Affliction Part I: Trauma

At 1241 Raven Drive, a child slept soundly without concern for tomorrow. For on the morrow, she was to visit her favorite orchard and pick apples with her classmates. She cherished this day of all school days because it was here that she could find her favorite Ambrosia apples.

Upon waking, Lily stretched her arms and legs until her vision turned the color of radio static. Brushing her teeth, she texted John to confirm he was coming today. Sitting on the toilet, she asked Emma if she would bring her favorite basket for picking apples that she had left behind during the last sleepover.

Riding in the passenger seat, she cocked her head in a contemplative gesture and took a selfie to update her stories. Verifying her hair had the right amount of I-don’t-give-a-flip after spending all morning on it, she stepped out of the car and walked into Sequoia Middle School.

First bell solely consisted of state sanctioned methods of torment. Names were called, warnings were given, groans were shared, bus assignments were noted. Pop Tarts were handed out in case anyone forgot breakfast. Lily took three.

Boarding a bus with the number four on the window, Lily spotted John instantly and plopped down next to him with a grin. Sliding her backpack around, she dramatically pulled out an individually wrapped Pop Tart and extended it to the young man on her left, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips.

“Blueberry again?”

“Is there anything better?”

John pretended to throw her gift out of the window before opening it like she knew he would. Turning to her right, she found Emma trying not to laugh with Lily’s apple picking basket on top of her head.

“You didn’t forget!”

Laughing, the girls exchanged one basket for one Pop Tart. “Good food is sweeter when shared with good friends,” she heard her Mamaw say, although she doubted Pop Tarts could get any sweeter.

Arriving at Carter’s Orchard, Lily and her friends exited the bus with all the reserved excitement of a bull rider awaiting the latch to be released. They had a quick argument about whether they should stop by the gift shop first or last, until John pointed out that Lily was the only one that brought freedom paper. Without pause, she cast the decisive vote to shop after they had put their basket of apples back on the bus.

Leaving John to pick Fuji apples and Emma to hunt Ida Reds, Lily bounded off towards familiar stepstones leading the way to Ambrosia apples. Feeling the warm September air wash over her face, she admired the endless rows of apples that felt so regal yet all her own at the same time.

Stopping in front of a squat tree with the most delicious apple her eyes had ever seen, Lily grasped it in her hand and twisted it until she felt its weight rest in her palm. She took a moment to admire it, her first apple of the season!

As she went along selecting the choicest apples that her mother would ooh and awe over, Lily heard a voice. It was John’s voice, and he seemed to be in trouble.

“Help me,” John whispered.

She turned around, attempting to distinguish from which angle his voice was calling. Surely this was a prank, John was several football fields away.

“Here,” the voice called, and she stepped closer to the limbs, peaking through the apple trees to nearby rows.

“Right here,” she felt the voice speak directly into her ear. Startled, she turned and saw a rough outline of John’s appearance embedded in the tree. Tree bark had been rearranged itself to form a protruding face, expressive eyebrows, his large nose, thin lips, and closed eyes. Even the mole under his left eye was represented with a content ladybug lounging motionless on his manifestation.

“There you are,” the tree opened its eyes slowly.

“John? Is that you?” Her voice shook with adrenaline.

She was too scared to run, too curious to call out for help. Leaning over without taking a step closer, she stared into those familiar eyes surrounded by botanical features and wondered at how such a thing was possible.

“Lily?” it asked as if waking from a dream. Recognition sparked in his eyes.

“John!” She rushed forward, kneeling on the ground to touch his face.

Lily’s fingers connected with John’s countenance, and she felt her body stiffen. Current pulsed through her in a rhythmic fashion, rendering her altogether immobile. No matter how much she struggled internally, it was clear that she was no longer in control of her body.

Carved lips pulled back into a smile and the eyes came together in a predatory expression. The smile stretched wider and wider until a snake exposed itself from within. Lily watched in motionless horror as a silver snake the hue of aluminum foil slithered down the tree and onto a bed of apples.

She felt cold, smooth scales quietly coil around her foot that was still planted on the ground, wind itself up her leg, and onto her waist. Securing a base around her abdomen and squeezing slightly, the snake lifted its head until it was face to face with her.


The serpent spoke directly into her mind.

