Chapter Four:

In These Deep City Lights

Sven didn't believe in love.

Sven believed in a lot of things. She believed in meritocracy, because really, at the end of the day, having an impressive line-up of achievements and awards and recognitions to your name meant you have more doors opening for you than anyone else and you can also get away with more misdeeds than your average teenage delinquents. She believed that every person needed their crutch to survive the chaos of everyday life, and some people found it in other people, some in comfort food, some in romantic classics; she found hers in music and art. She believed in the role of the state in maintaining order because wasn't it one of those social contract theorists – Thomas Hobbes, if she wasn't mistaken – who said that the lives of men were nasty, brutish, and short, and that men must then surrender themselves to an absolute sovereign to prevent the war of all against all? She may have her own reservations in signing up for that social contract, but her father – a man of discipline and curfews, a military man – certainly subscribed to it, and she experienced said absolute sovereign every day she went back to her house (not a home, never felt like a home anymore) to prove that it was real.

Sven believed in a lot of things. But she didn't believe in love.

She knew people her age always felt like they were in love, and then eventually realized that, well, it wasn't really so much love as it was merely infatuation that they felt. And when the infatuation, and the obsession, dissipated, relationships just as easily ended as counting to ten. People so much older than she was also often professed about "the powers of love" to the point of risking their own lives and careers and future for their "soulmates". To think they were the same people who also professed about being "experienced" when at the end of the day, they get fooled by the same old myth just as much as the young ones were.

To think poets make poems, and authors write prose, and composers create songs about love all the time.

It was insane, is what it was.

Sven didn't believe in love. Love was hormones and enzymes and involuntary action potentials inside the body controlled by the hypothalamus. And when the body once again entered its state of homeostasis, balancing its hormones and enzymes, what people called love eventually reveals itself to be the truth: infatuation, lust, obsession.

Love wasn't real. Sven stood by that, and stood firmly. Falling in love not just meant being stupid and insane, but it also meant committing the hugest mistake any human being could do.

She had no problem with companionship; she would not begrudge anyone the right to settle down with someone because maybe that was what it took for them to feel satisfied. Her parents certainly had a companionable relationship that made sure they stayed together for a very long time. But she certainly didn't envy her parents on that aspect.

She had no problem with sex and intimacy. She would be a hypocrite if she said so, given that she started sleeping around sophomore year of high school, and since then, had never looked back. Having fairly attractive genes, a good enough 5'8" height, an athletic figure (she'd been in the soccer team from freshman year until she quit 6 months ago), and probably being one of the smoothest talkers in school (debate team, the one thing she did not quit when she decided it was time for an overhaul) assured that she got laid on a regular basis. And she never went a solid month without getting some.

But, love? Love was a hoax, and a mistake, and a lie she would never allow herself to believe in.

Her elder brother did, two years ago, and he paid for his mistake. He was two years older than Sven was, and he was ambitious and idealistic and he made her smile with his silly jokes like no one else ever really did. And he went to college talking big about someday being a doctor and going in medical missions all around the world.

But two months into college, he met another boy – a boy Sven never even met, but one his brother talked about all the time, all wide eyes and toothy grins and hand gestures – and he fell in love. With another boy he barely knew

Carlo once said that all he ever really did was fall in love with a boy. And if that were a mistake, then so be it. Sven never really thought that her brother's mistake was falling in love with another boy. She thought the mistake was falling in love in the first place.

When her brother came clean to the family, her father disowned him – something Sven dreaded and expected at the same time. Carlo, gracious as he was, packed all his things (every little bit of memorabilia, except for his basketball jersey that Sven pleaded she keep) and left to move in with his new boyfriend. They kept in touch and he was happy every time they talked on the phone.

Until he wasn't.

Love was a hoax, and a mistake, and a lie, Sven knew. And her brother gave up everything for something that would never be worth it.

Overdose, her mother had sobbed hysterically. Overdose on valium and then cardiac arrest. But she knew he died long before his heart actually stopped beating. He died when he finally realized that love was a myth, and that relationships just as easily ended as counting to ten.

She cried herself to sleep for weeks, careful to keep the sobs as quiet as possible lest her parents heard her. And then one Saturday afternoon, she looked at herself in the mirror, hated what she saw staring back, and proceeded to break its nose.

