The Denial Game (ML,MATURE) AN [9/11]

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Evelynn
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 277
Joined: Wed Feb 26, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Cloud 9

Post by Evelynn » Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:06 pm

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Chapter Forty:
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Max Evans was put on this earth to torture me.

He’s standing outside my bedroom door. He’s been there for eight minutes already. I can see his shadow through the gap between the door and the floor. I know it’s him. How do I know? I think my heart jumping out of my chest kind of gave it away.

He won’t come near me if I don’t want him to. Alex said so. But he’s here if I do.

And the only thing standing between us now is this roughly two point five feet by six point five feet wooden block that is the door. That, and the fact that he ripped my heart to shreds. I’m being over-dramatic. Not shreds, more like a messy gunk of bloody pieces.

My head spins and my world falters. I’m trying to reason with myself. I’m trying not to let it get out of control. My logical self is trying to keep my emotional self in check. My logical self is trying to stop my emotional self from ripping open the door and launching myself at him.

Deep breath. Pros and cons.

Pro: he’s made me feel more cherished and beautiful than anyone ever in my life.

Con: he’s a lying, fucking bastard.

Pro: what I feel for him is like nothing I’ve ever felt for any boy, ever.

Con: Pam.

I can only shake my head and bury myself in the covers. I was replaced. Replaced and insignificant and stupid for ever having believed a single word he ever, ever said.

Am I bitter? Fuck yeah, I am.

How dare he toy with my emotions! How dare he use and abuse me! How dare he treat me like I’m just some floozy he can just amuse himself with until something better came along!

And just when I’m about to storm over there, yank open the door, and give him a piece of my mind … he walks away.

I blink twice.

What was that? Not even fifteen minutes? Is that all I’m worth? Fifteen goddamn minutes of his freaking time? When I would wait for him for an etern-…

My lip quivers and my heart breaks. Roll over in bed, pulling the pink pastel covers around me and I let the tears fall while I try to will myself to sleep. What the hell happened?

He told me I was special since day one. He told me I was beautiful when he locked me in the chemistry room so long ago. He gave me his mother’s necklace because he said I meant the world to him. He’s shown me he loved me with every touch, every kiss. He saved my life.

My heart told me it was the forever kind of love. My heart made me finally give in and throw myself at him. My heart wanted to love him and to let him love me. But my mind knows better. My mind warned me. My mind tried to protect my stupid heart. But my stupid heart wouldn’t listen.

I should have left when I had the chance. But, no, I jumped ship when the bus was leaving, so I could come back to this.

Sleep never comes. So once six o’clock rolls around, I’m the first one in the Crashdown, setting down the chairs and getting ready to open.

Mr. Whitman comes down fifteen minutes later. I was already done setting up by then.

“Liz, you’re up early,” he says in reply to the forced smile on my face. “Well, if I had known you were going to be opening up, I would have slept in a little longer.” He’s joking. Mr. Whitman is a morning person. He’s all chippery and awake, where as I haven’t been able to sleep a wink.

“How about some coffee,” he offers and I graciously accept, just to give me something to do.

“How have you been, Liz?” he asks. We’re sitting across the counter from each other, each holding our coffee-filled Crashdown mugs. What makes them Crashdown mugs? The tacky aliens painted on the outside of them. God, the irony of this diner, this whole town, is so over the top that it’s not even worth noting.

“Good.” Take a sip and I smile my forced smiles at him. He nods his head with a smile of his own. Even as we sit here, in our chairs, he’s about a head taller than me. I feel like I should be in a booster seat.

“So what are your plans after graduating?” he asks and I’m grateful for his need to fill the void of silence.

“Haven’t really thought about it,” it’s my answer, because it’s the truth. Because there’s really only been one thing on my mind for a long time. One word, three letter. Take a wild guess.

“Really?” He’s actually surprised. “Smart girl like you should go to college.”

This is nice. Awkward, but pleasant, sitting here and talking with him. When Dad and I used to have our quiet moments, they were filled with comfortable silence and we’d be in our own little worlds, in our own heads, but together. Something tells me Mr. Whitman doesn’t like the silence so much.

“Actually,” put my cup down and smile brightly, “I’ve been thinking of going to Antar.”

He chokes on his coffee, staring at me.

The reason why the talking thing was pleasant was because we were both doing an avoidance dance. It’s an intricate part of the denial game. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s just that sometimes, the music’s off. Sometimes, you just can’t find the beat. Sometimes, you don’t know the words to the song and you just need to jump the freaking gun.

After the longest pause ever, tongue in cheek, he says softly, “Really?”

And I nod. And I smile. And I say, “I hear it’s pretty there,” before I sip my coffee some more.

The door chimes and footsteps echo as they walk in, successfully breaking up the moment, giving Mr. Whitman the opportunity to jump away from me and maneuver himself behind the counter. “Morning, Sheriff. Coffee?”

“Yes, sir,” the man in the cowboy hat and aviator shades sits down at the counter while talking to Alex’s dad. “I need my cup of Joe to get my day going.”

Mr. Whitman turns to grab a mug and the pot of the caffeinated stuff.

Stand there and wipe at some invisible dust on the counter. His booth is empty. Well, every booth is empty. Why would I note that this particular booth across the diner is filled with nothing? Because I can’t seem to get him off my mind.

“Morning, Liz Parker.”

My head picks up and I look at him, another forced smile on my face. “Good morning, Sheriff.”

“You’re up early, Liz Parker,” he smiles as he says this and all I can think of is how hearing my name repeated annoys the hell out of me. And how insane my life is since that was my name two changes ago. I’ve come full circle, full kilter. I’m Lizzie Philips again. If only I’d act like it. Liz Parker accepted the world around her. Elizabeth Harding fell from grace. Lizzie Philips knows the reality of it all. Lizzie Philips is a loner. Lizzie Philips needs to grow up already.

But Sheriff Valenti just laughs. “Can’t get Kyle out of bed until about ten minutes before school starts.”

“Actually,” start off, dropping the rag and turning away already, “I should be getting ready myself.”

“Liz,” Mr. Whitman hands Kyle’s dad his coffee before turning to me. “Why don’t you go wake up Alex for me?”

Nod my head and make for the backroom, up the stairs, and into their cozy little home above.

Alex is already awake and sitting at the kitchen table when I walk up. He eats his alien cereal. He eyes me, but we say nothing to each other. It’s awkward, to say the least. Silence is weird coming from Alex. That’s the funny side-effect of living with someone, you pick up on these things and you know what they’re already thinking without them having to say it.

So when I’m seated beside him in his car, on our way to school, it doesn’t surprise me when he says, “I want to talk to you about Khivar.”

And I doubt me saying, “Save it, Alex,” shocks him any either.

He just keeps on going, “No, Liz. I need you to listen to me right now.” He’s speaking in his stern and strict voice. He says it all like he means it. I wonder if he talks to Max this way.

Pouting won’t help the situation. So I sit there, and I listen, because there isn’t anywhere to run when you’re trapped in a moving vehicle.

“I know it’s your life and you can do with it what you want. And I know Max hurt you.” He lays out the facts before he tries with the reasoning. “But can’t you pick some other way to get back at him? Like, I don’t know, go date Brad or something.”

And I just have to laugh because “I don’t want to date Brad.”

“Why not? He’s good looking. He’s a nice guy. He’s safe.” Alex is pushing the issue. He’s campaigning like he’s trying to sell me something.

But I’m not buying because “nice isn’t what I want right now. Safe isn’t what I want.” My emotions keep getting the best of me. It’s not a good feeling.

“So you want Khivar?”

The repulsion in Alex’s voice makes me snap back, it makes me get an attitude, “I didn’t say that.”

“I just, I don’t understand your logic right now, Liz,” he says this to me while stressing each syllable. It successfully pisses me off more.

I know I’m being stubborn. I know Alex only ever has the best intentions. It’s just … with my head mixed up like it is right now, logic and intentions and thinking things through just don’t factor in. “Can we just drop this, please?”

His voice gets quiet, like he’s talking more to himself than to me. “There’s so much you don’t know, so much up in the air right now.”

Ignorance is bliss, right? That’s why I never push the issue. It’s why I never ask the questions. Because when you play the denial game, you just go with the flow and hope like hell that things will just work themselves out in the end.

“Well, then tell me.” Aliens. Roswell. Mom. Dad. Max. Alex. There’s secrets and misunderstandings in everything because ignorance is bliss, right? I go grr when my emotions get the best of me. “Tell me Max didn’t just push me aside once Pam came back into the picture. Tell me all those things he said to me before, he meant.”

Alex gets quiet. And I think that I’ve succeeded in shutting him up. Because guys don’t like emotional girls and emotional situations. They avoid them like the plague. Because emotions are trouble with a capital T.

“You mean a lot to him,” it’s a whisper that he says to me but his eyes stay on the road ahead. A part of me thinks, feels, hopes that his whispering and uncomfortable-ness is because maybe he’s telling me the truth. Maybe, he feels like he’s betraying Max by telling me this. But the bitterness and pessimist inside me brushes it all away as a pack of lies. “You mean everything to him. He’s hurting right now too.”

“Really?” Can he tell I freaking doubt it?

“There’s so much you don’t understand.” More whispers. More secrets.

And my mind shuts down. “I don’t even want to understand anymore. I don’t want to think about it, Alex. I just want to go back to being how I was before I even ever met Max.”

“That’s good,” he’s nodding his head. “Go back to your original plans. It’s not too late to apply for college. It’s not too late to be human again,” he says it like it’s that freaking easy.

And besides, “I’m not going to college. I’m going to Antar.”

There’s not even a pause before he says, “What?!”

And I smile because I can, because I feel like it, because it hides away the uncertainty and pain.

“Liz …” his mouth opens and closes a few times. “What’s there on Antar for you?”

“I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.” Impulsive and stubborn me has my mind made up. There could be a whole bunch of nothingness there for all I care. Because it isn’t Antar I’m running to, it’s earth I’m running from. And what’s here on earth, in Roswell, New Mexico? Confusion and heartache.

“I can tell you what’s there,” he’s back to being snarky, spitting out his words. “It’s a planet of turmoil right now because of Khivar.”

But there’s no point in yelling Alex, because “I’ve made up my mind.” He should know by now, when I don’t want to hear something, I stop listening. I smile to mask my uncertainty.

He shakes his head to show his disbelief. “You aren’t going to Antar.”

“I’m sorry,” but what? Where does he get off telling me what to do? What makes him think he can just order me around? “What are you to me? You aren’t in any position to tell me what to do. You aren’t my dad. Or my mom. So I don’t have to take what you’re dishing out, okay?” He doesn’t control me. No one does. I’m through having them pulling at my strings like a puppet. I’m through having them push me around like I’m a puppy. I’m tired of being emotionally distraught. I’m tired of being stomped on.

“I thought I was your friend.”

No, “you’re Max’s advisor.”

He flinches like I punched him or something. Somewhere deep inside, I feel remorse for the comment, but anger takes precedent over any other emotions. Anger makes you selfish.

This drive to school is becoming the longest I’ve ever taken. God, why won’t this just end?

“That doesn’t mean I agree with what he says or does. “I tell him what I think is best. I help him think through situations. But the decision is still in his hands,” Alex is using his logical, sympathetic, kicked puppy voice. “I never wanted you involved, Liz,” he says and I stare out the window. “In any of this. I only want what’s best for you.”

If I ever had a best friend, I think Alex would be it. He gets under my skin. He chips away at my resolve. He only ever has the best intentions. But “how do you know what’s best for me?”

He’s smiling again. I think he knows I’m listening. He’s sneaky and watchful like that. “It’s not Khivar. I can tell you that much for sure.”

But Khivar … “he makes me feel wanted.”

We’re stopped at a stop sign and Alex takes the opportunity to turn and look at me, to make sure I’m feeling the full force of his words. “He’s only using you.”

Yeah. I know that. I’m not stupid. I know his interest is just a byproduct of me being my mom’s child. I know his attention is only on me because he has something to gain from it. What exactly, I’m not quite sure.

“He’s only using you,” Alex repeats the words for good measure.

I know that. But then, “So did Max.”

“Yeah,” Alex is nodding his head. At least he’s not denying it. “But Max just wanted your affection. Khivar wants your power.”

I laugh. “I don’t have any power.”

He smirks at me. “Denial, thy name is Liz.”

We’re parked in the parking lot now. He’s turning off the engine and taking off his seatbelt. My hand holds him back before he opens his door. “I’m sorry, Alex.”

He looks at me and smiles his Alex-smile. “No need to apologize. You were only saying what was on your mind.”

“But, you are my friend.” If anyone has ever looked out for me, it’s Alex. If anyone has ever gone out of their way for me, it’s Alex. If anyone has ever genuinely cared, I think it’s Alex. So, “I didn’t mean to say all that stuff to you.”

“It’s okay. Hey,” he says in his perky person voice again and you don’t know how relieving it is to hear it. “You know something that might make you feel better?”

“What?” And I play along with his enthusiasm because I don’t want to be mad at him and I want things to be right between us again. Because he’s the sunshine to my rainy day. He’s the hearts on my grumpy bear.

“I’ll teach you a trick.” His eyes squint together while he smiles.

And I smile back. “A trick?”

He gets out of the car, grabbing his backpack and I follow him, walking beside him while he talks. “Yeah. What do you want to learn? I can teach you how to melt stuff. Or turn water into wine. That’s always fun.”

And I’m actually considering this, because I don’t know what aliens can do. And since, apparently, Antarian powers are genetic, I don’t even know what I can do. I know they can change the color of nail polish. I know they can magically heat up coffee. I know they can seriously screw with you life. “Hey, Alex. Do you know how to erase memories?”

He stops in front of me and blocks my path to look me in the eyes, I guess. “Like mind blocks?”

“Is that what they are?” Is that what Max did to me, so long ago?

Alex licks his lips. He stares. He speaks slowly. “I don’t have that power. But I’m sure you do, somewhere dormant inside of you. And I can teach you, if that’s what you want,” he says the last few words the slowest.

I think his intentions are for me to really think over his words. And I do, for all of a split second. “Yeah. That’s what I want.”

“Okay.” His arm goes around my shoulders, pulling me towards the school. “Okay. Tomorrow. I’ll teach you tomorrow.”



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History. Calculus. English. More stares and more whispers. The sad thing is, I think I’m getting used to them now. So come lunch time, I don’t even care if the crowd parts like the red sea wherever I go. I just walk up to the vending machine, stick in my two quarters, grab my nifty water bottle, and head for the quad.

“Liz.” She stops me when I walk by the jock table to go find a quiet tree. She’s the last person I want talking to me. Because, yes, I do hate her.

“Pam.”

She looks around before she stands and pulls me to a less crowded area. Why I let her do this? God knows. When she finally stops and lets go of my arm, I stare at her. “Pam.”

“I heard some things,” she says and she smiles her polite smiles again.

Lizzie Philips would try to be polite back. But apparently, my pent up disdain for her won’t let me go back to how I was before. “What things?”

“That you were thinking of going with Khivar to Antar,” she lays it all out in the open. No beating around the bush. No politely wading into the conversation. She’s starting to be the Pam I remember again.

And it justifies the attitude that I show her. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business, Pam. But yeah, I am.”

“Liz …” she’s swallowing, she’s breathing hard, she’s trying to hold back her annoyance too. I just smile at her. “I think we should talk. There are some things that you don’t know.”

Someone stops beside us, successfully shutting Pam up. The funny thing is, I think I felt him coming. But Pam didn’t, because her voice is all shaky-bakey when she says, “Khivar.”

“Pamela,” his silky smooth voice dismisses her away with a nod. Because he isn’t here for her, he’s here for me. Because I am at the top of his priority list. Because I’m the one who holds his interest. Because I’m not second best where he’s concerned.

And that’s why I think I’m genuinely glad to see him. It’s why I turn to him with an encouraging smile and a light voice, and say, “Hi, you. What are you doing here?”

He pulls me to him with a soft kiss to my forehead as a hello. “I came to whisk you away for lunch. Would you like to join me?”

Glance back at Pam who is giving me a weird look with her eyes before I turn to Khivar again with a, “Yes. Yes, I would.”



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A picnic lunch spread over a blanket while I’m ditching school just to spend time with a boy makes me think of a similar incident that happened just a couple of days ago. But we’re in the park, not the desert. And Khivar’s a man, not a boy. Granted, charm and good looks run through the both of them. But I don’t have to question whether or not he’s thinking of someone else, because he seems to only have eyes for me.

“How’s your sandwich?” he asks while he sips his drink.

And I smile my answer to him while I finish chewing my food. His blatant sophistication makes me sit straight and remember my manners. No PB&J sandwiches here. There’s purple stuff and red stuff and green stuff inbetween two slices of blue bread. The first bite was like an explosion in my mouth that I was so not ready for.

It’s just … it’s too alien for me. It’s too extreme. Makes me believe that maybe I’m more human than people think. But I chew and I swallow and I smile like a good girl, because something in the way Khivar savored his sandwich makes me think that maybe, I’m supposed to love it. And who am I to disappoint?

I sip my salty tea with more strained smiles before I talk. “I thought you were leaving soon.” Isn’t that what he said the other day?

“I am.” He finishes his sandwich and wipes his mouth with his napkin. “I just wanted to meet with you one more time.” He’s a smooth talker, this Khivar.

He picks at another dish with a fork before holding it out for me. I eye it. It looks like jell-o. But something tells me it’s not. He smiles at my wariness. “Try it. It’s dessert.”

Hold my breath and I take the food he’s offering me. It’s sweet on my tongue, but it burns in my throat. And I smell coffee in my nose once I swallow. It’s crazy, but good.

“You like that?” he asks, trying a piece of it himself.

Nod my head. “Yes, I do.” Surprisingly. “It’s a little spicy, but it’s good.”

He laughs a throaty laugh. “Annabelle used to say the same thing.”

Her name makes my ears pop, my eyes widen, and my mind churn. “You knew my mom?”

“Yes, who didn’t?” he shrugs away. But something in his smile makes me think there’s more to it than just that. And my thoughts are running a mile a minute.

Khivar looks like he’s in his mid to late twenties. But who knows how aliens age? If Mom was any indication, they age very well. So how old is Khivar anyway?

Something in my head picks up. Something makes my heart skip a beat. He moves to sit close beside me. “Here,” he holds the fork out to me again. “Try this one.”

He unwraps what looks like a jelly bean, but I know better than to think that it is just that. “It’s good,” he promises.

I hold my hand out but he puts it to my lips. I try it and it’s another explosion of tastes in my mouth, but a good one. My eyes open wide while it melts in my mouth and I lick my lips. “Oh my god.” That proves it. Alien candy, best thing ever.

Khivar smiles down at me and grabs another. “More, love?”

“Yes.” There’s no hesitation, because who am I to deny myself?

“There’s only one problem,” he says, unwrapping it slowly, a smirk on his face. “This is the last one I have, and it’s a long trip back to Antar just to get some more.”

I roll my eyes at his pretend frown.

“But, for you, love, I’d give anything.” The way he says it tugs at me. And the way he takes my hand, kisses my knuckles, before turning my palm up and placing the candy in my hand, makes me feel funny.

Brush the uneasiness away and stick the candy in my mouth while I breathe in the savory goodness.

When I open my eyes from my candy haze, he’s hovering close, watching me, and leaning in. I know what’s happening. I’m very aware of the situation and of what he’s doing. And I could stop it, but I don’t.

His kiss is soft and gentle. He doesn’t maul me or force himself on me. He just holds my hand, leans in, and lets his lips linger on mine before he pulls away.

A spark in the back of my mind makes me turn my head away. But it wasn’t the kiss that’s tingling my senses.

“Come with me to Antar,” he’s speaking softly and sweetly. His touch caresses my skin.

But my gaze is across the park, across the street, in a shop window where he’s staring back at me with his angel-fallen face.

It isn’t Max that makes me make up my mind. It isn’t the uncertainty or confusion or pain he is putting me through. It’s the tall blonde standing beside him, whispering in his ear. Pam. She’s the reason why I turn to Khivar with as much of a smile as I can muster, whispering my answer, “Yes.”



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Evelynn
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 277
Joined: Wed Feb 26, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Cloud 9

Post by Evelynn » Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:42 am

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Chapter Forty One:
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If I died right now, according to the laws of Casper: the Friendly Ghost, I would not pass on into heaven or hell. I would become a floating apparition among the living. I’d be Liz: the confused ghost, because I have unfinished business to tend to.

Khivar left an hour ago, but I still stay seated here in the park, basking in the man-cultured nature around me. Or alien-cultured, since I’m not sure how this town works.

So, my unfinished business. I have to somehow, someway, mangle my dad a ‘get out of jail free’ card. How I do that, is by either putting together a team of highly skilled aliens to execute an elaborate prison break scheme, or I prove his innocence, which should result in an exoneration.

Which leads me to my next order of business, in proving my dad’s innocence, I have to uncover who really killed my mom, since I am, though no one else is, convinced that my dad didn’t do it. He said he didn’t, and I believe him. His alibi, some lady he was cheating with, who he claims is now dead.

My conscience tells me that he didn’t do it, but logic tells me that he did. After all, I saw him that night that it all went down. But knowing what I know now of all the alien weirdness and how my mom was smack dab in the middle of it, a number of things that I don’t understand can explain my seeing him that night when he says he wasn’t there.

