"The Greatest Stories Never Told" (part 7-9) by Nicole Anell

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Back to part 4-6!

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7: Better Homes and Gardens (Tess)

Things have a way of not turning out the way you thought they would.

I love Alex. I don't say things like that, but that doesn't make them untrue. We're going to tell people really soon.

No we're not.

Max came into my room last night and told me he remembered me. What does that mean?

It means - Yay! Or it means - Crap.

It might mean both.

This part of me with Alex, it isn't all of who I am. It's who Tess, 17 years old, born and raised on planet Earth, is. I'm her. And I'm also Queen Ava, of another galaxy, who tells me where I belong every single night in my dreams.

Why does he have to remember me? Why do I have to like that so much? Why can't I have a conversation without my brain going off on a different track? Like this:

Alex says, "Have you ever heard of Beth Orton?"

Max remembers me.

I say, "Beth who?"

Max knows me.

Alex says, "Is something wrong?"

I say, "Huh?"

"Something on your mind?" He knows. He knows I'm on another planet right now... He just doesn't know how literally.

I say, "Nothing that important." He sighs and starts talking again, and I try to pay attention. Beth Orton. Modern singer-songwriter. Concert coming to Roswell, tickets going on sale soon. I say, "She can't have a very good agent."

He says, "Hey, do you want to hear your song?"

He's writing me a song. He's writing a song and calling it 'Tess' and it's my song.

I'm cheating. Who am I cheating on? Tess is not being nice to her boyfriend, Ava is cheating on her husband.

I want to go home. I think. No, I want Alex. No.

He stops playing because he knows I'm upset, but I pull away from him and say I'm just feeling my hybrid-ness today. He doesn't know what that means. I don't tell him.

8: 'The Ultimate Four-Letter Word' (Alex)

Spring of 2001: this is about as far as it goes. Hum something by Destiny's Child. That's as far as I got.

Everything feels very normal, because life is all about the present. If life were about the future, you would feel the week you're going to die. It would probably be interesting. As it is, the week you're going to die is average, and nothing seems at all different from the week before.

I'm practicing a song on my guitar.

It's called 'Love Kills' or 'Hurt By Love'. To be honest, I can't tell them apart myself. I used to know because I co-wrote them and all, but after a while they kind of blurred into this one single song. Hurt By Love That Happens To Kill As Well. Something like that.

Tess is going to the Prom with Kyle. Kyle who used to stand around in Junior High and let his buddies push past me, so all my books would scatter on the floor. Kyle who never ever helped me pick them up.

I. Will. NEVER. Understand. Alien girls.

Kyle came thisclose a few weeks ago to being my friend. At least he managed to separate himself in my mind from all his other friends, a feat no other athlete has duplicated. I never liked him when he was dating Liz, but I was starting to think I was really wrong about that, too judgemental. A lot of hidden coolness in that guy.

Of course, Tess is going to the Prom with him now, so screw all that.

Jealousy is a sickness. Everybody has a different way of dealing with it. Some whine, some go out and murder people, it's all very personal. I like to make mental lists when I'm jealous. Comparisons, statistics, etc.

Kyle Valenti is a physical person. I am a mental person.

He says things. I listen.

He is a jock. I am... I am not.

He is a supposed Buddhist. Again, I'm not.

He lives with Tess. I so do not.

For all I know, Tess is thinking about him. I'm sure she's not thinking about me anymore.

This is the really important one: He is a boyfriend. I am a Good Friend. Always always always.

So I'm practicing a song on my guitar, and I don't know which one it is, and suddenly Isabel is coming into my bedroom. Into my *bedroom*. Can you imagine if I was still lusting after her?

She hints and hints about the Prom, like she did earlier in school before I got the terrific news about Tess and Kyle. She finally stops hinting and gives me this hopeful, pleading look. Ask me, ask me, ask me.

I never thought this day would come. Not in my wildest, weirdest dreams. I say, "Isabel Evans, go to the prom with me?"

Given the choice, Fallback Ex-boyfriend beats Good Friend any day.

I pick Isabel up in my normal, not Maria-picked suit. I'd forgotten how gorgeous she is. It almost surprises me when I take a good look at her. I also forgot that she's bright and funny and sometimes really sensitive. She drapes her arm around mine and smiles.

I actually think for a minute that we can make it through the night like this. Just for one minute in the Crashdown, with Isabel next to me, and Tess shining just across the table, and Kyle someplace far far away by the counter.

I've become the Terrible Person version of me. I never knew he existed.

Towards the end of the night, Kyle pulls Tess into the eraser room. I didn't witness it, just kind of heard it around. It would bother me a lot more if I didn't have Isabel on my lips about 50 seconds later.

