Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE, 07/23/17

Fics using the characters from Roswell, but where the plot does not have anything to do with aliens, nor are any of the characters "not of this Earth."

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April
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Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE, 07/23/17

Post by April » Thu Jan 21, 2016 5:35 pm

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(Banner by Me)

Title: Somewhere, Anywhere

Author: April

Disclaimer: Roswell and its characters are the property of Jason Katims and 20th Century Fox. No copyright infringement intended. Don’t sue me for writing about them; I have nothing but student loans anyway.

Summary: Two years have passed since the events of Someone, Anyone. Michael Guerin and his friends, lovers, and enemies are living out a new chapter of their lives in a new town with new faces. But with the past not far behind and the future straight ahead, where will Michael’s life take him? And who will he be when he gets there?

Category: Michael and Maria AU without aliens (other CC pairings and some UC pairings included, but not likely to be Alien Abyss material.)

Rating: So very ADULT. There will be some graphic sexuality in play here.

Author’s Note: It’s so odd that, right as I was beginning to write Someone, Anyone, I knew I would be writing a sequel. (If you have not read the original story in this series, Someone, Anyone, you need to read that story first for this story to make sense to you.) That story naturally plotted itself out in the dusty corners of my brain, and I bore the ending in mind the whole time. With that in mind, I also always had an idea for what this sequel would encompass. It will get intense, it will frustrate you, and it might surprise you. I hope you all enjoy the ride.

Author’s Note 2: For the purposes of this story, NM State at Carlsbad is a 4-year college.

FIRST MUSIC SUGGESTION OF MANY MUSIC SUGGESTIONS FOR THIS FIC IS “Sucker” by Damien Jurado. CLICK ON SMILIE IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prologue

You ever heard of Pistol Pete? Didn’t think so.

He’s my mascot. Inspired by a real cowboy, apparently, some hick named Frank Eaton who loved guns and shooting people with them. What a wholesome inspiration, huh?

Well . . . I guess he’s not so bad. The guy was pretty much beast mode, never missed a shot. Maybe that’s why crimson is one of our school colors, because he spilled a lot of crimson blood in his day.

Like most guys who act all strong and tough, though, Pistol Pete had a soft side. See, he had a girlfriend who gave him a cross once, one that he wore around his neck. Legend has it that damn cross saved his life when it deflected a bullet during a gunfight, and that prompted him to say, “I’d rather have the prayers of a good woman in a fight than half a dozen hot guns.”

Well, he must have found a good woman, ‘cause the dude had, like, eight kids.

So anyway, I go to a college represented by a violent cowboy. I wasn’t crazy about that at first, because cowboys have kind of gotten a bad rap lately.
Brokeback Mountain, anyone? The NFL team that always manages to disappoint? But after a while, I got used to it, and nowadays, it doesn’t really bother me that much. Sure, we may be called the Aggies, but deep down, we’re all what Pistol Pete represents: cowboys. We’re reckless, wild, but trying to be responsible. We’re fighters, out to prove we can survive on our own. We act on impulse and sometimes leave a mess behind, but at the end of the day, everyone’s still fascinated by us.

But let’s face it: When you get right down to it, the most intriguing thing about a cowboy isn’t his gun, or his hat or his horse or anything like that. It’s not how many bodies he racks up or how many bullets he unloads from his chamber.

It’s his ambiguity. You never know if he’s the hero or the villain.

Sometimes I wonder who I am.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

( :) )

These morning strolls across campus were actually pretty relaxing. Not as relaxing as lying in bed, continuing to sleep, of course, which was obviously what Michael Guerin would have preferred to be doing. But if he had to get up and go to class, 9:15 wasn’t a bad time to do it. The sidewalks weren’t very crowded yet, the weather wasn’t too hot . . . and it helped that he didn’t mind the class he was going to.

He readjusted his backpack on his shoulders as he stopped at the crosswalk, waiting for cars to round the corner. When there was a break in the traffic, he and a few others walked across the street, already on the other side when the signal changed from the red hand to the stick figure person.

A few people waved at him or said hey as he walked by, so he gave them a head nod back to acknowledge them. No one stopped to talk to him today, though, so that made the walk a quick one. He got to Burnett Hall a lot sooner than he needed to, so he opted to go into the Student Union instead to grab a coffee.

While he was waiting in line, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, so he took it out and glanced down at the screen, smiling when he saw who his text was from. Crazy Girl. She hated that he had her identified in his phone that way, but secretly, he knew she enjoyed it.

have a good day! the text read. love you!

He grinned. Well, it was easy to have a good day when she started it off like that for him. He moved forward in the line, quickly texting back, love you too.

Maybe it was the coffee, or maybe just the fact that he’d gotten a good night’s sleep and everyone else hadn’t, but Michael felt like he was the only one who even looked alive in Social Psychology that day. The girl beside him was yawning, and the guy sitting in front of him had nodded off at the beginning of Professor Barnaby’s lecture. Michael resisted the urge to hit him on the head with his laptop and instead focused on typing up the notes projected on the board.

“Now let’s recap,” Professor Barnaby said with his usual enthusiasm, “according to Freud, the id is based on what?”

Michael raised his hand into the air, waiting to be called on.

Professor Barnaby scanned the room for a moment, then, like usual, motioned to Michael.

“The pleasure principle,” Michael responded.

“That’s exactly right, Mr. Guerin. Always nice to know someone’s done the reading.”

Michael smirked, knowing the rest of these people probably hated him for being the obvious favorite.

The professor clicked a button on the laser pointer to advance his notes to a slide that displayed a picture of Homer Simpson with a cartoon angel on one shoulder and a cartoon devil on the other. “The id wants what it wants when it wants it,” Professor Barnaby continued on, using the laser to make circles around the devil. “It cares not about the needs of anyone else, but rather its own personal satisfaction.”

Michael’s fingers typed furiously, even though he already knew the information.

Professor Barnaby clicked ahead to the next slide, where a cartoon caveman was envisioning a hamburger, a bed, and a Jessica Rabbit, each in separate thought bubbles above his head. “Food, comfort, sex . . . these are all things the id craves. It has no logic, no reason. To the id, nothing else matters.”

Keeping his eyes focused on the PowerPoint, Michael typed his professor’s exact words: Nothing else matters.

Since he had a break in between classes, he headed out to Plaza Verde, the grassy clearing near the student union and outside the honors hall, where he had a feeling some of his friends would be hanging out. And of course they were. Fly was chasing after a Frisbee like an excited puppy, and Steve was even talking to him like one when he joked, “Alright, good boy! Now bring it back!”

Michael set his backpack down next to theirs, sauntering up to Steve. “Hey, man,” he greeted.

“Hey,” Steve returned. “You bring your football?”

“Nah, I forgot it.”

“Don’t need a football!” Fly exclaimed as he trotted back with the plastic disc in hand. “Frisbee’s better.”

“Alright, go long, man,” Michael told him, seizing it from him.

Literally panting like a dog, Fly darted off across the green again. Michael bent, twisted, and then rocketed his right arm out, chucking it as far as he could. It soared towards Fly, but Fly was uncoordinated, so he tripped over his own feet and fell as he was running for it.

Steve chuckled.

“Man, what a spaz,” Michael remarked, getting a kick out of how his friend popped right back up assured two hot girls walking by, “I meant to do that.” And then he licked his lips as they rolled their eyes at him, and he boasted, “Es muy grande!” as he gestured to his crotch. That only made the girls scamper away faster.

“So how’s Cheryl?” Michael asked his other, saner friend.

“Ah, she’s alright,” Steve replied, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “Says third trimester’s pretty rough, though.”

“Yeah? Which one was the roughest for you?”

“First.” Steve grimaced. “The morning sickness . . .”

“Oh, yeah.” He imagined the only thing worse than holding your girl’s hair back while she puked her guts out every morning was . . . well, being the girl.

“Yo, Mike!” Fly called as he scampered back with his new toy in hand. “You goin’ to the game Saturday?”

“Of course.” Aggie football. Where else would he be?

Fly tossed the Frisbee to him lightly, bragging, “I’m gonna be the mascot.”

“Wait, I thought your cousin was the mascot.”

“Yeah, man, he is, but he got mono or somethin’, so I’m fillin’ in.”

“Huh.” The entire game spent in a sweaty costume? Didn’t exactly sound like the greatest time to Michael, but then again, Fly was fucking weird. He liked things normal people didn’t.

“Man, you get paid for that shit, you know?” Fly revealed. “A lot better than what I make at Taco Bell.”

“Well, I’ll try to make it, too,” Steve said, “but it might depend on how Cheryl’s feelin’.”

“Man, I don’t know how you’s two does this steady girl thing,” Fly said, shuddering exaggeratedly as though the mere thought of being in a committed relationship scared him.

“Oh, it’s pretty easy,” Steve said, “you know, since she’s my wife and all, carrying my child.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Fly dismissed. “Hey, what about Kyle? You think he’d go?”

Michael shrugged, doubting it, but it was worth a shot. “I don’t know.”

“You should try to get him to go,” Steve urged. “It’d be good for him.”

“Yeah.” It really would be.

“Monk’s goin’,” Fly said. “Gonna bring his girlfriend.”

Michael’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “Monk has a girlfriend?” How the hell had that happened?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael met up with Monk at work that afternoon. They were both on duty at Haymsworth Hall, working the front desk, and as usual, there wasn’t much work to be done, so they mainly got to just sit there and talk while people shuffled in and out of the building, going to and coming back from class.

“Hell, yeah, man, I got a girlfriend,” Monk claimed, his voice never changing tone, his facial expression never altering. “You don’t believe me?”

“Not until I see proof.”

“Well, screw you, man. I’ll show you proof. I got proof right here.” Monk took out his phone and navigated to a picture of a hot blonde woman, looked to be late twenties or early thirties. Fake boobs, lots of makeup, and an ass that you wanted to reach right through the screen to squeeze.

“Monk, she’s hot!” Michael exclaimed, impressed.

“Well, if that’s what she really looks like,” Monk acknowledged. “I haven’t met her face to face.”

“Oh.” Of course someone as into technology as Monk would meet a girl online. “So she could actually be a hundred pounds heavier and have, like, webbed feet?”

“She could.”

“Deal-breaker?”

“No, I could deal with the hundred pounds, but the webbed feet might be too much.”

“What if she’s a guy?” Michael speculated.

“Well . . .” Monk shrugged, putting his phone away. “As long as she’s had the surgery, we’ll be fine.”

Michael chuckled. Because he knew Monk and understood his deadpan sense of humor, he knew he was just kidding. Probably. Monk had Asperger’s syndrome, which basically meant he was a brilliant guy with a dash of autism. Sometimes his social awkwardness and tendency to speak in a monotone made it hard to tell when he was being sarcastic or not.

“Man, I think she’s the one,” Monk declared. “You know that feeling you get when you know?”

“Oh, yeah.” He knew that feeling well.

“That’s the feeling I got, man. I always figured I’d meet the love of my life in a Dungeons and Dragons chatroom.”

“Oh. That sounds . . .” Michael laughed inwardly. “Perfect.” Perfect for Monk, anyway. He definitely had his interests and quirks, and if this girl was interested in the same thing, chances were she had a lot of the same quirks. Maybe they were a match made in heaven. They could be quirky together.

Michael looked up at the clock, leaning back in his chair and sighing. He hated these afternoon shifts. They always went by so slowly. The nighttime ones were fun because you never knew who was going to stagger in drunk. “Man, this is gonna be a long day,” he complained.

“Yeah,” Monk agreed. “We could probably reorganize the key cabinet or something.”

“Yeah,” Michael agreed, thinking that sounded horrible. “Or . . .”

A few minutes later, they were rolling their chairs past the elevators, whooping, hollering, and taunting each other as they raced towards the computer lab. Chair-race was a common game they played. Sometimes working for the housing department meant you had to make your own fun.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

miss you right now, the latest text message read. Michael texted his girlfriend back with one hand as he neared the front door to his best friend’s house, be home soon. This was her free day of the week, no class and no work, so she usually got bored without him and always was so eager for him to get home. He loved that he could put a smile on her face just by walking through the door.

That was going to have to wait a little bit longer, though, because there was something he had to do first.

It wasn’t really necessary to knock at Tess and Kyle’s place, so he just let himself in. “Hey, guys,” he called, immediately surveying the situation. Kyle was sitting on the couch again, remote control in his hand.

“Hey, Michael,” Tess said, halfway glancing over her shoulder. She was just off the living room in their tiny kitchen, washing a mountain of dishes. The oversized plaid shirt she was wearing was wet, and her hair was falling out of its ponytail.

Michael set his backpack down, his eyes on Kyle as he headed into the kitchen. “Good day or bad day?” he asked Tess quietly, though it was pretty obvious. Kyle was watching the same old football game again, the one he’d already watched hundreds of times before. He was wearing the same ratty Comets t-shirt he’d worn back during their senior year of high school, but it was too tight now.

Bad day,” Tess replied emphatically but softly. “He’s been sitting there since he got up.”

Michael sighed, watching his best friend for a few seconds. It didn’t matter how long Kyle was like this, he’d never get used to seeing him this way. The weight gain was one thing. It wasn’t drastic yet, but Kyle was definitely nowhere near as fit as he’d been two years ago. The beard was another thing. It was starting to look like birds could live in there. But the eeriness of getting no response out of him at all . . . that was the hardest part of New Kyle to adjust to.

“Well, here,” he said, setting a sack with two Subway sandwiches down on the counter. “Brought you dinner.”

She looked up at him momentarily, smiling gratefully. “Thanks,” she said.

“No problem.” There was a guy who worked at Subway who always gave him a discount, probably because he had a crush on him, but maybe just because Michael had helped him study for a statistics test last year. Whatever the reason, Michael wasn’t questioning it. He saved a lot on Subway sandwiches.

“You could go try to talk to him,” Tess suggested. “Sometimes you have more luck with him than I do.”

“Yeah, sometimes,” he muttered. But other times, Kyle was just as despondent with him as he was with her.

He headed into the living room, sitting down on the arm of the couch, glancing at the screen momentarily. End of the third quarter in that game. 49-3. That would be the final score.

“Hey, man,” Michael greeted his friend, wishing he could just stand in front of that TV screen. But he’d tried that once, and all it had done was piss Kyle off.

“Hey,” Kyle returned, never looking away, not even when the timeout was called.

“Startin’ No-Shave November a couple months early, huh?” Michael joked. Kyle’s face was starting to look like a forest.

He didn’t laugh.

Okay, new tactic, Michael thought, trying to think of something that might catch his attention, might distract him in some way. “So guess what? Monk has a girlfriend.”

Kyle did glance up from the TV, but only momentarily. “A real one?”

“Yeah. Well, actually, we don’t know. He met her online, but he hasn’t met her in person yet, so . . . she could be a dude.”

“Probably is,” Kyle mumbled. He lifted the remote, aimed it at the DVD player, and started to fast-forward through the commercials.

“He’s gonna bring her to the game Saturday night,” Michael segued, hoping that Kyle would get the hint. But if he did, he didn’t acknowledge it, so Michael had to outright ask, “You wanna go to that?”

Kyle shrugged, pressing play at the exact right time. “Not really.”

Michael nodded disappointedly, having expected as much. Kyle hadn’t been out and about for weeks now. And apparently today, judging by how he smelled, he hadn’t even been in the shower.

Knowing that pushing tended to make it worse, Michael reluctantly accepted his friend’s response. “Alright,” he said, getting to his feet. He looked in the kitchen at Tess again, noticing that she had stopped washing the dishes now, and she was just standing there, bent forward, holding onto the side of the sink with both hands.

Bad day for her, too. Her days weren’t good anymore unless Kyle’s were, and his good days were few and far between.

“Do you wanna go for a walk?” Michael offered, spinning back around. “We haven’t gone on one for a while.”

“Uh, no,” Kyle replied simply. “Not right now.”

Michael sighed. Of course not. He was just so busy sitting there like a beached whale. “You sure?” he pressed.

“Yeah,” Kyle mumbled, “I can’t.”

Oh, Michael hated hearing his friend say that word.

****

Gasping for air, Michael stopped at the top of the hill, bending forward, bracing his hands on his knees. “I can’t,” he panted, sweat dripping down his forehead.

Kyle’s feet never stopped moving as he trotted slowly backward. “You know what? Every time I hear you say that word, we’re runnin’ another mile.”

Michael groaned, standing up straighter, trying to work past the ache he was feeling in each and every limb. “I didn’t work out all summer,” he lamented. “I’m outta shape.”

Of course, Kyle wasn’t fazed. “Well, we gotta get you back
in shape if you wanna make this team,” pointing to the Alabama logo on his t-shirt. “Come on.” He turned and started jogging again.

Groaning, grimacing, Michael slowly followed after him. Three miles down. Only three more to go.


****

Michael headed back into the kitchen to say goodbye to Tess, maybe help her finish up those dishes. While they were doing that, Kyle would continue sitting on that couch, watching the fourth quarter of that football game. Again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Vidorra suites were the best place to live on campus. They weren’t as spacious as the other apartments, but they were the only apartments where you could legitimately live with someone of the opposite gender. It basically felt like living off campus in your own place, except you were still on campus and close to everything. It was Michael’s second year in the suites now, so it really felt like home.

Working for campus housing had taught him a lot of interesting shit over the past year. For instance, he was probably one of the only people living there who actually knew what Vidorra meant in Spanish: the good life. Seemed appropriate.

Unfortunately, judging by the phone call he got from his mom on the walk home that night, she was not living vidorra. Lately, she’d been worrying a lot about his little sister, Tina, more than usual, and he was the one she talked to when the situation at home was stressing her out.

“No offense, honey,” she was saying as he climbed on the elevator that night, “but Tina’s parent/teacher conferences were always the good ones. Yours were the ones I dreaded.”

“No offense taken.” He punched the number three and waited impatiently for the doors to shut.

“This was just her worst report ever,” his mom fretted. “The school year’s barely started and she’s already failing two classes. And her principal said she skipped eighth period yesterday.”

“Oh, that’s not so bad,” he reassured her as he rode up to the third floor. “I skipped school all the time, and I turned out fine.”

“You got lucky with your test scores,” she reminded him.

“What are you talkin’ about? That wasn’t luck; that was extraordinary intelligence,” he joked, stepping off the doors when they opened.

“Oh, you know what I mean. I didn’t mean it like that.”

He chuckled and headed down the hall. “No, you’re right. It was fuckin’ dumb luck.” Oh, well. That ACT score had gotten him into college, so it was a damn good thing he’d taken it. Of course, it had taken some convincing.

“Well, you know what’s not helping her is that she’s still going out with Nicholas,” his mom continued on.

“Still?” Holy crap, that relationship was coming up on the one-year mark then. That wasn’t normal for junior high.

“I think he’s a bad influence on her,” his mom said.

“Hmm.” Probably was. Nicholas was a year older than Tina, which meant he was a freshman now. Freshmen definitely weren’t all innocent. When Michael thought back to all the shit he’d done as a freshman, it made him worry for his sister, too. “You know, maybe I can talk to her next time I come home,” he proposed. Tina tended to respond pretty well to him.

“I think that’s a good idea,” his mom agreed. “Oh, I’d better let you go. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of homework to do.”

“Yeah, a little bit.” Michael stopped in front of the door to his apartment, fishing around in his pockets for the key card. “Alright, I love you, Mom.”

He could practically hear her smile over the phone. “I love you, too. Bye, honey.”

“Bye.” He ended the call, found his key, and slid it into the electronic lock, pushing the door open.

It smelled good in there. Like girly bubble bath smells. And there was great music playing. And lasagna on the table.

Oh, yeah. Vidorra.

