posted on 31-Aug-2001 2:53:37 PM
Title: Was It A Dream? Category: M/L's children,…...Rating: G - PG-13
Author: jane E-mail: jwest⊕beaumont.edu
Disclaimer: They are not mine. The characters of Roswell belong to Melinda Metz, UPN, Jason Katims
and all the wonderful people who we all love for starting this fabulous series. No infringement or disrespect is intended. I'm just borrowing them! I would like to thank Carol (spacemom) for allowing me to use her character names (Mason and Cheryl) from her story "Acting Alien" and for all of her help and advice! -jane
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Summary: AU, future fic. This is a sequel to "I Can't, I'm Different!", which is available on the Repost Board (hope you like it!) I recommend that you read ICID first, or at least the Last Chapter. A few days before their wedding, Max and Liz met the two young actors "Mason Blair" and "Cheryl Appleton", who were staring in the very popular movie and TV show 'Among Them'. The actors look exactly like Max and Liz, so to keep the Press away from them, Mason and Cheryl stay away from M/L, until one day when they and their young children meet again. The children share a magical moment. Will they remember each other when they meet again in college. There may be a little danger and excitement, but mostly, this is a love story!


Was It A Dream? Part 1

Seven year old, Suzie Blair was enjoying visiting the Sixth Annual Airatan Art Festival, with her parents, Mason Blair and Cheryl Appleton and her five year old brother, Matt. They had been camping for a couple days, when they heard about the art fair and decided to go see it. She and Matt had really like watching all of the artists at work.

The loud banging noises, as a metal sculptor fit two pieces of his statue together. Suzie had no idea what the statue was supposed to be, but it had been fun to watch it come together. The fluid grace of soft clay, as a potter formed a lovely vase on her wheel. The vibrant colors used by a painter, as he tried to depict something, which only his imagination could give a name to.

The whole town was like something out of her storybooks. All of the buildings had curves, peaks and valley. She had never seen anything like it, even on one of her father's or mother's movie sets, in Hollywood.

Suzie looked up at her father and mother and grinned. It was so funny to see them when they tried to disguise who they were. All of her mother's lovely, long, brown hair was hidden underneath a baseball cap and her face, was hidden by sunglasses. But her father was the funniest looking of all, with his scraggly beard and mustache.

She understood that they did this so that the four of them could have fun together, without being bothered by pesky reporters. Sometimes, her daddy called reporters by bad names, if they tried to bother one of them. It made her tummy hurt to hear her usually kind and gentle father speak that way.

She loved it when her family could spend time together like this for days at a time. Usually her parents were busy working hard. Her father and mother were famous actors, but they had told her that being her mommy or daddy was their most important job and they spent as much time as possible with her and her brother.

"Hey, Suzie, you want to come with your old dad, to see how they blow glass?"

"Ohh, yes! How do they do that Daddy? How do they make such pretty shapes?" Suzie asked as she looked through the window of a glass-blowing studio and saw shelf after shelf of lovely glass figurines.

"Well, I don't actually know. Let's go see for ourselves, shall we?" Mason suggested, as he took her hand and they walked into the glass-blowing studio.

"You're not old, Daddy." Suzie told her father.

"You don't think so? What about this gray hair I'm getting at my temples?" Mason asked, as he took off his hat and sunglasses to show her.

"It looks nice. Very dist…dist-sting-squished." She tried to use a big word she had heard recently.

"My hair is sting-squished, Oh No!" Mason teased her as she giggled.

"I think the word you are trying to say is distinguished, little-one." An old woman came forward, looking both of them over with an observant eye. Eyes, which opened wide in shock, for just a moment, when they saw Mason and then returned to normal.

"And you are very correct, your daddy is not old. I am old." She said. Suzie looked up at the old lady and watched as she moved around the studio.

"Well, your hair is a pretty white, not gray and you do have just a few wrinkles, but otherwise you don't look that old. How old are you?" Suzie asked with the honest candor of the young.

"Suzie, that's none of your business." Mason told his daughter, reprovingly.

"Oh it's alright, sir. She's only being curious. My name is Nasus and I am 86 years old."

"That's older than my grandmother." Suzie said, after a moment's thought.

"Yes, most probably, young-one. But you came in to see how glass is blown, not hear an old lady talk about herself. What would you like to see me make?" Nasus asked.

"I don't know, show me how you make those glass balls...and how you make them all those pretty colors." Suzie requested.

"Very well, this is how I start…" And Nasus proceeded to show Suzie and Mason her art of glass blowing.

Time flew by and then father and daughter left the studio.

"That was so beautiful, Daddy. How Mrs. Nasus made first that red ball and then the ball with the green ribbon flowing inside it!" Suzie chattered as they came out.

"Yes wasn't it?" Her father agreed with her. "There's Mommy and you brother. Let's go joint them." He said and took her hand to cross the street.

As they drew closer, Suzie could see that a man was speaking to her brother. She heard her mother call the man Max Evans as she looked intently at his face, as he stood up to shake her father's hand. The man looked exactly like her father, except that he didn't have her daddy's funny-looking beard and mustache. She saw that he had a kind face and gentle eyes, when he glanced down at her and smiled. She smiled back up at him.

Soon her parents were taking hers' and Matt's hands and leading them over to the man's car. It seemed that this was a friend of Suzie's parents and all four of them were going to go and stay with his wife, Liz and their family for the night. Suzie and Matt were safely buckled into the back seat, on each side of their mother, while their father sat up front with his friend.

Soon the car passed through a huge gate, set into an enormous, green wall, which seemed to open magically, before them and close after them the same way. On the other side of the green wall, Suzie could no longer see the pretty, little town, but saw instead a beautiful valley unfold before her very eyes. She caught glimpses of more storybook houses through the trees, as they drove by.

Then they drove up to a house, larger than any of the other's Suzie had seen on their drive through the valley. It had arched windows and a flowing roof. None of the walls were straight either, but curved.

"Let me take you around back, where the kids are playing." She heard her daddy-look-a-like say.

'Kids? Playing? Could she play with them?' Suzie wondered, as they circled the house. Then she saw a woman who looked just like her mother, run over and hug her parents. 'Boy this was getting weird!' She thought to herself, but her attention was caught by the play-area, over by the trees. There was a swing-set with a big slide, set up on the grass and then wonder of wonders, a fort, which looked like something out of the Swiss Family Robinson book she had at home, with lots of rope ladders leading from one level to another, built among the trees.

Suzie almost squealed in delight, when she saw the playhouse built in among the great roots of some big, old tree and there, flitting among the branches was another little girl, with blond hair…and fairy-wings! Was this some sort of magical valley, her family had found? Were this man and woman, who looked exactly like her parents, king and queen of the fairy-people? She wondered to herself, allowing her imagination to run free. Then she and Matt were instructed to greet the kind-eyed lady who was smiling down at them.

"Hello, Mrs. Evans." They both said politely.

"Would the two of you like to come and play with two of my children, Phil and Libby?" Suzie and her brother both nodded and the mommy-look-a-like took their hands and led them over to where the other two children were playing.

"Phil, Libby, these are Matt and Suzie. I want you to play nicely with them and be on your best behavior." The lady said and Suzie thought that she was saying something else to them with just her eyes, before she left them to play.

This was not the first time that Phillip and Libby's mother had brought stranger's children over to play with them. Their parents had visitors several times a year. They were either Antarians, who lived elsewhere on Earth, or they might be visiting from the Unified Alliance of Planets. Sometimes, ambassadors from other alien worlds came to visit their parents, who were the King and Queen of all Antarian people. Luckily, the Evans children were happy, outgoing kids, who loved nothing better than to have someone new to play with.

"Do you want to play rescue the princess?" The little girl asked Suzie.

"OK, what do we do?" Suzie asked.

"I'm the magical fairy and you can be the princess who needs rescuing! Come on, I have a dress and crown inside my playhouse." She said.

"I get to wear a crown?" Suzie asked in delight as she followed the blond-haired girl into the playhouse, which looked like a smaller version of the big house.

"Do you want to play the good knight, or the evil knight?" Phil asked Matt.

"Mmm, the evil knight! Does that mean I get to tie my big sister up?" He asked with glee.

"Um, sure, we usually just shut the princess up in the tree-house, but I think there might be some yarn up there you could use for your magical, unbreakable cord."

"Ohh, magical, unbreakable cord. I like the sound of that!" Matt grinned.

"OK, then after you tie her up, I'll have to fight you to set her free, because I'm the good knight." Phil motioned to the white breastplate and helmet he was wearing. "Come on, your black helmet is in the fort." He said and both boys ran into the rustic, wooden fort, built underneath another large tree, nearby.

When they came out of the fort, wearing their armor and carrying their plastic shields and foam-rubber swards, the girls were waiting. Suzie had a knee-length, pink ballerina-skirt on, over her white shorts and top, but she still had on her red tennie-bops and red bracelet, which she had been wearing all day. Her crown, which was made of intricately bent wire, covered with gold glitter and sequins, was bobby-pinned, more or less straight, onto the top of her head.

"I get to tie you up with my magical, unbreakable cord!" Matt said, gleefully to his sister.

"Only if I let you, Matt-y." Suzie taunted, using the nickname her brother hated.

"OH you…you are my prisoner and I get to tie you up and shut you into my fort." Matt grabbed her hand and dragged her over to the wooden fort. It had a platform about five feet off the ground, with a railing all around it, a green canvas shade on top and rope and wooden ladders to climb up to the platform on all sides, which created the "walls" for the lower part of the fort.

Suzie carefully climbed the rope ladder, not wanting to ruin her princess costume and good-naturedly let her brother loosely tie her up with the yarn. Really, Matt was a pretty nice brother and fun to play with.

"Now I'll lock you in with an evil magic spell." Matt made a dramatic wave of his hands.

"But your friend, the Fairy Queen is here and will be able to break the evil spell with my magic wand, if the good knight can win the battle against the evil knight." Libby told Suzie, who was watching from behind her upstairs balustrade.

"Ah ha, Evil Knight, you have imprisoned the Princess with your magical, unbreakable cord and your evil spell, but I will fight you until you agree to release her." Phil intoned, dramatically and both boys started to fight with their foam-rubber swards. They made many sound effects and exclamations as they fought.

"Clash!"

"Ah ha, I got you, you evil villain!"

"Boom!"


"No, I deflected your weapon with my magic!"

"Crash!"

"Do you give up?"

"Never!"

The boys rolled around on the ground, until Phil was able to pin Matt onto his back.

"Ah ha, now I have you! And I am going to tie you up with my own magical, unbreakable cord, which the Fairy Queen gave me." Phil produced his own piece of yarn.

"Oh rats, foiled again!" Matt muttered.

"Can you break the evil spell, Fairy Queen?"

"Of course. With a wave of my magic wand, I can break any spell." She did so and Phil scrambled up the robe-ladder.

"I am here to rescue you, Princess!" Phil stated, grandly as he untied her.

"Thank you. You are my hero!" Suzie said and then puckered up her lips for a kiss.

"Hey, I ain't kissing no girl, yuck!" Phil cried. He might be a prince, but he was only a seven-year-old prince. Suzie took that comment good-naturedly. She wasn't sure about this kissing thing either, but she saw her parents doing it all the time…

The children then started to play their game all over again. The girls critiqued the boy's fighting style and a couple times, Suzie and Phil traded parts. Phil became the wounded knight, locked up in a dungeon to die and Suzie became the brave, Amazon Princess, who fought Matt, who would always be the Evil Knight, to save him, with the help of her friend, Libby, the Fairy Queen.

"Hey kids, come wash up for dinner." Liz called out."

"DINNER!" They all yelled and came running, costumes still on and weapons and wands still in their hands.

"Oh my goodness! Where is our camera?" Both mothers exclaimed and ran into the house to find their cameras. A few moments later, pictures had been taken, hands and faces had been washed and armor, dresses and wings had been removed. Only Suzie still wore her crown as everyone sat down to dinner.

"Hey you make a lovely princess, Sweetheart." Mason told his daughter, who blushed and hid her happy face behind her two hands.

Max and Liz looked at Phil and Suzie, who were sitting next to each other. 'Could this be a prophetic moment here? Our son, our Prince, sitting next to his Princess?' Max asked Liz, silently, as they both thought about their own Royal Circlets, hidden in the secret compartment, in their bedroom.

'I don't know, but they do look cute together. So do Matt and Libby!' Liz gazed at the children with a dreamy look in her eyes.

After a delicious dinner, the children were taken in, given their baths, tucked into bed and read stories, before they fell asleep. Libby and Suzie shared Libby's full-sized, canopy bed and Matt slept on the lower level of Phil's bunk bed, since he was only 5 years old.

The parents cleaned up the kitchen and then went back out onto the patio to chat for a couple hours, getting to know each other, as they had so wanted to do, but couldn't, over the past years. Finally they too went into their rooms, to sleep.

Suzie woke up in the middle of the night when she heard a noise in the room across the hall. Phil's room, she remembered. She looked at her new friend, Libby, but she was fast asleep. Suzie got out of bed, slipping her feet into her tennie-bops as she did and put her sweater on over her summer pajamas, before walking quietly out of her room, across the hall and into Phil's room. In the moonlight, she could see that Matt was also fast asleep. She heard a voice and looked towards the room's window.

"Come on Phil." A boy urged from outside, while a second boy stood about a yard back from the window. As she watched, Phil slipped out his window and ran off towards the woods with his two friends.

Suzie bit her lip. What should she do? Should she go wake up her parents, Phil's parents? What could she tell them though, she reasoned. She didn't know where they went. It would be better if she followed them, found out what they were up to and then came back to get her parents, if need be, she decided with a nod and slid out the window and ran across the grass towards the woods.

There was a full moon out tonight and its light filtered down through the tree branches so that Suzie could sort of see her way as she followed a bobbing light up ahead. She came to a clearing in the woods where she saw lights shoot up into the air, break apart and then fall to the earth like multi-colored firecrackers. She moved forward, but stayed hidden behind a tree.

It took several minutes for her eyes to adjust to the dark and her mind to figure out what she was really seeing. Half a dozen kids, both boys and girls, of about thirteen years of age were in the clearing, plus the two friends of Phillip's, who looked as though they were nine years old and Phillip, who she thought was seven.

Incredibly, the older kids were throwing stones up high into the air and somehow making them soundlessly explode into a rainbow of sparks, which fell harmlessly to earth.

"You try it Jimmy, Marcus." One of the older boys encouraged Phillip's two friends.

"I'll show you how to do it, Phil." One of the girls said and she came over to him and they huddled together for a few minutes, but Suzie didn't see her 'show him' how to do anything.

"Let me try." Jimmy called out, as he threw a stone up into the air. It didn't do anything and just fell back to earth. The older kids were grinning.

"Let me try." Marcus called out next as he threw a stone up into the air. It also came falling back to earth.

"Let me try." Phillip called out, nodding to the older girl who had been helping him. He threw his stone up into the air and it exploded loudly up in the air.

"All right, Phillip!" The older kids called out. "You used a little too much power, ease up a little so that the stone glows with heat on its way up and then just breaks apart into tiny, multi-colored pieces on its way down." They advised. Phillip concentrated for a moment and then threw another stone up into the air. It started to glow on its way up and then silently exploded into tiny, multi-colored sparks on its way down.

"All right, Phillip!" They all clapped for their friend, with respect in their eyes.

"Not many kids can do that before they're nine or ten." One of the other girls said.

"You are your father's son, alright." Another said and Phillip ducked his head shyly at their praise.

"I wanna try again." Both Jimmy and Marcus cried out.

"One at a time, guys." One of the older boys warned and Jimmy threw his stone up into the air, it exploded, loudly.

"Rats!" Jimmy exclaimed. "You try Marcus." He said and Marcus threw his stone up into the air. It glowed on the way up and silently exploded into colorful sparks.

"Alright Marcus! Jimmy you try again. Come on, we know you can do it." They encouraged him.

Jimmy threw his stone up into the air and this time, it did what it was supposed to do, sending radiant sparks down to earth.

"Alright, Jimmy!" All the kids clapped for him.

"Hey let's do figure eights." One boy suggested next and they all nodded.

"Just follow our lead, Phillip." Marcus said, as all the kids allowed their hands to start glowing.

Phil made his hand glow and then followed the older kids as they ran around the clearing, in a figure eight, crossing in front of each other in the middle, their glowing hands raised above their heads.

"On three, everyone down." A girl called out. "One, two, three." And all the kids dropped to the ground, extinguishing their hands and lay on their backs, gazing up at the glowing figure eight, which hung in the air for several minutes.

"Oh my gosh!" Suzie exclaimed, excitedly. "I'm going to get closer." Phillip heard a noise and looked towards the encircling trees and saw Suzie move from one tree to another.

'Oh no, what's she doing here?' He groaned to himself. 'I have to get her away from here.'

"Hey Jimmy, Marcus. I think I sensed my mom waking up. She may come to check on all of us. I'd better get home. Thanks for showing me how to make fireworks!" He called over to the girl who had helped him and then ran into the woods. He came up to where Suzie was hiding.

"What are you doing here?" Phil asked.

"I heard a noise and saw you slip out your window and decided to follow." Suzie answered. "Are you guys fairies, or witches or something?" She asked, excitedly.

"No we are not fairies or witches." Phillip denied. One of the first things Antarian children are taught, is to never, ever betray your people by telling anyone what you are. He felt that it was his fault that she had seen as much as she had in the first place. He had to make sure that she would keep their secret.

"Then what are you?" Suzie asked.

"I can't tell you. I won't betray my people. Can you understand what would happen to us if other people or the government found out about us? We'd be locked up…or worse." Phillip didn't like to think about the 'or worse-part' and Suzie's eyes had become big and round as she nodded.

"Will you keep the secret of what you saw here tonight?" Phillip asked her.

"Oh yes, don't worry, I won't tell anyone, not even my parents." Suzie promised.

"Just think of what you saw as a dream. Something you imagined." Phil advised.

"That won't be hard, this whole day has been like a dream. Suzie sighed.

"Okay, let me take you back to the house now." Phil said as he took her hand and led her back through the woods, to his house. On the way home, though, tears started running, silently down Suzie's face.

"Why are you crying?" Phillip asked, alarmed, when they reached his bedroom window.

"This has been the best day of my life. I don't want to forget it." Suzie sobbed. "I won't tell anyone, but I don't -sob- want -sob- to forget -sob-."

"I know, I'll make you something to remind you of this valley and of your promise." Phillip said.

"Okay -sob-." Suzie said. Phil reached into the pocket of his shorts and pulled out seven pennies and lay them on the ground in a V.

"Now I have to concentrate. I just saw Marcus do this last week and I have to remember what he said to do." Phillip stayed quiet and still for a moment, concentrating. Then his hand started to glow and he passed it slowly over the pennies three times. Then he picked up the solid piece of copper and showed it to Suzie.

"See, I melted the pennies together and made this map of the valley." Phillip said. "Here's the town, here are the two rivers, here's our house and here's the clearing and I put the word 'promise' in between the last two."

"Ohh that is so neat!" Suzie exclaimed.

"Shh, you'll wake someone up." Phillip warned. "Now let's get inside, before someone misses us." Phillip helped Suzie up through the window and then he slipped inside himself, closing the window behind him. They walked across the hall to the room Suzie was sharing with Libby.

"Thank you." Suzie said, simply and then she leaned in and kissed Phillip on the cheek, before scurrying into her room and closing the door.

She put a hand over her mouth to keep her giggles from escaping. On the other side of the door, Phillip put a hand up to touch his cheek. He didn't know whether to grin at receiving his first kiss from a girl or roll his eyes, as his friends did, when girls tried to talk to them.

'Phil.' He heard his name called silently and looked around. His father was standing a couple yards away and was beckoning him towards the family room.

'Uh oh.' He thought and walked in that direction as well.

"I guess you know all about my going to the clearing." Phillip said, right away, his head dropped.

"Of course. We don't mind your experimenting and having a little fun with your powers, as long as you are careful and get enough sleep. You know that someone is always watching, just in case anyone gets hurt, but you were with a good bunch of kids tonight and everyone was careful." Max broke into a smile.

"And you made fireworks, on your first try. That's great, Phillip!" He hugged his son and drew him over to the sofa.

"Well, actually my first stone kind of exploded, but my second stone did what it was supposed to do!" Phillip explained.

"I'm still proud of you." Max said. "Now about Suzie…"

"I brought her home as soon as I realized she was there. She didn't see much, honest. And she promised not to tell…" Phil said, anxiously. Max was silent for a moment, concentrating.

"Yes, I know and she is already asleep. Even though she wants to remember, I don't think she will. Once she leaves here, her time in the Valley will become a dream-image to her."

"Daddy, did you, did you dream-walk her?" Phil asked.

"It's not something I like to do, it's not something anyone should do, unless it's for an important reason, as it was tonight. I needed to know the state of her mind, how she is handling what she saw tonight, whether she will tell her parents."

"She won't Daddy. She promised."

"Yes, I think you are right. I think she will keep her promise." Max agreed after one more peek into Suzie's dreams. "Well, are you ready to go back to sleep, Son? There's lots to do tomorrow."

"Yeah, I am tired." Phillip yawned and father and son got up to walk back to their rooms. Max tucked Phil back under his covers and then returned to his worried mate.

"Everything will be alright. They are both safely asleep and I truly don't think that Suzie will remember anything." Max said, as he drew Liz into his arms. "Go back to sleep, love." He kissed her tenderly and she closed her eyes to sleep. Max watched her sweet face for a few moments and then drifted back to sleep, as well.

Back in Libby's room, a few minutes earlier, Suzie stifled her giggles at kissing her first boy, with her hand and moved over to where she could see her knapsack on the floor, in the moonlight. She took the V made of copper and slipped it down among her other favorite things, which she always took with her when she traveled. Then she slipped into bed and was asleep in moments.

The next morning, Suzie was roused from sleep by a gentle hand shaking her.

"Wake up sleepy-head, you've slept the morning away and we need to be leaving soon." Cheryl told her daughter.

"Mmm, wah time is it?" Suzie yawned.

"It's nine o'clock. Your Dad is out touring the valley with Mr. Evans and the kids are at their day-camps."

"Okay, Mom." Suzie got out of bed and her mother helped her put fresh clothes on, to speed her along and then they went out to the kitchen where blueberry pancakes were cooking.

"Good morning, Suzie. My you must have tired yourself out, playing so hard yesterday." Liz said, casually as she watched the little girl for any signs of her remembering what she saw in the middle of the night.

"Mm, are those blueberry pancakes for me? They're my favorite!" She smiled as she watched Liz flip them onto a plate.

"Yes, these are for you. A little bird on your mother's shoulder told me what your favorite breakfast food is. Come and eat them while they're hot." Suzie came to the table and dug in.

"Where's Matt?" Suzie asked, when she had a clear mouth again.

"He's out on the swings, see?" Cheryl said.

"Oh. Where's Daddy?"

"He went with Mr. Evans to see more of the valley before we leave."

"Do we have to leave?" Suzie asked, disappointed.

"I'm afraid so. Daddy's new movie starts filming the day after tomorrow and mine starts next week." Cheryl saw that her daughter had polished off her breakfast plate.

"Are you done?" At Suzie's grin and nod. "Go brush your teeth and make sure that everything's back in your knapsack and I'll be in there in a minute."

Suzie ran and brushed her teeth and then scurried into Libby's room and over to her knapsack. As she had eaten breakfast, what she had thought was a dream, from the night before, came back to her. But now she wasn't sure if it had been a dram or for real. If she could find the small copper V, which Libby's brother had given her, that would prove that it was real, she thought to herself. Otherwise she would guess that it was a dream. When she couldn't find what she was looking for, Suzie dumped everything out of her knapsack and pushed everything aside, looking for her memento.

'It has to be here, it has to be. It was real, I know it was real…wasn't it?' Suzie began to doubt herself when she couldn't find the copper V. Unbeknownst to her, the little memento had slid through a small crack in the lining of Suzie's knapsack and was stuck down there.

"Suzie, it's time to go, Sweetheart. Your father and Mr. Evans are back." Cheryl came to get her daughter. "Oh, Suzie, what have you done? Let's get everything back into your knapsack, honey. What's the matter, did you lose something?" Cheryl asked when she saw her daughter's sad face.

"I guess it was just a dream after all." Suzie said, sadly.

"What was just a dream, pumpkin?" Cheryl asked.

"Nothing." Was all Suzie would say.

