Mia doesn't come back, and none of Claire's new roommates stick around.
"She's weird. And a yoghurt thief," she hears one of them say after moving out. Another one regales her friends with tales of voices coming from a locked bathroom at all hours, and mysterious noises in the night.
Claire doesn't know why they make these things up.
The third one is the worst. "You're a sick bitch!" Lou yells as she leaves, shirts trailing out of a hastily packed bag. Claire doesn't even bother pausing her movie. "And you can keep the camera, since you fucking love it so much!"
On the dresser there's an old Polaroid camera resting on a smattering of photos. Very naked photos: close up, candid, in the shower... what the hell? But the moles are a giveaway; Claire presses the one on her hip as she sees its twin dotted across the pictures.
Across the mirror is scrawled 'SLUT' in a vivid red shade of lipstick neither of them wear.
Claire takes a snap: she doubts Lou gave notice.
There are no more roommates; word has spread. She doesn't set anyone straight, because the noises now plague her instead. A rustle behind her as she slips her coat on. A soft exhale close to her ear as she turns over in bed. Light footsteps across the floor when she wakes in the night.
"Bryan?" she tries, but she knows it isn't. He did his haunting when he was alive. She's rewarded with a brush of silky hair against her cheek: her ghost is a woman.
"I wish we could talk," she says one night, staring at the ceiling and imagining patterns in the dark.
There's no response, and sleep won't come. Her hand slides over her belly, half-hearted, because she hasn't been able to get off in months. Hasn't tried, really. There's nothing like tears to kill your libido, she learned that a long time ago. She rubs anyway, fingers slipping between her legs, and she twists herself onto her side, pressing her thighs tightly together to add to the pressure. The sheet slides away, and she wonders, just for a second, if the ghost can see her.
She clearly likes to look at Claire, if the camera is anything to judge by.
Her fingers are suddenly slick, gliding smoothly against her clit instead of generating meaningless friction. Huh.
It's too warm to need the sheet tonight, anyway. She kneels up and pulls off her vest top. There's a breeze from where the window is opened a crack, and the cool air feels good against her skin. She strokes a hand experimentally over her breasts and-- something, she heard-- no, not heard, felt something. Someone is in the room, whether she can see them or not. It doesn't make much difference in the dark.
Claire falls back against her pillows and shoves her panties down, kicking them off the bed. Her fingers are back between her legs before they land, and she moans because it's electric now, the atmosphere in the room charged and crackling. Whoever this is, she has their full attention.
And she likes it.
When she's come down from what she might admit to a really close friend (if she had one) was the best orgasm she's ever had, but would never admit under torture is the only one, she feels... well, she would feel foolish if she didn't feel so damn good.
Stumbling to find a fresh sheet to replace the sweaty, sticky one she's ruined, Claire kicks something hard and square on the floor. Next to the Polaroid camera is a square of film, still developing. Sitting on the bed, she waits for it. She expects something pornographic; she put on quite a show, after all.
But when it develops, she's surprised. It's a close up of her face, scrunched up in pleasure, with just a little bit of pain. The pain that's always there, that she doesn't know how to ease. That Bryan could never see.
"Thanks," she says, and she means it.
Performing each night is demanding, and she's still expected to turn out for every publicity event and investor party. The heels hurt the parts of her feet that dancing spares, and she resorts to cold foot baths and a pile of soft pillows under her calves and ankles while she winds down with a movie.
The fingers that turn from a soft brush to firm strokes know just where to knead. Claire spreads out her toes and arches her feet into the touch like a cat. She's almost asleep from the massage when a surprisingly solid form curls up against her, snuggling under the comforter.
"Who are you?" she says sleepily. "Why are you so perfect?"
"Nina." The voice is right against her ear, and she could swear that's breath she feels. She's not going to look; she'll only be disappointed. "And practice."
Claire presses their foreheads together and falls asleep still giggling.
She makes a few enquiries, but the company has had the apartment for ages and many dancers have come and gone. Nobody remembers a death, but it's not the sort of thing anyone would dwell on and she's not sure they'd tell her if they did.
"Everyone lies," Nina tells her. "You can't trust anyone."
It's true. They do little things to annoy her, petty nonsense like hiding her shoes or leaving wet towels on top of her tights so she has to put them on damp. Paul comes to her one afternoon with a note in his hand that she didn't write, and the key to a dusty room barely more than a closet that will be her dressing room for now.
"We'll find you somewhere better before the next season starts," he says, gushing almost as much as the press did in their most recent interview. "Anything for our star!"
"Anything to keep you, he means," Nina whispers that night. The street light is out right by the window, and the only light is from the flickering TV screen. Claire kisses her and presses her hand over Nina's fingers, holding them inside her.
"How do you do it?" she asks. "The photos, the note--"
"Does it matter?" Nina nuzzles into her neck, twisting her fingers in just the right way.
Claire supposes it doesn't; not as long as everyone is getting what they want.
Nina can't go to the actual performance, so Claire puts on one just for her. She has to sneak her costume out, of course, but that's easy with her own dressing room.
It's just her, with the carpet rolled back and some pot plants serving as the dark woods, but Nina is as enthralled an audience as she could ever ask for. When she comes to the end, Nina's still slightly insubstantial face has tears streaming down it.
"You're perfect," she whispers, and Claire wonders if this is as good as it gets.
"Yes," Nina says, even though Claire knows she didn't ask that out loud. "It's time, isn't it?"
It's beautiful up on the roof. She can imagine the stars out there, tiny specks like her under the dark sky. She's burning brightly, burning up, and people will see her for a very long time.
When she steps off the edge, Nina's hand is in hers.
* * *
"Boyfriend trouble, you think?"
Detective Sandra Burns, reluctantly dragged in on her first Sunday off in months gave a snort. "Or girlfriend."
Sandra flicked over a photo with a lipstick kiss on it in red. "Oh yeah, I think so."
Greenway walked over the the battered TV. "Can't rule out the girlfriend might have pushed her."
Sandra supposed they couldn't. A homicide would do her career good if they were lucky enough to catch one here. The family would just have to do with seeing a bit less of her for a few weeks if it turned out to be a big case. There was something though, something she'd seen out of the corner of her eye when they arrived. Greenway never stopped asking questions and sometimes it was distracting at the wrong moment.
"She was a dancer, was she?"
"Yeah, my eldest is a fan. We went to see her a couple of times, she was a real overnight success story. He's going to-- how did you know that, Greenway?"
"Black Swan." Greenway held up the open DVD box. "That's like the costume she was wearing, right? Disc must be still in the player."
And yeah, that was what she'd almost registered when she first walked in. How many times Devon had made her sit through that movie?
"Congrats, Greenway," she sighed. "I think you just closed this case."
Oh well. At least she was going to get most of her Sunday.