In The Land of the Dead
"So – um – we're absolutely certain we want to do this?"
"We paid the cab to take us here, didn't we?" Arthur replied, glancing at his wife. "Would be rather silly to turn around and leave now after getting this far."
"I know, but–" Lorina nibbled the side of her finger. "Do you really want to go inside?"
"No. . .but then, no one does, if they have any sense at all."
"Hence why they only accept people who have no sense," Lizzie mumbled, wrapping her hand around the rusted metal of the gate. Unlike the majority of the Land of the Dead, this particular location seemed to revel in gloom and despair. Past the flaking iron was a yard of dead grass and root-like trees, their branches slumped in misery. A cobbled path cut the flora neatly in twain, weed-strewn and spotted with ankle-twisting divots. At the end of it was a blood-red door, old and scratched up, hanging slightly ajar. And surrounding said door was easily the most intimidating building Lizzie had ever seen in her life – dark, weather-beaten brick stretching up to the sky in a pair of small turrets, then spreading out right and left in two long wings, topped on their innermost points with stone crosses. The effect was that of a large bat, preparing to swoop down on them and rip open their necks to feast on their life fluid. Which I suppose is appropriate, given the name and one of the favored treatments, Lizzie thought, turning her gaze to the arch that curved over the gate, topped with the visage of some demonic creature. Rutledge Asylum. Of all the places I thought I'd visit either in life or in death, this horrible spot never made the list.
Lorina gave her a look. "That's hardly kind, Lizzie. The mentally ill are deserving of our sympathy, not our scorn."
"You're the one who doesn't want to go inside," Lizzie reminded her.
Lorina fidgeted, managing to give the appearance of blushing without actually changing color. "Well. . .you can be sympathetic to someone and still not want to be on the wrong end of one of their fits," she murmured. "Besides, I – I really don't – what if she is one of the residents here?"
"Then we take her home," Arthur declared, voice brooking no argument. "I don't care what might be wrong with her mind. Being with family will be better than being trapped here with strangers."
"Amen to that," Lizzie agreed. "Even the Illustrated believes this place to be vile, and no place to keep a child."
"Yes, but the Illustrated also likes to exaggerate everything they print at least a thousandfold in order to keep their numbers up," Lorina replied. "There was a reason I always told you girls to take whatever you might see in it with a heaping spoonful of salt."
"Be that as it may, we have independent proof that they're right in reporting Alice's incarceration here," Arthur reminded her. "And it's not like we have much luck in getting any other news from Above. The Times and its ilk don't seem to be used to wrap things or fuel fireplaces as much as the Illustrated. We can only work with what we have – and what we have is. . . ." He pulled a rather crunchy broadsheet from his pocket and unfolded it with care. "'Alice Liddell remains hidden behind the walls of Rutledge Asylum. Despite this reporter's best efforts, no update on her condition can be confirmed. All that we know for sure is that dear Miss Liddell has defied all the gloomiest predictions for her future in the grave. Plucky child! Dr. Wilson remains mum on his treatment plans, but given the asylum's recent purchase of a new trepanation device, the coming year appears grim for our favorite orphan. We will continue our efforts to ferret out the truth, and give all our eager and compassionate readers an update as soon as we are able.'" He looked back up. "At least they seem to like her."
"Of course they do – she's circulation gold," Lizzie said cynically. "But I do wish they'd managed to drag a few answers out of this 'Dr. Wilson.' A year in hospital and a year in bedlam, and she's still likely doing nothing but staring at the ceiling? It's – can either of you imagine Alice doing that?"
"Only if she were making a game of being a statue or something," Lorina admitted. "And even then, I wouldn't expect her to be able to keep it up for more than two minutes before she got bored." She swallowed. "But we must remember – she's not the Alice we used to know. My own child, like a stranger to me. . . ."
"Hopefully not for long," Arthur said, eyes fixed on the front door. "We're here for answers, and I don't intend to leave before I get some." He pushed open the gate, sending a horrible SCHRREEEEEEEKKKKK through the dead air. "Let's go, my darlings. Remember – the worst has passed. Nothing can hurt us here."
Lizzie bit her lip as the windows beneath the turrets seemed to glare at them. "I want that in writing."
