Anyone that reads this, please keep on the look out for the names BLAKE, TOM, JAMES, or ROWAN. They're all names I changed, and should no longer exist in the story. Thank-you.
Neighbors and fire fighters surrounded the house. The powerful hoses extinguished what was left of the fire, and damaged what was left of the home.
The house had been reduced to a pile of rubble and ash.
Michael parked his car in the neighbor's driveway, assuming they would understand.
Elizabeth quickly scanned the tragic scene placed before her. She couldn't see Heather. She pulled out her cell phone, which had been on silent the entire night. There were 12 missed calls, all of which from unfamiliar numbers. They were most likely from the fire department and frantic neighbors. None were from Heather.
Her trembling fingers dialed Heather's cell number. It was turned off. She didn't bother to leave a message; she was sure the neighbors already left enough.
She stared at her diminished house, and between panicked breaths she whispered "They must think we're dead."
Michael said nothing, knowing there were no words that could reverse the situation. He squeezed her hand tighter in his.
A tall fire fighter made his way over to the dark blue Mustang, removing his mask on the way. Michael rolled down his window.
The man's soft eyes peered into the car, fixing on Elizabeth's pale panic-stricken face.
"She live there?" He cocked his head towards the irredeemable house. The man's voice was deep with sympathy and guilt.
"Yes." Elizabeth's voice cracked out, before Michael could say it.
The man sighed heavily, his eyes unable to look at Elizabeth any longer.
"And you?" he asked Michael.
"No." he said softly, careful not to sound relieved.
"Was anybody inside the house?" the fire fighter asked reluctantly, silently praying there wasn't.
Elizabeth took a deep breath, and caught up with reality. No good could come from her barren state of mind.
"No, my mother is out. We're the only ones living... that lived there." She shut her eyes and recomposed herself once more; she needed to stay vigilant through this.
"I can't stress how sorry I am that we couldn't get here sooner. It was the strangest thing; all of your neighbors can't remember smelling any smoke or hearing anything burning. By the time someone finally had noticed, the house was nearly gone. We... we thought you all might have still been inside. We've been calling but no one answered. I'm sure everyone will feel much better to know you're both alive. The neighbors feel terrible."
Elizabeth just nodded. She couldn't process the right words; her mind was still slightly shaken.
The fire fighter continued. "Well, do you folks have a place to stay? If not, the Red Cross will gladly pay for a hotel as long as you need it."
Various people popped into her head, she had friends that would surely let Heather and her stay with them for a few nights. But she didn't like the idea of calling and asking. 'Uh, hey. My house just burned to the ground. Mind if my mom and I crash at your place the next couple nights?' It sounded reasonable enough. But she wouldn't do it.
"I'm sure we do. I'll have to wait for my mom to get home first."
"Alright, well if there's anything you need, please let us know."
Elizabeth nodded once again, trying on a weak smile. It didn't work out too well. It just made her expression all the more lugubrious.
Heather and Dominic didn't arrive until 11:15. They pulled up in Dominic's blackout Hummer H3, and parked behind Michael's Mustang.
An H3? Elizabeth couldn't help but wonder why he'd use such a bulky vehicle on such an elegant evening.
Heather jumped from the H3 before Dominic could make his way around to help ease her down. She stumbled in her heels, and finally made it to the passenger side of the Mustang.
Elizabeth got out hastily, and fell into Heather's arms.
"Oh thank God you're okay!" she sobbed into Elizabeth's shoulder.
The next hour was filled with heavy nods and watering eyes. The neighbors sent their apologies in sympathetic sentences and guilty faces.
Dominic did most of the talking. When the fire fighter asked once again if they had a place to stay, Blake said yes, then looked to Heather for approval.
Another heavy nod, followed by a gratifying gaze.
Elizabeth did find it strange that Dominic was so responsive and compliant. He's only known them for less than a day. But she didn't argue. She was relieved she wouldn't need to make an awkward phone call to a friend, or stay with Michael. She couldn't deal with him right now. Plus, Dominic would have no trouble driving Heather to and from work, since they both worked at the same law firm.
How the house caught fire, was and always would be an unsolved mystery. The most plausible theory was that lightning had struck the garage, causing the cars to catch fire, possibly explode, and send the fire through the garage onto the house. The storm had already ended before Heather or Elizabeth left the house, they definitely would've noticed the cars exploding. But it seemed to be the only logical cause anyone could come up with.
The other not so plausible theory, was that every single one of their neighbors held an unpardonable grudge against them, and worked together to burn their house to the ground.
A genuine mystery. That's all that could be said. And nothing could be done.
