|posted on 21-Oct-2001 5:09:38 PM by Carol000|
|Author: Carol000 (aka spacemom)|
Setting: Max and Liz are in 6th grade. They are so very aware of each other, but they have no relationship yet.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, yada yada yada.
Author’s Note: Hi, everyone! First, I must take one more opportunity to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for the awesome send-off you gave Epiphanies. It warmed my heart and made me want to keep writing.
Now I’m doing a little fluff. Why? Cause I wanna and I brain needs a break! So I am introducing the DREAMER HOLIDAYS Series. This is the first installment. It will be followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Each story will be a snapshot of just one of the many holidays Max and Liz will spend together. They might be in the past, the present, or the future. I hope you enjoy!
Dreamer Holidays: Halloween
Liz trudged through the doorway to her family's home above the Crashdown and flung her backpack to the floor. It landed heavily and her mother looked up from the computer, eyebrows raised.
"Hi, honey. You okay?"
"Yeah," Liz sighed, falling backwards into a chair, her legs sprawled out in front of her. "It's just that I thought 6th grade would be so cool. Ya know, lockers and changing classes and all. I didn't know you'd have to carry around like a million books every day. My arm's practically broken from walking home with all this." She sighed again.
Her mother smiled. "Well, you might find a reward for all that pain and suffering in the kitchen."
Liz perked up. "They came?" She ran into the kitchen and squealed at the open box of Halloween cookies her grandmother sent every year. Pumpkins and ghosts and headstones. But the best part was, they were the most buttery, most flavorful cookies ever! Liz dug in, her cheeks bulging as she poured some milk.
Balancing a plate of cookies and her glass of milk, Liz returned to the living room. "Mom, I think I've decided what to be for Halloween this year. I thought about being Buffy, but she just looks like a normal teenager, so I think I'll be a vampire."
Nancy Parker frowned slightly. "Liz, don't you think you're a little too old to dress up for Halloween now? You're in middle school. Trick or treat is for younger children. How about you give out the candy downstairs at the Crashdown party this year?"
Liz's face fell. "That's not fair! I'm still a kid. What makes me too old? I'm not even an official teenager yet! I know lots of kids who are going out on Halloween."
She watched her mother's face, looking for those signs of hesitation that always meant she would give in in the end, but there weren't any. It was more like sympathy, like her dog had just died or something.
"Sweetheart, it's always hard to give up things we love, but sometimes we just have to face growing up. It's like when you found out about Santa Claus. You were so unhappy at first, but now you get to be in on the surprises for your little cousins, and that's just as much fun, right?"
No, it's not, thought Liz. Not even close. "Yeah, I guess," she pouted.
"You'll have a great time guessing who's behind all the costumes and watching them hesitate at the door when they hear that spooky tape playing. It'll be fun!"
Liz felt tired again. She took her plate back to the kitchen and came out to retrieve her backpack. "I'm gonna do my homework," she mumbled, and dragged the heavy pack down the hall to her room.
Pulling out her books, she reviewed her options: Math–problems 1-15 odds; Social Studies–read the chapter on apartheid; English–write a 300-word persuasive essay on something you feel strongly about.
Liz grabbed her notebook, slid through the window, settled into her chaise lounge, and began to write.
"I'll be returning your essays today," Mrs. Burch told the class. "We have quite a range of interests in here–everything from skateboarding to religion to lowering the driving age. Some of you expressed yourselves very well, and I'd like the authors to share a couple of those essays with everyone."
"Tyler? Would you share your essay on humane treatment of animals?"
Tyler walked to the front of the class, a proud smile on his face, and began to read. Max tuned him out. He found it much more pleasant to watch Liz Parker. His heart skipped a little every time he looked at her. It always had. In a different world, he would have tried to make friends with her, maybe ask her to the fall school dance, although he was a little uncomfortable about dancing in front of anyone. Still, if it meant holding Liz close to him, he would've done it. It's not a different world, though, he thought sadly. His world would always be one of secrets and hiding. And it wouldn't include Liz.
So he settled for watching her. She was so pretty, so smart, so nice to everyone. Sometimes, he wondered if she would even be nice to him . . . if she knew. Now, he watched her profile as she listened to Tyler describe a heartless case of cruelty to a dog; her little face scrunched up in concern, then tightened in outrage. She felt things deeply, just as he did. She was a good person. They could have been friends.
"Thank you, Tyler," Mrs. Burch was saying. "Liz? Would you read your essay?"
Liz looked up, surprised, hesitant. Slowly, she stood and walked up to Mrs. Burch. Her eyes swept the room, pausing briefly on Max. She couldn't help it. He was such a mystery to her–always kind, always good at stuff like school and sports, but always on the outside of the school's social circles. She wished he would speak to her, but he never did. Still, she often caught him looking at her, and it made her stomach feel like there were caterpillars crawling around inside it. She'd also learned long ago that she could always count on him for a little smile, and right now, she needed a little smile.
