posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:30:57 PM
Title: Steps of Faith

1-4-2

Author: Cath AKA Kitcat26

Summary: Liz is suffering from low self-esteem and a painful past. Guess who helps her believe in herself again? (I’ll give you three guess and the first two don’t count).

Disclaimer: I don’t possess ownership of anything pertaining to Roswell. I also don’t own the lyrics of the song “Sweet Surrender,” by Sarah McLachlan (love her!). I own the plot, but there are a few scenarios in which were inspired by, and somewhat resemble one or two parts to the fabulous book, Keeping The Moon by the incomparable Sarah Dessen. Which of course, is not mine.

Ratings/Pairings: PG-13ish M/L AU and CC

Author’s Note: Revamping this up a bit as to repost it on the Fanfic Awards Forum. I’m still squealing in delight as to this lovely award. Thank you Schurry! And thank all of those who voted, and you dedicated admins who counted those votes. It’s an honor to win. *happy*

runner-up

It doesn’t mean much
It doesn’t mean anything at all
The life I’ve left behind me is cold room
I’ve crossed the last line from where I can’t return
Where every step I took in faith betrayed me
And led me from my home
And sweet, sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give
You take me in
No questions asked
You strip away the ugliness that surrounds me
Are you an angel?
Am I already that gone?
I only hope that I wont disappoint you when I’m down here on my knees
And I don’t understand
By the touch of your hand
I would be the one to fall
I miss the little things
Oh I miss everything
It doesn’t mean much
It doesn’t mean anything at all
The life I’ve left behind me is a cold room


“Sweet Surrender” by Sarah McLachlan

~*~Part One~*~The Life I’ve Left Behind Me Is A Cold Room

My name is Elizabeth Parker. Welcome to the first day of the most awful summer vacation of my life.

“Liz, sweetie, could you please try not to look do sullen?” my mother implores of me, while trying to simultaneously recheck my boarding pass. I don’t know why she keeps doing that; the information is not going to rewrite itself in the time it takes to get from the check-in desk to the boarding gate.

In answer to my mom’s request I plaster a cheesy counterfeit smile on my face, my muscles straining so tight my cheeks start to burn.

“Oh come on now, that’s even worse,” she says, giving me a pleading look. I mold my face back to its original patented scowl, my point proven. “Come on Liz. It’s for the best.” After seeing my disbelieving look, she reiterates. “It is!”

The best for who? For you? Because this is defiantly NOT how I want to spend my summer. I think venomously the words I long to say aloud but don’t dare. They would cause more trouble then they are worth, and frankly I’m not in the mood for another pointless argument. I know why I have to go, for my mom’s sake but understanding doesn’t make me feel more thrilled about being shipped off from Chicago to the-middle-of-nowhere-Roswell, New Mexico.

We make our way to the gate after checking in my two full suitcases. I choose to make the walk in stony silence, not wanting to make this easier on my poor mother. I lug behind me this insolent carry-on bag, whose wayward wheels keep catching on the dirty carpet and every so often falling to the ground, much to my exasperation. After the fifth time the stupid thing collapses on me, my mom goes to take the bag from me. I jerk it away, irritated. I got it.

That’s the thing. My mother always has a good intent but that is usually about as far as she gets.

She keeps throwing anxious looks in my direction and seems somewhat guilty.

Good, I think bitterly. You should feel accountable.

We reach the gate and discover that they are already finishing up first class passengers, and now boarding everyone else. This is relatively unsurprising, since a fight broke out between us before we left for the airport, causing our punctuality to suffer.

After handing me my ticket she turns fully towards me and grasps my shoulders. I roll my eyes but don’t jerk away.

“Liz,” she says in a soft voice. Do I detect tears? I sigh and look at her, seeing my incensed expression reflected back at me in her eyes. I grimace at my image. I’m so awful, I think miserably, the familiar sensation of shame and self-loathing washing over me.

“Liz,” she continues. “I know you really don’t want to go, but please try and have a good time. Your Aunt and Uncle are really interesting people and Roswell is a fun place. You might not think so right now, but some of my best memories are from that crazy town.”

I put my tongue in check and try not to roll my eyes. Well golly gee, why didn’t you say so? Never mind my behavior before, now I’m positively GEEKED to go! Even in my head I sound as dry as a desert.

Sensing my thoughts, my mom abandons the feel good speech and stops dancing around what REALLY needs to be said.

“Honey, I need you to go. This is so hard for me right now and I need to get through it knowing that you are safe with my sister and out of the mess. Everything is scrambled and I have to have some time alone to sort it all out.”

I blink trying hard not to let her words affect my disposition. I had had a picture in my head ever since I found out I was being shipped off to the desert for the summer. In the image, my stony sullen face was the last thing my mother saw of me before I boarded my plane, the picture of it tattooed on her brain, haunting her for the duration of the summer.

Her eyes fill with the burden of this past year. “Liz,” she croaks after we hear the final boarding call blare across the PA. “Please…” her voice cracks as she flings her arms around me. I stiffen, as usual whenever some one touches me, but then relax. My morbid daydream is shattered and despite myself, I hug her back. See, that’s the thing with me. I often have a bad intent but that’s usually about as far as I get.

“It will be alright, mom,” I try to soothe her, to make this seem less daunting. I know this is difficult for her. Hell, what am I saying? It is suffocating her and I am amazed she can even get up in the morning.

The final boarding call blasts out again, jerking us apart. “I’m sorry,” I say. And I am. She has too much crap to deal with without ME adding to it.

The tears are back. “S’okay,” she whispers.

I flash a halfhearted smile at her that doesn’t reach my deadened chocolate eyes. “Well I’m off!” I say in mock enthusiasm, not totally hitting my desired light tone.

“Bye, sweetie. I love you,” she tells me.

Then let me stay here with you, I think helplessly. I don’t say it out loud, knowing that the troublesome words would just plunge to the ground and lie there, useless and pathetic. Instead I say the appropriate words in a situation like this. “I love you, too.”

I turn and drag my feet over to the over perky flight attendant who looks just too damn happy to be collecting boarding passes and wishing everyone a good flight. Briefly I wonder how much coffee it took for her to get into her current state.

“I’ll see you in August!” my mom calls out after me.

As if I didn’t know. I’m already counting the days for crying out loud, and it’s only been a few hours into the summer.

“Okay,” I call out over my shoulder in a monotonous voice. The vivacious flight attendant does her little speech and hands me back the little stub of my ticket, which is pretty worthless if you ask me. I mean I’m just going to throw it away or stick it in the barf bag in front of me once I’m seated. What’s the point?

Well, that’s a question that is asked entirely too much in my life. What’s the point? The thing is, there often isn’t one. A point I mean. Most things in life are random pieces of bullshit strung together in the illusion of truth, happiness and love, the little “fillers” of our happy days on earth, before they show their true identity of lies, misery and loneliness.

It’s just too bad for those of us whose rose colored glasses were ripped away from us before it was our time to see how crass and ugly the world is, or how crass and ugly WE seem to the world. It’s one or the other but I’m leaning towards the latter. Oh and for the dim among you who didn’t get it, by “those of us” I really mean me.

I get on the cramped plane, twisting and turning in order to bump into the least amount of people. Most of my fellow passengers wrinkle up their noses at the sight of me, something I am sadly all too used to.

But it isn’t for the reason that I am accustomed to. They are most likely grimacing at the sight of my new hair, not at the sight of me and the cruel, false reputation that normally trails behind me at school like an unwanted extra shadow, looming and mocking me.

My usually brown strands now have bright tacky red streaks blaring through it and my choice clothing is all black tatters. The hair and clothing was also the cause of my mother’s and my fight that made us late coming here. She had about burst into tears at the sight of it. I went out the previous night and had the hair sloppily done, cheap. I’m not making a fashion statement or anything. It’s a way for my pain to escape from the inside out. Not quite as satisfying as cutting myself, but nevertheless, effective.

Cutting myself wouldn’t be smart, seeing how New Mexico is scorching hot, according to my mom. Long sleeves would be out of place, not to mention uncomfortable. Besides, I don’t want to make a habit out of destroying myself. I’ll leave that to other people, the experts.

I finally reach my seat, pretending I don’t see the familiar stares and whispers. With the way my life has been, you’d think that I could just forget about them, but it’s impossible. No matter how hard I try to ignore them, the gawking and the snickering still manage to wound me each time, taking a part of me with it. I’m still waiting for the time when there is nothing left of me for others to steal and stomp on, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think it ever will. It would make it too easy on me and my life and you could guess that God doesn’t have it in His almighty PLAN for anything to go right for me.

I just have to sit on the ground, where I belong and watch things go right for people like Pam Troy and Tess Harding. Girls like them who stand upon and kick down picked on, defenseless girls like me. Girls like them who take one look at me and believe every little lie about me or add on to the growing list of rumors encircling me wherever I go. Girls like them who take one look at me and hate me instantaneously, just because they’re able to do so.

I my eyes flutter shut as the plane starts to inch towards the runway and the over caffineated flight attendants start their repetitious little oration that almost everyone on the plane could recite along with them. Someone should tell them that a little variation might be nice, so that maybe my fellow passengers and I, who’ve flown numerous times, don’t fall asleep. Or we could go the two-year old tantrum route, and chuck our read-along pamphlets at their toothpaste commercial smiles.

I open my eyes and gaze out at the rapidly disappearing Chicago skyline. Maybe this summer will be different than the rest of my worthless life. I could start over, with no Pam Troy looming around to set anyone foolish enough to befriend me on the right course, with no one knowing about my awful past or the rumors that might as well be fact for the amount of people who accepted them and believed. Maybe…

Backup, Liz, and stop right there! What the hell do you think you are doing? Hope gets you nowhere. You don’t deserve to have a happy life, not even for just a summer. Remember how that bastard called hope has betrayed you in former situations? Infidelity is Hopes secret alias, at least where you are concerned. Don’t forget it!

I force my gaze away from the window and the fluffy white clouds that playfully dance in the wind across the cerulean sky.

Still… I thought after a while. It could be different this time. Perhaps…

Okay! Fine. So hope still won’t take the hint and leave me alone. I can accept that. It’s not like my emotions have ever listened to me before anyways. That would be nice, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Just don’t expect too much, I caution myself. Keep the expectation bar barely above the ground and you’ll be fine.

My eyes quiver sporadically and one thought flits across my mind before I fall asleep. At least there is ONE thing about this summer that is already looking up. There will be no Pam Troy across the street, or hourly visits from her and her friend, Tess. I shudder to think how my summer would have been spent had I stayed at home.

Ready or not, Roswell, New Mexico, here I come. Yee-haw.

~*~Part Two~*~ You Take Me In

The bright sunshine greets me through a window devoid of any lavations as I get off the plane. I scowl through my blinking, at once realizing what I had forgotten.

Sunglasses.

Crap.

I KNEW I had overlooked something.

Isn’t that always the way? You never realize what you need until the exact moment that you need it. By that time, you’re pretty much screwed anyhow. If this is any indication of how the summer is going to progress then I might as well turn around right now and go home.

What? Don’t look at me like that! Me?! Stalling? Poppycock! Hogwash! Absurdity!

Okay fine. I am stalling. I know perfectly well that I can go to any forsaken drugstore and pick up a cheap pair for a buck. And I also know that I have to stay, for my mom’s sake.

I glance around uncertainly. The plane landed on time and my Aunt or Uncle is supposed to be waiting for me at the gate to drive me the rest of the way to good ole Roswell.

No dice. Neither one is here.

Maybe I have forgotten what they look like.

It’s possible. We only see them once a year (if we’re lucky) at Christmas and receive cards for other holidays. This is my father’s fault. Most everything is these days. From degrading my self-esteem when I was small with tactless comments to sleeping with his secretary and getting caught, my father is often the cause of our household drama. He has never liked my mother’s side of the family (though his isn’t much better from what I’ve experienced) and has kept us in basic isolation from them. Another topic of my mother and father’s patented fights.

My thoughts are distracted by a guy, who looks to be a bit older than me with raven colored messy hair. He is walking over in my direction in a slow, easy going stride. I look to see who it is behind me that he is going over to; because I’m sure I was the last one off the plane.

“Elizabeth…?” I turn and find myself face to face with him. He towers over me a bit and his gaze is constant and a bit unnerving. I look anywhere but his eyes, a strategy technique that I have picked up over the years.

“Hey. I’m Max,” he goes on with a slight smile.

I didn’t ask, I think sardonically. I’m waiting for the catch, for his ulterior motive behind coming up to me. Everyone I have ever experienced contact with has had one, well every guy for that matter.

“I’m uh, supposed to be picking you up instead of your uncle, he’s running a bit behind,” he says after my stony silence. I notice the rapid glance he fires at my hair.

“It’s Liz,” I say, correcting his mistake about my name. No one calls me that, not even my tormentors back home. Well, okay, my mother calls me that when I’m in deep doo doo, but other than that…

“Liz,” he agrees, my name rolling of his tongue. “So. How about we go get your stuff? I’m assuming that you brought more than just that,” he points at my carry-on.

I can only nod dumbly, stunned beyond belief that he didn’t even bat an eye at the sight of me, much less make some rude comment about my hair. This is new.

He leads the way down to the baggage claim, shooting glances at me along the way. The familiar sensation of shame washes over me and I stare at my shoes, concentrating on not tripping.

“So you’re from Chicago, huh?” Max startles me as we wait for my bags to tumble down the moving belt and make their way towards us.

Way to state the obvious.

“Yup,” I answer him in a bored tone, hoping he will catch on that small talk isn’t necessary; I know what he is really thinking, what everyone thinks of me.

He takes the hint. We collect my bags and step outside. The flaming sun beats down, casting a faint golden glow that encircles the town. The cheery yellow reeks of a false sense of security.

Max leads the way out to short term parking over to the most perilous jeep I have ever seen in my life. There is no top, and the rusted outer layer hides a gray-green bad paint job underneath. I am afraid to even look at it, much less RIDE in it all the way to Roswell.

“Nice car,” I mutter under my breath.

He looks at me, a grin playing at the corners of his mouth. “Thanks!” he says enthusiastically. He is either just plain dumb or is choosing to ignore my sarcasm. Whatever.

I hesitate before getting in. I turn to watch him effortlessly toss my suitcases in the back. THUD! CRISH! CRASH!

I wince, praying that my breakables stay intact after his careless treatment of my stuff. God, I bet the airlines took better care and handling of my bags, and that my friends, is saying something.

He gets in the drivers seat. He turns and sees me still standing motionless beside the passenger side.

“You can sit in the front if you’d like,” he says.

I stare at him for a moment, trying to tell if he was being a smart-ass or what.

Finally, I get in complacently and slam the door shut. “Thanks,” I answer sardonically, deciding that he was.

The engine roars to life with the intensity of a bus, or maybe even a huge jet. I hastily buckle my seat belt.

He notices my alarm. Another one of those damn smiles is tugging at his lips again. “Don’t worry,” he reassures. “I’m a good driver. I only failed my test twice.”

What? Wait just one minute. Stop the car, I am getting out right now. I’d rather walk thank you, and arrive alive.

Seeing the expression on my face, he laughs. The shame is back. I hang my head; his laughter triggering so many other mocking snickers.

His laughter dies off. “Kidding!” he tells me.

This Max is a funny guy I tell you. Jerk.

“Just drive,” I say, irritated now.

He nods, his face strangely solemn all of a sudden. We peel out of the parking lot, and I grasp onto the seat, my nails digging in for dear life.

Not that he is reckless or anything. He handles the car with ease, taking each turn in stride. But nevertheless, I wouldn’t feel safe if a friggin driver’s ed instructor was driving this car, much less a guy I met a half hour ago. The top is still off, which by the way is creeping me out, and I watch the yellow lines of the dusty road go by, and by and by and…

I’m starting to feel a bit sick. Okay need something new to look at.

Max glances at me out of the corner of his eye, thankfully still maintaining a steady gaze on the road.

“You can turn on the radio and find a station if you’d like,” he declares. “There isn’t really a variety to choose from but…”

Okay, what is with the “if you’d like” phrase? No one in my entire life has ever given a damn what I want.

I wait.

He doesn’t take it back, or even look as if he was just trying to be polite. He looks…genuine.

What the hell?

We just passed the “Welcome to Roswell” sign, so its not like we are going to be in this wretched vehicle for much longer.

I fiddle with the radio a minute and find a station playing what I usually listen to; god ole angry rock and heavy metal.

Max’s hands jerk the steering wheel and he gives me a pained look. “This is what you listen to?”

What? What’s wrong with it? Granted, it isn’t teenybopper feel good kind of music, but isn’t that part of the appeal? Well its not really fair seeing how’s we tuned in right at a part where the lead singer is jut wailing over a guitar solo. But hey, anything’s better than listening to your average platinum blonde waif like model crone the same mundane line over and over again.

Suddenly, Max screams on the breaks and curses loudly.

“SHIT!”

I’m about to tell him I think the same thing about whatever Britney Spears crap HE listens to when he jumps out of the jeep, grabs my suitcases and runs towards a weird looking restaurant with a flashing oval thingy on the roof and people crowding at the entrance. The words Crashdown gleam on the oval thing. My new home. Excuse me if I don’t skip up and down for joy.

“Come on Liz,” Max calls out to me. “We might need you to help out!”

Umm, what?

I sigh and get out, following him. I have to shove passed several old, feeble looking people to get in and the sight that greets me isn’t exactly welcoming.

The tiny diner is PACKED, not a table is free. Some people are crushed eight into a booth meant for four. If you think it cant get any worse they are even more people waiting for a table and at least twenty waiting outside. The gentle buzz you normally hear inside a restaurant is now a vociferous roar. I’m getting a headache, and I’ve only been standing here for less than twenty seconds.

There is a girl with shoulder length blonde hair, screeching at the top of her lungs at the sight of Max. Hmm, perhaps she is the one I should be accosting for my pounding head.

“MAX! You IDIOT! Where in the HELL were you?!! Have you seen how many customers we have today? Or do I need to get you some glasses? How about an appointment to our local optometrist? How dare you leave me to manage this mob with only Isabel!” she gestures wildly to another blonde, this one taller and blessed more up front. Isabel is weaving in between a throng of people, a bored look on her face. She’s clearly not as distressed as her hysterical co-worker.

“You’ve got Michael back there,” Max points out while donning an apron and swinging smoothly back towards the kitchen.

The blonde snorts in disgust. “And what fine help HE is,” she complains.

A guy, who I assume to be Michael, manning the grill calls out annoyed, “I HEARD that, Maria! If you’d stop whining for a second and wait on the people this might go along more smoothly!”

Maria, as I now knew the blonde to be, gave a cry of outrage. “How dare you! I am NOT whining! You are just so…”

“I was picking up Liz,” Max interjects, pointing at me while simultaneously flipping a burger. Pure talent if you ask me.

Maria looks at me. “Hey,” she says distractedly.

I nod my head.

Isabel pushes past me and gives me a cold look for being in her way. “Who?” she snarls, while sneering at my hair. I look away, focusing my attention on a fascinating ketchup bottle.

Max answers, “Liz Parker. You know, Jeff and Nancy’s niece.”

“How nice,” Isabel says, her voice telling me clearly that it isn’t.

“Isabel…” Max says in a warning tone.

She just rolls her eyes and carries out an order to a table.

Meanwhile, Maria has built up a full head of steam again.

“Why?! Just tell me WHY! Why does a frickin retirement community decide to take some psycho field trip to visit little ole Roswell? And on the day when I’M working, Alex is off, and Jeff and Nancy aren’t even here! God, this is insane. I’m out of cedar oil, DAMNIT!”

Michael sighs. “Maria, shut up and serve the customers.” He whips his head towards me and I jump, startled.

“You. Liz or whatever.”

I look up. Where is he going with this?

“You want a job?” he asks.

I think about it. What else am I going to do all summer? From the looks of things, Roswell doesn’t look like a real party town. Not that it would matter. I never get any invitations anyways, not here, not anywhere.

Max interrupts me before I can even open my mouth. “No she doesn’t. She’s on VACATION for God’s sake, Michael. She doesn’t want to be stuck in a grimy diner.”

Umm, excuse you! Since when do you know what’s going on in my head? What if I happen to like grimy diners?

He just doesn’t want me here. That must be it.

Maria stops him. “How do you know Max? Let the girl speak.” She turns to me. “So what so you say Liz? Want a job? I promise you, it wont be boring.” She smirks wryly at the growing crowd behind her.

“Not with Maria on a shift anyways,” Michael mutters.

Maria shoots him an annoyed look but says nothing. She glances back at me. “So…” she says expectantly.

I don’t know why I do it. Isabel and the rest of the employees weren’t exactly welcoming (save Maria but who knows what her deal is). But I unconsciously open my mouth and I cant stop these words from passing through my lips.

“Sure.”


[ edited 4 time(s), last at 6-Jan-2003 5:22:28 PM ]
posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:33:00 PM
~*~Part Three Faith Betrayed Me~*~

And just like that, I’m employed.

Funny how things work out huh.

Lets recap shall we? I mean I come to this god-forsaken excuse for a town with the resolution that this is going to be the absolute WORST summer of my life (though a couple of summers ago could give this a run for its money) and meet up with the craziest bunch of townies that you’ll ever meet (its been about two seconds since I met them, but somehow I can already tell). Not even a minute after the not quite so pleasantries, said group offers me a job. A job where I will be required to semi INTERACT with these people. Its borderline freaky that’s what it is.

There is something different about this group. Something intangible at the first glance but I feel that if I stick around for a while, I may just put my finger on it. I just hope that that little fact doesn’t work both ways and these guys find out about ME.

My musings are interrupted by a hideous aqua colored piece of clothing being chucked at my head. My head jerks up and I see Maria.

Psycho. Watch it.

I stare at her with a deer-in-the-headlights look. What the heck was that for?

Seeing my confused expression, she clarifies. “Your lovely uniform,” she quirks a grin at me and gestures to her own similar attire, complete with silver-ish apron. Was it my hallucination, or did the apron look sort of like…an oversized head? My God this town is getting more eccentric by the second.

I shrug and pick up the thing from off of the floor, where I let it fall when Maria tossed it over.

I look around for a place to change. Surely these people don’t expect me to change in front of God and everyone. This place is still PACKED. And even though we’re co-workers now, I’m not so enthusiastic to show everyone the bod yet.

Who the hell am I kidding? I would NEVER let anyone see “the bod.” Ever. With all that I have been through, you cant blame me.

I am about to open my mouth and inquire for changing space but Maria interjects hastily. “Oh! I can’t believe I almost forgot! The final touch to our beautiful, stylish looks.” She goes into the back for a moment and I shoot a quizzical look at Max, who is watching our little display.

What a minute, Parker? Who are you kidding? Why would any guy, let alone Max, be staring at you? He must be looking at the customers, or… Isabel! Maxie must have the hots for Izzy. How cute. How freakin adorable. I turn around discreetly, but to my surprise Isabel isn’t anywhere near the direction of where Max is staring. The only persons behind me are a table full of sweet looking old ladies.

Now. Either Max is a big pervert who gets off looking at old ladies (EWW! May I add) or he is… looking at me. Why in the world is he looking at me?! I duck my head. When I raise it up again, it is if he wasn’t looking at me in the first place. Maybe I imagined it.

Those of you psychoanalyst peoples will probably say that I am projecting here, and that I just WISH that Max would look at me.

And my response to that is to say Fuck off. That is completely and totally NOT true.

But there it is again!

Didn’t his mother ever tell him staring is rude? Not that I’m not used to it of course. But the familiar mocking laughter is missing from his eyes. They seem…intense? With what? What does Max have to be intense about while flipping burgers? Unless he is one of those perfectionists with whom EVERYTHING they do has to faultless, even their measly minimum wage paying greasy job. How very sad. How very sad that I used to be that type of girl.

Maria’s back with a bang on the swinging door and something shiny in her hands. What is it? I crane my neck out in my strain to see.

“Here you go!” Maria says cheerfully. Well. Talk about going zero to sixty in no time flat. Was she not just throwing a hissy fit like, what? Two minutes ago?

I look down to see what she has placed, or rather shoved, in my hands.

Unless I am mistaken, this is a headband.

Wait, it gets worse.

A headband with boingy springs coming out the top to crudely resemble antennas. You know the type. I had a pair myself with sparkly green shamrocks on the top instead of little balls. Mind you though I was TEN and it was St. Patty’s day for Christ’s sake.

Oh, HELL no.

“What is this,” I ask in horror. Please, please don’t tell me that this is the so-called “finishing touch.” Please. I’m begging here.

“It’s the finishing touch! Waitress headbands a la Roswell!”

I’m sorry, WHAT did I just implore of you? I believe I distinctly told you that that was EXACTLY what I did NOT want to hear.

Oh yea. I keep forgetting that people don’t have a nice hawks eyes view into the swirling black hole known as my head. Not that it would be a pretty sight to behold…

I groan. “I am not wearing this,” I protest meekly.

“Uh, yea you are. If Izzy and I have to, then you definitely have to.”

Wait. Isabel’s wearing them? I somehow missed that. I pivot around and sure enough the springs are visible, bobbing slightly as she moves smoothly from table to table. I frown, thinking. How did I overlook it before?

A little insight here. Princess Perfect has everyone so awed by her appearance that pitiful people like me don’t even notice her dorky attire. It is apparel that would be common for people like me, not people like her.

But still. The headband is a bit much. I throw Maria a pleading stare. She throws her hands up defensively.

“Hey! I don’t like them anymore than you do, but you have to admit, they are kind of funny,” she says.

You’ll pardon me of course while I forget to laugh.

“Maybe you can talk to your Aunt, she’s the one who got the idea for them. She thinks that they’re a fashion statement.”

Hmm. I not sure if that is a statement that I would like to make. Dear ole Auntie and I will be having a discussion later that is if I can work up the nerve. Knowing myself, probably not.

“Maria! Get your ass in gear! There are still more old people filling in!” Michael’s harsh bark startles me, but Maria shoots him an irritated look, clearly used to it. I notice an elegant elderly lady is giving Michael an appalled look at his choice of words. She probably did not take too kindly to being referred to as an “old people.” Plus the rest of the things he said were pretty rude too.

“Is he always like that?” I ask awed somewhat.

“Usually,” Maria rolls her eyes, but then to my astonishment, softens. “That is until you break down his walls. Then he’s actually a pretty decent guy.” She breaks off smiling slightly to herself in a dreamy sort of way.

“Maria! NOW!” Michael growls again.

The dreamy look is so rapidly replaced by one of irritation, I’m wondering if I imagined it. “Coming!” she snaps, just as nastily. She must either hate the guy or love him. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Despite myself, I feel a smirk inch along my face. I’m sorry but they are just too damn funny. I think I am beginning to see how their relationship works. A little love-hate thing going on. I would feel happy for them if I wasn’t so insanely jealous.

Here we go. Another trip down Self-Pity Lane! I should have permanent residence there but I divide my time between there and Self-Hating Avenue (which can sometimes be confused with Anger at the World Drive). I will never have a relationship with a guy resembling anything genuine or pure. Every single relationship I will ever have will be tainted, just like all the ones prior. I’d do best to remember that here in Roswell.

Maria rambles off my duties for the day, which basically consist of clearing tables and carrying out orders when Maria or Isabel are swamped. Maria tells me that I’ll “graduate” to full waitress duty tomorrow when it is less swamped.

Goody. Then I can get my waitress “diploma” and we can all do a happy dance.

The rest of the day passes in a blur of senile customers, a grumpy Michael, a silent, staring Max, a bubbly cheerful Maria, a psycho ranting frustrated Maria and a cold frigid Isabel.

The highlight of the day was when an elderly man forgot what he ordered, even though he said it five times to Maria. When she brought him his meal, he was like “This isn’t what I ordered! I want my money back!” Maria tried to calmly explain to him that this WAS what he ordered and he hadn’t given her any money to begin with, so she couldn’t possibly give it back.

You can imagine how that situation played out, seeing how’s Maria is anything but calm.

To summarize, Maria “quit” but not before giving that poor senile man a piece of her mind. Aprons were chucked, shouting was a given and it ended with Max, ever the peacemaker, appeasing the old man’s confusion with desert on the house, leaving Michael to appease the wrath of Maria.

I don’t know about you but I would have rather taken the old man.

It was interesting, to say the least, to see Michael interact with Maria. Despite his exterior attitude of irritation, I detected the same softness that Maria had when she was talking about Michaels “walls.” Those two fascinate me.

Okay what is with me today? I’m talking about these people like they are my friends and I KNOW them or something. It’s a strange feeling.

And completely false. Damn that bastard, Hope. He/She should rot in hell.

Anyways, we are all exhausted. Maria slams the front door shut in a not so silent declaration that the Crashdown is DONE for the night, before plopping down on an empty bar stool next to Michael. She lays her blonde head on his shoulder and closes her eyes. It is the least energetic I have seen her all day. It is comforting, somewhat, to know that even someone like Maria has her limits.

Isabel finishes up wiping down the tables and Max is tugging off his apron and going around to exit the kitchen through the back to return out to the front.

“I swear, Jeff and Nancy are SO going to get it when they come back,” comes Maria’s muffled complaint. Speaking of which, where are those relatives of mine? Hmm. They must be as excited to see me, as I was to come here.

