"Cat!" A sleepy voice called from under the covers.
"Don't need an alarm, I have a cat." Grumbled the disgruntled, now awake, owner. The cat, thinking this was a call to breakfast, jumped up on the bed and pawed at the covers, meowing in little squeek-eeks.
"No!" Came the voice, but the cat had played and won this game way too often to quit now. Now walking on top the cat cried "MEEEEEK!"
a little more demandingly.
"Mmmmm, ‘n a minute..."
Movement at the foot of the bed caught the attention of the cat who ran down and soon a rough bathing of the toes by a cat tongue brought it's owner to full awareness.
"Ok, ok, I'm up, I'm up!"
From beneath the puffy, satiny coverlet appeared a woman. In her early thirties but able to pass for early twenties without makeup on a good day. Her long brown red hair was tousled and knotty from her restless night. Groaning she reached over and retrieved a silky nightshirt from the bedside chair and put it on. She liked to sleep naked but the neighbors didn't need a free show when she walked past the many paned windows in the kitchen. Stumbling and shuffling she made her way into the kitchen, there to retrieve a cold diet coke for herself and to open a can of food for the cat. She grimaced as the cat food hit the plate with a squishy plop.
"How do you eat this glop, Basil? Look who I'm asking, you eat bugs."
Basil didn't respond to any of this chatter. He was whisker deep in delight, a throaty purr sounding loud in the hollow kitchen as his tailed waved gently in a soothing, rhythmic way. The woman became half hypnotized by this motion and began musing. What was she dreaming about that kept her awake? It wasn't a guilty conscious, Lily Hightower had no regrets. She did what she needed to do. If she did have a regret, it was not being born rich, but she took care of that problem too and now had more millions than she could spend. Poor little rich girl, lily laughed at her own maudlin musings. No reason to feel bad in any way as far as she was concerned. She was a modern day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich, and only the very rich, and giving to the poor, starting with herself. Then it expanded to include several old and dear friends, most of whom were now in her employ in some way or another. Her mother got the pet shop of her dreams. The children's hospital in her hometown had an entire wing with her name on it and several different scholarships were funded by Lily. She gave as much as she could. Partly to assuage her own guilt at stealing and partly to give hope to those who previously had no hope.
Not to mention the boost the economy got from her shopping excursions. In Paris, she was known as a "renegade debutante" of an American oil baron and her mother was rumored to be related to Rose Kennedy. It was the impression that she was an embarrassment to her family and outcast that made her so popular with the neighbors. They all thought she was a terribly sweet girl and who could blame her for not wanting to marry some old man her father picked. Lily laughed to herself every time she thought of these "facts", but it was good cover and helped explain her lengthy absences and sudden returns. Bits and pieces of the dream flitted at the edges of her mind. Mountains? Long, long halls? And the weird feeling of the dream that wouldn't abate. She cleared her mind and let these feelings fill her consciousness; anticipation, excitement, pleasure, arousal? Yet, it didn't feel like a sexual dream, it had an anxious edge- what was it? Lily felt as though she should know but couldn't curb her frustration long enough to let it come into her mind. Okay, okay, she mentally chided herself, give it up now and later it will pop into your mind. Sometimes, remembering an elusive dream was like trying to hold tightly onto sand. The harder you squeeze, the faster it trickles through your fingers, but held gently in your hand....
Shaking off the remnants of the dreaming she rose and went to take a shower. She loved her bathroom here. It was small but completely mirrored all around with Ivy plants hanging down from ceramic cherub holders mounted above the mirrors. There were two braided fig trees and a small palm which lent to the jungle feeling of the room. It always had this "green" smell, very fresh, clean. She had a service come when she was gone to keep up the plants and dusting since she found nothing so depressing as coming home to dead things. Her bathroom currently gave the impression of being an oasis, a private bathing pool among the leaves. The tub was large enough for two or three people, very deep, with seats and water jets. Lily started running a tub and slipped out of her nightshirt, standing naked in front of the mirrors. She examined a cut on her shoulder and touched it gently finding it still sore but healing. She'd have to be more careful. You can't go around leaving a trail of blood. Or DNA evidence for that matter, she thought. So far she had avoided being identified by her blood or prints, in fact, lily was good enough, or lucky enough to have avoided ever being pinned to a crime, had never been in jail and she couldn't take the chance now. Ten years before she had been on top, or climbing that way and then something happened and she was bottom of the pile. Lily wasn't sure what happened and was dumbfounded by the change that seemed to occur overnight. She was told she had blown a job, disappeared for several weeks without a trace. Lily had no idea what had gone on but resolved to clean up her reputation. She was clean, quick and non violent, when avoidable. She climbed back to the top of the pile in no time with her expertise but she no longer took this for granted. She quickly finished up her bath with a hair washing and went to check her calender . She flipped on the TV and verified the date, a habit she developed after losing three weeks of her life to the unknown.
