Lily 4

I know I have to figure out what Sebastian is doing in the plot, but I still have no idea what the plot is here. The characters are shaping up nicely in my brain, but they’re just milling around, serving and eating pie and burgers that I haven’t described yet, vaguely waving their hands in the air. So this week, I decided, Lily had to get a goal. (I did write scenes with Seb, but they’re awful because I don’t know what his problem is. So he just whines a lot. Not good.). Lily’s in some kind of conflict, and she needs to talk to somebody about that so the Girls have a chance to send up some story fodder. She doesn’t know Fin well enough yet, and anyway we already have a Lily/Fin infodump scene. Van and Cheryl know her life. It’s gonna have to be Nadia.

This is your reminder that Discovery Draft is all over the place since I’m just writing to see what happens. Don’t expect things like scene structure.

Also this is WAY too long. Therapy’s only fifty minutes.

Lily got to the clinic at four on the dot and sat down in the waiting room to reconsider the whole therapy thing. The first three therapists had not been a help, and while she’d liked her first impression of Nadia, she was notoriously bad at first impressions. She’d pretty much fallen for Seb at first sight and look at how that had turned out.

A woman came into the waiting room and sat down, and Lily was distracted for a moment, wondering what this stranger’s problem was, hoping it wasn’t anything serious, thinking maybe therapy should only be for serious problems and not general confusion about life choices, both in this life and others. It was possible that getting therapy was self-indulgent, selfish, she should pull herself together, she was fine.

It was also possible that she was losing her mind and she really hadn’t been reincarnated and–

Ferris came out into the waiting room, and Lily stiffened.

“Hello, Anne,” Ferris said to the other woman, pointedly ignoring Lily. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

She said the same thing to me, Anne, Lily thought, turn back now, and then Ferris and Anne went into the hall, and a minute later, Nadia leaned into the doorway.

“Hey, Lily,” she said. “Come on back.”

She was wearing a loose white blouse and jeans today, Lily noticed, so no snarky t-shirt, and when she got to her office, she held the door open for Lily and smiled briefly.

“Are you so glad I’m here?” Lily said.

Nadia’s eyes went to Ferris’s door and then back to Lily. “Thrilled.”

“Me, too,” Lily said and went in.

She sat down on the couch and smiled at Nadia, thinking, What the fuck am I doing here?

Nadia sat down across from her and waited.

“You’re my fourth therapist,” she told Nadia finally. “This month. I thought the third time was going to be the charm, but the third time was Ferris.”

“Okay,” Nadia said. “Let’s start with what you want from this.”

“I don’t actually want to be here,” Lily said. “My boss, Cheryl, who is also my cousin, made me come because she says I have too much to deal with and I need somebody to sort things out for me. She says I need a psychic Marie Kondo so I can thank my issues for their service and let them go. She says I should start with That Bastard Sebastian, but I’ve already let him go, I’ve told him he tries to talk to me again, I’ll file a restraining order. And I’m recovering just fine from the head wound. The reincarnation stuff isn’t a problem because I’m dealing with it. And I can handle the Viking in the diner, he’s really very polite. Losing my job, that was a blow because I loved it, but until somebody fires Sebastian, I can’t go back there, so . . .” She stopped, realizing that she’d just kind of dumped everything on Nadia. “I don’t want anything.”

“And yet here you are,” Nadia said. “So let’s talk.”

“Okay,” Lily said. “How’s your day been so far?”

“Fair,” Nadia said. “More interesting since you showed up. So you’ve ended a relationship, suffered a head wound, realized you’ve been reincarnated, lost your job, and met a Viking. That’s all this year?”

“That’s all in the past four weeks,” Lily said. “I admit it’s a lot, but I have everything under control.”

“What happened first?” Nadia said.

“The head wound,” Lily said. “Which was an accident. I think. I really do not believe that Sebastian meant to hit me on the head with a Viking ax.”

Nadia nodded.

When she didn’t say anything else, Lily said, “It was like this. We were putting together a Viking exhibit and designing activities—we work at the Children’s Museum that’s attached to the university—and we’d just gotten in this reproduction Viking ax that was beautiful, long heavy polished wood handle, carved metal blade, just gorgeous, and I’d taken it out of the box and laid it on the table to take rubbings of the carvings so I could do something with them as part of an activity, and Seb came in and yelled at me for unpacking the ax—he was my boss, but he did not have the right to yell at me even if we were sleeping together, especially since we were sleeping together– and I told him I’d ordered the ax, it was part of my project, so he could just back off, and then I looked in the box, and said, ‘If you’re after the invoice, it’s right there,’ and reached for it, and he lunged for me, and I dropped the ax on the table and stepped back and tripped and fell, he barged into the long handle and knocked the ax off the table, and it hit me on the head and knocked me cold.” She stopped. “They make the reproduction axes dull so nobody gets hacked to death with one, but that sucker was heavy. I got a concussion.”

“Wow,” Nadia said. “That happened four weeks ago? How’s your head?”

“Pretty good,” Lily said. “Every now and then I get optical migraines which are trippy, and I have to be careful not to get hit again, and I have these memories I didn’t have before, but it doesn’t hurt. I should make a full recovery. Except I really can’t stand Sebastian now.”

“Understandable,” Nadia said.

