Chapter 11 – What’s changed, Camille? (Baltimore)
I don’t feel like going to class today. I spent all night tossing and turning in bed and this morning I almost pretended to be sick to get out of showing up here. But my mother, after discovering the deception and asking me what was going on without any answer on my Part―I didn’t feel like explaining myself―forced me to come.
“Who commanded you, Camille?” I mumble while I slam the locker door.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” says someone on my left, making me glue a boat.
My mouth is dry when I turn around and see him with one arm resting on the top row of lockers. He looks calm, but I can read his face like an open book―he’s angry with me and the worst thing is that he’s right. I don’t feel able to answer him. We just looked at each other, just like yesterday. At least until he sighs and looks away.
That’s what I’d like to know, too.
“Moose…I’m sorry, I…” ―the words are stuck in my throat because of the shame. It’s indeed a secret I’ve never told anyone, almost not even my foster family, but he… I press my lips and lower my head, Sunk―I have no excuse. And yet, I emit a weak… “It’s something I’ve never told anyone.”
“Not even me?” he says, “You discovered my secret, and I shared it with you. Why…?”
He cut himself abruptly―without finishing the sentence, but he doesn’t have to. I feel bad enough about it.
“I’m sorry, okay?” I apologize without pungency. “Besides, it’s something from before I met you. Or well, from the time when…” ―I snort, desperate to get a reaction from him. “I know, I’m sorry. I should have told you.”
He’s shaking his head, still upset, and I can’t blame him. But part of me wishes he would accept the apology and everything would go back to normal right away. Unfortunately, life is not a movie where everything ends well.
“So you’re going to perform at Christmas besides our Street-and-ballet act and… and you didn’t feel to tell me?”
Astonished, I open my mouth and eyes wide as I lift my head towards him. How…
“¿W… What?” ―From… ― “What are you talking about?” I babble.
Frankly, I miss it.
What the hell…?
But he snorts and grimaces as if the answer is obvious.
“You hide to rehearse and expect me to believe you don’t know what I’m talking about?” ―I do―. “What’s happened between us, Camille Anne Gage? What’s changed?”
I move my mouth in silence, perplexed to no end, and somewhat annoyed that he uses my full name as a throwing weapon. I would almost want to laugh if it weren’t for the fact that what threatens to overflow my eyelids are tears, and not exactly happiness.
“Moose, the fact that… I like to sing, no one knows and no one should ever know,” I shrug. “I don’t want anyone to know. It’s my thing for me, period.”
Now the one who looks surprised is him.
“But why?” ―he takes one step closer and looks at me with an intensity that makes my cheeks burn with full force―. “Cam, about yesterday… your voice…”
“She’s mine, Moose. For me,” I stress, afraid of the direction the conversation seems to be taking. He doesn’t seem angry anymore, but I don’t know if his sudden interest in my vocal abilities is preferable or not. “Singing for others… I’m embarrassed. A lot” I shake my head and go back a step. “I can’t.”
Then he does something I don’t expect. He comes closer than ever and whispers over my hair:
“And you’d be ashamed to dethrone Cathy?”
I jump instinctively as if I had just been stung by a snake and my eyes are like plates.
“What are you talking about?” I recall it.
But he’s not willing to give up on his plan, as crazy as it may seem.
“That if I can take the spotlight off that little princess on Christmas Day” he mumbles in a tone that almost scares me, “I swear I’ll do it no matter what.”
After recovering from the surprise, I laugh with sarcasm.
“I feel used…” I accuse him without malice.
But he’s still deadly serious and I’d rather shut up. This is a face of Moose that I don’t recognize and, frankly, I don’t know if I want to see it anymore―where’s my best friend? The laughing, spontaneous one? What has turned him into this vengeful creature before me? Unfortunately, I know the answer only by the sum of two and two. And that makes me make an irrevocable decision. Take it or leave it.
“Okay, I accept, but before you get too excited,” I add. “On one condition, though.”
He twists the gesture a little and squints as if he suspects what I’m about to ask him, but nods―it’s better for me.
“Let that shadow called Sophie Donovan” I slowly pronounce her name, close to his face, ignoring the stream of pain that runs through it when he hears those two words, “that prevents you from bringing out your full potential, go to hell in a canoe from this very moment. Is that clear? And I don’t care if she’s in front of us on the day of the gala, I don’t give a damn what she says or does. If you want to do something on that day, it’s for us, all right? And for nobody else.”
I can almost see the gears of his brain spinning as we hold each other’s eyes. We’re very close, closer than ever. But the last thing I want right now, as strange as it sounds, is to give my feelings free rein. This is an all-out negotiation. And I intend to win; something I get a few seconds later when Moose looks away and muses:
“Okay,” but right after that, he shows a half-smile that makes me imitate him. “Although I think for that song we’re going to need more people…”
I pretend to meditate.
“Street-dancers representing a waltz… Sounds promising.”
He changes the gesture to something much more mysterious.
“Believe me,” he says, “when I tell you that you’ll be surprised at what they can do…”
Grateful that the storm has passed, I smile, between nervous and triumphant. I think I would have accepted his proposal anyway, but we both need him to let go of that burden―and no longer just because of how I might feel about him.
It’s because he’s worth far more than any three-to-four Sophie Donovan would ever want to grant him. And I’m willing to open his eyes at whatever price it takes.