Lily 6

Six weeks into Lily and I still don’t know what the central conflict is. I know some of Lily’s troubles, but trouble is not conflict.

That’s okay, this isn’t a book.

What I do have in front of me is those two trying-to-control Lily scenes, the first with Seb and the second with Fin. I did discovery drafts on both, both awful, but that’s okay, discovery draft, and then it was time to pull things together. So the first thing I did was a beat analysis for a rewrite. Like this:

Aha, escalating conflict! Always a good idea.

so Lily is fighting for control of her own life in her career (Seb) and her love life (Fin) and that somehow connects to being reincarnated and killed by Vikings. Vikings were macho control freaks, so it’s not that far a reach, but it’s also terrifically vague. I do like the parallel of the Viking ax and Cheryl’s cleaver, I just have no idea what to do with it or what either has to do with the central theme. Which I also don’t know.

The other thing is that while I like the idea of Fin and Lily negotiating their relationship, I’m not crazy about it as a conflict. They’re not idiots. They both know the other person is good people. So their romance plot is really going to be a negotiation, and the complications aren’t going to be Big Misunderstandings, they’re going to be all the garbage in the rest of their lives that keeps them from negotiating more quickly. The problem, of course, is that I still don’t know what the main conflict is, but since this isn’t a book, it’s not a big problem.

So below is the Sep scene rewritten and the Fin scene echo, followed by a negotiating-the-relationship scene, or the apology scene after the Fin-Lily fight, and a couple of miscellaneous things, too. They all need more rewrites, because, as you may remember from Nita, writing is rewriting. Lots and lots of rewriting. But this is where we are now.

***************

Out in the parking lot, Pangur became a new cat, lord of all he surveyed: a lot of blacktop with a border of weeds and a centerpiece of dumpster. Still, turf was turf. He bounded across the blacktop and into the weeds near the diner steps, keen to stalk anything mouse-shaped, which meant the chipmunks had better watch their asses.

Lily followed him to make sure he wasn’t going after anything he couldn’t handle.

At the steps, Pangur lifted his head to the breeze, a lot more breeze than Lily wanted, full of early April chill, and then he froze, hearing something that she didn’t. There’s my life now, she thought. Everybody knows something I don’t and it’s all out of control . . .

That was whiny. Be like Pangur, she thought, watching his heavy, tense ginger body stare at his prey as he began to stalk. Focus, that was the ticket.
Somewhere in the weeds under the three metal diner steps, a mouse was about to meet his maker. Poor thing, she thought, it was just standing there, innocently freezing to death in that bitch of a wind while danger approached—

“Lily!” Sebastian said from behind her, and she turned to see her ex, smiling his standard charming smile as he came toward her, private and intimate and clueless because she was never going to be private and intimate with him again.

“Go away,” she said, and took a step back as Seb took a step forward.

“Honey, I’ve missed you.” Seb came closer and did the old loom-over-her-to-look-macho bit that she’d fallen for once. There’d been a time she’d thought he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen, but there was a decided weasel cast to the handsome now, and that formerly sexy five o’clock shadow now just looked like a dirty chin.

Lily scowled at him and took another step back. “I’m just grateful you missed me with the ax.”

“Oh, come on,” he said, the voice of reason. “You know the ax fell off the table.”

“You knocked it off the table while you were lunging for me and then you fired me.” Lily took another step back. “I hate you.”

“I didn’t fire you,” Seb said, his smile fixed now. “We just put you on leave. We all miss you. Dorothy was just asking about you. And Jessica–”

“Jessica replaced me, and now she’s screwing up my project. And I didn’t want to go on leave,” although truth be told, going back to work for Seb and his idiot Uncle Lewis wasn’t the dream job it had once been because it meant working for Seb, whom she now knew to be a rat, and his idiot Uncle Lewis. “I loved working at the museum. I was good at it. And I was nailing that project, it was going to be wonderful. I don’t like you, and your uncle is a horrible person, but the museum was a good place to work until you hit me with an ax.”

“I didn’t–” Seb smiled again, but she could hear him breathing faster, see the anger in his eyes. “We just need to talk this out. Come have dinner with me.”

“I have to go to work,” Lily said. “In a diner. Where I will have dinner. Also I’m never going anywhere with you again. Go away. Go far away.”

“Fine. I’ll pick you up after work.”

“No, you will not.”

He rolled his eyes at her, and she tried to calm down, be logical, because killing him wasn’t an option, she had no weapons. She had to start carrying a weapon. God, she really was losing it. “I don’t get off work until midnight, and you hate late hours. You’re a crack-of-dawn guy, which should have been a big tip-off that you’re psycho. Also I’m never going anywhere—”

“Fine. Have breakfast with me at the crack of dawn.” He smiled again. “We used to do breakfast a lot, remember?”

‘We used to do a lot of things a lot that we’re never going to do again,” Lily said, backing up onto the first diner step. “You know the one I hated the most? The crack-of-dawn breakfast. I’m not a fan of the dawn, Seb, which you evidently never noticed in the entire three months we dated. I hate mornings. And now I hate you. Come anywhere near me again and I’m filing a restraining order.”

He stopped smiling then. “That’s not funny.”

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

“I just need to talk to you,” Seb said, and for once he looked serious. Honest even.

“You should have thought of that before you hit me with the ax.”

