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fearsome frights & fearless delights

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‘Hey, scary girl,’ the barista called from where she was sitting on the bench – unhygienic – and sipping loudly on an iced latte Lilith highly doubted she had paid for – illegal. She wore a onesie printed to look like an anatomically incorrect skeleton and her lips were a vivid orange. She had long since discarded her apron. Again, unhygienic. ‘Hey, first lady of the devils, hello?’

‘My name is Lilith, Ava.’

‘Three coffees a day every day for the whole year, I’m super aware.’

‘And yet you still can’t get my order right.’

‘Because you change it. Who doesn’t have a favourite drink?’ Ava huffed. It was an old argument between them but Ava was easily riled. She shook her head, not wanting to get into it again. Her little ghost earrings shook with the movement. ‘Anyway, whatever. Don’t you have a gig tonight?’

Lilith sighed. Usually the café was the best place to get work done, the taste and smell of fresh ground coffee, the motion of students walking by the window, and the background noise—the hiss of the steamer, the chatter of conversation, the low music that played from ancient popping speakers affixed on the backwall—all lulling Lilith into the perfect state to concentrate on her readings. It was the best place to work…unless Ava decided that a slow day meant it was the perfect time to pester her. But Lilith had long ago learned that if she didn’t answer, Ava would just keep on asking questions. So she favoured the girl with a curt,

‘Yes.’

‘Mhm.’ Loud sucking sip of her straw. She shook the jar, ice clinking against the glass. ‘And you know it’s almost seven, right?’

Lilith froze. Looked up from her stack of books to the crooked clock on the wall. It always ran a little slow, but that meant – ‘I’m going to be late!’

‘You’re gonna be late,’ Ava agreed, pulling a sympathetic face and another loud sip from her latte. ‘Bad form. Doesn’t make a good impression. People talk.’

‘You’re always late.’

‘It helps if your girlfriend is the manager,’

‘Yes, well,’ Lilith said as she hurried to pack her bag. It could sense her rush and had seemed to shrink a size, helpfully. ‘I don’t have that luck.’

‘Sucks, babe.’ Another loud sip. ‘Hey – you know what always helps? Pastries.’ Ava leapt down off the bench and kept up a steady stream of chatter that Lilith expertly tuned out as she worked over her table, sweeping pens and papers into her bag and telling her computer mentally to suck it up – not to overheat, not to complain, not to freak out on her because she was very close to losing it and she had two specific targets in mind for when she did finally lose it: Ava and, a close second—and honestly, the more likely target because Ava was not worth going to jail over—the computer that had so begrudgingly served her for the last year. ‘Lilith,’

‘I’m going to be late, Ava,’

‘I know that.’ The girl held out a paper bag, shook it invitingly. It bulged with what had to be most of the pastries that had been left in the display case. Lilith stared. ‘What? I was gonna have to throw them out soon anyway. Or eat them. Huh. That’d be great actually – haven’t had time to go shopping. Last chance, scary girl – these are coming home with me in three…two…’

‘Thank you,’ Lilith gritted out, snatching them from her outstretched hand.

Ava smiled winningly. ‘You’re welcome. Have fun, your ghastliness!


On the outskirts of the college campus, there rose into the dark night a hill. It was one of those hills that probably deserved a different kind of name. It wasn’t terribly tall but it was rocky and the road switched back and forth between rocky outcroppings and a tangled forest that had grown out of control at the borders of the campus. The hill had been affectionately dubbed Horror Hill many years before. First because of the state of that switchback road, which scared even the best drivers. Then the name had been taken up by the cross-country team as the hill – which rose at a steady incline before falling sharply away – was on the last stretch of their morning runs when they would much prefer a lazy jog back home. Eventually, the name stuck thanks to the annual Horror House that took place throughout October in the old dormitory that sat atop it.

The dormitory had been built at a time when dark wood and pillars were all the rage. Lanterns lit the pillars from behind, turning them into many spindly legs, and the light of passing headlights and the murky lamps on the road caught in the glass of the windows, turning them into many staring eyes. Against the deep night, the building looked like nothing so much as it did an enormous black spider. Waiting for its prey.

At least, it had the first time Lilith had seen it.

Now, her second year as a scarer in the Horror House, it was a lawsuit waiting to happen and the only reason – the only reason – it wasn’t was because Shannon always managed to fix problems before they could be problems, and because Mary made everyone and everything look so terrifying that anything that was still a problem had been scared out of any visitor. Along with their shit, Mary liked to joke.

