That Last Thread
Samantha stood outside the restaurant door for longer than was strictly necessary.
It was ridiculous that she was nervous. This was just dinner and just Lily. She'd had dinner with Lily a thousand times.
But, she had to admit, this was different.
Lily had gone missing two months ago. Samantha had just happened to run into her outside of a restaurant more than a month ago but the whole ordeal had been…strange. Lily had seemed not to recognize her and had offered no explanation for her being gone. She had even tried, half-heartedly, to convince her that she wasn't Lily at all but Samantha would know her friend anywhere.
She had promised to call everyone and let them know that Lily was alive and she had but then she had been faced with the realization that she had no idea how to find Lily again. Her old cell phone number hadn't been working since the night she had gone home with that stranger and vanished and Lily hadn't left an address. It was like she had fallen off the face of the Earth.
Samantha had been the only one to have any sort of luck finding her and it gave her the shivers to think how easily she might have missed Lily at all. She hadn't even intended to go to that restaurant but she had been on her feet all day and her heel had broken so she just wanted someplace to sit down for a minute. She almost ordered dessert but thought better of it when she thought about what else she'd eaten that day. If she had stayed a little later, if she had left a little earlier, if she hadn't even gone into that restaurant at all then she might never have encountered Lily at all. And with Lily's apparent memory issues she might have been lost to them for good.
So while Samantha had been worried about Lily, as the weeks passed life had gone on until the night before when she'd gotten a tentative call (as if Lily had ever been tentative with her!) asking her to meet her for dinner at that same restaurant they had encountered each other before. That restaurant was in the process of being sold or something after that terrible food review but Samantha had liked the food well enough so who cared what some snobby critic thought? And like she would have turned down the opportunity to see Lily again and hopefully get some answers or at least a way to contact her even if she had wanted to meet in the sewers!
But what should she say? Samantha was the only one that Lily had reached out to because chances are she was the only one Lily even knew about and that meant that it all fell on her shoulders. If she somehow screwed this up and chased Lily away then she might never come back.
This was too much pressure.
It was just dinner and it was just Lily.
Samantha knew she might have come on a bit too strong at their last meeting but she had just been so worried and so relieved that she couldn't help it. But clearly she hadn't screwed up too bad or Lily wouldn't be here now.
If she was even here now. What if she had changed her mind or never intended to come at all?
Passerbyers were beginning to give her odd looks for standing right outside the door for so long and so Samantha took a deep breath and went inside.
The hostess smiled reflexively at her. "How many?"
"I'm supposed to meet a friend here, actually," Samantha said. "But I don't know if she's here yet?"
The hostess consulted the papers in front of her. "We do have a Samantha and a Maureen here alone waiting for someone."
Neither of those was 'Lily' but Samantha took a chance and asked to be shown to Samantha.
Following the hostess back, Samantha saw that she had been right and it really was Lily sitting tensely in a corner booth.
"Lily!" Samantha cried out, smiling.
Lily looked up at her. "Hello, Samantha."
Samantha took a seat. "Why did you tell them your name was Samantha?"
Lily shrugged. "I didn't, exactly. There was just a wait when I got here and they asked for a name so I gave them yours."
The waiter showed up then and Samantha ordered some lemonade.
"Just water, thanks," Lily said. When the waiter had gone, she peered uncertainly at Samantha. "Lily, you said. Is that my name?"
Samantha's eyes widened in horror that she would even need to ask that. "Yes, of course! Do you really not know? Was I right? Did you hit your head or something and get amnesia?"
"Or something," Lily agreed vaguely.
"Well you must be calling yourself something," Samantha said reasonably. "What is it? Would you rather I call you that, too? I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
"You're not," Lily insisted. "Lily's fine, really. I woke up and I was so confused and I needed to go by something, you're quite right, so I just sort of decided on 'Satine.'"
Samantha groaned. Of course she did.
"What?" Lily asked, looking almost affronted. "I think Satine is perfectly lovely."
"I know. You always did. And I always told you that Satine means satin which is a type of fabric and not a real name. And it was the name that that prostitute was going under in Moulin Rouge so it was still probably not a real name. You might as well just call yourself Chastity and get it over with," Samantha said, rolling her eyes.
Lily smiled a little at that but Samantha couldn't see why. She was kind of telling her that her chosen name was stupid and had always been stupid. But maybe it was that it was a connection to the past.
"Well I'm not French so it doesn't matter and I actually don't get mistaken for a stripper all that often," Lily defended.
Samantha raised an eyebrow at her. "All that often?"
Lily coughed. "Well, it's kind of a long story. And it just…yeah. Besides, I actually told one of them that I was so he'd…never mind."