“I did not hit you with an ax!” His voice rose, sharp, and he caught himself and smiled again. “Lily, be fair. You tripped back against the table and slipped and knocked the ax off as you fell. I wasn’t anywhere near you.”

That was such a blatant lie that she gaped at him. “You’re gaslighting me? Fat fucking chance, you moron, you lunged for me when I reached for that box, and you looked like screaming murder, and okay, I fell trying to get away from you, but you were the one who knocked the ax on me, and while I have no idea if that was accident or on purpose, it was definitely you, you lying weasel, so don’t even try–”

“There’s no reason to get emotional,” Seb said, the voice of male sanity. “Calm down. How’s therapy going?”

“How’s therapy going? How’s therapy going?If I had an ax right now . . .

“Because we just got a report that you’ve left another therapist. Uncle Louis was concerned–”

“Your uncle Louis doesn’t give a rat’s ass about me,” Lily said. “He’s up to something and so are you, and you hit me with an ax to stop me from finding out . . . something. Also, who’s talking to you about my therapy? Isn’t that illegal? I can report that–”

“Damn it, Lily—” Seb caught her arm as she backed up and hit the second diner step.

That,” Lily said, trying to wrench her arm away, “That is what I’m talking about. That angry lunge you do to grab me. Let go of my arm or I will scream like a banshee.”

“You’re acting crazy–”

“I’m acting crazy? You hit me with an ax. And you’re not even a Viking.”

I didn’t . . . “ He stopped. “What the fuck is wrong with your cat?”

Lily looked around to see Pangur, now on the top step, his back arched, his green eyes narrowed, looking at Seb as if he were a very large mouse.

Rat.

Bastard.

“Go away or my cat attacks,” Lily said and went up the final step.

The door behind her opened, and Cheryl stood there with a meat cleaver, her frizzy blonde hair standing out around her pale face like an out-of-control halo. “Is there a problem out here, Lily?” she said, her voice all light and sunny.

“Seb was just leaving,” Lily said, and wrenched her arm away.

“No,” Seb said, and Lily moved to one side and Cheryl came down onto the first step.

“You remember my cousin Cheryl,” Lily said. “The one you kept saying was nuts.”

“I’m nuts?” Cheryl said to Seb. “I never hit anybody with an ax.”

Stop saying that,” Seb said, but he took a step back.

“An ax seems like overkill,” Cheryl said. “Really hard to carry around. Impossible to conceal. So I’ve got this cleaver. It’ll be self-defense, of course. I came out when my cousin screamed.”

“She didn’t scream,” Seb said.

Lily opened her mouth and took a deep breath, and Seb said, “All right.” He backed away, almost to the street. “You’re both nuts.”

“Fuck you and your uncle, too. Who, by the way, was lousy in bed.” Cheryl opened the door. “Come on in, honey, the dinner rush will be any minute now.”

Pangur padded into the diner, heading for the kitchen door, evidently feeling that Cheryl and her cleaver had things in hand, and Lily followed him in, stopping inside as Cheryl closed the street door behind them.

“That was very kind of you,” Lily said, knowing she should take the cleaver, but Seb was still out there, so she let Cheryl keep it. “You slept with Uncle Louis?”

“It was a long time ago. He was very good-looking. Terrible in bed, though. Selfish. Plus his name was Louis Lewis. His mother must have been demented. How was Seb in bed?”

“Thank you for rescuing me,” Lily said, heading her off from comparing notes about the sex lives of the Lewises.

Cheryl put her arm around Lily and tilted her head to look up at her. “Well, you know, honey, I’ve always thought of you as my daughter.”

“Had a good time in junior high, did you?” Lily said. “You’re not that much older than me, Cheryl. But you are definitely my favorite cousin. Especially now I know that you come with a cleaver.”

“Of course, sweetie.” Cheryl patted her shoulder. “Where’s your cap?”

“I am not a French maid.”

“You’ve been eating meat, haven’t you?” Cheryl said, and went back to work.

“What?” Lily said, confused again, and then two customers came in through the door at the other end of the diner.

Big guys. Nordic looking.

Vikings, she thought, and then turned back to look through the glass door she’d just come through.

Seb was out there, watching her.

The Vikings sat down at the far end of the counter.

Pangur stood in the kitchen doorway, snarling like subtle gravel.

Vikings to the left of me, she thought, dickhead to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with my insane cat and my cousin who has a cleaver.

Possibly she wasn’t the only one who was losing it. Possibly the whole world was nuts.

That really wasn’t a comfort, so she shook her head and followed Pangur into the kitchen.

***************. [This is at least two days later.]

Outside, Lily stopped on the bottom step, making Fin stop on the sidewalk.

“If you want privacy,” he said, “we’re better off back in the parking lot–”

“I want you to stop,” Lily said. “I have had enough of this master of the universe crap, first from Seb and now from you. Do not order me around, do not demand my troubles, do not try to fix me. I am not broken.”

Fin frowned at her. “I never said you were–”

“Then why are you trying to save me?” The wind picked up, and Lily folded her arms in front of her and shivered. “I don’t need you to protect me, I don’t need you to rescue me, I don’t need you to watch over me, and I sure as hell don’t need you ordering me to leave work so you can explain why I’m helpless without you.”

