The first of her mother’s models that Cami tried to sleep with told her she was too young. He would turn out to be the ugliest, though she didn’t know this at the time. She was seventeen, and the sight of those lighted discs pulsing at his wrists raised a tingle in her thighs. When she reached out to touch one, the man closed his hand around her fingers, gently. “You should go,” he said.
Cami wound through the crowd of makeup artists and reflective umbrellas, feeling hideous and jilted. Electronic music throbbed from hidden speakers. Her mother was somewhere, invisible and omnipresent as God. At the threshold, Cami turned and caught the blinding flash of a camera she imagined was for her: a teary yet stunning portrait of first rejection.
The second model was a hottie. Of this, Cami was sure. She met him at an after-party in a hotel banquet room full of chairs that looked like tongues. A white guy, his brown curls long on top and shaved to stubble at the sides, a tasteful line of circuit boards running up his left arm. When he spied Cami watching him over the table of salmon croquettes, he smiled roguishly, like a Disney villain. For him, Cami was not too young. She was shirtless on the bed of a first-floor hotel room before he asked for her name.
“She’s my mom.” Cami wrapped her legs around the model’s waist. A second line of circuit boards peeked over his belt buckle, and she wanted to see how far down they went. He took hold of her ankles, extracted himself from her embrace, and began to rapidly dress.
“Why?” asked Cami. In an effort to correct for the syllable’s unintentional whine, she sat and tossed her bangs out of her eyes in what she imagined to be a careless, seductive gesture.
“This may surprise you,” said the model, “but I don’t actually have any skills. This job is the only thing between me and a lifetime laying turf for my uncle’s landscaping company. I’m not throwing that away for one fuck.”
She vowed never to give her full name again, but it didn’t matter. After years of shielding her from the limelight, her mother had finally decided Cami was old enough to start attending galas and charity events. Teen Vogue printed a story: “A Day in the Life of a Fashion Mogul Princess.” Gone was the era of floating anonymously around photo shoots, a pretty and innocuous face readily mistaken for an intern. Makeup artists pressed free samples into her hands. Cybernetic surgeons asked tedious questions about her schoolwork. The models regarded her with a deference she found deeply un-sexy. When her third, fourth, and fifth targets barely made eye contact, Cami did the only thing she knew to do when she wasn’t getting her way: she went to her mother to complain.
“Are they disrespecting you?” asked Ivy Morimoto. “Are they mistreating you? Are they harming you in some way?”
“No,” Cami admitted.
They were ensconced at the top of Morimoto Mansion in her mother’s home office, an attic room with vast skylights showing rectangles of bright September sky. The furniture was sparse and simple. On her own person, Ivy’s only extravagance was a number of hammered silver rings adorning her stubby fingers. She disdained hardware on the grounds that it was perverse for a designer to partake in her own designs. She did not cut an impressive figure. Her posture was poor, hair oily, fingernails chewed to raw nubs. A filthy film coated the lenses in her glasses. It annoyed Cami that her mother had never fully shed the skin of the beleaguered nerd she’d been growing up.
“But they’re afraid of me,” Cami went on. “Because they’re afraid of you. Of getting fired. I don’t feel like a person around them.”
“You could have any boy you wanted, Noodle. So why settle for a model? They’re like cattle. They receive their brandings, go where they’re told. There must be some boys at school who’ve caught your eye.”
Cami made a noncommittal noise and scraped a fingernail around the embossed initials on her cell phone case. Yes, there were a few handsome boys at her private high school. And yes, as the sons of senators and world-class entrepreneurs, they were sufficiently unimpressed by Cami’s pedigree to consider sleeping with and subsequently abandoning her, same as they would any other girl. But the implants remained illegal for minors. The bodies of her classmates were not spangled with the ports and screens and adapters that Cami dreamt of each night—unless you counted the grinders, and who really did? That weird clique of unwashed wannabes who ate lunch in the stairwell and stuffed LED lights beneath their skin.
Ivy closed the small red notebook where she’d been sketching a new design. “You remember Dr. Felch? The surgeon from Connecticut? He has a son, Andrew. A freshman at NYU, studying computer science. A very good-looking boy. Shall I make the introduction?”