Tonight specifically, it looked like neither spider nor lawsuit. It looked like it was well underway.

‘Shit, shit, shit,’ Lilith muttered under her breath and she hurried from her car around the back of the house to the Sanctuary – that was, the Employees Only entrance. There was no one in the room when she arrived and she threw Ava’s – admittedly very kind – offer onto the kitchen table before hurrying to the bathroom to change. By the time she stepped out, she wasn’t alone.

Lilith stepped out – and stopped abruptly as she came face-to-face with a grotesque ghost. Their face seemed to be rotting away, a hint of bone beneath the eye, a maggot making its way from the ear into a sore, and open wounds scraped across one whole cheek and forehead. It was an awful picture and extremely convincing. Which meant…

She scowled at the ghost, who took a hurried step back, eyes widening.

‘Lilith! Jesus, you scared me!’

It was one of her ghosts, Roadkill. His real name was Randall and he was a business major and the bane of her existence. Technically, he was a friend and an on-again, off-again boyfriend. On, whenever she needed a date to her parents events. Off literally every other day of the year. ‘You’re late,’ he pointed out helpfully.

‘Thank you, detective. Hey! Those,’ she said over his shoulder to the other ghosts, who passed around the bag between them, no doubt touching everything as they examined the contents, ‘are not for you.’

‘Huh? Why not? Don’t you love us, Lilith?’ Jailbird – JC – asked. His puppy dog eyes were not so effective when he too was made-up. His face was mottled and seemed swollen in places as though badly beaten, and his mouth and chin were streaked with the vivid red of fake blood packets. Fake chains jangled around his wrists and they jangled as he stepped around the room.

‘No, I don’t.’ She tried not to smile when JC reacted like he’d been shot through the heart, staggering around the table.

‘Who are they for?’ Chanel asked. She was dressed as a pirate tonight, though it didn’t fit any theme Lilith knew about. With her makeup, however, she could easily be mistaken for a ghostly pirate and that was good enough. ‘Ooh, are they sweets for your sweetheart?’ she teased.

‘Wait, sweetheart?’ JC forgot his mortal wound and perked up. ‘Whose the lucky departed soul?’

‘You’re banging someone here? Who is it?’

Zori.’

‘Like you’re not curious. I mean, just think about it, what options are there? Dead vengeful firefighter is hot when he’s not in all this shit,’ she waved to her own face – drowned ghost, Lilith noted. She must have been put in the blue room for tonight. ‘Who else could it be? Mad scientist? Ooh, I’ve got it.’ She nodded knowingly. ‘Evil knight.’

‘Chivalry is dead,’ JC murmured to Chanel, who laughed.

Zori rolled her eyes at them before fixing Lilith with a smirk. ‘Is it true what they say? Guys with big swords have big –’

Enough, Zori,’ Randall hissed.

‘What?’

‘Leave her be,’ Chanel chided, clicked her tongue. There was nothing in the kind smile she sent Lilith’s way that hinted that she knew – that she knew about Lilith, and about Randall, and about the reason for their arrangement – except that it was Chanel, and it was a kind smile. Lilith swallowed hard. Stared back at her with what she hoped was annoyance and not fear.

‘Hey, are you done in there?’ JC asked, pointing to the bathroom. He spoke carefully, trying not to touch tongue to teeth, and to the fake blood. ‘Because I really need to rinse. This stuff tastes like craft glue.’

‘Eat a lot of that in your time, JC?’

He flipped Randall off cheerfully. Thankful for the interjection, Lilith stepped aside, snatching the bag from his hands as he passed.

‘Hurry up. And the rest of you - take your stolen goods and go.’

‘You were the one who was late,’ Zori muttered.

Ignoring her, Randall asked, ‘Reckon you’ll be ready for the second round?’

‘If I can find Mary,’ Lilith nodded, ‘otherwise I might have to do backstage tonight.’

‘That’s what you get for being late.’

‘Yes, thank you, I know.’

Randall tamped down on a laugh, making it nothing but a gruesome smirk. ‘We’re front of house tonight,’ he called back over his shoulder, and steered Zori out the door with his hands on her shoulders. ‘If you make it in time for the second round, we can do ghost hunt. JC! Let’s go!’

‘I’m coming, I’m coming!’