“Babe?” he called, tossing his backpack down next to the couch. “I’m home.” He kicked off his shoes and nudged them aside, venturing into the kitchen to take a whiff. It smelled righteous. His girl was a good cook.

“Baby?” he called again, treading through the living room.

He stopped when the door to the bathroom opened and all sorts of steam flooded out. She came out along with it, a teal tower tucked in beneath her arms, concealing her body from his view. Her dark brown hair looked virtually black as it clung to her smooth skin. The corners of her mouth curved upward into a warm and welcoming smile.

Sarah.

“Hey,” she said softly. “How was your day?”

“Good,” he replied, moving in closer to her, looking her up and down. There were still water droplets on her skin. “Just got a whole lot better.”

“Really?” Sarah closed the distance between them, putting her hands on his shoulders, tilting her head back to look up at him flirtatiously with those pretty brown eyes of hers. “Why’s that?”

Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her in close, loving the way she just sort of melted into him. “Because of you,” he said, grinning as he added, “Crazy Girl.”

She giggled lightly and beamed a smile, rising up on her tiptoes so they could kiss.








TBC . . .

-April
Last edited by April on Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:40 pm, edited 85 times in total.
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Re: Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 1, 01/21/16

Post by keepsmiling7 » Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:20 pm

So glad you are posting this here too.
Thanks for the sequel!
Carolyn

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April
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Part 2

Post by April » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:26 pm

Carolyn, I'm happy to be able to post it here!








Part 2








Mmm. Isabel Evans savored the taste of her martini as she finished it off, then plucked the strawberry off the side and bit off the bottom tip of it.

Beside her, her best friend Courtney declared, “You’re gonna need another one of those.” She raised her arm to get the bartender’s attention, immediately wincing and putting it back down again. “Ow,” she whined. “Eric made me really sore last night.”

“Did you guys try the bondage stuff again?” Isabel guessed.

Courtney smirked. “Maybe.”

Isabel rolled her eyes good-naturedly. Oh, Courtney and Eric . . . there was nothing they wouldn’t try. Once in a while they bit off a little more than they could chew, but that never seemed to deter them from seeking out new deviant sexual habits all the time.

“You get your new martini,” Courtney instructed as she gingerly slid off her bar stool. “I’m gonna hit the little girl’s room.” She quickly downed the rest of her own drink, grabbed her purse, and headed towards the back of the bar.

Isabel plucked the green top off of her strawberry and finished it off, debating if she really wanted another drink or not. She traced her index finger lazily around the rim of her glass and glanced up at the clock on the wall. Crap, she’d lost track of time. Her class was starting in five minutes.

“Hey, are you . . .”

She turned around when she heard somebody speaking to her. Some guy who was probably in college but looked like he was still in high school. Way too much gel in his bleach blonde hair and far too much acne on his face to ever be considered attractive.

“Oh my god, it’s you!” he exclaimed, looking like an excited kid in a candy store. “You’re Naughty Izzy!”

She slipped him a smile. “Yeah.” This happened at least three times per week.

“From the Internet?”

She shrugged unabashedly. “That’s me.”

He laughed gleefully, then yelled to his friend, “Brandon, come here!”

She sighed, looking up at the clock again. Yeah. No way was she going to make it there on time.

“I’m Russell. I love your stuff,” her fan raved. “Seriously, I watch it every night.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that.” It didn’t take a genius to conclude that Russell’s girlfriend was his own hand.

“Brandon, take a picture,” he said, handing his friend his iPhone. As if it were an afterthought, he asked Isabel, “Is that okay, a picture? I’m your biggest fan.”

She’d met seven ‘biggest fans’ in the past month alone. “Sure,” she said, turning all the way around. She let Russell put his arm around her and plastered on a smile as he gave a dopey thumbs up and Brandon took the picture.

“Let me see, let me see,” he rambled right away, seizing the camera back from him. “Oh, that’s awesome. You’re so hot.”

“Thanks.” She sort of had to be in her line of work.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, his lips were on hers, and he was trying to shove his tongue into her mouth. She whimpered and pushed him away, vehemently opposed to kissing him. “What the hell?” she snapped. “What makes you think you can just kiss me?”

“You’re Naughty Izzy,” he repeated. “You do porn.”

She huffed. “With my boyfriend!” That didn’t give him any right to slip her the tongue!

At that moment, Courtney reappeared at the bar. “What’s going on here?” she chimed, eyeing the two boys. “Big fans?”

“Oh my god.” The camera fell from Russell’s hand as he stared at her in astonishment. “Slutty Courtney?”

Courtney grinned proudly. “Yep, that’s me.”

Brandon got in on the action, too, now, his mouth dropping open. “Holy shit,” he gasped. “You’re real?”

“Well . . .” Courtney squeezed her own breasts and shrugged. “Parts of me.”

The two idiot boys looked at each other and high-fived, as if they’d just found gold or something.

“I gotta get to class,” Isabel announced, getting to her feet, slinking off unnoticed now that Courtney had the boys’ attention. Now they could get a picture with her, too, and unlike Isabel, she probably wouldn’t mind making out with them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Slam poetry, you guys,” Alex Whitman emphasized, wanting to make sure his students understood the point of the assignment. “Not whisper poetry. Not reading in the same boring, emotionless tone you used in middle school poetry. The words should be so powerful that they slam into the audience, rhythmic and relatable. We should be able not only to hear your passion . . . but to feel it.” He liked that little glimmer of excitement he saw in a few students’ eyes. Creative Writing definitely seemed to be the English class college students didn’t dread taking, even if they were only taking it to fulfill a general requirement. That was why he’d lobbied like hell to be the grad student assigned to teaching it.

“Now, it doesn’t matter to me how long it is,” he said, never one to assign a length requirement. “Let’s be real here: It definitely shouldn’t be a haiku. But I just want you to write until it’s done. And it’ll be up to you to decide when it is. Now as far as topics go . . .” He trailed off momentarily as the door to the classroom opened, and in came Isabel, dressed in denim shorts and a white midriff. She had on big, oversized sunglasses that she didn’t bother to take off as she slinked towards an empty seat.

Yep, there was always one student in every class who just couldn’t ever get there on time. Unfortunately, Isabel was that student for him.

“I’d like you to write about a social issue,” he instructed, returning his attention to the rest of the class, “but be creative with it. This is poetry, after all, not an essay.”

Isabel pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head and raised her hand high into the air.

“Yes?” he called on her.

“How long does it have to be?”

A few of the other students, mostly girls, rolled their eyes at her.

“No length requirement,” he answered. “If you’d been here on time, you might’ve already heard me say that.”

There were a few light snickers, mostly from the eye-rollers, and she just stared at him for a moment but didn’t argue.

“Alright, we’re gonna get inspired by viewing a few videos of slam poetry contests right here in the Carlsbad area,” Alex continued on, motioning to the student closest to the door. “Jay? Lights?”

Isabel put her sunglasses back on in disinterest as Jay reached up to the wall and flicked the light switch off.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was so much easier for Michael to wake up when Sarah was the one waking him. So much better than an annoying alarm clock. He usually pretended to still be asleep, just because it was fun.

This morning, she drummed her fingers against his bare chest, then lightly grazed her hands against his skin. “Wake up, wake up,” she whispered in his ear sweetly.

“Mmm,” he murmured. Why would he want to wake up when it felt so good to lie here?

She kissed his cheek, then slid down a bit, pressing a few feather-light kisses to his chest.

“You’re makin’ it really hard to get outta this bed,” he told her, eyes still shut.

She crawled on top of him, straddling his waist, and smoothed her hands up his sides.

Eventually, he could resist no more. He opened his eyes, appreciating how pretty she looked even in the morning. She had such thick dark eyelashes, so she always looked like she was wearing makeup, even when she wasn’t. And her hair always looked thick and soft, even when she hadn’t combed it yet. Plus . . . she’d slept in his t-shirt. So that was really hot.

“Good morning,” she said happily.

“Morning.”

She leaned in to kiss him, and he seized the opportunity to grip her waist and pull her body even closer to his. She squealed excitedly as he did so.

Once they’d gotten up and around, Sarah accompanied him to campus for some errands he had to run. The first was a stop at the financial aid office in the administration building. There was some scholarship stuff he needed to sort out.

“So I’m supposed to have 3,500 dollars in scholarships this year,” he recapped to the lady behind the counter. “But when I checked my student bill, it only showed that 3,000 of it had been applied.”

“Hmm, well, that is a little strange,” the woman agreed. “Do you know what scholarship wasn’t counted?”

“Probably this five-hundred dollar one I got from housing late last year,” he speculated. “I just wanna make sure I get it, you know?”

“Oh, of course. Well, more than likely it’ll be applied to your second semester bill,” she assured him, “but I can look into it today and give you a call sometime this afternoon when I find out more.”

“Alright, thanks.” That had been easy enough.

“Have a nice day,” she told him.

“Yeah, you, too.” He stepped away from the counter, took Sarah’s hand, and together they left.

“So . . .” she drawled as they walked back outside towards the rec center this time. “Yvonne’s filling in for me tomorrow, so I get to go to the game.”

“Good.” It was one of only three night games they had this year. Those were always the best.

“Yeah, I’m excited,” she said. “I can’t wait to see Monk’s girlfriend.”

“Wanna make a bet?” he proposed, already envisioning what Monk’s girl really looked like.

“Ten bucks . . . fat black man,” she wagered confidently.

He shook his head. “Nope. Mexican transvestite.”

“Oh, it’s on then.”

“It’s so on.”

“If I win, you better pay up right away.”

When I win, I’m exchanging my ten bucks for ten blow-jobs.”

“You!” she yelped, whacking his chest playfully.

He laughed, loving that she pretended to be all outraged by the suggestion, when in reality . . . she’d totally be cool with it.

“Hey, guess what?” he said, changing the subject suddenly.

“What?”

“You know that stats test you helped me study for last week?”

“Yeah, did you get it back?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“What’d you get?”

He squeezed her hand in his. “Ninety-nine.”

She gasped with delight. “Michael, that’s great!” But then, she frowned. “Wait a minute. Does that mean your GPA’s still higher than mine then?”

He grinned teasingly.

“God!” she groaned. “Why did I help you study again?”

“Because you love me. Because you can’t resist me,” he openly boasted. “Because I do things to you when you’re naked that you like.”

“Hmm, well . . .” She thought about it and conceded, “I do like most of those things.”

He shot her an alarmed look. “Most?” Good lord, what the fuck was he doing she didn’t like?

“I’m kidding,” she assured him laughingly.

“Oh. Good.” Sex was the one thing in the world he knew he was the best at, better than anyone else. It needed to stay that way.

“But seriously, if it hadn’t been for that douchebag professor I had for philosophy class, I’d have a 3.9 right now,” she lamented, letting her inner nerd flag fly. “He hated me.”

“He didn’t hate you,” Michael said, putting his arm around her shoulders. She was so short that her head always ended up right in his armpit.

“And why do I need philosophy to be a pharmacist anyway?” she wondered aloud.

“Why do I need statistics to be a counselor? I don’t know.”

“Stupid general education requirements,” she mumbled, pouting. “I know it’s totally stereotypical for the Asian girl to be obsessed with her grades, but it’s so frustrating. I know I’d have a 3.9.”

“Sarah Nguyen, do you realize how many people would kill for your GPA?” he pointed out. There was nothing wrong with a 3.7. She pretty much had to get amazing grades, though. She didn’t just have upperclassmen scholarships like he did; she had a full tuition scholarship for the score she’d gotten on the ACT.

“I guess, I guess,” she relented, snuggling close to his side as they neared their destination. “Do you realize how many people would kill for your GPA, though? Or your athletic ability? Or your hair.”

“Can’t blame ‘em,” he said, threading his hand through his spiky mane. “I’m a catch.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It wasn’t a pretty sight to see when Michael showed up at Tess and Kyle’s place that afternoon: Kyle, planted in his wheelchair, trying unsuccessfully to get something out of an upper cabinet with the help of the walking cane he never used. He didn’t even acknowledge Michael when he came in.

“What’re you doin’?” Michael asked, but he already knew. He’d seen his dad do a thousand times growing up, just without the wheelchair or the cane. Same desperation, though.

“Tess hides the liquor up here,” Kyle replied simply. “She thinks I can’t reach it.”

Michael couldn’t help but state the obvious. “You can’t.”

Kyle was determined, though. “Well, I’m going to.”

Michael hated watching this. It was painful. “You know, she probably hides it ‘cause she doesn’t want you to drink it,” he said.

“Probably,” Kyle agreed flippantly, frowning as he concentrated all his effort on trying to knock a whiskey bottle down into his lap. He reached up as high as he could, but his cane was just barely touching the tip of it.

“You know, you could just stand up,” Michael pointed out.

Kyle looked at him impatiently, bringing his cane down. “Or you could just get it for me.”

Michael thought about it a moment, then played along with it, nodding. He slipped in between Kyle’s wheelchair and the counter, reaching up to grab the bottle without problem. It was only half full.

“Thanks,” Kyle said, holding out his hand for it as Michael unscrewed the lid; but instead of handing it over, Michael took a drink himself and then sauntered into the living room. No way was he letting Kyle have a drink.

“So I thought of another reason why you should go to the game tomorrow night,” he said, not about to give up on trying to entice his friend into coming.

Kyle reluctantly wheeled himself in after him, looking pissed that he wasn’t getting to enjoy the whiskey he’d been so determined to get. “What game?” he muttered.

Michael flopped down on the couch. “The one I told you about yesterday.”

“Oh . . .” Kyle shrugged. “I don’t remember.”

Sure you do, Michael thought. He was just pretending not to because he wanted the conversation to be over. “Fly’s gonna be the mascot,” he revealed. “That’s gonna be entertaining.”

Kyle snorted. “You know, Monk and Fly and Steve . . . they’re your friends, man.”

“They’re yours, too,” Michael assured him.

“No, they’re not. Only reason they even know me is ‘cause you dragged me around with you when we first got here.”

“Yeah, well, you dragged me around for eighteen years, so . . .” He probably owed Kyle a lot more than anything he’d ever be able to give him or do for him. Kyle had always stuck by him, never wavered, not even when times were bad. Now Michael owed it to him to do the same.

“Well, I can’t go,” Kyle refused. “The Bama game’s on TV. I really wanna watch it.”

“So DVR it,” Michael suggested, “watch it when you get home.” Truth be told, he hated that Kyle still followed Alabama football so closely. It only made him more miserable.

“Alright, you can stop,” Kyle growled.

“Stop what?”

“Stop trying to make me go to this stupid game. I don’t wanna go.” Kyle rolled his wheelchair down the hall, and seconds after he was out of sight, Michael heard the bedroom door slam shut.

He set the whiskey aside, sighing in frustration. Yeah, he’d stop trying . . . once Kyle started.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It might not have been Tuscaloosa, but still, the New Mexico State stadium was alive Saturday night. Carlsbad was a really small town, smaller than Roswell, actually, but it was a college town, and that was all that mattered. That was enough to make it lively. Everyone showed up at the game. The stadium wasn’t much bigger than a lot of high school stadiums, but it was packed.

It was always a good atmosphere, always a sea of crimson. Not the crimson Michael had planned to wear when he’d first started college, but crimson nonetheless. Anyone who wasn’t wearing that color probably wasn’t wearing much of anything at all. There were a lot of girls who showed up in shorts and tube tops, and a lot of guys who were shirtless. A few who were practically spilling over the front row of the bleachers had painted AGGIES on their chests and looked very, very hammered.

As Michael and Sarah were making their way past the student section, they each ran into a few people they knew. A couple girls said hi to Sarah, and a couple guys shouted, “Michael!” and held up their hands for high-fives. “Go Aggies!” one of them yelled right in his ear. They bypassed the student section, though, because if you wanted to watch the game from there, you had to stand the whole time. At 5’3”, Sarah was too short to see much of the action from there.

“Where do you wanna sit?” she asked him, looking up the bleachers.

He moved in close behind her and put his hands on her hips so as not to lose her in the crowd. “Wherever you want.”

She started up the steps, stopping when she pointed out, “Look, it’s Monk!”

He looked up to the very top of the bleachers, where usually only the old people sat, and indeed, there was Monk, returning to his seat with two hot dogs from the concession stand. “The girlfriend?” He peered closer.

“I don’t know . . .” Sarah squinted, then proclaimed, “Ha!” as she spotted her. “Fat black man.”

Indeed, Monk handed not one but both of the hot dogs over to a big, burly guy in a bright pink jumpsuit. “Damn,” he swore. “You’re good.” He reached into his back pocket right away to take out his wallet.

“Oh, no,” she said, peeking over her shoulder mischievously. “I’ll be collecting my winnings later.”

He grinned eagerly, liking the sound of that.

They started up the steps, and eventually, Michael spotted Steve in the middle section of the bleachers, standing up and waving to get their attention. “There,” he said, pointing him out to Sarah.

“Steve!” she exclaimed, weaving her way through the cramped rows, managing to slip in beside him. “Hi!”

“Hi.” He gave her a quick hug. “Sorry, I tried to save seats for you guys.”

“Oh, it’s okay,” she said, sitting down. “We’ll squeeze in.” She scooted as far over as she could, and Michael sat down next to her. If it got too crowded, she could literally sit on his lap.

“How’s Fly doin’?” Michael asked.

Steve motioned down to the track. “See for yourself.”

It was quite a sight to see. Fly was wearing a crimson vest and chaps, cowboy boots, and a black cowboy hat. His usual faint mustache must not have been dark enough, because he was wearing a fake one. He had a holster and two fake guns, both of which he was holding down by his junk. He kept thrusting into the air. Apparently the guns were compensating for something.

“Pistol Pete!” Michael roared in support of his friend. “Yeah!”

Fly spun around, drawing his guns into the air, then spotted Michael and waved like an idiot. Even threw he looked like he was having a great time down there, though, someone up closer to the front through a plate of super nachos at him, and they splattered all over his costume.

“You want some of this?” Fly challenged, taking off both of his boots. He threw them back into the crowd, yelling, “What now, motherfucker? Yeah! Get some! Get some!” And that was followed by more exaggerated thrusting.

Michael chuckled. Oh, man, Fly made his old high school friends look downright normal.

“So no Cheryl tonight?” Sarah asked Steve.

“No, she didn’t think she could squeeze through this crowd, let alone sit in the middle of it for the whole game.”

“She’s massive,” Michael remarked.

“Michael!” Sarah hissed.

“What? She is.” He’d last seen Cheryl during poker night at Steve’s place last month, and even then, she’d looked like a gigantic bowling ball.

“Yeah, she’s gained about forty pounds already,” Steve revealed. “And she’s not done yet.”

“Well, when’s she having her baby shower?” Sarah asked him.

“I don’t know. Sometime in October.”

“Well, tell her to call me as soon as she sets a date. I wanna make sure I can get off work for it.”

“Will do.”

“And as far as presents go . . .” she added leadingly. “Should I be buying something pink? Something blue?”

Steve smiled proudly. “Something blue would probably be a good bet.”

“Oh my gosh!” Sarah squealed. “Congratulations! When did you guys find out?”

“Our last doctor’s visit.”

“Congrats,” she said again. “Are you excited?”

Steve pushed his hair out of his eyes. “Yeah, pretty excited. I think every man looks forward to having a son, you know, teachin’ him to play sports and all that stuff. Don’t you think, Michael?”

Michael pretended like he hadn’t heard the question. “What?”

Sarah put her hand on his leg and squeezed gently. Then she kept talking to Steve, asking if he and Cheryl had any ideas for names yet.

