posted on 22-Oct-2001 10:58:44 PM by not applicable
so I was holding out for this thing to be finished before I posted this thread but it's hopeless. so I'm just gonna post what I've got and hope that in the next few days I might get motivated enough to finish the third story and go fishing for a new editor...connie are you still there?

as recommended by the brillant people who run this board, I'm posting these stories in several posts...

this is for anyone out there who hasn't read these already on the work by author board...

Title: The Pawn (Chess trilogy, part 1)
Author: N/A
Email: ajrocchio⊕
Rating: PG-13 for language
Category: Other Stories
Disclaimers: The characters of Roswell belong to the WB, among others, but apparently I just can’t stop myself from borrowing them.
Spoilers: None and never will be in this universe.
Summary: Picks up about a week or so after the end of the Road Rules trilogy. I should really summarize here but I don’t have the energy…it was a massive effort just to finish this damn story. I guess the only big things to remember from the last series are that Michael, Maria, Alex and Isabel went back to Atherton’s and discovered a typed manuscript for his book ‘Among Us’, which Max has been reading… on the way down to Atherton’s, Michael ruined Maria’s dad’s John Denver tape… Max hasn’t been sleeping well and we don’t know why – well, you don’t, I do… and finally… a few stories back Maria and Michael made a bet over whether or not Max and Liz could go four hours without finding a closet to make-out in at school… Maria lost…it was never clarified exactly what they bet, but you’re about to find out…

Author’s note/soapbox: Okay, so I hope this sort of clarifies the confusing end of the last story, or maybe it’ll just make things more confusing. There is clarity on the horizon if I can get around to finishing this trilogy. Most of this story is fluff. The critical stuff is at the beginning and the very end…you’ll see. Hope you enjoy…

(Scene: Max’s bedroom. The alarm clock flashes 2:00 a.m. and the only noise is Max’s haggard breathing as he tosses and turns in bed. He shakes uncontrollably, and ever more violently, until he convulses awake. He sits up in bed and, with a quivering hand, wipes the sweat from his brow. Concentrating on slowing his hyperventilated breathing and hyper-drive heart rate, he closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. As he gains control of his body, he opens his eyes to look around the darkened room. As they sweep over the room they finally come to rest on the open folder splayed out across his desk. He lets out a heavy breath and then slowly gets out of bed and heads towards the desk. As he sits down, he flips on the light and lets his eyes adjust, focusing on the manuscript lying face-up in front of him. The manuscript is opened about one-quarter of the way through. Next to the manuscript, on the right, lies a notebook with scribbled notes in Max’s handwriting. Max shifts his eyes from the manuscript to the wall directly in front of his desk and a piece of paper leaning up against it. He reaches out and grabs the paper – the Preface to the manuscript – and reads it again, for what must be the thousandth time.)

Atherton voice over (imagine the voice of that high school teacher you had that should have retired before you ever had him): To The Skeptic: I could write a book outlining the multitude of arguments used to deny the probability of UFO sightings and recorded encounters on Earth. We, as a species, have yet to travel to our own moon, let alone attempt to understand the technology required to traverse across and beyond our solar system. There are some, willing to acknowledge the possibility of alien life, who yet deny its ability to contact Earth. They argue for the inability for alien life to enter and function within the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere. The precept being: if you take a fish out of water it can do nothing but die. This is an argument, sound in principle, that ignores the very nature of the subject being discussed.

V.O (continued): By referring to something as ‘alien’ we imply that it exists outside of our understanding, defying comprehension. To believe in the unbelievable – the seemingly impossible – requires the opening of one’s mind to the undefined. We must look beyond our definitions of ‘life’ and what is required to sustain it. We must throw away scientific principles, discard scientific reasoning, that is limited to only what we know – this world, this Earth.

V.O. (continued): Until you are ready to see the possibilities of the unknown, you will not be able to recognize the truth written in these pages. The Government believes that you are not ready for the truth. That we, as a species, are not ready for the realities of other worlds and what the implications of their existences mean for our own. Worlds that do not posses our limitations, do not subscribe to our definitions, do not adhere to our principles. Worlds where, if you take a fish out of water, it grows lungs. Fish that can look like anything, even you and I. Fish that can live among…

Liz’s voice: …us?

(Scene switches to Biology class, waiting for the bell to ring. Liz is watching Max closely as he stares off into space. Liz frowns at Max’s non-response and gently reaches out to touch his arm.)

Liz: Max? (Max jumps at her touch and quickly looks at her) Are you going to have lunch with us?

Max (letting out a sigh and looking away): No, I really need to…

Liz (disappointedly finishing for him): Study.

Max (looking back at Liz): I’m sorry. I know I’ve been studying a lot lately, I just didn’t realize how far behind I was. This Trig class is killing me and I have a couple of papers to write to make up some low test scores.

Liz: Max it’s fine. I understand…I just miss you – that’s all.

Max: I know.

Liz: Maybe this weekend we could study together?

Max (raising an eyebrow at her and whispering): Like last time?

Liz (smiling at the memory): Okay, well obviously my roof and your room are not the best choices for productive studying. This time maybe we could, you know, go somewhere public…like the library.

(The bell finally rings.)

Max (as he throws his backpack over his shoulder): Maybe.

Liz: Promise?

Max (giving in): Okay. (He leans in and gives Liz a quick kiss.) See you later.

Liz (as she watches him exit the classroom, letting out a sigh): Later.

(Scene: Lunch quad. Maria and Liz are sitting at a table, eating.)

Maria: I don’t get it. I mean he can, like, wave his hand and manipulate molecules, but he can’t speed read and memorize stuff. Where’s the priority with power development there?

Liz: Maria, you can’t just plug ‘em in and have ‘em start downloading stuff…they’re not computers.

Maria: Why not? Plug him into you and he’s downloading stuff left and right.

(Liz looks at Maria and Maria shrugs her shoulders as if asking “what?”)

Liz (shaking her head): Besides, you know Max, he wouldn’t do it even if he could…it’d be like cheating.

Maria (as she eyes Michael cross the quad): Yea, well I guess the whole superior intelligence theory’s pretty much already been blown hasn’t it?

Liz (following Maria’s gaze): He’s been distant lately too.

Maria (looking at Liz): What do you mean “lately”?

Liz (looking at Maria): You know you miss him.

(Maria lets out a grunt of protest and, before she can respond, their table is joined by Alex and Isabel.)

Alex: Ladies.

Liz: Hey Alex, Isabel.

Isabel: Where’s Max?

Liz/Maria: Studying.

Isabel: Right. How could I forget? That’s all he’s been doing lately.

Liz: Tell me about it.

Maria: That coming from you…Please! You create a study regimen and start implementing it three to four weeks before finals.

Liz: Yea well, you should know the difference between “studying” something and “avoiding” it.

Maria: Hey!

Liz: It just seems like he’s avoiding me.

Alex: Well can you blame the guy? (Liz looks at Alex and he continues) What? It’s not like we don’t know what’s goin’ on when you two try “studying” together.

Maria: Studying anatomy maybe?

Liz (shoving Maria): Hey!

Isabel (raising her hand to stop this): Alright, it’s bad enough walking in on them. Do we really need to discuss it too? He is still my brother.

Liz: Thank you.

(The conversation lulls for a moment as the four of them take bites out of their lunches. After a few moments Alex looks around the table.)

Alex: Where’s Michael? I thought the white flag had been waved.

Maria: Mr. Avoidance himself. If anyone needs to study he does – he’s barely shown up this week.

Isabel: He’s been acting weird lately – ever since we got back from Marathon. It’s like he can’t sit still.

Liz: What do you mean?

Isabel: Just antsy…he keeps bugging Max about going to Santa Fe.

Maria: Yea, well, unless he’s hitchhiking, hijacking, or hiking his way to Santa Fe, the rest of us are waiting until all of us can go.

Isabel: He knows. He knows he has to wait.

Alex (shaking his head as he pops open his Little Debbie peanut butter bar): That guy’s our last hope…I’ve been checking everywhere and I can’t find out anything about this chick.

Maria/Isabel (both surprised): Chick?

(Liz starts choking on her drink and Alex tries to cover up his major blunder.)

Alex: Sorry…wishful thinking…is that a Freudian slip – no that would be if I was hoping it was a “her” and she looked like my mother – definitely – definitely not Freudian…have you seen my mother?

(Alex continues to ramble as Maria tries patting Liz on the back to stop her choking. Isabel frowns at Alex, not hearing anything he’s said beyond “wishful thinking”. The more she thinks about it, the more she doesn’t like that comment. And the more she doesn’t like it, the more she’s not sure why.)

Alex (directed at Isabel frowning at him): What?

Isabel (shaking herself out of her thoughts): Um…when have you been researching?

Alex: Just here and there…you know Friday night here, Saturday night there – not much else goin’ on in my calendar. I can catch you up this weekend.

Isabel: Yea…that’d be nice.

Alex (turning to Maria): You in?

Maria: Can’t. Mother/daughter bonding over pie this weekend.

Liz (understanding the serious nature that ‘pie’ has in the DeLuca household): Pie?

Maria: Yea, and if it has anything to do with Sheriff Valenti like, moving in, or becoming family, I’ll be calling you from Juvie or the Psych ward at the Med. Center.

(Scene: School library. Max is sitting at a corner table, in the back of the room, hunched over the manuscript. He pauses, shakes his head, then flips the page and continues reading. He doesn’t hear Michael approach.)

Michael (as he sits across from Max): That what you call “studying”?

Max (quickly looking up at Michael and closing the manuscript folder): Study break.

Michael: Any better the second time around?

Max (putting the folder in his backpack, thoughtfully): Definitely…different.

Michael (curious): Different?

Max (covering quickly): You know, more entertaining… What’s up?

Michael: Gratreaks is home.

Max (angering): Michael, we’ve been over this – we can’t go to Santa Fe for at least a couple of weeks.

Michael: I know Maxwell, just thought you should know how much time we’re wasting.

Max: She has to be there Michael.

Michael: Whatever.

Max: How’d you know he was home?

Michael: Called.

Max: Michael!

Michael: Apparently I had the wrong number – ‘Bob’ doesn’t live there.

Max (shaking his head): You gotta be careful Michael.

Michael (irritated): I’m not a four year-old, Maxwell.

Max: I know. Look, we just have to wait a couple of weeks until school’s out.

Michael: And what are we supposed to do until then?

Max: Study, Michael – unless you’re really into re-living this year? (Michael just shakes his head in disgust) You want to study with…me and Liz?

Michael (stifling a laugh): Study with the two of you?

Max (hesitantly): A third party kind of ensures that we’ll actually…study.

Michael (shaking his head): I’m gonna go with a ‘no’ on that. (Max sighs and zips up his backpack) I’m working anyway.

Max: Friday/Saturday?

Michael: No…Saturday/Sunday. I’m doing some stuff for Mr. Parker.

Max: I thought you were “on” Friday nights.

Michael (with a mischievous smile): I am Maxwell, but not this one.

(Scene: Friday night at the Crashdown. Actually, it’s more like late afternoon before the dinner rush. Music: Josh Rouse – Laughter. Liz is talking with her parents near the entrance. Both Jeff and Nancy seem reluctant to leave and eye their daughter carefully. After hugs and one more concerned “You sure you’ll be fine?” the Parkers exit the Café. Liz watches them go, shakes her head, and then heads toward the back. She passes through the back door and stops at the sight of Maria at her locker.)

Liz: Maria? What are you doing here?

Maria (disgruntled): Working.

Liz: Wait! You’re not scheduled to work tonight.

Maria (as she walks over to the wall and picks one of the cook’s aprons off a hook): Not out front.

Liz: What? Why are you putting on that apron?

Maria: It’s a cooking apron isn’t it?

Liz: Okay Maria, you’re totally confusing me and I’m going to have to ask you what my favorite flavor of ice cream is.

Maria: Vanilla. (And with that, she heads into the kitchen to relieve José.)

(Liz stands in the backroom, dumbfounded and staring at the kitchen door. José, smiling, exits the kitchen and spots Liz.)

José: I’d stick around for this (motioning back toward the kitchen) if I didn’t have a test tonight. Make sure she doesn’t burn the place down.

Liz (confused): Right. Wait. (She shakes her head and enters the kitchen, finding Maria examining the various grill tools.) What are you doing?

Maria: What does it look like I’m doing – cooking. Thanks to you I might add.

Liz: What! Maria, you can’t cook!

Maria (turning to Liz): No actually, remember before you went all ‘girlfriend in a coma’ and your dad went into serious panic mode about José going back to school and not being able to work any more night shifts and we all got that nice little kitchen safety tour and lecture? (Maria points a spatula at Liz.) Well, technically that, and the fact that we (pointing the spatula at Liz and then herself) have food handler’s permits…means that we can.

Liz: Maria, oh my God, I’m not talking technicalities here. I’m talking talent – you cannot cook.

Maria: Thanks for the support. Next time we do kareoke at The Pie I’m so making fun of you.

Liz: Support? Hello, I’m quoting you... quote – “I can’t cook” – end quote.

Maria: Yea well, the next time you decide to get all nookie in the janitor’s closet can you tell me please so I don’t go defending your honor and wagering on it?

Liz: What?

Maria: Never mind…just know that I will be getting you back for this.

Liz: Maria, I don’t understand…what are you talking about? The “janitor’s closet” was weeks ago…

(The door jingles out front as Michael and Isabel walk in. Liz and Maria look through the pickup window and Maria turns away in disgust.)

Maria: Ask him.

(Liz just looks at Maria, dumbfounded yet again. Maria begins examining the deep-fat fryer and Liz turns to go talk to Michael. She passes Isabel coming through the swinging door, and confronts Michael at the jukebox near the entrance.)

Liz: What’s going on? Why aren’t you cooking tonight?

Michael: Got it covered. You got a key for this thing (motioning to the jukebox)?

Liz: Okay…Okay, Maria would never in her sane mind agree to cook for you. What did you do?

Michael (looking for the opening to the jukebox): Just a friendly wager.

Liz: Oh my God, this is so not good. My parents would pick tonight of all nights for dinner, a movie, and some stargazing…(She looks at Michael suspiciously.) You picked tonight on purpose didn’t you?

Michael (finding the keyhole and looking up at Liz with an outstretched hand): The key.

Liz (confused): The key? Why do you want the key?

Michael (smiling): I’ve got a new disk.

Liz (eyeing Michael suspiciously as he pulls out a disk from his jacket): You listen to UB40?

Michael: No – got it from Alex.

Liz: Alex? (She looks at the CD, the grin on Michael’s face and back to the kitchen.) Do I want to know why you want to put that CD in the jukebox?

Michael: No.

Liz: If I don’t give you the key, are you going to try and open it anyway…potentially resulting in me having to call the Fire Department?

Michael: Just give me the damn key!

Liz (reluctantly reaching into her pants pocket for the master key ring and, finally, handing it over to Michael): This…is going to be ugly.

(Michael takes the keys and returns his attention to the jukebox. Liz, letting out a sigh, turns toward the back. She pauses before pushing the door open, and after one more deep breath, finally breaks down and enters the backroom.)

Maria (standing at the kitchen doorway, to Liz): What’s he doing with the jukebox?

Liz (to Isabel in uniform): What are you doing here?

Maria (now looking at Isabel): I thought you quit.

Isabel (sighing as she turns to the two of them): I did, but my parents reneged your dad’s offer of not needing a two-weeks notice.

Maria: Two weeks? That’s only, like, five more shifts with finals coming up.

Isabel: I know.

Liz: Max said you had to find a summer job.

Isabel (as she turns her attention back to her locker): This is all his fault for being mommy and daddy’s good little worker boy… Mr. Goddamn Responsible…

Maria: Wait. Are you back for two weeks or the summer?

Isabel: Two weeks…Clinique is hiring…

Maria (laughing): Wait a second… Let me get this straight…you’re trading in serving people and cleaning up after them for actually having to be…nice…to people, trying to make them look good, and then having to lie about the after-effects?

(Isabel steps away from her locker and glances at Maria. She looks at her thoughtfully for a few moments as Maria continues to laugh.)

Isabel: You know, I like the longer-hair look. It works for you…

Maria (stops laughing and looks at her, taken aback by the compliment): Thanks, I’ve been trying to grow it out.

Isabel (shrugging her shoulders and putting her antenna on): See? Lying’s not really a problem.

(Maria’s face falls into a scowl and Isabel just smirks. The silence is broken as Agnes enters through the back door and the bells out front start jingling.)

Isabel: Work calls.

(Isabel shuts her locker and heads for the front. Maria glares after her and then, pointedly at Liz for a moment, before turning back to the kitchen. She’s about to push open the kitchen door when the jukebox comes on with the UB40 song “Rat In Mi Kitchen”. Maria spins on her heels like a bat out of hell and makes a bee-line for the door, but is stopped short by Liz. Liz firmly holds onto Maria’s shoulders as she turns her around and pushes her toward the kitchen.)

Maria: I just think you should know – I’m sooo killing Alex.

(Liz continues to push Maria toward the kitchen and, as they pass the wall of aprons, she reaches out and grabs a cook’s one.)

Liz: If the customers…um…don’t mutiny first, I’ll grill…you do everything else.

(Scene: UFO Center. Max is in the library. He holds a stack of books in one arm and a sheet of paper in his other hand. He looks at the list he holds and moves down the row until he comes to the next book on it. He pulls the book, adds it to the pile in his arms, and moves on to the next one. His pile of books grows unmanageable, and he walks over to the desk setting them down with the others.

All the books have some sort of Native American connection to them – history, research, art, or some other cultural aspect. Max lets out a sigh and then returns to the shelves. He pulls another book, and then another one, and then stops. He looks down at his list “Introduction to the Traditions and History of the Mescalero Apache”. Max finds the book on the shelf and then slowly looks around the library room, confirming that he’s all alone. With his index finger he pushes the book into the shelf until it falls in-between the two tall bookshelves. He squats down to see if the book is visible from the bottom shelf and, when satisfied that it isn’t, he stands up and moves on to the next book and again stops.

Max stares at the bookshelf. He’s eyes focusing, not on the book he wants, but on the book next it – the one he’s been purposely forgetting and avoiding – Atherton’s “Among Us”. He continues to stare at the book – waging an inner battle over whether to take it or not. This isn’t the first time in the last week that he’s fought this war, but it’s the first time that his “need to know” overcomes his “need to deny what he thinks he already knows”. Closing his eyes, Max takes the book from the shelf, slips it under his shirt and tucks it into the back of his pants. He stands there for a moment, before finally looking down at his list and moving on to the next book. As he reaches for the book, the door opens and Milton walks in.)

Milton: How’s it coming?

Max: Good – there’s just a few books I can’t find from the list…

Milton: That’s okay, I’ve got the article search printing out…30,000 hits just using ‘alien’ and ‘Native American’…and that’s only the beginning. We’ve still gotta search under ‘extra terrestrial’, ‘ufo’, ‘American Indian’…

Max: Did you say 30,000?

Milton: Don’t worry Max, I won’t make you find all of them. We’ll go through and highlight the ones focusing on the southwest, and then pick out the articles that sound good – those are the ones you’ll find. We should have a lot of them in the periodical library – but that only goes back to the 60’s; some of the older stuff we might have to find on-line or get through inter-library loan with the public library.

Max (under his breath): Right, just those ones…

Milton: It’s gonna be big. I can feel it Max. No more tourist trap museum – this is gonna put us on the map. We’ll finally be taken seriously…we’re moving up; from conspiracy theories to scientific ones. This is just the beginning Max – just the beginning…

(Milton sort of zones-out into his thoughts, and Max just keeps hearing the words “30,000” and “just the beginning” ringing in his ears…it’s gonna be a long summer.)

(Scene: Crashdown. Music: Stretch Princess – Sorry. Michael sits at the counter sipping his drink and eyeing the chaos around him with a smile. A sci-fi writers convention is in town and, by the looks of the Café, they’ve all chosen the Crashdown to eat. The booths are packed and there’s a substantial wait to be seated. Michael’s eyes survey the scene and then, finally, return to the pick-up window. From his seat he can see Liz frantically flipping burgers and trying to keep the orders straight. Maria crosses in and out of his line of vision as she runs around the kitchen finishing orders with salad, french fries, and whatever else.

Maria grabs a couple of plates and places them up on the pick-up counter. She rings the bell and, as she turns to leave, catches Michael watching her. She turns back, facing him full on, and stares at him as if begging him to bring it on. Michael just smiles at her and she turns away disgusted. Michael’s still looking in the general direction of the kitchen when Alex comes up and sits down on the stool next to him, placing a chess-game box on the counter.)

