Eats, Shoots & Leaves (ML/Adult) AN 13Dec (WIP)

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves (ML/Adult) AN 13Dec (WIP)

Post by LairaBehr4 » Mon Jul 03, 2006 5:20 pm

Title: Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Or, Looking For a Prince in a World Full of Frogs

By LairaBehr4

Rating: Mature

Summary: Based on a challenge by Reamhar, #63, found here. Max is a playboy who tried to solve the enigma that is Liz Parker, and answer the question that plagues all mankind: Why won’t she date him?

Disclaimer: If I actually owned any of this stuff, I doubt I’d have such a hard time paying off my Visa bill. ‘Roswell’ and all its characters are the property of a lot of people who aren’t me.
‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation’ is the property of Lynne Truss.

Author’s Note: this story will be taking place in Philadelphia (I love Philly!). The characters of Liz and Serena are loosely based on my senior year college roommate and I. I got the title from a “misunderstanding” that occurred when I bought Lynne Truss’ book, and my roommate walked in, saw it, and exclaimed, “Laira! You bought a sex book!” (She thought it was a book about guys and their typical behavior – you guys get it?)

When I read this challenge, part of what drew me to it was the opportunity to write some great interaction between Liz and a female friend in which they could share their stories from Dating Hell. My friends and I have some pretty incredible tales of outlandish pick-up lines and horrible dates, and I wanted to try to share them with some of you! In this chapter, for example, the story about the married guy actually happened to my senior year roommate (I got her permission to post it, don’t worry).

This story will vary from the challenge in that Michael does not live with Liz, but he will be a very big part of their lives and the rest of the story will adhere, I promise (sorry, Reamhar!).


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Round 10 Awards Winner: Funniest Fanfic for 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves'

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Round 10 Awards Nominee:

Favorite portrayal of Serena

Favorite Alternative Universe Without Aliens


Round 11 Runner Up:
Favorite Portrayal of Serena

Favorite Original Character - Joe




Thank you to everyone who voted for and nominated me!




Eternal thanks to sprayadhesive, my ego-booster and amazing beta!

And now, on with the show.


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This beautiful banner is by Lizard_queen.


Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Or,

Looking For a Prince in A World Full of Frogs



Chapter One – Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?



“I hate men. I HATE MEN!” Liz Parker couldn’t help but smile to herself as her roommate and best friend, Serena Maripova, accentuated her frustration with the opposite sex by slamming the front door of the apartment. She quite noisily stomped her way to Liz’s room, and Liz quickly saved her work on her laptop so she could listen to Serena’s tales of woe without distraction.

Serena entered the room and with an aggravated “Aaaaarrrrrrr!” threw herself onto Liz’s bed and covered her face with a pillow.

“What happened?”

Serena sat up and began to tell her story. “We were having a perfectly nice dinner at Bertucci’s – I mean, it was casual, familiar, and you know I’m a sucker for their rolls.”

“I know you’re a sucker for their rolls,” Liz licked her lips in agreement. You had to admit, Bertucci’s made damn good rolls. When she and Serena had been broke and in college, they’d found that they could still afford to go to Bertucci’s, fill up on the rolls, order water to drink and half of a salad. For less than six dollars a person, you could have a sit-down meal, and even get a doggie-bag of rolls to take home. They knew it was cheap and extremely silly, but it was better than the dining hall.

“Anyway, so at the end of dinner, I asked for a dessert menu. And the guy says, ‘You’re gonna order <i>dessert?’</i> Like he couldn’t believe it! I figure, hey, who knows what he’s thinking, it’s no big deal, I’ll give him a chance to recover. So I say ‘Yes I’m ordering dessert, they have great cannoli here,’ and he says, ‘Well I just figured you were on a diet, I mean …’ and then he looks me up and down like I need to lose weight or something!”

“Uh! That jerk!” Liz couldn’t believe it.

“I know! So I order the cannoli, and he’s sitting there, looking at me out of the corner of his eyes with every bite I take, and he says ‘Are you sure you want to finish that? It’s a lot of calories,’ and so I ordered a second one to take home with me.”

The two friends shared a little laugh over this. One thing they both admired about the other was that they refused to let other people push them around.

“And then, after mumbling and complaining about how I should watch what I eat and all that the whole way home, the guy has the nerve to try to kiss me goodnight. Ha! As if I’d let that ass get even a sample of me now. He’s lucky I didn’t ask Alex to call me a taxi.”

“I would have,” Liz spoke up. They’d gotten onto a first-name basis with most of the staff from the local chain of their favorite restaurant. It was a good place to go for dinner when they wanted to celebrate little life victories or when their families came to visit, or if they ever just wanted to get out of the house for a bit. They had made sure to always tip generously, even back in college, and thus the staff loved having them come in and would usually pay the hostess to seat them in their section. Once, on a particularly slow day, Liz and Serena had practically started a riot when a bidding war ensued between the wait staff for the chance to serve them. Alex was the manager. He and Liz had been on the wait staff together, but while Liz had left to pursue a career in writing, Alex chose to stay and take some courses in restaurant management, which had led to his promotion, and was now taking courses in hotel management as well.

“This sucks! I’m young, I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I like to think I haven’t done anything so bad in my life that there’s a spot reserved for me in Hell. There’s no good reason on earth why I shouldn’t be able to find a half-way decent guy!” Serena was right on all six counts. The lawyer from an opposing firm was great on paper, but a chauvinist in person, and he’d been wrong to suggest that she needed to diet. Serena was half Russian and half Irish. She stood at a tall yet feminine five-foot-eight-and-a-half, with pale skin, long legs and arms, auburn hair cut in short and attractive layers, green eyes, and her 130 pounds nicely formed an hourglass-ish frame. She and Liz had met at Bryn Mawr College, where they both went for undergrad, and became fast friends, immediately bonding over the pros and cons of being the only child of Irish mothers. They became such good friends that they ended up living together for the last two years of school, and after they both decided to stay in the Philadelphia area, they looked for a two-bedroom apartment together. Serena had gone to law school at the University of Pennsylvania, finished in only two and a half years, and became a probate/property/environmental attorney. Unlike some lawyers, though, Serena had values that weren’t dictated by her paycheck. She often took pro-bono cases for people who couldn’t afford to pay her fees, and would make up her firm’s cut out of her own pocket. She’d met a member of the Philadelphia County Water Board while she was in law school, and had so impressed him that he convinced the board to hand over as much of its business as possible to her firm, and even to her directly, so she always had a steady stream of business.

“Well, look at it this way, Ser; at least this guy wasn’t married.” Liz tried to lighten the mood by jokingly bringing up an incident from last year where another of the married male lawyers had asked Serena out for dinner. Serena had been expecting a working evening meal, only to end up being taken to a romantic candle-lit dinner in a private room at the Fountain Restaurant, located in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel.

Serena smiled a little bit at the reminder; she could at least see the humor in some of her dating escapades.

“Between the two of us, Liz, I’m starting to wonder if there are any decent guys left.” Serena was amazed that the two of them continued to have such bad luck with men. Liz was just as beautiful, but in a very different way. Liz was a mere five-foot-one with a slight frame, huge dark brown eyes, long dark hair, and an olive complexion that Serena envied. Liz’s mother was Irish, and looked so much like Serena that once when she was visiting on Parent’s weekend and the three of them were having lunch, one of Serena’s professors had come up and introduced herself, thinking that Nancy Parker was Serena’s mother. Liz’s father was a mixture of black Irish and Navajo, and she had inherited most of her physical features from him – except her height, or lack thereof. That was from Nancy’s mother.

Liz was also just as smart as Serena. Where Serena had been a philosophy major in college, Liz had started out with a major in Biology but had switched to English with a minor in Creative Writing as her career goals changed. She’d had some trouble finding a job straight away after school, but eventually she found work with a Philadelphia publishing company, which brought in enough money for her to take some classes at Temple, but did not leave her enough time to enroll full-time into a program. Still, she worked hard at her job and wrote a little every day. She milked her connections through her job to get some freelance work, and had gotten several articles published in the Philadelphia Inquirer (or the Inky, as the locals called it), the Main Line Weekly, and Philadelphia Magazine. She always published under one of several pseudonyms that she’d come up with. She made a good living from her freelance work, but she wasn’t ready to give up her steady job just yet.

Serena dated a lot more than Liz did, but neither of them believed in dating purely for dating’s sake. Where Liz preferred to know a guy a little and get a feeling about him before deciding to date him, Serena put a little more stock into the saying “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince,” and would usually accept an invitation from any guy who managed to open his mouth without saying something deeply stupid or offensive. But usually, a few dates was about as far as it went, and at the end of them, well, let’s just say that the horses weren’t the only things turning into rats. Between the two of them, their cumulative dating stories and experiences had turned the title of one of Liz’s favorite grammar books, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, into an inside joke.

“Well, at least there's only another three billion or so to go.” Again, Liz made an effort to cheer up her friend. She had a generous heart and liked to see the people around her happy.

“Oh, thank you, that’s very comforting,” Serena said with a sarcastic smile. The two shared a giggle before Serena invited Liz to come and share her second cannoli.

Liz jumped up and cried out, “Last one to the kitchen gets the smaller piece!” as she bolted out the door. Serena just continued to sit on the bed with a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile, and waited only about 7 seconds before Liz came back in. Serena had had the bag in her possession the whole time.

“You suck,” Liz said.

“You love me anyway,” Serena grinned as she pulled out the cannoli and two plastic forks from the bag. They laughed and joked their way into the TV room and plopped down on the couch to drown their worries in cannoli and the latest ‘Saturday Night Live’.



~*~*~*~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:14 am, edited 83 times in total.
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Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Ch. 2 pg. 3 11Jul06

Post by LairaBehr4 » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:10 pm

Chapter Two – We All Scream for Ice Cream

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” – Jim Fiebig


Serena laughed heartily as Liz’s vanilla ice cream continued to drip down her fingers and through the bottom of the cone. Liz tried to censure her friend for taking delight in her embarrassment, but like Serena, Liz could recognize a silly situation when she saw one, even if she was the one bearing the brunt of it. The two girls saw wisdom in an old saying; “Laugh at yourself first, before others have the chance to.” So although Liz might have preferred a little sympathy from her friend, and possibly a napkin, if it wasn’t too much trouble, she smiled in the knowledge that if the situation was reversed, she’d be laughing just as hard at Serena’s misfortune.

Her lovely imaginings of rocky road ice cream all over Serena’s face and hands were interrupted by a sudden cold chill between her toes. Liz looked down, and sure enough, her feet were covered in a sticky and very cold white substance, the pink flip-flops having offered no protection. The bottom of the cone was rolling off to one side of the sidewalk. Serena was now clutching her sides in fits of laughter, and Liz could swear she saw a tear escape her friend’s eye. This was just mean.

Not wanting to give Serena any more ammunition for the night, Liz threw away the remains of her ice cream cone into a nearby trashcan and began scanning South Street for a vendor who could give her some napkins. Serena, of course, was no help in this at all.

“The-the-there’s," she panted, "ice cream on-n-n your..." her sentence was interrupted by a fit of laughter, "on your toes! Hah hah hah!!!” Serena’s face, usually adorned with a creamy Irish complexion and sprinkled with a few freckles, now resembled a tomato which Liz imagined squashing with her flip-flop-shodden feet.

Reaching down, Liz scooped up as much of the ice cream as she could from her right foot, and taking advantage of Serena’s distracted state, reached up to the top hem of her hysterical friend’s tank top and released.

It took Serena a few seconds to realize what had happened, but when she saw the Cheshire cat grin on Liz’s face, she reached out for her. Liz screamed out “No!” and, with the grin still in place, took off running down South Street.

She ducked through the crowds and street vendors as Serena gave chase. For almost an entire city block they ran, laughing loudly together. Anywhere else, and people would have thought they were completely insane. But luckily, this was South Street, and that type of behavior only made them fit in.

At the end of the block, Liz knew Serena was getting tired. Though she had a fabulous body that most women envied, it was by no virtue of any athleticism on Serena’s part and was mostly a combination of nature and luck. Already out of breath from laughing so hard, Serena began to trail behind Liz, who had run track in college and could have gone on for another half mile before feeling the effects. But, as a peace offering to Serena, Liz slowed her pace until she was in front of a roll-away hot dog stand. She asked for some napkins from the guy manning the stand and handed some to Serena.

“No," Serena panted, "fair. You. ran track in. College." She was so out of breath, every few words came out sounding as if they were their own sentences. "You. Shouldn’t be faster. Than me.” She continued breathing deeply as she collapsed onto a street bench.

“Oh, please. You’re like a foot taller than me. Your legs come up to my boobs. I’ll use any advantage I can get over you, Gigantigor.” Liz sat down next to her, leaned over to start cleaning up the ice cream from her feet, and smiled at her friend.

“Midget.”

“Freak.”

“Shorty.”