Dominic and Michael joined Heather and Elizabeth as they sifted through the remains of their home, trying to find anything that survived. There was nothing. Nothing recognizable at least.
Everything was gone. It was ill-fated. Why else would this happen? No one seemed able to grasp it. Heather and Elizabeth were both bemused, and expecting to wake up any moment.
Blake, on the other hand, seemed far too relaxed. Elizabeth picked up on it, at least. She kept getting the feeling that he was expecting this to happen all night. She wasn't sure if she was just overwrought by the heavy load of emotion that came flooding through that night, or if her keen ability to see through people was telling the truth.
It wouldn't matter. The only clue she had was his expression, and anyone else would see it as a normal sorrow painted face. And even if he did have something to do with it, how was it possible? Nothing added up.
"Well, I... I could stay with you tonight, if you want." Michael looked down, shoving his hands in his pockets.
"I don't think that's necessary. I'll be fine..." She saw his expression was mortified, she could barely handle it. "Um...I'll call you tomorrow?" she added in, hoping to redeem some of his complacency. It worked.
His eyes brightened, shooting back up from the ground. "Okay." Feeling confident, he leaned in to kiss her lips. She turned her head, and his soft lips landed on her icy cheek.
They exchanged awkward glances, she smiled weakly, and he turned to his car.
The perfect evening had plummeted into a cataclysmal catastrophe.
Dominic's apartment was huge, much too large for him to be living alone. It was also decorated exquisitely and unnaturally clean and organized for someone who just moved in from the other side of the country.
He must have a roommate, Elizabeth thought. And as if he read her mind, he immediately said, "My Aunt was kind enough to let me stay here with her while I search for my own apartment. She's ill right now, but I'm sure she won't mind you staying. There are two extra guest rooms, so you won't have to share or crash on the couch."
Heather nodded; Elizabeth continued to gaze at the apartment. She never realized how huge apartments could be.
"Are you thirsty, can I get you anything?" Dominic asked, eager to please.
"Water." Heather requested meekly.
Blake walked over to the tall silver double sided refrigerator. He opened a cabinet that held bowls and plates, quickly closed it, opened the cabinet next to it, and grabbed a glass from the cabinet above, then pressed down on the ice and water dispenser attached to the freezer door.
"What does your Aunt have?" Elizabeth asked curiously, as she always was.
Dominic didn't answer right away, as if he was thinking up the right words. "Some type of flu, I suppose. She won't go see a doctor. Her temperature stays relatively low, she just sleeps a lot. Nothing to worry too much about."
"Oh, well, I'm glad it's nothing serious."
"As am I. Did you want ice water too?"
"Sure, thanks." Elizabeth took a seat at the bar, folding her arms and leaning forward on the white topped counter.
They all sat at the bar, drinking water silently, until Heather finally broke her silence streak.
"Dominic, I just want you to know how unbelievably grateful I am. You...you didn't have to do this." She reached up to wipe away an escaping tear from her deep ocean eyes.
"Heather, Elizabeth... I was not about to let you get taken away to some unsanitary and incommodious motel. I'm more satisfied with this situation than any other, and I'm hoping you will be too."
Heather's hands were cupped around her glass that was dripping in condensation. Dominic reached over to graze her arm, and picked up her hand to place in his.
A wonted smile painted her pale lips, and her eyes reached into his.
That was the moment Elizabeth became suspicious of her mother. That habitual smile and those eyes she knew so well. Those eyes didn't look at Dominic as a boyfriend, or as a lover. They looked at him as if she'd known him her whole life, as if he were Elizabeth.
Dominic was unreadable. Except for his dark eyes that sometimes turned pure black. But Elizabeth had no idea what it meant, or if she was just imagining it.
Nothing was making any sense. It was beyond frustrating. It was exasperating, maddening, and wearisome. To make matters even worse, she was the only one that seemed so provoked. And that just made her feel uncomfortably close to insanity.
Elizabeth yawned; hoping Dominic would pick up on the hint. He did.
"Let me get some night clothes from Agatha for you two to change into."
He returned a few minutes later with two pairs of flannel pants, and two baggy t-shirts. "Here you are." He distributed the clothes. "I'll show you to your rooms."
The rooms were identical. Both were a fair size, had queen size beds, a dresser and mirror. The walls were white, the beds were white, and the dresser was white. Almost everything was white. The floors were wood, an orangish-brown color. Its contrast made the room seem more illusory.
"You just going to go to bed, hon?" Heather said softly from the open door of Elizabeth's new room.
"Yeah, I'm pretty tired. You?" She was now pulling back the pure white comforter.