Cheryl took her daughter's hand in one of hers and her knapsack in her other and guided Suzie out to the family room, where she reminded her children to bid their hosts goodbye. Hugs were exchanged and the Blair family was walked out to their car. As her father drove them out of the valley, Suzie looked back the way they had come.

'Was it really a just a dream?' She wondered.

~*~*~*~*~

A couple weeks later, Max and Liz received a large envelope from Mason and Cheryl. The letter read:

Dear Max and Liz,

We are afraid that we have some bad news. A photographer tracked us down while we were in Airatan and took the following pictures. At least this time the pictures are of us and not of the two of you. The photographer believes that we were just visiting your art festival, as he never saw the four of us together.

We are sorry, but this means that we probably should not try to return to your lovely valley. If the Press were ever to see the four of us together, you might never get them out of your beautiful town.

We would really like to keep in contact with you, if you think that would be all right. Here are our street and e-mail addresses and our private phone numbers. Please let us here from you.

Very sincerely, your twins, Mason and Cheryl

"Oh Max!" Liz exclaimed sadly. "I was so hoping that it would be okay this time. I really liked getting to know Mason and Cheryl and the kids had so much fun playing together."

"I know Sweetheart, but it can't be helped. We'll stay in touch with them as much as we can, without being found out by the Press." Max promised.

Was It A Dream? Part 2

September 14, 2024, 7 years later.

"Happy birthday, dear Phillip. Happy birthday to you!" Everyone sang and then clapped and cheered, as Phillip blew out all fourteen candles on his birthday cake.

"What did you wish for?" Amy Guerin asked.

"Don't tell, or it won't come true." His sister, Dee warned him.

"You get to make another wish when you make the first cut in your cake." His mother told him, handing him the cake-knife.

"Alright, I'll give it a try, but you remember what a mess I made of it last year." Phillip reminded her.

"Why don't you just use your powers?" Jimmy Valenti asked.

"May I?" Phillip asked, eagerly.

"You may, but I don't think you get the second wish, since you won't truly be cutting the cake." Liz warned.

"Hmm, I think it will be better all around if I skip the wish and use my powers to serve everyone their piece of cake." Phillip decided. "How many of us are there?" His eyes grew large when he realized that there were twenty-seven of them, his family and best friends, sitting and standing around the large dining room table. "Alright, let me concentrate for a moment. This is a big cake, but I still have to figure out how to cut enough pieces for all of us."

Phillip concentrated and then cuts started to neatly appear in the cake and pieces started to float over onto the plates. His twelve-year-old sister, Libby used her powers to dip out the ice-cream and move the plate aside quickly enough to always have a clean plate ready for the next piece of cake, Phillip floated towards her. Finally, everyone had their cake and ice-cream and not a crumb had been dropped.

"Oh, Grandma Amy, this cake looks fantastic! Chocolate, with chocolate frosting on the outside and raspberry jam between the one, two, three, four layers, just like I requested. Thank you so much for baking this for me!" Phillip grinned at Amy Valenti.

"You are welcome, Sweetheart." Amy smiled back.

For years now, all of the grandchildren had been calling all of the grandparents, 'grandma' or 'grandpa', whether or not they were related. Amy had retired from her pie and cake baking, but was still asked to bake her delectable cakes for the birthdays of her extended family.

"Why don't you kids go back into the family room to eat your dessert and we'll come in a few minutes to watch you open your gifts." Max suggested. All of the kids filed out of the room, eating their cake as they went. As the kids disappeared out of the dining room, Liz sighed.

"They are all growing up so quickly."

"That they are." Jeff agreed. "Now maybe you'll understand what we were feeling when you were this age."

"Absolutely." Max agreed. "And I think we have it a little easier than all of you did. Each of you had this adopted child, who was sometimes secretive or downright strange!" Everyone laughed.

"Speak for yourself, Max!" Isabel called out. "I was a perfect angel, right Mom?"

"Well, most of the time, honey!" Judy and John chuckled at the shocked expression on their daughter's face.

"I think we do have it a little easier than you guys did." Michael agreed. "We know what to expect from our kids. There aren't any secrets and with the Connection, I think communication and understanding each other's point of view is much easier."

"Well, and on that note, should we all go join our kids?" Liz asked, seeing that everyone had finished their' dessert. "Will, everyone bring their dishes out to the kitchen, please?" She requested. The adults got up from the table and did as Liz asked, quickly cleaning up the dining room before they all trooped into the family room.

The teenagers and pre-teens were all sitting on the floor, thoughtfully leaving the sofas and chairs for the adults to sit on. Even the birthday-boy was sitting on the floor, between his two, best friends, Amy and Marcus Guerin. All of the gifts had been arranged on the floor, in the middle of the room.

"Alright, Phillip, are you ready to open your presents now?" Diane asked her grandson.

"Oh yeah!" Phillip answered excitedly.

"Then why don't you start with that one, with the big, purple bow on top?" She suggested and Phillip dove for it.

As he opened his gifts and thanked each person for what they had given him, Phillip couldn't help notice the physical resemblance between his friends and sisters and their parents.

His best friends, Amy and Marcus both had Aunt Maria's large, green eyes, but sixteen-year-old, Marcus was the one with her blond hair. He had his father's hawk-like nose and chiseled high cheekbones. His fourteen-year-old sister, Amy had her father's light brown hair, which she wore no longer than shoulder length, so she could keep the natural curliness, she had inherited from her father. She had her mother's full lips and lovely smile, though.

The thirteen-year-old twins, Judy and Charlie looked a great deal like their parents, Aunt Isabel and Uncle Alex. It was interesting to see Judy sitting next to his twelve-year-old sister, Libby, as she was tonight, because Libby also looked a great deal like their aunt and biological grandmother, Belisa. Phillip's other sister, Dee looked more like him. They both had straight, brown hair, with little bits of gold and red highlighting it. Dee's hair reached down past her waist. She had their mother's large, chocolate, brown eyes, but their father's large earlobes, which was one reason she wore her hair long. He himself had his father's amber eyes and prominent cheekbones.

Sixteen-year-old Jimmy and his fourteen-year-old sister, Nancy looked a great deal like their parents, Uncle Kyle and Aunt Tess. Jimmy, with his dark brown hair and blue eyes and Nancy, with her curly, blond hair and equally blue eyes.

He felt extremely grateful that he had such a large, extended family and good friends. He knew that all of their parents had grown up pretty much alone, afraid of giving their secret away. Even his own mother had, had only her adopted sister, Tess.

"All of these gifts are great! Thank you, everyone." Phillip said, as he finished opening his presents.

"How about a game of touch-football?" Max suggested.

"Yeah!" Everyone cheered.

These games showed how active and physically fit their parents, who were forty-one years old and their grandparents, who were in their' sixties, kept themselves. All four grandfathers could still throw a football out for a good, long pass and their grandmothers could catch the ball with the best of them. Their parents often continued to play, even after their kids had given up for the night. As much as they teased them about being So Old, the kids liked to see that the adults in their lives were happy and healthy and were probably going to live for a good, long time.

"It's my birthday, so just remember the penalty for 'touching too much'!" Phillip warned, grinning at the grownups.

His parents and aunts and uncles liked to take advantage of this game by 'touching' or even gently tackling, their soul-mates and then forgetting about the game going on around them. At his age, Phillip still did not understand the magic to be found in kissing girls, even though he had tried it a couple of times. He knew that in some distant future, he would want to have what his parents had with each other, but he was still unclear and uncomfortable with the details of finding and keeping such a relationship. He had many years to go until he reached his parent's forty-one years of age. He figured he had plenty of time yet.

~*~*~*~*~

Much later that night, Phillip came back from meeting his friends at the clearing. Tonight, he walked in through the front door and went in search of his parents, to tell them good night. Ever since that first time, seven years ago, when he had snuck out of his bedroom window, to go to the clearing, his parents had set a limit to his going there. He could only go two nights a week and during the school year, he could only go on Friday and Saturday nights. Knowing that his parents always knew where he was, he usually told them beforehand that he wanted to go. But every once in a while, he would slip out his window, just for the fun of it and just to show how cool they were, his parents would play along, pretending that they didn't know what he had been up to.

But tonight, he had told them that he wanted to go to the clearing and they had just told him to have fun, but to be careful. Now, he returned and went in search of them. He was almost sure that they would not yet be asleep, even though it was eleven o'clock. He followed his senses and found them in the library. His mother was leaning over his father's shoulder as he showed something to her and asked her advice.

'I want this, someday.' Phillip thought. 'This partnership with someone special.' Each of his parents had their own careers. His father was a family lawyer, the senior partner in the firm, which his grandparents had joined before his parents were even married. His mother was a microbiologist and a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico - Albuquerque. They both worked hard at their jobs, but then they came home and played equally as hard with him and his sisters, during the evening.

It was on nights like this, when he came home late, that he realized that his parents put in many more hours, after he and his sisters were usually asleep, caring for their community, their kingdom. As king and queen of the Antarian people, they carried the responsibility for making Airatan a thriving, safe and beautiful place to live. They settled the rare disagreements, which Earth law could not resolve. And they kept in touch with the few Antarians who still lived out in the Unified Alliance of Planets and with the Alliance Council, as well.

"Good night, Mom, Dad." Phillip said after watching them work together for a few moments. He walked over to kiss his mother on the cheek and hug them both. "Thanks for making my birthday so special!" He grinned.

"You are welcome. Go get a good night's sleep, now." His mother said.

"You too. Don't work too hard." He said, before he left the library.

"We should be done here shortly." His father assured him.

As Phillip got ready for bed, his mind drifted back to the first time his friends, Marcus and Jimmy had taken him to the clearing…and to the little girl who had followed him and seen what she wasn't supposed to see, since she wasn't a part of the Community.

He had once known her first name, but that had slipped out of his memory over the past seven years. He could barely remember what she looked like. Long, straight, brown hair and light brown eyes. She had promised not to tell anyone what she had seen that night and apparently, she had kept that promise, because they had never heard from her or her family ever again. With that feeling of security, Phillip's memory of the little girl (Had there also been a younger brother?) had faded to join his memories of playing with other children, who's parents had come to visit his mom and dad, over the years.

~*~*~*~*~*~

In the master bedroom, Max and Liz were finally getting ready for bed. Liz held up an envelope.

"We received a letter and some photos from Mason and Cheryl, today."

"Oh great, let's see them." Max said, as they both got into bed and leaned against each other to read the letter and then glance through the photos.

"Looks like fourteen-year-old Suzie is still quite the swimmer. Here's a picture of her coming in first-place, in freestyle, at a swim-meet." Liz showed Max, the picture.

"Here's twelve-year-old Matt in a play with his summer theater club. I wonder if he is going to follow his parents into acting?" Max wondered. "I'm glad he's just acting in school plays and hasn't become some child-star. Mason and Cheryl are doing their best to give their kids a normal childhood." Max said.

"He certainly had a lot of fun playing the evil knight that one summer all four of them came to stay with us, one night!" Liz chuckled and then they both remembered what else had happened that night.

'Obviously little Suzie never told anyone about what she saw, or we would have heard about it by now.' Max and Liz communicated silently, together. 'And Phil and Libby have never asked about them.' They assured themselves that the whole incident was long forgotten. If either of their children had asked about the Blair family, who had come to stay with them one summer night, they would have explained to their children why they could never see them again. How a reporter had found out that Mason and Cheryl were camping in the National Forests of New Mexico and had followed them to the Airatan Art Festival, which they had come to see for one day. No one in Airatan wanted reporters snooping around.

"I'll write Mason and Cheryl tomorrow, thank them for the pictures." Liz said. "Now, how about a back-rub, big-boy?" Max could only groan. "Roll over onto your stomach." Max did so and felt as if he was in Heaven, as Liz's small, but strong fingers massaged and rubbed their way up and down his well-muscled back.

"Oh Liz…that feels…so good." Max groaned out.

"How's your neck? Oh my gosh, Max, your neck and shoulders are so tense! I knew I shouldn't have let you work so late tonight and all the other nights this week." Liz said as she kneaded the muscles of his neck and shoulders.

"There was lots to do." Max said, sleepily.

"Well, give some of it to your junior partners at the firm, or let me help you more around here." She lay down, half on top of Max, lined up against his bare back.

"You have plenty to do, too. I'll be fine. I will get Johnson to take on some more work at the firm, though. All I need from you is what you have always given me, your love and support and the pleasure of sleeping with you in my arms throughout the night." Max said, as he rolled over onto his back, beneath her and wrapped his arms around her, bringing his lovely Liz down fully on top of him.

"Mmm, yes this is pleasant, isn't it?" Liz said, arching back a little, so she could look into her beloved husband's eyes. "Oh, Max you look so tired. Close your eyes and go to sleep, Love. I'm right here. Let me look after you for once." She said as she gently stroked his forehead and cheeks.

"You look af'er me lots o' times." Max said, his speech slurred as he fell into a deep, dreamless, sleep. Liz kissed his closed eyelids and then his lips, before laying her head down on his chest. His arms stayed around her tiny body, even in sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Earlier that same day, Beverly Hills, California.

"Sue, honey, what are you up to in there?" Cheryl Appleton-Blair asked when she found her fourteen-year-old daughter in the back of her closet.

"I wanted to find the T-shirt, Aunt Susan gave me last year, but it isn't in my dresser and it isn't hanging up in here, so I thought that it might have fallen off its hanger and onto the floor or something. Man, can you believe all of the junk that's in here?" She asked her mother.

"Maybe you could clean it out, when you get back from Aunt Susan's." Cheryl suggested.

"Maybe." Sue said, unenthusiastically. "Ah ha, here it is! It had fallen off of its hanger. Oh my gosh, look what I found under it." Sue backed out of her closet and into the light. "It's my old backpack, from when I was a little kid."

"You still are a little kid." Cheryl told her daughter. At fourteen, Sue was still a few inches short of her own petite height. "But you are still in your growing years, so keep drinking your milk and you'll be towering over your old mom, in no time!" Cheryl grinned at her daughter.

"Right Mom, I'll be sure to do that." Sue said.

"Well, I just came to tell you that lunch will be ready in about twenty minutes."

"Okay, I'll be there in a minute." She told her mother, as Cheryl left to go back to the kitchen.

'Might as well start cleaning out my closet by pitching this.' Sue thought and tossed her old backpack across the room, towards the wicker basket, she used as a trashcan. It landed on top of the basket, but was too big to fall down into it.

"Oh rats!" Sue muttered as she went to push the nap-sack further into the trash.

Something stopped her though and instead of pushing it down, Sue pulled it back out of the basket and looked inside.

"Just as I thought, empty.' She thought to herself, but then she did a double-take. 'Wait a minute, what's that?' She reached in to touch something, which was peeking out of a small crack in the lining. It felt solid and she tried to pull it out. 'Oh it's stuck.' She thought and jiggled at it a moment before it would slide out of its hiding place.

"Oh my gosh, Oh My Gosh!" Sue squealed, as she saw what she had in her hands. It was a small piece of copper, in the shape of a V and had a simple map of a valley imprinted upon it.

The object brought back memories of dreams, she had, had when she was younger. She had thought that the dreams might be based on memories, but couldn't remember clearly. What little she remembered looked surreal and made no sense, princesses, fairies, fireworks and ghostly images floating in a night's sky. And pennies, which melted themselves into copper mementos.

Had her parents read her one too many fairytales as a child? Was she remembering seeing her very first fireworks display? She remembered watching an old lady blow melted glass into lovely ornaments. Was she imagining that, that was how her piece of copper had been formed? Except where did the ghostly, figure eight fit in, then? And why did she always see a glowing hand passing over seven pennies, to create the little map in her hand?

Not that it was a very detailed map. She looked at it closely. The tiny squares and circles in the upper right 'leg' of the V, was supposed to symbolize a town and the two squiggly lines, running down the middle of each 'leg' of the V and converging at the apex, was supposed to symbolize two rivers. But Suzie had no idea what the tiny circle and the small triangle, down near the bottom of the V, meant.

She looked closer. The work 'promise' was printed between the circle and the triangle. What did that mean? Promise what? To remember? To forget? To keep a secret? But what secret?

'Oh never mind, I can't think any longer. My stomach is empty and my brain is overflowing with questions. I'll leave this alone for a while. Is lunch ready yet?' Suzie asked herself as she put the object into her jeans' pocket, left her room and walked towards the kitchen.


Max and Liz: Phillip Jeffery (14), Diana Elizabeth (Dee) (12), Liza Belle (Libby) (12)
Mason and Cheryl: Susan Elizabeth (14), Matthew Stephen (12)
Michael and Maria: Marcus Cole (16), Amy Marie (14)
Isabel and Alex: Judith Diane (13), Charles Alexander (13)
Tess and Kyle: James Jeffery (16), Nancy Nicole (13)


Was It A Dream? Part 3

Suzie’s head was still overflowing with questions the next day. They circled around and around in her mind and gave her no peace. She had spent the rest of the day before, wandering around her home, or sitting, alone in her room.

“Honey, is there anything wrong?” Cheryl asked her daughter, after Sue had just picked at her favorite dinner, lasagna, made with Italian sausage, but had not really eaten any of it.

“Uh no, nothing’s wrong, Mom.” Sue answered.

“You’re sure there’s nothing you’d like to talk to me, or maybe your father about?” Cheryl persisted.

“No thank you. I’m fine.” Sue said. “May I be excused, please?”

“Sure honey.” Cheryl sighed.

Sue spent the rest of the night in her room and went to bed early, not waking up when her father, Mason Blair looked in on her later that night. She was still quiet and thoughtful the next morning, as she and her mother made the 1 ½ hour drive to her Aunt Susan’s house.

The drive usually excited Sue, because she loved spending time with her aunt and it gave her active imagination a chance to play ‘spy’. Sue knew that they must not be followed by the Press, on their way to Aunt Susan’s house. Aunt Susan and Uncle John, Susan’s neighbor and old family friend to her father, had kept the friendship between themselves and the Blairs, a secret for almost twenty years. Their two houses were the only private places, outside of their own home, where they could rest and relax, without the chance of having the Press show up, and they guarded that secret, jealously. Sue usually made a big deal out of scanning each car they passed and watching out the back window to make sure that they weren’t being followed.

But not today, Sue had narrowed all of her thoughts and questions down to just a few questions and bits of logic. Even if her memories were mixed up with dream-images, some of what she remembered must be true; otherwise she would not have the copper V-map in the first place. Nor would she even know what some of the symbols meant. Her instincts told her that the small piece of copper held many of the answers she was looking for…if only she could remember what it all meant.

The memento reminded her to keep a promise. Of what, Sue did not know, but keeping the promise meant that she couldn’t really talk to anyone about it or even ask questions, which might give her some answers. This was her dilemma. How to find answers without being able to ask questions?

At last, she had come to a decision, which brought her some peace. She would ask no questions. Nor would she tell anyone what had been troubling her. She would try to act normally again, while she looked for answers, herself. Perhaps she could find pictures in the family photo-albums. If she and her family had visited this magical valley, they might have taken some pictures.

Sue came out of her thoughtful concentration to find herself sitting in her godmother’s living room, alone. She had been so engrossed in her thoughts that the drive here had passed by without her noticing it. She vaguely remembered her mother looking at her with worried eyes and having a murmured conversation with her aunt, about whether or not to leave Sue there, for her mother to stay with the two of them, or for her mother to go, hoping that Sue’s staying in her home away from home, with her beloved aunt, might bring her around.

Sue arose and went in search of her aunt. She found her in her library, at the back of the house, typing away on her computer. She looked around the room, one of her favorites in this house, from the doorway, while her Aunt Susan had her back to her.

The library was not large, but every bit of wall-space had been covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, crammed with books and videos. The collection ran the gamut from romance; historical, contemporary and time travel, to mystery/intrigue, action/adventure, to science fiction. Then there were the books on architecture, gardening, history and all the cookbooks, which would not fit into the kitchen, as well as classic literature. There was one, comfy, upholstered chair, by a window, in which Sue could remember spending many happy hours, reading.

“Why do you have so many different kinds of books, Aunt Susan? And why do you keep them at all? Why not just check them out of the public library?” Sue asked, breaking the silence.

“Because sometimes I’m in the mood to read a romance and other times I want to read science fiction. I keep them, because having good books in your house is part of what makes it a home. And besides, public libraries aren’t open at one o’clock in the morning, when I might want to reread a favorite story of mine.” Susan answered, after turning around to face her goddaughter.

“Well, you look much better than you did half an hour ago. I was going to give you about fifteen more minutes of peace and quiet, before I came to try and speak to you. You had your mother and I worried. Is there anything I can help you with, Suzie? You know I’m a good listener. There is nothing you can’t talk to me about.”

“I know that, Aunt Susan.” Sue replied to the only person she allowed, to call her Suzie. She remembered the many times her aunt had listened with total attention as she told her about what was going on in her life, or asked one of her hundreds of questions.

“I just had something on my mind. Something I just had to puzzle through for myself. I’m sorry that I worried you and Mom.”

“Yes, your expression does look a great deal less troubled than it did when you arrived.” Aunt Susan noted. “Perhaps you will call your mother this evening?” Sue nodded. “If you have found your answers, then we won’t speak of this again, but if you ever need to talk…”

“I’ll come to you.” Sue smiled.

“Good. Now are you ready to have some fun?”

“Yeah!”

“Here’s what I thought we might do this weekend…”

~*~*~*~

“Aunt Susan?” Sue asked, late, the next afternoon. They had, had a fun-filled day the day before and now they were taking it easy, reading, chatting and watching videos, during which, Sue had started to think again.

“Yes, Suzie?” Her aunt came up out of the book she was reading.

“Do you have a jeweler?”
“Yes. Why did you want to go shopping? I’m afraid they aren’t open on Sundays, but perhaps the next time you come for a visit…”

“No, I mean, yes, you know I love to shop, but that’s not why I asked. I have an object, and I was wondering if your jeweler could make it into a pendant for me.”

“Probably, what is this object? May I see it?”

Sue reached into her pant’s pocket and brought out the piece of copper. The two ladies had been sitting on the sofa, with their backs up against each arm, and their legs stretched out towards the middle of the sofa. Suzie handed the copper-V to her aunt.

“Oh, this is beautiful, Suzie.” Her aunt exclaimed. “Where did you get it?”

“I think I got it at some art fair, when I was little. I don’t really remember. I just found it yesterday, when I was cleaning out my closet.” She said, casually. “I just thought it might make a nice pendent.”

“Which way would you like it to hang, with the point up, or down?”

“I think with it pointing down, so that it looks like a V. I have a chain, just the right length, so that I can tuck it inside my shirt, if I want to.”

“If you want it to hang like a V, you won’t want the chain to run between the two legs of the V, would you? Wouldn’t you rather have one end of the chain start at the top of one leg, circle around your neck and end at the top of the other leg? I could have a clasp put in the middle of the chain, at the back of your neck.” Aunt Susan suggested.

“Oh yes. That sounds great! But how much would a new chain cost? I don’t have mine with me?”

“Don’t you worry about it, why don’t I make this an early birthday present for you?” Aunt Susan offered, smiling.

“Oh Aunt Sue, would you? That would be so great of you! Thank you.” Sue exclaimed, grinning.

“Alright, I’ll take it to my jeweler tomorrow, after work. Speaking of tomorrow, I’m afraid that your dad will be here soon, to pick you up, so that you can attend school tomorrow.”

“Oh.” Sue said, disappointed. Not with the idea of seeing her father, or even having to go to school the next day, but with the realization of this special time with her aunt, was almost over.

“I hate leaving you. We always have so much fun together. Not that I don’t have fun at home, or when Mom and Dad’s co-stars and friends from “Among Us’ come over, but with them it’s always loud and noisy. I like it here with you, where it’s peaceful and it’s more one-on-one.” Sue complained.

“I hate to see you leave, as well, sweetie, but you’ll be back soon.”

Less than an hour later, Mason Blair, complete with baseball cap and sunglasses, arrived at Susan’s house, to pick up his daughter. He instantly saw the change in her, from how Cheryl had described her to him, Friday night. He looked gratefully over at Susan.

“I see your magical oasis has done its trick again, Susan. My daughter is back to her happy self again.” He said, as he extended his arms to Suzie, for a hug, then he gave a quick hug to Susan.

“Thank you for always being here for us. I wish we could both stay for a little while, but…”

“But you have a long drive ahead of you. Have a safe one.” Susan said, understandably, hugging them both again, before seeing them off. “Hope to see all of you again, soon.” She called and they waved back at her from the car.