"What exactly have you been getting up to since you went missing?"
The drinks came then and since Samantha hadn't bothered looking at the menu she just ordered what she had last time. Lily said she wasn't hungry.
"What do you mean you're not hungry?" Samantha demanded. "You've lost weight and you're so pale! Well, you were always pretty much that pale but you still need to eat!"
"I ate before I came here, I assure you," Lily said tolerantly.
"Why would you ask me out to dinner and then eat beforehand?" Samantha asked. Did she not have the money to pay? They could have gone somewhere cheaper.
Lily just looked uncomfortable.
Samantha sighed. "Fine, whatever, but you're eating some of my food."
The waiter took their menus and left.
"I wouldn't be able to keep it down," Lily replied. "Surely you wouldn't want to see that?"
"Oh, are you not feeling well?" Samantha asked, concerned. "It's hard to tell when you're sick because you're always so pale. It would explain the weight loss, maybe."
"I'm fine," Lily said emphatically. "So don't worry about that."
Samantha nodded. "I'll try not to. But seriously, feel free to eat whatever you want off my plate. It'll make me feel less guilty about the fact I'm totally ordering dessert."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Lily, what happened to you? Why did you just disappear? Do you even know?" Samantha asked seriously. "The last any of us heard of you you went home with that guy you'd been dancing with all night. I don't even remember his name."
"I don't either," Lily replied. "I must have hit my head or something. I remember some things and others I feel like I should know. But I don't know if he drugged me or I just hit my head or what. From the state of my room we either had quite the fight or it was some pretty rough sex."
Neither of those things were things that Samantha really wanted to be thinking about.
She swallowed. "Wha-what happened to him? Did he just abandon you? Did he hurt you?"
A bitter look crossed Lily's face. "He died. He left me with all these questions but it was probably for the best so I don't have to feel like I'm indebted to him or anything. He deserved it."
As shocking as it was for Samantha to think about anyone deserving to die, he had clearly done something to her friend and she knew Lily too well to think she would just casually be making pronouncements like that.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Lily looked tempted for a moment before shaking her head. "No, there's no point and I know it wouldn't be a good idea. It wouldn't even make me feel better. It's just…the people I'm with now…a lot of them knew him or at least knew of him. Some of them think that, even though I didn't know him well, I'd be upset by his death because I was there. Well fuck that. It's not 'he doesn't hate me but maybe he resents me.' I hate him, I resent him, I every other single negative impression one could have about a person. It's enough that you'll believe me when I tell you that."
Samantha reached across the table and grasped Lily's hand. She had always had such cold hands. "Of course I believe you. If you don't want to talk to me, that's fine. I get it. But I do hope that you'll think about talking to maybe a therapist or a priest or something."
Lily perked up. "A priest? Am I Catholic?"
How was she supposed to answer that one?
"Well…you were. If you don't still believe all of that then I guess you aren't anymore."
Lily shrugged. "I honestly hadn't thought about it much. I've been…busy. But don't worry, if I ever need to speak to someone about it then I'll find someone."
"Good." Samantha realized she was still holding Lily's hand and awkwardly released her. "I hope that this isn't a stupid question but I really want to know why you agreed to meet with me when before you wouldn't even admit to being Lily."
Lily looked like she was about to answer but then cocked her head. "What's my last name?"
"Lily Montgomery," Lily said slowly, trying it out. "Not bad."
Samantha smiled at her. "I've always thought so. And definitely above stupid made-up prostitute fabric names."
Lily rolled her eyes. "I'm keeping Satine."
"Oh, do what you want! I'm just saying…"
"You asked why I contacted you? Well, things seem to be settling down a little and I want to know more about my past," Lily said simply. "I'm hoping that if I know more and see more people and places from the past then I'll remember."
"I don't think amnesia works that way," Samantha said. "I mean, I know it does in TV and movies but I don't think it's very realistic. Passions did this whole thing where when this girl had amnesia and she saw the man she loved she suddenly remembered who she was but forgot everything about when she had amnesia and that's even more unlikely. But I'm not a doctor so I guess triggering could still happen. It would just be very convenient."
"Just because something is convenient doesn't mean it can't happen," Lily protested. "I really hope it does. I don't understand why I'm even having memory problems in the first place as nobody else seems to. Certainly not Therese and Jeanette. Except for…but that may not be a memory problem."
Samantha realized suddenly that she may be coming off as unsupportive. "For what it's worth, I hope that – no matter how unlikely – you manage to remember everything about yourself and your life."
Lily smiled at her again. "Thank you. I hope so, too."
