The cages opened. The crowds cheered. The newly resurrected, state of the art, Circus Maximus coliseum exploded in deafening cheers. The crowd was hungry for innocent young blood. They didn’t know if either one would make it out alive. They just hoped that the training they received had been enough to help them see another day—and maybe, just maybe, escape.
Since they had been kidnapped, the twins Marius and Marina had been training and learning the skills of a warrior. They saw each other the moment the cages opened. They didn’t have to talk or even make the faintest of facial expressions—they knew. They were bruised, sore, and though they hid it well, terrified. While they had been waiting to be called up, the disturbing realization that the gamers were pairing friends, couples, and now siblings against each other, dawned on them.
All through training, the gamers had been watching them through those little cameras; now they knew how to inflict the most pain on them. In a few seconds the announcer would say their names, and they would have to fight each other to the death.
“Aw…” the commentator said as if he were truly disappointed. “I guess this love story ended in a tragedy,” he added with mock sympathy, as he finished his comments about the last couple. The crowd went wild; some hissed, and some cackled.
“And now! Twins! Marius and Marina! They have both proven to be among the toughest trainees. Marius has quickly become an expert in sword fighting, while Marina has embraced the bow. What weapons will they choose? Who will live to fight another day?” The crowd roared. It sounded like the angry sea to the twins’ ears, as they stepped forward into the center of the Circus Maximus arena. Weapons were strewn everywhere, theirs for the taking. Blood pooled on the ground in places, where former gladiators had been injured or killed.
“I will not kill you,” Marina yelled to her brother, who stood about a hundred feet away, still standing on his platform. “I’d rather die. So, just kill me.” Acoustics were incredible in this place, so their voices carried well in spite of the distance and the noise from the stands.
Marius shook his head, “Are you crazy? And risk Mother’s wrath?” he jested. This was so typical of Marius, laughing at inopportune times.
“What now?” Mariana asked as she looked around the half chanting, half booing arena.
“Let me remind you that if you refuse to fight, we will unleash The Beast!” the commentator said over the speakers.
As if on cue, the crowd started chanting, “Beast! Beast! Beast!”
The twins stood still, unmoving, refusing to take up weapons against each other.
“I warned you,” the commentator said in a singsong tone. Suddenly, at the far end of the arena, one of the cages rose from the ground. Neither Marius nor Marina had seen the Beast before. They had heard rumors about it while in training, and they were right. It was grotesque.
As the creature emerged from the pit, the twins stared in frozen amazement. It was as big as an elephant, but that’s where the similarities ended. It had a bull’s head with long horns, teeth as long as a saber tooth tiger, claws like an eagle, and a spiked tail like a dinosaur.
“Run!” Marius shouted.
“No!” called Marina. “Get some weapons! Then run!”
“Good idea, sis! You were always the smart one!”
Each of them went for their weapon of choice and started running toward each other. The Beast charged. It was faster.
“Split!” Marina ordered.
“Did I forget to mention that Marina here is a strategic genius?” the commentator declared. “She was one of the top strategic leaders during training, winning four simulations out of the five they had to complete. Marius here won four as well, but more through sheer luck than sound strategy,” the commentator added. The crowd laughed and cheered as the twins ran for their lives. “If they survive, we will air the details of their training next week. So stay tuned!”
Marina had an idea. She had stolen some of the poison she saw on display yesterday during the tour of the facilities. Most of the gladiators had been walking through the gory museum mindlessly, only thinking of what was to come in just a few hours. Not Marina; she had been paying attention. When no one was looking, she snatched one of the vials of poison and hid it in her bra. At the time, she didn’t know if she was going to use it to kill or if she was going to take it herself. Now she knew.
“Marius!” she yelled, across the arena. It took a few tries for her brother to hear her over the crowd’s clamor. “Come!” she gestured. As he started to run across the six hundred feet long arena, the Beast headed straight for him. Meanwhile, Marina was hunched over, dipping the tips of her arrows into the vial, careful not to spill any of the precious poison.
“Marina! This thing is hungry!”
Without wasting any more time, she corked the vial, stuffed it back into her bra, and let an arrow fly, hitting The Beast square between the eyes, buying her brother a few seconds.
“What took you so long? I was about to become lunch!” Marius shouted.
