ROSWELLS CREEK: STEPPING STONES TO LOVE
The next morning, Michael and Liz went back to work as usual. At eight o'clock, Maria came into the Crashdown.
"Hey! You're right on time." Michael greeted her.
"Yeah, big city girls usually try to be right on time." Maria joked.
"So I've heard." Liz mumbled.
"What was that?" Maria asked.
"I said lets get started. This is my section, that's your section. If a customer has a problem be polite, but if you can't work it out then come get me. You write down the orders and give them to Michael. You get a short break in which to eat lunch and socialize momentarily with whomever, but don't be late to your shift. Upstairs is off limits, you get a locker in which to put all of your things, and the back room is used only by employees so customers are not allowed back there. Any questions?" Liz finished, looking at Maria.
"Yeah, don't I need a uniform?" The other girl asked.
"Yeah, there should be extras in the back room." Liz told her.
"I'll show you." Michael offered.
"No problem." Liz watched as they walked into the back together.
"Trouble in paradise?" Max asked from behind her with a grin.
"Max, I'm too tired to deal with your stupidity this morning." Liz grumbled.
"Aw, Parker, don't go soft on me now! Let me guess: You were tossing and turning about a certain situation that happened only hours ago in the comforts of the Evans residence. Am I right?"
"Believe what you want, Max." She told him dejectedly.
"Before you get all pissed off for no reason, Liz, how do you even know this girl is into him? Yes, he likes her, but does she like him?" Max asked seriously.
"I'm not sure, but what she does or doesn't feel for Michael is completely her business."
In the back room, Michael found Maria a uniform in her size and pointed out a vacant locker she could use.
"Thanks, Michael. You've made this a lot easier than I thought it would be."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Lets just say Roswell isn't exactly the most welcoming to newcomers. Liz totally hates me, that much is obvious!"
"Don't worry about her. She's just protecting me." Michael told her.
"Why would you need protecting?" Maria asked him.
Michael laughed. "You know, the usual best friend kind of thing."
"Yeah, but I promise to be good." Maria smiled at him flirtatiously.
"You big city girls really aren't shy, are you? That's okay. We could use someone like you around here."
"Is that right?"
"Yeah. There's this thing going on this tomorrow night‚¶" Michael started.
"The Summertime Fling, right?"
"Yeah, you heard about that?"
Maria nodded. "I may be new, but I like to know what's going on. Are you gonna go?"
"Are you?" Michael asked with a smirk.
"Didn't anyone ever teach you not to answer a question with a question?"
"Yeah, but I don't pay attention to what people say."
"Good to know. I was thinking about going." Maria told him.
"Maybe I'll see you there. You know, if I have nothing better to do."
"Maybe." Maria told him with a smile.
Liz looked through the back door. Michael was leaning up against a locker smiling at Maria.
"Jealousy isn't really your color." Max said, standing behind her.
"Who says I'm jealous?" Liz countered, pretending to wipe up crumbs from the counter.
"It's written all over your face, Liz! Why not go back there and step in?"
"You have no idea what you're talking about! Michael is just showing her around, okay? I'm completely okay with that and whatever else is going on between them. I mean, she's gonna end up breaking his heart. There are hundreds of guys that attend Roswell High and I'm just looking out for Michael because a girl like that is bound to hurt him. You just can't see that, Max. In fact, I feel bad for how blind you are."
"The only one blind around here is Michael."
"Did I hear my name?" Michael asked, Maria standing next to him.
"Liz? Care to tell Michael here what we were just discussing?" Max asked with a smile.
"Just the usual teenage melodrama that seems to dictate our lives." Liz said casually.
"Right, so, Maxwell, this is Maria DeLuca. Maria this is Max Evans."
"He's your typical sarcastic wise-ass who will do and say whatever to get a laugh." Liz told her.
"Thank you for that lovely introduction, Elizabeth."
Maria did well serving the customers and giving Michael the orders. She was cordial and polite and even managed to make the customers smile. Liz rolled her eyes as Maria said goodbye to some customers.
"Could she be any more‚¶" Liz started, as she and Michael took their break.
"Beautiful?" Michael filled in, earning him a glare from Liz.
"I was going for fake. So, about this whole deal thing, I was just thinking that maybe we could just forget all about it. The whole dance scene isn't even me, and‚¶and then aliens abducted me and forced me to have their children." Liz finished, knowing full well Michael wasn't paying any attention, but attempting to get a reaction nonetheless.