Everyone has collapsed in the front area, leaving me standing there like an idiot. The air in here is growing increasingly uncomfortable.

See, now that I don’t have anything to do anymore, nothing to keep me busy, I am growing self-conscious. I can’t help but feel as if I am INTRUDING on their closely knitted circle of friends. Any stranger could see that they were all close.

I shift from side to side uneasily. Now what? Cow tipping? Or whatever bizarre shindigs towns like this does for fun. I’m sorry to be a party pooper but the idea of watching animals fall on their side isn’t my idea of a good time. But then again, I am no expert on what a good time is. The last time I had fun was when I was four years old and we took a family trip to Disney World. Ahh, to be young and naïve again…

I notice out of the corner of my eye again that Max is staring at me again. What the heck is the boy’s problem? I mean, I know I am some freak of nature that he is probably fascinated with because he has never seen anyone as gross as me, but seriously. Take a picture, it will last longer.

“If you want, I can show you where you can put your stuff, since your aunt and uncle aren’t here yet,” Max offers.

Grr. There it is again. “If you want…” What IS that?

I nod slightly. Might as well.

Max turns to lead me to the backroom. I go to follow but I hesitate at the swinging door. I feel like I should THANK these people or something for the job. Even if I have a nagging feeling that I am going to get shot down in the process. Isabel is wrinkling her nose again at the sight of me. I can practically hear her saying, “Leave already!”

Maria, however, beats me to it. She shoves herself up and takes a couple of steps in my direction. “Thank you so much for working for us today. You have, like no idea how much we appreciated it,” she says.

At this Isabel snorts.

Michael raises an eyebrow at Isabel before turning to me. “Yea,” he says in a monotone. “Thanks.” The surprising thing is that he somewhat sounds sincere, in a gruff sort of way.

I smile shyly and go to give my gratitude to them for not treating me like all the rest, for giving me a tiny sliver of hope in this hellhole known as my life, when it happens.

Isabel opens her full, perfect pouty mouth and suddenly I have a very bad feeling that I should’ve left with Max when I had the chance.

“Can I tell you something Linda?”

“Its Liz,” Maria corrects in a disgusted voice that drips with the word, DUH.

“Whatever,” Isabel continues. I stupidly think that maybe, just maybe she is going to thank me and we’ll skip and hold hands afterward.

No dice.

“Your hair is disgusting. A little tip, you should try dying your hair all the way next time so you don’t look so… obvious.” Isabel’s voice is coated with distain and suddenly I am back at the beach back home, inundating down into the dark icy water while my peers snicker and watch. Then flash forward and I am back at the worst summer of my life before this one, the summer with Kyle.

I stand there for a minute, letting the familiar sensation of pain and self-loathing and shame wash over me. Now I am back on auto-pilot, a move that I have perfected over the years. A black shroud covers my emotions and I numbly remove myself from the situation.

I stumble through the swinging door, but not before I hear Maria’s indignant outburst and Michael’s low disapproval. The last words I catch are Isabel’s, her saying “What!? God! I’m not going to be nice to Ms. Freakazoid just because…”

I nearly run over Max, who is coming down a flight of stairs. See, that is the bad thing about auto pilot mode. All your senses go numb to block out the pain and so you become oblivious to your surroundings.

“Whoa,” he says, reaching out to steady me. He jerks his hand back though, as if touching me burned me. He looks at me strangely, his eyes darkening with…What?

If I wasn’t on autopilot, I think that might of stung a little.

He shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts and then asks me, “Are you alright?”

Hmm. Looks as if my autopilot face isn’t as expressionless as I thought. Note to self, work on that. I would feel touched by his concern if it had happened earlier, but Isabel gave me a nice reality check.

It’s fake. It’s all fake, meaningless crap. I know he doesn’t care whether I am all right or not so why the heck is he bothering? Why the heck did Maria or Michael bother? That bugs me. That really bugs me. What is with all the phony smiles and the questions that people ask but then they don’t listen to the answer cuz they didn’t care in the first place?

This is not the time for my incoherent babblings about life.

“I’m fine,” I tell Max. “Just tired.”

He looks at me like he doesn’t believe me but he lets it go. “Yea you’ve had a long day. Here, I’ll show you your room.”

I wonder vaguely how he knows so much about my aunt and uncles home but I’m grateful that he left my problems and me alone. Now if the rest of the world could do the same, I’d be great.





~*~Part Four~*~ No Questions Asked

Everything after Max leaves is a hazy blur. That happens a lot when you’re on autopilot. Everything around you gets blurry and all you can think about is nothing. Because if you thought about the situation that made you go into autopilot in the first place, then you would go stark raving mad. I’m not kidding, as I’m also speaking from experience. You find that you prefect these little techniques as times wears on.

Some time later (times also lapses into a void when you’re on autopilot), I snap out of it somewhat. You never really recover actually, for another piece of you is gone. Ripped away from you in the cruelest of ways, ways in which no one can understand.

The reason I snap out of it is the arrival of my Aunt and Uncle. Finally. Sound the trumpets and start the parade. I mean jeez. We’re going to be living in the same house for the next few months, you think they could have at least said hello.

Better late than never I suppose. I mean the early bird gets the worm and all that. But does anyone ever think about the poor early worm? Look what he got for rising and shining. Chomped into bits by a carnivorous birdy. Lucky him. Tsk tsk. My philosophy is to just stay in bed for as long as possible. So what if nothing gets done?

Yes, I do know that I can be morbid at times.

Anyways, I hear them (noisily) enter the apartment (or whatever you would like to call this living space above the Crashdown) and a few minutes later, Aunt Nancy enters by poking her head into the doorway. I momentarily wonder what would happen if the door would slam shut just then. Ker-splat.

The sight she sees must be a bit disturbing, as I am laying Indian style (Indian style humph. What a bigotry type phrase. First of Native Americans were only called Indians because Columbus was a dumb-ass drunkard who idiotically thought he had landed in India, hence his calling the natives, Indians, the stupid prat) staring at the wall.

Anyways, I’m sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed staring at nothing, while my tattered (thanks to Max’s brusque fondling of them) suitcases lay unpacked at the foot of the bed. I wonder briefly if she can tell that I have been sitting here for a long, long time, motionless.

“Hey honey, how was your flight?” Auntie’s voice breaks the silence.

Hmm. What to say about the flight. So much variety, I am almost at a lost at what words to choose from. Almost.

“It was fine,” I answer back dully. Peachy Keen.

At this, Aunt Nancy snorts. “I bet the food was heinous.”

Wait. This is surprising. Usually people leave it alone after the monotonous ‘It was fine’ comment.

I don’t even think, I just blurt out, “Yeah it tasted like it belonged in the barf bag.”

Aunty Nancy laughs. “I bet.”

Hold up. Did Liz Parker just make a joke? Did Liz Parker just make someone laugh for a reason other than having said person laughing AT her? Astonishment. Weirdness. Having someone laugh WITH you.

My musings have caused me to miss the next words out of Aunt Nancy’s mouth. “Sorry, what was that?” I ask. Note to self, remember that when people are around you, you can’t go escaping into the dark crevasses of your head. It scares them.

“I just asked if everything was alright. You seemed a bit sad when I first came in here.” She is obviously concerned. Wonderful. Operation Convince Aunty that Lizzie is just fine must now commence.

“Oh, I’m great. Just a bit tired.” The people of Roswell are going to think I have narcolepsy or something if I keep giving that excuse.

“Okay. Can I help you unpack?”

So helpful already? She must feel badly about being late.

She moves to my suitcases. “I’m really sorry about us being so late. The restaurant convention lasted so long! And Jeff had to clean up afterwards. I hope that Max let you in all right. He’s such a sweet boy.”

Did I hit that one on the money or what?

I see her go to open my suitcase and hastily wave her off. “No, no, Aunt Nancy. It’s all right. I can do it later, don’t worry about it.”

She draws back her hand. “Well, if you’re sure. It’s not a big deal, I promise you.”

How nice to know. Not.

“I’m positive Aunt Nancy,” I say. “Thanks anyways.”

She smiles warmly at me. I just stand there.

“Please,” she says with a grin. “Call me Nancy. Aunt makes me sound stiff and formal. Okay Liz?”

Whatever floats your boat, Nancy. “Sure,” I say.

She then sits down on the edge of my bed. Oh, lord. You are supposed to go away now. You said hello, so now it is time for goodbye. Argh, what does she want?

She takes a deep breath and grows solemn. “Your mother told me all that’s going on, and I just wanted to say, that if you ever need someone to talk to, about anything, I’m here.” She looks up at me expectantly.

I try not to groan, but honestly, what does she expect? That I’m going to cry on her shoulder and everything will be all better? God, I barely KNOW her.

I nod my head warily. Here it comes. Now she’s going to pry and pry to get me to “open up.” I stand there, the dread coursing through me.

She opens her mouth. NO, NO, NO.

“Okay then. Just so you know,” she pauses and looks over to the wall. Her face brightens and do I detect mischief in her eyes? I cannot believe that she isn’t going to push the issue. I wait for what’s going to come next.

“I think that you’ll like the features this room has to offer,” she nods at wall and I turn to notice a window there, leading out to… a roof? Another planet? A closet? What? I can’t see; it’s too dark.

Seeing my eyes squinting to make out the shadows, she clarifies. “It leads out to a balcony. It’s very pretty at night. And very handy for sneaking out.”

My jaw drops. She isn’t seriously suggesting what I think she is, is she? No, that would be way too easy.

She winks. “Not that I condone that kind of behavior, of course.”

Of course not. I give that blowing-air-out-of-your-nose-kind-of-half-laugh. You know, the kind you give when something’s not really all that funny, but you feel that you have to humor someone? Yea, that kind of thing.

Jeff makes his début, bustling through the open doorway. “Liz! How are you!?”

I jump a bit. He’s got one of those booming cheerful voices, the kind that startles people caught unawares.

“I’m fine, Uncle Jeff. How are you,” I parrot back dutifully.

“I’m great, thanks! But please, call me Jeff!”

Alright, what is with these people and their phobia against any kind of titles? It feels slightly disrespectful.

I nod my head. “Kay,” I say.

He turns to Nancy. “I sent Max on home. That boy’s something else. He actually waited down in the diner for us to get back. Said he didn’t want to leave it without anyone being down there.”

Nancy beamed. Hmm. Looks as if Maxie’s got everyone wrapped around his finger. Sort of like Isabel. No wonder they’re perfect together.

Jeff focuses on me once more. “Max said that you worked as a waitress today for a shift,” He seems puzzled. Heaven forbid I DO something while I’m down here.

“Umm, yeah. I hope that that’s okay. It was really busy and they looked like they needed some help,” I answer.

Jeff’s face molds into one of concern. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to work, Liz. This is your vacation after all.”

I almost laugh. Some vacation all right. Stuck in hick town while my life at home slowly gets altered into something unrecognizable and while my mothers life slowly deteriorates into a pile of ash. Fun and Games, I tell you.

“It’s fine, I don’t mind at all,” I replay. Except if I have a shift with Isabel. Then I’ll have to digress.

“Well if you’re sure…” Jeff trails off.

Nancy smacks him lightly. “I’m sure if Liz wants to quit, she’ll let us know.” She smiles at me. “And besides, she’ll be making some money as well as some new friends.”

Oh yes, Isabel and I are going to be real close, I can already tell, and so apparently can you.

Wait; did she say something about money? All right, so I have found the perk.

“Well,” Nancy gets up and smoothes down the mahogany comforter. “We’ll let you get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

You can say that again.

Jeff goes towards the door as well, but then turns. “I’ll make out a schedule for you tomorrow, okay? You can come down to the restaurant for breakfast and I’ll give it to you then.”

I nod, feeling somewhat like those little puppets with the strings.

They finally leave. I look at the window and sigh. It’s just too bad that I don’t have anywhere to sneak out to. Really too bad. I remember the last time I snuck out and the disaster that unfolded.

This is dragging up memories that I really don’t want to deal with right now. Damn. I need something to take my mind of the past.

Hmm. I could always go through the motions of unpacking instead of living out of my suitcase like I usually do.

Might as well.

I heave the nearest bag on top of my bed and open it.

The sight inside shocks and angers me right to the core. What has my mother done!?

Oh, yuck. Revulsion. My mother is trying to turn me into Pam Troy. Or she is getting back at me for dying my hair. There is no other explanation. Oh, believe me, she’ll come up with other ones, like she’s doing this because she loves me (right) or some other blather like I’ll thank her someday.

Grr. Anger flows through my bloodstream alongside the red blood cells. I can feel it coursing through my pulmonary veins to fuse through my heart.

What? Science calms me down. Either that or it pisses me off. But usually it’s the former.

Anyways, inside the suitcase are, not the baggy tee shirts and overalls that I packed, but the tight tank tops and halters my mom tried to get me to pack. The underhanded little sneak. She must have switched it before we left. I never thought she would stoop so low. I mean, seriously. This is how planes crash. The people at the check in counter ask you if your bag has been out of your hands and if there is a possibility that anyone put something in there without your knowing.

Technically, that is what she did. My mother is now a wannabe terrorist.

Okay, fine. I know that putting CLOTHES unbeknownst to me into my suitcase isn’t the same, but still. This is just unacceptable.

I swipe the other suitcase on the ground and quickly open it. Argh! Yup. This one is contaminated too. This one has icky sundresses and short shorts. What is wrong with my mother?

I sit there silently fuming for a while until I remember. Joy! I packed my carry on! The stupid thing did have a purpose!

I rip it open. Insert sigh of relief here. There still lay the four baggy tee shirts and my trusty overalls. Thank you lord.

But I’m still in deep doo doo. The four measly tees aren’t going to last me two months.

Screw this. I’m tired. I’ll face reality tomorrow.

I shove the worthless suitcases on the ground where they land with a loud thump and change quickly into my sleep attire, which includes one of my tee shirts and oversized boxers that could probably fit two of me. At least they’re comfy.

I toss of the sheets but before I get in, I glance at the window.

Oh, why not?

I make my way over and push the window upwards. A warm breeze hits me. Thank god for air conditioning that’s all I can say. I hoist myself up and manage to get on the roof without killing myself. Not bad for a person who about failed P.E. class.

Hmm. This balcony thing isn’t half bad. Pretty spacious. The whole area is almost bigger than the room inside. I glance around to find battered lawn furniture that looks as if it belongs in an antique store, but what really catches my eye is the fire escape ladder leading downwards. Nice. Dangerous looking, as I would most likely break my neck but… Nice.

I rest my hands on the edge and look down. Nothing special, just a dirty looking alley and a garbage bin that is giving off a lovely odor. It’s then that I look up. The sight steals my breath and stops my heart.

The stars. For lack of better words, they are beautiful. Sparkling and winking down at me with a hidden message, which I don’t care to think about, in a sheer navy sky, stretching out as far as you can see.

In Chicago, the night sky was obstructed by pollution and thick smog. Here, out in New Mexico, it’s all clear. It’s all…pure. Again I am hit with the heart in throat sensation of hope rising. Is this some sign? Some sign that means life just might be better here? If the stars are seen more clearly here, then why not me as well?

Umm, Liz? Arent you forgetting something?

Oh, yeah. Isabel. My own personal Pam Troy a la Roswell.

Never mind. I just need my sleep. That’s it. My incoherent babbling thoughts are due to a lack of sleep. Time for bed.

I trip back inside, and slam the window shut, trying to also slam shut the hopeful feeling. Damn it.

I collapse on the bed, and throw out my limbs so I take up about as much room as possible for a person of my size. Sleep claims me, lulling my mind into a drowsy, fuzzy state. Right before I slip off into a dreamless sleep, I’m hit with an intriguing thought.

Neither my Aunt nor Uncle cared that my hair was…how did Isabel put it? Tacky. Obvious. REPULSIVE. They treated me like a normal person.

Yup, I’m definitely sleep deprived tonight.


posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:35:32 PM
~*~Part Five~*~ And I Don’t Understand

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Go away.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

What the heck!? Is the ringing coming from inside my head?

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Oh, hell. A frickin alarm clock.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

SHUT THE HELL UP! I know for a certain fact that I did NOT set a stupid alarm to go off at 7 AM. That’s just insane.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

I groan. Someone up there really hates me. I try to mush my pillow over my head to block out the sound, but its useless.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

All right all ready! I swing my pillow haphazardly, effectively knocking the clock that was on the little nightstand next to my bed, with a nice, satisfying CRASH to the floor. Die sucker, die.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Wait just one darn minute! I clobbered the little ticker, I know I did! And yet the ringing continues. Droning ON and ON and…

Oye, I am not going to survive this.

Then I hear voices.

“Oh Lord! Jeff! We’ve overslept again! The alarm kept ringing! Did you hit the snooze button again!? Oh, Jeff, hurry! Customers are going to be lining outside already!”

I hear them scramble around for a few minutes, and then luxurious silence occupies the apartment once more.

I sigh. Too bad I can’t enjoy it now. Once I’m awake, no matter how cranky or tired I may still be, I’m awake for good. Which really bites. I need to work on that little flaw of mine. Never mind the fact that I have serious self-esteem issues or that my personality is that of a taxidermist, no, no, I need to focus on my irritating sleep behaviors. Yup, I have officially lost it.

Not for the first, or last, time, might I add.

Damn it. If this is any indication of how my mornings are going to progress from now on, I might as well sleep in the ally.

I lay in bed for a while, curling up into a nice ball, while wrapping the blankets around me, even though the day seems to be about ninety already. I tend to do that a lot. Lay in bed for a while, I mean. Especially after such a rude awakening. It gets me ready for the day. Or something like that.

Oh, hell I should just stay in bed for the rest of my life. There is no way I’ll ever be prepared for all the crap that gets thrown my way.

More sighs and grumbling a la me, and I finally roll over and attempt to get up.

I open up one of my suitcases and scowl at the contents. Ick. I forgot about my mother’s irksome meddling. Colorful tank tops look up at me. I stare back. They look, and I stare, they look, I…

Okay, enough! You know it’s going to be a bad day when you start having a staring contest with your clothes. And even worse when the clothes win.

Wait, wait. Correction. You know it’s going to be a bad day when your name is Liz Parker.

I quickly shrug on a top and shorts, not bothering to care if they match and what not. Gasp! I wonder what Isabel’s reaction would be.

Yea, well bring it on, I think. I have a new philosophy: Don’t care. My new name should be I-don’t-give-a-shit-Parker.

Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. I should look into a formal name change, you know with all the paperwork and what not. Sigh. Okay. Time to go to work. Yippy Skippy, my summer is grand.

I walk down the stairs purposefully, my new mantra resounding over and over in my head. “I don’t give a shit, I don’t give a shit, I…”

I stop short. Okay deep breath, come on Liz! Be strong now!

Isabel’s standing right at the end of the stairs, staring straight back at me.

I’m immediately on guard. “What?” I ask warily.

She looks hard at me for a minute. Then she replies “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I hesitate, thinking about Pam Troy, and all the other girls like her that I had hoped to leave behind. I REALLY don’t think that I can handle another episode like last night. I’m sick of it. Sick of always being the butt of some cruel mirthless joke.

She sees my vacillation and gets irritated. Insert silent mock gasp here. How DARE I keep Princess waiting!

“I just want to talk okay!” She snaps, like I demanded it out of her. Uhm, did I say anything against it? No? Yea that’s what I thought.

Isabel stops and takes a deep breath, seeming to calm herself down. That or force herself to continue. I’ll let you take your pick.

“Please?” She says softly.

Whoa there! Who are you and what have you done with Isabel? Again I hesitate, but this time for a different reason. Because for a minute there, I think I saw a flash of…vulnerability in her eyes?

Great. Now I’m hallucinating too. God, this is already turning out to be on of the WORST days, and oh, look. It’s only NINE-THIRTY!

Oh, right. Isabel asked me something.

I nod my head, in answer to her request.

“Okay. Ijustwanttosaysorry…” She rushes out in one big breath.

Did anyone else catch that?

Yea, me neither.

Before I can respond, Maria comes out from behind the corner, shaking her head profusely. “No, no, no! Isabel, that’s hardly what I would call acceptable.” She proclaims sternly.

Isabel gets pouty. “Yes it was.”

Maria raises a perfectly arched blonde eyebrow at her. At this Isabel sighs and turns back to me. “I apologize for what I said last night. I tend to become very judgmental of what I don’t…” She glances at Maria for help.

“Understand,” Maria supplies. Why do I get the feeling that this was orchestrated? Hmm, probably because Maria could recite this “apology” along side Isabel. But something tells me that that’s not what’s happening here. Maybe it’s that lack of sleep thing again, but that’s the vibe I’m picking up.

“Understand,” Isabel continues. “And I’d don’t deserve it, but I would really like it if you could forgive me.” She finishes in a low voice, her face irritated.

Maria looks expectantly at me and I take the hint. “It’s okay.” I say. WHY I’m saying that, I don’t know. Instinct? Intuition? Good old-fashioned forgiveness? Hmm, too bad my abilities in those departments suck.

Isabel nods her head at me, her task over and done with. “I’m going to get a shake and then I’m out of here,” she says to Maria. Maria nods and turns to me as Isabel’s leaving.

“She’s really not that bad once you get to know her,” she says. Uh, uh. Yea, sure, Maria. Whatever you say. “She’s just, believe it or not, scared.”

I scoff at this. “Scared? What does she have to be scared about? She’s perfect looking, she’s popular; she’s your typical grade A American teenager!” I bite out. Okay, here’s the order Liz. Think THEN speak! God, here I am spouting off shit about Isabel to her best friend. Slap on the idiot sticker and keep on moving.

But to my surprise, Maria just gets this faraway look. “You’d think it was like that, wouldn’t you?” She sighs. “You know, she hated me when she first met me too. She even went as far to insult my obsession with aromatherapy,” Maria grins. “And all those who know me, that if you offend my aromatherapy, you die.” Despite myself, I smile back. Her quirkiness is catching. A bit scary, but nevertheless, catching. “Anyways, we got off to a bad start, but then… Michael says she’s friendship impaired, or at least she was until Alex and me wore her down.”

Hmm. So Izzy’s got problems too. Interesting.

“Alex?” I say. I vaguely remember Maria screeching about his absence yesterday. Maria squeals. Ahh, my ears! That girl has one set of pipes; I’ll give her that.

“Oh, my God!!! I forgot, you still have to meet Alex! He’s the best! You are going to LOVE him!” Maria starts to drag me to the front of the restaurant.

Umm, HI?! That would be MY arm that you are wrenching out of its socket. I happen to be very fond of this arm. It allows me to open things and such. And on the odd occasion permits me to tug the top off the carton of ice cream. I would be very sad indeed if you broke it off.

It’s a good thing I keep those kind of comments to myself, otherwise the little inhabitants of Roswell would have to break out a straight jacket for me. And let me tell you, white is just not my color.

I shake away these morbid thoughts. Where are these thoughts coming from? Something in the water perhaps? But then, Maria seems perfectly sane…

I sneak a look at her as she pulls me out the swinging door and into the dinning area. Er – scratch that last thought.

One more arm wrench later, I am now standing at the bar, staring at a tall, thin, wirey boy with a mop of dark hair. He’s grinning profusely. I glance away nervously and then back again.

He’s still grinning.

Grin, grin, grin.

Scaring the crap out of me here. The guy should be a clown or something.

Yea, or something is right.

Maria watches this whole (or rather lack of) exchange and finally sighs in exasperation. “God, usually he never shuts up,” She smacks him lightly (well actually, it seemed pretty hard to me, but she meant it to be lightly. I think.)

Alex jerks to attention. Welcome back to planet earth, my friend! He rubs his arm where Maria smacked him. “Ouch! Maria! That hurt!” He mock glares at her again before turning back to me. I mentally congratulate Maria for getting Alex to stop grinning like that. Kudos ‘Ria. You deserve a gold star. Shall I give it to you now or save it for your chart? Ooo, charts. I love charts.

And blah, blah, blah. You know you need professional help when the voices in your head start to annoy you.

Oh, anyways, Alex is talking.

“Liz! Nice to meet you! I’m Alex and I’ll be your new guide to Roswell. Just ask me anything you need to know and I’ll be happy to be of service to you.” He winks at me.

Uhh, what exactly does the guy mean by “service?” I gulp. I seriously hope that he didn’t interpret my hair the wrong way.

Oh yea, my hair. The guy hasn’t said a thing about it. No stares, no pointed disgusted looks. Wow, I guess that earns him a couple points. That is of course, meaning that he doesn’t have some weird psycho dictionary that holds profane definitions of the word “service.”

I must have been standing there too long with my mouth open, because the next thing I know is Alex is waving his hand in my face. Whoa there bucko. This is my personal space. Yours is fifty feet away from mine. Got it?

I flinch backwards. Alex grins again. Argh. “Good, for a minute there I thought you got abducted.” Maria throws him a warning look and Alex just shrugs.

“Abducted?” What? Weird town humor. I’m not even going to ask.

Alex nods his head. “Yea, you know. Just some Roswellian humor with the aliens and all,” he says, gesturing to all of the decorations all over the wall.

Hmm. I hadn’t bothered to look at the ornamentations yet. I follow Alex’s hand to see little green, big-headed…dollies? What the heck? I turn to Alex and Maria with an incredulous look upon my face. “What are those green things?” I’m almost afraid to ask.

Maria sputters. Then she smiles. “Aliens! How on earth do you not know about the infamous Roswell Crash?”

Uhh, because I never even heard of this hick town until Mommy dearest shipped me down here? No. I don’t want to think about her. Thinking about my mom will lead to thinking about my dad. Thinking about my dad will lead to thinking about the divorce, and exactly WHY they’re getting a divorce. And that is a big red-lights-no admittance-stop-turn-around-and-don’t-look-back kind of topic.

Seeing my irrevocably confounded expression, Alex tries to help out. “In the summer of ’47? Alien space ship crashed?” Maria elbows him. “SUPPOSED alien crash? Ring any bells?”

I shake my head uncertainly. Now that they mention it, I remember something about a crash…but it was a weather balloon. Where these guys loony tunes or was it me?

Maria’s kinda laughing to herself. “I cannot BELIEVE that you don’t know about that. It’s HUGE around here. It’s the only reason this town stayed above water, with all the tourist traps.”

Shame and self-loathing coats my stomach in a greasy feel. I close my eyes for a moment. “I didn’t know,” I say in a small voice.

I KNEW I should have stayed in bed today.

Maria stops laughing. “No, I didn’t mean you were ignorant or anything…”

Alex jumps in. “She just found it weird that the thing HER world revolves around, isn’t necessarily what does it for other people. You know, the other NORMAL people.” He grins again. Maybe his grin isn’t quite that bad.

Note: I said QUITE.

Nevertheless, I breathe a bit easier, and cant help but smirk at Maria false outcry of disbelief.

“What exactly were you implying just now, Alexander Charles Whitman!” My smirk grows wider at Alex’s cowering expression. I think I may need to take some intimidation tips from Maria.

HA! That’d be a load of laughs.

Alex smiles weakly. “Uhh, n-nothing Maria.”

Maria snorts and gives me a fast wink. Hehe, she’s enjoying this way too much. Well so am I for that matter but…

“Nothing my ass Whitman!” Maria raises her eyebrow in waiting. Alex hastily latches onto an excuse. “Uh, I love you?” He speaks meekly.

She leans forward and grabs his shirt. “Nice try, Alex, but that isn’t going to work this time. Care to try again?” He frantically looks at me for help. And why is that exactly? Sorry buddy, you’re on your own with this one.

Alex’s eyes plead with me and his voice is soon to follow. “Come on Liz! Save me!” He blurts out dramatically. I’m acutely aware of the lovely scene we’re currently creating in the midst of the restaurant. Might as well.

“Maria, cut the guy some slack,” I say timidly. Oh, God, what if she gets pissed at me now?

To my relief, she releases Alex. “You’re lucky you got friends in high places,” she says before smiling at me and taking off for her shift.

Alex wipes his hand over his brow in a mock reprieve. “Phew!” He says while grinning his patented grin. “My hero!” He leans back in his chair. “I think this is the beginning of a wondrous friendship between you and I. We’re going to be best friends!” The biggest surprise about his statement is that he is one-hundred percent sincere.

I’m about to tell him there’s not a chance in hell of us becoming friends, when I notice that, in leaning back, he indolently laid his sleeve in his gross combination of ketchup and eggs. I go to laugh, but hold it inside. Instead, I feel the corners of my lips curve into a half smile.

“What?!” Alex sees my look and then turns to notice his gloppy sleeve. “Aww, MAN!” He cries. “This is the third time this week!”

I feel the urge to laugh again. It’s a weird sensation. Alex’s words resonate in my head once more. I think this is the beginning of a wondrous friendship between you and I.

“You know Alex,” I finally say as he scrubs furiously at his elbow. “I think you may be right…”

~*~Part Six~*~ Max

I watch as she struggles not to laugh as Alex smears his elbow in his breakfast for about the billionth time since I’ve met the guy. To put it lightly, he’s not what you would call an “elegant” diner. He’s worse than Michael, and believe me, that is saying something.

Immediately, I’m all remorse that she didn’t allow a full-blown smile grace her face, sure that that would be a beautiful sight to see on Liz Parker. And then, at the same time, I’m relieved, because in some jealous way, I want to be the one to put that smile there.

