Houses Within Houses

I'm living three different lives now. One within the other, like rings circling the center of a tree.

In the first, the one that most people see, I'm the same Liz. I wait tables at the crashdown, hang out with Maria, I'm on the college track, and if I keep it up, I might make something of myself.

In the second, three of my friends are aliens, I'm in love with one of them and I'm constantly covering my tracks from the town sheriff, the FBI and whoever else may be watching.

And in the third - the innermost ring - I'm with Michael.

Nobody knows about that. Except me and him. We can't let them find out.

As Isabel so often says in far less precarious circumstances, it would change everything. In this case, it really would. Max would never be able to forgive either of us, and Maria...

I try not to think about it. About what I'm doing. What both of us are doing.

It's easier to forget when it's just the two of us. Then I can't remember why we spend so many hours pretending, making sure they don't guess, that they don't even suspect.

I've never done anything like this. Some days I don't know how to handle it. Michael helps, though. He tells me it's none of their business. And it's not like we can stop, anyway.

It's not that simple.

So I have three lives, and two journals. One for my life with Max, and the other for Michael.

I hope I can keep this up.


I knew I was babbling. I couldn't help it. I was desperate to not say anything about Michael.

"- we always knew that it couldn't be, that it was this total impossibility, so I'm glad that we were both able to finally just, you know, get it out there."

"Liz," Maria said, looking worried. "the glass is clean."

"Right. Look. I mean -" Don't. Say. Anything. "- sure, you get caught up in the excitement of it all, but...I'm over it."

"Are you sure?"

She was worried. About me.

About my breakup with Max.

I felt terrible.

"'Cause it seems like you kind of got over it pretty quickly."

If she only knew - "There's just no reason to let it fester, you know? You gotta just move on and-- and not look back." Make the coffee. Make the coffee. Make the coffee.

" - so, you're not hurt."


"Well, by the way it happened. I mean, it kind of seems like it was more his decision than yours."

Oh, God. How am I going to do this?

"No, not at all. Ok? I mean...yes, technically, he is the one who ended it, but - it was," Focus, Liz. Focus. "- it was, like, 90% mutual."

"Liz, that's enough coffee."

I looked. The filter was overflowing.

"Yeah," I stammered. Get a hold of yourself. You told Michael you could do this. "- okay."

Were there customers? Surely there had to be customers. I went out to the dining area, away from Maria and her questions and the cold, hard reality that I was cheating with my best friend's love interest.

You can do this, Liz. I took a deep breath and pulled out my order pad. You can do this.


I was at school, trying not to think about Michael, when I saw him.

Talking with Max.

I stopped breathing. Michael gestured at me and Maria, turned back to Max, who wasn't saying anything.

He couldn't be telling him.

Calm down, Liz. Just go over and find out.

Maria went with me.

"Hey," I said.

"Hey," Max said.

Michael didn't even look at me.

He said hi. To Maria. "Yeah, whatever," she said. They both left in opposite directions.

Leaving me with Max.

This day was just pure torture.

"So," he said. "How's it goin'?"

What did Michael tell me?

"Make a lie as close to the truth as possible. It's easier to remember."

"It's great," I said. "It's,'s really great."


I couldn't move.

"So, um..." he looked at me blankly. " know, about the game today and the fact that we all have seats together?"

That was stupid. Of course he knew.

"You know, the way that I see it, it's just a basketball game." Stop babbling. Stop babbling. "We'll go, and we'll watch, and then we'll leave. It doesn't have to be a big deal.

"It doesn't - have to be this whole awkward thing."

"Hey," someone said. It was Kyle.

Okay, two exes and one secret lover in three minutes was just about all I could take.

I walked towards class. Breathe, Liz, you can do this, you can -

Somebody slammed into me. Hard. "Ow!"

"Sorry," the guy mumbled. He kept moving and his head was down. I didn't even see his face.

Jerk, I thought, rubbing my shoulder. This day was way too much stress. I was gonna fail that chemistry test. Michael coming over last night had completely destroyed any chances for studying, my grades were going to plummet if I wasn't careful, and then goodbye scholarship, goodbye college. My parents would kill me.

