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
Chapter Eight - Alix
"C'mon, Alix," Valerie was insisting. "One more. You can do one more."
I glanced at her from my position on the floor. My cheek was pressed against the cool wooden floor of Jessica's private gym. "No more push-ups," I told her. "That's enough. You are going to kill me."
"Just one more," Valerie pleaded.
She wasn't going to leave me alone. I was starting to realize this. Fine. One more. I could do one more. No problem. I got in position and prepared to lift myself up. Ugh! This was pure torture. Why would anyone subject themselves to this voluntarily? I managed to get half-way up before falling back down on my stomach. "Ouch."
Valerie nodded and sighed. "One and a half push-ups," she informed me.
"Is that bad?" I asked, sitting up.
"Are you sure you want to play this part?" she asked me. "Isn't there a role that just requires you to sit there?"
I sent her a dirty look. "Hey, I admit I'm not in shape."
"There are no words for what you are," Valerie informed me and offered a hand to help me up.
I swatted her hand away and rose on my own. If she didn't start being a little more compassionate she was going to be sorry. I was tired and cranky and she was this close to feeling my wrath. "So what now, Jet Li?"
She scratched the back of her head and stared at me. "Um, sit-ups?" she suggested.
Perhaps this had been a bad idea. There was no way I'd get in shape in three weeks. The only way I'd get this part was if I managed to transfer all of Valerie's abilities into my body and ÷ Hmm÷. "Val," I said, sitting back down on the floor. I smiled at her sweetly.
She frowned. "What do you want?"
"To talk," I said seriously, patting the empty space beside me. "Sit."
She looked a bit skeptical but complied nonetheless. "Alright. Is this just a clever ruse to get you out of doing sit-ups?"
Something like that, I admitted silently. "I was thinking that there's no way I'll be ready in three weeks."
"Are you saying you wanna give up?"
"I'm saying I think you should audition instead," I told her. "You'd be perfect."
Valerie stared at me as though I'd grown two heads. "You want me to audition for a movie?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"There's no way! I'm not an actress."
"Then you've got nothing to lose," I said seriously. I really hoped she'd take my suggestion. I was sure she'd get the part. "I really think you should do it."
"But I thought you wanted it?"
I shrugged. "I'm not going to get it," I said, knowing it was true. "So if it can't be me, I'd much prefer it to be you. C'mon, Val, you'd kick all of their asses."
To my amazement she seemed to be actually considering it. "Will you go with me?"
I smiled brightly. "Of course!"
"Are you sure about this?" Valerie asked.
"I'm positive," I assured her.
She shrugged. "I'll think about it," she said.
"I see you're getting a lot accomplished," Jessica remarked from the doorway. "How's it going?"
I rose to my feet, smiling brightly. "Great! I don't have to train anymore."
"Wow, you must be really good," Jessica told Valerie.
Valerie snorted. "Right."
"She's auditioning instead," I informed Jessica. "I convinced her."
Jessica glanced in confusion at Valerie, who simply shrugged. "Alright," she said, not quite getting it. "You guys hungry?"
"Are you cooking?" I asked her.
"Then no," I answered. I glanced at Valerie and gave her a look that I hoped conveyed how much I did not like Jessica's cooking.
"Well I'm officially offended," Jessica said. "If you guys want anything, you know where the kitchen is."
"Hey that tuna thing you made that one time wasn't half bad," I told her, hoping to make her feel better.
Jessica was confused for a moment, then she frowned. "That wasn't tuna."
"Oh." Oops. "Hey does that mean I don't have to eat healthy anymore?" I asked Valerie.
"It's your funeral," she replied.
"Good," I said. "Let's order pizza."
There are many things in life that I don't yet comprehend. Like why does Steven Tyler look so good in tight pants? And why does no one else see this? Or what is love, anyway? Is it like a chemistry thing? Or perhaps it's one of those diseases that everyone gets, like chickenpox. And why does it make me do stupid things like sit out in the beach all alone contemplating its muddled meaning?
I sat there watching the waves for a while, idly wondering the odds of the same drop of water touching the same exact spot on the sand more than once. How would one measure that? Could one put a little tracking device on a drop of water and then a sensor on the sand and ÷
"What are you doing out here?"