“I didn’t–”

“If we were in a relationship, this would be borderline abusive,” Lily said and he shut up. “Since we’re just acquaintances, it’s just weird as hell. It probably played well in the fifties, and god knows in the 800s, but this is a new century, women are fully capable of running their own lives, so just get over this save-the-little-woman thing you’ve got going. I have enough weirdness in my life without you going macho on me, especially since our entire relationship up until now has been me giving you pie and you eating it.”

“I am not macho,” Fin said, sounding as if he were grasping for a positive.

“You were born macho,” Lily said. “You’re bigger than everybody else and you’re the oldest and you’ve been rescuing your family since birth. You’re always calm because if you got upset, you wouldn’t be a real man.”

“Hey–”

“So you go around rescuing people so you don’t have to get close, which would be wimpy.”

“Believe it or not,” Fin said, scowling at her, annoyed now, “I would like to get close to you.”

“No,” Lily said. “You want to fix my problems, you want control over my life, but you have no intentions of getting close. That is not the Viking way.”

“Fixing your problems is getting close.” He shook his head, looking more like an angry bull than a Viking now. “And I am not a damn Viking.” He looked down. “Be careful, your cat is behind you. Don’t step on him.”

Lily looked down confused, and saw Pangur there, calmly washing a paw. You are not a great help, cat, she thought, and went back to making her point. “Fixing my problems is keeping a distance by assuming you’re superior to me. You’re bigger, you’re stronger, you’re tougher–”

“What part of that is wrong?” Fin snapped.

“What part of that makes you superior?” Lily snapped back. “Fucking Viking.”

“Oh, for the love of god,” Fin began, “do you know how insane you sound?” and then the door behind Lily opened, and he snapped, “Look out for the cat, Cheryl,”as Pangur scrambled out from under Cheryl’s feet.

“The cat can take of itself,” Cheryl said, hefting the cleaver, “I’m here to take care of you.”

“No, no, it’s okay.” Lily stepped in front of Fin to protect him. “I was just yelling at him to go away.”

“Then why is he still here?” Cheryl said.

“Because he thinks he has to fix my problems,” Lily said, “although I’m sure he’s reconsidering now. He’s not cleaver-worthy, Cheryl, he’s just bossy and . . . male.”

Cheryl looked at him. “Stop being bossy and male.”

“Not a problem.” Fin looked at Lily and shook his head, calm as ever if you didn’t see that stiff upper lip and his eyes full of anger and . . .

He looks hurt, she thought, he was just trying to help, and he really had to stop doing that, but she didn’t want him hurt . . .

“Oh, just hell,” she said. “Wait, Fin–” but he turned and walked off down the street.

“Is that what you wanted?” Cheryl said, watching him go. “Because he’s gainfully employed, he tips well, and I think he could be trained.”

“It’s what I want right now,” Lily said, but as she watched him go, she wasn’t sure. That master of the universe crap had to go, but he really was just trying to help. She wanted him at a safe distance, not completely gone.

“He didn’t pay for dinner,” Cheryl said.

“Bjorn’ll cover it,” Lily said. “Or I will. Or he’ll stop by tomorrow morning for breakfast and pay then. He’s not a dine-and-dash kind of guy. He’s just mad.”

“Probably a first for him,” Cheryl said. “Not an emotional kind of guy.”

“Are you kidding?” Lily turned to go up the steps. “He’s probably been angry all his life. Happy people do not bully perfectly fine people in order to control the world.”

“That’s Vikings, right?” Cheryl said.

“That’s Fin.”

“You know,” Cheryl said, watching Fin disappear in the distance. “Vikings are really very attractive.”

“Give me the cleaver, Cheryl,” Lily said, disarmed her cousin, shooed her cat through the door, and went inside, Viking-free.

Which was exactly what she wanted. Really.

**************

When Fin had gone six blocks past his apartment, he turned and went back. He hadn’t paid for dinner. Not that he ever wanted to see Lily or Cheryl or the damn cleaver again.

“Hey!”

He saw Bjorn heading toward him, so he stopped outside the lobby to their apartments and waited.

“I paid for dinner,” Bjorn said. Fin reached for his wallet and Bjorn said, “Let me pay for dinner. Let me do something for you.”

“Okay,” Fin said. “Thank you.”

“Are you and Lily okay?”

Fin opened the door to the lobby. “There is no me and Lily.”

Bjorn snorted and followed him in.

A slight brunette stood up to meet them, and it took Fin a minute to recognize her: Violet, Bjorn’s old girlfriend.

And former fellow addict.

At least Bjorn was a former addict. Violet was a flower child in every sense of the word: bright, pretty, fragile, and probably not going to last the autumn given the shadows under her eyes and the tremble in her lips.

“Vi?” Bjorn said, and moved past him, looking serious for once.

“I just missed you,” Violet said, and burst into tears, flinging her arms around him.

I am not a fixer, Fin thought. I have no interest in fixing Violet.

“Come on upstairs,” Bjorn said, patting her back, his voice kind and firm and . . .

Crap, he’s going to save her, Fin thought, and followed them.

***************

Fin got to the diner early the next night. He’d finished the ink he’d been working on, and since he was supposed to meet Bjorn in half an hour anyway, there was no point in going on to the color . . .

You want to see Lily, he told himself. That was no way to end that conversation last night, just walking off, and he needed to apologize for being rude . . .

He shook his head at his own ineptitude.