“Hurry,” Marina said, taking the vial back out and removing the cork again. “Hold out your sword.” Marius obeyed without question, and Marina poured the rest of the poison over the blade. “Let’s hope this is as powerful as they said it was.”
Marius kissed his sister on the cheek and ran out to meet the Beast head on. Marius struck the Beast with blow after powerful blow, barely missing its snapping jaws, grasping claws, or swinging tail. Marina let all the arrows fly, careful to avoid her brother.
Slowly, the snarling Beast started to slump. First, the front legs gave out, then the back. With a running start, Marius flipped himself acrobatically onto the Beast’s back, intending to finish it off. But, with a burst of energy the Beast stood up! Marius held on by the skin of its neck. Like a bull rider, Marius rode the beast, which looked more like a giant porcupine thanks to Marina’s poisoned arrows.
The commentator described each scene with enthusiasm. The crowd’s noise had risen to a new height. “No one has ridden the Beast before!” the commentator exclaimed, excitedly. “We are watching Circus history here, people!”
Suddenly, the angry Beast collapsed again, flinging Marius forward. But, as he flew in mid-air, Marius swung his sword around and slashed the Beast’s neck. The grotesque head detached from the body, and rolled, while Marius’ body slammed onto the ground—hard. Marina screamed and ran to her brother’s side.
“Marius? Marius! Are you okay?” she yelled. No answer. “Marius, please! Please don’t die! You’re all I have now! You’re all I have.”
“What about Mom?” he said, opening one eye.
Marina punched him in the arm and hugged him tightly. “Besides Mom, you’re all I have.”
“And… cut!” called the director. “We really need to fix that last line. I don’t like it. It’s anticlimactic. What do you think, Bob?”
“I’ll work on it,” said Bob morosely, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index fingers.
“Their mother is being threatened somehow, right?” the director asked no one in particular. Several heads in the studio bobbed up and down tiredly. “Okay then, maybe Marina should be saying something like, like… ‘Unless mother still lives, you’re all I have’ or something like that,” he suggested with an exhausted shake of his head, flinging his arms upward as if he didn’t much care.
“If we change that line, we’ll have to film the whole scene again,” Bob said quietly, jaws clenched.
“No-no, not the whole scene.” Tiredly, the director rubbed his face with his hand. “Let’s take a break. We’ll resume in two hours. Good work, Indigo. Good work, Beryl. You two are golden!” He nodded toward the two protagonists, who were slumped on the green screen set, waiting for their next set of instructions.
Once dismissed, Beryl jumped nimbly to his feet and offered Indigo a hand. “Well, sis? How do you like working with your big brother?” he asked.
Indigo snorted derisively and accepted a towel and water from a set girl. “It’s a dream come true!” she said sarcastically, as she shoved him aside. However, inwardly, she was thrilled.
Enter Tea leaf divining Shrink. Exeunt Secrets and Half Truths
Carefully held by a delicate white metal mount, and printed in impeccable calligraphy so as to add to its importance, is the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “A woman is like a teabag—you don’t know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
The framed quotation rests amid several dainty tea sets, and once a week, when I come for my session with my shrink, Dr. Pemberton, I have the privilege of choosing the tea set from which we will drink our tea. Dr. Pemberton seems to think that all problems can be solved over a good cup of tea, and I don’t necessarily disagree. I’ve been coming to see her since I was seven years old—ten years now.
Dr. Pemberton switches quotes every once in a while. I’ve always found them interesting and entertaining. However, there’s something about this last quote that will not leave me. I realize that it’s a simple quote, nothing extraordinarily hard to understand about it, but I feel like there is something hidden in it for me. Maybe hidden isn’t the right word, but rather, a challenge. More than anything I’d like to be strong tea, proven, tested, and ultimately—triumphant. Over what great adversary? I don’t yet know. Myself maybe. Regardless, I have a feeling that this quote will change my life somehow.
“Which one will it be?” Dr. Pemberton asks, in her crisp British accent.
“Um…” I ponder, as I pull my attention away from the quote and back to my original task. I let my French manicured hand trace the teacup-laden shelf. Delicate willow patterned cups are displayed along with an assortment of intricately painted flowers and friendly garden bug designs. All of the patterns assail my senses at once, making me feel slightly overwhelmed by the amount of choices.
