|posted on 22-Jul-2002 1:03:38 AM by Deejonaise|
|Disclaimer: I do not own Roswell...blah, blah, blah|
Author's Note: This story is very different from anything I've ever written. It is set seventeen years in the future and told from the viewpoint of Liz's teen-age daughter. This story is going to build slowly so bear with me.
Feedback: Please let me know what you think. If this story is a dud, tell me. I'm tough, I can take it.
“Claudia, are you planning to pout the entire trip or is the passing scenery really that interesting to you?”
I swallowed the sarcastic retort that sprang to my lips at my mother’s inane question. Instead, I pinned her with a doleful, displeased stare across the expanse of our 2001 Honda Accord. I did this with the full knowledge that my mother absolutely hated not being graced with a verbal response. She flicked me with annoyed eyes, glancing back and forth between the road and me before finally heaving a disgusted sigh and returning all her attention back to the road. With a noncommittal shrug I turned my attention back towards the car window.
As I stared sightlessly at the passing terrain I was well aware that I wasn’t being fair to my mom. She hadn’t planned on moving from Sacramento, effectively cutting me off from everyone and everything I’d ever known. It wasn’t her fault that Grandpa had a heart attack and was no longer able to run his restaurant. The transition had been hard for her, too, I reminded myself. She, after all, had to quit her job, sell all their belongings and fit what was left into their four-door sedan. She’d had to plan the move in three, short weeks and handle my school transfer. But knowing she didn’t plan the move didn’t change the fact that she was looking forward to it.
I had seen her desire for change coming even long before Grandpa had his heart attack. She had been dissatisfied with her work as a medical examiner, definitely dissatisfied with Dad; so much so that I almost suspected it was a relief to her when he cheated thereby giving her an excuse to divorce him. And then Grandpa had gone into the hospital and that was all Mom needed. Liz Parker-McKee was going back home to Roswell and I, whether she had to drag me kicking and screaming the entire way, was going with her.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Grandpa and Grams. The highlight of school and summer holiday for me was always going to visit them. Roswell was an interesting place to visit and I was always full of cool stories to tell my friends when I came home. But living in the desert…no way! And leaving my dad, I didn’t want to do that at all. We could barely spend enough time together as it was with him on constant business trips.
And then there was leaving Lisa and Shannon Russo, my best friends all my life. I’d gone from preschool to high school with them and the three of us usually stayed in one form of trouble or another. When I told them I was leaving Shannon actually bawled and she never cried, not even after her mom walked out on them and left their dad alone to raise two daughters. Lisa couldn’t say anything; she just left the room and said she needed some time by herself. Later that night when I was home she called me, full of sarcastic comments and jokes. She wished me well and told me not to get myself abducted. I had to smile now just thinking about that comment.
Now Noah, on the other hand, my so-called boyfriend, he was another story. I had met him during my ninth grade music camp in July. I had come away from that camp unable to play a single musical note, but I could call Noah Hillier my boyfriend. And to think I had once been naïve enough to believe that we would be together for the rest of out lives. All he had said, and somewhat laconically at that, when I told him about the move was, “I don’t think I can do long distance, Claude.”
And so, my mom had managed to sever every meaningful relationship I had ever established. She’d never even discussed it with me, never even asked if I wanted to go. It was like she assumed that I wouldn’t want anything otherwise. And when I suggested staying behind with Dad she acted as if I’d suggested an all night sex orgy. Thinking about it now I could feel the anger creep crimson up my neck again and I sent her a hateful sideways look. But no sooner had I done it than I found myself regretting it.
She looked like a little girl at the moment, her long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, while she chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, not at all like the evil tyrant I was making her out to be. Her fingers were absently tapping the steering wheel and she had a far off look, as if she were deep in thought. If I didn’t know better I’d think that she was just as nervous about moving to Roswell as I was. But as quickly at the notion occurred to me I discarded it. Why on earth would she be nervous? She had grown up in Roswell. She knew everyone there and they knew her. She’d fit right in. I was the one who was starting a new school in a new city. I was the one who would have to start over again.
“So how long do you plan to continue with the silent treatment?” she asked suddenly, startling me out of my pessimistic thoughts.
“Forever,” I pouted, crossing my arms defensively. And then, breaking my resolve to be silent, I whined, “I still don’t see why I couldn’t stay with Dad. He said I could.”
She glanced at me with brown eyes that could be frosty as marble or soft as velvet depending on her mood. The look she sent me now made me shiver. “We’ve been through this already, Claudia,” she said in the tone that usually alluded to a lecture, “Your dad is never home. He flies out on business trips every other week. You wouldn’t have any real adult supervision staying with him and you know it.”
