Disclaimers: I think the characters are still mine (and Bertha's, of course). You may continue to borrow them for your own personal use (I won't ask) just as long as you return them fully bathed and with a pretty purple ribbon on their heads. Cause I like purple.
Sequel Alert: Well, this isn't really a sequel. It's more of a continuation of the same story but from a different perspective. So if you haven't read Alix then you probably won't have the slightest clue what's going on. Actually, even if you read Alix you might still have no clue what's going on. *points to Bertha* It was all her ... I had nothing to do with it ... unless, of course, you like it ...
Sex/Naughty Words/Violence: Yes there will most likely be sex, between two (or three or four .. no, just two) consenting adult women. If you're not 18 or live in a place where this sort of thing is illegal, or just have a problem with chicks getting it on .. well then ... away with you .. away, I say. Shoo. There will be some naughty words getting thrown around here and there, so if this offends you in any way, please forgive me. There might be some violence in this one. Nothing graphic or bloody or anything, because as always, I bring you loooooove ...
Content Warning: Valerie, the character as well as the story by extension, is a lot darker than Alix ever was ... but I'm trying to keep her/it as light as humanly possible giving the circumstances. Let me know if I succeeded. Also, fasten your seatbelts cause this is about to become a very bumpy ride.
Dedication: To Cindy, for helping me create Valerie, always supporting my insanity, giving me flat-out honest advice, and for threatening not to send me the hair buzzer if I didn't write more. Did you send it yet, huh?? And to Amber, for helping me sort through all of this madness. I would've had to be committed by now if it wasn't for you. Always remember ... the monkeys are listening
Feedback: You can send all comments, questions, e-Cards, gifts, marriage proposals, voodoo curses, and/or threatening letters to email@example.com . Please be kind ... rewind. And please don't kill me .. ::cries::
This is the story of my life. My very fucked up, made-for-TV, be-glad-it-wasn't-you life. Sit back for a while, and grab a shot of hard liquor to aid you through this tale. Better yet, make it a double. Or not. Whatever …
Let's start at the very beginning …
Once upon a time (twenty-four years ago, to be exact), in a mansion by the sea, there lived a couple. Man and woman, by the way. And they had been trying for ages to conceive a child, much to their unfortunate failure. They couldn't adopt, you see, because such an action would disgrace the family name. And nothing else seemed to work.
So the one day came when the couple met another couple. A teenage couple. A very poor and desperate teenage couple who had just become pregnant and had no idea what to do. So our first couple, being that they were so kind and generous, offered the second couple a whopping 20 million dollars cash in exchange for the baby once it was born. It was a very hush-hush, top secret operation that managed to occur undetected by the media by the grace of God, or perhaps…lots and lots of money.
Nine months later, a baby girl was born. Twenty million dollars were passed to the second couple. A newborn baby was passed to the first, and voila there is a new heiress to the fortune.
So, the second couple took the 20 million dollars and went on to lose the entire thing on some stupid gambling bet. Twenty million dollars, can you believe it?
I can see Jerry Springer all over this one. But I digress…
You're probably wondering what any of that has to do with me. Well I'm getting to that. You see, the teenage couple had two more children. A girl and a boy. Guess which one I am?
My name is Valerie Michaels. I have a younger brother named Aaron and an older sister named Jessica, only she doesn't know that I exist. Or, at least not in that context. It was never my intention to get involved in her life. Far from it, in fact, but I was put into a situation where I had no other choice.
You see, Aaron started stealing from the wrong people (I'm not sure there's right people to steal from, but if there are, these people weren't it). He managed to embezzle fifty million dollars before getting caught. I managed to get them to spare his life by promising to double the amount. Lucky for me, and most importantly him, that their leader owed me a favor. So she granted me the chance.
I came up with a plan. It was a very good plan and would have worked wonders if I hadn't ended up falling in love…
The way I look at things, we're bound by decisions. Good choices built upon bad choices built upon good choices. Except that in my case, unfortunately, I had bad choices stacked atop an endless line of more bad choices that were in the process of collapsing all around me. How awfully ironic my life had turned out to be.
