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Humble Pie

A/N: In the diary entry, keep in mind that it's almost fifteen years after the 1960s, and the writer (of the diary) is trying too hard to sound like a hippie – meaning, it's not me being historically inaccurate or stereotyping.

Also, this chapter starts when Noli's eighteen, but she's twenty by the end; the transition is somewhere in the Mav York section, and the logistics do work out. So I'm not messing with the time-space continuum.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize (for example, if you see Pizza Hut, and think "store that sells pizza, must order one tonight," then chances are I didn't make it up). But everything else (for example, any flying pigs or interesting characters that choose to rear their heads) is mine. And if you want to do something with it/about it, let me know in a review.

Chapter One

Part 1: My First Love

Fast forward to my eighteenth birthday.

I had passed my driving exam on the first try, with flying colors and overzealous enthusiasm (my instructor had to wrestle the car keys from me because I was begging for another go around the course), and gotten my license, a bee-yu-ti-ful piece of plastic ass which now occupied the Card Slot of Honor in my pocketbook.

Cars had always held an attraction for me, probably because my family had never had one. We weren't poor, just Not Rich (otherwise known as "middle class"). But, the reason the Makepeace family took the bus or the bipedal express to school, work, and everywhere in-between had absolutely nothing to do with money. Or a traumatizing accident that had killed a hypothetical baby brother. Or anything else that remotely made sense.

But I'd better let the Cursed Book speak for itself.

December 14, 1983

The rally today was so groovy! And I met a couple of super-freaky people, who just knew where it was at, if you catch my drift.

One of them, who told me to call her Moonshine (I think that's the prettiest name in the world!), was all about the environmental thing. She looked like a real Flower Child, not like one of those wannabes who just can't chill no matter how hard they try. Anyway, Moonshine gave me this gorgeous brochure, I mean, it rocked! And she told me she'd made it herself – totally freaky!

But it wasn't just pretty; it was some heavy stuff. About how cars are spoiling the environment by sending poisons into the air, and how it's only going to get worse if we don't do something about it. It was such a downer, and when I told Moonshine that, she said she was glad that I "got her," and she told me I should sign her pledge not to drive cars and to take public transport whenever I could.

Of course I signed it – I mean, what're peace and love unless there's a world to be peaceful and loving in?

Before we parted ways, Moonshine winked at me and said, "Remember, don't trust anyone over thirty! Peace out!" I am still in total awe of her; how could one person possibly be so with it?

When I confronted the Hippie with her old journal, she had the grace to look sheepish. But she stood firm on her almost twenty-year-old promise, until I decided that since she couldn't be persuaded with logic, Mohammed would have to go to the mountain (meaning I'd have to start speaking a language she did understand).

I went on a hunger strike for a week (I had a stash of protein bars under my bed, so it wasn't too bad, just boring), and filled a journal with poetry about how my soul was being repressed, and I should've known better than to trust my parents because they were over thirty (I've never had a problem borrowing a good line from anyone, even if they wandered around in hippie underwear with flowers in their hair). I left the journal out on my bed while I was in the bathroom, and hey, presto! When I came out ten minutes later, the Hippie was sniffling and looking guilty.

So my parents decided that I could have a car and the Sexy Beast was born. Well, okay, reborn; the Scholar put his foot down at buying a teenager a new car, so Sexy was actually ten when I got him. But I never held that against him. Nor did I hold it against him that he wasn't the best looking car in the world; my darling, the apple of my seventeen-year-old eyes, was a beat-up, down on its luck Prism. He was nothing in comparison to the Mustangs and Porsches of some of my peers, but he was my first love, and I was willing to overlook a few faults. It was one of the saddest days of my life, the day I had to leave for Columbia without Sexy, and I think it broke his heart, too, because he was never quite the same afterwards.

When I came home for Christmas, I found him wrapped in a dust-covered tarp in our Polar Bear Climate garage. I cursed my parents for their neglect, wondered briefly whether I could sue them, scrapped the idea (I could picture the headlines: "Daughter Breaks with Parents Over Car" and "No One to Care for Them When They're Old"), and decided to drive Sexy down to the car doctor for a thorough check-up.