They crossed the path in a tight huddle, and made it through the red door without incident. A twisty hallway greeted them, with dirty white wallpaper peeling off and revealing a layer of termite-chewed wood beneath. "Do you think it looks this bad Upstairs?" Lorina asked as they navigated the bends. "I know these places always seem to be a bit hard up for funds, but really."
"I doubt it – otherwise they'd never get a new patient," Arthur said, poking the wall curiously. His finger squished right through the mushy beams. "But I would feel more at ease if the place was cleaner."
"Mad people don't care much about hygiene, I think," Lizzie admitted, pushing open the door to the waiting room. A small array of couches and chairs in the same dirty white greeted them, along with a wormhole-ridden front desk. She crossed to the latter and peered over it. "Either that or everyone who dies here immediately makes a run for it. I would. Hullo?"
No answer. "There must be someone here," Arthur argued. "Some ill-fated doctor or nurse who actually cared about the place while they were alive. . . ." He weaved around the couches, leading his wife by the hand. "I mean, wasn't Rutledge named after some–" sproing! "–ONE!"
He jumped backward as an overstressed spring finally snapped its tether and burst through a nearby cushion. After a moment's staring, he laughed awkwardly. "A-all right, maybe I'm a little more on edge than I cared to admit."
"We all are," Lorina reassured him, rubbing his shoulder. "In and out, all right? Just as soon as we're sure Alice hasn't secretly slipped Downstairs, we can leave."
"Right." Arthur opened the door to the next hallway and waved Lizzie over. "Stay close, everyone."
They hadn't gone more than a dozen steps when the hall sharply forked, spreading right and left in a T-shape. "Do you think it matters which wing we start with?" Arthur asked, glancing over his shoulder.
"Well, I assume ladies are on one side, men on the other," Lorina said, pointing randomly. "Of course, I don't know which is which. . .and Mrs. Ashby mentioned her brother being on a special ward. Maybe children are kept in another place altogether."
"Let's start right," Lizzie suggested. "It's how you're supposed to go in mazes, and if it's the wrong side, there's nothing stopping us from turning around and trying the other."
"Good thinking," Arthur said, following the right fork. A pair of thick metal double doors loomed before them, with a badly-painted sign nailed above reading "Ward One." "And we can't leave any stone unturned if we're going to – ugh!"
Arthur pushed open the left-hand door a fraction, then reeled away, letting it swing closed. "God, the smell! It's worse than my photography chemicals!"
"Arthur, don't exaggerate," Lorina scolded, taking the lead. "I'm sure it's not – guh!" She cupped her hand over what was left of her nose. "Dear Lord – didn't they ever empty the bedpans?!"
Lizzie poked her head forward, and just as quickly pulled it back as the stench hit her dead on. "Ooooh. . .we should have brought masks! What were they doing in there?"
"Not cleaning, that's for sure," Arthur muttered. He sucked in a steadying breath, then promptly gagged. "Nope, nope, makes it worse. . .should have thought of that. . . ." He coughed out the offending scent. "Come on. We'll shoot through quick as hares, and then hope that was the worst of it."
Lorina and Lizzie both nodded. Arthur shoved open the doors, and the three dashed through the ward. The smell wasn't the room's only horror, Lizzie noted as they ran. The rows and rows of beds were all uniformly filthy, and many sported stains that could only have been blood, feces, or urine. There were similar splashes of crusty brown-red and dried deep yellow on the checked tiles, and the ceiling was home to a family of roaches. "Barbaric," she growled.
"Says you!" called one of the roaches. Lizzie shot it a rude hand sign.
The smell lingered once they were out the doors at the other end, but fortunately lessened in intensity. The group gratefully turned the bend. Yet another hallway greeted them, but this one was a bit thinner than its predecessors, and lined with heavy doors. Each had a barred window set into it, as if encouraging visitors to peek inside. "Reminds me more of gaol than a hospital. . .I guess we'll just check each in turn," Arthur shrugged, then pointed across the cracking floor. "I'll do this side, you and Lizzie do that side."
"Right." The three slid slowly up the hall, peeping in each cell in turn. Dented metal-framed beds and chipped china basins greeted their eyes, most not in any better shape than the ones they'd just seen in the ward. Lizzie growled softly as she found one with heavy metal loops screwed into the plaster, rusted shackles hanging over the sagging mattress. "Are they prisoners or patients?"