She walked away from me and I couldn't do a thing to stop her. So I watched her, from the middle of the sidewalk through the lenses of Hell, until she was gone, swallowed whole by the cloak of darkness and distance, leaving me all alone to battle the demons she didn't even know I had.
And she would never know. Not if I could help it.
I tightened the white robe around my naked body and sighed loud enough for nobody but myself to hear. There was no way to fix the tangled web my life had become. So I turned on my heel, my back to the street, my face to the building and walked forward, wishing nothing more than to go back. Back in time … to somehow keep everything from going wrong …
The door was wide open when I reached my apartment, and I slammed it shut upon stepping inside, taking out my anger and frustration upon the object as though it was the cause of my fucked up existence.
The smell of fries and burgers assaulted my nostrils and my eyes narrowed. My suspicions were confirmed a moment later as I crossed the short distance between the door and the kitchen.
"Did you thank your girlfriend for bringing us food?" Chris asked through a mouthful of fries.
Somehow I managed to find my last remaining ounce of self-control. I wanted nothing more than to rip the hamburger from her hands and throw it across the room. "What are you still doing here?" I asked instead, keeping my voice even and controlled. Never let them show you hurt … And I was hurting. I was hurting so much I was amazed that I could still walk let alone speak.
She put the burger down, fixing her dark brown eyes upon mine with a look of utter annoyance that was so incredibly characteristic of Christina Walker. Her brown curls bounced as she shook her head at me. "Don't start with your pissy attitude, Val. You know very well what I'm still doing here." With her chin, she motioned to the seat across from her at the table. "Sit."
I complied, if only because I needed to sit down. Rubbing my temples with both hands, I looked down at the light blue surface of my kitchen table, then closed my eyes, wishing for silence and getting nothing but the irritating sounds of Chris chewing and swallowing as background music.
"You look like shit," Chris commented, between bites.
I said nothing.
"So what'd you tell her?" Chris asked.
Chris studied me, her eyes burning into me. "What did you tell her?" she demanded.
"Nothing," I snapped, my patience bordering on non-existent. Then I sighed, looking away. "I started to …"
Chris was on her feet in a second. "Have you lost your mind!?" she howled, and I closed my eyes wishing somehow to shut sound along with sight. "If that bitch—"
She didn't get a chance to finish the sentence. I had her pinned by the throat against the kitchen wall so fast she didn't know what hit her. I glared into her eyes, daring her with my gaze to attempt breaking free. "Don't ever call her that," I hissed, suddenly feeling the crash of a massive headache split my head in two. I let her crumble to the ground in a heap of desperate breaths, as I stumbled toward the cabinets in search of aspirin.
By the time I found it, Chris was on her feet again, attempting to pull herself together. "Do that again and I won't wait for the goddamn money."
Her threat echoed through my brain as an angry voice in my head asked what I'd been thinking. I couldn't let my anger take control. Not with Chris. There was too much at stake …
"You weren't supposed to fall for her, Val. You getting all emotional for that girl was not part of the plan."
"Screw the plan," I muttered, wishing I could mean the words, knowing I couldn't. I downed two Advil. Dry.
My comment drew a long laugh from Chris. "Right," she responded, lowering herself down onto the chair she'd previously occupied. "No woman is worth that much. Your brother's life is on the line here."
Her words stung me, and I did everything in my power to avoid her gaze. I swallowed hard, wishing I was somehow strong enough to cry. Human enough, even.
"Have I told you that you look good as a blonde?" Chris said, following the comment with a sip of Passoa. "Makes you look almost angelic." She had a good laugh at that.
I caught my reflection on the microwave door; distorted and unclear. How perfect. I noticed the blonde hair that framed my face. Angelic. Is that what Alix thought of me? Is that how she saw me? Is that how she wanted me to be? What would she think … if she knew the truth?
"I still say you should've left it dark though," Chris continued, smirking. "She seems to go for the black-haired, blue-eyed type, no?"
My gazed darted to Chris's face, and I wondered what was stopping me from putting my fist through it. Too many things, unfortunately.