Dr. Pemberton’s whole office is, in fact, a bit overwhelming for me. It is centered in the heart of my hometown, Beverly Hills, on the fifth story of a modern, minimalist, almost sterile building. However, once you step inside her office, all the clean, sharp angles and straight lines disappear. Instead, you find yourself inside a room that looks like something out of a Jane Austen movie set. It is a proper British parlor with an overabundance of French Rococo style tapestries, furniture, and figurines. Fresh pastel peony blooms overflow in porcelain and golden inlaid vases. Dappled light from a lace curtain filters through the east facing windows, giving the office a warm, inviting glow. The whole setup, complete with the soft classical music, seems to say: come sit, drink some tea and chat with Aunt Blanche.
But Dr. Blanche Pemberton is no one’s aunt, and she is rather cutting and acerbic. I guess that’s why she relies on her old lady decor to make people feel more comfortable. Or maybe there’s some research out there that says that an overabundance of pink helps people open up and start talking. I happen to know all these design details; over the years she’s told me all about them. I guess that was her way of breaking the ice with me, as I sat stiff and tight-lipped on one of her settees for almost a whole year.
To me, Dr. Pemberton looks a bit like a bored Basset Hound. Her big, round, brown eyes look thoughtfully at me, while her carefully curled under bob makes her look like she’s got long, floppy ears. Her bangs are also curled under, somewhat reducing her long, thin face.
Ruby, my manager, chose Dr. Pemberton because she came highly recommended as someone who disdained Hollywood stars like myself—or rather she held no regard for us. She is, after all, one of those stuffy English women who find acting to be rubbish. One time, when I asked her why she left dear old England for the sunny shores of L.A., she responded in the most obscure way possible, saying, “California weather suits me.”
Because of these firm convictions about Hollywood stars, Dr. Pemberton has become rather popular among us, and half the people I know come to her. Her clientele has grown exponentially thanks to her tart disposition, snarky remarks, and the sad reality that there is no shortage of issues among us Hollywood stars.
“I choose… this one!” I say and turn on my precariously thin heels, displaying the plainest teacup of all. It’s the teal colored set, with no frilly flowers on it. It’s rimmed with gold and has teal vertical lines. Simple, yet elegant; like me—sort of. I guess there’s nothing simple about my elegance.
Dr. Pemberton studies my choice as if there’s meaning in it. I wonder if she’ll later look at the tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, and try to divine something from them.
“You often choose this one,” Dr. Pemberton muses as she places the tray by her kitchenette, pinches some tealeaves, and places them into a strainer. “Do you like it?”
“Yes,” I respond, with an inflection of question in my voice.
“Why? I always thought it so plain.”
I shrug. “I feel like going back to the basics, I guess.”
“Hmm… why is that?” She asks, turning shrink mode on full blast.
“Not sure,” I say evasively, resisting this session already. I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m on the verge of something. Like something major is about to go down and I’m already dreading it. It’s hard to explain because I hardly understand it myself. It could have something to do with the Roosevelt quote. Or maybe it has something to do with Beryl. Ever since we finished filming the Circus Maximus MMCXI movie, things have been different between us. He’s been dating a girl from the cast—a newbie who no doubt wants to make a name for herself at my brother’s expense. It was so nice to finally get to hang out with him for longer than a few weeks, but now Nina has taken over his life. Blah!
“How are you sleeping?” Dr. Pemberton asks, changing the direction of the conversation since she can tell I’m not going to elaborate on this particular line of questioning. She pours hot water into the pot and switches off her electric kettle that purposely looks old-fashioned. “Any nightmares?”
Insomnia is one of my biggest issues, along with RAD. Reactive Attachment Disorder can manifest itself in different ways, but with me, it is trust issues. Big time trust issues that stem from not forming a proper bond with my mother, who, when I was three months old, forsook me for a movie role. She played the part of a young mother who was haunted by the ghosts of the house she moved into. It was an epic Josephine Frost movie, another feather in her cap. My reality, though, was abandonment. She didn’t even take me to the set with her—she hired some nanny and left me home so she could focus on her movie—then I didn’t see her again for a year. By then she was a total stranger to me.
