"Remember how things used to be?" Duncan asks and looks as if he's been beaten when Veronica answers, too vehemently maybe, "Not really, no."
She seems ready to reprove him for smearing blood on her car's headrests. Those stains will never fade from white suede.
Staring at him openly, she wonders what Duncan remembers.
When Veronica thinks of Lilly, she thinks of what she has become and how it's all Lilly's fault.
I. This is about courage
"We've held a gala reception for some fair-haired boys tonight," Lilly said, rolling her eyes at her parents' ambition to impress investors. "All of Neptune's best and brightest."
"You were holding it in a phone booth?" Veronica asked, the tone of her voice innocent but her smile mischievous and Lilly laughed.
When Veronica thinks back, she knows why.
At the outset, it all seemed so normal. Just a joke, right? Except it wasn't. It was partly why Lilly insisted Veronica was strapless red satin. Partly why Lilly picked her as a friend. Partly what Lilly knew was there: Guts, wit and sparks.
Veronica owns that dress now. With underwear and matching shoes it lies in a pile of clothes on the beach. Seawater surrounds her, washes over her thighs, her stomach, her chest. It's salty and it's damn cold, too. She clenches her jaw and, thinking of Lilly, smiles.
Lilly was warm. Her hair was smooth. Her skin was soft. So were her lips.
Later, when Veronica is back in the limousine, kissing Troy, she thinks if she regrets one thing, it's that back then she didn't have the courage to kiss Lilly back. Something she can't undo because Lilly is dead.
Veronica knows she is more daring now. However, secretly she must admit if it wasn't for the circumstances, she wouldn't be as tough. But there is no need for real courage anymore. And it's Lilly's fault.
II. This is about trust
"I have a secret. A good one," Lilly said, almost thrilled, then she smirked suggestively and Veronica laughed.
Today she doesn't know why. Looking back, she knows that Lilly must have known about the peril. It was part of the excitement. Sometimes Veronica wonders why she never questioned it, why she trusted Lilly that this was just another harmless trick.
"You know this can harm your health," she tells Caitlin Ford, who leans back against the restroom door and lights a cigarette. Gauloises Blondes, Veronica is willing to bet.
"Are you concerned I'll pollute your office, Veronica Mars?" Caitlin snaps and slowly blows smoke rings into the air.
"While I will admit to a certain cynicism, my concerns are global," Veronica replies playfully, pulling liquid soap from the dispenser. "Besides, I'm sure you're using your Pirate Points for this. And is there a prettier sight in this fine pretty world than to watch the privileged class enjoying its privileges?"
Of course, coming from a girl Caitlin holds responsible for losing quite a few of her natural rights, that has to sound ironic. So Caitlin chuckles hoarsely, inhaling more of what will tar her lungs.
"Don't you have secrets, Veronica?" she asks abruptly.
"No," Veronica answers dryly and turns off the faucet. "Because secrets are dangerous things, Caitlin."
- and you shouldn't trust anyone or their judgement.
This is something Veronica knows now. It's Lilly's fault too.
III. This is about freedom
He says, "Do you know exactly how I bashed your friend's brains in?"
Suddenly Veronica is gone and although she still sits at the table opposite Abel Koontz, she dissolves. A pane of glass is separating them and her mouth is contorted, a brilliant smile getting thinner. 'Ellen', the criminology student of San Diego State University, hasn't vanished completely while Veronica tries to adjust to this unforeseen change of pace. The masquerade may have ended but his game of cat and mouse hasn't.
She has come here to get some answers about Lilly's murder. But if that were easy, others would have succeeded before. This man is Lilly's confessed, condemned killer. Furthermore, obviously both disturbed and disturbing. She doesn't know what she has been thinking anymore. That he'd be grateful because of the new evidence? That he'd fear her sarcasm? That he'd fall for her charms?
Then she remembers she is good at this. She is a professional. And this, Veronica tells herself, is no different from any other investigation. But her eyelids flutter a little. Her fingernails dig deeper into her palms. Her mouth is dry, burning.
She is good at this and she is a professional. But this is also about Lilly.
Lilly, who, for the last time, got up the morning of October 3rd, brushed her teeth, got dressed and gave Veronica a ride to school. While on the road she had breakfast: A chocolate bar. Lilly, who spent the day at school like always, gave Veronica a ride home and called her later, perfectly normal as it seemed and not anticipating what was to happen. Lilly, who was allegedly dead by 4pm and yet got caught by a camera running a red light two hours later. Nothing adds up here and this lunatic behind the window, though he might not be a killer, mocks Lilly's death, then Veronica's father. His words are acid but when he throws her the bait, Veronica swallows despite her swollen throat.
It's not right and yet, as she leaves the prison, she can't help thinking that maybe it's a good thing Abel Koontz isn't free. After all, Veronica isn't free either. And whose fault is that?
You meet people and they leave stains on your soul. Like Duncan's blood has eaten its way through the upholstery, Lilly has left her marks on Veronica's existence. More than anyone else ever has, or ever will.
"I heard you aren't squeamish, but bloodplay, Veronica? Isn't that a little too - BtVS?" Wallace mocks her days later when he gets in the car and recognises the mess Duncan has left.
Veronica smirks, starting the engine. "Walter, you're wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way."
He doesn't know that it's not just Duncan. It's Lilly and what she left her with. It's about how Veronica isn't the same girl anymore and how Wallace or even Meg and Mac, the JAG girls, can be acquaintances but never friends.
Though that's something, (and maybe that's enough) she still misses Lilly and it hurts.
Because the best days are over, but days are yet to come.