posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:16:40 PM

Author: Kari

Rating: Eventually NC-17

Disclaimer: I don’t own Roswell or anything associated with it so please don’t sue me!

Note: This is a challenge fic. Here are the guidelines for the challenge: (from Melissa_)

1- Must be all couples M/L , A/I M/M and any other couple you decide.

2- OKay now all of them must not know eachother except ( Liz and Michael because they are siblings) and if you choose to make any one else siblings also it's okay.

3- they are all sent to this sort of foster home ( kind of like higher ground) because their parents died or whatever. They are all sent to this house in which they must live, it's kind of like a boarding school.

4- They all must meet for the first time and then you decided how the coulpes come together. Each person has to overcome whatever issue they have ( it must be bumpy at first)and you decided what, how and all that.

5- All caracters must be very similar to the way they are on the show.

6- You can add any one else you choose

*****

~*Part 1*~

“Michael, what the hell is that?” asked Liz, pointing to something in his suitcase.

“That, dear little sister, would be a sketch of the park.”

“Oh,” said Liz, feeling bad for not being able to tell what it was. “Well, it’s really beautiful. Mom and Dad would have liked it…” Liz’s voice cracked as she mentioned her parents and then the tears came. The tears and the painful hurt that came with them never seemed to be able to stay away for more than few hours.

“Come here,” said Michael, dropping a shirt he was attempting to fold and enveloping his younger sister into a hug. Liz let the tears flow, not knowing what she’d do if she didn’t have Michael. He was her rock. Someone she could always turn to. She could count on him being there for her every time.

A month ago, Michael and Liz Parker’s parents had been brutally murdered during a robbery situation that occurred in the Crashdown Café. A tall man wearing a ski mask and wielding a hand pistol had walked in, demanding that anyone who worked there was to get him all of the money out of the cash register and put it in a large velvet bag he had.

As the man was handing the velvet bag over the counter to Mrs. Parker, Mr. Parker ran at the man from behind, trying to take away the gun pointed at his wife’s head.

The man was surprised as Mr. Parker jumped on his back and he pulled the trigger…sending a bullet straight into Mrs. Parker’s head.

Liz, who was working a shift that bright and sunny afternoon, collapsed onto the floor in shock. Her vision blurred as she saw the blood…so much blood…her mother’s blood.

The man realized what he had done and turned to see who had attacked him. He aimed the gun at Mr. Parker and shot, with no hesitation at all.

The whole world seemed to be turning black as Liz watched her father slump to the ground in slow motion.

And then the man did something Liz would always be able to see in her mind. The man had the nerve to spit on her father’s dead body. To spit on him as if her father was the one who had done something horrible. As if he wasn’t the one who’d just shot both of her parents and destroyed her entire life in a matter of 30 seconds.

Liz fainted at that point, but when she awoke she was in bed and she saw Michael leaning over her, tears streaming down his face. At first she didn’t know why he was crying, but then the memory of what had happened invaded her brain and she literally felt as if someone was reaching deep into her body and trying to yank her heart out.

For two whole days Michael and Liz stayed together, crying. On the third day their grandma Claudia made them eat and shower. Then they had to go down to the police station and give their statements to Sheriff Valenti.

Liz couldn’t believe what she was hearing when the sheriff told her the killer hadn’t been captured. He was on the run, free to kill other innocent people, to destroy more lives.

For the next two months Liz and Michael were excused from school and tutors came tot eh house. Liz, being smart and studious, manages to pass her sophomore year in high school, but Michael stopped trying. He failed his junior year. Neither of them minded because then next year they’d probably have classes together.

Their grandma Claudia moved in with them, but she closed down the Crashdwon Café. Most of the family’s savings were used for the funerals.

Just two weeks earlier Grandma Claudia told Liz and Michael that she was no longer capable of caring for them. She had barely enough money to care for herself, much less two growing teenagers. She said that she was arranging to have them go and live in a foster home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

And today, after they finished packing, Liz and Michael Parker were catching a flight to Milwaukee and were going to start a new life, far from Roswell, far from their grandmother, and far from the painful memories haunting them.

~*~*~*~*~*

Alex took a last look at the large house in front of him. He and his brother Max were switching foster homes again. But unlike the other times, they didn’t want to leave. They had loved staying with Mr. and Mrs. Evans.

‘It was too good to be true,’ thought Alex sadly, climbing into Max’s jeep. Alex and Max Whitman were going to a foster home not too far from the Evans’ in Chicago, to Milwaukee.

“Cheer up,” said Max in an uncheery voice. “Today’s the first day of the rest of our lives.”

“Yippee,” said Alex grumpily.

~*~*~*~*

Isabel checked her lipgloss one last time and turned to Maria. “How do I look?” she asked.

“Where on earth did my cedar oil go?” yelled Maria, ignoring Isabel as she frantically searched through her suitcase.

Isabel sighed and grinned in amusement at her best friend and adoptive sister. They’d both been adopted by the Hardings when they were babies, along with Tess. The Hardings had recently filed for bankruptcy and could no longer care for their three adopted daughters.

Isabel and Maria didn’t mind, because they were going to a new foster home together, while Tess went somewhere else. They’d always hated Tess and the Hardings, so the change in living arrangements was a welcome one.

The only bad thing, at least according to Isabel, was the fact that they were moving from fun and glamorous New York City to boring and hum-drum Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Maria let out a big sigh of relief and said, “I found it.” She started to sniff the cedar oil as Isabel gathered up her countless bags.

“Come on, Ria. Let’s get out of here!”

“Amen sister!” exclaimed Maria, causing them to break into giggles as they headed out to Mrs. Harding’s car, where she was waiting to drive them to the airport.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Dec-2002 5:03:24 PM ]

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:17:29 PM

~*Part 2*~

Amy DeLuca stood in the middle of her enormous kitchen and slowly looked around. It was still hard to believe that she was about to take in six teenagers. She’d always wanted to be a foster parent but had always been denied that right because she wasn’t married and was believed to not be responsible enough.

A month ago she’d helped rescue a baby from a burning building, and as a reward, the mayor had granted her permission to foster up to six children and even had a large new house built for her.

Many social service workers nationwide had sent her requests, but she’d politely denied all but six of them. The six she had chosen seemed, from their descriptions and family backgrounds, to need extra love and care. Which she planned to give. Especially to Liz and Michael Parker. The way those poor kids had lost their parents…

She was jerked out of her thoughts as the doorbell rang. She broke into a smile and ran to the door, flinging it wide open.

“Uh, hello,” said a dark-haired thin boy. Standing next to him was a boy who wasn’t as thin but had sort of big ears. Both looked nervous.

“Why hello,” she said. “You must be Alex and Max Whitman. Please, come in.” She stepped back to allow them entrance into the foyer.

Alex looked around appreciatively and said, “WOW! This crib is the shit!” Max elbowed him in the ribs and Alex said, “I mean, you have a very beautiful home, Mrs. DeLuca.”

She smiled and said, “Please, call me Amy. And I don’t mind if you use your slang. I’m down with that.”

Alex smiled at Amy’s attempt to be cool, but Max just rolled his eyes. “Where should we put our stuff?” asked Max, pointing to his and Alex’s bags and boxes.

“You can just leave it there,” said Amy. “You can put it all away when the others get here.” She began to lead them into the kitchen.

“Others?” asked Alex.

“Yes, there will be four other teenagers living here as well. You, Max, and Michael Parker will have a large room and private bathroom. The girls, Liz Parker, and Maria and Isabel Harding, have their own room and bathroom across the hall from you.”

Alex and Max sat down at the table as Amy set two glasses of milk and an overflowing plate of cookies in front of them.

Alex greedily grabbed some cookies and started to stuff his mouth. Max gave him a look and Alex mumbled, “What?” spraying cookie crumbs everywhere in the process.

The doorbell rang and everyone stood up. “Stay here,” said Amy. “I’ll go get the door.” Alex and Max reseated themselves as Amy hurried to the door.

“H-hi,” said a pretty, petite brunette. “I’m Liz and this is Michael. Are we in the right place?” She clung to Michael’s arm as if she couldn’t stand without his support.

“Yes dear, you are. My name is Amy. Please, won’t you come in?”

Liz and Michael stepped in and Liz noticed bags and boxes on the floor. “Who’s are those?” she asked.

“Alex and Max's. They’re staying here too. Just set your stuff next to theirs, you can go up to your rooms later, when the other two young ladies get here.” Amy ushered the nervous siblings into the kitchen.

Michael sat down amiably next to Max while Liz stared. She couldn’t help it…his eyes…She snapped herself out of her daze.

“Hi,” said the gorgeous eyed boy. “I’m Max. This is my brother, Alex.”

“Hi,” said Liz, looking down. “I’m Liz. That’s my brother Michael.”

“Well,” said Amy, noticing something happening between Max and Liz. “Sit down. I’ll get more milk.” As she turned to the refrigerator the doorbell rang yet again.

Amy opened it and looked upon two pretty blondes. “Hello,” she said. “You must be Maria and Isabel. Come in and set your bags by the others and follow me into the kitchen.”

Maria and Isabel looked at each other and shrugged. They had no idea how many other people lived in the house so they were a bit surprised to see four other teenagers sitting at the table eating cookies and milk.

“This is Maria, and this is Isabel,” said Amy, introducing them to the group. “That is Michael, Liz, Alex, and Max.”

Alex looked up and almost choked on the cookie in his mouth. A goddess was standing in front of him. An angel sent down from heaven. A…

“Alex, you’re drooling,” whispered Max, causing Michael to snicker loudly. Alex closed his mouth and willed himself to look at the wall. But his eyes kept being drawn back to Isabel. It was like she was a magnet…a really sexy magnet.

Isabel and Maria sat themselves down at the table as Amy said, “I know this might sound like a stupid idea, but I was thinking maybe we could go around the table and say things about ourselves.”

No one wanted to go first, so Amy finally said, “Alex, why don’t you start us off?”

“Sure,” he mumbled, still struggling not to stare at Isabel. “My name is Alex Whitman. I’m 16 years old, but I can’t drive a car yet. I love dogs, cookies, and long walks on the beach.” Everyone laughed at Alex’s last comment.

“I’m Maria Harding,” Maria spoke up. “Isabel and I have lived our whole lives together, but we aren’t actually sisters. I’m 16 years old. I hate that I’m so short.”

“Pixie,” muttered Michael under his breath.

“What?” snapped Maria, sending a glare down the table at Michael.

“Nothing,” he said, smirking at her.

“Michael, why don’t you go next?” asked Amy trying to stop the bickering that was already starting.

“I’m Michael Parker. I’m 17 and I just flunked my junior year in high school, but I don’t really mind because then I get to have classes with Liz next year.” He flashed his sister a smile.

“Actually,” said Amy. “None of you will be going to a high school next year. There will be private tutors coming here to teach you in some classrooms we have in the back of the house. One classroom for those of you who will be juniors, and another classroom for those of you who will be seniors.”

This information earned Amy a lot of grumbles and groans from the adolescents around her but she just shook her head. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll still be able to socialize with people your age, outside of the house. Now Max, why don’t you tell us something about yourself?”

“I’m Max Whitman. I’m 17 and I’m Alex’s older brother. I own a jeep named Bob and I can’t dance.” He blushed and tried not to look at Liz as he felt her eyes observing him.

“I’m Isabel Harding,” Isabel spoke up. “I’m also 17 and I wish I still lived in New York City.”

Amy looked at her nervously, hoping that didn’t mean Isabel hated it here already. She turned to Liz. “You’re next Liz,” she said. Liz stared down at the table and said nothing. “Liz…sweety…can you tell us a little about yourself?” Still no answer. “Liz, honey, what’s your favorite hobby?”