Alex (looking around the café): Man, it’s gonna take at least a couple of hours before we can get a table to play at. What’s going on?

Michael (still looking at the kitchen): Convention…sci-fi something…

Alex (nodding his head as he continues to look around): Aaah, the signs of summer…let the freak-show season begin... (Alex finally realizes that Michael’s not really paying attention to him and he follows Michael’s gaze to the kitchen) Hey, did I miss it?

Michael: Yea, but somebody’s already played it again. (He turns to Alex with a grin on his face.)

Alex: What’d she do?

Michael: Nothing yet.

Alex (sounding worried): Nothing?

Michael: Just stayed back there (he motions to the kitchen).

Alex (shaking his head): Not good, my friend…

Michael: She’ll get over it.

Alex: I’m not worried about her. (Michael looks at Alex and Alex looks at the pick-up window where Maria is glaring at both of them. Alex smiles innocently and Maria mouths the word “dead” clearly to him. Alex turns back to Michael) Yea, not worried about her… (Michael looks back to the window and Maria just smiles at him.)

Isabel (as she sets down a drink for Alex): Hey.

Alex: Hey.

Michael (sounding irritated): Hey, when’s my food coming?

Isabel: Okay, do you really want me to go tell them you’re complaining about the food?

(The bell rings as Liz throws another plate on the counter and Isabel shakes her head at Michael as she leaves for the window. As Isabel takes the plate, she furrows her brow and looks back into the kitchen.)

Isabel: Is something burning?

Maria: The ‘house special’…

(Isabel looks at Liz.)

Liz (shrugging her shoulders as she flips the extremely burnt burger): Michael’s dinner.

(Isabel lets out a laugh and then turns away from the counter.)

Isabel (smiling, as she passes Alex and Michael): Your burger’ll be right out.

(Both Michael and Alex watch Isabel walk past them and then turn their heads back toward the kitchen, again finding Maria smiling at them.)

Alex: Dude, I would have stuck to drinks.

Michael: Like they can tell which order’s mine.

Alex (looking sideways at Michael and shaking his head, trying not to laugh): Right.

(Alex takes a drink from his glass and watches Michael. After a few minutes the swinging door to the back opens and Maria enters the front, looking like a disaster and carrying a plate of food. She heads toward Michael and Alex, and plops the plate down in front of Michael. Michael looks at the plate of way over-cooked fries and burger, and then back up at Maria.)

Maria: Enjoy.

(Alex pokes his fork at the fries and starts laughing.)

Maria (looking at Alex): Take a good look buddy that’s all you’re getting tonight too.

Alex (pointing to his chest): Me?

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 20-Dec-2001 9:45:22 AM ]
posted on 22-Oct-2001 11:00:36 PM by not applicable
Maria: The day he (she nods at Michael) listens to UB40 is the day Liz and I take you upstairs, dress you up, and practice make-up and make-over techniques like we did in fifth grade. (Isabel and Michael both laugh.)

Alex (under his breath): Ouch.

Michael (to Maria): Looks like you need one now.

Maria: Bite me.

Michael: I’d rather bite this burger.

Maria: Well then, don’t let me keep you.

(Maria turns her body to fully face Michael. Resting her hands on her hips she holds his gaze, egging him on. Michael doesn’t waver, but picks up the hamburger and takes a bite. Alex makes gagging noises while trying not to laugh and Maria looks at him.)

Maria (to Alex, dead serious): Two weeks…The Pie…I’m bringing costumes and her (she points to Isabel).

Alex (panicky): Hey now, I think my humiliation quota was just satisfied…

Maria: You’ll wish.

(Maria turns around and heads back to the kitchen. As she passes through the swinging door, Michael spits out the burger and Alex and Isabel crack up.)

(Scene: Later in the evening. Music: Vertical Horizon – Everything You Want. Alex and Michael have moved to the back table as the evening rush has dwindled. The chessboard is set out in front of them, Alex is white and Michael is black, and Alex is in the middle of explaining the different pieces.)

Alex (holding up a knight): Okay, the knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces and it can only move in a combination of one’s and two’s. (Michael furrows his brow and Alex begins to demonstrate) Like, one up and two left, or, two up and one right…got it?

Michael: Yea, whatever. This guy (he points to a piece)…

Alex: The bishop…

Michael: Whatever…does diagonals, this one (points to another piece)…

Alex: The rook…

Michael: …does vertical and horizontal, and that guy (points to the knight) does L’s…what about this one (points to the queen)?

Alex: The queen. (He reverently picks up his queen) She is the beholder of all power. She can move in any direction for any number of spaces.

Michael (pointing to the king): And this one?

Alex: He can only move one space at a time.

Michael: That’s it?

Alex: Yea, this is a matriarchy…the king just sits there and gets captured. You ready? (Michael nods and Alex moves his center pawn two spaces.)

Michael: Wait…

Alex: White always goes first.

Michael: Now you tell me.

Alex: Oh, and before I forget…(Alex reaches into his backpack and pulls out some books, Idiots Guide to Chess, Chess for Beginners – a picture guide, Chess Master – at any age, Art of Chess, and Chess for Dummies) here you go.

Michael (looks at the books and frowns): What do you do all day – hang out with girls and play games?

Alex (spreading his hands on either side of the chessboard): This…is…not…a…game. This is a metaphor for life, man…the strategy, the challenge, the sacrifice, the focus, the ultimate goal – survival. (Michael just looks at Alex and Alex shakes his head.) Just move, you’ll see.

(Michael moves a pawn, quickly followed by Alex moving another piece. Michael, a little taken aback by how confident and quickly Alex moved, takes a minute to think about his next move. The table falls into the serious silence of concentration. Isabel delivers drinks to a table up front and, as she returns to the pick-up window for an order, she shakes her head at Michael and Alex.)

Liz (setting Isabel’s order on the counter and following her gaze): I give it five minutes, ten, max. (Isabel looks at her.) He doesn’t have a chance.

Isabel (looking back at the table): He constantly surprises me.

Liz (also looking at the table): I don’t think a lot of people give him much credit, you know… can’t get past appearances.

Isabel: There’s so many layers there and not everyone gets to see them.

Liz (looking at Isabel and then back to the table): Only the people he wants to have see them…

Isabel: He’s a great guy isn’t he? I mean he doesn’t have to care but he does…he really does.

Liz (looks at Isabel again, then back at Michael, squinting): Just don’t tell Maria he doesn’t have to care.

Isabel (quickly looking from Alex to Liz): What? Are you talking about Michael?

Liz (looking from Michael to Isabel): Yea, wait, are you talking about Alex?

Isabel (cursing herself): This food’s cold.

(Isabel grabs the plate and makes a break for it. Liz watches her go with a smile on her face and then glances back at the table just in time to see Alex claim Michael’s knight.)

(Scene: After closing. Liz and Maria are sitting on the backroom couch looking completely spent and like total wrecks.)

Liz: I don’t think I ever want to eat another hamburger again.

Maria: Two words for you Lizzie – deep-fat fryer…beyond describable disgust. I think I’m breaking out just from standing next to it…(She rubs her hands through her hair as if ringing it out.) I’m like a bottle of Canola here…you could put a spout in me and it would like pour out. I so need to shower.

Liz: I don’t think I can get off the couch. I’m like…stuck. How do they do this and still have energy to clean?

Maria: How do they do this and not be all toxic from the fat?…Do we have to clean?

Liz: If we don’t, Dad’ll think it was Michael.

Maria: And your point is…?

Liz: Maria.

Maria (shaking her head): Oh okay, like picking the busiest day of the goddamn week doesn’t deserve just a little wrath from your dad.

Liz: What were you thinking… betting in the first place?

Maria: Oh, don’t go there chica. This is, may I remind you, ultimately your fault. (She lets out a sigh) Besides, it was worth it just for the mental pictures I got imagining Michael waiting tables. (She rolls her head to Liz.) Damn you and your lack of restraint.

Liz (smiling): Would you’ve made him wear the antenna?

Maria: Hell yea, the antenna, the apron…I thought about the dress, but I wasn’t sure I could hold him down long enough to put it on him.

Liz: Now that’s definitely worth betting for…

(They both start laughing and Isabel wheels the mop and bucket through the swinging door.)

Isabel: One day down…four more to go.

Liz (still laughing): Oh come on Isabel, you know you’re gonna miss it here.

Isabel (putting the mop away and turning to Liz and Maria pointing to the front of her uniform): Miss this? Do you know what this is? Regurgitated space fries. I’m so very over this. (She swipes her hand over her uniform and cleans herself off.)

Maria: Then why’d you stay so long? You could’ve bailed weeks ago…

Isabel: Right, only to be brought back by your begging ass.

Maria: Hold on, helping-hand-Barbie. Let’s clarify. I didn’t ask you for anything; you just showed up here.

Isabel: And were you going to ask?

Maria: Okay, that is so not the point. The point is, you know you’re going to miss us. You can’t stay away… a week, tops, and you’ll be back here begging to use the milkshake machine – and the foods not free anymore you know.

Isabel: Okay, who’s missing who here? (Isabel makes a sweeping motion with her hand over the floor and it’s sparkling clean.)

Maria (nodding): Yea you win…gonna miss that…definitely going to miss that.

Liz: Hey, can you do that in the kitchen? I’ll owe you…I promise free food for life…

Isabel (squinting at Liz for a moment then heading toward the kitchen): Keep your free food for tonight’s food poisoning victims…but you will owe me.

Liz (as Isabel disappears into the kitchen): Anything! (Liz sighs and then turns her head to Maria.) I think I’m seriously going to miss her.

Maria (shaking her head): No you won’t.

Liz: Maria!

Maria: Trust me. (Liz looks sideways at her and Maria continues.) Okay, when was the last time Alex went to the Mall by himself?

Liz: Ummm…never.

Maria: Right! The way I see it, not only are we going to the Mall everyday this summer, but we’re getting free stuff out of it too. He’s totally at our mercy – putty in our hands.

Liz: Okay, Alex has always been putty in our hands…

Maria: Yea, but that was just to get him to do things for us – this is actually getting stuff from him. (She rolls her head to Liz and smiles) I mean who’s he gonna buy Clinique stuff for – his mom? Please!

Liz (hitting Maria): You are so bad.

Maria: Me? Trust me sister. After ten straight days of going to the Mall with him, you’ll be asking for stuff too…just wait.

Liz: He’s not that bad. It’s not like he’ll want to go every day.

Maria: Wanna bet?

Liz: Are you sure you wanna do that with your record?

Maria (shoving Liz): Shut up. I’m telling you, Alex is so…

Alex (standing in the doorway): What? (Both Liz and Maria jump at Alex’s voice, and quickly turn to him.) Oh, don’t let me interrupt this…“Alex is so…” what?…I’m thinking “handsome”, “charming”…pick an adjective here…

Maria: “Dead”. How’s that one for you?

Alex: Come on DeLuca. You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.

Maria: Can’t talk your way outta paying for this one Alex… Just remember, when you’re on stage at The Pie doing your best Gloria Gayner, you asked for this…oh, and when you want to go to the Mall in a couple of weeks, you’re gonna have to do some serious groveling…

Alex: Okay, that first part I’ll contest later, but …the Mall? You been sniffin’ something besides cypress oil back here?

Maria: Just a little forewarning, you know. Give you time to practice your begging and ass-kissing skills. I’m gonna want to see some improvement from this year’s whole prom fiasco.

Alex (looking at Liz): Is it just me or is she talking crazy?

(Liz shakes her head and gets out of answering by the kitchen door opening and Isabel coming into the back room.)

Isabel (to Alex): Hey.

Alex: Hey, you ready? (He points to Maria.) She’s freakin’ me out.

Isabel: Yea, let me lock the front door…

Liz: Don’t worry about it – you two take off, I’ll get it.

Isabel (after looking pointedly at Liz): Thanks.

Alex (to Liz): Call me if you have any problems with her (motioning to Maria).

Liz (covering Maria’s mouth): Go before she brings up fifth grade again.

Alex: Spoken like a wise woman…(to Isabel) My lady…Vamoose!

(Alex grabs Isabel’s coat from the rack and they exit through the back door. Liz rests her head against Maria’s shoulder and lets out a sigh.)

Maria: “Vamoose” and he thinks I’m sniffing something here. What was that?

Liz: Testosterone…sweet huh? Our boy finally beat up somebody his own sex.

Maria: What? Who? Michael?

Liz: He was thoroughly kicking his ass for two hours straight.

Maria: Too bad it wasn’t literally instead of figuratively.

Liz: Doesn’t matter, both leave considerable bruises on the male ego.

Maria: True. So you think he’ll go home and make his dad proud tonight?

Liz: No question.

Maria: Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford?

Liz: Oh, totally Tom Cruise… Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Mission Impossible 1 and 2… They’ll be bonding all night long.

Maria: I’m kinda sad I’m gonna miss it.

Liz (yawning): Me too.

Maria (looking at Liz): It’ll be brief – he’ll be back in the morning begging for a ‘chick’ fix. Testosterone overdose…(she shakes her head) very ugly. (Liz yawns again and Maria sighs.) Go get outta here. I’ll close.

Liz: You sure?

Maria: Yes, but you better leave before everything we did tonight starts coming back to me.

Liz (sitting up and looking at Maria): Call me tomorrow before you do anything drastic with your mother.

Maria: You know how I am. I can’t control myself sometimes…

Liz: Promise me.

Maria: It’s probably nothing, you know – just another premature mid-life crisis. (Liz just looks at her) Fine, I promise…no violent or irrational outburst without your consent.

Liz: Thank you. It won’t be that bad – whatever it is – just remember you’ve been through worse…we’ve been through worse and we’ll get through worse.

Maria: You’re hopeless. You know that…with all the optimistic crap…

Liz (as she gets off the couch): I know, but somebody’s got to do it. Look who I’m dealing with.

Maria (throwing a towel at her): Good night.

Liz: Night.

(Music: Whiskeytown – Turn Around.)

(Liz heads up the stairs to the apartment. Maria watches her go and sits quietly on the couch for a few moments before reluctantly getting up. She’s about to push the door to the front open when she spots Michael sitting at the corner table reading one of Alex’s chess books. If she wasn’t so pissed at him she’d probably think it was cute. No not cute…slightly sexy…the way he runs his hand through his hair when he’s frustrated, and the way his brow furrows when he doesn’t understand, and…

Maria turns away from the door. Sometimes being pissed is really hard to do, especially when you’re lonely. She hangs up her cook’s apron on a hook as she heads to her locker. She opens her locker door and is about to throw her hair net in when she stops. She looks around the room as tears slowly start to form in the corner of her eyes. She swallows and then hesitantly reaches into the locker, carefully pulling out her dad’s fixed John Denver tape. She holds it to her chest and lowers her head, letting unexpected tears fall.

After a few moments, Maria collects herself and pushes the backroom door open, just as Michael reaches for the front door to exit the Café.)

Maria: Do you have any idea how frustrating you are?

Michael (with his back to her): No where near as frustrating as you are.

Maria (letting out a sigh and shaking her head): God, can you just stop, please? Can we just…stop this? (Michael slowly lowers his hand from the door handle.) I mean…I know this is what I signed up for…you know, the relationship rollercoaster ride with the loopdy-doos and corkscrews but can we just, like, get off of it for a while…and go ride the…merry-go-round or something?

Michael (finally turning to face her): Merry-go-round?

Maria: You know what I mean…Look, you said stuff…I said stuff…okay? We both said stuff. Can we just stop…saying stuff and…hurting each other? I don’t want to do this anymore. (The tears well in her eyes and she blinks them away.) You hurt me Michael. You hurt me like no one can…and you infuriate me and push me until I want to wring your neck and kick your ass back to wherever you’re from. (She pauses and pulls out the fixed John Denver tape from her apron pocket.) And then you do something…that reminds me why I’m on this ride. (She looks at the tape in her hand and then back up at Michael.) Because, in your own twisted way, you can love me like no one can…even if you can’t say it…and you don’t have to…I know. (She lifts the tape up.) When you do this…I know…

Michael (frustrated with what he must admit): I didn’t do that…Max did.

Maria: I know. (She takes a hesitant step toward him after a long pause.) Just like I didn’t burn your burger… Liz did.

Michael (after a long pause): I can’t stop looking for Nasedo.

Maria: And I can’t stop blaming him either. All this stuff is happening to Lizzie that I can’t do anything about, and I need someone to blame…to be angry at…and he’s it Michael. I need to blame him and I can’t change it.

Michael: I need the answers he has.

Maria: I know that…I do. I don’t like him, but I don’t have to. (She pauses for a moment, inhaling a shaky breath and looking down at the tape she holds in her hand.) I need you to promise me something. (She ventures a glance at him but quickly looks away.) I know this is silly, and so down the road and totally not relevant to now…but…I need you to promise me that you won’t leave me like my father did, okay? If you have to go, you have to go, but at least say goodbye…you know, a note is better than nothing – just something, okay…just promise me. If you can’t promise me that Michael then I need to get off the ride for good…because I can’t do that again. (She looks up at Michael and the tears slide down her cheek.) Anything...

Michael (watching her cautiously): I can’t make promises about staying or…

Maria: I’m not asking for that, Michael. It was impossible to miss the “Enter at your own risk” sign you had plastered all over yourself. We all know that… Liz and Alex…being a part of this…a condition of being with you, of loving you is letting you go. But you need to understand that the condition for being with me, loving me, is letting me know if you have to go. I’ll never ask you for anything more than that…I just…I just need to know that you can do that one thing for me…that you can say goodbye, because I can’t do this if you can’t do that. Can you understand that?

(Michael’s breathing slows as he intensifies his cautious gaze. Ignoring instinct and all the alarms sounding in his head, he holds his ground, letting the meaning of what she’s not saying sink in. Maybe she didn’t think he would know, wouldn’t be able to hear the unspoken admission or recognize the motivation for this conversation…and maybe, if it had been anybody else, he wouldn’t have.)

Maria: Can you do that for me Michael?

(She couldn’t be anymore exposed to Michael if she was naked and asking him the same question…and he knows it. Michael Guerin might know next to nothing when it comes to women, and even less when it comes to love, but he knows this woman standing in front of him, and he knows what’s staring him in the face, holding him in place.)

Maria (shakily): Can you, Michael?

(It’s amazing the profound impact a profession of love has on one who’s never known what it means to be loved; to be staring at something that’s eluded you your entire life, that you’ve resigned yourself to never knowing, to living without. It’s so powerful it immobilizes you when every defensive mechanism you’ve spent the last ten years honing and perfecting tells you to run. The temptation of experiencing something you’ve never thought yourself worthy of allows you to make a commitment you can’t possibly keep. In the face of love, you nod, when you should really say “no”.)

Maria: Thank you. (Michael just looks down at her as she reaches up to touch his cheek) I’ve missed you…(and, with that, she pulls his face to hers for a kiss).

(Scene: Liz’s rooftop, a little later that evening. Music: Neko Case and Her Boyfriends – Furnace Room Lullaby. Liz is curled up asleep on the lounge chair. Her journal lays in her lap open to the page she was writing on. She looks so peaceful. It was probably that fact that kept Max from waking her up when he stopped by after work. She just looked too peaceful to disturb. He could watch her for hours, but this time he didn’t. Just a few minutes to make sure she wasn’t too cold or uncomfortable, and then he left.

It’s been an hour since Max came and went, but she’s only been alone for five or so minutes of that time. The black cat sits on the ledge staring at her. Something about her draws him in and repels him at the same time. She fascinates and disgusts, and all he can do is watch… study her, test her, and wait for her to fail… and she will fail, it’s just a matter of time.

Satisfied that she’s sleeping soundly, the cat jumps down from the wall and slowly walks to the chair, all the while studying her face, searching for the slightest sign that she’ll awaken. He jumps up on the end of the chair and pauses. His movements are slow and deliberate as he makes his way toward her. Resting a paw on her leg, he tests her reaction to his weight. Finding none, he proceeds to walk the side of her leg and nestle himself on her stomach, in perfect view of her journal and the latter half of this evening’s entry. It’s short and confusing…

“…Something’s wrong, I know it. Maria thinks I’m crazy, but I know…I just know that something’s wrong. Everyday it’s like he keeps getting farther and farther away from me, and I don’t know what to do…and I don’t know why. It’s like he’s decided to take a step back again – and forgot to tell me. Maybe I am crazy, maybe finals is just making us all crazy. Just another couple of weeks and then maybe he’ll tell me. It hurts that he doesn’t trust me enough to tell me what’s wrong. It’s funny, he trusted me with his life when he saved me…why can’t he trust me with this, whatever it is? Two weeks, I’ll give him two weeks.”