Michael seized the opportunity to let his attention drift to the actual game. They were almost at the end of the first quarter, and the Aggies were ahead 7-0, and they had the ball on the opponent’s forty-five yard line. Michael watched them line up for the play, an obvious pass formation. The center snapped the ball too high, but the quarterback managed to hold onto it. The pocket around him collapsed fast, though, and he had to throw early. His receiver was well-covered, and even though he ran the slant route and leapt for it, the football bounced right off his fingertips and was almost intercepted.

The crowd groaned in disappointment, but almost instantly, they were hollering and cheering again.

“You could’ve caught that,” Sarah said confidently.

“Yeah,” he agreed. He probably could have. At least if Kyle had been throwing it.

The team went no huddle and lined up in a different formation. Still another obvious pass formation, though. Michael recognized it all too well.

****

It was so fucking loud there.

“Roll, Tide, roll! Roll, Tide, roll!”

Michael stood on the sidelines, listening to the crowd in amazement. Hundreds of thousands of people, all blasting their voices out at once. He’d never seen anything like it, never been a part of anything like it. Not even last year, when he’d gone to one of Alabama’s home the games. Not when he’d come to the scrimmage in the spring. Being a fan was awesome, but being a player was surreal.

“Roll, Tide, roll! Roll, Tide, roll!”

The offense was still energized on the sideline, even though it was the fourth quarter. They were dominating the depleted Michigan team, and the score was 49-3. After a kickoff return right at the very start of the game, every drive had resulted in a touchdown. It didn’t get better than that.

“Yeah, let’s go, D! Get that ball back!”

Kyle was playing the best game of his life, and it showed. He was so animated as he jumped up and down on the sidelines, trying to keep everyone as pumped up and motivated to score as possible. It didn’t matter that they were so far ahead. He wanted to score more. He’d already run it in for two touchdowns and passed for four.

There had been some debate leading up to this game about whether Kyle should be the starting quarterback, or if one of the more experienced seniors should have been. No debate now.

“This is awesome,” Kyle raved, unable to stop moving around. If he wasn’t bouncing around, he was practicing his throwing motion or stretching. “I can’t believe we’re here.”


I can’t believe I’m here, Michael thought. Kyle had always been meant for this. “Did you know you already set a record?” Michael asked him. “They showed somethin’ up on the screen. Most passing yards by a true freshman quarterback.”

Kyle’s whole face lit up. Michael had never seen him look so excited before. “Man, there’s still time. I’m gonna add some more to that.”

As if on cue, the defense held up and stopped the Wolverines on fourth down. Kyle quickly put his helmet back on, and he and the rest of the starters headed back out onto the field. Michael could see the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach talking, probably talking about whether or not they wanted to leave Kyle in the game at this point. There was virtually no chance of them losing that game. They could rest him and give the backups a chance to clock some playing time. They’d probably give him this one more drive, just to see if he could bring the score up over fifty, and then they’d substitute.

Before the play could start up, Michigan’s coach came barreling down the opposite sideline, shouting to the ref to challenge the spot on the prior fourth down. The crowd booed. To them, the runner had obviously been short. Kyle gathered the guys into a huddle while they were waiting, talking through the next drive. He’d had a lot of authority on the play calling during the third quarter. It was clear the coaches trusted his decision-making.

“Let’s switch it up!” he heard his head coach bellowing. And the next thing he knew, while the officials were reviewing the previous play, a couple offensive linemen and the team’s leading receiver were breaking the huddle and coming off the field.

“Guerin,” he heard Coach say. “Get out there.”

What the fuck was happening? He was actually gonna get in the game? He was a freshman, a walk-on. He’d barely managed to squeak himself into that college in the first place.

He didn’t question it, though. He put on his helmet and ran out there with a few of the other backups. They probably weren’t expecting miracles out of them. They just wanted to give them the experience, just in case the starters got hurt and they had to fill in for them in a game down the line.

But still . . . it was awesome.

He joined the huddle as the ref was making the obvious announcement that the previous play’s ruling had been confirmed. Kyle looked elated to see him checking into the game.

He was really actually out there. On that field. In that stadium. In front of all those people. Somewhere in those stands, Kyle’s dad and Tess were watching. Somewhere at home, his mom and maybe even his own dad were watching. And maybe somewhere else . . .

Michael was so overwhelmed, he didn’t even really hear the play call. But he didn’t have to. He’d played ball with Kyle long enough to recognize that look in his eyes instantly. Pass play. He was counting on him.

They lined up in a spread offense formation, hoping to confuse their opponent’s already jumbled defense, forcing them to protect the pass but also attack the run. Kyle was under center, analyzing the defensive scheme, shouting out the necessary play adjustments as the play clock ticked down.

As loud as that stadium was, it was like sound all of a sudden just faded out for Michael, and all he could hear was his own breathing, his own heart beating.

He got into his stance and looked to his left, making eye contact with his best friend, the official starting quarterback. Kyle gave him the subtlest of head nods, and Michael knew what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to run the post route, get as open as he could, go vertical and make that grab in traffic if he had to. Screw the safety or anyone else who got in his way. He had to haul it in. Maybe Kyle could set some other record if he did.

With two seconds left on the play clock, the center snapped the ball to Kyle. Michael darted down the field, relying on instinct to tell him when he’d gone about twenty yards. He cut inward at a forty-five degree angle near the fifty yard line, aligned with the goal posts, and looked back over his shoulder.

Kyle lifted his right arm into the air to pitch him the ball, but right as it was leaving his hand a defender plowed into him from the front, and another swarmed from behind, ramming his helmet into his back. The pass was wobbly in the air, but Michael leapt up for it anyway. He secured it, brought it towards his chest, and fell down with it in his possession, the safety falling right on top of him.

It wasn’t pretty. First down, though.

“Woo!” he exclaimed, springing to his feet. He quickly tossed the ball back to one of the refs and looked back to Kyle so they could celebrate their first completed college pass. Everyone was celebrating. The entire Alabama sideline was about to burst.

But Kyle was down. The two defenders who had tackled him were chest-bumping and drawing flags for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Kyle?” Something wasn’t right.

Michael raced towards him. A couple of the other players were looking down at him and holding out their hands to help him up, but he didn’t move.

When Michael knelt down beside him, he saw the tears of panic in his eyes.

“I can’t feel my legs, man!” Kyle cried.

Michael stared at him in disbelief. “What?”

“I can’t feel my legs!” Kyle strained and grimaced, like he was trying to lift his legs up, but they didn’t move at all.


Oh, god.

“Help!” Michael screamed, but the medical staff and trainers were already on their way onto the field.

****

Michael watched intently as the Aggies ran another pass play, and one of their receivers ran that same post route. The quarterback protection held up, though, and it was a nice, easy pass. Good catch, clean hit by the safety to bring him down at the thirty-five yard line.

Michael breathed a small sigh of relief and clapped his hands. “Alright, let’s go, Aggies!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A guy from one of Michael’s psychology classes threw a party at his place off campus after the game, so Michael and Sarah went. Steve went home, but Fly and Monk accompanied them, along with Monk’s “girlfriend,” whose name turned out to be Dashaud. He said everyone called him “Big Cedar,” though.

Monk was left to deal with Big Cedar all night, who seemed very needy for attention. Fly did his usual thing, flirting with every woman in sight and drinking every ounce of alcohol he could find on the premises. Michael had a couple drinks, but he had a feeling he was going to end up having to drive Fly home, so he didn’t overdo it.

Hip hop music blasted from the speakers, and Sarah danced around in front of him a lot, even if he was just standing around. She been on her high school’s dance team, so she had a great sense of rhythm. Watching her dance was one of his favorite things in the world. She usually tried to persuade him to dance, too, and once in a while he did; but it was pimp style dancing, which mainly just required him to nod his head like a boss, raise his right hand in the air, and point down at her to the beat of the music.

The party was fun, at least until two way too familiar blonde girls stood up on the couch and started dancing like they were in a strip club. It wasn’t unusual to see Isabel and Courtney at these parties. Isabel was a student at the university after all, and she and Courtney were joined at the hip—sometimes literally, if a strap on dick was involved. Michael usually tried to ignore them, but it was hard to when they were making such a spectacle of themselves.

“Ugh,” Sarah groaned as Courtney dumped beer all over Isabel and Isabel hollered in exaltation. “I hate it when your ex-girlfriends crash the party.”

Yeah, so did he. It always seemed to put a damper on things. “Courtney was never my girlfriend,” he reminded her. “She was just . . . my first.”

“Hmm.” Sarah made a face when Courtney took off her top and started whirling it around her head like a lasso. “Something tells me you weren’t hers.”

She was right about that. Courtney had pretty much always been a slut, so seeing her trash it up like this wasn’t a big deal. But Isabel, on the other hand . . .

It wasn’t fun to watch her to watch her strip off her shorts and start circling her hips around, baring her naked ass to all the guys who had crowded around to watch the impromptu show. She bent over, grabbed on to the back of the couch, and started doing booty claps in time with the music. A few guys reached out to slap her ass and slip money into the side of her thong.

“You wanna go?” he asked Sarah, sensing this party was taking a turn for the worst. She wouldn’t be here if it was starting to get sloppy.

“Yeah,” she replied. “Let’s get Fly and leave.”

“Alright.” Michael pushed through Courtney and Isabel’s audience towards the front, where Fly was down on his knees, practically salivating. “Come on, man,” he said, lifting him up. “I’m drivin’ you home.”

“Man, let’s stay,” Fly suggested.

“No, we’re gonna go.” No way could Fly get behind the wheel tonight. He helped his friend walk away, well aware that Isabel had just seen him there.

As it turned out, they didn’t need the party. After dropping Fly off at his and Monk’s apartment, Michael and Sarah headed home, and just as he’d hoped, she followed through with her decision to collect her winnings from the ten dollar bet they’d made. But his girl knew him well, and instead of collecting dollars, she collected something else instead.

“Mmm,” she moned as he slithered up her body that night.

He licked his lips, savoring the taste of her. “Gotta say, I think our party’s better than their party.”

“So much better,” she agreed, tousling his hair.

“What am I at now? Three? Four?” he asked.

“Three.”

Seven more to go. He grinned. “Then I got some work to do.”

“I think three’s about all I can handle tonight,” she said, rubbing his cheek.

“Tomorrow night then.” He kissed her, then murmured in her ear, “And the night after that. And the night after that.”

She sighed happily, turning over onto her side, and he settled in behind her, draping his arm over her stomach, ready to fall asleep with her. It definitely hadn’t been a mistake to leave the party early and come home.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 3

Post by April » Sat Jan 23, 2016 4:50 pm

“Now squeeze your buttocks and inhale.”

Tess struggled to maintain the downward dog position, let alone squeeze her butt while she was doing so. There was a time when doing this simple yoga move would have been easy, but nowadays, she wasn’t as flexible, and it was harder. As long as she kept her ass in the air, she wasn’t really too concerned if her legs or arms bent.

“Exhale,” the yoga instructor said calmly. “Feel the energy coursing through every limb of your body.”

What energy? Tess wondered. All she felt was pain.

Beside her, maintaining the pose effortlessly, Sarah whispered, “Hey, you’re pretty good at this. Had a lot of practice?”

“Ha.” Tess stuck her tongue out the side of her mouth.

“Ha,” Sarah mimicked.

By the time class was over and the room was clearing out, Tess was already feeling sore. It was a good kind of sore, though. She missed yoga and dancing and all the stuff that had kept her in top physical form in high school.

“That was relaxing,” Sarah remarked as they rolled up their yoga mats.

“Yeah,” Tess agreed. “I swear, I don’t know what I would do without our girl time, Sarah. It’s the only time I don’t feel stressed out about everything.”

“Everything?” Sarah echoed, holding her mat underneath her arm. “I thought you were excited about your job.”

“I was . . . until I started working it.” Tess frowned. “Being a cheer coach is supposed to be fun, but lately it’s just been pissing me off.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because of the people I work with. Stephanie and Kristin.” She rolled her eyes. Just saying their names made her want to gag. “Stephanie cheered at Fresno State, but she acts like it was the NFL. And Kristin actually did try out for an NFL team, but she didn’t make it. But she acts like she did. And they both treat me like I don’t know what I’m talking about just because I didn’t cheer for as long as they did. But I mean, I would have. I would’ve gone to college, I would’ve cheered if . . . you know . . .” She trailed off.

“If you didn’t have to take care of Kyle,” Sarah finished.

“Yeah.” Often, she imagined what could have been, what almost was. It would have been so nice to go to Alabama with him, to be down there on the sidelines while he was out on that field. It would have been so nice.

“Do they know about any of that?” Sarah asked.

“No. But they’re such enormous bitches, they probably wouldn’t even care if I told them. They don’t care about anything I say. It’s like my opinion has no value to them. Like today, Kristin was teaching the girls the choreography for this Christmas competition—lame choreography, by the way, because guess who made it up: Kristin. Anyway, the girls weren’t catching on very well, so I was like, ‘Hey, Kristin, you really need to go slower and break it down more eight count by eight count, because they’re not getting it.’ And she totally just ignored me and kept doing what she was doing. It’s like, I realize I’m just the assistant coach, but she doesn’t let me coach anything. At all.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Tess,” Sarah sympathized. “That doesn’t sound fun.”

“It’s not.” Nothing was fun anymore. It hadn’t been for a long time.

“Well, if you’re so unhappy there, maybe you should just quit,” Sarah suggested.

“I can’t. I’m good at two things in life: cheering, and being Kyle’s loyal girlfriend. Only one of ‘em lends itself to a job. Besides . . .” She lowered her voice, confessing, “I know it’s only a part-time thing, but I need the money. Kyle’s dad’s been paying all our bills for the past three months.”

“Oh, Tess . . .” Sarah reached out and squeezed her hand supportively. “If you ever need money, Michael and I--”

“No,” she cut in stubbornly. “I don’t wanna . . .” It was embarrassing, being so in debt at such a young age, but Kyle’s medical expenses were . . . well, expensive. And the longer his recovery went on, the less insurance paid.

“I understand,” Sarah said.

“So speaking of you and Michael . . .” Tess was desperate to change the subject, so as they headed out of the room, she asked, “Still livin’ the dream?”

“Yeah, thanks to you.”

Tess smiled proudly. “I am quite the matchmaker, aren’t I?”

“You did good.”

“Well, I’m glad. Now that my life sucks, I have to live vicariously through the two of you. Got anything new and exciting going on?”

“Well, funny you should ask. We actually do have some news.”

Immediately, Tess glanced down at her friend’s left hand, thinking there was no way she could have missed that. And indeed, she hadn’t. No ring. “What news?” she questioned eagerly.

“Well . . .” Sarah stepped in front of her, her eyes wide with excitement, her smile stretching from ear to ear. “Turns out, Michael and I are expecting . . .”

Tess’s eyes bulged. “Oh my god.”

“To get a puppy!”

“Oh!” That was less life-changing than what she’d been thinking. “Yay!”

“I know, right?”

“Yeah. I totally knew you were gonna say that.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael leaned back in his chair, kicking his feet up on the front desk as he popped the tab open on his coke.

“A puppy?” Tina echoed on the computer screen. They’d been Skyping for the past ten minutes. “Since when have you ever wanted a puppy?”

Michael took a drink and replied, “Since birth.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Dogs are cool.”

“A puppy’s a lot of work, though,” she warned him.

“Well, I’m good at work.” He motioned around himself. “See, I’m working right now.”

“Yeah, looks like you’re really killin’ yourself there,” she commented sarcastically.

He laughed a little and shrugged. Yeah, it was an easy job. He was pulling a one-man shift at Vidorra tonight, though, so it was boring.

“So what’re you supposed to be workin’ on?” he asked her.

She made a face of disgust. “English paper.”

“And how’s that goin’?”

“Haven’t started yet,” she admitted. “It’s due tomorrow.”

Wow, she sounded like the high school version of him. Scary. “Is that one of the classes you’re failing?” he questioned.

“Mom told you about that?”

“Yep.” He touched the mouse on his laptop when the screensaver started to come on. “You know, Sarah’s really good at English. You should email her your stuff. She’d proofread it for you.”

“I don’t even wanna do it,” she complained. “It’s an expository essay.”

“Five-paragraph thing?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, those suck,” he agreed. He remembered sitting through several agonizing Study Buddies sessions his senior year, struggling to get anything written down even then. “You should just do it, though. Get it done.” He squinted his eyes at the screen when he thought he saw movement coming from the corner of her room. Like somebody was . . . hiding behind the curtain or something. “Is that Nicholas back there?” he asked, sitting up straighter, leaning closer to the screen.

“No,” she said, turning her computer a bit. “I gotta go, Michael. I have a paper to write.” She signed off, and he shook his head in amazement. His little sister, the rebellious thirteen year-old. Until she’d gotten to fifth grade, he never would have imagined it, but once she’d started hanging out with Hannah fucking Crown that year and focusing all her energy on being popular . . . she’d just changed.

He closed his computer and took his phone out of his pocket, quickly texting his mom to let her know that Nicholas was upstairs and she’d want to go shoe him out.

As he was pressing send, the elevator opened, and out came the dumbest, prettiest redhead he’d ever known: Roxie Harson. Every time Michael saw her on campus, he was amazed she’d gotten admitted into college in the first place. But then again, people probably felt the same way about him.

“Roxie,” he greeted warmly, taking in her . . . attire. Or lack of it. She had on black panties and a hot pink bra. And nothing else. “Did you lock yourself out of your room again?”

She smiled at him sort of . . . appreciatively. “How’d you know?”

“You’ve locked yourself out of your room three times in the past two weeks.”

“I have?” She giggled like an airhead. “I don’t know why I keep doing that.”

“Do you know why you’re in your underwear?”

She looked down at herself, then shrugged. “No, I don’t know that, either.”

“Oh. Okay.” He reached into the top right drawer and took out a skeleton key card that would unlock any door in the suites. But before he handed it over to her, he had to make sure he gave her explicitly clear instructions on how to use it, otherwise it might all go over her head. “Now I’m gonna give you this. You put it in the door lock, go in, get your room key, and then you bring this one back to me, okay?”

“Got it,” she proclaimed.

“Which key are you bringing back to me?”

“My room key.”

“No, this one. After you get your room key back.”

For a moment she looked confused, then said, “Oooooh, okay, that makes sense.”

“Does it, Roxie?” Last time, it hadn’t.

“Yeah. I’m not stupid, Michael.” She snatched the skeleton key with him and pranced back to the elevator, her ass cheeks jiggling nicely as she did so. Not that he noticed.

Suddenly, Sarah was right there at the front desk, too. “Hey,” she chirped.

“Hey.” He noticed she still had her yoga mat with her, so she and Tess must have ended up spending the whole day together.

She watched curiously as Roxie got back on the elevator. “Didn’t you go to high school with that girl?”

“I went to pound-town with her,” he openly admitted.

“Oh . . .” She cringed. “That’s great.”

“Yeah, she’s, like, the biggest slut I’ve ever met.”

“Bigger than Isabel?” She smirked. “Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

“Maybe not,” he conceded. Isabel was pretty far gone these days. “But I’m sure she’s done enough shit to have her own website.”

You’ve done enough shit to have your own website,” she pointed out.

“True. But now I only do shit with you.”

“Hmm, lucky guy.”

He smiled at her. Yeah. Yeah, he was pretty lucky.

“How long are you down here tonight?” she asked him.

“Uh, ‘til 11:00.”

“Dammit,” she swore. “Oh, well. I’ll study and cook something until you get done.”

“Pasta?” he requested. She made great pasta.

“Pasta it is.” She leaned over the desk and gave him a quick kiss. “See you later.”

“See you,” he echoed as she headed towards the elevator.