As soon as I turned his engine, on, it became clear to me that he was not in full form at all. But I thought that he could handle a short trip (it was only a ten minute drive to the Grease Monkey), and after that, the mechanics would work their magic, and I'd have my lover-boy back.

I was wrong.

Sexy broke down exactly halfway between the house and salvation, and his poor old engine never sputtered to life again.

And I was left all alone, numb with grief and frostbite, until bright golden lights swept across my vision.

Part 2: Friends with Benefits

Maverick York drove a Corvette, a gallingly beautiful, shiny 2002 convertible, so when he first tapped on my frosted window, I flipped him my purplish middle finger.

He left.

I called myself an idiot, got out of my poor corpse-car, and shouted an apology.

He came back as if he didn't really care, but then he noticed the bluish tint of my nose, and connected it to the grapey tint of my fingers, and decided that now was not the time for playing head games.

The next thing I knew, I was bundled up in the warm plush backseat of a marvelously heated car, feeling like a traitor but too ashamed (and weak) to even kiss Sexy goodbye.

It took a week of intense mourning (I had nothing better to do; after Mav brought me home, my parents basically chained me to my bed and treated me like an invalid) and a couple of coffees with my rescuer, but soon I decided that my new motto would be "Out with the old and in with the new." Besides, Sexy's conking out on me just proved that love and long-term relationships never worked out.

Which was probably why I latched on to Mav; he was so capricious that I knew anything that happened between us wouldn't get very far. He never wanted anything to get normal ("boring" he called it), so he did anything he damn well pleased. Literally, anything (he'd been kicked out of one high school and become valedictorian of the next).

He called me Noli-Cannoli when he wanted something from me, be it a kiss, a loan, or my roommate's phone number, and was one of my best (and longest-lasting) friends, though he was a year ahead of me in college (he went to Princeton) and incapable of sustaining any sort of continuity. Everyone, myself included, figured we'd wind up together, because after all, he was my knight in shining armor. Of course, whenever I mentioned it, he'd smirk at me.

Actually, he spent quite a lot of time smirking at me. Especially when I tried to talk him into dating me – and believe me, I spent two years trying to legitimize our relationship – he would just laugh at me, or look at me like a piece of dirt under his nails (once he went as far as to say to me, "Out damn spot!"). The one time I practically threw myself at him (I didn't exactly say "Take me, I'm yours," but it was a pretty close call), he basically told me he didn't like "pinning things down, let's just go with the flow, you know." In the end, to cover up my outwardly bruised-n'-broken heart (though secretly relieved) I told him it was for the best we didn't date; after all, I had an image to maintain, and God knows I didn't want to break his heart by dumping him after a month. He just said, "Same to you."

So my second "love" was ironically the one guy with the same reputation as me in the romance department. Meaning, none. I liked him quite a bit, but I well knew that if we got together "for real," it would be over before it had a chance to start. And thus our relationship remained blurred between platonic, sexual, and romantic (actually, it was kind of half platonic and half sexual and a quarter romantic, if you catch my drift, but who's to care?). All of this added up to (yes, here comes a Big Confession) one chilly summer night at the beach when I lost my virginity to him.

I was perfectly aware that sleeping with a guy of Mav's questionable character was probably the worst mistake of the first twenty years of my life, but it was inevitable. It surprised me that I had held out for so long (and others that I had held out at all) because though Mav hated committed relationships as much as I did, he had nothing against sex. And he was one persuasive little sucker when he decided he wanted me, touching me in all the right places, saying all the right things, providing the perfect setting…

He called us "fuck buddies." I preferred friends with benefits – I had to retain some shards of my admittedly fluctuating self-respect. But let it be said here that our beautiful night at his private beach (Remember the Corvette? There was a Porsche and a Mustang where that came from, as well as a house or cabin in almost every tourist hot spot on the East Coast.) was repeated rather often, though we (actually, he) periodically broke it off to liven things up.

