|posted on 22-Feb-2002 11:21:28 AM by mockingbird39|
|Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and the character of Marryn Riley. But I wish I owned Max.|
Category: Mostly Max/Liz, but all of the conventionals are represented.
Timing: This takes place mid-season two, and Alex doesn't die!
Author's Note: This is an old story of mine that never made it to the new board. I am reposting it now in preparation for a new story I am starting that goes into greater detail about the Antar mythology and incorporates some of the themes I hint at here.
Summary: A stranger with an incredible claim and a strange connection to Liz comes to Roswell in search of the Pod Squad. What will her message mean to the Royal Four--and to Max and Liz's relationship?
Alex Whitman was less than a block away from the Crashdown when SHE rolled into town. Later, even after he had had time to think about that day and the events that came after it, he always remembered her most vividly as she was in those first moments—flushed, fiery, not a little frustrated—and in his mind her name was always spelled in bold capital letters.
The car was the first thing he noticed. Few black Camaro convertibles came through Roswell, and even fewer roared past the Crashdown at 60+ miles per hour, kicking up a storm of dust and blaring Robert Palmer at decibels that even impressed Alex. He stopped walking to stare after the car, wondering where its owner was going in such a hurry. Shaking his head, he thought briefly about how it would feel to be behind the wheel of something like that. He was about to continue on his way when the car suddenly screeched to a stop, then began backing up at a speed that made Alex edge away from the street. By the time the driver slammed on the brakes again, this time double-parked directly in front of him, he was hugging the front window of Mancini’s Dry Cleaning and Tailoring.
“Hey, you!” Alex’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as the dust settled to reveal a young woman with fiery red hair sitting in the driver’s seat. As he watched, she opened the door and swung her long. . .lo—oong legs out of the car and stood, propping her hands on her hips and surveying him from behind dark sunglasses. She was dressed in dark red leather pants that hung low on her hips and a black halter top that was little more than a well-placed handkerchief fastened around her neck by a gold ring. She was tall, slender, and she moved with a careless grace that made Alex feel awkward even standing still. Wind-tossed red waves fell around her shoulders, and her creamy skin shone in the late-afternoon sun. Alex’s mouth went dry as he realized that she was addressing him.
“M-me?” he asked, glancing behind him uncertainly.
“Yes, you,” she assured him, walking purposefully toward him. “Are you a tourist or a local?”
She pulled off her sunglasses and quirked an eyebrow, regarding him with a frown. “Are you sure about that?”
“Yes!” Alex nodded vigorously. “I live here. . .in Roswell. Therefore, I am a—a. . .local.”
“Good.” She gave him a dazzling smile. “Then maybe you can help me.”
Some tiny impulse in Alex’s brain warned him that in Roswell, you didn’t go around offering your services to every. . .incredibly gorgeous. . .stranger that came through town—not if you valued your life, or those of your friends. But that was a tiny impulse, and the amount of teenage boy hormones roaring through his body was very large. “Uh, sure. What can I—”
“Have you seen this boy?” she demanded, pushing a photograph under his nose.
Alex blinked and looked down at the picture. Max. No—not Max. This guy had spiked hair and a pierced eyebrow. . .but without those things— Alex gulped in a deep breath and stepped back. “No. I—I don’t know him,” he said quickly, trying to keep his voice normal. It had to be the other Max, the one who had grown up in New York with Lonnie, Rath, and Ava. The one Lonnie and Rath had killed. What was his name? Alex couldn’t remember. He also couldn’t stop shaking. The woman had to be an enemy.
“Are you sure? You’re what—seventeen, eighteen? You probably go to high school together.” Casting a deprecating look up and down the street, she frowned. “There couldn’t be more than one high school in this town, could there?”
“Well, I don’t know him, so I’m going to—” Alex began, but she cut him off.
“Actually, you know what?” She flashed that smile again, exuding an almost palpable charm. “I’m not *exactly* looking for this guy. It’s someone who looks like him, only less. . .'Apocalypse Now,' you know?”
“I’ve. . .never—never seen that movie,” Alex stammered, “and I’ve never seen. . .anyone who looks like that guy. So, I’m going to just get going. . .okay?”
“Oh, yeah—sorry to keep you.” She reached into the back pocket of her pants and pulled out a slip of paper. “Well, if you do see him, could you give me a call?” Pressing the paper into his hand, she smiled again. “My name’s Marryn—and you can call me anytime.”
He nodded and quickly started to walk away, but halted mid-step when he heard her call after him. Looking back, he attempted a nonchalant smile. “Yeah?”
