FINDING THE WAY HOME
By Jenna Vardy (StarGazerGirl)
Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell, and I'm not writing these fics for profit, so please don't sue me. I'm just a fan who can't seem to let go…
Distribution: Let me know if you want it and where it's going, and I'll probably say yes. firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary: An alternate universe look at what life could have been like for the Roswellians.
Part One - Isabel
My name is Isabel Valenti. I'm seventeen years old and I live with my parents and my brother and sister. I'm a straight-A student, a member of the cheerleading squad and Homecoming Queen.
And I'm an alien.
My mother and sister found me on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere ten years ago. I was wandering around the desert, lost and alone, in the middle of the night. I knew there were others out there like me – I could feel them – but I found them too late. Just minutes before the car stopped, I saw them, the two boys like me, holding hands. They both reached out for me, when we saw the lights. Two round circles cutting across the darkness, speeding towards us.
I guess the lights scared them, and they ran off, leaving me behind. And then the car slowed to a stop, and Mom came running towards me. She picked me up and wiped the tears from my eyes – which certainly wasn't an isolated incident as the years passed by – and brought me to the warmth of the car. My sister had extra clothes in her backpack, and they dressed me and wrapped me in a blanket and fed me a chocolate bar. Then they strapped me into the backseat and drove off, leaving my brothers behind.
That was the last time I saw them.
My mother carried me inside and tucked my sister and me into her bed. She kissed my cheek and told me to have sweet dreams. I can still remember everything about that moment – how her hair tickled my cheek as she leaned towards me, how soft her lips were as they touched my cheek, how she smelled like roses and jasmine. How warm I felt after the cold of the desert when she pulled the blankets up under my chin, how safe I felt when she stroked my hair and sang to me. How my sister's hand threaded through mine as she fell asleep. How I knew, without a doubt, that this was where I belonged.
While we slept, Mom called Sheriff Valenti to report that she had found an abandoned child in the desert. The next morning, when my sister and I woke up, he was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for us. He asked me questions as Mom fed us pancakes for breakfast, but I couldn't answer. I didn't know how to talk.
The sheriff arranged it with the social workers to let me stay with my mother and my sister, and was instrumental in arranging a speedy adoption. Even now, a decade later, my mother still says that I was the one who brought her and Daddy – Sheriff Valenti – together.
Daddy was fascinated with me. He and Mom were both horrified that anyone could abandon a child like that, and were positive that my inability to communicate and my apparent loss of memory was a result of the life I lived before they found me. Daddy made it his mission in life to search for my real parents – he said he wanted to haul their sorry asses to jail for abandoning a little girl – but he never succeeded. That's because he didn't know the truth. He didn't know that my parents couldn't be found because they weren't even on Earth.
But then, I didn't know the truth at first, either.
I didn't find out what I really was until a few months after my mom and sister found me. It was just a month before my parent's wedding, and they decided to take all of us – my sister, my brother and me – for lunch at the Crashdown Café and then to visit the UFO Museum.
I remember that day so well. Mom was so happy, she let us kids eat whatever we wanted, and didn't even object when my brother tried to eat the sugar cubes. I ordered a Cherry Coke, Saturn Rings, and an E.T. burger. My sister and brother got in a food fight, but not even that could ruin Mom's good mood. She'd been on this high since Dad popped the question on the day my adoption became finalized. My sister's father had left them just a few months before they found me, and my sister still swears, to this day, that if I hadn't come along when I did, their lives would have been radically different.
Then we went across the street to the museum. I was holding Mom's hand – I was very clingy at that age, and I still am, probably a result of my fear that my family would leave me that way my real parents and the boys like me had left me, all those years ago. I remember skipping along beside her, and giggling when she whispered that I was her little princess. Daddy held my brother with one hand and my sister with the other, and they were sticking their tongues out at each other behind his back. We walked through the door, and stopped at the gift shop, at my brother's request. Daddy bought us all matching t-shirts, and my sister and brother immediately pulled theirs on over their t-shirts. Mom put mine in a bag. The picture of an alien scared me a little, and I was already wearing my favourite shirt, a pink t-shirt with a sparkly rainbow on the front.