Liz shot up in her seat, knocking it to the floor. “Don’t call me sweety or honey! You’re not my mother! My mother died! My parents were murdered in front of me! Don’t try to act all sorry for me or try to treat me like I’m some fragile little thing! And most importantly don’t treat me like your daughter! I hate it here! I fucking hate it here!” She turned on her heels and flew out the front door, running and collapsing onto the curb.

Amy slowly stood up, all eyes on her. “I’ll go talk to her,” she said.

“No, I will,” said Michael, heading out of the kitchen before Amy could protest. He ran out to his sister and hugged her. “Shh…” he whispered. “It’s ok, I’m here.”

Liz sobbed and when she finally regained her composture, looked at her brother and said, “I meant what I said in there. I hate it here. I hate the way everyone feels sorry for me and treats me special. I don’t want a new mother!”

“I know, Lizzie. Neither do I. Amy could never in a million years be a mother to you or me. But we have to live here. We have no choice. Let’s just make the best of it. Come on, let’s go back inside and put our stuff away in our rooms. Once you have everything organized you’ll feel so much better.”

Liz knew this was true. When she was upset about something she liked to organize things. It had this soothing, meditating effect on her. She clung to Michael’s arm as he slowly led her back into the house.

When they returned to the kitchen, Amy and the other teenagers were still seated. “Sorry,” mumbled Liz under her breath, not making eye contact with anyone.

“That’s fine,” said Amy, standing again. “If you’ll all go grab your stuff, I’ll show you to your rooms now and then maybe you’ll want to take a dip in the pool.”

They shuffled back to the foyer and grabbed their belongings, following Amy up the grand staircase.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:17:57 PM
~*Part 3*~

Liz straggled behind the rest of the group as they ascended the stairs. They reached the head of the staircase and Amy pointed to a door on the right side of the hallway. “Girls, that’s your room.” She pointed to a door on the left side of the hallway and said, “Guys, that one is yours.”

They scrambled over each other in their rush to get in the rooms and claim their beds and closet space.

As Liz entered the girls’ room, Maria and Isabel plopped down on the beds by the wall. The only bed left was next to a window, which Liz found kind of convenient because she loved to lie in bed and look out at the moon and stars. She quietly and quickly began to put her clothes into her closet and her four drawers of the dresser.

There was also a desk for each girl and a huge bookcase, which Liz happily organized. She hung up the few posters and pictures she’d brought with her.

As she was doing all of this she listened to Maria and Isabel talking.

“No, Maria,” said Isabel. “Get your aromatherapy stuff off the dresser and put it on your desk or something. My nailpolish is going on top of the dresser!”

“That’s not fair! Why can’t your nailpolish go on your desk?”

“Maria, you know me. If the nailpolish is on my desk, every time I’m studying I’ll just end up doing my nails!”

Maria grumbled but moved her aromatherapy bottles to her desk.

Finally they all finished unpacking in the bedroom and it was time to go check out the bathroom and put some of their more personal items away. Liz was amazed at how huge the bathroom was—practically the size of their bedroom! There was a shower stall and a huge jacuzzi tub. There was a mirror that covered one whole wall and there were two sinks. The sinks were set into a counter below the mirror and there were plenty of cabinets and drawers for their stuff. There was also a small linen closet stocked with towels and extra sheets for their beds.

The three girls set to work putting their stuff away in the bathroom and headed back into the bedroom.

“Let’s go see the guys’ room,” suggested Isabel.

“Sure,” said Maria. They both looked at Liz. She shrugged her shoulders.

“Sure,” she said quietly. She followed the other two across the hall and she smiled as she heard Michael, already in an argument.

“No!” yelled Michael. “I refuse to have that poster in this room! N SUCK belongs over in the girls’ room!”

“Hey!” yelled Alex. “They don’t suck! And their name is N SYNC! They sing quality teen music! Metallica sounds like a bunch of crap mixed with-”

“You can just take your quality teen music and shove it up your-”

“Whoa, boys! Down!” yelled Maria, interrupting the argument. She turned to Max. “Why didn’t you intervene in this?”

Max smiled sheepishly. “It was funny,” he said.

Michael, still fuming, turned to Maria. “Hey Pixie, did anyone ask you to butt into our conversation? NO!”

“Excuse you?! Pixie! You didn’t…Isabel, hold me back, cause I’m about to kick me some Metallica-loving ass!”

Isabel latched onto Maria’s arm and said to Michael, “I’d be scared if I were you. When Maria threatens someone, she means it.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’m really scared of a short blond chick.”

“Is there a problem here?” Everyone turned to face the door, where Amy stood, hands on her hips.

“No,” said Max quickly. “In fact, we were just discussing going for a swim. Right everyone?”

“Yeah,” everyone agreed.

“All right,” said Amy. “Get into your suits. I’ll make some sandwiches and lemonade to bring out later.”

The girls retreated back to their room to change. Liz changed into her swimsuit and sat on her bed to wait for Maria and Isabel to finish.

Isabel looked at Liz and said, in a somewhat snotty voice, “That’s the suit you’re going to wear?”

“Yeah,” said Liz, not seeing what was wrong with it. It was dark blue with white flowers on it.

“You look so childish,” said Isabel, leaving the room.

Maria looked apologetically at Liz and said, “I think what Isabel’s trying to say is that you’d look more grown up in a two-piece.”

Liz shifted her eyes downward uncomfortably. “I like this one,” she whispered.

“Oh, it’s very pretty. But don’t you want to impress Max?”

Liz looked up quickly. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

Maria giggled. “I saw the way you have been looking at him. Come on, you can borrow one of my suits.”

Liz thought about it for a few seconds and then nodded her head. Maria smiled and headed to the dresser, pulling out a pale blue two-piece suit. She threw it at Liz, who quickly changed and followed Maria down the stairs.

“Where is the pool?” asked Liz.

“Let’s just follow the voices,” said Maria, leading Liz through the kitchen. Amy smiled at them as she made sandwiches. Maria opened a sliding glass door and stepped out onto the deck.. She immediately ran to the side of the pool and dived in. Liz watched as she resurfaced and smiled at the look on her older brother’s face.

As soon as he had seen Maria come out of the house in her skimpy bikini, he’d been totally checking her out.

Liz remembered that she too was in a skimpy bikini and blushed, hoping no one had really noticed. She stretched out on a deck chair near Isabel to work on her tan. She wasn’t in the mood to swim.

Liz closed her eyes and reveled in the feeling of the sun’s rays working their magic on her skin. She opened her eyes as she felt drops of water misting onto her feet.

Alex was lugging a huge bucket of water behind him. Michael, Maria, and Max were treading water in the pool, watching to see what Alex was going to do. Everyone was so silent…Liz was about to ask Alex what he was up to when she heard a snore come from Isabel.

Liz smiled and then realized what Alex was going to do. She knew that the right thing to do would be to stop Alex or wake up Isabel, but Liz wasn’t feeling too angelic at the moment. Isabel deserved whatever she got for the comments about Liz’s swimsuit.

Liz’s eyes met Alex’s and she nodded to signal to him that she wasn’t going to stop him.

Alex held the bucket above his head…and then dumped three gallons of water right onto Isabel’s head.

She woke up with a start, tumbling out of her deck chair, sputtering like a half-drowned rat. Everyone burst out laughing and the people in the pool were having a hard time keeping their heads above water, they were laughing so hard.

Isabel got to her feet and stared at Alex, her rage and fury very evident in her eyes.

She slowly advanced towards Alex and stopped when she was only inches away from him.

He smiled nervously and said, “Hi Isabel. You look a bit wet.”

“So do you,” she said.

Alex looked down at himself in confusion. He hadn’t gotten into the pool yet. “I’m not wet,” he stated.

Isabel raised her hands and pushed Alex backwards into the pool. “Spoke too soon,” she said, turning and walking back into the house.

Alex came back to the surface with a big goofy grin on his face. “She’s got the hots for me!” he exclaimed.

Max chuckled at his younger brother’s antics as he got out of the pool. He sat down in the chair next to Liz. Neither of them said anything, just staring straight ahead.

Finally Liz ventured to say, “Your brother is kind of weird.”

“Uh, yeah,” said Max. “He’s always been a total clown. I think that’s how he keeps his sanity sometimes.”

“What do you mean?” asked Liz, turning to look at Max. Their eyes met and they both hastily looked away.

“We’ve been moving from foster home to foster home our whole lives. Every time we move it gets harder. Sometimes we stay with a family a year or two, sometimes less. I think the least time we’ve ever been with a family is four days.”

“Four days? Wow…that’s…I’m sorry,” said Liz.

Max smiled. “Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault. Our parents gave us up because they couldn’t afford to have a family. At first, when I was the only child, it was ok. But a year later, when Alex was born, they couldn’t afford it. They were only seventeen.”

“Seventeen? Wow, that’s young. That’s too young.”

“Maybe,” said Max. “But two years ago I got a letter from my biological mother. It said that she and my father are still very much in love. And that they love me and Alex.”

“Did you write back?” asked Liz, totally absorbed in Max’s story.

“I wanted to, but there was no return address and the postmark was smeared.”

Liz, not knowing what to say, sat in silence, waiting to see if Max would continue.

Max sighed and stood up. “Excuse me for a few minutes,” he said, heading into the house to use the bathroom. Liz leaned the chair back and flipped onto her stomach so she could tan her back.

Meanwhile, Maria and Michael were arguing in the pool.

“Admit it!” said Michael.

“No way! Bugs Bunny could kick Mickey Mouse’s butt any day!”

“Nope. My man Mickey is the better cartoon!” Michael splashed some water into Maria’s face.

“Hey!” Maria splashed him back until there was an all out splash fest going on.

Alex swam laps back and forth, trying not to get involved in the splashing.

Amy stepped outside with a large platter of sandwiches and lemonade. “Here comes the grub!” she yelled, causing the four teens there to stampede towards the food. Max came out then and joined in the eating festivities.

“Where’s Isabel?” asked Amy.

“I think she’s in her room,” said Max. “I doubt that she’s in the mood right now to come down and eat with us.”

Amy gave Max a quizzical look, but didn’t inquire any further. There wasn’t much talking during the meal because everyone was so busy stuffing food into their mouths.

They finally finished eating and Amy said, “Well, if you want to, I’ll take you all downtown tomorrow to find jobs or buy some summery clothes, or whatever you want.”

Everyone muttered their agreement and one by one left the group to get ready for bed.

Michael and Liz were the last two remaining outside. Michael studied his sister’s expression for a minute, in the slowly receding light.

“What’s up?” he asked her.

“The sky.”

“This guy?”

“Michael…” Liz couldn’t help but to smile at her brother. He could be such a jerk to other people, but to her he was always a wacky, caring older brother.

“Seriously,” said Michael.

“This sucks. Having to adjust to a whole new home. Max said he and Alex do this a lot. How can they stand it? How can they bear to lose everything that’s familiar and just move on to another family?”

“They’re used to it,” said Michael quietly. “They know what to expect by now. They probably don’t get too attached to their foster parents because they know they won’t be there long.”

Liz sat still and stared at the setting sun, mesmerized by the enchanting colors—purple, pink, orange, red. A tear slipped down her cheek, leaving a shimmering trail behind it. Then another one came and another. Michael knew she needed to let out her sadness, so he let her cry, staying with her in case she needed him.

Finally Liz stopped, her face washed clean by her tears. She wished she could do the same to her heart—wash it clean of all the pain and confusion she was feeling. She didn’t want the ache in her soul to keep on going like it was. She didn’t want to feel anymore.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:18:22 PM
~*Part 4*~

Maria ran out to the van and got inside, closing the door behind her. Amy slowly pulled out the driveway and headed downtown. She and Isabel were in the front, Michael Liz and Maria in the middle, and Alex and Max in the back. She was going to buy them whatever they needed and let them find jobs if they so wished.