She'd seen doctor after doctor who did neurological workups, CT scans, blood work, and none could give her any answers. Some suggested narcolepsy, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders. They all offered drugs of some variety. No thank you she thought to them all. My brain is muddled enough. Just because half of my brain is lost doesn't mean I'm giving the rest away. Lily also visited a psychiatrist, a faith healer, an herbalist, a yogi, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and a psychic. None of them could help find what was lost or offer any explanations either. As far as she knew, this had never happened again but it was always a consideration in her mind. I probably slept that long, she thought wryly. Maybe if I wasn't such an insomniac, I wouldn't have turned to a life of crime. She grinned at her own thoughts and grabbed a diet coke and headed for her bedroom to get dressed for the day. The phone ringing startled her and she flopped across the bed to wait and see who was calling. Lily grinned as she listened to her message play. "Hello Mummy, having a fabulous time! Screw it up for me at the tone!" BEEP. How archaic, the answering machine, how untraceable, how ultimately destroy able the evidence.
"Lily?! Lily?!!" Katherine's voice shrieked into the recorder.
"Are you okay? I haven't heard from you ...." There was a momentary electronic squeal as Lily picked up the receiver.
"Five days. Hello Katherine, what's up?"
"Lily, I am so glad to reach you!! I've got lots of mail here for you, what time is it there? It's three thirty in the morning here."
"And you've had how much wine?
"Just a bottle."
"Do you hear yourself?"
"No lecture, please, I am a grown up, you know?"
"Okay, okay, so whatcha got for me? It's eight thirty in the am here and it's way too damn early but basil has no clock in that empty stomach of his. Anything good in the mail?"
"Several checks, which I forwarded to your accountant, a couple of cards from aunties, and your twentieth reunion invitation. Everything else is the usual junk. You get a ton of junk you know, quit answering all those surveys on line and in magazines!"
Lily laughed. She couldn't help herself but to answer those things just to see if she could skew the balance. She utilized a goodly number of pen-names and gave any of several p.o. boxes as her address.
"My high school reunion? "
"Yep. Shall I circular file it?"
Lily thought for a moment and felt that dream feeling creep over her.
"Lily? Hello, lil?" K's voice broke through and Lily snapped out of it.
"Yeah, I'm here. No, don't toss it. When is it? Two weeks? Yeah, I'm clear right now, just finished my last job yesterday and have nothing on the docket until next month sometime, sooo, I tell you what. I'm going to go shopping for something fabulous to wear and catch the next plane home, okay? Okay. "
They chatted for a few more minutes before hanging up. Lily tidied up her loose ends and by early afternoon was putting Basil in his carrier. Quickly changing into capri pants and a close fitting knit top, Lily grabbed her luggage and Basil and went to meet the taxi that was waiting to take her to the airport. There were no flights to the states non stop for another 15 hours so Lily took a hotel room near the airport and let Basil out of his carrier to roam while she shopped. The bellboy assured her he would look after Basil's needs during his stay and was back with a travel version of a cat box before Lily was ready to leave to shop. Lily refused to travel anything but nonstop rather than risk losing basil in a transfer. Basil had come to her through her therapy group and proved to be a valued friend. His thick gray and white fur had proven quite tear proof and his sweet willingness to be held was priceless. He had an extra toe on his front paws that reminded lily that everyone was unique and she loved him in spite of his propensity for toe biting. She patted and stroked the feline and told him to be a good boy, she was going shopping. He squeaked in understanding and went to lie on the darkest upholstered chair in the room for a nap.
The day was sunny and warm, with a gentle wind that teased at the loose tendrils falling from the bun Lily had hastily twisted up. She strolled about from shop to shop wondering what they were wearing back home. Should she look for formal or casual wear? The people I went to school with are probably wearing flannel or polyester she thought grimly. With that thought in mind, she plunged through the door of the next boutique she saw, startling the attendant to awareness in a noisy jangle of bells. Eventually, amid a mountain of discarded silks and satins, laces and velvets, Lily stood arrayed in an ankle length silk skirt, black, tightly fitted to the knees with a slit down one side and a flirty kick pleat on the other. A soft cashmere sweater, also black, crossed coyly over her breasts and was gently off the shoulder as if to invite a lovers caress. An hour long session of shoe auditions had a pair of strappy black high heeled named as the winners and were wrapped up. She ordered a few more items to be shipped and carried the new outfit with her. How she loved the feel of the twisted paper handle cutting into her fingers. The smells of fabric sizing and tissue paper. The cool smooth feel of new shoe linings. Her face flushed, her heart pounded and she stopped into several more shops on her way, glutting herself of the heady deliciousness of decadent shopping.
The hours of perusing Paris' finest shops had left her peckish and she stopped at a small cafe' near the hotel. She was nibbling on some brie and bread, trying to decide if pearls or diamonds would look better with her new outfit when she noticed a man was staring at her. She caught his eyes for a moment before he turned away, hailed a taxi, and was gone. Lily stopped chewing. That was weird she thought. He'd looked sort of familiar, but, no, if he was a friend, he would have waved. Couldn't have been an enemy, well, it wasn't likely anyway. So, where do I know him from? Well, if you've seen one staring Frenchman, you've seen them all, her brain consoled. And they all look alike in the dark! Katherine's voice popped into Lily's mind. Lily smiled and rolled her eyes at her own thoughts as she motioned for the check. I must need a nap, she thought. Get some sleep and quit daydreaming about staring men you don't know.