“Cheryl tried to warn me about him. The first time I brought him into the diner, she pulled me aside and said, ‘Drop that bastard like a potato made of lye,’ and while I was figuring out what that meant, she insulted Seb, and he told her she was insane and left. After that she always called him That Bastard Sebastian. Of course, she was right, but you know she’s never said I Told You So. Cheryl has her odd moments but she’s a good person.”

Nadia nodded. “She’s your cousin.”

“Yes. She’s older than I am so she looks out for me whether I want her to or not. Which is how I ended up in therapy. I figured I owed her one since she’d been right about Seb.” Lily took a deep breath. “The thing is, I’m not sure I’m not wasting your time since I don’t really have a problem. Well, not a big one.”

“What’s the little one?”

Lily sat back and studied Nadia. Same calm face, same blue streaked hair, same steady eyes, everything that she’d remembered. No judgment. This could be good. This could be helpful. “So I just sort of throw up on you verbally and we sort it out?”

“Excellent definition of therapy,” Nadia said.

Lily nodded. “Okay then. Cheryl wanted Sebastian shot or at least jailed for life, but I told her to drop it, and when I got out of the hospital—I was only in for two days—I tried to go back to work, but Seb’s Uncle Louis—he runs the museum—told me to some time off to recover, without pay, and this . . . person named Jessica took over my Viking project, which I was not happy about because she was doing it all wrong, and when I tried to go back to work a week later, and I was telling her it was all wrong, and she asked me for my sources and I realized I didn’t have any sources, I was remembering it.”

Lily stopped to check Nadia’s reaction, and Nadia nodded at her, no reaction at all.

“And then I started remembering a lot, like ten centuries ago, a previous life with Vikings, and I tried to explain, and that’s when Seb said I needed to take more time off and his Uncle Louis insisted, and I got booted for a month. Except the month is up and they’re not taking me back. And Jessica totally fucked up the Viking exhibit and there were complaints which there never were when I was doing things, so it makes no sense, they should be dying to have me back.” She stopped again. “Okay, I know that sounds arrogant, but I’m really very good at what I do. And I’d fight for it, but if I did manage to get the job back, I’d be working for Seb again, and I’ve just told him I’ll get a restraining order if he comes near me, so I think I’m done.”

“You really liked that job,” Nadia said.

“I loved that job, it was perfect for me,” Lily said. “Art and history and literature and working with kids, it was great. And now it’s gone, and it’s my own fault for sleeping with the boss, but he was so smart and funny and really gorgeous, and I kind of couldn’t believe he was hitting on me so I went for it. I mean, I think I’m attractive, but I’m not in Seb’s league. Although I do have a great personality.”

“Yes, you do,” Nadia said. “Is there anything about this that strikes you as odd?”

“Besides the reincarnation?” Lily said.


Lily took a deep breath. “You mean the fact that Seb went bananas when I reached for the receipt?”

“That did strike me as significant,” Nadia said.

“The ax was $569 from a reproduction catalog and I was the one who ordered it,” Lily said. “Try as I may, I cannot see a path to major graft there. Even if Seb double-billed the museum, we’re still talking only an extra $600 bucks, not really worth risking his job for. And he never did anything havey-cavey in the six months we were together. Okay, it’s was a little hinky that he got the job since there were other people more qualified, but his uncle is head of the museum and nepotism is a thing and he was actually good at it. Very organized, very efficient, learned fast. I mean one of the things I found most attractive about him was how smart he is. The most attractive thing was how attractive he was, the man is gorgeous, but the smart part sealed the deal.”

“Do you miss him?”

“No,” Lily said, and then thought, The Viking in the diner is better. There was irony for her, she got an ax to the head and it wasn’t from a Viking. Of course, that didn’t mean the Viking didn’t have an ax, too. Maybe there was another ax in her future. Maybe two. Things did come in threes–

“Hello?” Nadia said.


“You went somewhere.”

“I was thinking about the Viking in the diner,” Lily said.

“Is he the reason you don’t miss Seb?”

“No, the ax to the head is the reason I don’t miss Seb. He handled that very poorly.”

“Right,” Nadia said. “The Viking in the diner. Is this a memory from a reincarnation or an actual person? Just trying to keep this all clear.”

“Actual person. There are two of them, Fin and Bjorn, and they’ve come in for dinner every night this week.”

Nadia nodded.

“That’s all.”

“What made you think of them when I asked about Seb?”

Lily shrugged. “Just that I like him better, even if he is a Viking. But he’s just a customer. The only reason he’s even in this is because I now have this loathing for Vikings, but he’s confounding that conviction.”

“Which one?”

“Which conviction?”

“Which Viking?”

“Oh. Fin. Bjorn is very nice, too.” Lily thought about it. “They’re really big which should be sort of threatening but they’re not obnoxious about it. Of course, considering their father, they probably have all sorts of deep issues, but then my father is a nightmare, too, and I have no issues at all.” She looked up and met Nadia’s eyes. “Do I?”

“Define issues,” Nadia said. “Never mind, don’t. When we met last week, briefly, you said the problem was reincarnation. Are the memories from your reincarnations affecting your life?” She paused and then added, “Beyond the loathing for the Vikings in the diner.”

“I don’t loathe the Vikings in the diner,” Lily said. “I like them. I just loathe Vikings in general. So there’s some cognitive dissonance there.”

