posted on 20-Jul-2002 10:10:58 PM
Title: Mr. Adorable
Rating: R (or maybe PG-13, but I'm gonna stay on the safe side of this one).
Summary: Well, first it's AU. Basically, it's junior year, Liz was never shot, Max never had to save her, therefore no one knows about the aliens. This whole story is Alex's P.O.V. He's tired of being the great 'guy friend' and is looking to finally shed his 'adorable' image. What will happen along the way?! You'll just have to read and see.
Author's Note: This may or may not be CC coupling... it may be both CC and UC, but for now, I just don't know. Sorry! *happy* OK! Let's begin!

Mr. Adorable
6:45am*
The alarm clock is going to die. No one, I mean NO ONE wakes me up in the middle of a dream. NO! Unbelievable! I swear, it’s like it can sense my happiness and decides to piss me off. I throw the sheets off me and just lie still in my bed for a second. Maybe if I don’t move, maybe I’ll slip back into the dream. Or maybe this is the dream and I won’t wake up. Or maybe….

“Alex! Wake up!”

Great. Another day of being me. I shake my head and slowly get up to get in the shower. I have my towel in hand and am about to go into the bathroom when my phone rings.

“Hello?”

“ALEX! Hey, it’s Maria! Listen, I can’t talk long, I just wanted to know if I was still picking you up for school this morning?!” I can’t help rolling my eyes. I love Maria, I do. I just… well, it’s just too early to be so frickin’ hyper! Then it hits me. Of course she would be hyper. I’m supposed to help her get back at her ex-boyfriend today. Fantastic. I have to be Alex the savior and Alex the ‘pretend’ boyfriend. Isn’t that a little much to ask of a poor man?

“Yea, Maria fine. Pick me up in about half an hour.”

“But I thought we were gonna get there early to make sure he sees us!”

“Maria, do you want my help or not?” I take a deep breath. It’s still early Alex. You’re going to have a great day. Say it with me. You – are – going – to – have – a – great – day. Very good.

“Yes! I do, I do! Sorry Alex. I’m just nervous that’s all. I mean, what if he doesn’t even notice? Or worse, if he does, but doesn’t even care? I mean, am I such a horrible girlfriend?!” Oh no, not the hysterics. Please Maria don’t cry.

“NO! Of course you’re not! He’s the loser for leaving you remember? You were… you ARE too good for him. He needs easy booty. You’re more than that, so he left you.” I hear her stop for a second… did it work? Please tell me it worked.

“Oh Alex thank you! Thank you so much! You always know exactly what to say! I’ll be there in half an hour ok?” I can hear her huge smile even through the phone. I can’t help but smile too.

“You’re welcome Maria. Oh, and put on some of that berries body spray you have! I mean, if I’m gonna be around you all day, you might as well smell good.” I smile as I wait for her reaction.

“WHAT! I ALWAYS smell good Alex! You’re a dork! Go take a shower and be ready or I’ll leave your butt without a ride!”

“And I’ll leave your butt without a man or a plan.” I can hear her hesitate and it almost makes me choke since I know I’ve won.

“ARGH! You are sooo annoying! Fine… fine, I’ll put on the berry spray. Seriously Alex, you really are something.”

“Yea, I know. See you in a bit.” I hang up the phone and smile. Well, I guess it wouldn’t be such a bad day after all. It’s not like I don’t spend the majority of my time with Maria anyway. See, you may not understand why I would give up my pride just to do something stupid like help her out. But, Maria is my best friend. Maria and Liz to be exact. The two women I would give the world for. But now… well they’ve got some competition.
Isabel Evans. God must have thought it was some cruel joke to put her in my school. I mean I’ve only been trying to get her to acknowledge my existence for about three years. She’s like walking perfection. Of course, I say that around Liz and she says that I should go for it! That once Isabel gets to know the real me, she’ll be head over heels in love. I say it to Maria, and she says WHAT!? Are you insane!? Isabel Evans? She’s the biggest b**ch in the whole school! Why would you even want to get remotely close to her? Alex, no. That’s like so impossible.

I get myself out of the shower and find my clothes. My jeans, my plaid shirt, and my boots. Yes, this is Alex Whitman apparel. I look in the mirror and comb my wet hair. Ok, so combing is for sissies but I have to at least look like I tried or Maria will have my neck! (Do you understand the death grip that that girl has? I don’t think you do. And a mouth that just won’t shut up… it can get really ugly). Anyway, I find my cologne and spray some on. I might as well smell good too. Having me around all day can’t be all that much fun either. I glance at my alarm clock. 7:20am. Just on time. I pick up my book bag and hear the loud honking. Geez Maria, wake up the whole neighborhood. I run down the stairs and past the kitchen.

“Alex, what about breakfast?!”

“I’ll grab some on my way to school! Bye!” I rush out the front door, locking it behind me. I love my Dad, but really. He needs to stop and smell the coffee. I shake my head to gather my thoughts and I see Maria leaned against the passenger side of the car, her arms crossed across her chest. No! No, Alex don’t even think it! But I can’t help myself. I mean, it’s not just the clothes, but it’s the whole attitude. She’s screaming look at me without even opening her mouth. For Maria, that is quite an accomplishment. I don’t even think I noticed that I stopped dead in my tracks.

“So? What do you think? I thought I should wear something that will have Joey drooling enough to beg for me to take him back.”

“Maria, I don’t think that was necessary. I mean, you look good, don’t get me wrong. But maybe you should th- th- think about this for a s-s- second.” Smooth Alex, real smooth.

“Have you nervous Alex?” She giggled with excitement and ran back to her side of the car. “Perfect! That’s the exact reaction I want from him!” She gets in the car and I shake my head. God, this is going to be a long day. I keep walking towards the car and get in after her. We make our way to school and as she’s parking, I’m beginning to have second thoughts. I mean, come on! This is insane! Do I want to get my face punched in? Joey Fillmore would probably murder me, then have his friends cut me up into little pieces. Besides, he knows Kyle Valenti, and we all know he dated Liz and is all bitter cause she outgrew him. So Kyle would gladly punch my lights out too. And for what!?? So that I can dwell on the fact that I was in love with Maria freshman year when she got with Joey and decided on a whim to help her just so I could get the satisfaction of watching him suffer?! Alex… that was DUMB!

“Alex, you ok?” I snap back to reality and look over at Maria’s worried eyes. No… no don’t look at me like that! Come on Ria! This isn’t fair!

“Yea, I’m fine. Let’s go back over the plan here, I’m a little unsure of what’s going on.” Her smile widens into something that’s practically glowing. It’s hard to say no to that smile. ALEX! What!? Great, now I’m talking to the voices in my head! This really sucks! So do you!

“Ok, we’re gonna walk in there, and you’re gonna have your arm around me as if we were dating. When he walks by the locker, you’ll say something along the lines of ‘are we still on for tonight’? And I’ll handle the rest! Ok?” I nod my head, still unsure of what I heard. Everything sounds mushed. Maybe I’m just having symptoms of premature death. Or maybe I’m just really tired. Or worse, maybe I’m just having flashbacks of Maria and I having sleepovers. Yea, I think that last one is about right.

“Ok. That sounds fine. One more thing! Please remember… we have rules. No kissing, no random unplanned acts, and no doing this if Isabel is around.”

“Alex…”

“Maria, you promised!”

“Ugh! Fine. Whatever.” I look at her and smile. She looks so pretty when she’s angry. HELLO OUT THERE! Yea, you Whitman! STOP TORTURING YOURSELF! Think of Isabel. Great, now I’m smiling like an idiot.

“What may I ask is so funny?”

“Huh? Oh! Nothing. Just… uh, just thinking how much fun this is going to be to watch him grovel when he sees you. That’s all.” Her smile just got wider. I didn’t even think that was possible.

“Oh shut up Alex! Next thing you know I’m gonna say screw this and get with you for real.” She winks at me and now I’m thoroughly confused. Thanks Maria… just add to my pile of ridiculous worries. Add to my growing angst I like to call my life. I swear to God, if I start to feel what I felt freshman year I may just lose it.
We walk in, her arm linked through mine and thank God, Joey is nowhere to be seen. We walk over to the lockers and I spot the long dark hair. It’s in a ponytail! Ok, she is just asking for it! I reach my hand out and tug and then quickly look at Maria appalled.

“Geez, Ria! At least have the decency to pretend you didn’t do it!” Liz turns around and flashes me a smile.

“HELLO Alex! Hey Maria.”

“Oh, I see. All I get is a ‘hey’? What I’m not good enough for you Elizabeth?”

“Maria! Stop!” Liz rolls her eyes and laughs. God, she’s beautiful. Ok! Fine, so I have issues! Nothing’s to say I can’t think my friends are beautiful! It’s NOT my fault I hang out with a bunch of girls! It’s not!

“So… what are you two up to? I smell a plan.” Liz raises her eyebrows and I can’t help but smile. Dammit! This is so not good. I am really starting to have a hard time with this. Liz is cute and adorable. She is… I love her… like a sister. I know that for a fact! I love Liz like a sister! DO YOU HEAR ME! Good… glad we got that out of the way. And Maria… well, Maria and I are just friends. We are and always have been just friends. I love Maria…as a friend. STOP LYING YOU PRICK! Woah! My brain is now calling me names. That can’t be normal. Ok! Fine! So she makes my blood boil! So she makes me want to NOT be Alex Whitman! She makes me hate Joey! FINE! I GET IT! Now leave me alone!
“Alex and I are gonna get Joey to stick his head up his ass. He left me thinking I was gonna go back and beg, well he had something else coming.” Maria looks over and smiles at me. I just nod my head like I know what she’s talking about. But I don’t. I’m still trying to get the stupid voices to shut up.

“Alex… are you ok?” YES LIZ! I’m FINE! Can’t you tell!? I’m simply trying to figure out why I’m so pathetic! That’s all.

“Me? Yea! Of course! I’m fine.” Ok, now smile. Good boy. I could be an actor. Maybe not. I don’t think I could lie to people for a living. Did she buy it? YES! Not bad.

“Oh my God! Here he comes! Ok, ok. I’m fine, no problem! I can’t do this!” Oh man! Maria come on! Get yourself together! I can’t do this all by myself! I grab her shoulders and shake lightly.

“Ok, listen to me. We do what we planned. You’re an actress Maria. You’re naturally gifted. You look great. You can do this. Now, just breathe in and out. Ok? Look at me… no not over there! Look into my eyes Maria.” I grab her face and the look in her eyes practically breaks my heart. Damn you Joey. You are such a dead man.

