People lied to her, that was the thing. They lied to her all the time. She knew that she ought to know that by now, but they kept on finding new ways to make her believe them for whole moments at a time.
She was so stupid.
Lilah said all the time that she liked her; she whispered it at night as they gazed into each other's eyes across a few inches of black silk that some of the time might have been the ocean, it felt so far and some of the time was as if there were not even inches between them. It would be so easy to be stupid and believe, or stupid enough to make it obvious that she did not.
She would stare at that face, white in the moonlight and the streetlight from the window, and know that somehow there was a beautiful lie there, however hard it was to see it through lust. She would take a finger and lick it and run it through the dark maze of Lilah's hair as if somewhere there was a centre where truth lived, but all she ever found was smoothness and beyond that the slickness of silk.
Lilah had never said she loved her - she had never said the words but it was the crafty fingers and the gentle slap of skin against skin that lied for her. She did say that she liked her - and that was a lie and all the more so because it sounded like love not saying everything there was to say.
Lilah had taught her games. She would come back to the apartment at night and would say 'Let's play.' And sometimes that would be the game of ropes and red scarves and leather thongs, tying each other up and cutting each other with delicate steel knives and pouring thick rich cream on the delicate tracery of blood and licking it clean and wasn't that an interesting taste? and here's a glass of a rather extraordinary red wine that goes with it and adds an undertone of raspberry and smoke.
Sometimes it was the game of matching charcoal grey suits and scarlet lipstick, and black velvet and walnut panel restaurants, where they would push a few slices of olive or part of a mango around a shared plate with their forks, eating almost nothing, while they minced cute waitresses with their eyes, and would giggle in cubicles of tubular steel and mirrored glass washrooms as Lilah chopped them both fine lines of ebony demon scale.
It was the game of sisters and the game of lovers and the game of friends. And of course it was a lie, but it would do as truth for now.
She was stupid, she often thought, but not so stupid as to risk anyone's seeing that she knew they were telling her lies.
The last entirely true thing that had happened to her was the last night that Hank and Joyce had said good night to her; Joyce had brought her a glass of milk and Hank had been there, a tall shadow in the corridor. When they told her that Hank and Joyce were gone forever, she had thought that she was going to die. All the truths in her life had gone away and she was left with nothing. No home, no friends, no clothes - nothing except bad dreams.
Before the sun came up, policemen had come to the house and battered down its door and dragged her out in her torn nightgown. Before the sun came up, she had been driven to that place and the more she cried, the more they shouted at her that her parents were dead, and it was all her fault.
The more she was sad, the more they forced pills down her throat, and when she tried to cough them up or hide them, or to say that she had had enough pills, the more they said she was confused and psychotic and held her down and put needles into her skin so that she was weak for days. They tied her to chairs and demanded that she tell them her dreams, and when she told them of her dreams of darkness and blood and things that walk by night, they said that she was mad and needed more needles.
They showed her the instruments for electric shock treatment and said that right now she was too young, and they did not want to fry out her brain, but if the dreams went on they would have no option.
One of the male nurses would come to her, tied to her bed at night and trail lubricated fingers across her body, and giggle to her about what he would be free to do to her when they cut or fried her brain. He told her that he liked beauty best when it was ruined, slack and drooling, and she tried to snap at him with her teeth and he burned her naked stomach with a cattle prod.
At night, there were screams from other rooms, and worse, there was silence.
It went on for months or years - she lay in anguish in dark rooms where she could no longer hang on to day and night. She had always been proud of her hair and they left it matted and dirty and every so often sheared it off ragged or clipped it down to the scalp. Often she lay in filth because they would not let her stand; sometimes they starved her, and sometimes they fed her porridge from plastic spoons until she thought she would burst from disgust.
Any lies they chose to offer to her were better than that.
Lilah had come into that place in her charcoal grey and her scarlet lipstick and a briefcase that held more papers than it could possibly have room for. She had come to her room and she said 'I'm Lilah. Let's play. I'm getting you out of here.' She had taken her into the office of her doctor and she slapped his face in front of his colleagues and pulled the certificates off the wall and ordered him to tear them up and eat them.