Amy was surprised at the silence in the van. Yesterday they had all talked so much, getting to know each other, joking around, even beginning to argue and bicker with each other. That morning, at breakfast, they'd been quiet, but not that quiet. There had been some excitement when Alex was trying to do a magic trick with Isabel's bracelet and had dropped it into the toaster, burning it and starting the toaster on fire. Then Maria had gotten upset because Michael wouldn't stop calling her Pixie and they kept having a weird argument Amy didn't understand about Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

She said, "Today's going to be a very hot day." She was hoping to spark some conversation but no one responded to her. She sighed and gave up. 'Maybe it's really starting to sink in that they're in a new foster home,' she thought to herself. 'They just need some time to adjust and wade through their emotions.'

Finally Amy reached the Grand Avenue Mall and parked on the street in front of it. They all filed out of the van and walked into the mall. Amy said, "You can all go your separate ways. I don't care if you leave the mall, you can walk anywhere you want to or take the bus, just meet me back here in six hours. Do you all have the one hundred dollars I gave you?"

"Yes," they all replied and then went their separate ways. Max and Michael immediately went back outside, to look for jobs elsewhere. The last place either of them wanted to work was a crowded and loud mall full of yelling, overly happy people. They got on a bus and headed further into the downtown area.

They eventually got off and saw a huge sign outside of the Imax Theater that said 'Accepting applications now!' They went inside and up to the employment desk. They were given papers and pens and were pointed towards some tables where they could sit to fill them out.

"So," said Max, filling out his papers. "Amy told the rest of us what happened to your parents. I'm sorry."

Michael sighed. "Yeah, I'm sorry too. Liz has taken it way worse than I have. She saw it happen. I mean, can you imagine seeing your own parents killed right in front of you and you're powerless to do anything to help them?"

"That would be horrible," said Max. "I don't think I'd be able to handle something like that."

"Yeah, me either. I was at a friend's house that day. I came into the Crashdown and the sheriff greeted me with the words, 'You're parents have been murdered Michael. Liz is our main witness and we need a statement from her, and you too possibly.' He said some other stuff but I was tuning him out and running up the stairs. As soon as I'd heard that Liz was the main witness I knew that I needed to see her. To make sure she was all right. See…she's had emotional problems her whole life. Severe depression. I knew that if I didn't stay with her, she would…attempt…well, a few years before, she'd attempted suicide, and I knew that she could very possibly try it again."

Max stared at Michael in shock. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Liz seemed too perfect to be the type to attempt suicide…

"She'd been dumped by a guy she was in love with, Kyle Valenti. He was the sheriff's son, in fact. Anyway, she didn't know how to handle her emotions and she'd tried to slit her wrists. For two weeks she was kept in a hospital. I wasn't allowed to visit her, and I think I know why. Everyone told me she was in a regular, run-of-the-mill hospital, but I think they were treating her for severe depression in a mental hospital. For weeks after she came home from the hospital she'd cry herself to sleep and many nights I'd fall asleep on her floor, next to her bed. That always seemed to make her feel better. To know I was there for her. And now the depression is back, but it's not going away this time. I need to be there for her as much as possible."

"Wow," whispered Max. "Well, if I can ever do anything to help you or Liz in any way, just tell me."

"Thanks," said Michael, all of a sudden looking uncomfortable. He quickly finished filling out the job application forms and handed them back to the man behind the counter. Max finished and followed Michael outside to catch a bus back to the mall to buy some clothes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"That looks so tacky," muttered Isabel to Maria as they watched Liz hold up a shirt in front of herself and study the result in the mirror.

"Isabel! What's gotten into you? Liz is a nice person, be nice to her!" said Maria.

"Yeah," said Alex. "Or I just might throw more water at you!"

Isabel rolled her eyes and turned to face Alex. "Tell me again why you are following us? Oh, that's right…because you're not masculine enough to hang out with the guys."

A wounded expression came across Alex's face and Liz finally turned to Isabel and said, "Why do you have to be such a bitch? Do you think I can't hear you over there, making comments about me? And now you're being rude to Alex! You need a hobby, or a life, or something…just stop picking on people!"

Isabel looked in shock at Liz, she hadn't expected Liz to say anything. "I don't think you have the right-" she began, but was cut off by Alex.

"I agree with Liz. You're being a bitch. A real Ice Princess. I mean, ok, maybe I deserve it for dumping the water on you. But not Liz. She hasn't done anything to you that I know about? Maria, did Liz do anything yesterday or today to piss off Isabel?"

Maria shook her head. Isabel looked at all of them and let out a disgusted sigh. "You're pathetic," she said. "Come on Maria, let's get out of here." She walked towards the exit of the store and then turned around again. "Maria, are you deaf? I said we're going!"

Maria shook her head. "No. Liz and Alex are right. You're being a bitch today. Sorry Iz, but I'm staying with them. And you're welcome to stay with us too, if you can stop making the mean remarks."

Isabel huffed angrily and stomped out of the store, leaving Maria, Liz, and Alex standing there. "Thanks," said Liz quietly. "But you don't have to stay with us Maria. I know Isabel is your best friend."

Maria shook her head. "Today she's not someone I feel like hanging out with. You two, on the other hand, are people I can have fun with."

Liz and Alex smiled and Liz and Maria decided to try on clothes and model them for Alex. After about ten outfits for each of the girls, Alex fell to the floor and said with mock terror, "I don't think I can live to see you two in even one more outfit. It's torture!"

Maria giggled and said, "Ok, we get the idea Alex. We'll just pay for what we're buying and then grab some lunch."

They headed back out into the main mall and found the food court. They all ordered sub sandwiches and ice cream sundaes. They saw Isabel sitting by herself at a table about 50 yards down from them, sending glares in their direction. They ignored her and goofed off and made a lot of noise, and were just all around annoying to the people sitting around them. An elderly couple hurried away in horror after Alex stuck two straws up his nose and did a walrus impression.

After they were all done eating and were all calmed down again, they decided to look for jobs. Alex filled out a job application for Arby's and Liz and Maria filled out job applications for The Sunglass Hut. It wasn't much, but not many stores were hiring.

They finished filling out applications and hurried to the meeting point, where they saw Amy, Max, Michael, and Isabel waiting. "Did you have fun?" asked Amy.

"Yeah," everyone agreed, except for Isabel. They showed Amy their purchases and talked excitedly about the jobs they'd applied for. They all tried to hold in their laughter when Isabel said she'd applied at McDonalds…it just didn't seem like the type of job she'd enjoy doing.

Amy drove them home, happy that the kids had a good day and congratulating herself on planning the day out at the mall. Maybe her maternal skills were better than she'd thought they were the day before.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:19:18 PM

~*Part 5*~

Over the next few days Liz remained quiet, staying in the background. She didn't know what to think of Maria's attempts at friendship. She liked Maria…but Liz didn't feel like making many friends at this stage in her life. All she wanted to do was get through each day without breaking down in tears. Michael was always there to comfort her, but she felt so helpless.

She wished Isabel would stop her high-and-mighty act, because that just added to Liz's problems. She really liked everyone in the house except for Isabel.

Alex was becoming her favorite form of amusement. When Michael couldn't get her to smile, Alex sure could. Alex could get Oscar the grouch to smile. And Max…Liz had barely said two words to Max since the first day, but she desperately wanted to get to know him…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Isabel sighed as she sat down at the dinner table, not enjoying the sight in front of her. Fried chicken, baked potatoes, and a huge chocolate cake. Didn't anyone else care about their weight or how much fat they were consuming?

Isabel watched in disgust as Alex shoveled chicken in his mouth as if he hadn't eaten in weeks. Alex looked up from his plate and said to Isabel, "You gonna eat that?" He was pointing at her plate.

"No, here," she said, pushing it across the table at him.

"You should eat something, Isabel," said Amy from the other end of the table.

"I'm not hungry," said Isabel, standing up and walking up the stairs without asking to be excused.

A worried look came across Amy's face. "Is my cooking really that bad?" she asked.

"It's great," reassured Maria. "Isabel is just kind of moody and stuff lately. Probably PMS."

The guys groaned at this comment and Alex pushed his plate away, his appetite obviously gone. Amy just nodded in understanding.

The guys eventually began eating again and Amy dished out the cake. "I'll take Isabel a piece," offered Alex, not giving anyone time to stop him. He headed upstairs and knocked on the girls' bedroom door. Receiving no response, he called out, "For your sake I hope you're not naked, cause I'm coming in!" He bounded into the room to find a crying Isabel lying on her bed.

"Alex!" she screamed. "Leave! Can't I get any privacy?"

Alex pouted and held up the plate of cake. "But I come bearing gifts!" he exclaimed, hoping to lighten the mood a bit. No such luck.

"I said I wasn't hungry!" screamed Isabel. "I don't want to eat! How hard is it for your brain to comprehend that!" She sprung off the bed and hurriedly pushed Alex out the door, slamming it in his face.

Alex, a bit dazed, stood in the hall, staring at the door. "I was just trying to be nice," he said to himself. He shrugged and began to eat Isabel's piece of cake.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Michael ran down the stairs the next day, expecting a letter in the mail from his grandma Claudia to him and Liz. He threw open the front door and ran down the driveway toward the mailbox. He opened it and pulled out a handful of mail. All of it was addressed to Amy. Michael sighed and trudged back to the house, piling the mail on the table. Alex, who was raiding the refrigerator for a snack, glanced up and noticed Michael's sad look.

"Hey, why so blue?" he asked.

"Aw, it's nothing," said Michael. "I was just kind of expecting a letter from my grandma Claudia. I really want to hear from her. Maybe tomorrow…"

Alex nodded sympathetically and started eating an apple. "Yeah, I kind of wish Max or I would get a letter from the Evans'…or even our real parents."

Michael raised his eyebrows questioningly, but let Alex continue to explain at his own pace.

"Our last foster family, the Evans family, was so great. Philip and Diane were great people. For a while I think they were contemplating adopting us. But considering how old we are, I guess they just thought it'd be pointless." Alex paused for a moment to eat more of his apple. "A couple years ago we got a letter from our real mother. We haven't heard from her since."

Michael nodded, unsure of what to say to Alex…unsure of what Alex wanted him to say.

"Well, enough of that," said Alex, grinning. "I'm off to annoy Isabel. Wish me luck!"

Michael chuckled. "Good luck." He watched in amusement as Alex walked off and then he decided to try to find Maria. As long as Alex was off annoying Isabel, he could annoy Maria.

He smiled to himself as he thought of the way she got so angry at the smallest things, and headed upstairs to search for her.

*****

As the days progressed everyone settled in and got used to their new home. Liz began to open up to Maria more, just to clam up again the next day. Amy noticed this and decided that she’d have to talk to Michael about it.

One day, after lunch, she pulled Michael aside. “Michael, I need to talk to you about something,” she said. “Could you come with me to my office?”

“Sure,” said Michael warily, hoping he wasn’t in trouble for something. He followed Amy silently down the hall, realizing what time it was and wishing he could go check the mail. He still hadn’t received a letter from his grandmother and was getting anxious to hear from her soon.

Amy opened the door to her office, stepping aside to allow Michael to walk in. He hadn’t been in there before, and he’d expected it to be a neat and tidy place. It was just the opposite. There were papers and books all over. CDs lay in a pile on the desk and there were bright and colorful posters on the wall. He sat down in a comfortable leather chair and waited for Amy to seat herself across from him. “So, why’d you want to see me? Did I do something? Cause I swear that I was not the one to stick gum in Maria’s hair!”

“Oh no, Michael. You didn’t do anything wrong. And I never heard anything about gum…I just wanted to talk to you about your sister.”

“Why? Did Liz do something wrong?”

Amy chuckled. “No, Michael. No one is in trouble here. I’m just a little worried. She seems like a very nice, intelligent girl. But she doesn’t seem to have the best social skills.”