“Ok… ok I can do this. I can do this.” She breathes in deep and then closes her eyes briefly. Good… now don’t freak out on me again. I lean my hand against the locker and lean in close to Maria. Liz smiles and watches with sparkling eyes. This isn’t like a Broadway production or anything Liz. I’m just doing a favor.

“So, we’re still on for tonight then? Right? Eight o’ clock?” I smile and look straight into her eyes. I can see Joey slowing down through my peripheral vision. Uh huh… look again punk. That’s right, who’s moving in on your girl? Not so hot now are you Joey?

“Yea. Eight o’clock. We’re still going to the movies right?”

“Actually… I had something a little more… intimate in mind. Maybe, a hike to Fire Lake to have a picnic under the stars. You’ve never gone stargazing have you Maria?” That’s when Joey comes to a complete stop. I can see hear the buzz where his friends are following him around. Oh no, here comes.

“Are you serious!? You’d do that for me?! Oh God Alex, I love you so much!” Maria wraps her arms around me and pulls me in for a tight hug. I smile and look over when I see Joey coming in our general direction. I pull away just as Joey stops in front of us.

“Maria.”

“Joey.” I try to stop my laughter. In that one word Maria practically bit his head off. Man, she’s good.

“There’s a party at my house tonight, after the game. You coming right?” Sure he asked, but his tone of voice sounds like he’s demanding it. God, Fillmore I hate your guts.

“Actually tonight I have plans.” She puts her hands on her hips and looks up at me and smiles. I smile back and look over at Joey. Yes, I should be enjoying this moment. But I’m not. Why, you may ask? Why are you not enjoying this moment of absolute power and glory? Because of all things, Joey – I have no brain or common sense and play with girls feelings because I don’t have any of my own- Fillmore is laughing at me.

“Plans? PLANS?! With who? Your girlfriend here? Come on Maria, who are you kidding? The whole school knows about Alex, Liz and you. You expect me to believe that over night you and Alex decided to get together? That would be the day! When band geek actually gets a girl!” He turns around laughing and all his friends join him. It’s taking all I have not to punch him and break his nose. Hold it… hold it. Let Maria handle her own dirty laundry. Don’t knock him dead. You want to go to college Alex. You want to stay out of jail.

“EXCUSE ME! Ok, that is it! Let me tell you something F**kmore! You know NOTHING about Alex! And obviously NOTHING about me! Alex is the only guy in this school who can get a girl in this school that YOU can’t. Why? Because he has actual FEELINGS. Because he actually cares about me! You are a PRICK! You’re so frickin’ self involved that you measure your dick everyday! So get OVER yourself and don’t tell me who the f**k to be with! GOT IT!” Ok, so my eyes are popping out of my head. I wasn’t exactly expecting that. Ok, no I wasn’t expecting that at ALL. Did she just completely defend me!? Did she just insult the man she wanted back? I am really, really confused now. Flattered, sure, but damn confused.

“Let’s get out of here Alex!” I quickly nod my head in agreement and grab the hand she’s reaching out. Liz is too busy giggling in her corner but I can tell she just had her fill of excitement for the whole day. I follow Maria out into the open air of the courtyard and she stops and turns to look at me.

“Alex… I am so sorry. I am just so, so sorry. I did not know he was going to do that! He is such an argh! I hate him ok? And I’m sorry I made you go through that! You are not what he said! You mean everything to me! Ok?” She looks up at me and her hands are shaking. Wow, did it really get her that pissed off?

“Maria, hey it’s no big deal. I told you I’d help you and I did. I helped you realize what I told you all along. He’s no good for you. So, if you want to thank me, just buy me lunch.” I smile and see her face begin to relax. She reaches out for my hands and brings them up to her face to kiss them.

“You… get a large pizza with the works.” She smiles and then turns around to see Liz heading towards us. Wait! Wait Liz! Give us five more minutes! Let her keep telling me how I’m her God! How I’m her King! How I’m her… well, you get the drift.

“Ok, that was just… wow. Maria, you should get an Oscar.” Liz smiles and Maria pushes her playfully.

“Oh, shut up! I was great though wasn’t I?” Maria and Liz start laughing and I’m just left there with lingering hands. Funny… one minute I’m the hero and the next I’m being voted on for best supporting actor. Well, that was quick. I turn around, watching to see how many people have already come in, when I see her. It’s like my breath is caught in my chest. Am I having a heart attack? Is that even possible? She looks like a goddess. Is that a halo? Oh, wait, that’s just the reflection of the sun on the glass. But wow, she still looks fantastic. She has on these high heel shoes with dark slacks and a red sweater. Her lips… oh man her lips are bright red. And her hair is so gold!!!! Ok, Alex just breathe. Just breathe and you’ll be fine!

I see her smile and I smile back. Is she smiling at me?! Am I dreaming? She looks to her side and then starts laughing. I follow her gaze to the guy standing next to her. Don’t roll your eyes Alex! Don’t! Ok, I can’t help it. Michael Guerin!? What could he possibly have to say that’s funny!!? What could he possibly have to say at all? I didn’t even know that guy spoke English. I look to her left and see her brother. It’s funny… Max is nothing like Isabel. He’s so quiet and shy and… well not popular. He seems to be trying not to smile. Whatever conversation they’re having seems to be quite funny. I look at Isabel again and see that she’s getting closer. To me? Is she walking over here!?? Oh no! I turn around quickly hoping she didn’t catch me staring. That would be real mature Alex. Did you clean your drool yet?! Geez… I turn back to Maria and Liz who are completely involved in their conversation. Is she coming to talk to me? Why are they all coming over here? How’s my breath? Oh! I smell good today! Nice!
I’m just about to ask for gum when I hear the clicking of heels stop right behind me. I don’t even have to turn around to know she’s there. I can smell her. Her perfume, her hair, the general scent that makes up Isabel Evans. I turn around slowly when I see Maria and Liz stop talking.

“Not bad DeLuca. I heard you put on quite a show this morning. I’m only sorry I missed you setting Joey Fillmore straight. That guy has needed a good insult since he started high school.” I take a chance and look up into her eyes. My God, she has the most incredible eyes.

“Hello Liz, hi Alex.” She looks over at us and smiles. Oh my God! Oh my dear and holy God! She just smiled at me! She smiled FOR me! She said hi! This isn’t happening! This is like the single best day of my life!
“H- h- hi Isabel.” I put on my crooked grin and suddenly meet her eyes. She’s smiling at me. I must still be dreaming.

“Thank you Isabel. It’s good to know someone noticed he was a jerk besides me.” Maria smiled and looked over at Michael. She raised her eyebrows in suspicion as he smiled.

“I’d hate to see you really pissed.” His smile widened and Maria’s faded. Uh oh, he’s asking for it.

“Well, we have to go. See you guys around.” Isabel practically spins on her heels and turns to leave, grabbing Michael along with her.

“Hey Liz… I’ll uh, I’ll see you in Chemistry?”

“Yea sure Max.” I turn to see Liz smile and then turn back to see Max nod and then turn to follow Isabel. What the hell was that!? Max Evans checking out Liz Parker? I mean, yea, granted he’s been in love with her since like the fifth grade, but he actually speaks to her? I didn’t even know that!

“I get the feeling we broke some serious barriers today.” I look over at Maria and raise my eyebrows at her to emphasize my point.

“Yea… like Isabel Evans actually spoke to us, the lower breathing members of the human race. And, oh, is that right? Did she say hello to you?! Oh my goodness, let’s all just jump for joy.” Well, thanks a lot Maria. You sure know how to ruin someone’s good mood.

“Maria stop it! Just because you’re mad at Michael doesn’t give you the right to take it out on Alex!” That’s right Liz! Tell her!

“Michael!? Who said anything about Michael?! I didn’t even… you know what? I don’t have to explain myself to you. I am going to class.” She picks up her bookbag and stomps away. Wait, Ria… am I still getting my pizza? Damn, I forgot to eat breakfast.

“Don’t listen to her Alex. She’s got the biggest crush on him and just can’t admit it. She’s too busy trying to hate him to realize it’s painfully obvious.” Liz smiles and wraps her hand around mine.

“Michael? She LIKES Michael? As in Michael Guerin? Why the hell would she like him? Another non emotional, too stupid to talk, brooding male? Seriously Liz, does she not get the point?” Ok, so I’m being a little verbal about my complete disagreement to this. I care about Maria. Why can’t she just get it together!? She keeps going for guys with no common sense and she’s gonna end up hurt!

“I don’t know Alex. I just don’t know.” Liz sighs loudly and I can understand exactly how she feels.

“So…what was up with you and Max?” I can see her eyes quickly turn a shade of red and she looks down.

“Max? What do you mean? Nothing’s up with me and Max.”

“Do you like him?”

“ALEX?”

“Well, do you? I mean… it’s not like you haven’t told me things like this before.”

“I know but… well yea, I guess I kinda think he’s cute. So what?” She pushes her weight on mine and knocks me off guard a bit.

“Nothing! I’m not judging your taste in men Liz! I just wanted to know!” I smile and wrap my hand tighter around Liz’s.

“Well, what about you!? You might finally be breaking the ice Mr. Whitman! Next thing you know, you’ll be inviting us to you and Isabel’s wedding!”

“Liz… she just said hi.”

“So?” She looks up at me and smiles, and for a minute, I feel like I could do anything. Liz has that effect on me. She believes in me and sometimes it can be really amazing. Other times, it makes me really nervous that I might screw up and disappoint her.

“Whatever Liz. You’re so crazy.” I let go of her hand just as we reach her homeroom.

“I’ll see you at lunch ok? Maybe Maria will talk to me by then.” Liz smiles and hugs me tight. It’s strange how I recognize her embrace. How it’s so familiar for me to be with these two women who have become so much a part of my life. Ok Alex, now you’re getting all mushy and emotional. She turns to head back into class and I have to stop her. I have to ask her just one last question.

“Liz?” She turns around quickly, her long hair flipping from side to side as she does.

“Yea.”

“Do you really think I have a chance with her?”

“Alex… you can do whatever you set your mind to. I mean, you’re smart, you’re talented, you’re a great listener, and heck you’re just adorable.” She smiles and heads back into class, leaving me to feel like a five year old. Geez… Liz thinks I’m adorable. That’s right. I’m Alex Whitman, Mr. Adorable. Best friend to two very different females. One who is a quiet, sensitive dreamer. The other who is a wild and crazy flower child. And I’m completely obsessed with the most beautiful and popular girl in the school. Could my life be any more complicated?

Part 2:
“Now, when Nick spoke to Gatsby, what did he mean by he was better than the bunch of them? Was Gatsby different than them? What makes Gatsby, as a main character, so much more intriguing than say… Tom or Daisy?” I let the sound of Mr. Hamilton’s voice drift. The guy’s nice, but English isn’t exactly my strong suit. Not that I don’t speak it or anything, I’m just not digging it. Oh my God, did I just say digging it! I’m still suffering from shock. You know, I remember Liz reading to me once about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think I may have that. I mean, I’m just getting over a traumatic experience and I’m stressing about it! So that counts right?!

