posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:14:28 PM
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Title: The Denial Game
Author: LiLEvEe <~Evelynn
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters.
Summary: AU. ML. Liz POV. Liz has a different outlook on life.
Rating: R (for language and violence)

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Prologue


Ever heard of the denial game? I’m a pro at it. I’ve mastered the game. Played it all my life. I’ll give you a tip. It’s all in the ears. All you got to do is pretend; pretend you didn’t hear it. I’m good at that, at pretending. It’s all I ever do.

When the door slammed, I didn’t hear it. When the gun shot, I didn’t hear it. And when the cops came, I didn’t hear them either. I stayed in my room like the good little girl that I was. In my bed, sound asleep, not hearing a thing. And when they told me I was going to be going away, I sure as hell didn’t hear them then. I didn’t even listen.

You ever think that your life was the most screwed up thing in the world? Well, your wrong. Everyone has his or her own problems. Some just happen to suffer openly while everyone else is playing the happy game of denial.

Take into account, me, for instance. I lived my picture perfect life on the outside. I was little miss perfect, perfect little daughter, perfect little student, perfect grades, perfect attendance, perfect record, perfect fucking everything. Little miss perfect Elizabeth Philips.

That is, until they told me I was going to be a Parker. But did I hear them when they told me that? No siree bob. I was still playing the denial game, and it was my turn to roll. Here I go. Oh, wow. Look at that. Snake eyes. I lose. Yay me.

But first, I’ve got to explain the rules of the denial game to you. It’s a pretty damn complicated game, so I’ll just give you the basics.

First of all, there are no passes. When it’s your turn to roll, you better damn well fucking roll. But the more you play, the more you lose and the more addicting it gets. So it’s advised to avoid your turn as much as possible or at least prolong or postpone it.

Another thing, once you start playing the game, there ain’t no way in hell you’re getting out. Not without paying the piper. Blood and guts are the usual bail, that, or therapy. Though therapy is denial in itself. So I guess we’ll just scratch that last bit.

Now on with the game.

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posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:15:03 PM
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Chapter One



“Hank Philips, please rise. You are sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Anna Philips. Elizabeth Philips, now Parker, will go into the custody of Jeffrey and Nancy Parker. Case dismissed.” The monotonous voice bellowed out as officers grabbed Hank Philips arms and carried him away.

“No! No! You will not take my daughter!” Hank screamed out as he jerked and twisted his body in an attempt to get free of the firm grip of the officers. “Lizzie, baby! Don’t worry, honey bear! Daddy’ll come and get you!” He yelled as they pulled him through the doors.

There I was, Little Elizabeth, seated in the front row, clutching my mother’s journal, tears rolling down my cheeks as they pulled my father away from me. I didn’t really notice all too much of it though. That’s right, while they were taking my father away my eyes were transfixed on my shoes, observing just how shiny they were, especially through tear filled eyes.

I hardly noticed the two pairs of legs that stopped in front of me. Not until one of them sat down beside me, looking at me, eye to eye. Or at least try to, with me still staring at my shiny, shiny shoes.

“Hello Elizabeth. My name is Nancy.” The woman in front of me spoke. Her voice was hushed and sugary sweet. Obviously trying her best to be nice and not scare me away. No need to try, I don’t get scared easily lady. In fact, one time, in Mrs. Anderson’s fourth grade class, there was a rumor going around that this one kid brought a knife to school. Everyone else was pissing in their pants scared, eyeing everyone around them, trying to guess who it was. Me? I didn’t give a damn. I leaned back in my chair and yelled at them to bring it on. Well, more so in my head, but that’s beside the point.

I started snickering thinking about it, and just realized that the woman was still talking to me. Why wouldn’t she leave already? Wasn’t it like with those other ladies? They would come over to me, tell them they’re sorry about my mother’s death and tell me to give them a call if I needed anything. Which they only said because they felt they were obligated to. Hell, I didn’t even know who the hell they were.

“And this,” she pointed towards the person beside her, “is Jeffrey. You’ll be living with us now. I hope that’s all right with you.”

I didn’t even acknowledge the woman who called herself Nancy. I didn’t even look at her. I was in shock. I was supposed to go live with these people? People I have never seen in my life? How the hell did that happen? I honestly thought that I was going to get to live on my own. I know that’s kind of absurd now that I think about it. A minor, living on her own. But that was what I really thought was going to happen. Like Home Alone, only on a more permanent basis.

“What’s this?” I heard Nancy ask me, her finger was pointing towards my mother’s journal that I was holding against my chest. I finally look up at her and she has this wary smile on her face. She was nervous. I could tell she was. Hell, I’d be nervous too with the blank looks I was giving her.

“Is it a book or something?” she asked as she started to reach for the journal to take a look at it. I jerked back fiercely and gave her one of my death glares.

“Don’t touch,” my voice came out cold and harsh, which resulted in startling and scaring her. I inwardly smiled in triumph, patting myself on the back. If the ‘Children of the Corn’ scary voice that came out of me even gave myself goose bumps, it sure as hell should get this woman away from me.

“Let me try, honey,” the man said as he stooped down where the woman was. Try all you want buddy, I ain’t talking. “Hi, I’m Jeffrey. You can call me Jeff though, or anything else you you’d like.”

How about, I’m-the-guy-who-thinks-I-can-get-people-to-open-up-by-letting-them-call-me-a-one-syllable-word-instead-of-two? I snickered inwardly at my own joke. If you hadn’t noticed, I tend to live in my head a lot. But hey, better than those who actually say these mean things to people. That’s just evil.

The guy had his hand extended, apparently waiting for me to shake. I look at it thinking, eww…cooties. I know, very childish, but that was just he first thing that popped up in my head. He finally pulled his hand back, realizing I wasn’t going to shake it.

“Umm… I know this is probably difficult for you,” he said. He was rubbing his hands on his pants nervously. Who in God’s name does this guy think he is? He doesn’t know one goddamn thing about me. He has no fucking clue exactly how difficult this is for me. He has no idea what I’m thinking. Because if he did, he’d probably be ten times more nervous than he actually is.

I was actually going to voice my opinion this time, instead of just thinking it all in my head. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, shy and quiet little Lizzie was getting ready to actually tell this guy off. That was, until I heard the door to the courtroom open.

We all looked back to see a lady enter the room, the clanking of her heels echoing through the empty courtroom as she walked towards us. Nancy and Jeffrey stood up and turned towards her. She stopped right in front of them and took a quick glance in my direction before introducing herself.

“Hello, my name is Amy Deluca with the Child Care and Custody Department. I’ve spoken with you on the phone before. You are Mr. and Mrs. Parker, correct?”

I looked at the woman in awe. Wow. That’s what I want to be like when I grow up. How this lady held herself let you know who was in charge. She could probably make a guy piss in his pants just by looking at them. Too cool.

“Um…yes, yes we are. And I do remember speaking to you,” Jeff nodded his head.

I’m sitting there snickering. Jeff-y boy here probably did already piss in his pants.

“Well, I need to talk to you, discussing Elizabeth Philips.” She said, heading over towards one of tables and opening up her briefcase.

“Actually, it’s Parker now, Elizabeth Parker.” Nancy tried to correct her.

I rolled my eyes. I shouldn’t even have a last name. Having a last name meant that I belonged to someone and I definitely do not belong to anyone. Especially not them and not anyone else either.

“Not yet it isn’t.” The authoritative lady said.

“What are you talking about?” Jeffrey asked her, shaking his head. “The judge announced it, just now.”

“I’m sorry. I thought this was going to be a clean and easy custody case too, but I should know better. They are never easy and someone always suffers in the process. Mainly the children.” Amy said with a sigh and a sympathetic smile towards me.

Wait a second there. Sympathetic? A pity smile? She’s PITYING me? SHE is pitying ME? Her and her short nappy hair and her make-up filled face that just screams ‘I’m a zombie, look at me’. I don’t need her pity. Stupid bitch. Of course, I never say any of these things out loud. No, that would be bad. So I’m just staring at my shiny shoes once again.

“We’ve already signed the papers and all, she’s in our custody now.” Nancy said. Nancy looked like she was on the verge of tears. Dude. How can you start crying over someone you didn’t even know?

“I’m sorry but you are only distant relative and a cousin of Anna’s has been found. We’ve spoken to him and he has shown interest in taking custody of Elizabeth. So until he makes his decision, the ball is in his court. There’s nothing else we can do.”

Wait a second. Now I’ve got someone else trying to brand their last name on me? Once I’m finally eighteen, I’ll probably have so many names imprinted on my ass, there won’t even be any room left for when I get married. Wait. Scratch that. I’ll be damned if I get stuck being someone’s slave. I can’t even cook and clean for myself. I am hell as not going to be doing it for someone else.

“But, what happens to Elizabeth?” Jeffrey asked, his voice tight. Nancy is already crying on his shoulder. Geez, you’d think these people were loosing their dog or something. I don’t even know them.

“Well, she’ll have to be put in a foster home until then. Unfortunately, none are available, so she’ll be in the local orphanage.” Amy said as she shuffled through papers.

“What? No. No, I don’t want that for her,” Jeffrey protested.

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have a say anymore.” Amy said, shutting her briefcase. I couldn’t help but snicker. How that woman did it left no room for argument. Boy did that lady have power.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Parker. I know the woman who runs the orphanage. She’ll take good care of Elizabeth.”

“I’d still rather…” Jeffrey whispered. Obviously scared that this woman would get mad again. Hehe…

“I stop by there to help out all the time. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for Elizabeth. You have nothing to worry about.” And with that she started walking away. She stopped at the row I was seated at. “Let’s go, Elizabeth.” She nodded her head at me and kept walking. She knew I heard every word of their conversation.

Wow. There was definitely no disobeying this lady. She was not one to mess with. You just had to be there to see how powerful she was. And with my choice of a strong lady who didn’t take shit from anyone or a wimp like Jeffy-boy here. Can’t you guess which one I picked?

I hopped up from my seat and followed her, not glancing back once.


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If I had actually know just how much Nancy and Jeffrey were already considering me as their daughter, or that I would actually grow to like them, I might have felt bad walking away from them then, but I didn’t, so I don’t.

After I hopped into huge SUV (powerful set of wheels for a powerful woman), we rode in pretty much silence as we headed off to the orphanage. It was kind of creepy, but I didn’t mind. I loved the silence. It gave me more time to think. More time to live in my head.

“I know orphanages are a really bad place for a kid to be, but you’ll like it there. I promise.” She glanced over at me with a small smile. A pitying smile. What is it with people pitying me? And for people calling me a kid for that matter? Don’t they know that I’m a teenager? I have every right to count as a young adult. God knows I’ve been put through enough shit to qualify as one. I’m sixteen, people! Just because I’m trapped in an undeveloped body that looks like a twelve year old. Freaking people. I should tell her off. I should… I should… Grrr…

“Elizabeth?”

“Yes, ma’am?” I say in a sugary sweet voice. Yes. If you have not noticed, I am one hell of a coward. I can run away from my problems like the best of them. Damn straight. It’s all part of the game, man.

“It’s already past dinner time at the orphanage. Would you like to stop somewhere and get something to eat first?” She asked me, pointing a finger towards some fast food joints on the street.

Am I hungry? I’ve forgotten what hungry feels like. You don’t get hungry when you’re scared. You tend to throw up food that way. I’d better not. So I muster up a sweet smile. “Actually…”

But she interrupted me. “Oh, I know. It’s perfect. We’ll go to this place so you can get acquainted with it. It’s a themed restaurant. It looks so cute. I’ll take you there. That way I can talk to you about some of the paperwork in the will your mom left for you. You’re still too young to handle any of it, so it’ll go to whomever it is that has custody of you, at least until your eighteen. I just thought I’d give you a heads up on what is all there to deal with.”

Whoa… mom left me stuff? Mom had stuff to leave me? Boy howdy. I hope it’s something good. Maybe it’s a million dollars. I roll my eyes at the stupidity of it. If my mom had a million dollars, she wouldn’t have stayed with my dad for as long as she did. That would have been nice. She might have taken me with her too.

Scoff. I doubt it. It would have been cool, but I highly doubt it. My mom didn’t want me anymore than my dad did. I had a big feeling that I was a mistake. Why is that, you ask? Well, other than the fact that my dad yelled at my mom all the time for that mistake that was sleeping upstairs, which had to have been referring to me. I mean, he did add in my name a couple of times, so there’s no confusion there.

I was too busy with my thoughts that I didn’t even notice that Mrs. Deluca had stopped the car, or that she was already out of it, waiting for me to get out as well. But when I felt shivers running down my spine, I glance up and there she was, tapping her foot outside. Shit. Never slow down an impatient lady. A ‘powerfully’ impatient lady.

I hurried up and hopped out of the car and smiled apologetically to her. “Sorry…”

“It’s okay, Elizabeth,” she said, turning towards the door and heading in.

I froze upon entering the diner. It was like entering the twilight zone. The entire diner, wall to wall, was decked in alien things. It was so lame and freaky that it was actually kind of… cool.

Mrs. DeLuca had already found a booth and was seated while I was busy staring at all the things. I hightailed it over to her as soon as I saw her waving at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I sat down in the booth across from her. “I was just…” I waved my hand around at all the alien stuff, which was pretty much the entire restaurant.

“Yeah,” she nodded her head, glancing around too. “This place is kind of nifty. You want to know the niftiest thing about it is?” She looked at me with wide eyes and a big smile on her face. And me? I’m terrified. A cool, controlling lady smiling wickedly at me. You’d be pissing in your pants too.

“What?” God, was that ‘my’ voice? It sounded like a squeak; like something that would come out of a field mouse.

“It’s yours…”

And here’s me, staring at her as though she’s grown a second head, or maybe even a third.

“What?” I asked, making a face at her.

“This restaurant is yours. Well, partly yours.” She said, rolling her eyes.

I’m still looking at her, dumbfounded. “What?”

“Your mom owned part of this diner and left it to you in her will.” Amy opened up her briefcase and pulled out some paperwork and put on her glasses, reading it. “Says right here,” she showed me the document. “She has co-ownership with a Charles Whitman.”

A slow smile appears on my face. “This…” my hand sways around the diner, “is mine?”

“Partly…” she put the papers back into her briefcase, “and not until you’re eighteen. We’ll talk about the other things she left you after we eat.” Amy lifted her hand and waved a waitress over.

“Wait.” My eyes go wide. “There’s MORE?”

She just smiles at me before turning her head and frowning towards the register. “Maria. We’re ready to order.”

The blonde girl at the counter rolls her eyes before grabbing two menus and making her way over to us. The waitress smiled at me and frowned at Amy. What’s going on there?

“I thought we agreed,” the girl said to Amy, “You would no longer come here and bother me at work. And please tell me you didn’t bring a camera this time.”

“Well, I’m not bothering you. And I’m camera-free. Gosh, I just wanted a picture of you in your outfit. Can’t a mom have a picture of her daughter?” Amy said pursing her lips.

Oh, I get it. The waitress is Amy’s daughter. Hehe… yeah, I’d be embarrassed to have my mom at my work too. That is, of course, if I worked… and if I had a mom. I love pity-parties. I’m always the center of attention. I love attention. It makes me feel special. Yup, that’s me, shy quiet little Liz, always the life of the party… if I was ever invited to a party. God my life sucks.

“I don’t want you having pictures of me in this… thing of a dress. It’s hideous!” Maria complained. I, personally, don’t see why she’s complaining. I think they’re pretty cool. I mean, it’s not like they aren’t formfitting. And you also get to show off some leg too. Okay, the antennas, I’d have to agree, are a little too much.

“I wouldn’t complain so much Maria,” Amy said with a smirk on her face. “Especially with your boss around.”

Maria gasped and looked around the room before huffing and glaring at Amy. “Mr. Whitman is NOT around. You shouldn’t joke like that.”

“I’m not joking,” Amy held her hands up in defense before waving her hand towards me. “Maria, I’d like to introduce you to Liz. She’s now a co-owner of the Crashdown Café, or at least, she will be once she’s eighteen.”

Maria cocked her head and looked at me. “No shit?”

Amy cleared her throat and narrowed her eyes at her daughter.

Maria cleared her throat. “Oh, I mean… um… Really?”

Damn straight blondie. Bow down. Of course I don’t actually say these things out loud. In actuality, I just nod my head slightly before ducking behind my menu.

If you also hadn’t noticed about me, I am not a sociable person. Never have been. Doubt I ever will be. But behind the menu, blocking out the rest of the world, I smile. I have the biggest freaking smile on my face. Yup. Life might actually start picking up. No doubt about it. If I play it right, my life will start getting good, starting now…


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After we ordered and Maria delivered our food, we kind of just sat there and ate until Amy excused herself, pulling a camera out of her briefcase and winking at me before slipping out of the booth. I snicker to myself. Although she can be kind of embarrassing, Amy has got to be one of the coolest moms to have. I wish I had a mom like that. Wish I had a mom…

The silence after she left was comforting. After all, I thrived on silence. I didn’t really talk much. I didn’t order much, I didn’t eat much either. God, I’m always doing things a little short aren’t I? Hell, I’m even short myself. You think all these things could add up to something? I wonder… if someone psychoanalyzed my life, wonder what they would come up with. They’d probably figure that I was a lot more screwed up in my head than I let on to be. That… and more scared too…

Nope. I’m not letting anyone into this head of mine. I don’t want anyone digging around and coming up, telling me that I’m normal, average. I’m anything BUT average. I’m special, unique. I don’t aim to be like everyone else. I don’t want to be some Jane Do working at a cheese factory. Hell no. There is not one damn thing great about just being ‘normal’. I am not normal. I am above normal. Above average. Above all the rest. I am Elizabeth. Hear me roar!!

“Hey… are… are you okay?” this guy is asking me while he seemed to be laughing at something. What the hell? Wasn’t I just sitting here by myself? How the hell did this guy get there anyway? You don’t just sit in any damn booth you want. Especially with someone else already sitting there. It’s called common courtesy.

“What the hell do you want?” I snapped at him. Whoa… was that me? Did I actually snap at someone? Wow. Looky here, little Lizzie is actually growing a backbone. Go me. My life was changing all right. I finally look up at his face. Oh… dear… Lord. This guy has the most… incredible eyes. He is so… so… hot. Damn. Since when do I notice guys? Well, it’s a good time to start, because this guy is so ‘I could just eat him up’ good-looking. Mmm… grrr…

But then the guy starts laughing again. Wait a minute here. Didn’t I just tell this guy off? What the hell? Is he not taking me serious or something? Am I not serious? Do I look like a little kid to him or something?

“What do you want?” Hmmphff. Take that. Pissing me off. Freaking rude bastard. A freaking HOT rude bastard, but still a rude bastard, nonetheless.

“It’s… it’s a… nothing,” he says with this smirk that you just can’t help but grow to hate. “It’s just that you… um… you … ‘growled’ at me,” he said, lifting his eyebrows, that smirk still on his face.

Oh dear God. Please tell me I didn’t do that. My mouth opened and closed a few times, trying to think of something to tell this guy, but I just couldn’t come up with anything. God, how embarrassing.

And as if reading my mind and wanting to rub it in more, he lifting up his hand, showing two fingers. “You growled… twice,” he said, his smirk growing wider.

Whatever physical attraction I had for this guy, just completely went down the drain. How can someone be such a cocky-assed bastard? Was he just born that way? “Look,” I bite at him, “Is there a certain reason why you’re sitting in my booth?”

“Well, normally see, this is ‘my’ booth. I always come in at this time, everyday, and sit in this booth right here.” He leaned back and patted the back to his seat, as if I was so dumb as to not know what booth he was referring to.

“You must really not have a life then, huh?” I say, lifting an eyebrow at him. I’m not normally one to diss, especially since I don’t have a life myself, but there’s just something about this guy that makes me want to just… strangle him.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” he said coolly, “But I think sitting here with a pretty lady beats sitting at home and watching T.V.”

Okay, is he flirting with me now? The hell? Oh my gosh… he just winked at me. He’s flirting with me. All right. If that’s how you want to play it, bring it on, Romeo.

“You may not think so kindly of me once you get to know me,” I say with a smirk of my own.

“How about I get to know you and then I’ll be the one to decide on that.” Oh, he’s one smooth talker there.

“I’m sorry, you’re just not my type,” I say, looking him up and down, making a face as though I didn’t like what I saw, which was hard to do seeing as how he had the body of a Greek god.

“What? Tall, dark and handsome isn’t your type?” he asked with that freaking smirk on his face.

“On the contrary, I love a guy who is… tall… dark… and handsome.” I make a show, being as provocative as I can, licking my lips and using my tongue to my advantage. “I’m just not fond of cocky arrogant bastards,” insert sweet smile and a wink. Take that.

He sighs and smiles a pouty smile at me. And it’s so cute. “Can’t I at least get your name?”

“I’m sorry,” I shake my head, “But that’s very highly classified information.”

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” he says, leaning forward on the table, a smirk on his face. “I’ll even throw in my number for you. I’d call that a fair-trade. Wouldn’t you?”

I lean forward and am about to fire back a comment, but as luck would have it, there comes a scream from the back, and out of the door marked ‘Employees Only’ comes Amy with a smile on her face and a camera in her hand.

She walks right to our booth and looks at the guy sitting across from me, who was magically sitting straight, and the smirk on his face was now replaced with a shy smile. “Good Afternoon, Mrs. DeLuca.”

“Hello Max,” She said smiling back at him. “My, how you’ve grown. It’s been a while since I saw you last. How’ve you been?”

“Good, good.” The guy answered, nodding his head, that shy smile still there. God, this guy just had a total personality change. Wonder what his deal is? Probably a lot of things he’s hiding under all those layers of his too. I bet he doesn’t like average either…

Amy glanced at her watch. “Liz, we should be going.” I nodded to her and glanced quickly at Max. He has that smirk on his face, looking right at me while he mouths my name. You can just feel it rolling off his tongue, even though no sound actually came from his lips.

God… you just want to smack that smirk off his face. That, or kiss it off… Damn, when did I become such a girl?

“Here’s twenty dollars, Max,” Amy handed a twenty-dollar bill to him, who again magically became shy-smile boy. “You wouldn’t mind handling the bill for me would you? And Maria while you’re at it.”

“Of course,” his voice is shy and quiet. The cocky smooth-talker all but vanished. What is with this guy? What happened to the arrogant macho guy that was smart-talking with me earlier?

“You’re such a sweetie,” Amy said, pinching his cheek. And as if to complete the transformation, the guy actually blushes and ducks his head. Can you say ‘a-dor-a-ble’?

“Let’s go, Liz,” Amy said, heading towards the door.

I get up to follow her and take a step away from the booth when I heard it, his silky voice calling out softly, “Goodbye, Liz.” Goddamnit. That voice. The way my name just rolled off his tongue sent shivers down my spine. Damn it… damn it… damn it…

I look back, wink, flip my hair and went in for the kill as I sway my hips and strut away. Hey, we’ll probably end up going to the same school, but it’s not like I hang out in the cool crowds or anything, which he must obviously be a part of. What are the chances of me running into him again? Or the chances of him ever talking to me again, once he finds out what a dork I am…


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:25:49 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:15:18 PM
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Chapter Two



So, if you tuned in last week when our hero defeated the evil two-faced smirk guy, now, we head back off on another wonderful adventure with Psycho-Depressed Girl… dun da da dah… Actually, I’m not depressed, not at all. In fact, I feel good considering all the things that have happened to me. Really good.

And this is me, lying to myself again in order to stay sane. Because if I actually sat down and thought about everything that’s gone wrong in my life, I’ve had slit my wrists or hung myself. Neither of which are good options for me, physically and mentally. Socially too, but then I’m not very much of a social person. Can you even make friends in Hell, anyway?

Because I’m more than positive that’s where I’m going. Only the good people get into Heaven and I’m not exactly mother Teresa, you know. But then, who is? Definitely not split personality boy from the diner. Hell no. He’s probably got more things going on with him than I do. Now that’s bad.

I know, it’s not a good thing to do, comparing my screwed up life and trying to make it seem as if it’s okay by saying that others have it more screwed up than me. But that’s how my mind works. That’s how I cope. It’s how I deal.

That Max fellow doesn’t really have it all that bad. He’s just got layers, walls he’s put up, different personalities he hides behind. What I can’t figure out though, is why, a full hour after I already left the diner, he is still in my goddamn head. He probably gave me his cooties or germs or something that’s making me think of him.

Some kind of spell… like love Potion Number 9. Where the dorky, nerdy scientist turns into the hot babe in the end. Only in Hollywood people. Only in Hollywood, where the ‘beautiful’ people are. It’s too bad we’re not in sunny California. Nope. We’re here in dingy and dusty New Mexico. Where there’s nothing but miles and miles of desert.

So, since I’m not going to magically shed off my skin where I’m hiding my to-die-for body, it can’t be one of those ‘magical’ thingies that draws me to him. So what is it? It’s so fucking funny that I keep asking myself this when I already know the answer. I’ve already said it so many fucking times. What attracts me to him… yup, you guessed it… his layers.

Why am I attracted to his layers? Why do people play with a rubix cube for hours and hours? Because you want to solve the puzzle. Trying to be able to conquer the mystery of the six-sided demon. So, me? I want to see what’s under all his layers. See who the real Max is… or ‘what’ the real Max is…

It’s kind of corny if you think about it. But there’s more to it if you contemplate hard enough, me wanting to rip at all of Max’s layers, break down all his walls. I’m doing this in a way to help him, because deep down, no matter how much I deny it, I want someone to help me too, break down my walls, peel off all my layers… BUT, we don’t have time to think about that because Amy is calling us. Yes she is. We should go to her. Yes we should. Damn it. Why am I talking to myself? Grr…

So, I hop up out of my seat where I have been having this ‘discussion’ with myself for the last ten or so minutes and walk over to her. See, we are in the orphanage right now, and Amy told me to sit in the chair and wait while she talked to the lady in charge. So that was what I did, like the good little Liz that I am.

“Yes, Mrs. Deluca?” I mustered up the sweetest voice I had, which wasn’t really all that hard to do, since all I have ever been all my life, excluding the talk with the layer-boy, was sweet little Lizzie. Though it does have its advantages. Hehe… this one time, in seventh grade, all of the preserved lab frogs we were supposed to dissect somehow disappeared out of Mrs. Wood’s classroom and magically hopped their way into Stacy Scheinin’s locker. They all fell down on her when he opened her locker, totally ruining her dress and making all of her clothes and books and everything… reek… forever. Fucking hilarious. So fucking hilarious.

And the only people who had access to the science room at the time were me and Tommy Jones. So you can guess who got in trouble. Not Little Lizzie, of course, she could never do such a thing… hehe. I’m not evil. I promise, I’m not. They both deserved it. Tommy told the entire seventh grade that I gave him a blowjob. And Stacy, for some fucked up reason, said that she saw me doing it, not only with Tommy, but also with Fungi, the fag boy. That is just messed up when everyone already knew they were the ones fucking each other. Yes, even in seventh grade, this shit was happening.

Anyways, enough of the good old days. Right now, Amy is telling me that I’ll like it here, that I’ll be fine, that she’ll come and visit me… blah, blah, blah. Something about me not being here long… yada, yada… lawyer stuff… yackety yack… be good… you know, the regular stuff.

And then I was ushered down a hall and pushed into a room, the door shutting behind me. The room was pretty small with not much to it. There was a table with a lamp on it, two dressers, a closet, and two beds, both nicely made with the blankets folded at the end of each bed. One, with a suitcase on it, my suitcase, and the other, with a person on it, reading a magazine.

She lifts her head and looks at me, narrowing her blue eyes. Then she stood up circled around me, sizing me up. She stopped in front of me, extending her hand.

“Tess,” is apparently the vulture’s name, “You are?”

Now, how should I answer? Should I tell her off and gain an enemy or play nice and make a friend? Choices, choices. I give up and opt for the latter one. Despite what you may think, I’m actually a civil, though not social, person. I like to be cool with people. There are less arguments. And a lot less ‘Grrr’s’ in my head. See? Everyone’s happy.

“Liz.” I say, taking her hand and giving it a firm shake.

She nods her head and lies back down on her bed. “So… whatcha in here for?”

“Dad killed mom. Dad’s in jail. You?” I know what you’re thinking, why the hell are you telling this to a complete stranger. Hear me out first. This blonde chick here, she’s had it worse than me. I can tell. Something in the way she holds herself. Trust me. I know. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to people, but I do spend enough time watching them. Everything is in the way they act and the way they react. She was sizing me up as if she’s big and bad, but it’s all a front. She maybe handy with a switchblade, and could probably slit my throat in my sleep, but she’s more than that… more scared of me than I am of her deep down kind of thing. It’s all in how she reacted to me. Easy person to read.

The more trickier ones are the schizophrenics like our dear Maxy-boy. They react and act differently to everything. Like if you ask a kid if he likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’ll either say yes or no. Max will sometimes answer yes, or no, or shrug, or pretend as though he doesn’t know what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, even though everyone knows who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, or maybe even pretend as though he doesn’t speak English, or that he’s deaf, blind, etc., etc. There are all sorts of other possibilities.

“Never had parents.” The girl said nonchalantly, interrupting my thoughts. Which is good because when I’m left to think for too long of a period of time, I tend to over analyze everything. And I mean everything. And my thoughts always drift… “But according to the orphanage people, what parents I did have, left me on the side of the road.”

Most of the time, this is where people feel bad for having asked and apologize, but that’s not how it works. See me, I simply nod my head at her, and she nods back before returning to her magazine. See? Everything’s cool. We understand each other. No prying, no talking, no nothing. We just accept and let go. I carry on, unpacking my stuff and placing them into the drawers and she just goes on reading her magazine, bobbing her head every now and then.

Life would be oh-so much easier if we could always be like this. Live indifferent to everything around us. And not give a damn about anyone else. And not have this supernatural urge to pull off people’s layers. God damn it! Stop thinking about Max! Grrr…


--------------


So… things weren’t that bad. I may be stuck in an orphanage, and believe me, I’ve heard all the bad things they say about orphanages, I’ve watched Annie. But you have to understand how I work. What is so great about these places is that there are so many kids that they have to deal with, that if you aren’t one to cause a scene or in constant need of attention, you are neglected and forgotten about. Which is exactly how I love to be.

And what’s even better is that they have ‘recreation hour’ when they shove all the kids into one large room and let them kill each other while the adults go in back and watch porn. They don’t really do that. I just say things. They’re actually pretty nice. So are some of the kids. Not that I talked to any of them. I know, I said I wasn’t a social person but I love this ‘recreation hour’. It’s cool because I can see everyone at once. This way I can just sit back and watch, observing people. Hey, it’s more fun than you think. Honest.

See, right now, I’ve claimed my territory in the middle of the room, sitting in a wheelie chair. I can spin around and have complete and total view of the entire large room. To my left, in front of me, there are two girls playing Candy Land, completely engrossed in the game. There are other board games spread around them as well.

I turn a little, and I see a boy playing with an action hero, moving it around with his hands while making sound effects, as if the plastic thing can fly. Don’t roll your eyes. Everyone did it when they were little too. Next to him is a little boy, lying on his stomach, reading a comic book. And a few feet behind them, is another little kid, talking to air. You know, imaginary friend. I didn’t have one when I was little. I simply talked to myself. There was less confusion on my part that way.

Pivot a little more, and there’re two girls picking on another little girl with glasses on and her hair in pigtails. While other little kids around their age are watching from a distance. That’s not good. How come that suddenly reminds me of me? They just pushed her down into a seat and you guessed it… whoopy cushion central. The two girls wave their hands in front of their faces and said something to make the other kids laugh and the little girl cry.

Go ahead. Ask me. Ask me why I’m not interfering. Ask me why I’m not stopping this and going to go comfort the little girl. I want to. I want to rescue her, and in a way rescue myself. I really do. But I can’t. It may sound corny, but this will only make her stronger. It’ll prepare her for the harshness and coldness of the real world.

Think about it. If I rush in and save her this time, who is going to do it the next time it happens, and it will happen again. It always does. If I don’t give her this chance to grow a backbone, she’ll never be able to stand up for herself. Believe me. I know. I grew my backbone. The only problem with me is that mine grew inside my head. That’s what solitude does to you.

I just… I can’t tear my eyes away from the scene. I want this girl to stop crying. I want her to get up, walk up to those bully girls and tell them off, slap them. But I know that’s not what’s going to happen. It didn’t happen six years ago with me, and it’s not going to happen now.

The little girl just keeps crying. The two girls walk away with their noses so fucking high in the air, and the group of wannabes follows them, like the trained dogs they are. But this time, something different happens. Something that didn’t happen to me. One of the kids in the group is still standing there with a look on his face. No, it wasn’t a pitying look. It was more… apologetic. The boy is sorry that he didn’t stop them. And he wipes away her tears and she smiles at him.

Awww… that is so sweet. Damn I wish that would have happened to me. Can’t you just picture it? Me, at ten with my glasses on, my hair in pigtails, and a certain layer-boy wiping away my tears. Yeah, right. Not in a million years. The situation with this little girl is different. This little girl is actually adorably cute. I, on the other hand, wasn’t and am still not. Sigh.

I feel a small tap on my shoulder and turn to see a guy standing beside me. He’s holding his stomach and slapping his knee. “Did you see that? Wasn’t that fucking hilarious?” He was pointing his hand to the little girl as the little boy lifted the seat cushion and held up the whoopy cushion.

And this is me, glaring at the bastard. What the hell? This guy looks like he’s about seventeen and he’s laughing at a poor defenseless kid, being picked on. You know he just had to be one of those lackey dogs when he was little, doing things just because everyone else was. I ought to kick him. I ought to slap him right in the face, because basically, when you get down to it, he’s laughing at me. What in hell, gives him the right to laugh at me?

“So… you new?” he says with a smirk on his face, looking me up and down. Oh hell no. There is no wanting to kiss the smirk off this guys face like there is with two-faced boy. Nope. There’s only a vicious urge to hit it off with a stick. See, there are no layers to this punk. No siree. This guy is all cocky assed bastard. Not like adorable schizophrenic boy kind of cocky. Nope. This guy is so completely full of himself. Completely full of shit.

“You should stick with me. I’ll show you the ropes, how everything’s laid out,” he makes this show as if he’s king of the playground. As if he’s got the biggest dick in the world, when you know it’s probably the size of an inchworm.

And me? I do a little twist and turn away. Jackasses like these just aren’t even worth the effort. But then he grabs my seat and pulls me back around. “I’ll only offer once, next time you’re going to have to beg.” He says, completely invading my personal bubble.

Oh, hell no. No one, and I mean no one invades my personal little bubble. Or I just fucking explode. Forget the shy and quiet Liz. Forget censoring this shit with little kids around. Forget all that. I am ready to just tell this ass off. And I just about to too, except someone beat me to it.

“Fuck off, Sean,” comes Tess from out of nowhere. And I’m actually glad to see her. Not that I couldn’t take the bastard down by myself. I may be small, but I could bitchslap like the best of them.

“Aww… is little Tessie-poo jealous?” he turns away from me and focuses on Tess. “Don’t worry, Tessie, honey. You’re still my number one bitch.”

If he has said that to me? I would have slapped him. Straight out. But Tess isn’t like me. She doesn’t react the same way. Want to know what Tess did? She smiled. Yup. Smiled. Then she steps closer to him and whispered in his ear so that no one else could hear. No one else but me, of course, since I’ve got front row seats to the showdown.

“The only bitch around here, Sean, is you,” Tess whispered to him with a smirk on her face. If you hadn’t noticed, everyone smirks. Especially if they have something really smart or cynical going on in their heads. And I got a feeling Tess did. “Don’t forget, Seany-boy. I walked in on you and Paul-y when you got drunk that one night. I know all about your sexual ‘experimentation’.”

And there goes Sean, quivering in his boots. Hehe… way to go Tess! “So stay the hell away from Liz. She’s mine.” Whoa… wait a minute there. What did she just say? I’m still sitting there staring on just like everyone else in the room, waiting to see what happens. Sean looks around nervously and then bolts to his corner where his group of guys are. Wonder which one of them is Paul? Hehe…

Tess watches him scurry away with the smirk on her face. She turns back towards me, winks and walks away, disappearing to where ever she came from. And I’m still sitting here, wondering what the hell just happened…


--------------


So… after our recreation hour was over, which I don’t see why they call it recreation ‘hour’ when it lasts for over an hour and a half, it’s time for bed. Can you believe that? Going to bed at eight o’clock? Adults are the weirdest people. They just don’t understand it. Right after they let the kids run around and get hyped up, they’re going to try and strap them down to their bed? I don’t think so. I guess they figure that if they let them play, it’ll wear the munchkins down, but it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s easier to get kids high then to slow them down. These adults. I’m telling you they’re just asking for pillow fights and panty raids.

But then, what the hell do I know? This is only my first time in an orphanage. However, I’m just telling it like I see it. I’ve spent the last couple of hours observing these kids. I’ve actually got a bunch of them figured out. I haven’t talked to any of them, but I’ve got it down.

This tubby kid gets made fun of by everyone. He pretends not to be bothered by them. Walls. But unlike my schizophrenic boy, this kids only got one layer he hides behind. Anger. Violence. He keeps a frown on his face all the time and plays off that he’s big and bad. He won’t even think twice about hitting someone. And violence never solves anything. This kid, unlike the pigtailed girl, could actually be helped if someone sat him down and explained that to him. That is, if he’d listen. He has one hell of a thick head. Thinks the whole world is against him.

Now, one of the bully girls that picked on pigtailed girl, didn’t really want to do it. While her partner in crime was off in the bathroom, she went over to pigtailed girl and apologized to her. It was the peer pressure that made her do it. She was scared. Scared to be made fun of by everyone else if she hadn’t done what the other girl wanted. The sad thing was that as soon as the other girl came back from the bathroom, bully girl went back to being an obnoxious little prick.

Okay, pigtailed girl and her knight in shining armor, are the most adorable little thing. With him staying back and comforting her after she was picked on, they both discovered they liked each other. And young love is so innocent and cute. They both shared a cookie together. And when they were coloring in the coloring books, they both grabbed for the red crayon and their hands touched. They both let go immediately and blushed beet red. It was so cute. I spent most of my time watching these two, but I got to glance around at the other people as well.

Like in Sean’s group, they are all full of themselves, not just Sean. And of the five guys, you can definitely tell which one of them Paul is, or as Tess referred to him, Paul-y. He’s the one that sways his hips when he walks, and winks at Sean every now and then when none of the other guys are looking. It’s so fucking hilarious and deeply disturbing at the same time. Especially since they, more likely than not, know that he’s fruity in the booty, and yet they keep him in their little group. I wonder what for? Never mind I don’t want to know.

And I’m thinking about all of this while I’m standing outside my room, my hand on the doorknob. Why am I not going in? Am I scared? Scared of Tess? No. It’s not so much of being scared. It’s more of not wanting to be in an awkward situation. But the adults are coming, checking up on the little kids and shooing others into their rooms. So I should go into mine, right?

“Good night, Liz,” one of the workers says to me as she walks past. “I hope you sleep well.”

I smile at her and nod my head, turning the doorknob and entering the room. Inside, Tess is on her bed, flipping through a magazine like she was when I first met her, only this time we’re both in our pajamas.

She nods at me after I close the door. I nod back and start walking towards my bed. I pull a book out of one of my drawers and lay down on the bed. And guess what book I’m reading. ‘The Watcher’. Oh, yeah. It’s a book about a girl who has a bad dad and an indifferent mom. She’s always sitting back and just watching people, living in her head. Sound familiar? I didn’t think so either. I’m not even reading the book. Nope. I’m pretending, flipping the pages every few minutes.

See, we both know that neither of us goes to sleep this early. So to waste time, we are both flipping our pages and thinking away in our heads so we don’t actually talk to each other. That way, if we don’t talk to each other, there is less chance of us not getting along. And I know Tess isn’t looking at her magazine either. This is the third time she’s reached the last page and started it over to flip through the pages all over again.

And you know what? I’m tired of this. If I end up not getting along with her, Mrs. Deluca said I wasn’t going to be here long anyways. So I’m just going to ask her. Who gives a shit what I find out? I sit up in my bed and look at her. “What did you mean when you said that I was yours?”

She leans over her bed, sliding her magazine under it and sitting up as well. “Don’t worry, Parker. I don’t swing that way. It’s a thing here. Me and Sean have been here the longest out of anyone. Me longer than him though. So we get dibs on the newbies if we want them. So saying that your mine is just adding you to my clique.”

“Oh,” I say, somewhat understanding. “So, how many people are in your clique?”

“Just you,” she said, pulling another magazine out from under her bed to flip through. “You’re the only person I’ve ever called dibs on. You’re lucky. I don’t normally pull status around here.”

Wow. Orphanages have rank. And Tess is the Queen Bee. Wait… “So why did you pick me?”

Tess shrugged her shoulders. “Didn’t want to see you get harassed and manhandled by Sean and his delinquents.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Tess is still just flipping through her magazine as though we aren’t actually having a conversation, even though we are. She likes having someone to talk to. Even though she won’t admit it. This is her front to pretend as though it wouldn’t make a difference to her whether I was here or not.

If that’s how she does it, I’ll play along. I put my book back up in my drawer and pull out my sketchbook and a pencil, opening it up to a clean page and doodling away. I’m a pretty good artist if I do say so myself. “So, what school are we going to?”

“West Roswell High, home of the Mighty Comets,” Tess says, her voice dripping with disdain.

“You don’t like it there?” Hell if she doesn’t like it there, I’m never going to make it.

“It’s a-ite,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “You just have to find cool people to hang out with.”

Well in that case, seeing as how much of a loser I am, how am I supposed to find cool people? I’m never going to get along at this school. Might as well label me a geek and get it over with.

