"We're making such big steps
Maria scrubbed helplessly at the sauce some kid had splattered all over her uniform. She'd already been on for six hours and it looked like no one was planning to come relieve her before the night was over. Leaning against the lockers, she started to button herself back up -- thankful that at least her skin was no longer sticky. The door opened tentatively and she whipped around in anger. Her eyes seared into Isabel who stopped before she did more than stick her head inside.
The tall blonde gripped the door and unconsciously stared at Maria, her dress still half-undone. A red bra pushed out from behind the teal material and she could catch a hint of the matching underwear beneath. Isabel blushed when she realized she'd been gawking at the breasts nearly popping out of their flimsy demi-cups and immediately met her friend's eyes. Maria furrowed her eyebrows then went back to straightening herself up.
"What do you want, Isabel?"
Giving a quick shake, Isabel motioned towards the dining room with her head. "The natives... uh, they're getting restless. There are a few people at the cash register."
"Of course," Maria responded in resigned frustration. "I'm the only waitress here and we're getting nailed. I'll be right out."
Nodding, the other girl turned and resumed her seat at the counter. Something felt so very odd... her heart was racing and her cheeks still felt warm to her cool fingers. Isabel sipped her water and tried to relax. This was something new -- this heart thing. And the way her stomach just dropped out from nowhere, with no warning. This was... something she didn't know if she liked. Especially because she had no idea where it was coming from. Nearly half the glass was filled with ice -- which she was going to complain about -- but now each piece was like a godsend, cooling her lips and melting slowly on her tongue. By the time she was sucking on the last piece, Isabel contemplated going behind the counter to get more.
"Okay, I think I've got about 2 minutes to breathe and down something relaxing. Like chocolate..." Appearing out of nowhere, Maria broke off a small square from a Hershey bar and tossed the rest towards Isabel. "What are you doing here alone on a Friday night -- where's your mopey other half?"
Isabel smiled, running her finger over the rim of the cup. "Max? Actually... he's with Tess." Waiting for the inevitable raised eyebrow, she continued. "I have no idea."
Maria grabbed the glass and gulped down half of what was left. She stepped back and refilled it while talking over her shoulder. "I guess betrayal make strange bedfellows."
"I thought that was politics."
"Well, we do have the alien JFK in our midst..." Maria slid the drink back across the counter.
A little laugh escaped from Isabel. She studied the glass in front of her, noticing the faint lip print left from Maria's pale lipstick. Isabel hadn't realized Maria was wearing lipstick tonight -- normally she was more of one for lipgloss and assorted shiny lip-stuff. But the shimmery pale pink half-moon matched the colour on the waitress. Without thinking, she traced it with her thumb -- brushing the fingers of her other hand against her own lower lip. And her stomach dropped out again.
"So, what do you want?"
"What?" Isabel jumped, startled. "What do I want?"
Maria looked at her in bemusement. "Yes, what do you want. You are in a diner, at dinner time -- and most people in your situation would tell me what they want -- make an, oh, I don't know, order, per se. That's how it works here," she teased.
"Oh," Isabel half-heartedly chuckled. Her stomach was falling faster and faster. How could she even begin to think about food right now? "I, uh..."
"Jesus Christ -- can I get a break? Is five minutes too much to ask?" Maria sighed, closing her eyes in exhaustion.
"What?" The girl asked, insulted.
"No, no... it's not you. It's just --" She pointed towards the door where ten customers had just walked in. The dining room was already filled with loud, rambunctious families and this was enough to tear out her last nerve. Maria took in the whole situation, her despair rising with each head she counted.
"There isn't anyone to help you?"
"No," Maria sniffed. "Courtney was supposed to work tonight -- but apparently it was more important to go off with Michael instead." She took a deep breath. "You know... the warrior who can't have a girlfriend?" Across the room a plate fell to the floor and her body shuddered at the sound of it shattering.
Standing up, Isabel leaned over the counter and snatched the headband off her friend's head. Before Maria could say another word, she grabbed the order pad out of her pocket.
Fixing her new hair accessory, Isabel winked at Maria. "You so owe me..."
"I love you. Have I told you that I love you?"
"Yes, Maria. Ten times in the last five minutes. But after three hours and what, six million customers -- a few 'I love yous' isn't going to do the trick."
The two girls had collapsed on the couch in the back room, barely able to move a muscle. Isabel had tried clicking through the channels on the television but gave up after about thirty seconds. It simply hurt too much to raise her arm and press a button. Maria yanked her shoes off and pulled her legs underneath her.
"Oh, that feels so much better. I don't suppose you do foot massages too?"
Isabel shot her a look, obviously questioning Maria's sanity. "Are you trying to push me? Have you forgotten I have the power to turn you into a frog?"
Maria began to giggle quietly until exhaustion and work-induced dementia set off a full-scale eruption of roaring laughter. Each time she tried to stop, she would only snort which would make her body collapse into uncontrollable giggles. She lay back on the cushions, covering her eyes, but nothing worked. "You... you..." she gasped. "You offered. I didn't ask... and..." Maria sat up and grinned at the other girl. "A FROG!" Falling back she burst out into another loud snort.