Michael sat and tried to think of how to defend his sister against that comment, but he couldn’t come up with anything. It was the truth. Liz didn’t have the best social skills. She used to have tons of friends and had been in love with Kyle Valenti…but everything changed when their parents were murdered. Liz stopped talking to her friends and they stopped talking to her. Liz had lost interest in life and really couldn’t care less if she had friends or not.

Michael sighed and met Amy’s gaze. “I know,” he said. “Our parent’s…death was very hard on her and she went through some emotional problems.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of Liz’s emotional problems and depression. I know she attempted suicide. That’s part of the reason you two are here. I’m a retired therapist, so I chose teens with those types of problems to live here.”

Michael thought about this for a second and said, “What types of problems do the others have? And hey…I don’t have problems!”

Amy smiled. “I know. But your grandmother didn’t want you two separated and I’m sure neither of you wanted that either. As for the others’ problems, I really can’t discuss that with you. What I wanted to talk to you about was primarily Liz.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok. Now, you’re Liz’s brother, I’m sure she looks up to you a great deal. Try to help her along, get her to become friends with one of the other teens here. Talk to her if she’s depressed. She made it clear the first day that she doesn’t want to be here and she doesn’t see me as a mother figure at all. I respect that. But I want to know she can turn to someone else in this house and talk to them. And you may not always be the best person…she may want to talk to another girl.”

Michael nodded his head in understanding. As much as he wanted to be there for Liz, some things were just too weird to talk about…the girly things. He stood up and said, “Well, I’ll try to get her to talk to the others when we’re in groups and get her to open up a little.”

“Thank you, Michael,” said Amy. “That’s all I ask of you.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Max settled another weight onto the bar and said to Alex, “Are you ready?”

“Of course,” said Alex, laying beneath it. The guys were weight lifting in the small weight room Amy had set up for them. Alex grunted and groaned as he tried to lift the bar, but just couldn’t bench-press it. Max grinned and helped him.

“You didn’t have to do that, Max,” said Alex, turning purple from his efforts. “I can do it,”

“Yeah right,” said Michael, entering the room. He went to the other bench press and put two fifty pound weights on it. Max continued to help Alex while eyeing Michael warily.

“Don’t you need someone to spot you?” asked Max. “What if you drop it?”

“I won’t drop it,” Michael said confidently.

Max looked down at Alex and chuckled. Alex had just about given up and Max was doing all the lifting. He gently placed the bar back in the cradle and helped Alex sit up.

“Whew. I’m tired,” said Alex. “I’m done.” He looked over and watched Michael lifting and said, “How can you lift that much?!”

“This is only 100 pounds,” said Michael.

“But I can barely lift 75!” exclaimed Alex, causing Michael and Max to burst into laughter. Alex scowled. “Don’t laugh just because I’m weaker than you!”

“Liz can lift more than that,” said Michael, finishing up his repetitions with the bar.

“Speaking of Liz,” said Alex. “She’s been extremely quiet lately. What’s up with her?”

Michael sighed. “She’s just going through a rough time now. Try to get her to talk though, Amy is worried about her.”

Max looked up at Michael and studied his expression. Ever since the day Michael had told Max that Liz had gone through a deep depression and had tried to commit suicide, he’d been worried. He tried to gauge Michael’s expression and decide if Liz was approaching that stage again.

Max saw fear and worry in Michael’s eyes and Max made a silent resolution to himself to try to get Liz to open up to him. Although they hadn’t talked much since they’d met, he felt an odd attraction to her, a feeling that he had to protect her. He wanted to be there for her and he never wanted her to feel like she had nowhere to turn when she was upset about something.

As the guys finished up in the weight room, Max decided that he needed to talk to Liz and try to see if he could get her to talk to him and hopefully cheer her up.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:19:44 PM
~*Part 6*~

Max opened his eyes and looked across the room. Alex and Michael had already gotten up. Max slowly dragged himself out of his bed and went down to the kitchen.

"Hey," said Maria. "Welcome to the land of the living."

"Ha ha. I hardly overslept."

"Whatever you say," said Michael. "But we have to be at work in an hour and a half."

Max groaned. He'd forgotten that he, and everyone else, started their jobs today. He got to sell tickets for the Imax theater, while Michael was in charge of the audio, making sure the sounds stayed at the levels they should be at. Maria and Liz were working at The Sunglass Hut. Alex was going to work at the small Arby's in the food court, while Isabel worked at the next stall over, McDonald's.

Max looked around the kitchen and said, "Where's Amy and Liz?"

"Amy's doing laundry and Liz is outside."

Max nodded and then headed for the sliding door that led to the yard. He stepped outside and looked around. Liz was nowhere in sight. He walked down to the huge garden and spotted Liz's head peeping up above some sunflowers. He slowly walked towards her, not wanting to surprise her.

"Hey," he said.

"Oh, uh, hi Max. What's up? Shouldn't you be eating breakfast now?"

"I'm not really hungry. What about you?"

"I ate already. I've been up for hours."

Max nodded and they both stared out at the garden, thinking of what to say next. Finally Liz said, "Do you like flowers? Amy found out I love flowers and since it's too hard for her to single-handedly take care of this garden, she is letting me tend to it."

"I love everything about nature," said Max. "I love everything from the flowers to the stars." Max blushed when he realized how ridiculous he must have sounded.

Liz just laughed, her whole face brightening. Max felt himself smiling along with her. "That was so poetic," she said. "But if you really do love flowers, you should help me with the garden. I usually come out here early in the morning, when Amy's the only other one awake."

Max smiled. "Of course, I'd love to help you," he said. Together they both walked back to the house, both looking forward to their budding friendship.

As they entered the kitchen, Amy came upstairs from the basement. "Everyone ready to work?" she asked cheerily. All six of them nodded and followed Amy out to the van. She drove them all to the mall, happy that everyone was being nice to each other and no arguments had broken out yet that morning. Amy stopped first at the Imax theater, to let Michael and Max out. Everyone wished them good luck and Amy headed for the Grand Avenue Mall.

Alex got out of the van first, offering his hand to help Maria and Liz get out of the van. They gladly accepted his chivalry, but Isabel ignored Alex and got out by herself. Alex, Maria, and Liz walked into the mall together, while Isabel hung back a bit.

Isabel wanted to be talking and laughing with Maria, after all, they were best friends, and even though they weren't biological sisters, they'd grown up referring to each other as sisters. But it was all too obvious to Isabel that she was being replaced. Ever since they'd arrived at this home, Maria had hung out with and stuck up for Liz and Alex. First, when Isabel had commented on Liz's swimsuit, Maria had become all buddy-buddy with Liz, even lending her a swimsuit. Then, when Alex had gone and dumped that huge bucket of water onto her, Maria had just laughed. When they'd first come to the mall, she'd stuck up for Liz and Alex, basically telling Isabel she was being a bitch. And Alex kept bothering her.

Isabel sighed as she realized she'd reached the food court. Liz and Maria had wandered off to their jobs and Alex was already behind the counter at Arby's trying to fix his hair net. Isabel laughed quietly at how silly Alex looked and walked over to the McDonald's, lifting the part of the counter that could swing up and stepped behind the counter. She walked back into the kitchen to look for the supervisor she'd talked to a few days earlier. She found her and the woman handed her an apron and a mop and bucket.

"What's this for?" asked Isabel, looking at the mop with disgust.

"That's a mop. I hope you know how to use one, because that's your job." The woman pointed to the secluded part of the food court right in front of the McDonald's. "None of the employees in the other stands will clean the floor. So now, you get to. When you finish, come back here so I can teach you how to work the french fry machine."

Isabel slowly pushed the mop and bucket out to the food court, not sure if she should cry or break into a run and try to escape from the hell she was being sucked into. As she mopped the floor, she tried to ignore the laughter coming from the Arby's stand, where Alex had stopped working to watch her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria sighed and leaned on the counter with her elbows, resting her head in her hands. "This is so boring," she said.

Liz nodded. "I know. But at least we're making money. And it is an easy job…we've been here three hours and our only customer was that elderly blind man who thought this was a food stand."

Maria giggled. "It was funny to see him trying to figure out what type of food the sunglasses were."

As the girls were giggling, their boss, Mrs. Clip, came up behind them. "Well girls, I think it's time you had a break. Take an hour for lunch."

"Thanks," said Maria, grabbing Liz's hand and dragging her towards the food court. "Let's go visit Alex!" she said. They ran up, then stopped dead in their tracks. "Oh my…" Maria said quietly. "Is Alex actually wearing a HAIR NET?!"

"Yes," giggled Liz, walking up to the counter.

"Hello," said Alex in a very professional voice. "Welcome to Arby's. How may I serve you today?"

Liz giggled and said, "Well, sir, I'd like some fries and a large Mountain Dew."

"Of course," said Alex, turning to Maria. "And what would you like on this fine and lovely day?"

Maria tried to hold in her laughter, but wasn't able to. She doubled over in laughter, pointing at Alex. Alex looked around to make sure his fellow employees hadn't noticed the laughter and then said, "Really, Maria. Let me do my job and take your order. What's so funny?"

Liz knew Maria wouldn't be able to stop laughing soon, so she said, "Maria will have the same thing I ordered. And Alex, she's laughing at the way you're acting and…your hair net."

As soon as Liz said this, Maria burst into a new fit of laughter. Alex looked on at Maria, getting slightly annoyed. "I'll get your order, Liz," he said. He turned and proceeded to get their order ready as Liz tried to help Maria gain some semblance of control.

Alex slid their orders over the counter and took the money Liz handed him. He then joined them on their side of the counter and said, "I'm taking a break now too." They walked to a vacant table and seated themselves. Alex dug right into the hamburger he'd brought out for himself.

Maria took a sip of her Mountain Dew and then, for no reason that was apparent to Alex and Liz, she spit it out, spraying it over the table.

"Maria," said Alex, straining to be heard over her new bought of laughter. "Really, you're being childish now. Yes, I'm wearing a hair net. Now get over it!"

Maria ignored Alex and pointed to the other side of the area of the food court they were in. Liz and Alex strained to see what she was pointing at. "Oh my God…" muttered Liz.

"Is that…?" asked Alex.

"Yup," Maria managed to say. "What we see is Isabel, cleaning up the floor…on her hands and knees." All three of them burst into loud laughter, which even Isabel could hear from where she was.

They finished their lunches, and as they were throwing out their trash, Isabel stomped over to them. It didn't look as if she'd had any fun at work. The bottoms of her pants were wet from the mop and she had what appeared to be mustard on her shirt. Her hair was messed up and she was scowling.

"What the hell was that whole performance about, Maria?" she spat out.

"Uh, what?" asked Maria.

"Laughing like that, pointing at me! Thanks a whole bunch for calling attention to me while I look like this and I'm cleaning floors!"

"Geeze, Isabel. It's not a big deal. No one here knows you but us three."

"Yeah, but they'll eventually know us, from somewhere. Most of them probably work here! God, you really know how to embarrass someone, don't you? You and your stupid new friends!"

"Excuse you?! Just because I am friends with someone besides you doesn't mean you have the right to call them stupid!"

"Whatever," muttered Isabel. "You know, ever since we got to this home, you've chosen them over me. As far as I'm concerned, we are no longer friends and we most certainly are no longer sisters!" Isabel stomped off and Maria stared after her, in shock.

Alex watched Isabel, sadly. Even though she'd insulted him and Liz and had hurt Maria's feelings, he couldn't deny that he liked her. A lot.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

That night, after dinner, all of the teens, except for Isabel, were lounging in the living room, trying to decide what to do to occupy their time.

"Max, why don't we go sit in the garden and look at the stars," suggested Liz shyly.

Max nodded and stood up, leading Liz outside. Everyone else smiled at each other knowingly, happy that Max and Liz were spending time together. It'd been painfully obvious that they liked each other, the way that they looked at each other, or the way they talked about each other.

Alex stood up and said, "Well, I'm going to go practice playing my guitar." He left and Maria and Michael were alone in the living room. Michael shifted around uncomfortably on the sofa.

