I think the most important lesson ever taught to us by Gossip Girl is that the people who share your blood or your nose or your eyes and raised you are not your only family. My Twitter and FF family are the most fabulicious cheerleaders, commentators, comediennes and comrades a girl could have, and they all deserve foil wrapped Chucks - let alone oneshots - as gifts. As I haven't yet perfected my cloning technique, however, here goes.
Volley Fire was written for the wonderful comewhatmay.x, a truly prodigious author, fellow shoe worshipper, and all round good egg. She requested Christmas angst, and my prompts were 'macarons' and 'burlesque'. Merry Christmas, Steph!
And to you all, enjoy.
'You're still connected to her. I see it when you're together. I can feel it when I'm in the room.'
– Eva Coupeau, Touch Of Eva
'So this is Christmas
And what have you done?'
– Happy Christmas (War Is Over), John Lennon.
The year turns, and it appears that you've got older without noticing. You could have been fooled, could have been told that it was fifteen year old Blair Waldorf standing there, tears trickling down your face and burning like the acid that burns in your throat. How old are you now, anyway – twenty one, twenty two? Everyone says you ought to have grown out of this silly faze, that you're beautiful the way you are (you're not, of course; you lost Serena, lost Nate, lost Yale, lost Chuck, lost Chuck again and oh, what's this? Lost Chuck again, like a dime down a drain, and what kind of beautiful person would do that?), that you have everything you could ever want and that you should sit still and drink it in.
It's Christmas Eve. You sliced your finger while curling ribbons and didn't feel a thing.
And the face in the mirror is still your face.
You swill a glass of champagne as you re-enter the party, smile blinding, face back in place. One day, when you're off script and improvising, you're sure everything will stick. Nobody noticed you were gone, although there's a chorus of discordant 'Blair!'s and 'B!'s from new arrivals just through the door, handing off their coats like dollar bills to hollow-eyed governments with children as faces because they're too rich to feel the cold (even though you do, and your teeth rattle in your jaw). There is to be no contestation: mingle enough, and everyone will think they know you. Prattle enough, and they'll know that they're your friend.
Scream, and no one will hear you.
You walk through the people in a dream, blindfolded, green walls building from nowhere to lock you in a labyrinth (caught in a trap, can't look back, love you too much, baby). The absence of light is not even what's unbearable. There is light – corner of the room, surrounded by marketing executives, grey suit, looking your way – but it's shrouded, shaded black by a camera obscura but still casting the faintest glow. Serena whispers something about it being the season and all and mistletoe and maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this hundredth thousandth time, something will come from the two of you other than venom and vice (and then maybe you'll stop destroying each other, and say things like 'how about them Yankees?' and tick backwards like the grinding gears in a clock).
"You're connected," she tells you. "You know you still feel it – after all, everyone else in the room can!"
You murmur something about canapés, escape to the kitchen and line up toothpicks like you're building a fort. There are walls, and a roof and a drawbridge (so what if it's the castle you'll never have?) – and suddenly a tower you didn't put there. You look up.
He looks at you. There's a moment of indecision, flashing like sodium blazing on water, and then he tilts your chin up with one finger and you close your eyes and bite your lip because you can feel that, even if the scab on your finger is raw and pink from relentless re-opening and re-examining, the pretence a fibre in the wound or disinfection.
"We could go somewhere."
You open your eyes. "We could drive in circles around the city, and we'd still end up in exactly the same place. There's only one place we ever go." You hate it when he looks at you like that, because it makes your mask slip. "We can't settle on one side of the borderline, so we walk it. I walk it. I am walking it."
"I miss setting fire to the city," he says. "I miss seeing your face."
"I miss the holidays," you reply. "What day is it, anyway, and why should I care?"
"You could try something else. It's worked before." He tries for a smile. "You could try macarons and burlesque, or princes and Audrey."
"You could try scotch and hookers, or gentlemen's clubs and lost weekends."
'Who's that girl?'
'I have no idea.'
"I know." It's a stretch, even in your heels, but you push for the distance and press your forehead against his, a mirror image of two people (one person) with every part touching but the essentials. You wish you could divide each part of yourself to face the charge of hoping, but such naivete has long been washed into the sewer with the last of your dreaming.
"I know," you say again, as you feel his fingers splay across your bareback ribs and wish he could just fuck you into oblivion, where nothing hurts but sweetly. "But it doesn't change anything."