"I told you not to do that," I smile. I kiss her back. I hate Terrible Person Me.

It's not until the song ends that I overhear a little conversation by the snack table. Odd little occurance - Tess said some things once about forces of nature, but I think she was kidding... I'm not. Why should Isabel Evans want a soda at the very moment in time when about five other people are talking around the table? That very moment I become privy to some sound bytes from various members of the In Crowd:

"I swear, man. I wouldn't lie about something like this."

"Maybe it's a secret half-way thing, like the sheriff was banging someone on the side."

"You are so full of it."

"I swear, I just told you what I heard. He called her that, not as a joke or anything. It was one of those really intense, serious moments."

"They don't even look alike."

"They're both pretty short."

"Oh, no fucking way Kyle Valenti took his sister to the Prom."

His what?

I say, "His what?" Everyone looks at me. Then they all share one of those secret elitist looks together, before I move away. Such is my caste... Oh my God.

His sister?

His *sister*?

I probably look strange at this point. People should think I'm crazy, but I'm just unpopular enough for no one to care.

His sister!

If you knew the week you were going to die, you would pay more attention to the last moment you were really truly happy.

The next day I've got Isabel on the phone. Liz and Maria eavesdrop on my end of the conversation, and I realize I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Well, I do know the name for it. Two-timing. I'm phone-flirting with Isabel, who I went out with last night, who's trying to convince me to go out again tonight. And all this time, all along, while my paranoia was running wild, the person who could be the actual love of my life was only hanging out with a practical relative.

So how do I get out of this without hurting anybody? And preferably without Tess finding out?

I lie on my bed and ponder all this. My girls are still here, and I realize this might be a good time to let them in on the little secret. I could really use the advice right now. Just as I open my mouth, Maria looks at Liz and me, and sighs.

"Okay," she says, adopting a suddenly professional tone. "So Max kissed Tess."

She says this the way you could say, "So yesterday the Dow dropped 40 points."

I deserve this, don't I?

Liz is not very happy with this topic. Maria wants to talk about it and what it means for our Star-Cross'd Lovers. I suddenly want to finish my homework and eat my takeout and lie down some more.

I don't deserve this at all. Max kissed Tess, and that's so much worse than Kyle it's not even funny.

My paranoia hasn't been running wild. It just got a little detoured before reaching the finish line. Wow. That's a good metaphor.

Maria and Liz finally leave, and I get my food, and it turns out I'm thinking out loud.

"Why does life have to be so wrong?"

I don't feel like making lists today. I feel like being metaphysical.

"Why does everything have to be such a lie?"

The delivery kid keeps staring at me, so I shut up and pay him. He leaves and I'm alone in my room. I see a picture on my desk and it's good old Leanna looking back at me. We kind of have a long-distance thing going. Except she only lives a few blocks away.

I strum my guitar and play 'Tess'.

And that's when I realize it's the same goddamn song I've been playing all along.

9: Thick As Water (Tess)

What happens next screws everything up. Every. Single. Thing.

Alex comes over. I'm giving Kyle a little pre-birthday party because he's Kyle. He's out of the room when Alex comes, doesn't even know anyone's there.

((Bear with me a second 'cause I don't talk about this a lot. I don't know if I can do this.))

Okay, Alex comes over and he knows about the infamous kiss.

Not my fault.

We're upstairs in my room and he's getting all worked up over this. Can you imagine if I actually slept with Max or something? Jeez, everybody just has to be so uptight about relationships and love and-

Fine, I'm making excuses. But you know what? I have the right to be pissed off too. I wouldn't have even done that if he hadn't been practically humping Isabel on the dance floor. What a hypocrite. This is such a guy thing.

I hate him.

I say, "I hate you."

Alex says, "What?"

I say, "What do you want from me?"

Alex says, "You could be honest with me. You could tell me right now if what we have is- what, anything to you?"

Let's go over some facts - I'm with Max. He's with Isabel. Yeah, I'd say 'what we have' is pretty much nonexistent.

I hate him.

I say, "You bastard."

"What did I do? I gave you everything! You- you just took and left me with nothing."

Oh for God's sake. Granted, there's a way of thinking where I look like this horrible bitch who used him. Comparatively, I did get the better end of the deal. He knew that from day one, remember? I get my past, my planet, my home. He gets some stock reels of slides we swiped from the film department and a pretend girlfriend in the form of some gorgeous leggy blond he saw on campus. He gets a negotiable credit one day for sending us all back into space to never see him again. Is this news?

"Just calm down," I say. "You want me to be honest? I kissed Max and we might be together now." I shrug. "I don't know, it's complicated."

He flinches and swallows. "Are you happy with that?"

