posted on 9-Dec-2002 9:32:13 PM by SansuCry
Title: The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Dreamer Story
Author: SansuCry
Email: sansucry⊕earthlink.net
Rating: PG-13
Category: AU, M/L.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Roswell or any one associated with it.
Summary: My own little Roswell world. Tess doesn’t exist because my mommy taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The shooting never happened. It’s Christmas time, and Liz Parker has a Secret Santa. Will it turn out to be the man of her dreams?
Dedicated to Ian, because seven years later I still think of you and wonder why.

A/N: I know, I know. I promised that after Tricks and Treats I’d go back to Eyes of Fear and American Dream , but apparently my muse has other plans for me, so blame her. From the title, I’m obviously hoping this will be just the prologue and twelve parts, but you know how that goes…


Prologue
Thursday, December 7, 2000

“For those juniors participating in the Secret Santa project, don’t forget to leave your first gift with your homeroom teacher by noon tomorrow. As usual gift distribution will take place the last ten minutes of the day, so make sure you are in your homeroom class no later than two o’clock.”

Liz couldn’t help the melancholy smile that spread across her lips at the announcement over the loudspeaker. She had dreamed of taking part in the Secret Santa project since she had first heard about it freshman year. She always thought there was something romantic about buying a dozen little inexpensive gifts for someone while they were trying to figure out who the giver was. She had secretly hoped that when she finally participated in the junior class’s special activity she would miraculously draw the name of the only boy who could make her heart stop beating with one glance of his incredibly soulful amber eyes: Max Evans.

Although he had been her lab partner for a little over two years they had never talked much past exchanging pleasantries and comparing biology notes. He was pretty much a mystery to everyone at West Roswell, save for his sister Isabelle and best friend, Michael Guerin. When he had turned down Pam Troy’s invitation to join her in the eraser room for a little makeout time, rumors that he was gay had not been far behind.

Still, that didn’t stop Liz from fantasizing about being Max’s Secret Santa, more specifically what it would be like when Max discovered she was his Secret Santa. She could see the happily amused smile that would flutter across his face as he sat in the Crashdown and opened his final gift, or more appropriately, his final clue as to her identity. He would gently tug the festive paper off the carefully wrapped item, his mesmerizing eyes immediately meeting hers as the alien headband from her waitress uniform was revealed. Silently he would make his way across the crowded restaurant until he was standing before her, his lips just inches from hers. Tenderly threading the silver band into her hair his deep, sensuous voice would quietly resonate in her chest, “I’ve come to claim the rest of my gift.”

“And what would that be?” she would manage to ask despite her breathlessness.

“This,” he would whisper huskily as his mouth descended on hers. Just as she parted her lips in welcome he would…

“LIZ! LIZ! C’mon, we’re gonna be late,” Maria DeLuca’s voice hissed in her ear, startling her back to reality. “Homeroom’s over, so would you save the daydreams of Max for later? I can’t get another detention or my mom will kill me.”

Liz sighed dejectedly. It was only a daydream. She already knew that she would be buying twelve gifts for her best friend, probably one of the least romantic notions she could ever imagine. Besides, it didn’t really matter whose name she had drawn, because even if she had drawn a hundred times none of those names would have been Max’s. Year after year, ever since he had shown up in her third grade class, she had covertly watched him. She had silently questioned how such a sweet, handsome guy ended up being a loner, why he never once participated in any of the school’s athletic events or social activities and, most importantly, whether there would ever be anything she could do to rid him of the loneliness that always lay hidden behind beautiful amber eyes, eyes that she knew were capable of seeing into her very soul.

Yes, no matter how grand her dreams were, despite wishing on hundreds of stars, Liz knew that in the end there was one thing she couldn’t change.

She would never be Max Evans’ Secret Santa.

No matter how desperately she wanted to be.


[ edited 16time(s), last at 15-Feb-2003 9:36:35 PM ]
posted on 13-Dec-2002 4:08:10 AM by SansuCry
Hey there, everybody.

Thanks so much for the great feedback. I really appreciate it. Just so you know, these parts are going to be much shorter than my usual fare. This time of year is very busy for me, so I don't have the concentration or energy needed to write EoF or AD, but my muse still wanted some exercise. This is the result--I guess you could call it Sansu Light....anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Part 1

Friday
December 8, 2000

“Hey, chica. Ready to go?” Maria asked as Liz sat waiting in a booth at the Crashdown.

Liz made sure the tiny box holding the alien head necklace for Maria was hidden deep in her backpack. Playing Secret Santa wouldn’t be any fun if her best friend figured it out on the first day. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” she answered.

“I bet you’re really psyched to find out who your Secret Santa is,” Maria said jovially, knowing that Liz was a regular Nancy Drew.

“I suppose,” Liz answered as they walked out to the Jetta, unable to hide the disappointment in her voice.

“Let me guess,” Maria said sympathetically. “You’re bummed because you know it’s not going to be Max Evans.”

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting,” Liz remarked, but she did know what she had expected. She had expected to have her dream.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I got stuck with Pam Troy. How about you?”

“You wouldn’t know her,” Liz lied. “It’s someone who hangs out with the stoners.”

“That stinks,” her friend quipped as she started the car and backed out of the parking space. Trying to lighten the mood, she added, “I can’t wait to see what our Santas brought us.”

Liz gave her a polite nod, but she wasn’t really listening. Her mind was already on her second period class and the beautiful amber eyes she always looked forward to seeing there.



“Tommy Matthews.”

“Karen Musser.”

“Jenny Nathan”

“Laura Orozco.”

“Tony Orozco.”

“Liz Parker.”

Liz slowly stood up and made her way to the teacher’s desk, blocking out the endless chattering going on around her. Mrs. Bryant handed her a fairly large sized box, beautifully wrapped in gold foil paper. She gave the woman a grateful smile before returning to her place in the back of the room.

She knew she had no right to be disappointed. Whoever her Secret Santa was had obviously made quite an effort to make her first gift look pretty, so it wasn’t really fair to reject it simply because she hadn’t gotten her way. With a deep sigh she plastered on a happy smile and opened the small envelope attached to the outside of the package. Sliding out the small piece of paper she realized she’d get no clue from the handwriting. The note, printed from a computer in a script font, simply said:

Because you are sweeter than the finest chocolate…

A sincere grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. Her Secret Santa sure knew how to flatter a girl. Suddenly she couldn’t wait to see what was underneath the fancy paper. Carefully undoing the tape so that she could save the wrappings she let out a startled gasp as she saw the name emblazoned on the heart-shaped box. Hesitantly lifting the lid her eyes confirmed her surprise as she spied the delicacy she had previously seen only in photos.

Strawberry Truffles.

“Godivas?” Barbara Peters asked incredulously. “Your Secret Santa bought you Godivas? Wow.”

“What’s so special about a box of chocolates?” Jeff Rogers asked as Liz continued to stare down at the gift on her desk.

“Godivas aren’t just any box of chocolates. Besides the fact that they are sinfully delicious,” Barbara answered, “they’re incredibly expensive. That right there is at least thirty dollars. I guess it won’t be too difficult for Liz to decipher who her Secret Santa is.”

“How do you figure?” Jeff asked dumbly.

“How many people in this school can afford to buy presents like that, genius?”

“Oh,” he replied. “I see what you mean.”

Barbara rolled her eyes in disgust before turning her complete attention to Liz. “So who do you think it is? Mark Hiller? Or maybe Jeremy Edmonds? I just know it’s a guy.”

“I don’t know,” Liz said as she shook her head for emphasis.

“Well I do know that you are one lucky girl,” Barbara teased.

Try as she might, Liz only wished she could agree.




He sat staring at the computer screen Saturday afternoon, thinking of ways to compose his note for Monday’s gift.

She had told him that the Godiva chocolates had been a huge hit with Liz, but he had refused to believe her until he saw it with his own eyes. He had tried to conceal the goofy grin that insisted on making itself part of his features as he sat at his usual booth in the Crashdown earlier in the day, but it had been difficult to say the least. He would watch in fascination as Liz constantly went behind the counter and took out the heart-shaped box he had so carefully wrapped, her fingers lovingly caressing the raised pattern on the cover. Oh, what he would do for her to touch him like that just once.

But he would have to be content with watching her enjoy his gifts from behind his self-imposed tree. It had taken a little help and a lot of pushing on their part for him to follow through with his desire to be her Secret Santa, but even with all their insisting he had still refused to agree to reveal himself to her at the end of the twelve days. It was one thing to shower her with lavish tokens of his affection and worship her from afar, but something else entirely for her to know how much he loved her already, despite the fact that they had barely spoken to each other outside of comparing class notes and his almost daily order of Crashdown food.

He was the first to admit that his refusal to consider revealing his identity had everything to do with his very real fear of being rejected by her. They would probably be surprised to know, however, that his concern had little to do with his otherworldly status. In his eyes finding out he was not from around here would be an extremely valid excuse for her to want nothing to do with him, but from all that he had observed of her over the years he knew she was quite open-minded when it came to matters of science. He actually didn’t think she would have too much of a problem accepting the fact that aliens roamed the earth, but just because she accepted it didn’t necessarily mean she would want to date one of those said aliens. It didn’t mean she would want to date him, and as long as he didn’t know for sure he could keep his fantasies of a life with her intact.

For now he would use the anonymity afforded a Secret Santa to give her all the gifts he had ever dreamed of bestowing upon her. He would watch the smiles of joy on her face and pretend that she loved the gifts not because of what they were, but because he was the giver. He would pretend that she could fall in love with him as easily as he had fallen for her.

And for him, that would have to be enough.

posted on 13-Dec-2002 2:39:28 PM by SansuCry
quote:
Carol000 originally wrote:

How adorable! The only point of confusion for me is WHY Liz is positive it can't be Max. I mean, if she thought it was possible before she signed up for Secret Santa, what made it IMpossible later on?


Liz always dreamed of being Max's Secret Santa--she would be the one giving him gifts--but she knew it wouldn't happen because he never participates in anything.

Because of this, she would never think that Max might end up being her Secret Santa.

Does that explain it?
posted on 14-Dec-2002 12:24:42 PM by SansuCry
quote:
Cookie2697 originally wrote:

So who is Liz giving to, if she's lying to Maria?


Liz is buying gifts for Maria because she is Maria's Secret Santa (and obviously doesn't want Maria to know)...and Maria is Pam Troy's Secret Santa...and a certain gorgeous, sexy, behind the tree alien is Liz's Secret Santa.....now, is someone going to end up being Max's Secret Santa and giving presents to him? You'll just have to wait and see.

I didn't realize how confusing this all might end up being! LOL!

Sansu
posted on 18-Dec-2002 6:54:53 AM by SansuCry
Well, I'm finally back with Part 2. Just a few comments first...

quote:
Love this fic! BTW what are Godiva chocolates? I don't think we have them here!


Craig, you have my pity. Godiva's are delicious. I guess I know what to put in your next package! Until then you can drool at the pretty pieces here: Godiva
Oh, and a big thanks to my Spoiled Dreamer friends for the info.

quote:
Sansu Light, yum me- just how many calories and how addictive are we talking about here? After reading I'm already in withdrawl and completely lost without a hope


Lana, this cracked me up. As far as the addiction goes, may I recommend my Twelve Day, er I mean, Step program?


To everyone else--Thanks for your patience, feedback and bumps. It really means a lot to me.

Without further ado, here's Part 2. Let me know what you think.



Part 2

Monday
December 11, 2000


Liz loved Mondays.

Not that there was anything wrong with weekends. Despite her science geek reputation she did enjoy having a break from homework and boring lectures, and the fact that Max Evans would usually eat at the Crashdown at least once over the course of those two days more than made up for not seeing him in class. Standing in front of him as he looked over the menu always gave her ample time to drink in his handsome features without being too obvious about it. There she was just a waitress waiting to take her customer’s order, not a shy awkward girl afraid of being caught sneaking peeks at the hottest guy at West Roswell High. Like she was doing right now.

Max truly was the best looking guy in school. His skin was the color of a bronzed god, and his full lips were just the right blend of masculine softness to make her constantly wonder how they would feel and taste against her own. His strong jawline and high cheekbones curved in just the right manner to highlight unearthly amber eyes that were the best part of him. The way his raven black hair fell across his forehead gave him an innocent appearance that was completely contradicted by a firm, lean body so obviously created for all sorts of decadent pleasures.

Which led to the reason she loved the first school day of the week so much. Since freshman year colder weather heralded the arrival of what she called Max’s Monday sweater. Its simple black knit design had fit him rather loosely the first winter he wore it, but since then he had filled out quite nicely. Now it fit him perfectly, still comfortably roomy yet snug enough to reveal the sculpted treasure hidden underneath.

Each Monday he wore the sweater she was reminded of a similar one she had once seen at the Sears store in Hondo. She and her mother had planned a special trip out of town to buy new clothing for her foray into high school when she had come across the men’s black, V-neck pullover. In the few weeks she had been a freshman she had seen many female upperclassmen sporting such oversized sweaters and hadn’t understood the appeal of wearing clothing that was so obviously too big until Maria explained to her that the sweaters were the modern day equivalent of wearing a boy’s class ring. As she stood there in the middle of the store, fingering the soft ebony garment, she had wondered whether she would ever get the chance to wear a boy’s sweater like that. Now two years later she still asked herself that same question, only now it wasn’t just any boy’s sweater she wanted caressing her body. She wanted Max’s Monday sweater and its gorgeous owner.

“Liz?” he asked, bringing her out of her amorous thoughts.

“I’m sorry?” she answered, trying to not reveal how distracting he could be. “Did you ask me a question?”

“Mr. Seligman said we should start the experiment. Are you ready?”

‘Yes,’ she wanted to say. ‘Yes, I want to start experimenting with kissing you, and I don’t want to stop until we get a perfect result.’ Instead her cheeks pinked in embarrassment as she gently nodded her head in answer.

It was obvious that the only way she’d ever wear Max Evans’ sweater was for the latest trend to become sharing clothes with your lab partner, so she decided to turn all her attention to her Secret Santa. Had she been lucky enough that one of the few very wealthy kids at West Roswell had drawn her name? Were the Godiva chocolates a one-time extravagance or would she receive another elaborate gift today? If today’s present ended up being just as expensive as Friday’s, what about the final gift to be exchanged at the Christmas dance? Could her Secret Santa be romantically interested in her? It was a huge conclusion to draw from one box of candy, but she couldn’t help but indulge herself. In a few short hours she would have some answers, and she could hardly wait.




“Tommy Matthews.”

“Karen Musser.”

“Jenny Nathan.”

“Jenny?”

“She’s not here today.”

“Ok. Laura Orozco.”

“Tony Orozco.”

“Liz Parker.”

Her hands had started getting clammy the minute Mrs. Bryant began calling off names. She hesitantly stood up and walked to the teacher’s desk, suddenly aware that Alex was intently watching her. Her friend had been just as surprised as she was that her Secret Santa had such expensive tastes, and they had spent their lunch hour analyzing who that person could possibly be. Maria had been unusually silent on the subject, most of her time being used to stare down at her lunch and toy with her alien head necklace. Liz was glad her best friend had liked the gift, and she had no doubt that Maria would love the aromatic vial of cedar oil that was today’s present. Now the only question was whether Liz would like her own gift.

Taking the square package that was wrapped as carefully as Friday’s gift had been, she crept back to her chair and sat down. She stared at the red and silver paper for several minutes before Barbara prompted her to see what was inside. Just like before Liz opened the attached envelope to discover one line in neat computer generated script:

Because your intelligence rivals that of Earth’s smartest creatures …

Her brow immediately wrinkled in confusion. What could that possibly mean? Curiosity getting the better of her she unceremoniously tore the wrapping paper from the box and swiftly lifted the lid. “Oh my goodness,” she managed to breathe out on a startled gasp, her hand instantly covering her mouth in surprise. Nestled inside layers of tissue paper was a stunning blue crystal statuette of two dolphins dancing on the waves, their snouts, ‘technically their rostrums,’ the science geek inside of her corrected, touching as if in a kiss. It only took her a moment to realize she had seen these Kissing Dolphins in a Wyland catalog her parents had brought back from their anniversary trip to Hawaii last year. This was a miniature version of the sculpture she had drooled over with Maria, and she hoped that its diminutive size meant it had cost her Secret Santa significantly less money than the original as well. Even so, this gift made two things very obvious to her. Not only were her Secret Santa’s gifts going to be much more elaborate than the five dollar trinkets they were supposed to be, it appeared that her best friend was somehow assisting in their selection. She spent the rest of the day wondering what she should do with that information.




Putting the last of his books into his bookbag Max shook his head to stifle a yawn. The worrying and waiting involved with being a Secret Santa was exhausting, but he wasn’t about to complain. Liz Parker was worth every last bit of it.

He had stood by his locker at the end of the school day, waiting for Maria and Liz to meet up so that he could see whether Liz was excited about his latest gift to her. At first he had been hesitant to compare her to dolphins because, despite their superior intelect, they were still animals and he had feared that she might get the wrong impression. Then Maria had begun bouncing around in that excited way of hers, talking with her hands as she described the dolphin statue Liz had gushed about earlier in the year. It took some patient prodding before he had managed to get the name of the artist out of his partner in crime, but once he had it had been easy to find a website where several variations of the statue, appropriately titled Kissing Dolphins, were for sale. All it had taken was one look at the radiant smile that lit up Liz’s face to know he had made the right decision.

He checked his drawer one more time to confirm that he had already given Isabelle the next day’s present to drop off with their homeroom teacher. He had come up with a complicated schedule of who would bring the present to school each morning, glad that his friends were willing to accommodate his paranoia about being caught. Michael had jokingly suggested that he and Maria should wrap their Secret Santa gifts in paper and boxes identical to those of Max’s gifts to cover the trail even more, but the idea had been so good that Max had insisted they implement it immediately. He didn’t want to take any chances when it came to Liz Parker.

Tugging his sweater over his head, he couldn’t stop the upward turn of his mouth as he remembered the events surrounding the acquisition of his favorite article of clothing. His mother had dragged him along on her latest shopping excursion with Isabelle, insisting that just because he was a freshman didn’t mean he was old enough to stay at home alone. He had resented it at the time, but he had quickly learned to appreciate the mall in Hondo once he discovered that he was not the only Roswellian wandering around the Sears store. As was his usual m.o. when it came to Liz, he had covertly watched from the second floor balcony as she pulled a man’s sweater from the rack and experimentally held it up to her small frame. She would swim in it, he knew, but no matter what she wore she would always be attractive to him.

As soon as she and her mother had left the store he had rushed down the escalator to retrieve the item she had just held in her hands. He had been hit with a flash, something that was happening with increasing frequency as he grew older, and the accompanying thoughts and feelings associated with it nearly blew him away. He had half listened at the beginning of that first year of high school when Isabelle and her friends had discussed the strange ritual of a boy giving his favorite sweater to his girlfriend as a sign of her ‘taken’ status, so he had immediately recognized that Liz’s desire for the sweater was more about having a boyfriend than the actual garment. In any case he hadn’t been able to resist begging his mom to buy the V-neck pullover that day and now, two years later a tiny hope still flickered deep inside of him that one day he would be able to see that same black sweater caressing the soft curves of his dreamgirl.

Tossing it into the dirty clothes hamper he was suddenly hit with an idea of how to make that hope a reality much sooner than he could have ever imagined. He’d just need a little help from his sister to pull it off.





P.S. When I can find links to the gifts Max is giving Liz, I'll post them in the story. They'll be in color, like the Kissing Dolphins above.



[ edited 4 time(s), last at 18-Dec-2002 7:09:02 AM ]
posted on 18-Dec-2002 10:36:43 PM by SansuCry
quote:
Assilem_1 originally wrote:
Oh, but sidenote! Sansu, you should change your sig to this fic now that's Halloween's over . . . Just a suggestion . . . *wink*


Twelve Days is about the only thread I'm currently posting on (RL is killing me) so I don't really need to promote it to those already reading it.

I'm hoping that people who are reading Twelve Days but haven't read Tricks and Treats will see the link and go check it out, especially since I only have the epilogue to go before it's finished.

I know it's shameless promotion, but what the heck!

Sansu
posted on 21-Dec-2002 2:24:11 PM by SansuCry
The Board's Up! The Board's Up! Yea!

Here's the next part...enjoy and let me know what you think...


Part 3

Tuesday
December 12, 2000

“I’ve heard of making someone see stars,” Alex quipped as he stared at the ornate certificate in Liz’s hand, “but I’ve never seen it in such a literal sense before.”

Liz didn’t know what to make of her latest gift either. She had flushed with shyness as she read more of the eloquent flattery her Secret Santa apparently loved to write, still not quite ready to fully accept someone could feel that way about her.

Because one smile from you is more brilliant than the light of a million stars…

She felt sort of guilty that she wasn’t more impressed by the fact that her Secret Santa had paid to have a star named after her. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t help but think that the cheapest, most mundane gifts in the world would have held more importance to her if she had received them from the right guy…a very specific right guy. Nevertheless she plastered on an appreciative smile just in case her benefactor was watching.

“Wow, this even lists the exact location of the Liz Parker star,” Maria added as she glanced over Liz’s shoulder while gathering her books from her locker. The genuine surprise in her expression made Liz believe she may have been wrong about her best friend’s involvement with her Secret Santa. The dolphin statuette was more than likely just a bizarre coincidence. This was Maria, after all. If she really knew the identity of Liz’s Secret Santa, she would have accidentally blurted it out by now.

“I’m going to set up my telescope after work tonight and look for it. Do you two want to join me?” she eagerly asked.

“I’d love to,” Alex said with complete sincerity, “but I have a date with AP History tonight. I haven’t even written one sentence of my paper on JFK yet.”

“Isn’t that due Friday?” Liz questioned. “Talk about cutting it close.”

“I know. I know,” he conceded. “One of my New Year’s resolutions was going to be to stop procrastinating but I decided to put it off until next year.”

The two girls moaned in unison before Maria playfully slapped him on the shoulder.

“So what about you?” Liz asked the pixie haired girl.

“Gee, Liz, I’d love to stand outside and freeze my butt off looking for some little speck of light millions of miles away,” she said sarcastically, “but today is my mother/daughter bonding night. Gotta love tofu burgers, popcorn and a chick flick.”

“Suit yourself,” Liz answered in feigned hurt. “You’ll be sorry when I discover a new planet and become famous.”

“Then you’ll have a star and a planet named after you,” Alex observed as he patted her on the head like a little child.

All Liz could do was roll her eyes and swat his hand away.




Max nervously waited for Liz to come and take his order, his knee bouncing underneath the table the only outlet for the excess energy created by his tense mood. He loved being able to hide behind his menu and watch her as she mingled with the customers, her sweet laughter filling the room as she flirted with Mr. Patterson or teased the children as the dined with their parents. It reminded him of the playful exchange he had witnessed in the school hallway earlier in the day.

He had so desperately wanted to walk over and join her little group as she proudly showed off her star certificate. If he only had the courage he could have gone up to her and said, “Hey, I’m your Secret Santa, and the star named after you isn’t really a star but the planet my alien family fled from before it was sucked into a black hole.” Then she would have given him a loving look, and just before their lips met she would have whispered in that voice from his dreams…

“Max?”

No. Wrong voice. That was her waitress voice. He meant her bedroom…

“Max, are you all right?”

Oh, goodness. She was standing right in front of him, which meant she had probably caught him staring at her. Talk about embarrassing! “Yeah, I’m fine,” he fibbed. “I was just, uh, looking at the specials.”

She looked like she was about to call him on his bluff when she suddenly said, “Do you have any plans tonight?”

He stupidly gaped at her. There must be a hidden camera somewhere. Had Liz Parker just asked him whether he had plans for the night?

Before he even had time to comprehend the enormity of her question she began to explain, “See, my Secret Santa gave me a star. Well, he didn’t really give it to me. He just had it named after me. Anyway after my shift is over I was going to set up my telescope and try to find it but I thought it’d be more fun if I had someone to share it with except that both Maria and Alex turned me down so I was wondering whether you would want to join me. I figured you must be somewhat interested in the stars since we did take Astronomy together last year but you don’t have to feel like you have to join me if you don’t want to, okay?”