“How do you know they’re Vikings?”

“You can tell,” Lily said darkly. “I mean, Fin says they’re Ohioans, but they’re just shot through with Viking DNA.”

“Yes, you have issues,” Nadia said.

“I know,” Lily said. “The thing is, I don’t have a plan. I had a plan when I had a job, but now I’m just back to floating through life, working at the diner with my cousin and my best friend, taking my cat to the park, no purpose, no meaning. I don’t have anything to grab onto.” Except the Viking. She shook her head. Grabbing onto men was not a purpose. “I need to find another job, get another purpose.”

“Whose idea was the Viking exhibit?” Nadia said.

“Mine. Kids love Vikings. And the art is really wonderful, the carvings and illuminations in the manuscripts . . .” She slowed, thinking about the drawings Fin put on the menus. Definitely a Viking, she thought, but she also thought about how she could have gotten him to show kids how to do that, how to add to piece of writing, give it another dimension—


“Fin illuminates our specials menus,” Lily said. “With vines and dragons . . .” and waitresses. “I googled his name. He’s actually a fairly well-known illustrator. His stuff is really good. But the menus are . . . wonderful.”

“He puts dragons on them?”

“And cats. And . . . all kinds of things. He’d have helped with the Viking stuff at the museum. He’s like that.”

Nadia nodded.

“I am very confused,” Lily said.

“If it was your idea to do the Viking project,” Nadia said, “getting hit in the head with the ax is not what put Vikings in there.”

“No,” Lily said. “I didn’t think it was.”

“So why were you thinking of Vikings before that?”

“I don’t know,” Lily said. “There was just so much potential there. And Pangur Ban.”

“Pangur Ban?”

“My cat. There’s a very old Irish poem about a cat named Pangur Ban, and I named my cat Pangur Ban, and then when I remembered my first death, Pangur was with me. We went over the cliff together. It’s possible we’re being reincarnated together, but that seems insanely specific.”

“Cliff?” Nadia said. “I thought you were killed by a Viking ax.”

“No.” Lily frowned. “It was a Viking with an ax, and I’d picked up Pangur to run, and the Viking was chasing me, and I tripped and fell over the cliff as he caught me, and Pangur and I died, and it’s possible I took the Viking with me, for which I feel no guilt.”

“Understandable. Did this Viking look like your diner Viking?”

Lily blinked. “Well, big, bulky, blond, so a little bit. I don’t remember his face. Fin’s hair is more brown than blond. He wears glasses. Hasn’t shown up with an ax yet. His brother’s blond, but no, not him, either. Bjorn’s more of the drinking and whoring kind of Viking than the raping and pillaging. Put food in front of him, he’ll drop whatever else he’s doing.” She thought for a moment. “That would be really weird, Fin and Pangur and I all caught in a reincarnation loop. I don’t see it.” She looked at Nadia. “You think there’s a pattern in this.”

“I think there are a lot of variables,” Nadia said. “But I think all your events are linked because they’re the events you’re remembering. Other things happened during that four weeks, but the things you brought here were Sebastian, the head wound, reincarnation, the job loss, and Fin. You don’t like Jessica, she’s one of the reasons you lost your job, but you didn’t mention her at first. Your father is a nightmare, but you didn’t bring him up as a problem. Your cousin Cheryl seems to have a major impact on your life, but she isn’t an issue, either. So you’ve selected certain things, and they are all related. If nothing else, they’re all linked by Viking aspects. Your relationships with men, your job, your memories. I think that’s where we work.”

“Do you think reincarnation is real?”

“I don’t know,” Nadia said. “But I’m willing to believe it enough to discuss it as real with you. You don’t have to prove anything to me. We’re just thanking your issues and letting them go, we don’t need to get them papers.”

“You think Fin is significant,” Lily said. “Because he’s not, he’s just a guy in the diner.”


“I do not need a Viking in my life.”

“So we’ll talk about that next time.” Nadia stood up.

Lily stood up, too. “I’m not wasting your time?”

“What do you think?” Nadia said.

I think I have to go serve a Viking a hamburger, Lily thought, but what she said was, “I’ll let you know.”

On the way out, she passed Anne, who looked puzzled. “Nadia is an excellent therapist,” she told her and went out to her car.


“How did it go with Nadia?” Van said when Lily came down into the diner.

“I’m not sure,” Lily said, tying her apron on. “It was really just me filling her in on the situation, so you already know all of that, but it was . . . unsettling. I’m beginning to wonder if I did just imagine it all.”

Van flipped a burger and turned around. “Nadia talked you out of believing in reincarnation?”

“No, she wouldn’t do that,” Lily said. “It’s just that she thinks there might be a pattern there–”

Cheryl came into the kitchen. “Lily! Remember when you used to waitress here? Good times.”

“I’m on it,” Lily said and went out to take orders.

Thanks to the dinner crush, it was almost seven before she realized that Fin and Bjorn weren’t there. Not that she assumed they’d come in—

The door opened and Bjorn came in alone, and Lily felt a flood of disappointment.

Then she kicked herself. Of course Fin didn’t eat at the same place every night, although evidently Bjorn did, and anyway she’d just gotten finished telling Nadia that Fin wasn’t significant. I’m ashamed of you, she told herself and handed Bjorn a menu.