“I’ll show you around,” Tess said nonchalantly. “What kind of classes did you take at your old school?”

I have two options. Tell her I’m a dork now, or wait until she found out for herself tomorrow. Insert sigh. I might as well be straight with the girl. “I’ve got all advanced level classes.”

“Which ones?” Tess looked up from her magazine.

I started listing them off in my head. “AP Chemistry, AP US History, AP English III, AP Calculus AB and BC, those kinds of classes.” And this is where she laughs at me and calls me a nerd. And frankly, I don’t care. I accept it. I know I’m a nerd. And if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather be a nerd than a bimbo blonde?

Tess scrunched up her nose, “Aren’t you… fourteen?”

“Sixteen,” I correct her, focusing back on my drawing.

“Oh,” she says, nodding her head. “Cool. Then you’ll probably have a few classes with me. Well, chemistry. I’m not all that great at writing, or dates, or math. But I’m a genius in chemistry. You’ll like our teacher. He’s cool. He’s a coach so he’s pretty lenient. You can fail all the tests but as long as you turn in your lab book, you’ll make an ‘A’.”

Wait… Tess is in advanced placement chemistry? Tess is a brain too? I never would have thought. Well, I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover. I guess my observing skills are a little rusty. I’ll need to practice a little more. “So… does this guy really care how the lab write-up is done?”

“Nah,” Tess said, shaking her head. “No one actually does it anyway. Everyone just copies off of Evans.”

“Evans?” This person must be good. Wonder if this person’s a complete dork too. Probably is. Yay… a fellow nerdish scientist… someone who loves the smell of chemicals and the way they react. Just like me.

“Yeah. Evans, the smartest freaking person in the entire school. I swear, he’s like a robot or something. It’s just not plausible for someone to be that smart. Everyone copies off of him in every class. You’ll probably end up in a lot of his classes. If you give him five dollars, he’ll do you’re homework for you.”

“So… what’s he like? Dorkish?” I asked, pretending to concentrate on my doodling again. Which is funny because I don’t even know what the hell it is I’m drawing.

“Nah,” she shook her head. “Not at all. Just really… quiet. Really shy. I don’t remember him ever talking more than three words at a time. Or ever speaking any louder than a whisper. Keeps to himself. Sits alone at lunch in the quad under his tree. We donned it the ‘tree of knowledge’.”

“Does he not have any friends?” I tilt my pencil and start shading the sketchpad, but I’m looking up at Tess.

“He could have friends. He could probably rule the whole goddamn school. Total hottie. But he’s not what you would call… sociable. It doesn’t ever stop the cheerleaders from trying to get down his pants though, namely Pam Troy. Huge slut and one hell of a bitch. Steer clear of her.”

You ever notice just how much Tess talks once you get her to start? She’s probably jammed pack with information and is just waiting to spill it all to someone. Lucky me.

Tess leaned over her bed and slid the magazine under it. “Ready for bed?” she gets under her sheets. I nod my head, still finishing up shading my drawing. I finally stop and put the pencil down through the wire binding of the sketchpad, standing up to turn off the lamp before heading off to bed.

Once I was about to click off the lamp, I finally look at my picture. Guess what I drew. Go ahead. Guess. Take a wild guess. Yup. You guessed it. An onion. A goddamn fucking onion with it’s freaking layers. Grr…


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:26:23 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:15:43 PM

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Chapter Three



Morning here was a pretty hectic scene. How the orphanage is set up, there are two stories. All of the rooms are set up on the second story, which is split up into four hallways, two for boys and two for girls. Those hallways are then split up by age, younger and older. And there is only one large bathroom to each hallway.

Can you imagine what its like? All the adults are busy getting all the kids ready. And all the rest of us who can dress ourselves are all forced to share one bathroom. A gazillion girls, cramming into one bathroom to beautify themselves in the morning, applying their make-up, brushing out their hair, etc. all in there before the sun even rose. Sigh. What some girls do for beauty.

However, it is now 7:35. And me? I’m still in bed. And so is Tess. Despite the fact that school starts at 8:00. Or that everyone else on the floor is up and at ‘em. Chatting away as they got themselves ready. While I’m trying my best to stay asleep for as much longer as I can. That is, until I felt something thrown at me.

I open my eyes and Tess is standing there beside my bed. I glance at her and then glance at the clock. It’s 7:40.

“Don’t you want to get ready for school?” She asks me while she grabs a few things and starts heading out the door. That’s the great thing about not giving a shit. It takes you less than five minutes to get ready in the morning.

So I get up out of bed, grab my bag of stuff and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. Then I head back into the room, change into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and I’m good to go. And apparently, Tess also agrees with my morning routines except she puts in two extra minutes to add on a little make-up while I use those two minutes to make my bed. I’m a neat freak, all right? Just accept it and let it go.

We get the choice to catch the bus to school, or walk. Tess opted to walk. She also decided for me that I would too. Dictating my life.

She explained her reasoning, either walk the short distance or be crammed in a seat with a bunch other people, possibly having to sit next to people such as Sean and his group. I agreed with her completely. So West Roswell High School, on the outside, looked like any normal high school. But on the inside, it really was like any normal high school.

You might think that I’m going to take this opportunity to change my life around and start a new, right? Be the Liz that everyone wants me to be. Conquer all evil and speak my mind. Especially with Tess helping me out around the campus, right?

Wrong! Utterly, utterly wrong. First of all. Tess doesn’t help me out. Nope. Well, other than the fact that she shows me where the main office is and then ditches me. So much for her. Insert sigh. I walk into the office and head straight for the lady behind the desk.

“Excuse me,” my voice comes out soft and childlike. So much for speaking my mind. “Um… excuse me,” I repeat. And this lady, you know what she does? She glares at me. I was so completely sweet and nice to her so far and the lady glares at me and goes back to shuffling through papers on her desk.

I’m debating on what to do in my head. I can raise my voice even louder at the lady and glare back. Or I can just stand here and wait until it is more convenient for her to help me out. Decisions, decisions. Hmmm…

Let’s opt for sweet. Sweet is always good. People like when others are sweet. So here I go, smiling shyly and talking softly again. “Excuse me. I’m new here and…”

“Could you just wait a second?” the lady interrupts me.

Nope. I’m not going to get mad. I just smile at her and nod my head politely. I shuffle my feet a little, and lean slightly against the counter. I pick up my hand and lean my head on my elbow on the counter. And then with my other hand, I knock softly twice, just out of boredom.

The lady looks up at me, narrowing her eyes and I just smile sweetly at her. She goes back to the paperwork on her desk and I glare at the top of her head and smile wickedly. And I start tapping my fingers on the counter, as annoyingly as possible.

She looks up, glaring at me again, but I have a sweet smile on my face, just looking at her. She rolls her eyes at me and goes back to her paperwork and I start my tapping again.

She gets up out of her chair with a huff. “Fine. What is it you want?” She asked, storming towards me.

I smile. I’ve never actually intentionally gotten someone angry with me before. Normally I always do what ever it is I was told. This is the first time I actually got someone annoyed. See how much I’m growing? Go me!! “Hi,” I have a huge smile on my face and my voice is the perkiest it’s ever been. “I’m new here and I was wondering where I can get a copy of my schedule.”

She rolls her eyes at me. “Name?”

“Elizabeth Philips,” I give her a hundred watt smile.

She just rolls her eyes again and flips through some papers before shaking her head. “I don’t have transfer forms for an Elizabeth Philips. I do, however, have an Elizabeth Parker.”

“Oh… yeah,” I nod my head. “Elizabeth Parker. That’s what I meant.” Amy had explained to me that my name was still Parker. And that they would have it changed back if I wanted it to stay Philips, since I wasn’t going to stay with the Parkers. But I stuck with Parker. Hey, P-A- comes before P-H- in the alphabet. That’s just skipping me up a few spaces to get my diploma.

The lady at the desk hands me my packet of papers with a bright smile. “Here you go, sweetie,” she says in a singsong voice. Sweetie? Where the hell did that come from? I look around and noticed that a man just walked into the office. A really, really tall man who walked past the desk and into one of the rooms inside, probably his office.

Once the door closes, the lady then glares at me again. “Go to class.” She tells me in a superior tone of voice. I scoff inwardly. But outwardly, I have a shy smile on my face as I walk away. Damn. I just got here and already hate it so far. Aren’t faculty supposed to be positive people? And aren’t secretaries supposed to be helpful?

The hallways were empty. The bell had rung while I was still in the office. I glance down at the papers in my hands. At the very top of the stack is my schedule. I skim down it. It wasn’t any different from my schedule at my old school other than the order it was in.

I look across the top line that read: 1 AP US HIST LORENZ C134

So apparently, the first class I had was AP US History. Sigh. Not exactly my cup of tea. History has never been my favorite subject. All the years and dates and dead guys get all mixed up in my head.

I look around in the hallways. Where the hell am I supposed to start looking for the classroom? I go straight until I reach an intersection. I can either go straight, go left, of go right. Left was not an option, because it wasn’t a hallway really but an entrance to something. Probably the auditorium or something.

I go right. This short hallway only has two classrooms. One of the doors says 118 on it. I am off. You’re probably waiting for someone to come to my rescue and give me some clue as to where this class is. Possibly schizophrenic boy. But no, you’re wrong again. When people see other people, lost in the hallway at school, they ignore them and walk away. That’s high school for ya.

So I just keep walking, glancing up at doorways every now and then until I finally find one hall that is in the 130’s. I walk around and turn a corner and finally find C134. I got it figured out. On some of the walls, they have these letters that say C-Hall or B-Hall etc. And these halls aren’t actually halls. They are more of blocks. I completely understood it. Totally. That was exactly why it only took me half and hour to figure it out.

I knock on the classroom door and lower my head. This is it. If I want to change myself in any way, I have to do it now. To be Liz or to not be Liz…


--------------


So, I knocked on the door and waited a few seconds. Through the window, I saw a kid, tall and lanky, walking towards me to open the door from the inside. I step aside as he pushes the door open. Okay, deep breath and walk into the classroom. Here goes nothing.

I follow the guy in. He goes back to take his seat and I walk towards the teacher, who is seated behind a podium at the front of the classroom. She’s kind of… well… overweight, obese. No wonder the kid opened the door for her. It’s probably hard for her to get up. No. Bad Liz. It’s not nice to judge people with disorders. Whether it be obesity or schizophrenia.

“You must be our new student,” she reaches her hand out for me to shake.

“Elizabeth Philips,” I shake her hand, nod my head and smile shyly at her. So much for being different. Yup. The shy and quiet Liz is here to stay.

“That’s strange,” she picks up a piece of paper off her podium. “It says here that you’re Elizabeth Parker.”

“Oh, yeah. Parker. Elizabeth Parker,” I nod my head and smile shyly again.

“Well, it’s good to have you Elizabeth,” the teacher smiles warmly at me and I smile back. “Do you go by Elizabeth or do you go by Liz or some other nickname?”

“Liz is fine,” Why am I talking so softly? Well, it’s not like I need to talk loud, the entire class is quiet and staring at me, like they’ve never seen a new kid before. I start fidgeting nervously. I have mentioned to you that I dislike attention right? Yeah, thought so.

“Well, Liz. Welcome to Advanced Placement US History, or as we like to call it. APUSH,” the teacher waved her hands around the room of students. APUSH, that’s what it’s called. It’s pronounced, A, as in A-hole. And PUSH, as in PUSH to open. Put them together: APUSH.

“Why don’t you find a table and take a seat then, Liz? And we can get started,” She smiles again and I smile back, again, before I turn around and try to find a seat. I hate trying to find a seat. Unlike most people, I secretly like it when teachers assign seats for you. That way I’m ‘forced’ to sit there, instead of picking my own seat and defining myself as a member of a certain group of people. Well, actually, normally I just sit by myself but there aren’t any empty tables.

I look around and see a blonde girl waving at me. It’s that one girl, from the diner, Amy’s daughter, Maria. She’s signaling for me to take the seat next to her. So I make my way over to her and sit in the empty seat, putting my bag down on the floor.

“Hey, Liz, right?” she says to me once I look up.

I nod. “Maria, right?” I say quietly to her.

She nods. “I didn’t think you were a junior too,” she says.

I nod shyly and smile slightly. I bet you didn’t.

“And this,” she pointed to the tall and lanky boy from earlier, “is Alex.” Alex nods his head and waves at me. I smile at him. “He’s Mrs. Lorenz’s bitch,” Maria added at a whisper at me. My eyes widen at him.

“Hey,” Alex gets defensive. “How did I go from being a teacher’s pet to being her bitch?”

Maria rolls her eyes. “Since you started coming after school to become her …personal …little …computer …geek. Her bitch.” Maria added a small smile. And me? I’m really starting to like Maria. She isn’t all that… bubbly… like I thought she’d be. But then, I’ve only spent a few minutes with her.

There’s a knock on the door and Alex jumps out of his seat and rushes to get the door. “Total bitch,” Maria mutters while shaking her head. Inwardly, I’m laughing my ass off. Outwardly, I smile slightly and pick up a packet from the middle of the table and start reading.

“Sorry I’m late, Mrs. Lorenz.”

Wait a minute. I know that voice. I look up from my reading.

“That’s all right, Max. Just take a seat,” Mrs. Lorenz smiles at him.

I turn towards him with a smile on my face, expecting him to look at me and smirk or do something equally cocky. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even notice me as he walks past to sit at a table in the back by himself.

What the hell? That table wasn’t empty a second ago. Or else I would have claimed it. Well, fuck a duck. Just as I figured. He’s probably some cool jock, captain of the football team, ruler of the school. And whatever roaches were sitting there earlier probably scattered and made room as soon as the light shining from their king came on.

“That’s so fucked up,” Maria whispers to me. “I was late two minutes last week because of a flat tire in the rain and she gives me detention, and Max comes in without an excuse, when class is almost over and she lets it slide.” Maria glares at Max and then rolls her eyes. “I swear, he’s got the whole goddamn school doing everything and anything he wants.”

“Don’t mind her,” Alex says to me, referring to Maria. “She’s just jealous. Max is actually a really nice guy.” He nods his head for emphasis.

Yup, no need for you to tell me, Alex, old chap. I know exactly how nice Max is. So nice, he’s got me thinking about him every damn second and staying up drawing layers and walls and shit.

“Yeah. Max’s great,” she says sarcastically. “Absolutely great. So damn great that the whole cheerleading squad would fuck him in an instant. And I’m pretty sure Pam Troy would even go as far as to tie him down and rape the poor guy.”

Wait a minute… cheerleaders? Pam Troy? Didn’t I hear about them before…


--------------


“Liz… Liz?”

“Huh?” My head shoots up at the voice.

And Alex is standing there smiling at me. “Are you okay?”

“Uh… yeah… of course,” I nod my head enthusiastically and use the perkiest voice I could muster, which is a pretty damn good one if I do say so myself.

“Oh, ‘cus you just kind of zoned there. The bell already rang,” he pointed around to the empty classroom.

“Oh.” I blush a little and gather my things. And that’s my lame-o answer to still being here. How could I have not heard the bell ring? And you’d think I would notice if the entire class got up to leave, seeing as how I sit right near the door. Stupid, stupid me.

“So… ugh… what class do you have next?” Alex, who is apparently walking with me in the hallway, says.

I look down at my paper. “Well… um… calculus.”

I look up and there’s a huge smile on his face. “With Mrs. Byrne?” I look down at the paper again and nod my head at him.

And just when I thought his smile couldn’t get any bigger, it spreads and takes up, pretty much, half of his face. “Me too. I’ll walk you there.”

I just nod my head while he directs me to the next class, trying my best not to get run into by anyone. That’s the thing about being short, no one sees you. So they always walk right into you. And that’s also the thing about not being popular too. No one wants to see you, so they run into you and they expect you to not be in their way when they are, in actuality, in your way. Grr… Let’s not get into it now.

This is actually a new thing for me. I’ve never had anyone walk me to class before. It’s actually kind of nice, especially when you walk with a tall person. People tend to see them more than they do me. And Alex is quite the tall person.

We would have probably chit-chatted a little on our way to class, but the class was pretty much down the hall and around the corner, so there wasn’t much time anyway. But we were the first ones in class. So Alex sat down in a seat and motioned for me to take the one behind him.

“So,” he starts up the conversation, I was never one to start the talking. I guess he picked up on that. “How’d you like APUSH so far?”

“It’s okay, I guess,” I say quietly and smile at him. You’d think I’d be at least a little more comfortable around him. After all, he did walk me to class and started talking with me and all, but I can’t just be myself, well not myself, but my somewhat more talkative version of me, not yet. See, with Tess, it was easy. Tess is a messed up person in herself. But Alex, he’s the all around good guy. It’s harder.

“The class is pretty hard, but you’ll get it,” he winks at me. He’s so cheerful and friendly.

Sigh. Might as well try and reciprocate some of his friendliness. It wouldn’t hurt would it? “So, are you really Mrs.’s Lorenz’s bitch?”

You can tell that he’s surprised by my question. His eyes go wide and all. Bet he didn’t expect that to come out of my mouth. Bet he expected me to be quiet little Liz too. But then, so had I. I don’t even know why I asked that. I had planned on asking him if calculus was hard. But if it came out, it must have been meant to be said, right? Providence and all.

Alex chuckles at me a little while shaking his head. “Well, yeah, I guess. If you go by Maria’s standards, anyway.”

I just laugh with him. Note, with him, not at him. Because what kind of guy admits to being a bitch. You just have to laugh. I think I’m going to get along with Alex just fine.

“But then again, Maria’s a little… judgmental about everyone,” Alex said, shaking his head again.

I smile and nod my head. “Max, right?”

Alex nods his head. “Yeah. Don’t get too scared of him. The guy isn’t that bad as Maria makes him out to be. But the cheerleaders, on the other hand, are.”

“They really are?” my eyes go wide. “I thought she was just kidding.”

“Nope,” Alex says, shaking his head. “Maria wasn’t kidding. They’re willing to jump his bones any day of the week.”

Damn it. And my little schizophrenic boy was actually just starting to intrigue me. I guess I’ll just have to move on to some other mentally disordered freak. I mean, it figures anyways. How can someone that good looking as Max, not get laid by every bubbling blonde in the school. “Yup. I bet he’s just stock full of STD’s.”

“No,” my head shoots up at Alex’s comment. Apparently, I had said that last statement out loud. “They’re willing, but he isn’t. Not that I know everything there is to know about him, but that’s just what people say. That, and he isn’t really the type to do things like that. Well, that’s my opinion.” Alex just shrugs his shoulders.

Hmm… a guy that isn’t susceptible to bimbo blondes’ charms. A guy who actually doesn’t want to have an orgy with the entire cheerleading squad. Interesting… “So, is Max… gay?”

“Hey,” Alex defends Max. “Although it may be every guy’s dream, but when given the chance, he doesn’t actually have his way with the cheerleading squad.”

“Oh, he wouldn’t?” I ask, raising my eyebrows at him. Just as I thought. Max is gay. Completely fruity in the booty. That would explain why he dresses nice too. Damn. I wonder if he knows Paul.

“No. In fact, I, on behalf of all the guys who don’t completely think with their dicks all the time, would gladly tell you, no, we don’t always want the girls with the biggest boobs or the shortest skirts. We look at other qualities in girls too.”

You just can’t help but smile at Alex’s comment. Especially when you are just that. I have no boobs and I don’t wear skirts. “So, if given the chance, you wouldn’t do it with one of the members of the cheerleading squad, even if they approached you?”

Alex shakes his head. “I am proud to say that I wouldn’t.”

“Except if it was the fine Miss Isabella,” this guy says, sitting down in the seat in front of Alex.

Alex rolled his eyes. “Hey, Isabel is no longer on the cheerleading squad, dumbass. She quit.” Alex says with a smirk on his face.

Damn. And if good boy Alex here is smitten by one of those bubbly ‘spirit leaders’, every guy is. And Max is gay.

“Hey, you must be new here. Kyle Valenti,” that guy reaches his hand back for me to shake. He has a letter jacket on, football patches all over it. He must be a jock. Thus, probably one of Max’s lackeys. I wonder if he knows that Max is gay.

I shake his hand and smile at him. “Liz.” My voice comes out soft and childlike once again. Damn. I have to work on that.

“Liz…” Kyle is waiting for me to finish.

“Liz.” I state for him.

“Just Liz?” there’s a small teasing smile on his face.

“Just Liz.” I bite back at him, but I restrain what annoyance I could, though a little of it slipped out.

“All right, Just Liz.” He laughs at himself. “Welcome to West Roswell High School. Home of the Mighty Comets.” He strikes a pose, flexing a few muscles, apparently proud that he’s a ‘Mighty Comet’.

I smile and nod my thank you. Inwardly, I’m scoffing at the guy. ‘Mighty Comet’ my ass. Mighty Mouse could probably take this guy down. Hell, Mickey Mouse could probably do it.

The bell rings and the door closes as the teacher comes walking in. She sits at her seat next to the overhead at the front of the classroom and skims over the people while taking roll.

She looks over at me. “Why, hello. You must be new. Come on up here.”

I grab my things and stand up with a sigh. Here we go again…


--------------


Calculus was pretty much a breeze seeing as how I didn’t understand a single thing I was doing. But according to the teacher, who is in serious need of a makeup artist to show her just how to apply eye-shadow, integral substitution is a cinch. Sure it is lady, if you’ve been teaching it for over a hundred years. Goddamnit, it should be prohibited by law somewhere for someone to abuse makeup the way she does. It’s just… eww…

But apparently I understand way more than the other kids do, because she has offered me an invitation to join some math group of hers. Alex says to take it and that you’re as good as gold for an ‘A’ in this class if you are a member of her elitist Mathematics Crime Fighting Team. Only the best of the best get an invite, according to Alex. So I should be flattered. Yup, flattered that I’ve been at this school for less than two hours and am already categorized as a dorky dweeby nerd. Completely flattered.

Any who… my next class for the day was English. I actually like English. I enjoy debating about what dead guys were thinking when they wrote their pieces of fine literature. It’s cool because you can’t be wrong as long as you can back up your thinking. Unless you are completely brain dead, which I wouldn’t put it past a few people to be.

I didn’t have anyone to walk me to class or show me where it was this time. Alex probably would have shown me, but I had to stay after a little to talk to Byrne, where she wanted give me all the paperwork to join her little club, but we’ve already gone through that stuff.

I didn’t have a hard time finding my class this time though. It was just down the hall and around a corner. Pretty easy if I do say so myself. I found it so quickly that I happen to be one of the only people in the room at the time. Only me and one other person. Can’t you just guess who it is? Go ahead. Guess. All right. I’ll tell you. It’s the schizophrenic Adonis, himself. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Max. Wow. The jock actually has another AP class. Amazing, and here I thought all football players were dumb.

I walk over to him, set my things down on the table and take the seat in front of him. He looks up from his book and looks at me, his eyes widen a little and then he covers his face back up with the book. And I sit there with a smile on my face the whole time, wondering what the hell is up with this guy. Maybe he’s not one to strike up a conversation either. I mean, popular people aren’t always social.

“Hey Max.” I semi-wave at him. He doesn’t even look up from his book, but you can hear a short muffled ‘hey’ coming from him. What is with this guy? I’m actually liking the adorably cocky bastard that hit on me in the restaurant a lot better than this. Oh. I get it. Maybe he’s figured that I already found out that he’s gay. No. He probably thinks he’s so up there… so high and mighty, that he doesn’t think it’d go good with his reputation to talk to me. Well, then. In that case, two can play at that game.

Hell, I can pretend to be high and mighty too. I can be the bitchiest of the bitches. It’s not like it would hurt my rep right? Seeing as how I don’t have one. Grr… Who am I kidding, I couldn’t be a bitch if I was paid to. I’m just too… polite. I could never…

“Excuse me, you’re in my seat!” I hear some bitch barking from behind me. I slowly turn around and glare at her. Yup, just as I thought, a five foot five, buxomous blonde, donned in a skimpy cheerleading outfit. Just my luck.

I get up and pushed my things to the seat beside Max. But another blonde bimbo grabs the seat. “Taken,” she glares at me. And I glare back before I roll my eyes and try for the seat diagonal to Max, and as you have it, yet another cheerleader shows up. “Taken.”

Goddamn. What the hell is this? Some kind of ditzy blonde cheerleading factory they’ve got going now? I bet these three were cloned from the same sheep. I pick up my bag to move to another table. When I stand up from my chair, not a split second later, one of the cheerleaders plops down in it and the other two take their seats as well. And once they are all situated, they turn to Max, “Hi Maxie-poo.”

I can’t believe they all had enough brainpower to manage to say it all in unison. I would have applauded had I not been scoffing at the time. I mean, actually scoffing. So much that all three girls turn to me and give me the death glare. Not that I care what any of them think, except for Max, who gave me a smile, but he quickly covered it up when they all turned back around.

“Do we not get a ‘hi’, Max?” the girl who took my seat tilted her head and pouted her lip at him. I rolled my eyes. Max sighed and turned to each one of them, nodding his head at them as he said each one of their names. “Pam, Isabel, Courtney.”

Wait a minute. Isabel. Didn’t Isabel quit the cheerleading team?

“I’m so glad you joined the squad again, Isabel. We never would be able to do our routine without you,” squeaked blondie number three, or as Max had called her, Courtney. So I guess that answered my question.

“So, Max,” Pam chirps up. She leans forward on the table, leaning on one of her arms and using it to push her boobs up, as if they weren’t big enough. And you can see Max’s eyes do a quick glance down at her cleavage. Damn. Forget the gay thing. “Are you doing anything Friday?”

“Studying,” Max says, sticking his nose back in his book.

“Wouldn’t you rather spend Friday night snuggled up with me than with a boring book?” her lips pout even more, if that were even possible. And Max suddenly drops his book, his head pops up and his eyes go wide as he stares across the table at her.

His face goes red and suddenly pushes away from the table, picks his book back up and mutters. “Pam, please, don’t.”

And I start cracking up laughing. You’re probably wondering what happened there. With my supernatural powers of deduction, as well as my view to the entire thing, I have figured that Pam had started playing footsie with Max under the table. But in order to get Max to turn beet red like he did, she was probably playing footsie with… let’s just say… another area of his body other than his feet, if you get my drift. And the funniest part, she was turned flat down.

Pam, as well as the other bimbos, seeing how they are apparently her lackeys, turn around and glare at me again. “Haven’t you left yet?”

I grab my bag, muttering to them. “Damn, sheesh. All that fake hair die getting to you?”

They all glare again. “I wouldn’t know.” She huffs and turns back around, taking out their makeup compacts and powdering their noses.

And while they are busy doing this, Max is silently snickering at my joke and looks up at me. He gives me a semi-wave with a smirk as he mouths the words ‘hi Liz’. My name is rolling off his tongue. I just turn away from him with a sigh and find a seat at another table. When I look back at him, he has his nose back in the book trying to read as Pam tries to make passes at him. Damn… what is with this guy?


-------------------------------------------------



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:27:06 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:16:04 PM
-------------------------------------------------


Chapter Four



Although I thought English was one of my better subjects, the class actually sucked, big time. First of all, the teacher, Mr. Manor or Coach Manor, he used to be a tennis coach, but because of health problems, was forced to stop coaching, is retiring after this year. He also just loves to listen to himself talk because I swear that’s all he did all period, about off hand subjects too. And also refers to himself as a bear. He calls himself Eric “Bear” Manor. Isn’t that just great? And he has bear posters all over the walls of his room. Bear things, and tennis things. Bear posters, bear statues, stuffed bears. Tennis trophies, tennis magazines, tennis rackets, and tennis balls. They are even incorporated. A stuffed bear, holding a tennis racket and tennis ball. Who would have thought?

And he also tells weird and fucked up elephant jokes. Like get this one, how do you kill a blue elephant? With a blue elephant gun. Duh. Now, how do you kill a pink elephant? With a pink elephant gun? Wrong-o. You hold its nose until it turns blue and then shoot it with a blue elephant gun. Hahahaha… I actually thought that one was kind of clever, but none of the rest of the class did, so I kept my laughter to myself. Yup, that’s me. I just love to conform.

Come lunch time, I had yet to make any new acquaintances, so I just followed everyone else out to the snack machines and such. I got a small bottle of water from the coke machine. Aren’t they nifty? Fifty cents and you get this little bottle of water. They are so small and cute. With just enough water in them for you to finish in the allotted time they provide for you to scarf food down in these public education facilities.

Any whoo… after grabbing my nifty little bottle, I head out to an outside area where everyone was seated in small groups, some on tables, some in the grass, eating their lunches. So I have so many options. I can go introduce myself into a group. I can look around for anyone I know, like Maria, Alex, or even Kyle. Or I can sit by myself. I opt for the latter, since I just love solitude.

Oh look, even more options. Sit on a table, sit on a bench, sit on the grass? And if I sit on the grass, to sit in the sun or to not sit in the sun? Sit near a tree, or not sit near a tree? Oh the choices. I plop myself down on the ground, leaning next to an unoccupied tree as I twist open my nifty little water bottle.

“You’re sitting at my tree.”

I lifted my head up slowly, starting at the feet and sizing up this guy, who apparently thinks he owns this here tree. Ugly shoes, way too baggy pants, tacky shirt, and top it all off with the most hideous hair I have ever seen. Along with a glaring and angrily brooding face. Just as I thought. This guy has issues. Meaning, like with Tess, I can be my fucked up self as well.

“I’m sorry. I hadn’t realized this tree was reserved for people in serious need of haircuts.” I give him a sweet smile, tilting my head to the side a bit.

The glare remains on his face and he is totally unaffected by my comment whatsoever. “You are sitting at my tree.”

“Said Cousin It.” Still, no response at all. Completely indifferent. This guy is fun.

“You’re sitting at my tree.” He repeats for the third time.

“Don’t mind him. He’s just being an ass.” Maria pops out of no-where and sits down beside me with an open bag of cheese puffs. She pops a few in her mouth and then offers me some.

“No, thank you,” I say politely while I shake my head. I have a pretty good theory as to where the supposed cheese from those things come from. Remind me to tell you someday.

“Deluca.” The thing speaks.

“Get lost, Guerin.” She shoves a few more cheese puffs in her mouth.

He sits down on the ground, the three of us forming a somewhat circle. Maria looks pointedly at him.

He just shrugs his shoulders. “My tree.”

“Suit yourself.” Maria shrugs her shoulders too. Then looks at me, pointing to the guy next to her. “Meet Michael Guerin, freak boy himself. This is Liz.” She points to me.

I give him a wary smile and he doesn’t even acknowledge my presence.

“So,” Maria breaks the silence between us. “Michael, I hear your sister joined the bimbo squad again.”

Michael just shrugs his shoulder and pulls a sketchbook out of his bag, a pencil out of his pocket and starts doodling away. So completely closed off in his own little world.

Wait a minute. Michael’s sister just rejoined the ‘I-love-prancing-around-in-short-skirts-so-guys-can-stare-at-my-ass’ squad? Isabel is Michael’s sister? How is that possible? They don’t look a thing alike. They are both completely different people. That is just so… weird. Genetics just isn’t like it used to be. Stupid pea-pods and the stupid cross breeding and monks with nothing better to do and… Grrr…

You know, biology, the yellow peas and the green peas with the cross breeding and such… never mind. Anyways, I tune back into the conversation at hand just in time to hear Maria bicker about someone else.

“…and he thinks he’s so great, just sitting there and reading his book. Why doesn’t he eat during lunch like normal people?” She glances quickly at Michael, who is still busy doodling away at his sketchpad, and who has yet to take out a scrap of food. “My point exactly.”

I just inwardly snicker. This girl will find anything to get angry at, just for the hell of getting angry.

“See,” she starts back up again. “And there go the cheerleaders, right on cue. Cheap blonde bimbo whores…”

“Didn’t you used to be one?” Michael speaks up and finally lifts his head to gauge Maria’s reaction.

She glances at him, and then at me, and then at him again before she lowers her head and starts muttering under her breath. You can make out some of the words. Somewhere along the lines of freaked up hippie artists with long hair and wishing she had scissors and shit. I just keep laughing, inwardly of course. Maria is a riot.

“Oh my god…” Maria says simply. Both Michael and I look at her and then at each other. You’d expect her to mutter something other than just that, but that was it. So both of us turn to look at what amazing thing that got Maria dumbfounded. And damn, it was definitely something that would get everyone quiet.

Follow the dotted line from Maria’s eyes to across the way to the center of the quad, where Pam has Max pushed up against his tree, her tongue probably jabbed far down in his throat. All three of us, as well as everyone else eating lunch, just stare at them, not sure exactly what to think of this. Then, Max pushes her away, gags and it’s as though he were spitting, wipes his mouth on his sleeve, glares at her, and then picks up his bag and stalks off.

“Wow.” Maria finally speaks up, nodding her head. “The bitch actually stooped that low. She ought to know better than to try and actually seduce Max. Why couldn’t she just go back to fucking the football team? I mean, it’s just not possible to get to that guy. He’s probably vowed celibacy or some shit. Too goddamn smart to have any time to think with his balls. How else would he be able to fit in doing everyone’s homework? Oh, that’s right Liz,” she looks over at me. “If you’re ever lagging on the homework department, just give it to Max to do, any subject, five dollars. Homework help too, just pay a visit to the Tree of Knowledge.” She makes little invisible quotation marks with her fingers.

“What?” Where the hell have I heard this before?

Michael makes a face. “Ever watch Recess?”

I nod my head. Everyone watches Recess. It’s the coolest cartoon ever.

“Well, Evans, there, is like the Gretchen Guru Kid of West Roswell High.” He explains to me.

Wait. What? Evans? I though we were talking about Max…


--------------



So… I learned a whole lot during lunch. First of all, I found me my new spot. You know, my claimed territory. The one area you sit at forever until you get bored of it, or until anthills start forming there, either way. And I have claimed my territory at that tree. Michael, be damned.

Secondly, I love Maria. You just can’t get tired of that girl. She’s got her own set of issues and problems. And I just love issues. Or at least, people with issues. I don’t like issues themselves. And definitely not ones that deal with me. But I don’t have issues. I just like others that have them. They add spunk to life. They make me feel less insane. As if I was insane to begin with.

Any who… thirdly, Michael is in serious need of a haircut. It’s just… eww. Guys with long and ungroomed hair just… freak me out. Even long hair freaks me out. Damn, even Fabio’s fully groomed hair is just so… girly… oh god… eww. Now if it was more like onion-boy’s, a little long, but not too long, bangs curling at his forehead a little…

Okay… the main and most important thing I found. Max is Evans. Evans is Max. Now that is just screwy. Max Evans. Or Evans Max. But then, that’s just weird. So, Max is not the jock and king of the school like I thought he was. He is Tess’s super quiet, super smart, and super hot, cheerleader magnet. Well, he’s not Tess’s but… you know what I mean.

Max is Mr. Quiet-I-Don’t-Speak-Over-Three-Words Super-Genius. And although I am saying this, it’s not actually registering in my head. I guess it’s because I don’t fully associate the two together.

I mean, according to Tess and Maria, Max is so quiet and so smart, and so impenetrable by seductive enticements of the female sex everywhere. But my Max was so arrogant, so cocky, so Mr. Suave, with the I-know-you-want-me-and-think-I’m-hot smirk on his face. Damn schizophrenia boy… Grrr…

So… after lunch, Michael walked me to class. Shocker to everyone. Lower those eyebrows and close that mouth. The walking talking mullet didn’t actually ‘walk me’, per say. See, Maria had a look at my schedule and pointed out that Michael had AP Chemistry next period, too. Michael just shrugged, threw his backpack over his shoulder and walked off to class. And here I am, following, three steps behind him.

It’s not all that bad. Better than looking like a freshman on the first day of high school, lost and looking for the right room number. Nope, that’s not me. I’m a junior, lost and looking for the right room number, damnit.

But Michael knows I’m following him. And he’s probably snickering inside his head. You know how I know? He’s gone in a complete circle. The fucking bastard. As if I’m dumb enough not to know that four right turns brings me back to the same spot I was before. Fuck him.

I see Tess entering a room. Look up, and yup, 202. My spot. Bye-bye Mikey-boy. Hehe… he’ll probably walk around one more time before noticing that I’m not following anymore. Dumb-ass hippie.

“Hello,” one of the teachers standing out in the hallway says to me. There are two of them. Both are male. Both are growing bald. Only one is extremely tall and the other is a little taller than me, thus, he is incredibly short. One has white hair, the other has brown.

And thanks to my super-duper telekinetic power, I deduced that the chemistry teacher is the tall, white haired, bald dude. Well, thanks to my super brain power, and the fact that his name tag says Schierling, as does my schedule. Yay Liz.

“Hi, I’m new here,” shy smile. Tuck hair nervously behind the ear and slightly ducked head. Sigh. It’s just impossible to change. You just can’t get away from yourself. It’s probably going to take me years and years of this ‘talking’ and ‘confidence’ concept before I start getting the hang of it.

“Oh, you must be Elizabeth,” I smile and nod my head and he shakes my hand. I’m trying to politely look at him while he’s talking to me, but it’s just so hard. He’s just so damn tall. “Welcome to West Roswell High. How do you like it so far?”

I take step slightly to the side so that other people, who can’t seem to go by me without bumping into me, even though I’m not really in the way, namely Michael, whose reason is probably because his hair is taking up half of the hallway that he can’t help but run into me, can enter into the classroom.

I nod my head and smile slightly, “it’s nice.” I smile at him. He smiles at me. And we’re just smiling. Bunches and bunches of smiles. And I really just want to go into the class, like everyone else that’s passed me on their way in.

“Well, that’s good.” He turns away from me and says something to the other bald teacher guy again. And I stand there, not sure if I am supposed to leave or what. Suddenly, I feel a pat on my ass and I jump. I quickly turn my head and see… Max, innocently making his way to his seat. He isn’t letting on that anything happened so I figured it was probably an accident. But as soon as he’s settled in his little quiet corner, he looks at me out of the corner of his eyes, giving me a small smirk. What the hell just happened here?


--------------


Chemistry was rather interesting. Well, at least I thought so. Okay, first of all, the lab stations are the weirdest ones I have ever seen in my life. It’s just this one huge lab table in the shape of an H. So basically, its four lab tables, connected together by a long cabinet table. You just have to see it. It’s weird. But it’s pretty cool. Each ‘table’ has a sink and gas, cabinets and stools.

And the teacher’s desk, as well as a few classroom computers, are at the front of the classroom. There is a door connecting the classroom next door with ours. Why? I don’t know. Because the two bald teachers don’t talk enough in the hallways?

There is also another door next to the door out of the classroom, it opens up to a really large closet, holding all the supplies and stuff. And safety goggles, aprons, ordinary supplies that we use in labs, like beakers, Bunsen burners, and such, are all located in the back of the room.

The fume hood is in the corner of the room next to the teacher’s desk and a large sink to clean glassware and such is next to it. There’s an overhead in front of the teacher’s desk and a large television as well.

All of the tables are full with two people stationed at each, one with three. Except for Max’s table of course. He’s sitting by himself. My lucky day. This ought to be fun. I’m about to walk over to him and his table in the corner of the room, but the teacher calls out to me.

“Umm… Elizabeth, why don’t you sit…” he glances around the room. I don’t see why. There’s only one empty spot, and that’s next to Max. “Why don’t you pull a stool up next to Michael. I glance over at Michael. He didn’t even acknowledge that someone had said his name. But Tess is also sitting at his table, so I walk over to Max’s table and grabbed the extra stool, his eyes remained on the table top. I pull the stool up to the table, sitting next to Tess and put my things down.

“So, welcome to AP Chemistry II,” she says to me. “You are now a member of the ‘I don’t give a shit’ table’. This is Michael.” She points to him.

“We’ve met.” I said and give him a nod, which is a universal ‘what’s up’. He doesn’t even look up from his sketchbook.

Tess points to the table in front of us. “Ass-kissers table.” Then points to the table diagonal, “Snoozers table.” And then points to the table besides us, “Smart people table.”

I smile. “Why is it called the smart ‘people’ table, if only Max sits there?”

Tess shrugs. “That’s all the smart people there are in this class.”

I just smile. “Well, there aren’t that many people in this class to begin with.”

“There were,” Michael spoke, barely audible, and his eyes remained glued to his sketchbook. “Damn cheerleaders.”

I look over at Tess with raised eyebrows, waiting for her to explain.

“Well,” Tess starts, “This class used to be jammed packed with members of the blonde bimbo brigade, which isn’t odd seeing as how the cheerleading magnet signed up for this class.” She tilts her head in Max’s direction.

I glance around the room again. Not a short skirt or tight halter top in sight. “Where are they now?”

“They all dropped it,” Tess said with a smile. “One of the labs we did, way back when, went incredibly wrong. Apparently when you mix a few wrong chemicals together, they can create a pretty lethal stink bomb.” Michael snickered at her comment.

“Anyway.” Tess continued. “The stench got stuck in their hair and clothes and they all had a hissy fit and swore off entering the classroom again. So Coach Shierling forced them all to get a schedule change if they weren’t going to participate.”

I nod my head. “So what do we do in this class?”

“Nothing,” Tess says, and then she suddenly puts the pencil she’s holding down. “Hey, Max.” she calls to him. “Say hi to Liz, she’s new.”

Max looks up towards us and waves his hand nervously. “Hi Liz.” He focuses his attention back onto his table top, unzipping his backpack and going through it.

“Hey, Max,” Tess called out again. “How was your day today?”

“It was good,” he said warily and them focused back onto his backpack.

Tess slumps forward in her stool and Michael snickers at her. “Give it up, Tess. You aren’t going to get him to do it.”

