By Kate Bolin
Mirages often appeared in the desert, the shimmering waves of heat rising off of the flat ground causing illusions to appear. During the dead of August in Roswell, the harsh light of day shaped a fantasy world against the rusty brown earth.
Isabel saw these mirages. Every day, she saw them, Michael and Max, laughing and waving towards her, gesturing for her to come to them, to come out in the desert, walking further and further until she died of dehydration, of hunger, of loneliness.
Tess and Liz had already left Roswell, searching for the two boys, lost along with them. The boys had disappeared several months ago in the search for Nasedo, the search for the one that held the answers, and Isabel hoped, beyond all hope, that they had found him, and that they had simply forgot to return, amazed by the wonders that surrounded them.
She hoped that they were enjoying themselves.
She hoped they were still alive.
Maria wiped down another table, her back moving from "slight twinge" to "dull ache" as she bent down to pick up an errant french fry. Her hair was sticky with sweat underneath her deelie-bob headband, and she could feel the sunlight from the window hitting the back of her neck, almost as if the skin was being slowly singed.
Or perhaps it was Isabel's eyes, staring at her from across the street.
Maria cursed, pulled the headband from her hair, and stomped out of the cafe, looking directly at Isabel. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she shouted, growing louder with every step towards the taller girl.
Isabel looked down at the ground. "I..."
"I thought I made myself clear last time." Maria took a deep breath. "Stop. Coming. Here. Don't ever come to the Crashdown again, don't ever go anywhere near Michael's place, and, most importantly, don't ever even THINK about coming near me. You got that?"
Isabel continued to keep her head down, refusing to look at Maria.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's your fault they left," Maria spat out, then walked back into the cafe.
"I'm sorry," Isabel whispered to the ground, never looking up. "I'm sorry."
A key sat on top of the doorframe of Michael's front door, covered in cobwebs and dust, but still there, still cool and firm under Isabel's fingers. And the door still opened, pushing faint breezes into the stuffy apartment.
Isabel walked in, touching everything with just her fingertips, trying to remember what it was like so long ago, when the three of them were as one -- family, siblings even, joined together against the world.
Her eyes closed tightly, trying to stop the tears. She continued to walk around, her hands sliding from object to object, until, finally, she walked into the bedroom. She couldn't hold the tears back now, thick sweet drops falling from her eyes as she laid down on Michael's bed, sobbing and remembering, praying to anything out there that would listen that her that her brothers were safe, were happy, would return to her and to the ones they loved. She offered herself, to whichever deity required a sacrifice, if only they would return. And finally, slowly, her eyes closed, dark lashes falling, and she drifted off to sleep, her tears drying on her cheeks.
Maria unlocked the front door with her keys, pressed into her hands by Michael before he took off to seek his fortune, and walked into the small apartment she had been living in, if living was the word for it. Preserving it, maybe, like a museum shrine to the relationship that once was.
She kicked off her sneakers, undid the aqua green blouse, and walked into the bedroom, flicking on the lights as she moved to the closet.
The soft gasp was the first indication there was someone else in the room. Maria whirled around, pulling her blouse over her bra in surprise. Her eyes narrowed as she saw who else was in the room. "You fucking bitch!" she shouted, jumping onto the bed in anger. "I told you to stay away!"
Maria began to hit Isabel, over and over, her fists striking out randomly, sobbing as she hit. "It's your fault!" she shrieked. "You could have gone with them! You should have gone with them! They'd still be alive if you had! They would have returned! I wouldn't be alone! It's your fault! It's all your fault!"
"No!" Isabel shouted, struggling under the smaller girl. She reached out and grabbed Maria by the upper arms, trying to restrain her.
Maria attempted a few more punches, then slumped, sobbing. "It's your fault..." she whispered between sobs. "It's all your fault..."
Isabel looked at Maria. "I know..." she said in a soft whisper. "It is my fault..." She broke down, tears running down her face again. "It's all my fault...I should've gone with them..." She released Maria's arms and put her head on the other girl's shoulder. "It's my fault...all my fault..."
Maria looked down at Isabel, then slowly, gently, put her arms around the other girl, and whispered "Shhh" softly, still sobbing quietly. Isabel's arms wrapped around Maria and pulled her closer, hugging her tightly as they grieved.
The two women gradually stopped sobbing, but still held each other close, arms wrapped around the other in a tight embrace, heads resting on shoulders, breasts pressed against breasts....
Maria pulled back, suddenly, realizing what she was doing. "I...I'm sorry..." she said quickly. "I didn't..." She trailed off as she looked into Isabel's eyes.
"Maria," Isabel's voice was soft, barely above a tender whisper. "Maria, please..." She leaned forward just a little, just far enough to kiss Maria delicately.
Maria pulled back in a millisecond of surprise, then deepened the kiss, wrapping her arms around Isabel's neck as she opened her mouth to Isabel's lips. The short almost innocent kiss lengthened, Isabel's hands stroking up and down Maria's back, tracing her spine with finely manicured nails as Maria ran her fingers through the fine hairs on Isabel's neck, her chewed jagged nails scratching along delicate skin.
Maria pulled back away from the kiss and looked into Isabel's eyes. "I..." She swallowed, searching for the words. "I...um..."
Isabel shook her head. "Don't say anything," she said softly. "I know..." She kissed Maria again and slowly leaned back onto the bed.
The first rays of sunlight slipped over the sleepy desert town. A single beam hit Maria's face and she slowly woke up. She felt Isabel's arm draped across her waist, and slowly moved it to the bed before getting out from between the faded sheets. She grabbed a thin robe and walked across the small apartment, opening the windows to get the brief moment of cool breeze before the sun burnt the ground dry.
As she moved into the kitchen, opening the single window before turning on the coffee maker, Isabel came in from the bedroom. "I..." Isabel said in a low, vaguely hoarse voice. "I shouldn't have come here..."
Maria looked at the other woman, taking in the tousled hair, the curvy body under a beat-up t-shirt of Michael's she must have taken from the dresser, and, most importantly, the look of apology on her face, the concern, the feeling. Maria looked into Isabel's eyes and replied softly. "No...you should have come earlier..."