“Giant.”

“Dwarf.”

“When is your uncle Andre coming to town?”

“Do you still use a booster seat at restaurants?”

“Do they even make shoes in your size?”

“When do your breasts start growing in?”

“What number is your hair, anyway?”

“OH no!” Liz burst into giggles as Serena’s eyes got big and her finger came into what Liz liked to call ‘the Mother position’. “You did NOT just make fun of my hair. The height thing I can take. The hair is personal.”

“And my breasts aren’t?”

“You’re right. Fighting is bad.”

“Let’s be friends.”

They both reached out their hands and gave each other a little nod as they shook. Serena then busied herself at trying to clean up the ice cream from underneath her shirt. Liz, meanwhile, had finished making her toes as ice-cream-free as they were going to get, and started looking around.

The bench they were sitting on was on the far end of South Street. Most of the Friday night crowd was to their left. Most of the shops and cafes would stay open to cater to the shoppers, but the store in front of them was closed and dark. As Liz examined it more closely, she could see why – it was a furniture store, and not many of the people found on South Street on any given weekend were in the market for new furniture. There were plenty of consignment shops, costume shops, piercing and tattoo parlors, and other funky little stores, but it would be a waste of money for any furniture store to stay open on this street during these hours. It was difficult to see anything in the store since all the lights were out, and the store’s organization seemed pretty haphazard anyway, but as Liz leisurely perused the items near the front windows, her eye caught something in the corner to her right.

“Hey … look at that,” Liz said without breaking eye contact with the object that had captured her fancy.

“Look at what?” Serena hadn’t looked up from the ice cream dripping down her stomach and giving her chills.

“That.” Liz stood up from the bench and walked towards the window. As Serena finally raised her head, she saw what Liz was looking at.

It was a beautiful antique desk. The wood was dark, but you couldn’t tell exactly what kind of wood it was because of the bad lighting. It stood on four decorated legs, and the drawers had great detail, but again, it was difficult to appreciate it at its full value with only one little street lamp as your sole source of light. Liz was a sucker for antique furniture. Her parents had bought her an antique wooden dressing table with a full-length mirror as a gift after finishing the eighth grade at the top of her class. That dressing table sat in her room above her family’s restaurant in Roswell, New Mexico, until Liz’s first Christmas after graduating college. Then, her dad had rented a truck and the two of them had driven back to Philadelphia with the dressing table in tow. The only other furniture Liz had in her bedroom now was her bed and a small, simple table which functioned as Liz’s desk. The two girls had originally used this table in the kitchen, but a client of Serena’s had given her a much nicer and bigger table, which he had built himself, as a thank you for winning his case. This new table now sat in the kitchen, and the old one was moved to Liz’s room. It was sufficient, but Liz had been dreaming of a time when she could afford a proper desk for her room.

“It’s beautiful,” said Serena as she looked over Liz’s shoulder at the object of her friend’s affection. “How much is it?”

“I can’t tell, there’s no tag or anything that I can see.” Liz frowned a little – it was probably very expensive, much more so than she could afford.

“Well come back sometime and ask. You never know, maybe you can get a deal or something.”

"Yeah … maybe.”

Liz stood in silence staring a little bit more. Serena looked from the desk to her friend, and then back again. Seeing that Liz was off in her own little world, Serena moved back to the bench and finished cleaning herself up. When she’d thrown away the extinguished napkins, Liz still hadn’t moved from her perch in front of the window, and Serena knew she’d the desk she’d been dreaming about.

“There you guys are!” a voice called out to them. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Serena looked to her left and saw a tall, lanky, dark-haired young man of about 27 walking towards them. “Alex!” Serena jumped up and went over to give him a hug.

“I thought we were meeting in front of the crazy hat shop.” Alex looked at Liz, who had finally turned, met his gaze and started walking towards him, down to Serena as his forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Is your shirt damp?”

With those four words, the air of humor and frivolity was restored as Liz burst into laughter again, and Serena ducked away from Alex and gave Liz an evil glare. “Oh, you are so gonna get it.”

“Oooh, I’m scared.”

“Oh dear Lord,” Alex muttered, raising his eyes to the heavens. “What the hell have I walked in on?”

“Come on, Alex,” Liz smiled and linked her right arm through his left. “We’ll tell you everything, especially all about how little Miss KGB over there can’t run a block to save her life.”

“And of course, not forgetting the real story of why the Indians lost their land – apparently, they were fighting guns with ice cream,” Serena chimed in.

Alex snuck a look at his watch. Only 8:37 PM. It was going to be a long night.



~~~
TBC

"Gigantigor" was taken from "My Life As A Teenaged Superhero" by Applebylicious and Deejonaise.
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Mon Apr 30, 2007 10:23 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Post by LairaBehr4 » Mon Jul 17, 2006 5:46 pm

Chapter Three – Boys Drool

“Oh my God, Liz, I can’t take any more of this. When is that good-for-nothing lazy bum of a cousin of yours getting here?” Serena collapsed in the nearly empty dorm room, having abandoned the suitcase she’d been dragging by the door that led to the hallway.

“Hey, don’t blame Michael, all right? My cousin isn’t the one who decided to pack all of St. Petersburg and bring it to Philly.” Liz was trying to move the suitcases and boxes that had already arrived towards the back of the dorm room to leave space for the stuff they were still bringing upstairs.

“He’s not from St. Petersburg, and besides, it’s not my fault! I told Peter we’d just get him whatever he needed when he got here, but noooo, Mr. Never-Been-Away-From-Mommy-And-Daddy-Before just had to take everything he thought he’d need.” Serena propped herself up on her elbows from her state of lying on the floor to look over the contents of the room before muttering, “Bloody packrat.”

Serena’s cousin, Pyotr “Peter” Maripov, was about to start his first year of college as a music major at the University of Pennsylvania. His parents, Serena’s aunt and uncle, lived in London, and their three kids had been born and raised there. Pyotr was the oldest, and the first one to go to college. His parents would have preferred for him to go to a school in Europe, like Cambridge or the Sorbonne, but he was eager to try life in America. So his parents agreed to finance his education, but on the condition that he went to school somewhere near his cousin, so that there would be someone nearby. These terms were deemed acceptable to both parties, and all the arrangements had been made.

The trick was, of course, that international flights only allowed for passengers to bring two suitcases weighing less than 50 pounds, and while this may sound like a lot, it doesn’t add up to much when you’re trying to pack your whole life into it. So out of compassion (yeah, right!) and family obligation (that’s more like it), Serena had agreed to let Peter ship “some of his stuff” to her and Liz’s apartment.

Three days after the phone call in which Serena agreed to this, four boxes arrived at their apartment. A week later, three guitar cases had shown up, and two days after that, a large suitcase that felt as if it contained bowling balls. A steady stream of boxes and suitcases continued to find their way to the girls’ front door until their landlord, coming by to check on a problem with the air conditioner, had asked the girls if they were planning on moving out and had forgotten to tell him. By the time UPenn freshmen could move into the dorms, Liz and Serena had been forced to rent a U-Haul van in order to get all the stuff out.

So now here they were, at one in the afternoon, having been moving stuff since eight on a Saturday morning, and neither Serena’s nor Liz’s cousins were anywhere to be seen.

“I’m sure he’ll be here to help us soon, he’s just a little jet-lagged. His flight got in at two in the morning.” Liz’s cousin, Michael, had gone back to Roswell to visit his family. “Besides, it’s your cousin’s stuff – shouldn’t he be the one over here helping out?”

“Little brat probably planned it this way so he wouldn’t have to do any work.” With much effort and a couple of exaggerated moans of pain, Serena managed to pick herself up from the floor long enough to make it to the unadorned bottom bunk and plop herself down again. Liz joined her and the two of them perused their work so far.

“This room is tiny.”

“Wonderful skill you’ve got for stating the obvious there. I wonder if the partners know about you?”

“Shut up.” Serena playfully tried to smack Liz in the arm, but gave up when she found the effort to be too great. “Thank God the roommate isn’t here, or Pete’d probably get kicked out of the dorms the first day.”

“I know. The R.A. looks about ready to kill us if we bring in any more stuff.”

“I don’t know where he thinks all this stuff is supposed to go.”

“Is there a closet?”

Serena motioned towards a closed door with a small space for your fingers to pull it open instead of a knob next to the door that led to the hallway. “I think it’s in there.”

“Where’s the other one?”

They both looked around the room a moment, seeing only drywall.

“There’s only one closet?!” Serena’s eyes bulged and her mouth dropped open. She looked as though she’d just been told that the Hershey’s company was going to close.

“Wow … this makes me glad we went to the college with the nicest dorm rooms in the country.” Liz smiled a little. Bryn Mawr College had won in the Princeton Review’s category of “Dorms Like Palaces” for as long as anyone could remember.

“Yeah, this thing is like a quarter of the size of our room junior year.”

“Smaller, even.”

“Aren’t there supposed to be desks? It’s a college dorm room, after all.”

Liz pointed to two small tables that could have passed for nightstands in one corner. They could barely be seen through the towers of stuff Liz had piled up. “I think that’s what those are.”

Those?!” Serena exclaimed. “Those are even worse than the one you’ve got at home!”

“Gee, thanks.” Liz sighed a little and thought of that beautiful desk she’d seen at South Street two weeks earlier. She’d gone back and looked at it through the window a few times, but she couldn’t bring herself to go in and ask about it yet. She knew just by looking at it that the desk would be easily three times any amount she could afford, and she wasn’t ready to be forced into facing the reality that it could never be hers. As long as she didn’t know the price, she could still dream.

“Did you ever go and ask about that desk?” Serena had watched Liz go into Dream Face Mode, like the way she always did when she was watching a Johnny Depp movie.

“No.” Liz didn’t look at Serena as she almost whispered her one-word answer.

“You did go back, though.” A grin started to pull at the corners of Serena’s mouth.

Liz looked at her out of the left corner of her eye, and then went back to staring into the space of the room. “Maybe.”

Serena broke out into a full-on smile, her suspicions having been confirmed. “And I’ll bet you just stand outside that window, looking at that desk, and you’re too chicken to go in and just ask how much it is because as long as you don’t know, you can still pretend that you’ll be able to afford it, right?”

Now it was Liz’s turn to say “Shut up.”

“Aww, I just love the way your little head works, Lizzie,” Serena said in a cooing voice, and accentuated the condescension with a few pats on Liz’s head.

“Do you want to finish bringing up the rest of this stuff by yourself?”

“NO!” Serena ceased and desisted immediately. “I’m sorry!”

“That’s what I thought.”

They both rested a moment longer before Serena offered to go and get them some water. She came back and they drank. Before long, they were both joking again about how much stuff Peter had sent to them and about the miniscule size of Penn dorm rooms.

“He’s gonna be in for a rude awakening when he gets here. He’ll never be able to keep all this stuff in here.”

“I know, and it just seems like he’s got way more stuff than he needs. I mean, who the hell needs three guitars, anyway?”

“Just wait until the drums arrive,” a deep voice came from the door to the room. When Liz and Serena turned to look, they saw a tall teenage guy with brown hair and brown eyes walked through the door pulling two suitcases and a very heavy backpack with him.

“Hey, Peter!” Serena got up from her perch back on the bed and hugged him while they greeted each other in Russian. This was very typical Serena – she would complain about her family constantly, but she genuinely loved them all and would forget all faults as soon as she saw them again.

Liz stood up and waited for the two of them to finish their salutations before stepping forward.

“Hey … Liz, right?” Peter had come with his parents and siblings to Serena’s graduation from law school two years ago, and had met Liz then.

“That’s right. How are you, Peter? You’ve gotten taller.” She shook his hand.

“Oh, thanks. Wow, you guys look like you’re already done!”

“Yeah, no thanks to you,” Serena scoffed.

“Well, I would have gotten here sooner, but some idiot left his U-Haul van parked out front and it’s holding up traffic all the way to Walnut Street.”

Liz and Serena shared a look, and then, each talking over the other, hurried to assure Peter to rest in his room while they took care of the rest of the stuff in the “car.”

They burst into giggles as soon as they got into the hallway and laughed themselves all the way down to where their U-Haul van was indeed causing a bit of a traffic disturbance. However, since they were only one of several hundred families moving their teenagers into the dorms that day, they did feel as though they shouldn’t have to bear all of the responsibility. After all, 38th Street between Spruce and Walnut was littered with cars, vans and trucks with their emergency lights on parked and double parked as teens and their parents struggled to get all of their possessions inside.

As Liz picked up a box that weighed at least half of what she did, a few guys who had just finished moving in came out of the building. One of them held the door open for Liz. Right when she was about to say “thank you,” since guys that age who did things like hold open doors were something of a rarity in Liz’s experience, the guy said something that completely changed Liz’s mind.

“You know, babe, there are better ways of working up a sweat.” He smiled salaciously and winked at her while his friends snickered and chuckled a little.

Giving him the once-over for effect, Liz retorted, “None that you could help me with,” and then turned and walked over to where Serena was waiting for her, holding open the elevator doors. Thankfully, the guys had continued on their way instead of continuing to bother her.

“Can you believe those guys?” Serena exclaimed. “One of them tried to feel me up by pretending to grab the box.”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t know why I’m continually surprised by how scum-like guys are. I feel as though I’m setting myself up for disappointment by keeping hope that there have to be some decent guys out in the world somewhere.”

“When you find one, make sure he has a friend for me, will ya?” Serena smiled.

“You got it.”

They continued to unload the van for another couple of hours. At around 3:30, they finally finished. Peter’s roommate still hadn’t shown up, so he was safe for a little while. After assuring Serena that the drums and guitars would be put into a studio in the Music department, they began to say their goodbyes.

“Oh, Serena, I almost forgot – my dad gave me this for you.” Peter pulled an envelope out of his backpack. Liz saw Serena’s name written in Russian on the front.

“Thanks, cuz.” The two of them hugged once more. “You have my phone number if you need anything, yeah?”

“Yeah, I got it. Thanks again.”

“No problem. Now clean all this crap up before your roommate thinks he’s walked into a garage sale or something.”

“Ha, ha, you’re so funny. Later, Ser.”

“Bye, Pete.”

“Good night, Liz, thanks for helping me out.”

“No problem. Give us a call sometime.”

“I will.”

Liz and Serena, exhausted from a long day’s work, trudged along to the van. Liz drove, and Serena sat in the passenger seat as she read the letter from her uncle. They rode in silence for a minute or two before Liz spoke up.

“Ser, I’m so sorry about Michael. I don’t know why he didn’t show up.”

“Eh, don’t worry about it,” Serena said with a shrug. “I’ve got something in here,” she held up the envelope long enough for Liz to see what she was referring to, “that more than makes up for it.”

“What is it?” Liz saw that Serena had that cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on her face again. This can’t be good, she thought.

“Look what my Uncle Ilyich gave me to make sure that his little boy is well taken care of …” Serena held up a small black piece of plastic for Liz to see. From where Liz sat, she could see the distinctive outine of the American Express icon in one corner.

“Oh my God. Is that what I think it is?”

“Yep!” Serena’s smile spread from one end of the car to the other. “And I say the first thing we do with it is buy dinner.”

“Ser, let’s just stick to pizza tonight. I’m too tired for anything else.”

Serena sighed but resigned to Liz’s plan. She really didn’t intend to misuse the card … much. The letter from her uncle told her that the card had been put in her own name, but that she should use it to buy whatever Peter would need, and once in a while to do something nice for herself as well. Serena, like Liz, was independent and prided herself on being able to pay for her own things, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t willing to look a gift horse in the mouth, either.

The girls turned in the van and caught the bus back to their apartment. They were mostly quiet, being worn out from the day’s work.

As soon as they got through the front door, Liz yelled out, “Bathroom!” and raced through the TV room down the hallway. Serena was momentarily stunned, but quickly recovered and moved to beat Liz to the shower. However, as you’ll remember, dear readers, Liz could run like Atalanta and easily made it to the bathroom with enough time to spare to lock the door and start the water running.

Serena banged on the bathroom door a little, and could have sworn she heard Liz’s voice saying something that sounded suspiciously like “Nah nya-nya-nya- nyaah.” Remembering the wisdom in “don’t get mad; get even,” Serena picked up the phone to order a large pizza with anchovies.

A little over twenty minutes later when Liz came out of the shower wrapped in a terrycloth robe, Serena was smiling contentedly on the sofa, with the first DVD from the fifth season of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ playing on the television.

Liz sat down a moment warily … Serena was too happy, she should have been admonishing Liz for stealing and hogging the shower … but instead, there she was, all happy and watching ‘Buffy.’ This was not good.

Liz knew she had to proceed with trepidation. “Hey.”

“Hey!” Serena was still smiling. Not good at all.

“This is a good season.”

“Oh yeah.”

So far, no land mines … “Pizza on its way?”

“Any minute now.”

“Pepperoni?” This was what the two of them usually compromised on when ordering.

Serena’s smile widened, not for the first time today, as she said “Anchovies.” She stood up and headed to the bathroom.

“Oh man! I hate anchovies!”

“Serves you right. Next time, give a girl fair warning before you try to steal her bathroom.”

“It’s our bathroom, and you know something, your accent gets thicker every time you see your family.”

Serena yelled something in Russian that Liz was sure couldn’t have been very nice. Lawyers. They always had to have the last word.

An hour later, with their feet up on the coffee table next to a nearly empty box of pizza and two plates (Liz’s was distinguishable by the pile of anchovies on the side), the girls were lost in their viewing as Buffy formulated a plan to rescue a kidnapped Dawn from the clutches of Vampire Harmony. A sudden knock on the door startled them both.

“You expecting anyone?” Liz asked as Serena got up to answer it.

“No, you?” Liz shook her head.

Serena opened the door to reveal a man in his upper 20’s with spikey brown hair and brown eyes.

“Michael!” Liz was surprised to see her MIA cousin.

“Hey guys. When do we start moving?”

“Uhh, nine hours ago.”

“Huh?” Michael walked through the door and Serena closed it behind him. “You said you guys were gonna head over at eight.”

“Eight in the morning, you idiot.”

“Oh, cuz, I’m sorry, I … hey, is that pizza?”