Cami sighed and said yes, fine, whatever. She left her mother’s office and went to her bedroom downstairs. The walls and floors were strewn with the detritus of an indecisive mind: magazines opened and abandoned; crumpled posters of bands and TV shows she no longer followed; heaps of tie dye from her bohemian phase, denim from her cowgirl phase, and leather from her Goth phase. Ivy probably thought this fixation on the models was just that: another craze that would wither like all the rest. She had no idea how far Cami’s desires extended. When she looked into her future, she didn’t see a career or a family or even a college major, but an endlessly rotating door admitting new lovers, their skins beaded with metal and light.
The sixth model that Cami solicited was a woman. Cami thought she could be forgiven for the error. Her mother’s latest brainwave—that cybernetic fashion should transcend the petty labels of sex and gender—had resulted in a surge of tall, androgynous figures drifting around the photo shoots. Cami didn’t realize her mistake until after she’d murmured her trusted pickup line about “getting to know each other somewhere private,” and the model, smiling, said, “Just name the time and place.”
Cami was flustered, but recovered quickly. Implants were implants, and this woman boasted more hardware on her visible skin than Cami had yet seen. The flesh on the left side of her neck had been replaced with ribbed steel sheeting. Blinking bands joined wrists to arms, forearms to elbows, ankles to feet. They traded phone numbers. The woman’s name was Lucia Chon—syllables Cami would mouth in the darkness before bed that evening, and every evening after for a long time after that. She named the luxury hotel six blocks from her high school. “Friday afternoon. 3 p.m.”
That week in school, Cami was more distracted than usual. She flunked two quizzes and “umm-ed” her way through a presentation on the Revolutionary War. At the lunch table, where she traditionally reigned over Susan, Zoe, and Ming, she drank her diet Pepsi and frowned into the distance, as though trying to read a sign hanging from the far wall. When Zoe asked what was the matter, Cami said, “Cramps,” and they all nodded wisely.
The truth was, Cami didn’t feel very invested in these girls. They’d found each other freshman year and bonded over their shared obsession with a reality television show called Left at the Altar, which followed abandoned brides trying to rebuild their romantic lives. After the show was cancelled, they found themselves with little to talk about. But the cliques had already been formed and slowly a mutual recognition settled upon them that they were stuck with each other until graduation.
Cami thought of Left at the Altar as she waited in the hotel room on Friday. Each episode began with a dramatized retelling of the groom’s last-minute desertion: the guests whispering behind their fingers, the woman wailing in her white dress. There was something so gorgeous about the moment’s heartbreak. Cami had envisioned herself in that position a hundred times. When she heard the knock on the door, she leapt to her feet as if scalded and realized she had once more allowed her imagination to slot her in the place of forsaken lover: She had not expected the model to show up.
Lucia stepped into the room. The heavy door swung shut behind her. She wore leggings and a graphic T-shirt and a denim jacket that hid all her hardware but the implant on her neck. She sprawled across the bed as if it were her own room and kicked off her combat boots. They landed on the carpeting with twin clunks. “Do you do this often?” she asked.
“Yes,” lied Cami.
At the photo shoot, Lucia had radiated a pristine stiffness that was perfectly robotic. But here she seemed so warm. So alive. Her dark hair was pleasantly disheveled, as if she’d just stepped in from a breezy balcony. Pale freckles dusted her nose. Cami was intimidated. When Lucia kissed her, she tensed up, forgot all she had learned during those practice sessions with dull boys at middle school dances. They broke apart. Lucia stared at her, a silent laugh lighting her eyes. Cami felt a fire flaring in her belly: of challenge or desire, she wasn’t sure.
They kissed again. Longer this time. Lucia shrugged out of her jacket. With the glee of a treasure hunt, Cami’s fingers uncovered more of the gear built into her body: dials lodged between vertebrate, a tiny screen in her sternum, a dime-sized port where a bellybutton would normally be. She didn’t know how to touch these implants and settled for stroking them with her fingertips, but Lucia encouraged her to be rougher. “They’re surgically implanted. They’re not gonna fall out.” Soon Cami fell inside their joined movements, which she imagined not as the movements of two people but of a vast, networked beast, its invisible feelers crawling across the planet to all the places she’d never been.
