A/N: Ok, so, for the record, I probably could have edited for another week and made this part better, but really, I'm already 2 weeks in the hole for when I promised I'd post so I figured I'd just go ahead and get something posted before the holiday . . . Can I say though that this part started out as just planning to be a wrap-up for the last part since I had a Christmas part I wanted to post but I felt like I needed to resolve the last topic before continuing on . . . Needless to say, it evolved into it's own thing and you all will probably not see that Christmas part till Christmas comes around again, but hey, wasn't this totally worth it? . . . ;o) . . .

p.s. I have no idea what's going on with the spacing . . . I tried to fix it, I really did . . . :( . . .

Previously:

"Well whatever" Maria says as her expression picks up. "I didn't tell you about my dream last night!"

Oh no . . .

"Ok, so I was a puddle of water . . ."

Part 11

Liz's POV

Ok, so somehow we survived Maria's puddle of water dream . . . I mean, you'd think you couldn't do much as a puddle of water, but you'd be wrong.

Maria washed over a car, she splashed on some lady and then, oddly, there was this whole sequence where she was Michael's shower.

I shudder just thinking about it!

At that point, in my mind, there were scared villagers, hands braced over their heads screaming "Noooo!"

But apparently no one can hear imaginary villagers (go figure) so Maria went on to go into detail!

My god, she was gliding over things and down things and . . .

Shudder

No, no, better not to think about it.

So now we're all sitting at a table: Three horribly traumatized individuals and Maria, who is happily munching on her sandwich.

Max is trying to drink his juice but every time he raises it, he pauses, shudders and lowers it back to the table.

And Alex is just staring blankly into space like I was doing just moments ago until I snapped out of it. I mean, really, who saw that Michael's shower thing coming? Even Alex and I, with years of experience in Maria's stories weren't prepared for that one.

"Hey guys" Michael says as he takes a place beside Maria at the table. He gives her a little peck and digs into his pizza.

Now where did he come from? I must've phased out again. Stupid story!

Max looks over at him and shivers, noticeably looking elsewhere.

Michael, noticing the silence around the table, finishes off his first slice and twists the cap off his Snapple. "So what were we talking about?"

Alex looks up, purposefully avoiding looking at Michael and says loudly "What? Kill who?"

Then he nods, jumps up and scurries off.

Yes, we all know that made no sense. But that's beside the point because where are all of us still sitting?

And where's Alex?

Exactly.

Now how do I do that?

Michael looks after him curiously, but then goes back to his food.

See? Even Michael is familiar with the routine by now.

Max is looking after Alex almost wistfully, no doubt wishing he were the one with the imaginary voices so he could escape.

"I was just telling them about my dream last night" Maria says to him.

Both Max and I cringe.

There's no way we'll survive the re-telling of that story.

"Oh, you mean the water dream?" Michael says, now attacking his fries. He looks over at Max and I. "Did she tell you about the shower sequence?" he asks proudly.

Escape routes!

Let's see, main door behind Maria . . . I'd have to pass her to get through it though . . . There's back through the food area, but I'd have to pass the waterfall . . .

Shudder

Um, ok, there are windows to my left . . . Kinda high up though . . .

"Yeah, I was telling them about how I ran down your hair and your shoulders and . . ."

I could probably take a running leap and clear the windows.

Maria's POV

So, just when I'm getting to the good part of my story, my cell phone rings.

"No Harold! I told you I'm not working any more banquets! . . ."

I see Liz whisper something to Max that he nods to, grabs his juice and then scampers off. I can't say anything though because I'm still stuck on the phone with Harold.

". . . No, I don't care if Carrie's sick and can't come in . . . No, not even if you offer time and a half . . ."

Michael calls after him and after giving me a quick peck on the cheek, he tosses his trash and jogs away.

Meanwhile, Harold is still talking. Seriously, after this phone call I'm totally finding my Fire your boss t-shirt.

". . . Yeah, well, if wishes were horses . . . Yeah, yeah, whatever, bye" and I click off the phone.

"Harold still trying to get you to come in for the faculty banquet on Friday?" Liz asks me.

"Yep, but it's not gonna happen. Last time I worked a banquet, we were 3 servers short and it was just me and Inez taking up the slack. It was ridiculous! At some point I felt like there should've been a montage of scenes with 'She works hard for the money' playing in the background! It was like, 'see Maria serving all the appetizers, washing all the dishes, cooking all of the food, parking cars and washing windows while she's at it!' . . . It sucked!"

"Ok Maria, I'm pretty sure you didn't park cars, wash windows, cook food or wash dishes."

I wave Liz's comment away. "Yeah, yeah, whatever . . . Montage, remember? The point is I worked *a lot!*"

I go to stuff my phone back into my Diva purse and come across my new lipstick.

Liz's POV

"Oh, I forgot to show you!"

How Maria manages to fit anything into the ridiculously tiny bag she's currently calling a purse is beyond me.

"The lipstick I ordered from Beauty[dot]com came today!"

Seriously, I think it was supposed to be an oversized change purse.