It was hard to think about college when Michael was showing up at my room every night.

It was hard to think about anything but that.

I sighed and reached into my pocket, fumbling for an aspirin. My fingers touched something soft.

I frowned a little, and pulled. A little wedge of paper, folded up. I opened it up.

"Eraser room. Sixth period."

I looked back after the guy who had shoved me. He was gone.

Sixth period. My chemistry class.

Nice, Michael.


"I can't stay," I said. "I'm missing a chemistry test."

"Whatever," he said, checking the hallway. "Max's Mom saw him use his powers."


"There was a fire in the kitchen," he muttered. "Idiot."

"Is she alright? Is he alright?"

"Oh yeah," he said. "Peachy. Totally copasetic. Did you hear what I said? She knows. We're going to have to leave."


"Leave, Liz. Leave Roswell. We can't trust her," he said. "The three of us are gonna have to run."

"No," I said.

"Liz, don't be like this -"

"Michael, what if - what if your people come for you and you're not here?" I grabbed at his jacket. "Maybe she didn't really see anything. Maybe she thinks she hallucinated, because of endorphins, or, or smoke, or something." I was reaching. I knew it. "Look, Michael, you can't go running off whenever you think somebody might know."

"C'mere." He said, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. I felt so safe like that. Like nothing could hurt me.

What was I going to do if he left?

"You're not going anywhere," I whispered. He didn't say anything.

"Michael, come on," I said, pulling back and looking up at him. "Tell me you're not leaving."

He was exasperated, looking at the walls, the ceiling before coming back to me. "I can't tell you that, Liz. I don't know what's going to happen."

I didn't know what to say. I bit my lower lip.

"Don't do that," he said, touching my face.


"That - lip thing," he said. "You only do that when you're worried."

He knew that?

"So, give me a reason to not worry."

He took in a deep breath and let it all out at once, then pulled me back in to hold me. "Maybe you're right," he said, giving me a light kiss on the forehead. "Maybe it's nothing."

"What do we do now?"

"Nothing," he said. "Act like nothing's happened." He narrowed his eyes and looked at me more closely. "You alright?"

"Sure," I said bitterly. "Just, you know, learning the ropes of this lying thing."

"Do you see another alternative?"

"Besides just flat-out stopping, you mean?"

"You want to consider that an alternative?"

I tried not to smile. "No," I said.

He smiled back. "Alright then," he said. "Go back to class. I'll see you at the game."


I stormed out of the shop class, into the hallway.

Calm down, Guerin.

Napkin dispenser. Was she delirious? The sides were uneven, the edges were all wrong, and -

"- we saved your ass. Ok? You were all flunked out, sweating, you know, running 112-degree temperature and, like, dying."

I was running down the hall. I punched the school's front doors and ran out of the building.

"- I went out on a limb for you -"

"- and it's all about the three of you -"

All about the three of you.

I was risking all of that. For Liz.

Liz, no one can know.

"- were you even gonna thank me?"

I cared about her. I really did.

It wasn't going to be enough for her.

No one can know.

"Thank you."

"It's too late, pal."

It wasn't going to be enough.

Liz stepped back from the circle because she was afraid I'd know how she felt about me. Maria didn't care. Everything about her was straight up. On the surface. Simple.

Why couldn't I want that?

My lungs were on fire. I skidded to a stop, leaning over, hands on my knees, gasping for breath.

"It's too late, pal."

She'd cut me off at every turn. Slapped me down when I told her what she wanted to hear.

I felt the anger boiling up. I straightened.

I didn't owe her an apology. Neither did Liz. Max left her, and technically, Maria and I were never together.


Yeah. Liz and I were both free. We could do whatever we wanted.

When you hide your whole life, lying comes as naturally as breathing.


I was covered in sawdust. My shoulders ached from cutting wood, and the splinters in my fingertips stung when I climbed the fire escape. I looked in the window.

Liz was sitting on her bed, reading her chemistry book. She had the radio on.

