Lily woke up and closed her eyes again. She stayed like that for a couple minutes, but sleep didn't take her. Begrudgingly, she got up, only to find it was a little past noon. The good thing was that she didn't have anything to do on a Saturday. She wasn't sure why she always felt so tired after sleeping in when she could be wide awake shortly any time she had to get up early. She checked her phone, looking at more than the time, and frowned. Aster had texted her back, but there was nothing from her mom. She got up, got dressed, brushed her teeth, and checked the house for signs her mom had come back. There were none. Lily called her three times in a row, with a message the number could not be reached each time.
Lily paced around the living room for a few minutes, periodically looking out the window at the driveway. Eventually, she walked over to the nearest end table and opened its drawer. She rooted around in a small pile of scrap papers, and then slammed it shut. She went on to the next one, and kept going, rifling through the mostly empty drawers. Why did they have to have so many dressers? They weren't using most of the damn things. Finally, finally, she found what she was looking for. A little notepad, with names and numbers scrawled inside. Mostly it was family, or a few names vaguely familiar as friends of her mother's, a couple more names she didn't know, and... Lily groaned when she reached the run of blank papers at the back without a phone number for her mother's workplace. A page had been ripped out, but it didn't turn up when she searched the rest of the drawer.
Lily hesitated for a few minutes, with the notepad in one hand and her phone in the other. She was worried she would cause some kind of problem if she asked around. Surely it would look bad to ask "Do you know where my mom is?" of all the family friends. She didn't want to make her look irresponsible, or panic anyone, but... Well, getting confirmation everything was alright was more important. She started dialing, although she avoided family.
Several of the numbers didn't pick up. She didn't bother leaving voicemails, although two of her mother's friends called her back anyways. A few others picked up when she called. A series of cagey conversations ensued, going on until she awkwardly backed out with assurances everything was alright, it wasn't anything worrisome. They hadn't given her any useful information. Well, no, that wasn't true. It was useful to know they didn't know where her mother was, or where she had been since Thursday. It just really wasn't the sort of answer she wanted. More unfortunately still, none of the people who responded were coworkers, or had any line to wherever she worked. Lily managed to find an old phonebook and leafed through the Yellow Pages, but nothing stood out as an obvious candidate for her mother's workplace. She wasn't sure if she had expected anything different.
Why hadn't her mom ever told her where she worked? Why hadn't she been given contact information in case she needed it, or any sort of emergency contact info? How was she supposed to handle something like this? Why had her mom torn a page out of that notepad? She started to pace in a circle, and then nearly fumbled her phone when it rang again. It was one of her mom's friends, calling a second time just to make absolutely certain everything was okay. Lily brushed it off, lied, and ended the call. She took a few deep breaths and did her best to calm herself. It would be okay. There wasn't anything going on. It would all be sorted out soon, just had to give it a little more time.
She went and laid down on the couch, looking up at the ceiling. She didn't want to look at the pictures on the walls. She pulled out her phone again, and this time checked whatever response Aster had texted her.
'I think you're right, that's a better way of thinking about it. I think I'll give it some more thought first, but I'll probably take you up on your gracious offer. I'm probably making something out of nothing, honestly. Either way I definitely trust you enough to tell.
I wouldn't say it's a matter of personal inclination, but I suppose it's good to know you're in my corner if I ever need to reveal a secret taste. I'm not sure why I would be hiding something like that in the first place, though.'
Lily wasn't entirely sure what she had expected, but it wasn't quite that. It didn't look like Aster exactly understood what she had meant to allude to, which was probably for the best. She officially had no idea what her cousin's secret was, but couldn't really muster the energy to care about it. She sighed, sprawling out on the couch. Why couldn't there be a button to instantly resolve the problem she was facing? Or at least something, anything to provide some clarity. What was she supposed to do?
Maybe she wasn't supposed to do anything. Maybe she wasn't supposed to know how to handle it, wasn't supposed to have the means to solve it. Maybe her mom just left her. She groaned. It was a stupid thought, it was an ugly thought, it was a bitter little miserable thought. But it was a persistent thought. She had always wondered if her mom really wanted her. If maybe her mom actually hated her. If one day her mom might decide it wasn't worth it and abandon her, like her father probably had. And she always knew it was ridiculous, but was it really? It felt a little too convenient that she had no way of contacting the one place her mother supposedly was. And leaving for work in the middle of a Thursday night...
Lily grabbed a pillow and smushed it over her face. No, that didn't make sense. A couple suspicious coincidences lined up, if she ignored the entire lifetime's worth of contrary evidence. Stupid, stupid, stupid. There was no way her mom was abandoning her. There was no way her mom was intentionally blowing her off. There was no way her mom was just going to casually show up again like nothing after a couple days where nobody knew where she was. Something was wrong. Something was wrong and she had tried to ignore the possibility and she had fucked up. She squeezed the pillow on her head, and then tossed it to the side.
She needed to do something. What was she supposed to do in a case like this? File a missing persons report? She sat up, took a deep breath, and punched the emergency number into her phone. She hesitated, not really sure if that was the correct channel of communications. But it didn't really matter. It would get her in touch with people who knew where she should call and what she should do, if nothing else. She called, and then did her best to explain everything.
She gave the information she could about the timing, the attempts to contact her, and her mother and her car. She felt terribly guilty about the fact that she had waited to do anything, and about the information she didn't have, even though the person on the line was doing their level best to reassure her she was doing well. By the end of it, Lily was crying silently. After hanging up, she tried to compose herself and failed. She shoved her phone in her pocket, then clenched her fist. She started to sob, feeling utterly pathetic and guilty and worried and scared and angry, at herself and her mother and the situation itself. She couldn't blink the tears out of her eyes fast enough, vision blurry as she sobbed so much it almost hurt. She leaned forward and felt around for the pillow, shoving her face into it to scream. It didn't make her feel better, and she tossed it away. She heard a picture clatter off the wall, and stood up.