~~~~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Thu May 17, 2007 11:18 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Post by LairaBehr4 » Mon Jul 24, 2006 2:39 pm

Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Or,

Looking for a Prince in a World Full of Frogs


Chapter 4 – Internal Musings of a Very Bored Mind


Philadelphia really is a great walking city. At least, that’s what Liz tried to tell herself. She would usually take lunch at her desk and spend the time working hard, but for the last month or so, she’d been taking full advantage of her lunch hour to walk the sixteen blocks from her office to South Street and gawk at the desk. And when anyone is forced to walk sixteen blocks to their destination and sixteen blocks back, they will inevitably try to justify it to themselves by claiming that the city is pedestrian friendly. It just makes them feel better.

And so Liz continued in what was quickly becoming the normal lunch activity for her. In the daylight, Liz could see better through the dusty windows and could tell that the desk was made of dark cherry wood. She didn’t know much about the quality of wood or carpentry, but the wood looked expensive. And the ornate carvings didn’t appear to be cheaply done, either. The legs were made to look like leaves from vines, and the design continued up the corners of the desk and around the top on the sides. The drawers had a similar design on the outside, but it wasn’t as deeply indented, and the handles, which were also made of wood, had been carved to look like bunches of grapes. The effect was breathtaking; Liz could almost see herself writing at this desk as it was placed in the middle of a vineyard in Tuscany, with the sun hanging low and the hills continuing as far as the eye could see. Liz smiled at the image her imagination presented her with. She knew it was silly, but she kept that image close to her heart in hopes that one day, the desk could be hers. Of course, when it was, she wouldn’t expose it to the elements like that, but hey, it was nice to dream.

Liz still hadn’t puckered up the courage to actually walk into the store yet. The first time she’d come during her lunch hour, she’d just sat on the bench and looked at the desk, sometimes standing up and walking closer to get a better look. The window was covered with a layer of dirt and dust. Most people, Liz noticed, walked right past the store as if it wasn’t even there. Liz didn’t necessarily blame them – it looked more like a storage room than a functional shop, and even at times when the store hours claimed that the shop was open, there were no signs of life inside. From her perch on the street, Liz couldn’t see an internal light nor was there anyone shuffling around within the store. She never saw anyone go in or come out.

Liz finished the last bit of her salmon and cream cheese sandwich and threw the bag into the trash can next to the bench. She rubbed her hands together to try to get rid of any lingering crumbs and stood up to take one last gape at the desk. The beauty of it took her breath away every time she saw it. While she knew logically that she was being exceedingly silly and sentimental to get so attached to something so quickly, especially something that was an inanimate object and way beyond her budget, she couldn’t help herself. The desk called out to her and she couldn’t ignore its allure. By coming by three or four times a week, she could at least take some small satisfaction in knowing that it hadn’t been sold to anyone else – yet.

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

“So what are you up to tonight?” Serena asked Liz as she brought her dinner plate in from the TV room.

“Emily and Jeremy have tickets to the theater, so I agreed to baby-sit Kim for them,” Liz responded. Emily was a friend of hers and Serena’s from college. Now they lived in Swarthmore and had a four-year-old daughter whom Liz just adored. Jeremy was a few years older than Emily and Liz and had a good job, so when she’d first started watching Kim, Liz would get paid since Emily and Jeremy knew she was still struggling to pay off her student loans and maintain an apartment. Liz had offered several times since then to watch Kim for free – she loved the little girl – but Emily dismissed her every time, saying she’d rather pay to know her kid was in the hands of someone who loved her rather than someone who was just in it for the cash.

“Tell them I said hi.”

“Will do.”

“They just moved into a new house, right?”

“Yeah, right next to the college.”

“Near the frat house?” No need to specify which frat house, there was only one at Swarthmore College. In fact, out of the tri-college consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore, Swat was the only one to have any sort of Greek life. Period.

“No, thank God.” Most members of the Swat fraternity were also on the rugby team, and the house usually hosted parties for both.

“When are you taking off?”

“In a few minutes.” Liz was wandering around the kitchen, clearing off the counter, putting food away and putting dishes in the dishwasher. Her actions were mindless, and from her short answers, Serena knew there was something else going on in her mind.

“I stopped by your office to ask if you wanted to go to lunch today, but you were already gone.”

This caught Liz’s attention; she stood up from where she was bent over to put a plate in the dishwasher and looked at Serena, who had her laptop and several files spread out on the table. Liz’s eyes were wide.

“Oh, yeah, I um …” Liz tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with the hand that wasn’t holding the plate. “I went to lunch myself today.” Liz quickly ducked down again to put the plate into the open dishwasher.

Serena knew already that she was going to have some fun with this – the pausing in her talking and the tucking-of-the-hair were all defensive moves on Liz’s part. They’d been friends for so long, been living together for so long, Serena could read Liz like a book. Something was going on that Liz didn’t want her to know about.

“Oh yeah? Where’d you go?”

“Oh, um, you know, just down to the park.”

“The park, huh?”

“Yeah!”

“You been to the park every day this week?”

“Huh?” Liz was surprised again – how could Serena know she’d taken lunch every day this week?

“That woman who works at the cubicle next to you said you’d taken lunch every day this week. She asked me if you were sick or something.”

“Oh …” Liz didn’t want to say anything since she knew she was a pretty transparent liar, especially when Serena was there.

“You went to go look at the desk again, didn’t you?” Serena was smiling – she never could hide her glee when she had gotten something right, and Serena knew already that she was right.

Liz’s shoulders sagged. The jig is up, she thought. “Yeah, I kinda did.”

“Every day this week?” Serena’s smile grew wider.

“Yeah.”

“Okay, Liz, let me ask you a question.”

She sounds like she’s trying to prep a witness, Liz thought, and grinned at her own internal thought.

“Have you actually gone inside the bloody store yet and asked them how much the desk is?”

“No.”

“Are you going to?”

“I don’t know … someday?”

“Liz, come on! It’s a desk! How scary can it be?”

“Pretty darn scary.” Liz was trying to lighten the mood.

“Argh! You’re such a coward, Liz.” Serena said jokingly.

“Hey!” Liz put her hands on her hips indignantly. The mood in the apartment was light and teasing, as per usual.

“You are! You’re nothing but a big sheep in short people’s clothing.”

Liz’s jaw dropped and she said the first thing that came into her mind. “I do not have short clothing!”

They both looked at each other for a moment, then burst into laughter that had been building within them. They laughed and cackled until they were both red-faced.

“That’s the best you could come up with?” Serena was laughing so hard, tears were starting to form in her eyes.

“Well, it made sense in my head!” Liz came back with.

“Your head is a strange, strange little place, Lizzie.”

“It is not …” Serena looked at her with eyebrows cocked, still laughing, daring her to refute it. “… little. What is it with you and your obsession with size, Serena? Good things often come in small packages.” Liz raised her head proudly.

“Trust me, they don’t,” Serena said.

Liz pretended to take her comment as a personal affront and then giggled at the implied undertones. “Miss Maripova, you have a very dirty mind.”

“Better than a little one.”

“You can let some of them go, you know, Ser.”

“You’re right, but it’s much more fun this way.”

“Whatever. I gotta go. See you later.”

“See ya, Liz.”

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

Serena was still awake when Liz came home a little after one in the morning. Though she was still surrounded by her laptop and paperwork, she’d relocated from the kitchen to the TV room and now had everything resting on the coffee table while she had reruns of “Law And Order” on the TV.

“I don’t understand how you can watch this show. Isn’t it, like, so different from the way stuff actually happens?”