Lily wouldn't sleep again until she was thousands of feet over the ocean, on her way home. The stuffy, dry air of the cabin combined with the white noise of the engines lulled Lily into sleep's quiet arms. Further down, down, down she slipped, deeper and deeper into the dreaming. She couldn't see. It was dark. She was definitely not alone. A man crouched behind her, they were watching something and hiding. She turned to look at him but couldn't see him. She smelled him, a pleasant combination of denim, leather, sweat and soap. She could feel his hand on the small of her back, warm, strong, comfortable and familiar. She turned toward him and reached out to him, he moved in close and his warm lips brushed hers, her heart beat quickened, he moved away and motioned for quiet, then whispered "wait here, I'll be back for you, aren't I always?" She could only see his teeth as he smiled at her before bounding through the tree cover. A profound sense of loss fell over her a moment before the panic did. Lily's eyes flew wide open, her breathing was fast, her upper lip was beaded with sweat. Reality snapped into focus and sanity followed. Turning the air vent on, Lily sat up and downed the small, warm, now flat diet soda in one gulp. She felt somewhat calmed and slipped into a fuzzy state to think about this dream. Different this time. Same man, outside location. Watching what? Where did he go? Does he come back? His words came back, "don't I always". Does he? Is he still looking for me? What about that Frenchman, no, why did he not speak if it was me he was looking for? And why can't I see his face?
I always wake up with such a headache from these dreams. As she thought the words, a sudden tickle on her upper lip woke her from her thoughts and brought her hand up to touch and look to confirm, a bloody nose. It's just the dry air, the air pressure change, she reassured herself as she stanched the flow. Her heart beat heavily in her chest, pounding out her fears, stoke, aneurysm, tumors, emboli. She took two Tylenol and a Valium. If I'm going to drop dead, it's going to be in my sleep! she thought defiantly and slowly sank into a blissfully dreamless sleep for the remainder of the flight.
Katherine met Lily at the terminal gate; a good thing since Lily was still groggy from the Valium. She wasn't used to them and they knocked her right out. Katherine bustled about like a hen after her biddies as Lily bustled around the pickup area waiting to see Basil's carrier. It was probably the only purple sparkly cat carrier the world had ever seen. Lily and a friend had started painting it with Lily's favorite nail polish one night and had to go buy ten bottles of L'Oreal's "Mica" to finish the job. They had laughed and laughed. Of course, the wine didn't hurt. Finally he came through pick up and thus assured of his safety, Lily allowed Katherine to finish hustling her out to the waiting mini van with a patient porter following behind with Lily's multitudinous bags and trunks. Katherine, or K as she was called, had abandoned all attempts at conversation when her questions were met with grunts. Lily had too many questions of her own to be bothered answering any right now. ‘Shouldn't have taken that Valium' she thought as she fell asleep again. The dreaming wasn't far behind and Lily found herself in her high school cafeteria where all the dances were held. Looking up she saw the virtual tent of twisted streamers in red and black, a mirror ball, and balloons hung from every corner of ceiling tile. She looked down and saw the familiar speckled green and white checkerboard tile floor. Closing her eyes she could smell the cold bologna sandwich smell that permeated lunchrooms everywhere, and the cold greasy smell of a million old fries. Only the long tables were missing. She opened her eyes and looked around and saw all her old friends, Margaret, Kelly, Vicki, Molly, Sally, Sarah, they all looked so beautiful in their gowns. Gowns? This was not the reunion. Looking down on herself she noted she too was wearing a gown of white and pink. No. Not prom. Not that. Lily felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up and before she turned around she knew she was going to see him. Suddenly, her head all but shattered with pain and blood flowed from both nostrils and ears. As if in slow motion she saw her friends screaming and motioning and running her way. She looked down and watched as a single drop of bright red blood undulated slowly as it fell to mar the virginal white of her satin boot with an audible splat. Her eyes rolled up in her head as the floor rushed up to meet her.
The contents in the hatch slammed down solidly as the mini van hit a pothole waking Lily with a start and a gasp. Wildly, her eyes rolled around in her head as she tried to get her bearings. She clutched her hand to her heart as if to keep it in check. K looked worriedly at Lily.
"Are you alright? Should I pull over? Are you going to be sick? You are all white!"
"No, I'm fine" Lily managed to croak. "Drink?" Her throat was so dry she could have spun a web.
"Here." K handed Lily a large sport cup and Lily took several large drinks before handing it back while making a face.
"You drank enough of it"
"Sorry, I was dry, it was wet. I'm a little dehydrated from the flight. I hate tea. Tastes like dirt-water."
"There are Diet Cokes in the cooler at your feet." K mentioned nonchalantly.
"Sure!" laughed Lily, "try and poison me first and then give me nectar. What is your evil plan?"