"This one seems a smidgen more humane," Lorina said, beckoning her over to see a cell covered floor to ceiling in white padding. Bits of fluff were poking out from the rotting cloth. "Though I would have given them a window too."
"There's some on this side, but they don't offer much of a view," Arthur reported. "Is there anyone actually in yours?"
"Not a one." Lorina gave the door of the padded cell an experimental tug. It creaked open painfully, scraping against the abused tiles. "I'm starting to think you're right, Lizzie – they wake up here and immediately mount their escape."
"There's still a lot of building to check," Arthur said, though he didn't sound particularly confident. "Keep a move on, my dears."
The hallway split in twain again after the last pair of cells – one side leading to a set of stairs, the other to another pair of double doors. Lizzie wrinkled her nose as she read the sign above the latter. "'Bloodletting.' Ugh. I hope leeches don't talk down here."
"You and M ended up getting on fine," Lorina pointed out as Arthur went to investigate the stairs. "I swear he was rather sad to say goodbye once he finished his – ah – duties."
"I suppose. . .but I never liked to think about what he was actually doing," Lizzie confessed, absently rubbing the outside of her thigh. "And leeches. . .well, they just look like they'd be nasty. If I must have something clinging to my flesh, I'd rather it be good-tempered."
Arthur reappeared at the top of the steps. "It's a door to the yard," he reported. "Ill-kept and ugly, but there's a big tree in the corner Alice probably would have liked. . . ." His lip quivered, and he bit down on it. "We'll investigate it later. Right now, I think our only way forward is through Bloodletting."
"That's what I feared." Lizzie glared at the doors, then squared her shoulders. "Through and over with, then." Taking the lead, she marched into the room.
It wasn't quite as bad as Ward One, she'd give it that. At least there were no urine stains this time, and the smell wasn't attacking her nose so viciously. But the bed in the middle of the room was stained heavily with reddish-brown, and little sticky pools of it lingered on the tiles beneath. And even that was a better sight than the shelves set up around the room, slowly falling into ruin thanks to mold and woodworm. Glass jars filled all those that hadn't fallen, and round and round in them swam. . . . Lizzie shuddered. How anyone can think these are good for the mad I will never understand. Not wanting to linger in this particular slice of Hell any longer than she had to, she hurried across to the doors on the other side.
Another hallway, the twin of the one they had just left, greeted her. She stepped forward and peered in the nearest cell. Nothing again but dust and shadows –
"Well, whaddya we have here?"
She wasn't even sure she had blood anymore, but nevertheless, it turned to ice. Very slowly, Lizzie turned to see a figure at the other end of the hall. "Looks like a lady," it continued, grinning at her in the flickering light. "Pop your strait-waistcoat already?"
He was nothing like Bumby, Lizzie could see that much. While the undergraduate had been all lean, sharp angles, this fellow – an orderly, she guessed from his costume – was all soft, doughy curves. His face was almost perfectly round, like a bun that had been left to rise a little too long, and his hands consisted of pudgy stumps welded onto a thick wad of meat. His eyes were sunken, and his teeth big flat squares – but she knew that smile. That was the smile that had followed her all over Oxford, that had driven a hand up her skirt in the back garden, that had reveled in the final destruction of her innocence – and now it was coming for her once more, and the fact that M had ensured no man would ever find her satisfactory again meant nothing at all in the face of that goddamn grin –
Her hands, realizing her brain was seizing up, took action. They latched around the handle of a nearby cart, laden with bedpans and blankets, and sent it flying toward the fat man. It hit him square in the middle, knocking him back a few paces. He recovered quickly, his natural padding giving him an edge even beyond death's removal of pain – but by then Lizzie's feet had gotten in on the action too, and she was already sprinting back the way she'd come. Her mother yelped as she nearly bowled her over, but she was beyond hearing, beyond seeing, beyond anything but the animal instinct to get away and hide. Through the Bloodletting room again, ignoring the curious thrashing of the leeches – across the split in the hall – up the stairs her father had so recently climbed – out the door he'd said was there –
And then old, dry grass crunched beneath her boots. Lizzie headed straight for the fence, not slowing down a jot. She slammed into the old iron, clinging like a monkey to the bars, ready to climb to safety and disappear into parts unknown. Where no man could ever look at her, or touch her, or – or. . . .
