely doesn't remember it looking like this. But she follows Harrow up the front porch steps anyway, trooping obediently into the hall.

When Harrow shuts the door, all the light dims. Gideon blinks, trying to see in the dark. Shadowed shapes form in her vision.

She sneezes. It's dusty.

"Granny, I'm home! I've got a — uh — person with me!" Harrow calls into the cavernous space.

There's no response. Gideon's frankly shocked that Harrow considers her a "person." She trails after Harrow as they go upstairs, desperately hoping she won't trip on the steps. It's carpeted and soft beneath Gideon's worn sneakers.

"Don't touch anything," Harrow says as she opens the door of her room.

"What the everloving fuck," Gideon says as the door swings wide.

It must have been the master bedroom at one point, with crown moulding and an old fireplace. There are three windows in the back facing onto the yard. But there's no bed, just an enormous desk (Gideon belatedly recognizes it as the desk from the study downstairs) with a huge Apple monitor and bookshelves and what looks like a surgical steel table. Every surface is absolutely covered with papers and books. There are jars of preserved shit lining the shelves on the walls, and what might be a taxidermied cat in the corner.

What. The. Fuck.

"Well, come on," Harrow says, walking in.

"Yeah, I'm not going in there. Is that a dead cat?"

"It's just stuffed. Don't be stupid. Come inside." Harrow stands in the doorway.

"Actually, I feel like the Not Stupid thing to do would be to stay out here, thanks."

"Come in."

"Nope."

"Come inside the fucking room."

"No, thanks."

"I'm not paying you to stand in the hallway, Nav."

Gideon doesn't really see a way out of that one. "I — want a pizza. Extra large. Pepperoni."

Harrow rolls her eyes so hard, Gideon thinks they might fall out of their sockets. "Come in and shut up and I'll order you a pizza."

Gideon takes a careful step in as Harrow pulls out her phone. The room has an earthy smell, like Harrow hasn't aired in out in months. Looking at the dust gathered on the windowsills, she probably hasn't. There's only a singular old wooden swivel chair, the seat piled high with books and yellow legal pads covered with Harrow's cramped-looking scrawl. Fuck, does Harrow not even have a bed? Gideon has to turn to look around before she spies an unmade twin bed shoved into an alcove, almost a whole separate room off the main bedroom. Like an afterthought.

Gideon's not really sure where to sit. She carefully nudges a few scattered papers aside with the toe of her boot, taking a seat on the floor by the doorway. Harrow tosses her phone onto the desk.

"Your pizza's on its way," she says as she walks over to the monitor.

She jiggles the mouse and types something. Gideon glances at the taxidermied cat. Its glassy eyes stare back at her disconcertingly.

"Is this house haunted?" Gideon asks. "Because it looks fucking haunted."

"That's not a thing," Harrow says. She flips the monitor around so Gideon can see the application form. "Come on. We have to talk about what I'm going to write for your essay, and then we'll have to discuss what we'll talk about in the panel interview."

"Panel interview — !"

 

*

 

Gideon gets home that night well past ten. They haven't exactly "finished" for the evening, but Gideon's tired of fucking around on her phone while Harrow types with singleminded intensity, asking Gideon a question every so often. She's not exactly sure why Harrow even needs her there — she hardly thinks she's participating — even when Harrow makes Gideon stand against the wall so they can take photos of each other to submit with their application. It makes Gideon feel a bit of a prop, which she supposes she is. A well-paid, well-fed prop at least. Harrow ordered the pizza from the fancy Neapolitan place Gideon can never afford. Gideon still has two slices left, wrapped in aluminum foil Harrow's decrepit grandmother helped her locate in the cluttered kitchen.

(Seriously, that woman should be dead. Gideon swears she's a walking skeleton.)

And of course Harrow doesn't offer Gideon a ride home. Why would Harrow ascribe to conventional politeless? But the temperature outside isn't too cold and Gideon doesn't mind walking, so she puts on her headphones and braces herself for the hourlong trek across town.

"Okay, bye," Gideon says as she leaves Harrow's room.