"Yeah, I think so." She paused, and looked at Elizabeth the same way she looked at Dominic. She'd seen this look before many times, and couldn't understand why she shared it with Dominic. "You need to talk about it?" Heather asked, keeping the look of unconditional concern strong in her glazed over eyes.
"I think I'll sleep on it. We can talk in the morning if you're still up for it."
"Sounds like a plan."
They both exchanged warm, tender smiles. They never needed to say 'I love you.' Neither of them liked to say it. Heather had her reasons; Elizabeth found it obvious enough to understand. Elizabeth simply grew up without hearing it and without saying it, so she never felt the need to declare it. Their eyes said enough, it was all either of them needed.
Heather shut Elizabeth's door, and the rest of the night was silent. Elizabeth didn't waste her tears over Michael, or over her destroyed home. Instead, she tried to piece together every estranged detail she could think of.
Dominic's pure black eyes.
Heather and Dominic showing up at L'amour.
The neighbors not noticing the burning house.
Dominic's unrealistic serenity and compliant attitude towards the entire situation.
The way Heather looked at Dominic.
She couldn't think about it too long, she became tiresome, and made absolutely no progress in her proclaimed mystery. Any solution that could possibly fit would be too illogical to even consider.
It was a long night. A very long night. Finally, giving up on her Sherlock Holmes mentality, she shut her heavy eyes for the night.
Dominic was the first to wake on that Saturday morning, after the tragic happening. Heather and Elizabeth woke an hour after, to the comforting scent of brewing coffee. Agatha remained asleep.
Heather walked into the kitchen, yawning and stretching, nearly hitting Elizabeth in the face.
"Sorry." she said while yawning.
The faint light shining through the closed white curtain only lighted the room.
"Did you girls sleep well?" Dominic asked while filling up two coffee mugs.
"Yes, very well." Heather reached to grab a creamy white mug.
"Cream and sugar?"
Heather nodded. After she was done, she pushed the sugar towards Elizabeth, already knowing what her reaction would be. Elizabeth sighed, and pushed it back towards her mother. "I drink my coffee black."
Dominic chuckled slightly, very briefly, and then quickly covered any sign of amusement.
Dominic did not drink coffee that morning.
"I'd like to take you both shopping today, for clothes." Dominic said confidently, it wasn't a request.
Heather began complaining. "Dominic, you really don't have to do this... this is too much. Way too much, I mean-" Dominic stopped her.
"I am taking you both shopping." he said emphatically. He was so handsome, his dark brown hair falling onto his face, strong lips, perfectly defined jawbone, and alluring black eyes. How could she refuse?
"Okay." Heather replied softly.
Elizabeth and Heather both took showers, and dressed back into the clothes they wore to bed.
"Ready?" Dominic asked, grabbing the keys from the counter.
They both nodded.
Shopping was easier than they expected. It was as if Dominic wasn't even there, but replaced solely by his credit card. By noon, Elizabeth and Heather had acquired $1,000 worth of clothes. By 3 o'clock, it was $2,000. Dominic told them to reach $5,000.
For some reason, they didn't feel awkward. Normally, they'd shop on the clearance racks and be overly cautious of price tags while someone else was taking them shopping against their solicitous mindset. It was different with Dominic. Neither of them knew why, nor did they wonder.
Dominic held purses and clothes willingly, and at times forcibly. He suggested certain outfits here and there, and stood outside dressing rooms. Heather would come out in outfits, spin around, and ask him what he thought.
"Absolutely lovely." he'd respond every time.
By the end of the shopping spree, both Heather and Elizabeth had acquired numerous pairs of jeans and simple designed tee-shirts, along with plenty of lingerie, casual shoes, formal shoes, work clothes for Heather, and formal dresses as well. They no longer had to walk around in Agatha's pajamas, which was relieving since they'd gotten many perplexing stares throughout their shopping spree.
Elizabeth was too focused on finding clothes to notice how unbelievably strange it was for Dominic to be so comfortable in the shopping situation. She did realize this once they were back in the H3, and a stroke of silence had fumed through the massive car. Why was he so calm? Most men would never stick around for 5 hours while two women went shopping, with $5,000. He's gay. That was the first thought that slipped into Elizabeth's mind, she wondered if her mother was thinking the same thing. But Elizabeth knew that couldn't be it, the piece didn't fit the puzzle. Nothing fit, besides the clothes. There was no use trying to piece it together, there were more pieces on the way. Patience was essential in this contorted puzzle. That was the key, she knew it, but nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.
"How about lunch?" Dominic asked, pulling into a restaurant, making the decision for them.
"If you let me pay you back." Heather said, in a serious tone.
"If you do, I'll use the money to buy you jewelry." Dominic said, smiling, and parking the H3 next to a silver Honda Civic.