Our amorphous relationship suited both of just fine.

Until the night I caught him sleeping with Salem on my bed.

Part 3: Unexpected Circumstance

Don't get me wrong, I had very little against him sleeping with other women (as long as they were STD-free), we'd agreed that dating other people was fine (I, for one, was stringing along a couple of guys myself). But Mav made two mistakes in doing what he did

1. He slept with Salem.

2. He slept with Salem on my bed.

Salem was the product of a man and a woman whose many-times great-grandmothers were hung as witches (in Massachusetts). And truthfully, they probably deserved it. But for some reason, Salem's parents wanted to commemorate their relationship with history rather than going to Unfortunately, their witchy ancestors were named Methuselah and Beulah. So Salem became Salem, and inherited what appeared to be the family curse – meaning they all made people want to kill them.

I might not have minded her so much had I not had to live with her. But she was my college roommate, and the housing department wouldn't even listen when I complained about her (apparently, her father was some kind of Silicon Valley grand pooh-bah). So I was stuck with her whiny, clingy, paranoid attitude, her ever-so-carefully modulated voice, and her goddamned kleptomania.

Seriously, the girl took anything that wasn't nailed down or worth less than $20 (she even nabbed several of my boyfriends on the rebound after their one-month period). It didn't exactly surprise me that she'd want to sleep with Mav; he was hot, she was not, he was taken, but not exactly, she was single as numero uno. What was unexpected was that he'd gone for her because, as I've said, I may not be the best looking girl, but I am pretty, and pretty Salem was not.

Sure, she covered it up, but as only one who had lived with her could know, the Silicon Valley girl had silicon implants to make certain areas look bigger and all kinds of needles and plastics and strange chemicals to make everything else smaller. And she caked make-up on like she was an abstract painter and her face was her canvas; her natural skin tone was a kind of freckly white, but when she was through with her three-hour morning ritual (which including tanning lotion once a week), she looked positively orange, and her hair was so straight that it looked like a fitted, fringed skull-cap.

Nor she did have the intelligence or wit to make up for it.

Salem was, in sum, very much not Mav's type. But that I reflected bitterly as the warm buzzing sensation of three glasses of vodka began to consume my guts, is probably exactly why he went for her. And that he had the nerve to do it on my bed – two additional glasses of vodka were called in to dissuade my homicidal tendencies. They probably would not have worked had I been capable of holding that much alcohol, but as it was, I passed out on the couch of one of my numerous acquaintances and the law prevailed.

Of course, just because I didn't wind up charged with murder in the first degree did not mean I didn't want revenge. I wanted it. Badly. Especially when I woke up the next morning on a lumpy pink couch with a sledgehammer and a foghorn harmonizing in my head.

But I had to wait for the perfect opportunity. I was going to be sneaky like a snake, and damnit! The look on his face would be priceless when I did strike.

Part 4: First Warning – The Dinner Guest

Meanwhile, in the House of the Insane, the expected strangeness was fast degenerating into chaos. And, like Little Bunny Foo-Foo, I had three warnings which I adamantly ignored, continuing to hop through the forest and bop field mice on the head when I should have been running as fast as I could in the opposite direction.

The first sign came to me when the Hippie got arrested for throwing rocks at a demolition crew (who were trying to tear down the neighborhood eyesore). And since the Scholar was in medias res of something important, I had to rescue her.

After faithfully promising several traumatized officers that I wouldn't let her out of my sight (she had thrown rocks at them, too, and prophesied the end of the world), I escorted her by the elbow to the Corvette (Mav had accidentally left the keys in my dorm room, and I had "accidentally" forgotten to give them back).

"It's a good thing you have some free time, Noli-Babe," she said, as I bundled her into the back seat, (I had, in fact, a twenty page paper due in the next week, but had sacrificed it to save the Hippie's sorry butt) "We've got someone coming for dinner."