He tried like heck to keep a straight face but the combination of his giddiness over her question and his amusement at her little narration made it impossible for the corner of his mouth to not curve up in a half-smile.

Obviously flustered she said, “I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have asked. I…”

She was apologizing? She had just made one of his greatest fantasies come true and she was apologizing? This just would not do. Bravely reaching out and resting his hand on hers to get her attention, he waited until she had stopped talking before saying, “I would feel honored to join you.”

Her shocked eyes shifted from his face to the spot where his hand was contacting hers several times before she breathlessly asked, “You would?”

Suddenly self-conscious that he was actually touching her softer than soft skin he slowly withdrew his hand as he nodded his confirmation.

The smile she gave him definitely was brighter than the light of a million stars. “Great! That’s great,” she said cheerfully. “That’s really great, so I, um, I guess I’ll see you after my shift is over.” She turned and walked away before he could remind her that she hadn’t taken his order, so when she later returned with what he usually ate on Tuesday nights, complete with a bottle of Tabasco sauce, it made him wonder whether Maria was right after all.

Could someone as exquisitely perfect as Liz Parker actually be interested in him?




Max Evans is staring at you again.

Maria had uttered those words to her at least a thousand times, but she had never caught him in the act until tonight. She had just given the recently widowed Mr. Patterson another refill on his coffee, his excuse to not go home to an empty house, when she caught Max’s gaze out of the corner of her eye. She had assumed he was upset that she hadn’t taken his order yet, but when she was finally able to give him her full attention the look on his face was definitely not an angry one. If she didn’t know better she’d think he had been daydreaming, and since he had been staring at her the entire time she even dared to imagine she was part of that daydream.

That thought, coupled with the confidence her Secret Santa’s attentive notes had recently given her, had prompted her to make the bold move of asking him to stay and stargaze with her. She was certain she had sounded like an idiot as she had rambled out her invitation, so the fact that he was now standing on her balcony with her was pretty amazing. Even more amazing was that he seemed to be really enjoying himself.

After her shift had ended he had followed her upstairs to her family’s apartment, patiently waiting in the living room as she changed clothes and quickly straightened her neglected bedroom. He had been a little leery about crawling through her window to reach the balcony, but when she offered for him to use the fire escape instead he had quickly relented. They set up the telescope in no time, the years of working together as lab partners making each the perfect compliment to the other. No sooner had they gotten the night sky in focus than they started taking turns finding their favorite stars and constellations until they finally concentrated on the star that had been Liz’s latest gift. She tried for ten minutes to find it before she admitted defeat, throwing her hand up in frustration as she wiped away the tears from squinting into the eyepiece for too long. Less than a minute later Max had found the correct twinkling light and was offering her the first real look.

“So that’s it, huh?” she asked as she stared into the telescope. “I can’t believe how bright it is. It’s beautiful.”

“It sure is,” he said so quietly she thought she had imagined it. When she lifted her eyes to meet his he was staring at her again with the same dreamy look on his face from earlier.

Her cheeks began to flush under the intense scrutiny, so she decided to quickly return her focus to the telescope’s eyepiece before either one of them could be embarrassed. “How did you manage to find this so quickly?”

“Practice,” he wistfully admitted. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the stars.”

The ever-present loneliness that clouded his soulful eyes had crept into his voice with this comment, and she was compelled to abandon the telescope in favor of taking a seat next to him on the edge of the balcony. She wanted to tell him that there was no reason to feel lonely, that he didn’t have to alienate himself the way he did, that she would gladly be his confidant, but she simply couldn’t bring herself to do it. She may wish she knew him well enough to be that honest with him, but the truth was that she knew next to nothing about the boy who was at the center of her dreams. Maybe now would be a good time to change that. “So what do you think?” she asked innocuously, “Do you believe there’s intelligent life out there?”

An emotion she didn’t quite recognize flickered across his face but it was gone before she had a chance to analyze it. He raised his eyes to the heavens and contemplated the sparkling darkness for a minute before looking down at his hands. “Yeah. I do,” he said on a whisper, “and I think it may be closer than anyone could ever imagine.”

“I don’t know,” she teased, hoping to lighten his mood. “I have a pretty vivid imagination. I bet I could give Hollywood a run for its money when it comes to aliens. Thanks to Alex I think I’ve seen every alien-related movie there is at least a dozen times. ”

His eyes met hers, that same unrecognizable emotion lingering there for just a second before he asked, “Which do you think is more accurate? ‘Independence Day’ or ‘Close Encounters’?”

Grasping her chin as if in deep thought she hypothesized, “Although the coolness factor for the spaceships is up there for both films, I’d have to say that I subscribe to the ‘Cocoon’ school of alien life. I think that we’d be more of a curiosity to them than anything else. If they really wanted to take over Earth they would have done it by now.” Max nodded his agreement. “What about you?” she questioned. “Which movie do you think comes closest to what aliens would be like?”

“ ‘Starman’,” he answered with a conviction she didn’t know he possessed.

“ ‘Starman’” she commented. “That one doesn’t sound familiar. What’s it about?”

For the first time that evening Max looked uncomfortable, and she wondered what she had said to upset him. She was just about to ask him when he began, “It was made in the eighties and stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. It’s about an alien who takes on the form of this widow’s husband….” He trailed off when he saw the skeptical look on her face. “I know it sounds awful,” he continued, “but it is really good. I think it is one of those movies you just have to sit down and watch to appreciate it.”

“I guess so,” she remarked. “An alien in a dead man’s body just doesn’t seem all that appealing to me.”

“He isn’t in the dead man’s body,” Max explained. “He just takes on his form.”

“You mean he’s a shapeshifter? Like from the Terminator movies?”

“Sort of like that, but he’s not a machine.”

“Oh,” she simply said. After a few minutes of companionable silence she added. “I think that would be fascinating.”

“Video Vault still has it for rent if you want to see it,” he offered.

She let out an embarrassed laugh. “I wasn’t talking about the movie, although I might just give it a try over Christmas break. I meant that I think it would be fascinating to meet an alien for real, and not just to see whether it looks like all those drawings of little green men with black eyes. I can think of a million questions I’d want to ask it if we could communicate.”

“What kinds of questions?”

“Everything. What does it eat? How does it breathe? How is Earth different from its planet? Does it have emotions? A family? Does it know how it feels to fall in love?”

Max suddenly stood up and walked across the balcony to the telescope. She could sense his nervousness but decided to not call his attention to it, worried that her seemingly casual dismissal of his favorite alien movie in favor of discussing real aliens may have upset him.

He stared into the eyepiece for several long minutes before finally looking at her again. “Liz…” he began, his voice strangely emotional.

“What is it, Max?” Now she was starting to worry.

He took a deep breath. “Liz, the star your Secret Santa had named for you…I…”

“You what?”

“I…I think you should know that……that I……..I think it’s a really nice gift.”

The look on his face told her that he had planned to say something completely different. Could he possibly be jealous of her Secret Santa? What if he had wanted to ask her out but decided against it because of the elaborate presents she was receiving? What if he felt he couldn’t compete? “Max, about the Secret Santa gifts….”

“I thought you liked them,” he interrupted, almost as if he didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

“No, that’s not it. Don’t get me wrong. They’re nice, but…” but they’re not from you, she wanted to say. What if she was mistaken? What if Max had no interest in her outside of friendship? What if he knew who her Secret Santa was and had only wanted to ask her opinion of the gifts so he could report back to their giver?

“But?” he asked with curiosity.

“Nevermind,” she decided to answer. “Don’t pay any attention to me. It’s been a really long day, and I’m just getting tired.”

Max pulled up his jacket sleeve to look at his watch. “I should probably get going anyway. My mom sits up and worries if I stay out too late on a school night.”

“I know what you mean,” she sympathized. “I’m surprised mine haven’t been pounding on my bedroom door yet.”

As if her words were her father’s cue a loud knocking resonated from her bedroom door. “Lizzie, I think it’s time to tell your friend good night.”

She pushed herself away from the balcony’s ledge and knelt down in front of her window. “I’ll be right in,” she confirmed. Turning to Max she said, “Thank you for finding my star for me.”

“The pleasure was mine,” he replied. Fingering the white piece of equipment next to him he asked, “Do you want help taking this down?”

“No. I plan to leave it up for a few days, but thanks for offering.”

He gave her a barely perceptible smile. “I think I’ll try the fire escape,” he said as he headed towards the metal railing.

She stood up and followed behind him. “I promise that it’s perfectly safe.”

He turned to look at her with his piercing amber eyes. Even in the darkness it felt like he could see into her soul. “I trust you,” he said as he carefully stepped up and over the ledge.

The honeyed tone of his voice made her think that he was talking about much more than a trip down the fire escape. Without thinking she blurted out. “I don’t have a card.”

He stopped his descent to give her a puzzled look.

“I don’t have a membership card for Video Vault,” she explained, “so maybe you could rent the movie and we could watch it together sometime over break. I’ll supply the VCR and the popcorn.”

His entire face lit up with a smile. “I’d like that.”

“Yeah, me too,” she returned, his handsome face captivating her so completely that she couldn’t move. She didn’t realize he hadn’t moved either until another knock on her bedroom door brought them out of their mutual trance.

“Good night, Liz. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Max.”

As she drifted off to sleep an hour later, Liz silently thanked her Secret Santa and his elaborate gifts for delivering the man of her dreams to her very own balcony.





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Dec-2002 2:25:21 PM ]
posted on 22-Dec-2002 10:58:43 AM by SansuCry
testing
posted on 24-Dec-2002 10:11:28 AM by SansuCry
Hi, guys. Sorry for the delay, but the flu bug has knocked me on my bum. One minute my daughter and I are baking cookies, the next minute I'm tossing them....

Anyway, I hope all of you who celebrate have a Merry Christmas. I'll try to post my next update Thursday evening.

Happy Holidays!
Sansu


Part 4

Wednesday
December 13, 2000

He had almost told her the truth. All of it.

The evening couldn’t have been more perfect if he had dreamed it up himself. Not only did he get to be with Liz, but also the discussion had led to just the right opportunity for him to tell her the truth about his otherworldly heritage.

Does it know how it feels to fall in love?

Yes, he had wanted to tell her, and when an alien falls in love with his dreamgirl he would move the Earth and stars just to have a single night like the one they had just shared.

He had been so close.

“Liz, the star your Secret Santa had named for you…I…”

I came from that star. I had it named after you.

He had tried to force the words past his suddenly dry throat, but they just wouldn’t surface. Instead he had ended up focusing her attention on the Secret Santa gifts. Any thought he may have had about telling her the truth vanished with one simple sentence.

They’re nice, but…

But they’re nothing special to her, he thought, and neither was he.

Although he had never actually seen her date anyone, a girl as wonderful as Liz probably had guys constantly showering her with gifts. He had tried his best to make his stand out, but from that one line of conversation it was obvious he was failing.

They’re nice.

He didn’t want them to be nice. He wanted them to take her breath away.

When he had told Isabelle and Maria about his evening they argued that Liz only downplayed the significance of the gifts to spare his feelings. After all, she had no idea he was the one giving them to her. Still, he wasn’t about to take any chances. It was too late to change the rest of the gifts he had planned for this week, but he still had ample time to work on the ones for next week. He would have to ignore Maria’s warning about being too extravagant, but he could handle the tirade he was certain to receive from her if it meant Liz would indeed be left breathless.

He knew she had only mentioned watching ‘Starman’ together over Christmas break to be polite. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but hope that the movie watching date would be some kind of turning point for them, one where casual friends became so much more. Maybe by then he would have found the courage to tell her that he was her Secret Santa. In any case, he should take a trip to that new ritzy shopping center on the other side of town since next week would be here before he knew it.




It had taken every ounce of her resolve to not break down and cry in the middle of homeroom. Now, as she sat outside on her balcony, her mind was still reeling with the events of the past few days. She was even more confused than she had been the night before, when she had been sharing her special refuge with Max. After years of pining away for him she had finally worked up the courage to talk to him about something besides school or food. Stargazing with him was everything she had hoped it would be and so much more, but she still couldn’t be sure whether or not that was a good thing.

And it was all because of her Secret Santa.

Because your captivating eyes are more expressive than a thousand words…

She had told herself that the boy giving her gifts in the guise of her Secret Santa couldn’t possibly make her feel the same way she did when she was around Max, but with each passing day it was getting more and more difficult to make that assertion. Anyone who didn’t know her would think that the expensive gifts were the reason behind her change of heart, but that was the farthest thing from the truth. As she traced the rose pattern
on the leather journal that had accompanied the latest note from her Secret Santa, she couldn’t deny that the items he had chosen for her were beautiful and seemed to be exactly the things that she had surreptitiously wished for over the years. However, the most precious part of his gifts, and the reason she was so torn over her growing feelings for him, were the beautiful words that gave her a hint as to what each gift was and how it related to his feelings for her instead of revealing anything about his identity.

Barbara Peters had been right. There weren’t too many boys in their class who could spend the kind of money that it had taken for her to receive such expensive gifts, around two hundred dollars so far. At that rate her Secret Santa will have spent close to six hundred dollars before the time to show himself had arrived. Unless someone was so obsessed with impressing her that he had dipped into his college fund, her Secret Santa had to be one of four boys.

Grant Sorrenson’s dad was a fifth generation attorney, and his family was used to having and giving the best of everything. Grant would be a viable candidate except that he made it no secret at all that he was gay. With the obviously romantic tenor of the gifts she could easily cross him off the list. Danny Pierce’s family owned one of only two car dealerships in Roswell, so he definitely had the means to be her Secret Santa. However he had been with the same girl, Laurie DuPree, for as long as anyone could remember, so she doubted he was the boy behind the amorous notes. Sean DeLuca was Maria’s rich, arrogant, and totally self-absorbed cousin. His family shunned Maria and her mother since Maria’s father had deserted them in favor of a woman of ‘good breeding’ hand picked by the DeLuca family matriarch. Sean didn’t bother to hide his distaste for Maria or her friends, and Liz was sure he wasn’t capable of thinking about anyone but himself.

Which led to the only real choice of who her Secret Santa could be: Kyle Valenti. Unlike the others Kyle had not been born into money. His father had started out as a deputy with the Roswell Police Department. He eventually worked his way up to be the county sheriff, and when it became obvious that people wanted him to run for higher office he had begun taking night classes to become an attorney. After several years of lean days and long nights his hard work had paid off. The people had elected him as their district attorney. Through all those stages Kyle had remained the same happy, levelheaded guy he had always been. Even when he became the most popular jock at West Roswell High he still found time to tease her and call her cute little pet names like ‘Lizzie Tizzy’. They had always had a comfortable friendship. Perhaps the Secret Santa gifts were his way of telling her he wanted more.

Kyle was the kind of guy any girl would kill to go out with. He was steady and loyal. He had a sweet personality and wasn’t bad on the eyes. She should be flattered that he was interested in her enough to give her such lavish gifts and write all those beautiful words. After all, not many high school boys were that romantic.

But he wasn’t Max. And as much of a mystery as the elusive Mr. Evans might be, she had always felt somehow that she belonged with him. She had thought that last night had been a good beginning for them, that their tentative friendship may evolve into so much more, but when they met up in biology class it was as though last night had never happened. They were back to square one.

This is what had led her to nearly cry in homeroom. She was falling and she knew it. She just didn’t know which boy she was falling for: the one who wanted her or the one she wanted. It was like some bizarre love triangle.

Shaking off the thought she cracked open the journal and began to write.

‘It’s December 13th, and five days ago my heart came to life…’






[ edited 3 time(s), last at 24-Dec-2002 10:22:09 AM ]
posted on 27-Dec-2002 9:24:52 AM by SansuCry
Sorry guys...

Now my whole family is sick, so I don't think I'll be able to update for a couple of days until this passes.

And for those of you who asked, I always issue Happy Ending Insurance. The road to get there may be a little bumpy, but I'll make it worth the trip.

As for all your other questions...well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Sansu
posted on 29-Dec-2002 11:56:49 PM by SansuCry
Part 5

Thursday
December 14, 2000

“I still can’t believe what my Secret Santa gave me,” Maria said as she rolled her eyes in disgust. Holding up one of her Cheetos for emphasis she continued, “Orange nail polish! Can you believe it? Who in the world wears orange nail polish?”

Liz stifled a laugh. She had thought that the previous day’s gift to Maria, a token of the time in second grade when the two girls had gotten into Amy DeLuca’s makeup drawer, would be a definite giveaway of her identity. Obviously the details of the mess they had made that day was more deeply ingrained in her memory than in Maria’s. Nevertheless, she quickly decided that changing the subject would be a good idea. “I caught Max Evans staring at me when I was working Tuesday night.”

“It’s about time!” Maria said as she threw her hands up in the air. “So you finally believe me?”

Liz merely nodded.

“What did you do?” her friend asked excitedly. “What did he do?”

“I asked him to come look at the stars with me, and he said yes.”

“I guess it’s a good thing Alex and I were busy then, huh?” Maria teased.

“Yeah,” Liz answered dreamily.

“So spill and I’ll forgive you for not telling me about this sooner,” Maria ordered impatiently. “How was it? What am I saying? The two of you alone on your balcony. I bet it was romantic.”

A wistful look immediately came over Liz’s face. “He helped me set up the telescope, we looked at a bunch of stars and then talked about some movies. It was…perfect, or at least I thought it was.”

“What about Max? Did he enjoy himself?”

“I think he did…” Liz hesitantly answered.

“But…” Maria prompted.

“I don’t know. Things were going great, but then he mentioned the star being one of my Secret Santa gifts and…after that he started to act a little strange.”

“What do you mean by ‘a little strange’?” the pixie blonde asked with curiosity.

Liz didn’t quite know what to say to her friend. There was no easy way to explain the turbulence she had seen in Max’s usually placid eyes. The change in his demeanor hadn’t lasted more than a minute, but Liz still hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that he had wanted to tell her something important. After he had remained his stoic self in biology yesterday she was afraid that he had felt cornered into accepting her movie invitation, but earlier today when she had tried to give him a way to beg out of it he had been very enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing his favorite movie with her. “It was probably just me being paranoid,” she conceded as she stared out over the quad. “He wouldn’t have agreed to a date with me if he hadn’t enjoyed himself, right?”

“Hold on a minute. First you ask the guy to stargaze with you, and then you ask him out on a date? Who are you and what have you done with the real Liz Parker?”

“I’m right here,” Liz said in mock insult.

“No,” Maria shook her head. “The Liz Parker I know has been silently pining over Max Evans for years. Now not only does she get up the nerve to talk to him about something besides Bunsen burners, but she asks him out on a date as well? What gives?”

“It’s not like a real date,” Liz argued. “We’re just going to rent ‘Starman’ over Christmas break.”

“Are you going to sit next to each other and watch it?”

“Yes.”

“And eat snacks together?”

“Probably.”

“And hope his hand ‘accidentally’ meets yours over the popcorn bowl?”

“Maybe.”

“And pray that neither of you pulls away when it’s time to kiss goodnight?”

“Maria!”

“Don’t’ fool yourself, Lizzie. It’s a real date,” Maria concluded. Wrinkling her brows in thought she added, “Christmas break is probably the worst time to be renting movies, though, ‘cuz everyone else will be out of school and renting them, too.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Liz remarked.

“Why can’t you guys get together this weekend instead?” Maria suggested.

Liz had felt pretty guilty over her confused feelings for Max and Kyle, but after writing it all out in her journal she had reached the conclusion that she felt no real attraction to Kyle. She loved the beautiful notes he had written, but only because she wished that a certain other boy would someday feel that way about her. However, even if she never received one romantic word from Max, Kyle still deserved to be let down easy. Somehow she didn’t think letting herself be seen on a date with another guy was the best way to do that, no matter how much she would have liked to spend part of the upcoming weekend with Max. She really didn’t care to explain all of this to Maria at the moment, so she just said, “My mom and I already made quite a few plans, so I don’t think there will be enough time. Besides Max probably already has plans of his own. I’m sure he has more important things to do than wait around for me.”

Maria snorted and shook her head, “Suit yourself, chica.”




Because your beauty is magnificent, yet your most precious treasure rests inside...

Liz carefully pried open the lid of the cardboard box that had been immaculately wrapped in blue metallic paper.

“Ooooh, that is…wow,” Barbara cooed as Liz lifted the intricately designed jewelry box from its protective packaging.

Liz closed her eyes and let out a frustrated sigh. She had never seen such beautifully carved wood before, but she couldn’t truly enjoy it knowing it was from someone she had no romantic interest in. There was no way she could accept it, especially knowing how much Kyle must have paid for it. She would have to return it to him, even if it was exactly the kind of jewelry box she had always dreamed of owning.

During the middle of the previous period she had seen him and the rest of the basketball team boarding the bus for an away game, so she knew there was no point in looking for him after school. She would just have to catch him before class in the morning and lure him away from his jock friends for a private conversation.

It was time to put an end to her Secret Santa’s amorous inclinations.




Max stretched out across his bed on his stomach as the first melancholy notes of Counting Crows filled his room. He still couldn’t believe he had almost completely ignored Liz in Biology class the day before. He had been so engrossed in planning the rest of his gifts for her and analyzing his discussion with Maria and Isabelle that the entire hour had flown by before he realized he hadn’t said more than a handful of words to her. Then his mom had made him help with so many Christmas decorations when he came home from school yesterday that he hadn’t even been able to get to the Crashdown to offer his apologies.

This morning had gone much better, especially since Liz had easily accepted his lame excuse for his rudeness. He was astonished to learn that she thought he hadn’t really wanted to watch ‘Starman’ with her, so he had immediately quelled that notion with enough eager words to leave no doubt as to how much he was looking forward to being with her.

Unfortunately the afternoon had taken a downturn when the small slip of paper known as a bathroom pass had afforded him the opportunity to see firsthand her reaction to his latest gift. It had been easy to tell by the look on her face that she hadn’t liked the jewelry box. He had spent so much time looking for the perfect one that he had been rather proud of it, but it was apparent that he didn’t know her nearly as well as he liked to think he did, even after years of memorizing any little thing that had ever caused her eyes to sparkle or had brought a smile to her lips.

Caressing the soft black sweater one last time, he folded the red and green ribboned paper over it and fastened the edges with invisible tape, making sure the corners of the envelope were firmly held in place as well. He could only hope that this gift would elicit a very different response from her.

Because if she rejected it, he would be devastated.

posted on 31-Dec-2002 1:35:37 AM by SansuCry
Thanks for all the well wishes, folks. Everyone seems to be on the road to recovery so tomorrow night I'm going to make up for all the treats I missed on Christmas Eve and Day!

Here's the next part. Hope you enjoy...

Part 6

Friday
December 15, 2000

As Liz approached Kyle and his buddies Friday morning she realized this was going to be more difficult than she had imagined. How did you go about breaking someone’s heart?

“Hey, Kyle,” she said sheepishly when a half dozen sets of eyes suddenly all focused on her.

“Hey there, Lizzie Tizzy. Did you come to congratulate us on last night’s spectacular game?” Kyle teased as he gestured for her to join the group.

“Um, not really, but congratulations anyway,” she said nervously. Her eyes darting away from the boys she elaborated, “Actually, I kind of needed to speak to you. Alone.”

This elicited a chorus of whistles and catcalls from Kyle’s friends before he noticed the embarrassed flush on Liz’s cheeks. One withering glare from him made the noises abruptly cease. He gave Liz an apologetic smile as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and led her away from his friends. “Don’t mind them,” he said loud enough for the precocious gang to hear. “They’re just jealous that I got the attention of the prettiest straight-A student at West Roswell.”

Kyle was being so sweet that she knew this was going to be much more difficult than she had imagined. She gave him a grateful smile but remained silent as they walked toward a secluded spot in the main entrance’s courtyard. He withdrew his arm from her so they could remove their bookbags before sitting down together on one of the stone benches.

