In earlier drafts of “Intangible,” the character of Lily was much more obnoxious than she even turned out to be in the finished product. For a sneak peak into how she started out in my imagination, check out this alternate scene of her first meeting with Peter! Just before this scene, in order to help him learn to fit in socially, Peter’s maths teacher Mr. Richards had challenged Peter to try to ingratiate himself with the “toughest character he could find.”
Did you think the character of Lily Portman in the “Piercing the Veil” series was too harsh, or just right? Leave me a comment!
She scribbled her notes in her notebook too hard: the page began to curl and her pencil lead broke three times.
“You write with purpose,” Peter whispered.
She looked up again as if she had been startled, and said crossly, “What?”
“Your page,” Peter said, and tried to give her a friendly smile, but it was hard, with her glaring at him like that. “It’s screaming at you in protest.”
She gave a little huff of acknowledgement and looked back down without commenting.
This, Peter decided, was definitely the toughest case he could find.
He studied her face as she worked. He knew that was exactly what Mr. Richards had told him not to do, but she wasn’t paying attention to him anyway.
She was pretty, Peter decided, in a severe sort of way. She wore no makeup, and had on a gray Henley t-shirt and somewhat loose-fitting jeans, with a plain brown wool scarf the color of her hair. She had a smattering of freckles in a butterfly pattern across her cheeks and nose, full lips the color of a ripe watermelon, and angry green eyes. (He supposed they weren’t always angry, but right now he’d have to take that on faith.) Her hair was pulled back away from her face, but it hung in ringlets from her ponytail. In between furious note-taking, she chewed absently on the gelatinous substance on the grip of her pencil. It was sort of fascinating and terrifying at the same time.
“What is your problem?” she whipped her head around to Peter, exasperated.
Peter felt his cheeks blossom with color. “There’s no problem.”
“Then why do you keep staring at me?”
“I’m trying to figure you out,” he answered honestly.
She blinked, clearly taken off guard. “Well, stop it!”
She searched his face, but then she did something very odd. She started scanning the area just behind him. It seemed like she was looking for something. “Because it’s rude to stare, isn’t it!”
The question was supposed to be rhetorical, but Peter answered, “Why is it rude?”
“Because! It makes people uncomfortable!”
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry,” Peter said, flustered.
Her brow was still knit with irritation, but she opened her mouth and closed it again, stumped. A moment of uncertainty flickered across her face before she deliberately turned away.
When Mr. Richards had finished lecturing, the rest of the class worked on an assignment, and the room was silent except for a few whispers here and there. Peter tried again.
“Is that the assignment?” It was a stupid comment. She had her book open to the page number that everybody else was copying down on the board. Obviously it was the assignment.
“Yes,” she said shortly, without looking up.
“What is it?” Peter never, ever did assignments, of course, but Lily didn’t know that.
She looked irritated, but answered, “It’s these twenty questions, due at the end of the hour.” She pointed to the ones she meant.
“Oh. Cheers,” Peter said, and considered whether perhaps he ought to complete the assignment, just this once. He was still contemplating it when his thoughts wandered, and he asked instead, “What were you looking for?”
She looked confused. “What? When?”
“A few minutes ago, when I said I was trying to figure you out. You were looking over my shoulder like you expected to see someone there.”
For a fraction of a second she looked alarmed. But then she whispered back flatly, “No, I wasn’t.”
“I saw you,” he insisted. But the second it was out of his mouth he knew it was the wrong thing to say.
“Are you always this inappropriate?”
“No,” Peter answered. “But only because most of the time I don’t try this hard.”
Her eyes widened in surprise, and an incredulous smile flickered across her face before she could stop it. But then her icy expression returned, and she said, “So why are you trying now?”
“If I told you, you’d think I was really weird,” Peter admitted.
“Huh,” said Lily, considered this for a moment, and then muttered to herself loudly enough that he could hear, “Believe me, I have no right to accuse anybody of being weird.”
Peter had no idea what to say to that.
When she turned back to her assignment this time, he noticed that the muscles of her face were too still, as if she knew he was watching her. Finally she looked up. She seemed unsure of herself. “Aren’t you going to do the assignment?” she asked.
“Oh!” Peter said. He had already forgotten it. “Er, well… no. I’m not.”
She blinked at him. “You’re just… not gonna do it?”
“Pretty much.” He grinned at her impishly. He could explain that he didn’t do assignments and just wrote exams, but there was really no way to say that without sounding pompous.
“Huh,” she said again, and looked down. She was sitting very rigidly, as if she were balancing a book on her head. The bell rang and she jumped up immediately and was the first person to the front of the room, where she deposited her paper on Mr. Richards’ desk. Then she circled back around to collect her things. She was obviously conscious of Peter the whole time, but she didn’t look at him until the very last moment, when she cast a haphazard glance behind her and scanned the area around Peter, as if she were cutting his silhouette from the air with her eyes. Then she tucked her head and sped out of the room without another word.
“So,” said Mr. Richards, casually amused, as he wandered over to Lily’s newly vacated seat. “It’s going well, huh?”