Ten minutes later, he was sitting at the counter watching her come towards him, smiling at him as if she were glad to see him.

Maybe she wasn’t mad any more. Maybe she was glad to see him.

Get a grip, Thorfin.

“Welcome, Anderson,” Lily said. “I’m really glad you’re back. Where’s your other half?”

“I’m early. He’ll be along.” He hesitated. “About that thing we were talking about yesterday . . .”

“Don’t worry,” Lily said. “I was having a bad day–”

“I’m sorry,” Fin said. “I had no right to boss you around or . . . take care of you. It won’t happen again.”

Lily nodded. “So while you’re waiting for Bjorn, you want to try the pumpkin pie. Vanessa is experimenting and she had this brilliant idea.” She turned to the pie case behind her.

“Not a fan of pumpkin,” Fin said.

“You want to try this pumpkin,” Lily said and put a piece in front of him.

The pumpkin looked lighter than he was used to, and this piece had meringue on it, the color of coffee with cream.

Except he really did not like pumpkin. Or coffee.

Lily nodded at him, encouraging him. “Try it. If you don’t like it, I will swap it out for whatever you want, no extra charge, but you need to at least try it.”

Fin picked up his fork and sliced off the pointed end and put it in his mouth.

Creamy. Extremely creamy, with ginger and nutmeg, of course, but something else, and the meringue was light with a slightly crunchy top and it tasted like . . . “Mocha?”

“That’s the meringue,” Lily said. “The pumpkin custard is made with dulce de leche.” When he looked confused, she said, “Caramel. It’s basically a pumpkin latte in pie form, except much, much better. I think she’s going to try it in a puff pastry next, like a turnover.”

Fin tried another bite.

Lily peered at him, looking a little anxious.

The urge to lean over the counter and kiss her was remarkably strong.

“You want something different?” she said.

He got a grip, shook his head, and cut into the pie again. “No, I’m good.”

“Always trust me. I will always take care of you.” She stopped. “I mean, I will never steer you wrong.” She stopped again, flushing now. “I’m a really good waitress,” she said, and went down the counter to fill some other guy’s coffee cup.

Fin watched her smile at the other guy, and thought, Yeah, but you’re coming back to me.

Then he realized what he was doing.

He closed his eyes. You’re thinking she likes you as more than somebody to feed pie to. That’s you about her, not her about you, you dumbass. He was being a fucking Viking, thinking he could just move in and kiss her across a counter . . .

He took a deep breath and tried to be calm and logical, but it was Lily and he hadn’t been calm since the first time she’d come down that counter smiling. He hadn’t even known her then, that was just physical, this was not serious, she was just really . . .

. . . really . . .

He put his head in his hands.

Oh, god, I’m completely screwed here.

After a minute he pulled himself together.

He was fine.

After all, it wasn’t exactly news that he was crazy about Lily, she’d hit him pretty hard from the beginning, and then when she’d shoved him away, he’d been a lot more upset than he should have been, which he did not need, but this was just infatuation, he did not have time for this, so this was not happening. He had commissions to fill and Bjorn to look after. And now she had him eating pumpkin pie with coffee meringue–

Bjorn came in and sat down. “Hey, you’re early. Vi called . . .” His voice trailed off as he saw Fin’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m in love with Lily,” Fin said, watching as she laughed at something the other guy said. She had a great laugh.

“And . . .?” Bjorn said.

Fin looked back at him. “What do you mean, ‘and’? This is the last thing I need. This is not . . . good.”

Bjorn frowned at him. “You mean you didn’t know?”

“Of course, I didn’t know.” He looked back at her. She had such a great smile. “I mean, I knew I was interested, and I knew I didn’t want you hitting on her, and I wanted to keep her safe, and I think she’s terrific, but I can’t get mixed up in a serious relationship right now, I don’t need any other responsibilities–”

Bjorn made an exasperated sound, and Fin turned to look at him again. “What?”

“Maybe she’s not a responsibility,” Bjorn said. “Maybe she’s just a good time.”

“No. She’s in trouble. And she’s a lot more than a good time.”

Bjorn clapped his brother on the back. “Great, go for it. She can have my place on your list of people to protect and save. Really, take me off that list. Please.”

“You’re fine,” Fin lied and turned back to Lily, who was talking to Van through the kitchen pass-through.

She looked back and caught him staring at her and came down the counter to him, and he smiled in spite of himself.

“What?” she said. “What do you need?”

You.

“Pie. Bjorn needs a piece of this pie.”

“I was thinking of starting with a burger,” Bjorn said.

“Outside the box, Anderson,” Lily said to him. “Start with the pie. And then I’m going to feed you something besides a damn burger, excellent though they are here. We’re going to expand your palate. This new pumpkin pie is beyond good.”

“Fin’s eating pumpkin?” Bjorn said.

Lily patted his hand. “I’m going to take care of you, don’t you worry.”

Bjorn looked at Fin. “You were meant for each other.”

“What?” Lily said.

“Expand his palate,” Fin said. Expand me while you’re at it.

She got Bjorn his pie and went back to work, and Bjorn dug in.

“Wow, this is good.” He cut off another bite. “I can’t believe you’re eating it, but it is really good.”

“Yes, it is,” Fin said, deliberately keeping his eyes to himself this time.