Chris let out a long, over dramatic sigh as she stood. "You're talking to what's-her-face tomorrow." It wasn't a question. "She can get Alix to forgive you like last time." At the door, she paused. "And quit fucking up. You're running out of chances and excuses … and time." The door slamming shut announced her departure.
"Satan has left the building," I muttered on my way out of the kitchen. Loki made her appearance down the hallway and met me half-way. "You were hiding, huh? Smart girl." I picked the puppy up and carried her back to the bedroom, kicking the door closed with my foot. I put her down on the bed and walked over to the closet so I could change into something a little less comfortable. Black and red flannel boxers and a white tee shirt replaced the robe. Padding across the black carpet, I made my way to the bed in three long strides and buried my face under a pillow. Somewhere within my head, my brain screamed to be let out. I believed it was actually attempting to pound its way through my skull.
After all of the oxygen had escaped the tiny space between my nose and the mattress, I decided to roll over. Loki was staring at me curiously, her little head cocked to the side as though attempting to comprehend my sadness. "This is so messed up, girl," I told the dog, believing that she understood me somehow.
In response, she jumped onto my stomach and lied down there, staring up at me expectantly.
I scratched under her ears and sighed. "How will I get out of this one?"
Loki seemed to shrug.
I closed my eyes, wishing for a sleep I knew would never come. It would be more peace that I could ever deserve. The only time I managed to sleep at all these days was when Alix was beside me. How long until that happened again? Never if she was lucky. But of course, it wasn't as easy as me just letting her go. I would've done it in a heartbeat if at all possible. But she was part of the plan.
No woman is worth that much. Chris's voice echoed through my head.
Tuesday afternoon I waited at Whispers for my scheduled lunch date, something I was not looking forward to. I suspected that she would bring only the confirmation that I had indeed fucked everything up in a completely irreversible way. What would I do then? Fall to my knees and beg for forgiveness I didn't deserve. How much longer until I could stop hurting her?
I shifted uncomfortably in the booth I'd selected. I hated waiting. It was a nerve-wracking and upsetting waste of time. I glanced at my watch. She was twenty minutes late. Tapping my fingers impatiently on the tabletop, I stared at the bottle of Corona in front of me. It was open. Why wasn't I drinking it? Probably for the same reason I seemed to have quit smoking.
My head fell back against the wall behind me and my gaze traveled around the club. There were a few people dancing and a few people at the bar. It was a large crowd size for such an early time. La Rissa's "I Do Both Jay and Jane" sifted through the speakers and I rolled my eyes at the music selection, thankful that it was my day off.
"Sorry I'm late. I know what a sod you are about punctuality and the lot."
I gazed at Jade as she slipped into the booth across from me. I'd known her for a year almost. I'd found her outside once, getting hassled by some idiot guy whose ass I proceeded to kick. We sort of became friends after that. Not best friends or anything, but friends. I'd confided in her about my brother and she'd agreed to help. I'm not entirely sure why she would go through all the trouble of helping me get money from Jessica. I never did ask her why she helped me. We shared that same sort of privacy issue that I think helped to make our friendship work and I didn't want to break that silent agreement between us. But whatever her reasons, I appreciated them. She told me that the only person besides Jessica and maybe Mathew, who had access to any of the safes at the Heart mansion was Alix. And if there was any document I needed to find, then Alix would probably know where to find it. The problem was that I couldn't tell Alix the truth. It was risky enough getting Jade involved. I couldn't risk putting Alix's life in danger. I cleared my throat before responding. "Did you talk to her?"
The fuzz covered head shook side to side. "What the hell did you do to her? She won't even talk to me. I sat in her room all day today and she ignored everything I said. Spent the entire time writing."
My eyebrows rose in question. "Writing what?"
"Hell's if I know," Jade responded, motioning for the waitress. Then she paused and stared straight at me, her hazel eyes narrowing suspiciously. "You didn't tell her did you?"
"No." As Julie approached to take Jade's order, I let my head rest back against the wall. Holding it up was requiring an unbelievable amount of effort that I was unable to expend at that particular moment. "I started to tell her," I said, once Julie had walked away.
She stared at me in disbelief for a second, then shook her head again. "Why didn't you?"