“Fin’s not here?” he said, sitting down.

“He’s supposed to be here? Now?” Lily stopped kicking herself to worry. If Fin had said he’d be here, he’d be here. “Do you think something happened to him?”

“Naw, he’s just running late.” Bjorn looked at the menu. “I think I’ll go with the deluxe burger–”

“He’s never late,” Lily said. “Maybe somebody–”

“Unlax, kid,” Bjorn said. “People do not happen to Fin, Fin happens to people. Now about my burger–”

Lily took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I . . . What can I get you?”

Bjorn closed the menu. “The usual. He really is fine, Lil.”

Lil? she thought as she went to put his order in. Fin called her Lil. Maybe that’s what he called her when he talked about her with Bjorn?

Why would he talk about her with Bjorn?

You have bigger problems than Fin, she told herself, and kept busy for the next half hour, ignoring the nagging little voice at the back of her brain that said, This is not right.

When Bjorn pushed his empty pie plate away, she went back to him and said, “It’s been half an hour. Now are you worried?”

“No,” Bjorn said. “Fin handles things. He’s been the guy in charge since Mom kicked Dad out.” Lily blinked, and he added, “He said he told you about that. He probably didn’t tell you that he’d been handling things before that, too. He’d tell us to do things, and we’d all do them, even my sisters, who do not follow orders well. Probably because he looks so much like Dad. You know, I don’t think this single burger idea is good. I’m still kind of hungry–”

“He looks like your Dad?” Lily said. She’d been picturing their father as a weasel-like creature who told horrible jokes and laughed at people.

“Spittin’ image,” Bjorn said.

Well, that explained why a great woman like their mother had fallen for him and stayed long enough to have five kids. Anybody would fall for somebody who looked like Fin–

“Fin thinks you’re in trouble,” Bjorn said. “So he thinks he has to save you. That’s Fin’s MO, saving people. People like you. And me.”

“Oh,” Lily said, and realized she’d just slotted Bjorn into the picture as “the guy who comes in with Fin,” instead of “guy fighting his own demons.”

“He would die rather than let anybody down,” Bjorn said. “Literally. I’m pretty sure that goes double for you. So don’t play him, okay?”

“I wouldn’t,” Lily began and then started over. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Well, you better,” Bjorn said, and the door opened, and Fin came in, calm as ever, and she felt all the worry-tension go and the other tension kick in.

This was no time to go attaching to people. Vikings.

“You’re late,” she said, trying to sound I’m-just-kidding perky, but it came out wrong, and he slowed at little before he sat down.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“Nothing’s wrong. You’re late, we were worried.”

“I wasn’t worried,” Bjorn said and Lily glared at him.

Fin kept his eyes on her. “What happened?”

“You know, I’m not a basket case,” she said, exasperated. “I can take care of my problems on my own, especially when I’m not worrying about you being dead in a ditch.”

“There was no ditch.” He sat down. “What happened?”

“He’s gonna need a burger,” Bjorn said.

“I don’t want a burger,” Fin said, his eyes still on Lily, and she was so fed up with him that she went back to the kitchen before he could bully her into telling him her problems, which she was not going to do because she was perfectly capable—

“What’s wrong?” Van said.

“You, too? What is it with you people?” Lily sighed and got a grip. “I’m sorry, please forget I said that. Bjorn wants the usual again. Fin wants a kick in the ass.”

“I’m assuming you’ll be serving Fin.”


She stopped because Fin was in the doorway to the kitchen.

“Did you see the sign on the wall?” she said. “The one that says ‘No One Allowed Behind the Counter?’”

He stood there, calm as always. “Come outside with me. You can yell at me out there.”

Lily exhaled through her teeth. “I’m working.”

Fin pointed toward the door. “Out.”

“Hey. I am not one of your sisters.”

“Thank god. Out.”

“Take a break, Lil,” Van said, “I’ll take care of Again again.”

Lily looked at Fin, standing in the doorway like a boulder, Stonehenge, Finhenge, immovable, implacable, undeniable, and gave up and followed him outside.


Yes, I know this is all over the place without going anywhere. DISCOVERY DRAFT.

57 thoughts on “Lily 4

  1. I enjoyed it. Discovery or no, you good with the vocabulistics. Nadia is a supportive therapist.

    Weirdly, I’ve found myself dreaming/day-dreaming about Stealing Nadine and Haunting Alice.

    I think it’s the butterflies at home. Since we’re on lockdown I’m actually at home during the times they fly about so I’m seeing so many, every day. That made me think about the dead butterflies link I sent you and lo, along came Alice.

  2. It didn’t go anywhere, but it set the scene which is important. Lily has all that happen, but is the kind of person who thinks she doesn’t need help. Therapy might not be the all help she needs, but it helps show what she is facing.

    Also you get hit on the head in a work place accident, by your boss, who is also your boyfriend, end up in hospital with a concussion and they make you take leave without pay and try to get rid of you. I think the museum should worry about a potential lawsuit, especially when she threatened her boss/boyfriend with a restraining order.

    My friend ran an archive and they got rid of her, to hire cheaper less qualified people, sometimes she goes back to do research for her new job. Occasionally they try to fob her off, when they can’t find things, and since she knows they’re there, she’ll offer to do it herself (not allowed) and tell them the area they’re in and the colour of the folders they need to look for.