“So what’s your Lily plan?” Bjorn said, without stopping his pie inhalation.

“I don’t know.” Fin looked down at his plate where his pie was half gone in spite of the fact that he did not like pumpkin. I like this pumpkin. “I’m still reeling here. I just realized it when I ate pumpkin and liked it because she told me to. That has to be love.”

“And you were the last to know.” Bjorn cut into the pie again. “This is really good. I’m going to have this for dessert.”

Fin felt a flare of panic. “What do you mean, last to know? Does she know?”

“Nah. She’s all distracted by the reincarnation and ax thing. You’ll have to tell her.”

“Tell her what?”

“That you’re soulmates.” Bjorn scraped the last of the pumpkin from the plate. “You’ll be an in-law to Cheryl, too. Good times. The cat likes you. You’ll be fine.”

“Let’s move a little slower here.” Fin picked up a menu.

“‘A little slower here,’ he says as he falls over the cliff.” Bjorn pushed his empty plate away and picked up his menu. “Do they have chicken nuggets?”

Fin looked back at Lily. “I’m okay with the cliff as long as she’s coming with me.”

“I think you have to ask for that,” Bjorn said, as Lily came back down the counter.

“You guys ready for me to tell you what to order?” she said.

Bjorn grinned at her. “Do you have chicken nuggets?”

“No.” Lily frowned at him. “What we do have is basil-brined chicken in lemon sauce with garlic, ginger, scallions, mushrooms, snow peas, wild rice, and just a kiss of sesame wine and tamari.”

Bjorn frowned back. “What’s tamari?”

“Something you’ll like.”

“That’s what we’ll have,” Fin said, and Bjorn sighed.

“It comes with brioche rolls,” Lily told Bjorn. “I’ll bring extra butter.”

“Okay,” Bjorn said, but when she was gone into the kitchen, he said, “I would prefer to order for myself, especially when the food has stuff in it I don’t know.”

“Tamari’s like soy sauce only better.”

“Oh.” Bjorn nodded. “So it’s probably okay then.”

“She will never steer us wrong,” Fin said, watching Lily through the kitchen window.

“Oh, sweet Jesus.” Bjorn scowled at him. “I can give up drugs, or I can put up with you while you get mushy, but I cannot do both. I can’t watch you melting into a puddle of lust without some form of pharmaceutical.”

“Fine,” Fin said. “We’ll never come here again.”

Bjorn blinked at him. “You’d do that, wouldn’t you? You’d give up the woman you love to save me.”

“I think that’s overstating it.”

“You’re an idiot,” Bjorn said. “I know you think you’re being noble, but you are a fucking idiot.”

“That’s no way to talk to your brother,” Cheryl said, and they looked across the counter to see her standing there with somebody’s burger on a tray.

“He’s going to give up Lily to save me,” Bjorn said.

“Wait a minute,” Fin said.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Cheryl told him.

Vanessa came out of the kitchen and said, “Hi, boys,” and then looked at Cheryl. “Where is my cleaver, Frey? I have told you and told you–”

“Lily took it after I threatened the Viking with it yesterday.” Cheryl nodded her head toward Fin. “He was being master-of-the-universe-y. You know how she gets about that.”

Van pointed a finger at Fin. “Stop annoying Lily.” She pointed her finger at Cheryl. “Do not touch my cleaver again.”

“It’s really my cleaver,” Cheryl said. “I own everything here.”

“Not my knives.” Van looked at Bjorn and Fin. “Did you eat the pie?”

“Loved it,” Bjorn said.

“It was very good,” Fin said.

“It was brilliant,” Van said.

“Fin must have thought so,” Bjorn said. “He’s eating it and he doesn’t like pumpkin. Ate too much one Thanksgiving and threw it up all over the family. Hasn’t been able to stomach it since.”

“I was nine,” Fin said. Please go away now, all of you.

Except Lily.

Lily came back down the counter.

“Fin hates pumpkin because he threw it up when he was nine,” Cheryl told her.

Lily looked at him. “You said you liked it.”

“I did, I do,” Fin began and stopped because there was no way he was going to get a win in that conversation. “Really looking forward to the lemon chicken.”

“It’s fabulous,” Van said, and looked at Lily. “Where’s my cleaver?”

“Shelf over the stove where Cheryl can’t reach it,” Lily said.

“No short jokes,” Cheryl said and moved on down the counter to give somebody his meal, and Lily followed her, apologizing for the cleaver and filling coffee cups as she went.

“Now that I think about it,” Bjorn said, “that chicken stuff sounds really good.”

“Better than good,” Van said. “Brilliant. And coming right up. Lily said you wanted extra butter with the rolls? That’ll kill your heart.”

“My heart has been dead for years,” Bjorn said cheerfully.

“My food will jump start it,” Van said, “you will want to live just to experience more of it.” She looked at Fin. “Eat your pie.” Then she went back to the kitchen.

Fin looked down the counter at Lily.

If he talked her into marrying him, he’d be surrounded by these loons forever.

Worth it, he thought, and finished his pie.

12+

53 thoughts on “Lily 6

  1. I don’t care if this is a discovery draft. I don’t care if it needs umpteen re-writes. This is fabulous. It has so many great things about it. And it made me laugh, when I am just a giant ball of worry and anxiety right now. Thanks, Jenny.