Lily was shocked and revolted to feel her mouth open of its own accord, so wide that her jaws ached, and her ears popped. Tears sprang from her eyes, forming rivulets down her cheeks and onto her neck and shirt.

The creature plunged into her mouth. Lily could feel every scale gliding against her teeth, pressing against her tongue, and tearing into the soft tissues of her mouth. After what seemed an eternity, the rigid grip on her body was released and she collapsed onto the bed of mulch sparsely littered with discarded apples.

She dared not move for a time, and uncertainty sprouted in her mind when she began to hear John and Emma walking towards her. A quick glance indicated that it was just a regular tree, completely devoid of unique markings – much less a face.

She was quiet the rest of the day and returned to the bus without her annual treat. Her friends brought her a soda from the gift shop with her money, but she didn’t want it. She floated through the afternoon, like an unwilling spectator at a sporting event she wasn’t interested in.

Lily rode at the front of the bus back to school, pretending to take a nap on her backpack so no one would sit next to her.

Affliction Part II: Power

Lily reclined in the driver seat of a green ’98 Corolla in the parking lot of Loudon High. She skipped songs and CDs restlessly searching for the song to match her mood. Green Day’s “Basket Case” was about as close as she was likely to find, so she let the words tease her soul with kindred lyrics.

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I’m cracking up

Lily closed her eyes and made a fist in her hand. She squeezed it tight, slowly releasing each finger to feel the movements of muscle and the relief that came with it. It had been four years since the incident, and every day had been a battle of willpower.

I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy. She did the same exercise with her other hand, letting the soothing movements calm her against the deluge of music. The yin to her yang. The push and pull of what she felt versus what she wanted to know.

An intrusive voice stepped on her thoughts. Crazy is a broken state of mind. Do you not feel broken?

“Fuck it.” Lucy punched the radio off, twisted her keys out of the ignition, grabbed her backpack from the passenger seat, and opened the door. Walking through the parking lot, she noticed several faces that were both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. None were more known to her than John and his hatched-faced girlfriend driving past in his beat-up Ford.

You miss that one, don’t you?

“Shut up,” she muttered under her breath.

Unfortunately, you’re not good enough for him. If anyone loved you, it would be your parents – and you’ve even turned them against you. One day you’ll find someone as sad and pathetic as you are, but you’ll probably let them down too.

She did genuinely miss him. But this creature inside her mind misread her thoughts if it believed she was tempted to allow him back in her life. She tried to explain what happened and he pushed her away, fearful that she would tell this story to others, and he would be implicated with gossip.

Emma too, for that matter. She had no one now; not even her parents were on her side. They had had her evaluated by numerous lab coats and machines, only to conclude that she needed to focus harder on high school and practice mindfulness.

Friends she had none, but enemies swarmed like vultures thinking her already dead. Aside from her uninvited guest, she was the punchline of most jokes and the curiosity behind every rumor.

Lily walked through the halls of Loudon High like a stranger in a famous short story. She knew the players, realized the setting, understood some of the character arcs, and had intimate knowledge of every piece of furniture and classroom that she passed. But she wasn’t sure if she was the protagonist or antagonist yet.

“She has the face of a fire hydrant,” she heard one group guffawing stupidly against their lockers.

“I heard she fucked the entire marching band at the away game,” one girl whispered to another that feigned surprise as they passed each other in the hall.

Lily gritted her teeth and strode to Mrs. Jackson’s English class, keeping her brain occupied on feeling her toes in their shoes, her calves flexing, her hamstrings pulling, her quadriceps pushing, and her hip adductors stabilizing. If she was ambulatory, she could endure the worst of it.

I don’t attend home games, bitch. Much less away games.

She liked Mrs. Jackson and her curriculum. It was this class alone that held her sanity together. Putting words to paper was exciting, but the real treasure was viewing words through a different lens. Might the narrator be a deceiving little cunt? Could the first-person point of view deceive themselves in some or all their assumptions? Or maybe there’s more than one way to digest a passage. These insights, when discovered, gave her great satisfaction.

Taking a seat, she pulled out a worn notebook and began working out a riddle between the lines.

Cheaper versions do not
Cheapen the person
Corporate ladders require them
Society admires them
They cover your vulnerabilities
Hiding fleshy iniquities
Respect they will demand
Eyes they aim to command

She wrote PANTS in all capital letters underneath, and then promptly erased it, drew some other letters in its place, and erased that too.