When she’d finally made her way back to the mansion, still wobbly-legged with pleasure, it was to find the sidewalks clogged with protestors. Judging from their severe haircuts and necklines, they were the Christian kind, “the Bible boys” as Cami’s mother called them, though there were women, too, the breeze whipping their hair into furious currents of brown and blonde.
“Spawn of Satan!” one of them cried, pointing to Cami. She held a huge white sign the wind kept trying to carry away. Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”
Joel, a scowling, balding white man who handled security for the estate, guided Cami through the mansion’s iron gates. On the front step, she turned and blew the hissing protestors a kiss.
“You shouldn’t provoke them,” warned Joel. “They’re more dangerous than they look.”
“You’re so paranoid,” said Cami. She shut the door in his face before he could respond.
Her footfalls echoed as she ascended the staircase to the upper floors. Ivy was off somewhere, meeting with surgeons, reviewing the proof of her winter catalogue. The house would be empty but for Justine, the old nanny-turned-cleaning-lady, and Cami’s tutor, Marvin, who’d be running around looking for her while she hid out in the one place he was not allowed to go. Cami entered the security code in the panel outside her mother’s office. After years of whining that it was unfair she couldn’t access a room in her own house, Ivy had relented and given Cami the code for her fourteenth birthday. Now Cami ventured inside when she needed to do some thinking. Her own room was too chaotic for introspection. She splayed out on the rug and looked up as an airplane drifted across the skylights, trailing a wisp of blue-gray.
If sex with the model had been so good, why did Cami feel so queasy? The heat that had slipped into her belly when Lucia kissed her now swelled to her fingers and toes. She felt feverish. A goofy, sluggish grin spread across her face. She braced her palms against her stomach to quell its fluttering. When her phone chimed, she thought that it must be Lucia, declaring that one week was too long to wait and she must have Cami again right now.
Hey this is Andrew :)
Is this Camille Morimoto?
Never heard of her.
He sent a string of apologies and promised to delete the wrong number at once. Cami turned her phone on silent and threw it across the room.
The prospect of those Friday afternoons quickly became her only incentive for rising each morning. Though she soon memorized the bolts and buttons of Lucia’s body, their love-making retained an element of discovery, slightly different each time. There was nothing relaxing or easy about it. Cami left the hotel feeling restless and inadequate, as though she’d made some critical error and it would be an entire week before she had the chance to prove herself again. She cringed to hear herself begging for Lucia to come back to bed, to stay longer, to share something of her life so that she, Cami might lay some claim over the person the model became when they were not together.
Lucia weathered these demands with good humor. “You’ll wear me out,” she said, laughing and pushing Cami away as she rose to dress. “They’ll need to replace my parts. I’m not as young as you are, you know,” though she could not have been older than twenty-five. She seemed totally comfortable there in the hotel room. She belched and farted and scratched herself. When she used the bathroom, she left the door wide open—a habit Cami found simultaneously endearing and gross.
After she left, Cami stuck around the hotel room. She stripped the bed and folded the sheets and pillowcases into neat squares. She stood naked before the bathroom mirror, tracing the uneventful contours of her flesh.
“You’re in love, aren’t you?” asked Ming, unprompted, one day at lunch.
Cami looked up from the magazine in her lap. It was her mother’s winter catalogue. The opened page showed a photograph of Lucia. She stood in a fighting stance, fists raised to reveal the metal fasteners gleaming at her wrists. The harsh, clinical lighting sapped her of color. Her slicked-back hair glinted bright as a helmet.
“Ew,” said Zoe, peering over Cami’s shoulder. “Who’d want to go clacking around with all those robot parts?” Then, seeming to remember who she was talking to, she added, “I mean, they’re super cool and all. Like, really well-designed.”
“Shut up, Zoe,” said Ming. She had always been soft-spoken, but over the past month, as Cami withdrew, she’d risen to become the alpha of their little lunchtime kingdom. “I was asking Cami a question. Now c’mon! Who is it? We won’t tell.”