"So," said Maria.

"So," Michael replied. His eyes met hers, but he quickly averted his gaze. He knew that if he looked at her pixie eyes for long enough, he wouldn't be able to look away.

"What do you want to do?" asked Maria.

"What makes you think I want to do anything with you?"

"I know," she replied simply. "So, what do you want to do?"

"I have absolutely no ideas."

"Well, at the mall today I heard some girls talking about some teen dance clubs downtown."

"And…"

"Well, we should go!"

"No way! I don't dance! I can't dance!"

"Of course you can dance, everyone can dance."

"No, Maria, I can't dance."

"You just move to the music."

"I'd look stupid," whined Michael.

"When you think about it, everyone looks stupid when they dance."

"Oh, that makes me feel so much better," he replied sarcastically.

"Come on, Michael. It could be fun!"

Michael thought about it for a moment and then reluctantly said, "Ok. We can go to a stupid dance club."

"Yes! Thank you, we'll have so much fun!" Maria exclaimed, jumping up to kiss him on the cheek.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:25:27 PM
~*Part 7*~

Maria quickly ushered Michael into the kitchen, where Amy was sweeping the floor. "Amy," she said sweetly. "Michael and I were wondering if we could go somewhere."

"Where?" asked Amy, eyeing them suspiciously. She stopped sweeping and leaned on the table, waiting for their response.

"We just want to go to the library," replied Maria in a sweet voice. She lightly elbowed Michael in the ribs.

"Yeah, uh, the library," Michael said. "We want to go check out some books to read for the rest of the summer. I hear Stephen King has some great ones."

Amy gave them both a disbelieving look. "The library?" she said. "I didn't know that you two loved to read so much."

"Of course we love to read!" exclaimed Michael. Maria smiled widely, happy that Michael knew how to act. "We're regular old bookworms, Maria and I are. Yup, I could read ALL day!"

Amy slowly nodded her head and began to sweep again, looking at the floor. "You can take the Mustang, I'm sure you kids don't want to be seen driving a dorky old minivan."

Maria and Michael shared a shocked and surprised look. Amy was going to let them drive the MUSTANG?!

"Uh, ok," said Maria, hoping she wasn't showing her excitement. Michael grabbed the keys off the counter and they walked quickly to the garage, which was attached to the house. They got into the garage and Maria jumped up and down in excitement.

"This is unbelievable!" she screamed. "We're going to show up in a Mustang convertible!"

"Shut up!" yelled Michael, covering her mouth with his hand. "Amy could hear you! She thinks we're just going to the library. She'll get suspicious of something if she hears you screaming."

Maria nodded and calmly climbed into the passenger seat, while Michael threw open the garage door and climbed into the driver's seat. He started up the car and slowly drove down the driveway.

As he turned onto the street Maria yelled out, "Woohoo!" as loud as she could and Michael stepped down on the gas.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Alex sat down on his bed, his guitar resting or his leg. He strummed it quietly and his thoughts wandered to Isabel. He was worried about her, even more so than he was about Liz. She seemed to be distancing herself off from everyone and everything. She very rarely ate meals with the rest of them, and hardly ever socialized with them. She was always either reading a book, lifting weights, or swimming laps.

He strummed his guitar again and then proceeded to play a piece of music he'd composed a few years ago. It was a bit sad. He'd composed it right after he and Max had received the letter from their biological mother. All his life, he and Max hadn't really thought that much about their biological parents, but when they'd received that letter, a whole lot of emotions surfaced. Emotions about his parents that he'd never realized he had.

He'd been so angry at them for giving up him and Max. But then again, he was happy. If they'd stayed with their real parents they would have been living in poverty their whole lives. They'd been given a chance to have a better life, and for that Alex was grateful.

Also, when they'd received the letter, Alex had realized just how much he and Max meant to his parents, how much they'd wanted to keep them and raise them. Alex and Max had always had a good life, they were never abused, or anything like that. But they'd never know a permanent home, they'd never had real parents who could takes them to the park and buy them hotdogs. Real parents who would know all their little quirks and pet peeves.

That was something Alex had always wanted. And that made him wonder if Isabel had been given any of that growing up. He didn't think so. According to Maria, they'd been adopted by a rich stuck-up, and unfeeling family. They'd apparently also lived with another adopted girl, Tess. Maria had told Alex that when she and Isabel had found out that they'd be leaving the Harding family, they were happy.

Alex stood up, still strumming his guitar, and walked across the hall, wanting to see if Isabel would be willing to talk to him.

*****

"It’s so nice out here tonight," Liz commented to Max as they lay back on a patch of grass deep in the garden. They looked up at the cloudless sky and smiled. The moon was full and hung low in the sky, while the stars twinkled brightly.

"It’s beautiful," said Max. Liz looked at Max and realized he’d been looking at her, not the sky, when he’d said that. She blushed and looked back up at the sky.

As she looked up at sky she wondered the same thing she’d always wondered…was there life out there? Was it more advanced than the human civilization? She wondered if she could talk about these things with Max. She looked over at him, preparing to ask him if he believed in life on other planets, but as soon as her eyes met his, her question was lost.

His warm amber eyes sparkled and his lips curved into a smile as Liz looked into his eyes. "Liz," he said quietly.

"Yeah, Max?"

"I have a confession to make."

"Ok. What is it?"

"I…I’ve liked you since we first came to this house." Liz looked at Max with a bit of embarrassment, a bit of shock, and quite a lot of joy. "I saw you walk into the kitchen, your long hair flowing down your back, and I looked into your eyes…I knew I was a goner then."

Liz gave out a little laugh. "Max, why didn’t you say something sooner? We’ve been here for almost a month."

"Well, I didn’t think you’d give me the time of day. I mean, you’re so beautiful, you could have any guy you wanted…"

Liz blushed even redder and said, "Oh, please, I’m nothing special. And what made you decide to tell me?"

"Well, you asked me to tend the garden with you. You didn’t ask anyone else. And you asked me to look at the stars with you. You made me think I was a step above the other people in the house and I just thought what the heck, I might as well tell you."

"It’s a good thing you told me," said Liz, turning onto her side to face Max, propping herself up on her elbow.

"Yeah, why’s that?"

"I thought I was going to go crazy trying to watch you all the time, finding excuses to be near you. Max, I really like you too."

Max blinked in surprise, a warm smile spreading over his face. "You do?"

"Yeah, and if you want we could, uh, see what happens between us."

Max nodded his head and gently cupped Liz’s cheek with his hand. "Liz, can I kiss you?" he whispered, so quietly that Liz almost couldn’t hear him.

"Yes," she whispered back. Her heart fluttered as Max leaned close and her eyes slowly closed. His breath was warm on her face and then his strong but tender lips were touching hers, and she was flying, she was soaring. But most importantly Liz was feeling again, and this time she didn’t want that to go away.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael pulled up outside a club with a sign that read ‘Neon Flashes’. It was a brand new teen dance club, and the place looked packed. Maria hopped out of the car excitedly and readjusted the halter top and skirt she’d put on before dinner that night. Michael followed her and they payed their twenty dollar cover charge at the door and pushed their way into the club.

It was packed full of high school students of every kind. There were the popular people, the nerds, the outcasts…everyone. Maria squealed and grabbed onto Michael’s arm. "Isn’t this the coolest place?!" she gushed.

"Uh, yeah," said Michael, trying not to get lost among the gyrating bodies around him. "Let’s find a table."

"No way, uh uh mister, we came here to dance, and dance we will!" insisted Maria, leading Michael to the middle of the floor. Michael stood there, in obvious discomfort as Maria began to dance.

The lights dimmed down more and the strobe lights came on, causing Maria’s movements to look choppy. Michael couldn’t tear his eyes of her. Since when had the little pixie gotten so sexy?

'No, don’t think like that! It’s just Maria!' he told himself, but to no avail. She smiled up at him and grabbed his hands, pulling him close to her. All of a sudden Michael found that it was quite a bit harder to breathe and the temperature in the room was escalating.

Maria swayed her hips and showed Michael how to move. Self-consciously he mimicked her movements and (gasp) found himself enjoying dancing!

He gasped as Maria pulled him closer, much closer. He closed his eyes and tried to get control over his heartbeat and his…other body parts. But he found himself quickly spiraling out of control, as every time Maria swayed her hips, she brushed against him.

Maria smiled seductively up at Michael, happy that he wasn’t arguing about dancing and that he was allowing them to be so close. A harder rock song came on and Maria pressed herself right up to Michael’s body, her arms around his neck, his arms around her waist.

Michael’s eyes opened wide in surprise as Maria ground her hips into his. She continued to do this every few seconds and eventually Michael joined her in the bumping and grinding motions.

Neither of them realized how long they were out on the dance floor, but it must have been hours, because they were some of the last people to leave the club. Michael led Maria to the Mustang, upset that the night out with Maria was ending already.

They got into the car and as Michael began to drive towards Amy’s house, Maria said, “Take a left at the next intersection.”

Michael shot her a questioning glance but did as she said. He continued to follow her directions until they found themselves on a deserted back highway. He pulled over and shut off the ignition. Within milliseconds Maria had crawled onto his lap and her supple lips were on his. She groaned as his tongue roughly pushed into her mouth.

He kissed his way down to her neck, biting and nibbling. "God Michael…" she whispered.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Alex took a deep breath and knocked on the door to the girls’ room. "Who’s there?" he heard Isabel call out from inside.

"Uh, it’s me, Alex," he called out. He stood waiting for a few seconds before the door slowly opened.

"Hi," said Isabel, greeting him with a small smile that seemed strained and not real. “Come in.”

"Thanks," he said. "Uh, no one’s around, I was a bit bored, thought maybe we could talk," he mumbled.

She nodded and sat down on her bed. "That’s nice of you," she said. "I heard you playing your guitar before, you’re really good."

Alex blushed and said, "Well thanks. I don’t really get the chance to practice much."

There was a bit of silence before Isabel said, "I’m sorry for the way I blew up at everyone at work today. I didn’t mean to call you and Liz stupid or to yell at Maria like that. God, she’s my best friend, and I just keep pushing her away, yet I keep telling her she’s the one pushing me away. What’s wrong with me, Alex?" She began to cry and Alex hurriedly set down his guitar.

"Hey, Isabel, don’t cry. It’s no big deal. I know you didn’t mean it, you were just angry. I’m sorry I laughed at you for cleaning the floor, that was rude of me. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with you."

"Yes there is. I can’t seem to make new friends and all my old friends always push me away. I’m lonely Alex."

Alex felt something inside of him cry out to Isabel that she wouldn’t be lonely for long, not if he could help it. He wanted to be with her. He cautiously climbed onto the bed right next to her and pulled her into a hug, not sure if she’d push him away.

Much to his relief, she didn’t. She laid her head on his chest and continued to cry, while he held her and rubbed her back in comforting circles. He’d wanted to talk to her about what her life had been like before and what the Hardings had been like, but he knew that could wait.

"It’s okay, Isabel," he said. "I’m here now."
posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:25:53 PM
~*Part 8*~

Liz groaned and rolled over, trying to ignore the sounds of Maria running around their room like a maniac.

“Where are my shoes?!” she was screaming at the top of her lungs. “I cannot start the school year without my lucky shoes!”

Liz shot up in bed. ‘That’s right!’ she thought. ‘It’s the first day of school!’ She got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where Isabel stood in front of the mirror, applying lip gloss.

Isabel glanced up and said, “Hey Liz. How are you?”

“I’m ok,” said Liz. She and Isabel had started up a friendship during the past month, and Liz had a suspicion that it was only because Alex and Maria were forcing Isabel to be nice to her. But at least she didn’t have to put up with Isabel’s mean remarks anymore.

