The highway is a charcoal streak limned by reflective paint. Lily watches it while perched on the hood of her pickup and tries to coax another few inhales from the stubby end of a cigarette. The ACE hardware store behind her throws dull yellow light onto the pavement covered in a lacquer of ground snow and ice.
Lily shifts; the metal rivets on her pants squeal against the truck’s hood. She pulls out her phone and checks the time: another six minutes until ACE opens. She flicks the cigarette’s remains to the pavement and they become a beacon of brilliant orange in the gloom. She remembers how, back in San Diego, the sun would be bathing the houses of her neighborhood in the same orange by this time. Not so in Cordova, Alaska. Winter means that the sun won’t bother to arrive until around ten, and it’ll be gone again by four. The cloud cover that’s been loitering over the city might mean they never see the sun at all.
Lily twists around and can see Ralph unloading boxes in front of the main window. She waves; he doesn’t see. Her fingers skitter over the pants pocket where she has a box of menthols, but she shovels her hand into her coat pocket instead. Marianne had hated the cigarettes, kept trying to convince Lily to quit. Sure, Lily’s still puffing ten years after Marianne’s been gone, but she makes efforts. Like now, instead of giving into the urge, she stares out over the highway and reviews the list Emily gave her. Another box of nails. A few packages of ammo. Something about a can of wood sealer. She can’t remember what brand.
Lily fumbles for her phone around the thick gloves that keep her fingers from falling off. She ought to go into the car and blast the heat, but she’s been inside for too many days and her body still misses life in San Diego where a person could safely venture outside during the winter.
People laughed when she first arrived, a Cali girl come to effing Alaska. It sounds like the beginning of a stand-up comedy bit. She tells people that she got tired of the big city. She doesn’t explain that here, her inability to touch living things has an easier time going unnoticed.
She’s already tried it the other way. For years, she took on the facsimile of a germophobe; it was the only way she could think to justify the unending latex gloves and long-sleeved shirts. She got most of her groceries delivered, communicated with her landlord through the ajar door. When she couldn’t order something to her mailbox, she covered up as best she could and ventured into the wider world, waiting for the wrong moment when she’d make someone else drop dead at a touch. She’d jerk awake from nightmares. A clerk brushing her wrist when her sleeve is pushed back, a hole in her gloves that catches on a woman passing by her. Sometimes the people in these dreams have Marianne’s face, and then Lily wakes up screaming.
But here. Here, where the temperature just reaches zero some days, no one cares that she never ventures outside, or if she does, she’s covered in three layers. They’re busy doing the same thing. Lily reached something like contentment after six months in Alaska. A job as a ghost writer for a publishing house in New York, edging closer to a normal life. Not quite there; she’s still the town recluse. But Emily, the woman who owns the cabin where Lily lives, is friendly with her. She understands by now not to invite her tenant up to the main house, but she still sends Lily on errands like this one. If Lily is going to live on her family’s ranch land, is Emily’s thinking, she might as well be useful.
Lily dials Emily’s number, drums the backs of her heels against the truck’s grate and watches a single set of headlights drift down the highway. Emily picks up on the third ring.
“Watchoo forget?” Emily asks. She’s a handful of years older than Lily but she still manages to sound like a cranky old woman; Lily can form in her mind’s eye an image of Emily dressed in coveralls and buried under several hats and cowls.
“What kind of wood sealer do you want?” Lily turns around again and checks Ralph’s progress; he’s gone from the front window.
“The kind I always get,” Emily replies. Lily remains silent, and Emily’s exhale scratches over the receiver. “Olympic.”
“Thanks. It’s almost open,” Lily says. Emily makes an affirmative, distracted sound and hangs up. Lily stuffs her phone back into her pocket, untroubled. Emily’s great philosophy in life is that work comes first, conversation second. It’s the opposite of Marianne, but Lily still finds it endearing.
One minute after official opening time. Lily slips from the truck’s hood and double checks that her gloves and sleeves meet over her wrists. She shuffles across the thin sheen of ice that’s taken over the parking lot and tugs at the front door. It’s open, and the bell gives an off-key tone somewhere above her. The cash register is empty; the shelves glare under the fluorescent lights. Lily tugs her hat lower over her face out of compulsion and makes for the far aisle that holds nails.
The store hums around her; Ralph or Pete haven’t gotten to turning on the radio, so every sound Lily makes echoes back to her. The scuffs of her boots against linoleum become thunder.