Zoe and Susan nodded, ponytails bouncing. Cami considered.
“His name is Andrew. He’s a freshman at NYU.”
The girls squealed. “A college guy?” That set them off on a discussion about the merits of older men.
In fact she had started seeing Andrew Felch. After ignoring several more of his texts and Facebook messages, she’d decided that she could use a diversion to see her through the week between Fridays. They’d met for coffee and made out on a bench once or twice. Most of the time, they just walked around Central Park, complaining about their parents. Dr. Felch was a nervous, bumbling man who had exactly one talent—installing hardware in people’s bodies—and faked his way through everything else. Mrs. Felch was a door-slammer and a screamer who’d taken up lovers all over the city, most recently, the physics teacher at Andrew’s old prep school, whom Andrew had come upon one afternoon banging around the kitchen, searching for Sriracha. Cami talked about her father down in Tampa, flitting from one terrible business investment to another. There wasn’t too much to say about Ivy except that she was never around. Conversing with Andrew was easy, and Cami admired his glumness, so different from the high energies of boys her own age. But she knew he was not the one she was in love with.
She returned her attention to the catalogue and stirred the cold mac and cheese around her plate. She found she no longer required much food or sleep. Nights, she motored joyfully through the dark house, imagining herself a wind-up toy charged on its most recent encounter with Lucia. Sometimes she came upon her mother wandering the upper floors in her dorky flannel. Ivy’s jaw was slack, her eyes half-shut. Cami had found her mother’s sleepwalking terribly frightening as a child. These days, she rolled her eyes, took Ivy by the arm, and led her back to her bedroom, chanting under her breath all the while: “I’m fucking your model and there’s nothing you can do!”
Though they were well into December and snow crusted the sidewalks, Lucia continued to wear only her denim jacket. Cami watched her redress from the bed. They’d kept the thermostat set low. The sheets tucked around her body were pleasantly warm, but a cold fear gnawed behind her breastbone, as it always did at the prospect of Lucia’s departure.
“Why are you doing this?”
Lucia shrugged. “The same reasons you are. Boredom. Lust.”
Her tone was cheerful, but Cami felt a small wound opening in her chest. This was not the answer she had wanted. She propped herself up on an elbow. “Aren’t you worried my mom’s gonna take away your hardware if she finds out?”
“She can’t. There’s a contract. I agree not to sell her designs. In exchange, I get to keep the implants for life. It’d be too dangerous to remove them all.”
“She could still fire you. She could ban you from photo shoots. Ruin your reputation so none of the other designers will want you.” Cami didn’t know why she was pushing this, except that she had experienced a sudden and confusing desire to make Lucia unhappy.
The model only shrugged again.
“Cyber fashion is on its way out. People don’t want tech you can wear. They want tech that can actually do things. Scan your body for disease. Put phone calls right into your brain.”
“That sounds like science fiction.”
“That’s the future,” said Lucia pointedly. “Ivy Morimoto won’t be a big name much longer.”
“But the other models before you—they were terrified of getting fired.”
“Maybe they couldn’t read the terrain like I can.” Lucia grinned lazily. “C’mon, Cami. You’re not a little kid anymore. You have to know your mom’s not invincible. You read the news, don’t you?”
Cami didn’t. But as soon as she got home, she Googled her mother for the first time in years. What she saw made her stomach drop. The top articles had titles like “Ivy Morimoto: The End of a Regime” and “Cyberwear: Fashion Revolution or Geeky Fad?” It embarrassed Cami that she had not only never known about these issues: She had never even thought to ask.
Ivy had been the face of cyber fashion since Cami was seven years old. She remembered the suffocating admiration she used to feel for her mother. How at the sound of the front door opening, she’d race from Justine’s side and throw herself around Ivy’s legs, eager as a dog and just as willing to forgive her long absence. If someone had told Cami her mother designed the moon and the rain, she would have believed them.
She could not eat. Her body gleamed and trembled like a blade. At school, she cut herself off from her friends, disgusted by their latest obsession with a reality TV show about near-death experiences. She turned to the grinders in their stairwell. They already knew who she was.