I sucked in a deep breath, and shook my head. "I couldn't risk it."
"I told you from the beginning she would understand."
Jade sat back and studied me quietly for a long moment. "You're totally crazy about her, aren't you?" My silence was all the encouragement she needed. "It's not too late, you know? You could tell her."
Didn't I wish it were that simple. "You don't understand…"
"You're right, I don't," she responded, her voice taking on a sharp edge as she looked at me. "You promised me that no one would get hurt."
For this, I met her gaze. "No one has gotten hurt."
"I believe there's a heartbroken twenty-year-old who would kindly disagree," Jade replied. She paused to grab the proffered blue Curaçao from Julie. She drank some before placing the glass on the table and returning to the conversation. "Look, I just think you'd get better mileage out of this entire thing if you just went up to Jessica and told her the truth."
I almost laughed at the absurdity of her suggestion. "Yeah, right."
"You don't know Jessica very well. She'd give you the money."
"It's more complicated than that," I replied, almost regretfully.
Jade whipped out a pack of cigarettes and pointed the box in my direction. "Fag?"
"I prefer the term dyke, if you don't mind," I responded, then shook my head to decline her offer.
Jade rolled her eyes as she lit one up. "She's been trying to get me to quit since high school." Putting the lighter away, she blew a ring of smoke. "So, what are you going to do about Alix? The typical arrangement of flowers and box of chocolates will get you absolutely nowhere with that one, I'm afraid. Just a warning."
"What's your suggestion then?"
Jade fell silent as she contemplated my question. Meanwhile, I backtracked to her comment about my telling Jessica the truth. Which truth? There were so many to choose from, so many choices … and all of them were marked for disaster. Between death, chaos and broken hearts … how could I decide? How could I not?
"I'd wait a while," Jade finally answered, nodding thoughtfully. "Give her a couple of weeks to sort everything out. If you show up now she'll just slam the door in your face."
Two weeks? "I don't know if Chris will go for it."
"You asked for my suggestion, and I gave it to you. Take it or leave it, that's up to you. But for the love of Metallica, quit fucking with her heart. I'm begging you, from the very bottom of my being, give the girl a break."
My gaze lowered. "I never meant to hurt her in the first place. You told me she wouldn't fall for me."
"I didn't think she would. I figured she'd give you a date, max. She's been gaga for Jessica since forever, who would've thought you would be the one to break the spell." She took a long sip from her drink, then proceeded. "Whatever you did, I commend you. I bow to you. I'm just depressed as hell that you aren't the real thing."
Her words caused me to frown. I wasn't the real thing? I'd never been more real than when I was with Alix. I'd had to adlib a few details about my past, granted, but I'd meant everything I'd said to her. Being with her, I almost forgot who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. What was that she had said once? Something about Fate. Yes. Evil, twisted Fate. Indeed. "I never meant to hurt her," I said again, as though the words served to absolve me of all responsibility in the matter.
"Yeah, well it's very nice that you seem to have fallen for her and all but what are you going to do when this is all over? Tell her the truth? Tell her more lies? You'll lose her eventually either way if you go through with it and don't tell her. Why did you sleep with her if you didn't want to hurt her, anyway? I still don't understand your reasoning there. I was so pissed at you for that. Do you have any idea how much it took for her to do that?"
That marked the end of that conversation. I rose to my feet and glared down at Jade before responding. "Two weeks," I said, and walked away, wondering if the shattering of my heart had been heard above the music.
Chris was already in my apartment by the time I got back and all I could do as I closed the door behind me was wonder what on Earth I'd done in my past lives to deserve this kind of torment.
She put out the cigarette she'd been holding and sat back leisurely on my couch, staring up at me expectantly as I entered. On this occasion, she'd opted for the silky look, and was clad accordingly in a black button-down silk shirt and maroon silk skirt. Dangling jewelry hung from various limbs on her body and I suspected she'd either come from or was headed to some important meeting. "How sweet of you to dress up for me," I commented dryly, throwing my keys down on the table beside the door.
"Actually, I was just visiting your brother," she replied casually.
