Chow mein falls from Rebecca’s mouth. “Wha?”
Lila drops the bag on the floor unceremoniously. “Run away with me.”
“Jesus.” Rebecca knocks over take-out cartons and fortune cookie crumbs scatter across her bed as she jumps up. “Fuck, what happened to you?”
“Sam--Mr. Darcy tried to kill me.”
“What.” Rebecca sees black. She grabs Lila too rough by the wrists, crowding her, checking her all over. “What the fuck--Lila, Christ. Are you okay? I’m gonna fucking kill him, fuck.”
Lila shakes her head. “No, no he--I think he hired someone, or something. But he--this guy--he said he chose me.” Her face crumples. “I thought--It doesn’t matter. I kicked him in the nuts and bashed him in the head with a rock but I need to get out of town. Come with me?”
“Yeah.” Lila sighs and slumps back on the bed. “I got all the cash I could in my bag. I guess credit cards are out. What about you?”
Rebecca darts a glance at Lila’s pink yoga bag. All the cash she could get on short notice is... it’s going to be a lot, though Lila probably doesn’t think so. And maybe she fought off her would-be murderer but Rebecca could just wait until she fell asleep and-- “I can sell some shit.” Damn, and it’s good shit, too. But with the whole baby situation it’s not like Lila will enjoy it and it’d just feel depressing to get high without her, in front of her. “I’ll pick up a bar tending gig when we hit West Virginia.”
Lila’s mouth pulls down, brows pinching together. “Doesn’t seem far enough.”
Rebecca says, “Hey you awake?” into the black night, headlights sliding over the ceiling.
The bed squeaks and shifts, Lila flipping over to squint at her. “What is it?”
“Sorry I tried to fuck your boyfriend. Just. Figured I should clear the air, before we go on the run together.”
Lila’s hand finds Rebecca’s under the sheets. “Sorry I was a bitch.”
“You totally were, weren’t you?”
“Oh my God,” Lila laughs, hiding her face against Rebecca’s shoulder. “You’re awful at this apology thing. Shut up. Go to sleep.” Rebecca grins, leaning her cheek against the top of Lila’s head, and does.
“I’m not playing One Direction.”
Lila bats her eyelashes. Rebecca tightens her grip on the steering wheel. “I fucking hate you,” she says, and Lila squeals and plugs her iPod into the adaptor.
They make it to West Virginia and chop off their hair in a Starbucks bathroom. Lila goes brown with soft red highlights, Rebecca bleaches. They laugh at each other and Lila wakes up screaming, clutching at her throat, accidentally knocking the car horn until Rebecca rubs her back, shushing her. It’s not far enough, so they push their shitsmobile into Kentucky--fucking Kentucky. Some shitty shitsvile in Kentucky, and fuck Rebecca’s entire life, honestly. (“It’s called Lexington, Bec, jeez!”)
But they make it.
They rent the cheapest (read: crappiest) apartment they can find and Lila drags her to a bluegrass club their first night. They have a nest of blankets instead of a mattress and Lila’s baby bump is poking out of her shirt but Rebecca wants, maybe even more desperately than Lila, a night of pretense and booze and smoke, so she only drags her heels a little.
Lila dances. It sends sharp aches down Rebecca’s spine. She glides to the middle of the floor like she owns it, like the band isn’t off key, like those filthy men at the filthy bar aren’t watching. She pulls Rebecca in with talented fingers, pushing up on her toes to breathe, “Just relax, for tonight,” into her ear. Her palms are hot, her breasts press against Rebecca’s, and she moves them, slow, slow, setting her own rhythm that Rebecca would swear the song slows to follow.
“He kissed me,” she says. “He swore he was going to leave her. He looked me right in the fucking eye and then--”
Rebecca blinks at her. It’s too late for told you so’s and she’s not exactly world class at comfort but she doesn’t want to fuck this up. She settles a hand at the nape of Lila’s neck, fingertips sweeping her hair back. Lila’d look good with a tattoo there. “Sorry, kid,” she says, meaning it. Life is shit but Lila’s--Lila’s--
She turns over, chewing on her bottom lip. Her eyes are so big, dark in the shadows. Rebecca feels devoured. “You’re my best friend,” says Lila, every word jeweled with something precious.
“Yeah, you’re--you’re my--” She licks her lips and then Lila kisses her, just like that, like they’ve done it a thousand times, like Rebecca’s mouth is the sweetest thing she’s ever tasted. Rebecca feels like some sorority girl playing spin the bottle--frozen and unsure and breathing fast through her nose.
