This Perfect Strangers Fan Fiction involves flashbacks. The flashback text will be placed in indented text in italics and in the third person. The regular text (which will take place in 1989) will be placed in normal text.

By Michael Hambrook.

Summary: On Mary Anne's 25th birthday, she and Jennifer tell the story of how they first met.

Chapter 1 – Mary Anne's story

It happened one winter's evening on December 2, 1989. Larry and Balki were dressed in their formal wear because Jennifer and Mary Anne have asked them out to celebrate Mary Anne's 25th birthday.

Larry walked out in his suit and asked Balki, "Well, Balki. How do I look?"

Balki said, "with your eyes, Cousin." He laughed silently and said, "Where do I come up with them?"

"I hope I look fine," Larry said, "I want Jennifer to think I look fine."

"What do you think of my gift for Mary Anne's 25th birthday, Cousin?"

Larry looked over to see Balki holding a bouquet of roses.

"Nice, Balki," Larry said, nervously, "Roses are good for your girlfriend's birthday. I hope you watered them."

"Well of course I did, don't be ridiculous."

"That's good, because we don't want them to wilt."

"Cousin, I am from Mypos," Balki said, "I know everything about plants and flowers. They are so pretty on Mypos. They are so nice, that they are planted in the ground and fertilized with Ba-Ba-Sticki before they are harvested. What did you get Mary Anne?"

Larry held up a vase wrapped in white paper. The vase was fat on the bottom and thin on the top. "This," he said.

Balki said, "You got her a Myposian fly squasher?"

"This is a vase. You are giving her flowers and I am giving her a vase."

Balki asked, "You don't suppose Mary Anne will think it is a Myposian fly squasher, do you?"

"I don't think so," said Larry, "Mary Anne has never been to Mypos, so she wouldn't think that."

"Well how come it is wrapped like that?" Balki asked, "Don't you have a box for it?"

Larry looked at his cousin in dismay.

"Balki, you don't know how to wrap gifts in America, do you?" he said, "You never wrap a vase in a box. You take the paper, put the vase on its side, and roll the paper on. Girls always love it when someone wraps gifts without boxes. Girls don't like opening boxes that are stuck together with tape and ribbon."

"I still think you should use a box."

"Really?" chimed Larry, "Tell me, Balki, how many vases have you wrapped in your lifetime?"

"Well..." said Balki

Larry continued, "How many? How many? How many vases have you wrapped in your lifetime?"

"None," Balki said, sheepishly.

"None, as in zero, as in no vases have you wrapped in your lifetime?"

"No."

"I wrapped this vase the traditional American way. Nobody in America wraps a vase in a box."

Larry fidgeted nervously and it was noticed by Balki.

"Why are you so nervous, Cousin?" asked Balki.

"I feel nervous because Jennifer has invited us out. In America, the guy always asks the girl out, it is never the girl who asks the guy."

"Well there must be another reason, other than Mary Anne's birthday."

"We will just have to see."

Meanwhile, in Jennifer and Mary Anne's apartment, Mary Anne was looking out the window at the snowstorm. She was dressed in a fine beige dress with purple cuffs. Jennifer, who was wearing a purple dress, was putting a box wrapped in white paper on the table in the back.

"Gee, Jennifer," Mary Anne said, rather sadly, "The weather doesn't look good this evening. Perhaps we shouldn't take the guys out."

Jennifer came over to the window. "Perhaps you are right, Mary Anne," she said, "I will call Larry and tell him they can come up here, instead."

Jennifer walked over to the phone, picked it up and called Larry.

"Hello, Larry. It's Jennifer. I have to change location plans this evening. The weather is too stormy, so you and Balki can come up here, instead."

"Okay, see you in a few," Larry said and he hung up the phone.

"Who was that?" asked Balki.

"It was Jennifer. It is storming too hard out, so we are going up to their apartment instead." Larry's expression changed to excitement. "This is great, Balki! We will be up in Jennifer and Mary Anne's apartment with them. We'll dim the lights, we'll put on slow records or tapes and we will dance."

"Cousin, get your head out of the Ba-Ba-Sticki" barked Balki, "We are going up for Mary Anne's birthday party."

Larry said in a suave voice, "I know that. I'm talking about later on."

Balki ignored what his cousin just said and remarked, "Come on, Cousin. We don't want to be late." He picked up the birthday cake. It had a number 25 on it for Mary Anne's 25th birthday. The cake was also covered in white frosting, and it had a plastic cover over it. The guys went up to Jennifer and Mary Anne's apartment and rang the bell. Larry stood there with a smile on his face, holding the vase in one hand. Balki stood there with the cake and the roses covered up.

