From the Journal
My name is Liz Parker and I'm a skank.
Well, maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Technically I haven't done anything wrong yet. But I started something -- and now I wish I could take it back. But I sort of don't, either.
It just seemed like the best time to do it. I can't believe I wrote "best". How can this be anything but the worst possible thing I could ever do?
But the Evans' were all going to the Grand Canyon for Spring Break. No Max. No Isabel. And when I found out that Maria and her mom would be visiting relatives in Denver, something in me -- I don't know. It was like this other persona took over. A wild version of me. I suddenly felt free and "unwatched."
You know how you don't realize the situation you're in until you're not in it anymore? I mean, the absence of a certain condition is how you know the condition existed? I didn't really realize how much Max and Maria have been watching me, my every move, until they both left town. All of a sudden I feel like a lab rat or a bacterium set free. Well, that can't be good.
Even Isabel. It's a relief to know she can't invade my dreams like Max said she does. Some nights I can't even get to sleep because I'm worried she's going to "visit" me in the night, like a ghost in a haunted house. Now she's too far away.
The only one who isn't watching me is him. Well, true, he did steal and read my diary. But ever since he gave it back to me and sort of gave me his "approval" I haven't felt anything from him at all. I mean, anything invasive or like he's still watching me or doesn't trust me.
I haven't felt anything from him, but I've felt something for him lately. And that's why I sent him the email.
God, what a stupid thing to do!
It's one of those things you do and then realize how utterly dumb it is even in the very second that you click on the send button. You want to stop. In your head you're going "don't, don't, don't" but you're moving the mouse and the arrow is getting closer, closer and then "click!" It's done.
I sent it to his Hotmail address. I know he doesn't have a computer, but he checks his email like at the Public Library and at the computer lab at school. And he uses Max's computer. He does a lot of research and stuff on the internet. So I knew he'd get it. But when? I can't believe I didn't think this through! The school's closed for a week so he won't be able to use the Computer Lab. And if Max is gone then he won't be using his computer. And what if he opens it when Max is around? I can't even think about that.
So I'm relying on him to go to the Public Library this week and read my email. It may seem like a low probability, given that his options are reduced from three down to one. But somehow I know him well enough to have a hunch deep down inside that he will see it, and relatively soon.
I know him. He's a seeker, like me. Max is a seeker, too. But different. He's seeking so he can meet whatever it is and dissolve it -- make it go away. Bring everything back to the status quo. Michael's a seeker because he wants to embrace whatever it is. He's more like a scientist and an explorer. I understand that. He must have seen that part of me when he read my journal. That's why I feel this connection with him.
I just had to see if he felt it too, or if it was all in my head. But I can't help but feel like I'm betraying Max.
With Maria gone, Liz would be working double shifts all week. That was ok, because it meant twice the money. But it would be an exhausting week, and for Liz, no vacation.
The Crashdown Café was busy from the get go. Most of her friends were gone during the spring break, but Roswell, New Mexico was a destination for others taking the week off. The place was packed, and it was only her first shift on only the first day, Monday.
The crowd was noisy, and the smell of coffee was everywhere. The little bell above the door rang every few seconds. The grill in the kitchen sizzled and spat with the eggs, hasbrowns and bacon cooking on it, and Jaime, the new short order cook, yelled "Order up!" about every two minutes. Liz's arms were weighted down with plates of food, and she ran her legs off trying to keep everybody's coffee cup filled. She knew she'd mixed up decaf and regular more than once, but oh well. She doubted anyone would notice.
Even Sheriff Valenti came and went with hardly her noticing. He hadn't seemed so threatening this morning, just came in to get his thermos filled with coffe, black. She was relieved for Max's sake that, at least for one week, he was out of the Sheriff's reach.
In the back of her mind, though, as busy as it got, she kept thinking about Michael and the email she'd sent him. It was all she could do to keep from running upstairs every five minutes to see if she had a little red envelope showing next to the words "check mail." If it wasn't so busy, she'd probably be glued to her computer waiting for his reply.
Around 10:30, her mother gave her a break and took over Liz's station for her. She ran upstairs, but slowed as she approached her bedroom. She didn't want to appear overanxious. Appear to whom? She casually walked into her bathroom and splashed some water on her face. It was so easy to feel greasy after you've been working in a greasy spoon for a few hours. She carefully kept herself from looking at the computer.
