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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Five ā Valerie
my plan to leave everything behind went full-circle and landed me right back
where I started and I wasn't entirely certain how that had occurred. There were
many things over the past few weeks that I couldn't quite explain. Like when did
awkward silences give way to endless conversations? And how did 'I had a nice
time' suddenly start meaning 'I love you'? I couldn't pinpoint the exact moment
where dull aches turned into a searing pain at the thought of never being with
her, yet looking back I can't recall what it was like when I didn't know her.
clouds outside of the airplane window stretched out endlessly in a playground of
possibilities. I wondered what it was about the sky that made everything seem
possible. Perhaps the lack of boundaries, the presence of illusion that made the
clouds appear more solid than they were. That's
how I'd once imagined love to be, an illusion.
glanced over at the slumbering form beside me and felt the skip of my heart at
the mere sight of her. It was unnerving yet exciting and I thought again of the
tattoo on my skin and how I'd failed at living by its example. I'd thought
myself strong for avoiding the weakening grasp love always seemed to have on
those unlucky enough to fall for it s deceiving allure. But now I saw myself as
far more of a coward for running from the fear of heartbreak. Facing it was, by
far, the greater challenge. I just hoped
I was a strong enough candidate for the job.
stirred in the seat, her green eyes slowly opening. "Was I snoring?"
she asked with concern.
" I lied. "For a while I thought it was the engine. I thought for sure
we were going to crash."
slapped my arm. "Not funny."
rubbed away the tingle her touch had left on my arm, pretending instead that she
had hurt me with her sad attempt at inflicting pain. "Sleep well?"
always sleep like a baby on planes," she responded with a yawn. "I
don't know why I'm so sleepy."
because you were up all night watching movies?" I suggested casually.
But I think it had more to do with the fact that you kept kicking me."
kick you?" I cried, shocked that she would have the audacity to suggest
such a thing. "Do you want to see the bruises on my leg? You were probably
a donkey in another life."
donkeys kick?" she asked, the original argument momentarily forgotten.
leaned forward in her seat beside Alix. "Rabbits kick hard."
sent her a questioning glance, that was voiced when Alix said, "What the
rabbit kicked me really hard once!" Jade argued, rubbing a spot on her
frowned. "I don't want to know why the rabbit was close enough to kick you
in the chin."
a complicated story," Jade stated simply. "Your simple minds would
God," Alix mumbled.
finished my Booty Bird poem last night," Jade remarked proudly. "Want
to hear it?"
God no," Alix said quickly.
leaned forward so she could see me. "Val?"
sent me a pleading look which was far too cute to refuse. "Ah, maybe later,
Jade," I told her.
sat back, resigned. "Well fine. But when it becomes a hit song and I'm rich
and famous you'll both be sorry."
take my chances." Alix put on her headphones and started pressing buttons
on her Discman. I guessed she was listening to the new Aerosmith CD she'd picked
up at the last minute. I was surprised there was one she hadn't yet owned.
followed Alix's example and put on her headphones as well.
I turned once again to the view from my window. Such pretty patterns hovering
over nothingness, breaking apart, breaking free of themselves and drifting
nowhere. I contemplated the designs, attempting to find meaning in the
meaningless forms floating with slow progression. I wondered briefly if clouds had any sense of self and if,
like us, they basked in overrated self-glory. Did they realize they were going
in circles? Did we?
took Alix's hand in mine, amazed as always by the softness of her skin. Then I
settled back in the seat and closed my eyes, succumbing to the safety and
comfort her touch provided.
arrived at MIA shortly thereafter, and I was surprised to find Jessica waiting
for us at the gate. Her presence made me feel terribly uneasy. I felt better
when I saw that she looked equally surprised to see me walk out behind Alix.
two of them hugged, and I stood by awkwardly, looking around as though strangers
walking about were the most interesting thing in the world.