He didn't disappoint her. He seemed to sense her nervousness, and his smile was accompanied by a slight nod, an encouraging nod. She felt calmer just knowing he was there for her. She took a deep breath and began.
Being 12 means getting a lot of mixed signals from adults. One day, they say you are trying to grow up too fast. The next day, they tell you you're too old for things you still enjoy doing. I wish they would make up their minds.
I spend a lot of time being confused. Sometimes, I like the idea of being older. I like the freedom people seem to have as they grow up. They can go to more movies, drive a car, and decide when to go to bed. But part of me wants to stay young so I can play with my friends and think about all the things I could be when I grow up. And I could still dress up on Halloween.
This week, my mother told me I was too old to go trick-or-treating. I was really mad. The more I thought about it, the more that made no sense. What is Halloween except using your imagination, trying out your creativity, and spending time with friends in good clean fun? Those are all things we're supposed to do! But there's no changing my mom's mind, so I'll spend this Halloween watching others have fun and trying to figure out why growing up means having to leave the fun and the magic behind.
What do I feel strongly about? I feel grownups should let us decide how fast to grow up and what that even means. In fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with being a child sometimes even when you're grown up. My dad seems to have the most fun when we're wrestling or having a squirt-gun fight. How can big smiles and happy laughter be a bad thing?
Grownups are too serious. They've forgotten how having fun can make you forget your troubles and help you remember to enjoy life. Instead of them trying to take childhood away from children, maybe we should try to put more childhood into them. Then we'd all have more fun.
Max watched Liz return to her seat. After warming to her subject and reading her essay with confidence and conviction, she had suddenly turned vulnerable again. Keeping her eyes lowered, she hurried back to her desk. Someone whispered, "Big baby!" as she took her seat, and Max simmered when he saw her blush of embarrassment. He willed her to look at him, and to his amazement, she did–a brief sidelong glance, a glance that begged for the support she'd come to expect from him for some unknown reason.
He held her eyes for those few seconds, his encouragement and approval written clearly on his face, in his eyes, in his smile. His own smile brightened as she visibly relaxed and looked away. He'd made Liz Parker feel better. She'd looked to him to feel better. It was already a good day.
And that's when his idea was born.
Two days later, Liz opened her locker to find an envelope with her name on it taped to the front of the small shelf toward the top. How had someone gotten into her locker? She looked around the hallway, which was alive with voices and locker doors slamming and bodies bumping. No one seemed to be watching her.
She slid the ivory paper from its sheath and read the carefully blocked letters:
If you're still looking for Halloween, let me help you find it. Meet me in front of the UFO Center on Halloween night at 7:00 p.m. I'll be waiting.
There was no signature.
Liz felt a mixture of excitement and fear. Was this for real? Was someone trying to do something nice, or were they planning to hurt or embarrass her? She knew if she showed her mother, she would never be allowed to go, but something in her wanted to solve the mystery. Still uncertain, Liz slid the note into her pocket. She'd have to think about this one.
Down the hall, Max pretended to be busy at his own locker, sneaking peeks at Liz's reaction. Surprise, of course. A little smile. Good! A little frown. Oh, no! What if she didn't come? Then he saw her pocket the note with . . . anticipation? . . . flitting across her face. He hoped so. He wanted to do this for her, to make her smile and feel happy. And this way, he could do it without ever being discovered.
After school, Max and Michael made their way to the Crashdown for Saturn Rings and a shake. Max positioned himself as he always did–facing the back of the restaurant in case Liz came in from the back, which she almost always did. Sometimes, if they got really busy, her dad even let her help serve, and Max would just sit back and watch her flashing that killer smile, laughing that throaty laugh that made him have to smile, too. She was a natural.
Today, though, Liz was quieter than usual. She came in to the restaurant from the kitchen area and gave her dad a peck on the cheek. Then she pulled herself up onto a barstool next to Maria. Max froze, his straw forgotten in his mouth, as Liz pulled his note from her pocket. He watched Maria's eyes get bigger and bigger, and soon they were head to head, whispering, giggling, nodding. He took it as a good sign, and he smiled.
"What?" asked Michael, his mouth stuffed with onion rings.
"What?" responded Max, trying his best to look appropriately innocent and confused.
"What're you smilin' at?"
Max looked down. "My shake is really good today–thick," he finished lamely.
"Oh,” answered Michael, still confused. He shrugged. “So you wanna go play some basketball in the park before we go home?"
"Yeah, sure," Max answered distractedly. His mind was already filling in the details of his master plan. She could never know it was him, but with any luck, he would make her smile like that on Halloween night!
