Disclaimer: If I owned 'Roswell,' would I be writing fan fiction?
Author's Note: This subject, music, is close at heart to me because I have been a musician since I was about 5 years old, learning how to play the violin. Although I abandoned the instrument about three years ago for the guitar and the piano, I picked it up the other night and was totally inspired. And, voila, this fic was born. :)
There were times during my childhood when I wanted nothing more than this – to stand on this very stage, performing a technically-sound, breathtakingly complex sonata for thousands upon thousands of listeners, baring my very being to each and every one of them in a different manner. And, in hearing of my gift, these lost souls would realize that they, too, had some higher purpose in this world; that there was something better than their plain old lives and would search the very fibers of their being to find their missing piece. A piece that they would all long for after hearing me.
From the time I began practicing and polishing, I remember that I always wanted to move people. I pitied those empty, selfish drones who lived from day to day without realizing their one true meaning (but, as long as my music could benefit from their useless searches, I was okay with their unchanging ways and constant mistakes). Selfishly, I wanted to be the reason they changed themselves. I wanted to be their savior and I wanted my music to be the catalyst for the metamorphoses.
I figured that maybe the music I played could heal wounds that were so fresh on the surface to many people (myself included, although I would never actually admit that out loud). Or maybe the music I played would lead them into a lifelong romance with themselves and their own talents.
But I never really grasped what I wanted my music to inspire in these people. As I look back on it, I never changed because of some damn song I simply played (or, for that matter, any song that anyone performed). And, if I were left standing after one of these numbers, unaffected, why should anyone else be moved, inspired?
As I’ve grown older, I have to face the stark reality that this dream of mine is both empty and broken, very similar to many of my listeners that I, at one point, wanted to transform into something beautiful and new. And although I consider my music a comfort, I know that it does not and will never touch the most vulnerable places in my soul that oftentimes I hide, even from myself. How can you change something buried so deep inside your very being that you push it into a darkened corner to purposely overlook?
And how can you sculpt something into beautiful if it were never really that ugly to begin with?
How could I believe that, with one stroke of the bow, I could change someone else’s life that I didn’t even understand?
Lastly, I come to the question that I have been asking myself repeatedly recently. How can I change someone else’s life is I am not capable of changing my own?
I have come to the conclusion that I cannot change the way I live my life and what it has morphed into – a nightmare. I am living a nightmare and I am haunted by images of my past every time I look in the mirror. Indeed, my life is as fucked up as those who I once looked down upon.
I am Maria DeLuca, world-renowned violinist, and I hate who I have become.
I should probably start off by explaining my childhood and what I’ve been doing since then…
I grew up in a little tourist town called Roswell, New Mexico. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Let me sum it up for you, in case you haven’t. It’s a tiny town in the southwest where the aliens supposedly crash-landed in the 40’s and ever since then, thousands of loons have been flocking to the city, searching for aliens. Remember now? Maybe you’ve visited us, too?
Aliens… my God. Yeah, right.
As if there ever were a thing like that. And, if they really did exist, if I were an alien, Roswell, New Mexico would probably the last place in the world that I’d want to live. Capeesh?
I had a happy childhood, for the most part. I should probably call it oblivious rather than happy, though. I don’t know. Fuck it.
I started playing the violin at a young age… I think I performed my first song at the age of three, which warranted applause from the family and, surprisingly, the town, who all assumed that I’d be the person to make it to the big time from Roswell, New Mexico. I never realized this until recently – the fan mail clued me in. But I never understood why I got such a hype at a young age. Actually, come to think of it, I’m almost positive that it was my mother’s doing. Damn, damn, damn.
When I was in fifth grade, I got the opportunity to perform with the Roswell Symphony Orchestra a piece called Allegro by Fiocco.
And don’t look at me like that, with all that disbelief – Roswell isn’t that small!
I remember practicing until my fingers had railroad tracks running through them (these are what we called the string marks that got imprinted in our fingers, back in the day) and mostly, I remember Mr. Chang, my teacher at the time, banging on the piano every time I missed a note or made a mistake throughout the entire song. We practiced for a month on this one song (which I considered an extremely long time – I typically could learn and polish a piece in a week back then), repeatedly going over and over the trouble spots until I could no longer make those juvenile mistakes and I was thoroughly prepared for my debut.
On the night of the concert, I got dressed in my “orchestra wear” (as I liked to call it), which consisted of a knee-length black skirt and a white collared blouse, somewhat resembling the uniform I usually wore to school. I complained about it for about a second and my grandmother, who was much fiercer than my mother, silenced me in a manner that I have soon to forget.
Needless to say, I never complained about my outfit again. Ever again.
Back to my main point... When I walked out on stage, I felt like I was going to die from nerves and from all those strangers boring holes in my body with their eyes (I was sure of it!), but as soon as the orchestra began playing, I was swept away in the music and my hard work paid off in the end. I didn’t miss a single note or a beat and I made everyone extremely proud in the process.
This event was the shining moment of my childhood. And it was also one of the largest moments for my entire family – it was almost like they were in the spotlight, too.
Let me explain a little bit. I come from a long line of musicians and, as my mother once put it, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Apparently she meant on the world of music and that’s the reason why everyone flew in for the event.
I don’t even remember actual events that happened, either. I just have vague memories of what went on from the time I walked out on stage to the time I took a bow. I know that it went extremely well, but that’s it. I couldn’t tell you if I were sweating in the limelight or if I enjoyed it. All that I know is that I got plenty of praise for my work and it drove me to seek the same success on a larger scale.
Funny, how memory works.
I remember the night my father left vaguely, but I can describe, to the last, miniscule detail, my first kiss.
Yeah, I think so too.
I can remember my mother’s devastation over his departure, though.
Amy Deluca was a strong, brave woman who had a heart of gold although she appeared quite flaky to any other ordinary passerby. Don’t get me wrong, she was overbearing and motherly and annoying, like all other mothers I have ever gotten the chance to know, but I loved her just the same. After all, she was my mom.
We had an interesting relationship – I acted more like a mother sometimes than she did. And other times, she was the one who kept me in line, but it’s not like I was out raising hell in Roswell. Oh, no. Maria Deluca was the perfect student who stayed in over the weekends to practice her violin and to work on homework. Uh huh. She was an overachiever.
I think that a lot of people viewed me as an outcast, or a dork, in high school, because I didn’t really associate with anyone other than my family and my ‘violin family,’ which was, basically, my teacher and my pianist. The people from school didn’t know that I was staying home to practice so that I could get into Julliard.
I prided myself on the perfection of my art, not caring what anyone else thought about me. Their opinions didn’t matter, in the scheme of things. All that I wanted to do was to get out of the hell hole named Roswell and experience the world; something that I figured none of them would get the chance to do.
And, to my delight, I got accepted to Julliard and fled Roswell before it could suffocate me anymore.
I had accomplished my dream and I was ecstatic. And I thought everything would be wonderful once I left Roswell. I would have a perfect life now that I was enrolled at Julliard and everything in my world would surely fall right in line.
I was wrong, needless to say.
New York City is a wonderful place, don’t get me wrong, but traveling straight from Roswell to one of the largest cities in the country without even a minute to catch my breath probably wasn’t the best of ideas. I got introduced to the ‘real’ world quickly and it engulfed me. From the parties to the people to the lounges, I was swamped, but I never let them take hold of my one passion (or so I thought) – my music, the one thing in the entire world that I had perfected.
When I graduated at the top of my class from Julliard, I was automatically offered a job as a violinist in the New York City Symphony Orchestra.
Another dream accomplished. Things were even more amazing now – I was in the public eye and they loved me with a passion.
Needless to say, the spotlight and the attention flattered me, but as I look back on it, it only created an emptiness that still consumes my being to this day. Those people really didn’t care about me, as a person. They admired me as a musician. And, the funny thing was that they all thought that I led a perfect life, something mine was far from, but I was capable of acting the part.
Over the past five years, I have moved up in the succession of seatings and a few months ago, I was finally offered the first violin chair, an honor that only extremely talented violinists receive. And I thought my life would get better then, too. It would finally be perfect.
I was wrong.
My life is far from perfect – it has never been close – and I hate it. I hate the limelight, I hate the journalists, I hate the way that everyone thinks that my life is perfect, and most of all, I hate myself and the torture I have put myself through for this life. For this empty void that I, at one time, proudly called my world.
And now, I’m driving across the country to my ‘home,’ the infamous Roswell, New Mexico for something I didn’t expect I’d find myself traveling across the country for.
It doesn’t look like my life is going to take a turn for the better anytime soon and I just want to get this over with.
I’ve already been through enough torture in my short lifetime.
Have I said how much I hate driving? Especially cross-country driving? Because if I haven’t, I’m saying it now. I loathe driving across the country to a place that I would never like to see again.
It’s actually amazing that I own a car, too. I just have to point out that little fact. I don’t ever drive in the city, for obvious reasons, and I’m incredibly surprised that my little Jetta hasn’t fallen apart already, since it hasn’t been used in quite some time. Oh well. Here’s to hoping that we make it back to Roswell in one piece.
Why the fuck am I going back to Roswell? It’s not like anyone back there actually cares about me or what has become of my life. They’re probably all happily married and have children, many, many children who will be screaming and running and crying throughout the entire ordeal. And they probably don’t even remember me. That might be a nice change, though.
My mother is the only one who cares about my life and me in Roswell, I'm convinced. She’s the only one that’s kept up with me in the past ten years and she was the only one who I actually hung out with during high school days, other than my violin teacher and my pianist.
And why the hell did I not decide to fly? Wouldn’t that have been a lot easier? At least on a flight, I wouldn’t have to deal with my incessant thoughts for three fucking days of changing landscape and annoying waitresses at diners and crummy hotel rooms and more driving, experiencing everything all alone.
I cannot believe that she actually convinced me to come back to my hometown for something so juvenile and stupid that I never even imagined I’d give a thought about now.
Why should I care about what’s going on in Roswell, now? I’m a famous violinist from the New York City Symphony Orchestra and this whole driving thing does not suit me.
Oh, God. I can just see the tabloids’ headlines now, mocking me and my pathetic life.
Maybe I should call and make sure that the maid saves me a few copies for a good laugh when I get back.
But there’s still one question swirling around in my mind. Who the hell drives from New York City to Bumblefuck, New Mexico?
What was I thinking?
Don’t get me wrong, I used to love New York City and all the thrills it offered me, whether it was the music or the interaction with different people or, unfortunately, the drugs. The city seemed so attractive and so radiant until I realized what it, and what it offered, were doing to me and my psyche.
I think that I was the only one who noticed the effects they had on me. For example, I had a stint at Julliard where I was awake for about a month, thanks to the marvels of the little drug called speed. After that crash, I decided that maybe drugs just weren’t the thing for me. I had things to do and places to go, so I decided that drugs would just get in the way of them and mess me up even more, although no one seemed to see the difference in me.
That was the part that I found amusing. No one cared enough about me to actually notice that I was struggling to get by. Maybe I never really let anyone in on the real me, or maybe no one cared enough to find it. I don’t know. All that I do know is that it all has come to the same ending in my mind.
People are so shallow, fulfilling their every wish, but ignoring every other person around them who could maybe make their miserable lives worthwhile. I hate people like that and I swear, all of my classmates at Julliard were perfect models of this mindset.
I got over the whole fact that no one was going to be there for me and that no one really wanted to know the ‘real’ me. After all, I reasoned with myself, I never had any quality friends in high school and I ended up just fine. I would be okay again.
I’m Maria Deluca. I’m Teflon, babe. I’m always fine, no matter what happens to me. Uh huh.
So I delved into my music again, not letting anyone or anything get in my way. I had to achieve my goal and I had the mindset that nothing would stop me. Nothing at all. I had to graduate number one in my class if I actually wanted to go anywhere with music. Second place is the first loser. I couldn’t be that, so I practiced so much to be the first. And I was.
When I graduated, I still loved New York City with a passion. I loved living in a city of eight million beautiful people and I blended in so well, not really recognizing what I needed or even what I wanted in life. I had my music and that was enough for me at the time.
After I got a seat in the Orchestra, I got my own loft, which is, I must admit, a piece of work. It is wonderful, to say the very least. And I got a cat, too, to keep me company – Sparkles – she always has me on my toes and loves me. Come to think of it, she may be the only animal OR person in New York that actually knows me and accepts me, for what I’m worth, with no questions asked. (Maybe it's because that she can't ask questions, but still!)
Sure, I have tons of ‘friends,’ but we don’t go out and do the normal type of friend things that usually come to mind. Our idea of fun is riding on the subway together to get to practice. Occasionally, we’ll go out to get pizza, but that’s only once in a blue moon. Our dinner conversation consists of the latest music we’re learning and our pets. I think that says enough right there. They surely don’t know who I am, even though I’d like to convince myself that they do.
And everyone else in the entire fucking city just thinks I’m a model of perfection.
Maybe that’s why I hate my life?
I used to want people to look up to me and now that they do, I don’t feel any better about myself than I did when I was back in high school or college. Thanks to the spotlight, my flaws are even more egregious now to me. And I hate it.
I’m going back to Roswell for a break. Uh huh. I’ll just try to convince myself of that little fact. Maybe I’ll feel better about myself and this fucking trip if I do.
I refuse to ask, ‘Why?’ anymore because there is no way that I’m turning around. I’ve made it this far and I reached the point of no return about two days ago, in the middle of West Virginia.
I just hope that Roswell offers the respite and love that I need, even though that I’m thinking that it’s highly unlikely right now.
Only five more hours to go and I swear, I’m going to go insane before I pull into the dinky old town.
Here’s to hoping that me and the Jetta make it back together in one piece.
And that things, which I’m convinced will be horrible, will go better than I have assumed they will be.