My brother and sister ran on ahead, and I held Mom's hand as we went to look for them. And then I saw it. The display of an alien autopsy. Everything clicked all of a sudden. It was as if I could hear the proverbial light bulb click on as everything fell into place. All my questions about where I came from, why I could do things everyone else couldn't, why I felt inexplicably pulled to the stars – it all made sense.
And when I saw the autopsy, I became hysterical. Screaming, crying, shaking…Mom and my sister took me home, tried to calm me down, but nothing worked. I was convinced people in white lab coats, like the mannequins I saw in the museum, would come and take me away. I was positive that if Daddy found out, he would turn me in. I was sure that that was the fate my missing brothers had suffered.
In the months afterwards, I was unable to sleep alone. I would have horrific nightmares, dreams of faceless men snatching me away from Mom's arms. Or even worse, dreams of Daddy finding out I was an alien – a little green man like the ones who ruined Grandpa Valenti's life – and sending me away from everyone I loved, telling me that he didn't want me for his daughter anymore. Every night, I would find myself in my sister's bed, gripping her hand the way I did that first night.
I was also terrified of Daddy…but only when he was wearing his sheriff's uniform. If I saw him wearing that, I would run screaming from the room and hide in the hall closet. It got so bad that after the wedding, he would change at the office.
My parents sent me to psychologist after psychologist, trying to figure out what the hell had come over me. Why I had gone from a happy little girl to a timid shadow of my exuberant sister and brother. Why I became hysterical if I so much as saw my father's sheriff's badge. Why sometimes I would lay awake all night, crying like my heart was breaking.
Eventually, they all reached the same conclusion: that I had suffered so much trauma in my early years that I repressed the memories, and my change in behaviour was the result of these memories coming closer to the surface. They all said I would either remember my past or grow out of it in time, and it was all just a matter of waiting for me to remember. All they could do was be there for me.
In the August before my first year of school, it all became moot anyway. Daddy was offering a high-paying job with the New Mexico FBI field office, and he took it. So my siblings, my parents and I left Roswell.
We moved into a nice house in Albuquerque, one that was big enough for all of us to have our own rooms. My sister and I shared a bathroom that linked our bedrooms, and my brother's room was across the hall from mine...close enough that I could still creep into their beds late at night if I had nightmares. Mom and Dad had a room downstairs, so it was like we had our own loft. There was an extra bedroom that Dad turned into a playroom one weekend, which was eventually transformed into a den, as we grew older.
Mom went back to school, and got a degree in education, which she always dreamed about doing when my sister was little. Mom and Dad suited each other well – his serious side balanced her free-spirited nature, while she got him to lighten up and have fun. They truly are my ideal of the perfect parents. Dad played football with my brother in the backyard on weekends while Mom taught my sister and me how to bake pies and the importance of the women's movement.
I was happy, but I always seemed to need my family more than my brother and sister. They would fight and tease, to the point where an outsider would think they hated each other, but if I so much as looked sad, they stopped immediately and concentrated on cheering me up. I was the youngest out of the three of us, according to the birthday the social workers assigned me, and they felt they had to protect me.
Funny, isn't it? That the alien with the freaky powers would need the most protection?
We were a happy family. An ordinary family that played Monopoly together once a week and laughed and teased. Years went by and I began to think that my realization that I was an alien was all just a bad dream.
And then the bottom fell out of my happy existence.
Part Two - Alex
My name is Alex Whitman. I'm seventeen years old and I live with my parents and my sister. I'm a computer geek, member of Roswell's hottest garage band The Whits, and dodge-ball king of West Roswell High.
And I know the truth – aliens really do exist.
I found out the truth nearly two years ago, when my best friend was shot. Before my very eyes, I saw Max Evans heal her. One minute, she was bleeding to death, and the next minute, she was fine.
That's when life got weird.
Luckily, Sheriff Hanson's a little slow – he's had his mind on other things, namely Maggie Sherwood – so no one questioned the whole I-spilled-ketchup-on-myself story. But it also meant that we were let in on the big secret. That Max and Michael Evans, and my very own sister, Tess Whitman, were "not of this Earth," as they like to say.