"Ha! To make you rest and relax and recreate. When was the last time you had a little?"
"Excuse me? That is none of your business!"
"That long, Huh?" Katherine cackled at Lily's sour silence. "I've got what you need!"
‘Oh yeah? What would that be?
"I can hardly wait." Lily said with some sarcasm. She could hardly wait to be home with Katherine, she always took such good care of her. Of course, that's what she gets paid for, thought Lily. To be fair, Katherine took care of Lily. Always. Lily and Katherine had met when they were thirteen and they shared the same birthday, and despite their many differences, became long lasting , best friends. Lily smiled, thinking about the fun they had shared, growing up on the streets of Rivertown, running around the dark streets in the middle of the night, sneaking over to a forbidden friend or boy's house.
Climbing to the top of the local theatre to watch the sunset from over the river. Beautiful. Most people didn't have this advantage. Singing and dancing they went unabashedly. Lily was the bold boy chaser, dancer, romantic dreamer. Katherine was loud and brassy. Book wormish, shy of boys, powerful in her own milieu, nervous outside of it. Just the opposite of Lily, making them a perfect compliment for each other. Lily reached over and gave Katherine's knee a squeeze and grinned at her saying "I love you."
"I love you too. What brings this on?"
"Just thinking, that's all."
The streets began to look familiar, they were almost home.
Katherine's house was a large three story structure, a historical home, on the west side of Rivertown. The nice side of town. It was surrounded by a huge hedge fence kept meticulously trimmed. A washed flagstone terrace led to the wide, wooden front steps onto the sprawling porch which wrapped around the corner in imitation of the southern veranda. A porch swing hung at the corner. They were met at the door by a strapping young man about eighteen years of age. He was tall and well molded under his fresh black t-shirt tucked into black pants that were tucked into a pair of well worn Doc Marten's .
"You must be Lily. Come in, I'll send Dog to fetch your luggage, are you hungry?" He waited for her answer while Lily looked over her shoulder at Katherine, who was grinning her fool head off.
"Is this guy for real?" Lily asked
"Yep, and he's yours while you're here. " Katherine said with a grin. Lily looked at Katherine with disbelief, then back to the boy, still waiting for her command.
" No, no, thanks. I have to talk to K for a bit, maybe later, okay?" She didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
"As you wish. Should you need anything, just call, my name is Magnus and here is my bell." He handed her a small plastic box with a button in the center.
"Push it," Magnus urged softly. Lily did so and she saw Magnus twitch a little.
"It's working." He stated. "Use it if you have need of me or my services. Your room is ready , My Lady." Magnus bowed and left the room . She could hear him yell for Dog and another boy and they came running past, ducking their heads as they ran past K.
Lily stared at K until she laughed and told her to sit and she would explain. A quick push of K's remote brought another boy to bring them refreshments.
"Okay, " Lily began, as she took the diet coke from the boys tray. "Now, tell me all about this weirdness! Who are these boys? Where did they come from? Why are they all wearing collars? And, how did that boy know I drink diet coke??"
"Magnus probably briefed them as to your preferences. He has been briefed on your preferences, he's the lead house boy, very yummy."
"House boy? Is this a game?"
"Sort of. I sort of collected them."
"Sort of? You ‘sort of ‘ keep them?"
"Whatever you want to call it."
"Think of them as pool boys."
"What money can't buy...., they are over eighteen, right?"
"Oh yes, Magnus is twenty one and and Michael, my cherub, is is twenty one, and Dog is all of eighteen.
"Is that all? Just the three?" Lily asked hopefully.
" Yep, that's all so far. We have a lot of fun."
Lily was between disbelief and awe.
"And you have them all on electric collars?"
"Twenty four hours a day!"
"What do they get? No,wait, don't tell me, I really don't want to know." Katherine's mane of black hair shimmered in the low light of the room as she tossed it over her shoulder, flinging it dramatically, as was her wont, and let out a peal of almost evil laughter. Lily had to laugh a little herself. She had always wanted a "him-em". Her idea of the masculine harem. She was both impressed and a bit put out at the same time. Hmmmph. Lily looked at the box in her hand and a devilish V shaped smiled crossed her face as she zapped Magnus to her side. After he had shown Lily her room and she had made herself more comfortable, Lily joined Katherine in the rooftop solarium, or lunarium, depending on the heavenly body occupying it currently. Tonight it offered a beautiful view of the spring nighttime sky. The stars twinkled in the heavens and the moon was just a sliver. God's toenail, Lily thought as she did every time she saw a crescent moon. She couldn't remember where she had heard that, or read it, but she would never forget it. I wonder if God thinks about me, she suddenly wondered. Does god love the lost lamb most of all? She hoped so, if there was a god. Science was Lily's god. She held a bachelors degree in biology and anatomy. "I'm also a locksmith - by- mail graduate!" Lily thought wryly. sighing deeply she drew K's attention away from the massage she was receiving from Dog. His real name was Rupert she had learned. Lily could understand why he wouldn't mind be called ‘dog'.