‘Too much information,’ Chanel murmured to Lilith as she passed, giving her elbow a friendly squeeze, before following her friends outside.

‘Ha ha very funny,’ JC grumbled, stepping out from the bathroom. He touched his mouth and chin worriedly, bending down in front of the mirror affixed to the wall. ‘Does this still look okay?’ It was clear that he hadn’t thought about the makeup when rinsing out his mouth, but it only added to the mess of his chin – and under the house lights, the red streaks of blood and the smeared paint would make it look like it was mangled. He seemed much happier with that when Lilith said as much and he shot Lilith a cheery thumbs-up, hurrying to join his friends and the quartet disappeared into the cool night.

Lilith sagged against the kitchen table, exhausted. Her heart rate was finally settling—being late was never high on her favourite moments, nor was being interrogated—when the door swung open again. She jumped as a ghostly face peered in. Chanel smiled. Lilith’s heart slammed against her ribcage, stuttered a nervous pattern.

‘We’ll send Mary your way if we see her,’ she promised, and this time she didn’t leave it at a smile. This time, she winked.

Lilith’s opened her mouth to deny it, whatever it was Chanel was suggesting, but her throat was bone-dry and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. She swallowed, licked her lips, but by the time she managed to croak out, ‘I don’t know what – ’ Chanel was already gone.

Somewhere in the distance, someone screamed.

Lilith could relate.


‘You’re late, baby girl.’

Lilith’s traitor heart leapt up into her throat at that voice, and then lodged itself there when the words hit. Baby girl, Lilith repeated in her head, mentally making a record of the name in triplicate to examine and cross-examine later.

As though she weren’t halfway to dying, Lilith cleared her throat very casually. Turned the page of her textbook like it was the most engrossing matter she had read. She didn’t look up from the page, not wanting to seem over-eager.

‘And you’ve been busy, apparently. I’m missing the second round, you know.’

‘Wouldn’t have if you’d been on time.’

That was a fair point.

Lilith ate fair points for breakfast and turned them into condemning statements for a midmorning snack. She was prepared to do exactly that, a retort hot on her lips, when she made the mistake of looking up from her text at the exact moment that Mary damn near swaggered into the room with all the supreme confidence of someone who knew they were god’s gift to the world. It wasn’t undeserved. She was dressed tonight as a cowboy: hat, coat, boots and—God help me, Lilith prayed, not sure if she was asking to keep her cool or burn away to nothing where she sat—a (probably fake) leather gunbelt slung indecently low around her hips.

‘Cat got your tongue?’

Lilith ripped her eyes up from the prominent belt buckle – a bulls head and horns – right up to Mary’s smirk.

‘Horse got your spurs?’ she retorted, and was relieved to hear that her voice was cool and even.

Mary’s smirk just grew. ‘Don’t need ‘em. Guys like to go fast – I like to ride nice and slow,’ she said, and the suggestion dripped from her voice like whiskey, spread hot in Lilith’s belly. She threw Lilith a wink and laughed when she stammered. Shrugging the coat off onto the back of one of the kitchen chairs, Mary added, ‘Besides, no spurs in the costume box. This was the best I could do on short notice – Shannon needed help with the attic hatch, keeps jarring at three-quarters for some reason, and I can’t exactly walk out there looking like a mark.’

Lilith muttered something that could have been agreement. At a strange look from Mary, she lifted her chin sharply, forced her head back on straight—metaphorically, that was—and threw the pastry bag down the table. It landed by Mary and Lilith nodded to it.

‘A peace offering.’

Mary looked surprised. Picking it up, paper rustling, she pulled out several treats, expression growing more amused with each new treat. Finally, she shook her head, grinned. ‘Uh huh. Peace offering.’

‘You don’t sound convinced.’

‘Because I’m not. That,’ Mary said, pointing to the bag, ‘is a bribe.’

‘I plead the fifth.’

‘Not sure this is that kinda place, baby girl.’ She shrugged. ‘It’s fine, I accept either way.’ She closed the bag. Sat herself half onto the table and smiled down at Lilith. ‘What do you need?’

It was a funny question, in a way, given that Mary’s main role in the Horror House was makeup, and given that Lilith had obviously been waiting for her so she could join the rest of the ghosts. It was open in a way that suggested she could answer with anything she wanted to and she wanted, well, a lot. Had since the year before, when she had first met Mary. Lilith’s mind tumbled with a variety of answers. Some of them were jokes, which she wasn’t good at, and could immediately discount. All of them required more courage than she had. Taking the cowards route, words bitter on her tongue, Lilith said,

‘Well, I’m not sure if you have any experience with this – ’

‘Plenty.’