"Hi ladies," Larry said, "Happy Birthday, Mary Anne."

Mary Anne kissed Larry on the cheek and said, "Thanks, Larry."

"Happy birthday, Mary Anne!" said Balki with glee.

"Thanks, Balki," she said, with equal glee, "It will be a happier one, now that you 're here."

Mary Anne walked over to Balki and put her arms out to hug him. Balki put the cake in Larry's right hand so he could hug Mary Anne and Larry nearly fell under the weight of the cake, nearly dropping the vase.

Larry yelled, "Balki! Balki!"

Jennifer knew that Larry got Mary Anne a vase and quickly took it out of his hands. She placed it on the coffee table. Larry thanked her.

Jennifer said, "Larry, why didn't you put this in a box? It wouldn't break if you put it in a box."

"I will remember that next time," said Larry

Twenty minutes passed. After eating, Jennifer got out the cake and they all got a glass of wine. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Mary Anne, who grinned and clapped her hands upon conclusion of the song. Mary Anne opened her gifts, starting with Larry's.

"Oh, Larry. I always wanted a Myposian fly squasher. I didn't know you could buy them in America."

"Just open it, Mary Anne," Larry said, impatiently.

Mary Anne opened her gift and saw that it was a vase.

Mary Anne said excitedly, "It's a Myposian fly squasher made of glass."

"Mary Anne, it's a vase," said Jennifer.

"Oh, right!" chimed Mary Anne, "It would be nice to have some flowers for it."

"Here you go," said Balki, presenting her with a bouquet of roses.

"Balki, you gave me roses," Mary Anne said with glee, "I love roses. They are so beautiful."

"But not as beautiful as you are, Mary Anne," Balki said, warranting him a kiss from Mary Anne. She bent him over and gave him a big kiss.

"Wwwwwoowww!" exclaimed Balki.

Mary Anne put the roses in the vase and looked at Jennifer, who got up and got her gift from the back table.

Jennifer said, "Before I give Mary Anne her gift, I want to announce the special reason, aside from her 25th birthday, that I invited you two here, Larry and Balki. It was on this date 17 years ago that Mary Anne and I met for the first time. What I have in this box is symbolic of that date. Happy birthday, Mary Anne."

Mary Anne opened the gift. "Oh, Jennifer!" she said, "Roller skates that are too small for me. I don't know what to do with them."

"Don't you remember, Mary Anne?" said Jennifer, "These were the first present I ever gave you when we met on your 8th birthday. They meant so much to you, so I decided to give them to you on your milestone birthday. I can't believe it was that long ago – 17 years."

"Where did you find them?" asked Mary Anne.

Jennifer said, "When my grandmother Gladys Campbell died two months ago, I went to Springfield with my mother to settle her affairs. We found them in Grandma's attic."

"Wow!" said Mary Anne, "I haven't seen these in years. I never thought I would ever see them again." Mary Anne stuck her hand in the right skate and pulled out a piece of paper and read it. It said "Jennifer and Mary Anne: Best Friends Forever". She put her hand in the left skate and the lace for it is still inside. The letters "MAPS" written on the side of both skates. Mary Anne explained that MAPS were her initials – Mary Anne Penelope Spencer (at which Balki and Larry looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed the word "Penelope") and that Jennifer's initials were JEL for Jennifer Elizabeth Lyons.

"How did the two of you meet?" asked Balki.

Mary Anne started the story. "It was a stormy day, much like this one..."

The story of Jennifer and Mary Anne started like this: Mary Anne Spencer was born on the 2nd of December, 1964. She was an only child and in the summer of 1968, when she was 3½, Mary Anne's father Max went on a fishing trip. He went out too far in the boat and it capsized. Max Spencer did not survive.

On the date of Mary Anne's eighth birthday, December 2, 1972, it had been four-and-a-half years since her father died and Mary Anne was still shaken up about it. Her mother, Helen Spencer, was an only child, herself, and Mary Anne's father had one sister, whom Helen despised and didn't want to have anything to do with. Helen tried her best to raise Mary Anne on her own, while trying to pursue a career as a photographer. But after four-and-a-half years, Mary Anne was much too shy to have friends or to even bother with people.

Mary Anne's favourite singer was Paul Williams. On her eighth birthday, to cheer her up, Helen bought her daughter an 8-track tape of Paul Williams and she played it on the radio for her. Mary Anne's favourite song by Paul Williams was "Old Fashioned Love Song", which didn't even cheer her up. Mary Anne sadly looked out the window at the snowstorm.

"Come on, Mary Anne," her mother said, "You are now 8 years old. Cheer up. It's your birthday."