"So..." started K. "What's wrong with you? Besides the obvious?" Lily narrowed her eyes at her friend for a moment, then sat quietly before speaking.
"I don't know exactly. I'm an insomniac, and when I do sleep I have these disturbing dreams and wake up with a killer headache." She didn't mention the headaches were so bad she vomited at times or that she was prescribed Valium for them. She didn't mention the nosebleed on the plane either, although she thought of it again. K's reply was grunted out between deep strokes from Dog.
"Sounds ...uh...like....uuuuhhhh....stress..oomph, you should....have Dog...oooh, rub you ... ooww!...out...uh..."
‘I think I would shatter into pieces, I'm so tense."
"Maybe another attitude adjustment, with more vodka in it. I'll make it myself this time". K said, getting up from the table and covering herself with a flowing gown of pale green silk covered with lotus blossoms and frogs. She seemed to float as she crossed to the bar and made two tall glasses of ‘attitude adjustment', known to the rest of the world as vodka and lemonade. Bringing Lily her glass, K settled into the papa-san chair opposite Lily in the wicker swinging basket and raised her glass in silent salute. Lily drank deeply and spun in little half circles using her toes to push and anchor her. This was Lily's favorite room here. All wicker and glass and plants. After a long silence, Lily's voice came quietly ,
"I wish I could tell you about these dreams. They're very strange. They're of places I've never been, and there is a man who's face I've never seen, and yet I know of him..., know him..., intimately." Lily looked up into K's eyes, willing her to see the scenes Lily's minds-eye could see, but could not adequately describe. K could see the longing and anguish on Lily's face, made luminous by the moonlight. Her dark eyes looked haunted and scared and these were not images K thought of when she thought of Lily. Lily grimaced and put her head in her hands. Her voice was muffled as she spoke through her hands.
" I can't see him, I know we are ‘involved', and just thinking about it is giving me a headache. Enough of this tonight! I think I just need some rest. That's what I'm here for, after all!" Lily could take no more of K's pitying looks and told her, "Go ahead, ‘zap' Dog and I'll have one of those massages after all."
After a massage and a few more ‘adjustments' to her attitude, Lily glided to her bedroom. The blue room. Thick midnight blue carpet covered the floor, the walls were covered with wallpaper in cream on cream stripe with tiny, delicate, vining flowers in shades of blue from baby to cerulean. The drapes were midnight blue velvet over sky blue sheers. The antique cherry wood canopied bed was done in the palest of ice blues and both the canopy and the comforter was trimmed in handmade, Irish lace. Creamy silk sheets welcomed Lily's smooth, perfumed body between them and goose down pillows awaited her head. Lily stared dreamily up at the canopy, mentally giggling over K and her boys. Soon she slipped into a deep, deep, sleep. Untroubled for once by visions of an unseen man in an unfamiliar place.
In the morning, or afternoon, as the rest of the world would call it, Lily awoke to a gorgeous bedside tray bearing fresh fruit, cheese Danish, a pack of menthol cigarettes, and a diet coke chilling in a small bucket of ice. Lily laughed out loud. But she wasn't displeased at all. She grabbed the remote control from the bedside table and clicked on the local weather and news channel to check the date and catch up locally. Lily peeled and ate two oranges while watching. Killings...shootings...drug deals...nothing new. Her last crime wasn't making the news anymore. No physical evidence was found and the trail went cold. I'm almost too good, thought Lily. Sometimes, it's like candy from a baby. She had enough business interests, legitimate business interests, to maintain her lifestyle. What lifestyle? I'm working most of the time for ... what? I just don't know anymore. Lily looked for a moment at the cigarettes, but she had finally quit and K just hadn't noticed yet. Lily was trying to minimize the trauma of quitting by not discussing it incessantly as most reforming smokers were wont to do. Sighing, Lily flopped back onto the pillows and closed her eyes. She was unaware she had fallen back asleep. Suddenly, she was on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere,looking at the barrel of a gun that was staring back. It was "him". She knew it. His form was cloaked in darkness. She felt tears fall down her face. Heavily. She named them as they fell, Nerves. Stress. Broken heart. Disbelief. She could feel the all consuming shaking as her knees began to knock. He was speaking to her, she couldn't hear his voice, but she saw him wave the gun in a dismissive gesture and stood just a second more before breaking away and running; running for her life, not knowing if this was a true chance for escape or one that would earn her a bullet in the back, but trying was better than not , so she ran as fast as she could. Ran until her lungs ached and burned they were so raw. Lily's eyes flew open and she sat bolt upright , gasping for air. Her head ached terribly, so much in fact, Lily rushed into the bathroom just in time to heave helplessly in front of the toilet. Finally, the spasms passed, and Lily rested her head on the cool porcelain of the tub, sitting quietly until she felt she could move and keep her head on her shoulders. Maybe I'm just hung over, Lily thought. She tried to ignore the fact that she had waken up fine initially. It had been the nap, the dream, so clear still in her minds eye. That was too real. Is this man real? Is it my subconscious? Is this a portend of things to come, or a psychic vision? She'd had them before, but not so detailed. So clear. So real. It was usually more like a de ja vu', fuzzy, with a dreamy quality to it. This was different. She willed herself to think on the man, not tall, built small, dangerous to be sure,though. The little ones are usually more dangerous, look at Hitler, Napoleon. He's probably nuts like them too, she thought with a flare of anger. Who is he? And how dare he? She was going to have to stop thinking about it. Her head was pounding again. Closing her eyes, Lily willed herself to relax and took several deep "cleansing breaths". She began to creatively visualize herself swimming. Long smooth strokes breaking the cool blue water, feeling her body slide through it's every molecule. The combination of breathing and visualization led to a lessening of her headache. Lily decided a shower and some lunch wouldn't be out of the question and to that end she employed her "zapper".