What’s the fun of writing if there’s only one meaning behind it?


After school, Lily was distraught to realize that she left the lights on in her Corolla. Of all the stupid things to forget, this has to be the easiest way to ruin my day.

I tried to warn you, her pest condescended.

No, you didn’t. Shut up. Taking a deep breath, she locked her car and started the long walk home as her peers drove past honking their horns and casting shade or mocking tears with every glance.

At the edge of the city limits, she paused to take a break and retrieved one of the school’s legendary Pop Tarts that she had secreted into her backpack for times like this. Cherry this time because blueberry was an illusion. Sitting on a large rock, she savored it like it was the taste of revenge.

As she was just deciding between throwing the wrapper on the ground in protest of her miserable day or crinkling it into her pocket, a purple Wrangler with the soft top removed rolled to a stop in front of her. Yelawolf’s “Billy Crystal” played obnoxiously loud in the background:

Well then, Billy will get them Gremlins like Speilberg.
He’ll take your house down, off of them pillars.
And take your mom to Sizzler, and feed her chicken liver.
That’s cold blooded love, Billy’s a chiller

Lily made a show of looking around, failing to spot a stop sign nearby. Unable to see the driver and accepting that they weren’t in a hurry to introduce themselves, she stood up to give him her best what-the-fuck expression.

With her eyebrows raised, and eyes bulging, she brought her arms back down to her side in surprise. The driver wasn’t a ‘he’ at all, but an older lady with skin the color of wet sand. Her hair was curled, and about her neck hung the most pearls Lily had ever seen outside of her Mamaw’s favorite television shows.

Run screamed the voice in her head. She might have, too, for the voice was frightfully alarming – but the music stopped suddenly, and curiosity got the best of her. Besides, what her uninvited guest wanted and what she wanted were diametrically opposed.

“Can I help you?” Lily’s voice carried a little too far now that the music was no longer assaulting her ear drums.

“No, dear. I believe it is I that can help you.”

“And how’s that?” Lily crossed her arms now, expecting to be pressed for goods like Mary Kay. Or were the ‘your manufacturer’s warranty has expired’ people driving around these days?

“I see you’ve been visited, child. And I doubt your visitor was gracious enough to leave. The air about you is thick like fog, no? Look, you’re as pale as a chicken.” Her voice halted and jerked around the words with an exotic accent. She demonstrated mastery of the English language but the words coming out of her mouth sounded foreign from her lips.

Run! This one will ruin us both. If you want to live

Lily jerked her chin towards the lady. “What do you mean?”

“You can feel it now, no? This monster screams at you to run, does it not? It fears me because I do not fear it.”

“What is it, exactly?”

“It is a parasite, young one. An ancient evil that has walked this earth hand in hand with man since the first times. It takes that from you which you did not want to give and burdens your mind with knowledge of the taking for a lifetime.”

“What did it take?”

“Your childhood, for one. Your future if you let it. Get in, let me introduce you to some people that I’ve helped along the way.”

Lily considered but for just a moment. Here was the first person she had ever met that believed her – and wanted to help her as well! She snatched her backpack off the ground and got into the Wrangler with all the exhilaration of going to see the ocean for the first time.


Claire Moreau’s home was as full of contradictions as the woman herself. In the middle of East Tennessee sat a veritable castle that she had never heard of, complete with turrets, arrow slits, and a moat bridged by a broad ramp that served as a driveway. The moat was turned into a duck pond, and each cantankerous gander seemed to be eying the Wrangler as it came to a stop.

Entering the castle walls was like skipping around in time. She spotted a stable filled with horses and people to work them in clothes that appeared to be from around the 14th century. The courtyard was massive, housing a music venue with chairs for dozens, a perfectly manicured garden in the English style, and what used to be a sparing area for weapons. Now, the straw dummies had children dressed as artisans painting them in various colors and styling wigs for hair.

She also saw trampolines, remote controlled cars, an in-ground pool, and flat screen televisions hanging on some of the walls. People from across all time were represented here like she had just walked onto a movie set.

“Are these actors?” She pointed at a group of ladies working jointly to create a tapestry depicting what appeared to be a wedding.

“No, dear, they are each one and all part of my family.”