Heather sighed, and unfastened her seatbelt. Dominic was at her door sooner than expected, and held out his hand for her, to help her from the massive vehicle. He did the same for Elizabeth.
"I'll have the house hamburger meal, and an iced tea, please." Elizabeth ordered, handing her menu to the waitress.
Heather ordered next. "Ah, the Caesar salad, and a water." She began handing her menu to the waitress, when Dominic reached up to stop her.
"Are you a vegetarian?" he asked with false curiosity, since he knew very well that she wasn't from their previous meal at L'amour.
"No..." She was confused.
"Then you'll order an actual meal. A salad is a side dish." He placed the menu back in front of her.
Heather didn't argue, she was hungry, a salad wouldn't fill her.
"Okay, I'll have the house hamburger meal too, and a Coke. Diet."
"You don't need diet." he told Heather, "She doesn't need the diet." he then told the waitress.
The waitress smiled and then turned to Dominic. "And what would you like, sir?" she asked in a voice that was a little too friendly, and a smile that said a little more than 'I hate my job, but I have to smile like this so you'll tip me well.'
"The house hamburger meal seems to be a popular choice; I think I'll go with that. And water, please."
The waitress gathered the menus, and scurried off to get their drinks.
Heather started the conversation. "I'm going to have to call the insurance company soon. Elizabeth, would you prefer to rebuild the house, or just use the money to buy another house? We'll have a little over 100 grand..."
"Mom, it's up to you. I'm almost 18; I won't be living here much longer."
"I thought you were taking a year off after you graduate?"
"I am, but a year isn't all that long. This is your decision."
"It's your house too."
"I'm fine with whatever you want, Mom."
"Alright." she said, slamming her palms down on the table. "I want to move to Madagascar and live in a straw hut."
"Well, let's just hope the big bad wolf doesn't come and blow it down." Elizabeth said sarcastically.
Heather smiled, and looked up to the waitress that had returned with their drinks. Her eyes weren't fixed on Heather though, they were locked on Dominic. "Here you go, sir." She placed his water down in front of him, and gave another unnecessary smile. Elizabeth and Heather didn't receive any smile.
The meals came shortly after the drinks, three identical meals. Elizabeth started eating right away, she was starving. Heather was quite hungry as well, but tried to act as polite and 'lady-like' as possible. Dominic seemed amused by it. He, however, did not eat right away. And once he did eat, he seemed to have a problem with the food; it looked like he was being forced to swallow worms or something equally disgusting. Elizabeth was the only one that noticed, of course. Her meal tasted fine though.
Something else to add to the list, she thought.
"Is everything alright?" the waitress came back to ask.
Elizabeth waited for Dominic to complain about his food. "Everything is wonderful." Dominic flashed his flawless smile; the waitress might as well have just melted before them. Instead, she smiled dizzily, and stumbled off.
The rest of the meal was filled with talk of how they'd spend the money the insurance company would pay from the house and cars. Heather added how she would be paying Dominic back immediately. He chuckled, and asked if she preferred 'Jared's' or 'Tiffany's'.
Dominic paid the check and left a tip, and the waitress acted as if it was the only tip she'd gotten all week.
After lunch, Dominic took them back to the apartment. Heather and Elizabeth put their clothes in the closets, took off the price tags, and changed into something else.
Heather joined Dominic in the living room to watch some random movie playing on TV. Elizabeth took the opportunity to explore the rest of the apartment; she'd been dying to do so since they'd arrived.
She already knew the room across the hall was Heather's room, and the room next to Heather's was the bathroom. She opened the door next to her room; it was a closet, a small closet with mops, brooms, and other cleaning materials.
The next room was empty. It had the same wood flooring, the same off white walls, but it was completely empty. No windows, no closets, nothing.
Across from that room, the door was locked. She considered picking the lock, but had nothing to pick it with. So, she moved on.
The final room was not white. The floor was not wood. The floor, in fact, was carpeted with a soft light brown color. The walls were painted a deep maroon, and the furniture was a dark mahogany. The bed was covered with comforters that matched the same color of the walls. Lying in the bed was an old woman, her silver hair cascading down the soft comforters. Her wrinkled face was expressionless, lost in a deep sleep.
"Agatha." Elizabeth whispered, not intending to wake her up, but just reminding herself who this woman was.
Agatha remained asleep.
Elizabeth felt strange being in her room, so she quickly left, and shut the door softly behind her, although she was fairly sure she could've slammed the door and Agatha wouldn't have woken up.
The adventure was over. Elizabeth returned to the living room where Heather and Dominic were seated, watching TV. She plopped onto the chair, and began watching TV too.