Needless to say, the whole thing freaked me out more than a little. I mean, one day, my screen saver was searching for evidence of alien life, and the next day, I find out I've been sharing a bathroom with one of them for over a decade. It kinda screws with a guy's head.
So I decided to get away for a few days. Give myself time to let it all sink in. I headed out in the desert to stargaze and 'rough it,' as my sister likes to call it, and try to process everything I'd heard and seen. I came to two very important conclusions: that either we had all ingested massive doses of hallucinogens, or they really were aliens, and we were all in store for a hell of a ride.
The knowledge that I – Alex Charles Whitman – knew something that six billion people questioned was, to say the least, awe-inspiring.
Unfortunately, though, the whole shooting incident wasn't as low-key as we would have hoped. Two tourists, in town for the Crash Festival, alerted the FBI. Sure, they were far from credible – Larry and Jennifer were alien freaks, after all – but there was enough interest in aliens and paranormal activity that the Special Unit took two people everyone else had dismissed as nutcases seriously. And we went from being a blip on their radar to worthy of a full-scale investigation.
And I do mean us. I sure as hell wasn't going to let my little sister and my best friend go through this alone, dependent on Michael and Max Evans for their protection. I wouldn't trust Michael Evans, Mr. Rebel-without-a-cause, to take care of my dog, let alone my sister and my best friend. He'd probably go right through them if it meant getting his precious answers.
Then Liz and Max got involved, against pretty much everyone's advice, and things between them heated up pretty quickly. That didn't help the whole Special Unit "situation," as they liked to call it, because it just got more people interested in them. Eventually, though, we discovered that our new guidance counsellor was an undercover FBI agent.
And then things got really weird.
Alien hunters, enemy aliens, Special Unit and two years later, I think we've finally managed to stumble to the other side. Things have been pretty quiet, so we're hoping it's over. That we can go back to being normal high school seniors. That we can relax and have fun and hang out without having to hide from our enemies.
So why do I have this funny feeling that things are just beginning? That this is the calm before the storm?
A couple of weeks ago, Max and Michael asked me to try and find their sister. The night they were…well, "born," for lack of a better word – there was another girl. But a car stopped and they got frightened and ran away and they haven't heard from her since. So I've been going through adoption records for kids in that age group, trying to find her, but it's like she never existed.
Tess keeps telling me to try harder, that she's got to be somewhere. That's when I tell my sister that she's welcomed to have a go at it, which usually shuts her up.
My sister. I'll never forget the day I came home from school and found her in our living room. She was wearing a little purple dress and her blonde ringlets were in pigtails. She barely spoke any English, but when she smiled and those blue eyes flashed at you, your heart couldn't help but melt a little. We had just moved to Roswell, and she was Mom's first case. Mom's a social worker, and she fell in love with Tess from the moment she met her. The rest was, as they say, history. She brought Dad in to meet her, and Tess sat on his lap and flashed him her dimples. A few months later, she was officially my sister.
Tess was found about six months after Max and Michael Evans, wandering around in the desert, which was why nobody's ever really connected their appearances. A rancher found her and brought her to Sheriff Hanson, and not long after, she came home with us for good.
Liz and Tess became the best of friends quickly – Liz had been my best friend since my first day of second grade at Roswell Elementary, when she gave me an oatmeal cookie at lunch, and we did everything together. When Tess joined the Whitman family, I just hauled her along behind me and Liz. Pretty soon, they were inseparable. Tess even got a job as a waitress at the Crashdown, the restaurant Liz's parents own, even though she still claims it's politically incorrect to portray aliens as slimy, four-foot high, green monsters. But that's my sister for you.
Tess, Liz and I pretty much gave the Evans boys a wide berth growing up, although I think Liz pretty much always had a thing for Max. But we were the three musketeers; we didn't need anyone else. Not until the shooting, that is. And when Tess and I watched Max Evans heal Liz, something clicked in my sister's mind. She dragged me home, after we'd made sure that Liz was okay, and she told me that she thought she was an alien.