I’m over it, but Pemberton doesn’t agree. She says that I have a hard time forming bonds with people, and that’s dangerous. Menace to society dangerous, I suppose. I don’t know what harm I could possibly cause society since all I do is read the scripts that are placed before me, and then perform in the movies. Acting is all I know, and all I’ve been trained to do; I’m simply a puppet. Still, sometimes I do feel like there’s a ticking time bomb inside of me that might go off at any time. When that day comes, no doubt the media will be there to record it all for posterity. Awesome.
While RAD started in infancy, my insomnia started when I was six years old. Apparently, I suffer form some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, like what soldiers suffer from. Only I’ve never been to war, just been in movies about wars, with killer special effects. My insomnia is caused by bad dreams. The fear of having a bad dream, gives me anxiety, and this anxiety gives me insomnia! Dr. Pemberton established that the nightmares started one year after I starred in my first movie with my dad. It was an alien invasion movie, and we had to run from ten-foot-tall, bug-like, robotic aliens who chased us amid bomb explosions and laser shots. It was filmed in an outdoor replica of New York, and though the buildings were nothing but a two-foot facade, to my then five-year-old brain, it was all too real. The movie was hailed as a blockbuster. I won my first round of praises from the Academy, and my father won the actual award. It was the first of many proud Belfrois moments that have stolen pieces of my sanity.
From then on, everyone wanted me to succeed as an actress. I was crowned Hollywood’s Princess, thanks to my illustrious pedigree. Four generations of Hollywood stars from my father’s side and three generations from my mother’s gave me the unique title never before given to anyone else. Not even Beryl got crowned as a Prince, because his mother, Ana, made her first movie at nineteen, co-starring with my dad. They eloped right after filming it. Three months later, my father rekindled his relationship with Josephine Frost, my mother, and Ana’s marriage to my dad ended. That’s why they call us the Belfrois’ twins—even though we are only half siblings—we are just three months apart.
So it is, that I have the wealthiest and most beautiful family tree. We even have a family crest, specially made by my illustrious great-grandfather Aero Belfrois. He was a pompous man, who I believe thought too much of himself and his legacy—the stupid crest being proof enough.
“I’ve had a few bad dreams,” I finally admit, evasively. “Different ones, I guess.”
Dr. Pemberton brings the tray over to the settee in front of me and pours us the tea. She then picks up her cup and sits across from me, carefully crossing her legs and leaning back against her upholstered chair. As she cradles her cup, she lets out a slight, involuntary sigh. “Care to expand?”
“I’m not being chased by aliens anymore, but I am being followed. It’s weird, but it’s worse somehow,” I say, as I slump into the velvet settee.
“Elaborate,” Dr. Pemberton says as she sips her tea and eyes my posture with contempt.
“Well… it’s like I’m going about my day, and someone is watching me. Like a camera is on me all day long, even while I sleep. It’s exhausting! Then, last night in my dream, the same thing happens. I’m going out for a jog, and I get that feeling that someone is running behind me, but when I turn, there’s no one there. Finally, I start running so fast that I feel like my lungs are on fire, and when I look behind me, a zombie paparazzo is chasing after me!”
“Zombie? That’s a new one. Weren’t you in a zombie movie?” Pemberton asks, her large droopy eyes looking more alert than normal.
I nod. “When I was eight,” I say, looking down at my cup. A few tea leaves are settling toward the bottom of my cup. I take a big gulp and swallow the whole thing, leaves and all. In response, Dr. Pemberton raises one eyebrow. I’m not sure if she considers my actions indicative of something, or if she’s simply appalled by me gulping the tea. Maybe she’s sad there’ll be no tea leaves left for her to look at.
“What do you think your dream zombies might do to you if they catch you?”
“Eat my brains, take my picture, I don’t know!” I say with irritation.
“Do you know the zombie who chases you?”
At this, I have to pause. I bend over and pour myself more tea. “I’m not sure. It feels as if I know him, or her, but I can’t remember the face,” I lie. I know very well who my dream zombie is. Wait, that sounds weird. Is there such a thing as dreamy zombies? Well… this one might be. He’s the cute new photographer that started following me around last week. Most of the paparazzi that trail me are soft, pasty, middle-aged men—so this one sticks out. He’s tall, about six-foot-two with dark, wavy hair that loosely hangs past his ears. He’s fit, has large brown eyes, and olive skin—not at all fitting the traditional paparazzi mold. Instead, he looks like the ultimate frat guy—flip flops, khakis, t-shirt, and a perpetual five-o-clock shadow. He looks young, older than me, but in his early twenties. Very early twenties I hope, since I just turned seventeen a few months ago.