What the hell is wrong with me? I shake my head, as if to shake out my thoughts, and turn back to the less-than interesting grill of the Crashdown. My ponderings eventually shift back to her.

Where is this coming from? Why do I feel this way now all of a sudden? What’s changed in the span of twenty-four hours?

But I digress. I DO know the answer to those questions. I know them better than I know myself, as I spent the whole entire night awake, contemplating them. My wayward thoughts wander to the previous day…

~*~

I was relieved when Jeff asked me, in complete haste on his way out of the door, if I could pick up his niece from the airport. I quickly agreed, anything to get me out of my shift, which so far only consisted of a hysterical Maria, rapidly filling in customers and me, as Isabel was running late per usual.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Maria like I love Isabel, but sometimes she can be a bit much.

Who am I kidding, sometimes she can be TOO much.

I called Michael to get him to help cover my shift and reassured a screeching Maria that Isabel would be in any minute. I knew I was going to so pay for that later. For one thing, because Michael was sure to kill me for sticking him with a frenzied Maria, since for once he was not the source of her frazzle state, and for another, because no one walks out on Maria without receiving some sort of horrifying repercussions.

When I arrived at the airport, I was a bit late, as finding a parking space in the airport is like trying to locate water in a desert.

Ha ha, New Mexico kid made a desert joke. I should be on Comedy Central; these days they’re letting anyone on.

I made my way to the appropriate gate just in time to see that people had all ready begun to file out of the plane to greet loved ones, or to scurry past while tossing agitated looks at their watches. Typical.

She was the last one out. I don’t know exactly HOW I knew it was Liz, somehow I just knew. It’s weird. I can’t explain it. I’d probably make an fool out of myself if I tried. It’s just…there. A strange pull of sorts. A connection.

She had looked…well annoyed for one thing. A definite “Don’t you dare” scowl was etched on her face, reminiscent of Izzy’s Ice Princess mode. But what struck me was that underlying all her rebel like vibes and blaring red streaked hair, she was scared. Again, don’t ask me how I knew, I just did. Its one of those things you just grow to accept.

Why is the sky blue?

Its just is.

Why don’t some Spanish irregular verbs in the preterite follow the same principles as the other verbs? (Who says I have no life?)

They just do.

Why were Isabel, Michael and I dumped in the desert with no explanation from our home planet?

We just were.

Why did things get so bad between my dad and me that I had to move out?

They just did.

Yea, it’s little stuff like that.

Now don’t think that I’m some nut job who actually BELIEVES what I just said. Don’t break out the padded walls and meds just yet. I KNOW there are perfectly good rhymes and reasons for all above said questions. I just don’t care much to go into them right now. Which means there’s an answer to why I feel so connected to Liz in such a short time, but once more, I don’t care to go into it right now.

I approached her swiftly; calling out a greeting as I went so she wouldn’t think I was some stalker guy coming to steal her purse or something.

What?

It happens.

Well actually now that I think about it, me calling out to her probably made her think I was a deranged stalker even MORE so than if I kept my mouth shut. Oops.

I was sort of amused when she turned, expecting there to be someone behind. Yes, I was talking to YOU.

She slowly realizes that and turns back. She glares up at me expectantly and I momentarily falter. Her wide brown eyes meet mine for a moment, and my lungs are depleted of their air supply. She’s beautiful. Somehow, I didn’t expect Jeff and Nancy’s little niece to be so...pretty.

But she was, is, in an understated kind of way. Like she doesn’t realize it. All of a sudden I was intrigued by her and her pain-filled eyes. Because when I saw the flash of blinding, raw pain in her eyes, I just knew that I wanted to be the one to get her open up, to ease her hurt until it was gone, to surrounded her bruised flesh and embrace her beaten heart, magically mending her so she could become the wonderful, carefree girl I had seen hidden beneath all the trauma she had to endure.

Wow, sappy much Maxwell?

I had blinked momentarily to put some order into my thoughts and then smiled my patented half smile and hastily introduced myself…

~*~

“MAX! Snap out of it dreamy! I have customers waiting and sleep deprivation, so lets move it!” A shriek snaps me out of my thoughts.

Maria. I smile at her and hand her, her order. “Anything else?” I ask in mock jauntiness, while rolling my eyes.

She shakes her head apologetically. “Sorry about that. You just looked out of it for a minute. I took it upon myself to bring you back,” She winks at me and I roll my eyes again in response.

“Why thanks. Gosh Maria, I just don’t know what I would do without you!” I joke while simultaneously trying to set up my next order. Yes, I’m able to multitask. I can see the college acceptance letters roll in already. Whoo hoo, go me.

But actually I think that they prefer citizens of this earth. Sadly, I don’t fit that particular requirement.

Maria just laughs and walks off to her tables, leaving me back with my thoughts.

Maybe I should have made her stay. Because the thoughts that plague me aren’t really comforting. In fact, they’re extremely unnerving.

~*~

I had glanced at her hair quickly, and then decided not to say anything about it. Something tells me that she did it for attention. NEGATIVE attention and from the looks of it, she doesn’t need anymore of that.

Ok, what the hell? HOW do I know this? Are my powers making me become clairvoyant or something? What?

I had carried her carry-on and we set off for the baggage claim. I kept tossing glances her way, which seems to fluster her, so I eventually stopped. Or rather I stopped doing it so blatantly. Feeling like a moron, I tried to make conversation as we picked up her luggage and headed out towards the parking lot. Judging her responses, she tolerates small talk about as well I as tend to. The thought made me smile.

When we climbed into the jeep, I teased her for a minute. She apparently was afraid of Bob, and it amused me to no end. Isabel HATES it. She claims it’s a hazard to the environment. Yea, well it’s MY hazard to the environment. Also the only form of transportation that I’ll have until I’m thirty by the looks of things. I work at a DINER for God’s sake. I can’t afford a freakin Mercedes. I don’t think anyone in Roswell can.

We arrived at the Crashdown to be greeted with chaos. I jumped into action, trying to do my part and to mediate between Michael and Maria. All the while, I kept sneaking glances at Liz. She seemed so…vulnerable. I wanted to know more about her and why she always cringed and looked at the floor when someone talked to her. I basically wanted to know…her.

Wondering briefly what was going on with me, I had shrugged it off as general curiosity and obligation because she is the boss’s niece and went back to work…

~*~

Michael bursts through the door, which slams into the dented wall, effectively disrupting my musings. He grunts a salutation in my general direction, to which I nod predictably and watch as he jerks on an apron. Smirking, I’m remembering the first time Jeff had forced him to don one. It had taken Maria’s sweet cajoling and a thousand grumbles later to get him to relent. I could see why. The white (stained) apron doesn’t scream badass Michael Guerin. But then again, his bad boy persona had always been some sort of façade to protect himself from the evils of this world. It’s been disintegrating ever since he became involved with Maria.

I glance back out at the restaurant area, my eyes scanning for a certain person. I’ll give you three guess as to who I’m looking for, but you’re only going to need one by now.

Liz is presently sitting by herself, as Alex is getting ready to take over Maria’s shift. She gazes off into space (ignore my little pun), a forlorn expression on her face. My heart constricts, as I wonder if she’s reliving what seems to be a painful past.

Finally, my thoughts return to the real reason I’ve got my boxers in a bunch over Liz Parker. The real reason why my heart’s being tugged out of my safe guarded chest and into her unknowing hands…

~*~

I had stumbled down the stairs of the upstairs apartment and almost collided with a distraught Liz. Apologizing, I then asked her what was wrong. She brushed me off, giving some lame excuse that she was tired. I didn’t believe her then, and I don’t believe her now.

What happened next still shocks me straight to the core. Our shoulders touched briefly as we passed each other, me on my way down, she on her way up. And in that moment I was hit with a flash. The most stunning, detailed, and amazing flash I’ve ever had in my life, and in that brief instant, I knew exactly what it was like to be Liz Parker.

**Flash**

An image of Liz, curled up on a bed, sobbing. Sobbing so hard, you feel as if she would break, the palpable grief crashing down in waves.

**End Flash**

~*~

And now I’m back to the present once more, the burned breakfast order staring me in the face. Whoops. Looks like I need to steer clear of multitasking after all. So much for college.

I wonder back to the flash I got from Liz.

Pure emotion was attached with the flash. Disappointment, bone-crushing hurt, shame, blinding pain closely followed by numbness, and the last one, the one that worried me, was smashed and dashed hope.

I’ve had flashes before. Usually from Isabel, or Michael, and more recently, from Alex or Maria in the heat of heart palpitating moments.

But none have been so graphic, so charged with sentimentality. This one knocked my off of my feet literally. It made my heart scream, my soul sob, and my mind rage. I felt angry that she’d had such a rotten past, and sad that she’d gone through it feeling like she did. She doesn’t deserve that. No one does.

But what I haven’t mentioned is that during my brief moments with her, and during that flash…

I had seen into Liz Parkers soul. And the weird thing is…beneath all of the crap, all of the hurt, beneath all the pain…she was beautiful. Not in the super model, blatant sort of way, but nevertheless…her soul was beautiful….and I could already feel myself falling.

And let me tell you, I have never been more terrified in my life. Or more intrigued. Because once I go there, there’s no turning back. Its do or die time. Do I want to get involved with a human? It’s not really safe, despite the fact that everything has seemingly died down, and God knows Liz doesn’t need the extra baggage.

But, Michael and Maria tried it. And look how far they’ve come. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been jealous of the way Michael was able to let her in (albeit most reluctantly), and moreover, what Maria was willing to go through. And something tells me that Alex and Izzy won’t be far behind those two. Something also tells me that I’d be able to help Liz, just like she’d be able to help me.

Wait a just a darn minute. What the hell is this “something” that keeps “telling” me all of this stuff? If I get a bill in the mail later charging for this “advice” you can tell it to stop now.

And yet…

I glance out at Liz’s brooding form. And somehow, I just know…

This may just turn out to be the best summer of my life.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Oct-2002 11:19:23 AM ]
posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:36:49 PM
A/N~ This is quite confusing on my part again. The beginning is Liz looking back on her first week while working, and then while she’s doing that she gets a memory of Kyle…I know most of you wanted to know what was up with him so here you go.

~*~Part Seven~*~ WHY

I swear to God. What on EARTH possessed me to accept this job?

I now humbly take back all the mean, nasty thoughts I had about waitresses over the years back, and apologize. For all the times I left lousy tips, or when I had wished I had had the guts to trip a overly enthused, pompous waiter, or to smack a cheap nasal sounding bimbo-ish waitress, I take it all back.

Well you can’t blame me really. We can be quite annoying (Oh Lord, here I am associating myself in their group). Take Maria for example. She has a ZERO tolerance for stupid people. She absolutely REFUSES to give that type of people the time of day. She just won’t serve them. Little miss over at booth ten waving her arms? Nope, sorry, no can do. Maria just pretends she can’t see them. Like I said, absolutely NO patience for stupid people. Well, who does actually? I mean, no one likes to repeat the daily specials five times because the customer has wax in their ears.

Wax in their ears. Oh, God, I really am my mothers daughter.

And then there’s Isabel. She takes forever and a day to give people their checks. The poor customers grow more irritated and impatient as they watch her wipe down the counter of the bar for about the millionth time. Who would have thought that Her Highness was a perfectionist? Isabel’s has ZERO tolerance for deficiency. Actually, it’s quite amusing to see the anal side of Izzy. The people in this town never cease to amaze me.

I myself have ZERO tolerance for cruelty. I was scared to death to start my job, to have to intentionally get in peoples faces and ask them straight out what they wanted. It was all I could do not to flinch, and to look the people in the eye.

Actually, still haven’t mastered the eye thing yet, but I’m working on it. Kudus for me! I looked into a guy’s nostril instead of at his feet. Hey, now don’t give me that grossed out look. It’s a start. A revolting start (Mr. Hairy was in DESPERATE need of some nose clippers) but a start nevertheless.

Maria has been a total lifesaver. I seriously do not know what I would have done with out the girl.

Wait, scratch that. I DO know where I’d be without her. In bed, instead of serving coffee to half asleep tourist and perky locals. Because if it wasn’t for Maria I would have never even taken the job.

My first day was horrendous. I spilled coffee right in the lap of an expensive looking lady. Those fake mounds protruding out of her sleazy yet considered classy (only in her world, I assure you) top must have cost more than her (lack of) college education.

Um, yea, so Rich Bitch was none too pleased with me. She started shrieking about incompetent workers and how much this outfit cost, and blah blah blah. I look back on it now and roll my eyes and move on, but right then?

Right then I was terrified. Instead of hearing the nameless brunette screeching at me about her dry cleaning bill, I heard instead the taunts and yells of my tormentors back home resounding through my brain. My throat had closed up and my eyes were anywhere but on the women in front of me. Then, the customer said the clincher.

Wrinkling up her nose at the sight of my gaudy hair and scared eyes, she sneered. “Although, you must be an exception. No one else has ever been so STUPID. I guess it must just be YOU.”

And with that, Richie Rich huffed, nose in the air in triumph of the joining the rapidly growing list of those who have succeed in making me feel low. Another piece of my soul is gone, now in her uncaring, flippant possession.

I had just stood there for an endless minute, waves of shame crashing over me like a storm. I cursed my very being. WHY? That was the word the echoed through my brain.

WHY?

Is there really a good reason for people’s cattiness? IS there? Yea, hi, answer boy? Can you solve that little mystery?

Lots of times people think that there are motives for peoples complete bitchiness. Like there is a explanation for why people get their small high from telling another person off. The sensation of feeling SUPERIOR.

But there aren’t. Not in my case anyways. I have done nothing. NOTHING to deserve all of this crap. I have kept to myself, but really, is that a crime? With the way people usually are, who can blame me?

And yet, there must be SOME reason why I am the butt end of life’s cruelest jokes. How’s that for being born under a bad sign? I swear, I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again, someone up there REALLY hates me. I must have had one helluva awful past life. Karma’s a bitch when it comes back to haunt you…

Excuse the Buddhism. Just trying to get my point across. For some odd reason, at the thought of Buddhism, a flash of Kyle shoots through my brain, and I wince.

No. I am so NOT going there.

But then again, when you rip off one scab, why not tear off all the rest? I close my eyes and allow the memory to overcome me…

~*~Flashback~*~

It was summer and my parents had finally settled into yet another house. My dad’s itchy feet kept us moving all over the upper Midwest. Hmm, that’s funny. My dad’s itchy feet also drove the family apart with the revelation of his new bride. Yea, wonder how long THAT little midlife crisis is going to last.

We settled into Chicago, and that was where we stayed for longer than six months. No more moving for us. Nope. When it got to a place from where I actually WANTED to move away from, my parents decide it is time to stay put. Typical. Perhaps I should have pulled the ole Reverse Psychology thing on them. “I don’t EVER want to move from here Mommy,” and boom. Enter the moving vans. Too bad I didn’t discover that little secret before life got shitty.

Here’s a little tip for everyone. Don’t ever tell anyone what you want. What’s that old saying? Lie, lie, lie…or is it deny, deny, deny…its one or the other. Actually, both seem to fit in this type of scenario.

Anyways. It was the summer before sophmore year to be exact, but then, I’m rarely ever exact so it doesn’t matter.

It was then that I met Pam Troy. Her father and mine were business partners, so Pam and I were expected to be friends, or at least we were expected not to kill each other if we were left alone in a room together. Too bad Pam ignored that little unspoken warning. Oh, she didn’t take a knife to me or anything of the sort (baad Liz, scaring away people with your morbid thoughts). No, she did something much more worse.

She killed my spirit. My soul. Little Lizzy Parker, naïve and innocent, exists no more. Instead it’s “Slut!” “Loser!” “Bitch!” And a few more I cant bring myself to name.

Slut you say? Really? Gawd, Liz, I didn’t know you had it in you.

Hahaha. Yea right. I’ve never fully kissed a guy before. The most revealing outfit I have ever worn was a tee shirt. Yup, that’s me. Liz Parker, the epitome of tart-like behavior, at your service.

NOT.

But this is a memory right? And the memory suffices to show exactly WHY I get shunned in school, at home, in…LIFE.

I was over at Pam’s house. It was some dinner party for executives at daddy’s work, so we were ushered upstairs into her room. I sat nervously on her bed, unsure of my every move.

We had met before. And it hadn’t been pretty. She had basically snarled at me to keep out of her way in school, and not to some much as breathe. In her room that day, she mirrored her very first words to me, demanding that I keep my “nasty self” away from the things in her perfect princess room. Pah, not that I wanted to be any closer. The room enough was enough to make you gag. Fluffy white and pink bedspread with a frickin canopy (someone tell me exactly WHAT the canopy is used for? What? Is it supposed to be an umbrella or something? It might rain in the room? Or, in light of Pam’s frigid personality, SNOW in the room?) and a fuzzy princess phone which Pam kept giggling into, covering her mouth to the receiver to whisper what I KNEW were awful things about me.

Later on in the evening, after finally hanging up the phone, Pam went to her window and unlatched it before starting to climb out. My eyes had widened in shock, and I quickly went to leave, not wanting any part of Pam’s rebellious move. B.C. time (Before Crap time to refers to my life before all these shitty things started happening. I ALMOST remember that time of my life. Almost.) I would have never of thought of doing anything remotely insubordinate.

Pam had whirled around and pierced me with an icy glare. I had wondered vaguely how such a pretty girl could look so unsightly.

She sighed, contemplating her options. Finally she had rolled her eyes at me and motioned for me to come before disappearing out into the night.

What I did next is something I have regretted ever since.

I followed.

And what happened next set everything spiraling further down the Hill of Crap.

Pam lead the way to an empty field located a few blocks down from her street. She meet up with her “crowd” and promptly began gossiping and throwing me dirty looks. I didn’t belong from the start.

Feeling extremely foolish, I wandered further into the darkness, away from the bongs being passed around and the drinks being shared. I had never been a party girl. Still not. I mean, does anyone actually ENJOY hangovers? Ugh, I have seen too many bad ones to want to start doing anything so remotely stupid. Plus the taste of alcohol is quite bitter. Like putrid bile. Gag me with a spoon.

So I wandered off, gazing up at the cloudy sky, trying in vain to locate just one little star. Just one little sign of hope in the darkness.

Instead, what I found was a beam of light flashing in my eye. I scrunched my eyes up at the owner of the offensive light, making out his features in the dark. He was tall, kind of built with brown hair. Kind of cute. “Kind of” in every way. He smiled at me. “Hey. I’m Kyle. Can I sit?” He asked. And that began our hour-long friendship.

We talked. We talked about everything and anything. For some odd reason, he was just so easy to talk to. I told him about how lonesome I’d been since we moved to Chicago, and about how I always used to get teased in grade school. I had even told him about my then-suspicions about my dad and his “late” office hours.

He had told me that he had just moved, and that he missed all of his former friends from his old school, and an old coach who had had adored (ok, he didn’t use the word adore, per say. It’s a little too much feminine for a jock like Kyle to say. I am merely paraphrasing. God Bless English class).

We shared everything. He had even gone as far as to hold my hand nicely when I had gotten upset in reliving my hellish past. Little did I know that my past was going to look like a blissful alternative to the turn my future was about to take.

We were interrupted during our talking by more flashlights. Pam and her crew came up from behind us and totally misread the entire situation.

“Oh GAWD! Kyle, you DOG!” One of the guys had whistled crudely. No asshole. Sitting next to a girl in the dark does not automatically mean that you are going to get laid. Remember that next time you are in the backseat, ok buddy?

Pam of course, had to twist everything in her own demented way. “That is disgusting. I can’t believe anyone would want to even go NEAR her. That’s like, revolting.”

Kyle instantly broke away from me, flushing apparently in the dark. He ignored everyone’s teasing and speculations and began to walk away with The Group, leaving me behind with Pam and a girl I now know to be Tess.

I was hurt. I didn’t understand WHY he was just leaving me after everything I had revealed to him, everything that he had shared with ME. I stood up awkwardly and called out after him. “Kyle…”

Snorting and guffawing was heard from the group of boys in the distance, and one mimicked back in high falsetto. “Kyle! Oh, Kyle! Stay with me Kyle! I love you!” More idiotic giggles as some guys dug their elbow into Kyle’s side and he tried to duck down inconspicuously.

Pam and Tess had turned toward my ashen face then and hissed, “You’re nothing. And don’t you ever forget it,” before striding away and leaving me in the dark.

Kyle got off easy enough. Another one of the members of the teenage class driven away from his values and morals by the threat of being shunned by society. Another victim subjected and forced into the line of conformity. But with the way society brainwashes people, they actually are granted the illusion that they WANT to be with all the phony populars.

He was accepted after a few days time by “the group” while I was harassed my their minions, and sometimes their royal highness’s themselves. I was (AM) constantly bombarded with cruel leering and name-callings.

“SLUT!”

“Hey, there honey, wanna show ME a good time?”

And of course, lets not forget the ass pinching and the bra snappings. Sweat pants and baggy shirts became my sole attire. I didn’t WANT any more attention.

But every time I’d pass Kyle in the halls, he’d look the other way and pretend not to see me.

And I think that’s what hurt most of all.

~*~

Maria passing by snapped me out of my memory. She had witnessed the whole debacle with the richy rich customer and angrily asked if I was ok.

But I wasn’t. I had never been ok. I just smiled weakly at Maria with deadened eyes and quipped, “Well, this gives whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘the customers always right,’” I tried to joke my way out the situation, but Maria wouldn’t have it. She shook her head seriously and looked me straight in the eye anxiously. For once I didn’t shy away. I met her gaze full on as she told me the thing that began to change my whole entire viewpoint. “Liz, don’t ever think that. Don’t ever think that someone has the right to make you feel like you aren’t worthy of respect. EVERYONE deserves respect, even if they make us want to hurl. But especially you. You ought to DEMAND respect,”

I had laughed hollowly. “Tell telling my brain that. It refuses to cooperate. Besides, I don’t deserve anything,” I said, wallowing an ocean of self-pity.

Maria shook her head again, “ But you DO, Liz. You do.” She had trailed off throwing a nasty look at the departing rich bitch. Then she had turned to me, giving off another bout of wisdom one wouldn’t usually expect from such a bubbly, “out there” personality. “It all starts off with you, Liz. If YOU believe, or at least pretend to for a while, then no one can touch you. Remember that, ok?” She squeezed my shoulder and moved back to her dreadfully neglected tables.

And with that last departing thought, the advice that replaces a similar phrase said by Pam, it all begins…

I take a tiny baby STEP forward and attempt to believe.

I don’t fully realize exactly what Maria meant, but I acknowledge the possibility.

And that…

That would be a start.

A start to discover the answers to all of my WHYS, or a start to discover that I don’t WANT to know the answer. Or maybe, just maybe, a start to realizing that it just doesn’t matter what the answers are to all of the WHYS.

It’s still a start nevertheless.

~*~Part Eight A~*~ It Doesn’t Mean Much

DING!

The ringing of the bell at the grill and Alex’s cheerful shout that an order was up snaps me back to the present. I’m back with an order pad still motionless in my hand, staring at nothing as the dirty table in front of me comes into focus.

Um, yea, anyways. I did say it got better right? Jeez, look what happens when you live in your head. I spent my entire shift in la-la land, contemplating this past week. Sigh, MUST I always go off on a tangent?

Oh, well.

I’m just finishing up my shift, scooping up the generous change off of my now departed table.

Hmm, perhaps there ARE some perks to this whole waitress thing. And once I got over my fear of approaching the customers (still yet to work on the eye thingy), it pretty much all flew from there.

Because what I forgot about waitresses, is that the customers DON’T CARE about whether or not you’re “sociably acceptable” or not. To them, your just here to drop off a plate off greasy food and a drink, and that’s that. It’s not that big of deal. It does mean much; it never has. They don’t even remember your name, to them you are known perpetually as “Excuse me,” or “Miss…”

But still, after the whole fiasco with richy rich, it still took me a while to get into the swing of things.

So, yea, that’s what this week has consisted of. Learning the trade, so to speak. Pretty much uneventful, just what I expected from this town.

Alex dings the bell again, and Isabel rolls her eyes at him, yet smiles as she picks up her order. Alex tips an imaginary hat at her, grinning, grinning, grinning.

That boy is so weird. And yet, I can’t help but smirk at the sight.

What?

He sort of grows on you. His patented wide grin and quirky humor is quite refreshing in the world today. Plus, he just doesn’t give a damn about what other people think about him, and I admire that.

Hmm…

I’m still watching Alex, as his trademark grin is slowly fading into something a little more…shall we say…SAPPY. I narrow my eyes in suspicion, noticing that his gaze is unwavering from Isabel.

IN-TERES-TING.

The dorky yet lovable Alex Whitman has a thing for the beautiful yet cold Isabel Evans.

Umm, yea I said Evans. My face enflames as I remember how I had originally thought that Max and Isabel were…umm TOGETHER. Ew. Incest. My mind is way too morbid for words. But they don’t look alike, so how was I supposed to know? But, I must admit, I am somewhat relieved. And NO it is not for the reason you think. Max is way too…I don’t know…NICE for starters, to be WITH Isabel.

Well, so is Alex for that matter. I sigh. Why is it that guys always go for the icy popular type with the super model build? It leaves us homely types slightly miffed.

Not that I am looking for a guy. No Siree, definitely NOT going down that road.

But I digress. I have noticed the Alex/Isabel obsession over the last week, and Maria has even commented on it.

”God, Alex, you’re like a little puppy dog in heat where Izzy is concerned,” Maria snorted in amusement.

“Hey! I prefer more manly comments than that Maria. You’re bruising my male ego. It’s very tender. Please, either boost it up, or leave it alone.” Alex pantomimed.

I had shaken my head. “I don’t get it,” I muttered to myself, but Alex had heard me anyways.

“You just got to chip away at the ice around her heart. Because, in all actuality, Isabel is a great person…” Alex trailed off, and I noticed that, even though he was speaking to Maria and me, his gaze was upon Isabel the entire time…



I don’t know. I never do.

You know what would be nice? If life included little captions or subtitles, so us hapless viewers could know what the hell is going on at times.

No, instead, we are supposed to be INTUITIVE, to relay on instinct, and ambiguous FEELINGS.

Too bad that my talents in those departments, shall we say, for lack of better terms, urm, suck the big one.

Suck the big one.

Who comes UP with this stuff? Eww, I don’t even want to contemplate the hidden meaning in that one…

I threw a hasty glance back over my shoulder at the clock…

And instead, am blocked by the torso of Max Evans.

Hmm, Max. Interesting guy to say the least. This past week, we had meaningless conversations about whatnot, but his answers had been short, yet profound. He made you THINK. Spending a shift with him was typically uneventful, yet rarely boring.

And I’ve caught him staring in my general area numerous times again. It’s kind of unsettling. I asked Maria about him (careful not to mention specifics, least she get the wrong idea…), and she assuaged my assumptions in replying that he had always been an observant silent type.

He’s staring back at me, and I flush, realizing that whilst I was lost in my thoughts, I had most likely been ogling him for the past few minutes.

Whoops.

I blink, and crane my neck to see the clock. He notices and helpfully supplies (and how nice of him too, since his damn broad shoulders are blocking my view) “Our shifts done. You can relinquish your duties to Maria when you’re done finishing up.”

Thank you captain obvious.

Ahem. Sorry. I should be getting less bitter and cynical now that things are looking up slightly. Hmm, tilting upwards would be more precise.

But I can’t help but feel that it’s the calm before the storm. You know, quit while your ahead type of deal. I try to shake off my foreboding, but I cant help but remember how that bastard more kindly referred to as hope, has screwed me over in the past (exactly one week ago, actually).

I sigh silently. If you THINK like that, its BOUND to happen like that. It’s like the little engine that could. He thinks he can, therefore he will.

Okay, horrendous example. Lets try this again.

Urm, I’m drawing a blank. Aww, hell, I was never one to waste words so here it is, cut and dry (cut and dry. Hmph. Another saying that I have no idea what it really means or where it came from. Its just one of those things you say without thinking about its definition, as you have heard it a trillion times before in a similar statement. Hm, so much for not wasting any words…)

If I believe that everything will turn out badly, then life will nod its head in agreement with me and prove me right.

Then again, when I was younger and had the sad, sad illusion that everything in life was flowers and roses, life pointed and laughed while it went ahead on proved me drastically wrong.

Someone needs to save me from my thoughts. I look up from my musings to find that Max is still standing there, a faint smile on his face. I am immediately wary. “What,” I ask suspiciously.

To my surprise, Max grins. Not in the “I’m so happy to be alive, must be on Prozac” kind of grin that Alex oh so cheerfully sports, nor in the evil, “I’ve got ulterior motives, you are so going to regret what is going on in my mind,” kind of way that Maria does (in which you would sprint hastily for the exit if she was tossing the grin your way, or sit back with a smirk as you watched her poor helpless fool of victim, usually Michael), and not in the impish, lopsided way the Michael has, but in this slow, easy going way that is…it’s just…

In a MAX kind of way.

Sigh. Glorious description on my part. Jeez, for someone who always has something to say (sardonically or not, but most of the time, its sardonically) I sure have found myself at a loss for words.

And a loss of sanity. God, what is WRONG with me?

“You looked pretty deep in thought just there. I didn’t know that my statement about relinquishing your shift to Maria would require so much contemplation.” He teased softly.