I told her that I thought she needed psychiatric help.
But then came the big pow-wow with the Evans boys and Liz, and we found out she wasn't nuts. That my little sister really was from another planet. And so were the Evans kids.
Tess swears she didn't know it was even possible to heal anyone. The only thing she knew she could do were weird mindwarping things – which have come in helpful over the past two years. She was able to convince Mom and Dad that we were actually around when we were off chasing our enemies.
Things are calm again, like I said. And if we could just track down this last alien, I really think everything would be perfect.
So why do I feel like there's something, someone, out there, waiting for me?
Part Three - Isabel
August 6, 2001
"Chia Head! You used all the hot water!"
"Did not, Ditzy DeLuca!"
"Kyle," I said seriously, hiding my smile, "Why do you even call her that? You know that Dad officially adopted both of us after he and Mom got married. It drives her crazy."
He grinned at me. "That's why I do it, Izzy."
Then Maria appeared in the doorway, clad in the terry robe I bought her last Christmas. Her blonde hair was covered with a towel, and a pool of water was forming at her feet. "I'm gonna get you for that, Chia!" She lunged towards Kyle, who had the good sense to duck. He charged out of the living room, with Maria trailing after him. Both of them were screaming insults at each other, and I winced as I heard a crash. Probably Mom's vase in the hall. If I was lucky, she wouldn't notice, and I could fix it later.
Mom came up behind me and I rested my forehead on her shoulder. "Think those two will ever grow up?" she asked.
"Nope. They like it that way."
"And what about you? Think you'll ever chase your brother and sister around the house, threatening to pull out their hair?"
"Nope. I like it that way."
"And I like you."
"I'm gonna kill you, Chia!"
"Give me back Mr. Squishels now, Maria!"
"I think he feels like taking a swim!"
"If you throw him in the toilet, I swear I'll rip the heads off of all your old Barbie's!"
Mom sighed and started up the stairs. "A mother's work is never done," she muttered.
I shook my head as I walked into the hall, and as I suspected, the innocent victim of Mia and Kyle's latest battle was Mom's favourite vase, the one Dad gave her on their last anniversary. Carefully, I checked to make sure they still had Mom occupied upstairs before I waved my hand over the vase, returning it to its former appearance.
Smiling, I set it back on the table and rearranged the flowers. One of these days, I'm sure Mom and Dad will wonder why that vase survived one of Mia and Kyle's vicious battles or question my apparent flawless use of crazy glue, but until then, I'll keep repairing the damage. It's easier than watching Mom fly off the handle. And god only knows what could happen if she grabbed a newspaper. She could do serious damage with that thing. It should be registered as a lethal weapon. Kyle and Mia were going to owe me for this one…
Kyle and Maria know the truth about me, about where I'm from. I had no choice but to tell them two years ago, after the car accident. Kyle had just gotten his license, and our parents had given him a Mustang for his birthday, so of course, Mia demanded a ride, and pulled me along with her. We were pretty far out of town, in the middle of nowhere, when it happened. An animal ran in front of the car, Kyle swerved to avoid it, and the car went down a steep embankment, rolling twice before finally landing upright.
The car was perfectly fine – but Kyle wasn't. He had banged his head pretty badly, and his arm was broken in a couple of places. He was bleeding heavily from a gash on his chest, and I was pretty sure he had internal injuries. I knew he wouldn't last long enough to wait for an ambulance, so I healed him. The silver handprint was the first sign that I wasn't exactly normal. That, and of course, having Mia see everything. I had to tell them the truth.
They actually took it better than I expected. They are my sister and brother, after all, and after more than a decade of settling their arguments and running interference with Mom and Dad, they knew I wasn't out to conquer Earth like in those cheesy movies. They were freaked out a little, sure, but if it were anyone else but me, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Mia ran screaming down the street or Kyle packed his bags and left town. Eventually, though, they accepted that I was still me, still the Isabel Valenti I've always been. Still the girl who helped Kyle with his math homework every night and baked him cookies when he had a bad day. Still the sister that went on shopping marathons and cried over old late-night movies with Mia - hell, I was still the only person on Earth allowed to call her Mia.
