by:

 

Disclaimers: Nope. The characters are mine. I don't really want them, so perhaps I'll just let them have each other. That way everyone's happy. If you haven't read Alix and Valerie then you'll probably be lost. If you're lost anyway.. then... you'll have to see Bertha about that. I'm not responsible for anything I write. Unless.. of course... you like it :)

 

Sex/Violence/Naughty language: Yes/No/Maybe so.

 

Special Thanks: to my best friend Christy, who makes me appear far more creative than I am. And as always, to Cindy, for everything. 

 

Feedback: Feel free to direct all comments, questions, rantings, ravings, roommate stories, bad hair days, radioactive rock information, UFO sightings, and amusing anecdotes to amazonkiwi@aol.com


Chapter Three Valerie  

 

I couldnt sleep. I kept listening to the DJ on the radio announce song after song, in that resigned, monotone voice reserved for the graveyard shift. I kept glancing at the clock, daring time to pass. The patterns on the ceiling began to form constellations only I could see. I wondered if this was insomnia.

 

That was Whos That Girl by Eve from her latest album, Scorpion. Im DJ Tomas and youre listening to todays greatest hits right here on Z98.5. Next we have Aerosmith with their latest single, Jaded.

 

I groaned, pulling a pillow from under my head so I could push it down on my face. When my attempts at suffocating myself failed, I rolled over and turned off the music. Why did I agree to start over with her? I asked the air. Its never going to work.

 

Loki lifted her head, seemingly confused by the silence.

 

Now that I had her attention, I sat up, leaning back against the mountain of pillows behind me. My brother had a tendency to exaggerate. She wants to start over, I explained to the dog, because I could tell that she was greatly interested. For a moment, I couldve sworn she rolled her eyes. But that couldnt be. That means that I have to be totally honest with her about everything.

 

Sighing, I pulled the covers over my head. Shes going to leave me either way. Do I want her to do so knowing all the horrible things Ive done? Is that how I want her to remember me? I peered out from under the covers. Loki was pretending to be asleep. I really need to stop talking to myself.

 

I frowned and listened intently for a moment. There it was again. Definitely a knock. Who the hell? I rolled out of bed and grumpily made my way across the apartment, muttering incoherent things under my breath. Loki followed behind me. Apparently a strange visitor in the middle of the night was far more interesting than me. Hmph.

 

At the door, I hesitated. I didnt sense any danger, but that didnt mean there wasnt any. A part of me was hoping there was some. I hadnt kicked some ass in while. Who is it?

 

Its the bloody Tooth Fairy, open up.

 

I rolled my eyes and opened the door. So much for butt-kicking. Do you have any idea what time it is?

 

Jade entered the apartment and shrugged. Three? Its not like you were sleeping any.

 

I shut the door and leaned against it. How do you know I wasnt sleeping?

 

Just a hunch, she responded, looking around. Nice pad.

 

Its my brothers, I answered.

 

Doesnt seem like he was all that tight for money.

 

The comment stung for a variety of reasons, none of which I wanted to particularly think about at that moment. So, I decided to change the subject. Or at least, get to the point. So what can I do for you, Jade?

 

I wanted to make sure were even.

 

Were even.

 

Jade nodded, taking a seat on the couch. I hesitated only a moment before sitting across from her on the loveseat. Shes really intent on making things work out with you two, Jade told me. We just want to make sure that shes not going to get hurt again.

 

We? I wasnt entirely sure where this was going but it was starting to sound like something I wouldnt like.

 

Jessica and I.

 

So she sent you here to supervise? I asked, my jaw tightening.

 

Jade shook her head. Look, I want nothing more than to see you and Alix work out.

 

And Jessica? What does she want?

 

Jade looked confused for a moment. She wants to see Alix happy.

 

I stood, unable to sit still any longer. Happy without me.

 

You and I both know thats not true, Jade argued, but I could hear the uncertainty in her voice.

 

Taking a deep breath, I sat back down. Be honest with me, Jade. Jessica doesnt want Alix to end up with me. True or false?

 

Jade looked away for a moment, then met my gaze. She doesnt think you can give her everything she deserves.

 

That statement hurt more than I could ever express, but Id be damned if Id let Jade know that.

 

But she would never do anything to keep the two of you apart, Jade added. She trusts Alixs judgment. When I didnt say anything, she continued. Valerie, I have never seen Alix happier than when the two of you were together. She was like a totally different person. I dont care what Jessica thinks, the two of you belong together.

 

This caught my attention. So why are you here?

 

Because I need to know that I can trust you not to hurt her again, Jade answered. For my own peace of mind. I just need to know you wont lie to her again.