“Oh, wait!” she exclaimed, spinning around. “When do you wanna go get the puppy, tomorrow or Tuesday?”

He shrugged. “Whatever works for you.” A guy from one of his summer classes had a corgi who had given birth to six puppies, and he’d posted something a few days ago on Facebook about selling them for two-hundred bucks each. Along with pictures that could melt even the toughest guy’s heart. Michael had always wanted a dog growing up, but his dad had never allowed him to get one.

At that moment, which was the exact wrong moment, his boss, Brody Davis, the housing director and residence director at Vidorra, came out of his apartment down on the first floor and said, “What’s this I hear about a puppy?”

Sarah exchanged a worried glance with Michael. “Gotta go,” she said, opting to scurry up the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator to come back down.

Brody sauntered towards the front desk, asking again, “A puppy, Michael? Really?”

“Yeah.” Michael knew he had to navigate this situation carefully in order to get his way. Brody was a cool, laidback guy, and they got along really well; but he was British, and British people had their royal family and all that other screwed up crap. Sometimes Brody didn’t quite understand why Americans loved and wanted the things they did.

“Michael.” His boss gave him a serious look. “You can’t have a pet in campus housing. You know that.”

“No one even has to know I have it. I’ll make sure it stays in my apartment.”

“What about when you have to take it outside to go to the bathroom?”

“Oh, come on, Brody, you know me. I got a plan.”

“A plan.”

“Yeah.” He’d been thinking this through for weeks, ever since he and Sarah had decided to get one of these corgi puppies, and he’d even done his research. “I saw this Youtube video where this guy trained his dog to use the toilet. So that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Brody chuckled, shaking his head. “Oh, Michael . . .”

“Dude, I’m your favorite employee. Just let me have this.”

Brody sighed, and just as he usually did when Michael requested some outlandish privilege other residents didn’t get to enjoy, he gave in. “I was never here,” he claimed, backing up towards his apartment with his hands out. “We never had this conversation.”

“Yes!” Michael did a celebratory fist-pump close to his side. Why had he never made a bigger effort to get adults to like him back in high school? These days, it was sure paying off.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I used to be so good at this, Isabel thought frustratedly as she crossed out the line she’d just written. Fiction stories had always been a stronger genre for her than poetry, but still . . . poetry had never been a challenge. But this was bad. She wasn’t feeling what she was coming up with at all, and time was running short. They were supposed to start their slam poetry competition in class on Tuesday.

A knock on the door distracted her. She glanced up as her boyfriend, Jesse Ramirez, poked his head in. “Hey, beautiful,” he said. “What’re you workin’ on?”

She crumpled up her paper, tossing it onto the floor with the other failed attempts. “Slam poetry.”

Slam poetry,” he echoed, gliding into the room. He had on black silk boxer shorts and no shirt. His tan skin looked amazing, especially in her dimly lit room. “I like the sound of that.” He got onto the bed and started crawling towards her suggestively.

“Not that kind of slamming,” she informed him.

“No, I know,” he said. “I’m very poetic.”

“Are you now?” She had to admit, when he spoke Spanish, it always sounded incredibly fluid and sexy.

He cleared his throat and started in on a made-up poem. “All I want is to touch your skin . . .” He smoothed his hand over her shoulder, urging the strap of her nightgown down. “Touching you is the sweetest sin. Makes me feel . . . like I’m gonna win.” He gleamed at her playfully. “How’d I do?”

“Hmm, well, I’d give you an A+, but I don’t know what Alex would give you.”

“Alex?” He frowned. “Same Alex you dated?”

“We went out on one date,” she reminded him. “Once.”

“He’s teachin’ your class?”

“Yeah.” She averted her eyes momentarily, mumbling, “Thought I told you that.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Oh.” She was fairly certain she had, but he probably just hadn’t been listening.

“Isn’t he, like, three years older than you?”

“Two,” she corrected, “but he got his bachelor’s degree in three years, and he started grad school last year. So now this year he gets to be one of those grad students who teaches.” He was doing a good job, too. His lessons was enjoyable so far, and the assignments he gave them were open-ended enough to allow for a lot of creativity. Hence the title of the course.

“Well, it should be an easy class for you,” Jesse said.

“Because I’m a good writer?”

“Or . . . ‘cause he likes you.”

She sighed. “Jesse . . .” Alex hadn’t had those feelings for her for a long time.

Jesse didn’t carry on the conversation, though. In fact, he seemed perfectly content to just end it as he started kissing her neck. She really needed to work on that poem, but she didn’t object as he took the pen and paper from her and set them aside on the bed. Her hands freed, she rubbed his arms and shoulders, feeling his muscles move as he situated himself on top of her, encompassing her completely.

****

Isabel let her essay flutter from her hands and drop into the trashcan outside McCosh Hall. It landed face-up, though, so the 63% etched in red permanent marker glared up at her.

Her phone rang, and even though she really didn’t feel like talking to anyone right now, she couldn’t resist answering it when she saw that it was Jesse who was calling. “Hey,” she said morosely.

“Hey,” he returned. “How’s my girl?”

She exhaled in discouragement. “Not so good. I failed my English essay, and I know I bombed my history test today.”

“That’s alright, baby,” he assured her, as if it were no big deal.

“No, it’s not,” she argued. “These can’t be my grades. They’re like . . . Michael’s.” She shuddered at the thought.

“College is hard.”

“It’s not supposed to be hard for me.” It didn’t matter that she hadn’t been the one to deliver the valedictorian speech at graduation five months ago; she was the smartest person in her graduating class, and everyone knew it. School had always come so easily to her. Why was college different?

She asked herself the question every night, and every night, she came up with a different answer, a different reason to explain why she was struggling: She was lonely and hadn’t made many new friends. She was partying too much. The sleeping pills weren’t working. She missed Jesse. She was worried about what he was doing and who he was doing it with while she wasn’t there.

“Isabel?”

She realized she’d been spacing off and apologized. “Sorry.”

“Don’t stress about it, okay?” he soothed. “You’ll be fine.”

She stared down at the failing grade on that essay, shaking her head in disappointment. Grades like that weren’t going to cut it if she wanted to make it here.

But then again . . .
did she want to make it here? Was the stress and the anxiety and the loneliness really worth it? Princeton had always been her dream, but lately, it had felt like more of a nightmare.

“I just need to study,” she said, remembering how that was what she used to tell Michael. Just study. Try. Put in the effort.

But Jesse had other solutions. “Don’t bother,” he said. “You’re smarter than that, Isabel. That’s why you got into Princeton. There’s an easier way to get your grades up.”

Maybe she had been smart once, but right now, she didn’t feel smart enough to understand what he was saying. “What do you mean?”

“If I were you . . . I wouldn’t hit the books,” he recommended. “I’d hit the sheets.”

She frowned deeply, trying to wrap her mind around what he was suggesting.


****

When had Jesse flipped her over? She didn’t even realize she was on her stomach until he was penetrating her from behind. He started thrusting right away, pressing his hands down hard on her backside while he did so.

She knew she really should be working on that poem. But her boyfriend wanted her right now, and it was nice to feel wanted.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

No matter how hard he tried, Michael just could not understand why somebody would name a school Pound Elementary. Pound. Like the kids were stray animals who had been captured and locked up. Chances were it was named after a person, but still . . . it didn’t sound inviting.

It actually was deceptively inviting, though. From the moment he walked in, he saw artwork the kids had done hanging on the walls and displayed in trophy cases. Most of it was crap, but the kids were probably proud of it.

Michael sat in the office at Pound, waiting for the school counselor to show up. Vanessa Whitaker was her name, and even though he’d never met her, he knew a lot about her because she was Brody’s girlfriend. At the beginning of the school year, when he’d told Brody about needing to find a qualified counselor to supervise his practicum experience, he’d mentioned her right away, said she was really good at her job.

He tugged on the stiff collar of his shirt, glad he’d opted against the tie. But even without a tie, he still hated dressing up. He wanted to make a good impression, though, so dressing up was kind of mandatory.

The door to the office flung open, and in walked a kid with a bloody nose. He had a tissue pressed up against it that was already soaked in red.

“Oh, goodness,” the secretary said. “Okay, nurse’s office. Right back there.”

As if he were accustomed to it, the kid shuffled past their desks and around the corner.

“I think that’s the second one today,” the secretary told him.

“Really?” The day was only halfway over.

“Some of these kids get bloody noses all the time. I feel sorry for them.”

“Yeah.” Michael knew from experience that they sucked. They were more inconvenient than anything else. Back when he’d wrestled in junior high and high school, he’d gotten so many bloody noses that they’d eventually just decided to pre-pack his nostrils with tampons before sending him out on the mat.

A minute or so later, an attractive, slender woman came into the office, an exasperated look on her face. “It is a zoo out there,” she revealed.

“Oh, Vanessa, this is Michael Guerin,” the secretary informed her. “He’s here to see you.”

“Oh, that’s right.” She came over to him with her hand out, smiling. “Hi, Michael. I’m Vanessa Whitaker.”

He got to his feet and shook her hand. “Hi, Ms. Whitaker. Nice to meet you.”

“I didn’t expect you to be so early.”

He didn’t bother pointing out that she was actually running about five minutes late. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, of course not. Come on in,” she said, motioning him into her office.

Déjà vu, he thought, sitting down in one of two plush chairs next to her desk. This office reminded him so much of Topolsky’s. It was small, cramped, maybe slightly more organized, but not by much. Vanessa had multiple stacks of papers on her desk and at least a dozen sticky notes on her computer, each one containing some reminder of something she had to do.

“Thanks for meeting with me,” he told her right away.

“No problem,” she said, smoothing out her beige skirt as she sat down. “I have to tell you, I usually don’t even entertain the idea of working with practicum students—always seems to be more hassle than it’s worth. But Brody had nice things to say about you.”

“Yeah, he’s been my boss for the past year, so . . .”

“He says you’re a good worker.”

“I try to be.” His job with housing was insanely easy and not entirely unenjoyable, so he wanted to keep it for as long as he was in college.

“You a full-time student?” she asked him.

“Yeah.”

“So you’d be taking classes, working part-time for Brody, and coming here twice a week?”

“Twice or three times. It would just depend on my schedule and the schedule you give me. I gotta clock, like, ten hours a week, and I have to have a certain number of hours before the semester’s over, so . . .”

“So you’re probably looking to get started right away,” she concluded.

“Yeah, if you’ll have me.”

She smiled at him. “Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that you have my boyfriend’s recommendation.”

“Figured it wouldn’t.”

“I’d be happy to be your cooperating counselor, Michael. I’m sure there’s some documentation I’ll have to fill out before we start and as we go along.”

“Yeah, I can get that to you.”

“Good. Now I would more than willingly show you around today, but unfortunately, things are a little bit hectic.”

“Yeah, I saw the kid with the bloody nose.”

She groaned. “Tyler has a bloody nose again? What did he run into this time, the mirror or the wall?”

Oh, poor Tyler. “I don’t--”

“Things aren’t normally quite so crazed around here—we actually run a pretty tight ship,” she informed him. “But the fourth graders were supposed to go on a field trip today, and that got cancelled, so they’re losing their minds; and the fifth graders were supposed to have a guest speaker, but he didn’t show. And our principal’s on vacation, so that leaves me to deal with all of it.”

“Sounds fun,” he mumbled sarcastically.

“The wonderful world of being a guidance counselor.”

“Yeah.” Until he’d started pursuing the career, he hadn’t realized how much was really involved with it. It was definitely a lot more than just sitting behind that desk, listening to kids talk about their problems, although that was probably the most important part.

“Why do you wanna be a counselor?” she asked. “I mean, you can do so many different things with a psychology degree. Clinical psychology, forensic, cognitive. What interests you in school psychology?”

“Well . . .” He suddenly felt like he was in a job interview, even though he wasn’t. “I guess, growing up, I always thought my counselors were kinda dicks, you know?”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry, wrong choice of words,” he apologized, then reconsidered. “No, actually, they were dicks. They hated me, and they were very open about hating me. Granted, I wasn’t the easiest kid to work with—I understand that. But all throughout middle school and high school, especially, they were just tryin’ to fix me, like there was somethin’ wrong with me. It was like they’d go out of their way to tell me I wasn’t good enough and needed to be better. But that never motivated me; it just . . . made me a bigger douche.”

Vanessa laughed lightly, as though she found his honesty refreshing.

“But then my senior year, I went to a different school, had a different counselor. And she really helped me turn things around.”

“Where’d you go?” she asked him.

“West Roswell.”

She smiled fondly. “Kathleen Topolsky. I know her.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I went to college with her, actually. We took a few classes together, stayed in touch after we graduated.”

“Small world,” he remarked.

“Very. She’s a great counselor. She really knows how to reach kids who are struggling.”

“Yeah, and that’s who I was,” he admitted. “I was going nowhere in life, you know? But she helped me, and . . .” He swallowed hard. “Some other people helped me. And now here I am.”

“Here you are,” she said. “Seems like you’re at a good place in your life.”

“I am,” he agreed, “and I think I wanna be a counselor ‘cause I wanna help kids, especially kids like me, get to that same place.”

She nodded fondly, as if she liked the sound of that. “Then I think it’s a good thing you’ll be here this semester,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who need help.”

Good, he thought. After all, that was the part of being a counselor that most interested him. The other stuff counselors had to do, like the stuff Vanessa was doing today . . . that was an obligation. The actual counseling itself was an opportunity.

He left Vanessa’s office feeling good about things. She seemed like the kind of person he could work well with, and she’d assured him that, if he got her the paperwork this week, she’d sign off on being his cooperating counselor and he could start as soon as next week.

On his way out, he stopped by the lunch room, taking a look at all the kids as they shuffled through the line with their trays and sat with their friends at tables. There were a lot of them, and they looked like the younger bunch in general, maybe kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. They were loud and they were lively, and a couple of the boys were getting in trouble for throwing food across the table.

He smiled. This would be cool.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Will I ever get to hold him?”

“Probably not.” Michael cradled his new puppy to his chest like a baby as they walked back into their apartment. Letting Sarah hold him would have required him to hand him over, and he wasn’t willing to do that. This little dog was so fucking small that he could hold him in one hand if he wanted to; he only weighed a couple of pounds. He had the traditional tan and white coloring, and while his left ear stuck straight up, the right one was still flopping over a bit. Right now, he was tired, so he could barely keep his eyes open.

“He’s so cute,” Sarah cooed, petting him adoringly. “He was definitely the cutest one out of all of them.”

“Oh, for sure,” Michael agreed, nudging the door shut with his foot. His friend who had bred them had already sold two puppies, but there had been four left, and this one had caught Michael’s eye right from the start. He’d been the first to come up and sniff his hand and try to climb on his lap. “Look at his face,” he said, rubbing his cold, wet nose. “This is the kind of face that drives bitches wild.”

“And by bitches, do you mean girls or female dogs?”

“Both. His good looks know no bounds.”

“His good looks.” Sarah laughed, heading into the kitchen to start in on the breakfast dishes they’d left there that morning.

“I’m serious, he’s a stud.” Michael sat down at their kitchen table with his dog still tucked close to his chest, and he scratched his belly to try to wake him up a bit.

“You’re totally gonna be that guy who’s obsessed with his dog, aren’t you?” she predicted as she turned on the water to fill up the left side of the sink.

“I already am.” He had no problem admitting that.

“You’re gonna be that guy who wakes up every morning and, like, makes out with his dog willingly.”

“What? Make out with?” He had her for that.

“Yeah, you know, like he’ll be on your stomach, licking your face, and you’ll act like you want him to stop, but really, you’re loving every second of it.”

He shrugged. “Hey, why not? Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans’.”

“That’s a myth, actually,” she informed him, turning towards the sink.

“Don’t listen to her, buddy,” Michael spoke to his dog quietly. “She’s crazy. That’s why I call her Crazy Girl.”

“I heard that.”

He grinned. Yeah, it was only worth saying if she heard it.

“Does he have a name yet?” she asked as she started to scrub their breakfast plates.

“Oh, yeah, I got it all picked out. You ready?”

“Sure.”

“Wait for it . . .” He drew it out just for dramatic effect, then announced, “Shanghai.”

She looked back over her shoulder, a confused expression on her face. “Shanghai?”

“Yeah, in honor of you. Your homeland.”

She whirled around, narrowing her eyes at him. “I’m not Chinese.”

Now it was his turn to be confused. “Shanghai’s in China?”

“Yes.”

“Since when?”

“Forever.”

“Oh.” Damn, here he’d thought it was in Korea. “Oops.” Didn’t matter how good of a student he’d become over the years; geography still stumped him.

She rolled her eyes, suppressing a smile. “So Shanghai, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m gonna call him Shango for short. And his middle name’s Jango. So he’s Shango Jango Guerin.”

“That’s a mouthful,” she remarked.

“It’s awesome! Isn’t that right, Shango Jango?” He bounced the little pup up and down a bit, gradually getting his tired eyes to open. “Yeah, he likes it,” he declared. “My dog is awesome.”

Your dog?” she echoed.

“Our dog,” he corrected.

“Oh, no, let’s be real here: He is your dog. I mean, look at you.”

He knew he must have looked like he’d gone softer than ever, but who could resist Shango’s little face? And his little paws. And his little belly. Shango was the fucking best.

“And since he’s your dog, that means, whenever he pees or poops on the carpet, you get to be the one to clean it up,” she added, smirking.

“Well, he’s not gonna be doin’ that for long,” Michael assured her, “ ‘cause I’m gonna toilet train him.”

“What? Toilet train him?”

“Yes, I saw it on Youtube. It can be done.”

“Oh, okay, well, good luck with that.” She refocused on the dishes again, turning her back to him.

“Don’t worry, Shango,” he said, holding his puppy up to his shoulder, patting his back as if he were burping him. “I believe in you.” He petted his soft fur for a few seconds, then asked his girlfriend, “Hey, you hungry?”

“Starved,” she replied without hesitation.

“Oh, I’d better take Shango away from you then,” he joked, standing and slinking away from the table. “I know what you people like to eat.”

That is like the most racist joke ever!” she roared, but still, she had a smile on her face.

“Then why are you trying not to laugh?” He knew his girl well. She always acted all pissed when he made his off-color jokes, but in reality, she had a good sense of humor and was more than willing to play along with it.

Pretending to be angry, she chucked the dish towel at him and missed. He chuckled as he brought Shango around their kitchen wall to the bed so he could tuck him in there for a while. Sarah had insisted he sleep in his own little doggy bed, but . . . come on, no way was that happening.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

keepsmiling7
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Posts: 2475
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Re: Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 3, 01/23/16

Post by keepsmiling7 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 10:10 pm

okay, you got my attention with Michael and Sarah expecting..........
a puppy. Sneaky aren't you?
Thanks,
Carolyn

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April
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Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2004 9:32 am
Location: Somewhere. Anywhere.
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Part 4

Post by April » Sun Jan 24, 2016 2:07 pm

Yes, Carolyn, I'm very sneaky. ;)








Part 4








Giving feedback to students’ writing was a lengthy process. Sometimes Alex wondered if he was spending more time writing out his feedback to them than they were writing their assignments in the first place. He doubted some of them even read through anything he jotted down. But some of them did, he was sure, and he liked to think that his compliments to their writing motivated them and that his constructive criticism helped them improve.

He was in the middle of a stack of creative non-fiction pieces they’d turned in last week when he spied Isabel’s paper at the bottom of the pile. She’d turned it in late, of course, and it was significantly shorter than almost everyone else’s. Her assignments were always the hardest for him to grade, because he’d read her writing back when it had been so much better.

“Knock, knock,” a familiar voice rang out. He looked up as Liz Parker let herself into his office.

“Hey,” he said, happy to see her.