I saw him again just this morning as I was getting out of my blue convertible. As always, I braced myself for the onslaught of flashes when I open the door, and step out with my six-inch stilettos and skinny jeans. I always have to focus on coming out gracefully, and to also have that fake smile plastered on, like I haven’t a single care in the whole world. Even with all this in mind, I still felt his presence right away. It was like a black hole, sucking all the energy from around him and pulling me in as well. Maybe it was the nightmare still fresh in my mind, or maybe it was the fact that he always looks so put out. His blasé stance, the look of forbearance on his face, the way his eyes roll every time I pose for the cameras, all of these things seem to tell me one thing: “I can’t stand you.”
Whatever his reasons for looking at me like I’m the root of all his troubles, this morning he looked particularly tired as he held a cup of coffee with one hand and his camera in the other. I noticed that his left wrist had a colorful paper band, like the kind they hand out at concerts or other private events.
It’s at times like these that I truly wish I were just a regular girl, one that he didn’t look at with disdain, one that he’d run into at whatever place he was at last night. I know nothing about him or his life, but somehow, I know that he’s happier than me. For a second, as I was making my way up to Dr. Pemberton’s office, I tried to imagine what his life was like. School, work, hanging out with friends, going to concerts, no one chasing him around trying to snap pictures of him or hoping to catch him doing something embarrassing. Even as I tried to think of what this life would be like; I have no real clue of how it would feel to live that way. I’ve never gone to school, never had real friends, nor have I ever attended a concert. I’ve been to plenty of movie premiers, red carpet events, galas, and after parties, but no teen-filled loud concert halls or dance clubs where people wear flip-flops and t-shirts. Inwardly, I made a mental note that maybe this needs to change. Perhaps this is the shift that I feel deep inside—the realization that I could make different choices.
“Well, it might simply be that you’re playing out your fear of what the media represents,” Dr. Pemberton says as she takes a dainty sip of her tea, effectively distracting me from my thoughts. “To you, the paparazzi are the ever looming enemy,” she adds while swallowing.
I nod and sit up straighter. She might have a point. The media is always following me. They have always been the bane of my existence. I can’t go anywhere without having some photographer with a high-tech camera capturing every moment of my life. That’s why, when I was young, I started to act the part of a traditional vain, egotistic, spoiled starlet whenever I was in public. I would simply slap on a smile and pretend to be the happy, frivolous, and completely untroubled girl who does nothing but spend money and party all the time (which is partly true, but not wholly—I attend parties under duress. And though I love to shop… who doesn’t?).
This Indigo Starlet persona saves what little privacy I do have. Besides, everyone expects it of me. If they knew the real Indigo, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. There would be nothing to report—nothing exciting anyway. I can just see a headline, “Indigo Belfrois finishes Homer’s complete works—again. Boy does she love Homer, and let’s not forget Dante Alighieri! What’s next on her list, you ask? Why, it’s Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton!” …Yeah, not exactly scandalous tabloid material.
They don’t want to know that I’m a total nerd in real life. Sure, I wear nice clothes, but that’s only because I have a great stylist who has taught me well, and literally brings the latest fashions for me to choose from when I have no time to shop for myself.
To top it all, I’m now in super good shape. That’s because four years ago, in one of those rare occasions when my mother was sober, she noticed that I was gaining weight (an offensive crime in my house) and quickly put me on a strict diet. Soon after that, she added running to my already strenuous martial arts and gymnastics workout routines. So yeah, I look awesome, but it’s a concerted effort. Admittedly, I do like to look good. Who doesn’t? But hours and hours are spent on my appearance every week, just so I can look like this. If I get a zit, a team of dermatologists is called in to discuss treatment and removal. My looks alone employ close to thirty people. I have to look this good because they won’t tolerate me looking bad—or rather, normal.