“What’s up, kiddo?” he asked curiously as he rested his bag against the leg of the bench.

Liz took a deep breath as she removed the handful of notes from the pocket of her bag and reluctantly handed them to him. She let him slowly read through each one before she said, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t flattered by these, but I don’t think I can be more than friends with you.”

“Ohhhkaaayyy,” he drawled out as he gave her a confused look.

“And I’m going to return all the gifts to you,” she said emphatically.

“Gifts?”

“Well, not the journal because I’ve already written in it…”

“What gifts?”

“…or the strawberry truffles because they were so good they were gone within the first twenty-four hours…”

“Liz?”

“…but I insist on giving you whatever you paid for both of them…”

“Liz.”

…and I don’t quite know what to do about the star. I doubt they’ll give you a refund on that…”

“Liz!”

“I’ll even drop the other gifts off directly at your house to avoid any embarrassing scene here at school. Just let me know when would be a good time…”

“LIZ!”

Her mouth suddenly snapped shut as she realized he was yelling her name.

“Liz, what on Earth are you talking about?” he asked with amused irritation.

“It’s ok, Kyle,” she patiently explained. “I’m sure this is a little upsetting to hear, but I know you’re the one who wrote the notes and gave me the gifts. There’s no need to deny it.”

“Why, exactly, would I be writing you love notes and giving you gifts?” he questioned.

“Because you’re my Secret Santa,” she said in her best talking-to-a-four-year-old voice, “and you’re in love with me.”

“Um, no. I’m not,” he replied.

“You don’t have to pretend,” she offered as she tensed in frustration. “I figured it out already. Please don’t make this any harder for either one of us.”

Kyle pried open her clenched fist and placed the notes on her palm. “I think you’re a nice girl, Liz. A really nice girl, but in a friendly buddy pal kinda way, you know? So whatever you may be thinking, I did not write these notes and I cannot possibly be your Secret Santa.”

Realizing he was telling the truth, she asked in a squeaky voice, “You can’t?”

“Nope,” he said while trying to contain a sympathetic smile.

“Why not?” she hesitantly inquired.

“I didn’t sign up to be in the program,” he explained.

“You didn’t?” she asked as the blood began to drain from her face.

“Nope,” he confirmed. “I’m not into Christmas and the whole gift giving thing anymore.”

“Since when?” she whispered.

“Since I met this great girl while visiting my Grandpa in Montana this past summer.”

“A girl?”

“Yup,” he replied. “Her name’s M.G., she’s from New Jersey, and she’s beyond great. She taught me all about Buddha and how to find my inner peace. She says material possessions are merely obstacles designed to distract you from finding the path to true enlightenment.”

“That’s nice,” she absently commented. Her eyes suddenly widening as his words sunk in, she buried her face in her hands and let out a deep moan. “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this. I can’t believe I thought you were in love with me. Just put me out of my misery and shoot me now. Please?”

Kyle put his arm around her shoulder and rested his forehead against her temple. “Don’t be embarrassed, Lizzie. While I can’t take credit for the notes, it’s at least nice to know that someone around here thinks I can do more than just bounce a basketball up and down the court. Whoever did write them, though, really has a thing for you,” he observed. With a teasing laugh he said, “I hope for his sake that you’ll give him more of a chance than you gave me.” Liz’s answering groan elicited a second laugh from him before he asked in a soothing tone, “Do you think you can manage to look at me?”

She hesitated a minute before lowering her hands and turning her face sideways to meet his gaze.

“Would you feel better if I just pretended this entire conversation never took place?” he questioned.

She wordlessly nodded her head.

“Ok, then,” he answered. “I give you my vow as a Buddhist and a friend, Miss Lizzie Tizzy Parker, that I will never utter a word of this to another human being for as long as I live. I’ll even seal my promise with a kiss,” he added as he gently pressed his lips to her forehead.

She flashed him a relieved smile as he pulled away and gave her a mischievous wink.

“Do you feel better now?” he inquired.

“Yeah,” she said with a shake of her head. “Thanks, Kyle.”

“Don’t mention it,” he joked. “I know I won’t.”




Max dashed up the stairs and into the front entrance of the school, hoping that he’d still have time to get his usual morning glimpse of Liz before the bell for first period rang. He was running late since Isabelle had taken forever to get ready, but with all the help she had been giving him lately he could hardly be irritated with her.

He had no idea how he was going to make it through all his classes without going crazy. He had barely slept last night, the shiny wrapping paper on today’s present for Liz acting like a beacon in his moonlight bedroom. He had waited two years for this day to arrive, and in just a few more minutes, when Isabelle delivered the present to their homeroom teacher, there would be no turning back.

He looked out over the courtyard toward the Art wing to see whether Michael had arrived yet when his eyes did a double take. Sitting on one of the stone benches in a secluded corner of the courtyard was Kyle Valenti, the most popular guy at West Roswell and someone Max readily envied. The sports superstar and Liz had always been friendly with each other, sharing a rapport that Max was more than a little jealous of, and if what he was currently seeing were any indication, then the two had apparently decided to cross the line from friendship into something more.

He stared transfixed as Kyle rested his forehead against Liz’s temple, an innocent yet intimate gesture that he himself had dreamed of doing to her at least a million times over the years. His heart froze in his chest as he saw the familiar pieces of paper clutched in her hand. They were laughing at the notes he had written her!

Liz turned to gaze into Kyle’s eyes, a serene smile crossing her features as her new boyfriend devoutly whispered all the things he had hoped to someday tell her. He finally found the strength to turn away when Kyle’s lips adoringly caressed her flawless skin. He couldn’t bear to watch her return the kiss.

He wanted to escape. His mind screamed for him to sprint out the door he had just entered and to keep running until he could no longer breathe, until the ache that had suddenly seized his heart completely overtook his body and paralyzed him forever. Instead he angled to the left and followed the path his sister had taken to their homeroom. He had to get his present back before it was too late.

He had been such a fool to think that Liz Parker would ever be his girl.




She had sensed Max’s somber mood before she even entered the lab.

Anyone who heard her say that out loud would probably think she was insane, but she knew beyond a doubt that it was true. This wasn’t the first time she had known Max’s temperament without having to lay eyes on him. It should feel strange to be so in tune with someone she barely knew, she distantly thought, but instead it just felt right in a way that she couldn’t even begin to put into words. Since she seemed to be so aware of his morose disposition she decided it was her job to try to cheer him up, even if it meant revealing the embarrassing conversation she had shared with Kyle earlier that morning.

“Bad day?” she asked sympathetically.

“You could say that,” he answered in a flat tone.

“I bet it didn’t start out as bad as mine,” she pressed.

“I don’t know about that,” he mumbled to himself.

“Well, I think I have you beat unless you can top making a huge fool out of yourself in front of one of West Roswell’s most popular students,” she quipped.

Max squeezed his eyes closed in exasperation. The last thing he wanted to hear was Liz’s description of anything that had gone on between her and Kyle this morning. It had taken every ounce of restraint to not rip apart the present he had retrieved from Isabelle just seconds before she was to turn it in, so he didn’t think he had much reserve left to stomach a detailed account of Liz’s affectionate behavior toward the bane of his existence.

He knew he really had no right to be acting the way he was. After all, he had been the one to insist that Liz not know of his interest in her, even after Maria had assured him time and again that Liz was just as interested in him. If the girl of his dreams had finally decided to seek solace in the arms of another guy it was his own darned fault. He was the one who had been a coward, so the least he could do was be happy for her.

“What happened between you and Kyle?” he managed to choke out.

Liz immediately recognized that she hadn’t attached Kyle’s name to this morning’s incident and suddenly wondered whether Max had been witness to the conversation. That couldn’t possibly be why he was in such a melancholy state, could it? She had been so worried about letting Kyle down easy that it had never occurred to her that Max might see them together and get the wrong impression. Didn’t he understand that he was the only guy she wanted to be with? If he didn’t know it yet, he would within the next few minutes.

Using the pretext of secrecy she leaned in close to him, inhaling the wonderfully clean, masculine scent that was uniquely his. She couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel to be surrounded by that scent as he held her in his arms, her face turned up to stare into his gorgeous amber eyes as he threaded his fingers through her hair to guide her mouth to his. Would he taste as good as he smelled? Would the passion she sometimes saw flickering in his eyes be manifested in his kiss as well? Realizing she’d never find out if he believed she was interested in Kyle, she quickly whispered, “I thought he was my Secret Santa.”

“Oh?” he asked, trying to sound as neutral as possible when all he wanted to do was scream, “I’m your Secret Santa. I’m the one desperately in love with you, not him!”

“And since my Secret Santa has been writing me romantic notes and giving me these very expensive gifts, I assumed that meant Kyle wanted to be more than friends,” she explained as she carefully observed him. His sudden edginess confirmed her suspicion, so she hastily continued, “Except that I don’t like Kyle that way, and I thought it was only proper to tell him so before he went broke buying me more fancy presents. The only problem is that Kyle’s not my Secret Santa, so I made a fool out of myself by insisting we could only be friends when he had no romantic interest in me in the first place. The whole thing was pretty embarrassing. Thankfully Kyle was pretty cool about it and promised to never tell another living soul.”

Enhanced by his lack of sight, the scent of strawberries and vanilla, her scent, was more than overpowering. He couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel to be surrounded by that scent as he felt her silky hair flow through his fingers, his other hand holding her tightly to him as he lowered his mouth to meet hers. “Then why are you telling me?” his shaky voice asked as his mouth began to curl with the hint of a smile.

She bravely brushed her lips against the outer edge of his ear. “Because you looked like you needed to be cheered up, and for some reason I thought that this particular story just might do the trick.”

He finally opened his eyes and turned toward her, his cheek gently stroking against hers with the movement. If he turned just a little further their lips would be touching. “It did,” he replied in the same emotion-filled voice he had used that night on her balcony.

“Mr. Evans, Miss Parker, if you are done with your private little powwow the rest of the class and I would like to get started with today’s lesson,” the teacher’s voice pierced the haze that had settled between them. The couple immediately separated and shyly looked down at the lab table, both of them too embarrassed to meet the eyes of their snickering classmates.

The next hour lasted an eternity as the couple stole longing glances at each other while enduring Mr. Seligman’s nasal voice as he lectured on the unique characteristics of the fruit fly. Unwilling to draw any more of the teacher’s attention, Liz scribbled a note on a piece of scrap paper and covertly slid it to Max.

Maria suggested that we rent ‘Starman’ this weekend instead of over Christmas break so that we don’t have to fight everyone else who wants to watch it over vacation. What do you think?

Max wanted to find Maria and give her a huge kiss. This was one time when her penchant for being nosey wasn’t unwelcome in the least little bit. However, the thought of Liz’s best friend suddenly reminded him that he had a little problem. Now that Liz had told him point blank that there was nothing going on between her and Kyle, he had to find a way to sneak her Secret Santa present, currently residing in his locker at the other end of the school, into her homeroom before the end of the day. The only chance he would have to do that was right after this class, so despite his intense desire to stay and talk to Liz he would have to make a mad dash for the door as soon as the bell rang. He quickly scribbled his reply on the paper and slid it back to her.

Sounds like a great idea. I can’t stick around after class to talk about it, though. Meet me after school instead?

She read the note and a radiant smile lit up her features. Her eyes meeting his she mouthed the word ‘Where?’

‘Your locker?’ he mouthed back.

She eagerly nodded. Now that she knew Kyle wasn’t her Secret Santa she truly had a dilemma on her hands. However, even if her mystery man turned out to be Brad Pitt she knew she wouldn’t choose him over Max. The only thing she could do until her generous benefactor decided to reveal himself, or at least give her some real clue as to his identity, was gracefully accept his gifts and hope they didn’t make Max too jealous.




“Tommy Matthews.”

“Karen Musser.”

“Jenny Nathan”

“Laura Orozco.”

“Tony Orozco.”

“Mark Patterson.”

“Joyce Penns”

“Barbara Peters.”

Mrs. Bryant called out the name on each package until her desk was empty. Liz was still debating whether she should bring the fact that she hadn’t received a gift to the teacher’s attention when Barbara Peters called out, “Hey, where’s Liz’s? Seeing what her Secret Santa gave her is the highlight of my day.”

Mrs. Bryant looked around her desk and then frowned. “Liz, why don’t you go down to the office and see if your gift is there. Perhaps it was sent to one of the other homerooms by accident.”

Reluctant to be the center of attention for the second time that day Liz hesitantly gathered her things and timidly headed for the door. Her shoes echoed in the empty hallway as she made the short trip from the classroom to the office, wondering whether her gift had really been misdirected or had just not existed in the first place. What if Max weren’t the only one to witness her little scene with Kyle this morning? By the time the secretary got around to helping her the bell to signal the end of school had already rung. With a quick confirmation that there had been no gift left for her she jogged out of the office to go meet Max at her locker, the intensity of her disappointment at leaving empty-handed surprising her. No romantic note and fancy gift from someone she wasn’t interested in was supposed to be a good thing, wasn’t it?

As she approached her locker she could see Max was still down the hall in front of his, sorting out and collecting the books he would need to bring home for the weekend. She dropped her bookbag at her feet, trying to concentrate on her locker combination with one eye while continuing to focus the other eye on Max. It wasn’t until she got the door opened and reached in for her books that she noticed the present resting on top of the pile. She let out a startled gasp before reaching for the envelope taped to the red and green ribboned paper. Gingerly running her finger along the crease she pried the flap open and pulled out the note.

Because your skin should be caressed by something that is as soft as it is…

He had wanted to stay away from her locker until after she had opened his gift, but the urge to be close to her was simply too great. He arrived at her side just as she tore the paper away and got her first glimpse of the sweater.

“This is beautiful,” she whispered as she held up the black short-sleeved cardigan, “and it’s real angora .”

He remained silent as she brought the sweater up to her cheek and rubbed against it like a kitten greeting its owner, proudly noticing that her eyes had curved into crescents like they did when she was really happy about something.

“These pearl buttons are just the perfect accent,” she said as she carefully undid them to slide the sweater on over her white turtleneck. She quickly fastened them and smoothed the material out over her curves, his eyes following every little movement her lithe fingers made.

She froze as she realized Max was standing next to her while she gushed over a present she had received from another boy. She immediately dropped her hands to undo the buttons as she said, “I’m sorry for being so insensitive. Let me just get this off…”

“DON’T!” he yelled as he stilled her fingers, causing both of them to jump in surprise. “I mean, you don’t have to take it off on my account,” he added calmly.

There was something about his voice, that honeyed tone she had heard a few times before, that made her stomach flutter in delight. “You like the sweater?” she quietly asked.

“That depends,” he answered cryptically as he toyed with the bottom button.

“On what?” she curiously questioned.

“On whether or not you’ll agree to wear it without the white shirt when we watch ‘Starman’ together this weekend,” he said with a glint in his eye.

“I’m pretty sure I can arrange that. Let’s say for Saturday night?” she teased.

“In that case, I like the sweater a lot,” he replied as he willed her to see the truth in his eyes, “but not nearly as much as I like the beautiful girl wearing it.”

And both of them couldn’t help but think that the weekend was getting off to a darn good start.

posted on 4-Jan-2003 4:29:27 AM by SansuCry
quote:
2crzy4roswell originally wrote:

Is that beautiful woman modeling that sweater you? I hope so. I got this Dreamer idea that your hubby is just as romantic as your Max. In my mind, your Max takes notes from him.


No, that's not me in the sweater...I'm a little more generously sized than that! *wink*

As for my hubby, whom I affectionately call Bird, he isn't the note-writing kind of romantic guy, but he has shown me more love than you could imagine. I've known him since I was 12, when he was originally my sister's friend. When I was 16, he told me he was in love with me, but I didn't take him seriously. When I was 17, we dated for a short time but my father put the kibosh on that since he was 24 at the time. Bird asked me to marry him then, but I turned him down. I went off to college and due to a screwed up family life I ended up marrying someone I shouldn't have, separated after six months, and ended up dating hubby again (who, BTW, had begged me to not marry the other guy because he knew I deserved better. He jokingly says that is the only thing I have ever been wrong about!)

After about a year of being together as a couple, my grandfather became too ill to live alone, so Bird suggested that we move in with my grandfather so that he could live out his days in the house he had built by hand. Eventually grandpa became bedridden, and Bird was there every step of the way to do whatever needed to be done to care for him.

Bird proposed to me the Christmas after grandpa passed away and I accepted this time, then proceeded to end up in the emergency room after passing out. I had turned so blue that he was certain he had killed me!

We got married a year later, and on the way home from our honeymoon I got so dizzy I couldn't move. Turns out I had double vision, so the docs ran a bunch of tests but before the results came back I had passed out again and ended up in the ER. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis two days later, and for six months the double vision made me so sick that I could barely move. Finally I recovered enough to be mobile, but it was almost a year after our wedding before I had enough strength to be a 'honeymooner'.

I was taking some experimental drugs for the MS and against amazing odds I ended up pregnant. We went through five months of hell wondering whether our baby would be free from birth defects. Thankfully she was, but when she was born she aspirated meconium and ended up in the NICU for a week. She endured many respirtory problems as an infant but she did get better and is now a very intelligent, happy little girl.

So my husband has been a loving caretaker to my grandfather, our daughter, and to me, never once complaining about any of it. He does sweet little things for me every day, like making my toothbrush, making sure I have my favorite kind of soda chilling in the fridge, and patiently tolerating my intense obsession with a little t.v. show called Roswell.

Is he perfect? No. He still leaves his dirty clothes laying around on the floor, but I know in my heart that if anything were to happen to him, I'd be begging God to give me the chance to pick up after him just one more time.

So now that I've told you more than you probably wanted to know about the man who is my Max Evans, I think I'll post a new part to the story.

Sansu




posted on 4-Jan-2003 4:33:21 AM by SansuCry
Sorry this took so long. I had to find my copy of 'Starman' and watch it to get all the quotes.....


Part 7

Saturday
December 16, 2000


“I’m thinking about telling Liz I’m her Secret Santa.”

“It’s about time,” Michael grumbled.

“Thank God,” Maria huffed in relief as she spun back and forth on the barstool in Michael’s apartment. “Now I don’t have to worry about letting it slip.”

“Actually,” Max cringed, “you can’t say anything just yet. If I do tell her, I want it to be at the Christmas dance.”

“But that’s another week!” Maria sputtered. “Why are you waiting?”

“Because the rules say I can’t tell her I’m her Secret Santa until the night of the dance unless she guesses it on her own,” he explained.

“Well the rules also say you’re supposed to be giving her clues about your identity, but I don’t see you following that one too closely,” she teased.

“I’m giving her clues,” he protested.

“I meant clues she could understand,” the blonde clarified. When he remained quiet she asked with concern, “You were so dead set against her knowing. Not that I’m complaining, but why the sudden attitude change?”

He didn’t think he could talk about how it felt to have his heart ripped out of his chest when he saw Kyle kiss Liz. Besides, it wasn’t his place to tell Maria about Liz’s humiliating encounter with the popular jock. Still, he owed his friends some sort of explanation, especially since they had agreed to support him in whatever decision he made. “I don’t want to lose her before I even have her,” he simply said.

“Like that would ever happen,” Maria said as she rolled her eyes. Exasperated she asked, “How am I supposed to keep quiet for another whole week?”

Michael walked around the counter and grabbed a hold of the barstool. Rubbing his nose against Maria’s he said in a deep voice, “I can think of a few interesting ways to shut you up.”

Max turned away as the couple shared an intimate kiss, good-naturedly mumbling, “Get a room, you two.”

“Hey,” Michael answered in a gruff tone that was more show than substance, “this is my room. This whole apartment is my room, so if you don’t want to watch get your jealous Antarian butt out of here.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” he said wryly as he went to the door.

“Remember, Max,” Maria called out, “fingers colliding over the popcorn bowl is your clue to hold her hand!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed as he solidly shut the door behind him.

Despite his teasing, Max was glad to see how close Michael and Maria had become. His best friend had suffered greatly at the hands of his foster father and as a consequence had a strong mistrust of humans. It had been more than surprising when the usually rebellious alien had suddenly settled down and had begun to study for his classes with a diligence Max didn’t know his friend possessed. Although it meant they spent much less time hanging out together Max was glad that Michael finally seemed at peace with himself, at least until he discovered the reason behind his friend’s drastic changes. He had attributed them to Michael’s new status as an emancipated minor until the day toward the end of September when he had inadvertently walked in on his best friend making out with the best friend of his dreamgirl.

It was upsetting enough that Michael had conveniently neglected to tell him he had a girlfriend, but when Max realized Maria knew the secret of their alien heritage he had been so furious at Michael for breaking their sacred pact that for over six weeks he refused to speak to his spikey-haired friend. He was finally forced to deal with the situation at the beginning of November when a crying Maria had showed up on his doorstep and refused to leave until she talked to him. The minute he let her into the house she accused him of being jealous of her and Michael’s relationship then proceeded to tell him that Michael had broken up with her because of his silent treatment. He had denied any liability in the matter until her parting words had stopped him cold.

“I love Michael with all my heart, and I’d give up my life before jeopardizing his or Isabelle’s or your safety. He thinks of you as a brother and he’ll do whatever you say no matter how much it hurts him, including giving up the only thing he has ever wanted. It’s a shame, you know, because if this situation were reversed he would never try to come between you and Liz.”

“Liz?” he asked in shock.

“That’s assuming you’d ever have the guts to admit you’re in love with her in the first place.”

He felt like she had stabbed him in the heart. “How did you know?” he questioned, stunned to hear her reveal the one secret he guarded more closely than his otherworldly status. Even Michael and Isabelle had no idea how special Liz Parker was to him.

“I’ve seen the way you stare at her when you think no one is looking.”

“Does Liz know?” he asked, terrified to hear the answer.

“That you’re in love with her,” she asked angrily, “or that you’re an alien?”

His eyes nervously shifted away from the one person whose knowledge could destroy him.

“The answer is no, on both accounts,” she explained in a more rational tone. “I’ve dropped some hints that you may be interested in her, but I figured the rest wasn’t for me to tell.”

Max knew exactly what Maria was saying: she had kept a secret for him long before she had her relationship with Michael as an incentive. Despite the fact that Michael had chosen his friendship with Max over his love for her, she would never think of betraying them.

“Max, I may not know you that well, but maybe if you spent less time being jealous of Michael’s new life and more time living your own, you’d realize that Liz stares at you exactly the same way.”


When confronted with the truth Max couldn’t deny that Maria had made the correct assessment: he was jealous that Michael had successfully embraced the chance he himself was afraid to take. He developed an intense appreciation for Maria’s keen sense of observation that day and now, a month later, he was happier than ever that Michael had found someone who felt so deeply for him. The fact that she was Liz’s best friend had only been a plus.

He had been reluctant to ask for her help with his plan to be Liz’s Secret Santa, knowing it would more than likely mean she would have to outright lie to her best friend, but when she had suggested that it would be a way for him to start coming out from behind his self-imposed tree he could not refuse the assistance she so freely offered. Michael and Isabelle had been shocked to discover the depth of Max’s affection for Liz, but they had been more than glad to help with his and Maria’s scheme, Michael wanting his friend to have what he had with Maria, Isabelle hoping that victory for Max would bring about her own courage to seek happiness with someone. After years of pining away for the girl of his dreams, he had taken the first small step toward making those dreams a reality.

How quickly that small step had become a giant leap, he thought in disbelief as he climbed into the Jeep. He actually had a date with Liz Parker tonight, and next Saturday he would try to find the gumption to reveal that he was her Secret Santa. And during the five weekdays in between, he would continue to give her little pieces of himself.




“Liz, your friend is here,” her mother called out from the living room.

“All right,” she answered, trying to still her shaking hands long enough to finish applying her mascara. “I’ll be out in a minute.” Why was she so nervous, she asked herself. This was just Max. They saw each other practically every day, so why should tonight be any different?