It could have been a mind warp, since Tess apparently knows how to do that kind of stuff, meaning other aliens might hold that power too. It could be someone posing as my dad. Didn’t Larek say his daughter could change into a stuffed bear? Who is to say others can’t change their appearances like that?

But first and foremost, I have to finish school. I can’t be a drop-out when there’s only a week left of classes. My dad drilling in my head the importance of education won’t allow me to fail there.

And then there’s Antar. Khivar will be back for me, he promised.

Sigh. So much to do, so little time. Grab a handful of candies out of my backpack, unwrap one and pop it in my mouth. Khivar lied. He had a whole big bag of the stuff. He traded it to me for a quick kiss. And what can I say? I’m weak and they’re just so good. The candies, that is … not that I minded the kiss. It was different, but nice.

Stick a handful of the candies in my jacket pocket before I zip my backpack up and start walking. School should be ending soon and I’ve got the afternoon shift to get to.

I walk and I eat and I think, all at the same time, because I’m talented like that. And twenty minutes, seven empty wrappers, and a million thoughts later, I’m back at the Crashdown, making my way to the back to dress out. Waitressing, it’s a contact sport.

Mr. Whitman eyes me, walking in twenty minutes before school lets out, but he says nothing. Hopefully, Alex won’t wait for me long and head on home. But, since the rumor mill tends to run a little faster here in this town, he probably already knows I ditched … with Khivar.

Unwrap and pop another candy in my mouth before opening my locker. Throw my backpack in and grab my uniform, heading for the bathroom. Once inside, I hang the uniform up on the hook on the door. Dig in my pocket and unwrap the last candy, savoring it.

I tie my hair back into a ponytail before I strip and change. Head back to my locker to stick my clothes inside. I dig into the right pocket of my jacket one last time, but all I find are empty wrappers. Look in the left pocket and my heart stops, my breath catches, and my eyes water.

But I ignore it and throw my jacket in the back of my locker, because a pretty necklace that glows bright blue doesn’t mean a thing when it’s payment for services rendered. Because that’s exactly what it is. I had sex with Max, he gave me a necklace. Now that Pam’s back, he’ll have to go and buy her pretty presents too.

Ignore the fact that he said that it was his dead mother’s and held more sentimental value to him than anything else in the world. Ignore that I threw it back at him that day in the gas station, but somehow it ended up in my jacket pocket.

Just because I haven’t mentioned him until now doesn’t mean that he isn’t always in the back of my mind. I’m trying to avoid the issue. It’s a coping mechanism. I do it often.

Open my backpack and fill my apron with a handful more of the best candies ever. I walk out just as Maria’s walking in. She nods at me and I make my way for the counter.

There are only two people in the diner and Mr. Whitman’s already served them both. “Liz,” he says singsong-like when I join him beside the soda machine. “I’ve got to make a trip to the store. You, Maria, and Michael watch the shop until closing, right? Alex should be here soon, but he’s not on the clock until five.”

I glance at the cook window to see Michael already setting up, barely nodding my head in time before Mr. Whitman whisks off through the ‘employees only’ door.

Maria walks out, dressed and ready to go. “So … he left us to close up?”

“Yup.” Nod my head and she wordlessly stands behind the counter with me.

We stand like this for a while before she speaks up, “So I saw you in the quad at lunch time.” With Khivar, she silently tacks on the end. She doesn’t have to say it out loud because I’m pretty sure everyone saw.

I say nothing.

She gives me this weird look before she breathes out, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Princess.”

Sigh. I dig into my pocket and pull out another candy, unwrapping it and popping it in my mouth.

Maria eyes me, taking the wrapper out of my hand and looking at it. “Where did you get this?” she asks and she smoothes the wrapper out on the counter.

“I’ve got a bunch.” I pull another from my pocket and her eyes go wide. Hold it out for her, “Want one?”

She grabs it from me, pulls the wrapper away, and pops it in her mouth. Watching her is like watching a cheesy commercial because she’s really selling the whole orgasmic goodness of the candy. It’s kind of funny if I didn’t know for myself that they are just that good.

When she’s off her candy high, she’s still licking her lips. “Oh my god, those are amazing. I’ve only ever had like five in my whole life and those were like on my birthdays.”

“Really?” What are they, like, special occasion candies? Maybe I should stop popping them like they’re tic-tacs.

“Yeah,” she makes this face at me. “They’re like ten bucks a pop.”

“Ten dollars a bag?” Pull out another one and look at it. High end stuff.

“No,” Maria stops me. “Ten dollars a piece.”

What? Wait … “What?” Ten dollars? “But they’re the size of jelly beans!”

“I know!” her hands go up too. “How many of these have you eaten?”

“Shit,” I’ve lost count. “Maybe a dozen?”

And she laughs at me. “Well, better work hard for those tips to support your new addiction.” And she walks off to seat a group of people that walk in.

That’s just crazy. In two and a half hours, I’ve eaten over a hundred dollars worth of candy. I’m such a little piggy.

Alex walks in, eyeing me, but walks past into the backroom without a word.

It stays like this the whole afternoon on into the dinner rush. People come in, they order, they eat, they pay, they leave. It’s a vicious cycle.

And I get through it just fine and dandy until a certain group of four walk in. One with a genuine smile, one with polite smiles, and two with looks of disdain displayed on their pompous faces.

And for some freaking reason, they decide to sit in my section … again. I walk up to them, order pad in hand, “Welcome to the Crashdown Café. The soup of the day is Martian Medley. What can I get for you?”

I get one happy smile, one person busy with a menu, and two people ignoring me. The curly red head speaks, “Pam, I am not eating here again. It’s disgusting.”

I wait it out, zoning out, because they just aren’t interesting enough for me.

“I second that,” comes from the pink haired girl.

“But I like it here,” says Lannie with the blonde hair, wearing a cartoon Mickey Mouse shirt. It looks funny on her outwardly mature appearance, but it suits her inwardly immature nature. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered from my two encounters with the girl.

“Fine,” Pam doesn’t even look up from her menu at the red and pink haired people, “then leave.”

And they do, right out the door.

“Hello, Liz,” she’s waving at me with a bright smile on her face, twirling her hair around her finger. “Remember me? I’m Lannie. I like it here.”

“She remembers you, Lannie,” Pam says into the menu before she looks up with her perfect features that hide a smugness that I know is just lying underneath. Because she won. “Hi, Liz.”

Sigh, I stay staring down at the hand that is holding my pen to the paper, and I just wait.

“Can I get another ice cream soda?” I don’t even look at Lannie because I’m sure she’s not talking to me. Something tells me they’re going to go into their blonde babble again, like last time, while I wallow inside my head.

“Sure.” And Pam surprises me with, “We’ll have two Trekkie combos, a diet coke, and a cherry coke float.”

Well, that was quick. I hardly had time to even think about how much I strongly dislike her.

Jot it down and I start turning away when I hear Lannie say, “Why can’t Max have dinner with us?”

His name makes me turn away faster with a quick, “I’ll be right out with your drinks.”

Hang the order at the cook’s window for Michael and I head behind the counter to fill the drinks. I walk back over and put them on the table without a word.

The evening goes on like this. Nothing spectacular. That is, until someone kidnaps me into the bathroom as I’m walking to the backroom. Let’s get to that now.

He kicks the door shut while he has me pinned to the bathroom wall, a hand covering my mouth, and he whispers, “Don’t scream.”

My heart thuds like crazy and I can’t breathe right. But that seems to be the norm whenever I’m around him.

He stares at me and I stare right back before he slowly lets go, dropping his hand and taking two steps back, giving me the distance that I so need right now.

“Max …” Breathe and just try to keep my emotions in check, but it’s not happening. I can’t handle this right now, his proximity, his presence, his looks, and him just being here, none of it. It makes me get an attitude, since anger’s the quickest thing I can find to shield myself with. “What the hell? What are you-”

“Liz, please.” His voice stops me from talking but my mind keeps racing like a turtle on steroids. That doesn’t even make sense. “Just hear me out.”

“No!” I think I answer quickly enough. I don’t need this right now. I think I need distance. I think I need space. I think I need to breathe.

“Please?” A hand reaches out and I have to back the fuck away until my back hits the door.

And it’s so eerily reminding me of all those other times. How he trapped me in the chemistry room. How he trapped me in that gas station. How he trapped me into loving him. “No, Max! You had your chance.” My emotions leak out and I hate it. I hate this. I hate him … but I can’t stop feeling what I do … Anger is a hard pretense to keep up when your heart is crawling up your throat. And my voice weakens like the rest of me. “You had your chance.”

Longest pause ever while my fingers inch their way to the door knob behind me. I start turning it slowly, but his hand comes out and pushes it back. He stares down at me and I refuse to look at him. Because it’s only been two days since he was my world and I was his everything … or so he said, before he threw me to the curb like I was yesterday’s garbage.

He doesn’t touch me, but I can feel him all over my skin. Every part of me is crying out to him and I don’t know how to make it stop. My first mistake is looking at him. My second is staring into his eyes. My third is hearing his words, “I love you.”

And it’s funny. It’s so fucking hilarious, because, “Days ago, I would have believed you.” My lungs and voice and heart are all failing me. “But then again, that was before you traded me in for Pam.”

His hand drops. He leans back. He whispers, “It wasn’t like that.”

Shake my head and reach slowly for the doorknob again, but he pulls my hand away.

The physical contact is too much for me. Something that seems so simple and innocent as holding my hand is too much for me to take. It racks my body and burns my heart. It makes my head spin and everything around me just goes hazy. I can’t see or think straight. It feels like I’m slowly dying a painful death.

He lets go and a part of me wishes he wouldn’t. This part of me just still loves him so much and wants nothing more than to just go back to how we were. Why won’t that part just die already?

“People are saying that you’re thinking of leaving with him to Antar after graduation,” his voice is deeper than usual. It’s softer too. And I’m convinced that I’m insane for even noticing, for even caring. “Is it true?”

And I have to laugh, because it’s just like him to be this way. Because he’s cocky and selfish and the universe revolves around him. He’s had me. He’s had his fill and he’s done. He’s made that abundantly clear. But apparently, I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life pining for him? I’m not allowed to try to gain some semblance of an existence again because of his ego?

But I saw this. My brain told me this is how he is, a narcissistic playboy. I started hanging out with Doug and Max suddenly shows his interest. I go to prom with Brad and he whisks me away with his charm and pretty words.

He’s got Pam, so I’m entitled to find someone to at least notice me too! So sorry if I get a fucking attitude, but, “What business is it of yours?”

The disbelief on his face makes me laugh because only a jerk like Max with his need for control would find it hard to believe that I’m not towing the line like he wants, even after he fucking broke me.

He backs off, but I stand my ground, because I have my pride too, damn it. His mouth opens and closes, and his words come out eventually, “What happened to college? Getting an apartment and starting your own life?”

He’s throwing that day back in my face. That day we spent in the desert, when I told him the plans I had with all the hopes in the world that he would approve and would still play a huge part in them. But they’re useless and pointless now because, “Why should I stay here when there’s nothing worth staying for?”

He breathes hard and so do I.

“Don’t go, Liz. Damn it!” He’s running his hands over his face because he’s fighting to keep himself in check. And I’m smiling because it’s the only thing I can do to keep what little control I have. He turns to me. He looks ready to snap, grinding out his words through clenched teeth, “You have no idea how much I … How much it hurts to see you with him.”

“Good.” Because it’s exactly what I’m thinking and exactly what I want. So I bite back through clenched teeth too, because, “Then now you know how I feel about you and Pam!”

“Me and Pam? What the hell are you talking about?” He’s lost it. Which means this conversation is over, because when control freak Max loses hold of his emotions, anything can happen. I’m not worried that he could get violent. I’m worried about other physical things he can do that will only drag me deeper into this weird Max obsessive craze. But he just won’t stop. “I don’t go around tonguing Pam out in the open for everyone to see.”

No, he’s right. He doesn’t. He would do it in private with her. It’s more intimate that way. It makes her more special. Not stolen kisses against a locker in the hallway while no one’s looking. Bastard. He’s even cheapening my memories.

My back to him, my hand on the doorknob, I leave before he can do more damage.

He doesn’t stop me.

I go into the backroom to calm my nerves and straighten my head. When I come out, the bathroom door is open and there’s no one inside.

Go back behind the counter and pull another candy from my pocket, unwrap it and let the candy haze calm my nerves. I haven’t had one in hours. Since Maria informed me of their outrageous expensiveness, I felt the need to ration them. But I think after my ambushed, trapped, and emotion-filled encounter, I deserve one.



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We end up closing up earlier than normal. Michael and Maria have plans. So does Alex. Which leave me to my lonesome self. Maria puts up the chairs. Alex mops the floor. Michael cleans out the grill. I start the dishwasher and key out the register.

And they leave.

Dig in my pocket and unwrap another piece of candy heaven. I’ve had seven since my bathroom fiasco. This one will be eight. Oink, oink.

Head up the stairs and into my room. The only thing I want right now is to crawl under the covers and die. I’ve had enough today. I’ve had enough for the past few days, for the past few months. But apparently, the rest of the town doesn’t think so as I drop my backpack on the bed and see a pair of legs outside my window.

I could ignore them, but what good would it do? At least the balcony isn’t a closed space. There’s my window and the ladder down the side of the building making for two escape routes, if need be.

Climb out and face her head on. “Pam.”

“Liz.” No more polite smiles. She’s all business this time. “We need to talk.”

Why is it that suddenly everyone wants to talk to me now? Maria. Isabel. Max. Alex. Pam. Max. Pam. It’s one right after the other. I’m being bombarded and little Lizzie isn’t exactly used to the attention. But little Lizzie’s dead.

“I’m the one who asked Max to give you up,” she lays it all out in the open again.

But I stand my ground, staring at her head on, because, “I know that, Pam.” She’s rubbing salt into my open wound. Bitch.

“No, you don’t understand,” she just keeps on going on. “I convinced him. Because I had to save Lannie and it was the only way I knew how. It was the only thing I could think of.”

Save Lannie? The pretty blonde who likes her cherry coke floats? Doesn’t look like she needs much saving to me.

But Pam sighs and she sits on the lounge chair. I stay standing. It’s not often that I get to look down at her while I’m not busy taking her order. She sighs again because she’s dramatic like that. “I’m sorry for that, Liz.” Wait … what? Is she apologizing to me? “I feel the guilt. I know I’ve wronged you, but she’s just a kid. She doesn’t know any better and I needed to get her away from him.”

Who is him? And how is she just a kid? “She looks the same age as me.” Only taller, prettier, and blonder.

“Sure,” Pam’s standing now, because it’s hard to get defensive when you’re sitting. “On the outside. But not in here,” she’s pointing to her head. My quick logic deduces that she means Lannie’s brain. Is my sarcasm showing? “And not here,” Pam points to her chest and I’m guessing again that Pam’s referring to Lannie’s heart, not Lannie’s boobs, because Lannie’s boobs are actually bigger than mine. Another thing that makes her not just a kid.

“Lannie,” Pam calls out and it’s the first I’ve noticed of this not being just an A-B-conversation. She walks up from where she was sitting in the corner, still wearing her Mickey Mouse shirt. “Tell Liz where you’ve been living.”

“With Max,” she says with a bright smile.

My thoughts run away from me. What, is he having like a blonde orgy fest going on? Two tall, pretty, sun kissed girls to keep him company. So why is he still reeking havoc on my short and plain emotional self?

“Who made you go live with Max?“ Pam talks to her slow, like a little kid, like Pam says Lannie is. I think that’s what she’s trying to prove

“Daddy,” and the way that Lannie answers doesn’t exactly fit her figure.

And while I’m taking all this in, Pam continues on with the pointed questioning. “Do you like living with Max?”

“Yes,” she says very happily. “He doesn’t hurt me like Daddy does.” And I don’t even want to think what she means by that.

“Do you want to keep living with Max?” Pam asks her. And I have to lean against the wall for support so that my brain can focus on fitting together the pieces that it’s receiving instead of wasting effort on standing.

“Mr. Larek makes good food,” she’s still got a dazzling smile but then she frowns. “But it makes me tired.”

“What makes you tired?” Pam asks Lannie, but looks at me to make sure I’m getting all this.

“Looking like Liz,” she half frowns and points to me. “Only with blue eyes.” And she laughs. “Sometimes, I forget when they call me Eli.” Before she frowns again. “Daddy wouldn’t like that.”

“Okay. Go play,” Pam pats her head and shoos her to the corner, back to her coloring book and crayons, so the big kids can have a serious conversation. Pam drops her mothering tone and looks at me with a perfectly raised eyebrow. “Do you understand now, Liz?”

And I’m still just … “What?”

She rolls her eyes at me and the Pam we all know and love comes oozing out while she breaks it down, “Lannie is one of Khivar’s girls. He collects them for their powers. Lannie shape-shifts. She’s the only person I’ve ever known to be able to do that. It’s a powerful arsenal to have when you’re taking over the world.” There’s a sneer on her face. I don’t like it. “Those other girls that were with us today in the Crashdown? Ava mind warps. And Serena …” Pam’s face pales a little and I narrow my eyes at her. “She … well, what she does isn’t very nice.”

Huh. Well if Pam can apparently hang with this all female super group that she’s talking about, then, “What do you do?”

Her face falls and her pride slips, but only for a second. “I … amused him, for a time. I think,” she rolls her eyes, “I know it’s because I was meant for Max that he even wanted me.” Why does she always have to throw his name in the mix of things? Oh, that’s right, because she’s trying to stick my nose in it, because she’s still an über bitch. “To take away the little boy-king’s play thing, I’ve heard him say.”

And I just, “I still don’t understand.”

Her snooty annoyance is hitting me in the face right now while she says it all slow, spelling it out for me, “Your mom, Annabelle Ross, and Edward Harding’s child, Max’s destined betrothed, would have looked exactly like you, only with blue eyes.” Her eyes widen while she says this, mocking me. I want to smack her. “I convinced Khivar that Max will trade you over for Lannie, if she looked like you, only with blue eyes.”

Like my mom, she means. And I am my mother’s child, with my dad’s muddy eyes.

“Khivar fell for it,” she’s smirking. Smirks keep hell in business, I’m convinced of it. “So he made the deal with Max. But Max wasn’t convinced.” She rolls her eyes. And I don’t understand her need to have an attitude right now. If anyone should have an attitude, it’s me. “So I had to persuade Max to make the trade.”

“I was traded.” It’s not a question because I already knew this. But it wasn’t for Pam, and that’s what’s making my mind whirl.

And the snobbishness that I’ve always known in her, before she left, returns in full force. “He was going to make the deal anyway. He wasn’t going to risk everything for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.

“It’s just …” Again with the overdramatic groaning and sighing and rolling of the eyes. “Everything was on the line, Liz. He may be willing to risk his own life for you, but he was groomed to be a king. And the well being of his people come first. He knows that. He’s always known that. He was just hanging onto you. But he wasn’t going to risk everyone else’s lives just for yours.”

Huh. Her hands are on her hips, she’s leaning down at me while she says all this. I don’t think I have to repeat what I think of her.

“Besides,” more derided faces with a turned up lip at me. “The deal was that Khivar can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do. But he’ll give Max Lannie as a sort of compensation and you are not to be told of the arrangement. And Max isn’t allowed to speak or even be around you.”

And yet here she is, telling me all this, confronting me in all her Pam-glory. And there was Max earlier, trapping me in bathrooms and telling me he loves me, begging me to stay.

Dig in my pocket, pull out a candy, unwrap it, and pop it in my mouth. This is all very interesting.

“Do you get it now?” More of her turned up nose and I just suck on my ten dollar jelly bean. “I had to save Lannie.”

I may be the denial person and all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see or hear the things going on around me. I just choose to ignore them. Ignorance is bliss, right? But some things just can’t be ignored. So I connect the dots, and I ask the questions, “Lannie wouldn’t happen to be short for Vilandra, would it?”

Pam looks surprised and her hands fall off her hips. “I think so …” Her eyes narrow at me. “How did you know that?”

Stare over at the post puberty little girl in the corner, coloring away with her crayons spread out.

And the plot thickens.



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Evelynn
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Post by Evelynn » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:50 am

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Chapter Forty Two:
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Who am I?

It’s the question of my life. What defines me? Where do I belong?

I’m sitting with my back against the headboard, with my legs drawn up on pink pastel sheets in the Whitman’s home above their alien-themed restaurant. But this isn’t where I belong. Liz Parker lived here. Elizabeth Harding lived in a big house with my deceased mother’s now deceased first husband. Lizzie Philips lived in a cozy home with both her parents.

And no matter how much of a difference my new found information supplied by Pam makes, I don’t belong in the nice auburn-y brick house on Antarian Avenue with the former boy-king either.

So who am I now? Where do I belong now?

When am I going to stop pretending to be these characters, playing these parts? When am I going to finally find myself? And how the hell do I start?

Sitting in the dark at one in the morning is when all this finally hits me and realizations start to manifest.

