AFTER HOURS - (All, Mature) [COMPLETE]

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Believer2
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AFTER HOURS - (All, Mature) [COMPLETE]

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 7:38 pm

Image

Title: After Hours
Rating: Adult/Mature
Coupling: CC
Disclaimer: I know nothing and I own nothing.
Summary:
Welcome to After Hours, Chicago's late night radio show with your host, Harlequin.

Here at After Hours, anything goes. Vent your frustrations. Share with us your secrets, your desires, even your fantasies. We’ll even cry with those experiencing heartache.

No judgments, just listening ears. Here in the midnight hours with me, you're safe to bare your soul.


~!~!~!~!~!~


1: The Phantom

Hey Harlequin - you are just not going to believe who I just ran into! I still can't believe this!

Hello caller, Is this a confession?

Oh no - it's a rant, Harley, a real big rant.

Spill, friend.

Ok, well, I met this guy, Eric Torrence.

Let’s go with first names only, please. We do want to make a pretense of protecting people’s identities.

Ok, let's call him....Loser.

There are too many men would fit that description.

Ooooh you are so right, ok, let's call him....Phantom

Hmmm, sounds mysterious.

Oh he's a mystery all right

Tell me about Phantom Eric.

When I first met him, he was so nice! Everything I was looking for.

How did you meet?

We met at church - I don’t actually go to church but I was there as a guest singer for a youth group. I was only there for the day and he’s a member.

So he's a church going man?

Yeah - really clean cut, nicely dressed, warm smile, just a little bit shy. He seemed like he was the whole package! He had steady well paying job as an EMT, he was single, and he seemed really involved with his family. He told me all about his mom - how sweet was that? I thought that this guy could be it!

So, what happened?

On our first date, just as I opened the door, his mother called. He answered and then told me he had to go check on his mother.

Ooookay – and how did you react?

At first, I was really annoyed, but it was his mom, what was I going to do? Tell him no? So he left.

What did you do?

I got on the phone with a friend and she convinced me that it was sweet. Its his mom.

Well…he does sound like a good responsible son.

Yeah, that’s what she said. But after he left, he dropped off the face of the earth! No calls, no emails, nothing. I couldn't find him anywhere. I even went to the damn church looking for him!

What?!?

Yeah – completely disappeared. Then, after two weeks, I get this email out of the blue. He apologizes like this just happened yesterday. He then explains how his mother was ill and he had to take care of her, etc.

That doesn't sound too bad – it is a legitimate reason.

Un huh, that's what I thought too. So, I gave him a second chance. We arranged to go out for brunch after his church service on Sunday. I show up at the restaurant and didn’t see him. So I sat down and waited. And waited. Half an hour goes by and he doesn’t show. I call him – no answer. I wait for another half hour. I left him three voicemail’s and not once did he pick up the damn phone and call me!

Oh no, he didn’t.

Oh yes, he did.

What did you do?

What did I do – I went to the bar and got me a stiff drink, that’s what I did!

And then?

Then I went home. I waited for his call or an email at least.

Don’t tell me…

Three weeks.

Oh honey, he didn’t?

Three weeks. Then, he has the nerve to call me. He apologized soooo sweetly. He seemed so sincere. At first, I thought, no way. Absolutely, no freakin way. But then he kept apologizing. He was just taking care of his mom, right?

Please tell me you didn’t.

Uh, sucker that I am, I bought it. I let him talk me into another date. Another date. So yes, I agreed to meet him for dinner.

Did he actually make it?

Yes, he actually made it. And he was so sweet and self-effacing. He brought me flowers. He opened the door for me. He even held out the chair for! He was the first guy to ever show manners like that. And we talked. We talked about everything! He was really interesting.

So what happened?

I didn’t hear from him again for THREE months.

No!

Three months! He didn’t call, didn’t write. Once again he fell off the face of the earth. I thought we had a great time, I thought we hit it off, so imagine my surprise when two days go by and he doesn’t call. Three days. One week. One week turns into two. By the time he actually picked up the phone, I almost forgot his name!

And what excuse did he give this time? Please, I need a laugh.

He told me that his mom got sick and she needed him to take him to the hospital.

It took three months to take his mom to the hospital? Wait, before I say something mean, was there a serious condition? Like a coma or something?

She had to have an ingrown toenail removed.

Oh god! Are you serious?

Like a heart attack.

I don’t mean to laugh so hard….I’m sorry. So, what took up three weeks? Did he have to wipe her forehead?

No, nothing that mundane. He just had to run errands, fix the roof, paint her porch, babysit his cousins, clean her house.

Wait, wait, wait – he cleaned her house?

Yup.

Oh friend, please tell me you dumped the numb nuts.

Oh, he had the nerve to ask me out, again.

And you said….

First, I tried being nice. I told him that I thought that his behavior, his disappearing without a word for weeks on end, was a problem.

How’d he react?

He went off on me! Can you believe that? He told me that I was being selfish, demanding. That I should give a thought to others who are fragile. He told me that my attitude, MY attitude was probably the reason that I’m still single at 26 – as if that was the issue. And its not - it means that I have high standards. I don’t drive men away – they just can’t meet my standards.

Hey, friend, I know what you mean. Men grasp any excuse they can find to blame the female and avoid responsibility.

Thank you! That’s all I’m saying. God, after we hung up, whatever slim emotion I felt for him vanished. I wasn’t even angry…

No?

Ok, I was a little angry. But then, I laughed at the thought of him trying to blame me!

Did you ever see him again?

Yup – today. Two years later.

And don’t tell me, he asked you out again?

Yes! Isn’t that the craziest think you ever heard?

I’m so sorry you had to deal with that man. What song would you like to dedicate to Loser Phantom Eric?

How about…

"Narcissus" Alanis Morrissette

Dear momma's boy I know you've had your butt licked by your mother
I know you've enjoyed all that attention from her
And every woman graced with your presence after
Dear narcissus boy I know you've never really apologized for anything
I know you've never really taken responsibility
I know you've never really listened to a woman

Dear me-show boy I know you're not really into conflict resolution
Or seeing both sides of every equation
Or having an uninterrupted conversation

And any talk of healthiness
And any talk of connectedness
And any talk of resolving this
Leaves you running for the door

(why why do I try to love you
Try to love you when you really don't want me
To)

Dear egotist boy you've never really had to suffer any consequence
You've never stayed with anyone longer than ten minutes
You'd never understand anyone showing resistance
Dear popular boy I know you're used to getting everything so easily
A stranger to the concept of reciprocity
People honor boys like you in this society

And any talk of selflessness
And any talk of working at this
And any talk of being of service
Leaves you running for the door

(why why do I try to help you try to help you
When you really don't want me to)

You go back to the women who will dance the dance
You go back to your friends who will lick your ass
You go back to ignoring all the rest of us
You go back to the center of your universe

Dear self centered boy I don't know why I still feel affected by you
I've never lasted very long with someone like you
I never did although I have to admit I wanted to
Dear magnetic boy you've never been with anyone who doesn't take your shit
You've never been with anyone who's dared to call you on it
I wonder how you'd be if someone were to call you on it

And any talk of willingness
And any talk of both feet in
And any talk of commitment
Leaves you running for the door

(why why do I try to change you try to
Try to change you when you really don't
Want me to)

You go back to the women who will dance the dance
You go back to your friends who will lick your ass
You go back to being so oblivious
You go back to the center of the universe


~!~

As the strains of the song started to play, Maria DeLuca stepped out of the phone booth with a satisfied smile. She looked out to the dining area of the café where several cops and EMT’s were laughing at a young man sitting at their table - Eric Torrence aka Phantom.

Maria had known that Eric was going to be the diner, all the EMT’s and cops stopped at the café after their shift at midnight. And she knew the café would be playing ‘After Hours’ radio show, most public places played the radio show every Saturday night. It was the most popular show in years because of the new DJ, Harlequin.

Harlequin was brutally honest, but was equally sympathetic and always found the perfect song for the caller. But it was the voice that captivated all of the listeners.

Harlequin had a voice that most women would kill to have - it was considered a sexy bedroom voice. The voice that could make knees weaken with just a whisper or a husky suggestive laugh – Maria had actually seen it happen. The voice was a source of comfort for those who had lost someone or had their hearts broken, but it could also slice a man or woman down to size.

Half the people that Maria knew, including her bandmates, were in love with Harlequin, while the other half were just in lust, despite not knowing what Harlequin looked like. Everyone wanted to know, but no one cared enough to really pursue it. Part of the allure of Harlequin was the air of mystery surrounding the identity, and no one really wanted to rip away that illusion.

Maria had gone to the café right before Eric’s shift ended and waited on the phone with the radio station. She timed it so that when Eric did come in with his buddies, they, and the rest of Chicagoland, could hear all about what a momma’s boy he was. In fact, she could hear some of his co-workers already nickname him. Maria smiled smugly and slipped out of the café before Eric could recognize her. She really should be ashamed of how she embarrassed him, but she had no regret. After she had run into him yesterday, all she could think about was how he had treated her the last time she spoke with him. And every time she thought about it, it pissed her off. Now they were even, maybe.

Walking briskly to the nearest CTA train stop, Maria caught a glimpse of herself in one of the store front windows. She paused and tried to be objective of herself. She saw an average height, dark blonde young woman with wide, bright green eyes and full pouty lips. Maria tilted her head to one side and inspected her body – thanks to Aquabra, it looked like she had nice sized breasts, a slim waist, and her short skirt showed off her long slim legs. Overall, Maria thought she was attractive. She considered herself worldly smart, and she had an exciting career as a songwriter and singer, so why was she single?

~!~

He flipped his radio off as After Hours went off the air and stared out of his window. The bright lights of downtown Chicago lit up the night. The voice of DJ Harlequin always reminded him of her voice. He wondered what she was doing, if she was ok.

~!~

She concentrated on counting the floors as the elevator went up and thought about the radio show. She smiled as she remembered one particular caller who talked about The Phantom and the song that had been chosen to represent the caller. It had been so appropriate. As she stepped out on her floor, she wondered if he would have thought the same.


2: PURPLE JESUS

And who am I talking with tonight?

You can call me…um, Lonnie.

Hello Lonnie, how can I help you tonight?

Hi Harlequin, I just wanted to call tonight so that I can issue a warning to the ladies out there.

Ok, sounds interesting.

There is a man named, PJ, who is a dirty rabid dog and all the ladies need to beware of him.

Whoa, sounds like you know this from experience, what happened?

About a year and a half ago, I co-hosted a roof-top luau themed party with my roommate. It was amazing. The night was perfect and clear; everyone brought a bottle of something to share. It was a great time.

Sounds like fun.

It was. There were tons of people everywhere on the roof. Some were playing with the bean bag game and others were using the hula hoops, it was a good time.

So what happened?

I was making my rounds as any good hostess should, when I came across three men I have never seen before, the fourth guy had his back to me. I stopped and asked if they were having a good time, if they found everything ok. Of course they said yes. That’s when the fourth guy turned from the food table. Oh my god, he was cute.

How cute?

He was tall, about 6 foot, with dark, slightly curly hair, wide shoulders, dark eyes. Just your typical beautiful man, but it was his voice that made him sexy. He had the sexiest Irish accent – oh god, I still think its sexy.

Mmm, sounds like you have a weakness for foreign accents. I confess, I do too.

Its true, I do. And it always gets me into trouble.

What happened with Irish?

Well, I was standing there, trying to play the good host and was holding a coconut drink in my one hand. He introduces himself as PJ and asks me what I’m drinking….

By the tone of your voice, you’re still infatuated.

Don’t get me wrong, Harlequin. I know PJ’s a dog, now, but I didn’t then. But he’s one of those guys that could make you forget he was a dog because he was just so damn good at making you feel special.

Could he make you forget?

Hell no. Not after what I found out. I can’t believe I even let him get to me.

How did he get to you?

Well, when he asked me what I was drinking, I told him it was a Bacardi pineapple drink. He asked if he could try it and I agreed and reached out to hand it to him. Instead of taking it from me, he grasped the hand the drink was in and stepped forward until he was standing right next to me, facing me. Then, he leaned forward and drank from the coconut – without letting go of my hand.

Mmmm, sexy.

I swear my knees went weak and I couldn’t tear my eyes from him. He asked me if I was seeing anyone and I told him no. Then I asked him, ‘Are you?’ he replied, while looking at me, ‘Not yet.’

Ah, confident wasn’t he?

Yes – and that’s what hooked me. I can be intimidating to men – most guys don’t like strong confident women, especially if the women are taller then they are. Some guys even nicknamed me, the Ice Queen, so it surprised me that PJ wasn’t fazed by me at all.

Confidence is sexy in men or women.

Yes it is. Like I said, it’s what hooked me. When he asked me for my phone number, I pointed out that neither one of us had a pen or paper, so he’d probably forget it. It didn’t stop him at all, he came back with ‘Why don’t you give it to me and we’ll find out if I remember.’

Oh, wow. He’s good.

How could I not smile at that? How could I not give him my number?

Did he remember?

He called me on his way home – just to prove to me he did.

So far, he sounds pretty good to me. What happened next?

Well, the second time he called, he asked me out. We ended up at a fajita restaurant, then the Map Room, a local bar.

I know that place well. It’s a great little bar.

At the Map Room, we decided to play a game of pool – I’m not very good at it, but it was ok. When I went for my first shot, I asked him what PJ stood for. He waited until he knew I was going to shoot and told me it stood for Purple Jesus.

Purple Jesus?!?

Yeah – I reacted just like you did. I laughed and messed up my shot. I accused him of messing up my shot deliberately, but he was contrite and let me have another try. Then he told me about his name. That his parents were hippies and his mom wanted a far out name, something unique.

Hmmm, Purple Jesus. That’s kinda cute. Did you believe him?

No – not really. But Harlequin, if you could have heard him….he was so funny-serious and looked so embarrassed. He said that his father disagreed with his mother but she named him Purple Jesus. He goes by PJ to avoid embarrassment. The way he looked, the way he said it, it was just so cute.

Ok, I guess its possible considering some celebrities have been naming their kids after fruit.

That wasn’t the only thing I bought. He was so charming and such a gentleman, I thought I finally found a guy worth dating. Worth making an effort to have a relationship.

So, was his name really Purple Jesus?

No, its Peter James. But the way he told the story…he was funny and easy to be with. He was fun to be around, and that’s what did me in. I bought everything he told me because he was just so much fun to be around.

So, what happened with Peter James?

After the date, I didn’t hear from him for a week, then he called and we talked. He said he couldn’t wait to see me but he had this huge project at work-he was a network manager-which was forcing him to work extra long hours.

It didn’t sound fishy to you?

Why would it? I understand long hours, I myself work very long hours as an event planner. I completely understood that his job was important and he needed to get it done. I was sympathetic and told him that whenever he could, he should call me for the next date. I thought a week, maybe two, would go by until he finished up his project.

Did he disappear on you, like Phantom Loser Eric?

Yes, but instead of weeks, I didn’t hear from him for six months. When he did call, he said he was out and about and just wanted to meet for drinks. I wasn’t in the mood, considering he disappeared for six months, but I told him to call another time. For the next few months, he called almost every week just wanting to talk. Then I didn’t hear from him again for another couple of months. But out of the blue, he calls me on New Years around 2 in the morning. He wanted to know why I wouldn’t meet him for drinks and why I was avoiding some of his calls.

You were avoiding his calls?

Well yes, I was dating other men by that time.

Good for you. Did you tell him you were dating other men?

No, I just told him I had to go and would call him later. Lame I know, but I didn’t want to get into it with him at that moment. He must have realized I was no longer interested because I never heard from him again. That was almost a year ago.

So why the call tonight?

Well, the strangest thing happened to me today. I was at work when I got a call from a woman, I’ll call her Anne. Anne started out apologizing, telling me that she had gotten my number from PJ and she wanted to know how I knew him. At first, I was ticked off because here’s a perfect stranger asking for intimate details of my life. When I told her, in no uncertain terms, that it was none of her business, she told me it was. She was his fiancée.

What!?!

Yes, she was PJ’s fiancée. She told me that they had been together for the past THREE years and were even living together.

And you didn’t know?

He told me that he wasn’t seeing anyone serious, that he owned his house but he had roommate to help pay for the mortgage.

What an ass!

Yeah, but here’s the worst. I wasn’t the only other girl he had on the line. And all of the other women she called all said the same thing I did – that we didn’t know he had a serious girlfriend, let alone fiancée.

How many others were there?

She had talked with fifteen other women just that day. She was going through a list.

How did she find out?

This is the craziest part. She had been in gym class for a couple of months and struck up a friendship with this other girl. This other girl had asked her a question about immigration and Anne replied that she didn’t know but she would ask her boyfriend who had come from Ireland. The other girl was like, ‘Really? My boyfriend is from Ireland.” That’s when the two girls got to comparing notes and found out they had the same boyfriend.

Oh my god! You have got to be kidding me! What did she do?

She went home and went through his computer and found pages, pages, of chat room dating sites for single men.

Oooohhh, that rat bastard.

Yeah. Then she grabbed copies of his cell phone bill and she packed up her stuff and moved out before he got home. Then. She started calling the numbers, starting from the most recent.

That poor girl. And she never knew?

No – and that made her feel even worse. She had no clue. What makes me feel horrible, was the fact he had called me on his birthday, six months after our first date, during a birthday party she threw for him. And he called me the night he proposed, New Year’s Eve.

That lying piece of...menstrual pad!

I couldn’t believe what she was telling me! She started to cry and I ended up comforting her and spent two hours listening to what a bastard he was. I felt terrible but I thought she deserved to hear the complete truth after hearing nothing but lies for three years. I told her that I had repeatedly asked if he was seeing anyone seriously and he told me no. Not once did he ever mention a girlfriend, live-in girlfriend, or a fiancée.

Ouch. That was rough, but you’re right, she deserved to hear the complete truth. Did she confront him?

Yes.

Did she call you back and tell you what happened?

Even better – PJ called me.

Unbelievable. What did that poor excuse for a human carcass have to say?

He was in a panic – I could hear it in his voice. He asked me if I had received any strange calls today. I told him, no. Nothing strange. And asked him why. He had the nerve to tell me that some woman had stolen his cell phone bills and was calling everyone on them.

What? Is that possible?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I hung up on him after I asked him not to call me ever again. I’m not about to take that chance that Anne was right. And if PJ was actually telling the truth, I don’t want to have to deal with a crazy ex-girlfriend.

Oh I hear you. I think you did the right thing.

I do too…but now, I just feel so used. I feel terrible that I had a hand in hurting someone else.

You have nothing to feel bad about! You’re not the one that cheated or lied.

No, but he made me a part of the lie. He used me as a tool to hurt someone.

Without your knowledge. That was all him. Had you known he had a girlfriend, I’m sure you would have never have gone near him.

No, I wouldn’t have.

You have nothing to feel guilty for – you got played just like his girlfriend. And you’ve done the humanitarian thing by letting the rest of the Chicagoland women know that there’s a lying cheating dog out there that goes by the name of PJ or Peter James. Let me play a song for you,

“Cheater” Uriah Heep

Cheater, i know where you've been
Cheater, your lies
Can't hide your sin
Cheater, don't ask me how i know
Cheater, i guess it's time for you to go

I'm tired of chasing shadows
So lllusive in the night
And your empty words
That leave me high and dry
Now the curtain's finally fallen
On this fantasy affair
You've had me for the last time
With your lies

Cheater, you're a cheater
I know where you've been
Cheater, your lies
Can't hide your sin
Cheater, don't ask me how i know
Cheater, i guess it's time for you to go

The voices in the wind i heard
Kept telling me to run
Whispering a warning to my heart
And the voices deep as thunder
Tried to speak of things to come
I was blinded then
But now i see the light

Cheater, you're a cheater
And i know where you've been
Cheater, mean mistreater
Your lies can't hide your sin
Cheater, don't ask me how i know
Cheater, i guess it's time
For you to go


~!~

Isabel Avens hung up the phone and took a swallow from her glass of red wine. She sat on her living room couch, mulling over the days events. ‘How did I not know?’ she kept asking herself. She had always prided herself on being able to read men. She knew that when they took in her tall 5’8 frame, the long blonde hair and voluptuous figure, they dismissed her as a dumb blonde who would be easy to get in the sack. But that was before they saw the proud tilt of her head, before they met her gaze and found ice cold blue eyes staring back at them, daring them to make one wrong comment. Once the men finally looked her in the eye, she sent more than one of them running for cover.

And she saw them for what they were – cowards, unconfident cowards who weren’t man enough to stand beside her. The ones that actually did stick around just wanted her to decorate their arm, to be nothing more than a symbol of their masculinity. She sent those losers on their way with few choice words.

She was a strong, independent woman who had a gorgeous downtown condo – right on Michigan Avenue. She had a thriving successful event planning business that she started in her early 20’s. She had a 10 year plan which included opening up two more locations, one on each coast. Her success with her business and with the various charities she headed up was because she was able to read people – anticipate what they needed or wanted.

Yet, she had been completely wrong about her assessment of PJ.

Isabel snorted to herself in disgust, Purple Jesus. That story was so ridiculous! She still couldn’t believe she fell for such a ridiculous story, yet that’s what got her. His gentle teasing and confidence was such a refreshing change from the scared little men she was use to – he had suckered her in. And she would never have known if she hadn’t gotten that call from ‘Anne’. She called herself all kinds of fools and told herself that she was better off. She didn’t need a man to mess up her plans.

But her loneliness wouldn’t listen.

~!~

He couldn’t sleep, not without the dreams. He could hear her voice calling him but he could never find her. He didn’t even know her name. Two years of haunted dreams. He flipped on his radio, at least Harlequin distracted him every Saturday night.


Chapter 3: CHARITY

Hello caller, I heard I have a gentleman with me tonight.

Uh, um, hi Harlequin.

Relax, sweetie, I don’t bite…unless you want me to…

No! Um…ah…

I’m just playing with you. What’s your name?

Ah, you can call me….Al, uh, Colin.

Ok Colin, why don’t you tell me what I can help you with tonight.

Thing is, Harlequin, I’ve heard a lot of women callers, like Lonnie from last Saturday, who complain about men.

That’s because you guys make it too easy for us to complain about. If you guys would just give us what we want, then we…

Then you’d have nothing to complain about. And what fun would that be?

Hmmm, ok, you have a point. So, are you calling in about a woman?

Yes, her name is Danielle.

How did you meet Danielle?

From my co-worker who decided she wanted to play matchmaker.

You sound a bit bitter about your co-worker playing matchmaker.

No…well, I guess I am. See, I’ll grant you that I’m not the studliest of men, nor am I the most handsome, but I’m not ugly. I have a great job. And I have a great sense of humor, if I do say so myself.

I think I could sense that about you, you’re already making me smile.

Thank you. Anyway, I would like to think that I can meet a woman without having someone setting me up, even if it has been a couple of... But that’s not the point of the call.

Ok, what is the point?

Well, my co-worker introduced Danielle and me at a local coffee shop and we talked. It was nice. She was nice. She was nice to look at too.

Did she feel the same?

Well, when I asked her for her number, she gave it to me and it was the right number, so I took that as she wouldn’t be too opposed to talk with me again, right?

Definitely. If she didn’t, the phone number would have been fake.

That’s what I thought. So, I called again and it was just like before, very nice. In the end, I asked Danielle out for dinner. She said yes without hesitating, so I took that as encouragement. I picked a nice yet somewhat casual dining establishment, Tango Sur…

Mmmm, I love that place! Did you supply the wine?

I did – I picked out a nice Red Loon Merlot.

Very nice – you have great taste.

Thank you. Well, I met Danielle at the restaurant and there was a wait, like always. We were standing in line outside the restaurant, enjoying a glass of wine, when all of sudden Danielle grabbed my arm, like she was scared or something. She startled me and I ended up spilling my wine all over myself.

Oooh no.

I wanted to swear, but I didn’t. I just asked her what was wrong.

What did she say?

She said that she thought she heard someone she knew.

An ex?

Not quite. She wouldn’t elaborate, so I let it go. I had wine all over my pants and she didn’t even seem to notice.

She didn’t apologize?

She didn’t even notice the large red stain on my khakis.

Huh, weird. No comment whatsoever?

Nope, none. Before I could say another thing, the waiter finally seated us and we had a very nice table outside. I was having a great time talking with her and enjoying the great food. I thought she was too, but I slowly realized she wasn’t really into it.

How did you notice?

Well, she kept looking around the place, like she was looking for someone.

I don’t like the sound of this, Colin.

No? Well wait to you hear this. In the middle of dinner, one of the tables that was next to us got up to leave. Just as I started to say something, I heard Danielle yell, ‘Oh My God! You Bastard!’

<gasp> What?

I dropped my silverware thinking she was yelling at me, but she jumped up and ran over to a table where there was this guy and woman was sitting on the other side of the table that left. I went after her and heard her yelling, ‘What is this? Is this a date? I thought you said you wanted to be exclusive!’

Whoa.

Yeah – I’m thinking what the hell. And then the woman that was sitting there turns to the guy and starts yelling at him too, ‘What is she talking about? I thought you said you hadn’t dated in awhile?’ At that point Danielle jumps in, ‘Girlfriend…

Colin?

Yeah?

Please don’t use the fake girly voices – you’re scaring me.

Oh. Sorry.

So, what happened?

Danielle jumped in and told her that she had been dating this guy, Mark, for the past month – which was news to me because she said she was single.

Oh my god, this sounds complicated.

Yeah, well, that’s when Mark jumped in and asked about me. I was about to say something, but Danielle defended herself by telling Mark that I was just a pity date, a favor for a friend, so I didn’t count as a real date.

She actually said that?

Yup – right there in front of me and the entire restaurant, not caring if I heard her. Like it didn’t matter if she just crushed my ego.

Oh Colin.

But wait, it gets even better. While Danielle and Mark are yelling at each other, it finally dawns on the other woman that she’s the ‘other woman’ and she starts yelling at Mark. Again, Danielle jumps in to defend her man, and that’s when everything went to hell.

I dread asking, what happened?

The other woman threw the first slap.

That does not sound good.

It was ugly. Danielle grabbed the other woman by the hair and the woman grabbed the table, food flew, I tried jumping out of the way but I ended up knocking over another table’s bottle of wine. Then the women started slapping and scratching all over the place. Food was knocked all over the place. Are you laughing?

No. No, not at all. What did you do?

Are you kidding? No way would I risk getting in a cat fight! Stop laughing, its not funny.

Ok, ok. Please continue.

Well, the police showed up. It took two cops and a couple of waiters to break up the two ladies. You should have seen the place – it was a mess. The manager was in near tears because he had to give everyone their meals for free.

Were the women arrested?

No, they weren’t arrested. But they, Mark, and I were kicked out of the restaurant and banned for life.

No.

Yes.

They actually told you that you were banned for life?

I think their actual words were like, ‘if you ever step foot in this restaurant again, we will have you forcibly removed’.

Oooh, nasty. So, what happened with Danielle?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She got into a cab and disappeared. And I was happy to see her go – I mean, a pity date? Come on, what guy wants to know that he was just a pity date? Not this guy – thank you.

Did you ever hear from Danielle?

Yes. Today, in fact.

What happened?

She left a screaming message on my voicemail. Apparently she’s getting sued by Tango Sur for lost revenue from that night and it’s all my fault.

Your fault? How did she come to that conclusion?

It’s my fault because I chose the restaurant.

Oh Colin. I’m so sorry. It’s so horrible that it’s funny. But listen, seriously, it wasn’t your fault.

I know it wasn’t. I’m not even named in the lawsuit. I think the manager and waiters all feel sorry for me.

Don’t go there, Colin. Despite what Danielle said – you are better than a pity date. You sound like a very nice guy, Colin…

Yeah, so nice, no one ever notices.

I don’t believe that, Colin. It may take awhile, but I know you’ll find someone who will appreciate you. Someone who will see all the wonderful qualities you have to offer and not take advantage of them, but revel in them. You will make someone happier then they ever were.

Well, that’s the future. Right now, I want to pity myself. I’ve earned the right.

Ok, you’re right. Let me find a song for you, but listen to me, Colin. While you can indulge your self pity, don’t wallow in it forever, ok? You’re a great guy that someone will feel really lucky to have.

Thanks, Harlequin.

You’re welcome, sweetie. Here’s your song.

"Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back" Meatloaf

It's all or nothing
And nothing's all I ever get
Ev'ry time I turn it on, I burn it up and burn it out

It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee, that's what this is all about

It's a never ending attack
Ev'rything's a lie and that's a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back

And all the morons
And all the stooges with their coins
They're the ones who make the rules, it's not a game it's just a rout

There's desperation
There's desperation in the air
It leaves a stain on all your clothes and no detergent gets it out

And we're always slipping through the cracks
Then the movie's over, fade to black
Life is a lemon and I want my money back

I want my money back
I want my money back

What about love?
It's defective! It's always breaking in half

What about sex?
It's defective! It's never built to really last

What about your family?
It's defective! All the batteries are shot

What about your friends?
It's defective! All the parts are out of stock

What about hope?
It's defective! It's corroded and decayed

What about faith?
It's defective! It's tattered and it's frayed

What about you gods?
They're defective! They forgot the warranty

What about your town?
It's defective! It's a dead-end street to me

What about your school?
It's defective! It's a pack of useless lies

What about your work?
It's defective! It's a crock and then you die

What about your childhood?
It's defective! It's dead and buried in the past

What about your future?
It's defective! And you can shove it up your ass

Oh, I want my money back
I want my money back

It's all or nothing
And nothing's all I ever get
Ev'ry time I turn it on, I burn it up and burn it out

It's a never ending attack
Ev'rything's a lie and that's a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back

And we're always slipping through the cracks
Then the movie's over, fade to black
Life is a lemon and I want my money back

I want my money back
I want my money back


~!~

Alexander Whitman hung up the phone and listened to the song picked out for him by Harlequin. He got up from his computer desk and walked over to his living room window. Against the backdrop of a clear gorgeous view of Navy Pier and the beaches of Lake Michigan, Alex could see his reflection. He didn’t think he looked that bad. He was a 6 foot tall guy with dark brown hair wildly parted on the side and pulled back into a small ponytail. Gold rimmed glasses covered his blue eyes, and without sounding girly, he had nice long lashes, too. A neatly trimmed beard covered the lower half of his face, giving him a rather shaggy look. His lean, but muscled, frame was dressed in chinos and long sleeved baggy tshirt and sneakers. He had a great job – he owned his own successful company, writing computer games- a gorgeous condo, a loving if not distant family, and he had lots of social connections.

Alexander thought he was a pretty good catch for any woman, until he remembered what Danielle had said about being a pity date.

He thought back to the past year and realized that he had been so consumed with writing the new computer game software that he hadn’t been out on a date in the past year. And the year before that, he had been consumed with finding a larger company that would keep him on as a partner for his company and didn’t date then either. Before that, he had been busy growing and expanding his successful computer game company. In fact, the last time he did have a date was….when was his last date? And his friends…well, if he was honest with himself, they were mostly his game testers, not real friends.

In college, most people had either been too awed by his genius level intelligence or too freaked out to consider him a friend or a potential boyfriend. He was five years younger than the average freshman and the girls he hung out with either wanted to pick his brain or treated him like a geeky kid brother. There was one girl from his business class that he had wanted to speak to. She had lovely strawberry red hair and large blue eyes and the best part was, she didn’t avoid him because he was geeky, and didn’t worship him because he was the king of geeks. She seemed indifferent which made it a perfect situation for him to try his luck. Just when he got the courage to speak to her, he found her with her boyfriend – a huge, no-neck jock.

So, he gave up. Instead, he concentrated on his own game software programming. During his sophomore year in college, he finalized a prototype for his first computer game. He took it to Microsoft and his special blend of humor, fun, and education, set his games far above what was out there currently in the market. He walked away a millionaire several times over. With the money, he dropped out of college and set up his own programming company that specialized in high level games but also educational software. His games gained a notorious reputation – they were considered almost impossible to win. The number of people who had won at any of his games was under 100 and the few that did, had formed their own club, The Whits. Among other gaming programmers, he was considered The Grand Master.

While his games were the main source of revenue for his company, he was the most proud of his language software. His language software was a huge hit among high schools and college-bound kids who wanted to become fluent in any foreign language.

After five successful years, Alex decided that he wanted to free up his time to work on games for the mentally handicapped. He looked around for new CEO and president that would be open to his business model and keep him as a full partner of product development. It had taken two years, but he finally found a small gaming company that specialized in educational software that had a similar business format of putting quality over profit. He negotiated a merger and let the other owner act as CEO while he was free to pursue his own projects. He thrived in the new arrangement, not having to worry about running a company since he was better at programming. The company, Whit-Hall Games, became an extremely profitable midsize company. And yet, in his personal life, he had made no progress.

Alex looked around his spacious top floor loft littered with gaming units, printouts and drawing boards, and saw what his co-worker Mariel had seen: a man lost in a fantasy world of games.

No way was he going to allow that to continue. He would make time for himself and find a personal life, even if it meant scheduling it into his palm pilot. First, he’d start with his appearance.

~!~

She lay on her bed trying to remember the exact sound of his voice and if she concentrated really hard, she could hear him whisper in her mind. On the nights she couldn’t sleep, she’d think about what he looked like. Sometimes he had blonde hair, sometimes a light brown or dirty blonde. She thought he’d be tall, but not too tall for her petite height. As she drifted off to sleep, she thought about his eyes….she could never get his eyes right.


4: FLOATATION DEVICE

Is this Harlequin?

This is, and who am I speaking with?

K…Nick. Call me Nick.

Ok, Nick. What’s your story?

I’m calling because I need you to help me apologize.

What happened?

I went on this date with this girl Lynn and it didn’t turn out so well.

Back up. How did you two meet?

Well, honestly? We met at a bar.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Plenty of people meet at a bar.

I saw her from across the room, she was this gorgeous Asian doll and I just had to meet her.

Please don’t call women dolls. That can be construed as a very sexist remark.

Ok – sorry. She was a very hot Asian chick…

Nick.

Asian woman. A very hot Asian woman.

Better. So what happened?

I went up and asked her if I could buy her a drink.

Very smooth, yet so simple.

Never fails.

No one likes a cocky guy, Nick.

Sorry, anyways, I bought her a drink and got her number. I called her a day later and set up a date. We met somewhere nice and casual. It was really great – I had a great time and she seemed like she did too, so I asked for another date. I asked her to go to a pool party at a friend of mine.

A pool party?

Yeah – and no, it wasn’t a party just to see women in bikini’s. It was a theme party.

Uh huh.

Seriously – everyone was suppose to wear 50's & 60’s type bikinis and swim trunks.

Ok, sounds cute – so what happened?