I didn't turn at the sound of Jessica's voice. "I'm jogging," I answered dryly. "Mental laps."
She sat beside me a moment later. "Where did Valerie go?"
"Home," I replied.
"Oh. Will you be seeing her again tonight?"
"What's with all the Valerie questions?" I asked, turning my head to look at her.
Jessica shrugged, playing with the sand. "Just curious."
I nodded, relaxing in her company. "I think she wanted to take a shower and a nap. I doubt I'll see her again tonight." I paused for a moment. "So how are you feeling about the whole thing?"
Jessica took a deep breath, staring out at the water as if the answer lay out there somewhere. "Overwhelmed, I think." She glanced at me quickly, then continued. "I'm not entirely sure how to feel."
"You guys need to sit down and talk," I said, knowing it was easier said than done. But still. "I realize your stubbornness and pride may present a problem there, but I'm pretty sure you'll manage it somehow."
Jessica frowned at me. "Stubbornness and pride?"
"Ya," I replied. "I know you're dying to know about your real parents. About your brother. About her. And even if she doesn't admit it, I know she's curious as hell about you, too. But you both insist on pretending otherwise. And why? Cause you're stubborn and proud. Must be genetic."
She was silent for a long moment. Finally, she asked, "Do you know anything about them?"
I hesitated, unsure of how much I should say. "I met Aaron."
"You did?" she asked in surprise. "And?"
I tried to remember the brief encounter to the best of my ability. "Well, he's gorgeous. But I think unlike you and Valerie he actually knows it. Or at least, flaunts it. He hit on me. And then he left."
"Wow, you sure get around with the members of this family," Jessica teased, then must've realized what she'd said because she grew slightly sad. "It's so weird. I'm curious, you're right, but I'm afraid also. I painted everything up in my mind and to be faced with the reality of it ÷ it's a lot to take in."
"I know," I said, wishing I could say something to make her feel better.
"And my parents?" she asked tentatively.
I bit my lip, unsure of what to say. "I think you should take that up with Valerie."
"I know," she admitted. "But I want to prepare myself." She stared pleadingly into my eyes. "Please."
Why did she do that? She knew I couldn't say no to her. "Well, from what I know, your mom left. Then came back. Then left again, and Valerie hasn't seen her since. But your dad is living in Boston. Valerie told me she speaks to him often."
Jessica nodded. "Thanks."
"It's weird," I told her. "Every time she tells me something about herself or her family, I forget that this is your family. That if everything hadn't happened the way it did, I would've never met you. I would've never met Valerie. It's so easy to forget that." I still wasn't sure which way Jessica would've had it better. She suffered either way, but at least had she been with her real family she would've known who she was.
It occurred to me that both Valerie and Jessica envied each other. I don't think either had any idea how much the other had suffered. But I hoped for their sake that they found out.
"So how are the two of you doing?" Jessica asked.
I allowed the change of subject, even if it wasn't so far from the original. "We're doing wonderfully," I told her, grinning to myself. "She's really great, you know?"
"I'm glad," Jessica said, smiling at me. "You deserve that."
"So, how are you and Mathew doing?" I asked, thankful that the topic no longer tore my heart to shreds.
This brought a smile to her face and I was grateful. "We're doing great. We're thinking of moving."
The news shocked me. "Moving? Where?" I couldn't imagine Jessica not living at the mansion.
Jessica shrugged. "Not sure yet. But we don't want to live here for the rest of our lives. Two people don't need a house this big."
"So what are you going to do with it? Where are you going to go?" I had so many questions I couldn't spit them out fast enough. Were they going to move far away? I'd never get to see her!
Jessica laughed. "Calm down, Al. Nothing's settled yet. We're thinking of buying a small house nearby. There's one by your mom's that's for sale. We could be neighbors."
I was honestly at a loss for words. Why would they want to give up this beautiful mansion? They were nuts. "Why don't you build one," I found myself suggesting. "By the sea, preferably."
Jessica nodded. "We talked about that too. Do you really think that would be a good idea?"
"Yes!" I said, excited all of a sudden. "You can get Valerie to help you design it. She's a great artist. You could make it really cool. Don't buy that stupid house by Mom's. I hate that house. It smells like cat pee."
Jessica started laughing. "I'll take your word for it."