“Of course it is, but I can’t help it. This is comfort viewing for me.” Serena’s dad was a lawyer in Boston, and her mom had been the only girl in a family where all the men became cops. She’d grown up watching ‘Law And Order’ the way most kids from her generation had grown up watching “Family Matters” and “Saved By The Bell.” Serena was the only person Liz knew who had actually cried when Jerry Orbach died, and as soon as she’d heard that news, she got on the phone and called her dad. “Besides,” Serena continued, “I don’t mock you for your sentimental attachment to ‘The Iron Chef.’

“You’re doing it right now!”

“Oh, yeah …” They smiled at each other, then turned back to watch as Briscoe and Green tried to find bad guys. A few minutes later, Serena asked, “How was babysitting?”

“It was good. Kim fell right asleep and didn’t wake up. I took the chance to get lost in their new house.”

“How is it?”

“It’s so beautiful, Ser. It’s humongous and it’s incredibly well decorated. But the best part was definitely the bathroom.”

“The bathroom?” Serena wasn’t sure she was hearing Liz right.

“Their bathroom on the third floor – Ser, it’s bigger than our room junior year! It’s got cranberry colored walls and back countertop, and this huge tub with the jets in it that could easily fit five or six people. I swear, I wanted to start up a nudist colony and make that bathroom our headquarters.”

“Oooh, sounds nice, can I join?”

“Only if you quit teasing me about being short.”

“Hmm, I’ll have to get back to you. It’ll probably depend on who else you let into this nudist colony of yours.”

“Well, Brad Pitt, obviously.”

“Oh, no doubt.”

“Collin Farrell.”

“An Irishman? For me? Oh Lizzie, you’re too good to me.”

“Don’t I know it. David Boreanaz.”

“Well, you had to get at least one Philadelphian in there.” Most people didn’t know that David Boreanaz’s family was from Philadelphia – his father was the weatherman on Channel Six.

“Actually, Dave was born in upstate New York, but who’s keeping track.”

“Okay, who else?”

“Leonardo DiCaprio.”

“Really, Liz? But he’s so … little!”

“Again with the size thing?” Liz couldn’t help but dig at Serena’s word choice there – after all, it was only fair.

“Hey, a girl needs standards!”

“Yeah, like the married guy – real nice standards there.”

“Hey! I didn’t know he thought it was a date, and all I did was talk about his wife all night long!” Serena laughed a little at her mortification.

“Okay, then, excluding Married Guy, who would you like to join our nudist colony?”

“Nick Lachey.”

“Hmm, too pretty.”

“And Leo isn’t?”

“Okay, fine, Nick’s in. Who else?”

“David Wright.” Serena smiled as her mind came up with all kinds of things that a nude Mets player could do in a colony where she was the Queen.

“Traitor!”

“Hey, you asked.”

“Gerard Butler,” Liz put in her two cents.

“Isn’t he old?”

“I’m not sure, but he is cute … especially with that accent.”

“And how sweet he was in ‘Dear Frankie’! I can’t believe she just let him get away like that.”

“And he can sing, too!”

“Okay, so we’ve got Nick and David Wright for me, and Brad, Dave Boreanaz, Leo and Gerry for you. Hey, how come you get more than me?”

“Because it’s my nudist colony!”

“But don’t I get a say?”

“You did, Nick and David Wright.”

“Oooh, that reminds me, we need to go to a game before the season’s over. I want to make a sign.”

“You’re going to drag me all the way up to New York to go to a Mets game?”

“Come on, Lizzie! We can make signs and try to get on TV! Dontcha wanna?”

“Depends, what’s your sign going to say?” Liz knew this was a set-up for trouble. Even though Serena was raised in Boston and now lived in Philadelphia, she’d seen David Wright play in a minor league game while visiting a friend in Norfolk, VA and had been converted into a Mets fan. Her mother had threatened to disown her, but her love for David Wright could not be shaken. Now, Serena enjoyed making signs and going to the games. The last one had said “#5, You’re hot!”, and she’d not only gotten to meet David, but had also gotten on TV holding that sign. She’d said before she wanted the next one to be even crazier.

“I was thinking something along the lines of, 'Wright Up My dot-dot-dot Alley.'”

Liz laughed and blushed at her friend’s straight-forwardness. “Oh my God, Ser, your mom would kill you!”

“Yeah, but it’d be worth it!”

They smiled and laughed a little more, then settled back down and watched some more of the “Law And Order” marathon on TNT.

“Oh,” Liz spoke suddenly, “I meant to ask, how’s Pete doing?”

“He’s good,” answered Serena. “He likes his classes and he’s even volunteering a couple of days a week to teach music at a high school in North Philly.”

“Wow, good for him.” Liz honestly admired Peter for that. North Philadelphia was a tough neighborhood, and not a lot of kids there had the chance to study music. Especially since the school board had cut the funding for most of the music programs in the city. But Peter was clearly passionate about music, and Liz thought it was great that he wanted to share that.

“Hey,” Serena piped in, “have you heard from Alex lately?”

“Oh, yeah, he called my cell yesterday – I totally forgot to tell you. He’s going crazy – they’re short-staffed at the restaurant because one girl had her baby and one guy got arrested for a DUI. He said he’ll call us when things calm down a little.”

“’Kay.”

After a few more minutes, Liz headed in to bed. Serena waited until her bedroom door was closed, then turned up the volume on the TV a little, went into the kitchen and pulled out her cell phone. After pressing a few buttons, she held it to her ear.

“Hey, Alex. It’s me. Listen, I need to talk to you …”






~~~~~~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:41 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Post by LairaBehr4 » Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:24 am

Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Or,

Looking for a Prince in a World Full of Frogs



Chapter 5a – Facing Your Fears



“No! I don’t want to!” Liz cried out.

“Come on, Lizzie, you have to face your fears here,” Serena said in her mother-voice.

“Be braver than the desk, Liz!” Alex cheered.

“No! I don’t wanna! I don’t care if that makes me a coward, I’m not going in there!” Liz tried to struggle against Alex and Serena, who were holding her captive by her arms.

“Liz, you’re being ridiculous. It’s a desk! It’s not that scary.”

“It’s not the desk, it’s the price tag I’m afraid of,” Liz clarified. These two were really starting to get on her nerves.


*flashback

She’d known something was up when she woken up on a Saturday morning and found not only that Serena was already wide awake, but that Alex was there, too. Both of them were already dressed and ready for the day, and they’d been whispering conspiratorially on the couch as Liz stumbled her way to the kitchen for her cup of coffee. When she found the coffee pot empty, she had her proof that these two were up to no good. An empty coffee pot meant that they’d both been awake and plotting there for quite a while already.

They’d stopped talking when she came in, her eyes still heavy with sleep. Serena was the first one to speak with a loud and cheery, “Good morning, Lizzie!”

“Oh God … whose dog did you kill?”

Mock horror had come over Serena’s features. “That’s mean, Lizzie … I love doggies!”

“Except for Mrs. Patterson’s next door.”

“Hey, I maintain that that thing isn’t a dog, just an oversized rat with an identity complex and a really bad case of insomnia. Damn creature barks until three in the morning every night!”

“Rats don’t bark, Serena,” Alex pointed out.

“Whatever.”

By now, Liz had made gotten to the kitchen and discovered the empty coffee pot. She trudged back into the living room holding the pot and tried to imagine how good it would feel to bash Serena over the head with it. After all, Liz was the one who prepared the coffee maker every night and set the timer. And now Serena had stolen all of her coffee! Not a smart move …

Seeing the murderous look on Liz’s face, Serena knew her best hope of survival was to distract Liz from the lack of the coffee. “So Alex and I decided that the three of us are going to spend the whole day together! Isn’t that great?”

“I thought you were swamped at the restaurant, Alex,” Liz said.

“Oh, uhh, yeah, I was, but I figure, it’s Saturday and I don’t go on until four anyway. Until then, it’s Josie’s headache.”

Liz growled a little – mornings weren’t her best times, and caffeine-free mornings made her even worse. “I don’t care, I’m not going anywhere until you guys make me more coffee.”

“Oh Lizzie,” cooed Serena, “if you’re a good girl and go get showered and changed, I’ll buy you breakfast at Cosi’s!”

Oh yeah, Serena was definitely up to something, between the waking up early on a Saturday morning, and calling her “Lizzie”, and offering to pay for breakfast, and bringing Alex into whatever hair-brained scheme she was concocting. All signs were definitely pointing to bad. Liz was just disappointed with herself that it had taken her so long to figure it out.
Blame it on the lack of coffee, she thought.

“What exactly were you planning on doing today, you guys?”

Serena looked as though Liz had said exactly what she wanted her to say. “Oh, we were thinking maybe the Art museum, maybe Gallery Place, maybe walk around Independence Hall a bit. If the weather’s nice we could take a boat to Jersey.”

“Jersey?” Liz asked as incredulously as she could on a morning when she still hadn’t had coffee. “Why would you want to go to Jersey?”

“Oh, stop complaining and just get dressed.” Serena turned back to Alex.

“I wasn’t complaining,” Liz mumbled and grudgingly started to walk back down the hallway to the bathroom.

“Ooh, Alex, can we go to Pat’s for lunch?” she heard Serena say excitedly. Pat’s was a food stand that many Philadelphians believed sold the best Philly cheesesteak sandwiches in the city.

“Only if we go to Gino’s.” Gino’s was Pat’s main rival, and was located directly across the street so that the two faced each other.

“No! I like Pat’s better!” Serena pouted.

“Ser, Gino’s is better. If you’d give it a shot, you’d know better.”

“Pat’s was in ‘Rocky’.”

“You’re going to take the word of Sylvester Stallone over me?”

“Only in matters where he’s smarter, and apparently this is one of them.”

“Serena, the guy’s an actor, and I work in the food industry. I think my opinion has a little more merit.”

They were both giving Liz a headache, so she yelled, “You’re both wrong, Jim’s makes better cheesesteaks than both of them!”

And with that, she slammed the door to the bathroom and turned on the shower.

The day had gone pretty much as Serena had promised it would – breakfast at Cosi’s, a walk down the Ben Franklin parkway, a stop into Market Place, from there to Independence Hall, which all three of them had visited before, so they didn’t go in. They took a taxi to Pat’s and Gino’s, and Liz, who refused to pick sides, told them that she would go get a salad from a sit-down restaurant down the block.

But after they’d finished lunch, instead of taking another cab to the shipyards, Alex and Serena convinced Liz to just walk with them for a little while. So they walked up Passyunk and turned left onto Fifth Street. And when Fifth intersected with South Street, Liz found herself outside a familiar store front. She paused a moment, then went to catch up with the others, only to find that they were still standing behind her.

“What’s going on?” Liz asked.

“Liz, you need to just go into the store already,” Serena stated.

“I’ll go in someday.”

“No, Liz, today’s the day.” Serena wasn’t backing down.

“No, Serena, it’s really not.”

“Liz, come on, it’s just a desk,” Alex said in a voice that reminded Liz of the voice adults used when they were trying to convince their kids to eat brussel sprouts.

“Oh, Alex, not you too …”

“Liz,” Serena said firmly, taking Liz by the arm, “you need to go inside that store and just ask them how much the desk is.”

“I told you, I will.”

“No, Liz. You need to do it today. You’ve been moping around for weeks about a DESK, Liz. Just go inside already!”

“I don’t wanna, and you can’t make me!” With that Liz yanked her arm from Serena and tried to escape, only to run straight into Alex, who caught her again.

“Liz, Serena and I have discussed this, and you really need to just go into the store. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“They tell me it’s already been sold,” Liz said sadly.

“Well, then,” Serena spoke up, taking Liz’s arm again while Alex kept a tight reign on the other one, “you’re no worse off than you are now.”

“Except for my crushed dreams and shattered ego.”

“You’ll get over it,” Serena smiled.

Liz tried to get out of their grasps again, but Alex and Serena were having none of it.

“No! I don’t want to!”

*end flashback*



And so there they stood, the three of them, a 6-foot-two Alex and a five-foot-eight-and-a-half Serena, both of them holding a petite little five-foot-one Liz who looked like a child about to go into the dentist’s office.

“Liz, we’ve already decided that we’re not letting you go home until you go into that store,” Serena smiled.

“What? I’ve got my own set of ke--” Liz stopped talking suddenly, as she remembered that she hadn’t brought her keys with her – Serena had told her she wouldn’t need them since hers were in her purse. Liz looked up at Serena, then at Alex for confirmation, then back to Serena. Their matching evil grins told Liz that even though they thought it was funny, they certainly weren’t joking.

Liz was trapped.

She let out a sigh of defeat, followed by an angry “Fine!” and yanked her arms down, satisfied that Alex and Serena finally let go. She rubbed her arms in the placed where they’d held her, took a deep breath and raised her eyes to the storefront.

She took a small step forward before looking back at her so-called friends. Under her breath, she muttered, “Well, here goes nothing.” With that she marched up the stairs that led to the door, turned the handle, and walked in.
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:42 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by LairaBehr4 » Fri Jul 28, 2006 3:06 pm

Eats, Shoots and Leaves;

Or,

Looking for a Prince in a World Full of Frogs


Chapter 5b – Princess Grace



The bell above the door sounded as Liz pushed it open and made her way inside. She was surprised when the door wouldn’t open all the way. When she turned her head to see what the obstacle in the door’s path was, she saw a shelf full of odd knickknacks that served virtually no purpose in life. There was a small bowl of marbles, a couple of angel statuettes, a model carousel horse, a men’s shaving kit that looked older than her father, and a small glass case displaying old pennies. None of these items – including the shelves themselves – appeared to have any sort of price tag on them. Liz sighed and quickly moved out of the door path so that she could close it again, but not before sending one last death glare to Alex and Serena outside.

The store was even dustier on the inside than she’d thought. There was no clear path anywhere, no counter to pay at from what she could see. Only one bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, and it was unlit. All the lighting in the store came from the windows. An air conditioner hummed loudly, and the vents only served to further distribute dust particles around the store, floating like fairies before landing.

Liz meandered a little bit when she saw that the pathway to the desk was completely obstructed. She’d have to find a round-about way to get there if she wanted to look at it more closely or try to find a price tag.

Some of the other items in the store weren’t so bad. There were tables, lots of mismatched antique chairs, even a couple of mismatched sofa chairs stood facing each other against one wall. Liz thought she could make out what might have been a sofa in the far back of the store, but it was covered with nightstands, end tables, and all sorts of other odds and ends that she couldn’t really be sure if it was all one sofa or a pair of matching upholstered chairs. Considering the kind of shape the store seemed to be kept in, she figured the odds were better on the mystery object being a sofa.

“Be right with ya!” called a voice from someplace Liz couldn’t see. She turned in confusion but soon gave up trying to guess where or whom the voice could have come from. Though honestly, her relief at knowing that anyone was there at all was outweighing her curiosity. She’d been in the store and had not seen nor heard any other signs of life.

She decided to try to get closer to the desk so that when whoever it was came out into the main area, they’d be able to get right down to business. Liz braced her hands against a thick wooden chest and pushed against it to try to facilitate her journey towards her precious desk. With the first jerk of movement on behalf of the chest, three grey mice scurried and scattered away from where they’d been enjoying their lunchtime meal before having been so rudely disturbed. Liz shrieked in surprise and fear; she’d always had a tremendous fear of small creatures with more legs than her. She stepped backwards and tripped over another haphazardly placed object. Liz’s mind registered only that she was falling. Her eyes took in the ceiling – and then, the darkness came.