The cat studies the words. He’s been paying so much attention to her lately, he had almost forgotten about him. Damn her. A light turns on inside the apartment, causing the cat to jerk. He jumps off Liz and the chair, and hides in the shadows of the wall. Inside the apartment Nancy walks down the hallway and carefully cracks open the door to Liz’s bedroom. Opening it wider she sees that Liz isn’t there and Nancy enters the room. Jeff, from the hallway, sees Nancy going into Liz’s bedroom and follows after her.

Nancy stands at the window to the roof, watching her daughter sleeping. Jeff comes up behind her and puts his arm around her waist.)

Jeff (whispering): Should’ve made this window a sliding glass door when we put the bathroom in.

Nancy (whispering back): Should’ve made her a room without walls and with the stars for a ceiling.

(Scene: Max’s bedroom, same night. Max sits staring down at his desk. It’s close to two in the morning, which means he’s been doing this for nearly two hours – sitting here, staring at his desk. It’s not so much the desk that’s captured his attention, but the two documents resting on top of it, side by side in front of him. This moment has been a week in the making. He’s known it’s been coming. He knows what he has to do, he knows what he’s going to find, he just doesn’t know if he’s ready.

The problem with denial, is that it’s putting off the inevitable. Only crazy people get to live in fantasylands of denial- where if you don’t like something you change it, if you don’t want to know something then you don’t… where the truth is whatever you make it. Maybe it’s not so bad being crazy. But for the rest of us, there comes a point, a moment, when the truth becomes too obvious to ignore. This is Max’s moment. He’s been avoiding the truth for a week. And now he’s been sitting here for the last two hours staring at it, or at least the source of it – waiting for an act of God or a knock on his door or window to keep him from having to go through with this. But with every passing minute, denial slips farther and farther away…

Max lets out a heavy sigh, laced with defeat. He runs his hands through his hair and then shakily places them on the edge of the desk. With his left hand, he opens the cover of Atherton’s book, and with his right he opens the manila folder, exposing the typed manuscript for the same book. Breathing slowly, he turns the pages of the book to find the title page. He stares down at the two title pages, mirror images of themselves. Another breath, another sigh, another turning of a page. Simultaneously he turns the blank pages following the title page, revealing the next page.

The manuscript reads:
“Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book.” – Emerson.

The book reads:
“There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.” – Alphonse De Lamartine

Max’s pauses to read them both, then turns the next page.

The manuscript:
For, N

The book:
For, Nadine

That was the easy part, it’s the next page that’s the problem. With the turning of this page comes either a wave of relief, an assurance of what ‘is’, or a tidal wave of destruction, obliterating the security of the ‘unknown’. It’s funny that not knowing anything about yourself would be considered an assurance, a source of comfort. But if Max finds what he thinks he’ll find, on the next page of Atherton’s book, then everything changes…secrets revealed, answers found, lives defined, possibilities… possibly shattered.

Max takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. He closes his eyes for a moment then calmly turns the page. He looks from one Table of Contents to the other, and then lowers his head. They’re completely different. He flips through the book and manuscript from the Preface, to the chapters he hasn’t read yet, searching for a shred of similarity between them…nothing… just like he knew it would be. You see denial’s not so much about avoiding the truth, it’s about avoiding confirmation of the truth.

One title, two very different books…and two curious yellow eyes over in the window watching.

posted on 22-Oct-2001 11:03:09 PM by not applicable
oops...sorry about the double post...
angela - thanks for the heads-up on that, my computer's been freaking out on me, I think it's mad at me for not spending much time with it for the last few days...I'll be e-mailing you soon!

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Oct-2001 12:18:23 AM ]
posted on 22-Oct-2001 11:39:25 PM by not applicable
Title: The Queen (Chess trilogy, part 2)
Author: N/A
Email: ajrocchio⊕
Rating: PG-13 for language
Category: Other Stories
Disclaimers: The characters of Roswell belong to the WB, among others, but apparently I just can’t stop myself from borrowing them.
Spoilers: None and never will be in this universe.
Summary: Direct continuation of the previous story in this trilogy (The Pawn). If you thought the last story was fluff – wait ‘til you get a lode of this…

Author’s note/soapbox: Wow, it’s been a long time hasn’t it? Yikes! Apologies to anyone out there still following this…thanks for sticking with me. Anyway…Quick reminder… This trilogy starts to introduce my theories on the physiology of Max’s race. And since this universe pretty much breaks off from the show around the ‘Balance’ episode from season one, nothing that happened, or that was explained, at the end of that season is relevant in my world. I do not subscribe to the ‘genetic engineering’ explanation…1. Because, as I’ve said before, I really don’t like it…and 2. Because I want my humans to be human and my aliens to be alien – that’s what drew me to the show in the first place…not alien/human hybrids or human-to-alien transformations…that’s just me…

(Scene: Isabel’s bedroom, Saturday morning. Music: K. D. Lang – Consequences of Falling. Isabel sits on her bed looking at herself in the full-length mirror hanging on her closet door. She tilts her head and squints at her reflection. She lets out a sigh of frustration and shakes her head. She picks up the stack of paint sample cards next to her and flips through them. She flips out of the green shades and moves on to the purples. Settling on a deep burgandy, she touches the card with her right hand and her shirt with the left. She looks up in the mirror as the shirt changes from an avocado green to red wine burgandy. She pauses, then shakes her head in disgust and returns to the cards. She continues the indecisive routine of finding, trying, and disliking various colors until she finally throws the cards up in defeat.)

Isabel (irritated with herself): Are you kidding me with this? (She looks at the cards, now scattered over her bed and floor, and lets out a sigh.) Ridiculous…completely ridiculous. He what? Makes one comment about someone else and this is what I’m reduced to. “Wishful thinking” my ass, I’ll give you something to think about…Please! I could be wearing paisley – hell-o, I could be wearing paisley…on polyester and he would still… be putty… (shaking her head at her reflection in the mirror) and you, would now be talking to yourself – losing it Isabel, seriously losing it.

(She gets off the bed and walks over to her desk. She grabs her backpack hanging off the side of her chair and turns to leave, but stops. She looks down at her desk and the, abnormally silly, picture of Alex resting on the corner of it.)

Isabel (shaking her head): Seriously losing it.

(Isabel exits her room and walks down the hallway toward the kitchen. She doesn’t get very far before her mother’s voice stops her.)

Mrs. Evans (from the kitchen): Isabel, honey, is that you?

Isabel: Yea mom.

Mrs. Evans: Honey can you get your brother up, he wanted me to make sure he was up by 10?

Isabel: Yea, okay, mom.

(Isabel turns around and heads back down the hallway. She stops at Max’s door and bangs, loudly, on it. There’s no response, so she turns the knob and enters the room.)

Isabel (irritated): Hey, mom…

(She trails off when she realizes she’s talking to an empty bed and quickly looks around the room. She shakes her head when she finds Max asleep at his desk. She’s about to say something to him, when she shivers, her body finally registering how cold it is in Max’s room. Her eyes dart around the room again, finally falling on the open window.)

Isabel (as she crosses to the window): God Max! It’s freezing in here! What? Are you trying to get sick or just freeze to death in here? (She spins around and looks at Max, who’s just started awake from Isabel’s angry voice.) Honestly Max, I know your grades are important to you but don’t you think this is a little much – sleeping at your desk, if you’re sleeping at all? Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you haven’t been sleeping very well lately…

(Max groggily watches Isabel walk around his bed, back to the door and slowly begins to register that she’s still talking to him.)

Isabel: …And no wonder you’re having problems, if you’ve been trying to sleep in sub-zero temperatures every night – God, you might as well’ve been sleeping in the walk-in freezer at the Crashdown.

Max (confused): What are you talking about?

(Isabel stops at the door and turns to look at Max, in his wife-beater shirt and boxer shorts.)

Isabel (shaking her head and rubbing her arms): You better be careful Max, or I’m going to start believing Liz when she says something’s going on with you. They’re just grades. Mom and dad will still love you and Liz will still fall all over you if you get a B. (She goes to leave but turns in the door frame and quickly adds) I’d fix the temperature of the room before mom comes in here…Honestly Max.

(Max watches Isabel leave, not understanding what the hell she’s talking about. He holds his hands out in front of him – as if gauging the temperature of the room – and lets them fall to his sides when they fail to find the temperature anything other than comfortable. He shakes his head at the door, as if Isabel was still standing in front of it looking at him. He sits back in his chair, stretches his arms over his head, and yawns. He rubs the sleep from his eyes and for the first time looks down at his desk.

He immediately stiffens, in the chair, and sucks in his breath. He hesitantly reaches out and picks up the hand-written note…“What once was thought can never be undone – Friedrich Dürrenmatt.” Max looks from the note to what it was covering on the desk. It’s the next section of the manuscript. “Book 2, Adaptability.” Max puts the note back down and pushes the manuscript away from him. He glances from the desk to the window, and then slowly around his room, looking for any other signs of intrusion. The silence is interrupted by his mother’s yelling voice.)

Mrs. Evans (from the hallway): Max, breakfast is ready! Don’t be too long …or it’ll get cold!

(Max looks at the door and shivers.)

(Scene: The DeLuca residence, roughly the same time. Maria, wearing her bathrobe and rubbing at her eyes, pads down the hallway toward the kitchen. She lets out a yawn as she reaches the kitchen and stops mid-stride before actually entering the room. Her eyes widen as she glances around the kitchen. The counters are covered in pieces of wax paper. Some have balls of dough on them and others have rolled out circles of dough. Flour litters the floor, cupboards, and counter tops. The kitchen table is covered with various bowls of fruit and other intended pie fillings. Amy DeLuca stands over the kitchen sink washing out a mixing bowl. Maria lets out a sigh and Amy turns to the noise.)

Amy: Hey sleepyhead…I thought you were going to pull a “possum” on me.

Maria (still waking up and processing the mess in the kitchen): “Sleepyhead”…what time is it?

Amy: Ten, I think…

Maria: Ten? Exactly, how long have you been up?

Amy: Oh, I don’t know…six or seven…You want some breakfast? Cherry pie’s almost done?

(Maria looks from her mother, to the oven, and then back at her mother.)

Maria: Right…Look mom, before we get all, “down with pie”, can we just cut the “Good morning” chat and get right to the “What’s with the pie” chat?

Amy: Sweety, what are you talking about?

Maria: What am I talking about? I’m talking about…uh, this (she waves her hand around the kitchen). I’m talking about pie, mom. The whole town lies in wait for some sort of emotional, relationship-related trauma to hit the DeLuca’s so they can line up at the Crashdown the next day for some pie.

Amy (turning to Maria): Stop! I thought we could spend some time together – that’s all. I hardly ever see you these days and, I just want to know what’s going on with you.

Maria (eyeing her mother suspiciously): What’s going on with me? What’s going on with you? Pie’s like code for either “Something’s happened and I don’t wanna talk about it” or “I need to tell you something and I don’t know how”…(Amy looks at Maria a little exasperated and Maria sighs.) I know you mom.

Amy (pointedly): I know sweetie, and I don’t feel like I know you these days.

(Maria flinches at the sting of those words and slowly crosses to the table to sit down. The timer goes off on the oven and Amy pulls out the two cherry pies.)

Amy: Now was that a “yes” to cherry pie, or not?

Maria: Is there whip cream?

Amy (smiling): Like you have to ask…I thought you knew me…

(Scene: Crashdown, late morning around 11 a.m. Music floating in from the kitchen: Moffats – Just Another Phase. Mr. Parker sits at a table near the front, looking through some papers and brochures. The Café’s pretty quite just a few regulars at the counter. It’s still in that morning/noon transitional period – after the breakfast crowd and before the lunch rush. The bells on the front door jingle as Max walks in. Jeff glances up from his reading and motions to Max.)

Jeff: Morning Max.

Max: Morning Mr. Parker.

(Max glances around the room for Liz, but doesn’t find her, and Jeff waves him over to his table.)

Jeff: Have a seat…I’m sure she’ll be right down.

(Max hesitantly crosses to the table, and as he sits down, notices the AAA travel brochures Jeff has splayed out in front of him.)

Max: Planning a trip?

Jeff: Yep. I promised Lizzie if she got straight A’s through her sophomore year we’d take her on a trip to the East Coast…Check out some of these colleges she’s been talking about, and maybe sneak in some sights if she’ll let us.

Max (looking at the different brochures): You just focusing on the Northeast?

Jeff (smiling): Most kids want a family vacation to Disney World – ours just wants one to Harvard. (Max laughs and Jeff watches him thoughtfully.) She’s wanted to go there since I can remember, and wanted to be a scientist even longer…Ever since my mother gave her that darn microscope.

(Max smiles at the image he’s seen from Liz countless times…of her opening a box almost taller than her, and Grandma Claudia pulling out the microscope.)

Max (thoughtfully): When she was six.

Jeff (surprised): That’s right.

Max (looking up at Jeff): I didn’t get that microscope until I was eleven.

Jeff (laughing): That’s my mother for you. Toys just wouldn’t cut it, she had to give her the real thing…always the best for Liz. (Max smiles and Jeff hesitantly continues.) Lizzie’s worked real hard to get where she’s at…sometimes I think a little too hard, especially with the shooting and everything. Nancy and I never pushed her; it was always what she wanted, that’s all we’ve ever wanted – what she’s wanted. (He looks at Max closely)…And I would hate…to see anything happen that might…keep her from getting what she’s worked so hard for.

(Max swallows and lifts his eyes to Jeff’s waiting ones. It’s a non-confrontational exchange really, just the passing of understanding from one man to another…the beginnings of a bond between two men, who love equally, in their different ways, and would do anything for one, Elizabeth Anne Parker.

Max (after a pause): I’ve always admired that about Liz. She’s always known what she’s wanted to do, where she’s wanted to go…always had a plan. When Izzy and I were little we weren’t sure if the Evans’ would wake up one day and decide they didn’t want us anymore, so we never really thought about the future…never really made plans.

Jeff: Well, ten years later, the two of you are the pride and joy of both Phillip and Diane. (Max looks up at Jeff and Jeff smiles.) There’s still a lot of time for making plans…Besides, if you don’t come up with one I’m sure Liz will come up with one for you. She’s got ones for all of us…Maria, Alex, even Nancy and I – back up one in case the Crashdown goes under.

(Max and Jeff both laugh and Liz enters the front through the swinging backdoor.)

Liz (as she walks toward them): Dad, you’re not telling embarrassing childhood stories are you?

Jeff: No sweetie – those aren’t any fun unless you’re here to be embarrassed by them.

Liz: Daaad.

(Max stands up from the table as Liz reaches it.)

Max (to Liz): Izzy wanted the jeep – I figure we’ll just walk.

Liz: Okay.

Nancy (now standing at the back counter): You kids don’t study too late…and don’t forget to eat lunch.

Liz: Don’t worry mom, we won’t. (She turns to Max.) You ready?

Max: Yea. (He turns to Jeff and Nancy) Mr. and Mrs. Parker.

Nancy: We’ll see you later Max.

(Max and Liz head for the front door and Max, backing into the door, pushes it open. As Liz walks through the open door he reaches out and grabs her backpack off her shoulder and swings it over his free one. Nancy watches on with a smile, while Jeff wears a slight frown. Nancy comes around the counter carrying a drink for Jeff and sets it down in front of him.)

Jeff (looking up at Nancy): He’s not going away any time soon, is he?

Nancy (smiling): No…I don’t think so.

(Nancy walks over to the jukebox and Jeff returns his gaze to the front door.)

Jeff (still looking at the door): If he wasn’t such a good kid it’d be easier to not like him…

Nancy (looking up from the jukebox and over to Jeff): It could be worse.

Jeff (looking at Nancy): Worse? (He looks back at the door.) Worse. (He shakes his head and continues, talking more to himself than Nancy.) It doesn’t get any worse than that. I’d much rather deal with a passing-rebellious-phase than…that.

(Nancy twists the key in the jukebox giving her a free selection. She picks out a song and then turns to Jeff.)

Nancy: We weren’t much older than they are…You do remember don’t you, what it’s like to be young, and in love…

Jeff (looking up at Nancy, smiling): You calling me old?

Nancy: Did I say that?

(The jukebox kicks in with Van Morrison – Into The Mystic. Jeff raises his eyebrow at the music and gets up from his seat)

Jeff (as he approaches Nancy): “Young,” maybe not so much anymore, but “in love”…(he takes Nancy’s hand and pulls her to him, cradling her back, he slowly begins dancing) Still very much in love.

(The two customers in the shop watch on as Jeff and Nancy dance. In the back room Michael throws some stuff in his locker and heads to find Jeff. He’s about to enter the front when he catches sight of Jeff dipping Nancy. Michael puts his hand down and just watches through the window in the door.)

(Scene: The Whitman residence. Alex is in his room loading up his five-disk CD player. His room is covered in paper – on the desk, parts of the bed, and several stacks laid out in neat rows on the floor surrounding the desk. Alex carefully selects the next disk to put in the CD player and turns to the knock at his door.)

Alex: Alright dad…Have fun with the fish – or whatever it is you’re killing today…See you around six.

Isabel (opening the door just a little): Actually, more like seven.

Alex (surprised): Isabel!

Isabel (opening the door wider): Your dad let me in…and wanted me to tell you he’d be back around 7.

Alex: Right. (Alex shuts the CD player and makes a quick glance around his room for any embarrassing articles of clothing.) You’re early….

Isabel (taking a few steps into the room): Yea, Max was meeting Liz at 10:30 so I figured…Oh my God!

(Alex turns to see Isabel staring at the three-foot by four-foot map of New Mexico hanging on the wall just inside the door on the left. It has little colored flags pinned into it representing all the different orphanages, adoption agencies and a number of foster care homes throughout the state. Isabel turns to him wide-eyed.)

Isabel (stunned): When…did you…

Alex: It’s no big deal really, just the product of a slight case of insomnia…

Isabel (turning back to the map and stepping toward it): Slight?

(Alex walks over to his desk and grabs a four-inch wide binder off of it, and then walks over to Isabel.)

Alex (handing the binder to Isabel): Here. (Isabel looks from the binder up to Alex, and he opens it up to show her what’s inside.) It’s all alphabetized, color coded by city and organization type. The flags (he looks up at the map) match the colored tabs (he runs his finger down the rainbow colored index tabs).

Isabel (amazed): Alex…I…

Alex (giving her the binder): Here, it’s everything I’ve found so far – or really haven’t found. I kept losing track so I started printing out all the searches – the brain was getting seriously fuzzy at 2 a.m.

(Isabel looks at Alex and then walks over to his bed and sits down. Alex watches her for a moment and then heads to his stereo. He hits the random button and then walks over to his desk and sits down. The CD player finally picks a selection and Lloyd Cole’s Impossible Girl begins playing over the stereo. Isabel looks at a couple of search records and furrows her brow. She then grabs a whole chunk of records and flips through them. When she’s done she looks up at Alex with a clouded expression.)

Isabel: These are all for girls.

Alex (working on his computer and not catching the questioning tone of Isabel’s voice): Yea?

Isabel (almost irritated, but not quite): Why?

(Alex stops typing and swallows.)

Isabel (irritated): You really think it’s a girl don’t you?

Alex (slowly turning his chair to face Isabel): It makes sense.

Isabel (getting defensive for no real apparent reason): Sense? Nothing makes sense…

Alex: There’s Max and Michael…and you…

Isabel (standing up angrily): So…what? Because there’s a current two-to-one ratio…you think we come in sets or something…

Alex (not really understanding the source of Isabel’s anger and getting a little defensive himself): We don’t know how you come…(he immediately cringes as Isabel angrily glares at him, and he hurriedly continues in a soft, almost pleading tone) I mean…Isabel… Look, all we know is that you’re here, we don’t know how you got here or why or… how the four of you are related…we just don’t know…

Isabel (still fuming): That’s right – we don’t know do we…So what’s this? (She holds up the binder.) One-sided research based on assumptions…and assumptions based on what? Raging hormones…Wishing for a girl isn’t going to make it one.

(Whoa Nelly! Alex is completely flustered at this entire conversation turn and too busy worrying over how this is not, how he wanted this day to start, to even catch the slight hint of jealousy that crept over Isabel’s voice.)

Alex (trying to fix whatever he did): You’re right, okay – I’m sorry… You’re right, I was making assumptions. (He thinks about what she said for a second.) Assumptions based on observation, not…hormones? I mean, I have hormones, but if they were encouraging me to do anything at two or three in the morning, it sure as hell wouldn’t be playing with the computer…(He looks up at Isabel.) And for the record…I thought you’d want it to be a girl.

