22. Elegant
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Picking which college I wanted to go to wasn't as easy as mom made it sound. I'd narrowed it down to a couple options, but I really needed to talk with Melissa again first. I still hoped we could go to the same school, which meant I needed to know what her plans were before I made a decision.

And right now my mind was still on Lily, after the excitement with my dad. She'd taken over twice while he was here, and she used magic which was really cool. But thinking of her reminded me of something I'd been curious about and kept forgetting to ask her.

"Hey Lily?"

"Yes Mara, what is it?"

"I've been meaning to ask this for ages and I keep forgetting. What's it like for you? Like, where are you right now when we're talking like this?"

She paused a moment, then replied "I'm inside your head Mara. You know that, I'm not someplace else talking to you through telepathy."

"Yeah I know," I frowned. "Sorry I'm not asking this right. I want to know what it's like for you in there, while I'm out here doing my thing. Like, I want to know you're comfortable and happy, and not just in another kind of prison or something."

"Ok Mara, I understand. If you like, you can come in here and see for yourself."

That surprised me but I was curious, and a little excited. I'd only actually met her once, sort of. We spoke for a few minutes when I died, and that was before I even knew her name or who she was.

"Really? Will you be there too? Can we actually meet?"

"Yes Mara, we can meet face to face." Lily sounded almost amused at how eager I was.

I was smiling now, "Then yes please! How does it work? How do I get there?"

"I'll help," she replied. "Just relax and close your eyes."

I was still sitting at the computer, but I let myself get comfortable on the chair and rested my hands on my lap. I closed my eyes and asked, "Ok, now what?"

Lily sounded closer as she answered, "I'll guide you. Imagine taking one large step backwards, but with your mind rather than your body. Let your body remain completely relaxed and still, but imagine yourself, your mind, stepping backwards."

I tried to picture myself standing in my room then taking a big step back. It was a strange exercise, and for just a moment I felt a little wobbly on my feet. Then I realized I could feel a pair of hands gently holding my shoulders, as if to keep me steady.

"Very good Mara," Lily said. "You may open your eyes now."

Her voice was right behind and above me, rather than inside my head. My eyes flicked open and I looked around in amazement.

I was standing in front of a huge window. It was at least five meters wide and three meters tall, but outside was completely dark. I figured it was night-time here, except there weren't even any stars out or city lights or anything outside.

I looked left and right, and realized I was in some kind of huge luxury apartment. The ceiling was way high up, like five meters or something, and it felt like you could fit our whole house into this one room. I felt the hands move off my shoulders and I slowly turned around.

Standing there behind me was Lily.

She looked just like I remembered from the day I died. She was almost six feet tall, I had to tilt my head up to look at her. Her black hair was done up in a bun, her skin was slightly tanned, and her eyes were dark. And just like before, she was dressed in long flowing black clothes. They looked like robes or something, or maybe it was a cloak or cape.

When I saw her the first time, she had a sort of severe look to her but now she looked kind and friendly. It was hard to guess her age, but I figured somewhere around thirty-five.

She had a sort of timeless look, like she'd fit right in if she was at a ball in the eighteenth century, or ruling over a kingdom in the eighth century. And she definitely looked like she fit in here in this swanky apartment.

A meter behind her was a huge black leather sofa, positioned so it was facing the large window. To the left was a matching black leather chair except it was even more massive, like it was literally giant-sized. Beyond the sofa and chair there was a large elegant black lacquered dining table to the left, with a dozen chairs around it. And over to the right was a grand piano. Next to that was a big funky-looking harp. At the far left corner was a black wrought-iron spiral staircase that went up to a large doorway, I figured that led to a bedroom or something. And at the back of the huge room in the middle of the wall was a massive door, that must have been three meters high and two meters wide.

Lily was still smiling at me as she greeted me, "Hello Mara. It's lovely to meet the real you."

I'm not sure what she was expecting, like maybe a curtsey or a handshake, but I sort of launched myself forward and wrapped my arms around her as I gave her a big tight hug. I nearly knocked her over, despite her height she felt a lot slimmer than she looked and she wasn't expecting me to tackle-hug her.

She slowly put her arms around me as well, as if she was almost reluctant. Or maybe she just wasn't used to this kind of affection.

"Lily I'm so happy to meet you too!" I had a huge happy grin on my face. It almost felt like I was meeting a beloved aunt for the first time, or a friend I hadn't seen in forever.

I continued to hug her for another minute or so before I finally let go.

She took a step back, she really did look sort of awkward. She even had a slight blush on her cheeks.

I still had a huge grin on my face as I started wandering around, checking out her place. The walls and floor and ceiling were all white, like perfect unmarked white, and everything else was black. The only thing that wasn't black or white was the harp, which was kind of dark bronze. The colour scheme was kind of harsh on the eyes but it also felt sort of elegant. And it also kind of fit Lily's personality, I thought.

"So this is your place?" I asked as I looked around. "It's wild! You hang out here all day long and talk to me?"

She still had a slight blush to her cheeks as she replied, "Normally when we're talking, I'm either standing by the window or sitting on the sofa."