Harrow doesn't say anything, brows furrowed, her face even more washed out than usual in the glare of the computer screen.

The light's still on the living room when Gideon unlocks the apartment door. Melanie's watching the local news and chewing loudly on what Gideon knows is nicotine gum. She's been trying to quit smoking since Gideon moved in two years ago, but she's never quite succeeded.

"Hey," Gideon says.

"Hey," Melanie says, muting the TV. "Where've you been?"

"Working on a project," Gideon says, which isn't a lie but isn't quite the truth.

Melanie gives a little nod. She doesn't care — not really — and that's fine with Gideon. It's probably Gideon's favorite thing about Mel. She's a deeply uncurious person, and she feels no need to maintain the charade that she's somehow Gideon's parent. Not in the emotional sense. It's a step up from some of Gideon's other foster parents, the ones that needed to micromanage Gideon's life. Melanie's just a rest stop for Gideon, a place to sleep and put her stuff before Gideon turns eighteen.

Before Gideon is finally free.

"Oh hey, I need you to sign this," Gideon says, unearthing the crumpled permission slip for Canaan Camp from her backpack pocket.

Mel takes it, skims the tiny text. "Field trip?"

"A camp. It's free," Gideon says. "It's just an application. I haven't gotten in or anything."

"You have to apply to camps now? Jesus Christ. What happened to just paying and showing up?" Melanie sighs and scribbles her signature at the bottom.

Gideon folds the paper up into fourths and shoves it into her pocket. They say their goodnights as Gideon heads towards the back of the small apartment to her bedroom. It's not much — Gideon just doesn't have much stuff — but it's fine. Serviceable. Mel bought her a cheap Ikea bed and matching dresser when Gideon moved in, and she uses two overturned milk crates as a nightstand. After six months, when it seemed like Gideon might stay for the long haul, she'd put up two free posters she'd gotten from school.

She opens the window onto the fire escape and leans her head out as far as she can to light her cigarette. The smoke curls into the dark. There's an old flowerpot of cigarette butts on the sill. Sometimes Gideon sifts through them to find something smokable when she's low on cash and needs a buzz.

Gideon thinks about Harrow. Probably still at work, mainlining coffee or cocaine or just thriving off her pure inhuman Harrowness.

Harrowhark? More like Harrowhag.

Oh my god, that's so good. That's so good. Gideon giggles to herself as she snubs out her cigarette.

She'll have to save that one for Harrow tomorrow. Harrow's gonna fucking hate it.

 

*

 

Gideon wishes she knew how to describe her relationship with Harrow. They're not friends. Not in any sense of the definition. But they're not strangers either. Enemies, maybe, but Gideon doesn't wish her dead. Not on good days anyway. She'd settle for a gentle maim.

What's the word to describe someone you once had to comfort after their parents died in a pretty gruesome murder-suicide in their morgue basement and they found the bodies, called the cops, and got tossed into state custody for two weeks? Oh, and then after their ancient grandmother came up from Florida, they proceeded to ignore you and pretend those two weeks never happened?

Because that's the word Gideon's looking for. Kind of niche, sure, but useful.

Sometimes when she looks at Harrow, Gideon can see the slender, bony form of Harrow's ten-year-old self, eyes like coal pits staring back at her.

Gideon remembers that night. She remembers sitting on the top landing of the stairs, watching through the railing as her foster dad opened the door to her social worker Aiglamene. It was after midnight — Gideon should've been asleep — but the doorbell had woken her up. There was the sudden cold fear around her throat. Was she going to have to leave again? Did this family also tell Aiglamene she was too difficult? But no, Aiglamene was standing there with her hands on Harrow's hunched shoulders.

"I'm so sorry to disturb you. Thank you for taking her on such short notice — "

Gideon heard the words drifting upstairs. She watched Harrow, pale and small in the foyer light, arms wrapped around herself. Harrow was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt with a smiley face on the front. She looked different from the Harrow Gideon was familiar with, someone who had always been in Gideon's periphery. Youth soccer, assemblies, reading by herself on the playground. That Harrow had looked self-assured, the way all rich kids looked. She always had new clothes, new shoes, new books.