And it would never do any good. She slid to the ground, curling up into a ball as the tears started. Two years. Two bloody years, and the feel of his hands was still fresh against her skin. It didn't matter how much she bathed, or how much she let rot or get chewed away. He'd always be there. Always reminding her she was broken and disgusting and too pretty for her own good. Always flashing her, from a million different faces, that awful, awful grin.
"Goodness me – what happened? You don't look as if you belong here."
Lizzie's head jerked up. Standing over her was a woman, deep blue with black, scraggly hair hanging limply around her face and pale brown eyes. She was dressed in a shapeless gray sack of a gown with no shoes – the uniform of a patient, Lizzie guessed. But the stranger's gaze was clear and sharp. "Just visiting," she muttered, turning away. She wasn't much in the mood for company.
"By the look of things, you got visited," the woman commented, not taking the hint. "It was Earl in there, wasn't it? He's more bark than bite."
"Bark is very good enough, thank you," Lizzie snapped, curling up tighter. "I was hoping to have escaped from all that."
"He only needs one lesson before he leaves you alone," the woman said knowledgeably. "What did you do to him?"
". . .Ran a cart into him, if you must know."
"I slammed a bedpan over his head." Lizzie had to look up at that. "He wore it for a week before he finally managed to wrench it off that overstuffed head of his. Only wish I could have had one last pee into it in the bargain." The woman offered her hand. "Ariel Donovan."
Well, maybe she didn't want to be alone that much after all. You had to respect a woman who knew how to wield a bedpan. Lizzie accepted it, wiggling around to face her properly. "Lizzie Liddell."
The door burst open, and Arthur and Lorina struggled through, slamming into each other in their haste to get outside and reach their daughter. "Lizzie, darling, are you all right?" Lorina demanded, finally winning the battle.
"I'm – I'm fine," Lizzie said, wiping her eyes. Now that she'd had a moment in the fresh air, she was starting to feel a little silly. This "Earl" hadn't even touched her – hadn't even come close to her! It was just. . .that smile. . . . "I – I panicked. I'm sorry."
"'Panicked' is an understatement – you nearly sent the both of us flying just now," Arthur said, sitting down next to her. "What did that bounder say to you?"
"Just something about 'popping my strait-waistcoat. . .'" Lizzie took a shaky breath. "I'll be all right. I just – God, I hope we don't run into any of his friends."
"Oh no, he's the only one left," Miss Donovan reported, leaning up against the fence. "Mr. Chatterwall told me – right before he walked out the door – that all the other staff gets out just as soon as they can. Nobody wants to stay in this awful place except Earl. I heard a rumor he was born here, so I guess it's as close as he can get to home."
"I have a hard time imagining anyone having a child in a place like that," Lorina confessed, looking back at the asylum with its dark wings spread.
"I – think I saw five babies born in there before that fever claimed me," Miss Donovan said, twirling a lock of ragged hair round a bony finger. "I'm sorry, I – you may have guessed I wasn't a nurse."
"It was fairly obvious," Arthur admitted, nodding at her gown. "But you sound as if you've made a full recovery."
Miss Donovan grinned. "One of the nicer bits of dying – opening my eyes here and suddenly realizing that there was nothing watching me from the wallpaper and never had been. Except perhaps the occasional rat. It's a wonder to think clearly after five years of being convinced monsters in the ceiling were going to devour me unless I kept them calm."
"I'm sure it is," Lorina nodded. "Five years in bedlam, though. . .I am sorry."
"It is what it is," Miss Donovan said philosophically. "I'm only waiting around here until we have a few new arrivals, and after I tell them about Earl and what I know of the Land, I'm off. I missed out on a lot when I was alive, and I intend to make up the difference while I still have all my flesh."
"I don't blame you. . .though I'm hoping you might be able to help us first," Arthur said, stroking the remains of his beard thoughtfully. "How long have you been dead, Miss. . . ?"
"Donovan," Lizzie provided.
"Ariel will do," Miss Donovan said. "And I'm afraid I'm not sure. . .I don't think it's more than half a year, though. Mr. Chatterwall looked much like this when he left, and he'd only been deceased seven months or so. . . ." She contemplated her hands briefly. "Suppose I should just be grateful I'm holding up so well. But why do you want to know?"
"Because – because it's the first anniversary of my younger daughter's commitment here," Arthur sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "We wanted – we just need to know how she's doing."