“Well, excuse me for thinking I didn’t need adult supervision,” I retorted sarcastically, “I am sixteen, after all. I’m not a baby.” Even though you treat me like one, I added silently.
“Yeah, I’ve forgotten what an old soul you are,” she replied, chuckling at her own joke. I mocked her laughter, rolling my eyes. “Come on, Claude,” she said good-naturedly, smiling at me, “Don’t be so sour. It won’t be that bad…I promise.” I must have still appeared unconvinced because she added; “You can call Lisa and Shannon whenever you like. Weekends and nights on the cell are free.” When I still didn’t respond she asked, “Is this about Noah?”
“No!” I responded loudly and when she frowned I quickly repeated, quieter this time, “No, this isn’t about him.” And truly it wasn’t. I had cried the first few days after, but not since. I still thought about him though, wondering if he was regretting his decision, but he didn’t otherwise consume my thoughts. What was really upsetting me was the idea of going to a new place, of starting over. I twirled a strand of dark brown hair, like my mother’s, around my index finger, something I only did when I was extremely nervous.
My mom already knew that about me so I wasn’t surprised when she said, “I’m nervous, too, if it helps to know.”
I shrugged, though it did help, a little. “I don’t know why. Roswell’s your home…you grew up there.”
“That’s true, but have you ever noticed that when we visit it’s only to see Grandpa and Grams,” she pointed out quietly, “I never meet up with old friends or anything like that so this is going to be just as new for me as it is for you.”
I opened my mouth the dispute that when it suddenly occurred to me that what she said was true. Other than hanging out with my grandparents at the Crashdown and doing some light shopping in town my mom didn’t really visit much in Roswell. We would only stop by Cashwick Cemetery before we left to lay fresh flowers on Uncle Alex’s grave before returning to Sacramento. But that was all we ever did. I shot my mom a confused look. “Didn’t you have any friends?”
“You know I did,” she laughed, but despite her laughter something in her tone warned me to drop it.
I ignored the silent warning. “I mean besides Aunt Maria and Uncle Alex.”
Although to hear mom tell it that was enough. She and Aunt Maria had been friends since the third grade. Their closeness had only grown deeper since then and even with Aunt Maria’s music and budding acting career she and mom still kept in constant touch, despite Maria’s busy schedule. And she was always sending me gifts in the mail, not to mention spending money, which was always welcome. I know that was part of the reason Mom liked living in Sacramento because we were so close to Maria.
Alex, I didn’t know so much about though. He died two and a half years before I was born. Mom had said that she and Maria had adopted him as friend in the seventh grade and they’d been inseparable since. She said that he had been a musician and a computer genius and would have probably been the next Bill Gates had he lived. But other than that and the fact that he’d been killed in an auto accident at sixteen I didn’t know much about him. Mom didn’t like to talk about him much, especially how he died. She’d always end up crying.
I found myself wondering suddenly if my mom had some sort of tragic past or something. She acted normal enough. But I had always sensed sadness in her and a gaping loneliness, that not my dad or I could fill for her. And other than telling me about the times she had with Alex and Maria when she was a girl, she never talked about her past. You’d think that she’d never had a boyfriend, never been in love before she met my dad. I used to believe she hadn’t, that my father must have been her true love, but after a couple years of watching them together I discovered what it took my dad years more to realize.
He couldn’t make my mom happy. He tried really hard. I always got the impression that she was comparing him to someone else…and finding him lacking. But to give her credit, my mother tried to be a good wife to my dad. She wanted their marriage to work, but there was a part of her heart that Mom just wouldn’t give over, not to anyone and I supposed my dad just grew tired of trying. My mom really wasn’t a bad person. I think she just probably married too young and too fast. I wasn’t so ignorant that I didn't realize my mom and dad’s anniversary was only a few short months before I was born. I was the reason they got married and I was the reason they stayed married for so many years, but ultimately, even I, couldn’t keep that marriage from ending.
Whenever my dad told me the story of meeting my mom I had always thought it sounded romantic. He had met her his sophomore year in college when she had been attending a private school in Vermont. It was a whirlwind romance and before long Mom was pregnant with me. They got married soon after that. We lived in Vermont until I was four and then moved to Washington D.C. with Dad’s job. Then six years later we moved again, to Sacramento this time, and we had been there ever since. But in all that time my mother had never struck me as being happy. Content maybe, resigned definitely, but never happy.
