(Monday, November 20th)
School was uneventful to Max’s relief. Once again they’d had Valenti, Zan and Ava keeping watch, but nothing happened.
Although he’d had to suffer through a conversation with Tess.
He swore she’d been waiting for him in the hall, and once she found him, she practically clung to his arm.
“Max,” she purred, looking up into his eyes, “I’m so glad you felt you could come to me for help with your memories. I’m always here for you.”
“Thanks,” he said uncomfortably.
“We can try again after school,” she suggested.
Max nodded. “Um, sure,” he agreed. “I told Zan I would help him with something, but afterward…” he trailed off.
She beamed at him. “I’m sure we’ll have better luck if we keep working together,” she said emphasizing the last word.
Max swallowed hard. “Right,” he said, disengaging himself form her. “I have to get to class,” he said moving down the hall, “but we’ll talk later.”
He was never sure why he was so creeped-out by her right from the first time he saw her. Maybe it was because when she first came to town she’d sent him those visions, or that she kept throwing herself at him, or that she’d used her powers on him to make him kiss her.
Another shiver went through him as he remembered that day in the rain outside the Crashdown when she claimed her car broke down.
Maybe the reason he always been so uncomfortable around her wasn’t such a mystery after all.
After school they had all gone back to Zan and Ava’s and gathered in the practice area, moving around restlessly.
“What are we going to do about tonight?” Alex asked. “We can’t stay here forever. My parents will start asking questions if I’m away from home much longer.”
“My Mom is already asking questions,” Maria said. “I just told her I was staying with Liz while her parents are out of town. Maybe you could tell your parents that we wanted you to stay with us too.”
“I don’t know,” Alex said. “I’m not even sure I’m in danger. How would they even know who I am?”
Isabel wrapped her arm around his. “I don’t think we should take any chances,” she said. “Give Maria’s idea a try.” She kissed his cheek. “And be convincing.”
Alex smiled and nodded. “Anything for you.”
He went to make his call and Isabel turned to Liz who nodded and together they went toward the stairs.
Zan watched them and then turned to look at Tess.
She had a scowl on her face as she watched Isabel and Liz disappear upstairs and then looked at Max.
When she started toward him, Zan spoke up.
“So Max, you were going to help me with that repair.” He clapped Max on the back, turning him away.
Max nodded. “Um, yeah, where?”
Zan jutted his chin toward the ceiling. “We should get going now,” he said aloud, while speaking to Max in his head. “Tess is coming. Let’s go before she starts falling all over you.”
He stepped between Tess and Max and turned to her with a smile. “How’s it going, Tess?” he asked with a grin.
“Max,” she started, but Zan cut her off.
“Sorry, we’ve got to take care of something. He’ll have to talk to you later.”
Max and Zan went upstairs and into one of the empty offices for their attempt at memory recovery. They hadn’t told anyone what they were doing and wanted some privacy.
They each took a chair facing one another.
“I hate keeping this from Liz,” Max said. “But neither of us want her to get hurt.”
Zan agreed. “It’s better that we do it first to make sure we don’t accidentally come across anything that she might see or feel that could hurt her in any way. Like the original Zan and his Ava together.”
A shiver of revulsion went through Max. “I still can’t even imagine him loving her, being with her.”
“We don’t know he did love her,” Zan reminded him. “It could have been a loveless political marriage, at least on his side.”
“It must have been,” Max said determinedly. He focused on Zan. “I’ve never wanted to ask,” he shook his head, “it’s just that…”
Zan understood him immediately. “You want to know how it was between Ava and me.”
Zan knew Max was terrified of losing Liz when he remembered their past life, but he was doing this anyway for the good of the group. Zan just hoped he could reassure him.
He shrugged. “I tried because that‘s what I thought we were supposed to do, but there was always something missing. We were off and on, seeing other people, but I never felt like I thought I was supposed to feel. I cared for her but I knew I wasn’t in love.”
Max looked away, “I don’t think we could have both fallen in love with Liz if the original Zan loved his Ava,” Max said. “We would be drawn to Tess and Ava, not Liz.”
He looked at Zan. “But I’ve loved Liz since the first time I saw her when we were kids. I knew then there would never be anyone else for me.”
Zan nodded. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Those feelings can’t just go away, no matter what you remember.”
“I hope you’re right,” Max said. “I just keep having this terrifying thought of what if I remember loving Tess like I love Liz.”
