She comes to her in her dreams. They were best friends, but sometimes they were something more. Girls playing. Girls experimenting. Hands and tongues and moans and liquid fire.
She's still a virgin, but that doesn't mean she's never been laid.
Veronica sits on the beach watching the sun set over the breakers. It's warm, summer, and the smell of lingering suntan lotion mingles with salt and sea. She sits, knees drawn up, arms wrapped loosely around silky smooth calves. Her eyes are focused on the distance.
Her ears hear the approach from behind her.
The sound of sand chuffing as knees hit it prepare for the instant later touch of knowing hands on bare, tanned shoulders. "You're too tense, Veronica."
"And you're dead," she replies.
"But never in your dreams." Lilly leans over her best friend's shoulder as she kneads the taut muscles, and grins. "There's always a place for us here."
Veronica turns her head just enough to meet Lilly's lips and the kiss tastes of rose petals and chocolate and hot sex.
"This doesn't make us gay, you know," Lilly says knowingly, her head propped on her hands atop Veronica's flat stomach as the two girls lay tangled together in Veronica's bed one day after school.
"Which should make Duncan happy."
"Ewwww, can you not mention your brother right after we've done...this," Veronica teases, reaching for a throw pillow and bopping Lilly in the head with it.
Laughing, Lilly springs up and playfully attacks her best friend, finally pinning her down and kissing her. "Not gay, just really good friends."
"Cunt," Lilly corrects as she glides down Veronica's body and buries her mouth between her legs.
Veronica stares down at the body, the corpse, not her best friend, not Lilly. There's blood and open vacant eyes and sprawled limbs, but no spark. That's gone, leaving behind a broken doll.
And she wants to cry, to sob, to scream, to cradle her friend in her arms and wish her back to life.
But all she can do is stare and feel her heart break.
"It's not so bad, Veronica," whispers the breeze in a voice that sounds like Lilly's. "Just a moment of bright pain, an explosion of lights behind the eyes as the synaptic nerves collapse, and it's over. Almost like an orgasm."
They are fourteen the first time, spending the night at Lilly's on a warm summer night before moving from middle school to high school. A time of exploration, of fear and wonder, of growing up.
Huddled beneath the sheets with a flashlight, they whisper girl stuff and touch each other, at first hesitantly, then, as desire grows, with more boldness.
Veronica orgasms first from light strokes of Lilly's fingers down the front of her damp panties. She feels swollen, hot and heavy, and the little bundle of nerves she's always ignored is now suddenly aching and wanting something she doesn't quite understand. When the stars explode behind her eyes and her body shudders uncontrollably, she presses a trembling hand to her lips to keep in a cry of shock and pleasure.
Lilly's smile of pleasure and pride makes her giggle and blush, and Veronica finds herself eager to share the aching good feeling that's spreading through her body. When she rises up and pushes her best friend back, there's welcome in Lilly's beautiful eyes, and Veronica begins her own explorations with light brushes over taut nipples that make those eyes go cloudy.
As life tries to return to normal, the dreams cease for a while, and although Lilly's death haunts her in the daytime, her ghost no longer haunts the night.
Until her mom leaves and Veronica misses her best friend even more. This is just the kind of thing best friends forever talk about. It's not something she can share with anyone else, and her heart aches with loss every moment of every day.
And that night when she sleeps, Lilly returns with a whisper and a kiss while blood oozes from the wounds in her head, sticky and kind of sweet as it slips between their joined lips.
"I'm always here for you, Veronica."
She feels the weight on her, the warmth beneath her fingertips that shouldn't remain in one so long dead, smells Miss Dior, the perfume Lilly always wore to please the mother who would never take any pleasure in her daughter, and she cries helplessly.
Everything has been stripped from her. Her mother, her father's standing in the community, her popularity at school, her boyfriend, but she can't bear to lose Lilly.
The one thing that is well and truly gone forever.
The rape she can't remember leaves her traumatized and aching both physically and emotionally. She withdraws from the few friends she still has, cuts her hair, becomes the outsider everyone has made her. Lilly remains, hovering on the edge of consciousness, just in the corner of her eye, and Veronica knows if she was there in reality she'd be kicking ass and taking names and no one would be allowed to hurt her.
And while Veronica has the backbone to stand up for herself, she also believes her popularity and friendships are lost causes, so she gives up and pushes aside regret. Moving out of their comfortable home into a tiny apartment doesn't hurt her, as there's nothing left of her to be hurt.
And, anyway, Lilly comes along.
A new school year starts and as Veronica cuts down the boy tied to the flag pole, she hears Lilly laughing, not in mockery, but in happiness, and wonders about it.
It will be a while before she realizes that she has a new friend, maybe not a best friend forever kind, and no one will ever replace Lilly, but things are definitely looking up. Between Wallace and Weevil and Mac and a few others, and even Duncan being nicer to her, life eases a bit. She's still an outsider, but not alone.
And when she dreams of Lilly and feels those butterfly soft kisses and eager probing touches, the need for her to be real isn't as strong.
But Veronica knows she will always miss her, and in her memory, she'll find out the truth about her murder.
Then Lilly can rest in peace, and while Veronica will miss her desperately, it's the right thing to do, to lay her to rest, to let her go.
As she taught Veronica to let go and enjoy life over the years of their friendship.
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