All my life I had just accepted that fact, content to believe it was simply Mom’s personality, but now for the first time ever I found myself really wondering why, not just giving it passing consideration. What had happened to my mom to put that aching sadness in her eyes? Why had my father never been enough to make her happy? Why hadn’t I? I suspected it had something to do with Uncle Alex’s death but I didn’t know for sure. When I was twelve I asked my Aunt Maria about it, but she’d only responded cryptically, “If you want to know, ask your mother.” She wouldn’t talk about the past either. I figured then that I’d never find out the answers.
Acutely aware that she had not yet answered my first question I asked another, “Did you ever have a boyfriend, Mom…I mean…before Dad?”
Again the nervous laugh. “Of course I did. I wasn’t that much of a geek in high school.”
“Were you ever in love before Dad?”
This time she made no pretense to smile. Her eyes lost their gleaming sparkle and took on this faraway look. It was a long time before she finally whispered, “Once.”
After that she changed the subject quickly, preferring the chatter on about how thrilled Grandpa and Grams would be to see me. I only half listened to her though. I settled back into my seat, a pensive smile on my lips. Maybe living in Roswell would be the disaster that it had first seemed. It appeared my mom did have a past after all. I tapped at my chin thoughtfully. Maybe, just maybe, I’d finally find my answers.
Grandpa started to cry the moment he saw my mom and me. As he and Mom were hugging I got this funny little ache in my chest from watching them. He looked a lot older than when I’d seen him last summer. His thinning brown hair, which had only been silvered at the temples when I saw him then, was now completely gray. He had lost a lot of weight as well and now his flesh seemed to sag from his bones, making him look even older than his fifty-five years. When he finally embraced me I hugged him tentatively, afraid if I hugged him too hard he would break.
When he looked at me again his eyes were gleaming. “Look how beautiful our little Claudie has become, Nancy,” he said to my grandmother without ever taking his eyes from me, “Doesn’t she look just like Liz did at sixteen?”
“Yes, she does,” Grams agreed, moving in to hug me as well. Grams was looking well, despite all the added responsibility she had lately with taking care of Grandpa and the Crashdown, too. Her strawberry blond hair had yet to gray at all and other than the laugh line crinkles at the corners of her eyes she still looked as if she could be in her thirties. “You look exhausted,” she commented when she pulled back to survey me again.
I yawned, punctuating the fact. “Well, I am a little tired,” I admitted sheepishly, “You know Mom…you have to forge a river before she stops for a break.”
“Liz,” Grams said, directing her attention to my mother, “why don’t you take Claudia to your old room. I set it up for her already. You can take the guest room. After I put your father down for his nap I’ll start dinner.”
“I don’t need any nap,” Grandpa protested in a grumpy, irate tone, “I haven’t visited yet with Liz and Claudie.” If felt somewhat sorry for him. If Grams was anything like Mom was when I was sick she was bossing him around something awful.
“Mom,” my mom interrupted while Grams was fussing with Grandpa, “don’t worry about dinner. Despite what Claudia said I did stop for dinner before we came. We’re fine.”
“Now, Liz, I-,”
“We’re fine,” my mother insisted, “I’m really just tired and all I want is to go to bed.”
I smiled to myself as I watched my grandparents shuffle down the hall towards their bedroom, my Grandpa complaining the entire way. When I turned to look at my mother , she was watching them as well, tears glistening in her eyes.
“He looks awful, doesn’t he?” she asked, chewing at her lower lip.
“N-No,” I lied, “not so bad.”
“You know I was just your age when my grandmother died,” she said to me. Her tone was almost haunted as she said the words.
I shivered. “Mom, Grandpa isn’t going to die. The doctor said he’s getting better. Stop being so pessimistic.”
She smiled at me then but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. The preoccupied sadness remained there. “You’re right,” she said a little too brightly, “Let me walk you to your room.”
“Mooooom,” I groaned impatiently, “I’ve only stayed in that room a hundred times already, I think I can find my own way.”
She gave me a blank look, as if she didn’t understand the reason for my annoyance, and then leaned forward to kiss my forehead. “Well, okay then. Get some rest. It’s late.”
“It’s late,” I muttered to her back as she strode down the hallway towards her bedroom, “it’s, like, eight o’clock.” With one last eyeroll at her back I heaved my suitcase against my side and went to my bedroom.
