Carmen thought of her tiny brother. He could barely walk yet, let alone run. He was going to grow up with such a different life than the one Carmen had. So no more apartment, huh?
No. It was a good place for the two of us, but didnt we always want a house? Isnt that what you always said you wanted?
Shed also wanted a sibling and for her mother not to be alone. It wasnt always easy getting what you wanted.
Ill have to pack up my room, Carmen said.
Youll have a bigger room in the new house, her mother rushed to say. Yes, she would. But wasnt it a bit late for that? For having a house with a yard and a bigger room? It was too late to redo her childhood. She had the one she had, and it had taken place in her small room in their apartment. It was sad and strange to lose it and too late to replace it.
Where did that leave her? Without her old life and not quite coming up with a new one. In between, floating, nowhere. That seemed all too fitting, in a way. Lena dropped by yesterday to say hi and see Ryan. She brought him a Frisbee, her mother mentioned a little wistfully. I wish you were home. Yeah. But Ive got all this stuff going on here.
I know, nena. After she hung up with her mother, the phone rang again. Carmen, where are you?
Julia Wyman sounded annoyed. Carmen glanced behind her at her clock. Were supposed to be doing a run-through on set in . . . now!
Im coming, Carmen said, pulling on her socks as she held the phone with her shoulder. Ill be right there.
She hustled out of her dorm and to the theater. She remembered along the way that her hair was dirty and shed meant to change her pants, because the ones she was wearing made her feel particularly fat. But did it matter? Nobody was looking at her.
Julia was waiting for her backstage. Can you help me with this? For her role in the production, Julia wore a long tweed skirt, and the waist was too big for her. Carmen bent down to work on the safety pin. Hows that? she asked, pinning the waistband in the back.
Better. Thanks. How does it look? Julia looked good in it. Julia looked good in most things, and she didnt need Carmen to tell her so. But Carmen did anyway. In a strange way, it was Julias job to look good for both of them. It was Carmens job to appreciate her for it. I think Roland is waiting for you onstage.
Carmen stepped onto the stage, but Roland didnt appear to be waiting for her. He didnt react in any way when he saw her. These days she felt her presence had the same effect as a ghostnobody noticed her, but the air suddenly got cold. Carmen squinted and tried to make herself small. She did not like being onstage when the lights were on. Did you need something? she asked Roland. Oh, yeah. He was trying to remember. Can you fix the curtain in the parlor? Its falling off.
Sure, she said quickly, wondering if she should feel guilty. Was she the one who put it up last?
She positioned the ladder, climbed up three rungs, and aimed a staple gun at the plywood wall. Set building was strange in that it was always about the impression, made to be seen from particular angles and not made to last. It existed in space and time not as a thing, but as a trick. She liked the chunk sound of the staple clawing into the wall. It was one of the things shed learned at college: how to operate a staple gun. Her dad was paying a lot of money for that.
Shed learned other stuff too. How to gain seventeen pounds eating cafeteria food and chocolate at night when you felt lonely. How to be invisible to guys. How not to wake up for your nine oclock psychology class. How to wear sweatshirts almost every day because you felt self-conscious about your body. How to elude the people you loved most in the world. How to be invisible to pretty much everyone, including yourself.
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