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Wonderland: Lucy's Tale - Chapter Six

Friction arises in the form of the Princess.

It all started innocently enough, wandering through Macy’s, looking at dresses that were far too expensive and sophisticated for us to even consider.

"You should try it on, Luce," she urged me, stopping in front of a cocktail dress that a 16-year-old girl had no right to own. "You’d look stunning in it."

She was right in a way. It was something a movie star would wear, glittering red upon the mannequin, leaving its shoulders bare beneath its headless neck.

"No way." I wasn’t even tempted. For one thing, I doubted that the sales clerk would even let us take it into the dressing room, especially after examining the price tag. For another, there was no way I was going to be seen by strangers wearing something that bold.

"Chicken," Alice said with a grin. That was when I played the trump card.

"You try it on, Allie. You do that then I promise to try on something else. Anything you choose."

She got a sly grin on her face, one that I knew meant trouble. Thing was, I had already committed myself and we both knew it. "Okay. I will then. No backing out, Luce. You promised."

I nodded, a sudden mixture of nervousness and excitement filling me with girlish giggles. Not surprisingly, Alice was able to convince the sales lady that she truly was interested in buying the dress and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in the dressing room together, that amazingly gorgeous dress hanging from a hook on the door. The room was big enough so that we the two of us weren’t cramped for space. There was a cushioned bench against one wall and a full sized mirror opposite. Locking the door behind us, Allie took a seat on the bench and pushed the heels of her sneakers off with her toes, nudging them under the bench.

Sitting beside her, admiring the way that dress sparkled in the bright overhead lights, I barely noticed as she shed her jeans and tank top to reveal pink cotton panties and a matching bra. Then she sort of took me by surprise, turning her back to me.

"Undo me?" It was an innocent enough request. After all, the dress was strapless and the sight of her bra straps would ruin the overall effect. That said, it was a little strange, given all that had happened between us, to be sitting in a dressing room with her as close to naked as she could be.

Taking a deep breath, I easily undid her straps, freeing her breasts. When we had made love, those two nights, it had been near dark. Now, under the lights of the dressing room, her reflection in the mirror, it was different. Blushing, I looked away from her, my cheeks warm. She seemed not to sense the confusion coursing through me, requesting me to hand the dress to her.

"How do I look?" I’d avoided watching her slip into it, not an easy task in the confined space of the dressing room. Still, I had somehow managed to either stare at the door or keep my eyes closed the entire time. Now, I had no choice. I turned my gaze upon her and caught my breath. She looked… well, like a Hollywood star. How could she look any other way? Sure, her hair was pulled back in a pony tail and she wore no make-up. The only jewelry she had on was gold chain with an ‘A’ for Alice charm on it, something she’d taken to wearing since Christmas. It had been a gift from her parents and it was a rare thing to see her without it these days.

She giggled, her cheeks turning slightly pink. My expression must have given away my feelings, or perhaps it was the fact that my mouth hung partly open and I couldn’t help staring at her that made her feel somewhat self conscious, for she turned away from me, presenting her back. I could still see her face in the mirror, of course, and she mine if she chose. But somehow, it gave us both enough distance to regain our composure.

"You look… fabulous, Allie." I finally managed to discover my voice. "Just… brilliant."

"Do you really think so?" she asked, her voice devoid of cunning. It was a sincere question, and one that could only be answered with the truth.

"Breathtaking." I whispered the word, licking my lips nervously. Suddenly it felt cramped in the dressing room. Too warm and too crowded and there was barely enough air for the two of us to share.

She turned slowly, like our idea of a model, showing the dress off to her private audience of one. She’d grown over the last year, shooting up to close to just under five and a half feet and the hem of the dress rode higher on her thighs then anything she would have dared to wear at school. Stopping half way, she took a single step forward, so that I could feel her breath on my cheek, her eyes cast down shyly.

"Want to hear a secret?" Her words were so soft that I could barely hear them. To be honest, I didn’t, remembering the last time we hadn’t shared secrets. I still nodded in affirmation. She was my best friend. We traded secrets, even ones that we didn’t want to. It had always been that way and to stop now, would be wrong. I knew that as well as she did. Still, she gave me the right to make my own choice.

