THE ANONYMOUS WOMAN

She is swirling. It is what she feels; the world bends and twists around her, distorting into something unrecognizable. She must sit, now. The crowds stare at her with laughing, jeering eyes; the leader of the jackal pack wishes to stand tall and proud, but their chuckles and the whirlpool landscape are too much. In exhaustion, she collapses onto a deckchair.

The crowd inches closer now; she has no energy to move away. They tower above her, and the helpless victim in her whimpers. Is this what Lilly felt? Was she surrounded, intimidated, did she have time to whimper? More importantly, would the fabulous Lilly Kane bring herself to whimpering?

There is salt on her neck and lime in her mouth; she must taste sharp and strong and real. The crowd is laughing laughing laughing, and Logan is cheering on faceless boy after faceless boy, not at all the overprotective friend she once knew. He personally keeps away from her; the Logan she thought she knew chose to be his own instrument, so Veronica does not understand – then again, she thought. In her mind, they're playing Truth or Dare again, and Logan would always pick the latter. Go ahead, take me, she teases. Do it, hurt me, hurt me like you can't hurt her. Hurt me, take me, form me into her; she left you, I dare you – turn me into her.

There is a warm form pulling her upwards; lime juice drips down her chin and onto her chest. Duncan's arm is jittery around her shoulders, but she doesn't mind too strongly – it feels warm and comfortable; the fairy tale romance she had before she was forsaken. The test audience hates this resolution; should we send it back to the studio? She is walking slowly, ever so itchingly slowly, and she does not delude herself into thinking Duncan will follow.

Hip-hop music bounces in her head and strobe lighting hurts her barely-open eyes; the colorful prisms gloss over her. She shakes and there are hands on her wrists, bringing her to touch an unknown chest. Lyrics eat at her, and she parts her mouth to sing along. The boy smells like beer, vodka, assorted alcohol – he smells like the Logan who never truly existed; the one she had seen Lilly dump a thousand times, who had shattered in every instance. They sink to the couch; she is falling, falling, falling.

Her fingers reach into his hair; she needs up and looks for leverage, she wants to be steady. She understands there is something wrong when booze-flavored lips find hers; the boy is playing with her, mocking her, and she lets him; she twists her mouth into the right shapes. Should it not be easier to drown?

Then she is on another lap; lap of a man who stands her, who plays the brave knight again. She tries to look closer at him, so she can see who one day she will be indebted to thank – yet she refused anything but a fuzzy outline. The Good Man is gone, as they always are, and the crowd is close again. Tequila burns her esophagus; and they wear wide, harsh grins; they trigger her panic and the victim in her raises her head.

Then their are more lips on hers; cherry-tinged oblivion. Her eyelids are too heavy to keep open, so they flutter shut. Boys squawk around her; needy gulls looking for the spare chip of her. The lips leave, like they often do, and their is more fire in her throat. She licks her lips, tasting the inebriation. She can't stay awake, and the boys are waiting for her open form. She slides easily into the shadows, as if she belongs there. Maybe she does.

A figure picks her up and is moving her; she is laid down at the sacrificial altar for some unknown god. She is bound and gagged and the boys rely on that; they leave her still and the last one eager. His weight is shaking the bed slightly; even if he is small, he is there and he makes the surface ripple. She passes straight through; a ghost in a white dress. Metal clinks and the last bit of her aware shivers.

He is barely larger than her but somehow, his weight is suffocating. Her body is spread as easily as butter; he jerks mechanically against her, a deranged parody of what this should be. There is no face to the slender fingers running through her hair; she's boiling hot, made of the tequila from before, and he is freezing against her, shooting ice deep inside.

Then he's gone and the mosquitoes in her mind swarm again; they surface her and the small man drifts further and further away. Duncan is there again, running his hand over her arm, and she wishes to compose herself for him. She smiles the smile of before; before Lilly and before his abandonment. "You're here," she informs him obviously, and all is safe and good in the December evening.

"Hey baby," he tells her with a sway; Earth is still dented, yet they maintain contact over the hills and valleys. His tender voice lulls her into trust; into the old, pre-Lilly Veronica.

"I miss you," she says, and they fall to the bed. She feels strong and open; she is a rich ripe summer plum for him; there is love and forgiveness and normal in this moment. They lend each other what little steadiness they have, and the incident could be called beautiful.

She curls into his side after, sleeping slow and deep and even. She is warm again; wrapped in the comfort of the past. She cannot see when the warmth flees, when is alone and in the present again. The hyenas from the night are gone now, and she is fading into a wide, rapidly cooling bedspread.

Lilly flickers behind her eyelids, the giggle ringing in Veronica's ears. She opens her eyes. Christ she hurts.