I can’t just cling to certain characterizations and allow them to define who I am. I can’t just be Hank Philip’s all-A studious little daughter, because that’s not me. I can’t be Edward Harding’s perfect mini-Annabelle, because that’s not me. And I can’t be Max’s destined soul mate … because that’s not me either.

I can try as hard as I can. I can pretend all I want. But they’re never enough. They’re façades that crumble and burn with the people they were meant to appease. And I need to face the facts. Dad killed Lizzie Philips when Mom died and he went to jail. Edward killed Elizabeth Harding in that bedroom that day. And Max’s destined other-half … she never existed. At least, not in the way he wanted her to, not in the way I wanted either.

So what am I left with? A dust filled chalkboard where I start over again, where I try once more to figure myself out, to find the real me. But there’s no one to please, no person to try to be for someone else. I’ve tried that over and over and over again. It didn’t work. Because I can’t live for Dad or Ed or Max. I have to live for myself. I have to figure myself out … for me, and me alone.

This may not make any sense at all to anyone else. But it’s the turning point in my life to me. It’s when I decide that I need to grow up. I need to stop pretending. Sitting with my knees drawn up and my back against a wooden headboard, in the dark of the night with even the glow-in-the-dark stars holding little light in them, I let the tears fall as I say goodbye to little Lizzie, goodbye to Elizabeth, goodbye to them all. Goodbye heartache, goodbye resentment, bitterness, studiousness, quietness, need, dependency, goodbye all of it. Because you have to let go of everything before you can let yourself move on.

And when you’ve let it all fall away with each salty tear, when you’re left with nothing, when you drop all that excess baggage, you collapse. So after over forty hours of straight awaken-ness, the abundance of revelations galore and emotional stress makes my mind, body, and soul crash and burn into a much needed, sleep-filled oblivion.

In the past hour and a half of me sitting alone in the dark, I grew up, I opened up, I let myself see. And it’s all this distraught, emotional breakage that makes the crazy dreams come.


It didn’t start out crazy. Well, not crazy for me anyway, sitting in a big garden, wearing a pretty frilly white dress with pretty frilly white gloves, feeling very Alice-in-Wonderland while I sit at a small table in the middle of a tea-party. Delicate china, cookies and crisp linens lay between my mother and I.

She wears an elegant gown, her long brown hair done up, poised and perfect as always. She gracefully sips her tea before placing the cup back on its saucer to stare at me. Her lips say nothing but her eyes try to communicate so much, so much that I can’t hear and I can’t understand.

“What is it, Mother?” I ask, trying to reach out to her, but the table keeps getting longer and longer.

She finally opens her mouth and words are murmured but the birds around us in the garden are all too loud. A harsh chiming comes from somewhere near. I turn to the noise and when I turn back to my mother, the table has disappeared, she’s standing staring down at me with fear and urgency in her face, her voice, “Run!”

And I do. As fast as I can through the garden, the bushes growing taller and taller and turning into a maze. I run left, I run right, I run without thinking, turning every corner I can to get away until I come to a dead end where the leafy walls are taller than ever. I turn back around and the walls are bushes again, my panic subsiding. My father sits on a bench, wearing his dusty work pants, muddy boots, and a hard hat, reading a book with a bouquet of white roses beside him.

I walk to him slowly. He sees me and smiles, holding out the flowers for me to take. I kneel down before him and he stares down at me, patting my cheek and smiling softly.

I smile back and I feel safe with him here. But the chiming bells come again and I turn away to look for them. I turn back and the flowers are gone, and my dad looks at me with a scared and angry look on his face, “Run!”

And I do, the bushes growing into walls again. More corners, more people. Alex, as he tries to open the box. More bells chiming and more fearful words. Always running. The Parkers. Pam and Lannie. The bells that scare me, that scare everyone, but I can’t find where they’re coming from. More growing leafy walls and forever running. More turned corners.

Another dead end and I’m crying waterfalls of tears that won’t stop. I turn around and the walls are bushes again. He sits on the ground, his legs crossed. I walk slowly and sit on the ground facing him, my now dirty, tattered dress mushrooming around me. He stares at me with those intense eyes of his, his angel-fallen face, sorrow and responsibilities weighing on his shoulders.

My hand reaches out to him, “Max, what’s wrong?”

He holds out a piece of chalk to me and he drops his head to stare at the ground between us.

M.E. + L.P.

I take the chalk from him and draw a heart around it. I look back up and he’s smiling, relief in his features. I smile back, my heart going out to him. But the bells chime again. I turn to find them. But I can’t. I turn back to Max and the scribbled writing on the ground is gone. He’s standing and staring down at me, panic and worried words, “Run!”

But I stand and I stare at him, nothing but anger and bitterness in me. “No!”

The chiming gets louder and louder, echoing in my ears. A panicked Max still stares down at me. He pushes me away, “Run!”

And I falter and stumble, but I pick myself back up. “No!” The bells ring louder, the chirping birds going crazy. He pushes me away again and I trip and fall hard, tears running down my face.

And then the chiming stops. The walls fall down again. Two legs stand before me, a hand reaching out to help me up. I slip mine into his and stand up to dust off my dress. I look up and it’s Khivar, his goldish brownish wavy hair blowing in the wind. He smiles at me. He picks me up and sets me down on the ground beside his chair, in the empty space in a row on girls. I only recognize the curly red head, the short pink haired, and Lannie. All of the girls are overly made up, wearing frilly dresses, sitting limply, like dolls.

The Lannie-doll straightens up, her arm reaching out pointing ahead, not looking at me. I follow her finger and standing in a row across the way is everyone: Mom, Dad, Alex, Maria, Isabel, Tess, Michael, Brad, Kyle, Max, everyone. All of them are yelling at me, begging me, shouting a mixture of words that I can’t make out. I look up beside me and Khivar’s smirking, his hand reached out, pointing like a gun. At the tilt of his finger, he “Pow-pow,” at each person in a row. They fall, they bleed out, they gasp, they ache, they writhe in pain, and they … die. One by one.

I beg and I plead and I cry, but Khivar just keeps smirking, pointing and killing everyone I love and care about. And when he finally stops, when the last person in the long line of people finally falls, he turns to me, his arm outstretched, his finger pointed right between my eyes, “Pow!”




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The weird thing after a dream like that is that I wake up feeling calm and peaceful. I brush my teeth. I wash my face. I change my clothes and grab my backpack. I meet Alex in the hallway, tell him I am walking to school, and go on my merry way out the front door.

By the time I make it to the parking lot, I completely forget about the dream. The bell rings and uneasiness comes over me, but only for a second before I walk into the building and into my history class. I sit in the seat across from Maria and put my backpack on the ground beside me.

It just hits me funny how the world just seems so matter-of-factly. And it hits me funny how Maria kind of just stares at me until she says finally, “You look different.”

And I agree. Because, “I feel different.” Not on the outside. It’s still the same jeans and t-shirt that I’ve had since the tenth grade. The same mousy hair. The same short figure. It’s on the inside and I’m starting to be convinced that that is where it matters most.

“Okay,” she shrugs. “Well, welcome to the three day countdown to graduation. Today is day three.”



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History. Calculus. English. Lunch. Chemistry. Health.

Everything happens on its own accord. Life keeps on keeping on. The sun doesn’t need Max to rise and set. It doesn’t need anyone. It doesn’t even need me. I’m the one that has to keep up with it, not the other way around. I’m not just stating the obvious, I’m still in the whole revelation process.

So when the bell for the last period rings, I wave to Brad, grab my backpack and I walk to the Crashdown. I suit up and I go about working. It’s the same old thing, filling the sugar jars, taking orders, servicing with a smile, but it feels different this time. It feels good because I’m doing this on my own, for myself and no one else. And if other people don’t understand it, then that’s just too bad for them.

“What’s with you?” Alex stops me in the break room, leaning against the doorframe that leads into the grill area.

I just look at him and I shrug. “Nothing.” I’m not being mean. I’m not being bitter. I’m just being honest.

“You don’t want a ride to school. You don’t want a ride home. You barely talk to anyone all day. So what’s going on?” He looks at me expectantly.

Leave it to Alex to not understand my new found need for independence. I’m not rolling my eyes, I’m not being resentful, I’m not being sarcastic, “I’m just trying to feel comfortable in my own skin.”

I smile at Alex’s confused look. I don’t expect him to understand when I barely understand it all myself. So I walk up to him, my hands going to either sides of his face, and explain it how I’ve been explaining it to myself, through a Barbra Streisand song from Les Miserables that Joey Potter sang in a beauty contest when Dawson finally awakens to his feelings for her:

“I love him, but when the night is over, he is gone, and the river's just a river.” And I smile through the words. In the context of the song, it’s dark and sad. But in the context of my life, it’s not. It’s hope-filled. So “do you understand, Alex?”

But he keeps that confused look on his face. “No.” He removes my hands and pats me on the head. “But I’m going to trust that you understand what you’re saying.”

And I do. I understand it, and that’s what matters. That’s my whole point.

“So the memory block stuff,” he brings up, shifting uncomfortably.

But I smile at him and I say, “It’s not needed.” And I walk out to the front.

I serve a table of three high-schoolers their food and take an order from an older couple, before heading back behind the counter.

The door chime goes off and uneasiness comes over me again, before it disappears.

And it’s funny because I don’t even feel it coming. I pride myself on my intuition of somehow unconsciously knowing and preparing myself for unforeseeable, monumental occurrences in my life, but this one just came so out of left field that it’s just crazy. But then again, I don’t think anything could have prepared me to the sight of watching him walk through the door.

The entire restaurant picks their heads up and stares at him. It’s like they can sense that he’s an outsider, that he’s human. It’s weird like that and my breath catches in my throat while he walks up to Maria and says, “Hi, I’m looking for Liz Philips.”

It’s the least animated I’ve ever known Maria to be as her arm shoots out in slow motion, her finger coming out and pointing directly at me.

I can only stare lamely at him as his head turns and his eyes gaze to the back of the restaurant, behind the counter, between the soda dispenser and the cook’s window, right at me.

For every two steps he takes in my direction, I take one step towards him, my eyes never leaving his and his never leaving mine, until we’re standing maybe a foot apart, facing one another.

It’s tunnel-vision as I take in his normal clothes, his deep brown eyes, his tough guy image, the smile on his face, before I’m picked up in his arms and held tight, like he’ll never let me go, like I never want him to because of the comfort and safety that I feel when only he’s around, when only he’s here to protect me.

It’s funny because we’ve never been much of a touchy feely type, him with his quiet strength and me with my quiet need. Even though it’s only been days since I’ve seen him last, the image of him here, outside the confinement of bars and guards and orange jumpsuits, fills me with so much emotion when he whispers in my ear, “Lizzie, my honey-bear.”

“Daddy…” is all I can get out before my feet feel the ground once more and his arms leave me.

A cough and a chime coming from the cook’s window brings me back to reality and I feel the gaze of a restaurant filled with patrons, before grabbing his arm and pulling him back into the employee’s only backroom with me.

The door swings shut and I turn back around to stare at him. This moment may seem awkwardly and emotionally out of character for me, but keep in mind that, aside from the one incident at the hotel suite, it’s the first time in months that I’m seeing him, outside the confinements of a jail cell, prisoner attire, and with images of him bleeding and dying still pounding in my head. So my thoughts, my words, my mind are all jumbled with, “What’s going on? Why are you … how are you…”

And he’s smiling at me like I haven’t seen him smile in a long, long time, “Max got me out.”

Wait … what? “Max?”

“Yeah,” he grabs my arm. “Let’s go, Lizzie. Pack your things. I’ve got bus tickets out of here.”

But my feet aren’t moving and my eyes still stare because I’m still reeling from his presence, his words. Max? Packing? Bus tickets? “What?”

“We have to go,” he looks at me impatiently, the way that dads do when they have to explain to their dumb kids what should be obvious. “Let’s go home.

Home? The way he says the word fills me with such longing. Back to childhood. Back to the cozy little two-story house. Back to being little Lizzie again. But little Lizzie’s dead. And it’s going to be hard breaking the news to her daddy. “I know you’re not going to understand it, but I have some stuff that I need to figure out.”

His hand is still gripping my arm while he looks at me like I’m speaking some alien language. “Figure out?”

“Yeah,” I nod. And I don’t think anyone can know the strength it takes for me to push my father’s hand away, to push him away, to reject the comfort and ease of the normal life he is promising me with his eyes. But I have to. Because little Lizzie is dead and I’m still trying to figure it all out. And the sucky thing about trying to find myself is that I have to do it “on my own. I’m going to need to ask you to back off.”

“Liz, you’re my daughter,” he says in that ‘don’t question me, I know what’s best for you’ tone of voice, making it all that much harder.

Because “I know that.” I do. “And I love you.” I do. “But I have things I need to figure out.” And I know it’s confusing because little Lizzie always needed her daddy and he was always there for her, to protect her and keep her safe, even when Mom wasn’t. So I know he won’t understand and it seems so blind and inadequate for me to ask him to just, “Trust me, Daddy.”

There’s a long silence and images of him tying me up and dragging me with him dance in my head, but they’re drowned out with images of him, standing in a row of faces, falling to the ground, thrashing in pain, and dying. My lip quivers and he turns to me, spitting out words, “So what am I supposed to do?” His anger doesn’t surprise me as much as his acquiescence.

I look at him, my father, and I tell him, “Get as far away from here as you can. I’ll join you soon enough.”

He looks defiant and it looks ridiculous, a six foot tall grown-up, tough guy, adult, father of a man, taking orders from his little girl. “You want me to go home?”

“No.” No, not home. “I want you to disappear somewhere and lay low,” somewhere where they can’t find you, won’t find you. “For your own safety” and for my own peace of mind. Because, for all the casualness I felt when waking from the dream, the ominous threats that the dream entailed haven’t escaped me.

“But how will you come join me if you don’t know where I am?” He steps forward. He stands tall. He tells me who is in charge. “That doesn’t make sense, Lizzie.”

“You’re my dad.” Flesh of his flesh. Blood of his blood. “I’ll find you. I’ll figure a way.” The funny thing about the absurdity of that statement is that I actually believe it, and so does he. I can see it in the way his shoulders sag in defeat. I can see it in his eyes, my father’s muddy eyes that are so like my own.

He steps forward and I’m pulled into the safety of him again. “You’ve outgrown me having to protect you. It’s a sad moment for me.”



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



Going to Mr. Whitman and convincing him to buy out my share of the investment in the Crashdown in cash is easy enough. Going to Mr. Guerin’s office and trying to convince him the same? Not nearly as simple.

“No.”

And I stand there, and I stare, because … “What?”

He’s calm, he’s composed, he sits behind his desk, staring back at me with all the thick-headedness that you’d expect a lawyer to have. “I’m not going to let you give your livelihood to Hank. Annabelle wouldn’t have wanted that. It’s why she trusted me with this.”

Indignation forces me to stand, to stare down at him, to narrow my eyes and raise my voice. “Well. Annabelle? My mom? Yeah, she’s dead. And you might have had some kind of crazy obsession with her, but I am her daughter. And I need to protect the last living parent that I have.”

His hands come up to cover his chin while he leans on his elbows on his desk and stares at me. My tough-guy front dwindles with every passing second until he finally says, “I won’t give him everything.”

I don’t need everything. Just “I need as much as I can.”

He nods and sits up straight. “I’ll write you a check.”

“No.” My hand comes down on the desk between us. “No paper trails.” And I don’t think I have to explain to Mr. Lawyer-Man that I don’t want anything to be able to lead back to my dad. I don’t want anyone to be able to find him.

He leaves the room and I stay standing because I don’t know if I can pretend to be as strong sitting down. He comes back moments later, handing me a bag filled with cash, giving me a look of disdain that I couldn’t care less about.



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



So … with two keys in my pocket and my dad by my side, I tell him to stand waiting at the garage door, while I hold my breath and I brave to enter the house where Elizabeth Harding lived.

The key unlocks the door smoothly and the door opens without a creak. My heart races and I have to will each step as I run through the house, expecting him to pop up around every corner, his derisive words echoing through my head. Proper girls this and etiquette that.

I pull open the door and hit the garage door opener button. It slides up noisily, the light shining through to reveal a dusty old red convertible, my mother’s car that she left me.

I smile because I’m proud of myself, as I should be. My workings of the afternoon have not gone to waste. I will protect my dad like he always protected me growing up. I will get him out of this town and away from it all. And I will do it by providing for him a bag full of money and a key to a method of transportation that I hold out to him. But he doesn’t take it from my outstretched hand. He isn’t even looking at me. His eyes are focused down the street, a few houses down, at a curly red head getting into Pam’s yellow convertible.

“It’s her,” he says softly, and we both watch on as her car peels out of her driveway and down the street.

“Who?” Serena?

My dad scratches his head, his eyebrows knitting together, still ignoring the key I’m holding out to him. “I can’t remember her name.”

“Is it Serena?” That’s her name right? Stuck-up curly red head with a hatred for greasy diner foods. But … “How do you know her?”

He’s still staring off down the street at the car that’s sped off only moments ago, his voice trailing off as he speaks, “She’s the one I was with the night your mom …”

And it doesn’t surprise me. Ignorance is bliss. But I register the information. I formulate my hypotheses. My mind comes to its conclusions with the information it gathers. But we’ll get to all that. Right now, the important thing is to get him to “Come on, Dad. Let’s go.”

“No,” he’s huffing and puffing and standing firm, like the Hank I’ve always known him to be. “I want to talk to her. How come she went missing? How come the cops came up that she was dead? I saw pictures-”

“Drop it, Dad,” I pull at his sleeve to follow me, but he doesn’t budge an inch. He’s indignantly curious. And curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s not going to kill my dad. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“I already got involved the day I pulled your mom away from this place,” he talks in a deadly low, tight-lipped voice like he does when he’s upset. He’s being stubborn. I’m pretty sure it’s something else I inherited from him along with his muddy eyes.

Deep breath while I try … I try … “Daddy, for your safety. Please, I need you to take the car and just go.” I push him into the garage with as much force as I can muster. Still, he doesn’t budge.

“Liz …” He licks his lips, his eyes roam before they settle on me. “I don’t like this idea anymore. Get in the car with me.” He pushes me to the passenger side, takes the key from my hand, and throws the duffel bag into the backseat before stalking over to the driver’s side, his hand on the door handle.

He freezes once he notices that I’m not following his orders. But I can’t. Because I’m not his little Lizzie anymore. Because “we’ve been over this.”

“What if something happens to you?” he hisses.

And I tell him honestly. “I can protect myself more than you can.”

This unsettles him and he just stares across at me, like he’s seeing me for the first time. Is he finally understanding? Is he finally getting that this is beyond his control? We’ve been over the alien stuff. He knows who my mom was, what my mom was. And what that consequently makes me. But I think he was busy playing the denial game too. His voice cracking, “You can do stuff?”

Bite my lip and nod my head slowly.

He nods his head along with me. “Your mom could do stuff too.” But Dad isn’t like me. We both can play our game all we want, but when faced with the truth of it all, I just dig myself in deeper, Dad folds his hand and admits defeat like the manly man that he is. “This whole alien thing scares me, Lizzie.”

“I know, Dad. It scares me too.” It’s not what he wants to hear. But it’s the truth. Tears in my eyes, “That’s the key to the car,” I nod towards it as he grips it in his hand. And I point to the duffel bag he so carelessly threw in the back, “That’s twenty five thousand in cash. It should be enough for you to lay low on for a while.”

He nods slowly again and in this one moment, Hank Phillips doesn’t look so tough anymore. “Lizzie, I don’t like this.”

I rush over to him because we both know what this is. It’s goodbye … maybe forever. “I need you to be safe, Daddy. I lost Mom already. I can’t lose you too.”

He holds me tighter. “Promise you’ll be safe too. You’ll be careful. You’ll figure things out and then you come find me.” He lets go and he looks down at me, patting my cheek, like he used to when I was a kid, one last time. “Promise me, Lizzie.”

My eyes squeeze shut, holding back a whimper, I let little Lizzie have one last moment in time, “I promise.”



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



He drove off into the sunset. Not really, metaphorically. And I stood there and stared after him for maybe ten minutes before I picked myself up off the ground. Again, not really, metaphorically. But still, I brush myself off and stand tall, because I’m not done. I still have a long to-do list to go through and not many days left to do them in.

So, I pull my nerves together and walk purposefully across the street and down a few houses until I’m standing at the front step of an auburn-y brick one, my finger on the doorbell.

Maybe it’s just been too much of an emotionally charged day. Maybe it’s been just so long since I’ve seen him last. Maybe I’ve just grown to love and cherish him so much. Maybe it’s all of the above that makes tears come to my eyes as the door opens and he stares down at me with his gentle nature and kind face.

“Miss Liz?”

A lump catches in my throat. “Larek …”

“Maxwell isn’t here at the moment,” he says, but he smiles at me and opens the door wider.

And I tell him, “I didn’t come for him, I came for Lannie.”

“Who?” His eyebrows come together as he pulls me inside the house and closes the front door, locking it shut.

I blink twice. “The girl who lives here?” The one Max traded me for? Lannie, Larek’s daughter.

He blinks a few times too while he hesitates for a moment, realization and worry entering his eyes. “You mean Eliza?”

“Eliza?” That’s what they’re calling Lannie? That’s what she meant last night on the balcony, forgetting that they call her Eli. They even had to give her my name?