I made the only one I could. To say ‘no’ would have been untrue to myself as much as to her. Somehow I found the courage to brush her arm with my fingertips as if to assure her that no matter what she revealed, it wouldn’t change anything. Not anything important, at least.

"I know how everyone says I’m pretty. I hear the words, but I never believe them, at least not from anyone else. But with you… I see it in your eyes. It’s the only time I ever feel pretty, Luce. When I’m alone, I feel so ugly, that I can’t bear it."

This was more then a secret. It was a revelation of a magnitude unimaginable. It was like Einstein admitting that he felt stupid, or Jesus revealing that he swiped candy bars from the grocery store when he was a kid. I had no idea what to say. She smiled, shrugging one bare shoulder apologetically, realizing that she’d blindsided me.

She waited patiently, letting me catch my balance, still smiling that sad half smile of hers that I realized she only ever let me see. Usually it was much brighter then that, as if she put extra effort into it for the benefit of others. I felt a stab of shame, then. Why hadn’t I seen this before? Had I been so wrapped up in myself that I’d missed it? Had we changed so much this last year that I no longer knew her? Or maybe it had been what lay between us, and I had put up some sort of wall, unnoticed until now, to protect myself from her feelings of love.

So, I did something stupid, maybe out of guilt, maybe out of something else. I fell in love with her. Oh, not right away, but the seed was planted. After all, the soil was already prepared. It wasn’t such a big step to take from where I stood. Maybe I always had and had been in denial all this time? No matter how much I ponder, I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure. The saddest thing was, had I not been sick we might have even lived happily ever after. In the end, the blame was all mine to shoulder, and ever after turned into a pipe dream.

Still, I’m jumping ahead a little bit. For now, everything was possible and my biggest worries were what she was going to make me try on, seeing as how she’d lived up to her end of the bargain. Brushing aside uncomfortable thoughts, easy enough to do, seeing as how my twin didn’t seem to share them, I helped her undress, carefully taking the dress from her. It seemed so fragile. Or maybe it was Alice who seemed fragile and I was transferring those feeling into my treatment of the garment. Whatever the reason, I took extra care in hanging it back upon the hanger while she shrugged her tee back on and her jeans up, turning herself back into a soon to be senior girl at the local high school.

Once out upon the floor, we handed the dress back over and Alice went in earnest search of something for me to try on. It was obvious that her tastes ran to something along the same lines, only in black. Eventually she found something that made her glance in my direction and grin wickedly. What could I do? I simply rolled my eyes and prepared myself for the worst, knowing I was unlikely to be disappointed that way. While she didn’t have a cruel streak, what she had chosen for me to try on bordered on embarrassing.

Oh, there’s no doubt that it was beautiful beyond belief. Black lace and semi sheer, enough so that you’d be able to see through it in the proper light. It was gathered slightly under the breast and only my lack of height would make the hem hang decently on my thighs. Held up by thin straps, I’m sure it was meant to be worn over a strapless bra, something I didn’t own. That meant that in the dressing room, I would be exposed in a way I hadn’t expected. It was one thing for Alice to see me naked, something that happened from time to time. It was another to have her see me dress in something so obviously seductive. The closest I’d ever come to wearing lingerie was a cotton nightshirt and panties, after all. This was risqué beyond any but my wildest imaginings. Still, a bargain was a bargain and I was going to keep my end of the bargain, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

This time there was no hesitation as the sales lady let us in. I had to guess she was in her early 20’s, probably back home for the summer during the school break. As long as we didn’t cause her any problems, it was doubtful she’d bother us. Still, I was plenty nervous as we locked ourselves in the dressing room again.

"Come on, Lucy. Quit stalling," Allie told me after it took me close to 5 minutes to divest myself of my sneakers. Stealing a glance at the garment she was holding draped in her arms like an infant, I nodded. What was the big deal, after all? It was just a dress. Like her, I pulled off my jeans and then the baseball jersey I wore. Our high school colors were blue and gold and our mascot, a cougar, snarled over my small breasts. I paused there, to which she raised an eyebrow, looking almost imperious. Getting the message loud and clear, I reached around and undid my hooks. Laying my bra on top of my casually piled clothes, I let her help my into the dress, slipping it over my head and then smoothing it over my torso.