In the weeks afterwards, they realized exactly how great having me around was for them. Kyle had fewer sports injuries, thanks to Dr. Izzy. And Maria swore she'd never go to a hairdresser or buy make-up again while I was around. And they got in a lot less trouble with me repairing the damages they did in their mammoth battles. No matter how many times they destroyed Mom's vase, I could repair the damage.
I glanced around for something to shatter to replace the vase, and finally settled on an ugly statuette that we all hated, but had to leave on display because Dad's boss' wife gave it to us. But if it became a casualty of a Maria-Kyle argument, even she would accept it. I hate to admit it, but I got a certain amount of satisfaction from using my powers to turn it into dust.
I smiled happily. Dad was home, and he'd told me this morning before he left for work that he had a big surprise for us all when he got home.
"In here, Dad!"
"Hi, Princess," he said. "They get into it again?"
"Kyle used up all of the hot water, and Mia's trying to get ready for her date."
"Mom doing damage control?"
"Only the statuette hell rejected."
"They finally decided to target that thing? I should raise their allowance."
I grinned at that. If he only knew… "So what's the big surprise?"
He kissed my forehead as he headed for his room. "You'll find out at dinner, Miss Nosy. I'm gonna change, so can you call for pizza?"
"One pepperoni, one with the works and one with hot peppers, right?"
"Izzy, you just need to tell them our name at this point. We've ordered the same thing from Juan's every Monday night for the past nine years. I'd be surprised if they don't make it in anticipation."
I giggled. "Don't you remember the week it was just you and me, two summers ago, when Mom and Mia were visiting Aunt Kim and Kyle was at football camp, and we decided we'd skip pizza night? Juan himself called to see if we were okay."
Dad laughed at that. "I had forgotten." He paused and looked at me hard. "Was it really that long ago, Izzy? You kids are growing up so fast…one of these days I'll come home and you'll all be gone, off to college and your own lives."
"I'll never leave you and Mom, Daddy," I promised, wrapping my arms around him and pulling him into a hug. "I'll stay your girl forever."
He tousled my hair and offered me a small, sad smile. A knowing smile, that told me he was grateful for what I said, but that I would learn the folly of my words in time, and I vowed I would prove him wrong.
"Go order the pizzas, baby girl," he whispered, kissing my forehead again before he disappeared into his room.
Part Four – Alex
"Ready to go, Alex?"
I looked up from the computer monitor and ran my fingers through my hair. "I just don't get it. How can an entire person disappear?"
I don't think I've ever been so frustrated as I felt in that minute. Over the past two years, I've helped my friends track the movement of evil aliens and Special Unit FBI agents, but I couldn't find one small girl. I was seriously contemplating hanging up my hacker status, or just plain admitting defeat, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that this was something I had to do. That I was connected to this girl, somehow, even though I've never met her, and at the rate this was going, never would meet her. But something, some little voice deep inside, kept whispering that this girl was important to me – not to my sister or Max or Michael, but me, Alex Charles Whitman. Like she was something I've been missing all my life without even knowing anything was missing.
I must be certifiable, right? Who falls in love with someone he's never even spoken to, someone who doesn't even know I exist? But even if I couldn't admit it to anyone else, I knew the truth. That little voice, as insane as it sounds, was the whole reason why I've been devoting every waking moment to searching for the fourth alien. Maybe she's the beautiful blonde girl that haunts my dreams.
"Still no luck?" Tess asked, plopping on my bed.
I shook my head. "Nothing. No records of an adoption in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona or Colorado that could possibly be the girl we're looking for."
"Maybe she wasn't adopted."
"But I've checked the foster care system, too. Their records are pretty complete if you hack in far enough. No little girls between the ages of five and eight that could possibly be the kid." I sighed, knowing that I'd exhausted that possibility, at least. I rubbed my tired eyes. "Maybe Max and Michael just dreamed her up," I joked, knowing that Tess, after all these years of living with me and my slightly twisted sense of humour, would take me totally seriously. Maybe it was mean, but that just made my jokes seems all the more funny…at least, to me.