    1. Feels like Seb influenced/lied to the Uncle to get it to work out that way.

      Also feels like Seb replaced the replica with the real deal (happened to be dull?) As part of the plot? He has Plans for the weapon, and needed to temporarily store it/hide it. Maybe he was supposed to sell it, maybe he’s selling artifacts on the black market?

  3. Great! I loved it.
    I wonder what was in the box? Drugs? Diamonds? Or maybe it’s a real Viking axe and it’s been stolen. Are Viking axes priceless antiques? Anyway, it sounds as if Seb, and probably his uncle too, are up to some shady business. A kind of smuggling ring?

  4. Reading the stuff about the museum, I was immediately thinking about funding problems, hence getting rid of Lily but I like the idea there is something in the box too!
    Or a scam involving what is bought for the exhibition but fiddling invoices isn’t very sexy.
    Also, is the axe really a replica? Could it be the real thing?

  5. I know we always think of Scandinavia as a bunch of hairy warriors riding ships out to rape and pillage innocent villagers, but they had soothsayers (“seidmen”) who were persecuted by Christian missionaries as evil with some pretty awful punishments as well. I think a lot of them were women, as well. Maybe that’s what was an undercurrent of the monastery destruction that kept happening at the hands of Vikings? (Sebastian as a vindictive Mike Pence?)

  6. None of us are going anywhere so we are happy to just go out the kitchen door with Fin and Lily.

  7. Ah. That was nice.

    You’ve got her problem – a bunch of them actually – and why she is in therapy (Cheryl). And problem-solving Fin. All good pieces and parts.

    I like the idea of skulduggery in the museum, involving the receipt or the box. I could see Seb smuggling things in – not necessarily antiquities, it could be drugs or other items. And with Lily’s name on the box, she’d be the one caught with the bag so to speak. I wonder if Jessica is in on it,or just clueless.

    So Seb is the smooth operator, and maybe his uncle is in on it too.

    There is a lot of family in this not-a-book.

    1. I, too, like Cheryl as the push for therapy. Nadia feels like she’s giving therapy to the plot as it’s worked out. 😀

      And Jessica as the patsy makes total sense! And why Seb would sleep with employees under him, despite just being a creep. Helps secure his control, and their being willing to overlook his missteps.

      I’m also liking the buyer of the axe/misbegotten goods being the ultimate villain, and being driver for going after Lily. Maybe her remembering of things exactly will lead to priceless treasure. That’s obviously still where my brain is haha

      Maybe there can be some manuscripts Fin can help decode!

  8. I also thought Lily justified why she was seeking therapy in this draft. I really liked her pitying the new patient, Maria Kondoing her issues, and therapy as throwing up :-).

    I suppose the therapy session could be shortened by making her getting conked by the axe and her confrontations with Seb and Jessica actual scenes in the book.

    I’m loving Fin. Like Lily, I feel relaxed every time he enters the story.

  9. “So you’ve ended a relationship, suffered a head wound, realized you’ve been reincarnated, lost your job, and met a Viking. That’s all this year?”

    Bwah. I love that.

    I think I prefer Bjorn to Fin, actually, because of the artwork.

  10. This makes me think that a happy ending would involve Lily getting her job back, but only if Seb and probably his uncle as well were gone from the museum. Which makes me wonder who would be an ally for that. Does the museum have a board, or some kind of oversight that could get involved at some point?

    And are Seb and/or his uncle doing something that if found out could cause them to be removed?

    I’m also really interested in what this story looks like from Seb’s POV. Not saying he needs to be a POV character, just wondering what’s his perspective? Is Seb a prime mover, or is he covering for his uncle in some way? Did he go out with Lily in order to manipulate her in some way, or does he have real divided loyalties to her and/or his uncle and/or himself and his job? Or was he just too weirded out by the whole reincarnation thing? Is Seb ineptly trying to protect Lily in some way (in comparison to Fin, who clearly would not be inept at protection)?

    I guess I might as well mention that I’ve been thinking about being taken care of and being protected (from the elements, from one’s problems) after Fin’s doodle last week, which I found really moving. I’d like for Fin’s protection and care to give Lily a stable place to stand, from which she can act when she needs to. So if Seb’s not actually an antagonist or antagonistic to Lily, just someone caught up in something, he could be the kind of protection that suffocates or limits or condescends, or friendly fire, or something like that.

    Just some random thoughts!

    1. I have no idea what Seb and his uncle are doing. It took me months to figure out what was going on on Nita’s island.

      I think Seb is an average decent guy. Given that he’s so good-looking and has an easy charm, he’s probably always been popular, so things have come easy for him, like the job at the museum through his uncle. (Why did he need a job? What happened at his last job? I dunno.). But I also think that because things have come easy for him, he probably takes the easy way automatically, and he doesn’t have coping skills for when things go wrong because things do not go wrong for him. And now something is really wrong. It might be interesting if Seb is innocent, but he’s realized that Uncle Louis is crooked, and Uncle Louis is the reason he has this job, so he’s trying to disguise whatever it is Louis is doing while he tries to stop it, coming to the realization that the reason Louis gave him the job was because any other person in that position would bust him. He was hired to cover up whatever Louis is doing. So Seb’s being drawn into Louis’s crime because he wants to keep his job, and the only way to do that is to keep Louis in his job. Which makes Seb an accessory. He can’t control Louis so he has to try to control Lily, and she’s mad as hell and done with him, so he’s scrambling for the first time in his life. That makes it more interesting for me to write. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just in over his head and his story is about how he goes down for the third time because he’s more interested in saving his job than in protecting the museum.