Funny guy, this Max. Frickin hilarious.

And yet I find my lips curving into a sarcastic smile. Because it is SO something I would say.

Urm, well at least it is something that I would THINK. Actually voicing my real opinions for once would be new territory for me.

“Actually, I was just searching for a sense of something miraculous in everyday life,” I say wittily, rolling my eyes. Did I just say that out loud? Whoo, she speaks!

Yea, heard that cheesy line in a movie once. Another one of those things that doesn’t entirely make sense, and yet you use it anyways.

He laughs. And for once, the sound of laughter doesn’t trigger the echoing sound of mocking and taunts from the sickening past. Its…GENUINE…the kind of laugh you hear within a circle of friends, joking easily. Something that I have seen, but never been a part of. The only way I ever had that type of thing was in my wild imagination. It’s…nice.

Whoo, Ms. Brilliant Adjective strikes again. I so need a thesaurus. ‘It was NICE.’ What a pathetic word. Its something you use when someone asks you what they think of their horrendous tacky Popsicle ornament with the glue gobbed on the ends, and you, being the oh so tactful person you are, respond in a sweet, offhand tone, Oh, that’s NICE. While all the while you are thinking, “What in the name of pantyhose were you thinking? My poor eyes, having to see a disaster of such magnitude…”

Lord. I think waaaay too much. Someone stop the madness that is my brain. Anyhoo, I’ll get back to that ‘nice’ thing later, when I think of a better word. And I say this for the dim among you (hopefully the rest of you all ready knew of this but) don’t hold your breath.

Yes, well, after laughing nicely (Mr. Thesaurus here I come…), Max gave his excellent reply. A reply that will go into many books, that will cause him to be on numerous talk shows (After the audience hears about who cheated on whom, and which Hollywood star is dubbed the worst dress. Lord knows we couldn’t live with out that useful information. Never mind that the ozone layer is breaking, that urban sprawl is overtaking the world, no, no, as long as we know that Mary Sues Twin Dresses like a Slut and She Hates It, than the world will continue to go round), a reply that will be forever quoted (if not already).

You want to know what it was? You do? Well, now how did I guess…

“See you later,” he said, before smiling slightly and walking out the door to do God knows what.

Bloody Brilliant.

And yet, I found myself looking after him…

See you later…


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Oct-2002 8:37:32 PM ]
posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:37:52 PM
~*~Part Eight B~*~ It doesn’t Mean Much

I shake my head ridiculously, and turn away from the door. It’s been five freaking minutes and I am still staring out at the direction in which he left.

Why?

Good question. If anyone figures it out, feel free to call me up and shine some light on the darkness.

Anyhoo.

Back to work.

Scratch that. Back to the task of convincing Maria, that, yes indeed, it would be her shift as of now. I swear, that girl has so many excuses as to why she gets five extra minutes. Heh, one time she even went as far as setting back all the clocks in a desperate attempt to gain a little time.

I maneuver around a throng of customers and tables (Honestly, we waitress could be in the Olympics or something with all the flexibility that we require to avoid blundering and falling on our antennae’s) and make my way to the back. Pushing through the swinging doors, I stop.

And promptly go to turn around.

Whoops.

Hmm, perhaps another character flaw of mine is my horrendous sense of timing. But really, that isn’t a character flaw. More like bad luck, or being born under a bad sign.

Or maybe, as I often suspect, Big Guy up there just doesn’t like me.

Yea, that’s it.

So I bet your wondering just what in the hell is going on. Hmm, me too. Now I KNOW that Michael and Maria aren’t going to win Couple Of The Year anytime soon (I.e. when hell freezes over. Finally. An expression that makes even the tiniest iota of sense), but still. You can tell they love each other and all that, even if Michael would rather poke his eye out, or declare that he’s an alien to the world (Heh, I’m getting this small town humor thing down pat…) then admit it. You can just tell.

Erm, well you would have been able to tell had you met them prior to the World War III I just walked in on. Hence my “whoops.”

Yes, Maria and Michael are fighting. No surprise you say? I beg to differ. See, the bickering that everyone in Roswell is usually subjected to hearing that goes on between them, I have a theory about it. Its pure sexual frustration. In a weird, twisted way, it’s how they vocalize their love, attraction, or whatever for each other. It can be cute. It can be revolting. But its usually not so….

“MICHAEL GUERIN! I SWEAR TO GOD I AM GOING TO PLUCK OUT YOUR EYES AND SHOVE THEM DOWN YOUR PANTS, SO YOU CAN WATCH ME KICK YOUR ASS!”

Hostile and well…

scary .

“Maria, I’m SORRY,” Michael says in a low voice. Hmm, Standoffish Man is contrite. Maybe this will be some fun.

“Just get AWAY from me right now! I don’t even want to LOOK at you!” Maria is now near tears. Oh God. Maybe not.

“Maria, I…”

“GO!”

Erm, has anyone else noticed that I am still standing in the doorway, eavesdropping? Yea, well, Maria just did, as she went to point Michael in the direction of where to go (you know, incase he didn’t hear her the first time. But unfortunately, as I have the door open, the whole RESTAURANT heard them. Hell the whole TOWN heard them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pam Troy in Chicago heard them. But enough. Not going there tonight)

Maria’s face turns a light shade of pink as she notices me standing there stupidly.

Brilliantly on my part, I say, “Umm…maybe I should just…” And gesture to the door. Very literate. Your tax dollars at work here ladies and gents, as I so wondrously exemplify my public high school education.

Thankfully, Maria speaks Dumb-ass (or wait, is it Michael whose fluent in that? But I don’t know, as I have no clue to what he’s done this time), and she shakes her head hysterically.

See I should have known better. I SHOULD have just backed away slowly at the first sign of danger and let Michael handle her (he might of possibly been reduced to shreds as an outcome, but hey, it’s every man for himself. HERSELF. Lord, where are my feminist views? I would rant about that particular chauvinistic phrase, but I beg your pardon, I am faced with a Red Hot Maria as of now).

But instead, I just stand there as she shrieks hysterically. “NO! Go right ahead! There’s nothing for you to walk in on, as there is NOTHING between Michael and me anymore,”

Michael sighed loudly. “Maria, I told you I was…”

Maria just proceeded to stalk past me (after snatching up my pen. But hell, I’m not about to go get it back! Would you?), and scrub furiously at a nearby table. Hmm, that would be the busboys job, but again. Be my guest. I’m not about to tell her different.

Michael rolls his eyes and tries one more time as she pushes past him to grab an order. “Maria…”

She just shakes her head vehemently, blonde waves flying around her face. Hmm, that cant be good for the food that she’s carrying. It’s quite revolting to find hairs in your food, especially ones that aren’t yours.

But once more, I’m not going to say anything.

It’s like a car wreck. You can’t help but crane out your neck and look. (My morbid mind strikes again…)

Michael growls in frustration (growls?) and mutters something along the lines of “whatever,” and slams out the door. Maria’s head shoots up and she gazes incredulously after him.

“I can’t believe he left!”

Again, I choose not to comment.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t Michael supposed to help us out and waitress today? Urm, waiter today? No wait, that’s not it. Oh, hell wasn’t he supposed to help serve people today (eww, server Lord, get my mind out of the gutter. Hmm, perhaps this is why the Big Guy up there hates me. Finally. An explanation)

Apparently, this just hits Maria. I don’t think she actually expected him to listen to her, as he was supposed to work. Poor girl. My heart squeezes as I catch a glimpse of her crestfallen face.

“Ohh! The NERVE of him! Now what am I supposed to do? Serve the entire dinner rush by myself?” Well she’s obviously not TOO torn up about it, if she can still rage to no one in particular (LOUDLY might I add…). But then, that might just be a coping mechanism.

Sigh. I was going to fold my socks tonight too.

Oh well.

What else can I do? Its obvious she is going to need help. She and Alex cant handle things alone. And she might…I don’t know…need someone to rant TO…instead of what she is doing now, which is talking angrily to the air. Or, if she’s really on a roll, to old Mrs. So and So, who only wants her check, but instead must listen helplessly as Maria goes on and on and on and on…(“That’s awful dearie, but Mr. is expecting me home, so if you could please just…)

And I could possibly do that. Listen, and comfort I mean, not talk to air, or Mrs. So and So.

Except I suck at comfort. But it’s the thought that counts right? And ever since Maria thrust out a helping hand last week as I struggled to hold on to NOTHING…

Well, I’ve been anxious to return the favor.

“Hey Maria?”

She turns a tearful face towards me. “Yea…?” She sniffles.

“I work Michael’s shift with you…that is, if you want…” Oh God, here I go making a fool of myself. Again. Whoo hoo, stop the presses (always wanted to say that. But I don’t know particularly WHY)

Oh my God. I just repeated one of Max’s phrases. If you want I am now Max Evans. Oh my freaking God. I’m starting to have a mini freak out about the MEANING behind that, when I remember to focus on the current crisis. I lock the moment away in my mind for later contemplation.

She inhales in hope. And then deflates. “But you just worked an entire shift before this,” She protests weakly.

I shake my head. “S’okay. I have nothing better to anyway. And we can sneak ice cream while you vent in between dead spots, ok?” I attempt to smile. Wow, haven’t done that in a while. But surprise! I still remember how!

She gives me a wavering smile. “’Kay,” She says. But I notice that she is slightly perkier when going up to the next customer. I sigh and shake my head. Guess my socks will have to wait, huh. Darn.











~*~Part Nine~*~ Doesn’t Mean Anything At All

Ever notice how much Time sucks?

I mean seriously.

Ole Geezer Time has something against us human folk. Somewhere along the line, one of us pissed him off big time, and now the rest of us, the unwitting offspring, are paying for it.

Payback’s a bitch, aint it.

I’m sitting here with Maria and Alex, dirty ice cream bowls strewn before us, all three of us glaring at the ruthless clock.

Or rather, we are staring at the inane minute hand (now really. Is there a reason it is called a hand?? And on that matter, if the clock has a hand circling it, when why the hell is it called a face?? Hmm?? Someone care to share? Who comes UP with this stuff?), which is refusing to cooperate. Hence Time really sucking right now.

There’s always a moment, a moment so perfect, so RIGHT, so BEAUTIFUL, that you just don’t want it to ever end.

Time knows this. So what does it do? It decides to speed up, that’s what it decides to do.

Bastard.

And there’s always a moment that you cant wait to end, that you would do anything to be anywhere else, a moment you just want to rush through, to get to better things.

And I think you know what Time does deliberately. But I shall spell it out for the dim among you. It decides to slow down.

Another question, who came up with the phrase “Perfect Timing”? Because there’s no such thing.

We’ve been sitting here like this for at least thirty minutes. The Crashdown is bare, not a body in sight. And yet, we are obligated to be here for another fifteen minutes.

But I digress. The shift was somewhat…dare I say it…FUN.

We had boy bashing (Alex even joined in ironically, making it all the more hilarious), we had an ice cream binge, we had a whipped cream fight (don’t ask. All you need to know is that Alex lost…hehehe…), we complained about customers, we…BONDED…I guess.

It was strangely refreshing. Definitely a new experience for me, and I owe to Michael’s thickheaded-ness. Hmm, perhaps I should thank the guy later.

Either that or smack him for making Maria cry. Both seemingly plausible activities.

But nevertheless it was one of the more enjoyable moments I’ve had in Roswell…one that actually has...HOPE rising again…and this time I’m welcoming it, instead of damning that bastard to hell.

Then why, you ask, are we so pissed at Mr. Time?

The Crashdown is DEAD. And we’re exhausted. Well I am anyways. Working two straight shifts is no walk in the park. And I’ve had enough of these damn uniforms. I mean, has my aunt HEARD of fabric softener? And the damn antenna is digging into my scalp. I myself am looking forward to a nice, hot shower (mmmm). And I can bet that Alex and Maria have places they’d rather be right now (Maria, in her room, wallowing in a little alone time; Alex mooning after Izzy some more. But then, these are just speculations)

So that is why we are anxious for the time to pass, and that is exactly why Time is deciding to screw us over for about the gazillionth time.

Wonderful. Alex is now banging his head on the table. WAM WAM WAM WAM. Over and over and over and over and over and over and…

Good God we need out of here.

Finally, in all exasperation, Maria just yells out “MOVE DAMN YOU!”

She’s speaking to the clock. But the old lady in the corner (did I mention her? No? Probably because she is just sitting there, no food, no water, no cheap flimsy napkins. NO just sitting. Purposefully prolonging our shift) jumps about fifty feet. I resist the urge to giggle.

Giggle. Wow. There’s something I haven’t done in a long time.

Anyways, the lady leaps out of her skin, and shoots Maria a dirty look, who stares right back. After a few tense moments, the lady huffs and leaves.

“Alleluia! Now we can bust outta this joint!” Maria praises.

I smirk. Since when did she become so religious?

Never mind. I gladly join her conversion. We’re free, we’re free! Praise be, praise be!

Hehe, I get poetic when I’m tired. Lovely!

I rip off the damn antennae and smirk even wider at the sight of Alex doing a little happy dance. Fun times. But now, time for bed.

We all crowd to the back, pushing and shoving to see who can get through the door first. Hmm, note for self, trying to cram three nearly grown teens through on small swinging door is probably not the smartest thing.

“OUCH! Alex! Now I’m stuck!”

Hehe, Maria and Alex are wedged between the doorway, wriggling trying to set themselves free. Should I help them?

Naahh. This is fun to watch.

Yes, I know. Simple minds…

“LIZ!! Don’t just stand there! Help us through!”

Simple pleasures.

Maria misses my devious grin. And good thing too, or else she’d be out of that door quicker than…

Well quicker than usual. Excuse me; I don’t have a brilliant metaphor ready.

I creep up slowly until I’m positioned right behind them, and…

PUSH!

And down go Maria and Alex.

THUD!

Hehe…

“Owwwww! My poor bum…” Alex rubs his behind exaggeratingly. Good God I really did not need to see that.

“Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiizzz,” Maria whines. Wow, I never thought my name could sound so annoying. I immediately feel kind of bad and go to help her up. She takes my hand pouting, and then grins. Uh oh. I know that grin…

My reaction time is slow when she tugs suddenly…

And down I go.

THUD!

If it didn’t hurt so bad I’d be giggling with Maria. But damn, my poor bum!

Good lord, Alex vocabulary is rubbing off on me.

I try to glare meaningfully at the snorting pair on the ground but my mouth keeps twitching. I go to sit next to them, when I catch a glimpse of someone sitting on the couch that’s by the lockers. A blonde curvy figure. The growing laughter dies in my throat.

“Hey Isabel,” Maria says through laughing.

Alex has suddenly gone pink and has lost his voice. Hmm, cute.

“Hey,” Isabel says, nodding curtly at me. Gulping, I nod back, though mine probably came out as a damn bobbing like a friggin doggie on a dashboard, while hers was cool and calculated. Smooth Parker.

We stand there for a minute, tension growing. It seems that either Isabel is disgusted by Maria’s childish behavior, or angry that she is sharing it with me. But then again, these are just speculations.

Nevertheless, I can take a hint.

“I’m just gonna…” I jerk my hand to the outside restaurant area and walk out. Whoa, deja vu. I did the same thing when I walked in on Maria and Michael’s fight.

My antennae are still out in the restaurant where I threw them in jubilance.

I take my sweet time going to get them, straightening ketchup bottles as I go, and picking up stray napkins. Finally, ten minutes later, I go cautiously back to the swinging door and go to open it…

That is, I go to open it, until I hear my name. And then I do something that is incredibly stupid. But don’t lie, and don’t pretend to know better, because you know you would do the same thing in my position.

I eavesdrop.

I can’t catch all of it (stupid thick door) but I hear enough. Enough to have the entire feeling of hope whoosh out of me like a punctured balloon, and enough to have me curse my stupidity. Why do I always do this? Always fall for it.

“So you ready…go…annual Friday night movie?” Isabel. But I can’t catch every word.

“Almost…ask...Liz…go?” I can hear Maria’s bounciness.

“Yea…” Alex, his tone earnest.

Pause

“I…not sure…not…good idea…don’t want…to come…” Isabel says uncertainly.

Pause

“Why…” Alex. His voice is hard.

“…don’t trust her…what if she…secret…not sure…don’t like her…out there…weird…what if…” Isabel. I can hear the disgust dripping off her words.

There’s more, but I blocked it out. I don’t need more negativity. I do just fine on my own thank you very much. I slump down onto the floor of the Crashdown.

Eww. Someone needs to take a broom to this floor. One dust bunny, two dust bunny, I think I’ll call the next one Fred, Hola Fred, three dust bunny, four…my eyes are quickly becoming blinded by a hot liquid threatening to spill over onto my cheeks.

I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry…

Damn it! The tears are already burning my nose, and streaking my face. WHY? WHY WHY WHY?

Why do I care what Isabel has to say or not say?

Why do I care that I wasn’t invited to whatever they are going to do?

Why am I crying about something I don’t care about, about something that is not that big of a deal?

WHY?!

This is so stupid. I’m so stupid.

I stay this way for a while. A long while. Maria and Alex came to invite me to their movie night, but I stayed in the shadows so they couldn’t see my face and told them I was too tired. They tried to protest, almost sensing something wrong…but I managed to convince them that all I needed was sleep. And they bought it.

And in a way I am too tired. I’m tried of this high and low feeling of hope. I’m tired of pity, I’m tired of being such a hypocrite, I’m tired of the world hating me. I’m tired of my contradicting thoughts. A certain song comes to mind. “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does…”

Too bad I’m not everybody else.

An hour or so later, I finally stand up, brush off my friends and companions, the dust bunnies (bye bye Fred), and stretch out my muscles. I sullenly push through the hateful swinging door and trudge up the stairs, creeping past my aunt and uncle’s room, to end up in mine. I should probably get that much needed rest that I am always talking about, but right now I don’t think I could fall asleep even if I tried. I’d just sit there, staring into the dark, all the things I keep locked away in a handy dandy box in my head would come pouring out, inescapable and…

Enough. I need to get away from this. Away from my thoughts. Away from…my life.

I shove open the window and step out onto the balcony, throwing myself into a grimy lawn chair. Momentarily, I glance down at the cement. Why hello there Fred. What ever are you doing up here?

Sadly, not even Fred the dust bunny can make me forget.

Why is it, that when you try so hard to block everything out, you try so hard to be ice, to be numb, to prevent any sentimentalities from penetrating your walls and layers…Why is it that when you attempt to do so, it never works? The sadness, the hurt, it seeps into you. Pushing through to suffocate you and to choke your breath? Rising in you to abscond out of you in the form of a strangled cry?

“Liz?”

Startled, I jump a bit. Are the voices in my head coming out to speak to me out loud again? I freeze, straining my ears.

“Liz, are you awake?” There’s the voice again. When I realize what the voice said, I snort. What, am I suppose to answer you if I’m asleep? Now THAT makes a whole hell of a lot of sense.

The voice came from the ally behind the Crashdown. That means the person is right below the balcony.

It’s probably some criminal rapist dude. Cool. Bring it on. But wait? How did they know my name?

Hehe, I’m playing. I know exactly who it is, and for some reason, I know that I would recognize that voice anywhere.

“Hey Max,” I stare down at him.

He stares back. I stare, he stares back…

Hmm, this could go on all night. Wait a minute. Why isn’t he out with Isabel and them, doing their annual, Friday night whatever hoopla I’m not worthy enough to attend for fear of damaging their auras with my slimy presence?

“Whatcha doing here Max?” I ask flatly. “Why aren’t you out with the rest of your gang for your annual Friday night movie or whatnot?”

Now tell me this, WHY did I ask that? I really don’t want the answer to that. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Is there a reason I can’t remember that? Note to self, never ask a question that you don’t want the answer to. It’s mundane.

All right, now that I have locked that one away…

Max smiles sardonically at me. “I tend not to go my parents house much. Its not really a welcoming spot right now,”

And yes, that would be her foot going into her mouth! She shoots, she scores!

What?! My uncle watches way too much ESPN. It’s seeping into my brain. And God knows that what seeps into my brain, ends up coming out in my psycho thoughts.

Anyways, um oops? I remember vaguely someone telling me that Max doesn’t live at home, but I always shrugged it off. I mean, he’s a year older than me. Eighteen, I’m pretty sure. I always thought he just moved out early or something. It never occurred to me that there might be a STORY behind that.

“Sorry,” I say.

I see him shrug. “Not your fault.”

Well. There’s a new one.

There’s probably a reason Max came over here. Does he need to talk to Jeff? No, he would have used the entrance. Ok, then what? Nighttime stroll? An undeniable urge to join the “I like to put down Liz” club? What?

After a silence, he asks. “So. Can I come up?”

“I don’t know. Can you?” Oh my God. Oh my FREAKING God. I did NOT just say that. PLEASE. Someone tell me I did NOT just say that. Urg, that’s what my mother used to say in trying to get me to be more polite. Oh please, no. No, no.

Max smirks. “Ok, then MAY I come up?” Shit. His mom was probably the same way. Great, now he is most likely going to associate me with his mom. Not that I care what he associates me as. But if he associates me with his mom, then that’s just wrong. Because you wouldn’t…with your mom…I mean…

Ok, I seriously need to stop thinking. NOW.

Coloring slightly, I answer, “Um, yea. Sure.”

He scales the ladder as quick as if fire was licking his heels. Despite myself, I smirk. “Nice,” I say. Nice. Wonderful, here we go, Ms. Brilliant Adjective strikes again.

He smiles. “Yea I work out,” he jokes, flexing his muscles exaggeratingly.

GAH.

My throat starts working at the sight of that. Whoa there doggie. Slow down Parker! Where the HELL are my thoughts taking me? In un-chartered, OFF LIMITS territory, that’s where.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

I take a shuddering breath and look up at him.

Wow, was THAT a mistake. His eyes are boring into mine, the warm amber darkening somehow, in…in what? My own eyes widen, trying to decipher the expression I see there.

Suddenly Max pulls back. He runs his hands through his hair and takes a deep breath. “I heard what happened with Isabel.” He says.

Well. That’s one way to put a damper on the mood. I turn away.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I say tenaciously. I don’t want to even think about it.

“Ok. But can I say one thing?” He pleads. Damn those puppy dog eyes. Actually, damn the eyes all together. Why am I such a sucker for them?

“I doubt I’d be able to stop you one way or the other,” I say, rolling my eyes. Ha, that’s it. Throw the ole ‘tude in his face. That’ll throw him off the fact that your heart is beating a mile a minute, for no apparent reason.

“I just want to apologize for her. I honestly don’t know what has gotten into her these days. I’d blame it on PMS but she dragged me to the drug store two weeks ago, so that cant be it.”

I snort. This Max is a hilarious one. But then, we’ve already covered that.

His eyes are dancing with mirth at his little joke, and he seems please that I acknowledged it with a snort. Then he sobers, his eyes serious.

Ok enough with the eyes already. I’m getting distracted here. Though with the topic of the conversation, I think I’d rather be distracted.

“I really am sorry. She shouldn’t have done that,” Max is looking at me earnestly, pleading for…for what? I’m starting to get pissed here. Is there a reason everyone apologizes FOR Mistress high and mighty? Hmm? Because I am quite sick of hearing lies. So I just stand there, my form tense, and my eyes glaring. And everything is building, swelling within me. All the things that I never let out, all the pain, the hurt, the memories, the sadness…it’s all bottling up. And right now, it’s threatening to explode.

Max seems to know this. His face is alarmed, and he lightly touches my arm. His touch, sweet and tentative, is hits me straight to the core. Zing

For one moment, I consider telling him everything. About my father, about Pam, about Tess, about Kyle, and about the horrid day at the lake when I really started to become lost…for a minute, I wonder wildly if he could make everything all better…

Ridiculous. Stupid, stupid me. Why do I even bother hoping, latching on, and waiting? Life is shit. Why cant I accept that and move on, and not stick around, wanting something better? Never gonna happen….

Everything is still whirling inside, bubbling up like acid, like puke (because there’s a worthwhile analogy), and finally, I just can’t take it anymore.

“Liz…?” Max asks again.

Just leave, I pray, just leave before I totally loose it.

“Its just not fair,” I whisper, my voice reflecting the tears that are welling up in my eyes again. I sniffle pathetically. “Its just not fair,” My voice cracks a little on ‘fair.’ Wonderful. Because this is just what Max needs, to have to deal with a sobbing, blubbering me right now. I wipe furiously at my wet eyes, but the tears keep coming. Damn it! Not now! I so do not want to cry in front of him.

He moves forward quickly, and all of a sudden, I am enveloped by warmth, by his strong (as he proved just a few minutes ago) arms. To further my shock, I find that I’m allowing him to hug me, and I melt into his embrace for a while. A few more tears escape, and then I stop crying, shocked into submission by the feeling of being wrapped up in someone. How is it that Max Evans can control my tears, but no matter how I try, I cannot? And how long has it been since I last allowed myself to seek comfort in someone else?

And the warmth…it’s seeping into me (and oh God, we know what happens when something seeps into me) and banishing away the cold. It’s…nice.

I swear to God, when this is over, I am heading straight for the library for that damn Thesaurus. Honestly. But it is…

And I come to the shocking, amazing realization, that I feel SAFE . Now, if you want to talk about something that I haven’t felt in a long time, well this would be it. Its right up there with Love, and Happiness.

Weirdness.

“Sorry,” I say. “You probably don’t, I mean, well, you did your duty. You can go home now. I’ll be fine,” I say again in the same weak useless voice that makes me cringe. I instantly back slightly away, but Max tightens his hold on me.

Now tell me this. Is there a reason I can’t leave well enough alone? I used to wonder if I had a permanent kick me sign on my back, but now I wonder if I’m a glutton for punishment.

His eyes widen in shock. “What do you…you really think that I am doing this for the Icicle Princess?” He laughs hollowly. Icicle? Hmm. “I know what’s going on with Isabel. But what I don’t know is how YOU are. That’s why I came over here. Not to mediate between you two. I was…well…”

The absolute LAST thing I expected myself to do was smirk. Obviously it is the last thing Max thought I would do too. He raises an eyebrow at me. “What?” He asks curiously.

My smirk grows wider and I look up at him. “You’re cute when your stuttering,” I say, and then my mouth drops open.

What is WITH my total lack of control tonight!!!? I immediately clap my hand over my mouth (yea, because THAT will have the power to retract what I just said).

Max laughs, and flicks away one of my tears. I ignore the way it sends another jolt through me. “Yea, well there’s something you ought to know…” he leans forward secretively.

“Oh yeah?” I say wittingly. “What?”

“You look cute when you cry. But since I’ve never seen a full out smile from you, I guess I can’t make a proper comparison.”

Well now, who would have guessed that Max was another Mr. Radio? You know, the smooth talker types.

I roll my eyes, trying to convince the damn butterflies that awoke at his comment to shut up. “I smile,” I protest.

That is a blatant bald-faced lie. But then, how would he know?

“No,” Max says sadly, looking contrite almost. “You don’t.”

I suck in my breath. I know what’s coming next.

“Why?”

I look away towards my bedroom window, focusing on that for a while. Then I turn back but stare at his ears, rather than his eyes. His eyes are my undoing, so I rightfully stay away. But then his ears aren’t that much better. They stick out funny like. Hehe. I would laugh if I weren’t about to cry.

“Man those are big suckers, aren’t they,” I try to joke, but my voice doesn’t come out light enough.

Max just gives me a look. The infamous, ‘I-know-what-you-are-doing-and-its-not-going-to-work’ kind of look. But then to my surprise, he drops it. A mixture of relief and wonder flows through me.

I think its time for a subject change, don’t you? Remembering his earlier comment, I am infused with curiosity.

“Max…?” I ask tentatively. He lets go of me slowly, almost...reluctantly?

Now there’s a laugh. MAX reluctant to let go of ME. Most likely he was waiting for the moment where his utter relief wouldn’t seem so obvious.

“Hmm?” He says in reference to my unfinished inquiry.

“Why don’t you live with your parents?” I ask, biting my lip.

He’s not looking at my eyes. Rather, he looking at my…chin? My nose? My…lips??

It’s something along those lines. And he appears not to have heard me. There are very few situations where I do not like to be ignored. This is one of them.

“MAX” I say louder. Anyone there?

“Oh, yea, what?” He says.

Poor guy doesn’t have that good of an attention span now does he? I repeat the question, and a change goes over his features. Anger, and sadness mar his handsome face. (I did NOT just think that) He draws back some more…is that panic I see on his features?

Immediately I’m alarmed. “Max?”

He shakes his head. “I rather not talk about that, if you don’t mind.”

Lovely. He has found an alternative to “if you want.” And why is he getting all defensive?

“Why not?” I ask, pushing it.

He breathes out some frustrated air, and pierces me with those damn eyes. “I just don’t,”

Well. I’ll try one more time. “Max…”

He interrupts. “Liz? Don’t you have some things that you would rather not talk about? Things that are better left where they are?” He doesn’t say it in a malicious way; on the contrary, he’s very nice about it. But nevertheless, it still whacks me in the face. I think of my dad, of his cold indifference, of my mom, her crumbling face, of Tess, of Pam, of their leering faces, and of Kyle, his eyes not meeting mine.

“Yes,” I answer. Too many things.

Max nods, his face sad. “Then you understand.”

I nod back, my eyes looking into his (did I not tell myself NOT to do that?) in wonder.