“You didn’t tell me your name,” she said, her voice a clear question, her smile inviting.
He swallowed hard. “Uh, it’s Alex—Alex Whitman.”
* * * * *
“You told her your name?! What were you thinking?” Maria whacked Alex’s shoulder—hard.
“Ow! Whose name did you want me to give her—yours?” he retorted. “Look, she just came flying up in that car, showing me pictures—asking about Max, and then throwin’ around all that hair, and those. . .” Catching Isabel’s glare from across the room, he lowered his voice and felt his ears grow warm. “. . .phone numbers.”
Max stopped pacing the small confines of the locker room at the Crashdown and sat down near Alex. “You’d better give me the phone number,” he said, holding out his hand.
Despite himself, Alex hesitated. “Uh, well, won’t she be suspicious if someone else calls her?” he asked, looking at the scrap of paper in his hand.
“I’m not going to call her,” Max said. “At least, not yet.”
“Give him the paper, Alex,” Maria ordered.
Alex twisted around to look at her. “Okay, he’s a king—and your innate bossiness comes from where?” Reluctantly, he surrendered the paper to Max, who nearly succeeded in hiding a smile at his question.
“She said her name was Marryn?” Max asked, writing it down. “And she was driving a black Camaro?”
“Yeah, a convertible.”
Max nodded, still writing. “Did you happen to see what state the license plate was from?”
“No,” Alex answered, slapping his forehead. “If I had a brain. . .”
“It’s okay,” Max assured him quickly.
“What did she look like?” Michael wanted to know. “Maybe I can go looking for her.”
“No.” Maria’s voice was firm. “If she knew Zan, she knew Rath, and that means she’ll recognize you.”
“Maria’s right.” For the first time, Liz spoke up. “You can’t look for her—none of you can. But Maria and I can ask around, maybe even talk to her.”
“No.” Max didn’t look at Liz, but the curtain that dropped over his face at her suggestion made it obvious who his reply was intended for. “It’s too dangerous—she could be a Skin, she could be anything. She probably knows exactly who the three of you are, just like she knows who we are.” He took a deep breath. “We’ll just have to go about this quietly. I’ll try to find her car, get the license plate. Maybe Sheriff Valenti can run it through the police computer, find out if she told Alex her real name.”
“Or maybe I could just talk to her,” Alex suggested timidly. “I mean, since she was the one who approached me and all, maybe I could just. . .get to know her. Find out where she’s from, why she’s looking for Max.”
“And then she can blow you to bits,” Isabel snapped. “Alex, she had a picture of Max—”
“That wasn’t me,” Max interrupted.
“Whatever,” Isabel said impatiently. “The point is, she’s dangerous, or she wouldn’t be here.”
“We don’t know that,” Tess interjected hesitantly. “Maybe she’s. . .you know. . .one of us.”
“Yeah, because so many good aliens have come to Roswell to visit,” Michael snorted. “Look, let us handle this.”
“Us?” From Maria’s tone, Michael knew he was in trouble. “Us?” she repeated. “Oh, you mean ‘us’ as in ‘we from another planet, who always know best and make decisions for the earthlings we dragged into our mess,’ is that correct?”
“You know that’s not what I meant,” Michael sighed automatically.
“Of course not,” Maria smiled sweetly. “It’s never what you mean.” With that, she spun on her heel and stormed out of the back room.
“Damn.” Michael jumped up and followed her, casting an apologetic look at the others as he left.
“I’ve got to start my shift, too,” Liz said, looking, as usual, at Max.
He didn’t look back. “Right. I guess. . .I guess that’s it, anyway. No one do anything yet. I’m going to go look for her car.” He stood, too, and started to follow Liz.
Alex looked at Isabel and smiled tentatively, but she only met his gaze solemnly. “Uh, I guess we should go, huh?”
“Yeah.” Stepping close to Alex, she put her hand on his arm. “Alex, promise me you won’t go looking for her. Max is right—she’s probably dangerous. Promise me?”
His heart contracted at the concern in her face. “I promise, Isabel,” he told her as they went through the door. “I won’t go looking for this—”
Max and the others stood just outside the door, silent and still. Just beyond the counter stood Marryn, a small, satisfied smile on her face.
“Zan,” she said calmly. “Rath, Ava, Vilandra. I’ve been looking for you.” Her eyes strayed to Alex and she raised an eyebrow. “Nice to see you again, Alex Whitman.”
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 22-Feb-2002 12:06:08 PM ]
|posted on 22-Feb-2002 11:25:55 AM by mockingbird39|
“Who are you?” Max stepped forward, addressing Marryn with surprising calm.
