Instructions for Dancing(6)

I close my laptop and sit up. “What’s wrong?” I ask, even though I have an awful, creeping feeling that I already know.

“Nothing,” she says, and heads straight for the stairs.

I follow her up to her room. “Can I come in?”

“I guess,” she says. It’s not exactly a welcome, but at least she didn’t tell me to go away.

I haven’t been in her room much since we moved to this apartment. It looks like her old one, just smaller. The walls are almost completely covered with vintage magazine covers and photos of her and her friends. At our house, her walls were purple, but since this is a rental we have to leave the walls white. The rest of the room is artfully messy. Bits of fabric and sketchbooks filled with her fashion designs are everywhere. Her crafting desk is cluttered with sketches and spools of thread and drawing supplies. The sewing machine is half-covered by fabric. The only thing not covered with other things is her vanity. It’s one of those old-school ones with a huge circular mirror surrounded by clear round bulbs.

“You don’t seem like nothing’s wrong,” I say.

She sits down at her vanity and starts wiping foundation from her cheeks. “I’m fine,” she says, voice bright. She tosses the wipe into the trash and gets out another one. “Ben and I broke up.”


“What happened?” I ask.

She shrugs. “I caught him kissing his ex.”

This is really happening.

“Where?” I ask, picturing Ben in the shadow of lifeguard tower twenty-seven.

“At the beach. Behind one of the lifeguard stations,” she says, with an eye roll and a scoff.

All at once, I feel the way I did earlier today. Light-headed and exhausted. Confused.

I sit on the edge of her bed.

“It’s really not a big deal, Evie,” she says.

“How can you say that?”

“Because it’s not. There are a lot of other guys out there.”

“But why even bother with guys at all?” I ask.

She stops wiping her face and turns to me. “Not everyone can be like you, Evie. I have actual human feelings.”

“What does that mean?”

She turns back to the mirror. “The only thing you ever feel is angry at Dad.”

I’ve wanted to tell her about Dad’s affair so many times in the past year. If she knew, she’d be just as angry as I am. But Mom asked me not to. Sometimes I think telling her would be the kind thing to do. Isn’t it always better to know the truth, to live without illusions?

I stand up and walk to the door.

Our eyes meet in the mirror. Her makeup is all gone now. Despite what she said about breaking up with Ben not being a big deal, she looks sad to me.

“I’m really sorry about Ben,” I tell her, and slip out the door.

The truth is, I’m probably more upset by their breakup than Danica is. I don’t understand what’s happening to me.

It’s one thing to hallucinate a vision of the future. It’s something entirely different for that vision to come true.


Not a Witch

WHEN I WAS younger, eight or maybe nine, I used to think Mom was a witch. Somehow she always knew things she shouldn’t have. Like when I’d just picked my nose and eaten the booger. Or when I was reading under my blanket instead of sleeping.

I thought that one day, maybe when I turned ten, she’d sit me down and give me the talk:

“Evie,” she’d say, “I am a witch from a long line of witches. Your grandma was a witch, and her mother before her, and her mother before that.”

Then she’d put her hand on my face and say, “You too are a witch. A good witch.” Then she’d tell me all about my powers and what an awesome responsibility they were.

We didn’t have the witch talk on my tenth birthday. Instead, she and Dad talked to me about the sad, deep history of America and racism. They told me to pay attention to the world but also to live my life. To be joyous and fearless.

The witch talk didn’t come on my eleventh or twelfth or thirteenth birthday either. By my fourteenth birthday, I didn’t even think about witches or magic anymore.

But maybe I should’ve, because how else do I explain to myself what happened yesterday with Danica and Ben? Maybe Mom gave me witchy powers but forgot to tell me.

“What’s with you today?” Martin asks me from across the table in the cafeteria. Martin is one of my best friends. He’s white, with curly blond hair that grows faster than he can cut it. His favorite clothes are corduroy pants and cable-knit sweaters. This would be normal if he were a septuagenarian professor of English living in the cold English countryside. It’s less normal for an eighteen-year-old boy living in Los Angeles, where the average temperature almost never calls for tweed.

We’ve been friends since second grade. We were in library class together on our very first day and wanted to check out the same book. The librarian said we had to share by reading it out loud to each other. One book led to another.

“I think I might be losing it,” I say.

He rests his hand on his chin and considers me in his usual slow and careful way. “Tell me,” he says.

“It’s about Danica. She and Ben broke up.”

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