What an odd feeling. Sharing a moment with someone where no words are needed but you feel this…this…CONNECTION. This understanding with someone, this supporting comprehension…

Unbelievable and totally strange.

But…

Also…

Completely and truly wonderful.

HA! How’s that for a better word for nice?

And then I realize.

This is the first moment where time is actually on my side and cooperating with me. Well what do you know?

For this is the first moment that feels like it is being rightfully stretched out for an eternity.

So I guess time doesn’t really suck all that much after all, huh.

Note: This next part is an Isabel POV. Please read before you chuck your rotten veggies. I’m hoping to give answers to a couple questions, so there’s a reason for my madness.

~*~Part Ten~*~ Isabel

You think you know me. You think you know everything about me.

The usual. The stereotypical labels that get snapped on me everyday. I’m used to it.

But really, you have no idea. For how can YOU know, when I don’t know myself?

I sigh, feeling slimy guilt coat my insides, but I quickly push it down.

Denial’s useful like that.

Push it so far down so there’s nothing left. Nothing but this hollow empty feeling. Ah, back to normal. Normal Isabel Evans, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect life, perfect everything.

Don’t I wish.

Max just left. He was FURIOUS at me for what happened earlier at the Crashdown tonight. Maria told him, while Alex just stood silently, looking at me disapprovingly. I think that’s what really unnerved me. Alex? Giving me THAT kind of look? I’m used to his adoring sweet looks that I can see out of the corner of my eye. But this? This? It was…unsettling. And it made me feel horrible.

But then, what REALLY happened at the Crashdown? And how much did Liz hear?

Another emotion starts to ooze through my system. One that I am all too familiar with, one that has crushed my soul ever since the day I found out what I was.

A freak.

A monster.

A little green around the gills if you will.

ABNORMAL.

It’s fear. And that kind of fear…it’s consuming. It takes your every thought, every action, and turns it into a coping mechanism. A way to survive. A way to protect yourself from the world, the world that would toss you in a glass cage with probes and scalpels and leave you there to rot. But not before they dissected every bit of you, from your skin, body…until nothing’s left and they finally discard away your soul…

It’s that kind of fear that molded this façade. This mask in which I hid behind. To the unwitting world, I am Isabel Evans. Tall, blonde, Miss America, snob, the top of the social elite, and your typical cheerleader type.

Too bad I can’t even do the splits properly without it hurting like a bitch.

But that’s who I am.

Or is it?

The problem is, that I have spent so much time these past years in building and developing this façade, that now? Now I don’t know whose behind it.

Was it worth it? Am I a bigger monster with my mask firmly in place than I was to begin with?

For the price of this façade, in order for it to protect me…it has to hurt people. My walls are icy and sharp to anyone who gets too close.

That is, they were.

Three years ago, the summer before sophomore year, someone stumbled onto our little secret. That certain someone stumbled onto our secret because of Michael’s carelessness and stupidity. But then, I take that back. I could never be so harsh with Michael, knowing what he’s gone through, with an extremely rough childhood.

The Evans found Max and me in the desert that night but Michael (as stubborn as he’s ever been) refused to go up to the car with us, to chance that somehow it might turn out okay, and he hid in the bushes. Later, he was found by social services and ever since has bounced through the foster care system like those balls that bang around through the pin ball machine. If the player doesn’t like the round they received, they just punch in another quarter and off goes the pin ball, slamming into another environment. The last home Michael was in (if you can call it that) was a trailer with a man named Hank.

Man. That doesn’t seem like an adequate term to call that asshole. He was awful. Monstrous He would scream and yell at Michael, calling him derogatory names. Worst of all sometimes Hank would even go as far as to hit him. But Michael would never say anything about it. He was too worried that he would draw unwanted attention to us. And plus, he was Michael. Tenacious, hardheaded Michael.

Well, this particular fine summer day was one where Michael was working his shift after a real bad run in with Hank. He had a lovely little shiner circling his eye, to which he claimed he had simply fallen down the stairs. Max and I didn’t buy it, but what could we do? Anything we said seemed to just piss him off even more.

So Michael came to work extremely angry and aloof – more so than usual. Even Maria DeLuca, who was waitressing that day, could tell something was wrong. And she, being the nosy person she is, kept BUGGING Michael about it. Trying to get him to admit what was going on and for him to get some help.

You can guess how well Michael took that. There was the usual row between them, names were called, and then they stalked to their separate corners. Michael went into the back room to blow off steam, and Maria slammed down people’s orders onto the tables with a huff. But after a while, Maria’s face changed. You could tell that she felt badly for it now, chewing her lip uncertainly. So she went back to apologize…

Only to come running shrieking back into the restaurant screaming her head off about powers, and muttering “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over and over, in her Maria rant-ish type of way. Max and I were instantly alarmed, especially when Michael came out with a predictable angry look on his face…But there was something else there as he stalked out to grab Maria and drag her back into the backroom. That something that made Max and me dash after them, panic growing.

Fear, and guilt were also etched upon his features.

Turns out that Michael’s way of letting out his frustration was victimized on Maria’s locker. He had gone to glue her door shut with his powers.

Trouble is, that Maria had walked in on him in the midst of the hand glowing part. Hence her freak out.

To make a long, long story short, we ended up telling Maria. It was Max’s idea of course, as Michael just wanted to tell her false lies until he was blue in the face (or in our case, green in the face). But Max knew Maria wasn’t stupid, and if we didn’t tell her, if we didn’t tell her what was at stake, she would have gone straight to the Sheriff with what she knew. And it wouldn’t take an idiot to figure out that something was up, since the Sheriff’s been onto Max ever since he put out a grease fire with his powers in front of our mom. When the Sheriff arrived, Max bluffed saying that he used water, and mom, too stunned to say anything else, agreed with story.

Too bad Max forgot that water doesn’t put out a grease fire.

So that’s how Maria and Alex found out.

I know what you’re thinking. Alex? How does he fit into this equation?

Turns out Maria weren’t as solid as a fortress as Max had hoped. While she was still wondering in terror whether we would turn into little green men and eat her, she freaked out and blabbed to Alex. But Alex, bless his heart, saw immediately the danger we would face if our secret were revealed. I mean, he’s a smart adorable little dork who’s seen X-Files. He calmed Maria down and we started our happy little “I know an Alien Club”

Five pops to join. Sign right up.

And by letting them in, my façade began to crumble. Maria and Alex were worming their way into my heart…and I hated it. I was so scared every minute of every day. I didn’t trust them at all. I even went as far as going into Maria’s dreams to scare her a little. It was awful of me, but there you go. I’m not here to make any excuse, any justifications.

But what scared me the most was that I was afraid Maria was going to take Michael away from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like him like THAT or anything. He’s practically my brother. I was used to having him and Max always by my side whenever I needed it, but it was quickly not becoming the case anymore. Maria and Michael discovered that their open hatred of each other was really covering up deep down attraction.

I mean, come on. I could have told you THAT.

What also scared me was the way Alex saw right through the carefully maintained façade, right down to the core. It was like I was naked or something (in a non sexual way, though I’m not sure Alex would have minded too much). It was unsettling. So I pushed him away too. I couldn’t afford to be exposed like that. I couldn’t let anyone see the real me, to get that close. Because who knows when we’re going to have to go back home? I can’t afford attachments like that.

But over time…long, long time, might I add…I grew used to the idea of having…FRIENDS. Not the giggly superficial girls I usually hung out with at school to keep up my appearance of normalcy…but people with whom I could talk to, about my alien-ness. About stupid stuff that went on at school. People to laugh with. A family of sorts, a family of friends. I could count on Maria and Alex, just like I could count on Max and Michael.

It was strange, for sure. But now, I know I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Unfortunately, the question of it changing or not didn’t rest in my hands. No. It rests in the unwitting hands of Liz Parker.

When she first came to Roswell, I could feel everything shifting. Everything changing. The trembling house of cards that was my life came tumbling down. And for the first time in three years, I felt that inexplicable fear again. The façade that had been softening blew up again with a vengeance.

I lashed out at her poorly done hair, catty like and superficial. I was back to being Icy Isabel again.

Max, Maria, Alex, even Michael were appalled at my behavior. Maria even yelled at me, and demanded that I apologize to her. So I did. With as much unfeeling as I could muster.

Liz was troubled, for lack of better terms. You could tell by the way she looked at the floor when spoken to. Part of me felt compassion and a likeness to her. I probably could relate to her if I tried.

But I didn’t.

I could see it happening. The way Maria and Alex were taking to her, leaving me standing back in a corner, watching.

But I could have handled it. I could have shared my two best friends.

But Max?

Max, the one who has always taken care of me, the one who held my hand that night in the desert to keep from getting lost, my brother, the one I could NEVER do without?

I was already loosing him when dad went on this maniac search for “what Max is hiding.” Dad became obsessed, ever since Sheriff told him about the grease fire incident. It was awful, the way they would fight, so bad, eventually Max left to go live with newly emancipated Michael. But dad never suspected me, perfect little me with her façade up and running. Without Max in the house, I was already having part of our close relationship taken away. And Liz Parker was going to further tug him out of my grasp, leaving me alone.

So earlier today, when Maria and Alex suggested we invite Liz to our annual movie night at my house, I freaked. I babbled all this stuff about not trusting her, how she was weird, how she might find out our secret and expose us and blah, blah, blah.

The thing is, I didn’t even know what I was saying. It just all…came out.

I didn’t mean most of it. And I certainly didn’t mean for her to overhear it. And I didn’t mean for Maria and Alex to get angry with me, to walk out and leave me sitting alone on this coach with the unopened movies at my side, and the un-popped bag of popcorn still sitting in the microwave. And I didn’t mean to infuriate Max, who was informed of this situation when he ran into Maria on his way home.

Max stalked immediately here and yelled at me. I don’t really remember what he said, but something in me realized something. If I kept up this stupid façade, I was going to loose more than just myself. It wouldn’t matter what Liz would do. I would loose everyone anyway.

It would be easy to blame it all on Liz. To angrily shout that none of this would be happening if it weren’t for her.

But I’m tired of taking the easy way out. And I’m tired of the facades.

So I just sit here on the couch, and dwelling upon the sound of Max’s voice, irate and accusing, at the sight of Maria walking away and most of all upon Alex’s disappointed face, the face that makes my heart clench, even now.

A thought strikes me suddenly. This is the same way I felt when we first let Maria in. My fear wasn’t as strong as it is now, but it reminiscent all the same.

It’s funny really. Not funny, haha, laugh until you choke kind of way, but in the way where it stuns you for a minute and you can’t move.

I heave another loud sigh, and bury my face into my hands, a turmoil raging within me, when the phone rings.

I reach over and glance at the caller id.

Shit.

It’s Grant. My most recent boyfriend.

I REALLY don’t want to talk to him right now. He’s just another example of the façade I put up. He likes to go out with beautiful, petty Icy Isabel Evans. He doesn’t know the real me. I’ve never let him see, and he’s never asked.

But he makes me feel…NORMAL. Like a regular girl. And for so long, that’s all I wanted….

Deciding I’ll call him back when I’m in a better mood, I flop back on the couch and let the machine get it.

So judge me if you must. God knows I’ve done my share of it unfairly.

Maybe its time I threw away the façade once and for all and stopped hiding in plain sight. Maybe its time I try and fix things before it’s all too far out of my control. Maybe its time I got to know the real Liz Parker, the one who makes Alex and Maria laugh, and the one that makes Max spend an extra hour in the bathroom cleaning his face with his powers (so did not need to see that by the way…). Maybe, just maybe, its time I stop pretending and get to know MYSELF.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Oct-2002 8:39:01 PM ]
posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:41:28 PM
I do not own the song "Shining Light" by Ash, and sadly, neither does Michael. ;)

~*~Part Eleven~*~ When I’m done here on my knees

Have you ever looked up at the stars?

I mean REALLY looked at them. Not just a general passing by, ‘oh yes, that’s nice’ and then moving on, but really studying them. Scrutinizing their every aspect, and wondering at the secrets in which they hold. Watching them twinkle down mysteriously at you, almost as if they hold something, almost if they know something that you don’t.

It’s weird.

I’m still standing on this balcony, leaning against the railing for support, and staring relentlessly up at the sky.

Do you want to know why?

Max just left. Actually he left quite a while ago. I ignore the little pang I feel at the thought of him leaving, and focus on the really weird thing. When he had hugged me, it was like…

It was like…it was like I saw stars. And not just because I was looking upwards either. I had my eyes CLOSED thank you very much. Was it the old cliché that I often hear, about sparks shooting, and stars flying at contact with a certain someone? Or was it something else?

I shake myself. I’m probably just sleep deprived. I DO feel tired. Crying does that to you.

A wave of irritation washes over me. I’m still pissed at myself for letting Isabel get to me. Still angry that I cared so much about such a trivial thing, and wondering why.

All I know is that I am sick of living like this. Always cowering in my shell, in my pathetic self. Not for the first time, I wish I were different. I wish I could just tell off whoever pissed me off and not worry about what they would do to me. I wish I didn’t have to be so afraid all the time.

And you know who made me realize this?

Isabel.

Wait, wait. I know what you’re saying.

“WHAT!?”

And no, before you ask, I didn’t fall of the bed and hit my head, nor did I get into Uncle J’s liquor cabinet (its amazing the things you find behind locked doors.)

But it’s true. For some cock-brained reason the whole non-thing with Isabel last night made me realize this (several angry tears later, and after some serious contemplation)

I scowl as memories of earlier come back, and I wonder why I was so sensitive.

I sigh, and then do what I always do.

Blame it on PMS. Which, in my humble opinion, is the only perk of going through the ‘wonders of womanhood.’ Stress the word ONLY. I mean, seriously. What God had against Eve, I’ll never know.

But whatever. I’m tired of thinking tonight. This past evening as been a tumult of emotion for me, culminating in utter confusion and fascination with Max’s visit.

Max.

I smile despite myself. Suddenly I’m eager to get to sleep, for the first time in my life. Perhaps I will dream of happy things this time. Perhaps…

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

“Order up!” Alex barks out in an irritated tone.

What the hell? Cheerful lil Alex? Mr. Grin Grin? He’s pissed off today?

Well slap the horse and call me silly. (har har. I’ve so got these small town funnies down.)

I walk over to the grill and pick up the plate. Giving Alex a “look” I ask, “Alex? Are you ok?”

He sighs exasperatingly. “I’m working a sweltering grill when its ninety-nine degrees outside Liz. How the heck do you think I feel? Peachy keen?”

Ok, first of all, its ninety-EIGHT out, and second, what are we, back in the eighties? Peachy keen?

Well it’s Alex. So I guess it’s justified.

Hmm, I would believe his sarcasm if it weren’t for the telltale looks he keeps shooting behind me. Turning around to see what’s got Alex’s boxers in a bunch, I see what’s REALLY wrong.

Isabel’s playing kissy face with some guy. My bewilderment grows. Wait a minute. I thought she and Alex were…

“God, could they BE anymore blatant?” Alex grumbles to himself.

Maria stalks up. I can see she’s still fuming over Michael, and I know that the fact that he just walked in with Max wont help her mood any.

Duck I say, and take cover.

Max smiles slightly at me, and I give a small wave back. Oh, the joys of being pleasant. What? I know how to be pleasant. Um, or least I think I do…

Anyways.

Maria looks from my confused face to Alex’s gloomy one. Then she glances over and sees Isabel and that guy. She snorts and shakes her head, giving Alex a sympathetic look.

Can I say huh?

I missed something. But then what else is new?

Obviously just seeing my confounded look isn’t enough for Maria and Alex. Guess I should voice it. “Hey. What’s going on? Who is that guy?”

‘That guy’ is referring to the twenty some looking dude with a crew cut and cheap cologne.

Ok, ok. So I’m not exactly close enough to smell the guy (and if I were, I don’t think I would want to) but he just seems like that type.

Did the air just get nasty in here, or is it just me? Rraw, draw back in your claws kitty. Normally I try and steer clear of what people always do to me (I.e. judge unfairly) but give me a break here. For Alex’s hurt face, I think I can make an exception for pretty boy over there.

Maria snorts again. I’m wondering if I should tell her that that could severely damage her nostrils. But I don’t. You know how I feel about deliberately provoking Maria’s evil eye. You just don’t DO that. It’s unhealthy. A tip I should probably pass on to Michael, not that he would listen. But hey. You couldn’t say then, that I didn’t warn him.

“That’s Grant Sorenson. Isabel’s boyfriend du jour.” Maria flips her blonde curls over her shoulder in disgust. I see Grant buddy ole pal isn’t exactly her favorite person.

I have brilliant deductive skills, don’t you agree? Sheesh.

“Boyfriend?” I say. Ok, so that would sort of make sense as to why she’s smiling all flirty like at him and kissing him on the cheek before he goes.

Sort of.

“What do you mean ‘du jour’?” Alex muttered darkly. “He’s been the longest relationship she’s had for the past three years.”

Aww, poor Alex. You can so tell that he wishes HE were ze boyfriend du jour. From the way he looks at her, if not from the way he KNOWS the status of her past relationships. It’s sweet. And oh, so Alex.

Maria, Alex and I just stand there, Maria glaring at them, Alex moping and looking anywhere but them, and me. Just staring. And thinking.

I do that a lot.

Ok, ok. Fine. I happen to be glancing at Max and Michael’s table out of the corner of my eye occasionally, but it’s not the reason you think.

Well not entirely.

See, Max and Michael are conversing in low tones to themselves, and looking up to make sure Maria’s not watching.

She’s not watching, but the way she keeps pursing her lips leaves me to believe that she senses Michael’s presence and is not at all happy by it. I’m still up for the idea of smacking him for hurting her. You hold, I punch. Heh, heh.

Yea, so that was a rip off Mulan. So what. I have an inner child if you must know. Disney rocks my world. And not because of the humor. It’s nice to watch something that is GUARENTEED to turn out with a happy ending. Yay. Go team go.

I have I mentioned that I am random?

Well, as long as we got that straight.

So yea. Michael and Max are acting all suspicious like. Isabel’s kissing Grant goodbye (much to the relief and revulsion to Alex), and Maria’s still glaring. Alex has lost his grinning for like, the first time EVER since I’ve met the guy.

As long as we got that all figured out. Everyone’s accounted for. Wonderful.

Oh yea. Except for me. Me? I’m just standing here, waiting to see what happens next.

Isabel walks over, her face serious. Why is she looking at me? I turn to the side to see if maybe she’s looking at Alex, or maybe Maria, but no. She’s got her eyes dead center on me.

What the hell did I do now?

For a split second I contemplate turning around and bolting. Looking down at the plate in my hand I see a way out.

Her eyes are unreadable. And surprisingly, they lost the sneering coldness that I grew accustomed to whenever she let her gaze befall upon me.

“Hey Liz…”

“I got to go deliver this order. It’s almost cold. And you don’t want to serve cold food. Because then customers get upset, and when they get upset they usually leave a sucky tip, and sometimes don’t come back all together. Which is fine, because they left a sucky tip. So, I’m just going to…” Shut up brain! Shut up, shut up, shut up!

Ok. Now that I managed to stop rambling like an idiot.

Just move around her and go to the table. Put on your fake ‘Hi! I’m going to be your waitress today, and I’m so happy to do so,’ smile and busy yourself with orders so you don’t have to deal with…how’d Max put it? Princess icicle.

Isabel touches my arm as I go past her and I flinch. Immediately her face is impassive again, guarded. Despite myself, I feel a wavering of remorse.

Why? Why do I feel sorry that I made her walls come back up? She’s the reason MY walls come back tumbling down.

But then again, she’s not. I’m the reason I got upset. Because what did she do anyways? Fine, so she talked about me behind my back. So what. Its not like I’m not used to it. Why did I get all sensitive this time?

Wait a minute. I already have a solution to this question.

It’s PMS, remember?

Okay then. As long as that’s cleared up.

“Hey Liz,” Isabel starts again. “Can I talk you? You know, when you get done with um, delivering your non-cold food.”

Hmm, so Mistress Icy is attempting humor. First Alex being pissed for once and now this. I swear, it’s like a bad episode of the X-Files. Not that I watch that show. Okay, so that was a bad comparison. How about, it’s like entering the twilight zone. There we go.

While I’m trying to make a worthwhile analogy in my head, Isabel’s still waiting for something resembling a response. Oh right!

Ah yes. The drawbacks of living inside your mind. Especially when yours is as messed up as mine. But anyways. I have something resembling a conversation going on here. Yes, well lets do get back to that.

“Umm, sure,” I say wittily. Good God, I’m brilliant. And then I walk away, trying to take on as many tables as I can so I have more excuses as to why I cant talk right now.

But surely, you all remember Mr. Time. And since you are all smart lil cookies, and not dim or anything, you all remember what time likes to do.

Speed up at the most inopportune moments.

Except, it seems, in the presence of one Mr. Evans. Shooting a quick looksie at him I am shocked beyond belief to see him staring back, and SMIRKING as if to say “I know what you’re doing…har har har….” It’s unnerving, and surprisingly ok. But then, you knew that.

Dropping my gaze quickly, I sigh and realize that if I want to keep busy, I’m going to have to start sweeping the floor or something. My shifts almost done, and my tables are starting to clear out, the bastards. STAY!

Dragging my feet to meet the inevitable, I notice how most of the restaurant is empty. Strange. My gaze once again falls upon Max and Michael. Except Michael isn’t there anymore. Nope, its just Max, sitting there, twiddling his thumbs in an over-exaggerated innocuous manner.

I narrow my eyes. Nuh uh. Don’t buy it mister.

So what do I do? Go to plop down next to the guy of course. And NO I am not stalling in going to talk to Isabel. I’m not. Honestly.

Unfortunately, she’s on to me (On to me. Like we’re in a friggin spy thriller or something. Lord, I have too much free time) and she intercepts me before I get there. I would think that she was going to give me a rehearsed little apology again, except Maria’s shooting us a quizzical look as she walks up to us to see what’s going on. So I guess Maria has nothing to do with this. Either that, or she’s a really good actress.

Um, yea, she has nothing to do with this.

Biting my lip, I look at the side of her face. Not too interested in the eyes still. And I wait. Maria arrives and stops next to Isabel. And I wait.

Still waiting.

Waiting some more.

M’kay, this is getting old and senile.

I’m about to say something so we can just cut the crap when she shifts uncertainly.

Doth my eyes deceive me? Isabel Evans UNSURE of something? UNSURE of talking to me?? Well, do get on with the talking. I must say that she has me quite intrigued as of now.

God, I am being an asshole right now. But hey, at least I’m willing to admit it.

“So, its hot out today, isn’t it.” Maria says.

No shit Sherlock. Give the girl a prize. A nice shiny big…umm…

I nod my head slowly giving off my “And…?” look. It’s quite well known. You might have heard of it. No, what am I saying. You wouldn’t have heard of a look. You might have SEEN it. There we go. Nice and sane.

Maria smiles lightly. “So you should come over to Isabel’s with me and Alex. Michael would come, but he has yet to redeem himself. If he ever does.” She rolls her eyes and then gives me a knowing look.

Um, Hi? Earth to Maria? ISABEL DOES NOT WANT ME TO GO. Hell, I’m not sure if I want to go.

Isabel sighs. She tosses her slightly curled blonde mane over her shoulder and for the briefest of moments; I wonder how the hell she managed that in this humidity.

“Yea,” She agrees in a tight voice. “That is, if you want to.”

She’s staring at me with a bored expression, but if she’s so indifferent to what I say, then why does the air reek of tension?

I’m still waiting for her ulterior motive, or for Maria to tell her she wasn’t sincere enough, or something. I’m waiting for something to tell me that I heard wrong.

But it doesn’t come.

Whoa.

Gotta think for a minute. Let’s go the logical route, shall we?

A. There is no way in hell I am letting them see me in a bathing suit. Especially if Max goes.

B. I don’t swim. I just don’t. And there’s a reason.

And of course…C. I want whatever of the massive doses of uppers she’s on. Why else would she invite me WILLINGLY?

So here I am, standing like a moron, biting my lip. And silent. We can’t forget silent.

And then it hits me. IF YOU WANT. Oh my holy God, its genetic. So that means if Max and I ever had children, then they would…

Wha-? Where did THAT come from? My eyes bulge slightly and Isabel takes it the wrong way.

“Look if you don’t want to come, then…” She’s getting defensive again, her typical icy self. But wait. Was that vulnerability I saw flash in her eyes there? Wow. Weirdness. Especially since it isn’t the first time.

“No, no,” I find myself saying. Then I smile weakly at her. “I’ll go.”

Now. Tell me who took my brain? It’s missing again. Sniffle. I miss it. These bouts of insanity, however fun they might be, grow tiring.

What am I saying? I don’t suffer from insanity. No, no. I enjoy every God-given moment of it. Whee.

But do you want to know what’s even more freaky? Isabel smiled BACK. Granted, it was a thin guarded smile, much like my own, but hey. I’ll take what I can get.

And to tell the truth? I still kind of want to see what will happen next.

I look as Isabel walks away, still biting my lip, still thinking. Hmm. Wait, wasn’t I going somewhere?

Oh yes. Max. Mr. Inconspicuous as of now, or so I’m betting he would like to think. The carefree twiddling of thumbs? Yea, that’s not going to work. I continue on my merry way, faltering only when he gives me this brilliant smile. Um, wow. And down goes the stomach.

Time to get a hold of myself here. So he smiled at you. So what. That’s no reason to get all jelly-oid.

Jelly-oid?

Who knows where these thoughts come from. They just appear. Leaving me to deal with them. Pop! Up comes another one. Ignore it or embrace it I say.

“Hey,” he says as I plop down across from him.

“Hey,” I say in return.

Well that was predictable.

Ok. Time to bust his ass.

“So.”

“So.”

Ok, this is getting ridiculous. Not to mention redundant.

Suddenly, his face changes into one of concern. “What was that with Isabel just now? Do I have to kick some sisterly ass?” His tone is light, but his eye, those damn eyes that are boring into mine again, they are completely serious. I have to smile.

“As much fun as that sounds, she and Maria just invited me over to her house tonight with Alex and Michael.”

“Oh,” Max answers. “Hmm, maybe I’ll stop by later.” He looks at me.

I swallow. Hoo boy.

“Michael’s going?” Max asks. Something’s odd about his voice. It’s like…he’s baiting me or something. Like he knows something I don’t. Hmm.

“That is if Maria lets him out of the doghouse by then,” I smirk.

Max gets that mysterious innocent look again. “Oh, that might happen sooner than you think.” He looks like he’s suppressing a snicker.

Ok. What is with me, and not getting things today? I mean, seriously.

I cock an eyebrow at him. “What is THAT supposed to mean?”

Max takes a long slip out of his Alien Smoothie thingy, apparently stalling. “You’ll see,” he says after a while.

You’ll see. Grr. No, obviously I WONT see, or else I wouldn’t be asking you!

I just glare at him for a bit, trying to read his features.

No dice. He still has on that irritating innocent little boy face that is too cute for its own good.

For a second, I’m tempted to kick him under the table, before I remember that violence is not the way to go. Ah, hell. Screw morale and all its buddies. What the heck do they know?

I’m about to protest and possibly beg if it comes to that (lets hope it doesn’t) when I hear music coming from the back room.

Music? Is Jeff blasting his oldies again? Oh God, save us all. There’s only so much of the Doobie Brothers that I can take. But no. Actually it sounds like…

Roman Candles that burn in the night, yea you are shining light…

You must be JOKING me.

Out pops Michael through the swinging doors with a karaoke microphone gripped in his hands. And he’s SINGING. SINGING

MWAHAHAHA!

I’m torn between laughing and smirking maniacally or staring in horror.

Why horror you ask?

It’s Michael’s voice. Oh my god, the look on Maria’s face is so fuckin priceless. I catch Alex’s eye and we both snigger. I know exactly what’s going through Alex’s mind. We are so going to torture Michael about this for years to come Isabel’s watching the exchange in amusement, yet pursing her lips in disbelief.

Biting my lip to keep the laughter from escaping, I watch on. As does what’s left of our customers. I distinctly hear some thirty-year-old women smack her husband and complain, “How come YOU’VE never serenaded me in public before?”

Needless to say, her husband felt that now would be a good time for the check.

Too bad the staff is a bit indisposed right now.

So far Michael’s been flushing slightly and mumbling the lyrics, while Maria smiles sappily at him, but this next line is one he belts out loudly.

Keep your day job Mikey. You’ll uh, definitely need it.

You have always been a THORN in the side, but to me you’re shining light!

He, honest to God, BELTED that line out. About the only table left jumped in shock at the sound of it. And while he vociferously uh, sang (if you would like to call it that) Michael pointedly looked at Maria.

“What are you trying to say!?” Maria shouts over the music and Michael’s monotone-ish voice. She’s trying to sound all indignant and offended, but the corners of her lips keep twitching.

Once the song ends, Maria smiles beatifically at him and says softly, “Ok. I guess I forgive you now.” And then she kisses him. And the table that’s still gaping? Yea, they burst into applause. Well, everyone except the husband, who, tongue in cheek, looks like he would like to strangle Michael for putting such an idea in his wife’s head. Yes, well, have a nice day. Leave a big ole tip. Ta ta.