She hears the sound while scanning the selection of wood sealers. It’s moist. Steady. Lily grows still, her right hand still hovering toward the cans. Her first thought is of the massive wolf-dog that Emily keeps. It’s half wild, in Lily’s mind, because Emily feeds it raw hunks of caribou meat. The sound the dog makes when it eats; that come to Lily’s mind now.
She lets her arm lower. The wet sounds stop, and it’s as if someone has sucked the air from her throat. She remains where she is, eyes glued to the cans of wood sealant and her legs just keeping her vertical. She remembers Cold Oak.
A new sound ricochets off the walls, something thready and creaking. For a wild moment, Lily thinks it might be a laugh.
The sound is like scissors snapping apart a straining thread. Her legs find their strength again and she stumbles for the front door. She drops the boxes of nails and ammo, and they firework across the floor, skittering underfoot and making her stumble. Her boots thud across the tiles, her breathing almost can’t squeak down her trachea. She reaches the end of the aisle, turns left toward the front door. She snatches an impression of red when she passes the tools aisle. Her head darts over, and in a full-blown second, she sees a shape that looks like Ralph. It would be Ralph if he weren’t sprawled akimbo on the floor, if his head wasn’t strained back so that she sees his face upside down. His expression has been twisted into something like a gargoyle. Things that are purple-red and ropy sprawl across the ground beside him. Ralph makes a sound; Lily realizes that he’s alive.
Then she’s back to sprinting past displays of paint and copper wire and she’s rounding the cash register and she’s slamming into the front doors and they rattle back and forth instead of permitting her exit. She stares at the smudged glass then opens her mouth to scream and bashes her boots into the glass.
A scuff behind her. Lily whirls around and almost chokes on her next inhale. Pete. Old, mustachioed Pete who tells poor jokes and has managed the store for as long as anyone can remember. Something red and gelatinous hangs from his white moustache; his arthritic hands have a second layer of viscera.
Pete breathes in a regular rhythm, watching her with dark brown eyes. A pink tongue ventures out and swipes at the gelatinous thing.
“That,” Pete says, “is strange.”
Lily’s throat has shut down.
Pete clears his throat, spits something to the floor. It clinks; Lily glances down long enough to see a molar with crooked roots.
“I could’ve sworn y’all were gone,” Pete says. Lily snaps her eyes back up. “All ‘cept the Winchester boy, ‘course. But the rest of you, I heard you were already gone.”
Pete looks over Lily again with the same gentle bafflement she’s seen when someone asks him for brands he doesn’t recognize. He shakes his head in a way that’s also familiar, like life is a grand mystery better left to bigger minds.
Lily doesn’t take time to think before she breaks to the right. She dives for a display of crowbars, grabs one, whirls around, and sees Pete strolling toward her when she slams the bar into the side of his skull.
He doesn’t seem to recognize the iron buried into his brain. He steps forward, one beefy hand comes up, and he grabs at a wrist. She jerks back, her sleeve tugs up, she feels the electrifying sensation of his rough, wet hands touching the skin of her wrist. She gapes, and he leans forward.
“I think I’d like to keep an eye on you.” His breath smells like sulfur, and as Lily watches, something black and thick starts to seep through his teeth. He lets go of her, and Lily stumbles back as her fingers loosen from the crowbar. She looses her balance. Pete starts to fall to his side.
Something sharp and hard meets the back of her skull.
Red and blue lights chitter over the ceiling. Lily watches them around the cotton someone’s stuffed in her brain.
“I don’t—no.” Someone clatters to Lily’s right. “I’m going to throw up in a minute.”
Lily tries to edge her eyes in one direction. They don’t listen to her.
“Put your head between your knees.”
Hands. Fingers seeking out a spot just beneath her jawbone. Lily convulses and screeches.
“Hey, hey, hon, shhh, you’re okay.”
A face materializes above Lily, blurry with the shifting blue and red lights. EMTs wear gloves, her brain supplies like a teleprompter. No immediate threat. She just needs to pick the cotton out of her brain and slip away before something worse happens.
“Ralph is dead,” she tells the face. It twists, looks to its right. Someone makes a gargling hum.
“We know,” the face tells her. “And you took a bash to the head. I just need to check your vitals.”
“Is Pete dead?” Lily asks.
Someone barks nearby. “He’s dead,” a second voice says with a giggle. “You nailed him.”
“I’m definitely puking.”
“I need to go,” Lily announces. If she’s polite about it, maybe they’ll slick the cotton from her brain for her and she can go home.
The face tries to be kind; Lily can tell it’s just disquieted.