“Do what?” I ask with a smile.

“Say more than three words,” Tess said, shaking her head.

“I’ve heard him say more than three words,” I say and both of them just look at me.

“Three consecutive words, Liz.” I’m surprised Michael knew such a big word as consecutive, but I don’t actually say anything.

So I nod my head. “Yeah. He says more than three words in a row to me. He’s said a lot more than three words in a row to me.”

And they just stare at me. “What has he said?” Tess asks.

“Um…” I try to think off the top of my head but it’s just not coming. “Plenty.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re new and he just forgot that he doesn’t say more than three words to anyone.” Tess quirks her lips, thinking.

“No,” I shake my head. “He’s said more than three words to Mrs. Lorenz this morning. ‘Sorry-I’m-Late-Mrs. Lorenz’. I count off the words.

“Doesn’t count.” Michael spoke up. “Teacher. You can’t go without saying more than just three words to them without failing.”

“Mrs. Deluca,” I smiled, remembering back. “He said good afternoon to Mrs. Deluca.”

Tess smiles. “Liz, dear, good afternoon is only two words, four syllables.”

I roll my eyes and count off the words. “Good-Afternoon-Mrs.-Deluca. See? Four words.”

Tess shakes her head. “Three. Mrs. Deluca is basically one word.”

“It’s two words,” I disagree with her.

“It’s one,” Michael backs up Tess. Damn it.

“Fine,” I relent, “but he’s still said more than three words to me.”

Tess shakes her head. “Prove it. I want to hear him.”

I look over to the front of the classroom where Coach Shierling is still seated behind his computer at his desk, where he’s been since class started. Damn, they really don’t do anything in this class. I stand up and walk over to Max’s table. I will prove them wrong.

“Hi Max,” I smile at him as I lean onto the table.

“Hi Liz,” he doesn’t even look at me.

“So, how’s it going?” Okay. I’m determined to get him to say more than three words, but I’m not quite sure how. Sigh. Peer pressure. It always forces you to do things without thinking them through.

“I’m fine.” He nods his head.

“Well, my day has been pretty cool so far,” I try to lead him into a conversation.

“Really? How so?” He looks up at me. And I count in my head. Only three. Damn it.

“Well, I saw you during lunch.” Max blushes and ducks his head a little. “I thought that was a… site.”

Max just shakes his head. “Those damn cheerleaders.”

“What, you don’t like being attacked by a rabid animal in a short skirt.”

“Only by you,” he whispered to me. He looks me up and down and smirks. And I’m wondering if anyone else sees this. But apparently they don’t. Since he’s faced away from everyone else. The only people likely of noticing are on the Snoozers table. But you can guess what they’re doing.

“I don’t wear skirts,” I shake my head.

“You could,” he wiggles his eyebrows at me.

I lean closer to him. “So if I attacked you, it’d be okay?”

“If it’s you,” he smirks again and I’m wondering if conjunctions count as one word or two.

“It’s one word,” Max smiles at me.

Wait. What? Wait. “What?”

He smiles again. “It’s one word.”

“Huh?” What is he talking about?

“Conjunctions are one,” he holds up one finger for me to see.

How did he hear me? “Did I say that out loud?”

Max shook his head. “No.”

“Then how do you know what I’m thinking?” I eye him warily.

He shrugs his shoulders. “Special brain power.”

I roll my eyes and stand up straight. “Can I ask you something?”

“Ask away,” he smiles again. His smiles are just so… nice. They brighten up his face and everything else around. No wonder the cheerleaders all want him. His smiles make me feel this… I don’t know.

We aren’t going into that right now. We’ll just think about it later. Right now, we have other things to do. “Why don’t you ever say more than three words to people?”

He shrugs his shoulders again. “I don’t know.”

“But you have said more than three words to me,” I point out to him.

He leans closer to me, whispering. “You’re special, Liz.”

And my face just brightens. “How so?”

He shrugs again. “You’re different.”

I look at him, lifting an eyebrow, “Good different or bad different?”

He smirks again. “I don’t know.” He pulls a book out of his backpack and busies himself reading and I walk back to Tess and Michael.

“So?” Tess asks as I sit down in my stool.

And I shake my head frowning. “Are conjunctions one word or two?”

“One,” Michael says, not even stopping from working on his sketch.

“Darn it…” I sigh.

Tess shakes her head. “He might as well be mute. How can he go by without talking to people?”

I shrug my shoulders. “He’s got a nice smile though.”

Michael drops his pencil and him and Tess are staring at me in awe. “He smiled at you?”


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:27:57 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:16:26 PM
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Chapter Five



My last period of the day was boring as hell. Health with some coach who was probably only teaching the subject because they were either short teachers and they forced him to or he finds the subjects dealing with health so damn interesting and just seems to hide it very well. Something told me it wasn’t the latter.

Any who… I pretty much slept through the class. No biggie. I doubt its anything I need to know. It’s not like such issues dealing with mental health, disorders, and diseases are anything I need to concern myself with. It’s not like I’m weird or anything… oh wait… hehe… I am.

I’m not just saying that either. Really, I am WEIRD… strange… odd… peculiar… take your pick. It isn’t just my opinion either. Hell, it’s all I ever heard during my life…


“Elizabeth, it’s summer,” he puts his hands on his hips and looks at me as though I’ve grown a second head.

I look at him with a smile as I nod my head. “I know, dad.”

“Why are you wearing a jacket?” he points to my sweater.

I just shrug and smile. “I don’t know. I just want to.”

He shakes his head in disbelief and just laughs at me. “You’re so weird, Lizzie.” He ruffles my hair and pulls me into a big hug. “You’re the oddest child that ever lived. No wonder your mom left…”



You see? That was when I was seven. When my mom first left on her oh-too frequent little vacations by herself because she was so ‘stressed out from life’. Don’t get me wrong. That was one of the best memories I have with my father. He’s a great guy. He really is. He never meant anything by what he said. He didn’t realize what he said hurt. He was only kidding with me. Really.

But my mother on the other hand… Sigh. I don’t want to get into it now. It only gets me depressed more. Not that I’m depressed or anything. Just… not happy. But then who is actually ever happy? What is happy anyway? Is it bliss? Is it being an airheaded bleach blonde without a care in the world? Or is it to be able to overly care? Can you overly care about something? Would I ever be overly cared about? Will anyone ever care about me? Will I ever be happy? Is that even possible?

Grr… why is it that one question seems to just lead to about a dozen more? See what I’m talking about? Damn it. Moving on now…

Come the end of the school day I wasn’t all too sure on what to do. I couldn’t find Tess anywhere. Or any other kids from the orphanage for that matter. What am I supposed to do? Walk back to my new temporary home? Or do I get a little time to explore first? Because if I could, I thought that I might go check out the Crashdown again. You know? Stake out the business? See what all I am inheriting.

Which reminds me. Mrs. Deluca told me to call her after school today. I should do that. Right away. I mean… it could be important. My mom could have left me the million dollars I was hoping for. Or even better, Mrs. Deluca can tell me, “Surprise. It was all just a joke. Your mom didn’t die. Your dad isn’t rotting away in jail. Your life isn’t screwed up and you aren’t being forced to live with complete strangers. It was all just a joke. A sick and demented joke.”

But that’s all my life is. Some demented joke. But I had prayed and I had wished so hard for them to pop out and say that everything wasn’t the way it was. That I really had a picture perfect family with a little house and a picket fence. It’s all I want, God. I don’t even want lots of money or the shiny cars or any of those materialistic, unnecessary things. I just want my little house and my little picket fence. I know, that’s materialistic in itself, but it’s not really the house and the picket fence I want. It’s the idea behind them. The normalcy and the stability and the loving family…

So by the time I had walked back to the orphanage, I was almost already in tears, hurrying off to my room, well, mine and Tess’s room, I drop down on the bed, pulling the covers over me and burying my head into my pillow. God, and I thought today was going to be a good day. Me and my goddamn mood swings. Now there is something to talk about in Health class. I should just volunteer and let them probe my mind and behavior so they can see, first hand, what low self-esteem and mental disorders are like. That way, all of the perfect and normal little boys and girls know what not to do.

I’m just full of self-hate aren’t I? I mean, I should look at the bright side. Be fucking optimistic for once, Ph-Park-Elizabeth; like I said, last names are overrated. And life is not all as bad as I’m making it out to be. I mean I could be off starving in some third world country. Or I could be living in a time period when toilets weren’t invented yet. Or, worse yet, I could be artificial and blonde ditz and be a part of the bitch squad like Pam Troy and her mindless look-at-my-ass-as-I-bend-over dronies. I shudder at the thought. Never in hell will that happen.

I mean… plenty of teachers say that I have potential, that I’m smart, and very gifted. And not only that, I’m ‘special’ and ‘different’. Whatever the hell that means. Damn that Evans. Him and his stupid ambiguous words. They have two different meanings, just like his personality. Damn him.

I’m still deep in conversation with my mind when a knock on the door is heard before it slowly opens. And in walks Mrs. Deluca.

“Hey, Elizabeth. Am I waking you?” she talks in a whisper and slowly comes in, shutting the door behind her.

I shake my head no and sit up. She takes a seat on Tess’s bed. “I thought you were going to call me.”

I glance over at the clock. Damn, it’s been three hours since school was let out. I’ve been talking to myself for that long? I guess they were right when they say time flies by. “I guess I didn’t notice the time.” My pathetic excuse for an apology. But she doesn’t seem to mind.

“How have you been?”

“I’m good,” I offer her a small smile. It’s all I seem to be offering lately.

“How was your first day? You know, if you still need more time, you can take off from school for a few days…”

“No, I’m good.” I interrupt her. “I’m fine.” And everyone else in the world is probably kicking me for giving up the opportunity to miss school. But in fact, I like school. Yes, you heard right. Elizabeth is a huge dweeb who likes… and I repeat… likes to go to school. Everyone does, no matter how much they deny it. School is your safe little haven away from the world. It’s what makes you still a kid and makes it acceptable for you to make mistakes, because you haven’t fully grown up yet… I don’t know. I don’t make sense a lot of the time.

“Well, any time you think you need a break…” she says, I can tell she’s concerned for me. Well, I am too, but I just nod my head. “All right then. We’ve talked about your situation with your relative and the custody rights, right?” Again I nod my head and she continues. “Well, he’s still deciding over the situation. We’re not sure yet on him. But I do have a few foster homes lined up for you to stay at. That way you can get out of this orphanage and live in a normal house until we get further notice.”

Normal? That’s laughable. I am anything but normal. Who wants normal, average? I sure as hell don’t. I am just a walking ball of contradictions. Didn’t I, just a second ago, want stability? Isn’t stability normalcy? Sigh. I just nod my head obediently. “Thank you, Mrs. Deluca.”

“I’ve been talking to the Whitman’s, the people who owned The Crashdown with your mother.” I nod my head at her again. “They would like to take you in if you want. Or I can set up another foster home location.”

“I don’t… I don’t care.” My voice comes out so soft. “I don’t want to be a hassle to anyone or anything…”

“Elizabeth, you aren’t a hassle. Honestly, you aren’t. You are a really good and sweet girl. Heck, I’d take you in if they would let me.” I look up and there is honesty in her eyes. She smiles at me and I smile back. “So, do you want to meet the Whitman’s first, maybe see what they are like?”

I smile, genuinely. I’ve always liked Mrs. Deluca. “Sure.”

“Let’s go then. I’m a bit hungry anyway.” She stands up from the bed and adjusts her purse on her shoulder as I slip on my shoes and pull my hair back as I follow her, the smile still on my face.

It’s funny these mood swings of mine…


--------------


You know those moments that sort of just… hit you. When realizations just somewhat come rushing towards you all at once, startling the hell out of you? That is exactly what was keeping me standing outside, my hand on the door of the entrance to the food that my stomach so desperately wanted. But I stayed rooted to the floor because, for some reason, it was all crashing down on me.

I’m here to move into a new home. I’m here to meet my new family. Well, a foster family. A foster home. A temporary home. But a home, nonetheless. And still, I’m about to change my life once again and be forced to live with another group of complete strangers.

When that realization was over, I stopped myself. What the hell am I thinking? My whole world isn’t shattering just because I have to pack up my bags one more time. It’s just a normal and everyday thing in the life of Elizabeth.

Can you just feel the love? I can’t, because right now, my stomach is growling like crazy and I am not one to deny myself. So I step inside and into the world of alien frenzy. Mrs. Deluca is already seated in a booth. I stagger over and smile at her.

“What took you so long, Elizabeth?” she asks, genuinely concerned.

“I’m sorry,” just listen to me apologize as I slip into the booth. “I was kind of stuck out there for a second.”

“Stuck?” Mrs. Deluca’s eyebrows do that up thing that people do when they either don’t believe you, or they are trying to question you further. I think she was trying to do both.

“Stuck in gum?” a voice calls out from the booth behind us, completely cutting into out conversation. Oh dear God. Didn’t he know not to butt into other people’s conversations? But then again, that’s what he is. A butt. A total and complete ass.

Why the hell he seems to pop up when he isn’t wanted, is beyond me. And whatever it is your thinking, stop. I know who you’re hoping for it to be. Hell, I know who I am hoping for it to be. But this guy, is not him. Far from being him, in fact.

“Well, I haven’t seen you in a while, Sean,” Mrs. Deluca says to him with a smile on her face. “How have you been?”

“I’m good, Mrs. Deluca. Never been better,” he says to her, but his eyes are glued on me, giving me that look. And I just can’t help but shudder in revulsion. Sickening. It should be against the law for guys like him to look at helpless and innocent girls that way.

“That’s good,” Mrs. Deluca says, the smile still on her face. “Well, me and Elizabeth are here to get a small bite to eat. Would you like to join us Sean?”

Lordy Lord. Please tell me she didn’t just invite him to eat with us. Please say no. Please say no. Please say no… No such luck.

“I’d love to Mrs. Deluca,” he has the sick grin on his face, still looking at me.

Instantly, I stiffen and shift a bit, trying to take up as much space as possible and pray to God that he won’t choose to sit in the seat next to me. Sit next to Mrs. Deluca. Please to God, sit next to Mrs. Deluca.

Again, no such luck. Despite my tense stance and all of the ‘back-off’ vibes I was sending out to him. He wormed his way into my side of the booth, rubbing up next to me as he squeezed in.

Eww… I have never felt more violated in my life. I swear, if he tries anything, I will not hesitate to dump my drink on the bastard.

“Welcome to the Crashdown Café, can I take your order?” Maria comes up to our table with an extra chippery smile on her face. She looks at Sean with a scowl and then turns to me with a sympathetic smile. Well, at least it’s comforting to know that everyone of the female species seems to despise Sean, not just me. Oh, and Tess too.

“I think I’ll have the Space Invader Salad and an iced tea,” Mrs. Deluca folded her menu and handed it to Maria.

Maria jotted the order down on her little order pad. “Remember the deal for eating here, mom.”

“Yeah, I know,” Mrs. Deluca sighed out. “Twenty percent tip it is.”

“We agreed on fifty,” Maria said, giving her a look. “That’s it. I’m not serving you.”

“Fine,” Mrs. Deluca conceded. “Fifty. But only because you look so cute in those antennas.”

“Mom,” Maria whined.

“Fine,” Mrs. Deluca holds her hands up in defeat. “You kids go ahead and order. I’m going to go talk to the Whitman’s. I’ll be right back,” she says, getting up from the booth.

“So, what will you have?” she asks, turning in my direction.

Sean folded his menu. “I’ll have…”

“Excuse me,” Maria interrupted him. “I was asking Liz.”

I can’t even stop my snickering. That’s right dipstick. Ladies first. I smile at Maria and hand her my menu. “I’ll have a cherry coke.”

“That’s it?” She raises her eyebrows. She must have gotten that habit from Mrs. Deluca.

I just nod my head and she frowns at me. I guess somewhere between my realization outside and my now icky dilemma of Sean being next to me, I lost my appetite. “I’ll bring you out an order of Saturn Rings, on the house.” I smile my thanks before she spins on her heels and walks away.

“Hey, Deluca. My order?” Sean calls out to her, but Maria continues to just ignore him. Have I told you how much I love Maria?

“So Lizzie. I guess it’s just you and me,” he leans back and drapes his arm over the back of the seat. How the hell do I always get into these evil situations? That’s it. God has it in for me. I bet he does. It’s probably all that swearing I do all the time. He’s probably taken a peek into my head and decided that I am the spawn of Satan. Damn these evil thoughts of mine. Damn them all to hell.

“You feel like going to see a movie after this, babe?” he gives me a lazy smirk. Oh hell no.

“Actually…” I start to tell him off, I really do, but then Maria shows up with our drinks. Well, my drink anyway.

“Anything else you want, Liz?” She gives me a smile.

I shake my head. “No, thank you.”

Sean sits up. “Yeah, I’ll have a…”

“All right, if that’s it,” Maria turns back around and walks away again.

Sean just brushed it off. “So, Liz. How about we get to know each other a little better?”

“Actually, Sean. I… um… I have to go to the bathroom,” I try to muster a smile. I know it is the gayest excuse in the world. And I know, everyone was just waiting for me to tell the guy off. Hell, I was even expecting myself to, but I guess I figured that the guy just wasn’t worth it or something. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

“Sean, I have to go to the bathroom,” I repeat. I hate repeating myself. It’s like hearing the same damn song on the radio too many times, just so damn annoying.

“I’m not stopping you,” he smirks and leans back. Oh, hell no. The fucking bastard does not expect me to climb over his lap. No way. No way in hell.

“What are you so scared of, Liz? I don’t bite… hard,” he smirks again and reaches out to twirl a piece of my hair around his finger.

I should stop him. I really should. But I’m kind of frozen and stuck. And I just let him do whatever he wants. Why the hell am I not stopping him? Why can’t I move?

He lifts his finger and traces it along the side of my cheek and down to my chin. The move made me shudder, and yet I still can’t stop him.

“So you want to leave Liz?” He whispers into my ear. “Say yes.” And to my utter dismay, I can actually feel my head shake up and down. He grabs my hand and starts tugging me out of the booth. And I feel myself standing up and following him out, despite the fact that I’m screaming at my legs to stop and my hand to let go. It’s like I had no control over my body, whatsoever.

And it’s scaring me shitless. Oh, God. Please. Someone help. Why isn’t Maria coming to check up on us? Why hasn’t Mrs. Deluca come back yet? Why haven’t I been able to stop myself yet?

Oh, God. This is not good. Not good. Definitely not good. If I’m not controlling my body, then who is? And why can’t I fucking control my own body? Is my brain stem severed or some shit like that?

And who the hell knows what Sean is up to. Or what he’s planning on… Oh God. Please, no. But despite my attempts to yell or squirm, I can’t do either. I’m like a puppet. A puppet that Sean has managed to pull out of the door and into the parking lot. Past the parking lot, and into an alley.

Make it stop. Please make it stop. Please, tell me this is a dream. A really fucked up dream. He lets go of my hand and pushes me up against the side of the building.

“You’re a really pretty girl, Lizzie. Really pretty.” I can feel a hand on my face and another around my waist. “I like pretty girls.”

Please, make it stop. I want to push him away. I want to cuss him out, spit in his face and kick him wear it hurts most, but I can’t. God, I can’t even blink anymore. What the hell is happening to me?


--------------


And if only the gods in heaven could hear me now, their ears would be ringing from my piercing screams. That was, if I could force my mouth to open. It’s not really the being pushed up against the building part that bothers me. No, it’s the being pushed up against the building by Sean that’s leaving me panicky. Added to the fact that I can’t even force my arms to push him away, or that I can’t even move at all, and it’s scaring the shit out of me and just adding to my distress.

God damn it, where the hell is my knight in shining armor now? Isn’t there some written code or law that someone is supposed to burst in right now and save me from the horrible and wretched creature? Oh, wait. That only happens in fairytales. And if I haven’t learned anything yet, it’s that my life is no fucking fairytale.

“Let her go.” The deep voice comes from my left, near the entrance of the alley. Well, fuck a duck. There is a God, after all. I know that voice. It’s music to my ears. I want to run over to him. I want to yell out for him to save me. Hell, I want to just be able to look at him, but I can’t even do that.

Sean slowly turns to the voice and takes a small step towards him, successfully dropping me the few inches off the ground that he had me pinned up against the side of the building.

The evil bastard smirks. “And if I don’t, Evans?”

“You’ll regret it.” I can hear Max’s shoes clicking on the concrete as he walks forward, but I still can’t see him yet.

However, I can still see Sean, no matter how hard I wish for him to just go away. And Sean’s still smirking at Max. “There’s nothing you can do, Evans.”

Max takes a few steps closer, now in my peripheral vision. He stands a few feet away from Sean, staring him down. “I’m claiming her.” Max glances over at me and offers me a smile. And I swear, that boy could probably get away with murder with that smile of his.

Sean laughs. An evil ugly laugh. “No can do, Evans. Tess already called her.”

“Tess called her?” Max takes a quick glance at me.

“Yeah. The bitch beat me to it.” Sean’s voice comes out. Ughh… why won’t he just go away?

“Then, she’s Tess’s.” Max stated. What is it with these people? It’s as if I’m some kind of property they can just throw around.

“Your point being, Evans?” Sean starts walking closer towards me but Max stops him, standing in the way. And now, I have a pretty damn good view of Max’s back side. And Max has also blocked Sean from my view. Two bonuses for me. Hooray! And damn. If I had not noticed before, Max has got one nice ass.

“Out of my way, Evans.” Ughh… too bad he couldn’t block Sean’s voice out too.

I can see the back of Max’s head go from side to side. “She’s not yours.”

“She ain’t yours either.” I’m guessing Sean is on his tippy toes or something because I can see his head bobbing next to Max’s, trying to stand taller.

Max just crosses his arms over his chest. “I’m calling rank.”

“You can’t.” Sean disappears behind Max once again. No more tippy toes.

“Just watch me.” Can’t you just feel the smirk on Max’s face?

“What the hell do you want with her? I thought you were fucking Pam.” Wait. Back the train up. He’s comparing me to Pam Troy. Miss Primpy-Cheerleader I-Want-To-Sexually-Assault-You Pam Troy? What the fuck?

Apparently Max is thinking the same thing because you can see his shoulders get all tense. “You were mistaken.” ooo… Max’s voice is all tough and ruthless. I bet you Sean’s shaking in his boots as we speak.

“Fine. Sorry. But what do you want her for. She’s nothing.” And if I could move right now, I would kick Sean in the balls. Honest to God. I’ll show him nothing.

Max’s shoulders go up as he shrugs and glances back at me with that cocky smile of his. “I like brunettes.” And am I swooning? I believe I am. Oh, dear God. The way he looked at me when he said it. Damn. And for once in my life, I’m actually liking my hair color.

“Fine. She’s too damn frigid anyway.” I see Sean walking off to my left, and I can only guess which direction he went, seeing as how I still can’t turn my head yet.

Max watches him walk out and then he turns to me. I want to walk over to him, to thank him, to kiss him senseless, to do anything, but all that I’m able to do is stare. Not intentionally, it’s just that my body won’t move. And it’s pissing me off.

“Hey Liz,” he says, all the roughness from when he talked to Sean gone from his voice. Can he tell that I can’t speak? That I can’t move? That I can’t do anything? Does he know what’s going on with me?

“Come here,” his voice is only a whisper. I want to go to you, Max. I really do. But I can’t. And I’m just praying that he can see the distress in my eyes. He waits for me to move, and when I don’t, he motions for me to come forward with his hand. And magically, I do.

He reaches out for me and I can feel his fingertips lightly grazing across my arm, even though I can’t see it. It sends sparks through me. I can practically feel the electrical currents running between us.

He takes a step closer to me, so that we’re only mere inches away from each other. He runs his other hand through my hair, pushing it back behind my shoulders. “Close your eyes.” He whispers into my ear. And I do. Max is controlling me, now. Or at least, that’s what it feels like.

I can feel his touch tracing over my lips and my heartbeat speeds up. It’s getting harder to breath. His touch moves down my chin, my throat, shoulder, and down my arm again. I can hear him whispering to me. “You’re not frigid. You feel plenty soft to me, Liz.”

“Max.” Wait a minute. Was that my voice? My eyes fly open and I stare at him. “I can talk.”

“And what? You couldn’t before?” he smirks at me.

I just shake my head. “No. I couldn’t. Something happened and I couldn’t move.”

“Oh. So that’s what happened.” His hand runs through my hair again and comes to rest at my neck. “That explains why you were here with Sean. I didn’t think you wanted to be with him. Did you?” I can feel his hands start to massage my neck.

“Nuh uh,” I tilt my head to the side to give him better access. Mmm… this feels good.

Max’s other hand starts running up and down my other arm. “Did he hurt you?”

“Nuh uh.” I open my eyes and his body is suddenly very close to mine. Very, very close. Not that I’m complaining.

“Are you sure?” His hand on my neck stops as he brings it up to lightly trace my bottom lip.

“I-I’m fine.” How I managed to get my voice to work is beyond me. I suddenly lick my lips and my tongue brushes against his thumb. Oh God, when did I start doing things like that?

Max lets his thumb trace over my bottom lip one more time before he starts leaning in, tilting his head to the side. I close my eyes and part my lips slightly, waiting. But my hands seem to have a mind of their own as they come up to his chest, stopping him. Great. When I was with Sean, I couldn’t stop myself. But when I’m with Max, I’m able to push him away. Just great.

I open my eyes and look at him. He’s staring back at me, his face a few inches away. Fine. I might as well. “Explain first.”

He backs away from me. “Explain what?”

Oh, joy. He’s going to play dumb. “Do I look that stupid?”

“There’s nothing to know.” He shrugs his shoulders and takes a step back. I don’t think he’ll be in the mood to kiss me any time soon. So I might as well go on with it.

“There’s plenty to know. Like what all the hell just happened a while a go.” I look at him expectantly and he just shrugs again. And now I’m getting angry. He’s just being so damn passive that its… Grrr….

Okay. Calm down. “All right. Let’s start with why I couldn’t move back there.”

Again, the shrug. It’s a pretty damn cute shrug coming from him, but it gets very irritating. Especially if you are already pissed off. “Why the hell couldn’t I move, Evans!?!”

Max takes a step back and flinches at my tone and I inwardly pat myself on the back. Hehe… take that.

“Why are you asking me, Parker? Why don’t you go and ask Sean? But then again, I get the feeling that you don’t want to be around him right now.” He smirks.

Damn him. Damn him to hell. “Fine. What’s with that rank thing you were talking about? And about claiming me?”

“Rank?” I think he’s nervous. His voice did the fluttery thing that most voices do when they are nervous.

“Yes, rank. One where you are apparently higher than Sean on.” I take a step closer to him, just to show that I’m not backing down.

“School rank.” He kind of blurted out.

“What? School rank? Like class rank?” What the hell is he talking about?

“Yeah.” He’s smiling now.

“But I thought Sean’s a senior. Aren’t seniors higher than juniors?” See? I’m not all that stupid. I know these things.

“Oh, yeah.” His face kind of falls. And I think he went back to being nervous again.

I kind of feel sorry for interrogating him like this, especially if it’s making him nervous. But I need to know. And if he keeps lying to me. “So. Rank. Like grade point average rank?”

“I-I guess.” Stuttering and running his hand through his hair. Total giveaways. He’s lying. Why is he lying? Is it like some kind of cult or something? Or is it a lets-keep-Liz-in-the-dark kind of thing?

“Right. So you are telling me that the 4.0 GPA nerds rule over the big bad football playing jockstraps?” Not likely, Evans.

“I guess not.” His face falls again.

If he wasn’t just so darn cute. “Okay. I’m going to let you think about that some more. Now, what is this about claiming me?”

Again, the shrug. “People higher in rank can get to claim others.”

I’m confused. “Claim? Like to be a part of their group? But I thought Tess said that she was able to claim me because there was like a social rank in the orphanage.”

“That’s it.” He was nodding his head, very enthusiastically, if you ask me. Definite giveaway that he’s lying.

“But that’s only in the orphanage. How were you able to claim me, Max?”

“I… I-um… I…” fidgeting, stuttering, and swallowing way too many times. More giveaways. I bet he probably couldn’t tell a lie if is life depended on it.

“Is there like some kind of social rank between the guys too?”

“Yes. That’s it.” He nods his head again. Tisk tisk. Someone ought to teach this boy how to keep a straight face.

“So how do they determine this guy ranking, who’s got the biggest dick?” Rake my eyes up and down his body. Hehe… that ought to keep that smirk off his face for a while.

His eyes do a little bulge thing, but he recovers quicker than I thought he would. And there’s a smirk on his face. “And what if I told you that that’s exactly how we rank?”

And I can practically feel my skin go red. Damn him. That comment was supposed to make him get embarrassed, not me. “Right. Anyways. What’s with your three word thing?” A nice change of subject is always good.

Again the shrug. Ughh… what is with this guy? What is it about him that makes me so… Grr…

I hear him chuckling and lift my head to look at him. I guess my mind kind of wandered there but he’s suddenly leaning in closer to me again. “What are you thinking about, Liz?” His hand finds that spot on my neck.

Oh God. When did things suddenly start heating up again? This isn’t good. Definitely not good. “I… um… I-I should go. Mrs. Deluca is probably… um… waiting for me.”

There’s a smirk on his face. “Do you really want to go, Liz?” Damn it! How did his voice just get so… sexy?

Close the eyes. Take a deep breath. And gain control. “I should…”

“Okay.” His thumb traces my bottom lip one more time before he moves his hand up and covers my eyes and forehead. What the hell is he doing? I try to pull his hand away, but he holds on and suddenly my mind goes blank. I see a bright white light, and then blackness…



“Liz… Liz…” I can feel someone shaking me, hands on my shoulders.

I open my eyes slowly, squinting to adjust to the light, and I see Max. “Max?” Wait, what am I doing with Max. I look around to find myself in a parking lot.

“You scared me.” He stands me up and I’m still trying to think.

“What happened?” My head is spinning. What exactly did happen here?

“You fainted.” He’s rubbing my back as I’m trying to stop the spinning.

Did I faint? I rack my brain to try to think. I remember walking home from school. Mrs. Deluca coming to visit. Going with her to the Crashdown. And then it gets blurry. Seeing Max on the way in to the diner. Offering to walk him to his car while Mrs. Deluca got a booth. And getting dizzy. I guess I did. But that doesn’t seem right. It seems too… fuzzy. “Are you sure that’s what happened, Max?”

He nodded his head. “You should go.” He points to the Crashdown and at the booth where Mrs. Deluca is seated. His other arm is still around me, holding me up and helping me to the front door of the Crashdown.

“Thanks, Max. I can take it from here.” I stand, somewhat wobbly at first, but I manage to stabilize myself.

“Are you sure?” His hand is still stretched out, ready to catch me if I fall, I guess.

“Yeah. I’m fine. Thanks again. Bye, Max.” I wave to him and head into the Crashdown and go straight to the booth where Mrs. Deluca is waiting.

“What took you so long, Elizabeth?” she asks, genuinely concerned, a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize as I slip into the booth. “I was kind of stuck out there for a second…”


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:28:52 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:16:49 PM
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Chapter Six



“So you’re okay with the move?” Mrs. Deluca asked, dropping me off at the orphanage again.

I shut the door to her car and lean into the window. “Yeah. I’m fine with it.” I’m not all too keen about moving in with another group of strangers, but the Whitman’s were really nice people. And they live above the Crashdown. How cool is that? When you live above a restaurant, you can never go hungry.

“Alright then. I’ll start the paperwork immediately. Give me two days, at the most to get it all done. And then, I’ll help you get settled in.” Mrs. Deluca gives me a warm smile. Completely different from the cool hard lady I first met in the courtroom. I guess everyone has different sides to them. I think I’m liking this mothering side to her.

I’ve told you how much I like Mrs. Deluca right? Well, I do. She’s been the nicest person to me yet. She’s probably a great mom. Maria is lucky to have her. I would give anything to have a mom like Mrs. Deluca. I bet we would have a blast together. I wonder if this cousin of mom’s has a wife. Will she want to be my mom? Would Mrs. Whitman want to be my mom?

No. She’s just a foster parent. She was pretty nice to me though. I mean, considering that I’m just this little girl whom she doesn’t even know, other than the fact that she and my mom used to be friends. Who knew mom had friends? Hell, I don’t even have friends.

But overall, in the little time that we got to talk to each other, they seem like very nice people. They’re even giving me their son’s room and forcing him into the guest room. Saying something about his room being more suitable for a girl, whatever that meant.

I felt sorry for their son. I really did. Even though I didn’t get to meet him. The Whitman’s made up some excuse for him though. Off to band practice or something like that. Whatever. I mean, I don’t blame him or anything. Who would want a stranger to suddenly come into your house? Lord knows I wouldn’t; if I had a house.

He’s supposedly in the same grade level I am. I was racking my brain to think if I had met him, but the funniest thing is, I have never once asked anyone for a last name. Nope. Probably because of my beliefs of how last names are overrated. Just like my belief of where artificial cheese comes from. Remind me to tell you later, by the way. So, any guy that I have met could have the last name of Whitman.

Not Max though, because he is THE Evans. We’ve established that already. And not Kyle ‘the mighty comet’ Valenti. And not hippie boy either. I think his last name was Guerin. But other than that, the possibilities are endless. Just like the chances of me finally finding a home.

“That’s great, Mrs. Deluca.” You know what? I’m just going to ask her. “Um… can I ask you something?”

“Of course.” Again, the genuine smile. She has a nice smile. Just like someone else I know.

Deep breath. Here goes nothing. “That man… who is supposed to have custody of me?”

I think I caught her attention. She’s turned in the driver’s seat and is looking straight at me. “Yes? What about him?”

“Who is he?” There’s a lot I put in that question. It’s basically asking: is he old, is he nice, is he tall, is he fat, etc., etc.

But she frowns, not at me, but at the topic. “There isn’t a lot I know about him. What I do know is that he’s a fairly rich man and he’s your mother’s cousin. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. That’s all I know.”

So, he’s some rich loony. Don’t get me wrong, but my mom’s side of the family has been known to be a little on the insane side. Thank God I didn’t get those genes. Oh wait… hehe… I did. “Well, do you know his name?”

Mrs. Deluca squints one of her eyes and thinks for a second. Do you think habits are hereditary, because I swear I saw Maria do that all the time. “Ed Harding.”

Ed Harding? Mom had a cousin named Ed? I suppose so. I mean, his name starts with a vowel. I don’t know. My mom’s side of the family has this thing about vowels for some fucked up reason. It’s really screwy shit. Just look at my name. ‘E’lizabeth. Anyhow. “Does he have a family of his own? Do you think I would like it if he wanted me to live with him.”

“Aw, sweetheart,” she actually looks sad for me. Why? I have no idea. “I’m not sure. And I don’t know him well enough to tell you that. But I’m sure everything will turn out fine in the end.”

Figures. “Thank you, Mrs. Deluca.” I wonder why he’s even thinking of taking custody of me. I bet he’s some rich bastard who doesn’t even know who I am but thinks it’s his duty to take care of me. That or he really doesn’t give a shit about any of this stuff and just likes to toy around with things that he has a possibility of owning. It’s as if I’m some kind of property they can just throw around… whoa… dizzy… why am I suddenly…

“You’re a really pretty girl, Lizzie. Really pretty. I like pretty girls.”

What in hell? Where did that come from? How did I…

“Let her go.”

What the fuck is going on? Why did I just hear…

“Did he hurt you? Are you sure?”
“And what if I told you that that’s exactly how we rank?”

Was that… did I just hear… why am I… what…

“What are you thinking about, Liz?”
“Do you really want to go, Liz?”

“Liz… Liz… Liz…”

“What? Huh?” What just happened there? Where am I?

“I said you really should go, Liz. Inside,” she points towards the orphanage. “It’s getting kind of late and I don’t want them to start thinking that I’ve gone and abducted you.”

“Oh. Right.” I tried to muster a smile at her joke. I really did, but my mind was just… what happened? My head is kind of…

“Liz… Liz… are you okay?” Mrs. Deluca looks really concerned.

I try to smile. “Huh? Yeah. I’m fine.”

“Okay, because you look a little pale. Are you sure your okay?”

“I’m fine.” Nodding the head for emphasis. But honestly, I’m not fine. I’m far from fine. My head is throbbing like crazy. And I feel so… weak.

And Mrs. Deluca is now looking at me as though I’ve grown a second head. “I’ll walk you in.”

“That’s okay, Mrs. Deluca. I can do it on my own.” But she’s already unbuckled her seatbelt and gotten out of the car.

So with what effort I can muster, I push against the side of the car, trying to stand up and steady myself to walk the short distance from here to the main entrance to the orphanage. “See, Mrs. Deluca? I can get inside on my own.”

“You just look a little winded, is all. And I just want to make sure you’re okay.” She’s made it around the car and onto the sidewalk, but I’m already halfway to the building. Perfectly fine. Completely… other than the fact that I am barely able to walk straight. God, my head…

“I’m claiming her.”

Whoa… is it me or does the ground seem to be…

“Liz!”

“Okay.”


--------------


Ugh… my head… Ahh… the light. Ugh… don’t you hate it when you open your eyes too fast? Or when you move your head too fast? Or when you do anything too fast? Life should be slow as hell and everything should be taken at a snail’s pace. That way you can just sit back and enjoy.

It’s weird that I think this way when my mom thought the exact opposite. She never really liked it that I resembled my father so much. She always wanted life to go faster. But not me and dad. Nope. We love to sit back and smell the roses. Literally… hehe. We had these white roses that he planted in back just for me. He knew I loved him.

Just like how he knew about a lot of other things about me. Like how I would always eat fish, for some reason. How I had to have my sweets. Or how I always wore sweaters. How I sometimes loved to eat really spicy food. And how I loved reading books.

Mom never really knew those things about me. She would always just wonder why I didn’t like the things she did. Like I was supposed to be some duplicate of her. Some kind of mini-Anna. You can just imagine her fit when I got dad’s eyes instead of hers. She kept going on about having better genes than dad did. Though, I tended to think it was the other way around.

She didn’t understand us a lot, me and dad. We had this comforting bond between us. He would garden for hours. It was his favorite thing to do. And I would sit out back and watch the clouds and read. So long as I stayed out of his way. Those were the best times. When he wasn’t drunk or mad at mom. He was his calmest when he gardened.

I think it was the wait. How you had to wait for things. And it was always the finished product that you worked so hard for. You had to pinpoint the perfect moment. He always told me you couldn’t rush things. But not my mom. My mom was always rushing… always in a hurry. Maybe that’s why life passed her by too quickly.

I know. Those were evil thoughts for a person to think about of their mom. But that’s what I am, evil. I’m a terrible daughter and an even more terrible person. It’s not like I want to be, it just happened. Just like most things in my life. I didn’t want my mom and dad to fight all the time, but it just happened. I didn’t want to be left alone, but it just happened. And I don’t want my head to be pounding like it is, but it’s just fucking happening!

Ugh… why can’t I think straight? By the way, where am I? I’m lying down on a bed in a room. And nothing looks familiar. Wait a minute. Whiteness. White tables. White walls. White room. Oh dear God… I’ve been abducted by aliens. Oh no. They’ve probably… they’re probably running tests on me. Seeing how I tick. They’re probably going to dissect me and probe… eww… That’s worse than getting attacked by Sean. Wait… when was I attacked by Sean?

“Liz. I see you’re awake.”

Oh my God. Am I just being paranoid or did that guy in the lab coat, holding a clipboard, just appear out of nowhere? Hey that door wasn’t there a second ago. Hold the fucking phone. Aren’t aliens slimy and green? But this guy is a… guy. Lordy Lord. It’s worse than I thought. The government’s behind all this. They probably want to take a look at my brain. Damn it. I knew all of those evil thoughts were bad. Bad Liz. Bad Liz.

“Liz. Are you all right?”

“No.” I try to back away from him, but he has me backed up into a corner. “Stay away! I come in peace.”

And you know what the guy does? He laughs at me. He’s laughing AT ME. I’ve told you how I’ve hated it when people laughed at me, haven’t I? Well, I do. Alien or FBI agent be damned. I will not tolerate being laughed at.

“And what is it that is so darn funny?” I cross my hands over my chest and stare him down even though he’s like a head taller than me.

The guy seems to hold back his laughter some. “Liz. I’m Doctor Davis.” He holds his hand out for me to shake, but I just kind of stare at it. Who knows what kind of germs aliens hold. “Amy brought you in to me when you fainted. And I’m starting to think that fall might have done some damage to your head.”

“Doctor? Fainted?” Is this guy kidding me? “Wait. So you aren’t some underground government scientist or an evil alien in disguised sent here to dissect me?”

He laughs again. “Maybe you should lie down, Liz. And I’ll check that noggin of yours again for any bumps or cracks.”

I walk back over to the bed table thingy and do as told. My head is throbbing too much for me to argue right now. He lifts my head and softly applies pressure to certain spots of my scalp. Hey, that’s actually making it feel better. Wow.

“Hmm… there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. Are you feeling any kind of pain anywhere, Liz?” He comes back around and is sitting on a stool next to me. White stool.

Pain? Pain? Nope. “No real pain. Just really… dizzy. My brain feels kind of… fuzzy.” Fuzzy? Fuzzy. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he? All right. I have officially gone delusional.

Doctor Davis frowns at me. “I think you should lay back and rest for a while longer. We’ll see if the dizziness is still there when I come back to check up on you. We could have memory loss of some sort.”

Wait a minute. Memory loss? That’s not good. Definitely not good.

“Just close your eyes and rest a bit. I’ll be back shortly.” Doctor Davis pats my head and leaves the room. And I close my eyes and do exactly like I was told, like the good little girl that I am. Maybe I’ll get a lollipop.