She sat on the edge of her bed and looked at the Bryn Mawr catalog she got in the mail the other day. Hmmm. Nice campus. Excellent teachers. Wow, look at that lab. She put the catalog down and stretched her arms high above her head.
"Well, I better get back." I'll just check my email real quick before I go.
She double clicked the blue e on her desktop and logged on to My Yahoo. ID: Crashdowner. Password: Einstein. The blue and green custom screen came up. Check Mail: No red envelope.
Her heart sank. Then she remembered the library wouldn't be open until 11:00. She kept her computer running and minimized her mailbox -- that way it would take less time to check her mail.
Then she grabbed her antenae and went back downstairs.
From the Journal
I've got to get a grip. Ok. So he didn't answer my email. And he didn't come in to the café. That could mean that he hasn't read my message yet. He may have some other important stuff to do this week.
What Stuff???!!! He's probably sitting around the trailer watching Family Feud while Hank is passed out on the couch.
OK Liz Parker. Are you mad at him now? That's great. You poured your heart out to him in seven words and now you're angry? No wonder Michael avoids women whenever possible. They're an experiment you can't control.
That's an interesting observation. I was feeling controlled by Max and Maria. Am I just turning to another control freak? He really keeps a tight hold on his life. Why not? It's always threatening to fly out of control every second.
But underneath it all, I have this feeling about him, that he lets his guard down when the circumstances are right. Or when he's with the right person. I don't think Maria's the right person.
Ugh! I can never let Maria see this ever! I can't believe I'm saying this about my best friend. But the truth is, I don't think she understands him. I think I do.
Tuesday was only a little less busy than Monday had been, but not by much. Liz was about halfway through her second shift, which today was the lunch shift, and finally not thinking so much about Michael and the email.
That's when he walked in.
He sauntered up to the counter, taking in the whole room quickly without hardly moving his head. Most people just walked up to the counter stool and plunked themselves down. Michael stalked it like a cat and then slid over the top of it. He looked directly at Liz.
Liz saw him staring and her heart went into her throat and pounded there like a frightened mouse trapped in a corner. She grabbed the coffee pot for something to do.
"Want some coffee?" she asked him.
"No. Coke." he said. "Uh?please."
She put the pot back on the warmer and shoved crumbly ice loudly into a glass. Her hand started to shake. She closed her eyes and willed it to stop while she poured coke from the dispenser into the glass. She handed it to Michael with a paper-wrapped straw clinging to the condensation on the outside of the glass. Looking around at the crowd, she quietly slid a small bottle of Tabasco sauce across the counter towards him.
"Thanks," he said, and shook a few drops into his glass.
Liz's mind was racing because, of course, her only thought was that he'd read her email and was here to respond.
But Michael was cool. He turned around, facing the straggling lunch crowd and leaned his back against the counter. Liz grabbed a cloth and started wiping the counter. Two could play at the cool game, although she knew she was out of her league with Michael.
"So. Whatcha been doing?" Liz asked.
Michael swung the stool around and faced her across the counter. His steel blue eyes peered through slits at first, then his face relaxed and he looked down at his Coke.
"Loading trucks for a guy Hank knows. It's just for this week."
"Oh." Liz responded awkwardly. Why was she at a loss for words? Because he wasn't saying anything to her about her email and her innermost thoughts. Oh, right. He wasn't going to say anything here, in the café. So what was he up to? Checking her out?
"Well. I gotta go." Michael said abruptly.
Liz started to fluster. That couldn't be it. As he rose from the stool, she made a clumsy attempt.
"Michael!. Um. With everybody gone and all. I was thinking. Um, maybe we should go do something, you know, like go to the movies. Or something."
He looked at her with a look she'd never seen before. It was as if he'd just been slapped across the face. Then she actually saw his cheeks flush and he looked down at his boots. Just as quickly, his cheeks became ashen, as if he had made the blood obey him and return to its proper duties.
"I have to get up pretty early every morning this week. I probably shouldn't stay up late. See ya."
And he was gone. The sound of the bell above the door as he left stayed in her ears the rest of the day.
From the Journal
Well, I guess I got my answer today. Now I'm going to have to face him everyday at school and around Max! and know that he knows that I had/have a stupid schoolgirl crush on him. I'm in hell. Now I can't wait more than ever to get out of here and go to school back east or to Oxford or to the Sorbonne. As far from Michael as I can get. Where did I ever get the stupid idea that he would feel the same way about me?