She rolled her eyes at the stupidity of the question. She knew exactly why tonight was different. She knew why she had barely slept a wink the night before. She knew why she had checked the bright red numbers on the clock a hundred times throughout the day. She knew why she had pulled every skirt and pair of pants out of her closet and meticulously tried on each one, the fact that the beautiful black angora sweater was a perfect match with all of them only making her decision on what to wear even more difficult. Yes, she knew.

Tonight was nothing short of a dream.

She actually had a date with Max Evans, and the fact that next Saturday night would be spent breaking the heart of her Secret Santa was the furthest thing from her mind.




“Are you sure it’s all right?” she asked as they wandered the aisles of Video Vault, slowly making their way to the science fiction section.

All right? It was more than all right, Max wanted to tell her. In fact, it was perfect. Liz had just been lamenting the fact that her aunt and uncle had shown up for an unexpected visit on their way to see her cousin at Washington State University. Part of that visit involved taking over the sofa bed in her family’s living room, leaving the couple no place to watch the movie they were about to rent unless they wanted to be joined by an audience. Fortunately he had been able to offer an alternative.

“Sure, as long as you don’t mind no one being there but us,” he explained. “My folks are at a Christmas party, and Isabelle is doing one of her holiday charity things tonight.”

He saw her hesitate a moment and thought she was going to object when she shyly commented, “Well, since I was supposed to provide the VCR and popcorn, I think the least I can do is buy us some dinner. Why don’t we order a pizza?”

“That sounds great,” he breathed out, relieved that she hadn’t rejected his offer, “especially since I’m sort of low on funds. I don’t start my job until next weekend.”

“You got a job?”

“Yeah, at the UFO Center,” he answered wryly. “My parents were originally against it because they were afraid my grades would slip, but I think they must have finally got tired of me bugging them for money all the time because my dad made it a point to tell me the UFO Center was hiring.”

“So does that mean I won’t be seeing as much of you at the Crashdown after school?” she questioned with a sadness that he easily picked up on.

“I was sort of hoping we might be able to take our breaks together on the days we both work,” he commented.

She immediately brightened at the suggestion. “I’d like that.”

He noticed that they had reached their destination. “Here we are,” he observed as he scanned the shelf for the movie. Picking up the tape case he flashed her an eager smile, “Ready?”




“I watched you very carefully. Red light stop. Green light go. Yellow light go very fast.”

“Sounds like he’s been watching Maria drive,” Liz laughed as she sat on the couch next to Max, trying very hard to not be too affected by the fact that his leg was touching hers. “You wouldn’t believe some of the crazy stunts she pulls when she’s running late for school.”

“I don’t thinks anyone is as nuts as Michael can be with his motorcycle. I’m really surprised that he hasn’t wrapped himself around a tree yet.”

“How did you and he ever become friends, anyway?” she asked with more than a little curiosity. “You two don’t seem like you’d have much in common. You study hard and get good grades, and he, he seems kind of…”

“…like a slacker?” he finished. His eyes focused on a family photo atop the fireplace. “Isabelle and I were adopted, and he was stuck in foster care. I guess we bonded over not knowing what happened to our real parents. He’s not as bad as people make him out to be, though. Just because he acts like he doesn’t know anything doesn’t mean he doesn’t. He’s actually pretty smart.”

“I know what you mean,” she agreed. “I’m sure people wonder how Maria and I have stayed friends for so long. Everyone thinks of her as this ditzy girl who can’t keep her mouth shut, but deep down she’s very loyal. Sure, she lets some things slip, but never the important stuff. She’d rather die before she revealed a secret that might hurt someone.”

If the room weren’t so dark, she would have sworn she saw him nod his agreement.



“Orange and black ’77 mustang. Now the gal that was driving claimed she was being kidnapped, but when this Heinmueller went to help her the guy who was with her, the kidnapper, yelled greetings and melted his lugwrench.”

“Yelled greetings and melted his lugwrench?”

“Weird you want, weird you get.”


“I don’t think I’d be nearly as calm as she’s being about the whole thing,” Liz said as she shifted positions on the couch, the movement causing more of her denim-clad leg to rub up against his. “I mean, it isn’t every day that you’re kidnapped by an alien who looks like your dead husband.”

He couldn’t stop stealing glimpses of her. The soft black sweater clung to her in just the right places to make her even more beautiful than he could have imagined. The silky dark hair that cascaded down around her shoulders shone with an extra luster in the darkened room, just begging for him to run his fingers through it. “She’s probably in shock,” he replied to Liz’s comment as he forced himself to concentrate on the t.v. screen. “It’s only natural that she would be a little freaked out at first, but I think deep down she knew he wouldn’t hurt her.”

And the seed was planted, he hoped.



“He doesn’t understand. He’s not from around here.”

“ Now why would she say that?” she quietly questioned. “Wouldn’t that just make the guy ask, ‘Then where’s he from’? How’s she going to answer that?”

“She could say he’s from Canada,” Max suggested, the nervousness in his voice apparent.
They had slowly inched their way closer to each other until their entire sides were touching, and she had started leaning in on him, hoping he’d take the hint and put his arm around her. Maybe he was just too shy. “Or from up north,” she chuckled as she looked over at him, intentionally brushing her shoulder against his nicely muscled arm. “At least that way they wouldn’t be lying.”

“Popcorn!” he said loudly enough to startle her. Jumping up from the couch he said in a rush, “I think it’s time for popcorn. Don’t you?”

And before she could even answer him he was gone.




“Do you want me to pause the movie?” she called from the living room.

He raised his head from where it had been resting on the counter. “No. You can go ahead and keep watching. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Define ‘love’?”

“She must think I’m a jerk,” Max mumbled to himself as he watched the green numbers count down on the microwave. He couldn’t believe he had taken off on her like that, but the minute she had mentioned lying about being an alien he had panicked.

“Love is, um, it’s when you care more for someone else than you do for yourself. But it’s not just that. It’s when someone is a part of you, and when they…”

The feel of her warm, soft body pressed so close to him had only made matters worse. They were alone in his house, which gave him every possibility in the world to take advantage of her, yet she trusted him enough that she didn’t think twice about snuggling up against him. If she had that much faith in him, why couldn’t he bring himself to tell her that there was a very good reason why ‘Starman’ was his favorite alien movie? He knew that if he did tell her the truth next Saturday about being her Secret Santa, he would have to tell her the entire truth. She deserved that much from him.

The beeping of the microwave brought him out of his thoughts. He decided that the least he could do for now was show her as nice of an evening as possible. Dumping the bag of popcorn into a big bowl, he grabbed a couple of Cherry Cokes and walked back into the living room. He nearly dropped everything when he spotted the tears trailing down her cheeks. He had made her cry. He really was a jerk!

He quickly made his way to the coffee table and set down the snacks before kneeling in front of her. “Please don’t,” he begged as he wiped her tears from her cheeks with his thumb. “I hate to see you cry. I’m sorry…”

“I can’t help it,” she sniffled. “What he did was so beautiful.”

It took Max a second to realize that her tears weren’t because of him. She was crying over the movie. He turned around to look at the screen, his hands never leaving her face as he tried to figure out what scene had moved her so.

As if she were reading his mind she said, “He brought that deer back from the dead. That would be such a wonderful gift, wouldn’t it? To be able to bring something, maybe even someone, back to life with just the touch of your hand?”

He forced his gaze to meet hers and with nothing but complete honesty answered, “You’re absolutely right. It must be one of the greatest feelings in the world.”




“You remember everything you hear word for word?”

“Everything I hear, everything I see, everything I….everything this body feels.”


She knew that she would always remember how her body was feeling at the moment. She had been a little ashamed of her crying fit, but Max had been so concerned and attentive that her embarrassment hadn’t lasted long. After he had climbed from the floor back onto the couch his hand had worked its way around the back of her neck to rest on her shoulder, his arm protectively pulling her to his side even as her own hand lightly rested on his knee. If she had thought having his leg touching hers felt nice, there were no words to describe how incredible a sensation it was to be held in his tender embrace. Well, maybe there was one word.

Cherished.




Although it was by no means graphic, he had still worried about the lovemaking scene. Would she be embarrassed to watch something so intimate with him? Could she possibly know how often he had dreamed of being that close to her? How would she react if he told her?

Once he had her in his embrace there was no way he could stop his hands from wandering. It had started with lightly caressing her arm where it met the edge of her sweater sleeve, a knowing smile gracing his lips as he discovered that her skin was indeed softer than the fuzzy black angora. From there it had led to playing with the ends of her hair, their constant feathery tickling finally enticing him to take his first touch of the silky strands. When she turned to raise her face to him he was afraid that perhaps he had bothered her, but the look in her eyes only beseeched him to give her more of his worshipping touch.

He had readily complied, moving his hand from where it held hers on his knee to tenderly cup her face, his thumb sweeping across her cheek in the same manner he had used to remove her earlier tears. She closed her eyes as she leaned into his palm, a serene smile crossing her mouth as they both reveled in the adoring gesture. He wanted so desperately to sample her lips, curious to know whether she would taste like the sweet strawberries that scented her hair, the Cherry Coke they had shared, the salty popcorn they had fed each other or some unique combination of the three. However, he held back, remembering what Michael and Maria had said about receiving flashes from each other when they kissed. Although it hadn’t happened to them until they had been together for several weeks, he couldn’t dare take that chance with Liz. There were too many things she might learn by seeing into his mind, and he doubted that he would have the chance to explain them before she took off screaming.

Still, he couldn’t resist the need to continue touching her, didn’t even want to fight the urge to feel her skin underneath his lips, so he began gently exploring her face, memorizing the supple texture of her skin as he trailed his lips over her forehead and across her fluttering eyelids. He savored the downy touch of her lashes before he nuzzled her ear, her cheek against his mouth more sumptuous than the most luxurious velvet. Aching to discover whether her other cheek was just as soft, he crossed the tip of her nose with a quick brush of his lips. When his mouth encountered the same delicate skin on the opposite side of her face, he nearly moaned in anguished delight. Motivated by her own hand as it wrapped around his neck and held him tightly to her, he traced the edge of her jaw until his mouth grazed her trembling chin. A taste of heaven was so close, and if her labored breathing were any indication, she wanted his lips on hers as desperately as he yearned to put them there. Maybe one brief kiss wouldn’t be so dangerous, he thought, even as his heart told him that the slightest touch of their mouths would bind him to her forever.

Suddenly he wasn’t in the living room about to kiss the girl of his dreams. He was on the playground, waiting for the first day of third grade to begin. His eyes scanned over the crowd of classmates as if searching for one in particular. It wasn’t until he made a second pass that he found his target. His heart leapt with joy as he focused on the group of students who had just disembarked from the bus. He instinctively sought out eyes he had never seen before, eyes that happened to be his own!

He automatically pulled away as he realized that he was getting a flash from her. He could only hope that the surprised look on her face was from his unexpected movement.

“No. I must go back, but…there is something I must tell you. I gave you a baby tonight.”

“Liz…”




“No, that’s impossible. I can’t have a child. I’ve been to a doctor, a couple of them…”

“Max…” she managed to breathe out.

“Believe what I tell you. A boy baby. He will be human, a baby of your husband but also he will be my baby.

“Max, honey, is that you? I thought you were going out…” Mrs. Evans’ voice trailed off as she walked into the living room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had a friend over.”

He will know everything I know and when he grows to manhood he will be a teacher. If you do not want this baby, tell me now and I will stop it.”

This doesn’t look too bad, Liz sarcastically told herself. Two dazed and out of breath teens alone in a dark room? Uh huh.

“Which is your star? Can you see it from here?”

“We had a change of plans,” she heard Max answer weakly, the fact that he still hadn’t taken his eyes off of her registering in the back of her hazy mind.

“Why?”

His mother walked over to the end table and turned the switch on the lamp. “Why don’t we leave this on so you can see better?” she asked, everyone in the room knowing it wasn’t really a question.

“I want to show him where his father came from.”

Mrs. Evans then proceeded to walk toward the kitchen. “Your father and I are home for the evening. We’ll be right here in case you need anything.”

“There. No. Wait. There. Low in the sky. There.”

Although she had never found herself in this particular situation before, Liz knew the parental code words for ‘no more making out now that we’re home’. She should probably be embarrassed that they had been caught, but what exactly had they been caught doing? Max’s hands hadn’t moved any lower than her shoulder, and they hadn’t even shared a kiss. Still, Liz knew that what had happened between them was just as intimate as the scene that had been playing out on the video. With nothing more than the press of his lips to her face, Max Evans had made love to her.

Now if she could only figure out why she had imagined an aging Christmas tree ornament in that final moment of bliss…




“I must go.”

“Take me with you.”

“I cannot.”

“Please.”

“You will die there.”

“Do you think I care?”

“I care. Now, tell me again…how to say goodbye.”

“Kiss me, and tell me you love me.”

“I love you.”

“I’m never gonna see you again, am I?”

“No.”

“I love you.”

“Tell the baby about me.”

“I will.”

“What should I do with this?”

“The baby will know. Goodbye Jenny Hayden.”

“Goodbye.”


“I can’t believe he had to leave her,” Liz sniffled into his shirtsleeve.

He smiled down at her as he squeezed her hand, glad that his mother’s subliminal warning hadn’t frightened her away from him completely. She also hadn’t mentioned anything strange happening when he had almost kissed her, so hopefully that meant she hadn’t gotten a flash from him. “But at least she’ll always have a part of him,” he reminded her as he stopped the tape and began to rewind it.

“I know,” she said, giving him a grateful look when he handed her a tissue, “but still…”

“…it’s not the same,” he finished, glad to know that he would never have to leave her to go back to his original home. There was no planet left to return to.

She stood up and stretched to work the kinks out of her muscles as she commented, “Hey, we never ordered our pizza.”

“I didn’t notice,” he numbly answered, too transfixed by the patch of exposed skin at the small of her back to care about anything else at the moment. That sweater fits her perfectly, he thought proudly.

Bringing her arms down she looked at her watch and said, “Do you want to stop at the Pizza Palace? I don’t have to be home until midnight.”

He’d love to drag the night out as long as possible, but the look his mother had given him before she disappeared into the kitchen did not bode well for him. He sheepishly looked toward the door, “I don’t think my folks are too happy with me at the moment, so I’d better not push my luck.”

“I take it you aren’t supposed to have girls over when your parents aren’t home,” she comment.

He could hear the jealousy in her voice, and he thought it was cute. Liz Parker was jealous over him. “I don’t really know,” he answered as he stood up to join her. Lightly tracing her cheek with his thumb he added, “You’re the first girl I’ve ever had over.”

Her eyes closed in silent triumph, and he couldn’t resist pressing a kiss to her temple as he said, “I think I’ll return the tape when I take you home.”

“Do you mind if I keep it until tomorrow night?” she asked as she turned to look at him. “I’d like to watch it again.”

“Go right ahead,” he replied as he walked over to eject the tape. Putting it in the case and handing it to her he continued, “It’s not due back until Tuesday anyway.”

“Great,” she said with a contagious smile. “I think I have a new favorite movie.”




She had hoped to finally get a real kiss from Max when they said goodnight, but he had shied away as soon as her father had flipped on the downstairs light. Even so, the tender brush of his lips against her cheek had been more than wonderful, and as she set the rental tape on her desk she swore she could still feel his lips on her skin.

With a contented sigh she carefully undid the pearl buttons on her new sweater, feeling its softness one last time before reluctantly removing it. Gently folding the delicate garment, she set it on top of her dresser and then proceeded to strip off her jeans. Pulling her nightgown over her head she thought of ways to make her Sunday afternoon go by faster. Thankfully the Sunday morning rush would keep her quite busy as she doled out pots of hot coffee and plate upon plate of greasy food, and if she watched ‘Starman’ again that would shorten the day by another two hours. She’d like to finish up her Christmas shopping, but weekends at the mall just weren’t her scene. She’d rather go during the week. Maybe she’d give Maria a call and see whether she could come over. They hadn’t been spending as much time together since the new school year had started, so perhaps they could have a afternoon to catch up. Besides, she had to tell someone about her great date with Max.

Yes, if she could find a way to keep busy all day Sunday, then the beginning of the school week would be here before she knew it.

And, of course, the best part of that would be seeing Max Evans, the boy who had kissed her breathless without once touching her lips, in his Monday sweater.




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 4-Jan-2003 4:46:18 AM ]
posted on 5-Jan-2003 1:37:10 PM by SansuCry
Ari--You really know how to make my day! I can't wait to see "Real Women..." but I'll probably have to wait for video since the theaters in my town don't show anything but the most popular flicks.

Carol and Craig--I know I'm late with this, but I fell asleep at the computer last night as I was proofing. I had to delete 26 pages of the letter u before I could post it!

To everyone else--Thank you for your sweet comments about my hubby. Trust me, I KNOW how very lucky I am to have him, and as many of you said, I don't need the romantic note writing to know that he loves me as much as I love him. The small ways he shows it every day are more important than words on a piece of paper.

Despite the fact that my MS can be difficult to deal with sometimes, I am glad that because of it I know what is truly important: live every day as best you can because you never know what tomorrow may bring. I am fortunate that for right now fatigue is the worst part of my symptoms. I know I could have much bigger problems than I do, so I really can't complain.

My only big regret about the MS is that hubby and I owned a business that he loved, but because we were a small business my health insurance premiums topped over a thousand bucks a month and steadily increased each year. We could no longer stay competitive and keep a roof over our heads, so we were forced to give up the business in order to survive financially. Hubby now works for a big company where our whole family's health premiums are eighty bucks a month, and although he's never blamed me for having to give up his dream I can't help but feel guilty anyway.


That being said, writing has become my refuge, so I guess you could consider each new part I post another one of my therapy sessions and each of your feedbacks my treatment...

Sansu


Part 8

Monday
December 18, 2000


“So how’d your hot date with Max go Saturday night?” Maria asked as Liz climbed into the Jetta.

“It was incredi…” she trailed off. With a suspicious glare she said, “I haven’t talked to you since Friday morning.”

“So?” Maria asked, shooting her an annoyed glance.

“I didn’t make plans with Max until after I saw you, so how do you know I went out with him?” she queried.

“Well, Miss Junior Detective,” Maria said with a roll of her eyes, “I called your house Saturday night to see whether you wanted to have a girl’s night out. When your mom said you had gone on a date with a really cute boy named Mack, I kind of put two and two together.”

“Oh,” Liz answered awkwardly, then laughed as she asked, “She actually called him Mack?”

“Yeah, but don’t change the subject. How did the night go? Did you get to see ‘Starman’?” Maria excitedly asked.

“Everything was amazingly perfect,” Liz said with a sigh that had seemed to automatically accompany any thought she had about her evening with Max. “And yes, I saw ‘Starman’.”

“And?” Maria prompted with her hand.

“And what?” she asked, closing her eyes as the memory of Max tenderly wiping away her tears flooded over her.

“C’mon, Liz, don’t make me drag it out of you. I want all the gory details.”

For the first time in her life Liz didn’t think she could share something with her best friend. When she had come home Saturday night she had been eager to tell Maria all about the wonderful time she had spent with Max, but she had quickly realized that a lot of it was really too personal to discuss. She didn’t really know how to describe it, but she felt as though she and Max had formed an intense bond or connection in those few hours they had shared, each loving touch or adoring look a vow to honor the sanctity of that bond. She knew unequivocally that what had happened between them needed to remain between them. “Sorry, ‘ria,” she said apologetically. “Let’s just say that words would never capture how wonderful a time I had and leave it at that.”

Maria raised her right eyebrow as if she were about to protest but then pursed her lips before clamping them tightly together. She may have given in for the moment, but Liz had no doubt that the battle was far from over.




When she finally turned down the corridor Max was loitering in front of his locker, the smile breaking across his face as he spotted her clearly indicating that he had been waiting for her. She was so anxious to see him that it took her a minute to realize something was different.

“Hey,” he greeted as they met at her locker, the breathy tone she had only heard him use with her sending a heated flush throughout her body. “How’s it going?”

“All right,” she replied as she leaned against the locker next to hers. Coyly staring up at him she asked, “Isn’t today Monday?”

“As far as I know it is,” he said as his fingers automatically threaded through her hair. “Why are you asking?”

“Well,” she began, hesitating as she realized how silly she would sound, “don’t you usually wear your black sweater on Monday?”

His eyes didn’t flicker with the amusement she had expected. Instead their golden amber depths darkened with humbled desire as they both absorbed the significance of her question. He realized that if she had observed him closely enough to know what clothing he wore to school, he apparently wasn’t the only one guilty of staring. After the two wonderful evenings they had shared this past week she wouldn’t think of denying it, but he chose to answer her question instead of asking his own.

“Usually I do,” he cryptically answered as his lips curved into a mischievous smile, “but I thought it was time for me to make a change. I hope you don’t mind.”

She did mind, but the fact that he was seeking her approval was enough flattery for her to forgive just about anything. “I based my entire existence on the fact that Max Evans wears his black sweater to school every Monday,” she teased. “What am I to do now?”

“I guess I’ll just have to give you a better reason to exist,” he replied, the playful tone of his voice completely incongruous with the amorous look in his eyes as he leaned closer to her.

Her eyes shone with reverent yearning as she imagined a hundred better reasons to exists, all of them involving plenty of the gentle, passionate loving he had shown her Saturday night. However, even with that temptation wildly playing out in her mind she wasn’t willing to completely surrender the chance of seeing him, and hopefully feeling him, in that sweater again. “Will you still wear it once in a while? For me?”

“I’d be glad to,” he reluctantly admitted, “except I’ve already given it away.”

Her eyes began to sting with tears before she looked away to blink them back in irritation, chastising herself for getting so upset over something as ridiculous as a sweater. He had no way of knowing how much it had meant to her, so she could hardly be hurt or angry with him for giving it to someone who wouldn’t appreciate it nearly as much as she would have.

As if he sensed her disappointment Max reached out with his other hand and lifted her chin, silently directing her to return her gaze to him. “Maybe over Christmas break we can go to one of the malls and you can help me choose a new sweater,” he offered.

“I’d like that,” she quietly said past the lump in her throat, the ringing of the first period bell nearly drowning her out.

His hand gently caressed the side of her face before gliding down her arm to entwine his fingers with hers. “May I walk you to class?” he sweetly asked, the brush of his lips against her ear as he ran his fingers through her hair one last time making her immediately forget about the loss of his Monday sweater.

This time she merely nodded her reply, the tears now threatening to burn her eyes ones of overwhelming joy instead of sadness. She might not have gotten to play Max’s Secret Santa, but it appeared that she was well on her way to becoming his girlfriend.

And that was a thousand times better.




Because the sound of your laughter is more melodious than an entire choir of angels…

She continued to sit at her desk and marvel at her latest gift, still too stunned to move even an hour after arriving home from school. She had no idea how much the distinctive Lladro musical angel costs, but she knew it had been plenty. The Lladro statue her father had given her mother for their twentieth anniversary last year had carried a price tag of more than a hundred dollars, so she didn’t even want to imagine how much her Secret Santa had paid for this one.

Even though she had every intention of returning most of the gifts to the poor soul who was emptying his bank account trying to impress her, part of her really wished she didn’t have to. With an incredible night full of memories in it she had already decided to keep the angora sweater and reimburse her Santa for it, along with the other things he wouldn’t be able to return, but as she fingered the fine porcelain angel she knew she would want to keep it as well, if she had the funds to pay for it.

For some strange reason the statue reminded her of the image that had inconveniently assaulted her mind Saturday night as Max had been so expertly worshipping her with his sensuous lips. She didn’t recall her mother having anything even remotely resembling the Christmas tree ornament, and after pondering whether she may have seen it somewhere else she once again wondered why she had thought of it at such an inopportune time in the first place. Like the Lladro the ornament had been in the shape of an angel, the off-white wings and faded colors still appealing despite their obvious age. She could even see hints of those same colors in the figurine she was currently caressing, although the wings on this tangible version were in much better condition. The sweet little faces on both the real and imagined objects were truly angelic, although they were so similar in appearance that she began to wonder whether she had merely been giving her mystery image the attributes of the angel sitting in front of her all along. Now that she looked more carefully the only real difference she could recall was the book in the angel’s hands. She was certain the ornamental angel had held a miniature Bible, while this musical Lladro’s tome was a much more appropriate hymnal. In any case, she told herself, the differences and similarities were irrelevant since one angel seemed to exist only in her mind and the other one would be returned to its rightful owner at the end of the week.