Isabel (surprised by that comment): Me? Why would you think that?

Alex: Just a couple of times, you’ve… mentioned that no one understands what you’re going through – not even Max and Michael…that they don’t know what it’s like for you. I just thought you’d want it to be a girl because…she would…that’s all. (He lets out a sigh and shakes his head at himself, under his breath) God, I’m so stupid…of course you’d want it to be a guy…

Isabel (mentally kicking herself): Alex…I’m sorry…I don’t know…

(And she doesn’t, really. She has no clue what came over her – instigating this confrontation. It’s not like jealousy is anything new to Isabel. Ten years of seeing kids with loving parents, kids who don’t have to tell lies, keep secrets, don’t have to pretend…kids that have everything and don’t even realize it – it generates more jealousy than most know in a lifetime. But that’s not the kind of jealousy this is…and this is definitely new to her. I mean, she’s Isabel Evans – she can get any guy she wants. So why does it bother her that one she doesn’t want, starts not wanting her back…and is that really what this is about or is it maybe, just maybe, that she’s not sure anymore, that she doesn’t want him. She glances over at Alex, who’s now internally beating himself up for not thinking sooner that Isabel would want it to be a guy – I mean, come on, a best friend or a potential non-incestualesque alien date…easy pick Whitman!)

Isabel (sitting back down on the bed in front of Alex): I don’t really think about it that much – what I’d want…I just want them to be alive. (She looks up at Alex) And…I guess I haven’t really missed having someone who understands lately, because…you listen to me…and sometimes that’s better than having someone who understands.

(What were meant as words of comfort, possibly an admission of something even more, only sting more. Always the “girlfriend”…never the boyfriend. Alex looks up at Isabel. Who was he kidding anyway? When it comes to Isabel Evans, you take what you can get…and being any kind of “friend” is better than being anything less.)

Alex: I do what I can.

Isabel: You do too much. (She holds up the binder.) You should have told me Alex; I would have helped with this.

Alex: It’s no big deal, really, it gave me something to do.

Isabel: Well, what do we do now?

Alex (patting the bed next to the chair he’s sitting in): Have a seat.

(Scene: Roswell Public Library. Max and Liz are sitting across from each other. Liz pulls out her English book from her backpack, while Max pulls out his Trig book. Liz looks over at Max and watches him for a few moments. She smiles uncontrollably and sighs softly.)

Max: What?

Liz (startled, and shaking her head): Nothing…(She fidgets with her backpack and then looks back up at Max.) You know, you never did tell me what you and my dad were talking about.

Max (searching his backpack for a pencil): Your trip this summer.

Liz (handing Max a pencil from her pen bag): Trip?

Max: Yea, to the East Coast…Harvard pilgrimage…

Liz: Oh.

(Max looks up at Liz and watches her shuffle through her papers.)

Max: You know, you don’t talk about Harvard that much anymore.

Liz (still shuffling through papers): It’s a long way away.

Max (watching her closely): Yea, but you’re still going right? (Liz quickly glances at him and then away, pretending to look for something extremely important in her backpack.) Right, Liz? You still plan on going?

Liz: It’s two years away…I might not even get in anyway, you know? (She looks up at Max and he just looks back at her, waiting for the answer he wants to hear. She lets out a sigh.) Plans change Max.

Max: No they don’t – not yours…

Liz: Priorities change…and besides, your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter – I could do that anywhere, it’s the Doctorate that counts…

Max: Liz…

Liz: Max…

Max: I don’t want you to give up anything for me…

Liz: I won’t – I’ll do it for me…my decision will have nothing to do with you Max.

Max (if he wasn’t so serious, he’d be smiling): Oh really?

Liz (tilts her head and looks at him thoughtfully): Did you save me, for me, or for you?

Max (totally not expecting that): What?

Liz: When you saved me…did you do it because you thought I wanted to be saved or because you wanted me saved?

Max (completely cornered): Um…I don’t…

Liz: You gave up everything because of me…but not for me…for you, because this is what you wanted…So why’s it any different for me, if this is what I want?

Max: It’s completely different and you know it.

Liz (changing the subject): I don’t know anything except a.) I love you, b.) this conversation will be totally moot if I don’t get A’s on these finals and c.) the librarian is coming this way so we should probably start studying.

(Max turns around to see the librarian walking in their general direction.)

Max (turning back to Liz): This isn’t over.

Liz (leaning forward over the table and brushing a strand of hair behind her ear): Promise?

Max (smiling and leaning forward): That (he points her English book at her seductive face)…is why we’re studying here in the first place. (He shoves the book at her and she reluctantly takes it from him with a playful pout.) And I’m serious.

Liz (smiling): Me too…

Max (looking up at her and then quickly back to his book): Study!

(Scene: DeLuca Kitchen. Maria, carrying two pies, heads out of the kitchen and into the living room. She adds the pies to the couch and takes a moment to glance around the room. Every available flat surface is covered with a cooling pie. She shakes her head and returns to the kitchen. Amy looks up from the dish she’s cleaning at the sink and sees Maria return via the reflection in the window. Maria walks over to the far-left counter and starts kneading another ball of dough. Amy watches her out of the corner of her eye and then finally swallows and slowly turns to Maria.)

Amy (watching her daughter carefully): So I was thinking about inviting Michael Geurin over for dinner.

Maria (absentmindedly): And Kyle too?

Amy (confused by her response): I…could invite Kyle if you wanted me to…

Maria (turning to her mom): That’s what this is really about isn’t it?… Me, you, Sheriff Valenit, and Kyle all sittin’ around a table trying to be civil and pretending to play house?

Amy: Well…

Maria: It’s okay you know…I had a good one-to-one with myself last night and I’m ready for the inevitable.

Amy (skeptical): You’d be okay with that?

Maria: No! Hello! You may not know what’s going on with my life now, but I am still your daughter…(Maria looks down at her hands and then lets out a sigh)…It’s just…

Amy: What? (Maria looks up at her mom and Amy raises an eyebrow) It’s just what?

Maria: You really like him.

Amy: And you’ve decided now, that makes a difference?

Maria: Okay I’m not denying I’ve had issues with your dates, or stop-me-from-gagging, boyfriends that you’ve had in the past… And okay, maybe some of that anger was because they weren’t dad, or maybe even jealousy because they took you away from me…but I never liked them, because…they were never good to you.

Amy (taken aback): What?

Maria (looking away): They never treated you the way you deserved to be treated.

Amy (shocked): Honey…I…(She looks at Maria and Maria fidgets)…And Jim?

Maria: Granted I have serious reservations regarding the Sheriff and his whole out-to-get-my-boyfriend crusade…

Amy: What?

Maria: Nevermind…reservations or not, he treats you like you should be…He takes you to restaurants not bars. He calls you to make sure you got home safely…or because he just wants to hear your voice. He gets this…stupid, Max-like smile on his face when someone mentions your name…(She looks up at her mom and rolls her eyes)…gag me. (She shakes her head.) And it doesn’t matter if I’m freaked or not because…because no matter how much I want to, I can’t justify taking that away from you. You’ve given up a lot of things for me…and this doesn’t have to be one of them. I mean, who knows where this thing is going, or if it’s even gonna keep going and, God help us, if it does, then we’ll all just figure out a way to deal.

Amy (walks over to Maria and cradles her face): I don’t know what to say. When did you become such an amazing young woman?

Maria: Amazing? I’ve always been. Rational, on the other hand, I entirely blame on Liz. Take it while you can, it only comes in infrequent and unpredictable moments.

Amy: Well, remind me to thank her.

(Amy pulls Maria into a hug, and when they break apart she smiles down at her daughter)

Amy: Dinner with the Valenti’s we’ll do soon, but do you still want me to invite Kyle over for dinner with the two of us, and Michael?

Maria (almost choking): Michael!

Amy: That’s what started this conversation, me telling you I was going to ask Michael over for dinner and you asked if Kyle was coming too, frankly I don’t…

Maria (interrupting): Michael who?

Amy: I don’t know, you tell me. I’m beginning to think there’s two of them, one who seems to drive you crazy, making you impossible to live with…and the other one, who has you walking on clouds and smiling your own, stupid smile.

Maria: Whichever one, he’s not coming over for dinner!

Amy (turning to the counter): As the mother here, I think I’ll decide that.

posted on 22-Oct-2001 11:41:02 PM by not applicable
Maria: Mother? Okay, my mom is all about denial and “no boys in this household”, with the exception of Alex, because they’re all the spawn of Satan and will turn me into you. So the question is, whose mother are you? (Amy just looks sideways at her and Maria, squinting at her mom, takes a step backward.) What’s my favorite ice cream flavor?

Amy: What? Apparently our rational moment is over…

Maria (sweeping the kitchen with her eyes looking for anything sharp and pointed): My favorite flavor, what is it?

Amy (turns, exasperated, to Maria): Mint chocolate chip, like your father.

Maria (relaxing a little): Okay, so then are you like, trying with this whole dinner thing, to scare him off and intimidate him into commitment or something, because technically there’s no relationship, we’re like this ameba…

Amy: Ameba?

Maria: Whatever, there is no way he’ll agree to dinner, he’ll like run, do you get that? Run!

Amy: Even if I ask nicely?

Maria: If you ask at all!

Amy: I just think it’s about time that I get to know this person who seems to have so much control over the mental wellbeing of this household.

Maria: Then ask me! Whatever you want to know!

Amy: Alright then, (she turns to Maria) have you two had sex?

Maria (throwing up her arms and heading for the exit): That’s it! I have to call Liz!!!

(Scene: Crashdown. Jeff and Michael are in the stockroom taking a break from doing inventory. Jeff sits on an overturned bucket while Michael sits on a box of something. Michael wipes his brow and takes a sip from his drink.)

Jeff: I appreciate you doing this…It’s nice getting stocked up before the summer season begins. You just let me know when you need to go…I know finals are coming up…

Michael: I don’t study much…I figure if I know it then I know it – if I don’t, then it wasn’t that interesting.

Jeff (laughs): You sound like me! I watch Lizzie study for these tests and wonder where it comes from – it certainly isn’t my genes. She studies for one test more than I probably ever did back in school.

Michael (under his breath, but loud enough for Jeff to hear): Her and Max combined study enough for the whole school…

Jeff (laughing): Sounds about right. Reminds me a little of Nancy…and a lot of my mother – must have skipped a generation. I was too busy getting into trouble to worry about grades.

Michael (skeptical): Trouble?

Jeff (smiling at the memories): I was too into making music to care about school. I got in more trouble, it’s a wonder my mom didn’t ship me off to boot camp.

Michael: Music?

Jeff: I found this used sweet little Gibson – man, she was a beauty – my sophomore year and, that was it for school. I loved that guitar. I’d spend every minute either playing it or writing songs to play on it.

Michael: Really? You played the guitar?

Jeff: Played? I keep telling Nancy I’m planning my 2004 revival tour. (He laughs at himself and then lets out a sigh) Maybe 20 years ago…(he shakes his head) back then I was Alex…dressed up like the Mamas and the Papas, and carrying around an attitude bigger than yours. Boy did I think I had something to prove…couldn’t wait to see the world.

Michael (curiously): You’re from Roswell?

Jeff: No. My mother was – born and raised. I was born in Phoenix. We moved back when I was seven, just after my father died. It was way outta the way for mom’s work, but she always used to say there was something about Roswell. (Jeff shakes his head) And there was…took me four years to get her to notice me, and a whole lot longer to get her dad to agree to me, but there was definitely something special about Roswell.

(Michael’s not really sure what Jeff’s talking about but he watches on curiously. Jeff smiles and then looks back over at Michael)

Jeff: Actually, it took four years to get her to notice me and two more of singing songs for her, to finally get her to go out with me… It only took one song to win over her mother though, and then she did all the work with Nancy’s father... (He smiles knowingly it Michael) There’s something to be said for having someone on your side.

(Jeff stands up and stretches, while Michael furrows his brow, contemplating the meaning behind that last sentence.)

(Scene: Alex’s Bedroom. Alex sits at the computer while Isabel paces around the room reading through some papers. Music playing over the stereo: Life House – Hanging By A Moment)

Isabel (sitting down on the bed with a sigh and looking up from the papers to Alex): God this is so frustrating…all this is, is disappointment after disappointment, it’s continuous, on repeat…for four hours straight…

Alex (under his breath, but loud enough for Isabel to hear him): Welcome to my world… If my life was a Madlib, the noun would be “disappointment”…along with the adjective, “disappointed” and the verb, “to disappoint.”

(Isabel looks sideways at the back of Alex’s head and Alex lets out a sigh.)

Alex (hitting the enter key and turning to Isabel): Time for a break…you want something to drink? Eat?

Isabel: Drink. You got any Coke?

Alex (getting up from the chair): Yea, you sure you don’t want anything to eat – pretzels, chips…Little Debbie…we could order pizza.

Isabel: Pizza actually sounds good…

Alex: Done deal…I’ll be back.

(Isabel watches Alex exit the room and then looks down at the papers she still holds in her hand. She shakes her head and gets off the bed. She sets the papers down on the desk, adding them to the large stack resting next to the computer printer. She looks back at the door and then slowly around Alex’s room. She walks over to the bookshelf and glances through the titles. She softly laughs as she fingers the various versions of Bambi, from Felix Salten’s original to Disney reproductions and more, sandwiched between Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and Francis Davis’ History of the Blues.

She lowers her hand from the bookshelf and raises her eyes to the pictures resting on top of it. They’re mostly of Alex, Liz and Maria, with a few of just Liz that go back to fifth grade. It’s a chronological glimpse of a friendship… Pictures at the Crashdown eating – and wearing – ice cream sundaes…pictures at the spot, going to the county fair, of eighth grade graduation, surviving freshman year, getting learner’s permits… It’s all there, even the ridiculous photo he took at the prom this year – the same one that sits on her desk. Isabel shakes her head at Alex, pretending to moon the camera, and moves away from the bookshelf.

She heads over toward the window, on the other side of the bed, and glances out. She lets go of the curtain and turns back to the room, this time surveying the walls, and the maps that cover them. The giant ones of New Mexico and of the western half of Texas, along with city maps for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell, and Corona. You’d think it was his long lost relative he was looking for. Isabel walks around the edge of the bed, passing the halfway open closet and, after a few steps, stops. She takes a step backward and looks down at the floor of the closet.

Furrowing her brow, she bends down and picks up the awkward looking “gun”. She stands up, turning it over in her hands and jumps when she hears Alex enter the room.)

Alex (carrying two sodas and not looking at Isabel): Here you go, one Pepsi with “attitude,” and one without. Pizza should be here in 15 – 20 minutes.

Isabel (holding out the gun): Umm, what’s this?

Alex (looking up and stopping – mid stride): Okay…put…the…weapon…down.

Isabel (raising an eyebrow at Alex and pretending to point the gun at him): Weapon? Okay, first of all it’s plastic, and secondly, you’re a past president of the Pacifists for World Peace club not to mention the defender of Bambi and all the fuzzy little critters living in the 100 acre forest with him…and third, I do not need a weapon.

(Alex hesitantly walks over to his desk and sets down the drinks – all the while watching Isabel.)

Alex: 100 Acre forest? What is that, Winnie-the-Pooh meets Bambi? Don’t mess with Bambi – okay – he’s sacred territory …You have no idea how traumatic it is to be eating dinner when you’re six and have the answer to the “what’s for dinner” question be – and I quote – “Bambi’s mother”…(Alex shivers and looks up at Isabel, remembering the gun.) And what – you think plastic guns don’t kill? Don’t you watch Law and Order?

(Isabel looks down at the gun and then back up to Alex, she cocks it and shoots – hitting Alex square in the chest with blue paint splattering his shirt, face, hair and pants. Alex wipes the paint from his eyes and marches over to Isabel.)

Alex: Give me that. (He takes the gun from her and walks back to the desk)

Isabel: You could’ve just said it was for paint ball – it’s not like I need a gun anyway.

Alex (sarcastically): “It’s not like I need a gun anyway.” (And with that he gets another paintball smack on the back. He turns around to Isabel’s grinning face.)

Isabel: Told you.

Alex (cocking the gun and pointing it at Isabel): That’s it!

(He fires the gun and Isabel, shocked, looks down at her chest splattered with red paint. She looks up at Alex just as another paintball hits her in the shoulder. Still shocked, Isabel touches the paint, grabs a handful of air and throws the newly formed clump of paint at Alex. The paint splatters on the wall behind him, just missing him. Alex, hiding from behind his desk stands up and shoots at Isabel, hitting her again. Isabel, now thoroughly out for revenge, arms herself again and waits, just long enough, to get Alex as he stands up to shoot at her, before she quickly ducks behind his bed.

The paint throwing continues, as paint drips from the walls, curtains, desk, shelves and ceiling around the room. Alex, having crept out from behind the desk to hide near the bed, peeks over the bed to see Isabel peeking back at him.)

Alex: Truce?

Isabel: Never – you have no idea how long it took me to pick out this damn shirt.

(She fires another ball of paint, barely missing Alex. Alex ducks down and, ever so slowly, creeps around the edge of the bed – attempting to corner Isabel between the bed and the wall. He stands and shoots but she’s not there. He turns around to find Isabel reaching for him and, before he knows it, he’s in some sort of wrestling grip and down for the count on the bed.)

Alex (not yet processing the fact that he’s lying on his back with Isabel on top of him): There’s no need for violence!

(The music on the stereo dies down and the CD player shuffles to the next random song – Yo La Tengo’s Center of Gravity. Isabel leans over Alex to grab the gun from his right hand and, as her body brushes against Alex’s, it awakens every cell within him. Alex swallows and his breathing slows, as does everything around him, with the realization that a.) Isabel Evans is on his bed…b.) Isabel Evans is on his bed, with him…and, here’s the kicker c.) Isabel Evans is on his bed, on top of him. Alex takes in a deep breath, but stops short when his chest rises to fill what little space remains between them. His heart races and he can’t help but wonder if she can hear it pounding. She must, it’s the only thing he can hear – the pounding of his heart in his chest and the little voice in the back of his mind saying this is all a dream. Isabel finally grabs the gun from Alex’s hand and shifts back across his body.)

Isabel (as she moves back, resting on her elbow, to face Alex): Never mess with a wrestler’s… si-ster.

(Isabel looks down at Alex’s frozen face and paint, dripping from her hair, falls to Alex’s neck. She swallows as she registers the feeling of Alex beneath her and the inches separating their faces. Alex swallows in kind and shifts his eyes from hers to her lips – God they’re so close. The actual moment may last only seconds and Alex takes extra care of engraving it into his memory, so that when he’s 90 years old, he can close his eyes and see it…reach out and touch it. The curve of her lip, the smudge of blue paint on her right cheek, the warmth of her breath on his face, the freckles in her eyes, and the smell of her shampoo. He’s only been this close to her in his dreams, and that was nothing, compared to this.

Isabel follows Alex’s eyes as they trace the contours of her face, finally resting again on her lips. She instinctively licks them and can feel Alex’s body respond with a quick intake of breath. Alex raises his eyes to hers, not really sure what to do, I mean all the signs indicate this is leading to a kiss, but then again, all the signs also clearly indicate that he’s dreaming and none of this is really happening. He begins to slowly raise his right hand toward Isabel’s face, when the sudden ringing of the doorbell startles them both and Isabel sits up. Alex lets his hand fall back to the bed and he bangs his head back against the bed.)

Isabel (stumbling and unnerved by what almost happened): Umm…that must be…pizza, I’ll get it.

(She hurries out the door before Alex can protest and he lets out a sigh. He rubs his hand at his eyes and sits up. He lets out another deep breath, and slowly looks around the room, searching for witnesses to verify that he’s not going crazy and Isabel Evans was, in fact, going to kiss him. His teddy bear, resting on the shelf above the computer, just stares back at him blankly and Alex shakes his head, nobody’s gonna believe it – hell, he just experienced it and he doesn’t believe it. Alex glances back at his teddy bear as a big glob of yellow paint lands on its face. Alex quickly raises his eyes to the ceiling above the bear and his eyes widen at what he finds. He lowers his eyes and, for the first time, really notices the condition of his room. It’s like a rainbow exploded. Paint, in various colors, drips from the ceiling and walls, covering books, maps, clothing in his closet, his stereo and computer. His computer!

Alex begins to slightly hyperventilate at the sight of his computer. He starts to get off the bed but stops as Isabel comes through the door and also stops. She almost drops the pizza as she looks around the room.)

Isabel (surveying the damage): Oh…my…God.

(Alex looks at her and starts laughing. Isabel turns to him.)