Susan went back into her home and quickly cleaned the guest room, stripping the sheets off of the bed and taking the towels out of the bathroom. Knowing herself well, Susan knew that if she didn’t do this right away, it wouldn’t get done until just before another guest was to arrive. After her guest suite, as she like to call it, was put to rights, Susan settle down at her computer. She needed to find a gift for another friend’s birthday and figured that the internet would be a good place to look. As she sat down, she felt the copper-V in her pocket and pulled it out.

She took a closer look at it, noticing the two waving lines, which ran down the middle of each leg of the V. The circles and squares clustered together on the upper right-hand leg of the V. Then she noticed the small circle and triangle, down near the apex of the V, as well as the work ‘promise’ between the two symbols.

‘What does that mean?’ She wondered to herself. ‘What do any of these markings mean? Or, are they just random shapes on a piece of copper?’ She placed the pendant-to-be on her desk and concentrated on searching the Web.

Susan had been unsuccessful in finding something special to send her friend, when she happened upon the website of an artist’s community, out in New Mexico.

‘Mmmm, the Airatan Artist Community, this looks promising. Oh my goodness, how beautiful their work is!’ Sue thought to herself, as she glanced at several sample pictures of artwork, offered by the community’s artisans.

‘This furniture is gorgeous! The woods they use, the carving…I’m going to start drooling on my keyboard any minute now!’ Sue thought, as she searched the site, in more detail.

‘Forget my friend’s birthday present; I’m going to buy one of everything for myself! Where is this town located? They give a map.’ Sue clicked on a button and a map of northern New Mexico came up.

‘Wow, they are right in the middle of the National Forest. I wonder how they managed that. They are around 1 ½ hours northwest of Albuquerque.’

On the map, she zoomed in on the town itself. It showed the shops and studios for the artisans, clustered together, where one of the valley’s two rivers came bubbling out of the rock, to run down one side of the V-shaped valley to join the second river, before they both went underground again. Susan thought the two rivers were interesting. She knew from her college geology courses that most rivers flow downstream, often joining with one or more other rivers, along the way. The joined rivers, in turn flow further downstream and so on and so on, forming endless chains that look like the letter Y. She knew that it was rare for two rivers to go back underground to form a V-shaped valley, totally enclosed within its mountain walls.

‘Wait a minute.’ Susan thought to herself, looking closely at the map. ‘Two rivers, running down the middle of two valleys, to join together at the apex, before going back underground and a village of artisans clustered together in the upper right-hand leg of the valley.’ Susan picked up the small piece of copper.

‘Could this be a map of Airatan?’ She wondered. A piece of information called out from her memory, for attention.

‘Have I heard of this town before?’ She asked herself and then remembered where she had heard of it before.

Susan stayed linked to the Airatan website, but shrank the window down. Then she opened a file on her computer, which was more like a photo-album and scrap-book. It contained every bit of information about the careers and personal lives of Mason Blair and Cheryl Appleton, which she had ever seen published in newspapers or magazines. She had gathered all of the articles and pictures into this file, over the years. She herself kept the file for two reasons only. Mason and Cheryl were her friends and she did enjoy reading about them and seeing pictures of them, but the real reason she kept this extensive file, was for the children, Suzie and Matt. She figured that someday in the future, they would want a record of what their parents had done, over the years. She had already shown many of the pictures to them, during their visits to her house.

She opened up a search-box and typed in the word ‘Airatan’. Up came a picture and a small article, from seven years ago. ‘Ah, I thought that name sounded familiar.’ She said to herself. ‘Mason and Cheryl took the kids camping and visited the Airatan Art Festival one day, where a photographer had found them and taken several pictures.’ She frowned in distaste. She felt it was shameful, how the Press never seamed to allow celebrities any privacy. Even though she did read the articles they wrote and kept the pictures they took, she just did not approve of the measures; some reporters took to get their stories.

The file came in handy now, though, containing as it did, several pictures of the Blair family, seeing the sights of Airatan. The pictures, with many of the town’s fanciful buildings in the background, set off another memory in Susan’s mind. She looked around her library, trying to find a clue to the memory’s origin. Half of a memory popped into her head and she turned back to her computer and opened up another file, containing the catalog, which listed all of the videos and DVDs she owned. In the spreadsheet, she filtered out all but her science-fiction movies. Then she scanned the column, where she sometimes made notes about a movie’s extra special scenery or music. Susan found what she was looking for, near the top.

‘‘Among Them’, of course.’ She thought to herself. ‘But ‘Among Them’ was the name of the TV series; one of my favorites, but the movie was titled…’The Royal Four, Among Them.’ And that is what I am looking for.’ She got up and walked over to the shelf where her movie DVDs were shelved and pulled out the one she was looking for.

‘Let me watch this for a minute.’ She thought, as she walked towards the living room. She popped the DVD into her player, turned on the TV and sat down nearby, with the remote in her hand.

‘The spot I’m looking for is coming up.’ She thought and a few moments later, the scenes she was looking for, played across her screen.

“Ah, I was right. The houses and buildings in this movie look exactly like the ones, built in Airatan, even down to the decorations.

‘I know that these movies were based on the books by Eric Petersen, one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I wonder if he had anything to do with the scenery design.’ Susan fast-forwarded to the end of the movie and carefully read the credits.

‘Yes, Eric Petersen is listed as a creative consultant, as well as…well this is interesting…Olaus Petersen is also listed.’ Susan ejected the movie and walked back to her library.

‘Oh my goodness. No wonder that architecture looked familiar to me. It was designed by one of my favorite architects, Olaus Petersen.’

Susan went to the bookshelves, which held her architecture collection and pulled out a large book. She flipped to the inside, back-cover, where the author’s biography was printed, under a black and white picture of the famous architect.

‘Olaus Petersen was born in Sweden, but immigrated to the States in 2007. He now resides in Airatan, New Mexico, a town he helped to design. He is a professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico, at Albuquerque, where he has built up quite a following.’ The biography noted.

‘Could Eric Petersen and Olaus Petersen be related?’ She asked herself and walked over to the shelves, which housed her science-fiction collection and pulled off one of his books. Once again, Susan turned to the inside, back-cover of the book and read Eric Petersen’s brief biography.

‘Eric Petersen currently resides in Sweden and is busy writing his thirtieth and what is believed to be his last book, ‘Among Us’.’

‘Hmm, the biography says that Eric is living in Sweden.’ Susan flipped to the verso page, at the beginning of each book.

‘But ‘The Royal Four of Antar’ was written in 2004 and Olaus Petersen’s book was written in 2020, four years ago. Eric could be living in the States now, especially since he had so much to do with the production of the movie and TV series, ‘Among Us’, from 2008, to 2013.’ Susan reasoned.

‘So, it would make sense that Eric Petersen could have found his inspiration for the other-worldly palaces and buildings in his books, from Olaus’ designs. Then Olaus was a creative consultant for the movie, at about the same time he was designing and building the small town, Airatan. Well, that mystery is solved. No alien influences, just family connections can explain the similarities between the movie and the town.’ Susan thought to herself, as she put the DVD and science fiction book back on their shelves. She kept the architectural book out, though, planning to look through it later.

~*~*~*~

Indeed, later that night, Susan was sitting up in bed, slowly glancing at each page in the book.

‘These houses and buildings are truly works of art.’ She thought to herself.

‘They are as Olaus Petersen describes them; sculptures you live in.’ She marveled at the pictures in the book. Susan glanced at a page before turning to the next one and then quickly turned the page back to take a second look.

‘What is Mason doing in a picture with Olaus Petersen?’ She asked herself, as she read the caption under the picture.

‘This house, which was the first one built in Airatan and is one of its pride and joys, was built for Airatan’s mayor, Maxell Evans, shown here with the architect.’

“Oh my goodness, that man is the spitting-image of Mason Blair!” Susan exclaimed out loud, as she looked closely at the picture, at both the man and the house.

The house was indeed, magnificent, made with brown brick for the walls and white cement, for the domes, peaks and valleys of the extensive roof-line. She could see several stained-glass windows, lit from within, which were works of art in themselves. In fact, one piece of stained-glass especially, caught her attention. She could not see it well, but she was almost certain that the front door had stained-glass with some sort of V-shaped design or crest in it. Susan’s curiosity was truly peaked now and she untangled herself from the bed sheets, so that she could get up and go into her library again. She had a magnifying glass in the library and she took another look at the front door’s design under magnification. What she saw only whetted her appetite.

‘This is so strange. I am almost certain that I have seen that design before.’ Susan thought, as she glanced at a piece of computer equipment, which she rarely ever used. When she had upgraded her computer, six month’s before, the store was having a deal in which they were including a scanner with the upgrade.

‘Maybe I could blow up this picture so that I can see the front door better.’ Sue thought, as she switched on her computer.

A few moments later, her equipment was warmed up and ready to use. She placed the book page, face down on the scanner’s glass surface and let the equipment do its thing. A short time later, the picture appeared on her computer screen.

‘This is silly, it’s eleven o’clock at night and I have to go to work early tomorrow morning.’ Susan grumbled to herself, but she continued with her work.

First, she zoomed in on the figure of Max Evans, enlarging it until she could easily see the color of his eyes and his cute, large-lobed ears, which poked out from under his hair a little.

‘He Does look exactly like Mason. I wonder if they could be related in any way. But I have met the rest of Mason’s family and none of them look especially like him. Nothing like this man resembles Mase, anyway.’ Next, Susan zoomed in on the stained-glass in the front door of the Evans’ house.

“Oh my goodness, what a beautiful piece of stained-glass!” Susan exclaimed out loud, as she inspected it in detail.

‘But I am certain that I have seen that design somewhere before.’ She thought to herself and glanced around her library, once again, looking for a clue.

Her eyes fastened on Eric Petersen’s books and she got up to go take ‘The Royal Four of Antar’ off the self again. She started at the front of the book and looked through the pages coming upon that which she was looking for, quickly. The caption under the picture stated that it was the Royal Antarian Crest for the King and Queen of Antar.

‘The mayor of this tiny, little town, in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico has a royal crest on his front door. Okay, is that utter and complete arrogance on his part, or have I just stepped into the Twilight Zone?’ She asked herself.

‘Max Evans doesn’t look arrogant in this picture, though.’ Susan looked at the book again. He was wearing well-worn jeans, a denim work shirt and sneakers. He had an arm around the older man’s shoulder, like a son would stand with his father. Max Evans also had an open, honest-looking face and a great smile. He looked down right handsome and sexy, but not arrogant.

‘I’ve never heard anything about Antarian-themed parks or camps, as I remember hearing about for Klingon enthusiasts in the 1990s.’ Susan thought to herself and then she allowed her sci-fi/fantasy- oriented mind to wander.

‘Their architecture and artwork really struck me as ‘other-worldly’. They live out in the middle of nowhere, hidden away within 10,000 foot high, mountain walls and from what I read on their website, the town was founded in 2007 and they started to host their art festival in 2013, only six years later. To my way of thinking, that’s down right fast. Too fast. There’s no way they could have popped in from…’ Susan pointed a finger up towards her ceiling. ‘Creating a town almost in the blink of an eye, out of whole-cloth, so to speak…could they?’ She wondered. Then a grin cracked her face and she started to laugh, almost hysterically.

‘Oh Susan, that just shows how much you need a vacation.’ She told herself. ‘You read ‘fiction’ about aliens and fairies, but this is the real world we are talking about here!’ Still laughing, she closed down her computer, put the books away and went to bed.

~*~*~*~*~

A couple hours later, Susan sat bolt-upright in her bed, wide awake from one more bit of memory, which had just come to her, while she slept.

“Wait a minute, wait just a minute…” She exclaimed as she got out of bed once more and raced into her library. She went directly to her copies of Eric Petersen’s books and pulled down ‘The Royal Four of Antar’ once again.

“Where did I see…?” She muttered to herself, as she scanned the pages. “Ah ha, here it is!” She exclaimed. “Airatan was the name of the capital city on Antar, where the King and Queen had their home. Could it be? Could they really be?” She asked herself out loud, as she plopped down into the comfy chair in the library and just starred into space for some time, thinking, before finally falling asleep.



Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay
-Robert Frost
posted on 31-Aug-2001 2:58:09 PM
Was It A Dream? Part 4

Susan Nelson woke up Monday morning and found herself slumped in her home library’s upholstered chair.

‘Oh how did I end up here?’ She asked herself and then looked down at the book in her lap.

‘Oh yes, now I remember. I woke up in the middle of the night remembering that most of Eric Petersen’s Antarian books mention that Airatan was the name of the capital city on the planet, Antar. I began to really think about all of the connections and coincidences between the town of Airatan, New Mexico, its citizens and the books, the movie and TV series, written or created by Eric Petersen and finally fell asleep in this chair.’

‘But wouldn’t it be interesting if the townsfolk of Airatan were really all Antarians? Aliens who came to Earth and founded their own little community there, among the mountains and forests of northern New Mexico? They created the artist’s community so that they could share their culture with us, peacefully. And Eric Petersen wrote parts of their history down in the form of a science-fiction story so that others besides themselves might learn about them even if they think that it is all make believe. The name Antar would live on.’ Susan sat back quietly for a few moments, lost in her fantasy and then started to grin and chuckle.

‘What an imagination I have!’ She laughed at herself. ‘As much as my science-fiction-self would like that to be true, my rational, logical self knows that, that kind of thing just does not happen here on Earth. There is no U.S.S. Enterprise out there in space. Not yet, anyway! As for that little copper V Suzie gave me, her parents probably bought it for her at the Airatan Art Festival seven years ago. End of subject. There need be no other explanation for her having the memento and the rest is all coincidence.’ Susan told herself as she put Eric Petersen’s book away, one more time and went to take a shower and get ready for work.

~*~*~*~*~

Airatan, New Mexico, One week later.

Phillip and his two sisters Libby and Dee walked over to the Guerin house, Saturday morning, a week after Phillip’s fourteenth birthday.

“It’s too bad that Aunt Isabel, Uncle Alex, Aunt Tess and Uncle Kyle had to go home so soon after your birthday and take Judy, Charlie, Nancy and Jeff with them.” Libby said, dejectedly, mentioning the names of her four cousins and friends, who had flown in for Phillip’s birthday. The Wittmans, from Silicon Valley, where Uncle Alex was a computer programmer and Aunt Isabel was a model. The Valentis, from Roswell, where Aunt Tess part owned and managed the Crashdown Café and Uncle Kyle was Roswell’s sheriff, now that all of their parents were retired and split their time between Roswell and Airatan.

“They’ll probably be back next month for Halloween, like always. It’s an easy trip if the Community’s plane picks them up.” Dee reminded her sister, even though she missed her extended family and friends, as well.

“Hey you guys.” Aunt Maria called out, from where she was weeding her vegetable garden.

“Hey Aunt Maria.” The three kids called back.

“Is Uncle Michael in his studio?” Libby, a budding artist, asked.

“Yes and he told me that he will need your help today, so go on back.” Maria answered.

“OK, see you guys later.” Libby told her brother and sister.

“Marc and Amy are around here someplace. You know that all three of you are to stay and have lunch with us, since your father is to announce his ruling in the Doug Maisels matter.”

“Yeah, Mom told us. Thanks Aunt Maria.” Phillip said. He would have liked to have stayed and watch his father give his ruling, but the procedure was open to only those directly involved in the case. He would ask his father about it later.

“Hey you two, would you like to play some volleyball?” Jimmy called out, from the side of the house.

“Yeah!” Both sister and brother yelled and ran to where their friends were waiting to play.

~*~*~*~*~

Office of His Royal Highness, King of the Antarian People, Maxwell Evans.

Liz’s desk had been pushed into a far corner and chairs had been brought into the library/office and placed in rows, facing Max’s desk, where he sat, with Liz standing behind him. For this ruling, they both wore their white robes, with the gold embroidery running down the front and around the floor-length hem and with the Royal Antarian Crest emblazoned below their left shoulders. They were also wearing their Royal Circlets on their heads; bands of gold imprinted with symbols of every planet on which Antarians lived, including Earth. These symbols represented all of the Antarians, over whom Max and Liz ruled as king and queen. These hearings were one of the few occasions when they took on their formal, royal personas, preferring as they did to be treated like everyone else, rather than as royalty. Max cleared his throat and started the proceedings.

“The Queen and I have heard your testimony, witnessed the illegal act through the Connection and have studied our laws and those of the Alliance. We are ready to give our ruling. Douglas Maisels, are you prepared to hear your sentence?”

“Yes, Your Highness.” The young man said, solemnly.

“Very well. Douglas Maisels, you have been accused and found guilty of using your mental powers to mind-warp Chris Sloan, here to break into Nasus’ studio and rob her of $800.00, held there. You are half Antarian and half Speerk, a species who has the power to mind-warp, where Antarians cannot. Therefore we searched Alliance law for presidents to your crime. In the Alliance, mind-warping is considered to be a combined crime. One of invasion of privacy, as you force your way into the depths of your victim’s mind, in order to control them against their will and without their knowledge. And of coercion to commit a crime, because why else would you have to force a person to do something against their will, if not to commit a crime.” Max continued.

“Alliance law recommends two years in jail, but there are several circumstances we must take into account, here in Airatan. Your parents are good, decent members of this community. This is your first offence at all, the Connection verified that. You have just graduated from college at the top of your business school and you have shown true remorse for your actions. Lastly, this is a very small town and everyone will have their eyes on you, within the law, to make sure this never happens again.”

“Therefore, using the Connection, you will confess what you have done and publicly apologize to Chris Sloan and to Nasus, so that every Antarian can hear you. The $800.00 has already been returned, but you will work for Nasus in the evenings and on the weekends, after you finish your managerial position in your parent’s clothing design studio, until you have worked off an additional $800.00. Is that acceptable to you, Mr. Sloan, Nasus?” Max asked formally.

“Yes, Your Highness, thank you.” They both said.

“Is your sentence understood and accepted, Mr. Maisels?” Max asked.

“Yes, Your Highness.” Doug answered, quietly.

“Very well, you will work out the details of your sentence with Nasus, but she or Chris will come to us if there are any problems, understood?”

“Yes, Your Highness.” They all said.

“These proceedings are concluded.” Max said, formally as he deactivated the orb, which had been recording the meeting.

Liz and Max came out from behind the desk and shook hands with everyone involved, including young Mr. Maisels, who bowed formally over their clasped hands, before leaving with his parents. Max and Liz then showed Chris Sloan, his family, Nasus and her mate, Nohtanoj out their front door, a short time later. After they had closed the door, Max took Liz into his strong arms.

“It is only one o’clock and the kids will be at Michael and Maria’s for a couple more hours at least. Would you like to get out of these robes and…”

“Mmmm, I’d love to. How about a bubble bath first? Or would you rather have one…later?” She asked, pressing her body his and stroking Max’s chest through the material of his robe.

“I’ll run the water if you will take care of the music and get some…strawberries?” He wiggled his eyebrows, suggestively.

“No whipped cream?” Liz asked, disappointed.

“If you’d like, I think your skin is already sweet enough.” Max said.

“I’ll be there in five minutes!” Liz said and ran for the fruit.

~*~*~*~

An hour later, Jimmy, Amy, Dee, Libby and Phillip came into the house through one of the family room’s French doors.

“Let me get my baseball-mitt and I’ll be right back. You guys could pack some sodas into a cooler, for us to take with us, if you’d like.” Dee said, as she headed for her room. A moment later, she came running back.

“Oh man, Mom and Dad are doing you-know-what, in their room. I heard ‘The First Time, Ever I Saw Your Face’, coming through their closed bedroom door.”

“In the middle of the day?” Fourteen-year-old Phillip asked and his sister nodded.

This response was more of an imitation of his friend’s attitudes towards PDAs, than his own. Deep down, Phillip and his sisters all enjoyed watching the many ways in which their parents demonstrated their love for one another and their children. The shared glances, hugs, little touches, quick (and not so quick) kisses, endearments and many other things they did for each other and their family, made their lives and this home the warm and happy place to live in.

“What is it with that music they so often play, when they are doing whatever they are actually doing in there?” Twelve-year-old Libby asked. She knew generally what married couples do behind closed doors and how babies are made, but nothing beyond those general ideas.

“Mom told me once, that, that is the music Dad picked out and played for the very first time they ever made love. It reminds them of that very special night, she said.” Dee sighed at such a romantic idea.

Well why don’t we leave and give them some privacy.” Phillip suggested, itching to go and play some baseball. His sisters and friends agreed and they left the way they had come, forgetting to take any sodas.

~*~*~*~

Late that night, the Connection woke every adult in Airatan, out of their sleep. The Connection was a psychic link, between every Antarian, in Airatan, across the Earth and out into space. It had been surprisingly created during Max and Liz’s coronation ceremony, years before. Each person had complete privacy, but was also able to communicate with their children, their mate, on a family frequency, on up to a community-wide frequency. This communal connection was powered by the subconscious minds of hundreds of Antarians, which allowed the entire population to be constantly on the alert to any danger, natural or manmade, without taking away their concentration from other, more important and everyday concerns.

The Connection had sensed a lone helicopter experiencing sudden engine troubles. The quickly awakening community reached out, psychically, trying to help the faltering craft, but were only able to slow it down some. They watched as it fell from the skies and crashed into the trees in the National Forest, on the other side of one of the Valley’s mountainous walls.

The Community could sense life-signs among the crew and flames spreading out from the downed craft. Emergency training sprang into use within minutes. Fire crews assembled and drove out through the small, narrow tunnels, which had been excavated through the mountain walls every half mile or so, for quick access to the slopes outside the valley. Max, Liz and other emergency medical teams joined them, with an urgent need to reach the wounded helicopter crew as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, General Sam Jones was hitching a ride on another army helicopter, flying several miles away. He heard the one S.O.S. message, which the crew of the failing helicopter was able to send out, before it crashed. He ordered the pilot to change course, to search for the downed chopper. They spotted the crash site, a short time later and Sam ordered the pilot, co-pilot and crewman to drop him off and then go aloft again to watch the rescue attempt from above. They could all see that some other emergency crew had arrived to help, but the injured might need to be flown to Albuquerque for medical treatment.

The helicopter had a stretcher, which could be winched down from above and then could lift a wounded person back up into the cabin of the helicopter. Sam took their first-aid kit and started hiking into the crash site, from the nearest road, the helicopter could set him down on.

Back at the crash site, Max, Liz and their people arrived at the scene. They all carried the proper fire and first-aid equipment, but Max set the firefighters to extinguishing the flames, using their powers, which obviously were more efficient. This was September and they were in the middle of forest-fire season. He did not want to see acres and acres of forest go up in flames from a man-made source.

The medical teams fanned out to find the crew. Because the Community was able to slow the decent of the falling helicopter, the two crewmen still in the chopper were in pretty good shape, with broken bones, but nothing more serious. The third crewmember had not been so lucky, however.

“Max, Liz, over here.” Johann called, from where he had found the third man, two hundred feet or so from the crash. Max and Liz ran over.

“Looks like some sort of explosion might have thrown him out of the helicopter before it crashed. He has burns, broken bones, just about everywhere; spine, legs, arm, a badly damaged spleen, broken ribs, one of which has pierced his lung, deflating it and he is already going into shock. He is not going to make it using the first-aid supplies we brought with us…unless we do something else to help him.” Johann reported hesitantly.

“He needs to be healed.” Liz said, urgently.

“But if he tells anyone what we did…” Johann cautioned.

“He’s unconscious. He won’t know what we did to him. I’ll only heal what absolutely needs to be healed.” Max made the decision and started to place his open right palm over the poor man.

“Uh Max, wait a minute. Someone is coming. Not one of us, but I think it’s…General Sam Jones.” Johann sensed a movement before the General broke his way through the trees, nearby.

“Sam, good to see you, did you bring help?” Max rose up from his crouched position to greet his friend.

“I brought our first-aid kit and I’m well trained. My helicopter is hovering over there, out of the way, so its blades don’t stir up a wind down here. We can medivac everyone into the University Medical Center, in Albuquerque, if necessary.” He said.

“Great, why don’t you go check on the two crewmembers, who were still in the chopper?” Max suggested, trying to steer the General away from what Max needed to do, but what Sam could not be allowed to see. No luck there.

“That’s Sgt. Miles Howell you are working on. He was a part of one of my antiterrorist units, when I was stationed in Europe.” Sam squatted down by the badly injured man. “How is he?”