"...take care, girl. Alright, you guys know the drill, if you're having problems with your love connection, pick up the phone and tell LadyJ all about it. Easier than talking to your mother and I won't tell you to clean your room. And if your love life's coming up roses, then take your sweetie outside because it a gorgeous night for stargazing, boys and girls, and that always helps. Alright, while we're taking calls, here's the new release from Vertical Horizon. I'm LadyJ, and this is "Everything You Want".

I pushed against the window. It drifted open. "Hey," I said. She looked up.

"Hi," she whispered. Smiled weakly, put her book to the side. I stepped into the room.

"Where've you been?" she said quietly.

"Working on a project."

"For what?"

"For Maria." She looked at me, confused. I shook my head. "Never mind. It's stupid."

"What is it?"

"It's a -" I rolled my eyes. "A napkin holder."

"A napkin holder?"

I nodded. "For Maria?" she asked.


"Okay," she said, squinting her eyes and smiling. "I'll bite. Why are you making restaurant supplies for Maria?"

She had a beautiful smile. I felt my body relax a little.

"I don't know," I said, flopping down on her bed. I felt her fingers lightly stroke my hair.

"Tough day?" she asked.

"You could say that."

"Yeah," she said quietly. "Me too."

"Maria's infuriating."

She laughed.

"No, she is," I said. "She gives me a hard time about helping me out at the reservation, demands to know if I was going to thank her, and when I do, you know what she says?"


"'It's too late, pal.'" I snorted. "What a head case."

"And now you're making a napkin dispenser for her."

"Well, what am I supposed to do, Liz?" I sat up. Her hand fell into her lap. "She cuts me off at every turn, I mean -" I shook my head again. "If I thought there was any chance that she could be, you know, normal about you and me, forget it. That's shot. No way."

"Michael," she said. "It's okay to feel guilty."

"What?" I looked at her. "I don't feel guilty."


"I don't."

"Okay, you don't."

"That's just -" I stood up and paced, hands on my hips. "- that's crazy. Why would I feel guilty?"

"You're making a napkin dispenser," she said, "you definitely feel guilty."

"There's no connec -"

"I brought Kyle some pies today," she said. I stopped and rubbed my forehead.

"Okay, non sequitor, two points for you."


"Nothing," I dropped my hand. "Our next project after Ulysses. Why did you take pies to Kyle?"

She sighed. "I felt bad. He got hurt in the game because, you know, I distracted him."

"Yeah," I said. "I, um, noticed that."

Did she see the way Max was looking at her when that happened?

Poor bastard.

"I know he likes the pies at the crashdown, so I took him some. We, um, we worked it out."

I looked at her. "You did."


"Well, that's good." I started walking again.

"Then Max came to see me."

I stopped and looked at her. "He did?"


I sat down on the bed. "What did he want?"

She shook her head. "Something about me being like Isabel."

"I can see that," I muttered.

"Can I finish, please?"

I waved my hands. "Oh, please," I said. "Continue."

"He said she thought he was being controlling."

"What'd you tell him?"

"That she was right."

"So did he say anything? About his mom?"

"His mom? No," she said, looking confused. "Why?"

"Isabel wants to tell their Mom."

Her eyes widened. "Are they going to?"

"I don't think so," I said, suddenly tired. I sat down on the bed and ran my fingers through my hair. "I told them there's no such thing as unconditional love."

She didn't say anything.

"Come on, Liz," I said. "They can't tell her."

"I know," she said quietly.

"That's not what I'm thinking about."

We were both silent for a second. I was tired.

"Can we stop talking about this?" I looked over at her. "Please?"

She looked at me and nodded. "Sure," she said, holding her arms out. "Come here."

I climbed up onto the bed and into her arms, reaching for her hair, breathing in the soft, clean scent of her. Her arms tangled around me.

"You alright?" I asked, settling in next to her.

"Yeah," she murmured, pulling me closer. "I was just thinking about Max."

I nodded, thinking about Maria. The radio was still on.

He's everything you want
he's everything you need
he's everything inside of you
that you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
and you don't know why...

Her breathing was even. I pulled away and looked at her. She was sleeping.

I pulled her closer. She sighed and snuggled closer to me. I smiled. I reached over and turned off the radio and the light.

I fell asleep in seconds.


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