Lily can be grateful once her head is screwed on better. Grateful for hospital protocol that requires nurses to wear latex gloves and the aura of the homicide woman she carries that makes people keep an extra few inches between themselves and her. All the better for both parties.
Emily shows up at some point, is ushered away by the police, appears again under the glare of hospital light. Her face is flushed as a strawberry, her hair unruly where it escapes from her hat and scarves.
“They can’t hold anything against you,” she says while standing in the hospital room and dripping snowmelt from her steel-toed, manure-encrusted boots. She’s puffing up big and red with the heat of the building and the layers she’s wrapped under. Lily would tell her to take off a scarf at least, but she can tell Emily’s in too much of a state to listen.
“Self defense,” Emily says in a husky, rattling voice. “God, everyone can see what happened. No guessing here. They have security video, right? That’ll sort everything out. Self defense.”
Lily picks at the edge of her hospital gown and she thinks that Emily’s fighting against everything not to stride over and do something like give a hug. Lily would appreciate it, but she knows better, so she recalibrates her body language, and Emily understands not to try it.
The questioning from the police is straightforward; Emily’s right. Not hard to piece together what happened. Lily is released from the hospital the next day, and Emily appears yet again to drive her home. She’s closer to her usual self, not so red, but she keeps glancing at Lily with the sort of ferocity Lily associates with the barn cat when it produces litters.
When they pull into the gravel driveway, Lily realizes that another drift of snow has fallen in her absence. The little Cali girl inside her grins.
The truck idles to a stop. Lily thanks Emily for the ride and says that she needs to have some time to herself. Emily can’t argue with it, though Lily bets she’d love to. Emily tells Lily to come up to the house if she needs anything, anything.
The nightmares from Cold Oak run into the new ones from ACE hardware, and soon Lily spends her nights chasing Marianne through a ghost town and then down the tools aisle until she slips on Ralph’s lungs. It pisses her off because she’d puzzled out sleep just a year and a half ago and now she’s been dumped into post-Cold Oak nonsense once again.
Lily doesn’t let herself think about what Pete said to her. It pings against her in a worse, sicker way than Ralph’s organs. It’s a sly nudge and wink from the universe that, guess what, Cold Oak wasn’t a bad acid trip after all. Pete deserved a crowbar in the brain just for that.
He’d deserve a second crowbar in the brain for Ralph, and then a third for an action much smaller and worse. A touch of skin against skin that has gouged something as ugly and unneeded as hope inside Lily’s gut. She talks it out to herself while smoking menthols like a chimneystack and dropping the butts into a half-filled Red Bull.
His hands were slicked up in blood and fluids. She can’t assume too much about the nitty gritty of all this, but maybe it acted like a very thin glove. The one time she could have done with dropping someone dead, but that’s her life. Or take a look at the bigger picture: Pete as something not alive and not human. What she gleaned from the other freaks in Cold Oak makes her think that Pete did not have to die from the crowbar buried in his skull. Something let Pete die. And if that were the case, it wouldn’t give two shits about a heart giving out.
Lily drinks the cigarette-studded Red Bull, falls into the couch, and watches TV. She wishes that Pete had survived so she could sneak into the hospital, slap her hand over his face, and satisfy herself with an answer.
Lily wakes up to a sky soupy with clouds and a bottle fly battering itself against the window. Her hair is tangled in with pillows and a remote and her phone. She reaches out, drags it closer, squints for the time. A little after noon.
She slithers to the ground and trudges to the bathroom. When she returns, the fly is still trying to crack itself open on the window. She watches it from across the room, her fingernails slipping across and catching at the sleeves of her shirt. The only sounds for several minutes are the fly and her nails roughing against fabric.
Lily crosses the room in four strides. The fly is huge and unwieldy, sluggish from the cold, but it still scuttles away from her. She swipes at it a few times, but the fly flees to a far corner of the ceiling and disappears in shadows. Lily wipes a hand down her face and runs her left foot up and down her right calf.
A ladder leans against the far wall. She shakes it out, examines the stains on its rungs, then looks at the corners of the cabin. She’s never been a stickler for tidiness, and sure enough, she can see a few spider webs undulating in the cabin’s currents. She roots out a flashlight.