Wait a minute … if she makes herself look just like me and her name is like mine … and she’s living here, with Max … what exactly is he doing with her? Is he pretending that…

Wait another minute … stare up at Larek and I try to stop the pity from reaching my eyes but I’m sure it’s there anyway. I had guessed, but … he doesn’t even know that she’s his daughter, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood.

“Eliza. That’s her name,” he leads me up the stairs to the bedrooms, not even noticing any of the thoughts running through my mind. If only …

He opens the door to the bedroom next to what used to be mine and I freeze as my senses take in the long brown hair, the small figure, the same face that looks back at me in the mirror everyday, but with crystal blue eyes in her sockets, not the muddy brown that’s in mine.

Then the me that’s not me looks up, drops her doll, scrambles from the bed and comes right towards me. “Liz! You came to play with me?” Her voice doesn’t fit my figure and it’s enough to pull me out of my stupor.

I smile at her and let her drag me to the bed. “Yes, Lannie.”

“Lannie?” comes Larek’s voice from the hall, his eyes going from her to me and back again, before he reaches for the door, “I’ll leave you two,” and closes it behind him.

“This is Stacy,” she holds up her doll for me to see, smoothing out her hair. “Max bought her for me because I was a good girl.”

“Lannie, change back to how you normally are.” Because it’s just too weird sitting on the same bed, being in the same room with a double of myself.

“Okay,” she pouts. “But you can’t look!”

And I don’t question her, I just nod my head and turn away with my eyes shut, because, frankly, it’s creeping the hell out of me to have to talk to myself.

She taps my shoulder and I turn back to see the blonde haired, big eyed version of her that I’m used to. It’s just too weird. It’s too strange that Max replaced me with someone who looked just like me … which brings me to, “Lannie, does Max do anything to you?”

“What do you mean?” She keeps playing with her doll’s plastic blonde hair, not really paying attention to me.

My hand on her knee makes her look up while I explain, “Like … has he hurt you or … touched you … in any way.” Max may be the love of my life and the most tender and passionate person I know, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a guy. And if he’s done anything abusive to Lannie, I’ll kill him. I will kill him.

She squints her eyes at me. “Hurt me like …” She doesn’t finish her sentence and I don’t need her to. I just nod. “No!” Her eyes go wide and she jumps back. “No, Max is nice to me. Max loves me.

Something green tugs inside me that I chose to ignore because the anger in me is starting to bubble from the hesitancy written on her face. “Well … he …”

“He what?” I try to smile at her because my words come out kind of harsh, but I need to know, damn it!

She looks away, a frown on her pretty lips. “I’m not supposed to say.”

Something gets stuck in my throat, my lips are dry, and my mind whirls because this is all just very … very … “What does he do to you, Lannie? You can tell me.”

And she just shakes her head and looks away again. “I’m not supposed to say.”

I want to shake her. I want to scream at her. I want to tell her she’s stupid. I want to fucking kill Max. And I want to cringe and cry. But I can’t do anything to Lannie because she’s just a kid … just like Pam said.

Deep, shaky breath. Reach into my pocket and pull out an alien jelly bean candy. The old me wouldn’t have even bothered with Lannie. The old me would bury all this information, instead of clawing at her for more. So I’m not exactly proud of what I’m about to do next. A forced smile on my face, “Lannie, guess what I have.”

“What?” She looks at my hand and her face glows. “Did you bring me candy?”

“Yes, I did.” Dig in my pocket, push aside the necklace, and pull out the rest of the wrapped pieces of bliss that I have on me, keeping them in my hand while Lannie tries to grab for them. I stop her with a stern look. “But I can only give this candy to people who are my friends.”

“I’m your friend,” she assures me, nodding her head like crazy. “I like you a lot, Liz. I think you’re pretty.”

Well, she knows how to flatter, I’ll give her that. So, “thank you, Lannie. But friends don’t keep secrets from each other.”

“But I don’t want to go back to living with Daddy!” the scared look on her face makes the guilt and concern spread through me like a wildfire.

“No one’s going to make you do that.” Hand on her knee while I try to soothe her. It’s ridiculous, talking to her like she’s a kid when she’s got the developed body of a person in her late teens.

She thinks for a second before she gives in. “Max stares at me a lot …” She’s still frowning and I wait because something tells me that that’s not just it. Her voice drops to a whisper, “And … he kissed me.”

“What?!” Wait … what? What the fuck?!

“But it wasn’t his fault!” she grabs my arm and hurries on, but I barely hear her over the fury in my head. I’m going to kill him. “He didn’t mean to! He told me to stay out of his downstairs room but I didn’t listen and went in anyway to find him and he was on the floor because of his headaches so he wasn’t feeling good when he did it and he told me he was sorry. He didn’t mean to do it.”

Seconds tick on while murder plots and profane indecencies fill my head. Max with Pam made me bitter. But whatever. Max with Lannie, sweet little innocent childlike Lannie, is unforgivable. She keeps pulling at my arm, but my anger just won’t die down. “Was it just that one time?”

“Uh huh,” her head nods vigorously. “That was it. Don’t be mad at him, the headaches was making him die.”

“Headaches? Die?” Shake my head. “What do you mean, Lannie?”

“He says it hurts him here,” her finger points to the middle of my forehead, “and here,” and her finger moves down to point at my chest.

Too many thoughts fill my head. Max … kissing … headaches … dying?

When I look up, Lannie’s already unwrapped and eaten three jelly beans, a bright smile on her face. “This stuff is good.”



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



I hadn’t planned on staying around. It was bound to happen, but it wasn’t on my to-do list or anything. But after playing house and cards and dress-up with Lannie for two hours, I finally hear his car pull into the garage, heavy footsteps up the stairs and passing Lannie’s bedroom door, and his own door opening and closing shut. And yet still, it takes me about twenty minutes to gather enough nerve to walk quietly from Lannie’s room to Max’s.

Since I’ve been here, scenarios have been playing in my head. Imaginary conversations and hypotheticals ran rampant through me. Me confronting him. Him confronting me. Yelling. Tears. Kisses. Denial. Pretty much all of it entered my thoughts and replayed while I opened his bedroom door.

His bedside lamp is on and he’s lying fully dressed, faced down on the bed, looking exhausted, like he was too tired to even take off his shoes. The door squeaks while I shut it behind me and his eyes flutter open, turning slowly towards me with each step I take closer to him.

“Liz? …” His eyes are half-closed but a smile graces his face. It makes me think of all the nights I’ve spent in this room, with him. All of the moments, words of anger, of love, passion and heartache all bunched into one. I wonder if his smile means he’s thinking of them too, until his face falls and he groans. He runs a hand through his hair, reminding me of times when it was my fingers touching him, holding him, loving him. Emotion runs through me and he rolls onto his side, concerned disappointment on his face. “Eli. Did you have another nightmare?”

And I’m just … I … “I’m not … Eli.”

His face drops and he sits up quickly, his eyes wide. “Liz?”

I know I’ve been playing this out in my head for nearly two hours now, but still, the words just don’t come easy. “Pam told me. About Khivar. About the trade …”

“It wasn’t a trade,” his voice is deep, his lips tight.

Keeping my emotions in check is a lot harder than I had planned. But for some damn reason, this one teenaged boy can bring out the worst in me like no other. “Why didn’t you just tell me all this yourself?”

“I couldn’t,” he’s spitting out the words. He’s bitter and I’m bitter and this is just not going to be civil or easy. But when was it ever? “I’m not supposed to talk to you … or even be around you.”

That’s funny. Because “you tried to the other night,” standing outside my door at the Whitman’s while I counted the seconds and warred with myself on whether or not to face him. “And you pulled me into the bathroom yesterday,” telling me he loved me, begging me to stay.

“I just …” he clams on his words and I wait for the anger that he seems to control around everyone else but me. “I can’t stand seeing you with him! You have the choice, Liz. He can’t make you do anything. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. But you went to him anyway.”

“What did you expect? You kicked me to the curb for Pam.” What was I supposed to do? Sit around and wait until Pam left again so he can throw his second-hand scraps my way?

He stands and I suddenly feel very weak and small next to him. “It wasn’t like that!”

And the bitterness and anger I felt then, swells up inside me again because “That’s what it looked like to me! Pam pops back into the picture and I’m thrown out. And even if that’s not really how it went down, that’s what you were going to let me keep on believing.” That he didn’t love me. That he didn’t care. That what we shared was all just a lie!

Anger in him, “I didn’t have a choice!”

Anger in me, “Yes, you did!”

“At the expense of everyone’s lives? My responsibilities to them come first.” His shoulders are squared, ready to battle, and I huff and puff right back at him while a silent stare-down game of chicken wages on between us.

I turn away first. Because I’m a coward. Because there’s too much pent up emotion. Because I didn’t come here to have an argument with him. I came to talk to Lannie. Lannie. Snort and sneer, my conversation with her replaying in my head. And I turn back to him, ready to duke it out again, because she’s just a kid! “How could you?”

“How could I what?”

And he has no right to be indignant because, although she doesn’t look it physically, any moron who talks to her knows that emotionally, mentally, spiritually, she’s just a kid, so how could he fucking “take advantage of a little girl.”

Deadpan … “What?” Like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

“You kissed her!” You jerk! You bastard! You fucking prick!

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” he spits out with his jaw clinched. And while he keeps up his snotty punk-ass attitude, I want to hit him, kick him, do something to him. It’s while I’m watching his tough-guy front slip away that makes me wish I wasn’t here, wasn’t accusing him of what I am, wishing I never knew. He sinks down to the bed, guilt eating him alive, his confession a shame-filled whisper, “I thought she was you.”

That’s a lame piece of b.s. that does not excuse what he did. It doesn’t. And I just keep trying to tell myself that. But being here, in this room with him, remembering back on private moments where his words, his actions, his whole being resonated nothing but love, and having seen Lannie in mirror image form of me, makes me hope, makes me pray to believe him. I shouldn’t accept that. I shouldn’t forgive. I know I shouldn’t. But he makes me feel so weak.

He’s staring down at the ground, defeated, broken, and dead. My arms cross over my chest, my voice and breath ragged, “Lannie says you’ve been … hurting … a lot.”

“Lannie?” he asks, but he doesn’t look up. And god knows why my hand reaches out to his cheek, to touch him, comfort him. Because I’m stupid. Because I’m weak. “Lannie?”

“Eli,” I explain. His hand reaches up to cover mine and my heart lunges at his touch.

“Yeah …” He stares up at me. Warning flashes in my head. We shouldn’t be doing this. We’re both too drained to be this close. “You’ve been hurting too.”

I nod because I’m past denying it. There’s no point. After all, he’s the one who hurt me. But my pain is just emotional. “She says you’ve been physically hurting.

I feel him tense, but stubborn Max won’t budge. “What are you getting at?”

I can’t help the concern that shines through. “Are you sick? Are you dying? Did someone do something to you?”

“She’s exaggerating. I don’t think I’ll die from it,” he smiles, but it’s an act. He’s trying to brush it off, to make as though it were nothing.

I step closer to him, leaning down, swallowing hard. “Who’s doing this to you, Max?” He grabs my other hand, holding it tightly in his. This is too close, too soon. But all the reasoning in the world can’t seem to will my body to distance itself from his.

“We connected,” he whispers. His fingers lace through mine, the tenderness of the moment slowly killing us both inside. “I gave a part of myself to you.”

“But you said it wasn’t permanent.” I lean into him, seeking the warmth that he so willingly gives. “You made it like once it stopped, it stopped.”

He smiles sadly, his arms going around me. “I lied.”

“So because we connected that one time,” because of my selfish need to be close to him, to take of him something that surpassed any form of intimacy that I had ever known, “you’re hurting from it now, like passing out from it?” But … it-it felt so right. “Why did you let me? Why would you do it?”

“I didn’t know the consequences,” he shrugs it off, burying himself into me, too conscious of the aching familiarity of the contact between us.

I try to pull away, but he holds tight. Bringing my hands to his face, I make him look at me. “Is there a way to reverse it? Am I going to start physically aching too?”

“No, you won’t.” His hands drop and he pushes me aside so abruptly it startles me. And I can only stare after him as he stands up and steps away from me, the distance and shields back up once more. “It was one-sided, like everything else between us.”

And I come out of my daze too, the circumstances and the situation entering my head and hardening my heart once more. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

A snide laugh comes from him. “I feel like I can’t breathe right without you. The instant you walked into my life, it’s like you slipped right under my skin, like you were meant to be with me all along. And this is what I’m supposed to feel for you. It was destined. But you’re supposed to feel the same. You’re supposed to love me too.”

I blink while his words hit me. “And you think I don’t?”

Shaking his head, his resentment showing, but his voice stays calm, “not when you’re going around kissing Khivar. And leaving for Antar. And telling me that I mean nothing to you.”

I shake my head too, because “I never said that.”

“Why should you stay here, when there’s nothing worth staying for,” he replays my words back from the other day, mockingly mirroring the hatred in which I said them in. “So I’m nothing.”

Loving someone is like a bipolar rollercoaster ride. He brings me up, he pulls me down. He twists me from side to side, testing my limits with every turn. “I’m sorry, Max. But after what you did to me-”

“I didn’t have a choice!” his voice rises and we’re back to battling each other once more. “I didn’t want to-”

But I cut off his words, because they don’t matter. No matter what comfort and warmth I find in his touch, it doesn’t make a difference right now. The old me would have accepted whatever he offered. But the new me knows it’s not enough. Because “after what you did to me, I realize that … I can’t just be your girl. That can’t just be it for me. I have to find myself first. I have to figure some things out.” I have to stop going through life playing this game, which means I have to start being honest with myself. And this honesty thing, it’s a lot harder than you think.

I think he hears the resignation in my voice. I think he knows the hopelessness in it all. There’s no more need for bitterness or resentment anymore when it’s all in vain. “So what are you doing here then?”

“I don’t know.” It wasn’t on my to-do list. It wasn’t in my plans to be here. The only thing I can guess is that “I thought we could talk.”

“So we talked,” he says. There’s only half the room’s distance between us, but there could be an ocean for all the way we’ve closed ourselves off.

My smile knows no spirit. “I wanted to thank you for helping my dad. And I wanted to tell you that I know what’s going on, that you had to put me aside. And I wanted you to know that I don’t mean to hurt you. And I know you don’t mean to hurt me.”

“How do you know that?” His laugh knows no life.

And maybe I did unconsciously plan on this confrontation with him. After all, it was only last night that I mournfully let go. Maybe that’s why I held onto the last piece I had of him. Pulling his necklace from my pocket, I place it on the empty bed beside me.

I understand the gesture he made with it now, his way of silently hoping to reach out to me. But it’s all in vain. He can’t forsake everyone else’s lives for his own wants. And I have yet to find my footing enough to know how to breathe on my own.

“I love you, Max.” But that can’t be just it. He can’t be all I have to live for. I have to find myself first. I have to learn to love myself first, before I can even start throwing my love at him again. I’m sorry this couldn’t work. I’m sorry too many things stood between us. I’m sorry I didn’t hold onto you with both hands in that small window of time when maybe what we had could have been real. “I’m sorry for everything.”

This is it. Will he let me go or will he make me stay? Because I still love him. Because I’m still weak. And I’ll never stop wanting to be near him.

He opens his mouth to say something, but it dies as his face, his whole body cringes and he falls to his knees.

“Max!” Flashes of horror-filled prophetic dreams drive me instantly to his side. “What’s wrong?”

One hand on the floor, supporting himself, while the other clinches at his chest, his words labored, “don’t worry about it.”

W-What … “What can I do?” Pain-filled eyes stare back into mine before he shakes his head at my offer. He’s an idiot if he thinks I’m going to accept that because “there’s something. You’re just not telling me.” How do you comfort someone who doesn’t want it? How do you ease someone’s pain when it’s not your place to anymore?

Eternities pass before he finally sits back, color drained from his face. How callous does he think I am? If he’s in pain and there’s something I can do, “why won’t you let me help you?”

Stubborn Max has a stone face while he confesses in a low voice, “I don’t want it to go away.”

… I don’t get it. “You want to feel pain?”

He stands and walks away, his back to me, focusing too hard on flipping on the lights while he speaks, “I connected with you. I gave a part of myself up to you and let you inside of me. And I don’t understand it all myself, but I still feel you lingering in me. And if I lose that, then …”

And I stand too. This is all just so alien and ridiculous and out of my grasp because “I just don’t understand this. I don’t understand anything. I don’t feel this kind of pain that you’re feeling, or you inside me.”

“Because it’s one-fucking-sided!” The bitterness returns.

But I ignore it because his well being takes precedence over everything. “Could you try connecting with someone else? Maybe-”

“Look,” his words are razor sharp, “you made it pretty obvious. You’re leaving with him. There’s nothing left for me to hope for where you’re concerned. All that’s left is the goodbye, right?”

It’s funny how having loved him makes me not just resent his easy dismissal, his putting me in my place, but it forces me to acknowledge that he’s giving me my easy way out with a careless word and a wave of a hand, unburdening me of having to worry over him, like it’s that easy for me to ever stop caring about him. But “there is one more thing … Eli is Larek’s daughter.”

“What?”

Pull myself together and stand by the door, preparing myself to leave out of it. “She doesn’t really look like me. She makes herself look like me. She’s really blonde, tall, and pretty. And her real name is Vilandra … or Lannie, for short.”

“She’s Larek’s daughter?” His genuine surprise brings a smirk to my lips.

These encounters with him are too beyond catastrophic. Why do I bother? Why do I put myself through this? He hurts me and I hurt him. Because he loves me and because I love him. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t even end when the fate of the world is at stake, screaming at us that we can’t be together. But at least I can give him this. “She shape-shifts. Only person known to be able to. Makes it even more justifiable that you traded me for her, doesn’t it?”

I want him to deny it. It’s pointless, but I want him to hold on. I want him to tell me he loves me. I want him to beg me to stay. So his words slashed at me when he says, “Yeah, it does.”

Smile on my lips and I turn away, my bitterness at the unfairness of it all fueling my words, “Goodbye, Max.”

One hand stops me from walking through the now open door. He turns me to him, his lips touching mine with all the passionate tenderness, bittersweet and pined yearning ever-present between us before we’re both forced to bury it deep inside. He lets go and I leave. There’s no use. Because responsible and guilt-driven Max has the weight of the world on his shoulders. And stubborn and self-loathsome Liz is too unstable and too unenlightened to even begin to openly face the unknown tragedies that life brings.



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Evelynn
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Location: Cloud 9

Post by Evelynn » Tue Jul 10, 2007 2:27 pm

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Chapter Forty Three:
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I stand leaning against the doorframe and watch him as he does his work. He doesn’t question me at all like I thought he would. He just glances my way every now and then and gives me one of his light smiles before turning back to what he is doing.

Maria turns out the lights and waves to me to lock the door when she leaves. I do so and walk right back to my post against the doorframe, watching him once more.

It isn’t until he is done, the grill clean, each utensil in its proper spot, and his apron thrown aside, when he finally stands before me and asks, “What’s up?”

I just smile at him, take his hand, and pull him towards the stairs, saying, “Alex, let’s crack open that box.”

He stops and I look back at him. A slow smile spreads up his face, up one cheek, and then the other. He rubs his hand together. “Okay.” He runs up the stairs and holds the door open for me before mad-dashing for my room.

So while he’s busy tinkering with the metal lockbox, curious as to the mysteries it holds, I walk over to my desk where a journal lays, not mine, my mother’s.

Sit down beside him, the pages open in my lap while I flip through it, finding all the symbols and pen-scratchings that are so foreign to me. Look up at him while he continues to struggle. “Alex, you can read Antarian, right?”

He doesn’t even lift his head or unscrunch his face while he throws out, “Yeah, I read ten different languages.”

“Really?” Ten? But then again, it’s Alex we’re talking about. God only knows what he can do. He can play big brother to me. He’s advisor to Max. Boyfriend to Isabel. Doting son to the Whitmans.

“Yeah,” he makes a face that is all arrogance and I just smile. “All five dialects of our galaxy, English, Spanish, Chinese, French, and Russian. I’m working on my Japanese and German.”

“Can you read this?” Hand him my mother’s journal to thumb through and he pushes the metal box of mystery before me.

Put aside the chisel and other tools Alex had been using in vain, and just as I stick the key into the slot, Alex laughs and I look up to his smiling face. “What does it say?”

He curbs his giggles enough to stare at me with wide eyes, “You used to have a pet turtle named Bunny?”

And I just … groan … “I was five, Alex.”

Focus my attentions back on the box while Alex keeps flipping through pages and chuckling now and then before saying, “It’s just a diary, Liz. Of your mom’s. It’s all about you in here. Pretty much like a logged scrapbook of your life.”

Apparently my life story written in some alien text is amusing him so much, he doesn’t even notice that I got the lid open. I won’t deny that I sucked in my breath when the key clicked easily and the lid just lifted open. Thousands of different things ran through my mind: jewelry, bones, cash, etc. So it seemed very anti-climactic as I pull out more piles and piles of papers and flip through the files of more alien symbols and mumbo-jumbo that I’m convinced I don’t know the first thing about. I hand the stack to Alex. “What about this stuff?”