“Mr. Whitman?” I look up, suddenly shaken out of my reverie. Figures, the day that I’m not paying attention he’d call on me. I open my mouth to speak and I can feel my ears getting red.

“Ummm… well, see Gatsby is…” The sound of the door opening distracts me and I look over to the door along with the rest of the class.

“Hello Mr. Hamilton. I wanted to know if you’d be interested in giving some money to the yearbook. We decided to start early and since we want ours to be the best in the history of West Roswell High, then we thought we better put up some cash. And I know how much you love us Mr. Hamilton.” Isabel’s melodic voice practically gave me a heart attack. Is this coincidence??? No! Nothing is coincidence! What is she doing here!? Oh my goodness…she saved my butt! I go flipping quickly through the pages of the book and find the answer I’m looking for in my Cliff Notes. I look up at her and suddenly I see her eyes looking straight into mine, a smile on her face. Oh my God. Twice in one day. This is too much. Something is going on. It’s a joke! It’s some cruel joke that’s being played on geeky Alex! Well, guess what? IT’S NOT FUNNY!

“Well…thank you for your cooperation Mr. Hamilton. Oh, the Great Gatsby. Good book.” She smiles again and then turns to leave the class. Wait! Wait take me with you! The door closes quietly behind her and Mr. Hamilton smiles. Hey… you are a little too old for her buddy. Almost like he’s reading my mind, he looks back at me.

“Ok, where were we? Oh yes… Mr. Whitman. Tell me about Gatsby.”

“Well… ummm… Gatsby was much more important than the rest because he was the only one with actual feelings. Gatsby had a soul, unlike the other characters. Jordan, Tom, Daisy, they were all just empty headed and greedy. Nick noticed that although Gatsby was a guy of the same class, he was different. He was much more than what he appeared to be.” I breathe in and hold my breath. Please tell me that was right.

“Nicely said Mr. Whitman. So now that we have that settled what does the ending…?” It was right! I was right! Ok, I don’t know why I sound so surprised, I mean I did do the reading last night. I’m just surprised that I could even put coherent sentences together. I mean… today has been such a mess! And it’s only second period! Oh my God…I have class with her! I have class with Isabel in two periods! What will I do? What will I say? Should I say hello? Maybe not…I don’t want to push my luck. I hear the bell ring and I quickly gather up my bag. I start walking into the hallway when I feel an arm pull at me. I turn and I’m faced with dark blue eyes.

“I’m sorry ok?! It was wrong of me to be such an idiot. I was angry and in a bad mood and still shaken up from the bit this morning but it gave me no right to take it out on you. So… forgive me?” Even if I wanted to freak her out by lying and saying no… we could never be friends again, that’d be impossible. I could never say no to that smile.

“Of course… don’t I always?” I smile and she jumps up and hugs me.
“Oh my God, you have no idea how worried I was that you were mad! Liz told me that I’d hurt your feelings and that I had no right to do that and she was right! You know, cause who am I to stomp on your dreams? You’ve never done it to me! And it was just completely uncalled for…”

“MARIA! It’s ok. Don’t worry about it.” I smile and tug at her hair. “Besides, you owe me pizza… do you really think I wouldn’t forgive you when I want pizza?” She lowers her head laughing and then looks up at me with an expression I don’t quite recognize.

“Alex… why do you always forgive me?” I could feel my smile fading. Why is she asking me that!? What the heck am I supposed to say?! Well, not only am I your best friend, but I’ve been in love with you since as long as I can remember… no, that won’t work! So what now?

“Because… you’re my friend. That’s what friends do. They put up with each other. They love each other. They know that sometimes things are said that aren’t really true. And besides, I have the Maria Filter built in to my system. I know that what you really meant to say was, ‘Alex I’m so jealous of Isabel because I’m madly in love with you and want you to take me away from this horrible place!’ Right?” I smile and she begins to laugh. I love making her laugh. It’s like her energy radiates from her and onto me. It’s quite a sensory experience. Oh Alex, shut up. There go those voices again.

“You are so adorable!” I look down at her and consider yelling at her. Did she just call me ADORABLE!?? This is like the second time today! That is it! I’m tired of that word! What is so adorable about me? May I ask! I mean, really!

“Thank you.” Loser. Yea, you Whitman. Can’t even tell her not to call you that. Why not? Cause she’s Maria and anything Maria says goes. Boy, am I a pushover.

“Maria? Can I ask you a quick question?” I see her look up at me curiously and I have to laugh. That’s the same look she gave me in 5th grade when I told her that boys peed standing up.

“Do you like Michael?” I see her eyes cloud over with something that can only be described as the wrath of Hurricane DeLuca. Uh oh, I’m screwed.

“Why would you even ask me that!? Alex! Do you know how much that hurts my feelings?!”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! It’s just…well I was just curious I mean, I wasn’t sure if…well you know. I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW OK?!” I breathe out deeply in defeat. I shouldn’t have even gone there.

“Look Maria… I’m the only guy in you and Liz’s life and when another guy comes stepping in my territory I just get a little possessive. You know? I mean, I worry about you guys. And when you went out with Joey I told you he’d be a jerk and hurt you but you wouldn’t listen. When Liz started dating Kyle I told her it would be the biggest mistake she’ll ever make. She didn’t listen either. So now, we’re back in square one.” I see her gaze soften and I relax a bit. Well, at least she won’t bite my head off.

“And I’m telling you to stay away from Isabel Evans because I know that she only means trouble. She’ll eat you up and spit you out Alex. You deserve more than that.” She reaches out and puts her arms around my neck. What?! She’s gonna try and tell ME what to do when she wouldn’t even listen to me when I told HER. Uh uh, no way.

“Did you ever listen Maria?”

“No but…”

“Ok. Then let me make my mistake. It’ll be the only one, I’m sure. If ever.” She removes her hands slowly and I can tell she’s not very happy.

“Fine, but when you get hurt Alex…whatever.” I hear the late bell ring and curse under my breath. Great, now I gotta get in trouble for getting yelled at.

“I’ll see you at lunch ok Maria?” She has the most pissed off look on her face and is pouting. Oh my goodness, why is she being this way?!

“Whatever.”

“Hey! You’re still my number one girl, ok?” Ok, so I stole the line from Titanic. Hell, if it worked for Leo, why can’t it work for me? I see a smile creep up on her lips. YES!!! YES WHITMAN SCORED!! Ahem…sorry about that. Got a little excited. It’s not everyday I win a DeLuca victory.

“Yea, yea, get to class.” She smiles and hits my shoulder as I run off to finally get to class. Music appreciation. Should be my favorite class. In fact, it’s my second favorite class. But…there’s one before it. Women’s Studies. NO! I’m not crazy! And NO… I AM DEFINITELY NOT GAY! That’s the class where I sit directly behind Isabel Evans. I don’t know how it happened… all I remember is the first day of school, I walked in dreading the stupid class. I mean, who cares about studying women? Don’t we do enough of that in history? I’m not sexist or anything! Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE women…if that wasn’t already obvious. And then she comes in… looking even more beautiful than last year and looks around the room. She knew at least three other people in the class. But she sat in front of me. ‘Till this day, I still don’t understand why. But hey, I’m not complaining.

I pull out my spare guitar and begin to strum some chords. The feel of the strings and the sound of the familiar chords make me relax. I can feel my brain beginning to turn to mush as my emotions take over. That’s the magic of the guitar. It’s like, I don’t play it… it plays me. And I know what you’re thinking. Alex gets played by everyone! Screw you! With the guitar it’s different. My guitar is my baby… my one true love. She never lets me down. And sure it’s weird that I talk to her and that I sometimes sleep with her on my bed. But hey… it doesn’t matter because I am PROUD to be a guitar player. It is the one thing that makes me different from everyone else. I write down a couple of the random notes I’m playing and smile. This would be good for Maria. I know she likes to do the whole lyrics thing. I’m not good at that. I’m glad she does it. Besides, my band hasn’t had a gig in like… well months. So what difference does it make if I give her a song. Who would know? [Vision of band mates finding out and mutilating me!] Well… maybe not. We’ll just have to see.

I don’t think I caught track of the time…that always happens when I play. I get so lost in the moment that I don’t even know what’s going on. I hear the bell ring and suddenly jump up. Oh man! That’s it!? I pick up my book bag and start the habitual tread to class and suddenly I stop. This isn’t just class. This is fourth period! This is it! The class I’ve been waiting for ALL morning! The class I come to school for! Women’s Studies!!!!!!!! I am about to turn the hallway when I feel another tug on my arm. Great, not again.

“Alex! Hey… I brought you something.” I look into Liz’s sweet face and smile. Thank God. Don’t misunderstand… I love Maria. But sometimes she can be hard to handle. If you ever tell her I said that I will be forced to hunt you down like a dog and tear you apart piece by piece. Understand? GOOD! Well, where was I? Oh yea, talking to Liz. I look down at her hands and she’s giving me a flower. It’s not just any flower either, not like a flower picked out from out front or something from Mr. DeLaney’s grocery store. This is a dead up, straight up, from a shop flower. (Dead up, straight up? Ok, I need to lay off the crack.)

“What the hell is that?!” Great way to show gratitude Whitman. That’s why guys should NEVER be the ones to get flowers.

“They’re sterling roses.”

“Purple roses?! I didn’t know there were purple roses! Who knew?!” I take it from Liz’s hand and look down still confused.

“Umm… Liz? Why are you giving me flowers?” I can see her try to contain her laughter and then break out. I don’t see what’s so funny. I feel very strange right now.

“It’s not for you silly… it’s for Isabel. Sterling roses are her favorite.” I look at her, my eyes wide and my mouth half open to say something. But, you know what? I don’t even know what to say!

“For Isabel? How did you know these were her favorites?” I look at Liz, my eyes full of curiosity. Then a flash of Maria’s face comes into my mind and I try not to laugh. Again, that expression of confusion and curiosity from the 5th grade haunt me.

“Well… ummm… uh… Max and I have Chemistry together, umm… second period and we were talking. And it kinda came out that you might kinda like his sister and he kinda said that was great cause he likes you and then he kinda suggested flowers in purple cause she likes them so third period we went and got one for you to give to her!” I can see Liz’s ears begin to redden and I can tell she’s beginning to heat up. Yes, she knows me and she knows she’s about to get an earful.