As soon as I pulled into the driveway, I realized my mistake. Coming ‘home’ was not such a good idea. I should have known that it would be this way all along, but I think I denied myself. Or I actually realized it, but chose to ignore my instincts.
I guess I’m just not as smart as I look or as I think I am.
Maybe New York City has really messed with my mind and my ability to make sound, good decisions based on facts that are egregious when I look back upon them. I mean, my track record here in Roswell is a train wreck, to say the very least.
“Maria!” I hear a high-pitched voice call from the front porch and I inwardly groan.
Home, sweet home.
I paste a fake smile on my face, open the door of the dying Jetta (which is moaning its complaints and problems to the pavement below), and take a step out into the New Mexican sunlight for the first time in about ten years. God, it’s been a long time since I was here.
“Hey, Mom,” I say slowly, unenthusiastically, to the woman who is rushing towards me with all her might from the house.
She hasn’t changed much in the past ten years. Amy Deluca still looks young and vivacious. I don’t think I inherited any of those traits from her, but I don’t really care. I mean, I have a fairytale life and job and all that jazz. Uh huh.
“I never thought that you would make it! We have so much to talk about and so much to catch up on. Goodness, sweetheart, you’ve changed so much since I last saw you.”
“I’m still me, Mom. I haven’t changed that much.”
She ignores my statement and instantly asks, “How’s practice going with the orchestra?” while still rushing across the yard towards me. I swear, that question is second nature to every person in my family. Every fucking person in my family asks that whenever they speak to me.
Have I said how much I hate my life lately? And how much my mother pestering me reminds me of my high school days, days that I don’t want to remember?
Why the hell am I back here?
Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot for like, a second, why I was putting myself through this torture.
Because my mother wanted me to come home and for that damn class reunion.
I’m getting old way too quick. And it’s not like any of the people in my class will want to see me and spend time with me. I mean, surely they’ll want autographs and stuff, but they won’t want to get to know the real me, just like in high school. Just like high school, damnit!
“We need to discuss something that I’ve set up for you,” she smiles and wraps me in her arms in a giant bear hug.
I sigh inwardly, again. Amy Deluca; what a woman, what a mother, what a mystery.
“What kind of plans are these, Mom?”
“You’ll like them, I can guarantee it,” she states, pulling away from me and taking another good look from close-up. “My God, Maria. Look at you! I’m going to have to call off the appointments I have tonight and fix you a good, healthy meal. When was the last time you had something homemade to eat, honey?”
“Last week, actually.” Well, a month ago. It’s all the same, right? It’s not like she’s going to listen to me, anyway.
“Well, you look like you haven’t eaten one in a solid five years. Come on, let’s go inside and you can tell me about your exciting life in the city while I cook you a dinner that you’ll never forget.”
I’m not hungry! Damnit, mouth, speak up for me! I don’t want to get sucked back into this town just yet. No, no, no, not yet.
My mouth falls open to protest, but no words tumble out of it. There’s silence between us.
Think of an excuse now! There has to be an excuse. There must be a way to get out of her cooking dinner. My mother and the kitchen do not mix. Not at all. Just like me and the kitchen. Ah, what a lovely trait I’ve inherited from her.
“Mom, it’s all right,” I manage to say as she’s turning her back and heading back to the house, expecting me to follow.
“No, no, dear,” she calls over her shoulder and continues walking, “I want to make you dinner. Really. Or, if you really want to, we can go to the Crashdown. I think you’d really like it.”
Perhaps it’s a nice restaurant that’s been build in this God-forbidden town since I left. Surely it’s that. A place with lots of people. She can’t get too personal there. I can put off really talking to her for a bit, which is a good thing. A very good thing.
In fact, I’m all for it. To the Crashdown.
“That sounds great.”
She turns and a smile spreads across her face. “Want to take your Jetta or mine?”
* * *
I was wrong, as usual. The Crashdown is probably the greasiest, nastiest restaurant that I’ve entertained eating at in quite some time. In fact, I think that some of the places, the greasy spoons that are mere holes in the wall back in New York, are better than here.
Once Mom and I are seated, a brunette waitress who looks somewhat familiar approaches the table with a smile, “Hi, I’m Liz. I’ll be your server today. Would you like anything to drink?”
Liz, Liz, Liz… how do I know that name?
The strange cellist from Orchestra? No… The girl next door? No, that’s Liza. Maybe it’s one of my friends’ friends who they sometimes talk about on the subway? Perhaps?
I don’t know.
Damnit, how do I know the girl?
“Maria, what would you like to drink?” Mom asks and the waitress perks up. (See, I do notice things, even when questions are floating around in my head. I’m not oblivious to the world.)
“An iced tea, no lemon,” I reply nonchalantly, staring up at our waitress whose eyes are as wide as saucers.
Okay, this girl is officially strange. Maybe she’s a fan, or something. I guess that escaping the stardom in Roswell isn’t an option either. Damn.
A strand of brown hair falls in her eyes and she quickly brushes it behind her ear, still looking intently at me. “Do you remember me?”
I blink a few times. She does look familiar. I just don’t know why she looks it.
“Liz Parker,” she states, holding out her hand, “We had bio together freshman year. I’m assuming that you’re here for the reunion?”
It’s all coming back to me now.
Liz had been the quiet girl who sat in the corner, mooning over that guy who had big ears… Max Evans. Damn, I’m good. I think they got together during junior year. It was a big deal for all of the popular kids, but since I never really hung out in their crowd (or anyone’s, for that matter), I didn’t really care or take notice of all the changes that were apparently going on.
I smile sweetly at her, shaking her hand. “Yeah. It’s nice to see you, again. Tell me, are you and Max still together?”
She nods her head eagerly, “We got married six years ago after I graduated college and Max was going to med school. With my savings and cooking skills,” she giggled, “I opened up the Crashdown and since Max graduated, he’s been working at Roswell General Hospital.”
“That’s nice to hear.”
“I hear you’ve been really busy in New York since you left town.”
God, does she ever stop talking? Whatever happened to the mousy girl who sat in the back of bio class? Did Max Evans do this to her?
“You could say that.”
I glance across the table and Mom’s smiling.
I bet she set this up. I so bet that she set this little scene up so that I would feel welcome back in Roswell.
She and the rest of the world know that I don’t belong here. I don’t really fit in. And I hate that she’s trying to make things happen that won’t, unless hell freezes over. (I’m banking on the simple fact that hell will never freeze over. I’d have lots and lots of problems then.)
Liz turns around and surveys the café as I glare at my mother. Damn her, damn her, damn her. She is so unfair.
“Well, I’d better get going. I’ll bring your drinks out in a second and I’ll get your orders then. It’s nice seeing you, Maria,” she finishes and with a final smile, turns on her heel and heads back to the kitchen.
“That was nice,” my mother comments and I shoot daggers at her with my eyes.
“You are so not fair,” I snap through curled lips.
“You know you love it.”
“So,” she asks from across the table, a smirk gracing her lips. Oh, this should be rich, I can see it now. “Do you want to know the plans I’ve so kindly made for you? Maria, I think you’ll really like these.”
Oh, sure I will. Uh huh. Whatever. “The excitement is surging through my veins. I just cannot wait to hear what you’ve planned for me, Mother.”
She grins at me and I silently roll me eyes. Some things never change.
“I thought you would never ask!”
No shit, Sherlock. Cut to the chase, already. I don’t want to be here and you’re making it even more challenging for me to stay in this fucking town for the rest of the week, until the reunion.
She looks around the restaurant and her face lights up as she leans forward and states softly, “I made plans for you to plan your violin at the reunion.”
Shit. Holy shit. I am screwed.
Someone remind me why I came back. Oh, right, because she asked me. And because of this stupid class reunion. Just my luck. Fucking bad luck.
“Great.” Somehow, I think I sound a little less than enthused and somehow, I think she’s picked up on that little fact.
“Maria, it’ll be fun. I’m sure that everyone in your class will enjoy it. After all, you made it big in New York and you’re wonderful. They’ll just love it, I know they will,” my mother smiles.
“Who’ll just love what?” Liz asks as she sets our food down on the table. “Something for the reunion?”
Dear Lord. I’m going to be driven insane… my mother, Liz, this whole reunion thing. I’m not going to last for another week. I am officially screwed. Damnit! Here I was thinking that I would make it back to New York City in one piece. Now I’m not so sure.
Just give me my food… that’s all I want right now. To stuff my face and forget all of my worries.
“I made plans for Maria to play her violin at the reunion,” my mother states as Liz hands her a plate, sliding the other one on the table over to me, which I dive into. The cheeseburger looks extremely greasy and so do the fries, but as long as I can put something in my mouth, I don’t have to talk.
“That’ll be wonderful, Maria,” Liz turns to me as I take a giant bite of the burger, munching happily on it, “Do you know what you’re going to play yet?”
I shake my head and swallow the food, frowning slightly at her question, “Actually, I have no idea. My mother,” I say, glaring at her to stress my unhappiness with her ‘surprise,’ “just decided to fill me in on that little fact that I’ll be performing. So I actually have no idea what will happen or what I’ll play.”
“But Maria will be prepared for it, I assure you.” Ah, gotta love the mother standing up for my musical abilities.
Liz looks over her shoulder, taking a look around the restaurant, and nods to my mother’s last comment in agreement (it looks like it, at least), “I’ve got to go, but Mrs. Deluca, it was nice seeing you and Maria, I cannot wait to hear what you have to play for us at the reunion. I’m so glad that you’re in town. You can find me here if you want to hang out before the reunion.”
“Thanks,” and I paste a sugary sweet smile on my lips, trying my best not to grimace or run as far away as I can. Was the smile believable? Well, Liz and my mother both bought it.
I’m good. But I hate my life. With a passion.
“I presume that you still have Mr. Chang’s number so that we can figure this entire fiasco out?” I raise an eyebrow in interest, looking intently at my mom, who has brought this entire thing upon me.
“Uh, well…” she stutters.
“What? You’re going to tell me now that my teacher left this God-forsaken town after I graduated?”
She nods slowly. Just my luck, I suppose.
“I guess he was smarter than I credited him to be… But how the hell do you figure we’re going to pull this off? I have no accompanist, no direction, no song and the damn reunion is in less than a week.”
She grins at me, setting her glass onto the table with a resounding clatter, “I might be able to help you there.”
What does she have in mind now?
* * *
I should have known that she would have figured this entire scheme out before I even arrived home. And things don’t appear to be getting any better, either.
After we got back to the house (I had to pry myself away from Liz, who kept asking more and more questions), my mother made her way into the kitchen and began baking cookies, for some reason or another.
She would not tell me how she could help me with the whole accompanist, direction, song dilemma and after begging her, which, I will openly admit, I hate, she gave in and handed me a simple sheet of paper with a simple address scrawled on it.
“So this is the address of whoever or whatever you want me to go to for this problem?”
“Uh huh. If you still remember your way around town, you should be able to find it pretty easily.”
What happens if I’ve forgotten? It’s not like I’ve been here for visits so often. I guess that doesn’t matter. She knows that I’m smarter than that… I can at least stop for directions, even if this is my damn hometown.
“Are you even going to tell me who or what I’m looking for?”
“That’s not fair.”
“Does it have to be fair? Is life fair, Maria?”
Well, in my life, nothing is fair, so I guess not. Damn. What’s with the philosophical questions all of a sudden? Should I look into this? “Yeah?”
“Maria, just go. I promise you that it will not be a mistake,” she turns to me, pulling herself away from baking and winks, “You might even have a good time.”
“Uh huh.” Like I believe that pile of crap. Especially from her.
“You never know until you try,” she smiles and goes back to her cooking. Damn her.
“Whatever,” I shrug as I grab my keys and saunter out the door, wondering where the hell my mother is sending me and what she has up her sleeve next.
I’ve been driving aimlessly around Roswell for the past hour and I’m now convinced that I have completely forgotten my way around this town. Apparently, ten years away can do a lot to your memory, whether or not you want to believe it.
For the record, I did stop for directions at the Lift Off gas station. But the guy there wasn’t much help. He just kept staring at me (I’m guessing that he was flattered a world-renowned violinist was in his store?) and I wanted to tell him to pick his damn mouth off the floor. I hate it when people just stare at me and say absolutely nothing, like I’m a statue or something. You know, I have feelings, too. I’m alive, too. But I guess sometimes, people forget that fact and keep on doing what they’ve always done. And I feel just as out of place as I have always felt, whether it was in Bumblefuck, New Mexico or New York City. It’s all the same. People are all the same.
After fleeing the Lift Off, I’ve been driving ever since.
I can’t help but ask questions as I circle this town over and over again, hoping that this time I’ll find whatever street I’m looking for. Why the fuck didn’t she give me directions to this apartment instead of the address? I bet this is another one of her plots… getting me lost in my own hometown and making me drive around until I find this damn place where I have to meet my accompanist. Things are not looking up for today or for the rest of this week, for that matter.
I should probably stop again for directions – maybe this time would be different and whoever it was wouldn’t stare at me like I was walking around naked, or something – but I’m allotting myself ten more minutes to find my freakin’ way around this town. Surely it isn’t that challenging. I mean, I did live here for eighteen years.
And, what do you know, there’s Citrus right there.
Damn, I’m good. Just a matter of time before I find this apartment. I bet it’s sleazy and dirty and whoever’s going to open the door will either (a) know who I am before I even knock, or (b) laugh at me whenever they see what kind of predicament I’m in. I can see it now, playing before my eyes.
God, I love being laughed at by people I don’t even know.
And heaven forbid if my mother sent me to someone from my high school. I just might have to hurt her if that’s the case. Or just give her the silent treatment for the rest of her life. Or something... Then, I would know that she is trying to make my life a living hell if she did that.