      I think.

      Yeah, that Fin as protector thing is really seductive, but I don’t want a can-he-protect-her story, I hate those. What might be interesting to write is Lily not wanting to be protected and Fin needing to protect her (the whole man-of-the-family-before-he-was-ten childhood bit) and their relationship negotiation is developing a partnership that serves them both so that they take care of each other. The problem with modern romance is that there’s not a lot that separates people, but this kind of mis-matched relationship need is very crunchy. He needs to control and protect, and she needs to do it on her own, and they’re both wrong. I’ve been trying to keep Fin from interfering, I have two scenes where he shows up to save Lily when she’s doing okay on her own (Seb wouldn’t hurt her, he just needs something from her) and he’s very laid back, but he clearly looms over the situation. I can see Lily being torn between appreciating his presence and wishing he’d trust her to handle her own life. I can also see that becoming a much bigger problem for her as Seb starts to lose it and Fin gets much more protective and controlling because he’s afraid for her.

      But I’m not sure. The two scenes I’ve got where he shows up to protect are the ones where Seb just flails around, Lily repeats herself, and Fin basically acts as a wall. AKA these are not good scenes. Some good lines in there, though.

      1. Okay, this makes Fin’s behavior make much more sense. I loved Fin in last week’s scene, but today’s bit where he orders Lily outside to talk bothered me. I don’t care for large men throwing orders around but this relationship conflict makes it understandable.

      2. re: not a can-he-protect-her story, yeah, absolutely, especially since it’s Lily’s story (his too, but mostly Lily especially so far). I actually think that’s why the protection thing was moving to me, because of how she reacted to it, not because of the thing itself. So how she reacts both for and against and how they became a team is awesome… And teams are powerful things.

        I was actually thinking about Greek hoplites (another of my favorite blogs at the moment is a military history blog, of all things) but edited it out of my first comment because I wasn’t sure I could explain it right, but basically, they have a shield that’s designed to protect the soldier themself and their immediate neighbor to one side when fighting in formation. Teamwork (and equality)!

        So I guess my question from there is whether Fin’s purpose in a plot like criminals in the museum (or other external plot) is purely to protect Lily, i.e. his point of entry to the plot is Lily and only Lily, or whether … I mean, like if the museum was smuggling drugs as suggested above, then it’s possible that Bjorn could draw Fin into the museum story from another angle (or a friend/former friend of Bjorn’s could draw in Bjorn which draws in Fin), which would maybe mean that the conflicts between Fin and Lily over relationship issues and how much protection and how to team up and who needs to do what could also have external plot stakes on both sides?

        1. Fin has to have a character arc, too, and I’m really interested in what happens to a big guy who’s forced into a leadership role before he’s in junior high.

          The size thing interests me because I come from a long line of big people. My little brother was bigger than all his friends, and the football coach used to yell at him because he wouldn’t hit the others hard enough in games because they were littler than he was. If he’s got a caretaker role stuck in his head, that’s going to be how he defines himself, and that’s going to kneecap him. He’s in town because he’s taking care of his little brother, and that’s bad for both of them: Fin’s giving up all the other options for his life for right now and Bjorn isn’t standing on his own. And now he’s taking on Lily’s problems even though she’s telling him not to. If he’s not taking care of people, who is he? I think that’s a very crunchy character arc: Fin learns to be selfish.

          1. I LOVE this idea for Fin’s character arc! I had a friend just like Fin; big guy (6’5″, 280 lbs when he was fit!) and Roy wouldn’t play football because he knew he would hurt someone and couldn’t handle that. Roy was a policeman, had to protect and serve. Roy didn’t take care of himself, and ended up dying at 55 from diabetic complications. Oh, yeah, I see Fin here; I would LOVE to see Fin learn to be selfish!

          2. So what should Fin be doing instead of taking care of them? What is he giving up?

            The easy answer is some work opportunity. That’s not interesting. Should he be taking care of his own health?

            What happens if he needs Lily to take care of him—maybe something to do with the reincarnations and she knows more than him about what is going on?

          3. I think it’s more of a focus thing. His focus is outward to others, and that leaves him pretty much living in the margins of other people’s lives. I think choosing Lily over Bjorn is one aspect, one that Bjorn would appreciate. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the Sophie/Amy/Phin thing from WTT, except Amy was holding on to Sophie. Bjorn is willing to let Fin go, it’s Fin who’s holding on, taking his identity from helping others. I think.

      3. I’m not sure if I read Fin as protective as much as simply calm, which sets him apart from all of the other characters. Well, Nadia is pretty calm too.

        That’s what I like and would like to see more of; Lilly finding someone in her life who doesn’t blow through the colorful chaos. I read her dialog in the therapy session as very fast, and her friends are full of motion and color. I think her brain is a very noisy place right now too.