Well, I took Lynn to the party with me. She had this scarf thing draped over her hot little two piece bikini, like the one from that one James Bond movie…um…where that blonde comes out of the ocean in that white bikini and a knife strapped to her hip.

You do realize that the rest of Chicagoland can hear you drooling on air, don’t you Nick?

Sorry, where was I?

Lynn and you show up at a party…

Oh yeah. We get to the party at my friend’s. He lives in one of the downtown high rises and the pool is on the top floor with windows as walls, so it looks like you’re swimming in the sky.

Wow, sounds nice.

It was. So, we’re all drinking – and then, some guy got the bright idea to start throwing people in the pool.

This doesn’t sound very good.

Well, at the time it did.

Ah, yes. Amazing how things sound under the influence of alcohol.

So, some of the guys were throwing their girlfriends in the pool…

And you thought of doing the same?

Yeah – I couldn’t help it. It looked really funny. I found Lynn and I grabbed her.

She didn’t want to go in, did she?

No – she didn’t. I thought she was just kidding you know? She was laughing and trying to get down, but I hung on strong. I got to the edge of the pool and had another guy grab her feet while I got her arms. We swung her and then dropped her in the pool.

Ok, that doesn’t sound too bad, what went wrong?

Well, she came up for air but then….

What? Don’t keep us in suspense.

She seemed frozen, like she couldn’t move, and scared. I thought she was in trouble so I jumped in to help.

Sounds very decent of you.

That’s when I noticed.

What?

There was this dark stuff spilling out into the pool. I couldn't really see very well because we only had tiki torches, but there was definitely something in the water.

Oh no.

I couldn’t tell what it was, but I jumped out and I was like, dude what the hell. I looked at Lynn and she was still frozen, like she didn’t know what to do. Then, she slowly moved towards the shallow end of the pool which was closest to the doors. That dark stuff was following behind her.

Oh Nick…

Yeah. She got to the shallow end and tried getting out.

Tried – oh Nick, I have a bad feeling about what you’re about to say.

When she stood up, her bottoms looked twice the size it had been. It was huge and looked like some kind of floatation thingy...

Nick!

I had no idea what the problem was – I swear!! She grabbed a hold of her bottoms, jumped out, and ran out the door.

Tell me you followed.

Yeah, I followed. I ran out the door and saw a wet, reddish trail on the hallway carpet. I still had no idea what was going on, but I had a bad feeling it looked like blood…

Oooohh no….

I followed the trail to the women’s bathroom and went in. She was in a bathroom stall changing – she was really pissed.

I bet she was more embarrassed.

That too. But honestly, I had no idea she was wearing a-a…um, one those, you know…

A menstrual pad?

Uh, no, the other things.

What other things?

She had those…um, one of those diaper things.

Oh.

Yeah – I didn’t know women wore those things...

So, wait, I’m confused, what was the dark stuff?

Her um…you know…her monthly….

Oh. She wore a diaper thing? I thought those were for older people who had bladder problems?

They are, but Lynn was wearing one because she said she had problems with leakage with regular pads. Most even have those wing things.

Well, she has a point.

Yeah – she was super pissed and ran out of the bathroom after she changed, without saying anything either.

Did you go after her?

Well, I had to go tell my friend about what was in the water…so you know, other people wouldn’t go in.

So you didn’t go after her.

Well, after I told my friend, I had to help kinda clean it, you know?

Did you go after her then?

Yeah – I tried calling her and everything but she won’t pick up or return my calls.

Well, Nick, to be honest, that was pretty embarrassing for her.

It was for me too. And it was gross - I’m the one that had to wipe up the blood and help clean up the pool.

True, that would be pretty gross.

And I’ve been calling for two days straight trying to apologize but she won’t return my calls. I thought you might be able to help me.

Oh Nick, you do realize you’ve probably just embarrassed her even more by telling all of Chicagoland what happened.

No! I didn’t use her real name – I’m not that stupid. But I know she’s listening and I hope that she realizes that I’m sorry for throwing her in the pool. I didn’t know about that thing…and we had been drinking…I’m sorry.

So you want to apologize and keep dating her?

Um…

Wait – if you don’t want to keep dating her, why are you trying so hard to apologize?

Well, I want to date her, but I don’t know if I could, you know, look at her with a straight face. Or if she’ll even forgive me, you know?

Oh, well, at least you’re being honest. Let me see what song I can find, Nick. Anything else you want to say?

Lynn, I’m really, really sorry for causing you such embarrassment. I hope we can move past it.

"Sorry My Friend" Save Ferris

I wrote this song for you to say i'm sorry
I know that I was wrong and you don't like me
Why, why, why
Must you feel this way?
I wish I had the words
I needed to say

[chorus:]
'Cause you and me
We disagree
On everything and everyone
I only want to be your friend again

I hear you're blaming me for all your problems
Well if you'd quit complaining you might solve 'em
I'll try hard to make amends
But both of us will have to try and give in

[repeat chorus]

I'm sorry for the things that turned out this way
I wish I knew the words I needed to say
But you and me we never seem to see eye to eye
But I'm sure that we can get along
If we try
If you want to you can just walk away
But I hope you know apologies
Are okay


~!~

Kyle James Valenti hung up his phone and sat listening for the song Harlequin picked out. One part of his mind acknowledged that Harlequin’s voice was damn sexy and he wondered if the face would match the voice. The other part of him was thinking about Lynn, whose real name was Jong Lei. He really was sorry for her embarrassment, and he wanted her to know that. He wondered if she would call him after the song and what he would actually do if she decided that she wanted to go out with him again.

Kyle knew he was good looking. He had what most people call, the All-American look. He wasn’t quite 6 foot, but he was close to it, plus he had light blonde, slightly wavy, hair, blue eyes and a physique most men would kill for. He was solid and ripped without looking gross. Most of the women he knew said they could never resist his grin or his easy charm. His job as a physical therapist for the Chicago sports teams made him even more popular among men and women – he had access to any event and could take as many guests as he wanted.

He had been an All-American high school athlete in his hometown of Roswell, NM who had gotten a full scholarship to play football for the University of Illinois. His dad had been so proud that he gave up his position as sheriff of Roswell to move to Chicago, just so he could watch his son’s games. His father was able to get a job as a deputy sheriff for the suburban town of Northbrook and still have time to attend Kyle’s games.

Kyle’s first three years were golden – he was the school’s darling because of his arm and leadership on the field. He majored in physical therapy so that he would have something to fall back on if he ever needed to, but he never thought he’d need it. His fourth year started out as golden as the previous three and the scouts for the NFL were starting to come to his games more frequently. He would have made it to the pros, if he hadn’t dislocated his shoulder and broken his collarbone.

Both Kyle and his father had been frustrated and disappointed that his football career was cut short. After the doctors told him he’d never play again, Kyle had felt lost and aimless, wondering about his future and his identity without his athlete title. He had started drinking heavily and one night he stumbled across a Buddhist temple. One of the attending monks had helped sober him up. He had ended up sticking around to talk with the monk about faith and his life. That one accidental visit led to several more visits and finally a commitment to follow Buddhism.

Following the Buddhist religion gave Kyle a sense of peace and answers to the tough questions, like what to do with his future. Looking through his life as an athlete, Kyle realized that a physical therapist was integral to a sports team and he could still remain in the sports field he loved so much. Kyle still had connections with the football team. So he took his degree and asked the team’s therapist for an internship as his assistant. He was turned down, but the therapist referred him to another therapist who was looking for an assistant. Kyle got the job before discovering he’d be working with the Chicago Bears. It was a bittersweet moment for him, but he loved his job. He did so well as an intern, that the doctor offered him a full-time job, which he proudly accepted.

Now, four years later, he was the preferred physical therapist for all of Chicago’s professional sports team. He had plenty of money, plenty of invites to parties, and plenty of women willing to throw themselves at him. For the past four years, he loved every minute of it. Then, this morning, his dad called and told him he had been seeing someone and wanted Kyle to meet her. She was special, someone that Jim could see marrying. Kyle had been stunned. Ever since his mother died when he was two, it had always been him and his dad, and now there was going to be a step-mom, maybe. It made Kyle stop and think. It made him realize how shallow his life had become and he didn’t know how to change it.

~!~

He had enough. He had been listening to Harlequin tonight and her voice sent shivers down his back. It made him think about her and her voice. Two years and he still shivered at the memory of her voice. And he still had no clue where to start looking for her. He had gone to the one place he knew she had been, but it left him even more frustrated. Sears Tower had over 100 floors and he had no clue as to which floor she worked on or even what she looked like. The only clue that he had was her name, sort of. He knew it started with ‘Li’. It could be any one of any name starting with L. He remembered he had nicknamed her ‘Lily’ because she hadn’t been able to get her full name out.

Two years and he still remembered every word they exchanged, every minute they spent - she haunted him. There was something about her voice that stirred something in him, made him ache with shared loneliness. He wanted nothing more than to see her face, to learn if she was as beautiful in person as she was in intellect. Could one fall in love with someone’s voice – was that possible?

He sighed as lay down on his bed and replayed their conversation…


5: FEAR

The heavy air floated in off the lake, turning the warm night into a sticky humid furnace. The bright stars that shone so bright were soon covered in dark menacing clouds and thunder could be heard in the distance.

But she didn't know. Instead she worked hard at the transcripts in front of her. She didn't notice the people quickly leaving the building at 5:00PM sharp, or the shutting off of lights as the cleaning crew finished up at 11. Nothing broke her intense concentration until the lights started to flicker.

She looked up, annoyed at the break and her eye caught the time. She had to go.

The lights flickered again. Her stomach clenched and her heart started racing.

Panic. Fear. Dread. They filled her stomach as she ran for the elevator.

The doors slid shut.

It was quiet.

Sublevel 3

Sublevel 2

Sublevel...

The lights flickered.

The elevator jerked.

The lights flickered on.

Off

On

Off

On

Off

Off

Why the hell wouldn't they come back on again?!?

No movement. No sound.

Don't panic

Don't think about the dark

Don't think about falling

Don’t think about the silence.

Don't think.

Don't panic

Don't think

Don't panic

Breath

Why is it so hot? So quiet.

No air. Water.

Breath! All that water!

Think!

Get out! No – the water!

Think...phone!

Phone!?!?

Elevator phone. Yes. Him

Emergency. Him.

Hello?!?

Help!!!

~!~

She came awake gasping for air, heart racing. She stared with wide eyes around her room, barely making out the familiar objects and shapes. She was safe. She was always safe whenever she heard his voice. Him.

She concentrated on remembering his voice, letting his warm deep tones wrap her in safety. She fell asleep thinking of him.
Last edited by Believer2 on Sun May 13, 2007 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
Contact:

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 7:48 pm

6: MR/MS

And who am I speaking with tonight?

Uh, hey Harlequin. This is Emily.

Hello Emily. Thank you for joining us here at After Hours. I understand from my producer that you’re new to our show.

Yeah, I just happened to flip it on because I couldn’t stand the silence in my apartment. And then I heard you helping out some of the callers, giving advice and stuff.

You need advice?

Yeah – big time.

What happened?

Well, I’ve been single since my husband died.

I’m so sorry.

Its ok. I’ve come to terms with his death. I thought I’d try dating again, so I decided to try online dating using MatchUp.com.

Are you embarrassed to use the online service?

No…I mean, I think I was at first, you know? Having my picture up for everyone to see…that was embarrassing.

What’s embarrassing about it?

Well…

People see you everyday. In the grocery store, at the fast food counter, just walking down the street, people see you.

I know, but it’s different on the site.

Because everyone knows you’re looking to date?

Yeah.

I can understand that, but you got over it right?

I did. I started answering some of the ads and I’ve met some really nice guys on there. But there weren’t any sparks until Brent.

Ok, this sounds promising. Tell me about Brad.

Well, Brad actually sent me a wink and…

Just to clarify, what’s a wink?

A wink is a brief note to show another member of MatchUp.com that you’re interested.

Ok, go on.

Well, he sent me a wink saying that I looked like someone he wanted to get to know. I went to his profile and it was great. He was funny, witty, and seemed really nice.

Was there a picture attached?

Yes. He was very cute. Not exactly someone that I would have normally gone out with.

What do you mean?

Well, Brad was Asian, Chinese. I’ve never really dated an Asian guy before.

Why not?

I’ve always just been attracted to the All-American boy-next door type. I don’t think I consciously avoided them altogether, its just, I’ve never met one who I was attracted to. You know what I mean?

Yes, I do. You can’t help who you’re attracted to, you just are.

Exactly.

So, what about Brad?

Brent was so….hot. He was tall, 5’11” and he was sooo good-looking. My jaw literally dropped open when I saw his picture, he was that hot. And he was a metro-sexual, so he dressed really well in his pictures. I emailed him and we got to chatting online.

How long did you guys chat?

For a couple of weeks – I was pretty cautious.

I don’t blame you. I take it that it went well?

Yes, very well. He was just so great. He was smart, and funny, everything his profile said he was. I gave him my number after a few weeks and he called. He was so nice. And he was so easy to talk to.

Ok, I get the picture that he was so great, so what’s wrong?

He asked to meet up for dinner and drinks. I told him I couldn’t because I had this wedding I had to go to. I had completely forgotten about it and had to go buy a dress – I had nothing for it. And he actually volunteered to go shopping with me.

What? Shopping, as your first date?

Yeah. Surprising isn’t it? He explained that he loved to shop and I thought that because he was a metro-sexual, it made sense. So I agreed.

How’d it go?

<pause>

Hello? Emily?

Harlequin…I just don’t know if I can say this.

You sound really upset, what happened?

We agreed to meet at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue. At first sight, he was perfect. He was everything I thought he was. He was amazing. He was sharply dressed and looked really clean cut. Then we went in to shop…

And?

And we were looking at dresses and I had a blast talking to him about the latest styles, what looked flattering on me – he was so knowledgeable. He helped me pick out the most gorgeous sky blue silk dress.

So far, everything sounds ok?

Yeah, so far. I went into the dressing room to try out several dresses. As I was putting on the dress Brent helped pick out, I heard him come into the dressing area. He said that he found a couple of things and wanted to try them on. I didn’t think anything of it – why would I? So I put on the dress and walked out to show him. I called out to him…

Emily? Its ok to tell us, what happened.

This is so embarrassing. I called out to him and he came out of the dressing room…

Oh. Was he…

He was wearing the same EXACT dress he picked out for me!

Oh my god! The exact same one?

Yes! The exact same dress. I mean, of course I looked better because I had boobs and he didn’t, but still…

Oh jeez, what did you say?

I don’t know. My jaw just dropped open and I could only stare. I don’t know if I said anything. I don’t know how long we stood there just staring at each other but then he starting walking towards me.

What did you do?

I stepped away and ran to my dressing room. He knocked on the door and told me that he thought I knew.

What do you mean he thought you knew? Did he say he liked dressing up in women’s clothing?

No! But I was suppose to have figured it out from his comments about how much he loved women’s clothing. I mean, he said that a couple of times but I never took that to mean that he liked to wear them! Sure he could talk about designers better than I could, but that doesn’t anything! Most metro-sexual guys can – they even know the difference between a kitten heel and a low heel!

Ok, I understand that. Metro-sexual guys are way too confusing. So what did you say?

I couldn’t say anything. He left.

Really? Just like that?

Well, I might have told him to shut up and leave me the hell alone.

Ahhh.

I was in shock! And I was embarrassed! I mean, what would you have done!?!

Honey, you don’t have to defend yourself to me. It was a very shocking moment. And I don't know if too many people would have handled it as well as you. So, what can I help you with?

Do you think I should call and apologize?

Honestly? Yes. It was probably just as embarrassing for him as it was for you.

I don’t know what to say to him.

Tell him what you told us. That it took you by surprise. And you feel bad for reacting the way you did. You do feel bad, don’t you?

Yes. Very bad. But I don’t know if I would want to see him again…

Ahh. That’s a very difficult situation. Can you handle being with someone who has such a unique quirk?

I don’t know.

Call Brent and talk to him. Apologize and then just talk things through. Don’t accuse him of anything, just let him explain his side of things. He might understand your position and not even ask you out again.

But he was so great in every other aspect…

Do you think he would have treated you well? With respect?

Yeah, I do. I think he could have been a really great boyfriend.

So again, can you handle this one quirk?

I-I don’t know.

You don’t have to answer it right now, but think about it. Dating is hard – there’s a lot of dumbasses, jerks, and Neanderthals out there. Most will ignore you, take you for granted, or not even bother to try and treat you well. On the other hand, Brad will treat you well and the only ‘wrong’ thing about him is that he likes to dress in women’s clothing. But the fact that he wasn’t ashamed by his…quirk, then that tells me that he’s comfortable with who he is and isn’t afraid to deal with people’s prejudices. Listen, think it over and take your time, but he deserves an apology.

Ok, thanks.

You’re welcome. Let me play you a song…

"No Surface All Feeling" Manic Street Preachers

Embarrassed possessed and so uncivilized
Just take a look at the whites of my eyes
See me now and I will apologize
For me for you we knew they were lies

It makes me angry ashamed but really alive
It may have worked but at what price
What's the point in always looking back
When all you see is more and more junk

It was no surface but all feeling
Maybe at the time it felt like dreaming

Maybe richer maybe wiser
Seems so easy to not go too far
Beg me to stop hate my face I know
They tell me forever just to go

Just one thing before I get to sleep
Nothing here but the stains on my teeth
No not blood just liquid from you
I only wish it was the truth

Feel the guilt of a sinner
Feel the cold of a winter
It was no surface but all feeling
Maybe at the time it felt like dreaming.


~!~

In a cozy second-story brownstone apartment, Ava Tessa Harding hung up the phone and listened to the song that Harlequin picked out for her. She listened intently to the words of the song as she sat on her comfortable suede couch. She was still wearing the short lavender sundress she put on for the wedding yesterday afternoon.

After Brad had left her in the dressing room, Ava had stood in front of the mirror and stared at her image. Instead of seeing a voluptuous curly haired blonde with pouty glossed lips and bright blue eyes, she saw a tall, golden colored, dark haired man. She tore off the dress and quickly put on her own clothes before rushing out of the store. She had left the discarded dress on the floor of the dressing room and didn’t give it another thought as she rushed out to the busy sidewalks of Michigan Ave. As she walked along, she numbly saw the men and women walking past her. She wondered how many of the men liked to wear dresses.

When she got to her apartment on the Gold Coast, she rushed around her apartment trying to forget her afternoon and get ready for the wedding. The dull routine of applying her makeup and setting her hair, distracted her from thinking about Brad. At the wedding reception, she grabbed the nearest glass of champagne and gulped it down before grabbing another. She went overboard in flirting with every man under 40 and drinking, just so she didn’t have to think about Brad.

The more she drank, the more indignant she became. She was hot! She had a figure most girls would kill for – and yes, her boobs were real despite every catty comment to the contrary. She had curly blonde hair that men swore was natural and wide blue eyes. Her job as an executive assistant for the directors of a sports agency was lucrative if not fulfilling. She had tons of things going for her that would appeal to many many guys! Guys that didn’t wear women’s clothes. And she was determined to prove it that night.

She didn’t know how she got home, but she woke up mid-afternoon the next day, alone. And with a huge headache. She had gotten up to take a couple of aspirin when she noticed that her voicemail flashing with new messages. She reluctantly went through the numbers and saw Brad’s number come up. Reeling from hangover and with sudden memory of yesterday afternoon, she slumped to the floor. She didn’t want to think about him but she did. She remembered how nice he was, how much fun she had talking with him, and how he had looked in that dress. Then she remembered how she reacted and her harsh words spoken in shock. Groaning in embarrassment, she dragged herself up to grab her aspirin and dry swallowed three before stumbling back to the couch, not bothering to change her clothes or taking a shower. As she fell back asleep, she thought of Brad.

It was almost 9:00PM before Ava had woken up again. Thirst led her to the kitchen and the dull throbbing in her head made her take another couple of aspirin. She heated up a couple of frozen dinner entrées and sat in the dark of her living room eating them. With food in her stomach, she felt better enough to listen to Brad’s voicemail.

Hi Ava, its Brad. I know you’re at the wedding, but I was hoping we could talk. Give me a call when you can. In your emails and our phone conversations, you seemed so cool and open minded that I felt safe to open up to you. But from your reaction, today…well, I was hoping we could talk. Hope to talk to you soon.

Ava sat down on her couch and went over every conversation, every email that she had with Brad. She tried finding a clue, no matter how small, about his taste for wearing women’s clothing, but she had nothing. She thought about it over and over until she couldn’t stand the silence and had turned on the stereo. As she flipped the channels, she looked around her apartment. It was gorgeous in its modern clean lines and accents- blue and gray with hints of pink-yet at the moment, it all seemed so blah to her.
It was late and the only station worth listening to had a DJ Harlequin listening to people and dishing out advice. Some of the callers were funny, others touching. It gave her an idea. She had called the station hoping that Harlequin could give her an answer on what she should do.

And now she knew. She had to call Brad. Taking a deep breath, Ava picked up her cordless phone and started dialing.

~!~

The lights flickered off for second before the emergency generator kicked on. He could hear the whirling of the fans.

He picked up the ringing phone and spoke.

He heard her voice.

The way it trembled.

Her breath gasping to draw air in her lungs.

The way she stuttered and begged.

Her breathing became more labored.

He tried to calm her down. To ask what was going on.

The emergency lights on his panels started to light up and he knew.

She was stuck in an elevator.

But which one?

Which building?

He had to find her, to help her.

She was begging.

He ran.

He couldn’t find her.

He called her name…

And he woke up calling her name.

It was the middle of the night and his sheets were twisted around his feet after having had another dream. Another dream of her. He could still hear the fear in her voice and he trembled. He got up from his bed and walked to the bathroom. As he drank a glass of water, he stared at his blood shot eyes and sweaty face.

He hadn’t found her. Not yet. Two years and he still hadn’t found her.

He flipped on his radio and heard the soothing husky voice of Harlequin speaking back to him. He sighed and settled back in to his bed.


7: EXPOSED

Hello? Caller, are you there? Hmmm, sounds like we have someone who’s in a good mood.

Uh, yeah. Sorry, I just can’t help laughing.

Share the laugh, what’s so funny?

Well, uh, this just happened today, around 11 this morning.

Ok, where?

I was following this guy,

Awww, you’re in love? That is so cute that you would…

NO!!! No – I’m straight. I like girls. Love ‘em!

Oh, ok. Settle down, I didn’t mean to offend you…what was your name?

Michael.

OK Michael, why were you following this guy? Are you a jealous boyfriend?

No, I was following the guy because its part of my job. I’m a private investigator, Guerin Investigation Service.

Oh, really? Now that sounds very interesting.

It can be, but more often then not, it’s boring. Part of my job is trying to find out if some jerk or witch is cheating.

If that takes up most of your job, what is the other part?

The other parts are minor stuff like insurance fraud but my specialty is finding missing people.

Missing people? As in kidnapped people?

No, I work for law firms who are trying to locate heirs – it’s a much happier job than trying to find out if someone’s cheating.

Ah, that does sound nice. So, was that what you were doing following this guy?

No, the guy I was following filed a claim that he sprained his elbow at work. The company he filed a claim with asked me to investigate to prove he was telling the truth.

Oh.

Yeah, not really that glamorous. And it’s really boring – I just follow the guy for 48 hours and try to catch him using his arm which he has bandaged in a sling. But today – something happened.

What?

Well, I followed my target into Starbucks on Clark.

Which one? There’s a Starbucks every few blocks on Clark.

The one across from Coconuts.

Ok.

So, I wait in line to get my drink, keeping an eye on my target.

Michael, you know, it doesn’t sound very nice to keep hearing you say target.

Ok. Call him John Doe.

Sounds better. What happened with John Doe?

Well, see, it’s not exactly about John Doe. I was in Starbucks because of John Doe. I waited in line, got my coffee, and sat down to observe John Doe. I had a magazine and was trying to blend in while watching him about three or four tables away. As I was watching him, there was this couple in between us – hot girl and a dopey but decent looking guy.

Sounds like you got distracted.

I wasn’t really paying attention to them, because I was trying to pay attention to John Doe. But then something happened. As I was sitting there, the girl suddenly pushed her chair away from the table, causing her chair to scrape the tile floor. Everyone in the store looked over at her and she was flushing, I think with embarrassment. The guy at the table leaned over and seemed like he was trying to calm her down, but she kept pulling away. To me, it looked like she was trying to get away.

Did you try to help her?

I was just about to but then guy then stood up…

Michael? Michael, what happened that’s making you laugh so hard?

Oh geezus! Man, that guy stood up, dropped his pants, and greeted us all!

Oh my god, you’re kidding me!

No!

You are so lying.

I wish I was, but you just can’t make this stuff up. I’ve got a whole store full of people who was witness to it!

He just stood up and pulled his pants and underwear down?

He pulled his pants down, but I don’t think he was wearing underwear.

He was completely….

Oh yeah, completely bare.

And you looked!?!

You couldn’t miss it! He was at least half mast!

Oh my god! What did you do? What did you say?

I couldn’t do anything I was laughing so hard. Some other people yelled at him to put it away and I could see the workers trying not to laugh as they called someone.

Did he? Did he put it away?

No, he just kept standing there trying to get the girl to talk to him. He was telling her to ‘look at what she did to him’ and pointing at himself.

Oh my god, that poor girl!

Yeah, she was dying with embarrassment and she kept trying to get away but he was blocking her path to the door.

Tell me you helped her.

I wasn’t going near him!

You just all sat there looking at him with his pants down?

No, after a couple of minutes, the guy just pulled up his pants and sat back down. That’s when the girl made a run for it. He tried to go after her, but I shoved him back down in this seat. I followed her out and asked if she was ok.

Was she?

Yeah – she was laughing. She was laughing so hard she was crying. She told me that this was her first date with the guy and he seemed normal when they chatted online.

Oh geez, a first date?

Yeah, she said she’s had some pretty crappy first dates, but this one had all the other ones beat. I told her that she at least has a great story to tell her friends about.

At least. Did the workers call the police?

They did. One of the workers came out and talked with the girl about calling the police, but she refused to.

Damn, I think I would have. I’m sure there were others there that saw everything and could back up the story.

That’s what I said, I think someone even took a picture.

No way!?!

I’m not sure but I think someone did. I convinced the girl to stay and at least talk with the manager if not the police.

I’m sure the workers called the police since it was a public place. If she doesn’t press charges, I’m sure the store will.

I told her about your show and that she should call you, you know, get a little payback. She said she would be too embarrassed, but she asked if I would and if I did, to make sure I told everyone his name.

Normally, I wouldn’t let you give out his name, but I think I’ll make an exception, go ahead.

Harold Morrison. He’s 5’11 with dark blonde almost brown hair with hazel eyes. He’s an accountant for a small firm here in Chicago that just got bought by Deloitte and Touche. He…

Ok, I think we got the picture. Harold, you’re a dirty perverted dog. Shame on you. To the poor people subjected to his ‘mast’, this one’s for you:


"Close Your Eyes" Apartment 26

I watch it all spill out
I watch it all spill out
And then you tell me just how wrong I am.
And it drifts too far
I let it drift too far
Then you hit me with the wink of an eye.

Close your eyes
It's safe for you, safe for you.
Forfeit your mind.
It's safe for you, safe for you.

I see it all come around
I see it all come around
And then you tell me just how right I am.
Yeh, you like it now
Bring the enjoyment back
Then you hit me with that look of surprise.


~!~

Michael Terrance Guerin hung up the phone with a brief chuckle as he listened to the song Harlequin picked out. When she had first answered the phone, he had felt goosebumps on his arms as he listened to her sexy voice. For a minute, flashes of naked flesh and rumpled sheets clouded his thoughts. Maybe it went along with his job. He was a private investigator, just like Raymond Chandler and Bogie. Being a private investigator was a dream come true for him. When he was little and going from one foster home to the other, the only thing that kept him going was the small stack of Raymond Chandler books that he had found in one foster home.

Reading that first book, Michael had been able to forget his hunger and loneliness as he was transported into the hard boiled world of detectives and murder. When he got older, he discovered Sam Spade and Bogart. He wanted to be like Sam Spade – the dames, the booze, and the occasional case. All through high school in the small town of Pewaukee, WI, he had worked hard to pass his classes so that on graduation he could jump on a bus for Chicago. He avoided making friends, partly out of embarrassment about his childhood but mostly because he didn’t want any attachments when he left.

Whenever things got bad in the foster home, or at school, the thought of something better out there kept him going. And on graduation day – instead of walking across the high school stage for a piece of paper, Michael was on the first bus to Chicago with one bag of clothes and small possessions. He had stolen his foster dad’s last few state checks as well as whatever cash he could get his hands on – he doubted if Lou would be sober enough to remember. It was the least Lou could give him since he never bothered to feed Michael.

His trip to Chicago had been uneventful and the minute he stepped foot in Chicago, Michael knew he was home. It was easy enough getting a job as a cook at one of the many restaurants downtown Chicago – he was one of the few English speaking applicants which made him a prime candidate. It was just as easy to get a job on a construction crew. The manager that had hired him at the Diner Grill referred him to his sister who was renting out the one bedroom apartments behind the diner. It was small, but it was clean and bright which was better than anything he had growing up. And it was all his – that was the best part.

For three years, Michael worked long hard hours from 6 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon working construction and then cooking at the Diner Grill from 5 to 10PM. In those three years, he finally settled down and made friends at both jobs. He also sent in for a mail-in certificate for PI license and a course in business management. He set his sights on small building off of North Avenue that had once been a small car repair shop. He hoped to convert it into a small office and apartment. With the help of the manager at Diner Grill, he was able to secure a loan and buy the garage.

It was slow work, but after three more years, Michael finally finished the office of his place. He had converted the entire building, piece by piece, often working late at night. Some of his friends from the construction crew came by to help him out in exchange for beer and burgers. When he was finally done with the building, he set about opening his P.I. business and getting clients, but had a tough time. Then his boss at the construction company referred him to a lawyer who was looking for a missing heir. That was his first case. Soon, he had enough referrals and jobs that he could quit his construction job, but not enough to quit his job at the Diner Grill.

Now, four years later, he was still working at the Diner Grill at night and working as a PI during the day. He had a few good friends, the manager at the Diner Grill being one of them, and had a great place to live and work. He should have been content, but he wasn’t. Yet, he couldn’t figure out why.

Michael got up from his desk and walked around to his favorite spot in his building. While most of the ground level was divided into his office, kitchen, and living room, the upstairs was all his own personal space. There were four rooms on the upper level – one was a bedroom that had a mattress and a hanging bar full of clothes. Another was a bathroom, and another was storage. The last room was his favorite – his paint room.

Somewhere along the way towards graduation, Michael had been forced to take an art class. Surprising himself and his teacher, he was good at it. And he enjoyed it. So now, he had taken up painting as his hobby of choice when he wasn’t watching hockey. In the middle of his paint room, Michael had set up a mirror so that he could try a self portrait. His half finished portrait lay face down on the canvas covered floor where he had thrown it the last time he tried working on it. He leaned down to pick it up and studied it.

He had painted a tallish young looking guy with no specific feature to make his ordinary face stand out. The light brown hair was all over the place, some sticking straight up, some curling around his neck. His shoulders were wide but the picture showed them disproportionately wide. The striking thing that Michael noticed was that he wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t pissed or sad, in fact, there was no expression at all on his face – he was just there.

He wondered what would put some emotion on his face.

~!~

He sat at his computer trying to find it. He had been listening to Harlequin while lying in bed when he had heard the caller. Half listening to the story, an idea struck and he couldn’t let it go. Finally he got up and went to his computer.

There.

He stared at the name, Guerin Investigation Services, and copied the address down. If he couldn’t find her, maybe Michael Guerin could.

8: THE ROMANTIC

Hi Harlequin!

Hi there, who am I speaking with?

I’m Stephanie.

Well Stephanie, sounds like you’re really happy tonight.

Oh, I am. Today has been the best day of my life so far.

Well, I’m glad the last call of the night is going to be a happy one. Share girlfriend.

My boyfriend Mike proposed!!!!

Oh my god!!! Details, details, girl!!!

It started out so normal. We were eating breakfast and Mike asked me what I wanted to do today. I couldn’t think of anything, so he suggested we go to Lincoln Park Zoo, like we did on our first date. I pointed out it was freezing out, and he pointed out I could think of something else, but I couldn’t. He offered to take me out to dinner afterwards, so I was suppose to dress nicely but warmly. So we ended up going through the zoo. It was nice, but chilly. Then as we were leaving the zoo, a limo pulled up and offered us a complimentary ride.

What a coincidence…

I know. I had no clue what was going on. Mike suggested we take the driver up on his offer, so I said ok. We were riding along, and then we pulled up to this one restaurant and I look out and see that it’s Chicago Brauhaus, where we first met during Oktoberfest last year. As we sat there in front of the restaurant, a waiter came out and brought me a rose. That’s when I knew Mike had planned this.

Oh Stephanie, I think all the girls in Chicagoland just melted into a small puddle.

I know! I started to tear up. Mike told me that the first time he saw me, he knew that he had to meet me. He told me he was really nervous trying to approach me, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of me. We pulled away and drove to another place, Nick and Tony’s. A server came out and handed me another rose. Mike told me that during our first lunch together, he knew I was going to be special.

Oh my god, this Mike just sounds too good to be true, girlfriend.

I started crying because I began to suspect what he was up to. He just kept holding my hand and told me his version of our first meeting. How he noticed my eyes, my smile, he was just so…romantic about it.

Where did he take you next?

We stopped at his gym, Lake Shore Athletic Club.

His gym?

Yeah, I thought it was kinda weird too, but then the doorman handed me a rose and Mike told me that a couple months after we started dating that he was at the gym with a buddy from work and he realized that he loved me.

Did you just melt?

Yes!

How does he top that?

He took me back to my old apartment, the one I was living in before I moved in with him. Someone was standing there, waiting to give me a small bouquet of roses, one for each of our firsts.

Do you want to share?

Our first kiss happened on the doorstep after our third date. The first time we made love, happened in that apartment. The first time he spent the night, there. The first time he said, ‘I love you’ was there. All the little things that I didn’t think he even thought about.

Awww!!! All the guys in Chicagoland, take note! What happened next?

The limo stops at the place we had our first official date as a couple, Frontera Grill. We got out and the doorman gave me a rose and told me to follow the hostess. I turned around looking for Mike and he was gone. The doorman just smiled and told me to follow the hostess. I went up to the hostess and she handed me another rose, telling me I was such a lucky girl.

I have to agree.

I know! She led through the restaurant, and I think everyone knew what was going on because they all started clapping. She took me to a private room and Mike was there waiting for me, bended on one knee.