Now, the Hippie and the Scholar never had the average, garden/dining room variety guest. No, their guests were either hopelessly dull (even to each other), or so easily galvanized into action that they were out on the street screaming before they even knew why (since I turned eighteen, the Scholar had grown increasingly "busy," so I gained much practice collecting the Hippie from the clink). And if the guests were normal, they were usually the children of abnormalities (like myself), who did not want to associate with other children like themselves (once more, like yours truly). In other words, anyone who showed up in the Loony-Bin-I-Was-Raised-In was a creep. So that was Big Blinking Red Danger Signal #1.

Part 5: Second Warning – Devil, Thy Name is Hippie

The second sign was even harder to miss. As in, Football Coach with a Megaphone Shouting in my Left Ear hard to miss.

The Hippie offered to go shopping with me.

In.

The.

Mall.

I loved shopping at the Mall almost as much as I had loved the Sexy Beast; the sounds, the sights, the credit card my grandparents were paying for– it was Heaven.

But the Hippie begged to differ violently. Blood and guts violently. When I was fourteen, she had taken me to the Mall for my Back-to-School clothes (the Salvation Army had closed for the day, and I threatened to kill frogs if she took me to her boutique), treating it like a military operation.

She actually wore a camouflage suit she had nicked from her brother, Veteran of the War No Longer Discussed. Along with a helmet and a weird water bottle.

And she wouldn't let me buy anything. Because the Hippie takes issue with clothing that costs more than, say, ten dollars. So she spent the afternoon explaining to my teenaged, fashion-conscious self exactly how not buying a fifteen dollar shirt would help the starving children in Africa. Her explanation, as usual, made no sense whatsoever, but I still had four years left in my sentence as her dependent (and unlike prison, no chance of getting out on good behavior), so I ducked my head down and prayed for 80 Percent Off signs.

We went to a grand total of three stores, the others being either too "pretentious" or too "commercial." I wound up with zero new clothing, and the Hippie was frog-marched out of the Mall by five strapping Security Guards after calmly depositing all the leather coats she could carry in a trash can (the Scholar actually pulled it together long enough to scold her, that's how high the bill was). The two of us made a vow never to shop together again, especially at the Mall, and I came up with a new name for the Hippie: Devil.

Given our past experiences, absolutely the last thing I expected was for her to offer (with the look of a woman being lead to the Guillotine) to go to the Mall to "buy something appropriate" for tonight. As in, buy her something appropriate for dinner.

I was shocked, flabbergasted, and blown away simultaneously, only to burst into hysterical laughter when my mind managed to piece itself back together; let it be said that even I, the incredibly, indubitably sane Noli, have my limits. And the Hippie had just crossed them.

Nevertheless, I ignored the warning, and took her to the Mall. My second chance of salvation and my second fatal mistake.

Part 6: Final Warning – Picking Out a Tie

I honestly view missing this warning as the dumbest avoidable mistake of my young adult life (Mav doesn't count because sex is sex is good exercise). Forget football coaches and blinking signals – this one was the Animaniacs and 50 Cent playing loudly at the same time at a frat party. Louder and clearer than loudest and clearest.

The Scholar came out of his study that afternoon around 4:30. This was in itself a rare occurrence (I videotaped it once for a Biology presentation on rare species), but he was full of surprises that day; he actually took a shower and put on human clothes (he worked in flannel pajamas the Hippie had gotten for his birthday the year before I was born). He had only done this twice in my recollection, once for a distant relative's son-in-law's funeral when I was seven (his suit had been dark brown, not black, but the family appreciated the effort), and the other time for my graduation (the same suit, now several belt loops too small.

So, imaginably, I was surprised. And I should have linked it immediately to the Hippie's sudden yenning for suburban clothing. But I had recently taken stupid pills, and I wrote it off as a mid-life crisis (unlike most men, my dad's idea of wild and outrageous wasn't blond secretary and red convertible, it was shaving and wearing cologne). Then It happened, and I can't even use the excuse of stupid pills because my ignoring It was beyond stupid, surpassed asinine, bordered on stone-blindness.

The Scholar asked me to pick out a tie for him to match what he was wearing.