Michael was looking at Maria. She was taking Kyle Valenti's order. Kyle was the quarterback at Roswell High, and he was very attractive. All of the girls liked him, and he was pretty well off financially.
"Is she flirting with him?" Michael asked Liz, ignoring her previous rant.
Liz released a frustrated sigh. "Michael, get a grip! You've never been one to let your hormones start raging just because some bottle-blonde comes to town! Why not do it the way dogs do and pee on her to claim your property? She's obviously into the whole jock scene, and the closest you've come to football was tossing one around outside with me and my dad."
"SO, Michael, we were FIVE! Look, she said no to you already so just back off and move on! It's not the end of the world just because the new girl said no to you! Rejection happens to the better of us." Liz told him honestly.
"Should I go over there?" He asked, looking at Liz for the first time since he had started staring at Maria.
"And say what? 'I'm into her so back off?' Please! His friends would pound your face, Michael. I don't get why she's such a big deal anyway. There's gonna be plenty of other girls at the dance tomorrow night. Try your luck then!"
"You're a genius!" Michael told her excitedly.
"Not that I'm disagreeing with that statement, but what makes you think I'm a genius?" Liz questioned, unsure of what to expect from her best friend.
"Liz, think about it! She's gonna be at the dance on Friday and so will I. I need your help." Michael looked at her pleadingly.
"I don't like the sound of this‚¶" Liz trailed off.
"Liz, trust me! All I need you to do is go with me. It's that simple."
"Do I still have to wear a dress?" Liz asked, dreading the very thought.
Michael smiled widely. "Yup! You can go shopping with Isabel today."
"Shopping? Come on, Michael, you know I don't do the whole girly thing!"
"Liz, it's one night of your life. Besides, you're the one who doesn't back down from bets, right?"
Liz sighed. "Fine."
"Great! You go call Iz and I'll take care of things here."
Maria walked over to the counter where they were sitting.
"Hey guys. Are you excited about tomorrow night?" Maria asked, trying to make conversation.
"Thrilled." Liz said, walking into the back room.
"Something I said?" Maria asked Michael.
"No, she's just got somewhere to be, that's all. So, you and Kyle seem acquainted." Michael commented.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Maria asked defensively.
"Well, you said no to going out with me and you were totally flirting with him." Michael told her.
"Who I do and do not flirt with is none of your business!" Maria told him, getting upset.
"No, I didn't mean it to sound like it was any of my business, but I just‚¶I‚¶"
"Just save it." Maria walked off to take her break.
Michael ran his hands through his spiky hair, causing it to look even more disheveled. He slumped into a chair at the counter and thought of how to make it up to Maria. The last thing he wanted to do was make her think he was some jealous lovesick fool. After five minutes of serious thinking, he came up with the perfect plan.
Meanwhile, Liz called up Isabel and they took off for the mall.
"Not that it's any of my business, but isn't wearing a dress, like, violating your dress code?" Isabel asked, looking over at Liz as they walked through the mall.
"Yeah, but I lost a bet to Michael."
Isabel laughed at that. "Really? What was it about?"
"I bet him that Maria had a boyfriend, but I was wrong." Liz said, unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
"Come on. I know just the store."
Isabel took Liz to XOXO. They tried on a few different dresses, and finally settled on the perfect one. Isabel bought herself a red halter-top and a short black leather skirt. Liz bought a short-sleeved short black dress that ended just above her knees. Isabel insisted that every girl owned at least one little black dress. Since Liz didn't own any dress shoes, Isabel helped her pick out Steve Madden black three-inch heels.
"Wow! Liz, when Michael sees you in that, he'll totally forget about Maria!" Isabel blurted out.
Liz smiled, and then realized what Isabel had said. "I don't think of him like that." She said confidently.
Isabel smiled. "It's okay if you do. You guys are so close that it's the next step, but don't wait too long to tell him. I don't wanna be the one to say it, but from what I've heard, she's flirting back. We all know that Michael's gorgeous, but of course, I prefer my Alex any day. Anyway, just go to the dance and act like you own everything and everyone in the room."
"Anytime! Oh my gosh! We've gotta go! It's already six and I promised mom I'd make dinner."
"I used to help my mom in the kitchen. She was always baking something like cookies or cupcakes." Liz said quietly.
"It must be hard, huh?" Isabel said, looking at her friend sympathetically.