      1. How can this be, you don’t like merinque? You just haven’t eaten (inhaled) the right merinque, I assure you.

  2. This is great. I love that pie scene, especially the way Lily realises the problem with her taking care of Fin and then does it anyway. Quite a lot of that scene made me laugh out loud.

  3. “Vikings to the left of me” “Dickhead to the right…” I laughed and laughed. Even if this doesn’t turn into a book; I am enjoying it!

  4. Top notch dialoguing there, Cruisie.

    I’m tempted to challenge myself a la Chopped to see if I could make that pumpkin pie. It would be a leap, because I bake seldom.

    Carol C, if I may suggest, try to play – put your arms out and spin around, bounce a ball against a wall, play with a pet, play with people if there are any available and around. Play like a child. Just focus on nothing but moving for fun. It helps me release the physical tension. And the good neurochems show up.

      1. When I was in a psych ward we instituted Juvenile Behavior Night once a week and played with cheap toys (usually wind-ups). It was a lot of fun and a great distraction from the worries of the week. You’ll be amazed how much better being silly can make you feel.

  5. My favorite line:

    “Because he’s gainfully employed, he tips well, and I think he could be trained.”

    Love it!

  6. I’m not a fruit pie person, but mocha meringue, dulce de leche custard, my sister’s the baker in the family, she does love a challenge, maybe for my birthday.

    This diner has a different specials menu, Vanessa has probably attracted a subsection of foodies, who may keep her a secret, like they show up and request her experiments.

    My sister’s friend had to work in abroad and he found the best food he’d ever eaten from a vendor in the local food court. Later he found out that the man was internationally trained, but had decided to come home. Apparently his philosophy was if they like my food, they’ll come to me.

    1. The secret foodie angle is fun. I can see booths filled with college kids in hoodies next to people dressed up… Maybe the after theater crowd?

      1. A few decades ago, Christchurch had a cafe that turned itself into a cosy place for groups of friends to meet and have deep philosophical discussions. It was partly the food – they specialised in cheesecake and it was worth coming out for and students could afford it – and partly the atmosphere and partly the other people you might meet. I still miss it.

  7. I love all this. A new kind of short story. How close does the conflict have to be? Conflict with Lily as centerpiece? Or conflict say between Seb and Louis, with both trying to use Lily as a pawn? Or conflict between Lily and ?? Louis is trying to get an illegal fencing network up & running, using the museum as a cover, Seb knows and is trying to get Lily to stop making waves so he can maneuver Louis out of the way? Or Seb doing the illegal stuff and being an idiot about it? Doesn’t want Louis to know? Seems like that puts Seb in center of conflict, with Lily as collateral damage…? Or Louis has twigged the plot since Lily’s departure, and Seb wants her back to cover for him? Again – museum is locus, Lily a pawn. She’s too smart to be a pawn, want Queen position but only in ‘real’ museum? And thus Fin is set up to be her bishop or knight – serving her interests but not in charge of her moves…??

    Love all these scenes!

  8. Really enjoying the discovery draft. Dialog is amazing. I want to get to know these characters better! Except for Seb, I want to kick him in the butt.

  9. These characters bouncing off each other really got me smiling. (Pumpkin pie, mmm!)

    For the Fin and Lily scene, as fun as it is to see people saying exactly what they mean no holds barred, just for fun I’m going to brainstorm a little here about what else might be going on in addition to the big issues, as something to ground the argument in specifics. I.e. could Lily have a (concrete, immediate, smaller than the whole external plot) problem that’s worrying her? Like what if the museum sued Lily (Seb got the idea from Lily and got in first, or someone else did?) Or…what if Lily receives a museum package in the mail to her home address and is really troubled by it (whether to open it, why it would have showed up at her address, what might be in it, whether it’s going to get Seb after her again?)

    1. All possibilities.

      At this point, almost everything is possible. The only things that are set in stone are:

      • Lily and Fin end up together.
      • Bjorn does not relapse.
      • Nothing bad ever happens to Cheryl.
      • The cat does not die.

      Things that are very likely:
      • The theme, whatever it is, has something to do with taking care of people. This is not something I chose, just something that shows up.
      • Something with Bjorn and Vi and possibly Vanessa. I like the line about his dead heart, but that came out of nowhere.
      • Axes and cleavers as motif. Cutting ties? I dunno.
      • Food Motif. Food is always big in my stories, but it’s looming large in the background here. I have another scene where Fin brings Lily ice cream, so the food service goes both ways. This has to be tied to the “taking care of people” but it’s discovery draft so I don’t have to think about it now. Except I need to get bok choy in here just because.
      • Vikings. Fucking Vikings. They’re starting to annoy me as much as they do Lily.

      EtA:
      Oh, yeah, and Fin’s illuminations on the specials menu, and the sessions with Nadia, and Lily’s glasses, and the fight over Cheryl’s cap, and . . .

      1. Maybe we need to explore more of the museum to see more of the antagonist? Antag is clearly not in the diner, which is where we’ve been to date. Could it have anything to do with supplies Lily was ordering and from where?

      2. Aww. My parents, early in their courtship, had a date that ended with buying a large amount of peach ice cream and sitting on the stoop eating it together. One container, two spoons, if I have the story right. It might have been their second date.

