The bottle was nearly empty, but Celina tipped it and turned it and managed to get enough nail polish for her last fingernail. She slid the brush over her thumbnail, spreading the angry red lacquer to the tip of her nail. She capped the bottle and tossed it in the waste basket, where it clanged and startled Isis as she applied her false eyelashes.
“Girl! Why you go and scare me like that? Now I got eyelash glue on my sparkles!” Isis, dabbed the glue off her eyelid with a cotton swab.
“Mmm… Sorry, bitch. Wasn’t thinkin’.”
“Of course you not, girl. Bad bidness with Joey, huh?”
Celina sighed. She didn’t want to talk about her brother, especially not with Isis, whose crassness ran up and down every vertebrae of Celina’s back.
“Oh, I’m saw-ry. I forgot you don’ like ta talk about your family at work, ” Isis rolled her eyes and re-applied her eyelashes. “He don’ know what he missin’ by not watching your show, lord love a duck.”
“Whatever,” Celina muttered. She waved her hand back and forth, fanning her warm face and drying her nail polish.
“Besides, you din’ hafta tell him nothin’ about what you do on you own time, girl,” Isis commented as she selected lipstick, a shade of deep maroon which matched her huge platform stilettos. “I think I use this one ta-night. It feels right.” She held the tube out to Celina, who nodded absently and began to slide a pair of thigh-high stockings up her smooth leg.
Isis was right, Celina didn’t have to tell her brother what she did in her time off, but she had. She supposed it was because last weekend she had recognized a childhood classmate in the audience, a heckler who hadn’t hesitated to call her out as she was coyly singing “Happy Birthday” to another patron, a la Marilyn Monroe. She figured that once the old classmate started talking, everyone would know that she did the runway shows every weekend. She couldn’t bear the thought of Joey learning from someone else that, in her off time, Chad danced as Celina on the drag show circuit.
Until last weekend, Chad and Celina had existed completely separately from each other. Chad went to work Monday through Friday at the family landscaping business and Celina made appearances each weekend on stage, never the two to meet. But the unknown response of the heckling classmate made Celina realize that she needed to come out to her family before she was forced out. So she had invited her mother and brother over for brunch and to explain her double life.
Celina set the table for a party; she had asked her mother and Joey to let themselves in and to help themselves to a mimosa while she finished getting dressed. She had planned her entrance perfectly: she would enter the room wearing a new dress and shoes and carrying a tray of fruit and scones.
She had taken a deep breath in an attempt to calm her racing heart and had glided into the room looking very much like June Cleaver.
Celina’s mother took the news well; she looked like she was relieved. “I thought you were into drugs or something awful — you would disappear every weekend and I was just so scared that you were sick or in over your head or something,” she had run-on, squeezing Celina tightly.
Joey, on the other hand, was tight-lipped. His clenched jaw illustrated his disgust. When he finally spoke, he spat out, “I heard the rumors, but I didn’t know they was true. How can you do this to me? I’m going to lose my business if people find out!”
Then Joey stormed out, slamming the door to Celina’s trailer, his anger sucking all of the life from the room.
Celina slumped in her chair. “I guess he’d rather I do drugs,” she said bitterly.
Her mother slid her chair closer and took both of Celina’s hands into her own.
“Honey, he’s gonna need some time. He’s always looked up to you and this has thrown him for a loop. He’s more like your father than you realize.”
Celina nodded, a tear wobbled on her chin before falling onto her cheery floral dress.
“Mom, there’s tickets for you and Joey to tonight’s show at the will-call booth, if you’d like to see me.”
“Of course! I’d love to watch your show!” her mother had effused.
Those words of support bolstered Celina as she took the stage for the first time with family in the audience. She strutted around the stage confidently, scanning the audience. She quickly found her mother and blew her a kiss as she started her performance.
She pretended not to notice the empty seat where Joey should have been sitting.