“Hey.” She was still wearing the black shirt and khaki pants she wore as a work uniform, so she must have just been swinging by. “Brought someone to see you.” She stepped aside, holding her daughter’s hand as she waddled into his office. “Go say hi to Uncle Alex, Scarlet,” she urged.

Alex moved his chair to the side of his desk, bending down with his arms open. “Come here, kiddo,” he said.

Scarlet let go of her mom’s hand and scuttled towards him. She tripped on her own feet right in front of him but got herself back up and reached up towards him.

“Oh, look at you.” He lifted her into his lap, bouncing her up and down on his knee. As usual, Liz had her daughter dressed up. She was wearing a beige dress and matching lace headband this time. Scarlet always looked like one of those calendar babies. She sure was cute enough to be one.

“Say hi,” Liz urged her little girl.

Scarlet smiled up at him and babbled a little nonsense, but he pinpointed “hi” in there somewhere.

“I heard it.”

“Oh, you should’ve heard her this morning. I was setting out some doughnuts, and she looked at it and said, ‘Mine.’”

“Oh.” He looked at the little girl with wide eyes. “Demanding little thing, aren’t you?”

“She loves doughnuts,” Liz said. “Actually, she loves all sweets.”

“Good thing you can bake then.”

“Yeah, good thing,” Liz agreed, reaching down to fiddle with Scarlet’s headband. She always wanted her looking perfect. “Anyway, I had class after work today, but that got done early, so I swung by the daycare to pick up Scarlet, and I figured we’d just swing by here and say hi to you before we head home.”

“Hi!” Scarlet said loudly.

“Hi,” Alex returned, squeezing her pudgy little side gently. “Good job.”

“I hope we’re not interrupting anything,” Liz said, glancing at the papers littering his desk.

“Oh, no, you’re fine,” he assured her.

“Looks like you’ve got a lot to grade.”

“Yeah. Can you believe it? We’re only in the fourth week of the semester, and already I’m behind. But I’m never too busy to see my favorite girl.” He tapped Scarlet’s soft little nose, then nuzzled it with his own.

Just then, Leanna stepped into the office, clearing her throat. “And here I thought your wife would be your favorite,” she said.

“Let’s just call it a tie,” he suggested.

“Hmm.” Leanna then looked over at Liz. “Hi, Liz,” she said.

“Hey, Leanna,” Liz returned. “How are you?”

“Good.”

“How’s work? I heard you were teaching a yoga class now.”

“And Zumba,” Leanna added. “The yoga class is full, but Zumba enrollment’s a little low.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure it’ll pick up,” Liz said positively.

“Hopefully.” Leanna returned her focus to Alex then, giving him an impatient look. “Do you have a minute?” she asked.

“Uh . . .” He looked down at Scarlet, then up at both her and Liz. Suddenly that small office felt even smaller. It was like everyone wanted his attention.

“We’re gonna go,” Liz said, lifting her daughter up off his lap. “Say bye-bye, Scarlet. Say bye-bye.”

“Bye-bye,” she cooed, giving him a little wave.

“Bye, Scarlet.” He smiled and watched them leave.

Once they were gone, Leanna shut the door and came forward to sit on his lap, kissing him deeply. “Mmm,” she moaned. “How often do you hang out with them?”

“We weren’t hanging out. They just stopped by.”

“Well, whatever,” she dismissed, threading her hands through her blonde hair. “Now that they’re gone, maybe you can spend some time with me. For once.”

“For once?” He frowned. Yeah, things had been hectic since they’d tied the knot this summer, but he carved out as much time as he possibly could for her.

“When can you leave?” she asked him.

“Not until 5:00.”

“What?” She pouted.

“I have office hours.”

“Alex, no students are here,” she pointed out.

“But what if somebody comes by? It’d look really bad if I wasn’t even here.”

“No one’s gonna come by,” she persisted. “Just come home.”

“I can’t. I have to stay.” He wasn’t just a student at this university anymore; he was a teacher. He had obligations now he hadn’t had before.

She frowned, clearly upset. “Ever since we got married, it’s like you have no time for me,” she complained. “You’re always busy with things like . . . teaching.”

“It’s my job, Leanna.”

“And taking your own classes,” she went on, “and being Liz Parker’s best friend. And being Uncle Alex.” She rolled her eyes.

“Honey, I’m sorry if you feel neglected,” he apologized. “I’ll leave here right at 5:00, be home by 5:15. I won’t even bring any papers to grade, so we’ll have the whole night to ourselves.” He rubbed his hands up and down her back, hoping her body would start to lose some of its tension. “How’s that sound?”

She sighed dramatically. “Fine, I guess.”

“Okay.” He tried to kiss her on the lips, but she turned her head to the side at last second, and he got her cheek instead.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz talked to Scarlet as she carried her from the English department to the parking lot across the street. “You’re just the prettiest little girl, you know that?” she squealed. “The prettiest little girl.” She tickled her sides, eliciting a bubbling giggle out of her daughter. “Yes, you are!”

She was almost back to her car when she saw an all too familiar figure striding through the parking lot. Baggy jeans, t-shirt he’d probably slept in last night, uncombed curly brown hair . . . it could only be her ex-boyfriend, Sean, who she’d thankfully managed to avoid running into since they’d ended things at the beginning of summer.

Even though she tried to duck behind a big minivan, he saw her and scurried towards her right away. “Liz, hey!”

“Hey.” She put on her best happy face. Seeing Sean wasn’t really a bad thing; it was just . . . awkward. All sorts of awkward. When they’d split, it had become blatantly apparent that his feelings for her were much stronger than hers had ever been for him, and she felt guilty about that.

“Wow,” he said, motioning to Scarlet. “She got bigger.”

“Yeah, she grows fast.”

“Hey, Scarlet,” he said, but she didn’t pay any attention to him, so instead of trying to get her attention, he asked Liz, “How are things goin’? Seems like the bakery’s still doin’ well.”

“Yeah, it is,” she agreed. She’d successfully passed the one year mark of owning her own business now, and she felt good about the direction it was going. Still, she wasn’t looking to stand there and talk to Sean about it.

“I’ve stopped in a few times,” he admitted, “but you haven’t been there.”

“Yeah, I have a couple people who work for me now.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.” She smiled pleasantly, not sure what else to say. Awkward, awkward, awkward . . .

“Are you takin’ classes now, too?” he asked.

“One. A business class,” she replied. “Are you?” She’d never known him to venture onto campus unless it was for a frat party.

“Yeah, I’m taking Zumba,” he informed her.

“Oh.” She cringed. Yeah, this was more like the immature Sean she remembered. “I meant, like, an educational class.”

“Oh, no, not that,” he said flippantly. “Not yet. Figured I’d ease myself into it. So . . . Zumba. At the rec center. It’s surprisingly exhausting.”

“Are you taking it with Leanna?” she asked him. Leanna was a fitness buff; she’d been a track star before graduating last year, so her Zumba class was probably more like Zumba on steroids.

“Yeah, you know Leanna?”

“Yeah, she’s, uh, Alex’s wife, actually.”

“Alex?” he echoed. “Oh, yeah, that’s where I’d seen her before. Huh.” He nodded and shrugged. “Dude didn’t do too bad for himself.”

“No.” Leanna was . . . very pretty.

“So I guess that means you two aren’t knockin’ boots then,” he concluded.

“What? Sean . . .” What a way to word it.

“Well, I always thought that’s why you broke up with me, so you could be with him.”

She sighed, rehashing it for his own benefit. “Alex is my best friend, Sean. We dated for, like, a couple months when I was nineteen. Nothing serious.”

“Sorta like us, huh?”

“Sean . . .” She should have known he was going to try to make her feel bad about putting an end to things, but she had no regrets. “You weren’t ready to be with me, to be a father figure for Scarlet. We’ve been through this.” Thing was, Sean was actually a really nice guy. He had a big heart, but he didn’t always use his brain. When they’d been together, he’d just gone to a few too many parties and come to her house drunk a few too many times afterward. He was like a big kid.

“Yeah, I know,” he grumbled, “we’ve been through this. But if Alex and Leanna are married, and you’re not seeing anyone . . . who knows? Maybe we could--”

“No, Sean,” she cut him off.

“Are you seeing someone else?”

“That’s really none of your business.”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets, and his shoulders slumped forward dejectedly. “Alright, well . . . it was worth a shot,” he muttered.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I should’ve known it wouldn’t work.” He started backing away, meeting her gaze disappointedly. “I’m not him.” He managed a smile, the kind meant to conceal hurt feelings, and turned, mumbling, “See ya, Liz,” as he walked away.

She let out a heavy exhale, wishing there was a way to let Sean down without hurting his feelings in the process. But there never had been. He was an emotional guy.

But he was right about one thing: He wasn’t him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Despite the vast array of attempting aromas circulating throughout YellowBrix Restaurant, Michael couldn’t even concentrate on food. His mind was only on one thing.

“I wonder what Shango’s doing right now,” he mused.

Sarah put down her menu and gave him an incredulous look. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, probably sleeping,” she supposed, “barking, pooping . . . chewing my shoes.”

He immediately jumped to the defense of his new canine companion. “Okay, that wasn’t his fault. He thought it was one of his toys.”

“Well, that’s because you bought him, like, five-thousand toys, so now he thinks everything is one of his toys.”

He narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. “You know, I can’t help but feel like you were more excited about getting a puppy before we actually got one.”

“Oh, no, don’t get me wrong, I love Shango,” she clarified, “and I think he’s one of the cutest puppies ever. But he’s a lot of work. I don’t think he’s gonna be all that easy to train.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Michael told her, leaning back in his chair. “I’m a professional dog-trainer.”

She gave him a bewildered look and remarked, “You’re a freak. That’s what you are,” before glancing down at the menu again.

He laughed lightly, choosing not to dispute that. As much as he would have loved to keep talking about his dog, he had to ask her about something else, so he changed the subject. “Hey, so do you wanna tag along with me to Roswell for the weekend, stay at my mom’s house?”

She looked back up at him curiously. “Why?”

“Well, so we can show off Shango, of course.”

She rolled her eyes.

And . . . I think I need to kinda, you know, lay down the law with Teenie.” He twisted his fist against his palm, exaggerating how tough he’d be on her. “Crack down.”

“Is she still acting out?”

“Yeah. I think my mom’s kind of at a loss for what to do with her. And I kinda wanna run into Nicholas and just intimidate the shit outta him.”

She cringed. “Yeah, I kinda wish she wasn’t still dating him. Isn’t he in ninth grade now?”

“Yep.” Michael didn’t like it. Didn’t like it one bit.

“Yeah, no eighth grade girl should be dating a high school boy. That’s . . .” She trailed off and shuddered.

“Yeah, so I kinda wanna spend some time with her, talk to her,” he said, “just make sure her head’s on straight.” The last thing he wanted was for his little sister to start making the same mistakes he’d made, go down the same path he had. It was like . . . counseling. He wanted to counsel his little sister.

“Yeah, we can go,” she said. “I’ll get off work.”

“Okay. Thanks.” These little weekends at home were always more bearable when she went along with him.

“Ugh,” she groaned, picking up her menu again. “I don’t know what to get.”

“Rib eye,” he suggested. That was what he always got at this restaurant. “You like to eat, right?”

She smiled sweetly. “You remember. Our first date.”

“Yeah.” Hell, that date was hard to forget.

****

Michael closed his menu and told the waiter, “I’ll have the rib eye steak meal.”

“And how do you take your steak?” the waiter inquired.

“Uh, medium rare.”

“You know, that sounds good,” Sarah said, closing her menu, too. “I’ll have the same, but well-done.”

“Alright, we’ll get that out to you,” the waiter said, taking back their menus.

“Thank you,” Sarah chirped politely as he left the table.

Michael stared at her in astonishment, thinking she couldn’t possibly know how big the rib eye meal was.

“What?” she said as if she could see what he was thinking. “I like to eat.”

He shrugged. No harm in that; so did he. Plus, a girl who ate to her heart’s content was always more attractive than a girl who claimed to be full after eating two peas.

“So,” she said, resting her elbow on the table, “root beer, huh?”

“What?” He looked down at his drink, which was already nearly empty. “Oh, yeah.” His damn favorite.

“Tess told me you were more of a beer guy.”

“Well, I was,” he confessed, “back in the day.” He hadn’t drunk alcohol for a long time, though. Not all summer. Not once during these first two and a half months of college. And he didn’t intend to start back up again, not until he was sure he could handle it, drink without getting out of control.

“What else did Tess tell you?” he asked her, a little wary of the fact that the person who had set up this first date between them was someone who, at various stages of knowing him, had vowed to rip his head off if he pissed her off too much.

“Well, she said you’re athletic,” Sarah revealed.

“True.”

“And that you’re good-looking,”

“Very true.”

“And that you have a lot of unresolved emotional baggage you’re dealing with.”

He tensed. Yeah, that was true, too, but . . . he sure as hell didn’t wanna talk about it. “And you still agreed to go out with me, huh?”

“Well, she also said that, deep down, you’re a really good guy,” Sarah added, “and that lately she’s been impressed with you.”

“Huh,” he grunted, not sure why she would be. Lately, he sure as hell hadn’t felt . . . impressive. Sure, he was doing alright with his classes, but . . . he wasn’t doing much else. It was pretty much just go to class, eat, study, sleep; then wake up and repeat the same thing all over again.

“So how do you know Tess?” he asked. All Tess had told him was that she knew a really nice, smart, pretty girl named Sarah who she wanted him to go out with. And somehow, she’d gotten him to agree to it.

“I work at Chancellor Rehabilitation,” she explained, “where Kyle’s going for physical therapy.”

“Oh.” Well . . . that was one way to meet.

“Seeing him go through all that seems to be kind of tough on Tess, so sometimes while he’s working on stuff, she’ll come spend time with me, and we’ll talk and try to get her mind on something else.”

He nodded, knowing firsthand how difficult Kyle’s injury had been for Tess to deal with. She’d quit cheerleading so she could help take care of him more. Her senior year of high school wasn’t much of a senior year anymore. She was missing out on a lot of things she enjoyed.

“They seem really nice,” Sarah said. “I haven’t gotten to interact with Kyle much, but I remember seeing his injury online and on Sports Center and all those shows.”

“Yeah.” It wasn’t exactly the Sports Center coverage Kyle had had in mind during his first and only college football game.

“You guys went to Alabama, right?” she asked.

“For a little while, yeah.”

“So why’d you come back to New Mexico?”

He sighed, remembering how hard it had been for Kyle to have to make that decision, how he’d agonized over it and dreaded it. “Well, without football, there was really no reason for Kyle to stay out there. It just made more sense for him to come back home, be closer to his dad. But he came to Carlsbad because it’s closer to the treatment center.”

“So that’s why Kyle came back,” she recapped, “but what about you?”

He shrugged. In contrast, the decision to leave Alabama
hadn’t been a tough decision for him. “Well, I gotta stay with Kyle,” he said simply. “He’s my best friend. He’s always looked out for me. Now . . . it’s my turn to repay the favor, I guess.”

“Hmm.” She smiled softly. “That means you’re a really good friend.”

“Well . . .” He was the dead weight Kyle had dragged around for eighteen years, nothing more. “I don’t know if I’d go that far.”

“No, you are,” she insisted. “I wish I had a friend like that, but we moved around too much growing up for me to really stop and get to know people.”

“Where’s your family live now?” he asked. It was sort of driving him crazy, because he couldn’t quite put a finger on it. She definitely had some Asian in her; that much was obvious. China, maybe? Japan? Hell if he knew.

“My mom and dad and little brother live in Las Cruces,” she told him. “But before that we lived in Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque.”

He tensed briefly.
Albuquerque. He’d driven up there once this past summer looking for . . .

“So . . .” He cleared his throat, trying not to let his thoughts drift. “Where are your parents from?”

“Well, they’re from Phoenix, but technically, if you wanna trace it back further, my family’s from South Korea.”

“Really?” Well, there was the answer to his burning question. He frowned, trying to make sense of it. He had an image of that place in his mind that just didn’t jive with who Sarah Nguyen seemed to be. “You ever been there?”

“Yeah, my grandparents still live over there, so I’ve visited them. It’s nice.”

“It is?” Then why the hell were they always talking crap about it on the news? “I thought it was all cut off from the rest of the world, like the dictator and no cell phones and shit.”

“That’s North Korea,” she informed him.

“Yeah, but same thing, right?”

“It’s an entirely different country.” She tilted her head to the side, giving him a skeptical look.

“Oh.”
Oops, he thought. Strike one. “Well, what do you do in South Korea?”

“Well . . .” she replied, “we do our homework for fun. We all grow up wanting to work at Samsung. And every other night, we eat dogs.”

His mouth dropped open in horror. “Fuck, are you serious?”

“No, those are stereotypes,” she assured him. “You can’t believe any of that.”

“Oh, thank God.” He breathed a sigh of relief. “The dog thing was a deal-breaker. I know some of your people eat it, but--”


“Your people?” she cut him off in horror. “Okay, Michael, I’m sorry, but you sound so ignorant right now.”

“I am,” he openly admitted. No point in hiding it. He’d never given a damn about learning about other countries or other cultures. Never would.

She half-groaned, half-sighed. “Okay, well . . .” Suddenly she started looking around the restaurant, like she was looking for the easiest escape route.


Uh-oh. Strike two, he thought. This was going south fast. The only way he could think of to salvage it was to just be completely honest with her. “Look, Sarah, I’m not a perfect guy,” he informed her. “So if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s not me. I say stupid shit, like I did just now. I do stupid things. I make mistakes. I screw up; I mess things up all the time.”

“What did you mess up?” she questioned.


No, he thought. Don’t ask me that.

For a split-second, he was back there in his head, reliving the horrible memory. A broken bridge on a rainy night. A frightened scream. A fall.

He snapped back to the present, where there was only a beautiful girl and a restaurant, and a semi-concerned look on her face as she quietly prompted, “Michael?”


Say something else, he told himself. There were just some things he couldn’t talk about yet, maybe not ever. But there were plenty of other things he’d screwed up that would satisfy her curiosity. “I cheated on this girl named Isabel,” he blurted. “Twice.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“Yeah. Then she made porn, and now she’s at Princeton.” He sighed in resignation, knowing that that had more than likely been strike three. “That’s probably not the kind of thing I should tell a girl on a first date, huh?”

Sarah leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms over her chest, looking completely closed off to him. “No. Probably not.”


Damn. He should have known he wasn’t ready to get back out on the dating scene again. It was still too soon. Maybe it always would be. This was now just another thing in a long line of things he’d managed to screw up just by being himself.

****

Michael nudged his girlfriend’s foot beneath the table, getting a kick out of how pissed she’d been at him by the end of that date. She’d barely eaten anything and asked for a box for leftovers halfway through the meal, claiming that she was feeling sick. But he knew she hadn’t been sick at all; she’d just been ready to leave.

“North Korea, South Korea,” he reminded her.

“Oh god,” she rolled her eyes. “You’re lucky you got a second date.”

He knew he was. By the end of that first one, he’d felt certain he wouldn’t get another chance.

****

“Sorry you’re not feelin’ well.”

“Yeah.” Sarah cringed. “Too bad.”

He wasn’t an idiot; he knew she was relieved it was ending and probably wanted to put this whole disastrous date behind her. “That was bad, wasn’t it?” he said, stopping with her outside the door to her dorm room. “That was a bad date.”

“No,” she said unconvincingly. “It was . . .” She looked like she was trying to think of a polite way to say it, but finally she just blurted, “Okay, yeah, it was bad.”

“I felt like I was doin’ okay until I started talkin’ about North Korea.”