“ARE YOU INSANE! You told her brother I liked her! What do you WANT to see me alone and pathetic the rest of my life??? Who are you kidding Liz!!! Even with frickin’ bright orange flowers, she’d never give me the time of day! Ok!? It’s that simple!” I can’t believe she told him! Liz, of all people! Maria, I can see… but LIZ! Since when is she Lizzie- big mouth- Parker?! That’s like not even in her personality!

“I’m sorry… it’s just we wanted to help and I thought maybe if you took the first step…”

“WE?! Oh… oh I see. This isn’t about me at all is it Liz?”

“What are you talking about?” I see Liz begin to tuck her hair behind her ears and know I’ve hit the nail right on the head. She only does that when she’s really nervous. Or getting upset.

“This is about Max. You’re USING me to get to Max. That’s not very nice Liz.”

“Whatever Alex! I’m trying to help YOU. Ok?! Now I skipped class in order to get you a flower to help YOU get with the girl you’ve been wanting for like three years. The LEAST you could do is thank me.” Ok… so I’ve hit the spot. So why do I feel like crap? Damn, Liz ! Those eyes!

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry ok? It’s just that… I mean a guy could think he’s being used so that his best friend could skip class and ride around in a sexier guy’s Jeep!” I smile and look down to meet Liz’s lowered eyes. She smiles and looks back up at me. Oh, thank God. The last thing I need is for Liz to be mad. Liz is like my back bone. Without her, I’d like die.

“It’s ok. Just… just go and give her the flower. And write her a small note, or a poem or lyrics or something. Don’t screw this up Alex. This is your chance.” She smiles and gives me a big hug.

“I’ll try not to. But we all know how bad I am at that.” I smile again and watch her make her way down the hallway. She’s such a little person. It’s so cute. No, it really is though. I hold on to the flower and smile. Oh well, here goes nothing. I start to walk over to my class when I spot Maria.

“RIA! Hey! I need your help.” I grab Maria with my spare hand and drag her into my Women’s Studies class.

“Hello! I have class Alex.”

“Study hall is not technically a class.”

“So… what’s your point?”

“I need your help!”

“With what?!” I sit her down and put the flower on the desk. That’s when she finally notices it.

“Woah! Woah, do you know what those are?!”

“Purple roses?”

“STERLING ROSES! Those are very rare… and VERY expensive! Who the hell gave those to you?” What!? Like it’s impossible for me to get flowers!???

“Actually… I’m giving them to someone. And I need you to help me write some lyrics real quick to give to her too.” Maria’s eyebrow goes up and I can feel my pulse quicken. Do I mentally prepare myself for arguments with her?

“Who?” It’s one word. I know that. My brain knows that. But the way she just said it sounds like a novel. It was so dragged out and sarcastic it sounded like she was cutting me down on some nighttime talk show.

“Umm… Isabel.”

“You’re giving Isabel – I’m too perfect for everyone, have to be ice princess, can’t stand this school cause I’m so beautiful- Evans $200 flowers!!!!!?????”

“Wow, they’re $200? I didn’t know that!”

“ALEX! Look at what you’re doing!”

“MARIA! I WANT to do this! Now, you can choose to help me or not! But regardless I’m gonna do it.” If I didn’t know any better I’d think that was jealousy in her eyes. But no, I know Maria, why would she be jealous?

“Ok… lyrics. How about: You freeze even the tropics, You turn each breeze to ice, I’m giving you these flowers, cause I think you’re real nice!”

“Dammit Maria! Why are you being such a b**ch!??”

“WHAT!?”

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry that’s not what I meant!”

“Yes you did! You called me a b**ch!?? How could you say that to me?!”

“Look, I need your help! All I ask is that you help me the way I help you WHENEVER you need me NO MATTER the cost. So please… please help me.” Ok, so I’m begging. I need Maria to understand I’m serious. But I can’t seem to get her to stop hating me.

“Fine! You want lyrics?! Take the f**king lyrics!” She throws a paper into my hands and I look down not sure what to make of it. Oh now, Maria just cursed at me. That can’t be good. I’m really going to have to fix this one up later. Man… why does this kinda stuff happen to me? I open the paper and see the familiar scribbles that are Maria DeLuca’s thoughts.

Wishing I could be anyone but me.
I see you everyday and still it’s not enough for me.
I need to feel your gentle touch, but not with my own hand.
I need to love you from afar because of who I am.
I watch you everyday and silently I weep.
I know I cannot have you, but only in my sleep.
It isn’t fair, it isn’t right. We have been given this fate.
But maybe one day, we can change things, if it’s not too late.

This is not normal. These words are too familiar. They are too perfect for what I have to do. It’s like she wrote them with the complete intention of giving them to me! But she didn’t know that I was going to give Isabel flowers. So who the heck is this for?! By now she’s practically down the hallway.

“MARIA WAIT!” I run after her, leaving the note and the flowers on the desk. “MARIA!” I run down the hallway and grab her arm as I turn her to me. Oh my God… my heart has just stopped beating.

“Maria…Maria why are you crying?”

“Leave me alone!”

“Maria… just talk to me! Just… just tell me what I did wrong! Please.”

“I can’t talk to you about this Alex, ok? I just can’t.”

“Who were those lyrics for? Maria, who were they for?”

“I CAN’T TELL YOU! SO JUST STOP ASKING!” I see a whole new set of tears forming and I’m feeling even more like sh*t. Great job Alex. Seriously, you just definitely get the a**hole award for today.

“Maria… please. I hate to see you cry. Please, just don’t cry.” I put my hands on her cheeks and wipe away her tears. God, I can’t believe I did that! What the hell is wrong with me!?

“I’m sorry. I… I have to go to class.”

“NO! No, you are not leaving until you and I have a talk. Come on.” I march my way back down to class, holding on tight to Maria’s wrist. I am gonna get to the bottom of this dammit. I am going to find out what the hell is going on! We reach the classroom just as the bell rings.

“Mrs. Murphy, do you mind if I have a small chat with Maria for a second? I really need to get something settled.”

“You have five minutes Alex.”

“Ok, thank you.” I step out quickly and pull Maria into the corner of the hallway, where the water fountains and bathrooms are.

“Now… I want you to tell me what the hell is going on Maria. I hate to see you this upset and I know that I couldn’t have possibly pissed you off so much just because of Isabel. What did I do Maria?” She looks down and I can feel my hear beating fast. Please don’t cry again. PLEASE.

“Alex… there are things that I just can’t…”

“Bullsh*t! Come on Ria! Since when do we keep secrets from each other!??? Huh? Since when is it too difficult to tell me what the problem is?” Ok, I know I shouldn’t be getting all riled up but this is really getting to me. How could she do this to me? Keep a secret and then cry!??? I hate to see her cry! She KNOWS THAT! I hate the fact that she’s lying to me!

“Since we GREW UP Alex! God… look around you. Look at US. We are not little 5th graders anymore ok? We cannot have sleepovers or tree climbing races! We are going to graduate next year Alex! Things are DIFFERENT now! I’m not that little girl anymore.” That’s when the tears come. Damn. You just had to cry. Oh God… God please keep my heart at a normal pace, because turning to liquid is not going to help her any.

“Things are changing Alex. Places, people, feelings are changing. And you act like you haven’t even noticed! All you worry about is little Isabel. Oh Isabel this, oh Isabel that. She doesn’t even SEE YOU! You’re invisible to her Alex! Don’t you get it!?? She doesn’t see YOU! Not like I do!” At this point I’m stepping back and leaning against the wall. Did she just say what I think she said? No… of course not. This is Maria. This is wishful thinking. Or maybe not so much. What is going on?!!!

“Maria…I … I don’t know…” I don’t think I’m thinking straight. I don’t even think that makes sense. All I know is that the next thing I know, Maria is grabbing my face and kissing my lips so hard, that I think I may pass out. There’s so much pain in that kiss. God, did I cause her that?! I can taste the salt of her tears and I start to feel my own tug at my throat. NO! I will NOT cry! This is NOT my fault dammit! NO! She pulls away and then looks at me one last time before walking away. I know she said something else. Something that sounded like a mumbled version of sorry. But I can’t hear it. All I hear is the pounding in my chest. Does she have any idea how long I dreamt that I’d be able to do that? Does she know how that was NOT how I expected it!???

I make my way over to my classroom, my eyes probably a little bugged out. I don’t know what to do. What am I supposed to say? Maria??? I just… I never knew. She’s right. I’ve been too busy to even notice how we’ve changed. Does that make me a horrible friend? Geez!!!! CLEAR THE COBWEBS!!!! I can’t think straight. I walk into the room and just go straight to my seat. I plop myself down and put my face in my hands. I need to think. I need to get myself together I need to… I can feel a paper on my desk. I look down and fell my stomach twist. Suddenly, I’m nauseous. This isn’t happening. I look down at the perfect cursive writing.

“Meet me after class. I have to talk to you! J Thank you! ~Isabel”

Sh*t… sh*t, sh*t, sh*t!!!!! No ! Not now ! Come on Is… give me a break! Not now! I look down and then fold the paper to put into my pocket. I did it… I gave Isabel Evans flowers and she’s going to speak to me. I get the woman that I’ve been craving for almost three years. So why is it that the only person I can think about is Maria? The bell rings and I close my eyes. Oh dear God, if you think that I have done ANYTHING during my pathetic existence, save me from this one. Please. I walk out into the hallway when I hear a voice calling out for me.

“Alex! Alex wait!” I can hear the clicking of Isabel’s shoes and I stop. I have to stop. I made it this far, don’t let this all be for nothing.

“Thank you. I don’t even know what to say. I mean… that was probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” I would have been ok, if she had not smiled. But she did. And now, now I know it was all for me.

“You don’t have to thank me… really. It’s the least I could do.”

“For what? I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You’ve been here. Everyday for three years you’ve been here. That’s been more than enough for me.” She looks down shyly and my brain snaps. Maria! That’s what Maria does when she’s embarrassed! I have to go get Maria!

“Alex… I…there are things about me you don’t know.”

“Yea… and there are things about ME you don’t know.” Now I’m beginning to feel awkward. Like she’s turning into someone else, rather than the Isabel who just spoke to me.

“Alex, I like you. I do… but I… I can’t afford to rush into things.”

“Rush into things? Umm… ok. Well, let’s see. I’ve waited three years…what’s one more?” Oh sh*t! Did I say that out loud ?!! Good job Alex! You are a real dick head.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Look, Isabel. I’ve liked you for a long time. And today, today something happened that has me real confused. Normally, I’d be coming up with some lame excuse for you to go out with me. I like you. Now you know. Now the ball’s in your court. If you don’t feel ready fine. But, there’s something I have to do.” I begin to run off when I feel her twist me around. I don’t think I had a chance to react. All I know is I could feel her warm lips on mine and my common sense was expiring fast. My goodness, her lips are like poison! They’re seductive in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. She pulls away and I’m left standing completely confused.