* * *
I double check the apartment number before I knock – it would be extremely humiliating if I knocked on the wrong door and didn’t even know who I was looking for. Yeah, that would be a good first impression. I bet that story would make it back to the city before I did and I’d be the laughing stock of the media. I can see the headlines now… I shudder involuntarily.
Before I even put my hand against the door, it swings open and reveals a lanky man who looks to be about my age. He’s wearing glasses (he looks like a computer dork to me, for the record) and has plain brown hair. The guy’s wearing a flannel shirt and an old pair of jeans. So he doesn’t look as bad as I expected him to and I smile slightly at him.
He sticks his hand out, which I take after placing my violin case on the floor, and he grins automatically, “So you must be Maria Deluca.” Oh God, not another crazy fan. I thought that I had enough of those in New York… I cannot believe that my mother actually sent me here to hang out with a fan. She and I are going to have some talking to do whenever I make it back to the house. A lot of talking.
“Yeah. And you are?”
He shakes his head and stares at me with a lopsided grin, “Guess Amy didn’t tell you who you were coming to visit?”
I shake my head vehemently.
“Just like her.”
“This is true.”
He laughs and says, “I’m Alex Whitman. Nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you and your musical talents.”
“Uh, thanks. I think.”
He chuckles and opens the door wider. “So, you want to come into the abode?”
“Sure, Alex,” I smile, pick up my violin case, and walk into the tiny room; he follows behind.
“So you’re my accompanist?” I ask hopefully. He doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, he kind of reminds me of a few ‘friends’ I have back in the city. I might actually like him if I got to know him a little better – he seems like my kind of guy.
It’s his turn to shake his head. “Nah, I play the bass. My roommate is the pianist.”
My eyebrows shoot up. “Oh?”
“He should be here any minute. I had to call him to get his lazy ass back here when your mom called to say that you were on your way. I’m not really sure where he is, since it took you more time to get here than we expected, but I’m sure he’s going to walk through that door any minute,” Alex reassures. “You want something to drink while you’re waitng?”
“No thanks. I think I’m fine right now. But I’m going to find the piano so that I can get the violin in tune. It’s been a long trek from New York and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s probably incredibly out of tune.”
“All right. The piano’s in the living room – take a right next to the bathroom and you’ll find it. I’ll just send him in whenever he gets here,” Alex calls to me as I make my way across the room and take a right, finding the piano up against the wall, next to an upright bass. Paintings, paint supplies, and brushes line the other wall of this somewhat tiny room and I wonder who’s the artist in the house. Alex didn’t seem… scruffy enough to be one and seemed a little too nice. All of the artists I’ve ever known have been so into their skill that it bled into other aspects of their life, literally. Not that it’s a bad thing. But Alex seemed too together and optimistic to be a starving artist.
I open my violin case and a picture falls out. I pick it off the ground and shove it back into the case before memories come flying back. I place the kun on my violin and tighten the bow, running a little bit of rosin over the horse hairs, plucking on the strings a little to assess the damage that this desert air has caused my instrument.
I pound on a note on the old piano, tuning my violin as quickly and as accurately that I can. It doesn’t sound as bad as I had expected it to.
I hear the door open and Alex speaking to someone - I guess it’s his roommate - and shortly after that, I hear footsteps coming towards this room.
All of a sudden, a striking man, who also looks to be my age, turns the corner. As soon as he’s in the room with me, my eyes scan over him quickly and I smile slightly at my discovery. He doesn’t look too bad, either. In fact, if I do say so myself, he’s pretty handsome for a small town guy. His hair is spiky and he’s taller than Alex (well, it looks that way, at least). And he’s wearing some paint splattered jeans and a tight, black t-shirt. I found the artist in the house. Yeah, I’m good.
“Hi,” I state curtly, putting my violin back in its case, and taking a step away from the piano.
He just nods in return, sitting down on the piano bench and placing some music on the stand on the piano ledge.
“Are you even going to talk to me?”
He looks up and over his shoulder at me, smirking slightly. “Maybe.”
Damn him. He’s going to try to drive me insane before I get back to New York, or even back to my mother. This guy could quite possibly be detrimental to my health – I don’t do people who don’t talk.
“I’m guessing that you’re the pianist, then? My mom set this up… for you to accompany me at the reunion, correct?”
“Yep,” he turns his attention back to the piano and plays a little ditty from the sheet music, I’m assuming, while I silently fume at his lack of words.
God, this guy is frustrating! Is his vocabulary bigger than like, ten words? Or am I going to have to work at getting him to use the full extent of even that?
“What’s with the one word answers, buddy?”
Aah! If he could get anymore annoying, I don’t know what I would do with myself.
“Do you have a name?” I ask, hoping to get some sort of response out of him. Any response, really, other than a smirk. I don’t want to see one of his damn smirks ever again.
He turns around again and nods. “Michael Guerin. And you are?”
Oh my God, he used five words in a row! This has to be some sort of record for him. Should I congratulate him? I look him over once more and decide in better judgment that the compliment might not make him too happy.
I roll my eyes. How can he not know who I am? I shake my head a little, clicking my tongue, and extend my hand. “Maria Deluca. Nice to meet you.”
“Well, Maria,” he begins, pronunciating my name sharply as he looks up at me with question in his eyes, “What are we going to play for the reunion?”
Uh oh. I’m supposed to know?
“Don’t tell me that you don’t know. ‘Cause if you do, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Amy said that you had a song picked out and everything.”
“I don’t know what she’s been telling you, mister,” I point my finger at his chest, frowning slightly at the predicament that my mother has placed me in (so kindly, indeed), “But she sure as hell didn’t tell me anything before this afternoon, right after I got back in town, in front of Liz freakin’ Parker, who had a million and a half questions about my life now. I don’t even-”
“Evans,” he cuts my rant off and I glare at him.
“She married Max. Her last name is Evans,” he states pointedly, locking eyes with me.
He shrugs, “Just thought that you should know.”
“Well, I guess we should get a move on,” I state, rifling through my case, hoping and praying to God that I have some kind of music in there to play for the fucking class reunion. Somehow, I don’t think I’m on luck’s good side right now and I come up empty handed. Damn. “We’ve got to decide what the hell to play and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all these people who never really liked me in the first place. I guess it doesn’t matter for you ‘cause you didn’t go to high school with me and you don’t really know anyone who’s coming back in town. You’re just another accompanist who moved into this town, probably, because Mr. Chang and his wife left after I did.”
He snorts and I look up from the empty case I’m still searching through.
“In case you didn’t notice, and apparently you did not, I went to high school with you.”
Oh, God. Oops.
“Well, I guess that I never saw you around.”
“Guess not. And, for the record, I’ve been playing the piano here for quite some time. Almost as long as you’ve been playing the violin, if I’ve read the right information.”
Great, now the creepy, not speaking guy is checking out my background and my skills? I don’t think so.
“Like you would even know. Like you know anything about me, Michael Guerin. You haven’t the slightest idea of who I am, so don’t act like you know me. You don’t.”
He rolls his eyes at me, but keeps his mouth closed. Good. I don’t know if I can stand him speaking any more than he already has today. I think I liked the silent Michael better than this chatty, infuriating one. Like hell he knows who I am!
I groan and run a hand through my hair, finally giving up the futile search of my case. “Do you have the slightest idea what we can play? ‘Cause I think that I left all of the good music of mine in New York and there is no way that I’m driving back there right now.”
He smirks at me and I’m starting to dread whatever he has to say.
“Well, I might just have an idea, Maria,” he states as he pulls out some music from under a stack on top of the piano. “You want to give this a try?”
Damn. I sure as hell hope that I am, ‘cause if I’m not, I doubt that I will ever live it down.
“Glad to hear it.”
He was actually better than I thought he would be. A lot better, as a matter of fact.
All of a sudden, though, in the middle of the song, which has been going incredibly smoothly (much to my surprise), he randomly stops playing and turns abruptly to face me and stares intensely. People who do that give me the creeps, but somehow, I feel that it’s a little different with Michael. Yet I’m still incredibly uncomfortable – I’ve had bad experiences with folks who do the whole staring thing.
I shift my weight back and forth and put my violin in the ‘rest’ position while raising an eyebrow in question. What is the deal with this guy, anyway? Don’t tell me that he’s suddenly become another adoring fan… I might just be sick if that happens. Somehow, I doubt it, but hey, you never know. Sometimes, people act like they don’t know who you are and then, bam!, they know all about you and you start to wonder about their intentions. However, I don’t think that’s Michael’s type of thing to do. He’s too… artsy and rebellious to actually care that much. But he did read some ‘information’ on me, whatever that might be. Oh well.
And I cannot believe that my mother has set this whole fiasco up! It is her fault, no doubt.
“What?” I finally ask, breaking away from my inner musings.
“You haven’t changed much since high school,” he starts off slowly, almost like he’s choosing his words carefully, gazing intently at my face.
I nod, acknowledging the fact. It’s true, somewhat. “I’m still the same person, but a lot has changed about me. I think it might have had to do with the fact of where I was. But it’s not like you would notice.”
“What?” he asks incredulously, “New York City changed you?”
It’s his turn to raise his eyebrows. “Oh, and what kind of metamorphosis did you go through when you left Roswell? When you arrived in New York?”
Who does he think he is just to ask me these questions? Do I look like I want to share all of this personal information? I mean, ‘cause I just met him like, an hour ago and he’s already prying into my personal life. Well, he loses.
“You lose,” I whisper under my breath and when he shoots me a look, I realize that I’ve said it aloud. Damnit.
Oh, God, how am I going to explain this? I can see the headlines flashing before my eyes now – Maria Deluca, violinist extraordinaire, found to be crazy after publicly talking to herself.
Not good. No, not good at all.
“I lose what?”
“Nothing, really. I don’t have to go into detail about how my life has turned around because of the city. You wouldn’t understand. And how the hell do I know if you’re some psychotic reporter or fan who’s looking for the inside scoop on me to spread to the masses through your fan-site? Hmm?”
He rolls his eyes. “If it’s that touchy of a subject, then forget it.”
I smirk, “I will.”
“Princess? Excuse me? Since when are you calling me Princess? Am I just so deserving or is that sarcasm I hint?”
“Well,” he starts, stating simply, “You’re acting like one. And from what I’ve heard, New York City has made you some kind of celebrity or something just because you can play your instrument. Sounds like a princess to me.”
“As a matter of fact,” I snap, “I’m the first chair violinist of the New York City Symphony Orchestra. I am a celebrity in the city, and apparently, here too,” I pause for a quick second before starting my rant again, “Things have changed in my life because of it. And I am having the time of my life away from this hellhole of a town, so don’t start with me.”
He shrugs before speaking, “Well, I wish I got a chance to get out of this town, but I didn’t. And I’m okay with it. You just seem…” he pauses.
He shakes his head, “Forget it,” and drops it into his hands, raking his fingers through his already spiky hair.
Say what? He wants me to forget this when he started it? I don’t think so.
“No way – tell me what you were gonna say. I don’t care.”
He looks up at me, his amber eyes piercing, and says slowly, “In high school, you were so vivacious. Even though you didn’t hang out with anyone that was in school with us, we could all tell that you loved your life and what you were doing. Now… it’s like, now, you’re more sullen.”
My eyebrows pique in interest. “You think I’m sullen?”
“Well, excuse me, Mister. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I have to tell you that I am not fucking sullen. And even if I were, you wouldn’t understand. No one in this God-forsaken little town would understand what it’s like to be me!”
“You never know,” he whispers under his breath and I suppose that he thinks that I cannot hear him, “You might just find someone who feels the exact same way.”
“I doubt it.”
He looks up, surprised that I heard his commentary.
“Well, things may surprise you, then,” he states coldly and turns abruptly back to the piano, pounding out a few notes before actually beginning to form chords again.
His fingers are extremely graceful when they run across the keys and I am entranced for a minute before I pick up my violin again and commence to practicing.
He can stay out of my personal life and business and I’ll be just fine.
* * *
“Fuck you!” I scream, stomping my foot on the ground and slamming my fist onto the music stand, sending all of the sheet music fluttering to the ground in many directions.
He just smirks at me. “Aw, you mean it?”
It’s my turn to glare at him and roll my eyes. God, what a juvenile statement. What, are we in like, third grade? C’mon, dude, you totally need some better come backs, because that one just plain sucked. “You know exactly what I mean. Slow the song down. Slow. It’s a sonata, for God’s sake!”
“It’s not my fault that you can’t keep up with me.”
“Did you even look at the composer’s notes near the top of the page? Huh? Here – take a close look,” I sneer, shoving the first piece of music I can find into his hands and pointing to the lettering above the first line of notes. “Adagio. A-d-a-g-i-o. It’s supposed to be slow and pretty, not brutally speedy. I feel sorry for your piano because it has to put up with your incessant playing and not reading the music and just being plain mean. It looks like it’s been beaten on numerous occasions. That poor instrument – what did it ever do to you?”
“Oops,” he states dully, not even looking up at me. Oh, the audacity porcupine man has. “Guess I missed that. But, for the record, I don’t beat my piano and I don’t play incessantly and I do read the music, whether or not you think I do. I got through the entire song without a hitch – what’re you bitching about?”
He’s waiting for my answer and I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
After a minute’s pause and I see a smirk curling on his lips, I state, “That’s it, buddy. I’m leaving,” with finality in my voice, placing my violin gently back in its case and storming out the door, making sure that my footsteps could be heard by just about everyone in the neighborhood.
“Suit yourself,” he calls to me as I fly out of the apartment, humiliated and confused.
Who the hell does he think he is? Does he know who I am? And does he think that he can just insult my… musicianship… is that even a word?… because he’s playing the fucking song at an extremely rapid pace, even though the music states that the song is adagio.