Tess shook her head vigorously, her blonde ringlets dancing, and of course her response didn't disappoint. "No way. Four pods, four aliens." She stuck her tongue out at me when I snickered at her. "What about private adoption?"
"The records could be sealed, and we could never find her." I sighed. This was starting to give me a headache; it wasn't like we hadn't gone through all this dozens of times before. I glanced at the clock and groaned. "We're gonna be late and we both know how much Max hates it when anyone's late. He is gonna go seriously postal on our asses."
Tess made a big show of dramatically standing up, and then grinned at me, her entire face lighting up. "No he won't. We're picking up Liz."
I grinned back at her, catching on as to why she was so calm. "And of course Max wouldn't do anything to tarnish his reputation with the fair Liz." I paused, pondering the idea. "Do you have any idea what we could get away with?" I asked as Tess pushed me out of my room and out to the car. "Murder, I tell you! Murder!"
Tess grabbed the keys from my hand, which I was waving around as I cackled like a mad scientist contemplating his next experiment. She groaned and shoved me in the car. "For that, Mr. Whitman, I get to drive. I must say I am shocked and dismayed to say the least. Didn't your parents teach you any manners?" Her voice mimicked the vice-principal exactly, and I couldn't help but laugh as she wiggled her eyebrows and wagged a finger at me.
"No, my parents didn't teach me any manners," I parroted. "They sacrificed me to make my sister a little princess."
Tess smacked arm as she pulled into the Crashdown parking lot. A few minutes later, Liz ran out and hopped into the back seat. And then, far too soon, we were knocking at the Evans' front door.
As we listened to footsteps approach, I linked arms with both of my girls. "Ready to face the firing squad?" I asked, only half-kidding.
Part Five - Isabel
By the time the pizzas had arrived, Maria had managed to get a shower with hot water – thanks to some alien tinkering – and Kyle had safely retrieved Mr. Squishels. And everyone was ecstatic the only casualty of the latest Valenti family battle was the eyesore formerly known as art.
"So what's the big announcement, Dad?" Kyle asked. "It was all Izzy could talk about all day."
"Yeah, Dad. She's like a dog with a bone – she wouldn't drop it. You shouldn't have told her that this morning. You got to go to work. We had to live with her," Maria added.
"Hey, don't knock my breakfasts with Dad – you're just jealous I found out there was a surprise before you did."
"Chica, jealous is one thing I'm not. You're the only one crazy enough to get out of bed at six every morning to have breakfast with Dad – especially in the summer, when you don't have to get up – and then go back to bed after he leaves. Mom won't even get up with him, and she's married to the guy."
"Hey, leave me out of it. And if you guys don't stop talking, you'll never get to hear the big news."
"So what's up Dad?"
"Well…Kyle, do you remember Deputy Hanson?"
"Kind of…he was that guy that bumbled around behind you, when you were Sheriff, right? The one that always called me son?"
I tensed the minute they started talking about Roswell, like I always do, no matter how much I try to relax. It's silly, I realize now, but my terror over Dad's occupation faded the minute we drove out of the Roswell city limits. But I was seven years old, and I didn't realize that job-wise, as far as it related to my situation, Dad was jumping from the frying pan into the fire, and pulling the rest of us along with him. The FBI were the guys in the white coats that haunted my nightmares. I could ignore that, though, because as long as I was away from Roswell, alien capitol of the world, I could pretend I was just Isabel Valenti. No one even knew that I was adopted, and I liked it that way. I never wanted to go anywhere near Roswell, ever again.
"Yeah. Well, a few weeks ago, I got a call from the mayor. Apparently, Hanson's in a bit of trouble. Seems he's been having an affair with the mayor's daughter. You might remember her, Slugger, Pixie. Maggie Sherwood?"
"She's our age!"
"That's the way the mayor felt about it. He's sending Maggie to boarding school, and Hanson's been fired."
"What does this have to do with us, Dad?" I asked, finally finding my voice.