She finds a slender brown recluse crouched in the high corner of her bedroom. It remains motionless under the spotlight. Lily’s heard of brown recluse bites that get bad. She wedges the flashlight between her cheek and shoulder, braces herself against the wall, and reaches out. The spider scrambled back; Lily changes tactics and angles for the spider’s back legs. Her middle finger brushes something as thin and breakable as dust, and the spider explodes into motion. Lily watches the spider place itself as far back in the corner as it can and stare at her with reproach. Lily rubs the tips of her fingers together. She takes the flashlight from her chin and shoulder and eases her way back to the floor.
She smokes half a pack and watches more TV.
A week and a half after the morning at ACE hardware, Lauren from across town strangles her three children with an electric cord and is killed while resisting arrest. Emily makes the trip to Lily’s cabin to tell her. They stand on either side of Lily’s ajar door and contemplate Emily’s wolf-dog snuffing at the snow and digging at hare tracks.
“It’s strange,” Emily says. She glances over as if Lily is going to provide some illumination. Lily lifts a hand and starts gnawing on her thumbnail. “There’s stories,” Emily continues. “Bad winters. Cabin fever.”
“Is this a bad winter?”
Emily sweeps her gaze over the smooth landscape of snow and distant hills stippled with pines. “I’ve seen worse,” she says. “But it’s not always the weather. Sometimes it’s just years that bring bad vapors with them. That’s the kind of thing my Nana would say.”
Lily’s teeth catch on nerve endings; she pulls her thumb away and sees a flap of calloused skin and a bead of red.
“Yeah,” Lily says, dropping the hand to her side. “Bad vapors might be a good word for it.”
Lily usually doesn’t venture to the set of barns down the lane. Too many expensive, living creatures there, and Emily has a hard enough time getting ends to meet. Today, though, the cabin has proved more grating than usual and the sun has made an appearance. Lily is weak-willed.
The tabby with half an ear stalks toward her with its tail straight up when Lily enters. Three of its surviving kittens, all but adults now, are nowhere to be seen. Lily watches the tabby sniff at her boots and jeans, flick its good ear, and stalk away. She hasn’t pet a cat or a dog in decades; she remembers it being therapeutic.
Emily is in town on errands, so Lily seats herself on a filthy plastic tub and pulls out a pack of menthols. She’ll clean up after herself; Emily doesn’t need to know.
The cats dart around the barn, only given away by the tip of a tail or a tawny eye. Out of sight, the horses huff at one another and stamp at the floor. Lily’s eyelids hang at half-mast, lulled with the scent of hay and horse, when a scuffle and a squeak come from her left. She opens her eye and finds one of the kittens with a small brown lump beneath its paws. It lifts its head and stares at Lily. The lump squirms, the kitten looks back down, the lump breaks free.
Lily is throwing herself forward before she can think. The mouse veers away from her, but Lily throws out a hand and nearly smashes it beneath her palm. It’s warm, wriggling, alive in a way that thrusts something sharp up her gut and into her heart. Ten seconds, twenty seconds. A sharp sting that makes her jerk her hand back, and the mouse disappears underneath a shelf. Lily leans back on her heels and examines the beacon of red where the mouse bit her. She stands. Her knees are having trouble keeping her up. She crunches her eyes shut and something thick is starting at the bottom of her lungs and if she isn’t careful it’s going to escape through her teeth like the thing inside Pete.
She peels her eyes open; the kitten watches her with its tail curled over its paws. Lily holds out a hand and lets her legs slide into a crouch. The kitten’s ears swivel; it becomes curious enough to venture forward.
When the cold nose touches Lily’s fingers, she wants to leap back. She forces herself to remain still and watch, breathless, while the kitten smooths its head along her hand. Lily can feel the silkiness of the fur and the fine skull beneath a thin hide. She spreads her hand and the kitten bumps its head up again, this time angling for a full stroke along its back.
The horses stir at the sound of someone sobbing.
Over the next few days, Lily sneaks out to the barn every other hour to coax one of the barn cats to her. The kittens are bold about it, their mother watches from high beams and judges. She graduates to horses after three days, leaning against their warm flanks and scratching them behind the ears. One, an old gelding, starts to whinny to her in greeting when it smells her arrival. The wolf-dog takes longer, but it joins her one afternoon on her usual trek to the barn and she peels off her glove to sink her bare hand into its fur that feels like rough-spun silk.
She’s seen nature documentaries of wild animals released in forests, how the ecologists open the cage and the animal stares out without comprehension of what it’s supposed to do. Lily feel like that, like a dumb, mangy tiger that’s spent so long pacing concrete and being fed pellets that, when given freedom, she’s going to wander for about a week and then die. She shuttles between the barn and her cabin and doesn’t dare consider how the world has blown to its proper size around her.