Liz emerged from the Crashdown and looked up and down the street. There was no one waiting in front of the UFO Center—just costumed kids of all ages walking inside to see the haunted house that the Rotary had set up.
It was a joke, she thought sadly. No one’s coming to meet me.
Unwilling to give up too soon, she stood uncertainly under the UFO Center sign, checking up and down the sidewalk. She jumped when she felt someone touch her shoulder. Spinning quickly, she gasped as the beast from “Beauty and the Beast” stared down at her. Before she could even ask a question, he held an elegant, long dress toward her on a hanger and nodded toward the doors leading into the UFO Center.
“You want me to put this on?” she asked, curious and wary at the same time.
The beast nodded and opened the door for her. Once inside, he pointed to the restroom doors and then stationed himself against the wall. Debating with herself between pursuing this adventure or playing it safe, Liz caught a look at the eyes behind the mask. They were familiar, reassuring. Suddenly she felt safe.
Liz slipped inside the restroom, changed quickly, and took a quick look in the mirror. How had this person known what size to bring? Who had gone to so much trouble to give her a Halloween wish? She felt beautiful and feminine—a feeling she was growing to enjoy as she got older. She hugged herself and grinned. Go for it! she told herself.
She hung her clothes on the hanger and emerged into the UFO Center lobby. She stood self-consciously as the beast seemed to drink her in, standing immobile at the sight of her wearing the dress he had brought. The short puffed sleeves, the smocked bodice with the empire waist, and the long midnight blue folds showed off her developing petite figure. Her dark hair cascaded down her back, and her wide-eyed look of anticipation brought a glow to her face. Shaking himself, the beast took the hanger and hung it at the back of the coatroom. Then he offered his hand and led Liz toward the haunted house.
The Rotary had been creating this spook house for years, but each year it was different and full of the unexpected. As they rounded each corner, anticipating a new scare, Liz held tightly to the hand that led her. At one point, they had to get down on their knees and crawl blindly through a maze. Liz’s laughter skittered off the dark fabric walls at the glowing faces that would light up suddenly and the fiendish cackle that erupted from somewhere ahead every few seconds. Fighting with the long dress, Liz finally had to let go of the beast’s hand, hiking the skirt above her knees with one hand and feeling ahead into the dark with the other.
Suddenly, the floor dipped down and Liz fell forward into a small space where hands began to grab at her. She screamed in surprise. Immediately, her beast was with her, arms holding her, soothing her until her embarrassment at reacting like that took over, and she gently pushed away. She knew nothing there would hurt her, but still, she’d been startled, and those arms had felt so good around her.
Emerging from the haunted house, Liz looked up at the beast.
“Aren’t you going to tell me who you are?” she asked, feeling at ease with this person now. Again, she caught a glimpse of the eyes behind the large, molded head of the costume and felt a familiar twinge. She knew those eyes. Whose were they? The eyes held hers for a few seconds, and the large head shook from side to side. Whoever it was, he was going to stay hidden a while longer.
“Well, whoever you are,” Liz smiled, “I had so much fun. Thank you.”
The beast pointed down the street toward the park and offered his hand again. Liz hesitated briefly and then, with a glance at the Crashdown, reached to hold that hand. It was a welcoming hand, a friendly hand, a safe hand.
They strolled slowly toward the park, and Liz racked her brain to identify the familiar bits and pieces of the beast’s walk, mannerisms, and . . . those eyes! Directing her to a park bench, the beast brushed off the seat and offered it to her. They sat quietly for a few moments, gazing at the stars. The beast pointed upwards, and Liz followed his finger toward the moon. Drifting across the bright round disk was a cloud, a cloud that looked exactly like a witch on a broom! Liz squealed with delight.
“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed. “Did you see that? I’ve never seen a cloud look so exactly like a shape before! And on Halloween!” She happily tucked her two arms around the beast’s arm and watched the cloud disappear.
The beast turned to watch her. She knew she was grinning like an idiot and probably looked ridiculous, but that had been so cool!
Suddenly self-conscious again, Liz realized she’d grabbed hold of this person—this anonymous person who had worked and planned to make her happy, but who was completely unknown to her. She began to pull her arms away when his free hand stopped her, holding her close to him. When she stopped to look up at him, he patted her threaded fingers as if to say, “It’s okay. Leave them there.” Again, she saw the caring in his eyes and let herself relax against him.
They sat like that for several more minutes, enjoying the moon, the distant laughter of children as they went from house to house, and their own closeness, cloaked in mystery and magic. Then Liz stiffened in excitement. Her beast was lacing his fingers with hers. Liz had never held hands like that with a boy before. It felt warm and gentle and . . . intimate. It felt good and right with this person. But how? She didn’t even know who he was.