“Liz?”

Ugh… why won’t these people let me sleep?

“Liz.”

“Huh?” I open my eyes and find Mrs. Deluca hovering over me.

“Hey. How are you feeling?” She’s whispering to me. Good. My head is hurting too much for people to be loud. It’s like a hangover. A really bad hangover. Not that I’d know what one felt like having never drunken before, of course.

I can’t really answer her. I do, however, have this grunt sound come out of me. I’m just too tired. I need to rest.

“Aww. Poor baby. You’re probably exhausted.” You said it, lady. She’s smoothing back my hair and smiling at me. Oddly, it reminds me of dad.

“Well, Doctor Davis said he wants to keep you in the hospital for another hour or so. Just to make sure.” Again, another grunt can be heard from me in response.

“Do you think you can be okay here by yourself? I need to get to a fax machine and finish up some paper work and things. I’ll be back in an hour. Okay?” Again, a grunt before I roll over to sleep.

“Okay. Get better. I’ll be back soon.” But I barely heard her. Her voice seemed so far off as sleep came over me.


--------------


“And how does this feel?” He fingers start pressing against the back of my scalp, massaging it and what not.

“Mmmm…”

“Any pain?” You can just hear the smile in his voice.

Pain? Oh, no. It’s just the opposite. “No, Doctor Evans. None whatsoever.”

“Now, now, Liz.” There’s that smile in his voice again. “Let’s not start with the Doctor Evans thing again. Doctor Max will be fine. Okay?”

“Uh huh.” I can’t even form words. God, what is he doing to me?

“Now, tell me when it hurts.” The hospital bed shifts a bit and I can feel him hovering over me. And suddenly, his hands are running down my neck, my shoulder, my arm.

“Mmmm….”

“Does that hurt, Liz?” He lays a hand softly on my stomach. I think he took my moaning as a negative as his hands move to another spot.

“How about here?” His hand grazes my exposed inner thigh, courtesy of the short hospital gowns, and I can’t hold in my gasp. Look at him and he’s wearing a smug smile on his face.

“Higher, Max.” You can’t imagine how shocked I was that those words came from my lips. I mean, little Lizzie would have never uttered such words to such a suggestive act. Oh, no no no.

But Max isn’t shocked at my behavior. He’s more… amused. “Doctor Max.” The smirk stays on his face as he corrects me.

Oh, what the hell. I’m sixteen with sex-crazed hormones and all. It’s all in good fun, right? “Doctor Max, kiss me.”

I expected him to pounce at me and start ripping at my clothes, but he doesn’t. Instead, he frowns. “But Miss Parker, that would be breaking the doctor patient relationship code.” But the twinkling wickedness never left his eyes and his hand was still lingering on my thigh.

“It will?” My voice comes out playfully innocent and I pout me lips as much as possible. Hehe… Elizabeth, the sex vixen.

The corners of his mouth start twitching and he’s trying not to smile. “Now if I were to check your breathing.” He leans forward, and I’m waiting, eagerly for his kiss, but he stops mere centimeters away. “Do you want me to check your breathing, Liz?”

Should I? Or shouldn’t I? Oh, what the hell. I’ve come this far. “Yes, Doctor Max.”

He leans in closer but he stops. “Do you want me to help you?”

“Yes. Help me.” Do I sound too desperate? God, I sound so desperate. But then, my reply only made his eyes go darker, more… savage… completely worth it.

“Help with your breathing, Liz?” God, Max. You have no idea. He leans in closer and I wait, but he stops again. He keeps teasing me. God, the torture. It would be so easy to just lean in the small distance and press my lips against his, but I can’t. He’s controlling me now. He has all the power.

“Help with your breathing, Liz?” He repeats. As though I needed him to. But he’s still waiting. I guess I’m supposed to voice my opinion.

“Yes-” Before I even finish pronouncing the complete word his lips are on mine and his hands are holding the back of my head. I feel his tongue brush against my bottom lip. I part my lips for him but he pulls away. I moan and pout in protest. God, desperate much? Hehe… for Max? Hell yeah!

But he has other things in mind. “Your breathing is fine, Liz. And your hearing...” he moves and his cheek brushes up against mine. He nibbles and blows softly into my ear. “… your hearing is fine too.”

“Max.” He name just slips from my lips on their own accord.

He lays me down on the bed, softly down on the pillow and looks at me. “And your seeing, Liz.” His hand covers my eyes and I see a bright light…



Whoa! Okay. Deep breaths. All right. That was the kinkiest dream I have ever had. Hehe… but not a bad one at that, Liz. How the hell did I come up with the doctor/patient fantasy anyway? Oh, that’s right, because I’m in a hospital, in a patient gown, in a bed. A white bed.

“Elizabeth?”

I jump a little and turn towards the voice. And there’s Nancy, sitting in a chair beside my bed, looking very concerned, though she’s trying to cover it up with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

How am I feeling? “What are you doing here?”

I guess my voice came out a little harsh, because she kind of flinches. “I’m sorry. If you don’t want me here.” She picks up her purse and I am overcome with guilt.

“No, it’s not that. I was just wondering what you were doing here, is all.” This time, I guess my tone was much more softer and friendlier, because she puts her purse back down and takes her seat again with a smile.

“Well,” her voice is hushed. People haven’t really been talking loud around me. Maybe it’s because we’re in a hospital. Maybe. “Amy called and told us that you weren’t feeling well and that you fainted. So we rushed right over.”

“We?” I look at her and now notice that there are two chairs pulled up close to my bed. And in walks Jeffy-boy with two cups of coffee.

“I see you’re awake, Liz. How are you feeling?” He hands one of the cups to Nancy. Why is it that people are always drinking coffee in hospitals when they are visiting? Is it some kind of unwritten law or something? I mean, it’s not even late.

“Liz?”

My head shoots up and I just realize that he had actually expected me to answer. I didn’t think he did. You know people who just ask that just for the heck of asking or just because it’s polite. After all, what else would you ask someone if they were in a hospital? Have you taken your pills yet or something else equally ridiculous.

“Liz?”

Oops. Sorry. I tend to get lost in my head. When I start thinking of one thing it tends to lead to another and then another and then another. And you know how it goes. “Huh? Oh, I’m fine.” But they don’t think so. They are actually looking at me now as though I’m weird, which I am, but… whatever.

“Are you sure, Liz? We could call a nurse or something.” Would they stop worrying so much? It’s not as though I don’t have the nifty little nurse button to call for help if need be.

“Really, I’m fine.” I give them my best face to try to convince them, but they’re still skeptical.

“Well, Doctor Davis had said to perhaps expect some memory loss.” Jeffy-boy says it to Nancy, as though I’m not in the room.

“Honest to God, I am fine. Really. You both didn’t have to come all the way down here to check up on me. I’m fine.” And although I say this, I’m actually kind of glad that they did. I mean, it shows that they care right? That at least someone cares about me enough to drive all the way here from another town just because I fell.

“Well, Liz, we were just worried.” Nancy places her hand on my arm and smiles at me again. “We don’t want anything to happen to you. And we’ve been meaning to come visit you.” Again, the smile. It really kind of grows on you.

“So, Amy tells me that you still kept our last name. I hope that means that, if this other relative chooses not to, you’ll still want to come live with us?” Jeffy-boy has a smile on his face too, but it ain’t growing on me. If I told them the real reason why I kept their last name, the alphabet bump, they’ll probably get mad. So I just smile. No one can get mad at smiles. They brighten up the world. Now, smirks, on the other hand…

“That’s great.” I guess they took my smile as an affirmative. Oh, well. “Well, we’ve talked to a lawyer about this whole mess. And we’re trying to find a way, Liz. This cousin of your mother’s just isn’t taking your life seriously enough for us. So our lawyer is trying to find a way around it.”

Wow. And yet another group of strangers to move in with. And I haven’t even moved in with the last ones yet. Great. Just great. As if my life isn’t being jerked around enough.

“We’ll talk to Amy about it. And then we’ll see.” Nancy is just so nice. I wonder why she doesn’t have any kids of her own. “I know we just came to visit you, but we only have a few more hours until we have to get back. But I think both me and Jeffrey have long overdue vacation time coming up, and then we’ll be down here to visit for a longer period of time. How does that sound?”

“Okay.” I’m nodding my head for emphasis. Hey, who cares what I think. Just go ahead and do it. It’s not like I control my life of anything. And even if I did, I wouldn’t care. After all, they are just another set of strangers anyway. But don’t think they didn’t score brownie points with me for actually asking, because they did.

“But until then, we still have a few more hours. That gives us just enough time to talk. If you’re up to it, that is.”

“Sure.” I mean, it’s not like they’ll go away if I tell them no, anyway, right?

Nancy smiles again. Jeffrey smiles too. And I smile also. We’re just all smiles, brightening up the already white room. And Nancy’s all so happy. “Okay. So, I heard that faint and fall was pretty nasty, how does your head feel?”

Oddly enough, “It feels great.”


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:29:14 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:17:17 PM
-------------------------------------------------


Chapter Seven



“Well, Liz. We’re here.” Mrs. Deluca pulled into the front of the Crashdown. Wow. So this is it. Yet another bump in my road called life. Yet another home to live in. And yet another set of strangers who want to put me down on their list of good deeds I did to get me into heaven.

“Liz?”

What? Oh. “Sorry.” I really need to start reminding myself to pay attention more. Everyone’s probably thinking that I’ve got a hearing problem. As if I’m not strange enough already.

But Mrs. Deluca just smiles at me. “That’s all right. Do you need help with your bag?” Oh yes. My bag. My ONE bag that holds my all too few possessions in it. Sigh.

I’ve really got to stop thinking this way. She was only trying to be nice, right? Remember, Liz. Not everyone’s out to get you. Just some. “No, I’ve got it.” Open the door and I grab my one bag.

“Do you want me to come in?” She unbuckles her seatbelt and reaches for the door handle.

“No, Mrs. Deluca. I’m fine. You don’t have to go in with me. I think I can handle it on my own.” Yeah. Sure. I mean, I’ve been on my own all of my life. There’s no sense in changing now. Familiarity and all.

“All right. If that’s what you want.” Is that what I want? To be alone all of the time? To be shoved away from one group of people who don’t want me to another group of people who have yet to realize that they don’t want me?

“Yeah. Thank you, Mrs. Deluca. For everything.” Sigh. Hell. I wonder what would actually happen if I was completely honest for once? That would scare the shit out of people to no extent. If they hear perfect little Lizzie spewing vulgar language, they’ll decide that the world has definitely come to an end.

“Anytime, Liz.” She gives me a warm smile and I try to reciprocate one accordingly, but I just can’t pull it off the way Mrs. Deluca can, as though she really cared. “Okay, now. They’re expecting you.”

“I know.” Did she think I’d forget?

“Are you scared?” Scared, she asks? Hell yeah. Scared shitless.

“Actually? I’m fine.” I lie. But hey, honestly never got anyone anywhere. And it’ll only make her worry. And it’s not Mrs. Deluca’s job to worry about me. Nope, it’s the Whitman’s job, now. Oh joy.

“Really?” She turns and looks at me dead-on. “Because it’s okay to be scared. Your life has taken so many twists and turns in such a short amount of time. I don’t think you’ve had the right amount of time to soak it all in yet.”

“Me neither.” The words slip from my lips at a whisper. I mean, no shit I haven’t let it all soak in yet. If I did I’d be climbing the walls and bawling like crazy. Completely lose control. And I can’t not have my control. I think Mrs. Deluca wanted to say something more to me, but I turned around and started towards the entrance of the diner.

Didn’t she think I realized that all of this shit was happening way too fast? Didn’t she think I knew that I can’t handle all of it and that it’s slowly eating away at me? That if I actually stopped to think about it, I’d break down, I’d crack, I’d go berserk. If I actually allowed myself to think of all of the things that have happened to me…

“LIZ!”

Arms grip my sides and I’m suddenly being spun around in circles, tossed in the air. “Whoa…” Oh, God damn it. The dizziness.

“Alexander Charles Whitman! Don’t scare the girl!” I can hear a voice but can’t actually pinpoint from which direction it came from. If the room would just stop spinning!

“Sorry.” The arms release me and now I am face to face with Alex, well as close to face to face as little me can get to a six foot four giant. “But, wow, Liz.”

“Hey, Alex.” I came out more in more of a gasp, but hey, what do you expect when you’re being pushed hurriedly into a room. Which is exactly what was happening. Alex was pushing me through the diner into the backroom and he practically carried me up the stairs into the Whitman’s upstairs apartment.

He abruptly stops once we enter into the living room. And there’s this mile wide smile on his face and this weird look in his eyes, as though he were about to spin me around again. I slowly back away. “Gosh, you can’t imagine how excited I was when my parents told me that you were coming to live with us.”

Dude. Is this guy kidding me? “Really? You don’t mind that I’m taking over your room?”

“Not at all.” He grabs my hand and pulls me towards his former room, now my new room. Which yesterday had boyish things and posters all over the wall. Now, the room is completely girly with pink and pastels. Complete transformation. “This is your room now. I’ll give you anything. You can have anything of mine that you want. Anything at all. All you have to do is ask. Or don’t even ask. Just tell me.”

Wow. I had no idea that Alex could talk so fast. Or that he could be so happy and jumpy. Or that he has just given me rights to anything I wanted. Whoa… back the train up… “Anything?”

“Anything. As long as it makes you happy.” He gives me a really toothy smile before grabbing my hand and pulling me out the door and out the room. “Come on. I’ll show you my room.”

“Whoa… Alex, slow down a bit.” He lets go of my hand and gives me an I’m-sorry smile before he opens the door to his room. And I take a look around. There wasn’t much to look at. The room was half the size of his old room, my new room. It was a pretty small place for a tall guy to have to live in. I’m surprised his legs even fit. And wow, this guy is giving up the spacious room with a balcony and a bathroom just for me. Don’t I feel special?

“Are you sure you’re okay with this? I really don’t want to invade your space. I mean, I’ll be more than happy to take this room.” I look at him and suddenly his smile turns into a frown.

“You don’t like your room?” Damn. He looks as though he’s kind of offended. And I’m suddenly feeling so completely guilty. And oh God, his lip is even quivering a bit. Dude, this guy has definitely mastered the sad-puppy look. I’ve got to get him to teach me that one.

“That’s not it. I mean, my room is great. But-”

“Good. Because it’s yours now. And you’re stuck with it. This room is no place for a girl. There aren’t even any windows. And from what I hear, girls need sunlight to grow. And you, Liz,” He points his finger at my nose, “Need to grow.” And suddenly he’s ushering me out and pushing me back into my new room.

“But…” I try to protest but Alex just looks at me sternly, which gets me to shut up and sit down obediently on my new bed.

He suddenly has a hundred-watt smile on his face. “I’m really glad you came to live with us, Liz.” And I’m being pulled into a hug. And it’s very, very… awkward. Maybe I should tell him I’m not really the hugging type of person. I’m, actually, not into any type of physical contact whatsoever. None. So I just kind of pat him on the back a little and pull away, smiling nervously.

But his big smile well made up for mine. “Well, mom and dad said we have to share the bathroom though.” Wait a minute. Mom and dad? Am I supposed to refer to them that way? “That’ll be kind of weird, huh? But it’ll be so great with you living with us. It’s going to be so cool, Liz.”

“Really?” Alex is just being too good to be true. How can he be this nice to a stranger? And I’m not exactly the best stranger to have around either. He’s just too… nice. And it makes me feel so… guilty.

“Yeah.” He’s nodding like crazy. “It’ll be so cool. I’ve always wanted a sister.” He ruffles my hair and punches me softly on the arm before smiling and closing the door behind him as he left the room.

All the while, I’m staring at the closed door, thinking, “sister?”…


--------------


“Liz,” there’s a knock on my door before it opens. “Hey.” He walks over and hovers over me, where I’m laying down on the bed. I seem to have been more exhausted than I thought I was.

“Hey, Alex.”

He sits down on the bed and I kind of shift towards him. “So, do you want to talk?”

“Talk?” I look at him and he’s looking down at me before he lays down on the bed too.

“Yeah. Talk.”

I roll onto my side and look at him, lying on my bed, with me. And suddenly, I feel a bit uneasy. “What about?”

He shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know. It just seems fitting that we talk, you know. Any family things you want to know about?”

Sigh. I hate to be the one to do this, but someone’s got to tell this guy sooner or later. “Alex. I’m really flattered that you think of me as a sister and all, but the truth is, I’m not. I probably won’t even be here all that long. I’m just a foster kid. Your parents are just my foster parents. They didn’t adopt me or anything like that.”

He keeps looking at me like he hadn’t heard a word that I’ve said. “I know, Liz. But that’s just how I see it. So as long as you’re here, you’re my sister. And I’m going to look out for you, and protect you from bullies who pick on you and scare away all of your boyfriends. And I’m going to play the big brother card for as long as I’ve got it.”

And you can’t help but smile. He’s just got such the best intentions. “Okay, Alex. I’ve always wanted a brother too.”

His smile brightens somewhat. “Yeah. Being an only child is depriving.” And I chuckle. “So, did you get all of your things unpacked?” He seems to glance around the room. I don’t see what for, there isn’t anything different about it.

“Yeah.” What little bit I have.

He stands up and hovers over me again. “Feel like going downstairs and getting a bite to eat with me?”

Mmm… food. Food is good. “I’d love to.”

“All right, little lady. Let’s go.” He has the whole hick accent and holds his arm out for me. I just laugh at him and accept.

We walk out of the apartment and are heading down the stairs when I start talking to him again. “Hey, Alex?”

“Yeah?” He holds the ‘employees only’ door open for me to enter the Crashdown.

“Do guys rank each other?” His long legs make it to where he’s walking beside me again.

I can see him kind of frown a bit. “It depends on which way you look at it. Why?”

I just shrug. “I don’t know. Just asking.”

“What made you think of it?” Alex sits down in a booth and pulls me down next to him.

I shrug again. “I don’t know. It just… popped up for some reason.”

“Hey, Max.” And suddenly, I just now notice that there’s someone else already seated in the booth.

And he speaks. “Hi Alex, Liz.”

Well, since we’re being friendly and all. “Hey, Max. Do guys rank each other?”

Apparently this is one question that Mr. Genius didn’t know the answer to think. And then ended it looking at me funny. “I… don’t know.”

“Oh.” Well, isn’t that nice?

“Why?” He’s still looking at me strangely.

And I shrug. “Just something that popped up in my head.”

“Oh… okay.” Still staring strangely. And normally, if it were anyone else, I’d look away, somewhat embarrassed. But it’s not just anyone. It’s Max. So what do I do? I stare right back at him. And there we are, just staring at each other. Until Maria walks up to us.

“Hey, guys. So what will it be?” She flips open her order pad.

“The usual.” Alex looks at her and gives her a smile.

“Same here.” Max doesn’t bother looking at Maria. Because he’s still staring at me. And oddly enough, now I start feeling uneasy. Hey, if it were just me and Max and Alex, I’d stare him down for hours. But it’s not just me and Max and Alex. It’s me and Max and Alex and Maria. And Maria is just one too many people.

“Liz?” I look up and she’s looking at me, expectantly, pen in hand.

Oh. I must have dazed again. I look back up at her. “Um… what do you think I should get?”

Alex speaks up. “Put her down for a Will Smith burger and a cherry coke.” And Maria writes it down. Normally, I would get somewhat offensive when someone orders for me, especially when I didn’t ask them to. But Alex did it in a way that was so… nice-person-ly that you kind of just go with it.

“Oh, Liz.” My head shoots up. Apparently, someone is talking to me. And that someone is Max.

“Yes?”

“I have this.” He opened his bag and pulls a stack of papers out, handing them to me.

“What’s this?”

Max just shrugs since shrugs seem to be the theme for today. They seemed to have replaced the smirks. “You’re homework.”

Whoa… wait a minute. AP US History, Calculus, English, Chemistry, and Health. “From all of my classes?”

Again, another shrug. “Yeah.”

Hmmm… interesting. Seeing as how I only have three classes with Max. “How’d you find out what my classes were?”

Another shrug. “It wasn’t hard.”

“Okay. Thanks.” And I shrug. Because he shrugged. And we’re all just shrugging. What joy.

He shrugs. “It was nothing.”

And Alex finally decides to speak up. “You’re actually thanking him for giving you homework? You shouldn’t be thanking him.”

I look at Alex and give him the evil eye. “Be nice.”

“Everyone misses you.” Max kind of whispers, kind of speaks. And I lift my head and look at him.

“Especially Max here.” Alex rolls his eyes.

“Shut up, Alex.” Max smirks. Ahh, the smirks have returned. I was feeling so odd and incomplete without them.

“Damn it, Max. It’s us, all right. Cut the crap.” Both of Alex’s hands come down on the tabletop with a little thud.

And Max just smirks. “I don’t understand.”

Alex glares at him. “I already have to put up with enough of this in school. If you don’t stop right now, I will not hesitate to beat your ass.” Whoa… what’s going on here. It’s like a tension zone or something.

Max leans forward and stares right back at Alex. “Watch it, buddy.”

And Alex, he leans closer too, whispering to Max. “Oh, I know about you and Liz. And besides, she’s my sister now.” Alex smiles a big smile and leans back, draping his arm over my shoulders.

Max’s eyebrows raise. “Sister, aye?”

Alex makes this weird noise that people make when they are frustrated. “Max… cut.. the.. crap…”

And Max smirks. “About what, Alex?”

And I think Alex just gives up. “Can I speak to you alone for a second, Max?” He points to the backroom door and Max nods. I get up so that Alex can get out. And you’re probably wondering what all that was about. Well, I’ll be damned if I knew. I was lost so way back when, that I just gave up on trying to figure out. After all, some things are best left unknown.

“Hey, Liz. Where are the guys?” Maria walks over with each of our plates and sets them each down.

I smile at her and pointed towards the backroom. “They went to go talk.”

“Well, then.” Maria takes Max’s seat. “They won’t mind me sitting down for a while. I could use a break and all.”

I smile at her again. “I didn’t know Alex and Max were friends.”

Maria rolls her eyes. “I don’t know. Alex and Max sit and eat together here. But I think it’s just Alex, inviting himself to sit down. I don’t think Max chooses to sit with him. I swear, Alex is like a puppy. The boy is so eager to please and has this need to be loved by all. And he wonders why I call him a bitch.”

“Really?” Hehe… it’s funny. It really is. Because from what I know about Alex, it’s true.

“Yeah. It’s really sweet and cute, but it really isn’t good. Especially how the blonde bimbos easily use and abuse him. It’s sad.” She frowns, shaking her head, and then takes a couple of fries and stick them in her mouth.

And I frown too. “Poor Alex.”

“Yeah.” Maria takes a deep breath and shakes it off. “So. My mom told me about the whole hospital thing. Are you feeling any better?” Maria has that look, just like her mom does. The one that makes you seem as though you are genuinely concerned. I wish I inherited that ability. It could come in handy.

“Much better. Thank you.”

“That’s good. I wanted to come visit you, but my mom said you had important visitors from out of town.” She pops a few more fries into her mouth.

“Yeah.” If that’s what you want to call them. But that talk with Nancy and Jeff had actually been nice. Nancy was just so super sweet. And even Jeffrey was kind of growing on me. Strange, yes.

“I made you a ‘get well’ sign though.” Maria says with a smug smile on her face. Apparently, she’s proud of herself. “I put it in your locker.”

“My locker?” Hold the phone. My locker? I have a locker? Since when do I have a locker?

Maria just nods her head. “Yeah. It’s the one right next to mine.”

“Oh. Okay.” Well, apparently so, since everyone seems to know things about me. God knows my life is so dog gum interesting.

“You know what?” Maria says, stopping mid-fry. “We should go shopping together.”

“Okay.” Shopping. Yay me. Have I told you I’m not the shopping type of person? Well, I’m not. I don’t like stores all too much. Especially malls. They scare me. Maybe it had something to do with getting lost in one when I was little and not getting found until hours later, when a nice police officer man found me and returned me to my mom, who was still just shopping away, trying on clothes. Maybe. Well, that one time I did get free ice cream.

Wait a second. Come to think of it. I also got lost at Water World too. For hours until a nice police officer man found me and returned me to my mom. And my mom was just relaxing and getting a tan. Hmm… you think this is adding up to something? Yes, I believe it is. Yup. I got free ice cream again, for both times. Hey, I should get lost more often.

“Okay. I’ll call you.” Whoa… I seemed to have forgotten that Maria was here. Hehe… I really need to stop doing that.

And great, now I’m stuck going shopping. Sigh. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. “Do you want my number?” It’s funny that I even offer, seeing as how I don’t even know my own number, or the number to the Whitman’s home.

Maria shakes her head. “No. I’ve got it.”

“Okay.” Hell, does everyone seem to know just all about me? Is it like, lets all get to know facts about Liz that she doesn’t even know about herself kind of thing? I bet it is. It’s a conspiracy. That’s what it is. Damn aliens. Grr…

“The guys are back.” Maria stands up and makes room for them.

Max looks down at his plate and then back at Maria. “Maria, my fries.” Oh, he’s probably noting the fact that all the fries on his plate were practically gone.

But Maria just shrugs. “Yeah. I figured you wouldn’t mind me eating them. Because then you’d have to say ‘Don’t eat my fries’. And,” She holds up her fingers, “That’s four words.”

Max just rolls his eyes and picks up the plate, handing it to her. “Make it To-Go.”

She stops, looking up, thinking. And then shakes her head, walking away muttering, “Damn conjunctions.” And I laugh, inwardly of course.

Hey, even Alex is shaking his head and smiling. “I’ll get your bill, Max.” Max hands him a ten-dollar bill.

Max slides back into his seat. “Liz?”

“Hmm?” I look at him.

He has a mischievous glint in his eye. “I missed you.”

And I just nod. “Sure thing.” I might have been shocked or surprised to hear that, but the thing that I’ve learned about Max, is that the boy is not predictable. You can expect just about anything from the guy. Hell, if he jumped on the table right now and started doing a strip tease, I wouldn’t be surprised. And I’m waiting…

“Here you go, Max.” Maria hands him a little white paper bag with the Crashdown logo on the outside of it and his change.

“Thanks, Maria.” He stands up and takes the bag from her and sets it on the table.

Maria gives him a smile. “No problem, Max.” And she walks away.

Max is still standing there after Maria left, and I turn to look at him. “Bye, Liz.”

I wave my hand. “Bye, Max.” Max leans forward and tucks a few strands of my hair behind my ears, and then leans forward more and kisses me softly on the cheek.

“Bye, Liz.” He smiles, winks, and walks away.

I wave my hand again. “Bye, Max.” And I watch him until he’s walked out he door, into his jeep, and drives away. Like I said. The boy is unpredictable. Darn… I was actually looking forward to a little strip tease too…


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:29:57 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:17:36 PM
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Chapter Eight



You know what I’ve learned? Every kid should, at one point or another in their life, go through some kind of physical accident of some sort. The attention that you get from it is just so great. That is, of course, unless you hate attention. So you can just imagine what a damn good time I was having, right?

“Liz, do you need me to hold your books for you?” About the gazillionth person has asked me today.

No, you asshole. I might have fallen but I’m not freaking crippled. “No, thank you.”

“Well, if you ever need help…” the guy smiles politely and walks away. Well, if I ever need help, God knows I wouldn’t ask him for it, seeing as how I’ve never seen him before in my life. But then again, the guy is kind of really, really hot. And he looks somewhat familiar, strutting around in his letter jacket. But don’t all football jocks look the same? Big muscles, little brain. Yeah, plus the good old doctor did say something about a bit of memory loss. So maybe I do know him. Hmmm…

“I’ll get that.” And my books are suddenly swiped from my hands as the book swiper starts walking besides me.

And you know what? This isn’t so bad. The holding my books and walking me to class thing. It’s actually kind of nice. “Thanks Alex.”

“Hey, what are big brothers for?” He winks at me as we walk into Calculus together.

And suddenly, I’m ambushed all at once, the second I walk into the room.

“Hi Liz.”
“Are you okay?”
“Are you feeling better?”
“I heard about what happened.”
“I felt so sorry for you.”
“Are you sure you’re okay.”
“What happened?”


“People, people. Please step aside and let Liz get to her seat.” Big brother Alex to the rescue. At least he’s having fun with all of this. I don’t know. I was never any good at playing the damsel in distress. I think it was the damsel part that I just couldn’t pull off, for some reason.

“All right, Liz. The coast is clear.” Alex stands with his hands on his hips and his chest out, in his superhero pose.

Oh God, he’s enjoying this way too much. “Okay. Thank you, Alex.”

“No need to thank me, little lady.” He winks and his arm is suddenly draped around my shoulder.

“Hehe… yeah… that’s funny, Alex.” I put my books down and take a seat.

“Yeah. I thought so too.” And Alex decides to choose the seat in front of me to sit in. “So did you do all of your packet?”

“The multiple choice?” I open up my folder and pull it out. “Yeah.”

“Great. Let me see it.” He just grabs it from my hands and turns around to start copying.

“Yes, Alex. Of course you can see my paper. Thank you for asking.”

“Huh? Liz?” he turns back around. “Did you say something?”

“No.” Sigh. Oh, the pain. The pain. The excruciating pain. Okay, so it’s not actual pain, per say, it’s more of annoyance and frustration.

“Here you go, Liz.” He turns around, hands me my paper, but doesn’t face forward again. Instead, he’s staring at me now. “So, what are you doing today?”

What am I doing today? I’m going to jump off a cliff and die. “I don’t know, Alex. Why?”

He shrugs. “Just curious, you know. I want to make sure you don’t do anything bad or anything.”

Me? Bad? Now where would he get an idea like that?

“Liz. No gangs. No drugs. No booze. And no sex. Are we clear on that?” He counts them off on his fingers and waits for my answer.

God, is this guy serious? Where the hell does he come up with these things? How can you associate any of those things with me? Little Lizzie? They just don’t go together.

“Liz? I’m serious here. No little sister of mine will be doing any of those things. Are we clear?” There’s no smile on his face, no smile in his tone, no smile anywhere. Alex is smile-less. And it’s scary. I think he actually is serious.

“Um… okay, Alex. Crystal clear.” Hey, you’d be scared too.

“Good.” He’s smiling again and turns back around in his seat. And for the first time since I’ve met him, I found myself doubting Alex’s sanity. It’s very scary. It really is.

“Liz? Why don’t you come up here for a second?” Mrs. Byrne’s voice came out sickly sweet and authoritative, the way that only teachers know how to speak. Ugh… I really don’t feel up to getting a close up of how horrible this lady’s make-up really is. It’s already hard to bear from far away and she wants me to come up close?

“Liz. How are you, dear?” Is it me, or does this lady seem to get more and more wrinkles by the second?

“I’m fine, Mrs. Byrne.” Insert cheesy smile.

“That’s good. You’re done with your packet, right?” She’s not even paying attention to me. She focused on her make-up mirror that is hanging on the wall behind her desk.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, then would you mind running an errand for me?” She starts messing with something on her face and then takes out her purse.

“Sure, Mrs. Byrne.” Oh, dear God. No more make-up. Don’t add any more make-up. She’s already got three inches thick of crap plastered to her face, what good is more going to do?

“All right. Would you go to the different classes and hand out those reminders for me?” She points to this stack of papers on her desk and I am praising God that I have an excuse to not look at her.

“The room numbers and names are written on each sheet. Can you go deliver them now?” I can hear her voice, but I’m not turning around. Not for all the money in the world.

“Okay.” All right, Liz. Grab the papers and run before she asks you how she looks.

“Can I come with her, Mrs. Byrne?” The ‘Mighty Comet’ Kyle asks. No. No. No. You’re slowing me down.

She kind of just stares at him a little and I’m hoping she’ll tell him no, but she doesn’t. “Are you done with your packet?”

“Um… yes, ma’am.” Damn lady. Of course he finished his paper. He copied mine.

“All right. You can go, Kyle.” Damn it. Double double double damn it. You know what? I don’t care anymore. I’m already out into the hallway, walking as fast as I can.


--------------


“So… Liz Parker.” And my blissful silence is interrupted by the walking talking jockstrap himself.

“Kyle?” I refuse to even look at him. I don’t know why. He hasn’t done anything wrong to me other than unwelcomingly invading my mission of errand delivery.

“I get the feeling that you hate me, Liz Parker.” I finally glance at him and he kind of shrugs.

“Now why would you think that?” Other than the fact that I’m walking as far away from him as possible, on the other side of the hallway.

“Lucky guess?” He gives me this kind of sad and somberish smile. And I’m starting to feel bad. I am a sucker for puppy-dog faces. I just can’t help but give in. There’s just something about the small and vulnerable look that gets to me.

So I stop walking. “Kyle, I don’t hate you.”

“Okay. That’s good, Liz Parker.” He’s got a smile on his face now, and I’m suddenly wondering why I always fall for sad faces when I know they’re fake. “So… where are we supposed to be going, Liz Parker?”

And now I remember why I hate, correction, strongly dislike him so much. He’s fucking annoying. And apparently he disagrees with me on my theory of last names being overrated. I don’t like being disagreed with.

Sigh. “Well, Kyle. It says here,” glance down at the paper, “Mr. Brown’s room, 224.” And off I go again, speed walking as fast as I can.

“Liz Parker?” God damn it. What the hell is with this guy and full names? Does he just want to waste his breath with the extra syllables?

And you know what? I’m actually mad, angry, pissed off, and overly annoyed with this guy. And when the anger bubbles, little Lizzie boils away. “What do you want?!”

“Liz Parker, 228 is that way.” He points behind him down a different hall.

“Oh.” Well, just perfect. Just freaking great. I walk past Kyle and he’s kind of laughing at me. Did I ever tell you that I don’t like it when people laugh at me? Well, I don’t. Why won’t he just… go away?

“Hey Kyle.” The voice kind of pops up from behind us.

“Hello Courtney Banks.” Kyle stops walking and starts talking to the blondie in a short skirt. And I smile. Perfect timing. Kyle is busy and distracted with the ditz. So while they are off talking and flirting or what ever it is that they do, I’m walking away and heading towards 228. Don’t you just love it when things work out for the best? Especially when it’s in your favor?

All right. 225. 226. 228. Bingo. Knock on the door, and a thin balding man with glasses answers. “Hello.”

“Hi. I’m… um… Mrs. Byrne gave me these reminders to send to your class.” Insert shy smile. He smiles back. And we’re all good.

“All right. Thank you.” He takes the papers and I leave, down the hall. See? That wasn’t so bad. Not at all. I can do this. All right. Next class, 250. Let’s go. 243. 245. 249. 250. Here we are. Knock on the door and a tall blonde lady opens it. “Hi. These are from Mrs. Byrne.”

“Oh, good.” She kind of scans over them. “Thank you.” She smiles at me. I smile at her. And then I start down the hall again as she shuts the door. It’s all good.

Next class. 245. Hey. I’ve passed that class already. So all I have to do is back up, turn around and I’m there. And I knock. A weird looking bald man with a weird mustache opens the door. “Mrs. Byrne said to give these papers to you.”

He takes them from me and looks them over. “Are you in her class right now?”

“Yes.” I nod my head and he’s looking at me.

He kind of thinks for a while and I’m wondering if I should go away. “Would you mind taking something down to her for me?”

“Um… sure.” Hell, I’m already running errands for one teacher, what’s doing it for another teacher going to hurt?

“All right, would you take this down to her for me?” He points to a stack of books and I just stare at it. We’re talking like about seven or so huge ass heavy textbooks here. Wimpy little me can’t carry all of that.

“Um… these books?” I point to them, waiting for confirmation. And he nods at me. I guess so.

All right, Liz. You can do this. Let’s show them what little girls are made of. I pick up two books and I drop them. What the hell? These books weigh like a gazillion pounds. No one can carry these, let alone me.

I glance kind of nervously at the teacher guy who is now behind his desk. “Um… they’re kind of… heavy.”

But the teacher guy doesn’t even lift his head from the paper he’s looking over. “Someone help her.” And suddenly, about the entire classroom stands up. And I’ve suddenly just realized that the entire classroom is filled with guys. And two guys, Sean and Paul, are already grabbing at the books.

“We’ll help you out, Liz.” Sean winks at me, and I suddenly feel violated and completely grossed out. Eww…

Someone clears their throat rather loudly and suddenly the room goes quiet, everyone sitting back down in their seat. Even Sean and Paul have magically plopped back down in their chairs. And someone steps in front of me…

“I’ll help you.” And the room stills, everyone is silent. Music plays, flowers bloom, birds sing. Okay, not really. But I just kind of stare at him like the stupid idiot that I am while he stands there and kind of smirks at me.

“Um… hi, Max.” God, how lame was that?

“Hi, Liz.” He takes steps closer to me, and I could swear that he was going to grab me and kiss me senseless right then and there, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, he walks right past me and miraculously picks up all of the books with ease. If that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is. I bet even Paul and Sean couldn’t do that, combined.

And I’m looking retarded again at I stare as him while he’s obviously waiting for me to open the door. Stupid, stupid, stupid Liz. Rush over, and pull open the door as I walk out.

“Sorry about that.” Smile shyly.

“No problem, Liz.” And he gives me a full-blown smile while we’re out in the hallway together. Alone. Can’t you just see my mind wandering to places where no little girl has gone before? Hehe…

“What?”

“Huh? Did you say something?” Look at him and he’s got this somewhat amused smile on his face.

“What’s so funny?” He’s stopped walking now and is staring at me.

“What are you talking about?” God, this guy has like completely gone insane hearing things or something.

He kind of just chuckles and smiles. “You were snickering.”

I was? Wait a minute. “I was?”

More chuckling from him. “Yes, you were.”

“Oh, okay.” Just keep walking and pretend it didn’t happen. God, I’ve really got to start realizing when I’m doing some of these things out loud. See, boys and girls? That’s what happens when you live in your head all of the time.

“Care to share?” Max is walking next to me again.

“No. Not really.” I shake my head and cross my arms over my chest. What? Like I’m really going to tell him that I was having somewhat x-rated thoughts about him. Dream on.

“Oh, come on.” He’s taunting me now. I was never to keen to taunting. It’s not a very nice thing to do.

“Look.” I grab his arm to stop him from walking. Wow. He’s very, very… muscular… wait. No. No, no, no. Our mind is not going to go down that road again. “I don’t feel like telling you, nor will I be telling you. So drop it.”

He gives me this sad look before we start walking down the hall again. And I feel bad. Why am I yelling at him for? I feel really bad. So bad that I was about to turn to him and apologize. About to… except for that fact that he muttered under his breath, “P. M. S.”

Didn’t guys know better than to go into that territory? That it’s not where they should be sticking their nosy little heads? And now, not only am I frustrated with the guy, I’m over the top angry. “What the hell is your problem?!”

He turns and stares at me. “My problem?”

“Yes. Your problem!” Just because I’m short doesn’t mean I can’t stare the guy down.

“What’s your problem?” He looks at me with a glare now. Oh great. Now, he’s turning the table on me.

“You want to know what my problem is? It’s you.” I know, not the cleverest thing to say, but at least I came up with that.

“Oh really?” He smiling and taking steps closer to me.

“Yes. Really.” I stare at him hard and he suddenly frowns a bit, dropping the books on the ground with a big thud as each one hit the ground. And suddenly, he pushes me up against the lockers and is attacking me. Well, more like his lips are attacking mine, but it’s all the same.

It takes me a second to get over the shock of it all to start kissing him back. But, like I said, this guy is unpredictable. And he kisses… so… wow. Incredible. I’m pulling him down closer to me, deepening the kiss, when suddenly, the bell in the hallway rings. And he pulls away from me at lightning speed, picking up the books and heading down the hall, mixing in with the rest of the kids as they came out of their classrooms.

But before he vanishes around a corner, I can see him look back at me, a smirk on his face, winking his eye. And I just lean back against the locker, licking my lips. Like I said, unpredictable…


--------------


Get Well Soon Liz!

It’s the sign that’s hung up in my locker.

Get Well Soon Liz!

You ever get the feeling that there’s actually more to it than what it’s saying?

Get Well Soon Liz!

What the hell does it mean, ‘get well’? Does it mean physically, mentally, spiritually? I think I’m reading too much into it. And yet it’s still there.

Get Well Soon Liz!

Written in bright, pretty colors, mocking me, telling me that I’m not well. That I’m not sane. Rubbing it in my face that I’m less than perfect; an awful lot less than perfect, and that my life just completely sucks ass.

Get Well Soon Liz!

“Fucking damn sign.” Snap the wrist and the locker door goes… shut. Closing with a nice bang of a clang, giving me a good sense of closure. Yup. What ever it is that’s bugging me, it’s easily covered up and gotten rid of. Just like the UFO crash back in ’47. A little cover up here, a few threats there, and it’s all good. Who cares that they fucked up a bunch of people along the way, turning the place into a quiet little tourist trap of a town. Nice ain’t it?

Yeah. I thought so too. But the alien thing isn’t all that bad. Well, unless you take it seriously, like some of the wacko-s in this town. Yeah. All of the wacko-s. The entire town is made up of them. It makes me feel right at home.

Me and my strange self, off to chemistry class. Yay! My favorit-est class of the day. Really, it is. There was not sarcasm there. No siree bob. Chemistry is the coolest class around. The chemicals, the labs, the write-ups, and the precise and planned out procedures… sigh… it’s like heaven. I’m not a dork. Really, I’m not. I just… love science. It’s my favorite subject.

And apparently I seem to be the only one who likes it. Or at least I’m the only one who shows it. Maybe I shouldn’t look so eager while I sit and wait for him to take roll so we can start our labs. Max brought me the packet for it the other day and of what I’ve read about it in the packet, it’s a very interesting assignment with unknown mystery solutions, group cations, and centrifuging. Boy, what fun!