“Your mother is what we call a mainstreamer,” said their leader, a small white boy with meticulous eye makeup. Staples ran up his right forearm like a tiny railroad track. The skin had pinked and puffed around them. The whole thing looked a little infected. “She’s in this for selfish capitalistic reasons,” explained the boy. “She’s not interested in the next stage of human evolution.”
“I’m nothing like my mother,” snapped Cami, and after a brief consult, their studded heads bent together over the bottommost step, the grinders agreed to admit her into their circle. On the third Sunday of each month, they gathered at one of their homes and performed do-it-yourself enhancements, slipping tiny magnets inside their fingertips and palms. It wasn’t much. But Cami felt these modest additions shaped her into someone worthy of Lucia and separated her from the likeness of her mother.
The more articles she read, the more Cami viewed Ivy as a failure and a coward. She gained a vindictive pleasure in berating her mother for her professional decline.
“Cyber fashion isn’t over, Noodle,” Ivy explained. “It’s changing. Those of us who are able to change with it will survive.”
“And what about people who can’t?” demanded Cami.
Ivy plucked a mushroom from her soup with two fingers and squeezed it as though testing its fragility. It was the first time they had eaten together since the Christmas holiday they spent in Amsterdam, Ivy smoking joints in the bath, Cami sulking because she had missed two consecutive Fridays with Lucia. Now, sitting in the mansion’s dining room the first week of the New Year, Cami experienced a wave of frustrated helplessness upon realizing that everything she enjoyed in this life had come to her because she was her mother’s daughter. Cami had been responsible for none of it. Even Lucia: Could she be certain the model wasn’t just trying to one-up Ivy by sneaking around behind her back?
“You’re not willing to take risks,” said Cami. “You’ve been relying on the same tech for the last four years. And you don’t have any implants. It’s suspect. Like a chef who won’t eat her own food.” She was paraphrasing from an article she’d read last night on technoweird.com. “No one cares about your work anymore. No one’s excited by it. When’s the last time you saw the Bible boys? Even the protestors have forgotten all about you.”
The mushroom slipped from Ivy’s fingers. It hit the soup with a tiny splash. Cami had not thought she was getting to her mother, but she saw now from the way Ivy’s chewed fingernails curled into her palms that she had gone too far.
“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Ivy.
Cami lowered her eyes to her bowl. “No.”
“Well you must,” said Ivy, her voice cracking, “to believe I wouldn’t notice three months worth of hotel reservations on my own credit card.”
Cami looked up. Falling snow swirled gray shadows against the window behind her mother’s head.
“I could have him fired, you know,” said Ivy. “You’re only a child. He’s taking advantage of you.”
“Big whoop,” said Cami, suddenly enraged. “I’ll be eighteen in four months. Who cares? You think I’m afraid of you?”
They scowled at one another from opposite ends of the table. The wind howled through the yard, and the windows rattled. The house, for all its grandeur, was old and poorly insulated. Drafts crept beneath every door. The curtains constantly fluttered, as though stirred by the icy fingers of passing ghosts. Ivy sighed. She sipped from her water glass. Her temper was like that: rare, and short-lived.
“I’ve tried to raise you well.” She spoke thoughtfully, as if to herself. “I’ve tried to keep you grounded. But time and again you prove yourself to be a stupid, petty girl. Your dad said you’d end up spoiled. I didn’t believe him. He’d never been right about anything else.”
Cami’s rage, too, was fading. She felt like someone had reached inside and scooped out her guts.
“I have to fly to Tokyo for a business meeting,” said Ivy. “I’ll ask Justine to stay over a few nights. Joel will escort you to and from school.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I disagree. All your life you’ve lived without restrictions, and where has it gotten you? You’re failing three classes. You look half starved to death. It’s time you benefited from some limitations.”
There was no reason why the house should feel any emptier with Ivy in Tokyo than it had when she’d been in the city. But Cami floated around the place listless as a phantom, slamming doors just to hear the noise echoing through the halls.
“Do you ever feel homesick in your own home?” she asked Marvin, who had been trying to teach her the law of cosines for the past ten minutes.
“Do you ever feel like you’re going to flunk out of high school?” said Marvin.