Allowing no further questions, Claire cut a path through the castle grounds to a grand staircase. Ascending the stone steps wide enough for an SUV to drive through, they were met with a hallway showcasing lacquered red doors along both sides. Lily realized that she couldn’t gauge the length of this passage and the corresponding size of the castle.

Walking further still, Claire stopped in front of a door and withdrew a golden key the size of her petite hand. “This is yours, now, Lily. And this is your room.” She gestured to the door and opened the palm of her hand to Lily.

Taking the key with no small amount of wariness but a larger dose of curiosity, Lily pushed it into the keyhole beneath the handle and turned it until she heard an audible click. Pressing down on the lever, a gentle push opened the large door in a wide arc.

Before she could enter, Claire’s hand grasped her shoulder.

“My dear, before you may rest peacefully there is the matter of magic.”

“Magic?” Lily’s eyebrows raised. Despite everything she had seen already, she very much doubted there was magic here.

“Indeed,” Claire continued with her stilted accent. “The creature that assails you is known to me because it is of the natural world, though it may seem otherworldly. I will subdue it with something preternatural.”

In the blink of an eye, Lily saw Claire’s other hand rise in front of her face before it was lost in a cloud of sparkling dust. She thought to sneeze, but no sneeze came. Warmth seeped into her fingers and toes and coursed through her veins. The demon inside her had been quiet inside the castle, but now it was nowhere to be found within the halls of her mind. Her face became a mask that she forgot how to operate, smiling uncontrollably.

Lily felt Claire guide her inside the room by her elbow. “Your visitor has been evicted for a time,” she said. “Let’s get you a nap, shall we?”

Lying there in bed, Lily made a fist. She released her fingers one by one, let her face relax, and fell blissfully asleep.

Affliction Part III: The Cost

“You seem to be feeling better, Lily.” Her mother kissed her on the forehead, took her by the shoulders, and gave her a look over. “Whatever it is, I’m grateful.”

Lily plastered her best smile across her face and shrugged. “I think I just needed some time to grow out of my teenager years.” And something to put a muzzle on Limp Dick.

Her mother rubbed her arms gently and turned to go. “Don’t you think it’s time to find a job?” She called out over her shoulder. “It would do you some good to stop hanging out at Claire’s house all the time now that high school is over.”

“I’ll look into it,” Lily’s reply was void of enthusiasm. They had this conversation at least once a week over the last couple of years.

“Don’t you think it’s weird that we’ve never met her, though?” Lily’s dad walked into kitchen, grabbed a waffle, and ate it plain with a tall glass of orange juice.

Honestly, it would be weirder if you did meet her.

“We’ll have to arrange a get together some day,” Lily suggested. “Soon as I can get everyone’s schedule to line up, we’ll have her over for a game night or something.”

Her mom was practically out the door, but poked her head back in to shout, “That sounds terrific!” Her dad nodded to himself, satisfied with his proper due diligence. This was at least the tenth conversation they’ve had about Claire in so many months and was probably the tenth time she had suggested game night.

After her dad left for work as well, Lily ran upstairs to secure her last vial of what she called fairy dust. Through trial and error, she realized that a surprise face palm of dust wasn’t necessary for it to work. About a teaspoon of this magical powder dissolved into a liquid kept her demon at bay for the rest of the day.

Lily could sense him now, stirring in the back of her mind like a curtain rustling near an open window. She emptied the vial into a teaspoon and stirred it into a glass of water on her bed stand, watching the substance dissolve slowly.

“Sayonara, mother fucker.” She downed the glass in two gulps and set it back down with a grateful sigh. He was gone now, and she was once more the only person inhabiting her mind.

Standing, she appreciated the warm candle that had been lit under her skin. Once, it was a raging bonfire that threatened to engulf her; now it was a manageable warmth that felt akin to mild embarrassment.

Lily would return to Claire today and secure more of this life-altering fairy dust. But first, she needed to acquire some goods for the bargain. Claire was very clear that to make this alchemical medicine, she needed something special from a loved one. The more someone relied on it emotionally, physically, or mentally, the stronger the remedy. Likewise, the closer Lily was to the person who owned this item, the less of it she would need to secure.

She began to understand that it was about sacrifice: the more you took from someone else, the less it takes to feel like yourself.

If they knew why I was taking things, they would give them to me anyway, Lily reasoned.