“Didn’t my new friend Alex tell you?” She held out one slim, long-fingered hand. “I’m Marryn Riley.”
“Is that really your name?” Max demanded.
She shrugged. “It’s the name I was given—this time.” Smiling pleasantly, she queried, “And you are called?”
“Max Evans,” he answered, briefly taking her hand.
“Nice,” she offered. “Very. . .American.” Looking past him, she added, “Alex I know, but the rest of you?”
“My sister Isabel,” Max answered for them, “our friends Michael and Tess. You’ve met Alex—this is Maria. . . and Liz.”
Marryn nodded at each of them in turn. “Friends,” she observed. “That’s good. You need friends.”
“Why are you here?” Michael asked.
“This isn’t the place to discuss it,” she said, as though they were talking about a trip to the mall. “Is there somewhere we can go? Oh, and I only talk to. . .Max, was it? For now.”
“You can’t just come in here and make demands,” Michael protested.
Her eyes hardened slightly and the smile left her face. “I wouldn’t have come here at all if it weren’t for Zan—Max’s little trip to New York. It wasn’t my choice to spend my winter break in New Mexico. I was supposed to be *skiing* in *Vermont* and instead I’m here chasing after a high school boy with delusions of grandeur.”
“Hey—” Michael began, charging forward, but Max stopped him.
Marryn smirked and folded her arms, amused. “Well, well, well. You can take the boy out of the army, but you can’t take the army out of the boy.” She stepped closer to Michael and looked him up and down. “First lieutenant impulses—very strong.” Turning to Max, she smiled. “Shall we?” she asked.
Max nodded. “Where do you want to go?”
“You’re the local,” Marryn told him. “You decide.”
“Max!” Isabel grabbed his arm. “You can’t just go off with her—we don’t know who she is, or why she’s here.”
From the looks on their faces, the others agreed—especially Liz—but no one said anything. “That’s right,” Marryn said calmly. “You don’t know who I am—but you don’t know who you are, either. . .or what you might do.”
Tess stepped closer to her, as if drawn by some invisible force. “Can you tell us?”
Marryn considered. “Maybe.”
“Why—why don’t you just stay here?” Liz suggested. “It’s private—you can sit at a back booth, and Maria and I will make sure no one bothers you.”
“I think not,” Marryn answered. She turned to Liz, her eyes radiating understanding and comfort. “Don’t worry,” she said quietly. “I’ll bring him back unharmed.” Looking at the others, she sighed. “I’m not here to hurt you. I can help you, but I need to speak with Max.”
“It’s okay,” Max assured them. “We’ll just be at the park—if I’m not back here in two hours you can come looking for me.”
“You’ll be back,” Marryn informed him. A mischievous twinkle danced through her eyes. “The park is a public place—your friends can be sure I won’t molest you.”
“I can take care of myself,” Max told her, although he was starting to believe she really wasn’t there to do him any harm. Something about her was familiar—he almost felt glad to see her. “My Jeep’s outside.”
Marryn flashed a grin. “So’s my Camaro—unless you don’t like convertibles.”
“Do you know the way?” Max asked her.
“You do.” She put on her sunglasses and seemed about to leave, but suddenly turned back to the others. “I—I hope I’ll see you again,” she said hesitantly, displaying the first uncertainty Alex had seen in her all afternoon. “We should—you know, have coffee or something.”
Michael just stared back at her. “Just bring him back.”
She nodded, the moment of vulnerability gone. “Well then, Max, let’s get out of here.”
“Right.” Max cast one last look at the others, his eyes lingering on Liz as she studied the floor, and followed Marryn out of the Crashdown.
* * * * *
Max had thought she’d wait until they got to the park to tell him why she was in Roswell, but to his surprise, she started in on him the moment they were in her car. “You have a lot of nerve, Max,” she said, turning on the radio.
Max had been marveling over the car and had to reel his mind in at her words. “What?”
She checked the rearview mirror before guiding the car onto the road. “Going to the summit like that, drawing attention to yourself, stirring up trouble with the Skins. They’re powerful, Max, and they’re deadly. What do you think you’re doing?” She turned her head to glare at him.
Max drew back. “We destroyed their husks,” he said defensively.
“They can still destroy you.” Glancing at the road, she added, “Left at this corner?”
“Yes.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “We didn’t want to do any of those things. We just wanted to stay anonymous, here in Roswell.”
