YA Urban Fantasy
When night fell, Lily prepared to escape.
Silence suffocated the air as the moon bathed her neighborhood in an eerie glow. There was no life here—no tethered pets, no passing cars, no city lights. Everything was dead or dying. Even the grass in her front yard was a dull yellow.
Of course her mother loved the solitude. Nothing could bother her in the middle of nowhere. Nothing could distract her from the myriad art projects. Nothing except Lily, and she had long learned her lesson.
Her fingers itched for her violin, to play a melody that would pervade the emptiness surrounding her house, but she resisted the impulse. Neither Josh nor Jolie, her two best friends, wanted to drive the many miles to pick Lily up. Instead she had to take the bus which stopped at her neighborhood once per night, and she had just ten minutes to catch it. Otherwise she would be stranded, with only dreams to keep her company.
Looking at her vanity mirror assured her that everything remained in place—no stray hairs, no smudged makeup. Excitement loosened her nerves, replacing the loneliness. She was a star, beautiful and shining, happy to leave home for one night.
Lily closed her bedroom door and trudged past the crooked paintings that decorated the hallway. The smell of fresh paint grew stronger until it reached its crescendo at her mother’s room. Lily stayed at the threshold and watched her mother paint.
Mireille was hunched over, working on the mural that spanned the entire bedroom wall. Her short hair bent around her chin, like the broken strings on a violin, twisted, rough, and abandoned, and her cheeks caved inwards, emphasizing the angular juts of her face. 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 could tell that Mireille was aware of her presence: her hands shook and her back sagged so much that it was a wonder her head didn’t hit the wall, yet she didn’t acknowledge Lily. After Lily had cleared her throat and fidgeted a few times, her mother returned her gaze.
For a moment, Lily wondered if her mother could see her as she was. Then her mother’s gaze flickered over her—dress, hair, and all—and Lily found her answer. All Mireille would ever see was her own sadness and disappointment. The mistake that took her away from her one true love.
Glancing at the dark crescents beneath her mother’s eyes, Lily vowed to never depend on someone that fully. Unlike her mother, she would not be left behind.
“You look nice, mon ange, but that dress… is it 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.
“Hey, you can’t complain. You chose not to come with me when I bought this. But feel free to join me next time.” The idea of her mother shopping was so ridiculous it brought a smile to Lily’s face. The few times Mireille left the house were to sell paintings for their scant supply of money, and even then, she wore overalls with paints crusted in the denim edges. Lily wondered if Mireille cared about anything besides work.
“You may buy an inappropriate dress but that does not mean you have to wear it.” Her mother’s eyebrow rose with each word.
Lily closed her eyes. The dead grass, the smell of paint, these little comments–she had to leave now. “Well, I’m not going to change. Any other objections?”
Her mother didn’t need to say anything. When she returned to her work without another word, the silence rang with her disapproval. The swish of paint dribbling off the brush beat in Lily’s ears like a drum mirroring each thump of her heart, slow and powerful. She had the sudden urge to bite her nails.
“Nothing? Good.” She tapped her non-existent watch. “Time’s a-wasting, and I’m leaving…” She trailed off, wondering why she had bothered.
Retreating from the room, Lily welcomed the clanking of her heels on the tiled floor of the hallway. Closer and closer she moved towards freedom, to the biting air of a cold and open night made warm by the laughter shared with her friends. She smiled, thinking of all the opportunities stretched ahead.
As she opened the front door, the phone rang.
Lily considered not answering, letting her mother ignore yet another call, but the caller could be Josh, canceling their plans. With a sigh, she picked up the phone.
“Hello.” An unfamiliar male voice greeted her. “Am I speaking with Lily Napier?”
He laughed, and the sound grated against Lily’s patience. “How strange,” he said, drawling the words; she considered leaving again. “I would have never expected John’s daughter to be brash.”
Knots strung her stomach as if it were time for a concert. Her father, her father, the mantra reverberated in her bones, blood, everywhere. In her mind’s eye, Mireille whispered, “He left because he didn’t want a child.”
Did he regret that? Could he take her away?
The desire stole through her like she was ten years old again, looking at her mother with hope etched into her soul and finding it crushed within minutes. She shook off the memory but couldn’t control her breathing. Possibilities whirred through her mind, making her pace the length of the room. The man waited on her response, but this silence she couldn’t fix with music and this time she was seven years wiser.
“You know my father?” She tilted her head to the side and waited and waited and waited. She snapped, “Well, do you?”
“He needs you, Lily.”
She clutched the phone tighter, ignoring the clenching in her stomach. Those words—she had dreamed of hearing them so many times that they now seemed unreal. “Yeah, he needed me so much that he left before I was born.”
“Is that what your mother told you?”
“Answer me this and then maybe I’ll tell you.” Her hands, sweaty and cold, slipped on the phone. “Who the hell are you?”
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Mireille left John. He was not aware that he had fathered a child.” His stilted manner of speaking reminded her of someone, though she couldn’t remember who. He didn’t have an identifiable accent. “John was—”
“Stop, just stop.” She collapsed onto a couch. Thinking of the woman splattered in paint a few rooms away. Remembering the haunted look in those eyes as she explained what had happened to Lily’s father. Lily didn’t want to believe the man, but his lies were already working their way into her mind, making her doubt her mother. Her mother. The word promised more than Lily’s memories suggested. She put her head between her knees. “How did you get this number? And if my father needs me so much, why are you the one calling?”
Another pause. “I am truly sorry for the pain this must be causing you—”
“Like hell you are. If you cared, you wouldn’t have called.” Her breaths sounded unnaturally loud. Everything about this screamed hoax, but she wanted it to be real so badly that she could taste the freedom, the life she would have away from this hell-hole. It was not real though. She stood and took a deep breath, yet her voice still shook. “And here’s a tip for you. Don’t call again.”