"I am not going to have much of a party, Mommy," said Mary Anne, sadly. "Nobody is coming because it's storming too hard. Besides that, I am much too shy to have friends."

"Well you have to overcome this shyness of yours," said her mother, "You are not doing well in school because of it. You need to learn how to open out to people, and share things with them. At least give me a smile. I want to take your picture."

Mary Anne smiled for about 10 seconds while her mother took her picture.

After Helen Spencer took Mary Anne's picture, Mary Anne continued to look out her window at the heavy snow falling in the yard. She happened to look next door where a new family had moved in a few days earlier. Outside in the driveway, a little girl and her brother were shovelling snow with their father. The little girl looked in the window and saw how glum and sad Mary Anne looked. After she was done shovelling her end of the driveway, she went into her house and got a box of something, wrapped it, and went over to the Spencer house with her mother. The little girl knocked on the door, and Helen answered it.

"Hello," said Helen, "Who have we here?"

The girl said, "My name is Jennifer Lyons and this is my mother Catherine. We just moved next door. I saw a sad little girl in the window and I brought something over to cheer her up."

"That's very nice of you," said Helen, "Come on in. Her name is Mary Anne and she is in the living room. Today is also her birthday, so you can make that her birthday present, too."

While Helen Spencer and Catherine Lyons went into the kitchen for a coffee, Jennifer went in to see Mary Anne.

"Mary Anne?" said Jennifer.

"What?" Mary Anne said, "What do you want?"

"My name is Jennifer and I have a present for you. Your mother told me your name and that is how I knew."

Jennifer gave the gift to Mary Anne, who reluctantly accepted it.

"Go on, open it," said Jennifer.

Mary Anne opened the gift and to her surprise, it was a pair of girl's roller skates.

"Happy Birthday, Mary Anne," said Jennifer.

"Wow!" said Mary Anne in excitement, "Roller skates! I always wanted a pair of roller skates! But how did you know it was my birthday?"

"Your mother told me," Jennifer said.

"Oh, right!" chimed Mary Anne.

Jennifer had a smile on her face.

"Thank you, Jennifer," Mary Anne said, "You're a good person. If you want, we can be friends."

"That would be nice," Jennifer said, "I would love to, Mary Anne. But remember, don't use the roller skates outside until the spring.

"Why not?" said Mary Anne.

"Because it is snowing out," Jennifer said.

"Oh, right!" chimed Mary Anne.

While the girls were in the living room, their mothers were in the kitchen drinking coffee. Helen looked in the living room to see the girls playing. Catherine's back was turned to the fact that Mary Anne was putting on the roller skates.

"I am glad to see that your daughter is having fun with my daughter," said Helen, "Mary Anne has never taken to anyone like this before. She has been too shy and too despondent since my husband drowned. She is still trying to get over it. It has been 4½ years."

"I guess all a person really needs is someone their own age they can share something with," said Catherine, "My father is a psychologist. I learned a lot of this stuff from him. The problem I am having with Jennifer is that she was getting into fights at school and with my husband's new job I thought we could move somewhere and I could have Jennifer meet someone new. Perhaps that would help straighten her out."

Mary Anne came roller-skating out into the kitchen to show her mother her present. Jennifer followed behind.

"Look at the roller skates Jennifer gave me, Mommy!" she said, "Aren't they nice?"

"They sure are," said Helen.

"Wait a minute, Jennifer," said Catherine, "Weren't those the roller skates you got for your last birthday three months ago?"

"Yes," said Jennifer, "But I figured that Mary Anne could use them. She looked lonely, so I decided to give her something of mine."

Catherine had a stern look on her face, but knowing that it would be wrong to deprive an 8-year-old of her new present from someone she just met and how good they were getting along, she patted Jennifer on the head.

"I am sure she deserves them," she said, "At least I know you are willing to give up one of your favourite toys for a friend."

"You mean these were your favourite toy and you gave them to me?" Mary Anne asked.

"Yes," said Jennifer, "Do you like them?"

Mary Anne was overjoyed. "I love them," she said, "You can now be my best friend, because you are so nice to me."

"I think I would like to be your best friend," said Jennifer.

Both girls hugged each other and went down to Mary Anne's room to play. After a few hours, Catherine and Jennifer went home. Mary Anne said, "Come play with me again, Jennifer."

"Certainly," Jennifer said, "We are best friends, aren't we?"

"Oh right!" Mary Anne said, smiling.

Jennifer and Mary Anne continued their friendship. When Christmas came, they even exchanged gifts. Jennifer had gotten a new pair of roller skates from her mother. When April came, both girls were in Jennifer's yard, using their roller skates.