Lilah went to the cupboard in the corner of his office where he kept the green phials they stuck into the needles, and she pulled them out and threw them onto the carpet and she ground them to dust and stain beneath her black stiletto heels.
She had them call in the nurse with the slimed fingers and she made him kneel among the glass dust and lick my feet in their hospital slippers, and then she pulled a small revolver from her briefcase and she shot him in the back of the head. Where the pool of his blood met the green stain, it hissed, delicately.
Lilah told them all to leave and she pulled her into the doctor's private bathroom and she stripped off her hospital gown, stained with slime and porridge and filth and sweat. And she took off her charcoal grey suit and hung it on a folding hanger. Lilah had soap with her that smelled of forests and jewel-tiled palaces, and she washed the girl all over until she was clean, an inch at a time.
'You'll never be sad again,' Lilah said. 'You'll never be hungry and you'll never be dirty.'
How could the girl not throw her arms about her and cry, warm salt tears mingling with hot shower water? How could she not despise herself for being so weak?
She held Lilah tight in her arms, so tight that the lawyer gasped with pain.
'Never let people see how strong you are,' she said. ' Unless you mean to use your strength to kill them. I have so much to teach you, Buffy.'
'I'm not Buffy,' the girl said. ' Not any more. She was Hank and Joyce's little girl. And she died when they did. They're gone and so is she.'
' You're not anyone's girl, now, Elizabeth.'
'Can't I be your girl, Lilah,' she said.
'Oh,' Lilah said,' We'll have to see about that.'
Cold inside her head, Elizabeth thought - this is a lie, of course, but let it see where it leads us. Anywhere but back there - I'll never be dirty or hungry or tied down again.
And even in the car that sped through the night into the flickering jewel-box of Los Angeles, it was clear that it would lead her into Lilah's bed if she wanted it to.
Lilah's consoling hand on the base of her neck was just a little lingering, her gentle words just a little full of smokiness, her smile just a little too often moistened with the darting of a tongue between those lips.
Make a choice, Elizabeth thought, while you have the chance to choose. Even if it is a lie that you choose, or that you have a choice.
She let her cropped head droop and snuggled it into Lilah's taut stomach, and let her breathing get sleepily slow. And she did not ever need to fake nightmares to get comfort in the night; the bad dreams came every time she closed her eyes.
Loving Lilah was more than what she did; it had to become who she was.
She learned to live behind quiet eyes and never be obviously watching for cues. She could never know the truth or be seen to be looking for it - it could not matter whether there was truth and lies, or whether there was just how things were. Perhaps what they wanted was that she was Lilah's entirely, womb and brain and blood and bone, or perhaps an appearance would satisfy them.
She was Lilah's girl; it helped that she was so much smaller than the tall dusk-haired lawyer - she could hang on an arm and giggle and be cute and look up at Lilah with big wondering eyes. She could ask to have everything explained and pout with a small perfect mouth when told to leave the room while they discussed having people eaten.
And she learned to please Lilah and to please herself while she did it; she did much hard thinking, there between the lawyer's thighs where no betraying flicker of intelligence could be seen behind her eyes. She learned to split from her body even as it spasmed endlessly in bliss and think through what little she had learned and what it might be that Lilah and her masters wanted from her. She spent hours in front of mirrors endlessly fine-tuning the tinted curve of an eyelash and watching nothing happen in her eyes.
She shared Lilah's bed and she shared Lilah's robust pleasures; one night Lilah would take her to the symphony, their wrists linked by invisible chains as they clapped delicately in the right places and another they would have a ringside seat as demons tore the flesh of human slaves and bet each other forfeits how long it would be before the slave lost a second limb.
When Lilah refused smoked baby fingers at office cocktail parties, because she was avoiding nitrites, Elizabeth did the same; whatever Lilah ate, she ate too.
Pleasure was her armour, Siamese-cat moans and blank beautiful eyes.
Sometimes, if she could hear Lilah breathing softly, Elizabeth would look at that sleeping beautiful face across a desert of silk and let herself smile inside her head.
One day, once she knew the reasons why, she would kill her lover quickly and efficiently with no pain, with no fuss and with no expression.
Or maybe she would do it tomorrow, or the day after.
Just to end the lies.