“Yeah, that was definitely a turning point.”

He sighed, bummed that he’d blown it. Sarah was a hot girl, and he’d been hoping that, at the very least, they could maybe be a casual thing for a couple of weeks. That was all he was looking for right now. Casual.

But then again . . . Sarah seemed pretty cool. Smart. Nice.
Way too good for someone like him. She deserved someone who could offer her something more than casual. Someone who could offer her his whole heart instead of a heart that had already shattered into a million pieces.

“Well, thanks,” he said.

She looked up at him confusedly. “For what?”

“Just . . . for goin’ out with me. It’s been a while since I went on a date with a girl, so . . .” He shrugged. Yeah, it had been a while. His last date had involved a coffee shop and open mic night. Looking back . . . he wished he’d never gone on that date.

“You’re not horrible company,” she informed him. “You’re just . . .”

“Immature?” he filled in. “Rude? Irresponsible?” Yeah, he’d heard it all before.

“No,” she said. “You’re just . . . you.”


Too bad, he thought. Sometimes it would’ve been a lot easier to be someone else. “Well, thanks for not hating me,” he told her in all sincerity, “and for putting up with me. And for not making me pay for your rib eye steak. That was really expensive.”

She laughed lightly, and for a second, it seemed like she was warming up to him again, but still, she said, “I’m sorry. I just don’t think we . . .”

“It’s fine,” he assured her, then parroting what had once been said to him. “Maybe if things were different.”

Were things ever going to be different for him?

She tilted her head to the side and looked up at him with . . . intrigue? Was she seeing something, some expression on his face or in his eyes that hinted at all the hurt he was still feeling, all the loneliness he kept trying to hold inside? Whatever she saw, it softened her, and when he tried to walk away, she said his name quietly to bring him back. “Michael.”

He turned around slowly, not sure why she wouldn’t just let him go.

She smiled just slightly and said, “You can call me.”

He stared at her in utter disbelief. Had he really just scraped a second date out of this? Was she seriously willing to give it another shot, even after he’d offended her and stereotyped her and owned up to all sorts of horrible personality traits? Why would she want him? He was a mess.

But then again . . . maybe he didn’t have to stay that way.


****

“I love you,” Michael told his girlfriend, not sure if he said that enough. Nearly two years ago, she’d given him a second chance, and he was so grateful for it.

“I love you, too,” she reciprocated right away, with no need to question why he was saying it.

Thank God they’d had a second date, because that had been a good one, enough to get them past their first date. They were well past that now. They were past all of it.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Part 5

Post by April » Mon Jan 25, 2016 6:56 pm

I want to suggest the beautiful song “I Was Wrong” by Sleeperstar for this part when you see :? You can listen to it here.








Part 5








Leave it to Shango to get a smile out of Kyle. It wasn’t a huge smile, but it was there. As he sat on the couch, petting the little puppy, scratching him behind the ears, he actually didn’t look completely miserable for once.

Michael stood in the kitchen with Tess, watching his friend and the dog interact. It was good to see Kyle be responsive to something, even if it only lasted a little while.

“That’s a cute dog, Michael,” Tess remarked. “I’m glad you brought him over.”

“Kyle seems to like him,” he noted.

“Yeah. You know, they say animals are really therapeutic.”

He believed that. Animals were never angry at you or disappointed. They just loved you, and that was enough. “You ever think about gettin’ Kyle a pet?” he asked, figuring it might help if Kyle always had something therapeutic around.

“Yeah, but then that’d just be another thing for me to take care of,” she said.

“Get a cat. Cats pretty much take care of themselves.”

She made a face. “Cats are kinda bitchy.”

He gave her a pointed look, resisting the urge to say something.

“What, I’m kinda bitchy?” she interpreted.

“I didn’t say anything.”

She playfully shoved him aside, grabbed her purse and keys from the counter, and announced, “Alright, I’m gonna head to the grocery store. Kyle, you want anything?”

“No,” he replied simply as Shango started pawing at his chest.

“Kay, I’ll be back then.” She gave Michael a small wave and slipped out the door.

Michael headed into the living room, taking a seat in the old recliner Kyle sometimes fell asleep in. “You like him?” he asked Kyle.

“Yeah, seems like a good dog.”

Shango moved to the edge of the couch cushions, peering down at the floor unsurely, as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to jump.

“Come here, Shango,” Michael coaxed, hitting his knee to get his attention.

Shango carefully put one paw out, then withdrew it, then bravely hopped down. Big jump for a little guy. He scampered over to Michael, yipping and yapping for attention.

“Good boy,” Michael said, rubbing his head. “He’s smart, too,” he bragged. “Check this out: Shango, sit.”

The puppy just looked up at him for a few seconds, then came forward and started nuzzling head against Michael’s ankle.

“Well, it worked this morning.” It had probably been luck more than anything else. “So what do you say, man? You ready to go on that walk?”

Kyle didn’t respond for a few seconds, then look at Michael curiously. “Wait, are you askin’ me or the dog?”

“You,” he clarified. “Shango’s gotta go do his business. You comin’ with us?”

Kyle looked around, like he was searching for a distraction. But the TV wasn’t on for once, so he couldn’t claim there was some game he wanted to be watching. Michael knew he had him.

They didn’t venture out far. Couldn’t. Kyle’s mobility was still extremely limited. According to his doctors and physical therapists, though, he should have been able to handle walking around the block by now, but Kyle had yet to make it to the end of the street. Not because he couldn’t, but because he got frustrated with how long it took.

Indeed, fifteen minutes into their walk, they hadn’t even made it a block. Kyle’s couldn’t take big steps, and he couldn’t move fast. But with his cane, at least he wouldn’t lose his balance.

“Yeah, Shango, you mark your territory!” Michael exclaimed, trying to keep the mood light. His little puppy didn’t quite understand that boy dogs were supposed to lift their legs when they peed, so he was still squatting. But that was actually okay, because if Michael’s toilet training efforts panned out, he’d have to squat all the time anyway.

Kyle squinted his eyes against the bright glare of the sun, complaining, “I’m gettin’ tired.”

No, you’re not, Michael thought, knowing better. You’re getting impatient. “Hang in there, man,” he urged. “You’re doin’ good.”

“No, I think I need my chair.”

“Well, that’s back at the house,” Michael reminded him. He purposefully hadn’t brought it along so that Kyle didn’t have the option of sitting in it. Plus, Shango’s leash would have gotten caught in the wheels.

“Then let’s go back,” Kyle suggested.

“You can make it down to the end of the street,” Michael encouraged. “Then we can go back.”

Kyle stopped momentarily, breathing heavily, and Michael started to understand that he hadn’t really been lying when he said he was tired. Just these few steps were exhausting for him.

“Need some help?” Michael asked, holding out his hand.

Kyle shook his head, gingerly stepping past him. “End of the street,” he reluctantly agreed. “No further. Then we go back.”

“Deal.” Michael had no problem with that compromise. It wasn’t quite a block, but it was still a pretty good distance for Kyle at this point. Maybe having Shango along helped. Michael would have to bring him along more often.

“So how’s Tess doing?” he asked his friend, even though he already had a pretty good idea. He just wanted to see if Kyle knew, or if he was completely oblivious to all the crap she was dealing with.

“She’s alright,” Kyle mumbled, looking down at his feet, concentrating on each labored step.

“ ‘cause she seems kinda stressed out lately,” Michael remarked, understating it. “You know?”

Kyle didn’t say anything.

“Sarah says she’s not really likin’ her job,” Michael went on, wondering if this was news to Kyle or if Tess came home and told him about it at all. “Crappy coworkers or somethin’.”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Kyle muttered.

“You don’t know?” Michael echoed. “You used to always know how Tess was feeling.”

Kyle gave him a hard look. “Yeah, well, I used to run a football field in thirteen seconds, too,” he snapped. “Things change.”

Michael stopped walking while Shango took some time to sniff out a bush he was interested in. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said. “It’s just . . . you know, Tess is your fiancée, and this hasn’t been easy on her, either.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Kyle said dismissively, continuing on down the sidewalk, looking like he was trying to pick up the pace. But the beads of sweat forming on his forehead were evidence of his struggle, and eventually, after just a few more steps, he stopped, panting for air, bearing the majority of his weight on his right side. He pressed down on his cane so hard, it wobbled.

Michael tugged Shango’s leash to pull him away from the bush and stepped up to his friend’s side. “Come on,” he said, holding out his arm. Kyle grabbed on for the added support, and together they inched along.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Isabel wasn’t expecting much out of her creative nonfiction piece. She’d written it at last minute last week and barely remembered to print it off to hand in. It wasn’t the most ingenious topic, nor was it her most vivid word choice or fluent sentence structure. But hopefully it would be enough to earn a passing grade.

It wasn’t. Alex handed their papers back to them at the end of class, and hers had a sixty-eight percent marked on the top of it. Along with a sole comment he’d scrawled: You can do better.

She clutched the sides of the paper tightly in her hands, feeling like it was Princeton all over again. Except sexual favors wouldn’t get this grade up. Not that that had worked when she’d tried it back then, either. But with that wedding ring on Alex’s left hand, she was pretty much guaranteed to have to work to get her grade up rather than flirt.

When class was over, she stayed behind, swaying up towards the front table as he packed up his stuff. “Alex,” she said. “What was so bad about it?”

“About what?” he asked. “Your writing?”

“Yeah.”

He shrugged. “It wasn’t bad; it just . . . wasn’t as good as it could have been.”

She sighed frustratedly. “Okay, I feel like you’re comparing the writing I’m doing in this class to the story I wrote and had you read my senior year, and that’s not really fair. I worked on that for months; you only gave us two weeks to write this.”

“I’m grading you based on what you’re turning in,” he reassured her.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He stuck a folder of new papers into his backpack and zipped it shut. “Did you ever change it, by the way?” he asked. “The ending to your story.”

“What?” She hadn’t glanced at that old thing in years.

“Well, originally, you wrote it so the characters ended up together,” he recapped. “But I said I didn’t think they would. So did they?”

She lowered her head, looking down at her feet. “No, they didn’t.” She had never gone back and done any editing to her novel, and she didn’t want to. Why not let the fictional version of herself and Michael live happily ever after? How nice that must have been for them.

“So you re-wrote it?” Alex asked for clarification. “You might look into getting it published.”

“No, I—I didn’t rewrite it,” she stammered. “I got too busy telling other stories. On film.”

Alex groaned, shaking his head in disgust. “Yeah, I’m not a big fan of those stories.” He slung his backpack over his shoulders and started to head out of the room.

“Is that what this is about?” she called after him.

He stopped in the doorway. “What do you mean?”

“The whole you-can-do-better comment. Is it just about my writing, or is it about my life?”

Alex chuckled low in his throat. “No, it’s just about your writing, Isabel. Although now that I think about it, I guess it could apply to both.” He left her to ponder that as he exited the classroom.

That’s where you’re wrong, Alex, she thought morosely. She had tried to do better. She’d tried it for an entire semester at Princeton. And like so many other things in her life, it just hadn’t worked out.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Apparently there was some kind of competitive Frisbee team on campus, and Fly was dead-set on trying out for it. Michael agreed to help him, but he regretted it when he realized just how much help his uncoordinated, easily-distracted friend was going to need.

Michael tossed the flying disk for about the tenth time, thinking that maybe—just maybe—Fly might actually manage to catch it this time. But once again, he couldn’t keep up with it, and it landed behind him.

“Dude, you suck!” Michael shouted at him.

“No, bad throw, man!” Fly insisted, retrieving the Frisbee. But as usual, before throwing it back, he got distracted by two hot girls strolling by, and as also as usual, he managed to scare them off when he said something. This time it was something Michael didn’t know how to translate: “Que quieres chuparme la polla?” The girls must not have known what he meant, either, because they just rolled their eyes at him and continued on their way.

“What’d you say to them?” Michael asked.

Fly trotted towards him, grinning slyly. “I asked if they wanted to suck my dick.”

“Oh . . .” Michael made a face, repulsed by the image that suddenly entered his head. “See, that’s creepy. That’s why you don’t have a girlfriend, man.”

“That’s why I’m horny, man.”

“You need to get laid.”

“I’m tryin’.” He pointed behind Michael’s shoulder and said, “Oh, hey, speakin’ of getin’ laid, here comes Monk. Monk!”

Michael turned around as his less animated friend approached them. He had his face buried in his phone, probably playing some sort of game. When Michael stepped in front of him to block his progress, Monk literally ran right into him. “Oh, hey, guys,” he said distractedly. “Just one second, I gotta play a little more.”

Michael looked down at the screen, disgusted by what he saw. “Monk. Are you playing that damn Kim Kardashian game again?”

“What? No.” Monk quickly stuffed his phone in his pocket, fooling no one. “Whatever. Fuck you, man. I like what I like.”

“Did you like Big Cedar?” Michael teased.

“No.” Monk shook his head. “He wasn’t who I thought she was.”

“No shit?” Michael joked around. The use of two opposite pronouns in that sentence should have made that perfectly clear.

“Wait, why’s he called Big Cedar?” Fly asked.

Michael shot him a look. Wasn’t it obvious?

“Oh, shit,” Fly swore. “Did he try to do you?”

“Well, he expressed interest,” Monk related dryly. “Obviously I’m hard to resist because of my sparkling personality. But I turned him down. It’s for the best.”

Definitely for the best,” Michael agreed emphatically. Big Cedar. That just sounded . . . painful.

“Good, now I’m not the only one without a girlfriend,” Fly said. “Although . . .” His eyes drifted behind Monk and Michael, and he loosening his belt. “Ay, mami.”

“What?” Michael looked over his shoulder, and he saw who Fly was staring at. Isabel was coming out of the English department. She was dressed in a short cream-colored sweater dress and black boots that went all the way up to mid-thigh. She looked stylish . . . but slutty.

“Yo, chico, you really hit that?” Fly asked him.

Michael tore his eyes away from his ex. “Yes, numerous times, various ways.”

“How various?” Fly asked, practically salivating. “Like the chocolate speedway?”

Michael gave him a look.

Fly started to explain, “You know, like . . .”

“I know what the chocolate speedway is.” No, he’d never done it that way. Not with Isabel, at least.

“What’s the chocolate speedway?” Monk openly asked.

“It’s the kind of sex Big Cedar wanted to have with you,” Michael informed him.

“Oh.” Monk nodded contemplatively, his tone never indicating any surprise, not even when he asked, “Girls do that?”

“Some girls,” Fly said. “I dated this real nasty chick back in the day, man. If I wasn’t bangin’ her ass, she was suckin’ my balls.”

“Alright, if you say so, Fly,” Michael said dismissively, knowing for a fact that Fly was probably just exaggerating.

“And that girl . . .” Fly moved past Michael, watching Isabel walk away, his mouth literally open, drool about to come out. “She’d do all that shit, man.”

“Well, she didn’t back in the day,” Michael informed him. He wished she wasn’t doing it now, but . . . she’d made her own choices.

“You ever watch her videos, man?” Fly asked.

“No, I don’t have to. I had the real thing,” he reminded him.

Fly glared at him. “Oh, you lucky son of a bitch.”

Michael laughed boastfully and tossed the Frisbee again.

“Fuck, Mike, I wasn’t ready!” Fly yelled as he chased after it. He lunged for it too soon and ended up falling flat on his face on the grass. He slammed his fists into the ground and swore, “Dammit!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael liked his apartment. It was pretty much just a studio apartment, had a very open floorplan, but that was plenty of space for him and Sarah. In the living room, they had enough room for their couch, coffee table, and big screen TV, and this year, they’d added in a desk, because Sarah was one of those oddballs who hated using her laptop computer on her lap. Connected to living room was the kitchen, which was probably more of a kitchenette, but even it had enough area for a small table and four chairs. Behind the stove and the sink was a dividing wall with a little window that allowed you to look further back in the apartment to where their bedroom area was set up; and off in the top-left corner of the space was their bathroom, the only region of the apartment that was its own separate room.

Michael spent many nights waiting in that bathroom while Sarah changed into some sexy lingerie for him. She’d amassed quite a collection of silky, lacy, and even sheer bras and panties since she’d started dating him—hell, most were gifts he’d purchased—and she liked to wear them for him. He never did understand why it took her so long to decide on which items to wear, though, since he usually didn’t let her wear them for long.

She enticed him that night by informing him that she’d done a little shopping on her way home from work, and she had a new outfit she wanted to wear for him. While she changed, he headed into the bathroom, stripped down to his boxers, and took a phone call from his mom while he brushed his teeth.

“Yeah, Sarah’s gotta work late Friday,” he told her after he spit his toothpaste into the sink, “so we’ll probably just drive up Saturday morning, get there around noon.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan,” she chimed. “I’ll have lunch ready by then.”

Awesome, he thought as he rinsed off his toothbrush. Even though Sarah was a great cook and college food was a delightful smorgasbord of grease and calories, like any kid, he missed his mom’s home-cooked meals. Her meatloaf. Her pulled pork sandwiches. It made his mouth water just thinking about it.

“I think Tina’s excited to see you,” she told him.

“Good, I’m gonna lecture her.”

“You’re a good big brother.”

He snorted. “Yeah, nowadays.” He sure as hell hadn’t been back in high school, when he’d stumbled in drunk at all hours of the night and gotten arrested . . . how many times had it been? Four? Five? He couldn’t remember.

“Well, I’d better let you go get some sleep,” she supposed.

“Yeah. Sleep.” He fake-yawned. “Tired.”

Laughing as though she knew how he was planning to spend his evening, she said, “Goodnight, honey.”

“Goodnight.” He ended the call and set his phone down on the counter of the sink, checking his reflection in the mirror. He fixed his hair, flexed his muscles for a moment, and grinned at himself confidently. Oh, yeah. Fucking stud.

As he strolled out of the bathroom, he rubbed his hands together excitedly. “Alright, Crazy Girl, I’m ready for s--” He trailed off abruptly when he saw that she was fast asleep, resting comfortably in the middle of their double bed. She had indeed changed into her new outfit—an emerald corset and black nylons that went halfway up her thighs. She looked incredibly sexy, but also incredibly sweet with her lips gently parted, hair sprawled across the pillowcase.

Shango was curled up on the foot of the bed with his eyes closed, too. Somehow that just made the whole scene even better.

So there would be no sex tonight, clearly. But that was fine. Sarah had gone to class and worked a long shift at the rehabilitation center today. She was tired, and he wanted to let her sleep.

Carefully peeling back the covers, he crawled in beside her. Shango got up, though, and started to bark that high-pitched little bark of his when he saw him.

“Shh,” Michael whispered to him, pressing his index finger to his lips.

As if Shango understood that they didn’t want to wake her up, he sat back down and just stared at Michael instead.

“Mmm,” Sarah moaned, starting to stir a bit.

“Go back to sleep,” he told her, managing to slip the blankets out from underneath her. He covered her up, put his arm around her, and pulled her in close. She snuggled into him, putting her hand on his chest, right over his heart.

****

So far so good. Michael’s third date with Sarah was going much better than the first one had, and it was even improving on the second one. And that was saying something, because the second one had been a pretty damn good improvement in and of itself.

They sat out together on a blanket at Plaza Verde, right outside the honors hall where she lived. She had packed up a bunch of picnic food, and together, they’d devoured it in no time. Now they were just talking, neither of them in any apparent hurry to get up and go.

“Never?” he said, smiling at her in disbelief. “Ever?” The conversation had taken a turn for the more personal subject matter, and she had just revealed something that surprised the hell out of him.

“No, is that so hard to believe?”

“Well, in this day and age, yeah.”

She huffed. “I’m nineteen years old. Why should I feel pressured to have sex?”