"How do they work, Mary Anne?" asked Jennifer

"Just great," said Mary Anne, "I love them."

Skating toward Jennifer, Mary Anne began to slip, but Jennifer caught her.

Jennifer said, "This will be great. We are in third grade now, and we will both be going into fourth grade in the fall."

Mary Anne said, "You want to know what I'm going to be when I grow up? I'm going to be one of those roller-skating waitresses who roller skates to a person's car and delivers food to them on a tray."

"Sounds like a great dream," said Jennifer.

"Yes it is," said Mary Anne, "I believe everyone should have food. I hope that in the future there is no starvation in the world, and that all people have food."

Jennifer said, "Perhaps you can one day make it come true. I am going to be a pilot and fly around the world."

"That would be fun," said Mary Anne. She placed her arms out pretending she was an airplane. "Here comes the Spencer Express, coming in for a landing!"

Jennifer did the same.

"Oh no!" she said, playfully, "it's about to hit the Air Lyons!"

Both girls tag each other and laugh.

"So, Jennifer," said Mary Anne, "Tell me a bit more about yourself and your farm in Iowa."

Jennifer said, "My parents decided to sell it about two months ago. We headed east and stayed at my grandparents' house in Springfield for a while, and then my father got a posting to Chicago, and here we are."

"You're lucky," said Mary Anne, "I was born in Chicago. I haven't travelled anywhere special."

"You know, Mary Anne," said Jennifer, "this is the most fun I have had in a while. I am so glad that you are my best friend."

"So am I," said Mary Anne.

Mary Anne eventually outgrew her roller skates, but since they were a gift from Jennifer, she decided when she was 10 to write on a piece of paper, "Jennifer and Mary Anne: Best Friends Forever". She then placed the note in the right roller skate and placed the box of skates in her closet. Two years past and the girls got to know each other and their families well. Even Helen and Catherine got to know each other well and became as good friends with each other as Mary Anne and Jennifer did. Jennifer's brother Phillip was at once smitten with Mary Anne, but knowing his attitude and reputation as a prankster, she told him to back off and he did. From that moment on, he saw her as nothing more than a younger sister. Phillip was a prankster, but when needed, he was always there for his family and friends.

In the summer of 1977, both girls were 12, almost 13. At the roller skating park, both were there enjoying themselves, both still pondering their futures.

"Can I tell you a secret, Jennifer?" asked Mary Anne.

"Sure," said Jennifer.

"I have another dream," said Mary Anne, "but this is a rather weird one. I keep having a recurring dream that I am on a mysterious island in the Mediterranean and I meet up with a foreign sheep herder with the initials B. B. He wants to take me as his bride and show me what his life is like. I suppose, being a city girl all my life, I know that I cannot resist dreaming about the outside of the city."

"That's amazing," said Jennifer. Do you think you will ever meet him?"

"Who knows," said Mary Anne, "the fact is that he lives on an island and I would have to take a boat to get there. I don't even know how to swim because I am afraid of the water. I black out in deep water after I am in it for about 30 seconds. I don't even like small boats or rafts."

Just about a half hour later, Jennifer was confronted by a young boy named Clifford Jenkins who wanted to pick a fight with her.

"Hey there, Jennifer Lyons," Clifford said, rather snidely, "Are you ready to fight with me today?"

"Buzz off, Clifford," Jennifer said.

"Come on!" chimed Clifford, "You know you want to fight me!"

Mary Anne stepped between Jennifer and Clifford, "Leave my friend alone or I will break your face off and use it as a roller-skating mask for my face."

"It will sure be an improvement over the way you look right now!" laughed Clifford.

Mary Anne put her fingers up to Clifford's cheeks and squeezed them against his teeth.

"Are you going to leave my friend alone," she said through her teeth, "or do you want all your friends to know you were beaten up by a girl?"

"I'll leave her alone," said Clifford, through his lips.

"Very good," said Mary Anne, as she let go of Clifford's face. "Now are you going to run off and leave us alone?"

Clifford started to run in fear. "I'm running, I'm running! That girl is dangerous. She means it!"

Jennifer smiled at Mary Anne. "Thanks," she said, "That guy was bothering me for six months, ever since I moved here."

"That's what best friends are for," said Mary Anne, "to help each other out."

About fifteen minutes later, Helen Spencer, Mary Anne's mother, came driving up to the roller-skating park. She got out of the car with two chest pads and knee pads. Both sets of clothing had the girls' initials on them.

"Hi, girls," Helen said to them.

Mary Anne said, "Hi, Mother. Are you done work?"