Wednesday came and went, busy with vacationers again. Working two shifts a day kept her mind occupied, but it was beginning to wear thin, money or not. So on Thursday, Liz was relieved when her mom offered to take one of her shifts.
"You can have your choice. I know you need the extra pay for your college fund, but if you want, I'll take your dinner shift tonight and give you a break."
"Thanks, Mom. I think I'll take the evening off. You sure you don't mind?"
It was settled. Liz sat in the lawn chaise on the roof feeling the softness of the spring air. The white Christmas lights twinkled all around her against the moonless night. Just the week before it had rained for days, and the last cold blast had swept down from the north, the fireworks finale of winter. Now, she smelled daphne and sweet pea on the warm breeze. She had her red journal open on her lap, but she couldn't write.
She heard something on the fire escape. The clank clank of heavy steps on the metal ladder rungs, someone bigger than Maria or Max whose steps she'd learned to recognize.
The scruffy top of Michael's head appeared. Then he pulled himself onto the roof and stood looking at her. Liz's heart went into overdrive.
"Uh, is it OK?I mean, can I come -- in?"
Michael took it all in, Liz's sanctuary on the roof. He'd heard about it plenty of times, but he never thought he'd ever see it for himself. Not until the other day.
"I got your email," he said.
She thought she saw Michael wince. She wanted to jump up and comfort him, wrap her arms around him and apologize for being insensitive.
She was stuck to the lawn furniture like cement. Michael walked towards her and picked up the journal. She gave no resistance.
"We're old friends, Liz," he said. She looked at him, puzzled. She never thought of her and Michael as friends, let alone old ones.
"The book and me," he continued. She felt something stir in her heart, now that he laid claim to her journal. It was as though he laid claim to her. Love me, love my book.
He flipped open to the most recent writing. He chuckled softly, but Liz had no way of knowing it was the part about having a schoolgirl crush. Then his face turned serious.
"I know what hell is," he said closing the journal and handing it to Liz. She now knew the part he'd been reading.
"Did you mean that, what you said in the email?" he asked.
Liz looked down at her hands in her lap.
Michael took one step and suddenly stood over her. He wrapped his hands around both her wrists and pulled her up to him hard, swinging her off the chaise and letting her toes just barely touch the ground. Her journal fell to the ground.
"Then we're in deep shit, Liz." She felt his warm breath on her mouth as he spoke. Then his full lips pressed against hers and a hot blur filled her head. Her fingers tingled. Her groin ached. Her knees melted. She started to sink, but Michael caught her, putting his arms around her waist and holding her closer to him. He kissed her harder, deeper, then they both pulled away and gasped for air.
A decision hung suspended between them. Liz looked into his eyes and she knew what he wanted. He wanted her. But it was different than the drowning man kind of look of need that she had seen in Max's eyes. It was the look of a man who had already drowned, and found another mate in the water with him. He wasn't looking for a saviour. He was looking for a peer. All of this took miliseconds and she knew the way the decision would go.
"Liz?" he asked.
"Yes, Michael. Yes." She answered.
They kissed again, hungrily, noisely. Deeply they probed with their tongues, then drunkenly kissed each other's cheeks, ears, closed eyes. Sometimes they kissed and kept their eyes open. Liz welcomed him with the softness of her brown eyes and seemed to blossom in his arms. Michael assured her by the oceans in his eyes that he had everything he could want right here and now.
Liz slid her hands up Michael's bare back under his work shirt, while he began to unbutton her pajama top. He half kissed, half spoke, moving his mouth against hers.
"I don't think this is a crush," he rasped.
"Michael --" she held his hands and he stopped unbuttoning her. "I'm not ready -- not ready for --"
"I know," he whispered into her ear and kissed her gently.
Liz felt waves of passion and safekeeping wash over her. She trusted him, knew he would listen to her. It made her braver, and she took his hand and led him towards the window that opened to her bedroom. He went willingly.
He kicked his shoes under the bed and she slipped off her flip flops. They laid down on top of the covers and awkwardly faced each other in new territory.
"What about your parents?" he asked.
"They're pretty busy tonight."
He kissed her. She reached her arms up to circle his neck and draw him closer. The tops of her pale breasts swelled out of the wider opening he'd made by unbutonning her top. He bent down and kissed them.