“I just need time. Give me time.” Her eyes are practically pleading into mine. What the hell is wrong with people today!?????

“Time?”

“Time.” I don’t even think I responded. She just picks up her book bag and walk away. Now I’m left with a stupid, STUPID decision. Maria… or Isabel. How am I supposed to decide that!??? I turn around and I feel a hand on my arm.

“Alex…!” OH NO!

“Oh Liz!” My heart is finally relaxing. Something is wrong with people today. Something is seriously wrong.

“So tell me what happened?”

“You’re not going to kiss me are you?”

“Umm… not particularly.”

“Ok… as long as you don’t kiss me. Because I’m confused enough without another chic trying to kiss me.”

“ANOTHER chic?”

“Oh God…I’ve got a headache.”

“Wait, wait. Who kissed you? NO! Did you and Isabel kiss?!”

“You can say that.” I’m rubbing at my temples and it’s only making it worse. WOMEN! Geez…

“So who else kissed you?”

“You won’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me…”

“Maria.” I could see her eyes get wide and she put her hand to her mouth. Yea, well multiply that reaction times 100 and that’s how I feel.

“She told you…” It was meant to be a whisper, but I hear it. Loud and clear.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“YOU KNEW!”

“Umm… no. Yes. Oh God…!”

“How did you know and not tell me!??? How could she tell YOU and not ME!”

“Well Alex it was ABOUT you! Of course she wouldn’t tell you!”

“That’s NO EXCUSE!”

“YES IT IS! That would have been like you going to Isabel and telling her you like her the way you would ask her for homework! It’s not JUST something you do!” I need a cigarette. And I DON’T even smoke! Dammit! My hands are shaking. I’m pissed off now. I’m pissed off and I hate being mad. I always tell myself nothing could be that serious to be this mad. Oh, but I’m mad. How the hell could she not tell me? How could she tell Liz!??? How could she keep this from me!?? And let me love her ALL THOSE YEARS thinking she didn’t give a damn! GOD! I can’t believe this sh*t! Ok… ok Alex, you’re fine. You are fine. This is not a problem. So you’ve got a decision to make. Life is full of decisions. Just make it. Don’t even think about it, just do it. Like the Nike commercial. Just do it! Who am I kidding!???? This is not something I just toss a coin over!?? Oh God… I need a drink. I need something.

“Alex… Alex are you ok?” I look over at Liz, suddenly remembering she was there. Oh wow, I forgot about her.

“No… not I’m not ok. I can’t do this Liz. I can’t chose between the girl who I’ve wanted and can now have and the one who I’ve always loved but never loved me back. I can’t. I can’t do this.” I pick up my bag and walk out. I can’t stand to stay in school for the rest of the afternoon.




[ edited 3 time(s), last at 25-Jul-2002 2:47:23 PM ]
posted on 25-Jul-2002 2:46:40 PM
Part 3:

“Pick up the phone Maria. Come on, pick it up. You know you want to. Maria please! Look, you can’t keep avoiding me. We have to talk about this! Dammit Ria, please! Don’t make me beg more than I already am. I know you’re there. Fine, fine you don’t want to pick up then I’ll just tell you what I have to say. I need you Maria. I can’t bear the thought that I made you angry or sad. I just… I need you to be ok or something because if you’re not, I won’t be able to forgive myself. I love you Ria… you know? And this sh*t that’s happening between us, it’s not doing us any good. So pick up the phone and talk to me. Please. Mar…” NO! STUPID ANSWERING MACHINE!!! What is wrong with technology today!??? We can send a man to the moon but we can’t make long lasting answering machine messages?? What’s up with that? That’s it! That is going to be my claim to fame. Long lasting answering machine messages. I am not going to sit around and wait for someone to invent it when I can just whip it up here in my room. That’s right, Alex Whitman is gonna knock your socks off.

I’m getting restless. I can tell because I begin to flip through some of the books on my bookshelf. I never do that. Hell, I never read. I start looking through this one thick book when I see it. It’s almost like it pops out at me. ADORABLE. Oh God no. Please don’t go there. Is this some sort of sign? Some sort of cruel joke? I thought we were cool? I mean, I did the whole catechism thing! I am a GOOD person! So I have immoral thoughts sometimes! SO DOES EVERYONE! Does that mean you’re gonna let my best friend hate me? God, that would not be a nice thing to do. I look back down at the page. ADORABLE: Delightful, lovable and charming. Worthy of adoration. HA! Are you kidding me!??? Me, adorable? Ok… lovable, maybe. I mean, it would explain why girls and me are best friends. Charming? Please! I can barely speak in coherent sentences around Isabel! Delightful, sure if you like nasty jokes and stupid random comments. Worthy of adoration??? Ok well, maybe. NO! This proved it! I have NO LIFE! Why would I be flipping through the dictionary and as a sign from God land on the word adorable (which supposedly so aptly describes me) and then realize so sadly that I am losing it! That’s it Whitman! There’s nowhere to go! DAMN the voices in my head! But it’s true! I mean, I don’t even have guy friends!! Isn’t that like abnormal!?? Does that make me a b**ch? Oh my God… I’m Liz and Maria’s b**ch! Except I’m not getting any. This is horrible. No wonder I’m the laughing stock of the whole school. I grab my guitar and my jacket and head out the door. I’m not just gonna drop this. No way! Time to head to the Crashdown Café.

I walk in about fifteen minutes later and I see Liz behind the counter serving some drinks and Maria sitting on the stool, obviously complaining. Just do it. Just go up to her and let her know that you won’t back down until this is settled. I urge my feet to walk until I’m right behind her. That’s when Liz totally sticks me out.

“Alex?! Hey! How long have you been here?” Thanks Liz, I owe you one. NO really I do. I’ll make sure you get popped later. I half smile, (so I forgave her, sue me!) and I see Maria getting up to walk into the back room.

“Wait. WAIT!” I run behind her and she turns around to face me so suddenly it was almost scary.

“WHAT!? WHAT DO YOU WANT ALEX?!”

“I want you to speak to me! Maria PLEASE just TALK to me! Look, I’m a dork. I’ll admit it, I can’t see things very clearly half the time! But I know you and I know that this is killing you inside. So just talk to me.” SO THERE! Try to fight that one Maria! Ha! Oh no, come on, don’t give me that face. That’s not fair! I don’t want us to fight anymore Ria… please stop. I feel like I’m back in elementary school when Maria and I got into a fight about her first boyfriend…Billy or something or other. I hated him. He was so stupid. He had the dumbest collection of cards I’d ever seen. And he thought he was better at the drums than me?!!! Ha! Yea, ok Billy. I always knew you were on crack. It’s not that I’m rude or anything… I just really dislike him.

“Alex… this is weird for me ok? I just, I want to go back and pretend it never happened?”

“WHAT? You can’t just PRETEND that you didn’t kiss me Ria! Ok, you just can’t! It’s… it’s not possible.” Hell, I don’t think I’d want it to be possible.

“Alex… I was upset ok! I said things I didn’t mean! I’m sorry if I acted like a jerk. I didn’t mean to. I hope you and Isabel are really happy together…” That’s it. My brain is screaming at me. This is a bad idea Alex. I KNOW! Don’t you think I KNOW that!??? But I can’t help it! I have to do this. I lean in closer and grab Maria’s face in my hands. Her eyes are so sad, so upset. I can’t make any promises yet Ria… but I promise, I’ll fix this. Say it out loud punk. NO! Of course I can’t. So instead, I kiss her. There’s too much emotion in this kiss. Too much twirling around in my head. I can remember the way I watched her sleep at our parties. Or how I sent a virus to the jerk she caught cheating on her. Isabel Evans wants to give me a chance. Isabel Evans is safe territory. I WANT her. Badly. But Maria is dangerous. She does these things…that make my head spin. I don’t want Maria…I NEED her.

“Maria…I… there’s something I should tell you.” I reach into my back pocket and pull out an old worn paper. I swing my guitar over to the front and smile. “I wrote this song in seventh grade. It was for you. Why? Because it was the year everything changed. The year we swore our permanent friendship, the year you got boobs, the year you got your first kiss, and the year I fell in love.” I can see her eyes widen. She looks so shocked! Ha! I like having that effect on her!

“Alex… don’t. You’re just going to make things more complicated.”

“For who? For you? Babe, this has been complicated. The minute I decided I was in love with you it got complicated.” I can see the frustration in her eyes. I take the guitar off to give us no barriers. I need to see her… feel her… as best I can. I need to understand her. Cause God knows I can’t understand myself. I place my hands around her waist and pull her close. This is so weird. So weird but so right. What is that POUNDING! Will you quiet down in there! Geez… you act like you’ve never been this close to a girl before. Oh, you haven’t! That’s right I forgot. I reach one hand up to put the loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“I guess what I’m trying to say Ria, is somewhere deep inside… I still… I still love…”

“ ALEX! Someone’s here to see…! OH! Sorry!” Just as my lips are slightly brushing Maria’s I can hear Liz’s outburst. TWICE! TWICE Lizzie you have ruined my moment! You are so getting popped in the head. Maria looks down and closes herself up. DAMN! LIZ! AHHHH!!!!!!!! I think I’m going to go into the bathroom and stab myself. What the hell!???

“I’m sooo sorry… I didn’t. I’m gonna go.” Yea, cause it’ll make a difference now!??? I turn back to Maria as she tries to leave the room.

“I’m not done with you yet.” I pull her back to me and see her taking deep breaths. I’ve got her relaxed. Good. Now all I need is the courage to tell her what I feel. I HAD it two seconds ago, again THANK YOU Liz.

“There’s nothing left to say.”

“Except that I’m crazy about you. Sh*t Ria, you made me want to be jock. You made me want to start a band. You made me want to quit school and travel across country just to meet with you in a different time and place. Because all those guys you went out with never knew how special you were. But I do… I know you. Inside and out. And I’m beginning to lose my cool about it.” Oh my God, I’m frickin’ sweating! Ok, you’re ok! Oh God, those eyes. She’s looking at me with those eyes and I think I’m gonna probably break all friendship rules right here, right now.

“We can’t do this… it won’t work.”

“Watch me.” I reach out and kiss her then, one of those passionate kisses I’d dreamt of giving her my whole damn life. God… this can’t be happening. I feel her pulling away slowly and I lean back and look into her eyes. She wants to, but she’s scared. Of what? Of ME!?? Am I scary? I run my fingers through her hair and lean my forehead against hers.