At the end of January, they get word that one of the local school kids nearly killed a classmate in a fistfight. The classmate is still in serious condition. The school kid went home after being suspended and fell down a flight of steps, snapping his neck.
Emily starts dropping by more often with supplies or to tell Lily she’s heading into town, does she want anything? Lily wonders if Emily is starting to worry that the reclusive woman living in her cabin might be the next one to snap.
On a Thursday morning, with the snow falling in a light hiss, Lily is sitting by her front window with a mug of coffee and her laptop. Down the lane, she sees Emily’s faded green truck rolling up. Lily watches her park just outside her house and make three trips to carry in her groceries. On her last trip, Emily looks to the cabin. Lily remains still, but she doesn’t think Emily can see her. Emily remains motionless for several more seconds, her hair escaping from her scarf, then turns and trudges toward her house again. Lily rises from her seat and goes to dump her coffee in the sink and clean some of the dishes that have been accumulating. She starts to hum, and that startles her.
The knock comes in early afternoon when the sun has already taken its leave. She can see the edge of Emily’s coat through the window.
“Hey,” Emily says when Lily opens the door. She puffs a little, tugging her jacket. “I’m trying to use up the last of the ground beef in the fridge and there’s too much for one person.”
Lily crosses her arms. A mangy tiger eying the world and not trusting it for a minute. She hasn’t left the cabin at all except to go to the barn.
Emily takes a shuffle back. “Okay,” Lily says. She turns, her hair scraggling into her face. “Let me find my coat and boots.”
They trudge through the descending dark to Emily’s house. Lily’s been in it once before, the first time she came to look at the cabin. It’s spare and practical with a few flashes of art that look like heirlooms: two old portraits of a man and woman in clothing from a century past, a massive piece of scrimshaw etched into a walrus tusk, a thick blanket that looks homemade.
Emily ushers her in, all red from the cold. She keeps being red while she pulls plates from the cabinets in her thick socks and University of Alaska sweatpants. Lily fidgets on the other corner of the room, following the muscle memory that keeps Emily at a safe distance.
The beef has been made into a thick stew that warms Lily down to her core. She shovels it down; Emily looks on, pleased.
They wash dishes afterwards with the radio humming in the background, and Lily continues to dance out of reach. Lily wonders if she could touch Emily even if she wanted to, or if her body would jerk her away at the last second.
The radio station, a local one, announces that, “police are encouraging people to report suspicious activity.” Emily reaches out and flicks the radio off.
“Fear mongering,” she announces, stroking a flyaway hair from her face and going back to the dishes with a curl to her lips. “Folks get paranoid around here pretty quick.” Lily doesn’t speak; she places a dried mug on its hook. Emily glances up, and her ponytail swings. “Don’t guess that you signed up for this; buncha murders in a little town.”
“Should have seen it coming, more like,” Lily says. She pauses, aware of how that sounds. Emily keeps scrubbing at her plate. “I came here ‘cause of someone dying.” She curls her toes up in her socks. “Uh. My girlfriend.”
Emily slows. She lifts her head, and something sharp is in her eyes now. Lily keeps her expression placid. Emily’s hands start moving again.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It was over a decade ago, now,” Lily says. “Her name was Marianne.”
“I accidentally killed her.” Emily straightens; the plate clinks against the sink’s sides. “My mom’s dead and my dad’s pretty much gone. She was the only real family I had. And then I killed her.”
Emily’s lips purse a little. “How?” she asks.
Lily smiles. “I gave her a heart attack.”
Emily’s expression clears. “Oh, gosh, those things just happen. You can’t blame yourself for heart attacks.”
“I can for this one.” Lily pats her pockets for a menthol, but she finished the last pack yesterday. She brings up her thumb to bite at the nail.
Emily shakes her head and places a hand on her hips. “Is that why you left California? Spending all your time in an old cabin? ‘Cause you feel guilty for someone’s heart attack?”
“Dumbass.” Emily blows another strand of hair from her face. “What’s that done for you?”
“Not gotten anyone else killed, for one.”
Emily jabs at the radio. “There’s some dangerous things going around this town,” she says. “Right now, last thing you want to do is hole yourself up alone where the winter can get you.” Lily doesn’t answer; she fixes her eyes on Emily’s shoulder. “I’ve been thinking about this,” Emily continues. “And I have a spare bedroom. You could sleep there until things calm down.”
Lily cuts her gaze to Emily’s face again. “Until spring?”