“You want to stay anonymous, you don’t go running to summits with people who want to kill you,” she snapped. “Look, maybe you were a king last time around, but this time you’re just a regular Joe like everyone else. You can’t go making decisions for all of us.”
“I didn’t mean to—” He stopped and looked at her. “What do you mean ‘all of us’? Who are you?”
As they stopped at a red light, she turned to look at him, her expression one of disbelief. “God—you really don’t know, do you? I was your sister.”
|posted on 22-Feb-2002 11:30:18 AM by mockingbird39|
“Isabel is my sister.” Max stared at Marryn, trying not to believe her. But the words—they felt right, somehow. They had reached the park in awkward silence and now walked slowly down one of the paved pedestrian paths.
“You had two sisters,” Marryn said quietly. “You and I were closest in age, but Vilandra—Isabel wasn’t much younger than I.” She pushed up her sunglasses. “I know this must be really hard for you. I thought you knew, or I would have. . .I don’t know. Broken it to you more gently, I guess.”
Max ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “It isn’t possible—why weren’t you sent with us? And our mother—in the message, she didn’t say anything about you.”
She smiled sadly. “When Mother made that message, I was still alive.” Closing her eyes, she turned her face to the sun and shrugged. “I was sent later.”
“Then why are you—”
“Older than you?” She sighed. “I guess the technology had improved, or maybe they wanted me to mature sooner—I don’t know.”
“This just. . .I don’t understand. Why didn’t we know about you?” Max shook his head in disbelief.
“Look, it didn’t work like we thought it would—the whole hybrid thing. We were supposed to retain our personalities, and our memories were supposed to return over time.” She frowned. “For some reason, I guess yours didn’t.”
“But you remember?” Max demanded.
She hesitated. “I remember. . .a lot. No, that’s not true. It seems like a lot now, but. . .I had a whole life before and most of it’s a blank.”
Max paced restlessly before her. “I can’t believe this. You’d think I would know—they sent me here as the hope of a planet. And I don’t have a clue!” He stopped and looked at her as an idea struck him. “Are there any more? I mean, do we have more family?”
“We. . .we had a brother,” Marryn faltered. She dropped her eyes, but not before Max saw a flash of grief there. “He was the oldest. Kivar had him assassinated—that was what began the civil war.”
“Is he here too?” Max’s mind raced. Wouldn’t the oldest be first in the line of succession?
Marryn shook her head. “No. He was killed when we were very young. We didn’t have the ability to create hybrids then. We weren’t actually sure it would work with you, but our mother said we had to try. Obviously, it worked.” Despite the warmth of the sun, she shivered and hugged herself. “But it came too late for our brother.”
Inexplicably, loss shot through Max. He was vaguely puzzled by it—was it possible to mourn for someone you had never met? He cleared his throat. “Why haven’t we met you before?” he asked her.
“I grew up in Boston,” she answered. “My father is a judge in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. I met Zan and the others when I was in high school—I was on a school trip to New York and Lonnie saw me. Somehow she knew exactly who I was. I used to see them once in a while when I was in New York, but I’ve never been to New Mexico before.”
“They killed Zan,” Max said flatly.
She nodded. “I know.” They both fell silent for a moment, then she gave him a crooked grin. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“No, I do.” Max shook his head. “That’s the problem. I feel like I know you—like I’ve seen you before, heard your voice.”
“You have,” she said with a small smile.
“But I can’t be sure,” he continued. “So much has happened to us in the past year. I don’t know who we can trust.”
She nodded. “I understand. I never know who to trust, either. But you and I are going to have to trust each other, Max.” She thought for a moment. “Here, give me your hand.” She put out her hand, palm up, and after a moment’s hesitation Max put his in it. “Keep your eyes on mine,” she instructed, and he did.
“What are you—” he began, but suddenly a current of emotion washed over him, accompanied by flashes of memory. He saw Marryn as a girl, guiding a horse smoothly over rails in an endless green field. He saw her sitting at a desk, writing spelling words in painstaking script, and being swept up in the arms of a handsome, gray-haired man Max somehow knew was her father. He saw her first glimpse of Lonnie from across a crowded street. Then she was older, and dancing in a club under the hectic glare of strobe lights, being kissed beneath a street light in the rain. And underneath it all was love—love for him and the others, even for Zan, Lonnie. He felt her longing, her anger at being sent alone to be born, and her loneliness. He saw her faint, fragmented memories of her first life, and felt her frustration at the gaps in between. He was in some of those memories; it stunned him to recognize himself. With building intensity, he saw disjointed pieces of the events that led to his own demise, felt himself sink into her memories, as though she had pulled him into herself—
“Max! Max, are you okay?”