guess the mission was a success," Jessica commented, glancing at me. I
couldn't determine how she felt about the fact, but she seemed pleased that Alix
was then I remembered my hair, and felt suddenly self-conscious. It was an
irritating feeling, one that left me feeling more angry than annoyed. Why should
I feel embarrassed? But the feeling remained even after we left the gate and
stood by the carousel awaiting our bags. If this persisted, I was going to be
forced to do something drastic. I could shave it all off, for instance. I was
sure that at least Jade would
support my decision.
my bag if it comes around," Alix said to me. "I've gotta run to the
little nun's room."
followed suit, leaving Jessica and I alone.
tried not to clear my throat or make any other sound that would give away my
discomfort. I tried instead to busy my head with plans of action. Like how I was
going to get a car now that I'd sold the other one, for instance. I stared
pleadingly at the line of bags cruising by, hoping one of them would turn into
one of ours so that I would have something else to do besides stand there in
Jessica said, "What made you come back?"
sure you know the answer to that," I replied.
nodded. "Good reason."
she is," I agreed, wondering if this was going anywhere or if she just
wanted to kill time until Alix and Jade returned.
left on purpose," Jessica informed me, looking over at me with her usual
I glanced in the direction they had left. "How do you know?"
Alix only says 'little nun's room' when she's up to something."
to know," I replied, slightly jealous that Jessica should know something
about Alix that I didn't. Reminding myself that they'd been best friends for
years didn't make me feel any better. I had to get over this. "So what do
you suppose she's up to?"
Jessica answered simply. "Us talking."
I said, not knowing what else to say.
turned to me, regarding me with a serious expression. "What would you be
willing to give for Alix?"
sorry?" I asked. Did she want me to trade her for something? I was
happiness, how much is that worth to you?"
you trying to buy me off again?" I asked, feeling my rage rising.
my surprise, Jessica laughed. "Calm down," she said and her voice
wasn't mocking so I did. A little. "I'm asking you if Alix's happiness is
enough to make you forsake your pride?"
wasn't entirely sure where she was going with this, but I knew the answer to the
question. "I would give anything to ensure Alix's happiness."
nodded, seemingly pleased. "So would I."
know," I told her, knowing it to be so.
studied me quietly for a moment, then asked, "Will you join me for lunch
invitation shocked me, but I willed it not to show. "Will Alix be
Just the two of us."
mauled the idea over in my head. Then I thought of her question about me
forsaking my pride and I instantly knew why she asked. "What time?"
Is Chili's okay with you?"
If I can get there. I sold my car before I left." I have no idea why I told
pick you up then." She seemed to debate something over in her head, then
asked, "Do you have a place to stay?"
be at the same apartment," I replied, thankful that I didn't have to lie.
I'd never needed anyone before and I wasn't about to start asking Jessica Heart
nodded and said, "I'll pick you up at one then. Here they come. Act as if
we've been standing here in silence the whole time."
resumed my award winning brooding look just in time to see Alix and Jade round
the corner. Jade carried a bag in one hand from a recent purchase. Alix carried
a matching one.
having a sale?" I asked.
Alix responded. "Toilet paper ÷
hand soap ÷ you name it. Quite the bargains too."
I missed it." I smiled at her.
smiled back, instantly making me forget that Jessica and Jade were both there,
watching our interplay with disguised interest. "I'm sure you can still
catch it," she replied.
nodded to the bag. "So what'd you buy me? Toilet paper or hand soap?"
She handed the bag over. "Enjoy."
was a magazine with Catherine Zeta Jones on the cover. "Oooh÷.
Purdy," I said, petting the picture.
when I remembered that Jessica and Jade were still there.
never thought I would miss Florida but the moment I caught sight of the ocean, I
knew it felt good to be back. So far it had been an overly productive day. I'd
returned from New York, gotten my apartment back, gotten my old job back, and
last but not least ÷ I'd made a lunch date with Jessica.
knew one could accomplish so many things in the course of a few hours? I still
didn't have a car but that was something better left until tomorrow. For now I
was content to sit on the sand and stare at the rapidly darkening waters of the
I'll have to add this to my list of places to find you."
smiled at the voice and turned to find Alix walking toward me. "How did you
know I would be here?" I asked, pleasantly surprised. We'd parted ways a
few hours prior with no plans for the remainder of the night.
took a seat beside me and stared straight ahead. "I didn't. I was on my way
back to my car when I saw you sitting here. Lucky for me you're pretty easy to
for me too," I said, feeling happy all of a sudden. We sat there quietly
for a few minutes, enjoying the cool breeze blowing in from the ocean and
reveling in the beauty of sunsets. But I was curious, so I broke the silence.