Mrs. Spencer said, "Yes. I bought you some monogrammed chest pads and knee pads to go with your monogrammed skates."

"That's great, Mrs. Spencer," said Jennifer, "These will look nice on us."

"I also brought my camera by," said Helen, "because I wanted to finish off the film in it. I have two shots left."

"Great," said Mary Anne, "we can put on our chest pads and you can take a picture of us in our roller skates."

Mrs. Spencer said, "Okay, I will take two pictures, one for each of you."

Jennifer said, "Yes, then we can put 'Best Friends Forever' on the back of it."

The girls smiled with their arms around each other while Helen shot one picture each for the two of them, thus finishing off her film.

"There," said Helen, "I have to go take these pictures to get developed and then I will meet you at home, Mary Anne. Are you cooking supper this evening?"

"Yes, Mother," said Mary Anne, "How does Chinese food sound?"

"Great," Helen said.

Helen left and after about a half hour, the girls packed up their stuff and left. Shortly afterward, they heard a screeching of tires on the road not far from them.

Jennifer asked, "What do you suppose that was?"

"I don't know," Mary Anne replied, "Let's go see."

The girls walked up to a car and Mary Anne sadly noticed that it was her mother's car. The car was upside down in a ditch and severely damaged. Helen had been in a fatal accident on the way home from getting her photos developed. The policeman on the scene had the envelope with the pictures in it.

"Oh, no!" Mary Anne cried, "My mother! What happened to my mother?!"

Mary Anne walked up to the policeman.

"What happened, Officer?" she asked.

"I'm afraid your mother has been in a fatal car accident, little girl. She swerved to avoid an animal and lost control of the car, flipping it into the ditch. She died instantly."

The cop handed Mary Anne the envelope of pictures, at the front of which were the two taken of the girls just hours ago in their roller skates and chest pads. Without even taking the envelope, Mary Anne ran off and headed toward her house crying and sobbing in grief. The policeman gave Jennifer the envelope of pictures. Jennifer looked at the pictures and realized what they were. She took one of the two pictures as her own and kept the other one in the envelope to give to Mary Anne.

Jennifer said to herself, "I wonder if I should take these to Mary Anne right away."

Immediately, Jennifer ran to Mary Anne's house and noticed Mary Anne sitting on the driveway with a mad look on her face smashing her roller-skates into the ground.

"What are you doing, Mary Anne?" asked Jennifer.

"I am wrecking my roller skates," Mary Anne retorted, "I never want to see them again! These are the gift that my mother gave me after I outgrew my other ones. They remind me too much of my mother, and now that she is dead, I am wrecking them and giving up roller skating."

Jennifer was shocked, for she knew that Mary Anne's biggest hobby was roller skating.

"But Mary Anne!" Jennifer said, "You love roller skating."

"Forget it, Jennifer," Mary Anne said, "I am giving up roller skating and running away from home. I have nothing to live for now. I don't need friends, I don't need family and I don't need anyone!"

"You can't just run away," cried Jennifer, "What about our friendship?"

Mary Anne barked, "Well I am just too angry right now for a friendship."

"Is there anything I can do for you, Mary Anne?" asked Jennifer

"Yes," said Mary Anne, harshly, "Go away! I want to be left alone! I never want to see you or anyone else again, ever!"

"But, Mary Anne!" said Jennifer, nearly crying, "You can't give up on your roller skating and I don't want to lose you as a best friend!"

Mary Anne walked into the house, got the box with her roller skates from Jennifer, went back out and shoved them at Jennifer.

"You don't think I can give up on my roller skating, Jennifer!" she cried, "Here! This will show you I have given up on it. I never want to see these again!" Mary Anne noticed the envelope of pictures that Jennifer was holding, and took the other picture of them in their roller skates out of the envelope and ripped it to shreds. "I also never want to see you or this picture again!"

Jennifer started to cry.

"Mary Anne," she said, "You are my best friend, remember?"

"Leave me alone, Jennifer!" barked Mary Anne. "I don't have time for a best friend!" Mary Anne ran into the house, locked the door behind her, ran to her room and started to cry. Jennifer stood there holding the box and the picture and quietly walked home.

As the story returned to the present day 1989, Mary Anne sat there starting to cry, with Jennifer, Balki, and Larry looking at her. She got up from the table, ran to the washroom and started to cry bitterly.

"What's wrong with Mary Anne?" asked Balki.

"She always gets like this when she talks about her mother," Jennifer replied, "I'll go help her out."

Jennifer got up and walked into the bathroom. Just then, the power went out inside the apartment. Larry and Balki stayed sitting at the table.

End of Chapter 1