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 Four - Alix

 

New York was starting to grow on me after only a couple of days and it got me wondering why I'd never considered leaving Florida. The liveliness of the City filled me with more excitement than I had felt in a while. Everywhere I looked something was happening. The most inconsequential things somehow felt important and I tried to take it all in, meanwhile trying to get a grasp of my feelings.

 

Love was confusing. Women were confusing. How was one supposed to work with both of them together? 

 

"You seem pensive," Valerie commented, looking down at me.

 

We were walking down Times Square and I was staring down at the ground instead of up at the pretty lights and billboards. "What do you think about love?" I asked her.

 

She seemed thrown by the question. "I suppose it's alright."

 

I smiled, my gaze finally rising to look around. Everything was so bright. Baldwin City seemed so far away at that moment. "No, I mean, do you think it can last forever? Or do you think it's a fleeting thing?"

 

Valerie was silent for a long moment as she contemplated my question. I'm sure she wasn't expecting to discuss the meaning of love while walking down the busy sidewalks of Times Square. We passed by MTV studios, its sidewalks now free of screaming teenagers hoping to catch a glance of Carson Daily.

 

Finally, she looked down at me, a very serious expression on her face. My breath caught, as I waited for her deep and meaningful response. One that was sure to alleviate all my doubts and insecurities. I stared into her eyes as though I could find the most well-kept secrets of life hidden in their depths. Her lips parted and the words poured forth, escaping into the noisy air. "Laser tag."

 

I blinked. A few times. Then I voiced my thoughts. "Huh?"

 

"I think love is like laser tag."

 

"Laser tag. Right." Every time I thought I had this girl figured out she came out with something like laser tag to throw me all the way back to start. Talking to her sometimes felt like an endless game of Sorry!

 

"Would you like me to explain?"

 

The twinkle in her eye worried me. "I'm not sure ÷" Here I'd thought I was the weird one in this relationship.

 

"I'll do so anyway. See, to me, love had always been something to avoid. I didn't mind if someone fell for me .. but falling for someone else was always something I couldn't handle. It always reminded me of a game of laser tag. Get them before they get me. Hurt them before they hurt me."

 

"Oh," I said, suddenly feeling sad. "Is that why you left? To hurt me before I hurt you?"

 

"No."

 

I grabbed her arm to stop her. I couldn't have this conversation while walking. "Then?"

 

Valerie looked uncomfortable. "You know why I left."

 

"No," I said seriously, trying to meet her gaze. "I don't."

 

She was looking anywhere but at me. If I hadn't known better, I would've sworn she looked embarrassed. "It hurt too much to stay," she admitted softly.

 

Silence. That's what I heard in spite of all the noise around me. Until that moment it had never occurred to me to wonder how Valerie must have felt about all of this. I'd played up my victim role to full capacity and it was time to let it go. This had never been about me, only I'd been too blind to see that. "I'm sorry," I whispered, stepping closer to her.

 

Valerie's eyes finally focused on mine. "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was all my fault."

 

I smiled sadly. "No. No, it wasn't." I took her hand. "Come on, let's go back to your apartment."

 

She seemed surprised by the gesture, but didn't take her hand from mine. In fact, she tightened her hold as we walked back to the subway station.

 

****

 

"So," Valerie said, when we stepped inside the apartment a short while later.

 

"Why do you think I'm still in love with Jessica?" I asked.

 

Valerie sank down on the couch, caught off-guard. "Just a feeling."

 

I shook my head as I sat across from her. "No. There has to be a reason."

 

She sighed. "Whenever we would talk about anything, the subject would always go back to Jessica. It could never be just about us. You always brought her up."

 

"It couldn't be just about us, though," I explained. "It was more about the two of you than it was about you and me."

 

Silence.

 

"I'd like you to come back to Florida with me," I said, bracing myself for rejection.

 

Valerie looked at me, her eyebrows narrowed. "Why?"