"Oh, my." She breathed. I was facing her, my arms hanging awkwardly at my sides, standing in nothing but that dress, my green cotton undies and my socks. "You look…" she began, but I interupted her before she could complete the thought.

"Like an idiot." At least I felt like on, standing there, knowing that I could never compete with her based on looks. Or anything else, for that matter.

"No, silly." She softly laughed. "Like a dark princess. Turn around."

I did, following her instructions to gaze into the mirror. And there she was. Not me, but a dark princess, just as Alice had said. She wore my skin, but there the similarity ended. While my eyes were shy and unsure and a boring brown, hers were dark, glittering with fearlessness and intelligence. I sensed Alice behind me, undoing the elastic band to let my hair fall loose upon my bared shoulders. Mine was brown. Hers was brunette, falling in a loose tumble that framed my face and fell past my shoulders, stray ends resting upon the slight swell of my breasts.

I swallowed, uneasy not because of Alice’s proximity, but because I knew her, this creature who stood before me in the mirror. Knew her well, and feared her. Had I been able to, I would have torn my eyes away and then the dress, tearing it from my frame if I had to. One look, however, into her eyes, was all it took to sap my will, letting her take over everything but my thoughts.

"So undignified," I said, or rather she did, our collective voice low. The words were meant for my ears only. Still, Alice’s hearing was sharp.

"Not at all, Lucy. I think you look stunning."

"Yes, but the details…" A hint of a smile paused upon my face, long enough to accompany me to the bench. There, I removed my socks, casting them aside. "So many details, my dear, are missing. A piece like this is a work of art that is sorely lacking in details. Stockings, shoes, jewelry… and what are these?"

Our hand moved to our hip, caressing the swell of it, then pulling the hem of the dress until it reached my waist, free hand pulling at my plain underwear. "Embarrassing. It would be less so if I was adorned in nothing at all, in fact."

Had I been in control, I’m sure I would have worn a horrified look on my face as I pulled my panties off, stepping out of them before kicking them aside to slide under the bench. Alice, I noticed, looked rather taken aback at the whole transformation. Little did she know that worse was yet to come.

"Still, I suppose it will have to do. For now, at least. I know the urchin’s limitations of wealth…" By urchin, she was referring to me. A thoughtful look crossed our face. "Still, I suppose that could be overcome by being clever."

I didn’t like where this was going and suddenly fought back, trying to regain control, for all the good it did me. She was much stronger then I was. I gave up quickly, realizing the futility of it all, hoping that she’d grow bored of the game sooner rather then later. She often did.

"I’ll tell you what," I said, sounding as if I was trying to sooth a frightened pet. "Distasteful as it is, we’re going to have to borrow this."

Alice wasn’t stupid by any means. She quickly caught on. Not that she was going to go along with me. I could see it in her eyes. "Luce!" she whispered, my name coming out like a hiss of steam. "Are you crazy?"

I ignored her, turning my back as I slipped out of the dress like a snake sheds its skin, changing with an almost lazy elegance back into my street clothes. After that, it was easy enough to roll it into a small bundle and push it into the loose crotch of my jeans, the oversized jersey hanging past my hips hiding it fairly well. My panties, I left lying on the floor, along with my socks, pushing them further against the wall distastefully with the toe of my sneaker.

Alice, bless her, tried once again to talk some sense into me. Or into who she thought was me. Really, she was preaching to the choir, only the choir wasn’t in charge at the moment. With a disdainful look, I ignored her and unlatched the door of the dressing room. Scanning the floor of the store, I noted that the clerk was busy with a middle aged woman trying to look ten years younger, her hair dyed blonde, her dress a little too tight, her face a little too made up. I speared her with a sneer, before walking in the other direction.

This was not a first for me, I should state. Shop lifting. Oh, I’d been careful to keep it from Alice and only do it on those occasions when I was by myself. On behalf of myself, I do claim innocence, as far as I was never in control at those times. The Princess was not even the worst offender. At least she had good reasons, to her own way of thinking. Her whom I had dubbed the Pirate, however, simply stole for the thrill of it. She was good at it, too, often taking chances that should have gotten her caught. That she hadn’t, yet, still amazed me whenever I thought about it although, to be honest, I tried not to think about it as much a possible.