My eyes snapped over to her, as she knew they would. If my gaze could kill, she would've been dead a while ago.
"I'm afraid he's losing faith in you," Chris continued, rising to her feet. Her arrangement of necklaces and bracelets clanked against each other as she did so. "Can't say I blame him. Even if you are Super Girl, a hundred million dollars is a whole lot of money."
"I will get you the money."
"Your persistence is admirable, Val," she responded, walking over to me. "Frankly, if he were my brother I would've just let me kill him." She shrugged. "But I do want my money back."
I fought the urge to get away from her. "You'll get it," I assured her.
She studied me for a long while, her brown eyes burning into mine, trying to find any ounce of untruth. Convinced there was none, she nodded and returned to the couch. "I trust I will. Now. What did your little contact on the inside have to say?"
"She said Alix needed a couple of weeks," I responded, leaning back against the door. I needed support, my mind was reeling.
Chris snorted. "That's ridiculous. This is taking too long. Put a gun to her head, get the combination, steal the money, get it to me. Your brother goes free. I'm tired of watching you parade around with that little bitch—" She emphasized the word for my benefit. "—like you're a couple of high school kids or something. If you're just wasting my time, Valerie, let me know now."
"I'm not wasting your time," I replied slowly. "Let me do it my way and you'll get your money. But I need more time."
Chris shook her head and stood once again. "You're not the one calling the shots around here. It's your brother's life on the line here, or have you forgotten that little detail?"
I closed my eyes. "I'll get you double," I found myself saying. "Two hundred million. If you just let me do it my way."
She drew in a long breath. I could almost hear the cash register in her head processing the information. "There's no way she keeps that amount of money in her house."
I almost laughed. There was no way she kept a hundred million in there, either. "Trust me," I said, looking over at her. "Two hundred million, in exchange for more time."
A short pause, then, "How much time?"
"I'm not sure."
Chris nodded. "Tell you what. I'll give you a month. If you still need more time after that, it goes up to three hundred." She started toward the door. "See you in a month," she announced, before slamming the door shut behind her.
I spent the next two weeks—when I wasn't working, that is—trying to come up with some way of getting Alix to talk to me. I couldn't just disappear from her life and then show up at her doorstep saying, "Hi honey, I'm home," and expect her to welcome me into her open arms. She'd most likely smack the living daylights out of me and then slam the door in my face.
So I considered all of my options, again, for the millionth time, and kept arriving at the same conclusion. Alix couldn't know. Jessica couldn't know. I couldn't involve any more people in this mess … I just couldn't risk it.
Two weeks came and went and I still hadn't figured out what to do. So, on a Tuesday, two weeks later, I'd decided to spend the day drawing. I skipped my classes at the university, and stayed in my apartment all day long. Still in my pajamas, I set up my easel in the living room and stared at the blank canvas for a long time, trying to find inspiration. Once I thought of Alix, it didn't take long for my hand to start moving over the white surface, tracing lines and molding them into shapes. Time eluded me as I sketched the outlines of her face … her body. Night fell and I hadn't moved from the spot I'd claimed that morning. I was wishing that the drawing would come to life, somehow. Put me out of my misery. My heart was breaking and I couldn't piece it back together, no matter which way I turned, which road I chose.
Then, there was a knock at the door.
At first, I decided to ignore it. It was probably one of the neighbors asking for a cup of sugar or something like that. Then I stopped to wonder when a neighbor had ever stopped by my apartment. There were only two people who ever came by. And only one of them ever knocked. My gaze darted from the drawing to the door, wondering if I was being too hopeful. I decided there was only one way to find out. Piece of charcoal in hand, I walked over to the door and opened it slowly. The first thing I noticed was her eyes, green and sparkling as always. The second thing I noticed was the feather in her hand, and I swallowed, taking a step backward.
Alix walked into the apartment and closed the door behind her, looking around as though expecting someone to pop out of a corner or something. Then her eyes met mine and she aimed the dreaded feather in my direction. "I'm here to announce that I'm mad at you," she said. "And I'm ready to throw this at you if you don't tell me what's going on with you."
