Sudden sharp pressure, something wet grazing her neck. Cordelia squirms, feels sweat-soaked sheets cocooned around her.
The pressure intensifies, reaches the border of pain, and disappears.
Cordelia blinks awake. It’s hot, it’s dark, and the pillow beneath her head is slick with drool.
“Gross,” she says aloud. She wipes a hand across her face, grimacing at the spit that streaks her knuckles. Her head is pounding. With a groan, she tries to sit up.
“No,” someone whispers. Dry breath on her cheek, soft hair brushing her temple. Cordelia freezes.
Willow Rosenberg giggles.
“Oh my god!” Cordelia scrambles halfway across the bed. “What are you doing here? How did you get in my house?”
“Your parents let me in.” She straightens, and even in the dark, Cordelia notes something different in her posture. Something…confident.
“Setting aside the fact that I can’t imagine a universe in which that’s possible, you still haven’t told me why you’re in my room! In my bed,” she amends, as Willow takes a swaying step forward and braces one foot on the comforter.
Cordelia ducks behind her pillows and tries to remember something, anything, from the conflict de-escalation unit in civics.
Instead, she blurts out, “Are you drunk?”
Willow grins, cocking her head to the side in an odd way. “Haven’t drunk.”
“Oooookay, let’s just have that sit for a moment… I’ve got it! You’re on drugs,” Cordelia decides. “Or experiencing a psychotic break. Or I’m having a dream.”
Willow giggles again. Seriously, what is up with the giggling? Cordelia turns on the bedside lamp, to get a better look at her.
Something here is deeply, deeply wrong. Willow’s wearing makeup, and it doesn’t look awful (for once). There aren’t even stray mascara marks or anything. Her lips are painted the exact color of the shitty apples they used to serve in elementary school lunches: always Red Delicious, always bruised, and always mushy.
She’s wearing different clothes, too. The floaty maroon blouse more resembles her usual fare, while the short, tight leather skirt is just its opposite. The blouse has a sort of bustier, like a Ren Faire thing, and it’s doing wonders for her meager breasts.
Her hips are still thin and boyish, but the skirt makes them seem appropriate, deliberate, even lithe. She’s by no means competition, of course, but something about the way she’s standing right now has prompted the pit of Cordelia’s stomach to take up macramé.
“Like what you see,” says Willow. It’s a statement.
Cordelia exhales and tears her eyes away. “You don’t look completely awful. Okay, we’re going to call Xander. You’re getting out of here.”
“Can’t call Xander.”
“Uh, I’m pretty sure I can.” Cordelia starts rummaging in the bedside drawer for her cell phone.
“Can’t call Xander, cause he’s dead.”
“Xander’s dead,” Willow repeats, without inflection.
It’s true. Cordelia feels abruptly, incredibly distant, like she’s watching herself from the beach in Cancún. Like she’s watching a movie on a big projection screen.
“I’m so sorry, Willow.”
She remembers Xander’s sixth grade portrait, the one where he not only blinked, but stuck his tongue all the way out of his mouth as well. (He came up with a number of farfetched explanations for it over the years.) The stupid dumb love letter he wrote her in fourth grade. She tore it to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of him, glaring at him all the while.
She realizes Willow’s watching her, a faint smile on her face. Coming wordlessly to horrible realizations is apparently the theme of the evening (morning?), because all of a sudden Cordelia knows.
“You killed him,” she says.
Numbly, she wonders how her face looks. What kind of face cream did she apply last night? Are there bags under her eyes? Even the best mortician in Sunnydale is like 90 years old, and appears to consider liquid tanner an acceptable substitute for foundation. Hopefully they’ll send her body to the morgue in Santa Barbara.
Willow is holding her wrist, stroking the pulse point. Cordelia recoils.
“Oh. My. God. It’s happening. You’ve finally snapped. I knew. I knew this would.” She starts hyperventilating. I’m too young to die! I’m too beautiful, and young, and beautiful, and talented, and. And. And. I don’t want to die.
“Your heart is so loud,” says Willow.
I don’t want to die.
“Like a little bird’s heart. So fast.”
I don’t want to die.
“Little birdie,” Willow sing-songs. “I’m gonna kill you, little bird.”
Cordelia shouts No like it matters, but it doesn’t, it can’t, oh. Her parents are sleeping or more likely dead. The girl she used to pick on (still does sometimes, white soft trembling flesh, she makes it easy) is crawling toward her across the sheets.
(In middle school, she and three other girls cornered Willow in the bathroom. Someone whose name she’s forgotten held her down, and Harmony and another girl went through her backpack. They stole her hand sanitizer, examined every item in her lunch, and loudly contemplated dumping her notebooks in the toilet.
(Willow stood there the whole time, blinking helplessly, looking dumb and lost. “Why are you doing this?” she asked, and Cordelia hated her so much then, wanted to tear her gross dweeby clothes to pieces and rub soap in her skin.)
She smells like a graveyard. There’s dirt in her hair. Dirt under her fingernails, too, and blood. Cordelia should kick her off, should run away, but those eyes again. Not dumb, not lost. Not anymore.
Willow kisses her. Shoves her tongue between zipped lips. Her body is so heavy. Cordelia shudders, trying to get away, and that makes Willow smile; makes her laugh into her mouth. Her eyelids gutter shut with pleasure.
Then they’re open again, so her pupils bore straight into Cordelia’s. She hoists herself up on both arms. Her hips still pin Cordelia down.
Cordelia says, “Please,” like it matters, says, “Please, please, please,” just keeps saying, and saying, and saying.
Willow’s red lips curl like apple skin peeling. Her teeth flash white at the corners, dizzyingly sharp, inhuman.
“Please,” repeats Cordelia, voice breaking. I don’t want to die.
“No,” hisses Willow, lips cold on her ear. “No, no, no.”
And she laughs, and she licks at Cordelia’s neck, and then she bites down.