Marryn’s voice jerked him back to reality and he sucked in a deep, ragged breath like a drowning man thrust to the surface. “How—how did you do that?” he gasped.
“Don’t you know how?” she asked.
Still panting, he shook his head. “No. Sometimes I’ve gotten flashes from. . .from people, but never like that. Did you send them to me on purpose? Can we do that?”
“Of course—it’s just a simple mind link.” She touched his face, a look of concern marring her smooth forehead. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to give you that much.”
“No, it’s okay.” He looked at her in amazement. “I learned more from that than I have in my entire life.” He took a step back, his mind reeling at what he had seen. “What happened next?”
“I don’t know all of it,” she replied. “I know you were killed, and then the four of you were sent here. The war went on, but. . .it’s pretty fuzzy. And, well, my memories stop when I was executed.”
“Executed?” he repeated. “For what?”
She chuckled mirthlessly. “What do you think? For my blood—for who I was. For the humiliation of our people, for a sign that we were defeated. But most of all, for daring to cross Kivar.”
“What did you do?” Max asked softly.
She smiled slightly. “I tried to kill him. He captured me in battle, about two years after the four of you—well, you were killed in a campaign that made Kivar ruler of virtually the whole planet. Anyway, when he captured me, he took me into his household. . .as one of his—his women.” A convulsive shudder ran through her body. “You can’t imagine the—the humiliation, the degradation of it. I had been a princess—I had been married to a good man. And he made me into a whore.” She took a deep breath. “So one night when he sent for me, I hid a dagger in my gown. I tried to use it, but. . .he was stronger than I was, and he overpowered me. He could have killed me there—I wanted him to—but he had a better plan. He threw me into a cell for three months. The guards—they. . .” Her voice trailed off and she fell silent. Max clenched his jaw as black anger welled up in his chest. If what she said was true. . .and he believed it, believed every word. . .if her story was true, Kivar would pay for this.
“No—stop that.” Marryn’s voice broke into his thoughts. “It’s over—it didn’t happen to me, to Marryn Riley. That was another life and it doesn’t matter in this one.”
“What?” he demanded, then realized that he hadn’t spoken aloud. “Were you reading my thoughts?”
She flushed. “No! Well, yes. But they were very loud!” At his amazed look, she frowned. “What? Can’t you do that either? With a loud sigh, she walked over to the fountain and sat on the edge. “Look, I came here to make sure you weren’t planning anything like that. Don’t you get it? It isn’t our problem anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” Max asked.
“This! You going to the summit—you’re acting like we could actually go back to the other life.” She held out a hand to him and he sat beside her. “Max, don’t you remember any of it?”
He slowly shook his head. “No. I wish I did.”
“Don’t be so sure,” she told him softly. She took a deep breath, trailing her fingers through the clear, sparkling water in the fountain. “You want to know what I remember most?” At his nod, she continued. “Failure. We failed, Max. A whole race pinned their hopes on us, and we failed them. We had every advantage—we were primed to lead, trained our entire lives—and we still failed.” A short, bitter laugh came from her lips. “I remember being led to the execution. You know what I was thinking about? Not my husband, not the fact that I was too young to die—and I *was* too young to die—but about the fact that I had failed. I couldn’t keep Kivar out of power, I couldn’t keep my family alive, and when he killed me, I couldn’t even take him with me.”
“You tried,” Max said quietly. He wished he could comfort her, but although the memories she had shared with him made him feel intensely connected to her, the truth was he had only met this woman an hour ago and it didn’t feel right to put his arm around her.
She shook her head. “We all tried. And we all failed.” She put her hand on his; it was chilly and damp from the water in the fountain but when she touched him it felt familiar. “Don’t you get it? If we were ever going to defeat Kivar, it would have been in that life, not this one. In this one, we’re just like everyone else.”
“We’re not like everyone else,” he protested, unable to keep a note of regret from his voice.
“In the ways that matter we are. We have no training, no experience, no advisors to help us—it’s impossible. We were killed last time—how long do you think we would last this time?”
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“That we—you—should give it up.” She squeezed his hand. “Max, you know you don’t want to be king of a planet you’ve never seen. You don’t have to be. You can just go along, be a normal human, forget this whole *destiny* thing. Don’t you want to do that?”
|posted on 22-Feb-2002 11:34:07 AM by mockingbird39|
“You can’t mean that.” Max stood, looking down at her in disbelief.
Marryn stood, too, and rested her fists on her hips. “Like hell I don’t,” she retorted. “I already sacrificed one life for them and their war—I’m not doing it again, especially this time, when I haven’t even got a chance!”