"Excuse me one moment; I left something in the car." Dominic said, standing up and leaving the apartment.
Just when you start getting into a movie, the phone always has to ring, which is exactly what happened.
"Oh! That's my phone!" Heather jumped up to go retrieve her phone from her purse, which was resting on the counter in the kitchen.
She checked the caller ID; it was an unfamiliar number, and an unfamiliar area code.
"Yes, this is she."
"My name is Steve Witt, I'm from the Portland Police Department, I'm afraid I have some unfortunate news for you. Arien Vine has passed away."
Heather's face fell, her lips turned into an immediate frown, and her deep ocean eyes became dreary and unfocused. She made an undistinguishable noise, the police officer expected something like that, and continued talking.
"It was of natural causes, she died peacefully." The officer's voice began to break. "She left her house to you and your daughter. She left everything to you and your daughter. Everything comes out to $971,000, and that's just the house, not including anything inside of it. We haven't totaled that in yet."
"Nine…wait, what? A million dollars!? How… how does she have that much money?"
"I take it you've never been to her house before. Well, not so much a house, it's a mansion."
"I…I had no idea."
"Lovely surprise, isn't it?"
"Well, not really, not in the sense I'd hoped. But our house had caught fire the other night, and literally burned to the ground."
"Everything happens for a reason. Here's proof."
"Yes." Waves of tears started escaping from the corners of her ocean eyes.
"I'm terribly sorry for your losses. Will you be claiming the mansion?"
"Uh… this is… just a lot of news. I'll have to talk it over with my daughter. I'll have an answer for you as soon as I can."
"Alright, ma'am. I'm sorry, again. Take care."
Heather hung up the phone. Dominic walked in. Elizabeth stood up.
"Found it." Dominic held up his cell phone. He then noticed Heather's tears, and walked closer to her. "What happened?"
"My…" She wasn't sure what to call Arien, without putting Dominic in a state of shock. She just decided to say it; there was no other way to put it. "My mother-in-law died."
"Grandma's dead?" Elizabeth choked back tears, already knowing the answer.
"Yes." Heather's tears fell faster, and she held out her arms for Elizabeth to fall into.
Elizabeth shook her head, turned towards her room, and locked herself in herself in. She felt like she was 12 years old again, but she could hardly handle any of this. First Michael, then her house, now this. What was next? Or was this it? She didn't want to know.
She fell onto the white comforters, and screamed into the pillow, soaking the material with her tears and sobs.
Heather knew well enough not to bother Elizabeth; this is how she always was. Elizabeth was never dependent on anyone other than herself, especially in difficult situations, such as this one.
Heather cried on Dominic's shoulder that night, they fell asleep on the couch. Dominic didn't ask about the 'mother-in-law' situation. He acted as if he understood. He acted so well.
Elizabeth remained locked in her room, and silently cried the night away.
Dominic was, once again, the first to wake the next morning. Heather was next, and Elizabeth was last. Agatha, of course, remained asleep.
Elizabeth walked into the kitchen, the white comforter wrapped around her. She looked up at the clock hanging above the white cabinets. It was 9:00.
"Shit! Why didn't you wake me up? I'm late!" Elizabeth dropped the white comforter and headed back to her room to find clothes.
"Elizabeth! I called you off from school today!" Heather called into the hallway.
Elizabeth walked back; she didn't need to ask why. "Thanks, mom."
Heather smiled. "You want some breakfast?"
Elizabeth shook her head; she didn't have much of an appetite. "I'll have coffee."
Dominic poured her a mug, and handed her a blueberry muffin.
"Try to eat." His eyes locked onto hers, the black stare was back.
"Okay." Elizabeth grabbed the coffee and muffin without even realizing she had. She took a seat in the living room, and flipped through the channels. She settled on a channel, and nibbled on the muffin, sipping her coffee in between bites.
The day went by slowly. It ranged from watching the Discovery channel, old horror flicks, and reality TV. Elizabeth didn't feel like doing anything but lay down and watch a brain-cell murdering box. Nothing else sounded more appealing. But, eventually paradise has to come to an end.
Riiiiing. Riiiiiiing. Riiiiiiiiing.
This time it was Elizabeth's cell phone. It was Michael. She didn't want to answer, but she knew he'd just keep calling if she didn't pick up. He'd done so last night, she had to turn her phone off.
"Hi, Mike." she said in a tedious tone.
"Are you okay? Why weren't you in school today? Why didn't you answer your phone last night? Where are you? I've been so worried…"
"Mike! Calm down!"
"Where are you?"
"I'm at my mom's friend Dominic's apartment."
"Is everything okay?"
"My grandmother passed away."