 

I wont lie to her again, I promised, more to myself than to her.

 

Jade looked relieved. Good. She smiled. Ill let you get back to not sleeping. She stood and headed for the door.

 

Jade, I called. Are you going to tell her that you were involved?

 

Jade shook her head. Im too much of a coward. She went to open the door, then paused. But if you have to tell her, then tell her. No more lies between you guys okay? Ill deal with the consequences.

 

I nodded and watched her leave. Then I headed back to my room, feeling a rush of emotions.

 

I can give her all she deserves and more, I promised to no one but myself. And more.

 

  ****

 

At precisely 2:03pm there was a knock at my door. You sure are punctual, I said, as I let Alix into the apartment.  She was clad in her usual black, though the jeans and the shirt were tighter than usual. No complaints here.

 

She shrugged, turning around to face me as I closed the door. Actually, Ive been standing outside since 1:55, but I thought Id be fashionably late.

 

Of course, I agreed, trying not to stare at her. Im pretty sure I failed. Im also pretty sure she had no idea how hot she looked in tight clothing.

 

What? she asked, self-consciously. Then she must have noticed where my gaze was directed. I had a disagreement with the dryer, she said, by way of explanation. I told it to keep my clothes nice and baggy, and it decided to shrink-wrap me. But we compromised.

 

I cleared my throat. Howd you compromise?

 

Well, it kept them black.

 

Isnt that the washers job?

 

She was thoughtful for a moment, then narrowed her eyes, which seemed greener than usual. Yes. Youre correct. But I like to pretend we compromised, so just humor me.

 

Damn that dryer, I said.

 

She smiled. Then she whirled around and started walking toward the TV in the living room. Oh my God! Ive been dying to see this video.

 

I followed behind her to see what all the commotion was about. Aerosmith. Duh. I struggled to figure out what she saw in the group but for the life of me

 

Isnt he hot?

 

He? Steven Tyler? I took a seat beside her on the couch. I laughed. Youre kidding right?

 

She frowned as she turned to me. No. Why? Dont you think hes gorgeous?

 

I arched a brow and turned back to the TV. She had to be joking. Uh no? But his daughters pretty hot.

 

Nope. Hes hotter.

 

I frowned. "You are a lesbian, right?"

 

She smiled, her gaze glued to the screen. Sort of.

 

Sort of? I must have missed this particular subject while we were playing truth or dare on our first date. What do you mean by sort of?

 

Ive gotta get this CD today, she said. Then she realized I asked her a question. Oh. Well Im mostly a lesbian.

 

So youre bi?

 

Sort of. The song finally ended and I had her attention back. She grinned. Youre cute when youre all confused. She tapped my forehead. You have like a vein that bulges out right here.

 

I do not! I argued, swatting her hand away. Now answer my question.

 

She cocked her head to the side. Why is it important?

 

Um I guess its not, I said, though I was still curious as hell.

 

She stood, grabbing my hand. Come on. Take me somewhere interesting. Its my first time in the Big Apple.

 

I let her pull me to my feet. Hungry?

 

Always.

 

How do you feel about peanut butter?

 

  ****

 

Im torn between the Elvis and the Fluffernutter, Alix announced, as she continued to stare up at the menu posted up behind the counter of Peanut Butter & Co.

 

The girl behind the counter was subtly checking her out and I found myself taking Alixs hand in a possessive gesture. Fortunately for her, the chick took the hint and disappeared into the kitchen while we decided on our order.

 

Alix glanced down at our interlocked hands.

 

So I pretended it was no big deal and focused on the menu. I think Ill have the Spicy Peanut Butter.

 

Alix glanced up and squinted at the ingredients. Grilled chicken with peanut butter? Youre a freak.

 

Yes, youre one to talk, I teased.

 

The girl reappeared and gazed at us expectantly.

 

Ready? I asked Alix.

 

She nodded. Fluffernutter, she responded confidently. And milk. She started to reach into her pocket to get out some money but I stopped her.

 

Ive got it, I said.

 

Yeah? She turned back to look at the menu. Too bad they dont sell lobster here.

 

Lobster and peanut butter? And you said I was weird.

 

She grinned and walked over to look at the items they had for sale.

 

I turned to the girl and instantly offered her my most charming smile. Ill take a Spicy Peanut Butter, a Fluffernutter, and two whole milks.

 

Crunchy or smooth?