"But why did you pretend you weren't you?" Samantha pressed. "It's not like I used your name. Sure you didn't recognize me but since you knew you had amnesia you couldn't be sure you didn't know me. But you seemed pretty adamant that I go away and believe you were somebody else."
There was something strange in Lily's eyes them. "Believe me, if I were truly adamant you would have believed me. I just…put yourself in my position. I was just walking by and suddenly this strange girl comes out of nowhere and starts acting like we're good friends and threatening to call an army of people down on my head. I didn't know what to do. Denial seemed like the best plan but…if you really did know me…I suppose I couldn't bring myself to cut the thread."
"I'm glad," Samantha said warmly. "But why did it take you so long to call me?"
"Well, keep in mind that I didn't get your last name and so I had to find your number," Lily replied. "I had to get Mitnick to find you in the end. And, as I said, I was rather busy and needed to wait until things settled down before I had a chance to indulge myself in finding you. There's a million reasons I shouldn't but if Ash can just 'retire' then they've got no business telling me I'm in the wrong."
Samantha understood very little of that except some guy helped Lily find her.
"Can you tell me what it is you've been doing?" she asked hopefully. "Your parents call me all the time."
"My parents," Lily repeated thoughtfully. "Well, it's nothing all that interesting. I was broke and confused after that asshole died but this other guy took pity on me and gave me a job. It pays well but the hours are kind of crazy. I needed awhile to settle into that. I think I also sort of accidentally became an anarchist but there are worse sins."
Samantha couldn't help it; she burst out laughing.
"What?" Lily asked, offended.
"I'm sorry, but did you say you became an anarchist? How do you accidentally become an anarchist? Did you join an anarchist group? 'Anarchists Unite'?"
Lily rolled her eyes fondly. "Oh, laugh it up. They're my friends. And what happened was I had a near-death experience and this cab driver who found me offered to take me wherever I felt the safest so I went to go see them and…it's not so bad, being an anarchist."
"Are you going to try and take down the government?" Samantha asked. "Should I even be seen with you? Are you on some sort of watch list?"
"I have no idea but I rather doubt it," Lily said. "We're not trying to take anyone down. We just want to be left in peace is all."
Samantha shook her head in mock-disgust. "Some anarchist you are."
"I told you it was more or less an accident, didn't I?" Lily asked rhetorically. "I've been around. Santa Monica, downtown LA, Hollywood, Chinatown…I've just stayed in the area. It hasn't been all that long. I've met some people, done some things, that's really the extent of it."
"One thing I've always appreciated about you, Lily, is your storytelling. You make me feel like I was there," Samantha said dryly.
"I try. Now what can you tell me about my life?" Lily asked eagerly.
"What do you want to know?"
"Who are you to me? How did we meet?" Lily began.
"We went to the same high school," Samantha told her. "But we only met through work. We both had a part-time job at a movie theater. We were the two ushers and so spent like six hours together cleaning theaters and talking. We just hit it off and so started talking at school and here we are."
Samantha laughed. "What did you expect?"
"I don't know," Lily admitted. "What about family?"
"Well, there's your parents of course," Samantha said. "Michelle and Henry. Your father's a teacher and your mother writes software. You have an older brother named Allan who just finished his residency and a younger sister named Sarah who is still in high school. We were worried for awhile but we think she's actually going to graduate."
"Do you have a picture?" Lily asked hesitantly.
Samantha nodded and was glad she'd thought ahead. "Of course, here!"
Lily took the picture and looked closely at it. It was a photo of her and her family standing in front of a barn and imitating that really famous picture of that guy with his wife or sister and the pitchfork. Who knew what it was called anyway?
"I look the same," Lily said, sounding surprised.
"Well, almost," Samantha said, nodding to Lily's black leather outfit. "You never used to look like a badass biker chick."
Lily let out a startled laugh. "A what?"
Samantha smirked. "You heard me."
Lily gestured to her outfit. "This is just…well, I think I look good in it. And it makes me feel like I could just take a scythe and hack my way through Hollywood if I had to. I'm not sure what a motorcycle has to do with it, though."
Samantha asked what she felt was the obvious question. "Why would you want to feel like you could hack your way through Hollywood with a scythe?"
"Because it's awesome," Lily said as if it were obvious. "As for why a scythe, if you were going to hack your way through Hollywood then what would you use? A katana? The range isn't very good."
"I have honestly never given it all that much thought," Samantha said. "I'm not a very hacky person."
"Which is, I suppose, why I am dressed like this and you are not," Lily decided.
"I guess so," Samantha said, a little bemused.
"And while we're on the subject of me hacking my way through Hollywood, could you tell me a little bit more about what kind of person I am?" Lily asked.
"Oh, but surely you know what you're like," Samantha protested.