Sighing in content in the fact that Maria and Michael are happy go lucky in love now, and I wont have to walk in on any more fighting or see Maria sad (who wants to bet how long that’s going to last? Five bucks for this time tomorrow? K, you’re on. And don’t give me that look. Harmless bet. How else are you supposed to make/lose your money? It’s like that circle of life thingy. Again with the Disney) I turn and glance at Max. He looks smug.

Little light bulb goes “DING!”

“Okay. Out with it. What did you do?” I say, laughter evident in my voice.

Max raises his eyes to the ceiling, feigning ignorance. “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

“Sure you don’t Maxie. And I’m the Queen Mother incarnated. We could go all day sorting through our pathological lying tendencies but frankly I have no patience for that. So kindly cut the crap and tell me,”

Max just looks at me for a minute, shocked beyond belief I’m sure. I’m sure, because hell, I’M shocked beyond belief that I actually said that out loud. Calm, control, contain. Remember that? Your daily motto? No? Well OBVIOUSLY not.

Umm…

And then, to my utter surprise, Max laughs. And it’s a nice laugh. Not the “Oh my God, how dorky are you, kind of laugh, or the mean condescending laugh. But in a friendly way, in a “HA! I’m dying of laughter, you are so brilliantly hilarious’ kind of way.

And to tell the truth? I’m enthralled by it. My breath catches in my throat and I just stare at him, AMAZED for some reason, and well, PLEASED that I caused that.

Go Parker go. (Damn that uncle of mine and his fanatic ESPN viewing obsession) Rah rah rah.

He stops laughing when he notices my stare, and his features become unreadable. Flushing at being caught gaping like that I clear my throat. “So, um, are you going to tell me?”

He smiles softly at me.

Softly. It’s weird. It’s not overly cocky, like guys usually give. Its not a grin grin, like good ole Alex over there, but its…

I thought we already covered this. It’s NICE; it’s MAX, its blah blah blah. Damn my wandering thoughts. Calm, Control, Contain. Da de da de da.

Deep breath and pay attention. There we go.

Is there a reason I must continue to have these little talks with myself?

“Yea, I’ll tell you,” Max says, laughter still reflected in his voice. Leaning closer to me, he starts. Why is my heart speeding up? Is his Max smell or whatever making me have like an allergic reaction or something?

Or something is right. Ok, fine. So he smells…decent. Lots of things smell decent. Like flowers or laundry detergent. But that’s only if you get the brand name stuff. All the rest just…Argh! Get over and listen to whatever the hell he’s saying!

“…tried everything. From flowers, to notes, to phone calls. But she wouldn’t have any of it, saying he had gone too far this time.”

What? Who?

“So I told Michael…”

Ohh. Michael and Maria’s fight. But wait…

“Hold up a minute. What did Michael do in the first place? Maria kept changing the subject whenever I brought it up.”

Max snorts, muttering something like ‘typical’ and tells me. Turns out it was Michael and Maria’s anniversary couple days ago, and instead of remembering or anything, Michael was out with this girl, Courtney or whatever. He claimed nothing was going on but I knew Maria. Hoo boy, did I.

So. Go on.

“So anyways,” Max continues, “Michael came to me of all people for help. No idea why. So I suggested he, you know…”

Aww. That’s sweet. Lookie at his ears turn pink. I wonder if I can get them to turn red…?

“Aww, that’s so cute Max. I bet you’re a real lady-killer. Did you suggest the song too?” I COO. Coo. What the hell? Never have I heard that tone of voice come out of my mouth.

But it apparently works. Max flushes deeper but tries to play it off. “Nah, that’s a song Michael likes to listen to when Maria’s bugging him. The line about being ‘a thorn in the side’ it, uh, it cracks him up.” He clears his throat and shifts.

Have I mentioned how cute he is when he’s stuttering?

Cute. Since when do I use the word cute? Except of course, when describing a lovely lil stuffed animal or something of the sort resembling Disney. Not real live animals of course. Vicious little varmints. It’s in my opinion that dogs and such should be shot. Either that or run over. Shreech

Yes I’m morbid at times. But excuse you, that’s a fact that’s been covered, over and done with. Like English class. They bring up the same shit over and over again, making sure that it broke through that obtuse barrier known as your skull.

And that, my friends, is why I am a science person. Of course, if you don’t get it the first time, you’re pretty much screwed since the same stuff tends to pop up again later.

Why the hell am I babbling about school subjects?

WANTED: Lost brain.

REWARD: Um, whatever’s in my pocket? No, actually, surprise! I do have a bit of cash. Good ole tips. I told you this whole waitressing thing had perks.

ANYWAYS.

“Riiiiiiight,” I say to Max in a teasing skeptical tone. And then I nudge my foot with his and then stand up to go.

GASP! What is with the boldness today? But again, I don’t know, and rarely ever do. Just a going with the flow I say.

Oh wait. Hehe. I’m forgetting something. MY brilliant reply. MY claim to fame and all that hoopla. Time to mess with his head. Do you want to know what I said? You want to know what I said. Hell, you already know what I said. So.

I turn around and smirk after a dramatic pause. “See you later.”

His face is struggling against the massive grin that is threatening to spill over. Still smirking, I guess its time for me to get off this shift.

Now all I have to do is survive the afternoon at Isabel’s.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Oct-2002 11:25:02 AM ]
posted on 23-Oct-2002 8:42:36 PM
~*~Part Twelve A~*~ Strip Away the Ugliness that Surrounds Me

“No.”

“Come on Liz, please?!”

“I said NO.”

“Just try it on…”

“The no is still standing.”

“Funny, I thought it was sitting down actually.”

I roll my eyes and stay silent.

“Ok, yea, that was lame, but come ON! You know you want to…”

Oh, yes, you got me. I really DO want to prance around like some Kate Moss wannabe idiot. Oh, and um, the peer pressure thing? Not going to work. Sorry.

“Pu-leeeeeease??!”

Or maybe I’m not so sorry. Argh! What part of no doesn’t the girl get?

“Maria! No, no, and NO!”

Is it the N? Is it the O?

She gives off a frustrated sigh. “Fine! I’ll just put it away then.” She shoves the revealing bathing suit top back into her bag.

Ah, progress. It’s a beautiful thing.

Not for the first time, I’m wondering what I’m doing here. See, I’m over at Maria’s house before she drags me over to Isabel’s. Its nice and everything (her home I mean). Spacey and whatnot. I’d comment on the décor except that thing’s never really appealed to me. And plus, I frankly don’t care.

Frankly. Weird. Where did that word come from? Some guy with an identity crisis? ‘“I don’t mean to be frank but…” Or maybe the guy’s name was frank. And yes, I say guy. Only the male species would come up with such a concept.

What’s the female version of chauvinism?


Maria’s still grumbling to herself, cramming in sunscreen and sunglasses and other knickknacks (knickknacks…sheesh. Damn the maker of the English language) at her colorful bag and scowling at it.

Why you ask?

Let’s just say the bathing suit top? The one that would fit a five year old?

Maria wanted to put it on ME. Yes, ME.

Like I’ve said before: Psycho.

She jerks her head up and scrutinizes me with her olive glare. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t just…”

“No.”

“…try it on, I mean….”

Sigh. “NO!”

“…would look really…”

I can’t take this anymore. I groan loudly and smash my face into Maria’s fuzzy pillow. “NO! A hundred times no!”

I hear her sigh in exasperation but thankfully she remains otherwise silent.

Well, for now at least.

“O-kaaaaay, but I’m just going to bring it in case you change your mind.”

Again with the eye rolling. “Whatever.” As long as you leave me alone about it. Though like I told her, I am NOT going in the water, and I am NOT putting on that sorry excuse for clothing. I have my reasons. And your evil glamour ways are not going to sway me.

For a second I think I see a devious Maria style grin cross her face, but just as I spin around to take a closer look at it, it’s gone. Hmm. Probably imagined it, seeing how’s that particular expression is common as far as Maria’s concerned. She hoists the bag on her shoulder and smiles brightly at me. “Ready to go?”

As I’ll ever be.

~*~

Slamming the door to the Jetta shut, I apprehensively look up at the house.

Its enormous, yet cheery looking. Like people have lived here all their lives. As I peruse it, I contemplate its history, and the fact that Max can’t bare to take a step in here if not needed to. Curiosity bubbles within me but I push the inquisitive side of me away and move towards the door. I’m already on the porch before I realize Maria’s not behind me. Whipping my head around I glance back at the car.

Maria’s rummaging around in the backseat, trying to cram everything that fell out during the drive back into her bag. I shake my head at her head in amusement. “Do you need some help?”

Her blonde mane jerks up in surprise at my abrupt shouting and contacts with the ceiling of the car. “SHIT!” She rubs her head and glowers at the Jetta, mumbling about stupid vehicles and mother’s. Suddenly remembering that I spoke to her she turns distractedly to me. “No thanks Liz! Just ring the door bell to let them know you’re here and walk on into Izzy’s room to dump your stuff.”

Uhhh…

Right, because that would be ok and everything, me barging into someone’s home. Especially Isabel’s home. I gulp.

“Are you sure Maria? Because I can wait for you or even…”

Yes, yes. I’m stalling. Now if Maria would just take the hint…

“No, that’s ok, just knock or something.”

Damn. You just had to be oblivious to the inner workings of my mind, didn’t you? Sigh. Well the girl’s not entirely that perspective. No one is. I’ve got to start making my plans and attempts at thwarting the inevitable clearer to the unknowing public.

Um, scratch that. I’ve got to start making them clear to the people of whom I want HELP from in thwarting the inevitable. There we go.

Once again I would be stalling. Shift my bag, because you know, I wouldn’t want to end up in the same predicament as frazzled Maria over there.

No, actually, yes I would. Anything to give me a little more time.

Ah, time. Dear old friend. Has forsaken me once again. Well, that’s life. Full of disappointments. And let downs. Even by figurative metaphors about Time.

Sighing when it becomes apparent that I can’t very well procrastinate much longer, I punch the doorbell, steeling myself for what is about to come.

A few minutes later Isabel pulls the door open. She has one of those diet soda thingys in her hand. Me, being the brilliant person I am, I just stand there and look at her.

She looks back.

Taking a long swig and glancing behind me at Maria, she beckons with her hand. “Come on in.”

Like it’s no big deal. Like we’re FRIENDS or something.

I don’t know what to think. On one hand (I’ve always loved this analogy. Picturing this massive idea of two arms, different decisions lying upon the palms) I still want to see what will happen next, where Isabel’s newfound kindness (ok, that’s stretching it. Where her newfound…tolerance…I’m working on that thesaurus) will go. But on the other hand…

On the other hand, I don’t really want to set myself up for more humiliation and pain.

But…

I’m not really going to get anything done sitting like a loon on her front porch.

Inhaling deeply I step inside.

Maria follows shortly and she fills up our silence with chattering about how lucky Michael was going to get for that serenade. I smirk and to my utter disbelief, Isabel catches my eye and smirks as well.

We get into Isabel’s room, and I’m a bit surprised. It’s…artsy, with geometrical shapes and bold colors. I thought the Princess would live in fluffy pinks and purples.

But then again, you learn some new, random fact everyday.

Maria plops down on the bed while Isabel takes the desk chair, so I tentatively follow Maria and sit cautiously on the bed. Isabel and Maria start to gossip about so and so, and I basically tune them out. I’ve never been into that sort of thing that seems to bond your typical teenage girls. I spend this time to scan Isabel’s room. Even if she’s not my favorite person, something intrigues me about her, and I wonder what really goes on beneath the crown of blonde curls.

Hanging on her pegboard are the usual certificates and awards, except, it looks like Miss Evans has enough for the entire population of New Mexico (not that that's saying anything).

Ok. So she’s a volunteer fanatic. So what.

Odd. I wouldn’t have pegged her as the caring, giving type.

Again with the random facts. And yes, to all those wondering, I made a little pun there with the pegging/peg board. Har de har har har.

Suddenly I’m aware that they are both staring at me. I swallow. Uh oh. I turn my head to meet theirs and what I see makes me apprehensive. Veeeeerrrrrry apprehensive.

Maria coughs and I see her hide a devilish smile. Her patented “mwahaha I’m gonna get you” smile. Shitters on a brick.

Isabel tilts her blonde mane at me and stares. Have I mentioned how uncomfortable it is to have people boring into you like that? Where they seem to pierce your soul and everything that's there inside you? I shift on the bed.

Now see, if I were smart, I would get up and make an excuse, like “I’m about to piss my pants, so please kindly move,” or something and bolt, but I’m not. Smart that is. S-M-R-T…I am smart.

Not. But then you know this. And since you’re all oh so intelligent, you know I just sit there like a log (except logs don’t really sit per say, they’re just sort of THERE, dead and…)

Please make them leave. (That sixth sense kid aint got nuthin on me) The voices…make them stop. They are perturbing.

But wait, wouldn’t that mean, I’m perturbing?

Lets not go there.

While I’m having this self-analyzing moment, Isabel says something to me. But I’m sure you could guess I didn’t quite catch it.

“What?”

Isabel and Maria share a look and I feel dread bite the pits of my stomach. This is not good. Deep breath, and steel yourself Liz.

Isabel pierces me with her blue eyes again and opens her mouth. Where there was once hesitation, there is now only pure icy resolve, princess style. Here we go.

“I really think you should exfoliate.”

…?

“And if you’d like, I have some hair dye in my closet that I think would look awesome on you.”

Huh?

Somehow this wasn’t exactly what I was expecting…

“What?” I say again.

This is your brain. This is your brain as a broken record. Over and over and over. Any questions?

“Please Liz! It will be so much fun. Like chick night,” Maria pleads.

Chick night? Exfoliate? WHAT?

Isabel’s walking over to her closet in that sure fire way of hers. She pulls out a box of hair dye. On the cover is a picture of a nauseatingly happy perky girl whose smiling broadly as if to say “I chose this brand and you should too!” Her hair is illuminated in a way that you can tell they just put studio lights on it.

But…

Its sort of decent looking. It looks black until you look closer and it’s actually a deep chocolate. It looks somewhat like my old color, only more deeper in a way…PRETTY. Something I never was. Never will be despite what Isabel and Maria think.

“So what do you say Liz?” Isabel says to me, her blue eyes unreadable. She shakes the peppy model “look at me, look at me” box in my direction.

Uhh….

“Uhh…”

Maria flounces up and puts her arm around me. “Trust me. It’ll be fun!” She smiles dazzling at me. Trust her she says. Trust her.

“I…” Answer God damn it. Don’t just stutter like that poor kid in Billy Madison.

Couldn’t possibly.

Not right now.

Maybe later.

Not a chance in hell suckers so fuck off.

Anyone of those would be good.

“I don’t know…” No! ‘I don’t know’ means you half say yes and half say maybe! They are going to latch onto the yes and suck it out of me! And then probe me with cosmetics! Ah! I have found out who the evil aliens of Roswell are!

Lookie at melodramatic me. Wheeeeeeee!

I look up into the mirror and bite my lip. Isabel’s watching me.

“Aren’t you ready for a change Liz?” She asks quietly.

Change? Isn’t what my aim was when I put the hideous red there? It would have looked cool if I did it right, if I had cared. But I didn’t. I just wanted to look how I felt. I don’t care… But the horribly funny thing is I DO care god damn it.

I study my reflection. Yuck. I still jump every time I look in the mirror. It’s like who the hell IS that girl, and what the hell happened to her?

And then I remember.

Change?

“I…I guess…” I finally whisper, my eyes still locked on the pitiful girl in the mirror. And the funny thing is, that girl?

She smiles.

~*~

Screw the girl in the mirror. She is so not smiling right now. Instead, her face is contorted into a painful grimace.

“Ow!”

Make that VERY painful.

“Shush.”

Oh yea? How would you like it if I yanked your strands out one by one? Huh princess?

“OUCH!”

And I thought the damn exfoliating was bad…all gritty on my face…but this??

“Quiet!”

God damn it Isabel! “Why are you pulling my hair out!?”

Her face looms over me as she ceases the assault on my poor tresses, her fingers smeared with dye (My head looking the same no doubt). I long to snap my neck up from the tiny bathroom sink and bolt out of the chair that’s propped against it. Screw the whole process.

Isabel’s frowning. “If you would just hold STILL I could finish this a lot QUICKER.”

So much for pleasantries. I tug the towel that’s serving as a shirt over my white bra (since my shirt is elsewhere, avoiding the mess of the dye for now) closer.

Maria bursts into the room, her arms loaded down with everything from mascara to lip liner. Is she planning on auditioning for a circus clown? Because there is no way she could use all that make up for herself.

I’m thinking she must have robbed the nearest drug store. Hey, wouldn’t put it past her.

“Hey Maria…?” I ask feebly as Isabel mutters “there, all done,” and lifts my head up from the sink.

Maria tosses a towel at me and Isabel snatches it up and starts squeezing my hair with it. “Yea?” She inquires.

“What’s all the makeup for?” I wince, as Isabel’s treatment of my hair with the towel is not much better than her hands were.

Maria smiles amusingly at me. “For you silly!” My mouth drops open with horror as she rummages through her bag after depositing all the makeup on the counter. She gets that same mischievous look on her face again and closes it, seemingly satisfied.

Crap-ola. “I’m…I’m sorry?” Please tell me I heard wrong. Please. Please. Say you’re donating it to charity. Say you’re planning to use it on Michael as a joke. Say you’ve picked it up for Alex and that he now has an “interesting” announcement to make. Say ANYTHING but…

“We’re just going to give you a little makeover Liz. Don’t be shy. I have this lip color that would look GREAT with your new hair.”

Well, anything but that.

Um, I’m sorry, I missed the memo that said “Liz Parker, you are now a just my size Barbie doll. Have fun in the corporate minded hands of Maria and Isabel: Roswell’s Beautiful People. Ciao!”

It’s obvious that Maria forgot to take her crazy pills this morning. You know, the ones that make her…not.

I shake my head vehemently. “No. The fun stops at my hair.”

Maria pouts. “But I PAID for all this! You HAVE to use it!”

I apparently missed some sort of a contract too.

Isabel plucks up a round tube and opens it. Rolling the top over her hand, she then peers at the shiny goo that came out and smiles. Looking at me she says, “This is perfect,” and proceeds to walk towards me.

I would back away, except there’s a sink wedged against my back. “Isabel.”

“What?” She comes closer, her brow raised.

Eyeing the tube, I answer, “No.”

“It’s just lip gloss.”

And hell is just a sauna. (Poor Bianca…no wait, poor me.)

“I don’t need lip gloss.”

Isabel’s now in position. “Come on Liz. It will just make your lips nice and shiny. There’s barely any color.”

“Then why don’t I just lick my lips? That’ll get them nice and slick. And it’s free.” And fruitylicious-less.

Maria and her just share a sigh and a look, and Isabel puts her hand on her hip. “I’ll stop after the gloss and mascara I swear.”

Um, no, but thanks for playing. And hold up, I said nothing about mascara.

Maria imitates Isabel’s stance and whines. “Please Liz? Let us have some fun. It’ll wash off in the pool anyways…well except for the mascara. I got waterproof. But even though it SAYS waterproof, doesn’t guarantee…”

It’ll all wash off in the pool…

WHY BOTHOR THEN?

And excuse you, I’m not going in the water. Not here, not now, not EVER.

“Please?” I make the horrid mistake of looking up into Maria’s imploring green eyes.

Why does it mean so much to you? Some sort of charity?

But then, Maria’s not the type to do things like that. For one is that she’s lazy.

I love Maria, really I do.

What the hell. Its not like they can do anymore damage anyways.

“Lip gloss ONLY. Ok? Maria? Guys?” My words are lost as Maria squeals and grabs another tube thingy.

Lord.

I squeeze my eyes tightly shut.

Tell me when its over.

I feel a funny fluttery sensation on my eyelashes that sort of tickles and a wetness on my lips. When they’re done, I rub my lips together. Ooo! Texture. Slippy slide. Nice. I have a feeling I’ll be getting a kick out of that the whole night.

Simple minds and all.

“OK, Maria hand me the tweezers.” My eyes snap open at the sound of Isabel’s words. I immediately shoot out of the chair.

“Liz? Where you going?”

“Nuh uh, this halts now. I’m gone once you start bringing out the scalpels and whatnot.”

“Liz, its just an eyebrow tweezers, not some sort of torture device.”

Define torture.

It’s a TWEEZER. It TWEEZES things. I need nothing tweezed right now thank you. Urgh, too painful to contemplate.

“You said you’d stop after the lip shit and the mascara. Now where’s my shirt.” (Ooo, dirty.) I hug the towel closer to me, suddenly very self-conscious. Well, more so than usual anyways. I’m certainly nothing compared to these er…BLESSED gals over here. I’m puny. Ugly. Projectile vomit inducing.

Maria gets that devilish look again as she reaches for her bag. “Oh, could this be it?” She asks innocuously, the revealing red skimpy bathing top dangling from her fingers.

Sneaky little…

I glare at her. “NO, that is NOT it. Come on Maria. Where is it?”

Isabel suppresses a smile and I round on her. “Isabel! Where is it?” I reiterate. Oh, this is so not funny. So very not funny.

Conspirators. They must die.

“Its safe, yet inaccessible. So why don’t you put on this lovely top…” She plunges her hand into the bag and pulls out the even skimpier bottoms. “And this matching bottom and meet us in Izzy’s room.”

Bottom. Ha. It’s more like a thong.

Ok that’s stretching it. But it’s certainly along those lines. Like those spankies that cheerleaders wear. Not that I know of course. Lets just say there was an incident in the girls locker room, including a gym bag and klutzy me. Not to mention the pissed off cheerleader.

My eyes widen as Isabel and Maria back out of the room. No! A thousand times NO!

“Maria! You are NOT turning me into Barbie! I repudiate it!” My voice shrieks a little.

“We’re NOT turning you into Barbie Liz,” Maria thinks this is ever so amusing; I can hear the laughter in her voice.

“Oh yea?” I ask skeptically.

She nods grinning. “For thing, Barbie’s suit would be pink.”

Argh.

“We’ll leave you to change,” Isabel says and shuts the door firmly.

Oh God.

I peruse the bathing suit in my hand.

Oh God. This is bringing up way too many memories. One in particular.

STOP! My mind screams at itself to back up and banish the memory but it plunges on through anyways.

Oh God.

~*~Flashback~*~

“Mommy, Mommy!” Ten year old me clamored out of the car and rushed to my mom.

It was the summer before middle school. It was before things got really bad between my mother and father, and before I really acknowledged the fact that I was a social outcast.

Kids are naïve like that. Either that or I just didn’t want to believe.

It was a friend of my mother’s daughters swim party. She was the only one in my class who had lake access, AND she had a boat.

Needless to say, she was also very popular. (I.E polar opposite of me)

You all remember middle school. Its where the cliques begin to form blatantly. It’s when the dumb politics start up. Its where girls are supposed to begin to mature. The key word being SUPPOSED to.

I was so excited. I made my mother buy me a new bathing suit, a purple one piece, and once I got out of the car I had her twist the straps so they looked “cool.”

Why did I bother? You wonder these things, but then you remember that your younger self knew nothing of what was about to come.

The minute I walked onto the picnic area that was by the beach (where the party was held) everyone just stared. I had distinctively heard one of Patty’s (the “host” of the party) friends whisper loudly, “What is SHE doing here?”

Patty has responded that her mother had invited her.

My face had fallen at hearing that, but I still tried to make myself welcome. When they had a water balloon fight, I tried to join in, only to find that the teams had already been decided, and the water balloons gone. (Even though I was “accidentally” hit four or five times…HARD). Finally after two hours of sitting by myself and watching everyone back away from me whenever I tried to come near, I saw everyone walk onto a nearby dock, taking turns jumping in.

The funny thing is that I had always loved to swim, though I never got much chance to. I scampered on after everyone, not thinking anything would come of it.

Somehow I ended up near the front, by Patty. (Probably because everyone else shifted away from me). She stopped talking to her friend and gave me a disgusted look.

“Hi Patty…” I had said weakly, stupidly wondering why she was looking at me so. I was about to say I liked her party or that her bathing suit was pretty when she said suddenly,

“What do YOU want, Weirdo Parker?”

I was shocked, and stung. “I-I”

“I-I” She mocked. “You’re so weird you odd ball.”

Her friends found this insanely funny. They repeated it and snickered. Odd ball, odd ball

“I just wanted to…” I had broken off, suddenly unsure, and wishing desperately for my own safe house, where I could bury my face in my pillow.

“You just what? Wanted to come bitch about something?” My eyes had widened, not accustomed to swearing yet, still young, still innocent-ish. “Get away from me, you weirdo.”

And with that she pushed me backwards. Stumbling to try and regain my balance, my foot caught on an uneven board of the wooden dock. I tumbled downward, the sound of hideous laughter in my ear, and my ankle bashed painfully on the edge of the dock. The laughter was replaced by the sound of water breaking and cold liquid sucked me under as I inundated down further into the lake. All I could think about was the pain in my ankle, and even worse, the pain in my soul as the pitiful pre-pubescent girls feasted on whatever part of me they managed to rip out.

Suddenly finding it harder to breath, I tried to bring some air into my lungs. Instead my throat found water. Too much. Too much water. I started to panic, my arms flailing as I tried to break the surface. But it was too dark. Which way was up and which was down? I had thought I could hear my mother screaming but I wasn’t sure…

Too much. Too much. I stopped struggling, too tired. Too much.

And then…light. Air, gaspfuls of air, and noise. My mother yelling as she cradled me in her arms, screaming at Patty for pushing me, and for all the other kids just watching as I nearly drowned.

~*~End Flashback~*~

Needless to say I haven’t swam since. Can you blame me?

I didn’t cry that day. It was two days later that my mother tried to run a bath for me and I screamed bloody hell.

To this day I can’t stand water. The whole thing where you’re feet cant touch the ground just freaks me out. Plus the whole Patty thing.

I curse the bathing suit and fling it away from me.

*DING*

The doorbell rings. Shit. Company. And here I stand half naked with a towel around me. Wonderful.

I hear Isabel walk out into the hall and yell out, “It’s probably Max and Michael. Alex said he was coming late.”

Ok, WHAT?

Max is coming?

Oh my almighty God.

Here are my options. The sucky sucky options to my sucky sucky life.

A. I could go down there as is, with the towel covering my non-existent breasts and embarrass myself to a point of no return.

B. I could throw on the stupid suit and go down there and embarrass myself to a point of no return.

C. I could stay locked in the bathroom until I’m thirty.

Plan C anyone?

Sigh, I CAN’T let Max or Michael see me in my underwear. It would be just wrong. I would likely send them to their early grave to push up friggin daisies because they had heart attacks. And Maria would drag me out eventually.

Growling to myself, I snatch up the damn top and spend the next five minutes trying to figure out which way ties where. God, its like on of those master mind puzzles that no one can figure out. (WHO makes this?! What kind of sick, demented person…WHO?!) I stare down and come to the ironic realization that this actually covers less than the bra.

Jesus Christ.

I tug on the rest of the suit (after I finally grasped onto which leg goes in what hole…dirty…um, which leg goes into which opening…still dirty…um, you catch my drift. Anyways).

I steel myself and go to open the door…

And I freeze. Oh God. I can’t go down there. Plan C here I come.

Might as well see how bad the damage is. I look slowly up into the mirror and gasp.

Whoa. Is that me? It’s like who is that girl?

Only this time I don’t wonder what happened to her. She looks normal. Decent looking. Almost…pretty? Me? Is that me? I almost like what I see. I almost like the person staring back at me. (ooo, rhyming)

Holy crap. Maybe I’m the one who forgot her crazy pills.

All it is, is different hair, and a touch of the root of all evil (I.e. makeup. See, I have this theory about makeup. It uses the media to make girls believe they aren’t pretty enough for the world, and then using some corporate conspiracy, brainwashes them into thinking that they need the newest brand of blush or else the world will end and everyone will die and their lives will be over. This steams the popularity chain, since whoever has makeup will be pretty supposedly, and whoever’s pretty will be adored by all. Hey. It worked for evils such as Pam Troy and Patty.). I’m not that different. Am I?

I hear Max’s voice waft up from below. Suddenly I WANT to be down there. How psycho is that?

Answer: Very psycho. But for once…

I don’t care.


Note: I don’t own the poem

~*~Part TwelveB~*~ You Strip Away The Ugliness That Surrounds Me

It’s times like these that you really think about the lyrical, brilliant works of life. The words of wisdom from those revered people we all look up to.

Take Shel Silverstein for example. I seriously love that man. Besides being talented, he was damn smart. Consider his poem:

Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early early bird –
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.


It’s all perspective and identity. Others, being birds, get the payoff of such situations. Me, being the worm, got screwed.

It’s also times like these that make you realize you should have listened to those wise wise people and taken their non too subtle advice.

God damn it, I should have slept late today. Or we could go one step better and I should have stayed in bed the entire day. Then maybe, just maybe I could have avoided this whole embarrassing situation.

Okay, okay, so there is no ‘situation’ as of yet, since I’m still on the stairs, frozen like a statue, biting my lip and debating whether or not I should really go out there. Especially like this.

My debate is cut short when Maria comes up behind me. Quietly

“Hey Liz…”

I jump in a skitterish manner and a shrill scream escapes from my throat. “God Maria!” I yell loudly as I whirl around, clutching my thumping heart.