That means slow, damnit.
* * *
My mother has the nerve to smile at me when I storm into the door of her home.
“How’d it go?”
I let out a frustrated sigh and make my way to my bedroom without a word. I think that she’ll figure it out, sooner or later.
Hey, maybe she can actually call Michael and ask him how it went? Oh, I can’t wait to hear about that. Maybe he’d have something better than I have to say right now?
Somehow, I doubt it.
She’s knocking on the door – will she ever leave me alone?
I’ve figured out her tricks and things stop here. No more of the whole ‘Lets set Maria up’ game. I’m sick of it.
And her matchmaking sucks.
Chapter 7 In loving memory of Becky
Mom finally left my door after about ten minutes of trying to convince me to tell her about my time at Michael and Alex’s apartment practicing. Oh, if only she knew how it was. But I didn’t want to tell her the entire tale right then, so I gave her the silent treatment and as soon as she realized that I wasn’t going to talk, she left me alone. Thank God.
It’s silent in the house now and I’m beginning to realize that it might have been a better deal for me to actually talk to my mother than ignore her. I’ve always felt so alone in the silence and I don’t really want to face my thoughts right now. In fact, I never want to face my thoughts. But especially now, because I’m so confused. And they always seem to be louder and more persistent in the darkness.
I swear, I think my mother’s going to try to drive me insane, single-handedly, while I’m back in town because I’ve missed out on ten years of this shit. I shudder at the thought of what this would be like if I had been home at some point during my stint in New York City. Somehow, I bet this trip would be just as challenging. And I bet that all the other visits would be the same, as well. Torturous, annoying, never-ending would be some good adjectives to describe the visits, I’m sure. The list goes on and on...
And have I said that I hate my life today? Because I do. Oh, I really do. Words cannot even describe the feelings I have for it at this very moment.
I shudder and silently open my violin case, staring blankly at the instrument before me, taking in the velvety lining of the case and an old photograph. At one point in my life, I used to think that I would have everything when I went to New York City, when I graduated from Julliard, when I was the first chair violinist in the Orchestra. But I’m beginning to realize that all these hopes and dreams that I once had no longer suffice. They’re not enough and I’m starting to wonder if they were ever enough. Because sometimes, things can appear to be one way and turn out completely opposite of what you originally thought. And these hopes and dreams have more than ever.
I thought my life would be perfect and it’s still far from. In fact, I’m falling farther and farther away from the perfection that I once strived so hard to achieve. I don’t know what I want anymore. Maybe I never knew what I wanted, to begin with, but its just being revealed to me now – I am utterly lost in a sea of darkness. Does anyone actually know what they want anymore or are people just striving blindly towards some unknown goal until they’re upon it? And who is actually happy with their jobs and themselves in this world today, with all the hatred and violence and standards that make everyone and everything seem never good enough?
I shake my head in an attempt to free myself from my very thoughts as I close the violin case that holds so many memories, hopes, and dreams. I hate my life, I really do, and I have no idea how to change it. I think that’s the most frightening part.
Things have just felt so wrong lately, ever since I came back to Roswell.
And, to add to my problems, Michael Guerin, someone who I barely know and remember, thinks I’m sullen as compared to what I used to be, whatever that was, when I was in high school.
What the fuck? The guy doesn’t even know me and he recognizes that I’m not loving life and what it’s given me more than any of my co-workers, ‘friends,’ and even my mother. Question – is there something wrong with that? Why am I not freaking out about it more than I am right now?
Maybe, somehow and in some strange, messed up way, I sense him as a kindred spirit, through his rough exterior? Surely not.
Is the world coming to a halt on its axis?
Because I think it really might be.
I mean, c’mon. Michael Guerin? Understanding me and my life? Never.
That’ll be the day.
* * *
When I woke up this morning, at the bright, early time of eleven o’clock sharp, I found a note on the floor next to my bed that read something like – ‘Maria, I’ve gone to the store for work.’ Damn, how could I have forgotten that? I wish she would have woken me up to tell me about it – I would have freaked if she didn’t leave a note. ‘Sleep late,’ Well, duh. Mission accomplished. ‘And be ready for practice at eleven thirty. I called Michael and he’s coming over.’ What the hell? ‘I love you!’
I’m convinced; she’s trying to drive me mad so that I can be a raving lunatic by the time I arrive back in New York.
Somehow, I bet that she didn’t speak with Michael about how our last practice went because surely she wouldn’t put me through this torture knowingly. After all, I’m her favorite daughter. Or only. Whatever.
And he’s going to be over here in thirty fucking minutes! Oh my God – I need to shower so badly. God, when I looked at my hair earlier, I almost shrieked – it looks hideous and almost (just almost) worse than Michael’s had yesterday. I can’t let him show me up in the appearance category – that would just be cruel.
So I rushed to the other side of the house (to where the bathroom is located) and focused on my shower. I hauled ass in and out as quickly as I possibly could, but somehow, I expected that it probably wasn’t fast enough.
After wrapping a towel around my body, I headed out the bathroom door back to my own room, when suddenly, an unexpected cough pulled my attention away from my mission of getting completely dressed before he arrived over at my house for practice.
There was Michael, lounging on the couch, watching television, as I was walking across the living room in a towel. A fucking skimpy towel that barely covers my torso, at that!
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know about you, but I have a reunion to practice for.” He sounds so snide.
I wanted to snap, ‘Well, Mister, you have nothing, I repeat, nothing to be snide about. You’re an arrogant asshole and I had the right to walk away last night – some things are just too much torture to stand at one given point of time,’ but something held me back. I don’t know what it was, though.
“No shit, Sherlock,” I finally quip, ignoring what I actually wanted to say to him.
“Again, no shit, Sherlock. Are you both trying to drive me mad before I leave this town or is it just my imagination? Seriously – I’m sensing a conspiracy here.”
He chuckles slightly, shaking his head.
“And how the hell did you get in? God – you’re breaking and entering! Get out!”
“First off, the door was unlocked. Secondly, I was told to come on in whenever I came over here…”
I cut him off with a frown, “You come over here often?”
“Oh God. Don’t tell me that you and my mother are…” my voice trails off as a horror-stricken expression paints my face and I quickly stare at the ground, trying to cover up the blush that has, no doubt, spread across my face.
As I look up, I notice that his features are mirroring my own.
“So you and my mother aren’t…”
“Good. I might just have a problem with that.” I shudder, shaking the thought from my head. Some things are just too extremely disgusting and that thought is. And yet, it won’t rid itself from my mind. Go away!
He just stares at me like I have a problem as the inner war rages on, from trying to get rid of the images playing in the back of my eyes of Michael and my mother… together. Gross. He could at least try to help me here. I mean, he could mention something not as disgusting, such as… sauerkraut and peas. Eww – where the hell did that come from? Nevermind.
I finally notice his staring and glare, “But you’re still trespassing!”
“Yes, you are! You don’t have my permission to be here.”
“Your mother told me to be here and to just come on in whenever I got here. So what if I’m a little early?” Aha! I knew it – surely it didn’t take me that long for a shower. “So just get over it.”
“Yeah, but she isn’t here right now. And why should I get over it? Hmm? How can I get over it when I know that some freaky guy like you is going to be sitting on my couch whenever he feels like it? I mean, I need some privacy too, contrary to popular belief and all.”
He shakes his head. “I can’t help it if your mother is still controlling your life, even when you’ve left home.”
Oh, he has some nerve!
He says nothing and stays planted on the couch, not even looking my direction anymore. Apparently, the television is more interesting than I am.
“Leave, now!” I try again, with no success.
I guess his selective hearing is kicking in because, again, he doesn’t budge. In fact, he doesn’t even shift his gaze from the television to my small frame.
This is not fair! I think he and my mother are conspiring together to make me go insane before I go back to the city, or before the reunion. Oh God. I’m almost one hundred percent sure that they are after this little stunt. Oh, when my mother gets home, we’re going to have a little talk.
But what the fuck am I going to do about Michael right now?
Breaking through my thoughts, I see him look up at me with an amused grin spread across his lips. Great. Here we go – he obviously has something smart to say. He is so annoying, for the record.
“And what are you going to do about me being here? Kick me out of your home while you’re wearing that towel?”
My eyes fall quickly to my state of dress (or, rather, lack there of). Yep – it’s true. I’m still wearing the skimpy bathroom towel from my shower and I completely forgot about it in the heat of the moment.
I am so embarrassed.
My face heats up as I scowl at him before turning on my heel and marching into my bedroom to change into some proper clothes.
Looking back over my shoulder as I retreat, he smirks at me triumphantly. He knows that he’s won.
* * *
“Well, since it’s obvious that you aren’t planning on leaving anytime soon, I guess that we should practice, huh?” I finally state, returning to the living room in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, towel-drying my hair as I enter.
“I have no problem with just watching some more TV. Alex is too cheap to chip in for cable at our apartment…” he muses. God, he has some nerve talking like that, coming into my home and taking over without my permission. He’s irritating me and I think, actually, I’m positive, that he knows it. I can tell by the smug grin he’s wearing on his lips. Bastard.
“I think my mother would probably disapprove of you sitting on your ass doing absolutely nothing while we need to practice. Because, after all, I am the famous violinist and I cannot let one performance be shabby in comparison to everything else. And since you’re the pianist, you’re going to have to join me. Tough luck, Porcupine Boy, turn off the television. Oh, so sorry,” I state as sweetly as possible, marching across the room and flipping the switch on the television off with a resounding ‘hmmph.’
I don’t say anything else when I quickly switch strides and make my way across the living room to the family music room. Strangely, it hasn’t changed much since I was in high school. The walls are still that coral color, the piano is still up against the wall with the window, and the flowery couch is still lined up with the piano on the opposite wall.
“Yeah, I guess so. Since you need practice to be perfect,” he returns while standing and following me into the music room. After taking in the walls, he states, “I like the pink walls – brings life to the room. Don’t you think, Maria?”
God, he’s annoying.
“You know what?”
“What?” he challenges, his amber eyes piercing mine.
“Shut the fuck up and sit down at the piano bench. I don’t have time for your lip today and I sure as hell don’t want to have to deal with that smartass attitude of yours. God, does your family ever get sick of you?”
He breaks my gaze and looks away to the sheet music that I have set down on the music stand, acting like he’s studying it. Yeah, right. Seems like I have hit a nerve. Chalk one point up for Maria – booyah.
“You don’t know anything about my family.”
“Well, apparently I don’t. Do you want to enlighten me, or am I going to have to dig up the information on my own?”
“Well, I would tell you, but, and I quote, ‘You wouldn’t understand.’”
Oh – I see this little game that he’s playing. God, it gets a little childish after a while, but I guess not for Michael. He’s like, an overgrown fifth grader. I shudder involuntarily at the thought. Okay. First, the guy’s picking fights with me and then when I try to delve into his own life to get some sort of interesting scoop to bother him about, he shies away. I think not.
“Sure I would – we all have a family.”
“And we’re both musicians.”
“What’s your point?”
He rolls his eyes and says, in a high-pitched voice, “‘No one in this God-forsaken little town would understand what it’s like to be me!’ Does that phrase ring a bell?” Damnit, he’s impersonating me now.
“We’re both musicians and, as much of a shock this little statement may seem, listen up,” he shifts his gaze from the pink walls to my face. I nod slightly, and he begins speaking again, “You aren’t alone in this world. Yet you isolate yourself because you want everyone to think that you’re too good for the rest of us. But, on the inside, you’re scared. You are deathly afraid that others will see you as weak, not perfect, if they get a glimpse of the real you; the vulnerable, wounded you,” he says softly, looking up into my eyes, a twinkle of knowledge shining in his. “Just don’t shut yourself out from the world because you’re scared of what everyone else might think. Nobody’s perfect, Maria, why should you be?”
Oh, shit. How the hell did he just say that about me and my life? Speak, mouth, say something in response.
But my mouth won’t move – it knows the truth in his statement, although my heart and mind are both denying the claims he has made. He’s figured me out. How the fuck did he figure me out? My façade is fading and I can feel the color draining from my face in realization.
All that I can say is a defensive, “Yeah,” but it comes out sounding more sarcastic than I could ever want it to be. I think he’s noticed, too.
He turns away, acting like my shock and avoidance of the entire subject is no big deal. I know better than that – I’m not blind. I just wish that he hadn’t brought this up… that he wasn’t forcing me to deal with some things I should have put away years ago. “Just forget it. Apparently, you don’t understand what I’m saying.”
“I guess not,” I shrug, trying to act oblivious to the entire thing. Yeah – like he hasn’t already taken apart the mystery of me, piece by piece “Where should we start? Measure ten?”
* * *
About an hour later, Michael and I were still in the pink room, practicing away for the reunion. There was no doubt in my mind anymore that he was a second rate musician – Michael could be a star if he actually got out of Roswell. But it wasn’t like I was going to actually admit this to him. He’s being a prick now and it’s annoying me to no end. At least I know why, though.
He refuses to look at me and whenever I try to stop the music to make amends to my cold statements earlier, he just picks right up again, ignoring me.
I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised with his reaction toward me. After all, I shot him down and he knows it. And, the strangest thing is that he’s not putting up a fight to help, or even talk, for that matter, anymore.
“Maria,” he says with exasperation, never shifting his gaze from the sheet music on top of the piano. He’s even playing a little diddy on the keys while I attempt to talk to him. Classy.
“Look,” I state slowly, choosing my words carefully, for fear that they may come back to haunt me. I hate apologizing and he’s making it worse by not even paying attention to me. Damn, I mean, I’m about to do something here that I hardly ever do. He could at least pay attention to me here. “I’m sorry.”