Isabel: What?

Alex (pointing at her): You answer the door like that?

Isabel: What?

(Alex raises his eyebrow at her and she slowly looks down at her clothing. Alex leans back over the bed and, stretching, pulls the left side of his closet all the way open so the full length mirror is directed toward the door. Isabel looks up at Alex and catching sight of her reflection in the mirror gasps. Her hair is a mixture of green, red, blue, and yellow, with blue smudges all over her face. Alex completely busts up at the indignant look on her face and she quickly turns to him. This time it’s her turn to laugh as she fully appreciates Alex’s condition. He’s the mirror image of her, multicolored and dripping. As their eyes meet across the room, they breakout into laughter.)

(Scene: Public Library. Liz stands, bent over the water fountain, across the room from where Max sits studying. She releases the button with her thumb, cutting off the water, and after a second, slowly opens her eyes. She stands up, steps away from the fountain, and pauses. Her eyes find Max, on the other side of the room, and she leans up against the wall to watch him. Her left hand lets go of the hair it was holding back, and she sighs softly. Her face frowns as she sees Max yawn, again.

She studies him, his posture, the way his hand tiredly runs through his hair. He’s always been her favorite subject, before the shooting, even before high school. She had always watched him and hypothesized what was behind those eyes. Always wondered what made him smile. He’d smile at her, but when she’d watch him from across the classroom or cafeteria – it was almost like… he didn’t know how. And it was fascinating to her; he was fascinating to her. How was it that he could be so beautiful, and so lonely? It doesn’t take a keen scientific eye to figure out that from seventh grade on out, all the beautiful people in school are always surrounded by other beautiful people, or people wanting to be beautiful, or think they’re beautiful…except Max.

So she would watch, taking mental notes, collecting data. And four years, and one random act of violence later, she found out what was behind those eyes, and learned that…she…was what made him smile. That’s when the study took a less scientific and, more personal, turn. It stopped being an objective search to understand, and became an active attempt to absorb, to experience, to know…everything about him. And she pretty much does.

She knows when he puts both his hands in his pockets he’s apprehensive, nervous – it’s cute actually, he looks like a shy little boy. When he won’t look her in the eye, he’s insecure, afraid of something. He wears his Chucks when he’s in a good mood, his army jacket for depressed contemplative moods, and his baseball cap – which he’s only worn twice – when he’s having serious problems with his parents. He drinks cherry coke, except when he’s sad or scared, then he has a milkshake. Fights with Isabel mean long walks around town, fights with Michael mean long drives in the dessert. He hates the smell of Downy, because it reminds him of the orphanage. He takes his anger out on himself – he is his own punching bag, and what he’s really scared of most – forget the FBI or being discovered – is his mother’s rejection, second only to her rejection of him. But if there is one thing – one thing – she’s learned in the past 10 months of close observation, it’s that, when “everything’s fine”, it’s definitely not. And ten yawns in four hours, followed by professions of, “it’s nothing”, is actually something.

Liz lets out another sigh and finally walks back over to the table. As she sits down Max looks up from his book.)

Max: You okay?

(Liz almost laughs aloud at the question. Isn’t she supposed to be asking him that?)

Liz: Yea, why?

Max: I don’t know, you went to get a drink of water 10 minutes ago.

Liz (smiling): It’s called “taking a break”, and something I’ve been trying to get you to do for the past three hours.

Max (looking up from his book with a sly smile): Studying Habits 101, by Liz Parker.

Liz: Hey, you signed up for the class. (She lets out a sigh) I’m serious Max. You’re not going to remember any of the stuff you just read. No wonder you’re so tired, your brain is suffocating in History, Trig, Catcher in the Rye, and Biology…give it a break, let it breathe. And besides, studies totally prove that the brain has a saturation point…and you’ve definitely exceeded it.

Max (smiling at Liz): Oh really?

Liz: Okay, who here at the table has the 4.13 gpa?

Max: Proves nothing.

Liz: R-ight. (She rests her elbows on the table and leans forward) I’m telling you Max, you really need to take a break…I don’t know, stretch, go for a walk around the stacks, find an isolated corner. (Max quickly looks up at her when he feels her leg brush against his, and she looks back at him with a sweet seductive smile) Just a suggestion.

Max: You’re impossible to study with, you know that?

Liz: Okay, let’s go over again the benefits of “group studying”…dialogue and discussion around difficult to grasp subjects – teaching someone else is the best way to learn something. And, you can’t have successful group studying if you don’t have…interaction. You are completely not seeing the importance of that and, might I add, not utilizing the opportunity here.

(Max opens his mouth to respond, but before he does, he catches sight of something behind Liz and it totally changes the course of his thoughts.)

Max: Hey Kyle.

(Both Kyle and Liz seem equally surprised by the greeting. Liz turns to see Kyle standing a few feet behind the table, and Kyle hesitantly approaches.)

Kyle: Hey.

Max: What’s up?

Kyle (hesitant, yet extremely curious at Max’s friendly tone): Nothin’ much, just running some errands, thought I’d maybe get started on studying for finals.

Liz: Really?

Kyle: Surprised?

Liz (fumbling): No…okay maybe. Last year I couldn’t get you to study the day before, let alone a week before finals.

Kyle: What can I say, delayed reaction.

Max: You should study with us.

(Both Kyle and Liz look at Max.)

Max (continuing): Liz has been making a pretty strong argument for the benefits of group studying. She can be annoyingly convincing sometimes.

Kyle (laughing): Tell me about it…

(Liz just looks bewildered between Max and Kyle easily conversing together and can’t help but wonder, what was in that water she just drank?)

Max: Seriously, I think we were just going to start tackling History…you should join us.

Kyle: I don’t know.

Max (as he slides over into the next chair): Come on. You’re gonna study anyway, might as well utilize her 4.0 credentials.

Liz: Hey!

Max (looking up at Kyle with a huge grin): What do you say? If nothing else we can at least annoy her and berate her with stupid questions.

Kyle (laughing at the totally perplexed look on Liz’s face): Count me in for some of that.

(Kyle sits down and Liz just looks at Max, slightly annoyed at how easily he circumvented her attempts to seduce him. And of course, he just smiles back at her.)

Max (smiling): Group studying…good idea.

Kyle (getting his book out of his backpack): Where do you want to start?

Liz (looking at Max, pointedly): How ‘bout the Cold War.

(Scene: Alex’s Bedroom. The pizza’s gone, though the box still lingers on the bed, between Alex and Isabel. Alex sits at the head of the bed, with his back up against the wall, while Isabel lies at the foot of the bed, resting on her side. Paint still drips from the ceiling and the room still looks like a life-size Pollock painting. Alex scratches at his head and slowly starts getting off the bed. Tracy Chapman – Telling Stories.)

Alex: If you don’t mind, I think I’m gonna jump in the shower. This stuff is starting to get itchy.

Isabel: I can fix that.

Alex: I’ve got paint in places your hand can’t find.

Isabel (just looks at him, and then sits up and starts looking around the room): I’ll start cleaning up this.

Alex (getting a change of clothes from his dresser): I’ll only be a few minutes.

Isabel: Good, cuz this is gonna take a little longer than that.

(Alex heads out the door and Isabel watches him go. When he’s gone, she looks around the room again, trying to decide where to begin. She lets out a sigh and then pushes herself off the bed. She starts with the walls and begins working her way around the room. She stops at the computer desk – poor Alex; he must’ve had a slight heart attack at the sight of it, covered in paint.

She cleans off the paint with a wave of her hand, and bends down to start picking up the things that fell during their fight. She grabs a stack of notebooks and sets them on the edge of the desk. She returns to the floor, this time collecting all the loose papers. She stands up, sets them on top of the notebooks and looks down at the stack.

Her eyes narrow and she gently picks up the note resting on top. It’s a crumpled up piece of…napkin…and she squints as she tries to read what’s written on it. After a moment, her face falls and she sinks to the bed. She stares at the note in her hand and doesn’t immediately respond to Alex returning to the room. Alex stops rubbing his hair with a towel, at the sight of Isabel frozen on his bed.)

Alex: What’s wrong?

Isabel (looking up at Alex, angrily): You don’t think it’s a girl, Liz does.

(She holds up the napkin, with the faded words “It’s a girl” scribbled across it. Alex lets out a deep breath and slowly walks over to the bed.)

Alex: Isabel…

Isabel (angry): She knows doesn’t she?

Alex (nodding): Yea, I’m pretty sure.

Isabel (standing up): How long has she known – God, how does she know?

Alex: I don’t know…I think Nasedo showed her in a dream – nightmare more like…something about this girl being Max’s future…

Isabel: What? That’s it? He could’ve just been messing with her.

Alex: That’s what Max said. Granted the guy’s got a history of finding pleasure in Liz’s pain, but… I don’t know. Whatever he showed her, it hurt too much – sometimes the most painful thing to see is the truth.

Isabel: So what, you were just gonna keep this a secret until when? Don’t you think we have a right to know?

Alex: She didn’t wanna say anything until we’d found her. She wanted to have proof so Max would have to deal with it, instead of denying it.

Isabel (shaking her head and pacing around the room, sarcastically): Secrets and lies, now that’s a strong foundation for a relationship.

Alex (defensively): Yea, well as soon as he stops lying to himself, she won’t have to.

Isabel (turning to him): What’s that supposed to mean?

Alex (shaking his head): Everything you do – effects us. What happens to you, happens to us…today, tomorrow…forever. They weren’t shooting at you, or Michael. That was Liz in that hospital bed. And the more he keeps from us, the more he tries to handle – whatever it is – on his own, the more danger he puts her in. How can we protect ourselves if we don’t even know what’s going on?

Isabel: You don’t think I know, that we don’t know, what kind of danger you’re in? You have no fucking clue! You have no idea what it’s like for us. To constantly be thinking about, worrying about somebody else. To everyday, feel responsible for another person’s life.

Alex (standing up, forcefully): Don’t I! (Isabel stops and stares at him) You want to protect me Isabel, protect us? Well you’re looking in the mirror here. Whatever you feel, right back atchya. You don’t think everyday I’m conscious of how one little slip, one little mistake…(Alex shakes his head angrily) You don’t get it. It’s like you guys can’t see that we’re coming from the same place you are…except we don’t have any super powers to pretend to protect you with.

(Isabel’s posture shifts as her anger slowly subsides. Alex sits back down on the bed and looks up at her)

Alex: And the worst thing is, Max has this…wacked idea that whatever this is – whatever we do, whatever Liz feels for him…that it’s all conditional on you (he points at Isabel) looking like, acting like…us. (He looks up at Isabel and continues softly) You’re beautiful Isabel, but if you look in the mirror, what you see isn’t what makes you beautiful. And that doesn’t change with what you look like, or what planet you end up being from. You’re not us – we get it, you don’t seem to get that…

(He shakes his head in frustration and Isabel slowly paces back over to the bed.)

Alex: This isn’t temporary… I’m not risking jail time for cheap thrills, and Liz sure as hell isn’t risking her life for a little alien action. So whatever it is he’s telling himself, to convince himself, to keep things from her… What’s it gonna take for him to see what she’s trying to do for him, what she’s willing to do? Actually die next time, isn’t that a little late?

Isabel (shakes her head and sits down in the computer chair): That’s what got us here in the first place. (She looks over at Alex) Ironic, isn’t it? (She looks away and continues, with only the slightest hint of the bitterness laying below the surface) He spends years preaching to us about safety, about staying in control, acting “normal”. He watches everything we do in this constant state of worry…about us…And then, one day Liz Parker almost dies, and in that moment…everything became about her.

(She looks over at Alex again, and he relaxes a little. She shakes her head.)

Isabel: You have no idea, what it’s like to feel completely helpless Alex. You’ve just joined this party; we’ve been living it for ten years. He doesn’t know how this is going to end. He has no control over what’s going to happen to any of us. He just thinks, whatever the outcome, it’ll be his fault. So he tries to control what he can. Tries to protect as much as he can. That’s who he is. Ten years of watching over me, running around after Michael, cleaning up his messes. That’s not going to change.

(Alex’s whole body language softens, and he watches Isabel closely.)

Isabel (continuing softly, and looking over at Alex): Ten years, Alex…ten years of telling yourself that your life depended on one thing – on keeping one secret. And one day, without thinking, without realizing what you’re doing…you give it up. Do you know what it takes to do that…to expose yourself so completely…to share that one thing? Can you tell me what that’s like…because, I don’t know what it’s like; my secret was shared for me. I have no idea what it’s like to stand there in front of someone and offer it. To stand there waiting for the walls to close around you and your life to begin to end, because for ten years that’s what you’ve been telling yourself will happen when someone finally saw what was really inside of you. And for that someone to be, the one – the one you risked it all for. (She shakes her head) I don’t know what that’s like.

(Isabel pauses for a moment, then looks at Alex sharply.)

Isabel: And can you blame him for being suspicious? When was the last time your dreams came true…and how many times did you pinch yourself afterwards? It takes time, to deal with…to accept…to stop waiting for the end of the world you’ve been preparing yourself for.

Alex (sitting forward and gently touching Isabel on the leg): I’m not saying we stop preparing for the end of the world…that’s still a possibility. I’m just saying, just hoping to show you, that it’s not gonna come from us. Because when your world ends Isabel, a huge part of mine does too. And I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever I can do, to keep that from ever happening. That’s all. And I promise you, no more secrets from here on out…but it has to go both ways.

(Isabel looks at Alex, and maybe for the first time, really sees – really sees – what’s been waiting here, for her, for the past ten months.)

Isabel (after a long pause): Alex, you know more about me than, anyone…I think even Max. And apparently, you and Liz know more about what’s going on with him than I do. We don’t really talk that much anymore. But I’ll tell you what I know, and I…won’t keep anything from you.

(Isabel looks away, embarrassed by the admissions she’s made and the vulnerability she’s shown. She catches sight of the binder, containing their research for the day and quickly changes trains of thought.)

Isabel: I guess we just wasted a day.

Alex (shaking his head, soft and serious): No…It wasn’t a waste.

Mrs. Whitman (from somewhere in the house): Alex, honey, I’m home!

(Scene: Crashdown storage room. Mr. Parker stands on the ladder finishing arranging boxes on the top shelf. Michael enters the room carrying two paint cans, one in each hand.)

Michael: What do you want me to do with this paint?

Mr. Parker: Paint?

Michael: Yea, there’s a ton of it in the utility closet.

Mr. Parker (descending the ladder): What kind of paint?

Michael (clueless): I don’t know, there’s just a bunch of cans – they’re not labeled.

(Mr. Parker walks over to his toolbox, resting on the bottom shelf next to the door. He digs around for a minute and finally pulls out a screwdriver. Michael sets the cans on the ground and Mr. Parker bends down to open one up. He pulls off the lid, revealing the quintessential green “alien” color.)

posted on 22-Oct-2001 11:47:16 PM by not applicable
Mr. Parker (surprised): The old mural paint. (He looks up at Michael) Where’d you find this?

Michael (looking at the color): Behind some boxes in the back of the utility closet. (Nodding at the paint) Still looks good.

Mr. Parker (looking back at the paint): What?

Michael: Still usable.

Mr. Parker: Right. (He looks up at Michael) You know… that reminds me…Liz mentioned that you were a pretty good artist.

Michael (surprised): Really?

Mr. Parker: Yea, something about you having a few pieces in the spring tri-county art show…

Michael (uncomfortable with the compliments): They were okay I guess...

Mr. Parker: I’ve been thinking about redecorating the Crashdown…adding some murals and original art. I’d really like to see what you think. If you’re interested, maybe sketch out some ideas.

Michael (looking down at the paint and then back up to Mr. Parker, drop dead serious): I don’t do little green men.

Mr. Parker (suppressing his laughter): I wouldn’t think you would. That’s what I’m talking about, maybe move beyond that, something different, original.

Michael: I don’t know, I’d have to think about it.

Mr. Parker: Well let me know. I could probably spend about $500 on the murals. If your original work’s any good you could sell it in the café.

Michael (cautioned): Really?

Mr. Parker: You think about it, put something together, and after finals we’ll talk about it some more.

(Michael stands there contemplating the offer. Mr. Parker smiles as he watches the emotions roll over Michael’s face. Jeff turns to return the screwdriver to the toolbox when he catches sight of Nancy, wearing a favorably fitting black dress, standing just outside the doorway.)

Nancy (stepping just inside the room, to Jeff): You ready?

Mr. Parker: Five minutes.

(He goes over to the toolbox and Nancy turns to Michael.)

Nancy: He’s not working you too hard is he?

Michael (caught off guard at Nancy’s appearance): No

Nancy: Good.

(She looks over at Jeff and smiles, then winks at Michael as she turns and leaves. Michael watches her go, and Jeff walks up beside him.)

Mr. Parker (smiling): Dinner date. (He raises his eyebrows at Michael and then heads out of the room. Before disappearing around the corner he turns back to Michael.) We’ll talk more. When you’re finished with the closet you can take off – sleep in tomorrow morning, I’ll cover the early shift for you.

Michael: Thanks.

Mr. Parker (very fatherly): Thank you Michael.

(Jeff bounds up the stairs to the apartment and Michael looks on, puzzled. He lowers his gaze to the green paint and furrows his brow – not sure whether he should smile or frown at the unexpectedly crazy way people seem to enter his life. He shakes his head…He’s gonna have to have a talk with Liz.)

(Music: Jayhawks – Queen of the World. Author’s side note – I highly recommend at least once listening to this song because it pretty much sums up the underlying theme of this particular story, as highlighted by the following series of scenes…and plus, the Jayhawks rock!

Scene starts in Alex’s bedroom. Alex lies on his bed, hands behind his head and feet crossed – shoes still on. The scene focuses on his face and slowly follows his gaze to the ceiling. His mouth slightly opens to form an intoxicated grin and the white ceiling he’s looking up at begins fading into what he’s actually seeing, revealing the highlight reel he’s watching, with clips of Isabel from earlier that day. Sitting across from her on the bed, lying on the bed together eating pizza and listening to music, shooting at her from behind the desk…her face, directly above his. Her beautiful face…the fall of her hair, the curve of her eyelashes, the shiny gloss of blue paint staining her cheek – it’s so real he can almost smell her, hear her breath and feel its warmth on his cheek. His eyes focus on hers; they get closer, as if he’s drawing her to him, as if her face is once again only inches from his. The re-creation of that moment in his mind takes over his entire being and he closes his eyes as the ecstasy of what could have been overwhelms him and he imagines the kiss that almost was…

Isabel pushes the front door of the Crashdown open and she glances around the room searching for Max. The scene follows her gaze and eventually travels through the backdoor window. In the utility closet, Michael rests his hands on his hips and stretches his back. He lets out a sigh as he admires his organizing efforts on the closet shelves. He walks over to the open door, slowing as he approaches and then finally coming to a complete stop directly in front of it. He peers out the doorframe. In the mirror across the way, he watches her hang up her coat and walk over to her locker. She’s talking to herself – she always does that…he loves it when she does that – why is that? She puts her purse in the locker, and grabs her lipstick. Looking in the mirror, hanging on the inside of her locker door, she begins applying the make-up. He traces her movements with his eyes, and his mouth curves into a sly grin, as he suddenly can’t wait to be taking that lipstick off of her. Man, how does she do that to him? Maria puts the lipstick back in her locker and shuts the door. She jumps when she sees Michael standing, leaning against the wall in front of her, watching her intensely. She tilts her head, looking at him curiously out of the corner of her squinting eye…

Across town Amy DeLuca stands in her living room looking down at all the pictures resting on the end table. She gently fingers a framed picture of Maria when she was ten. She picks it up and can’t help but smile. She sets it gently down and goes to pick up another one, but starts at the sound of Jim Valenti entering the room from the kitchen. She turns to him and her smile grows to an infectious laugh as he approaches her, wearing her cooking apron and carrying two plates of coconut cream pie...

The scene returns to the Crashdown and the Parker’s apartment above it. The remains of a candlelight dinner linger on the kitchen table. Candle light coming from the living room flickers and the shadow of Jeff and Nancy dances across the wall. Jeff twirls her out and spins her back to him, gracefully dipping her. He swings her up and continues singing to her as she laughs playfully. They dance around the room and as he dips her once again, the scene floats out the window, across the roof and down into the alleyway…

Kyle’s red car pulls up to the alleyway entrance. Max gets out of the passenger side and pulls the seat forward, letting Liz out from the back. Max shuts the door, and Liz bends down and waves to Kyle. Liz watches the car pull away and Max watches Liz. She looks over at him and smiles mischievously. As soon as the car is out of sight, she puts her hand on Max’s chest and slowly begins backing him up against the wall, eventually disappearing into the shadows.

