Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: Since Roswell hasn't given us much background on the Parker family, I thought I'd make it up. I mean, why *do* the Parkers own the Crashdown anyway?
Feedback: Always welcome!
The party was in full swing; the dance floor was packed with men in uniforms and women in their summer finest. It was July in New Mexico and the summer heat, combined with the press of so many bodies, was oppressive. Claudia tried to make her way unobserved to the nearest door. She longed for the fresh night air and for a chance to rest her feet. Out here in the desert, men still out-numbered women and her dance-card had been filled before the first song had ended. A veteran of many dances, Claudia had reserved two spaces on her card for Dave Smith, an imaginary admirer. She used these empty dances to escape.
Inching along the wall, she finally made it to the door. Outside, the music from the band was still loud and she could barely hear herself think. She stepped away from the building, stepped outside the circle cast by the lights, and found the low wall behind the community center. The music was barely audible now in the background. She lowered herself to the stone wall and hugged her knees to her chest. Here in the dark, with the music far away, the lights no longer blocking the stars, Claudia finally relaxed. Her lungs filled with the night air and she could feel the tension slip away.
She liked the dances, really she did. Moving to the music, flirting with the men, it was fun. But everyone expected that to be *all* she did, flirt and dance. But she wanted more. She wanted to learn, to see the world. She had been too young to join the nursing units during the war, too young to serve her country on the fronts. Instead, she had rolled bandages after school for the Red Cross.
Everything was going to change this summer though, she just knew it. She'd graduated from high school a month before and had all summer to consider her opportunities. Mr. Jacobs at the drug store had offered her a job working at the counter. Rosalie Myers had asked her to work as the receptionist at the beauty parlor. But the job she really wanted, the one she thought offered the best possibilities, was as a civilian office assistant on the military base. She'd have a chance to work with new people, experience new things. Her parents weren't thrilled with the idea, but she was sure she could convince them. She would just-
A hand on her shoulder made her jump. "I was wondering where you'd gotten to." She smiled as she recognized her father's voice. He seated himself next to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. "You shouldn't be alone out here."
"I just needed some air," she said, as she leaned into his strength. "I wanted to enjoy the wide open space, look at the stars." She turned to him. "Do you think there's life out there? Somewhere among the stars?"
He smiled, his self-indulgent-father smile. "Don't be silly, sweetheart. Oh, look, there's a shooting star. Make a wish." His free hand pointed into the night sky.
Claudia looked into the distance. A brilliant light streaked across the sky. A shooting star except, except it didn't look quite right. She closed her eyes and made a wish anyway, a wish for something different, for an exciting life.
When she opened her eyes, she could just barely hear the band play the last strains of the song. Her father took her hand. "We should probably get back inside. I can't shirk my chaperone duties for too long. And I'm sure there's a young man waiting to dance with you." She allowed her father to help her to her feet and lead her back to the building. Just before she stepped back into the circle of light, Claudia turned her head to look back to where the shooting star had been. The brilliant light still hung in the sky. She gasped, but then the lights of the dance swallowed it up.
Claudia snuggled her youngest son on her lap. Jeff was a surprise baby; she'd been almost thirty when she had discovered she was pregnant again. The other children were already in school and her husband was on the road so often, she enjoyed having someone at home with her during the day. Especially this time, the minutes just before she put him down for a nap.
"A story. Tell me a story, momma."
Claudia smoothed back his hair. "What story would you like, sweetie?"
"Tell me about the star that crashed."
Claudia smiled. Jeff loved to hear about the crash of '47, the one shrouded in secret. Weather balloon, meteorite, alien spaceship, no one really knew the truth. But she did, Claudia thought, she did. The day after she'd seen the shooting star that wasn't a shooting star, her little piece of desert had been thrown into an uproar. Military officials closed down all roads leading to the ranch where the object had crashed and caravans of army vehicles moved from the site to the base. The decision about her future had been made for her. With all available personnel off-base, and the phone ringing off the hook, the base had needed extra hands. She had been placed on the phones, answering questions with a script. No, it wasn't an alien attack. Yes, something had crashed, an experimental weather balloon. No, it was nothing to be concerned with. But she'd seen the looks on their faces, heard their whispered conversations. Something had happened, something big.
Jeff tugged on her hand. "Momma?"
Claudia shook herself free of her memories. "Okay, okay," she said with a smile in her voice. "One night in July in Roswell, New Mexico--" She told the story with set words; Jeff knew the story by heart and wouldn't hesitate to correct her. "--and ever since then, people have talked about aliens living in Roswell."