Before too long, she was soaking her zoftig little self in a hot whirlpool bath, scented with gardenia. Magnus kneeled by the tub with a plate of tomato sandwiches resting on his outstretched arms.
"You may rest, slave. Set the sandwiches down and fetch me a diet coke." Magnus scurried to do her bidding and Lily leaned back in the tub chuckling and popped the last of her sandwich into her mouth. She was still chewing when Magnus crawled back into the bathroom with Katherine on his back, riding sidesaddle and holding a diet coke on a small tray. Lily broke into hysterical laughter watching K trying to be regal through it all.
"I believe you requested nectar of the Gods. It's only fitting a Goddess brings it!" K stated while handing over the soda with a grand flourish.
"Hurry up and give it to me before I'm too old to enjoy it!" Lily smiled.
Katherine smiled back and standing up, gave Magnus a slap on the rump to send him from the room.
"Sleep well?" she inquired.
"Sure, no..., well..." and lily spilled her guts to K, who listened intently as Lily told her about the dreams, the man, the headaches, the vomiting.
"And you have no idea who this person is, right? The man could represent authority, running is an obvious connection, guilty conscious?" K offered.
"I'd thought about it, but I can't imagine about what. You know I have no guilt about my occupation. Who knows, maybe it's old baggage I've yet to unpack." Lily chewed her lower lip and sank down into the bubbles. She didn't think these were symbolic dreams, too real, not unusual enough. Lily at one time had had tornado dreams, until she realized they were symbolic of chaos in her life and when she had dealt with the chaos, the dreams stopped. She realized also that she did have some control over her dreams. She had had this one dream three times in one night. She was at her house and all her loved ones were there. A tornado was coming down the street. Not a large one, nor black, like usual, but white and thin. It was coming on quite slowly and she ran through the house alerting everyone, but they all ignored her and the tornado came right to the front door and through the house and even though they were being destroyed, none of the victims seemed to notice. They all went along with their conversations until they were sucked up. Lily woke, fell asleep again and dreamed it from the beginning, this time she thought she would try harder to warn her loved ones. She looked at the room full of people. It was familiar. She knew what was coming. She looked out the front window, sure enough, there was the tornado, coming down the street. She tried, she ran from person to person, grabbed them by their shirt fronts and shook them, but to no avail. She called out as the wind picked up for them all to go to the basement, but no one moved and the tornado again came to the front door and through the house, killing all. Lily woke, again, and fell asleep again. The scene was the same. Lily was tired of this dream and decided to take control like she had heard you could. In the dream, she saw her loved ones chatting, ignoring the weather, saw the tornado start and this time she marched out into the street and waited for that tornado. C'mon, badass! It came, down the street, just like before, but this time, Lily yelled at it. "Get lost!! You have no power here!" and with a noise like a dying pac-mac, it woo-woo-woo- beep beep! disappeared, dissolved where it stood and she never had that dream again. Katherine sighed and stood up to grab a large towel.
"C'mon. Up!" She commanded. "Tired of watching you chew your lip to pieces."
Lily obeyed automatically, standing up and raising her arms so the towel could be wrapped around her. The two women went back into the bedroom where K flopped onto Lily's bed to watch her finish her toilette. Lily pulled a huge trunk around by the bed and deftly flipped the catches, opening it up to reveal a virtual traveling photo album on the inside lid. It was completely covered with pictures, some overlapping to increase the display space.
"Wow!" Katherine exclaimed excitedly. "Look at them all! Oh! Look! There's me at sixteen, in my school uniform! Oh look! David, and Dale..., Frank and Brian, Jeff, Steve, oh, look at that prom picture! Your dress was the best there!"
Lily smiled and felt that peaceful feeling come over her as she relaxed and remeneced with Katherine.
"Do you always travel with this trunk? K asked while looking over the photos.
"Except when I can't. It helps keep me under control, to remember where I come from, who I really am."
K smiled broadly, "Or who we all are! These are great. Can I have this one?"
"I never can show you pictures without you wanting one, or lifting one. Some things never change!" Lily smiled at the faces K made as she discovered this lost moment and that one. K flashed a vacation picture at Lily.
"Wow." said Lily. "look at that outfit!"