‘ – but I need to be a ghost bride by seven-thirty.’

‘Huh.’ Mary began to move immediately to clear the side table, her designated make-up station. Sorting through her tools and palettes for the classic ghost bride, she said, ‘Marriage licenses take a while, you know, not to mention finding a venue, telling all our guests, buying a proper cake. And don’t even get me started on flowers. Earliest I can do is next week.’ She grinned over at Lilith, eyes bright and amused, and all the nervous energy—of being late, of seeing Mary in costume, of seeing Mary full stop, of being alone with her, of being who she is—seemed to burn away under the warmth of that look, that smile.

Lilith pressed down on her own smile that started to form, that Mary’s smile elicitied from her. Affecting a look of deep disapproval, she scoffed. ‘Next week? No, that’s not good enough. I know some people, I can get that fast-tracked.’

‘Sounds good. In the meantime, though,’ Mary brushed a brisk hand over the make-up chair, pulled it out for Lilith. ‘Your throne awaits, your majesty.’

‘Ghost bride not ghost queen.’

Mary shook her head. ‘Please, I have ears. I know what the ghosts call you.’

Lilith rolled her eyes. ‘Ears are hardly necessary. They talk loud enough for the dead to hear.’

‘About a lot of things.’ Mary hesitated, and Lilith stiffened. Mary didn’t hesitate. ‘Like you and Randall…’

Lilith shook her head, cutting her off before she could finish. ‘No, it’s not like that.’

‘No? I mean, I get it, handsome dude if you’re into that –‘

‘I’m not,’ Lilith said. Perhaps too quickly. She slid into the chair Mary was holding for her and let Mary slide her in, closer to the mirror and the lights. ‘It’s – complicated.’

‘I get that.’

Lilith rolled her eyes. ‘Or maybe not. He’s the person I bring with me when – ’ my parents want to pretend, she finished in her mind, but couldn’t make herself say aloud. ‘When my parents host their events,’ she said, unable to help the note of derision.

Behind her, Mary nodded, looking thoughtful. Her hands, still on the back of the chair, were hot against Lilith’s shoulder blades like branding marks. And when she slid them away, the sudden cold made her shiver.

‘Sorry, it’s a bit cold back here when everyone isn’t packed in like sardines.’ Mary stooped, picked up her own jacket from where it was folded on her bag, and she laid it over Lilith’s front not unlike a barber’s smock. Lilith froze. It was a comforting weight and warmth and… The second Mary turned her back, she lifted it to her nose quickly, just to confirm her suspicion. It smelled like Mary.

Sitting in her own chair, Mary rolled close. Scooted the last few centimetres as she adjusted the height of her chair.

‘Sorry, should I hunch? Can you reach?’ Lilith teased.

Mary’s eyes flicked to hers, surprised and then incredulous. ‘Oh really? Short jokes when I’m about to make you up? Not very smart.’

Lilith happened to agree with that, so she surrendered with a shrug. Mary pumped her chair a little higher, fixing Lilith with a look the whole time, just daring her to comment.

She held her tongue.

Mary moved closer still. ‘Right. Let’s get to this. Before you say something that makes me cancel the wedding.’

If Lilith had a retort for that, she forgot it with the way Mary looked at her then. It perhaps said something about Lilith she wasn’t interested in understanding just yet that she had in her life fallen deeply for three women—a  sculptor, a scientist, and now, though she barely dared to admit it to herself,  Mary. Painter, photographer, artist. There was a thrill, both exquisite and utterly nerve-wracking, in being seen by someone like that. Mary was looking at her like that now: a featherlight inspection, warm eyes trailing over high cheekbones, the slope of her jaw. And then a gentle finger on her chin tilted her head sideways, one way then the other, before positioning her just so.

Lilith caught a shaky exhale between her teeth, held her breath. Waited for the verdict.

Tonight, as with many night before, Mary shook her head with a rueful sigh. ‘Seems like a crime to cover up a face like this. Oh well. Stay like that for me, yeah?’

Lilith started to nod. Stopped herself. ‘Alright.’

‘So, what are you doing for Halloween this year?’ Mary asked, leaning over to her toolbox, the array of palettes and paints.

