Monday, December 12, 2011
YA Urban Fantasy
Seventeen years and Lily still hoped that things would change.
Slivers of moonlight bathed her with the glow of life beyond her reach. The chirp of crickets echoed through another night absent of passing cars. Her neighbor’s lawns shone beneath the stars, bright and healthy. Hers was a dull yellow, unkempt like much of her home. Far outside her window, the world seemed infinite.
A reflection appeared, obscuring her view. Lily stiffened. She didn’t want to see the dark crescents beneath those eyes. The way those hands shook and those cheeks thinned more and more each day, from an ennui nothing could cure. The way everything about her sagged in Lily’s presence.
With a sigh, Lily faced her mother. For a moment, she wondered if her mother could see her as she was. Then her mother’s gaze flickered over her—dress, makeup, and all—and Lily found her answer.
“When you will leave, you will come to say good night,” her mother said. She rubbed her eyes and turned, leaving Lily staring after her.
Moments later, a door shut and the smell of fresh paint wafted down the hallway.
Lily exhaled the breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding. Knots strung her stomach as if it were time for one of her concerts. She looked to her violin, propped on her desk, and imagined drawing the bow back and forth, liberating one of Beethoven’s symphonies. Her queasiness faded but not completely. No song could shield her from the truth. She could make her own melody, but its notes would always fall short.
After evaluating her outfit once more, Lily turned to leave, but before she took more than three steps, the phone rang. Lily walked to her bedside table—her mother was probably too busy, working on some project—and answered the call.
“Hello.” An unfamiliar male voice greeted her. “Am I speaking with Lily Napier?”
He laughed, and the sound grated against Lily’s patience. “How curious,” he said, drawling the words; she considered leaving again. “John’s daughter is brash. I would have never envisioned that improbability.”
The knots returned. She paced the length of her room, adrenaline forcing her to move, move, move. The tempo of her heartbeat quickened with each step. She breathed heavily, but the possibilities whirring through her mind kept her from feeling embarrassed.
“You know my father?” She tilted her head to the side and waited and waited and waited—she snapped, “Well, do you?”
Another pause. “What do you know of him?”
Too little. She clutched the phone tighter. “Who the hell are you?”
“I do not wish to be offensive—”
“Then don’t ask about personal issues. Who are you?”
“That is irrelevant to the issue at hand.” His stilted manner of speaking reminded her of someone, though she couldn’t remember who. He didn’t have an identifiable accent.
“And that’s not an answer, but if you don’t give me one in the next minute, I’m going to hang up.” Her hands slipped on the phone. He would call her bluff and she would never discover the truth and—
“Impatience does not become you, my dear.”
She cringed from the pet name. Now she remembered: her mother. Too much like her mother and her habitual mon ange. “You’ve got thirty seconds.”
He sighed, the sound as heavy as the tenor of her heart. “When Mireille left him, John was not aware that he had fathered a child—”
“You’re shitting me.” The world tilted, its colors a dizzying blur. She stopped pacing and closed her eyes. “My mother left him?” Not the other way around? “And he didn’t know about me?”
“Is this to be a trend? Interrupting me every five seconds?”
“No, no, I’m sorry. I…”
“John was unaware of your existence until recently. I am not familiar with what your mother told you, but there is not enough room in his heart for cruelty.” He paused. “Conversely, he is at the moment indisposed and cannot—”
“Let me guess: he can’t talk to me, meet me, or be in my life in any way whatsoever.” She took a deep breath, but the rant flowed free. “Look, I’m not sure why you’ve called or who you are, but I can’t do this anymore. I have no way of knowing if what you say is the truth or if you’re pulling a prank. I don’t understand how you got this number. Or why you would call. Or why my mother would lie. Or why on earth you’d expect me to take your word over hers.” After a while, she got the distinct impression that he wanted her to ask all these questions; that he derived a sort of cruel pleasure in withholding what she desired. She hated him, and she didn’t even know him. “Why would my mother leave him and then lie about it? You said he’s not cruel, but that hints at something bad. What you suggested makes no sense.” She paused. “So, let me ask again: who the hell are you?”
Silence greeted her. She bit her nails and almost disconnected the line when his voice, strong and oddly sure, interrupted her.
“You can always trust me. Though I may seem like an enemy, I say nothing but the truth, however unyielding its consequences.”
“That implies that we’ll talk again. Don’t get your hopes up.”
She hung up and tried not to think of what he had said, but her efforts failed miserably. Too soon, her eyes found the phone again. The walls shrunk around her, thin and yellow and too familiar, disappointment curdling like rotten milk into her.
There was so much that she didn’t know. Too much that her mother had withheld. A stranger knew more than her.
Lily wasn't even sure why she believed him, only knew that she did. Maybe it was because he seemed more open than her mother. Her mother. The word promised more than Lily's memories suggested.
Warmth burned through her, frenzied like her pulse. She stared down at her fingers, tracing the anthem of her anger. She couldn’t hide anymore. She needed answers.
Lily marched down the small hallway, wincing as her heels clanked on the tiled floor. Her mother didn’t notice. When Lily opened the bedroom door, she stayed glued to her work.
Chaos enwrapped Mireille Napier—eyes ablaze with a feverish light, outshining the dark circles for once; overalls spattered with a mishmash of paints crusted in the denim edges; hair unwound and curling like branches around a face carved in shadows. At forty-five years old, she carried a wild beauty which Lily could never have with her carefully applied makeup and polished shoes. She was the artist and Lily the musician. No matter what, their voices would sing to different harmonies
Lily stayed at the threshold, watching Mireille paint until her mother finally returned her gaze. She could barely hear her mother’s soft voice over the pounding of her heart.
“You are pretty, mon ange, but is that dress not too low for a respectable young woman?” Her mother’s expression remained neutral—well, except for the slightest raise in her brow, a sign which Lily had trained herself to see. Without it, there’d be nothing.
“You bought it for me.”
Her mother sighed. “Who telephoned?”
There was no way she could tell her mother about the stranger.
“Wrong number,” Lily lied.
“Oh.” Mireille turned, already bored with her.
Numbness spilled into her, chasing away the warmth of earlier. She had to train herself not to care; had to stop hoping. She needed to be stronger.
“Mom, I need to ask you something.”
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