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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.