"Elizabeth, I'm so sorry…"
"Why? It's not your fault. I don't need sympathy. Just… ugh. I'll be in school tomorrow, okay?"
"I'll wait for you in your first class."
"Fine. I'll see you then. Bye."
"I love you."
Elizabeth had no idea why he was still trying; she'd made it perfectly obvious that she wasn't interested. How much more abuse was he going to take? She could hardly stand the 'I love you' any longer. She let out a grumbling sigh and pulled her comforter up over her face.
Heather and Dominic would be home from work soon, she didn't want them to know she'd done nothing the entire day, so she got up to take a shower, but then decided on a bath. The bathroom had a huge tub, filled with jets and scented candles placed all over. She needed to relax. Unfortunately, out of habit, she brought her cell phone into the bathroom with her. Just when she got her clothes off, the tub filled, the candles lit, the lights off, and the bubbles made, the phone rang.
It was Kristen.
"Oh my god! I heard what happened! Are you alright? Do you need a place to stay? You can totally stay with me, my mom would so understand."
"It's okay. It's not that big of a deal. We got a lot of money from the insurance company; we're going to be fine. I have a place to stay already, and I'll be in school tomorrow."
"Where are you staying?"
"My mom's friends apartment."
"Ick. An apartment? Come stay with me."
"Actually, it's a really nice place… I was just about to take a bath, the tub could pass for a Jacuzzi."
"Nice… well, if they kick you out, you have a spot here."
"I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Okay, take care! Love ya!"
What was it with everyone declaring their love for her all of the sudden? A simple catastrophe shouldn't lead to so much sympathy and emotion.
She set her phone down on the tub ledge, and got in, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Before she could let it out, the phone rang again. It was Jessica. She knew it wasn't about why she didn't stay for track practice. Instead of answering the call, she set her phone on silent. She didn't need anymore attention. All she needed was to clear her mind, just for a single moment.
She continued to breathe deeply, and before she knew it, she was sleeping. A dreamless sleep. Exactly what she needed.
When she woke up, the bubbles were gone, candle wax was dripping, and the water was getting cold. She picked up her cell phone, 19 missed calls. All of them from friends, worried friends just dying to unleash their 'I love you' on her. Well, not if she had anything to do with it. She wasn't going to listen to the voice mails; she already knew what every one said.
She got out of the tub, grabbed a towel, and blew out the candles. Heather and Dominic would be back from work in about 10 minutes, so she hurried into her room to change. She picked out a pair of faded jeans and a solid red tank top, and then headed out into the living room.
Curiosity struck her again. She turned back, and opened Agatha's door. The wrinkled, emotionless face was still sleeping. She found Agatha to be fascinating. She looked... enchanted. Or dead. She couldn't tell. Elizabeth wanted to wake her up, but knew she shouldn't.
She decided she'd find something to pick the lock to Dominic's room, since it was locked once again. She went into her room to find a bobby pin in her purse, and then the front door opened.
She could hear distant voices; she knew it was Heather and Dominic. She put the bobby pin back in her purse, and headed out to the living room/kitchen area.
"How was work?" Elizabeth asked, opening the fridge and grabbing an apple.
"Well…complicated. We need to talk." Heather sat down at the kitchen counter. Dominic put his hand on her shoulder.
Elizabeth swallowed the bite of apple she had in her mouth. "About what?"
"Grandma left her house to us. Apparently, it's worth almost a million dollars. We can sell it, or we can move to Cape Elizabeth."
"Is it like a mansion?"
"It is a mansion."
"Let's move! Oh god… let's go! Now!"
"I thought this would be a little more difficult for you…"
"Why? My school year's almost over, I've never been to Maine before… Cape Elizabeth sounds like a nice place, I'm sure I'd fit in… and I'm sure grandma wouldn't want us to sell her mansion."
"I agree. I just didn't think you'd be so willing."
"Well, I am. So, let's go."
Heather started laughing. "Well, we won't be leaving for another couple of weeks…"
"Why? It should take a week at the latest."
"Well, don't you want time to say good-bye to all your friends, and finish your senior year?"
"I can do that in a week. I can say good-bye in a week, I mean. And I can finish my senior year in Cape Elizabeth."
"Okay… then we'll leave Friday night."
"Alright." She turned to Dominic. "Thanks so much for letting us stay here, and if I don't get a chance to tell Agatha, tell her thank-you for me too."
Dominic looked over at Heather. They exchanged a look that only they could understand.
"Oh, honey. Dominic is coming with us."
"But… you just moved here… from there."
"My law firm seems to want me back. Plus, I'm sure you two will need some help moving in."