 

"Because I don't want to be apart from you," I answered,  and suddenly wondered if I was asking too much of her again. Was it always to be about me? Did she ever get a choice? "But if you decide to stay here, then I'll transfer."

 

She shook her head. "I would never let you do that."

 

"It's not up to you to decide," I responded. "I don't need your permission."

 

Valerie stood suddenly, and I was starting to worry that I was freaking her out. Maybe she wasn't ready for this. I'd never asked her what kind of relationship she was prepared for. I was willing to give up anything for her. But was she? 

 

"Alix, what made you come here?" she asked me. "Why would you want another chance with me?"

 

I wanted to say the words, but I was unable. "Because I want to be with you," I said instead, feeling like a coward.

 

Her blue eyes shone with sadness. "If I ask you something do you swear you'll answer truthfully?"

 

"I would never lie to you, Valerie," I told her. "I swear," I added, in case my previous statement wasn't enough to convince her.

 

"When you are with me, do you pretend I am Jessica?" she asked softly.

 

I was completely floored by the question. It was definitely not one I was expecting. I frowned. "Is that what you really think?"

 

"Answer the question," she insisted and I thought she was going to cry.

 

I shook my head, trying to figure out what would give her such an idea. I was so hurt by the implication. "How can you ask me that?" I asked her.

 

"Answer the question, Alix!"

 

I stared at her, then headed for the door. "I will not answer that," I told her as I turned the handle. "I'm going back to Florida tomorrow. Sorry I wasted your time." I closed the door behind me as I stepped out into the hallway, feeling completely defeated. I couldn't decide if I was more hurt or offended or angry. Maybe I was all of them.

 

Never for a second did I ever think Jessica and Valerie were interchangeable. They were as different as night and day. I couldn't have pretended one was the other if I tried. It was like someone pretending Rachel was me. Ha! Not even I had that good of an imagination.

 

But I supposed with Valerie's insecurities about my feelings for Jessica it was kind of understandable why she would think that.

 

I paused at the stairs. Maybe I should've gone back and talked it over with her. Assured her that I would never think something like that.

 

But ugh! How insulting that she would consider such a thing.

 

I continued down the stairs.

 

Somewhere between the first and second floor, I heard my name being called. I looked up to see Valerie racing down the stairs. She reached me a few moments later. "I'm sorry," she breathed, gasping slightly. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be such a jerk."

 

"I'm sorry, too," I told her. "I shouldn't have walked out on you."

 

She stretched her hand out to me. "Come back, please?"

 

I hesitated only a moment before accepting her offer.  I was beginning to understand that I had trouble denying her anything. One look into her eyes and all of my anger dissipated. That in itself was annoying. It's like she was a witch or something. I didn't completely dismiss that idea. There were a lot of things about Valerie Anne Michaels that I didn't particularly know.

 

Back in her apartment we stared at each other in silence. Then finally, I said, "Valerie, I'm not in love with Jessica. And even if I were I would neverů"

 

Valerie stepped forward and placed her finger to my lips. "No. I shouldn't have even thought to ask you that question. I'm sorry. I just let my paranoia get the best of me." She walked over to sit on the couch. "I've never done this before, Alix. It scares me."

 

I sat beside her, turning to face her. "You've been in relationships before," I countered.

 

She smiled sadly. "I've never been in love before."

 

My heart skipped a beat at her words. "Neither have I," I whispered.

 

Valerie turned to me, her eyes betraying her surprise. "But Jessicaů"

 

I shook my head. "Jessica never felt like this." I took a deep breath. "Look, Valerie, that day in your apartment when you told me you loved me and I walked out ÷ I'm sorry. I was overwhelmed. No one .. had ever said that to me before. I kind of freaked. When it comes to fight or flight, I generally fly."

 

A smile passed her lips. "It's okay."