"We died in a house fire two years ago," Lorina explained. "Alice was the only one who made it out. Someone already told us that she'd retreated inside herself while she was mending in hospital. But we've had no news since."
"Alice. . . ." Ariel drummed her fingers thoughtfully on her cheek. "Witless complained about an Alice a few times while checking up on me in the night."
Protective fury flared up inside Lizzie. "And what did that rotund pile of sausages have to say about my sister?"
"That – oh, no, not Earl!" Ariel laughed. "No, Witless was a nurse – and that was her actual surname, believe it or not. The orderlies had fun with it, let me tell you. . .at any rate, I never paid her much mind while she was there, but I seem to recall. . . ." She screwed up her face and mimicked an older woman's voice. "'At least you're quieter than Alice! Screaming all day today about how she killed her family. If it weren't for the bottle in the padding I'd have joined you in the cells!'"
The angry fires died down, smothered under a wave of sorrow. "She – she blames herself for our deaths?" Lizzie whispered, a few fresh tears trickling down her cheeks. "But even that – that crock of shit about Dinah Bumby fed the police had it all as an accident."
"Dinah was always her cat most of all," Lorina murmured, petting Lizzie's hair. "Maybe she thinks she left Dinah in the library instead of taking her up to her room."
"But she always – how could she forget?" Lizzie rubbed her face. "She couldn't know Bumby did it, of course, but. . .surely she. . . ."
"She's scarred, orphaned, and in bedlam – we mustn't think she's as clever as she usually is at the moment," Arthur said regretfully. "Even my memories of the fire are more flashes of heat and pain than anything. This Witless sounds like she lives up to her name," he added to Ariel. "Bottle in the padding, really. . . ."
"I could be remembering wrong – I was always more concerned with making sure there were mice in each corner of the room so the demons would have something to snack on that wasn't me," Ariel confessed. "But that's what it sounded like. She also grumbled about her 'never letting go of that wretched rabbit,' but I could never make heads or tails out of that."
"Rabbit?" Lizzie straightened up. "She still has Mr. Bunny, then?"
"I – assume? So long as Mr. Bunny was a toy and not a pet. I don't think they allowed those in the asylum. Though there were always stray cats yowling outside the windows. . .don't think they helped my dreams of monsters any," Ariel said, twisting up another lock of hair.
"My seventh birthday present to her – a stuffed cloth bunny in a waistcoat," Lizzie confirmed, the faintest hint of a smile tugging at her lips. "Inspired some of my favorite stories from her. . .I – I guess it's good to know she didn't lose it in the fire."
"Sounds like it was the only thing she didn't lose," Arthur mumbled. "Damn it. . .I know I shouldn't have expected much after seeing that article in the Illustrated, but – I was so hoping the reporter had simply missed something. . . ."
"Sorry I can't be the bearer of good news," Ariel said sympathetically. "But it has been some time since I died. Maybe she's started to turn around in the meantime. She had Dr. Wilson taking care of her, and he always seemed kinder than Dr. Black. Though, again, I was in no position to really judge."
"Mmmm. . .I hope so." Arthur sighed again as he looked around. "So it's just you and Earl, then?"
"Unless someone's died and I haven't seen them yet – want me to walk you around the place, just in case?" Ariel offered. "I could use the company, and I'm sure none of you want a second meeting with Earl."
That grin flashed in her mind again, first doughy, then sharp. Lizzie shuddered as she stood, brushing the dirt and paint off her dress. "Certainly not. It would be very kind of you."
"My pleasure – and you could tell me more about what it's like outside the fence," Ariel said with a nod at the rusty iron. "Where are you all from?"
"Oxford," Arthur said as they started around the yard. "I was a Dean at Christ Church there. . . ."
"I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help."
"Oh, please, don't worry about it – you were a wonderful guide," Lorina assured Ariel as they looped their way back to the waiting room. "And it's good to have any news on Alice. Even. . . ."
"Horrible, half-remembered news from a former lunatic?" Ariel filled in, smirking. "Trust me, I don't take offense."
"You were a great help," Lizzie said firmly. "It's always better to know than not. And I am glad she still has her rabbit. It's not much, but it's something to be grateful for."
Ariel hummed, nodding. "That's more or less how I feel about my death."