“There’s so much you don’t even understand Maria. For so long…”

“WAIT! You CAN’T go in there!” I can hear Liz’s voice and suddenly I hear the loud clicking of heels and the back room door fly open. There, in all her glory, is Isabel Evans.

“OH! I didn’t know that you were helping Maria! I’m sorry.” Isabel puts a worried look on her face and looks at Maria. I hadn’t even noticed Maria had started to cry. She cleans off her face and pastes on a smile.

“Maria?”

“Isabel.” Isabel looks at me.

“Alex.” Ok, so I’m freaking out and looking at Liz.

“Liz?” I look over. I’m so confused.

“Everything ok? Maria? You need anything?”

“Me? Oh no, I’m fine. JUST fine.” She puts on the fakest smile I’ve ever seen and stomps off, telling Liz she’s taking table number 4.

“What’s up her butt?”

“Isabel, please.” I look over at her and see her shocked face. Then she smiles. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she likes having to fight for me. That’s really sick.

“I came by to tell you I thought about it.” She’s got some incredible eyes. I can feel her heat getting closer as she presses against me. “I want to give it a try. I like you Alex. I have for some time now. And I think that maybe, we could… give it a shot. But I don’t make promises. And I don’t guarantee the perfect relationship. I’m not very good at this whole… dating thing.” The sadness and innocence in her voice makes me want to reconsider. Isabel Evans isn’t the ice princess everyone makes her out to be. She’s got feelings. A little rusty and unused, sure, but feelings none the less.

“Isabel… this is a really bad time. I want to… God… I really want to, but I need to get some things settled first. I need to know that I’m doing the right thing. I never thought I’d get a chance with you… and now it’s like surreal. And I… I don’t know what to do with this mess I’m in.” I can feel her slowly stepping away from me, a hurt look in her eyes. NO! NO, Isabel please! I can’t take much more of this!

“Do you know what it took for me to come here? To open myself to you? And you’re going to shoot me down?”

“NO! I’m not shooting you down! I want to be with you! But… for the RIGHT reasons. And right now I don’t think I’m thinking clearly enough to have those reasons. So please, just… give me some time and I’ll get back to you I swear. If we’re going to be together, I want to give you all of me… right now I can’t.” Part of me belongs to someone else. I see her expression soften.

“You care about her a lot don’t you?” Huh? Is she talking to me? Ok, I am NOT going to talk to Isabel about Maria.

“Yea, I do. And her break-up today has her a little shaken up. I need to devote my attention to her right now.” Ok, I guess I AM going to talk to Isabel about Maria.

“I wish I would have had a friend like you growing up. I mean, I’ve got my brother, and Michael. But… well having a friend… I can only imagine what that must be like.” The trace of sadness practically tears up my heart.

“I’ll always be here. If you need me.” I smile at her. There I go…trying to be the ‘best friend’ again. That’s why I DON’T get any dates. That’s why I never go out with girls! I need to toughen up!

“I’ll wait as long as I have to… I just want to be with you.” She kisses my cheek and slowly walks out of the backroom, leaving me to my thoughts. I walk out into the restaurant area and see Maria is busy serving tables and Isabel is paying to leave. I look at Liz. That’s it! Why didn’t I think of it before?! I mean, she’s like my conscience! She’s one of those pesky voices I hear in my head constantly, besides my own. That’s why I love Liz! I walk over to her and sit on one of the stools at the counter. Without even noticing I start to spin from side to side and look over to where Liz’s sly glare is. Well, well. If it isn’t Max Evans sitting in booth 3.

“Why don’t you go talk to him?”

“Huh? What? I’m sorry Alex, did you say something?”

“Me? No, of course not. Liz…I have to ask you a favor.”

“Ok. Anything.”

“I need your help to stop being so… adorable. For lack of better words.” Liz puts down her rag and sits next to me at the counter.

“I don’t think I follow Alex.”

“I want to be one of the guys! I want to… go to parties and talk about girls and do other stuff guys do. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with you and Maria. But I feel that, dealing with a problem with her, is harder to do with someone who’s biased. You, would be that someone.” I smile, letting her know that I am not trying to insult her in any way.

“Ok… so you want to talk to a guy about Maria and Isabel because you think they can help you more than, I your best friend, that has known you since infancy? Ok… I guess it makes sense in a strange guy kind of way.” She smiles letting me know she understands and I feel the breath of relief escape me. I knew it! I knew Liz would help me! I see her gaze drift back to Max and her smile takes on an evil hint. Oh no… I don’t like that. LIZ, STOP IT! Don’t make that face! STOP!

“I have just the thing to help you out Alex.” No…she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. She won’t!

“Liz! Liz wait! Elizabeth!” I cannot believe this! This day just gets worse and worse doesn’t it?!!! I stop right behind her at booth 3 and see Max look up at us. His eyes are practically devouring Liz. I think I’m going to be sick.

“Hey Max.” She smiles, that smile that I recognize immediately. Great, she’s a goner.

“Hey Liz…” I see him twiddling his fingers and his breathing gets a little nervous. My God! You’d think that she was naked or something!

“Ummm… Max, Alex needs some help with some, you know ‘guy’ stuff. Obviously I can’t help in that department. Would you do me the favor?” I see him look up at me and smile. Yea, ok. Like I can’t see through you Evans. Of course you’re going to say yes! You get to hang out with Liz more! You get more of a reason to be at the Crashdown. You get more of a chance to learn about her, through me! On the other hand, I get to go to your house and hang out with your beautiful, if not emotionally challenged sister. Not too bad an exchange!

“Uhh…sure Liz. No problem.” He smiles and she nods as she mouths the words thank you. Yea, like I can’t see you Liz. Geez… sometimes you are really ditzy! She turns to face me and smiles. I can read it all over her face. Payback Alex! That’s what this is! Payback for the crap you were talking this morning in school! Well FINE!!! I can handle it! It’s not like I’ve NEVER hung out with a guy! Liz smiles and heads off back to the counter. I look down at Max and slide in the seat across from him.

“So? What’s the problem? Is it about my sister?” Max smiles and I can’t help but feel he knows a little too much for comfort.

“Uh, well that’s only half of the problem. See, I really like your sister…” WHY AM I TELLING HIM THIS?!! Max…you are DEAD wrong man! With that honest look and caring voice! YOU FOOL ME!

“I know…I’ve been watching you watch her for almost three years. It’s amazing how after all the layers she’s built up to hide her from the world, you’ve managed to knock them down so quickly.” Layers? What like onions? Like SHREK?! Sorry…too many cartoons.

“And what about you? You’ve been making googley eyes at Liz since say… third, maybe fourth grade?”

“What?”

“You hear me… what about you? You’ve managed to change her you know. She’s not this little girl anymore. I noticed that when she dumped Kyle. So…just a warning: Watch it with her. If she gets hurt…I’m coming after you.” Max looked down, a thoughtful look on his face, then quickly looked back up.

“Ok…fair. So what do you need?”

“I’ve been after Isabel, as you so eloquently put it, for about three years. I’m completely and utterly infatuated with her! And now, thanks to you, she finally noticed me.”

“No Alex… I had nothing to do with it. She’s been noticing you. Why do you think she sat in front of you in class? It wasn’t out of charity goodness, that’s for sure.”

“Well regardless, now that I have the chance…I’m not sure I can take it.” I could see Max sitting up, slightly frustrated.

“Why not?”

“Maria.” I nod my head over and give him a look that should describe our situation at the moment. Tense and angry but completely and utterly in love.

“Oh…wow. You’ve got yourself a mess.”

“Tell me about it. It’s what I get for being so… adorable.” For the first time in my laugh I hear Max Evans laugh. It’s funny, to see his serious brooding face get al wrinkled in laughter.

“Well… do you love her?”

“Who?”

“Maria!”

“Oh…! Well, yea! I mean, she’s my best friend…”

“No…I mean do you LOVE her?” My eyebrows go up in response. Am I supposed to pour my heart out to you already Evans!?? This is only our first date!

“To death.”

“But…”
“She’s my friend! I don’t… I don’t want to ruin that. Because if something happens to us, while we’re, you know, together, and our friendship falls apart… I’d probably die.” He nods and then he looks up at me, his eyes full of wonder.

“Ok… I think I have an idea. But it’s going to require some work on your part. Ok?” I nod my head. What the heck have I got to lose?

Part 4:

Saturday. It’s probably my favorite day of the week. Let’s see, I’ve got band practice at 1pm, I’ve got homework that I won’t do until tomorrow, I have to talk to Maria, get Isabel a gift, and I have to get Liz to go with me to the movies tonight. Wow, I’m a pretty busy guy. I look over at the clock and smile. It’s 11:30am. I should start getting ready.

Once band practice is over I make my way to the Crashdown for a late lunch. I’m starved. Knowing the waitresses is always a plus too… FREE FOOD!!! Oh yes, I have a good life. Except for the whole Maria isn’t speaking to me, Isabel is kind of offended, and I have to get Max with Liz thing. Besides that though, everything is going about as it would normally. I walk in and see Liz cleaning the coffee maker. Good old reliable Liz. Where’s Maria? My eye darts around the room to find her serving booth 3, where a not too happy Michael Guerin is sitting. I sit on one of the stools and turn to face the booth. Looks like they’re having an interesting conversation.

“What the hell is up your ass today DeLuca? What happened to customer service?”

“Screw you Michael! You want service? You gotta order first!”

“If you were nicer, I would order with no problem.”

“LOOK! If you don’t like the way I am serving you, then go somewhere else!?” I see his eyebrows go up and his expression softens a bit.

“You must be really pissed. Wanna talk about it?”

“You’d be the LAST person I want to talk about it with… trust me.”

“Can’t say I didn’t offer.”

“Are you TRYING to be obnoxious??” I see Maria turn and march her way over to the back room, her hair flying behind her in a fury. I look back over to the booth and suddenly see Michael fly up to follow her, probably more pissed off than she is… if that’s possible. I can’t help but be curious. What the hell does he want with her? Liz seems to be going about her business, completely oblivious to the tension. Well, not me. I sit myself at the last stool near the kitchen opening and can hear the angry sounds of Michael and Maria.

“You know if you stopped being so frickin’ proud I’d be able to help you!”

“What makes you think I need help!??”

“I see things Maria! I can tell when you’re ABNORMALLY pissed. Today would be it!”

“So what?!! Don’t I have the right to be angry?”

“This isn’t your usual anger!”

“What the hell do you know about my USUAL anger Michael!??? You don’t know sh*t about me! Ok?” I can hear her voice get thick. She’s definitely beyond angry right now.

“Oh yea!?? I know enough to know that you’re pissed at Isabel! I know enough to know why!”

“WHAT!?? Whatever! Whatever Michael!” I can hear her start to walk out when she suddenly gasps.