Coach Schierling finally finishes checking off that all of about ten of the people in the class are all here and begins. “Okay. So everyone has their packets for the Qualitative Analysis of Group I and Group II Cations that you should still have from the other day.” Everyone kind of grunts in affirmation.

“Each person is assigned a number and the numbers are which test tube you have, filled with the unknowns. Each test tube is different, so I suggest you do your own work.” More grunting.

“You have all week to work on the lab. You won’t need to do a lab write up. All I want is a flow chart of both Group Cations and a separate paper telling me what your unknown chemicals are.” He starts to walk back to sit behind his desk with his computer, but stands up again.

“Oh, another thing I forgot the mention, this is a double major test grade. So do your best.” More groans are heard around the room, but I’m excited. Oh, the joys of science. The mystery of it all just gets me so… ecstatic. So much, I bet there’s probably a little bounce in my step. So I’m practically skipping to get all of my supplies to set up.

Okay, I’m first to get to the cabinet to gather my things. And everything is all lined up in lines and in neat little rows on their shelves. This is my kind of shopping. All right. Safety goggles, apron, test tube rack, centrifuge test tubes, pipets, graduated cylinder, stirring rod, test tube tongs, a 50-mL beaker, and a 250-mL beaker. All set.

I start heading back to the table that I share with Michael and Tess, but stop myself. This is a double major grade. Do I really want to crowd around at one lab table and risk my grade? I mean, this is a pretty heavy-duty lab that requires a lot of space and focus. Shift on one foot, shift on the other. Hmm… what to do, what to do.

Ahh… screw it. If he’s just going to pretend as though the whole thing hadn’t happened, so will I. “Hey, Max. Scoot over.”

“Yes, Liz?” He lifts his head up and looks at me. And can you say a-dor-a-ble? He looks so cute in his little apron and with his safety goggles on. Okay. Only a nerdy dorky scientist would say something like that. But hey, at least I’m admitting to myself that I am a nerdy dorky scientist.

“Can I do my lab here? There doesn’t seem to be room anywhere else.” He looks a bit hesitant, glancing around the room and then sighs, giving in and moving his things to one side of the table. And I set my things down. Hehe… I love it when I get my way.

I set up all of my materials and put on my goggles and apron. Max has already got the hot plate turned on and water boiling. And apparently, we get a centrifuge all to ourselves while the rest of the class shares the other one. That’s not really fair. But then again, no one else seems to be doing the lab. Snoozers are snoozing. Ass-kissers are up at Coach Schierling’s computer, praising him for his excellent skills at solitaire and tidying up his desk for him. And Michael and Tess are… well… being Michael and Tess. Each with their sketchbook and magazine, respectively. Go figure.

Oh well, not my problem anyway. Hop over to the table and check the list. Liz Parker: #4. Yay! I get the unknown solution number four. Four is my favorite number. Isn’t it great? I grab my test tube and a tub of other things I need. PH paper, bottles of aqueous ammonia, thioacetamide, ammonium chloride, potassium hydroxide, nitric acid, red litmus paper, blue litmus paper, you know, those kinds of things.

And I skip back to my table, well, Max’s table, to start my lab. And I’m in a pretty good mood, considering I was kissed senseless by the hunk himself during second period. And then ignored by him all during third period and lunch. And now it’s fourth period. Yup. Happy, happy, happy. I’m just a big ball of happiness. I’m not confused. Not at all.

“Liz, watch out.” Max pulls my arm back and I just now notice that I was just about to place it on the hot plate without even thinking. That would have been bad. A big no, no. Burnt skin never smells good this time of day.

“Great. Just freaking great.” I start busying myself, trying to focus on my lab. But Max pulls the test tube out of my hand.

“Are you okay?” He’s looking at me with that look. You know, the one that makes your insides quiver and your heart race? Yeah. Well, that look.

“No. I’m not okay, Max.” He gets another look, the kicked puppy kind of look that would normally get me feeling sorry and guilty in a split second, but I ignore it. “What is with you? You kiss me in the hallway and then now you’re pretending as though it didn’t happen?”

And guess what he does? He just shrugs. That’s right, shrugs. “It’s a kiss.”

“Oh, I get it.” I grab the test tube from him and go back to working on my lab. Nope I don’t get it, and I don’t plan on trying to get it. There’s no fucking point and I have an awfully bad feeling that I’m just going to end up feeling worse in the end. So it’s better to just not analyze the whole thing.

Just forget it, as though it had never happened. Forget all of the thoughts that ran through your head of him flirting with you some more and the kisses and him asking you out. Those were never his intentions. You had him completely wrong. Yup, drop the test tube into boiling water with a plunk. Completely and freakingly unpredictable…


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[ edited 2 time(s), last at 8-Jun-2002 12:15:03 AM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:17:54 PM
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Chapter Nine



“Does it fit?” Maria’s voice comes through muffled by the bathroom door.

“Yeah. It fits.” Not really, it’s kind of big still, but it’s not like I want to be wearing a skin tight catsuit a la Britney Spears kind of thing. But then again, a little smaller and a little more skin might help rack in a few more tips. Maybe I should ask for a smaller uniform.

“Good. Because that’s the smallest size there is.” I guess not. Staring at myself in the mirror. God, this dress is just so… hideous.

When I said that the uniforms for the Crashdown weren’t all that bad, I was wrong. You tend to look at it in a different light when you are forced to don one on for size.

Sigh. Well, I have to come out sooner or later. No sense in prolonging the inevitable. Open the door and step out.

“All right, Liz. It’s your first day,” Maria is apparently showing me the ropes. “Although waitressing doesn’t seem like all that hard of a job. It actually is. It’s really kind of like an… art.”

“An art?” And art? Is she kidding me? I could compare waitressing to many things, but never would I compare it to being an art.

“Yes. An art. It’s like acting. All right? Picture this. You are your everyday, quiet, little, friendly waitress at a small and quaint little diner, serving the public with a continuous upbeat attitude and perky smiles. Just like in the movies. Okay, grab this.” She shoves a pen and an order pad into my hands. “Now, go get ‘em, tiger.” And she pushes me into the dining area and up to a booth.

All right, Liz. Take deep breaths. You can do this. Plaster a cheesy smile on your face and you’re all set. “Welcome to the Crashdown Café. I’m Liz and I’ll be your waitress this evening. Are you ready to order?”

A very familiar pair of brown eyes peak from behind their menu and he smirks at me. “Hey there, babe.”

Ugh… I really don’t want to have to put up with this right now. “Hello Sean.” Why do I feel completely freaked out when I’m around him? All right, just remember, friendly, upbeat waitress with a smile. “Can I take your order?”

He glances around the diner a bit, as though looking for something before he smirks and looks at me again. “Why don’t you have a seat with me, Liz?”

“I’m working, Sean. So I really don’t think that would be such a good idea.” Yup. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

“Come on, Liz. Take a break and join me.” He’s pushing it. Have I mentioned that I also hate being pushed?

“I would, Sean. But I just started my shift about ten minutes ago. I don’t think they’ll let me take a break right now.” Not like I’d spend my break sitting with him anyway.

He reaches out and runs his hand up and down my arm. It kind of tingles. “Come on, Liz. Join me.”

“How about, no.” A voice says from behind me and I’m suddenly pulled away from Sean by none other than Mr. Kiss-and-Diss, himself.

And I’m annoyed. If this guy is going to pretend as though nothing happened between us, then he has no right to interfere with any part of my life. “Max. What do you think you’re…”

But he gives me another one of his looks. One that magically gets me to shut-up and give in to what ever the hell he wants. And what he wants right now is for me to be compliant and stand behind him while he plays Superman, protecting Lois Lane from the evil Lex Luther.

And when Max notices that I’m complying to his wishes, he turns back around and faces Sean. “I’ve warned you.” He crosses his arms over his chest and gives Sean the evil death glare.

Sean kind of holds his hands up in defense. “I know, Max. But you see…”

But Max cuts him off, taking a step closer to him and talking in a low voice. “Go to Tess.”

“What? Max, No!” Seans’s shaking his head. “No, I didn’t…”

“I saw you.” Max takes a glance back at me. I guess he’s wanting to make sure I’m still standing behind him, being obedient.

Sean’s still shaking his head. “It wasn’t what it looked like. It wasn’t. I…”

“You touched her.” I can’t see Max’s face, but I can hear the disgust in his voice. Yeah. I was appalled by the Sean touching me thing too.

And Sean’s still shaking his head. “I know, but…”

Max leans in. “You were doing it again. Weren’t you?” And he starts advancing in on Sean.

“What? Max…”

“You were doing it again. Weren’t you?!” Max’s voice was louder and more forceful.

“No I wasn’t…” Sean’s still shaking his head frantically. And I’m surprised his neck wasn’t aching from all of the head jerking.

“I told you to stay away from her. But you didn’t listen, did you? I’ve warned you and you were going to just do it again?! Openly defying me?!” Max is yelling. And I’m scared. His shoulders are tense and his fists are clenched and he looks as though he were going to hurt Sean… very badly.

Sean apparently thinks so too, because the boy is quivering and cowering. And Max’s voice comes out menacing and hushed. “Go to Tess.”

“No. Please Max. Give me another chance.”

“I’ve given you plenty of chances. Now go!” He points towards the door and Sean bows his head and leaves.

And I am staring at Max, mouth hanging open, just like everyone else in the entire diner, staring at him while he’s taking deep breaths and calming down from his anger high.

And he turns to me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” And I can feel his hand running up and down my arm, where Sean had touched me before. But the tingling that went through me from Max was completely different from Sean. I feel more comforted and warm, not chilly and freaked out.

“Are you sure?” He’s probably just still emotional because he’s still running his hand up and down my arm. He hasn’t realized what he’s done just yet.

But he’s going to have to acknowledge it sooner or later. And I think it’ll be better sooner than later. “Max?”

“Hmm?” He seems to be in a daze of some sort. It’s probably still the anger high. I turn my head and look around the room. Max seems to get the hint and looks around at everyone staring at him. And it slowly, but surely, comes to him. You can practically pinpoint it to the second when it finally hits him and his eyes go all wide. “Shit.”

“It’s okay, Max.” I smile at him and try to calm him down a bit. “It’s not a big deal.”

But he doesn’t calm down and he doesn’t smile back. Instead, he turns slowly and stares at every person in the room until they kind of lower their head. And when he looks at me, he’s glaring. And my smile drops from my face.

He huffs a bit, but when he’s arrogant like this, I’ll be damned if I back down. So now I’m glaring back. And we’re just there, glaring at each other. Until he finally steps back and heads out the door, leaving.

And I feel a small pull in my gut, and it tugs at me. The silence in the room isn’t helping much either. In fact, it’s making it worse. There’re tugs and stares. Tugs and stares and silence. Tugs, stares, and silence…


--------------



“Guess what I heard…”
“You don’t say…”
“It’s true…”
“But he…”
“Really…”
“Oh my God…”


“You won’t believe what happened.” One girl runs past me and says, in the loudest whisper she could, to another girl at her locker.

First girl’s leaning into the second girl’s ear and the second girl’s eyes bulge out of their sockets. Okay, not really, but almost. “No. You don’t say?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was just one of the hundreds of conversations I have heard. Shut my locker and walk away. I don’t need to hear any more of that. Nope, I’ve heard it over and over again, since yesterday evening at the Crashdown, to right now as another set of people start talking in loud hushed voices.

God, how everyone’s talking, it’s as though the moon’s blown up or the president’s been killed. Or at least that someone in school gave the entire football team blowjobs in less than an hour, beating Pam Troy’s record. But, nope. That’s not what’s happened.

“I can’t believe it. Are you sure?” Another Miss Britney Spears wannabe bounces around in an overly skimpy schoolgirl getup.

You’d think that everyone might have had something better to talk about and waste their time gossiping over. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? But, nope. They wouldn’t. because everyone and anyone aims to be shallow and superficial. Hell, even I’m superficial. Playing a part. Being little Lizzie like everyone wants me to be.

“He did? Oh my God.” Another girl with her hands on her face, doing the Macaulay Culkin thing in the Home Alone flicks.

And it hits me. Damn it. He was doing it too. Being a character, just like I was. Playing the part that everyone wanted him to play. And suddenly, I feel like an ass. Forget that he glared at me, or that he dissed me, or anything else he might have done to me. When you feel the guilt, you feel it head on.

And I just can’t believe that I hadn’t fully realized the extent and the depth of the entire affair. I didn’t grasp the meaning, the worth and the value behind it all. And it sucks that it took an imitation teeny bopper and a rip-off signature action of an overworked victim of child labor to get me to realize it.

But it’s not my fault. Damn it. Yes it is. He was just helping you and that’s why it happened. But then again, he didn’t have to help me. He chose that on his own. Did you really want to be manhandled by Sean? No, damn it. But… it was his own fault that he got angry. He should have controlled his temper. But that’s what you were there for, to help him control his temper. No, I’m not. You saw it coming though. You should have tried to calm him down. You knew he was about to blow it. No I didn’t. Yes, you did. Nope. Lizzie… Damn it! God fucking damn it!!

So, according to the little voice in my head, I’m the one at fault. And the guilt is here to stay. Double damn it! I mean, I’ve watched him. I’ve seen how he acts. And this was him. The whole shy and quiet super-genius was all a part of his character. He lost his character and I had the nerve to tell him that it wasn’t a bit deal? No wonder he glared at me. Damn it!

And all through class, that’s all it was. More girls, more gossiping, and more guilt. My conscience was kind of kicking me a little more as the time flew. And each class it was the same. Max would walk in, the room would go quiet, and he would sit down at his table. Then all of the frenzied hushed gossip would start and the stares at the back of the room to his corner would follow.

And Max would just focus on his book, taking it all in stride. How could he do that? How could he just go on while knowing that everyone is talking about him? And that there are more stares than usual flowing his way. And that he’s suddenly lost his character. Everyone needs their character, their wall to hide behind, their façade to put up. Is that it, or am I just totally blowing this out of proportion?

Glance at Max and I find him staring right back at me… with that look. He’s not glaring. Oh, no. I don’t tolerate glaring. It’s that look… the kicked puppy look. The one that makes everyone go awww. And the one that gets sappy me, standing knee high in my guilt. Damn it…

“Can you believe this?” Maria’s on one of her anger rants again. “You’d think it was enough that I had to hear about him about seventy percent of the time on a normal day. And now, he’s all everyone is talking about. Max, Max, Max. It’s not like he’s all that interesting.”

I hear Maria as she babbles, but my eyes are still locked with Max’s. And his face is still adorned with the saddest look ever. Aww… and my conscience is eating at me again.

“Oh, come on, Maria.” Apparently Alex is here as well, seeing as how I hear his voice. “Of course Max is all that everyone is talking about. Yesterday was history in the making. And you aren’t glad to have been there to see it all, first hand? Gosh, it’s something you can tell your grandkids about. I wish I was there.”

Aww… is his bottom lip quivering? His bottom lip is quivering. Oh my gosh. Damn it… damn it… kick me while I’m down why don’t you. His bottom lip is quivering and it’s all my fault.

“Yeah. I guess I am lucky to have been there.” Maria sighs. “That whole thing was so old fashion, anyway. I mean, it was about time it happened. So, Liz. Are we still on for shopping?”

What? Wait. Give me a second. I’m still busy with Max. I still need to… never mind. He went back to his book. Sigh. “What were you saying, Maria?”

“Shopping, dear. Are we still going shopping?”

“Yeah.” Nod head as though enthusiastic about it. “Of course.”

But I don’t think I nodded my head enough because Maria gives me this look. “What were you looking at anyway?” She turns towards the back corner of the room.

“I was… um… looking at that poster back there. It’s pretty funny, don’t you think?” Hmm… I wonder what they would think if I had actually told them that I had been having a staring contest with Max? Well, I guess I’ll never know.

“What’s so funny about the poster?” Alex and Maria are both staring back at it. “I don’t find it funny.” Alex shakes his head and turns towards me.

Maria follows, nodding her head. “Yeah, and Alex is the corniest person on earth. If he’s not laughing…”

“No, it’s funny. Because… there’s a bear. And the bear has a bubble that he’s talking. And… and bears don’t talk.” Lame, I know. But who cares. It’s something in my character to say. My character is lame. I wonder what Max’s character would have said. But wait… Little Bo-Max has lost his character and doesn’t know where to find it. And it’s all my fault…

“Liz, sweetie.” Alex grabs my hand and pats it. “The nice bear in the poster that’s telling you that ‘only you can prevent forest fires’, he’s not real, dear. It’s a drawing. He’s not actually talking.”

And Maria starts laughing. Well, at least she finds it funny. I, particularly, don’t like being talked to like I’m a five year old. “I know that, Alex.”

“Just making sure, Liz.” He lets go of my hand. “I don’t want to have to tell mom and dad that we need to start sending you to a therapist now.”

But I just roll my eyes and pick up my things and head to off to my next class, which passed by with nothing but gossip, whispers and guilt. Gossip, whispers and guilt. And third period was pretty much the same, throwing in puppy dog looks from Max and death glares from the blonde hussies around him. But then, the death glares have always been there. So we can overlook them. But the kicked puppy faces and the quivering lip… they had me to where I was now drowning in guilt. God damn it…

So here we are, now, sitting in the quad, watching as everyone still had their hushed whispers going around. But me, Maria, and Michael just sit. We don’t talk. No, we just sit. It’s a somewhat comforting silence now, as we just sit. Michael with his sketchbook. Maria with her cheesy puffs. And me with my nifty little water bottle. Just sitting. A minute passes. And we sit. Another minute passes. Sit, sit, sit. Another second passes.

“Damn it! I can’t take it anymore.” Grab my things up, including my nifty little water bottle, and storm on over. I can’t handle the guilt, it’s too much with the kicked puppy look and the quivering lips... Grr…

And here I am, standing in front of him. Feeling stupid without anything to say. See what happens when you don’t plan things out? This is why you always, always have a plan. “Max?” He doesn’t even look up from his book. “Can I have a seat?”

Still no answer so I just plop myself down on the ground. “So, how’s school been?” As you can see, I’m somewhat beating around the bush.

And he doesn’t answer. Nope, he just turns the page in his book and keeps on reading. Or supposedly reading, since his eyes aren’t really going over the words, they kind of just remain in one spot. He’s flipping pages just to be able to flip pages. Because this situation is awkward. I always have a tendency to make things awkward. I’m just an awkward person.

“So…” I just… I can’t… I don’t know what to say. Help me out here. What does he want me to say? How am I supposed to make it all better when I don’t know how? And he isn’t helping either, flipping another page to his book.

“So… how are things?” Hey, at least I’m trying. And it gets him to stop his reading and put his book away. And I actually think that I’m making progress. That is, until he pulls another book out of his bag and starts reading again.

Damn it… “Max, come on-”

“Parker.” Someone interrupts me. You know how much I hate being interrupted right? Absolutely hate it.

“Was there something you wanted, Pam?” I look up towards them and then scoot more towards Max. I’m really not all that interested in looking up her short skimpy cheerleader skirt right now.

“Yeah.” The glares are coming from her and her two spirit dronies. “It’s lunch time, and I’d like to have mine.”

“By all means, Pam. I’m not stopping you.” I turn back to Max, who still has his head ducked into the book, but I can see the makings of a smile on his face.

“Look, Parker.” She steps closer towards Max. And I’m pretty sure Max had a good view of her ass had his eyes not been glued to his book. “I know you have a little thing for my Max here, but let’s get real for a second, shall we? Max doesn’t want you. After all, you’re a little… undeveloped. So move out of my spot.”

Okay. So, she’s dissing me. Let’s think, does she have a right to be dissing me? No. Will I be letting her get away with dissing me? Hell no. All right. “Yeah? Well, unlike yours, mine at least look real. How much did those things cost you anyway?”

“These,” she points to her enormous balloons of boobs. “Are all me, honey. And, trust me, any guy would rather want mine than yours.”

Oh, please… “Mine may be a little small, but at least they aren’t the size of hot air balloons. After all, bigger isn’t always better. Right, Max?”

“Max…” Pam whines out while she squats down, rubbing up next to him. “Tell her you’d choose me over her, any day.”

And everyone is waiting, staring at Max for a response, for any response. And Max finally closes his book, sets it aside and lifts his head to look at me with a wicked glint in his eyes.

And I’m thinking, shit. Hell. I’ve just set myself up for the biggest humiliation of my life. Being shown up by Pom-Pom Pam Troy. Well, it’s my own fucking fault. Max is angry with me. And this is his chance for revenge to get me back. And you know what? I’m sucking it in and taking it in stride.

“Blondes are nice.” His voice comes out and I hang my head in shame. “But I’m more partial to brunettes.”

And do you feel the smile forming on my face? I feel the smile forming on my face. It’s the kind that starts out slowly and creeps its way up until it’s a full blow goofy grin. That kind of smile. I wait and I hear the bleach-blonde bimbos huff and stalk away, leaving a stench of peroxide in their wake. And when I lift my head, my eyes lock with Max. And he’s glaring at me.

I know, the glaring is really getting to me, but it’s not all that bad. Not bad at all… because I can see the corner of his lips twitching, trying to stop from smiling. Which makes me, in turn, smile. Full and blown out smile, flashing my pearly whites and all as all of the guilt washes off of me. And I believe onion-boy had gone and refound his character. And even with the glares, I’m actually starting to like this one.


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:31:02 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:18:12 PM
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Chapter Ten



“All right, everyone. Ten minutes until the bell. Start cleaning up your labs and turn them in.”

What? No. Wait. How could we only have ten minutes left? I’m not done yet. “No, no, no, no, no.” Stop the centrifuge, drop the test tube in the boiling water, and wait five minutes.

Glance around the room while waiting, and from the looks of it, I’m the only one who’s not done with my lab. Or at least, I seem to be the only one who’s not done that cares. Snoozers are snoozing. And Michael and Tess are each flipping through their sketchbook and magazine.

Nope. They don’t care about this stuff. Of course they don’t. Why would they? Science bores everyone. Everyone but nerdy dorky people like me. And maybe Max. But Max isn’t here, is he? Nope. He never came to class. And no one else noticed but me, who has been staring at the door all period, waiting for him to come. While the seconds seem to just tick slowly by. Damn it, maybe that’s why I haven’t finished my lab yet.

All right. It’s close enough to five minutes. Check the test tube, and it’s clear. It’s clear. The test tube is clear. It’s this just so fucking hilarious? The freaking test tube is clear. “God fucking damn it!”

“Liz, did you say something?” Tess’s blonde curls pop up from out of nowhere to right next to me.

“Oh, Tess. I didn’t see you there. No, no. I didn’t say anything.” Nope. Not little ole me. I would never utter such profane words.

“You know we only have like two minutes until the bell, right?” She’s looking at all of my supplies, still out on the table, test tube still in hand.

I put the clear test tube down and check my watch. “I know. I know.” Sigh. Maybe I forgot a step. I should go back and look through again.

She picks up the clear test tube and sniffs it. And my mind is just thinking, ‘that’s a bad safety procedure’. But hey, I’ve got a double major grade assignment to think about. No time for anything else. “Didn’t you finish this experiment yesterday?”

“Yes. And yesterday I also found lead in the solution. Today, I redid the experiment, and there’s no lead.” Isn’t that just wonderful?

“Are you sure?” I glance up at her and she’s still sniffing the test tube before she plops it back into the boiling water.

And I sigh. “Clear test tube. No precipitate. No lead.”

“Let me see.” She grabs at the large test tube holding the unknown solution, pulls off the stopper and sniffs it. What is it with her and sniffing these things? “It’s sodium and bismuth.”

Wait… “What?”

Tess kind of shrugs and hands the test tube back to me. “The solution has sodium and bismuth in it.”

“How do you know?” I try sniffing it. And it just smells chemically to me. There’s no way you can dissociate these smells when they’re mixed together like this. And she’s smelling sodium and bismuth in this? Well, sorry Tess, but you’re wrong. “I already tested for bismuth. No color change. Thus, no bismuth.”

“It’s bismuth, all right.” She takes the test tube from me and plugs the stopper back in before putting it back down on the table. And apparently she sees the disbelief in my eyes because she lets out this frustrated like sigh. “Just trust me on this. It’s sodium and bismuth.”

She even goes as far as to write the two chemicals down on my paper and hands it to me before walking away. And I stare at the paper, thinking about it. Double major grade. Could I risk it? I mean, it’s two major grades. This is the difference between an A in the class and a lower grade. But then again, Tess was pretty sure of herself…

Oh, what the hell. The bell rings and I grab my paper and stuff it in the tray. “Coach, can you tell me if I got the chemicals right?”

He looks at me from behind his computer. “Sure, Liz.” He says it in the drawn out, elongated enunciation, as though we had all the time in the world. Forget it that the bell has already rung and that I might be late for my next period class. “What solution number did you have?”

He pulls out his paper and I’m taking a deep breath. “Number four.”

“Sodium and…” could he take any longer to read a freaking word? “…bismuth.”

Wow. “Well…what do you know?” Tess was right. And I’m smiling. Because Tess was right. That means that I was right. Which also means that I got a hundred for, not one, but two major test grades. Ain’t life grand?

“Is that what you guessed?”

“Yes, it is.” As if my smile didn’t give it away already.

“Congratulations.” He kind of pats me on the head. And normally, I’d mind. And I’d be bitching for being treated like a little dog of some sort. But today, I don’t mind. Nope. Today, I overlook it. Today, I’m happy.

“Thank you.”

Because all in all, it’s becoming a pretty good day. I got to tell Pam Troy off and I got a hundred on my lab. Hell yeah.

Health wasn’t even all that bad of a class either. Nope. Not bad at all. Sat down in class. Did the work in ten minutes and then got a pass to go to the library.

But did I go to the library? Sure, for about two minutes. Then I got bored and went home. That’s right. Hehe… truancy baby. That’s the name of the game. And if anyone asks, I’ll just say it’s my free period. But then again, this town is kind of small. Enough to where all the administrators could probably have everyone’s schedules programmed into their head.

Hmm… a robot faculty. That’s an interesting notion. But then again, this town already has aliens. And isn’t it some kind of law or something… one conspiracy per town? Well, there should be.

I head out of the parking lot and down the street at a leisurely pace. Hey, I’m in no hurry. Besides, at the speed I’m going, I figure I’ll make it to The Crashdown in about half an hour, long before the after school rush, and just in time for some afternoon cartoons. See? I’ve got it all planned out.

“Hey Liz. Wait up.”

I stop and turn around and see a guy running up to me. Brown hair, nice muscles, and dimples in his cheeks. I turn back around and keep walking.

“Liz, wait.”

That’s the thing about being short. You’re legs don’t cover that much of a distance when you walk. Two of his steps equaled like three of mine. And why does this guy look so familiar? Maybe it’s the letter jacket…

“Hey.” His voice is kind of deep, kind of light, and it comes out sweetly. I bet he’s a smooth talker.

“Um… hi.”

“So, where you heading to?” He smiles and I can see the dimples in his cheeks. Hmmm… does Max have dimples? Why haven’t I ever taken notice?

“I’m walking home… the Crashdown.” Point down the street in the general vicinity of where I’m heading.

“You’re walking?” He puts his hands in his pocket and kind of gives me this smile. Hmm…

“Yeah. I’m just gonna… go.” I offer him a smile back. The guy seems nice enough.

“Well, um… my car is right over there.” He points off to the parking lot. “I could give you a ride if you want.”

Oh yes. Let’s go hop in the car of every cute unfamiliar guy we see. That’s how dead bodies of girls end up in ditches and creeks. “Well, actually, I’m not supposed to get rides from strangers.” Just slowly inch away.

“Well, I’m not a stranger though, am I?” He smiles. And his smiles have dimples.

And see? I knew he looked familiar. “You’re not?”

“No. I’m Doug. We have English together. Third period. I sit in the seat behind you.” Whoa… he has English with me? Who is all in my English class? Me, Max, and the bimbo brigade. I don’t recall a Doug.

“Oh, yeah. In Mr. Manor’s class.” It’s not like I was going to tell him that I didn’t remember him. That’s mean. And I don’t want to be mean.

“Yeah.” He’s suddenly very enthusiastic. “I didn’t think you noticed me.”

“Well, who wouldn’t notice someone like you?” I punch him playfully on the arm. That’s what people do, right? Letter jacket people? They play around and punch each other. Right?

And the Doug guy blushes. Hehe… it’s cute. “So… um… can I give you that ride?”

“Actually,” and I can already see his face fall, “I was kind of looking forward to a walk.”

“Oh… um… can I walk you then?” Should I have him walk me? I mean… I hardly know him. But then again, it’s not safe for a little girl to be walking around by herself, even in a small town like this one. And I mean, it’s not like I’m betraying anyone by having Doug walk me home. Not at all. And there’s also a somewhat pleading look in his eyes. You know me… I’ve always been a sucker for puppy dog looks… sigh…

“Okay.”


--------------


“You’re kidding me.” He’s kidding me. He’s kidding me. He has to be kidding me.

“Nope. Scout’s honor.” He holds his hand up in that salute thing that they do. And I still don’t believe him.

“No. You’re lying. Things like that just don’t happen to guys like you. I mean, you’re Doug Shellow, the all American guy, captain of the football team.” It’s just not possible. The pretty people just don’t get humiliated like that.

“What? It’s true. I had to shave my head and wear a hat for two months until my hair grew back.” His face is all serious and he kind of grimaces at the memory.

And I still don’t believe him. “I still don’t believe you.”

He just smiles. “Why don’t you believe me? Come on, I’m a good guy. Completely innocent and honest.”

Innocent and honest? That’s exactly what I am. Hell, if he’s going to start talking about innocent and honest. “So am I. But if I sat here and told you that I’m Liz Parker, waitress by day and Bunny Neptune, prostitute and porn star by night, would you believe me?” And it just came out of my mouth on its own accord. Why the hell did I just say that outloud?

And he kind of ducks his head and looks somewhat uncomfortable. It’s awkward now. How is it that I always seem to make every situation awkward? I mean, it’s my fault. I really shouldn’t have said that. The guy really is pure and innocent. I’m surprised high school hasn’t corrupted him yet.

I told you that I liked silence, right? Well this isn’t silence. This is awkward silence. And awkward silence is nerve wrecking. Awkward silence is the kind that you go crazy in. Must stop silence. “So… um… is there anything else I can get you? Alien Blast? Men In Blackberry pie?”

“No. I’m fine.” He’s trying to settle back down but I can tell he’s still a little uncomfortable. I don’t blame him. No one really expected that to come out of my mouth. Well, maybe Max would have… but we won’t think about that right now.

I glance around the diner and the creepy guy’s still staring at me. Did I mention the creepy guy yet? He’s been sitting in a booth by himself for over twenty minutes now and still hasn’t ordered yet. All he does is just sits there and stares at me.

I look at Doug and it’s still somewhat awkward. “Okay, um… I should go take some orders now. I’ll be right back.”

Walk over to the creepy man and for the fourth time ask him, “Sir, are you ready to order?”

“Is anything on this menu… edible?” He has this all high and mighty look on his face as he looks at the menu in disgust.

And I really don’t feel like dealing with him right now. “I’ll give you more time to look it over.” And quickly walk away.

Back to Doug. Slipping back into the booth across from him, “So. What else do you want to talk about?”

He has this smile on his face. I guess we’re over the awkwardness now. “Tell me the truth.”

You want the truth? You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Hehe… I know, I’m a dork. “The truth about what?”

He still has a smile on his face. “You really didn’t know who I was, huh?”

“Of course I did. You’re Doug. You sit behind me in English.” Is this where he tells me that he really isn’t Doug Shellow, but he’s been playing me all this time. And that he’s actually my long lost brother that I never knew about? Luke… I am your father.

“Yeah. But I told you all of that.” Huh? What? Damn. I really need to stop living in my head so much.

All right. I might as well be honest with the boy. “Okay. I’m sorry, but I… nope… I don’t remember.”

His lip kind of pouts and he gets this sad-like look. “But… I’ve talked to you a couple of times.”

Whoa… wait… “When?”

And he gives me this ‘come on, I can’t believe you don’t remember’ kind of look. “I say ‘hi’ to you in the hallway everyday. Between first and second? I even offered to carry your books the other day.”

Ugh… that’s why he looked so familiar. It’s the letter jacket. “I’m sorry, but I just have a really bad memory. I didn’t even remember seeing you in class.” I really don’t. I don’t remember there being anyone else in class, other than Max and me. Oh, yea, and the blonde bimbos, as well.

Doug just shrugs. “It figures. You were too busy staring at Evans in class to notice me.”

Huh? Me? Staring? At Max? Hah! Yeah, right! “I don’t stare.”

“Fine. You gawk at him. Ogle, gaze, watch intently, take your pick. I mean, it’s nothing. It’s not like you’re the only one. God, every girl in the school only has eyes for Evans.” He kind of slouches in his seat and pouts. And there’s some obvious jealousy going on there.

And I try to cheer him up. “I’m sure you have your own following of gawkers as well.”

“Nope.” He sulks some more. “They’re all too busy following Max around.” And he huffs, pouting like a little boy, angry that he doesn’t get his way.

And I find myself wanting to make him smile again. “Come on, you’re captain of the football team. Isn’t there some written law that all cheerleaders have to throw themselves at your feet?”

“Nope. They’re all busy trying to get Max.” He throws his hands up in frustration. “Every girl wants to get with Max.”

“I, for one, would rather eat worms before I fell at the feet of Maxwell Evans.” A voice comes walking up to us.

“It’s such a relief to hear that. Thank you Maria.” He gives her a smile and I can see his dimples again.

“You’re welcome. It’s great feeling special.” Maria smiles a cheesy smile and then turns to me, handing me menus. “Liz. You’ve got customers.”

“But I’m on my break, Maria.”

She smiles at me, sympathetically. “I know. But they refuse to let me take their order. They specifically asked for you. Which, I’m really grateful for. Believe me.”

I look around the diner, which is empty, except for three booths. “Other than that weird man over there, they’re not even in my section.”

And Maria just shrugs. “They asked for you, Liz.”

Damn people. Maybe I should be ruder. That way, they don’t ask for me. And maybe even prefer to not have me. “All right. Which of the two booths?”

She smiles at me. “Both of them.”

“Both?”

She shrugs. “Hey. You’re popular.”

Sigh. “Fine. If you’ll excuse me, Doug.” Smile warmly at him.

“Don’t worry, Liz. I’ll keep Dougie-boy company.” Maria slides in the booth as I exit.

Break out the freaking order pad. Hello Mr. I’ve-Got-A-Staring-Problem. “Are you ready to order yet, sir?”

He’s staring at my name tag. Or, at least, I’m hoping that he’s staring at my name tag. “What kind of name is that anyway? Liz.” He makes a face. “It’s so… common.”

Common? Excuse me. Freaking bastard. What right does he have to call me common? “Liz, it’s short for Elizabeth.”

The bastard psycho person is smiling now. “Ah… Elizabeth. Now that is a suitable name.”

Well, I’m glad you approve. Freaking… the customer is always right. The customer is always right. Plaster on the cheesy smile. “Thank you, sir. Are you ready to order?”

He looks back over the menu in disgust. “Ugh… is there anything that isn’t swimming in a pool of grease.”

No, sir. There isn’t. “I’ll give you a few more minutes to look over the menu.” And walk quickly away. And up to the next booth.

“Welcome to the Crashdown Café. I’m Liz and I’ll be your waitress this evening. Are you ready to order?” And my hands are already scribbling down his order on the order pad, before he even answers me.

It’s not like it’s a big deal. He always orders the same thing. “The usual.”

See? I was right. “Is that all, Max?”

“Sit down, Liz.” He points to the empty seat across from him.

And I smile. I knew he was going to say that. “Can’t, Max. Working.” I point to the other booth of people who have yet to be served.

He kind of whines and pouts, as though I’m being unfair or something. “You sat with Shallow.”

I roll my eyes. “Shellow. And that was during my break.” Do I detect a hint of jealousy from him? Hmm… this could be interesting.

“So join me.” He, again, points to the empty seat across from him.

Ugh… do I really want to turn him down? Like how he turned me down? Yes, I do. “Go to hell, Max.”

And he just smirks. “Only if you go with me, Liz.”

Sigh. Something tells me that I’d agree to go anywhere with him. But, he doesn’t need to know that. “I’ll be back with your drink.”

Saunter away and pin Max’s order up on the little spinny thingy at the Cook’s window for Alex to cook up before heading behind the counter and getting Max’s cherry coke and walking back over to him.

“Here you go, Max.” Put the drink down on the table and give him a big smile. He better tip me good. Especially since this isn’t even my section.

“Thanks, Liz.” He takes the drink and starts sipping it. And I start to turn away, but I hear Maria bursting into a fit of laughter. And I glance over at Doug, whose sitting there a bit uncomfortable like with Maria acting like a hyena, and it reminds me of something.

“Hey, Max.”

“Yeah?” He looks up at me with a smile. And guess what, Max has dimples too.

It makes me smile. And it makes what I’m about to say next, even sweeter. “What if I told you that waitressing was only my day job, and at night, I’m Bunny Neptune, prostitute and porn star extraordinaire.”

And Max is unfazed. He just raises his eyebrows a bit. “How much do you charge and what corner can I find you at?”

And I smile again. Because I expected Max to say something smart-alecky like that. At least, to me he would. And that thought somehow makes me smile even more. I’m special. “Thanks, Max.”

I walk away and head towards the next booth. But someone’s hand on my arm stops me. “Hey… um… Liz.”

I smile, because… he’s just so sweet, you can’t help but smile at him. “Yeah, Doug?”

“It’s getting kind of late. I really should head on home.” He points to his watch. And I’m actually surprised that he stuck around this long. He really is just such a great guy. “Um… can I call you?”

It’s at the tip of my tongue to say, ‘sure, and we can have phone sex all night long.’ But I don’t. I stop at “Sure.” After all, that’s not something you’d say to Doug. Not sweet and innocent little Doug, no. That’s something you’d say to Max.

Doug gives me a peck on the cheek and then heads out the door. And I sigh as I watch him leave. He’s just so sweet. And now, I must go face the creepy guy.

Sigh again before I head over, taking out my order pad. “Sir, are you ready to order?”

“The resemblance is so uncanny.” He kind of mutters to himself, and yet at me at the same time.

And I’m wondering what the hell he is talking about now. “Excuse me?”

“But there’s something different.” He’s still muttering to himself and to me.

Something different? What is he talking about? Something that resembles, but is different? What is he talking about? “Sir, what are you talking about?”

He lets out a deep breath and shakes his head, like he’s disappointed at whatever it is he’s talking about. “The eyes. It’s the eyes.”

And frankly, I’m tired of this. “Sir-”

“They’re his eyes, aren’t they?” What? His eyes? Whose eyes? Max’s eyes? Could be, since they are one of Max’s best features. Them, and his big rippling muscles. But then this guy wouldn’t notice that. Of course not, Liz. I hardly doubt that he’s checking Max out. But then again, he could be. Eww… ugh… stop thinking these thoughts.

Need to clear my head. “Sir, are you ready to order?”

But I don’t think he heard me. Because he’s still shaking his head and he still looks disappointed at something. What was it? Eyes. “It’s such a pity. Such a waste of perfection.”

All right. This guy is off in his own little world. “Umm… I’m going to give you a few more minutes.” And quickly walk away to the last booth of people.

And again, I rush out my introduction in one hurried breath. “Welcome to the Crashdown Café. I’m Liz and I’ll be your waitress this evening. Are you ready to order?”

“Elizabeth Parker.” Groan. I don’t want to have to deal with this here too. Don’t I get enough of this in school?

“Pamela Troy.” What the hell. It’s a slow night. I can play it out.

You ever notice that it’s always only Pam talking. And the other two lap dogs just sit there and glare. Did they appoint her their spokesperson, or did her big mouth and slutty reputation automatically get her the position? “Well, I’ll have to say, at first I thought you were just a bitch. But it turns out you’re a bitchy witch.”

Bitchy witch? A bitchy witch? Haha… oh my God. “Wow. That actually rhymed. I guess they don’t call you Pom-pom Pam for nothing, huh?”

She chooses to ignore my comment. “I don’t know what the hell you did to him, but stay away from Max. He’s mine.” She’s giving me this icy glare.

But I just smile sweetly at her. Simply because it is annoying the hell out of her. “Is he now?”

“Yes. He is.” She says through gritted teeth. And you can tell she’s trying to sound menacingly. But I just laugh. Why? Because she’s got something stuck between her teeth. And it’s funny. And I think Isabel sees it too, because she’s snickering softly, until Pam glares at her.

But, back to the topic at hand, Max. “And what exactly makes him yours, Pam?”

She turns back to me with another glare. And she smirks. “Everyone knows he’s mine.”

That is her lame ass justification? “I’m sorry, Pam. But I must have missed the ‘Property of Pam Troy’ tattoo on his chest. Oh wait, there isn’t one.” And I throw in another sweet smile, just to piss her off some more.

But Pam keeps going, rolling her eyes at me. “I’m the only girl who has ever gotten anywhere with him.”

Gotten anywhere? What the hell is that? “Meaning?”

“First base.” She smirks at me and holds her head up high.

And I scoff at her. “I highly doubt that forcing your tongue down his throat counts as first base, Pam.” Another sweet smile. And I think that they’re really getting to her. Just what I was aiming for.

“I wouldn’t talk, Parker.” Ooo… she’s calling me by my last name. I must be in trouble now. “It’s more than you’ll ever get.”

Is that a challenge? I think it’s a challenge. “Oh really?”

A ding is heard from the cook’s window, meaning that Alex is done with the food. So grab the plate and head over to Max’s booth, determined. Place the food down in front of him and slide into the booth.