        1. Motion and colour are not good for someone with migraines. Perhaps Lily’s big problem is the headaches, so it’s good for her to have a calm person like Fin. He doesn’t have to protect her from a physical threat (which you might expect from his size) but from the threat to her wellbeing from people who make her head hurt. I figure trying to remember all the different pasts would give you headaches – the brain can’t fit that much stuff in. So there could be a conflict between someone who tries to make her remember and someone who will let her forget and be herself as she is now.

          1. She doesn’t have headaches, she has ocular migraines, which I will probably take out since that can be confusing. Ocular headaches don’t hurt, they just blind you: you suddenly see black and white zigzag lines in front of your eyes and it obscures your vision. They’re usually gone in half an hour but they’re annoying. Yes, I have them. No pain.

  11. Loved it! I don’t care that it’s long, it provided lots of info; great! I see this not-a-book taking shape.

    In an aside, I am absolutely fascinated by the way you write; I’m a project manager, so if I ever wrote, (I’ve thought about it), I’d have to outline the whole book, figure out the characters, plot and emotional arcs, POV’s, etc., before I could start. (I have to know where I want to go in order to get there, one of the maxims of project management.) To see this organic (?) growth of a story is fascinating.

    “Drop that bastard like a potato made of lye.” Hee-hee-hee! I don’t know what it means, but it is wonderful.

    Please, give us the scene you mentioned between Fin and Lily next?? I am dying to know what she tells him.

  12. I love the level of reincarnation in this. It’s a factor, but just one ingredient in the burger (sorry).

    I had originally been fond of first-life Sebastian because he owed/was owned by Pangur, so I had to re-orient myself to him being a creep which was momentarily distracting, but didn’t seem to bother anyone else.

    I’m a little concerned about having a long term relationship with a fixer, so Fin is going to have to get over this (believably) for my HEA. If this were going to turn into a book……….

  13. First let me say thank you – so much – twice. First, because last night I read a short story by a romance author that turned out to be NOT a romance (there was torture and ended with the love interest in a coma from which he might never recover). That left me with a bad night and a lousy morning. I was so looking forward to today’s Lily. Lily did not disappoint. Lily made everything better.

    Second, I was wanting a scene with Nadia and finding today’s scene was a lovely surprise. So thank you for single handedly making my day so much better. This was so, so delightful.

  14. You said that therapy is only 50 minutes, but the bulk of the scene takes place either before or after therapy, so I don’t think that is a problem. I think Nadia could be very useful in the future because she is not afraid to make her opinions known, if only by a look, pause or raised eyebrow.

    1. No, that’s the whole therapy session. Once they sit down in her office, the clock starts, five after to five til.

      1. It didn’t seem too long? I also don’t see Nadia as needing to be on the page. She kinda seems like the girls in the basement – helps you figure things out, but a lot of the work they do is hidden behind the end product. Maybe that will change, just kind of current impression.

  15. Yay! Now I know why Lily’s went to a therapist! 🙂

    I echo the comments made about an employee getting hurt on the job and then being told to take time off without pay. That doesn’t seem like something any employer could get away with any more.

    Fin as protector and Lily as fiercely independent works for me. Although it does make me wonder about his sisters. Are they independent or soft and squishy? Because if they are independent, wouldn’t Fin have learned his lesson about being over-protective already? And if they are soft and squishy, I don’t know if they deserve Fin as a brother.

    I know – they may never get on the pages of this not-book, but the way a man treats his sisters is an indicator of how he would treat his love. And if he likes his sisters soft, what is it about Lily that attracts him?

    I’ll stop babbling now.

    1. I think he just takes care of people. If there’s a problem, he fixes it, and they’re used to turning to him if they need help, and he’s always there to give it. I don’t think he forces it on anybody, but he does have four siblings and a mom, plus his dad is still in the world somewhere, so there’s always somebody who yells for him. I do think having a single mom probably means the girls are self-sufficient, and the first Bjorn (god, the puns) is doing fine, it’s just this Bjorn who is in trouble and needs him right now. But I also think there’s a dynamic that plays out in families where somebody is always the fixer, and the oldest son (or daughter) usually gets handed that one.

      1. Relate so much to this! My boyfriend (youngest of his siblings) and I (oldest of mine) are both the family fixers. When two fixers team up and work together it can make for a wonderful relationship dynamic.

  16. Can Fin come to my house now, please? Not to fix me, I’d be happy if he sat at my kitchen table and calmly drew things on scraps of paper. I’m so tired of myself.

    Surprise Lily puts a big smile on my face every time. I don’t care that the plot isn’t all sharp etc.

    I suppose that sooner or later I’d want the story to develop, but for now, I’m happy to follow the girls in the basement.

  17. Of the two big powers in this scene — Nadia and Fin — I’d go with Nadia in a heartbeat. She waits, listens, gives honest encouragement, has a controlled place in Lily’s life. Fin uses his size to go into an out-of-bounds area and to order Lily outside.

    But as I think about my reaction to Fin, I wonder whether I’m really reacting to Lily. Why is she so obsessed with Fin that she loses her place in conversations? I’m surprised that she’s called independent because Cheryl orders her around as does Fin. If Fin is self-sufficient, why does Lily worry when he is late?

