“Movie time, Veronica Mars,” said Lilly, linking her arm through Veronica’s.
“Oh, really. And here I thought I was headed to Biology.”
“Just picture it. You, me, your couch and a wide selection of awful special effects.” Lilly tugged Veronica down the hallway towards the parking lot, smiling at Mr. Clemmons as he passed by. She could see him think about stopping them, but he just smiled grimly.
Amazing what having a name like Kane could get you in Neptune.
“And when is this magical movie time happening?” asked Veronica.
“Lilly.” Veronica’s voice was stern, but she wasn’t pulling away from Lilly’s arm as they left the building. This was totally on.
“Your parental units are out of town and you won’t let me throw a party. Skipping school is the least you could do for me.”
Veronica walked over to the passenger side of the car, pausing with her hand on the door. “I would just like to note my objections to this plan-”
Lilly cut that line of thought off. It was time to get out of there. “Come on! Movies won’t watch themselves.”
It was time to start the movies and Wallace was stalling.
“You won’t be needing that,” said Veronica as she pulled the magazine out of his hands, the glossy paper squeaking in protest. “We have popcorn. We have movies. Let's get this party going.”
“But I want to learn the inner workings of the female mind,” said Wallace, his voice creeping up into registers he thought he had left behind in junior high as he whined. He made a mental note to never make that noise again. So uncool.
He reached out to grab the magazine back but barely got to touch the cover before she tossed it across the room, much to Backup’s delight.
“And you are going to accomplish that by reading that Cosmo.” Veronica’s voice was so judgmental it would put a PTA mom to shame. Knowing her, it probably had.
Wallace prepared for that, though. “Yes. And before you mock, I picked the magazine up from your floor.”
“How else would I know how to please a man?” said Veronica, affecting a shocked tone. Also, for some reason, a southern accent.
“Well, I’m waiting,” said Wallace, struggling to keep a grin off his face. This was going to be good.
“Please me,” he said, automatically ducking a hit that never came.
Instead Veronica picked up one of the DVDs. She slid in the first disc before grabbing the bowl of popcorn and setting it down on the coffee table. It wasn’t the reaction Wallace expected, but he could roll with that.
“Will this do?” she asked wryly. “Because pleasing you is one of my main life goals. I plan on writing all about it for college applications.”
Wallace grabbed a handful of popcorn, stuffing it in his mouth and chewing loudly before he sighed theatrically. “Ah, now that is the good stuff. I guess you do okay.”
“You know it. Only the best here at Chez Mars,” said Veronica. She kept a straight face, but Wallace couldn’t, his laugh trickling up his throat like water from a fountain at the thought of a 50s housewife-style Veronica.
“Soap operas everywhere, but not a decent show to see,” said Lilly as she flipped through the channels. “Those poor bored housewives.”
“I thought we were doing movies?” asked Veronica around a mouthful of popcorn.
“We are.” Lilly laughed and reached into her bag, careful not to give Veronica a peek of the movie covers. “Pick your poison.”
“Do I get to see my choices?” Veronica’s voice was wary. She knew Lilly too well.
“It's like Russian Roulette, only without the gun or the danger.”
“So nothing like Russian Roulette,” said Veronica, wryly. Lilly loved it when she broke out her wit from behind her pretty facade.
“Pick incorrectly and you will have to watch this very special movie from a certain section of the store I had to charm my way into,” Lilly said as she stood, keeping the movies hidden behind her back, “that’s the bullet in the game.”
“You didn’t.” Veronica’s voice wasn’t a question, but Lilly answered her with a grin anyway. “You did.”
“You’ll just have to choose wisely. Right or left?”
Veronica pointed, “So, am I dead?”
“Possibly, but not from the sight of some good old fashioned porn. Think something bloodier,” Lilly said as she started up the movie.
For a moment the only sound was the crunch of buttery popcorn overlaying the dramatic film music, but this was Veronica. She never let anything go. “You were looking at that magazine way too intently for my liking. Be straight with me. Are you having boy problems?”
Wallace shrugged. “I was doing a quiz: ‘What movie genre are you?’ But I guess now I'll never know.”
The article had got him thinking this might not have been the best idea.
Not the, well, what Wallace wasn’t going to call, even in his own head, a slumber party. That wasn’t a bad idea because it wasn’t an idea at all. It was a necessity. You just don’t leave your best friend alone the night before the guy who murdered their last best friend is sentenced.
But the fright fest theme, the fake blood and death, might be too soon after she saw the real thing. But it gave him an excuse to hold onto Veronica. And at least in movies the horror stayed on the screen.
“Pshaw,” said Veronica. She enunciated like it was actually a word. Wallace silently repeated it to himself. Pshaw. But Veronica kept talking. “You don’t need a magazine to figure that out, partner.”
“Oh, so you think my life is a Western. Do I get a hat?”
“A white one, even,” said Veronica, gesturing a tip of her imaginary hat to him.
“You just want an excuse to call me partner,” said Wallace, calling her out with a finger gun.