“Whatever.” He’s still not looking at me. Damn him! Why won’t he hold my eyes like he used to? Why isn’t he fighting back? Why doesn’t he know that he’s right and I’m too scared to admit it?
Dear Lord, he’s acting like me. This is so not a good sign.
“Maybe I do know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah,” I start, but I am interrupted by the back door slamming shut and a middle-aged woman making her way through the house to the music room, humming along the way. A few minutes later, my mother waltzed into the room and sensed the tension, so she suggested lunch.
“That sounds great,” Michael replies with a smile, staring at her the entire time, never allowing himself to even take one glimpse my direction.
“Sure, whatever. Sounds like a lot of fun, mom,” I sigh, placing my violin back in its case and shutting it, following my mother and Michael out of the room.
Lunch will be fun, no doubt, especially since Michael is refusing to look at me and talk to me. I wonder how my mother will cope – can she actually keep a conversation going with herself?
I suppose that time will tell.
Chapter 8 To Kate, who helped me with this fic to no end
I thought that coming home was challenging. Oh, no, I was wrong about that. The journey home and facing my past was okay compared to lunch.
My God, lunch was a nightmare.
Lucky for us, Mom decided that the Crashdown Café would be the perfect place to eat and chat. And our waitress? Yeah – she would have to be Liz Parker… err, Evans.
“Maria, Amy… Michael?” Ah, so she’s wondering why the hell he’s eating lunch with us, too.
He shoots her a look and she quickly backs off, smiling slightly as she takes out her order pad and asks politely, “What can I get you guys to eat?”
My mother smiles, “Go ahead Michael, Maria.”
“The usual,” Michael mumbles and Liz jots something down on the paper she’s holding. So I guess he comes here a lot. Figures.
“Can I just get a salad and an iced tea?”
“Sure,” Liz says sweetly, not even breaking her gaze from the pad of paper she’s holding in one hand. Oh, I feel so special at this moment, really. I love it when people ignore me or they don’t look at me. She speaks again, finally looking up from her order pad, “One Sigourney Salad coming up. Mrs. Deluca, do you want anything?”
“A Will Smith and some fries, dear, with water. That’ll be all.”
And with that final comment from my mother, Liz nods at us, then turns on her heel, rushing back to the kitchen, no doubt, to give the chef our orders.
“So, Michael…” my mother begins.
God, she’s getting so annoying just sitting here and she hasn’t really said anything yet, either. We are so screwed.
“Yes, ma’am,” he looks up from the table at her. Damn him. He’s sucking up to her now. I shift my gaze back to my mom… she’s buying it, too. It would make sense that she would believe his bullshit. Even I can see through it – I thought that she was better than that…
And I think I’m going to be sick.
“How are Max, Tess, and Isabel? I haven’t seen the three of them around lately.”
“They’re all fine.”
I cut in at this point, asking a logical question. “Why are you questioning Michael about these people’s lives?”
“They’re practically family,” she replies immediately.
“Friends,” Michael corrects, glaring at her, but she doesn’t seem to notice and blabbers on about friends who are like family and family who aren’t friends at all. My mother, the nut.
“Would you excuse us for a few minutes?”
“Oh, sure,” my mother smiles, breaking away from her reverie, and I fight back the urge to puke.
“Michael. Backroom. Now,” I whisper harshly across the table and seal the deal with a swift kick to his shin. He groans and then glares at me as I crawl out of the booth, following my lead into the backroom where I am sure we aren’t supposed to be. But I could care less, really.
“What the fuck was that all about?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says indigently.
“The whole family/friends thing. You won’t open up to me about your family at my house, but you can talk to my mother, of all people, about your family.”
“First off, Max, Isabel, and Tess are not my family. They’re my friends.”
“Then why did she ask about them?”
“Why did she say that they were practically family?”
“Beats me.” He shrugs, trying to look casual.
I know there’s something going on here – I just have to get down to the nitty-gritty details to find it.
“Are you trying to drive me insane?”
Yeah, it’s official. I’m checking into the looney bin tomorrow morning, after Michael and my mom are completely finished with me. I’ll be a goner by then – no reunion for me, no more music. Stick a fork in me, I’m through.
“I don’t know what your deal is, Mister, but you obviously have some issues with your life and your family and your friends.”
“What? And you don’t have issues with yours?”
“We are not talking about me here.”
“I am talking about you here.”
“Your attitude sucks.”
“And so do you.”
And with that, he turns on his heel, leaving me in this backroom of a sleazy alien-themed restaurant in Bumblefuck, New Mexico, with my mouth hanging wide open.
* * *
By the time I arrive back at the table, Michael has already sat down and my mother is eyeing me with a hunger in her eyes that I will soon forget. She wants to know something, and hopefully she’ll have the decency to hold back until Michael leaves. God, I wish he would just stand up and walk out of the diner and leave us alone.
He has caused too many problems in my life already and I don’t want to have to deal with his mind-boggling questions and his analysis of me and his good looks and his smart-ass attitude anymore. The list drones on and on in my head as my mom begins speaking again.
“Oh, look. The sheriff just walked in,” she says as she licks her lips, standing up from her seat. “You kids have fun,” and immediately walks away from us, leaving us alone in the awkward silence.
Apparently, he’s gone back to ignoring me.
Have I said that I hate my life? Because I do.
“Um, I’m going to talk to Liz real quick. Uh… order change,” I mumble before following in my mother’s footsteps and getting up from the table, making my way across the restaurant to talk with our waitress.
“Liz, hey,” I state, sitting down on a stool at the bar.
“Hey Maria, what’s up?” she asks, turning her head slightly from the opposite counter she’s scrubbing, shooting me a smile before going back to work.
“Not much… just trying to get everything cleaned up here before I go out with Max tonight. And trying to get your food out by some decent hour,” she chuckles slightly. I don’t see what’s funny, but I giggle anyway.
“I have a question for you and I’m not really sure how to ask it, so I’m just going to,” I say, taking a deep breath, then asking, “What’s the deal with Michael’s family?”
Liz puts down the rag and leans against the counter. “It’s not my story to tell, Maria.”
Denying me? What?
“Are you sure there isn’t anything about it that you can tell me, then? Because he’s been acting strange?”
“He’s just had a hard life, Maria. That’s all I’ll tell you.”
“Okay,” I say dejectedly as I stand up once again. “I’m just going to mosey on over to my table again and I’ll talk to you whenever.”
“Yeah,” I turn around and start walking back to my original seat.
“What?” I ask, turning back to face her.
“Ask Michael about it. You never know, he might just tell you.”
Yeah, right. Like he would tell me anything about his life, especially his deep, dark secrets or important things, like his family.
* * *
My mother is still flirting with the Sheriff in a corner of the restaurant when I make it back to our table. Gross. And Michael is still sitting alone, silently, acting like the menu is the most interesting thing in the world.
God, I’m not blind.
“So?” he looks up, questioning eyes. Ah, he has decided to speak. Just my luck.
“Well, since you don’t want to talk about your family,” I spit, “What about the piano? When did you start?”
“When I was five… some woman taught me and I picked up the rest on my own.”
“Oh, good. So where were you in high school?”
“Around.” He looks bored.
“Well, duh. Are we going to play the one-word answer game again, Mr. Guerin?”
Insert awkward pause here. Michael’s just sitting across from me, staring at something behind my head and his eyes are boring into my skull. And I can’t find words.
Finally, I am able to break the silence with, “Then why the hell are you still in Roswell if you were taught the piano at age five and taught yourself, basically? Didn’t you ever want to get out?”
He shakes his head, mumbling something under his breath that sounds like, “Maybe.” But I’m not sure, so I just ignore it.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing,” he looks up, “Nothing at all, Maria. We might not be that different in a musical sense, but our aspirations were in different places. I stayed in Roswell and, despite what you might think, I’m okay with it. I didn’t have to get away like you did to find myself… I’ve been here all along.”
“Okay. Sorry to ask, buddy.”
“Yeah, I bet.”
“I heard that,” I remark, running a hand through my hair.
Michael Guerin – he’s a mystery to me. First off, he tells me what he sees is wrong with me and now he’s spouting words about being okay with staying in New Mexico. All that I can think is what the hell? This guy is from a small town in the middle of nowhere, he isn’t going anywhere with his career or his life outside of the town, and he’s fine with it.
I wish I could be like that. I wish I was like that.
I look across the diner to where my mother is flirting with the town’s sheriff and scowl at my discovery. That’s just disgusting. And I wonder what my mother’s overall plan is here. I mean, she asks me to come back for the reunion, she sends me to Michael to play for our stupid class reunion and now, she’s making us get to know each other outside of the music room? Is she trying to play some sort of fucked up version of matchmaker?
Because I’m definitely feeling that right now.
By the time my mother and I made it home, I was fuming. And the best part? She didn’t even notice that anything was wrong and was humming to the radio as we pulled up into the driveway. Michael had jetted after paying for his meal, making some lame-ass excuse about having something to do.
Really, I see through him. I see through a lot of people. But it’s not like I share it with anyone… or that anyone really cares what I have to say.
“What the hell was that all about in the Crashdown?” I ask harshly as soon as we walk through the kitchen door.
“Me and Jim?” She looks confused.
“Well, that, too,” I roll my eyes. I have better thing to be doing than asking her this right now and listening to her stupid blabberings on love, and such.
“We’re dating… sort of,” she offers a smile. “But I’ll fill you in whenever I figure something else out about it.”
“Okay.” Do I look as bored as I sound?
“Was there something else?”
Ding, ding, ding. Give the lady a prize! She guessed it.
She motions for me to continue.
“Are you trying to drive me insane?”
She gives me a strange look, then laughs nervously. “No! Why would I ever want to do that, Maria?”
“I don’t know, mother,” I counter, anger apparent in my voice.
“Then why are you asking?”
“Because…” my voice drones off and I take a minute before I have the courage to finally speak up. “Because you’re a totally different person than I left in Roswell ten years ago.”
“All people change with time, Maria.”
“True. But most people don’t change so drastically that they don’t know their only daughter.” The last statement comes out at a hushed whisper and I stare at my feet, because I don’t want to see the look that crosses her face – the look of despair and failure that I’m sure will appear.
“I do know you, Maria,” she tries to reassure me, walking over to where I’m standing and wraps an arm around my frail body. “I’ve known you ever since the day you were born.”
“Mom, you don’t. You don’t know me. You haven’t even a clue where to begin with me… because I’ve probably changed as much as you have in the past ten years.”
“You don’t look different.”
“But I feel like it.”
She makes a whimpering noise in the back of her throat, then takes my hand and leads me into the living room, where she plops down on the sofa and I follow.
“Tell me what’s the matter, baby.”
I take the opportunity to look up and her emerald eyes are piercing into my own. “You know Michael better than you know me.”
“Maria,” she sighs, “this isn’t about Michael.”
“Yes, it is. Mom, you’re playing matchmaker. And the person you’re trying to set me up with? We are nothing alike.”
“You’re both musicians.”
“Yeah,” I mumble sarcastically under my breath, “he said that, too.”
“What was that?”
“Michael and I are nothing alike… opposites don’t attract… and if you knew me, you’d know that this wasn’t right.”
“I’m not trying to play matchmaker, honey. I just set up the reunion practices because he’s the best pianist that I know in this area,” she reasons, attempting to sound convincing. Yeah, right.
“Why are you insisting that Michael and I get to know each other outside of practice, then?” I counter.
She opens her mouth, but nothing comes out. Ha – score one for Maria. I’m good.
“Why did you set up the whole reunion thing?”
“I thought that you’d like to do it.”
“Mom, if you knew me, you’d know that I don’t want to do it.”
She looks surprised. “But you love playing the violin.”
“You’re right,” I sigh in defeat.
“Then what’s the matter?”
I shake my head and sigh out loud. “This is not about me liking to play the violin. I do. My question is – why did you call me, after all these years of silence, to fill me in on the class reunion? A class reunion, for God’s sake!”
“Maria…” she begins, but I cut her off with my hand waving in the air.
“I’m not understanding what the hell is going on here with you and your life and my life and everything else. I’ve been gone a long time, I know. But it just seems like you know this total stranger better than you know your own daughter.”
“Maria, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for anything to happen this way and… I just want the best for you. I’ve always wanted that. And I thought that you’d like to come back in town for the reunion… and showcase your talents. Everyone asks me about you whenever I’m out.”
“I’m serious, young lady. Don’t make me have to tell you all these strange encounters I’ve had with random people wanting to know how you’re doing.”
I manage to muster up a smile, “Please, spare me. I don’t want to know what the people in Roswell think of me.”
“They all love you. You have some serious fans in this town. I know that many of them are so excited about the reunion – they can’t wait.”
“I’m sorry for everything. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
“I suppose,” I roll my eyes. She’s my mother. Can I forgive her? What a crazy question.
“So all’s forgiven?” she grins. “Because when you go back to New York, I can promise at least one phone call a week.”
“That’s my girl,” she says proudly while she wraps me in a giant bear hug.
I’m the first to break away and raise an eyebrow as I ask, “But what’s the deal with Michael?”
“There is no deal.”
“Whatever,” I shake my head and stand up, leaving her alone on the couch. “If you would excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap, then practice.”
“All right, honey.”
“Love you, too.”
* * *
After leaving my house in a hurry, I made my way to Alex and Michael’s apartment in no time flat. Although, when Michael opened the door, he looked rather surprised to see me standing on his doorstep.
“What’re you doing here, Deluca?”
I hold up the violin case in my hand as an answer to his question.
“I thought you didn’t want to practice anymore.”
I shrug, “So I lied.”
He rolls his eyes and opens the door wider, letting me walk into the room. “You totally owe me.”
We both make our way to the music/art room in the back of the apartment in complete silence. However, it isn’t uncomfortable. Weird.