"So, what brings you by?"
things," Alix said. "First of all, I wanted to know if you were
okay÷ being back and all?"
shrugged, then leaned back on my elbows. "Aside from not having a car,
everything's good. I got my job back at Whispers."
was worried about how much you gave up before you left here," she said, a
bit shyly. "I didn't want you to be homeless or something."
concern made me smile. "I wouldn't have returned then."
nodded. "What are you going to do about getting a car?"
know yet," I admitted. "I suppose I can buy one. I'll be working more
hours at Whispers now that I won't be going to school part-time."
caught her attention and she looked at me with concern. "You dropped
don't really have the time right now."
frowned at this. "You should always make time to do something you
still be painting," I assured her. "Just can't deal with school right
now. Maybe next semester."
nodded and absently played with the sand. I could tell she was attempting to
find the courage to say something. Finally, she asked, "Are you still
question surprised me. I hadn't thought about it in a while. It had been a nice
thought ÷ but it had never been one I'd honestly expected to go through with.
"I don't know," I told her. It was my turn to hesitate. "I
suppose it would be up to you."
to me?" she asked in confusion, the sand momentarily forgotten. "Why
up to me?"
I don't know if you would still want me to go there," I explained. The last
thing I wanted was for Alix to think I was trying to suffocate her. I didn't
want to seem clingy.
would love for you to go there!" she said, and her voice carried with it
such resolve that I found myself smiling.
I guess IŪm still considering it," I told her.
she replied, then resumed playing with the sand. After a few moments of silence
she said, "The other reason I came by was to ask a strange favor of
eyebrows rose at the comment. "Alright?"
appeared a bit embarrassed as she turned to address me directly, but her
embarrassment was not enough to conceal her excitement. "I got a call from
my agent about this audition that's coming up in a few weeks. It's for a film
set in Miami. Anyway, the lead role is a girl who's a martial artist and they
are looking for someone who already has some knowledge in the area. So I was
wondering if ÷ uh ÷" She trailed off momentarily. "If you could
help train me," she finished quickly.
was probably the last thing I'd expected to hear, but I welcomed the surprise.
"Sounds like a great opportunity," I told her.
stared at me expectantly.
almost laugh at the look on her face. "Of course I'll help you," I
told her. "I'd be honored to. Just remember to thank me when you're
accepting your first Academy Award."
laughed and hugged me tightly. And I knew at that moment that she could've asked
for my left arm and I would've gladly given it to her.
what's good here?" I asked, looking down at the Chili's menu.
True to her word, Jessica had picked me up at precisely one o'clock. I'd
been surprised to see that she drove a red Camaro. For some reason I'd expected
a Ferrari or Lamborghini or even a limousine. I doubted I'd ever understand this
always get the chicken fajitas," Jessica answered. "But besides that,
I have no idea."
then," I said, scanning the contents on the menu for something that looked
appealing. Truth be told, my stomach was in so many knots I doubted very much
I'd be able to eat anything I ordered. After much debating, I finally settled on
a salad. I wasn't sure which one. I just pointed to something on the list when
the waitress came to take the order. It was only when she asked what kind of
dressing I wanted that I realized it was a salad.
we were once again alone, I struggled to think of something to say. Finally, I
settled on speaking what was on my mind. "Why did you ask me to
sat back in the chair, as if my question required deep contemplation. After a
few seconds she said, "I'm not sure," she said. The way she said it
made it seem like a confession. And I supposed it was on some level.
spoke to me already about hurting Alix, if that's what you wanted to talk
about," I told her.
shook her head. "I know you won't hurt her."