As in, he was making an effort to look good.

I should have been suspicious, but instead I picked a red and gray striped tie, tied it for him, and even taught him how to part his hair so his bald spot wouldn't show as much.

If only I had known then that I was sealing my own fate…

Part 7: Brownnosing

When the doorbell rang at 7:30 sharp that evening, I was waiting by the door in a skirt and a nice top, my mother was standing behind me wearing a black dress (floor-length and incredibly plain, but made out of polyester – a major first for her), and the Scholar was scuffing his shoes uncomfortably, stiff in his "dress clothes."

From the effort my parents had made, I knew they wanted to impress somebody, but I mistakenly thought it was to climb the social (or the corporate) ladder. Though, in retrospect, I should have known better; academia and free love have never mingled well with good business.

On first sight, the elderly couple and the young man at the door seemed harmless, though clearly stinking rich; the younger man wore Armani, and the woman (his mother) reeked of Dior's Poison.

All I knew about them was that their last name was Corelli, they were old friends of the Hippie and the Scholar, and He the Younger was a bigwig in some insurance company or the other and had a six-figure salary that was as close to a million as possible without actually having seven digits. Just enough to make me consider a bit of gold-digging.

So I was casting out feelers, sucking up to He the Elder and His Wife like they were already my in-laws, and playing Dutiful Daughter like I'd had twenty years of practice. And the Hippie and the Scholar were brownnosing too intensely themselves to notice my hit-them-over-the-head flirting (I soon found out why…).

He the Younger, meanwhile, knew pretty well that I was coming on to him (though his parents clearly saw me as a charming, polite, intelligent, homebody), and he seemed to find it amusing. In fact, he had a smirk on his face that was distinctly Mav-ish, an "I know something you don't know and I'm seriously getting off on it" expression that only strengthened my attraction to him. Mav was rich, but this guy was very obviously richer, and if he was a commitmentphobe, so much the better; he wouldn't suffer any lasting psychological damage if I divorced him quickly and made a bundle off the alimony.

Plus (the thought crept into my head unbidden), I could use him to make Mav J-E-A-L-O-U-S – or at least try to. I figured he'd probably just shrug it off, but if I had a partner-in-crime (however unwitting), I thought I could make it work. In fact, sitting across from He the Younger in the unusually neat-as-a-pin living room, I had an exciting fantasy involving me showing Mav a ginormous rock on my left ring finger, and saying "You were just too …boring for me. He the Younger" (I still didn't know his name) "is such a dynamic person. He redefines nonconformist." In my head, Mav had turned green as Flubber and slunk off like a whipped dog, to surprise me with roses (yellow, or maybe orange) the next day.

Like I said, it was a fantasy, and it was exciting. But by the time circumstances had shifted enough for it to come true, I didn't give a flying fuck about Mav (romantically, sexually, whatever you will).

A/N: Hey! I'm so, so sorry! I haven't given up on the story, I've just had a crazy amount of schoolwork to do, and I'm still trying to adjust my habits so that I can get it all done without becoming suicidal. Or dying of exhaustion. So expect my updating to improve as I figure out what corners I can get away with cutting…

I.C.

Thanks to:

The Gobbler – My first reviewer! Yay! I'm so glad you like the story, and I hope you keep reading!

Proxy-Wonker – Major kudos to you, too, for being my second reviewer! I love your story, Chasing Mussolini.

Kelyn – Quirky? That's one of my favorite words J

Secretive – I hope this chapter keeps you hooked!

Randomworda – Sorry about the slowness…I have every intention of finishing, though it may take longer than you (or I) would like.

Redskyatnight05 – I tried separating the parts with lines, but it kept screwing up my program, so I gave up. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

Yael – Keep reading!

My sympathies to:

Those poor people down South (as in the Gulf Coast). I used to live near New Orleans, and it was an amazing city, so Hurricane Katrina kind of blew me away, too (not in a good way, and the pun was accidental).

And

All of y'all who know the pain I'm feeling. School is Hell.