Emily shrugs. “If that’s what it takes.”
Lily agrees. It’s like diving off the edge of a cliff, but she agrees. Emily helps her carry essentials from the cabin to a small, dusty room with a faded comforter. And still Lily’s hands know how to fly away from the bare skin on Emily’s body. She’s starting to recognize the aching in the pit of her chest for what it is.
Life takes on a new tempo made of small conversations over breakfast and sharing house duties. Emily is a large, assuring presence, and Lily realizes several days later that she hasn’t bought a new pack of menthols yet.
February marches on and no new attacks filter through the radio, but Lily has touched Emily’s sweater sleeve and made something hot splatter against her own innards nonetheless.
Then, on Valentines Day, a woman enters a crowded grocery store with an axe. Lily hears the news break over the radio while working on her laptop. She freezes, listening to the announcer list out the known deaths in a breathless voice. She yanks on her coat and boots and goes out to find Emily. She uncovers her in the barn with the old cars and passes on the news. Emily grunts, sets down the tools she’d been cleaning, and they trek up to the house together.
The rest of the afternoon, they sit together at the table and listen to the statistics unfold. Two dead. Five dead. No, four dead. Statistics unknown. The killer has been identified as a local named Dolores Kinman, aged 57. Emily has a red, chapped hand covering the lower half of her mouth as she listens, her eyes squinting. When they announce Dolores’ name, she reaches out and flicks off the radio. In the silence, they both realize it has begun to snow.
“Dolores works at the bank,” Emily says. “She helped me get a loan a year ago. She and my mom used to organize church things together.”
Lily watches her face, limned in light from the other room. Emily’s eyes have grown extra facets; one of her big hands searches for Lily’s in the darkness. Lily freezes and then something rough and hot brushes at her wrist.
The world blanks out. Emily will make a weird thin gasp, she’ll slump, she’ll choke on her own tongue. Lily will need to call the ambulance; maybe they can bring her back.
“Don’t remember winters being this bad,” Emily says.
Lily cracks open, and Emily starts at the sound she produces. A weird thin gasp, then a high whine that rivals the wind outside. Emily’s hand curls over Lily’s and she’s warm, she’s warm, she’s warm. Lily inhales so hard her lungs burn. She can’t see through the tears at all.
A chair scrapes; Lily’s knee is pressed against her thigh. Two hands roam over her back, her shoulders, her face, brush at her hair. Lily wants to scream because it’s too much. She gropes, her hands find the shell of an ear and coarse hair. Fingers with calloused tips brush over the back of Lily’s neck, a pair of dry, chapped lips land on her cheek. Lily turns her head and it’s a kiss. It’s a goddamn kiss. She’s going to die.
Lily floats back into her body to find a dark ceiling and a blanket over her. Emily is sitting beside her, her arms wrapped around her shins. The only light comes from a small bedside lamp.
Lily shifts; Emily looks down. “You sort of got loopy,” she reports.
“I haven’t kissed anyone in years,” Lily confesses. Emily half smiles then looks to the bedroom’s window, her ponytail swinging.
“Dolores never got arrested,” Emily says in a low, casual voice. “And the dog was barking half an hour ago until he stopped.”
Lily’s stomach drops, but it’s into a space of odd calm. Cold Oak happened, and she walked away from that. She pushes herself to a sit and sees that Emily’s shotgun is sitting beside her on the bed. She hooks an arm through Emily’s; Emily turns a little to press a kiss to the corner of Lily’s mouth. She doesn’t think this is the proper way to do these things, but she doesn’t see how to change it.
“Hang on,” Lily orders. She slips from the bed and pads across the room to the window. She parts the blinds just enough to peer through. Nothing but a gentle, blue curve of snowy hills. Emily watches as Lily does the same for the other windows, then gets up from the bed and follows her when she goes into the hall. Together, they check each window. At the small window in the living room, the one that looks over the front drive, Lily pauses. Something hot and metallic is in her mouth, but when she swipes her tongue over her teeth, there’s nothing. She squints out at the front drive; now her fingers tingle. She smells sulfur.
Ah. There. Easy to miss her. Just a small shape among a host of shadows, but the moonlight catches at blue rinsed hair sometimes. Lily can almost see it smile at her through Dolores’ soft wrinkles. Lily stares back; the metallic taste and the tingling grow, but she doesn’t think they’re something she ought to be frightened of. Lily turns to Emily, and she must have enough in her expression for Emily’s inhale to sharpen. Lily takes her bare hand.
“I have some things you need to know.”