Jeff's sleepy voice asked the question he asked every time. "Have you ever seen a spaceman, Momma?"
"Nope, I never saw a spaceman, sweetie. But I know they're out there." She slid him off her lap and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Now you need to go to sleep."
"Okay," he murmured, his eyes fluttering closed as his head touched the pillow. Claudia sat by his bed a moment longer. She'd never seen a spaceman, but she wanted to. Oh, how she wanted to.
"You want to do what?!" Nancy Parker looked at her husband of two years. "A restaurant? You never said anything about wanting to own a restaurant before."
Jeff ran a hand through his hair and tried to hide his frustration. He didn't know how to explain it; the little café in Roswell was a cherished part of his past. He'd worked there after school, taken his first date there, partied there before his senior prom. And now it was up for sale. Why couldn't Nancy understand that?
"You liked Roswell when we visited my parents there. It's a small town, a great place to raise a family."
"But we have a great life here in Albuquerque. And we haven't even *talked* about raising a family yet." A restaurant? She'd worked her way through college waiting tables; that wasn't exactly what she had planned for the rest of her life. "I thought you liked working at the paper."
Jeff snorted. "I take ads. I'm stuck in the basement, I barely see a living person all day long. It's awful; I've only stayed there for the money and the benefits. A restaurant would be a great change. Be our own bosses, meet all sorts of new people. And I could be close to my parents. Dad isn't doing all that well, you know. I'd like to spend more time with him. I didn't see that much of him when I was a kid; he was always on the road."
Nancy sighed. That was probably the most convincing argument for the move Jeff could have made. She'd lost her parents while she was in college; she'd give anything to have had a chance to spend more time with them. "Okay, I guess I can survive a move to Roswell." Jeff swept her into his arms, pressing little kisses all over her face and mouth. "Thank you, thank you; you're the best wife ever."
"You'd better remember that." She grasped his cheeks in both hands and looked into his eyes. "But please tell me you weren't serious about an alien-themed café. Please?"
Jeff sprawled next to Liz on her bed. He flipped the pages as his little girl read the captions beneath the pictures. While other girls were reading fairy tales, Liz read science books. "'Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. It has point one five times the mass of Earth.' What's mass, Daddy?"
"What do we do when we don't know a word, Lizzie?"
"Look it up. In the dictionary?" she asked.
"Actually, this book has a glossary in back that tells you what some of the words mean."
Liz flipped to the back of the book. Her small finger slid over the list of words until she found "mass." She read the definition. "'The physical bulk of a solid body.' Is that like weight?"
"Kinda, Lizzie." Jeff hoped she didn't ask more questions. He hadn't taken a science class since high school.
Liz was about to turn back to the page on Mars, when another word caught her eye. "'Meteorite. Remains of a meteor that reaches the Earth's surface.'" She looked at Jeff with a question in her eyes.
"They're also called shooting stars, Lizzie."
Liz nodded solemnly. "Have you ever seen a shooting star, Daddy?"
Jeff nodded. "They're easy to see when you live away from the city. There are no lights to block out the stars. Your Grandma Claudia saw a famous one once. But it wasn't even a shooting star. It was something else, something *very* special."
Liz closed the book and waited for her dad to tell her the story. Grandma Claudia always had great stories, but Liz didn't remember anything about a shooting star. Jeff told his daughter the story his mother had told him many times.
When he finished, Liz was quiet for a long time. Finally, she asked him a question. "Do you believe it, Daddy?"
Jeff nodded. "I do; your grandma is a very smart lady. She wouldn't make up a story like that."
Liz nodded. That made sense. "Do you think we'll ever meet aliens?"
Jeff smoothed Liz's hair. "I think someday we'll meet aliens. When we're ready to meet them."
Behind them, Liz's mom laughed. They turned to see her standing in the doorway. "Jeff, what are you doing telling her stories like that? It's bad enough she lives in a town that's famous for an alien spaceship crash and that her parents own a restaurant decorated with an alien theme. Now you want to fill her head with silly stories about meeting one someday? I think you've lived here too long."
She shook her head, a smile on her face. "Anyway, it's dinner time, you two. Come downstairs and we'll try the new 'Sigourney Weaver burger' the cook created. Meeting an alien, indeed." She laughed again and moved out of Liz's room.
Jeff and Liz looked at each other. "I believe you, Daddy," she said. And some day she'd find proof.
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