June 17, 2012
I dreamt of monsters for as long as I could remember. And the nightmares grew worse every year. Dreamcatchers hung above my bed, down my shoulder, even on my journal; and whenever it was too much to bear, I wove one through my hair. At night when the flashes of blue and purple and big hairy men with horns frightened me, my mother’s boyfriend would come and climb into bed with me. He’d lie next to me all night, grope me with his chilly fingers, whispering and gasping in my ear. And when I was old enough, he made me a woman.
Mother let go of him, but he and I used to meet among the shadows and smoke of cheap bars on the other side of town. And at night, the new man in her life slept next to me. Over and over again.
But I didn’t mind.
The men in my life took away my dreams, and that’s why I could never let them go.
My life was a lot of fundraisers and galas and parties, not really supreme royalty but we were pretty well off. Mother had a lot of friends in the right places and I often had things exclusively designed for me. But of course, I had no say in the matter. Mother decided what I’d wear, where I’d go, who I’d be with. I was “promised” to be engaged to a man I barely knew before I turned sixteen – just like she had been, and before that, her mother, and so on. Every family has their own traditions, I guess.
Billy kept me sane through those times. Billy Burns with his Billy blue eyes and that Billy broken smile. He kept his brown stubble because I liked it and it kept him real; it kept him human because his body was surely sculpted by the gods on a relaxed warm winter afternoon in heaven. He loved me enough to wait under my window every night. He’d wait for mother to sleep and he’d take me away, away from mother and her men, her men who slept in my bed.
Billy helped me drown out the whispered voices that called me crazy. When I was with him, I didn’t see the sideway glances. But he wasn’t there at the highbrow parties. Oh! Mother would just be beside herself if she ever saw him there. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I had him mapped across the palm of my hands, the side of my face, the edge of my lips.
I was standing on a pedestal. Not in anyone’s eyes, I really was on a pedestal. And I was standing on that two foot pedestal in my underwear, while Jean-Felipe kept shouting orders and calling for champagne, asking me if I’m old enough to be having champagne, winking at me when I looked at him impassively, and rushing to take his dress from the assistant’s hands. He said they were too inept to touch his exclusive work and they should only stand pretty in the front end of his store. I would have found him tolerable if he wasn’t such a total bitch. He was one of the people that I could stand to talk to during social events, while my mother would float about with her simpering socialite friends.
“Et voilà.” He pulled out a sleek black gown from the dress bag.
It had corset boning down to the hip which then opened out into a full skirt, like an upturned martini glass. He stood on his tip toes to slip it over my head and once he was done with the endless military rivets behind me, we looked at my reflection.
“What do you think?” I always asked him first.
I cocked my head to one side, “There’s something off about it.”
“Je ne sais quoi, Marlie. I just don’t like it.”
“I look like a Black Widow.”
He swallowed, closed his eyes and placed a hand on his chest. The fact that this six foot four, muscular and very handsome man was doing that, okay no it still wasn’t funny. I felt bad for him.
“Do you have something I can wear off-the-rack?” I asked sympathetically, trying to step down
without breaking any teeth.
He silenced me with a glare.
“You can take whatever you want from the store, but don’t you dare wear that for your mother’s anniversary.”
“It’s not just her anniversary, you know!” I was offended that Jean had forgotten.
“Okay, but your birthday isn’t for another week.” He sheepishly handed me a dress of velveteen midnight. “There are shoes to go with that. Come out with us tonight. I could use a drink.”
“Done. You’re buying.”
He huffed at me as I slipped out of the enormous gown and changed back into my denim shorts and camisole. I was wearing Billy’s brown leather jacket and saw Jean eyeing it curiously. I picked up my dreamcatcher earrings and the now boxed and bagged dress and shoes.
“Just so you know, I’m doing you a favour, paying for your drinks. You’re hardly legal.”
“Just so you know, I can get guys to buy me a drink without asking.”
“Just so you know,” he leaned in close and whispered, “I’m on to you.” He jutted his chin at the jacket. Billy’s jacket.
“What are you talking about?” I tried to ignore the cold sweat and the lump in my throat.
He raised his eyebrows at me. “I saw you with him.” He left me standing there.
By the evening, mother knew everything about Billy. My blue-eyed Billy. Billy, who worked odd jobs to make rent, drank himself to sleep, lived free.
She broke a crystal vase and two plates of fine bone china. To be honest, I wished to have broken one on her head, and another to wipe the smug look off her boyfriend’s face. But there I stood, in my blue velvet dress among the pieces of broken blue china. I watched Jason give her anti-anxiety pills and raise his lustful eyes at me. I put on the brown suede shoes, Billy’s jacket and my earrings and I left the house, not sure if I wanted to go back that night. Jason ran after me, grabbed me fully and told me he’d take care of her and then he’d wait for me. But I wasn’t coming back. I was running away… with Billy.
Jean-Felipe waited for me with worry and told me that it wasn’t him. I didn’t get to throw my martini on his face. He told me he’d cheer me up but I wasn’t so sure any of it mattered to me anymore. We smoked some weed in the bathroom and took off into the night.
“Okay, so I’ve been working on this all day, you’re gonna love it.”
“What is it?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise… but here.” He showed me a photo on his phone. It was the Black Widow gown, with a thousand dreamcatchers sewed onto the skirt.
I got home and cried because I’d never get to wear the gown. Billy broke my tears; he was waiting for me on the fire escape. He climbed into my room and lay with me in bed, holding me like I was his life. Billy was mine.
Billy never asked me about the M on my ribs, the M with an eye inside, which he thought was for Marlie, but it was actually something I saw in my nightmares. I’d wake up surrounded by horned beasts in blue fur and one eyed green monsters but I never remembered anything else. I always woke up screaming. Every night. Over and over again.
But Billy never cared.
“Come away with me”, he said.
I packed my clothes and gave him the bags. I went back to the kitchen, for something. I didn’t know what.
Mommy was a whore and she made me one too. She didn’t deserve anything and if I had my way, that’s exactly what she’d be left with. I could either go in mommy’s Mercedes or Billy’s pick-up truck.
I don’t know if it mattered any more. I had him. And I had me.
Everyone there thought I was crazy; dangerous. Maybe I am. Maybe the monsters in my dreams were never really there, or maybe they were a part of me all along.
It didn’t matter anymore.
I climbed down to the street and threw myself onto him. We crashed into the side of his car and I kissed him till we were out of breath.
We drove off.
Billy came in the night and took me away, mommy. Far away from you.
He looked at me with those clear blue eyes; eyes that made my heart ache. “Are you sure about this?”
I looked at him.
“Just drive on. Don’t ever stop…” I smiled.
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