“Pretty bad, he’s burned; he seems to have numerous broken bones. We think he’s going into shock. Why don’t you go and call your chopper in to take him to Albuquerque.” Max suggested, trying to get his unknowing friend to step away from the sergeant long enough for him to heal what urgently needed to be healed, if the man was to live.

Sam Jones hesitated a moment, looking intently at the young man beside him, listening to the instincts he had always had about Max Evans, ever since he had met him, so long ago, that there was something special about Max, something noble. Sam had always felt as though he were in the presence of someone who outranked him, maybe even someone royal, whenever he was near the younger man.

“Max, could I speak to you for a moment, privately?”

“We don’t have time. We need to get Sgt. Howell on that chopper.” Max exclaimed.

“Please, Max.” Sam gestured him a few feet away, just out of earshot, or so he thought.

“Max, ever since I met you, so many years ago, my gut has been telling me that there is something special about you. Not to sound hokey or anything, but you almost have an aura, an energy about you. I have always felt it whenever I’ve seen you. It has always made me feel as though…you could do things…the rest of us can’t.” Sam paused for a second.

“Max, Miles Howell is a good man, a good soldier and father. He has a wife, three kids and another on the way. If there is anything, anything you can do to help him…I will do anything to repay you. I am worried that he won’t make the trip, otherwise.” Sam pleaded, urgently. Max hesitated for a moment…looking around him at the activity near the chopper, to Johann, to Liz.

‘Sam is a good man too; I think we can trust him.’ Liz told Max, through their psychic connection. Other voices, agreeing with Liz, came through the Connection, but the people of Airatan would trust their king and queen’s judgment, whether or not to risk all of them to save one man’s life.

“I have this gift…to heal. I was about to use it, when you came.” Max made his decision quickly and turned back to his patient.

“He is in worse shape than we told you at first, but I will try to heal as much of his serious injuries as possible, then you can fly him out to Albuquerque, for any other treatment he will need.” Sam nodded.

“I take it that Liz and Johann know about your gift?”

“Yes.” Was all Max said, as he concentrated on what he needed to do before placing his palm on the sergeant’s chest.

Max quickly sensed that Miles Howell was very close to death. There was so much wrong with him, Max wasn’t sure that he would be able to heal him in time. He healed one injury and then moved onto the next. Soon though, he could feel his power weakening. Max tried to draw on the Connections’ power supply, but he was expending his energy faster than the Connection could replenish it. Johann moved in to help, but Max ordered him not to expose himself the General. Max continued to heal Sgt. Howell, but he was struggling. Finally, Johann could follow his king’s orders no longer and placed is hand over Max’s. Several other Antarians came over, against orders, as well and placed their hands on top of Max’s and Johann’s.

Sam Jones looked on in wonder, as Max Evans placed his hand on Miles’ chest and it began to glow. Soon, however, it became apparent that Max was weakening. That was when the real surprise happened. Johann and several others came over, obviously against Max’s wishes, even though he never said a work, and placed their glowing hands on top of his. He glanced up to see Liz Evans with her hands gripping her husband’s shoulders, her eyes closed in concentration and her head thrown back. Somehow she was giving support to Max, as well.

‘It isn’t just Max. It was never just Max.’ Sam thought to himself. ‘But he is the leader, he has to be. The way everyone treats him and Liz; deferentially, protectively. Just as he tried to protect them by making me think that he was the only one who was ‘different’.’

“Argh!” Max exclaimed, coming out of his concentrated trance along with the others.

“That’s all we can do for now. He will be safe to transport to a hospital now. There is still quite a bit to be treated. Can you call your helicopter in, General?” Max asked formally, knowing what was to come once the injured had been taken care of.

Sam nodded and reached for his radio and called the chopper in. He was shocked to see that only fifteen minutes had passed by. The chopper came into view and hovered, while its metal-mesh basket was winched down and each of the patients were carefully placed inside and lifted up into the chopper. Sam ordered the pilot to fly directly to the nearest emergency room.

“We would have called in our own chopper to take the worst case to a hospital and taken the rest to our clinic, where we have an excellent medical team, but under the circumstances, it is probably better that none of them were taken into Airatan. I suspect that you have quite a few questions, General.”

“Yes I do, but Max, we have been friends for years now. I know that you are a good man. That your…people are decent and kind and what I saw here, tonight only confirms that to me. You use whatever gifts you have for good. You don’t have to worry, whatever you choose to tell me, will go no further.”

Max could only nod and lead him to one of their jeeps. He, Liz and Sam got in and headed back to their house, leaving the other crew members to clean up and clear out.

Sometime later, Max, Liz and Sam sat in the library as Max finished up the story of who he was, who they all were, their discovery of each other, their origins, the other Antarians living in Sweden and out in space. He told the story behind the buying of this valley, when they had met the then Colonel Sam Jones, the immigration of their people from Sweden and outer space and the building of this community. Sam sat transfixed for a few moments after Max finished speaking.

“Incredible, simply incredible. An entire community of aliens, living here on a defunct military base. Growing hydroponics down in the base’s secret, underground complex, turning the old missile silos into artist’s studios. And you and Liz are the king and queen of all of these people?” Max and Liz nodded, intensely watching his reaction.

“I don’t know what else I can say at this point. I am numb. I will have plenty of questions once I’ve had the chance to think about all of this, perhaps on your couch for the rest of the night?” Sam suggested.”

“Uh, sure, Sam.” Max said.

“But I will reiterate what I said out in the forest. What you have told me will never go any further.”

“Thank you, Sam.” Max said and the two men shook hands and Liz hugged Sam.

“Let’s get you settled on the couch then, since it is too late to move any of the kids out of their rooms, tonight.” Liz said.

~*~*~*~

The next morning, Sam was awoken by the sound of bare feet quietly sneaking up on him. He peeked out from between his eyelids, to see young Dee Evans tip-toeing her way across the family room floor, towards him. All of a sudden though, Liz appeared in the doorway to the bedroom wing, her eyes pinning her young daughter from behind. She had not said one word, out loud anyway, when Dee spun around in surprise.

Sam watched as a silent conversation must have taken place through this connection, Max told him about last night. Liz had her hands on her hips while staring at her daughter for a moment and then Dee’s head and shoulders drooped and she walked slowly over to her mother, who hugged her briefly and then sent her back to her bedroom with a swat to her bottom, as she passed by. Liz glanced over to where Sam was still pretending to sleep and then went back towards her bedroom, as well.

‘Well, that was an interesting sight to see first thing in the morning.’ He thought to himself. ‘But in the interest of peace, I had better get up.’ His rising allowed the children to come out of their bedrooms and shortly thereafter, everyone was sitting down to breakfast.

“So, Uncle Sam, are you going to keep our secret?” Libby asked all of a sudden.

“Of course I am, Libby. I told your mother and father that last night. I just have a few questions, which have been on my mind for years now.”

“What are they?” Max asked.

“I’ve always wondered about the connection and coincidences that there are between you and Liz, Mason Blair and Cheryl Appleton, the books, movies and TV series.”

“Eric Petersen, the author of the Antarian books, is one of us. He started to write those years ago, when he thought that he and his family were the only Antarian survivors on Earth. He wanted something of Antar to live on, even if it was in the form of science-fiction. Each of those books tells a part of our planet’s history.”

“And so ‘The Royal Four’ told the true story about how your planet, Antar was destroyed by your sun, Antaria, when it went nova. It all happened, your parents putting you children into tiny ships and sending you out into space, hoping against hope that you would find a safe place to live?”

“Yes.” Was all Max could say.

“And then they made the movie from that book. You went to see it didn’t you?”

“Yes, we did.” Sam could hear the emotion in Max’s voice, when he answered.

“But I take it that everything in ‘Among Us’ was make-believe, right? What you told me last night does not fit with what Eric wrote in that book.”

“That is correct. All four of us were still in our stasis chambers until 1988 and 1989. We did not even meet Eric until after ‘Among Us’ was published. Eric was just writing what he hoped had happened to us, in his book.”

“Then how did Mason and Cheryl, who look exactly like the two of you, get chosen to play your characters?”

“That was an incredible coincidence and quite a shock to me and Liz; when we literally bumped into them, down in Roswell, a few days before our wedding, let me tell you!” Max said.

“Remember also, that even though Max and Isabel look exactly like their parents, Wellmax and Belisa, now that they are grown up, neither Eric, nor his father, Tage would have known that, because they were only six years old when they left Antar. It was truly a coincidence that Eric wrote Max’s character, Zan aka Matt Devon, as looking just like his father, Wellmax. He then used Wellmax’s features to describe Zan as well and gave that description to the casting director, but Eric had nothing to do with choosing the actors. Who could guess that they would find Mason Blair to play the part of Zan, or Cheryl Appleton to play Zan’s soul-mate, a completely fictitious character, as far as Eric was concerned?”

“Incredible!” Sam shook his head in wonder, while he grinned. “So, have you kept in touch with Mason and Cheryl? I understand that they married several years ago.”

“We have only been able to keep in touch with them indirectly, through mail. All those years ago, when we were in Roswell for our wedding, a photographer mistakenly took our pictures, thinking that we were Mason and Cheryl, we didn’t want a repeat of that.” Max answered.

“Well, and there was the time, seven years ago, when they and their two children, came to Airatan by chance, during our art festival. We were able to visit and catch up with them for one evening, but the next day they had to leave. A few weeks later, they send word that a photographer had followed them to Airatan and taken some pictures, of them this time, but we didn’t want that photographer to have reason to come back, so they have never been able to visit us since then.” Liz said, sadly.

“That is rotten luck. From what I have read in magazines, they seem like a really nice couple and devoted parents.” Sam said. “Anyway, let me change the subject to what I hope will be a more pleasant topic. I have always wanted to buy some land in this valley and I was wondering if there was any way I might be allowed to do so, now that I know your secret. I would build a vacation home for now, but I plan to retire in about ten more years and I would very much like to live here when I do. I have no other family and you have become very good friends…do you think that would be alright?” Sam asked hesitantly. Max and Liz glanced at each other and then back at Sam, before breaking out in grins.

“Of course you can move here, Sam! I am sure that we can find someone willing to sell some land to you, once they know that you hold our secret safely in your hands.” Max said.

“Great!” Sam grinned, as well.

As everyone else at the table laughed and smiled at the idea of their friend Sam Jones buying some land in the Valley, Phillip was thinking hard.

‘Could that little girl, who had seen he and his friends using their powers, one night out in the clearing, have been the daughter of Mason Blair and Cheryl Appleton?’ Phillip wondered to himself. That had always been a part of his inability to remember her very well, even though he wanted to, sometimes. He had always been bad at remembering names, back when he was six and seven years old.

‘So her last name would be Blair, but what was her first name? Sheila, Sara, Susan, Suzie? Yes, that was it, Suzie, Suzie Blair. But what good did that do him? He would probably never see her again, especially since his parents had to stay away from her parents. Oh well, playing with her that day had been fun, he would remember that time more easily now that he knew her name.’ Phillip thought.

2031, Seven Years Later

Max and Liz: Phillip Jeffery (21), Diana Elizabeth (Dee) (19), Liza Belle (Libby) (19)
Mason and Cheryl: Susan Elizabeth (21), Matthew Stephen (19)
Michael and Maria: Marcus Cole (23), Amy Marie (21)
Isabel and Alex: Judith Diane (20), Charles Alexander (20)
Tess and Kyle: James Jeffery (23), Nancy Nicole (23)

Was It A Dream? Part 5

“Hi Sue.” Dee Evans greeted her new friend, as she took a seat beside her in their architectural history class.

“Hi, Dee.” Sue Blair, known at Harvard University as Sue Best, answered, smiling up at Dee.

“I’ve been thinking that it is great that we met, since we have so much in common.” Dee said.

“Yeah, these elective courses are nice that way. Students from different years and programs can still take them together. I’m a senior, studying microbiology and you are a sophomore in pre-law, but we are both using this course to fulfill one of our humanities requirements.” Sue answered.

The two young women had met for the first time, one week ago, on the first day of classes and had started up a tentative friendship, sharing with each other their likes and dislikes, favorite activities or hobbies, but nothing any deeper than that, as yet.

“So let’s talk boys.” Dee suggested, watching Sue closely. “You’ve had a chance to study him, what do you think of Ian Zervos, sitting over there? Pretty cute, huh?”

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess so.” Sue almost stuttered, not looking at the cute guy at all.

Dee frowned a little at Sue’s response. It was more than acute shyness, with Sue. It was shyness towards men only. Sue seemed perfectly comfortable among other women and not in any homosexual way at all, Dee was sure. Sue had responded in the same way towards other males, which Dee had pointed out to her, or who they had passed on the street, after class. Sometimes it was even as if Sue totally shut down, ignoring any male they saw.

“Oh no, I hope some creep hasn’t hurt her. Could she have been the victim of some awful assault, in the past, to act this way?’ Dee asked herself, worrying about her new friend. Well, she wasn’t good enough friends with Sue yet, to ask her about that. Dee would just continue to keep an eye on her for now.

“Um Dee, are you still going to come watch the swim-team practice, this evening?” Sue changed the subject.

“Absolutely, my brother and his girlfriend might come as well, if that’s okay.” Dee answered.

“Sure.” Sue replied.

Swimming was one of the few things in which she felt really confident. She was acknowledged as the best swimmer and was made team captain, the year before. Meeting Dee’s brother would be okay, she told herself, especially if he already had a girlfriend. Boys with steady girlfriends seemed to be more polite to unattached females than unattached boys were. Class had started shortly after that and then the friends had, had to split up afterwards, to go to other courses, but Dee restated that she would be up in the bleachers, watching practice, later on.

~*~*~*~*~

That Afternoon in Airatan, NM

‘Hey Liz, come look. Mason and Cheryl sent us an e-mail, complete with pictures of their kids, Sue and Matt.’ Max called silently over their private connection.

“Coming…Oh my, Matt certainly has shot up at least a foot since the last picture they sent us. But oh no, what did Suzie do to her hair? She cut it all off until now it’s just a cap of short, straight, brown hair!” Liz exclaimed. “This new hair style isn’t unattractive, it really enhances her lovely bone structure and large, dark brown eyes, but her hair was so gorgeous and long when she was in high school.”

“The letter says she’s still on a swim-team, at Harvard now, she may have cut it for convenience sake.” Max suggested.

“Did you say Harvard? The Harvard where two of our three children are going to college? I thought she was going to Stanford? That is what Cheryl said just before Suzie graduated at the top of her class, from high school.”

“You’re right, but hasn’t Cheryl or Mason mentioned what college she’s attending since then? It’s been three years.” Max asked.

“No, not the university’s name, I’m almost sure of that.”

“Well, at least we probably don’t have to worry about any of them meeting. If they haven’t met after being in the same town for three years, they probably never will.” Max said, hopefully.

“I hope you’re right. And it is for the best if we don’t get mixed up with anyone who might bring the Press down on us.” ‘Although it did take Max and I four years of living in that same, small town, to meet.’ Liz thought to herself, as she read the e-mail further.

“Oh look, Cheryl says that Sue is studying microbiology! Isn’t that interesting?” Liz smiled.

“Yeah, I remember Cheryl mentioning how well she’s doing in all of her classes.” Max replied, allowing his attention to shift from the letter on his computer screen, to his lovely, sexy wife, who had come to sit on his lap.

“Mmm, you smell wonderful…cinnamon and vanilla. That’s not your usual scent. Have you been baking?” He asked, as he allowed his nose and lips to nuzzle her behind her ear, under her chin and into her soft, silky hair.

“Mmhm. I’m baking my cinnamon coffee-cake that Libby likes so much, since she is coming home for the weekend.”

“Good, it’ll be nice to have one of our children home for a short while at least.” Max went back to nuzzling his wife.

“Do you think Libby and Marc Guerin are getting a little too serious, Max?” Liz asked, worriedly.

Libby and Marc had grown up as best friends, but when she turned eighteen, something had changed and both young people had started seeing each other in a more romantic light. Now, Marc was doing a little teaching as a TA in the art department at the University of New Mexico – Albuquerque, having graduated a year before and Libby was at the university, studying architectural engineering and design under a semi-retired Olaus Petersen.

“Yeah, I think it’s getting pretty serious. I’ve been waiting for Marc to come and ask me for her hand, for a few months now.” Max answered.

“You think they are going to get married? But Libby is only nineteen!” Liz exclaimed.

“Marc is twenty-three.”

“They are both so young and Libby’s still in college.” Liz argued.

“And so I will tell him, if, or when Marc actually comes to speak to me. I would certainly like to see Libby finish college, and get a little more established as an architect, before they marry.” Max soothed.

“Good, you tell him that.” Liz started to nuzzle her husband back, now that some of her worries were settled.

“It’s been interesting, watching them grow up as best friends and then turn into boyfriend and girlfriend, after all of those years of treating each other almost as brother and sister.” Max noted.

“Yeah, it’s a shame Amy Guerin and Phillip never made that leap.” Liz sighed, partly because of her thoughts and partly because Max had just found that one certain spot behind her left ear. All thought flew out of both of their minds, as their kissing and caressing grew more intense.

“Libby’s not coming home until tomorrow, right?” Max asked.

“Right, around two o’clock.”

“Then come with me, my lady, to the sun-soaked rug.”

“What’s wrong with right here?” Liz asked, as she shifted around until she was straddling Max’s lap, as he sat in his padded desk chair and began to unbutton her blouse.

“Noting, nothing at all is wrong with right here, as long as you are right here…with me.” Max said, as Liz opened her blouse to his gaze and started on his shirt….

~*~*~*~*~

Los Angeles, California

Niko Giuliani was searching his parent’s house, while they were out of town. His father, the famous photographer, John Giuliani, who was known in the business as “Sneaky John”, had photographed the famous and wealthy of the world for thirty years, including the great, all-powerful, Mason Blair and his tattle-tale wife, Cheryl Appleton. Niko thought, sourly.

Niko figured that he had as much talent behind the camera as his father did but just because he made a pass at Blair’s precious wife, one time on the set, Mason Blair had, had him thrown out of the studio, completely. After that, not even dropping his father’s name around town could get him any sort of job, except with the tabloids.

Even though he blamed Mason Blair for all of his bad luck over the years, since then, Niko realized that he fit in better with the other photographers who worked for the same rag he did. They didn’t let anything like ethics, privacy, or even the law, get in the way of uncovering people’s secrets. But in his case, Niko figured that a little search through his old man’s picture files wouldn’t hurt anyone and they might hold some juicy tidbit, which he could exploit.

At that moment he was trying to hold down his lunch, while he rifled through yet another file, containing pictures of Mr. Big-shot-Blair and his smarmy wife, making goo-goo-eyes at each other. This file had been marked “Among Us-Roswell set”. Niko was about to give up on his search, before running to the bathroom, to throw up, when something caught his eyes.

There seemed to be two sets of pictures, taken at two different times, judging by the clothing worn by the subjects and the scenery behind them, but what caught his attention were the dates and times automatically imprinted at the bottom of each print, by the camera. The picture gave the same day and the same time, within seconds of each other on both sets of prints.

‘How could this be?’ Niko asked himself. ‘Photographers can call for costume and scenery changes during a photo-shoot, but not within seconds of each other. Could this have been a camera error? No, my father took better care of his equipment than he ever did of his own son. He would not have allowed a camera to print incorrect information onto a negative.’ Niko thought about the alternatives for a few minutes, before coming up with the following idea.

‘What if Dad had two different cameras and gave one of them to a trusted assistant to use…something he has never allowed me to do.’ Niko thought, angrily. ‘So my Dad and the other photographer walked around town, snapping pictures of this couple in different parts of Roswell. But that wouldn’t work unless…unless there was a look-a-like couple working on the movie, as well as Blair and Appleton.’ Niko was getting excited.

‘Could they have been stunt personnel?’ He doubted it. Stunt people weren’t used in publicity shots.

‘So where had that other couple come from? I will have to keep searching…’
Was It A Dream? Part 6

That evening at swim practice, Sue came into he pool room and looked up at the bleachers. She smiled as she saw Dee sitting up there with several other friends of team-members. Dee sat alone, either her brother and his friend were not coming, or they had not arrived yet.

The coach blew her whistle and Sue gave her attention to her, focusing her concentration on the advise she gave and on the technique and experience, which she, herself had from years of swimming and winning races.

Phillip joined his sister a few minutes late, with his girlfriend, Amy Guerin coming to sit closely beside him.

“So, which of the swimmers is your friend, Sue Best?” He asked.

“She’s in the third lane from the far side, wearing the navy blue suite.” Dee pointed her out to her brother and best friend.

All Phillip could see was a tall, thin woman, with a short cap of dark, straight, brown hair. Tank-suites stripped away almost any femininity women had, giving them a sleek, streamlined figure, to enable them to slice through the water, all the faster. The high cut legs of the suite did show off her long, muscular legs to perfection, though. Phillip thought.

Sue and the rest of her team were put through their paces. She must have been totally concentrating on her technique and speed, because she never again looked up to the bleachers. Dee, Phil and Amy were amazed at her speed and stamina, especially Phil, who was also in training on one of Harvard’s crew teams and who knew what dedication and strength, training took.

Finally, at the end of practice, Sue looked up at the bleachers and saw the man and woman who must be Dee’s brother and his girlfriend. As she walked over to them, they walked down the steps to meet her.

“Sue, wow, you were fantastic!” Dee enthused. “I’m in a sweat, just from watching how hard all of you were working.” Sue just blushed, barely able to lift her eyes up to her friend’s, her arms wrapped tightly around herself.

“I’m sorry, you must be freezing. Let me introduce the three of you to each other and then you can go and get dressed. Susan Best, this is my brother, Phillip and his girlfriend, Amy Guerin.”

“Nice to meet you both.” Sue managed to say, making eye contact with Amy’s kind eyes, but looking over Phillip’s shoulder, before dropping them down again, shyly.

“We are going out for Chinese, would you like to join us? We can always go somewhere else, if you don’t like Chinese food though.” Dee said.

“Um, sure, I like Chinese food, that would be nice.” Sue tried to sound politely enthusiastic. “Let me just go get changed, it won’t take long.” Sue said, before rushing away.

“She seems nice, but very shy.” Amy noted, sympathetically.

“She’s fine around women; I think it’s good old Phillip, here who is making her nervous.”

“Do you know anything about her background? Something in her eyes, what I could see of them, tells me that she’s been hurt. That was more than shyness I saw just now.” Phil said.

“That’s the feeling I get, but I haven’t been able to ask her yet.” Both Phil and Amy nodded, understandably. Antarians might not be able to read minds, but they were very observant and intuitive, almost empathic, picking up on people’s vibes.

“I think she needs some good friends.” Amy said.

“That is what I hoped you say. Phillip, will you help? I think she needs one gentle guy in her life, to help her heal.” Dee asked her brother.

“Of course I’ll help. There’s something about her already, which is drawing me to her.” He said, thoughtfully.

“Thanks guys.” Dee said, smiling.

In the locker-room, Sue rushed around nervously, very unlike her normal, calm self. As she took her shower, dried her hair and got dressed, she tried to bring herself down from having a panic attack.

‘Oh no, oh no, it’s him, it’s him! Phillip Evans, the incredible hunk I’ve been drooling over for three years!’ She thought to herself.

The two of them had managed to be in at least one class together each semester, but they had always been the huge, lecture classes, in one of the auditoriums. Phillip always sat near the back, with his crew-mates and the rest of that crowd, including all the cute girls, while Sue had sat up front, earnestly listening and taking notes.

She had found out his name, during that first class, three years ago and had found out that he skulled on a crew-team, for Harvard. She had even gone to watch him in competitions on the Charles River and at other locations, but had never seen his sister, Dee at one of them. Sue had seen him with a succession of girlfriends though, during their freshman and sophomore years. Then, last year he had settled down with Amy Guerin, as his girlfriend. Sue would have liked to hate Amy, but from all reports, she was a very nice person and was totally devoted to Phil.

‘They make a very nice couple.’ Sue tried to convince herself. Phil, with his tall, dark, handsomeness and Amy with her light brown, almost blond, loveliness. ‘He’s just Dee’s brother, I can be friends with him…I can...if I have to.’ Sue lectured herself as she put her V-pendant on, tucked it into her blouse and buttoned it up, as she walked out of the locker-room, ten minutes later.

“Hey guys, I’m all set, are you ready to go?” She asked glancing at the two girls, but not quite able yet to meet Phillip’s gaze.

“Sure, let’s go. In fact, it’s my treat.” Phillip said.