As Liz began to brush her teeth she thought back over the past month. The best month of her life. During the first week, she and Max had tentatively taken their first steps towards becoming a real couple, complete with lots of sweet kisses that made Liz’s head spin.

She’d expected Michael to go into overprotective brother mode, but just the opposite had happened. Apparently Michael trusted Max completely with his younger sister and was quite happy that they were happy with each other.

As Max and Liz’s relationship had bloomed over the past month, so had Michael and Maria’s. Sort of. Some days they were like a normal couple, holding hands, exchanging smiles and small kisses. Other days they were total horndogs and only wanted to find an empty room or closet so they could make out like crazy. And yet other days they barely spoke to each other or they argued about the stupidest things…the way they had when they’d first come to the house.

Isabel had been nicer to everyone, but didn’t go too out of her way to spend time with anyone but Alex. She seemed very interested in him, and everyone knew that Alex was head over heels in like with Isabel. Practically every time he saw her he began to pant and drool. Call it puppy love.

Liz thought about all of this and then realized she’d spaced out and had been brushing her teeth for almost ten minutes. She quickly rinsed out her mouth and continued to get ready for the first day of school. She finally joined everyone else in the kitchen, where Amy was making chocolate chip pancakes as a special treat.

“I don’t mean to rush you,” said Amy. “But try to eat fast, I want the kitchen somewhat cleaned up by the time the tutors arrive.”

Everyone nodded, too busy eating the wonderful food to say anything. Finally they’d all finished (with the exception of Alex, who just kept shoving food in his mouth) and they cleaned up the kitchen in no time.

They decided to go to the classrooms before the tutors arrived to pick where they’d sit. Max and Isabel were the only seniors, so they got a whole room to themselves. Liz, Maria, Alex, and Michael went to the other room. Liz sat down in the middle of the room, with Maria on her left, Michael behind her, and Alex to her right.

They talked about what they thought their tutor would be like, but all of them were surprised when a young looking man walked in and set his briefcase on the main desk.

“Hello,” he said. “I’ll be your teacher for this year, in all subjects. Hopefully you won’t get too bored with me. You can just call me Brody.”

Everyone smiled at Brody. He seemed like a very nice and very cool teacher. “Well, to get started, I need to know you’re names.” He pointed to Maria and said, “You are?”

“I’m Maria.” He went through the other three people and then he said, “Well, since today’s the first day, I think we’ll start with the easy stuff. Let’s get you all of your textbooks.”

They all received textbooks for chemistry, algebra 2, english, civics, and spanish (except Michael got a higher level book since he was a level ahead of the others in spanish).

Brody started them out doing math review problems. As the morning progressed, they all wondered how Isabel and Max were doing in the next room over...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“You will follow these rules or you will pay the consequences, do you understand me?” asked their teacher, Mr. Ramirez. Neither Max nor Isabel responded to him, they only looked up at him in fear.

“I can’t hear you!”

“Yes, sir!” They yelled out at the same time. Mr. Ramirez nodded his head in satisfaction and walked up to the blackboard. He wrote the word DISCIPLINE on the board.

“You two are seniors this year. You should show me that you are disciplined and always ready and able to work up to your full potential. I don’t accept slackers. This year is going to be tough, I’ll admit that. You are going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.”

Max and Isabel both groaned in their heads, wishing they hadn’t gotten stuck with this teacher. Mr. Ramirez looked nice, but he acted like a drill sergeant.

Isabel slowly raised her hand and said, “What exactly are we going to be doing this year?”

“Well, we’ll be studying many areas, including calculus, physics, spanish, english grammar, and sociology.”

Max and Isabel nodded and then began writing down notes as Mr. Ramirez began a lecture on the basics of physics.

Both of them were thinking the same thing, ‘This year is going to suck.’

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael sighed and collapsed onto the couch in the living room, happy that it was the weekend and that he didn’t have to work that day. He was free to sit around and do nothing…exactly what he liked to do.

“Michael, you wouldn’t mind getting the mail, would you?” asked Amy, passing by the living room with a large pile of towels in her arms.

“No, I don’t mind,” he said and went out to the mailbox. He pulled out the wad of letters, bills, magazines, and flyers.

“For Amy, for Amy, for Amy, for Maria, for Amy, for Isabel, for…me?” He walked back into the house and set all of the mail onto the table except for the letter that was addressed to him. There was no return address on it, and he didn’t recognize the handwriting.

“Odd,” he muttered, taking it back into the living room, where he flopped onto the couch again and tore open the envelope. A letter on yellow paper fell out, onto his lap. He plucked it up and opened it, truly perplexed as to who could have sent him mail, other than his grandmother. But she would have put a return address on the envelope, and besides that, he knew her handwriting and this wasn’t it.

He read the letter and then he reread it and then he reread it again. He stared down at the yellow piece of paper in his hands until the words blurred together into a jumbled mess.

No. This wasn’t happening. It was a dream. Or a joke. A very sick and disturbing joke. He hastily shoved the letter into his pocket as Maria walked into the living room and sat down next to him.

“What’s that?” she asked, having seen him shove the letter in his pocket.

“Oh, nothing. Just a little letter from my grandmother.”

“Oh, cool. So how is she?”

“She’s great. Super. Listen, Maria, I have to…uh…go…to my room now.”

“What? Why? Did Amy punish you?”

“No, I just need to be alone now.”

Maria raised her eyebrows in a questioning way. “Michael, why do you need to be alone?”

“Because, Maria!” he yelled, standing up quickly. “Do you always have to ask so many questions? Geeze, can’t I have a little time to myself, a little space?” He stomped off towards his room while Maria remained seated on the couch, staring after him in shock.

Then her eyes teared up. Was he breaking up with her? He did say he needed a little space. She’d heard that excuse before on television and in movies.

Michael was breaking up with her. She slowly stood up off the couch, and blindly walked back to her room, trying not to completely lose it right there in the hallway. She went into her room, happy that Isabel and Liz had gone to work and weren’t around to ask what was wrong. She went into the bathroom and sat down on the edge of the tub and cried.

What had she done that had made Michael so angry? He had said she asked too many questions. Did he think she was too nosy? She didn’t mean to be. She only asked questions because she cared.

She continued to cry and then went over to the sink to splash some water onto her face. Her eyes were puffy and red while the rest of her face was pasty and unhealthy looking.

As she was drying her hands on a towel she noticed an unopened package of razors sitting on the counter top. She looked at the razors and felt calmness sweep over her. Without thinking she took one of the razors out of the package and made a small cut across her leg. She watched the blood ooze out, happy for the change in pain.

If she had to have pain, she’d rather have it be physical rather than emotional. She cut herself again and again, returning to the old habit she’d picked up while living with the Hardings.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:26:26 PM
*~Part 9*~

Maria snuggled farther under her blankets, trying desperately to fall asleep again. But it was no use. She was wide awake, thoughts of Michael tormenting her. He'd tried to talk to her that night at dinner, to explain that he'd been upset, about what she didn't know and he wouldn't say, and that he hadn't broken up with her. And maybe she could accept that…that he hadn't broken up with her. But his words, the way he'd snapped at her, had still hurt. And then she'd realized, with a sickening dread that twisted her stomach that she'd returned to her old habit. She hadn't even realized she was cutting herself until after it was done, when she was lying there on the cold bathroom floor, bleeding.

She stared down at herself in shock. How had she done this without realizing it? Why had she felt that this was her solution? She knew what cutting was like, as she'd done it years before. But then she'd gotten help and sworn to herself that she'd never do something that foolish or dangerous again. She promised herself that she'd never mutilate her body that way, that she'd try to deal with her emotions instead of trying to cut them out of her life, out of her body.

And yet she'd gone back on her promise and done it again. And as she lay there under her blankets, she shivered in fear. Because right then she felt like doing it again. And not just because of the situation with Michael. In retrospect, that was a small part of her life. What she really wanted to do was to make herself forget what she'd gone through as a twelve year old. She had told Isabel, making sure Isabel swore never to tell anyone. Maria just wanted to forget that terrible chapter of her life, but it always came back to haunt her. After all, how could you forget that your own father, correction, adopted father, had raped you?

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Michael paced back and forth in the moonlight, thinking. He didn't know what to do now. He was in danger. Liz was in danger. Oh god. Liz. How was he supposed to tell her? Was he supposed to tell her? She deserved to know, it greatly affected her too. But he couldn't do that to her. She was still healing emotionally.

But he had to tell someone, to let someone else know. Otherwise the secret of what was in that letter was going to eat him up inside…either that or get him killed.

~*~*~*~*~

Alex yawned and half rolled, half stepped out of bed. He stood up and yawned again, stretching his arms over his head, arching his back, trying to get the kinks out. It was then that he noticed Michael sitting on the windowsill, looking half dead.

"Hey, Michael…uh, you ok?" asked Alex, noting the dark circles under Michael's eyes and the pasty complexion of his face.

"No, Alex, I'm not. I'm not ok at all," replied Michael, sounding for all the world as if he hadn't slept in days.

"Uh, you wanna talk about it?" asked Alex.

"No, man, that's ok. Why don't we get some breakfast?" Michael tried to get down from the high windowsill, but ended up crashing to the floor.

Alex rushed to Michael's side. "Are you ok?" he asked, helping Michael to stand up.

"Yeah."

"I'll go get breakfast," said Alex. "But I think you need to get some sleep. Didn't you sleep at all last night?"

Michael shook his head weakly. "I couldn't sleep," he said as Alex helped him into his bed.

Alex left Michael behind and went down to the kitchen. Only Isabel sat at the table, staring at a glass of water.

"Uh, morning Isabel," said Alex. "Where is everyone?"

"Maria and Liz have to work today, and Max is out in the garden."

"Oh," said Alex, pouring himself a bowl of Lucky Charms. (What in the world would he do without his Lucky Charms?!)

"So, what are you planning on doing today?" asked Alex through a mouthful of marshmallowy goodness.

"I'll probably go the weight room and work out, and then maybe swim some laps."

"Wow," said Alex. "That's a lot of exercise. Don't you think you'd better eat some breakfast? Water isn't enough to get you through that."

Isabel shot Alex an annoyed look and said, "I know that Alex, I'm not dumb. I ate already."

"Oh," said Alex, blushing. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was yelling at you."

Isabel sighed and said, "It's ok, Alex." She left the kitchen and Alex finished his cereal. As he walked to the counter to put his bowl in the sink he noticed a plateful of eggs and sausage sitting in the sink. Isabel had lied to him. She hadn't eaten.

Alex shook his head in confusion. Why didn't she eat? And a better question was why did she feel that she had to lie about it?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The next morning, a Monday, Max was in his classroom early. He was taking the extra time he had to study for a Spanish test that Mr. Ramirez had hinted at giving that day. As he studied from his book, he heard the classroom door open and close quietly.

He looked up and grinned happily when he saw that it was Liz who had come in.

"Hey," she said. "Everyone else is still getting ready for the day, and Brody and Mr. Ramirez aren't here yet, so I thought I'd pop in and say hi."

Max shut his Spanish book and motioned for Liz to come closer. She leaned down to place a tender kiss on his lips.

"How are you today?" Max asked, brushing a strand of hair out of Liz's face.

"I'm ok," she said, smiling. "I just needed to kiss you before I could really start the day."

"Ah, I see," said Max. "Well, that one little kiss just isn't going to be enough." He leaned in and kissed her, amazed once again at how soft her mouth was. Quickly the kiss turned into a full-blown make-out session.

They forget where they were and what time it was, and so were interrupted by a very stern and not at all amused "Ahem!"

Max and Liz jumped and broke apart. There, standing before them, arms crossed and a disapproving look on his face, was Max and Isabel's teacher, Mr. Ramirez. They could also see Michael, Maria, Alex, and Isabel standing in the doorway, trying to hold back their giggles and snickers.

"Elizabeth, I presume?" said Mr. Ramirez. Liz nodded her head weakly, looking away as she felt her cheeks flame red.

