by Brad Fondak
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, settings, etc… They are
all property of Warner Brothers, Pocket Books, etc… ©1998, 1999, 2000 and so
on. I am just renting them for the purpose of the below story.
Summary: It’s the last week of school, but finals aren’t the only problems facing the group. A new visitor is raising their suspicion, causing the crew to react to find out more about what they have to fear, and what their mission is.
Authors Note: This is the second part to the story started in “Aftermath”. So you may be a little lost if you don’t look at that one first. That being said, it’s not a direct sequel. It’s more like two episodes in a row. Since it’s written like an episode, all plotlines are not necessarily all tied up neatly here. This particular story has sequel written all over it though, so if you are interested in seeing this continued, let me know.
The Crashdown was busy. The summer tourist season had arrived, and the crush of UFO aficionados and other such people were crowding the small café.
MARIA: Tell me this isn’t going to be like this all summer. I don’t think I can deal.
LIZ: You were here last year. You know.
MARIA: Yeah…but humor me anyway. (a beat) Liz, we have to study…
LIZ: Don’t you think that I don’t know that? I mean, with all that’s been going on, schoolwork has been kind of in second place.
MARIA: I’m sure you’ll be fine. You can do this stuff in your sleep, but I need some quality time with the books.
Mr. Parker broke them out of their conversation.
MR. PARKER: Ladies, while I appreciate your dedication to your studies…there’s a whole restaurant filled with hungry people.
LIZ: Yes, dad.
They set back to work, getting some food up from the back.
Just then, Max walked in. He sat in the one booth that was unoccupied, right near the door. Liz dreaded it. He had ‘stopped by’ as it were every day since the last time they spoke, whenever she was working. So far, she had been able to avoid him, pass him off to one of the other waitresses. But, she was sitting smack in her section today. She would need to get creative.
She was so afraid that she would cave to his constant, well, his constant presence. She loved him, and knew that he loved her, but it wasn’t enough, couldn’t be enough. It just couldn’t work. She had to tell herself that, or she wouldn’t be able to deal. It was hard enough, being apart. But his constant appearances to try to get her to change her mind were only making it worse.
MARIA: You want me to take it?
Maria, who had been watching her while she served a full plate of UFO rings to some bratty kid, broke Liz from her thoughts.
LIZ: No…I have to nip this in the bud. I have to make him see that he is infuriating me. Doesn’t he realize that this isn’t helping?
Maria just let it go. She was having enough problems of her own. She had been able to get her schedule changed so that her and Michael wouldn’t have to see each other at all. Liz had let her do it, even though it had played havoc with the schedule. After their run-in at the dance, they hadn’t spoken. Not once. Maria had made absolutely sure of that. She didn’t know how long she could keep this up, but at least Michael had been his normal distant self and hadn’t tried to stop her. Just thinking of him made her mad. She paused, took out her cedar oil, and tried to calm down. She didn’ t get the chance, as another unhappy customer interrupted her.
CUSTOMER: I’d like my burger today…
MARIA: (biting her tongue) one second…
Liz walked over to Max.
LIZ: So what would you like?
MAX: I don’t know…maybe a grilled cheese, yeah, and a Coke…
Liz just stared blankly, unable to concentrate, as Max continued.
MAX: So…how are things?
LIZ: Uhh…fine…you know (a pause) Finals coming up. Just studying.
MAX: Yeah…(a pause) that’s good.
LIZ: So…how about you?
MAX: (a pause) you know, the same. Everything’s good.
The whole conversation seemed like it took an hour. There was so much that they both wanted to say, but neither of them could do it. Liz was just like, “So this is how it’s going to be”. She missed him so much, missed spending time with him. Now they couldn’t even talk for more than five seconds without running out of things to say. This couldn’t go on, she told herself, just couldn’t. It was too much.
LIZ: Well, I have to get back to work. Your food will be up in a few.
Liz went back to give his order back to the kitchen. Max’s eyes followed her as she walked back. What have I done, he thought. It was like every nightmare he had had was coming true. Back at the beginning of the school year, when he first saved Liz, and when he resisted getting closer to her, he worried constantly about what would happen if he broke her heart. It was why he hadn’t gotten together with her sooner, and now it had happened. He had told Liz that saving her was when his life had begun. He meant that, he truly did. But had he made a mistake? He had been second-guessing himself constantly since they had received the message from his mother, and she had walked away from him, and it was only getting worse. He didn’t even know why he came here anymore. Before it had been a treat to spend time just being near her, but now it was like torture. She was right, nothing had changed, and he was just going to have to live with that. But that didn’t mean he had to like it.