She was beginning to think that perhaps she should go have a talk with Mrs. Johnston, the faculty sponsor of the Secret Santa program. Her Santa was definitely going over the five dollar a day limit, and now that she and Max were finally becoming an item she was beginning to feel even more uncomfortable accepting the increasingly expensive presents. Was it just coincidence that this one, the first one since her date this past weekend, was the most costly one so far? Or was her Secret Santa hoping that spending more money on her might make her choose him instead? “You’ll never stand a chance against Max,” she silently told her generous benefactor, “no matter how much money you spend.”

As if confirming that fact her eyes wandered the desk until she spied the videotape box propped up in the corner. No amount of money in the world could buy the incredible feeling of having Max’s arm around her as they simply sat and watched a movie together, especially one as touching as ‘Starman’. She could see why Max liked it so much. It was quickly becoming her favorite alien movie as well. As a matter of fact, she decided, she might as well watch it one more time…



“C’mon, Max, you gotta give me something,” Maria whined as she flopped down on Max’s bed. “Liz wouldn’t tell me a thing.”

“So why should I?” he asked as he flipped through the catalog, searching for the page he had dog-eared Sunday morning.

“Because if you don’t I’ll tell Liz you’re her Secret Santa tomorrow.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he countered.

“No, you’re right,” she sighed. “I wouldn’t.” Sitting up as she watched him work she argued, “Which is exactly why you should give me some dirt on this date of yours.”

She was giving him those puppy dog eyes, the ones that said he wouldn’t get anything substantial done until he threw her some kind of bone. What had take place between Liz and him was too precious to discuss with anyone and, since she obviously felt the same way, he told Maria the only thing he could.

“Fine. I’ll even tell you the most embarrassing part of the night.”

“Ooo, this sounds good,” Maria said as she gleefully rubbed her hands together.

“When my folks returned from their party they didn’t expect me to be there, especially with a girl. My mom freaked out that we were sitting in the dark watching the movie, so we had to keep the light on the rest of the time we were there. When I got back from dropping Liz off, my mom gave me the whole, ‘I trust you but you’re still a horny teenager’ talk. It was a nightmare.”

“Bummer,” she said sympathetically. “Did your dad chew you out, too?”

“No, he didn’t say anything,” he said wryly. “I think he was kinda glad to find out I’m not gay.”

“I bet,” she said with a laugh. Her expression turning serious as she watch him frown in thought she commented, “You don’t have to do all this to impress Liz, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said absently, refusing to look up from the catalog.

“Do you really?” she asked.

Her concerned tone caught his attention. Shrugging he remarked, “Maybe not at first, but I do now.”

“So then you’re giving her expensive gifts because…”

“…because she’s beautiful and she deserves to have beautiful things,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Max,” she said in a warning tone.

“Maria, we’ve already been over this, and I really don’t want to talk about it again.”

“Fine,” she agreed, already aware that she wouldn’t be able to change his mind anyway. “Do you have the present for Michael to take tomorrow?”

He stood up and crossed the room, picking up the silver wrapped box and handing it to her. She turned to walk away when he hesitantly called her name.

“What?” she sighed.

“I just wanted to say thanks. For everything.”

“That’s what friends are for, Max,” she remarked. “I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

So do I, Max thought. So do I.





posted on 6-Jan-2003 5:58:20 PM by SansuCry
Part 9

Tuesday
December 19, 2000

Liz stepped out of her mother’s car and opened her umbrella, glaring at the gray sky before grabbing her bookbag and locking the door behind her. Since she didn’t usually drive to school she didn’t have one of the highly coveted student parking permits, so she would have to walk the distance from the athletic field lot to the building in the rain. She checked the front seat one last time before closing the door. “Here goes nothing,” she mumbled as she began her damp trek, mentally planning her after-school trip as she dodged the puddles.

She had asked Maria to join her on the journey to finish up her Christmas shopping, but her friend had declined, saying that she had to stay after class to work on a special project. Although Liz had been disappointed it would give her a chance to pick up the last of her Secret Santa gifts for Maria. She’d have to make an extra stop at Albertson’s for the bag of Matt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies she wanted to use as one of her final clues. She shook her head as she fondly remembered the time in seventh grade when they had tried their hand at making their own chocolate chip cookies. They had already burnt two sets by the time they started to get bored, so in an effort to use up the last of the dough they had decided to just make one huge cookie. They were too naïve to know they should have spread the dough out evenly, so they had ended up baking it in one big lump, the end result being a perfectly cooked outside with a completely raw inside. Even now she couldn’t believe they had actually tried to eat it anyway.

As she approached the school’s side entrance, located in the corridor that housed the Art wing, a gleaming light caught her attention. Her eyes widened incredulously as she realized what had caused the silver flash. Michael Guerin was jogging through the rain and into the building, a beautifully wrapped Christmas present clutched under his arm. She couldn’t believe that the moody loner would actually participate in the Secret Santa program, but why else would he be bringing a gift to school?

Curiosity getting the better of her she followed behind him, staying far enough away to be discretely hidden. She almost lost sight of him as the hallway filled with other students, his long determined strides no match for her much shorter ones, but she was able to catch up to him just as he entered the homeroom assigned to students with last names beginning with the letters A through G. Pretending to be simply passing by the room, she slowed down as the table set up for the Secret Santa gifts came into view. Sure enough, Michael was adding his present to the stack.

As she quickly made her way to her locker, she was beginning to wonder whether the world was coming to an end. First, she had captured the eye of the best looking guy in school, and now his anti-social best friend was a willing part of the Secret Santa program? She thought about telling Maria what she had seen, knowing that her friend once had a crush on the guy. Unfortunately, the lousy way Maria’s father had treated her mother had tainted her best friend’s view of men in general, and Liz knew it would take a pretty special guy to break through the Teflon exterior Maria had built up over the years. She doubted Michael Guerin was that guy, and obviously Maria did, too, because a few months ago the usually snarky comments her friend made about the spikey-haired boy had suddenly ceased. Maria had lost interest.

Max was waiting for her again, she noticed as she entered the main corridor, this time at her own locker. She had hoped that their lips would finally meet sometime during school yesterday, but it had been too much to ask knowing how shy he was. She could understand why he wasn’t into PDAs, especially after the embarrassing scene in Mr. Seligman’s room. At least he had no problems with holding her hand, she contentedly sighed as she returned the enamored smile he was sporting and walked into the light embrace he offered. As she breathed in the wonderful scent that was all Max, she couldn’t help but notice the dark gray button down shirt he was wearing. It looked so elegant on him that she decided to add another item to her Christmas shopping list: the perfect sweater to match it.






“Tommy Matthews.”

“Karen Musser.”

“Jenny Nathan”

“Laura Orozco.”

“Tony Orozco.”

“Liz Parker.”

She slowly walked up to the front of the room, a mixture of trepidation and eagerness filling her as she approached Mrs. Bryant’s desk. What would her Secret Santa give her today? She doubted it would be as expensive as yesterday’s gift, but then again, who knew?

She froze as she spotted the package her homeroom teacher was holding out for her, the blood draining from her face as the silvery paper reflected the fluorescent light fixture above. This was the gift Michael Guerin had dropped off.

“Are you all right, Liz?” Mrs. Bryant asked with concern.

“Yeah,” she said as she forced a smile and accepted the proffered item. “Thanks.”

Maybe there was some mistake, she told herself as she crept back to her chair. Her name must have been accidentally placed on the wrong package. She knew the rationalization was futile, though, because the easily recognizable envelope was firmly attached to the shiny paper. Her hands were nearly shaking as she removed it and opened it up, praying that there would be anything but the familiar computer-generated script inside.

Because I will cherish you every day of my life….

What had once made her uncomfortable was now about to make her sick with dread. Not only was she receiving expensive gifts from her Secret Santa, but they were also from someone who was least able to afford it. She didn’t know much about Michael, but she was aware that he was an emancipated minor who had to support himself. Where could he have possibly gotten the money to pay for the lavishness he had been bestowing upon her?

“What did you get?” Barbara asked impatiently. “I bet he can’t top yesterday’s gift.”

Liz hesitantly undid the paper on the box, closing her eyes in dismay as she lifted the lid to reveal the latest gift.

“Boy was I wrong,” she heard Barbara huff. “That’s way more expensive.”

Forcing her eyes open Liz looked down to where her classmate’s gaze was fixed. Laid out inside the velvet lining was a beautiful wooden perpetual calendar, each month represented by a delicately sculpted Cherished Teddy figurine. All she could do was gasp.

“That thing is so much money they have you buy the figurines a month at a time,” Barbara helpfully explained. “You’re looking at a minimum of two hundred and forty bucks there, Liz. Looks like you’ve got two guys wrapped around your finger. Talk about lucky.”

Liz managed to give her a somewhat grateful half-smile before the girl got up to retrieve her own present. Carefully placing the lid back on the box she made up her mind that she would go see Mrs. Johnston as soon as homeroom let out for the day.

And in the meantime, she would have to decide whether or not to tell Max that his best friend was in love with her.




“That figures,” she mumbled as she walked out of the Crystal Sands Mall. “It finally stops raining now that I’m all done with my shopping.” She felt like she had driven to a hundred different places looking for just the right presents and had been pretty disgusted with her lack of progress until she decided to make the drive to Hondo. Here she had found the perfect final gift for Maria at one of the jewelry stores on the second floor: a gold charm that spelled out ‘Best Friend’, the dot on the letter I replaced by a cute little diamond. Maria would love it.

Dragging herself and her purchases to the car, she popped the trunk and set the packages down, glad that she could finally go home. It had been a long day, and she was sure tomorrow would be even longer, especially since didn’t get the opportunity to confirm that Michael Guerin was indeed her Secret Santa. She had been disappointed that Mrs. Johnston had already left the school by the time she had arrived at the popular teacher’s classroom this afternoon. Now she’d have to get to school early tomorrow and catch up with the extremely busy woman before classes began.

“The ‘Starman’ tape,” she moaned as she climbed in on the driver’s side of the car. “I still have to return that.” She bent over to retrieve it from under the seat and proceeded to toss it next to her before starting the car and cautiously backing out of her parking space. As she followed the slow line of cars toward the exit a couple walking out of the mall’s main entrance distracted her.

Michael Guerin and Isabelle Evans stopped and looked back to the door, as if they were waiting for someone. Maybe it was Max, she thrilled, her heart leaping at the thought.

She almost hit the car in front of her when the last person she ever imagined ran out to catch up with them.

Maria.




posted on 12-Jan-2003 11:29:47 PM by SansuCry
I posted the new part on the next page because this one is messed up.

Sansu

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Jan-2003 11:34:13 PM ]
posted on 12-Jan-2003 11:30:48 PM by SansuCry
Well, I certainly didn't expect it to be almost a week between updates, but RL stinks big time. However, this part is 17 Word pages long, so I hope that makes up for it.

Carol--This part is for you because I thought you could use a little boost after the weekend you've had.


Posted in two sections for length, some of which may be pushing the PG-13 rating just a little....*wink*


Part 10

Wednesday
December 20, 2000


“So how was your trip to the mall last night?” Liz asked Maria the second she set foot inside the Jetta, hurt and bitterness oozing from her voice.

She had wanted to call the DeLuca house last night and demand an explanation, but when she finally returned home her father had requested she finish out her usual shift since her substitute had gone home sick. By the time she had completed the clean up it had been way too late and she had been way too exhausted to pick up the phone. Besides, she had told herself, she needed some cool down time. Sleeping on it would be the best thing for both of them. However, all thoughts of being rational had flown out the window the minute she had laid eyes on the girl she had called her best friend since the first week of kindergarten. She wanted answers, and she wasn’t going to wait any longer to get them.

“Talk about a nightmare! I’ve never seen that place so darn….Wait. Were you there?” Maria asked cautiously.

“What do you think?” she sarcastically returned. “Was running around with Michael Guerin and Isabelle Evans part of your special project?”

“Liz, it’s not what you’re thinking…”

“And what exactly would that be?”

“That I ditched you to go shopping with them.”

“Then what was it, Maria?”

Maria pulled off to the side of the road and turned to address Liz. “Look, Isabelle the Christmas Nazi roped me into helping her with the dance. I did stay after school, for a meeting with Miss Cullison and the rest of the planning committee. When it was over Isabelle and I went to the mall to get some ideas.”

“And Michael? Is he part of the planning committee, too?” she caustically asked, still not convinced.

“No. Not directly, anyway. He stayed after school to paint the backdrop the photographer will be using.”

“So then how did he end up at the mall with you?”

“Max was supposed to pick both Isabelle and Michael up from school when they were finished, but then we had a change of plans and went to the mall instead.”

“Michael went with you all the way to Hondo instead of just having you drop him off at home?” she inquired with nothing but skepticism.

“Yeah,” Maria said nonchalantly. “He had to get the last of his Secret Santa presents, so he asked if he could tag along.”

Liz was taken aback. With the increasingly personal nature of the gifts she had been receiving she had decided that her original suspicion of Maria’s involvement had been correct, but once again doubt was creeping into her mind. If Maria did indeed know that Michael was her Secret Santa, she would be avoiding the subject like the plague, or at least be nervous enough talking about it to let something slip. Perhaps Maria had been so forthright because she herself had no idea she was assisting Michael with his gift selection. Michael and Isabelle were pretty close friends. What if the whole dance committee thing had been nothing more than a ruse on their part to get Maria to the mall with Michael? With a few carefully worded questions, he could have chosen the rest of her gifts, Maria none the wiser that her input had been drawn on to do so.

“Lizzie, I’m sorry. I don’t want you mad at me,” Maria begged.

Just the thought that Maria might have been used that way instantly made her anger disappear, but she still felt a little hurt. “You could have told me you were helping with the dance. I would have volunteered with you.”

“It was sort of a last minute thing, and we haven’t really seen enough of each other lately to do much talking. When we have talked it’s been about you and Max finally getting together, which is a heck of a lot more interesting in my opinion. By the way, when’s your next date?”

Liz knew Maria was right. Since she had seen Maria’s name on the little slip of paper that told her whom she would be buying presents for, she had been slightly withdrawn from her friend, afraid that she would easily reveal she was her Secret Santa. Maria’s explanation was a reasonable one, but Liz still wanted to know for sure. “Do you know who my Secret Santa is?”

The fact that Maria turned away from her to stare out the side window was all the answer she needed. “Liz, you know the rules. I can’t tell you…”

“…who it is. Yes, I know. I’m not asking for a name. I’m just asking: do you know who? A simple yes or no is all I need to hear.”

Maria let out a resigned sigh before she looked back at Liz. With an unpleasant twitch of her mouth she said, “I saw who drew your name.”

“I knew it!” Liz shouted. “Is it Michael?”

Liz almost grabbed for her cell phone to call 911 when Maria began to choke and sputter, but her friend waved her off, holding up her finger to ask for a minute to compose herself. Liz assumed the intense reaction must mean she had figured it out. When Maria’s grip on the steering wheel loosened enough for the color to return to her knuckles, she started the car and calmly said, “Would you be happy if it were?”

“Of course not! How can you even ask me that?”

“Just checking,” Maria said as she took her hands off the wheel just long enough to hold them up in surrender.

“So it is Michael, isn’t it?” Liz asked as a maelstrom of thoughts and questions began to make both her mind and stomach turn.

“I thought you weren’t asking for a name.”

“Technically, I’m not asking for a name. I’m giving one,” she pointed out.

“Same difference,” Maria mumbled as she got back on the road to finish the drive to school.

Liz couldn’t help but think, “Especially with you, Maria.”




“Good morning, Miss Parker. What can I do for you?” Mrs. Johnston asked as Liz waited outside her door.

“I needed to talk to you about my Secret Santa,” Liz said as she followed the teacher into the empty classroom.

“Have you come to make a guess? You only get one, you know,” the teacher explained as she pulled out the register that listed the project’s participants.

“I already know who it is,” Liz replied. “I’m just not sure what to do about him. See, the gifts he’s been giving me are a little…”

“Excuse me. Did you just say ‘he’?” Mrs. Johnston interrupted.

“Yes,” Liz confirmed. “Michael Guerin.”

“I’m sorry, Liz. Michael is not your Secret Santa.”

“He isn’t?” Liz asked incredulously, “But I saw him bring my gift to school.”

“I’m sure you saw Michael bring a gift to school, since he is participating in the program. However, that gift was not for you,” Mrs. Johnston elaborated.

Liz didn’t want to believe she had been wrong yet couldn’t help but be happy that she wouldn’t have to tell Max his best friend had the hots for her. But if Michael weren’t her Secret Santa, then why would Maria say he was? Suddenly she realized that her best friend had pulled one over on her. Maria had never come right out and said that it was Michael. She had just done her best to let Liz think that. So whom was Maria helping, and why?

That supposedly impromptu mall trip was looking a lot more suspicious with this latest piece of information. Was it possible that since Michael signed up for the Secret Santa program, he had talked Max into participating as well? They were best friends, and Isabelle was Max’s sister, so it couldn’t have been pure coincidence that those two were the ones out shopping with Maria last night. If she had been able to get out of the heavy line of holiday traffic and follow them as she had wanted to, would she have discovered that their first stop had been to covertly meet up with Max? Could Max really be her Secret Santa?

It would be beyond her wildest dreams to learn that the beautifully written notes she had been receiving were being penned by the only person she wanted to hear those words from in the first place. As much as she wanted it to be true she couldn’t afford to get her hopes up. What if she was wrong? Deciding she had nothing to lose, she asked, “Is it Max…”

“Liz, you agreed to play by the rules. You’ve made your one guess. Now you’ll just have to wait for the dance, unless you decide to confront the person directly,” Mrs. Johnston scolded. Relenting a little when she saw Liz’s disappointment she said conspiratorially, “The rules don’t say anything about giving you a hint. Would you be interested in one?”

Liz’s eyes eagerly lit up. All she needed was the tiniest piece of evidence pointing to Max, and she would be the happiest girl in the universe. “Yes, please?”

“There are two hundred fifty-eight juniors participating in the Secret Santa program this year,” the teacher explained. “Of those, only seventy-three are boys. Apply a little bit of the probability and statistics you’ve learned in Mr. Phelp’s class, and you’ll have your hint.”

Liz’s heart fell. He. Mrs. Johnston had stopped her when she had said her Secret Santa was a ‘he’. Which could only mean one thing.

Her Secret Santa was a ‘she’.




He could tell she was upset the minute she rounded the corner, but as soon as her eyes met his she softened, her troubled expression quickly changing to match the elation his own face held.

“Rough morning?” he asked as she walked up to him and pressed her forehead into his chest. He gently nuzzled the top of her head and brought his arms up to comfort her, his hand lovingly stroking the hair cascading down her back as he relished the feel of the strawberry scented strands that were so much a part of his dreams.

“You have no idea,” he heard her mumble.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he soothed.

“I thought this whole Secret Santa thing would be fun.”

“But…?” he hesitantly asked.

“But now I realize it’s nothing more than a calculated plot to drive me insane.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle at her dire lament. “Why do you say that?”

She pulled away just enough to be able to look at him. “You obviously know about the sweater and the star naming thing, right?”

“Yeah,” he drawled out.

“Well, my Secret Santa has been giving me several other….um….elaborate gifts.”

With a wry smile he asked, “Should I be jealous?”

“If you had asked me that last night, I would have said you should be a lot more than jealous,” she admitted sheepishly, “especially since I thought my Secret Santa was Michael.”

“Michael?” he questioned, truly unaware of what Michael she may be referring to.

“Yes,” she said in exasperation. “You know, your best friend? Michael Guerin?”

The previous chuckle turned into an overly amused outburst that drew the attention of everyone in the hallway. He knew Liz probably wanted to fade into the lockers, but he couldn’t help himself. Sure, with Maria’s assistance Michael had begun to discover his human side, but the thought of his brusque friend writing even one of the notes intended for Liz was more that enough for Max to lose complete control of his tightly held reserve. Once his laughter had subsided to aching stomach muscles and a slight case of the hiccups, he reached out to run his hand up the length of her arm and said in assurance, “Liz, I know that Michael isn’t your Secret Santa.”

“So do I. Now,” she said self-deprecatingly.

“Then why are you so upset?” he asked, the ache of his stomach muscles slowing spreading to the pit of his stomach as well. This was not what he had intended for her.

“Well, once I found out it wasn’t Michael, I thought maybe it was you,” she said hastily.

‘Not yet!’ was his panic-stricken thought. ‘I’m not ready for you to know yet.’ He wanted so desperately to admit the truth, but he just couldn’t. He was simply too damn afraid. There were still four presents left for him to give her, things he needed her to have. If he told her everything now and she rejected him the chance that she would accept those final gifts would more than likely be slim to none. He just had to stall her a few more days, but he knew he could never outright lie to her. What should he say? Or more accurately, what shouldn’t he say? Tugging her back into his embrace he explained, “Liz, as much as I’d like to take the credit for buying those gifts, I can honestly say that the only money I’ve spent on you besides tips at the Crashdown was to rent the movie the other night.”

She nodded her understanding so he continued, casually shifting to a new subject before she could even think to question him. “However, I would like to change that just as soon as I get my first paycheck from the UFO Center, sort of a belated Christmas gift. It will be your choice. I’ll take you out for a fancy dinner, or buy you something you’ve had your eye on, whatever you want.”

He could feel her start to say something, but then she shut her mouth at the last minute and nodded, the small release of breath against his throat combining with the enticing sensation of her hair caressing his lips to send a pleasant shiver down his spine. “Do you have to work tonight?” he asked, although he had memorized her schedule months ago and already knew the answer.

“Yes, but not very late,” she explained as he felt her reluctantly pull away from him. “Agnes and I switched shifts so I could do some shopping yesterday, but then she went home sick and I ended up working half my shift anyway. I have to work the other half tonight.”

“Does that mean I might be able to talk you into coming over to my house for a visit then?” he eagerly asked. “My folks will be home, of course, but we can stay in my room as long as I keep the door open.”

“That sounds great,” she said, pausing so that she wouldn’t have to yell over the bell for first period. “I’ll be off at six. Can you pick me up?”

“Sure. I’ll even be there early,” he answered enthusiastically as he wove his fingers between hers and led them toward her classroom.

“In that case, I’ll have a piece of Men in Blackberry pie waiting there just for you, compliments of the house.”

The hallway was almost empty by the time they reached the door, and just as he was about to say goodbye, she startled him by stepping up on her toes and quickly pressing her lips to his before disappearing into the room.

As he dashed to his own classroom with what he was sure was a ridiculous grin on his face he knew he’d spend the rest of the day wondering how to stop himself from kissing her breathless tonight.




Her hands trembled as she sat on her bed and opened up the envelope. Barbara had been more than disappointed when she had refused to unwrap the gift at school, but things were quite different now that she knew her Secret Santa was another girl.

Because the love and concern you show those around you is as genuine and precious as the rarest of pearls…

She had spent most of the time in her afternoon classes pondering the events of the previous twenty-four hours, and to say she was growing increasingly sick was an understatement. The pieces were all there for her to plainly see. She just didn’t want to put them together to get the complete picture.

Her Secret Santa was a girl.
Her Secret Santa was someone who knew her quite well.
The notes, if read in a non-romantic light, might be something written by a best friend.
Maria was her Secret Santa.

That information merely formed the smooth border of this bizarre puzzle. It if were as simple as that, she would think it was nothing more that a hilarious consequence rather than the disturbing matter she was certain it would turn out to be. The difference was in the middle parts, the jagged sections that seemed to have no correlation until they were placed just so.

Maria had intentionally let her believe that Michael was her Secret Santa.
She usually rode to school with Maria.
Michael Guerin was bringing her presents to school.
Michael had been at the mall with Maria.
Maria couldn’t afford to buy her such expensive gifts.
It was well known that Michael Guerin had had more than his fair share of run-ins with the law.