    Is Lily obsessed with Fin because Sebastian/concussion/firing have totally destroyed her sense of self/future/safety? I think there’s a Lily-Sebastian-Pangor-Fin connection in both Lily’s past life (lives) and her present life, and that the ax is a key to the connection. I also think Sebastian is more complex than an okay guy who has been drawn in to something illegal with his uncle. On the practical side, neither Sebastian nor Lily is making much money in their jobs. Sebastian doesn’t sound like a guy who enjoys low pay. There might be some deeper control which the uncle uses on Sebastian.

    I’d love to see Lily go into action, breaking into the museum to find the ax and read its runes. Perhaps they’re different from what she’d ordered. Perhaps what she finds won’t be the ordered ax but a real one. Hey, I’d love to see Fin help her break into the museum — he could use some shaking up.

    Boy, I reread this and realize how much I love Davy Dempsey. I also realize how much I like Surprise Lily.

    1. Fin has to make mistakes, like ordering Lily outside. He was getting to be the Perfect Boyfriend.

      One problem with writing this stuff out of order is arcing the relationship. He’s been coming into the diner for a week now, so she knows him, but how she feels about him? I dunno. At some point I’d put the scenes in order so I could see the plot and relationship arc, but since there’s no plot and this isn’t a book, I’m not gonna.

  18. Loving the story, or not-story, so far. Wondering to what the elder twin changed his name. Glutan Free? Shogar Free? Coffine Free? Father Free?

    1. Since I’m fairly sure he’s not going to make an appearance, I dunno and I don’t care. Probably something like “John.”

  19. I love how Nadia cuts through–not to deliver a solution, but to organize the problem.

    And it sure is fun to watch you do the same!

  20. If she really should be afraid of a reincarnated a Viking maybe the one to fear is Seb who doesn’t look like a Viking but is?

    Maybe he lunged for the ax because something is making both of them remember past lives?

  21. I want Pangur to be the key to her reincarnations. Maybe they save humanity or maybe he just saves her or maybe Seb and his uncle want the oldest living cat for a money making scheme?
    Also, I love this story and this blog. I might like discovery drafts more than complete books! It’s more of the world and the lack of polish doesn’t bother me. Thank you so much for this!

    1. Maybe Pangur could be the one being reincarnated, and the cat’s bringing her along for the ride (because Lily knows just where to scratch behind the ears??) 🙂 or mayb not.

  22. That was some very interesting stuff. 🙂 I’d love to see the next Nadia/Lily session involve a re-telling of the ax-in-the-museum incident where the events are different. Not like Lily was an unreliable narrator the first time, but because she’s remembering it differently this time. Things happen in a different sequence or different words are spoken or whatever, but the result is still that she somehow gets hit on the head with an ax (head injury = unreliable memory). She might have to re-tell it a bunch of times to arrive at what actually happened.

    I liked Bjorn more this time, and Fin less. His issues are definitely crunchy.

    The whole workplace-injury aspect … small towns and university towns and nonprofits tend to deal with these things a little differently but yeah, no way does she get remaindered without consequence. It’s only been a month but I’d like to see Lily grab onto that. ‘Hey wait a minute.’ Therapy good, lawyer also good. Is there a non-criminal reason why Uncle Louis might have said ‘get her out of here for a while’?

    1. If she says she’s remembering a past life instead of citing research, that could be a major flaw for her job.

  23. Therapy may only be 50 minutes, but this read very quickly. I don’t think the scene is long and it was really helpful IMO (Those Girls in the Basement! Wow!)

    I think I must have missed an early post (or more) about the beginnings of this, because I know people have been talking about the cat – I was glad to see it here. This scene really clarifies stuff for me and asks a lot of interesting questions. Anyway, thanks for the peek!

  24. I’m so glad you’re posting these rough drafts, even though I also think you’re being a bit hard on yourself. (That’s a charge that gets leveled at me a lot.) I’m thinking of Anne Lamott’s “shitty first drafts,” which is not how this reads to me. I hope you are having fun, because it’s certainly a lot of fun for me, and something to which I look forward in this involuntary solitude. So please keep writing!

  25. To echo everyone else, thank you for doing this. It’s a lot of fun reading along and contributing semi-coherent thoughts.

    If we’re still going with the “avoid the expected” theory, I think it’s important that Seb is a clueless minion in over his head. Because after the scene with Nadia, I would expect Seb as the villain of this story. It makes for a much juicier storyline if he’s just trying to keep it together and his uncle (for instance) is actually the villain. Or Jessica. Ooh, can Jessica please be an evil mastermind? That would be awesome.

    I like that reincarnation is still a facet of the story, but not the whole thing. Nadia is an excellent therapist. Love the interactions with Vanessa, and the way she calls Bjorn “Again”. I can see why Fin is annoying everyone in this snippet, but presumably there would be prior scenes in his POV that contextualise his behaviour. You know, if this were going to be a book. Which it isn’t, of course.

  26. My quarantine hero is Jennifer Crusie. I’m living for these Lily updates! Being married to a Viking and having a 3 year old mini Viking I’m very well versed in Vikings and I totally dig these snippets. I have loved your writing for so long and have all your books. Thank you for making my life a little brighter!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad! It was supposed to be fun, but I do have these moments when I think, “Yeah, your big service is making people read things you’ve made up. There’s arrogance for you.” I am having fun.

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