“I just want to bury my face in them,” I said. “Do you think that stems back to the issues with my mother?”
Dr. Puck waited a long moment before answering. “Does this actress remind you of your mother?”
“No,” I said. “No, not at all.”
Far from it, in fact. From our very first meeting, I’d been impressed by her self-possession. Despite apparently being completely new to acting, there were no signs of nervousness or doubt.
She’d taken a risk and claimed a minor role for her own, as though no one were watching.
False confidence was common among actors, but it was a fragile thing. True self-assurance was rare in an industry where popularity and love could be quantifiable, monetizable units–and vanish overnight, as mine had.
“And why do you consider her to be your muse?”
“She inspires me. I can’t stop thinking about her.”
The pilot scenes between my character and hers had been an exquisite sort of pain, though I enjoyed catching her in an unguarded moment before shooting began.
Was was she thinking? Serenity enveloped her, as it had back at her place of employment. She seemed at home here as she had there, if not more so.
Her presence alone made it impossible to focus on my chess-playing, despite the expensive coach I’d hired.
Was she gazing especially longingly at Lord Harrington, more so than the scene required…or were those lustful glances directed at me?
…My character. Regardless, it was difficult to concentrate under these circumstances.
I’d almost summoned the courage to ask for her number after those scenes…until I’d found her acting very chummy with Hamlet Richardson.
Was she a Haughthead? Was that why she’d accepted a role on the show? To get close to my old rival…
In the end, I was grateful that my assistant had never managed to secure her number, as I was soon distracted by other matters.
After all these years, I’d become familiar with the phone calls by now. “Vilhelmina?”
My grandmother wasted no time. “It’s your mother. She’s having another one of her…episodes.”
She never sugar-coated anything, so I knew it must be serious for her to make an attempt to do so now.
“…I’ll be in the city as soon as I can. Thank you.”
“You’re a good son, Rhys.”
Something I’d never heard from either of my parents, and a lie besides. I was grateful that my mother had someone to look after her in my absence, though I wondered if it was due to a sense of obligation or residual affection from their short-lived love affairs.
Was it genuine attraction that had brought Isla Straud into the arms of her ex-husband’s mother more than once–or a combination of loneliness and spite? I’d ask Dr. Puck about it, but our session was running late, and I needed to see my mother as soon as possible.
Why did I continue to see Dr. Puck? Did I honestly think he could fix me, or was it because he was the only father figure I had left?
…Another question for next time, but I was grateful to speak with him before venturing into the belly of the beast: my mother’s apartment.
I’d never liked that apartment. It was always too quiet, when it wasn’t full of the sounds of my parents’ screaming–or lovemaking. I’d preferred to try a new restaurant in San Myshuno every night rather than come home to an empty dinner table, so lifeless compared to the ones on television.
But television was a lie.
I took a deep breath outside my mother’s room. I knew what I would find.
And sure enough, along with the best view in the entire city that money could buy, I found my mother. Did she ever look out those windows anymore, or only rue how different the steel and concrete were from the bountiful nature of the fae?
My father had said she was steel and concrete on the inside now, after so many years among humans. But he’d never seen her like this, not like I had.
“I’ve already called the theater, Mom,” I said gently. “I pretended to be your assistant and made outrageous demands in your name before you deign to set foot on-stage again.”
It was better for a famous stage actress like Isla Straud to continue cultivating her reputation as a diva rather than admitting to a “mental health day.” The former wouldn’t lead to further reports on gossip rags, as it was nothing new, not unless she threw something at a younger, up-and-coming actress’s head. (Again.)
“…Galatea,” she whispered. “Are you looking after your sister?”
I sat down beside her, sinking into the plush bed. “I’m trying to. She’s being somewhat…stubborn.”
“Your sister is all you have. Don’t forget that, Rhys.”
What about my mother? And did she have to ask about Galatea first? “What’s wrong?” I said instead.
“It’s Darius,” she said miserably. Her voice was hoarse, as though she’d already cried and screamed for hours before I’d arrived. “I see him in my nightmares, but he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know himself.”
I was sick of hearing of this uncle I’d never met. Sometimes, I wished he’d died outright, rather than giving my mother hope with a strange, in-between existence that I could only compare to a coma.
The one time I’d asked how she knew he was alive–when I was a child–she’d given me the iciest glare, telling me that he was her twin.
“Do you want to try a different medication…?”
“No,” she whispered. “No. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He was supposed to wake up. He was supposed to return for me. We were meant to go back together, to live among the fae again, and then…why didn’t he wake up, Rhys? Why didn’t he wake up?”
She let out a wordless cry, a terrible sound from an already tortured throat.
If only I weren’t so useless…
If only I could’ve told my sister–or my brother.
Maybe I didn’t just want my muse–maybe I envied her. Not just her self-assurance, but the way she didn’t seem to need anyone else or have a care in the world.