Lila pulls back, smile hooking her lips. She kisses Rebecca again, a small peck, and nuzzles close, foreheads together. “Night,” she mumbles, breath warm and tickling Rebecca’s cheek.
Lila sits in the shopping cart and Rebecca pushes because, once again, fuck her entire fucking life, right in the ass.
“You are, I mean this sincerely, the biggest baby I’ve ever met,” says Lila, popping an entire Oreo into her mouth.
Rebecca shoves her down the CVS’s candy aisle and tosses a few jumbo bags of M&M’s at her, which she dutifully crams into her purse. She twists an Oreo open and hands Rebecca the creme half. “Says the girl who insists on being pushed around like a toddler.” She tries not to notice the way Lila’s eyes track her tongue as she works the filling off the cookie. She definitely doesn’t unnecessarily lick the Oreo after the creme is gone, just to see chocolate crumbs fall from Lila’s parted mouth as she sucks in sharp breath.
Lila snaps her gaze back to Rebecca’s eyes. “My feet hurt. One of the many joys of impending motherhood.”
Rebecca snorts. “Uh huh.”
“Oh, God,” says Lila, biting her wobbling lip, tears spilling over her cheeks.
Rebecca’s hands shake, rattling the paper bag of pills the doctor gave them. The thing is so small, on the screen and she can see its tiny little nose outlined in white.
The ultrasound technician smiles, asks, “Would you like me to print out some pictures?”
They need to supplement their income, because bar tips only go so far. But Rebecca doesn’t know anyone in this town and it’s not as if she can send some random fucking dealer her resume.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lila says, petting her hair. Rebecca’s fitted comfortably against Lila, back to chest, and she turns, pressing her face into Lila’s warm neck.
Lila spends her days as a cashier at the corner-store, little red apron tied around her swelling stomach, sneaking off to the break room to make toaster waffles slathered in strawberry jelly when her boss isn’t looking. Rebecca likes to kiss her against the battery display during dead hours. Lila’s soft, strawberry mouth panting, overhead fluorescent lights buzzing. Lila pulls her hair and whisper sweetly about the terrible things she’s going to do to her later. She always palms a treat into Rebecca’s hand before she leaves; a candy bar, a pack of gum, a soda (once, very memorably, her panties).
So it’s not that Rebecca thinks she isn’t smart. Naive as hell, though that side to her has roughened. It’s just: that’s what she thinks of, when her mind wanders while she’s wiping down the bar or prepping limes. Lila, smiling at customers and letting her boss look down her shirt while she stuffs two-dollar sunglasses in her purse.
Which is why when she throws a backpack spilling over with cash down on floor at Rebecca’s feet, she’s a little lost for words.
“Rico skims,” she explains, as Rebecca gapes. “It’s from his personal safe--don’t give me that look, I faked a baby emergency to make him let me in his office.”
“You’re a safe cracker now?” Rebecca asks, picking up a bundle of cash and trying not to hyperventilate.
“Not exactly,” is all she says, before she cups her hands around Rebecca’s face and kisses her soundly. “Don’t worry, okay? It’s not like he’s going to report money that he stole, and he’s gonna think Bobby did it, anyway.”
Rebecca kisses back. Holy fuck. Holy fuck. “You’re a fucking genius, baby. Look at this! Look at you!”
Lila laughs, a delightful, bright noise. “I just,” she giggles as Rebecca kisses down her neck, “I don’t want you to have to go back to that life, okay? I don’t want... the baby changes stuff, you know? I want it to be okay. And I want--I need you around, for that.”
Rebecca freezes, pulls back. She tips Lila’s chin up and meets her in a firm kiss. “You got me,” she says, hoarse and low and too honest.
“Are you sure it’s not too... weird?” Lila gestures to her belly. The size of it is obvious now that’s she’s naked, laid out on the dark sheets, and it’s impossible not to notice the stretch marks, her popped bellybutton.
“Of course not,” lies Rebecca, because yeah, it’s kinda fucking weird--there’s a whole tiny person growing in there. But also--
But also, it’s Lila. Her cheeks flushing, her rounded hips beneath Rebecca’s hands as she licks the salted skin of her neck. Lila’s soft, breathless gasp, her pouty pink mouth. There’s nothing more natural than that, than them.
Lila’s hunched over a newspaper when Rebecca kicks the door shut, smelling like beer and sweat, bone-deep exhausted from back-to-back shifts. “Whatcha doing?” she asks, passing her to crouch in front of their mini fridge and hunt for a bottle of water amidst prenatal vitamins and three different jars of pickles (speared, sliced, and whole).