"You should build one, Jess," I said seriously. "You can start everything brand new."
"We'll see," she said, nodding. "So what do you want for your birthday?"
"Honestly?" I asked.
"I want you and Mathew to be there." I really was upset that they were going to be gone for my birthday. "But since that's not going to happen, I want you to make me a promise."
Jessica stared at me. "What's the promise?"
"I want you to promise me that you will talk to Valerie," I said. "And that regardless of what happens with our relationship-hers and mine, I mean-you won't let it interfere with your relationship with her."
Jessica looked down at her hands. "That's what you want? Why?"
"Cause I know that if you don't do it for yourself, then you'll at least do it for me."
"I promise," she said, looking over at me.
"So is there anything else you want?" she asked. "Something I could perhaps purchase with my credit card?"
I laughed. "Yeah, how about one of those little islands in the Caribbean."
"If only you were serious," she said in mock sadness. "I've been dying to get you something expensive for years."
I patted her shoulder. "I would never give you the satisfaction of buying me a yacht."
She laughed. "There's gotta be something you want."
I racked my brain. "I'll take a pack of gum."
"Surprise me," I told her.
"Very well," she said. "A promise and gum it is."
I smiled. "Best birthday presents ever."
* * *
The next few days passed by in a blur. School took up most of my time. I had a lot to catch up on since I'd missed about a week's worth of work while I'd been off gallivanting in New York. Only a couple of teachers gave me a hard time about it. The others had been understanding. It still didn't mean that I didn't have to do the assignments.
Valerie started working on Tuesday and so our time together was cut even shorter. We talked on the phone a lot. She was still the only person I spent more than fifteen minutes conversing with. Every now and then I received an email from her. But it had been nearly a week since I'd last seen her. Luckily, we had plans for the weekend.
Unfortunately, it was still only Thursday and I was stuck in my dorm room attempting to memorize a scene for my acting class. It was a joint project with a playwriting class. They wrote the scenes. We acted in them. The one I'd been stuck with was bad. It was beyond bad. I was sure I'd have nightmares about it.
I was in the middle of practicing a line when there was a knock on the door. "Come in!" I called in a British accent. I don't know why.
Quite appropriately, Jade walked into the room. "How'd you know it was me?" she asked.
"I didn't. I was just being strange." I handed her the script. "Here. You're Rudolph."
"The red-nosed reindeer?"
"No," I said. "Rudolph the gorgeous yet misunderstood cowboy."
"I'm a cowboy?"
I stared at her patiently. "No. You're not a cowboy. He's a cowboy. You're a freak."
"Can I incorporate that into the character?"
"Whatever," I said. "Just read the lines.
We stood in the center of the room. I was playing Mary Sue, the gorgeous yet misunderstood barmaid who was secretly in love with Rudolph. He didn't love her back however for mysterious reasons. I suspected he was gay.
"'Howdy,'" said Jade/Rudolph, the only cowboy with a British accent. "'I've come for a drink.'" Jade frowned. "What kind of garbage is this?"
"Class project," I explained. "Some people really shouldn't be writing plays."
Jade rolled her eyes and continued. "'You are lookin' mighty fine there, Mary Sue.'"
"'Why thank you kindly,'" I said, glad I at least knew one line. "'What brings you into town today?'"
"'I was thirsty,'" responded Rudolph. Jade started laughing. Then composed herself. "'I come bearing sheep.'" She was trying desperately not to crack up.
"'They say a man's only as good as the size of his cattle,'" said Mary Sue.
That did it. Jade started laughing hysterically. "Please don't make me read this anymore," she pleaded, once she'd regained control of herself.
I took the script from her. "You're of no help. I have to have this memorized by tomorrow."
"You're acting in that?" she asked. "In front of people?"
"Well, break a foot."
Jade rolled her eyes. "Is it really that bloody important which limb it is?"
I sighed. "Breaking a leg come from bowing at the end of the show. If you get to bow it's because you did a good job."
"Wouldn't it then be break your waist?"
"Girls curtsy," I answered.
"So what do you tell a guy?"
I opened my mouth to respond but shut it again. "Never mind." I put the script aside and sat on my bed. "So what brings you by?"