"Well, Elizabeth. I don't know what Brody allows you to do in his classroom, but in mine, we conduct ourselves like ladies and gentlemen. What I just witnessed was not a correct representation of this. And you both will be punished."

Max looked at Liz apologetically. He hadn't meant for them to get in trouble…but he'd really wanted to kiss more than just a little peck.

"After school hours, you both will report here to receive your punishment. Now, Elizabeth, go back to your classroom. And all of you standing there and gawking in the doorway…mind your own business!"

~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz sighed and walked into Mr. Ramirez's classroom, where Max sat in a desk, waiting for her. She sat in the desk next to him and said, "Where is Mr. Ramirez?"

"I think he needed to go to the restroom," said Max. "He said he'd be back in a few minutes."

Liz nodded and they sat there in silence. Finally Mr. Ramirez returned, holding two toothbrushes, still in their packages, and a bucket of soapy water. Max and Liz exchanged confused looks.

"You two must clean this entire classroom floor until it is spotless," explained Mr. Ramirez, setting the bucket of water on the floor and handing each of them a toothbrush. And they were small toothbrushes. Made for the mouths of very small children.

Max and Liz looked down at the toothbrushes in their hands, in shock. They had to clean the entire floor?! That was crazy!

"Well?!" snapped Mr. Ramirez. "What are we waiting for? Get to work!" He stomped out of the room and Max started laughing.

Liz started to giggle too, until both of them were laughing so hard they had tears running down their cheeks. "We…we…have to clean…toothbrushes!" Liz tried to say, but couldn't.

"He's like Mr. Army-man," chuckled Max. Finally they both stopped laughing, except for a sporadic giggle here and there, and set to work.

It took them 4 hours to clean the entire floor, rinse it, and dry it.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:27:00 PM
~*Part 10*~

“He actually made you clean the ENTIRE floor with TOOTHBRUSHES?” asked Alex.

“Yes,” said Liz, collapsing onto her bed. “And now I’m completely exhausted. It’s very tiring to crawl around like that for 4 hours.”

Alex continued his snickering and giggling. Liz picked up a pillow and threw it at his head.

“Alex, you’re enjoying my pain too much.” said Liz, grabbing another pillow. “And for that you will pay!” She rushed at him and attacked.

Alex seemed dazed for a moment, almost unable to believe that Liz, of all people, would start a pillow fight. And she’d hit him really hard!

Before she could get in too many more blows, Alex grabbed a pillow off of Isabel’s bed, where he was lounging, and began his counter-attack on Liz.

“You’re going to regret that you ever messed with Alex Whitman!” he yelled, and then giggled as Liz dropped her pillow, jumped at Alex, and started to tickle him.

For a while it seemed as if Alex might have been able to get away from Liz, but she somehow managed to tackle him to the ground.

Alex lay on his stomach, while Liz held him down with her knees.

“Say ‘Liz Parker is a goddess,’” Liz commanded Alex.

“Never!” he cried out teasingly.

“Say it!” she said. “Or I’ll tickle you again!”

“Nope,” said Alex, grinning widely.

“Well then, prepare to be punished!” exclaimed Liz. Just at that moment, Max walked in. He stopped dead in his tracks. A quizzical look crossed his face as he tried to figure out why his girlfriend was sitting on his brother.

“Max!” Liz called out as she saw him. She quickly stood up, as Alex did the same.

“What was going on?” asked Max, trying to look angry.

“It’s not what it looked like!” Alex blurted out. Immediately he groaned inwardly. ‘Great,’ he thought to himself. ‘That probably just made it sound like we actually WERE doing something!’

“Alex was enjoying the fact that we had to clean the floor with toothbrushes,” explained Liz. “In fact, he was enjoying it too much. So I hit him with a pillow. That turned to tickling. Then I tackled him.”

Max smiled, then laughed. “Come here Liz,” he said, opening his arms wide. She walked into his embrace and snuggled her face into his neck. “You looked so scared Liz,” he laughed. “Don’t worry. I trust you. I know you wouldn’t do anything with my brother.”

“Hey,” said Alex defensively. “Was that supposed to be some sort of crack about me? Like, I’m not good enough for Liz to want?”

Liz giggled. “Aww, Alex. Don’t mind Max. He’s just being a goof.” Liz gave Max a peck on the cheek.

Maria walked into the room then, but as soon as she saw the other three people there, she turned around and quickly walked back out.

“Is she ok?” asked Alex.

“She looked upset,” said Max.

“I’ll go talk to her,” replied Liz. “You two just stay here.” Liz hurried out of the room after Maria.

She found Maria at the end of the hall, slumped in a corner and crying. Liz sat down next to Maria and pulled Maria into her arms. She smoothed back Maria’s hair and gently rocked her back and forth.

Maria cried for a few more minutes, but eventually she quieted down until there was only the occasional sniffle or hiccup.

“Now, can you tell me what’s wrong?” Liz whispered into her friend’s ear.

“I’m so stupid!” wailed Maria.

Liz could sense that Maria was about to burst into tears again, so she said sternly, but kindly, “No, Maria. Don’t you dare start crying again. Not until you tell me what’s wrong. And Ria…you are NOT stupid.”

Maria slowly sat up and disentangled herself from Liz’s embrace. She looked Liz in the eyes and said, “No, Liz. I am stupid.”

Liz sighed. “You may believe that, but I certainly don’t. Now tell me why you think this.”

“Michael and I had a little argument. I took it the wrong way and thought he was breaking up with me. But he says he didn’t break up with me.”

“That’s good then, right?” asked Liz. “Just explain to him what you thought he meant. Talk to him. My brother will listen.”

“I want to. It’s just that, I’ve been thinking and…well, it’s always been kind of hard for me to trust guys because…never mind.” Maria quickly stood up and smiled fakely. “You know what? We don’t need to talk about this anymore. I feel better.” Maria scurried off down the hall and down the stairs.

Liz stared after her. There was definitely something that Maria just didn’t want Liz to know. And from the way she’d hurried away so quickly, Liz knew it must be something big.

Liz stood up and walked down the hall towards her room, where she’d left Alex and Max, determination in her step. If she couldn’t get all the information on what was going on from Maria, she’d have to talk to Michael.

She stepped into her room, where she saw Max, Alex, and Isabel dancing to loud techno music which was pouring forth from the stereo.

Isabel giggled as Alex twirled her around. They continued to dance as Max danced his way over to Liz. He pulled her into his arms as a slow song began.

Liz sighed and rested her head on Max’s shoulder, dancing with him for just a minute. Reluctantly, she pulled away and said, “Max, as much as I want to stay here and dance with you, I need to find my brother. Would you happen to know where he is?”

“The last time I saw him, he was helping Amy to put up the storm windows.”

“Ok, thanks,” said Liz. She leaned forward to give Max a kiss and then hurried away to find Michael. She decided to check across the hall in the guys’ room first and she was in luck. Michael was there, rummaging through his closet.

“Hey, Michael,” said Liz, plopping down onto Max’s bed and picking up his pillow to bring it up to her nose. She loved the smell of his pillow…it smelled like he did. “I need to talk to you.”

“Hmm…can it wait a few minutes? I was helping Amy with the windows and I got a bit sweaty. I want to take a quick shower.”

“Sure,” said Liz. “I’ll just wait right here.”

“Cool,” said Michael, grabbing a change of clothes and going into the guys’ bathroom. Liz sighed and got comfortable on Max’s bed. Michael was in the bathroom for longer than Liz had planned on and she soon got bored. She stood up and began to pace back and forth.

Again, she got bored, and she flopped onto Michael’s bed. She snuggled her face into his pillow, her hands slipping underneath it. She felt a piece of paper and quickly pulled it out. She knew it was wrong to look through her brother’s stuff…but he did it to her all the time!

She looked down at what she held. It was an envelope, addressed to Michael. There was no return address.

She flipped over the envelope and took the letter out. It was written on yellow notepad paper and the handwriting wasn’t anything she recognized. Liz read the letter and then dropped it onto the bed, as if it were hot.

How could this be happening? Why was this happening? And why hadn’t Michael told her? Did he think he had the right to keep something like this from her?!

She slowly picked up the letter and read it one more time.

Dear Michael,

Are you feeling well now that you’re far from Roswell and all reminders of your parents’ deaths? How about Liz? Is she ok? Or is she still suicidal?

Would you like to meet me? I know I’d love to meet the both of you. I’d love to meet you and then rape your dear little sister. I’d love to kill her and you. It would be even more satisfying than when I killed your parents, don’t you think?

Watch for me. I’ll come for you soon.

X


Liz hurriedly stuffed the letter back into the envelope and pushed it back under Michael’s pillow just as he came out. He saw her putting the letter back, tears in her eyes, and he rushed forward, his arms open as if to give her a hug.

“Liz, I was going to show you that letter soon. I really was. Liz, I-”

“Leave me alone Michael,” sobbed Liz. “I’ll bet you didn’t even tell Amy about that. I guess me being raped and killed doesn’t worry you enough to contact the authorities?!”

Michael tried to hug Liz, but she pushed him away and then slapped him. “Well, fuck you!” she screamed, running blindly across the hall, into her room. Isabel, Alex, and Max stopped dancing and stood, staring in shock, as she ran into the girls’ bathroom, slamming and locking the door behind her.

She slid to the floor as she cried. She cried for herself. She cried for Michael. Mostly, she cried for the memory of her parents.

*****

To be continued
posted on 3-Dec-2002 4:58:20 PM
~*Part 11*~

Liz fought desperately to control her sobs, although by that point it was practically pointless. Max, Alex, Isabel, and Michael all knew she was in the bathroom, crying her eyes out.

After a few minutes the tears stopped flowing and her breathing evened out.

"You ok, Liz?" Max's voice came through the door, right next to Liz's ear.

"Ask Michael," she snapped. She didn't want to talk to anyone about the letter, not even Max. She just wanted to curl up into a little ball and disappear.

"Liz, please-" Max began.

"No!" she screamed, slamming her fist on the closed door. "Just leave mealone!"

"Liz, I'll be here when you want to talk," she heard Max mumble sadly.

For a brief moment, guilt passed through Liz as she heard Max move away from the door and out of the room. She slowly rose to her knees and grabbed the edge of the sink to pull herself up.

She lifted her eyes to the mirror and gazed at the image before her. "Why?" she whispered, her voice cracking. "Why me? Why my family? When will it stop?" She seemed to contemplate her own question for a moment before letting out a sarcastic laugh and saying, "When I die, of course. Then it ends. Happily ever after. The fat lady will sing. The end. When I die."

Liz's eyes opened wide in terror. "Oh God," she mumbled. "Michael's not safe as long as I'm alive. The killer only wants me, not Michael. I was the one who saw him kill Mom and Dad. He said in the letter that he
wanted to rape and kill me. He only wants me, not Michael. I have to die!"

Frantically, Liz began to look around the spacious bathroom. Finally hereyes settled on something. The bottle of pills. Isabel's prescription for hermigraines. Liz grabbed the bottle and fumbled it open with shaking hands.She dumped the contents into her hand and stared.

She gripped the nine pills she held in her fist and turned on the faucet.

She filled a small plastic cup with water, set it on the counter, then turnedoff the flow of water.

Calmly, she placed the first pill on her tongue and took a sip of water. She swallowed the pill and smiled. She looked into the mirror and told herself, "I have to die," as she took another pill. "Then Michael will be safe."

She took two more pills, then refilled her cup with water. Another two.

Then another two.

One left. She looked down at the small blue pill in her hand. "I'm doing the right thing," she mumbled, tears clouding her vision once again. She quickly threw back the ninth pill.

"All gone," she giggled, still crying. She blindly stumbled to the bathtub and climbed in. She curled up and closed her eyes. The pills were quickly taking affect. She felt her body going numb, yet at the same time she felt a harsh tingling sensation wash over her.