~~~
TBC

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Post by LairaBehr4 » Sun Jul 30, 2006 3:34 pm

Eats, Shoots and Leaves;

Or,

Looking For a Prince in a World Full of Frogs


Chapter 6 – The Evils of Strangers and Friends




Light filtered through as her eyes and her brain waged an internal battle. As she drifted back into consciousness, she became aware of an unfamiliar shape leaning over her. A talking shape.

“… me? Hey! Can you hear me?”

The fuzzy outlines of various shapes that had previously bled into each other became more and more defined. Liz saw now that the unfamiliar shape was a young man. Not a bad looking one, either.

Or maybe that was the headache talking.

As she took in more and more details, she saw a coffee cup sitting on top of a table next to where the man was crouched down in front of her. There was steam rising out of the cup. She assumed that this had been the mysterious voice that she’d heard before …

“… I tripped.”

“I know,” said the man, with a smirk on his face. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I … I think so.” Liz began to prop herself up onto her elbows. The man still hadn’t stopped smirking. “What?” she asked defensively.

“Nothing, it’s just …” he was trying to keep the laughter contained and was failing miserably. “Well, you finally make it inside, and –”

“Wait, wait. What do you mean, I ‘finally make it inside’?”

“You’ve been sitting out on that bench for almost an hour every day for weeks. During your lunch hour, I assume. You walk by again around six, sometimes on the weekends. Why didn’t you just come in?”

“I lack conviction,” Liz groaned out. Her head was killing her, and she felt her position down there on the floor keenly as the Evil Stranger (as she’d taken to calling him in her head) was leaning precariously over her as he’d spoken. She desperately needed to get back on her feet, if only to shake off the disadvantageous nature of her current position.

“I seriously doubt that.”

Liz glared at him for a second, then scooted back on the floor. She was distracted from her efforts to stand up when Evil Stranger started to laugh. “What?” she snapped again.

“Oh, I was just thinking that … man, I’ve had women fall for me before, but …” And with that he burst out into a full-out cackle. As he laughed, he shifted from his crouching position and moved to sit down on the floor. “But never quite like that.”

He had a very attractive mouth. His laugh might have been tolerable if it hadn’t been directed at her. Liz liked to get to know a person before she gave them opportunities to laugh at her. This guy was throwing off her whole game plan. She had to get back in control somehow. “Were they all in this store at the time? Because if so, I’d like to present an alternate theory of why they fell.” With no help from Evil Stranger, Liz got herself onto her feet and searched the floor around where she was standing.

“What are you looking for?” he asked.

“Larry, Mo and Curly. I know they’re around here somewhere.”

“Oh, so that’s what did it. Sorry, we have a cat but he’s pretty much useless.”

Liz couldn’t stop herself from saying, “Seems to be a theme in here.” She dusted herself off a bit, and then realized that he must have a grand view from where he was sitting. She turned, and sure enough, his eyes were glued to her butt. “Hey,” she said pointedly to get his attention. Evil Stranger raised his eyes to meet hers, and for a moment she couldn’t remember what sarcastic remark she’d wanted to say. How had she not noticed his eyes before? She’d noticed the full head of dark hair, though it wasn’t exactly very well kept at the moment. She’d noticed his face, covered in a scruff that said he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. But the eyes … the eyes were amazing. They were an incredible color, like liquid gold. She’d never seen eyes quite like that.

However, they might have been slightly more attractive if they weren’t looking at her like she was a steak he’d just been served and he was working out which end to start eating first.

“I wanted to know about that desk,” Liz stated in her most business-like tone, pointing towards the corner, trying to focus his attention elsewhere.

“Huh?” the man asked as he moved his legs so he could stand. Had he not understood what she’d said? Should she change his name to Deaf and Dumb Evil Stranger?

Nah, that was way too long to serve as a suitable nickname.

“That desk, right over there. I wanted to know how much it was.”

“You’re not really in here to ask about a desk.” He was standing now, facing her. He was taller than she’d originally thought, about Alex’s height. He still hadn’t lost his smirk, and any charm that it had held previously was quickly losing its appeal. Which, given her current mood and situation, not to mention the large bump on her head, wasn’t much to begin with.

“Excuse me?” Liz asked, stunned. Who the hell did this guy think he was?

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Though I am curious about how you found out about this place. None of the others ever found it.”

“Now that I believe,” quipped Liz, though what he meant by “others” escaped her.

Evil Stranger let out a chuckle, and Liz was beginning to wonder if the smirk was permanently glued to his face. His eyes hadn’t lost their mocking gleam, either.

“So, what, did you want an autograph or something?”

Liz eyed Evil Stranger up and down. His hair, though thick, looked as if it hadn’t seen a comb or brush in at last the last day or two. He was wearing a faded black AC/DC T-shirt, dirty jeans, and black flip-flops that Liz recognized as being from Old Navy. She cringed at the thought that she and Evil Stranger had the same taste in footwear.

“Thanks, I’ll live. What I want is to know how much that desk it.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

Liz was shocked into speechlessness, which, as a writer, she found particularly distasteful. She tried to scare him off the topic by saying, “Yes, three huge ones, and they lust after blood.”

“So that’s a no, then.”

If Evil Stranger’s smirk got any wider, it would eat his face. Hmm, now there’s a happy thought, Liz smiled.

“That’s none of your business.”

“What if I want to make it my business?”

“It’s still none of your business.”

“How ‘bout a quickie, then?”

“How about I kick your ass?”

Evil Stranger laughed out loud at this, causing Liz to roll her eyes. Sure, she was short and didn’t look like much, but she didn’t go to the gym three times a week for nothing. She could hold her own.

“I’d be willing to take you on,” he said, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Liz didn’t like Evil Stranger one bit.

“Wow, I’ll bet that double entendre was the most clever thing you’ve said all day.”

“Care to stick around and find out?”

Liz had had about enough of this. She started to make her way towards the door. “I’d rather cover my body in paper cuts and bathe in lemon juice.”

“I can think of better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

“Well, I hope you and your hand are very happy together.” And with that, Liz opened the door and marched back onto the street.

Alex and Serena hopped up from the bench where they’d made their perches. “So?” peppered Serena. “How did it go?”

“Oh my God, you guys wouldn’t believe it!!” Liz fumed as she turned the corner, leaving Alex and Serena looking at each other questioningly, before they had to run to catch up with her. “The guy was a total ass! He kept asking me if I had a boyfriend or if I wanted to sleep with him. Where, exactly, on that dusty mouse-ridden floor? I mean, I had been knocked unconscious, and he –”

“You WHAT?” Serena and Alex said simultaneously. "Are you okay?"

“Yeah, I'm fine, no thanks to that jerk in there. All he could talk about was what a great honor it’d be for me to get his autograph! Who does this guy think he is? He looks like he just stepped out of a modern-day production of ‘Oliver!’ and then he wonders why I don’t want to fall into bed with him? AAARRRGGHH!"

“Um, well that really sucks, Liz, but what about the desk?” Serena asked tentatively.

This stopped Liz cold in her tracks. “Desk?” She looked around and realized that, with her anger fueling her speed, she’d walked two blocks with Alex and Serena chasing behind her, and she hadn’t even noticed.

“You didn’t ask about the desk?” Alex looked astonished.

“Well,” Liz thought for a moment, trying to replay the conversation in the shop. “I started to, but …”

Serena groaned in frustration before taking hold of Liz’s arm. “Come on,” she said, “we are heading back to that shop, and –”

“NO!” Liz shouted. “Not while he’s still in there. I go in to ask about the desk once, and he propositions me. If I go back in right now, he’ll probably sell my kidneys on the black market or ask me to be in his porno or something.”

“Oooh, a porno! We could come up with a name for you!” Well, at least Serena was distracted from the fact that she still didn’t know the price of the desk.

Alex, seeing that Liz was serious about not wanting to go back into the store, decided to join into the fun. “Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of formula for coming up with a porn name?” He started to walk along, heading away from the store and towards the shipyards.

“Yeah,” said Serena as she caught up with Liz and Alex, “I think it’s your middle name and … the last name of your kindergarten teacher?”

“It’s the name of the street you grew up on,” Liz revealed, grateful that they were letting the store drop for now.

“Huh … so mine would be Irina Sequoia. Nice! I like it!” Serena smiled.

“Claudia Main.”

“You literally grew up on Main Street? I didn’t know that about you,” Alex grinned.

“Yeah, well, what’s yours, Alex?” Liz inquired impishly.

Alex mumbled something under his breath.

“Um, what was that, Alex? I couldn’t quite hear …” Liz knew this was a good one.

“It’s Charles mumblemumble.”

“Still can’t hear you, Alex,” Serena moved over to Alex’s other side in an effort to hear him better.

“It’s Charles Desert Rose! There! Are you happy now?!” Alex shouted.

Liz and Serena looked at each other for a second, and then they burst into fits of hysterical laughter. Both of them were laughing to the point of tears in a matter of minutes.

