The day after they find Lila's body, Rebecca walks into her apartment and finds Lila sitting on her table, legs crossed gracefully at the knee. Water drops in a steady stream from the point of her foot.
"You're dead," says Rebecca. "This isn't happening."
Lila smiles at her. "I've missed you."
Rebecca presses her hands over her eyes and sinks to the floor. This isn't happening, she tells herself again. She's still in shock from Lila's death, and sick with her own guilt and fear.
"Rebecca," says Lila, crouching down in front of her. She touches Rebecca's hand and Rebecca jerks away with a muffled scream. Lila's hand is slimy and cold, and the sensation that ripples through Rebecca is like standing in murky water and having something brush against your leg.
Lila draws away slightly, but she still crouches across from Rebecca, expression troubled.
She's not breathing, notices Rebecca with the kind of distant, observant calm that hysteria can sometimes tip over into.
"I've missed you," repeats Lila. When she talks, her jaw doesn't move quite right. Rebecca covers her eyes again.
"You're dead," she says, starting to shake. "You're dead. They found your body.” She laughs, ugly and tearing. “I found your body. I must've - whatever I took last night must have been laced. This is a bad trip. You're dead."
"Right," says Lila, sounding piqued. It's the same spoiled princess tone she uses – she'd use – when Rebecca wouldn't give her a deal on drinks or drugs. "I am dead. So I don't see why you get to be the one who's so fucking upset about it."
Rebecca can't help it. She starts to laugh again. Terrible, body-wracking laughs that make her feel lightheaded. She's still shaking and she covers her eyes again. She's never had a trip as bad as this.
“Well, if you’re going to be like this, I’ll talk to you later,” sniffs Lila, and there’s a sound like the wind banging the windows.
It takes Rebecca a long time to calm down. When she does, when she finally peeks through her hands, Lila is still gone. Of course she’s gone, Rebecca tells herself, she was never here to start with. She gets up slowly, holding onto the wall for support.
She starts across the room, towards the kitchen. She’ll make a pot of coffee, calm herself down that way. And then she sees it.
There’s a wet spot on her carpet, right below where Lila had been sitting.
The next time she sees Lila, she goes to her kitchen and grabs her carton of salt. She swings it at Lila in a wide arc. She’s seen enough reruns of Supernatural episodes to hope it might work.
The salt passes straight through her.
“What are you doing?”
“Get out of my house!” screams Rebecca. Lila tilts her head up, frowning, and she disappears.
That night, Rebecca can't sleep. She keeps hearing the steady drip of water outside her door.
The cops won’t believe her if she tells them about Mr. Darcy. She’s already too convenient a suspect – drug dealer, has a rap sheet, no money, no friends, no family who still cares. Griffin has no motive to protect her. Hell, he might even think she actually did it.
All she has is a fake name, and the guy’s dick on Lila’s phone. And having Lila’s phone is another mark against her anyway.
She always sort of figured she’d wind up in prison. She just didn’t think it would be for killing someone she didn’t.
“I’m sorry,” says Lila, flickering suddenly into the cell. She stays flickery, like a bad stream on a laptop. “But, honestly, there’s no way you could have murdered me. I’m offended people think that. I could definitely take you in a fight.”
“Who did it?” asks Rebecca, hysterical. Because that’ll help – ‘Lila’s ghost told me, officer! It was the butler!’
“Well, gee,” says Lila dryly. She leans over and examines some of the graffiti scrawled on the cell wall. “Who do you think did it, Scooby?”
“Mr. Darcy, huh?” said Rebecca, soon after Lila told her about the affair. “Why am I not surprised you read that romance crap? God, at least you’re not calling him Edward.”
“Jane Austen isn’t romance crap!” cried Lila, face blotching to match her hair. Rebecca hid her smile by taking another drink from the bottle of wine they were sharing.
“No, come on, of course she is. It’s fine if you like it, but it’s all, I say, will that fine gentleman bed me in a field of flowers?”
“Jane Austen,” splutters Lila, “ was an astute social critic and commentator! And she was one of the first people to really understand game theory! That’s what her novels are all about – if I reject Mr. Collins, am I going to find a better match or die penniless and alone?”
“I get it! I get it!” laughed Rebecca. She loved Lila when she got this way – a little drunk, a lot defensive, willing to let the dumb sorority demeanor drop. She took another sip of wine, and added with a sly smile, “I was always more of a Jane Eyre fan anyway.”