“Don’t walk away from me.”

“LET GO OF ME!”

“What’s the matter Maria… not the princess anymore? What’s the matter? Pissed because your best friend is pining over a different girl?! That’s it isn’t it!?? You’re pissed cause finally, you’re not the ONLY girl in his life. And it burns you up to know that you’ve lost him… and not to just anyone, but to Isabel Evans, the most beautiful and popular girl in school.” Even without being in the room I can feel the tension rising. Why didn’t he just leave her alone!??? That’s it! I can’t stand this! I get up to make my way to the room and stop short at her comment.

“F**K YOU MICHAEL! You think you’re so f**king special!! What do you want??!! Huh? What??? Will it make you feel better if I told you!?? YES! That’s why I’m pissed! Because I am SICK and TIRED of always being second best. I HATE Isabel Evans. I HATE myself and honestly right now I HATE you more than anything. And what do you plan to do about it?” I can imagine her hands on her hips and her eyes bright blue, the way they always get when she’s angry. But all I hear is silence. Complete and utter silence. I move to the door and when it swings open I stand in shock. There, in the middle of the room, Michael Guerin grabbed Maria and kissed her. I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart stop quicker. WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING!??? Michael Guerin is the worst kind of slime! The kind that Maria should DEFINITELY stay away from! The kind that we’ve already discussed does NOT deserve her! He needs to get his f**king hands OFF OF HER!

“Hope I’m not interrupting anything.” I stand at the door, the heat pumping through my veins. Never in my life have I wanted to kill a human being more than I do now. Michael WILL not take advantage of Maria’s current vulnerable situation and if I have to kill him myself to make sure of that, I will. I see Maria quickly shake herself away and look over at the door in a panic.

“ALEX?” I raise an eyebrow at her and then look over at Michael. Son of a b**ch. I hate him.

“Alex.” Is he talking to me? Oh, I know he isn’t talking to me.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing Michael?”

“Last I checked I was kissing Maria.”

“Really?! Well… let me tell you something about Maria that you may not know. See…Maria doesn’t like slime bags. In fact, just yesterday morning, we so graciously proved that in school by making Joey Fillmore look like an ass wipe. Today, however, seems to provide a whole new problem. You.”

“You know Whitman… you really are something? You’re not with her, you’re practically dating someone else, but you won’t let anyone have her?! That’s mighty selfish of you.”

“You don’t know sh*t about this situation. So I suggest you stay out of it.”

“Well, from what I hear it was Isabel with $200 dollar flowers, not Maria.”

“F**k you Michael! You think you know what the hell is going on? Well guess what! You DON’T!!”

“I know that you think you can have the best of both worlds… and guess what!??? You CAN’T. Sorry Whitman… looks like someone ELSE noticed Maria’s grown up.” I was just about to say something else when I hear Maria practically explode.

“STOP IT! STOP IT BOTH OF YOU! My God… I… I just need to get some air.” She pushes Michael and I apart (I hadn’t even noticed I was in his face. What was I thinking? He’d kick my ass!) and then makes her way outside with a slam of the back door.

“SEE!?? You happy now? Look what you did!” What I did!??? Oh, so now it’s my fault!

“You know what? You’re not worth my energy.” I move past him and out the door. I HAVE to talk to Maria. I move into the alley and hear the soft cries. Oh God… the waterworks. I hate this. This situation I’m in really sucks. Thanks Michael, for putting a HUGE dent in my plans.

“Ria?”

“Leave me ALONE. I want to be ALONE!”

“No… no I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna leave you alone. We have to talk. You need to get this out.”

“Get what out Alex? WHAT? Everything he said in there is TRUE! EVERYTHING! God… I hate it, but it’s true. You love Isabel. And I’m going to be pushed aside and forgotten. I can’t compare to her!!!! I just… I’m losing you!” I move closer and taker her shoulders in my arms.

“Look at me. Maria…look at me.” I see her wet eyes look up and notice that they’re practically gray. “You could NEVER be second best. Even… even if I were to get married and we wouldn’t be together…you would still be the woman that I love. My wife would hate you, sure. But, NOTHING can change that. Not even pricks like Michael Guerin.” Quick talking Alex. Now just hope she’ll forgive you for being an idiot and arguing the way you did.

“No. Maybe not Michael Guerin, but Isabel Evans sure could. I saw the way she looked at you yesterday Alex. I’m not stupid. I know that you and her are going to get together. And that’s fine. I mean, you’re going to be happy. Michael was right to say all those things…”

“WHAT!? No! NO! You listen to me now ok? I don’t care if people tease me, or step all over me, or talk crap to me. But NO ONE does that to my friends. And NO ONE does that to you! Do you understand!? He had no right to say a thing to you and especially no right to push the matter once you said you didn’t want to talk about it.” I take her face in my hands and move in closer to whisper.

“He doesn’t know a thing about us. And he was wrong. He was very wrong. Because he doesn’t know how I feel. He doesn’t know what it was like. To grow up with two female best friends… to fall in love with one and then know that you’re never going to be more than a friend to her. To watch you go out with other guys. It was torture. It still is.” Oh God… Max would kill me right now. I’m breaking the rules. I’m breaking all of the rules we set up! Stop yourself Alex! Before it’s too late! I let go of her face and move away before the desire to kiss her takes over my senses. Sometimes it happens so fast I can’t even think. Right now, I’m not thinking clearly.

“Alex?” Her voice snaps me back to reality. Damn! Why? WHY!?? I love my little dream world. I love being able to control actions, thoughts, people, and places! EVERYTHING! In my dream world I am GOD! Ok, sorry. Having a power trip.

“Yea?” I look over at her and notice that I had turned around. Being around her is just too much for a guy to handle. I can’t do it. It’ll drive me insane. I mean, aren’t the little voices in my head enough!?? Now I have to worry about jumping on Maria and practically attacking her with male testosterone!? Come on man! It’s just not fair!

“Do you love her?”

“Love her?”

“Yea. Do you love Isabel?”

“Well, Ria, ummm, love is like a really strong word.”

“Do you love me?” Sh*t! Don’t do this Maria! I have a promise to keep! Max made me promise! God… this is unbelievable! What do I owe Max!?? Nothing! Until I open my mouth and get in trouble.

“Maria… you have to understand that what I feel for Isabel and what I feel for you are two totally different feelings.”

“Why?”

“Well…” Why?? What the hell? Maria!!! God help me. “Well, because I know you better than I know her. I mean, I only just know her from afar. I’ve never actually held a five minute conversation with her!”

“So what do you feel then?”

“What do I feel?” Am I supposed to tell you this? This is really uncomfortable Maria! I feel myself squirm a bit, then put my hands in my pocket.

“Well… she’s really pretty…”

“So you wanna jump her bones.” Was that a statement or a question?

“Ummm… you know, Maria maybe we shouldn’t…”

“You don’t think I’m f**kable Alex?” WHAT!??? Where did THAT come from? HOLY CRAP! Oh my dear God… ok, breathe Alex… just breathe.

“Uh, Maria… I uh, this is not a good conversation for us… I mean, I just don’t think that…”

“You’re telling me you’ve never seen me as sexually attractive? At all?!” I could almost laugh at the disappointment in her voice if I wasn’t so busy trying to calm my body down.

“Maria… ok. You… are very attractive. Very… a whole lot. Ok? And… guys sometimes, I mean, of course I’ve… ok, I don’t know how to put this. Of course, I think you’re sexy. But… I can’t let something like that be the deciding factor in what I want in a woman!” Good! You let it all out nice and quick!

“What else do you look for?” I could see her curious eyes looking up at me and I curse under my breath. MAX!!! Where are you when I need you!!! LIKE NOW!

“Ria… look. Don’t take this personally. But… I kind of made myself a promise that I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t torture myself like this. I need you to understand that I am trying to give you what you need. And I’m looking out for myself too. So… just… let me try and figure out my game plan first, and then we can talk about it.”

“What I need? YOU are what I need Alex. And as far as I can tell… I’m not getting that. All I’m getting is Michael.” The sudden shoot of jealousy almost knocked me out. I wonder if that’s what it feels like to shoot up drugs?? Ok Alex, who cares? What are you suddenly gonna become a junkie? You know… that doesn’t sound half bad. I go to say something when I hear my name. God? Is that you saving me?!!!

“ALEX!” I recognize the voice immediately.

“MAX!” I see him turn the corner and meet Maria and me in the alley.

“You ready?”

“OH! I totally forgot! Oh my God…I’m so sorry. Ok, I’m on it.” I look over at Maria and smile.

“Sorry… I sorta had something to do. We finish talking later?”

“Sure. Whatever. OR maybe I’ll just find Michael and have myself an interesting conversation with him.”

“And I’ll hunt you down and shoot him.”

“I thought you were gonna say shoot me.”

“No, definitely him. But I’d probably spank you.”

“I’d probably like it.” OH MY GOD! Are Maria and I talking dirty!??? NO way!! Oh my goodness! I’m permanently traumatized!

“Okkkk…well umm… Alex? I think I’ll meet you inside.”

“NO! I’m coming.” Oh God... I’m coming? I’m coming sounds like I’m… NO! Don’t even go there! GET IT OUT!!! Dirty dirty mind!

“Stay away from him.”

“Yes Dad.” She smiles and I finally feel like I got through to her. Well, at least she’s talking to me. I make my way inside and Max grabs punches my arm.

“Ok… WHAT was that!??”

“Hey… I’m just as confused as you are!!”

“Seriously Alex, how the heck do you manage to have that effect on ladies?”

“I guess I’m just your typical pimp daddy.” We both start laughing and then I stop. “Or maybe I’m just adorable.”

“Sounds like you’re describing a poodle.”

“Shut up!” We laugh again and head over to the counter where I’m expected to work magic.

“Liz? Hey, umm… you wanna take a break? I mean… take the rest of the night off?”

“Actually Alex, that’s really sweet, but there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s just me and Maria. Hi Max.” She smiles and looks at Max who’s standing next to me. Oh God… I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this.

“Well, I could take over.” I cringe inwardly. NO! I don’t WANT to serve tables! NO!

“Really?! You’d do that for me?” I nod and see her suspicious expression. “What’s the catch?” I smile and suddenly feel excited. You know, maybe Max and Liz together would be a good thing.

“Go out tonight. Take Maxie here out. He needs a break. He’s overworked. See?? Do you see those unattractive bags under his eyes? That rough face? He hasn’t even showered in days!” I see Max’s expression and almost bust out laughing. “I’m kidding! Geez… just kidding. Seriously Liz, go have fun. I’ll be fine.” I smile and she jumps up to hug me and kisses my cheek. Aww, shucks Liz. She pulls away and takes the antennas off her head and places them on mine, just as Maria walks through the back door. She doesn’t even wait for me to turn around so she can start laughing hysterically.

