Teddy Jasper’s pencil moustache wrinkled up to his nose, then smoothed over into a diplomatic smile, directed first at The Bird, then towards her mother. “See you after the show.” The Bird, standing to Teddy’s left, thought she saw him wink with his right eye at her mother, before brusquing past her towards the door leading to the seating area.
As the door began closing behind Teddy, The Bird’s mother stepped into her view. “What was that about?”
How long have you known him, The Bird asked, pointing towards the door.
Her mother shook her head. “This isn’t about me and him, it’s about respect — ”
How about respecting yourself, The Bird shot back, instead of selling yourself, again —
Her mother slapped her, The Bird’s head turning to the left. A mélange of emotions filled the slender teenaged girl — hurt (but no, there was no pain), humiliation (but no, there was no one else to witness the action), anger (but no, there was no reason to be angry). Shame — this was hardly the first time her mother had slapped her like this, and The Bird suddenly remembered the words that always immediately followed. You should be ashamed of yourself. The Bird swiveled her head back so that she now faced her mother — and smiled.
“You should be — ”
I’m not, said The Bird. Ashamed, no, not at all. Her smile broadened a bit, then fell. She waited a moment, for the severe expression on her mother’s face to dissolve like ice under a heat lamp. The Bird pointed to the auditorium door again.
How is this going to end up any different than before, she asked her mother. How do you know this, Teddy Jasper, isn’t going to be like any of the other agents you’ve worked with, the ones who’ve lied to you, used you —
Her mother straightened, the severe look returning to her face. The Bird suddenly realized her mother had begun playing the role of Queen Gertrude, regal and aloof. “I’ve learned from my mistakes. This time, I’ve asked the right questions.” She smiled, resuming her role as her mother. “Mr. Nestor speaks highly of Teddy — ”
Bullshit. A small voice in The Bird’s head congratulated her for having the courage to open that door.
Her mother recoiled, her face contorting like a cobra preparing to strike. The Bird braced herself for the impact, and felt disappointed when her mother only laughed.
“I believe your friends on the fencing team are waiting for you.” Her mother reached over, touched The Bird’s shoulder, her daughter drawing close and hugging her with greater strength and meaning than usual.