Lila snorted. “You would like a book about a man who locks his wife in an attic.”
Rebecca grinned savagely. “His wife who then gets revenge by burning his fucking house down and blinding him.” She gestured out over the city, feeling expansive. Lila wasn’t the only one a little drunk. “But that’s what love is actually like, you know? Love is burning a house down. It’s not love unless you go a little crazy. Austen’s too – it is game theory. Okay, you’re right. I admit it. It’s too clinical. Lizzie Bennet would never burn down Pemberly.”
Lila laughed loudly. “I’m arguing about literature with my drug dealer. College really is everything people said it would be.”
“Sorry,” said Rebecca icily. She sits up. “Your drug dealer?”
Lila widened her eyes. “Yes. That’s what you are.”
“Fuck you,” said Rebecca. She stood up, anger making her feel shaky. “Fuck you! Get off my fucking roof!”
Lila sat up slowly.
“What are you – ”
“I said get off my fucking roof!”
Rebecca never gave her time to respond. She left instead.
All their fights were ugly. All their fights made her feel dizzy for days.
"Either I'm crazy," says Rebecca. "Or you're a ghost."
"Have you considered the possibility that both things are true?"
“That’s comforting,” says Rebecca. She lolls her head back against the arm of the couch and takes another deep draw from her joint. It’s easier to talk to Lila like this, when she’s stoned. Stoned Rebecca thinks it’s kind of funny that her murdered friend is a bitchy ghost. And, given how weird the rest of her fucking life is right now, she can kind of roll with the ghost. At least it means she doesn’t miss Lila quite as much.
Lila hums and continues looking at herself in Rebecca’s bathroom mirror. Rebecca can just make her out from where she’s sitting on the couch.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“I used to be so pretty,” whines Lila. She prods at her cheeks.
“And now you’re dead,” says Rebecca. She laughs at Lila’s glare. “Hey, will you still visit me when I go to prison?”
“You’re not going to prison,” says Lila, hands on her hips. She tosses her dripping hair.
“Oh yeah? You gonna testify I didn’t kill you? Or, hell, maybe if I tell Annalise your fucking ghost has been paying me housecalls and she’ll be able to argue I’m fucking insane.”
“I don’t care about Annalise,” says Lila, very frostily. “But, if they want to send you to prison, just kill yourself.”
Rebecca stares at her uneasily. It didn’t feel like Lila was joking.
“You’re kidding,” she tries, anyway.
Lila sighs and crosses over to the couch. She leans over the back and wraps her hand around Rebecca’s wrist. Rebecca gags as a feeling revulsion sweeps through her, but Lila doesn’t let go. She’s smiling sweetly, down at Rebecca, and some water drips out of her hair and onto Rebecca’s face. Rebecca starts to shiver, suddenly cold, whole body cold, like the one time her dad took her to the Pacific and she walked into the ocean and the cold had rung her body like a bell and made her bones ache.
“Being dead isn’t so bad,” says Lila soothingly, still holding her wrist. “And we would be together.”
Rebecca starts to cry.
“What happened to your hand?” asks Wes, later, frowning.
“Nothing,” snaps Rebecca. She pulls the sleeves of her hoodie down, trying to hide her fingers. She’s been icing them since Lila left. Rebecca’s joint had burnt down, burning her fingers, and she hadn’t noticed while Lila had been touching her.
“It’s none of your business,” she adds for good measure.
“Sorry for being concerned,” says Wes dryly.
Rebecca glares at him.
“I don’t owe you anything just because you fucking pity me.”
“I don’t pity you,” says Wes, earnestly enough that she actually believes him.
He and Lila would have liked each other, she thinks. They had the same way of looking straight through someone and seeing the person they could be.
They were both idiots, in other words.
She closes the door in Wes’s face. She doesn’t need another idiot in her life.
“I’m sorry,” said Lila. “I was a bitch. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“Yeah,” snapped Rebecca. “You were a bitch. You shouldn’t have said it. And you’re only sorry because you think I’m going to stop selling to you. Which I am. Now fuck off.”
She tried to slam the door, but Lila shoved her body through, wincing as she ended up jammed between the door and the door jamb.
“What is wrong with you?” hissed Rebecca.
“You’re my friend!” said Lila angrily, managing to struggle through the door and shove into Rebecca. “Just accept my fucking apology! Jesus Christ!”