“I have to say, that is the most sparkling moment I’ve seen you Alex!” We all laugh and Liz runs to the back to change. When she comes back out, she hands me her name clip. She waves goodbye to Maria and then her and Max head out. Maria looks at me and laughs again.

“Take those stupid things off!” I laugh and make my voice as girlish as possible.

“Hi, I’m Liz Parker and welcome to the Crashdown, can I show you the universe?” Maria practically choked on her spit and I just have to laugh again. These are the moments I live for.

Part 5:

I flip over the sign and sigh loudly. CLOSED. Do you weird alien freaks understand that?! CLOSED for the night. No more serving you freaks anything. God… who knew so many people in Roswell ate here? I didn’t. I turn around and make my way back to my favorite stools. Yes, there is nothing better than spinning on the stools of the Crashdown Café, late at night, with no one else there, but Maria. Woah, ok back up. With no one else there, but Maria? Ok, now I know that should not excite me… and it doesn’t. ARGH! Yes it does! Sh*t! Knowing she’s in that little Crashdown uniform in the next room probably pulling her hair out of that ponytail and shaking her head to let it fall loose… STOP! Geez… my mind is like a frickin’ IMAX film. I turn around when I hear the back door swing open.

“Hey.”

“Hey back.” I smile and Maria comes to sit in the magical spinning stool next to me. Yes, it is magical. Don’t believe me? Come over here and I’ll tell you. No… closer. Closer. Ok… when I was six, Maria spun me on that chair really fast and I almost fell, but instead I knocked right into her in the next stool and I kissed her nose. What? You think it’s stupid? Well, forget you then! Get out of my face! Hmm… I have to wonder if it’s normal to have arguments with the voices in my head. My therapist wouldn’t think so. Of course, she just got divorced and her daughter just got pregnant by some Spanish guy named Julio who doesn’t speak English. Oh well, what does she know.

“You got plans tonight?”

“Me? Come on Maria… when do I ever have plans? You seem to forget, you are talking to Alex Whitman, geek extraordinaire.”

“You wanna do something?”

“What?” I lean my elbow up against the counter and put my chin on my hand pathetically.

“I don’t know. Something. We could start with like… ice cream, maybe end with…skinny dipping.” COUGH! Yes, I just coughed. Probably my balls… since that statement just scared the flying f**k out of me. That’s insane! Is she serious??? The idea… well it’s just… alluring. I would probably die of a heart attack. Whoever said kids can’t get heart attacks at my age obviously never had Maria DeLuca ask them to go skinny-dipping.

“Sk-ski-skinny dipping? As in… naked swimming?” I hear her laughter and almost feel like slamming her on the counter and taking her right there. NO ALEX! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!!! Woah, my hormones are seriously taking over any normal thought processes.

“Well, uh, yea Alex. That’s usually what it entails. Unless of course, we uh, put a new spin on it. Like ice cream AND skinny dipping, at approximately the same time.” Close your mouth. Alex close it. I know you have it open and you look like an idiot so just close it and spare yourself the embarrassment. Well, at least she’s not looking down at my pants… that would TRULY be embarrassing. She’s biting her bottom lip. Why? WHY!? This is so not funny… this is just so not right. This is just… ok you get the picture. It’s Saturday. Did I mention that already? Saturday night to be exact. And NO ONE should be alone on Saturday nights. NO ONE. Not even losers like me. So what am I trying to get at? What do you think, genius? I mean, come on, it’s not that hard.

“Umm… sure. Ice cream and skinny-dipping. That sounds… great. Seriously Maria, could you not come up with something a bit more traditional? More… uh normal?”

“What like dinner and a movie?”

“Yea, that works.”

“That’s for wussies. I am not a wussie and you Alex are not a punk who’s gonna try to take advantage of me in a dark movie theater.” No… instead I get to take advantage of you in a dark lake. HELLO!?? Does this make sense to anyone else?? You! Does this make sense to you? Sh*t! You know what? Don’t answer that. I don’t think I want to know.

“Maria… I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

“What… now you’re too good to hang out with me too?”

“This isn’t just hanging out.”

“What is it?”

“SKINNY DIPPING!” Umm… I thought we had this conversation already.

“So?”

“Maria… normal friends, don’t go skinny dipping together.”

“Who says?”

“I do.”

“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It was just an offer.” She looks at me and for a second I feel my breath catch in my chest. Holy mother… she’s totally seducing me! What the hell is up with that?! She gives me a pout and spins around on the stool.

“You’re playing with fire DeLuca.” Woah! WAS THAT JUST ME!?? It’s like all of a sudden I’m past puberty and in my 30’s! Where the heck did that come from?!!

“I like the heat.” She spins to face me and all of a sudden it’s like I’m taken back to that day, when we were face to face, her cute chubby cheeks laughing at me and my lips reaching up to her face. Not much has changed since then. Her dad is gone, my family is weird, she’s had sex (or at least she says she has… I don’t totally believe that one though), I’m in love, we’ve grown up. Ok, so maybe things are a little different. Ok, a whole lotta different. But one thing is majorly different. I can kiss her again, except this time, her lips are mine. I lean in and touch her lips with mine… soft, sensual lips that are all Maria. I kiss harder, leaning forward to make myself comfortable in the spinning stool. I can feel the want in her kiss and it drives me crazy. No, seriously. I mean right now, I’m thinking of stupid sh*t like skydiving and bungee jumping and anything with an adrenaline rush. None of those things compare to this… or what could come of this. Oh my God… I’m having very, VERY vivid images of a better use for this counter. Holy crap. Ok, I need to calm down. OH NO! ALEX YOU BROKE THE RULES! Max is going to murder me. He is just totally going to murder me. Of course, if I got laid tonight, I wouldn’t… STOP! NO, Alex, if you and Maria ever had sex, it wouldn’t be…sex. It would be… hell, it would be a frickin’ explosion. It would be… magic.

I pull away and see her eyes, those dark blue eyes are completely dreamy, and she is sooo off in her own world. Maybe I should take her to mine. Maybe in my world she can get naked and wrap herself up in whipped cream and… OH! Sorry about that! That’s my own little personal fantasy. Of course, Maria and Isabel alternate… but tonight. Tonight it’s ALL about Maria.

“Maybe we should… uh… maybe we should just stop.”

“Stop?” Ok, Maria, breathing like that is just gonna get me more excited… and I’m in enough frickin’ pain thank you very much.

“Yea… let’s go get that ice cream.” And a very, very cold shower.

“Right… ice cream.” She swallows hard and my eyes drift down to the v-neck of her Crashdown uniform. She’s got on a red bra. RED! Oh my GOD! I remember when she first got boobs! Ha! She totally freaked. ‘MA!!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE THINGS!???’ Oh yea, that was classic.

“Alex! Hello?! Up here!” Oh sh*t! Oh man! I didn’t even notice I was staring! OH man!

“S-s-s-sorry… I uh, I was just uh…” I feel her hand wrap tightly around my wrist and she pulls me into the back room.

“Ok, we’re going. NOW.” She throws me onto the couch and goes over to her locker. She takes off the antennas and rips open the Crashdown uniform.

“WOAH! MARIA! Hello?! Guy, right here.” I can hear her laugh again and she turns around, her uniform completely unbuttoned, her matching red bra and undies just screaming at me. DAMN! NO! Ok, ok, I can’t do this.

“Come on Alex. It’s not like you’ve never seen it before.”

“Don’t be so sure.” She laughs and turns around again. IT’S NOT FUNNY RIA!

“Well Alex… uh I hate to break it to ya, but skinny dipping requires getting butt naked. Which means, that these things, won’t be an issue.”

“Don’t remind me.” She pulls on some jeans and a tiny tee shirt. Lord help me. I will never again play a practical joke. I won’t look at another woman and think bad thoughts. No OTHER woman. Please understand that that means I look at Maria and think very naughty thoughts.

“Ok. Ready. Pull the pint out of the freezer. I’ll go start heating up the car.” Do we really need to heat anything else up?

“Ok, I’ll meet you in the car.” She goes off and I have to smile. This isn’t happening! This is just one of those dreams you have when you’ve had too much Sunkist. Yea, that’s it. You are just way too happy. So… your body is freaking out and reacting with a very vivid and very nice dream. Hey, I’m not complaining. It beats unicorns and rainbows, that’s for sure. I pull out the pint of ice cream and turn off the lights. The Parkers will be home in about an hour. Liz will be home in about two. And Maria and I will be off skinny-dipping. Ah, yes. This is an interesting evening. I lock the back door behind me and see Maria’s car lights through the alley. Then I feel the tug on my arm.

“Alex?! Help me… please help me.” I look over and see Isabel, her eyes red and bloodshot, her hands shaking.

“ISABEL?! What’s the matter? Isabel, what’s wrong?”

“I can’t… I can’t feel my legs…” I feel her topple into my arms and in the light I can see the bruises. Oh my God. Look at her face…that beautiful face. I feel the anger begin to burn. Who the hell would do that to her?!

“Who did this? WHO DID THIS!?”

“I need… to talk…to Max.” WHAT?!

“Isabel, just tell me who did this. We’ll get to Max.”

“I can’t…” Then she just faints. Holy crap. Oh my God. What am I supposed to do?! Call 911! Yes, that’s what I’ll do! But Max! I’ll call Max’s cell phone tell him to meet us at the hospital! Ok, good. It sounds like a plan. I pick her up and make my way to Maria’s car. She jumps out of the car and looks like she’s about to freak.

“WHAT THE HELL!???”

“Call Max.”

“Alex…”

“CALL HIM!”

“Ok…ok.” She dials the number furiously and I catch bits of the conversation as I try to get Isabel into the car.

“No… I don’t know… She passed out… What about the hospital? What!?… Bad, Max! No… it’s serious! Whatever fine! Yes, five minutes!” I can feel my stomach beginning to knot up. This isn’t good.

“What’d he say?”

“He said to meet him at Michael’s house in five minutes.”

“MICHAEL’S HOUSE?! For what!? She needs a f**king doctor!”

“I don’t know!!!! STOP YELLING AT ME!” I stop and take a breath. Oh sh*t. Maria… oh God… I didn’t even notice. I’m just so nervous. So riled up… so scared…I HATE THESE KIND OF UNPLANNED MOMENTS!!

“Maria…Maria., I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I walk over and kiss her lips trying to express my apologies. Damn, I’m a real jerk.

“Fine. Whatever. Let’s just go.” She gets in the car and I jump in the passenger seat.

“Hey Maria?”

“What?”

“You forgot the ice cream.”