(Music: Guster – Rainy Day (Versus 1 – 3). Scene: Max’s bedroom, later that night. Max enters the room and walks over to his desk. He plops down into the chair and sets his backpack on the floor. He leans back and closes his eyes. His lips curve into a soft smile as his thoughts drift to Liz and earlier that evening. After a few moments of reliving their alleyway encounter, he opens his eyes and sits up at the desk. His smile instantly falls from his face and his body sinks in the chair as his eyes find the manuscript sitting on the edge of his desk – untouched from the morning.

Have you ever been faced with the devastating reality of being in a completely winless, utterly hopeless situation? A place void of options, where all you can see is the endlessness of the vicious circle you’re standing in? It’s not so much the winlessness that leaves you feeling trapped, like a rat in a wheel going nowhere, but the hopelessness. That’s what relentlessly attacks you, wearing you down, blow by blow, until your left battered and beaten with eyes swollen shut unable to see anything but the inevitable darkness of your own end.

This is the place where Max has finally come to find himself – slumped in his chair, with hopelessness taking root and growing in his soul, staring at his own end. Or at least what he perceives to be the means to his end – all 700-some single-spaced, single-sided typed pages of it. The manuscript is actually the beginning and the end – that’s the problem. It’s the end of not knowing and the beginning of understanding. In its pages is the beginning to Max himself, and in-turn, what he fears will ultimately bring the end of his relationship with Liz.

He is faced with a choice between his past and his future. He must pick one and in doing so knowingly let go and forget the other. But you cannot have one without the other. Spend 20 hours a day for weeks on end trying to find the “choice” in that and you’ll find yourself in the same place Max has. And eventually you’ll give up like he has and concede that there is no choice, no acceptable solution. He’s powerless to do anything but perpetuate the cycle…to continue reading and loath what he’s reading …he is merely a slave to his circumstance. He cannot stop his need to know what’s in those pages, anymore than he could willingly stop loving Liz…and so the cycle continues and Max takes another turn in his wheel.

He reaches out and slowly slides the manuscript over. He turns the title page to Book 2 and bowing his head in defeat, begins reading…

“Many critics and readers alike will no doubt wonder why a book dedicated to exposing the physical realities of alien life begins with an entire section explaining basic biology and human physiology. However, any book discussing life, of any kind, must begin first by defining it. And it is important to clearly understand the perimeters which we, as humans, are programmed to define “life” by.

Science is a window through which we are taught to view the world around us. It is a window created through experimentation, and confined to the limited scope of the subject of study – this planet. The introductory section of this book is the view of life that this window provides us. On this planet, this Earth, in those pages, is how we define “life” – what we are taught to accept, to see as alive.

What I am about to introduce in this and the following sections, cannot be seen from our window. It exists outside our view. It is not definable by our science because it is found outside the boundaries of current scientific study. For life to exist outside our planet it must exist outside our definitions and limited experimentation. And it does.

We are a species defined by limitations. Our existence is confined between environmental variables delivered in doses of “too much” and “too little.” Too little oxygen, too much heat, too little food, too much of any given chemical. You can change the variable but the result is inevitable. Life is the complex struggle for “just enough.” It is about finding a balance or attempting to control the constantly fluctuating environmental elements of our surroundings.

Through the millennia we have evolved as Masters of this planet. We traded in physical amenities for intellectual adaptation. Using ingenuity and engineering we have developed technology enabling us to manipulate our interaction with the ever-changing environment and widen the space between “too much” and “too little” where we exist. Unfortunately though, even our technological advancements have limits. We cannot alter the weather, create the perfect climate, void of heatstroke or frostbite. We cannot change our atmosphere, increasing the production of oxygen in places where it is not present. Our dominance of this planet is limited to the interface between us and it. If it is cold, we can put on a sweater, find shelter, or build a fire, but we cannot make the cold cease.

If we are a species defined by limits, then imagine one defined by limitlessness. Imagine a world where evolutionary adaptation is not catalogued in millennia but milliseconds. Imagine a species that can adapt to its ever-changing environment as fast as the environment can change. A species so evolved it can internally control its physical interaction with its surroundings. A species so genetically advance that each “cell” in its body can alter itself to accommodate a fluctuating environment or adjust to an entirely new one.

This species cannot control their environment any more than we can ours. They cannot regulate the weather, alter the atmosphere, or modify their external surroundings; instead they regulate themselves, internally altering and modifying as their surroundings demand. If they are cold, they increase their internal body temperature. If their planet is depleted of its sustaining element, “gas”, then their cells become equipped to subsist off the next available one. In Darwin’s battle of the fittest, this is the undisputed universal champion. They are a species that can survive anything, because they can adapt to be anything.”

Max looks up from the page and catches his faint reflection in a framed picture of Liz resting on his desk. He stares at it, making eye contact with himself. For years he’s been looking in the mirror wondering who it was that was staring back at him. With a turn of the page, he’s about to find out.)

(Scene: Max’s bedroom, even later that evening/early morning. Max, still hunched over the manuscript, rubs his eyes with his left hand. He looks over at the alarm clock and yawns as he reads it – 3:37 a.m. He shakes his head and looks back to the pages in front of him. Five hours of reading and you’d think he’d have made a significant dent in this thing. But this has evolved beyond reading to absorbing. Every page requires multiple readings and focused attention to ensure comprehension. Even with thorough re-reads there’s still a lot Max doesn’t understand. His notebook, lying next to the manuscript, is nearly filled with confused thoughts and questions.

He lays his pencil down and runs his hand through his hair. He slowly gets out of the chair and walks over to his bedroom door. He turns the light off and exits the room. He quietly moves down the dark hallway and into the kitchen. He grabs a glass off the dish drying rack and opens up the refrigerator door. He reaches in to grab the milk but stops as his hand and arm register the cold. His mind wanders to the manuscript and to earlier that morning when Isabel started him awake. His head jumps between both trains of thought, and his ears ring with jumbled words… “God Max! It’s freezing in here”…“they regulate themselves, internally altering and modifying as their surroundings demand.”…“no wonder if you’ve been trying to sleep in sub-zero temperatures every night”… “If they are cold, they increase their internal body temperature”…“ God, you might as well’ve been sleeping in the walk-in freezer at the Crashdown.”…“Crashdown…” Music starts, Guster – Rainy Day, versus 5 – 8.

Max stares at his hand as the final words resonate in his mind. He closes the door and the scene jumps to the darkened alleyway outside the Crashdown. Max looks around, then carefully unlocks the door and enters the building. He makes his way through the backroom and into the kitchen, stopping in front of the freezer. He pauses for a moment then slowly opens the door and steps inside. The door shuts behind him and the light goes out. Max creates a small light in the palm of his hand and holds it out in front of him. His body shivers immediately as the full weight of –10º hits, and the light flickers. Max lets out a shaky breath, visible in the wavering light. He closes his eyes in pain, only to open them seconds later in solemn amazement. As quickly as the cold came, it was gone. He stands completely comfortable and unaffected by the freezing temperature around him. He stares at his now steady hand and extinguishes the light.)

*********tbc in part 3 of this trilogy, someday******

I don’t normally include the lyrics to songs that I use in my stories, because it’d just make them so damn long. But it took me a really long time to find the right song for this last scene. I know that it’s nuts, but part of the Roswell addiction for me is the music, and finding just the right songs to complement my stories. I’ve been writing and re-writing this scene for months and I needed just the write song to complete it, and this is it. I highly recommend a listen – go to your used cd store and check this out at a listening station. Plus the Jayhawks Queen of All the World. Trust me…

Guster – Rainy Day
1. I will dig a hole
Save my pennies for a rainy day
I will dig a hole
Savin pennies for a rainy day
I'm not scared

2 I will build a wall
Sensing trouble from a mile away
I will build a wall
Saw it comin from a mile away
I'm not scared
I'm not scared

3.Try wearin your insides out
I don't even try,
I know I have seen the best I'll have
I don't even try

4. I will just play dumb
I won't hear a single word that's said
I will bite my tongue
Never sing another song again
I'm not scared
I'm not scared

5. Try wearing my insides out
I don't even try,
I know I have seen the best I'll have
I don't even try
Now they want to take my chances
I don't even try

6. Clouds are comin
Air get's heavy
Looks like trouble on a rainy day

7. Sun starts sinking
Can't see my shadow
Looks like trouble on a rainy day

8.Holes uncovered
Walls will crumble
All spells trouble on a rainy day

that's it for now, my goal is november first but at one point it was october first and we can all see how that didn't quite work out. feedback however is always a good motivator...was that a blatant hint? sorry...

posted on 20-Dec-2001 4:03:42 AM by not applicable
wow, I'm amazed this is still on the board...well for anyone out there (other than you puzzlechild) waiting for this, here it is...I welcome feedback and am always willing to explain myself for those that can't wait the five months it seems to take for me to write a story - damn, at that rate I'll be done with this thing in 2010...gotta work on that.

thanks for the feedback and happy holidays all!

Title: “Promotion” (Chess trilogy, part 3)
Author: N/A
Email: ajrocchio⊕
Rating: PG-13 for language
Category: Other Stories
Disclaimers: The characters of Roswell belong to the UPN network, among others, but apparently I just can’t stop myself from borrowing them.
Spoilers: None and never will be in this universe.
Summary: Direct continuation of the previous story in this trilogy (The Queen).

Author’s note/soapbox: “When a pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position it must be exchanged as part of the same move for a queen, rook, bishop or knight of the same colour. The player's choice is not restricted to pieces that have been captured previously. This exchange of a pawn for another piece is called 'promotion' and the effect of the new piece is immediate.” Taken from the FIDE Laws of Chess.

“What does it mean to be “alien” and what does it mean to be “human” and what’s more important, the differences between the two, or the similarities…”

(Scene: Max’s bedroom, morning. Max again, is asleep at his desk. The alarm clock ticks 6:00 a.m. and the radio comes on playing the Old 97’s Timebomb. Max jerks up in the chair and his eyes dart from his pillow – the manuscript – to the alarm clock on the nightstand. He leans back in the chair and rubs his eyes with his hand. After a moment, his hand falls from his face, and he turns in the chair, like he’s going to get up, but doesn’t.

Looking at him, you’d never guess that he’d been subsisting on an average of three to four hours of sleep for almost a month. For a while you could definitely see it, the dark rings under his eyes, the slightly sluggish body posture, and the look – you know that look, sunken eyes with eyelids all but giving in to gravity. Now though, to the average eye, he looks, well, normal. But the average eye can often miss the subtleties hiding in the everyday. Like the way Max’s hair doesn’t know which way to part anymore, because he’s been running his hand through it so many times. Or how his lips no longer smile, reverting back to the days of not knowing how. Or how his eyes have grown darker, actually changing entire shades, maybe in an effort to hide what’s going on behind them. His body may be able to adjust to sleepless nights but it cannot completely camouflage the emotional and mental fatigue waging inside of him.

Max raises from the chair and crosses to the dresser. He opens a drawer of perfectly folded underwear and neatly rolled socks. He pulls out what he needs for the day and then heads to the closet. He opens it up, revealing, what has to be the most immaculate closet in all of Roswell – if not the entire state of New Mexico. The shirts look pressed, the pants squared on the hangers, and the floor is covered only by one orderly row of paired shoes. The closet is really just a microcosm of the room as a whole. Every nick-knack has been dusted and straightened. The bed is made, and rightfully looks like it hasn’t been slept in for weeks. The floor is vacuumed, the walls are spotless, and the windows washed. It is a classically demonstrated case of procrastination. No, not procrastination – that can sometimes have an implied laziness. And Max has been anything but lazy, especially lately.

Since beginning Part 2 of the manuscript, Max has become the single subject in a series of endless experiments. It’s strange being your own lab rat, awkward at first, but after a while you get so caught up in the experiment you forget about the potential consequences of your findings. First, obviously, was the Crashdown freezer. Then there was the electric blanket test – comical actually, if you can picture Max, wearing his ski suit, inside his sleeping bag, under his comforter and topped off with an electric blanket – plugged in. After that, things progressed to more, life threatening, experimentation. The Drano test, the starvation study, a few medicine cabinet concoction experiments, and then… there was the swimming pool. He has yet to recover from that one.

Max heads into the bathroom to change and get ready for school. He looks at the shower, but can’t bring himself to get in. The closest contact he can have with water these days is through a straw. Being an alien wasn’t really all that bad, when it meant not exactly being from around here and having a few advanced parlor tricks up your sleeve. Tricks, Tess taught them, even some humans could do. It’s easy to convince yourself that being “alien” doesn’t necessarily mean being all that different, especially when all you want is to be no different. So when you’re sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool, waiting to run out of oxygen, and not running out of oxygen, it can be pretty unsettling. More so than simply ingesting something and explaining away the body’s non-response as some sort of highly developed immune system. But, to actually come to the realization that you’re breathing, but not with lungs, because you don’t have lungs anymore, is outright traumatic. Paralyzing in fact, Max stayed at the bottom of the pool all night, only getting out when the sun began shimmering on the surface, warning that his neighbor – whose pool he was borrowing – might be getting up at any minute. He went straight from the pool to the bathroom, where he proceeded to throw-up for the first time in his life. Odd, if not ironic, that when faced with the undeniable physiological evidence of his alienness, he would have such a human response.

Max spits in the sink. He can still taste the bile – or whatever it is that’s inside his stomach, if he even has a stomach. He will never forget it. Two days ago or twenty years from now, he will know that taste of fear. Max opens the bathroom door and pauses before entering the bedroom. He stands there staring at his perversely clean room. He has to fight back the overwhelming urge to destroy it, to knock the books from their perfect placement, and throw the covers from his mocking bed. To rip his shirts from their hangers and send his tidy nick-knacks flying…just so he can have something else to do again. But that would only be temporary, and the damage has already been done.

He grabs his backpack from the side of his desk, and checks the time, 6:20; he can still be out of the house before Isabel gets out of her shower and catch a bus for school. His avoidance techniques have reached new levels and luckily for him not many have noticed – most just chalk it up to finals, which he gladly encourages. For right now it’s the perfect cover…almost.)

(Scene: Liz’s bedroom, about an hour later that same morning. Maria stands just inside the door, waiting for Liz. Liz is in her closet checking the pockets of everything in her closet that has pockets.)

Liz (poking her head out of the closet and looking at Maria): I don’t buy it.

Maria: What do you mean you don’t buy it?

Liz (returning to what she’s doing in the closet): I mean, I don’t buy it. Not anymore, maybe a couple of weeks ago but…I don’t know. It’s different now…he’s different now. It’s more than him just being tired all the time. He hasn’t been eating lunch for almost a weak – he’s definitely lost weight. He’s totally moody – one minute we’re making out and the next it’s like he doesn’t even want to be around me.

Maria (sighing): Maybe he’s menstrual.

Liz (poking her head out of the closet to look at Maria): What?

Maria: I don’t know, maybe there’s some sort of chemical/hormonal reaction goin’ on in there and this is like…his time of the year.

(Liz shakes her head at Maria and then returns to the closet. She sighs in frustration and slams her closet door shut.)

Liz: Where is it?! I’ve looked frickin’ everywhere!

(She angrily turns around and looks over her room. She flings her arms, grits her teeth to keep from screaming, and heads into the bathroom for one more look through her medicine cabinet and drawers.)

Maria (watching on in amusement): Yea, you know, you’re totally right…I don’t know anyone who gets all
“Alter –ego-All-About-Eve” on me during finals.

Liz (coming out of the bathroom and glaring at Maria): Are you gonna just stand there throwing out, like, really poor analogies, or help me?

Maria: Help you with what – a sedative? You’ve been ripping your room apart for the last 15 minutes and, haven’t shared why.

Liz (exasperated): My Grandmother’s necklace. I can’t find it. I have to find it. I have to have it for finals.

Maria: Have to have it for finals?

Liz: Yes! You know that! It’s my good luck…charm, remember Miss oil-sniffing, crystal rubbing, energy centering yogi! I have to have it for finals.

Maria (holding back the laughter): Okay, you have one final today, and it’s, uh, in p.e.

Liz: It doesn’t matter! I don’t care…I need to find it.

Maria: Okay Miss “Superstitions are for the weak minded” – Chill! Everything will be okay. Let’s just calm down and think about this…Your grandmother’s necklace is what…

Liz: Extremely special and important and valuable…

Maria: …A locket. And what do lockets have in them? (Maria walks over to the desk and grabs a framed picture of Grandma Claudia) Pictures. Right? So it has a picture of Grandma and (she reaches out and unpins a picture of Liz from the wall) a picture of you. And what’s the necklace made of…silver (Maria flicks the silver frame of Grandma Claudia’s picture). So, we throw these in your backpack and you’re good to go.

(Liz eye’s Maria suspiciously as she starts to calm down. It’s a plausible substitute, sort of, and it is only temporary, because she’s totally scouring every inch of this room when she gets home from school. Maria walks over and gently puts the pictures in Liz’s backpack. She looks up at Liz, to see if she’s okay.)

Maria: All better?

Liz (letting out a sigh and completely changing subjects, again): I can feel him pulling away from me. (She looks up at Maria with sad eyes) He won’t even look at me anymore.

Maria (softly): Maybe because instead of looking at him lately, you’ve been studying him.

(Liz’s face falls as she thinks about Maria’s words.)

Maria (looking at her watch): 7:20

Liz: Shit! Why didn’t you tell me, let’s go, we’re going to be late. I’m going to be late on the first day of finals…

(Liz grabs her backpack and rushes out the door. Maria shakes her head and follows after her.)

(Scene: School hallway, before classes. Alex is at his locker emptying books from his backpack. Max, hidden off to the side, checks up and down the hallway, before heading in Alex’s direction.)

Max (as he approaches): Hey.

Alex (looking up at Max as he shuts his locker door): Hey Max, what’s up?

Max (stepping a little closer to Alex and in a hushed voice): I need your help with something.

Alex (stepping closer): What are we talkin’ here? ‘You need a little help with your Geography final cuz you’ve been napping in class for the last month’ or is this more of a ‘you need my help and the future of your people depend on it’ kinda thing?

Max (looking confused): I don’t, have people.

Alex: Max man, you are people – all three or four of you you’ve got in your head.

Max (shaking his head slightly): Whatever, look, I need your help with…some research.

Alex (lowering his tone to match Max’s quiet one): What kind of research?

(Max swings his backpack to his side and pulls out a folded piece of paper from the front pocket. He opens it up and hands it to Alex. Alex looks over the paper and then up at Max.)

Alex: Who are these guys?

Max: Associates of Atherton’s…I just need to know the basics – where they were born, where they live, what they do.

Alex (nodding his head): Easy enough, I might be able to get to it tonight…can’t promise anything though, I’ve got two finals tomorrow and two on Wednesday.

Max: Whenever. Thanks…and…if you could not tell anyone about this…

Alex: Anyone being Liz…You know I can’t be a part of whatever it is you’re keeping from her. Let me give you a little heads up – she’s on to you man. And when finals are over she’s comin’ for the truth…and I do not want to be in her line of fire. She’ll kick my ass if she found out I was involved…

Max (defensively): I’m not keeping anything from Liz!

Alex (shaking his head): Okay, you’re gonna have to do better than that. You’ve been feeding her that line for nearly two weeks…and she’s not biting anymore.

(Max looks at Alex and hides a sigh. It’s not like he’s saying anything Max doesn’t already know. That’s why he’s been avoiding her so carefully. He just didn’t realize that anyone else was paying such close attention. Michael and Isabel haven’t really said anything lately, and for all her protective guarding of Liz, Maria hasn’t mentioned anything or thrown him any menacing looks either. Shouldn’t surprise him though, Alex has always been able to see things they all seem to miss.)

Max (letting out a deep breath) Look Alex, I really need your help with this…I promise when I’ve got all the info I need, I’ll tell her…I just need some more time.

(Alex thinks about it for a minute. Max’s eyes plead with him and Alex finally gives in.)

Alex: Okay, but when the shit flies…I know nothing and did nothing. You’re on your own and you better come up with a damn good explanation for the info I’m gonna give you, that doesn’t include me …You got that.

Max: Thanks Alex.

(Scene: School quad, lunchtime, later that day. Liz sits alone, eating her lunch, dejectedly. For some reason she thought this was going to be different. As stressed out as she gets about finals, she actually looks forward to them. You spend three weeks getting ready and when they come you’re relieved. You’re ready to go, to get it on, and get on with the summer. Popular Liz Parker misconception #1 - she doesn’t like summer and wishes school was year round. Please. She looks forward to summer just as much as everybody else – okay, with the exception of maybe Michael, who wishes everyday was summer. But who wouldn’t look forward to summer, especially when you have someone to spend all those lazy days with?