She was so beautiful. I doubt that she knew it, but she was. I loved the way her short hair fell forward, strands covering her eyes at times. My gaze drifted over her, as it always did. Baggy clothing concealing the beautiful body beneath. She was dressed in black as usual. Black Airwalks, black jeans and a black Aerosmith tee shirt I'd never seen on her before. Too cute. It was then I remembered that she'd said something about being mad at me and my blue eyes drifted back to her own. "I think you're being a bit harsh with the feather. Perhaps you'd like to continue this conversation in the elevator?"
She took a step forward and waved the feather around menacingly. "Not funny," she replied. It was then that she noticed the easel and the canvas and seemed momentarily distracted. "What's that?" she asked.
Trying not to blush, I said something really clever and intelligent. Something along the lines of, "Umm…"
Feather and anger forgotten, she walked over to my drawing and stood before it, studying it intently. "Is that me?" she asked softly, not taking her eyes away from it.
I took a second to decide which answer would get me in less trouble. I cocked my head to the side and scratched the back of my head as I looked at the drawing. It was pretty obvious that it was her, so I couldn't very well deny it, even if I'd wanted to. So, "Yeah," I responded, coming up behind her, wishing I was brave enough to touch her. Perhaps I would've been, had she not been holding that evil feather. As it happened, though, I was too frightened of what she'd do with it if I dared cross the line. I cleared my throat as I always did when I was nervous and asked, "Do you like it?"
She turned around to face me, her body so close to mine I could feel the heat she radiated. She was kind enough to put the feather down on the coffee table before answering. "I love it," she said, her gaze not quite meeting mine. "Guess you didn't need me to pose for you after all."
I ventured a grin as I stared down at her beautiful face. "No, but it would've been a lot more fun to draw." I saw the sadness in her eyes and my heart shattered all over again. I couldn't bare to look at her any longer. What could I say to her that would make everything alright? Jade was right, I was going to lose her either way if I didn't tell her the truth. But would I lose her anyway? How much could I say before I said too much? "What made you come over?" I asked her softly.
She took a step away from me and then sighed, biting her lip in a way I'd seen her do a million times before. "I've been thinking a lot about us," she answered. "Actually, that's all I've been doing." She pushed her hair back with her hands and let out a long breath. "I was writing this story and when I started it, I meant for it to be about Jessica, you know? And then, somehow, it ended up being about you. And somewhere along the line, I realized that I don't know how to let you go." She smacked her forehead. "Oh God, now I'm quoting Sarah McLachlan." She smacked my shoulder. "Do you see what you've done to me?"
I rubbed my shoulder, though she hadn't really hurt me. I couldn't help the small grin that crossed my lips.
"Anyway," she continued, "I thought I'd come by and give you one more chance. Besides, I wanted to exercise my right to be mad at you." She crossed her arms and looked at me expectantly. "So feel free to grovel anytime starting now."
Grovel? She stumped me, truly. I stared at her dumbfounded and blinked a few times before coming to the realization that too much was resting on my shoulders to blow it all away because I was too blind and stupid not to trust in the one person who was starting to mean more than the air to me.
Her eyes pleaded sadly and I could feel my resolve breaking. I looked all around the living room for a moment, my eyes narrowing. My apartment was probably bugged for all I knew. I was probably being paranoid, but I couldn't take the chance. Not when Alix's life was at stake. Besides, I hadn't yet decided how much to tell her. "Let's go for a walk."
"Where to?" she asked, looking confused.
"Just to get some air," I replied.
"Okay." She nodded in my direction. "You're going dressed like that?"
I half-smiled, a bit sheepishly, as I recalled that I was dressed in less than suitable attire for any activity that wasn't sleeping. "Let me get changed."
She nodded, and took a seat on the couch. "You might wanna try a shower, too. But that's just a suggestion."
I would've grinned but I was suddenly too overcome with nervousness to do anything but secretly panic. Was I really going to tell her? I wondered as I headed toward the bathroom. I decided to take the shower after all, if only to prolong the situation while I came up with what exactly I was going to say. Cause quite frankly, I hadn’t the slightest idea.
To be continued …
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