Rebecca started to laugh.
“You’re such – you’re so fucking entitled! You’re such a fucking brat!”
“And you’re being deliberately obstinate! It’s like you look for excuses to not get close to people!”
Rebecca glared at her.
“You’re still a bitch. And it’s not really an apology if you say you shouldn’t have said it. You shouldn’t have fucking thought it.”
Lila pursed her mouth.
“You’re not my drug dealer. You’re my friend.”
Rebecca stared at her and then she laughed because, fuck, she was going to forgive Lila.
“Have you ever once not gotten what you wanted?”
“Nope,” said Lila sweetly. She tossed her hair, smiling proudly, as if Rebecca had complimented her instead of pointing out a crippling character flaw. “And I intend to keep it that way.”
Rebecca sighed. She knew she’d lost this battle. Lila wanted to be liked. For all her posturing and her little girl tantrums, she wanted, most of all, for people to like her. It was why she went along with Griffin’s stupid virginity pact, why she stressed out so much about her parents, why she put so much stock in her appearance, why she went to professor’s office hours. Rebecca had that much figured out. She just never understood why Lila wanted Rebecca specifically to like her.
“So what?” Rebecca asked later, with Lila cuddled up against her as they laid on the roof. “Is Griffin Mr. Collins then? Pompous, religious, dull as fuck?”
Lila laughed, a whole body laugh, and Rebecca felt her shake against her.
Secretly, she’d always thought Mr. Darcy was kind of a dick. Lizzie never should have married him. She and Charlotte Lucas should have become old spinsters together, writing books and scandalizing the neighbors.
Lila never shows when Rebecca is at the Keatings’, even when Rebecca is alone. At first, she figures it’s because there’s too many other people around.
Later, she understands. But she only understands half of it.
There’s no rhyme or reason to when Lila shows up or how long she stays. It’s just never around other people. Rebecca wishes she would show up when Wes around. Wes seems more or less sane. But Lila doesn’t and Rebecca’s left to deal with a ghost in her bathroom at two in the morning, sitting on the sink while Rebecca does lines off the rim of the tub.
It’s gotta be the drugs. The drugs and the guilt and the shock, she tells herself. That would be enough to fracture even a total stable person. And Rebecca’s never exactly had solid mental footing.
“Why me? Why are you – ” She can’t bring herself to say haunting. It’s too Nightmare on Elm Street, too cheesy love ballad. She swallows hard. “Do you ever visit anyone else? Or is it just me?”
Lila seems to think about this. When she shifts, Rebecca thinks she can see the autopsy scars on her body.
“What did you want from me?” asks Lila.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean – what did you get out of hanging out with me? Sam only wanted me for sex. Griffin wanted me for status. My friends, too, for that matter. Being Lila Stangard’s friend meant being someone. So what did you get out of the exchange? Not just my money, I know that.”
Rebecca’s throat is dry. “You. I just wanted to be around you. It wasn’t, Jesus, it wasn’t just some fucking clinical exchange.” Her voice cracks. “You were my friend.”
Lila nods, expression calm.
“So that’s why you.” She smiles, crooked and obscene. “Lucky you.”
“Now everyone knows,” says Lila gloomily, after the autopsy.
“They know what a slut I was.”
“I don’t know,” says Rebecca bracingly. “Maybe it makes some people feel better. They know you didn’t die a virgin; you had some fun before you kicked it.”
Lila doesn’t smile. She plays with her hair like a little girl, braiding it and unbraiding it, tip of her tongue stuck out in concentration.
“If I were still a virgin, I wouldn’t be dead.”
“You didn’t deserve to die because you had sex,” says Rebecca warily.
Lila’s head snaps up. Her eyes gleam – actually blaze, swamp fire in the night – with fury.
“You don’t think I know that?” she hisses, lips drawing back gruesomely. She gets bigger, somehow, lights flickering inside her like a faraway storm. She’s looking less and less like a person lately.
Rebecca shrinks away and turns her head. It’s hard to look at Lila.
“Sorry. Jesus. I was only trying to help. Don’t get so fucking pissy.”
Lila sighs, and the noise rattles Rebecca’s windows.
“It’s fine,” she says curtly. She sighs, then adds sulkily, “I was just, I was going to name the baby Charlotte if it was a girl. Or Edward if it was a boy.”
“Very WASP-y,” says Rebecca. She swallows hard, chancing a look at Lila. She looks mostly normal now. “You were going to keep it?”
