Together alone at the ballet

Things have reached rock bottom in the ice war between me and the ex-ballerina.
It’s a familiar cycle.
I say something to annoy her then she blows up and is rude and ugly in ways only teenaged girls can muster so I stop talking to her.
I’m very good at it.
I can go for days saying nothing beyond “pick your towel up” or “put your rubbish in the bin”.
It’s exhausting. But I don’t know how else to handle her disdain for me.
Even on a good day she never wants to joke or muck around with me.
She twists my banter into lame parent prose, or tells me to “stop yelling” when I’m speaking in a loud voice, part of my standard schtick.
The only time she’s remotely pleasant is when she needs my credit card. And if I say “no” she responds with a head toss, a flounce and a loud retreat, often with a reference to how much I spend on her sisters.
She is a deeply indulged, spoilt young woman. It’s my fault and I’m paying the price.
Which brings me to the foyer of the Lyric theatre where we sit, side-by-side with an empty seat between us, both tapping on our phone.
When we arrived she left the car abruptly and strode off through the carpark in her RM Williams and red felt mini. I tottered behind her in stupid stilettos and a pencil skirt. Then she stopped, turned abruptly and said “where are we going to eat?”
“Where do you want to eat?” I responded.
“I don’t know,” she replied, frowning.
She’d texted me that afternoon asking about dinner plans.  We were in the same house but not on speaking terms. I hadn’t responded to the text.
With 25 metres of concrete between us and cars streaming in to the carpark, I considered our options. The ballet was on in the Lyric which is a fair walk from nearby restaurants, especially for me in my silly shoes. I hadn’t checked the tickets and had expected the performance to be in a different venue. We only had an hour till the show started and our dining options were limited.
“Let’s go up here,” I said, leading the way up to the Lyric courtyard with its two cafes serving simple burgers, salads and wraps.
She scowled and folded her arms and said “the line’s too long”.
There were three people at the counter.
So we moved on.
“What about here?” I said, at the threshold of the second place, still with a handful of empty tables.
“No,” she said, after a cursory glance at the menu, “I’ve been here before and it’s not good.” Then strode off in her flat shoes down the street to Southbank.
I chased her for a while, mincing along, sidestepping puddles and dodging people arriving in cabs. Smiling people.
Finally I stopped and yelled at her.
“I am not walking any further. It’s too far and we don’t have time.”
“Then what are we even doing here so early if we can’t eat?” she snapped back.
I turned and forced my fishtail legs and pinched toes into a stride, making my way back to the Lyric courtyard. Now she had to follow me.
Weighing up the offerings, I contemplated the restaurant, likely to be serving overpriced ceviche and micro food on purée smears.
Instead I turned to her with one more chance. “Do you want to eat here?”, nodding at the nearest cafe.
After a barely perceptible pause she mumbled another refusal.
I should have insisted, softened, taken her in my arms and cajoled her.
But I’m so hurt by her constant sniping and barely concealed contempt for me that I just couldn’t do it.
I walked away from her and into the theatre.
So now here we are.
Together but distant in the foyer. And hungry.
She just texted me saying she wants to go home. I’m ignoring her.

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Angela Bensted is Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines, sometimes successfully, and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.

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