"Whatever. Shit happens, right? Lets go." Isabel drove Liz back to the Crashdown and took off once Liz was inside. Liz walked through the back to go up to the apartment. To her surprise, she found Michael lying on her bed on his back with his hands behind his head.
"What are you doing here?" Liz asked him.
"It's good to see you, too." Michael said, smiling at Liz.
"Forgive me if I don't seem overly excited by your presence, but the last time we spoke, you were on a completely different planet."
"Yeah, I know, but I wanna make it up to you."
"Oh really? Just what exactly are you planning on doing, Michael?" Liz asked him.
"Go to the Summertime Fling dance with me."
"Is that a request or a command? I'm already going with you."
"No, I mean go with me."
"Are you proposing I go to the dance with you to make a certain New York girl jealous?" Liz asked incredulously.
"Not to make her jealous, but if you go with me I won't look as stupid as I did when you left. Please?" Michael asked her hopefully. His brown eyes locked hers and she knew in that moment that she couldn't say no.
"Fine, I'll go with you."
"And you'll talk to her?"
"Wait! We never said that I'd actually be conversing with this girl. Do you even know anything about her?"
"She's beautiful." Michael responded as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Looks will only get you so far. You of all people should know that." Liz smiled at him.
"Ha, ha! Anyway, I'll pick you up tomorrow at five."
"Fine. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get some sleep."
"Liz, it's only six o'clock."
"I know, but I worked all of this morning and I'm exhausted. Trust me, my sleeping right now benefits you as much as it does me. Of course, if you prefer the latter‚¶"
"No, I get it. Thanks, Lizzie." Michael kissed her on the cheek, and headed out to the balcony to climb down the ladder. Liz fell asleep the second her head hit the pillow. She began to dream‚¶
"You're such a good friend to me, Liz." Michael was telling her at the Crashdown.
The scene changed and they were standing in Max and Isabel's living room just like it had happened the other night.
"Kiss him! You know you want to!" Max was saying.
"Is that true, Liz?" Michael asked staring down at her with his intense brown eyes.
"I‚¶" Liz started.
"He doesn't want you! He wants me." Maria said, suddenly appearing by Michael's side.
Michael wrapped his arms around Maria and kissed her passionately.
"No! Why is this happening?"
Michael continued kissing Maria. He stopped for a moment to look at Liz.
"I don't need you anymore, Liz. Maria's all I want now."
"You shouldn't have waited so long, Liz. You're too late." Isabel told her.
"No! He doesn't even know her! He doesn't even know anything about her!" Liz protested.
"It doesn't matter. You're too late." Isabel told her.
"No! I'm not late! I still have time! I'm not late! I'm not late!"
"Lizzie, you're gonna be late for work. Wake up, honey." Jeff said, lightly shaking his daughter from her sound slumber.
Liz sat up straight in her bed and gasped.
"Dad? What‚¶I‚¶" Liz started, but she closed her mouth, unsure of what to say.
"You were having a bad dream, I think. Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, I just‚¶yeah. Everything is fine, dad."
Jeff gave his daughter a weak smile, and she looked at him reassuringly.
"I'd like to talk to you later, okay?" Jeff asked.
Liz noticed the look in his eyes was one of worry and confusion.
"Are you okay?" Liz asked, fully awake now.
"Yeah, I'm great, but there's just some things we need to discuss. It's nothing to worry about, really."
"Okay." Liz watched as her dad stood up and crossed the room to her door. He turned around to face his daughter.
"Hey, how's Maria doing so far?" Jeff asked.
"I dunno. Good, I guess."
"That's good. You can have someone to help you instead of taking it on by yourself."
"I can manage everything you know."
"I know, but it's good to let someone step in and help you sometimes." With that, he left her room.
Liz got dressed in her Crashdown uniform and walked downstairs.
"Hey, Liz!" Maria greeted her with a warm smile.
"Hi." Liz said shortly.
"Right, so, tonight's the dance! Do you have a date?" Maria asked, making conversation once again.
"Nope. I was planning on going stag. Do you not like me because Michael likes me or do you just not like me because you don't like me?" Maria asked in a rush.
'Does she ever stop talking??' Liz thought to herself.
"I don't not like you, Maria. I don't even know you. Michael and I are just friends, so, you can forget whatever teenage melodramatic plot you thought this might be."
"Okay, sorry I asked." Maria said backing off.
