|"One Second Before Awakening"
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. Lyrics are from the "Dance Me To The End Of Love." by L. Cohen
Summary: M/T/I, Maria's POV
Category: Unconventional Couples
Authors Note: My very much belated attempt at Laure's BDay challenge. Inspired by the promo to Roswell's Season 2 and a long night of staring at Salvador Dali's "One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate." Thanks: To Shimi for the advice, for letting me pester her with questions and for having the patience to answer them. And to Elizabeth for finding a link to the Dali painting.
|Okay girl, you have got to relax. There is no need to search your purse for the third time. You are not going to find Cyprus Oil. It is sitting on
your nightstand, and you know it. Breath, get out of the car, and just go in. Chances are, they're not even here yet. You've got good twenty
minutes to cool down. So, stop freaking out, for no reason.
"Hi, Mr. Parker."
"Maria, how are you? I was just talking to Liz, she said she keeps missing you every time she calls, but she hopes that you're doing well. She said she'll call you tonight."
"Thanks, Mr. Parker. Just tell Lizzie that I'm fine, and I miss her."
Exchanging pleasantries gets almost unbearable. We both know that Liz doesn't want to talk to me, and she knows my schedule all-too well, to be oblivious to the fact that it's my day off. Besides, I'd left a message with her aunt about going out with Isabel tonight.
Why do I even bother? The world, as we know it, revolves around her feelings for Max. She doesn't want to hear that Michael is not returning my calls. She doesn't think that calling him is a good idea. Actually, she never thought that we would work out, to begin with.
Maybe I'm being a little unfair, or a lot unfair, even. But I feel like being selfish today. If Liz is allowed to have wallowing-slash-rebirth time, why can't I be? After all, I am not the one who packed up and left for the whole summer, leaving my friends behind. I am not the one who is avoiding phone calls.
I am the one who makes phone calls, even if nobody returns them. At least I try.
Oh, I know that it is really hard on her, I do. But it is hard on me too. Sometimes it is so hard, that I don't think I'll make it through the day of looking at him -- not looking at me, when we happen to work the same shift. But for some of us the world still revolves around a paycheck.
I just don't get how not talking about what happened is going to help. I want to talk. I want to talk it out. I want to talk it out of me. She knows that and…avoids my calls altogether.
"Oh hi, Sheriff."
When did I stop being Miss DeLuca, and became Maria on a regular basis, and not only when something is needed from me? Oh yeah, when his son died.
"How is Kyle?"
How can he possibly be? The guy was shot, and nobody would even confirm that for him. No, no, no all voluntary revelations are reserved for Liz. The rest of us will have to squeeze it out, threaten it out, drag it out, or whatever else it takes.
"He is fine, thanks for asking."
Yeah, right. Fine--what an amazing description of how the poor bastard is doing. It's almost as dumb as a scene from an action movie. When a "sstrong male type" good guy is saving an "in-trouble pretty girl type" heroine from "all-evil type" bad guys. She is, like, all covered in blood. And he is, like, carrying her in his arms from whatever hellhole of a warehouse or an abandoned building she managed to end up in. He asks her, in that action-hero voice, if she is okay. And she answers, gazing at him adoringly, that she is fine. How can you possibly be fine after a near-death experience, with bad guys still hot on your trail?
I wish that Sheriff would stop looking at me with an understanding and knowledge in his eyes, like we share a secret, or something. Okay. We do. So what? I hate it, with a passion. So, get over it, already. It isn't all that fascinating as it seemed in the beginning. Although, it's kinda nice to have somebody looking at you at all, even if there is nothing but concern in the eyes. How many times did I want to scream at Michael, "Just look at me, you moron!" I gotta be worth at least that.
"Tell 'im to give me a call some time. We have this thing coming up, with Alex and our band. He could come, if he wanted to."
"That's really nice of you, Maria. I will let him know."
Yeah, I am good. Saint Maria, extending a hand to yet another road-kill on the alien highway. Stalker-boy is going to think that I have lost my mind. But I just feel sorry for him that's all. Besides, his presence might be enough for Tess to be somewhat uncomfortable to stare at Max, even if only for a minute or two. How hard can it possibly be to understand that he is totally stuck on Liz? And if you came to my show, look at me, for heaven's sake!