It looked just the way it always had. Bed, dresser, chest, mirror in the corner, all the little knickknacks and posters my mom had acquired over the years. My grandparents had left it just the same. I suspected they never got over my mom not coming home again after she gone to Vermont. After she’d married my dad and had me my mom didn’t return to Roswell for nearly three years. It was strange really, like my mom was running from something. But what? She was so boring and ordinary I couldn’t imagine her having some deep, dark past.
I was halted from further musing on my mother’s life when my cell phone rang. A smile lit my face when I saw the number illuminated in the caller screen. “Daddy!” I squealed into the phone as soon as I clicked the talk button.
I heard him chuckle in response and I could imagine him pulling the phone slightly away from his ear as he did. “Now that’s some greeting,” he laughed, “I take it that you’ve missed me, then?”
“You said you would call yesterday,” I pouted, but without any real anger. My dad was a successful MCI executive; he rarely called when he said he would.
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry, I had a meeting that ran long. It couldn’t be helped.” I mouthed the last of his statement with him. It could never be helped. But then that was my Dad. I knew he loved me…he was just hardly ever there to show it. “How’s your grandfather,” he asked a few seconds later.
“He looks terrible,” I whispered, rising to shut the door just in case Mom was eavesdropping. She didn’t think I knew she did it, but I did. Once I ascertained adequate private I continued on, “I don’t think he has much time despite what his doctor told Grams, neither does Mom. She started crying.”
“Yes, well, your Mom loves your Grandpa very much.” He said the words regretfully. I was about to ask him why he sounded so sad when he said, “You’re starting a new school tomorrow. Are you excited?”
“No,” I replied flatly, “I’m petrified. I don’t want to start a new school. What if I don’t make any friends?”
“Pumpkin, you’ve always made friends easily,” he responded mildly.
“I can only count two.”
“You’ll make more,” he insisted.
“Hey, Dad, can I ask you a question?”
“Did Mom ever tell you about any old boyfriends or anything like that…you know, before she met you?”
There was an uneasy silence that followed before he finally said, “Don’t you think that’s a question you should ask your mom?”
“You know she doesn’t like to talk about the past.”
“What’s with your sudden curiosity? Do you have too much time on your hands?” he laughed.
“I’m stranded in the desert with no car,” I quipped sarcastically, “Of course I have too much time on my hands.”
He started to laugh and then I heard him cuff his hand over the receiver of the phone and have a brief, muffled conversation. When he came back he said, “Sweetheart, I’ve got to cut this conversation short, okay. I love you and give my best to Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow, promise.” He didn’t wait for me to say good-bye before he hung up. He never did.
I clicked my cell phone case shut and sighed, flopping back against the bed. Knowing my father he had probably called me in the few minutes he had between meetings. Part of me was flattered that when he should be thinking about business his mind was on me, but part of me was annoyed that he never chose to call at a time when we could have a longer conversation. But that was my dad.
I sighed again and rolled over to my stomach, fingering my cell phone that lay only inches from my head. I briefly considered calling Noah, just to ease the boredom I told myself, and then dismissed the idea. God only knew how much I’d swell his head if I called him, especially in light of the colorful words I’d spat at him during our last phone conversation.
I couldn’t call Lisa and Shannon; they were in San Francisco on vacation with their dad. “Oh God,” I groaned into the bed mattress. How would I survive living here, stuck in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do? I was still bemoaning my lack of entertainment when Grams suddenly poked her head into my room. “You looking for something to do?”
Half an hour later when Grams was fitting me with a teal green waitress uniform complete with a silver alien head apron and springy antennae I was rethinking the wisdom of answering, “yes” to her question. As she tied my apron for me I studied my reflection in the mirror. I remembered seeing a picture that my mom had taken when she was fifteen. She had been sandwiched between Alex and Maria and they had all been smiling. Except for my eyes, which were gray like my father’s, I was the exact replica of my mother. For some reason, the realization made me shiver.
I wondered if Grams saw the similarity as well. She seemed pleased, happier than I’d ever seen her. I considered that maybe when my mom was my age she and Grams hadn’t shared moments like this. Too bad, I thought. I was glad Grams enjoyed spending time with me like I enjoyed spending time with her.
“So tell my about the hundreds of boyfriends you have,” Grams teased as she pulled my long, dark hair back into a ponytail.
I laughed a little at her question. “I wouldn’t say I have ‘hundreds’ just one and he didn’t turn out to be worth much.”
“Don’t worry,” Grams assured, “The right one will come along.”
“I don’t know…I’m beginning to think true love is overrated.”
Grams paused with my hair for a moment, frowning slightly. “You’re not basing this opinion on what happened with your parents, are you?”
