“What did they do?” he asked quickly, clearly relishing the latest twist in her story.
Liz opened her mouth to speak, then giggled and hummed the opening bars to ‘Mission Impossible’.
He laughed in anticipation. “What did you do?”
“Played along … for a little while.”
“I’m telling you, there’s something strange going on,” Max urged. “We’re having a meeting at the Crashdown.”
Michael groaned, but secretly he had to admit he was curious and worried. “Okay,” he grumbled. “I’ll be right over.”
Isabel, Alex, Kyle and Tess beat him there, and the seven of them conferred quietly at a booth in the corner so Maria could keep an eye on her section while Max explained what they saw.
“Did she see you?” Tess asked. “Does she know that you saw him or that he saw you?”
“I don’t think so,” and Maria shook her head in agreement before running off to grab someone’s order from the kitchen.
“Then we shouldn’t confront her tonight,” Tess decided.
“What? Why not?” Michael said.
“Because we should follow her tomorrow when she goes off to do whatever it is she’s been doing for the past two months,” Alex explained reasonably.
“Oh. Okay. Who’ll go?”
“I will,” Max said immediately, but Tess shook her head.
“We should all go, in case we have to split up to follow both of them, or in case any of us get spotted and has to leave.”
Everyone nodded, and agreed to meet after school the next day to follow Liz.
And nearby, Liz pulled off the hat and jacket she’d used to disguise herself before coming back to the restaurant. She watched them leave with a thoughtful look on her face. So it was going to be tomorrow, was it? She was relieved.
Her spirits lifted, just knowing that soon, she would feel the weight of her burden taken off her lonely shoulders. And in her delight, she giggled suddenly, and felt reawakening within herself a desire for a little … fun.
“Just a little,” she promised herself.
“I know I shouldn’t have, Father,” Liz admitted. “But I’d been under so much stress, and–”
“It’s all right, child,” he told her. “I understand. You had to stage it so that they’d accept your secret immediately, and hopefully they’d be so impressed that no one would remember to be angry, was that it?”
“That was it exactly,” she said, gratefully. It really did help to hear someone else say it, without the judgmental tone she worried that she might deserve.
“Did it work?”
“Oh, yes – for the most part. Monique was the most upset, but later she told me that she actually had a lot of fun.” Liz giggled. “It probably helped that Mi-itchell gets very protective when he thinks she’s in danger, so she enjoys every opportunity they get to play spy together. The way she told it later, he held her hand for entire minutes on end while they were following me.”
They met after school, and tried to be inconspicuous about following Liz as she set out on foot. They were soon frustrated, however, because she didn’t seem to be going anywhere. She stopped to look at every street display, peered inside every storefront window, and greeted people all along the street. When she did go into a store, she came back out almost immediately with only a bottle of water, which she drank while sitting on a bench and gazing in endless fascination at a tree across the street. Puzzled and increasingly impatient, they eagerly stood when she stood, only to watch her dawdle outside a hardware store, seemingly intrigued by some fishing line on sale.
Finally, just as they were about to give up, she stepped inside a doorway and this time she didn’t come out. Creeping forward, they saw her greet a young woman with a toddler. The young woman nodded agreeably at something Liz said and disappeared through a door at the back of the fair-sized sports supply store. A young man came out, and Liz accompanied him through a different door.
“That’s him!” Maria whispered, and Max’s features tightened imperceptively.
“Let’s follow them before that woman comes back,” Isabel urged. Moving quickly they ran inside and, constantly looking about, filed through the door and up a few stairs into a hallway, completely overlooking the tiny figure hidden behind the door and listening intently.
“What is this place?” Maria asked quietly, as they discovered a room full of exercise equipment and mats. Everything was well used but appeared serviceable. Finally Isabel looked inside one door to find a class in progress. They joined her at the doorway and peered inside.
“Maybe Liz is taking karate,” Alex suggested doubtfully. This place looked serious. It didn’t look anything like the friendly exercise classes his mother attended at the ‘Y’. This class was made up completely of adults, for one thing, and they looked very serious about what they were doing. The seven friends watched in awe, never noticing the shadow of a figure slipping past them to disappear into another room.
Soon the unmistakeable sound of Liz’s voice cut through the air, and they followed its sound like dogs on a scent.
“I’d really like to try it again,” she was saying, and they peeked through an open door at the end of the hall into a mid-sized training room. “I need to work on my foot placement.”
Liz walked towards a mat in the centre of the room, shucking her street clothes to reveal a full-length bodysuit and facing off against Jay, who seemed to loom menacingly over her in form-fitting cotton sweats. They nodded shortly at each other.
Then, as her friends watched in amazement, the two of them started laying into each other in a bizarre but graceful dance of violence. Michael had to hold Max back as Jay got in a painful-looking blow, but Max stopped struggling when Liz rolled with the punch, taking a couple giant strides away from Jay. Grabbing a pole off the floor, she launched herself against the wall, using her momentum to “run” partway up it and push off in a back flip that landed her on Jay’s shoulders, knocking him to the ground. In a flash she had him pinned, holding his arm at an angle that was obviously painful and restricted his ability to fight back. The pole clattered to the ground beside them.
“Think she'd teach me how to do that?” Kyle murmured.
Just as the group started to breath again, Jay seemed to wriggle and Liz crashed down, hard. But by the time he had stood up, flexing his arm and shoulder, she had rebounded to her feet and, ignoring a new and bloody gash on her shoulder, she threw herself at him again, this time wielding the pole as an offensive weapon. Jay managed to deflect her lunge and dove into a roll that carried him past her and over to a pole himself.
Then the two of them came together, grunting as wood clashed and body parts thudded on impact.
Finally Liz jammed an elbow in Jay’s side, twisted her pole in a way that somehow propelled his out of his grasp and then hooked it behind his knees, sweeping him off his feet. He lay there on the floor, panting harshly, and she stood over him with the pole lodged against his neck and a deadly serious expression on her face.
“Oh god,” Maria almost panicked. Liz looked like she was ready to kill the guy.
Then a wide grin lit up her face and she leaned down to help him up.
Jay accepted her hand but yanked her down instead, and she collapsed on the mat next to him, both laughing heartily.
Her friends looked at each other in confusion.
“What’d so funny?” Michael asked.
“Shhh – they’re talking,” Max said, and they strained to hear. It wasn’t difficult because Liz spoke loudly. She was panting, but not entirely winded.
“Well, Jay, I think we put on quite a show. What do you think?”
He responded by laughing, which made it harder for him to recover his own breath. “I think so, Liz.”
“But it’s hard to tell, when you’re in the middle of it,” she informed him. And then, as if inspired, she suggested, “maybe we should get some feedback from the audience!”
And as her friends watched, she rolled onto her stomach and propped herself up so she was looking straight at them with an impish smile.
“I still don’t completely understand why didn’t you just tell them,” he asked, still chuckling from the mental image.
“Tell them about the lessons?”
Liz looked down at her hands. They looked so small and so soft; in the dim light, you couldn’t see the marks and scars that told the story of her life.
“I knew they wouldn’t believe me if I just told them,” she said. “I had to show them, and I had to let them find out on their own terms. That’s why I asked Jordan to go into the back room.”
“Right, right,” and she knew he was nodding in comprehension. “To give them a chance ‘sneak’ in and follow you upstairs?”
She nodded. “Yup, I know my friends, all right. I knew they couldn’t resist the opportunity.”
“Are they so predictable in all their decisions, then?”
“Not anymore,” she answered with a fierce grin. “I broke them of that habit quickly, let me tell you!”
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|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|