‘Working here, I suppose.’

‘Right, right. But this only runs ‘til ten. Got any plans for the rest of the night?’

Lilith shook her head. ‘Studying, most likely.’

‘On Halloween?’

‘I have a lot of work,’ Lilith said, a touch defensively.

Mary must have heard the tone because she glanced up from her selection, held a hand up in surrender.

‘I get it. All I’m saying is, it’s a Saturday. And more importantly, Halloween. When was the last time you took the night off to just…be wild. Have fun?’ Mary asked, turning back to her tools. She picked up a brush, twirled it between her fingers as she organised her set up. Blues and greens. A red Lilith knew would turn up almost black, except when the house lights flashed, giving her a sudden horrific visage. But more importantly, busy with her paints, Mary wasn’t look at Lilith as she asked her question, which was truly for the best because Lilith was having trouble.

Her brain, which she had trained so well to memorise, to retain, was doing its job very well. Be wild. Have fun. Be wild. Have fun, her brain repeated on a loop, and she was struggling to clear certain thoughts from her mind. All of them involving Mary. A truly surprising number involving the cowboy outfit.

Internally, Lilith wanted to scream. This wasn’t the first time Mary had made her over. It wasn’t even the tenth time she’d done it. So why was she making such a fool of herself tonight? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they were the only two in the room, where usually it bustled with actors trying to find that one last piece of their costume – which was never where they were sure it was – or shouting over each other, or distracted by half a dozen problems that had spontaneously erupted across the House. Now, it was just the two of them and Mary’s walkie talkie was oddly silent, only buzzing now and again with mild static. The room wasn’t large but it seemed much bigger than usual empty of people and there was so much space, all of a sudden, for this to go wrong. Lilith wasn’t sure if she wanted someone to break in through the door, or call Mary, or whether she wanted this to continue exactly as it was going. Perhaps, best case scenario, Mary painted her face and Lilith talked to her like she was an adult with a functioning brain and not a love – no – a crush-struck fool with a bit of candycorn where a brain should be. And then Lilith went about her work for the rest of the night and went home and didn’t think about Mary again until tomorrow night.

Clueless to Lilith’s dilemma, searching for the foundation paint in amongst the rest of her colours, Mary continued. ‘I mean, I get it, school work is important. And I’m sure law is intense,’

‘You know I study law?’ Lilith interrupted, surprise pulling her from her spiralling thoughts. She didn’t remember ever mentioning it.

Mary spun to face her, foundation paint in hand, held aloft like a trophy. ‘Got it! And yeah, I was pretty sure. First day we met, you had that law book. I called you Elle Woods and you said –‘

‘I’d never be caught dead in pink.’

‘Right! I’d pay good money to see you in a power suit though.’

‘In your dreams,’ Lilith laughed.

Mary winked. ‘Oh, baby girl, you have no idea.’

The first touch of the paint was cool against Lilith’s hot cheeks. She closed her eyes and let Mary work, which she did in silence for a short time before breaking it.

‘Now, hey listen, if I’m gonna be making you a ghost bride, I have just have to say it – the proposal? Could do with some work. Not exactly romantic.’ Mary slowed, seeing Lilith’s smile fall. ‘Did – that was a joke. Did I say something wrong?’

‘I’m not really the romantic type. Haven’t you heard that too?’ Lilith asked, couldn’t help the bitter note that crept into her tone. ‘I get ice queen more than I do ghost queen.’ She didn’t want to see Mary’s laugh at that, or worse, a look of pity but she couldn’t help but open her eyes.

Mary wasn’t laughing. Or looking at her with pity. Her typical good humour drained away until all that remained was intense inspection. ‘Nah.’ Her voice was low. Warm. Private. ‘I don’t buy that.’

Lilith’s eyes darted from Mary. Before she could close them again, they caught on herself, her reflection in the mirror. Cheeks flushed. Eyes dark. How obvious she was being. She stared at her reflection, which in a heartbeat shifted to their reflection, both of them held in that small, square mirror. Were her cheeks flushed too? That couldn’t be right, Lilith had to be imagining that. Were Mary’s eyes on her? Of course they would be, she was doing her make up. But the soft look in them, that was a trick of the lights. It had to have been because when Mary spoke again, she sounded the same as she ever did.