He sits down on the piano bench and starts rifling through the music on the stand, pulling out the song that we’re playing as I sit down on the floor and open my violin case.
“I’ve just got to tune it,” I explain, pulling the violin out of the case and holding it gently in my hands.
He bangs out a pitch on the piano and I look up gratefully, a small smile gracing my face. So Mr. Guerin is deciding to be helpful this evening. Surprise, surprise.
I go back to tuning the violin, twisting the peg on the high E string to lower, then perfect the pitch. During the tuning, I lean in closer to my violin, taking in its beauty.
I pluck the E string and grimace when I hear the noise it makes. Not perfect… yet. So I twist the peg, tightening the string just a little more and instead of making the perfect pitch, it pops and the sharp metal end of it catches my eye before I have the chance to jerk back.
I scream in pain and Michael turns around with a look of terror on his face, I think. I can’t really tell what’s in front of me. My right eye has gone blank. And it feels as though my eye has been torn apart. I can feel my heart pounding in my eye.
This cannot be good.
It hurts so much. My eye shouldn’t be hurting. But that damn piercing pain is welling up in my body. Something is not right here.
A droplet cascades down my cheek and drips onto my pristine white t-shirt, leaving an ugly crimson blemish in its wake. I’m puzzled by it at first until realization hits me like a speeding train.
I’m not crying, no, even though I think I probably should be. My eye is bleeding.
My hand flies to cover my eye as I sob out loud, a whimper arising in my throat.
Michael comes to sit down next to me on the floor. I can feel him inch closer to me, but can’t see him. Everything is out of focus.
“Maria,” he raises his hand to my face and brushes my hair out of the way.
“What?” I ask harshly between my sobs.
“Look at me.”
“I can’t see you.”
“Just concentrate on where my voice is coming from. Turn your eyes that direction. Okay?”
“Whatever,” but I do what he says.
And then, something amazing happened.
Michael Guerin put his warm hand on my eye and it started tingling under his touch. His breaths were coming short and quick when he pulled his palm away from my wounded eye. Then I could see again. The pain was gone.
He leaned back, his hand shaking. Apparently, he can’t believe what he has done, either.
“What the hell was that?” I snap, not meaning for the words to come out so harsh. But fuck it. Really… that was incredibly freaky, whatever he did.
“Nothing,” he replies with just as much conviction as I had earlier, but he refuses to meet my gaze. Something fishy is going on here. Something is definitely not right… I mean, hello! I was blind and now my eye is fine.
“You call this nothing?” I point to my eye, raising an eyebrow. “Whatever the fuck you did is nothing, you say? Yeah, right.” I stand up and stare down at the spiky haired man, who is still refusing to look at me, and then suddenly shudder, the realness of the situation dawning on me and suffocating me at the same time.
“I,” I stutter, my words catching in my throat, “I’m leaving.”
I turn on my heel and preparing to waltz my way out of the apartment when he finally speaks up.
I don’t even turn around. I can’t. “Why?”
I imagine him running his hands through his chestnut hair, a grimace on his face. His voice cracks as he speaks in a hushed whisper. “If you go, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Oh, this is getting even more interesting.
He shakes his head.
“You’d better speak, or I’m leaving, mister.”
“Maria, if you go out of this room and tell anyone what happened, you have no idea what could happen to me. You are literally holding my life in your hands.”
With those words, I turn back towards him and see that indeed, he is running his hands through his hair nervously.
I shoot him a perplexed look. “I’m holding your life in my hands?”
He nods silently, refusing to meet my eyes.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”
He sighs loudly and scratches his eyebrow as I watch him intensely, awaiting his next words.
“Look, if you leave here and go and tell everyone about your eye and what happened with me, my life will be in danger.”
“Just don’t tell anyone what happened here, okay?”
“Michael, I don’t know what happened here! You could at least shed some light on that topic because right now, I seriously doubt that anyone would believe my side of this story. I’m not willing to risk my reputation for it. But you owe me the truth, buddy, because I am extremely confused and scared and I don’t know what to think right now. So start explaining.”
I look up after my rant and see that he’s staring right back at me. Aha, I got his attention. Now maybe, if I’m lucky, the man will explain whatever the hell just happened.
“I’m sort of an alien,” he looks at the floor like it’s the most interesting thing in the world.
Is this guy serious?
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No,” he states, looking up and meeting my gaze. “Why would I joke about something like that?”
“You’re an alien?”
Is it just me, or does this sounds crazy? I mean, aliens? In Ros-hell, New Mexico, of all places?
I think not.
He shakes his head, mumbling under his breath (and, I think, intending for me not to hear), “I knew you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”
“It’s kind of…”
“No, I was thinking more of absurd. Outrageous. Steep. Intense. Pick your SAT word, buddy. That’s a fancy claim you’re making.”
“Well, it’s true.”
“How do I know that it’s true?”
He rolls his eyes at me. Oh great, I see something crude coming my way, I’m positive.
He stands up, muttering, “I’ll be right back,” before leaving the room and me sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what the hell is going to happen next.
Michael Guerin. An alien.
He clears his throat, breaking me out of my reverie and I glare at him. I didn’t even know that he had come back into the room. Damn.
He holds up a mirror. “Take a look.”
It’s my turn to roll my eyes, but I take the hand-held mirror out of his grip and hold it up so that I can just see the reflection of my face.
“Does your eye look like it was gorged by a metal violin string?”
“No.” Duh. I look fine. Better than fine, actually.
“Do you want to know what it looked like?”
“Umm…” my voice trails off. “Surely it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.”
“Maria, you would have been blind if I hadn’t healed you,” he says seriously.
“How the fuck could have healed me? Humans can’t heal…” I state with conviction as my voice trails off at the end of my comment.
He is an alien.
“Oh my God, you’re telling the truth.”
I open my mouth to shriek, but his hand is already covering it and he’s pulling me down to the floor with him.
“Shush. No screaming,” he whispers harshly into my ear.
No screaming? Michael, the alien, tells me that I can’t make a noise. I think not!
I snap at his hand and he pulls it back with a grunt and shoots a scowl at me. “Get off me, you freak!”
The words fell out of my mouth before I could even think about the weight they carried and Michael looked as if he had been smacked across the face.
He let go of my arms immediately and inched back to his piano bench. God, he’s acting like he wants to just disappear. Or be put out of his misery. I know that I would.
“Michael, I didn’t mean it that way.”
He shakes his head. He’s not going to look at me. Surprise.
He finally shifts his gaze from the sheet music to my face and states sarcastically, “I always knew if I told someone, this would be the way things turned out. So thanks for proving my suspicions right, Maria. You can just see yourself out of my apartment. Now.”
He turns back to the piano.
“This is not ending this way.”
“Look, I didn’t mean to say that. Really. I’m sorry,” the words come out slowly and soft.
There is a long awkward pause.
“So you’re an alien?”
“That’s kind of cool, ya know? Different. I just never expected that I’d meet one in Roswell, of all places.”
He chuckles slightly. “Kind of ironic, huh?”
“Yeah,” I pause, trying to figure out just what to say next. Dear Lord, I’m making small talk with an alien. Is the world coming to an end?
I think so.
And the scary thing? I’m okay with it.
“What… where… how?” come tumbling out of my mouth; my curiosity has gotten the best of me, apparently, and he smirks at me. “I don’t think you’re in a position here, buddy, to be ignoring me or mocking me or anything else like that. So answer the questions.”
“Our ship crashed in ’47.”
“So you’re like, what? Fifty years old?”
He shakes his head. “We were in incubation pods and broke out of them about twenty years ago.”
“We?” Oh, this just gets better and better.
“You can’t tell, okay?”
“I won’t. Okay?”
He sighs, “Max, Isabel, Tess, and I.”
“Wow. I mean, I always thought that you guys were different. I just didn’t know by how much.”
“So what did you do to me?”
“I… I healed you.”
I give him the ‘Well, duh,’ look, then ask, “How?”
“We can manipulate the molecular structure of many things. I just didn’t know that I could heal, too.”
“Okay,” I pause, then lean closer to him with a genuine smile, “Thank you, Michael Guerin, for saving my eyesight.”
And he grins back at me. “Anytime, Deluca. Anytime.”
* * *
Driving home from Michael’s apartment that night, something hit me. It hit me hard.
I’m not the only one who is completely alone in the world. Michael is, too. Probably more so than me.
He’s a fucking alien, for crying out loud. An alien from outer space. And he doesn’t know much more than that little fact, other than Max, Isabel, and Tess are aliens, too, and that they can manipulate molecular structure, whatever the hell that means.
He is completely different than anyone or anything this world has ever seen and he has to hide away his gifts because of that. Because if he’s found out, someone will want to cut him open and experiment on him just like that with no questions asked. I shudder at that thought – Michael is so vibrant. I know that I can’t take that away from him. I’m not going to be the one to turn him in to whoever is looking for him. I wouldn’t wish the fate of a lab rat upon anyone, enemy or friend alike.
When Michael said that I wasn’t alone, he was right.
He’s in the same position as I am. And he understands.
After a night of little sleep, I was ready for the reunion. Almost.
As strange as it sounds, I sat at my window and looked up at the stars for most of the night, contemplating my life and my newfound ‘friendship’ with Michael. I realized that we are both in the same boat – we feel that we have to hide away who we really are because of where we are in our lives. Where we live, who we associate with, what we do… it all affects our mindset and the way we lead our lives. Granted, I have never feared for my life, but our situations are parallel. While I’m disenchanted with life in the spotlight, he’d give anything to get away from this town and the life that has been forced upon him.
He can’t escape who he is and neither can I. These are our lives, whether we like them or not, and we’ve been dealing with them for way too long.
We both wish we were free of so many things and all that I could think was that maybe we could conquer some obstacles together before I go back to New York. …Not that I would ever admit that to him, but it’s true.
My mom decided to wake me at the crack of dawn, which didn’t float well with me (for obvious reasons, since I fell asleep about two hours before the sun decided to rise once again) and insisted that I get out of bed so that I could practice a little before the breakfast.
I hate my life, especially at moments like these.
“Maria, rise and shine!” she chirps cheerfully, flinging the curtains open and I cover my eyes instinctively, groaning pitifully. “If you’re going to be ready for today, you might as well get up now and start preparing.”
“Leave me alone.”
“C’mon, sleepy head.”
“I’ll get up when I want. Close the curtains. Turn off the light. It’s six freakin’ a.m.”
She snorts in disbelief, but follows my request, surprisingly. Maybe she’s finally realizing that I’m my own person now…
Chalk one up for me. Oh yeah.
As she was waltzing out of my childhood bedroom, she wistfully threw over her shoulder, “Michael said he’d be here to pick you up at nine.”
“Which is exactly why I’m going back to sleep.”
* * *
Michael picked me up at nine o’clock, just like my mother said, but I didn’t have to spent three hours getting ready for this event. A class reunion is not something that entitles you to prepare forever. Or three hours… it’s simply not my style.
I’m just thankful that Michael got me out of the house.
“Rough morning?” he asks curiously, taking in my features as we headed towards our first destination.
“You could say. Something about waking up at 6 a.m. just isn’t my thing. I think you, or anyone, for that matter, can tell that I’m not really a morning person.”
He just shakes his head and chuckles under his breath.
“Think the reunion will be fun?” I ask, because I honestly don’t know what to expect. “What exactly are we doing, anyways?
He shrugs. Apparently, he has no idea, either. Maybe in times like these, it’s just better off not knowing until the actual event happens so you can’t be insanely excited about it and be let down by the actual result of the situation.
“You don’t even know?’
“Nah,” he smirks at me, guiding his car through the streets of Roswell skillfully, not even sparing me a glance, “I got roped into it, just like you did.”
“The truth comes out.” I can’t help but let a grin cross my lips. “My mother or your friends?”
He just rolls his eyes and snorts.
“I should have known.”
* * *
When we enter the old school gymnasium, the gathering place the former class officers had arranged, a group of people encircled Michael and me. I recognize Liz, Max Evans, and a few more faces in the crowd, but the entire thing was overwhelming. I honestly don’t know why I was overwhelmed, but something about this environment was different than the bustling streets of New York City and the paparazzi and the news reporters following me everywhere. It actually has been a surprise that they haven’t found me here yet.
“Maria!” Liz calls, waving as she and her husband rush towards us with the rest of the group. She gives me a quick hug and flashes a bright smile at me. “I am so glad that you’re here. We’re going to have such a great time!”
I want to roll my eyes and yawn, but something stops me. She’s reaching out to me, trying to make me feel more comfortable here, and basically offering me a place to sit at all the upcoming events.
Something tells me I shouldn’t turn this down.
And after taking a quick glance at Michael, I realize that there is no way he’s going to let me turn it down.
“Maria, you remember Isabel and Alex? Kyle and Tess?”
I nod faintly.
Isabel was the next to come up to me and she surprised me by enveloping me in a hug. “It’s so great that you’re here!”
Her boyfriend, Alex, waves and grins, mouthing, ‘Don’t mind her,’ to me and I had to hide a giggle.
Tess and Kyle smile at me and motion for us to follow the group as we commence to the first major reunion event: breakfast.
* * *
“So, what’s the deal with you and Maria?” Max asks, curiously, as he and Michael watched their group from afar.
“There is no deal.”
Max snorts. “You expect me to believe that?”
Michael shrugs and replies calmly, “Her mom set it up. I’m just the pianist.”
Max shook his head. “Michael, I haven’t seen you in the past forty-eight hours.”
“That has never happened before.”
“There’s nothing going on between us, Maxwell. Trust me.” He grimaces at his own words. He couldn’t find the voice to actually tell his friend that he had told their biggest secret. He just couldn’t bring himself to yet.
So he let silence settle over them and they slowly drifted back to their core group of friends.