“I admit to nothing. Now shush, I want to see this.” Veronica leaned her head against his shoulder, watching the scenes flicker by on the television screen.
“I will not be silenced. This movie is far too awful for me not to talk over it,” said Veronica, her voice loud to compete with the screams from the movie.
The gore that was just starting to get get good, so Lilly said, “But look at all that blood! Don’t you want to see how the next one will die?”
“I think I might have preferred the porn.”
“Scandalous,” said Lilly, purposefully elongating the syllables into a purr. She started to stand up to switch it over, but Veronica blushed and shook her head. Success. Now she could concentrate on the guy getting all sliced up. It was hilarious.
“But really, you couldn’t have picked anything else?” asked Veronica. Apparently she hadn’t got the memo that it was quiet time.
“We already had this one at home, but of course Donut refused to watch it. Which meant none of us could. Celeste can be such a bitch,” explained Lilly quickly.
Veronica went silent, focused in on the movie. Or at least she was pretending to be. Probably angsting about how Duncan was her One True Love.
This called for a distraction. So much for getting to watch the gore.
Speaking over the movie Wallace said, “Okay, I got the answer and you know it.”
“Got what? Popcorn in your face?” asked Veronica.
Wallace moved, but not quick enough. A piece of popcorn pinged against his nose as Veronica made victory arms. “No, I know what movie genre you are.”
“I thought we were doing you,” she said, a question in her tone. But she was looking at him rather than the blood on the TV, so he counted it as a win.
“Don’t even front, Veronica. You know you want to hear what I think.”
“Let me guess. Am I a pretty pretty princess? Oh! With little birds braiding my hair?” asked Veronica, shaking her head so her hair caught the light. It was longer now, more like the 09er she once was, judging by the pictures. Wallace wasn't sure if he liked it yet.
“Noir, baby. Classy broads, private dicks etc,” he said with a flourish. She was a private detective. No way she could argue with that.
Veronica shook her head. Apparently she could. “Where is your originality, Mr. Fennel?”
“Uh-uh. Don’t even front, Ms. Mars. You are Dick Tracy. Only not so much with the Dick.”
“Nope. Guess again,” Veronica said, her smile wide.
“Do I need to spell it out for you? Because Phillip Marlow doesn’t have anything on you.” Wallace nudged her with his shoulder, trying to make sure the compliment cut through the joking tone.
“While I admit the private eye angle is a great red herring, you are still — oh — so very wrong.”
“So lay some truth on me, then,” said Wallace. He was 90 percent sure she was just messing with him, but who knew what twists her mind could take.
“This,” said Veronica, waggling the Netflix envelope.
“Tonight’s theme. It is very fitting, being as my life is all horror.” She stuck out her lips in a pout, over-exaggerated. It was meant to distract, but Wallace could read her now. Those eyes were serious.
That just would not do.
“Hey! I object. This cannot be a scary movie. Dude, you gotta know what happens to brothers in horror movies,” said Wallace, skipping over the main reasons he didn’t like the thought.
“Well, dude, maybe that will be the twist. The big shocking reveal everyone talks about around the water-cooler: The black man lives!” said Veronica, her voice deepening on the last words in an awful announcer impersonation.
“Because so many people talk about us at water-coolers.”
“It happens more than you would think,” said Veronica. Her voice was wry and dismissive. Wallace could almost see the metaphorical basketball bouncing off the rim. She turned to face the TV once more.
“Dick,” said Lilly firmly.
“I’m honestly not sure how to respond to that,” said Veronica, her nose scrunching up. “Are we talking about porn again?”
“I was referring to the person, rather than the idea, but,” Lilly paused. “You need to rebound, Veronica. People talk. You and Duncan broke it off—”
“Duncan broke it off,” said Veronica, her voice hot and angry. She whipped her head around to face the screen, making her hair shine in the light.
It was the same shade as Lilly’s. She couldn’t blame Duncan. “I swear to you it is for the best,” said Lilly. “But that is not what you need to focus on right now.”
“You want me to focus on Dick instead,” said Veronica, still focused on the TV.
“Or really, any dick.” That got Lilly a smile.
“This conversation is beginning to feel like a circus ride,” Veronica said as she turned to look at Lilly.
“Then let me make my point,” said Lilly, solemnly as she could. “People will talk as long as they think it matters. Find someone and date them and no one will care who your last boyfriend was.”
“And that will stop people from talking,” repeated Veronica, her voice skeptical.
“Well, at least until the scandal occurs,” Lilly said. She smiled to herself. The next scandal to hit Neptune would be big enough that no one would even think about Veronica and Duncan.
“You can’t be a horror movie. I hate them,” said Wallace, trying to get Veronica’s attention back. Just at that moment there was a scream from the television and the screen went red with corn syrup blood.
There was a difference though, Wallace told himself, between that on the screen and any sort of reality.
But Veronica let his lie slide by with only a raised eyebrow. Instead she said, “Lilly loved them, slasher films, I mean.”