      3. Someone opened a Hatchet House in our smallish down-town. My partner and I thought it was a dumb idea… Byob and throw hatchets at a target. This can only end in tears, right? But up until the shut down it was extremely popular. Not much to do here but drink after 5. Unfortunately, it share a wall with a yoga studio and the thudding of the axes disrupts the mindful meditation practice…

        Not relevant really, but but the ax theme made me think of it.

      4. I’ve been hesitant to offer suggestions (feels like the opposite of my creative process, which basically relies on telling people to leave me tf alone until I am finished!). But as I am still in the dark about what Lily wants, yet very much feeling the ‘taking care of people’ theme, I am wondering if there’s a threat to the diner that Lily is trying to solve without involving Cheryl? Discount Diner Chain opening up next door, Bad Wolf Development Co. planning on buying up the block, Viking ship spotted on the horizon, etc..

        Or maybe that’s just because the diner is the only place that feels real to me yet. The museum is kind of an abstract place where Lily got the axe, and the therapy office is just an office (at least in my head). But the diner is real; it has pie.

        Mostly, I’m just impressed that you can write! My accomplishment of the day was the dig myself out of the deepest doldrums and make an apple pie. Not at the same time, just kind of representing the low/high points here.

        1. I went out for a Big Mac because the cabin fever got so bad I had to leave the house. Never got out of the car, of course, but still . . .

          It’s getting to me, too.

      5. Oh, and food as care is a big deal in my family. My grandmother had 7 children and an eating disorder. She was very proud of her weight, rarely topping 100 lbs and her kids grew up hungry. Now we fall over each other trying to feed everyone.

  10. Lovely. It makes me wonder what Pangur’s position is on being saved from Vikings by Lily. Obviously, as a superior life form, he does not need saving. He’s fond of her, but why does she always think she knows better?

    1. I’m not sure Pangur is that deep a thinker. Plus I’m fairly sure he just assumes she’s there to serve him so her saving him is just the natural course of things, like feeding him and escorting him outside.

  11. Yay, Pangur! Go after Seb!

    Loved finding this in my mailbox this morning, Jenny! My project manager heart LOVES your Beat Chart! I will have to reread the scenes several times, I was laughing too hard this first time through to pick everything up, I’m sure.

    Thank you so much for this; it is such a brightener during this Covid madness!

  12. Oh my gosh – I FINALLY get beats! All someone had to do was literally draw me a picture!

    Violet: Now _that’s_ an interesting story path. I don’t know if you’ve mentioned her before – interesting to see on the page. I have my expectations on what might happen, but it’s early yet.

    I know this isn’t going to be a book. But _man_ I’m enjoying this.

    ““I am not macho,” Fin said, sounding as if he were grasping for a positive.”
    LOL’ed here.

    Thank you!

  13. I didn’t just love that, I adored it! And the names continue to amuse. Louis Lewis? That’s right up there with Bjorn Again. And it doesn’t hurt that Fin’s name reminds me of Phin in Welcome To Temptation, the first, and still favorite, Crusie I’ve ever read.

    Thank you very much. You just might have made my whole week.

  14. *happy sigh* I loved the crowd scene and Louis Lewis and wanting to left alone to take care of yourself but also wanting to feed people. Delightful!

  15. I loved the ‘three pages of description in one line’ of “Violet was a flower child in every sense of the word: bright, pretty, fragile, and probably not going to last the autumn given the shadows under her eyes and the tremble in her lips.” and seeing Bjorn go all protect-and-serve (also proved his heart is NOT already dead). This was simply delightful.

  16. This was lovely. Thank you! It really brightens my day.

    Some thoughts that I had:

    1. Now I want to know more about Bjorn. He seems to have hidden depths.

    2. I want to know why Seb wants to talk to Lily so badly.

    3. It would be fun if food themes from other books got added like Easter eggs into the diner. Chicken Marsala sandwich? Krispy Creme ice cream? Banana bread…

  17. “I don’t get off work until midnight, and you hate late hours. You’re a crack-of-dawn guy, which should have been a big tip-off that you’re psycho.”

    As a born night owl who is sick of early birds, I LOVE this.

  18. I love that illustration. I love the beat chart. I love the way you keep saying ‘this is not a book.’ It’s almost like you’re trying to convince yourself. 🙂

    I also love this: “I was just yelling at him to go away.” “Then why is he still here?” LOL

  19. Something here: ‘A little slower here,’ he says as he falls over the cliff.” Bjorn pushed his empty plate away and picked up his menu. “Do they have chicken nuggets?”

    Fin looked back at Lily. “I’m okay with the cliff as long as she’s coming with me.”

    I’m SO reminded of North and South. For me, one of the best of many great parts of that book.

    Write on. And share — it’s a help in these parlous times.

  20. This is really good –
    Love it.

    Random thoughts:
    Food live, axes and cleavers death
    (Literal? Symbolic?)
    Also both can be tools for their opposites –
    Poisoned food – too much food can kill you
    Weapons can be used to save a life and/or in food prep which is life …

    Last: my first bought with Cheryl and the cleaver is that she was a former biking making reparations for HER past lives … (now I have to go and rewatch Dead Again)
    Or
    Frey? Freya?
    Maybe Van and Cheryl (and maybe Lily) used to be Valkyries in past lives?
    Did I mention I loved this?

    1. I don’t think they were Vikings in past lives, but Frey is definitely a reference to Freya. Romance novel. Goddess of love.