With a grocery tote in hand, she walked through her parent’s closet and searched for something with meaning. Her mother’s wedding veil went into the tote without ceremony, and her father’s lucky cuff links trailed closely behind. They would suspect the cuff links were missing soon, but it might be years before they realized the veil is gone. She searched for more.

Unfortunately, the bargain required more and more each time. Claire explained that her relationship with the owner of item was vital, and the more that Lily took from them the weaker that bond became. Soon she would have to either spend more time with her parents or start making friends.


She knacked a receipt of their first date at Poncho’s from behind a photo, assuming only she remembered him putting it there when she was young. And she mashed the code 07-27-87 to open the closet safe and skim a few bills off the top. Seeing an expired passport, she grabbed that too since no one would miss it.

Satisfied with the take, Lily rolled her tote up and tucked it into her backpack. A quick phone call later, and she was getting a ride to Claire Moreau’s estate.


Once, the astonishment of Claire’s castle couldn’t be eclipsed in Lily’s mind. She was sure of it. It seemed so magnificent and wondrous and infinite. Now, it fit her like a certain brand of shoes or gym shorts. It was just her style; it suited her.

She strolled into the largest building on the ground level of the courtyard without preamble. A large pedestal rose from its center, and here she dispassionately tossed her stolen effects. Glancing around, she found Claire talking with a heated individual in monk’s clothing. Lily made her way towards them and made a point to burn a hole in his back with her stare. She was completely out of dust at this point and hadn’t felt this anxious in years.

Claire dismissed the man and took her by the elbow, guiding her to the platform. She wore a light-blue jogging suit today, perfectly out of place, perfectly Claire.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you again so soon, my dear?” Her unnaturally halted speech was more noticeable today than usual.

“I brought more bargaining chips,” Lily replied, gesturing. “I ran out of your pixie dust earlier and need more for tomorrow.”

“Ah.” Claire stared at her then, until Lily began to shuffle uncomfortably. “Yes, yes. Let’s get on with it then.”

Claire emptied her bag onto the grand altar, placed her hand over each one and closed her eyes. She hovered over the Poncho’s receipt the longest, and then grunted. The sum of her plunder’s worth had been weighed and judged in moments.

“It’s not enough,” Claire stated as a matter of fact. “I’m sorry.”

“What? What do you mean?” Lily raised her voice as if volume alone could alter the decision in her favor. “It’s always been enough before – and this is by far the most meaningful take I’ve ever brought in.” Her finger shook as she pointed at the rejected valuables.

“I’m sorry, dear. Truly. But magic has a cost, and the price must be paid. My art is a form of alchemy, it transmutes one thing to another. I cannot create something from nothing.”

“Tell me. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

“In your heart, you know the price. But it won’t be worth it. It never is.” Claire fingered the pearls about her neck, then turned to walk away.

Trembling in fearful anticipation of her nightmare returning, Lily hastily returned to the car that Claire had waiting for her ride home.


She lay awake for the second night in a row amidst a sea of Monster cans and discarded bags of chocolate-covered espresso beans. She couldn’t sleep for a second, in case her old tormentor wields even more awful power in the dreamscape than he used to.

You thought you could escape me, eh? I’ve grown stronger in your subconscious than you could ever imagine. I treated you like a Queen before, but now you will be my slave.

Lily rocked and whimpered, pinching the soft skin of her thigh to stay awake. For once he was telling the truth: he really was stronger now. She could hear his voice booming in her head, overriding her every thought.

I am going to wear you like a sleeve, girl. Your every desire will reveal itself to me soon, and I will take great pleasure in dismantling everyone and everything you thought you loved.

It became increasingly clear to Lily that, if she fell asleep, she would never return. She would be the consciousness trapped behind a wall, unable to affect change in the real world.  Her hands made a familiar fist, and she opened her fingers one by one. She was still in control, if only for a few more moments.

Pay the price.

“What price!” She growled, fighting the voices in her head while trying to form coherent thoughts at the same time.

For the first time in almost 48 hours, Lily had a clear thought. As unremitting as lightning, as sharp as a diamond. She could still beat this thing, she just had to pay the price.

Hopeful, Lily began to consider what might be more precious than what she had already stolen, and who might be closer to her than her parents. She couldn’t imagine finding anything more relatable in her home.