As Alex watched them cling to each other as their laughter took them over to the point of collapsing, he knew he was never going to hear the end of this one. He really needed to find new friends.





~~~~~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:46 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Chapter 7

Post by LairaBehr4 » Sun Aug 06, 2006 10:10 pm

Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Or,

Looking for a Prince in a World Full of Frogs



Chapter Seven – “Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends”



Liz couldn’t believe she was back here again, but she’d promised under the pain of death from Serena that she’d come back here and find out the price of the desk once and for all, and there was only so far a girl could run, you know? So she’d worked through lunch and taken off work at 4pm in hopes that perhaps she’d get lucky and Evil Stranger wouldn’t be in the shop at that hour. Usually, she wore some sort of walking shoe to work, and kept a couple different pairs of shoes in her desk to change into. Today, though, she’d foresworn comfort and kept her four-inch heels on when she left the office, just in case it became necessary to ram them up Evil Stranger’s ass. So, armed with the only weapon she had at her disposal, Liz ignored the feeling of walking back into the lion’s den as she stepped out of the taxi she’d taken from work, pushed the door open for the second time in a week.

She walked in and closed the door behind her. The first thing she noticed was the music – Simon and Garfunkel were playing in the background, crooning about the Sound of Silence. As it had been, last week, the store was empty, and Liz began to get a sense of foreboding. Almost on instinct, she began to search the floor for mice.

A small “thump” sounded behind her, and Liz turned suddenly to see a black and white cat prowling across a table in the back of the store, near to where an open door led into a hallway of some sort. That was the part of the store she’d heard Evil Stranger calling from before she’d gotten knocked out last week. Liz figured it was some sort of staff room or something. But right now, the cat had her full attention.

Liz had never been allowed to have a cat, since she lived above a restaurant – it wouldn’t be sanitary, her parents said. She understood that, but it had been rather lonely sometimes, being an only child, and she’d always felt that having a pet would have helped with the loneliness.

Making her way between haphazardly placed furniture, Liz walked over to the cat. Tentatively, she reached her hand out, stopping a few inches away from the cat’s nose. The cat looked at her curiously, then at her hand, then gracefully stretched out its neck. At first it was only a whisper of a touch, with whiskers tickling her curled fingers, and then the cat nuzzled Liz’s hand. The unexpected force of this contact caught Liz unprepared, and her hand, which she’d been exerting minimal force onto so as not to scare the cat away, was pushed back as the cat tried to rub against her. Liz put her hand out once more, and this time, when the cat stroked its face along her knuckles, her hand remained still.

After going back and forth a few times, the cat was satisfied with this contact and began to maneuver itself underneath her hand. Guessing what the cat wanted, Liz turned her hand so that her palm faced down and began to pet the cat, who arched and stretched its back and legs gracefully underneath her ministrations.

“He likes you,” sounded a voice from the hallway. Liz looked up and saw a man standing there. Her mind gave a silent ‘thank you’ that it wasn’t Evil Stranger. This guy looked old enough to be Evil Stranger’s father, actually. He appeared to be in his early 60’s, though perhaps a little younger. His wavy hair went past his shoulders. He wore loose jeans – not baggy, but loose, and a T-shirt with a picture of John Lennon and a caption that read “War Is Not The Answer.” His eyes were hidden by aviator sunglasses. He stood leaning against the door frame with a cup of coffee in one hand.

“Oh,” Liz gave a little laugh, “yeah, I guess so.” She looked back at the cat for a second before asking, “What’s his name?”

“Paul.”

“Hello, Paul.” Liz continued to pet him.

“That’s really kinda cool. Paul doesn’t usually open up to new people. When my nephew started working here, he swore he was the devil’s own cat. I once walked in on him backed up against the wall with the cat in front of him, glaring at him. He was afraid that Paul would claw his eyes out if he moved.” The man walked slowly towards a table a few feet inside the door. This table was positioned at an angle with a chair near the corner of the walls, so that whoever was sitting there could have a full view of the entire interior of the store, the external windows, and who was coming in and out from the doorway this man had appeared from. A two-drawer small hanging file cabinet of black metal was hidden underneath this table.

Liz laughed at the idea of anyone being held hostage by the gentle cat now purring from the efforts from her small hand as it swooped gently from its neck to its tail. “Aww, Pauly wouldn’t do that, would you?” she asked.

“I told him it was because cats have long memories.”

“What does that mean?”

The man put his coffee cup down on the table. Then be took his glasses off and tucked them into the collar of his shirt. “One time, about ten years ago, I was out of town and my brother and his wife agreed to take Paul in for a few days." Liz stood up straight and faced the man as he continued his story. "My nephew and his friends thought it would be fun to take one of their boogey-boards and float Paul in the pool on it. Poor cat had to swim his way out of the pool.”

“Oh my God!" Liz cried. "That’s so cruel! How could he be so mean to such a sweet cat?”

As if he knew he was being talked about, Paul slid forward and effortlessly jumped onto the table.

“He wasn’t always a sweet cat; he’s mellowed out a lot in his old age. But he’s a tough cookie.” The man reached his hand out and petted Paul a couple of times. Then he turned back to Liz, who was now standing next to the table as well. “What can I do for you?”

Liz had almost forgotten the reason she’d come back into the store in the first place. “Oh, I uh, I wanted to ask about that desk there, in the corner by the window.” Liz raised her hand to point to the desk, but almost as soon as she did she felt something pushing against her belly. She looked down to see Paul the Cat nudging her, silently begging her not to stop petting him.

“Wow, he really does like you,” said the man. “He doesn’t let me get that close most days. He usually doesn’t like to be touched at all.”

“I thought all cats liked to be petted,” said Liz.

“That’s dogs. Cats are different. They rarely give their affections without extreme effort on your part. And once they’ve got it, they tend to use it to their advantage. They’ll walk you around by the balls if you let them. They’re kind of like humans that way.” Liz looked up in surprise at the vulgarity. Most people who worked at a business geared towards customer service weren’t so crude. Normally, Liz was offended by language like that, but for some reason, on this guy, it seemed to suit him. He noticed her eyeing him, but still he made no apologies for his language.

“This one doesn’t seem to have much of a problem making new friends,” Liz commented.

“Well, I told you, you’re the exception to the general rule, sweetheart. Four.”

“Excuse me?”

“You were asking about the desk. It’s four.”

“Four hundred dollars?” Liz couldn’t believe her luck – she could write a check right now! Things would be a little tight for until her next paycheck, but –

“Four thousand.”

Liz could swear she literally heard her dreams being smashed into pieces. Four thousand dollars. It might as well have been forty thousand. “I can’t,” she whispered.

“Cherry wood. Carvings by hand. Perfect condition. 1882. A bargain,” the man continued. “The guy who brought it in said he didn’t even know it existed until his grandmother died and he started sorting through her house. Found it in the attic. Like new.”

“It’s beautiful, but I just can’t afford it,” Liz said regretfully, turning her head to look at the desk she couldn’t have.

“That’s a shame – it really should go to somebody who loves it.” The man looked at Liz as he said this. When she turned back to him, they locked eyes for a moment. Then the man smiled at her, crinkling his eyes, and held out his hand. “I’m Joe.”

“Liz,” she took his hand and shook it soundly.

“You’ve been here before, right? Coming around for a couple of months now?”

Geez, did the salesmen in this place have nothing better to do than stare out the windows all day? Liz thought then about the amount of business she’d seen here, and realized, no, they didn’t. “Yeah, I, um … I saw that desk one time and,” Liz looked wistfully back at the desk that could never be hers, “and I just had to come back.”

“Why did it take you so long to come in?”

“Honestly? I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Liz sighed audibly before adding, “and I was right.”

“Well, who knows,” Joe said, “anything could happen.”

“Yeah.”

Joe stood quietly looking at Liz for a moment before he spoke again. “Do you have anything you’d be willing to trade? To try to knock the price down a bit?”

Liz had to laugh at the notion. The only furniture in the apartment that was hers was her bed frame (which wasn’t much to shout about, just a plain wooden frame without a headboard or footboard), a couple of small nightstands and the dressing table that her parents had given her years ago. Everything else had been purchased with Serena, or belonged to Serena herself. “I’m sorry, I don’t. I don’t even have a lamp in my room or anything.”

“Would you like one?”

“Huh?” Liz looked up, confused.

“I’ve got a lamp in the back that you might like. Why don’t you come and take a look?”

‘Um, okay,” Liz said. Joe turned and started to walk through the hallway in the back. Liz stepped around the table to follow him. When she reached the doorway, she felt something strange against her leg, and looked down to see Paul caressing himself against her. She smiled down at him, then continued after Joe. Paul dutifully followed.

On the left as she passed was an open closet where a few jackets were hanging – nothing too heavy, since it was only late September – a couple of denim jackets, a raincoat, and a large selection of leather jackets. Most of these were men’s jackets, but Liz recognized one of the leather coats as having a distinctly feminine cut.

On the other side of the coat closet, there was a second hallway that veered off to the left. This was where Joe had turned down, and Liz did the same. Ahead of her was a kitchen, and the smell of coffee wafted to Liz’s nose. The music was louder here, and Liz could clearly hear Don Mclean singing bye-bye to Miss American Pie. Liz hummed along to the stereo which she assumed was in the kitchen. In front of the kitchen on the left was a staircase leading up. To the right was another doorway. Joe opened this door and walked in, leaving it open for Liz.

Liz entered the room and saw a room in even worse shape than the show room at the front of the store. The dust was so thick she began to cough. This room had no windows. Joe flipped on a light and pulled a rag out of the back pocket of his pants, then started walking to a particular corner of the room. Liz recovered her composure, and then saw what he was walking towards.

A tall standing floor lamp stood against a wall. The stand was a dark wood texture with gold trim, and the shade was glass. Joe was using the rag to wipe layers of dust off of it, and with each stroke of his hand, Liz found herself struck by the artwork of it. Brilliant shades of green, gold and purple made up a grapevine motif. Even without turning it on, it looked beautiful.

“Wow, that’s, um, that’s really pretty,” Liz said.

“Hand-painted. Brought in by the same guy who brought in the desk. Apparently his grandmother had a thing for the vineyard theme.”

“It looks expensive …”

“I was thinking of selling it for about $300, but I’ll let you have it for $120.” Liz looked at him in surprise. “You’re saving up for a desk, after all, sweetheart.”

“Are you sure?” Liz tried to be stubborn, but all she had was a desk lamp that sat on the table next to her computer, and the overhead light. It would be nice to have a floor lamp …

“Delivery no charge,” smiled Joe.

Liz thought about it for a moment, then figured she wasn’t going to be able to afford the desk any time soon anyway, and one hundred and twenty dollars was less than what she paid for her student loans every month. “Sold,” Liz smiled back.

“Excellent,” Joe grinned widely, showing his teeth. “Let’s go back out in front, we can ring up the sale and arrange the delivery.

Liz turned and walked back to the front room of the store with Paul and Joe trailing behind her, in that order. She took her checkbook out of her purse and started to write a check for $120. “Whom should I make it out to?”

“Joe’s Antiques,” Joe smiled with pride.

“You own this place?” asked Liz.

Joe nodded, “Yup. Bought it ‘bout thirty years ago.” Liz was shocked. She couldn’t see how this place did enough business for one month’s worth of business; the idea that this shop had kept Joe afloat for thirty years was astounding.

Paul jumped onto the table he’d been standing on earlier, and Joe walked over to the other side. He opened a drawer and pulled out a cash box, and then a notebook. “Write your address down in here, sweetheart.” Liz handed him the check and flipped open the notebook as Joe placed the check in the box. When she finished writing her address, she handed the notebook back to Joe, leaving it open.

“What time works best for you, sweetheart?”

Liz thought for a moment about what her plans for the weekend were. “Um, I don’t suppose you deliver on Sundays, do you?”

“I think we can do Sunday for you,” Joe smiled.

“About three in the afternoon?”

“See you Sunday at three, sweetheart,” Joe’s smile grew, and he winked at her. It reminded Liz of the smiles men would give her in bars and clubs, but it wasn’t nearly as forceful as some of those could be. She rolled her eyes and thanked him. “Anytime for you, sweetheart, anytime.”

Liz turned and walked to the door. As she was about to open the door, Joe called out for her to stop. It was then that she noticed that Paul the cat was at her feet and about to walk out the door with her. Joe hurried over to her and bent down to scoop up the cat in his arms. “He really does like you,” Joe said, looking at Liz rather than at Paul.

Liz didn’t really know what to say to that, so she just petted Paul one last time, thanked Joe again, and walked out the door. As she made her way down South Street, she found herself smiling at how well her visit to the store this time as compared to her last trip.



~~~~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Sat Oct 07, 2006 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ES&L Chapter 8

Post by LairaBehr4 » Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:42 pm

Just for you guys, because I love you, here's a nice, looooong update for you!



I ‘borrowed’ a line from ‘Chicken Run’, and also put in a reference to Lorastar’s ‘Resurrection’, because if you’re not reading it, you should be.





Eats, Shoots and Leaves;

Or,

Looking for a Prince in a World Full of Frogs



Chapter Eight – Furniture Delivery is a Contact Sport



On Saturday, Serena and Liz lounged around the apartment a bit. Liz tried to work on her writing, but Serena dragged her to Manyunk instead, where one of the gay men’s bars was having a karaoke night. While it wasn’t the best place to pick up guys, it definitely was a fun place to hang out, get free drinks and make some new “girlfriends.”

Sunday morning, Liz took advantage of free admission to the Art Museum and walked there, since it was only a few blocks from her apartment. She spent most of the morning and early afternoon losing herself in the impressionist art and the ancient Egyptian displays, her two favorite periods. She made sure to leave by two p.m., however, in order to make sure she was there when Joe came by to deliver the lamp.

When she returned to her apartment, Serena was out. Assuming she’d either gone to the office or to check up on Piotr, Liz made herself comfortable with a ‘Law and Order’ marathon. It occurred to her at one point that Serena was definitely rubbing off on her, but as soon as Benjamin Bratt came onto the screen, she was too happy to care.

