Carol’s last line here was originally “Ridiculous,” a callback to when she said it before with that particular emphasis and Shanna knew she was lying. “So you say” is, intentionally, a little more ambiguous. In any case, you can see Carol wrestling the traitorous part of herself down, down, down into the darkest corners of her mind. One thing Shanna said sticks with her a little bit. But she’ll do her best to laugh it off.

Even in this version, she tells herself fresh lies, using petty insults to tear down the person she “cheated” with (“you’re ugly and your voice is annoying!”) and pretending she and HR are a united front against her. HR will not be involved in dealing with Shanna in any way: for that to happen, Carol would have to explain to him why Shanna had become a threat. He will shortly be incapable of dealing with such concerns, anyway.

I wrote a whole lot of alternate outline text and whole pages of dialogue for this chapter that never got used, including a version where the venue between Carol and Shanna almost moves back to Shanna’s apartment. (That probably would have taken the sexual undercurrent too far.) We also tinkered with a version of the dream-story that involved multiple characters getting prophetic dreams of the Cultists.

I think we picked the best material and that writing the rest helped us refine it. My only regret is that we weren’t really able to keep that approach up past this chapter. More on the reason why in the next chapter, but first… a simple tale for the holidays.