What if a living thing would fulfill both aspects of the bargain? Value to whose life it belonged as well as value according to the relationship I have with it?

Her interest piqued, Lily stole downstairs, grabbed a Ziplock freezer bag from the kitchen, and poured some water in it. Using a pair of barbecue tongues, she fished out a goldfish from her childhood tank on display in the living room and released it into the bag.

She snatched her keys off the wall and ran outside to hop in her old ’98 Corolla from high school. Cranking it up, her fingers found the skip CD button and she smashed it until she found “The E.N.D.” album by the Black Eyed Peas. Manically, she skipped until the fifth track (“I Gotta Feeling”) started.

Locked and loaded with a game plan and jam plan, Lily sped down the street towards Claire’s estate. It was four in the morning, but Claire seemed to work on a different time clock anyway.

Tonight’s the night, let’s live it up
I got my money, let’s spend it up
Go out and smash it, like, “Oh my God”
Jump out that sofa, let’s kick it, off


Pulling up onto the moat bridge, turning her lights off, and killing the car, Lily stepped onto the bridge and stared at the reinforced door. It had never been closed before, and now that she was here it felt like a silly notion to drive all this way in the middle of the night.

She reached inside once more to grab the goldfish bag off the passenger seat, and then stared at the menacing door. Taking a deep breath, she strode up to it with intentions to knock.

Thinking she had seen every trick in the book by now from Claire, she was surprised when her hand went right through the door. Lily moved her hand to and from the thick wooden door, watching her arm slide in and out of it like a magician’s trick.

Desperate, she stepped through the door with no more than a moment’s consideration for the consequences. She ran to the largest building, Claire’s sanctuary, and was beyond grateful to find her benefactor standing beside the altar patiently.

“I knew you’d work it out.” Claire said sourly. Tonight, she was adorned in a red ball gown with her hair put up like the star atop a Christmas tree.

“You sound like you didn’t want me to!” Lily caught her breath, unable to believe the tone in her mentor’s voice. Was it not Claire that taught her how to best her terror in the first place? Did she speak in riddles only hoping they were too complex for her to understand?

“You’re right, my dear.” She sighed, waiving Lily forward. “I had hoped you would decide the price was too high.”

“Tell me – how much is this goldfish worth? Then I can weigh the price.”

Claire put both hands on the goldfish bag and closed her eyes. “This should last you about two weeks at your current consumption of stardust. Maybe longer if you grapple with your guest a little more, rely on magic a little less.”

“Do it,” Lily responded without hesitation.

The old woman wrapped both hands around the bag and closed her eyes. Her hands slowly pressed together, until they were flush with nothing visible between them like a cheap magic trick. When she removed her top hand, Lily noticed a pearl remained behind. There was no sign of the plastic bag, water, or goldfish.

That’s new, she thought.

Claire dropped the pearl into a pouch on her left hip and withdraw a handful of vials from a pouch on her right hip. She placed these in Lily’s hands and encouraged her to make them last.


Lily sat in the back seat of her parent’s 4Runner and listened to the radio without a care in the world. Hers was the smile of someone that had it all figured out: every challenge surmounted; every speed bump accounted for.

“I think it’s great that you’re volunteering more at the homeless shelter,” her father called from the front seat.

“I still wish you’d get a job that actually pays,” her mother joined in. “But we’re very proud of you.” The look on her face said that she was, indeed, very proud of the work she had been doing with the underprivileged and underrepresented in her community. Lily felt her mother’s hand reach back and grab her knee, giving it a little shake.

“Thanks! It really feels like it’s all coming together now.” A grin split her face as she bobbed her head to the music.

They rode in silence for a bit, with everyone taking in the charm of the countryside outside of the city limits. The cows gathered on a hilltop, and she found herself wondering if they ever rolled down such a steep slope.

Lily held her hand to the sunlight bursting through the front windshield and made a fist. She slowly extended each finger, taking care to feel the movement as if she had never felt it before. She wasn’t crazy, she was in control, and she would never be powerless again.

“Oh my god, is that it?” Her dad exclaimed from the driver’s seat. Her mom stuck her head out the window and gawked like she had just seen the eighth wonder of the world.

“That’s it!” Lily exclaimed cheerfully, leaning up against the front leather seats, putting her arms around their shoulders. “Aren’t you glad we decided to bring game night to Claire’s house?”

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