I had been awake for some time when there was a knock on my bedroom door and mum stepped into the room.
“Are you feeling better?”, she asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed, just as Fred had done. The mere memory of it made me blush. There was something in the tone of her voice – was it pity or disappointment?
“I’m… better.”
Mom gave a little nod that made her look as though she was ticking off a list inside her head. Maybe she was. “Right. Arthur and I have had an… an enjoyable evening and I’ve invited him for dinner. Fred’s coming too, so you might want to get dressed.”
“Why’s Fred coming?”, I asked sharply.
Mum looked taken aback. She’d obviously hoped that I wouldn’t ask. “He came to check on you.”
“Aha.” I sat up, turning my back to mum in the process, stretching luxuriously.
After a minute’s silence, mum spoke. “Mathilde, I know that all this hasn’t been easy for you. I understand.”
I froze. “No you don’t.” How could she start on that now?
“Fine.”, she said, in a passable imitation of patience. “But whatever is going on inside your head, you can’t just run off and get drunk. You didn’t know anyone except Fred and he wasn’t even looking after you.”
Looking after me. “Skip the lecture.”, I said.
“I’m your mother. I have the right to be worried.”
“Can’t you let me make my own mistakes?”
“It’s not my fault everything turned out wrong! You had a dream and now it’s in pieces.”
“Don’t confuse my dreams with your own.”, I said coldly, finally turning to face her.
Mum got up and walked from the room.
I pulled my legs back onto the bed and buried my face in my hands. I’d thought mum and I were going to be ok, but there we were. I hadn’t meant to blame mum. I had been prepared to believe that we would find a way to deal with each other. Only. I had heard mum’s apparently affected voice one time too often. How are you feeling? Can I get you anything? It was her way of being reproachful.
I lay back down, staring at the ceiling. What was the matter with me? I shouldn’t be thinking about this at all. I really needed to get some things straight.
Fred was cute, alright, but I’d been on dates before. Why was I making such a fool of myself? My thoughts turned to the previous evening and I felt the blood rushing into my cheeks. The big question was: Why the hell had I done what I’d done? What had been my motive?
There had been a moment when everything had seemed perfect, but then Jenna had appeared. Jenna. I had been jealous. Despite anything that David might have said, I hadn’t really believed it. I was just a guest, a temporary acquaintance who would be gone by Saturday. Fred was free to do whatever he wanted and he had parked me with David like a passing enjoyment so that he could go and relish the company of his friends. And I had had nothing better to do than to throw myself at David and tell him about things that were none of his business. He might have understood me better than anyone lately, but that was no reason, no reason at all. Had I been so much beyond caring? Yes, I had. Breaking my reserve had felt so good, so reckless, so stupid.
After the accident, I had been without a perspective for the first time in my life. I had asked silly questions – What would I look like? Would the scars show? When would I be able to dance again? – before realizing how serious everything was. Would the bones heal well enough to allow me to walk? To stand on tiptoe to reach a shelf? Would the scars on my back ever stop stinging painfully, when a bra or bikini was tight against them?
Every time one of these questions was answered, I found a new one waiting inside my head. Why hadn’t I been too terrified to ever go near a horse again, let alone ride one? Where had all the anxiety gone?
I pressed a hand over my mouth to stop any sound escaping me. There was a truth that I had never acknowledged. The moment it had become clear that I wouldn’t have to rely on dancing to pay my rent or to buy my clothes or to feed my future family, I had felt wonderfully free. I would be able to finish school like everyone else and decide on what I wanted to study. There would be no nightly dancing sessions, no daily workouts. I didn’t have to keep training all the time. I would be able to do my homework at home instead of on the school bus. I could do stupid stuff, now. Meet friends, ride skateboards and fall flat on my nose and we could eat too much junk food and laugh to loud as we sat at the back row of our favourite cinema.
I was free.
Fred had appeared in the middle of this rushing excitement, in the middle of the reckless daring that had seized me and I had embraced his company and included it in my new self-consciousness. I was free to fall in love.
But was I? Was I really in love with Fred? Or had flirting with him just been my way of showing mum that I was having things my own way now?
What did I feel about him?

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