Author's Note: See part 1 for disclaimers and notes. This is part 3/4.
Feedback: Please! I'd really like to know what you think.
Today will be my first day back at school and I can't figure out what to do with my hair. The thought makes me laugh; it's nice that some things are still the same. I turn towards the mirror. And stop when I see the reflection.
I stare hard at the girl in the mirror. I know she's me, Liz Parker. But she isn't. At least, she isn't the Liz Parker I'm used to seeing. Her skin is pale and there are lines she shouldn't have at her age; both are remnants of the week she spent in a coma. But it's her eyes that really throw me, that tell me I'm looking at a stranger. Those aren't my eyes; they *can't* be.
My eyes are bright and cheerful and curious and probing. Hers are sad and quiet and knowing and pained and all sorts of other emotions I can't quite figure out. Her eyes speak of love and loss on a scale I can't even begin to imagine. Except, I did.
I turn away from the mirror, just as I do every time. Just as I have every one of the three days I've been home. Home. While I was in the hospital, I longed to return here. Where things were normal, where I wouldn't be haunted by the memories in my head. The ones that don't exist.
But things didn't quite work out that way. Home wasn't the way I left it. Flowers and balloons and cards filled almost every room. My hospital room had filled rapidly, so my parents brought the rest home. It turns out that my getting shot was the biggest thing to happen in Roswell since the Crash in '47. Nice distinction, huh? An argument between two strangers and everything changes. Anyway, Mom told me the outpouring of support from the town was overwhelming.
There were well wishes from random strangers, too. The young couple I'd been helping right before the shooting, the one I had just shown the "I-really-shouldn't-show-anyone-this-but-my-grandma-took-it" fake alien picture, had sent a get-well card from the UFO museum gift shop. That had made me laugh.
My bedroom has fewer of the flower arrangements, but it has more memories. Everywhere I look I see reminders of events that never happened. Max tapping gently on my window. Michael burning with an unnatural fever. Future Max giving me the wedding dance I would never have. I choke on a sob; was that a clue? A hint I was supposed to identify in the little world I created? I decide to leave my hair down and turn my attention to my school supplies.
Home isn't the sanctuary I had hoped it would be. That was one of the reasons I had argued to be allowed to go back to school. I couldn't spend day after day with those memories, with nothing, no school, no work, to distract me. My parents argued that it was too soon; I convinced them to talk to the doctors. They hadn't been thrilled with the idea, but had agreed on the condition that I take it easy and come home early if it proved to be too much. I thanked them politely and didn't tell them that sitting at home was getting to be too much.
"Liz!" I jump when I hear my dad's voice from downstairs. "Maria's here."
"Tell her I'll be right down." Maria's mom had agreed to lend her the car so she could drive me to school. I know there are going to be a lot of stares and whispers to deal with, being the girl who got shot. I don't want to add to them by being the girl whose parents drove her to school, too.
I'm barely out of Maria's little Jetta when it begins. I was right about the stares and whispers. What I hadn't expected were the hugs. Well-meaning people I've barely spoken to in all of my years in school are almost waiting in line to talk to me or touch me or stare at me as we make our way into the school. The hallways are lined as I approach my locker.
And everyone's asking questions. Lots of questions. Ones I can't answer. Or don't know how to. For so long I was conditioned not to say anything because, after Max healed me, the shooting never officially happened. But it was the shooting not happening that didn't happen. I close my eyes. I've been trying to wrap my mind around that for days, and it still doesn't feel right.
But there's one question they ask more than the others. And if I hear it one more time, I'm going to scream. "What does it feel like to get shot?" What do they think it feels like? It hurts like hell, that's what it feels like. If I could, I'd be more than willing to trade places and let them experience it.
It still hurts, which is why Kyle meets me at my locker. He's being a great boyfriend. Or un-boyfriend. Or whatever. Anyway, he's being solicitous and caring and nice. And it's driving me crazy. But I do accept his offer to carry my books. The doctors warned me about pulling my stitches, so I'm trying to be careful.
As we walk to homeroom, Kyle and I pass Max and Michael. Michael looks so different than from what I remember. His hair is still spiky and I like it so much better than when it was long. And I hadn't realized how much Michael had relaxed in the last year. He looks so guarded now. I shake my head. It's so hard to remember that none of that happened. That Michael didn't comfort me when Pierce took Max. That he hadn't gradually come to accept me as part of the group. That I've never been to his apartment or to the trailer he shared with Hank. I don't know if there even *is* a Hank.
And Max. Max looks the same as always -- warm and strong and a little mysterious. It's all I can do not to throw myself into his arms. To press my lips to his and see if the flashes flow between us. I wonder what he'd do if I really did that. Probably push away the stranger in his arms. Or Kyle would pull me away, wondering why the hell I'm kissing a stranger in the hallway. I clench my fists and keep walking.
As we pass, I remember Max and Michael in the Crashdown just before the shooting. They were sitting in a booth and Maria made some comment about Max staring at me again. So we aren't total strangers, right? I'm glad at least one of my memories is real. Isn't it? It's getting harder for me to keep track.
I've made it through half the day. All my teachers have been really solicitous, inquiring about my health, giving me plenty of time to catch up on my homework. And, while it hasn't been all that bad, I've had a few problems. Nothing I can't handle. I hope. But I'm glad it's lunch time; I need to see some friendly faces, need to be with people who aren't treating me like a freak or an invalid.
Maria and I are meeting Alex for lunch. Kyle isn't around to carry my books, so my backpack is slung over my left shoulder and Maria hovers on my right, protecting me from jostling students. Before I realize what's happening, she pauses and my side is left open. Someone bumps into me and I want to scream as pain radiates through me. I gasp and double over. Maria is back at my side in an instant.
"Liz, are you ok?"
I nod. I can't speak; I have to catch my breath.
"Bitch." I can't believe the venom in her voice.
I give her a questioning look when I manage to stand again.
She points towards a golden head bobbing above the other students. Isabel? Isabel had bumped into me and hadn't even bothered to apologize? I know she had resented me in the beginning, but I thought we were starting to become friends. When we dreamwalked together while Max was in New--
I want to scream again, this time in frustration. I've never met Isabel Evans. I know who she is, of course; everyone knows the blonde goddess of West Roswell High. And the Crashdown has occasionally been "honored" by her presence. But I don't know her. She's just another stranger in a sea of strangers.
"Some people just don't have any manners, I guess." I think there's something in my voice; Maria gives me an odd look. I need to get away from here. I need to escape these crowded hallways. School hasn't proved any more of a haven than home; I need to regroup. "C'mon, let's go to lunch."
Perchance: 1 - Awakening / 2 - Time / 3 - Strangers / 4 - Focus
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