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What I See

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“We’re breaking out tonight.”

The statement comes from Lily and it’s so abrupt and startling that Nina looks up from her makeup palette. “Breaking out to where?” she asks.

“I don’t know – anywhere that’s not near your mom,” Lily says. “I’m so done with how she treats you.” Her hand is lingering over Nina’s, and Nina doesn’t know how to deal with these two statements, which contradict her emotions, her fears, her basic sense of peace.

“How does she treat me?” The statement is so oblique to Lily that she can’t entirely grasp it, like the string of a child’s balloon floating free from her hand.

Lily is staring at her. “How do you not know? She doesn’t act like a mother. You’re starving to death, you’re not sleeping…”

“…Because I need to be perfect. I have to be, to fit the dance.”

“You’ll never be perfect, Nina,” Lily said, and the words made her want to be sick. She denied them utterly, even as Nina’s hand caressed her shoulder. “And that’s okay. We’ll try as hard as we can to get there, but if we never do, it’s all right. You have to understand that.”

Nina understood nothing but routine and discipline. Lily was a hot house flower blooming in a garden filled with subdued English roses; her rise to independence and rebellion made no sense to Nina at base.

But she wanted to go there – to follow Lily into the deep dark night, the smell of champagne on her breath and her lipstick streaking down Nina’s neck like the track of carrion dragged by a truck down a highway. She didn’t want to be perfect and virginal, just as everyone here sees her.

She falters slightly. She breaks slightly.

“Okay. I’ll go out with you tonight.”

And if she accompanies Lily on the next night, or the next, who will be there to ask questions?