“Well, why don’t you pay for dinner and Amy and I can pay for some take-out, to carry back to the house?” Dee suggested.

“Sounds good.” Phil agreed.

“I can pay for my own dinner, you don’t have to…” Sue started to say, until Phillip pinned her with his kind and gentle eyes.

“It is our pleasure to have you as our guest tonight. Don’t worry about it.” He smiled down at her.

“Um, okay, if you’re sure. Thank you.” Her eyes kept bobbing up and down at split-second intervals, as she still could not hold his gaze for longer than that.

“Shall we go, ladies?” Phillip put both of his arms out, one at the base of Amy’s spine and the other stretching past Dee’s shoulders to Sue’s, touching briefly in a gesture indicating which direction they should start walking in. They found where Phil had parked their old SUV and all got in. Phil helped Amy into the front, passenger seat and then gently shut Sue’s back door for her, making eye contact for an instant, before walking around the front of the hood to get in, behind the steering wheel. They drove to a popular restaurant with delicious food and got a booth at the back.

“Mmm, I think I’ll have coconut shrimp, please.” Dee requested.

“I’ll have sweat and sour pork, please.” Amy requested.

“May I have the General’s chicken, very hot, please?” Sue asked next.

“Oh that sounds good, make that two, please.” Phil added.

“And we would like to make a take-out order, as well, please. Could we give that to you now, so it’s ready when we leave?” Dee asked their waiter, who nodded and flipped to a new page on his pad. Dee made the order, with only a couple extra suggestions from Phil and Amy. Then all four of them settled back to wait for their food.

“Um, all three of you live together?” Sue asked cautiously of her friend, Dee.

“Actually, there are six of us. So many of us kids, from our hometown attend Harvard or MIT, that our town council bought a small house for us to live in, here in Cambridge. It’s nicer than living in the dorms and gives us a measure of safety. Phil, two others and I attend Harvard, while Amy and another boy attend MIT.” Dee explained and then said, very deliberately.

“We girls all have our own, small rooms on the top floor, the guys have theirs on the second floor and we have a communal living room, dinning room and kitchen on the ground floor.”

“That sounds like a good idea.” Sue said, a little relieved. “I’ve never asked where you live, Dee, where all of you live.” Sue included the others.

“It’s a tiny, little town in New Mexico, you’ve never heard of; Airatan.” Dee answered.

“No, sorry, can’t say that I have.” Sue smiled. “What part of the state is it in?”

As Dee explained where Airatan was located, Phil was silently gasping for air. When Sue smiled for the first time, it was as if a light had come on. When solemn, she was quite pretty, when she smiled and her eyes lit up, as they just did, she became lovely. He vowed to do everything he could to make her smile like that again.

‘Are you alright, Phil?’ Amy asked, sub-vocally.

‘Uh, yeah.’ Phillip answered, not sounding too sure of himself.

‘If you want to end our agreement, Shaun could probably use some protection from the hoard of girls, who are after him, now that he has broken up with his girlfriend.’ Amy offered.

‘Maybe, let’s talk about it later this weekend. Thanks, Amy.’ Phillip said, silently, coming back to the verbal conversation being held by his sister and her friend.

“…small town, near Albuquerque, among the National Forests, up there.” Dee finished.

“It sounds like a lovely place to grow up.” Sue said. “I’d love to come and see it sometime?” She stated tentatively.

“Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. We’ll have to see what you think, closer to the holidays, or for next summer.” Dee said, enthusiastically, having also been privy to the silent conversation, which had just taken place between her brother and good friend.

“Ohh, here comes our food!” Amy said, as their waiter approached. “I love how they put all the dishes in the middle of the table, on this turn-table, so that we can all share. Would that be alright with you, Sue?” She asked.

“That sounds like a great idea.” Sue answered, relaxing just a little bit.

As they ate, Sue couldn’t help notice how all three of her table companions liked to eat the sweet shrimp, or pork, with the spicy chicken, in the same bite. She tried it herself, wondering if she was missing something.

‘Oh No that does not taste good to me!’ She exclaimed to herself. ‘But maybe it’s a regional thing, like eating whole, hot peppers in Texas.’

“May I ask what your parents do for a living?” Dee asked, after she had tried several bights of the delicious food.

“They work in Hollywood, actually, but only in the business offices for one of the networks.” Sue answered.

She hated lying like this to her new friends, but it was very important to her that no one know who her parents really were. So they had come up with this cover story for her, along with her assumed name. Not only did she want to protect herself from the Press, she couldn’t handle a repeat of what had happened to her in high school.

“Do they ever get to meet any celebrities?” Amy asked.

“No, I’m afraid not. They just work in these boring, little cubicles all day. I received an academic scholarship, which allowed me to come here.” She lied again.

“Man, that’s impressive. No wonder you are so intense about taking notes and asking questions in class.” Phillip said, bighting his tongue, as soon as he said it. He didn’t want to make Sue nervous.

“You’ve noticed me?” Sue asked, in a shocked, tiny voice.

“Yeah, well you always have the answers and the teachers always seem to like you.” He said. Sue nodded, looking down.

‘Of course Phillip Evans didn’t notice you because he thinks you are beautiful. You will never be gorgeous like Mom, or even pretty.’ She scolded, reminding herself what she thought of her own looks.

“Plus, your hair is always so clean and shiny; it’s always easy to spot from the nose-bleed seats, where I usually sit.” Phil said.

“So what do your parents do for a living?” Sue asked, desperate to change the subject.

“Our mother is actually a microbiologist.” Dee answered quickly. “She’s a professor at the University of New Mexico – Albuquerque.”

“I hear they have a really good Ph.D. program there.” Sue said.

“They do. Mom transferred there from Harvard, in the middle of getting her Ph.D.”

“Now that is impressive, being accepted into such a prestigious program, in the middle of getting your Ph.D.” Sue said in awe. “Wait a minute, your mother is That Elizabeth Evans? I’ve read some of her work for my classes. Her textbook and many of her scientific papers are on our reading list!” Sue exclaimed. Dee and Phil just smiled, proud of their mother.

“So what does your father do?” Sue asked.

“He’s a family lawyer with a practice in Albuquerque and he also acts as the mayor of our small town.” Phillip told her.

“How about your parents, Amy?’ Sue asked, politely.

“Dad is a sculptor and Mom manages an art gallery in Albuquerque.” Amy said.

“Oh my gosh, is your father Michael Guerin? My godmother has one of his pieces. It’s gorgeous! She has it out in the middle of her back garden.” Sue said. “What a small world this is, sometimes.” She smiled again and Phillip felt his heart flip over.

“I’ll have to tell my dad that. He’ll be thrilled that one of his creations found such a nice home.” Amy smiled.

After that, they finished their meal, chatting more comfortably together.

~*~*~*~

Los Angeles, California

Niko Giuliani had finished searching through his father’s picture files.

‘I have these pictures, seemingly of the same couple, but they were taken in different locals and at the same, exact times, so there must have been two identical couples running around Roswell, New Mexico. I will have to search the newspapers from back then and see if they wrote a story about them. If I can get names, I can go from there. He, he, he.” Niko laughed nastily to himself.


Was It A Dream? Part 7

Monday was to hold several surprises for Sue. The first one came in the sociology lecture class that she took with Phillip Evans. Sue arrived early and took her fourth row seat, as usual. She got her notebook and pencil out, ready to take notes.

“This seat isn’t taken, is it? Would you mind if I sit here?” A voice beside her startled her. Sue looked up to see Phillip Evans standing next to her.

“Um no, no one usually sits there. Um, no I guess I don’t mind if you sit there. But you usually sit in the back with all of your friends.” Sue said.

“My grades are dropping in this class.” Phillip lied. “I need to concentrate more on the lecture. This prof includes a lot of info on his tests, which you can only get from his lectures, rather than from the print material.” Phillip hoped this excuse would sound plausible.

He didn’t want Sue to know that he was planning on becoming her friend and then slowly, gently wooing her. There was just something about her, besides her beauty, which called to him. He had discussed things with Amy over the weekend and they had ended their mutual agreement. Something he would have to explain to Sue, eventually.

Sue nodded and smiled, shyly, managing to make eye contact for all of two seconds, before hiding behind her long, thick, lowered lashes. Phil was so handsome! But his good looks only made her shyer. Besides, she told herself, he has a girlfriend. A beautiful girlfriend, someone she could never, ever match up to, she thought. He just wants to improve his test scores and be friendly to a pal of his sister’s. She continued to tell herself, as she indicated that Phil could sit down.

‘Would it be so terrible having him just as your friend? Couldn’t that be enough?’ She asked herself. ‘I don’t know.’ She answered, uncertainly.

“Phil gave her his gorgeous smile and sat down next to her. He got his notes out, ready for the lecture and a few minutes later, the professor came in and began his talk. Sue was surprised when, for the first time in all the classes they had taken together, Phillip took an active part in the question and answer section of the lecture period.

‘He knows is stuff. I wonder why his grades are slipping.’ Sue thought to herself.

After class, Phillip looked at her and smiled.

“Well, I got a lot out of today’s lecture. I think sitting up here with you really helped. May I sit next to your again on Wednesday?”

“Uh sure, if it will help your concentration.” Sue tried not to sound too hopeful. She reminded herself about the talk she had given herself before class.

“Great!” He said as he gathered up his stuff. “I’ve noticed that you head on over to the computer sciences building next. Mind if I walk with you? I have my next class over there as well.”

“Um sure, okay.” Sue gave him a shy smile and Phillip smiled gently back.

As they walked, they discussed what they had learned so far in their previous class. When they entered their building, they found a large crowd of students milling around in the hallways. Phillip saw a friend of his and asked what was going on.

“Professor Wainwright was hit by a car last night, while he was crossing the street. They don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

“Oh no! Professor Wainwright is my teacher. I hope he gets better, I really like him.” Sue cried out. “What are those of us in my class supposed to do now?”

“I heard that your class and ours are going to be combined.” The boy said. “Professor Tomlinson should be here soon.” Sue and Phillip nodded.

Just then, Professor Tomlinson came striding down the hallway until he reached the center of the crowd.

“All of you in Professor Wainwright’s class, as well as those of you in my class, come with me to the large computer lab. Don’t worry; I have posted instruction on both lab doors for students who come later.” The crowd moved off, following the professor

“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Professor Brad Tomlinson. I will be teaching Professor Wainwright’s students as well as my own, after last night’s terrible accident in which he was hit by a runaway car. I will keep you posted as to his recovery, as the hospital will not give out any information to you students. If any of you would like to send him a card, you may drop them off with me and I will make sure that he and his family receive them. Just one more note. Please do not try to send flowers or balloons, right now, they are not allowed in the ICU.”

Professor Tomlinson went on to ascertain exactly where Prof. W’s class was in their studies. He smiled when he learned that they were right up with is own students.

“Splendid, so you all have been told about the project we are about to start. With the combining of our two classes I have decided to assign partners for this project. I wrote up a list of teams, consisting of one student from my class and the other student from Prof. W’s class. Listen for your names to be called, Adams and Baker. Best and Evans. Cochran and Fields…” Sue looked at Phillip shyly.

‘Oh my gosh, is this my dream come true, or my worst nightmare?’ She asked herself.

“Well partner, shall we get started?” Phillip smiled gently.

He could not believe his luck, although he felt terrible that it was only possible because of what had happened to Professor Wainwright. This would give him the perfect opportunity to work, unthreateningly with Sue and gain her trust, her friendship and hopefully more, as well.

“Where do you live, do you have a roommate?” Phil asked.

“Yeah, I have a roommate, named Sally. She’s pretty nice but we are crammed into what should be a single dorm room.” Sue said.

“Alright then, what do you think about working at my house? I have my own room and even though it’s small, it still sounds better than working in your dorm room. Also, we can work downstairs in the dining room if necessary and there is usually someone else home, so you won’t have to be worried about being alone with me.” Phil finished his sales pitch.

“Um working at your home sounds okay, I guess. And maybe I can see Dee and Amy again, away from class, I mean.” Sue said, quietly, glancing up at Phillip and then down again.

“Good. How is your schedule? When could you come over?” Phil asked.

“I have a pretty full class schedule during the day and I have swim practice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, plus we practice on Saturday afternoons. How about you, what does your schedule look like?” Sue asked.

“Actually, my schedule is pretty much like yours, except that I’m on Crew and we practice in the mornings and then on Saturday as well. So I guess we can work on Tuesday or Thursday evenings or after your practice on the other days of the week. Hey, why don’t you come for dinner tomorrow night? You can meet everyone else in the house and I’ll be serving my great-grandmother’s famous spaghetti.” Phil coaxed, smiling charmingly.

“You cook?” Sue asked.

“Sure I do, we all do, taking turns, but I’m the best!” Phil grinned.

“Well, okay. What time should I come over?” Sue asked.

“Dinner’s at around 6:30, but I get home from my last class around 5:15. You could come any time after that.” Phil suggested.

“Alright, well, why don’t we see what we can get done during the rest of our class time?” Sue asked, sitting down at a free keyboard to download the information they would need for their project. They worked well together for the rest of their class. Sue only started to get nervous and make errors in her typing, when Phillip leaned in too closely, to see the screen. As soon as he backed up a bit, Sue’s shoulders relaxed some.

‘Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’d never hurt you. Not in a million years. I hope you can learn to trust me soon.’ Phil said silently to this delicate, wounded little bird, sitting in front of him, at the keyboard.

~*~*~*~*

Los Angeles, California

Niko Giuliani entered his own, small apartment, Monday afternoon. It was in a run down neighborhood, but his place looked like it would be the scene of a cholera outbreak. There were dirty dishes, glasses and pans lying in the kitchen sink and all over the counters and kitchen table. Beer cans littered the entire apartment and bags of garbage were piled into the corners, instead of being taken down to the dumpster. Dirty clothes lay all over the unmade bed and the floor, as well. His desk was littered with junk, waste paper and unpaid bills. His TV screen had a hole in it, where he had slammed his fist through it during one of his temper tantrums.

He had just arrive home, after using his tabloid’s office computer to search back issues of Roswell’s local paper, for the time when ‘Among Us’ was being filmed there. He had hit pay dirt when he found several stories about the filming going on in town…and about a local girl named Liz Parker, who was getting married to a guy named Max Evans. Niko was able to pull up one photograph of the young couple and saw that they looked exactly like Blair and Appleton, down to the last detail. Amazingly enough, the hick paper had never mentioned the remarkable likeness between the two couples.

Searching by Max’s name, Niko found one small article about both he and the Parker girl, who was calling herself Mrs. Liz Evans by then. Apparently the young couple had been mobbed by fans of ‘Among Us’ for two weeks every time they tried to attend classes at Harvard. Their friends had acted as bodyguards to get them safely to and fro.

Max and Liz were quoted during this one and only interview as saying that they had no connection to the movie, or to the actors and that they had never met any of them either.

“Well you are a big, fat liar, Max Evans, because I have a picture of Mason and Cheryl with their cute little tykes, Suzie and Matt, visiting the very town you are mayor of, Airatan, New Mexico. Are you trying to tell me that your exact duplicate just happened to visit your little art fair and that they didn’t know you lived there in the first place? I think not.” Niko talked to himself out loud, as he paced around his apartment, kicking dirty clothes out of his way, as he did.

“What are the four of you hiding? Any normal person would jump at the chance to have their picture in the paper. But nooo you keep yourself hidden away in that nothing, little town of yours, in the middle of nowhere. Oh you are hiding something, you have to be. And I am going to dig it up and display it for the whole world to see.” Niko finished, muttering to himself.



Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay
-Robert Frost
posted on 31-Aug-2001 3:46:52 PM
Was It A Dream? Part 8

Tuesday morning, Sue entered her sociology lecture hall to see Phil just sitting down in the chair next to the one she normally sat in. She paused to gaze at him from the side door, as he was unaware of her presence, yet. Normally, Phillip dressed nicely in slacks, or good, clean jeans with a button down cotton shirt, but every once in a while he would wear his grunge clothes, as Sue like to call them.

Today he was wearing old, worn jeans and a white T-shirt, with some sort of design on the front and back. The soft denim material hugged or draped his lower body in all the right places, while the T-shirt did the same thing for his upper half. Phillip Evans was slim, but tautly muscled. The T-shirt was tight across his chest, back and shoulders, while hanging loosely over his abdomen and lower back to just past his waist, outside his jeans. The white material showed off his tanned and muscular arms, as well. Sue watched as his back and shoulder muscles rippled when he bent over to pick up a book from the floor. She sighed in pleasure as she started to walk towards her seat.

As she drew closer, Sue could see that the back of his T-shirt said “Hot air balloon ground crew”, in dark green, block letters. Phillip straightened up as she drew closer and she saw, of all things, a little green man, standing in the whicker gondola of a hot air balloon. Printed on the balloon was “Roswell Hot-Air Balloon Club”. She tried to hide a grin, at the absurd T-shirt, but didn’t quite make it.

“Um hi, that is a um interesting T-shirt you’re wearing.” Sue said when she came to sit down in her seat next to him.

“Yeah, well I didn’t get to do my laundry this weekend, as I normally do, so I was scrambling for something to wear this morning.” Phillip said, embarrassed. “At least these are clean. Amy offered to do my laundry for me today if I’d take her cooking duty tomorrow night.”

One of the many reasons all Airatan children were encouraged to go away to college, besides the maturing process it lent itself to, was for them to learn to live with the self-discipline of not using their gifts and powers.

“Oh…yeah…Amy. That was nice of her to offer to do for you, even if she is your girlfriend.

“Yeah it is. Can you imaging anyone preferring to do laundry, rather than to cook? But she really dislikes cooking for some reason and we really try to limit the amount of take-out or pre-packaged foods to just a few times a month. Anyway, as to Amy, there is something I need to tell you about her, but not here. Can we go somewhere a little private to talk or it could wait until this evening at our house.” Phillip said.

‘Oh great, he wants to tell me about his girlfriend.’ Sue groaned silently.

“Um sure, maybe we could talk this evening. I always have to rush after computer class.” Sue answered, hoping someone else would be at his house this evening so that they wouldn’t have any privacy there, either.

“Alright.” Phil smiled at her briefly before the professor started his lecture. After class the two of them walked to their next class together.

“So um, where did you get that T-shirt? Are you really on a hot-air balloon ground crew?” Sue asked, as curiosity overrode her shyness.

“Yeah, I belong to the club, but I don’t get to attend their uprisings as much as I’d like to, since it’s based in Roswell and I live in Airatan. Some of my family live down there and got me interested in ballooning years ago, in fact, I‘m working on getting my balloonist’s license.”

“You have to have a license to fly a balloon?” Sue asked.

“Of course you do, just as you do to drive a car or fly a plane. I already have my small-plane pilot’s license and I am also working towards my helicopter license, as well.”

“Oh my, you really must love flying! Wow, three different pilot’s licenses, that’s impressive!”

“Not really.” Phillip said, modestly. “Most of us kids can fly one or the other. Small planes and helicopters really come in handy for getting around, out in New Mexico.”

“Oh.” Sue said, nodding, as they entered the computer sciences building.

Sue and Phil entered their computer lab and found a free computer, where they could work. Phil kept a proper distance from Sue, as they worked together, but when he needed to move in closer to read something on the screen, or point something out to her, he kept it casual; very little eye contact, and all business. He smiled to himself as he realized that Sue had not stiffened up once, during their class-time.

‘Maybe she’s getting used to me a little.’ He thought to himself, as they prepared to go their separate ways.

“So I’ll see you at the house, later this afternoon?” Phil asked.

“Yes, see you then.” Sue said, before waving good-bye and taking off across campus.

Phil found a stone bench to sit on for a moment, recalling his time together with Sue today, next to the conversation he had, had with his mother, late last night.

**Flashback**

‘Hi Mom.’ Phil broadcast over the Connection.

One of the many reasons the Community had bought houses nearby the four major university campuses their children attended was so that each house could have an orb and stay a part of the Connection, through their link with the alien device. There were only the original orbs, which had gone with each of the children, who had escaped the doomed Antar, so many years ago. The materials to create more had been lost with the death of their planet and so they had to be carefully spread among the Community, so that every Antarian was within range of one.

‘Phillip, what are you doing up so late? It’s eleven o’clock on the coast.’ Liz reproved her son.

‘I thought this might be a good time to catch you. I need to ask your advice, Mom.’ Phil told her seriously. He immediately received her full attention.

‘Are you alright? I can sense that you are troubled.’ Liz asked.

‘I’m fine, Mom, well mostly. Dee introduced me to one of her friends, Friday night and I have been thinking about her ever since. There is something about her, which draws me to her, but…we think she has been…hurt by someone. We don’t know for sure yet. Neither Dee, Amy, nor I are in a position to ask her yet…But…Mom…I…frighten her!’ Phillip almost cried. His gentle soul couldn’t handle the idea of any living being, especially this young woman, being afraid of him.

‘Oh, Phil, I am sorry to here that. How does her fear manifest itself?’ Liz asked.

‘She is extremely shy of men. Dee says that she is fine around women. With me and a few other guys I’ve noticed her come near, she makes little or not eye contact, her speech becomes every soft and stilted, when she says anything at all and the few times I moved in too close to her, she stiffened up.’

‘Why were you invading her personal space, Phil?’ Liz asked

‘Our two computer classes have been combined, because her professor is in the hospital. Professor Tomlinson, who is now teaching both classes, assigned partners. This young woman is now my partner. I only moved in towards her when she was working on the keyboard and I needed to read the screen.’ Phil explained.

‘Ah, well, alright. Phil there is something I need to tell you, but I want you to keep this confidential, alright? Don’t even tell your sisters or Amy.’

‘Of course Mom, but what - ?’ Phil asked, worried about what his mother was going to tell him.

‘I can help because…I was…assaulted when I was attending Harvard. I got away from my scumbag-boyfriend before he could…But the emotional trauma stayed with me for a long, long tome. Until one day, when your father saved my live and swept me off of my feet, literally!’ Liz smiled at her memory of the day when she had met Max Evans. Then her expression became solemn and she brought her attention back to her son.

‘Depending on what happened to her and when, it may take quite a while for your friend to heal, or she may never recover from it. Can you tell me her first name? it would be easier to call her by that, rather than as ‘the young lady’.’ Liz asked.

‘I’m sorry, Mom. As much as I trust you to be discrete, I don’t think that I should betray her privacy by giving you her name or even by telling you what she looks like. Telling you this much about her, may upset her enough if she ever finds out.’

‘Of course, that is very thoughtful of you, Phil. Well, if you do ever speak to her of this, please tell her that I am very willing to help her any way I can. She may want someone, a woman to talk to. Tell her I would be willing to talk over the phone, vid-com, or I could even fly out if she would wish.’

‘Thanks Mom. But how can I help her?’

‘First of all, you must understand that with all the best intensions in the world, you may not be the one who can help her, no matter how patient you are, or how kind and gentle.’ Liz warned.

‘But if you truly want to help…the young lady…even have feelings for her, that is what you will have to be; patient, gentle, kind. Do not try and force her confidence or any other reaction from her. Let her lead you. She will confide in you if and when she wants to. Let her initiate physical contact of any kind, if and when she is ready.

‘Give her your friendship, if she will take it. Share little confidences with her. Show her that you trust her, that you are willing to listen to anything she has to say. But once again, don’t push her to talk about anything she does not want to.’ Liz advised.

‘Alright, thanks Mom.’ Phil said, nodding thoughtfully.

‘You’re a good boy. I’m sure you will do your best for your…friend and everything will work out alright in the end. Good luck. I love you.’ Liz said, signing off.

‘I love you too, Mom and Dad. Say hi to him for me.’

‘Of course. Good night.’ They both broke the Connection.

**End Flashback.**

Phillip came back to his surroundings and realized that he had better hustle over to the library so he could get the material he needed there and then get home to set things up for dinner tonight with Susan.

That evening, Phillip was home alone when Sue arrived.

‘Hi Sue, come on in. May I take your jacket?” Phillip did not move in to help her off with her coat, as he would for anyone else, but rather waited for her to shrug out of it herself and hand it to him. He hung it in the small front closet.

“No one is here right now, so I was wondering if I could talk to you about that topic I mentioned earlier? I think it might make things a little clearer for you before Amy comes home.”

“Um, well, sure.” Sue said, reluctantly.

“Thanks. We could sit in the living room, or in the kitchen. I have some hot tea brewing in there, but we can bring it out here, if you’d rather…or if you would like something else…”

“Tea in the kitchen would be nice, I guess. I’m surprised that you aren’t chugging down a beer or something.” Her nervousness showed through her attempt at humor.