This Harrow had shown up with a backpack and a haunted expression and a bed was hastily made up on the floor of Gideon's room for her. Gideon turned onto her side and pretended to sleep, peeking out from beneath half-closed eyelids. She didn't say anything until her foster parents left, leaving just the faint glow of a plugged-in nightlight. Gideon watched Harrow's chest move slowly, up and down.

"Hey," she said.

Harrow whipped her head around. "I thought you were asleep."

Gideon shrugged. "What happened to you?"

Harrow didn't say anything, her mouth thinning into a line. But Gideon was curious — why would someone like Harrowhark Nonagesimus be in the same place Gideon was — and the edges of Harrow looked raw, like an open wound.

So she poked.

"Where are your parents?"

Harrow's face crumpled. Gideon flinched back.

"They're d-d-d-dead," Harrow managed to get out before a flood of tears swamped her. It was ugly, unrefined crying. Mucus running down Harrow's face, leaving faint shining tracks.

Gideon slid off the bed and onto the floor. She put a tentative hand on Harrow's knee. "I'm sorry. Hey, I'm sorry. My mom's dead too. I don't even know who my dad was."

Harrow turned her face into Gideon's shoulder. Gideon felt her shirt and collar dampen. She wrapped an arm around Harrow and squeezed. Gentle at first, and then firmer. "I'm sorry," she said again. "I'm really sorry, Harrow."

She wasn't sure how long Harrow cried. Long enough that Gideon's arm went numb. But Harrow fell asleep after a while, her cheek still plastered against Gideon. Gideon clumsily lay Harrow back onto her pillow and climbed back into the bed. Her chest felt warm. Heavy but warm.

Harrow stayed for another two weeks, drifting around the house like a wan ghost in Gideon's clothes (turned out all her backpack contained were books). Gideon's foster parents let her stay home from school, so Gideon wasn't sure what she did during the day. But when Gideon came home, Harrow was always waiting. They watched hours of TV — mostly cartoons and nature documentaries — but also some stuff on HBO they probably shouldn't have seen. Harrow read everything in the house once she'd finished the stack of stuff she brought, and she helped Gideon with her homework — she was always smarter, even then. Especially then.

At her parents' funeral, Harrow clutched sweatily at Gideon's hand, squeezing and squeezing as adults in black kept coming up to them, telling Harrow how sad they were.

She's sad too, Gideon wanted to say. She can't help you right now.

And then one day Gideon came home from school and Harrow wasn't at the door waiting for her. The social workers had found her grandmother and she had moved into the house. So Harrow went back, back to the same place she had found her parents dead. Gideon didn't need an adult to tell her that was fucked up. She already knew that.

When Harrow came back to school a week later, Gideon was the one who was waiting for her on the playground.

"Are you okay?" Gideon asked. She opened her lunch bag and took out a small packet of Oreos. "I saved you some cookies."

And Harrow had looked at her with a blank face, like she didn't even recognize Gideon. Like Gideon was some stranger. For one horrified second, Gideon wondered if they were. If she had just hallucinated the last few weeks.

Then Harrow smiled, cold and thin.

"Oh Griddle," she said, her voice dripping pity, "did you think we were friends now?"

Like a punch to the gut. It turned Gideon breathless, the air sucked from her lungs. She was still holding out the Oreos. So that was that. As Harrow said, they weren't friends. They talked every so often, but Harrow never acknowledged those two weeks again. Like it had been a very strange dream.

Like it had never happened at all.

 

*

 

She's at Harrow's again on Friday afternoon, a change of clothes stuffed into the bottom of her bag.

You're staying the weekend, so plan accordingly, Harrow had texted her the night before. It's not the most romantic overture Gideon's ever received, but honestly, it's not the worst.

"Where should I put this?" Gideon asks as they walk upstairs. She gestures to her backpack.

"I had Granny change the sheets on the guest bed in the next room."