I strode through the department store as if it was mine, Alice trailing behind me, trying to capture my attention without capturing anyone else’s. I imagine she was afraid of getting caught. I didn’t blame her for that. Her parents, although relaxed about many things, wouldn’t have let this go. Not to mention the very real fear that she could be charged for a crime, one that she wasn’t even committing. After all, I was the one stealing. It says a lot for her loyalty that, despite this, she followed me through the store, clutching at my arm as I exited through the main entrance into the summer heat, trying to talk sense into me.

"Be quiet," I finally told her, shaking her grip from my arm with a glare. "And don’t touch me like that again, girl."

Our eyes met then, and I think she finally understood what had happened for she took a step back, her mouth opening as if to speak, unable to form the words. Finally she squeaked out a pitiful sounding noise that sounded vaguely like my name, grasping once more at my arm. I backhanded her. In my defense I somehow managed to exert enough control to soften the blow. After all, this was Alice, the twin of my soul if not my blood. Shock filled her eyes as her cheek burned vividly with the sting of my slap. Reaching up, her fingers trailed over her skin as if she still couldn’t believe that I’d hit her. My heart broke and, had I been able to, I would have fallen to my knees and sobbed, pleading for her forgiveness.

I did not, however. I merely turned away and sought out our bikes, unlocking mine from the cast steel stand and mounting it as one would a steed. Without a single backwards glance or word, I set off for home, expecting her to follow me which she did, eventually catching up to me and riding along side in silence. Every once in a while she would shoot me a hurt glance, breaking my heart over and over again. I would make this right, I promised her silently swearing an oath to God the Father. Only I wasn’t sure how.

We arrived at her house with plenty of daylight remaining, and I didn’t hesitate in going in, unrolling my ill gotten gain and taking it up stairs to hang on the closet door of Alice’s room. Hesitantly, she followed me in, the mark on her face long faded, but the hurt in her eyes still fresh as I commandeered her bed for my throne, relegating her to the chair at her desk where she sat in sullen silence, never once taking her eyes from me.

After a short time, the Princess grew bored and left me alone, off to wherever it was that she disappeared to when she wasn’t plaguing me. It was almost worse that way, left alone with my best friend with no explanation that made any sense. Still, I had to try. If I lost her, I didn’t know what I would do. It hit me suddenly. That was a lie. I knew exactly what I’d do if I lost her friendship, her love, her trust. Exactly what my mom had done. The thought shook me up, especially knowing it was no idle threat. I’d take my own life. It was even seductive in its way.

"Lucy?" Alice’s tentative query pulled me from my dark thoughts, and I turned towards her, my eyes suddenly filling with tears. We stared at each other for what seemed like hours, but was most likely less then thirty seconds before my eyes filled with painful tears and I collapsed on my side, my arms around my shins, pulling myself into sobbing ball of misery.

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…" I don’t know how many times I repeated that phrase. Maybe I thought that if she heard it enough, she would believe it. Maybe I thought that if I said it enough, it would turn the clock back and today would never have happened. I don’t know. What I do know is that at some point I felt her weight upon the bed and her arms slip tentatively around me.

"Hush, Lucy. It’s okay, really it is. I… forgive you."

I thought I’d cried all the tears I had. I found I was wrong, for a fresh flood poured forth like a flood, almost biblical in proportion. "Hush." She kept repeating. "Don’t cry, Lucy. Please don’t cry."

I did my best to obey her. Exhausted as I was, it was easy enough. We lay like that for hours, both of us drifting in and out of sleep, both of us keeping our thoughts to ourselves. I could only imagine what she was thinking. As for mine, they once more turned to fear. What if she abandoned me? What was wrong with me? First my mom left me. And dad was slowly fading away, becoming a ghost day by day. Alice was all I had left.

Funny, but out of despair grew hope, and out of weakness grew strength. Without her, I was doomed. I felt it deep in my soul. Whether it was madness or death or, perhaps even the devil, that took me, I would be lost. So I would have to fight to keep her, somehow fight my demons, my sickness, and get better. For the first time in my life I wanted to. Not that I thought I had much of a chance, but for once I wanted to get better. And it wasn’t all a selfish want. I sensed that she needed me as much as I needed her. Why, I had no idea, but that didn’t make it less true. I would find a way, for her as much as for me.