Added all together the possibility was nauseatingly clear. Maria hadn’t been helping Michael, as she had originally suspected. Michael had gone to the crowded, hectic, far-from-home-and-everyone-they-knew mall with Maria to help her, most likely by giving her some type of five-finger discounts.

The only question she hadn’t been able to figure out was what could Michael gain from all of this? Why would he risk going to jail for someone he barely knew? Amazingly she had her answer before she had left the building.

Since Maria was willing to drive her back and forth to school nearly every day, Liz was always courteous enough to be beside her friend’s car just as soon as class let out unless they had agreed beforehand to meet at one of their lockers. Today had been a ‘straight to the car’ day, but she had spent so much time listening to Barbara Peters trying to convince her to open her latest gift that she was afraid Maria might leave without her. She need not have worried, though, for once she made it out of homeroom she heard an all too familiar voice moaning in the eraser room on her way downstairs.

“Michael.”

“Maria, babe, you have to keep it down or we’re going to get caught.”

“Relax, Spaceboy. There’s no one around but us by now.”

“I’d still feel better if we’d go do this at my apartment.”

“Who says we aren’t going to? I just needed a little loving to hold me over until I get Liz home.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?”


That was all Liz had needed to hear to realize that Maria had not lost interest in Michael those few months ago. She had only stopped badmouthing him because she was too busy doing other things with her mouth, things Liz didn’t really care to know about. Maria must have kept her involvement with the defiant troublemaker a secret out of fear that Liz would think she could do better, and if her theory were correct then she did believe exactly that.

On the ride home she had silently observed the girl she used to know like a sister and wondered how they had drifted so far apart. She never thought Maria would be the type of girl to throw away her morals simply to get a boy’s affection. It was just sad that instead of Maria bringing Michael up to her level, she had apparently lowered herself to his.

Liz hesitated before opening the small box, knowing that what lay inside could be stolen goods. She instinctively whistled when she saw what was beautifully displayed on the red velvet insert. These were definitely not from Walmart.

Maybe if she made Maria return the ‘hot’ gifts and explain that she was sorry for taking them in the first place she could keep her friend from getting into some serious trouble. Perhaps if she told Max about her discovery she could enlist his help for the Michael end of this fiasco. If those two were as close as she and Maria were, Max would certainly want to know what Michael had been up to. Whatever she decided to do, she was certainly glad Mrs. Johnston had cut her off before she had a chance to mention anything about the expensive presents.

After all, she’d hate to lose her lifelong friendship with Maria over something as ridiculous as the Secret Santa program.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Jan-2003 11:33:42 PM ]
posted on 12-Jan-2003 11:31:52 PM by SansuCry
Part 10 continued

“C’mon, Izzy. Time to get out,” Max griped as he led Liz into his bedroom. “We’re tired of playing twenty questions with Mom and Dad and would like some privacy.”

“I wouldn’t need to be in your bedroom at all,” Isabelle huffed as she stood up from his desk, “if I had my own computer.”

“Just so you can surf the web and chat with your girlfriends about the latest fashion trends? Yeah, I can see Mom and Dad going for that,” he said sarcastically.

“You know I use it for more than that,” she protested as she moved past the couple and toward the doorway.

“Good,” he said as he left Liz in the middle of the room to give his sister’s shoulder a teasing push. “Then go downstairs, try to convince Mom and Dad of that, and leave us alone.”

Isabelle disappeared into the hallway, but no sooner did he turn around than Liz began giggling, her attention focused on some point behind him. He twisted sideways to see what was so funny, only to discover Isabelle braced inside the door frame, her nose scrunched up and her tongue stuck out like a defiant three-year-old. “Meanie!” she charged.

“Spoiled brat.”

“Bully.”

“Princess.”

“Nerd.”

“Hey,” Liz chimed in, “Speaking for nerds everywhere, I object to that word being used in a derogatory manner.”

“Ok,” Isabelle said in an exaggerated tone of defeat. “I’ll concede, but only for you, Liz,” she said with a wink. “We girls have to stick together.” With that she was gone.

He rolled his eyes in feigned disgust, walking to the doorway to be sure the coast was clear before returning to Liz’s side. He’d been aching to be alone with her all day. Now he finally was, and in his bedroom of all places. Leaning down to whisper in her ear, he took a deep breath of the sweet scent that was exclusively hers and conspiratorially whispered, “Can you guess what I talked my parents into buying Isabelle for Christmas?”

She turned her head sideways to look at him, her eyes wide with surprise. “They’re really going to give her a computer?”

“Yup,” he said proudly as he instinctively reached up to stroke her cheek with his thumb. “She spends so much time on the darned thing that she’s practically taken over my room. I got sick of having to kick her out every night just so I could go to sleep, so I begged my mom and dad to buy her a computer of her own.”

“And they agreed with you, just like that?” she asked with awe.

“Pretty much,” he said with a shrug as he stepped close enough to wrap his arm around her waist.

Giving him a shy smile she asked, “Are you that persuasive with everyone or just your parents?”

“I don’t know,” he played along as he threaded his fingers through her hair to cup the back of her head, the movement tilting her face up to meet his. “Why don’t we do an experiment and find out?” All the ideas he had come up with throughout the day to resist kissing her flew from his mind as his question caused his lips to softly brush against hers.

“What kind of experiment?” she asked in a seductive tone, making no effort to prevent the pleasingly torturous contact.

At that moment he knew he couldn’t not kiss her, but now that he had resolved himself to that he wanted to enjoy their little game. It took him a few seconds to compose himself before he explained, “I’ll ask you a question, and if you don’t give me the answer I want I’ll try to convince you to change your mind.”

“Convince me how?” she inquired, her wide dark eyes shining with the same need his own eyes held.

“You can’t expect me to give away my tactics,” he teased, his mind racing with the knowledge that Liz Parker was actually in his house, in his bedroom, in his arms, her luscious mouth excruciatingly close to his and her heart full of desire for him.

“Can’t you at least give me a hint?” she demurely asked, pulling her lips away to emphasize her request.

“If I did that, it would skew the results of the experiment, now wouldn’t it?” he commented. His restraint rapidly disappearing, he hastily added, “Let’s get started. Question number one: Are you going to the Christmas dance?”

“I guess I have to if I want to find out who my Secret Santa is,” she explained.

“Ah-ah. Don’t forget,” he said seriously, “this is a controlled experiment. Yes or no answers only.”

“My sincere apologies, Mr. Scientist, sir,” she said just as seriously. “In that case, yes.”

“Has anyone asked you to be their date for the dance?” he asked, his voice slightly wavering.

“Not yet. I mean…no,” she corrected.

His heart leapt with joy. Feeling a little braver he questioned, “If I were to ask you to go with me to the dance, would you say yes?”

“Yes,” she said, her eyes sparkling happily as the tip of her tongue moistened her upper lip, a nervous gesture he had grown to know quite well over the years.

He was about to ask the girl of his dreams out on a real date, and she was the one showing signs of nervousness. He was just as anxious, but he knew his fears would surface later, when he was alone in his bed wondering whether this conversation, this entire two week period in fact, had only taken place in his imagination. Right now there was a beautiful expectant angel staring up at him, and he wasn’t about to disappoint either one of them. “Elizabeth Parker, will you do me the honor of accompanying me to the Christmas dance Saturday night?”

“No.”

His mouth dropped open in shock before he quickly snapped it shut. He couldn’t believe his ears. She had just turned him down after telling him she would say yes. He started to open his mouth again to ask her why when she placed her finger across his lips, a mischievous smile dancing in her eyes. Once she seemed certain he would remain silent, she trailed her finger down his neck to where the buttons of his shirt met just below his throat. He stifled the low moan welling up in his chest as he felt her part the fabric and press her soft lips against the overly sensitive skin there, his eyes automatically closing as he relished the innocent yet sensual action. She languidly kissed a path up the side of his neck, her teeth playfully nipping at his ear as she whispered, “I don’t think I gave you the answer you wanted.”

“No,” he managed to choke out on a suddenly erratic breath, “you didn’t.”

Her lips moved across his cheek to where they had originally been, lightly caressing his own. “Then I guess you’ll just have to persuade me to change my mind.”

This time her nervous gesture was an intimate invitation enticing him to finally surrender the game, and as his fingers tightened in her hair and around her waist he opened his mouth to cover hers in fervent acceptance. He started tasting her slowly, tentatively, afraid that his inexperience would be obvious to her, but when she parted her lips to request more from him the only fear he felt was that he had died and gone to heaven. His hundreds of fantasies of this moment were nothing compared to the exquisite reality of having his heart and soul completely possessed by her. Forcing himself to break their kiss, he took an invigorating breath and asked, “Will you accompany me to the Christmas dance Saturday night?”

“No,” she said in a deep, throaty voice.

He brought his lips back to hers, tenderly insisting she open to him again, and when she did he wasted no time in taking full advantage of her receptiveness. His senses were pleasurably devastated with each gentle sweep of their tongues, an overwhelming bliss flooding him as years of unattainable fantasies rapidly dissolved into distant memories during the ensuing moments of blessed realism. After several short minutes he withdrew enough to confidently take her bottom lip between his teeth, amorously suckling the sweet, soft skin before reluctantly releasing it to ask in a commanding voice, “Will you go to the dance with me Saturday night?”

Playfully nipping at his upper lip with a boldness that he found beguiling, she answered in a nearly breathless tone, “Maybe.”

He couldn’t stop the devious smile that crossed his lips before he returned to his ardent assault, determined to coax the desired response from her with this final, unrestrained attempt. Kissing her with a passion and adoration borne of the need to seize just a fraction of the power she held over him, he probed the recesses of his mind for times when she had supplied him with the desired reply. The images he sought sprang to life, immediate and demanding.

The first day of third grade. “Are you Liz?” “Yes.”
Seventh grade field trip. “May I sit here?” “Yes.”


She was burning him.

Sophomore AP History. “Did you study for the test?” “Yes.”
Junior biology class. “Can I borrow your pencil?” “Yes.”


Consuming him.

Here in this room. “If I were to ask you to go with me to the dance, would you say yes?” “Yes.”

Giving him hope for the future.

The Christmas after graduating from college. “Will you marry me?” “Yes.”

Bringing his dreams to life.

Two years later. “Are you really having my baby?” “Yes.”

Binding him to her forever.

He couldn’t stop the images now, flowing from his mind so quickly and with such detail that he wondered whether they were premonitions of the life he had yet to live.

She was a captivating vision as she untied the belt loosely holding her rose-print robe to her otherwise naked form. Before the silk material fluttering down her body even had a chance to hit the floor he had scooped her up and carried her to their bed. He would never tire of seeing her this way, eyes dark with unrestrained desire and lips begging to be kissed breathless. He pulled her tightly against him as their bodies meshed together, moving so perfectly that he was certain they had been made only for each other. Needing to taste her soft, sweet flesh he nuzzled her neck, seeking out the place that always drove her over the edge. He smiled with delight when her heady moan indicated he had found it, affectionately nipping her there as they gave in to the ultimate ecstasy of their joining.

“Liz…” he managed to gasp out.

“Yes, Max. Yes,” she breathlessly whispered in his ear. “Oh, yes.”

“Liz…” he tried again.

“Yes,” she said more adamantly this time. “Yes, I’ll go to the dance with you. Just don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

The dance.

He pried open his protesting eyes only to discover that he was holding Liz tightly to him, his face buried in the side of her neck as he sampled the tantalizingly delicate flavor of the girl who completely owned every last piece of him. Except they were not naked, and they were definitely not in their bed. Too late he realized that he had allowed his fantasies to get the best of him and as a result he had let things go too far. He quickly pulled away from her, expecting to see nothing but horror in her flawless features.

“Liz…” he forced himself to say even as his eyes shifted to a worn spot on the floor, his stomach clenching with overwhelming guilt. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have gotten so carried away.”

“Max, I…” she said, her expression not one of horror but containing some other unreadable emotion instead.

Before he could think of what else to say to her, Isabelle appeared in the doorway. “Hey, I hate to bother you guys, but I need to borrow Max for just one minute. We need to get that dresser in my room moved tonight.”

He had no idea what his sister was talking about. “Iz,…”

“Now, Max!” she said through clenched teeth, leaving no room for argument.

He gave Liz an apologetic look. “I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want me to bring you a drink or anything?”

“No, uh, I think I’m all right,” she said with a hint of a smile.

“Ok,” he said as he followed Isabelle out of his bedroom.

As soon as they were out of Liz’s sight Isabelle grasped his arm so tightly he was positive she was cutting off the circulation. Without a word she dragged him down the hallway until they reached her room, shutting the door behind them before turning on him.

“What the hell were you two doing in there?” she bit out.

“Why?” he asked nervously.

“Why? Because I could hear you two moaning all the way downstairs!”

“Damn,” he sighed uneasily.

“Don’t worry. I managed to distract Mom and Dad enough that they didn’t hear you,” she reassured him. “Now, do you want to tell me what was going on in there?”

“Not really,” he mumbled.

“Look, I just saved your ass. You owe me an explanation,” she ordered.

“We were just kissing,” he answered, knowing that there was no way of getting out of telling her. “That’s all,” he added when she eyed him skeptically.

“What aren’t you telling me?” she asked, guessing he was hiding something from her.

He certainly wasn’t about to give her the details of what he had seen, so he simply said, “I had a flash, just like Michael and Maria talked about.”

“Really?” she asked in amazement before her brow wrinkled. “What about Liz? Did she have one, too?”

“I don’t know,” he said dejectedly.

“You don’t know?” she questioned incredulously.

“No.”

“Max,” she said with a hint of anger, “you haven’t told her yet, have you?”

“No.”

“Why not?” she queried, not hiding her disapproval. “You’re the one who decided to take the chance. You shouldn’t be kissing her if she doesn’t know the truth. That’s not fair to her.”

“Don’t you think I’ve already told myself that?”

“Then why are you doing it?”

He looked down at his hands as he answered, ashamed of the tears shining in his eyes. “She’s my whole life, Iz. She has been, ever since the third grade. Any time I felt like I didn’t belong here, all I had to do was look at her to know that I did. Any time I wondered why we had been sent here, one glance at her smile and I had my answer.”

“Those sound like arguments for telling her, not the other way around,” she observed.

“That’s the thing. All this time I’ve been able to pretend. I’ve been able to tell myself that one day we would fall in love, I would tell her the truth, and she would still love me. But now that time is here, and I’m terrified. I know Maria says that Liz would still want to be with me. I’ve even told myself that, but the truth is: I really don’t know. What if I do tell her the truth and she doesn’t want me? What if she says she never wants to see my face again?”

“Max…” she began sympathetically.

“Izzy, I touched her for the first time Saturday. I mean really touched her, her face, her hair, not just passing a pencil to each other touching. Do you know how long I’ve waited to do that? Do you know how many times I’ve thought about kissing her? Tonight I finally did it, and in a few more days I may never be able to do it again. I just….I need these few more days. I need to be able to touch her and kiss her and hold her in my arms, because if she doesn’t want me, if I can never be with her, then I’ll need enough memories to last me a lifetime.”

Isabelle knew that it would be impossible to change her brother’s mind, so she would have to go to work on Liz. Maybe if she spent some time with the object of her brother’s affection over the next couple of days she could get a better idea of how the girl would handle the news that Max was an alien.




As soon as Max left the room, Liz stumbled over to his desk and plopped down in the chair. She was reeling from the kisses they had just shared, and she didn’t think she would be calming down any time soon. If she had thought that what he had done to her Saturday night could be considered making love, then she couldn’t even imagine what tonight had been.

If she didn’t know better she would have said he had put some kind of force on her, but the truth was she didn’t want to admit that she could have such a vivid fantasy as the one she had experienced, just by having Max’s mouth on her throat. When he had pulled away from her, apologizing up and down for not stopping soon enough when all she had wanted was for him to keep going, he had looked like he was afraid of her. She didn’t even want to imagine what he must be thinking of her, wantonly begging him like that.

Sighing disgustedly at herself she propped her elbow on the edge of the desk so she could rest her spinning head in her hand. No sooner had she closed her eyes than she heard the crackling of the computer monitor waking up. Looking down at the desk, she realized she had bumped the mouse with her arm. “So what does the Elle McPherson of the junior class do when she’s online?” she quietly asked herself as she noticed the three minimized windows in the taskbar, each of them marked with the little blue ‘e’ that indicated Internet Explorer.

Peering over her shoulder to make sure Max wasn’t on his way back yet, she clicked on the first ‘e’. It appeared to be some sort of message board, and upon closer inspection she realized it was a site for Dawson’s Creek fanfiction. Isabelle Evans reading fanfiction? She had to stifle a laugh.

She minimized that window and quickly clicked on the next one. Pearl Paradise? It looks like Isabelle wants some pearls…no. No, it couldn’t be. Looking over her shoulder one more time she clicked the mouse in the search box and typed her request. The list came up instantly, and as her throat tightened with apprehension she clicked on the appropriate item.

Sure enough, staring back at her from the display was the same pair of pearl earrings that was currently sitting on her own desk at home, only this pair on the monitor had a price attached to it.

Three hundred and forty dollars.

She began to hyperventilate as she realized the horrifying truth.

Her Secret Santa was a girl.
The notes, if read in a non-best friend light, could only be considered romantic.
Maria, her best friend who knew her inside and out, had been at the mall with Michael Guerin and Max’s sister.
She had never seen Max’s sister holding hands with a boy at school.
She had never seen Max’s sister out on a date before.
Max’s sister had been using his computer before he kicked her out of the room.
Max had said that his sister chatted online with her girlfriends.
Max’s sister had said, “We girls have to stick together.”
Max’s sister had been looking at a website that sold pearls, the same flawless pearls she currently had in her possession.
Max’s sister was her Secret Santa, which could only mean one thing.

Isabelle Evans was in love with her.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Jan-2003 11:37:01 PM ]
posted on 23-Jan-2003 1:12:24 AM by SansuCry
No, I'm not dead, although there were several hours over the past week when I ALMOST wished I were.

My daughter came home from school with terrible congestion and 103 degree fever last Wednesday, and by Thursday evening, hubby, baby and I had it as well. We finally had enough energy to venture out to the doc for the girls Monday. They both had ear infections and the older one had bronchitis.

Needless to say I have had zero time to write anything between being sick myself and babying the others, but we are all on the road to recovery. If all goes well I hope to have a new part up tomorrow night.

Sorry for the delay, guys. I want the dance to get here as much as you do!

Sansu
posted on 25-Jan-2003 4:51:40 PM by SansuCry
Yea! The board's up! The board's up!

I'm glad to report that the family had pretty much recovered from out bout with the flu, although the coughing just won't seem to go away. Of course, the fact that it's been hovering near zero the past few days here in Illinois doesn't help any!

Here's the next part. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Part 11

Thursday
December 21, 2000

Sitting on the hard gym floor with his back against the wall, Max patiently waited for his turn on the wrestling mat and ran the events of last night over and over in his mind. Kissing Liz had been more amazing than he ever could have imagined. Her warmth and softness and beauty had surrounded him as he held her in his arms, and her lips had tasted so sweet that they were beyond description. He had hoped she had enjoyed kissing him just as much, but when he had returned from Isabelle’s room she had stared at him with what could only be described as horror. Had she gotten flashes from him? If so, had she seen the same things he had seen? He had desperately wanted to ask her, but once again his insecurities overwhelmed him into silence. He had only questioned whether she was all right and had allowed her to get by with an unconvincing shake of her head. When he had taken her home he had kissed her again, much more chastely, making sure he had a tight rein on his emotions. If she had indeed gotten flashes from him she sure didn’t need to experience it twice in one night. The fact that she had even allowed him to touch her again could only be a good sign, right?

Things had seemed normal enough between them before school this morning, her eyes filled with their usual dancing playfulness as he snuck in his mandatory daily touches: her arms, her cheek, her dark silky hair. She had eagerly kissed him goodbye when he left her at the door to her first class. Even in biology her hand had sought out his, alternately resting their entwined fingers on his thigh then hers between bouts of note taking. Still he could tell that something was disturbing her. He just wasn’t sure he wanted to know what.

The dance was now just over two days away, which meant the moment he had been waiting some eight years for would soon be upon him. He had put off figuring out the details of how and where he would tell Liz about being ‘not from around here’ in the foolish hope that they would work themselves out, but with the moment of truth so close at hand he needed to come up with some type of plan. This was obviously a conversation that couldn’t take place in the middle of a crowded gym, but as soon as she found out he was her Secret Santa she was sure to have questions about how he had been able to afford such luxurious gifts for her. That hadn’t mattered in the beginning, when he had had no intention of revealing himself, but now it would be the difference between keeping or losing the girl of his dreams. And he couldn’t help but wonder which was worse: losing her now that he knew how wonderful it was to be with her, or never having her to lose in the first place. Maybe if he were lucky enough he wouldn’t have to find out.




Liz couldn’t believe her luck. Of all the times to be paired with Isabelle Evans for a class project, it would have to be the day after she discovers the girl is romantically interested in her.

She had barely had a chance to return Max’s computer to sleep mode last night before he had come back to his room, and by the concern on his face she knew that she had not been able to hide her horrified expression from him. Fortunately he had only asked her whether she was all right, choosing not to pry when she had merely nodded her head in response. She had made sure that Isabelle had seen her tightly holding onto Max when it came time for him to take her home, hoping that the girl would get the hint and forget about giving her any more amorous notes or fancy presents. She had desperately wanted to lose herself in Max’s kiss again when they said goodnight, but she was too afraid that another one of those very detailed fantasies of hers would spring into her mind unheeded. The last thing she needed was to be passionately moaning Max’s name while her parents were listening on the other side of the front door.

He had seemed more reserved than usual when she had met him this morning, but the reverent touches she was quickly becoming accustomed to receiving from him each time they met up had instantly told her just how happy he was to see her. She had tried to pay even more attention to him whenever she noticed Isabelle observing them, praying that the strategy would be enough to discourage the girl from making any kind of move on her, but now there was no avoiding the one-on-one interaction they would need to work on this project.

“Hey there, partner,” Max’s sister greeted as she sat down at the empty desk next to Liz’s.

“Hi, Isabelle,” Liz said awkwardly, trying to block the frightening images conjured up by the girl’s use of the word ‘partner’. “So, what topic did Dr. Moloney give us?”

“Our topic is,” Isabelle said as she opened up the slip of paper she had chosen from the bowl the teacher had offered, “the influence of nature versus nurture on personality development. What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It was in the chapter we had to read for Monday. Haven’t you been keeping up on the assignments?” Liz asked, concerned that Isabelle’s lack of diligence might end up affecting her own grade.

“I’ve been busy with Christmas stuff,” Isabelle explained. “I’m just a little behind. Can you explain to me what it means so I don’t have to look it up?”

“By nature they mean your genetic makeup. Nurture means the environment you were raised in. So they want to know which one we think plays a more important role in creating someone’s personality: genetics or environment. It’s a pretty interesting topic.”

Isabelle gave her a wistful smile. “I’m sure it is for you, especially being the scientist type.”

“But it’s not for you?” Liz questioned, instantly picking up on the other girl’s melancholy and lack of enthusiasm. She had told herself that she would work with Isabelle and keep it strictly on an academic level, but she could tell that the subject really upset the girl for some reason. Isabelle was Max’s sister after all. If she was willing to talk the least Liz could do was lend a sympathetic ear.

“It’s just strange,” Isabelle admitted. “People are always saying things like ‘You have your mom’s eyes’ or ‘Your have your dad’s sense of humor’, and most kids can see the similarities and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right’. But I’m adopted, so the first one can’t be true. The second one…I don’t know. Did I get my sense of humor from my dad or was that part of my genetic makeup as well?”

“I guess it depends on whether you believe environment or genetics is more important,” Liz observed. She reluctantly prodded, “Does it bother you that you don’t know?”

“I’m not sure,” Isabelle shrugged. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to know how much of who I am comes from my real parents, but maybe it’s better that I don’t know.”

“Why do you say that?” Liz asked, truly interested now.