She went back to school the Monday after with her left hand in a cast, her once-shoulder- length black hair cut to a shaggy chin-length one and dyed red, and her eyes all smokey black.

Of course, she got called to the principal's office that day. St. Francis was a strict Catholic school and rules were rules. No heavy makeup. Dying of the hair to unusually bright colors was definitely not allowed. Sven got off with a warning because she was Sven after all – star athlete, straight A student, debate and academic team member – and she had brought back trophies and medals that the school proudly displayed in halls for public view. The guidance counselor's explanation about her supposedly coping with "the family situation" also helped with not being suspended.

But Sven just started. That week, she quit the soccer team (to the coach's palpable disappointment) and the academic team (with the adviser requesting that they talk first before she make any hasty decisions), and she almost quit the debate team, if only Julia didn't plead that she stay. She dyed her hair back to black, but with obvious red streaks, and once again, it was the guidance counselor that kept her from finally being suspended (and maybe her father's generous donations also helped make the decision). Her left hand was still bound by a heavy cast, but that only meant she still had use of her right hand (and fingers) which she inevitably put to the test come Friday afternoon in one of the stalls in the third floor girl's bathroom of the Art Department's building with a freshman (two years younger, and she didn't really care) who Sven found out had a sexier voice when she moaned than when she sang.

Sven didn't believe in love.

But she believed in satiating carnal desires – or trying to, at least, given how insatiable she was. And if fucking girls with dreams of making it big on stage some time in the somewhat near future was what it took, then who was she to object to the call of the flesh?

"That's new."

Sven took a drag off the cigarette she just lighted, blew out the smoke, and looked down at the naked girl to her right – looking just as ravished as someone who just had a skilled tongue coupled with more skilled fingers down there.

"Smoking? I started three months ago. You saw the pack in my bag just last week," Sven pointed out.

Diane shifted up, tucking the blanket over her bare breasts, and placed some of Sven's stray hair behind the girl's ear. "Smoking after sex. Should I, like, buy an ashtray now, or something?"

"Let's see," another drag, then Sven faced the other girl, "you've got several options. One, nothing changes, and you risk getting ashes on your carpeted floor. Two, we stop having sex in your room; no sex, no smoking. Or three, you get an ashtray; we still have sex, and no ashes on your carpet. What do you say?"

Diane dragged fingers lightly over a tanned and smooth stomach, "How about you don't smoke after we have sex in my room?"

"Not an option," Sven smirked.

"Fine," a huff, "Ashtray it is. You are so spoiled."

"No, I'm not."

"You so are. I totally let you get away with anything. Even in my room," Diane bit her bottom lip, and Sven felt a stirring just below her stomach at that sexy sight. "I'm going to buy you an ashtray so that you can smoke in my room. I don't even smoke."

"So that I can smoke after we have sex," Sven placed the fire out from the now done for cigarette on the side of her pack and placed the butt inside the almost empty container. "Just in case you forget, D, all about the multiple orgasms I make sure you have first before I even light a cigarette." She saw Diane blush and she couldn't help the grin as she came a little closer to the other girl to lick at Diane's neck.

"I'm not the only one who comes, you know," the other girl argued, albeit half-heartedly, leaning back to give Sven more access.

"So?" Sven took the blanket from Diane's fingers and pulled it down to reveal a naked torso, as her assault went a little lower.

There was no more coherent response, just a gasp and a moan, and nails lightly scratching Sven's back.

Sven didn't believe in love. She believed in a lot of things. But love definitely wasn't one of them.

Although going round after round of really good sex with someone you would never allow yourself to fall in love with most assuredly was part of that list. And they were only round two for three. Or four. Maybe even five if they didn't get hungry (for real food).

Anyway, it wasn't even a school day. And five was a good number.

—endofchapterfour—

Chapter Notes: Title of chapter is part of the lyrics to Sara Bareilles's City.

Author's Notes: This is the chapter that officially brings Closed Curtains back to life. And what's better than resurrecting this story with a little look at Sven's psyche, huh? I'll start with the author's responses once I get new concrit kinda reviews from you guys. But I really want to put out all the thanks to those who left reviews and nudges even when I died and just got back to life.