Aww…

But the best part, my mom and his parents were standing right next to him.

That is so sweet!

And then Mike opened up the little ring box and asked me to marry him. I was crying so hard, I just nodded.

That is the sweetest proposal I have ever heard! Mike sounds like the kind of guy that every girl who’s ever called in, wants.

The thing is Harlequin, I never thought I’d find him. I went through so many bad relationships – I got my heart broken by my last boyfriend of five years. I thought he was The One, when out of the blue, he broke up with me - saying that it just wasn't working. The one before him, cheated on me. The one before that, broke up with me because he didn’t want to get married. I went through a lot before finding Mike. So, to all of those listeners who are just about to give up, don’t. There’s someone out there for you, you’ll find him. Just like I found Mike.

You and Mike are definitely an inspiration for all of us. Let me play a song for you.

[b"]Till I Found You" Casey Donovan[/b]

I couldn't feel the wind blow
Or see the rain fall
I couldn't smell the flowers
Hear the oceans roar

I couldn't sing a love song
Or say a word
I never had imagined
The mountains I could climb
Until I found you

Baby I believe
That I did the best I could
There was nothing to me
I was all that I could be
Then you came to me
And you showed me how to love
Didn't know love was true
Until I found you

And now I dream of places
That we can go to
I can feel the fire
Burning deep inside
And even in the darkness
I can fell you with me
I know that you will always be right by my side.

I couldn't sing a love song
Or say a word
I'd never had imagined
The mountains I could climb

Baby I believe
That I did the best I could
There was nothing to me
I was all that I could be
Then you came to me
And you showed me how to love
Didn't know love was true
Until I found you

Every day
Was harder than the others
There was times when I
Kept running for covers
Then you came to me
Showed me love forever
And you made me see
That I'm in love

Baby I believe

Baby I believe
That I did the best I could
There was nothing to me
I was all that I could be
Then you came to me
And you showed me how to love
Didn't know that love was true
Until I found you


~!~

Lilyze Parker pulled her motorcycle cap down lower on her head to ward off the chilly Chicago wind and walked towards her train stop. As she listened to the romantic song Harlequin chose for the lucky Stephanie, she chewed on her lower lip trying to think of a solution to her problem. Earlier that day, she had received an email proposal to authenticate an artifact and record its history – only problem was, the item was considered an alien artifact, from the infamous 1947 Roswell alien crash.

Normally she would have dismissed the offer since it came from a small novelty museum that specialized in alien artifacts and couldn’t possibly pay her normal fee. But this offer came with pretty bait – to view and catalog the private collection of the reclusive Scottish billionaire Brody Davis. It was said that his family's collection of art, jewelry, and furniture pieces rivaled and even surpassed the British Royal Family’s collection. Every known cataloger, historian, antique dealer and auctioneer throughout the world had been trying to get a look at the collection for the past few generations. And she, plain Lilyze Parker from Chicago, IL, had the chance of a lifetime if she would take a look at the one so-called alien artifact.

Her musings were interrupted as she fed her train ticket into the machine, and she heard the train attendee laughing and telling a waiting passenger about some of the callers on After Hours. Lilyze couldn’t help but smile as she too remembered some of the callers on the show.

The callers of the radio show were always entertaining and made the hours go by so fast. She only wished that her life was as entertaining as some of the stories she heard on the show. She couldn’t remember her last date and she certainly never had one like the Hummer or the Flash. Lilyze laughed to herself as she remembered last week's infamous call when a PI had called in and told all of Chicagoland about that guy. That guy would never get another date.

Too bad she didn’t have that kind of excuse. Unlike the Flash, her job as an artifact archivist consumed her and didn’t leave too much time for a social life. She worked with museums around the world authenticating historical artifacts and cataloging the points of interest and history of ownership for artifacts. Which meant she spent the majority of her time between her lab and the library.

She had a backroom office at the Chicago Historical Museum whenever she worked on something for them, but she often worked at the Northwestern University Geology Labs. She rarely left the office when the University closed and if she was working on a project of special interest, she often times slept in her office. Over the years, she gained a strong reputation for her precise and accurate work authenticating items for the most famous of auction houses, museums, and world collectors. While she could demand any amount of money, it was her passion for her job that drove her. Not that she didn’t demand her fair amount.

And then there was her other job. She didn’t know why she kept it. She had first gotten the job in college when she was struggling to make money and pass her graduate classes. It was the only job that would allow her work nights but not interfere with her studies. And while her main job consumed her, her second job relaxed her and helped clear her mind.

Her reputation in both jobs made her desirable to several companies, nationally and internationally. But when it came right down to it, she couldn’t leave Chicago. She had thought about it two years ago when the British Museum offered her a job, but then, the incident happened. So she stayed in Chicago and worked two jobs, which didn’t leave much time for guys or dating. But then, that was just half the problem.

The other half of the problem, she had to admit, was her. She was just plain boring. She had plain brown hair that couldn’t decide if it wanted to curly or straight, plain brown eyes, and a plain face with a few plain freckles. She was a tiny 5’2” and because of an accident in her childhood, her voice came out barely above a whisper, so most people either ignored her or didn’t take her seriously.

Guys never really saw her – she was like wallpaper to them. Other girls – they pitied her because she was so boring and plain. And besides the lackluster looks, she was horrible in a social setting - her shyness made her tongue-tied and clumsy. If her life depended on her wittiness or charm, she would have been dead in college. Huffing at the mental image of herself, Lilyze shook her head and waited for her train.

Looking around the nearly deserted platform, she saw a young college aged boy hugging a girl and whispering in her ear and felt a small jab of jealousy. On the other end was scruffy homeless man trying to keep warm against the wind. There were a couple of guys who looked normal but from their loud obnoxious tones, she could tell they were drunk.

Trying to not make eye contact with anyone, she looked across the tracks to the other platform where people were waiting for the train that would take them in the opposite direction. There were only a couple of people. A yuppy couple waiting with luggage at their feet, a couple of teenage boys, and an off duty CTA worker.

She also saw a tall, lean guy struggling with what looked like an MP3 player. Something about him made her take a second look. He was an interesting contrast. He wore a brown turtle neck underneath a mustard colored tweed suit jacket with suede patches on the elbows and a plastic pocket protector over his heart. His jeans looked faded and stained and he wore them with scuffed sneakers. He had a bulging shoulder bag that was haphazardly zipped and barely hanging over one shoulder. Gold framed glasses shaded his eyes, a thick beard his lower face, and on top of everything else, he wore the most ridiculous looking knit hat – dark orange with ear flaps tied to a white and orange puff ball on top.

But looking beyond the surface was Lilyze specialty and she saw wide strong shoulders underneath the tweed coat, strong arms in the tweed coat, and a strong distinct profile underneath the funny-looking hat. There was something about him that was disarming, but before she could think further, she heard her train rumbling.

As her train pulled up, Lilyze quickly hurried inside to find a seat. She dismissed her thoughts about the man waiting on the other platform and went back to the email she had received. From Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico. Funny, she thought. Roswell, aliens…maybe she’d go just to get a change of scenery for awhile.

~*~

As she drifted off to sleep, she imagined his voice in her ear, telling her she would be ok. She wrapped the comfort of his voice around her and smiled as she slept.


9: HUMMER

Is this Harlequin?

It is. And who is this?

This is Darla.

How can I help you Darla?

Well, last week you had some PI guy talk about a weird date he witnessed, the one where the guy exposed himself to the girl?

Oh yes, who can forget?

I think I might have something like that, not as weird, but weird.

Are there naked body parts involved?

No, it’s nothing like that.

Ok, tell us.

Well, I went out on this date with Br…

Let me stop you there. Let’s give him a fake name unless this is a public warning.

Oh, ok. Well, um, Brian. I went out on a date with Brian and he seemed normal.

How did you meet?

We met at the nutritional supplement store – he was working there and I went to go get some biotin for my hair.

Was he cute?

Oh yes. He was tall, at least 5’10, and he had dark brown hair with gorgeous brown eyes. And he was soooo built. He had biceps that I couldn’t even wrap my hands around.

Oh honey, you better wipe the drool before you continue.

If you saw this guy, you’d be drooling too. He was just so nicely built.

How did he approach you?

He asked if I needed help looking for anything and I told him that I was just looking for biotin. He replied that I didn’t need it; my hair and skin looked perfect enough.

Hmm, charming.

Oh he was. But he wasn’t really cheesy, you know?

Ok, so how did trying to help you turn into a date?

Well, after he handed me the biotin, he asked if I was taking it to impress my boyfriend. I told him that I wasn’t seeing anyone, so he asked me out.

Where did he take you?

Well, he took me to this small Italian restaurant on Harlem Ave. It was a small hole in the wall but it looked really nice.

So, what happened?

We had to wait for a seat and it was kinda awkward. Brian acted like he really didn’t want to be there. I wondered if maybe it was me, but I didn’t know how to find out. So, we ordered drinks and he seemed to loosen up a bit.

He didn’t get drunk and slop all over you?

No- that would have been normal. No, we sat down and ordered. Conversation was really stilted and uncomfortable. I knew I had made a mistake in accepting the date, but I couldn’t just walk out on him.

Sure you could’ve. Guys do it all the time, but good for you for sticking it out. It really would have been rude.

That’s what I thought.

So…I bet you did a bit of drinking?

Oh yes, I had to. It was just really uncomfortable.

Was that the worst of it?

No. The worst came when the food arrived. It smelled great and I was starving. As I was eating, there was this humming sound.

Humming?

Yeah, humming. I looked around, but subtly, so that it didn’t look weird.

Who was it?

Brian!

What? Your date was humming?

Oh, not just humming, Harlequin. He was humming as he chewed his food.

Are you kidding me?

No, I’m not.

Was it just random humming or an actual song?

It might have been a song, I’m not sure.

Was he humming throughout the meal or only when he chewed?

Only when he chewed! He stopped when he was swallowing or putting food in his mouth or taking a drink, but it started up again when he started chewing.

So, what did you do?

I had to ask. I mean, I couldn’t really believe he was doing it.

What did he say?

He denied it!

What?

Yeah, he denied that he was humming and tried to eat some more. I could tell he was trying not to hum.

How could you tell?

He had this look of concentration – like he could only focus on chewing and nothing else.

Ok, you got me. That was one weird date. Not as bad as the guy that exposed himself, but weird enough.

Right? What person hums while he chews?

One weird dude. Ok, Darla. I don’t think I can find a song that goes along with a hummer, but I’ll try to find you something.

Thanks Harlequin! Oh, and I love your show.

Thank you, sweetie. You take care of yourself.

"Frogs & Princes" Natasha Bedingfeld

The in and out of dating got me all confused
I built up expectations and I'm feeling used
Seems that everybody's into fast food,
Everybody's into quick
I want some one to take the time fine dining not rushing

Now it's nearly 7:30, I'm slipping on a dress
I keep my fingers crossed, you're not like all the rest,
So when you come to pick me up come right to my door
Don't stay in your car and beep beep the horn

Baby I'm a hopeless romantic
You pick the sounds for the background to our drive into town
Baby don't be one of the traffic
Had too many nights with the wrong guys
Caught me at red lights

Tell me how many frogs do I have to kiss
Before I find my prince, before I find my prince
All you girls that are going through this
Tell 'em how it is, tell 'em how it is

Pull up to a premire, red carpet good
You take my coat, get my chair, like I hoped you would
You're funny and your flirting is really working for me
But where it goes from here
Better wait and see

Baby I'm a hopeless romantic
You pick the view to kiss to
Make me go ooo ooo
And baby it'll all turn out tragic
And you'll push for more
Back at my front door
More than I'm ready for

Tell me how many frogs do I have to kiss
Before I find my prince, before I find my prince
All you girls that are going through this
Tell 'em how it is, tell 'em how it is

Tell me how many frogs do I have to kiss
Before I find my prince, before I find my prince
All you girls that are going through this
Tell 'em how it is, tell 'em how it is

You gotta tip the waiter, that's how it works
You cant skip the starter and go straight to desert
You've gotta pop the cork before you taste the wine

is woah,
We get hooked up but the shame is
Too much connection followed by rejections
Gonna hurt a girl 'til she learns her lesson

Tell me how many frogs do I have to kiss
Before I find my prince, before I find my prince
All you girls that are going through this
Tell 'em how it is, tell 'em how it is

Tell me how many frogs do I have to kiss
Before I find my prince, before I find my prince
All you girls that are going through this
Tell 'em how it is, tell 'em how it is

Oh, yeah yeah


~*~

Maxwell Alexander Evans listened to the words of the song and knew exactly what they meant. He wondered how many failed relationships he would have to go through before finding the one. If only he could forget about her. He looked around the black marble tiled room at the half unpacked boxes and his scattered possessions. He moved in three months ago but he still had to unpack all of his boxes. The majority of his clothes were already hanging neatly and color coordinated in his closet, but he hadn’t bothered to organize the rest of his belongings. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a small portrait frame lying face down on the tile.

Slowly, he walked over to it and picked it up. Inside the small stainless steel frame was a faded black and white picture of a young laughing couple. The tall lanky man had his arm wrapped around the waist of the girl next to him and had his head thrown back. Max could almost hear the laughter ringing in the air. Next to the man was a tall willowy blonde with Farrah Fawcett hair who glowingly smiled up at the tall man while her hand lay protectively over a swollen stomach. They looked so happy and so in love.

Who would have thought from this picture that the young couple wouldn’t make it to happily ever after? Who would have thought that the young laughing man would become a hard-faced unsmiling, almost unfeeling man who never looked at his own son? Who would have thought that the young bright woman would become a bitter alcoholic who despised her own son? Who would have thought?

Max saw his own reflection superimposed over the picture and stared. He took in each of his features: shaggy uncut hair that curled slightly, plain hazel brown eyes, normal looking nose, strong jaw line which needed to be shaved, a wide mouth. He was just 6 foot with a lean muscular build – not too hairy or odd looking. He looked…normal. Yet, what was it about him that made his young, in-love parents to be into the bitter individuals he knew?

Why did they come to hate him so much? All he knew was that his father, a successful corporate lawyer, would never look at him, never acknowledge he was in the same room, never even speak to him. His socialite mother looked at him with bitterness and hate in her eyes – like he repulsed her. When she got drunk, she would often yell that she hated him, that she wished he had never been born. As a young boy, he hadn’t understood. As a man, he still didn’t understand.

When he turned 18, Max left the prestigious Connecticut boarding school that he had been locked up in and never went back to his parents. He worked his way west to California and worked as a lifeguard on the beach for a couple of years. When he realized he didn’t want to be a beach bum forever, he decided to go to college. It was slow going for awhile since he had to pay for college by himself, but he refused to contact his parents for the money. Instead, he worked two jobs and applied for grants. After he had his first four semesters under his belt, three years later, he decided to focus on his goal, law. The only place that would even consider looking at him was Northwestern University in Chicago since his grades weren’t superior enough for an ivy league university.

Chicago was a nice change from California and shortly after moving, Max felt like he was home. He was able to find a job as a night security guard in one of the big office buildings so that he could go to school full-time and have some time to study. His shift was from 6:00PM to midnight which was perfect because he could study and then when he got home, he was able to listen to his favorite radio show, After Hours.

He had discovered After Hours right after he started his new job when one of his fellow guards told him about some of the stories that were shared on the show. Intrigued, he decided to check it out and immediately fell in love with the slightly husky voice of the DJ, Harlequin. For a year, Harlequin’s voice had helped him fall asleep after his shift, but after that one night, not even Harlequin’s voice could soothe him into sleep.

Max sighed with disgust for himself. He had decided to forget about her and move on with his life, yet here he was still wondering…no! No. He was moving on. He had become so obsessed with her that he even hired a private investigator to find her, but Michael Geurin hadn’t found a clue even after four months. It was a signal to him that he had to move on. And he was. After passing the bar exam with flying colors, he was made junior associate at the law firm he had been working at for two years. When he was able to bring eccentric billionaire Brody Davis to the firm three months ago as his client, he made junior partner and was considered the ‘hot’ new star on his way to full partnership.

He had it all going for him - a new high rise penthouse, a vintage Astin Martin, membership of the most elite social groups, beautiful women, everything. So, why wasn’t he happy? Maybe it was because he felt like he was following in his father’s footsteps. Or maybe it was because seeing the beautiful plastic women he dated reminded him of his alcoholic mom. Or maybe it was because…he didn’t want to give HER up.

~!~

She tossed and turned in her sleep.

It was dark, completely black.

She couldn’t see anything, not even her own hands.

She was running, but she didn’t know why.

There! She heard something…it was HIM!

But he was so distant, so far away.

She ran and ran, but she wasn’t getting any closer.

She stopped running and reached out to the fading image…
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
Contact:

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:06 pm

10: The One

Harlequin?

Hello, who is this?

Jeannette

Hello Jeannette, how can I help you?

First of all, I just want to tell you how much I love your show. I listen to it almost every night.

Thank you! It’s so nice of you to say that.

It’s true. I love listening to everyone’s story.

I do too. Everyone has their own unique story - none ever the same. Maybe the plots might be similar, but the characters are always different which creates a whole new dynamic to the story. So, do you have one to share with us tonight?

I do and it’s actually kind of a sad one.

Ah. What happened?

Well, I went to see an old friend from college, she’s still living in B’eau Claire. She’s just had a baby and I wanted to make sure I saw her since I missed her wedding. While I love my friend and her baby, I hate going back to that place.

Why?

B’eau Claire was where I met my first love.

Really?

Yeah. My first. Of my adulthood, nothing like high school.

Ah, your first love of your adult heart is always special. More so than your first love. Its the first time, you, not your hormones or the pressure of high school,you the person, your heart, who falls in love.

I agree. I don't even remember my high school boyfriend, but I'll always remember Adam.

What happened?

The trip was great, I was really glad to see my friend and her new baby and husband…but it broke my heart too. And after all this time, after I thought I said goodbye without regrets, I saw Adam…with his girlfriend and a baby.

How did you two meet?

We met at a bar, Tijuanas. It was my senior year of college and I had four months left of school. I had plans to go out west and get a job in advertising. My friend, the one I just visited, and I were just out one night to have some fun. It was dirty and crowded, but it was the only non-college bar in the city and we were having a blast just dancing.

The DJ started to play the Electric Slide and while my friend went out to dance, I went to stand in the side lines. I’m not coordinated enough to dance in a line and that’s when a voice behind me asked ‘why aren’t you dancing?’. I turned around, and there he was…

Are you ok, sweetie?

Yeah…<sniff>

Take your time.

He was so cute – tall, just under 6’, blonde and blue eyed. Completely opposite of me and he had the most amazing smile. I told him that I couldn’t do the Electric Slide because I was too uncoordinated and he told me he’d show me how. I declined but I watched him dance and it was just so cute. Afterwards, he came back to me and bought me a drink. We ended up staying together until the bar closed.

Did you go home with him?

Honestly, I wanted to but my friend drove, so I went home with her.

What happened?

I gave him my number and he called. We talked what seemed like forever. I told him my dreams, he told me his. We had such plans for our future – different but still, it was nice to meet a guy with dreams as big as mine. We had this instant chemistry and I loved being with him.

So how did it go wrong?

I graduated from college and got a job offer out of state, California to be exact.

Ah.

It was my dream – to go to California, a job offer, it was what I wanted and I felt it would have been foolish to turn it down. So I told Adam about the offer and the great guy that he was, never hesitated when he said I should take it. In that moment, I would have given anything to say no, that I’d stay, with him, but I couldn’t.

That’s always hard – to have to choose between your heart and your head.

It was the hardest decision I ever had to make, but I took the offer. A week before graduation, I said good-bye to Adam and told him I wished him luck, no matter what happened. I drove home to visit my family one last time and then drove out to California. It wasn’t until I got to California that my friend told me that he showed up to watch me graduate.

Awww…

He had come with her and asked her not to say anything. He gave her a card to send me once I got to California. She sent it to me…he wrote the sweetest letter inside.

Do you want to share what it said?

He basically told me that he knew I’d succeed no matter what I chose to do and he never had any doubts about it.

He sounds like a great guy.

He was, is still. Things in California never worked out the way I thought they would and I ended up in Chicago a year after I left. I always thought about calling Adam, I even looked up his number a bunch of times, but I never did.

Why not?

Because it wouldn’t have done any good. Chicago and B’eau Claire are 7 hours apart and he’s got his own business established up there…and I don’t know what I want from him. So I never called. Then I went to visit my friend, just a couple of weeks ago.

And you saw him?

Yeah. We were at a local restaurant and I saw him sitting across the room with another girl and a baby – I assumed it was his girlfriend or wife.

What was your reaction?

It was like somebody kicked me in the guts when I first saw him. Somewhere along the line, I always thought of Adam as mine. In my mind, subconsciously, he was the ideal that I measured every other guy against. He was my first love and that's how I always pictured him. I never thought about him moving on. And there, in front of me was evidence that he had.

Did you go over and say something to him?

No, the more I watched him with his girlfriend or wife and baby, the more I realized it looked right. He was happy – how could I begrudge him that? I was happy that he was happy.

But it still hurt, didn’t it?

Yes, because I always wondered, ‘what if’ and held out hope that maybe things would work out for us.

I think when we love and lose, its hard to let go of the hope and dreams that the love inspired. Sweetie, I’m sorry you’re hurting.

Thanks Harlequin.

You might have closed a chapter, but sweetie, there are so many other chapters ahead. Your story still has a lot to cover before the end. Let me see if I can find you song that fits.

"What Might Have Been"Little Texas

Sure I think about you now and then
But it's been a long, long time
Well I've got a good life now, I moved on
So when you cross my mind
I try not to think about what might have been
Cause that was then and
We have taken different roads
We can't go back again
There's no use giving in
And theres no way to know
What might have been

We can sit and talk about this all night long
And wonder why we didn't last
Yes, they might be the best days we will ever know
But we'll have to leave them in the past

So try not to think about what might have been
Cause that was then
And we have taken different roads
We can't go back again
There's no use giving in
And there's no way to know
What might have been

Same old look in your eyes,
It's a beautiful night
I'm so tempted to stay
But too much time has gone by
We should just say goodbye
And turn and walk away

Try not to think about what might have been
Cause that was then and we have taken different roads
We can't go back again
Tthere's no use giving in
And there's no way to know
What might have been

No we'll never know
What might have been.


~!~

Michael Guerin shivered as he turned down his radio when the mushy love song came on. Harlequin’s voice always got to him, making shivers race down his neck, tonight was no exception. And as always, the song was perfect for the situation. The one great thing about After Hours, it didn’t limit the genre of music it played. Songs could be country, rock, pop, or jazz, it didn’t matter as long as it fit the situation. And he had to admit, the songs always fit.

He settled back to his computer and saved the new information he had typed up. He had gotten several new clients since his call, apparently his little story during Harlequin’s show had been very entertaining and interested several people in Chicago. Just that afternoon, he had three walk-ins and five phone calls – that never happened to him. At the rate he was going, he would be able to afford quitting the Diner Grill or at least reducing his work hours.

He looked over his case files that needed to be filed and his eye caught on ‘Lily’ written across one of the folders. He tugged it out and stared at the notes he had written. The morning after his time with Harlequin, he had received a call from Maxwell Evans, a junior partner in a prestigious law firm who wanted him to find a woman named ‘Lily’ but the circumstances were difficult.

The man that called had sounded very somber and quiet, and he was almost a convincing liar. Mr. Evans had told him that a client of theirs was looking for a young woman, but wouldn’t give the client’s name. No sweat there, Michael understood. Maxwell went on to explain how his client came into contact with Lily, but then lost track of her without ever finding out her last name or even what she looked like. All Michael had to go on was a first name and the location where the two met. Four months and Michael came up with nothing solid. He found the location and was able to meet with the head of security, but he turned out to be a dead lead. He did have some home hope though, one of the security guards for the building had retired last year and gone off RVing with his wife. The old man sometimes kept in contact with the other guards and would sometimes stop in between trips. The head security guard promised to give the old man Michael’s contact information if he stopped in after his most recent trip to Australia.

Michael called Mr. Evans and told him the bad news. The silence on the other end of the phone made him fidgety but to hear the disappointment and defeat in the man’s simple ‘Thank you for trying’, made him realize that the guy who was looking for Lily was him, Evans. And now he was giving up, and Michael hated to give up but wouldn’t pursue a case without a client. Michael wrote across the folder ‘CLOSED’ filed it away into his closed cases file cabinet.

Rubbing his eyes, Michael decided to go to call it a night. He had to take a shower before heading out to meet up with his friends at the local blues bar. His friends had told him about this new band Hurricane D that was playing at the Green Dolphin. While he wasn’t really interested in listening to the band, he was interested in hooking up with the cute bartender…what was her name? Cathy? Mary? Stephanie-no that was one of the callers on the show. Damn, he’d have to remember before he got to the bar, maybe Sal would know.

Walking past his paint room, Michael took a cursorily look at the self portrait he was trying to finish and stopped to stare. There was something about the self-portrait that just wasn’t right, something was missing, but what? He flipped off his portrait before heading to the shower. When he was ready – he steadfastly ignored his painting and walked out to meet his friends.

The bar that had been filled up with diners was now thinning out so that most of the people in the bar were die hard music lovers. Michael scanned the crowd with disinterest and faintly made out the profiles of the band setting up to play as he pushed his way for a position at the bar.

“Oh la la, amigos. If the face that belongs to that fine piece of ass is half as good as the rest of her, she’s all mine!” Salvadore cried as he spotted something along the stage. Michael briefly glanced at the stage and noticed a short long haired blonde with her back to the audience. He half-heartedly agreed with the rest of his friends and tried to catch the blonde haired bartender’s eye.

As she met his gaze, the bartender smiled and indicated she’d be right over. Smiling with satisfaction, Michael felt his spirits lift. The female bartender was much better looking than the singer, she was tall, had a great figure, and was sassy – he liked sassy. As she smiled at him and walked over to take his order, Michael realized he had forgotten her name and scrambled to remember – Karen? Sara? Laural?

“Hey Mikey G – what’s up?”

“Hey! Got a couple new cases, that’s about it. Nothing too exciting.”

“Not like the girl at Starbucks, huh? What can I get you?”

“Blue Moon, tap. You heard that?”

“Who hasn’t? Man, that’s got to be the most bizarre story ever!”

“Yeah, I know. You should have seen the look on that girl’s face – she was bright red!” Michael chuckled as he picked up the frosty beer that she had placed in front of him.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t arrested.”

“I think most of the people there just thought it was more funny than anything.”

“Yeah, it was. So, you ever gonna show me this PI office of yours?”

“Anytime you want.”

The bartender smiled, then winked. “I’ll be sure to take you up on that – maybe you can re-enact the scene at Starbucks for me.”

Michael almost choked on his sip of beer and caught her teasing smile. “Maybe, you just never know.”

With a laugh, she was off to tend to another customer and Michael felt an elbow jab him in the side. When he turned to look, his gaze was met by flashing green eyes that belonged to the short blonde singer from the stage.

“You done taking up space, Casanova?”

Michael was taken aback by the sudden verbal and unwarranted attack, “Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

Michael immediately got defensive and was about to verbally beat the short blonde down, but another voice butted in,

“Excuse my friend. He doesn’t realize what a moron he is for standing in the way of such beauty and talent.”

Astonished, Michael turned to face Salvadore who was practically falling all over himself to speak with the green eyed blonde. He was even more surprised when the waspish blonde suddenly smiled back at Salvadore and flirted back,

“At least there’s one gentleman, here.”

Michael watched as the green eyed blonde accepted Salvadore’s hand in a shake and Salvadore buy the woman a drink. He grudgingly conceded that Salvadore was more mannered and he was very smooth when talking with the girls – unlike himself. He was often blunt and offended the girls while his friends could smooth talk a safe open. He watched as the woman wrote down a phone number and handed it to his friend then walk away.

Yes, his eyes did travel down and watch her ass as she walked away. She may not have been his type, he preferred the tall cool blondes, but there was no denying the hot body. Too bad she had such a sarcastic attitude. Michael dismissed her as he turned back to the bartender – damn it, what was her name?!


11: FAMILY

Happy New Year’s Eve!!

Thanks Harlequin, I think 2005 is going to be even better than 2004!

I agree, how can I help you tonight?

Well, I was hoping you could find a song to dedicate to my family, mom, dad, and my two brothers.

That’s an unusual request – is there a special reason you’d like to share with us?

Well, my husband and I just found out yesterday that our adoption application was approved and we’re getting a little girl!

Congratulations! That’s such great news! I have a soft spot for adopted families, as you all know.

Thank you. We’re very excited and we just told our families tonight.

I’m so happy for you! Is this your first child?

Yes – I-I’m so happy. I can’t believe this is happening, five years ago I never would have thought I’d even be here.

What happened five years ago?

Five years ago, I was pretty messed up. You see, I was adopted from China when I was only six months old. My parents had two sons already and they wanted a daughter, so they decided to get me.

Sounds like your parents had a lot of love to give.

They did, but growing up, I didn’t realize it or appreciate it. I felt alone, abandoned, someone else’s trash.

Sweetheart, you know that’s not the true!

I do now, but back then, that’s how I felt. I felt alien even amongst my own family and as I grew older, the more alienated I became with my family. By the time I graduated from college and moved to Chicago, I had driven away my brothers and barely spoke to my parents. Then, the car accident happened.

Oh n…

With a semi truck.

Oh frak.

Yeah. I was your typical 20something girl. I was working a crappy first job, living in a crappy first apartment, and burning through everything – money, alcohol, men. I tried to forget who I was, yet find myself with all the men. I was really very very self-destructive. I had just broken up with another stupid guy and was drinking away my depression when I decided that I wanted to see my family for awhile. So I got in my car to drive up north to Wisconsin even though it was like 2 in the morning.

How drunk were you?

Not enough that I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong and stupid, but enough to not care.

Did your family know you were coming?

No, I was just going to arrive and then surprise them.

What happened?

I had just stopped to get gas and was getting back on the interstate. I was in the merge lane which was on an overpass…

This doesn’t sound good.

I was going maybe 45-50 trying to get ahead of the semi in the lane, but he was driving really fast and he was right next to me. He pulled far enough in front of me until his back tires were next to my back door. That’s when his back end fish tailed.

Oh my god!

His back tires crushed the driver’s side of my car, crumpling my windshield, and dragging my car for a few feet before spinning me off towards the guardrail.

Were you hurt?

Yeah, the crushed door broke my arm, I cut my temple on the frame, but it wasn’t until I crashed into the guardrail that I actually got hurt.

What?

Yeah, my car rammed into the guardrail at full force, head on, and the hood of my car crumpled, along with my legs. The steering wheel crushed my ribs, which then punctured my lungs. It was pretty bad.

Pretty bad? Honey, that’s the understatement of the year.

I know. I don’t know how long it took to get an ambulance or if I was even conscience, but I know that when I got to the hospital, I was dying. I could feel myself dying. The life I had lived and the life I could have had all flashed before me and then there was nothing. All I could feel was peace and calm.

Did you have an out of body experience?

I really don’t know. I didn’t see a white light or a tunnel or anything like that, just this amazing sense of calm. I didn’t fear anything.

Most people who have out of body experiences say that they were met by a loved one.

I didn’t see anyone, but I did feel like I was being hugged. There was this incredible sense of love surrounding me and it was so comforting. And that’s when I started hearing the voices.

Voices? Like in angels?

Yeah, I thought I was hearing angels but then, as the voices continued and I could make out what they were saying, I realized the voices belonged to my family.

Aw…

I was in a coma and only part of me was aware of what my family was saying. But, what I did hear, I was so amazed…

Take your time, we’ve got all night.

For the first time in my life, I realized how much my family loved me. How much they still loved me. After all the crap I put them through, they still loved me and came running when I needed them the most. My mom sat by my bed and read to me, my dad would give me a play by play account of our favorite sport show – golf, and my two brothers drove in all the way from Minnesota to sit by my bed and talk to me.

You are precious to them.

I am and I finally realized that even if I didn’t deserve it, I had it. They loved me unconditionally and even when I pushed them away, they were right there to catch me at my lowest point.

How long were in the coma?

I tried waking up several times, but two weeks passed before I was finally able to open my eyes and look at my family. I didn’t even care about the injuries, I just finally wanted to be able to talk to my family and tell them all how much I loved them. But I couldn’t.

Why not?

Because my jaw was wired shut.

Oh no!

Yeah, my jaw was wired. My legs were in traction, my pelvis crushed, my right shoulder dislocated and collar bone broken, as well as my ribs. And the worst news was my back. Several spinal disks were dislocated from the impact.

That sounds really serious.

It was, but my family was there and they helped me through the months of recovery. After the wires were removed, my family and I talked, really talked, which helped me emotionally. The physical therapy and recovery was easy, but it was the emotional healing that meant the most to me. After three years, I was fully recovered and went on my first official date with my physical therapist who had been helping me the entire three years.

You fell in love with your therapist?

I know this will sound extremely cliché, but he became my closest friend and supporter. So when he asked me out on a date, when I was officially no longer his client, I said yes. We didn’t date long before getting engaged and married.

You had a really long road to travel, didn’t you?

Yes, and there were times when I didn’t think love or even life was in the cards for me, and look where I am now. I’m healthy, I finally have a great relationship with my family, and I’m married to a wonderful man, and we’re about to be blessed with our first child.

You really are an inspiration, honey. Life is always unexpected, and the gifts it brings isn’t always wrapped in pretty packaging. Instead, it could be ugly and life threatening, but if you can keep your eyes open as well as your mind, life can be amazingly beautiful. Let me find a song for you and your family,

By Your Side – Sade

You think I'd leave your side baby?
You know me better than that
Think I'd leave you down
When you're down on your knees?
I wouldn't do that
I'll tell you you're right when you're wrong
Ah, ah, ah, oh, oh, oh, oh
And if only you could see into me

Ohh, when you're cold
I'll be there
Hold you tight to me
When you're on the outside
Baby, and you can't get in
I would show you
You're so much better than you know
When you're lost, you're alone
Can't get back again
I will find you
Darlin' and I'll bring you home

And if you want to cry
I am here to dry your eyes (ooh)
You know time
You'll be fine

You think I'd leave your side baby?
You know me better than that
Think I'd leave you down
When you're down on your knees?
I wouldn't do that
I'll tell you you're right when you're wrong
Ah, ah, ah, ah, oh, oh, oh
And if only you could see into me

Ohh, when you're cold
I'll be there
Hold you tight to me (to me, yeah)
Ohh, when you're alone
I'll be there
By your side, baby

Ohh, when you're cold
I'll be there
Hold you tight to me (to me, yeah)
Ohh, when you're alone
I'll be there
By your side, baby


~!~

Maria sighed as she listened to the last chords of the song and then switched it off. She loved that song, but she didn’t have time to think about what that song meant to her tonight. Most times, she couldn’t help but cry as she thought of her ex-boyfriend Billy singing that very song to her on their first anniversary. He had been her first love, the man who encouraged her singing and pushed her to pursue her career in music, and he was stupid enough to go and get himself killed.