"Hey, Mr. Parker, is that okay if I'll go upstairs to cool down a bit? Thanks. Please tell Isabel and Tess that I'm there, when they come by."
"I'll see you later, Sheriff."
Oh, this is definitely better. Maybe, if I stretch out on a couch for a few minutes, it will help me to relax. Working a/c is positively a heaven sent. Why am I so freaked out, anyway? We are just going dancing and it's not like I haven't been out with Isabel before. Thanks to Alex "Let's All Be Friends" Whitman.
At the end of the day, it worked out better for me than for him. And so, the road-kill count continues... I should, probably, include myself on the list too. Something along the lines of "hit by the Michael-truck on his way out of here, 'cause he didn't want to hurt her".
I'd call it "The List of Human Sacrifices", but Max is a victim of a human truck, given name Elizabeth, a.k.a. my best friend. The highway remains alien, but the truck was very much human. Maybe, if for one day all of them trucks stopped doing what they think is best for the others, and did what the others told them to, we'd all be better-off. But why would anybody listen to me? I am just a wacky sidekick, right?
At least, Isabel did not ditch Alex completely. Actually, she didn't ditch him at all. She still comes to the Crashdown, and they sit in the same booth, and she even eats French Fries off his plate. So nothing has really changed. Except for the movie-nights.
And again I say, it was Alex's bright idea, so he shouldn't blame me for it. Not that he does. At least not out loud.
Is it my fault that Alex talked us both into watching some stupid movie together in his house? Is it my fault that the movie made me think of Michael? What the hell doesn't? It was Alex's choice of a movie, not mine. He picked some chick-flick to appeal to both Isabel and me. Well, it did appeal. I got all teary, and Isabel got all uncomfortable, and when Mr. Nice Guy went to get me some ice cream, she patted me on the shoulder, attempting to get me to feel better, I suppose. And I ended up falling apart completely, right in front of Isabel. And surprisingly enough, she hugged me and sort of rocked me, and it felt nice...and really soft. Michael's chest is hard, and it's not like I have much else to compare it to.
I want somebody to comfort me, for a change, so I totally let Isabel mother me. Maybe nobody else does, and that's why she wants to be around me.
So, the movie nights turned into girl's-night-out nights, somehow. Like today. We are meeting here for a makeover session before we go out. It is yet another one of Isabel's crafty ways to help me get Michael back. Or to help me get over him. I am not quite sure which, and I don't think she is either. For some reason we never invite each other over and keep coming to the Crashdown. Neutral grounds, I suppose.
Tess... Oh, Tess is the whole different bag of tortilla chips. The funny thing is that Tess' tagging along wasn't Isabel's idea. It was Tess'. She just has this weird way of showing up, and saying things, and making it virtually impossible to tell her to go and screw herself, or not invite her along.
The first time I'd run into her, after Liz left, I wanted nothing more than to tell her to go and screw herself. I looked up from my notebook to tell her exactly that, and…she told me that I forgot a question mark.
I was copying explanations of different names from the book I picked up at Alex's, into my notebook. Five minutes before my shift. I was in a mad rush, scribbling down, Michael -- who is like God. The Queen of All That Is Annoying looked over my shoulder --which really ticked me off -- and when I tturned to her, she said that I forgot a question mark.
Apparently, it should read, Michael -- who is like God? And she wasn't even looking in the book. So, instead of telling her to go and screw herself, I asked hher how did she know. Instead of answering me, she said that her name is Greek, and it comes from some island, and it means summer. I didn't ask her that. I didn't even care.
Actually, she never answers any of my questions. She asks me questions instead. Like when I asked her if all aliens came in pairs, and if she was Michael's sister, she asked me if that was what I thought... And then, out of nowhere, she told me about Egypt. About this pyramid. Some guy, who was proclaimed a god in Greece later, built it. He was a healer and an architect. Nobody really remembered anything about the pharaoh, buried in the pyramid, but remembered the guy who'd built it.
And again -- instead of telling her to go and screw herself -- I asked her how come she knows all this stuff. And she asked me, if I wass lonely, growing up the only child.