I glanced down at my Sketchers trying not to reveal the despair I felt over their divorce. “It definitely wasn’t happily ever after for them,” I muttered.
“It will be for you.” The fierce way she said it was more of a pronouncement than an assumption. Grams smiled at my reflection, hugging me from behind as she did. “Now you know the drill right?”
I squeezed her hand lightly and returned her smile. “Yes, I know. The tips are mine to keep.” She patted me once on the shoulder before stepping away and heading for the door.
“Be downstairs in ten minutes,” she reminded me before leaving.
When I was alone I stared at my reflection again, studying it closely. My appearance hadn’t changed all that much since last summer. I was an inch taller maybe and my hair was longer, but nothing truly dramatic. Nothing, except for the fact I looked eerily like my mother. Get a grip, Claude!, I ordered myself fiercely. Of course you look like your mother, you’re related, you dolt! But that was where the similarities ended. My mother and I were nothing alike.
But I didn’t know then how wrong I was.
It turned out that I was a terrible waitress. Grams wanted to give me a chance I could tell, but after dropping yet another plate, and this time into an unsuspecting customer’s lap, she had to retire me. She wasn’t completely heartless though. Instead of banishing me forever from the Crashdown, which would have been understandable, she let me man the cash register. And so for the remainder of the night I took peoples’ money, smiling at them and urging them, somewhat falsely, to come back and see us again. It wasn’t so bad. I was helping out Grams and that alone made it worth it.
However, two hours later it wasn’t feeling at all worth it. My cheeks were beginning to hurt as a result of having a constant smile plastered on my face. And if my face twitches weren’t enough my feet felt like blocks of cement and had long since grown numb. When I thought about how I could’ve been nice and comfy in my bed instead of tending to the masses with swollen feet and aching cheeks I wanted to kick myself. I didn’t even have any tips to show for it.
“Table 16’s been staring at you for over an hour.”
I jerked up my head to find Katie DeSilva smirking at me, chewing on a giant wad of Hubba Bubba irreverently. She blew a massive bubble before snapping it back into her mouth.
Katie had been the first and only waitress to formally introduce herself to me. Standing five feet five inches tall, Katie was a natural redhead with a temper and mouth to match her hair color. Without having to be asked she had volunteered to show me the ropes of waitressing. I followed her for half an hour before she finally cut me loose, declaring that I was “hopeless” and “ruining her tips.” I didn’t hold it against her, however. I knew I was terrible. In fact, I rather liked her honesty. Besides that she was the only other waitress there close to my age and if I was going to set about making friends she might as well be the first.
“What?” I asked. I had only half-heard her question because I had still been contemplating the warm softness of my bed.
“Table 16,” she said again, “He’s checking you out.” And then to emphasize her statement she stepped aside and afforded me with a full view of Table 16.
My first thought was that I had never seen eyes that blue in my life, but before I could fall completely in love with them they skittered away. A customer made his way to the register. I checked him out quickly, wishing him a good night and then promptly turned my attention back to Katie. “Are you sure?” I asked her, reluctantly dragging my gaze away from the dark-haired boy at Table 16, “Maybe he’s waiting for his check.”
“I gave him his check an hour ago,” Katie pointed out with a smug smile.
My eyes once again drifted over to him. Was it my imagination or did he just look away again? I could only see his profile now, thick brown hair hung over his forehead almost to his eyes, a strong, straight nose, pouty pink lips. I jerked my eyes away, feeling myself begin to blush. Deep within the parts of my brain that still functioned, I was bewildered by my reaction to, when all was said and done, just a cute boy. I had always prided myself on being able to brazen out of an emotional situation, control my feelings, but, at that moment, I couldn’t stop the heat from rising in my cheeks. My palms had even begun to sweat.
“I know who he is,” Katie laughed in a singsong tone. The look on my face must have revealed a desperate desire to know because she said, “Calm down. His name is Alexander Evans, Zan for short. He’s a senior at West Roswell and he’s kind of a loner. Come to think of it…I’ve actually never seen him look at a girl before. Until today, I thought he was gay.” I gaped at her, wondering how she could have ever believed that beautiful specimen of male was gay. She must have read my mind because she added flippantly, “Hey, the cute ones usually are.”
When I glanced back at him again we briefly locked eyes. His profile had done nothing to prepare me for the full frontal beauty of his face. To say he looked like an angel would have been a total cliché and yet I couldn’t think of a better description from him. When I looked at him I saw innocence and purity and a beauty I could never have imagined. I smiled at him. He looked away. I frowned at Katie, uncertain. “Maybe he isn’t interested, after all. He won’t even look at me.”