“Looking at apartments.”
Rebecca straightens, turning to look at her. “What? Why?”
“Um,” she glances up. Her hair is tied back in a sloppy bun and she’s chewing on the end of her pen. “Because we actually have money? We can afford a way better place now.”
“Yeah, but...” Rebecca makes an artless gesture at the walls. “We still need to save. That’s the point. Suffer this hellhole now so the kid doesn’t have to.”
“Save? For what? You know I’ve already been making returns on my investments, we’ve got plenty of money to at least--”
Rebecca explodes, “Jesus, Lila, what do you think for? We don’t exactly have health insurance and having a baby is really fucking expensive. After that we need diapers and formula and a crib. A stroller, fucking clothes. Then we need to find a place to settle that doesn’t have cockroaches crawling on the ceiling and we need enough cash to keep on hand so we can run again if your baby daddy ever comes knocking.” She tries to control her temper and misses by a mile. “You don’t want me to be the dirty dealer you saved from the streets, fine, fucking whatever. I get it, with the kid. But I’ll do whatever I need to before I let it go hungry.”
Lila stares at her. The silence grates on Rebecca’s skin like she’s made of fucking cheese and she wants to shake her, this girl who wants bigger apartments and parties and babies and to hold Rebecca’s hand when they’re buying frozen waffles at three in the morning because a craving hit. A laugh breaks from Lila’s mouth.
“What,” snaps Rebecca.
Lila beams. “Nothing,” she says, sing-song. She smacks a glossy pink kiss to Rebecca’s temple and flounces off, humming--actually humming to herself like a fucking Disney princess. Rebecca wouldn’t be surprised if she came home to rats and birds folding their laundry, cleaning the bathroom mirror.
She looks around their shitty apartment. The better left unthought about stains and creaky faucets and musty carpet. Home. What a dumb thought.
The blush creeps from her neck to cheeks and she ducks her head, hair falling into her face.
Lila nearly breaks Rebecca’s hand in labor. The nurse passes the baby to her, first, and the moment Rebecca cradles her in her arms--it’s a horrible, metal wreck of emotion, slamming up against her ribcage.
Lila’s crying and smiling and she smells disgusting and she kisses the baby’s forehead, again and again, feather-light and loving.
“Do you have a name in mind?” a nurse asks.
“Not yet,” they both answer, and break their stare from the little girl to glance at each other and grin.
“Annalise.” Lila throws her empty water cup at Rebecca’s head and Rebecca dances away from the attack, laughing. “It’d be hilarious, though, right?”
Lila flips her off one handed and rearranges the bundle of blankets the baby’s wrapped in for a third time. “Anna’s not bad, though,” she says, thoughtfully, “I did love my grandma.”
“Oh, fuck, no. We’re not naming her Prudence.”
“Prune? Priscilla? Ugh, why didn’t we figure this out before hand.”
“Don’t look at me, I bought you that baby name book.”
“That you could have read!”
Rebecca puts her palms up. “Your vagina, your choice.”
Lila looks down at the baby. “Your Mommy Bec’s in the dog house. Can you say dog house?” She gurgles. “That’s right, sweetie, good job.”
“You saved me.” Lila says.
“God! What? Fuck, don’t stop.”
Lila smiles against Rebecca’s inner thigh, placing a kiss there. “I’m not saying I love being constantly afraid for all our lives, or that I can’t call home, or that we’re criminals--or that we’re ‘roommates’ who happen to be raising a kid together--or that all my clothes are K-Mart and I haven’t eaten out somewhere without a drive through in like, a year--”
“I’ll take you out,” says Rebecca, clenching her eyes shut, fisting her hand in Lila’s hair. “I’ll bring you to the fanciest place in town. I’ll buy you fucking escargot--oh--oh--oh--”
Lila pulls away, sliding up Rebecca’s body to catch her eye. “Hey, I’m serious.” Rebecca glares, but screws her jaw shut against the flood of curses. “Our life is pretty shitty but, I mean, compared to nearly being murdered by someone I thought loved me--it’s really great. And,” she says, the soft look in her eye making Rebecca squirm. “You make me happy. Rebecca, you do. Okay?”
“Jesus.” Rebecca huffs. “You couldn’t say all this after I came?”
“No, I needed you to know it. And you’re cute when you’re pissy.” She nips at Rebecca’s lips and kisses her way back down Rebecca’s body.
“You are the fucking worst,” she says, adamantly. But she only means it a little and Lila knows that and, well, what else matters?