"I'm getting to that, Princess. The mayor's offered me the position of sheriff again, and Mom's been offered a job as the new vice-principal and English teacher at West Roswell High. We've decided to take it."
"Dad, Mom, you can't do this to me! This is our senior year of high school. You can't just drag us across the state now. What about my friends? What about my boyfriend?"
"I'm captain of the football team! This is my chance to get a sports scholarship, Dad! And what about Tracy?"
"Relax! Dad and I have already talked to the principal, and they have an opening on the team. The former captain was caught using drugs, and he's been suspended and won't be able to play at all next year. You should be proud, Kyle. When we told him your name, he and the coach just about passed out. Your reputation precedes you."
"And what about me, Mom? Are you going to import my friends and Jeremy to Roswell? Make it all better for me, too?"
"Maria. You still have friends in Roswell. Don't you remember Liz Parker? She still sends you a letter the first of every month. And this way, we'll be closer to Grandpa Valenti and Grandma DeLuca."
"They're getting up in years, and Amy and I thought they would like to see you three more often. And you've got Isabel and Kyle, Pixie. Any of your friends can visit whenever they want. It's only a few hours drive."
"We really think this is best for everyone, kids. Your Dad is getting tired of all the assignments that take him away from us for weeks on end, and we both think this could be the prefect solution for us."
"This way, Kyle, I won't have to miss any of your games. And Maria, Isabel, I'll be here when guys come to pick you up. It always makes me nervous when I call home on Saturday nights and Amy tells me you're out with someone new. It's my job as your Dad to screen them for you."
"Kyle does that just fine," Maria grumbled. Kyle overheard her, and stuck his tongue out at her. She made a face and threatened him with her pizza crust, which set off another round of bickering.
"Isabel? You're being kind of quiet. What do you think about this?" Mom asked, peering across the table at me. She had her 'concerned Mom' look on, and I knew I had to get out of there soon.
My bottom lip was quivering. I had dropped my slice of pizza the moment they told us about the move, and now it was all I could do to control my tears. "May I please be excused?" I whispered. Mom nodded, a little sadly, and I managed, somehow, to walk calmly from the table. Then I broke into a run as soon as I was out of sight.
By the time I reached the relative safety of my bedroom, the tears were running down my face. I looked around my room, staring at a decade worth of memories as if they belonged to a stranger. Was that really the stuffed bear Dad gave me the night before he and Mom got married sitting on my bed? Were those really the pompoms I used to cheer for Kyle as he made the winning touchdown last year? Was that really the book Mom read fairytales to me from every night until I was ten? Were those really the glow-in-the-dark-stars Mia and I spent an entire Saturday afternoon positioning perfectly when we were eight?
Pretty soon, this wouldn't be my room. Pretty soon, we would go back to Roswell. Back to the place where everyone was trying to make a buck off of my very existence – hell, back to the place where my very existence would be no more if anyone every found out I really did exist. Back to the place where my brothers abandoned me, left me, to fend for myself. Back to the place where Dad would become obsessed with finding aliens again, where Mom would try to get us to visit creepy UFO museums for family outings, where my entire world fell apart once and probably will again.
Living here, in Albuquerque - here, where everyone thought Roswell and all that alien stuff was nothing more than a cheap tourist gimmick - I was safe. I didn't have to hide and be afraid.
But all that was over. I was going back to Roswell.
I threw myself on my bed as the tears came faster.
Part Six - Alex
I couldn't help but sigh in relief when Mrs. Evans opened the door. But our reprieve was short-lived; she told us to head up to Max's room.
Why did I feel like I was walking to the guillotine?
Oh, yeah. It's Max, Mr. Control-Freak-of-the-Century Evans.
Tentatively, Liz tapped on the door, and pushed it open after hearing the muffled "Come in." I pushed open the door, and Liz skipped in. She immediately headed for Max – big surprise there, I'm sure – and leaned over to kiss him. I resisted the urge to gag as Tess and I averted our eyes. There was just something fundamentally wrong about seeing the girl I've come to think of as a second sister macking with any guy. I groaned a little as they began that whole stare-deep-into-my eyes, you're-my-soul mate thing, as I made sure the door was securely closed behind us. That last thing we needed was for Mrs. Evans to walk in on one of our meetings.