Max stared out the window, down the busy street. He saw an odd convertible, with New York plates, pull up to the parking lot in the town square, and a guy in his early to mid-twenties, with a black ponytail, get out and walk back toward the UFO Center. Something just made him stand out. It was just a feeling. But he had learned to trust his feelings, especially in the past year. He had to go to work in a few minutes, so he could keep an eye on him, maybe give his overactive imagination something else to do. He had split his Liz-pining time with thoughts of what form the next great challenge for him, Michael, Isabel, and Tess would be. He was seeing boogeymen behind every turn. He remembered running out in the square just the other day because he saw a man in a black suit and sunglasses, and it turned out that he was just a salesman making a presentation. But he had trailed him for an hour. He hadn’t talked to anyone else about this, but he was frightened. He had to be the responsible one, and he didn’t want to talk to the rest of them without some hard facts, something that made sense. They would just get all riled up for no reason, especially Michael. But yet, randomly tracking people was definitely something that Michael would do. Besides, Max thought, who’s to say that he isn’t doing the same thing? He hadn’t spoken to Michael in a few days, surprising, as Michael was a frequent guest at the Evans’s. He needed to check in with him, make sure he was OK.
The man that Max had been watching made his way onto the street. He closed the door to his car, and set his sights on getting the lay of the land. He had traveled the world in the last fifty years, but he had never been here. It seemed like an unlikely place for well, the most important events of his life to unfold, but here he was nevertheless.
His name was Javier Ortecho, or at least that was what people called him back in Manhattan where he had been living. Just over a week ago he had been living it up, a young man in a big city. He had been a DJ in one of New York’s hottest dance clubs, and he had enjoyed it. But, he had a big secret. One that he had never told anyone. He was not exactly what you would call a citizen of this country, or even this planet. He had a mission, which he had been working towards for the past fifty some odd years. He had just been biding time in New York, his latest destination, in a life that had taken him from Russia to Africa, Europe to Brazil, and then to the United States.
He had started to think that perhaps he would never have to fulfill his destiny, but then, as he was traveling to work on a Sunday night, he had gotten the signal. He had turned around, went home, and started to plan. Finding out the origination of the signal had been easy. The homing device in his apartment had made short work of that. Roswell, New Mexico seemed almost too obvious though. But the signal had definitely come from somewhere in the surrounding desert; it had been very clear. He had been told before he left that he would have to go there and figure out who was responsible, who they had sent.
While his mission was clear, how to accomplish it seemed murky. He had no idea if he would even have any backup or any help to achieve his goal. They had kept him separate from everyone, and he had never been able to find anyone like him since he had arrived on Earth. Who knew, maybe he was the only one left? Regardless, he couldn’t count on anyone, couldn’t trust anyone. He would just have to observe and try to find out what to do next.
He had just arrived in Roswell that morning, and he was deciding where he should set up camp. He had driven into town, and thought that stopping at the town square might lead to something. If anything, it would give him a chance to rest. It was a long drive from New York to here, even for an alien. It would take him probably a little while to make any progress. But this was the first step to going home. It was the one thing that had kept him on this path for the past fifty years, the chance to get his life back.
He thought he might start with a visit to the UFO Center before he settled on his accommodations while he was here. Granted, it might not be a scholarly place with reliable information, but it was an important part of the town, and a good place to people watch without being too obvious.
Max left the Crashdown with barely a response from Liz. He just laid the money for the meal on the table and took off. Milton was probably wondering where he was anyway. He crossed the street and walked in. He went up to the office and got his vest out of his locker. The UFO Center was already pretty crowded. He didn’t see that guy that he had seen on the street, but then again, it was wall-to-wall with tourist types. Milton spotted him as he went down to the floor.
MILTON: Evans, we’re swamped here. This summer promises to be the biggest ever here.
MAX: Yeah…uh, it is. That’s great.
MILTON: Well, I may need some more help around here. How would you like to be a manager?
MAX: Sure, sounds great. Why me?
MILTON: Well, Thompson just left yesterday, and seeing as we need to hire some more help around here anyway, I need someone I can trust to take charge. They’ll be some extra in it for you, Evans. More for gifts for your girl, what’s her name, Liz?
MAX: Yeah, that would be nice.
MILTON: Besides, I can’t work 24 hours a day. I have to leave some time for my own research you know.
Milton flashed his smile, which further seemed to emphasize his general cluelessness about the reality at hand. But then again, why would he think any different?
MILTON: Well, anyway, get up to the information booth. I have to start the 12:00 slide presentation.
He turned away from Milton, who was already in his own little world, and took two steps before he saw the man who he had seen on the street. He was walking up to him.
JAVIER: Hello, I couldn’t help but overhearing. You’re looking for help around here?
JAVIER: Well, I just got into town for the summer, looking to do some research, you know archeology and the like. I go to school at Columbia. But I need some cash, I mean…all of that volunteer work doesn’t really pay the bills, you know, rent and stuff. I was wondering if you could use me around here.