Taking the opportunity to 'scare' Maria, Isabel wagged her finger in her face. "I've been practicing... Want to try me?"
"No no no no no." Maria grabbed her friend and shook her head vehemently. "I'll be good, I promise." As her fist released its grasp on Isabel's finger, she started to feel very warm all of a sudden. She could feel her cheeks redden and her body sobered up almost instantaneously. The tips of her fingers were tingling and she became distinctly aware of the weight of her friend's hand on her knee.
Isabel was looking down at her and she wasn't smiling. Nor was she wasn't frowning or glaring. Maria couldn't quite place the look on her face, but she had a feeling it was a mirror image of the one on her own. Coughing nervously, she slid off the couch and walked over to lockers. "Uh, I'm going to change. Do you want me to lend you some clothes... or something?"
The idea of Maria changing again, in front of her, made Isabel gulp hard. And she still didn't know why. And that infuriated her -- Isabel Evans, not being in control. She shook her head and got up. "No. I'm going to stop in the bathroom, though."
Maria nodded and bit her lip. She quickly changed out of her sweaty uniform and into her jeans and a tank. She silently thanked her mother for doing laundry -- because right now she really needed her most comfortable jeans. They hugged her body and fell on her hips the way they always did. The zipper jammed, like it always does, and she tugged it up and slipped her hands into the back pockets. Her middle finger poked through the middle of the back left pocket and she played with the fringe around the hole. Like she always did. Because these were things Maria knew, and in a way, things that made her feel safe. And safe is not what she was feeling right now.
Emerging from the bathroom, Isabel opened the door into the back slowly -- not quite knowing what to expect. She exhaled in relief when she saw Maria fully dressed and packing her bag up. Taking the keys out of her pocket, she mindlessly twirled them around her finger. The other girl looked up at the jingling sound and stood up straight, smiling. Maria walked over towards the tall blonde and cocked her head. "You... didn't look in the mirror, did you?"
Taken aback, Isabel smoothed her hair and clothes down. "Well, quickly, when I was washing my face and hands... why?"
Reaching forward, Maria pulled the crooked headband off Isabel. Her fingers fumbled through the long blond strands of hair as the accessory got stuck in the tangles. Tossing the headband into a shelf, Maria stood squarely in front of Isabel and brushed the hair out of her friend's eyes. "There, much better."
Mere inches separated them and Isabel could feel the warmth of Maria's breath against her chest. Goosebumps spread across her arms and she felt the urge to rub the remnants of the shimmery pink off Maria's lips. 'What am I thinking?' Isabel stepped back and shifted her weight from foot to foot. "Well, I guess I should be going home. I'm pretty tired."
"Me too," Maria agreed. She looked to her for a sign, a signal of some sort which might tell her what Isabel was thinking. But Isabel was guarded -- perhaps even more guarded than Michael. Michael. Michael, the boy she loved, Maria reminded herself -- ignoring the urge to find out if Isabel was truly sweet and spicy. Clicking off the television, she followed Isabel out the side door and walked around to the front where they got into their cars silently -- simply offering each other a small wave.
Supermarket. Saturday morning. The DeLuca Routine. Every other week it was Maria's turn and it always took her well over an hour. Her mother could never understand how she could spend so much time buying groceries, and Maria gave up making excuses about long lines and obnoxious children. But really, it was the exotic foods aisle. Every other week, she would creep along -- examining every bottle and can on the shelves. No matter how many times she had picked up a certain item -- she would always read its label over and over again. It started when she was nine, with a jar of Gelfelte Fish -- it was this eerie container and Maria had no idea why anyone would want to eat it. No one she knew in Roswell ate Gelfelte Fish. Then she tried to think about a place where everyone ate Gelfelte Fish by choice. When she went shopping with her mother, she would always disappear for short periods of time and read as many labels as she could before her mother found her. It was actually a relief when Amy asked her to go shopping on her own -- she could visit the many worlds of strange and exotic foods without interruption. Without being pulled back into Roswell against her will.
This Saturday, her dilemma was about Men's Pocky. She couldn't understand why chocolate covered breadsticks were for men, and strawberry-something covered breadsticks were for everyone else. Maria rested her elbows on the cart and compared the ingredients of the two snacks.
Popping her head up, Maria found herself greeted by Michael and Tess. "Hey," she returned, then went back to her reading."
"What are you doing?" Tess asked.
"Shopping." Her tone was condescending and distant.
"Did you want with bleach, or without..."
A chill shot up Maria's body. She dropped the two packages into the cart and looked up to see Isabel holding a box of clothes detergent. Her fists clenched the handle and she steeled herself against the dizziness that had hit her hard. A hint of Isabel's perfume wafted over and tickled her nose, but she convinced herself that it was just a trick her mind was playing on her. After all, she had dreamt about Michael last night -- and it was no G-rated dream.
"Hey Maria," Isabel said tenderly, as if they were the only two there. The girl nodded in response, unable to make any coherent noise. It was awful... this was her friend, and now Maria couldn't speak to her. Last night was last night -- they were tired and in the final throes of debilitating fatigue. Anything that was said or done could easily be explained away by that. But now, after a full night of sleep -- well, Maria shouldn't be reacting this way.