‘Well. Maybe I buy it a little,’ she joked, rather gently. Lilith scowled. ‘But if they don’t find it hot as hell, that’s on them for being idiots.’ Not giving Lilith any time to ponder that comment, she continued speaking and painting, carefully building Lilith’s face. ‘And you don’t always have to be the ice queen. It’s okay to thaw a little. Loosen up a bit. Have a little fun. You do like fun, don’t you?’ She artfully ignored Lilith’s scowl. ‘Sounds to me like what you need to do is get out into the world a little. And you know what I just thought – completely out of the blue, no ulterior motive at all – would be a great place for something like that?’

Lilith couldn’t help but smile. ‘No ulterior motive?’

‘Never said that. Maybe one or two.’

‘Hm. Tell me.’

‘A party.’

‘A party,’ Lilith repeated, and scoffed.

‘Don’t say it like that. I might start to think you’ve never been to one.’ After a moment of awkward silence, Mary said, ‘It’s always a great time, the Halloween party. People wear stupid costumes, they play party games, they drink, they hook up with someone dressed like a minion, they drink a little more.’

‘Sounds…tasteful.’

Mary laughed at that. Swivelled in her seat to pick up another colour. ‘It’s Halloween, Lilith. It’s not supposed to be tasteful. It’s supposed to be…’

‘Fun?’

Freeing.’

Lilith frowned. Said doubtfully, ‘Freeing.’

‘That’s why we’re at this stupid Horror House, isn’t it?’ Mary waved a hand to the room and, in the gesture, the House and the people beyond it. ‘To be silly and wear masks and forget about everything else for a night and just…scare and get scared.’

Lilith wanted to disagree. She had joined the Horror House because she needed money, but the argument didn’t hold all that much weight when she considered the pittance she was paid to be ghost bride for three hours a night. And Mary had a point. She had always enjoyed Halloween and all that went along with it – horror movies and haunted houses and costumes and masks. There was something good about those frights – a sizzle down the spine, a momentary bolt of adrenaline followed by equal relief as her body realised she wasn’t about to be attacked be a knife-wielding clown thing.

‘Perhaps,’ she said, not wanting to fully agree.

‘As good as a you’re completely right,’ Mary translated, not incorrectly. ‘So, and just think about it for a minute, Shannon and me, we’re hosting a party Halloween night.’

‘Because you don’t do enough here already.’

‘What can I say? Glutton for punishment.’

Lilith smiled even as her stomach twisted. Shannon and me. What did that mean? Did they live together? Did they – were they together? They were friendly, of course, and Lilith knew that they were close, that they had known each other for years. But she hadn’t heard any rumour of their being a couple and now that the thought was in her head she was sure that she had the shape of it. They fit together nicely. Both capable women. Similar passions and drive. Both very attractive, obviously.

Which meant…Lilith had been wrong. Very wrong, all night.

Or rather, she had been right and the hope that had persisted nonetheless was what was wrong.

Mary hadn’t been looking at her in any special manner. Mary hadn’t had flushed cheeks. Mary hadn’t lingered as she painted over her cheekbones. She hadn’t been flirting, and the party was nothing more than friendly. Worse, it was probably a pity invite.

‘I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ Lilith told her, very stiffly.

Mary met her eyes, confused. ‘Really? Are you sure?’

‘Quite sure.’

They sat in silence for a moment and then, carefully, like she was giving Lilith another chance to change her mind, she said, ‘I get it, you’re busy. Maybe another time. It’s not like there’s a shortage of parties in college.’

‘Maybe,’ Lilith said, and where Mary’s had some sound of hope to it, Lilith’s didn’t sound quite the same. Lilith’s maybe sounded an awful lot like no, in fact.

Soon, the conversation came to a grinding halt. It had always been easy to talk to Mary, despite the spiralling that her proximity and more suggestive comments sent Lilith on, and Lilith’s heart lurched painfully each time Mary broke the silence with a quiet ‘Turn please’ and ‘Lift your chin’ and finally, most painfully of all, ‘There you go. Ghost bride. Just in time for the third session.’

Lilith sat a moment longer in the seat, wishing she could say something to Mary to explain. Instead, she said a quiet ‘Thank you’ and tried to make it as much apology as she could; Lilith knew very well that this was her fault, that she had let her selfish stupid crush ruin this, that she had shut down the very second it hadn’t gone her way. But she couldn’t explain that to Mary without making a greater fool of herself. ‘I – sorry – have a good night,’ she said and, miserable insides matching her miserable face, she fled outside to join her ghosts.