Finally, after night had fallen, we found ourselves awake and alert together. I’m sure I looked a mess, my eyes swollen and red, cheeks puffy, my hair tangled and knotted. She didn’t look much better under the lamplight. Taking a deep breath, realizing that I would have to take the first step, I began to talk. She knew enough to let me do so without interruption as I told her everything. Not just about the voices, the shades that filled my head, sometimes coming to life in the room, but how they slipped inside of me, used me. This time, it wasn’t blind belief that was fostered in her, but something much more real. This time there was understanding beyond what she’d had before. It wasn’t just a fancy, something that came and went. I fought it every day.

Her presence, I explained, seemed to help quell them, but when she wasn’t there… I shivered, unable to speak for minutes before going on to explain that when I’d been six I’d been prescribed medication to help. Not something you want to admit to anyone, let alone your best friend. It had been a lie between us, one that I was sick of keeping. At first I’d taken it because I’d been told to. Later, I’d simply taken it because it was the only way that my mom could deal with me. And then, I’d stopped. Sick of what it did to me, sinking me deeply into depressions, drowning me at times.

Mom and I had fought about it up until the day she pulled the trigger, but she had to admit that I seemed to be handling it well. I remember telling her that it was Alice. And I believed that to be true.

I asked her if she remembered that one night, when she’d gone up to my room and the Queen had appeared. She nodded, shivering slightly, so that I felt compelled to hold her tight. After that, slowly it happened more and more often. Almost never when she was about. She was my safeguard, my good luck charm, my guardian angel. Or had been. As I’d told her once before, my life was complicated. What I hadn’t bargained on was how much more complicated it could get.

It all poured out of me that night, every thing I’d been afraid to share with her. As I said, the seed had been planted earlier. Now my tears acted like a cleansing rain, letting it take root within me. Just this morning I’d told her that I didn’t love her the same way she loved me. Suddenly, that was a lie as well. This time, though, I came clean.

"I love you, Alice," I told her.

"I love you too, Luce," she replied, not realizing what a momentous occasion this was. After all, I’d told her I loved her hundreds of times. Only before, I’d meant it in a different way. Today, it was different. I knew, somehow, that I would have to find a way to show her, to make her understand, so I kissed her. Not one of the shy, hesitant kisses of the past. This time it was one of those Hollywood kisses, the kind that I knew she had longed for from me. It took her by surprise and she almost drew back, her eyes going wide. Almost, but not quite.

That night our love making was full of passion and desperation. Finally, I felt what she did. In fact, I was consumed by it as I pulled at her, pushing her shirt over her head, her pants down her thighs, my mouth exploring her body in earnest, not just her face, but her every crest and valley, igniting her in turn to do likewise to me. Lust fueled us, but it was lust born of love. Later, after we’d slept and awoken the next morning, I wondered about the state of our souls, and the stain that was upon us both. Not that night, however. That night there was only her and I and a newly found love that burned from the inside out with such intensity that it’s a wonder we didn’t singe the mattress.

The next morning I was embarrassed to discover that I had left scratch marks in Allie’s tender flesh, so fevered had been my passions. She shrugged off my apology, saying that it didn’t matter. Still, I felt like I had to make it up to her. It was easy enough, holding her in my arms and telling her that I loved her. Somehow that made everything better. The scratch marks, my cruel words of the day before, the slap I had planted upon her tender cheek. At least for her. For me, the guilt still lingered. And the fear that it would happen again in the back of my mind.

Those thoughts were pushed aside for the time being. It was amazing what the prospects of an early morning breakfast could do. Adding to that was how deliciously scandalous we both felt, walking about the empty house in the nude. Of course we were careful to check and double check to make sure the blinds were all down and the curtains closed first. Once we were secure in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be spied upon, we took full advantage of the day. Alice’s parents weren’t due to return until the following afternoon and a quick phone call to reassure my dad that I had spent the night and would spend the day next door as well cemented our plans for an afternoon of wicked decadence.

