Joy

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twelve

She removes her pink wig and sets it atop the foam head on the vanity. She takes a few strands and wraps them around her finger, enjoying the slip of the satiny hair. It’s real hair, of course. Maybe silly to get human hair just to dye it bubblegum pink and have to freshen the colour after washing, but she wanted it to feel real.

She wants something to feel real.

Joy Daisy isn’t real. But she’s a better person than Joy DeVries. It’s too bad Joy Daisy couldn’t just swallow her up.

The door to her dressing room opens.

She sighs and works at the pins of her cap, not even looking at Eddie’s reflection in the mirror. “What is it, Man Bun?”

“There’s a cop here to see you,” he says.

Freeze.

Joy’s mind goes into overdrive. A cop? Fuck. Fuck, fuck. Had they figured it out was her? The last one was just a day ago, had she not been careful enough? Had somebody seen her? Fuck.

“Let him in, I guess.” She forces herself to sound careless. She is an actress, after all. Her skin crawls with trepidation as Eddie ducks out of the room, and she pulls out another pin, tossing it a little too hard into the ceramic dish on the vanity. It clinks and then bounces out, skittering behind the dresser onto the floor somewhere.

The door creaks and her eyes flick up to assess the situation in the mirror.

She blinks at the sweet Detective from the bar. The DILF Detective with the shy little girl.

He blushes, and her muscles instantly relax. He’s not here to arrest her.

“Hi,” he says awkwardly, and clasps his hands in front of him as if he doesn’t know what to do with them.

Joy wants to laugh. It threatens to bubble up out of her throat in hysterical gales of relief. But she stamps it down, instead pulling out another pin and gently setting it in the dish.

She smirks at him in the mirror, a strange mockup of her character and the woman beneath. She’s got the extravagant makeup, but the skullcap over her mousy hair and the chapped fingers working at the pins contrast it like yin and yang.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” she says, and it’s true. She shouldn’t have hinted at who she was in the bar. She’s supposed to be unremarkable when she’s not wearing the wig.

There’s just something about this one…

He glances around the room. This is her personal dressing room, not the stage one they use for the kids. This room stinks of stale sex and cigarettes, no surface uncovered of clothes and blankets and pillows and junk.

He raised an eyebrow as he appraised the large bong on the coffee table next to him.

“Don’t be a prude.” She works out the last pin and shakes out her hair, locks falling down over her shoulders. “Shit’s been legal in this country for like twenty years.”

He chuckled. “No judgement.” His posture relaxes. “Just interesting to see this side. I watch Joy Daisy with Marie so often, it’s hard sometimes to remember that TV personalities are real people underneath.”

If you only knew.

“Well, we work hard so that you don’t see this side.” She opens a bottle of makeup remover and dumps some onto a little sponge. “But I suppose when you have a nice shiny badge, you can do whatever you want, huh?”

He at least has the grace to blush again. “I didn’t know how to get a hold of you otherwise.”

“And why did you want to get a hold of me, Detective?” She wipes the colours from her face, the contouring, the foundation, erasing her identity, revealing pallid flesh beneath.

He unclasps and clasps his fingers a few times. “I can’t help but be fascinated by you.” He lets out a nervous chuckle and avoids her gaze. “That sounded way less creepy when I was thinking about what to say to you.”

She takes her time cleaning her face, letting him sweat behind her, and then makes a show of squeezing out her little sponges and drying her skin. She hangs the little towel on the side of the vanity, and then swivels her stool around to face him.

“I don’t get creeped out easily.” She crosses her legs and pulls a tin case from the coat strewn over a nearby chair. She sticks a cigarette between her lips, and her next words come out of the side of her mouth as she lights it. “So what’s so fascinating?”

He still seems uncomfortable. She considers letting him stand there like a kid struggling to recite an essay in front of the class, and then takes pity on him and motions for the couch to his left.

He looks down and gently moves a wad of feather boas aside so he can take a seat. “Meeting you was surreal,” he admits. “I spent the whole time trying to figure out who you were, and then when you told me at the end, I suddenly had so many questions. You’re not at all what I would have expected.”

“TV personalities are real people, remember?” She spreads her arms, palms up. “I know that ruins the magic.”

He leans forward, resting his arms on his thighs. “Can I take you out for coffee?”

“What was your relationship with your mother like, growing up?” Joy takes a deep drag of her smoke, and lets it out slowly.

He blinks at her rapidly, as if struggling to understand her question. “I… what? Good, I guess. Normal.”

“So why did you become a cop?” She cocks her head.

He opens his mouth, and then closes it again, shaking his head. “Okay. I guess the noble thing to say is that I wanted to help people. And not to say that I don’t… but the main reason is that I really like puzzles.”

“So you wanted to meet me because I’m a puzzle you want to solve?” She raises an eyebrow, her lip curling as he stares down at his hands.

She waits.

He looks up at her again. “Can I take you out for coffee?”

Joy stubs out her cigarette and picks at the hem of her neon pink dress. “I suppose I should get changed, first.”

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