“Perse,” my roommate said, “you know the girl who wears a big coat everyday?”
My mind searched for a memory of the girl in baby-blue coat, and finally came to the image of a thin girl with dark hair and pronounced cheekbones, who used to hang out with Hera.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Selene. We’re going to take care of her from now on.”
We invited Selene to dine with us. I discovered that I had really underestimated her: she could eat the sum of Calliope’s and my food without getting full. Yet she looked so fragile, like a bird with human bones. Selene always brought her bottle, which I supposed was filled with hot water, and her coat looked way too warm for the coming summer days.
“Selene,” I said one Wednesday, curious, “it’s kind of warm these days. Why are you still wearing your coat?”
She smiled shyly and said in a small, gentle voice, “I’m quite cold, actually, though it would be temporary.” She didn’t sound convinced.
I nodded to let her know I understood, but in fact I didn’t. She ate so much for one meal, it was like her hunger was never satisfied. On my way to my homeroom I passed Aphrodite and her group of girls, whispering something. I hadn’t been paying attention, but I caught a word—“Selene”. Selene happened to be hanging out at the end of the hallway, and the popular girls were stealing glances at her, as if they were inspecting a previously unknown species from afar. I slowed down, trying to hear what they were saying.
“…She’s like a chopstick!”
“I just want to be like her!”
“Hera’s got to be jealous,” Aphrodite said sourly. “That’s why she abandoned Selene.”
I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help but think that Hera was this jealous type of girl, and it had to be why Selene came to my roommate Calliope.
My homeroom teacher informed everyone that there would be a prom on Friday. Girls needed to dress in evening dresses and boys in suits. It was “a chance to socialize”. So I went back to my room, hoping to get Calliope to pick a dress for me. When I entered my room, I found Selene sitting crosslegged on the floor where I usually put my shoes, Calliope on her own bed.
“Hi,” Selene said, almost inaudibly. She smiled slowly, like it tired her much to move her facial muscles, but it was a happy, genuine smile.
“Hi guys.” I shoved off my shoes at the edge of my bed so not to let Selene know that she had taken my shoes’ space. “You know about the prom?”
“Yeah, we’re just discussing what we’re gonna wear,” Calliope replied.
“But what do we do in a prom?” Selene’s already-quiet voice trailed off.
I tried not to stare at her or to speak harshly, “Socialize, of course.”
She didn’t look relieved or excited or anything. Just the same old worrisome expression on her face. It was like she didn’t want to be at and had never been to a public event, which was quite impossible to do, since I remembered her being at this school for as long as I was and everyone was required to attend a school event.
It wasn’t until Friday did I really know why she was so reluctant.
She hadn’t had an evening dress and therefore had needed to buy one, but the clothing store had had only knee-length dresses left. Then she made a strange request after we had come back to our room: “Do you mind me changing in your bathroom? As you know, I share a room with Hera and I don’t think she likes me.”
We let her. When she came out, my eyes nearly dropped: her short pale pink dress barely covered her legs, which were so thin that it was a miracle they carried her weight, but which couldn’t have been that heavy.
Here she was, the ideal model for Aphrodite’s girls, with the perfect thinness of the body, and she could eat as much as she could without ever getting fat.
I didn’t feel jealous at all.
(featured image: “Masques” (1935) by Yvonne Chevalier)