It’s been four weeks since she’s seen him last. Four strange, infuriatingly sunny weeks that work up her nerves in a way that makes her skin feel stretched tight over her bones and muscles. Her very own anatomy feels unfamiliar, which is a sensation that by no means inspires a sound sense of sanity.
As irritating as that is—as telling as that is—it’s actually something her mom says the night before The Rain starts that serves as Lily’s last straw.
“Are you sure you’re okay, sweetheart?” her mother’s voice comes, familiar but gravelly, through the Skype window.
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine,” Lily says, brushing her bangs back from her face. “Just…you know. A lot of sun. Too much sun.”
Her mother has the good sense to hide her smile. “For all the years you’ve lived there, you’ve never once complained about the sun,” she observes, her voice gentle and loving and too full of suggestion.
Lily shrugs. Looks down to pick at her nails. “Things change. People change. Nothing good lasts forever, etcetera, etcetera,” she says. It’s somewhat bitter, perhaps, and somewhat petulant, too, but it’s been four weeks and she’s relatively positive that her lips are still burning from the insistent press of his mouth against her own. At least, that’s what it feels like sometimes. Maybe always.
Her eyes are trained on her lap but her head jerks up when she hears her mom’s quiet chuckles, clear and unmistakable through her laptop speakers.
“What?” Lily demands, but her mom just shakes her head and challenges Lily’s defensive look with an affectionate one. “No, what?” Lily repeats, her voice almost a whine.
“Oh, Lily. It’s just…you’ve always been bad with feelings.”
“Bad with…” Lily gapes as her mom gives another amused laugh. “I’m not bad with feelings!”
And Lily’s right…isn’t she? She doesn’t read her reviews anymore, but she remembers the earlier ones from when she did: “Everett executes the role with such passion…displays emotion that seems to permeate the screen.” Emotion—expression—it’s vital to her career.
“Oh, no, sweetheart, I’m not talking about your job,” her mom amends, accurately reading her daughter’s unsettled features. “But…well, sometimes it seems as though you’re so fixated on setting yourself apart from your characters that you forget that you’re allowed to feel things in real life, too. That makes it hard to express yourself, don’t you think?”
No, is Lily’s knee-jerk reaction. A reaction stemming, maybe a little bit, from pride. No, I don’t think.
But then she thinks about the memories that have been pressing down on her mind for the past four weeks. How cold she was towards him at first…how closed off. She wants to say that it’s not her fault, that he did the same thing—shut her down and out—but the deepest, most honest parts of her know that that’s not true. That he was only reacting to her behavior. That it was, actually, her fault.
It’s when she reaches this point in her train of thought that her stomach seems to turn in on itself and her mind goes blank, even as it hits her as the truth—everything her mother is explicitly saying and subtly implying is the irrevocable, undeniable truth.
With the unwanted realization comes the overwhelming urge to hang up the video call right then, make her hasty excuses and quick farewells. But that would only further prove her mom right. So she musters some weak sort of courage and struggles through a messy change in subject. Her mother, bless her heart, doesn’t say a word about it. They don’t speak about feelings again save for a very pointed I love you at the tail end of the conversation.
The next morning, Lily wakes up to the sound of rain beating down on her window. The clouds are dark and sad and stare down at her with a gently compelling force that matches her mom’s words the night before. It will pass, Lily says to herself, staring defiantly at the ceiling. Everything’s fine. My feelings are fine.
Her words are only met by a slow rumble of thunder and a quick flash of lightning. Lily swaddles herself tightly with blankets, buries her face in a pillow, and groans.