A Nightmare

Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep—

Lily reached out and felt around for her phone on the nightstand. She grabbed it and clicked the power button to shut up her alarm. She kept her eyes closed for a few more seconds, squeezing her hand around the phone to keep from falling back asleep. With a groan, she opened her eyes and got up out of bed. She had let herself sleep in a little with a fairly late alarm, and it was a school day. She got dressed quickly, brushed her teeth, and downed a tall glass of water to hopefully assuage the headache she had woken up with. She rubbed at her forehead in a way that felt like maybe it was helping, and wandered into the kitchen.

It was empty. No breakfast was waiting on the table. Lily shrugged, and made for the freezer. Pancakes ready to go before she had to leave would have been nice, but a toaster strudel would do just fine. It had been a silly thing to hope for, anyways. If her mother had been home, she wouldn't have gotten to sleep in so late. Lily tore the little icing packet thing open with her teeth, waiting for the raspberry pastries to pop out of the toaster. Hardly a filling breakfast, but she thought it was a pretty good one.

Once she had it down, she pulled on her hoodie, grabbed her backpack, and went out to wait for the bus. It was only about a minute before it rolled up to her stop, and she got on. She sat up at the front, behind the bus driver. Everyone always gravitated towards the back, and Lily wanted some comparative quiet. Her headache was starting to ebb, but certainly wasn't gone. She hoped it wouldn't last the entire length of the school day, although it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

It lasted the entire length of the school day. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, but as she got off the bus and trekked into her house, she could have been persuaded to rank it fairly high. The car wasn't back, so her mother wasn't either. Lily wondered again about just what it was she was off doing, but the pain in her head was eroding her concentration. She got inside, set her backpack and hoodie in the living room, and went to get headache pills.

She took a pill with a big glass of water. It didn't instantly provide relief, and she decided to lay down for a bit to nap it off. It took a bit to drift off.

Lily opened her eyes and groaned. She couldn't quite place how she felt, but it wasn't good. She was disoriented, and felt like she was forgetting something. She sat up, and noticed she was already dressed. No, she was still dressed. Nap. Right. She didn't feel refreshed, not at all, but at least the headache was gone. She grabbed her phone from the nightstand and checked the time. She had slept for five hours? What a waste of a Friday. Reluctantly, she got up out of bed. She wasn't going to sleep away the rest of the day, too.

Besides, she really needed to get something to eat. And more water would probably help prevent the headache returning with a vengeance. She was heating up a microwave pizza in the kitchen when she realized what was nagging at her. Her mother still wasn't home. She checked the rest of the house, but there was no sign she was back. The car wasn't in the driveway, either. She pulled out her phone, but there had been no missed calls. One text, but it was from Aster. She scanned over it, but it didn't have to do with her mother, so it could wait. The microwave chose that moment to shrilly announce it had done its job, but the pizza could wait, too.

Her mother had said she might be back late, but it wasn't like her to not even check in. In fact, it was the opposite of her usual behavior, checking in unnecessarily often. Lily called her, walking over to shut off the microwave as her phone rang. There was no answer. She gave it a minute before calling again, but again, her mother didn't pick up. It just went straight to voicemail, and she mumbled out a request to call back when she had a moment. For good measure, she sent pretty much the same message in a text. Oh well, she was probably just busy with work. There was no use worrying about it.

The pizza was pretty good. She felt a bit better having some real food, after only a snack for breakfast and a school lunch. She got some more water, and then turned her attention back to her phone. She hadn't really read it, but Aster had some question for her.

'Hello, Lily. Would now be a good time to talk? I have something to ask you. It's a bit of a silly question, frankly. To be a little less cagey, I'm wondering about the matter of keeping secrets. If there's something you just don't really feel like telling anybody about, but there's no good reason to hold it back, do you think it would be better to just come out with it? Or continue to not talk about it until the mood or opportunity comes along?'

That was not really the sort of question she was expecting. Aster would randomly send her questions, but they were generally hypothetical scenarios or other fodder for contemplation. Not vague and dubious personal matters. Although this was possibly both. Still, Lily thought for a minute, trying to offer a good answer.

'Sorry, I was taking a nap. As for your question, I really think it depends, unhelpful as that is. Is it something that concerns other people, or just yourself? You don't want to tell anyone, but would you prefer if other people knew already? Thinking about it like that might help you come to a decision. And if I may be so presumptuous to offer, I'm available as a trial run, if you want to tell someone but not everyone.'

She made a face after sending the message. She had workshopped it a bit, but it still felt unsatisfactory. It would have been helpful if she knew what Aster meant. Lily thought she maybe knew what Aster was getting at, but she was not going to go jumping to conclusions. Still, she decided to send another message. A vague gesture of support would be good whatever the case, right?

'And if this is about personal inclinations, you know I won't judge.'

Regardless, Aster didn't text back, so she would just have to leave it at that. She wasn't feeling very tired, so it was time to find something to do other than overthink a lack of immediate response for the third time in a row. She made her way back to her room and retrieved the ideal specialist's tool for just such a purpose: Her laptop. It didn't take long at all to distract herself, finding an old, bad monster movie to watch. It surpassed her wildest expectations when an actual iguana menacingly lumbered onto the model scene.

At some point after the film ended, she nodded off. She dreamed of oversized lizards and sea monsters.

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