I should, probably, blame Max for bringing Tess to the Crashdown. His guilt is going to be the end of us all, one day. Mighty Leader feels guilty for hanging out with Tess, but also feels guilty if she is stuck alone. His ultimate solution? Bring her here and not talk to her. Hence, she is amusing herself by talking to me. And I have no idea why she does it in the first place. Well, maybe I do. Kind of.
Once, I was talking to Max, and we were laughing at some stupid thing. Really laughing. Neither of us laughs very often now, so it was a huge relief, and we were really going at it. And then, I felt somebody looking at me. It was so creepy. I thought it was Michael -- The King of Everything That Creeps Me Out -- but it was Tess. And later, she said that Max never laughs with her. Soo now I think that she wants to take me apart and find out what is it inside the human body that makes Max laugh. And still, I can't help liking to listen to her stories, even if she gives me the creeps.
Okay Maria-girl, this whole conversation with yourself is going to get you even more riled up. Read, or something. "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." Hmm, sounds interesting, must be Mrs. Parker's.
What time is it, anyway? Oh yeah, my watch is at my nightstand, keeping company to Cyprus Oil. Great, just great. But for sure they'll be here in five minutes or so. Good thing that it's so nice and cool here.
Is it Isabel's voice coming from downstairs? Finally, they are here.
They wouldn't let me look in the mirror.
"Not until we are finished," they say.
I don't think I have ever wanted to see myself so desperately, as I do now. I feel myself changing. I feel becoming something entirely different. I am taking another form, another shape, another life.
My skin is a new glove slipped onto my whole body. It's smoother, thinner somehow, less human.
My hair is touching my skin, and it feels different too -- long, lush, as if made of silk, woven by magic. It's becoming a separate being attached to me, sliding over my neck, circliing around my shoulders, snaking down my back.
Do I feel my hair with my skin? Or is it the hair -- which is said to be dead cells -- really came alive and acquired a new sense? And is it my skin that I feel with my hair?
What are they doing to me? I want to see myself. I want to see them. I want to see them moving around me. I want to see the stages of the change, but they wouldn't let me. They answer, as if they heard my silent pleas.
"Not until we are finished," they say.
I feel the change instead. Losing sight made my other senses so sharp that I am almost afraid to feel.
I hear them moving around me, behind me, touching me, letting me touch them. What have they done to me? Why can't I see? Why do I have no strength to remove the blindfold that one of them tied around my head? Why don't I want to?
I am not sure which one of them did it. I don't know when I lost my ability to see. Was it before they ever covered my eyes? Was it after? My memory is gone. Replaced by the memories that couldn't be mine.
Last memory, which I can claim my own, was one of them ripping a piece of cloth. The sound so loud that it seemed like thunder, echoing in my ears.
I remember the sheet being long and white.
"It's from Egypt," she said.
I see white sun above the desert. My feet are burning on the hot sand, as I walk hand in hand with her, towards the pyramid.
"This is the oldest one," she says.
It looks different from the other smooth-sided erections. It looks like a stairway -- a million steps -- reaching towards the sky. For a brief second I see a tall figure stepping up to the top of the pyramid. His shadow, like a stem of the sun clock, falls over me. It feels cooler in his shade, and I know he is the one that I want. He is the reason I am here. But I see him looking up to the sky, longing for the stars that he can't even see during the day. I see him looking through the long metallic tube. I know that even the beauty of the sun is not enough -- he wants the stars. And I turn away, and follow her through the stone doors into the pyramid.
We are inside, and the smell of dust and death surrounds me. I see graves, bearing a curse for anybody who dares to come close, to move near, to exist in the same space with them. I am cursed now -- all my wishes will come true...
"There is nothing more dangerous than that," she says.
I see mummies of rulers, guarded by mummies of sacred cats. Magical feline creatures that protect and watch over them. I hear them purring. I can feel their presence around me.
The Siamese with bright blue eyes and soft paws is rubbing against my neck. Soft murmur of her words in my ears.
The Black Panther with golden eyes, reflecting the sun that has burned to ashes centuries ago. Silent, circling around me. I wonder if she is protecting me, or am I her prey. Or is one the cause of the other?
The danger of their closeness is strangely arousing. Adrenaline in my blood feels like tingling sensation, slowly traveling through my veins.