There was a minute of silence, and Liz wondered whether she shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place. Just as she was about to apologize Isabelle quietly asked, “Do you consider yourself to be a pretty open-minded person?”

“I’d like to think I am,” Liz hesitantly replied, suddenly afraid of where this conversation was heading.

Looking down at the desk Isabelle inquired, “And I assume you like my brother just a little?”

“I like your brother a lot,” Liz said emphatically, staunchly confirming her heterosexuality. “I’ve always liked him.”

“Do you think there’s anything that could change that?”

Liz’s stomach began to churn. “What…what do you mean?”

Isabelle raised her eyes to meet Liz’s. “What if you were to find out there was something…different about him?”

“Different? Like what?”

“I don’t know. Pick something,” Isabelle sighed. “Let’s say we find our real father and he turns out to be someone important, like a king…”

“So Max would be a prince?” Liz asked in confusion.

“Ok, that’s not a good example,” Isabelle conceded. “Say it was something that most people would consider bad, like a thief or a murderer.”

“So you’re asking me whether I would feel differently about Max if he found out something bad about your real parents?” Liz questioned.

Isabelle nodded.

“Of course I wouldn’t.”

“What if scientists could prove that genetics are more important? What if, just like hair color or eye color, Max was genetically ‘programmed’ to be a thief or a murder?”

Liz couldn’t help but laugh at the mental image of Max wearing a ski mask and throwing a gun out the window as she recklessly drove the getaway car. “Whether your real parents are royalty or criminals, Max would still be the same guy I’ve grown up with, the same one I’ve liked all these years. I’d never blame him for something he had no control over. I doubt he would ever turn to a life of crime, but if he did then I guess I would have to reevaluate my relationship with him.”

“Then Max is lucky,” Isabelle commented. “I don’t think the crowd I hang out with would be so understanding. If they found out something damning about me, they’d turn against me in a heartbeat.”

“Then maybe you should get some new friends,” Liz concluded.

“Yeah,” Isabelle answered with a knowing smile. “I think you’re right.”

Liz immediately realized what Max’s sister had done. Isabelle had used the analogy of Max and genetically programmed criminal behavior to gauge how she would react to the news that she was a lesbian, and Liz had played right into her hand. Now all she had to do was make sure Isabelle didn’t somehow trick her into her arms as well.

Maybe it was time to let Max know what his sister was up to.




“C’mon, Liz. You’ve got to open it here. There’s only today and tomorrow before the last gift at the dance, and I didn’t get to see yesterday’s. Please?” Barbara begged as Liz sat contemplating what to do with this most recent present. She had been able to stall her classmate yesterday, but she didn’t think she could do it two days in a row without drawing too much attention to herself. She had no doubt Barbara would cause a big scene if she didn’t get her wish.

Reluctantly opening the card she glanced at it before setting it down on the edge of the desk. She decided to take her time tearing the wrapping paper from the box, fruitlessly hoping that Barbara would grow tired of waiting and forget about her plea to see what treasure awaited her within. When she had no other choice but to lift the lid, she did so with baited breath.

She frowned as she noticed the pattern on the silk material so neatly arranged inside. White roses on a burgundy background. Why did that seem so familiar to her? She knew she had seen it somewhere before, but she couldn’t quite place it. Maybe she had seen it at the mall the other day. More than likely that was where Isabelle had obtained the…what was it, anyway?

“What is it? What is it?” Barbara gleefully begged the same question.

Liz lifted the layer of silk from the box to discover that it was a full length nightgown . Isabelle sure hadn’t wasted any time making this gift even more intimate than the previous ones, she thought wryly.

“That’s gorgeous!” Barbara exclaimed as two other girls in the class vigorously nodded their agreement. “I can’t believe how lucky you are, Liz.”

Liz tried to give the girl something closely resembling a grateful smile as she quickly returned the gown to the box.

“Wait! There’s something else underneath it,” Karen Musser pointed out as she stopped Liz from putting the lid on the box.

Liz nervously ran her tongue over her upper lip before removing the gown once again. Sure enough there was more of the same rose-patterned material lying inside. As she raised it up and saw the belt loosely tied in the center, a chill automatically went up her spine. She knew exactly what this was, and there was no doubt where she had seen it before.

Because the flow of your silken hair is gentler than a shower of rose petals and as graceful as the most perfect dream…” Barbara read. “Oh, I get it. The dream part is for the nightgown, and the shower part is for that. Talk about romantic.”

Liz didn’t notice that Barbara had read the love note, nor did she hear any of the other words coming out of the girl’s mouth. She was too busy wondering how on Earth Isabelle could have possibly chosen the exact same robe she had been wearing in that arousing fantasy she experienced last night when she and Max had shared their first real kiss.




Liz wore the shy smile he had only see her give him as she approached his regular booth, Cherry Coke in hand. “I don’t remember planning on getting together tonight,” she said as she set the glass down in front of him.

“Actually I have to go across the street and fill out some employment forms,” he explained as he placed his hand over hers, “but I couldn’t resist stopping by to see you first.” Looking around the nearly empty restaurant his eyes reflected his hope as he asked, “Can you join me for a few minutes?”

Her eyes followed the same path as his before they settled on him. “Let me go take care of one customer, and then I’ll be back.”

He nodded and grudgingly released her hand. She breezed over to the counter to retrieve the coffeepot before gliding over to one of the other booths to refill Mr. Patterson’s cup. How many times had he seen her perform that simple act as he watched her from afar, he wondered. Every one of her movements had always been so graceful and enchanting he felt as if he were watching her dance an elaborately choreographed ballet, yet it was only now that he didn’t feel he had to hide his admiring appraisal of such natural talent. Would that still be true in two more days?

He couldn’t deny what he had told Isabelle last night. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself that Liz would accept him, there was still a good chance that she wouldn’t be able to handle the truth. Not only would he end up without his dreamgirl, he wouldn’t even be able to return to the days when he would come here to secretly pine away for her. This may very well be the last Cherry Coke he ever drank in the Crashdown Cafe.

“Ooooh, such a serious look,” Liz teased as she slipped into the seat across from him. “What could you possibly be thinking about?”

“It’s nothing that can’t wait now that you’re back,” he said reverently.

Her shy smile returned as she said, “I’ve got fifteen minutes. Do you want to stay down here or go upstairs?”

“What about your parents?” he asked as he spied them both working in the kitchen.

“They won’t mind. They think you’re the perfect gentleman,” she answered as she grabbed his hands in hers. “Remember, they haven’t caught us alone in a dark room yet.”

“I guess you’re right,” he chuckled as they stood up together, quite glad to have her playfulness as a distraction. He enthusiastically followed her to the back of the restaurant and through the swinging door.

“Mom, Max and I are going to spend my break upstairs,” Liz informed the woman laboring near the dishwasher.

“Ok, honey. Just make sure you’re back down here by eight. I don’t want to have to send your father to find you two,” her mother answered with a wink.

As Liz began to climb the stairs he quickly diverted his eyes as he realized just how short her waitress uniform really was. He saw nothing wrong with appreciating the enticing length of leg the dress normally revealed, but when it came to her unintentionally exposing anything more he had way too much respect to take advantage of the situation, no matter how tempting it may be. If he were ever fortunate enough to unravel the mystery of what lay beneath her clothing, the only way he could take pleasure in the endeavor would be to have her full participation.

That thought immediately conjured up the memory of that sensual flash he had experienced last night when they had shared their first kiss. There was no doubt that the image of her in the silk robe had come from his own mind, but what about the rest of it? He was human enough that it certainly wasn’t the first fantasy he had ever had of her, but this had been unlike anything else he had ever experienced before. Did holding her in his arms have something to do with why it had felt so real? Should he dare to hope that it had been a premonition of their future?

Before he knew it they were on the landing and Liz was making her way inside the apartment, eagerly tugging him in behind her. She led them straight into her bedroom, releasing his hand to wrap her arms around his neck. She tilted her head up to meet his eyes and coyly suggested, “Now that we’re alone can I get a proper hello kiss?”

She looked so adorable staring up at him, the bobbing antennae on her uniform’s headband lending to her enthusiastic appearance, that all the worries plaguing him downstairs suddenly faded away. His only concern at the moment was that her break was a mere fifteen minutes long. “I’m not sure you deserve one,” he teased.

“Oh?” she asked wide-eyed. “And why is that?”

“Well, rumor has it that you’ve been accepting gifts of lingerie from your Secret Santa. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were trying to make me jealous.”

A strange look came over her face for a moment before she drew her hands down from around his neck to play with the buttons on his shirt. “You don’t really have a right to be jealous, do you?” she slyly observed. “It’s not like I’m your steady girlfriend or anything.”

He had to stop himself from shouting out with joy. Liz Parker was actually suggesting that he ask her to be his steady girlfriend. Well, he certainly didn’t want to disappoint her. Reaching out to caress her cheek, he sighed inwardly when she automatically leaned into the palm of his hand. Her simple gesture revealed how perfectly they fit together, just like he had always known they would. Absently wondering how much longer he would have the privilege of touching her this way, his fingers tenderly beseeched her to abandon her focus on his shirt in favor of concentrating on his face. When he had her full attention he asked with solemn reverence, “Do you want to be my steady girlfriend?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, her voice trembling with the nervousness he felt. “I might need to be persuaded.”

He smiled at her continuation of their game from the previous night. He would be more than glad to give her all the persuasion that could be done within fifteen minutes of time. Wrapping his hand around her waist he pulled her closer to him, quickly removing her headband and tossing it onto her bed when it became obvious that the unruly antennae were only going to get in his way. With no other obstacles in his path, he began the breathtaking task of convincing her to become his steady girlfriend.




Max was giving her such loving attention that she couldn’t help but feel guilty that the only things flashing through her mind at the moment were the beautiful gifts his sister had given her. She had almost told him about Isabelle being her Secret Santa when he had mentioned the nightgown and robe, but she had to be back downstairs in such a short period of time that it didn’t seem like the most opportune moment to discuss his sister’s sexual orientation or her unwanted attention. Right now she should be concentrating solely on her new steady boyfriend.

He gently tugged on her bottom lip with his teeth one last time before he pulled away from her, his reluctance to separate apparently as strong as hers was. Nothing felt more perfect than being held in his arms as he showered her with adoring kisses, but despite her desire to be surrounded by his warmth once again, she had answered truthfully when he asked whether he had convinced her to become his girlfriend.

“So now that you’re officially my girlfriend,” he said as he pressed his lips to her temple, “does that mean I get to have a say in how you dress from now on?”

“You’re my boyfriend, not my mother,” she reminded him with a less than innocent kiss to his neck, silently wishing his inquiry meant she would be receiving his Monday sweater.

“Can I at least make a request for the dance Saturday night?” he inquired, his voice revealing his hesitancy.

“It depends,” she replied as she gave him a look that said she wouldn’t deny him. “As long as you don’t expect me to go naked I think I can accommodate you. What specifically do you want to ask?”

He gave her a relieved smile before taking her hand and leading her over to the full-length mirror on the other side of the room. Standing behind her he wrapped his arms around her waist and closed his eyes as if he were forming the image he wanted of her in his mind. “Will you wear a skirt for me?” he queried.

“Yes,” she answered as she leaned her head back against his shoulder. “Do you prefer a long one or a short one?”

“I think long would be more elegant,” he returned as a pensive smile lit up his face.

“I agree,” she nearly moaned as he lowered his lips to taste her exposed neck. “Black, red or charcoal gray?” she finally managed to ask once she had grabbed onto his hands to steady herself.

“Red would be perfect,” he whispered against her ear.

“Is there more?” she questioned.

His right hand slid out from underneath her grasp, and with an instinct all its own managed to find the clip that held her hair in the twisted bun at the base of her neck. He carefully undid the clasp and let the fastener join her headband on the bed before affectionately combing out her dark tresses with his fingers. “I’d like you to wear your hair down around your shoulders like this so that I can run my fingers through it as we dance.”

Her own eyes closed momentarily as she let herself get lost in the incredible sensations his mere touch seemed to stir in her. The gentle, worshipful manner that permeated his every move was just what her body needed to come completely alive, and she doubted she would ever tire of his adoring ministrations. “What else do you want me to wear?” she lovingly implored.

“Your new black sweater. The one you wore last Saturday night,” he said huskily.

“You sure seem to like that,” she teased. “You do know that it was a gift from my Secret Santa, don’t you?”

“I remember,” he replied as he placed light kisses down the length of her face and neck. “Your Secret Santa and I both have good taste.”

“Hmm?” she questioned as his lips grazed the sensitive place he had discovered during last night’s passionate exchange.

“After all, we’re both in love with the most beautiful girl at West Roswell.”

Her eyes opened then, her breath catching in her throat when they met his in the mirror. Everything he was feeling at that moment was reflected in his gaze. It was as though she was looking into his soul, and what she saw there was nothing short of amazing. Still, she wanted him to tell her again. “What did you say?”

“That you’re the most beautiful girl at West Roswell.”

“No,” she nervously breathed out, “the other part.”

His eyes shyly looked away before meeting hers again. “I’m in love with you.”

She immediately turned in his arms and pulled his face down to meet hers, her mouth ardently professing the same words he had just spoken aloud. He didn’t hesitate with his response, his fingers automatically threading through her hair and possessively claiming her as they both savored the brilliance of the exquisite bond that was forming between them.

She was standing in front of him, his eyes fervently drinking in her beautiful form. The long red skirt was slit on the side, exposing just enough of her shapely leg to be elegantly alluring. The fuzzy black sweater had gently molded itself to her soft curves, making her all the more of an undeniable temptation to him. Her silky hair reflected the pale light of the dance floor in such a way that it looked like a curtain framing the perfect features of her stunning face, the pearls gracing the ends of her ears accentuating her flawless skin.

The sound of the grandfather clock ringing in the living room interrupted their kiss, but neither of them moved, the very clear image of her dance attire that had developed in their minds like an instant photo leaving both of them stunned beyond speech.

“The pearl earrings from your Secret Santa,” Max finally managed to breathe out. “Don’t forget to wear those, either.”

By now the clock was well on its way to marking the eighth hour, and she flew over to the bed in a panic. Holding her headband between her teeth she motioned for him to follow her as she made her way to the stairs, her fingers quickly refastening the bun in her hair as she went. “I gotta get back to work,” she sighed as she gave him a quick peck on the cheek once they were back on the ground floor. “Are you going to stick around?”

“No. I’ve still gotta go across the street and do those forms,” he answered. “Thanks for the Cherry Coke, though.”

“Only the best for my boyfriend,” she said with a smile. “I’ll see you at school, then.”

“Bye,” he said with one last kiss.


So wound up over the night’s wonderful events was she that the next day was halfway over before she realized that she had never told Max about the pearl earrings from her Secret Santa.



posted on 3-Feb-2003 12:33:50 AM by SansuCry
Hi, folks. Well, it's still my birthday for forty more minutes, so consider this a present to all of you, my wonderful readers.

From those of you who began reading when I posted the very first part to Eyes of Fear to Ariel70 and Dreaming of Roswell who have recently joined in reading my stories with this fic, I want to thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Kara--Thanks for the birthday wishes. I let Sarah read your little hello for herself, and she was simply thrilled. Now she wants to know when she's going to see you again!

Without further ado....posted in two parts for length

Part 12

Friday
December 22, 2000

“Max asked me to be his steady girlfriend last night.”

“Oh my gosh, chica, that’s great!” Maria yelled as she drove away from the Crashdown. “I’m so happy for you!”

“Won’t it be fun?” Liz asked. “Max and I can go on a double date with you and Michael.”

“Yeah, I know,” Maria enthusiastically answered. “We can even…” she trailed off as she realized what Liz had just said. “I mean…”

“Don’t even try to deny it, ‘ria,” Liz interrupted. “I heard you two in the eraser room after school Wednesday. I just don’t understand why you didn’t tell me you guys were a couple.”

An eerie silence settled over the car. “Things between Michael and me are complicated,” Maria finally began in explanation, “and for a while I didn’t even think there was going to be a ‘we’. I guess I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure.”

“Were you ever going to tell me?” Liz asked with a hurt expression.

“Of course I was,” Maria assured. “He and I are going to the dance tomorrow night. I was planning to tell you then.”

Liz let out a frustrated sigh. “If you two are together then why did you let me think that Michael was my Secret Santa?”

“I didn’t let you think anything. Any conclusions you jumped to were done all on your own,” Maria defended.

“So would I be jumping to another conclusion if I said I know that a girl drew my name?”

“Liz, you know…”

“…you can’t tell me who it is. Yeahyeahyeah. I heard you the first time, but my Secret Santa is writing me love notes and giving me nightgowns. I think I have a right to know whether I’m going to be blindsided Saturday night.”

Maria took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts before she said, “Liz, do you like the gifts you’ve been getting from your Secret Santa?”

“They’re nice, but…”

“No but. Just yes or no. Do you like the gifts?”

How could she not, she asked herself. Every last one of them was perfect. “Yeah,” she admitted. “I do.”

“Then you should enjoy them,” Maria directed. “That’s why your Secret Santa gave them to you. Not to upset you. Not to make you crazy. Just so you would enjoy them.”

“Maria, it’s not that simple…”

“Yes, Liz, it is,” Maria remarked. “You’re with Max now. When your Secret Santa is revealed tomorrow night, you have the right to say, ‘Thanks for the gifts, but I’m really not interested’ without having to feel the least bit guilty.”

“Have you been listening to me at all?” Liz asked in frustration. “My Secret Santa is a girl. A specific girl…”

“I heard you,” Maria confirmed. “And whether your Secret Santa is a boy or a girl, my answer is the same. Liz, I’m your best friend, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Everything will work out fine tomorrow night. I promise. Will you just trust me on this?”

With all the secrets her friend had apparently been keeping from her, Liz couldn’t help but wonder whether she really should.




“Good morning, my smart and beautiful girlfriend,” Max greeted with a gentle kiss to her forehead.

“Your girlfriend,” she said as she let the words roll over her tongue. “I like the sound of that. Of course, the smart and beautiful part isn’t too shabby either.”

“I’m only stating the facts,” he commented, his voice heavy with admiration. “Smart and beautiful barely scrape the surface.”

“You know, Mr. Evans,” she said with a teasing glint in her eye as she wrapped her arms around his waist, “flattery like that will get you everywhere.”

He was relieved that she was being so carefree and mischievous with him, especially after what had happened last night. He had been so caught up in imagining her dressed for the dance in precisely what he wanted her to wear that his admission of how deep his feelings for her ran had slipped past his lips without a second thought. Only when she asked him to say the words again did he realize that he had voiced his declaration aloud. He had tried to edge his way out of repeating his confession, more than a little scared that she would be put off by the significance of his comment, but in the end the look in her eyes had given him the confidence to speak. He had been rather astonished when she hadn’t withdrawn from him, instead turning in his arms and giving him a kiss that proved she felt just as strongly for him. Life was definitely good.

“I’m going to hold you to that, Miss Parker,” he lightheartedly returned as he rested his forehead against hers, reveling in the ever present strawberry scent her closeness brought.

“I’m counting on it,” she said as she gently squeezed her arms at his waist, “hopefully starting tonight.”

“Tonight?” he asked in confusion.

“I’m not exactly sure how this going steady thing works,” she admitted, “but I believe it means we’re supposed to spend at least some of our free time together.”

“I’m sorry,” he said remorsefully. “I didn’t even think to check with you. When I went to fill out my paperwork last night Milton, my boss at the UFO Center, said he was short-staffed. I volunteered to start working a day earlier to help him out. I’m supposed to be there by three-thirty this afternoon.”

“Oh,” she said, her disappointment obvious in that one simple word.

“I get a fifteen minute break around six-thirty,” he explained as he ran his thumb over the edges of her slight frown. “You could meet me and we could spend it together, maybe take a walk around downtown to look at some of the Christmas decorations.” He felt a hint of a smile form at his suggestion, and the small assuring nod she gave indicated that she wasn’t upset with him.

“I suppose we’ll have to get used to conflicting work schedules,” she sighed in resignation. “I just wonder whether we’ll be able to spend any time together.”

“Sure we will,” he consoled, praying that she would still want to spend time with him after she knew the truth. “The Center closes at five on Saturdays, so unless your schedule changes we’ll always have Saturday nights. When I do have to work I’ll be right across the street from you, so we should be able to spend at least some of our breaks together.”

Just then the bell for first period interrupted their conversation, so Liz gave him a quick kiss as she observed, “You always know just the right thing to say to make me feel better.”

He only hoped that would be true Saturday night.




There was no way in the world she was going to open this present here at school, no matter how much Barbara begged her. It would be difficult enough to handle the flack of receiving the robe and nightgown set if it ever got out that Isabelle Evans was the giver, so she wasn’t about to take the chance with this latest gift. She could only imagine the horror of lifting the lid on the box to discover something even more intimate, such as a padded bra with matching thong. No, if this gift were going to be opened at all, it would be done in the privacy of her bedroom.

“So, you and Max Evans, huh?” Barbara’s question snapped her out of her thoughts. “I thought he was gay.”

“Oh, he’s definitely not gay,” Liz said wryly, silently telling her classmate that she had the wrong Evans.

“Are you guys going to the dance together?”

“Yeah,” she replied as she slipped the gift into her bookbag. “Actually, we’re going steady.”

“Really?” Barbara drawled out. “Then I guess congratulations are in order.”

“Thanks,” Liz said shyly.

“So what does he think of all these fancy gifts from your Secret Santa? I bet he’s pretty jealous.”

“Not really. He…”

“Oh, I get it,” Barbara interrupted. “He doesn’t know about them, does he?”

“Sure he does,” she defended. “Max isn’t jealous because there’s nothing to be jealous of. If it weren’t for my Secret Santa he and I wouldn’t have gotten together in the first place. As a matter of fact, he really likes some of the presents I’ve gotten.”

“I bet that nightgown is one of them,” her classmate quipped. Leaning closer she questioned in a conspiratorial whisper. “Did he ask you to model it for him?”

“Ok,” Liz admitted, “so maybe he doesn’t know about all the presents I’ve received.”

“Oh?” Barbara asked, suddenly intrigued. “Which ones does he know about?”

Her brows furrowed in thought before she answered. “Well, he knows about the star named after me,” she remarked, a grin instantly lighting up her face as she remembered the terrific night they had spent out on her balcony. “He helped me find it with my telescope.”

“And?” Barbara prodded.

“And the sweater.”

“What sweater?” the girl asked in frustration. “I don’t remember any sweater.”

“That’s right,” Liz recalled. “That was the day when I didn’t get a present in class. I opened it at my locker instead.”

“So a star and a sweater. That’s what? Two out of ten gifts. If those are the only ones Max knows about it’s no wonder he’s not jealous,” Barbara observed.

“The earrings must not have upset him either,” Liz remarked. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have asked me to wear them to the dance tomorrow night.”

“Earrings?” Barbara whined. “When did you get those?”

“Uh, Wednesday,” Liz said sheepishly.

“That was the present you didn’t open here?” Barbara asked.

“We’re crushed, Parker,” Jeff Rogers mocked as he grabbed Barbara’s hand and held it to his chest. “You’re sharing Secret Santa gifts with Evans that you won’t share with us. And here I thought we meant something special to you.”

Liz started to make a smart-assed remark, but suddenly Jeff’s comment struck a chord.

You’re sharing Secret Santa gifts with Evans that you won’t share with us.

She immediately realized that Jeff was wrong. The only gift she had shown Max that she hadn’t shared with Barbara and Jeff was the sweater, and that’s only because it had been placed in her locker. She hadn’t told anyone about the pearl earrings until just a few minutes ago, yet Max had definitely known about them. He hadn’t found out about the gift from her, which could only mean one thing: Isabelle had told him.

Max Evans knew that his sister was her Secret Santa.




“Max! MAX! Wait up!”

He immediately turned around at the sound of her rapidly approaching voice, her anxious tone reflected in her features. He moved out of the stream of exiting students and closing the distance between them he asked with concern, “Hey, are you all right?”