She shook her head and banished thoughts of Billy from her mind. She was at the Planetarium of Chicago, performing in front of her largest crowd, and her entire future career depended on her success, she couldn’t afford to think of her past. The first set went smoothly and she was just taking her half hour break before the next set.

She sipped her honeyed tea, smoothed down her crushed velvet strapless dress and looked at the crowd around her. Two months ago, she received a call from the organizer of the Make-A-Wish Ball who had heard her at a local jazz bar – the same one she had met Salvadore, her now ex-boyfriend. The voice on the other end of the phone, Isabel Avens, had liked what she heard and wanted to hire her for the New Year’s Wish Ball. She was ecstatic – the crowd was full of rich, influential, movers and shakers of the Chicago society. The event was more sophisticated than most of the jazz clubs the band had worked before and she hoped that the band would make enough contacts to get a record deal.

“Maria.”

Turning at the sound of her name, Maria saw Isabel Avens, the ball’s organizer, walking towards her. “Hi, Isabel.”

“Hello, how’s it going?”

“Its going great, thanks. You’ve done a great job with the ball.”

“Yes. It’s the biggest turnout since the inception of the ball. Your performance is very good – thank you.” Isabel spoke coolly and stiffly. Maria glanced at the other woman as she walked off and shrugged it off. The taller woman was beautiful, but she seemed a bit cold and stuck up.

“Now that’s what I call a looker!”

Maria’s back went up and her temper flared. She whirled around to face the speaker and was about to yell at the speaker about demeaning women, when her jaw dropped.

“You!”

“You!”

Maria looked at the tall lanky man and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The rude jerk that she had met the same night she met Salvadore was standing right in front of her, what was his name?

“What are you doing here? I didn’t realize they let dogs into museums.” Maria fumed.

“If they let a bitch like you in, they can’t take exception to me, now can they?” The infuriating guy smirked and walked away before Maria could form a smart-ass reply. The man really did infuriate her – Michael. That was his name. Salvadore had explained that Michael was his former co-worker and good friend, but he was now a private investigator and had a really lucrative business after the incident with The Flash on Harlequin’s After Hours.

Maria had broken it off with Salvadore after only a couple of months. There was something missing between them and to be honest, she was really quite bored with him.

“Hey Maria, let’s go. We’re on in 10.”

Maria turned to face her band’s bass player, Jesse, and grinned. Her band and she had worked hard to get where they were today. They had struggled through part-time jobs, being homeless, and the loss of Billy to make it to the point where they were in demand as the hottest jazz band in all of Chicago. They even began to get invites to other cities, New York and New Orleans, to play at some of the bigger establishments.

“Hey chica, what’s up with the frown?”

“That man was a friend of Salvadore’s and he just infuriates me. He’s such a jerk!”

“Why?”

“He-he…Just because! Come on, let’s go.”

“You know Maria, I haven’t seen you this worked up over a guy, since…”

Maria threw up a hand in warning, “Don’t say it.”

Jesse grinned but didn’t say word.

“He’s nothing like Billy. Billy was sweet, kind, thoughtful…”

“And the two of you fought like cats and dogs because you’re neither sweet or thoughtful.” Interrupted another voice. A young woman with dyed black hair and dressed in a gothic-inspired lace dress walked up to Maria and handed her another mug of honeyed tea.

Maria glared at her friend “Vivian, just because you’re my childhood friend and we grew up together in the same house, doesn’t mean I won’t kick your butt.”

Vivian smoothed the blunt cut of her bob cut hair and hid her knowing smile. While she was 6 ft and a lot stronger, Maria did pack quite a punch, but she never hit one of her family. The three of them walked to the stage and warmed up for their next set.

Maria sipped her tea and watched her band. Vivian played the keyboards, Mark was their drummer, and Jesse had taken over the bass when Billy died. The four of them and Billy had grown up together with Maria’s Aunt Amy, who had taken them all in when their parents all abandoned them when they were in the early teens. They were as close as any biological family and they were stronger together. They started a band together, with Jesse starting out as their manager, because they shared a dream together – to make jazz music that would stir the soul.

With Billy’s death, they had become even closer and they refused to let their dream die. They continued on with Jesse taking over where Billy left off and added a fresh color all his own. And while she loved them all, loved them like family, she would never forget her first family, Liz.

Maria’s heart contracted at the memory of Liz and knew she’d never get over it. Billy’s death had been tragic, but there were at least answers to questions like what happened and where he was – it had been his choice to get in a car, too drunk to drive. Yes, she had loved him – he was her first love. Yes, she was pissed off at him for leaving her. Yes, she still missed him. The memories of him, of them together were strong and it hurt sometimes, but she didn’t regret how things turned out. She was at peace with his death and his memories – there were no questions left unanswered.

But Liz was a different story. She was stolen, taken from her without answers. Elizabeth Parkingson was her first friend and half sister by the way of her father. Since Liz’s mother, Nancy Parkingson, never married John DeLuca, she had her mother’s surname but that was about it. Nancy, in one of her drunken hazes, dropped three year old Liz off on the doorstep of John DeLuca’s doorstep in Roswell, New Mexico, after getting a job offer in Vegas. Only problem was, John wasn’t around anymore and there was only his wife, Julia and his other three year old daughter, Maria. From the moment the two little girls met, they bonded. They just knew. They had been born three days apart – they would find out later, but they just instinctively knew in that moment they were sisters. Their hands reached for each other and clung while Julia stormed about the place, enraged.

Faced with evidence of John’s infidelity as well as his abandonment, Julia decided to start her life over, without any reminders of her former life and dropped off the two girls with John’s younger sister, Amy. It took one look at the two small girls for Amy to fall in love. She took them in and raised them as her own. It wasn’t easy, considering she was single and a baker at a hotel restaurant, but she managed and the girls thrived in their new home.

Maria and Liz were inseparable, like twins they leaned on each other and had their own secret language. Maria was the loud, adventurous type while Liz was the quieter, more thoughtful one, but they complemented each other perfectly. They were never apart from each for very long – they hated being alone for too long. They shared the same bedroom in a tiny two bedroom apartment. And unlike most siblings, they never argued over sharing the toys, or so Maria liked to remember. They even slept in the same bed together, afraid the other would disappear like their parents. For six years, the three of them were family. A small and happy family. And then one day, while the two girls were in school, Liz went to the bathroom and never came back.

Aunt Amy and the police all suspected Liz’s biological mother, but no one could track down the former alcoholic prostitute. Maria lived her worst nightmare of having her sister disappear as the days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. No one had any word on Liz or Nancy. Amy and Maria had to come to terms with the fact they would never see Liz again. Maria had been inconsolable – crying every night, missing sister.

Then one hot summer day, two years later, a Jane Doe whose car had driven off a Tucson, AZ county bridge and into a shallow but fierce river was found. Because of local rains, the river had been abnormally high and it wasn’t until it receded that the crashed car came to the light of day. It had taken another year to identify the body as Nancy Parkingson and when Amy DeLuca heard the news, she immediately contacted the local authorities to see if Liz had been in the car too. News came back that only one body was found and that the body of Elizabeth Parkingson was missing, if she was ever in the car.

Amy hired private detectives to look for the little girl, but after a year and with mounting debts, she had to give up the search. She told Maria that everyone thought that Liz was dead, but Maria refused to believe it. She knew her sister was alive, she just knew it, but after that day, she refused to talk about Liz to anyone. She packed up all of Liz’s favorite things and hid them in her closet – keeping them for Liz. Every year, on their birthday, Maria bought Liz a gift, wrapped it with a special note, and hid it in her closet. Later, when Vivian, Jesse, Mark, and Billy came, she had Amy store Liz’s boxes in the attic, never to be thrown away.

She shared her room with her new siblings, but she refused to share with them the memories of Liz. She swore Amy to secrecy and never told any of them about Liz, except Billy. When she started dating Billy when they were sixteen, Maria told him of her missing half sister, but she didn’t tell him the whole story until two years later.

On her 18th birthday, Maria hired her first private investigator with Billy’s help. She could only afford a month’s worth of work, but she had to try. Every year since, Maria saved up all year so she could hire an investigator. When the band traveled on tour, she hired another one for which ever city they were living in, to try and find any information on Liz.

The band and she had moved to Chicago two years ago and they were making a fairly decent living. Each person had a part-time day job, Maria’s was a server at one of the steak houses, so they could practice and play their engagements on the weekends. They did well enough to invite Aunt Amy to come live with them since she lost her bakery position in Roswell’s only diner. The group piled their money together and bought a small three flat for them to live and practice in. Even though money was tight, Maria was still able save enough to hire an investigator each year.

Six years later, it was still the same routine. Maria was looking into private investigators here in Chicago – last year’s investigator was crap. This year, Maria had hopes to hire a better investigator since her band had made more money in the past year.

As the band finished warming up their instruments, Maria took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She made a quick prayer that this year, on their birthdays, she would be reunited with her long lost sister and then stepped out to face the New Year’s crowd.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
Contact:

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:09 pm

12 TATTOO

Hello?

This is Harlequin, who am I speaking with?

I’m Gina.

Hello Gina. What’s on your mind tonight?

Well, I need some advice.

Alright, spill girlfriend.

Well, I’ve had several work functions that I’ve had to attend, but I’ve never asked him to go with me. He’s asked about it, but I’ve always told him they were boring and he wouldn’t like them. But he insists that he would like to at least make up his own mind.

I guess I don’t understand. Are you talking about your boyfriend?

Yes. And I don’t know how to tell him that he…well, he wouldn’t quite fit into the social setting of any of the events I go to.

Wait a second, what do you mean? Why don’t you start from the beginning.

Ok, last year on New Years Eve, I was at a friend’s house. It was a small party, but nice. I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people. People were drinking and dancing, all the way until 4 in the morning.

Sounds like my kind of party.

It was great and I had a lot of fun.

Did you get drunk? Its ok, everyone gets stupid sometimes.

No. It wasn’t like that.

So, then what happened?

I met my current boyfriend, Santiago.

So you met a nice guy that you like and are still with, yes?

Yes. He asked me for my number that night and he called the next day to check on me.

Sounds sweet.

It was. We ended up talking for almost three hours and he called again the next day. He was just so nice. We talked on the phone for almost two weeks straight after New Years. And then he asked me out for a date.

He sounds like an old fashioned young man.

I thought so too. I accepted his date and I had a really good time…but…

What happened?

When I first met him that night on New Years, we were all dressed fairly casually, nothing fancy and it was dark, so I really didn’t get to see him very well.

Was he different from what you remembered?

Yes!

Like what?

Harlequin, I know this will sound so snobby and so superficial…

What bothered you?

He, he looked scary. He had long shaggy hair, a goatee, and…and has tattoos! Not just one, but several. He’s got them all over his body, his arms, hands, neck. Every piece of skin that I saw, besides his face, was covered in tattoos.

What’s wrong with tattoos?

Nothing! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with tattoos, it’s just not that attractive to me.

So, seeing his tattoos made you not want him?

Kind of, but I still went out with him and we had a great time. It took me by surprise, but we really hit it off. We’ve been dating ever since.

Ok, sounds good so far…

The thing is, to me, his tattoos scream “thug” and I don’t want people to think that about him or me, but they would.

So, you’re worried about how he reflects on you?

I know how shallow it sounds – but I work for a nonprofit company and they’re very, very conservative. It is very concerned about the appearance and behavior of all of its employees.

So you’re worried about your company getting upset with dating a guy who has tattoos?

Yes. I really like what I do – helping children, I really feel like I make a difference.

Huh. I’m going to ask you some simple yes and no questions.

Ok.

Does he treat you well?

Yes, very well.

Does he make you laugh?

Yes.

Does he treat you with respect?

Yes.

Do your friends like him?

Yes – they love him.

Is there anything major like a felony or he drinks and beats you?

No.

Is he thoughtful?

Yes, more than most guys I’ve dated.

Ok, then. Now, normally, I wouldn’t do this, but honey, you need a reality check. You know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like you’re a shallow little girl who is more concerned about appearances than you are about the person that cares about you. It screams “selfish” and I suggest you take a very hard look at yourself and your priorities. Jobs come and go, careers are lost and found, but the love and support of a good partner is hard to find. I can’t believe that a guy like yours is wasted on someone as shallow as you.

But…

No. You should be proud of the man you have and not hide him away from your colleagues. I think you don’t give your colleagues enough credit for brains or open mind and it’s a real shame.

I’m not shallow!

Oh no? Then what do you call someone who’s concerned about how her boyfriend will look to other people?

<silence>

That’s what I thought. Here’s a song for you and I hope you really listen to the words and the meaning.

“Beautiful” Christina Aguilara

Everyday is so wonderful
Then suddenly
It's hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure
From all the pain
I'm so ashamed

I am beautiful
No matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful
In every single way
Yes words can't bring me down
Ohh no
So don't you bring me down today

To all your friends you're delirious
You're so consumed
In all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness
The piece is gone
Left the puzzle undone
That's the way it is

You are beautiful
No matter what they say
Words can't bring you down
Ohh no
You are beautiful
In every single way
Yes words can't bring you down
Ohh no
So don't you bring me down today

No matter what we do
No matter what we say
The sun will shine your way
'Cause you are beautiful today

Everywhere we go
The sun won't always shine
But tomorrow's another day
So keep on looking to the sky

We are beautiful
No matter what they say
Words can't bring us down
Ohh no
We are beautiful
In every single way
Yes words can't bring us down
Ohh no
So don't you bring me down today

Don't you bring me down today
Don't you bring me down
Today


~!~

Isabel listened to the words of the song and felt just as chastised as the caller. She could feel herself flush in the dark and got up from her bed. Wrapping a silk ice blue robe around her body, Isabel tried to get her mind off of New Years Eve.

That night had been her most successful event and she had made several connections with some very powerful and influential people that night. She knew she made an impression on people – she had dressed with special care for the night just for that reason. She had worn a classic strapless sheath in her signature color, scarlet red, and had her hair in a cool twist. The overall look was cool, refined, a little haughty but most definitely successful and confident. And it worked. People fell all over themselves complimenting her on her success of the ball and several men gave her appreciative glances.

Nobody guessed that she hated being there, that her brilliant smile hid her shyness or that her smooth social grace hid the fact she was nervous as hell. She would have rather stayed home in her safe apartment alone instead of there at the ball, surrounded by hundreds of people gawking at her. It wasn’t the work that bothered her – she thrived on the work, the thousands of minor details, the organizing and planning. No, it was the publicity that she hated.

Once everything came together, Isabel knew that she would have to put herself out in front of everyone to judge. They would judge her on the success of the event and how well she could smooze the crowds. As a result, she spent most of the night holding a glass of champagne and faking her way through every conversation. She hated being in the spotlight, hated it with a passion. But she knew her business depended on her shining in the spotlight. And, as her mother had told her often enough, she was born to shine in the spotlight with a face and body like hers.

Ever since she could remember, Isabel had been judged on her appearance. Her mother Deanna had entered Isabel in a local beauty pageant when she was three, after Isabel’s father had walked out on them. They needed the money and with Isabel’s beauty, she easily won. Since that first win, Isabel had been entered in every pageant that Deanna heard about and she dominantly won each one. The more that Isabel won, the more demanding Deanna became.

Deanna would coach the little girl on how to walk, how to smile, how to laugh, sit, cry, it never ended, Isabel was always “on”. At the restaurants, grocery stores, Kmart, Deanna always enforced in Isabel that she was being watched, judged, by her appearance and behavior. She could never relax, let her guard down, because a winner like her always had an audience.

Isabel was never allowed to be herself, at least never in front of an audience. She had learned to never allow people to see her real emotions – her fear, nervousness, shyness, awkwardness, especially her mother. Her mother demanded that Isabel be perfect, because being perfect meant winning and her mother only loved winners.

The only time Isabel ever remembered her mother hugging her was in public, in front of the cameras as she won pageant after pageant. Sometimes, she would even see a spark of pride in her mother’s eyes when she won. And Isabel lived too see that one look in her mother’s eyes. Winning each pageant became her focus because it would mean another hug, another kiss, another look of pride from her mother. In front of the cameras and audience, Deanna was the perfect doting mother.

In their private lives, Deanna was a harsh task master - driving Isabel on her grades, her dancing talent, her catwalk presence. She pointed out every flaw, every mistake, every ugly little thing wrong with her until Isabel began to see them herself. Together, mother and daughter obsessed over Isabel’s appearance – from her hair color to her nail color, it all mattered.

When Isabel turned fourteen and her figure flushed out, Deanna saw it as an opportunity to enter her daughter into an even more lucrative job, modeling. She spent hundreds of dollars from Isabel’s previous awards on moving the two of them to New York and getting Isabel the perfect headshots. She pushed Isabel even harder on losing her baby fat and to look sexier – buying Isabel lower cut shirts, tighter and shorter dresses. And it paid off.

Isabel was signed to the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency and her career took off. Soon Isabel was seen on the cover of all the teen magazines, Parisian catwalks, billboards, and then came the lingerie contract. At seventeen, Isabel Avens was the hottest model on the scene. Her cool blonde looks and voluptuous body made her the most demanded model since Twiggy. And it still wasn’t enough for her mother. Deanna wanted her to get into acting and pushed Isabel’s agent into getting her jobs.

No one would hire her. Isabel was considered a beautiful model, but a very untalented actor. But her mother wouldn’t listen. She insisted that Isabel could act until finally a producer offered to let Isabel read for a small role in an upcoming movie. Deanna took Isabel aside and told her, “Do whatever it takes to get this role”. Isabel didn’t understand at first, but when her mother left her alone with the producer, she started to get the picture.

As soon as they were alone, the producer made his move and Isabel, remembering what her mother had said, let him take her. Right there on the couch in his office, Isabel lost her virginity and her innocence. After he was finished, the producer cleaned himself up and announced that she had gotten the part. Isabel barely heard the man, she was too frozen inside. She numbly got up and dressed, making sure she looked perfect and gave the man a fake brilliant look and walked way. She told her mother she got the part, and for once in her life, she didn’t wait for her mother’s reaction.

From that moment on, Isabel became the Ice Princess, a stunningly beautiful icy princess who wouldn’t let anyone near her. She bought her mother a penthouse in New York and then left her there, telling her that she was no longer needed or wanted. Isabel barely heard her mother’s outrage, just froze her out and left her alone in the penthouse. Her first acting job led to other offers, but Isabel preferred to model. She didn’t want any part of the acting world.

Isabel’s life became a blur of jobs, partying, and men. In front of the camera, she was the perfect vision. Off camera, she drowned herself in anything and everything, trying to forget. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, sex – all of it helped her to forget, if only for a little bit. At 22, she was at the top of her career – the highest paid, most in-demand model, and the rock bottom of her personal life with no friends. That’s when the news of her mother’s death hit her.

Deanna Avens had died of a major heart attack in the middle of the night, alone. Isabel knew she should feel grief or something, but she didn’t. She was too frozen to feel anything, but she put on the best performance of her life. In front of the cameras, her grief was naked on her face and the reporters and public ate it all up. She buried her mother in front of several reporters and cameras and just like her mother taught her, was the perfect picture of a grieving daughter.

Isabel didn’t go to her mother’s penthouse until her mother’s lawyer called her. Apparently her mother had left everything to her daughter and the lawyer wanted to know what to do with the penthouse bills. Isabel took a break from her modeling jobs and went to inspect the place. As she suspected, the place was meticulously decorated. There were several pictures of Isabel scattered around the room, just like a doting mother would have. Isabel sneered at her mother’s pretense and was about to leave, but the attached boudoir next to Deanna’s bedroom left Isabel gasping.

The boudoir was literally a shrine to Isabel. There were pictures from every pageant and modeling job, scrapbooks, trophies, ribbons, sashes, even entire outfits. There were also letters, letters that she had written to Isabel in the recent years but were returned to her without being opened. The room was overwhelming and for the first time since she was seventeen, she began to feel.

Rage and hate at the images of her youth, at her mother’s greedy aspirations grew in her chest until a loud scream erupted from her. Hours later, Isabel walked out of the penthouse leaving behind a chaotic mess. Everything in the penthouse was destroyed, chairs, curtains, ripped up, carpeting and painting slashed, furniture destroyed. In the fireplace, the ashes of all the pictures and memories of Isabel and Deanna lay.

That was the day that Isabel left her modeling career. She sold her mother’s penthouse and used the money to move to Chicago, the one big city she had never been to before. It took her some time to figure out who she was. She went to public college and walked around the city trying to put the pieces of her together. She knew she had to get a job and tried to figure out what she wanted to do, but she really didn’t have any practical skills. Desperate for something to do, she contacted her agent who got her a small modeling assignment for the national car show. That’s where she met Louise Artell, the show’s organizing president.

Louise was one of the first people to ever see past Isabel’s beauty and saw a brilliant mind. She took Isabel under her wing and after the show, hired her on as an assistant. For three years, Isabel learned the ropes of event management from Louise. When Louise retired, Isabel struck out on her own and started her own company. Her reputation, established with Louise, gave her an edge among her competition. With Louise’s referrals and contact book, Isabel’s business was a success from the beginning. She had even hired Isabel to coordinate the New Years Eve ball as the head of the charity organization.

Now, at 27, Isabel was on the verge of expanding her business to the west coast. The New Year’s ball had clinched her success rate and secured her financing from her investors. Once again, she was at the top of her career, but her personal life was non-existent. She had spent so much of her life thinking other women were her competition and men as her toys, that she never learned to have friends, just social acquaintances. In fact, not many people knew that she was actually quite awkward with people. And the New Years Ball was the scene of her most recent personal failure.

While she was talking with one of her investors, she had noticed out of the corner of her eye a tall lean man with intense blue eyes staring at her. He had been dressed like everyone else in a tuxedo, his wavy hair neatly parted and combed back. He was clean shaven and had a youthful appearance, but his eyes were incredibly intense. She could feel his eyes assessing her, not like most of them who looked at her. He looked at her like he could see past her façade and see the real Isabel, which irritated her and made her squirm. The longer he stared, the more irritated she became.

Who was he to stare at her, making her uncomfortable?

Throughout the night, she could sense he was still watching her. While she was talking with guests and networking, he was always there on the peripheral of her vision. Finally, towards the end of the evening as she was watching the last of the guests leave, the man finally approached her. And she was prepared to hear the words she always heard, “You’re beautiful”. He actually surprised her with a gentle, “Excuse me”.

She turned to face him and was almost startled with the honest look in his eyes, but she regained her composure and coolly looked at him. He didn’t say anything, just stared at her. That’s when she lost all patience with the man and lashed out.

She let her repressed irritation out and tore into him. She had cuttingly mocked his timidness and lack of social manners. Then, she bitingly told him that a man like him wasn’t worth her time and walked away. She felt a twinge of guilt as she saw the wounded look that came into his eyes, but she dismissed it and continued overseeing the clean up.

Louise had stuck around and congratulated her. Then she said something that made Isabel’s stomach drop.

“Isabel, did you get a chance to speak with the Alexander Whitman?”

“I don’t think so, what did he look like”

“He was a young man, around your age, and had very intense blue eyes. He congratulated me on the event and wanted to know who organized it, since he was looking for an event planner for an event he was planning.”

“Who is he, I’ve never heard of him.”

“He’s the creator of Rosetta language programs and now the co-owner and head programmer of Whit-Hall Games.”

“Are you kidding me? That’s the biggest computer gaming company in the US.”

“Yes and he is planning on throwing an international computer gaming event. I think he called it, the Gaming Olympics? I saw him waiting for you, trying to get your attention as the guests were leaving. Are you sure you didn’t speak with him?”

Isabel felt the blood drain from her face, suspecting who Louise was talking about, but kept her composure. She asked Louise to describe him again and the older woman, looked around the sparse room until she saw him.

“There! Mr. Whitman!”

The man that Louise flagged down was the same man that Isabel had just dressed down and she felt her stomach drop even more. She felt her cheeks flush as Louise introduced her to Mr. Whitman and he looked at her blankly. She tried to unglue her mouth, but before she could even come up with words, Alexander Whitman quickly and coldly cut her down.

“Thank you Ms. Artell, but I believe that I and my humble company are not worthy of Ms. Avan’s attention. Good evening.”

The man walked away leaving Isabel floundering and humiliated. Louise looked at her oddly and she stumbled to make her excuses to get away from her old friend. Isabel was horrified at her behavior towards Mr. Whitman. She had immediately contacted his office the next day and tried to apologize but he wouldn’t take her call. She finally resorted to sending a bouquet with a card expressing her apologies.

Three days passed until his office finally called her and set up an appointment. Now, here she was, the night before her appointment, anxious. After several restless hours, she had turned on Harlequin’s show and listened to the callers. Gina’s call and subsequent reprimand had sparked Isabel’s thoughts. It made her realize how shallow her own life was and how shallow she behaved.

She had been the Ice Princess for so long, she had forgotten what it was like to feel genuine emotions. As a result, she had mistakenly thought that Alexander Whitman had been trying to come on to her like every other man. She now had to figure out how to apologize face-to-face with genuine emotion and it terrified her.

~!~

She breathed slowly, in and out, trying to lull herself to sleep, but nothing happened. She wished she was home, listening to After Hours, thinking of him. She thought she could leave it all behind, she thought she could move on, but it was time to face reality. She didn’t want to leave it or him behind.

She wanted to go home.

13. THE CHRISTIAN

Harlequin?

Good evening. This is a treat, to have a gentleman call in.

Yeah, well, I wouldn’t normally call in, but this was the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me, that I had to call in.

Oh, really? You’ve got my attention, caller. What ‘s your name?

I’m Andrew.

Hi, Andrew. So, what happened?

Well, there’s this girl in my apartment building. She’s hot - completely hot…

Andrew, don’t be so crude.

No – I’m not being crude – she’s really hot looking, like a hot stripper. I swear. She’s got this amazing body, legs up to her neck and ...

Andrew – I’m not interested in her measurements.

Uh, sorry. Anyway – I kept seeing her in the laundry room and we’d exchange chit chat. ‘Hi’ ‘How’s it going?’ that kind of think, you know?

If she was so hot – why weren’t you hitting on her?

Huh…you know, I really don’t know. She always seemed like she wasn’t interested.

Did that change?

Yeah, I was in the laundry room and she came in. She smiled at me like she was really happy to see me.

You took that as encouragement?

Yup. I started talking to her, but trying to keep things cool. This was the first time she seemed remotely interested.

Hmm, love among dirty laundry…<laugh>

I know, but it happens. But then, I finally got up the nerve to ask if she wanted to go get some coffee. To my surprise, she said yes, she’d even be interested in dinner. I was so stoked!! I couldn’t wait.

Did you brag to your buddies?

Well, just one.

I’m not judging, honey.

I decided to take her to hottest new place, Bottle Rocket...

Wow, I’m impressed. I love that place, but its really difficult to get in there.

Yeah, I have a friend that’s a bouncer there, so he hooked me up. Anyway, I went to her apartment and gave her flouwers…

Andrew, can I just say that was the best first move you could have made? Do you have any idea how many men forget even the smallest nicities?

Thanks Harlequin! I thought it would really impress her, so I bought some nice daisies. She looked amazing! She was totally hot before, but that night, she looked even better. I couldn’t’ believe how lucky I was. I drove us to the restaurant and valet the car. I could tell she was impressed with the restaurant and stuff because she grabbed my arm and clung to it.

How was the conversation? I mean, I’m assuming you didn’t stare at her all night.

It was so crazy, we just clicked! We had the best time exchanging stories about how crazy our families were and our jobs. It was just fun, I had a lot of fun with her.

So, what’s so bizarre about that?

After we sat down and waited for our food, she asked me if I was Christian.

That doesn’t sound so weird.

It wasn’t, but when I told her that I wasn’t, that’s when it happened. She started to tell me about how she was a born again Christian and how her personal mission was to spread the gospel to as many people as possible.

Oohhkay….

Yeah. I was thinking the same thing and tried to politely change the topic, but she wouldn’t let it go. She then went on to ask about my belief and faith. When I tried talking, she practically ignored everything I said and proceeded to tell me why my life was wrong and how pagan I was without faith.

What?

Yeah, but it gets even weirder. She got up, without touching her dinner, and started to preach to the entire restaurant.

Oh my god.

I didn’t think it could get more embarrassing but she used ME as an example of how heathen men were! How unbelievers like ME would burn in hell for my ungodliness and sinful lifestyle, how I was being led towards an eternal life of torture because of my lustful thoughts.

<quiet>

That’s right, go ahead and laugh. Everyone in the restaurant did. I could see their pitying looks and mocking laughs. She went on for 10 minutes before the manager came out and asked us to leave.

Did she start preaching to him, too?

No. She crossed herself and quietly left. I tried to get out of there without looking at the crowd, but I felt like I was walking the hall of shame. When we got in the car, she didn’t say a word and I didn’t either. I walked her to her door, and she then told me that she only went out with me because it was the only she could think of to try and “witness” me.

Witness?

To share the word of god to unbelievers.

Oh. Sorry.

Yeah, me too! I go out with one of the hottest girls in my lifetime and she turns out to be a puritan. Man, I just can’t believe my luck!

I’m sorry that your date didn’t turn out the way you wanted, but you have to give her credit for being so faithful and sticking to her guns.

I guess…

Let me play you a song to try and make you feel better,


"The Show Must Go On" Queen

Empty spaces - what are we living for
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score
On and on
Does anybody know what we are looking for

Another hero another mindless crime
Behind the curtain in the pantomime
Hold the line
Does anybody want to take it anymore

The show must go on
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

Whatever happens I'll leave it all to chance
Another heartache another failed romance
On and on
Does anybody know what we are living for
I guess I'm learning
I must be warmer now
I'll soon be turning round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free

The show must go on
The show must go on - yeah
Ooh inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

Yeah, oh oh oh

My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly - my friends

The show must go on - yeah
The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On with the show

I'll top the bill
I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
On with the
On with the show

The show must go on, go on, go on, go on...


~!~

Kyle smirked at the song being played for poor unlucky Andrew and turned up the song. He was driving home from dinner with his dad, Jim, and his dad's new girlfriend, Amy. The woman seemed nice enough, a little flaky but ok. He had been a bit hesitant at first to meet her since his father seemed infatuated with a new woman every couple of weeks. But when his father called him about Amy, he told Kyle something he never told him before -he was ready to settle down and could see a future with Amy. Turns out that his dad had met Amy once before, a long time ago - when Amy was just barely 17 and protesting one of the Native American buildings being torn down outside of Roswell. His dad had arrested her and while nothing had happened that day, years later, they happened to run into each other here in Chicago at a small diner.

Over dinner, Kyle watched his father act like he was young teenage boy, blushing and flirting with the woman sitting next to him. At first he had been amused and laughed at his old man, but then he realized, he never saw his father act this way before. Growing up, Jim had been his biggest fan and his best friend. He worked long hours at the Sheriff’s office in Roswell, NM to make enough money to support the two of them. When he wasn’t at the Sheriff’s office, he was heading up Roswell West football booster club, raising money for new uniforms, a new bus, better equipment. It didn’t leave much time for any of his hobbies, if he had any, and he never really seemed to date.

Kyle had always known his father was proud of him and was important to him – his dad made sure to say it every chance he got. He even gave up his career at the Roswell Sheriff’s Department to move to Chicago to watch his games. At first Kyle had been embarrassed that his dad wanted to go to college with him, but when they got to Chicago without knowing anyone but each other, it had been a huge relief.

Had Jim stayed in Roswell, he wouldn’t have been able go to any of Kyle’s games nor would he have been able to visit or have his son fly home. Moving to Illinois had been hard on Kyle. He wasn’t used to the weather, school was much harder than he ever anticipated, and for the first time as an athlete, he had to prove himself on and off the field. The advantage of a small town was that everyone knew everything and anything about you, but in a huge town like Chicago, Kyle was just another small fish in an ocean of talent.

The first few weeks of football training had been brutal. The seniors hated the new recruits, especially Kyle and his “Golden Boy” status. He was constantly razed by his fellow teammates and he struggled to finish all of his school work at night because he would be so tired from practice.

It was the biggest relief and comfort to be able to go home to an apartment with a welcoming face. Jim seemed to know without words that Kyle was struggling and quietly encouraged him by feeding him his favorite foods and not talking about it. Instead, Jim would distract him with talk about his job search and subsequent job hiring at a suburban village that was three times the size of Roswell.

After the third month, and second game, Kyle was given his lucky break. He was thrown into a lost game; his team was losing by three touchdowns, in an attempt to save the senior quarterback’s arm. Kyle went in and he actually turned the game around so that it looked like they actually had a shot at winning the game, but time ran out before it could happen.

While they hadn’t won the game, his teammates had been impressed with the direct orders and precise manipulations on the field. So had his coach. The next game saw Kyle in the second half of the game, clinching the win. From that game on, Kyle was the quarterback, leading his team into numerous victories. Jim had been in the stands for every single game – even the away games-to support his son.

All this time, Jim had been supporting Kyle, cheering him on and he didn’t have much of a social life beyond that. He was suddenly really happy to see his father in love and hoped that things with this Amy worked out. The two of them had plenty in common, they were both single parents - she had actually raised her niece and a couple foster kids-they worked in what they loved, they loved rock bands.

With his father finally settled and happy, Kyle wondered at his sense of jealousy. He wanted what his father had - a woman that he could see a future with. Kyle had never really felt like that, not even with his high school sweetheart. It wasn't like he didn't have his choice. He had always been a good looking guy - the accident never changed that. His blonde hair, blue eyes, sheepish grin - he knew all the lines that women went crazy for. Nothing obnoxious, but just the right ones to stir interest. Guys he knew envied his lifestyle and his ease with women, but they didn't know that Kyle would gladly trade it all for one good woman.

Did that seem cheesy? He didn't care if it did - Buddhism didn't allow him to lie to himself. Perhaps it stemmed from the fact that he had never known a mother. Weren't most men looking for a woman like their mother anyway? Kyle never had a mother so he didn't know what he was looking for; he didn't have a standard to even start looking. So, he went through woman after woman, trying to find the right one. The problem with that was he didn't know if he would ever know when he would find her. He thought his high school girlfriend had been the one. She was sweet, kind, thoughtful and a bit girly - liked pink sweaters and stuffed animals and all that, but every time he looked at her, he couldn't figure out what was missing, if there was even something missing.

A ringing cell phone interrupted his thoughts and he picked it up, knowing it was his father.