She was doing that, now. Talking about Lilly. It was probably a good thing, though the more he heard the more he felt the differences between them. It was almost as if Veronica had done it intentionally, switching from a white, popular, rich girl, to — well — him.
Wallace paused at the thought of Lilly. He had seen the video. He got it. “I’ll concede the horror. Maybe.”
“Is there a condition I hear amidst the skepticism?” Veronica asked.
“Rocket Hoops: The Wallace Fennel Story,” said Wallace definitively, steering the conversation into safer territory.
“And what genre would that be? Because rockets say sci fi, but the hoops, they don’t lie.”
“You know it. No one genre is big enough to contain me,” said Wallace, smiling. Veronica made a little go-on motion with her hands while walking over the to window and pulling it up another few inches, like maybe that would make a breeze magically appear.
“Robots who play basketball,” he explained. Wallace didn’t add anything to that statement because the awesome contained into that combo had to be visible from the stratosphere.
“And are you beating those basketball machines and bringing glory back to the human race, the real life Space Jam?” asked Veronica with excitement as fake as Mrs. Casablancas’ breasts.
“No way. I’m going to be the one building the robots.” And they would be awesome. They would fly.
“Am I in this movie?” asked Veronica, clearly not understanding how epic this plan was.
“You know you are my best sidekick.” Wallace paused while Veronica settled back down onto the couch. “At least until I build that robot.”
“I am so much better then any robot,” said Veronica in shocked tones.
Veronica’s tone had been light but— “Yes, you really are,” said Wallace, tilting his head away from the screen to face her.
“Is this a moment? Because if so I have one half of a BFF necklace with your name on it. I can go grab it.” Veronica started to stand up, unfolding from where she had been curled on the couch.
Wallace reached out and slung an arm around her shoulder, nudging her back down. “Shut up. We’re watching the movie,” he said.
Veronica rested her head on his shoulder again, saying, “I want you to make it to the end with me.”
To the end of— he almost asked out-loud before he got it. There it was, that gooey chocolate core seeping out of her brittle candy coating. Wallace tilted his head down onto hers.
“I’ll put the forever in BFF, just you wait and see,” Wallace said as he felt her breath even out into sleep. He didn't think about the fact that her last best friend hadn't, couldn't, have kept the same promise.
“We’re still friends,” said Lilly.
Veronica tilted her head up against the edge of the couch. “Was that in question?”
“Never. I just didn’t want you to get the impression that I could be swayed by the mysterious mind of my ridiculous little brother, or the lack thereof,” Lilly said lightly, “in fact, I think we will be closer then ever.”
“Is that possible? I mean, we did braid each others hair. That is the sacred bond between girls.”
“Veronica,” Lilly said, keeping her voice serious.
“I wasn’t scared,” said Veronica softly. “Best friends forever, right?”
Awake now, Wallace just sat there through the credits, through the DVD menu looping over and over, content to play at being a pillow. But then her face tensed up like his brother’s did at the sight of circus clowns, and he jiggled his shoulder enough to wake Veronica from her dream.
“Well, apparently I actually am Sleeping Beauty. Do you think singing birds will braid my hair tomorrow?” said Veronica. Her voice was hoarse with sleep, like she had been screaming for hours. Wallace winced at the comparison.
“You already made that joke,” said Wallace.
“I did,” said Veronica. She paused, her face settling into a frown. “Before tonight, even. To Meg.”
Veronica was lost in her own head again, staring at the, no, through the wall at something only she could see. Wallace waited it out, thinking some less than flattering things about Duncan and Meg and the way their hands seemed to have fused together. They were nice people, but every time Veronica saw them these days her eyes got darker.
“Sorry, I’m not the best of company right now. I seem to be more mopey Molly than pretty princess. The unicorns are very concerned,” said Veronica with a very fake laugh.
“Go get your beauty rest then, your highness,” said Wallace. He stood, groped around for his keys on the side table.
She would need it. Tomorrow was the curtain call to Aaron's starring performance in the courtroom drama that was proving more popular than any of his movies. Wallace used to like them.
Veronica walked him to the door before dropping into a curtsy. “Good night, sir knight.”
Wallace stepped into the cool Neptune night saying, “Sweet dreams, Veronica Mars.”
Veronica’s laughter trailed after him.
Lilly stood up, then reached a hand down, pulling Veronica up and in close for a hug before delightedly whispering, “You’re not afraid of anything, are you, Veronica Mars.”
“It’s true. I laugh in the face of nightmares. In fact, I look forward to them,” said Veronica as Lilly walked to DVD player and grabbed the movie. “Are you leaving?”
“I am thinking about a trip to la casa de Echolls,” Lilly said.
“I thought you and Logan were in the ‘off’ stage?” asked Veronica. She was always so curious. And in this case, she was right but—
Lilly smiled to herself. No need to share this secret yet. Instead she waved the question away as she stepped out the front door. “Bye, Veronica. Go dream up a nightmare for me.”
Veronica’s laughter trailed after her.