She marched herself over to where the picture had fallen, picking it up and seeing her mother smile in that way she always did, standing over her as a sullen child. She threw it at the couch. It didn't help, but she still felt an urge to knock the rest of the pictures off of the wall. Instead, she wheeled around and kicked a dresser, instantly and viscerally regretted it, and tore its drawers out. She was going to start breaking the empty things when she realized she was holding all four at once. She froze in place, and slowly tried to take stock of it. The drawers were large, but fairly light, and one dangled from each hand by its handle. And two more were hanging next to them, held up by...
A sickly feeling washed over Lily, almost muting the awful mess of emotions swirling around in her. She sniffled, an ugly and undignified noise, and blinked the tears out of her eyes. Slowly, carefully, she lowered the drawers in her hands to the floor. She did the same with the other two. She was aware of strange, unfamiliar sensations, like limbs that shouldn't have been there. Four of them, starting out from her upper back and bending strangely. She stepped to the bathroom, and stared at the mirror. Behind her loomed four large black tentacles. They looked thicker around than her actual arms, longer than she was tall, and shimmered with a sickly rainbow pattern where they caught the light, like a puddle of oil. They undulated and squirmed behind her, and she could feel each movement like they were a part of her. Like she was swaying and curling in the air, four times over. She swallowed, and tried to move one forward. It moved, just like if she tried to move her arm, although it was stiff and jerky. Nothing like the sinuous motions it had made on its own.
And then her phone started ringing from her pocket, and she actually jumped. The limbs lashed out and the one in front shattered the mirror. Lily winced as she felt a sharp spike of pain, and the tentacle started writhing. She focused on stilling its motion, and then grit her teeth. She carefully plucked a shard of glass from a point near the tip of the thing, which set off another pang of pain. She dropped the glass in the bowl of the sink, which was followed by a gush of pitch black liquid. The wound stung and the bleeding didn't seem to stop, even when she clamped down on it with a hand. The tentacle was slimy, almost filmy and the gushing liquid was slick and flowed past her hand easily. It kept coming, like it was being propelled, and the pain didn't lessen. Lily squeezed her eyes shut, grit her teeth more, and tried to put as much pressure on it as she could.
Then her hand clenched into a fist, and all the strange sensations were gone. Lily tentatively opened her eyes, half-expecting to see it had all been a hallucination, but the mirror was really shattered. Black liquid was pooled in and around the sink, although less than there had been. She opened her hand again, and ran the sink to try and wash the liquid off it. That wicked it away surprisingly well, and chased it down the drain, along with the rest. She stared at her hand, which had little indentations on her palm where her nails had bit in, and was dripping water. She felt frozen for a moment, and then dried her hand off. She glanced at the mirror, which was mostly still in place on the cabinet, if traced with cracks. The rest were in the sink, littered around the drain.
She looked awful. Of course she did. It wasn't surprising, it was sobering, like looking at her red, teary face was dragging her back to reality. But it wasn't. Reality was being upset, so distraught she couldn't stop crying and pointlessly lashing out. Reality was being sickened and terrified by whatever it was that had just happened to her. Reality wasn't making sense. This was detachment, a vacant, hollow lack of feeling. Her phone went off again, and she dug it out of her pocket to answer. Her voice cracked almost immediately.
"Hello Lily. Are you alright?"
"No. Yes. I am. Things aren't."
"Right. Of course. I'm sorry, it's just awful. But I'm sure she'll turn up soon. This isn't the first time she's done something stupid and irresponsible."
"Are you sure you're alright. You don't sound—"
"Of course I don't! I've been crying. I've obviously been crying! How couldn't I be upset?"
"I can't sit and stay calm and composed and sound like I just don't care about anything, okay? I'm not you. And I can't be endlessly chipper because I'm not her, either. And I can't dismiss this because I already put it off and that might have been a massive mistake! Okay! Okay?"
Lily took a shaky breath as silence settled on the line. She needed to calm down. She was lashing out at her grandmother, who was just trying to help.
"It's okay. This must be hard."
"...Yeah. Hi grandpa."
"Hello, Lily. Your grandmother and I are going to come pick you up, alright? You shouldn't be there by yourself."
"But what if she comes back and—"
"Then she'll get in touch with you or us when you're not there. Okay?"
"Okay. Yeah. That makes sense."
"We should be there in twenty minutes. Get your stuff together. We can help when we're there if you need."
"Okay. Thank you."
"We love you."
"Love you too."
The call ended, and she stood there for a moment. This wasn't good. She glanced at the mirror and groaned. That was clearly a lost cause. At least she didn't need anything from the medicine cabinet behind it... Except her toothbrush. She would get to that. She walked back to the living room, and started to put the dresser drawers back into place. She hung the picture back up, glad the frame was fairly sturdy. And also that she'd thrown it at the softest thing in the room. She felt oddly calm again, and that itself seemed somehow wrong, but at least it was useful. She had to pack things to stay over for a couple days, and having something concrete to do felt helpful, even if it meant ignoring most of what had just happened. Maybe because it did.
It was too much as it was. She couldn't think about where her mom was or when she would come back. She really, really couldn't think about sudden superpowers or inhuman phantom limbs. She was just glad they were gone now, although she knew it wasn't for good. She wasn't sure how she knew, but there was some sense in the back of her head. She kept it pushed back there, and pointed her focus on getting clothes together.