He looks over at me, somewhat apathetically. “Joining me now?”

“Yes.” And I smile, and glance over at Pam, making sure she’s watching. “Max?”

“Hmm?” He looks at me and I signal with my finger for him to lean in closer. “What is it, Liz?” He sounds concerned. “Did someone do something to you?”

And I smile. The fact that he’s worried and that he’s so willing to jump at the chance of being my knight in shining armor makes what I’m about to do, oh so much sweeter. Push him back against the booth and kiss him. Full out, all the way, big, wet kiss.

And the funny thing is, it didn’t faze him. I can feel one hand on my waist and the other running through my hair and on my neck. And once I’m satisfied that Pam’s gotten enough, and not wanting to risk being caught by Mr. or Mrs. Whitman, or anyone else who might walk in, I pull away.

He starts tugging at my waist, but I slip out of the booth and out of his grasp. Haha… take that, Mr. Kiss-n-Diss. “Enjoy your food.” Smile sweetly, and walk away.

Pam and her cronies huff before getting up from their booth and storming out of the diner. And I smile triumphantly.

Two booths down, and one to go. But I’m feeling suddenly very confident. Bring on Mr. Creepy. “Sir, are you ready to order now?”

But I don’t think he’s listening to me. “Those damn eyes. It’s such a pity.” He’s still in his own little world of eyes again.

“Alright, you know what-” And I’m actually about to just kick this guy out. Because there was nothing in the job description that says that I have to deal with loony and cracked-up people.

But he interrupts me with the shaking of his head and his frowns of disappointment again. “Perfection. It was in your blood.”

“In my blood?” Wait. He was talking about me? Wait. I’m the eyes? He was checking me out, not Max? Ugh…

And the guy sighs, heavily and over dramatically. “Blood is blood, I suppose. We’ll just have to make do. You can be fixed.”

Blood? Eyes? Fixed? What does he mean, fixed? What exactly is this guy talking about? “Sir, I seriously-”

But he stands up, brushing me aside. “I should be going. Don’t reduce yourself to…” He looks me up and down, and I withhold the urge to slap him, “…servitude. Hold your head high, Elizabeth. You’re better than everyone else. You’re a Harding, for heaven’s sake, act like one.”


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:31:46 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:18:29 PM
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Chapter Eleven



Guess what I did Saturday. Sleep. Work. Sleep. Guess what I did Sunday. Sleep. Work. Sleep. And more sleep. So come Monday morning, I was quite tired. Sure, I had plenty of sleep, but all the energy just wasn’t showing. It’s like my body was storing it up, preparing myself for something or somethings. That’s how I knew that today was going to be one hell of a day.

So the first thing I did when I got to school was go straight to the water fountain. My throat was kind of dry trying to think of all of the possible things that could happen today. Pam Troy’s hair could have mysteriously fallen out this weekend. All of the teachers could have gone on strike. That creepy guy from last week could show up again. Hell, the government could even announce to the world that there really was a crash in ’47. Anything could happen, but, nonetheless, my throat was still parched and what better way to quench my thirst than good ole H2O.

“Um… Liz?”

My hand kind of stops midway from turning the nozzle and I look up, turning my head to the voice.

“Hello, Liz. I… um… I have not seen you in a while. How have you been?”

And I just stand there, dumbfounded and gawking. But then again, you’d be gawking too because there, stood Sean. Or at least I think it was Sean. Since the person standing beside me looked more like his evil twin of some sort. Or rather, good twin, in this case. God, this must be some kind of twilight-y zone shit.

No more baggy jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes, evil smirks, nappy hair, yucky Sean. What was standing beside me was a kaki pant, tucked in nice, button collar shirt, groomed hair, loafers, 10-hour-‘Leave It To Beaver’-marathon Sean. It was like, some kind of strange conspiracy, spooky Disturbing Behavior kind of thing. Creepy.

“Liz?” He’s grinning uncomfortably, not smirking, grinning.

“Um… hey Sean. Yeah, it has been a while, hasn’t it?” And my voice pretty much gives away my uncomfortable-ness.

“I will get to the point, Liz. I just really want to apologize for the way I mistreated you before, gawking at you. You are not a piece of meat or a toy for my amusement. The way I acted around you was simply uncalled for and I assure you that it will never happen again. Please accept my apology, Liz. If there’s any way I can make it up to you, just let me know.” And he grins again.

And I stand there, dumbfounded, yet again. This is probably some kind of weird joke. The school camera media technology people are probably going to pop up any second now, right? Right? You know, the candid camera thing.

“Liz?” He’s looking at me strangely now, still grinning uncomfortably.

“Um… I… um…” clear my throat, “I-I need a drink.” Turn towards the water fountain and turn the little nozzle, causing water to spew forth, and I, in turn, solve the problem of my parched throat before turning back to Sean. And I find him with his hands over his ears and his eyes squeezed shut, and he’s… cowering. “Sean?” He doesn’t hear me so I kind of poke him.

And he jumps, startled, and then drops to his knees. “I-I’m sorry, Liz. I’m sorry. I’m so so so so so sorry. Please, please forgive me?”

And me, I stand there awkwardly, with everyone in the hall staring at us. “Of course, Sean.” And I walk away. All that just happened there was just too weird for me. But the thing is, my energy gauge was still almost full, meaning there was still a lot more to come. Something bigger than Sean begging me for forgiveness on his hands and knees.

Dude, and can you believe that it’s only the beginning of the day? I walk into first period and sit down next to Maria was a sigh before I turn to her. “You won’t believe what just hap-”

She interrupts me. “My mom wanted me to tell you that she wanted to meet with you today. So I guess we’ll just postpone our trip to the mall an hour or so.” She turns back to her things.

Wait… when did we decide that we were going to the mall? When did I decide that we were going to the mall? “We’re going to the mall?”

“Yeah.” She looks at me like I’m crazy and nods her head. “Right after you have a little meeting with my mom.”

“Am I invited?” Alex asks as he sits down in front of me and Maria.

“Nope. Sorry, Alex.” Maria shakes her head.

And Alex is pouting. Why can’t Alex go?

“I’m sorry, Alex.” Maria reaches out and pats his hand. “But me and Liz planned this to be a girls thing.” I, personally, don’t remember doing any planning, whatsoever.

Alex jerks his hand away and huffs. “Maria, you’re being sexist.”

“Yes,” Maria nods her head, “I am.”

“Fine.” Alex leans back in his chair and pouts again. “I didn’t want to go anyway.”

“Besides, Alex.” Maria continues. “You’re pretty much Liz’s brother. There’s a rule that you can’t be present when Liz is around, scoping out guys.”

He leans forward in his seat. “What guys? Liz, I thought we agreed. No guys.”

Yeah, I pretty my tuned them out after that. There’s only so much of their bickering and bantering that you can take before you go nuts. And it seems as though I have a whole mall expedition with Maria later on today to prepare myself for.

Maybe that was it, the big energy sucker for my day. But I had a feeling that it wasn’t. There was something else, something bigger. Or maybe I was just crazy. Apparently so, because come lunchtime, everyone was talking about my craziness, my peculiar-ness, and particularly, my engagement to Sean.

“Are you sure?”

In the same loud whisper from before came from the girl whose all for high school conformity, next to my locker.

“Positive. I heard her myself. Sean was down on his knee and Liz said, and I quote, ‘Of course, Sean.’”

“Wow. I can’t believe they’re getting married.”


“What?!” There’s a loud clang, and it’s me, slamming my locker door as I walk up to the two girls who were both most likely the product of MTV, drilling senseless thoughts into their heads as they willingly obliged the it’s every whim. ‘Listen to this music and this music alone.’ ‘Dress scanky, like her.’ Damn that Carson Daly. He’s a tool I tell you, a complete tool.

“Liz… I didn’t know you were there.” It’s funny that she knows my name. Especially since I don’t know hers. And she’s fidgeting. I think I’m making her nervous. Hehe… it feels good. Feel the power.

“I’m engaged to Sean?” Cross my arms over my chest and stare at the two girls as they fidget some more.

“Well, um… that’s what I heard from everyone else.” The second girl says.

“I thought you said you heard me yourself?” And I raise my eyebrows at her, for an added affect, increasing their fidgeting.

“Well… um… not… I-um…”

And I just walk away from them and out into the quad, carrying my nifty little water bottle with me, plopping down at my spot. I turn to Maria, with her cheese puffs, and she looks at me.

“I heard.” She smiles a sympathetic smile at me and scoots over next to me, leans my head on her shoulder and strokes my hair. “Tell me all about it.”

I glance at Michael. He’s just sitting there, sketchbook in hand. Apparently, he’s not interested.

And I sigh, giving in. “Sean apologized to me this morning. He dropped down on his knees, asking for forgiveness. But everyone else thought he was proposing to me. And now, the school thinks I’m engaged to Sean.”

“So I heard.” She continues to stroke my hair.

“Why did this happen to me?” Am I whining? Yes, I’m whining.

“And you don’t like the attention, do you?” She asks me in that calming, grandma kind of tone.

I shake my head and pout. “No.”

“All right, then. Don’t worry, Liz. I’ll fix everything.” I lift my head from her shoulder, giving her a questioning glance as she scoots away from me, and closer to the hippie-haired boy.

“Hey, Michael.” He lifts his head up in time to see Maria pin his shoulder back to the tree before she glues her mouth to his. And I stare on, like everyone else now noticing in the quad, with my mouth open. What the freaking heck is she doing? She finally pulls away and Michael has the same expression on his face as I do, while Maria is smiling smugly. And people are staring at us.

“That was phase one. Two more to go.” And she stands up and walks away.

And I look at Michael whose trying to recompose himself, picking up his sketchbook again. “Apparently, unlike you, she likes the attention.”

And we both stare after her, wondering what she’s going to do next. My eyes follow her as she walks towards the center of the quad, stopping at the ‘tree of knowledge’ and staring down at Max and the bimbo brigade.

And I have to hand it to Maria. Me and Michael don’t even have to lean forward to hear her. She says it loud enough for the entire quad to hear her. “You,” she points her finger at Max, “are one arrogant, self-centered bastard.”

And if that didn’t do it enough, she turns to Pam and the Pam-ettes. “And you. I feel embarrassed, ashamed, and disgraced to have ever been one of you, you stuck-up, slutty, incompetent dimwits.” And as icing on the cake, Maria actually leans forward and slaps Pam, right across the face, before walking back towards us, sitting down, and going back to her cheese puffs.

Michael goes back to his sketchpad and I pick back up my nifty little water bottle and take a sip, before I recap it and put it back down. I look over at Michael. He puts his sketchpad down and we both stare at Maria. She looks up, a slow smile creeping up on her face. “That felt good.”

And me and Michael just shake our head, smiling. This day has been one hell of a day so far, but something tells me that it wasn’t over yet, not by a long shot…


--------------


Aside from Maria’s stunt, or shall I say stunts, the rest of the school day was starting to seem very uneventful. In chemistry, we had yet another lab to do. Today we get to make aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid. Yay! Can you feel my excitement? I’m excited.

I gather my things and head to Max’s lab table. Does he mind? Nope. He’s even got the space cleared for me, waiting and ready. And as I set my things up, it seems kind of… comforting, me and Max, working together like this.

“So… Sean, huh?” He asks, breaking the silence, but he isn’t looking at me. Nope. He’s staring at and setting up the Bunsen burner, checking the gas, tubing and all.

And I smile. “Yeah. We’re getting married. Jealous?”

“Profoundly.” He repeatedly works the striker until the gas catches it, lighting the fire ablaze, unruly and erratic, until he adjusts it, calming and fixing it.

And that’s the end of our conversation. We didn’t say any more after that. We simply worked on our lab. Sure, I want to ask him what he thought of Maria’s little stunt, what he was doing sitting with Pam Troy and her dronies, whether or not we will be sharing any more kisses, and whether he would elaborate on that ‘profoundly’, but I don’t. I wouldn’t want to interrupt the comforting silence of the situation, or at least that’s my excuse. I’m not a coward. I’m not.

And all that time that I spent staring at the bright blue flame and talking to myself, the bell had rung, and everyone was already filing out of the classroom, leaving me rushing to put up all of my lab equipment and rushing out the door.

And while I’m rushing through the hallway, I notice one thing, everyone is staring at me, still. Well, you’d think what Maria did was enough to get the school uninterested in me. But no, freaking small towns and their nosy inhabitants.

“Nice fashion trend.” Someone shoulders me. I turn back and see Pam and her two sheep walking away laughing. But I choose to ignore them. That’s right, I’m not going to lower myself to their level. Nope. I’m going to keep walking, straight to class, like I always do.

And I manage to make it into the door just before the bell rings, not that Coach Thompson would have cared, after all, it was just a lame health class. But, as I walk in, everyone continues to turn and stare at me. And I just sit down. I don’t care anymore. If they don’t have anything better to do than look, let them look.

The freshman sitting in front of me turns in her chair and glances back at me quickly and then turns back around, as if I didn’t notice. But, again, I choose to ignore it. By tomorrow, everything will go back to normal. The girl turns her head back and takes a short glance at me again. And I am going to ignore it. Today is just a test of my nerves. That’s all. God’s seeing how much I can take before I explode. And the girl turns in her seat again.

“What?” My voice comes out agitated and annoyed. And I think I’m making her fidget… hehe… I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

“It’s just… um… is that… are those your glasses?” She points to the top of my head and I freeze. Oh God, no. This can’t be happening. Slowly reach up to the top of my head and pull them off, the yucky brown, large, bug-eyed looking safety goggles I had on during chemistry. And apparently the ones that I forgot to take off, as well. Great, just freaking great. Groan.

And I stand up, head lowered and walk to the front of the classroom. “Coach Thompson?”

“Yeah?” He looks up from his attendance card.

“Can I go return these to my chemistry class? I forgot to give them back.” I finally look up at him and he’s looking at me strangely.

“When did you have chemistry?” He hands the attendance card to one of the students to put outside the door.

I seem to have gone back to talking softly and ducking my head again. “Last period.”

He kind of raises an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you give them back then?”

And I sigh. “I forgot to take them off.”

And he looks at me, unbelievingly. “How can you forget that you have safety goggles on?”

And I sigh again. “They were on top of my head.” I point to the top of my head for emphasis.

“You mean to tell me that you wore those out in the hallway?” He’s trying to suppress a smile, but I see his lips curving at my misfortune.

Sigh and nod my head. “Yes.”

And he chuckles at me. Hell, I don’t blame him. If I hadn’t been staring at Ma- the blue flame the whole time in class, I would have remembered to take the goggles off.

And once his laughter dies, he finally answers me. “Yeah, go ahead. The class is going to the auditorium though. So meet us in there.”

I nod my head and go to gather my things to go back to the chemistry room.

“Auditorium?” the perky voice of one of the wannabe teeny-boppers in the room speaks up. “What are we doing there?”

“We’ve got a speaker from the ‘Aim For Success’ program to come talk to you today.” I heard Coach Thompson explain before I exit the room and walk back to return the goggles.

Stupid goggles, I curse them. You are the reason why Primpy-Pam got a pass at me. Tisk-tisk, now I’ll just have to get her back at it. I go over to Coach Schierling’s room only to find it dark and empty. It must be his conference period. I’ll just have to give it back to him another time then.

Now, to the auditorium for this stupid speaker. Should I go, or shouldn’t I? What the hell. Where else could I go? I seriously don’t feel like walking home today. Too lazy. I know, I feel the energy, but it’s not time yet. There’s still a whole day ahead for me.

So once I get to the auditorium doors, I hesitate. I’ve been to this Aim For Success presentation before in middle school. If you didn’t know, it’s a presentation about sex, STDs, and making the right choices in life. Topics that I’m not exactly comfortable with. And the last time that I attended, I was sacrificed to be a volunteer. I swear, that guy that does the presentation had something against me, making me stand in front of hundreds of people, playing his stupid games and being a stupid guinea pig. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.

Nevertheless, I find myself pulling the doors open and stepping in. And once the door closes and my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see him, standing up there, on the stage, wearing the same name on his nametag as before. It’s him, Eddie.

And some people in the audience have their hands raised and he’s scanning the crowd, which, like last time, means he’s looking for a volunteer. And me? I hightail it out of there, jerking at the door with all my strength.

“You,” and I already know where he’s pointing to without having to turn around and look at him. “Brown hair, trying to ditch this presentation. Come on up here.”

I turn around slowly, hoping and praying that someone else is trying to sneak out of the auditorium as well, but I turn to find not only everyone looking at me, but more importantly, Eddie, looking and pointing right at me.

And I groan and mumble as I slowly make my way up the stage. I should have just made a run for it. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I get there and he actually reaches his hand out for me to shake. “Hi. I’m Eddie.”

“I know.” And I glare at him.

He, in turn, smiles. “And you are?”

“Liz.” I remove my hand from his.

“Liz…?” he pushes, questioning.

“Liz.” I state. Don’t let me start preaching about last names.

“Okay, Liz.” He rubs his hands together. “Thank you for volunteering for us this evening.” And I scoff. That’s right, scoff.

He goes on into his introduction about STDs and protected sex and unprotected sex, and I ignore him, scanning the crowd, praying that there isn’t anyone I know out there. And as luck would have it, everyone I know is out there. Maria, Alex, Michael, Tess, Kyle, Sean, Paul, the pompous pom-pom pack, Doug, and most importantly, Max, smirking from his seat in the way back. And I smile and smirk back, that is, until Eddie starts with his first demonstration.

“All right, Liz. We are going to show the girls and boys today, the many options that you have in life with this life forecaster.” He pulls out a large cube and hands it to me.

I look it over. “Dice?”

“But not just any die. A magic die. One that can predict your future.” He winks at me.

And I look at the giant die again. “Nifty.”

“All right, now. If you’ll look at the chart,” he clicks his projector button and another slide shows up on the projector screen, “you’ll see all the different options you have. Each outcome of each roll gives you a different outcome in life. First off, what kind of college do you want to go to, Liz?”

I skim the options. And me? I want to go to USC. That’s right, University of Southern California. Go Trojans. Shall I tell him that? Shall I tell him? Oh, what the heck. “Four-year university.”

“All right, Liz. That means you need a three. Roll that die, and see if you get to go to a four-year university.”

I roll the die and what do I get? I get a one. Great. I get a one. “Aww… it looks like you’re stuck at a community college, Liz. That’s too bad. A smart girl like you would have done well at a four year university.”

And I’m glaring at him again. Screw him.

“Okay, next life altering decision. How many kids do you plan on having, Liz?”

“None.” I think my answer came out fast enough.

“Well, that’s a pity. I’m sure you’d make a nice little mother. But,” he clicks his little projector thingy, “the odds are against you, Liz. In order to come up with no children, you’re going to need to roll a one. Any other number and you’ve got yourself a litter of kids.”

I blow on the big die for luck before I toss it onto the stage. And I come up with… a two.

“Well, look at that, Liz. According to our life forecaster, you are going to be giving birth to one child. Congratulations.” And Eddie actually claps his hands and pats me on the back.

And I glare at him. Damn him. “The evil die lies.”

But he chooses to ignore my comment. “All right, Liz. Another important choice in life is whether or not you get hitched.” He looks at me. “How about it, Liz? Are you planning on tying the knot with that special someone some day?”

And sure enough, my eyes go straight to the back of the auditorium, staring straight into amber pools that can make my knees turn to jell-o. I turn back to Eddie. “No way in hell.”

“Aww… I can just hear the heart of every guy breaking all across America.”

And I roll my eyes at him. Stupid Eddie.

“I love you, Liz.” I hear someone yell from the audience. And frankly, I don’t want to even think about who it could possibly have been to yell that out.

“Well, luck just isn’t on your side,” Eddie continues, “because most people in America do get married as opposed to those who don’t. So that means,” he clicks his little projector button, “that the only way you aren’t going to get married, is if you roll a one. Any other number and you’d better break out the rice and wedding bells, you’re going to be getting hitched.”

And out of all the questions, if I wanted anything, it’s this. Never in hell will I get married. Marriages just don’t work. The number of divorces are now up to half the number of marriages out there. What, with everyone getting bored of each other so quickly and all. There’s the arguments, the fighting, the problems. And frankly, I don’t want any part of it. And if it doesn’t end in divorce, it ends with one of the two, killing the other. Trust me, I know.

So I use my super mind powers and will the die to land on a one. I mean, if the pattern is consistent, it has to land on a one, right. So far, it’s landed on a three, then a two, and one comes next, right? And guess what. It rolls and rolls and rolls, and stops, and facing up was one big dot. A one. A one. I’m just about to jump up and down with joy, except the die shifts and rolls… to a three.

And my face falls.

“Ooo… almost had it there, Liz, but I’m sorry. You’re definitely getting married. We can’t let that kid of yours go without a father, now can we?”

And I’m glaring. Die Eddie, Die.

I turn and scan the crowd again. My eyes lock with his as he sits there, in the way back, smirking at me with a smug look on his face. Damn him…


--------------


So, by the end of the Aim For Success presentation, once we were through with all the preaching on celibacy, safe sex, and all the stupid demonstration games about STDs, as the volunteer, I left for the day with a card that said that I had AIDS, a card that said I had herpes, a card that said I had genital warts, and a card that said I was having a baby boy. Ain’t it grand? Damn Eddie and his stupid presentation and his stupid presentation card games.

Why is it that he always chooses me to be the volunteer? Am I even called that? A volunteer when I didn’t even volunteer myself? I’m more like an unfortunate victim, that’s what I am. So when the presentation was over, I decided to stay back and ask him. “Why is it that you always choose me?”

“Huh?” He looks up at me while still packing his projector things away. “Why do I always choose you for what?”

For what? For what? Don’t tell me he doesn’t know. Or is he just playing stupid? “To be the so-called ‘volunteer’.” And I actually make invisible quotation marks for the word volunteer with my fingers.

And he shrugs his shoulders. “I saw you trying to sneak out and I figured I’d embarrass you a little.”

So he was punishing me. Okay. “What about the time before?”

“What?” He’s done packing away his things.

“I’ve already seen this presentation before in eighth grade. You chose me to be the ‘volunteer’ then too.” Again I made the invisible quotation marks with my fingers. You think he gets it that I wasn’t actually a volunteer?

“Oh, I did?” He scratches his head.

Yeah, you did, buddy.

And he shrugs. “Every presenter needs his lovely assistant and you are the loveliest out there. So I guess that’s why you were picked both times.”

What am I supposed to say to that, other than that I don’t believe him? “Aren’t assistants normally blondes?”

He shakes his head. “Nah. I like brunettes a lot better. I think they make for better little side kicks.” And he winks at me. Winks.

“Are you hitting on me? Because you know you’re not allowed to hit on me, right?” I take a step back, away from him. There’s nothing scarier than hearing a person preach about abstinence for over half an hour and then have them come on to you.

“No.” He shakes his head, rolls his eyes, and sighs, picking up his super-duper suitcase, filled with his tools to teach the world about safe sex, one school at a time. “Well, I’m off. Thank you for helping out with the presentation today. You did a good job.”

“You’re welcome.” And I wave at him as he walks out the auditorium doors. Sigh. Eddie isn’t all that bad, when he’s not telling you about the weird side affects to receiving ailments of the sexual kind.

I hop off the stage and head out of the school. I still have that meeting with Mrs. Deluca to attend to. Not exactly something I’m looking forward to. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs. Deluca. It’s just that I’d rather be at home, sleeping. I know, I know. I’ve had plenty of sleep this weekend. But I just feel like I’m going to be needing it. I don’t know. Call it intuition, if you will. I just… it’s just a feeling.

“Hey, Liz. Wait up.”

I stop in the middle of the hallway, turn to the voice, and see a figure walking towards me. A very muscular and nice looking figure. “Hi Doug.”

He makes it next to me in a few steps and we start walking out to the parking lot together. “I saw you up there.” He’s referring to the presentation in the auditorium. “You looked good.”

And me? I blush as we step outside into the parking lot, and into the hot and bright sunny sun.

“So.” I look over at him and he’s got his hands in his pockets. He’s nervous. “Um… can I give you a ride home?”

“Oh, I’m not going home.” I scan around the parking lot, looking for someone. I wonder if he left yet.

“Oh, well I can give you a ride to wherever it is you’re going.” I’m not looking at Doug, but I bet he still has his hands in his pockets, nervous.

Should I tell him? Should I tell him that I’m looking to get a ride from Max? Should I? “Actually, Doug…”

And I was going to tell him. I really was. That is, until I saw Max’s jeep, of course. Max’s jeep with Max behind the wheel. Max’s jeep with Max behind the wheel, and Pam Troy in the passenger seat. That’s right, Pam ‘I-want-to-sexually-assault-you’ Troy looking smug, sitting in the front seat with him. And I feel funny. What is Max doing with Pam? Or what is Max planning on doing with Pam? Or what is Max planning on letting Pam do to him?

And I still feel funny. Not funny ha-ha. Definitely not funny ha-ha. More of a weird kind of funny. Odd. It’s a weird strange, peculiar pang in my gut. It’s weird. “… that sounds great, Doug.”

“Great. Um… my car’s this way.” Doug starts to walk off and I follow behind him. I mean… Doug is a nice guy, right? He’s loyal, reliable, really cute, doesn’t have a gazillion girls constantly throwing themselves at him. Did I mention he’s loyal? And if I’ve been reading him right, he likes me.

I mean, that’s a definite thing you have to look for in a guy, right? It’s not just that you like him, he has to like you back. And Doug does, unlike a certain smirking layer-boy. But then again, Pam is the complete blonde-haired, blue-eyed, big boobed, all American girl. Who wouldn’t go for her?

I seemed to have fallen a few steps behind Doug, but I look up and find him holding the passenger door open for me. I smile warmly at him and slide into his car. He has a nice car. A really nice car. The kind that you’d expect the captain of the football team and the popular guy that he is to have. Give him another warm smile that he returns. It’s kind of nice. They aren’t as fun as smirks, the smiles. But, hey, I can settle. Right?

“So, where are you heading?” He pulls the car out of the parking lot.

“Um… I’m heading over to Maria’s, but could you take me over to the Crashdown first. I think I want to change. If you don’t mind, of course. I don’t want to be a hassle.” I only added the last comments to be polite. Because that’s the kind of girl that should be around Doug, a polite one. I already know he’ll say yes. He’s a good guy like that.

“No problem, Liz. I was in the mood for an Alien Blast anyway.” He smiles at me again. And yeah. Smiles aren’t all that bad. I decided that, yeah, I could settle. I could get adjusted to smiles instead. And just forget that smirks ever existed.

The car ride to the Crashdown was a quiet one. Well, aside from the music blaring from the speakers. We didn’t really talk. I could tell Doug wanted to say something by the way he kept looking towards me and opening and closing his mouth. But I remained looking out the window, pretending to be in my own little world, which I was.

We walked into the Crashdown and Doug went to sit in a booth while I fixed him an Alien Blast before heading to the back and up to my room. I didn’t want to look at the customers. Nope. Because once I stepped into the diner I heard the sickening flirtatious giggle of pom-pom Pam. And while I went to deliver Doug his drink, I saw the brown haired head and the leather jacket clad back of a certain someone. And I didn’t want to see any more than that. No siree. Don’t want to see him smiling, or worse yet, smirking. Don’t want to see how much he’s enjoying himself… with Pam.

So I’m upstairs changing. I’m not even sure into what. Just the first pair of jeans and t-shirt I came across. Why did I want to go home and change again? Oh yeah. There was a pull pulling me towards here. Some mystical force. And now I know, it was just Pam, trying to rub it in.

I walk back out into the diner and keep my eyes on Doug. He smiles and gets out of his booth, pulling his wallet out of his pocket. I put my hand on his, stopping him. “This one’s on me.”

“No. I’d feel bad not paying. After all, I did drink it.” He smiles at me and puts a five down on the table before sticking his wallet back into his back pocket.

I pick up the five and stick it in his front pocket. “You can just pay for me next time.” And he smiles. Because I just told him that he’ll pay next time. Meaning that there will be a next time. And it makes him feel special.

“Okay. Let’s go.” He motions for me to start heading out the diner, and then opens the door for me, like the gentleman that he is.

“We’re heading for Maria’s?” He asks, starting up the engine of his shiny car and buckling his seat belt.

“Well, Maria’s mom’s office. Do you know where that is?” Does he know where that is? Of course he knows where it is. Everyone knows where it is. This is a small freaking town. Everyone knows where everything is.

“Of course. Is there anywhere else you wanted to stop by first?” He pulls out of the Crashdown parking lot.

“No, just there.” I return to my staring out the window in my own little world thing. And Doug remained silent until we were at Mrs. Deluca’s office. “So, here we are.” He turns off the engine and continues to walk me to the door.

“Thank you, Doug.” I’m about to head in, but he stops me.

“So… uh… Liz.” He runs his hand through his hair, nervously. “I was wondering… um… if you weren’t busy Friday, we could-“

“I work on Fridays.” I interrupted him. I didn’t really want to interrupt him. But I did. I don’t know why.

“Oh, okay.” He has that pouty sad look on his face. “How about Saturday?”

Sigh. “I work all weekend. Sorry, Doug.” I really am sorry. I really do feel bad. I do.

“Well, how about I come visit you during work then? If you don’t mind, of course.”

And I smile at him. Because he just tries so hard. “I’d like that, Doug. And I can join you during my breaks.”

And he’s smiling so wide now. “Okay, um… I-I guess I’ll be going now. Bye, Liz.”

“Bye, Doug.” I semi-wave at him.

And you know what he does? He takes a step forward and puts his arms around me. He hugs me. And what do I do? I stiffen awkwardly and pat him nonchalantly on the back until he pulls away. “Okay… um… bye, Liz.”

And I semi-wave again before opening the door and entering Mrs. Deluca’s office. And guess who I find sitting patiently behind the receptionist’s area.

“So… Doug, huh?”

I sigh before plopping down in a seat. “Yeah. I guess. I don’t know. He’s… he’s a good guy. You know? He’s loyal, dependable, cute, nice.”

“Sure.” She raises her eyebrows at me. “If you want to date a poodle.”

“Maria, he’s not a poodle.” I defend Doug. I mean, I should be defending Doug, right? Since he’s a nice guy and all.

“I’m just saying.” Maria raises her hands up in surrender. “Why lower your standards?”

Wait. Lower my standards? What is she talking about? “Lower my standards?”

“Yeah,” she shrugs. “If you were aiming to get his highness, you might as well stick to it.”

Wait. What? “What? What are you talking about, Maria?”

Maria sighs, apparently frustrated with me. “Mr. High and Mighty himself.”

And when I’m still looking at her confused, she throws her hand up in the air, exasperatedly. “Max!”

Oh… wait… “What about Max?”

“Ugh… God…” she rolls her eyes. “Just… forget it. Forget I ever said a thing.”

Hehe… and I have succeeded in getting Maria to stop talking about it. It’s not like I really just didn’t want to discuss Max. Oh wait, yeah, I didn’t.

“They’ve been waiting for you.” She points into the main door behind the counter. And I’m thinking, ‘they’?

Walk slowly over to the big wooden door and knock before turning the handle slowly while pushing the door forward and stepping in.

“Liz, you’re here.” Mrs. Deluca stands up from behind her desk and then motions to the two seats in front of her. The ones with people sitting in them. “Look whose here to see you, Liz.”

“Liz?” Mrs. Deluca asks. She’s probably feeling a bit uncomfortable, seeing as how I’m just standing there, staring. But then again, what does she expect me to do when she holds a secret surprise meeting to introduce me to two strangers? One of whom scared the begeezies out of me last week.

“Why don’t you come have a seat, Liz?” Mrs. Deluca motions towards a seat that’s stationed at the side of her desk. It’s not too close to the strangers. It’s actually closer to Mrs. Deluca’s chair. She probably knows that I’m not all too fond of creepy strangers. So I edge slowly over to the seat, keeping an eye on the two weird men, just in case they try anything.

And once I’m seated, I turn to look at everyone, and everyone is turned to look at me. The attention is kind of getting to me. It’s weirding me out. Especially the way the creepy guy keeps staring at me, straight in the eyes.

“So, Liz,” Mrs. Deluca begins, “Let me introduce you to everyone. This,” she motions towards the creepy guy, “is Ed Harding, your mother’s cousin. Remember I told you about him?” Oh yes, the creepy guy from the diner is my mother’s cousin. I should have known. I should have made the connection between the two once I saw how insane he was.

Sigh. I nod my head, confirming that I do indeed remember, and Ed decides to take it from there. “We’ve met. It’s good to see you again, Elizabeth.” He stands up from his chair and leans forward, reaching his hand out for me to shake. And I nod, smile, and shake his hand, because it was the polite thing to do.

“And this,” he motions to the person sitting beside him, “is Jesse Ramirez, my attorney.”

“How do you do?” Ramirez reaches out to shake my hand. And I, again, do the polite thing. Nod, smile, and shake his hand back.

“Now, Elizabeth,” Ramirez begins, opening up his briefcase. “I would like you to know that my client would like to give you his condolences on the departing of your mother and the imprisonment of your father. Had he been aware and informed of these events sooner, he would have been present at the trial and the funeral and such, but unfortunately, he was not.”

And me, I sit there and try to understand all that he’s saying. It’s all catching up to me slowly. Wait a minute. Mom had a funeral? Why wasn’t I informed of this?

“He would also like you to know that he is very well interested in taking custody of you. We will begin the paperwork right away. A home on Antarian Avenue is as of…” he glances at his watch for a few seconds, “…now bought and being prepared, in which you will reside in with Mr. Harding. Your name will be corrected as soon as the paperwork is done and completed. Until then, I suggest that you prepare for the responsibilities that will await you upon becoming a Harding. If there is anything that you need to be informed of that comes to my attention, I will contact you. Now,” he turns to Mrs. Deluca, “we will be on our way. We have other business and paperwork to fill out elsewhere. Thank you for your time.” He stands up, shakes Mrs. Deluca’s hand, nods to me, and turns towards the door.

Mr. Harding, on the other hand, stands up from his chair leisurely, as if the world turned on his accord. And he looks at me, frowning before he pulls a small paper sack out from the pocket of his coat. Why he has a coat in this hot and humid New Mexico weather is beyond me. He hands the small sack to me and I accept it. “It’s only a temporary adjustment, but it’ll have to make due… for now.” He turns to Mrs. Deluca and nods his head slightly. “Good day, Mrs. Deluca.” And both men exit the room.

And I remain seated there, still absorbing it all in. The creepy guy from the diner is my mother’s cousin. And my mother’s cousin is interesting in taking custody of me, meaning he wants to own me. The creepy guy wants to own me. And they are going to let him, because he’s the closest family I’ve got left, despite how wacko he is. Well, damn.

“Liz?” Mrs. Deluca is calling to me but I don’t look up at her. I’m still trying to soak everything that just happened in.

They have bought and are preparing a house on Antarian Avenue. The homes on Antarian Avenue aren’t houses. They aren’t houses at all. They are mansions. And I am to reside in one with Mr. Harding. I am going to have to pick all of my things back up and move into a new and different home. A mansion, but still a different and strange home, nonetheless. And I wonder who else I will be forced to live with.

I lift my head up and look at Mrs. Deluca, tilting my head to the side. “Does he have a family?”

Mrs. Deluca’s eyebrows knit together and she shakes her head. “To the best of my knowledge, no. There was no mention of a family of any sort. The only family he has left is you.” Hmmm… that’s good to know.

“So, you met him before?” Mrs. Deluca is smiling uneasily. I think she’s uneasy about springing this on me all of a sudden. As well she should be. But, what the hell. My mother’s death was quite the surprise. As was my father’s imprisonment. Me moving into an orphanage was a shocker. And also my move to the Whitman’s residence. What is one more drastic, hasty, and impulsive change going to do to me? Cause me to have a nervous breakdown? Heh… hah…. Hehe…. Haha… heha…. Hahe….

“Liz, are you okay?” Mrs. Deluca is looking at me, concerned. As well she should be. After all, I’m Liz. And everyone should worry about Liz since Liz is a tad bit… crazy, you know? Hehe… sigh. Ain’t life just grand? Ain’t it?

“Liz, dear…” Mrs. Deluca starts up again with her ‘let’s talk about what just happened’ shit. You’re not a therapist, you’re a freaking child care and custody lady.

“I’ve got to go. Can’t be late for the mall, now can I?” And I just walk right out of her office, without even saying goodbye. Now that’s not polite, is it Lizzie? No, it’s not. But… I could care less right now.

“Maria! Mall! Now!” And I walk out the front door of the office building, hoping Maria’s following, because I’m hell as not going to be going back in there to get her.

“Liz?” Maria’s voice comes from behind me. And it’s a good thing. That means she’s following. And I just stand at her car door, hear her click the lock open, and I get in before we head off to the mall.

Right then, I freeze and grab onto whatever amount of energy I have left. Can’t waste it all on the creepy man, now can we? After all, we still have a while to go, because, like it or not, my day has not yet ended.

Nope. Not by a long shot…


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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 8:32:08 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:18:45 PM
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Chapter Twelve



On the way to the mall, Maria drove in silence, which was a good thing, since I didn’t plan on talking. I just sat there, while she drove on. It was probably about ten or so minutes until I noticed that I was still clutching something in my hands. A paper bag. The paper bag. The one that the creepy guy gave to me. And what’s in the paper sack? I don’t know yet, because I’m still looking at the outside of it, where there’s a small slip of paper stapled to the bag. A receipt. ‘Custom Ordered for Ed Harding’ from Custom Eyes and Eyewear.

Shudder… creepy guy and his eyes. Strange. Open up the sack and pull out a small box. Oh, would you look at that. Contacts. What would I do with contacts? And suddenly, what the creepy guy has said to me starts playing back in my mind.

“The resemblance is so uncanny.”
“But there’s something different.”
“The eyes. It’s the eyes.”
“They’re his eyes, aren’t they?”
“It’s such a pity. Such a waste of perfection.”
“Those damn eyes. It’s such a pity.”
“Perfection. It was in your blood.”
“Blood is blood, I suppose. We’ll just have to make do. You can be fixed.”
“It’s only a temporary adjustment, but it’ll have to make due… for now.”


And I shudder again. It’s all finally coming to me and I’m understanding all that he’s been saying to me all this time. Heh… it’s my eyes. It’s because they are his eyes, father’s eyes, not her eyes. And it always did upset her. I inherited my mother’s straight as a board dark hair and petite figure, but not her eyes. And not her sense of superiority. Only a full-blooded Harding would have that.

I turn the box to the side and look at the color sample. And yup, sure enough, it’s mother’s eye color. It’s no wonder he had to get these contacts custom made. No one has eyes quite like mom’s. They are a unique shade of blue mixed with slivers of silver, almost metallic like. They were such a deep blue when she was sad and they were almost completely silver bright when she was happy. Her eyes reflected her emotions like none I’ve ever seen before. No one’s eyes were quite like mom’s. But then, no one’s attitude was quite like mom’s either.

Nope. Mom was one of a kind. The custom made contacts just proved that fact even more. Yup. There will never ever be anyone like her ever again. Never… She used to always say things like that. That she was special. That I was special too. But I never listened to her, did I? I never listened. That’s probably why I never attended a funeral. They probably told me, I just wasn’t listening. What kind of daughter does that make me? What kind of daughter never listens to her mother? What kind of daughter doesn’t even go to her mother’s funeral? A fucked up one, that’s what.

“Liz?” Maria’s calling me softly, and it’s the first time I’ve noticed that the car has stopped, parked, and we are at the mall.

“Sorry.” I offer her an apologetic smile, unbuckle my seatbelt and get out of the car.

“Are you okay?” She asks me, while locking arms with me while we walk out of the parking lot and into the mall. Maybe I should tell her that I’m not all too fond of people touching me and that she’s invading my personal space. But would that really get Maria to get off of me? Highly doubt it.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She’s stopped right outside the mall entrance.

Oh, yeah, I want to talk about it. Let’s spill my guts now and tell her what a horrible and terrible child I am. What stress and anxiety I am going through with everyone jerking my life around this way and that. And how much I just want the hurting to go away. Hurting? Oh, yeah. Hurting. It’s not physical. Oh no. Physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain. Scrapes and bruises heal naturally. But pain on the inside cuts to the core and can only heal if you let them heal, if you will them to heal, if you force it to heal. And I just don’t have the energy.

“Liz?” Maria’s looking at me, obviously concerned.

But I choose to ignore her and I walk through the doors. “Let’s go shopping.”

We step into the alternate dimension that is knows as the mall, where women spend hours trying on items without purchasing them, and credit cards are used with abandon. As me and Maria set foot into the first of the many stores in which we will venture into within the next few hours.

So… an hour and twelve minutes, ten stores, five shopping bags, and one hundred dollars and ninety-three cents later, she finally lets me have a break as we stop by the food court for a drink.

“See? Isn’t this fun?” She asks in a very perky voice once we’ve got our fruit smoothies and are seated down at a table. If you didn’t know, shopping gets Maria very… bubbly.

“Oh, yea. Loads of fun.” I give her a smile and I wonder if I sound as sarcastic to her as I do to myself.

“Doesn’t shopping help get your mind off of things and make you feel… relaxed?” She’s going on while slurping down her smoothie at the same time.

“Oh, yea. Peachy keen.” Let’s forget that while Maria was busy looking from rack to rack of clothes for both her and me, I was standing there, dead-like and slowly decaying on the inside from all the hurt. Emotional pain sucks ass.