"Just wanted to see how life was treating you," she responded, joining me. "How are things with Valerie? Any plans for your birthday?"
"Things are fine," I answered. "I haven't seen her in a while, though. But I get to see her tomorrow. She's taking me to Miami."
"Really? What for?"
"I'm not sure. Something about going trick-or-treating there."
Well, it was now or never. "Valerie told me," I said. "About you helping her with the whole thing."
Jade froze. Clearly she hadn't been expecting that. "Ah."
"You should've told me," I said, feeling sad. I'd figured it out in a way but the truth still hurt.
"I know," she said, looking down at the floor. "I never thought it would get so out of hand. I never thought you'd actually fall for her."
"So why did you encourage me to?"
"I don't know," she admitted, sounding sad. "I was so happy to see that you were interested in someone besides Jessica. I just wanted things to work out between you and Valerie. I knew she was lying but I guess I figured that even if you guys ended up breaking up then at least you'd be over Jessica. I really didn't think you'd fall so hard for her, Alix. When I agreed to help her, I figured the two of you would become friends at the most. And I never, not even for a moment, thought you'd actually sleep with her."
"I owed her such a huge favor," Jade continued. "I didn't know how to say no. Especially since she seemed so desperate. I'm so very sorry, Alix. Truly."
I nodded. "It's okay. I understand. I do. I wish you'd handled things differently and told me the truth from the beginning. You knew I'd understand."
"But anyway, if you hadn't done that, then Valerie and I would've never met, so in a lot of ways I'm grateful."
She hugged me, a gesture so unlike her that I was stunned for a long moment. "I love you, Al," she said. "I would never do anything to hurt you on purpose. I hope you believe that."
"I do," I said, touched and shocked at the same time.
She let go of me, clearly embarrassed. She cleared her throat. "Anyway, the reason I came over was actually to give you your birthday present."
I frowned. "But it's not until tomorrow."
Jade ran a hand through the peach fuzz she called hair. "I know, but I kind of promised this guy I'd go to this Halloween party with him tomorrow night."
"But if you don't want me to go, I won't," she said quickly.
"No, it's okay," I told her, feeling depressed. Why were they all abandoning me all of a sudden? If I didn't have Valerie I'd be spending my twenty-first birthday giving out candy to obnoxious kids dressed in Pok»mon outfits.
"He's really cute, Al," Jade told me. "I met him at the bookstore. He was in the Sci-Fi section. And I was going nuts trying to find this book I wanted to buy. And guess who was looking at it?"
"The really cute guy?" I guessed.
"Well as long as he's really cute," I said, not feeling any better at all. But I was an actress after all, so I could pretend otherwise. I wasn't about to ruin Jade's night. "So where's the present?"
"Oh right," Jade said, and dug into her bookbag. "Here you go."
She handed me a wrapped object which appeared to be a book. I tore the wrapper off and blinked at the cover. "The Joys of Lesbian Sex."
Jade was grinning widely. "You're welcome. I had to buy it used because I think it's out of print. But I tracked it down."
"Well don't fret, I wiped it off," she assured me. "Do you like it?"
I smiled. "Yes, thank you." I wasn't sure whether to laugh or blush.
Jade stood. "Well I've gotta run. I'll call you on Saturday and maybe we can get together and celebrate your birthday?"
"Sure," I said.
"Hope you have a good one," she said. She waved and disappeared into the hall.
I looked down at the new addition to my collection of classics. I was too embarrassed to open it, so I just put it aside for later.
I picked up the script and returned to memorizing the stupid lines. A few minutes later, the door opened and Nicole walked in.
"Hey," she greeted.
"Howdy," I said. Perhaps the play was getting to me already. I needed a break. "Hey, do you want to come shopping with me?"
"What for?" Nicole asked, her surprise showing. We never did anything together.
"I need a costume for tomorrow."
"Got a party?"
"I'm going tick-or-treating," I replied proudly.
"How old are you?" Nicole asked, laughing. "Yeah, I'll go with you. I should probably pick one up myself. There's a few parties on campus I'll probably be crashing."
"Excellent," I said. "I'm not sure what I should be. A witch ÷a princess ÷ a vampire ÷ an elf."
"Straight," Nicole suggested.
I laughed. "Nah, I couldn't pull that off."
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