As the end of the week approached, Cami agonized over what to do about Lucia. Ivy had taken away her credit card and instructed Justine to call the police if Cami snuck out of the house. Cami was sure there were ways to get around such restraints, but having been the beneficiary of a tremendously lax mothering style until now, she lacked the cunning of her peers who’d been outsmarting their parents since middle school. She stared at her mother’s roadblocks and could see no way around. She should have been furious, but since the conversation in the kitchen, an unfamiliar resignation had settled inside her chest. It stunned her, how much she’d been hurt by Ivy’s words. Stupid-petty-stupid-petty-stupid-petty. The syllables pattered through her mind like rain plinking into a gutter.
Defeated, she called Lucia to tell her their Friday meetings were suspended until further notice. The model did not pick up. Cami imagined her suffused in a crowd of glittering bodies and thought the jealousy would kill her.
After dinner, she resumed her restless roving through the house, clicking her magnetic fingertips together. So far she’d only done the thumb and ring finger of her left hand. The skin around the incisions remained scarlet and puckered. What had seemed like a good idea at the time now struck her as embarrassing. The magnets were so weak, they adhered to nothing heavier than a paper clip. As she circled the great dining room table, running a palm across the polished tops of the chairs, Cami was disgusted to realize that, like Ivy, she had never wanted the implants in her own body. She had only wanted to claim them in the bodies of other people.
It was sheer luck that she happened to be on the first floor, and Justine upstairs taking a bath, when the knocker rapped against the front door. Somehow, Cami knew who it was even before she’d disabled the security system and Lucia spilled into the foyer. The model straightened up, laughing. She rotated in a full circle, gazing up at the crystal chandelier.
“So this is the queen’s castle.” She yanked a leafy frond from the potted palm tree by the door and brought it to her nose. “Fake! Why am I not surprised?”
“What are you doing here?” asked Cami. Her delight at seeing Lucia warred with the panic slow-boiling in her stomach. Even in her wildest fantasies, she had not dared to place the model here at the mansion where she so clearly did not belong.
“Your voicemail said you couldn’t leave the house. I figured I’d come to you.”
“How’d you get past the gate?”
“Climbed it. Your security man already left.”
“You have to go.”
“But I wanted to see you.” She put on a false pout, or maybe a real one, leaned down, and kissed Cami on the corner of her lips. Cami felt her resistance slipping away.
“If Justine sees you . . .”
“Are you trying to tell me,” said Lucia slyly, “that in this fucking fortress there’s not a single place you can hide me?”
They hurried up several flights of stairs. Lucia tripped and laughed. Cami shushed her. Sound carried far along the house’s empty walls. She realized that Lucia was drunk. They reached Ivy’s attic office. Cami entered the four-digit code. “Wait here,” she told Lucia. Then she raced back down the stairs in time to meet Justine, her long white neck poking swan-like out of the collar of her bathrobe, suspicious because she had heard the automated chimes of the security system as it turned off.
“It was Joel,” invented Cami. “He wanted to know if we needed anything before he left.”
“Did you tell him that window is sticking again?”
Justine rolled her eyes and declared, for the third time, what an impressively light sleeper she was, how Cami should not even dream of trying to sneak out of the house during the night. She wandered off to one of the guest rooms. It occurred to Cami, at last, that Justine had probably never liked her.
Lucia had found Ivy’s spare glasses in the desk drawer. She wore them on the end of her nose as she stilted around the office like a zombie. “I’m Ivy Morimoto. I’m the best cybernetic designer on the planet. I’m fucking infallible. Nobody can touch me.” She raised her fingers to her mouth and mimed gnawing on the nails. Cami shut the door behind her. She was not amused. When you got down to it, she didn’t believe anyone had a right to mock Ivy other than herself.
“Where were you when I called?”
“Celebrating,” said Lucia, collapsing into Ivy’s swivel chair.
“I got fired. She must’ve found out we were fucking. I guess it wasn’t hard to get a name once she knew the hotel.” The glasses crunched in her hands as she crushed them.
“I thought you didn’t care about losing your job. You said my mom was a has-been.”