"Oh, okay. Yeah, I'm sure we will." Her eyes turned to a greenish-blue. Confusion.
Heather walked over to the fridge, and then recalled another memory from her day. "Oh! Michael called me today to make sure we were okay; he's such a sweet boy."
Elizabeth groaned and walked into the living room.
"What's wrong? Are you two fighting?" Heather called out, following her into the living room.
"I guess you could say that. He's annoying me. And, he told me he loved me." She made a disgusted noise and buried her face into the pillows on the couch.
"Is that supposed to be a bad thing?" Heather asked.
"Of course it is!" She sprung up from the pillows. "We've only been dating for a month! 'I love you' is definitely a 6 month kind of thing."
Heather chuckled. "I don't think it matters really. If you love someone, you love them."
"Well I don't love him."
"What do I do?"
"You're acting like this is the first time this has happened…"
"Well, it kind of is. Cause he's not giving up. Everyone else just moved on once I told them I didn't love them. I've been so obvious with rejecting him… over and over again… and he keeps coming back!"
"Maybe you should give him a chance then."
"I've already considered it. I don't like the idea of us being together anymore. It's just… I know I don't love him. It would be different if he knew he didn't love me either. But, he thinks he does. I can't lead him on. It's not right."
"Alright, well, now I know why you were so eager to move to Cape Elizabeth."
Elizabeth sighed and let her head fall onto the back of the couch. "I just want to get away from him, and all this attention."
"You can't run from all your problems, and normally I'd be the one to preach that but I feel the same way. You should have been at the office today… dear lord… I've never been so ambushed before."
"It was pretty bad." Dominic added in.
"Ughh… I don't want to go to school anymore."
"Oh, you'll be fine. You have to say good-bye to everyone anyway, and then it's all over. Friday."
"Four more days." Elizabeth whispered to herself.
The next four days were just as awful as Elizabeth had imagined. Her teachers had treated her as if she belonged in the 'Special Kids Class'. Her friends wouldn't stop drowning her in sympathy. A fundraiser was started. 'Help Elizabeth Vine! She has no house!' $1,000 was raised by the end of that week. She didn't need the money, and she told the school that over and over again. She told them how they had just inherited a million dollars, but they insisted on her taking the money. The entire school treated her like a victim of cancer. And the kid that had cancer donated money to the fundraiser! But, it was finally Friday. She wasn't going to let herself break down.
Michael stuck by her side the entire week; he wouldn't stop telling her how much he loved her, and how much he was going to miss her. He even cried. Right in front of her, right in front of the entire English class. It wasn't just a simple tear that he wiped away, he was sobbing. Elizabeth was embarrassed for him, but everyone else just seemed to feel his pain, and give him sympathy too. She could not wait to leave.
After school, Michael was waiting for her in the usual spot. He held out his hand for her to grab, she shrugged it off.
"Will you come back to my house?" he asked.
"Michael, I have a lot of packing to do before we leave…"
"I already talked to Heather, she said you're done packing."
"Can't you take a hint, Mike!?"
"Elizabeth, I love you. I want you to come back to my house."
She stood completely still, completely shocked. How was he being so content through this? She took a deep breath, and reminded herself that it was Friday. Just make them happy, let them have good memories of you before you leave.
She breathed deeply. "Okay."
The drive to his house was silent, except for Elizabeth's humming. She hummed her favorite melody, one that she created. Michael didn't notice.
He parked the car in his driveway; there were already 5 cars in his parked in front of him, and another pulling in behind him.
"Close your eyes!" he said excitedly.
She just wanted to blurt it out. 'You're throwing me a going away party! I get it! Don't make me close my eyes!' But, she didn't. She closed her eyes.
Michael walked her into the house, and about 20 people jumped up and yelled 'SURPRISE!' The room was decorated in white and lavender streamers and a big banner hanging from the ceiling that said 'We'll miss you, Liz! We love you!'
Just perfect, she thought sarcastically. She acted surprised, even though she wasn't. She acted as if she would miss them a great deal, although she wouldn't. She didn't feel the way you should feel about the people you've spent 18 years of your life with. She always felt so distant from them; even though they spent every weekend together doing god knows what since god knows when. She was not emotionally attached, but apparently they were. So she used her six years of Drama Club skill.
"Sorry we had to put Liz. Elizabeth was too long." Kristen yelled out from the back of the crowd of people in Michael's living room.
"It's okay!" Elizabeth yelled back, smiling. She never minded being called Liz, but everyone just assumed she did since they name was rarely used.
The doorbell rang. More people came in. By 6 o'clock, half the senior class must've been there.