 

Okay? I shook my head again. "No. No it's not okay. Because I'm in love with you, Valerie. And I need you to know that. Even if I go back to Florida and you decide to stay here and I never see you againů"

 

Her kiss drowned my words, stealing my breath away. I couldn't even remember what I'd been talking about. I'd kissed her before but somehow this felt different. Its sweetness was tinged with an urgency that had never existed before. I thought for sure I was melting.

 

Valerie pulled away first, looking like a child who'd gotten caught doing something wrong. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to do that. You were saying?"

 

Did she really expect me to remember? "Who cares? And why are you sorry?"

 

"I didn't mean to cross the line."

 

"You didn't," I assured her. Then I remembered what I'd been talking about. "I wasn't saying anything important. Just that I love you. But that can wait."

 

Valerie smiled. Then a troubled look passed across her features and she turned away.

 

"What's wrong?"

 

"There's something you need to know," she said. "I don't want to hide anything from you anymore."

 

Uh-oh, I thought. Whatever it was, I was sure I wasn't going to like it. I tried to prepare myself, but I couldn't come up with anything.

 

She took a deep breath. "Jade knew," she said.

 

"Jade knew what?" I asked, suddenly confused.

 

"She knew the whole plan. She helped me. That's why she took you to Whispers that night. That's how I knew where you lived."

 

I nodded. "I kind of figured."

 

Valerie stared at me in surprise. "What?"

 

"Well, while I was in my fuming, angry stage I started thinking about everything, especially about the night we met. And everything just kind of kept going back to Jade. She wanted me to go to the club. She picked the club. She opened up a conversation with you. She knew I was going to be at Pride Factory, and I doubted it was a coincidence that you ended up there. Then you told me that Jade had been at Whispers earlier and told you where I lived but she doesn't have a car so there's no way she could've gotten there. Especially not in the middle of the day."

 

 I shrugged. "It started to make sense. What I couldn't figure out was why. But then I remembered Jade telling me this story about this girl Valerie that had pretty much saved her from getting raped one night. So all the pieces fit together."

 

"You're not mad?"

 

"Well, like I said, I was in my fuming, angry stage so I was enraged then. But I figured Jade never meant for things to get that out of hand. Don't get me wrong, we're going to have a big talk later, but I keep thinking that if none of this would've happened÷ we would've never met. And I'd rather go through this all over again than go the rest of my life without knowing you."  I cringed. "Is that too corny? I'm sorry."

 

"You're amazing," Valerie commented, her gaze never leaving mine.

 

"Yeah, I think so." I smiled. "Any more confessions?"

 

Valerie paled slightly. "There's a lot of things about me you don't know÷"

 

I took her hand. "Then you will tell me .. later. I don't think I can handle anymore tonight."

 

"I keep wondering what I did to deserve you."

 

"Maybe you were really good in another life," I joked.

 

Valerie laughed. "Thanks." She looked around for a moment, then cleared her throat. "Do you want to spend the night?"

 

I arched an eyebrow. "That was subtle."

 

"Not like that," she said, blushing slightly. "Just .. sleep.  It's getting late and I don't want you leaving at this hour. I don't really want you leaving, period."

 

I glanced at my watch to see what her definition of 'getting late' was. Ten o'clock. I'd hate to know what she considered early. "Only on one condition."

 

"What's that?"

 

"You cook me something," I responded. "I'm starving."

 

 ***

Several hours later, we were lying on her bed. Valerie lent me a pair of boxers and a tee shirt to sleep in. We had two bowls of popcorn between us, one with butter, one without. On the big screen TV, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion was playing. We'd flipped a quarter to see who got to choose the movie. She'd lost.

 

"Romy or Michelle?" Valerie asked, grabbing a handful of popcorn and stuffing it in her mouth.

 

I stared at the couple on the screen. Which would I rather sleep with? Hmm. "Lisa Kudrow, definitely."

 

"You don't think Mira Sorvino is cute?"

 

"No she's cute too, but I'm loyal to Friends."