  21. Your beat analyses are always fascinating.
    And I love seeing the echoes–and then the diverging echoes.
    This is so much fun!

  22. I thought I’d have a go at a bit of analysis for the fun of it :-). In the last few weeks, Lily’s had a lot to deal with. She’s

    – Been hit on the head by her lover with an axe and got concussion
    – Started to remember past lives, where she dies by Viking
    – Lost her lover and her museum job because of this
    – Searched out a heap of therapists and found Nadia
    – Met another couple of Vikings in the diner she works at
    – Started to fall for one of them
    – Realised that one’s a fixer and she doesn’t want him fixing her

    And she wants her health and her job at the museum back. That’s quite a negative goal but at this stage I don’t know what her positive goal is. I’m wondering if there’s something there about getting out from under Seb and Uncle Louis’s thumb and becoming her own person, known in her own right?

    Now, what’s the worst thing that could happen to her next? (I’m a nice person, honest.)

    – (Attempted) death by Viking, again
    – (Attempted) death of her cat
    – More health problems. Concussion has a bad habit of slapping you again just when you think you’re coming right
    – Losing her job at the diner. Seems unlikely because of the friendship bonds there
    – Losing her home. It’s above the diner, so ditto, seems unlikely
    – Losing her friends. Ditto, seems unlikely

    I like the idea of a near-death experience, where she saves herself in spite of Fin trying to save her – and it’s not at all obvious whether Fin was trying to kill her or save her. Combined with the scene where he tried to fix her, that’d make it nicely unclear whether he’s the hero.

    I’m enjoying this. And death by Viking makes me grin every time I think it.

    1. Wanting her job back is a positive goal.
      Not wanting her job back is a negative goal.

      But you’re right, at the moment Lily just wants to be left alone to figure thing out. “Leave me alone” is a negative goal, aka “Don’t try to save me.” Figuring things out is a positive goal, but it’s sittin’ and thinkin’ so not very strong.

      1. Actually, Lily’s got things remarkably under control considering what’s happened to her. I think I’d like to see her lose it a bit.

        And at some point I’d like to see Seb dead. Or injured. With injuries that could be from an axe. Or a cleaver.

        I seem to be in a bloodthirsty mood tonight.

      2. Isn’t the goal of thrillers often to figure things out? (That’s my impression, but I’m more of a dabbler in thrillers.) Figuring things out often involves car chases and gun fights and whatnot, but it would be pretty unsatisfactory if that didn’t lead to something.

        I don’t think this is a thriller, but it does suggest that figuring things out by moving around, going places, interacting with people, etc. can be a thing. Even if it’s figuring out something internal, the external situation can lead to aha! moments. And I think people often instinctively seek out situations that could lead to aha! moments if they have something they really need to figure out. It’s not really clear to me what Lily’s actually figuring out, though. I mean, she seems more ‘coming to terms’ than figuring out.

        If she was figuring out, she’d be seeking out stuff about Vikings and her other lives, wouldn’t she? Or going to the museum and investigating Seb. Or something. But she’s also not avoiding completely, she’s going to therapy.

        I guess (in the spirit of Fridays and random thoughts and wants/expectations, a day early) I’m wondering what is the question about herself that Lily wants answered? Or does she need to figure out what that is?

        1. The practical problem with figuring things out is that it’s often boring. It’s a “should.” It kneecapped Nita until I took an ax to her.

          The other problem is that Lily doesn’t care about anything except her immediate mental problem right now. She’ll get that figured out, then she’ll move on. She just had this huge medical thing that either revealed to her that she’s been reincarnated or made her thing she was. She got medical help, and she’s in therapy (that’ll be the scenes with Nadia) and whatever she’s talking about with Nadia will echo her arc in the book and her relationship with Fin and whatever the museum conflict is (or it would if this were a book, since we’re just noodling around I don’t plan on doing that work).

          But the other parts of her life keep intruding. She falls in love with Fin before she knows if she’s losing her mind, aka loses her mind over him while trying to figure out if she’s already nuts. She’s being harassed by Seb who would be delighted if she thought she was crazy so he could “take care of her” (that needs to go into the rewrites of his scene). She’s working at (and living over) the diner pretty much 24/7 aside from trips to the park and to Nadia, a fortress situation to keep her safe from, among other things, Viking attacks (see metaphors). She just wants to tell everybody to go away until she figures things out. But there’s Van and Cheryl and now Fin and Bjorn and always Seb and Louis and Jessica and Dorothy . . .

          If she could put her head under the covers until they all went away, she would, but she can’t, so what do you want on your burger?

          1. Ha ha, I guess I’m just weird in being fascinated with figuring things out, then. I sympathize with Lily in wanting it all to go away though, I really do.

            And Seb! Oh gosh, a few years ago I saw the play the movie Gaslight was based on (whence comes the term gaslighting). And the moment when the villain (absolutely a villain, not an antagonist) is defeated and the main character shows that she’s done with him… The audience spontaneously started clapping and it was such a moment of absolute emotional synchronicity (we were all feeling exactly the same thing, in hating that villain along with her).

            I don’t know if Seb will reach that level (the difference between ‘would be delighted if’ and actively trying to convince someone they’re crazy), but yeah.

  23. I love these women and the fact that I am sitting here on a gloomy afternoon chuckling. Thank you!

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