Liz takes another bite of her sandwich and glances around to the other tables. At the opposite end of the quad, Max enters carrying his lunch. Liz’s heart skips a beat as she catches sight of him walking in her general direction. But the feeling is fleeting as Max, never making eye contact, turns to his right, about 50 yards in front of her table, and exits back into the school.

Well, she at least thought she had someone to spend all those days with. Now she’s not so sure. She’s not imagining Max’s avoidance, apparently no one else can see it, but she knows she’s not making it up. She’s learned to give him space when he needs it. He gets easily overwhelmed and his defensive mechanisms kick in and close him off. So, until he figures out that he can actually talk to her about whatever it is, she gives him space to deal with it in his dysfunctional way. But this has been going on for too long, and she’s starting to worry. Finals week is the beginning of the end of school, and it’s hard to look forward to that, when it might be the beginning of the end of something else.

She throws the rest of her lunch in her sack and starts to gather up her stuff.)

Michael (sitting down across from her): I need to talk to you.

Liz (highly irritable): Yea, (she closes her bag) well I *need* an alien decoder…ring…or manual or something. Do you have one of those?

(She gets up from the table and starts to walk away.)

Michael (quickly getting up and following after her): I can’t help you with Max, I’ve given up trying to understand him. (Liz picks up her pace and Michael struggles to keep up with her as she weaves through the crowd.) Hey look, I don’t know what’s crashed your love boat, but I need to talk to you about your dad.

(At the mention of her dad, Liz immediately stops and turns to Michael.)

Liz (concerned): My dad? What about my dad? Did he say something? Do something? (She steps closer to him and lowers her voice) Is he acting suspicious…because, we’ve been really careful? I mean, he’s hardly ever around in the backroom and we never…

Michael (holding out his hand to stop Liz from continuing her ramble): Settle! (Liz stops and looks up at Michael, and he frowns at her. He fidgets a little and Liz raises her eyebrow expectantly. He hesitantly continues) He mentioned something last week about…redoing the Café.

Liz (not exactly getting why this is so important): Yea, he gets that way about every three to four years…never does anything though.

Michael (visibly disappointed): Oh. So it’s just… a phase?

Liz: Well, according to my mom he hasn’t changed it for over ten years. I think there’s this picture of me when I’m little in a uniform – you think the little green men thing is bad, before that it was Star Trek…That’s just sad.

(Michael just looks at her and grows irritated. He starts to mumble something and walk off.)

Liz (following after him, still not sure what was so important about this conversation): Why? Michael?

Michael: Nevermind, it’s nothing.

Liz: Okay you can explain what this is all about or I’m going to have to respond to the “love boat” comment.

(Michael tries not to smile and Liz gets in front of him preventing him from going anywhere.)

Michael (reluctantly): Your dad just mentioned something about me drawing some sketches for the new look.

Liz (finally getting it): He talked to you? I didn’t think he was paying attention. Did you show him the sketches yet? What did he think?

Michael (a little uncomfortable): I…I haven’t shown him yet…

Liz: He’s going to be really surprised. You’re truly talented Michael; the piece you had in the art show was so good.

Michael (definitely uncomfortable with praise): It was a dome.

Liz: It was a good dome. You don’t get in the county-wide art show for just an average dome.

Michael: Whatever…look…do you think…I mean…would you mind taking a look at what I’ve got, maybe tell me if you think your dad’ll like it.

Liz (surprised, and honored): I’d love to. Do you have it here or…

Michael: No. I’d have to bring it to work.

Liz: Whatever you want. I would be happy to look at them…I’m sure my dad will love them.

Michael (enough with the complements): Okay, yea, I’ll let you know.

(Michael starts to walk off and Liz calls after him.)

Liz: Wait Michael! What does Maria think of them?

Michael: She hasn’t seen them.

Liz (surprised): Oh.

(Michael looks at her and then walks off. Liz watches him go.)

(Scene: Crashdown back room. Alex sits on the couch while Maria fights with a bag stuck in her locker. She finally pulls it free and sets it down on the table in front of Alex.)

Alex: Let’s get this over with okay.

Maria: Hey. I think I’ll dictate the pace, alright, so just keep your pants on until I give you something else to wear okay.

Alex: It’s too late to break this cycle of abuse isn’t it?

Maria (ignoring him): Okay, so this is what I’ve come up with so far. Now, there’s still a few more days, but with finals and rehearsals I just think we’re going to have to work with what’s here.

Alex (furrowing his brow): Rehearsals?

Maria: You don’t think you’re just going to get up there and sing, do you?

Alex: (looking at Maria confused): What? You want me to sing and bus tables?

Maria (shaking her head at him): You don’t just sing this song. You feel it, and express it.

Alex (squinting and looking at her closely): You are, unbalanced, you know that right?

Maria: Whatever…First let’s figure out what you’re wearing and then we’ll worry about moves.

(She opens the bag and pulls out a skin-tight, neon green and yellow, bellbottom jumpsuit with flower buttons. Alex’s mouth drops open and he stares at the hideous outfit.)

Maria: Option 1.

Alex: I think my life just flashed before my eyes.

(Maria sets the suit down and reaches back into the bag. Alex just continues to stare at the jumpsuit utterly horrified.)

Maria (pulling out the next outfit): Option 2.

(Alex looks over at Maria and swallows. In Maria’s left hand is a red mini skirt. In her right hand is a frilly blouse with a big collar and baggy sleeves. Not exactly as hideous as the first one but still frightening. Especially considering the skirt would barely cover his ass. Alex remains speechless and Maria sets the outfit down next to the jumpsuit and returns to the bag. She reaches in and pulls out the last outfit. It’s some sort of psychedelic 70’s dress, with colors that should not be used together. Maria holds it up to herself and then looks over at Alex.)

Maria: Well, what do you think?

Alex (looking up at her): I think Disco died for a reason…

Maria: Which one do you want to wear?

Alex (almost choking): Say again?

Maria: Yea, these are your choices. They’re the only outfits in my mom’s closet I thought might fit you.

Alex (reeling): This is some sort of girlfriend hell isn’t it? Well…NO…(Alex starts shaking his head and stands up) You’ve crossed the line. I am not your dress-up Ken doll. My friendship has limits you hear me! (He shakes his fist and points to the clothes) Limits! (He motions to the floor) Crossed the LINE!

Maria (smiling): Limits, really? Hmmm.

(Maria reaches into the bag and pulls out a beat up, well loved, stuffed animal. It’s missing an eye and possibly a tail. It’s either a deer or a dog, arguments could be made one way or another.)

Alex (almost longingly): Mr. Bundy.

Maria (looking down at the animal): I had a Mr. Bundy once...well I mean I had a Mrs. Teddy. Before she was kidnapped and…tortured…(she glares at Alex)…left for dead so her innards could be picked out and scattered around the playground.

Alex (guiltily): It wasn’t intentional…I forgot her.

Maria: All I have left to remember her by is an eye.

Alex (defensively): Yea, well, I made restitution for that, years ago. You were supposed to give him back after I dressed up like Kiss for the eighth grade talent show…and sang…“Let’s Put The X In Sex.” Did I get him back – no – I got detention, but not Mr. Bundy.

Maria (reaching into her pocket and pulling out the eye): An EYE!

Alex: I’m sorry!

Maria (defiantly): “I’m sorry”, like that makes up for the line you crossed. There’s no limits to our friendship Alex. Cuz if there were, I would have kicked your ass, just like I kicked Joey Riester’s when he tried to play keep away with her during recess…and then… I would have kicked your ass everyday I felt like it just to remind you I could do it…and there would be no friendship.

Alex (sitting back down on the couch, defeated): Can I at least re-draw my line at wearing make-up.

Maria (thinking about it for a minute): Fair enough, as long as you wear the wig.

(Scene: Liz’s bedroom, evening. While Max’s room redefines ‘clean’, Liz’s brings new meaning to ‘messy.’ Her closet has purged its contents on to the floor, and every drawer, from her dresser to the desk, has been emptied on the bed. Liz sits on a pile of clothes surrounded by shallow boxes and Tupperware containers she’s removed from under her bed. She’s gone through them as she’s pulled them out, leaving stacks of papers and notebooks and other, random belongs of her Grandmother, covering what’s left of the floor. She lays on her stomach and searches under her bed, retrieving the last box. She dumps it in her lap and starts hurriedly shuffling through it. It’s not there. She throws the lid across the room and lowers her head into her hands.

Nancy Parker looks up from her book and over at the hallway. She gets off the couch and walks tentatively through the hall entryway and toward Liz’s room. She reaches the doorway and gently knocks on the doorframe as she peeks inside. Her heart breaks as she sees Liz siting on the floor, slowly rocking back and forth.)

Nancy (crossing the room to Liz): Honey!

(Liz looks up at her mother with alligator tears streaming down her cheeks. Nancy skillfully maneuvers through the mounds of stuff, finally kneeling in front of Liz and engulfing her in a hug.)

Nancy: Oh baby, what’s wrong?

Liz (choking on her sobs): Everything…

(Nancy pulls Liz tighter and tenderly strokes her hair.)

Nancy: Oh sweetie, I know how much that necklace meant to you…Even as a baby you loved playing with it, every time Grandma came to visit. She would hold you and you would twist it with your tiny little hands…

Liz: I’ve lost it…I’ve lost…

Nancy: Shhhh, it’ll be okay. Saturday we’ll go down to the bank, you can look through all your Grandmother’s jewelry…We can make a new locket if you want…

(Liz pulls back from her mother and looks up at her. Nancy gently cradles her face.)

Nancy: This has been such a hard year for you…first the shooting…and your Grandmother…and then…(Nancy shakes her head and holds back her own tears)…I thought I’d lost you… It’s too much…And it’s too soon…you’ve been studying too hard for these finals…it’s too much…You know, it’s okay…you don’t have to get an ‘A’…that’s not what’s important. There are more important things…

(Liz lowers her head as she crumbles.)

Liz (barely audible between her sobs): I know…and I’m losing that too…

(She falls forward into her mother’s arms and Nancy kisses the top of her head whispering softly in her ear.)

Nancy (as they rock slowly): Shhh…Shhh…

(The black cat watches from the windowsill, concealed in shadows. There is surprisingly little satisfaction gained in the scene being played out before him, and that, is his problem. It infuriates him to no end to be made so weak by her. He wants to crush her, to break her completely…but he can’t. The closer he comes to the goal the harder it is to achieve. He can kill casually, without a second thought, or even a first…and yet he cannot make this girl suffer as she deserves. But he is not the cause of this pain, which is his only consolation. What he has started, Max will finish.

Nasedo turns his head away from the window. He knew she was dangerous, the first moment he realized how much power she had over Max. But she is far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined, for her power over him. It isn’t as obvious, there’s no longing looks or professions of love, it isn’t a school boy crush. It’s something deeper, buried in the bottom of his subconscious. He is no stranger to love, or loss. The pain he has known is unimaginable, and has no comparison. But it has been forty years since those emotions were free to be felt. They’ve been locked away, behind rage, revenge, and loneliness. And now, now this…girl…this…child…somehow has the key to releasing them. She holds in her slight frame, steady gaze, and unselfish acts…the power to make him care again.

The cat turns its calculating eyes back to the room. And that, is why she must pay.)

(Scene: Various ones at school, Tuesday. Liz slams her locker shut and stares at it. Music starts Dashboard Confessional – Again I Go Unnoticed. Liz lets out a sigh and then turns to her right, just in time to see Max pass by at the end of the hallway. Whether eye contact was made, is a matter of opinion. Before Liz can even exhale Max disappears down the hall. Her face falls and she heads off in the opposite direction…

Biology class, later that day…Liz sits pretending to pay attention to Miss Hardy. She keeps stealing glances at Max out of the corner of her eye but he never seems to acknowledge her. She could light herself on fire and he wouldn’t bother to look over at her. She closes her eyes and lowers her head, finally turning her whole body away from him completely. Max looks up from his notebook and guiltily glances over at Liz. He watches her through pained eyes, only quickly looking away when she shifts in her seat back toward the front of the classroom…

In the halls between classes…Liz walks out of the bathroom and adjusts her backpack on her shoulder. She looks up as Max walks past her. He’s with a classmate and appears too intent with the conversation to look over in her direction. She watches him walk by and then almost gets knocked over by another student exiting the bathroom. She apologizes and moves out of the way, toward class. Max looks over his shoulder as Liz gets swallowed in the crowd…

After school…Liz exits the building and hurries into the parking lot. She stops and lets her backpack drop to the ground as she watches the Jeep pull out of the lot and take off down the street. She just stands there, staring at nothing until Maria comes up behind her.)

(Scene: Biology class – Wednesday. Class is just getting started. Max sits studying his notebook and Liz just sits there, fiddling with her pencil, and every now and then, glancing over at Max out of the corner of her eye. God this is stupid, when did she become an invertebrate? The tardy bell rings and Miss Hardy stands up from her desk.)

Miss Hardy: Alright, this is it, your last chance. Tomorrow is the book final and Friday we have the lab final. Today is your day, ask questions, study your dissection notebooks and the dissections set up at the back of the room. Get the microscopes out and look at the slides. If you want to make slides, or check some out for studying at home, let me know.

(Everyone starts doing their own thing and Miss Hardy heads off to answer a question. Max gets out his textbook and Liz gets out her microscope.)

Liz (tentatively): So how’d your Trig. final go?

Max (flipping through the pages of his book): Good, wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Liz (as she adjusts her microscope): You’d hope so after all the studying you’ve done…everything should be cake this week.

Max (smiling): Don’t worry, Ms. Valedictorian, I’m not threatening your title…I’d have to take 10 classes a semester for the next two years and get A’s in all of them...

Liz (looking over at him and smiling): You’ve done the calculations, uh?

Max: Only out of curiosity.

Liz (hitting him): Uh huh, whatever…

(Max continues studying his book and Liz watches him for a while, with her head slightly turned toward him. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and turns her whole body toward him.)

Liz (hesitantly): So you’re gonna come to The Pie on Friday night, right? It’s our Final Friday ritual, stuffing our faces and making fools of ourselves at the karaoke bar…(she frowns) actually I just make a fool of myself and Maria shows off…and poor Alex…

Max: I don’t know, Milton’s been giving me a break because of finals and I’m supposed to be helping him with this really big project.

Liz (trying to hide her disappointment): Oh. Well maybe this weekend we could do something, you know, just the two of us…it’s been a long time since we’ve done anything that…wasn’t school related.

Max (avoiding Liz’s gaze): I sort of promised Milton that I’d use this weekend to make-up some hours from last week. This project is pretty important to him and I’m doing all the ground research…my weekends and days are going to be pretty busy…

(Max searches the room for Miss Hardy. He raises his hand and Miss Hardy sees it from across the room. Liz watches Max and can’t decide which she feels more – hurt or irritated. She reaches into her backpack and pulls out a small black notebook.)

posted on 20-Dec-2001 4:04:50 AM by not applicable
Liz (flipping through her notebook and then looking up at Max): Well, you know, looking at my calendar here, I think I have some time in July, when I get back from family vacation. Would you like to schedule something then, or should we just wait until fall?

(Max looks over at her stunned.)

Liz: Do you even want to see me?

(Hurt, she’s definitely hurt. Max struggles to ignore the blatant pain in Liz’s voice and stay focused. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy…)

Miss Hardy (as she approaches their table): Max you had a question. (Max doesn’t respond and she looks between him and Liz staring at each other) Max?

(Liz, defeatedly, looks away and gets up from the table. Max watches her walk to the back of the classroom and his whole body hurts. Not going to be easy, is one thing, this, is fucking impossible. He turns to Miss Hardy and tries to remember what he wanted.)

Max: Um…I…I want to check out some slides.

Miss Hardy: Okay, this or last semester?

Max: Can you only check one set out at a time?

Miss Hardy: Afraid so.

Max: Okay, can I check this semester’s out tonight and last semester’s tomorrow?

Miss Hardy: Sure. Let me go grab you a set.

(Miss Hardy heads to her desk at the front of the room and Max returns his gaze to the back of it, and where Liz stands bent over a dissection tray. Miss Hardy returns to Max with a set of microscope slides and a check out form.)

Miss Hardy: Just sign the form and leave it on my desk before class ends.

Max (not really paying attention): Okay.

(Miss Hardy looks from Max to Liz before getting called over to another student. The remainder of the class period is pretty much just more of the same. Max watching Liz from across the room. She can feel him looking at her but she never turns around to catch him in the act. God forbid he actually see the tears she’s trying, desperately to keep from falling from her eyes. Maybe Maria’s right, maybe she’s mental. The bell is going to ring so Liz finally returns to her seat to put away her microscope.)

Max (unable to stop himself): Liz, I’m sorry…I’ll talk to Milton about this weekend…maybe Sunday we could go to the Zoo or something, have lunch.

Liz (smiling up at Max): I’m sorry too, I think these finals are seriously messing with me. There’s just more pressure this year, you know, especially with dad talking about our vacation…He’s spending so much money, what if I let them down?

Max: You won’t let them down, it’s impossible, and besides, I thought you weren’t going to Harvard anymore anyway…

Liz (smiling at Max): You keep up this studying regime and you can join me there you know.

(God that smile, it’s hypnotic. If you stare at it long enough it’ll make you do things you have no control over. Max swallows and returns to putting his things away. Liz watches him for a moment then reaches out and gently touches his arm. He turns to her.)

Liz: I love you Max.

(The bell rings.)

Max (as he throws his backpack over his shoulder): You know I love you.

(He gives her a quick kiss and then darts out the room.)

Liz (as the smile falls from her face): I’ve been wondering.

(Scene: UFO Center. Max sits, hunched over a gigantic stack of papers, at a table in the library. He rubs his eyes with his hands and looks back down at the top sheet. The print is absurdly small and he squints to read it. What he’s attempting to read is the search list he and Milton came up with, when looking for articles with an alien/Native American subject listing. All 30,000 of them. Max moves the ruler he’s using as a place marker, down the page revealing the next entry, “Abduction on the Reservation”, he shakes his head. He’s just started really working on this, and of the five pages he’s looked at so far, he’s only found three articles that sound remotely legitimate. He gets to the end of the page and sets the ruler aside. He lifts the corner of the stack and flips through it. Damn, this is going to be a long project. He puts the page he just finished reviewing, in the recycle pile and is about to start the next one.)

Milton: Max, there you are. How’s it going? Finding anything interesting?

Max (scratching his head): It’s all…interesting, just not… useful.

Milton (a little disappointed): Huh.

Max: It’s just the beginning though, I’ve got like, 450 more pages to go through.

Milton: Wow, that many?

Max: Roughly.

Milton: I thought there were only 100 or so.

Max: I did too, until I realized the printer was out of paper.

Milton (thinking for a minute): You know what this means?

Max: We’re on to something?

Milton (apparently not listening to Max): We’re on to something Evans… and we have a lot of work to do. (Milton pulls up another chair) Hand me half of that stack.

(Max cuts the stack of papers approximately in half and hands the top portion to Milton. They sit silently looking over their lists. Max keeps glancing up at Milton out of the corner of his eye each time Milton highlights another listing. Max looks down at the, yet to be highlighted on, paper in front of him and then over at Milton’s. Apparently Max has slightly higher standards for “useful information” than Milton. Maybe this would actually be easier in the long run if he did this all himself.)

Max (after a moment): Milton, look, I don’t mind doing this, really, I mean you must have…other stuff you need to do. Don’t you?

Milton Max your enthusiasm never ceases to amaze. But I can’t leave you with all these.

Max (quickly): I don’t mind, really. You know, finals are over this week, I can take them home, work on them over the weekend. By the end of next week I’ll be done.

(Milton eyes him carefully)

Milton: You sure Evans? I don’t want to take advantage of your eagerness and solid work ethic.

Max: Really, it’s not a big deal. I actually want to.

Milton: Well, I do need to order more intestines and get ready for my speech at the “Truth Seekers” convention at the end of the month.

Max (reaching over and taking Milton’s stack of papers): I’ll take care of these, don’t worry. And I’m sure I’ll find what we’re looking for…(he looks down at the stack and sighs, under his breath) somewhere in here…

Milton (getting up from the chair): I know you will Max. (Milton turns to leave but before exiting stops and turns back to Max) Oh, and about Sunday, go ahead and take it off. You might as well have one day to enjoy summer before I really put you to work. I’ve got big plans for you Max…

(Milton pauses for a moment, as if internally visualizing those plans, before abruptly turning and leaving the room. Max watches him go and then returns his attention back to the looming task at hand. He glances over the titles Milton highlighted and shakes his head at them. Yea, this is going to be a really long summer.)