“I don’t think it’s possible,” Zan said. “It’s like you said, we would have been drawn to them, but we’re not, and we never have been.”
Max released a deep breath, as if a weight had been lifted from him. “No matter what happens, we have to try this.”
Zan nodded. “How do you think we should start?”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Max said. “Maybe we should try it like Tess suggested first.”
“Okay,” Zan agreed, “talk us through it.”
Max reached up a hand, dimming the overhead light. He shrugged as he met Zan’s gaze. “She said it helps.”
Zan nodded and Max continued. “We close our eyes and try to concentrate just on what we want to remember. Try not to think of anything else.”
“So,” Zan said, “we think about one of his birthday parties. It should probably be one when he was younger. Kids are usually excited for their birthday,” he speculated, “so maybe it will be a strong memory.”
“Sure,” Max agreed. “How about… ten years old,” he said, pulling a number out of thin air.
They closed their eyes, and opened the connection between them, careful to shield Liz from what they were doing, and tried to concentrate on another life.
To Max it was a very strange thing to be doing, trying to remember what someone else had done. He really had no frame of reference. What did their planet even look like? A desert? A forest? A beach? Was there vegetation? Animals? Birds? How many suns or moons were above the planet? Was the atmosphere blue? Or was it completely unrecognizable by human standards?
At least the room he remembered wasn’t completely foreign to his human eyes. There were walls, furniture, a window, a soft bed. Maybe his planet wasn’t so alien after all.
He started by trying to let the feeling of otherness fill him up that he had experienced when he first had the memory of Zan in his room. He tried to think of a younger Zan occupying that same room, excited for his upcoming party.
But it wasn’t working.
His mind kept wandering to his own childhood, his birthday parties.
When he was in elementary school, his mother had invited his entire class to his parties, and Liz had always been among the guests.
Being the shy boy he was, he’d never really gotten involved in the activities unless his mother suggested it, but he’d loved the parties because he could watch Liz.
He could remember her concentration when playing musical chairs and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. He remembered her blindfolded and swinging wildly at a piñata. He remembered her smile when Maria had smeared frosting on her nose.
The beautiful, dark-haired girl had filled up his entire life, and she still did.
After a few minutes, Zan spoke, “This isn’t working,” he grumbled. “I’m not getting anything, and you’re thinking about Liz.”
Max blushed, realizing Zan was right. “Sorry,” he said, “it just seems impossible.”
Zan agreed. “Maybe we should try something else,” he suggested.
“Okay,” Max agreed. “Do you have something in mind?”
“I was thinking maybe we should start with what you remembered,” Zan said, “and see if we could get any more out of it.”
Max nodded. “Sure.” It was a fairly harmless memory as far as he knew and hopefully there wouldn’t be any surprises.
He had never tried sharing a memory before and wasn’t sure how it worked, or even if it could be done, but he concentrated on the image of the room he had in his mind.
Zan was silent for a while and Max wondered what was happening. He was just opening his eyes when Zan spoke.
“I could see it,” Zan said incredulously, his eyes snapping open to meet Max’s gaze. “Just for a minute, I could see the room and then it was gone.”
“Did you recognize it?” Max asked.
“Not really,” Zan said. “It kind of seemed familiar, maybe like déjà vu, but I didn’t get any more.”
“Let’s try again,” Max suggested.
They both closed their eyes and stayed deep in concentration for several long minutes, but they didn’t have any more luck.
Finally they looked at each other. “I don’t think this is going to work with just the two of us,” Max said.
“Yeah,” Zan agreed, “Liz is the link between us and I think we need her.”
Max nodded reluctantly. “Okay, after everyone leaves tonight we’ll talk to her.
Isabel and Liz closed themselves in Isabel’s room and sat together on the bed.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Isabel asked. “You feel okay?”
Liz shook her head. “I’m a bit tired but we have to keep trying, don’t we?” She smiled at Isabel. “I know you’re tired too. You’ve been spending all your free time trying to find them for days.”
“Yeah,” Isabel said, “but we have to find them. We are the only chance.”
“I’m just not sure it’s doing any good,” Isabel said. “I saw a lot more with you, but still nothing useful.”
“What about concentrating on when Lonnie took Rath back there after he was injured?” Liz suggested. “That has to be a powerful memory.”
Isabel agreed. “I bet you are right, but I can’t pinpoint things in people’s heads like that. They have to be thinking about something for me to see it, but that would still be fresh in my mind if it happened to me,” she admitted. “I can try.”