Her heart began beating faster. Then faster.

She gasped for breath.

She couldn't open her eyes. She couldn't move.

She convulsed once.

Twice.

Her heart stopped.
posted on 3-Dec-2002 5:00:20 PM
~*Part 12*~

“WHAT?!” Max screamed at Michael in rage. Michael had just gathered everyone in the living room and revealed to them the contents of the letter that he’d received in the mail.

“Max…” Amy began, standing up between the two boys. “Don’t get too worked up. Michael was scared and didn’t know what to do.” She turned to face Michael, looking at him disapprovingly. “Although I must say…that was a rather stupid thing to do, Michael. You should have told me immediately. This could be a prank letter, but there’s the possibility that it’s not just a prank!”

Max turned and stomped off down the hall and then up the stairs towards the girls’ room. This time he was determined to get Liz to let him into that bathroom to talk to her.

It was an absolute mystery to Max as to how Michael could have kept the contents of the letter from Liz. She was mentioned in the letter. She was in danger. Didn’t Michael realize that? It wasn’t just about him…

Max stepped into the girls’ room and walked quickly to the bathroom door. He stood next to it, listening. There was no sound from the other side of the door. All of a sudden a sick dread began to fill Max’s mind. Something was dreadfully wrong on the other side of that door.

Max began to pound on the door. “Liz!” he yelled. “Liz, are you ok in there?!” He received no answer. The dread that had filled Max was now turning into a sick terror. He pounded on the door again, harder this time.

Finally Alex and Maria came upstairs to see what was going on. “Max, what are you doing?” Maria asked.

“Liz is in there but I don’t hear a thing. I feel like…something’s wrong.”

“She probably just wants to be left alone,” Alex began.

“NO!” Max yelled. “Something is wrong!”

Maria hugged her arms closer to herself and shivered. “I feel it too,” she said, turning to Alex. “Something is wrong. We need to get in that bathroom.”

“Here,” said Alex, running down the hall and grabbing a hammer from a small closet. He handed it to Max who swung it at the door.

With a few blows to the door Max had managed to create a hole large enough for him to stick his hand through and unlock the door. He threw it open and stepped into the bathroom.

And there lay Liz. Just seconds earlier her heart had stopped.

*****

Isabel curled up on the living room couch and listened in interest as Amy chastised Michael for keeping the letter a secret and not even alerting anyone that he and Liz were potentially in a lot of danger.

“I’m very upset, Michael,” explained Amy. “You may have thought that keeping it a secret was the best thing to do, but you have to see it from my point of view as well. I’m here to provide a home for you six and when one of you puts yourself and your sister in danger…you’re also putting the rest of us in danger. I mean, what if that letter really is from the man who…murdered your parents? He could be very capable of doing it again…and if anyone got in his way…who knows what he’d stop at.”

“I-I know that now,” said Michael, trying to hold back his tears, at least until Isabel would leave.

“CALL 911!” Maria’s voice yelled down the stairs.

“What? Why?” asked Michael.

“Just do it!” she screamed back. Michael shot out of his seat and ran for the nearest phone as Amy and Isabel dashed up the stairs towards whatever emergency had befallen one of the people upstairs.

*****

“What happened?” asked Amy before she was even in the bedroom.

“She’s not breathing,” sobbed Maria, pointing at Liz, who was now lying on the floor between Alex and Max. “And we can’t find a pulse!”

“Move!” Amy commanded Max and Alex, who reluctantly moved off to the sides to comfort Maria and Isabel.

Amy knelt at Liz’s side and grabbed her wrist. She touched her index and middle fingers to the pulse point on the wrist and waited for anything.

And then she felt it. A small pulse. So weak that she might have only been imagining it. She quickly leaned over further and placed her fingers on the pulse points in Liz’s neck.

“I’m getting a small pulse,” Amy said in relief. She leaned down and put her ear to Liz’s mouth. Tiny puffs of air were escaping every few seconds. “And she’s breathing, but barely.”

“Um, look what I found,” Isabel said timidly, holding up a bottle. “I went in the bathroom to try and see if I could find something that would indicate how Liz got into this condition. I-I think she tried to k-kill herself by overdosing.” Tears began to slip down Isabel’s cheeks and instantly Alex was at her side, pulling her into his embrace.

“Shhh…” he whispered, rubbing small circles on her back.

“The paramedics are on their way,” said Michael, rushing into the room. He halted at the sight of his sister lying on the floor and everyone crying. “What happened?” he asked, his voice shaky.

“Michael, will you come out into the hallway with me for a moment?” asked Amy quietly, grabbing Michael’s arm and guiding the poor dazed boy behind her.

“What-what’s Liz doing on the floor like that?” asked Michael.

“Liz attempted suicide by overdosing, Michael.”

“Oh God…” Michael murmured, slipping down the wall and curling up into a ball. He pressed his hands over his eyes, wishing away his tears. He hated to cry.

“Michael, don’t you dare think this is all your fault,” Amy commanded.

“But it is! That letter…”

Amy sighed and sat down next to Michael. “I will admit that the letter probably was the last straw. But a person doesn’t just decide within minutes to attempt suicide. We all know she tried it before when that boy broke up her back in Roswell.”

“Kyle Valenti,” muttered Michael. “That boy’s name was Kyle Valenti. The idiot who broke Lizzie’s heart.”

Amy and Michael’s discussion was cut short at a pounding at the door and then hurried footsteps.

“Paramedics!” a woman’s loud voice rang out.

“Up here!” Michael yelled, waving frantically over the banister.

A male and a female paramedic ran up the stairs with a stretcher and various other equipment. Michael hurried them to the girls’ room as Amy followed.

Everyone stood back, crying and staring in disbelief as the paramedics worked quickly to get Liz onto the stretcher and to place an oxygen mask over her face. As they carried her carefully down the stairs, Max couldn’t help but think how small and frail she looked now.

He blinked back another round of tears as the thought of losing her rose up in his mind.

The paramedics placed the stretcher containing Liz inside the ambulance and Amy and Michael climbed in as well. Amy gave Max the keys to the van so he could drive everyone else to the hospital.

With a honk of the horn and a blare of the siren, the ambulance took off at full speed down the street, earning worried glances between nearby neighbors.

*****

Max, Maria, Isabel, and Alex ran into the Emergency Room entrance. “Whoa there!” yelled out a nurse. “May I help you?”

“We need to see Elizabeth Parker!” stated Max.

“I’m sorry, only immediate family and or legal guardians are allowed to see her at this time. If you seat yourselves over there in the waiting room, I’d be glad to tell you when you are allowed to see her.”

Max sighed and nodded. The four teens trooped over to the waiting area and flopped down into hard plastic chairs. Around them sat other people waiting to see family, and even a few of the sick who hadn’t been admitted to see a doctor yet.

A half an hour or so later, Amy came out into the waiting room. The four teens instantly stood and rushed at her.

“How is she?” asked Max.

“They transferred her to the Intensive Care Unit. In the ambulance they connected her to an IV drip and as soon as we got here they pumped her stomach. She’s still listed as critical/life threatening, though.”

“Can we see her?” asked Maria through her tears.

“No honey, I’m afraid not. Only Michael and I are allowed to now. But maybe in the morning, ok? I want all of you to go back to the house now and try to get some sleep.”

“I’m afraid they won’t be returning to the house,” stated a deep male voice from behind Amy.

She turned and then asked, “Excuse me?”

“Deputy Hanson. I’m going to need to take you into custody, Ms. Deluca. And your foster children need to be immediately placed into a more capable foster parent’s care.”

“More capable?!”

“Yes, more capable than you are of making sure the kids don’t go off and commit suicide, Ms. Deluca. I think that’s very clear.” Without skipping a beat, Deputy Hanson began to lead Amy out to his squad car. He seated her in the back seat and then went back to the four teens in the waiting room. He told them to wait where they were while he went to find Michael.

Finally Deputy Hanson had corralled all the teens together and he led them out to a large van in the parking lot. They climbed inside and were driven off to a local childrens’ shelter.

Tears feel down Amy’s cheeks as she watched the van containing five of the six children she loved like her own drive away.
posted on 3-Dec-2002 5:02:31 PM
~*Part 13*~

"This isn't fair!" Michael yelled in anger, kicking the seat in front of him.

"Please," said the man driving the van. "Calm down, son. I really don't know the terms of your custody. I was just told to take you all to social services so that your social worker can place you with new families."

"This is a load of bullshit," Michael huffed, falling back into his seat as the van continued down the dark street. "My sister is in the hospital. I should be with her!"

The man looked at Michael nervously through the rear view window. Maria could tell that Michael's anger was making the man nervous, so although she felt that all of this was unfair and the wrong way for things to be handled, she took it upon herself to calm Michael down.

Pushing all thoughts of distrust, and her absolute anger at Michael for not telling Liz about the killer's note sooner, she quickly leaned over and kissed him. At first Michael's body tensed, surprised to suddenly find Maria's warm, soft lips upon his, but soon he fell into the kiss, and returned it with a desperate hunger he hadn't realized he felt inside.

Max, Isabel, and Alex all turned away, trying to give Michael and Maria a bit of privacy for what everyone was sure was Michael and Maria's way of completely making up. The man driving the van breathed a sigh of relief, just happy to have Michael off his back, if only for a few minutes.

*****

Deputy Hanson led Amy to a chair once they were inside the police station. "Now ma'am," Deputy Hanson said. "I'm going to contact social services and see what is to be done with you. It is certain though, that I'll need to question you on a few things. If everything checks out, you'll get to go home tonight. But those children won't be living with you any longer."

"You can't do this!" sobbed Amy. "I love those children like they were my own! Please…you can't take them away from me!"

Hanson shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, but I don't think social services is going to allow that to happen. One of your foster children attempted suicide tonight, Ms. Deluca. That's a serious matter, and in my opinion, it's a cry for help. One that you should have noticed before it got this bad. That young woman needs special attention, maybe she needs to be placed in a special home. And the other children…I'm sure tonight was very
traumatic for all of them. Going back to your home may only bring back memories of tonight over and over. It's best for everyone if the children are out of your custody."

Amy sank back farther into her chair and covered her eyes. She took a couple deep, shaky breaths trying to calm her breathing and erratic heartbeat. She had to have faith that social services would see the matter
differently and that everything would work out for the best…which meant allowing all six children to remain with her.

Deputy Hanson gave Amy one final sad look before going into his office and shutting the door. He sat at his desk and picked up the phone, to make the call that could potentially change the lives of seven people… this family
forever.

"Hello, social services? I'm calling about the events at the Deluca home tonight….what's going to happen to the children now?"

*****

"For tonight you will all sleep here," said a young woman in a nondescript white dress. She looked friendly enough, but no one wanted to trust her. After all, they were being taken away from Amy and weren't even being
allowed to stay overnight in the hospital with Liz. Why should they hold trust in anyone?

Michael herded everyone into the large dormitory style room and then turned and slammed the door shut in the woman's face.

"Rude much, Michael?" Isabel asked, sounding tired and defeated.

"Who cares," Michael murmured irritably. "Let's just get some sleep."

"I can't sleep," Max murmured wearily and collapsed onto one of the dozen or so beds anyway.

"We have to try," Alex said, as always the voice of reason and logic in the group.

Isabel nodded in agreement, as did Maria. They all silently chose a bed to sleep in. and looked around the large 'overnight' room. This was where foster children without a place to go were placed for a night or two at a
time, until more permanent accommodations were arranged.

Everyone stripped down to their underwear to sleep in, no one showing any embarrassment, probably because everyone's minds were elsewhere, thinking of more important matters than what kind of boxers Alex had on or what color bra Maria was wearing.

"Everything will be okay in the morning," Maria said quietly into the darkness, after everyone had been lying there for a few minutes. "It just HAS to be okay in the morning."

*****

To be continued...