This latest outrage is retaliation, of course. "Rebecca is abstaining from sex. She's on some sort of sacrificial mission to regain your friendship. Sort of a cock hunger strike. I don't fucking get it either."
She thinks the sex is the lie between them; she doesn't know about the lie that is actually between them. This is the study of war and this is the way the world works: On operant knowns. If the sex is the problem then she'll solve the problem. Cathy's lie becomes her burden. But it's one she'll have to carry.
"Tell her she's wasting her time. And you shouldn't worry. The longest she's gone without having sex is two weeks, and that's because she tore her labia while horseback riding in Maui."
Gruesome; Sean loves hearing it almost as much as Cathy relishes saying it. Cathy heads back inside -- to undo whatever he's done and take back the truth they're too young to know -- and when school is done, she heads to Marlene's house for Scrabble. Her word is apse -- "You know, like the front of a church?" -- and Marlene makes fun. "You could have just spelled apes." The world is hard enough without an education; the difference between apse and apes is merely a slight rearrangement. "I paid for a four-year degree, Marlene, I want to use it."
Cathy leads the conversation through the apse and into church. Marlene goes, yes, every Sunday, and when Cathy asks if that's out of desire or a sense of obligation she knows the question Cathy's really asking: "If you're asking if I believe in God, then yes, I do. Pray every day too." For the usual things: Her family, for Eddie to be in heaven, to join him when she goes, one day, and for it not to hurt. Cathy nods. Death is an end to pain, not a start; it shouldn't hurt and it shouldn't be embarrassing. Not for saints, not for Marlene.
Cathy tells her the story, of the tornado and the family, the pastor dead, and how they were too disappointed to go back. How God had rewarded the wicked, killed the good, broken their hearts. Proved what Sean always suspected.
"But now that I'm a dying person, I'm wondering if I should reopen my spiritual options." The tears in Marlene's eyes call them up, from Cathy's throat. She is allowed to be terrified for exactly ten seconds. "If there is a God, do you think he could bring me some sense of peace?"
Marlene laughs, at the very idea: That anyone could give Cathy peace, that anybody but Cathy could ever give Cathy peace, that Cathy wants anything like peace. "He's not a miracle worker," Marlene jokes.