"Michael's new to the game. Life in Roswell is just‚¶it's a stop on the road to someplace bigger where things are‚¶different for him. Don't hurt him." Liz warned her.
"Where do you get off thinking I'm gonna hurt him, Liz? You're right about one thing you said: you don't even know me and yet, here you are thinking you've got me all figured out. I'm sorry I even thought we could establish a quasi-friendship. From the looks of it, you don't have too many girls as friends and I was just trying to be nice. Next time, I won't bother."
Michael walked in through the employee lounge (the back room) and looked at the two sixteen year old girls. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
"Everything okay?" He asked, giving them both a look.
"Yeah, you know what? I'm not feeling too great. I'm gonna go home. Take it out of this weeks pay if you want." Maria walked into the back to her locker.
"What was that all about?" Michael asked, giving Liz a pointed look.
"Don't look at me like that, Michael. I just told her the way things are around here. It's not my fault she can't take it. You told me to talk to her so I did." Liz defended herself, the guilt slowly getting to her.
She didn't hate Maria, but she was confused. Michael was her best friend and he liked Maria. Yup, her jealousy got the better of her.
"Right, Liz, I said talk to her. I didn't say you should bitch her out just 'cause you felt like it."
"I didn't bitch her out!" Liz told him incredulously.
"Fine, whatever. We'll talk about it later." Michael said, walking away.
"Where are you going?!" Liz asked him.
"I have to talk to Maria!"
Michael walked into the back room and found Maria removing her things from her locker.
"I'm sorry about Liz. She has these moments where she says things, but that's no excuse for whatever she said to you." Michael said, standing behind her.
Maria turned around to face him.
"It was stupid of me to think we could be friends. She obviously has some issues with me and I just don't think it's a good idea if I continue working here."
"Wait, you're quitting?"
"Yes." Maria told him.
"You can't quit! You're a great waitress. If you quit now, where are you gonna go? This is one of the best places to be working in Roswell and the only other place hiring is the UFO Center."
"Fine, then, I'll just‚¶"
"Run away?" Michael filled in.
Maria looked at him.
"You surprise me, Michael. One day you're acting like a jealous jerk and the next you're making me realize that moving here wasn't the worst thing in the world."
Michael smiled widely.
"Really?" He asked her.
"Yeah. If the offer still stands, would you like to go with me to the dance tonight?" Maria asked him.
"Yeah!" Michael answered a little too quickly.
"Just as friends." Maria told him.
"Okay. Just friends." Michael agreed.
"Okay, well, I, uh, I should get to work."
"I'll pick you up at five?"
"That would be great." Maria smiled at him and he felt his heart melt.
Maria walked back into the kitchen and got her notepad to take down the customers' orders. She and Liz ignored each other. During their break, Liz walked into the back where Michael and Maria were talking. Her dad had given the three of them the rest of the day off so that they could get ready for the dance.
Maria saw Liz and said goodbye to Michael.
"What was that all about?" Liz asked Michael once Maria was gone.
"She was just confirming plans about tonight."
"What is there to confirm? You asked her out and she said no. End of story."
"That's what I thought, too, but after this morning, she said that she'd like to go with me as friends."
"To which you rejected her being as you and I already made plans. Oh, and if I remember correctly those aforementioned plans were made because you were supposed to be making things up to me. So, how'd she take the rejection?" Liz asked, smirking at him.
"Uh‚¶I didn't reject her, Liz."
"What? Michael, we had plans!" Liz told him, hurt and upset.
"I know, but Maria asked me and I couldn't say no. You know how much this means to me, right?"
"A night spent with stuck up adolescents who have nothing better to do so they show up at these things simply because the opportunity presented itself means that much to you??" Liz asked him.
"Lizzie, come on! You know what I'm talking about."
"So you're ditching me for the chance to kiss a girl who's made it clear all she wants is friendship while dancing to outdated overplayed music and trading witty comments about absolutely nothing just to appear cool to the big city girl who probably just came off some long-term relationship and just showed up in our small town to escape her heartbreak??" Liz asked, grabbing a large shopping bag out of her locker.
"You completely missed the point there, Liz." Michael told her.
"No, Michael, you missed the point. I hope you have fun."
"How about this: The deal is off. In fact, you don't even have to go to the dance anymore."
Liz slammed her locker shut and looked at him, hurt shining in her brown eyes.
"I don't know you anymore, Michael."
"Liz!" Michael called, as she turned to leave the Crashdown.
"Have a great time!" Liz told him sarcastically.