All excuses aside, I have to admit that I enjoy acting like a bimbo in public. It amuses me. A few years ago, Beryl and I decided that we’d do it together. We’re a riot in public—acting like snobs, pretending to be socialites who don’t know what’s going on in the world. Serves the media right. If they’re going to stalk me and twist my words, they might as well stalk, twist, and pester the pretend me.
Then again, I suppose, this dream might mean something else entirely. It could mean my fear of being judged for real. It might also be my fear of letting others in—trusting. I don’t know. I’m frustrated and tired.
“How many zombies are chasing you? Are they all paparazzi? Could some of them be other people you know? You are surrounded by people in your home that, in essence, watch your every move. You have Marcus, your bodyguard, your stylist Mei, Ruby, and all the maids,” Dr. Pemberton muses, making me feel like a lab rat being studied. “I wonder?” She taps her teeth with the tip of her nail, making a weird hollow sound.
I frown. I’m slightly surprised by how well she remembers the names of my household staff. “I don’t know for sure,” I say cagily.
“Next time you have this nightmare, I want you to write it down the moment you wake up. I’d like to analyze this further.”
I hate writing nightmares down for her! I feel like it gives them credibility.
“Now, let’s talk about your family. How’s this summer going with Beryl?”
“Fine,” I say tersely. She stares at me with a look of forbearance, a look that says, “go on…”
I sigh. “He has a girlfriend. Someone he met on the set of our last movie, Circus Maximus MMCXI. I don’t want to talk about Beryl if you don’t mind.”
“He’s hurt you, hasn’t he?”
“Hurt? I wouldn’t say hurt.”
“What would you say?”
“Okay, how has he disappointed you?”
“Every summer, when he came to stay with us, we would talk about how we didn’t want to end up like our parents. And now look at him! He’s doing exactly that! Since he started dating Nina, he’s been out all night partying!” I blurt out, reproachfully.
“Has he confided in you, since you finished filming the movie?”
“No. He’s with Nina all the time.”
“Are you jealous?”
“A little,” I admit sullenly. “I’m done talking about him,” I say flatly. The issue was a gaping wound that threatened to hemorrhage. Beryl is the only one. THE ONLY ONE, in my life I can confide in, relate with, and be normal around.
“How’s your relationship with Azure?” Dr. Pemberton asks, moving on with the session.
“The same,” I say a little irritated. “But I don’t want to talk about my dad either.”
“Because! It’s always the same! Nothing changes. The world revolves around him, end of story.”
“How does that make you feel?”
I roll my eyes and set the cup down. “The same way I always feel—inconsequential.”
Dr. Pemberton gazes steadily at me, waiting for me to elaborate.
“I don’t hate my father. I don’t hate my mother either, but—” I say, letting out a frustrated sigh. “I don’t want to end up like them! I want my life to mean something. I don’t want to be this empty vessel waiting to be filled by a script. I do enjoy acting, don’t get me wrong, but… I don’t know,” I frown with frustration. I don’t know what I want, I really don’t. I just know I don’t want my parents’ life.
“You should try to talk with Beryl, and Azure too. Maybe even your mom, next time she comes around. Tell them how you feel. You might be surprised at what they say—”
I snort a laugh. “Yeah, right!”
“There might just be someone in your family who understands,” she says, distantly, almost as if talking to herself. Then she clears her throat and looks at me straight in the eyes. “You have to build bonds with someone, Indigo. Living as you’re living, not having any real attachments, friendships, or relationships is unhealthy. You need to learn to trust people. You need to put your trust in people. No doubt some will disappoint you, but there will be others who won’t. That’s life.”
After a long pause, I look down. A single tear escapes my eye, and I wipe it away angrily. I don’t want to cry about this anymore, I think vehemently. I’ve already mourned my family life. When I was little, I would wake up screaming from a bad dream, and then wander the house like a ghost, whimpering in fear, and eating whatever was left in the refrigerator because there was no one around to soothe me. My parents were either passed out drunk, high, or gone altogether. Ruby and the rest of the household staff were in their homes with their families, and whatever nanny I had at the time provided me no comfort. All but one nanny, Flavia, had been like transient strangers to me. Flavia, I liked, but she passed away rather suddenly after three years.