I know them without seeing. I don't need my eyes, not anymore. I wonder, which one is more dangerous. The purring one that lulls me with her stories, or the silent one with her unspoken promises. The one with all the knowledge to guide, or the one guided only by instincts in their purest form.
The Siamese is a traveler. Young and beautiful, she brings ancient memories with her. Secrets that are as irresistible as they are deadly.
She told me about Egypt.
"It's magical," she said, "almost as magical as Greece, but not quite as beautiful. Civilization had come far after the fall of Athens, but nothing ever surpassed its beauty."
She gave me a gift from Greece -- a bracelet. Turquoise, it still has the warmth of the Mediterranean waters. It feels heavy on my hand. Its weight is holdinng me down like an anchor. The only thing to keep me from floating above the ground.
Tell me more. Tell me more about your travels. I never saw those far away lands that you have searched. But I know about your journey. Your determination to find and despair when found...what is it that you were looking for? I should know, but I don't remember. I don't want to remember. Why was it ever important to me, to remember things, to know the ties between the cause and effect, to know the sequence of events? I just want to hear your voice.
"Tell me more."
"The past -- it doesn't matter," she says, "Soon..."
Soon. I will see everything she saw, and feel everything she felt, and more and more and more. The desire is almost unbearable now, but I want to prolong the wait, like a young lover wants to prolong foreplay, afraid of what comes after, desperate to know where it ends.
I have so many questions, but I don't ask them. Would I get answers if I do? Do I want to hear the answers?
"Tell me a story."
Please, one of you, talk to me, let me hear the sound of your voice. Touch me. Let me know that I still exist.
"I will take you to the very depth of my imagination," she says.
I can feel her bright blue gaze at me. Can I really feel colors now?
"People say, that imagination is a beautiful thing," she says. "But what do they know, people? They never tell you what they really think. About the darkness within, about hidden fantasizes and emotions they harbor. Oh, how far they go to protect inner selves from prying eyes of others. Oh, how very careful they can be to avoid the truth. Oh, how good they get at telling lies. But lies, they are so much better than the truths, so much more entertaining, don't you think?" she says.
One swift move of her hand (or was it her paw?), and my vision is back. One quick, silky, sidewise slide of the blindfold across my face.
"I miss it."
"Oh, but now you are ready. Ready for what is coming next," they say.
The curtain is gone, and the theater is waiting for performers to start. One spectator, unannounced and uninvited, looks through the glass. What is he saying? I can't hear him through the thick walls of sound that surround me.
He is holding a glass bottle in his hand. The sun is dancing in the dark brown liquid inside. It shoots off one of the little drops of condensation on the ridges of the bottle, travels in a ray of light, and now the sun is dancing on my face. His other hand is touching his hat in a silent salute, and he is gone.
"Wait, I think I remember who you are. I remember these creases on your face; I have seen you before. Stay. Watch us." But he is gone.
We are swimming in the glass-tank full of liquid music. Man's voice, deep and husky, followed by the ancient sounds of the fiddle--it sounds like a gypsy song, the words written by the vagabonds of the world.
"Dance me to the end of love...."
I sing. This voice is my most treasured possession. I don't have the knowledge or the memories, to become a magic flute to lure him. He -- who is like God. The one that I desire. The one that you have. The only one I ever wanted. I don't have the instincts hiddeen behind the mask of innocence or seductiveness of visions, to make myself irresistible to him.
But this voice is mine.
I can bring it high or lower it down. Make it a hoarse whisper or make it sweet and angelic. I can make it a song of a fair maiden or a siren's call. I sing for me, I sing for him. I sing for two she-cats. I beg them to teach me, I beg them to share with me the knowledge and the instincts. For him, for me, for them.
"He was mine by blood," I hear The Siamese, "my blood will be your blood...."
"He was mine by destiny," I hear The Panther, "my faith will be your faith..."
The music has changed, and I can't hear the melody any more, just the drum, echoing in my ears. I feel the drawing power of its rhythm with every nerve, with every vein, with every cell of my body, with every atom in each cell. My heartbeat is matching the rhythm of the drum.
We move differently now, circling in the ritualistic dance. Shifting into their human form, they still retain the feline grace. We move together, bending our bodies back and forth, shaking our hair, raising our hands high to the sky, and then dropping them down to the ground.
I feel my skin becoming transparent, but all I can think of is that now all my organs are exposed, and I don't look beautiful anymore.
"I don't look beautiful to you anymore..."
"Oh, but you do," I hear the blue-eyed blond, whispering into my ear. "Look at those pretty colors," she says, "bright red of your arteries, deep blue of your veins, you are beautiful, you are so very beautiful."
"I am beautiful."
I believe her. They both stand so close to me now, moving even closer and then closer yet. Catlike steps, soft and soundless.
I don't feel any pain, as I see a small hand of the Siamese reaching for my brain. I don't feel any pain, as I see a long-fingered hand (paw?) of the Panther reaching for my heart. I see them devouring me, as if I am outside of my body, and all I feel is excitement.
"I become you, you will have me, and I will have him... Why do I still want him when I've got both of you now, when you have me...?"
"This is unbelievable! What are you doing, sleeping in your dress?" one pissed off Ice Queen is mercilessly ripping through the thin fabric of my dream. "I *did not* waste all day yesterday, so that you can dress-to-kill for power-naps, Maria. Get up, or you can forget about me doing your hair."
My eyes fly open, and I see Isabel and Tess looking at me. I feel blood rushing to my skin. Oh, I just know that I am turning bright red. Positive that they didn't dreamwalk into my slumber, I am still quite a bit embarrassed.
"Isabel, Tess... oh God, I am so sorry. What time is it? I... got here early and...umm... thought spending a few minutes in the break-room would be refreshing. This is like the only place with a/c that I have a free access to. The one in my house is not working -- big surprise. And I, obviously, can't go to Michael's apartment, since he loves me, and you know how in Michael-land it meaans that we keep as far away from each other as humanly, or not so humanly, possible. So I figured I'd stay down here, till you guys show up... And I guess I fell asleep. Wait until I tell you about my dream. Or...maybe not... " My throat is dry as fumble for words, suddenly afraid to look at them.
Isabel is gesturing for me to get up, rolling her eyes in exasperation. I'm still a bit wiggy about the whole dream-thing, but annoying Isabel *before* she does my hair is not such a good idea, who knows what she can do... Last thing I want is parade a Michael-do for the rest of the year.
She turns, struggling to hear the sounds of the radio coming from the downstairs. "Oh, is that Madonna? Did you people hear her new song? It's soooo good!" Her voice trails, as she moves towards the door to the diner. "Come, you guys, there are no customers downstairs. Let's dance there!"
As I stand up to follow Isabel, I run my hands along my body, trying to smooth the dress down.
"Here. Look. You are beautiful. Don't worry."
The voice is coming from behind me, but a slender hand, holding a shining object is extended over my shoulder to my face. All of a sudden there is not enough air in the room. I fall back to the couch. I have to say something... I am so terrified I start yelling at Tess right off the bat.
"Oh, my God! Tess, you scared me half to death! I know it's not your home planet, but why on Earth did you do that?" I shout at her while my eyes are searching for the place to hide.
"Maria, you have truly lost it, you know." Isabel comes back to the room, grabs my hand and pulls me up. Her nails scratch me a little, and she smiles. The sun, coming through the window, reflects in her brown eyes and it makes them look golden for a second.
We are both startled by the sudden realization of our close proximity. I feel her warm breath. And I suppose the sudden contrast of cool air and the heat, coming from her, makes me painfully aware that my nipple is swelling under my beautiful new dress against her naked arm.
The moment lasts no longer than a second, and Isabel regains her royal composure, but the smile, colored by the sun, is still swimming on her lips and in her eyes. She moves away and my heart skips a beat or two. I suppose it's a good thing, because it was just about to jump out of my chest an instant ago. Yeah, it was definitely going way too fast.
"It's a gift, you dummy. I picked it up yesterday at the mall, while you were trying on your dress."
In a sudden silence I can hear my own heartbeat. I slowly turn and stare at Tess, holding a mirror in her hand. Before I know what I am doing, I take it and look inside. I see my own face encircled by the black cat-shaped frame. I look at Tess again. Her eyes of piercing-blue are clearly laughing at me...
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