"How did you know?"
Michael looked up at her beatiful face framed by her dark brown hair.
"After I read your journal. But you didn't know then, did you."
"No," Liz answered.
"I could tell. You were still infatuated with Max. I just had to wait. I knew you'd figure him out eventually."
"Waiting's a bitch."
"Liz Parker! You kiss your mother with that mouth?"
"No. I kiss you."
From the Journal
Here's another state I didn't know I was in until I wasn't in it anymore. I was in the state of never having been in love before. Now that I know what it really feels like to be in love, I know, I was never in love before. I want to stand out on the roof and shout, I love you Michael Guerin! But I'll whisper it in his ear tonight when I see him again.
Adrenaline shot through Liz like meth. Through two shifts, breakfast and lunch, she'd been unstoppable. And when she wasn't smiling at the customers and juggling all their orders on one arm, she was humming softly to herself.
She started watching the clock about a quarter after two. She was off at 3:00. She would shower and really pamper herself in the bathroom, then put on a pretty strappy red dress she had and curl her hair. She wanted to look really hot for her first official date with Michael. She knew he probably wouldn't even change from work. But that was Michael. She loved even that part about him. No one was going to tell him how to be. And she certainly wasn't going to try to "reform" him. That wasn't love.
She was ready way too soon -- he wasn't supposed to get there till around 6:00, and the movie didn't start till 7:10. But a quarter after five the phone rang. Liz's mom called to her from downstairs.
"Liz! Phone for you!"
Liz picked up the phone and waited to hear Michael's voice. She heard it, but something was wrong.
"Uh, Liz, um. Did you know that Max is back?" Michael said slowly.
Liz went numb.
"But -- they weren't supposed to be back till tomorrow."
"I know. We probably shouldn't go to the movies tonight."
"Well, you could still come over here," Liz suggested, trying to put a lightness in her voice. She knew what the answer would be though.
"Liz -- I think we may have made a mistake."
He continued, but Liz didn't hear. She just knew that he was breaking off what had been so wonderful. Something about needing to be unhindered. Keeping focused.
"I'm sorry, but I --"
"You're right Michael," Liz broke in disjointedly. "See ya. Bye." She hung up the phone and walked upstairs to her bedroom. She shut the door.
A couple weeks after all this it was really hot in Roswell. A freakish heat wave sent the temperature up past 100 degrees for several days in a row. One night, when Liz and Maria were closing, Michael came in. Liz was in the back. She heard the little bell over the door ring and wanted to see if Maria was all right out front. She stuck her head up to look through the pass-through and saw the two of them, Michael and Maria, getting hot and heavy by the counter.
Liz was horrified. Hurt. Confused. She felt so stupid. All of this registered on her face, and Michael, still kissing Maria turned and opened his eyes and looked straight at her, straight at Liz, while Maria held onto him and kissed him passionately. He saw the look on Liz's face, and then closed his eyes again.
Liz patiently struggled through the next few days. Maria was buzzing -- vibrating -- after that night. She was so excited because Michael Guerin was in love with her, or so she thought. But a few nights later, he broke up with her.
That was the same night that Liz decided to go to a party with Max. She knew it was a bad idea because of how Max felt about her. But she wondered if she had made a mistake with him, maybe she should give him another chance. That night after being hit on by a creep and nearly blown up by faulty wiring and arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol and sitting in jail for three hours, she finally kissed Max.
If it had been right to be with Max, she would have known it then. But there was nothing for her. He was expressive, gentle, caring, even loving. But it wasn't like Michael. There was no chemistry, no fire. She still didn't know Max, and she knew -- she knew -- Michael, even before they kissed. And he knew her soul, she was positive about that.
When she found out later that Michael had broken up with Maria, she was angry. Why was he playing these head games with both of them? She got on the phone with Max.
"What's going on with him?" Liz asked.
"I don't know," Max answered. "He seems really -- confused lately."
"Did he say why he did it? Why he broke up with her?" Liz asked.
"He just said it was a conflict of interest."
The next day Liz was sitting on her bed when the bell rang on her computer and there was a little red envelope by the words "Check Mail."
Liz checked the time. It was just six o'clock. The library was closed. She went out on the roof and waited. Soon she heard the heavy footfalls of a tall man climbing the metal rungs of the ladder leading to Liz.