“You got it open?” He pretty much throws my mother’s journal aside, grabbing the papers from me and I’m pretty much ignored as I twiddle my thumbs, waiting in anticipation while he pours through page after page, until finally, “Oh my god.”

Scoot closer to him, tucking my hair back behind my ears, “What is it?”

“Thank you, Liz!” His eyes are still scanning at lightning speed, but he takes a second to lean forward and kiss me on the forehead with another giggly, “Thank you!”

And I try to curb my impatience, “What is it, Alex?”

“It’s an outline of Khivar’s takeover plan,” he throws the words out while he keeps roaming over more and more information. “Detailed, very in-depth details. Lists of names and descriptions and abilities of the people working for Khivar to conspire against overthrowing the crown.” And then he finally looks up at me, a curiosity in his eyes, “Your mom had these?”

Shrug … “Apparently.”

“So this is how he did it,” there’s a sighing triumphant look in Alex’s eyes. “This is how he took control. This is how he assassinated the King and took over.”

Wait … “He assassinated Max’s dad?” … No wonder Max hates him. “So Mom knew all about this?” Alien conspiracies and plots and murder. My mom was smack-dab in the middle of it. Something in Alex’s silence and weird blinking makes me say, “What is it?”

There’s a pause before he outs, “Your mom is on this list. Down as Annabelle Ross-Harding and as Anna Philips.”

The seconds tick by hard. My mom was helping to conspire against the throne? No. I’m sorry, but, no. My mom may have had her crazy moments. She may have not been an ever-present role model in my life. But she’s not evil. Anna Phillips, who worried more over wearing the right shades of lipstick to match her outfits and making sure I didn’t muddy my clothes. My mother, who, even though she wasn’t always there for me, loved me the best way she knew how. She was not a bad person. She couldn’t have been. And in the end, nothing, not even this damn wealth of information, is going to convince me that my mom was one of the bad guys.

But that means … with the lines so clearly divided … with my mother on one side with Khivar, and Max and Alex and everyone else on the other … When it’s good guys verses bad guys, cops and robbers, the good guys are always distinctly in white and the bad guys in black, right? Then why am I only seeing gray?

I don’t think Alex realizes I’m having a moral dilemma here because he keeps on reading and ranting, “This information is invaluable, Liz. And it’s just what we need.”

Need? “For what?”

He smiles from cheek to cheek and says simply, “To take back the thrown.”

And I just watch while he gathers up all the papers, papers that my mom went through the painstaking trouble of packing away in a secret safety deposit box in the middle of nowhere, with the key tucked safely into an envelope that an obsessed paragon of a lawyer would hold in a secret compartment in the floor of his office, in order for me, and me alone, to one day find. “Alex, I going to need all this back.”

He finally looks at me and I think he can see the chaos of confusion from this tug of war waging on inside of me in which I have no freaking clue as to which side I’m on. But still, he asks, “Why?”

Honestly, “I don’t know if you should know this stuff.”

He looks at me, squarely, putting the papers back on the ground, but not letting go of them. “What are you thinking, Liz?”

Deep breath and I’m too confused to even tell him anything but the truth. Because if my mom is on one side and Max and Alex are on the other, “Who are the good guys and who are the bad?”

He looks at me like I’m dumb, narrowing his eyes and giving me a piercing glare, “You can’t tell?”

Shake my head slowly while I’m still trying to work through and process and think, “Because if Max and you are on one side … and my mom on the other … my mom …”

I watch him as he scans through the top page of the pile, the one he said had the lists of people on them with the parts they played. He drops the paper, raising an eyebrow, a mixture of a sneer and a smirk on his face, challenging me, giving off a weird vibe that I’ve never felt from him before. “Photographic memory.” With an unspoken tag of what feels like a slap in the face before he stands and walks out.

What the hell is going on?



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



If the world ended in three days, I wouldn’t be surprised. Because in these past few months, well, these past few days especially, I’ve started to learn to trust my gut instinct. And I feel something coming, something big, something that’s going to wreak complete havoc on my life.

What if Max is the enemy? They’ve been toying with me this whole time, experimenting on me, sending me on a roller-coaster of hidden truths and lies. Who is to say who is on the side of righteousness?

And it sucks because I can’t exactly talk to anyone about this. Because according to this town, Max is god. Everyone loves Max, openly adoring him, except one person … and that’s why I’m knocking on her door at well past curfew on a school night.

She opens the door wearing bright yellow monkey pajama pants and a matching bright yellow monkey tank top. The clothes don’t surprise me, since I’ve seen her in them before. It’s the glasses and book in her hand that make narrow my eyes a bit at her. Pride and Prejudice? Who knew Maria was a Jane Austen fan.

“Liz?” she looks at me funny, probably taking in my duffel bag stuffed with whatever clothes I shoved in it and my backpacked filled with some very important papers. “What’s up?”

She opens the door wider and I step inside. “Maria, I need to talk.”



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



“Wow,” is all she says while she shovels the last bit of Tabasco rocky road in her mouth, mine all but melted and untouched while I caught her up to speed. “Wow. That’s … that’s a lot of stuff going on there. I had no idea.”

So my reason of being here, of needing to talk to her, “Who do I believe?”

She doesn’t even hesitate, “No one. Believe yourself.”

But, “That’s the problem. I don’t really know what to believe.” It’s hard to trust yourself when you’re still trying to figure out who you are, what you are, how you fit into this crazy thing called life.

“I mean, in your shoes, I wouldn’t know who to trust either.” She laughs and I don’t see her humor. “I wouldn’t even trust me if I was you, to be honest.”

That’s great. Granted, Maria was also part of the whole ‘Liz you need to go to college and forget all about this alien nonsense’ gang-up. But, I don’t know, for some reason, I thought out of all of them, she’d give it to me straight.

She sighs dramatically before pushing her empty bowl away. “Go with your gut, Liz. I could tell you that Max is good and Khivar’s the evil one, but what good would it do when you don’t really know firsthand the workings of everything.”

And I have to acknowledge her logic. She’s right. She wasn’t very much help, but she’s right. I don’t understand anything. All I have to go on is some alien text and what other people have been cramming down my throat.

“So Alex went all hardcore tough guy on you?” she has this somewhat disbelieving look on her face.

I just, “I don’t know. He made it like I was the enemy or something.” It was just a feeling that I’ve never gotten from Alex before. Geeky, sensitive, smiley Alex. That’s how I’ve ever only known Alex to be. So I can’t help the frown that crosses my face.

She pats my head and gives me this sympathetic smile. “He’s always been so protective where you’re concerned. He’s mothered over you like I’ve never known him to before. The only other person I’ve ever seen him be so loyal to, is Max. And you’re now questioning him and his intentions. So are you really so surprised with his about-face?”

Am I surprised? Hell “yes, I am.”

Another knowing look from her before she clears the table and tells me, “Crash here tonight.”

“Your mom-”

“She won’t mind,” Maria shrugs away, grabbing my duffel bag off the kitchen floor.

I pick up my backpack and follow her. “Thanks.”



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Day two to the graduation countdown, or so Maria tells me on the way to school in the morning. She drove. Mrs. Deluca didn’t question my being there in the morning. She just smiled and handed Maria and I each a pop-tart on our way out the door.

To say that History class was a little awkward is an understatement. Maria and I make it to class first. And when Alex comes walking through the door, he doesn’t even look at me, he doesn’t even sit with us, he walks straight to the back of the room to sit at Max’s table.

And if the tension isn’t thick enough, in walks Max just as the bell rings. Silence comes over the room as everyone watches his every step until he takes his seat across from Alex. I don’t think anyone expected him to show, least of all me. After making such a dramatic, heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye to him, it’s hard to take the sight of him walking so easily back into my line of vision.

“Liz, breathe,” Maria says with wide eyes and I let air enter my lungs again.

Shrink back into my chair and try to avert my gaze. I thought we weren’t supposed to be around each other anymore. I thought that was the deal. For the sake of his people. Right?

Maria’s hand covers mine and I look up into her concerned face. “As long as you keep your distance, you’ll be fine.”

Right. Sure. Easier said than done.

Watch while Max and Alex whisper to each other. Max’s eyes lift and lock with mine. My hand shoots up.

“Yes, Liz?” comes Mrs. Stephens’ voice behind me.

“Bathroom pass?” the squeak in my voice comes out of its own accord. She nods and I mad dash out of the room.



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



I don’t show back up that period. Or any other, for that matter. I retreat to the library and stay seated at a table in the back corner for the rest of the day, piles and piles of papers before me with a thick-ass Antarian to English dictionary as my only friend. Not that they just have Antarian to English dictionaries lying about like it’s no one’s business, I had to request it from the front desk and face the curious looks of the librarian and her questioning before I finally got a hold of it.

So, pen in hand, I set out to interpret the pages the best I can. I only finished a page by the time the bell rings for school to let out and the librarian comes up to me personally to tell me I had to leave and can’t check out the dictionary, seeing as how there’s only one day of school left. But no worries because I should try the public library.

Funny thing, in all the time I’ve been here in this town, I had no idea there even was a public library. I was forced to interrupt Maria’s sing-a-long of a Shania Twain song playing on the radio on the drive home to ask her, “Where’s the library?”

She rolls her eyes at me. “Liz, we have one more day of school left until we’re done and you want to do more schoolwork?” And she shakes her head and stops short of calling me crazy.

But it’s not like I’m doing homework or anything. “I just need an Antarian to English dictionary.” And that’s not something I can just order off of eBay, you know.

“I have one.” She keeps bouncing to the beat of the song playing on her car radio. Maria likes to jive while she drives. I’m not sure how safe of a driver Maria is. “Are you trying to learn Antarian?”

“No.” Not exactly. “I’m trying to translate some things.” Well, actually, a mountain of paperwork equates to “a lot of things.”

“Why don’t you try a translator program?” she says like it’s the most obvious answer. “It’ll be easier and quicker. And I know for a fact that Alex has one.”

Four words register loudest: translator program, easier, quicker. That’s all I needed to hear. “Where can I find one?”

“Probably in his room.” She pulls into the parking lot of the Crashdown.

It’s my day off, but Maria’s on shift. And so is Alex. “Is Alex working until closing?”

“Yeah,” she nods.

Perfect.

Maria walks through the front door and I make my way to the back alley, up the ladder and in through the window of my room. Down the hall and into Alex’s room, into his closet and through a secret door. Up a secret flight of stairs and into the super-genius’s mega lab. Ignore the tables of charts and high-tech gadgets galore and focus on his computer. Sit down in his cushy chair and stare at the password protected screen.

So many words run through my head: Isabel, pancake, password, monkey. But nothing seemed plausible enough.

“What are you looking for?”

Shit. Spin and jump. “Alex!”

His arms are crossed, his face isn’t smiling, and he’s closing in on me. “What are you trying to find, Liz?”

Swallow, deep breath, and hang my head. “I just wanted to translate these into English, so I can understand them.”

He stops right in front of me, a scowl on his face. “Why didn’t you just ask?”

Because, “I know you’re upset with me,” and I … I just … “and I’m really not sure what to think right now.”

He tilts my head up to look at him and the menace is gone from his face. All that’s left is disappointment. It magnifies my guilt tenfold. “Can’t you believe that I would never try to harm you? That I genuinely care for you and your well-being?”

“I know you do, Alex.” And it’s even hard for me to understand why I’m doubting him like I am. But “I just … there’s so much I don’t understand.”

He nods his head but his frown stays firmly in place. “Come downstairs and help us through the dinner rush and I’ll run your translations for you.”

I stare at Alex for a moment, just breathing him in before I answer, “Okay.”



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



Saturn rings. Moon fries. Alien blasts. Will Smith burgers. All of this carb-filled, greasy, fattening choices, and she chooses “a bottled water,” giving me more of her sneering looks with her curly red hair and upturned lip. Forget that she’s been sitting and grimacing over the menu options for nearly an hour before she finally ordered her bottled water.

Walk up to Maria at the counter and she gives me this knowing look. “What’d Serena order?”

“One guess, two words,” I say while rolling my eyes.

She hands it to me and tells me, “You should spit in it.”

And I can only smile at her. That’s probably why she wants it bottled. Not that I would do anything like that. But Maria surely would.

My break doesn’t come soon enough. Five minutes of peaceful solitude in the break room until Maria joins me, sitting right next to me on the couch. “She’s been sitting there for hours.”

I don’t even pretend to not know who she’s talking about. Serena. “I know. I’ve noticed too.” And Maria’s not exaggerating either. She really has been sitting there, in the same booth, in my section, wanting nothing but bottled waters, for hours. “What do you think she’s doing here?”

Maria snorts. It’s kind of funny. “Keeping tabs on you.”

What? Tabs? “So I’m being spied on?”

“That’s what it looks like,” she says before she groans and kicks off her shoes. “Bet I know who’s ordered her to keep an eye on you.”

Narrow my eyes at her. I bet I know too. Open my mouth to speak, but the door to the grill area squeals as it’s pushed open with a stressed out Alex peaking out. “Ladies, food’s not going to serve itself here.”

Maria leans forward, slipping back on one shoe. “You’re a regular slave-driver, Alex.”

He cocks his head at her. “I try.”

Shake my head at them and stand up, preparing myself to once again face the hungry masses.

“Liz,” Alex mumbles, “the curly red head in booth two wants another bottled water.” The grimace in his voice puts a smile on my face because I know exactly how he feels.

Grab another bottle from behind the counter and head over towards her, plastering on the fake smile. “Here you go.”

Serena reaches up to take it from me and my face falls and I can only stare and gasp because, as her fingers slid over mine, something inside me started tingling, something in my head. And it wasn’t feeling good.

But just as quick as it started, it stops as I’m shoved aside with a “Liz!” Pam’s voice pierces in at too high a pitch. “Hey, I was wondering if I could get the notes from English from you.”

And I’m manhandled and prodded until I’m pushed through the employees-only door, my eyes staring after Serena until the she’s completely out of sight, Pam being the only person in my line of vision. “Notes? We only have one day of class left. What notes?”

She glares at me with her arms crossed over her chest, in lecture-mode. “I told you to not let her touch you. Be careful around Serena.”

“Why?” seems to be the obvious question in my head, followed by, “What’s going on?”

She rolls her eyes at me, apparently annoyed that she has to spell it out for me. It’s a somewhat degrading feeling that I have to swallow having Pam have the upper hand on me with all this alien knowledge. “Serena has the ability to see inside your head.”

“Like connecting? Like with Max?” … and I have to stop myself. Not that he’s ever really far from my mind, but I just can’t-

Her mouth is hanging open while she narrows her eyes down at me. “You’ve … connected … with Max?”

Sorry, you have to experience it in order to understand the magnitude of what Max and I shared. It’s not something you can describe or put easily into words. But Pam apparently knows what I’m talking about. It was like openness and love in its purest form. It’s humbling. It’s something that I’ll never be able to forget, no matter how hard I try. It’s what made saying goodbye even so much harder. Deep breath. “So … Serena can do the same?”

Is it me, or do I see tears in Pam’s eyes? “It’s what we like to call mind-raping. She forces herself into you with no remorse.” There’s a chill in her voice that accompanies her words and she hugs her arms around herself. “If she mind-rapes you, Liz, she’ll know everything, and it won’t be your head on the line, it’ll be mine.”

The magnitude of it hits me. Wow. “So you risked a lot by telling me what’s going on.” Pam, the martyr?

She just nods her head and smiles a tight lipped smile, shrugging out, “I owed it to you. And to Max.”

And what can I say, but, “Thank you.” And I mean it. It’s crazy, because months ago, the idea of saying those words to Pam without any hint of sarcasm was unthinkable. I am very grateful for her clueing me in, but “Sorry, a huge part of me still hates you.” But I say it with a genuine smile.

She smiles back. “Ditto.”



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



We closed a little later than normal tonight, waiting until the last customer left until we began the cleaning up process. It wasn’t until the floor was mopped, the dishes cleaned, and each last chair was put up until Alex finally looked at me and asked, “You ready?”

Nod my head and follow him silently up the stairs, through his room, and into his secret lair, where I sit at a small table, quietly watching him as he works tirelessly at his mega-computer, scanning in page by page, sheets pouring out of the printer non-stop.

Not thirty minutes later, he looks over at me with my head in my hands, my eyes half closed and says, “Why don’t you go to bed, I should have these done by morning.

Shake my head. He isn’t doing this for him. I mean, he wouldn’t need the papers translated, he already knows the language. He’s doing this for me, because I asked. So “if you can stay up, I can stay up.”

“Okay.” A small smile graces his face and he points to an area in the back of the room. “Why don’t you put some coffee on?”

I yawn and nod at the same time, standing up slowly and doing as told.

By the time I’d nursed over three cups and I’d refilled his mug twice, Alex finally stands up from his computer chair, stretching out the stiffness. I sit up straight, waiting anxiously. He walks over, takes the seat across from me and we just sit and stare at each other, the noise of the printer filling the silence.

Two deep breaths until I finally give in. “Thank you, Alex. For this and for everything. I’m sorry I doubted you.” I hurt him. I know I did.

But he just shrugs it off. “You had every right to.” Did I? Alex has taken care of me from the get-go. Even before I realized that that was what he was doing. And I threw it back in his face by questioning him. All that I know tells me that Alex is a good guy. But accepting that would mean also accepting that my mom was the bad guy. And I’m just not ready to draw that conclusion yet. “I know neither Max nor I have exactly made your life easier.”

Deep breath. “Alex, do you know about Max?”

“His inability to let you go?” Alex scoffs. “Yeah, I know. Max has his own demons to wrestle with.”

Lannie says he’s dying. Max says it’s nothing. But I saw him keel over in pain. I just don’t know, “What can I do?”

“To stop his migraines?”

Shake my head because “they weren’t just migraines.”

“It’s what he likes to call them,” Alex says, rolling his eyes. Then his tone changes, “And it’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone about Max’s condition or that you connected with him or anything like that. Got it, Liz?”

Nod obediently. It’s not like I have anyone to tell. I’m not going to argue with Alex’s order because it’s my fault anyway. I feel the guilt. Max is hurting because of me. But “what if he connected with someone else?”

Alex sighs, shaking his head slowly. “He isn’t interested in doing that.” Small pause before he adds, “At this point, I’d advise you to sever your connection with him.”

That’s the thing though, because “I already have. I’ve already said my goodbyes to him. How do I break my connection with him any more than that? I don’t feel him lingering in me or pain or anything like that.”

“Then don’t worry about it. There’s nothing you can do, it’s up to him to let go.” Alex pats my hand. He’s trying to comfort me. I’m not going to deny that I’m worried. It’s hard not to. Love isn’t like a light switch. You can’t just turn it off and on at will.

Shake off my thoughts. The printer stops making its noises and I’m brought back to why I’m here. And it makes me think, “What were you saying about taking back the throne?”

“The less you know, the better,” Alex murmurs and downs the rest of his coffee.

“Ignorance is bliss?” That was my mantra, wasn’t it? “Where do I factor in then?” That’s the million dollar question. How do I fit in the mix of everything now?

“How are your powers coming along?” he asks.

Quirk my lips. “They’re not.”

Alex leans forward and waves his hand over my cup, reheating the liquid inside. I remember him offering to teach me how to do that. It’s a neat trick. A small part of me wishes I could do it. But a huge part of me is still too scared to even try.

“You still plan on going to Antar?”

“I don’t know.” Yes? No? Maybe? All I know is, Khivar knows about my mom. Khivar has secrets that I need to find out about. You know the common knowledge that’s drilled in your head nowadays that once you finish high school, it’s only natural to go to college? It’s only natural for me to seek him out, to find my answers.

Alex sighs again, his finger tracing the rim of his empty mug. “You’re the bargaining chip right now, Liz. You go with him and he’ll leave earth alone and you get to be his trophy wife. He’ll probably try to get you to develop and demonstrate your power in order to further convince the public that the power and lineage can be continued through you.”

Groan. This is dumb. Try all I might, but I still can’t seem to convince them that “I’m not the girl.”

He smiles this secret smile. “You are.”

“I’m not.” My words come out a little more forceful than I wanted. But I need to get that fact clear to him. I tried to play that part, but I just don’t fit those shoes. It’s not who I am, so she was thrown in a bag, along with little Lizzie, Elizabeth Harding, and all the other personas other people tried to make me be. “I can’t explain what happened out there in the desert that night. But I do know for a fact that I don’t feel what Max feels.”

“How do you know?” Alex’s interest is peaked.

And acknowledging this to myself is something I hadn’t wanted to do. But, “I’ve seen inside Max. I’ve felt what he feels for me.” Seen myself through his eyes … “I love him, but not the way he loves me, not with the magnitude of unquestioning, unconditional devotion that he feels. Oh, I’ve tried to delude myself into fitting the mold that I do, but I was just lying to myself. I love him.” I’d do almost anything for him. “But it’s nothing compared to what Max feels.” His love is … pure. Mine isn’t. Neither is my heart.

Alex at least nods, acknowledging what I’m saying. “That’s the discrepancy, isn’t it? When Max saw you, something just clicked inside him. But it wasn’t the same for you. Your feelings didn’t hit so hard so fast.” That’s a nice way for Alex to describe it. And then he shrugs, “But they’re still there. You love him. You’ll never feel for anyone the way you feel for Max.” Bite my tongue at this because even I, who’s made a game of this thing called denial, can’t deny the truth in his words. I’ll never feel for anyone the way I feel for Max.