“No,” Lila smiles dreamily. “I was going to abort the little fucker.”
“Have you ever done this before?” asked Rebecca, her arms braced on either side of Lila’s head. Lila had initiated, and Rebecca couldn’t tell if it were an apology for the fight or if it were just because she wanted to.
“With a girl, I mean.” Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Not Mr. Darcy.”
“No,” said Lila. “But I know what I like.”
And she pulled Rebecca down and kissed her again.
“So you and Wes,” says Lila, suddenly appearing on the couch arm above Rebecca’s head. Her weight leaves no indent. “He’s cute. Do you think he’s serious about you? He must be, to have done so much for you. Do you think he’d still like you if he knew you were crazy?”
Rebecca closes her eyes.
“I thought we’d decided I wasn’t crazy but that you’re really a ghost,” she says, monotone.
“Does it matter? He’ll think you’re crazy either way.”
“Why do you care?” asks Rebecca. “How the fuck does it even matter to you?”
There’s a distinct pause. The temperature in Rebecca’s apartment goes down by a few degrees. Her arms break out in goose bumps.
“Maybe I’m jealous,” says Lila.
Rebecca opens her eyes.
“Did it ever count?” she asks, looking up at Lila. She feels raw, split open, peeled. “Did it ever count when it was with me?”
Lila’s eyes are milky and glazed. She smiles and her teeth look loose. Her skin is gray. She bends over, smiling beatifically, a hideous saint.
“Rebecca,” she coos. She touches Rebecca’s face, palming her cheek. Rebecca shudders uncontrollably.
“That was the only thing that counted.” Lila drags her fingers across Rebecca’s face and rests them on her lips. Rebecca’s whole mouth flares with icy pain and then goes numb.
“You were the only thing that mattered at all.”
“So who am I going to be?” Rebecca asked once. Maybe after the third time they’d done it. They didn’t do it that many times. Lila said she was in love with Mr. Darcy.
Lila scrunched her nose in confusion. She looked bleary but radiant. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you’ve got Mr. Darcy,” said Rebecca, agitated. “So who the hell am I going to be? When you tell one of your little sorority friends about this. This is what college is for too, right? Experimenting with your sexuality or whatever?”
Lila touched Rebecca’s forehead, fingers swiping delicately just above the brow.
“I don’t think I’d feel comfortable calling you Mr. Rochester,” she said dryly, every inch of her poised and calm. She touched the corner of Rebecca’s eye and smiled. “It would be bad luck.”
The last time she saw Lila alive was hours before she the first time she saw Lila dead.
The second to last time she sees Lila at all is after they kill Sam, when Wes leaves Rebecca in the hotel room alone.
She’s shaking, her mind white with terror, and she keeps waiting for Lila to show up, and, finally, Lila does.
“What did you do!?” shrieks Lila, howling through the door like a sheet of pure wind. Her face is twisted, demented, and her legs end in a tangle of dragging limbs. Her hair is longer, flickering and waving around her head like Medusa’s snakes. “What did you do?
“It’s okay,” gasps Rebecca, scrambling backwards on the hotel bed. Her head and throat hurt from crying. “It’s okay. We got rid of him. We killed him. You don’t have to stick around anymore.”
Lila stares at her, horror-stricken. She grabs Rebecca by the shoulders and shakes her and Rebecca would throw up if she hadn’t already, doubled over heaving in the bathroom almost as soon as Wes had left her.
“You don’t understand,” screams Lila right in Rebecca’s face. Her breath smells like death, thick sweet-sickly corpse smell and damp dirt and worms. “You don’t understand!”
“Let go of me!” cries Rebecca. “Let go of me! Let me go!”
Lila reels back from Rebecca, eyes terror-stricken and unseeing.
“Rebecca,” she says, her voice a creak. She's already disappearing, dissolving into water. “Rebecca. You only got it half-right. And now he's here with me.”
The very last time she sees Lila, she’s dying on the Keatings’ floor and her vision is blinking in and out.
Light, darkness, light, darkness. Light. Darkness. Lila.
Lila bending over her, her hands on Rebecca’s face, her hands at her temple, her hands coming away covered with blood.
“Oh, Rebecca,” she says. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
She takes Rebecca’s hand and Rebecca feels Lila's slick skin and her own tacky blood.
“But it’s going to be okay now. You just have to come with me.”