The Pillow Was Wet





The pillow was wet. With her tears. She resisted the impulse to turn it over. She was going to cry some more, and then the other side would be wet and uncomfortable too. Better to wait. Turn it later. There would be a dry side. A better side. For her to put her cheek on. And feel good. There was going to be a better side. For her to feel better. She just needed to wait and be strong. Wait for that better moment. The tears would stop.

Not anytime soon, though. They presently flew, copiously. Silently. The other girl in the room was sleeping, she must not disturb her. Janine. Dear Mrs Thorley’s daughter. Lisa wondered why they always called her “Dear Mrs Thorley” Below. Not Mrs Thorley, Dear Mrs Thorley. Why dear? She did not seem that dear to her. She smiled a lot, she looked very kind, very welcoming, but she didn't want her. Lisa knew it. She wasn't welcome in Dear Mrs Thorley’s home. And especially, she was not welcome close to Janine. Janine was ugly. Lisa was beautiful. Janine was painfully shy. Lisa was brilliant. Dear Mrs Thorley feared for her daughter. And she was right to. Or maybe not. Janine had a mother. A home. Nobody would ever tell Janine…

Perhaps it was time to turn the pillow.

No. Not yet. Be patient. Be brave. Be…

Why did they send me away?! She promptly muffled the sob in the moist pillow, unable to stop it this time.

It wasn't my fault!

I just… danced for him.

Quiet. Quiet. Draw slow, silent breaths and don’t wake up precious Janine. She’d be curious to know. But what could she tell her? That ugly duckling that would never become a swan just could not understand what it means to be seen in the eyes of an adoring… an adoring… what?

What is Vincent? For the first time she wondered.

Vincent just… was. A child like she was. Growing up with her. Running, swimming, playing…

And becoming the most attractive among the tunnel boys. Tall. Silent. Kind. Powerful.

Adoring her. She felt beautiful in front of him.

Vincent’s azure eyes. Vincent’s slow smile. Vincent’s…

She moved her shoulder a little, to feel the discomfort of the scratches on it. His hands had hurt her. His hands could hurt.

Yes, they all knew it. Better not to be around Vincent when he was mad. The very rare times he was mad. When they were little children, a grownup was always there, with them. Later… perhaps after Devin disappeared? Vincent would flee long before his madness became apparent to the others. He had told her that himself, once. They talked a lot, in their “special place”. Well, she talked a lot. He listened. Silent Vincent.

But… hurt her? Why? She was just dancing. And feeling beautiful. And making him happy.

Why did he… do that?

Why were his azure eyes… suddenly so dark?

“Let go of me!”

And why did Father do that?

Why did he console… him? She was bleeding!

Vincent, always Vincent!

He hurt her!

Why did Father tell her what… nobody will ever tell Janine?

“Lisa, it’s time for you to decide if you really want to dance, professionally. Do you?”

She was taken aback. He was tending her shoulder. Why talk about dance? Let’s talk about what happened? About Vincent? It wasn't my fault… It was he who… who…

Accuse Vincent? Impossible. Useless. Father didn't like her. Same as Mrs Thorley.

“Do you?”

“Yes…” she said. It was the truth.

“It means leaving the tunnels, and living Above to go to a ballet school. Madame Rakova has no doubts you could enter any, even the best ones.”

“Perhaps next year, you told me.”

“No. Now.”


“Yes.” The antiseptic burned and she had a sharp intake of breath.

Why are we talking ballet now?? Why don’t you ask me what happened in the Great Hall? It wasn't my fault!

“Where would I go?”

“I was thinking about Dear Mrs Thorley.”

Dear Mrs Thorley. She worked at the American Ballet. Sort of. She cleaned it. And she knew everybody there.

“I… ”

“Go to bed now. Tomorrow we’ll talk. Think about this.”

But tomorrow morning, when she woke up, both Madame Rakova and Dear Mrs Thorley were already there, and helped her pack her things, and brought her Above. All the time smiling, talking about the future, and making her feel unwelcome.

Unwelcome. She glanced at Janine’s bed, the ugly and welcome one.

Perhaps it was time to turn the pillow. The movement made her feel the scratches on her shoulder again.


Nowhere around to tell her goodbye that morning. To tell her “sorry”. Had he run away, like he did when he was getting mad? Or was it Father who had kept him away from her?

She turned the pillow over. The tears had stopped; she put her cheek on the fresh side of the pillowcase. She was beautiful. She was good. She was going to feel welcome, she promised herself.
And to dance for kings.




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