At three forty-five, the buzzer by the front door rang. Liz asked who was there; “Delivery” came ringing through in an electronic-laced voice. Liz pushed the button to let Joe in, smiling at the thought of seeing him again.

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. When Liz swung the door open, she was astonished to find not Joe standing on the other side, but Evil Stranger instead, looking just as smug and mockingly superior as ever.

“You!” Liz exclaimed distastefully. She was not at all thrilled about seeing this guy again, let alone having him in her home.

“Well, hell-o,” Evil Stranger said, licking his lips. He was giving her the here’s-my-steak look again, the one he’d given her in the store a week earlier. Time had only decreased its appeal, Liz found.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Delivery,” he smiled, cocking his head to one side.

“Can’t I wait for Joe to deliver my lamp and you can crawl back into whatever hellhole you came from?”

“I don’t think Joe would like to hear you talking about his only nephew like that.”

“Oh God, you’re Joe’s nephew?” Evil Stranger beamed proudly. “I was afraid of that.” Liz stepped forward and kicked him swiftly in the left shin, smiling in proud satisfaction as Evil Stranger yelped out in pain and began hopping on one foot, using his right hand to massage his wounded leg. “That’s for what you did to that poor cat.”

“What? What did I do?”

Liz couldn’t believe this guy. “The pool?” she reminded him, raising her eyebrows.

“Oh,” grinned Evil Stranger. “That.”

“Yeah, that. How could you do that to that sweet cat?” Liz said over her shoulder as she walked a few feet into the apartment.

“Wait a minute, we are talking about Paul here, right?” Evil Stranger leaned against the door frame, still rubbing his shin.

“Yes.”

“Just checking – you said ‘sweet cat,’ I got a little confused.”

“That doesn’t sound too hard,” Liz retorted. “Now where’s Joe?”

“He’s downstairs with the truck – did you know you can’t park on this street?” He stood up straight now and took a step forward so that he was just inside the doorway.

“No, actually, I’ve lived here for three years, and I never noticed that before!” Liz answered, sarcasm dripping from every word. “I think they did that to keep the creeps away.” Liz looked Evil Stranger up and down once. “Obviously they need a new game plan.”

Evil Stranger chuckled lightly, then said, “I’m not so bad, which you’d know if you’d just give me a chance.”

“Thanks, but I think you ruined that opportunity when you invited me for a quickie.”

“I’ll bet I can change your mind.”

“Doubt it.”

“You’d be surprised – I know a lot about girls.”

“Not enough, apparently.”

“I haven’t had any complaints.”

“Probably because you’re out the door too fast.”

“You don’t know that.”

Liz shrugged. “Educated guess.”

Evil Stranger didn’t say anything right away, just stepped so that he was standing right in front of her, forcing her to look up at him. “Try me. Give me one night and see if I’m still around in the morning.”

Liz couldn’t find her tongue for a moment – she just froze as they stared each other down. The air in the apartment was thick and still.

The silence was broken by heavy footsteps coming down the hallway, and then Joe appeared in the door frame. “Am I interrupting something?”

Liz stepped back and tore her eyes from Evil Stranger to look at Joe. “Nothing at all,” she said hurriedly. She definitely didn’t like this guy. He’d struck her speechless twice in as many meetings, and it was not a trend she wanted to get used to.

Taking a second to calm herself, she greeted, “Hi, Joe. How’s it going?”

“Good, sweetheart,” answered Joe. “How are you?”

“I’m okay. How’s Paul?”

Joe chuckled lightly and said, “Funny you should ask. You really did a number on him. He misses you. Never seen him get that attached before. Hasn’t been eating properly since you came by the store.”

Evil Stranger had been staring at Liz all this time, but with the news about the cat he turned his head to Joe. “Really?” he asked, smiling. “Think it’ll die?” He raised his eyebrows a couple of times, gleefully.

“I think you underestimate how much that cat hates you,” Joe said, not taken back at all, apparently, by Evil Stranger’s comment. “He’ll probably outlive you just to spite you.” Joe then turned to Liz and explained, “Cats have very deep commitments.”

“I’ll believe that,” Liz replied as she and Joe shared a smile.

Joe was the one to break their friendly repartee by addressing Evil Stranger, saying “Why don’t you go make yourself useful and get the lamp shade out of the truck?”

Evil Stranger shrugged and made his way out the open door, leaving Joe and Liz alone. “I have the delivery form here for you to sign,” he said, and pulled out the most official-looking document Liz had yet seen in her dealings with Joe’s Antiques.

She grabbed a pen off the coffee table. As Liz looked it over, her curiosity got the best of her. “Hey Joe, can I ask you a personal question?”

Joe thought a second before answering, “If it isn’t too personal.”

Since Liz had found out that Joe owned his own store, she’d been thinking about her own parents and what plans they might have for the future. They owned the diner back in Roswell, a diner that had been in Liz’s father’s family for four generations, but they were in their late fifties now and it was becoming pretty clear that Liz wouldn’t be taking over the family business. Liz wondered what they were planning on doing with the rest of their lives, and Joe, a fellow small business owner in their age group, might be able to shed some light on the situation for her. “Do you ever think about retirement?”

He laughed. “Well, if that’s all you were going to ask …” he said with relief and amusement. “This is my retirement, sweetheart. I was a musician. Did pretty good, too, for a while. Got out about thirty years ago. Took what money I had when it was over and bought that whole building where the store is. I’ve got myself a sweet set-up down there. The apartment’s upstairs, liquor store’s down the street, good gambling down by the docks, and plenty of women all over. I’ve got all I’ll ever need.”

The curve of his mouth was grinning at her, but Liz could tell, even though she’d only known him for a short time, that he was annoyed with her for assuming he should retire. “So you don’t think about giving up the store?”

Joe shook his head. “They’ll have to pull me outta there with a crowbar. An old folk’s home is for old folks, and frankly, I don’t qualify.”

“I could see that about you,” commented Liz.

“I’ve never really been much of one for the traditional way of things. That’s my brother’s role in the family. He’d love to see me settle down in a retirement home or some shit like that, but I like my independence. They don’t allow no boozing in an old folk’s home, sweetheart.”

Liz looked at Joe and returned his grin, saying “Something tells me you’d be able to get away with it.”

Joe laughed again, and this time it was genuine. All traces of his annoyance were gone. Satisfied that she was forgiven any offense, Liz turned back to the delivery sheet to sign, date and initial where necessary.

Steps could be heard down the hall, slowly making their way towards Liz’s apartment. Joe smiled and said, “That’s my nephew.”

Liz regarded Joe, pity clearly written all over her face. “I’m sorry,” she said, which only made Joe laugh harder than she’d ever heard. Realizing what she’d said, she gasped quickly and covered her mouth with her hand. “I mean, um, we’ve met.” She looked back down at the delivery sheet, determined not to allow these two to get the better of her any more today.

“Nice kid,” Joe said, causing Liz to inwardly roll her eyes. Had Joe even met his nephew?

“Good arms.” Liz chose not to respond to this comment – what was she supposed to say, anyway?

“All other parts in working order, too.” Liz looked up in shock at this remark, and saw that Joe was staring at her intensely, and grinning again, this time more than a little mischievously.

Evil Stranger chose this moment to walk through Liz’s front door. His ears were a little pink, and somehow Liz knew it wasn’t from the effort of carrying a lamp shade. He’d heard Joe’s words. “Joe, when I need your help picking up women, I’ll let you know. Until then, why don’t you go make yourself useful and bring up the stand. Damn thing weighs a ton.”

“Bah! Weakling,” muttered Joe audibly.

“Where do you want this?” Evil Stranger asked.

“Why don’t you go help your uncle out? We can set up the lamp when you get back.”

“He’ll be fine.”

“It’s a heavy stand, he’ll hurt himself carrying it,” Liz argued.

“Joe?!” Evil Stranger asked, incredulous. “He’s stronger than I am. If I’m half as fit at his age, I’ll live to be a hundred.”

“As long as Paul still outlives you,” responded Liz.

“You’d rather have that mangy old cat around than me?” said Evil Stranger, his tone a cross somewhere between complete disbelief and an effort to be flirty.

“Better a cat than a cad,” retorted Liz. Not wanting to give him a chance to respond, she said, “You can bring the lamp shade through here,” and started walking down the hallway towards her room. She wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of letting Evil Stranger into her bedroom, at least, not without some kind of buffer. But then again, considering Joe’s last comment before Evil Stranger had walked in, he might not prove to be exactly the kind of buffer Liz was wanting anyway.

She opened the door to her room and went to move her laptop out of the way so that Evil Stranger could put the shade down on the table while they waited for Joe. As if reading her mind, he set the box down on the table, then pulled some box-cutters out of the back pocket of his torn jeans and opened it. “Do you have a garbage bag or something?” he asked. Liz peered into the box and saw that it was full of Styrofoam popcorn and bubble wrap to protect the glass. She dashed into the kitchen quickly and pulled a garbage bag out from under the sink, then ran back to her room. Even though she’d only been gone less than twenty seconds, Evil Stranger had apparently taken that as his cue to look around. When she walked in, he was standing on the other side of the room at Liz’s dressing table, looking over the pictures taped to the mirror and the items resting on the top, which varied from a copy of ‘The Alchemist’ to …

Evil Stranger picked up the box of Tampax and looked over at her, smirking. Liz blushed red with mortification. How could she have forgotten to put those away after she’d bought them yesterday?

She marched over to Evil Stranger and snatched the Tampax out of his hands. “Here’s the garbage bag,” she said, nearly pushing him over with it. He laughed at her a little, but made his way back to the box and pulled out the lamp shade, setting it on the table that served as Liz’s desk. Then he unwrapped the bubble wrap around it, lifted the shade carefully and slipped the bubble wrap out from underneath it. He reached out with the bubble wrap to Liz, eyebrows raised. Liz took it as his asking her whether she wanted to pop the bubbles or not, and while Liz did find that to be a very fun diversion, she wasn’t about to let Evil Stranger know. She shook her head, and he brought his arm down, opened the garbage bag, and placed the bubble wrap inside.

“You never answered my question,” he said quietly.

“You never asked one,” she replied.

“About me spending the night,” he said, looking at her over his shoulder.

It was all Liz had not to burst into laughter at the thought. This guy was unbelievable. “Thanks, I think I’ll live without the pleasure.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.”

“I’m not so bad, you know,” he continued. His voice sounded oddly … serious. Though he was still smirking, he didn’t sound the same as he had outside in the living room, or last week in the store. “And I was serious about not having had any complaints.”

“Oh, and I don’t doubt it,” Liz replied sarcastically, thinking of how her instincts about this guy told her he wouldn’t stick around long enough to hear any feedback, negative or otherwise.

“I told you, I happen to know a lot about women,” he said, ignoring her more negative reference to their earlier conversation.

“Sex change operation?” Liz inquired.

Evil Stranger laughed. “No. I’m in a band.”

“Let me guess – lead guitar?”

“That’s right, actually,” he turned to face her, “how did you know?”

Liz laughed. “Figures. You know, my friend dated a lead guitarist in a band once.”

“Was he good in bed? We’re all really good in bed, you know – I’ll bet your friend would vouch for that.”

“Somehow I think the fact that he stole her pillows and left her a note telling her he was going on tour might have put a damper on the relationship.” Where was Joe? Liz silently prayed.

“I didn’t ask about their relationship, I asked if he was good in bed.”

“Are you interested?”

“In you, sweetheart, not him.”

Liz cringed. “Don’t call me ‘sweetheart’. I’m not your sweetheart.”

“You let Joe call you sweetheart.”

“Joe’s not a sleaze.”

“Neither am I.”

“Says the man who’s propositioned me twice in the last fifteen minutes.”

“And once at the store – you forgot about the store.”

“Well, I was getting over a concussion, no thanks to you – a little memory loss is acceptable.”

“As if a concussion would stop you.”

“Finally, something we agree on,” smiled Liz. At that moment, the blessed sound of Joe’s footsteps coming down the hallway towards her room reached her ears, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Woah … there’s a lot of tension in this room,” said Joe as soon as he walked in.

“I was telling her about the band,” said Evil Stranger.

“Yeah,” Joe smiled as he placed the long box containing the stand on the floor. “Your father still blames me for you not going to law school.” Joe motioned to the box, and Evil Stranger knelt down with the box cutters and worked on cutting through the cardboard and tape. Joe turned to Liz, his eyes twinkling. “I taught him everything he knows.”

“Not everything, Joe – I think he ditched the day you were having charm lessons.” Liz smiled sweetly and hoped Joe wouldn’t take offense at how she was talking about his nephew.

Joe didn’t disappoint her – he laughed heartily and said, “You’re all right, sweetheart.”

“Thank you for noticing,” smiled Liz.

They finished setting up the lamp next to the desk, and then Joe went to take the empty boxes and the garbage bag to the trash chute, leaving Liz and Evil Stranger alone in the doorway to the apartment again. Liz was beginning to suspect that Joe was doing this on purpose.