"..Those were the days, my friend..." K began to sing, and Lily joined right in. "We thought they'd ne-ver end, we'd dance and sing for-ever and a day..." and they both fell back onto the bed, laughing. After they'd laughed and sighed that big sigh you always seem to need after a good laughing jag, K sat up and fished a joint as large as Lily's little finger from her pocket, which she offered first to Lily.
"Some?" K asked, making Lily laugh again. K's little sister Becky, when she was a baby and being watched by Lily and Katherine, wanted some of what ever you had , she would hold out her hand and curl her little fingers up and ask "Some?"
It was an adorable behavior that always delivered the goods.
"Some? Some?" Lily mimicked and they both had giggle fits again. The morning was looking up. As they smoked they talked about all the people they used to know, all the people they missed, and those they didn't. It was probably the most relaxing day Lily had had in a very long time. So good to come home.
Magnus soon interuppeted their reverie with lunch, after which K declared it was nap time. "I need my beauty sleep so I can be fresh for the festivities this evening." She said this with a gleam in her eye. Lily looked at her suspiciously.
"What festivities? Do I have to participate? What's cooking?"
"Oh, I don't know..." K looked up at the ceiling and started to walk away, but Lily grabbed her and threw her down on the bed and held her there, shrieking and laughing as Lily tickled every spot she could reach. "C'mon, tell!"
"Okay, okay, Aurora and Weston are coming over! Now let me go!"
"Cool! I haven't seen them in years!! Okay, you may go now, Ha!" and Lily released her. "I knew you would be pleased, Aurora was so excited to hear you were in town for your reunion, she couldn't wait to come see you."
"Oh yeah, I had almost completely forgotten about the reunion. It's weird. I'm going to be there alone. You went to Madonna, Aurora was the year behind me, Weston, the year ahead. I can't even take Daniel with me."
"Yeah, I wondered where he was. How is he?"
" He's fine, he's leading a dig in South America , seniors this time so they're really roughing it. It's going to take a while too, they found some artifacts and have expanded their dig time. I've flown down there a few times to be with him, but he's so focused on the find, I feel I'm competing for his attention. "
"Maybe the distance will do you good." K said soothingly.
"Maybe." Lily sighed and rolled over onto her back on the bed.
Katherine sensed the moment and quietly left the room. Lily's eyes caressed the folds of the canopy above her, riding each swell and curl of the fabric until unknowingly she drifted into sleep. She was dreaming again.
She was hunched over a computer terminal, it's green glow illuminating every line of her face as she drew in her brows and mouth with concentration. Tickity-tak, tickity tickity tak tak tak! The computer spilled it's program under her skilled fingers, right on to her waiting disk. A siren sounded in the distance, accompanied by the sounds of running feet, black rubber on concrete, and the whine of electric cars. She knew she only had a few minutes before the room would be awash in security personnel . One set of running footsteps soudned close, just outside the door, a man's tenor voice called, "Lily? Got it? "
"Almost, just another minute to finish the transcription, can you hold them off?"
"I'll do my best, hurry dear, I had hoped to avoid a direct confrontation." The sound of his footsteps hurrying away could be heard. Soon the volleys of gunfire rang out, the quick staccato of automatic gunfire and tinkling of shells hitting the concrete floors, Blam blam blam blam from the Walther PPK she knew her companion to have.
Beep! The program was complete. Just as she was retrieving the disk, a blast from the hallway deafened her and threw her to the floor with the force of the concussion. A twisted metal file cabinet protected her from most of the falling debris. As she crouched beneath it, she heard footsteps enter the room, crunching quietly on the bits of glass and rubble.
"Lily?" A familiar voice called.
"Here!" She called, standing. The man rushed past her grabbing her hand and pulling her along with him through a different door. Lily's conciousness crept into her dream and she wondered who is this man? I trust him, obviously with my life, why can't I remember his name? Why not ask?
"What is your name?" The dream Lily asked the dream-man. He stopped dead in his tracks and the scene changed. She was lying on a bed, unable to move, or even feel her extremitites. She was breathing comfortably, but found she was unable to speak, a weak moan was the best she could utter. HE was with her. Not in sight, but she could smell him, feel his prescence. He was sitting above her head somewhere, stroking her hair and face. There was someone else in the room, speaking to him.
"She won't remember?" His voice asked.
"No, not likely, and even if she does,she'll die." The stranger's voice Icily intoned in an authoritative fashion. " You have almost an hour before the last stage of the block is in place, during which the drug will erase all the memories she holds of the last two weeks, and of you entirely. Then we will ‘fill' the space with false memories, doubts and confusion, so say your goodbyes now." A door shut, footsteps retreated. Lily and her dream-man were alone. Again she felt him stroke her hair and face. She felt his lips touch her forehead.
"I'm so sorry,love. I wish there was another way. I love you, but since we cannot be, maybe it's better this way. I only wish they'd wash my brain of you so I won't be tempted. I'm going to make them pay for this. They think they've won. We'll see." Lily desperately tried to move or speak. She felt as though her heart was being shattered, sending shards spiraling to her stomach and feet. But all she could do was cry passively, tears, hot and slick, slid out of the corners of her eyes and fell dependantly into her ears. The hand stroked her head again and though he spoke no words, she knew he was as tormented as she. She could feel his hand tremble and felt his hot tears hit her face and trail down with her own.