Not that we planned anything truly out of the ordinary. For us, decadence meant cavorting about naked, baking cookies, drinking soda, and watching movies. After all my misgivings I was positively giddy now that I’d ‘given in’ to Alice’s declarations of love. As for her, she seemed truly happy as well. We started off the day with chocolate ice cream for breakfast, giggling as we shared the tub, each armed with a spoon. As often as not I fed her and she me, which was romantic in and of itself. It became playful as well, when I discovered that a cold spoon against her flesh elicited the most delightful response of a scream.

Soon we became embroiled in a wrestling match and I ended up pinned beneath her. I thought she’d kiss me, her face so close to mine. I wanted her too, I know that much. Instead, she tickled me and I erupted in giggling cries for mercy, fighting her with all my strength until we were both out of breath and energy. Laying on the living room rug on our sides, heads propped up in one hand, we were an imperfect mirror. Her pale gold and my earthy brown. I lay my hand over hers, noting how much more tan I was. She’d always been fair, and even in the summer, her skin turned to honey, while mine tanned, just like my dad.

"I love you," she said, finally breaking the silence.

"Love you too."

While her declaration was bold, mine was hesitant and shy if no less heart felt. This was still a new emotion for me. My first love. Perhaps this was why I’d never really fallen for a boy before. Not that I hadn’t wished for Alan Murphy to ask me out all Sophomore year. Still, I had to wonder if I’d just wanted to fit in and experience what I imagined every girl wanted to experience. Her first date, her first kiss, her first boyfriend. Well, in a way I had experienced all of that, although not how I’d expected it to happen. The only downfall was that I didn’t have anyone else to share it with. I knew that we’d have to keep this between us, our little secret. That said, it wasn’t like I was the most popular girl at school. Really, the only one I really wanted to share it with already knew.

"Allie? What now?" The words came out shy, a caress of sound meant for her ears only. A question, yes, but one that was more then a question.

She seemed to understand what lay in my thoughts. It wasn’t something we could flaunt about the school, nor in front of our parents. Well, my dad might not even notice, but hers certainly would. Lesbians, after all, where something that you gossiped about. At least where we lived. And there was little doubt in my mind that we’d just crossed the border into the strange and forbidden country.

"Does it matter?" she asked with a shrug. "I love you, Luce. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks."

I kept my thoughts to myself, thinking I knew better. Once again, her naiveté shone through. And who knew. Perhaps she had the right of it. For now, we silently agreed not to worry about it. After all, we had an entire country to explore. Despite the fact that at times one or the other of us would become uncomfortable about our nudity - more often then not it was me - we managed to stay in that state the entire day. Much of it was spent kissing or holding hands and thinking about kissing, or simply snuggling up on the furniture and talking, just like we’d always done.

We made peanut butter and jam sandwiches and ate them with milk and Oreos while watching a really bad movie, made better by our never ending commentary and unscripted dialogue. By the time it was over we were both in tears from laughing so hard, my feet in her lap, and hers in mine. It was too much, having her so near, naked like that. I think she must have felt the same way, for we made love again. This time there was passion, but it was slow and tender. We kissed for what must have been close to an hour, exploring each other’s bodies with our hand, pausing to talk more often then not. Nothing had changed, really. It was just her and me, only closer. It was heavenly.

Slowly I began to learn what felt nice, what she enjoyed… telling her shyly when something felt particularly good, sometimes with little sounds that were easily translatable rather then words. She did the same for me, even guiding my hand at times. It became obvious that she had thought about this more then I had. Later I found out that she’d pleasured herself more than once, admitting she’d been thinking of me when she did it. She blushed so hard with that revelation that I thought she might turn into a lobster. The only thing I could do to make her feel better is make her promise me to show me how… I’d never done anything like that myself. After all, I’d been led to believe it was something only bad girls did. I laughed a little at that, thinking that I now qualified in that description.

"What are you laughing at?" she asked, an embarrassed smile on her face, thinking I was laughing at her. So I told her and she chuckled a little too, nuzzling my cheek and then whispering softly in my ear. "Being bad feels good, doesn’t it?"