“You don’t know that,” Max protested. “Besides, you don’t mean it—I know you don’t. The things you felt, your memories, they say something different. You still feel guilty about what happened.”
“What if I do?” she demanded. “That doesn’t change anything. I feel guilty about a lot of things—starving children in Asia, Hutus and Tutsis killing each other in Africa—but I’m not going to go fight their wars, either. I guess that’s selfish, but the truth is, I want to live!”
“This is different,” Max insisted. “This is our war, too.”
“No, it’s not,” she told him. “Look at us—look at you! Let me guess, you’re an A-B student but you could get all A’s if you applied yourself; you play football, and you’re desperately in love with that dark-haired waitress at the café, so you worked out all summer to impress her and now have abs I could do my laundry on. Am I right?”
“I—I don’t play football,” Max said awkwardly.
In spite of herself, Marryn gave him a sly grin. “But I’m right about the abs, huh?” Then the smile faded to exasperation. “Tell me, are you the picture of a king?” she demanded. “Do you think you’re the kind of guy who steps in and stops a civil war that’s been going on for decades? I gotta tell you, Max—you’re a nice kid, but you’re still just a kid. And if you don’t lay off the ‘chosen one’ bit, you’re never going to find out what kind of man you’ll be.”
“So you’re saying we should just ignore the reason we were sent here?” he asked her. “Do nothing?”
“I don’t care what you do!” she cried. “Light candles, have a fund-raiser, organize a vigil—just leave me out of it.”
“Is that why you came?” he wanted to know. “To tell us you want nothing to do with us?”
“I came here to warn you,” she said icily, and Max wondered what had happened to the quietly reflective, slightly sad Marryn of only a few minutes ago. “You say you destroyed the Skins’ husks—good. They don’t have much time left. With any luck, they’ll die off and you’ll be anonymous again. If you know what’s good for you, stay that way.”
“We can’t do that,” he told her grimly.
“Why not? Because you feel loyalty to a planet you can’t even remember? Because your life here is so rotten?” She shook her head. “You think that other life was so great? Well, it wasn’t. You think you’re afraid now? You don’t know what fear is. Let me tell you something. In that other life, we woke up every day in fear. Raw, naked fear that overshadowed everything else in our lives. Sometimes I dream about that life, and I wake up between that life and this one, and all I can feel is the fear. I can’t breathe, I can’t even scream. Is that what you want to go back to?”
“I never knew we had a choice,” Max answered. What had happened in the White Room rocketed back to his mind, but he pushed it away, not wanting to feel that terror ever again.
“Of course we have a choice. Everyone has a choice. Don’t tell me you believe in destiny, Max. We make our own destiny—surely you’ve discovered that.”
His own words sounded strange coming from her mouth. ‘We make our own destiny.’ He had told Liz that, but did he believe it? Did he live like he believed it? He stepped closer to her. “You mean to say that we should just go along like we’re normal people—just forget the people who are counting on us?”
“Who’s counting on us?” she asked, holding her arms wide. “Our mother? Our mother should be damn glad that we have one shot at a normal life. If she loved us, she should want us to stay right here, safe and—and potentially happy!”
“And if we love her?”
“That’s absurd.” Marryn stamped her foot. “How can you love someone you’ve never met or even seen?”
“I’ve seen her,” Max responded quietly.
“Not the real her,” she insisted. “Just an image we—I mean she—thought would be pleasing to you.” She turned around and restlessly paced the steps in front of the fountain. Two boys Max recognized from his trig class walked by just then, casting admiring glances at the way Marryn’s clothes clung to her tall, lithe body. Without thinking, Max gave them a warning look and they moved away. Marryn, standing on the top step with her hands on her hips and her face turned to the sun, never noticed. At length, she turned back around and squinted down at him. “You know what, Max?” she asked. “This is ridiculous. I didn’t come here to argue with you.”
“Then why did you come here?” he asked.
She walked deliberately down the steps, her boots clicking on the smooth marble. “To tell you to leave me out of this. Maybe you want to go back. I can’t stop you. But I’m not going back. I *like* this life. I like my family, my friends. I’m happy here, and I’m safe—at least a lot safer than I’d be anywhere else. You can’t just go off making decisions for everyone. The things you do. . .they effect all of us. And I don’t want to be effected.”
“That’s all?” Max demanded. “You could have said that in the restaurant.”
“Well, I chose not to,” she said angrily. “I thought maybe I could warn you, but if you aren’t going to listen, maybe I should just go.”