* * *
I feel like I’ve missed out on so much over these past ten years. Looking around this room, I can see how my classmates have turned out and how their lives are so different than mine. So many are married, so many have children. So many are happy with their lives, with their worlds, and I find myself so envious because I wish I could be in their shoes. I wish that I had the chance to fall in love, to get married, but I’ve been on the go ever since I left Roswell and my big plans never included that. I simply didn’t have enough time.
Kyle and Tess are sitting across the table from me and they keep whispering to each other and in turn, giggling like schoolgirls about whatever the hell they’re talking about. I wish I had someone to do that with… even a good friend would suffice for that purpose. They are so comfortable in their relationship with each other, as are Alex and Isabel and Max and Liz. It’s so strange sitting back and realizing that so many of the people you’ve known have changed over the years because of the people who have been introduced in their lives and the results of those relationships.
I wish I had something like that; something to show that I had been productive with people over the past ten years, but I can honestly say that I lack in that department. I don’t have time for people. And from the look of things, chances are that I won’t for quite some time. And it will be too late then.
It’s always too late for me.
I have given up so much to be who I am today that I don’t have the energy to make the effort to make up for this lost time. It’s not fair, but this is the life I chose so many years ago and I just can’t back away from it in a heart beat – it’s my life’s work. But I’m beginning to wonder if maybe there is something else out there for me… something beautiful, just waiting to be discovered.
My eyes are glazing over as I survey the room filled with my former classmates, most happily married and content in their lives. How I wish it were me. How I wish I had taken the risk of falling in love.
I sniffle softly and Michael leans over, poking me in the ribs with his elbow.
“You know, it’s not too late.”
His comment obviously surprises me. He’s a mind reader now?
I decide to play dumb. I’ve always been able to play if off before. And Michael is getting under my skin. I don’t know if I like this. “What’s not too late?”
He shakes his head and stares me up and down with a gaze that instills a peace over my soul for a few minutes. “You know what I’m talking about.”
I roll my eyes.
He raises his eyebrows. “Don’t even try to fake it. I can see straight through you, Deluca.”
And you know what? The scary thing is, he really can.
Michael Guerin can read me like no one else.
And the mere thought of that scares the living shit out of me.
* * *
“I’ve seen the way you’re looking at her.”
Michael looks over at his friend in shock. “Who?”
“Don’t try to play this off, Michael. Something’s going on. What happened with you and Maria?”
“None of your business.”
“You said a minute ago that you were just the pianist. Don’t treat me like I’m blind, Michael. I’m not. And there is obviously something going on between the two of you, whether you want to admit it or not.”
Michael glares at the once high and mighty king. “Don’t push me, Maxwell. You don’t want to know, even if I was in the mood to share it with you.”
Max stares his friend up and down for a moment and sighs, coming to his answer silently. “You told her, didn’t you?”
Michael raises his eyebrows, but says nothing.
“How could you tell her, Michael? How could you just give away our biggest secret like that, especially to someone of her stature in the public eye?”
Michael rolls his eyes. He really didn’t feel like getting a lecture from King Max, so he shook his head.
“Look, what’s done is done. She would have gone blind if I didn’t save her and God knows you did the same thing twelve years ago. So don’t go playing all high and mighty with me, Maxwell, ‘cause it’s not gonna work this time. She knows. Deal with it.”
With those words, he turns on his heel abruptly and walks back to the table their group was seated at.
It was almost time for their duet and nothing was going to stop him from a perfect performance.
* * *
Michael and I step onto the stage and automatically received a round of applause from our former classmates. How strange it is that none of them actually knew me, yet they cheer all the same. Maybe they cheer for me because I actually got out of this town. Or maybe they cheer because they pity me and know that I don’t really lead a life I’m proud of or a life I particularly enjoy.
Can they see through me, too?
I take a bow and wave out into the crowd. The roar grows louder as we both walk to our places on stage. The excitement in the air is intimidating and I can honestly say I’ve never felt this before a show.
This is more personal. And that scares the shit out of me.
Michael sits down on the piano bench and with a wayward smile over his shoulder, he shuffled the music.
I place my violin carefully on my shoulder and grin at my audience as I pick up my bow and glide it across the strings lightly before having it stop just before Michael plays the opening notes.
Just another performance. Nothing special going on here. Just a girl and her violin and a boy playing the piano along with her.
They all just think it’s the greatest thing in the world.
A. C. D. A. Bb.
Run down. Trill.
Simple. Nothing spectacular going on here; just a simple scale.
Why do they all think this is something special? Don’t they know who I am? Don’t they know that I don’t want to be here? Don’t they care? Why do they care?
Bb. C. Bb. C. A.
Simple scale… A. Bb. C. D. E. F#. A…
I missed it! I missed the fucking G – the easiest note in the entire scale.
Dear God, they all noticed and I have completely fucked this entire performance!
They have to have noticed that egregious error. An egregious error in such a simple song. They’ll never let me live this down…
What have I done?
* * *
I storm out of the building after placing my violin back in its case. I cannot believe that I screwed up on the easiest part of the piece.
I make my way through the crowd, shaking off the ‘Good jobs’ and ‘Beautifuls’ as the exit door looms in the distance. I can’t seem to reach it fast enough and I feel like I’m suffocating – all these people pretending like nothing just happened… like nothing went egregiously wrong.
It’s times like these that I wish I could crawl into a hole in the ground and not come out until everyone is gone because I know they noticed. I know they now realize that I’m a pawn. They now know I’m not who I’ve always prided myself on being – little miss perfect Maria Deluca.
I’m done for.
I finally reach the door and inwardly sigh in relief. I swing open the door, walking out into the night and running my hands through my hair, groaning out loud after I hear the door click closed behind me.
How could I botch something so simple?
“No one noticed.”
I jump at his voice as I turn around to glare at Michael Guerin, who has so kindly followed me outside.
“Yeah, well, be that as it may…” I begin in disbelief, but he cuts me off.
“And so am I.”
He crosses his arms and looks pensively at me. Apparently, my answer isn’t good enough for him.
“Whatever. You’re just saying that to make me feel better about it. It was horrible and I cannot believe that I could let something so novice slip.”
He shakes his head and I can see him roll his eyes. Smart ass.
“No, I’m saying it because it’s true. And you should calm down – you’re only human. It’s about time you realized you aren’t perfect.”
And with those words, he walks back into the building, leaving me alone in the dark and I find my legs scrambling back inside behind him, despite my mindset not to.
* * *
The rest of the evening went as planned. The former class president made a speech somewhere near the third round of martinis and basically made a fool of herself, but other than that, nothing over the top or too exciting happened.
In fact, the rest of the evening was surprisingly normal.
I enjoyed the time I spent with Michael’s gang and even got an invite to breakfast the following morning at the prestigious (can you sense my sarcasm?) Crashdown Café. And, the scary thing is, I think I might actually attend.
Something strange is happening in Roswell. And I’m not quite sure what it is. But I kind of like it. It’s different.
Michael drove me home at a somewhat decent hour and was gentlemanly enough to walk me to the front porch.
“Well, I guess this is it,” I look at my feet, finding the strength to say the words I must and choking back my pride that doesn’t want me to thank him for anything. I somehow defeat it with, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me, Michael.”
He shrugs as he casually states, “No big deal. I mean, I was just doing a favor.”
“Do you honestly believe I would have done this out of the kindness of my own heart?”
I look up at him for a second and study his face, trying to find some shard of truth in his statement. However, as I gaze at him, I begin to see something more than I could have ever imagined. He’s more gorgeous than I have ever seen in this light.
I laugh nervously and awkwardly turn, keys in hand, throwing a, “Well, I guess I’ll see you later,” over my shoulder.
“Yeah…” his voice drones off and I imagine he’s turning on his heel to wander back to his car. It is kind of late… surely he wants to sleep some before breakfast in the morning.
As soon as I jam the key in the lock, I feel a strong pair of hands on my waist, turning my around and pulling me into a kiss I didn’t see coming.
As soon as he pulls away, I smile at him.
“So I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” he grins back at me, another shocking thing. Michael Guerin, when he tries, can actually be quite charming. Who would have thought?
“Yeah, I guess so.”
With a nod, he turns on his heel, walks down the front steps, and makes his way back to his car parked on the street. Turning once more before he climbs into the automobile, he waves and my smile grows tenfold.
I put my fingers to my lips, barely believing what happened as he pulled away from my house, leaving me on the front porch in partial shock.
I cannot believe it.
Michael Guerin kissed me.
And I actually enjoyed it.
* * *
“Good morning, sweetie,” she greets me from the stove, halfheartedly scrambling the eggs in the skillet in front of her, sprinkling a little salt and pepper on her breakfast as she speaks.
“Morning, Mom,” I smile, walking through the kitchen with all intentions to leave without an in-depth conversation about the previous evening.
“What time did you get in last night? I didn’t hear you come in.”
No such luck. Damnit.
“Michael dropped me off around midnight.”
She looks up from her eggs and a smile passes her features. It’s almost unnerving, but this is my mom we’re talking about… “Well, I’m glad to hear that.”
“Yeah. It wasn’t too bad.”
“Michael or the reunion?”
I shrug. “Both?”
“How was the performance?”
“That’s nice, honey. Are you hungry?”
“Nah,” I reply, “I’m meeting some of the old high school friends at the Crashdown for breakfast.” I feel the need to add, “They invited me.”
“Really?” her eyebrows raise in interest.
“Is it that hard to believe?”
She laughs and I shake my head as I decisively walk out the door.
“Have fun!” she calls after me.
* * *
The Crashdown was strangely bustling when I arrived, but I found the group relatively easily.
“Maria!” Liz calls from a large roundtable near the back of the restaurant as soon as I waltzed through the door. “Good morning!”
Greetings from the table erupt as I come closer, I make a point to wave at my newfound friends before I take the vacant seat between to Liz and Michael, who both greet me with a smile.
“So, what’s going on?”
Liz shrugs. “Just about to get breakfast on the table. Are you okay with pancakes, sausage, and eggs?”
“Definitely. Sounds wonderful.”
“Well, it should be,” Max chimes in as he strolls to the table with a tray of food on his shoulder. I didn’t notice he wasn’t there before. “Order up!” he calls and the entire table erupts in cheers. He turns to face me and grins, “Hey Maria. Glad you could make it.”
“Hey Max. Thanks. You fixed breakfast?”
“Yup,” he nods proudly and I envision a three year old being asked about his first drawing from school.
Liz whispers to me, “He doesn’t usually cook. But he wanted to this morning for some reason. Just to warn you, the pancakes might be a little burned and if I’m guessing correctly, he probably added Tabasco to the mix.”
She shrugs. “They think it makes things taste better.”
“You know, the pod squad.”
Oh my God. I can’t believe that she’s talking about this to me.
She can see the shock on my face, I’m sure, and takes it in stride. “It’s okay. I totally freaked out when I first learned about it,” she states soothingly.
“You know the shooting at the Crashdown our sophomore year?”
“Yeah…” Somehow, this isn’t connecting. Why is she bringing this up?
“It actually happened.”
“But the newspaper said that…” my voice drones off. “Oh my God.”
“Yeah. I was shot. Max healed me. And that started the entire club.”
“The I Know an Alien club,” she giggles.
“We all have our own story,” Alex chimes in and at that moment, I realize that everyone at the table has been intently listening to our conversation. I gasp and they laugh at my reaction.
“Really, it’s going to be okay,” Kyle adds from across the table. “I promise.”
I shake my head and turn to face Michael, unsure of what to think. Not only do I know that Michael, Max, Isabel, and Tess are aliens, but now they know that I know. And their significant others know that I know.
Does this make things between all of us weird? Or am I becoming one of the group now?
His grin reassures me and he takes my hand under the table, his caramel colored eyes convincing me that it would be okay. Everything would be okay.
It’s going to be all right.
* * *
We ended up talking most of the morning away and before we realized it, it was already lunchtime. Slowly, each couple trickled out of the restaurant, eventually leaving Max, Liz, Michael, and me sitting at the table.
“I guess that I should be leaving. Got to get back to the house and help my mom with yard work, or something along those lines.”
“It was so nice having you here with us, Maria,” Liz smiles as I stand and envelopes me in a hug before I get the chance to walk off. And, as strange as it would have seemed before, I actually hug her back.
I’m beginning to realize that it’s comfortable here. And that is a feeling that I haven’t come close to seeing for a very long time. In fact, it scares me more than anything else.
“Yeah, it was great, Maria, thanks for coming,” Max adds.
Michael stands silently and as I begin walking toward the door, he follows, finally catching up with me as I take my first step onto the sidewalk outside the café.
“What are you doing right now?”
“Going home.” I raise an eyebrow, intrigued. “Why?”
He shuffles his feet and looks semi-uncomfortable. “Want to come over and practice some music with me?”
I shrug, “Sure. What’ll we be practicing?”
He grins at me and pulls me in for a hug, planting a kiss on my forehead.
“Well, then, let’s go.”
And like that, we’re walking down the sidewalk to his car, hand in hand.
Something strange is afoot in Roswell, New Mexico. And I couldn’t be happier.
* * *
Michael and I ended up playing for some time as soon as we reached his apartment, never skipping a beat and jumping from one song to the next, just having fun with the music and each other.
“I’ve missed this,” I point out.
“Missed what?” he raises an eyebrow, unsure of what I’m saying.
“I’ve missed enjoying playing my violin. It seems like nowadays, all I do is play for the people, attempting to move them. I stopped playing for myself a long time ago. And I stopped enjoying myself while playing even longer. How could I ever begin to think I could change someone with music that didn’t mean a thing to me?”
He nods, understanding, scooting over on his piano bench and shifting his eyes down to the empty spot.