“I like her.”

“Really? You’re not just saying that are you, son?”

“No, dad. She brings out the fun side of you.”

“Are you saying your old man isn’t fun?”

“No. I mean, that I was thinking over dinner that I had never really seen you go out on dates, back when I was growing up. You were always either working or helping out at school to help raise money for the team. It’s nice to see you take some time for yourself.”

Silence met his comments.

“Son, you were always my first priority. When your mom died, I wanted to make sure you knew that I was still there, that I was thinking about you. My old man never did that – my mom took off because he ignored the two of us for his job.”

“I know, dad. And I guess I never appreciated it until now. I really like Amy.”

“Well, Amy and I were thinking that we’d like for you to meet her kids and vice versa. You know, I just don’t understand how you and Amy’s kids never met.”

“Well, from what Amy was saying, they sounded a bit like outsiders. And you know how it was in school– I was the most popular jock. We just didn’t run in the same circles. Plus, I was a year ahead of them.”

“But you were never a snob, Kyle.”

“No, but I just never went out of my way to befriend anyone outside my own little group.”

“Well, Amy wants to have all of you over to her place – and boy her coconut cream pie is amazing. She did say Maria’s single…”

“Dad, do me a favor, ok? Don’t try to play matchmaker. I don’t have a problem meeting women, trust me.”

“But do you ever meet nice ones?”

“All the time.”

“So, why do I only ever see the stupid, gold-digging ones?”

“Dad…”

“I know, I know. I’ll let you go. Good night, son.”

After hanging up with his dad, Kyle did some reflecting and realized that he had a point. Kyle always chose to go out with women that seemed more interested in his wallet and social connections than they were ever interested in him. So, how did one go about finding a nice woman? There was always online dating he supposed. It did seem like most people were doing it, so there wasn’t a social stigma attached to it. Or, he could hire a matchmaker – he did have money. But neither guaranteed success.

Maybe this Maria chick wouldn’t be so bad…

~!~

He was tired, but he couldn’t sleep. He thought after the heavy night of sex and alcohol, he’d sleep like a baby, but there he lay. He lay next to a sleeping blonde woman who didn’t seem to have a care in the world, going by the smile on her face. Why couldn’t he sleep?

He knew why.

He was tired of pretending to move on. He was tired of trying not to think of her. He was tired of arguing with himself every time he tried not to think of her. He was tired of it all, but there was nothing else to do. He couldn’t live on dreams, he had to move on.

So, he lay there, pretending to sleep, so tired.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
Contact:

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:11 pm

Chapter 14: Divorce

Hi Harlequin.

Oh honey, what’s wrong? You sound really upset.

I am – I just got served with divorce papers today.

I’m so sorry.

The worst part is, we still love each other.

What happened?

We were college sweethearts. We loved the fact that the other had ambitious goals and dreams. He wanted to be a defense attorney for poor and I wanted to be a social worker. We had such plans! We took two years off and went into the Peace Corps over in Africa. We loved it! We came back and found jobs right away. Jack got a job as a lawyer for a small defense attorney firm and I actually got a job teaching. We got married a year later.

It sounds like you two had a lot going for you. Were there any problems?

That’s just it. We were so compatible and respected each other so much that we started living separate lives. We stopped talking to each other, stopped making love. We were living together like roommates. That’s when he met Julie.

Oh no.

No, he didn’t cheat on me, but he admitted that he wanted to. And then, I told him about Rob.

Who’s Rob?

He’s the substitute teacher that I met at work. He was so handsome and young, and full of enthusiasm – he reminded me of my husband when we first started dating. When he started to flirt with me, I was flattered, but I never intended for it to go any further. But one day, while we were getting ready for parent/teacher conferences, Rob kissed me. A-and I kissed him back. I didn’t stop him and a part of me wanted it to continue.

But you stopped it, right?

Yes. I did. And while a part of me was horrified at what I did, the other part of me was thinking that it had been so long since Jack had kissed me like that.

Like what?

Like he couldn’t get enough of me. Like he wanted me. Sex with Jack had become so mechanical. He was always working late, coming home by the time I was in bed. We hardly ever made love and when we did, it was…it was missing the passion we had when we were younger.

And you thought you found it in this Rob?

Yes. And it confused me, because while I loved Jack, I wanted Rob.

When you’re having problems in your life, its easy to look for something to divert your attention so that you don’t have to face it.

I know. That’s why I had to be honest with Jack and tell him that I was also tempted to cheat. That’s when he packed up a bag and moved out of our house. As he left, he asked me for a divorce.

Did you try and talk to him about the state of your marriage?

Honestly, I was so shocked and then so hurt, that I screamed at him to leave and never come back. I said that I couldn’t wait to divorce him.

Was it the truth?

No. No. I still love him. He’s still my best friend and I don’t want a divorce.

Tell him that. Maybe that’s all he needs to hear – that you want to fight for your marriage.

I-I sad such hurtful things, Harlequin.

And the words can’t be taken back, but you can apologize. That’s the first step. Just tell him what you told me – that you miss him and the love you two shared. And before you do something so drastic as a divorce, I really suggest that the two of you seek out a marriage counselor first.

I don’t want to lose him.

Then fight for him. Fight for the two of you. And fight for your marriage. If, in the end it still doesn’t work out, then the two of you can separate peacefully, with love.

Thank you, Harlequin, I’ll give him a call.

Good. I really hope the two of you can work things out. In the meantime, here’s a song for the two of you.


"Honesty" Rodney Atkins

He said: "Just think it over, and write me a list,
"So we can figure out what we both deserve."
She hardly could believe it, that their love had come to this:
Dividing an' deciding his and hers.
But she grabbed a paper napkin, an' asked the waitress for a pen.
An' one by one, she wrote down what she wanted most from him.

"Honesty, sincerity, tenderness and trust.
"A little less time for the rest of the world,
"And more for the two of us.
"Kisses each mornin', 'I love you's' at night,
"Just like it used to be.
"The way life was when you were in love with me."

She reached across the table an' placed it in his hand,
An' said: "You know this isn't easy for me."
As he thought about the new car, the house an' the land,
An' wondered what that bottom line would be.
An' a thousand other things that she'd want him to leave behind,
But he never dreamed he'd open up that napkin and find:

"Honesty, sincerity, tenderness and trust.
"A little less time for the rest of the world,
"And more for the two of us.
"Kisses each mornin', 'I love you's' at night,
"Just like it used to be.
"The way life was when you were in love with me."

Well, he fought back the tears, as he looked in her eyes,
An' said: "I don't know where to start."
An' she said: "Everything on that list in your hand,
"Is hidden somewhere in your heart.

"Honesty, sincerity, just like it used to be.
"The way life was when you were in love with me."


~!~

Ava sighed at the poignant song and packed the rest of her belongings in her suitcase. Eight months ago, she had called Brad after her call with Harlequin and decided to give things a try with Brad. They had talked about Brad’s love of women’s clothing and Ava thought she could deal with it. And she did. It became routine to see Brad in lingerie and sometimes a dress, and she really did grow to love him.

But after eight months, they both knew that what they had wasn’t the lasting kind. Somewhere, in the deepest of her secret heart, Ava would always feel a little doubt about him and Brad would always remember her initial reaction. They decided to split right after Valentine’s Day and there was no huge drama. It was simply a matter of looking at each other and knowing that it was over. It hurt to admit failure, but they both forgave each other and wanted to remain friends. Ava was cleaning out his closet of her things that she had left during her stays with him. Brad had decided to go visit his family so she could come and pack her things.

Wistfully, Ava looked around her. This was the first place she had been in that reminded her of her home. Her own condo was a cold haven where she slept and sometimes ate. But here, she had been comfortable and felt loved by Brad, his two dogs, and his close knit family. If she was truthful, it was Brad’s family that she was going to miss the most. Brad’s family usually came over every other weekend. His mom would fix dinner for them and fuss over the state of his laundry while his dad and Brad would sit watching the football game. When dinner was ready, Brad’s sister and brother-in-law would show up.

Sitting at the table with all of them, Ava felt like she was a part of a family. She had her own parents, but they were nothing like Brad’s family. Ava was an only child of two controlling, highly successful and brilliant professors at Brown University who never showed Ava any affection – they were too busy soaking up the adulations for being so brilliant. They often left their only child with the neighborhood teenager or one of their students and none of them really cared for Ava.

When she had been in elementary school, Ava tried to gain any type of attention by doing really well in school – academically and athletically, but her parents were indifferent. They expected their child to be brilliant, because they were brilliant. Then she started to skip classes and failing tests, but that just earned her disappointment. Her parents were so involved in their own careers, they never took time to spend with Ava. They missed her games, they missed conferences, they even ignored the truancy officer calling them numerous times a day.

It was no wonder that in high school, Ava sought solace from such an emotionless state by sleeping with any guy that gave her attention. Her first time was with a boy her own age and he told her that he loved her. She had been so happy to finally have someone love her that she gladly let him go all the way with her, showing her how much he loved her. Her happiness had lasted for six weeks, then he dumped her, claiming she was too clingy.

But it didn’t take her long to find someone else. She was a petite blonde with wide blue eyes and a size C cup breasts, of course guys drooled over her. She soon got a reputation for being easy and was called the school slut by the girls, but she didn’t care. Not as long as she had someone to hold her and love her.

And when Ava was in love – she gave it her all. She would do anything for her boyfriend, cheating on tests, sneaking out at night, anything to ensure that he still loved her. After graduation, she went on to college at Northwestern University with the same attitude until she met Professor Ed Harding.

It was her junior year in college and Ava was barely passing her classes because she had been so preoccupied with her string of boyfriends. But Professor Harding, her psychology professor, wouldn’t let her slide. He pushed her to try and actually expected her to attend his classes. He actually seemed to take interest in her.

At first, Ava thought he was just another dirty old professor trying to get it on with a young co-ed. He was 50 to her 21, and he seemed to be socially stupid –awkward, rude, and unsociable. But when he turned her down for sex in exchange for a better grade on her mid-term, she began to think differently of him. She realized that he was really quite shy and had never been able to fit in a social setting. They become close, him the mentor and her the student and vice versa. She respected him and he helped her confront some of her emotional baggage.

With Professor’s help, she was able to break the bad cycle of using sex as a substitute for feelings. And with Ava’s help, Professor Harding was able to relax in public for a little bit and tried to have conversations with people. Most people speculated that they were sleeping together, but it wasn’t the case until after Ava graduated. That’s when Professor shyly admitted that he was in love with her and wanted to be with her – he proposed marriage. Ava was happy because she had come to genuinely love him in return. Her parents refused to attend the wedding, stating it was a grave mistake, but Ava had Professor to help her through the hurt.

Their wedding was a huge affair, mostly for Ava’s sake so she could have her dream wedding. Professor Harding was just happy to be getting married. No family for either the bride or the groom attended, but it was made up for by all the students and faculty that came. Despite their age difference and the hateful comments of jealous colleagues, they made it work. He loved having someone so social and beautiful to help through his numerous social engagements and she loved having a lover and a father. The Professor made her realize her own self worth and gave her a sense of responsibility over herself. Their home was their sanctuary and Ava was blissfully happy.

Two blissful years would go by before Professor Harding had a fatal heart attack during his late night lecture. By the time Ava got to the hospital, he was dead. Devastated by his death, Ava holed herself up in their house after the funeral and refused to let anyone near. Two months would go by and Ava was still locked into a deep depression, when a knock on the door forced her to climb out of bed.

Standing on her doorstep was her parents, but she barely registered their presence. Not until they started to pack up some of Professor Harding’s things. That’s when she lost it – she screamed at her parents and forcibly kicked them out of her house. After slamming the door in their faces, Ava started to laugh at the look on their faces, thinking the Professor would have been so proud of her.

Thinking about the Professor and his pride in her, she realized that he wouldn’t want her to sit around holed up. He would want her to grieve and move on. So that’s what she did. She packed up the Professor’s belongings, donating most of them to Goodwill. Then she had an auction for all the furniture and cars before selling their house. That was the hardest part – selling the house that had been their paradise and all the memories associated with it.

Professor’s lawyer had been helpful and contracted a reliable agent to help her and gave her a reference so she could try and get a job. The proceeds of the house sale helped give her a financial security net, but she couldn’t face buying a condo. She wasn’t ready for that step yet, so she rented an nice apartment in the Gold Coast area. Professor had made sure that she would never have to beg her parents for money, but she needed a job so that she could work through her grief instead of dwelling on it. She temped at various companies for about a year, before a real estate company finally hired her full time.

At first, it had been hard working as an executive assistant and having to deal with catty remarks from the other women in the office. She ignored them and the passes she got from the owner of the agency, but when he propositioned her, she knew she had to leave. It didn’t take long to find another job, this time at a sports agent firm, but it did take her awhile to start dating.

The first guy she went out with was one of the lawyers that her firm used in their contract negotiations. After three dates, she knew he wasn’t for her and that’s how she got on MatchUp and met Brad.

The first few months of being with Brad after their long talk was great. He was kind and understanding and very accepting. She really did love him, but more like a brother than ever a lover. And she loved his family. She was close to Brad’s sister and mother and sometimes she wished they were hers. She almost proposed to Brad, just so that she could have them as her sister and mother, but she knew that it would be cheating both her and Brad out of something real.

Instead, they decided to go their own way. She hoped that Brad meant it when he said he wanted to be friends, because she really didn’t want to lose his family. Sighing, Ava picked up her bag and was about to leave when the doorbell rang. Unsure as to what to do, she went to the door and peeked out. A mid height, blonde, good-looking man stood at the door in an expensive suit.

Giving in to curiosity, Ava opened the door, “Can I help you?”

The blonde man’s eyes widened and he grinned back, “I was looking for Brad Martin. This is his place, right? He hasn’t moved?”

“No, he still lives here. He’s away visiting his family right now, can I take a message?”

“Oh. You’re his girlfriend?”

Ava was suddenly defensive at the way the guy gave her another once over. “What’s your message?” she asked frostily as she crossed her arms across her chest, denying him visual access.

“Uh…” The man was embarrassed enough to blush, “Sorry, didn’t mean to offend.”

“’What’s your message?”

“Could you tell him that Kyle stopped by to say hi and that I just thought he might want to catch a bite to eat.”

Ava began to shut the door, “I’ll let him know.”

“Wait! Um, I didn’t get your name.”

“Its none of your business. I’ll pass on your message. Good-bye.” She quietly locked the door in his face and went back to her suitcase. She wrote Brad a quick message about Kyle and left her keys on the counter before walking out the door.

~!~

She was finally home. The chilly winter air nipped at her nose and lungs as she stood on her balcony. She was finally back where she belonged and maybe, now, she could sleep.


15: TWINS

Harlequin?

I’m here, honey. Who are you?

I’m Emma.

How can I help you tonight?

I-I don’t know what to do, please help me.

Calm down, shhh, it’s alright. Just tell me what’s wrong?

Its my sister. And my boyfriend?

Oh no, did they cheat on you?

No, its not like that.

Take your time, explain it to me.

My sister, Erica, she’s my twin. We’ve always been close, shared everything, done everything together – clothes, friends, organizations, everything we shared. We’ve always done everything together. We even went to college together and both got medical degrees so that we could become doctors, fertility doctors more specifically.

Sounds like you have a really could relationship with your sister.

I do. We even met our boyfriends at the same time.

Were they friends?

Yes. They were out with their friends when they met us out with our friends. We all liked each other right away. We even double dated. And their names are similar too. Josh and Joss.

Wow. That’s a big coincidence.

We thought it was fate. We’ve been dating for years – we’re going on our third year and…

Oh honey, what is it?

Josh, my sister’s boyfriend, proposed.

That’s great, but?

But, my boyfriend, Joss just broke up with me.

Oh sweetie…

He was suppose to propose! Josh proposed to Erica – why didn’t Joss propose to me?

Oh honey, just because you’re twins, doesn’t mean you have to do everything the same or even at the same time.

Yes we are! We’ve always done everything together! When she got sick, I got sick. When she got an A on a test, I got an A on mine. We’ve always done everything the same!

But Emma – you’re not the same people. You’re two different people with the same genes and same faces. You think differently, you feel differently, you’re two separate people. If you were the same, you’d be clones.

I know, but I just can’t help but feel that we should be celebrating together.

Let me ask you this, are you more upset that your boyfriend broke up with you, or that your sister got engaged without you?

I-I don’t know.

I understand that you’re upset, but this is also a time for joy for your sister.

I don’t know what to feel!

You have every right to be hurt about your boyfriend and your breakup, but if you love your sister, you’ll be able to put it aside and celebrate for your sister’s sake.

But I feel so, so…

Jealous?

Am I a terrible person?

No, just human. Hold on, just a bit longer, sweetie. You’ll find someone. It’s just not your time right now.

Thanks, Harlequin.

Here’s a song for you.

“Sister” Sister2Sister

She won’t get off the phone
She won’t leave me alone
When I’m talking to that guy
She can be a real nightmare
Gets me to do her hair
Then says it never turns out right
But when I put on a face...
She can tell
’cause she knows me so well
Closer than my closer friend
Someone will be there
’til the end
My sister, sister
Deeper than the deepest sea
No-one loves you like your family
My sister, sister
She reads my diary
She borrows clothes from me
And I never get them back again
And she locks the bathroom door
Says "five minutes more"
And an hour later I’m still not in
And sometimes we fight
Every family does (oh yeah)
But that can’t change our love
Closer than my closest friend....
To celebrate the good times
To help me through the hard times
To bring me down to earth
Remind me what’s important
And who comes first
Gotta tell you who I’m talking about
My sister, sister, oh yeah
Ain’t no doubt about it, who I’m talking about
She watches out for me
I’ll know she always be by my side


~!~

Jealousy.

Alex Whitman knew something about jealousy. He lived with it everyday since he met with Isabel Avens in his office five months ago. He didn’t count their first meeting – he hated thinking about how cold and cruel she acted that night. Hated to think about the way she had cut him down before he could even out a sentence. He knew it wasn’t the real Isabel – it was just a role she played.

He knew because he had watched her all night since Louise Artell mentioned that she would be a good candidate to organize his event over dinner. He had first spotted Isabel in the shadows of the ballroom, watching everyone and making sure things were in place. He saw her smoothing down her dress, and poking her hair in place, before taking a deep breath. She then plastered on a bright, perfect smile and stepped forward to greet the crowds of people.

He saw when she shrugged her shoulder to ease the tension in them, and when she surreptitiously rubbed one foot against her calf. He watched her deftly handle the many compliments and appreciative glances she received from men and women. He saw the slight dimming of her smile when the men didn’t take her subtle hints and continued to harass her. He had seen it all and had promptly fell in love with her. He finally worked up the nerve to speak to her, with the perfect excuse, only to have her rip into him. No, he didn’t like to remember that.

Instead, he liked to think about their meeting in his office when she came to pitch her business for his event. She had brought orange soda and white cheddar popcorn, his favorite snacks, as a peace offering. She had somehow finagled the information out of his normally tight-lipped assistant. She profusely apologized for her behavior the night of the New Years Eve Ball, but he dismissed it quickly, not wanting to see the proud beauty humble herself.

He watched as she put on her charming yet determined game face and launched into her pitch to organize his event. He tuned her out – not that he was being rude, really. He heard what she was saying and made the appropriate comments here and there, but what he focused on were her eyes. They were a common shade of pansy brown, but it wasn’t the shape or color that held him fascinated. It was the emotions that ran through them. He thought she had the most expressive eyes he had ever seen – not that she would be glad to hear it.

During her pitch – they were bright, enthusiastic, and slightly dreamy from the images she held inside her mind. When she turned to talk prices, she became guarded, more aggressive, yet still hopeful. When she heard his ‘Cost isn’t the biggest factor in my decision’, her eyes lit with inner fire and gave away her almost desperate hope to erase the negative image of their first encounter.

Beyond all of it, he saw something – a hidden, but eager need for approval, for recognition. He wondered what put that look in her eyes. But most of all, he wanted to be the one to vanish the look. He never wanted her to go looking for approval or acceptance when she was so lovely as she was.

After she had finished the pitch, he sat quietly, wondering how he could get around hiring her yet try and ask her out. He weighed his options. If he tried to flat out deny her the job, but asked her out, she’d turn him down. If he gave her the job and then asked her out, she might say yes out of obligation. The silence seemed to grow between them and he saw her fidget very slightly. He finally relented and hired her which made her eyes glow with happiness which made him happy, but it also made him panic.

He didn’t know how he could take advantage of their professional relationship and try to turn it into a personal relationship. And he wanted to – really bad. Since their initial meeting, she had either called or dropped by his office almost everyday to go over the plans for the global event and it was driving him mad.

He would often trip over his own tongue trying to talk to her about anything not related to the event, so he’d stopped trying to talk to her which made him seem disinterested in her personally. And he had to make sure not to look at her at all, otherwise he’d get lost staring at her eyes or worst of all, her figure. But the worst part of her visits was when she tried to touch him.

The first time it happened, they were in the middle of a conversation and she reached out to unbutton the top button of his shirt. Teasingly telling him that he looked too stuffy for gamer. Panicking at the thought of her touch, he jumped back in defense, brushing away her hand. He tried to ignore her startled look because he knew he couldn’t explain and moved on brusquely with the conversation about decorations, but he could tell she was a bit hurt by his actions. From that point on, whenever she was near, he always made sure that she couldn’t suddenly reach out and touch him.

Yet, he wanted her to touch him. He wanted to feel her hand on his arm or shoulder or chest. He wanted her close so that he could smell the perfume of her hair, to feel the softness of her skin. Yet, he knew what she really thought of him. A geek, a nerd, no one really worthy of her time. Only the promise of an unlimited budget and international recognition made her excited about being near him.

Alex thought about asking her out several times, but the memory of her disdainful look on New Year’s Eve always made him back out. He would never again risk being on the brunt end of that look. And he knew he wasn’t what she wanted in a boyfriend, so he was jealous. He was jealous of every guy she admired, every guy that could flirt with her without tripping over his tongue, every guy that easily asked her out. He was very jealous, but he didn’t know what to do about it.

Knowing he needed expert advice, Alex thought about calling into After Hours again, but shied away from that thought too. He didn’t want to risk Isabel recognizing his voice. And after his embarrassing experience with one of his co-worker’s friends, he wasn’t really willing to confide in any of his female programmers or employees.

Trying to clear his head, Alex closed his office at only 7:00PM instead of his usual 10:00PM and headed over to a nearby diner he frequented every night, Parker’s Place. Upon entering the nearly full diner, Alex looked around the room trying to find an empty seat. He saw a young college boy in a black turtle neck and a cap(what did they call those things – newspaper boy hats? Yeah, that was it. Isabel had been looking at getting one of them…) sitting alone in a corner booth near the back of the room with books spread out before him.

He managed to squeeze through the waiting crowd and politely asked,

“Excuse me, would you mind if I sat with you?”

The startled teen stared at him for a second before moving the books and making space for him. When Alex sat down, he promised,

“I swear I won’t interrupt your studying, I just wanted to eat something before going home, and I didn’t want to wait for this crowd. I might not get any chili and this place has the best chili in all of Chicago!” he rubbed his hands together and eagerly looked around for the waitress.

Alex saw a quick grin and was surprised to hear a quiet, whispery but definitely feminine voice reply,

“Thank you. My father will love to hear appreciation of his ‘world famous’ chili.”

“You’re a girl!”

The quiet laughter that burst out made Alex cringe at himself, “And I’m stupid. I just…from across the room…”

“Its alright. Its not the first time its happened to me. But the way you said it was the funniest so far.”

Alex blushed, “I’m sorry.” For the first time Alex noticed her large brown eyes and delicate features, definitely not masculine.

The young woman waved off his apology, “Don’t be. I’m Lilyze. This is my father’s diner.”

“Really? You’re Jeff Parker’s daughter? Man, he talks about you all the time!” Alex perked up and suddenly at ease.

“You know my father?”

“Yeah. I come in here almost every night, right before it closes. This place is the best place ever – tons of real, down to earth food! None of that weird, indescribable or che-che stuff. Jeff usually lets me eat whatever’s left of the day’s special. Like his chili or meatloaf. Oh man, he makes really good meatloaf!”

Lilyze suddenly exclaimed, “You’re Alex!”

“Yeah. Hey – you heard of me?”

“Dad talks about you every time we talk. He says that you’re his best food critic and helps him out with his recipes.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. That’s so cool.”

“Well, its really nice to meet you, Alex.” Lilyze held out her hand.

“Same here, Lilyze.” Alex reached out to shake her hand.

Something about the quiet voice and gentle mannerisms made Alex feel so comfortable that he opened up about himself. Over several bowls of chili and cornbread, they talked about jobs, their families, and their non-existent social lives. He told her about his love of computer games and his most recent ambition while she told him about her love of history and its relation to ancient artifacts and her most recent trip to Roswell, NM. He had to strain to her at times, but he didn’t ask about her slightly whispering voice in case of embarrassing her.

He was so comfortable, that he talked to her about Isabel and his previous humiliation. While she didn’t really have any advice, she did give him a sympathetic ear and encouragement. She also recruited her father for advice once the diner slowed down.

Jeff Parker came out from the kitchen with a whole pie, a tub of ice cream, spoons and coffee in his arms.

“Hey Alex! I’ve been saving this pie for you to try all day!”

“Mmmm, I love pie! What kind is it?”

“She called it, Berrylicious, it has strawberries, cherries, and blueberries, with a touch of chocolate.”

“She?”

“Yeah, this lady came in about the open pastry chef position I’m trying to fill – Amy something or another, and applied for the job by bringing in this pie. She says that while she’ll make the standard pies, she’d like creative freedom to try out new recipes. If I hire her, she’d be in early mornings to bake, before the diner even opens.”

Jeff gave each of them a spoon, but waited until Alex dug in first. Seconds ticked by and Alex reached in for another scoop. Jeff and Lilyze watched as Alex slowly chewed the pie.

“Well?”

Alex reached in for another spoonful before replying, “You can definitely taste the berries, and there is a hint of chocolate, but there’s something else…something I can’t quite tell.”

“What about the taste? Is it any good?”

Alex waited until he finished a third bite before answering. “Jeff, you either hire this lady or I will hire her myself to be my own private baker!”

Both Jeff and Lilyze laughed before digging into the pie and ice cream. Lilyze got an odd look on her face after taking her first bite and Alex asked her if something was wrong.

“I-I swear this tastes familiar…” She shook it off and dug in for another bite, but Alex saw another odd look cross her face and Jeff looked worried. Trying not to pry, Alex changed the subject. They spent the evening eating the pie and discussing Alex’s situation with Isabel. Alex couldn’t remember the last time he had so much fun or the last time he had made a friend outside of work. Jeff Parker was a really nice, fun guy who clearly adored his daughter. And Lilyze was an intelligent, nice young woman. The relationship between father and daughter was more like a really close friendship than a familial one. And the two of them made him feel a part of their close knit friendship.

When the diner closed, Alex was no closer in making a decision about Isabel, but he did feel better about making a new friend. He and Lilyze agreed to meet up for coffee and pie again, later in the week, both agreeing that they needed to get out of their offices more often. He walked her to the train station and as he hailed a taxi, he realized that he had spent most of the night talking about him and Isabel. He promised himself that next time, he’d get to know more about Lilyze.

~!~

He tossed and turned, restless as ever in his sleep. He heard her crying and he wanted to help, wanted to comfort her, but he had to find her first.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
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Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:13 pm

16: HEARTBREAK

Hi Harlequin

Hello, who is this?

I’m Peter.

Hello Peter, how can I help you tonight.

I was hoping you could play a song for me – I just got my heart broken.

Oh no, what happened?

I’ve been dating and living with my girlfriend for the past three years. For the past year, I’ve been saving up and working two jobs to buy a really nice 2 caret diamond, so I could propose.

Awww, that sounds so sweet.

Yeah, well, its not really my thing, but Anna likes that kind of stuff. So, I saved up for the ring and when I thought the time was right, I proposed.

Did you propose properly?

Do you mean, did I have flowers, candles, romantic music, yes. I sent her out with my sister for a spa day and hired a housekeeper to clean the apartment. Then, I ordered in food from our favorite Chinese place, and lit up like the entire place with candles.

Ok, sounds like you put a lot of effort into this.

Yeah. I really loved her and wanted to marry her. So, I got everything ready, and when she came home, she was really surprised, but not in a good way.

What?

Well, she came in and there was a stunned look on her face, but then when she saw the candles and me on my knee, she turned white, like she was going to be sick.

And?

And before I could ask her the question, she started crying and swearing.

Swearing? That doesn’t sound good.

No, it didn’t. I began to panic and when I asked her what was wrong, she finally broke down and told me that she had been planning to break up with me. She was just waiting for the right time.

Oh Peter, I am so sorry.

The worst part was when she told me that she thought I was waiting to break up with her because I had taken a second job and was never home. So, when she met Charlie nine months ago…

Was she cheating on you?

Not really, but yes. She says that she ‘kinda’ started seeing him behind my back – but she wasn’t cheating on me or sleeping with the guy.

Are you serious? She actually said that to you?

Yeah, and at first, I didn’t believe her. Of course she was cheating. But now, I just don’t care. I’m pissed. I’m pissed that I can’t get my money back. I’m pissed that I worked a year for this stupid ring. I’m pissed that I still love her.

Oh man, I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

Thanks.

And you know what, I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but this is a good thing. At least you found out before the wedding and marriage. A divorce would have been much more painful.

You know, I just want to wallow in my own self pity about the breakup for awhile. I think I deserve at least that much.

You do, and here’s a song that I hope helps.

"Heartbreak Hotel" Elvis Presley

Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
Its down at the end of lonely street
At heartbreak hotel.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

And although its always crowded,
You still can find some room.
Where broken hearted lovers
Do cry away their gloom.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

Well, the bell hops tears keep flowin,
And the desk clerks dressed in black.
Well they been so long on lonely street
They aint ever gonna look back.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

Hey now, if your baby leaves you,
And you got a tale to tell.
Just take a walk down lonely street
To heartbreak hotel.


~!~

Could a heart really break? That’s what Lilyze wanted to know. It felt like hers had. Her beloved father was in the operating room, having an emergency bypass surgery and she felt her own heart clench tight in her chest.

She had been at the office when she got a frantic call from Dolores at the diner saying her father had collapsed of a heart attack. For one minute, despite all scientific logic, she felt her heart actually stop beating, the air rush from lungs, and time slowing down. Then reality hit and she was moving quickly to get to the hospital. She couldn’t remember how she got there, how she found the nurse or filled out the paperwork, but she could remember her heart pounding when the nurse told her he was in surgery.

Hours later, she was sitting by herself in the waiting room, terrified. She concentrated on breathing and whispered a small prayer to whatever god was listening. Her two closest friends, Sasha and Rusty had come as soon she called, but she sent them home after an hour. She wanted, no needed, as little distraction as possible.

Lilyze had to smile a bit, Sasha and Rusty were loyal friends despite the years apart. The three of them met in at Northwestern University as undergraduates when Lilyze took her first job at the campus radio station as a production assistant. She needed a job that didn’t interfere with her studying and lab time since she was taking a double major in history and science with a minor in art history. At the time, Sasha was the producer and Rusty was the night janitor in the building who liked to stop by and talk.

Their senior year, Sasha got the job of DJ and Lilyze hired Rusty as her production assistant. The three of them worked together to create a show that tied in the cultural relevance of movies, music, and books. At first, the head of the campus radio station didn’t think it would really work, but the show became so popular, that even the professors and alumni were listening to it.

While Lilyze loved her friends and her night job, her first priority was her dream job of working as an archivist at the Smithsonian. After they graduated, Rusty and Sasha decided to pursue a career in radio while Lilyze went to on graduate school in Virginia. The three of them became separated by new jobs in different states, but they always stayed close by writing and visiting.

Then, a couple years ago, Sasha called Lilyze in DC with an invitation to join her in Chicago. Sasha was to host a late night show and she wanted Lilyze and Rusty with her. Sasha’s invitation came right on the heels of a job offer from Northwestern University which Lilyze was thinking over.

Lilyze loved the Smithsonian, but the only job they could offer her was to write up pamphlets explaining the history of some of the exhibits. She really didn’t like it, but it got her into the Smithsonian. She was able to pursue her real dream job by volunteering to clean up and catalogue the museum’s vast storage area that had been neglected over the years. Her meticulous and precise work as well as discoveries of forgotten treasures, gained her a respectable reputation amongst her colleagues and attracted the attention of other museums.

The job offer at Northwestern guaranteed that she would be the sole archivist of all three major museums in Chicago, but she would still have time and space to continue her archiving consulting for private parties and other museums. The only string attached was that she would have to teach one course in art history – the university would have the prestige of having an expert attached to the school and be able to raise more money while she would have the freedom to do what she loved. The only thing she couldn’t decide was if she wanted to give up her dream of working at the Smithsonian.

But when Sasha called with the invitation to work part-time as her producer, Lilyze decided to accept both jobs and she had never regretted her decision. Working together once again helped renew their friendship, and it ignited a romance between Sasha and Rusty. But the biggest benefit of moving to Chicago was that it gave her time with her father.

Jeff Parker was her closest friend and the best father she knew. He adored the fact she was smarter than him, was so serious to his goofy antics, and practical to his dramatic personality. He was her biggest supporter and the world’s best cook, in her eyes. She loved living in Chicago where she could visit her father anytime she wanted.

If she lost her father…she couldn’t finish the sentence because it terrified her to even think about it. She had friends and concerned co-workers, but nothing could replace her father. They had been really close ever since the accident that killed her mother. Lilyze couldn’t remember anything before waking up at the hospital, but her father had told her that her mother had been killed in an accident while Lilyze barely survived and had been in a coma.

It had felt odd, waking up to someone she didn’t remember, but she never doubted her father’s love. They had moved to Phoenix for awhile shortly after her recovery, but then eventually moved to Chicago. They had fun learning how to get around Chicago and going to all the museums. Her best memories were of her father and her walking through the Field Museum. And now there was real possibility of losing him. Lilyze sat frozen and thought back on the memories of her father.

“Miss Parker?” The nurse’s page startled Lilyze out of her depressing thoughts and she stood anxiously.

“Is there news?”

“I just wanted to let you know that your father is in recovery. He’s still sleepy from the anesthesia, but you can sit with him.”

Lilyze quickly walked towards her father’s room, heart pounding in her chest. Lying in his hospital bed, Lilyze thought her father never looked so vulnerable or frail. Only the heart monitor reassured her that he was still alive and breathing. She felt tears of relief sting her eyes and she quickly blinked them away before they could spill. She grabbed a hold of his hand and sat down next to the bed, waiting for him to wake up. The long hours seemed to weigh heavy and squeeze the air around her, making it difficult for her to breath. She wondered if her father had felt the same way, waiting for her to wake up.