"It said it would make my lips look fuller . . . And look!" She applies some liberally and smacks her lips together. "Doesn't it just scream 'Hey, you! Look at my lips!!!' "

"Yeah, ok, but . . . don't all your lipsticks say that?"

Really though, it's like her lips are vibrating . . . It's kinda scary . . . I'm just trying not to look directly at them at this point.

"I ordered new foundation too since the last one made me break out and *certain* people only made it worse" she says, throwing a pointed look in Alex's direction as he returns to the table with a tray full of food, apparently back from his mission of murder and completely over his upset stomach.

"What? I was supportive!" he scoffs, setting his tray down and settling back in his seat.

"Ok, you walked in and said 'So how's Sir Pimple doing this morning?' "

"Yeah, and then you yelled 'I will kill you!' and chased me around the room." He shrugges. "Mistakes were made by all."

Maria glares at him then sighs. "Speaking of mistakes . . . I totally shouldn't have put off that paper for my Humanities class till after Thanksgiving" she says, miserably.

"I tried to warn you" I say because I'm a great friend and I so did.

Flashback:

"Maria, you've blown off your Women and Suffrage paper like three times this week" I say, pushing her Humanities book over to make room for my stack of books on the desk.

Maria looks up from the website she's currently surfing. "Are you counting tomorrow?"

I sigh.

"No, I guess not."

End Flashback

Maria just groans. "The paper has to be at least 2000 words long and, you know, if it was pages instead, I could totally use a bigger font and double spacing, but words?" She throws her hands up in frustration. "Plus Professor James said we have to cite at least 5 different sources, which means researching at the library and I swear their new computer system hates me."

I squint at her.

"Is this your way of asking me to come with you to the library?"

Maria frowns. "No, you promised to take over my shift tonight so you couldn't come anyway."

"Wait, what? I don't remember promising that!"

"You totally did! Remember? We were walking . . ."

"Wow, way to narrow it down Maria. Were we also breathing?" I say sarcastically.

"Liz!" she whines.

"Ok, ok" I concede. "So you have to write this paper . . ."

"Yes and it's due in two days! I have to go to the library with the stupid computer system and it's almost time for Midterms and I hate the library during Midterms!"

"I know!" Alex pipes in. "Everybody's all 'Dude, I'm trying to study', 'Dude, keep it down', 'Dude, you can't sleep in here' and 'Dude, quit snoring.' "

"That's because you were sleeping Alex!"

"Ok. I cannot control where my sugar-highs wear off. Besides, they didn't have to be so rude about it" Alex says in a huff.

Only Alex.

"And if they had kept it down, we would have all been happy" he grumbles.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that would have still just been you" I say.

Alex huffs.

"Ok, so, two days . . . That's more than enough time to finish the paper right?" I ask Maria, who's still looking frazzled.

"I guess so" she says hopefully. "But you know someone famous once said 'Confidence is what you feel when you don't truly understand the situation.'"

She pokes at the last of her sandwich, appetite clearly gone.

"Cool quote" I say approvingly. "Who said that?"

She looks at me distractedly.

"Um, ok . . . I read it in that book with the words?" She waves vaguely.

'Cause all books don't have words, right? . . . Sheez!

Finally she says "It was written by that really old guy that did something?"

"God?" Alex supplies, completely unhelpfully.

Maria just glares at him.

"Ok, what is it with you and the non-descriptions today?" I say exasperatedly.

"I don't know. I'm all tired and stuff, even though I got a full night's sleep." She shifts restlessly. "I think I'm coming down with something. Feel my head, is it hot?" she asks, aiming her forehead at Alex.

After doing as she asks, he shakes his head at her, but she goes on working herself up with her own hypochondria.

"Remember that time I caught on fire? It was like a Tuesday or something. That was not a good day."

"Ok, Maria, you were never on fire" I say exasperatedly.

Her stories are insane!

"Well, remember when that lady threw down her cigarette really close to my foot? I could have *totally* caught on fire from that! Or that time I got too close to my aromatherapy candle and it singed the tassels of my new shirt? I could have caught on fire from that. Or that time . . ."

Ok, this conversation has officially gone to a weird place.

"Ok, what is with the catching on fire monologue?" I interrupt her to say.

"It's just, well, being on fire is *really bad*" she answers.

You think?

"And I read this article on spontaneous combustion and guys, I'm telling you, it could really happen!"

And just when I thought this conversation couldn't get any weirder . . .

Meanwhile Maria, claiming she's feeling warm, starts searching her backpack for the bottle of water she packed.

Shudder

While Maria's busy searching, Kyle walks up.

He eyes Maria strangely (probably because of the lipstick) and she looks back in rising panic.

"What? Am I on fire or something?" she starts patting herself worriedly. "'Cause you should totally tell me if I am!" She's working herself into a panic, preparing to stop, drop and roll (I can tell).

"What?!" Kyle asks, startled. "Why would you be on fire??!"

"Just walk away Kyle, you so don't want to get sucked into this one" I warn.

