When Britney bleeds, sometimes she thinks of Christina.
That was the one thing they had in common from their MMC days. The only thing, if possible, other than their dreams of stardom, and even those differed in some way or another.
Back then, Britney was a cute little thing with glowing eyes and dirty blonde hair, graceful as a water sprite with a constant, brilliant grin. She shone. She was pretty.
Christina didn’t. Christina wasn’t. Christina was tiny but awkward, with a puff of light brown hair and a hesitant smile. She smiled as though she was afraid her teeth might somehow cut the inside of her mouth, and her hands flew like bewildered birds when she spoke, which wasn’t often.
What was more, Christina was “the little girl with the big voice,” a mouse who could sing operettas, when she so chose. Britney, on the other hand, loved the stage, loved the spotlight, but every sound that came from her throat sounded, to her own ears, like the croak of a frog, dying on the highway. They were different.
But both of them hit that same block of so-called “womanhood” at the same time, slamming into it like a car into brick wall—with no idea that it had even been coming. They were practically children, after all, so no one bothered to remember that girls in closed quarters for long periods of time tend to synchronize in body chemistry, their cells reaching out to each other, longing to combine.
Britney woke up one morning with blood in her panties and a warning from her mother that she shouldn’t tell the producers. When she crept into rehearsal claiming food poisoning, she found Christina slouching in the corner Britney had chosen for herself, arms wrapped mournfully around her sides. Wordlessly, Britney walked slowly over to her and slid, back against the wall, down to the floor by her side.
If they never shared anything else, they shared that. Buying each other chocolate bars and bottles of Midol that they hid in their Hello, Kitty purses, napping on a mattress in a corner of the studio, placing warm hands firmly, gently, on aching backs and stomachs below the hems of their thin blouses. Other times they went their separate ways, but for those seven days every month, they were sisters.
When MMC ended, Britney sobbed over Justin in her mother’s arms. Alone in her room, she cried softly over those quiet afternoons spent curling Christina’s soft hair around her fingers.
* * *
The next time they saw each other, it was years later. It was amazing, the way Christina could be simultaneously as tiny as she’d ever been, slim and streamlined, and as big as a queen. Her hair hung to her shoulders, a curtain of platinum, her warm brown eyes were now icy blue, and her delicate hands motionless in her lap as she sat regally in her chair.
Britney herself felt too round, too female. Puberty had given her soft curves of excess flesh, and she felt like she was all breasts and hips, no matter what she wore. When she looked at her own face she saw her pouty baby mouth, her sloe eyes, and the look of infinite waiting that seemed to be indelibly printed there. What she seemed to be waiting for, she had no idea.
Later, when she was fed up with the men who looked down her shirt, and the women who just looked down on her, she disappeared into the bathroom to find Christina already in there, applying another coat of gloss to her already shining lips. When Britney bought a tampon from the wall dispenser, she smirked.
“I don’t get that anymore.”
She pressed her lips together, bared her teeth at her own reflection in a dazzling smile, then walked out, leaving Britney alone in the cold, sterile room.