It was early morning when Lilyze felt her father start to awake. She was so relieved to see him open his eyes that again she could feel tears in her eyes.

“Hey Dad.” She whispered with a watery smile.

She finally let the tears fall when she felt his hand squeeze hers in response. Lilyze called the nurse who gave him ice chips and checked his machines. When they were left alone, Jeff Parker tried to speak, but only a croak came out.

“Shh, dad, don’t try and talk.”

He shook his head and tried again, “L-Lilyze. I…have…to…tell…you…the…truth.”

“No, dad. You have save your energy. When you’re better, you can tell me.

“Lilyze…listen to me…I…I’m not…your father.”

“What?”

“I was…driving to New Mexico. I saw a car…go off the road…off the bridge. I got out…saw the car sinking…I jumped in. I grabbed you…your mother was dead. I crawled out with you…went to the hospital. They asked if…I was your father…I said yes. You’ve been mine…since.”

A thousand questioned assaulted Lilyze but she didn’t know where to start. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Don’t…want you…to be alone…if something happens.”

“Don’t say that! Nothing’s going to happen to you.” Lilyze cried out, shocked but still fearful.

“Lilyze…safety deposit box...the key is on my ring. Explains everything.”

“We’ll talk about it later, dad. Right now, just get better.”

Jeff wearily closed his eyes and squeezed her hand, “I never…regretted keeping you. You were…my joy.”

Lilyze held Jeff’s hand until he was soundly sleeping. Only then did she allow herself to think about what Jeff said. She honestly didn’t know what to think – if the man lying in the bed in front of her wasn’t her father, then who was she? The question plagued her all night as she sat next to the bed. Part of her wanted to go and open the security deposit box, but the other part of her needed to stay and make sure her father was going to be ok.

In the early morning dawn, Lilyze was still confused and hurt over what Jeff had said, but she did come to terms with one thing: Jeff Parker was her father. He had raised her, loved her, taught her everything she knew – there was nothing that could change that. She might not like what she found out or would find out, but she was at least at peace with that one point.

But the overwhelming need to know what her father was talking about drove her to decide to go to the bank. She had to see what was in the safety deposit box. She checked with the nurse to make sure her father would be ok while she was gone for a few hours. Assured, she went home to shower and called her office to arrange sick leave. She then called her friends and Alex, letting them know her father was ok. Alex made her smile when he offered to sneak in some food from Parker’s Place to her father. He had become such a good friend to her over their short acquaintance –there was a kinship between them that she had missed from her other friends.

After meeting with the bank manager and explaining the circumstances, Lilyze was finally taken to a back room for privacy, alone with the safety deposit box. She stared at the metal box for long minutes, apprehensive about opening it. She dreaded knowing, yet the scientist in her needed to know. With eyes closed and held breath, Lilyze opened the box and counted to 10 before opening her eyes.

It didn’t seem very threatening – just pieces of newspaper clippings and an envelope. Lilyze gathered everything together and neatly tucked everything in an envelope to carry to the hospital. She wanted to read over everything, but she wanted to go over things with her father. The innocent looking pieces of paper seemed to burn with the attention to be read, but Lilyze steadfastly ignored the urge and kept moving towards the hospital.

Her father was awake when she entered the room and Lilyze could see the concern and worry in his eyes. She didn’t say a word to him until she settled comfortably in the seat next to the bed. She pulled out the envelope and put it on the tray in front of her father.

“Tell me what I’ll find.” Lilyze asked.

She saw the resignation in his eyes and briefly wondered if she was doing the right thing, pushing him when he was just recovering. Just as she was about to put away the envelope, he spoke.

“I was married once. In Albuquerque, NM. She was the love of my life, Lily. We were foster kids together and we decided to get married as soon as we turned 18. We wanted lots of kids – to be a part of a big family. It took us almost 10 years after we got go married, but we finally got pregnant. It was a little boy, Joseph. We were happy for awhile, but it was difficult because I was the only one working to support the three of us.”

Jeff paused, lost in his memories. “One night, we got into a huge fight about money and I left for a double shift at the diner I was working at. She wanted to surprise me at work, to make up, so she got in the car to drive to the diner. She was in accident not five miles from the diner, a truck driver ran a stop sign. Both Lily and Joseph were killed instantly. I lost my mind – I didn’t know how to go on. Joseph was only 2 years old. I quit my job, moved out of the apartment; I drifted place to place for a long time working odd jobs here and there, but I always went to visit their graves on their birthdays and anniversaries.

One year, I was driving to their graves and it was late. I had just crossed into the Arizona area and I could barely see through the rain, it was coming down so hard. I saw a car coming towards me and it swerved - driving off the bridge. I got out of my car and could see the car just starting to sink, so I jumped in after it. I went to the driver’s side but I saw you right away. I knew I had to get you out first – you were so small and vulnerable. I saw the windshield cracked, so I hit on it for awhile until it broke and I was able to grab you. I tried to grab your mother, but she was dead.”

“How could you tell?”

“Her eyes were wide open – she wasn’t moving. I was getting tired and knew you wouldn’t last long, so I surfaced and got us to shore. You hit your head against the passenger side door and you were bleeding badly as I drove to the nearest hospital. In the emergency room, they asked me what happened and if I was your father. For some reason, I don’t even know, I said yes. I told them we were forced off the road by drunk driver, and that’s how your hit your head. Because it was raining so hard, no one questioned why we were wet. Waiting to hear from the doctors that you were ok was the longest night of my life, and all I could think about was that I had a second chance at having a family. I know it was selfish, but I wanted to keep you so badly, Lilyze.”

Jeff reached out a hand, but Lilyze didn’t respond. She sat frozen, trying to process what she had heard. “Is Lilyze my real name?”

Vaguely she could see Jeff’s hand fall back on to the bed. “No. I named you after Lily. As in Lily’s child. Lily’s gift.”

“Do you know what my name was? Who my mother was?”

“No. After you woke up without a memory, I moved us to Phoenix but kept track of the area papers. But after a year, I hadn’t seen anything or heard of anything about the car accident. That’s when I moved us to Chicago – I wanted to get as far away from Arizona as possible.”

Silence filled the room.

“Lilyze…”

“Don’t. Right now, I don’t know what to think, or what to feel. I’ve loved you as my father for so long and nothing will really ever change that. But, I…I could have family out there and I don’t know where to begin to find out who I am, was.”

“I’m so sorry for keeping this from you.”

“Me too.” Lilyze mechanically put away the envelope in her purse and sat there, trying to process everything. Vaguely she could see her father watching her, but she couldn’t face him. Suddenly the room was too small and too constraining – she needed air. She was about to get and leave when she felt her father’s hand reach out to brush against her hair.

“Lilyze, I know you’re upset and hurt, and you have to go think over what I just told you, but please know, I love you. I have from the moment I carried you out of the river. I’m here if you need to yell at me, but please don’t shut me out.”

At that moment, with his understanding, she felt her anger and hurt dissolve. This was her father – the man who listened to her dreams, her hopes, her fears. And right now, she was confused and hurt and the only person she wanted to turn to was the very person who hurt her. She leaned into her father’s hand for a moment,

“Dad, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to think, b-but it makes sense.”

“What?”

“There were things, small things, that I’d remember but couldn’t figure out why. They must have been memories of my former life. I just wished I could remember what they were.”

“Do you remember that winter when you came home from school and was telling me about organ donation? And how you wanted us to sign up as donors? ”

Lilyze nodded, wondering what his point was.

“That’s when it hit me that I knew nothing about your medical background. What if you had some terrible heart disease that needed attention, but out of my fear and ignorance, you wouldn’t get it? That’s when I thought about hiring an investigator. I backed out of it because I was afraid. ”

The word ‘investigator’ brought back memories of a phone call from her job.

“Dad! That’s it! I know the perfect guy!”

Lilyze reminded her father of the one night caller who called on behalf of another woman who had an embarrassing date. He briefly smiled in recognition and encouraged her to call. She gnawed on her lower lip before agreeing. She pulled out her cell phone and held her breath while the information directory connected her call.

~!~
She cried deep into the night; her heart aching. She wished he was there, holding her. But she didn’t know where he was, what he looked like, or even his name; and the tears fell even harder.


17: GOODBYE

Hello Harlequin.

Why, hello. How can I help you?

I want you to dedicate a song to my wife.

Aww, I’d love to…

I’m a widower – my wife died twenty years ago. She had just turned 42.

So young, was it…

Cancer.

I’m so sorry.

Don’t be – we had 24 wonderful years. You see – we were high school sweethearts.

This sounds like an old fashioned romance story. Tell us about it.

I met Anne Marie when she moved to our small town, Dixon when she was 13. I was one year ahead of her and barely noticed her. But when she turned 15, I noticed how pretty she had become. I asked her to homecoming and we were sweethearts from that moment on.

Did you guys get married right after high school?

Yes. We ran away and eloped.

Oh that’s so sweet.

Well, at the time we thought it was romantic. But her daddy sure didn’t like it. You see, she had just come home from the hospital – she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her parents were devastated and wanted to shut her away from everyone, so that she wouldn’t catch anything while her immune system was so low. They forbade me to see her ever again, but I knew that she needed me, so I’d sneak into her room late at night, just to see her.

Oh wow – you’re gonna make me cry.

Well, I get a little misty eyed myself, thinking back. We took a lot of risks, but I didn’t want any other woman except Anne Marie. She was so special. She was so bright and lovely – she loved to laugh and always saw the positive things in life.

How did you guys elope?

On her 18th birthday, she snuck out of the house and met me down the block from her house.

Weren’t you scared she would get sick?

Yeah, but she assured me that she was ok. Her last chemo visit had been 8 months prior and the cancer was gone. She wanted to get married as soon as possible, so she talked me into eloping.

So, how did your parents take it if hers were upset?

Oh, they didn’t like it much either, but no one could do anything since we were both legal age. We had three kids, 2 boys and a daughter. We always thought the cancer might come back, so we always made sure to have a lot of fun, Anne Marie and I. And we did.

Is that why you want to dedicate a song to her? In her memory?

Yes and no. You see, my children tell me that I need to move on with my life, that I should find a nice woman to be my companion in my old years.

Well, you did become a widower fairly young.

Yes, but I never thought that I was alone. Anne Marie was still there. But when my children started nagging at me to meet other people, I decided to try. And you know, it was fun. I met some really nice women and made some new friends.

But?

But, no one could ever take Anne Marie’s place. I don’t want anyone else – I never will. I never said goodbye to her and I haven’t yet. Its not that I can’t, it’s just, I don’t have to. She never left. I may be alone, but I’m not lonely. I know that logically, I should move on with my life. But I don’t want to. Anne Marie was my best friend from the moment I met her and even in death, she’s still there listening to me. My heart doesn’t want to say good-bye.

When it’s right, when your heart is ready to say goodbye, then you’ll do so. Your children, your neighbors, friends, they can’t tell you that. Only you and your heart will know when the time is right. And for some people, goodbye may never come. That’s up to you.

Thank you, Harlequin. I think I knew that, but needed someone else to say it.

That’s not to say you can’t make new friends. There’s nothing wrong in finding a male or female friend that is your peer and will be able to talk to you about similar topics. Having friends won’t replace your deceased wife, but it will give you companionship.

You’ve put my mind and heart at ease, thank you.

You’re welcome, sweetie. Here’s a song for you and Anne Marie.


“I Can't Stop Loving You” Roy Orbison

Those happy hours that we once knew,
Though long ago, still make me blue.
They say that time heals a broken heart.
But time has stood still since we've been apart.
I can't stop loving you
So I've made up my mind
To live in memory
Of old lone-some times.
I can't stop wanting you
It's use-less to say.
So I'll just live my life
In dreams of yesterday.
Those happy hours that we once knew,
Though long ago, still make me blue.
They say that time heals a broken heart.
But time has stood still since we've been apart.
I can't stop loving you,
There's no use to try.
Pretend there's some one new;
I can't live a lie.
I can't stop wanting you
The way that I do.
There's only been one love for me,
That one love is you.


~!~

Good-bye. The word was becoming very familiar to Max – he had been saying it for the last few months. Seven months ago he received a call from his father’s secretary who informed him that his mother was in the hospital. He had rushed to the private hospital in Boston and found his father already talking with a doctor.

The concern and worry in his father’s eyes surprised Max, but it was his father’s relief at seeing him that had him shocked. His father had never been glad to see him, he had barely even acknowledged Max through out his childhood. Putting aside his shock, he stood by his father and listened to the doctor explain his mother had taken too many pills and too much alcohol over the years for her heart to handle and it finally just shut down.

Max watched as his father seemed to deflate. The proud, arrogant man he had always known, trembled visibly and had to be helped sit down. The doctor helplessly walked away after checking to make sure both men were ok and the two men sat together, silently and motionless. Max thought back to his childhood and tried to find a good memory of his mother, one where she wasn’t drunk and didn’t seem to hate him. The only kindness he could ever remember was from his Aunt Diane.

He was brought out of his bad memories by the vibration of his cell phone. He glanced over at his still silent and stoic father before walking away and answering. His assistant informed him that Brody Davis wanted to meet up with him to go over a new contract and Max was tempted to tell her about his mother, almost. Instead, he shifted into his work mode and made the call to Brody. He quietly made arrangement to meet Brody for breakfast the next day – he’d take the red eye flight back to Chicago. His father hadn’t moved since he sat down.

Unsure of what else to do, Max sat back down next to his father, “Dad, is there someone you want me to call? Mom’s sister, Aunt Diane? Your lawyers?”

Startled, Philip Evans finally looked at his son. He stared so long, Max started to fidget, wondering what he was thinking. He repeated his question.

“Y-yes. I heard you. I-just..yes. Call Diane and let her know about your mother. I’ll call my lawyer.”

“What about the funeral home?”

“I’ll call my assistant, she’ll be able to contact them.”

With his father sounding back to normal, Max got up to leave.

“Max.”

Philip waited until Max turned around to look at him.

“She did love you. She just didn’t know how to love you.”

Max said nothing, but his look clearly said he was skeptical. Philip had the grace to self-admonishingly say, “I know what you think. And part of it is my fault. I’d like to explain, if I can.”

“Perhaps later. I have to catch a flight back to Chicago.”

“Then maybe coffee. There’s a small little diner not far from my office that’s open late, they have really good coffee.”

Max hesitated and Philip sarcastically threw out, “I’d like to talk to you about your mother who just died today, Max. You can spare me a cup of coffee, at least.”

“Oh, that’s right. The mother who never stayed sober enough to take care of her only child or even give damn, died. And now I’m supposed to come up with some kind of remorse for her passing? It’s just another day to me. I’ll spare you a cup of coffee, when I have time.” Max retorted as he turned to walk away.

“You weren’t her only child.” Philip called out, forcing Max to stop and face his father.

“What?”

“I said, you weren’t her only child. You were a twin.”

“I don’t remember a twin growing up with me.” Max’s mind reeled with the new information.

“That’s because she didn’t make it.”

“She?”

“Meet me for coffee, and I’ll tell you everything. Its time you knew.”

Max fumed at the emotional blackmail, but finally relented.

“I have to go back to Chicago – I have a breakfast appointment with a very important client.”

“I can meet you there. I know of a diner not too far from my condo there.”

“Fine. What’s the name of the place?

“Parker’s Place – its open until midnight and I’ll be there around 10 tomorrow night. I’ll make arrangements with the funeral home and meet you there.”

Max nodded curtly and walked away. His mind reeled at his father’s revelation and wondered how it had anything to do with his mother. All through the flight home and breakfast with Brody, he couldn’t get his father’s words out of his mind and impatiently waited while Brody brought out the contract and pointed out areas he wanted checked.

Giving the contract a quick glance through, Max nodded and tried to surreptitiously look at his watch, but Brody caught him. He point blank asked Max what was on his mind, since it wasn’t on his contract. Max debated with himself before being honest and told Brody about his mother. Brody was kind enough to excuse to Max and asked to be notified where to send flowers. Max wanted to tell him not to bother, but for some alien reason, he blurted out about his strained relationship with both his parents and he was unsure as to what to feel. He was immediately embarrassed, but Brody wouldn’t let him.

Brody was sympathetic and told Max about his own strained relationship with his parents, how it had started when Brody came out and revealed he was gay. He also shared that both his parents died before they were able to come to terms with each other. Brody leaned forward and earnestly told him,

“Max, even if you can’t mourn your mother, you can mourn the loss of opportunity to have had a relationship with her. You can mourn that loss, and it is, I think, a deeper loss than just losing a parent.”

~*~

Brody’s words echoed in Max’s head as he took a cab over to the diner. He was lost in his own thoughts and barely took in his surroundings until his attention was caught by his father’s abrupt wave. He glanced around haphazardly and barely registered the presence of Alex Whitman, the computer programming genius, who was sitting with a small youth in a corner booth closest to the kitchen. On any given night, Max would have walked over to Alex Whitman and made his introduction, worked his way into a meeting, and bagged Whitman as a new client.

But tonight was different.

He walked in the opposite direction and sat down across from his father who briefly nodded to the waitress.

“Try the pie here, Max. Its probably the best pie in the city.”

Max curtly ordered black coffee and nothing else. Philip sighed and clutched his coffee before looking his son in the eyes. Philip briefly acknowledged that the cold amber eyes staring back at him reminded him of himself. They sat in silence until the waitress came back with Max’s coffee.

“Well?”

Max could see his father slightly wince at the cold tone, but it really didn’t register to him to care.

“Max, I…” Philip nervously laughed a bit “You’re like a stranger to me…I don’t know where to begin.”

“That never bothered you before – don’t start now. Tell me what you meant when you said I was born a twin.”

Philip sighed “Your mother, Suzanne, is your Aunt Diane’s younger sister.”

“I know.”

“What you don’t know, is that my younger brother, Mark, married Suzanne and they were expecting their first child when he was killed in a car accident. Suzanne went crazy – she lost all will to live, even for her child. After she slit her wrists, her parents wanted to commit her to a sanitarium, but Diane and I were worried about the child. We convinced her parents to let me marry her, to take care of her and the baby. We got married at the hospital, and it seemed that it helped her to come back to the living.”

Philip paused, “What I didn’t know was that Suzanne lost all touch with reality. For some reason she thought I was to blame for Mark’s death and I had married her to gain control of his child. She would lock herself in her bedroom for days, only eating when I wasn’t around for fear that I was trying to poison her. Diane would be the only person she trusted, so she hired Suzanne a private nurse. I let Suzanne and the nurse to live in the condo by themselves – I lived on the same floor, but different condo.”

Again Philip paused, lost in his own thoughts. “When she was eight and half months along, Suzanne had another psychotic break. She locked herself in her room and refused to come out for anyone, even Diane. We decided to open the door by un-doing the hinges and when we went in – we saw that Suzanne was in labor. We had to rush her to the hospital where she gave birth to you and your twin, Isabella. The moment I held the two of you in my arms, I loved you both. But Suzanne would have none of that – she wouldn’t let me near the two of you. She accused me of trying to turn you two against her. When I insisted on visiting to check on the two of you – she would get possessive of you two, watching every movement I made. On one visit, Diane and I happened to arrive at the same time and Suzanne thought we were ganging up on her. She grabbed Isabella and tried to snatch you too, but you were squirming so much, she dropped you. You started to cry but she ignored you while she held Isabella possessively. She screamed at us about not taking her babies, about me poisoning Diane’s mind against her and taking away her babies. She swore she’d kill you both before letting me have you.”

Philip cleared his throat and refused to look at Max, “She didn’t realize that she was smothering Isabella. We were finally able to calm her down and as soon as Diane saw the baby, she knew what had happened. We called the hospital and we lied about the circumstances. We swore we’d never even tell you. The coroner ruled SID and Diane took you home with her while we placed Suzanne in a private hospital. It took almost two years, but she was diagnosed as better, fragile but sane. We brought her back to the condo, with a nurse, and after controlled visits with you, we allowed you to move back in with her. We thought she was fine, so much so we dismissed the nurse. She was going out, volunteering, she even invited me over for dinner a couple times. But I still kept my distance, not wanting to risk her hurting you if she thought I cared about you. We didn’t know what was really happening though. We didn’t realize her drinking problem until after you left home. After you left – she didn’t try and hide it anymore. She’d drink in the open and scream at Diane and I about killing Mark and taking away her babies.”

Max sat stone still and tried to wrap his mind around what his father was saying to him.

“Diane and I never wanted to tell you, but now that she’s gone…I’d like to…I’d like to get to you know you.”

Max stared at him – he didn’t know what to say. Things that Philip revealed seemed to fall into place and made sense out of Max’s memories. Minutes passed and the waitress came and went before Max said anything.

“Tell me about my father.”

Philip spent another few hours telling Max about his father. The longer they talked, the more Max’s cold wall lowered. When Philip was ready to leave, Max agreed to meet him for breakfast before the funeral. He still didn’t know what to feel or say, but he could at least eat.

Three days later in Boston, a small funeral was held for Suzanne Philips. Diane Mattrisse, his aunt, told Max about Suzanne before Mark’s death, about how much she loved being pregnant. Max listened half-heartedly – he couldn’t believe how melodramatic his life had become. But mostly, he was confused over what to feel. He wanted to rail against Philip, wanted to hate the man who left him with a drunken mother. But now he knew that Philip was making sure Suzanne wasn’t going to hurt him by keeping his distance, so where did that leave his anger?

Not knowing what else to do, he played it cautiously. He met Philip for breakfast once a week, after his uncle moved permanently to Chicago, and slowly got to know the man. After their third breakfast, Diane joined them and the two older adults revealed that they had fallen in love with each other over the years. Max wanted to be happy for them, but just didn’t know what to do or feel, so he said nothing and did nothing. Instead, he stuffed down any emotion and tried to ignore it, hoping it would disappear, denying it existed.

Denial worked. He pretended everything was ok, normal. He threw himself into his work- he was on fire, bringing in clients left and right. He worked around the clock, schmoozing his clients, networking at social fund raisers and events, working at home until he passed out from fatigue and alcohol. Without conscious thought, Max had started drinking heavily to get through his days and help him to relax. But with his jam packed schedule of meetings, client dinners, and networking, it didn’t leave him time to face himself or his feelings. He didn’t need to.

And then, out of the blue, he got a call from Michael Guerin.

The call had brought him back to reality and forced him take a good honest look at himself. He didn’t like what he saw, what he had become – unfocused and lost. He had gained 25 lbs in the last five months – the alcohol, late nights, and non-stop working didn’t leave him much time to work out any more. His girlfriend was a gold digging brat who couldn’t hold an intelligent conversation, and his clients loved his vicious ruthlessness.

Looking at his life – Max knew he had to make a change. The first thing he did was break things off with his girlfriend, join a gym, and entered into AA. With the help of his group meetings and his sponsor, Milton, Max was able to face and work through his conflicting emotions about his mother and was finally able to mourn the loss of a possible relationship with her. He was also able to talk with Philip – telling him how much he blamed the man for his problems. They were able to clear the air and while their new found relationship was still fragile, the door to real communication was at least open.

At work, Max knew he couldn’t keep up the non-stop pace. He cut back on his hours at the office so that he could open up a non-profit legal counsel clinic with the help of Milton and Brody. The work he did at the clinic helped soothe part of his torment over the ruthless reputation he had earned. It also gave Philip and him an opportunity to work together; Philip had decided to come out of retirement and join the clinic as a counselor.

As part of his therapy, Max had to saying good-bye to parts of his previous life and also to his old memories, his old hurts, his mother. He knew that some of the scars from the old memories and hurts would still linger, as a reminder. And it was alright, because he knew that they would no longer rule over him as they had for the last 28 years.

But the nights were the best because she was back. Almost a year had gone by and he had buried his memory of her, trying to move on. With Michael Guerin’s call, he had been given fresh hope of finding her and this time, he was determined to find her.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
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Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:15 pm

18: LOVER

Hello Harlequin!

Hello caller, who is on the phone with me tonight?

This is Simone and I love your show.

Thanks Simone! How can I help you?

I was hoping you could find a song for me and my ex- girlfriend, Natalie.

What’s going on?

Natalie and I broke up a couple of months ago – we’d been together for seven years and had lived together for about five.

I’m so sorry.

Thanks, but it was for the best. I mean, we were together for seven years but she is still very deep in the closet. She hasn’t told anyone about us as a couple.

For seven years?

Yeah – she still hasn’t come out to her parents. She’s told everyone that we’re roommates and best friends, but refuses to admit there’s anything more. But I’m openly gay and the difference has put a huge strain on our relationship.

I would imagine – that’s a really long time to be pretending especially after you’ve come out.

I know, but I did it for her. Because I loved her. But, I can’t do it any more. I’ve waited seven years for her to at least come out to her parents, but she won’t budge. So I moved out.

I bet it was a hard decision.

It was – the hardest I’ve ever made. I love her but I can’t be with her in the closet. I really needed to leave.

But?

But I love her and I miss her so much. It kills me to be apart from her.

And yet, it kills you to be with her and pretend to everyone else.

Yes. I know I’m right, but it hurts so much.

Oh honey. Finding love is rare and to have to let it go is really hard – one of the hardest things to do, because we all want to love and be loved. But when it’s unhealthy, either emotionally or physically, for either one of you, then yes, you need to let it go. And it will hurt, nothing changes that. And while you don’t and can’t hear it now, time does work miracles. Just give it time.

Thanks Harlequin.

Here’s a song for you honey.

"Do What You Have To Do" Sarah McLachlan

What ravages of spirit
conjured this temptuous rage
created you a monster
broken by the rules of love
and fate has lead you through it
you do what you have to do
and fate has led you through it
you do what you have to do ...

and I have the sense to recognize that
I don't know how to let you go
every moment marked
with apparitions of your soul
I'm ever swiftly moving
trying to escape this desire
the yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do
the yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do
but I have the sense to recognize

that I don't know how
to let you go
I don't know how
to let you go

a glowing ember
burning hot
burning slow
deep within I'm shaken by the violence
of existing for only you

I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
and I have sense to recognize but
I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go


~*~

Michael Guerin turned the radio down and rubbed a hand through his hair, causing it to spike in every direction. He had received several new cases in the last few months, but the one he just received this week was the most heartbreaking. Lilyze Parker had just discovered her father wasn’t her father and that she had been taken from her family. She had come in to meet him after their initial phone conversation and something about the fragile stature of the young woman stirred his protective instincts. She told him about her story and unfortunately, there wasn’t much to go on.

He really wanted to help the young woman, but knew with the few leads he had, he wouldn’t get very far. On the other hand, some leads could take up to months, sometimes years to pay off. For instance, he just got a call about a month ago from the retired security guard who had gone of to Australia with his wife. He agreed to talk with Michael and shared with him the little information he had about the mystery ‘heiress’ Lily. He was able to call Maxwell Evans and pass on the good news – the woman worked for a museum. Mr. Evans was silent for a full minute before asking Michael to continue his search and to check with all the museums.

Most nights he worked late hours – seemed like the only time to ever get his paper work done-but tonight he was restless. He didn’t want to work and yet, he didn’t feel like painting either. Maybe he would head out to the Dolphin and meet up with Salvadore. Damn- scratch that thought.

He had been an idiot New Years Eve. He went out with the owner of the Diner Grill who had tickets to a New Years Eve ball and after his little run in with that Maria chick, he called up his buddies. They ended up at the Dolphin Street club, getting in despite the late hour and huge crowd. Courtney, the blonde bartender he’d been flirting with for months, had been their bartender and she had been even more outrageous in her flirting with Michael that night. And the more he drank, the more she looked good to Michael. After the bar closed, Michael gave Courtney his address and an hour later she arrived on his door step.

They didn’t waste any time talking – they went straight to bed. And for the next couple of months, things were good between them. But then Courtney started talking about her emotions. How she cared about him, wanted to be with him, and like to say the words ‘our future’. It made him sweat and he didn’t know what to say to her. So he’d ignore her. And then she’d get pissed and pout by flirting with some of the guys hanging out at the Dolphin and telling him about it. When he wouldn’t bite, she’d come to him, seducing him back into her arms.

Then in April, she dropped the bomb. She was late. Really late. Michael had panicked – he could’ve sworn he wore condoms and she was on birth control, but he couldn’t remember clearly when the thought of a baby pushed out any thoughts at all. He had asked her if she was sure, and she was. He began to choke at the thought of a baby, another person reliant on him and being tied to Courtney for the rest of his life. Before that moment, he had never really thought about his future and what he wanted out of a girlfriend, but he knew that he didn’t want Courtney.

It wasn’t that she was a bad person, it was just that she really just had no personality. She was like every other female he knew – superficial. She talked a lot, but when it came down to it, there wasn’t any meaning to what she said. They had a lot in common – good sex, same taste in alcohol, same tastes in food, and even in hockey. Yet, Michael couldn’t bear to think of a future with her.

When the pregnancy tests came back positive, confirming without a doubt she was pregnant – Michael felt his world cave in. He didn’t want to be a father, didn’t know how. When Courtney told him the news – he wanted to deny it, but ultimately knew he had to do the right thing. He started saving his money, picking up extra hours at the diner to make sure that he could help Courtney with the baby. When Courtney suggested moving in together, Michael nixed the idea but started looking at his painting room in a whole new light – one with a cradle and soft night lights. The vision didn’t seem so bad and he called Courtney to offer to share his place. She had been ecstatic and wanted to move in right away.

He arrived to help her pack and they were in the middle of moving a few smaller boxes when Courtney suddenly gasped and dropped her box. Concerned, Michael rushed over to her but was beat out by a stranger running to her side. The stranger turned out to be Courtney’s ex-boyfriend who had come back after running away from the news of the baby. Stunned, Michael lashed out with fury and demanded to know what the hell was going on. Courtney tearfully broke down and told him and the ex-boyfriend the entire story. Her ex and she had been off and on for years. When she slept with Michael, they were off, but when Michael had cooled off, she went back to her ex. Then when she discovered she was pregnant, she knew there was only one man responsible since Michael wore condoms and she was on the pill during their months together. She only went off the pills after she got back together with her ex. But, he ran off when she told him she was pregnant with his kid and she found that Michael was willing to do the right thing.

She was scared and she didn’t want to go through the pregnancy alone, so she lied to Michael, never thinking that her ex would return. Michael was furious at the deception and swore at the deceitful woman before being forced out by her ex. That night, Michael had gotten blinding drunk and trashed his painting room – finally admitting that he was devastated at the loss of a baby he thought would be his. Things became so clear to him that night – he wanted a baby, he wanted a family. He had just been too scared to admit it and now it was taken from him.

It took him two months to get to a point where he didn’t hate Courtney and her lies, and he wasn’t so depressed, but he didn’t want to tempt fate by going back to where he first met her. Instead, he decided to take a ride on the new motorcycle be bought with the money he had saved up for the baby and let the cool air clear his mind. The loneliness he was feeling seemed worse now that the holidays were almost over. Another New Year was coming up and again, he was alone. It hadn’t bothered him before, but this year, he couldn’t help but think he would have had a baby girl or boy to celebrate the New Year with.

When it started to rain, Michael pulled into a tight parking spot, threw a tarp over his seat, and dashed into the small diner for protection. The place was crowded for such a late night, but he made his way to the counter and sat down. He ordered coffee before looking around the place and noticing an eclectic group of people milling about – it was the first time he had ever been in Parker’s Place. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Max Evans in one of his expensive suits and reading through some papers. Something, maybe it was the rain or the crowd waiting for a table or the boredom of sitting by himself, made Michael get up and walk over to Max’s booth, sitting across from him. After the initial greeting, it didn’t take long for Michael to bring up hockey. To his surprise, Max was as big a fan as he was. They talked mostly about stats and different players, but after they finished their pie, Michael bluntly asked Max why he was there.

Max shrugged and scraped up the few crumbs of his pie, “I guess I didn’t feel like going home.”

Michael grunted with agreement, “You got someone waiting for you?”

Max shook his head and quirked an eye brow at him “You?”

“Nope.”

It wasn’t the most in-depth conversation, but Michael felt a kinship with Max and felt that the uptight young man might be ok to hang out with. They talked a bit more about hockey and then basketball, which ended up with Michael extending an offer to play morning basketball with his league. Max liked the idea and agreed to meet him the following Tuesday morning for a game. The one game turned into a routine and the more they played together, the more the guys found they liked hanging out together.

Most nights, Michael would meet up with Max at Parker’s Place for dinner before going back to his office to finish up his paperwork. It had been a long time since he made any new friends, and what he knew of Maxwell Evans, Michael liked. He pursued Max’s case and felt really bad about not finding out anything further for him. He finally admitted defeat to Max and felt even guiltier when the guy was nice enough to pay him. He decided on the spot that he wouldn’t give up and would keep Max’s case open, forever if need be, as a friend, that was the least he could do.

~*~

19: SURPRISE

Hi Harlequin!

Hello, who am I speaking with?

Carl.

Hello Carl, how can I help you?

I’d like to dedicate a song to my lovely wife.

Aww, how sweet. How long have you two been married?

Well, this year, we’ll be celebrating our 47th anniversary.

Wow, that’s great.

Yup, and I’ve got a big surprise for her this year.

Oooh, really? Care to share?

Well, this year, I bought her tickets for a two week cruise to the Bahamas.

Oh my gosh, that’s great! What a wonderful gift!

You bet, I’m really looking forward to giving her the gift.

So, when are you going?

Oh I’m not going.

What? But I thought…

I bought the tickets for her and her sister, so that I could get two weeks alone!

What?

That woman hasn’t shut up in all of the 47 years that I’ve known her. I can’t escape her – she follows me everywhere. I just need some time alone, away from her!

Well, sounds reasonable. But if she bugs you so much, why have you stayed married for all these years?

Its not that I don’t love her, because I do, I just need to get away from her sometimes, you know what I mean?

Well, yes. I think so. Every couple needs time away from each other. Ok, here’s a song for you two.

“Oh How the Years go By” Vanessa Williams

In our time of trouble
We only had ourselves
Nobody else
No one was there to save us
We had to save ourselves

And when the storms came through
They found me and you
Back together
And when the sun would shine
It was yours and mine
Yours and mine forever

Chorus:
Oh how the years go by
Oh how the love brings tears to my eyes
All through the changes, the soul never dies
We fight, we laugh, we cry
As the years go by

There were times we stumbled
They thought they had us down
We came around
How we rolled and rambled
We got lost and we got found
Now were back on solid ground

We took everything
All our times would bring
In this world of danger
cause when your heart is strong
You know youre not alone
In this world of strangers

Chorus

If we lose our way
Any night or day
Well, well always be
I’m there for you
And I know you’re there for me

As the years go by
You know you’re not alone
In this world of strangers


~!~

Maria stared at her aunt and the man standing next to her with an open jaw. She couldn’t believe what she just heard. She and Amy and Jim were out on Maria’s deck while the rest of their small family and friends were in the condo celebrating Maria’s birthday. The whole day had been a blast. The entire family assembled together in Maria’s new condo right after the birthday brunch. After she had blown out the candles on her favorite cake(chocolate with mint chocolate frosting), it was time to open her presents, her favorite part. Normally, her aunt was at least good for three presents which were usually clothes or shoes. But when she looked around for her presents, Maria was puzzled at the lack of them. Noticing her look, Vivian stood up and got everyone’s attention.