Liz went to the one person she needed to see.
"Is Isabel here?" Liz asked Max.
"Well it's nice to see you, too, Ms. Parker." Max said, smiling down at her.
"Is she here or not? I really need to talk to her." Liz told him urgently.
"You're pretty cute when you're all flustered like this." Max told her.
"Your wit astounds me. Now, move!" Liz pushed past Max and ran up the stairs. She knocked on Isabel's bedroom door. Iz opened it with a surprised look when she saw Liz. Isabel was already dressed for the dance.
"Hey, are you okay?" Isabel asked her.
"I need your help."
"Sure. What's up?" Iz asked, as she Liz walked back into her room.
"Can you, uh, help me get ready for tonight?"
"Really? That's all? I'd love to!" Iz told her excitedly.
Liz gave her a half-smile. Liz changed in the bathroom while Isabel prepared her make-up.
"Make-up?" Liz asked, unsure if she really wanted to go through with this.
"Don't worry about it! You'll look great! Do you trust me?" Isabel asked her honestly.
"Yeah, but‚¶" Liz was cut off by Iz.
"No buts. You won't regret it, Liz, I promise."
Isabel applied her Mocha Cappuccino lipstick onto Liz's lips. She used a bunch of brushes and pencils, but Liz kept her mouth shut and trusted her friend's judgment.
"Okay, you're done!" Isabel told her a half hour later.
"Oh my god. I look‚¶" Liz started, staring at her reflection in Isabel's mirror that hung on her wall.
"Gorgeous? Yeah, I've been known to make these things happen." Isabel joked.
"Don't thank me yet. I still have to do your hair." Iz tied up Liz's hair in a loose bun and fastened it with a bunch of bobby pins that were hidden under Liz's dark hair. She then left a few tendrils hanging down and curled them with her curling iron.
"Now, you can thank me." Iz told her, opening her closet door so that Liz could see herself in the full-length mirror.
Liz couldn't believe it. Her brown-colored lips made the gold flecks in her chestnut colored eyes visible and she looked like someone different. She no longer looked like Liz Parker whose mom was in jail and whose father worked day and night just to keep a roof over their heads. Liz put on her high heels and looked at Iz who was busy applying her own make-up.
"You look amazing, Liz." Isabel told her, giving her a once over.
"Thanks." Liz said, blushing slightly.
"Isabel, sweetheart? I found what you were asking me for." Diane Evans said, entering her daughter's room. She stopped and looked at her daughter and her daughter's friend.
"Oh, girls! You look so beautiful. There's just one thing you need." Mrs. Evans told her.
Mrs. Evans walked over to Liz and fastened the necklace around her neck. It was a thin chain with a beautiful pendant with a medium sized ruby in the center.
"It was Isabel's grandmother's. It's been in the family for ages." Diane explained.
"Mrs. Evans, I can't‚¶"
"Yes, you can. I know that you'll take good care of it. Tonight, it's yours. These too."
Mrs. Evans handed Liz her ruby earrings that matched and Liz put them into her ears. Diane hugged the young woman standing before her. She had known her since she was a young toddler and had been acquainted with Nancy Parker years before in high school.
"Your mom would be so proud." Diane told her.
Liz felt the tears for in her eyes.
"Thank you." She hugged her back.
"Izzy? These are the one you were looking for. I'm so proud of you two. You look so amazing!" Mrs. Evans handed Isabel her pearl necklace and hugged her, too.
"Thanks, mom. You act like we're going to the prom."
The three of them laughed.
"I know, but you're growing up so fast. Tonight a dance, tomorrow your weddings." Mrs. Evans rambled. Iz kissed her on the cheek.
"Goodnight, mom. We won't be too late."
"Hey, weren't you supposed to be going with Michael?" Iz asked Liz once her mom had left the room. They walked downstairs and saw Max in his jeans and a casual, yet classy T-shirt.
"He's going with Maria."
"So, you don't have a date, either?" Max asked her with a smirk.
"No. What about you? Why not go with one of Pam's groupies?" Liz asked him.
"They're all the same. You know, we could go together. I don't have a date and neither do you. Besides, you could get the attention of a certain best friend." Max told her.
"Why not? This night can't possibly be much worse." Liz accepted Max's arm as they prepared to leave.
"You guys go. Alex is picking me up soon." Iz told them.
"Thanks again, Iz."
With that, Liz and Max left to attend the dance together.