"You could come with us, you know," Arthur said, stopping by the front desk. "The people in Oxford are very friendly. I'm sure you'd get on well with Miss Winks and Mrs. Ashby."
Ariel shook her head. "It's very kind of you, but I can't leave whoever arrives next to face death and Earl all alone. It's simply not right." She smiled. "But when I do get out, I'll come by and pay a visit. If I'm lucky, I might even be able to give you more news on your daughter."
"We'll see, I suppose." Arthur shook her hand. "Thank you for the grand tour of Rutledge, and for telling us what you could. Stay safe here now."
"I will – Earl hasn't come within a dozen feet of me ever since the bedpan," Ariel said, folding her arms. "And you're welcome. I – I hope your afterlife gets better."
"It's not so bad," Lorina said. "We still have our home, and we've made a bit of a routine for ourselves. It's just – if only Alice. . . ."
"I'll keep my fingers crossed," Ariel promised. "For as long as I have them, anyway. And again, I'll try to get more news for when I next see you."
"Thank you." Arthur pressed at the corners of his eyes. "Right now, though, if I don't get out of this place, I'll scream."
"Oh, go ahead – you'd be joining a long and distinguished tradition," Ariel joked. "I'm going to go raid the kitchen – all that walking has made me a bit peckish." She gave them a final wave. "Good journey back."
"Thanks." Lizzie returned her wave, then watched as the woman disappeared back into the hall. "I never thought anyone who'd been in a madhouse could be so nice."
"They are people, just like you and me," Lorina gently scolded. "I'm grateful madness doesn't survive the transition into death. Seeing Alice raging and screaming about our demises. . . ." She scrubbed at her eyes. "I don't think I could take it. Oh, our poor darling. . . ."
"I'm a little more worried about some of the treatments she's likely to get," Arthur confessed. "I mean – you saw that chair down in Ward 2-B, right? That's something you use to execute criminals, not cure the mind!"
"What about that drill in the 'Trepanation' room?" Lorina replied, shivering so hard a few loose pieces of skin flaked off. "What if – they wouldn't really put that in someone's skull, would they?"
"You wouldn't think they'd leave someone soaking in a tub of iced salt water for hours either, but Ariel told us that was her most common 'treatment,'" Lizzie reminded the both of them. "Forget cured – if Alice comes out of this awful place in one piece, it'll be a miracle."
"I know." Arthur sighed heavily, closing his eyes. "I think we ought to stop acknowledging our death's anniversary. It seems to lead to nothing but pain."
"We can't just give up on Alice!" Lorina cried, scandalized.
"Oh, no, I'm not suggesting that. I'm just saying – no more special trips, or planned dinners, or anything like that. So far it keeps backfiring on us. I'm not normally a superstitious man, but. . .well, if there's anything I can do to keep Alice's life from getting any worse, even if it's just a foolish thought. . . ."
"Trust me, I'm happier too when the day passes by unheeded," Lizzie said, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. "Two anniversaries are more than enough. Especially. . . ." She swallowed. "Especially when Earl appears so close to one."
Lorina wrapped her arm around Lizzie's shoulders. "I would have told you to wait outside if I'd had the slightest idea he was lurking around."
"I know." Lizzie brushed at her sleeves, doing her best not to think of glasses glimmering in the moonlight, and a grin of triumph over her broken frame. It didn't work very well. "When is it going to stop hurting?"
"Eventually," Arthur said, taking his turn to squeeze her hand.
"That's not much of an answer, Papa."
"It's the only one I can give, I'm afraid. I've asked that same question a lot of myself, and. . .I don't like the other possibility of 'never.'"
Lizzie didn't either, though she had a nasty suspicion that was the more correct one. "I hope he dies in a fire too. Spontaneous combustion, just like in Mr. Dickens. If he's reduced to ash, he can't bother anyone anymore."
"And if he doesn't die like that, we all look pretty flammable," Arthur replied, examining the tatters of his own crispy skin. "Shouldn't be too hard to inflict it on him." He started for the exit hall. "But I really am going to scream if I don't leave, and I'd rather not join the invisible chorus Upstairs. Our Alice in a place like this. . . ."
"She'll pull through," Lorina said, taking the role of optimist. "She's made it through a year. That's – that's a good sign, right?"
"Perhaps," Lizzie said, following her father. "But she'd better not still be here on our tenth anniversary."