Alex stands and walks over to the printer and back again while continuing his speech. “The only way I can explain it is that your human side gives you a bit of free will. Your human paranoia and your personal experiences make you question him and his intentions. It’s why you don’t give in to the belief or the knowledge the way that Max does. But you are the girl.”

Shake my head at him, but he interrupts, putting the stack of papers on the table in front of me with a small smile. “Here, that’s the last of it. Go to your room and pour through them, I think you’ll find a lot of what you’re looking for in these pages.”

Answer his smile with one of my own. “Thank you, Alex.” And I stand to leave, I’ve got an even longer night ahead of me.



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



“You knew my mom and you never said anything. You helped her hide. Why?” All the words just shoot out of me like a bottle rocket. No lack of sleep, or having to walk the blocks it takes to get to him, or the fact that it was dawn and he was standing on the curb to take out the trash in his pajamas, nothing hinders me from my need to confront and face him when his name popped out from among the pages of translations: Larek.

“Miss Liz,” he speaks calmly when calm is far from what I’m feeling right now. “Let’s go for a walk.”

He takes off strolling leisurely in his pajamas like he hasn’t a care in the world, like he wasn’t keeping this huge secret from me, with me following blindly behind him. After a long while, down streets and around corners, he’s finally content to sit down on a bench in a secluded place. He waits for me to sit too before he starts, with me still glaring at him and his cool voice and composed posture. “Your mother and my wife were good friends. I knew if my wife were alive, she would have helped Annabelle. So I did what I could. By the time I played a part, young Maxwell was already preteen. Hope for your mother’s return and the birth of the future queen had died. There was no point in dragging her back into a life she did not want.”

I sit and I stare and I breathe while I just try to hold back my thoughts and take his words in. He turns to me and I hate the gentle request for understanding in his eyes. “Just because she left this side of her life behind did not mean that she abandoned her responsibilities. She didn’t provide the child she was destined to, but she did what she could. She risked her life to bring down Khivar. I had hoped that she would succeed. But sadly, she did not.”

Wait … “She tried to bring down Khivar?”

Larek nods his confirmation. “She was a brave woman.”

That’s fine and dandy, but “what about me?” Because Annabelle Harding was too busy infiltrating Khivar’s camp or being an undercover spy or whatever the hell, it didn’t leave Anna Philips much time to remember to be my mom. So “because of all this stupid alien bullshit, it left me without a mother.” It made me hate her. It made me think she didn’t care.

I think he can tell too many turbulent emotions are running through me, so he takes his time to say, “Sometimes, one has to make sacrifices for the greater good.” His words stab me.

Ugh! He explains it away with a shrug like everyone else. Max can’t be with me because he’s trying to save lives. Mom couldn’t be with me because she was trying to save lives.

And that’s fine and dandy. What’s one person compared to many? But this is my life that they’re throwing aside. My life that they played with. Mine that they disregard. I’m a casualty of war. I’m the sacrificed lamb that had to be slaughtered.

And I know this thinking makes me a selfish thoughtless brat. But all of this has cost me my mother, cost me my safety, my sanity, my life. And as the teenaged drama queen of my own damn soap-opera, I can have my moment of self-centeredness. Stand and groan and scream. “This is such unfair bullshit!”

He’s unnerved by my rage and it just pisses me off more. “All is fair in love and war. What’s done is done. Make the most of your life now, Miss Liz. Live to your full potential. I’m sure it’s what your mother would have wanted.”

“No.” Wipe at my cheeks and all I can do is shake my head at him and his stupid suggestion before I turn my back and walk away. No, because if she wanted me to forget about all this and go to college like everyone’s pressuring me to do, she wouldn’t have left me that key and all those papers filled with all this neat information. She wouldn’t have told me stories of Prince Charmings, princesses, and kingdoms.

I’m a smart cookie. Mom never denied that. She plotted this whole thing out. She wants me to know, to find my place in the mix of all this alien-craze. She wants me to finish off what she couldn’t. She wants me to take down Khivar.



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:44 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Evelynn
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Post by Evelynn » Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:10 am

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Chapter Forty Four:
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By all accounts, today is supposed to be one of the hugest milestones to date in my life. So is it funny that it doesn’t even register with me until I hear Alex say as we walk through the parking lot to the building, “You know what? I’m going to miss this school.”

Glance over and I just stare at him, “What?”

“Liz, it’s the last day of school,” he gives me a weird look while I blink a few times. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.”

I don’t answer him. I just keep walking. And Alex happily drops the subject. I think he knows I’ve had too much on my mind lately. Way too much on my mind lately, so it kind of startles me when someone walks straight up to me out of nowhere …

“Liz, will you sign my yearbook?” says some nonspecific person also walking through the parking lot.

Yearbook? Are they kidding me? Yearbooks are the last damn thing I want to have to deal with right now and yet I’m supposed to pander to some kid’s need for sentimental objects? Sigh. “Sure.”

Some generic saying.
-Liz


It’s what I put in every damn book that was shoved under my nose all day. You’d think I was the most popular person in school with how much writer’s cramp I was getting from signing these damn things.

Maria rolls her eyes at me in history after I signed the yearbook of the last person in a long line of people, every single person, excluding Maria, Alex, and an ex who shall remain nameless, everyone in my history class, and three people that weren’t, but snuck in. “You’d think you were the most popular person in school or something.”

“My thoughts exactly, Maria.” Deep breath.

“Guess what!” Maria, with a wicked glint in her eye handily shoves a piece of paper before me. “I got accepted into UNM!” She’s all giddy and happy.

“Congratulations,” I’m happy for her. I am. Albeit, a little envious as well. I hate that I feel somewhat upset as I hand her back the paper. After all, Maria’s only doing what she’s supposed to be doing, what I’m supposed to be doing, hungrily anticipating adulthood and all the freedoms it entails, not worrying over alien kings and deceased mothers and all that jazz.

“I really do wish you’d go with me, Liz. They sent me this package where I get to pick which dorm I want to stay in and who I want to room with and all this other stuff …” she spews off and I kind of zone out because sadly enough, a part of me wishes I was going with her too. And it’s tough because I can. It would be so easy for me to forget everything, pack off away from it all, and be normal again. But I can’t, because I’m trying to get out of the denial pool, not jump right back in.



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



I need to find Pam.
I need to find Pam.
I need to find Pam.

I skipped out on second period. I think calculus will forgive me. I head up to the library, and it’s funny that right when I’m thinking about her, she comes straight into my line of vision, donning her skimpy ra-ra uniform once more with her blonde lackey sitting beside her.

I eye her crony first, “Courtney will you excuse us for a second?”

Courtney just rolls her eyes and ignores me, continuing with her conversation. But Pom-Pom Pam gives her a pointed look that sends Courtney begrudgingly away.

And once we’re alone, “Pam.” Drop my backpack on the ground and lean over the table on both arms, my eyes intense, my need for information great. “Why girls?”

She tilts her head to the side, sending her ponytailed-hair swishing. “What?”

Sit down in the seat and ready myself for some serious conversation. “You said that he collected girls for their powers. Why girls?”

Her lips quirks to one side and she doesn’t even pretend to not know who I’m talking about. “They aren’t all girls. But he always got them when they’re young. They’re easier to control that way, I guess.”

“What exactly can he do? He doesn’t have powers, right?” Because Kyle said that only Antarians have special abilities and Larek said that Khivar isn’t Antarian, he’s from the planet, Zen … Xen … something.

“No, he isn’t Antarian,” Pam shakes her pretty head, before her attitude starts to show, “Why are you asking this?

Groan. Part of me had hoped that she wouldn’t, but another part of me is a little relieved that she’s back to her obnoxious twit ways. But she’s got the upper hand because “I just need to know what I’m up against.”

She blinks and her perfect Pam persona falters while she whispers, “Whatever it is you’re thinking, stop. This is dangerous, Liz. He is dangerous. You don’t want to get even more involved in this.”

Well, I’m already neck deep here, Pam, so, “It’s a little too late for that.”

A sigh escapes her lips and she’s in serious mode now too. “No. He doesn’t have powers. But he’s deadly. He’s beyond military trained. He’s a mastermind. And he’s the most dangerous thing of all, he’s charming.”

Charming? It makes me laugh.

Pam just narrows her eyes at me. “I know he’s targeted in on you, but just try to avoid him as much as possible. Don’t get sucked in. Don’t fall for anything he says or does. I’ve seen too many girls live and breathe and die for him and he’s not worth it.”

It’s hard not to point out the obvious to her, but “You made that mistake.”

She sits back, breathing deep. “You don’t think I’ve regretted it every second of the day? That I don’t wake up in a sweat and screaming because of all the things he’s done to me? As long as he thinks he’s got you under his thumb, he’ll sweet talk you until he gets what he wants from you. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll just take it from you.”

The part of me that still despises her wants to prove to her that I can take care of myself, that I’m not an airhead tart like she is, throwing myself at anyone who remotely shows interest. But the rest of me remembers that she risked her life by clueing me in, that Perfect Pam is just a tough front she hides behind, that Pam isn’t actually that self-centered, she actually is human underneath. Well, alien, but you get what I mean.

“Liz,” her hand covers mine and aims her words at my soul, “He isn’t Max.”

Deep breath and I prep myself, staring at Pam dead-on. “Tell me everything you know.”



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



So, she ended up talking nonstop for two entire class periods. She told me things that she didn’t want to tell me, and things that I didn’t want to know. Like how hers and Max’s relationship was a strained one from the get-go. How she knew that he was never totally committed to the relationship. How it always felt like he was holding out the best of himself for someone else, someone better. And as soon as I walked into the picture, as soon as she saw the way that Max looked at me, she knew her time with him was up.

I didn’t question her while she talked. I didn’t interrupt. I just made a few mental notes here and there and listened to her words, really hearing them more intently than I’ve ever listened to anyone speak before.

She told me how she wasn’t sure if she was really in love with Max. She knew she’d love him for the rest of her life because he truly was an amazing being. But she didn’t know if she was in love with him, or if it was just so drilled in her that she was meant to be with him that she doesn’t know the difference. And in the back of her mind, she knew that he wasn’t really happy with her. He settled for her. Even when they made love, he was distant emotionally. It was sad, but she just accepted it. But he was always attentive, like he genuinely cared for her. And that’s why she’ll always love him.

And then I came along, and suddenly, he only had eyes for me. He’d still humor her with the occasion date, dinner, or flowers, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. They’d have talks, long talks about how confused his emotions were. How one little human could affect him so. And it was during these talks when she knew that he wasn’t in love with her, had never been in love with her. He had settled and was going to keep on settling. And Pam was ready to accept that, willing to be second best.

Until she saw Max and I together in the hallway, when Max kissed me against the lockers. He never kissed her like that. And when he ran after me in the mall, when he and Pam were on a date, abandoning her. When he told her straight to her face and in front of all these people that he chose me over her, put my feelings over hers, hurting her like he’d never done before. That’s when she became bitter, confused, resentful.

So when Khivar showed up, with his charming smile and obvious interest, she betrayed Max in a way that he never saw coming. It’s something that she will regret for the rest of her life, because it cost her Max and all she got out of it was a miscarriage, and a one way ticket to Antar, to hell.

And there is where she found out what Khivar was really like. She thought she was going to leave to live the highlife, along side a man who loved her and would give her all that she desired. But those were all just stupid empty promises that she was heartbrokenly willing to believe. But Khivar wasn’t anything like she thought he was. He wasn’t the charming, sensitive, loving man that swept her off her feet. And she was far from his only girl.

He collected them like they were dolls or something, each one to use as he pleased. And it was like they were all under some kind of spell of his. They worshipped him, took whatever little scraps of false affection he would throw their way, and did everything he wanted them to.

One girl, Lannie, was his favorite. And Pam soon learned that there was something different with Lannie, something not right with her. Lannie acted and talked like a child. Lannie was a child locked inside a nearly grown-up body. And maybe that’s why she was Khivar’s favorite, because he could trick her and treat her like some little kid and Lannie didn’t really have the mental capacity to know the difference. He could make Lannie become anything he wanted her to be. He could make her take the form of whomever it was he detested at the moment and torture her until she was knocked out bleeding. Or he could make her take form of whoever he lusted for and abuse her in other ways.

And as soon as Pam became another object in his collection, she was treated like dirt by all the other girls. But still, she wasn’t treated as badly as Lannie. Lannie, whom Khivar favored and was called upon more than any other girl, was constantly ridiculed and punished by everyone … except by Pam. Pam took care of Lannie. Pam watched out for Lannie. Pam spent countless nights enticing Khivar away from Lannie, to save her from having to suffer what no one should have to endure, let alone a child. Because Lannie was mentally and emotionally no more than a kid. And this is why Pam had to get her away from Khivar.

So when Khivar found out about me, took interest in me, she ran with the idea. Because she wasn’t thinking about me, or Max, or anyone else for that matter, she was thinking about Lannie. Because unlike Max or I, Lannie can’t defend herself, or so was Pam’s logic. He took a handful of the girls back with him to Earth, only his most prized though. The only way Pam was allowed to go as well was because Lannie wouldn’t stop crying without her. The deal was made. Lannie was given to Max and Pam was allowed to leave with her because Khivar didn’t give a damn since she served no real purpose to him other than the occasional amusement. And Khivar started busying inserting himself into my life, starting that day in Santa Fe. His plan was to take advantage of my heart-aching, self-loathsome confusion and woo me back with him to Antar and add me to his collection. The fact that I was Annabelle Harding’s daughter was too enticing of a political advantage to pass up.

Which brought us to the present, because she had heard that I had powers and knew what people were saying. But she wasn’t worried because the deal made wouldn’t force me to Khivar and never would she have imagined that I would be stupid enough to fall for his ploy, even though Pam apparently fell for it before. But she was convinced that I was smarter than her. She was wrong.

She had nothing left to say after that. I asked her if Khivar was the one who killed my mom, who set my dad up. She had no reply, knew nothing about Annabelle Harding and her relationship with Khivar. I asked Pam if she thinks that Khivar’s girls would kill for him. Her answer: “They’d do that and more.”



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My lunch was being spent in quiet reflection, alone at a picnic table while thoughts and words and scenarios played in my head, until I had an unexpected visitor.

“Have you missed me?” his voice comes out charmingly sickly sweet.

It makes me cringe. But I say nothing. I just smile at him. And I think he’s satisfied with that answer.

Khivar takes the seat across from me, grabbing hold of my hand and I have to resist the urge to jerk away from him. His eyes roam the quad before his grin drops and his eyes narrow, staring towards the ‘tree of knowledge’. “The little boy king is here, then.”

“Yes.” I make a show of reaching for my backpack, giving me an excuse to pull my hand away.

“Have you been spending much time with him?” he asks lightly with a smile, but I can see his eyes working.

“No.” And it’s the truth. “We keep our distance. We’ve said our goodbyes.” Painfully said our goodbyes.

He smiles again. It’s disturbing, knowing what I know now. “Shall we leave, love?”

Love. At first, I had thought it was so endearing. But now I know the fakeness of it. Did he used to call Pam that? Did he used to call my mom that? Force a smile at him. “I have to finish school.”

He pouts with all his charm. “You have half a day remaining.”

Smile through my uneasiness and I repeat, “I have to finish school.”

“Very well,” he pouts again, sighing for added effect. If I didn’t know, if I was as dumb as he thought, I just know that a part of me would have fell for all of this. The attention, the interest, the conniving charm. “How are your powers developing?”

“They aren’t. I don’t have any powers.” Shake my head and I try to smile adoringly at him again. My spider-senses are tingling, but I can’t let him see that.

“You and I both know that isn’t true,” his words are a whisper while he brings my hand up to his lips.

While I’m trying not to flinch, my voice comes out a little harsher than intended, “How are your powers?”

He drops my hand and I pull away quickly while he leans back with a smirk. “You don’t know how many times I had wished there was Antarian in my lineage. But I’ve come to realize that you don’t need to have powers in order to have power.”

Alex said that Khivar is using me for what powers I may or may not have. But more so because of Max, because he wants whatever Max has. He took Max’s birthright because it was Max’s. He took Pam because she was Max’s. He wants me because I was Max’s. It seems ridiculous for a grown man to be jealous of a teenaged boy, but that’s what it breaks down to. Because “Power rules the world.”

“It rules many worlds, love,” he speaks smoothly. His arrogance is obvious.

Smile again because he thinks I find him attractive. He thinks he’s fooling me. He thinks I’m just a vapid boy-crazed girl. And so that’s why I have to try to play the part. “I like power. You’re powerful, Khivar. I can see it in you.”

“I can give you great power. More power than that boy-king could ever dream of giving you.” Empty promises were what Pam called them. “If you’re on my side, that is.”

Smile sweetly back, playing along. “Who says I’m not already?”

“Good,” he’s smirking triumphantly. “That’s what I like to hear. You’ve got until seven o’clock this evening, love. And if you aren’t ready by then, well, I guess I’ll have to take you to Antar with me by force,” he says it like a joke.

But I know different. It’s a threat. “O-okay.”



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I have to find Lannie.
I have to find Lannie.
I have to find Lannie.

Rush into the house without even knocking or ringing the doorbell and head straight for her bedroom. I’m too anxious to even note that she’s in her normal Lannie-form, tall blonde, instead of Eli-form. Her eyes light up as I come barreling in, her energetic enthusiasm ever-present. “Liz! Hi! Have you come to play with me?”

Straight to the point. “I need to ask you some questions, Lannie.”

“Okay.” She nods her head and sits down on her bed, stroking her doll’s hair. “Did you bring me more candy?”

Shake my head. “No, Lannie. I’m sorry I don’t have any more candy. I need to know-“

“But I want candy!” she interrupts.

Stop my pacing and stare at this whiny girl before me. “Just answer me these questions and I’ll give you all the candy you want in the world.” I’m lying, I know. But there are some things I have to find out.

“Yay! Okay.” She drops her doll in all her excitement.

I sit with her on the bed, trying to get my thoughts straight. “Khivar used to make you change into other people, right?”

Her face drops and her arms cross over her chest, pouting. “I don’t want to talk about him.”

Roll my eyes and curb my frustration. “Lannie, I need you-”

She jumps from the bed, screaming down at me. “He’s not my daddy anymore! I don’t want to talk about him!”

Deep breath while I try to gain control of the situation. “Lannie, please.”

“I don’t want to talk about him!”

“Vilandra?” The bedroom door opens and Larek’s head pops in. He eyes me and then turns to her again. “Is everything alright?”

“New Daddy!” She runs over to him, sulking and pouting and pointing accusingly at me. “Liz is dumb. I don’t want to play with her anymore.”

“Miss Liz?” he says questioningly to me.

Walk over to him, closing my eyes and calming myself before I make my case of why his long lost daughter isn’t very happy with me right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that they’re reunited and Lannie gets to be with her real loving father again, but I’ve just got stuff to figure out and a short amount of time to do it in. “Please, Larek. I just need some answers from her to some very important questions. Please?”

“Very well, Miss Liz.” And he smiles easily, his arm going around me as he eases some of my tension, kissing the top of my head.

A bit of relief flows through me until I feel hands shoving me hard, knocking me into the wall. Freaking brat! “No. He’s my new daddy, not yours!”

“Now, poppet,” Larek’s tone is warning as his hands go to his hips. I rub the sore spot on my shoulder. Something tells me living with Larek and Max hasn’t exactly sweetened her disposition. What the hell is her problem? “That wasn’t nice.”

“But you’re my new daddy!” she whines. And I remember back to how Pam explained all the jealous hatred going on between the girls as they vied for Khivar’s attentions and all the other stuff Lannie was put through. It makes my want to shove her back almost dissipate. Almost.

“That’s right,” he pats her head, soothing her like a spoiled child. “I am your daddy, but that doesn’t mean you have to behave badly to Miss Liz.”

“But …” Lannie must really want some cheese with that whine.

Larek sternly babies her. “Remember what we talked about? What you wanted for your birthday?”

“A puppy!”

“If you’re a good girl, if you behave and answer questions for Miss Liz, I’ll think about getting one for you,” Larek winks at me while I watch him resort to bribery.

“Okay!” She faces me with newfound enthusiasm and a look that promises that she’ll play nice this time. “Liz, Liz, I’ll answer your questions. New Daddy’s gonna get me a puppy!”

Sigh with relief and I can’t help my eyes from rolling. “Thank you, Larek.”

“My pleasure, Miss Liz,” he says before whispering quietly to me, “Ask them quickly and keep them brief, her attention span gets shorter and shorter by the day.”


Larek leaves and she sits down on the bed again like a good girl, playing with her dolly’s hair once more. I pull a picture of my mom from my wallet, showing it to her. “Do you ever remember anyone having hurt this woman? Her name is Anna-“

“No, her name is Eliza,” she looks and talks to me like I’m dumb. “That’s who Bad Daddy made me look like so I can come live with Max. Max is really nice to me and he bought me a new dolly to go with my Stacy doll so they can be friends. And he promised to buy me-“

“Lannie!” I have to interrupt her and I have to keep her on track because I’m kind of on a time crunch here. “Do you remember anyone saying anything about a lady named Annabelle Harding or Anna Philips?”