“What is it about me that makes people not want to be my friends?” I ask Pemberton curtly. I’m trying hard to hold at bay the swelling emotions I feel inside, turning them into anger instead of dissolving into tears.
While growing up, I tried to make friends with the other kids on set. We spent so much time together playing the part of best friends that after a while, I guess, I would convince myself that the friendships were real. But as soon as filming was done, so were those pretend friendships. Some of them would even turn around, and out of jealousy, trash me in front of the media. It felt like a knife in the back every time. Eventually, I learned. They’re not my friends, and they never will be. This realization helped build my snobby diva front. Unfortunately, this is Beryl’s first movie, and he hasn’t learned this hard lesson yet. I fear he’s bound to learn it soon—and the hard way too.
There are two or three kids out there, who, like me, were born to Hollywood families and, to some degree, understand what it’s like. I can almost call them friends—almost. They are the kids that I hang out with at social events. They are the ones that the pretend Indigo has a lot of things in common with. They are the real socialites, the real self-centered, empty-headed fools. But, how would I know for sure if that were the case? Maybe they are just like me. Maybe they too pretend to be idiots, though I highly doubt it. Regardless, it’s too late. I’ve formed a crust, a durable shell that can not be cracked. Beryl is the only one who knows me, truly knows me, and that’s enough for me.
“Indigo, I think you know the answer to that,” Dr. Pemberton says earnestly. “And I think you know that it has nothing to do with you,” she adds, matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know anything of the sort!”
Dr. Pemberton’s back straightens as she moves to the edge of her seat. Her eyes are open wide like two round malt balls, and there’s a strange twinkle in them. It’s a little freaky and unsettling like some major truth is about to be revealed. “Who are you, Indigo?” she asks, after building up sufficient suspense.
Her question catches me off guard. Lately, I’ve been wondering that myself. I guess part of me wants to unify the two Indigos—the outside, frivolous one and the serious, reclusive, studious one. It’s as if she read my mind. Did I leave some tea leaves in the bottom of my cup? I wonder, as I look to the empty cup for proof. Does she have a crystal ball hidden somewhere? I pour myself the third cup of tea and start sipping silently again. I’ll be wired later, but who cares. Tea helps me think.
“Indigo! Who are you?” she repeats her question impatiently.
“I—I don’t know. I was just—” I start to say.
“Are you the dimwitted, silly girl you become the moment you step out of this office? Or are you the girl who cleans up her mother after she’s been binging on drugs for days, and puts her in rehab? Perhaps, you are the girl who helps her father save face after he does or says something stupid? Maybe you’re the girl who devours books, because she has an insatiable thirst for knowledge? Possibly, you are the girl who loves to act, because she hopes she’ll find herself in one of her characters? Who are you, Indigo?” she presses.
I stare at her openmouthed and speechless. “I don’t know,” I finally squeeze out in a strange murmur. It seems that I am all those things, yet none of them.
“Who do you want to be? That’s the real question here.” Pemberton continues more subdued now. “You can’t become anything all on your own. Part of this process, called life, involves you appropriately interacting with others. You have to form relationships of trust. You have to let someone in.” Dr. Pemberton continues her speech, but I tune her out.
My cup is almost gone again, and I watch as some fine sediment of tea settles toward the bottom of the cup. Oddly, it forms a shape on the bottom, a perfect cursive T.
Dr. Pemberton is still talking, but nothing she says is registering. All I know is that something has to change in my life. Me. I have to change. I feel like the time is now, and a decision needs to be made. I either merge all the parts of me into one and let others see me for who I am. Or I don’t.
“…Maybe start with one person. Let them in your life. Give them a chance, even if it’s scary at first. I am certain that there are people in your life, unlikely people, who you can trust. Why don’t you try this for a change,” Dr. Pemberton says eagerly, “when you leave the office, and as you go home, look around you. Notice the people that you come in contact with. And as you do, I’d like for you to ask yourself: Why not open up myself to him or… her?”
“Okay,” I say, feeling strangely on a ledge, as if I’m about to jump into some unknown water.
Dr. Pemberton smiles at my response. She can see that I’m open to it. Frankly, I’ve never seen her this lively. Does she think I’m close to a breakthrough?
“Reveal yourself to someone—other than me.” Dr. Pemberton suggests energetically. “Maybe even… let that zombie catch you!”