“Who said I cared?” Lucia found a pair of scissors and, using the plastic handles, began to hammer the lenses of Ivy’s glasses into powder. “Ivy was a shitty employer. The way she looked down at all of us, like we were her personal robot slaves . . .” She lowered her face to the surface of the desk and blew, sending a sparkly rain of glass powder onto the carpet. “Rumor has it she’s overseas looking for a buyer. Wants to cut her losses and sell. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ll be fine. I mean, look at me. I’m gorgeous.” She stood. The sun had set, but the electric glow of the city crept through the windows, bathing her in a persistent, unhappy glow.
They made love on the plush white carpet, then fell asleep entwined. Lucia’s open mouth expelled a cloying liquor stink. Cami’s fingertips clung to the model’s neck implant, but the attraction was so light, she could not tell whether it was the magnets or her imagination.
Sometime later, Cami awoke. She didn’t know how long she’d been sleeping. The attic was chilly. She shivered as she sat up. She had spent the night in Ivy’s office only once before. She was about six, and had fallen asleep at Ivy’s feet while she worked at her desk. Then, too, Cami had awoken to find herself alone. Ivy had gone downstairs to bed and left her there, curled in a tight ball. Cami never knew whether her mother had just wanted to let her sleep, or whether Ivy had stepped over her still form without seeing her.
A shadow moved to Cami’s left. She jumped to her feet and slapped the touch-activated lamp at her mother’s desk. Light spilled over the scene: Cami with her hand still hovering by the lamp’s base, and Lucia, rearing back from the sudden brightness, a red leather notebook clutched in her left hand.
“Jesus, you scared me,” said Cami. “What are you doing?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“I mean what are you doing with that.”
Lucia glanced down, as if she had only just noticed the notebook. The pages made a soft flapping sound as she flipped through them. Cami glimpsed her mother’s cramped handwriting and human figures drawn in blue pen.
“I can’t believe Ivy Morimoto sketches her designs by hand,” said Lucia. “Doesn’t she know it’s the 21st century?”
“She’s paranoid about getting hacked. She keeps everything hard copy until a design’s ready to move forward.” Cami shivered again. For the first time, she felt the gravity of what she had done, welcoming an outsider into her mother’s space. Lucia had turned the notebook sideways to examine a drawing of a skull with an antenna protruding from its forehead.
Cami held out her hand. “Give me the notebook.”
Lucia grinned. “What? You think I’m gonna sell these to her competitors? I told you: Cyber fashion is dead. Nobody would want this trash anyway.”
“Just give it to me.”
She tried to take it. Lucia stepped away and raised the book out of reach. Her eyes shone with a cruel and mocking glint. Quickly, Cami accepted what she would do in order to get the notebook back: the blows she would land, the fingernails scraping past hardware and digging into skin. They remained frozen that way for several moments until, with a dismissive flick of her metal wrist, the model sent the notebook spinning to the corner of the room. The carpet absorbed the impact. Lucia leaned against Ivy’s desk, smug and beautiful as ever.
“Momma’s girl through and through,” she said.
It was a long, frosty walk down to the first floor where Cami deactivated the security system to let Lucia out of the house. Somewhere above them, Justine was stirring from sleep. Cami wondered without caring whether she would actually call the police. Coming upon Cami’s empty bedroom, the front door carelessly left unlocked, Justine would think it no more than a daughter’s brazen rebellion against a mother’s control. But the truth was, watching Lucia vanish through the gates without looking back, Cami could summon no resentment for Ivy. She thought of her mother sleep-walking around her hotel room, ankles thudding against so much unfamiliar furniture.
A feeling of loss built in Cami, but slowly. She didn’t feel the full force of it until an hour later when she’d arrived at the apartment Andrew shared with three other college guys and he, groggy but gratified to see her, led her down the hall to his bed.
Afterward, they lay quietly beneath the blankets, listening to the gurgling of the pipes inside the walls. The heat rolling from Andrew onto Cami’s naked side was like a steaming wet towel. Tears slid down her face. Andrew reached out to touch one where it dangled off the edge of her jaw.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked.
Cami shook her head. As if she could be hurt by such clumsy, primitive flesh.