Katie studied her nails nonchalantly. “He seemed interested enough when he asked me your name earlier.”
“He asked my name!”
Before she could answer me there was suddenly was a big, burly guy standing at the register, a hat pulled low over his eyes. “You got ten seconds to open the register and give me all the money inside,” he ordered in a gravelly voice.
Annoyance that he had interrupted my conversation caused me to be dismissive of him. I barely flicked him with a glance. I didn’t sense the menace in him, not until he produced the gun and I was staring down its dark, cold barrel. “Open the damned register,” he ordered again.
“Oh my God,” Katie whispered.
I was surprised that I heard her at all. My heart was suddenly thundering so hard the sound filled my ears. Thump, thump, thump, thump. I was being robbed. I couldn’t believe it. My mind was working in a million ways. There was actually a man holding a gun on me. He wanted money and I couldn’t get the friggin’ register to open.
I was working my fingers fast, trying desperately to release the register but it was jammed. Oh, how welcome that annoying chi-ching would have sounded at that moment. I knew I was sobbing, simultaneously begging the register to open and the man not to shoot. But I must have been taking too long because the shot suddenly rang out like a thunderclap, silencing the restaurant completely. For a moment I was only aware of the gunman reaching over the cash register, which had finally opened, and drawing out a wad of bills.
My hand floated to my chest, which felt tight and hot. When I pulled my fingers away I noticed that they were red with blood. My blood. It was then that the burning in my chest began. And even as I registered that I had been shot I was falling, falling, falling to the ground.
I was only vaguely aware of the pandemonium around me, Katie screaming, the patrons screaming, the gunman running away. The world had taken on soft, fuzzy edges and I knew in that moment that I was dying. Even the pain in my chest had begun to recede somewhat and I recognized how close I was. I thought of my mom, how I hadn’t made peace with her, that I didn’t tell her that I loved her. I didn’t want to die with her thinking I was angry.
And then he filled my dimming vision. Blue eyes. I could feel him ripping open my uniform. He pressed his hand against me, told me to look at him. His touch felt realistically warm when every other part of my body had gone numb. Look at me. Look at him. And I did.
A white-hot light seemed to blind me, streak through my body. I could feel its heat. I shook with it. And then I was bombarded with the images, random pictures I didn’t understand. I felt what he was doing, closing the wound, easing the burn, healing the torn tissue and shattered bone, willing me back to life. I was conscious of looking up at him, staring into his frightened blue eyes and knowing my life, and his, had changed forever.
He suddenly reached over me and broke a ketchup bottle, dumping its contents all over my chest. “You fell,” he said breathlessly, “You broke the ketchup bottle when you fell.” He stumbled to his feet, his face chalk white. “Please don’t tell anyone.” And then he was gone leaving me alone to struggle to my feet, one hand clenching the front of my blood and ketchup soaked uniform together.
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 27-Jul-2002 1:35:27 AM ]
|posted on 27-Jul-2002 1:38:08 AM by Deejonaise|
“Oh my God, honey, are you alright?”
My mom’s features were completely colorless as she squeezed me against her chest. She had come running the minute she heard the shot. Her body was shaking almost as much as mine. I tried to open my mouth, tried to speak and tell her yes I was fine, but I couldn’t form the words. My throat closed up, rendering it impossible to speak, almost to even breathe. Instead I nodded jerkily into her shoulder while my mind could only sing out one refrain, I was dead and he brought me back to life, I was dead, dead, dead.
I could feel myself begin to hyperventilate and that was before my mom burst out,
“Is this blood? Oh God, Claudia, are you bleeding!”
“The paramedics are on their way,” Grams assured us, her face creased with concern. She was standing behind Mom, anxious to know whether I was bleeding as well.
Somehow I finally managed to find my voice. “I-I don’t need a doctor. I’m fine. It’s just ketchup,” I stammered, hoping I looked more convincing than I sounded. I didn’t want her to examine my uniform too closely. I held my uniform out from my body for emphasis, as if she couldn’t smell the tomato substance emanating from my clothes. I had never thought much about that smell before, but now it was enough to make me gag. Maybe because it was mixed with my blood… My mind shut off there. One thing at a time, Claudia, I reminded myself brutally.
“Mom…it’s just ketchup,” I repeated with wooden agitation, “I broke the bottle wh-when I fell.” I recited his story almost verbatim. I couldn’t have thought up anything more plausible at that moment anyway. My brain and body had seemed to shut down. But my reassurances didn’t seem to ease my mom, if anything my words made her more nervous.