“Hmm…” Lannie squints an eye while she thinks. “No. I don’t remember lots.”

“O-kay …” Moving on … pull another picture from my wallet, of my dad this time, and hand it to her. “Have you ever had to change to look like this man in the picture?”

She barely glances at the picture before she answers. “Mmm … I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember?” Hold the picture in front of her face again. “Think hard, Lannie.”

“I don’t think so,” she focuses back in on her dolly’s blonde hair again and I want to throw the toy out the window. “But sometimes, I sleep.”

“What do you mean, ‘you sleep’?”

“Well,” she shrugs her shoulders. “Sometimes, Bad Daddy would tell me to do things that I didn’t want to do and I’d cry so he’d let sister Serena go into my head and make me sleep. And while I’m sleeping she can make me move and do stuff. But I don’t remember them so good.”

Sister Serena? “Serena would take over your body?” Serena can do that? That wasn’t listed on that page of her special powers. What else can she do?

“Uh-huh. Is that all, Liz?” She puts her doll down and looks at me like I’m boring the hell out of her. “Because I’m hungry and I want to go help New Daddy make dinner.”

“Okay. That’s all.” Admit defeat because it’s kind of obvious that she’s not giving me any more than this. Deep breath while I try to sort and connect everything in my head. “Thank you, Lannie.”



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



I gotta talk to Alex.
I gotta talk to Alex.
I gotta talk to Alex.


I come running up to the Crashdown after having pretty much mad-dashed all the way from Max’s house to here. After all, time’s a-tickin. I lean my weight into the door as I push it open, while I try to breathe away the dizziness that suddenly hits me. The door chimes goes off and I have to stop. It usually stops after two dings but it just keeps ringing and ringing. I cover my ears and look back and the door and it finally stops.

Why am I here? Right. “Gotta find Alex.”

“He’s in the back,” I hear someone’s voice. I mentally nod my thanks but physically, I’m already rushing through to the employee-only door.

Scan the empty break-room until I see him magically pop up, standing oddly straight in the center of the room, just staring right back at me. Relief fills me. “Alex. Mind rapes. I need you to tell me what they are, how they work, and whether or not I can do them.”

He puts his hand up, still just staring at me with a somewhat blank expression. “Slow down, Liz.”

“I can’t slow down. I only have an hour left.” The big hand hitting the twelve and the little hand hitting seven is kind of an ominous deadline for me right now.

He looks annoyed. “Why do you want to know about mind rapes?”

“Alex, just tell me.” What part of ‘I can’t slow down’ doesn’t he understand? Tick, tick, tick.

He rolls his eyes and it just makes me wonder what the hell crawled up his butt and died. “It’s someone invading into your head, digging into your thoughts, your memories, your feelings, everything about you. And it’s not gentle. Mind rapes tear into your head, ripping through your brain without remorse.”

“That’s what they are? But Max did that to me.” When he was giving me that weird vibe on a walk one night, telling me he was different, confessing his not-of-this-earth status to me, healing my scars without the pretense of magic potions. Before I blocked it all out and forgot it even happened. Denial-city.

“He did?” Alex looks more amused than upset like I thought it would be. Maybe he’s over the whole ‘over-protective brother’ phase.

“Yeah …” Nod my head slowly. “I think. In the park one time?”

“Huh …” And he’s actually smiling. “Well, I didn’t think the boy-king had it in him.”

Wait … “What?”

“Why do you want to know about them anyway?” Alex moves on, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Okay.” Here’s my logic: “My dad couldn’t have killed my mom because he was with Serena at the time that it happened. He told me so right before he left. It could have been a mindwarp so it could have been Ava using her mojo, but when I remember seeing my dad that night, it didn’t have the same feel as a mindwarp.”

“How do you know what a mindwarp feels like? You stupid humans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.” Alex sneers at me.

“I just don’t think it was a mindwarp.” Hold my tongue and ignore his insults while I try to get all of my thoughts out and my words concrete. “So it had to have been someone posing as my dad, someone who can shapeshift like Lannie.”

He scoffs and Alex doesn’t seem to be in a very good mood right now. Maybe talking to him wasn’t such a good idea because his comments are filled with such disdain, “That brat’s the one person known to be able to-“

“Exactly.” Although I only agree with the brat part of his remark after having visited with her today. “But Lannie doesn’t remember doing it. Then again, Lannie doesn’t remember much of anything, or so she says. And she also says that Serena can take over and control her body.” Like Sean did to me, in the alleyway behind the Crashdown, before he went all Leave-It-To-Beaver.

“But you said Serena was with your dad at the time. So how can she be in two places at once?” he says it all to me like I’m stupid.

Deep breath and roll my eyes, trying once again to explain myself here. Sure, Alex can be cocky, but never this rub-your-nose-in-it arrogant. He may be a super mega-genius, but I’m smart too. “But, what if like she like, was with my dad and knocked him out unconscious or something and then went to my house, making Lannie look like him and going in to kill my mom. And I know there are aliens that can knock people unconscious with just a touch. Khivar’s got one of them in his collection that’s listed on that page of his roster of girls that was in that metal box my mom left me.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “What roster? What metal box?”

“Are you kidding me?” Is he serious? That metal box that we went to Santa Fe for. The one he was so gung-ho about cracking open. “That page you translated for me. On there it lists one girl that has the ability to knock people unconscious with just a touch.”

And Alex just smirks at me. “He’s got two with cataleptic touch now.”

Roll my eyes at Alex and his meticulousness. The list only had one, but “that’s beside the point.”

He rolls his eyes and turns his nose up at me. “You’re grasping at straws.”

“My dad didn’t kill my mom!”

He shifts from one foot to the other, quirking his lips. “Well, why would Khivar want to kill your mom then if she was working for him?”

“She was undercover. Larek said so.” She risked her life to try to defeat Khivar. But she failed.

“Larek?”

“Yes.” I talk slowly. I’m pretty sure I told Alex all this on the car ride to school this morning. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention. But this is kind of important stuff here. “Larek helped cover for my mom so she would stay hidden. I think Khivar might have helped her stay hidden too while she was working for him. Khivar must have found out that she was trying to take him down from the inside and so he had to kill her to stop her from exposing him.”

Alex stares at me for the longest time. I take a quick glance at the clock on the wall and it still reads six o’clock. Wait … this whole time I’ve been talking to Alex, not even a minute has passed by? Maybe the clock is broken. “Maybe you’re right, Elizabeth.” Elizabeth? Since when does he call me Elizabeth? “Bits and pieces anyway. But how can you prove it?”

“I don’t know.” That’s the thing. It’s all just a theory that seems to make all the sense in the world in my head. “But my dad says he was with Serena the night my mom was killed. Lannie says Serena’s the one who takes over her body and can make her do stuff against her will. Pam says of everyone, steer clear of Serena the most because she’s just evil. All the roads lead back to Serena. So she must know something.” Which is why I had to find Alex to get him to explain to me about the mind-raping stuff. “Which is why I need to see what exactly is in Serena’s head.”

Long pause while Alex just stares me down before he uncrosses his arms and claps his hands slowly. “Bravo. And here I thought all humans were dumb.”

“What? Alex?” What is going on?

Something like a quick prick triggers inside my head and the room suddenly fades in and out. Blink my eyes a few times until it focuses again and Alex isn’t where Alex was standing anymore.

Warning bells go off in my head and I spin around in time to see two people walking up to me, one tall with curly red hair, the other short with pink streaks, Serena and Ava. I tense, taking a step away from them. “What did you do with Alex?”

Ava laughs like an obnoxious hyena. “I told you you stupid humans couldn’t tell the difference between reality and a mindwarp.”

A mindwarp? It was a mindwarp? This whole conversation … and Alex … But I’m not just human. “I’m half-Antarian.”

“You’re nothing but a stupid human,” a third voice comes from behind me. I turn and watch the blonde stand up, still wearing her cheerleading uniform that I saw her in earlier today, a sneer firmly on her face. “I would never bow down to you.”

“Courtney?” What is she doing?

“Meet our newest member. Cataleptic touch, not a bad power to have,” Ava adds in, smirking wildly, her hideous laugh filling my ears.

Warning bells go off in my head. They get louder and louder as all three girls close in on me, claustrophobia making it hard for me to breath. Run! Run! Run!

“Go on,” Serena motions past me at Courtney. “Khivar is waiting for us.”

“Nighty-night, Liz.” Turn to Courtney and watch in frozen horror as she points her hand out to me like a gun, coming closer and closer to me.

Run! Run! Run!

I try to push her, punch her, keep her away.

Run! Run! Run!

But hands grab my arms from behind, holding me back while Courtney points her finger right between my eyes, “Pow-pow.”



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:11 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Evelynn
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Post by Evelynn » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:46 pm

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Chapter Forty Five:
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How freaking, utterly, entirely, wholly stupid could I be? I mean, come on! All the signs were there. The off vibe, the cockiness, the name calling. How did I not see right through it? Why wasn’t I paying attention? Why, oh why did I just let my mouth run like crazy? I never do that. And that’s one freaking messed up time to start. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

This and several other self-deprecating thoughts kept running through and through my head. To say I’m hating myself right now is an understatement. If I could, I’d be banging my head on the wall, or at least pulling my hair out, but I could do none of it, being bound to a chair in a dark room and all.

God, if I had left town with my dad, then I wouldn’t be in this situation right now. If I had left town with the Parkers, everything would be hunky-dory. If I had been normal, everyone’s lives might not be on the line right now.


|| What’s so great about normal? ||


What’s so great about it, Max? Normal doesn’t get stupid alien kings kidnapping you. Normal doesn’t get you tied up to a freaking chair. Normal doesn’t get everyone killed!

“So you’re up then.” A light turns on and I have to blink a few times to try to adjust to the brightness. I hear her shoes clink on the floor as she walks in with this freaking smirk on her face, like she’s better than me or something, like she’s got the upper hand. Oh, that’s right, because I’m the one who is bound to the chair, not her. I don’t think I hate Pam so much now. No, I think I hate Courtney even more. “I’m supposed to be giving you food so that, you know, you don’t die. But I think I’ll just sit here and eat it in front of you. Yeah, I think I like that idea a lot better.”

She makes it like it’s such a huge deal. Oo la la. Well, food isn’t exactly at the forefront of your mind when you’re tied helplessly to a chair. “Courtney, why are you doing this?”

She has the nerve to roll her eyes at me, snapping out her words, “You wouldn’t understand.”

Wouldn’t understand? Sure I made fun of her a few times what with the blonde jokes and the sheep jokes and the dumb jokes, but those were all mostly in my head. Does it really warrant this extreme form of vengeance? Because seriously, “What the hell did I ever do to you?”

I watch on as Courtney head explodes … not really, but she sure does get upset. “You fucked up my world, that’s what you did! Everything was perfect before you showed up.” She starts listing out on her fingers, “Pam was going to be the next queen and I was going to be right there along with her. My social status was on the major rise. Kyle, future Council member, was starting to notice me. Everything was perfect. And then you had to fucking screw it all up.”

I’m sorry but, “How the hell did I-“

“Your sorry-human-ass showed up and had Max all ga-ga. So when Sean wanted to have a little fun with you, Max intervened and sent him to Tess to get corrected. And so Tess and Kyle started spending a little more time together over it and he stopped paying any attention to me.”

It’s not my fault that I found the love of my life in Roswell, New Mexico, and he happened to return my affections tenfold. It’s not my fault that said love of my life saved me from a pervert. Molestation and having a little fun are two completely different things. And if I’m hearing her right, “This is over Kyle?!”

“No!” she grounds out, coming closer to me, face to face. “But you had Prince Max wrapped so tightly around your finger that Pam got ignored and lonely. So she turned to Khivar, who she never would have been anything more than his whore. Where does that leave me? If you weren’t around, then I would have still been an elite. With you here, I’m nothing.”

She huffs and she puffs and I just sit there and stare back at her. She’s a little kid. She had a temper-tantrum hissy-fit because things weren’t going the way she wanted them to and, “So now you tricked me and you’re working with them so that they can go ahead and kill everyone, including Pam? Didn’t you care for her at all?”

Courtney laughs. It’s evil. Why didn’t I see all this evilness in her before? Teaches me right for underestimating the dumb blonde sheep. “Pam deserves to die. She’s weak. If she hadn’t turned to Khivar, she’d be queen. Sure, Max had a little crush on you, but he would have married Pam in the end if she’d have just stood her ground.”

If she wants to think that, fine, whatever. I happen to know that what Max and I share is something that can’t be ignored. Believe me, I’ve tried. Even if he happens to believe in it a lot more willingly than I do. “But Khivar kicked Max out of power-“

She talks in this big huff, like I annoy her or something. “Max would have gotten it back. He isn’t the rightful king for nothing.”

If that’s the case, if Max is all-powerful, “Then why did you team up with Khivar?” Why join the inevitable losing side, “If you know that Max will sooner or later get control-“

I don’t think she really thinks all her comments through before she speaks. I don’t think she really thinks much at all. “He won’t. Not anymore. Not now that we’ve got you.” She stands tall and I’m suddenly reminded of being held hostage once more. “Have a nice meal,” her voice is sickly sweet while she kicks the tray of food over, spilling everything onto the floor.

“Bitch.” That’s all I have to say about Courtney.

“What did you call me?” She comes rushing back from halfway to the door, right in my face once more. I want to slap her, spit at her, kick her, but instead, five fingers and a palm connect squarely with the side of my face.

I can still feel the sting, hear the echoing of skin to skin contact, until it’s repeated, only this time, with Khivar’s hand and Courtney’s face. His voice is authoritatively smooth with a hint of an accent, “Did anyone tell you to touch her?”

“No. No, I’m sorry, Khivar,” she whispers, her head bowed. And I don’t exactly feel sorry for her, if you know what I mean. For god’s sake, she’s on the bad guy’s side now, what does she expect, a bed of roses?

“Clean this up,” he orders and Courtney is quick to do as she’s told. All I can think is it would just take one touch, one measly touch from Courtney and she could knock him out cold like she did to me. Khivar is demeaning her, he slapped her, and she could take him down so easily. But she doesn’t. Because she’s a sheep.

He turns to me, a sweet grin on his face. “Elizabeth. I apologize for that. Are you hungry? I’ll have them bring another tray for you, shall I?”

Shake my head. Food isn’t exactly priority number one here. Finding out what the hell he wants with me kind of takes precedence.

“Very well, then,” he says to me before turning to Courtney. “Leave.”

I hear her mumbling something akin to, “Yes, sir,” before rushing out of the room, closing the door behind her.

My heart sinks and my nerves go haywire. Being alone with the bad guy isn’t the most reassuring situation. Neither is the look he’s giving me.

“So, I have a dilemma,” he starts off, pulling a chair in front of me and straddling it.

Do I need to reiterate that I’m tied to a chair with the evil man giving me funny looks? “Dilemma?”

“Yes, you see,” he starts explaining. “It seems you are still on the side of that little boy-king. Even though it’s obvious that I’m in control here. You were trying to play me, though I saw right through it.”

Okay, so I’m not exactly the subtlest of people. Still, “What do you want with me?”

“Ah,” he’s smiling. I’m kind of glad he knows I clued in on his evilness. Saves me from puking from all of this fake wooing. Granted, I wasn’t puking when I hadn’t openly faced all the fakeness of it yet. “As with all takeovers, there are nay-sayers who don’t believe that I would make a good ruler because … I have no powers,” he says the last bit while rolling his eyes. “They don’t see that I have plenty of power. How else was I able to take over?”

And it’s funny that he’s all cocky about it because, if you get down to it, he’s only as powerful as the people he’s got working for him, i.e. his girl collection. They’ve got all the power, “So what do you want with me?”

He’s got this lopsided tilt to his lips, “Although you aren’t pretty in the conventional ways, you aren’t unattractive, Liz.”

Not unattractive? That’s how he sees me? Max used to say I was beautiful. Max saw me as beautiful. At least I’ll always have that.

“Call everyone in.” Khivar stands from the chair as the door opens and a whole line of girls fall in, shortest to tallest, except for Serena, who is apparently leading the all X-chromosomal group. Do aliens have chromosomes?

My eyes drift back to Khivar and he’s smirking. “Together these girls have more power that you could imagine. Serena,” he calls her and she steps forward, standing taller than all the rest. “Join me, Elizabeth, and you will take Serena’s place as head.” Glance over at Serena and she’s giving him a look. I don’t think Serena takes kindly to that offer. After all, wasn’t she the one who called me a stupid human?

Khivar keeps talking, “You could have everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Money, power.”

Is he kidding me? Why would he think I want money or power? I have money, all the money my mom left me. I have power. Being able to pull at the heartstrings of a certain teenaged boy is more power than you could ever ask for.

He sits back down again, going in for the kill, his hand reaching out to graze my cheek. “Would you find life with me so unbearable?”

Shake his hand off and tell it to him what I really think, no need to sugarcoat anything. “You’re a murderer. You killed Max’s dad. You killed my mom. God knows how many-“

“Death is a necessary evil in war,” he butts in. “You don’t think your Napolean had to sacrifice the lives of many in order to gain control? Even your precious Maxwell has shed another’s blood. He killed your mother’s husband. Or had you forgotten?”

No, I hadn’t forgotten. You don’t forget something like that. But I had been trying to forget, with no help from Khivar here. I know what Max did was wrong. But what Edward was doing was wrong too. Max, “He was saving my life.”

Khivar just laughs. “You can make as many excuses as you want for him, it won’t change the fact that he did what he did.”

Sacrificing countless lives for your own selfish, personal pursuit of gains and unintentionally harming someone to stop them from doing bodily harm to an innocent person, they just don’t compare. “It’s not the same thing!”

More of his sick smiles, “But it is.”

You know what? Fuck this. Fuck him. Fuck ‘em all. “What do you want with me?”

“You are your mother’s child,” he shrugs out. “And you possess a great power.”

I laugh because “I don’t.”

“Why must you keep denying it?” He gets right up in my face. “The desert. The weather. You think just anyone can do that?” His words mirror Alex’s from that night.

Groan. “I didn’t. The only thing I can freaking do is move a pencil. I can’t even levitate it, just freaking push it a little.” We’ve gone over this. Over, and over, and over this.

“That’s because you lack practice and proper training,” Serena’s voice pops up and I watch Khivar turn to give a look that hushes her up.

Freaking A. “I’ve had practice and training. I’ve spent countless hours while a handful of people,” Alex, Tess, Max, Kyle, even Larek, “have tried and tried with me, but still nothing. I can’t even heat up a freaking cup of coffee. I’m telling you, all I can do is push a stupid pencil around.”

And no matter how much I protest, he still doesn’t believe me. “Let’s test that, shall we? Force fields are easy enough.” He stands and his hand grips the back of his seat. “If I throw this chair at you, you should be able to put up a shield fairly quickly before it comes colliding with your skull.”

What, the fuck? “Don’t, please.” Force fields? “I don’t know how to do that!”

“Come on, Elizabeth,” he’s goading me, picking the chair up while I freak and watch in slow motion each move he makes.

Force field. Force field. Force field. I don’t know what a force field is! How the hell am I supposed to create one on the fly? I don’t have powers! The chair comes flying at me and I wince and cringe, and helplessly watch as it comes right at me … right through me. What the hell?

I can hear Khivar, but my mind is still reeling, “Ava, that’s enough.”

Wait a second. Watch as the short pink haired girl opens her eyes and drops her hands from her forehead. “That was just a mindwarp?” That was a freaking mindwarp? They kidnapped me and hogtied me to this chair in god knows where so they can mess with me?!

“You can’t even put up a simple force field?” Khivar’s shaking his head and ignoring all the death glares I send his way. “You disappoint me.”

Funny he says that, seeing as how he can’t do any of this alien mumbo jumbo himself either. At least I can move a pencil. But that’s it. So can’t he “See? I’m not who you think I am. It’s a common mistake, everyone’s been making it. Will you let me go, please?” I have places to be and people to see. I have to find my dad and have a happy family reunion again. I have to apply to UNM so I can room with Maria. I have to tell Max I love him one more time. I have to live my life!

And in all this, do I really expect Khivar to just send me on home once he’s done with me? No. Not with all the trouble he took to get me here in the first place. Because, according to him, “That’s not the only reason we have you here, Elizabeth. It’s quite simple. You hold information that I deem valuable.”

“What?” Information? “I don’t know anything. Everything I knew, your pink and red haired bitches over there already heard.” Because I had a stupid brain-fart and ignored all the warnings going off in my head and ended up telling them everything. So “If this is about what info my mom left me, what does it matter to you now anyway? You already took control and you already killed my mom-”

“What makes you think I killed her?” he says with a smirk on his face.

Well, this is what I wanted to know, right? This is why I came hunting after him for, to learn the truth of what really happened. Even though “It’s kind of obvious.”

He’s snickering at me. “I didn’t lay a finger on your mother. Your father was the one who pulled the trigger.”

I call “Bullshit” on that. “My dad wouldn’t do that. I figured it out. You had Lannie morph into his form and go to my house that night and do it, with Serena probably controlling her.” I throw an evil glare Serena’s way too, just for kicks.