 

Valerie laughed. "Dork."

 

I munched away on some popcorn as I shrugged. "Romy or Heather?"

 

Valerie considered. "I have a weakness for bitter women. So I'll go with Jeanine Garofalo. Jennifer Aniston or Steven Tyler?"

 

"Steven Tyler," I replied without hesitation. "Catherine Zeta Jones or Jennifer Connelly?"

 

"Oooh! Tough one. Jennifer. I'm loyal to Labyrinth.  How can you possibly choose Steven Tyler over Jennifer Aniston?"

 

"Easy. He's yum."

 

Valerie cringed. "I worry about you, I really do."

 

I laughed at her discomfort.

 

"Steven Tyler or me?"

 

I stared at her. "Steven Tyler, of course." I was rewarded with a handful of  sticky popcorn hitting my face. "Thanks."

 

"I am officially not speaking to you," Valerie announced, looking very much like she meant it as she turned her full attention to the movie.

 

"You asked."

 

Valerie continued to eat her popcorn and focus on the movie.

 

"Fine, be that way." Two could play at this game.

 

The movie proceeded along. Fifteen minutes of silence went by before Valerie spoke. "Is it cause you'd rather be with a guy than a girl?"

 

I nearly choked on the mouthful of popcorn. I grabbed for the Dr Pepper on the nightstand. "Huh?"

 

"Do you like guys more than girls?" she asked, quite seriously.

 

For someone who appeared so self-assured, Valerie was sure insecure about the oddest things. "No I don't like guys more than girls. In fact, I don't really like guys. Only Steven, and only because he's my idol. It's more about admiration than sexual attraction."

 

"But you'd rather sleep with him than me," she protested, almost pouting.

 

Laughing, I kissed her cheek. "I was just kidding, you dinkus. I would never choose anyone over you. And I wouldn't choose him over Jennifer Aniston either. I'd have to be insane."

 

"So you'd never pick someone over me?"

 

"Nope."

 

"Good to know." She appeared mighty proud of herself.

 

"Jennifer Connelly or me?"

 

Her mouth dropped. "That's not fair. You can't ask me to betray my loyalty."

 

I laughed. "Alright, I'll put it this way. Say you were in a room with the two of us and you had to pick one and the other wouldn't know that you chose the other over them. Which would you pick? It's okay. I won't be offended."

 

"Okay, one moment." Valerie closed her eyes, appearing deep in concentration.

 

I continued to eat my popcorn as I waited.

 

Finally, she said, "You."

 

"You're just saying that to be nice."

 

"Nope. I'd pick you."

 

"Ahuh. And why?"

 

She grinned. "Cause believe it or not, you're hotter."

 

I snorted. "Good one."

 

Valerie grabbed my hand, pulling me up from the bed. I nearly knocked all the popcorn over on the bed. "Come on." 

 

She led me to the full-length mirror in the closet and stood behind me as I contemplated my reflection. "Explain?"

 

Valerie simply motioned to the mirror. "What do you see?"

 

"You and me," I answered. "Do the questions get harder as we go along?"

 

"I'm serious." She turned me around to face her. "What do you see when you look at me?"

 

That was easy. "I see the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth." I meant that too. Jennifer Aniston had nothing on this girl.

 

"Why thank you," she said, turning me back around. "Now what do you see when you look at yourself?"

 

"I see me standing in front of the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth."

 

"You're gorgeous, Alix."

 

Shrugging, I said, "I'm okay."

 

"Gorgeous, yet frustrating."

 

"I like to present a challenge," I replied, smiling.  I turned back to my reflection. I supposed I wasn't a complete ogre. In the right light, I even looked semi-human.

 

Smiling, I joined Valerie back on the bed. "So what are we doing tomorrow?"

 

"Packing."

 

I was confused. "Pardon?"

 

"We're going back to Florida."

 

Continued


~back to the main page~

1