“Oh, look.” She jumps up, grabbing me with her and she pulls us down the escalator, despite the fact that I had even yet to drink my smoothie. I haven’t even put the straw into the top of it yet. And still, my break from shopping is over and we are moving onto yet another store. But at least there are breaks from shopping. There aren’t, however, breaks from life. No matter how badly you wanted them. But aren’t those what vacations are for? When was my last vacation? Camping trip, when I was ten. Six years ago. Would you look at that?

“See? I knew we missed a store.” She exclaims before she enters. And I freeze outside the store, looking at the provocative window displays, and then up at the nice, cursive-y store name at the top. Victoria’s Secret. And there is no way I am going in there.

“Come on, Liz.” Maria comes back out and, grabs my hand.

“No, Maria. I don’t feel comfortable…”

But Maria enters the store again, pulling me in behind her. “What’s not to feel comfortable about? You are past wearing training bra, right?”

And I nod my head slowly. Those were some of the most embarrassing times of my life.

“Okay, then. Ooo… look at these.” And I stand there helplessly as she browses through the many items on the table. Glance around the room and smile sympathetic smiles at all the many, many guys, forced to follow their significant others around while they rummage through tables filled with thongs, bras, panties, and all other kinds of silky and lacy things to choose from. And I feel as uncomfortable as the guys do. I thought girls that were… undeveloped in the upper area like I was, wasn’t allowed in stores like these.

“Liz, what size bra do you wear?” Maria’s looked up from the table and is looking at me.

And I am suddenly very afraid. “What for?”

“I want to see if you fit this.” She holds up a lacy pink bra.

And I’m thinking me? Pink lacy bra? Nuh uh. “What for?”

“Oh, come on, Liz. It’s something for you to make you feel sexy in.” She winks and raises her eyebrows suggestively.

Oh, yes. I’m having an emotional breakdown here and, of course, the first thing I want is to sate my overpowering need to feel sexy.

“What size are you?” She starts again, rummaging through the stack of bras.

Oh, the hell. “I don’t know.”

She straightens up again. “What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know?”

Maybe because I never went bra shopping before. I always just wore whatever my mom bought for me. Never really checked and never really cared. Yup. That was what mom was for. Notice how I said ‘was’? “I just don’t, okay?”

“Okay, hold on.” And you know what she does? She circles around me, staring at my boobs. And me, I cross my arms over my chest, feeling oh-so violated. But she continues to circle around me like a vulture of some sort. And then, she goes through the back of my shirt.

“Maria!”

“Just hold still for a second.” But I pull away from her. Forcing her to lose her grip on the back of my bra, and causing it to snap back, coming in contact with my skin.

“Oww!!” I run my hand over my back. “That hurt.”

“I told you to hold still.” And she goes to check the size on my bra again but with no trouble from me this time. I wasn’t going to go through that again.

“See? It wasn’t that bad, was it?” And she goes through the stack on the table, finds the right size and hands it to me. “I want you to go try this on.”

And she calls forth a salesperson, who shows me to a dressing room, or at least, shows me where to wait for a dressing room. “You can try that on in here once this person is through.” And she smiles politely before walking away. But not before turning back around. “Oh, and if you need anything else, remember, my name’s Laurie.” She obviously wants her sales commission. Do they get sales commission here?

And I stand there a bit before I rub my back again. The pain’s gone away. Like I said, physical pain heals naturally. Emotional pain does not. And I suddenly realize, that while I was focusing on all that physical pain, I completely forgot about all that emotional pain. Hey… I may be on to something.

“Liz.” Comes a surprised, shocked, gasp. I look up and I’m quite shocked and surprised as well.

“Max. What are you doing here?” What is he doing here? I highly doubt any guy would willingly spend time in this store. Unless he gets his kicks from staring and going through all the tables and tables of under garments. I mean, some guys do like the silkiness of girls’... ugh… bad thought, bad thought.

“I… um…” he clears his throat before he starts smirking. “Nice. I can… totally… see you in that.” I can see his eyes, hell his whole head, go up and down my body. And it makes me shiver, turning beet red before I hide the pink lacy thing behind my back and smile, embarrassed.

“You know, if you need assistance putting it on or anything, I’d be more than happy to help.” And for added affect, he winks at me. That’s right, winks.

And me? I roll my eyes at him. “No thank you, Max. I think I can put it on all by myself.”

“But the question is,” he steps closer to me, “do you want to put it on all by yourself?” And the smirk. Oh God, the smirk. It draws me in. There’s something about him that just… attracts me to him. It’s his eyes. They are so… captivating. So much that I barely even notice that I actually am leaning in closer to him. Either that, or he’s leaning in closer to me, so close that I actually think we are going to maybe kiss again. I mean, it would be our fourth kiss and our third kiss, kiss, as in, on the lips, spit-swapping kiss. Yes, I am counting them. That is, until an annoying voice interrupts us.

“Max.”

Hold the phone. I pull away and Max is kind of frozen, not turning around to the voice who called him. And me? I’m pretty sure I know to whom the voice belongs. But I try to look past Max, just to confirm my presumption, that is, if Max would get out of my way. Each time I try to look over him, he moves into my view.

I put my hand on his chest to stop him and look towards the now open dressing room door. And fuck a duck. I was right. Leaning against the doorframe was Pam Troy, standing oddly comfortable in a pink lacy bra for the world to see.

“Why, look. If it isn’t little Lizzie.” She saunters out of the dressing room, and I think the eyes of every guy in the room suddenly land on her boobs. “I didn’t know they had kid sizes here.” She points at the bra in my hand.

I just shrug. “You’d be surprised, Pam, at all the things that you didn’t know.”

But she chooses to ignore my comment while she turns to Max. “Maxie, baby, what do you think about this one?” And to my horror, she sticks her chest out, pointing her melons right at Max.

And me? I chuckle, because Max covers his eyes with his hand. “I-I think… you should go… back to the dressing room.” He points blindly to the changing room and accidentally hits her upside the head. I don’t think he noticed though. That, or he didn’t care.

Pam pouts and saunters back, not before throwing a glare in my direction though. While me, I’m glaring at Max.

Cross my arms over my chest. “So… Pam, huh?”

“Liz, it’s not-”

“Oh, Max.” That annoying voice interrupts us again. And both of our heads snap turning towards her. I don’t know what Max was thinking, but me, I wanted to slap her. And the girl has the nerve to continue. “Max, could you please undo me?”

And I… I just… I get mad. But do I blow up at Pam? No. Hell no. I blow up at Max. “Yes, Max. Why don’t you go on over there and undo her. And why don’t you go ahead and do her too. And while you’re at it, you can measure her bra size with your hands. I know she’ll highly appreciate it.” And I turn on my heel and leave. I can’t take this. I really just… I can’t handle this. My emotions are just too… out of whack and I… I just… can’t cry, not now… I…

I have to find Maria. I go to the table where she said she’d wait for me, and she’s not there. Well, great. Look around the store and I can’t see her blonde haired head anywhere. Great. Just fucking great. It’s like Batman without the Batmobile to get away in before all the evil super-villains come and get him. And sure enough, glance back and Max is coming out of the dressing area, looking for me with a shirtless Pam not far behind.

And me? I hightail it out of there to go hunt around the vast, vast mall area in search of Maria, all by my lonesome, in the large crowds of people, that is, until someone grabs my arm and pulls me aside.

My first thought was that it was Maria, but when I looked back, it wasn’t Maria. This arm was way too muscular to be Maria.

“Liz. I didn’t know you were going to be here.” And he’s smiling at me, dimples and all.

But me, I just… I can’t deal with him right now. But you just… you can’t be mean to him. “Doug. Hi.”

“You should have told me you were going to the mall. I would have gone with you.” He smiles with dimples again before he grabs my hand and pulls me into a more clear area, out of people’s way. “Who are you here with?”

Who was I here with again? Who was it that I was looking for? Who was it that left me? “Maria.”

“Oh.” Again, he smiles. “I saw her just a while ago. She was with Michael.”

Wait… what? With Michael? “What?”

“Yeah. I just saw her.” He’s nodding his head and still smile. And the smiles are pissing me off. Especially since I’m not in the mood for smiles, nor smirks for that matter. “Really, I did.”

“Great. Just fucking great.” I was ditched for a guy. Why is it that I was ditched for a guy? And Michael, of all guys. Fucking hippie-haired freak. My life… my life just sucks. It sucks.

And Doug looks a bit uneasy, what with me saying the F-word and all. “You know, if you need a ride home or anything…”

And suddenly, I see Max coming towards us, a few feet away. “Quick, Doug.” I pull him towards me so that I’m hiding behind him, blocked from Max’s view.

“What? What is it, Liz?” I’m pretty sure Doug doesn’t know what’s going on.

“Nothing…” I shake my head. “It was just-”

“So, now I’m nothing?” And the person I was just avoiding is now standing right next to me. Sigh. Freaking emotions, running rampant, unruly and erratic, like a flame. Fuck.

And it’s still all three of us, standing there, together. It’s quite awkward. I can only guess what’s going on in either of their heads. You can feel some kind of tension rolling off of both of them. And I seem to be the referee. And which of the two do I want to call out?

Was it really that hard of a choice? “What do you want, Max?”

“To talk.” He says to me and then he turns his head to Doug. “Leave.”

Is he serious? How is it that Max seems to think he holds so much power, ordering people around?

But then, it shocks and surprises me when Doug turns to look at me. “I’ll call you.” Before he turns to walk away.

And I turn to look at Max, but he isn’t looking at me. Nope. He’s looking at Doug, or rather, glaring at the back of Doug’s head, scoffing. “Call you? Like hell he will.” Before he turns back to me.

And me? I turn and walk away. I’m ditching Max. Just like how he ditched me… for Pam. Just like how everyone ditched me. Mom. Dad. Maria. Even Bunny, my poor, poor pet turtle. Everyone.

And after a few steps, he’s there, walking beside me. And I just… I can’t take this. “I’m not listening to whatever you have to say, Max.”

And I don’t turn to look at him, but I bet he’s shaking his head. “I’m not saying anything. I’m just walking. You’re looking for Maria, right?”

Is that who I’m looking for again? Really? I could have sworn I was just roaming around the freaking mall, having pity-parties and crying my eyes out. While Max, or course, is running around with the slut-princess herself. Do I really want to be around him right now? No. “I don’t need your help finding her. Why don’t you just go back to fucking Pam?”

And it’s a while before I hear him speak again, though he’s still following me. “That was a low blow, Liz. But I’m not going to say anything because I probably deserved that.”

Nod my head, violently. “Damn straight. I’m surprised Poodle Pam isn’t following you around like the good little bitch that she is.”

And I hear a sigh coming from Max, but I don’t turn to look at him. I keep my head looking straight as my feet walk quickly away. “She probably deserves to hear that too. Have it said to her face even, but the security guard caught her on the way out the store, asking her to remove the store merchandise before she left the premises.”

And I come to a halt. And Max stops too, once noticing that I was no longer walking. And I look him dead in the eye, lifting an eyebrow. “What? And she didn’t take the bra off right then and there?”

And he shrugs, very nonchalantly. “I wouldn’t know. My attention was focused elsewhere.”

And I want to come up with a good come-back. I do. I really do. But I’m just so tired and drained. I can’t take this. And my voice suddenly looses the angry edge that it had before. It just takes up too much energy to be angry. But I still manage to clench my teeth, narrow my eyes, and cross my arms over my chest, having the pretense of being overly enraged. “Why are you following me around? Unlike Pam, I’m not an easy fuck.”

And he’s wiggling his eyebrows. “And don’t I know it.”

And he’s not taking me seriously. The bastard is not taking me seriously. I’m having an emotional crisis and he’s not taking me seriously. So what do I do? I turn on my heel and leave.

But with short legs like mine, it’s not long before he catches up to me. “I’m here because I care.”

And I have to stop again, look him in the face, and laugh. “Hah… that’s a classic.” And I have to start walking again. I have to be active. Because if I stand still, I’ll break down. And I can’t, not here, not now, and not in front of him.

“Look, you’re angry and something tells me it has to do with more than just seeing me with Pam.” His voice has lost its laugh to it. I guess he’s taking me seriously now. The bastard. I wonder if he’s all serious around Pam, or even worse, if he’s all playful.

So I stop again, looking at him. “Why, on earth, were you with Pam, anyway?”

He sighs and it looks like he’s struggling with something. “I… I can’t tell you.” And I, once again, bolt. But, again, it doesn’t take him long to catch back up with me. “Just know that it’s not where I want to be.”

Well, he didn’t look all too miserable. “Oh, really? You could have fooled me.”

And he… he actually has the nerve to get angry at me. “Well, I didn’t think you’d notice, seeing as how you’ve been devoting so much time on Shallow.”

And you know what? I’m glad he’s mad. I’m glad. Why? I have no fucking idea. So I stop again and correct him. “Shellow. And don’t even start bringing him into this.”

“Why not?” His amber eyes turn fiery as they narrow in on me. “You brought up Pam.”

“You know what? Fine. Screw this. I’ve been through enough shit, okay? I don’t need this!” And I get to storm off, yet again. Because I don’t have to put up with this shit. From my mom, my dad, even from Bunny, it was fine because they were family. But not from him. Hell no. I’m not letting him get to me. I can’t let him get to me. I’m already broken.

But he catches up with me again. “Liz…” His voice is soft and concerned-like. And it gets me even more upset. Why? I don’t know.

“Fuck off, Evans!” And I start walking faster. And as predicted, he adjusts his pace to match mine.

God, why won’t he just go away and leave me to my lonesome self? And I have no more energy left. Nothing left of me. They took it all. So my voice is left frail and puny, just like me. “Stop following me.”

And oddly enough, his voice somewhat reflects mine… in sadness. “I’m not following you.”

And I make a sharp turn while he keeps walking straight. A few seconds later, he’s beside me again. And I smile a sad pathetic smile. “Not following me, huh?”

“You know, you walk pretty fast for a short person.” He’s trying to joke. He’s trying to make me laugh. Because he apparently thinks I need to laugh. But doesn’t he get that I’m not in a joking mood? Or maybe that’s what I need, to forget about all this shit and just move on. No. What would Max know? Max doesn’t know jack shit. What would he know what’s good for me while he’s off fucking Pam.

And my voice gains its edge again. “Why don’t you stop following me then?”

But his voice remains calm and even. God, he makes me sick. “Because you’re angry. And it’s better that you let the anger out on me than bottle it away like I know you will.”

And I stop sharply and look at him. “Oh yeah? And how the hell do you know that, Max?”

And the bastard smiles. “Because I know you.”

And I make sure to say each word slowly so that it will get through his conceited thick-skinned head. “Like hell you do. You don’t know shit about me.”

“I would if you’d tell me.” And how he manages to keep his voice cool when I am blowing up at him is beyond me. And it seems to aggravate me more.

“Well, it’s not for you to know.”

And that did it. It broke down his calmness. “God, with how you’re acting. It’s no wonder Maria up and left.”

Silence.

That’s what he got from me, because that did it for me too. It broke down my anger. Because there was no more energy for anger. There was no more energy for anything. I can’t be angry with him. Because he was right. Maria left me. Dad left me. Mom left me. Even Bunny left me. Why? Because I am a horrible, horrible person. So much that everyone leaves me. They always leave me.

“Liz?” He’s not mad anymore either. Maybe because he can see that I’m broken. Because all my life I’ve been living and surviving in denial. It’s the only way I’ve made it through the last few weeks, by building up my walls of denial, keeping out all of the bad things and not listening to what I don’t want to hear. But now there’s too much. There’s just too much. And the walls are all crashing down on me. And I can’t take it.

“Liz?”

My mom is gone. My dad is rotting away in jail. My life had been swished this way and that and it’s about to take yet another turn. Everything I have is gone.

“Liz? Talk to me.”

“Fuck off, Evans…” And my voice is as weak and frail as I am.

And arms come around me. But I can’t feel them. No. I can’t feel anymore. I’m detached from my body, and sinking deep within my mind, where everything is hunky-dory.

“God, Liz. I-I didn’t mean it. I-I’m sorry. It’s okay, Liz. I’m sorry. It’s okay.” And I can still hear him, but only vaguely. I’m sinking quick. God, I’m so tired. Why am I so tired? I’m just so exhausted. And I can’t hold it back anymore. I can’t even stand anymore. But I don’t fall, no. Because arms are holding me up. But they will leave too, just like how everyone leaves me. And I’ll fall…

And I can’t hold it back anymore. The tears fall. “Why do they always do this to me?”

“Do what to you?” I can hear him. But I can’t feel him. I can’t feel anymore. And I can’t see him. Because my eyes are blurred over with tears, and I can’t make anything out.

And it doesn’t matter anymore. Because everyone leaves me. Everyone hurts me. “They hurt me.”

And I lose my grip on the world. The grounding is out from under me. And few seconds later, I come to the surface, and I’m sitting on a bench, leaning against the wall, in an alley in the mall, with Max hovering closely over me. “Who hurts you?”

Who, Max? Who hurts me? Who doesn’t hurt me, Max? No one. Who hurts me? “Everyone.” More tears fall.

And I see his hand come up and wipe them away, but I can’t feel it. I can’t feel. “Tell me. And I’ll take care of it, Liz.”

No, Max. It’s not that simple. Nothing’s ever simple. Bone-cutting emotional pain just doesn’t go away with the snap of a finger. “There’s nothing you can do. You can’t stop the pain.”

But I don’t think he thinks the way I do. No, not Max. Max thinks he’s God. Max thinks he can do anything. Part the Red Sea even. “I can stop anything.”

And I really… I wished he could. But he can’t. “Not this.” And more tears fall. And I can’t even sit up on my own anymore. I’m too tired. I see my body go limp, but I never hit the bench or the floor. I hit his shoulder when he pulls me into his arms. And I wish I could feel, but I can’t. Because inside, I’m busy, building back up my wall, brick by brick.

“Just tell me, Liz. Tell me what’s wrong. Who is hurting you? Is-Is it Sean? Is it Doug?”

“No.” My voice is so weak. Can he tell that my voice is weak? That I’m weak? I think he can.

“Liz…”

He’s so warm with his arms around me. It makes me aware of exactly how cold I feel with his warmth radiating off of him and absorbing through my skin. And it’s as though I’m… pulling energy from him. But it’s not enough. Max can’t help me. I can’t let him. Because, in the end, he’ll just leave me. Just like everyone else. And I can’t rely on him. Because I’ll get attached, and he’ll leave me. And it will hurt, more than it hurts right now. And right now… “It hurts.”

“What?” He’s holding me away from him. But I don’t want him to hold me away from him. I want to be in his arms. Pull warmth from him. “Where?”

Everywhere, Max. Everywhere. But it’s not physical pain. No. It’s not on the outside. “You can’t see it. It’s on the inside.”

“What happened?” He pulls me back into his arms and I start absorbing his warmth in. Can I tell him? Should I? Can I rely on Max? Will he leave me? Should I… could I risk it? The first step to recovery is acceptance, right? Recognizing your problem, like in AA meetings. Hi, I’m Liz and I’m a Denial Game-a-holic?

“Liz?”

I look up and I… his eyes. They pull me in. They are so… they’re sad. He’s sad for me. Worried and concerned. His emotions are splayed out through his eyes. And he’s worried… for me. Mom’s eyes were never worried for me. Not once did they show that she was sad for me. But Max’s… maybe… maybe. If I let him help me, will he end up leaving me? Can I risk it? Maybe…

“T-Today… I had… a meeting… with Mrs. Deluca… and-God, even before today… my mom… my dad… and…”

“Max, there you are. Well, what do we have here?” I don’t turn to her. I can’t turn to her. I refuse to look at her, to let her see my tears. So I stare straight, not at Max, past Max. I can’t even look at Max right now. He’s probably staring at Pam, anyway. At her boobs. “Is little Lizzie having a nervous breakdown? Did Sean call the engagement off? Is that it? Or did you finally look in the mirror and see that wearing safety goggles-”

“Pam-” Max interrupts her.

But, I-I can’t take this. I can’t take this. Not now. Not now. Not from her. So I jump up and run. Tears in my eyes and I can’t see, but I just run. It didn’t matter that people were staring at me. It didn’t matter that I was knocking over others who didn’t see me on my way to the closest exit of the mall. Nothing mattered anymore. I just… needed to get out of here. I need to be alone.

And the quiet darkness of the outside in the parking lot is my bliss, my heaven. The silence is my safe haven, where I can let myself go back to building, one layer at a time. It’s rhythmic. Cement, brick, cement, brick.

“Liz?”

Fucking great. No. Not now. But he still comes.

“Hey.” His voice is smooth and friendly, like the gentleman that he is. “Maria left, she couldn’t find you. I told her I’d give you a ride home. Are you… are you okay, Liz?”

No, Doug. I’m not. So leave me the hell alone. “I’m fine.”

“Come on. I’ll take you home.” And I see him drape his arm over my shoulder, pulling me to him. But there’s no warmth. Why isn’t there any warmth?

“Liz!”

“Fuck.” Just what I need, another run in between the two of them. And pom-pom Pam is probably following shortly behind too. And I want Doug to just keep walking and not turn around. But Doug doesn’t. Doug turns around, with his arm still around me.

“Look, Max. She’s had a rough day. And I’m going to take her home. So why don’t you just… leave her alone?”

And I want to scoff, because that’s all I’ve been asking of Max to do, and if I couldn’t get him to leave, what makes Doug think he can?

“Why don’t you just fuck off, Shallow.” And I don’t want to look up at Max, because I know he’s mad.

But Doug, being the good little boy that he is, doesn’t blow up at Max, no. He talks calmly, although his grip on my shoulders tightens. “Look, Liz has obviously been through a lot-”

“What the hell would you know?” Max explodes again before I can sense his eyes on me, his voice softer. “Come on, Liz. I’ll take you home.”

And Doug pushes me to stand behind him. “What if she doesn’t want to go home with you? After all, it’s kind of chilly out, I don’t think that rusty jeep of yours is all too suitable for her to ride in.”

And I feel the tension coming off in waves, both fighting for the alpha male title. Doug barking at Max, and Max biting back.

“And your car won’t be suitable either, would it, if its tires suddenly blew up?”

And me? I just… I can’t take any more of this. And I just walk away. There is just too much testosterone for me too handle. They’ll probably still be biting at one another for another good half an hour before either of them notice that I’m missing. And I’ll be long gone by then.

I wrap my arms around myself. It’s oddly chilly out tonight. Not that I care. I’m already numb, what’s a drop in the temperature going to do to me? Kill me? Hah… I wish.

Clench my fists.

I mean, there’s only so much you can take in life before you lose it. Father used to say just that to mother. ‘Anna, there’s only so much a man can take of this before he loses it’. And dad lost it, didn’t he? He sure did. Now look where he is. Violence never solves anything.

Clench fists.

And mom. It wasn’t her fault. It was mine. What mom wouldn’t want to get away when she has a daughter who wouldn’t listen to her, ever? I mean, moms and daughters are supposed to have this connection, right? This bond that links them together? I didn’t link with mom like I was supposed to. I ignored her. She may not have been the best mom, but she was still my mom. But now she’s gone.

Unclench and clench fists.

And Bunny, my first pet. It was never Bunny’s fault. It was mine. I confused him. He was just a good little turtle, never bit anyone or did anything wrong. But I confused him. I told him he was a bunny when he was a turtle. He was a turtle. And I went on the camping trip, and I left him in his tub outside in the back yard, and it rained, and when I came back, Bunny was upside down in the tub filled with water… dead. And it was my fault. All because I went on a vacation, my last vacation.

Clench fists.

And my nails are digging deep into my palms, and it feels good. No, I’m not crazy. There’s a fine line between sane and insane and I may be flirting with it, but I haven’t jumped that bridge yet. Physical pain heals naturally. But emotional pain lingers in the mind. And if the mind is busy focusing on the physical pain, it forgets all about the emotional pain. And the hurting eases, because I can take the physical pain. It’s the emotional pain that I can’t handle.

So I walk the rest of the way to the Crashdown, to my room, clenching and tightening my fists, and straight into the bathroom, turning on the sink water and running my hands under it. The water running down the drain red. Red from my nails and red from my skin. But do I care? No. I just smile. The cuts begin to sting, but I don’t care. Physical pain heals naturally. Like the time I was five, when my dad first taught me how to ride a bike. I begged and begged for him to let me ride on my own, but he told me I wasn’t ready. And he was right. Once he let me go, not a few seconds later, I fell and scraped my elbow and knee. But he picked me up and we put band-aids on it. It fully healed a few weeks later without even leaving a scar. And we tried again. But dad’s not here to hold the bike for me, is he? He’s not here to tell me that I’m not ready yet.

And suddenly, it wasn’t enough. Turn off the water and I walk over to my bed, kneeling down and pulling out my box from under it. I open it up and look in it. It’s all that I own. All that holds any significance to me. A bracelet that mom let me have out of her jewelry box. A musical birthday card. A photograph, among other things. But I’m only focused on one thing. The present dad gave me on our camping trip. An army knife.

It flipped open easily and I stared at the blade. It shined from the gleam of the street light through the window. And I can’t take my eyes away from the blade, running my finger over it. This is the key to my ecstasy, the entrance to paradise. And I was never one to deny myself.

Run the blade softly over my left wrist, without pressure. No, not enough to do any damage. Just to get a feel of it, watching as my mind begins to hum. I smile, running the blade over the same area again, still not enough to pierce the skin. But after a few strokes, it begins to tingle, my mind begins to blur, and I smile. Repeating, over and over, until I saw red. Red on the blade, on my skin, drip, drip, on the floor, and I smile.

“Liz?”

Shit. Well, it’s a damn good thing I’m on the other side of the bed, huh?

“Liz?” He’s coming closer.

“Y-Yes, Alex?” My voice is weak. I’m weak. Maybe, he’ll see how tired I am and decide to go away. Please?

“What are you doing on the ground?” He’s coming closer still and I manage to hide my box back under my bed.

“N-Nothing… just… cramps.”

“Oh.” And he buys it, and fidgets uncomfortably. Most guys do. “Um… Mrs. Deluca dropped this off for you. She said you rushed off so fast she forgot to give it to you.” And Alex throws it on the bed.

“Thanks, Alex. Could you… leave? I’d like to be alone.” And I pray that he leaves. I pray that he just goes away.

But he hesitates and takes a step closer.

“Ah…” grab my stomach, “cramps.”

“Oh, okay,” and he backs off. Good boy. “I’ll just… leave. Good night, Liz. Love you.”

And I manage a small smile. “Good night, Alex.”

He shuts the door and I fall to the floor, the knife to my side. What did I just do? Oh God. I look at the knife, with blood on the edge of the blade and my wrist with a line of blood surfacing and I feel sick. I pick up the knife and throw it across the room, hearing it land with a clang on the floor.

Fuck. What the hell did I do? What was I thinking? Breathe. Breathe. Almost pulling my hair out and the tears come, running down my face, saltiness entering my mouth. I need to calm down. I just… I wasn’t thinking, was all. Physical pain. It will go away. Physical pain heals. It’ll heal and I can… I can forget it ever happened. This never happened. Never happened.

And I sit up, still on my knees. Everything is fine. It’s all fine. I’m not crazy. It will heal. I’m fine. And no one will know that anything ever happened. Look on the bed and pick up the envelope Alex left from Mrs. Deluca.

And my smile fades, with what last bit of sanity and energy I had left, slipping away. And I go numb and crumple to the ground. It was a letter for me, all right. It was addressed to ‘Lizzie Bear’, the one and only. But it wasn’t from Mrs. Deluca. Far from. Top left corner, Hank Philips. New Mexico State Penitentiary…


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[ edited 3 time(s), last at 7-Jun-2002 10:10:55 AM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:19:07 PM
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Chapter Thirteen



Ever have those days where you just don’t want to wake up? Well, this morning was one of them. But no matter how much I willed the sun not to come up, the rays of bright light defied me and streamed through the window, making everything go from fuzzy to clear while my eyes slowly opened and adjusted to the light.

And I rolled over in my bed because I still don’t want to get up just yet. But it is a school day and little Lizzie can’t be late, now can she? Kick back my covers and sit up on the side of the bed. Yawn, scratch my neck, and am about to get up when I notice something, something that I should have noticed earlier. I’m wearing jeans. Since when did I start wearing jeans to bed? Hmm… chalk it up, ignore it, and move on.

I stand up, stretching and heading towards the bathroom, that is, until I step on something, it slides, I slip, and I fall… right flat on my back. Ouch. There’s a loud thud that vibrates in my ears, followed by footsteps and the squeaking opening of the door.

“Liz, are you okay?”

Sigh. This is just a great start to the day, isn’t it? “I’m fine, Alex.” I just enjoy staring at the ceiling this early in the morning. They’re just so nifty and neat, ceilings are.

“Oh… um… it’s the thing, right. I… um… I think mom has some stuff for it.” And the footsteps leave and I just lay there. Why? I have no freaking idea. I hear Alex’s footsteps approach again from the hallway. They get louder until he’s in my room again. And now he’s hovering above me.

“Here.” He hands me something and I take it, looking it over. “That should help. At least, I think so… but I… um… I wouldn’t really know… so I’ll just… you know… um… let you… um… yeah.” And the door shuts and the footsteps die down. And I’m just lying there wondering why, in hell, did Alex hand me a bottle of Midol. Hmm… chalk it up, ignore it, and move on.

And moving on forces me to stand up, and so I do, getting up off the ground. And stretch a little more. My muscles are stiff. But then, what did I expect? This day already started out weird. I’m probably going to walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and find that I’ve grown a second head. But once I start heading toward the bathroom, I notice, on the ground, what it was that I slipped on. The back of a white envelope, looks unopened. Hmm… chalk it up, ignore it, and move on.

Step over it, get into the bathroom and I pretty much go through my morning ritual of brushing my teeth and washing my face with my eyes closed. I spit out the toothpaste and open my eyes, looking down into the sink, and there are little red rings in the sink. They’re an odd shade of red, they are. Shrug shoulders. Alex probably cut himself shaving again. It wouldn’t be the first time and it probably won’t be the last. Chalk it up, ignore it, and move on.

I get dressed, grabbing the first t-shirt and jeans I can find and sling my bag over my shoulder. Stop by the window and glance outside. It’s nice and sunny. I smile. It’s a good day today. Sigh happily. Perfect for a walk. I grab my watch and snap it onto my hand and… and it stings. But I bite my lip, hold back the tears, ignore it and move on.

Smile on my face and head for the kitchen. Alex smiles a good morning to me as he sits with his bowl of fruit loops at the table. “All ready to go, Liz?”

I just nod my head, heading into the kitchen and opening up the cabinet. “Yeah, Alex. I kind of felt like walking to school today. It’s nice out.” I finally find what I’m looking for in the first aid box. Grab a few of them, throw them in my bag before walking out the kitchen.

“Are you sure, Liz?” He looks up from his bowl of his colorful sugarcoated breakfast. “You’ve been kind of tired lately. But that’s just probably because of the… um… thing. Is it okay for you to walk? Because I remember when I was little, I had a… um… cramp while I was swimming and I kind of… almost drowned. And you know… if you like… walk and have a… cramp… then you might… drown.”

And I smile, because you just can’t help but smile at Alex. He’s just so… Alex-y. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s that mixture of goofiness and yet sincerity and oh-so much more. Nod my head, “I’ll be fine, Alex. You worry too much.”

I give him a quick kiss on the cheek and head for the door, grabbing my sweater on the way and tugging it on as I open the door and freeze. “Max.”

“Liz… um… hi… ugh… hey… um… wha-what are you doing here?” He’s fidgeting. Why is he fidgeting?

“I live here, Max.” Why is this day suddenly getting weirder and weirder?

“Oh… yeah… hehe… I knew that. I… um… I needed to… um…”

Sigh. You ever get the feeling you’re not wanted? “He’s in the kitchen.” I point towards the kitchen while finishing tugging on my sweater and squeezing past Max.

That is, until he grabs my arm. “Where are you going?”

“To school,” I say slowly, eyeing his hand on my arm, and then him, and then his hand again, until he gets the hint and lets go.

“Oh, um…” he nervously puts his hands in his pockets. “I could give you a ride.” And I still can’t understand why he’s fidgeting. What? Did he just suddenly decide to be Shy Max now? Just like how he must have just decided that he actually did prefer blondes?

Shake my thoughts and sigh. “No, Max. I think I’d rather walk.”

“It’s hot outside, Liz.”

No shit, Sherlock. This is freaking New Mexico. “I know, Max.”

“It’s just… um…” again with the freaking fidgeting, “it’s hot, and… um…you… sweater.” He points to the outer layer of clothing I have on.

And I just shrug. “I like sweaters. They’re nice.” And I walk away, because I don’t expect him to understand. No, actually, I’m lying. I did expect him to understand. If anyone would have understood, it would have been him. He has his layers and I have my sweaters. But he doesn’t understand. No one understands. And it’s okay. I accept it. No one understands me. I am misunderstood. And it’s okay. Like Emerson said, “to be great is to be misunderstood”. And I am great. Yup. A great big waste of space.

Sigh. Tears start forming in my eyes and I have to bite my lip to stop them from coming out. And it’s hot. Why did I want to walk again? Oh, yeah. To get out of the house and away from everyone else. People are evil. Malls are evil. Or maybe it’s just me that’s evil. I mean, if a daughter hasn’t seen or heard from her father in a long time, she should be jumping for joy to have news of him. But what do I do? Nothing. Why? Because I’m evil. Evil with a capital E. Evil Elizabeth. Evil Elizabeth eats earthworms. Haha… did I also mention that I have also gone crazy?

God, it is freaking hot. Why did I walk again? Oh yes. So I can talk to myself without interference. If I had ridden with Alex, it wouldn’t have actually been a peaceful or quiet ride. Don’t get me wrong. Alex is a great guy. He’s just a tad bit on the bubbly side. Not that it’s bad or anything, just… bubbly.

Sigh. Reach into my bag and look for those nifty little strips I threw in there earlier. And what really gets to me is that I don’t find them. Where the hell are they? I packed them in my bag earlier. So they should be in here, but they aren’t. They’ve seemed to have disappeared, like everything else in my life.

And I… I just can’t take it. Everything has been close to normal so far. Everything has gone on like nothing happened but the gods just aren’t… they aren’t working with me here. I’m trying so hard to just let go and forget but they just won’t help. So what do I do? I do what I do best. I pretended. I pretended like it didn’t happened and that my life is the perfect little life that everyone expects me to have. But it’s not. I try to be the perfect little person that everyone thinks I am, but I’m not. And I can’t… I can’t take it anymore.

Drop to my knees and throw my bag down, emptying it out and rummaging through the pile of stuff for the fucking little band-aids. But I can’t find them, and tears are forming again. And as luck would have it, I can hear him, his car coming to a stop in the street beside me, his door opening, and his footsteps approaching me. I should have known he was going to show up. He always fucking shows up right in the middle of my fucking emotional crises.

“Liz, are you okay?”

No, I’m not fucking okay. I’m down on the ground like a lunatic searching frantically for something to cover up the stupid marks that my stupid self made on myself so that no one will accidentally see it and start thinking that little Lizzie has done crazy. Deep breath. “I’m fine, Doug.”

“Oh, okay… um… you need a ride?” He’s still standing and points towards his car while I am on the ground trying to stuff all of my things back into my bag.

“No thank you, Doug.” I stand up, wiping off my jeans. “I think I’d rather walk.”

“Well unless you run, you really won’t make it to school on time.” He’s looking at his nice gold watch. Here’s a boy who has never been put through any kind of shit before. “You’ve only got about five minutes until the bell.”

And I smile as sweetly as possible. “Then I’ll run.”

“I could run with you.” He’s smiling shyly and I just can’t see why he can’t get it into his football playing, pig-skinned head that I don’t want him around because I can’t pretend to be the little Lizzie that everyone wants me to be, not while I’m in the middle of a nervous breakdown.

So bad that if he doesn’t leave in the next few seconds, I am going to go berserk. Smile sweetly. “No, Doug…”

“Go away.”

And we both turn toward the voice. How Max came to standing beside us without us noticing, is really beyond me. But I am NOT in the mood.

Max looks at me. “Come on, Liz. I’ll give you a ride to school.” And he turns from us. Is he expecting me to just follow him like some kind of puppy? Because if he is, he’s in for a rude awakening.

But Doug’s voice kind of drowns me out. “I don’t think she really wants to be seen driving up in your rusty old jeep. It won’t do good for her reputation.”

“Does this look like a rusty old jeep to you?” Max points towards a nice blue convertible and leans on the side of his car. God freaking boys and their God damn toys. And there they are, both standing beside their cars, looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to choose.

And I… I turn and continue my walk down the street. Because they are both egotistical Neanderthals, who aren’t really interested in me, not the real me. The real delusional, depressive, self-mutilating me would have them running as far away as possible. No, if what ever it is that attracts them to me is any more than just some kind of rival battle over power between the two males, it’s not to the real me, it’s to Lizzie. Stupid, naïve, perfect little Lizzie. Because she’s the perfect little trophy to have by your side since she’ll just stand there and look all innocent and sweet, unlike Pam, whose reputation is anything but pure.

But they’ll soon realize that boring little Lizzie isn’t enough. She wasn’t enough for mom. She wasn’t enough for dad. She wasn’t even enough for Bunny. They all died.

Was last night really all that bad? What’s a little pain to letting me forget for a few blissful moments? Nothing. But then it’s not something little Lizzie would do, now is it? No siree.

So when I walked into school half an hour later, the entire world was shocked. Little Lizzie late for school? Perish the thought.

“Sorry I’m late, Mrs. Lorenz.” My pathetic apology once Alex opens the door for me to enter.

She’s seated behind her desk and Alex is giving me questioning looks. “That’s all right, Liz. Do you have a pass?”

No, lady. I don’t. I shake my head no and am about to voice my answer, but someone butts in, answering for me like he always seems to do.

“Sorry, Mrs. Lorenz. Liz was helping me change a flat tire.”

“Oh, all right, Max. I hope everything is okay now?”

And I look at Max in disgust. How could he stand there and lie like that? Well, apparently, he has no problem with it.

“Everything is fine now, Mrs. Lorenz. It’s just a miracle that Liz was there to help me.” He looks at me and winks. And I am gagging. Can she not tell that he’s lying? How the hell is little me going to be help him change a flat tire? There is no way that she is going to buy that.

“That’s good. As long as everything’s okay. Why don’t the two of you have a seat and we’ll continue with our lesson. We’re reading chapter twenty-two.” And she bought it.

I walk to my usual table to sit with Maria and Alex and the both of them are looking at me strangely. They both gawk until Alex finally speaks up.

“Wow, Liz. I didn’t know you knew how to change a flat tire.” And Maria is nodding her head along with Alex.

Don’t tell me the whole world has gone dense. This just… isn’t happening. Lay my head down on the table and just squeeze my eyes shut. But I can still hear Alex whispering.

“She must be tired from changing that flat tire.”

Ahh…. Freaking freak freak freak. What is up with these people? I can’t… I… grrr…. Stand up and walk straight back to Max’s table, where he’s quietly sitting and reading his book. “I need to talk to you for a second, Max.”

He slowly puts his book down and looks up at me innocently. But I yank on his arm and pull him out of the chair and towards the door.

“Sorry, Mrs. Lorenz,” she’s probably been looking at me strangely since my abrupt standing a few seconds earlier, “I just need to talk to Max for a little while.” I don’t wait for her reply. I just pull Max out the door and around the corner, next to a few lockers, a water fountain, and the boy’s bathroom. And I explode at him.

“What the heck is going on?”

“What do you mean, Liz?” Still with the innocent boy looks. And I just want to… grrr…

“I didn’t help you change your tire.” Shake my head from side to side vigorously just to get my point across.

“No, you didn’t. You walked away from me while I was offering to give you a ride to school. That wasn’t very nice, Liz.” But he says it all nice, even, and calmly.

And I laugh. “I don’t give a flying fuck if it wasn’t nice, Max. You lying to the teacher in there wasn’t all too nice either, now was it?”

And he shrugs. “Well, it kept you out of trouble, didn’t it?”

Roll my eyes and scoff. Just typical. Max to the rescue to come and save the day. I don’t partake to the damsel in distress thing all too well. “I don’t need your help, Max.”

“Okay, fine. I wasn’t helping you. I was using you to help me. I needed an excuse for being late and thought that you would do for a nice little alibi. It made the story seem more realistic. I’m sorry if I upset you in any way.” He’s still talking calmly and evenly. Doesn’t raise his voice. Doesn’t get angry, nope.

And it just pisses me off even more.

“Liz, is something wrong?”

Damn straight. You know what? Screw little Lizzie. I’m just… so… “Grr… why are you being so calm while I’m yelling at you?”

And he shrugs. Just shrugs. “What do you want me to do?”

I want you to jump off a freaking building, Max. “I’m yelling at you. Defend yourself. Get angry.”

“I can’t.” He starts narrowing his eyes at me, but he doesn’t hold it for long and once his lips start smiling, it reaches up to his eyes and he loses it again. “See? I can’t.”

And you know what? Screw it, just… moving on. “Okay, what were you doing walking in the same time I was? You have a car. I walked. You should have made it here long before I did.” See? This is where logic comes in.

“You are a really nosy one, aren’t you?” He’s smiling. Freaking smiling.

Cross arms over chest, frown, and glare. “Max.” I am not in the joking mood.

I think he gets it because he throws his hands up in mock-surrender. “Okay. I followed you.”

“What?”

And he shrugs again. “I left my car parked there and I followed you.”

And of all the questions I should be asking him, the one thing I think of right now is his car. “What happened to the jeep?”

“It’s collecting dust. Blue convertible Chevy Chevelle. A lot nicer than a rusty old army jeep. Don’t you agree? I can take you for a ride in it.” He smirks and I suddenly feel oddly reassured by it somehow.