“I can’t stop you.” Max folded his arms, throwing her words back at her.
Her jaw tightened. “No, you can’t,” she agreed haughtily. They stared at one another, eyes locked in a silent challenge. Finally, Marryn’s expression softened. “Look, this is really hard, okay? I try not to think about this. I try to live my life as normal as possible, but I have these memories, and sometimes they just won’t let go of me. Being here and seeing all of you is—it brings it all back, you know?”
“No,” he said slowly, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I’d like to, but. . .Vermont’s waiting for you. Unless you think the snow will wait.”
She gave him a skeptical glance. “You want me to stay?”
He smiled slightly, stepping closer to her. “You come here and drop this bomb about being my sister, you have memories of my past I’ve been looking for my entire life, and you tell me I have a choice about my future?” He nodded emphatically. “Yeah, I think I’d like you to stay.”
“Well. . .” She thought for a moment. “I guess I could stay for a little while. . .maybe a day or so.”
“That sounds good,” Max said. He took a deep breath. “We should go find the others—they’ll want to hear this.” When he held out his hand and she put hers into it, it felt natural, and more than ever Max thought that Marryn’s memories were more important to her than even she knew.
“Think they’ll believe me?” she asked as they headed to her car.
Max squeezed her hand. “I do.”
|posted on 22-Feb-2002 11:36:09 AM by mockingbird39|
“My God.” Isabel’s face was pale as she sat with her hand clasped in Marryn’s. Carefully, gently, Marryn had been sharing her memories with the others, trying to convince them she was who she claimed. Now Isabel squeezed Marryn’s hand more tightly. “I want to know more,” she told Marryn, her eyes burning intensely.
“There isn’t much more,” Marryn admitted. “My memories come in fragments—sometimes I’m not sure of when exactly they happened.”
“Wait—they just come to you? Just like that?” From his seat in the corner of the booth, Michael gave Marryn a skeptical look.
She shook her head. “You know how sometimes something will happen that just suddenly reminds you of something else that you thought you had forgotten?” At their nods, she shrugged. “That’s what happens to me. Being here—talking with you—is making me remember things.”
“What about our mother?” Isabel persisted. “What was she like? Was she—I mean, was she a good mother?”
Marryn’s smile was wistful. “I remember that I loved her,” she said simply.
“Do you know any more about her?”
“Hmm.” Marryn stared absently at the ground, thinking. “Oh, well, I remember. . .” Her voice trailed off as she shared the memory with Isabel.
“So you believe her, Maxwell?”
Michael’s voice broke into Max’s thoughts. Max looked up, frowning. “You don’t?” he asked.
“It just seems a little strange—her showing up out of nowhere, claiming to be one of us.” Michael shrugged. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”
“Nothing about our situation is normal.” Max leaned across the table. “The feelings she has for us, her memories—those are real.”
“You’re sure about that?” Michael questioned.
“You felt them,” Max responded. “Do you really think they were fake?”
“I don’t know. I just think we should be cautious. The only thing we know about her is what she’s told us.” Michael slathered a french fry in Tabasco sauce and shoved it into his mouth. “Too much has happened to us recently for us to just accept her without question. Think about it, Maxwell. What are the odds that she’s really one of us?”
Max nodded in Tess’s direction. “Tess was,” he said quietly.
“That’s different,” Michael insisted. “Nasedo brought her—she had credentials. No one’s here backing your brand new ‘sister’ up.”
Max’s attention was diverted as Isabel opened her eyes in amazement. “That was incredible,” she murmured. “She loved us so much.”
Marryn nodded. “Yes—I’ve never doubted that.” Eyeing Max, she added, “That’s why I know she would want us to be happy.”
“Well?” Michael demanded. “Don’t you think we should check her out? We have no reason to trust her.”
“Except that she’s already shared more with us than Nasedo ever did.” Max was beginning to get irritated. “And who backed Nasedo up, anyway? We had no reason to trust him, either, but you did. Why do you have a problem with her?” He paused and grinned as realization dawned. “It’s because she didn’t like you.”
“She just met me,” Michael protested.
“Not today,” Max corrected. “Before—in the other life.”
“How do you know that? Did she tell you?” Michael demanded.
“No, but I saw her memories. She didn’t know I couldn’t handle a full mind link, so she shared them all at once.” Max sipped his cherry cola, still grinning. “The two of you never got along.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Michael sputtered. “I don’t even know if anything she says is true, so—” He broke off as Liz stopped by the table, carrying a tray laden with food and drinks.
