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Eleven: The Calm Before the Shitstorm.

Lilith had loved college.

She had LOVED it.

She had gone to University with Coda. She had gone to University BECAUSE of Coda, to be honest. Lil had no interest in higher education, or any other sort of education. She didn't have the temperament to make serious academics worthwhile, and her parents had never planned on sending her to college, anyway. But Coda, she'd found Lilith some grants and scholarships, filled out the applications and had the responses mailed to the Experiment house. In the end, there were so many endowments that they wound up sending a few back.

Lilith was probably the first dumb kid in the history of the world to run away to school. She wound up an art major. Naturally.

It turned out that art was a little harder than it looked. Maybe a lot harder. Still, the university was a state school, not a specialized art school. All the kids would get their degrees, as long as the checks kept clearing. Basic Drawing 101 even canceled peer review week when a sophomore burst into tears midway through a critique and half-heartedly attempted suicide in the department bathroom with a handful of Advil and a warm bottle of Zima.

Challenging? Not exactly. The pushover classes gave Lilith a lot of free time. Which was good, because her mother wouldn't stop writing her.

Dad was fucking the maid again. Which was maybe as surprising as the sun coming up, or breathing, or, like, gravity, or something.

Okay, so, WHY did they hire her back, again? This wasn't the first time, geniuses. Mom's therapist probably told her to, that dude who thought he was a Cherokee and used the word "yoni" exactly WAY the fuck too much. That, or they all got, like, some brain disease from eating mom's rat-butt cooking for a week and decided Lobster Thermidor was worth the trouble.

So, yeah, obviously, there was maid-fucking. Duh. Lil didn't know what exactly happened after that, though, because the letter got all weird and scrawly after the third paragraph, except for the swears and the little drawings of dreamcatchers. All she knew was Mom was moving out. Like, forever.

Pleasant family, OVER. Fine. Good. Maybe now people would stop looking at Lil like she was a crackhead when she talked about how everyone in her family sucked so bad.

The letter after that one was all dramatic n' weepy n' shit. Mom went on about being walked out the the taxi, getting in, Dad wouldn't even say goodbye, Angela didn't want to leave, boo hoo hoo. And y'know, somewhere out there, World's Smallest Care Bear was probably carin' its little heart out all about it. Lil, she read the letter out loud on Open Mic Night at the Student Union.

Kaylynn, the maid? Lil knew what Dad saw in her. She sounded a lot like Mom. Kinda screwball, in a crazy, vindictive way. That is, if what Mom said about her waving goodbye and grinning from the curb was true, of course. It might not be. Mom sorta saw what she wanted to.

There were more letters after that, but Lilith began throwing them away unopened when Mom closed a note by saying she was working very hard to forgive Lilith for driving her and Daniel apart.

Outside of the letters, though? College wasn't so bad. Lil moved out of student housing junior year, and started a little fraternity house with Coda. They had a lot of friends, a lot of pledges, and a lot of parties. Coda even loosened up some. Like, FINALLY.

And the inevitable happened. You know. Yeah, big surprise.

This lesbian thing? Totally bearable. Solid B-minus. But Coda was just strange about it. Like, inflexible. Like when Lil suggested that they snag some cute guy down at the gym, and maybe brought him home, and you know, kinda saw what happened? Wow. Just WOW.

When Coda cried, it sounded exactly like a donkey. You know, like HEE-HAW, but over and over and kind of gaspy. It was of hypnotic, after a couple of hours.

Fine, BE weird about it. Jesus. Never even mind.

They both graduated Summa Cum Laude. Whatever that meant. It was good, probably, the way everyone made such a big deal about it. There was a party. Lilith felt a little guilty about it all, since Coda was the one who had wrote her final thesis on the Florentine Renaissance, but not too much.

Coda's folks showed up to hug her and cry. Lil's mom called.

Mom and Angela were living in a trailer. An honest. To God. TRAILER. The divorce was close to final, but not the settlement. Lil stifled a snort, imagining Angie trying to adjust to life without a swimming pool and computer.

For her part, Mary Sue dropped ten-ton hints about Lil moving back home. And by "back home," naturally, she meant into the fucking trailer. Probably pretty interested in the kind of salary a college-educated adult could pull down in Pleasantview.

Lil put the receiver down on the counter and went back to the party.

Lilith and Coda moved into their own place in Pleasantview shortly afterwards.Their first guests were Coda's folks.

The mom was... different. Not like before. Hipper to the situation, and not too thrilled about it. Seemed to blame Lilith. It wasn't anything overt, just kind of a free-floating resentment. As far as Lil could tell, Momma Experiment must have figured out somewhere along the way that being a lesbian dramatically reduced any chances of a daughter crapping out a grandbaby. And for a woman who had devoted her entire life to turning her uterus into a clown car, there probably wasn't a greater sin on Earth.

Dad, on the other hand, zoned out, plucked blissfully at the guitar, and babbled about how lucky his little girl was to find such a great roommate.

Uh... Earth to Basil. Seriously. But if he didn't know Coda was a setting up the neighborhood safehouse for the Lavender Underground, it wasn't Lil's goddamn job to clue him in. She figured it would hit him eventually, and that humiliation of obliviousness was probably best experienced in the privacy of his own home, instead of turning it into the evening floor show at Chateau de Ghey.

And now, it was morning. It was a brand new day.

Lilith was free of her parents. Free of school. She had her own place, and a fianc?e that kind of loved her to a scary degree. She was an adult. A stable, well-educated, middle-class adult. And holy shit, was she happy. Actually happy.

So why did it all feel so goddamn doomed?


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