But he just had his jeep yesterday. When he drove Pom-Pom Pam in it. “You suddenly got a car, just like that?” Snap my fingers.

“What? You don’t like it?” He pouts his lip and no matter how much I don’t want to think it, the thought involuntarily enters my mind. He’s so freaking adorable.

Bite my lip, smile, and sigh. I am SO pathetic. “The car is nice.”

“Let’s go. I’ll take you cruising in her.”

“What?” Is he suggesting that we ditch school? What? Can I? Sigh. “No, Max. Umm…” Damn. There was something we were talking about. What was I going to ask him? Oh! “Why were you following me for?”

And he shrugs. “I didn’t want you to get kidnapped or anything.”

Kidnapped? Here? “In Roswell? In broad daylight?”

“Hey, you never know.” And he shrugs again.

And there’s a brief silence. We hear footsteps coming from around the corner. And I sigh and wait, because it was bound to happen. It always happens. They always show up together. If one is there with me, the other one just has to pop his head up sooner or later. And imagine my surprise when it wasn’t Doug who turned the corner, it was Sean.

“Sean, hi.” I do not know why, but am actually glad to see him.

“Hi, Liz…” he smiles and waves at me and then glances at Max. “Max.” Sean nods his head at Max and begins fidgeting.

And Max has a cool smile on his face. “Hi, Sean. How’ve you been?”

“Good, good.” Sean nods his head and fidgets some more.

“You’ve been good? That’s great. Seen Tess lately?” And Max smiles again.

Whoa… are Tess and Sean an item? That is a weird combination. Never thought I’d see the day.

“No. Nope. I’ve been good.” Sean nods his head again.

“That’s good. Excuse me. My throat is kind of… dry.” Max leans over and takes a drink from the water fountain.

I glance back over at Sean, who is covering his ears with his hands and running down the hallway.

Max wipes off his mouth, straightening up and snickering.

“What was that about?” Eyeing him warily. I get the feeling that Max had something to do with it.

“Nothing.” He says it innocently, but you can just imagine the little horns popping up from the top of his head.

Normally, I would just leave it at that. But things have just been too weird lately. “No. I want to know.”

“Liz,” he sighs, shaking his head, “ever heard the phrase, ignorance is bliss?”

Asshole. “I’m just curious.”

“Curiosity killed the cat.” He shows me this hundred-watt smile and winks at me.

Roll my eyes. “Yeah, and stalkers should rot in jail.”

I can hear him gasp and hold a hand to his chest, feigning hurt. “Are you implying that I am a stalker?”

Yes, I am. “Let’s see, shall we? Tracking and following closely behind me without my knowledge. Stalking me.”

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head at me. “Watching out for you.”

And suddenly, all the joking was gone. “I don’t need you to.”

He’s quiet for a while. I think I came out more curtly than I wanted. “Fine,” he says softly, “I’m sorry, Liz. Don’t be angry.”

There’s another stretch of silence. We just stand there. And although I don’t want it to, it just comes out of my mouth.

“So… where’s Pam?”

I’d expect him to get all offensive. But he doesn’t. He smiles. “How would I know?”

And I can’t stop the comment from coming out. “I figured you’d keep her close by, you know. Quick lap dances every now and then.”

Again the awkward silence. I don’t look at him, but I know he’s staring at me. “What can I do to convince you that I’m not interested in Pam?”

“What would it matter to me who you are interested in?” Again, it just came out. It’s strange. When I talk to him, I don’t think it over what I say to him. I don’t censor it. It all just comes out.

“It doesn’t matter to you?” He’s talking softly again.

And I shake my head. “No.”

And he smiles. It’s not a full-blown smile though. It’s one of those tight-lipped smiles. They’re not as nice. “Then why do you keep bringing it up?”

Sigh. “Because I can.”

“But it doesn’t matter to you?” Why would it matter? What would it affect me? So he’s with Pam, like I care.

Shake my head again. “No.”

“Okay, just making sure.” He smiles that not as nice smile again.

And the silence ensues. I stand their awkwardly, arms crossed over my chest, staring at my feet, until I hear him talk again.

“Is there anything you want to talk about, Liz?” I lift my head to look at him and his eyes are staring right at me. And he has a soft smile on his face. You know, like he’s asking for something, but he isn’t pushing it.

“I don’t know,” I say slowly and start tugging at my sweater, pulling the sleeves lower.

“Because you can tell me anything. You know that, right?” He takes a step closer and I try my best to resist from taking a step back, but I can’t help it.

“Anything?” Smile big and lift my eyebrows suggestively, trying to keep the mood light.

But I get the feeling that what he is referring to is anything but light. “Anything.”

“Okay.” Nod my head with a smile. “There is something I’ve been wanting to tell you.”

“Yeah?” He’s smiling softly, leans in closer, and I take another step back, tugging again at my sleeves.

“You are an egotistical, arrogant, stuck-up pig.” And I manage to say it all with a straight face.

While he just stares at me, unfazed. “Is that all?”

“All that I can think of off the top of my head? Yes.” And with the way he’s still looking at me, I take another step back, only to back into a locker.

Max finally looks away and I see him sigh. “Okay. Anything else you’d like to discuss? Anything else you wanted to talk about? I’m here to listen, Liz.”

Smile big and shake my head. “That’s it.”

“You sure?” Again, he starts with that look, staring at me.

Nod my head. “Yes.”

I guess Max kind of gives up after that. He kind of half sighs, half groans, running his hand through his hair. It falls back over his forehead again in the cutest little curl. And I want to reach up and brush it to the side a little. But I restrain myself because he looks at me again. “Then could you remind me why you brought me out here?”

And my mind goes blank. I seemed to have forgotten why, myself. I brought him out here because I was frustrated, and I needed to vent, and…“To tell you to stop lying for me.”

“I was just helping you out, Liz.” He sounds tired. Not like before. Before he sounded calmer. It’s like he was putting up with me before. And it seems like he’s giving up on me now. And it’s okay for him to give up on me, because I’m not his problem to begin with. He shouldn’t have to deal with me. No one should have to deal with me. I shouldn’t have to deal with me.

“I don’t want you to help me.” I flinch at my own voice. Seems the anger has returned.

“So you want to get in trouble?”

“Yes…” wait… that’s not right, “No…”

“Because if you want to be rebellious, I can help you with that too, Liz. We can go right now and throw a stink bomb in the guy’s locker room.”

Is he being serious? I don’t think so. I think he’s making fun of me. “No.”

“We can go stop by the art room, grab some paint and paint someone’s car.”

“Stop it, Max.” It isn’t funny. I’m already in a bad mood and he’s poking more fun.

“We can handcuff Doug and Pam together on a picnic table in the quad.”

And there’s a small pause as I consider this. Hmm… could be interesting. We could paint Pam’s face… and cameras… hehe… sigh… “We can’t, Max.” I shake my head, but there’s a smile on my face now.

And he’s smiling again too. The nice kind of smile. “Sure we can. Or, you know, we can just get some eraser room time, make it loud and get caught.” His eyebrows go up and down.

“Some what?” Eraser room time. Time for a room of erasers? What?

“You’ve never been to the eraser room?”

“What’s that?” A room of erasers?

“Oh God, I have to take you there. You can’t graduate from West Roswell High without having visited the infamous eraser room at least once.” He smiles and winks at me and then looks at his watch. I look at mine too. The bell is going to ring in a little while. “What do you have next period?”

“Umm… calculus.” The fact that I had to think for the answer, shows how mixed up my mind is right now.

“Do you really want to go?” He has this look in his eye. The mischievous glint. The kind that you want to give in to… but can’t.

“I can’t miss class.”

“So, no eraser room time?” He frowns a bit. And I feel a bit disappointed at myself too.

“No, I suppose not. Maybe you can show me some other time, Max.”

The smile returns to his face again. “Can we at least tie Pam and Doug to a picnic bench? All in good fun, of course.”

And I laugh. “No, Max. I… um… I… no. I should go.” I smile shyly at him and turn to walk away.

“Liz?”

I spin back around. “Hmm?”

“Anytime you want to talk to me, I’m here.” And the fact that he’s repeated that over and over and over again finally gets to me.

I look up at Max, eyeing him while I cross my arms over my chest, tugging on my sleeves. Panic starting to set in. “Do you know something, Max?”

“Just… if you need to talk… about anything, Liz.” He’s giving me that look again.

Oh, God. He knows. He knows. He probably saw. “It’s not as bad as it looks, Max.”

He leans in closer to me. “It was pretty bad, Liz. If you need to talk…”

“No, how do you know?” When did he see it? Did he tell anyone else?

“Is it bad that I know?” He’s still looking down at me with that look.

And I look back up at him, nodding my head. “Yes. How?”

“Alex told me… about the letter… from your dad. And the whole thing in the mall yesterday was...”

Wait… the mall, the letter. Max knows, but what does he know? That’s it. Smile. He doesn’t know more than that. He doesn’t know the rest. And it’s okay. I’m still sane. No one knows. I tune back in in time to hear Max continuing on.

“… it’s not healthy for you to hold all this in. So… if you need to talk…”

“Thanks, Max. But I’m fine. Great. Better than ever. I’ll see you around.” Big smile, pat him on the back, spin on the heel and walk away. He doesn’t know. No one knows. And I plan on keeping it that way.


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[ edited 2 time(s), last at 20-Jun-2002 2:14:25 AM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 5:19:30 PM
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Chapter Fourteen



Believe it or not, the day actually got even more interesting. Life isn’t just about books and studying with little Lizzie. No siree. From Alex’s questioning interrogation of why I was late to school to Max’s disappearance, or rather non-appearance, to English class third period, I had plenty to think about to get my mind off of things.

Yup, like right now, I’m standing in front of the vending machine, getting my nifty little water bottle, and going over the options of where to sit in my head. Doesn’t this kind of remind you of my first day here? I thought so too.

So… I can go sit with Maria and Michael, but then I’m still mad at them, both of them. Hey, when I hold a grudge, I hold a grudge. But I can choose to go sit with them and start yelling their head off for leaving me in the mall to have to deal with layer-boy and poodle-person all by myself, but that’s not something that little Lizzie would do, now is it? No. Little Lizzie doesn’t blow up at people. Little Lizzie sits quietly and plays nice with the other children.

I could go sit with Max, but hey, Max wasn’t in class, so what are the chances of him being at lunch? He probably left to go spend some eraser room time with his new flavor of the week, leaving Pam pouting in class. Oh, and by the way, Alex informed me of what the infamous eraser room was. It’s where people make-out. That’s right. And Alex was also informed me that I am, in no way, allowed to go inside, or anywhere near the place.

I kind of ignored him though. It was just Alex pulling out his protective brother card again. I sometimes wonder how badly he is going to take it when he finds out that I’m moving yet again. Sigh. All I know is I am definitely not going to be the one to break it to him. Maybe he’ll figure it out once I’m gone and all of my things are missing from the room. Maybe…

Sigh. Enter the quad and look around. Take a glance at Max’s tree. It’s empty. Glance over at my normal spot and Michael is sitting with his sketchbook, Maria with her bag of cheese puffs, and Isabel with nail polish in her hand. Hold the phone. Well, fuck a duck. Isabel is sitting with them now. It seems I’ve been replaced. Well, isn’t that great? Peachy. Just peachy. But you know what? I don’t care. Screw them. Who needs friends who ditch you anyway? And who is to say they were my friends to begin with? I know Michael definitely wouldn’t.

Whatever. I don’t care. With my little nifty bottle in hand, walk over to the center of the quad and sit down at the empty tree. Why? Because it was the only tree that was unoccupied. That’s why. But I think I could hear a collective gasp as I sat down on the ground. So what if I sat at Max’s tree? It’s not the first time. But it’s probably the first time anyone sat here without Max also being present. But I don’t care. This is the ‘tree of knowledge’ and I am in need of some thinking time. So I lean back against the tree, close my eyes and gather my thoughts.

My mind is just so bogged down with problems that I just can’t think straight. So how do you get rid of problems? You solve them. But there are too many problems to solve all at once. That’s why you start out with the little ones and work your way up. See? Problem solved. Logic, logic, logic.

All right. State the problem: I’m angry with Maria. Solution: stop talking to her. Problem solved. Simple enough. Another problem. The letter. No. Let’s skip that one. Little problems first. Alex. There’s nothing wrong with Alex. Moving on. Sean. What is up with Sean? There’s probably some kind of power feud going on between Max and Sean, just like with Doug. There’s nothing for me to concern myself with there. Which brings up Doug. Doug is safe. Doug is dependable. Doug is always freaking there. But do I like Doug the way I like Max? Wait… do I like Max?

“Liz?”

Open my eyes and Max is right in front of me, sitting and staring at me, while fidgeting.

“I… um… I didn’t want to disturb you, but I figured if you wanted to talk, then we should… talk.” He smiles but it’s one of those unsure kind of smiles that are only kind of like a grin.

Sigh. How is it that he’s been able to pop up without me even noticing lately? “How long have you been sitting here, Max?”

He shrugs. “Ten or so minutes.”

Ten or so minutes? I’ve been talking to myself for that long?

“Liz?” He interrupts my thoughts again. “Did you want to talk?”

Shake my head. “No.”

“Then why are you sitting at my tree?” He isn’t annoyed or anything. But I don’t know what he is. It’s hard to read the look he has on his face. It’s just that look. You know the look. It’s the look. The weird look.

And me, not knowing what better to say, change the subject. “Why weren’t you in English?”

“I… was… um… busy.” Stuttering, fidgeting, and nervously running his hand through his hair. He’s hiding something.

And I don’t have to put up with it. Because I have enough problems to deal with. I don’t need him to add to it. Right? “Right. I’ll leave now.” Grab my bag and go to stand up.

“Liz…” I feel him grab my wrist and I freeze, just staring down at it. Oh God. He’s gripping my wrist and it stings. Even through my sweater sleeve, it stings. Sit back down so that he’ll let go of my wrist and cross my arms over my chest.

“Are you okay?” His voice is still soft and he’s speaking gently. He’s still trying to put up with me. Again, I’m not his problem to put up with.

So I get a tad bit more curtly than I wanted to be. “I’m fine, Max.”

“No, really, Liz.” He pulls my hands into his and leans forward, giving me that look again. “Are you okay?”

Pull hands back, scooting away, and eyeing him curiously. I think he knows more than he lets on to know. And that’s not good. That’s never good. “What are you talking about?”

“Liz… look…” again with the stuttering. “I know-”

“Hi, Isabel.” I smile sweetly at her as she comes to standing beside us. What else am I going to do? Believe it or not, I’m actually glad to see her. I got the feeling that what ever this talk is between me and Max was just going to go out of hand.

And she smiles back. “Hello, Liz. Um… Max. I just…” and she drops to her knees in front of him and her arms go around his neck. Well, it looks like Isabel is his new toy for the week or month or however long she keeps his fancy. I mean, who wouldn’t get tired of Pam. “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you so much for last night. I just… God…” And she sniffs. Is she crying? Yes, she is. Was he really that good? “Thank you.” She’s kissing him now, well, his cheek, but it will progress soon enough. And so, yes, I am turning my head away. Don’t you just hate feeling like a third wheel? It’s sickening. Not as sickening as with Pam, but still sickening, nonetheless.

I’m just gathering my bag up again now while I hear him still talking to her. “You’re welcome, Isabel. Anytime…” Oh really now, lover boy? I wonder how long he could last. I mean, if every girl in the whole town wants to jump his bones, the guy has really got to be…

And Max is staring at me, Isabel gone. He’s going to try to explain now. “That was just-”

“Yeah.” I don’t want to hear it. “I gotta go.” Stand up and this time make sure to stay out of his reach.

“Liz.” I look into his eyes and he has this… pleading look. God, his eyes. They’re just so incredible… so expressive… so emotional… so complex. Sorry, Max. But my life is already complicated as it is. I don’t have time for you. I wonder if he looks at Isabel this way too.

“I’ll see you later, Max.” Turn and walk away. But I can hear him calling after me.

“But I need to talk to you.”

“Later, Max.” I don’t turn back to look at him. I just keep walking straight, walking away.


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I don’t think it helped much that I had the next period with Max. And I was actually considering ditching, just so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. Max knows. And even though he doesn’t know THE thing, he knows something. And that much was already more than I wanted him to know about me. But the class went by relatively okay. I just kept my gaze to the front of the room, ignoring his stares, even though I could feel them on me.

But class went on. Coach Schierling called roll and then handed out packets for yet another lab. Whoopee! It wasn’t a big deal though, just a small lab on equilibrium. We probably won’t even have to do a write up for it. But, a lab is a lab and I, being the good little student that I am, must do it, while Michael and Tess sit, each with their sketchbook and magazine, respectively.

Gather my things from the cabinets and while I’m there, I stop. Do I want to risk it? Do I really want to do it? Yes, I do. So I give in and glance quickly over at Max’s corner of the room. He’s setting up for the lab too, half of his table set aside, ready and waiting for me.

Sigh. But do I go over there? No. I stay right where I am, working on my little one-third of the table that is mine to work on. Rush through the lab, don’t even care or check if I did it right. Coach Schierling doesn’t check or care anyway. And I finish and put up my supplies in time with ten minutes to spare. So I sit there.

“So… Tess…”

She looks up from her magazine. “Yeah, Liz?”

And it looks like I can help get one problem solved. “So… what’s with you and Sean?”

“What about me and Sean?” She’s looking at me curiously. Does she not get what I am implying?

“Are ya’ll going out or something?” Lift eyebrows and await answer.

“Oh God, no!” she practically screams. “Where would you get something like that?”

“It’s just… Max has mentioned your name with his a few times and I was just… curious.” Curiosity killed the cat, Lizzie. That’s all right, I’m already dead.

“Why? Has Sean done anything to you?” She’s leaning forward and whispering to me.

Sean? Done something to me? “No. No. He hasn’t been mean or… suggestive like he was before. He’s just… weird.” His butterfly transformation thingy was just strange.

“Weird how?” She’s still leaning forward, and still whispering.

Well, Sean’s always been weird, but it’s strange now because…“He’s nice now. Clean cut kind of.”

And Tess smiles, sitting back. “I do a good job, don’t I?”

“Do what?” What? Did she like take the boy shopping or something? Brainwash him by tying him to a chair and forcing him watch hours and hours of Leave It To Beaver marathons?

“Liz.” The voice interrupts us, coming from behind. But I don’t turn around. Nope. That would be confronting the problem. And I’m too much of a coward to do that. Wait… since when was Max my problem? God knows I’m not his.

But if I don’t acknowledge him, then he’ll just go away. Because I doubt he’ll start talking about things in front of Michael and Tess, and I sure as hell am not going to be leaving this table.

I look at Tess, but she’s looking past me, as is Michael. And they both grab their things and stand up, leaving me at the table, alone until he comes and takes the seat next to me. God freaking damn it.

Sigh. “Yes, Max?”

“I need to talk to you.” He’s whispering to me in that voice again. And I bet if I look up, he’s also giving me that look again too.

And I refuse to have to put up with it. At least not today. “Later, Max.”

But he starts anyway. “Liz, look. There’s these…”

And I pretty much ignore him as I chant my mantra. Ring bell, ring. Ring bell, ring. And… the… bell… RINGS.

Smile. “Later, Max.” Sling my bag over my shoulder and head for the door. Check the top of my head just in case and find, safety goggles. Groan. At least I remembered to check this time. Go to the back and put them up in the cabinet and I hear the door squeaking… shut.

And I’m thinking ‘shit’. Turn around, and the room is empty, except for Max, who is standing by the door, his hand on the doorknob.

Walk over there with a sigh. This boy is so close to getting slapped. Way stepping the line of duty here with all of his reciprocated stubbornness to my stubbornness. Does that make any sense? “I need to get to class, Max.”

“But I need to talk to you.” Again with the soft pleading tone. I won’t look at him though. Nope. Once you look into his eyes, you’re a goner. You can’t say ‘no’ to him. I told you, I was a sucker for puppy-dog faces, no matter how fake.

Sigh and reach for the door. “I can’t be late for class.”

“I’ll vouch for you.”

Stop. Turn and look at him. Well, at his neck, or his chest, his very muscular chest. Anything but his eyes. “How?”

He walks over to Coach Schierling’s desk and pulls out this pad of paper, taking out a pen and scribbling on it. I know that this is my chance. I should leave, right now. I should, but I’m curious. Curiosity killed the cat, if you hadn’t known that already. He walks back over, handing me a small slip of paper. “Here.”

I look at it. A nicely forged pass excusing me for my tardiness from ‘The Desk of Schierling’. Well, I’d have to admit, he does a good job. Look up at him… his shoulder anyway. “This could get you in trouble.”

His shoulder shrugs. “It could.”

“It could get me in trouble too.” I find myself folding it up and sticking it in my pocket anyway. It can come in handy later.

“I won’t let that happen. I’ll take sole blame.” He says it as though it were just that simple.

“It takes two, Max.” And it suddenly feels as though we’re discussing something deeper with a cryptic message. And it sucks, because I’m the one that’s starting it.

There’s silence and my head is screaming at me to head out the door, but something keeps me in place. I’m waiting, because what he says makes the world of a difference. Why? I have no freaking idea.

“I’m here, Liz.”

And I, actually, don’t know what to say, because it’s awkward. I always make things awkward. What does he mean, he’s here? What do you say to that? What do you say when things are awkward? You try to joke about it. “You like being in control, don’t you?” I smile.

But he’s not smiling. He’s serious. “As opposed to not being in control? Yes.”

“And what if I don’t want you controlling me.” I’m not smiling either. I think I’m serious too. Really.

“I’m not controlling you. You think freely.”

Stare at the door. I should be heading out of it soon. Very soon.

“Everything you do is your own choice.” A pause and his voice gets softer. “But sometimes you can’t see clearly and you make a not so good decision. And you need to talk about it, and see what can be done to make it better… before it gets worse.”

And I’m at the door, turning the knob, walking away from this, because I get the feeling he’s leading to something… something that I don’t want to talk about. Freaking. Twist, turn, push, turn, kick. Freaking. “Why won’t the door open?”

He shrugs. “It’s locked.”

Wait... Locked? “Are you telling me we’re stuck in here?”

Again, he shrugs. “I can unlock it.”

“Unlock it then.” Step aside and let him do his thing.

But he just stands there, arms crossed. “Not until we talk.”

And I’m panicking, fidgeting even. Why? Because I’m trapped. And I don’t want to be. Not now. Not here. And not with him. “I have to get to class, Max. We’ll talk later.”

“It is later.” He pulls a stool down, sitting on it, and pulls another one down, motioning for me to sit on it.

And I stand there, arms crossed, staring at the ground. “Please, can’t it wait? Please?” I know my voice is weak. I know I’m pleading and sound frail. But what else am I going to do? I’m trapped.

And I’m waiting for him to open the door, because that’s what all other guys do. When they see you helpless and pathetic like this, they feel bad and they let you have your way. All guys. Max is a guy. At least I think he is. So Max shouldn’t be an exception. Or at least you’d think he shouldn’t be. “No, it can’t wait. It’ll only going to get worse.”

Bite my lip. Sigh. Deep breath. But the way he’s talking to me, the sad look in his eyes, and I give in. I always do. Puppy-dog eyes. Freaking bastard. “What did you want to talk with me about, Max?”

I don’t sit down though. Not when the stool is so close to him. If I sat there, we’d be sitting knee to knee. Physical contact isn’t at the top of my list at the moment. So I just stand where I am. But I look at him. And he’s smiling at me. “What?”

He laughs. “I was so focused on getting you to talk to me. And now that you will, I don’t know where to start.”

And his pressuring me to talk to him earlier this morning and earlier in the quad comes back to me. “This is like a set-up. You planned on locking me in here.”

And he’s still smiling. Apparently he’s pleased at himself with his plan. Cocky assed bastard. “Yeah. Only if you didn’t talk to me earlier though. And I figured you wouldn’t.”

Nod my head. He’s right, I wouldn’t. But he has me trapped and locked in a room. “And since this is Schierling’s conference period, what better place. Right?”

He shrugs. “Hey, it was either this or the eraser room. And I didn’t think we’d get too much talking done in there.” He does that eyebrow thing and smirks at me and I just… don’t want to be here right now.

I try the door again, but still, no luck. How the hell do you open this? Jiggle the knob, turn, push, kick. And there’s breathing on my neck, muscular chest rubbing up to my shoulder, and fingers pulling my hand away from the doorknob.

Jerk my hand from his and back away. “What do you want, Max?” Do I look weak and helpless? Because I sound weak and helpless. And I feel weak and helpless.

“Other than the obvious?” He’s whispering and walking towards me.

And I’m cornered. I’m being closed in on. I’m suffocating. And the only way out is to dig my way. Even if I have to hit him with a shovel in the process. “You mean Isabel?” Not exactly my choice topic, but hey, it gets him to stop, right? It gets him to back down, and it gives me room to breathe.

“There’s nothing going on between me and Isabel.”

And I smile because he’s getting defensive. Hey, better him than me suffocating.

And I remember what happened in the quad. Their little huggy feely moment didn’t look like nothing to me. And her thanking him for last night? Scoff. “Could have fooled me. So… was she good? Did you have fun? Was she all your dreams come true? Better than Pam?”

“Stop it.” His tone is wavering. You know the tone. The weird one that goes with that weird look. The one he has when he’s putting up with me and trying to get through to me. It’s wavering with his added frustration.

And it’s good, because that tone was awkward. And when he doesn’t have that tone, I don’t feel guilty when I get bitter. “Why? You’re the one that slept with her. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about it now. You might hurt Isabel’s feelings.”

His voice raises and I try to not feel cagey, but it’s hard not to. Max is scary when he’s angry. “What would it matter to you if I slept with her or not? What? Are you jealous?”

Me? Jealous? Scoff. Hardly. Freaking bastard. Why would I be jealous of Isabel? What does she have that I don’t? Blonde hair? I’d rather have a brain than be one of those blondies. But I guess Max doesn’t agree. “Unlock the door and let me out.”

Pause. Silence. And his voice gets that tone again. The concerned one. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? But nothing happened between Isabel and I. Her dad had some trouble yesterday. Michael called me over and I went to help.”

“That’s what the whole hugging thing in the quad was about?” Lift my eyebrows. Does he get it that I don’t believe him?

Apparently not. “Yes. She was just showing her gratitude towards me for helping her father.”

Oh really? “And how much gratitude did she show you last night?”

Pause. Silence. And then there’s this loud groaning sound. It came from Max. It scared me. “Ugghh… stop it, Liz! I don’t get you. You’re scared to be around people so I back off just to find you going around with Doug. Yesterday you were bawling your eyes out and today it’s like nothing happened. You say you don’t care and yet you’re getting jealous?”

“You’re one to talk.” And I am angry too. Grr…

“What?” He looks at me dumbfoundedly. Yes, dumbfoundedly. As if he wasn’t aware of all this crap he’s been doing. As if he didn’t know. And I… blow up.

“The whole you and Doug macho man competitiveness thing you’ve got going on. What is it with you two? Doug says your jeep is old and rusty and you go out and get yourself a nice and shiny car the next day? You-”

“We’re talking about you and me here, not Doug.” He interrupts me. And it’s funny, because he’s the one that brought Doug into this, if I’m not mistaken. And I’m not. So excuse me if I’m hostile.

“There’s a ‘you-and-me’?” Mock gasp. “Since when was there ever a ‘you-and-me’?”

There’s a slight pause and then his voice raises even more. “Well, I wouldn’t know now, would I? Since you keep pushing me away.”

And I have to laugh. “I push you away? Are you kidding me? Who was the one that kissed who out in the hallway and then turn around and shrugged, saying that it was just a stupid kiss?”

“I never said it was stupid or that it was just a kiss. I said that it WAS a kiss. At least I acknowledged it. And still, I put out more effort. Of the three kisses, I kissed you twice. You only kissed me once. And that one was just to get back at Pam.”

And I am quiet as I stand there and stare at him. He’s lost it. Completely lost it.

“What? Nothing to say?” His eyes are still narrowing down on mine with a smirk and I just shake my head.

My voice comes out calmly and evenly at first. Note, at first. Can you guess where my voice starts raising? “Oh, no. Nothing. I just… I only remember there being two kisses. You’re probably-” starts raising here “-mistaking me with Pam or Isabel or one of your other tramps that you run around with.”

“No. There were three kisses.” And it’s sad because he’s so damn sure of himself. So freaking cocky. If he can’t remember this, how is he supposed to remember birthdays or anniversaries? I pity the person who ends up with him. Poor Isabel.

“Two.” Count them. “One against the lockers and the other one in the booth at the Crashdown. No more than that. Not three. Two.”

There’s a little silence as he stares at me and then stands straight again. “Oh… yea.” What kind of lame reply is that? No ‘I’m sorry, Liz’, or ‘you were right, Liz, I was just being a complete ass’. Just ‘oh’. Freaking bastard.

And I am tired of this crap that I don’t need right now. “Open the door. I want out.”

But he stands there. Yes, stands at the door that he is supposed to be opening, but isn’t. “No, Liz. We didn’t even get to talk.”

“We’ve been talking, Max.” And the bickering ensues.

“Not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Oh great. There’s more. Haha… he’s going to drive me crazy. “Spit it out already.”

I look at him and I am fuming. But he just leans back against the door and sticks his hands in his pocket, shaking his head. “I don’t want to talk to you while you’re angry.”

Still fuming. “Well, you’re going to have to take a rain-check then because I don’t plan on cooling it anytime soon.”

Another fucking shrug. I am really getting tired of his shrugs. “I guess we’re stuck here then. I’m not opening the door until we talk.”

He walks away from me and I just stand there, arms crossed over my chest, still breathing hard.

I’m facing the door but I can hear him making noise behind me. Curiosity killed the cat. And I am quite a curious little kitty. Turn around and look at him. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for food.” He goes through another drawer of Schierling’s desk. “I’m kind of hungry.”

Great. He’s hungry and I’m tired. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of arguing with him. I’m tired of everything. But I’m stuck. I’m cornered. And I’m suffocating.

Step over to the table and sit down on the stool, resting my head on the table next to his bag, closing my eyes.

“Score.”

I hear him talking but I don’t look up. Too tired.

“Want some, Liz?” I think he’s still behind Schierling’s desk.

“No.” I just want to be left alone.

“Come on. They’re Girl Scout cookies. No one can resist Girl Scout cookies.”

I think I can hear my tummy rumbling. Lift my head and turn to him. He’s smiling happily while showcasing a box of oatmeal cookies, stuffing a few in his mouth. Although I don’t want to, I find myself smiling at his efforts. He’s so adorable with his mouth full, ears sticking out, crumbs everywhere on his shirt and face, doing a little happy dance.

And my resolve and anger are crumbling. Hehe… cookies… crumbs… crumbling. Get it? Sigh. I’m such a dork.

“Oatmeal. Yumm.” I look back up and he’s stuffing a few more into his mouth, licking his fingers and winks at me.

My mouth waters, but I sigh, shaking my head. “I prefer thin mint.”

“Gotcha covered.” He picks up another box of cookies and walks around the desk and over towards me, smiling. I smile too. I think he doesn’t likes arguing with me just as much as I don’t like arguing with him. Unless you are in the mood to argue, it’s just too tiring.

He hands me the box and sits next to me. Sigh… chocolaty goodness.

I look at him and he’s pulled some kind of canteen out of his bag. It’s one of those little silver ones. “What’s that?”

He caps it and puts it away. “Oh, nothing… it’s just… um… cookies make my throat dry.”

“Oh.” Right. It’s probably liquor. He’s probably drunk right now.

We eat our cookies until I stop and set mine aside.

He follows suit and starts up. “So… are you still angry with me?”

Nod my head. “Yes.” When I hold a grudge, I hold a grudge.

“Keep in mind that I’m not letting you out until we talk.” He reaches for his box of cookies again. “And I’m not talking with you still angry at me.”

Groan. Moan. Sigh. Can I stand being in this room alone with him any longer? “No, I’m not.”

“That’s good.” He rummages through his box.

I grab it from him and set it aside. At this rate, we’ll probably be in here all afternoon. “Talk.”

He takes a deep breath and I think we’re getting into serious mode. Not good. “I’m worried about you, Liz.”

Sigh. “There’s nothing for you to be worried about, Max.”

“I think there is.” He’s giving me that look and that tone again.

“Max…” I know I’m whining, but I’m tired. I just want him to stop with all of this.

But he sighs and grabs his bag. For a second, I think he’s given up on me and is about to let me out. But he doesn’t. He reaches into his bag, pulls something out, and places it gently on the table.

And I stare at it. My heart beat quickening. Panic level rising. “What’s that?” I try to sound naïve, as if I didn’t know, but I’m fidgeting. I know I’m fidgeting. He knows I’m fidgeting. It’s not good.

“You know what it is.” And he gives me that look again. The one that begs me not to lie to him, to be honest with him and to trust him.

“H-How the hell did you get it, Max?” The last I remember of it, it was in my room, on the floor somewhere from when I threw it last night.

He opens his mouth to say something, but closes it again. “T-That’s not the point. The point is, is that, I have it, and I know. And I… I want to help you, Liz. I want to be here for you. You can take out all your anger on me. Hell, you can use me as a punching bag for all I care. Just don’t do this.”

And I can’t look him in the eyes anymore, because the look is getting to be too much. So what do I do? I play dumb. “Do what, Max?”

“Hurt yourself.” I know he’s looking at me. The look was probably already enough, but the way he said it, it’s like he’s disappointed with me. Disappointed with me for not telling him.

And you know what? It’s not his freaking problem to know about. It’s not his problem to worry over. It’s not his problem to deal with. I’m not his charity case. So he can just drop the whole concerned bit. “I’m not hurting myself, Max. You think I’m that stupid enough to do something like that?”

There’s a pause. Yup, it’s evident that I’m still angry with him. “I don’t know, Liz.” He’s talking softly and slowly. So every word sinks into my head. I hate it when every word sinks into my head. It’s harder to pretend that way. “But I know that if you need to talk, I’m here. And I swear, no judging, and no pitying. Just gonna listen. And maybe be a shoulder to lean on, anytime you need it.” He smiles.

He’s trying, at least. I have to give him credit for that. He’s here when most people wouldn’t be. The only problem is, he’s not supposed to be here. I’m not his responsibility. He’s not my mom or my dad or my pet. He’s nothing to me. I’m nothing to him. “That’s sweet, Max. But I don’t need it.”

Reach over for the small knife, but Max beats me to it. He pulls out the blade and places it back on the table. “Then what is this, Liz?”

There’s red. I see red. So what do I do? I play dumb. “What’s what?”

“This.” He runs his finger along the blade. “This is blood.”

And I… bullshit the best I can. “No, it’s not. I used it to cut my burger the other day, and there was ketchup-”

“Liz. I think I know the difference between blood and ketchup. I’m not that stupid, you know.” He’s angry. But I would be too if he tried to give me some lame ass excuse like that. “And this is blood, Liz.” His voice gets that tone again. The one he uses to try to get through to me. “It’s your blood.”

And me, being the denial person and all… “No, it’s not.”

“Liz.” He closes his eyes and takes a breath. I think he’s frustrated with me. I think he’s tired. “I know.”

Sigh. He’s not the only one that’s tired. And my mouth just opens, and it just comes out. “Okay. Fine. I’ll admit it. I’m a very, very sick and demented person. I just… I couldn’t help myself. There was a pigeon on my roof the other day, and I caught it, and took my knife, and grabbed its wing and starting sawing-”

“Stop giving me this shit! I know, okay?” And I flinch, though I didn’t want to. But I did, because Max yelled at me. Max is angry with me. But he has no right to be. He has no right to keep me trapped here, to keep me suffocating. He says he knows, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be me. He doesn’t know all the pain that I go through. He doesn’t know anything.

“You don’t know jack shit, Max!”

I try to brush past him, to the door, but he grabs my hand, pulling it to him. I try to pull away, but he only grips tighter, making my watch rub into my wrist and making me wince in response. He gives me a look before he goes back to my wrist and I am scared shitless as I stand there, frozen, praying for him to stop. But does he? No. Everything goes into slow motion. He pulls up my sleeve slowly, and little by little, everything comes out. My wrist is bare and I feel exposed, naked for him to see.

“Liz…” I can feel him looking at me, but I’m staring at my wrist, the ugly red line staring right back at me, scorning me. Wrap my other arm around myself, because when you’re naked, the first thing you try to do is cover up what little you can. Save what little dignity you have left. And close your eyes and wish it all away, praying that this is all just some kind of bad dream.

Feel pressure on my wrist again and my eyes snap open, gasping in shock and staring at him with his lips brushing softly over the ugliness, like he was wanting to take away all the pain. He looks back up at me with those eyes of his. That look he has. It makes my knees go weak, my heart start pounding. “Liz, you shouldn’t do this to yourself. You shouldn’t. Please, don’t. You’re… You’re so much better than this.”

And I just look at him, blinking a few times before I jerk my hand away from him. “No, I’m not better than this. I’m not! What happened to not judging? God, everyone has me so high on this goddamn pedestal. And I can’t… I can’t keep my balance. I’m hanging on by the tip of my toes. One wrong move and I’m going to fall. Little Lizzie never lost her balance. Little Lizzie never fell. But little Lizzie’s gone, Max. She’s gone. And no matter how much I want to pretend to be her again, I’m not. No matter how much I try to be, I’m not this ideal little miss perfect person that everyone thinks I am. That’s not me.”

“I know that, Liz.”

“Do you? Because no one else does. No one knows me. And no matter how much you think you do, you don’t know me either, Max. No one knows what goes on in this head of mine. Or how fucked-up all my thoughts are. Hell, if they did, they’d be so shocked because, guess what, Max! I’m not perfect! I never was!”

“I never said you were. God, Liz!” He’s raising his voice again. “You’re not even on a pedestal in my mind. If anything, you might be standing on a stack of telephone books maybe, two of them, at the most,” he holds up two fingers. And I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. “And that’s ‘if anything’, Liz! You’re not perfect. I know that. You are FAR from perfect. Hell, you have more faults than anyone I know!”

And me? I smile at him while he’s telling me all this, trying my best to not give anything away, that I’m indifferent to all that he’s telling me. So that he won’t know. And he won’t see that I’m already crying inside, pulling myself into a ball and detaching myself from all of this. Drifting off again into the depths of my mind, where everything is peachy-keen and everyone is happy.

There’s a pause and I wait while he takes deep breaths to calm himself down. This is the part where he realizes what all he just said and tries to apologize like crazy, trying to make it up to me with flowers and candy and such until I finally forgive him. And then he goes back to trying to ‘save’ me, being all saint-like again. I wait and his breathing is even again. He looks at me. And here it comes…

“And the fact is, that you’re… you’re just… so… you’re selfish, Liz. You’re selfish, and you’re a coward, you’re scared of everything, and you have the lowest self-esteem. And those are only a few of the things I can name off of the top of my head.”

And I am NOT openly crying. No siree, waterfalls of tears are NOT coming from my eyes. I just stand there, leaning against the table, staring down at my feet, arms crossed over my chest, closing myself off to stop from outright sobbing. Blocking myself off from everything he’s saying, so that it doesn’t hurt me anymore than it already has. ‘I am rubber and you are glue’ and all that shit.

Two shoes come to be right in front of mine. I won’t look up though. I can’t look at him. Not when he sees me as this incredibly stupid and retarded being. That’s a laugh. He probably doesn’t even see me as a being. I am dirt. Lower than dirt. I am scum. Not the kind of scum that’s on the bottom of people’s shoes, but the scum on the ground. The kind of scum that are forced to bake in the sun and turn all black. Scum. Damn it, I’m thinking of gum. Shit. Of course he thinks I’m retarded. Because I am.

“But, Liz.” His voice is soft. I didn’t expect that, not after him saying all those harsh words. They may have been harsh, but they were true. This is how he sees you. This is what you are to him and to everyone else. This worthless and pathetic person. Hands come into view and fingers are brushing over my cheeks, wiping at invisible tears. He knows. He knows I’m sobbing inside, that I’m just putting up this ‘tough guy’ front, pretending that his words didn’t hurt, when in actuality, each and every word nicked at me, cutting to the bone. He knows… damn him.

The hand leaves my cheek and I feel it on my waist, pulling me from the table and closer to him. “And all of this about you, I see, but not the way you do. Unlike you, I love every one of your faults…” the other hand goes up and my hair gets tucked behind my ear, “…every imperfection… everything, because they are what makes you… you. And I love everything about you, Liz. I love it when you smile, when you laugh, when you… growl.” He’s snickering at me. At me. Snickering. Snickering at my peculiarities.

“And I love to hear you talk about the oddest things.” Again, he’s laughing at me. Why does he keep laughing at me? Why? Is my pathetic life that amusing to him for him to laugh at me? “And how you like to sit back and look at things… and just… and I love how beautiful you are. I love everything about you, Liz… and… I love you.”

Bring my hand up to untuck my hair, letting it fall and veil around my face, so that he won’t see. He won’t see the tears fall. And if he can’t see them, he can’t laugh at them. He can’t list them as another one of my flaws. He’s already listed so many of them for me to hear, as if I didn’t know them by now. As if I didn’t know that I was a self-centered brat who no one wants. I know that. I’m reminded of that every fucking day.

“Liz…”

What? Is he going to go through listing more of my faults? God, does he think I want to hear more of them? That I don’t already know them?

“Fuck off, Evans.” Shove him aside with everything I have and rush for the door. Grip the knob and jerk at it. Turn, push, kick. Why won’t it open? Please, to God, open. Twist, turn, shove. And it comes ajar with me falling to the ground. Scramble to my feet and rush forward. Down the hall and down the stairs, wiping at tears. Away from the hurt, and away from him.


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