“Here’s your Han Solo Smoothie,” she told Marryn, setting a tall glass down in front of her. “Non-fat yogurt, hold the honey, and. . .sorry, but we don’t have any wheat grass juice. I’m not actually. . .sure we’ve—um, *ever* had any.” She shrugged apologetically. “I hope it’s okay.”
Marryn smiled warmly. “I’m sure it’s fine,” she assured her. To prove it, she took a quick sip. “See? Great.” She dabbed a tiny speck of foam from her upper lip with her napkin, clearing her throat. “So, Max says your family owns this place.”
Liz nodded. “Yeah.”
“And you work here,” Marryn continued. “That’s nice. A family business.”
“Yeah, well. . .have you ever worked with your family?” Liz wanted to know.
“Um, yeah.” Marryn nodded. “I worked at the courthouse one summer with my Dad. . .” Her voice trailed off and she frowned. “Oh. Well, you’re a strong woman then, aren’t you?”
Liz couldn’t help but laugh. “Some days more than others,” she admitted. She glanced at Max, who had carefully avoided looking at her. “I—I guess I should go. I have other customers.”
Max took the opportunity to address Liz directly. “If you and Maria and Alex are free later, I could—uh, fill you in.”
“That would be great.” Liz beamed as she moved away, carefully balancing her filled tray.
Max watched her walk away, then turned back in time to catch Marryn’s knowing look. Quickly, he dropped his gaze. “Marryn, we probably should talk about what you were saying before.”
“Right, you probably know more about the situation back home.” Michael sat up straighter, ready for business. “Do we know for sure if we can go back?”
Max held his breath, waiting to hear what Marryn would say, but she only shrugged. “We—they thought so. But they also thought that your memories would return, so who knows?”
“Not a ringing endorsement,” Isabel murmured.
“It’s all I know.” Marryn sipped her smoothie, swirling her straw between long, slender fingers. “To my knowledge, no one’s ever tried it.” She raised an eyebrow and smiled sweetly at Michael. “Want to be the first?”
“That’s enough,” Max said quickly, almost amused at their bickering. Apparently personalities were easier to retain than memories.
“It doesn’t make any sense, Maxwell,” Michael said, still staring a challenge at Marryn. “Why would they send us here not even knowing if we could come back?”
“Maybe they thought a long shot was better than no shot at all,” Marryn answered, nonchalantly helping herself to one of Michael’s fries. “Or maybe they didn’t want us back at all.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Michael snorted. “The message said—”
“That message was made days after our mother lost two of her children,” Marryn retorted. “We can’t judge what she wanted by that message.”
“Do you know something else?” Michael wanted to know.
Marryn looked away. “No—not exactly.”
“Not exactly?” Max prodded gently.
“I don’t have any specific memories,” Marryn admitted, then glanced up defiantly. “But I know what I believe.”
“And what’s that?” Tess wanted to know.
“That any mother who loved her kids would give her own life to give them a second chance—and that she would never ask them to give up that chance to save her or anyone else.” Marryn smiled pleasantly, but her tensed shoulders and clenched jaw belied her calm demeanor. She was prepared to defend herself.
Michael gave her the opportunity. “What kind of mother doesn’t want her kids to come back?” he demanded hotly, leaning across the table. “Are you going to let a whole planet die because we wanted to stay here and drink—wheat juice?”
“Wheat grass juice,” Marryn corrected icily, biting off the words. “Two lives and you still can’t manage to think before you speak. Our mother loved us—and I think she loved us enough to give us up. If you’ve never loved anyone that much, I can’t make you understand.”
“Hey, you don’t know anything about me,” Michael shot back. “And all I see is that you’re the one who wants to turn your back on people who love you. On your family. Why didn’t you come here before if you love your brother and sister so much? Why didn’t you help us last year when the government was hunting us? Oh, wait, you loved us enough to let us go, right?”
“You know what your problem is?” Marryn leaned toward him, her eyes blazing. “You feel so—so *useless* and so. . .*impotent* here that you’ll take anything you think might be better, anything that might make you matter more than you do here.” She paused, waiting for his retort, but Michael was speechless with fury. “Just because you don’t remember that life doesn’t mean it was better. If you want the truth, it really bit. Remember the story? Big war, our side’s losing, critical moment, we all *die* and our mortal enemy takes the throne. Would you go see that movie again?” She stood and stalked away from the table, only to turn around before she reached the door. “Just because you suck at being a human doesn’t mean you’ll be good at being something else. Just remember that.” As the four at the table stared at her open-mouthed, she turned on her heel and swept out of the Crashdown.