(Scene: School hallway, early morning Thursday. Music: Radiohead – High and Dry. Liz drops her bag to the ground and looks down the hall to her right. There’s no one there, which isn’t exactly a surprise. The only people here this early are school employees and their kids, the A.P. chemistry lab study group, and Max. She turns to the left and looks down at the other end of the empty hallway. She’s not exactly sure when she noticed Isabel was driving solo to school, but it was probably right around the same time she realized that she had stopped seeing Max altogether in the mornings until fourth period.

Liz turns to stare straight ahead, at the lockers opposite her. She rests her back against the wall and, after a moment, slowly slides down to sit on the ground next to her backpack. She lets out a sigh as she tilts her head back and looks up at the ceiling. She rolls her eyes at herself and slightly shakes her head. She has officially crossed the line. Sitting here, at 6:15 in the morning, staking out her boyfriend’s locker has got to be the end of some sort of rational rope. And if you have to sit anywhere, stalking your own boyfriend, isn’t that the end of some sort of relationship rope too?

Liz reaches over to her backpack and pulls out her History book. She crosses her legs and, resting the book in her lab, begins studying for her final that day, well as much as she can with an eminent confrontation looming. A confrontation which she’s subconsciously been prepping for longer than finals, and yet, if Max walked around the corner at this very moment, she probably wouldn’t know what to say. Her head is so full of questions, theories, and accusations that she’d open her mouth and all that would come out is a scream. And so she sits, waiting for the inevitable, and trying not to think about it.

Time passes to the sound of shuffling feet, as more and more students arrive for school. Liz never looks up from her book to see anything above ankle level. She doesn’t have to, she knows ever pair of Max’s shoes, and she’s sitting in front of his locker. When a pair of black Converse stop opposite her, then she’ll have to venture a glance up. Eventually though, the shoes start multiplying exponentially as it gets closer to the start of school. As the hallway crowds with students, Liz is forced to stand up or get stepped on. So she puts her book away and gets up. She leans back against the lockers and watches the cliques walk by.

The first bell rings and everybody starts heading to class, except Liz. As the hallways empty, she stands her ground. She just wants to see him. No, actually, what she wants is for him to see her. To see her and not run away. To see her and walk over to her. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lie, if he’s walking in her direction because he has to. She can lie too, and tell herself it’s because he wants to. The second bell rings and Liz is left in empty silence. She lowers her head. She really needs for this to be over. She heads off toward her first class. There’s always tomorrow.)

(Scene: School Quad. Michael sits at a table reading. Maria sees him as she enters the quad and heads in his direction.)

Maria (as she sits down across from him): Studying for that final you have in, wishful thinking?

(Michael looks up from his book, “Winning at Chess.”)

Michael (returning his gaze to the book): I guess I don’t have to ask how you did in your, encouragement class.

Maria: You have been studying for finals right? I mean, you do want to graduate from high school…that is part of the long-term plan?

Michael (not looking up from his book): I don’t have a long-term plan.

Maria: We need to work on that…you know…I mean, high school girls dating college guys is one thing, but college girls dating, like, twenty-one year old high school seniors, is sooo not cool.

Michael (straight-faced while he continues to read): Ever considered the drop out plan? What’s so valuable about an education from this degenerate public school system anyway? With its subjective standardization of worthless information passed off as necessary for survival on this planet. It’s crap.

Maria (smiling): Pseudo-intellectual, angsty, high school drop out…promising…

(Michael finally cracks a smile and closes his book. Maria watches on with an adoring gaze.)

Maria (after a moment): You’re coming to The Pie tomorrow night right?

Michael: You’ve been asking me that for two weeks…after day four I figured attendance was mandatory.

Maria: It is, pretty much.

Michael: Alright then, I’ll be there, now stop asking me about it.

Maria: Oh, like once is ever enough! How many times have I told you you need to clean your refrigerator? I mean, hello! There’s a reason for the smell and it usually means things are growing where they shouldn’t be. Or the car…how many times do I have to tell you…

Michael (cutting her off): Hey, I hear the important stuff, okay?

(Maria’s smile deepens and they sit there staring at each other for a moment. The bell finally rings and they both stand up. Maria walks over to Michael and gently grabs hold of his shirt. Michael looks down at her lovingly.)

Michael: Good luck.

Maria: Thanks. You showin’ your portfolio in art class?

Michael: Yea.

Maria (squinting up at him): You ever gonna show, me your portfolio?

Michael: Maybe.

Maria: Maybe?

Michael (smiling): You stop nagging me about that damn fridge and the odds are likely to increase.

Maria (slyly): Oh really? Well, you show up tomorrow night and your chances grow favorably too.

Michael (curiously): Chances for what?

Maria: You’ll see…

(Michael furrows his brow, trying to decipher Maria. Maria watches with amusement then quickly kisses him and heads off to class. Michael, confused, watches her go.)

(Scene: School computer lab, later that same day. Alex sits at one of the computer stations. With the exception of the teacher, he’s alone in the room. His computer screen reveals that he’s working on the research Max wanted.)

Mrs. Kerr: Alex, I need to run to the office for a moment.

Alex (looking up from his monitor): Okay Mrs. Kerr…(he looks around the empty room) I’ll keep everybody in line.

Mrs. Kerr: Don’t do anything illegal this time, alright?

Alex: Me? Mrs. Kerr, I’m telling you that was an accident. I don’t know how I ended up at that site. I mean, one wrong turn in cyber-space and you end up with naked women on your screen or in some governmental database…

Mrs. Kerr (skeptical): Uh hmm…I’ll be right back.

(Mrs. Kerr exits the room, leaving the door open and Alex returns to his work.)

Isabel (entering the room): There you are.

Alex (looking up): Hey, were you looking for me?

Isabel (a little too quick): No! I mean…no, Maria was…something about a dress rehearsal for tomorrow night.

(Alex groans and Isabel laughs)

Isabel (sitting on top of a desk near Alex): So what are we in for tomorrow night, some sort of human embarrassment ritual?

Alex: Don’t you have to start your new job or something tomorrow night?

Isabel (laughing): No…come on…it can’t be that bad. (Alex just looks at her) You can always say no.

Alex: Okay, where have you been for the last nine months…“no” is apparently not in my vocabulary. They’ve programmed it out of me…

Isabel: Okay, well at least tell me if I should bring…let’s see… my adoring fan face and lighter? Or should I go with rotten food?

Alex (glaring at her): You’ll get your day…just you wait…

Isabel: What are you working on?

Alex (closing the web window he’s searching on): Nothing…something for Mrs. Kerr. You know I’ve been thinking we need to start looking for a new approach. We’ve pretty much exhausted all legitimate avenues for adoption in the state of New Mexico.

Isabel: What else is there?

Alex: I’m thinking the black market.

Isabel (laughing): Black market? Alex, there’s no black market baby ring in Clovis, New Mexico – population 10.

Alex (raising his eyebrow at her): You wanna bet. We could work up a great Boy George routine for you tomorrow night? Add some color streaks in your hair, go heavy on the eye-liner… (Alex starts singing…)
“I'm a man who doesn't know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go
You come and go

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon
You come and go
You come and go”

Isabel (shaking her head, smiling, but definitely not laughing): No.

(Scene: Crashdown. Michael looks up from the grill to see Liz walk into the restaurant through the front door. He finishes flipping the burgers on the grill and then wipes his hands on his apron.)

Michael (turning to the other cook): Hey man, you mind if I take a quick break?

Luiz: It’s cool…

Michael: Thanks.

(Michael exits the kitchen just as Liz finally makes it into the back room.)

Liz (tiredly): Hey.

Michael: Hey.

Liz: So’d you bring ‘em?

Michael (apprehensively): Yea…there just…over here.

(Michael walks over to the couch and reaches behind it. He pulls out his portfolio and sets it on the couch. As he gently opens it up, Liz walks over and stands behind him. After a minute he pulls out the first drawing and props it up on the couch.)

Liz (stepping closer to the couch): Oh my god. Michael, it’s…

(Michael pulls out another drawing and places it next to the first one.)

Liz: They’re…beautiful. (She carefully squats down to look at them, then tilts her head up to Michael.) Can I…(she reaches her hand out to touch it.)

Michael (while pulling out the next drawing): Yea.

(Liz picks up the first drawing and studies it. It’s a gorgeous drawing of the New Mexican desert landscape. She traces her finger over the fiery rock formations. Michael pulls out the final drawing and looks over at Liz. She looks up at them.)

Liz: They’re beautiful.

Michael (undervaluing himself, again): They’re okay…

Liz (looking back at the picture): I mean, how long did these take you, a couple of hours?

Michael (angrily): What?

(Liz looks up at him and smiles. The defiant look on his face combined with his defensive body posture betrays how much these drawings really mean to him.)

Liz: Take the compliment Michael, you deserve it. These are beautiful. (Michael relaxes a little, and Liz returns her gaze to the other two drawings.) These must have taken you, what, weeks?

Michael: Something like that.

Liz: Dad’s gonna be so surprised…you have a definite gift.

Michael: Whatever. (Liz looks up at him threateningly and he mumbles something that could possibly be construed as ‘thank you’)

Liz: Okay, so tell me about these.

Michael: What?

Liz: I mean what’s your theme? What’s your angle?

Michael (not really understanding what she’s getting at): It’s the desert.

Liz: I got that…but why? You’re gonna have to pitch these to my dad… Let me put it to you this way…When he designed that (she points toward the front) it wasn’t retro.

Michael (a little flustered): I don’t know…I was just continuing what he started. This place is called the Crashdown right? Well we crashed in the desert, not some five and dime tacky shack.

(Michael, braces for a defiant Liz response, but furrows his brow when he doesn’t get one. Liz is still kneeling in front of the couch, but her head is cocked to the side as she carefully studies the four drawings again. She leans in a little and gazes from one to the next. After a moment she reaches out and removes the ceiling mural – an incredibly detailed starscape. She pushes the three remaining landscapes together and frowns.)

Liz (not looking up from the drawings): Where did you go to draw these?

Michael: My living room, what do you mean?

Liz (looking up at him): You’re living room? You just drew these out of your head?

Michael: Yea, why?

(Liz turns back to the pictures and rearranges the order. When she’s done, she grabs the two outer pictures by the edge and pulls toward her, creating a sort of “u”. Michael watches on curiously and waits for whatever it is that Liz is getting at.)

Liz (looking back up at Michael): It’s a valley.

(Michael looks back at the drawings and finally sees what she does. He steps closer and shakes his head. He drew the pictures in no particular order, and never even grouped them in this specific arrangement. But he can clearly see it. By slightly curving the drawings, depth is added – creating almost a 3-D effect. His mouth drops a little and he turns to Liz.)

Liz (pointing at the highest peak, and sounding surprised): And this… this looks really familiar to me.

Michael: What do you mean?

Liz (shaking her head): I don’t know. There’s something about it. I don’t know Michael, I think this is a real place.

Michael: If it’s real, do you think you could find it.

Liz: I don’t know. I don’t know where I’ve seen it. Maybe a photograph or something…

(They both just stare at the drawings for a few moments in silence. Finally Liz stands up and looks at Michael.)

Liz: You should show them to Max.

Michael (getting defensive): Max. Why? So he can express his dissatisfaction of my careless expression of something out of my imagination or to ask his approval...

Liz (not expecting Michael’s defensive reaction and definitely not thinking what he was): He might know where this is.

(Michael deflates a little and Liz just frowns at him inquisitively. The kitchen door swings open, interrupting the silence, and Michael turns toward the noise.)

Luiz (popping his head out): Hey man, “quick break’s” over…like 10 minutes ago. The orders are piling up…(Liz steps into view from behind Michael and Luiz stops.) Hey Liz.

Liz: Hey Luiz, how’s it going?

Luiz: Okay. (He looks back at Michael) Just hurry up man.

(Michael nods and Luiz ducks back into the kitchen. Michael turns around to find Liz staring back at him.)

Liz: You know Michael, you are your own person…with your own… amazing qualities. (She shakes her head) You can take that chip off your shoulder.

(Liz turns back to the drawings on the couch and Michael stares at her trying to think of a quick comeback. He hates that about her – how does she get so god damn insightful about things she should know nothing about. And how come she’s always fucking right.)

Liz (turning back to Michael): Whatever you do with these Michael, they’re beautiful. My dad will be completely impressed. I can guarantee it.

(Liz picks up her backpack and starts heading up the stairs.)

Michael: Thanks.

Liz (stopping and turning back to him): Thank you, for sharing them with me.

(Michael watches her retreat up the stairs and eventually into the apartment. He turns back to the drawings and sighs. He steps toward the couch and starts putting away the drawings. He’s closing up the portfolio when the backdoor swings open and Mr. Parker enters.)

Jeff: Michael.

Michael (startled): Hey Mr. Parker.

Jeff (nodding at the portfolio): Those the drawings?

Michael (looking at the black case and then up at Jeff): No… these were for school. I’m still working on those.

Jeff: Well, whenever they’re ready, I’m anxious to see them.

Michael: I’m hoping next week, sometime.

Jeff: No rush. Next week or the week after – just make sure you enjoy not being in school.

Michael (nodding his head): I will.

(Jeff heads up the stairs and Michael returns the portfolio to it’s hiding place behind the couch. He pauses for a moment and glances up the stairs. After a second he heads into the kitchen.)

(Scene: Crashdown, late that night. Michael’s standing in the kitchen tying up the garbage sack. He lifts it out of the can and checks to make sure it’s not dripping. He backs out of the kitchen and over to the outside exit door. In the alleyway he lifts up the lid to the garbage container and throws the sack in. As he lowers the lid he looks over to his right and sees Milton whistling and walking toward home. Michael shakes his head and walks back inside to get the cardboard boxes.

About ten minutes later, Michael, carrying a bunch of disassembled cardboard boxes, enters the alleyway and walks toward the recycling container. As he reaches the edge of it and gets ready to toss the boxes he’s carrying into it, Milton walks by again, heading in the opposite direction – back to the Center. Michael watches him go by. Wasn’t he wearing a coat? Michael furrows his brow and, after a moment, shakes it off. He throws the boxes in the bin and then heads back inside.)

(Scene: Max’s bedroom, late Thursday evening. Max shuts his closet door and turns around to survey the room. He looks over his bed toward the desk. He smiles softly and heads over to it. He looks down at the manuscript, carefully stuffed in its manila folder and rubberbanded shut, resting on the floor next to the desk. He fleetingly thinks about kicking it, but doesn’t. He pulls the desk chair out and sits down in front of his microscope, set up on the desktop. Reaching into his backpack he pulls out a box of prepared microscope slides and his lab notebook.

For once he doesn’t have to feign avoidance. If there was one test he really did have to study for, this lab final would be it. He’d never admit it, least of all to Liz, but studying is, more-or-less, optional. He’s not looking for Liz-caliber grades, he never has. It sort of goes against the whole survivalist philosophy of blending in with the norm. Besides, he’d never do anything that would threaten Liz’s chances of being valedictorian. Which he picked up on as being the primary objective of Liz’s academic life, since roughly fourth grade.

He’s not sure if his highly developed photographic memory is just him or some alien attribute he has yet to read about in the manuscript. He’s leaning toward the latter. Isabel rarely studies but still manages a B average. He’s never questioned her methods; it doesn’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things anyway. Either way, alien or independently developed trait, he’s not complaining. If he reads something, and is actually paying attention, he’s pretty good at remembering it. The key being that whole “paying attention” thing. When he’s not paying attention, some studying may be required. But even at that it’s a pretty trivial amount of time. It’s the appearance of studying which he’s crafted over the years that makes it look like he really has to work hard for his A-/B+ grade-point average.

At an early age, he was pretty quick to recognize the power of “studying.” It got him out of a number of family outings or situations he wanted no part of – studying has yet to be dethroned as the most universally accepted excuse by parents. But not only do parents accept it, carte blanche, they also respect it. By actually wanting to study he became responsible and gained access to all the benefits that come with the distinction. Look no further than the Jeep for evidence. There’s only one set of keys and it’s not random luck that they’re on his key chain, instead of Isabel’s.

And he was responsible, even though technically deceiving his parents. It’s not like he told them he needed to do homework, or wanted to study, so he could play video games or jack off in his room. He did it to be left, undisturbed for hours at a time, to think. To wonder if other kids could make things change color too, or see things when they closed their eyes. To spend hours thinking about being different and speculating on the ramifications of revealing those differences. See, he really has been studying all these years, just not anything from his school textbooks.

Max opens up his lab book and flips through the first few drawings. He really does need to study for this thing. Nothing looks identifiable, at least not in the early first semester notes. He’s not surprised. Goes back to the paying attention thing. The whole first semester is pretty much a blur. With the shooting and it’s aftermath Max wasn’t paying much attention to anything except Liz and soothing over the rifts created by his impulsive actions. He got his first D that semester and barely pulled a C average. His photographic memory failed him, because the only images it could produced were of Liz. Watching her dying, touching and kissing her, stepping back from her. There just wasn’t room for Biology or History in the drama of that semester.

Not that this semester hasn’t been filled with it’s fair share of dramatic events, in fact, there’s probably been more. But Max was forced into refocusing when his report card came in the mail. Keeping up appearances for the parents, while not his personal pick for top priority, was still critical for survival, not to mention his unrestricted freedom to move about Roswell at will. So he learned to focus on school at school, with a little bit of Liz in a closet or the eraser room, thrown in for fun.

Max takes the prepared slides out of the box and places the first half of them in a row to the right of his microscope. Each slide is labeled with what it is and what lab number it was. He grabs the first one and adjusts the microscope until it comes into view. He sketches the image on the blank pages at the back of his lab notebook, effectively implanting it into his memory. He repeats the step with a few more slides before abruptly stopping. He looks down at the slide he holds – “#5 human cheek.” He never did finish that lab. He slowly places the slide on the microscope. As he looks at it through the eyepiece and begins sketching it, his thoughts drift back to that day and Liz’s confrontation in the band room… “Um, I-I scraped some cells from your pencil. This is really hard to say, I'm trying to keep from blacking out here. Um, the cells weren't normal.”

Music starts: Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. Max looks up from the microscope and down at the top desk drawer. After a moment he opens the drawer and reaching under everything he pulls out a folded piece of paper. Opening it up he reveals a rough sketch of one of his cheek cells. They sure weren’t normal. Max furrows his brow then quickly gets out of his chair. He walks over to the bookshelf were his microscope supplies are. He pulls out a fresh slide and coverslip and heads back to the desk. He scrapes the inside of his mouth with the tip of his pencil and wipes it on the slide. He drops the coverslip on the slide and places it on the microscope. He moves the slide around until his blurry cells come into view. As he focuses the microscope and the image becomes clear, the color drains from Max’s face.

He stares at the slide and doesn’t believe what he sees. He frantically glances over at the initial drawing he had made of his cell. He looks from that drawing to the one he just did of a human cell. His body tenses as he can almost taste the bile rising in his throat. He swallows and returns to look at the cells on the microscope. He stares at them. What he sees is his cells, each individually engulfing, or is it absorbing, human looking ones.)

Max (panicky): What the hell…

posted on 20-Dec-2001 12:07:41 PM by not applicable
bobbyC - that's it...hope you like it!
posted on 29-Dec-2001 12:42:14 AM by not applicable
many thanks! sorry about making you all wait three months for that story and yes...what an awful place to leave off at. I have to make the wait at least seem worthwhile.

ambrosia, I couldn't agree more - what's better than alex in a wig? which you'll "see" in the next story - pure fluff! thank you for the feedback and noticing the music!!!!! (shhhh...don't tell anyone, but if you e-mail me, I have soundtracks....yes, I realize the sadness of this fact but it couldn't be helped or stopped)

angela I promise you you'll only have to wait one story more for the inevitable confrontation - actually there's two coming (confrontations that is) and the second one will break whatever's left of your heart (that goes for you too sheeijan). I promise to get started working on the next story shortly and try not to take three months to finish always thanks for the feedback...and the offer. have I told you who nasedo's mystery woman is because if I haven't I think you might have a pretty good guess, which I would love to discuss - that's a topic definitely worth bouncing...

sheeijan I owe you an e-mail and when I get back from the holiday it will be one of the first things I do. thank you for the feedback, truly...I have more to say on the subject but will save it...thank you!

connie I owe you a ton of thank yous so I'll say a few here and save the rest for e-mail!! thank you, thank you , thank you...

thanks for the feedback and I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful new years celebration