Lily frowned. "I know my own view of what I'm like now but some of the things I've done…I try to do the right thing but since when has the world ever been black and white? And I don't know how much I am like what I was."
"Are you asking if you're a bad person?" Samantha asked. "Of course not."
"I suppose that was always the answer I'd get from a friend," Lily said distantly.
"No, I mean it!" Samantha said. "Lily, you're one of the best people I know. You spend hours agonizing over the perfect present to buy someone even when you know they're not getting you anything. If you want to do something but the person with you can't afford it you'll buy them whatever it is so you can do it together. You're willing to drive an hour out of your way to see someone if they live far away even when they don't return the favor. You're always helping people. Sometimes too much if we're being perfectly honest. I mean, I wouldn't say it's a character flaw, exactly, but in certain lights it could be seen as approaching one. That time you told me you picked up that hitchhiker and gave him a lift…well, I'm almost surprised that if you went missing it wasn't after that little stunt."
Lily looked almost hopeful. "Is that really what I'm like?"
"It really is," Samantha confirmed. "Why? Do you not think it sounds like you?"
"It's not that I think I'm a bad person," Lily clarified. "I would never try to do anything bad but at the same time just because I don't believe it's true doesn't mean that I'm right. I could just be blind to my own villainy."
"Villainy," Samantha repeated. "That sounds a little…theatrical."
"Take this very restaurant, for instance. I was given the task of making sure that a food critic gave this restaurant a bad review so that the owners would sell the property. If they were a bad restaurant they wouldn't have needed my interference. They didn't deserve to go out of business so some snotty rich guy can get a building," Lily said. "Or this other time I helped this jealous girl who was obviously totally displacing her frustration bug someone else's apartment and then she ended up killing herself. That girl didn't deserve to die because the other girl wasn't happy. How she can still like him after what he did to her…"
Samantha snapped her fingers. "I think I know what you're talking about! With the llama?"
"Yeah…" Lily said slowly. "I wasn't expecting that."
"I don't know what to tell you, Lily," Samantha said honestly. "Maybe it's a little corrupt to bribe or threaten or whatever it was you did to the food guy and the spying seems a little skeevy and tabloid-y but I don't think it makes you a bad person and there's no way you could have predicted that girl would kill herself. Just maybe try and show a little more integrity in the future."
"I've already done moral things that, if people found out, I could be fired for," Lily said absently.
Samantha stared at her. "What kind of job are we talking here?"
"Oh, there's no need to freak out," Lily said, waving a hand dismissively. "If a nurse, say, was found to be giving people without insurance free vaccines then you could say she was doing good and saving lives but she'd still be fired."
"That's a little cynical."
Lily shrugged. "So maybe I'm a little cynical. Thank you. I may not always know what the right course is and I could still end up being one of those people who ruins everything for everyone with the absolute best of intentions but I'm going to stay the course here."
Samantha smiled at that. "Well I'm glad to be able to help you through your existential crisis! I know that it might be a bit sudden, since you only now just reached out to me, but would you be willing to see your family? They've been worried."
Lily looked down. "Are they local?"
"Yeah, they just live out in the suburbs," Samantha said encouragingly. "It wouldn't be far."
"I'm pretty busy during the day," Lily told her. "But at night I could probably manage something. Just maybe not right away. I only just discovered that I have family."
"I'll let them know," Samantha promised.
"But what about you?" Lily asked suddenly.
"Me? What about me?" Samantha asked. "You had better believe I'm not letting you out of my sight until you give me some way to contact you but other than that I'm good."
"No, I mean why are you in Hollywood? What's going on with you?"
"Oh," Samantha said, blinking in surprise. Even though Lily didn't really remember her, it was sweet – and so her – to care anyway. "You'll laugh."
"I'm kind of a walking cliché over here," Lily pointed out. "With the amnesia and the Matrix outfit. I don't think I have much room to judge."
"I don't think it's quite that bad," Samantha lied. "Okay, fine. I came to Hollywood because I want to be an actress."
Lily absorbed that. "Are you any good?"
"What? I wouldn't know," Lily said. "So are you?"
"I was always very talented back home and I got all the leads in the productions I've been in," Samantha said. "But around here that's kind of a dime a dozen."
Lily nodded. "I'll tell you what. I've got a friend here who knows about these things. I'll talk to him about you and then we'll see what happens."
Samantha's eyes widened. "Really? You'd do that?"
"I've got to keep my humanity up somehow," Lily said wryly.
The food came then and even if Lily still refused to eat anything, Samantha was starting to get the impression that things were really going to be okay after all.
Huh. Who would have thought the tale of a girl gone missing after going home with a strange guy could have ever turned out happily?