I attempt a distraction. "Maria, we should go. You have a paper to get started on, right?"

"Liz!" she whines, completely forgetting about possibly being on fire. "Why would you bring that up? I had just successfully repressed it! Do you *want* me to be sad? Sad is no fun for me, how 'bout we try a different emotion? . . . Ooh, how 'bout thirsty? I can totally do thirsty!"

"Yeah, I don't think 'thirsty' is an emotion" I say wryly.

But is she paying me any mind? . . . Nope . . . She's already smacking her lips together and pushing her water away.

I guess she's getting in character.

That's when I notice the massive quantities of food piled on Kyle's tray. "Wow" I remark "*somebody's* hungry."

"Yeah" Kyle responds, shifting the tray, probably because it's heavy. "I'm trying to bulk up. I have to gain 10 pounds by Columbus Day for football."

"Wow, so you have to gain 10 pounds *and* turn back time?" Alex responds, nodding.

"Huh?"

"Dude, Columbus day was like last month."

"Oh, yeah . . . uh, which one is the one in November?" Kyle scratches behind his ear and shakes his head.

"Veteran's day?"

"Ok, yeah, I have to gain 10 pounds by then."

Someone calls to Kyle from a few tables away and he nods at us before departing.

"Hey Alex, want this cake?" Maria says, pushing her tray towards the middle of the table.

"Yep!" Alex says, already digging in and munching happily. Apparently his Maria-filter takes a moment to kick in, because then he goes "Wait, why are you being nice to me?" He gasps. "Oh my god, is the cake poisoned?! AM I DYING??!"

Yes, apparently Maria's drama queen training is kicking in again.

"No Alex, I'm just sharing. Here, have some gummi worms!"

And unbelievably she hands him her spare bag.

Now see, you have to recognize that Maria hasn't been big on sharing lately . . . At least when it's something she likes. She's even started setting up a perimeter around her food with various condiments, just so that Alex won't try to steal any.

"This is payback for the dance of shame, isn't it?" Alex says, already munching on a worm even though he suspects it's a trap.

"I think she plans to fill me with candy and then whack me with a stick" Alex whispers to me out of the corner of his mouth, somehow still stuffing himself with gummi worms. "At least it'll be already chewed candy" he says, like that'll be his revenge.

"Calm down Alex. She just wants you to go to the library with her, that's all" I tell him.

Alex grimaces. "You know, I'd think I'd rather be treated like a human piƱata."

He pushes the gummi worms back at her.

And really? Alex is just not 'library' guy . . . He pretty much has two modes in a library: Super Sleepy Alex or Super Awake Alex . . . Basically Super Awake Alex only shows up around midterms and finals, when Alex is on a steady diet of Coffee, No-Doze and Jolt cola and loses all ability to speak in a normal voice. See?:

Flashback:

"WHY AM I TALKING SO LOUD?" Alex yells curiously.

End Flashback

So yeah, we never, ever, invite him to the library around exams.

Super Sleepy Alex is just the opposite.

"Oh, come on!" Alex wails. "There was a poll and everyone agreed: Libraries suck. Especially all the time."

Maria ignores him but he continues.

"Hey! That should be their slogan. The Library: Where happiness goes to die."

"Just let it go Alex. You're just bitter because they won't let you sleep there" I say.

Alex just pushes the crumbs from his cake around on his plate and pouts. "How come Liz can't go?"

"Alex, we just had this discussion" I say to him.

"You were sitting right here?"

Alex just looks at us blankly.

"Right" Maria says, and explains.

Apparently Alex spaced at the start of this discussion . . . But really? . . . I totally get his point. Maria is always dragging us places we don't want to go. There's this store, Solstice, that we alternate going with her to and it is just awful. I mean, the store is horribly trendy and obviously trying way too hard. So, ok, the up side is that they do have good clothes. The down side is the store has a friggin' DJ, and that, well, that's just wrong.

"Please Alex? I'm just asking for help with the computer system . . . You don't even have to stay awake the whole time."

"As if he could" I mutter.

Later, as we part ways in the quad, Alex says "Ok, but if I go, I'm totally allowed to introduce you to random strangers by saying 'Hi, this is Maria and these' he points to her face 'are her lips.' "

Maria just huffs but she doesn't object.

"Cool. Field trip" Alex says.

I shake my head.

I don't even need to be there to know exactly how that 'Field trip' will go:

Flashback:

"Alex!"

"What?! I wasn't sleeping . . . I've already *not* fallen asleep like eight times!"

He startles awake when Maria pokes him with her pencil. " . . . nine times!"

Plaintive whine. "Al-ex."

End Flashback

How else could it go? . . . She just fed Alex cake and candy and took him to the library. That was just poor planning on her part.

tbc . . .

A/A/N: Ok, I haven't posted a new part for this in so long that I'm feeling a little self conscious . . . Can you all please feedback me and let me know what you think? . . . The good, the bad, and the not so pretty? . . . Seriously, I can take it . . . Even the lurkers who never check in? . . . Perhaps it'll even motivate me to get that Christmas part done . . . :? . . .