She glanced back and forth from my uniform to my face with horrified eyes. I didn’t think that she could possibly get any whiter than she was but she did. Her pupils dilated, her eyes glowing with what seemed like panic. Her lower lip began trembling feverishly. She looked on the verge of an anxiety attack. But why, I wondered, I was fine…at least on the outside.
“Man, it sure looked as if you’d been shot to me,” Katie said with an eerie calmness. I looked at her with wide eyes. She met my gaze squarely, her green eyes narrowed with suspicion. God, did she know? Had she seen? She had been standing right there when it happened. My head was spinning. I looked away quickly so she wouldn’t see the truth on my face.
“Mom, I-I need to lie down.”
“I thought you said you were fine.” The sudden suspicious tone in my mother’s voice paralyzed me. Mom had also looked up at Katie when she made her statement. Now she looked at me in an almost calculating manner. Her eyes seemed angry, bitter almost. But most of all, they were doubtful. I wrung my hands nervously and dropped my eyes again for the second time in two minutes. “I’m just shaky, that’s all.”
Perhaps it was the very real stark terror on my face or the fact I was still trembling, I don’t know, but my mom’s expression lost its edge and she enfolded me in a tender hug. “Claudia, are you sure you’re telling me everything that happened?” she whispered into my ear, “I just want to help you, baby.”
It was the gentle tone she used, that sweet way she called me “baby” that was almost my undoing. I don’t know why but in that one, breathless moment I felt like Mom knew everything, knew I was lying, knew that my life had changed irrevocably in the moment that boy spread his hand across my chest. And just as instinctively I knew she would understand. This was my chance, my moment to tell her. God knew I wanted to. It wasn’t everyday that you died and were brought back to life by a tall, dark, mystery man. But I still hadn’t absorbed the impact of what had happened. Had I really been lying on that floor moments earlier, the lifeblood leaking from my body?
My mother, so compassionate, so worried for me, could I really trust her with the truth? Could I simply say, “Mom, I think an angel just saved my life.”? I didn’t know what to do, how to feel, whom to trust. Nothing. It was as if I had been born again and the old Claudia was dead. Everything I had been so sure of in my life abruptly wasn’t so sure anymore. My priorities were different…now. His face, his face was emblazoned in my mind and I couldn’t forget his fear, his desperate plea for me not to tell anyone.
Mom had lifted my face to hers, was staring into my eyes now, searching my face for the truth. She knew I was lying, I could tell from her expression, but I knew she wanted desperately to believe me as well. She didn’t want to know, though I suspected she did. Her hands were gripping me like a vise, biting into the flesh of my forearms as she willed me to say something she could accept. I wanted to tell her, to tell everyone and unburden myself of this crazy secret, but I couldn’t forget what he’d done. He had saved my life…and earned my loyalty in return. I would not betray him. At the moment, it was the one thing I was absolutely sure of. I would die before I did. “I must have fainted or something when the gun went off,” I told her shakily, “I was really scared, Mommy.”
“That’s understandable, sweetie,” Grams said. She had come to stand beside me and was stroking my hair.
Mom framed my face with her hands and leaned forward to kiss my forehead. “You can lie down after the police get here and you give your statement,” she told me.
She sat with me and held my hand while we waited for the police. I was acutely aware of Katie watching me the entire time though she didn’t say a word. I supposed I would have to talk to her later, somehow convince her that what she did see she actually didn’t. The thought of convincing her was almost funny. Of all the things I’d like to think I was talented at, lying and manipulation, were not at the top of the list.
I dropped my eyes into my lap, folding and unfolding my fingers in the silver material of my apron. I had nearly died. It was becoming clear to me now. But that wasn’t the weird part. What was weird was I was now going to attempt to convince everyone who loved and cared about me that I hadn’t. Yes, weird, because even now I could feel the burning sensation the bullet had caused, feel my breath being strangled as my lungs filled with blood. I clenched my hands tighter in my apron, fighting off the feeling of vertigo that overwhelmed me.
The police arrived a short time later. They questioned me first and it only took a couple of minutes to give my statement. It was strange that deputy gave me the same penetrating stare that my mom had as I told him my story. It was ridiculous, really, because the deputy didn’t know me at all. He knew my mother though. I was grateful when the two of them slipped off into a corner to talk affording me with the chance to escape. Now that Mom knew I was safe she could catch up on old times and perhaps forget to question me about what happened tonight.