Has NO one told her its not nice, and potentially psychologically damaging to sneak up on someone who is deep in thought?

“Uhm, yeah?” Her eyebrows are raised in a way that says “And your point is?”

Apparently not.

I simply sigh and turn my attention back to the bottom of the stairs, and the crucial decision at hand. “Never mind.”

Michael comes screeching over, rounding the corner and practically tripping over himself (and the stairs) in his rush. “What happened?” He demands in a steely voice, one underlined with panic.

I just look at him. You know, one of those looks that says “Whoa there, where’s the fire?”

“What?”

He shoves his hands through his unruly brown hair in exasperation. Ah, so THAT’S why it looks so messy all the time. “I heard someone scream.”

Maria’s face softens and she maneuvers by me to clutch his arm. “I just scared Liz a little when I came up behind her. That’s all.”

His face drains of tension and is molded into one of comprehension. He nods, and says, “Oh.”

Weird.

My mind is about to question this odd little display some more, but Maria distracts me in saying cheerfully, “So Parker, you ready to go show em what you’re made of?”

Uhm…

My heart leaps up to load in my throat. It literally feels like I am heaving up my own heart, only not so gross. Unmistakable panic grips my stomach and I quite want to be somewhere else right now. Somewhere else, and oh yea, in different attire too. I am not forgiving Maria for a very long time. Or Isabel for that matter. Just when I thought these people might possibly be something resembling friends. Oh sure, you may say that they’re only looking out for what’s BEST for me but…

Enough mind babbling.

Anyways, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself…

Scared. That’s what I am. Me? Ready to go out like THIS?

Not quite.

“Great!”

Per usual, Maria is not on my same wavelength. She grabs my arm, and leads me to the door leading to the backyard. I can see Max and Isabel talking and eating grapes through the glass, and Alex is coming up from the front yard, orange polka dot towel in hand.

Take me back! Beam me up Scottie! I’m CAN’T go out there. No. No. No.



Scottie?



At least beam me down my clothes.



Fine abandon me. No wonder your show died a premature death.

It’s too late anyways. The door swings open and Maria lugs me through, Michael trailing behind. I blink against the bright, lovely sunlight and the first thing I see is…

Water. Blue, swirling, malevolent looking water.

My mouth dries, and I’m forced to swallow. Look away. Must look away. I catch of glimpse of Max and Isabel out of the corner of my eye, and decide that that would be a much better viewing than the nightmare in front of me. My heart skips a beat when Max turns around and sees me, and I have to wonder if I’m having a post-traumatic reaction here or…

Or if it’s something else.

Before I can contemplate that bizarre occurrence, Max’s eyes widen, so I turn around to see what’s got him reacting in such a way. And then, I kid you not, he starts choking. CHOKING. Hacking and hawing like he’s about to die.

Immediately I rush over. “Max?” And then, like the brilliant person I am, “Are you okay?” God, I really have to wonder sometimes what is wrong with me. Of COURSE he’s not okay. There’s a grape lodged in his windpipe. But we all know that I must state the obvious. It’s like an unspoken, all around fact.

I glance over at Max’s caring sister, and to my surprise, she’s smirking. I knew she wasn’t the most compassionate person around, but really, to just stand back and watch your brother have a choking fit? Isn’t that just a tad extreme?

Since no one else seems to care, or know what’s going on with Max, I decide to help out a bit. Tentatively, I raise my hand up and rub his back slowly. His body jerks, almost like an electrical current jolted him. I snatch my hands away, wondering “Now what?”

He stops choking and locks his gaze with mine.

Oh perfect. Now he’s not breathing.

With one last cough, he seems to recover. Well, thank God anyways. I hate not knowing what to do, standing there like a moron.

“Uhm…Hey.” He says.

I have to fight a smile, and fail somewhat. “Hey. Uh, little tip for you. Chew THEN swallow.”

Internally I groan. I can’t believe I just said that. What the hell is WRONG with me?

That is quite rapidly becoming the question of the day. Anyone care to take a stab at it?

He blushes, and I think we all know how endearing he looks when he blushes. Especially when his ears twinge like that. Oh, and that smile I’m trying to battle? It’s pushing on through relentlessly.

“Yea, thanks. NOW you tell me,” he jokes, obviously trying to muster back up some sort of dignity.

I laugh. Dignity. Haha.

And that’s when I remember.

OH SHIT! The bathing suit! I’m practically half dressed in front of Max Evans! Is there no end to the embarrassment to this day?

“So Max,” Maria comes up behind us, laughter evident in her voice. “What do you think of Liz’s new look?”

HATE her. I HATE her.

I shoot her my most evil, cower-inspiring death look. The one that says: You. Suck.

She smiles and goes to goad Max again.

Thankfully (I think), Michael was ambling over to grab some food, and heard Maria. He interrupts and stops and pauses to peruse me. I squirm a bit under his gaze and will him not to say anything about it.

After a minute, he shrugs. “What’s different about it?”

Thank you Mickey. You are now my new best friend. I smile at the look on Maria’s face and the way Michael’s eyebrows shoot up in confusion.

“What?”

“I can’t believe you don’t notice anything about her! God, I swear, if a fridge came crashing down upon your head you wouldn’t even blink. It’s like that time last year when I got extensions. You didn’t even notice. You are like, the most dense guy I know.”

“I can’t believe you are still harping about that.”

“It’s the principle of the thing Michael!”

“What’s Maria ranting about now?” Isabel pops another grape into her perfectly formed mouth.

“I didn’t notice something about Liz.”

“Oh. Carry on then.”

Max opens his mouth to say something (yea, that, or to take another stab at conquering those damn grapes), when he’s interrupted.

“Liz, I think you look MARVELOUS dahling. Tell me, WHO did your hair.” This of course, is Alex, looping his arm around my shoulder, and yes, grinning.

I have to grin back at his tone. It’s just so…ALEX.

He takes his arm off of me, get up, stretches and says, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m positively roasting.” He shucks off his t-shirt and throws it after his towel onto the nearest chair.

Michael just looks at Alex in a skeptical manner. “Roasting? Who says that?”

“Watch it Guerin, or I shall be forced to comment on your lovely earlier performance. And it wont be pretty.”

I can’t help but think, so in other words, it would be like the act itself.

Michael scowls, yet shuts up. Teehee.

Alex shoots a musing glance and me, and then an evil grin cracks upon his face. “Hey, there’s something that we’re forgetting…” When Michael proceeds to look just as confused as me, Alex nods at me. Swift comprehension dawns on Michael’s features and suddenly I’m afraid. Very afraid.

Maria groans. “Come on guys. Leave her alone.”

For once I’m forced to agree with Maria.

“It’s tradition!” Alex protests.

“Yea,” Michael confirms. “It’s not officially summer unless we throw one of you girls in the pool.”

I freeze. My entire body seizes up, and I cant even move my head. No…

They wouldn’t. They CANT.

“And Liz, I think it’s your turn.” Alex laughs in a care free manner. He and Michael advance on me. My breathing comes quicker, harsher. Oh God. No…

“No,” I protest weakly. “Don’t.”

Alex chuckles. “I love it when they beg. Remember when Maria near shattered the window, her shriek was so loud?”

Michael winced in memory, yet still came closer.

“Please!” I say louder now, my voice rising in panic as I dart a glance at the water, the atrocious, inundating water.

Alex and Michael are right next to me now, and I stupidly think that I probably should have gotten out of the way, ran to the house, latched onto the chair beside me, all of those I should have done like ten seconds ago.

Alex grabs my wrist but when Michael goes for my feet so they can swing me in, I kick out in terror. “NO!” My voice is a shriek, hysterical in my fear.

“Jesus!” Michael shouts, and Alex drags me nearer to the side of the pool. The water laps at the sides, threatening me, taunting me just like Patty all those years ago…My body’s shaking, my hair fluttering against my bare back.

“What, were you trying to drag me in with you?” Michael laughs, and Alex joins in.

“In you go!”

I screw up my eyes and try and wrench my arm out of Alex, and now Michael’s grasp. When it becomes apparent that the inevitable is about to occur, my heart stops and then picks up again with double the speed. Tears come unabiddened and the memories are threatening to smother me again. Oh God, here we go...

“Cut it out!”

Warm arms are enveloping me now, carrying me away from the water. My hysteria begins to fade, but my heart is still racing, my mind is still back on that day. Cold, wet, murky water filling my lungs again…I instantly suck in a huge lungful of air, just to reassure myself that it’s not happening, that I’m safe, that I’m in Max Evans’ arms…

Uhm…Wait a minute.

I look up and sure enough, there he is. His face is molded into one of irate fury, and the waves of anger coming off of him are enough to make even ME cringe, and I’m not even the one he’s looking at. I follow his gaze, and there’s Alex and Michael, looking quite confused.

“What’s your problem Maxwell?” Michael asks dubiously, his eyebrow arched.

“Couldn’t you see that she was scared of the water?”

I whip my head around to pierce him with a shocked gaze. How the hell did he know that?

Oh gee, I don’t know. Could it possibly be because you started going berserk when Alex and Michael tried to throw you in?

The mere thought has me cringing again. Max notices apparently, from the quick look he darts at me, and he tightens his hold on my arms. Warmth glows in my stomach.

Pushing away all thought of the current sensations and pull of the awful memories of the past, I look again at Alex and Michael. Their faces meld into echoes of the horror I just felt.

“Oh God. Liz…I didn’t know.” Alex looks like he’s about to be sick.

“Sorry,” Michael grunts simply but his eyes shine with compunction.

I take a deep breath and attempt to smile feebly. “It’s okay,” I say. And it is. Its not their fault that I’m a fucking wuss.

“You can push me in if you want,” Alex. Wonderful Alex always trying to lighten the situation. Too bad he wasn’t there that day…

Tears burn in my eyes, and I blink forcefully. God, I definitely do not want to be reminded of this. Not here. Not now. Not ever again. Is there a reason I can never let bygones be bygones? It’s been YEARS since that day. Shouldn’t I have some sort of repressed memory as far as that goes? I mean, I am a psychiatrist’s nightmare. Shouldn’t that factor in somewhere?

After another five minutes of convincing Alex and Michael that indeed, I am somewhat okay, and that I’m not on the verge of hysteria anymore, they slink off to face the silent rage of Maria and Isabel over on the other side of the pool.

Yes, it would definitely suck to be them right now.

My heart rate returns to normal, and I silently berate myself for my act of lunacy in front of God and everyone just now. One more to add on the list of Reasons Why Liz Parker Is A Psycho.

All thoughts fly out of my head when suddenly the wayward strands of hair whispering on my face are brushed aside softly. I turn my head and come literally face to face with Max again.

“You had a…” He gestures with his hands.

“A hair thing,” I finish. How weird. Being on the same wavelength of someone.

For a moment we stand as such, just staring, despite the fact that its an age old rule that that is quite rude. His eyes…they seem to stare straight into my soul. Stripping away all the ugliness surrounding it, and peeling it back until I’m bared. And the funniest thing is that he’s not running away screaming in the opposite direction. Nope, he just keeps on staring.

And I’m staring back.

Yep, this redundant repetition stuff is about to get real old.

Or not, since it’s MAX.

What the hell is wrong with me? What’s happening to me here?

All right, new train of thoughts. Something NOT Max centric.

So. How about them Mets?

Yea, lets not go there.

Hot today.

Oh, the hell with it.

Damn he’s tall. Like a frickin behr.

His face inches a fraction closer, and I feel his warm breath intimately brush my face. My lashes lower almost instinctively and my heart begins to pound crazily in my chest.

“What are you thinking,” he asks softly, almost as if fearing that if he spoke a decibel louder, the moment would be lost, ruined. Gone from our reach never to be had again.

Ah, here tis. The moment where I can dazzle him with my wit, impress him with my keen sense of dry humor…

“You’re big,” I say and promptly blush.

Oh God! Someone please tell me, what is WRONG with me?

You’re big…

He’s looking at me all confused like and sort of amused. Well really, I can’t blame him. I myself am wondering fervently where my brain went again.

Out of my mind. Be back in five minutes.

“Tall,” I say, trying to fix the situation, even though its beyond salvageable. “I mean, you’re tall.” Lesson of the day? Never miss a good chance to shut up. Live it. Learn it. Memorize it. Write it on your notebook.

“Tall,” he repeats, his beautiful eyes twinkling. “Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”

Uhm…

“Good thing. Yes, definitely a good thing.” I’m pretty sure my face is burning bright red right now, and it’s not because of the sun beating down on us.

Kill me. Kill me right now. Quickly.

Ok, so five minutes is probably way too optimistic. My mind has most likely taken a lifelong vacation and I’m insanely jealous. Why does it get to jet off and I’m stuck here to deal with the consequences of its absence?

He laughs and moves so he’s to the side of me, yet his arm stays around my shoulder.

On second thought…

Maybe being stuck here isn’t as bad as I thought.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Oct-2002 11:26:51 AM ]
posted on 6-Jan-2003 5:04:58 PM
~*~Part Thirteen~*~ From Where I Can’t Return

Have you ever had one of those mornings?

One of those mornings where the sun glares into your eyes, and you smile, happy to see it and happy to be alive? Where not even the annoying chirping of the blasted birds outside your window can bother you? Where it’s not a big deal that you woke up before your alarm?

Yeah, me neither.

But this morning came close .

I bury my pillow relentlessly into the soft, fragrant pillow, trying desperately to squelch the wide smile that is threatening mercilessly to break out upon my face. Stupid face muscles. They never obey. Wayward, good for nothing, revealing -

Yes, I could go on all day. But luckily, I have more important things to do today. Like work. And try to stop thinking about Max Evans.

Enough of this. I push my self up from the beckoning sheets, all mussed and warm from my protesting body. Let me tell you, getting up in the morning utterly sucks. Especially when the air conditioner is blasting so fiercely that if you didn’t know any better you’d swear it was December in the North Pole. Especially when said air conditioner seems to be working solely in your room, while the rest of the apartment is delightfully temped. See?! Even machinery is against me today. So in conclusion my fine friends today would be a day to stay in bed.

I have to firmly resist the urge to plop back down face first into the pillows and have to clamp down warningly on the whine of complaint that is threatening to rip out of my throat. My head feels so groggy that I instinctively know that if I tried to make my way to the bathroom, I would surely fall on my face. And as much as I enjoy tripping like the clumsy oaf I am, and you know I do, the bed looks a lot more enticing thank you.

I plop back down and snuggle deep into my pillows, trying to remember the dream I had been having before the sun decided to pierce my eyelids so rudely. For some reason today I woke up with a hint of a smile on my face, and the only explanation is that I must have had a less than terrifying dream for once. I struggle to remember it, but so far, nada. It’s not coming to me.

Don’t you just hate waking up with this feeling of incomprehensive thought? Some idea or feeling that’s on the tip of your tongue, dancing away from you to hide behind other unrelated inane thoughts until you can no longer recall what you had originally set out to remember. And the damn, obstinate thought, it just hides like a coward behind those other thoughts, waiting for a time later where it can jump out at you. It’s always at the least opportune time too, where it’s rendered completely useless. So anyhow, don’t you just despise that?

Yeah, me too.

I roll over lazily, stretching like a cat in the sun on a warm, lazy hazy summer day. God, I feel so relaxed and …

HOLY SHIT!

One glance at the digital clock (a new one, since I clobbered the old one) and all those sentiments of feeling relaxed and what not go out the window.

SHIT! I’m SO LATE! Why the hell didn’t Nancy or Jeff wake me up?

Oh, gee, I don’t know. Probably because they have just as much trouble getting up in the morning as I do?

Oh crap. I bolt out of bed, ignoring the feeble jolts of vertigo that are lightly stabbing my head and hastily throw on my uniform, which had been hanging tauntingly on the back of a chair. I look longingly at the bathroom as I quickly button up the aquamarine hideous dress. No time for that. No time to even brush my hair, or wash my face …

I freeze, totally forgetting for an instant. Max is working with me today. So much for not thinking about him.

Immediately I bolt for the bathroom, grabbing the brush on the counter and swiping it through my newly dyed and trimmed hair simultaneously as I sit myself down on the pot to relieve myself.

Hey, I’m on a clock here. Cut a girl some slack.

Once I’m done, I look into the mirror, and for a paralyzing moment, I don’t recognize myself. Only this time it’s a pleasant sensation. I smile slightly. Maria and Isabel do good work, I can give them that much. But if they ever come at me with tweezers again, make note of this, I will be forced to hurt them.

Gathering my dark hair into a low ponytail, I suppose I’m good to go. Except, wait, where are my antennae?

Oh jeez. Now THERE’S a thought I never expected to come out of even my mind.

Rolling my eyes at myself, I search the room with my eyes, while digging into my pocket for that tube of clear lip gloss Isabel let me have. I can’t find the damn headband, and honestly, it’s not easy to miss, what with the silvery sparkles and the huge, obvious balls attached to springs. A growl of impatience escapes my throat as I swipe the gloss hurriedly over my lips.

Ahhh. I’m addicted to this stuff, I swear, and it’s only been a day or so. Something about the way my lips slide together … Weee. Fun stuff.

Enough of this. The stupid headband just isn’t up here, and now I’m even more late because of the bathroom break/attempt at primping.

Time to leave my intangible dreams behind and go work.

Time to see Max. I smile despite myself. Stupid face muscles.

~*~

“So, what are we going to do about this whole Isabel/Alex situation?” Maria clicks the end of her ballpoint pen listlessly over and over again, the loud snapping noise bouncing along the walls of the diner. I resist the urge to snatch it away from her, as it’s driving me crazy.

Max raises an eyebrow at her. “What do you mean, ‘we?’ You’re the one that’s dead set on getting involved.” Slowly, he reaches over and stops Maria’s continuous assault on the top of her pen, effectively stopping the irritating clicking. I smile, and he glances over, sharing a knowing look with me.

This is me. This is me trying not to melt into a pile of sappy goo.

“Well something has to be done about it!” Maria rants angrily, now taking to waving the pen violently through the air, nearing taking her antennae off with her movements.

I shrug, ignoring my current state of gooiness. “I don’t see why that has to be our problem.”

I wince when Maria screeches in shocked denial. “What!? Of COURSE it’s our problem!” She takes a deep breath and calms down before turning back to me. “Liz, you’ve known me for quite a bit now, right?” When I nod in affirmation, she continues. “Right. So in that time, you should know by now that meddling is in my nature, my blood! A feature that’s been passed down, Deluca woman to Deluca woman.” She smiles. “Seriously. Ask Michael.”

I snort lightly. “I’ll take your word on that.”

Max leans forward so that his arms rest easily on the bar countertop. Oh, to be that countertop.

Apparently, my face muscles aren’t the only thing rebelling against my orders to stop being such a sap. My thoughts have now joined their ranks. Traitors!

“Yeah,” he’s saying, trying to skirt around Maria’s outraged expression at the thought that we shouldn’t get involved. “Liz is right. What’s their business is their business.” He pauses, darting a glance across the diner to where Isabel is currently ringing up a customer. “Besides. Iz would kill you if she figured out what you’re plotting.”

“So would Alex,” I add as Maria sighs in frustration.

“No, see that’s just the thing! Later on, they would be thanking us.” Maria nods confidently, eyeing us like we’re uncommonly stupid for thinking otherwise.

Max and I share another look. It’s one that says: “We’re not going to convince her otherwise so might as well humor her until she runs out of steam.”

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the way you want to look at things, Isabel’s voice breaks through our conversation. “Who would be thanking you?” All three of our heads spin around to look at her guiltily, trying to get her off of our trail. Because even though I’m positive that Isabel would cheerfully kill us if we got involved in her romantic affairs, I am also equally positive that the same fate would befall us were she to hear us discussing the possibility.

“Maria,” Isabel grits out. “WHO would be thanking you?”

See, Isabel’s smarter than she looks, and a heck of a lot more perceptive too. This, obviously, though does not help Maria any. Or Max and me either.

“Uhm, we were just talking about Liz’s new hair, and how she should be thanking us for the marvelous job we did.” Maria supplies smoothly. Niiice. You can almost believe that she’s telling the truth. Almost.

Suddenly, I’m being jabbed in the stomach. I look down at my assailant, which turns out to be Maria’s oh so discreet elbow. I bit my lip to keep from groaning in pain, but honestly, why should I suffer in silence when I can still moan, whimper, and complain? Because Maria would kill you, that’s why.

“Right guys?” Maria says through clenched teeth, glaring pointedly at Max and me, demanding that we concur with her.

Hastily, Max and I voice our agreement and reassurance while I simultaneously mock glower at Maria and rub my poor gut.

Isabel seems pacified somewhat as she brings a musing fist up to rest underneath her chin while she stares at my hair. “We did do a good job, didn’t we?”

Before I can voice aloud my thanks and praise for how much better my hair looks, Maria’s green eyes narrow dangerously and she grins her patented grin. You know the one I’m talking about. The devious, underhanded one. Oh come on. We’ve been over this. And we’ve also been over the fact that at times like these, the best defense is to run.

I’m not quick enough. She jerks her chin towards Max, still smiling devilishly. “Yes we did. So what about you Max? Do you like it?”

The familiar yearning to kill Maria quickly is suddenly resurfacing along with the sense of Déjà vu. The only thing stopping me from returning with a hard jab of my own to her gut is the fact that I actually am kind of interested in what Max has to say. So I dare a look up at him, feeling so incredibly vulnerable as he rocks back on his heels, pretending to appraise me. When my eyes meet his, his gaze turns from aloof and critical to warm like sunshine. Rays of some unknown emotion shine forth from that gaze, and his hand suddenly moves, reaching out to thread through the very hair that was the subject of his perusal.

My heart stops, and then picks up with twice the speed. His fingers thread around my strands, languidly letting them trickle through his hands. And still, his gaze is never wavering from mine. He smiles that special smile of his, and a faint shudder ripples through me as a smile of my own begins to formulate on my face.

“It’s beautiful. But then, it’s Liz.” He shrugs, letting his hand drop. “It’s to be expected.”

And squish goes my heart. Like ooey, gooey, movie-theatre-worthy butter that you drizzle all over your dry, crunchy popcorn. Oh wow.

I continue to stare at him, smiling shyly. For once in my life, I think you can color me speechless. The sound of my rapidly beating heart thudding in my ears is making it hard for me to even think.

“MAX! Get those dirty plates and then get your butt back here! The lunch rush is almost upon us, don’t forget!” A voice shouts out over the grill, it’s tone extremely frustrated and angry.

Max glowers over in the direction of Jose, the cook on duty today. Have I mentioned that he’s a bit grumpy in the morning? No? How about a tad senile? “I guess that signifies that break time is over,” Max grumbles under his breath, looking upset at the thought. I silently agree as I watch him watch walk over to scoop up a pile of soiled, used plates effortlessly into his arms, sighing softly and fingering the strand of hair that had just been tickling his fingers.

A loud, clapping noise from the back of me startles me from my staring contest with Max’s behind. Suspiciously, I turn around to catch Maria and Isabel with triumph grins etched on their features like footsteps in the sand, their hands swinging down like …like they had just gotten done high fiving each other? What?

My eyes narrow and they catch me staring. Immediately, they jump back a little, attempting nonchalance.

“What was that?” I ask, glancing back and forth between them.

“What was what?” Maria says, almost too quickly, too innocently. Her entire stance is like it was when she was lying to Isabel’s face a minute ago, denying any sort of manipulation on her part. My eyes are slits, but I can’t help the smirk had works its way along my face.

“You two,” I answer, trying to keep the amusement out of my voice and the irritation firmly in place. “You haven’t been …meddling in my affairs, have you?”

“Why who, us?” Isabel’s voice is the perfect blend of interrogative innocence. It sounds like she’s done this before, the whole denial thing. Her tone is almost too perfect.

“Hmm, I must have been imagining things then,” I say offhandedly, gathering up my order pad so I can go take care of the rapidly filing in customers. “Just like I was imagining Maria plotting to meddle in YOURS, Isabel. My mistake.” I sail away, smiling over my shoulder when I hear Isabel spit out between clenched teeth, “What?” and when I feel Maria’s death glare on my back.

My amusement is short lived, however, when I see a sight from my worst nightmare, a sight I have been praying that I’d safely left behind. I force myself to blink, convinced that I must be hallucinating, that what’s standing right before me isn’t anymore than a horrible trick of the light. Oh please, don’t be what I think it is.

Because if Pam Troy and Tess Harding are really standing across the way, flirting with Max, I think I’m going to be sick.

I don’t know how long I stood there with my eyes closed, but when I open them again, the revolting scene is the same as I left it. Pam’s shiny reddish blonde hair swaying as she chews determinedly on a piece of gum, and Tess’s shrill laughter echoing through the diner is the same as it was back home. My gaze narrows as I watch Tess put her hand on Max’s arm, the arm that is still cradling a mountain of dirty dishes, and unconsciously I start forward. The disgustingly flirtatious smile of hers is locked firmly in place and is making my skin crawl and my teeth gnash together.

Max shifts away from her, struggling to keep all the plates from tumbling to the floor as a result of Tess hand. I snort in aversion at her utterly stupid move.

Suddenly, I realize I am far too close for comfort, since now I can actually hear their conversation.

“Oh come on now, Max.” Tess purrs irritatingly. “Aren’t you going to ask us our names?”

I’m sorry, could someone pass me a puke bucket? Other wise the bile that is welling up in my throat is going to end up all over the floor.

Wait, am I imagining things, or does Max look …uncomfortable? My heart leaps for some odd reason as he coughs uncertainly. “You know, the thought actually hadn’t crossed my mind.” Tess and Pam giggle, as if he had just finished telling a good joke. Max looks at them bewilderedly before glancing back towards the kitchen, where Jose is popping his head out and searching the diner fiercely. “I’d better get back to work before - ”

Pam steps up, fluffing her hair delicately. “I’m Pam, and this is Tess.”

“Well, uh, enjoy your meal here at the Crashdown.” Max turns and nearly collides with me. The dishes in his hand wobble precariously, but at the last second, he rights them. Almost all of them. One plate at the top slides over and I hastily reach out and catch it. I can feel Tess and Pam’s stares of shock at the sight of me, but right now, all that matters right now is that Max’s face is lighting up with a smile that speaks volumes of relief and gratitude as I set the wayward plate back atop his pile.

His eyes look into mine for a few more blissful seconds. Then he turns to go, leaning close for an instant to whisper ‘thanks’ into my ear, his breath tickling my hair. I bite my lip and watch him go for the second time that day, wincing for what I know now to be the inevitable.

“Liz? Liz Parker?” Tess’s shrill voice cuts through the low hum of conversation throughout the diner, and I cringe. Yes, it’s still as irksome as ever.

The soft sound of Pam’s biting laughter slices through me, and I turn to look at them, wondering what the hell I did to deserve this.

“Wow,” Pam spits out spitefully. “Little did I know that when I signed up to travel the Southwest with Tess and her mother that I would get the chance to see Little Lizzie Parker of all people.”

I smile weakly, thinking dumbly that maybe things won’t so bad. “Hey Pam.”

“My God. You haven’t changed a bit, have you Liz. Still the same old freak.” The way she spits out the last word it ends up coming out in two syllables. I cower, still biting my lip. I’m surprised I haven’t tasted blood yet. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Maria’s head shoot up in our direction. She probably heard Pam’s voice, it’s a bit hard to ignore.

Pam begins to circle me and suddenly I’m wishing for the floor to crack open and swallow me whole. “But wait,” Pam pauses, taking in my new hair, and for a moment I feel a surge of pride. Ha. Take that bitch. Let you be the one surprised for once. “Something’s new here.” Pam touches Tess lightly on the arm as she regards me with fake admiration. “Aww! Look Tess! Liz is trying to fit in.” Her face scrunches up, and again, it’s amazing how such a pretty girl can look so ugly, evil. “Too bad it’ll never work. You’ll always be nothing Liz. No matter how hard you try.”

“Uh, excuse me. Can I help you?” Maria suddenly behind me, and I want to hug her for breaking up this horrible excuse for a reunion. The floor is not working too well on that sucking me up deal. Pam wrinkles her nose at the sight of Maria and her antennae, and this makes Maria all the more angry, if the way she is bristling is any indication.

“Uh, no. Thanks,” Pam says, her voice making it clear that she felt no sort of gratitude. “I seriously doubt that you could do anything here for me, so why don’t you take your little bee antennae’s and go help somewhere else?”

I close my eyes, still feeling nauseous. I don’t think it’s fully set in yet. I’m still reeling from the shock. I’m not here. This is all just a horrible, gut-wrenching dream and soon I’ll wake up and laugh about it.

Oh please, let it be a dream.

Maria scoffs indignantly, clearly gathering herself up for a full-fledged, legendary Maria type rant.

Get me out of here. I hate scenes, and I most definitely do not want to be a part of one.

Maria inches closer to me, the gesture inherently protective, and she glares at Pam. “Why now, aren’t you just a waste of two thousands years of evolution.”

Despite my abhorrence of creating a scene, I can’t help but glance at Maria in amusement. Hee. That was a good one.

Pam ruffles angrily, while Tess just stares at us all uncertainly. “Why I never!” Pam finally shouts. “If anyone is the waste, it’s - ”

I have to force myself to breathe, since I know exactly where Pam is going with this. Oh, God, please, just don’t -

“Can I help you?” Isabel breaks in coolly, giving the girls a reproachful glare. I jump in acute surprise. Where the heck did she come from?