 

What kind of peanut butter did Alix like? If I turned to ask her it would look like our relationship wasnt serious enough to call for peanut butter preference knowledge. Then Miss Thang over here might start getting ideas. On the other hand, if I picked the wrong type of peanut butter, Alix would be unhappy with her meal. Not an option. Oh well, it was time for Plan B. Actually, can I have two Fluffernutters instead? One with crunchy the other with smooth. There. That should solve the problem.

 

The girl shook her head but rang up the order. I paid the bill and picked a table in the corner. We were the only people there.

 

Alix joined me a moment later. This is a really cute place, she said, glancing around. You seem to know New York City pretty well. How long did you live here?

 

Q&A time. Here we go. A little less than two years.

 

She nodded, clearly wanting to know more, but afraid to push the subject.

 

I sat up. Tell you what, I said. I promise to answer all of your questions, if you promise to answer all of mine.

 

She nodded. Deal.

 

Shoot, I told her, sitting back. Hopefully shed start with the easy ones first. Whats your favorite car? That sort of thing.

 

Alix was thoughtful for a second. Okay. Why did you sleep with me if you knew you were lying to me?

 

Two whole milks. The girl placed the two cups in front of us. Your Fluffernutters will be out in a minute. She winked at Alix and gave me a disapproving look before returning to the kitchen.

 

Wonderful. Are you sure you want to discuss this here? I asked, when I was sure the girl was out of earshot.

 

She took a drink from her milk. Sure.

 

How did I even begin to explain this? I shouldnt have allowed it to happen. I talked myself into doing something I knew was wrong and Im sorry. Oh, good one. Tell the girl that you regret sleeping with her. Nice move.

 

The hurt in Alixs face was crystal clear.

 

Sorry. That came out totally wrong. I was trying to think back to what Id been thinking. Truth was, I hadnt been thinking. I dont know why I did it. I just know that Id never wanted anyone as much as Id wanted you. It wasnt about sex. I just wanted to express how I felt about you. No words meant no lies.

 

She nodded.

 

I really have no way of justifying it, I admitted. It was wrong on so many levels but I couldnt have stopped myself if Id wanted to. Unless you had wanted me to. Then I wouldve stopped, of course." Shit, now I'm babbling. "I just meant--" 

 

Its okay, Alix interrupted. I know what you meant.

 

Why was it so hot in there? Okay.

 

She smiled, instantly making me feel better. Your turn.

 

Did that mean I answered correctly? This relationship thing was a lot more complicated than Id imagined it would be. They made it look so easy on TV. What kind of peanut butter do you prefer? Crunchy or smooth?

 

Before Alix had a chance to respond, our delightful hostess appeared beside us, carrying two plates. Two Fluffernutters, she announced. She turned to me. Crunchy or smooth?

 

So much for Plan B. Time for Plan C: Deductive reasoning. She likes to wear black all the time. And she thinks Steven Tyler is hot. What does that tell me about peanut butter? Not a damn thing. Smooth, I guessed.

 

The girl put one plate in front of me and the other in front of Alix. If I can get you anything else, let me know. Then she walked away.

 

I turned to Alix, waiting to see if Id guessed correctly. She was picking up the sandwich. She was biting it. Guess I was right after all. So you like crunchy better? I asked casually.

 

She shrugged. Its all the same to me, she responded. This is really good. Try the chips.

 

All that work and she didnt even care one way or another. I popped a chip in my mouth. Served me right.

 

  ****

 

"You know she was totally checking you out back there?" I asked casually, because subtlety is my middle name. To express my complete neutrality on the subject, I kept my gaze focused on the sidewalk.

 

"Hmm?" Alix asked, seemingly distracted by whatever thoughts danced in her head. "Oh, you mean Susan?"

 

My eyebrows lifted. "Pardon?"

 

"Girl back at the Peanut Butter place?"

 

She knew her name? I must have missed something. "Yeah," I respond carefully.

 

"Yep, I know."

 

Deep, calming breaths. "So, you're friends?"

 

Alix laughed. "Hardly."

 

I see. "So how did you know her name?"

 

Alix dug her hand into her pocket and withdrew a small piece of paper. "She gave me her number while you were in the bathroom." She shrugged and put it back in her pocket.

 

I wondered if she really planned on keeping that. Worse yet, if she planned on actually dialing the number.

 

"Where are we headed?"

 

I looked around for a moment. "Christopher Street? Unless there's something in particular you want to see?"

 

"Nope. Lead the way."

 

We walked in silence for a few minutes. I wasn't particularly content about this whole Susan issue. Did Alix want to get back together at all? Did she just want us to be friends and see other people? I wasn't particularly sure I could handle that particular arrangement. I was having enough trouble keeping myself from turning around and telling off that

 

"So, my turn to ask a question."