“Um, yeah. I think so,” she shyly said as she pulled them into an empty doorway. “I just wanted to talk to you about something.”

His senses automatically went to full alert. Liz knew that he had to hurry up to be on time for his first day of work, so she wouldn’t have come after him unless it was important. The look on her face only reinforced that. This definitely didn’t sound good. “What’s up?” he asked as casually as possible.

“Remember last night, when you asked me to wear the pearl earrings to the dance?” she hesitantly asked.

“Sure,” he said with a knowing smile. “How could I forget?”

“Well, I’m just wondering…how did you know about the earrings? I don’t remember telling you about them.”

Crap! She was right. He shouldn’t have known about the earrings. Obviously she suspected the truth, but this was neither the time nor the place to have the discussion he knew was coming. If he could just stall her until tonight…

“You caught me,” he admitted. “You didn’t tell me about the earrings. I saw them sitting on your dresser last night.”

“My dresser,” she repeated, mulling over the validity of his response.

Apparently he was going to have to tell her the truth sooner than he had planned. He had seen the earrings sitting on her dresser last night, but that wasn’t necessarily how he knew about them. It wouldn’t take her long to figure out that the earnestness of his answer was merely a question of semantics. He had to get out of there before she made any more inquiries. Bending down to give a quick kiss to her cheek, he asked, “Liz, can we talk about this during my break tonight? I really don’t want to be late for my first day of work.”

She nodded her response, too busy contemplating his answer to speak.

“Great. Have your coat ready around six-thirty. I’ll come across the street and get you,” he hastily directed as he moved to step back into the crowd.

“Wait!” Liz’s hand caught his wrist at the last minute. When he turned to face her again, she asked, “About my Secret Santa…”

“Liz, I know what you’re thinking,” he pleaded, “and I’m asking you to wait until tonight…”

“Just answer me this,” she prompted. “Do you know who my Secret Santa is?”

He couldn’t outright lie to her, so he gave her the only response he could. “Yes.”

“The notes I’ve been getting? Have you read them?”

“Yes.”

She gave him an exasperated look. “Yes? All you can say is yes?”

If he didn’t go now, he’d never make it to work on time. Not wanting to leave her in such an agitated mood, he gave her another quick kiss and mischievously remarked, “Well, I’ve already told you that I think your Secret Santa has good taste, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that I tend to agree with the notes as well. As a matter of fact, your Secret Santa and I think so much alike that I was hoping that you would consider letting the two of us share you.” With that he pulled away from her and disappeared out the door.

If he had bothered to take one last look at her, he might have discovered that Liz Parker was too busy being stunned by her boyfriend’s insinuation that he wanted to have some kind of threesome with her and his sister for her to realize that he had surreptitiously confessed to being her Secret Santa.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Feb-2003 12:36:34 AM ]
posted on 3-Feb-2003 12:37:21 AM by SansuCry
Part 12 (continued)

Before the shock of Max’s bizarre statement had even had a chance to wear off, Mrs. Johnston had asked to speak with her regarding her Secret Santa. For the most part she had managed to hide her increasing nausea as she followed the teacher down the hallway to her classroom, her lip receiving all her nervous attention as she restlessly waited to hear what the woman had to say.

She shouldn’t have been surprised that Mrs. Bryant had contacted the program's sponsor regarding the gifts she had been receiving. Each one of the items, save the angora sweater, had caused quite a stir in the woman’s homeroom, so it was only logical that the presents would be called into question. However, instead of the lecture she had expected to receive, Mrs. Johnston was simply concerned that the elaborate gifts may be making her uncomfortable. Despite Max’s disturbing comment, she simply couldn’t admit to the teacher that there was a problem. She definitely didn’t want anyone else involved in her growing nightmare of a love life.

In a last ditch effort to find any other explanation for Max’s statement than the one she feared was true she had inquired whether he had signed up for the Secret Santa program, insisting that it wouldn’t hurt for her to know since her Secret Santa was a girl. Mrs. Johnston reluctantly agreed, but when she confirmed that Max was not one of the program’s participants, Liz had almost wished she hadn’t asked.

She had to have misunderstood him. That was the only possible justification she could come up with for Max’s bizarre statement. She simply refused to believe that he and Isabelle were anything more than brother and sister, although that would certainly account for the fact that
neither of them had ever dated and had always kept to themselves. Could Isabelle’s jealousy have been the real reason she had interrupted their kiss the other night? Just the thought of it sent a frightened shiver down her back. There was really no use speculating over any of this. Max would be here to see her in another half-hour. For better or worse all her questions would be answered then.

“Liz, honey. There’s someone downstairs to see you,” her mother said as she walked into the apartment and headed toward the kitchen.

She checked her watch against the clock on the fireplace. A little before six. Max must have been given his break early. Grabbing her coat she said, “I’ll be back in a little while. Max and I are going for a walk.”

She was already down the stairs by the time her mother shouted out that her visitor was a girl, so she nearly froze when she pushed through the kitchen door to see Isabelle standing there waiting for her.

“Hey, Liz,” the girl greeted, “can I talk to you a minute?”

She suppressed the urge to turn around and flee. Isabelle was already here, so she might as well let her know the score now before things got even more out of hand. What better place to do it than on her own turf anyway. She gestured to a vacant booth in the corner, tossing her jacket on the seat before sliding in across from the statuesque blonde. “Isabelle, I already know what this is about,” she began.

“You do?” Isabelle asked with surprise.

“Yeah,” she confirmed. “Max told me after school today.”

That piece of news seemed to ruffle the other girl’s feathers just a bit, so it took a few seconds before she hopefully asked, “What do you think? Is there a chance of it happening?”

The eagerness in Isabelle’s voice made Liz realize that this was going to be more difficult than she had imagined. She really had no right to judge Max or the girl sitting across from her, especially since she knew nothing about what their lives were like before they had been adopted. Maybe they considered such closeness between siblings normal. Although she could never conceive of being a part of something like that, she would at least try to let them down gently.

“Isabelle, remember how we were discussing the whole nature versus nurture thing the other day in Psychology?” she offered.

“Of course,” Isabelle answered.

“Well, I think people are programmed to either be attracted to members of the opposite sex or the same sex, sometimes both. But if that type of attraction isn’t there, you can’t really do anything to change that. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or anything. It just means you should look elsewhere.”

Isabelle stared down at her hands for a few silent minutes before she gathered enough strength to look Liz in the eye. “So you’re telling me there’s no chance at all?” she asked, angrily swiping away a tear that had worked its way past her lashes.

“I’m sorry Isabelle,” Liz simply said.

“It’s not your fault,” the girl sniffled as she looked away. “I guess I just never imagined that Alex was gay.”

“Alex?” she gaped. “What does this have to do with Alex? He isn’t gay.”

“He’s not?” Isabelle asked in confusion.

“No,” she scoffed.

Isabelle gave her an annoyed look before coolly saying, “If Alex isn’t gay, then what was that whole nature-nurture speech about?”

“That was my nice way of letting you know that I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever,” she responded with just as much coldness, “and I certainly have no intentions of letting you and Max share me.”

“Hold on!” Isabelle said, apparently confused by her statement. Raising her brows in disbelief the blonde arrogantly asked, “You think I’m in love with you?”

“Well, the notes and gifts you’ve been giving me sure seem to indicate that,” Liz retorted.

Isabelle’s eyes widened in understanding. “I don’t believe this,” she moaned before she choked down her laughter. “Trust me, Liz. You’ve got it all wrong. I only wanted to know whether you thought Alex would go to the dance with me if I asked him.”

She was growing more frustrated by the minute. Now that Isabelle knew she wasn’t interested, the girl was obviously trying to save face by pretending to be interested in Alex. Well, she wasn’t about to let her get away with it. This fiasco was going to end right now. “Are you telling me that you aren’t my Secret Santa?”

“Well, I am the one who drew your name,” Isabelle confirmed.

“So you are my Secret Santa,” she logically deduced.

“Technically,” she said with a roll of her eyes.

She couldn’t believe Isabelle’s audacity. She had all the proof she needed, so why was Isabelle playing this game? “I saw the web pages you left up after you were done with Max’s computer Wednesday night, Isabelle. I saw the Pearl Paradise site, and I know those were my earrings.”

“The keywords in that sentence would be ‘Max’s computer’.”

“Max reads Dawson’s Creek fanfiction?” she asked sarcastically.

Isabelle looked chagrined. “Ok, so that one was mine, but if you dare tell a single soul I will deny it in a heartbeat.”

Max’s computer. She could already feel the butterflies dancing in her stomach as her mind began to reel at Isabelle’s implication. “And the Pearl Paradise site?”

“Not mine.”

Could it possibly be true? She wrung her hands as she asked the ultimate question. “Isabelle, are you saying that Max is my Secret Santa?”

Isabelle let her eyes focus on some imaginary spot across the room before replying, “Look, I made certain promises to certain people that would preclude me from making such a statement. But you’re a smart girl, Liz. I think you can figure it out from here.”

She slumped in her seat and rested her face in her hands in an attempt to massage away some of her tension. It all made sense now. Why he hadn’t been jealous. How he knew about the earrings. His great appreciation for the angora sweater. His comment about sharing her.

“I definitely didn’t expect this kind of reaction,” Isabelle quietly commented. “Somehow I thought you’d be a little bit happier about it.”

And she would have been, she despondently thought, except for one thing.

The fact that Max was her Secret Santa meant he had been lying to her.




“Hey, this is a surprise. I thought I was supposed to come and get you,” he cheerfully asked.

“I thought I’d save you the trouble of crossing the street,” she answered, the tone of her voice instantly putting him on alert. “Besides, we need to talk, so I wanted to give us as much time as possible.”

Reaching for her arm he questioned with concern, “Is there something wrong?”

She allowed him to touch her, but the careful scruitinization she gave his hand only added to his apprehension. Her eyes taking in the unusually crowded building she replied, “Here probably isn’t a very good place for this conversation. Why don’t we go over to the square?”

He nodded his consent. “Sure. Whatever you want.”

She turned and walked toward the exit, not purposely pulling out of his grasp but definitely not encouraging him to continue touching her. Her whole demeanor was like nothing he had ever witnessed in his many years of observing her every move, and that thought alone unnerved him more than he wanted to admit. Whatever she wanted to talk to him about was seriously upsetting her. He didn’t have to imagine what the topic of their discussion might be.

They walked the short distance to the town square in complete silence, the sound of their breathing in the cool night air hanging between them like a heavy curtain. He let her lead him to a bench on the side of the ice skating rink, a location isolated enough from the square’s other patrons to be private yet not secluded enough to be considered alone. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a familiar envelope, handing it to him with a look that demanded he read it. He already knew what it said but decided that humoring her was a smart choice until he had a better idea of what was going on in her head.

”Because I will love you until the end of time…” he lovingly quoted, unwilling to hide the emotion in his voice.

Her eyes were no longer on him as she said in a hushed tone, “I’m sure that seeing me get a note like that from my Secret Santa must make you pretty jealous.”

There was no doubt about it. She knew, and obviously she wasn’t very happy about it. “Liz…”

“You don’t need to be, though,” she quietly continued. “As beautifully written as the notes from my Secret Santa have been, I’ve come to realized that he can’t possibly know me well enough to really be in love with me.”

“Liz…” he began again, his voice pleading for her to listen.

“See, if my Secret Santa loved me as much as he says he does,” she said in a wavering voice, “he would know what I think of people who outright lie to me.”

“Liz, I swear, I didn’t lie to you.”

“Didn’t you?” she accused, her eyes piercing him with a wounded gaze.

“You never came right out and asked me whether I was your Secret Santa,” he meekly defended.

“You’re right,” she replied with a hint of anger. “I didn’t, but please feel free to correct me correct me if I’m wrong about this: did you or did you not say that the only money you’ve spent on me besides tips at the Crashdown was to rent the movie the other night?”

“Yes, I did say that…” he acquiesced.

“Well then, I have a slew of expensive gifts across the street, the latest of which is a two thousand dollar Movado watch , that says you lied to me. Where did you get that kind of money, Max? Did you raid your college fund? Or did you persuade your parents to give it to you? If so, do they know what you spent it on?”

He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. This was not the way he had planned for this to go, but then again, he shouldn’t really be surprised. He had been intentionally avoiding planning this conversation at all, ignorantly believing that not thinking about it would magically make the discussion a completely unnecessary one. His naïveté was going to cost him. He just hoped the price wouldn’t be too high.

“Liz, I can explain everything if you give me a chance,” he pledged, “but I promise you that I didn’t lie about not buying you the gifts.”

“Are you honestly going to tell me that you didn’t pay any money for…” she trailed off as her face suddenly turned ashen. Her eyes grew large and her hand swiftly came up to cover her mouth as she whispered, “Oh my god. That’s what Isabelle was trying to tell me.”

“Isabelle?” he questioned in shock. He had no idea that his sister had spoken to her. “What did Isabelle tell you?”

“How could I have been so stupid?” she castigated as she cryptically analyzed the previous day’s exchange aloud. “She wasn’t talking about her. She really was discussing you. She was warning me…”

“Warning you about what?” he warily asked, making a mental note to strangle Isabelle if he managed to survive this torturous confrontation.

“She asked me whether my feelings for you would change if I found out something bad about your real parents. She used an example of a thief. I thought she was…” Shaking her head as she realized she was getting sidetracked she continued, “She was trying to tell me that those gifts were stolen, wasn’t she?”

He was beside himself, but he wasn’t sure which upset him more: the fact that Isabelle had covertly interrogated Liz on the subject of his alienness or the conclusion Liz had reached because of that interrogation. He was going to have to do some major damage control, and fast. “I didn’t steal the gifts, Liz…”

“If you didn’t buy them and you didn’t steal them, then where did they come from, Max? It’s not like you pulled them out of thin air!” she demanded, her tone growing angrier by the minute.

He was rapidly losing any chance of having her remain rational enough to accept the truth, but there was no way he could continue this conversation in public. “I promise I’ll explain everything,” he insistently reiterated as he reached for her hand, “but not here. We have to be somewhere more private.”

She pulled away from him and jumped to her feet as if his touch would scald her, the fearfulness in her eyes causing his heart to painfully tighten in his chest. “I’m not going anywhere. If you can’t tell me the truth right here and right now, then I don’t need your explanation.”

He had backed himself into a corner. Should he protect his safety by remaining silent, losing her forever in process? Or should he tell her the truth here in public and chance her freaking out? The debate was short-lived. With the first option his life would definitely be over. With the second there was the possibility of surviving unscathed, however slim it might be.

Taking a couple of steadying breaths he directed, “You may want to sit down for this.”

“I think I’ll stay where I am,” she returned as she nervously wrapped her arms around her middle.

“Here goes nothing,” he mumbled before clearing his throat. “While I didn’t exactly pull the gifts out of thin air, that’s pretty close to the truth. I actually created them.”

“Created them?” she asked in disbelief. “You created a Lladro statue? And a Movado watch?”

“Yes, from other…things.”

“Other things?” she cynically responded. “You must be a pretty handy guy if you can carve a wooden jewelry box and knit an angora sweater and bind a leather journal, not to mention being able to perfectly duplicate Godiva chocolates and Cherished Teddy figurines. Tell me, Max. What is the secret to your uncanny abilities?”

Every thought of this moment, eight years of anxiety and anticipation, began to swarm in his head as he tried to form a coherent description of how he had created her presents. Instead he ended up constructing a brick wall, one that slammed into him so hard that he would barely be able to string two words together. Just as he was about to throw his hands up in frustration, a simple yet remarkable inspiration managed to break through his fretful haze. He prayed it would be his salvation. “Remember in ‘Starman’ when he melted the lugwrench?” he hesitantly asked. “I made your gifts by doing something similar. I can manipulate molecular structures to change one thing into another.”

She shifted her eyes away from his, choosing to focus on the ornate leg of the wrought-iron bench as she skeptically commented, “What a convenient talent to have. How did you ever manage to acquire such an unusual ability?”

His mouth automatically curved into a wry half-smile as he gave her the answer that would make her question where he was from. “I guess it’s because I’m not from around here.”

The backlighting from the ice rink made it difficult to read her expression, but there was no mistaking her next gesture. She turned her back on him. He stood up then but with great effort resisted the urge to go over to her.

“So tell me,” she softly inquired as she dug the toe of her shoe into the ground. “Are you from Canada or ‘up north’?”

She was asking questions instead of running away screaming. This had to be a good sign. “I’m from ‘up north’,” he confirmed.

She slowly nodded her head, and he immediately let out a relieved sigh. Her initial reaction had made him nervous, but just as he had hoped the curious scientist in her had quickly taken over. “If you don’t mind,” he suggested, “we should probably find some place more private to continue this discussion.”

“The only place I’m going is home,” she said morosely.

“Home?” he asked in complete amazement. “But don’t you want to ask me any questions? Where am I from? How did I get here?”

She spun around to face him, her eyes brimming with the tears that were streaking down her face. “The only question I have is: why? Why are you doing all this?”

“Doing all what?” he beseeched, his voice catching in his throat as he saw her pained expression.

“Giving me expensive gifts, telling me you can manipulate molecular structure, trying to convince me you’re an alien,” she counted off on her fingers. “Don’t you understand? None of that is necessary. I like you.” A sob escaped her lips before she corrected, “I love you. Already, I love you. You don’t have to lie to try to impress me.”

He almost collapsed in shock. Of all the scenarios that had played out in his head over the years, he was dumbfounded that this one had never occurred to him. “You don’t believe me,” he finally managed to choke out. “You think I’m making this up.”

Anger suddenly flared in her eyes. “Did you really think I’d buy that ‘I’m an alien’ garbage? I mean, if you insist on not telling me the truth at least come up with halfway credible lies. Why won’t you tell me how you got those presents?”

“I told you that I created them,” he insistently pleaded. “I can prove it to you.”

“Fine,” she challenged. “Then prove it.”

It was one thing to tell her in the middle of a crowded town square that he was an alien, but there was no way he could risk showing her. “Not here,” he maintained. “There are too many people.”

“Let me guess. Alien powers don’t work in front of a crowd?” she retorted as she agitatedly swiped several stray strands of hair behind her ear.

“Oh, they work all right,” he readily admitted. “I just don’t care to be the subject of the next alien autopsy video.”

She gave him a look that left no room for interpretation. She doubted his excuse for not proving himself with the same level of suspicion his original admission had met. He could feel her slipping away from him and, despite his agreement to let Maria inform her best friend of her own introduction into the alien abyss, he desperately blurted out, “If you won’t believe me you can ask Maria…”

“Maria? She’s involved in this, too?”

“She and Michael are…”

“You know about them?” she asked incredulously, refusing to hear more. The growing scowl on her face told him he didn’t really need to answer her anyway. “Why doesn’t that surprise me? What was this? Some ‘let’s play a cruel joke on Liz’ scheme? Give me a perfect Secret Santa who seems to know exactly what I like, with the help of my supposed best friend of course. Get me to watch some alien movie from the 80’s, once again with prodding from Maria to not wait until after Christmas. Then use my love of science and molecular biology and…you…to really pull one over on me? If that was the plan, Max, I gotta tell you: it worked.”

“It’s not a joke. I would never do something like that,” he said in revulsion as he took a tentative step toward her. Offering his hand in assurance he implored, “This doesn’t change anything. I can show you that I’m still me.”

She automatically backed away as she refused to let her eyes meet his. After a few seconds of silent contemplation she began to walk around the opposite end of the bench. “I guess that’s the problem, Max. You aren’t the person I thought you were. I can’t be with someone who has such little respect for me that he would rather make up some ridiculous story about being an alien than be honest.”

“Liz, please just give me one chance,” he begged. “I love you.”

“That’s what you say,” she commented as she walked away from him, “but how do I know that’s not just another lie?”

He wanted to go after her, to drag her to some secluded spot and prove to her beyond a shadow of a doubt that every word that had left his mouth was completely sincere, but he knew that it was pointless. She had already made up her mind, and there was nothing he could do about it at the moment.

He hoped that maybe once she had some time to calm down she would allow him to prove that he wasn’t lying, but somewhere in the back of his mind he couldn’t help but think he had just lost his dreamgirl for good.





OK, on second thought, maybe that wasn't such a good present for me to give....Sansu evilly laughs



[ edited 3 time(s), last at 3-Feb-2003 12:45:00 AM ]
posted on 6-Feb-2003 11:00:01 PM by SansuCry
For those of you who only read the stories and don't bother to check the announcements, I decided to post this here.

quote:
Hi. Ok.

So, there's some really, really bad news. It is almost an exact certainty that this board as we know it will close on March 1. See, the calendars didn't make us any money... I think we lost some. More than that, the host has upped our monthly fees to $500. And. We've been having freaking "overage" charges for the last 2 months as well. Personally, I think we're being hosed by the host people. They have new management, and "our" guy isn't there anymore. We have had nothing but problems with them. I have asked repeatly for a bandwidth report for the whole box, and they simply will not give it to us. In short, we've gone through about 2 grand since the begining of the year. All of the donations you guys have contributed have been vanished.

Now, there are some options. Wendy and I have been scrambling to figure out what to do. We can move (again) to a different host, and rework everything to be on a UNIX platform instead of a Windows platform. That means more stability, and less board downtime (ask anyone who knows computers.. UNIX = good. Windows = buggy as hell). We can move over all the users and the stories. The stories would be staic and non-updatable, but still searchable (with a search function that works!), and linkable from other pages.

Other things that the new system would have:
1. upload your own icons
2. search function that works
3. email lost passwords automatically
4. instead of $500 per month, it's $500 for 5 months.

Now, we do have other options. We screwed up. We know that. So, we can let the board go. We can try moving back to EZBoard but we will more than likely get kicked off because of our bandwith usage. Wendy and I can step down, and let someone else take over the money and the server and try to fix things. The board will more than likely close for a few weeks while that happens (money and such switches hand). Know that we don't want to step down, but feel that we can't keep going the way things are. We love this site, and are very upset by this situation.

In our opinon, the server isn't fixable without a complete reinstall of the OS, which we can't really do remotely. We'd have to pay tech support $100 an hour to do it. We only have about $300 left right now.

So anyway, there it is. We want to take action as soon as we can. There's a poll where you can vote for what you would like done. Your input will decide the future of Roswell Fanatics.

Thank you,

Heidi


My response:

As far as I'm concerned this board wouldn't be what it is without Heidi and Wendy, so I vote that you wonderful ladies stay at the helm and steer this ship to calmer waters.

I'll offer as much financial support as I can afford, since I'm sure it will still be cheaper than the shrink I would need to see if the board ceases to exist.

Sansu


I love this board, and this is the only place I personally post my stories (although some of them are posted at Faith's site). I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I would hate to see such a wonderful haven disappear.

That being said, I am begging all of you readers to go to this thread ( viewthread?forum=AMB_AP870995574&id=15992&page=1 ) and show your support for the wonderful ladies who work so hard to bring you this great place.

And when the time comes to offer financial support, I'm requesting that each of you send in something, even if it is a dollar, to support the wonderful fics that are posted on this site. I already hear the 'but I'm poor' or 'I can't afford to send money' comments out there. Well, be honest. Do you ever buy a can of soda out of a vending machine? How about that morning coffee at Starbucks? Or even a pack of gum? If so, then you can afford to give a buck or two to support this site.

Climbing down off of my soap box to go work on the next part of this fic.

Sansu
posted on 15-Feb-2003 9:33:47 PM by SansuCry
Hey there everybody. I just read the note that said I will lose all my feedback in the board move, so this is what I am asking.

I love every piece of feedback I get and I truly appreciate the time it takes for you all to leave it, so I do save every last one of them. That being said, I have decided to wait until the move is over before posting any new parts to my stories. Two of them will be completed with the next posting, and I won’t have any time before next Saturday to save the feedback before the move. In the meantime I would also ask that you not post any more feedback on my threads.

When the new board is up, I should be putting out new parts to all my stories within a few days of the transfer. Once again, thank to all of you who have given me such wonderful encouragement with your feedback, and for all you lurkers I hope the move will give you the incentive to get out there and voice your opinions.

Sansu