Never mind that, she has my complete gratitude right now, since her icy tone just shut Pam and Tess up. We all stand in silence for a minute, the majority of us glowering darkly, and then Pam and Tess give each other a look. One of those looks that pretty girls give when they see another girl so blatantly much more prettier then they are. And then, miracles of miracles, they turn towards Isabel and the register to begin ordering some takeout. Ignoring me completely.

Thank you, thank you! My whole respect and admiration level for Isabel Evans just went up about five notches. I could hug her! Well, that is I could if she weren’t so adamantly opposed to that sort of contact and if I was planning on staying any longer in that room with Pam and Tess.

Which I’m not.

The instant their attention is diverted elsewhere, and Maria is safely delivering orders (while simultaneously shooting daggers at the two nightmares over her shoulder, I am pleased to note), I bolt for the break room. The door slams shut behind me, and I lean against the wall, breathing deeply in relief.

Well.

That completely sucked. And what sucks even more is that I’m not waking up. Which means this isn’t a dream. God, can’t ANYTHING go right, for even just a little while? Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

I sigh loudly and stomp my way over to the couch, knowing that I’ll be safe here. The sign doesn’t say “Employees Only” for nothing.

“Liz?”

I jump five feet in the air (okay, well, it feels like it) and gasp loudly. Whirling around, I come face to face with –

Max.

I breathe a sigh a relief.

“Hey.” I say, trying to hit even a semblance of normal. Per usual, I doubt it worked.

“Hey,” He answers back. A silence ensues, and then an eyebrow quirks up at me. “Who the heck were those girls?”

Oh God. Please oh please don’t tell me I’m imagining the note of disgust in his voice. I smile slightly. “Just a icky blast from my past, that’s all.” Yeah. That’s all. I hope.

Jose’s voice suddenly shakes through the room. “Max! Git you’re stubborn ass over here! We ain’t done yet, so quite looking at Jeff’s niece all goo goo eyed!”

My mouth drops open. And the hits today just keep on coming. Did I hear him right? Max? Looking goo goo eyed at ME? My head jerks up, and Max is flushing slightly, his eyes apologetic. “I’d better get back over there,” he says, starting back for the kitchen, which is really only a few steps away.

I nod. “Yeah. I’ll just … I’ll just be back here for a while.”

Once he leaves I collapse onto the worn-in couch, grateful for its comfort. Jeez, what a day.

The back swinging door slams open with such a force that I’m in the air once again. I swear to God, I am going to have heart problems by the time this day is over. Wearily, I gaze over to see who entered so vehemently, half-expecting Maria to come breezing in with a familiar rant waiting for me. However, what I definitely do NOT expect is to see Pam, back again for round two.

Oh God. Please tell me that this isn’t happening.

I freeze, my bottom glued to the couch. Silently, half of me prays that Max will stay in the kitchen while the other half prays that he won’t.

This is so surreal. Pam starts towards me, her form visibly shaking with animosity. What the hell is up that girl’s ass now? I just know that I for one want no more of it.

Pam simply stares at me for a few moments, and then her face curls into an ugly sneer. “Just what the hell do you think you are doing?”

Uhh …what?

“What?” I blurt out, completely shocked at her accusation. Especially since I have no idea what she is accusing me of.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.” When I continue to stare blankly and dubiously at her, she sighs in exasperation, as if I’M being the one difficult here. “Worming your way into this town, making everybody like you, when you know.” She chuckles suddenly, the sound chilling me to the core. “You know that you don’t deserve any of it.”

Fresh, hot guilt explodes in my gut, the feeling all to familiar. And wrong. I know this now.

My lip trembles, and I curse it. But my voice is soft and strong when I curtly inform her: “You’re wrong.”

She laughs again, the same cackle that reminds one of nails screeching across a chalkboard. “Am I? You know as well as I what you are Lizzie dear.”

I’m frozen again, this time not because of her words, but because of the movement I see over her shoulder. And that movement is Max Evans, shifting into earshot. Which means that whatever Pam has to say that he’ll hear every word.

“No,” I croak out. “No, Pam. Don’t even. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And she doesn’t. Despite the fact that she was the one to spread those rumors, that’s all they are. Rumors. Kernels of the truth, but when it all comes down to it, they’re nothing but bald-faced lies that couldn’t be further from the truth.

But Max doesn’t know that. Maria, Isabel, Alex and Michael don’t know that. Hell, I don’t think even Pam knows that. But the last thing I want is for any of the people I’ve been beginning to consider friends in Roswell to know what those rumors are.

When I see her twisted grin, my heart sinks.

“Don’t what?” Pam snorts. “Don’t tell all your precious friends what a freak you are back home? About what a slut you are, and how no one in their right mind should give you the time of day? You’re vapor, Liz. A thin wisp of nothing that should do everyone a favor and just disappear.”

Oh God! Shut up, shut up! My mouth is hanging open with the shock that’s she’s actually doing this with someone (and not just any someone thank you) in earshot. But really, I shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s not like she hasn’t done this before.

DO SOMETHING! My mind screams at me. Deny it, prove her wrong, kick her in the face, just do SOMETHING!

Nothing’s changed. I still stand there, my mouth suspended in time, open and trembling, my heart aching and I’m trying to do anything but look over in the direction of the kitchen.

Pam notices my gaze, or rather where I am NOT looking. She chuckles mirthlessly. “Well, well. Looks like someone else is about to hear about what exactly you are Liz.”

And just like that, something inside me snaps. I have to get out of there, have to get away before I see the look on Max’s face when he realizes …

I don’t allow myself to finish that thought. I simply bolt for the back door and burst into the alleyway, gasping and lugging in a huge gulp of the musky garbage smell coming from the dumpster. The sound of Pam’s voice behind me spurs on my movements and I start running, relishing the familiar burning sensation in my thighs. Anything to take my mind off of what just happened, of what Max must be thinking.

The door that had closed behind me now slams open with a strong force. I hear Max moving after me, but the thought doesn’t comfort me. Probably just running to catch up so he can try and get Tess’s number from me. Either that or to confirm that yes, I am that big of a freak like Pam says.

“Liz? Liz! Wait!”

I hesitate when I hear his voice. Is that …could I have possibly just heard concern in his tone?

Impossible. Right?

I squash down the part of me that is leaping up with hope and joy and then kick it for good measure when it entreats me to slow down and stop.

“Liz?” His voice is more frantic now, laced with anxiety. It too begs me to stop.

But it’s too late.

I’m gone.

~*~


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Jan-2003 9:14:33 PM ]
posted on 6-Jan-2003 5:07:23 PM
~*~

So. Pam and Tess are in Roswell, of all places to spend their summer vacation.

Notice my complete lack of surprise.

Told you. Told you I should have stayed in bed today. But no, I had to go downstairs to work. I just had to run into them and ruin everything that I thought might have been happening between –

No. It’s over. There is no way in hell that anyone will want anything to do with me now that Pam and her posse are here to spread the rumors, the lies, the pain. Hope dashed. All of it, just gone. The very thought makes me so angry, I could scream while sitting here in the dark. I want to yell, shout out the animosity I’m feeling towards myself for falling prey to that bastard hope again, my fury towards Pam for showing up and dashing my feeble spirits.

So I do.

A strangled cry absconds out my throat, the noise slicing through the silence of the dim room so sharply that you would think that my voice was a knife. Tears of frustration well up in the corner of my eye. I HATE this. I absolutely HATE feeling this way.

And then I hear it. Someone softly calling my name. The sound echoes through the empty diner where I came to rot and wallow in peace after it closed an hour ago. I had THOUGHT that I could be alone here.

Shit. I hope that whoever it is didn’t hear me. With all my brilliant powers of persuasion, I stare hard at the doorway, willing the person to go away.

“Liz, honey, what’s wrong?”

Well that obviously did not work. Wonderful.

It’s my aunt. Oh wait, excuse me, Nancy.

Wrong she asks? What’s WRONG? I think a more plausible question would be what isn’t wrong? It is ME she’s talking to, isn’t it?

I furiously wipe at the two tears that managed to escape down my face. “Hey Nancy,” I attempt to hit a jaunty tone. By the look on Nancy’s face as she ambles over to the bar where I’m perched, I can guess that it failed miserably. Probably because:

A. I have never been jaunty in my life, and

B. I just plain suck at it.

She just stands there, arms crossed, and waits for me to fess up. I in turn wait for the barrage of questions that will be thrown at me, for the prying that every adult does when they sense something wrong. The whole ordeal is just a big vat of anticipation. Lovely.

Hmm, still waiting

Waiting some more.

Man, she is damn good at that staring thing.

I shift a bit and make sure that my gaze is anywhere but locked onto her probing one.

Again with the waiting

Ok, someone has to stop the madness. I break the silence weakly. “Nothing’s wrong.”

Now usually I pride myself on being able to lie smoothly about how I am really feeling. I mean, hell, I have had all the practice with my mom. I would say my dad too, but it wouldn’t matter if I told him anything. He wouldn’t care one way or the other. But right now, it’s obvious even to ME that, with my wavering voice, I am most definitely lying. And it looks like it’s apparent to Nancy by the way she keeps staring at me.

“I see,” she says slowly. “Are you sure?”

Are you sure. What kind of stupid question is that? Are you sure

Just say it. Just say yes. Just say yes and she will go away and leave you alone. SAY IT.

But even as I open my mouth, I can tell I am going to sound anything but believable.

“I’m fine,” I choke out, my voice cracking. Fucking perfect. Now leave me be.

What is it about the actual activity of talking that makes crying come so much more easily? I swear, if I were alone right now, I can almost guarantee that I would not be crying. Oh, for sure I would still be sulking and wallowing about how much fate and all that sucks, but that’s nothing exactly new.

Nancy hesitates, seemingly having an internal struggle. Oh God. Here we go. The ole lecture, the ole ‘I understand what you are feeling’ feel good talk. Just what I need. I swear to God I am not going to survive this. Why can’t people leave me alone? Why do they have to pick, to prod, to rip away anything that I managed to keep for myself?

“Ok.”

Jeez, I told you, here we g -

“What?” I must have heard her wrong. What?

Nancy shrugs and repeats herself. “Ok. I can tell that something’s bothering you, but if you don’t want to talk about it, ok.”

“What?” Brilliant. Now I am rendered speechless, and resorting to repeating the same phrase over and over. Absolutely outstanding, could this day get any worse?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

Nancy raises her eyebrow in amusement. “I’m not going to force you to talk,” she acts as if the very idea would be absurd. I could kiss her.

But I won’t. Sorry, I don’t swing that way, as you might recall. But excuse me if I’m in a bit of a shock. What, is she seeing right through me? How does she know all this? I haven’t had to come up with a cover story, like the brilliant “I’m tired” round. Yeah, because that one’s believable.

“But I will say this. When you’re ready, I’ll be here ready to listen,” she says suddenly, while sitting down on one of the bar stools, swinging back and forth slightly.

Never mind then. God, why is everyone obsessed with getting me to “talk?” Mom was back home, the school guidance counselor, the crackpot of a psychiatrist Mom attempted to send me to once news of the separation came out …

As if sensing my irritation, Nancy pats the seat in front of me. “Here. Sit down. I’ll go make us some vanilla milkshakes.” And she goes, proceeding to make a hell of a lot of noise in the kitchen. I swear, an elephant would probably make less noise in that room, and it’s tiny. The room, I mean - not, of course, the elephant, for then my brilliant analogy wouldn’t make sense.

I’m slightly amused as I hear another sickening thud followed by a wincing crash, remembering Jeff’s low admonition to keep Nancy away from the kitchen at all costs. I’m hoping he meant because she makes a mess, NOT because of her cooking. Otherwise, I’m probably going to have to pass on the milkshake.

A couple bangs and a lot of cursing later, she emerges, holding two frothy glasses, filled to the brim. She sets them down and protrudes some straws.

Great. Now what?

“Your uncle is over at the Evans’s. They installed a new entertainment center in the house, and Jeff wanted to check it out.” Nancy slurps loudly.

I try not to look even remotely interested with the casual mention of the Evans’, and distract myself by taking a tentative sip of my own drink. To my delightful surprise, it’s GOOD. But then again, how can you ruin a milkshake?

Please don’t answer that.

“But if he thinks he’s installing one HERE, Jeffy is sorely mistaken.” Nancy grins widely at me; it’s reminiscent of Maria with a mission and I feel a familiar sense of apprehension and respect.

Smiling weakly at the joke, my mind is blissfully blank, and I entirely grateful for Nancy’s helpful distraction in forgetting for a few wonderful moments that life does not in fact suck as much as it does. She begins to fill me in on useless town gossip, and while I’m not really focusing on what she’s saying, the sound of her voice is warm, accepting, NICE (here we go again) -

And all of a sudden I am missing my mother more than anything. And damning my father for ruining everything.

“Liz …” She’s stopped talking now, looking at me expectantly. Oh Whoops. I think she asked me a question. Stupid brain. Focus.

“Yea, um …god, sorry …I just - ” I just …I just what? God why, can’t I think, let alone SPEAK? Why am I rendered useless just because of memories of the past, and the rubbish that is my present? I - I don’t want to think about this.

“Liz? Tell me what happened?” I’m sucker punched with the blow of a memory - a memory of ten year old me. Ten year old me would run home to mommy at every hurtful experience, whether it was because Mary Sue and her friends wouldn’t let me sit down at lunch with them because I was “weird,” or because Tommy pushed me into the mud and called me ugly, I would rush tearfully into my mothers arms, and she would inquirer softly, “Liz, tell me what happened?”

Perhaps it’s because she sounded so much like my mom, or perhaps it’s because I’m tired of lying. Tired of pretending that nothing mattered, because the truth of it is, it DOES matter, and it does hurt. And the more I deny it, the more it festers in my soul, crumbling another itty bit of it.

So I tell her. Tell her how I saw Pam and Tess here in Roswell, in the Crashdown no less, and what Pam said to me, and how it made me feel. I, of course, leave out the fact that Max was there and that the entire idea of him hearing anything about what my life is like back home mortified me to no end, but still. Guess what mom, Miss Guidance-I-really-don’t-give-a-shit-just-doing-my-job-Counselor, or Mr. Stuffy Psychiatrist, you won! I just participated in the infamous “talking.”

And Nancy just sits there, simply absorbing it all with her blue eyes compassionate.

Immediately I regret saying anything. God here now she is going to get all sugary, all sorry for me, all touchy feely. Here’s the part where she tells me she knows what I’m going through, and that things are going to get better. Well guess what. You aren’t me. And you don’t know shit about the future. And I don’t need it. I’ve heard it all before.

But Nancy seems intent of proving me wrong, unwittingly of course.

“Why did those girls do that?” Nancy wants to know, seemingly genuinely surprised.

I look away down at the floor. Hello Fred. Nice to see you again. You all remember Fred the dust bunny don’t you? Well, if not allow me to reintroduce you.

How do I put it into words? That kind of unadulterated hate that seems to cloak Pam Troy and her lackys wherever they stomp around?

“They don’t like me too much,” I answer lamely, because the truth is far too complex to put into a nutshell.

Nancy looks perplexed. “Why?” She asks.

“They just don’t,” I answer tersely, wanting more than ever for this conversation to be over. Damn, damn talking. I HATE it. Another minute and I’m going to be bawling my eyes out, and quite frankly, I’m tired of all those post-sobbing headaches that no amount of Advil can combat.

“Must be SOME reason or a another - ” Nancy starts to say.

“No,” I cut her off. “There isn’t. Sometimes the best reason is that there isn’t any one at all,” I finish flatly. God, I shouldn’t have said that. Here comes the pep talk. ‘Now that’s not true, everyone loves everyone! The world is NICE place!’ Or something of the same. Lies, all of it lies.

Nancy simply sighs instead. “High School sucks.”

I just look at her, stunned, relieved and, well, confused all at the same time.

She shrugs again in response to my brilliant continued act of sitting there like a stunned moose. “Hey, I was a teenager too.”

My mouth drops open. Somehow, this isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I continue to stare at her as she swings in an idle manner atop the squeaky bar stool. Suddenly through my eyes, I can see what she means. Because sitting here with her, drinking my most favorite frothy beverage in the whole wide world, talking about the supposed “best years of your life,” and moving to and fro on that stool, I can totally picture Nancy as a teenager. A ghost of the past, I guess. A whisp of something that had been. Had she been as hurt as me? Did she have her own personal tormentors a la Pammy? Did she sometimes feel like just getting up one night and running away from it all?

If you had looked at her before, if you had only just met her, or maybe if you had even known Nancy her whole adult life, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. My answer to all those questions would be a big, fat NO. But here? Here with her usually bright eyes shadowed with memories, well, the possibly is there.

A silence engulfs the room, but I don’t mind. In some ways, the silence has been exactly what I’ve been wishing for. Although, now of all times I’m hit with the sudden urge to talk. To ask Nancy what exactly she meant by her previous statement. I inhale deeply and open my mouth to start, but something stops me mid-breath.

I guess there are just some things that you leave to the imagination. Some things better left unsaid, unknown.

Yes, I definitely like that philosophy better than anything an old crackpot doctor could come up with. I don’t care if he has a freaking PhD. All the book smarts in the world are nothing sans experience. Although, I’m guessing that that particular musing wouldn’t go over so well with one of my teachers.

Nancy suddenly pushes herself up from the stool, all smiles again. The mask of the girl she once was fades away, and she’s herself again. Strong, motherly. In control.

“Liz, I want to give you something,” She says out of nowhere, reaching behind the counter for a strangely shaped … book? Photo album? Some new form of torture they think up down here in the southwest? Is she going to paper cut me until I’m squealing out in pain, yelling out “Uncle!” (or as the case may be, “Aunt!”)? I don’t know.

Gee, Parker, why don’t you try using your mouth instead of your utterly useless brain? Hmm, you think?

“What is it?” I finally ask, heeding that ever so annoying voice in my head and its advice.

Nancy smoothes her fingers over it once before holding it out to me. “It’s a journal. Something that I had back in high school. Or at least, it’s something like the one I had.”

A what?

What the hell do I need a journal for? I mean, sure I’ve kept data logs in science before, but what would I use this for? Recording the orders I take in the Crashdown? But no, where’s the logic in that. I have a handy dandy order pad for things like that, and it would be very sad indeed if I fired it from its job.

But what then? Write down the worthless doings of my everyday life?

Nancy cuts through my silence. “It’s just something you always have, in case you feel like screaming at the world yet don’t want anyone to hear.” She smiles knowingly and I flush slightly. Okay, the word screaming is a bit much, don’t you think? And seriously, I wasn’t that loud. “And it’s not like you need to keep a daily record of everything that happens to you. That’d turn out to be exhausting after a while.”

Yeah, either that or completely disheartening when you realize that absolutely nothing of your life is even remotely … well, not boring.

“Anyways,” Nancy continues, setting the brown book next to me on the bar. “It’s always there when you need to vent. That’s how I viewed it anyhow.” She leans over and kisses the top of my head, and I blink, surprised at the warm gesture, yet at the same time my heart lightens. Her resemblance of my mother doesn’t sting much now - instead it’s comforting. “Night Liz. Thanks for having a milkshake with me.”

She exits, the swinging door slamming shut behind her, leaving me to stare at the journal.

As if independent from my body, my hand darts out and closes around it, bringing it into my lap. I blink once, trying to sort out my thoughts, and then it hits me. Isn’t that what the journal’s for? I start upstairs, my feet clomping soundly on the stairs and make my way to my room.

Upon entering, my fingers continuing tracing the comfortingly worn in design covering the face of the leather bound journal. Despite myself, a smile tugs insistently on the corners of my mouth as I let the smooth contours kiss my fingertips once again. The same fingertips that have been itching to start writing the instant Nancy put the book into my hands. What is this strange pull that is pushing for me to put a pen against the clean white sheets within? It’s something completely new, that’s for sure. I have never felt this way about writing when it comes time for midterm papers.

I stand there for another minute or two, just staring goofily at the intricately woven designs on the cover and taking a moment to flip indolently through the blank pages. If just holding the damn thing is enough to ease the ache in my heart, then I can only guess what actually writing would do.

The thought spurs me into motion and suddenly I’m scouring the room frantically for a pen, a pencil, hell even pieces of charcoal or a feather and ink would suffice in this moment. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with reacting the times of the old. Except for the fact that using a good ole ballpoint is less of a hassle.

After ransacking the wooden desk that stood in the corner of my room, I get down on my hands and knees and lift up the mahogany bedspread to peer beneath the rickety yet plush mattress. The sight that greets me is nothing more than a number of Fred the dust bunny’s kin and a ball of something that I know instinctively that I just don’t want to even touch. Sighing when it’s becoming clear that my hunt is fruitless, I wipe my hands on my jeans and stand up.

The sight that greets me steals my breath and momentarily (thank God) stops my heart.

Max Evans is crouching by my bedroom window, his eyes shining even through the dim light of desert dusk.

For a moment, I feel incredibly giddy as delight crawls up my insides to work its way up my throat. A warmth slowly eases through me, and that’s when I remember.

What the hell is he DOING here? Did he not hear the ever-enlightening conversation that Pam and I had in the break room not even two hours ago? Should he not be, like, sprinting away in the opposite direction, cursing the little time he has spent with me? Well, I’ll tell you what he should NOT be doing, and that is standing outside my bedroom window, waiting for me to open it. No. This is not how this is supposed to go. I didn’t sign up for this.

So, I guess you could say that I’m a little … unprepared.

HA! That’s the understatement of the century. It’s like saying to Trent Lott, “Gee, you’re in a bit of trouble.”

I blink when he smiles a little at my stunned expression (stunned. Ha. More like a freaking feather could put me out for the count) and he raps his knuckles smartly against the pane. And just like that, I’m free from my little shocked induced trance and able to waltz my sorry little ass over to the frame. I unlock the top latch, my eyes never wavering from his. God, those eyes. They just like, tug at you, propelling you to come closer. I would say that they were watery, like a deep pool luring you in, but it wouldn’t really be accurate. No, his eyes are more like … cream, I suppose. A nice swirl of golden brown cream. Luscious and -

Whoa there! Cut the cheese, Parker, or you’ll have enough to swim in. Probably some to go with your cream. Eh, at least you won’t go hungry. A perky, all together irritating voice in my head decides to pipe up. I mentally swat it away and concentrate on getting this damn, sticky window open. Once I do, I close my eyes briefly at the soft summer air reaches out to touch my cheek. God, the air even smells good at night. Or maybe it’s just him.

Well, that or the garbage below the balcony.

I step back carefully to allow him the ample room to enter, all the while staring hard at him, trying to figure him out. Unfortunately, all the time I have right now isn’t nearly enough for that particular task. But somehow, I just feel that it would be time entirely well spent.

He clamors inside with more grace then I would have given him credit for. Nope, definitely not a head banger this one.

He’s smiling at me now, the same smile from this morning, the one that turned my insides into that nasty ooey gooey butter. I swallow shakily. Uh oh. Why do I have the feeling that my brain cells are going to disappoint once again?

“Hey,” he says simply, still smiling softly.

“Hey,” I answer. “Ever hear of a door?”

Yep, I knew it. Bye-bye brain cells.

Despite this, I can’t find it in me to be embarrassed by my blurting out the first thing that popped into my head. Maybe it’s because I’m so damn tired right now, maybe it’s because Nancy really did (however inadvertently) poison that milkshake, or maybe it’s because Max’s eyebrows are shooting up in surprise before his smile widens.

“You mean one of those fancy-swancy wooden things that swing on a hinge with a metal knob gadget stuck in one of the sides?” Max’s head cocks to one side, amusement making his eyes twinkle with enough glimmer to rival the stars.

Despite myself, I giggle. GIGGLE. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that after the day I’ve had I wouldn’t be able to find it in me to actually smile, let alone laugh. Yes, well I thought so too. I gaze back up at him, and nod. “Yeah. One of those novelties.”

He shrugs, amusement lining his every feature. “Please. Doors are so overrated.”

“Well, you’ll just have to excuse me and my old fashioned ideas of entering and exiting a room.” I cross my arms in mock indignation, inwardly marveling at our easy banter and simultaneously wishing for it to never end.

He sighs in ersatz submission. “I guess I could do that. For now.”

We stand there, smiling at each other for a few blissful moments. Then, reality rears its ugly head once more, and I’m forced to look down at my feet.

“What are doing here Max?” I ask, in what I hope is an offhand voice, trying not to reveal that I need to know the answer to this question like I need to breathe.

He doesn’t hesitate. “I wanted to see you.” All of a sudden that much-needed breath leaves my body with a shudder as I gaze up at him dubiously, the word “WHY?” echoing resolutely through my mind. Because there is no way that Max Evans just said that to me.

I guess he takes my stunned silence as a hint that he should elaborate (and rightfully so), because he does. “I wanted to make sure you were okay after …” He trails off, locking his gaze with mine. And no matter how much I want to, I can’t turn away to hide the anguish that enters my eyes at the mention – or lack there of – of what happened today.

I give a half laugh, half snort to cloak my feelings, or at least to do some major damage control by what I KNOW was just revealed in my eyes (and not to mention in the whole damn conversation earlier). “Uh, yeah. That was -” Awkward. Paralyzing. Irritating. The worst thing ever to happen especially at this point and time. “Something,” I finish lamely, feeling the pain come all rushing back. Ah, see I’m making progress with that Thesaurus thing. Now all I have to do is work on actually saying aloud the better choices of words.

“Ah, right, those girls. What were their names again? Pip and Bess?” He’s grinning, and warm reassurance washes over me like the temped waters of a Caribbean Sea. A shaky smile breaks out on my face, and I raise an eyebrow at him, silently giggling at what Pam and Tess would do at being referred to as ‘Pip and Bess.’ Though come to think of it, Pam is quite the annoying little pipsqueak, and Tess is like an old cow, so I’d say that the monikers fit perfectly.

“Pam and Tess,” I correct, my smile darkening as I remember what was said, and especially how Tess eyed Max appreciatively.

“Nah,” He responds. “I like mine better.”

I shrug, pushing myself past him to fiddle needlessly with the windowsill. “Tess seemed to like you quite a bit.” Okay, ew. I hate the way I just sounded. Almost … hurt. Jealous. Ick. I dare to look up at him to catch his reaction to what is probably the best news he’s ever heard in his life, and yep, he’s smiling like the cat that just caught the canary. I quickly look away, amazed at how much the idea of Max and Tess makes me sick.

He’s over at my side so quick that I have barely enough time to blink, and he covers my hand with his, stopping my restless fidgeting. “Well, that’s too bad” At his words, my eyes widen slightly and I lose myself in those tawny swirls of (yes, yes, corny, cheesy but …) cream.

Are my palms sweating? Nervously, I lick off the remains of my lip gloss (Amazing! This stuff really does last all day. I now have renewed faith in the advertising companies. Or some anyway) and stutter out what I am dying to know, yet at the same time dreading to hear the answer, certain that it couldn’t possibly be something I want to hear. “Wh – Why’s that?”

He stiffens, and all of a sudden those bright sunny eyes darken like an imminent storm. Leaving me to wonder what the hell I did and to try to keep my knees from going weak. Whoa. His gaze is now like the midnight sky, piercing me to the core. All thoughts and notions of speaking fly out of mind, and I uncertainly run my tongue over my lips once more, an act that is quickly becoming a nervous habit.

The instant I do, his eyes flutter shut almost like he is in agony, and he lets out a low … groan?

No, that can’t be right.

Max buddy, are you all right there?

Oh God. This had better not be some adverse aftereffect of drinking one of Nancy’s milkshakes. Otherwise trying to get some sleep tonight is going to be a bitch.

Is it just me, or does the air seem thinner up here? That groan somehow caused a ripple of something to trail along my shoulders and arms and the act left me literally breathless. Unconsciously (of course) I lean forward towards him, sighing softly as our shallow breaths mingle together.

His eyes snap open after his throat works a few times, almost like he finally got a hold of himself, and he smiles at me again. Have I mentioned how much I love that smile? The one that makes me feel … cherished. Something I have never felt, not in a long time anyways. Not unless it was a lie.

Now it’s my turn to stiffen as the thought puts my guard up. Oh God. This can’t be a lie. Not when it’s the truest thing I’ve ever felt.

Watch yourself Liz. You can never be too open, or too careful.

“Because,” Max finally answers my question and effectively snaps me out of my haze. “Blondes aren’t my type.”

I can’t stop the wide, slow smile from spreading across my face anymore than I can stop the rain from falling. And quite honestly I don’t think I would want to. In fact, I think I could stand here smiling and listening to Max tell me how Tess is NOT his type (however slightly) all day. All night. All week.

“Oh really,” I breathe lightly, trying to look utterly unaffected by what he just said. “And what exactly is your type?” I arch my eyebrow high, giving off the impression that his answer could hardly interest me in the least and that I’m simply asking a factual question from a non-partial point of view.

Yeah, well that’s a crock of sh-

“You,” he says simply, completely.

And with that minimal, short syllable word, everything fades away. Pam and Tess are inconsequential nothings of a past that seems way back behind me, and there’s nothing except me and him. Him and me. Him leaning forward, a mere kiss away …

Uhh, what?

Ohh boy.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Jan-2003 9:15:18 PM ]