“I don’t drink. I seem to be allergic to alcohol or something. I do not react well to any form of the foul stuff.” Phil told her, as he guided her back into the kitchen.

Both the living and dining rooms, at the front of the house and on either side of the middle hallway, looked comfortable, but the kitchen, which ran along the width of the back of the house, looked and smelled homey. Sue took a whiff of the lovely smells coming from the oven, as they entered.

“What are you baking? It smells wonderful.” Sue asked.

“Actually, I’m not baking anything. The cinnamon you smell is in the spaghetti. It’s my great-grandmother’s recipe, which has a sweeter taste, rather than such a spicy one. I cooked it yesterday, let it flavor through overnight and now I’m just warming it up in the oven. I will broil some garlic bread, closer to dinner time, though.” She nodded.

“Please, have a seat.” Phil indicated the small cherry kitchen table, set up by a window, with four wooden chairs surrounding it.

Phil puttered about the kitchen, getting down two blue, stone-ware mugs, the cream pitcher and the sugar bowel and setting them on a tray with the proper, English brown teapot, which was already resting on a quilted cozy, in the middle of the tray. He added teaspoons and napkins to the tray and then carried it over to the table.

“Here you go. Would you like some cookies? Audrey baked some over the weekend.”

“Um, not thank you.” Sue said, getting nervous again.

“Alright, let me pour the tea for you.” Phil said, as he picked up a fine, mesh filter and poured the tea through it, to catch the tealeaves, into Sue’s mug and then into his own.

“I’ll let you add whatever you would like to your tea.” Phil mentioned.

“So what did you want to explain to me?” Sue prompted, as she put sugar and cream into her tea.

“Alright, I’ll get right to the point then.” Phillip said, taking a swallow from his own mug. “There is something you need to know about the town we all come from. We tend to mate for life. Of course a couple could divorce if they wanted to, but we believe in finding our soul-mates, waiting to marry until that perfect person comes along and then living with that one, special person for the rest of our lives…So we are then very careful about who we date and who we eventually marry. To that end, we don’t like to…make love outside of marriage, or at least a very stable engagement. To us physical love is too precious an act to share with anyone but our chosen mates.

“With us college students, that can cause problems. We are looking for that one special person, so we do date, but we don’t…go too far in a relationship. When we realize that the person we are dating isn’t our soul-mate, we break off the relationship, but usually keep them as friends. But if you do that too many times, you start to get a reputation, as I was beginning to get, two years ago. In such cases those of us from my town employ the technique of asking a friend, in our same situation, to pose as our boyfriend or girlfriend for a while.

“Two years ago, I asked Amy to play that role with me. We have known each other all of our lives and we are best friends, but we will never be anymore that that. She was having the same problem I was and so she agreed.

“Now, two years later, we were both in the position of our so-called relationship that we would either have to make it look as if we were becoming even more involved, about to marry or back it off…so we did…break it off. Another boy living here, Shaun, broke up with his real girlfriend a while ago and is having some major problems with girls running after him all of the time, so Amy offered to help. Something…unexpected happened when she did, though.”

**Flashback**

“Hey Shaun, that girl chasing you almost left teeth marks on your shoulder!” Amy teased, as Shaun came dashing into the house and slammed the door behind him, almost in the face of the girl who had followed him.

“Yeah, why can’t they take a hint? I’m not interested. Maybe I should have a T-shirt printed up…’Off the Market.’.”

“Or…you could get a fake girlfriend. Amy Marie Guerin, at your service sir. Protector of reputations and shield against clueless bimbos!” Amy grinned at her friend.

“Phillip dumped you? I don’t believe it! I thought you two were really…Oh what’s the dif? It wouldn’t be real with you. You would never want to make it real…”

“Shaun what are you saying? Phillip and I were never a real item. You knew that. You must have. We never acted like…lovers when we were home. And what were you saying at the end?”

“Never mind what I said.” Shaun said, quickly. “What are you talking about? It wasn’t real between you and Phillip? He loves you. I see it when he looks at you and when you look back at him.”

“Of course I love, respect and admire him. He is my oldest and best friend, but neither of us is In love with each other. There is a difference. Now will you please tell me what else you said?”

“I figured I would never have a chance with you. I am a year younger than you and Phillip…is Phillip…you know, our prince.” Shaun looked down at his toes.

“Oh man, Shaun. I am so sorry. Have I been so blind to your feelings? I feel so awful. But you have always had girlfriends. There was never any opportunity for me…for us to…date…get to know each other in that way.” Amy said.

“No you weren’t blind. I hit it pretty well. I thought I’d never get a chance…wait a minute are you saying that you would, that we could…?”

“Of course we could go out. I have been so busy supporting Phil…and hiding from men myself, after that last awful boyfriend I had during my sophomore year, that I haven’t allowed myself to even understand my own wants and needs. I would very much like to get to know you in that special way. I think maybe something might come of it.”

“That would be so great!” Shaun grinned, while he gently squeezed her hand.

**End Flashback** (Of course Phillip didn’t mention the part about his being a prince, to Sue.)

‘Man these people are starting to sound weird.’ Sue thought to herself. ‘A really nice idea, finding your soul-mate and all. But could that really happen to an entire town? And now another generation is looking to do the same thing? I wonder if these people are in some sort of religious cult.’

“Looking at your expression, I can guess what you are thinking right now, Sue.” Phil chuckled. “No we are not in any sort of cult, nor are we fanatics! I think our townsfolk cover the full spectrum of religious choices out there, but no matter their belief systems, this is something we all seem to agree on…finding our one true love and sticking with her…or him.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Sue stammered.

“It’s alright, Sue. In this day and age it seems as though you would have to join a cult so as not to have a 50% divorce rate!” Phil assured her.

“Well then, that is so sweet! I am so happy for Amy. She seemed so nice, when we met on Friday. Of course, this means that you are free now, though.” Sue teased, trying to remind herself that Phil had not broken up with the lovely Amy, so that he could go out with someone like her. Phillip noticed her dejected posture and wondered what it meant.

“Well, I just wanted to explain things to you, since Amy and Shaun will be coming through that door any minute now, laughing and hand in hand.” Phil mentioned.

Indeed, at that moment, Dee, Amy and Shaun, with their fingers linked together, came through the door, laughing as they did so.

Shortly after Amy, Shaun and Dee came in, the other members of their household arrived. They all smelled the spaghetti in the oven and made loud comments about how hungry they all were and how much they were looking forward to dinner.

Dee introduced Sue to those she had not yet met, before they all went up to their rooms to work on homework; anything to keep them from being asked to help with preparing dinner. Sue left alone, wandered back into the kitchen.

“Can I help you with anything?” She offered.

“Sure, if you really want to. Guests are not expected to help in the kitchen. You could sit at the table, have some more tea and keep me company.” Phillip suggested.

“I’m not the sit and watch kind of person. I like to be useful.” Sue said.

‘Are you afraid that if you don’t make yourself useful, no one will want you around?’ Phillip wondered to himself.

“Well then, could you make the salad? I’ll get the veggies out of the frig.” Phil did so and took them to the sink, to wash.

“Alright, we have head-lettuce.” He threw it up in the air. “Cucumber and celery.” He threw them up in the air, as well, starting to juggle them, while adding a few more items to his trick. “Radishes and tomatoes, but I don’t want to bruise the tomatoes, so I won’t juggle them and you can’t juggle spinach either…ah, there are the carrots.” He picked up the last item and kept them looping through the air, from one hand to another. Suddenly a high-pitched voice called out.

“Ahh, let me down, let me down!”

“Don’t toss us so high!”

“If you drop me, I won’t be able to be put into the salad!” The vegetables were crying out, as Phillip tossed them up into the air.

“You’d rather be eaten than just be juggled around a little?” Phillip asked.

“Yes, yes, it is our destiny to be tossed into a salad, not to be tossed around in the air!” The voice seems to come from the celery.

“Put us down, put us down NOW!” The head-lettuce yelled.

“Oh alright!” Phillip put them down on the counter, one by one, keeping them up in the air until he did so.

“Oh my goodness! You should be in Vaudeville!” Sue clapped, but the applause seemed to snap Phillip back to reality and he grimaced.

“I should not have done that in front of you.”

“Why ever not?” Sue asked. “You were terrific!”

“Will you keep a secret for me?”

“What secret?” Sue asked.

“There is a prankster in this household, who is a ventriloquist…and as you might have guessed, the prankster…is me. But no one else knows, and I would like to keep it that way. I promise, I never hurt anyone, it’s just a bit of harmless fun.”

“I see, well in that case, of course I’ll keep your secret.” Phillip grinned at her.

“Thanks, Sue.” He cleared his throat. “Now, would you please make the salad and I will get the garlic bread ready.” Sue nodded and went to work.

A few minutes later, everyone ran down the stairs, after Phillip yelled upstairs that dinner was ready. He and Sue had set the food out, buffet-style and everyone formed a line to serve themselves.

There were only two assigned seats at the table; the head and the foot, where Phillip and Dee sat, respectively. Places of honor were on the right-hand side of the prince and princess of the Antarian people, but only if they specifically asked you to sit there, as Dee asked Sue to sit next to her, with Amy sitting on the other side. Phillip would have liked to ask Sue to sit on his right side, but he knew that it was too early in their relationship for that.

As dinner progressed, it became clear to Sue that Shaun did not like carrots. He had tried to put as few of them into his salad bowl, out in the kitchen, but now he was picking the ones he had picked up anyway, onto his plate. A shrill voice cried out from that small pile of unwanted carrots, startling everyone at the table.

“Shaun, don’t you like us? All we wanted out of our short lives was to be enjoyed by you! But it’s too late, you’ve picked us out of your bowl and set us aside to throw us away . Oh the agony! We allowed ourselves to be cut up, just so that we could be put into your salad bowl and you throw us aside as if were…Brussels-sprouts! Carrots are good for you; they are tasty…Why don’t you like us? .” They cried.

“Why do you, whoever you are, do this to me every time I don’t eat my carrots?” Shaun moaned.

. The carrots whimpered from his plate.

“Oh alright, already! I’ll eat you!” Shaun mumbled, as he forked them up.

“Thank you, oh thank you, we are especially delicious tonight!” They said, before he swallowed them.

“There are you happy now?” Shaun looked around the table, until he came to the wide eyes of Sue, who was playing her part as confused guest, perfectly.

“I’m sorry, Sue. We have a prankster at this table, who loves nothing better than to make sure that we all eat our vegetables, among other things.”

“Yeah, like the time he or she replaced my size 6 pumps with size 17 clown-shoes!” Amy laughed, remembering.

“Or the time he or she had my computer translating everything into Greek!” Dee giggled.

“Well, at least his or her pranks sound harmless.” Sue said, looking around the table, until she came to Phillip and raised one, delicate eyebrow, ala Mr. Spock.

“Yeah, they are, otherwise Dad would have found a way to put a stop to them by now.” Phillip replied. “We have another prankster, back in town, who has been on the loose for twenty-five years! He even made appearances at my parent’s and aunt’s and uncle’s weddings!”

The table broke into laughter, remembering the stories, which everyone knew, about the weddings of Michael and Maria, Kyle and Tess, Isabel and Alex and Max and Liz. Dee turned to her friend and relayed some of the funnier things, which the original prankster had done to her parents and aunts and uncles, when they were young, until Sue was laughing as well.

“So, your prankster is carrying on the tradition, huh?” Sue asked Phillip.

“Looks that way, whoever he or she is.” Phil replied with a straight face.

A short time later, after some dessert of strawberries and ice-cream, with some home-made cookies on the side, everyone got up from the table and took their plates into the kitchen. Dee and Amy had clean-up duty that night. Everyone else went back to their activities for the rest of the evening.

“Ready to get to work?” Phillip asked and Sue nodded.

The two of them headed up to his room, on the second floor. It was small, with just enough room for his full-sized bed, closet, a small dresser and an equally small desk, crammed with his computer equipment and textbooks. Sue noticed that it was a neat and clean room, smelling of something pleasantly spicy.

They settled down to work and managed to get a lot done. By the end of the evening, Sue realized that she had felt no urge to stiffen up in Phillip’s close presence all night and was glad. He was nice and she was starting to feel safe with him. Sue was thinking how much she liked Dee, Amy and the others she had met tonight. She hoped she could build friendships with them…including Phillip Evans, she thought within the most secret part of her heart.

Sue arrived at her architectural history class early, the next day. She sat down in her seat and allowed her mind to drift to the thoughts, which had been circling around in her head, ever since the evening before.

Phil always acted with proper politeness towards her. He never made any suggestive remarks, nor any inappropriate touches or eye contact. He treated her more like a sister, which had really depressed her, until last night.

Last night, Sue had found out two very nice things about Phil and all of his house-mates. He had told her that he does not drink at all and it seemed, last night, that none of his house-mates do either, even though they are all over the drinking age. Everyone at the table was drinking hot or iced-tea, coffee, pop, or just water. In fact, as Sue had helped Phil prepare the dinner, she had, had occasion to look into several of their cupboards. In them she had seen numerous flavored teas and coffees, stored up front. There was an automatic juicer and iced-tea maker on the counter and many different kinds of sodas in the refrigerator.

Also, Phil had made a big point of explaining his relationship to Amy and the custom in their town, of marrying for life. These were things a girl would like to know about a boy she is interested in; that he does not drink too much and that he would be faithful to her. But why would a boy, who treats you as if you were his sister, make such a point of telling you about such things? Sue hoped that it was more than Phil’s explaining how Amy had been his girlfriend one day and became Shaun’s the next.

‘It wouldn’t be because he especially wanted you to know that he was free to date again.’ She silently told herself. ’Could it?’

“Hi Sue.” Dee greeted her friend as she came to sit down next to her.

“Hey Dee.” Sue smiled up at her friend.

“Would you be free Saturday morning? Amy, Audrey and I are all going to have facials, manicures and get makeovers, just for fun and we wanted you to join us. You have such a great sense of style and we wanted your advice, as well as to just spend some girl-time with you! What do you say?”

“Thank you for the compliment! That sounds like a lot of fun. My swim-team practice has been rescheduled to early that morning, so that will work out great!” Sue enthused, happily. Her shyness hadn’t allowed her to make many friends during her three years at Harvard.

“Super! We’ll get you added to our reservation at the salon. Afterwards, we could have lunch at one of the new restaurants near the mall and maybe do some shopping!” Dee wiggled in her seat, excitedly. She loved to shop, especially if she had someone with great taste, like Sue, along with her.

“We’ll pick you up just before ten o’clock, alright?” Dee asked.

“That would be fine.” Sue said, nodding and then they both had to settle down, as their professor started his lecture.

~*~*~*~

“Oh, I forgot to ask; how’s your professor doing, the one in the accident?” Dee asked. “I forgot to ask Phillip if he had heard anything.”

“Oh yeah, we were told yesterday, that he has regained consciousness and that there seems to be no brain damage. He still has a lot of broken bones, but they will mend in time. His internal injuries seem to be healing well, after his surgery.” Sue reported, happily, as the two girls left their classroom. “He will still be out for at least this semester, healing and doing physical therapy, though.”

“Oh, I am so glad that he is doing well.” Dee said. “I’ll see you in class on Friday, if I don’t see you at the house, before that. Bye, Sue.”

“Bye Dee.” Sue said before they had to split up and go their separate ways.

~*~*~*~

Saturday morning, after swim-team practice, Sue was walking down a hallway, which circled one of the gymnasiums, on her way out of the building, when she happened to glance through one of the open doorways. She saw Shaun and Edward, Phillip’s other housemate, playing basketball. Some of the guys, including Shaun and Ed, had taken off their T-shirts and just wore shorts, to play. Sue noted to herself that both of the young men she had just met, had very nice muscles in their upper bodies and legs, but she didn’t think they would compare to Phillip.

Just then, her opinion was proven, when Phillip walked through one of the other gym doors. Sue slunk back, so that she couldn’t be seen, as she continued to watch. Phil was in sweat-damp T-shirt and shorts and his hear was wet with perspiration.

“Hey, Evans, nice of you to show up.” A strange boy called out.

“Hey, dummy, he had crew practice this morning.” Shaun explained. “Anyway, with Phil here, we’ll beat your team all the faster!”

“Oh my gosh!” Sue exclaimed, quietly to herself, as Phil tossed his T-shirt on the floor and joined his friends on the court. “And I thought he had a great body when it was clothed!” She muttered, as she watched his muscles flex and twist, tighten and release.

‘I’d better get out of here, before I drool onto the floor, or he will be sure to feel my gaze on him.’ Sue thought, as she made herself turn away from the wondrous sight of Phillip Evans, bare-chested.

Back in her dorm, she changed out of her sweat-suite, which she wore after practice and into jeans and a navy-blue sweater, with gold, copper and brown leaves scattered over it. She was wearing her copper-V, but as always, she tucked it inside the neck of her sweater.

‘Funny, usually when I see a man without his shirt on the sight totally turns me off, or I feel nothing at all. But today, when I saw Phil, for the first time in years I felt attraction and…something else, I can’t describe. Maybe I am finally coming back to life a little. Maybe Phillip Evans is bringing me back to life.’ Sue thought, as she finished getting ready and went downstairs to wait for the other three girls to pick her up.

~*~*~*~

“Oh I love the hand massage you get with a manicure.” Audrey moaned happily, as the manicurist manipulated the fine bones in her hand.

“Now, ladies, what color nail polish would each of you like us to apply? One of the other four manicurists asked.

“Sue, what color would be right for me?” Dee asked her friend, who was sitting between herself and Amy.

“Oh, I think this one would be good for you. It will bring out the warm color-tones in your skin and show off your long nails at the same time.” The manicurist nodded, agreeing with Sue, who had moved on to help Audrey choose her color.

“Before your nail polish is applied, ladies, it’s time for us to remove the deep cleanser lotion on your faces and apply the next step of your facial. Then you can come back and have your nails finished.” Their beautician came to get them.

“Sue, what would you think of my having my hair cut to look like yours?” Amy asked, as they were all having their faces worked on. Sue looked carefully at her friend’s face and hair before replying.

“I think it would look great, but it would look even better if it were feathered away from your face a little and layered, rather than just the straight cut, I have.” Sue recommended.

“That would look great, Miss.” The beautician agreed. “We have a chair available in the cutting room of our salon, if you would like to have it done right now.”

“Should I, you guys?” Amy asked. “What will Shaun think?”

“He’ll flip! I think it’ll be a really cute look on you.” Audrey said.

“Your hair is already shoulder-length. He’ll think that it looks even better than it does right now.” Dee said. “It’s not as if it reached down past your waist, like mine does.” After a second’s thought. “Hey Sue, do you think I should cut my hair too?” Dee asked.

“NO!” Sue exclaimed, loudly. She modified her tone and tried again. “No, please do not cut your hair. It is so beautiful, long and thick. It does not even need a trim.” Sue said, firmly and Dee smiled.

“Phew, thanks. I didn’t want to cut it, but the thought has crossed my mind. I like it when everyone tells me that I look like my grandmother, when she was young. She was a great lady and I want to be just like her.” Amy and Audrey were nodding.
“Oh do you? That must be a nice way to feel connected to your heritage. I don’t look much like any of my relatives.” Sue remarked, as the girls walked over to the cutting area, to watch Amy get her hair cut.

After Amy had her hair cut which all the other girls agreed looked fabulous, they went back to have their nails finished and then over to the make-up counter for their make-overs.

“None of you want to wear too much make-up, unless it’s for a very special occasion. Your faces and skin are all so perfect, they don’t need much enhancement.” Sue suggested. “Just some light foundation, if you want, some subtle, glossy lipstick and some eye make-up to bring out the color in your irises.”

“Well you certainly seem to take your own advice, Sue.” Dee said. “But I get the feeling that it isn’t because you know that your face needs little or no adornment to look beautiful!”

“Oh you don’t need to say that, Dee. I know I’m not beautiful, like the three of you are. Putting on a lot of make-up just doesn’t seem worth my time. It will never change what I look like; make my reflection any better.” Sue said quietly. Still her friends and their beautician stood there with their mouths hanging open.

“No, make-up probably won’t make you look any better.” Dee said, seriously, thoughtfully. “Because it would only be covering up your natural beauty; your lovely bone structure, your luminous, clear skin, your features. No you aren’t just beautiful and not to sound out of line or anything, but Sue, you are gorgeous! I can’t believe every guy in town isn’t clambering for your name and phone number. Most of all I can’t believe that you don’t see yourself as you truly are.” Sue ducked her head and averted her face from her friends, uncomfortable with their praise, but didn’t say anything.

‘Okay we need somewhere private, where we can talk some sense into Sue.’ Dee told Amy and Audrey, sub-vocally.

“I think we are finished here.” Amy said firmly to their beautician, who nodded, understandingly. Thankfully they had already paid their bill. “Thank you for all of your help.”

“Sue, why don’t we go have some lunch.” Audrey said, linking her arm with Sue’s and steering her out of the salon.

They were on their way out of the mall, when they saw Shaun, Ed and Phillip, coming towards them.

“Hey you guys, I thought you were all playing basketball.” Dee called out.

‘We need to take Sue somewhere private, where we can have a talk with her.’ Amy told the men, sub-vocally relaying to them, what just happened inside the salon.

‘No you don’t. I don’t want you pumping her for information she is not ready to give.’ Phillip said, firmly.

“One cannot live on hoops alone.” Shaun told them, out loud, as he came to put his arm around Amy.

“We came to see a movie.” Edward said.

“Why don’t you lovely ladies join us?” Phillip suggested, looking directly at Sue, as he said it. “Have you had lunch yet? We can load up on junk food; nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, sodas and watch the new adventure film that’s out.”

Are you talking about the new Mason Blair film? Ooh, I want to see that! I love his films.” Amy raved, glancing at Dee and Phillip. After all, the famous actor did look exactly like their own father.

“They say he’s the Harrison Ford of his generation; handsome, sexy and incredibly talented.” Audrey chimed in.

Sue was feeling much better now that the topic of conversation had changed. She was trying to hide her delighted grin at hearing her father so well spoken of.

“A movie sounds like fun.” She noted, quietly.

“A movie it is then.” Phillip said, instantly. “I think there’s a showing in about 30 minutes. We could grab some lunch beforehand and then just take popcorn and pop in with us.” He suggested and the friends started to walk towards the theatre.

Shaun paid for Amy’s ticket and food and Phillip would have liked to do the same for Sue, but he reminded himself that this was not a date. This was just a bunch of friends having fun together. The seating did work out well, however when they went into the theater. Shaun and Amy sat together, with Edward next to Shaun, on the far side. Dee and then Audrey sat next to Amy with Sue next to them and then Phillip sat on the aisle, on the right side of Sue. They both sat with their arms within the sides of their chairs, not touching at all.

As the lights went down, Sue remembered that her father had never told her what this movie was about. He said that he wanted it to be a surprise, knowing as he did, that his daughter never watched entertainment channels.

The surprise came in the fact that this movie was more of a romance than any of Mason Blair’s previous films, not including ‘Among Us’. In his action/adventures, mysteries and intrigues, Mason always got the girl in the end, but the focus would be on the action scenes.

“Oh my gosh, Mason’s wife, Cheryl Appleton is in this with him!” Dee squealed, quietly, as she read the opening credits.

‘Oh my gosh, those little…stinkers!’ Sue thought of her parents. ‘I knew that they were both working on movies, but they never mentioned that they were working on the same movie. They haven’t filmed one together in years. Mom has become a very gifted director lately, while Dad kept acting.’ Sue thought to herself.

As the movie progressed, Sue became totally caught up in the action. She forgot that it was just a movie, just pretend and that all the fights, explosions and other dangers were highly choreographed stunts. That was her mother, up on the screen and she was in danger. Of course her father would save her, but in the meantime, Sue was gripping the arms of her chair with white-knuckled intensity…except that one of the arms she grasped was not made of plastic, but of living flesh.

‘Boy, Sue is really getting into this movie.’ Phil thought, as he watched out of the side of his eye, as she cringed and jumped at each punch and explosion.

‘Maybe this movie wasn’t such a good idea.’ He thought. Then he felt a small hand grasp his wrist with incredible strength. He turned his head to see Sue watching the screen through the fingers of her hand, which alternately covered her eyes and then spread open, to let her watch.

Phillip wanted to put his arm around Sue and hold her through the intense scenes, but he knew that it was too soon for that. He covered her hand with his own and tried to pat it reassuringly.