 

I glanced down at Alix. "No it's not. Our food arrived before you had a chance to answer."

 

"Then you asked again, and I answered."

 

Fine. If she wanted to play it that way. "But then you asked where we were going and I answered. So technically, it's my turn."

 

She narrowed her eyes at me. "Cheater."

 

I smiled proudly. "So, let's see." What did I want to know? Lots of things. "What are the rules?"

 

"To the question game?"

 

"No, to our current relationship."

 

"Oh." She looked away before answering. "Well, I figured you and I should figure that out together. I mean, it is 'our' relationship."

 

Fair enough. "Alright." Might as well get to the heart of matters. "Are we seeing other people?"

 

Green eyes met mine. "Do you want to?"

 

Hell no! "Do you?"

 

She shrugged, placing her hands in her pockets. "Not particularly."

 

I hoped she hadn't heard the huge sigh of relief that escaped my lips. "Me neither," I responded, trying not to sound as happy as I felt.

 

Instead of saying anything, Alix handed me the scrap of paper with the phone number on it.

 

My eyebrows narrowed in question.

 

"Well I don't want it," she said, by way of explanation.

 

I smiled, crumpled the paper in my hand, and threw it away in the nearest trashcan. Better luck next time, Susan.

   

****

 

"H-O-R."

 

"Who you callin' a whore?" Alix asked.

 

"You," I responded simply, dribbling the ball away from her. "Why didn't you tell me you were this bad?"

 

Alix crossed her arms. "Valerie," she said, her voice controlled. "I told you on the way to your apartment that I sucked at basketball. Then I told you all the way here. And I told you the first time I lost. Then the second. And even the third. I think you just like the fact that you're winning."

 

I hid a grin. I did like winning. But I much preferred watching the cute look of concentration that passed across Alix's features right before she made a shot. Granted, she hadn't gotten the ball in the basket once since we'd arrived at the basketball court, but I was still enjoying myself. "Let's see if you can make it from here," I said, mockingly. I stood as close to the basket as I could without being directly under it, and made the shot. I caught the ball as it fell from the net and passed it to Alix.

 

Resigned, she walked over and stood at the same spot I'd been standing. "I really hate this game. Why is it called 'HORSE' anyway? Can't we spell something cooler?" She bounced the ball a couple of times and stared up at the basket. Then came the concentration look that never seemed to work. Then the shot.

 

Missed by a mile.

 

"Ooh, it almost touched the rim that time," I teased, running to catch the ball before it interrupted someone else's game.

 

"Why don't we go play pool?" she suggested innocently.

 

I grinned. "H-O-R-S."

 

"B-R-A-T."

 

"Perhaps," I conceded. "But at least I'm winning."

 

She rolled her eyes. "Fine. But that means you have to buy me dinner."

 

"How do you figure?"

 

"Well, you've already destroyed my self-esteem. Do you want to deplete my bank account as well?"

 

I laughed. "You mean Jessica's bank account."

 

She shrugged, taking a seat in the middle of the court. "Hers. Mine. What's the difference? We share. She's like the sister I never had."

 

"What about Rachel?" I asked, slightly confused.

 

She gazed up at me with a smile. "Like I said, she's like the sister I never had."

 

I grinned. "Gotcha."

 

Alix looked at her watch for a moment, then leaned back on her arms, staring up at me. "Are you gonna shoot any time soon, or are we camping out here?"

 

I glanced up at the basketball hoop. I couldn't very well make the past couple of hours end in a few pointless games of "HORSE".  I sat down across from Alix. "Tell you what. If you make the next basket, I'll buy you dinner."

 

She glanced at me wearily. "And if I don't make it?"

 

"Jessica's treat." I was pleased to see my smile reciprocated.

 

"Sounds fair to me," she said.

 

I grinned to myself and rose to my feet, looking around the court. Where should I shoot from? Regardless of the spot, I doubted that she'd make it so it wasn't that big of an issue. But I couldn't let it seem like I was trying to let her win.

 

Finally, I decided on the Foul Line. It seemed fair enough. I shot the ball and watched it sail smoothly through the air, ending in a perfect swoosh through the hoop. With a satisfied smile, I glanced at Alix. She was in the process of retrieving the ball.  "I think I'll order lobster," I was saying, as she passed in front of me to take her place behind the line.

 

She shook her head and bounced the ball a few times. This time there was no look of concentration. She just let the ball fly. I watched it, suddenly feeling like everything was happening in slow motion. And then the unexpected happened.

 

She made the shot.

 

I blinked a few times, unbelieving. Then from somewhere far away I heard three little words:

 

"Lobster sounds good."

 

Continued


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