neurosis

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"a certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist"
--Sigmund Freud

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Sonny gets a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing people. She likes understanding how they work. It's like digging for treasure, where every person is a sunken relic; there's always more than meets the eye. And she considers it her personal mission to mine below the surface.

But Chad Dylan Cooper has her in a rut. She can't really figure him out. It should be easy enough: he's a jerk—self-centered and manipulative; smart—in an evil genius kind of way; and good looking—okay, downright hot. But it's not his face, so much as his reservoir of unrepentant self-assurance that lures her in like a moth to its proverbial flame. She hates to admit it, but he makes narcissism look like fine art.

Still, she feels like she's missing something but can't put her finger on what. Like there's more to understanding Chad then the labels he packages himself in. It's annoying, not being able to sum him up like she wants to. When she's on a roll, she can predict behavior to a tee--a kind of personal parlor game she plays with herself. But she's having trouble lately. And it's because of him.

She shouldn't even care. She's not a Marilyn, even if she does have her last name. She's Sonny Monroe—the quintessential good girl, albeit with slightly more quirkiness. Chad is definitely not the kind of boy she should be intrigued by. But of course that makes it all the more inevitable, doesn't it?

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They're sitting in the commissary when she finally calls him on it. She's swirling her mystery-mashed-potatoes (or at least that's what they're calling it) into figures of birds, when she's struck by a curiosity she can't ignore. She looks him straight in the eyes. "You know, I've been here for a while now. But I know almost nothing about you."

He's unwrapping the white paper off a straw and stops, a little surprised by the shift in their conversation. But he recovers quickly enough. "I didn't realize you wanted to 'get to know me' so badly, Sonny," he says, raising his eyebrows. "You should've said something. I can definitely arrange that."

There's something about the way he says it that makes her want to slap him, but she holds back. She invited this discussion, after all.

He catalogues her reaction and the smug smile on his face only widens.

"I'm serious," she says, annoyed.

He leans over, draping an arm around her shoulder. "So am I." And then he winks at her.

She shoves his arm away, making a low grumbling noise.

He laughs and leans back in his chair. "Fine, fine. What do you want to know? Frankly I'm a little surprised by your laziness, Sonny. With a little research you can find all your answers in back issues of Tween Weekly and--"

She interrupts what she knows will be a long and irrelevant attempt at self-promotion. "Yeah, we'll I'm not really interested in who your favorite Jonas is or what color you wear on Wednesdays."*

He frowns. "Alright. Fire away. I have nothing to hide."

"Okay. Well, what's your family like? Do you know what you want to do when you're older? What do you care about?—and don't say 'yourself,' I know that much already."

Chad rolls his eyes. "Sonny, Sonny Sonny. To start, I'll have to direct you to the MF 'pilot episode' in which—"

She's angry now, her voice loud and powerful. "I swear Chad, if you quote an episode of Mackenzie Falls one more time, I'll backhand you so fast you won't remember the pilot!"

All he can do is blink and stare. It's possible the rest of the cafeteria is staring too. He was about to comment on how cute she looks when she's angry, but it brings back memories of a conversation with James he'd rather forget. Or at least not think about right now. Plus, from the way she's staring at him—he's sure one more smart-aleck response would have her wrestling him to the floor. And yet that might have its own appeal…

She sees him staring into space and all she can do is clench her fists and utter a long "GAH!"

The noise brings him back from his daydream, though he's still visibly puzzled at how upset she is.

She takes a breath. "Chad, I don't care about your character from Mackenzie falls. That's make believe. A story. I want to know about you. The real you."

He's touched. Only she would say something so sappy like that and mean it. But he's confused. He leans in closer, his brow furrowing as he tried to explain. "Sonny, everything is narrative. It's all parts of the same story."

And he's dead serious. The revelation shocks her more than anything because it's the last thing she would guess. She's figured out what makes him such an enigma, but it only produces more questions than answers. She's never met someone who so completely blurs the line between fiction and reality.

She smiles at him—a small, uncomfortable smile. And reaches across the table to touch his hand. Just for a moment.

"And what about you and me?"

He closes his hand around hers, clenching it tightly. "You and me? We are the story."


footnote:

*Frankie and navy blue, in case you were wondering.