After mumbling to Grams that I was going to lie down I raced for the stairs. Once I was inside the privacy of my own room, my unease began to subside and my heart finally regained its normal beating pattern. Of course my mother didn’t know anything, or the deputy, or even Katie, I reasoned with myself logically. Katie had hit the floor shortly after the gunman had fired his weapon. Things had happened so quickly after that. One minute I had been on the floor, the next minute on my feet again. I mentally shook myself, attributing my recent blaze of paranoia to the long string of lies I’d just told.
I drifted over to my mirror. The reflection that had been so neat and pristine before was a definite contrast to the one I gazed at now. My hair had escaped its tidy ponytail and now hung in wavy brown tendrils around my face. There was a small nick on my chin from where one of the shards of glass cut me when he smashed the ketchup bottle. I touched it now. The blood had already hardened into a scab. I had since resnapped my uniform but the front of it was covered with a giant blob of congealed ketchup.
I felt through the gelatin mass to the bullet hole in my uniform, fighting the urge to gag as I did. The bullet had been only inches from my heart. I began stripping off the dress quickly, as if being free of it would erase what happened, when I saw it…a glowing silver handprint on my chest. It stretched over the slope of my breast touching nearly to my collarbone. I traced it with my fingers. “This is too weird,” I said aloud.
I finished taking off the uniform and stuffed it into the folds of my still unpacked suitcase, which I had shoved under the bed earlier. While on the floor I caught sight of the phone book lying haphazardly along side my suitcase. With no clear plan in mind, I grabbed it and quickly flipped to the E’s. How many Evans could there possibly be in Roswell anyway, I thought. Apparently two and a half pages, full I found out a few seconds later. Even though it was late and seemed like a futile effort I grabbed the phone anyway.
I’d made it halfway through the second page when I decided to give up. I wasn’t going to find Zan Evans this way. Even if I called every Evans in the book that didn’t guarantee that his number was listed. I started to slam the phone book shut but then changed my mind. Something compelled me to try again. The desire pulled at me and I knew I couldn’t give up just yet. Just one more number and then I’d quit, I told myself. I found the listing where I’d left off and dialed the number. A male voice answered after the fourth ring.
“Hello, is Zan home?” I asked shakily. There was such a long pause after my question that I became certain I had a wrong number here as well. But when I would have hung up the man finally said in a slow, suspicious tone, “May I ask who’s calling.”
My heart began a wild whacking in my chest. I had found him. After nearly two hours of searching I had found him…and I had no idea at all what I was going to say. “Tell him it’s Claudia…fr-from the Crashdown.” More silence. Nervously, I asked, “It’s not too late, is it? He’s not asleep?”
“He’s awake,” he admitted, “Are you a schoolmate of his?”
I hadn’t been prepared to receive the third degree. “N-No, I just met him tonight.”
“Hmm,” was his only response.
Okay, this wasn’t going as I’d planned. I tried another tactic. “He-He, uh, left his wallet,” I improvised wildly, “I w-was his waitress and he left his wallet…here.”
Another heart stopping pause before he finally said, “I’ll make sure Zan knows. Thank you.” And then the line was dead. He’d hung up on me.
I stared at the phone curiously before slowly punching the off button. Though I had not clearly thought out what I would say when I called I had never once considered that he wouldn’t even be given the phone. The situation was just getting weirder and weirder. I’d already figured out the man I had spoken to was Zan’s father. According to the listing his name was Max Evans. I stored that away, knowing instinctively that this wouldn’t be the last time I’d call this number.
I had just finished placing the phone book back under my bed when the telephone rang unexpectedly, causing me to jump. I grabbed for it on the second ring. “Hello?”
“How’d you get my number?”
It was Zan. His tone wasn’t accusatory, rather quiet and a bit nervous. He had whispered his question. I wondered if he was sneaking the call, considering his father’s behavior when I’d called earlier. “You’re listed,” I whispered back and when he didn’t respond I asked, “How did you get my number?”
“Oh,” was all I could think to say. We were both silent for a moment and when we spoke again it was simultaneous. “I need to see you.”
“You shouldn’t have called here,” he told me in a hushed tone and then in response to my statement he added, “I can’t see you.”
“You can,” I insisted steadily, “I should be dead right now. You’re the only one who can explain why I’m not.”
I heard him heave a defeated sigh. “Fine. Meet me at the office buildings across the street from the Crashdown in twenty minutes.” He hung up.
I frowned at the phone in disgust, shaking my head slightly. He didn’t say good-bye either.
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Jul-2002 1:39:36 AM ]