Opera in the living room always sounded best after spaghetti. Evelyn stood in front of the fireplace, hand over her diaphragm, as her father played the piano with flying fingers that would have impressed Chopin. Her hair was as alive as she was, frizzing in the heat of the third summer without any air con. Inescapable, even indoors.
But she had no mind for it. Not in the middle of an aria. Puccini could do with Madama Butterfly what she could not with expensive clothing and contacts.
Evelyn was confident. In control of her universe.
Nothing lasted forever. As soon as she was finished, she felt herself slip reluctantly back into her own natural persona. A tall, round-faced girl lost in a costume from Abercrombie and Fitch.
She managed a bow while her father clapped, but her limbs had already begun their rebellion. She nearly tipped too far forward, thanks to the swing of her arm. A lock of hair twisted around her arm. As she stood up, it pulled at the root.
Wincing, she yanked it free and scurried over to the piano. Evelyn was the sort of person who never walked. Not in a classy, fashionable way. More like a mouse that never walked because running was where survival had been founded.
Dad was shuffling his sheet music. Glasses rested atop his head, sure to tangle rather than return to his nose without a fight.
“Getting better all the time, pumpkin,” he said. Absent-minded. Evelyn took this mood as a compliment. If there had been something wrong with her private performance, he would not have wasted a moment in telling her.
She stood behind him and leaned forward to hug him by the neck. “Good enough for festival?”
A backward glance was the first bad sign. He raised his eyebrows with his chin tucked in, then reached up for his glasses. “I thought we talked about this.”
“You shouted. I ignored you. I don’t think that counts as a conversation.”
Backing away already, Evelyn tugged on the hem of her shirt. It was not the bravest thing she’d ever said. But it was possibly the stupidest.
Someone else’s father would have reprised the mentioned shoutfest, and then grounded her for talking back. Evelyn’s father looked hurt and left the room.
She walked up to the fireplace and kicked a brick. It broke her foot.
Fifteen minutes later, she and Dad were sitting in the emergency room. Still not speaking. Evelyn had scrubbed her face clean in the car, with a ziploc bag of baby wipes and shaking hands. If anyone she knew found out she’d spent the evening in a hospital, then at least they would not have gruesome details about running mascara.
“I do not shout.”
Just like that, her father could perform miracles not yet wrought by morphine. Evelyn glared at him through the curtain of her hair, leaning forward so that she nearly headbutted her own knees. “You do so.”
A nurse arrived before they could escalate to a more juvenile form of argument. Like poking.