“No, not pressured, but . . .” He motioned up and down to her petite but perfectly curvy frame. “Look at you. I’m sure you’ve had offers.”

“Well, yeah,” she acknowledged, flipping her hair back over her shoulder, “but not the right ones.”

“Huh.” He was still shocked. Sarah was one of the prettiest girls he’d ever met. It just seemed unreal that she was still a virgin. “I had sex for the first time when I was, like, fourteen.”

“Well, that’s ‘cause you’re a slut,” she teased.

He laughed at that. Well . . . he pretty much had been. Sluts didn’t always have to be girls. He’d spent the majority of his first two years of high school sticking his dick in anything that was open. And then his junior year, he’d started dating Isabel. And then his senior year . . .

Oh, that senior year.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “I had boyfriends in high school, and it’s not like we never did
anything.”

His eyebrows shot upward.

“Rounding second base at best,” she clarified. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”

“Sorry.”

“But my parents waited until they got married, and I always thought that was nice.”

“Oh.” He shifted uncomfortably. “So . . . that’s what you’re waiting for?” Damn. He wasn’t sure he had the patience for that.

Much to his relief, she corrected him. “No, not necessarily. I think I’m just waiting until I’m . . .” She trailed off thoughtfully.

“In love?” he offered up.

She gazed at him a moment. “Just until it feels right,” she said. “I think I’ll know for sure when I’m ready.”


Will you? he couldn’t help but wonder. Did anyone ever really know? He couldn’t even remember much about his first time with Courtney. He’d been at a party, celebrating the JV football team’s miraculous come-from-behind win over West Roswell, a victory in which he’d played a substantial part. He’d gotten drunk, and then he’d gotten laid. Simple as that.

Sex hadn’t been simple like that for a really long time now.

“What made you decide to go for it so early on in life?” she asked.

“Uh, alcohol,” he confessed. “Plus, my parents . . . they’re pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum as yours. They had me at the end of their senior year of high school, so I’m sure that played a part.”

She leaned back, arching her back a bit, and the breeze blew through her thick hair. “You never talk about your parents or your family much,” she remarked. “Why is that?”

“Well . . .” He shrugged. “There’s not much to say. I love my mom; we really bonded this summer. I love my little sister, but right now she only cares about boys and being popular, so I’m kinda worried about her.”

She waited a moment, then asked, “What about your dad?”

He sighed heavily, knowing there was no way to sugarcoat it. “Yeah, I don’t love my dad.”

“Why not?” she asked. “Or . . . sorry, is it none of my business?”

“No, it’s . . .” He didn’t mind her asking. In a way, it was nice to have someone to talk to, because right now, he couldn’t talk to Kyle, not when his injury was still so debilitating. “He’s a depressed alcoholic, basically,” he summarized. “Blames me for everything he never got to do in life, thinks I’m the biggest disappointment a son could ever be.”

“Oh.” Sarah winced. “I’m sorry, Michael.”

“Ah, it is what it is,” he mumbled in acceptance. “He’s my dad.” It didn’t matter how much he wished someone else had filled that role; there was nothing he could do to change it.

“I’m sorry the two of you have a rough relationship,” she said softly, “but thank you for opening up to me. That means a lot.”

He tensed, wishing he could say he
had opened up, that he’d started to talk to her about that emotional baggage Tess had warned her he was carrying around. But there were parts of his life and his past that he was keeping from her, that he hadn’t even touched on yet. She was in the dark. “I haven’t opened up to you,” he confessed wearily, not to hurt her feelings, but just to be honest.

She frowned slightly, but she still looked more intrigued than she did hurt. After thinking about it for a moment, she guessed, “Ex-girlfriend?”


More than that, he thought. She just didn’t know. How could she? How could anyone? He never talked about it. It was too painful.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, “something like that.” Suddenly, he started to worry. If he couldn’t open up to her about this, then what were they doing? What was the point of any of these three dates? Was he just leading her on, or was it even possible for him to give her something more?

Small-talk was pretty much impossible after that, so they packed up the picnic supplies, and he walked her back to her dorm room. He thought she’d just say goodbye to him and invite him to call her again, just like she’d done the last two times, but instead, she pushed open the door a little wider than usual and asked, “Do you wanna come in?”

He wasn’t sure if he should or not, but he hesitantly followed her in anyway. “This is nice,” he remarked. It was more of a small apartment than a dorm.

“Honors housing,” she explained, setting the picnic basket on the floor next to the door. “So I had fun today.”

“Yeah.” So had he, up until the conversation had gotten serious. “First date sucked, but the last two have been good, so I’ll take that percentage.”

She laughed a little, smiling sheepishly. “Listen, Michael,” she said quietly, “if you’re not ready for another relationship, I understand. You don’t have to feel obligated to--”

“No, I don’t,” he assured her. “I just . . .” He felt all the words right there on the tip of his tongue. He just hoped it didn’t scare her off to hear them. Because he was really starting to like her.

She’d given him that second date and now this third one, even after the lackluster first one. Maybe he owed her this. Maybe it was time to open up.

He took a deep breath and started in. “I was dating this girl named Maria my senior year. And we weren’t together that long, but it was . . . pretty serious.” Actually, that was probably an understatement, so he added, “Very serious. We were actually engaged.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, wow.”

( :? )

“Yeah, it was . . .” He laughed a little, actually somewhat embarrassed. It wasn’t fun to admit that the girl you’d once wanted to marry had left your ass behind. “And she had a three year-old son, too, and I was kind of like a father to him. But . . .” He felt a lump forming in the back of his throat as all those memories and emotions started to resonate again. “I screwed up with him . . . pretty bad. I was supposed to be taking care of him, but I wasn’t, and . . .” Even though he was talking about it, he couldn’t quite muster up the strength to recount
all the horrid details. “He had an accident, and he was okay, but it could’ve been really bad.”

Sarah tilted her head to the side gazing at him sympathetically, not judgmentally. And she just kept listening.

“I don’t think Maria could ever really get past that, and it made her second-guess everything we had going.” Even now, he could still recall the look of disappointment in her eyes; it made any disappointment he’d ever glimpsed in his dad’s seem insignificant in comparison. “So she left me,” he revealed, “and she left town. I haven’t . . .” He swallowed that lump down, quietly admitting, “I don’t know where they are, and I don’t think I’ll ever see ‘em again.” He’d never said that out loud, never even really admitted it to himself until right now, and it was one bitter pill.

Sarah reached up and stroked his cheek. Her hands were soft, her touch comforting. There was a warmness and understanding in her eyes, and as she gazed up at him, he started to feel that same warmness, in the pit of his stomach, the back of his neck, his fingertips. All over.

He felt himself leaning in, and she did the same. His eyes fluttered shut at the same time hers did, and suddenly, they were kissing. Not a deep kiss, not a hard one, but one that he felt all over, one that he didn’t want to stop.

Her bottom lip trembled as she pulled back ever so slightly, her breath still mingling with his as her hand came down to rest first on his shoulder, and then over his heart.

“Michael . . .” she whispered.

And that was all it took. He kissed her again, more insistently this time, the way she deserved to be kissed. Her mouth reciprocated his immediately, no hesitation, no uncertainty. His hands wound around her waist, and hers came up around his neck to furrow into his hair. He pulled her closer, and she arched her whole body up into his. She was so warm.

“Sarah . . .” He wasn’t trying to take things too fast.

In a rush against his lips, she murmured, “My bedroom, my bedroom.”

He clumsily backed her around the counter, already clamoring to get his hands up the back of her shirt, and she let go of him only long enough to fumble with her door handle and open the door. They spilled into her room, grasping at each other frantically, and collapsed onto her bed.

She was ready. He felt ready, too.


****

Michael watched his girlfriend sleep, happy that she looked so peaceful and content. And that was enough to make him feel content, too, so gradually, his own eyes shut, and he lay next to her, falling asleep, breathing her in.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

keepsmiling7
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Posts: 2475
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:34 pm

Re: Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 5, 01/25/16

Post by keepsmiling7 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:23 pm

Sure glad Liz continues to turn Sean away.
He is not father material for Scarlet!
I'm almost beginning to like Sarah and Michael together..........??
Thanks,
Carolyn

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April
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Part 6

Post by April » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:50 pm

keepsmiling7 wrote:I'm almost beginning to like Sarah and Michael together..........??
Nothing wrong with that. They're a very likeable couple!


Alright, with this update, I've officially caught up the posting on this site to my posting on Roswell Heaven, Candy Is Dandy, and Fanfiction.net. So now updates will be back to their typical Saturday schedule.








Part 6







The cheerleading squad Tess was helping coach was a competitive cheer squad, girls brought together solely for the sake of performing routines in competitions at the local, state, and then hopefully national level. They ranged in age from twelve to fifteen, and all in all, they were nice girls. Sure, sometimes when they got together, they were enough to drive you crazy, but Tess enjoyed cheerleading crazy. It made her feel all reminiscent.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t truly enjoy what she was doing, not as long as the head coaches were treating her like a servant. The other day, they’d actually told her to go get them some coffee. Like she was an intern or something! It had taken every ounce of willpower she’d had to not accidentally spill it on their shirts when she’d brought it to them.

Tess got the girls started with their stretching routine that day, because Stephanie and Kristin weren’t there yet. It wasn’t unusual for them to walk in late—whenever they did, they acted like it was no big deal—but if Tess ever walked in late, or if one of the cheerleaders walked in late, they’d get a tongue-lashing. So hypocritical, so annoying.

“Good job, girls,” Tess compliment the squad after they’d all successfully held their right splits for twenty-five seconds. “Your flexibility’s improving.” For some of them, it came easily, especially the ones who had a gymnastics background. But others, the ones Kristin and Stephanie tended to think were hopeless, had worked really hard to keep up with the more experienced girls, and their hard work was showing.

As if simply to override Tess’s compliment, Stephanie walked in the doors of their dance studio, blaring, “Those weren’t up to par. Do them again.”

The girls exchanged pained looks with each other, then slid back into their splits positions, counting out loud in unison. “One, two, three . . .”

“I’m sorry,” Tess said quietly to the squad, whirling around to face the wicked witches. Kristin and Stephanie were situating themselves in their new coaches’ chairs; how convenient that they had neglected to get her one, too.

Tess marched right up to them and reported, “All the girls were here on time. So was I.” There. A nice, subtle jab at their own tardiness.

“I had a flat tire,” Kristin blatantly lied.

“Really? You had a flat tire last week,” Tess reminded her. The excuses were getting redundant.

“Well, I had one this week, too,” Kristin insisted. She brought her latte up to her mouth, taking a sip, and as she did that, Tess noticed something new: an obnoxiously gigantic diamond on her left hand.

Great, she thought, one more thing for her to brag about.

“Aren’t you gonna say something?” Kristin asked expectantly.

Wasn’t planning on it. “About what?” she played dumb.

“This.” Kristin excitedly held out her hand, flittering her fingers. “Jason proposed last night.”

“It was so romantic,” Stephanie raved. “I was there.”

“You were?” Tess asked.

“Oh, of course. All of her close friends were there.”

Kristin sighed wistfully. “He bought me this beautiful dress, and we went up to the roof of his parents’ restaurant. Everyone was there, and there was this mariachi band, and he got down on one knee and proposed. It was so romantic. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter engagement.”

“Hmm.” Tess flashed back to her own most romantic moment. She still remembered what a rush it had been to walk into her high school gym and see [/i]Will you marry me?[/i] spelled out with pompoms on the bleachers, to see Kyle standing out on the middle of the court, smiling at her lovingly. Now that had been sweet. Kristin wouldn’t think so, though. She would think it was juvenile and lame.

“Girls!” Stephanie barked again. “Those splits were still horrible! Fifty seconds this time. Go!”

Tess sighed in frustration. Between Stephanie’s bad attitude and Kristin’s self-righteous one, this was going to be a long practice.

When it was all finally over, she went to Michael and Sarah’s apartment to hang out with her best friend. Michael had class on Thursdays, and Sarah usually had the whole day off, so it was the perfect day for girl time. Hanging out with Sarah was pretty much the best stress relief, too, because she was always more than willing to listen to her vent and to feed her good food while she was venting.

“Oh my god, I hate her!” Tess growled, letting it all out. “The whole time, she just kept going on and on. She was all, ‘Oh, look at my ring! Isn’t it pretty? Isn’t it the best? Isn’t my boyfriend the best? My life’s the best.’ It made me wanna throw up.”

“She sounds like the kind of girl I hated in high school,” Sarah empathized, sliding a plate of raspberry swirl cheesecake across the table to her.

“She is.” Tess wasted no time digging in to the dessert in front of her. It was nice to be able to eat her feelings. “She’s so catty. And bratty. And bitchy.”

Sarah smirked, pulling out the chair beside her. “Michael says that’s how you used to be.”

“Okay, maybe I once was,” Tess acknowledged, “but I always had this adorableness to go along with it. And when it really mattered, I could tone down the drama and be mature. But Kristin . . . no. She’s just one of those girls who has to be the center of attention all the time and doesn’t care about anybody but herself. She sat there the whole time today bragging about how it was gonna be a really short engagement, because she and Jason just love each other so much, so they’ll be married by the end of the year. She was totally rubbing it in my face.”

“You think so?”

“Oh, I know so.” There wasn’t one word that came out of that girl’s mouth that wasn’t cruel and calculated. “And I tried not to let her get under my skin, but . . . it’s hard not to, you know? I mean, Kyle and I have been engaged for almost two and a half years now.”

“Well, that’s okay,” Sarah reassured her.

“Two and a half years, Sarah. That’s a long time.” It was never supposed to have been so long. The plan had always been to do a summer wedding, right after she graduated high school; but then Kyle’s injury happened and . . . well, obviously plans had changed.

“It is a long time,” Sarah agreed, “but who knows? Maybe this could be the year.”

“Doubt it,” Tess muttered realistically. “He’s humiliated at the thought of having to stand up at the altar with his cane. He doesn’t wanna do it.”

“Well, maybe he’ll work a little harder with his physical therapy then.”

“Doubt that, too.” She sighed sadly, feeling like nothing would change this year. It would be the same frustration, the same stress, the same struggle. The only new thing was this stupid new job and her stupid new coworkers.

“You are just a Debbie Downer today, you know that?” Sarah said.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. Luckily, her bad mood was never contagious. Sarah always managed to keep a smile on her face. “It’s just hard, you know? I used to feel like Kyle and I had our whole lives to look forward to. Now I feel . . . stuck.”

“I understand,” Sarah said, reaching over to squeeze her hand supportively. “But things will get better. And you know Michael and I will do anything we can to help you through things.”

“Yeah.” Tess laughed a little. “Oh my god, if someone had told three years ago that Michael’s Guerin’s life would end up being more stable and on-track than mine, I would’ve told ‘em they were crazy. But now he’s got you, and you guys are, like, the perfect couple.”

Sarah smiled a little but shook her head. “No, we’re not.”

“You pretty much are.” And Tess knew a thing or two about perfect couples, since she used to be half of one.

“I love him, sure,” Sarah said, “but sometimes he annoys me. And I’m sure sometimes I annoy him. We may not argue a whole lot, but every once in a while we have our disagreements. And sometimes I have my insecurities. Like I wonder if he’s comparing me to Isabel or Maria or anyone else he’s ever been with. He just has so much more experience than I have.”

“Oh, honey, as long as Michael’s gettin’ it in, I’m sure he’s fine,” Tess assured her.

“I know. But I worry about other things, too. Like what we’re gonna do when it comes time for me to go to grad school? If I wanna be a pharmacist, I pretty much have to do my masters at UNM in Albuquerque. But what if Michael doesn’t wanna move there? I know he’ll wanna stay with Kyle.”

“He’ll move wherever you move. Trust me,” Tess promised her. She’d make sure of it. Hopefully in two more years, Kyle would be a lot more mobile than he was now, and much less depressed. Then Michael wouldn’t feel so bad about relocating, if in fact that was what he and Sarah decided to do. “I don’t think you have to worry about any of that stuff. It’s all pretty minor.”

“My point is, no couple is a perfect couple,” Sarah summarized.

That was where she was wrong, though. So wrong. “Kyle and I used to be,” Tess recalled sadly. “We were that couple everyone else aspired to be. I’m sure we were nauseatingly romantic at times, but I loved it. I loved every second of it. And then it all just . . . changed.” She grimaced, remembering what it had been like to be in that stadium during that fateful pass play, to hear the hit Kyle had taken even over the noise of everyone else in the crowd. The fear she’d felt when he hadn’t gotten up right away, multiplied by the panic that had swarmed through her when Michael had started calling for help and the medical staff ran out on the field . . . she’d never felt anything like it. It had been the worst, most terrifying moment of her life.

“It’s not an easy situation you’re in, Tess,” Sarah said understandingly.

“All it took was one moment for everything to come crashing down. And now Kyle and I aren’t the perfect couple anymore.” She took another bite of her cheesecake, reluctantly accepting that fact. “We passed that torch off to you and Michael, whether you believe so or not.”

Sarah shook her head, clearly not believing it. But it didn’t matter. Tess knew it was true.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Michael?”

Oh, god. He recognized that voice. Hadn’t heard it since high school, and that long drought had been fine by him. But he heard it that night, loud and clear while he was pulling a solo shift at the front desk of Vidorra. Crap.

Michael slowly spun his chair around, dreading having to deal with this tool again. “Jase.”

“Buddy!” Jase grinned from ear to ear.

“Holy shit, is that you?” Michael couldn’t believe it. Jase had been decently athletic in high school—never had possessed a whole lot of brain cells, but that hadn’t mattered because he’d been the only decent guy on the basketball team. Now, though, he had a beer gut that made him look like a pregnant man, and a blonde beard that made him look like a golden retriever. He was wearing a way-too-tight black t-shirt that said ‘The Walking Dumb’ and had a picture of a zombie Peter Griffin from Family Guy with a bloody brain in his hand.

“Man, you look exactly the same,” Jase said.

“Yeah.” That was because he still worked out. “You . . . don’t.”

“Put on a couple pounds,” Jase admitted, jiggling his belly.

“A couple,” Michael agreed kindly. Really, Jase looked like he’d multiplied himself by three. “What’re you doin’ here?” No way could he be going to college now . . . right?

“Oh, I’m just here to see Roxie,” he explained. “You know . . . see.” He wriggled his tongue excitedly.

“Yeah, you and five other guys tonight,” Michael informed him. “Actually, I think one of ‘em’s still up there.”

Jase shrugged. “Oh, well. It ain’t gay if it’s a three-way.”

“No,” Michael disagreed quietly, “it’s . . . pretty gay.”

Jase didn’t hear him, though, because he was too busy talking some more. Just like he’d always done back in high school. The kid was a motor mouth. “So you go to school here?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Work here, too?”

“That’s why I’m sittin’ behind the desk.”

“Wow, that’s cool. That’s cool, man. So, uh . . .” Jase looked around, lowering his voice. “How many chicks you bangin’ these days?”

“Just one,” Michael replied. “My girlfriend.”

“Oh, you mean . . .” Jase looked surprised, then confused, a common combination for him. “What’s her name again? Mary? Maria?”

Michael rolled his eyes, annoyed.

“Yeah, Maria. I didn’t think you two were gonna get back together.”

“We didn’t,” Michael informed him.

“Oh.” Jase frowned. “That sucks, man. She was hot. Is your new girl hot?”

“Of course she’s hot.” He didn’t date any other kind. “She’s not new, though. We’re goin’ on two years now.”

“Two years?” Jase’s eyes bulged. “Oh, man, I don’t know how you do it. I gotta spread the seed, you know? Which, speaking of . . .” He motioned to the elevator. “Good to see you, but I really gotta go spread it to Roxie.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll spread something right back to you,” Michael muttered, hollering after his former friend—if he could really be called that—as he headed over to the elevator, “Wear a rubber, man!”