"Lily! Lily!" Someone was shaking her awake and shouting her name for real.
The dream dissolved as lily woke with a start to see Magnus, Dog, and K standing over her.
"Lil! Are you alright? You were sobbing hysterically in your sleep! We couldn't wake you, what were you dreaming of? You scared me to death!" K admonished. Lily sat up hiccoughing, wiping her eyes on the coverlet. She felt as though she couldn't breathe. She took deep, gasping breaths, her eyes wide, then shut as it assailed her.
"God damn. That was so real. Too real!" Lily put her face in her hands and K dismissed the boys with a flick of her fingers. When they were alone K sat next to Lily, who snuffled and sighed trying to recover .
"It was him!" Lily stared off into the distance like a medium in a trance. "I knew him. I trusted him! I know we were lovers." As she rolled the dream around in her mind, her eyes grew wide and terrified and filled once more with fat, slippery tears.
"Oh my god Katherine! they did something to me,to my brain, in the dream, at the end, I was paralyzed by something and he was apologizing to me and saying goodbye." Her voice rose an octave as she grabbed K and shook her. " This is not a dream! This happened to me! I'm sure of it! I did a job of some sort with someone, someone I knew well, who then allowed his people to do something to me! I am remembering, bit by bit, and it's killing me." Lily grabbed her head as if in agony then fell back on the bed gasping for air again. Concerned, K leaped up and ranto the bathroom to return with a cool washrag and some ibuprofen. Gratefully, Lily accepted the rag and the pills.
"It was like my brain exploded for a moment." She explained.
"Should I call a doctor?" K worried. "Or take you to the ER?
"No, no, I'm going to be fine as soon as I stop thinking about this stupid dream, memory, whatever..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes seemed to close of their own accord.
"Don't sleep!!" K commanded and shook Lily, who hastened to reassure her.
"No, it's okay. I'm fine. It's already as though it didn't happen." Lily smiled a big fake smile to reassure K, and neither of them was fooled by this, but they let it go.
"My head really hurts like no tomorrow, I'll just nap a little and I'll be okay. He's not like Freddy Kruger. He won't kill me in my sleep." K had to smile at Lil's dark attempt at humor.
"If you're sure..."
"I am, really. Send Magnus in an hour and a half so I can get up for Aurora's arrival."
"Alright." K didn't sound as though she really though she really believed but she knew how stubborn Lily could be and knew there was no point in pressing the matter right now. She was a cancer after all and pulling her out of her shell was nearly impossible. Lily was relieved when she heard the door shut and napped quietly without any intruding dreams . Magnus woke her with a diet coke and a smile and Lily grunted her thanks in his general direction. It was the best she could muster. She wasn't really herself until she had been up awhile. He took his leave quietly and Lily sat up and gazed about blurrily until her eyes fell ont he pack of cigarettes still at the bedside. A very small part of her brain called out, NO!, Don't do it!! but it was completely drowned out by the larger portion of her brain as she grabbed up the familiar pack. "Fuck it" she thought, as she shook one out and lit up. She took a long drag and blew the smoke out in a stream toward the windows.
Lily's tongue hung out of her mouth, unwilling to taste it's self again.
"Blah! Now I know why I quit in the first place!" She crushed out the butt and sniffing her fingers, wandered into the bathroom to wash her hands. That's where she ws when her bedroom door flew open and a loud female voice called...
"Where is that fat, lazy bitch?"
"AURORA!!!!" Lily fairly flew out of the bathroom and into the embrace of a large blonde woman. Aurora was six foot one of solid amazon woman. Her german heritage told on her and was evident in her clear blue eyes, ruddy complexion, and stubborn chin. Lily and Aurora had been friends since high school. They were involved in theatrical productions both in and out of school together. Especially musicals, and one would never guess that Aurora was a first soprano with perfect pitch, and Lily was the one who was an alto. K loved to sing as well, but had no ear for it, couldn't carry a tune in a bushel basket, but Lily and Aurora more than made up for her lack. When firmly entrenched between the two, K could stay on key with them, but alone K songs were best left in the shower. Released from Lily's enthusiastic embrace, Aurora took a step back , arms akimbo, and told Lily point blank, "Girl, you need a sandwich!" Lily looked down at herself in disgust. " I do look sort of gaunt, huh? I've been sort of sick."
"Sick? Are you pregnant?"
"Goddess forbid! And, completely unlikely. Don't you have to have sex to be pregnant?"
"That good, huh? Where is Daniel? Is he broken?" Aurora's eyes shined with glee and she stuck her tongue out between her teeth as a gesture she frequently used when she was thinking naughty. Lily laughed.
"No, not broken, not here!"
"Then where is he? Shouldn't he be here taking care of his woman?"
K popped in to suggest they might move to a location more conducive to chit chat with everyone. Lily told her she wanted to change clothes first and would join them shortly.