They grasped hands and Liz felt a weird sensation when Isabel started. It was hard to describe. She got glimpses of images and Lonnie’s feelings, like Isabel was shuffling the thoughts in Lonnie’s mind, and then suddenly images of that day filled her head. They were disjointed and skipped around a bit, like Lonnie wasn’t reliving every moment but just touching on the highlights.
Liz saw Lonnie and Rath driving toward Zan and Ava’s house, bragging and full of themselves. They expected to easily kill Zan.
Next, she got a glimpse of the fight, and Lonnie’s surprise when Max, Isabel and Michael suddenly joined them. Then she felt the sharp pain when Lonnie was hit and fell.
In the next set of images Lonnie dragged Rath’s unconscious body to the car they’d parked around the side of Ava and Zan’s place, and with a burst of power she was able to shove him inside.
It skipped to her jumping behind the wheel, starting the car with another push of power, and speeding off as her eyes went to the rearview mirror. She turned the first corner, wanting to get out of sight and saw no one behind her as she disappeared around the building.
With a feeling of relief, she drove quickly, dodging cars, turning often. The images skipped around so much, it was hard for Liz to follow where she was going, and she realized that was just how Lonnie remembered it, in bits and pieces. She saw a generic white building, a green car driving past, a sign for a bus route that she couldn’t make out the numbers on. It was mostly a blur.
Liz thought she saw a street sign for Juniper Avenue, but it wasn’t really helpful. They already knew she might be in the northeast part of town, and Juniper ran for miles.
More generic white and brown buildings rushed past them, all seeming to look the same. There were no names of companies visible, just a jumbled series of out-of-order numbers. They were in the warehouse district, Liz could tell, but she wasn’t really familiar with the area and recognized nothing.
Lonnie seemed to be changing directions every few blocks, possibly to avoid being followed. Even if Liz had been able to get a fix on where they were, she would soon get lost.
There was so much jumping around, Liz was beginning to think it was useless. She could easily see why Isabel was having so much trouble getting any information, but suddenly Lonnie turned into a parking lot and drove around the back of a white brick building.
Liz thought she might recognize the parking lot if she saw it in real life, because the images were so clear in Lonnie’s mind. It was bordered on one side by an empty lot that was just field of tall weeds, but then Rath moaned in the back seat and Lonnie turned to see him.
She focused on Lonnie’s memories again, just in time to see Lonnie leaping out of the car and opening the back door. Rath was waking up, clutching his side where Zan’s power had hit him as he tried to sit up.
“Careful,” Lonnie warned him roughly, as she reached to help support his back.
Rath cried out, wincing as his pain increased.
“We’ve got to get inside,” she ordered.
Supporting him the best she could, she helped him out of the car and the across the short distance to the building. Using a burst of power to open the door, she pulled Rath across the threshold.
The building was obviously abandoned, and Liz could see large holes in some of the walls, exposed wires, and places where the stained carpet was pulled up. There were a couple of metal chairs and a large counter where a receptionist might have once sat. But other than that, the place was stripped bare and Liz couldn’t see any indications of what it had been.
Lonnie helped Rath around a corner and into another large room were a cot was set up. He snarled, clutching his side and releasing a colorful variety of curse words as she lowered him down.
Instantly she grabbed his shirt, ripping it and pulling it aside to examine his wound. There was no blood, but a darkening bruise was covering the area from his waist to his armpit on one side.
“Shit,” she breathed, wondering how bad the internal injuries were. She could heal simple things, but she knew Rath’s injuries were out of her league.
“Hang on,” she ordered. “I’ve got to take care of the car before someone spots it.”
Going back the way she came, she went through the door and directly to the car. Touching the hood, Lonnie watched as the color swirled from black to white.
Lonnie’s eyes darted around, looking for any signs of pursuit.
It was dizzying to Liz, watching through someone else’s eyes, trying to focus.
Lonnie seemed satisfied and turned to go inside, when she suddenly stopped as a movement caught her eye. Crouching behind the car, she looked around the side toward a line of trees separating the parking lot from the next building.
Searching for the source of the movement, she spotted it almost immediately, a large black bird flew from the ground to a low-hanging branch. Lonnie relaxed, standing up and focused for a second on the building across the back parking lot, and Liz suddenly saw it. ‘Halpren’s Restaurant Supply’
With a gasp, Liz let go of Isabel’s hand, and they opened their eyes at the same time to look at each other, speaking simultaneously. “We know where they are!”
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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