A particularly loud explosion brought his attention back to the screen for a second. He saw Cheryl Appleton’s character narrowly escape being crushed by a large piece of debris; before Mason Blair’s character sprinted out to pick her up in his arms and carry her to safety.

After that one second, he felt another hand grasp his upper arm and a forehead being pressed into his shoulder and he heard Sue cry out. He turned and saw her just turning her head to peak one eye out so that she could watch what happened next.

There was some sub-vocal chatter going on as well. Dee was also having some trouble distinguishing the actors from her parents, as well and was holding tightly to Audrey’s hand.

Luckily, after all of the action, came a tender scene between the hero and heroine. Phillip watched as tears started to trickle down Sue’s smooth cheeks and the urge to take her into his arms grew stronger. The only thing which kept him from panicking at her reactions to the movie was the sweet smile on her face, as she watched the couple on the screen kiss and gently caress each other’s faces, necks and arms. He heard sniffles coming from the other girls, sitting near him as well.

‘Oh I love to see those two together.’ Sue thought to herself. ‘Matt would only roll his eyes and make a rude comment, but I have always thought that our parent’s love for each other was so romantic!’

The movie came to an end and the audience started to applaud and cheer. Appleton/Blair movies always garnered such enthusiastic responses.

“That was Wonderful!” Amy exclaimed.

“Yeah, those two are so great together and since they are married, you know those kisses were for real!” Audrey said, smiling.

“Man, those action scenes were hot!” Shaun said next.

“Yeah, that last scene, where you’re sure that Cheryl’s character is going to be killed and then Mason comes running in, just in time, to save her!” Ed added.

‘I wonder how they can kiss like that in front of a camera and all the people who must be on the set, watching?” Dee asked.

“They are just engrossed in their love for each other and in their own little world.” Sue said and then. “I would imagine that is how they film such scenes.”

Phillip just watched her, silently.

“Hey you guys, I was promised shopping!” De reminded them.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Audrey agreed.

They said goodbye to the guys and walked off, arm in arm, to spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the shops and boutiques the mall had to offer, having a great time talking about the finer points of the movie, as they did.

~*~*~*~*~

Los Angeles, California.

Niko Giuliani knew everything there was to know about Mason Blair and Cheryl Appleton already, so he had spent the week finding out all he could about Max Evans and Liz Parker.

“So you were a foundling, Maxie-boy? That could be an interesting angle. I will have to dig harder into Blair’s family history. Maybe there was an affair, which produced Evans, on the wrong side of the blanket. And maybe there was something similar happening between the Parker and Appleton families. He, he, he!

“Well, I have already found out something interesting about that little town of Max Evans’. He had offered big bucks to buy that land from the government…And those mountains hold an underground military facility, including several missile silos. Now, I wonder what a quiet, little town, filled with those artsy-types would want with a secret, underground military base?

“I’ll do a little more digging and then I will have more than enough information to contact both Blair and Evans and see how they react, when I rattle their cages a little.”

Was It A Dream? Part 10

Niko had been digging for a few more days, but had been unable to find any “connection” or sign of an affair in the Blair family background, or between the Parker and Appleton families.

“That doesn’t mean that nothing happened, just that they hid it well.” Niko mumbled to himself. “But I have learned a great deal and pieced a lot of coincidences together.

“It all started over fifty-five years ago, when some Swede-nobody, named Eric Petersen started to write his dorky, sci-fi books about this planet called Antar. He even gets those clowns in Hollywood to make movies out of his books. His dreamer of an uncle, Olaus Petersen is trying to build houses that no one wants to buy. So, twenty-five years ago, Eric makes a deal with the Hollywood big-wigs, to film one more movie, based on his last two books. He gets his uncle hired on as set designer and these two and their whole passel of relatives decide to immigrate to the States.

“Meanwhile, there is this kid, Max Evans, a foundling. According to the adoption records, which I was able to hack my way into, he was found, out on the road on night, just outside of Roswell, New Mexico. He grows up all alone, poor kid, until he attends college at smarmy, ivy-choked Harvard. There he bravely saves the life of Liz Parker and all of a sudden, starts to have friends pop up out of the woodwork.

“Interesting thing is that three of those friends were also found, alone, on a road, just outside of Roswell, New Mexico, according to their adoption papers and the police reports I was able to get a look at. The Parker girl, her adopted sister, Tess and her friend Maria, all grew up in Roswell, site of the infamous crash of a spaceship, back in the late 40s. The government made such a stink about covering it up, that I just know that something must have actually happened there.

“So, all the kiddies have met and suddenly they know Eric Petersen as well. So well, that they are bidding on an old, underground, military facility, together. They get the land, a valley, which is almost totally cut off from the outside world and almost overnight, the town of Airatan has popped up out of nowhere.

“Where did all of those good townsfolk come from, all of a sudden? Where did they stay, while they were used to build the town? Well, that’s easy; they were down in that secret, military facility. And I bet that they are still hiding illegal aliens down there, today.

“The two Petersen men are working on that stupid movie and gee-whiz, they hire an actor and actress, who look just like Evans and Parker, to play some poor, orphaned, alien prince, who comes to Earth and finds the big “L” with this stringy-haired, no chest, little mouse of a girl.

“The four of them supposedly meet for the first time, which I think is a bunch of bull, right before Parker and Evans marry and live happily ever after…yeah, right.

“Three years later, after most of the work has already been finished, the cute, little Evans couple move out to Airatan, which I found, by actually reading one of Petersen’s stupid books, was the name of the royal capital on the planet Antar. Maxie-boy becomes the mayor of this alien planet, look-a-like town.

“The Blairs were caught visiting that weird, little town, fourteen years ago. I bet they had been in touch with the Evans family before that and had stayed in touch over the years to this very day, lying to anyone who asked them whether they knew each other.

“So, why are they hiding their connection? They don’t want anyone to know about the affairs going on between their families, of course. Such fine, upstanding families don’t have such lurid skeletons hanging in their closets, oh no.

“Mayor Evans has never allowed the Press beyond the tourist town, at the mouth of their little valley. He says he doesn’t want their privacy invaded. There is even a barbed-wire fence running all the way around the outside of the valley. Now, is that to keep people out, or keep people…or something in?

“They have to be using the underground facility to smuggle drugs and/or illegal aliens…wait a minute, wait just a minute. Not illegal aliens from Mexico, illegal aliens from outer space! Eric Petersen wrote books, supposedly make-believe books about another planet. The last book tells of a group of kids coming to Earth, to live among us. What if that really happened? What if Evans is that wimp of a prince? He gathers his “people” together into this one little, hick-town, to live in peace and harmony among us Humans. I bet they are smuggling in more aliens-from-outer-space and hiding them down in those tunnels, until their new identities can be forged. They might even be experimenting on Humans down there!

“Oh yeah, I’ve got lots of questions to ask Blair and Evans. I’ll send the same letter to each of them, so they know what is suspected about the other guy. Maybe this will break them up, make one of them rat out the other…to me! I’ll be famous, when all of this is blown wide open!” Niko grinned to himself, dreaming of building his career, as well as a magnificent house to live in, with lots of cars, women, jewelry, women…He just didn’t realize that he was building all his dreams on sand and as soon as he set the cornerstone, a sink-hole was going to open up and swallow him whole.

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

Airatan, New Mexico.

“Have you seen Uncle Max, or Aunt Liz, Dad?” Marcus Guerin asked his father.

“Uh no, I haven’t. You have tried calling them over the Connection, haven’t you?” Michael asked.

“Yes, but they aren’t answering. I’m worried.” Michael concentrated for a moment.

“Well, I can pick up their life signs, so they are fine. They probably just want some privacy for a while. Why don’t you go to their home office and leave them a note?”

“Well, alright.” Marc said, as he turned back towards his home and the Evans’s.

“I’ll walk with you, I was going home anyway. So, how’s Libby doing?”

“She’s great, Dad! Well, You Know how I feel about her…she’s…she’s…”

“She’s great, yes I understand and I’m happy for both of you. Wanting to see Max and Liz doesn’t have anything to do with your relationship with Libby, does it?”

“Well, uhm…”

“Because, I’ve just found them for you.” Michael said, nodding towards the Community’s glass-enclosed, Olympic-sized pool.

“Oh yeah sure, like I’m going to go in there and ask for their permission to marry their daughter, while they’re…” Marc tilted his head…”uh, kissing…alone…in the pool.”

“Smart boy, wait ‘til later this evening, at least.” Michael advised, as father and son walked on.

~*~*~*~

A few minutes earlier.

Liz walked into the glass-enclosed pool building and stood to watch her husband swim lap after lap. She looked away from the tantalizing view of Max slicing his way through the water, for just a few moments, to look around the enormous, cathedral-ceilinged room. Inside the twelve-foot windows grew different types of large, green ferns and other plants, while outside, there were nicely spaced pine and spruce trees. Anyone inside the pool-house had a lovely view up and down the valley, but at the same time they had a little bit of privacy at ground level, from the greenery, or so she thought.

They could usually count on having this pool all to themselves in the middle of the day. The kids were in school and the adults were at work, when Max and Liz took their one day a month to meet for a private swim in the pool.

Liz looked back to her husband, as he came speeding towards her. When he reached the end of the pool, he stopped and brought his head up out of the water. He leaned backwards, stuck his head back into the water and then straightened up, his hair all neatly sleeked back over his head.

As Max brought his head out of the water, smoothing his hair back a little with his hand, he opened his eyes to see his dream-girl standing before him, up on the tile walkway, surrounding the pool. Man, he loved to look at her body, especially when it was displayed to perfection in her copper-toned, one piece swimsuit. The top was cut just low enough to show off a little bit of cleavage, the bottom of the suit was cut high enough to show off her gorgeous legs and the whole thing fit her like a second skin, showing off all of her fabulous figure, hidden underneath.

“Hey there, how come you’re standing up there, gorgeous, but dry, so far away from me?” Max asked.

“Because my handsome husband has not yet offered to help me into the water, so that I don’t get my hair wet.” Liz replied.

“Woops, sorry, sweetheart.” Max said and then raised his arms and took hold of Liz by her tiny waist and lifted her down into the water. Instead of putting her down in the shallow water, he shifted his hold until he was holding her with one arm under her bare thighs and the other behind her almost bare back. Liz put her arms around his neck and moved in to kiss him, deeply.

“Mmm, thank you sir, for your help.” Liz said, between kisses. With her attention on Max’s lips, she did not realize that her tricky husband was taking her out to deeper water, until he dunked them both underwater, but continued to kiss her…moist lips. Finally, they surfaced, gasping for air.

“Max, I told you that I didn’t want to get my hair wet!” Liz exclaimed.

“That’s what you always say, but how can we have any fun or get in any exercise, without your hair becoming wet? I always dry it for you afterwards, anyway.” Max grinned at her.

“Oh you!” Liz laughed, just before she made a pre-emptive strike and put her hands on top of Max’s head, to dunk him. She could hear his startled yelp come form underwater, as she quickly flitted out of his reach.

They played like this for some time; trying to dunk the other, dodging each other by swimming along the bottom of the pool and splashing each other, as well. Then they took turns on the diving board; Liz performing graceful dives, while Max preferred the good, old cannon-ball, splashing half of the pool’s water out, each time he did it. Finally, Liz put in several laps, with Max pacing himself beside her, before they saw that it was time to get out.

“Oh no, look at my fingers, they look like prunes.” Liz wiggled her fingers in front of Max’s face.

“Mmm, I can take care of that.” Max said, as he took her hand and kissed each finger, drying and bringing each hand back to its normal softness, as he did so.

“Thank you, Max. You know, with all the water you splashed out of the pool, perhaps we should try to conserve a little water by…taking a joint shower. What do you say?”

“What a great and environmentally thoughtful suggestion, Liz. I’m so proud of how you always put Mother Earth first in your priorities!” Max replied, as he took her hand and pulled her through the door and into the locker-room.

He made sure that the shower-room door was good-and-locked, before he slowly slid Liz’s suit down her fabulous body. Liz ran her hands down over Max’s impressive, bare chest and abdomen, before she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of his boxer-type suit and pulled it down his body, as well.

They ran the gamut between laughter, as one of them found a ticklish spot and moans of pleasure, as they both discovered…other places to kiss and caress, as they shampooed and soaped each other clean.

…Sometime later, they walked in, arm-in-arm, through one of the sliding doors in their family room and made their way to their bedroom to…change clothes. A while after that, they passed back through the family room and on to their offices/library, to do a little work. Even though this was a day off from their regular jobs, there were still matters, which needed their attention, waiting for them on each of their desks.

“Mary brought in the mail, bless her.” Liz said, as she glanced through the pile of envelopes, sorting them out. Mary was their housekeeper/secretary-when-needed and fabulously industrious assistant.

“Here is a large envelope from someone I don’t know; Niko Giuliani. It is addressed to both of us. Do you know someone by that name, Max? There is only his name, no return address.” Liz said.

“No, I have never heard of anyone by that name. He is probably selling something, but open it anyway, just in case.” Liz did so and read through the cover-letter. All of a sudden her face went deathly pale and she sat down hard in her chair.

“Liz, what is it?” Max asked urgently, as he came over and knelt by her side.

“Read this, Max.” She said, in a dead voice, handing him the letter.

“Oh man! Who is this creep and where did he get all of this information?” Max exclaimed as he quickly scanned all the information and speculations listed on the attached pages.

“He does not actually have a lot of facts, only coincidences, but the speculations almost accusations, which he makes, are down right crazy…and dangerous.”

“We need to contact Mason and Cheryl, have them come out here, so we can talk safely.” Liz said.

“You are right, Liz…but some of this nut-case’s ideas are pretty darn close to the truth. Liz, how much of anything do you think we should tell Mason and Cheryl, so that they can help us diffuse this…scumbag?”

“Oh I don’t know, Max. We may have to tell them everything, especially with what happened between our Phillip and their little Suzie, fourteen years ago.”

“Oh…yeah, I had almost forgotten about that. Well, for right now, let’s just contact them and see where we stand. We can make plans after we get Mason and Cheryl’s reactions.” Max suggested and Liz nodded.

~*~*~*~

A press briefing in Hollywood, California.

“Mason, Cheryl, your latest film has been out for three days now and it has already been proclaimed as a monumental hit, but what do your kids think of it?” An overenthusiastic reporter asked, as his camera-woman snapped picture after picture.

“Well, Susan called to tell us she had just seen it this weekend.” Mason chuckled. “She said that she was a nervous wreck during the action scenes and cried during our little, romantic scene, at the end!”

“And your son, Matt, has he seen it yet?”

“Yes, he called to say that the action scenes were “totally hot, but that the romantic stuff at the end was too embarrassing to watch!” Cheryl grinned.

“I don’t think it was the kisses, which embarrassed him, it was watching his old-foggy parents kissing…on screen, which embarrassed him. I can just see him rolling his eyes and yelling “Da-a-ad!” right about now!” Mason did an excellent imitation of his nineteen year old son and had the audience laughing out loud.

“That’s all for now people. Thanks for coming. Press packets are on the back table, if you didn’t already get one.” Cliff, Mason’s agent told the reporters.

“You guys were great.” He turned around to tell Mason and Cheryl.

“Thanks, Cliff. It has been a long day. I am taking my lovely wife and co-star home now.” Mason told him.

“Okay, Mase. Don’t forget that you have a 6:30 show-time for the talk show, tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Mason said, over his shoulder, as he put his arm around Cheryl’s slender shoulders and guided her out of the studio.

An hour later, Mason and Cheryl entered their lovely home, set back, up in the hills.

“You look tired, Mason.” Cheryl said, as she stepped in close to her husband and ran her small and gentle hands over his forehead and along the back of his neck. “Why don’t you go out onto the deck, get comfortable in your chair and I will brew us some hazel-nut coffee and bring it out.”

“That sounds great, Sweetheart, thank you.” Mason leaned in a little to kiss his lovely wife on her forehead.

“I’ll be right out.” Cheryl said, as she headed towards the kitchen and Mason walked towards the deck, which was accessible from their master bedroom.

A few minutes later, Cheryl came to the sliding glass door and Mason got up to open it for her and take the tray she was carrying, from her. On the tray were two brown, earthen-ware mugs, a small, matching coffee carafe, the sugar bowl, two tea spoons, a plate of chocolate-chip cookies and a few pieces of mail.

“We received some letters from our families and this large envelope, with no return address on it, but it was addressed to our personal post-office box, so I brought it out to open.” Cheryl said.

“Hmmm.” Mason said, as he turned the large envelope over, studying it, before opening it. A moment later he let out a string of swear-words.

“Oh my gosh, Mason, what is it?” Cheryl asked, concerned. In his private live, Mason rarely ever swore.

“Come sit down with me, Cheryl.” Mason sat down on their wicker love-seat, next to Cheryl and took a healthy swallow from his coffee mug. He took several deep breaths, before turning to her.

“This packet is from…Niko Giuliani.”

“Niko G--!” It was Cheryl’s turn to swear, an even rarer occurrence for her, than for Mason.

“That little twerp, that creep, that, that…”

“Yeah him.” Mason agreed. “Sneaky-John’s son, who doesn’t have half the talent with a camera, that his father has in his right pinky-finger, but who has the arrogance and ego of ten men.”

“The guy who used Suzie to get to you, so that you would get him a job at the studio…and then dropped her like a hot potato.” Cheryl said.

“Yeah the guy who drove us all nuts with his laziness, lack of talent, sarcastic pessimism and the sexual harassment of most of the female staff. Luckily, his contract was only for six months and then he ‘felt you up’ the day after his contract expired and we were able to fire him. The ladies came forward afterward and told us what he had done to them. Too bad they hadn’t come forth earlier, or we could have gotten rid of him all the sooner.” Mason said.

“So, what does the creep want?” Cheryl asked.

“Well, to start off let me say that Niko is an idiot, as well as a creep, to have put all of this stuff in writing. Let’s see, he has discovered our resemblances to Max and Liz and implies that there must be a blood relationship between us, made during some steamy affair in our families’ pasts. He thinks that just because we chose to keep our friendship private, we must be hiding something.”

“Oh no, oh Mason, he didn’t, he wouldn’t have sent a copy of this material to Max and Liz, would he?”

“He would and he did. Niko mentions that right up front. He also sites Eric Petersen and Olaus Petersen as further connections between the four of us, since both Petersens and quite a few of their families live in Airatan.

“So what?” Cheryl asked and Mason shrugged and then started to grin, as he read further.

“Niko has put together an incredible set of coincidences and you won’t believe what the punch-line is!”

“What is he saying?”

“Okay, he thinks that Eric Petersen’s books are for real; that Antar really did exist and then was destroyed and that the children actually did come here to Earth, to live among us…and he thinks that Max is the young Prince Zan and Liz, his mate! Can you believe that? This guy is a lunatic!”

“Absolutely. Where does he think he can take these preposterous ideas?”

“Uh, well, I’ve just come to that part and it isn’t nearly as funny. Niko accuses them of using that underground military facility, underneath Airatan to hide illegal…outer-space…aliens or drugs. He even suggests that they might be doing experimentation on Humans down there.”

“Well that is absolutely stupid!” Cheryl said, immediately. “Max and Liz would never, ever do anything illegal, most especially drugs and the rest of his ‘suggestions’ are nothing but a waste of our time.”

Well you know, I have read Eric’s books and Airatan is the name of the royal capital on Antar!” Mason said, grinning at Cheryl.

“So what? Olaus Petersen was responsible for building that town; he probably got the idea for the name from his nephew, just like Eric got the ideas for the buildings for the movies’ set designs from Olaus. Max told us that.”

“I was just teasing! But Niko isn’t. He could make things ugly if he says the word ‘drugs’ to the right people. Not that many people would believe someone like him, though.”

“We need to call Max and Liz and ask them to fly out here.” Cheryl said.

Just then, their private line rang.

“That could be them, now.” Mason said, as he went into their bedroom to answer it.




Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay
-Robert Frost
posted on 31-Aug-2001 4:07:12 PM
Was It A Dream? Part 11

Perhaps an hour before his parents were opening their mail, Phillip found himself driving by his favorite coffee-shop, The Grinding Stop. He pulled his SUV into a nearby parking place and went in. His parents had told he and his sisters about this little shop, run by Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt and he had been happy to see that it was still in business, three years ago, when he had first come to Cambridge. Now he was not only a regular patron but a second generation patron at that. Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt were still there, but they were now in their sixties and their nephew did the day-to-day business of running the shop, while Mr. Schmidt served and visited with their customers. Mrs. Schmidt still had command of the kitchen, baking her famous spice cake and other delicious offerings, but now she had help.

As he stepped inside the shop door, it was as if a button had been pushed and rain came bucketing down, outside.

“You arrived just at the right time, Mr. Evans.” Mr. Schmidt greeted him. “You may have our very last table, tonight.”

“That would be great.” Phillip said, as his host led the way.

“Would you like your usual?” He asked, as Phillip took his seat.

“Yes please. Does Mrs. Schmidt have any of her spice cake left?”

“I believe she does. “I’ll bring your piece with your coffee.”

“Thanks, Mr. Schmidt.” Phillip said as the older man moved off.

‘Nice young man, just like his father.’ Mr. Schmidt thought to himself. ‘He never comes in here with anyone though…also like his father.’

A few minutes later, Mr. Schmidt served Phillip his ‘latte, telling him that Mrs. Schmidt would bring his cake out to him soon.

Mr. Schmidt glanced out the front windows of the shop to see that the rain was still pouring down, very heavily. People were scurrying around under umbrellas, or wearing raincoats. Then he saw a young woman quickly cross the street towards them. She had no coat or umbrella and was soaking wet from her short, brown hair, down to her jean-clad legs and tennis-shoes. Apparently it was a cold rain, because she was shivering as she peered in through the window for a moment, before turning to walk on past. Mr. Schmidt went to the front door and beckoned to her.

“Miss, young lady, please come in out of the rain. You are soaked. Please come in and I can call you a cab to drive you home and you can have a nice, hot cup of tea to warm yourself up with, while you wait, on the house.” He said.

“I didn’t want to drip on your lovely wooden floors.” Sue Best replied as she came to stand on the welcome-mat, just inside the door, her arms were wrapped around her middle in a vain attempt to warm herself.

“Don’t worry about the floors, they are well waxed and have stood up to almost forty years of wet and slushy feet walking across them.” Mr. Schmidt said with a kind smile. “I am sorry that all of our tables are taken, but I will have a cup of tea ready for you in just a moment and then I can call a cab for you.”

“Thank you. That is very kind of you.” Sue said.

“Miss Best may come and sit at my table.” Phillip said, from behind Mr. Schmidt.

“Ah, Mr. Evans, you know this young lady, then?” Mr. Schmidt asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“Yes we--.” Phillip started to say.

“My goodness, Mr. Schmidt, don’t keep this poor, little thing standing here, catching her death of cold. Brew her some tea, while I take her in back and help her dry off a little.” Mrs. Schmidt ordered her husband.

She had seen the young lady come into the shop as she was serving Phillip Evans his cake and then she had noticed his immediate interest in her and had followed him up to the front of the shop and heard him invite her to share his table.

‘Interesting.’ She thought to herself.

“Come my dear, let’s find you a towel.” She said, putting a grandmotherly arm around Sue’s slim shoulders and guiding her towards the back of the shop.

Sue looked over her shoulder, towards Phillip with a “what’s happening?” look in her eyes. Phillip smiled encouragingly to her.

“Sue likes a little cream and one teaspoon of sugar in her tea, Mr. Schmidt.” Phillip told the older man.

“Oh? And how would you know this?” Mr. Schmidt asked, curiously.

“We are partners on a class project and she is also friends with my sister. She has come to our house for dinner several times.”

“Ah and what do you think of her?” Phillip looked around and then whispered.

“I think I’m in love with her…but…we haven’t, really gone out together, yet.”

“Ah, well this will be a nice beginning for the two of you.” Mr. Schmidt said.

Ten minutes later, Sue came back to the table and Phillip’s eyes grew large and he arose from his chair, as she approached. Sue was no longer wearing her oversized, long-sleeved, cotton shirt and baggy jeans. She was now wearing a maroon, turtleneck sweater and pleated slacks and her hair had been dried and brushed. Unlike her former outfit, which was oversized and hid her figure, her new clothes fit just perfectly and the soft materials showed off her slender curves, beautifully.