I moved back to where she was, standing between the sofa and the window. I sat on the sofa and found it was nice and comfy. It would be a nice place to lounge.

"How come it's so dark out? Is it night-time here? Why aren't there any stars or lights?"

Lily's lips twitched into a slight smile, "It's dark out because your eyes are closed."

"Huh?" I frowned. I made some exaggerated blinks at her, "They're open, I'm looking right at you Lily."

She chuckled softly, "Your body's eyes are closed."

I turned and stared at the big window and my eyes widened. "The window is our eyes? It's dark out because our eyes are closed?"

"That's right Mara," she replied.

I got back up and moved right up to the window. "That's so cool! So you're like just sitting here watching what I'm up to, and talking to me and stuff? And when I do something silly or foolish or embarrassing and I imagine you're blushing or face-palming or rolling your eyes or whatever, are you really doing that?"

Lily was blushing again but she nodded "Yes, probably. I'm not sure that's something you should be so proud of though."

I just giggled, then turned to face her again. "Lily I'm really glad you have this cool place. I hope you're comfortable here? Like I was worried it would sort of suck for you, that being stuck inside our head all the time while I was out doing stuff was bad or unpleasant. Or just plain boring."

She gave me a friendly, compassionate smile. "Mara one thing you are not is boring. And I'm touched that you worried about me, but I'm quite fine here."

"I'm glad," I replied as I smiled back at her. My smile faded again as I asked, "I have one last question though. And I hope this doesn't upset you or whatever? Like I hope this isn't just my ignorance talking. But uh... You don't look anything like I thought a demon would look. I mean, it's really hard to imagine why people would have such a hate on for demons if they looked as beautiful as you."

Her blush was back, brighter than before. She sighed softly then admitted "This is not my true form, Mara. This is my 'human guise', the appearance I take to walk among your kind. If I'd first appeared to you in my true form, you'd have... Well, let's just say we wouldn't have ended up friends."

I frowned as I thought that over. After a few moments I asked, "But we're friends now right? So can I see what you really look like?"

She hesitated, so I added "You helped me learn who I really am Lily. Between you and Melissa I found my true self. I'd like to know the real you. If that's ok?"

Lily seemed torn. Like she didn't want to refuse me, but she didn't want to show me what she really looked like.

I figured maybe it was something scary or nasty or whatever, so I said "Lily I'll try really hard not to freak out. Whatever it is you really look like, I already know who you are inside right?"

She finally nodded, "Very well Mara."

I watched as she moved around the sofa then out to the middle of the large room, so she was in a sort of wide open spot. She was about five or six meters from me, the big leather sofa was between us and the big window behind me.

"You stay there, ok?" she said in a sort of half question, half statement.

"Ok Lily," I nodded and stayed put. I kept my eyes on her, and I sort of braced myself. Whatever happened I didn't want to offend her by freaking out or making some rude or insensitive comment or something.

Lily took a deep breath then her flowing black robe-gown-cloak thing suddenly billowed up around her as if she was in the middle of a tiny invisible cyclone.

It only took a moment, and suddenly there she was. She was crouching at first, but stood up to her full height and stretched her wings out far to either side. Suddenly I understood why the ceilings were so high and why the apartment was so big.

She was well over eight feet tall, maybe eight and a half feet. She was naked, and her iridescent royal-blue skin seemed to sparkle and shimmer. Her huge bat-like wings were black, and when she had them outstretched they must have been almost twenty feet from tip to tip. A long dark blue tail stretched down from the base of her back and coiled on the floor around her right ankle. It was about ten feet long, and ended in a small spade tip. There were two stubby sky-blue horns protruding from her forehead.

Her feet and lower legs were shaped like the hind paws of some giant blue cat, complete with long wicked sharp black claws. Her hands were normal human hands but her fingernails were long and black.

The rest of her body was also normal human shape, just scaled up bigger. Her eyes were completely black, like two sparkling pools of endless void. Her face still looked oddly familiar, but with shimmering royal blue skin. Her glistening jet-black lips were full and wide, her nose was still small, and her cheekbones high. Even in iridescent blue she looked elegant, almost regal.

Her hair was still long and black, but instead of being in a neat little bun it now hung halfway down her back in a wild carefree mess.

I was a little surprised that she was completely naked, but it crossed my mind she probably couldn't find clothes in her size anyways. There was a triangle of black hair between her long muscular legs, and her boobs were perfectly proportioned to her massive frame. Her nipples were black, like her lips and her wings.

As I stared at her, I noticed her cheeks started to grow darker as the skin shifted from a shimmering royal-blue to a much darker shade. After a moment I realized she was blushing.

My eyes were wide and my mouth hanging open slightly. I could feel my heart racing as I just stood there and stared.

Lily gulped and asked nervously, "Mara, are you ok?"

It was still her voice, but it was deeper and a bit louder, and it sort of resonated in my chest and deep in my abdomen.

I hadn't moved, I hadn't made a sound yet. My heart was still racing though, as gulped. I took a deep breath, and when I spoke I tried not to let my voice waver too much.

"Lily... You're hot!" I felt my own cheeks heating up as I started to blush as well. "I mean... You're really hot!"

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