That’s when we began in earnest, suddenly consumed with desire. This time we achieved pleasure together, and I like to think that was at least partially responsible for the sounds that emerged from Alice, fevered gasps and moans as our bodies tangled clumsily on the sofa. And afterwards, we lay there in each others arms, silent and content to caress each other tenderly, the only sound our mingled breathe and almost hallowed words of affection. Oh, it had been so beautiful. Later, she kept her promise, and taught me how to touch myself, learning together what I enjoyed, while she showed me what worked best for her. It wasn’t as nice as making love to her. That said, I knew that I’d be experimenting on my own for many nights to come.

Later, we simply sprawled out on the floor, comfortable enough on the carpet, the air conditioner blowing cool upon our heated flesh, and talked, content to chatter away mindlessly as teenage girls often do. Oh, it all seemed very important at the time, mostly because it kept us from thinking about anything too serious. Love. Madness. Nightmares. Death. That kind of serious. Those things were far from our minds.

Dinner was instant mashed potatoes and left over apple pie in front of the television once more. This time, I don’t even remember what we were watching. A game show, I think. We were too caught up in each other, in being in love to care. I fed her from my plate, managing to remain dignified, despite the fact that I dropped a spoonful of heavily buttered potatoes in her lap. This time it was my turn to turn red as she suggested I retrieve them. Laughing, she leaned over and kissed me on the nose, her eyes fond and wiped herself off with a napkin instead. Some things I was just not ready for.

By the time it was dark, we were both tired from our day of decadence. Besides, she wanted to get up early so we could clean the house up for when her parent’s arrived home. We retired upstairs to her room. It was the first time all day we’d been up there, and the thought of my stolen dress and what had happened the day before had slipped from my mind. The sight of it now was a painful reminder that stabbed at my heart. I think it must have shook Alice up a little too. Either that or she saw how much distress it caused me, for she quickly pulled it down from the hanger, wadding it up into a ball and tossing it into the darkness of the closet.

"I’m sorry." I didn’t know what else to say.

"Hush, Luce," she said, shrugging off my apology. "There’s nothing to say. You warned me, after all. I just never realized…"

"Just how sick I really am?" I finished for her with a shrug.

"I guess…" she said, looking away, unable or unwilling to meet my eyes, her hand going to her cheek as if recalling the blow I’d struck. I detected resentment in her voice, and anger. Had I thought to ask, she might have told be that it was directed at the creature who’d possessed me rather then me. Instead, I assumed the worst.

A silence fell between us. I longed for her to put her arms around me and tell me that it was going to be all right. For once, she failed me. Oh, how I hate to phrase it like that. After what she’d been through the day before, I had no right to expect anything from her. But in a way, I felt betrayed. For the first time since I’d met her, she made me feel smaller instead of stronger. How was it that I was so fragile that this one moment of doubt would eclipse all that had come before it? Would it have hurt so badly if I hadn’t fallen in love with her? I’ll never know. I do know that a piece of me was cut away with those two simple words. Lost forever, leaving a small but painful wound. I wondered if it would ever heal.

"I’m tired," I responded, climbing onto her bed. We’d done this so many times that it felt natural. Usually dressed, of course, but that didn’t seem to matter right now. Without a word, she joined me. This time it was I who pulled her close, my arm about her waist, spooning her. My face was buried in her hair. It smelled of sweat and faintly of apple pie. It was the most glorious scent imaginable.

"Sweet dreams," I murmured into her air, meaning the words with all my heart.

"I love you, Lucy. You know that, right?"

"How could I forget?"

We didn’t fall asleep right away. After all, how could I, her body pressed against mine, my heart beating against her back. I felt her ribs rise and fall with each breath, felling her tense every time I shifted, her every hesitation as it felt like she might turn towards me. Finally, it was as if she couldn’t take it anymore and she did, gathering me up in her arms and kissing me sweetly.

"What I said before…"

"Forget about it, Allie. I get it."

"No matter what, I will always love you." Tilting my chin up so that she could stare into my eyes, the darkness making it close to impossible to tell the color of hers, she kissed me once more before settling her head on the pillow. She drifted off to sleep that way while I, my thoughts in confusion, turned my back to her, staring blankly at the wall until I finally drifted off, just in time to be pulled into her darkest imaginings.

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