Now she really was emotionally touched, she had no idea so many people cared about her. Well, she was sure a lot of people just came for 'Party at Michael Conner's house' rather than 'Going Away Party for Elizabeth Vine at Michael Conner's house'. But, nonetheless, she was still moved to feelings she didn't even know she had for these people.
By 8 o'clock, the house was filled with pizza boxes, kegs, and loud music. Elizabeth was actually enjoying every minute of it. It was a lot easier to enjoy all the attention when it was disguised as just a regular party.
At 10 o'clock, Michael took Elizabeth up to his room.
"I'm really going to miss you." He said, sitting on his bed, making a motion for her to sit next to him. She did.
"I'm going to miss you too." She said honestly. "Thank-you for doing this for me."
"I'd do anything for you."
She took his hand, and put the full force of her piercing green eyes into his. She kissed him, a passionate farewell kiss. Her hand rested on his neck, and he stayed perfectly still, except for his mouth which was moving in awkward sync with hers. He was afraid that even the slightest movement would take the kiss back.
"Move on." She whispered. She was still only inches from his lips.
"Don't go." He whispered back.
"I have to."
"You don't have to do anything."
She sighed lightly, and pulled back farther. "I want to."
He looked down, and then looked back into her eyes. "Well then, I can't stop you."
"Don't feel bad, no one could." She smiled and stroked the side of his face with her fingers.
He tried to smile back, and pressed her hand to his lips.
"Heather wants you home by 11; you should go start saying your final good-byes now. I'll be waiting for you in the car."
"Okay, I won't be long."
"Take your time, please. Promise me."
He walked out of the room. Elizabeth lay back on his bed, and stared up at his ceiling. On the nightstand next to his bed there was a picture of Elizabeth and Michael from his 18th birthday. There she was, in that slutty red dress. And there he was, holding her. She picked it up, they both looked so happy. She liked him so much then; she wouldn't wear that red dress for just anybody. She had to change in the back of Jessica's car; she knew Heather wouldn't let her out of the house in it.
She flipped the picture over; in his messy handwriting it read 'Me and Elizabeth, 3-27-07'.
"Bad grammar." She whispered to herself.
She picked up a pen that she found lying on the floor, and wrote in her elegant handwriting:
I'll always remember that night. I'll always remember you. Don't forget me. I miss you already.
She put the picture back on his nightstand, and walked downstairs.
"Jay!" Elizabeth called out, jumping up into his arms.
"Man, we are going to miss YOU!" He was drunk.
"Aw, I'm going to miss you all too…I have to go soon, I'm just saying good-bye to everyone one last time."
"What!? Well then… let us mess with Mike's sound system real quick then…" He grabbed her hand and stumbled through a crowd of people, towards the 5 foot speakers. He turned down the volume completely. The entire party stopped moving, and slowly quieted down.
"Listen up people! Lizzie Vine, here… is leaving! Which you all knew, but she's actually leaving the party! Right now! So hug her a lot and stuff!" He cranked up the sound again.
Elizabeth laughed. "Thanks, Jay!"
"No problem, babe." He picked her up while hugging her, and she kissed him on the cheek.
Then, in a matter of seconds, she was grabbed from behind and thrust upwards. She was being carried through the crowd. The next half hour was filled with hugs and 'I'll miss you!' was said about every 5 seconds. She even thought she might cry. She decided against it.
At 10 minutes till 11, Elizabeth stepped outside. Michael wasn't waiting in the mustang; he was standing outside of it.
"I'm blocked in, so we're taking Matt's car." He flashed the keys and waited for Elizabeth to reach his side.
The ride back to Dominic's apartment was not silent.
"I'll visit you the first chance I get." Michael said.
Elizabeth sighed, "Michael…" He stopped her.
"As a friend." he added in.
"Promise me something." She whispered.
She hesitated, and then finally said, "Don't miss me too much."
He tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a tortured whimper. "I'll try." he whispered back.
He parked the car next to Dominic's H3. Heather and Dominic were already inside, waiting for her.
Michael and Elizabeth locked eyes for the last time, they didn't say anything. It was the most meaningful moment they had shared together. The awkwardness had melted away, and the final farewell sunk in. This was the last time they would look each other in the eyes, and they both knew that.
Finally, she got out of the car, and hopped up into the H3. Heather had placed a pillow and blanket on the seat. Elizabeth fell down on them immediately.
"How was the party?" Heather asked, looking back to see her.
"It was great." She smiled, and turned to face Heather. "How long have you known?"
"Since last night, I thought it'd be good for you."
"Thanks, it really was great."
"I knew it would be. Leave things with Michael on good terms?"
"I think so." She smiled again, and watched the flawless Mustang drive away for the last time.