“You look lovely!” Phillip surprised himself and Sue by blurting out his thoughts. Sue didn’t know what to say to his compliment, but she blushed at hearing it.

“Mrs. Schmidt insisted on giving me some of her cloths to wear, while she put mine in the dryer. She said that I could bring this outfit back to her in the next few days and trade them in for my jeans and shirt. Can you believe such kindness? What a sweet lady!” Sue said in wonder.

“Yes, the Schmidts are very nice people. My parents knew them when they were both attending Harvard, twenty five years ago. You look a lot more comfortable now. Come and drink your tea, or I’m sure Mr. Schmidt would brew you some coffee if you would prefer, my treat.” Phillip said.

“Oh no, thank you. Tea sounds just perfect for today.” Sue answered, as she took her mug and poured fragrant, hot tea out of the small ceramic teapot, which had been placed on the table, under a quilted tea-cozy, with cats prancing all over the material and added a little cream and sugar.

“Mmm, good and hot.” Sue said, letting the warmth seep into her.

“It looks like Mrs. Schmidt is also going to insist that you try some of her famous spice cake.” Phillip indicated the older lady who was walking towards them with a large slice of cake on a plate.

“Here you go, dear. Eat that up and you’ll feel better in no time.”

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Schmidt, for being so kind.” Sue said, shyly.

Mrs. Schmidt waved away Sue’s thanks and walked back to her kitchen.

“Mmmm, this is good.” Sue exclaimed, after she tried a bite.

“Yeah, Mom and Dad rhapsodized about Mrs. Schmidt’s cake and Mr. Schmidt’s hazelnut ‘lattes.” Phillip told her. They went on to chatting about their classes and their mutual friends and then Phillip changed the subject.

“So you liked seeing Mason and Cheryl’s movie. Have you seen any of their other movies or the TV series they starred in, early in their careers; ‘Among Us’?” Phillip asked.

“Well of course, I’ve seen everything they have done; after all, they are my…favorite actors.” Sue saved herself from saying ‘my parents’ at the last second.

‘Boy, I hate lying to Phillip this way. I know I could trust him and his family/friends with my true identity.’ Sue thought, guiltily. Phillip continued.

“I know this has only a slight connection, but if you liked the show so much, did you also get to know the music by the artist who did the theme-song for ‘Among Us’; Dido?” Phil asked.

“Are you kidding? She’s one of my favorite artists!” Sue exclaimed. “That piece they use as the opening theme for ‘Among Us’ got me interested in her and it is still one of my favorites, it always gets my blood pumping, because I remember the exciting footage that went with it, for the show.”

“Yeah, it’s still one of my favorites, as well.” Phillip said and then took a great big gulp of coffee, before asking. “Did you know that she is performing at the Fleet Center this Friday?”

“Oh really?” Sue asked, excitedly, but she couldn’t bring herself to hint, or come right out and say that she would absolutely Love to go to a Dido concert…with him.

“Yeah and I can get tickets…if you would…like to go with me.” Phillip asked.

“Me go with you to the concert? Really? I’d love to!” Sue exclaimed and then she back peddled a little, becoming shy again in a split-second. “Um…to go see Dido perform. And it would be very nice to go with you, as well. Thank you for asking me.” Luckily, Phillip understood that Sue felt as though her first reaction had been way, way too eager and so she made her second reaction a much more controlled and courteous one. He smiled broadly at her, anyway.

“Great! The concert is at eight o’clock, perhaps I could pick you up at six and we could have dinner before the concert?” He suggested.

“That would be great!” Sue was blushing heavily now.

“You know, Sue, I’m realizing that I didn’t explain my wanting to take you to the concert very well. Besides my thinking that you would enjoy it, I have wanted to get to know you better and I am hoping that we might…become more than…just friends.” Phillip said gently, covering her small hands on the table, with one of his own.

“Really, you do?” Sue asked shyly, but with some new found hope and excitement shining through.

“Yes, really.” Phil assured her with a gentle squeeze of his hand.

“I have wanted that as well.” Sue almost whispered and managed to bring her gaze up to meet his. She was heartened to see that gentle encouragement and spark of…something else in his eyes, as their gazes met.

“So, which of Dido’s songs is your favorite?” Phil tried to lighten the mood a little and they chatted on about their favorite singers and song-writers for a little while longer, until they realized what time it was and that they should be getting home. Phil paid the check and offered to drive her to her dorm. Sue nodded thankfully and they left, walking closely together, but not actually holding hands, or anything, as yet.

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow in class and then I look forward to taking you out on Friday.” Phil said, as he pulled up in front of Sue’s building.

“Thank you for a very nice evening…and everything and I will see you tomorrow.” Sue said, as she got out.

Shortly after Phil arrived at his house, his parents called out to him, Amy and Dee, over the Connection, asking them to link into their family’s frequency.

~*~*~*~*~

A few minutes before; California and New Mexico time zones:

“Hello?” Mason Blair answered his private phone line.

“Hello, it’s me, us.” The voice of Max Evans came through the line.

“I take it that you received a certain envelope in the mail, today?” Both Mason and Max had instinctively gone into “spy-mode”. They were not going to say anything, which could identify themselves, if someone was tapping the phone line.

“Yeah, we need to talk. Can the two of you fly out here this weekend?” Max asked.

“I’m afraid not. Contractual obligations have us too booked up this weekend, to leave town. We will have several hours free at different times, over the weekend. Could you fly here?” Mason asked.

“I’m a little worried about coming to you, security would be absolute here. Can you see that…nothing untoward happens this weekend, if we fly out?” Max asked.

“There is a person I can contact to help me with that…someone I trust.” Mason assured Max.

“Alright then, we will make contact with you just before we leave. See you then.” Max said.

“Bye.” Mason said and they both hung up.

“What was that about?” Cheryl asked.

“I just had the funniest feeling that the phone might be tapped and Max had the same feeling, so we were just being careful.”

“What if there is a “bug” in here, in the house?” Cheryl asked.

“I’m going to contact someone I know, tomorrow. Have him come out and check out the house and boost security, as well.” Mason answered.

“Oh Mason, what about Suzie and Matt? Do you think that they could be in danger?” Cheryl asked.

“I’m sure they are fine, Sweetheart. If they had received anything in the mail, I’m sure they would have called us by now. We can call them tomorrow and give them a heads-up, though.”

~*~*~*~*~

“I’ll contact Johann and make arrangements to have him fly us to L.A. on Saturday.” Liz said, as soon as Max hung up the phone. Liz had been listening in on the call, as it came through their speaker-phone.

“Good, then I think we need to contact our families and then the rest of the Community. Everyone needs to be on the alert.” Max said.

“Let’s call our parents and see if they can come over here or go to Michael and Maria’s house, so that they can be brought into this conference call.” Liz said.

Liz contacted Johann, through the Connection and then called their parents. After that, Max and Liz went to sit in the reading chairs, their hands reaching out for each other’s, as they sat down and got comfortable. Their parents were going to listen in from the Guerin’s.

“Our families are all over, so I don’t know if we will reach them all at a good time or not, but let’s give it a try and see who responds. The rest can pick up our message from the Connection, later.” Max said.

“Calling all of our family members and best friends, please respond. We have something important, which we need to tell you, please respond.” Max called out, using their family’s frequency for the Connection. This frequency covered all of their children, as well as Michael, Maria, Isabel, Alex, Tess and Kyle.

“Max, what’s up? All of our parents just came-a-knockin’ at our back door and said that you had an announcement to make…and by the looks on their faces, it isn’t a happy announcement.” Michael said.

“I’m here too, Mom and Dad.” Libby said from where she stood beside Marc, holding his hand.

“We’ll explain when everyone who can respond has linked in, Michael. Thanks for helping our folks to link in on this.” Michael and Maria nodded.

“Mom, Dad, are you two alright? You sounded urgent.” Phillip, Dee and Amy linked in.

“Max, Liz?” Isabel, Alex, Tess and Kyle linked in at almost the same moment. All of their other children linked in as well.

“Kids, everyone, we are both fine, thank you. But something has come up, which you all need to know about. After we have told you, we will have to alert the Community, as well.”

“Oh my gosh, Dad, what’s going on?” Libby asked for everyone.

Max and Liz took turns bringing them all up to speed. They reminded, or told for the first time, about meeting Mason and Cheryl, in Roswell, just before their wedding, the photographs, which were mistakenly taken of them and their decision to not contact each other again. Then they told of the time, fourteen years ago, when the Evanses had hosted the Blairs and their children, for one night and how once again a photographer had followed Mason and Cheryl. They explained how they had kept in touch over the years, through secret e-mail and post-office-box addresses and private phone lines.

“Why didn’t you ever talk about the Blairs, all this time?” Phillip asked.

“We figured it was best not to remind you of children you had met once, but could not meet again, but we would have explained it all to you if any of you had asked about them.” Liz assured her children and smiled. “Why didn’t you ever ask?”

“That day and night have a strange quality to them, in my memory. Years later, I sometimes wondered if it had all been a dream.” Phillip answered.

“I was over at the Guerin’s that night and never met them.” Dee explained.

“Suzie was another friend who I only got to know for one day. Sometimes it hurt too much to remember and think about those kids, that I never got to play with again.” Libby said, sadly.

“Libby, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. How did we miss seeing that?” Liz reached out to her daughter through the Connection and they hugged.

“It’s alright, Mom and Dad. Mostly it was fun, meeting all those new kids and a lot of them returned to vacation here after that, or they moved here. I just wonder about those few kids, whom I never saw again; about what they are doing now.”

“Well, all I can tell you about Matt and Suzie is that they are both attending college and doing very well.” Max said.

“So, what do the Blairs have to do with this emergency?” Michael asked.

Max and Liz went on to explain about the letter, which they had just received and what it meant and about their plans to fly out to California, that weekend.

“We may eventually have to open Airatan up to a select group of reporters; give them a tour, but I wouldn’t put it past this Niko Giuliani character to try and get in here on his own.” Max said.

“I’ve heard of Niko Giuliani.” Isabel said. “He has a very bad rep. Even in the modeling business. Word is that he tried to break into filming models about a year ago. He didn’t last one month. He’s back working for some rag-tabloid in L.A.”

“What else can you tell us about him? Do you know what he looks like?” Max asked. Isabel concentrated a moment, before she projected the picture of Niko into the Connection.

“That has to be pretty close to what he looks like.” Isabel said. “He gets around a lot because he always looks so clean-cut. He dresses nicely, is handsome and can be very charming if he wants to be. That’s how he gets in. His true colors come out quickly though and then he gets kicked back out. I heard that the photos he had in his portfolio were someone else’s work. This was learned afterwards. Apparently he is very good at finding someone who is very talented. He intimidates the men and seduces the women into doing his work for him. He has very little talent of his own. His father is a famous photographer; ‘Sneaky-John’ Giuliani.” Isabel said.

“Yeah, we’ve heard of him.” Liz said. “He was down in Roswell at the same time we met Mason and Cheryl.”

“I think he’s working on some huge movie project, abroad.” Isabel mentioned. “Maybe that’s why and how Niko is able to get away with…what he has gotten away with so far.”

“He is not going to get away with this.” Max said, determinedly. “We’ll have to work out a plan to stop him, discredit him. If they haven’t already, we’ll ask Mason and Cheryl to contact John Giuliani and get him to come back and take control of his son.”

“Thanks for linking in, everyone.” Liz said. “Kids, you should be safe at college, but if anything strange happens, you are to contact us immediately and we will bring you back here or send out a security team to you. Of course if we find out anything that indicates that any of you are in trouble, we will contact you immediately, as well.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, we’ll be fine. Once you have alerted the Community, we will all be on the look-out.” Phillip assured his parents.

“Good.” Max said.

“And on a more pleasant note, Phillip your birthday is next week, would you like us to fly out to Cambridge, or would you like to come home for the weekend?” Liz asked.

“I…the three of us, would like to come home for the weekend.” Phillip said, indicating himself, Dee and Amy.

“Great, see you then!” Liz said and they all sent out thoughts of love to each other, before they broke the Connection.

Was It A Dream? Part 12

At nine o’clock the next morning, Sue received a call from her parents.

“Mom, Dad, it must be…five o’clock at your end. Is anything wrong?” Sue asked.

Well yes, there is something we need to tell you. Do you have a minute?” Cheryl asked.

“Yes, I don’t have my first class until ten and even then, I’ll skip it if necessary.” Sue answered.

“No, this won’t take that long, honey.” Mason said. “It’s just that…Niko Giuliani has crawled out from under his rock, again.”

“Niko -- ! What does that creep want now?”

“Well, he’s making some accusations about us and some friends of ours. They are groundless, of course, so you don’t have to worry about us, but we just wanted you to be cautious and contact us immediately if anything strange happens, alright?”

“Yes, of course, Dad. Are you sure that you and Mom will be okay? Who are these friends of yours?” Sue asked.

“We’d rather not say over the phone for now, but don’t worry, we’ll work everything out. We just want you to be extra careful, alright?”

“Yes, Dad, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Niko lost all interest in me once he was through using me to get to you. It was you who fired his sorry…butt, not me, so I want you two to be extra careful and don’t worry about me. I take it you have already, or are about to call Matt?”

“Yes, we’ll give him a warning, as well.” Mason said.

“Alright then, I’ll let you call him. I love you both.” Sue said.

“We love you.” Mason and Cheryl said, together before they hung up.

As Sue got ready for class, she could feel an anger start to build up inside herself. As she sat through her lectures, she found it harder and harder to concentrate. When se sat down next to Phil, in the lecture hall, she noticed that something was bothering him as well. Sue watched his jaw clench and unclench for a few minutes and then asked.

“Are you alright? You seem really, really tense.” Phil made an effort to relax and gave Sue a grateful smile.

“I’m fine, really. There’s just something going on back home, which has me worried. How are you today?” He asked.

“I’m fine, thanks.” Sue smiled back, not wanting to bore Phillip with her troubles. But as the lecture started and then wore on, Phil couldn’t help but notice that Sue was unusually restless and that her jaw was clenched tightly, as well.

“I hate to dispute a lady’s word, but you don’t look fine.” Phil said, as they walked to their next class, together.

“Well, I may be a little worried…about something, but I’m sure everything will work out alright in the end.” Sue smiled bravely at Phil.

‘Oh man, why can’t I just bring myself to tell Phil the truth about who I am and about what’s going on? I know I can trust him.’ Sue asked herself. Phil touched Sue’s arm to stop their progress for a moment.

“You know that I am your friend, don’t you?” Sue nodded. “You know that I am hoping to become…something more in your life, don’t you?” Sue nodded again and blushed into his intense gaze. “Now let me tell you that if you ever need to or want to, you can tell me anything at all. I am a very good listener and I will always be there for you, alright?”

“Alright, thank you, Phil.” Sue said as one, lone tear ran down her cheek.

Phil gently wiped the tear away with his thumb and then placed the palm of his hand on her back, to gently guide her towards their class.

‘Oh man, I wanted to kiss that tear away, just now. I wanted to kiss her lips, her cheek. I wanted to take her hand, why couldn’t I take her hand?’ He asked himself. ‘Because to be able to wipe away a tear and keep eye contact with her was enough progress for now. You have only ‘known’ her for two weeks and this is going to take some time.’ He warned himself.

Phil had managed to lift Sue’s spirits for a short time, but during their computer class, she felt her anger grow again, until she could barely type. She was angry at Niko Giuliani for being such a creep and she was angry at herself for not being able to do something to help her parents.

“Uh, I think that the poor computer yelled ‘help!’ five minutes ago. If we get any more error messages, it’s going to blow up!” Phil said, in a calm voice as he gently took her hands off of the keyboard. Sue looked up at Phil, puzzled and then back to the computer screen. It was covered in gobbledy-gook-typing and at least three error-messages were overlapping each other, on top of her typing.

“I don’t think that this is a safe or productive place for you to be right now. Come with me.” Phil held out his hand towards her.

“Where are we going?” Sue asked.

“Someplace safe, where you can work off some of your anger.” Phil answered, as he led her out to where he had parked his SUV.

Phil helped Sue into the passenger seat and then got in himself and took off.

“Hey we are headed towards your house.” Sue realized.

“Yeah, there’s something there that I think will help you.” Was all Phil said.

He parked in front of the house and took Sue’s hand to lead her inside. After they entered through the front door, Phil took her into the kitchen and then down the basement stairs. He switched some lights on and Sue was astonished to see a finished basement with exercise equipment set up and thick mats on the floor.

“Oh my gosh, no wonder you have such great muscles!” Sue said and then she slapped her hand over her mouth and turned beet-red. “I can’t believe I just said that.”

“And here I was hoping that you would think I came by them naturally!” Phil grinned at her. She smiled back.

“Did you think doing some bench-presses would help my mood?” Sue asked.

“Well, maybe later, if you’d like, but first, I think this big guy might be more help.” He led her over to a giant-sized punching-bag. “I get the feeling that you would really, really like to beat someone’s face in. Until you get the chance to do that, or find some other way to fix whatever’s bothering you, I thought that punching or kicking this bag might help.” Phil suggested.

“I’ve never punched anything or anyone in my life.” Sue said.

“How about kicking? Have you ever kicked anyone before?” Phil asked, curiously.

“Well, once, when I was seven. I kicked Johnny Worsley in the shin, when he called me ‘string-bean’ and tried to take my lunch-box.” Sue admitted.

“Atta girl!” Phil said, proudly. “Think about the spunk you had as a little girl and take a swing at Big-John, now.” He indicated the punching-bag.

Sue rolled up the sleeves on her cotton shirt and put on some protective gloves, which Phil handed to her, while he walked around to the back of the bag, to hold it steady.

Sue threw a punch at the bag, but it didn’t make much of a dent.

“Hmm.” Phil said. “Where’s the spunky little girl? Where’s the anger I saw, that almost made our computer blow up?”

Sue thought for a moment, drew back her arm and then took a mighty swing at the bag. Unfortunately, she had been standing too far away from the bag, her hand never made contact and her momentum carried her so that she spun around in a circle. Phillip manfully kept the smile off of his lips and his laugh tucked safely down in his stomach, which shook a little from his suppressed amusement.

“Alright, that was my fault, I’m sorry. I didn’t notice that you had stepped away from the bag.” Phil said. “Step a little bit closer to the bag and imagine Johnny’s smirking face, looking out at you from it.

Sue tried again and this time she connected solidly with the bag. Once one punch had been successfully thrown, she threw another using her left fist and Phil had to hold the bag steady as the punches landed. He watched Sue as it seemed that a damn of emotion had been breached and she let out several successive throws and a couple of kicks from the hip.

“I’m going to make you crawl back under the rock you came from and then I am going to smoosh you.”

“You used me and then dumped me. I’ll make you regret that!”

“All your scumbag friends were in on the big joke too.”

Phil was getting the feeling that she wasn’t punching Johnny; she was punching…someone else.

“You are not going to get away, this time!”

“Take that, you lying son-of-a…” Sue gave the bag one, last, mighty kick, which had Phillip staggering back a few steps.

“Hey, way to go!” Phillip exclaimed.

“Thanks that felt good.” Sue said.

“Are you feeling a little less stressed-out?” Phil asked.

“Yeah. How about you? You were stressed-out in class, as well. Why don’t you show me how a pro uses this thing?” Sue suggested, as she moved in to hold the bag steady.

“Yeah, it would feel good to pummel something for a few minutes.” Phil agreed.

“I want you to hold this bag tightly, put all of your weight against it, but be ready to let go and jump aside if I hit the bag too hard, alright?”

“Sure.” Sue said.

Sue quickly realized how strong (angry and frustrated) Phil was, because he could punch the bag with more force than she had been able to kick the bag, with the full force of her leg. He didn’t say anything as he punched the large bag, only the speed with which he struck out, changed; from slow and powerful to impossibly fast.

“Boy, I’m glad you aren’t kicking this thing. I can barely hold it still as it is.” Sue said. Phil slowed down and then stopped, his breathing rapidly coming back to normal.

“Ahh, I feel better now.” Phil said.

“Yeah I feel a lot better too. More in control and I want to thank you for that.” Sue said. “Usually, my anger only leads to tears, because I have always felt so helpless with…this problem I’m having. But having you, Dee, Amy and the others as friends, has really helped me come back to life; recapture, as you said, the spunk and self-confidence I had as a little girl.”

“I’m glad we could help, Sue. You have become very special to…us, as well.”

“I know now that if I want to put a stop to this, I have to stop hiding and running away. Phil, there is something I have to tell you about myself and please, please, don’t be mad at me when I tell you what it is.”

“Don’t worry, Sue. I won’t be angry. I understand perfectly about hiding and keeping yourself safe. In fact, there is something I have wanted to tell you, as well. But you go first and don’t worry, whatever you have to tell me, it will be alright.” Phil pulled Sue over to a bench on which they could sit down.

“I’m really sorry Phil, I feel so bad about this, but I have been lying to you. I am not who I told you I was and my parents aren’t some paper-pushers, who work for one of the networks. May name is Susan Blair and my parents are Mason Blair and…”

“…Cheryl Appleton.” Phillip finished for her with a smile on his face.

“I’m sorry for keeping my identity secret from you. Back in high school, a guy and all of his buddies pretended to be my friends. He went out with me during our last semester of our senior year. He told me how much he loved me and laughed at all of my corny jokes.
Then he took me to the Senior Prom and…and dumped me in front of everyone!” Instead of getting weepy, Sue was getting mad and her voice started to rise until she was almost shouting.

“The little creep had been double-timing me with the head-cheerleader, while he acted all gentlemanly and sweet towards me. When we arrived at the prom, it was as if I had become invisible. All of a sudden, my so-called friends would not speak to me, or even acknowledge my presence and my boyfriend had left me at the door and was dancing with his pom-pom girl. When I got angry and demanded to know why he wasn’t dancing with me, it was as if he had taken off a mask; his true personality finally showed itself.”

**Flashback**

“Why would I want to be seen with you for one second more, now that I have what I want? Weren’t five, stinking months of looking at your ugly face and stringy hair, long enough? I only went out with you so that I could meet your father, the great Mason Blair and have him get me a job at the studio. He got jobs for a bunch of my buddies, too.” His friends were all laughing at her.

“But I thought we were both going to attend Stanford together? What about all your plans for the future?” Sue asked.

“I’ve got plans, baby. Just not the ones I fed you. I’m going to become a famous photographer, even more famous than my old man. Then he’ll have to show me some respect.” Niko said.

“You have to earn respect, Niko.” Sue told him.

“Yeah, yeah, yada, yada. You’ve got your answers, why don’t you just beat it? Get out of here.” Niko said.

“Yeah you were never one of us, get lost.” The cheerleader, whom Susan had thought of as a friend, said.

Sue wanted to slap their smirking faces, but instead she raised her chin, did an about-face and marched herself off of the dance floor and went outside to use her cell-phone, to call her parents. She didn’t cry until she was safely home and being held by her father’s strong arms.

“I can’t believe he tricked me like that. That I was so gullible.” Sue cried.

“You think you are gullible, just look at me? I’m the one who should have seen his wolf’s-hide under his sheep’s –wool. Now, unless I can find a reason to fire him, we are stuck with him for six months. The slime-ball should have become an actor; this performance of his would have won him every award there is.” Mason said.

**End Flashback**

“I made my Valedictorian speech at Commencement, the next week, with Niko’s hecklings disturbing the ceremony. I had been accepted at several other universities, including Harvard, so I backed out of Stanford and came here instead. I couldn’t trust anyone, anymore, especially guys; didn’t even want one to touch me. I didn’t want anyone to ever befriend me again if it was only because of who my parents are, so Mom and Dad helped me enroll here under the name; Susan Best…and I cut my hair short.” This was when the first sign of tears showed up in Sue’s eyes.

“It worked out well for being on the swim-team, but I had always loved my long hair.” Sue stiffened her wobbling chin.

“Yeah, I remember your hair as being so long, thick and shiny…when we were seven and played together that day.” Phillip finally stuck in, keeping his gaze steady on Sue’s face.

“What?” Sue asked, shocked.

“Do you remember when you were seven years old; your parents brought you and your brother, Matt to an art fair? While there, they met up with some old friends of theirs; my parents. All four of you came to our house and you and your brother played with my sister, Libby and I. Then we all ate dinner together and you stayed the night.” Phil said, still watching Sue for any sign of memory.

“Oh my gosh, it really wasn’t a dream, was it?” Sue said, as she reached inside her shirt collar and pulled out the copper-V, which she had been wearing for seven years.




Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay
-Robert Frost