“You’re welcome,” Evil Stranger’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Excuse me?”

“For delivering the lamp. You’re welcome,” he said pointedly.

“Oh, uh, thank you, umm …” it was only at this point that Liz realized she still didn’t know his name.

“Maxwell Evans,” he said.

“Maxwell?” she started laughing. “What kind of a name is Maxwell for a lead guitarist in a rock band? I mean, I realize that Jason Wade is taken, but still …”

“Hey!” his eyes narrowed, and Liz could tell he was vaguely offended, which only made her laugh more. “It’s a perfectly fine name, okay? Besides, my friends just call me Max.” He looked at her expectantly as he said the word “Max,” waiting to see what her reaction would be.

“Well, thank God, because,” Liz kept on laughing, “that would just be terrible.”

Whatever reaction he’d wanted, her laughter definitely wasn’t it. He waited for her to calm down, then said, “Are you done mocking me now?” Which just made her start laughing again.

Joe came back now, a little puzzled to see Liz laughing so hard. He turned to Max, and said, “What did you do to her?”

Max put his hands up in defense. “Nothing!”

Joe shook his head at him, then addressed Liz. “Okay, we’re leaving now, sweetheart. You have a good evening.”

Liz willed herself to stop laughing, and said, “Bye, Joe, thanks for everything.”

“No problem, sweetheart. Come by the store sometime – Paul and I would love to see you.”

Max snickered loudly at the mention of the cat.

Liz glared at him, then turned back to Joe. “I will,” she said, then, for reasons she couldn’t explain, she stepped forward, stood on her tiptoes, and gave him a quick hug. “Take care, Joe.”

“You too, sweetheart.” He returned the hug, then released her and started walking down the hall.

Max moved to the space now vacated by Joe, and said, “Can I get one of those too?”

Liz didn’t say anything, just stepped forward, towards him, smiling demurely. As Max reached out to put his arms around her, she kicked him in the shins again, then lightly shoved him into the hallway and shut the door.




~~~~
TBC
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Sat Oct 07, 2006 12:50 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Interlude 9, 15Aug

Post by LairaBehr4 » Tue Aug 15, 2006 6:21 pm

Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Or,

Looking For a Prince in a World Full of Frogs



Interlude Nine – Where Do You Go?



Max and Joe got down to the street, Max limping a little due to the bruise now forming on his shin.

“I told you to be nice to her,” Joe admonished.

“Hey, I was a perfect gentleman,” Max defended himself. Joe turned and regarded Max with a look that clearly said ‘give me a break.’ “What?” Max asked.

“Nothing. Get in the truck.”

“Yes, slave driver.” Max went around to the street and stepped up into the driver’s side of the truck. Joe thanked the doorman, who’d been watching the truck for them while they were delivering the lamp. Then he made his way into the passenger side. Max switched off the emergency lights and put the keys into the ignition. As soon as Max turned the car on, AC/DC came blasting out on the stereo deafeningly singing about Knocking On Heaven’s Door.

“Ah! I don’t know how you can stand this,” said Joe with light censure.

“What? Please. I hold you single-handedly responsible for my taste in music,” answered Max.

“The song is good,” Joe relented, reaching to turn down the volume. “But the cover … you haven’t really heard this song done right until you hear Bob Dylan and Tom Petty live. Oh, baby …” Joe’s eyes closed as he lost himself. Max looked over at him – and even though AC/DC still played, he knew his uncle heard only the harmonizing of Petty and Dylan. They continued the rest of the drive in silence.

When they arrived at the store, Max pulled into a driveway off of Fifth Street that led to an alleyway. Skillfully, he pulled to a stop in a few feet beyond the back entrance to the store, then backed up so that the back of the truck faced the back door. Then he killed the engine, opened the door and made sure to lock it before he closed it again after stepping out. Joe likewise hopped out of the cab and locked the door behind him. The two of them made their way to the front of the truck to say their goodbyes.

“So when am I gonna see ya?” Joe asked.

“Not sure, actually. We’re going up to New York next week for a couple of appearances and maybe get in some studio time. After that, I don’t know.”

“You gonna see Danny or John when you’re up there?”

“We’ll probably see John in the studio, but I don’t know if Danny will be there.”

“Tell ‘em I say hi if you see them.”

‘Will do. You’ll be okay here for a few weeks?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Want me to send Dad to --”

“Max,” his uncle interrupted him sternly. “I’ll be fine. I got along just fine for more than thirty years before you came along, even longer before you started using my shop as your own personal sanctuary. I’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, but –”

“I’ll. Be. Fine.”

“Okay, okay,” Max said, raising his hands into the air. “Just asking.”

“Much appreciated, but I am actually a grown man, and your uncle, so please, until there is evidence to the contrary, assume that I can take care of myself.”

“As you wish,” smiled Max. He then tossed the keys he’d been holding in his hand to his uncle, who caught them skillfully in a well-practiced maneuver.

“Come see me when you get back. And say hi to your sister.”

“She’ll probably call you before we leave tomorrow, anyway.”

“Alright. Take it easy. Good luck in the studio, don’t let those wise-ass producers push you around too much. Lousy fuckers …” Max grinned as Joe went on to grumble about producers.

“Kay, I gotta get out of here before the sisterly one calls Missing Persons.” Max and his uncle hugged lightly, then Joe headed into the shop.

Let us follow Max for a while, dear readers.

After he turns from his uncle, Max heads to a shady corner of the alley to a car with a cloth cover on it. He walks to the front of the car and lifts the cover. He peels it off deftly, quickly, and inch by inch a red vintage Jaguar Roadster is revealed to our eyes.



I give you a moment to recover.

Mind your mouth, it’s summer and there are flies and mosquitoes in the air.

Better?

Good.

Let’s continue.

Max stuffs it into the trunk of this beauty of a car, then closes it swiftly and effortlessly. As he strolls to the driver’s door, he runs his hand lovingly along the paint. Anyone can tell he loves this car.

After settling in the driver’s seat, he pulls Gucci sunglasses out and slips them on, then, with practiced skill, backs up and pulls a U-turn to exit the alley.

He decides to stay in the city tonight rather than driving out to the suburbs. So he drives along to Rittenhouse Square. He parks in a private space when he arrives at his building’s parking structure, right next to the security guard, whom he knows well enough to greet by name (Jose, in case you were wondering) and ask about his wife (Luz) and two daughters (Solé and Marisol). Our curiosity is piqued since the parking lot is very full, yet this space, right next to the entrance to the building, remains empty.

Max jogs up the first three flights of stairs to avoid running into anyone he’d prefer to avoid. He easily makes his way up from the first level of the parking lot to the lobby level. At the first floor, he starts to feel a little winded. At the third floor, he feels comfortable enough to take the elevator up to the 23rd floor. Max has to scan an identification badge for the building in order to get up to this floor.

The elevator doors open, and Max steps comfortably into a darkened room. Though he can’t see a thing, he easily navigates his way around the various pieces of furniture in the room until he flips on a light switch. Once light floods the apartment, Max sees a strange shape located on his couch a few feet away.

“Ah! Shit, Maria, you scared the crap out of me!”

“Well, that’s what happens when you go MIA for seven hours,” the girl named Maria says. Maria is about five-foot six, one hundred and twenty pounds, has green eyes and long ash-blonde hair pulled away from her face. She’s wearing tan city shorts with matching flats and a teal-colored cotton top with short sleeves. We immediately like her – something about the way she carries herself endears her to us. She walks up to Max and lightly hits his shoulder.

Max shrugs defensively. “I was at my uncle’s store.”

“I don’t care, you need to tell me these things so that I have some sort of defense.”

“Defense for what?” Max asks, but suddenly another figure emerges from the hallway, and Max’s question is answered for him.

The new person in the room walks straight up to Max, gives him a “hi” and a quick peck on the cheek. Then, she head smacks him.

“Ow! What the fuck is up with chicks today? What is it, like, collective PMS Day in Philadelphia? Why’s everyone all violent?”

New Girl holds her head up high and says coolly, “It’s warranted.” She is five-foot-nine, about one hundred and thirty pounds, dressed in designer clothes. She speaks with such an air of authority, you don’t dare challenge her … unless you’re Max.

“No,” Max says, rubbing the back of his head. “It’s not. And why are you all here in my apartment, anyway? And by the way, I want my keys back,” he glares angrily at Maria so she knows he’s talking to her, too.

“You told me to meet you here, Max.” Max turned and regarded her blankly. “Dinner at Mom and Dad’s?”

“Aw fuck, I forgot.” He immediately begins to turn on the puppy eyes. “Do I have to, Izzy?”

Yes,” Izzy, sometimes called Isabel, answers before walking to the kitchen. Max turns to Maria, silently begging for her to get him out of this, but she shakes her head and grins. Max groans loudly, clearly not looking forward to tonight’s events.

As Max plops himself down on the couch next to Maria, who has resumed her position there, New Girl yells from the kitchen, “And don’t you even THINK of going out anywhere tonight, because we have to leave for New York at five in the morning!”

“What?!” Max yells back. “Whose fucking brilliant idea was that?”

“You guys have a radio appearance at eleven, a meet-and-greet with the record company at one, a sound-check at four-thirty and a concert at nine. We’re leaving at five,” she yells back.

Max looks at Maria and says quietly, “She’s trying to kill me, I swear to God, she’s trying to fucking kill me.”

“I heard that,” says Isabel, coming back into the room with a glass of water in her hand. “And no, Max, I’m not trying to kill you. If I killed you, then I’d have to go to dinner alone, and we all know that’s not gonna happen.”

“Why not? Dad likes you,” Max says. His voice suggests that perhaps, though their father is proud of his daughter for being the manager of a band, he’s not nearly as pleased by the fact that his son is a member of said band.

“That’s cause I went to business school,” Isabel responds. “Dad thinks this is just a phase for me.”

Max ignores this statement and turns to Maria. “Am I packed?”

“And ready to go,” she responds. “Your luggage and equipment will be on the bus before you are.”

“Do the others know about this five AM thing?” Max asks, turning back to Isabel.

“Yes, and none of them gave me nearly as much trouble as you.”

“None of them are related to you. Big brothers get special privileges.”

“Max, you’re younger than me.”

“Only by, like, a minute.”

“Three,” Isabel says. “Now, come on.” Max moves to get his keys, hoping that at least, if he drives, he might have some semblance of control over when he leaves. Isabel sees through his plan and says, “I’m driving,” causing Max to groan yet again.

Before he leaves, he turns back to Maria. “Any messages?”

“Pam called three times,” disdain drips from Maria’s voice. “She says she’ll see you in New York. Here are the others,” Maria hands him a stack of messages.

Max begins to flip through them. Every now and then we see him slip one into his back pocket or crumple one into a ball and toss it onto the floor. These actions are usually accompanied with a grin or a grimace, depending on what the situation warrants. Once, he shudders visibly and gives a message back to Maria, saying “Tell this one I died,” before going back to the rest of the pile.

When he finishes, he sets the miscellaneous messages on an end table and says, “Okay, thanks, Maria,” and walks to the elevator where Isabel was waiting.

Suddenly, he turns sharply as if remembering something. “Oh! Wait,” he runs back to Maria. Out of his pocket he pulls a yellow carbon copy and hands it to Maria. “Can you send this girl some flowers for me while I’m gone?”

“Flowers?” Maria asks, flabbergasted.

“Flowers?” Isabel echoes.

“Yeah, flowers. They grow outside, usually smell pretty good.” This elicits no reaction. “They make perfume out of them.”

“Yeah, we know what they are, Max,” Isabel retorts.

“We’re just wondering why you’re sending them,” contributes Maria.

“And to whom.”

“It’s none of your business to whom,” Max turns to Maria, “and do I need a reason?”

“Yes,” both Maria and Isabel say in unison.

Max’s mood is already terrible from the prospect of dinner with the parents, followed by what would be at least a four-thirty AM wake-up call (which pretty much means he won’t be sleeping at all). Being mocked by his sister and his personal assistant is not what he needs right now. “Look,” he bit Maria’s head off, “are you going to do it, or not?”

“Yeah, consider it done,” says Maria. While she doesn’t like or appreciate his tone, she knows he’s not being mean on purpose, and besides, she is in the enviable position of being able to make him pay for it later.

“Good,” Max snaps again, then in two short strides, he’s at his sister’s side and slips inside the waiting elevator doors. “Let’s go.”

Maria is left alone in the apartment. She leaves Max’s discarded messages on the floor where they lay, knowing the maids would get them when they came tomorrow. Which reminds her, she needs to write out a check for them. First, though, she opens the yellow paper that Max had given her, wondering who it was he wanted to send flowers to. In the entire time that she’s known Max, he’d never sent flowers to anyone before.

“Elizabeth Parker.”






~*~*~*~*~
TBC

MiY – Gotcha!
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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