“Don’t need to!” Jase yelled back. “My dad got me a vasectomy for Christmas last year!” Chortling like an idiot, he got on the elevator and waved goodbye as the doors slid shut.

A vasectomy? Michael made an anguished face just thinking about it. Wasn’t Jase too young to go through the painful snip? Although it was probably for the best, because he was way too fucking stupid to be having a kid. Wouldn’t protect him from STDs, though.

Oh, well. He honestly didn’t care.

Michael turned back around, returning to the monotonous task of stamp sorting that he’d been doing before Jase had shown up. He wasn’t able to focus on that for long, though, because soon enough, someone else approached the front desk.

“Hey, these are the Vidorra Suites, right?”

He looked up and saw someone he disliked seeing even more than Jase: Isabel’s pimp of a boyfriend, Jesse. He’d never actually had a conversation with him, but ever since they’d moved to Carlsbad last spring, he’d seen him around here and there.

“Yep,” he answered tersely. Before he could ask what he was doing there, Isabel came into the lobby. Her hair was up in a clip, and she had on a long trench coat and black high heels. “Hey, next time don’t leave me in the car . . .” She said, stopping abruptly when she saw him sitting there. “Michael.”

It only took one look at her to know why she was there. The only reason a girl wore a coat like that in the middle of September is if she’d get arrested for wearing out in public what was underneath.

“This is Michael?” Jesse said, a hint of surprise in his voice. “Really? Oh, man, I’ve been wanting to meet you for years. I always wanted to thank you.”

Michael glared at him. “For what?”

“For breaking my girl’s heart.” Jesse put his arm around Isabel, pulling her into his side. “If you hadn’t cheated on her, she and I might never have gotten together.”

Isabel looked down at the floor. Michael wanted to do the same, because in truth, it was moments like this that brought back that shame. It was a lot easier to ignore her when it was just her and Courtney at a party, making fools of themselves, or her walking across campus, drawing the eye of every guy who frequented her website. But with her standing here, just a few feet away from him . . . it was really hard not to feel bad.

“What’re you here for?” Michael asked them.

“Business,” Jesse replied vaguely, taking Isabel’s hand. “Come on, babe.”

Isabel exchanged one more quick, wordless glance with Michael, then let her boyfriend lead her towards the stairs.

Damn, Michael thought, figuring they were headed up to some guy’s room for a party, a party where she would be the featured entertainment. Jase may have changed a lot on the outside, but Isabel had changed completely on the inside. She wasn’t the same person anymore, and he missed the girl he used to know.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was all a blur. It always was these days. The first time Isabel had put on a striptease, she’d been focusing too much, taking in every little detail, calculating every move. But now, she’d taken her clothes off so many times for so many different people that she didn’t even think anything of it anymore. They all just blended together.

She was wearing her pink vinyl bikini top tonight, the one that barely held her breasts in, along with the matching G-string. It was a favorite amongst her clients. The ones who booked her for a repeat performance usually requested that she wear it again. The guys she was performing for tonight were so easy. One of them was celebrating a birthday, and she was his present. All it took was a little hip-shaking to get them excited, a little dancing on top the coffee table to get them interested, and a little sliding her hands up and down her sides and caressing her own breasts to get them slipping their hands down their own pants.

She stepped down off the coffee table and swayed towards the couch, bending over and sticking her ass in the birthday boy’s face. He smacked it, then growled and bit at it, and eventually, after she shook it around a bit, he slid a couple of five dollar bills into her G-string, securing them in place on her left hip. The right side was already full.

“Oh, yeah, you’re so sexy,” one guy raved.

“Shake that ass, baby.”

“Take your top off.”

Those all started to blend together, too.

The birthday boy, though was more daring. He grabbed hold of her hips and yanked her down onto his lap. “Ride my cock, baby,” he said, pressing his hips up into her. She could feel his erection through his pants pressing right into her.

“Okay, stop,” she said, clamoring back to her feet. Why did some guys take things too far?

“Suck our dicks,” another one of them said, unleashing his cock from his pants. Immediately, the other three guys started to do the same.

“Jesse!” she called, sensing that she might need some assistance.

Jesse came out of the bedroom, glancing up from the . . . what was that? A crossword? Glancing up from the crossword he’d been doing? She was taking her clothes off and he was taking a guess at twelve across?

“What is it?” he asked.

She motioned in exasperation to the guys, who were quickly zipping their pants back up.

“She’s a stripper, guys,” Jesse reminded them, “not a prostitute.”

“So we don’t get to have sex with her?” the birthday boy asked. “I thought we would.”

Isabel rolled her eyes. Here it was again, someone else who thought he had an all-access pass just because he’d seen her doing all sorts of stuff on the Internet.

Much to her dismay, Jesse asked, “How much extra would you pay?”

She shot him a look. “Jesse.” He wasn’t serious, was he?

The guys on the couch all looked at each other and shrugged, and birthday boy offered, “Three-hundred bucks?”

Oh my god. Isabel took the money out her G-string and sent Jesse a look of panic. This wasn’t happening. He wouldn’t let this happen . . . would he?

“Sorry, guys,” he said, making his way towards the door. “My girlfriend’s not for sale. You’re looking for Slutty Courtney. Book her next time.”

They all groaned in disappointment, and Isabel grabbed her shoes, unable to get out of their fast enough. Jesse grabbed her coat off the coat rack for her, and they walked out into the hall together.

“Okay, you weren’t actually considering that, were you?” she snapped.

“No, of course not.” He draped her coat over her shoulders, and she hurriedly tied it around her waist. “I just wanted to see how much they’d offer up.”

She couldn’t help but look at him accusatorily. It felt like he hadn’t been as protective of her in there as he should have been. “You promised me it’d never go that far,” she reminded him. “You said you’d take care of me.”

“And I will,” he assured her, taking her hand in his. “I am.” He brought it up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “Let’s go home.”

Groaning, she let him lead her back down the hallway, just as he’d led her up there. Hopefully Michael wasn’t still working at the front desk. She’d be awfully ashamed to have to walk past him again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Three-hundred pounds?” Tess gasped in disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. He looked like a different person.”

“Oh my god, that’s so sad,” she lamented as she dragged her hands through her hair. “He was always kinda cute.”

“He was there to see Roxie,” Michael added, picking up Kyle’s X-box controller. It was off, but he’d probably played one of his football games all afternoon.

“Oh, that’s a match made in STD-heaven.”

“I know, right?” He shuddered just thinking what their night must have been like, especially if there had been another dude involved. It didn’t matter what Jase had said; three-ways were only okay when it was two girls and one guy.

“Everyone’s changed a lot,” Tess said. “Did you know Antonio has a baby now?”

“What?”

“Yeah. Three-month old daughter. I ran into him at the Lift-Off gas station last time I went home to Roswell to visit my parents, and he told me about her.”

“Wow.” Antonio was Tess’s age, a year younger than him, so that was crazy to think that he was already a dad. But then again . . . maybe not so crazy.

“Who was the other guy you and Kyle used to hang out with?” she asked, stretching out on the couch. “Buddha or something?”

“Bubba,” he corrected. “Yeah, he went off to Vegas a couple summers ago, and no one ever saw him again.”

“Hmm, he’s probably managing some greasy strip joint,” she speculated.

“Huh,” he grunted, able to picture that. “Yeah, speaking of strippers . . .” He thought about telling Tess how Isabel had popped in at Vidorra while he’d been on front desk duty last night, but . . . nah, she didn’t need to know that.

“What?” she prodded.

“No, nothing.”

“Oh, what, did you go to a strip club or something?”

“No, the strip club came to me.”

She sat up on the middle cushion, staring at him, perplexed. “What?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

“Well, now I do. Tell me.”

He sighed, knowing he shouldn’t have brought it up. Hearing what her ex-best friend was up to was probably going to upset her. “Alright, Isabel and Jesse stopped by last night while I was working. She was there for . . . you know.”

“For stripping?” Tess shrieked. “She does that now?”

“Oh, yeah.” As far as he knew, she’d been doing it for a long time. It was probably a bigger money-maker than the website alone.

“Oh, that’s disgusting,” Tess groaned. “God, I can’t even . . .” She trailed off, shaking her head. “You know, after she went to Princeton, I found out some stuff about her.”

“Like what?”

“Uh, like, you know how Ryan was always bragging that she sucked him off at prom? And we all thought he was just lying?”

“Oh, shit.” Michael sensed where this was going.

“She admitted it to Roxie while they were drunk at a party over the summer, and then Roxie told, like, everyone.” Tess made a repulsed face. “So, yeah. Ryan was telling the truth all along.”

“Ah, fuck, I hated Ryan,” Michael grumbled. That guy had been the constant thorn in his high school side. “He was always walkin’ around like he owned the place, talkin’ shit, actin’ like he was a big man. And now of course, big surprise, he comes out.”

Tess’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. “Ryan’s gay?” she spat.

“Yeah, you didn’t know that?”

“No! How did you know?”

“He posted this big coming out announcement on Twitter a couple months ago. Someone showed it to me.”

“Oh my god,” Tess gasped. “Oh my god! I had my first kiss with him! In sixth grade!”

Michael chuckled. “Must’ve been a bad kiss then, if he’s a little dick licker now.”

“Oh, shut up!” Tess yelped, throwing a pillow at him playfully.

Before he could tease her about it anymore, Kyle came rolling into the living room. His wheelchair was huge and the house was small, but he had enough practice maneuvering it that he could wheel it around the TV and coffee table easily.

“Hey, man,” Michael said. “We gonna make it around the block today?”

Kyle looked around confusedly, asking, “Where’s Shango?”

“Oh, I came right from class,” Michael explained. “I didn’t stop and get him.”

Kyle looked disappointed. He wheeled his chair right up to the couch and decided, “I don’t think I wanna walk today.”

“It’s a nice day, honey,” Tess informed him. “It might do you some good to get some fresh air.”

“That’s alright.”

She sighed, getting up off the couch. That was Kyle’s spot. Had been for a while now. “Do you guys want some lunch then?” she offered.

“I’m fine,” Michael answered at the same time Kyle said, “Yes.”

“Um . . . sandwiches then?” she said, venturing into the kitchen. “Michael, I’ll just make you one and you can eat it later if you get hungry.”

“Alright, thanks.” He didn’t want her to be waiting on him. God knew she waited on Kyle enough.

With a great deal of effort, Kyle put all his weight on his arms and lifted himself out of his wheelchair. He plopped down onto the couch, slanted at an angle. Carefully, he straightened himself out and reached forward for the second X-box controller. “Game?” he suggested.

That hadn’t at all been why Michael had come over there, but . . . oh, well, it was better than nothing. “Alright, sure,” he agreed, moving over onto the couch to sit next to his friend. Kyle could still kick his ass at anything electronically competitive, so it was probably good for him to be able to do something where he could still win.

“Oh, Tess?” Kyle called into the kitchen. “Just so you know, these ESPN reporters keep callin’ me. They wanna do another interview.”

“Really?” She came back into the living room with a slice of Swiss cheese in one hand and two slices of bread in the other. “Like a follow-up?”

“Yeah.” He chuckled angrily. “Kyle Valenti, two years later. A story of triumph over tragedy. A dream cut short. Some bullshit like that.”

“Well, are you gonna do it?” she asked.

He grunted. “No. It’d just be a lie.”

“Yeah, but . . .” She shifted uncomfortably. “Okay, I know it’s weird for you to think of it this way, but doing another interview would keep your story out there.”

“I don’t want it to be out there.”

Oh, crap, Michael thought, turning on the X-box, trying to divert his attention to that. Seemed like an argument was starting up.

“Last time you did an interview, all these donations came pouring in,” Tess reminded him, “but that’s all dried up now. We could really use a little more help.”

“So you want me to profit off my career-ending injury?” he spat accusatorily. “Is that what you want me to do?”

“No, I--”

“What am I supposed to, just sit there and lie to them when they ask me all these questions? They don’t wanna hear the truth. They want me to say things are lookin’ up and I’m doin’ a whole lot better. But that’s a lie. I hate bein’ like this. I’d rather be dead.”

Michael froze, stunned. Holy shit. Kyle had not just said that.

Looking like she’d just been socked in the gut, Tess nearly dropped the sandwich ingredients on the end table and hurried down the hallway, slamming the bedroom door shut before she started crying. They could hear her out in the living room.

“Man, you were an ass to say that,” Michael informed him bluntly. He set his game controller down, got up, and grabbed his backpack. No need to stick around now. Kyle and Tess had plenty of stuff to deal with on their own.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Morning came quickly, and even though he’d slept late, Michael struggled to get out of bed. It was so tempting to just lie there all day. He could see the TV from his bed, and Sarah could pass him food through their kitchen window. It was a perfect set-up.

He forced himself up, though, only because he knew his mom was cooking lunch and expected them in Roswell around noon. He showered, shaved, put on an outfit his mom wouldn’t hate, and sat on the couch lazily, watching College Game Day. They were about to do the game picks. As usual, Corso was bringing out the crazy and bringing out his headwear.

Sarah came out of the bathroom looking all put together, her hair straightened and styled, her makeup all done. “Mmm, you look lively,” she remarked sarcastically, leaning over the back of the couch to drape her arms over her shoulders and kiss his cheek.

“You wore me out last night,” he joked.

“Oh, please,” she scoffed, veering into the kitchen. “Do you have any idea how hard I have to work in bed just to keep up with you?”

He chuckled proudly. “Yeah, I got a lot of skills.”

“And so much modesty about it.”

“Well . . .” He shrugged. Why be modest when you knew you were good?

“Will you be ready to go soon?” she asked, standing on her tiptoes, barely able to reach up into the cabinet for one of her early morning energy bars.

“I’m ready to go whenever you are,” he said through a yawn.

“Okay, let me just squeeze in a little breakfast first.”

“Take as long as you need,” he urged. He was content to just stay sitting right there.

“Michael.”

He craned his neck back and saw that she was giving him a knowing look.

“Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine. It’s just . . . you know, sometimes I don’t always look forward to goin’ back home.”

“I know,” she said, getting out her coffee grounds. “It’s okay, though. I’ll be right there with you.”

He smiled appreciatively. Thank God for that. She’d always been there with him.

****

Sarah’s bed was only a twin bed, so there wasn’t any space to spread out. She was curled up on her side with her back to him, sleeping peacefully. But Michael lay awake, nearly hanging off the side of the bed, because that was the only space he had. He stared up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

It had been an unexpected ending to their third date, that was for sure. He hadn’t anticipated for one second that they would end up sleeping together, but they had. All afternoon. For dinner, they’d ordered pizza and stayed in her room, eating, talking, laughing. Kissing had also been a big theme. And now, as night was wearing off and the morning was settling in, she was sleeping, and he was next to her, dozing off for thirty minutes here and there, but never quite able to enter into that deep, restful kind of sleep.

He looked over at her bare back, at skin that was smooth to the touch. He’d let his hands explore all over her last night.
All over. She was petite, but she had these magnificent hips to go along with her tiny little waist. Her breasts were firm and heavy in his hands. The skin on the inside of her thighs was the softest, warmest skin on her whole body. There was so much to explore. And she’d willingly let him explore everything he’d wanted to. She hadn’t pushed him away.

He was used to sex; after all, he’d had it hundreds of times. But she . . . she had given him her first time, the only first time she would ever have. He’d kept that in mind, of course, by trying to go slow, by talking her through the initial pain, by giving her the first orgasm she would ever have when his head was between her legs. No one else would ever be her first time. For the rest of her life, it would be him.


Wow, he thought, amazed by that. He’d slept with girls who were virgins before—Liz Parker sprang first and foremost to mind. But somehow, with Sarah . . . it just was more important.

He wanted to curl up behind her and cuddle her close—girls loved that sappy stuff—but something was holding him back. It was a weird feeling, one that he couldn’t quite decipher or make sense of. But lying there in that bed with Sarah, with a girl who seemed to see a lot of good in him for some weird reason . . . he almost felt like he’d been unfaithful. Like he had betrayed . . . Maria.

He knew it was stupid to feel that way. Maria was gone. She’d been gone for months now, and she wasn’t coming back. What was he supposed to do, just mope around over her for the rest of his life? Wait for her? That wasn’t living, and that wasn’t what she’d wanted for him. After all, she had been the one to tell him to forget about her, to move on.

But could he? Could he ever
really do that? It probably wasn’t a good sign that, mere hours after sleeping with someone new for the first time in six months, he couldn’t get Maria DeLuca off his mind.

But maybe he could. If he just accepted the fact that it was over. If he just . . . let her go . . .

In the midst of his incessant inner turmoil, his cell phone rang. “Shit,” he swore as Sarah started to stir. He didn’t want to wake her up. He got out of the bed, picked his jeans up off the floor, and located his phone in the front pocket. “Yeah?” he answered quietly.

“Michael?”

Oh, great, his mom. This was
so not the time or place to be talking to her. “Hey, Mom,” he said, holding his phone to his ear as he tugged his jeans back on. “Listen, I can’t really talk right now.”

“I’m sorry to call so early,” she apologized.

He glanced at the clock. Shit, 5:34 a.m. His mom never called him this early. “It’s fine,” he said, quietly opening the door so he could slip out of the bedroom. “I was up.” When he treaded into the kitchen, he listened closer and was alarmed to hear her crying. Why was she crying? “What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“Oh, honey . . .” Her voice shook.

Immediately, he started to fear the worst. His sister. Something was wrong with his little sister.

“I don’t know how to say this,” she cried, barely managing to choke out, “It’s your dad. He’s dead.”

And just like that . . . it was like all the other thoughts just vanished from Michael’s head. And time stopped. And there was no sound. And only one word reverberated in his mind.

Dead.

The phone fell from his hand, and the screen shattered when it hit the floor. And he just stood there, letting it soak in.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when Sarah came out of the bedroom with the sheet wrapped around body. Maybe a minute or two. Maybe just a couple of seconds. “Hey,” she said. “You’re not leaving, are you?”

His mouth felt dry. It was like he couldn’t remember how to speak.

“Are you okay?” she asked, putting her hand on his arm.

He . . . didn’t know how to answer that question. “My dad’s dead,” he told her.

“What?” she gasped in disbelief, automatically moving closer. “Oh, Michael . . . I’m so sorry.”

His dad . . . was dead. It really shouldn’t have been surprising, not since he’d tried to kill himself earlier that year. But somehow, it still shocked the hell out of him.

“What happened?” she asked softly.

“I don’t know.” He bent down to pick his phone up, but it wouldn’t turn back on.

She rubbed his back supportively, sighing heavily. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “That’s awful.”

“Yeah, I think . . . I think I need to head home for my mom and sister.”

“Of course,” she said. “Do you . . .” She paused, as if she wasn’t sure if she wanted to say anything, but then she said it anyway. “Do you want me to go with you?”


I barely know you, he thought. You never knew my dad. You wouldn’t have wanted to anyway.
She didn’t have to offer to go with him . . . yet she offering just that.

“Yes,” he replied on instinct. This wouldn’t be easy, but maybe, somehow, it would be easier if she was by his side.


****

Michael closed his eyes, relieved that this visit to Roswell wouldn’t be like the last one. But still, even if he wasn’t going back to deal with the news of his dead dad . . . there was always a lot of stuff that was hard for him to deal with when he went back there.








TBC . . .

-April
Image
LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

keepsmiling7
Roswell Fanatic
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Re: Somewhere, Anywhere (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 5, 01/25/16

Post by keepsmiling7 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 10:21 am

Great story,
Carolyn

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