Michael dug his hands into his pockets. "Sorry about last night... Courtney and I didn't realize..."
"You know what, Michael?" Maria snarled. "I really don't give a damn about you and Courtney... you two can do whatever the hell you want. Neither one of you could be bothered to come to work and I got stuck with everything. So, you'll understand if I don't want to talk to you... or see you for that matter." In a fury, she propelled herself and the cart between her ex-boyfriend and the mop-headed terror, cutting around the corner.
Isabel shot Michael a look of death and threw the detergent at him. "Real smooth." She turned on her heel and went after her friend. Finally spotting her halfway down, a few aisles over, Isabel scuttled up to the blonde. "Maria." She grabbed her friend's arm. "About Michael..."
"Listen, I really don't care about Michael right now." Maria snapped, looking down at Isabel's hand.
"But --" Isabel huffed, confused.
"Maybe I have other things on my mind. Other issues." Maria took a deep breath and muttered, "Other people."
Letting loose her grip, Isabel slid her hand down her friend's arm. It was more of a caress, really, the palm of her hand hovering over Maria's skin with her fingers trailing lightly behind. Maria could hardly breathe and Isabel, well, Isabel was doing all she could to keep from falling into Maria. With every breath Maria allowed, Isabel's heart raced faster. Her fingers glided over Maria's wrists and across her palms where they remained, delicately stroking the soft skin.
"What ~" Maria choked.
"What what?" Isabel asked, with a hint of nervousness.
"What are we doing?" Maria looked up into the other girl's eyes, her own filled with fear, lust and anticipation. "What are we doing, Isabel?"
"I don't know." Isabel admitted. "But I don't think we want to do it here."
"Well, I think that's it," Maria sighed, closing the cupboard.
"Are you sure?" Isabel asked as pulled the chair out to sit in. "Or do you want to rearrange the refrigerator for the fourteenth time?"
"Twice. I did it twice. Okay, maybe three times."
Laughing, Isabel watched as the girl boosted herself up on one of the counters. It was easy to tease Maria, but she understood the jittery nervousness her friend felt. For the past hour they had easily managed to avoid the subject that had brought them both back to the DeLuca house. Alone.
The sound of Maria's feet rhythmically bouncing off the lower cabinets echoed throughout the room. She leaned her head against one of the top doors and closed her eyes. "So, is it a weekly event -- an alien-family grocery shopping trip?"
"No... but I couldn't bear the state of Michael's apartment anymore. There's nothing other than cereal to eat, and my mother has made a couple of comments about him and his apparent affair with our laundry room. I figured it'd be best to just get him his own detergent, at least."
"Ah yes, Michael's never been one to catch on to the obvious, has he?"
Isabel got up and walked over to her friend. "Are you okay? I mean... with the whole Michael thing?"
Opening her eyes, Maria took a deep breath. "The Michael thing -- or the Courtney and Michael thing?"
"It's okay..." The girl dragged her legs up and crossed them on the counter below her. "I mean, what can I do? I love him. And, with all the things he's said, he still chooses to be with someone else."
"But you love him." Isabel stated flatly, thinking of the implications of the admission.
"I do," Maria nodded.
"Maybe..." Tucking a few errant locks of hair around Maria's ear, Isabel cocked her head and smiled. "Maybe he'll..."
Before she could continue, Maria grasped her friend's hand and pressed it against her cheek. She closed her eyes again, her fingertips stroking the back of Isabel's palm. "And maybe I don't want him to."
With her breath caught in her throat, Isabel stepped closer, feeling Maria's knee dig into her. Her free hand boldly pushed Maria's feet down again and she almost fell into her friend -- intoxicated by the musky scent Maria was wearing. But it was more than just that -- the space between them felt closed in, without being claustrophobic. The air had no place to go, as soon as Maria breathed out, Isabel breathed in.
Pressing her forehead against Maria's, Isabel waited only a moment before acting. It was her way of taking control -- not of the situation or her friend -- but of her emotions, her desires. The past night was a sleepless one, filled with sensual imaginings and vivid visions. It was all she could do not to dreamwalk to see if Maria was experiencing the same.
Raising her hand to Maria's other cheek, Isabel touched her lips to her friend's and waited for a reaction. Maria's legs wrapped around her waist, and she took that as an urge to continue. Crushing against Maria, she captured her lower lip between her teeth and pulled back a bit. Maria gasped in pleasure, and buried her fingers in Isabel's hair, drawing her back.
The sensation of another woman's lips, touch, caress brought each of them the comfort that they had been separately seeking. But there was still the fire, Maria thought, and she decided then and there that she would probably never bother kissing another human again. This was addictive, and strange as it was to admit it, it was better. Because with Isabel, the pride slipped away. Neither of them fought for dominance or leverage. They just...
'Just what?' Isabel tried to determine as Maria's tongue pushed past her lips. She wondered what the thoughts flying through her head meant -- they certainly weren't her own, not that she was complaining. Were these the flashes that Michael and Max spoke of? But she didn't see anything... it was just words. Not really words, but ideas, concepts, feelings. And she felt it all.