“Maria, happy birthday, girl. The band and I actually went in on a gift for you this year, I hope you don’t mind.” She handed Maria a small wrapped box. Maria looked at her band mates and family and wondered what they could’ve gotten her. She ripped off the paper and found a small velvet box. Curious, she opened to box to find a key.

“What the hell is this?”

Jesse dragged himself away from his current girl and threw his arm around her, “Maria, love. You remember complaining to us about how much you hate the van?”

“And the bus?” Amy spoke up, knowing what was coming.

“And the train?” Vivian volunteered.

“So?”

“So, love, this key fits in your new, slightly used, very own car.”

Maria’s jaw dropped, “A car?!? You guys bought me a car?” At the nods that followed, Maria screamed for joy and insisted on running out to meet her new baby. She glowed at the vision of a dark maroon VW Jetta sitting bright and shiny in front of her condo building. She would’ve been content to just staring at the thing, but her family insisted she get in and check everything out. Just as she got in the car, her feet came into contact with some paper. Leaning down she grabbed the paper only to find a manila envelope stuffed with papers. Thinking it was her title, Maria opened to envelop only to have her jaw drop again. Instead of a car title, inside was a contract for a record deal!

Screaming again, Maria jumped out of her car and hugged her family who was screaming just as loud. The recording label that was signing them was small and mostly regional, but it didn’t matter to them. They had a contract! They had been approached several months ago and after negotiations about creative license, they finally had a signed contract! Hours later, when everyone was finally digging into the birthday cake, Amy and Jim had asked to speak to her privately.

They went out to the deck and the chilly March air surrounded them. Maria waited patiently as Amy started babbling nervously until Jim grabbed her hand and steadied her. Jim looked steadily at Maria and told her that he had asked for Amy’s hand in marriage and wanted her approval. His answer was Maria’s squeal of delight and tight hug. She then rushed back into the room to make the announcement to the rest of the family. The small close knit family welcomed Jim into their family by popping open several bottles of champagne.

As Amy and Jim were getting ready to leave, Amy handed her another smaller envelope and waited for Maria to rip it open. Maria’s eyes widened as she saw that it a check written out to her with business card attached to it. Jim then told her that Amy had told him about Maria’s deepest wish to find Liz and had been hiring investigators to look for her. They agreed that for Maria’s birthday and Liz’s, that they would hire an investigator for her. They had searched around and finally made an appointment for her with Guerin Investigations.

That’s when Maria’s jaw dropped. Guerin, as in Michael Guerin, the big mouth lunk head who infuriated her, was the one investigator in all of Chicago that her aunt and Jim decided to hire. She couldn’t believe it!

“No way! I am not hiring that bone head!”

Jim was taken aback with Maria’s vehemence. “What?”

“I am not going to give that arrogant, manner-less, rude, alien species my business!”

“But Maria, he’s one of the best from what I’ve heard.”

“And we already gave him a $500 deposit…”

“I don’t care! He is not going to take my case! That insensitive jerk would probably take my money and run.”

Amy hid a small smile as she said, “You know, that Michael guy kind of had the same reaction as you. In fact, I think he turned kinda green. He didn’t seem like he even wanted to take the case…”

“Oh he did, did he? That weasel, after you gave him a deposit and everything, he’s so taking my case. And he better have results!” Maria threatened as she stormed back into the living room, leaving behind a confused Jim and laughing Amy.

“What just happened?” Jim looked to Amy for clarification.

“You just met Hurricane DeLuca. She kicks up a storm and is unpredictable.”

“But what was…”

“I haven’t seen her react to a guy like that since Billy died.”

Jim stared at Amy with comprehension, “You provoked her to agreeing because you’re trying to play matchmaker!”

“Let’s just say, things are going to be very interesting.”

~*~

Maria stared at the door and debated with herself about going in. Michael Guerin was not one of her most favorite people – he rubbed her the wrong way and she despised being around him ever since their first meeting. However, Jim did say he was one of the best and most respectable…and the last investigator she hired hadn’t come up with anything. She sighed heavily and braced herself for her confrontation.

She was prepared to face the devil himself if it meant finding clues to finding Liz, but she wasn’t prepared to find a half naked damp Michael Guerin, talking to himself. She bristled as she heard him talking about her, calling her infuriating, rude, loud mouthed…everything she accused him of being. She was about to jump in to her defense when he finally swore loudly,

“GOD! She’s driven me to talk to myself! That freakin’ space cadet!”

“I’m the space cadet? I don’t think so! I’m not the one going around half naked and talking to myself, space boy!” Maria sarcastically bit out as she entered the office space. She watched as Michael whirled around and faced her with startled expression. A strange thrill of excitement raced through her as she felt and saw his eyes inspect her with reluctant admiration. She knew that she looked good in her short suede skirt, peasant style off the shoulder cotton blouse and slinky open toe heels. She brushed a strand of straightened blonde hair off her shoulders and made her way over to his desk.

“Do you always greet your clients without a shirt? Cuz you know, you might actually get more clients if you leave your shirt on.” Maria volleyed at the tall man. Truth be told, he was rather good looking. Tall, wide shoulders, lean muscle – if he’d just keep his mouth shut, the shaggy hair, clear brown eyes and freckles might actually be considered cute.

She saw him give her a dirty look before he grabbed his towel and wiped his head with it, “You’re half an hour early. I was just getting ready.”

“Aunt Amy said 10AM and I’m here, 10AM.”

“We made the appointment for 10:30.”

“Well that’s not what she told me!”

“Fine! Let’s get this over with.”

She watched as Michael grabbed a shirt and put it on. She was surprised at the stirring of attraction she felt as she watched the muscles of his back flex as the shirt was pulled. She was unprepared for his abrupt “Well? You gonna sit or stand there all day? Either way, I’m getting paid.”

Maria shook her head to clear her head of all obscene thoughts of attraction and sat down across from him. For the next hour she told Michael the details of her story and her sister Liz. To give him credit, he sat and listened to the entire story, writing down notes, before asking her questions. She then handed him an envelope, “These are copies of all the other PI reports that I’ve gotten since I was 16. All the investigations end with the discovery of Nancy’s body being discovered. You might want to start there.”

“Gee, are you sure? Cuz I’m only a private investigator that has been in business for a few years and don’t know what I’m doing.” Came his sarcastic reply.

Maria flushed red, slightly embarrassed, and covered it up by angrily replying, “Shut it, space boy. This is my sister we’re talking about. My missing sister. One I haven’t seen since we were nine years old. Don’t think there’s anyone out there who knows more about this case than I do.”

She heard him sigh deeply and clench his jaw before he apologized. She relaxed a bit and asked him to keep her informed with any research on a weekly basis. She saw him wearily nod his head in agreement and felt a slight twinge of something like regret. She impulsively blurted out, “Look, if you come to Parker’s Place around 10AM to give me a report, I can feed you pie and coffee while you give me your report.”

Maria saw him perk up a bit, “Parker’s Place? I love their pies!”

Maria smiled with genuine warmth, “My aunt makes them. She’s the pastry chef there and works from 4 in the morning to 10.”

“Alright, I’ll meet you there on Friday’s.”

“No good, my band usually has gigs lined up Thursday nights through Sunday nights. No way I’m getting up before noon on Friday.”

“Fine, you pick.”

“How about Tuesdays?”

“Fine, I’ll see you on Tuesdays.”

“Fine.” Maria gathered her purse and turned to leave but Michael had one more question for her.

“Why are you still looking for her? Why is it so important? I mean, I know she’s family, but from my experience, most families are better off without each other…” his voice trailed off awkwardly, unsure.

Maria stopped and refused to turn around. “Have you ever loved someone?”

“Huh?”

“Have you ever loved someone and one moment they’re right there in front of you, and you think you’ll have the rest of your life with them. And the next moment, they’re gone?”

A long pause stretched between them “Yeah.”

“Then you know. There are always questions. A need to know.”

“Sometimes the answers aren’t what you’re looking for.” His voice came out husky and rough.

“But they’re answers. It’s the unanswered questions that kill you, slowly. The what if’s.”

Another pause before a hand settled on her shoulder, “I’ll find them. The answers. I’ll find them for you.”

Tears stung Maria’s eyes. It had been so long since someone comforted her, reassured her. As a child, Liz had been her rock, her comfort. Aunt Amy had tried, but she was scared of raising two kids herself and was too nervous and worried to give her any reassurances. And when Liz disappeared, Amy had been too lost in her own grief and then her insistence on moving on. Billy, the love of her life, had stood by her and understood, but…

This man, this loud, brash, unmannered man, gave her something that neither Billy, Liz, or Aunt Amy could: hope.

Maria swallowed her tears and nodded quickly before walking out of the office.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:20 pm
Contact:

Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:17 pm

20: LOVE?

Harlequin?

Hello, who am I speaking with tonight?

Miranada. I’m such a huge fan!

Thank you! How can I help you tonight?

Well, I was hoping for some advice.

Ok, what’s going on?

I think I might in love, but I’m not sure. I mean, I’ve thought I was in love before, and it turned out I wasn’t. This time, I just want to be sure before I do something stupid.

Oh boy, that’s a tough one.

Help! I’m so confused!

Ok. Calm down. Tell me about him?

His name is Shane and we’ve been friends forever, ever since 5th grade.

Awww, that’s so cute! So, if you guys were friends, how did you happen to fall in love with him?

Well, he was dating this girl and from the moment I met her, I hated her. I didn’t like anything about her and when I saw the two of them together, it would make me so mad.

But you didn’t break them up, did you?

No! Of course not! I tried to keep my distance and was really polite whenever I had to be around them. Finally, Shane confronted me about avoiding him and I broke down and told him. He got really mad and accused me of being jealous and it took me by surprise. All of a sudden, everything became really really clear and I realized that I was jealous.

Oh, sweetie. What did you do?

I lied, of course! I told him I wanted him to be happy and I would try to like her. And I did, try, I mean. I tried so hard, but most of the time, I ended up trying to avoid her. I started hooking up with this other guy and tried to keep busy so I wouldn’t have to see the two of them. A few months went by and I thought everything was fine, but then the other day, he calls me. He left a voicemail saying he’d broken up with the other girl and he wanted to see me. I want to see him, because I think I am in love with him, but I’m not sure if I’m really in love with him.

Hmmm, how do you think you’d feel if he were to start dating someone else?

I’d hate her.

Well, it seems like you really care. Why not take it slow and see where it goes? Right now, he’s in no condition to start dating and you don’t want to end up being his rebound.

I guess.

Call him. Be the friend. And when he’s ready, then tell him how you feel.

But when will I know?

I don’t know and neither does he. You’ll just have to wait and see. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

No, you’re right. I just have to be patient.

I know its hard. Here’s a song for you.

Thanks, Harlequin.

You’re welcome, and good luck!


Teardrops On My Guitar" Taylor Swift

Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won't see
That I want and I'm needing everything that we should be
I'll bet she's beautiful, that girl he talks about
And she's got everything that I have to live without

Drew talks to me, I laugh cause it's so damn funny
That I can't even see anyone when he's with me
He says he's so in love, he's finally got it right,
I wonder if he knows he's all I think about at night

[Chorus:]

He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
He's the song in the car I keep singing, don't know why I do

Drew walks by me, can he tell that I can't breathe?
And there he goes, so perfectly,
The kind of flawless I wish I could be
She'd better hold him tight, give him all her love
Look in those beautiful eyes and know she's lucky cause

[Repeat Chorus]

So I drive home alone, as I turn out the light
I'll put his picture down and maybe
Get some sleep tonight

He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only one who's got enough of me to break my heart
He's the song in the car I keep singing, don't know why I do
He's the time taken up, but there's never enough
And he's all that I need to fall into..

Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won't see.


~!~

Isabel stared at herself in the mirror – hand frozen midair, her toothbrush falling into the sink, eyes wide and disbelieving. This feeling, the overwhelming sensation of giddiness – she knew what it was. She had heard the tales and gossip from other women, but she never thought she, The Ice Princess, of all people, would be…in love. She saw her own face break out in a stunning smile and cheeks brighten with a slight blush. He did this to her – it was all his fault. Yes, Alex Whitman was to blame for her undeniable condition.

It started right after she won the job of organizing Alex’s Gaming Olympics. She expected that he would be like every other man she knew and would try to hit on her. Part of her conscience warned her about making general assumptions, that is what had gotten her in trouble with him in the first place, but she ignored herself. At every meeting, she waited for the inevitable flirting, the sly suggestions, the too-casual touch, but it didn’t come. Nothing ever happened. It wasn’t like he didn’t like what he saw – she could see the admiration in his eyes every time he looked at her, but he never crossed the line of professionalism with her.

And to top it off, Alex Whitman was the first man to avoid touching her. Unbelievable, but true. Isabel didn’t have any false modesty or overconfidence in herself, but she knew that most men desired her body. So, to have a man like Alex avoid her…well, it felt odd to her. It wasn’t that Alex was undesirable himself, he did have really intense eyes and a disarming charm, but he wasn’t what most women would consider handsome. He was too unpolished, unsophisticated, and frankly, too naïve to be taken seriously.

Guys like Alex were usually the first to fall victim to Isabel’s beauty – at least, that was her experience. Yet, he hadn’t. He was always professional, kind, but professional. He treated her with absolute respect and kindness, but on a personal level, he was cool, distant, and avoided being near her. It would have been easy to think he didn’t care for her at all, but every once in awhile she would notice that he looked at her with this, mysterious soft smile. Or he would notice something really personal like her favorite color.

Isabel smiled again as she remembered how the topic of her favorite color came up. They had been discussing two different layouts of the poster for the Gaming Olympics announcement. Isabel favored the vibrant reds and blacks while Alex favored the silver and blue. While she argued in favor of the red and black, Alex got that smile on his face and suddenly he blurted out, “Of course you think that one is better,” pointing at the poster in her hands, “red is your favorite color. But if you take a look…what? Is something wrong?”

Isabel had been surprised at his comment and stared at him oddly, “How did you know red was my favorite color?”

Alex shrugged and casually stated, “You always wear red when you’re nervous about something. You seem to know that you look more beautiful in red and it makes you feel better in the situation. Like New Years Eve – you wore red because you weren’t really comfortable in that setting. I mean, that’s just what I assumed. I’m sorry if I offended…”

“No, you didn’t offend me. Its just…you’re right. Red is my favorite color. It’s so bright and bold, that sometimes I feel like I can hide behind it and...”

Isabel abruptly clamped her mouth shut. She couldn’t believe she actually blurted out something so personal to him. She never did that. To tell people personal things about her made her vulnerable, prey to other people’s viciousness – her mother taught her that. And yet, she opened up to Alex. As she wondered if he would use the information to flatter her or flirt with her, Alex turned his attention back to the posters. He coolly and methodically pointed out why the silver and blue hues would be appeal best to the average gamer. Isabel sat listening and what he said really made sense to her. She was about to give in to his choice when he surprised her with a compromise of silver and red.

He looked at her expectedly and with a look of genuine kindness and Isabel couldn’t help but respond by smiling and agreeing. She saw his eyes brighten and for a brief second, it looked like he was about to reach out and hug her but he didn’t. To her surprise, she was disappointed. To her even bigger surprise, she really wanted him to. Impulsively she asked Alex to celebrate their compromise with a drink that evening. She was almost confident that he would say yes, but again, he disappointed her by politely turning her down.

Perhaps that was the one defining moment that Isabel was forced to take a different look at Alex. He was nothing like every other man she knew. She didn’t know how to deal with this kind of man. After their meeting, Isabel was left to think about the situation and why Alex’s lack of response bothered her. She looked at the situation thoughtfully and assumed that it was simply that she didn’t know that much about him, that it was curiosity that left her bothered. She thought that as soon as she found out his bad traits, he wouldn’t bother her so much. So, she set out to rectify her ignorance by looking up all the articles that were written about him and was frustrated to find that every single article wrote about how great the guy was. According to some, he was an unsung hero to underprivileged children and inner city schools by funneling used computers and money towards outfitting them with equipment and supplies.

Some of the articles talked about his love of children and how he wanted to help them learn. The only bad trait she could find was his addiction to orange soda. She knew that couldn’t be the whole story, no man was that nice. She knew first hand that most men were dogs, jerks, liars, and master manipulators. They took advantage of any weakness and exploited women’s ignorance. Alex Whitman couldn’t be any different.

Isabel decided to talk to the people closest to Alex – his employees. Under the guise of writing a press release for the Gaming Olympics, Isabel interviewed his secretary, his programmers, his janitor, and even the security guards in the building. Not one person ever had bad word to say about him. Instead, she heard how thoughtful he was, how kind and generous he was, how funny he was. His employees loved working with him and the women in the office treated him like their geeky younger brother, no matter what their age was. And while she had all of this testimony, Isabel still refused to believe the guy was for real.

Then she got sick.

Chicago weather was unpredictable – one day it could be in the 80’s and the next windy and freezing, especially in the spring and fall. Summers just meant unbearable heat so every building had their air conditioning blasting. The extreme difference in outside and inside temperatures played havoc with Isabel. Most summers she usually got a sinus infection at least once, sometimes twice. And this year was no exception.

She woke up early yesterday morning and felt the familiar throbbing under her eyes and piercing pain in her temples and between her eyes. She knew she couldn’t stay in bed, she had meetings scheduled and several calls she had to make. So, despite the pain, she dragged herself out of bed and took some over the counter medicine before heading out for the day. By her mid-afternoon meeting with Alex, Isabel was miserable and hurting, but she refused to cancel. Alex was her most important client.

She dimly heard Alex’s assistant usher her in and through a fog, she greeted Alex. She saw his frown and his wide blue eyes(did she ever notice how wide and blue his eyes were before?) look at her with concern. She felt a warm flush at the thought he was concerned about her. She barely heard him ask her if she was ok. But she was definitely aware of his arm when he placed it around her to escort her out of his office. She had struggled to understand why he was trying to get her out of his office but her head hurt so much, she just wanted to lay her head on his shoulder – he had such wide, comfortable shoulders.

She heard him tell his assistant that he was driving her home and she wanted to insist that she was ok but her entire face hurt and she was so darn hot. She told him her address and watched him park his car in front of her building. She saw such concern and worry on his face, it really made her feel warm, warmer than she had ever felt before. She studied Alex’s profile as they stood in front of her condo door and she noticed for the first time that Alex was actually taller than her, and he was actually quite sturdy and solid.

It wasn’t until she woke up the next morning in her bed, under the covers, that she wondered if he had take advantage of her condition. Before she even finished the thought, she dismissed it, knowing deep down, that he wouldn’t do that, he wasn’t that kind of guy. She threw off her covers and wasn’t surprised that she was still completely dressed, but without shoes. For some odd reason, it made her insides feel warm, knowing she was right about Alex.

She still felt awful and some time during the night she developed a cough, but she was determined to go to work. That’s when she noticed that right next to her bed was a glass of water and box of sinus medication. A neon orange post-it was stuck to the glass and in his bold scratch, Alex wrote: ‘Take the meds and stay home!’

Something that had been frozen inside of her melted a little at the obvious concern for her. She smiled gently as she showered and thought about his note. She spent part of the morning rescheduling her appointments but for the most part, slept. Around noon, her cell phone lit up and showed Alex’s number and she smiled automatically, feeling a sudden rush of giddiness. Some part of her was expecting him to call, knowing he would.

She thanked him for taking care of her and she jokingly complained of being bored and hungry, half hoping he would offer to visit. Again, he disappointed her by not taking the subtle hint. He said he had to go, and he would talk to her soon. She hung up wondering what it would take to get him to notice her, but her irritated thoughts were interrupted by her doorbell. Her jaw dropped unflatteringly at the sight of Alex Whitman standing before her with a brown paper bag and a box. She couldn’t say anything as he walked into her living room and set down the bag and box saying, “I know you like tortilla soup, but I don’t know where to find it since I really don’t eat Mexican food, but Jeff made this French onion soup that I think you’ll like. But if you don’t, just say the word and I can find something else.”

He was unloading the contents of the brown paper bag on to her coffee table and didn’t notice that she hadn’t moved from the door.

“Alex.”

“Hmm?”

“Were you on your way here when you were on the phone with me?”

Alex suddenly looked up from the bag and focused on her, “I thought I’d bring you lunch. I noticed yesterday you didn’t have anything in the fridge to eat, so I…I assumed…” Alex’s voice trailed off and he started turning red. “I’m sorry, I just thought…on my way to work…I didn’t want you to starve.”

“Y-you were really worried about me?” An ache filled Isabel’s heart, frozen emotions melting even further.

“Yes, but I don’t want to bother you. I’ll just leave this and go.”

“No!” Isabel slammed the door shut, “I hate eating alone. Please.” She looked pleading at Alex and he visibly relaxed.

“Ok. Cool.” He continued to unload the bag and Isabel was afraid of scaring him off again so she tried not to stare at him. Her eyes fell on the box he had brought with him.

“Alex, what is that?” She pointed at the box.

“Oh, yeah, it’s an Atari game system. It’s a newer version of the vintage set, easier to use. I thought you might need something to do, so I brought it just in case. But you’re probably not interested…”

“Does it have Pac-Man?”

“Yeah. It has about 13 games on there.”

“I love Pac-Man. I suck at it, but I love it.’

Alex grinned, “If you set up the lunch, I’ll set up the game for you.”

Isabel eagerly agreed, “You know, it’s been so long since I’ve actually played the game. I didn’t think it was even around anymore.”

“Do you remember the first time you played?”

“Yeah, I do. I was about seven and we were at this hotel for a beauty pageant. When we weren’t on stage, some of the girls and I would sneak into the arcade room and they had this table with Pac Man.”

“I didn’t get into the older games like Pac Man until I was in high school. That’s when I realized how cool the games were – they weren’t violent or very exciting, but they were fun. Ok, its set, want to try?”

Isabel grinned and took the game control from him. They spent the afternoon taking turns eating and playing Pac-Man, Galaga, Centipede, but it was Xevious that had them on their feet, shouting at the monitor and forgetting about everything but the game. An urgent knock on the door finally drove them back to reality. They were embarrassed to find a concerned neighbor wondering if Isabel was ok because of the shouting. Isabel politely let him know she was ok and when the door closed, the two of them collapsed in laughter.

That’s when Alex noticed that the afternoon was gone and that it was almost 9PM. Isabel watched reluctantly as he prepared to leave, not wanting the evening to end. At the door, Isabel reached out a hand to touch Alex’s arm and noticed him jump a bit at her touch.

“Alex. Thank you so much for coming today. Bringing lunch and the game, I had a lot of fun.”

A sincere smile broke out on his face, “I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope you feel better.”

“I do, thank you.”

Alex turned to go, but he stopped and turned back. Isabel dared to hope for something, but he handed her a small plastic bag from his pocket.

“I almost forgot, you might need this later.”

She opened the bag and saw a cooling gel pack for around her eyes. She stared at the object before looking at Alex. In that moment, everything she ever read about him and heard about him, came rushing to her head and she realized the truth. Alex Whitman was genuinely the nicest guy.

She had cleaned up their lunch and put away the game all the while thinking about how nice Alex had been to her. It had been a lifetime since anyone had actually taken care of her, made sure she was ok out of genuine concern. Her mother had always looked at her as a ticket to their future wealth and didn’t want anything to risk damaging her future. Her agent and employers didn’t care – models were a dime a dozen. And she didn’t have friends to worry about her, her mother had made sure of that. And her boyfriends…Alex was the first person to really care about her.

The more she thought about Alex and how concerned and thoughtful he was, the warmer she felt. She couldn’t describe or name the foreign feelings and it bothered her. What was it she was feeling? It wasn’t until she was in the bathroom, getting ready to brush her teeth that it finally came to her.

Love. She, Isabel VIlondra Avens, was in love. And it was all Alex Whitman’s fault.
I'm a believer!

Believer2
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Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:26 pm