I asked, surprised that she could sound so certain of something that even I
wasn't altogether sure of.
came back," she said simply. "I didn't think you would."
is hard to resist," I told her with a shrug. I looked down, feigning
interest in the pattern of the tiles. "I only left becauseů" I
stopped abruptly, remembering who I was talking to. I had no intention of
opening up to her.
hard for you, isn't it?" Jessica inquired.
is?" I asked, avoiding her gaze.
me as a human being," Jessica replied sadly.
tone forced me to look up at her. "No," I said. "What's hard is
wanting to hate you and not being sure why."
wasn't my fault," she stated, and the way she halted slightly between words
made me realize that it had taken her a long time to come to terms with that
suddenly felt ashamed to realize that I hadn't made that much progress. I blamed
her for something that had been completely out of her control. What was I
jealous of exactly? "I know," I said, surprised that I found myself
speaking. "Maybe I have trouble accepting that sometimes÷ but I do know
nodded, suddenly at a loss. "I'm not entirely sure where to go on from
here," she admitted. "When Alix told me you'd left, I was selfishly
glad that I wouldn't have to deal with this issue. I could just pretend it had
never happened. Denial is easier."
nodded, not wanting to interrupt incase there was more she wanted to say.
then I saw how sad Alix looked and how determined she was to find you and I was
torn between wishing to never see you again and hoping you'd change your mind
and come bursting through the door." She sighed. "I'm glad you came
Alix?" I guessed.
nodded. "Mostly," she agreed. Then she shrugged. "But I think for
absorbed this information quietly, unsure of what it meant exactly, but willing
to give whatever it was a try. "Can I ask you something? And you don't have
to answer if you don't want to."
said at the airport that you would give anything for Alix's happiness. You knew
she was in love with you. Why didn't you ÷" I left the rest hang in the
air. I hoped she got my meaning.
I'm not good enough for her," she responded easily.
you do love her," I said, my heart sinking slightly.
much so," she admitted. "But some things are just not meant to
sat back in the chair, feeling defeated. If Jessica didn't find herself worthy
of Alix, then why should I? Perhaps I should've stayed in New York after all.
Allowed Alix to get on with her life, find someone who deserved her love.
you're thinking, please stop," Jessica commented. "You look seriously
pained at the moment. Look, I wasn't trying to imply that you're not good enough
for her. That's not why I said that."
do you think I'm good enough for her?" I asked, locking our gazes.
smiled. "I don't think I'll ever think anyone is good enough for her,"
she said. "But she seems to think you're worth dropping everything for÷
and that's good enough for me."
food arrived then, interrupting the flow of conversation. I was pleased to note
that my appetite had returned and the salad before me looked mighty tasty. I
glanced at Jessica who was busy assembling her fajita. It looked like quite the
some point during the course of our meal, I found myself asking, "Were you
surprised that she forgave me?"
looked up from her food, an amused expression on her face. "Frustrated,
yes. But not surprised. I knew she'd forgive you."
did you know that?"
she forgave me."
was starting to feel like a conversation with Jessica was a game of twenty
questions. Why couldn't she answer something directly? "What did you do
that required her forgiveness?"
sad expression fell over her features. "You can ask her to tell you the
story. I don't want to get into it."
left it at that, returning to my salad.
is coming up next week," Jessica said casually.
realized then that she was testing me. "So what are you getting her?"
am I getting whom?" she asked innocently.
for her birthday," I clarified, though she knew exactly what I meant.
smiled. "Good. You know when her birthday is. That's always a good
a moment I thought she was patronizing me, but then I realized she was merely
joking around. I relaxed a bit.
throwing her a surprise birthday party this weekend, if you're interested in
me in." If it involved Alix, I was gladly there.
The word seemed so strange coming from her lips that I found myself laughing. I almost stopped myself ÷ but didn't. From here on end everything would be different. I would be different. And change would start here. Right now.
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