He rose slowly, pulling her to her feet. Then he reached down under the bench and picked up a rose. No, not a real rose, a chocolate rose! And in the light of the moon, she could just read the little tag that was attached: “Do I have a GHOST of a chance?” She looked up at her prince—well, that’s what the beast had been, right? A prince under the spell of an evil sorceress. Well, he had become a prince in her eyes.
She smiled brilliantly at him. “I can’t answer that. I don’t know who you are. Won’t you tell me?”
Liz could see the hesitation behind those eyes. Almost a longing. Then he straightened and the look turned reassuring. It reminded her of . . . no, it couldn’t be. She lost her train of thought as her prince tugged at her hand. Soon they were walking down the streets of Roswell, dodging the little children as they raced from door to door under the watchful eye of their parents. Jack o’lanterns, flashing ghosts, suspended bats, and eerie music lent a festive atmosphere of harmless spookiness to the neighborhood, and Liz cherished every detail.
“This is wonderful,” she sighed. “I love seeing all the decorations and watching the little ones having so much fun.” Then she laughed. “I’d better not say that to my mom. She’s the one who said that at a certain age, it was as much fun to be a part of the behind the scenes stuff as to be one of the kids trick or treating. I don’t know. Maybe she’s right. I just don’t feel ready to give it all up. But seeing it with you like this—I don’t know. It’s like having the best of both worlds.”
To her surprise and pleasure, the beast stopped and turned, pulling her into a gentle hug. Releasing her quickly, they resumed their walk. Liz was struck by how good that had felt. She wished he’d held on to her just a little longer.
They had reached the edge of town where the last of the housing development came face to face with the empty, prairie-like wilderness that lay just beyond its borders. The sky was alight with stars, and Liz felt peaceful and calm. She saw her prince reach toward the sky. She hadn’t noticed at first, but now they seemed to be watching a meteor shower. Glowing orbs streaked across the sky trailing briefly visible tails of sparkling light in their wake.
Liz watched, her eyes wide with wonder at the spectacular display. “It’s so beautiful,” she breathed. “Look, there’s another one!” she pointed. But when she paused to glance at the boy who was watching with her, she found him watching her instead. His hand rose to touch her face, and then immediately fell to his side. That look. And then she knew. It was Max Evans under that costume. It had to be. And now she knew that if it weren’t him, she’d be bitterly disappointed.
The meteors died down, and they turned back toward town. Liz slid her arm through his, and he squeezed it to his side. She sighed contentedly, convinced she had solved the mystery. They only saw one or two children on their way back to the center of town and realized that trick-or-treating hours must be almost done. Liz had promised to be home by then.
“I have to go home now. My parents said to be back by the end of trick-or-treating.”
Her prince nodded and steered them in the direction of the Crashdown. Stopping at the UFO Center to don her own clothes again, Liz hung up the dress she had worn during one of the best nights of her life. She felt a little melancholy, as if taking off the dress would break the magical spell that wearing it had woven. But it wasn’t the dress that was magic. It was the person who had made this night possible for her. He had given her a wonderful gift.
As they drew near her doorway, Liz stopped and pulled her prince into the alley next to the restaurant.
“I had the most wonderful time tonight. I can’t thank you enough for giving me the best Halloween I’ve ever had. Will you take off the beast head now?” she asked hopefully.
The head bowed, a sadness in the gesture that nudged at Liz’s heart.
“Okay,” Liz conceded. “But I hope someday, you’ll tell me.”
She hugged the bulky figure and watched him turn to leave. He’d only taken a few steps when Liz threw caution to the wind.
Habit. Reflex. Wishing. Which one made Max stop and turn when his name was called? Whichever it was, he knew instantly he’d been found out. His heart leapt with joy, even as he berated himself for blowing his cover. She was never to know. He could never have her.
He turned and watched her watching him, her eyes glowing, a satisfied smile on her face. She began to walk toward him, and soon she was trying to lift the beast head from his shoulders. She was too short, though, to get it off, so he resigned himself to helping her. And then they were there, face to face, Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and the Prince, without costumes or magic or anonymity. Liz and Max.
Liz saw so much in his face then. He was embarrassed, fearful, happy. The same reassuring smile found its way to his lips. “Happy Halloween, Liz.”
And then Liz did something she’d only fantasized about. Something Liz Parker would never actually do. She pushed up on her toes, touched her lips to his for an electrifying moment, and sank down to the ground again.
“Happy Halloween to you, too, Max.” And then she gave him that smile he had longed for his whole life. It was spectacular and genuine and all for him.
Then she turned and walked through the doors to the Crashdown.
Max looked after her, his heart pounding. No doubt about it. There was still plenty of magic around on Halloween.