Author's Note: This is the second half of the story. There are no chapter markers, so hopefully it won't be too confusing.

~~~~~~~

Kyle turned off his radio before Harlequin came on with her first caller. Tonight, he wasn’t in the mood to listen to anyone else’s problem. He silently scratched at the band-aid on his arm and thought about how his life ended up here. He had finally met someone he thought he could be serious about, but the problem was, she was dating a friend of his soon to be step-cousin. To make it worse, he was the one that pushed her towards the guy.

He had briefly met Ava when Brad introduced her during the Halloween Party he threw every year, and the Christmas party, and New Year’s party they all went to together. All those times, he hadn’t really noticed her. But, to be fair, he had been distracted by the scantily clad nurse he had brought with him on Halloween, the tall leggy brunette at Christmas, and the fiery red-head on New Year’s and didn’t pay attention. He didn’t even recognize her when they met again when he went over to Brad’s place one night. When he asked Brad, he was chagrined to find out that it was Ava and that she had been in the process of moving out that night.

Kyle kicked himself for never noticing her before and the loss of opportunity to get to know her before. After their breakup, Ava and Brad still seemed to be hanging out, and seemed even closer than when they were dating. Brad’s birthday party had given Kyle the chance to actually approach and talk with Ava. She didn’t seem bothered by the fact he had never noticed her before, but then, it was possible she didn’t know. Either way, she was at ease talking with him about sports and his hobby, car mechanics.

The longer they talked, the more Kyle found himself fascinated by the young woman. He found that he genuinely liked talking with her. He had never really found that talking with women could be interesting until Ava. After Brad’s birthday party, he found himself looking forward to the next time they could hang out together. When two weeks went by and he couldn’t get his mind off of her, Kyle decided to throw a small BBQ at his condo and invited a few friends over. He was very casual when he mentioned to Brad to invite Ava, and he heard a barely noticeable pause in Brad’s voice when he agreed to do so.

Part of him felt guilty for trying to make the moves on his friend’s ex-girlfriend, but the other part of him felt no remorse. The party was a huge success and he ended up spending most of the evening next to Ava which was more than ok with him. All during the evening he had tried to be subtle in his attention to her, the brief touches on the small of her back, the slight rubbing of her arms, the slightly possessive stance. He thought he was making some headway when she continued to smile at him and slightly leaned into his touch.

He had been ecstatic until Vicky Delany showed up. He had broken things off with Vickie right around the time that he finally noticed Ava, but the break up hadn’t been very friendly. Instead, Vicky had ended up hurt and crying which Kyle felt really bad about. The night of his party, she showed up without being invited and it looked like she was targeting him.

For an hour or two he was able to avoid her and still stay by Ava’s side, but he knew he had to face her before she said something hurtful in front of Ava. He left Ava with a couple of his female friends and Brad, and found Vicky by the front door, getting ready to leave.

“Vicky, hey.”

Vicky whirled at the sound of her name and Kyle groaned at the site of tears in her eyes. “Look, Vicky, I’m sorry that you’re hurt…”

“You’re sorry?!? You lead me on! You made me believe that what we had was special! That we were going to be together…”

“I never promised you anything. And I told you that I wasn’t into commitment.”

Vicky snorted with disbelief and wiped her eyes. “Stupid me for hoping. But, I guess it really doesn’t matter, now.”

Kyle kept his mouth shut, not knowing what she wanted to hear.

“I’ve been trying to call you, you know. Why haven’t you returned any of my calls?”

Kyle tried to shrug off his discomfort, “I didn’t want to drag things out.”

“You know, Kyle, you’re such an ass. I called you because I just found out my ex-boyfriend is the hospital with AIDS.”

“I’m sorry, but…”

“You have to get tested because I just tested positive for HIV, too.”

Kyle’s jaw dropped open and he angrily grabbed Vicky by the arm to lead her outside of the condo, “WHAT?!?”

Vicky pulled her arm away and hugged herself as she faced Kyle, “I got a call from the health department a couple weeks ago that my ex-boyfriend Brandon Honsberger was checked into the hospital after he collapsed. They discovered he had AIDS.”

“B-but how did you…and what about me?”

“Brandon and I were together for a couple years, but broke up three years ago. He probably just had HIV at the time. But we never thought about getting tested. And I never thought about getting tested afterwards. But when I got the call, I had to go in. I got my lab results back today…I have HIV.”

Kyle’s mind raced and this stomach cramped. “But you and I used protection.”

“You still could’ve gotten it. You need to go get tested, to be sure. I-I’m sorry, Kyle.”

In two minutes flat, Kyle’s world flipped upside down. He slowly sank to the ground, trying to grasp what he just discovered. He was dimly aware of Vicky leaving and some of his friends leaving as well, but he didn’t care. He just couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe that he might have HIV. He had never thought about HIV – he always used protection because he never wanted to have kids before he was ready, but HIV, AIDS…he just never thought about it.

He was brought out of his stupor when one of his friends came looking for him, telling him that Ava was getting worried. Kyle felt his stomach drop again – Ava! He had completely forgotten about Ava. He finally found someone and wanted to settle down with one girl, but he couldn’t. Not with the threat of HIV hanging over his head. He quietly slipped into his condo and watched Ava from across the room. She was so beautiful!

Her full pouty lips, the small curvy figure, those wide blue eyes. She was everything he had ever wanted – beauty and brains. And he was so close to making her his, but he couldn’t drag her into his mess. When Ava’s eyes found his, he watched them brighten a bit and he groaned to himself for what he was about to do. He ignored Ava’s look and hooked his arm around the closest single girl he could find. He spent the rest of the night making sure that Ava knew that his interest lay elsewhere and drowning his fear and anger in his beer.

When the party started to wind down and Ava was getting ready to leave, he made sure to keep his arm around the random girl he picked and acted distracted. But from the corner of his eye, he could see she seemed hurt and confused. Sure his strategy wasn’t well thought out, but it was the only one he could come up with on the spot. As Ava opened the door, Maria DeLuca and her band members stood at the door.

Kyle didn’t remember inviting her but she was there – with a long, dark haired guy who made instant eye contact with Ava. Kyle desperately wanted to step between them and stake his claim of Ava, but he had to keep her safe, away from him. He watched the other guy introduce himself to Ava and her answering smile.

Maria took one look at the situation and brought over her bottle of vodka. She poured them each a shot, “Sorry, friend.”

Kyle downed his shot and just stared at the two of them. “Doesn’t matter.”

“If it helps, Jesse will tire of her in a couple months and move on. That’s his pattern.”

Kyle held out his shot glass for another. “Iss not my buthiness.”

Maria shrugged as she poured them each a shot, “Sure it isn’t. And you’re not jealous.”

Kyle didn’t say a word as he poured his shot down his throat. He couldn’t remember how many he had, but he knew that he continued to drink heavily, not wanting to remember Ava and that guy or Vicky. He had woken up with a killer hangover, not remembering how he ended up in bed or why he was naked. He did remember the sense of panic that filled him when he heard his door open and there stood Maria in nothing but an old tshirt of his.

He knew his jaw had dropped, but he just couldn’t think of anything to say as he scrambled to cover himself. Maria had stared at him quietly before she burst out laughing.

“Hahaha, you should see the look on your face!!!! I can read every flashing thought running through that mind of yours!!!”

Maria was able to gather herself long enough to explain that she and Brad had brought Kyle into his room after he puked his guts out and passed out. She and Brad took off the majority of his clothes because he had fallen in his own puke. Once Kyle recovered from his shock and embarrassment, Maria took Kyle out for breakfast.

The diner, Parker’s Place, was familiar to him. Kyle remembered his dad talking about the place as the one that Amy DeLuca was working at as a baker and how great her pies were. Kyle had shut his ears since he thought his dad was going to start talking about their sex lives, and he just hadn’t wanted to hear it. Now, he looked around the place and saw that there was a nice diverse group of people in the diner.

He saw his dad and Amy sitting together in a booth, side by side and very much closed off to the rest of the dining group. He felt Maria lean into him, “Makes you kinda sick, huh?”

“What?”

“The two of them! They look like lovesick calves mooning over each other! And when they start sucking face…I have to scrub my eyes out with the Brillo pad! Ugh!”

“Wait, you’ve seen them kiss?”

“Yeah – not an experience I want to repeat. I caught them by accident when I stopped by Aunt Amy’s to do my laundry. They were on the couch! Doing things that I don’t even want to think about them doing.” Maria made a face of horror.

Kyle lightly shoved her, “Oh god, shut up! In my world, my dad doesn’t know what sex is.”

At Maria’s look of disbelief, Kyle defended himself “I came from a stork. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

When she looked like she still didn’t believe him, Kyle fired back, “Do you really want to think about how you came to be? Your parents…doing the nasty? Hot and heavy…”

Maria flung up her hand, “Point taken! I came from a stork!” She grabbed his arm and pulled him in the opposite direction of the two older love birds. Then they both look over at Valenti and Amy DeLuca sitting together at a booth.

“I caught em making out on the couch when I went over for dinner one night.” Maria mournfully shared as she sipped her tea.

“Dude, I caught them making out in the pantry closet in the kitchen while they were fixing us dinner. It's just so embarrassing. “ Kyle shook his head.

“I know, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's just raging hormones. And they are our bright and shiny examples of responsible adults.”

The two of them looked at each other before laughing out loud and waved to the other couple as they left. As they sat drinking their tea and waiting for their order, Kyle discovered that Maria had a very sarcastic and sardonic outlook on life. She kept up a running commentary on everyone in the diner and the pedestrians walking by. Whether it was hair, shoes, or even the smell of people, Maria had something to say about everyone.

As they finished their breakfast, Maria pushed away her empty plate and looked him directly, “So, you want to talk about last night?”

Kyle squirmed a bit, wanting to avoid the subject, “What about it?”

Maria shook her head and just looked at him. Her intent stare made Kyle want to fidget, but he fought against it and tried to stare back. Three seconds later he blinked and looked away. Maria sighed and reached out a hand to touch his arm, “Kyle, why do you think you might have HIV?”

Kyle whipped his eyes back to Maria’s and saw nothing but sympathy. He sighed heavily, “A girl I used to date tracked me down last night. She found out an ex-boyfriend of hers was diagnosed with AIDS and she got tested only to find out she had HIV.”

“Oh geez. I’m so sorry, Kyle.”

“I only slept with her a couple times, Maria. Maybe four. And we used protection every time – I wasn’t about to risk getting her pregnant. But we all know protection doesn’t guarantee anything against HIV.”

“Kyle, the sooner you get tested, the sooner you’ll know.”

“No. I don’t need to. I know I don’t have it.”

“But Kyle, you don’t know! And you could possibly have exposed other people.”

“No way.”

“Kyle, you need to find out for sure!”

“I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!” Kyle jumped from his seat and ignored Maria’s attempts to calm him down. “This can’t be happening to me!” Kyle slammed his fist against the table, startling the patrons of the diner. “Damn it!” Maria tried to calm Kyle back down but instead, he grabbed her wrist. “DON’T TOUCH ME!” He yelledand was about to push her away when another arm hooked around his windpipe.

“Hey buddy, now I know this chic here likes yakkin and could probably drive anybody loony, but that don’t mean she deserves you gettin’ rough with her.”

Maria’s wide green eyes stared at the tall shaggy haired man holding Kyle in a head lock.

“You calm now?” Kyle barely nodded and Michael Guerin slowly released his hold. Kyle rubbed his neck and ruefully looked at Maria.

“Sorry, Maria. I just…”

“I know, Kyle. Don’t worry about it.” Maria reassured Kyle and then faced off with her would be rescuer. “You didn’t have to nearly choke him to death, you know.”

Michael’s jaw dropped, “Excuse me? I thought I was doing you a favor.”

“Next time, mind your own business! I had the situation under control!”

“Oh yeah? From where I saw, the guy was about hit you. And someone as small as you can’t handle an out of control guy like that – he’d crush you.”

Maria suddenly stopped and looked at Michael as if seeing him for the first time, “You were worried about me?”

“What? No! I was just doing what any human being would do, stopping a bully.”

“Admit it, you were worried about it.”

Michael opened, then shut his mouth, unable to figure out what to say. “I’m outta here. Last time I save some broad.” He turned to march back to his table, but Maria refused to let him have the last word, “You know, some of us 20th century ladies might object to being called broads, you…you…stupid spaceboy!”

Both Maria and Kyle silently watched Michael storm out of the diner after paying the waitress and finally faced off against each other. Maria inspected Kyle up and down, before crossing her arms in front of her, “So, about that apology. I think I know how you can make it up to me.”

Later that afternoon, the two of them walked out of the clinic, both of them sporting brand new band-aids. As Kyle rolled down his sleeve, he thanked Maria. “Thanks for coming with me, Maria. I-I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t guilted me into it.”

“That’s what family’s are for, buddy.”

“What? Did you say family?”

“Oh crap. I forgot you haven’t spoken to your dad yet.”

Kyle stopped Maria’s hasty retreat. “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing – at least, not until you talk with you dad.”

“Maria!”

Maria scrambled for a new topic, hoping Kyle wouldn’t press her about her slip. “Hey, um, who was that blonde Barbie you were staring at all night?”

“Don’t try to change the subject, Maria.”

“Well, I hope you didn’t set your heart with her, cuz I have the feeling she went home with Jesse.”

Kyle stopped abruptly as he absorbed what Maria just told him, “Jesse? The tall dark haired guy you came with?”

“Yeah. He’s my bass player – really talented. Sweet guy.”

Her words seemed to deflate Kyle and she tried to cheer him up “If it makes you feel any better, he’ll dump her in about a month. That’s his pattern.”

“No, it doesn’t make me feel better.”

Maria felt even guiltier for making her soon-to-be new cousin feel even worse than he had felt before. She slipped her arm through his and pulled him along, “Ok, you finally dragged it out of me. Let me tell you what I just heard from my aunt Amy…

The news of his father’s engagement wasn’t new – he had known about it from the beginning. But he acted surprised so that he wouldn’t hurt Maria’s feelings. She wanted to spend the day with him, making sure he wouldn’t do something stupid, but he assured her he was ok. He spent all afternoon working out with the radio on, trying to keep himself distracted. But it didn’t work. All he kept thinking about was the HIV test, which led to Vicky, which in turn led to last night’s BBQ and his ruined chances with Ava. He couldn’t bear the thought of pushing her towards another guy, so he flipped off the radio and turned the TV on, hoping ESPN could distract him.

~*~

Alex scanned the large ballroom from the darkened corner with satisfaction. Unfolding before him was the first ever, Gaming Olympics, an event that was gaining momentum as one of the hottest events since the XGames were invented. Gamers from all over the world had come to Chicago to participate in the week long tournament and fans were soaking it up online and in person. The event that gained several national sponsors had a dual, and to Alex the most important, reason which was to raise funds and computers for low income schools. The event was so successfully put together and marketed that he knew that he had a franchise on his hands and he owed it all to Isabel Avens.

All the months of preparations and planning that Isabel had put them all through, paid off. He knew his staff secretly called her The Nazi for the way she commanded schedules and project lists, but he also knew that while they grumbled, they gladly worked to seek her approval. She just had a way about her that made people want to do things for her. And he wasn’t immune to it either. There were plenty of times he caught himself wanting to say yes to whatever she wanted, but knew that he couldn’t.

He also knew that the more time he spent with her, the weaker his defenses would become. He had decided months ago that he would not let his foolish heart make a fool out of him by declaring his feelings for her. He knew exactly how she thought about him, from New Years Eve, and he couldn’t forget it. Oh sure, she might respect him a little more now that she knew what he did for a living and what he owned, but he doubted if her personal opinion changed.

Although, on the other hand, there was that one night he thought she looked at him differently. It had been about a month ago, shortly after their afternoon together in her condo when she was sick. They were working on creating an after-hours schedule for the Gaming Olympics. While most of the gamers and visitors would probably go hang out at the bars and nightclubs, some of the board directors and sponsors needed a little extra treatment. She had scheduled for an all day brainstorming session and had him come to her office. It had been the first time he saw her office and he was actually impressed with how efficient and organized it looked compared to his messy office.

Isabel had welcomed him in and he could have sworn she blushed when he asked after her health, worried something was still lingering. She assured him she was better and then sequestered them into a small conference room with several whiteboards and pads of paper. For the first several hours they worked steadily, jotting down ideas and bouncing ideas off of each other. Alex tried to stay serious and on task, but finally his natural personality broke through and he started cracking jokes. Soon, he had Isabel laughing and they were spending more time joking around ideas than they were actually taking down notes.

She had asked him about how he got into gaming and computers and she told him about her past as a model. It seemed like neither of them wanted the afternoon to end, because dinner time came and went without either of them wanting to break. When they got hungry, Alex called his assistant and had him bring some food from Parker’s Place, including dessert. Over dinner, Alex made Isabel promise to not think about work, but instead talk about something else. They talked about music and were both surprised to learn they shared the same interest in music. When Alex asked about her childhood, he saw something like pain flash through her soft brown eyes and they hardened as she spoke about being a child beauty pageant contestant. Carefully, Alex had asked some questions and was surprised to find that Isabel was answering them.

As she was telling him about her modeling career and how she gave it up, she looked at him in surprise and in a startled voice confessed that she hadn’t talked quite so much about herself in a very long time. She had given him an odd look and Alex could have sworn that she was looking at him for the first time as a man, not a client. And what she saw…that was the question, what did she see? He really hoped that she didn’t see his complete lovesick adoration for her and out of embarrassment quickly ended the conversation by making his excuses to leave.

After that night, he knew for sure he couldn’t risk spending that much alone time with her or his geeky and thoroughly embarrassing love for her would force him to confess. He kept their meetings on a completely professional level and never again crossed into personal. Oh but he wanted to! He would often catch himself staring at her, cataloging her every gesture, smile, and expression. He knew when she worried when her eyebrows would furrow, when she was upset her eyes would get glacial, and when she was happy, her eyes glowed. Sometimes he swore that she was staring at him and was disappointed about something.

Sometimes he thought he knew everything about her, but then she would do something to surprise him. Like the one time she came in for a meeting and he was still testing one of his computer games by playing it. She actually volunteered to play with him and the two of them spent a couple hours trying to win the game. The competitive yet friendly banter she displayed again surprised him since he never thought she would be the type of person to like computer games. He had trouble keeping his concentration on the game when Isabel would jump up and down or yell at the tv screen because she was just so cute.

The torture of being so close, yet not being with her on a personal level made Alex wish that the Gaming Olympics would hurry up and be over yet at the same time, he prayed that it would take forever to come. Now that the event was underway, he breathed a sigh of relief and regret. He knew that the event would be extremely successful, and he was right. But now, he had no reason to continue to see Isabel on a weekly basis.

“Alex.” Her soft voice interrupted his morose thoughts and he turned to face her. He had to mentally talk himself out of gasping when he saw her. She was dressed in strapless silver full-length ball gown and had her hair up in a fancy do that he had no clue about. Diamonds sparkled at her throat and ears but nothing could outshine her beauty. He choked down the blubbering flattery he was thinking about and managed to smile back at her.

“Isabel. You know, I gotta say, objectively speaking, you are incredibly beautiful this evening.”

He swore he saw her blush as she came to stand beside him. “You don't have to say that.”

“I know I don't.”

“You look quite dashing yourself.” Alex swore he saw look of admiration in her eyes as she reached out to straighten his bow tie.

“You did a wonderful job pulling this together.”

“Alex, thank you. That means so much to me.” A small pause stretched between them as they turned to look out over the ballroom from the sidelines.

“I know you didn't want to have such a formal opening ball, but I really think everyone is really enjoying themselves.”

“You’re right. I can see that everyone’s having a good time, even the sponsor heads.” Alex waved over to the group of suits clutching their drinks and laughing at themselves as they tried to dance to the hot jazz music blaring. “Its all thanks to you, Ms. Avens”

“No, not all of it. Alex, you thought up most of this. And while most people are thinking about the competitiveness and the money to be made, I know that you’re thinking of all the schools that are going to be helped. I am just so grateful to be apart of this.”

Alex felt himself falling just a little harder and he tried to cover it up, “So, is this band the same band that played at the New Year’s Eve ball?”

“Yes, they’re called Crashdown. They’ve got a cult following here in Chicago and I heard they just signed with an independent record label.”

“They’re really good – I’d like to meet them.”

“Sure. They’ll be going on break in a few minutes anyway.” Isabel seemed to unconsciously thread her arm through Alex’s, but it practically made Alex jump out of his skin. Any physical contact with Isabel had the same effect on him. He concentrated on breathing and not making a fool out of himself as she led him through the crowd towards the stage. Their progress was hampered by eager fans, employees, and photographers wanting either his autograph, to talk to him, or get his photo. Each time they were stopped Alex dimly remembered what he said or did because he couldn’t concentrate-Isabel wouldn’t let go of arm.

His brain screamed at him not to get his hopes up because she was probably just being a good hostess and trying to share in the spotlight, but his heart refused to listen to his brain. His foolish heart raced at the hope that she stayed by his side because she wanted to be with him. He dared to hope that she was looking at him as a man.

He barely heard her as she introduced them to the band, but one name sounded familiar. “DeLuca?” He looked at the green eyed blonde in her outrageously sexy leather pants and top. “Are you by chance related to Amy DeLuca?”

Green eyes widened, “That’s my aunt!”

Alex grinned, “Whoa, what a coincidence! I am your aunt’s biggest fan!”

Maria laughed ”That’s not possible, I am.”

“Well, then I’m definitely her biggest non-related fan.”

“Sorry, her fiancée’s way ahead of you. Bull I’ll let her know she’s got another admirer.”

Isabel looked at the two of them with a quizzical look, “Is Amy another performer?”

Alex and Maria both shared a laugh before Alex explained, “Amy DeLuca is a pastry chef at Parker’s Place, a small diner a couple blocks from my office. Remember the soup I brought you while you were sick? That’s where I got it from. She makes the best pies in all of Chicago.”

“Her muffins aren’t too bad either!” A tall dark haired guy named Jesse chimed in as he looked Isabel over from head to toe. The blatant admiration and flirtatious look irritated Alex but he tried to ignore it. He knew that Jesse, with his overly confident attitude and charm, would probably win over Isabel and he couldn’t bear to watch. Instead, he focused on Maria and talked with her about her aunt while walking away from the flirting couple.

After listing all of his favorite pies, Maria interrupted him. “Jesse’s always been really good at flirting with beautiful ladies, but most of the time, its just flirting.”

Alex avoided her eyes and fiddled around with the bass guitar he picked up “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m just saying that the flirting is usually harmless and he’ll back off if he had reason to.”

“Isabel’s a free woman, she can do or flirt with whoever she wants.”

“Ok, ok. Point taken. So, Jeff Parker actually saves you a slice a pie every day, huh?”

Alex grinned proudly, “Yeah, I’m a regular there and have been for the last six years. I have dinner at Jeff’s almost every night and he tries out some of his recipes on me.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you there before. I usually go for dinner before we head out for a gig.”

“I don’t get there until an hour before closing. Lilyze, Jeff’s daughter, and I usually meet up for dinner once a week, right before she heads to her night job.”

“But the place doesn’t close until midnight.”

“Yeah, I’m a night owl. I work better at night than I do during the day. I usually don’t start until noon.”

“Must be nice. You’re boss must really like you.”

“Well, I’m the boss, so yeah, I like me.”

“You’re the boss? Wait, you’re THE Alexander Whitman? Of Alien Galactic War fame? Creator of Gothic Macabre? OWNER of Whit Games?!?” Maria’s voice climbed as she asked each question.

Alex shrugged, “Whit-Hall Games. Yup.”

“Oh my god! Vivian! Get over here.” Maria shouted towards the curtains and then faced Alex again with an animated face. “Oh my god, my friend Vivian is your biggest fan. She loves Gothic Macabre!” Maria turned around as a dark haired, woman stepped out of the shadows.

“Alex, this is Vivian. Viv, this is THE Alexander Whitman, of Gothic Macabre!”

Alex stared at the tall gothic dressed woman in front of him. She was dressed in a Victorian styled dress of black taffeta and lace with her pale skin gleaming brightly in contrast. While the gothic look was never Alex’s favorite, the overall look on the girl in front of him was striking. “Please, call me Alex.”

Vivian smiled and Alex found himself easily drawn into a comfortable conversation with both Maria and Vivian, completely forgetting about Isabel and Jesse. No one was more surprised than he was when Vivian boldly handed him a card with her number on before she left for the band’s next set. “Please, give me a call. I’d love to have dinner some time.”

Alex stared after the woman as she disappeared behind the stage curtains and was startled when Isabel spoke to him. “Looks like you have an admirer.”

Turning back to Isabel, Alex was surprised to hear how frosty her voice had become. “Yeah, Vivian’s an interesting lady.”

“I’m sure she knows all about gaming and such, right?”

“Uh, yeah. She’s a fan of a game I did a few years back called Gothic Macabre. “

Silence lapsed between them for the first time all night and Alex was uncomfortably aware he did something wrong, but he didn’t know what it was. Before he could say something to break the sudden ice between them, Isabel made her excuses about meeting with the caterer. Alex watched her leave and tried to think of what he did wrong. He was distracted from thinking about her for the rest of the night when he saw Lilyze scanning the room for him. He could feel his mood lighten and he quickly made his way over to her.

“Lilyze!!! You came!” Alex swept the tiny woman into a tight hug, grateful to see a friendly face. He knew she was going through a tough time with her father recovering from a heart attack and then finding out about her past and he was thankful that she would come out to support him.

“Hi! I wouldn’t miss this – it’s all you’ve been talking about for months!” Lilyze quietly laughed and teased.

“You look great!” Alex gave her an admiring look and watched in amusement as she flushed bright red. The dark purple dress was simple in its cut, a high waist, square-cut bodice and A-line cut that was higher in the front than in the back. It would have looked a bit plain on most women. But on Lilyze, it looked classically chic and sophisticated, especially combined with the delicate amethyst and pearl drop necklace and earrings. Again, Alex mentally chastised himself for not being able to fall in love with Lilyze. She wasn’t as bold and sexy as Vivian nor was she a visual stunner like Isabel. Instead, Lilyze had a quiet beauty that drew people to look at her over and over again, each time noticing something else that made her beautiful. Even better, Lilyze had no clue how appealing she was.

She actually thought she was boring and guys weren’t interested in her because she was so plain looking. Only he and everyone else knew that she was totally wrong. It wasn’t that she was plain or boring, it was that men didn’t know how to approach her, couldn’t figure her out. Beautiful women and outgoing women were much easier to approach where as they sensed that Lilyze couldn’t be easily won with simple words or gestures.

So most men never realized what a wonderful and fun person she was, much to their loss. And Alex wanted to be in love with her. She would have been the perfect girlfriend for him – she was beyond intelligent and cultured and loved classic comedy shows like The Three Stooges. Yet, no matter how perfect she was, she couldn’t make his heart skip a beat or race when she was near or when she touched his hand. Only Isabel caused such emotions in his body.

“So, where is she?” Lilyze looked around the room, never noticing the admiring glances she received.

“Who?”

“Isabel. I know she’s here, you told me she would be.”

“Well, I…”

“I want to meet her, make sure she’s good enough for you.” Lilyze winked teasingly as she linked her arm through his.

“Lilyyyyyze!”

Her quiet laughter burst out and Alex was grateful that Isabel wasn’t there to see how idiotic he was behaving. He escorted Lilyze over to the bar and was laughing at something she said when he felt eyes on him. Curious, he glanced around only to make eye contact with Isabel. Funny, the look on her face seemed like…jealousy?
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Believer2
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Post by Believer2 » Sun May 13, 2007 8:27 pm

Ava knew she was using him. Jesse was like a drug. Anytime she felt bad, sad, angry, or frustrated, she could turn to the sexy musician for some therapy through sex. She had forgotten how good she could feel after having sex. She let him use her body in any way he wanted – she didn’t care as long as she could forget about her problems.

The rational part of her mind knew that sex with Jesse wouldn’t solve her problems, that she was avoiding her problems. But it was so much easier than actually having to face the situation. She was lonely. So ironic how someone like her who had the looks like she did could be lonely, yet it was the harsh truth.

She hadn’t really made any female friends over the years – too many felt threatened by her overly sexual body or were incredibly shallow. And the guys, they weren’t interested in talking with her, except for Kyle. For a brief instant, Kyle Valenti seemed interest in her – wanting to talk instead of making moves on her. During a party they had an in depth conversation about Buddhism which she was surprised to learn he was a follower of. For someone like her who had never been religious, the idea of organized religion was something alien. She had listened as he enthusiastically talked about how Buddhism saved his sanity and gave him inner peace.

Not many guys as handsome or rich as Kyle ever talked that enthusiastically about religion. Nor did religious nuts ever not try and convert the unbelievers, but Kyle didn’t pressure her at all. And, to her surprise, she had a lot of fun talking with him. When she had first started talking with him at the party, she thought he was trying to hit on her by pretending to be interested in what she had to say, but as they continued to talk for the rest of the night, she realized he was genuinely interested.

She liked the feeling of being respected and liked for her thoughts and looked forward to the next time she would see him. Brad had passed on an invitation from Kyle to a BBQ, and he had also cautioned her about assuming that Kyle just wanted to be friends. After he cautioned her, Ava thought about the possibility that Kyle might be interested in her romantically and she found that she like the idea. She really looked forward to the night of the BBQ.

The evening of the party started out well. She had arrived a bit early to see if she could help set up and Kyle was happy to see her. Together they had put the ice in the coolers and carried them out to the deck. Then they settled into the kitchen to mix up, in his words, the Valenti Super Burger Mix. Working with Kyle was fun and she was really sorry that for the rest of the evening they couldn’t spend more time alone. She got her hopes up when Kyle refused to leave her side for most of the night.

But at one point, he excused himself and she saw him disappear with a tall, model perfect brunette. She tried not to think too much about it, but when he didn’t come back for an hour, she went looking for him. She was disappointed when she found him with another girl, flirting and hanging all over her, and a bit hurt. But before she could wallow or even think about her hurt feelings, she ran into Jesse.

Jesse was the perfect distraction. It didn’t take long for the two of them to hook up and for awhile, it was really great. But two months later, no matter how numbing and good the sex was, she had to face facts. Being with Jesse made her feel lonely.

They had nothing in common, didn’t really talk, and frankly, their sexual encounters were getting tiresome. Ava knew she could find another guy, another no-strings attached kind of guy, but it wouldn’t fix anything. She knew that if she wanted to change things, it would have to start with her – Ed had told her that. Suddenly, she desperately wanted Ed back, missing his wisdom and support.

Not wanting to fall back into her bad habit of abusing her body, Ava decided to fill her life with some positive changes. She signed up for dance classes, language courses, and jewelry making classes, but one by one, she quit them – not finding them to be helpful, only frustrating. She had tried making friends but no one in her classes seemed to want to be friends. The women were either catty and spiteful or too old to have anything in common with her.

She finally decided to try and be a volunteer but she hated the nursing homes and children drove her crazy. She couldn’t stand the dirty work of cleaning up after the animals in the shelter or cleaning mounds of dirty dishes at the food pantry. Just as she was about to give up being a volunteer, she found an opening at the Chicago Art Museum.

She loved it! She was the welcome receptionist and helped with organizing fund raisers and special events. Over the summer, the museum wanted to have a charity auction to raise money. The event coordinator the museum hired thought that they would be able to ask for more money if they had historical information of some of the more high end art items that were donated for the auction. They brought in an expert, Lilyze Parker, and assigned Ava to transcribe for her in the evenings and weekends.

Working with Lilyze was surprising because the other woman was so friendly towards her. At first, Ava was a bit intimidated by Lilyze’s intelligence and her well-respected reputation. But her kindness was sincere and Ava found that Lilyze was not only intelligent, but also very fun to talk to and was a great listener. For Ava, having a friend to talk to and go to lunch with was a lot of fun. She was nervous those first few weeks – she didn’t want to scare her new friend away or offend her or have her think she was weird. So she was very careful about what she said and how she behaved.

That all changed when they bonded over a hangover. Lilyze had invited her to dinner with a small group of her friends which made Ava nervous. She wasn’t very comfortable in crowds, especially since most guys tried to hit on her while their girlfriends were present. But she didn’t want to disappoint Lilyze, so she decided to go. She wore her most conservative clothes and tried to downplay her natural curves, but she was still very self-conscious as she met up with Lilyze at a small Korean restaurant on the north side.

Lilyze’s friends instantly put her at ease and welcomed her. Sasha was a tall, slender red head with stunning hazel eyes and a sunny disposition while Rusty proved to be the funny jokester and hid behind his scruffy dark brown beard and laid back manner. Alex, the gaming wizard and genius behind Whit-Hall Games, to Ava’s surprise was the funniest guy she had ever met. She would have thought he would have been more…geeky, but he had a very sarcastic and dry sense of humor. At first, Ava hadn’t known if he was being serious or not, but one look into his twinkling blue eyes put her at ease and she was able to tease back.

Looking at the small group of friends, Ava felt really lucky to be so welcomed among such really nice people. Their combined intelligence and success kind of made her feel down because she wasn’t as successful or smart, but they didn’t treat her any different. It wasn’t until the middle of dinner that Ava finally felt comfortable enough to start drinking with the rest of her dinner companions, only briefly noticing that Lilyze wasn’t drinking like the rest of them.

By the time Alex suggested going to a Korean karaoke place, she and the rest of the group were loosened up enough to love the idea. At the Korean karaoke bar, the group ended up ordering several pitchers of flavored soju, the Korean version of vodka while they listened to other singers and waited for their turns. The girls had giggled their way through Love Shack, Dancing Queen, and I Love Rock n Roll with Rusty and Alex supplying backup vocals. Alex surprised them all with a mock strip tease and Rusty had the entire crowd roaring with laughter at his version of Abba’s Fernando.

Through out the entire evening, the soju was flowing heavily. Ava had never experience soju before and it had hit her like a ton of bricks. To her, the night was a blur of food, bad singing, laughter and dancing. When she woke up the next morning, Ava knew she was in her bed, but she didn’t know how she got there.

She groaned her way up to a sitting position and was startled to find Lilyze sleeping on the floor. She suddenly got very panicky that her new friend saw her in her drunken state and feared what Lilyze thought of her. As she quietly tried to lay back down, Lilyze opened her eyes.

“How are you feeling?”

Ava sat back up again and saw Lilyze sitting up, “I’m not feeling that great, how about you?”

“I’m ok, I don’t drink so I was the designated driver last night.”

“After last night, I may never drink again. What was that stuff?”

Lilyze quietly laughed, “Its called soju. It’s sort of like vodka but it isn’t as strong as vodka.”

“I couldn’t even tell we were drinking alcohol – it tasted like watermelon.”

“Yeah, the karaoke place mixes it with watermelon or apple juice. It’s their specialty.” Lilyze leaned over and handed her a glass of water with a bottle of aspirin.

“How come you don’t drink?” Ava asked as she sipped her water.

“I’m allergic. One sip or two is ok, but more than that and I get violently sick. Sick as in hospital sick.”

Ava groaned at the churning of her stomach and slumped forward on her bed, sudden flashes of some embarrassing dance moves came to her mind “I, uh, apologize for any embarrassing…”

Lilyze interrupted Ava with a slight wave of her hand and grin, “Don’t apologize. We had fun, that’s all that’s important.”

Ava blushed as she remembered some of the embarrassing moments from the night before, including the vomiting in the parking lot. “Well, I’m really really sorry that I got so carried away.”

“You were among friends and who’s going to judge? We certainly won’t. “

“Friends?”

“Yeah, friends.”

Ava smiled a bit, relieved she didn’t offend her friend or embarrass her. “Well, friend, I’m gonna take a shower. How about breakfast?”

Lilyze wrinkled her nose, “Uh, I don’t think so. I stink like the bar and puke – you weren’t the only one sick last night.”

“Who else got sick?”

“Alex! He never had soju before either!” Lilyze suddenly burst out laughing. “Don’t you remember when he was showing off his break dancing skills and all of a sudden he turned green?”

Ava laughed as she shook her head, “No!” Lilyze continued laughing and nodded. Laughing at the visual, Ava climbed off her bed and pulled open her walk in closet, “Help yourself. They should fit since we’re about the same size.”

Lilyze looked down at her chest and pointedly looked at Ava’s before raising an eyebrow “You think?”

Ava rolled her eyes, “Cornball. You know what I meant.”

Ava swatted her on the back of the head and headed for the shower. Lilyze laughed back and after their showers, the two of them went for brunch at a nearby Ann Sather’s. Over their coffee and cinnamon rolls, Ava finally let down her wall and told Lilyze about her past, her husband, and Kyle. In return, Ava learned the mystery surrounding Lilyze’s past and father which left her breathless. She could see in her friend’s eyes the depth of hurt and confusion and it made her want to help or say something. The only thing she could do was let Lilyze talk.

As she parted ways with Lilyze, Ava realized she felt content and not so lonely. Life was different with friends and she liked it. She knew Ed would have been proud of her for being able to make a friend and try new things in her life and she was really glad. Lilyze encouraged her to talk to Kyle about that night, but Ava didn’t know if she had the courage. And she didn’t know if she wanted to know. As for Jesse…she knew she was using him, but she didn’t see any harm in continuing.

~*~

Lilyze knew it wasn’t fair. She knew that he was trying, but she couldn’t help how she felt. Michael Guerin, private investigator, didn’t have much to go on. He only had a guess of a location of where her father thought the car accident happened and the year. He had clippings of an Arizona newspaper, but no hint as to anything else from her past. It really wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t find anything. And she knew he felt bad about not finding any answers for her. She could tell because his eyes looked so sad.

She had come with her father to meet with Michael for the first time since she hired him. That was three months ago. She felt her father’s hand take a hold of hers and for one brief second, she almost hated him. Because of him, she didn’t know who she was or where she came from. But then she remembered, because of him, she was alive. She had a spoilt childhood and lived her dream, all because of him. She grasped his hand and smiled, knowing her father was worried about her reaction to Michael’s news.

She knew it wasn’t fair, but she couldn’t help her feeling of disappointment or sadness.

Michael seemed uncomfortable with the silence that fell between them and she heard him sigh loudly, “You know, there’s something about this case that bugs me, and I don’t know what it is. It feels like there’s something familiar.”

Lilyze tried to smile but just couldn’t.

“Look, Ms. Parker, Mr. Parker, I’ll keep looking. Maybe if I go there, to Arizona and try to find the hospital you took Lilyze…”

“Whatever it takes, Mr. Guerin. Please. I’ll pay for your flight.” Jeff Parker anxiously offered.

“Dad…”

“Hush, I want to do this Lilyze. I owe you.”

“No, you don’t. You’re my father; nothing Michael finds will ever change that. I just want this settled, for good.” Lilyze tried to reassure her father, but deep down, she was selfish enough to admit she wanted to know where she came from.

“Then it’s settled. Michael will go to Arizona.”

Lilyze let her father talk to Michael about Arizona because she knew that her father needed to do something, needed to fix something for her. As they left Michael’s office, Lilyze held on to her father’s arm, knowing he needed the physical touch to reassure him that she wasn’t mad at him. He had the right to be concerned. Since his near death confession, things had been strained between them.

Sometimes she looked at her father and wondered how she could still love him knowing he had kidnapped her while the rational, scientific part of her brain realized that she had been raised to love and think of him as her father. Feelings couldn’t automatically shut off completely. So she tried to act like everything was ok, normal, between them. She still went to his diner at night, helping him close and he still doted on her. She thought for the most part he was fooled but there were times, like today, when she realized that she wasn’t fooling anyone except herself.

When they arrived back to Jeff’s apartment behind the diner, Lilyze steeled herself for the conversation she knew they had to have. Before she could say any, Jeff hugged her close.

“Honey, I know you’ve been trying to act like everything’s ok, for my sake because of the heart attack. But honey, you can’t fool me. I know you’re upset and I know you’re hurting, and I want you to know its ok to let yourself feel that. What I did was wrong, and if I could, I’d go back to that moment in the hospital and tell the doctors the truth. But I can’t. I’m sorry.”

Her father’s words made tears sting Lilyze’s eyes and she hugged her father even closer.

“Look, you told me that you had an opportunity to go to Scotland right? To archive Brody Davis’s family vault?”

Lilyze nodded, “Yes. After I did that favor for him in Roswell, he’s given me access to his entire family archives.”

“Then go. Take some time to figure things out.”

Lilyze gnawed on her lower lip, thinking over the situation.

“You know I love you, right Dad?”

“I know, honey. And I love you. That’s why I don’t want to see you hurting so much.”

Lilyze took her father’s words to heart and was thinking about them as she drove home. Going to Scotland did sound really good. But she didn’t want her father to feel that she was leaving because of him. Dear god, would anything ever feel normal again? What's so great about her normal, plain boring life? Last year she would have said nothing, but now, now she’d give anything for normal. Maybe that's why she needed to leave. She had to figure out what her life meant, who she was now that she knew everything she always believed wasn’t true.

Making up her mind, she called Brody Davis to arrange a visit. Then she called the university and museum to let them know that she would be out of town for the next month on an assignment. She then called Sasha and Rusty, letting them know about her trip and rearranged her schedule. Finally, with all the plans made, Lilyze smiled to herself, feeling better than she had in months.

She would be leaving in a week for Edinburgh, staying at Brody’s ancestral home. The shrill of her cell phone broke her out of her reverie and Lilyze smiled as she saw it was Ava. Since the moment they met, Lilyze had like the other girl. Superficially, Ava looked like your typical dumb blonde, but to Lilyze, she seemed sweet and lost. She had noticed that the other girl seemed nervous around her, but that all disappeared after their escapade at the Korean karaoke place.

Since that night, Lilyze had watched as her friend blossomed, making some positive changes in her life. Ava had cut her long blonde hair into a short blunt cut and even got a few streaks of light pink to jazz it up. She seemed more confident in herself and happier, which made Lilyze happy.

“Hey Ava!”

“Lyze!” Lilyze smiled at the nickname Ava had come up for her. She had confided to Ava that she could no longer stand the name her father gave her, knowing it wasn’t her real name, but she couldn’t bear to shorten it to Lily. She told Ava that it was because that was her father’s late wife’s name, but she didn’t tell her the complete truth. Ava suggested ‘Lyze’ and for some reason, Lilyze felt that it fit her.

“Lyze, guess what?”

“What?

“Kyle asked me out!”

“About time! Did you guys finally talk about that night?”

“Yeah, a little bit. He says he wants to tell me in person. I think…I think this is for real this time.”

“And Jesse?”

“I told a few weeks ago that I couldn’t see him anymore. He didn’t seem fazed by it at all.”

“Good for you! I’m glad you let him go.”

“Yeah, well, it was hard you know. But it was the right thing to do. Being with him, didn’t make things better.”

“So, where are you going on your date?”

“We’re actually going to go see Jesse’s band play, at the Green Dolphin.”

“Uh, Ava, does Kyle know…”

“Yeah, he’s actually the one that suggested it. Can you believe it?”

“No way. That’s so crazy! Tell me all about it over dinner. I’m starving!”

They decided to meet up in Chinatown, at a small dim sum restaurant. Over tea, Lyze told Ava about her decision to go to Scotland. She was in the middle of rationalizing the trip when Ava cut her off, “Lyze! Stop. You don’t have to explain.”

“What?”

“After what you’ve been through, I don’t know how you’ve lasted this long.”

“Its just, I feel like I’m running away from my problems and I know it won’t solve anything.”

“It might not solve anything, but it might help your sanity. It’s a lot to process and think about, you need time to do just that. Think about it.”

“And I can’t do it here, can I?”

Ava didn’t answer, just looked back her with an expectant look.

“No. I feel suffocated here, lost in this abyss-alien abyss.”

“Lyze, go. You deserve to go.”

“But dad…”

“Your father wants you to go. He knows you’re hurting and your hurt only makes him feel more guilty. Personally, I think he should feel guilty, but he did save your life and I’ll give him credit for that.”

Talking things over with Ava helped Lyze put things into perspective and by the time she told Alex the next day, she was more confident in her decision. Alex even agreed to fly over for a long weekend so they could go take a tour of the Netherlands and Sweden. The day before she was to fly out, she had to stop by Brody’s office to pick up the keys to his estate. She dropped by after lunch and was waiting at the elevators when her phone rang.

As Alex’s voice came over the phone, excitedly telling her about something about stocks and trading, the elevator doors opened and a crush of people came out. Lost in the crowd, Lyze dropped her phone when she heard a familiar voice above the crowd.

That voice!!! She would know that voice anywhere. Frantically she searched the crowd looking for the owner of the voice but kept getting pushed around by disgruntled people trying to get in and out of the elevator. Lyze stamped her foot in frustration, suddenly pissed off that there was one more thing in her life she had no control over. She couldn’t wait to get to Scotland, but what was it the voice had said…something about Arizona?
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