“Hank did kill her,” Khivar says with such smugness, I want to hit him. But still, tied to a chair. “He was there that night, he held the gun to her head while she pleaded for her life, pleaded for yours, and he pulled the trigger.” I think he can tell from my face that I don’t buy what he’s trying to sell. “Believe what you want to, but your father killed Annabelle, not Lannie.”

“No.” That’s not true. Is it?

Khivar leans over me, tilting his head and saying, “Why must you keep insisting? How were his fingerprints found on the gun? Try as she may, that child doesn’t have the mental capabilities to doctor her own fingerprints.”

Yeah? Well, “Serena controlled her.”

Khivar laughs again. “Serena may be good, but she’s not that good.”

Look past him and see Serena tense, taking a deep breath and trying to hold herself higher. Why is she putting up with Khivar’s insults? She has the power, she could take him out easily. But she doesn’t. Doesn’t she know that Khivar isn’t worth it? All of these girls … “You have a whole collection of girls with all these different powers …”

“That I do,” Khivar smirks again.

Shake my head. “Why girls … women … females?”

“Females are a lot easier to manipulate,” he explains so simply.

“Is that what you’ve been doing? Manipulating me? Like you manipulate them?” Motion my head towards the back of the room. Are they hearing all this? Are they hearing him? How are they allowing this? They’re the ones that hold all the power. Without them, he’s nothing.

“Love,” I hate it when he calls me that. “Don’t think over it too much. There’s a lot going on that’s beyond your realm of knowledge.”

“Max wouldn’t treat me this way.” He wouldn’t question my intelligence. Max wouldn’t put me below him. I think I’m sulking. I think I miss him. Why won’t Khivar just die already?

“But didn’t he? When he traded you in?” Watch him and I think Khivar is pleased at the frown on my face, knowing his words hit hard. Max traded me for Lannie to save her from Khivar. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

His groan interrupts my thoughts. “Now, stop wasting time. Who is leading the revolt? Where’s the Granolith?”

Wait … “What?”

“I know all about the Resistance,” he’s narrowing in on me. He’s invading my personal bubble. He’s confusing the hell out of me. “Now who is in charge?”

Okay, let’s get something straight first, “I have no clue what you’re talking about.” Ignorance is bliss, right? Obviously, he doesn’t know it’s my motto.

The smug smirks and evil grins are gone. All that’s left is an ugly scowl on his face. “I have ways of getting information out of you that won’t be as pleasant.”

I laugh because I’m scared and because I really just want him to “Fuck off.”

“Shall I kill off all of your friends until you tell me?” He sits again, straddling the chair. “Who shall I start with? How about the advisor? Shall I kill him first? And then … maybe, oh, I don’t know, Pam, Lannie, Larek, all the little would-be Council members.”

This is when my logic comes in. Because even if ignorance is bliss, it doesn’t mean that I don’t process and understand things, like how “You wouldn’t kill them.”

“Oh,” he looks at me all serious. “They are highly dispensable.”

I just shake my head and smile. “No. All the future Council members, you wouldn’t kill them for the same reason you haven’t harmed Max.” For the same reasons why, even though Max is obviously Khivar’s enemy, Khivar doesn’t seem to touch Max no matter how many chances he’s had, no matter how easily he could do it, what with the super group obeying his every command. My smile widens. “Already having trouble trying to keep control, Khivar? People just not doing what you want? Accepting you as ruler?”

His silence tells it all. “You know nothing.”

No, I don’t know anything. But I sure as hell can guess. “Why else would you resort to this? Trying to get with me in the off chance that I’m Max’s lost bride, like people think. Are you trying to better the public opinion of yourself?” That’s what they said, right? He wanted me so that people would accept him more. But Larek himself, who is a rightful citizen of Antar, though a biased one, told me that neither he nor his people as a whole will ever fully accept Khivar’s rule.

Khivar tenses.

As he should, because I’m hitting a nerve. His unease fuels my contempt. “You already killed Max’s dad and I’m sure that isn’t sitting right with anyone. But you’re lucky you’ve got this gang of powerful brainwashed girls so no one can touch you. And you’re lucky that the majority of the people from your worlds are passive and peaceful people. But one more wrong move, like hurting the people’s beloved Prince, might just push the Antarians over the edge. And you can’t have that because no matter how many little girls you recruit into your possession, they’re a blip in the numbers who would support Max if he decided to care more about gaining power than needlessly sacrificing people’s lives to rise up against you.” And Max does care about his people. That’s why they love him. And that’s why “Max is the rightful King.” Look past Khivar right at the blondie standing in the back. “Isn’t that right, Courtney?”

“Are you done?” His chair falls over as he stands from it, turning away from me. “You bore me. Serena!”

Serena comes walking purposefully up beside Khivar. He gives her this look and she nods. All of the confidence I was feeling with my whole speech leaves me in a nanosecond from just the look she gives me, a look that reminds me how completely dire my situation is, tied to a chair, utterly outnumbered, and completely helpless.

She comes over smirking and I want to cry. Pam warned me about this, warned me about Serena ripping through your head with no remorse or concern, battering you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and it’s going to hurt physically like a bitch. Mindrapes.

There has to be something I can do to stop it. There has to be something I can do to protect myself. God, why didn’t I take Alex up on his offer to teach me when I had the chance?

Mindrapes. Mindrapes. It’s like when Max and I connected, right? Only that was consensual and done out of love. Connecting with Max was simple enough because he let me, he wanted me to. How do you connect with someone when they don’t want it? Do you force yourself into them? Can I do that?

Serena’s hands come towards my face and no matter how much I squirm and bite, she gets a hold on me.

Brick wall. Brick wall. Brick wall. Board and block my mind up. You’d think that all the practice I’ve had doing this my whole life would help, but alien stuff is just that … alien and weird, so it can’t exactly be second nature, you know.

I can feel her nudging at me. I can feel it inside my head, feel her, trying to break in with a metaphorical pickaxe. Brick wall. Brick wall. Brick wall.

She’s clawing her way in. I can feel it. She’s wiggling hard and slowly cracking me. All the brick walls in the world isn’t going to help me now. It’s a losing battle and all I can try to do is lash out at her, like she’s doing to me, fight her for control of the figurative shovel and use it to try to hit her over the head, digging right back at her with one hard jab.

She jumps back. “Ow.” I look up and catch my breath while she stares at me with a weird look on her face.

“What’s the matter?” Khivar sounds irritated. I couldn’t care less.

“She’s reversing it on me,” Serena’s talking slowly, her voice low. I’m still trying to breath right and muster what energy I can gather to prepare for round two. “That’s never happened before.”

Khivar gives Serena a look. “So?”

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

“I’m trying to look into her but she’s digging right back at me.” Serena gives Khivar the same funny look she gave me, only with a hint of incredulity. But she gets no reaction from him. “Well, she’s not exactly gentle. She’s ripping at me.”

“Keep going,” he orders her.

In the few seconds that Serena just stares back at him, I’m cheering for her, which sounds crazy since only moments ago she was practically molesting me. Take the fucking hint, Serena. He doesn’t give a damn about you. You are in control. Take him down! He’s wide open!

Watch her as she takes a breath and turns to me again. There’s a hesitation the second time, but I’m ready now.

Brick wall, brick wall, brick wall. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

It’s a tug of war that lasts longer than the first with me victorious and her pulling back, grabbing her head with her hand.

She looks at Khivar and he still hasn’t moved a muscle. “Keep going,” he orders.

Her hand reaches for me again and I don’t even struggle, pouncing on her as soon as I feel her fingers on my skin. She’s not geared up yet, but I am and I take advantage of her unreadiness, cracking through her wall and pulling her thoughts apart like Legos. Her pride in her social rank among the girls. Her doubt over Khivar. Her doubt over herself. Her embarrassment over an unsightly mole on her hip. How she considers Ava her only real friend. How she wished her boobs were bigger. How she hates me. I pulled at everything, not caring what it was, how deeply she buried things, how much she was pushing back at me, how personal or private any of it was. Whatever thought, feeling, emotion was in sight, I ripped it from her like wrapping paper off of presents on Christmas morning. And I didn’t care at the moment, because it was me or her and I’m sure as hell not going to let her win.

Memories and images whiz at me until it all stops and I only see whiteness all around. Open my eyes slowly to see Khivar staring down at Serena on the ground, all of the girls in the back gasping, worried, scared, and Serena herself crumpled at my feet, her eyes glazed over, her mouth wide open.

Oh my god …

“Pathetic,” is all that Khivar says, rolling his eyes and stepping over the trembling curly red head on his way out of the room.

My eyes squeeze shut as the reality of what I did hits me. I hear lots of footsteps all rushing up to me and I resign to the consequences that I know are going to result from my actions. After all, I’m tied to a chair, outnumbered, and I don’t have the strength to go another round with anyone else. I can only hope they’ll be merciful or scared enough to just have Courtney comatose me before the real pain comes.

One girl’s voice comes out. “Heal her. She needs to be healed.”

Another one is crying. “Take her to the infirmary.”

“You did this!” And I open my eyes in time to see Courtney come at me with an open palm, aimed at my cheek. It doesn’t make contact as a pink-haired Ava grabs her, shoving her aside and baring down on me.

“Your powers are supposed to be limitless, right?” All of Ava’s words come out jagged.

I just shake my head. “I don’t have powers.”

Her jaw clenches and her eyes narrow into a scowl, still staring at me while she orders, “Everyone leave.” And I watch as all of these girls, maybe a dozen or so, all ranging from maybe five years old to what looks like some mid twenty year olds. Serena’s probably the oldest of them all. Ava turns from me, her face softening a little. “Except you, Rosie. You stay here.”

The little brown haired girl looks hesitant, but when the door slams shut with the last girl exiting, she looks up, her voice soft, “Sister Ava?”

“It’ll be okay.” Ava smooths the little girl’s hair before turning to me with a harsh tone. “You, stupid human, are going to let her control your body and heal Serena.”

What? Is she kidding me? What part of me not being able to do anything but move a freaking pencil did she not understand? “I don’t know how to do that!”

“You’re going to do this, or you’re going to die.” My face falls as Ava pulls a gun from behind her back, aiming it right at my head. I weigh my chances on whether or not the gun is real or just another mindwarp. My odds don’t look so good.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle,” the little girl, Rosie as Ava called her, whispers to me while she goes behind me to untie the ropes.

With me untied, Serena out for the count, Ava with a gun, and a little girl who Ava obviously favors well within my reach, I wonder over whether or not I can take the opportunity to take Rosie hostage and get away. The thought doesn’t last long as Rosie does her magic on me quickly without me even noticing, busy plotting my escape and all.

There’s a soft tingling of my senses. I can still see, feel, and hear all fine, but it’s like a sheer sheet pulled over me making everything hazy as I’m aware of my body standing up and kneeling on the floor in front of Serena’s still trembling body. In the corner of my eye I can still see Ava holding the gun in my direction and I can still see Rosie standing beside me, her hand warm where she’s still touching my shoulder.

I can feel myself zipping down the front of Serena’s shirt and resting my hand on Serena’s chest, right below her neck. A tingling starts through my fingers and on into my brain as I hear Rosie’s voice in my head, “We have to connect to her in order to heal deep wounds.”

I try to nod my head at her but my head won’t move. It’s like an out of body experience, only I’m still in my body, I just can’t control it. A familiarity overcomes me of the last time I connected with someone, only this time warmth and emotion didn’t channel through me. With Serena, I feel a coldness and pain that hits my bones. Is this what Max felt from me when he healed me that morning before the Parkers came to take me away?

While Rosie busies herself, using me as a medium to search through Serena’s body and mind, trying to piece things back together, Serena’s memories and emotions pour into me unlike earlier. Earlier, I tore through her brain, stepping on everything I could get my hands on. This time, I feel all of her emotions as her life plays before my eyes …

Her one memory of her life before she came to become one of the first of many girls in Khivar’s collection was of another beautiful curly red-haired woman, pushing her on a swing, a woman Serena thinks was her mother, but she can’t remember right. She doesn’t know how she came to live with Khivar, but aside from this one memory, he’s all she’s ever known.

Growing up with Khivar, she was forced to hone her powers everyday. Every new girl he collected, every new girl that joined her new family, he made her go into their heads, look around and tell him what she saw. He’d be happy when she did it right. He’d punish her if she did it wrong.

Serena matured quickly. With each girl that came in, she would get less and less attention from Khivar. It made her jealous. She wanted his love, craved his approval, did whatever she could to garner some of his affections.

Their time alone together was Serena’s favorite. He would tell her how pretty she was, all of the gifts he would shower her with once he gained power, how she was his favorite among all the girls.

The first time he let her share his bed, she was thrilled, grinning with a secret that was hers alone, until he called another girl to his bedroom the very next night.

And then came an image that made my breath catch in my throat. My mom. Time and time again, Khivar having private time alone with my mom. Serena’s jealousy and hatred for her flared. She didn’t like how Khivar focused so much attention on my mom, saying she was a key part of his operation, to further the lineage, the power, to be his queen. And Serena did everything in her power to seek out Annabelle Ross, to find out any faults she could, any way to bring her down. And she found it, in Hank, my dad.

With Ava’s help, she did everything she could to mindwarp Hank, got him so drunk he’d tell them everything. And my dad knew more than he had ever let on. He knew all about her trips to Santa Fe and what she was doing there. But what he also knew that I didn’t, was that not all of her trips were to Santa Fe, they were to Roswell too. Annabelle Harding was a double agent, working for the King himself.

Serena told Khivar everything. He was pissed. The next time Annabelle made a trip to Santa Fe, they ambushed her and Serena mindraped her, finding out about everything. She told Khivar about all of it, minus me because she knew Khivar would want me if he found out. And she didn’t need another girl to compete with for Khivar’s attention.

But Khivar couldn’t just kill my mom then, no. That would send up a red flag right back to Antar and the King. So they had to make it look like an accident. They erased my mom’s memory of what happened and sent her on home, where I dropped the hot pan on my thigh, where she fought with my dad, where we both waited the next night for him to come home, with dinner cooking on the stove.

Hank was nothing more than a stupid human pawn that she used to get into the house, but as soon as my mom saw the look on my dad’s face that night, she knew. That’s why she ordered me upstairs. I ran and Serena, using my dad’s body as a vehicle, beat down and shot my mom, much like how Rosie’s using me right now, to heal and save Serena’s life. Even though Serena didn’t spare my mom’s.

I feel tears running down my face as my mom’s voice plays in my head, “You touch my daughter and so help me, I will tear you limb from limb.” My mom launched herself at Serena, but my dad was too strong.

Serena laughed at my mom and my dad’s finger pulled back on the trigger, hitting her right in the heart, another in the head. Serena didn’t make any witty remark, didn’t have to say anything, because she was in control and she knew it.

She shot my mom with cool contempt and started for the stairs to finish me off too, but a green shield was blocking her way, a force field. It was the last thing my mom did as her body was bleeding away on the floor of our living room, try to save me. Serena heard police sirens and left, dumping my dad’s body in the parking lot of a bar, blocks away, where the police found him later and arrested him, charging him with my mother’s death, leaving me to fend for myself.

Rosie lets go but my eyes are still tearing, still feeling the moment, still wishing so many things were different, but it’s hopeless. I can’t turn back time. I can’t save my mom. I can’t be normal.

Someone pushes me and I fall over, not feeling a thing, still too caught up in my own mind. Serena sits up before me, her shirt open, a silver handprint glittering across her chest, my handprint.

Serena stands and dusts herself off. But I stay on the floor, limp and numb. My mother died protecting me when she could have tried to save herself. My mom loved me more than I will ever know, because she never told me, because she was never around, because she was busy protecting me from a life and a man that only ended up killing her in the end.

“We speak of this to no one,” Serena talks gravely, telling the other two, but still staring at me. My tears run onto the floor. “I woke up on my own. Liz has no powers. We tell Khivar nothing.”

“But,” poor timid little Rosie, she’s just a kid who doesn’t know any better. “We aren’t supposed to keep secrets from Daddy.”

“He isn’t your daddy,” I hear Serena’s voice. “Ava, take Rosie and go get Tanya.”

Ava hands Serena the gun and hurries out with Rosie following behind. Serena only puts the gun away. Another girl comes rushing in and Serena motions her to me. “Catalyptic touch,” Serena explains while the other girl puts her hand on my arm. I feel myself blacking out with Serena’s words echoing through my head, “Sleep now.”



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Last edited by Evelynn on Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Evelynn
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Post by Evelynn » Wed Sep 19, 2007 3:41 am

Okay. So I'm four hours late and I don't have a complete chapter to post. But I do have something for my Tuesday update. So here it is. Oh, and thanks to:

LairaBehr4
guelbebek
Thumbelina
katydid
sprayadhesive
fadedblue
nayney
Emz80m
paper
Catalyst
carolina_moon

Oh, and this part might end up changing a little as I finish out the chapter. Thanks for everyone who participated in the poll too. And all the noms too. They're great.






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Chapter Forty Six:
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Ignorance is like a baby blanket, fuzzy and blue, nicely thrown over my head that allows me the safety of not knowing the meanness of the world. Powerfully evil weird aliens who hold dire memories in their heads are like gasoline. And having to connect with her in order to save her life and thus forcing me to see such memories is like the flame that caught onto said gasoline, leaving my fuzzy safe blanket of ignorance to crispy flakes of ash.

My dad killed my mom. He held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Granted, Serena was controlling him when it happened. But … when you break it down, he did it.

See, here’s what I’m having trouble with, when Rosie took over my body in order to heal Serena, I didn’t completely blank out, I was all too conscious of what was going on. Granted, everything did have a haze to it which, if I didn’t know better, it might have seemed like just a messed up and crazy dream. But I could feel what was going on, from the cool metal of the zipper while I was parting her shirt, to the clammy feel of Serena’s skin.

So I can’t just say that my dad wasn’t even checked into his body when Serena made him do what he did. He had to have been conscious of it all, didn’t he? And he could have fought it, couldn’t he? Rosie did her thing when she was in control of my body, but I didn’t really fight it. And I’m pretty sure that if I had, I could have overpowered her. I would have had a bullet put in my brain by Ava, but I would have overpowered Rosie. Although I’m sure little Rosie wasn’t anywhere near the strength of Serena, but still … It’s just hard to swallow.

I don’t know if it’s because my emotions and mind are just haywire, if that’s the reason why I can’t seem to concentrate enough to get these ropes untied. I’ve been trying, for hours now, sitting alone in the dark room with my arms bound behind me. You’d think, since I could manage to move a pencil with little trouble, I’d be able to at least make some progress with these ropes around my hands, but no. I can’t seem to get a handle on any of my alien magic tricks.

And the darkness doesn’t help either. Not that the room was always dark. When I first woke, actually, after Serena had one of those girls knock me out, what with that comatose touching voodoo and all, the light was actually left on. If was after hours of unproductiveness with me not being able to move the ropes from around my hands that the frustration just streamed off of me and got me wanting to scream obscenities. It was enough to make the light bulb spark and pop right above me.

So what did I learn? Unchecked emotion and alien powers don’t go well together. And somehow, my feelings are all tied in with this alien side, which I undeniably inherited from my mom. I can’t seem to control it when I try consciously, aside from the pencil moving stuff. But as my stress and distress levels rise, so increases the chances of things going pop!, i.e. rocks, headlights, light bulbs, and other weird alien stuff, i.e. the weird weather trip out in the desert.

Maybe I am who Alex and Max and Khivar want me to be.

No. Sorry, some things may point in favor of that possibility, but as I’ve said before, I pride myself on my sixth sense of intuition, and my gut feeling says no. This isn’t just denial or low self-esteem talking. It’s me being truthful with myself. And I’ve told you, this self-honesty is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.

Because in actuality, with all the practice I’ve had, it would be easy, so easy, for me to just jump into the role of Max’s lost bride and play the part. I could develop my powers and show everyone the neat tricks, prove my incontestable connection to Max and be with him forever. And I could go on living that sweet life of falling asleep in his arms and waking to the easy existence of butlered royalty that Max is accustomed too.

But that would be lying. And that’s what I’m trying to get away from. The denial game, it’s an addiction that this junkie is trying to sober up from. I just hope Max will understand.

The fact that I’m tied to a chair with evil aliens plotting to do their evil things to me, and yet my concern for Max overriding whatever fears and panic-attacks I should be having over my dismal-looking situation, just puts a smile on my face.

Trust my gut-instinct, right? And to tell you the truth, I’m not worried about Khivar and co., no matter how murderous their reputation may be. No matter what havoc they’ve wreaked on my life already, something tells me that this isn’t just it for me. I’m going to get free, the bad guys are going to go down, and I’m going to handle my demons and live my life, like my mom wanted for me.




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TO BE CONTINUED…

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Re: The Denial Game (ML,MATURE) AN [5/6]

Post by Evelynn » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:01 pm

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I'm on the chopping block, so to speak.

SUPPORT STACIE AUTHOR AUCTION

Auction runs Fri., Sept. 11, 11:59pm - Mon., Sept. 14, 10:00pm CDT.
I will do anything the winning bidder wants ... anything :wink: .


Evelynn

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