No.

I say, "Yeah. Listen, I appreciate everything, but I think you should go now. We're going to be fine. You know this is what was supposed to happen. If I remember right, we were helping it along about a month ago."

"It changed."

"Nothing changed."

"Maybe not for you!"

"Hey, this all was your idea, wasn't it? You were the one who planted all this crap in our conversations. 'Oh yeah, I've got this cousin, I've got this trip, I've got this AP computer class.' Don't you dare act like I hurt you when this was our thing! Not mine, ours! And if you have a problem, maybe you should have considered it before you decided to start this little adventure! Maybe if you weren't so busy thinking about Isabel then-

"What?!"

"It was always because of that, right? That's how it started? You thought she'd magically start liking you if you did us this huge favor. You never did anything that helped us, and you wanted to prove what a man you were to HER!"

"That's not true!"

Yes it is. Yes it is. C'mon, Alex, this is over. It would be so much easier for me if that were true.

I say, "Why else would you do this, huh? What possible reason could-"

"Because I wanted to be near you!"

Shit.

I say, "Shut up."

"Tess-"

"No, shut up."

"You were- that day you came to my house and- nobody ever thinks I can help-"

"Shut up."

"You were the only one who wanted to see me play, you were so- I didn't even know it was going to work, what we did. I- I thought it might, I just wanted-"

He's crying. I say, "Go home," and my voice cracks and I hate him.

"I'm sorry - I shouldn't have gone with - we could still - you're so - " Bawling conversation is like the polar-opposite unfunny version of makeout conversation.

"I hate you, go home."

"Why are you doing this to me?"

I realize Kyle's standing around looking at us and I say "Get out!" I think I'm crying. Asshole.

Max remembers me. That counts for something. If it doesn't, what does that make my whole life so far?

Alex says, "I have nothing."

So go home and hate me and find somebody else. This would be so much easier. Nothing has to get screwed up, nobody's feelings have to get hurt-

Alex says, "How could you do this to me?" And then

((I don't talk about this a whole lot, I don't know if I can do this.))

((Okay.))

((Okay.))

And then he squints a little and then a lot.

((Okay.))

And he kinda puts his palm up to his head and makes a weird noise.

((Let me just breathe for a second, I don't know if I can- Okay.))

And then he's dead.

The thing you have to know (from someone slightly older and wiser than I was at that specific moment) is what happened was sort of natural. As natural as something completely ridiculous and fucked-up can be.

Apparently something snapped inside Alex's brain. I don't really know what causes these things, I cheated on all my science tests. One could assume flashes or getting laid or spending a few months in front of a huge computer could have something to do with it... if one wanted to torture oneself for the rest of one's life. That could have nothing to do with it though. I know it happens very rarely to teenagers but it's not unheard of. Everything's fine and then a vessel pops and they just keel over, something like that.

But then, I don't really know any of this right now. So basically my brain is going You killed him, You killed him, You killed him. Or maybe that's Kyle.

I *can* get a little nuts and high-strung sometimes, you know? The last time I was really pissed off, an entire army of Skins burst into flames. This did happen. Do you blame me for jumping to conclusions?

So that's why Alex technically died in a car accident. If I had calmed down a little bit, maybe there could've been an autopsy and a report. Maybe they could've showed it wasn't a suicide or a murder. Maybe everybody could've felt a little better about themselves, and nobody - me or the Valentis or the Whitmans or Liz or Isabel or Max - would've gone so far off the deep end over it. But Alex technically died in a car accident, and if you live with regret it only makes everything worse.

It's all sort of like a dream afterwards. I go to the Crashdown and meet everybody there. They're so incredibly happy, even Kyle. Like nothing happened at all. But then Sheriff Valenti comes in and we go see the body on the stretcher and it wasn't a dream at all.

Max goes into the van. I keep thinking about when we brought Nasedo back the first time and I was happy because he was all I had then.

Please, Max. Please please please.

I wonder if he'll tell people I killed him when he wakes up. Or if he won't remember and he'll just go back to telling me he loves me, and then I'll say I love him too and I'm sorry I never said it before.

Max is taking his sweet time in there.

And I'll say I'd rather have you than Max anyway but it scares me, and I don't know if I'm that scared anymore, and I'm so sorry I made you feel bad, and I'm sorry I lied and said I hated you, and I'm sorry I killed you for a little while.

Max comes out of the van alone. A night ago I was kissing this boy, and now he's wearing Alex's blood.

I keep thinking about the second time when we couldn't bring back Nasedo, and I was all alone.

Isabel turns into a wreck. I say, "Max. Go after her."

This is where I shut down. It's not pretty, not pretty at all.

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