2 years : 05 months
Life moves too slowly.
Loren Hale told me that once. When we were sixteen, lying on his bed with comic books spread around us. He clutched a bottle of Maker’s Mark to his chest and took a long swig.
For Lo—one minute on this Earth was a century. He was waiting for someone to end the pain of living.
Today he told me: Life moves too quickly.
After these two years, I have to agree.
Life does move too quickly. And I can’t predict a second of it.
“You know I am not good with words. Or anything else.”
— Laura Kinney, X-23 Vol 3 #1
0 years : 00 months
Whenever I envisioned my twenty-first birthday, it included lots of booze, maybe some drugs, and a giant pack of male strippers. A giant pack. Possibly even the kind of strippers that give you a little something special at the end. That imagination belonged to a different Lily. From a different time. Possibly a different cosmic universe. At least that’s what it feels like.
My twenty-first birthday, in actuality, is far less toxic. And the only men I’m celebrating with happen to be my boyfriend and his brother—as far from male strippers as I can get.
In fact, I had proposed a nice birthday in front of the television, but Lo dragged me out of the house, seducing me with my favorite place in Philly: Lucky’s Diner. I previously told my sisters that I would not be having a party, and this impromptu event resulted after Lo found out. Now I kinda wish I invited Rose or Daisy or even my eldest sister Poppy.
A long wave of awkward silence passes between Ryke and me, and I silently beg Lo to return to the table. But he stands by the hostess podium, still talking to the manager about closing the blinds.
Ten cameramen are stationed outside of the diner, some heftier cameras perched on their shoulders, the lenses pressed to the glass window. A week ago we learned that Ryke’s mom leaked my sex addiction to the press, the reason I am now on the front page of tabloids and discussed across social media.
Ryke keeps blaming himself, even when we tell him not to. If anything, this is all my fault. I’m the one who went down this path. If it wasn’t true, it’d be a different story, right? But I’m a sex addict. Everyone knows it. And now we have to figure out how to deal with this spotlight.
The quiet grates on me, and I instantly break it without thinking. “You know what’s funny, I always thought today would consist of a pack of male strippers,” I blurt out. Why, Lily, why? I look anywhere but his face, already feeling my cheeks heat.
“A pack?” Ryke says in disbelief. “Men are f**king people too, Lily. Can you not talk about them like you’re ordering a case of beer? And…what the f**k?”
I think he should have started with what the f**k. But I let that go.
He adds, “Don’t tell me you used to look at men and only saw another dick to ride.”
I flush but manage to reply despite my embarrassment. “Used to. Key word. Past tense,” I say quickly. “Now I see all the other anatomy.” I wave my hands towards him and then realize what I’m doing. “Not that I ever thought about you as just a dick. I mean, I thought you were a dick, but the metaphorical kind. Not the kind I would ride.” Holy shit. I just need to shut up.
“You have some serious f**king issues, Calloway,” Ryke snaps.
“So says you and the rest of world,” I mutter and tear open a packet of sugar. I try hard to avoid the cameras that click click click behind the giant glass window.
His eyes soften and he shakes his head before letting out a gnarled groan. “Look,” he says, “it’s your birthday. I didn’t get you anything—”
“I didn’t expect you to.”
“Let me f**king finish.”
I roast again.
And he shakes his head. “You have to stop, Lily. Everything I say isn’t sexual.”
“Sorry,” I mumble.
“I was going to say, I didn’t get you anything yet. What would you like?”
What would I like? There are too many things I want, but most of them have to be acquired by supernatural forces.
“Are you a warlock?” I end up asking him.
“What?” His eyebrows knot.
“Never mind,” I mumble quickly. The cameras suddenly flash in quick succession. I slouch further in the booth, so low that I’m practically hiding underneath the table.
“Get a f**king grip.” Ryke glares.
“You shouldn’t even be here,” I hiss. I don’t know why I’m hissing. The diner isn’t even half-full, but I’m sure it’ll be packed within the hour now that we’re here.
“I was invited,” Ryke retorts.
“By Lo,” I whisper, “who somehow forgot that the press thinks you and I are hooking up. We don’t need to give them another reason.”
“So because I’m having lunch with my brother and his fiancée, we’re obviously f**king.” He gives me a hard look. “Makes complete sense.”
“Don’t say the f-word,” I reply. “It gives me hives.”
He glowers. “You’re getting married in less than a year. That isn’t f**king changing, Lily. You’re going to have to accept it.”
“I accept nothing,” I say lamely.
He rolls his eyes. “You’ve stopped making sense ten minutes ago.”
I’m about to refute, but Lo walks back to our booth, his cheekbones sharpened in aggravation. Shit. As he slides in next to me, he swiftly grabs my arm to lift me from my slouched position, as if it was the most natural course of action for him, as though he’s done this a thousand times with me.
All I know for certain is that my hiding place is gone.
“He won’t close the blinds,” Lo tells us. “He says that it’s good publicity for the diner.” At least they were honest and upfront about it.
“Maybe we should leave.” I throw it out there. Just like that. Wow that feels better. I wait for one of them to catch it. I spring up from the table, already expecting them to agree.
“No,” Lo says, his hand on my shoulder, forcing my butt back to the seat. Double damn. “Today’s your birthday, and you haven’t been out of the house in a week.” His arm fits around my waist, and I take a deep breath and lean into his warm body. I would like to admit that all my thoughts are chaste in this moment, but a brief flicker of a na**d Lo fills my mind.
Of his muscles, his lean body…Naked Lo has a nice ass and a very large—
“Again,” Ryke says roughly, eyes on me, crushing my dirty thoughts. “What do you want for your birthday?”
I have to close my eyes while I curse my brain from automatically jumping to that.
“She wants something that you can’t give her,” Lo answers for me.
“Like telekinesis and teleportation,” I blurt out, just in case Lo was thinking about the other thing Ryke can’t give me.
“I was referring to sex, but that too, yeah,” Lo says. Today isn’t going so well. Nope.
I hide my face in my hands and I wait for the perfunctory click click click of the cameras. Any second now.
There it is.
I don’t come out from my hand-fort.
“Lily…” Lo starts, concern in his voice.