Harrow stops to open the door. The curtains are drawn, giving the room a dusty gloominess that Gideon now associates with Harrow's entire house. And to really solidify the idea that this place is really fucking creepy and definitely totally haunted, the bed's a four-poster with velvet drapes. Gideon stares at the oil portrait hanging opposite the bed and gulps. She'll probably be sleeping with the lights on.

"Coolio," she says, hoping she sounds casual and fine.

They finish the application late on Saturday, surrounded by takeout containers of shrimp lo mein and sesame chicken (Harrow had flat-out refused to eat more pizza). Harrow clicks the "submit" button with a sigh and leans back in her chair, swinging her arms around. Gideon yawns. She can hear her jaw crack.

"Well!" Harrow says, sounding incredibly self-satisfied. "Now we wait. Our interview is scheduled for next Wednesday and we should get our acceptance emails in May."

Gideon stands up from the floor, stretching out her cramped limbs. "So we're done?"

Harrow purses her lips. "Yes, we're done."

"So, do I get the money or what?"

"Oh, right. Come on."

Harrow leads Gideon downstairs, not bothering to switch on the lights. They pass through the living room, illuminated only by the glare of the perpetually on television, Harrow's granny snoring on the couch. Gideon brushes past chairs, sideboards, cabinets — some covered in sheets — all dusty and neglected. Their footsteps squeak and echo on the floors. When Harrow finally stops and turns on a lamp, Gideon recognizes the room. The fancy study from her childhood. Missing the desk and a few bookshelves, but otherwise entirely undisturbed.

Harrow stoops down in a corner and straightens after a few minutes, holding an armful of cash. Stacks and stacks of it, neatly bound together, that she tosses into Gideon's hands. More cash than Gideon has ever seen in her fucking life.

"Six thousand," Harrow says softly. "Count it."

"You keep this much in the house?!" Gideon exclaims. Oh god, Harrow's one of those bunker type sociopaths. She always knew it.

"My parents liked to be prepared." Harrow shrugs, but her cheeks pink the tiniest bit.

Gideon stares down at the money. "Aren't you worried about being robbed? Because you should be."

"In Drearburh? Please. Who's going to rob me? You?"

"I could!"

Harrow rolls her eyes. "You've barely grasped thinking. A whole lot of muscle and nothing between your ears. Honestly, it's such a waste of perfectly good space."

"You weigh like five pounds," Gideon says, not unreasonably. "I could pick you up one-handed."

"Try it," Harrow growls.

Gideon doesn't. Harrow's probably feral. With rabies. Or some kind of flesh-eating disease you get from living in a haunted corpse house. And Gideon's certainly not going to give Harrow the satisfaction of dying. They glare at each other from across the room.

"I guess I'll go then," Gideon says.

Harrow makes an annoyed noise of assent, folding her arms. It feels strange somehow, leaving. It's the most time she's spent with Harrow in years, and honestly, she kind of wants to stay so she can see if Harrow sleeps like a vampire, but also not enough to get possessed by a demon. Harrow leads her back upstairs, and Gideon separates and rolls the cash into her dirty clothes.

"See you," she says at the doorway to Harrow's room, Harrow back at her computer.

Harrow nods. "Yeah."

"...Can I have the leftover Chinese food?"

Harrow gets that exasperated expression she often has when she's talking to Gideon. "Christ, are you actually that poor? Yes, fine. Take it. Hurry up and get out of my house. You're giving me a migraine."

Score, Gideon thinks as she packs the leftover Chinese food and calls a cab. Food for the next two days and she's annoyed Harrow to the point of pain. Not a bad weekend after all.

She's almost disappointed to go. But definitely not disappointed enough to stay.

 

*

 

One morning in May, Gideon wakes up early to an email:

Salutations Miss Nav,

Congratulations! After weeks of rigorous debate, your team has been selected to attend this year's Canaan Camp. We welcome you to join the illustrious ranks of campers who have passed through our doors. Please arrive at First Estates no later than 5 PM on June 20th. You'll find a suggested packing list attached. We advise only taking what you absolutely need.

We look forward to seeing you.

Oh good, Gideon thinks blearily as she rubs sleep from her eyes. She'll be rich soon.

And all she has to do is get through a summer with Harrowhark.