I take the cue and sit down next to him, resting my head on his shoulder.
“So what now?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he looks back at me, unsure of what to say.
So, instead of saying anything else, I find his lips crashing back into mine.
I wrap my arms around his neck, my hands playing idly in his hair, and kiss him back with all of me. In this moment, everything is right and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I feel his arms around my waist, drawing me closer to him and I moan as he kisses up my cheek, then attacks my neck.
My cell phone begins singing Fur Elise and I sigh, reaching for my bag, planting a final kiss on his lips.
However, his hand halts my hand just after I’ve pick up the phone and he shakes his head, whispering, “You’re busy.”
I look at the caller ID.
“It’s my mom.”
He sighs and releases my hand, letting me answer the phone.
He runs a hand through his hair as I pick it up, hearing the fateful words from my mom. “Come home now.”
“Okay,” is all that I can say and she hangs up before I can ask anything about it, leaving me staring blankly at the phone in disbelief.
“What is it?” he asks.
“I have to go home.”
Disappointment crosses his face and he quickly hides it with a slight frown. “Well, then, let’s go get your car so that you can head on back home.”
“Thanks, Michael,” is all that I can say as he takes my hand and leads me out of the apartment.
I don’t understand why I need to go home. And I’m beginning to fear that she is going to be the bearer of bad news.
* * *
As soon as I walk in the door, my mom sits up a little straighter and smiles slightly at me.
“How was it?”
“Lovely.” We don’t have time for this formality shit. “Why was it necessary for me to leave immediately? I was kind of enjoying myself.”
“They want you back.”
“Holy shit,” I mutter under my breath and my mom raises her eyebrows.
“What’s the matter, Maria?” she asks, genuinely concerned.
“I don’t know if New York is what I need anymore. I just don’t know…” my voice drifts off.
“But you love playing the violin. And you’ve reached your lifetime goal. I thought you loved New York City, its atmosphere, and the music you get to play.”
I shake my head and get out of my seat, walking across the room to the entrance of the music room, to where my violin case was seated, and opened it slowly, rifling through it and finally pulling out an old picture. I make my way back to my mother and sit back down on the couch, handing her the photograph.
“You don’t remember?”
“Um…” She apparently doesn’t.
“It’s my tenth birthday party, Mom. I was happy then. I liked playing the violin then. I loved my life then.”
Her eyes widen. “So you’re telling me that you’re depressed? Because we can get you to a see doctor and work through this.”
“No,” I manage to sigh.
“Then what are you telling me?”
“Maybe that all I ever wanted wasn’t me wanting it. Maybe you wanted it for me and maybe I’m finally realizing that, after all this time, I don’t know what I want out of this life. Mom, I thought that everything would be perfect and I would be blissfully happy when I left Roswell, when I graduated from Julliard, when I became the first chair in the Orchestra. But what I’m realizing now is that… my life isn’t complete. I’m missing something. I’ve missed so many opportunities because I wanted this perfect life that doesn’t exist. Mom, I want a change.”
I know what I need to do.
I shake my head at the thought, but state, “I need a change,” to my shocked mother.
God, help me.
I know what I need to do and for the first time in my life, I really believe that what I am going into will shape my life. In a better way than anything else ever has.
As much as I knew what I wanted and even needed to do, I still couldn’t let go.
The Symphony needs me back tonight and since there was no way to drive back, it looks like my car is going to stay in Roswell until the next extended break I have from the Symphony, which, more than likely, is no time in the near future.
“Are you sure you want to do this, honey?”
“Mom, this is my job,” I sigh. “I have to do it, whether or not I like it. After all, it’s what I’ve worked my entire life for.”
She shakes her head as she watches me run around the room frantically, throwing everything that I can find and fit into the suitcases stacked on top of my bed next to her. “I thought you needed a change. A change to be happy. Something different.”
It was my turn to shake my head as I looked up from the packing. “Maybe being back in Roswell was my change.”
“Then why are you leaving?”
I shrug and pause a second, thinking of how to phrase what I want to say. “I guess that sometimes, the desired change doesn’t last and you have to go back to the real world. It might not be somewhere you love, but you have a place there. I don’t have a place in Roswell, Mom.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Maria,” was the last thing she said to me before standing and walking out the door to my room.
All I could do was stare at the door, befuddled, and then pick right back up where I last was in the rushed packing.
God, I hope I don’t leave something important here.
* * *
I finished packing alone shortly before I was due at the airport and Mom dropped me off with tears in her eyes.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for, Maria. I’m just sorry that you couldn’t find it here.” Pain was evident in her eyes as she said it, then she quickly wrapped me in an encompassing hug.
“I hope I do, too. I really hope so.”
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
And with one final hug, I climb out of the Jetta, grab my bags from the trunk, and make my way into the unusually crowded airport.
* * *
“Flight 2502 to New York City has been delayed until further notice. Please stay in the area around the gate and we will inform you as soon as we find out more information,” the annoying voice on the intercom drones and I sigh loudly, dropping my head into my hands. I can do nothing except wait and think about the time that I have had in Roswell. This is miserable.
What if I don’t make it back in time? Will the fans be disappointed? Did they actually miss me while I was gone this past week? All these questions run through my head and still, I feel so distant from it all.
I’ve definitely learned more than I ever thought I could know from being back in little ‘ole Roswell, New Mexico. I know the real Roswell aliens now, though I don’t plan on admitting it to anyone (for their sake and mine). I can honestly say that I have friends (albeit, in Roswell which is more than halfway across the country, but it’s better than none at all). I performed in front of my high school graduating class at the reunion and I fucked up. I lived through it. And, better yet, no one noticed; they all thought it was wonderful. I met someone who could read me better than anyone I have ever met in my entire life. And I have known him less than a week.
God… of all the things I’ll regret, I think I’ll regret Michael the most and what could never be in our relationship. Maybe if we had more time or there were different circumstances.
As the thoughts run circles through my head, I see a young man with a small travel bag slung over his shoulder frantically running through the corridor to my gate.
His gait slows the closer he gets and as he walks by me, I comment flippantly, “Don’t wear yourself out. The flight has been delayed until further notice.” I don’t even look up; I’m too involved in my thoughts.
I look up and see Michael Guerin standing in front of me, hair wild as ever and a devilish grin crossing his face. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He looks at his feet and shrugs. “Your mom called and said you were leaving. I came to tell you goodbye.”
“How’d you get in here?”
He raises a ticket out of his jacket pocket and smirks at me.
I raise an eyebrow. “So you bought a ticket to tell me goodbye?”
He shakes his head and rolls his eyes at me. “Nah. I figured that I might as well visit the city. Kill two birds with one stone. I’ve heard they have great pizza. And a damn good symphony, too.”
“Uh huh,” is all that I can say as I stand up, grinning from ear to ear, and he wraps his arms around me. I lean into him, taking comfort in his embrace and look up at him, genuinely surprised that he has come to see me.
“I thought I would miss you,” he whispers into my hair.
“I thought I would never see you again,” I tell him honestly, running a hand through his messy hair.
“Well, you were apparently wrong,” he smirks.
“And this time,” I state as I lean back, “I can honestly say that I’m glad that I was.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t say that unless you mean it, Maria.”
“I do.” I don’t quite understand where he’s coming from.
“Maria, you were about to get on a plane to leave Roswell, probably forever. You didn’t tell me goodbye, for whatever reason, and now, you’re saying that you’re thankful that I came to find you? God,” he sighs, “I think this was a mistake.”
He shakes his head again. “No. Clearly, you and I are thinking different things right now.”
“Tell me how you feel so that I can understand!”
He looks at the ground and runs a hand through his spiky hair, then looks back up at me, his amber eyes piercing. “I wanted you to stay. I wanted to you to be here with me.”
“But it’s apparent that you don’t want to have anything to do with me or Roswell because you’re running away and getting on a damn plane. Hell, you were going to run away and not even tell me!”
“The Symphony needs me.”
“People here need you, too. Look at your mom! She needs you more than ever. Do you have any idea how lonely she’s been these past years that you’ve been away?”
I shake my head warily. “She lived with it before. I’m sure she can deal now,” I shrug. “She said that she would come to visit me.”
“Maybe that’s not enough. Did you ever think about that? Maybe she’s not the only one who needs you here, Maria.”
“I… I can’t do this. I have to leave,” he whispers. “Goodbye, Maria.”
“Michael, don’t leave it this way.”
He shrugs, “You decided that a long time ago and it’s obvious that there’s no way I can change your mind.”
And with that, he turns and walks out of my life.
* * *
I sit back on the cold bench and drop my head in my hands as the tears stream down my cheeks. Coming to Roswell was a mistake. I knew it; this just proves it.
He was going to come to New York for me. And I can’t even stay in Roswell to tell him goodbye or that we might have a chance some day. No, I’m too selfish to even do that.
I’m a horrible person. I remember why I hate myself so much now. It’s no wonder that I have no friends – I can’t let them in. And if they do get in, I run away. I’m fucking selfish and I don’t think of others. I take care of myself because that was the way it had to be so long. I’ve never broken that stage and I wonder if there is a chance for me to now, now that everything is so fucked up.
Roswell is a fairytale, a respite from my hectic lifestyle, but it can’t last forever. Nothing does, especially anything good in this world. New York is the real world; the real world where nothing is fair, where competition is a way of life, and the place where I’m slowly killing myself.
What happened to my change? Why can’t I change?
I think of all the things I will regret about Roswell, I’ll regret Michael the most. Who would have known that someone so different could relate to me and understand me better than anyone in my entire life?
“Flight 2502 will begin boarding shortly. Please have your ticket and ID ready at the gate.”
I need a change. I need to change for myself and my future.
Is there anything left for me in New York? Because I’m beginning to doubt there was ever anything for me in the first place.
* * *
“This is the final boarding call for Flight 2502.”
I slowly move into the growing line, tapping my foot nervously and looking around the corridor, hoping to see any kind of sign to tell me what to do.
It’s now or never, Maria. Now or never. It’s time to make this count.
I hand my ticket to the flight attendant and she looks at it, scans it, and then tears off the stub, stating in a Southern twang, “Thank you, Ms. Deluca.” She holds my ticket out with a smile.
Now or never.
“I can’t do this,” I say to her and push the ticket stub back into her palms. With an apologetic smile to her, I step out of line and turn on my heel to head out the corridor.
* * *
I take a Taxi to Michael’s apartment. On the way over, I try to think of something to say, some way to justify what I’ve done, but it’s futile. I don’t think it will even be necessary to explain to Michael because he’ll understand. But if he understands exactly why I’m still here, that makes me vulnerable and I hate that. And I hate how I think too much.
Stepping out of the line and missing my flight to New York was my choice and I made it with my future in mind; a future that includes Michael Guerin, if he’ll still have me.
I knock on the door.
Time slows down, it seems, as I wait for the front door to swing open. And when it finally opens, I see Alex’s face.
“Oh, hey Maria,” he seems surprised.
“Hey,” I smile at him, shifting my weight nervously. “Is Michael here?”
Alex grins back at me, nodding his head. “He’s playing the piano.”
“Can I see him?”
“I think he’d like that,” Alex states as he opens the door wider and lets me walk into the room.
I wander through the apartment, following the sound of an angry piano tune to living room.
Self-consciously, I knock on the wall beside the piano as I wrap an arm around my stomach in a weak attempt to keep myself calm and as the music comes to an abrupt stop, he looks up at me, startled.
I smile and cross the room, wrapping my arms around his neck as I sit on his lap and plant a soft kiss on his lips.
He pulls back, staring at me as if I were going to disappear before his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“I missed my flight.”
He grins at me, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me into a hug. “I’m glad you did.”
“I thought I’d never see you again.”
“Well I guess you were wrong, huh?”
Epilogue Six Months Later
I made a choice six months ago that changed my life in ways I could have never even imagined. I came to a crossroads and the choice I made surprised many, myself included. Granted, I made the choice on a whim, but it was the best option and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It all came down to an emptiness, a need, one I had been longing to fill my entire life, ending up filling it with all the wrong things, then finding it in the most unexpected of places.
Instead of flying back to New York City that fateful night, I ended up going on a date with Michael Guerin. And every night since then, for the most part, I have seen a lot of him.
I realized that I had spent my entire life chasing after a dream that I was never passionate about. The funny thing about that fateful night is that, while I was rushing to pack everything I could possibly imagine, I forgot the only thing of utmost importance: my violin. I left it at my mom’s house and Michael kindly pointed out to me that I had forgotten it later that evening. My heart wasn’t in this ‘dream’ I was pursuing and because of that, I was miserable. And now I’m making up for that in the life I lead now. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t trade this life for the world, although I would like to move out of my mother’s house and rid myself of her constant nagging.
I was tired, exhausted, of the world. I was frustrated with where I was in my life. And it took a damn high school reunion to make me realize that the important things in life aren’t always the glamorous ones, aren’t always the idealized ones. Sometimes, it’s better to be on the sidelines because I missed out on so much being in the spotlight, afraid of what others would think. I should have told them to fuck off a long time ago, but I was never brave enough.
What I’ve realized is that I would rather have something real than something fake any day. And what is real to me is love – something I never expected to experience because I was so busy with life in the spotlight.
Someone once said ‘falling in love is just that… you don’t chose when or where you fall.’ It just happens. And we’re powerless against it. I never expected to come home, fall in love, and give up my lifetime ‘dream’ of being a violin star. In fact, if I had it my way, I would have never come home for the class reunion in the first place, completely missing out on this beautiful experience I have gotten to taste over the past six months.
I always dreamed of my music changing someone. I never imagined that someone else’s music would transform me into something better than I could fathom.
All that I know is that I am Maria Deluca, soon to be Maria Guerin, and that I am happy for the first time in my life.