It sounded good, Javier thought. The cover story took him all of about two seconds to concoct. He needed some place where he could meet people, and Roswell seemed somewhat light on the club scene. Perhaps this is just what he needed to do, and even if it wasn’t, he was losing nothing.
MAX: Maybe you should talk to my boss. He’s right over there, uh…
JAVIER: I’m sorry. Javier…Javier Ortecho.
MAX: I’m Max.
Max shook his hand, and then Javier walked off to go find Milton. The odd feeling he had about him wasn’t going away. Maybe working here will give me a chance to get to know him, Max thought. He wondered why someone like him would want to work here in the first place. After all, it looked like he drove a nice car, and besides, didn’t archeology students usually get grants or stuff like that? Roswell might have some interesting artifacts to uncover, even of the non-alien variety, but it was a long way from New York. Just strange.
A few minutes later, Javier came back to the information counter.
JAVIER: Well, it’s Max, right?
JAVIER: It’s looks like I’m your new charge. Milton told me to come over here and have you get me started on what needs to be done around here. He was busy with his work, or so he said.
MAX: Yeah, well, it’s not really all that much. You just have to keep the people reasonably happy and the exhibits in decent shape…
It was a Saturday night, but there wasn’t much rest and relaxation going on. After all, Finals at West Roswell High started on Monday, and Liz for one was taking no chances that her 4.0 GPA would be affected by her current state. It called for a serious hitting of the books. Alex and her were working together to cram for their History exam, Alex being about the only one of the group she could deal with right now. Maria was working, primarily because Michael wasn’t, and who knew where Max was, not that she wanted to know. She chided herself for thinking about him, even now. She had to put Max out of her mind, at the very least until after finals. Then, maybe she could start to deal with him again.
ALEX: So, the study of the frog, remember that?
LIZ: Oh…yeah, that…
ALEX: You’ve been staring off into space for about 10 minutes now. Earth to Liz…what’s up?
LIZ: Oh…nothing…yeah…the frog.
ALEX: Now I’m thinking that at least a quarter of the exam is going to be on that thing. Do you have your lab notes? Liz…Liz…
She got up to get them.
LIZ: So…how’s Isabel?
Alex got this oddly goofy grin on his face, like he was lost in something.
ALEX: Everything’s great.
LIZ: Yeah, I mean, I was surprised when you said you could come over tonight. I figured the two of you would have some plans or something.
ALEX: Well, even Isabel has to study. When we get together, very little studying goes on.
LIZ: Please…I don’t want to know.
ALEX: Well, you did ask.
LIZ: Yeah…but alluding to details is just TMI.
ALEX: No. Isabel and I went out this afternoon to an early movie, and then I took her home. We saw that new Tom Cruise movie…you should go, it was pretty cool.
LIZ: As much as I like Tom Cruise, I’m not sure if it’s really my thing. I think that I’ve had enough action in my own life these days.
Liz paused for a second, and then decided to continue.
LIZ: Alex, how do you do it? I mean, how can you be with her with everything that’s going on? ALEX: Wohhh, this conversation just took a dramatically depressing turn.
LIZ: I mean, really, you got the jist of what’s going to happen, of how it can never be…
ALEX: (after a lengthy pause) Well, I just know what I want right now, and I think, so does she. We don’t talk about it, or we haven’t yet anyway. It’s like we’re both avoiding it, because if we bring it up, it can only put things in a place where neither of us want them to be. I mean, when I knew what was going on, I let her go. But we couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t watch when she needed me. I just couldn’t.
LIZ: You can’t tell me that the future hasn’t crossed your mind…
ALEX: Yeah...it’s weighing down on me pretty heavy. I’d really rather not think it about it, but it’s not like I’m immune. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know what I want now, and at least I think I know what she really wants now.
Liz found her lab notes, on top of her bookcase.
LIZ: Ok...the frog...
Only later, after Alex had gone home and she was just relaxing on her balcony, did her thoughts return to what he had said. She took out her journal, and started to write.
“...What if Alex is right, and I miss out on what I could have now just because I’m afraid of the future? I mean, wasn’t that exactly what Max was trying to save me from last fall? I fought him every step of the way, and I was insanely happy when things finally changed. I wish I could be the person who could live in the moment, but that’s not me…I see and plan things a mile away. Now I can’t do that. At least, not the way I want. I wish Max wasn’t an alien. Then we could just be together, and none of the other stuff would matter. But I can’t have that, he wouldn’t be the same Max then. I miss him so much, I love him so much, and that’s why I can’t just go back to him. I can’t tempt myself with forbidden fruit...”
|Index | Part 2
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours