A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Roswell" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
“For he had learned some of the things that every man must find out for himself, and he had found out about them as one has to find out—through error and through trial, through fantasy and illusion, through falsehood and his own damn foolishness, through being mistaken and wrong and an idiot and egotistical and aspiring and hopeful and believing and confused.”
Thomas Wolfe from You Can’t Go Home Again
Alex looked up at Liz’s approach. “What?”
Sliding into the booth to sit across from her old friend, she smiled. They relaxed in the calm of the pre-lunch rush at the Crashdown, at the same booth that, in their high school days, had been frequented by the alien trio and later by Tess as well.
“It’s just that, I don’t know how to explain it exactly…” Liz sighed and knit her brows together in concentration. “It’s like I feel less alone when I’m not here. At home I’m surrounded by so many things that need my attention that I don’t have the time to think about it at all. But when I’m here? All I have is time. I guess that’s why I don’t really like to visit very often.”
“So you feel deprived, relative to your physical location.”
“Exactly.” Liz let her eyes wander from Alex to the window behind him.
Maybe it was due to Roswell itself. Nothing ever seemed to change, no matter what actually occurred. The town looked the same as it always had, from the time she and Maria had driven Alex crazy by insisting on playing with Barbies at her ninth birthday party to the present with the ongoing alien festivals and UFO crazed tourists. She caught herself watching for the same faces she had always seen. Faces she knew she wouldn’t find.
“I know what you mean. It’s been what, almost eight years now, and I still expect Maria to walk up to take my order, or to see one of Isabel’s scathing looks, or even Michael’s sour expression.” He stirred his drink absently. “Did you ever find out what happened to her? You knew her mom better than I did.”
She shook her head sadly. “I was so sure she’d come back for the funeral, I felt certain she’d somehow find out about what had happened. I guess I was wrong. Sheriff Valenti did find a handful of postcards at her mom’s house just after the accident. He tried tracking her down that way but they were from all over and he couldn’t find her.”
They fell into a contemplative silence and Liz continued to watch the activity of the town through the window. Cars passed on the street, pedestrians walked by on the sidewalk. Nothing spectacular had happened in Roswell since December 2001, the day her best friend had disappeared.
A sudden thought struck her. “Alex, why did you come back? Why now? I mean I know I haven’t thought about visiting in ages, except for holidays. Why did you come back to Roswell now?”
Alex looked perplexed. He wasn’t exactly sure himself. “I don’t know. I woke up yesterday and had to come. I even had to cancel a gig we’d had planed since December, but I couldn’t not come. What about you?”
Liz watched him for a moment before she spoke. “The same thing. I had been working late at the lab on a project and was headed home when I ended up coming this way instead. It was strange, almost as if I wasn’t in control of my own body.”
“Roswell’s a bit of a detour from San Francisco, Liz,” he teased, trying to lift the unease of uncertainty that had settled in her eyes.
“I know,” she laughed and admitted, “I can’t explain it. You should have seen the looks on my parents’ faces when I showed up on their doorstep. What’s stranger still is the feeling that Maria’s going to walk in the door at any moment: Cyprus oil, glitter, and all. I mean, subconsciously I always expect to see her, but this feeling I have now is just so strong.”
Alex nodded his understanding. For months after Maria had left, he had watched for her, and when he had finally pulled out of Roswell he found himself scanning the crowds in Austin in the hope that he’d catch a glimpse of her face. As the years went by, the feeling, the expectation, dimmed. Yet every time the Crashdown’s front door opened, he found himself turning to see if it was her.
“It’s silly I guess,” Liz said at last, shaking her head to clear it of the foolishness by which she felt plagued. “I just wish I could see her again, tell her it’s okay, that I’m not mad at her. It was such a totally confusing time for all of us, and getting out of Roswell was probably the best thing she could have done. There are too many memories here. I just wish she’d let us say goodbye, or told us that she was leaving at all.”
“You never were angry with her, were you?”
“No, I’d like to think I understood the inclination to run. I certainly felt it; I just couldn’t justify leaving my family. And I didn’t have anywhere to go, but then again, neither did Maria. I miss her too much to be angry with her.”
Maria sat in the car, torn between an inexplicable need to be in Roswell and a fear of what she would find.
‘Well,’ she decided, ‘I didn’t drive all the way across the country to back out now.’
“Are you hungry, Mickey?” She turned around in her seat to face the child who had already unbuckled her seatbelt and was watching the town with her small hands and nose pressed up against the window.
“Uh huh. Can we get a cheese sandwich?”
The hopeful expression in the little girl’s eyes brought a smile to Maria’s own. “Sure thing, pipsqueak. One cheese sandwich coming up!”
“Now what good would it do you to have just a cheese sandwich?” she teased. “Fries are a given.”
“And Tabasco. Do they have Tabasco?”
Maria closed her eyes briefly. “Yeah, baby, don’t you worry about that.”
“Hey, you wanna head out to the quarry later?”
“Yeah,” Liz grinned at the thought. “That sounds like a great idea.”
Alex rose and walked across the restaurant to the cash register to pay his bill and Liz followed as they continued to formulate their plans. Their attention temporarily diverted, they didn’t notice when the door opened.
“I want to sit…” Mickey twirled around in a circle, her fair curls shining like spun gold in the sunlight streaming in through the window, “here!”
Temporarily blinded by the sudden change from bright sunlight to dim interior, Maria followed her child by instinct more than observation, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Her step faltered when Mickey claimed the booth. It was just a logical choice, she tried to convince herself, it didn’t mean anything.
“I guess we’ll sit here then.” She smiled at the girl, hoping she hadn’t picked up on her reticence. Sometimes Mickey could be too intuitive, grasping nuances of emotion far better than any six year-old should.
Liz’s head jerked around at the familiar voice, the same voice she still sometimes heard in her dreams. Maria’s voice.
There were only two other people in the restaurant. The woman was seated at the same booth she and Alex had just vacated, her head bent toward the child in front of her. Even with most of her face obscured by the pale cascade of waves that tumbled forward, Liz recognized her. Frozen in place, she refocused her attention on the child who shared the booth with Maria.
A sudden tidal wave of memory struck Liz like a lightning bolt:
A little girl with golden curls and flashing eyes stood up to the second grade bully who had not only knocked Alex down on the playground at recess but had laughed when he cried. Full of ire, the little girl raised her tiny fists, her face screwed up into what she hoped was a threatening expression as she stood her ground. She wouldn’t back down: he had made her friend cry; he deserved to have someone make him cry too. And he had cried, although not because of the pint sized Maria’s attempt at vengeance, but rather because he tripped over the curb and cut his hand trying to get away from her.
If Liz hadn’t known better, she would have sworn that the child Maria had been had just walked into the café and seated herself at the booth much the same as she and Maria had done so many times before. But it was impossible. And the little girl’s eyes weren’t quite right; they were different--familiar but different all the same. It only took a moment for her to recall where she’d seen those eyes before.
“Oh my God…”
“Liz? What’s wrong?” Alex turned toward her, his shameless flirting with Mr. Parker’s new waitress forgotten. He was surprised to find Liz standing behind him, unmoving. “What’s the matter?” Keeping his voice low so he wouldn’t draw any attention to them, he waved his hand in front of her face, “Earth to Liz?”
She tried to say something, anything, but the words wouldn’t come, wouldn’t even form in her thoughts as she continued to stare at the couple seated at the booth.
She had played out their reunion so many times in her daydreams but she was caught, with the opportunity at hand, completely unprepared. Over the years, she had imagined a veritable plethora of possible situations but not one of those imaginings had ever included a child with Maria’s face and Michael’s eyes.
“Alex,” her voice was nothing more than a harsh whisper when she finally forced it to cooperate with her brain. Clearing her throat, she reached out and placed her hands on either side of his head, turning it so that she could look into his eyes and block his view of the restaurant.
A desperate need to not scare Maria back into oblivion crested in her and she realized she’d never thought to ask Alex whether he was angry with their missing friend. They had, after all, been a group: the three musketeers, the three caballeros. The three of them had been best friends, collaborators, confidants, inseparable. When Maria left and destroyed that, shockwaves of confusion, pain, and disbelief had jostled the bond that had remained.
She watched the waitress approach the booth and was relieved to see that Maria was still focused on the little girl in front of her. If Maria would just keep her attention diverted long enough for Liz to discover Alex’s feelings, she knew she’d have proof that there was indeed someone on her side somewhere in the great beyond.
“What would you do if Maria did walk in? You asked me if I was angry with her but what about you?”
“Liz, you’re crazy, it’s not going to happen.” Alex tried to swat her hands away but she refused to let go until she had an answer. “You’ve been cooped up in that lab for too long.”
“But if she did?”
Alex paused and thought for a moment. What would he do if, by some miraculous twist of fate, Maria came waltzing back home to Roswell? “If she did… I’d probably hug her and not want to let go, maybe be tempted to smack her for worrying us all to death, but I’d just be glad to know she was alive and well. I’d be too relieved to be angry, I could never stay mad at her anyway.”
Liz nodded thoughtfully, pleased with his response. “Good.”
“Why are you asking, we both know it isn’t going to happen.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Look.” She turned his head toward the booth.
Alex noticed that someone was occupying their booth, two someones who looked deceivingly like a split image of Maria, one younger and one older, until the younger version snatched up the bottle of Tabasco and grinned broadly. Maria would never have been that effervescently pleased to see Tabasco sauce, even as the zany little girl he remembered from his childhood.
Again Maria spoke, “Okay munchkin, do you think you could at least pretend to wait until the food comes before you start in on the Tabasco? I was just wondering, little one.” The lilting tones of her voice drifted to the cash register where neither Liz nor Alex could decide quite what to do.
“I’ve been expecting this to happen ever since that night in December… but I never truly thought it would.” Alex murmured.
“Uh huh, I know,” Liz’s voice was harsh and whisper-soft. “But the little girl. Did you know?”
Alex raised his hands in a sign of surrender. “It’s news to me too, Parker.”
Liz wanted to race across the restaurant and throw her arms around Maria, yell at her for staying away for so long, and beg her not to leave again. She wanted to do a lot of things; the question was would her legs cooperate. At last her will power won the battle with her stupefaction and she slowly crossed the distance between them.
“Hello.” The little girl even sounded like her mother had, and her smile was engagingly warm.
Now that she was closer, Liz realized that her initial assessment of the girl’s eyes was correct; it was almost as if Michael was sitting there staring back at her, a much happier, jovial Michael.
She raised her hand to bid the child a silent hello as Maria turned to see who had approached, her body tense and eyes filled with trepidation.
“I’ve missed you.” No beating around the bush, she decided, just cut to the chase and go on from there. Liz was surprised her voice sounded so steady and calm when inside she was shaking like a leaf on a windy autumn day.
“Me too,” Maria’s tongue was balking at her attempt at speech and her mouth was suddenly bone dry, “both of you.” She let her eyes drink in the sight of the two people who had known her best. The ones she couldn’t bring herself to face so many years before.
“This is stupid,” Liz declared just before she dropped onto the bench next to her friend and threw her arms around her.
Maria clung to Liz as she looked over the other woman’s shoulder to see Alex grinning at her like a much taller version of Alice’s Cheshire cat. Tears glistened in her eyes as she whispered the words she’d longed to tell them, “I’m sorry, so sorry.”
“Hey,” Liz pulled back from the frantic embrace and gently wiped the tears from Maria’s cheeks. “You’ve come back to us now, nothing else matters.”
“Are you going to let me say hello to her too, or am I going to have to fight you for the chance to hug our prodigal girl here?” Alex’s attempt to feign irritation brought a smile to Maria’s face as she playfully pushed Liz out of the booth and propelled herself into his arms.
“I can’t even tell you how much I’ve wanted this,” she murmured, her voice still choked with tears.
Liz returned to the bench, unsure that her legs would continue to support her in the given situation. She couldn’t keep the broad smile from her face, and in fact, didn’t want to.
“Everyone’s getting hugs but me.”
They all three turned to observe the child who looked expectantly at her mother’s friends. When Mickey realized it was going to be left for her to remedy the situation, she climbed beneath the table and popped up in Liz’s lap to wrap her small arms around the woman she only recognized as a stranger her mother knew. It didn’t matter; if Mommy was getting hugs then she should get hugs too.
Liz was shocked at the child’s actions but embraced her just the same. She had definitely inherited some of her mother’s spunk. “My name’s Liz,” she said into the child’s silken hair. “And that man over there is Alex. We’re old friends of you mother.”
“Well, now that you know our names, why don’t you tell us yours?” Alex refused to let go of the grip he had on Maria’s waist fearing she would again disappear if he did.
The child stood up on the bench next to Liz, stretching her petite frame as tall as she could and curtsied daintily before answering. “I am Michal Elizabeth Guerin. But you can call me Mickey, just like Mommy does. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Maria shook her head in amusement as Liz raised her eyebrows at the display. “It’s all those videos she watches, it’s gotta be. She didn’t get it from me, that’s for sure. I’m not exactly what you’d call the curtsying type.”
Mickey’s attention was drawn away from her mother’s friends by the arrival of the waitress and her lunch. Slipping back under the table, she regained her seat and cheerfully twisted the cap off the Tabasco.
Liz watched as the girl poured a liberal amount of the sauce on her french fries and then proceeded to pop them into her mouth one after another. After watching her devour the first few, she returned her attention to Maria. “Michal Elizabeth?”
“Yeah,” Maria sighed and leaned her head against Alex’s shoulder, “I figured that way I’d always have you and Michael with me, even if you weren’t really with me. God, it’s good to be back.”
“Well, Mickey, there are a few more people that I know would love to meet you when you’re finished with your lunch,” Liz told the busy little girl. “And you’ll probably even get a few more hugs while you’re at it.”
“Cool,” she mumbled around a mouthful of Tabasco sauce laced with deep-fried potatoes.
“You wait here while I go get ‘em, they’re just upstairs.” Liz hopped up from her seat but stopped when Maria caught her arm.
“Do you think that’s such a wise idea, Lizzie? It has been a long time, I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
“The only trouble would be if you tried to avoid them. You’ll see, it’ll be okay.” Liz extracted her arm from Maria’s grip and bounded into the back of the restaurant.
In Liz’s absence, the empty bench beckoned and Alex drew Maria onto it with him. Smiling almost giddily, he nudged her, saying, “I’d start in on all the questions now but I know Liz would just repeat then when she gets back.”
“I don’t know how many answers I’ll have for you.”
“S’okay. We won’t pressure you for ‘em.”
They were silent, watching Mickey finish off her food and lick the remnants of Tabasco from her delicate fingers. Basking in the knowledge that their group was once again whole, at least for a while, Maria leaned against her friend. They had changed, who could stay the same for seven years, but the bond that had been so special to their friendship had remarkably remained intact.
“I thought about writing you both, I really did…” her voice faded tremulously as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks again.
“Hey, like I said, no pressure.” Alex drew his hand across her shoulder, massaging away the tension her found there.
Havoc prevailed when the Parkers descended from their home. Maria was sure Mr. Parker was trying to suffocate her while Liz’s mother sat down next to Mickey and embraced the happy child. Liz had obviously relayed her promise of more hugs to come.
After a reunion that lacked any pointed questions or open discussion of the past, Liz’s parents practically shoved the trio of old friends out of the restaurant so that they would be able to talk somewhere other than in the middle of a busy diner.
The elder Parkers had decided that their daughter and her friends needed privacy to talk. They would find out what was going on later, maybe even discover how Maria, their ‘surrogate’ daughter, had managed to have a child and survive on her own for so long.
Maria hesitated when they suggested the outing. The only times she’d left Mickey were when she had to go to work and even then she’d grilled the sitter ad nauseum before she was comfortable with it. Now that the little one was in school, she found her worries were multiplied. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Mr. and Mrs. Parker, it was almost as if she didn’t trust herself, trust that her judgment of others was sound.
“Go, you need to talk and you won’t be able to do that here or with this little girl tagging along,” Mrs. Parker had insisted, resting her hands on Mickey’s shoulders. “Besides, I miss having a little one around, it’ll be good practice for when I have grandchildren.”
“Mommy, I wanna stay here,” Mickey had stated before pulling her mother down to her level for a goodbye kiss and hug. “She said that they have a whole bunch of dolls upstairs!” The whispered declaration ended the discussion and Maria was shoved out the door.
“I will, Mommy. I’m always good.”
“Yeah, right. In your own twisted little world you are, monster,” Maria chuckled.
“Come on,” Alex said as they approached the parking lot, “Liz and I were going to head out to the quarry. How’s that sound for a private location?”
“The quarry. Sure, why not.” Maria ducked into the front seat of Alex’s car, slipping into the seat belt and taking a deep breath for reassurance. Where were all of her soothing oil essences when she really needed them…
‘Fine! Just fine! If space-boy wants to go off and fulfill some whacked-out, delusional destiny of his, let him. I don’t care anymore.’ Maria’s thoughts wouldn’t stay quiet even after she managed to stop her lips from forming the hurtful words she’d thrown at the object of her displeasure. Of course she knew she would have to work on the dishonesty thing her thoughts seemed to have going in their logic. Damn it, she really didn’t want to care about the schmuck, she just couldn’t seem to help herself where he was concerned.
In the end, walking away had been the best, most reasonable action she could take, if not the least characteristic. She didn’t back down, in wasn’t in her personality to walk away from a fight, she stuck things out to the bitter end, words tumbling from her lips faster than her brain could comprehend them. But she couldn’t be around him any longer, if she stayed she would just want to hurt him as much as he was hurting her, to pound her fists against him and scream obscenities about him to whoever would listen. She couldn’t though because, aside from the selfishness of her desires, she knew he was hurting too; he just wouldn’t, or couldn’t admit it.
She would miss the jerk, damn him! He was going home, going off to be some kind of hero. And he was leaving her behind. She had always known it was pretty much inevitable, his departure. She had just hoped it wouldn’t be so soon.
‘Ignore him, just keep on walking, Maria, and ignore him.’
She stumbled on the loose rocks of the quarry, determinedly making her way away from the gaping pit and back to her car. If she could just reach the comforting, albeit superficial, safety of her car, everything would be alright.
Staggering along, she fumbled in her pockets for her vial of Cyprus oil. A fleeting thought crossed her mind and she tried to recall whether she had ever heard of forget-me-nots being used for oil essences, she didn’t think she had, she wasn’t even sure if forget-me-nots had a scent. She wished for them just the same, after all they represented true love. Maybe thyme for strength and courage, or even rosemary for remembrance. Sheesh! She was getting too soft, too sentimental, and it was all Michael’s fault.
‘Aromatherapy, Maria! This isn’t the Victorian age; people don’t care about the language of herbs and flowers anymore. Relaxation purposes, that’s all, nothing deeper or more meaningful than that.’
“Damn it, Maria!”
She looked up, surprised to see Michael standing between her and her car. She’d been so wrapped up in her own deluded musings that she hadn’t noticed when he caught up with her.
“What?!” She glared up at him, what else was there to say? “Haven’t you had enough fun for the day, ET, or do you want to torment me some more?” She was tired of fighting with him; they’d been at each other’s throats for far too long already.
“It isn’t like I asked them to come for us, Maria. I didn’t ask for this, but I can’t turn my back on it now. I have to go, we all do.”
“You didn’t ask for this?! Don’t even try that sorry excuse. Are you, or are you not, the same demented, slime-ball alien who has been doing nothing but searching for ‘home’ ever since you found out there was one? The same Michael Guerin who, I might add again, drug me against my will to Marathon, Texas? Oh, you asked for this, Michael. You’ve done nothing but ask for it! And here it is, your chance to get off this mud ball planet, so go, just go!” She was screaming so loud that her throat ached from the exertion and tears pricked at her eyes. She refused to cry; she wouldn’t shed one tear for this man who could turn her entire plane of existence upside-down with a single rare hint of kindness.
Why was she being so difficult? She knew about their destinies, she knew they couldn’t turn away from them.
“Look,” Maria said, suddenly feeling more exhausted than she could ever remember being, “sorry, but I’m not up to the witty repartee just now.” She rubbed her hand across her eyes, not caring if the action smeared her makeup. “I just want to go home and crawl into bed.”
“It’s only four, Maria.”
“So I’ll go to bed early. What does it matter to you?”
“I never wanted to hurt you.” His words were so hushed that she almost missed them.
“That’s just of what we do, Michael,” she said softly, “It’s what we’ve always done, trading one cutting remark for another.” Maria was tired of being angry, the emotion required too much energy to keep up for any extended length of time. “Even if you were human it would probably be the same, it’s just the way we are.”
It should have ended there. He should have let her just drive away and deal with her pain alone. After all, wasn’t that what she wanted, to be left alone? But no matter how much his head told him to let her go, he couldn’t.
He woke her late that night, tapping insistently on the window until she drowsily let him in. He knew what he wanted, what he needed, and he didn’t care what Max would say about it or if it was the logical thing to do. He wanted Maria; he needed to be able to keep some small part of her close to him even when he was surrounded by worlds and constellations she would never be able to see.
She stepped back from the window, fully ready to rip him to pieces, physically if she had to. He had no right to come to her anymore; he had more important things to do, like saving his green-skinned, bug-eyed relatives from certain doom. Not that she believed they actually looked like any of the gaudy trinkets her mother sold, but she was too angry and hurt to be politically correct.
She gasped when Michael bounded into the room, landing lightly on the floor in front of her. She couldn’t quite place the look in his eyes. She couldn’t recall ever seeing him like this before. She opened her mouth to throw out some scathing comment but was silenced by his hand on her mouth.
Leaning close to her so that his breath warmed her cheek, Michael threaded the fingers of his other hand through her hair, relishing the feel of the silken fibers against his fingers. Releasing her mouth, his lips quickly sought out hers and he felt her stiffen initially before melting into his gentle embrace.
For one night he would forget all the warnings and concerns Max and Isabel had voiced to him. He just didn’t care anymore. As far as he knew, he would never see Maria again and he needed to have something to cling to, something in his life, in his past, that made sense. As much as he refused to admit it out loud, continuing his stormy relationship with Maria was the only sensible thing he’d ever done.
The quarry loomed up out of the landscape, just as lonely and isolated as it had always been. A gaping crater of jagged rock and earth, long abandoned and desolate, bearing its very heart to the heavens.
Maria was the first one to step out of the car, walking the last few yards to the edge of the pit. She hadn’t been back since they had gathered there to discuss the departure. She could never have imagined that it could still hold so many memories filled with the same raw emotions she relived in her nightmares.
“Maria?” Liz approached her carefully. Their ride had passed in relative silence, tension hanging thickly in the cramped interior of Alex’s car. But now that they were out in the open she was desperate to ask questions, to find out what had been going on since she’d last been able to share confidences with Maria. “Mickey is Michael’s child, isn’t she? I mean, she has his eyes even, as well as his name.”
“Yeah. I don’t know how much she inherited from him yet. I just keep waiting and watching.” She absently kicked at the loose gravel with the toe of her sneaker. She wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotions this place evoked.
“Did he know? I mean, before he left, did you tell him.”
“Liz, I didn’t know before he left. I packed my bags and bought that ratty old car the day I found out. But would I have told him? I don’t know. I don’t think I would have though. He needed to find out about his home and to fulfill what he believed was his destiny. I would never have wanted to stand in the way of that.” Smiling, she added, “Even as a hormone driven, ditzy teenager.”
Liz fought the urge to burst into tears. “Maria, why did you…”
“Why did I leave town without saying anything to you?”
“Yeah. You know you could have come to me with anything, why did you run?”
“I had to. Lizzie, I loved you too much to go to you with my problem. You had such a hard time after Max left and you’d just gotten back on your feet again when I found out Mickey was on the way. I didn’t want you to have to deal with something that was entirely my problem. It’s a cop out, I know. God, I probably hurt you more by leaving than I would have if I just up and confessed that I was pregnant.”
“I can’t fully explain it. I was scared and I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid for the baby and for myself. When I finally got so far into the pregnancy that I had to see a doctor, I was absolutely terrified, scared that the baby wouldn’t look human and that the FBI would find out somehow and take her away from me. I just didn’t want to drag you down with me, ever or for any reason, Lizzie.”
“Oh, Maria,” Liz exclaimed, throwing her arms around her again, “I don’t know what to say. You must have been so frightened, and you went through it all alone.”
“It worked out okay though and Mickey’s safe and sound.”
Liz grinned, lightening the conversation. “I still find it hard to believe that our very own Maria DeLuca is a mother.”
“You too, huh? Well, join the crowd, Parker, join the crowd,” Maria chuckled.
Alex had hung back a bit while the women talked. He had learned a long time ago the consequences of being so close to two females… you sometimes had to give them time to do their ‘girl thing’ in peace.
Maria motioned for him to draw nearer. “Do you remember that demo tape you made during our senior year?”
“Remember it? I still have a copy,” he admitted.
“Well, so do I and Mickey loves it, I think she’s one of your biggest fans. I play it for her every night so that she will settle down and go to sleep.”
They relaxed into an easy silence, allowing the memories of the place to wash over them, secure in the presence of old friendships. There would be time enough later for their questions.
“Maria?” Alex broke the silence and leaned toward her. “Liz and I were discussing this earlier: why did you come back to Roswell now?”
Maria shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. One minute we were happily going about our daily routine and the next I was calling work to notify them that I was quitting. I moved our things into a storage unit, bundled Mickey into the car, and started driving here. That was… four days ago.”
“See? That’s what we were talking about before you came. Liz and I did basically the same thing, we didn’t understand why but we came back anyway.”
“You don’t think we were ‘called’ back do you?”
Alex and Maria turned their faces to look at Liz. No one wanted to jump to any conclusions and raise their hopes only to have them dashed against the craggy, unforgiving rocks of reality.
“Wouldn’t Kyle be here too if that were the case?” Maria asked.
The day game was in its ninth inning with two outs, two strikes, and a runner on second. It was almost over for the day. There was no way they’d loose.
Valenti sat in the dugout waiting impatiently for the poor sap who was up to bat to be struck out. Another half hour or so and he could hit the road. The coach had been incredulous at first, not wanting to let him take a leave of any kind. But it was still the pre-season and he had refused to give up; he needed to go back, at least for a little while.
A day later he was flying down the highway toward Roswell. His hands tapped out a rhythm on the steering wheel in time with the CD that blared from the speakers. A teammate had given him a copy of the music a few years earlier. He should have tried to contact Liz and Alex but things had gotten hectic just about then and he’d forgotten all about it until he was packing up to move to Chicago.
His friend had returned from a trip to Quebec regaling them all with stories of a torchlight singer he’d heard there; an angel from heaven he had called her. He’d even invited them to his home to hear the CD he’d brought back of her work.
Kyle’s jaw had almost hit the floor when he’d heard the first few strains of the song and the silken voice that lifted up from the speakers. It had been a long while since he had heard Maria sing, but there was no mistaking her voice.
He had tried to find her in Quebec but by the time he had made inquiries she had already moved and no one knew where she might have gone. His every query was fruitless but he never stopped trying to locate her.
Glancing at his watch, he turned his attention back to the road sign. “Welcome to New Mexico”, it exclaimed in giant letters. Well, he was getting closer at least, and it was still early. If he continued to neglect to pay attention to the speed limit he could be there in record time.
“Where are you and Mickey staying?” Liz watched Maria as she continued to draw integrated patterns of swirls in the loose gravel with her sneakered toes. It reminded her of the old home video of Max and Isabel when they were children, drawing the same design in the sand at the beach.
“To be honest, I hadn’t thought that far ahead. We’ll probably end up at that motel over on the highway.”
“Oh no, you don’t mean that sleazy flea bag motel with all the paintings of little green aliens on the walls, do you? You can’t stay there. That place is a firetrap just waiting to happen.”
“Not to mention that it’s probably contagious,” Alex added.
“Well, where would you suggest we stay then, our options are a bit limited with the festival opening this weekend, the decent hotels are sure to be booked up. I had forgotten all about the festival until we pulled into town and saw the banner for it hanging over the street.”
“Why don’t you stay with us? Mom and Dad won’t care, they’ll insist on it anyway, especially seeing as how you have no other place to go,” Liz suggested, she hated the thought of Maria and Mickey having to stay at some run down old motor hotel that was best known for renting out rooms by the hour. And if Maria stayed with them, it would give her even more time to spend with her before she took off again to parts unknown.
Maria stared at the crystalline pool formed by the quarry pit. A handful of years ago she would have had a place to stay without putting out the families of her old friends. That was before the drunk driver had plowed into her mother’s car while she sat at a railroad crossing, propelling her into the train and thus ripping away any family Maria might have once claimed as her own.
She had read about the accident in the Roswell newspaper four days after it happened; the newspaper was her only tie to her hometown and the international subscription rate cost her an arm and a leg but she couldn’t bring herself to cancel it. She hadn’t been able to make it back in time for the funeral and had spent the day in a bar, drowning her sorrows with the rest of the drunks in Drumheller, Alberta, while Mickey stayed with the babysitter, something that would take another large chunk of her money.
Neither Liz nor Alex had mentioned her mother’s death to her. Bemused, Maria wondered if they were just hoping she wouldn’t decide to drop in and pay her parental unit a visit. Secrets and half-truths were the norm for Roswell so she decided to remain silent and play at ignorance.
“We should mark this day on the calendar,” Alex said, smiling at the two women.
“And why would we do that?” Maria felt that her homecoming would be better forgotten in the annals of time, not remembered.
“As the first time Maria DeLuca didn’t run her mouth a mile a minute.” Alex smiled to soften the remark. “Come on, Ri, it’s us, Liz and Alex, your old buddies. You aren’t going to run us off if you talked to us a little.”
“I’m sorry, guys. I don’t know what to say. I just keep trying to figure out why we’re all here together. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s like old times,” Liz suggested, “almost.”
Maria smiled. “Yeah. Remember when we were kids and we’d all sleep over and watch scary movies until midnight and try to get Alex to let us play with his hair? We could always do that again for old times’ sake.” She winked at Alex and had to suppress a laugh at the blush that crept into his cheeks. “The time before we knew anything about aliens or the FBI or heartbreak. Sometimes I wish we could go back and do it all over again, go back to the time when we were blissfully unaware of conspiracies and secrets, when Isabel was still just another stuck up snob, Max was just an intense quiet nobody, and Michael was just a guy I passed in the halls at school on the days he chose to show up, before Max saved your life, and before I fell in love with arguing with Michael.” She sighed and shook her head sadly. “But if we did, I wouldn’t have known what it was like to love Michael and I wouldn’t have Little Miss Mary Sunshine kissing my eyelids to wake me up every morning. And those two things I wouldn’t give up for all the normalcy Roswell ever had to offer.”
“She speaks!” Alex exclaimed, placing his hand on his chest in mock surprise. “Not only that but she’s philosophical as well.”
Liz broke into a fit of giggles as Maria reached out to lightly smack her friend up side his head. “That was uncalled for,” she scolded. “You’d do well to remember that payback is hell, boy.”
Kyle pushed open the door to the diner and strode into the tail end of a hectic lunch rush. He scanned the room and located a stool at the counter between an elderly woman and a young child. Walking up to it he sat down and grabbed a menu. It had been a long time since he’d been faced with alien themed foods.
He turned slightly to face the child who smiled up at him, temporarily halting her quest to color all the pages in the coloring book Mrs. Parker had presented her with before her mother came back.
He smiled back at her, struck with a vague sense of familiarity. “Hi.”
Her smile brightened at his returned greeting. “Do you live here?”
Kyle looked questioningly at the little girl before he answered, “I used to.”
“So did my Mommy. Did you come back to visit? We did. I’ve never been here before. I like it here though and I wish we could stay. There’s lots more to do here than at home and everybody’s nice to me. Mrs. Parker says it’s because I look so much like Mommy but I don’t really.”
“No?” Kyle asked. Before the little one could explain, the waitress approached from the other end of the counter and took his order. He looked again at the child. “You want some ice cream, kiddo?”
The child nodded vigorously, sending her golden curls into a whirlwind of movement.
He turned toward her to continue their conversation. “So why don’t you think you look like you mother? She must be very pretty if folks think you look like her.”
She giggled at the compliment. “I’m too little to look like Mommy, she’s a grown up.”
“Well, that would explain it, I guess. But if your mommy grew up here maybe people think you look like she did when she was little too, before she became a grown up.”
She shrugged. “Maybe. But it’s been a long time since she was little.”
“Michal Guerin. But everybody calls me Mickey.” She solemnly shook his hand and drew her eyebrows together to study the man who sat next to her, he looked funny all of a sudden. “You okay?”
“You don’t just look like your mommy, Mickey, you sound like her too.” Kyle’s face had drained of all color. For all the time he’d put into searching for Maria after he had heard she’d been in Quebec, all he had to do was come back to Roswell to find her. “Where is your mommy, Mickey?”
She shrugged again and smiled when the waitress set a dish of ice cream in front of her. Kyle watched as she snatched up the bottle of Tabasco. If Mickey’s parentage had been in question before, it wasn’t any longer, and Maria’s mysterious absence from Roswell made a little more sense.
“She went away to talk with some people and I stayed here. Mrs. Parker said she wanted to practice for when she has grandkids but I don’t know what she means. I don’t have any grandparents. Mommy says I used to have a grandma but she died. My best friend Anna has six grandparents though so I guess some kids do and some don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Kyle was quickly becoming confused as the child babbled on.
“Have grandparents, silly.”
“Oh, you’re right, good point. Some do and some don’t.” Neglecting his food, Kyle sat and watched Michal Guerin eat her Tabasco sundae.
Maria stepped out of Alex’s car again and into the bright sunlight in front of the Crashdown. She and Liz had coerced Alex into meeting them at Liz’s later that evening to further discuss the reason behind the sudden draw Roswell seemed to have for them all. Waving goodbye, she entered the café with Liz following closely behind her.
“What was it I said about us not being a ‘called’ back to Roswell because Kyle would be here if we were?”
“What?” Liz bumped into Maria when she stopped suddenly just inside the restaurant.
“Maybe you were right after all.”
“Maria, what are you talking about?” Liz looked to where Maria’s eyes were riveted.
Kyle Valenti sat at the counter carrying on what appeared to be a very animated conversation with Mickey as the child stuffed the last spoonful of Tabasco and ice cream into her mouth.
Maria turned around to look into Liz’s eyes, astonishment and hope reflecting in her eyes. “Maybe they did call us back. Maybe they’re coming home.”
“Or maybe it’s just somebody’s idea of a great big cosmic practical joke,” Maria continued, trying desperately to not wish for something she couldn’t have. “Maybe someone out there is just toying with us, waiting to see how long it will take before we go completely nuts.”
As she finished her thought, Mickey caught sight of her and bounded across the diner, full of boundless enthusiasm. “Mommy!”
Kyle turned and watched as the little girl leapt down from the stool and approached the pair of women who stood just inside the door. He had always expected that they would look different somehow once they’d reached adulthood. Except for the worry and exhaustion that was clearly evident even across the room, he could have sworn he was back in high school, hanging out and waiting for the rest of the group to show up and discuss the latest news of FBI agents or other-worldly objects. He rose from his stool and continued to watch the interaction.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”
Maria’s head bobbed with her daughter as she bounced up and down. “What is it, munchkin?”
“Mrs. Parker showed me the bedroom she said was mine until we go back home. It’s got a big bed and tons and tons of dolls!”
“I told you,” Liz said to Maria, laughing at Mickey’s antics.
“So I get stuck in the guest room with every doll you ever owned and refused to get rid of,” Maria grumbled.
“Mrs. Parker said I get to sleep there! You have to find someplace else, Mommy.”
“You little terror!” Maria gaped at the child, her eyes sparkling with repressed laughter at the sudden turn of events. Mickey was generally positively clingy but ever since they’d gotten to Roswell she’d become little Miss Autonomy. She tried to convince herself that it was purely a coincidence, that they just happened to get to town at the moment Mickey flew headlong into a new stage of her young life, but her thoughts wouldn’t cooperate with reason. Something was going on and she had no clue what it was or how to deal with it.
“Looks like you’re stuck in my old room with me, DeLuca,” Liz commented, thoroughly amused.
“Great,” she drawled. “Maybe we should tie up Alex when he comes back and force him into that sleep over idea…”
“Only if I’m invited too.” Kyle had approached as the trio discussed their sleeping arrangements.
“Kyle. It’s good to see you.” Maria watched him closely, still waiting for someone to lash out at her in anger over her sudden departure.
“I looked for you, Maria. I found out you were in Quebec and searched for you but you weren’t there anymore.” His tone was achingly sad but not angry.
“You were in Quebec?” Liz asked. Leave it to Kyle to know more about her best friend than she did.
“Umm, Mickey? Why don’t you go see if Mrs. Parker needs help with anything,” Maria suggested. “And take the crayons and book with you.” She gestured to Mickey’s forgotten toys at the counter.
“Okey dokey!” She was gone in a flash, sailing past the counter as she swept the items into her hands and dashed through the kitchen toward the stairwell that would lead her to her temporary home.
“I don’t get it,” Maria said, puzzled, “she isn’t this obedient usually; I mean she’s a good kid most of the time but it’s almost like she’s under some kind of freaky good behavior spell or something. And she doesn’t act this much at home when we’re actually at home.” She shook her head at the curiosity before returning to the subject at hand. “You wanna join us, Kyle?”
They slipped into the booth and sat in relative silence until the waitress brought them their drinks. Maria was still trying to decide where to begin when Alex walked back into the diner.
“Alex? What are you doing back so soon?”
“You said I was supposed to come back later. It’s later.”
Maria grinned and motioned for him to join them.
“You were in Quebec?” Liz repeated.
“Yeah. Quebec, Drumheller, Juno, Amherst, Knoxville, San Diego… We’ve been all over at one time or another, even went to Guam for a little while.”
“So Kyle, let me guess why you’re here.” Maria turned her gaze from the tabletop to their most recent arrival, swiftly turning the subject of their talk away from her past. “You felt this overwhelming need to come back to Roswell, dropped everything, and hit the road.”
“How did you know that?”
“It’s the same for all of us,” Liz explained. She just wished she knew the reason behind it.
“Has anyone heard of any… activity in the area recently?” Alex questioned.
“I don’t know, I could ask Mom and Dad though. We’ll have to catch the news tonight and see what it says.”
They continued their discussion until late afternoon. Mickey had long since departed the Crashdown with Liz’s mother in order to do some ‘girl stuff’. The sheriff had stopped by for a late lunch and was surprised to find his son in the diner and not in Chicago, not to mention his shock at finding the previously absent DeLuca ensconced at the booth as well. A few of the people they had attended school with even managed to wander through, stopping to say hello before rushing off to their boring average lives.
“I wonder what it’s like,” Maria said watching a couple leave the diner. Melinda had been in her Spanish class their junior year and she remembered going to kindergarten with Scott. They looked so happy and at ease. She was envious.
“Wonder what what is like?” Liz chased the half melted ice cubes around her glass with the straw.
“Being average and normal and boring. When I was a kid I wished for an exciting life but I wasn’t exactly thinking about aliens and death threats. I think I was hoping for a knight in shining armor and fighting for a worthy cause.”
Liz laughed. She wouldn’t exactly call Michael a knight in shining armor; maybe a half-cocked soldier in tarnished armor… And knights always came back to reclaim their lady loves; it was unlikely that would be happening. Maria was stuck in the same spot she was, except Maria had the added worry of trying to raise a half-alien child without raising anyone’s suspicions.
Maria peeked into the Parker’s guest room, slowly opening the door to check on Mickey. A muted night-light illuminated her rosy cheeks and sweet mouth as she slept. A dozen or more dolls were all tucked into the bed with her, surrounding the little pixie like a troupe of protective fairies. Leaning against the doorframe, she watched the steady rise and fall of her daughter’s chest.
“Isn’t it amazing that even when you know they’re safe and well, you still need to look in on them?”
Maria turned toward the hushed voice and saw Liz’s mother standing behind her. Startled that she had let down her guard long enough for someone to approach her unnoticed, Maria could only nod.
A long moment passed in silence as they watched the sleeping child.
“I’m sorry for the intrusion, Mrs. Parker…”
“Nonsense. You’re welcome here for as long as you’re in Roswell, however long that may be. You both are.” The older woman reached out to place a reassuring hand on Maria’s shoulder. “You’re family, Maria. Don’t you know that? And I meant what I said earlier. I love spending time with your daughter; I’ve missed having a little girl in the house ever since Lizzie grew up on me. Mickey and I had a great time today and I promised her that I’d take her to the festival tomorrow. You take the time to be with Liz and the others, don’t worry about Mickey.” Seeing the tears that glistened in Maria’s eyes, she pulled her close and wrapped her arms around her. “You’ll see; everything’s going to be okay.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“I’m a mother, I’m always right.”
Long after the Crashdown had locked its doors for the night, Liz found Maria sitting on the balcony outside her old bedroom window.
“It’s been a long time since I crawled out here,” she remarked, pulling herself over the windowsill. “Climbing through windows didn’t seem like a very mature activity,” she supplied, noting the question in Maria’s eyes.
Her friend smiled in response. That was something she was familiar with: trying to decide what the mature action would be in any given situation. She tilted her head up to look at the night sky, catching glimpses of falling stars, a lot of falling stars.
“A meteor shower? I don’t recall hearing anything about a meteor shower.” Maria glanced back to Liz.
They were about to climb back through the window when a car pulled up under the balcony.
“Come on, let’s go,” Alex’s voice called out.
Alex’s car tore down the desert road and into the deepening night as a thousand stars seemed to fall from the heavens. His three passengers had remained eerily quiet, watching the bright streaks of light.
“Alex? Where are we going?” Liz kept her eyes trained to the sky.
“There.” He pointed to a rock formation that loomed out of the horizon. They’d all been there before long ago, just before they’d experienced the grief of loss, and now they had returned.
They stood at the foot of the granolith, four aliens and four humans, waiting. The tears had long since abated, there simply weren’t any left to shed. And so they waited in silence for something to happen. What, they didn’t know.
The blinding pulse of light surprised them all and then they were gone. There wasn’t a chance to bid a final farewell; they were just no longer there.
The humans that remained in the chamber stood disoriented and lost in their own separate misery. Somehow they had expected more. More than a flash of light. Something that would have been just as momentous as the message the others had received; a ship maybe swooping down from the clouds, or a gradual fading out as they were ‘beamed’ away. Too many science fiction shows and not enough real knowledge left them wanting more from the beings that had claimed their friends and lovers.
“So I guess that’s it.” Kyle was the first to speak.
“Yeah, I guess,” Liz’s agreement rang hollow in the cavern. “Umm, we should get back to Roswell before someone misses us.”
Maria stood rooted to the spot. God, how could this be it? One moment Michael was there, standing next to her with her hand clutched tightly in his, and the next moment he was gone. She could still feel the soft warmth on her palm but that was all. How could she go on with her life and pretend that nothing had happened?
They stood again at the foot of the granolith. No one had returned since that fateful day seven years before. It was out of a sense of protection that they had stayed away. They didn’t want to draw attention to the object and elicit its removal for scientific study. It was all that was left of the others.
“What’s going to happen?”
“I don’t know, Kyle. But whatever it is, it’s going to happen here.” Alex watched the granolith closely, hoping to see some sign of what was to come.
Maria hung back from the rest. Her nerves on edge in the dim cavern. She could still remember the feelings that had coursed through her the last time, the utter sense of loss and desperation.
The granolith gave away no secrets, at least not to them. They were mere humans standing at the base of an alien creation. Spectators in the realm of the unbelievable.
A bright light blinded them, not entirely unexpected this time, and they shaded their eyes from the onslaught of its radiance. And then there was another in their presence.
They stared unbelieving at Tess as she stood before them, older and more haggard than she had been when she left. But it was her all the same.
“You came.” Tess’ voice was filled with relief.
Liz, Maria, Alex, and Kyle stared at her in disbelief.
“You called us here?” Liz asked, her voice trembling.
“They wanted it this way.”
“What way? Who?”
Tess looked sadly down at the sand beneath her feet. “We were so lost there. It wasn’t home, regardless of what they tried to convince us. We weren’t who they wanted us to be, we couldn’t be, we wouldn’t even use their names. But we tried to help. We tried…”
“Where are the others?” Kyle stepped forward and extended his hand to the petite woman.
She raised her head and the faint trace of a smile played at her lips. “We all wanted to come home, to return here, to Roswell. We were just waiting until we were no longer needed. But the war was still going on, thousands of people were dying for a lost cause. We couldn’t leave.”
She paused and looked around at the faces of her old friends. She couldn’t let herself accept Kyle’s offer of comfort, not before she explained. “When the fighting got worse we forged an agreement. If something happened, we would come home, we didn’t care about their cause anymore. I was separated from them in the battle. I should never have let it happen. We were always stronger when we were together. The united front kept us safe, but apart we were weak.”
“Tess, what are you trying to tell us?” Alex asked gently.
“We loved you all; we hated being away. We would gather every night and talk about what we would do when we got back, who we would go to see first.” She shook her head sadly. “But we had a plan just in case something did happen and we couldn’t come home. If we couldn’t live here, we wanted to at least be buried here.”
“No!” Liz cried. “No, he’s not dead. He can’t be.” She turned to face Maria. “Can he?” her voice was a whisper and she looked desperately into her friend’s empty eyes.
“I’m sorry. You don’t know how sorry I am to be the only one left. It shouldn’t be this way…”
The ride back to Roswell was, if possible, even eerier than the ride to the granolith had been. Tess sat in the front seat, staring listlessly out the car window at the stars that still rained down.
“Even the heavens are crying for them.” Liz felt empty, completely vacant of emotion.
They arrived at the darkened Crashdown for lack of a better place to be and silently filed in through the door, pulling up an extra chair to the booth while Liz ducked behind the counter to grab something for them to drink.
It was hard to grasp the thought that only Tess remained of the four who had left. How could they have died without someone knowing, feeling it somehow.
“Max and Isabel were in a safehouse. Michael only left them there because he’d been assured of their safety. I had gone back to the government stronghold to try to reason with the administrator; Michael was there with me when we heard about the missiles being launched at the safehouse. No one was supposed to know where they were, not even the administrator. We tried to get word to them to get out, Michael insisted on trying to reach them in time. It blew up just after he went in. None of them even had a chance.” Tess hated to bring up the painful memories, but these people, the ones who had loved them and been loved by them, had a right to know. Her own pain was of no consequence.
“Michael, Max, Isabel… they died as heroes. They were trying so desperately to end the war. It did eventually end, but the losses were not acceptable, at least they weren’t to me. The administrator didn’t want me to leave but I’m no queen. I didn’t even want to try to be one, not with everyone else dead.”
“I loved them too. I had to hijack the incinerators just to get their remains to bring home. I had to, we had made a promise.”
She dropped her head, finished with her part of the tale and waiting for the anger of the humans she had fought so hard to rejoin. It didn’t matter, she had needed to come back and let them know that they hadn’t been forgotten, that they were cherished.
“So, that’s it? They’re just… gone?”
Everyone turned to look at Liz. It was difficult to believe but nothing had ever been easy with the pod squad. They had accepted that once, long before.
Tess turned her eyes to meet Maria’s. She worried over the silence the woman had demonstrated. Maria had never been one to keep her thoughts quiet; the change troubled Tess more than a violent attack would have.
“Maria? Are you okay?”
She shook her head slowly. “No, I don’t think I am.”
“Oh God, Maria!” Liz exclaimed, in the turmoil of her own mind she had pushed aside everyone else, even Maria and her child. “How could I forget about Mickey?! What are you going to tell her?”
Tess was confused. Who was Mickey and why would Maria need to tell her anything.
“I’ll tell her the truth: that her father died being a hero.”
Maria stood at the threshold of the guest room again, watching her innocent daughter sleep. What would she tell her? She didn’t know.
Poor Tess had launched into tears when she discovered that Michael had a child he had never even known existed. How fate could be so cruel, she didn’t know. The woman had already been a wreck, the new information only helped to send her closer to the edge.
Kyle had at last insisted that she lay down somewhere and rest and Liz had offered the use of her old bed. None of them would be sleeping that night; someone might as well get some use out of the fresh linens.
Before she’d been ushered off to bed, Tess had produced a packet of letters written on paper they had had to make themselves. They had been written when the fighting had intensified to such an extent that no one was sure any of them would make it out alive.
Maria clutched her own, still unopened as she watched her sleeping angel.
Liz sunk down on the balcony, still able to see that Tess rested fitfully on her bed. She was concerned about her and had offered to stay nearby in case she needed her in the night.
Carefully unfolding the paper she’d been handed she began to read:
My dearest Liz,
You can’t know how my heart aches to be with you again. I know that we will be together again some day, I have to believe it or I couldn’t do what I have to do here.
Each night when I close my eyes all I see is your face, memories of you fill my dreams, and it is because of you that I continue to lead as their king. I know it’s what you would want me to do. But I’m not their king, and I never will be.
We’ve decided, the four of us, that when this war is over we will come home, all of us. Michael wants to leave now, regardless of the war and maybe he’s right, maybe we should. But there are so many here who depend on us and I can’t turn away from them.
Remember, Liz, I have always loved you and will always love you no matter what happens to me here. Take care of yourself and don’t weep for me, I will always be with you in your dreams.
Liz looked back up at the sky. The meteor shower continued and she cried with the stars.
The road flew past him as Alex drove recklessly toward the quarry. Two visits in one day, that must be a record of some kind. He hadn’t wanted anyone around though when he read what Isabel had to say to him. The car skidded to a stop on the gravel and he sat quietly behind the wheel, suddenly afraid to read her words.
I love you. I know I never told you when so I was there with you. I wish I had. I was afraid to. You know how nervous I was about letting anything tarnish the façade I had erected, it all seems ridiculous now.
The only reason you will ever read this is if I fail to make it back. I didn’t want to write it because of that. I don’t want to consider the possibility of never seeing you again.
I miss everything about Earth: my parents, Roswell and the stupid alien themes, but most of all I miss you. I will come back. I’ll dreamwalk back to you if I have to. Don’t forget me, please.
But if you do read this, just remember that I always loved you.
Alex dropped his hand, crumpling the paper in his fist as he fought against the rush of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. She loved him and she was gone, not just gone to another planet in some far distant galaxy, but gone forever. How could they go on without her beauty alive out there somewhere?
Tess roused from a nightmare, sitting up and trying to remember where she was. She had gone back, returned to Roswell with the letters and their ashes. It was all over.
She saw Liz sobbing on the balcony and eased out of the room, giving her the privacy she deserved. Her grief was hers to manage without the help of some alien invader who had, once upon a time, threatened the one true love of her life.
Padding softly down the hall she noticed a figure standing in the dim light. Maria: leaning against the doorframe of another room with Michael’s letter to her held tightly in her hand.
Tess reached up and softly laid a wary hand against her arm, wondering at her stillness. Maria barely registered her presence and Tess looked past her into the room.
A child, still very young, lay sleeping peacefully on the bed. Even in the low light Tess could see the resemblance.
“He would have loved her. He would have loved being a father.”
“Would he?” Maria asked. “I don’t even know. I would like to think he would have, but I don’t know.”
“Yes,” Tess replied with a sureness she hadn’t felt in a very long time, knowing that Maria needed whatever assurance she had to offer. It was a shock: seeing this Maria so different from the volatile, flighty girl they had left behind. Time changed them all, even without the benefit of a raging war.
“She has his eyes. Every time I look at her I see him.”
“Then you’re luckier than most. You have a living reminder of the love you shared. Michael will live on through her.”
She nodded and Tess continued down the hall.
Tess stopped and turned around. “It’s just the truth, Maria.”
“No, thank you for bringing them back home.”
She nodded and left Maria to her thoughts.
I had to write that. You’d never believe it was me if I started off with ‘dear’.
They say it was once beautiful here but all that has long since been destroyed, turned into a husk of death and destruction by a senseless war. Listen to me… you and Max must be rubbing off or something.
The others agree that our presence here is useless but we have to stay, right? Try to help since they’re so sure we’re their salvation. I just don’t see that we’re doing any good. There are too many warring factions. Too many sides.
It’s hard to concentrate on telling you goodbye. I’ll see you again, I know I will. Even when I’m working on strategies and attacks all I can see is your beautiful face.
Isabel tried to dreamwalk all of you but I guess we’re just too far away, it couldn’t work. I’ve made sketches of you ever since we arrived here and on every surface that would stay still long enough for me to do it. Our world is covered with your image. Isabel has begun to call you Helen because of it, but she isn’t criticizing, she misses Alex just as much. I don’t think a night passes that she doesn’t try to dreamwalk him even though we know it’s hopeless.
I miss our fights, and the making up. There is no one else like you, Maria. Not here or on earth or on any other planet. I could never replace you, even if I tried and I could never try.
Don’t be sad, Maria. I hate it when you cry, I’m made helpless by your tears. Remember our night together and the thousand other moments we shared and smile. I see your smile in the sunrise and your eyes in the moons. I will love you forever.
(I had to leave the planet to figure out how to be romantic. I'd say that's par for the course though, wouldn't you?)
Read Ulysses and remember me,
"What incensed him the most was the blatant jokes of the ones who pass it all off as a jest, pretending to understand everything and in reality not knowing their own minds."
Epilogue: The Healing
Liz lifted the last box from the moving van. It had taken her just over two months to find the perfect rental: a smallish three-bedroom house with an actual yard, something that was often hard to come by in the city. She had spent the interim packing her apartment and running up extremely high long distance bills.
At last she was happy again. Her co-workers in the lab thought she must have found a man; they couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Not only had she lost a man but she had found a woman. Closure was an amazing thing. She felt as if she was finally able to breathe again after having spent seven years in the vacuum of purgatory.
She anxiously watched the street for signs of movement. She had spoken to Maria just an hour earlier and knew she and Mickey were close. They should arrive at any moment.
It had only taken Liz a week to convince Maria to move to San Francisco and live with her. Liz had been on cloud nine ever since her agreement. She was finally getting her best friend back not to mention a little splash of alien reminder by way of Mickey.
They would still need to be careful, but they could do it together and Maria could relax a little. After all, avoiding probing eyes was nothing new to the two women from Roswell.
Dropping the box just inside the front door, she heard a vehicle’s approach. Maria’s car pulled up in front of the house, a moving trailer tagging along behind. The car had barely come to a halt before the back door flew open and Mickey bounded out onto the curb, dashing up the sidewalk and flinging herself into Liz’s arms.
Liz engulfed the child in a tight hug and beamed delightedly at Maria as she exited the vehicle. She was home at last. What deprivation she had once felt had finally fled. She would always love and miss Max, but now that she knew he wasn't coming back she could live the way she knew he would want her too.
“So Alex says that they should be in town within the week. They’ve got a couple of gigs set for this weekend and next.”
The trio had allocated one of the moving crates for a table and pizza boxes and cans of soda littered its top as well as the sugar shaker and a half empty bottle of Tabasco. They had taken a break for dinner when it was apparent to both Maria and Liz that they wouldn’t be settled in for a day or so, no matter how quickly they worked to put the house to rights.
“What about Kyle and Tess?” Maria asked around a mouthful of pepperoni.
After Tess had returned to them, she had been at a loss as to what to do. Apparently for all the discussions she had engaged in with Max, Isabel, and Michael, they had never covered the more practical side of returning. Kyle had stepped forward at that point, insisting that she at least stay with him for a while in Chicago and she had agreed to his offer.
Kyle had appointed himself Tess’ protector, at least on a temporary basis, once he was sure Maria wouldn’t disappear on them again. Grateful, Tess had returned to Illinois with him, promising to make it out to California as soon as she could.
“Next month. I promised I’d drag you both to the game with me. Tess is looking forward to seeing Mickey again. Kyle says she’s looking a lot better, healthier and happier.”
“Thank God,” Maria said. “I’m glad they’re coming, Mickey needs someone to help her now that her ‘abilities’ are showing up and I bet Tess is just as anxious to be around someone who’s at least a little bit like she is.”
Liz nodded, picking up another slice of pizza and delicately blowing on it before trying to take a bite. “Somehow I don’t think that lady at the supermarket quite believed us when Mickey brought that pigeon back to life this afternoon. I mean, that bird was so stiff that when she picked it up it didn’t even bend. There’s no way anyone could mistake it for being asleep.” Liz smiled at the memory of the lifeless bird suddenly becoming a whirl of movement in Mickey’s hands before taking off into the air.
“I do have a question though.”
Maria looked up. “What’s that?”
“I mean, Max could heal but none of them could bring something back from the dead. How is it that Mickey, being even more hybrid than they were, can do it without even thinking about it?”
“I think that’s a question for the molecular biologist, not the mother. Hand me that soda by your knee before you spill it all over my child.” Maria took the can and set it on the crate. “I do want to stop by the bookstore tomorrow at some point.”
“I want to pick up a new bedtime story for Mickey. I was thinking about finding a copy of Ulysses.”