By the time I turned around, Max had pulled Liz onto his lap and she had a look on her face, the look that said it would take nothing short of nuclear warfare to pry her off him before she was good and ready. I've seen that look before, and trust me – it's true.
Michael was sprawled across Max's bed, and Tess was sitting on the floor, her back to the bed. I shrugged slightly, nothing new there, and assumed my usual position at the desk chair.
Everything was the same as always, but that feeling I've had lately – the feeling that everything is gonna change in a heartbeat – has been getting stronger. It wouldn't surprise me if it happened today, even.
"Sorry we're late," Tess offered.
Michael only grunted in acknowledgement, but Max finally found a reason to tear his eyes away from Liz's. "Why were you late?" he asked, glaring at me.
I held my hands up in mock surrender. "I wasn't even driving, buddy."
"It was really my fault," Liz told him. "I made them wait for me, and I made us late. But I just got the most wonderful news this afternoon, and I was trying to help Mom before I left."
Max smiled at her – not a regular smile, like a normal person, but one of those little half-smiles only for Liz, and it was clear that the control-freak had forgiven our minor transgression. "What was the wonderful news?"
Liz clapped her hands and her eyes sparkled, making her look like the little girl I remembered. "You and Michael don't know her, but Alex, Tess, do you remember my friend Maria? She was my best friend when I was little, before she moved to Albuquerque. You guys met her a couple of summers ago, when she and her mother came to visit her grandma."
I nodded, remembering the bubbly blonde. She reminded me of the Energizer Bunny on speed, but I remember wishing I had a chance to get to know her better.
Tess looked confused, so Liz whipped out a photo and tossed it over to Tess. Her aim wasn't accurate, and it landed next to Michael on the bed. He picked it up and glanced at it casually before handing it to Tess, but I couldn't help but notice that he stared at it a little longer and a lot harder than necessary before he gave it to her. Michael Guerin, interested in a human girl? Egads, was the world coming to an end?
"Oh, yeah, I remember her, now. Talked a mile a minute, never sat still?" Tess asked. "Why'd she move, anyway?"
"Her mother married Sheriff Valenti, and he got offered some big government job, so they whole family moved. Her brother's Kyle Valenti, the football star that even the local paper runs stories on. They say he's going to be drafted after he finishes school."
"So what brought on all these lovely memories?" Michael asked impatiently, which only served to further my suspicion that he really was interested in Maria Valenti.
"Well, Mom and Amy Valenti have kept in touch, just like Maria and I have, and Amy called my mom this morning to ask if she and Mr. Valenti could stay with us for a few days. They're driving down tonight because they have an early meeting tomorrow with a house realtor. They're moving back to Roswell!" Liz looked around, excitedly waiting for our reactions.
"Why?" I couldn't help but ask.
Liz grinned. "Seems that Sheriff Hanson got caught with his pants down around his ankles. With Maggie Sherwood. The mayor wasn't too happy with that, so Maggie's off to boarding school and Hanson's out of a job."
"I heard that, too," Tess added, her blue eyes glittering at the thought of the new gossip. "I got the whole story from Gracie Cohen this morning. Mayor Sherwood was practically in convulsions when he found out. Gracie said he walked in on them. Together. You know what I mean. Maggie told her that she'd never seen anyone turn so many shades of red." She giggled. "Seems the mayor was a tad upset at the knowledge that his darling daughter wasn't as sweet and innocent as he thought. And leave it to a good sex scandal to get city council to drum Hanson out of the sheriff's office."
"Really? Marcie told me that they were at some cheap hotel that looked like the porno version of Aladdin. Kinda kinky, huh?" Liz said giggling.
"Does anyone else see this as not a good thing?" I asked, cutting off my sister before she could respond. After years of chasing after the two of them, I knew that if I didn't put a lid on their little gossip session now, it could easily be a few hours before anyone else got a word in edgewise.
"Don't be silly, Alex. All that's gonna happen is that the cheerleading squad will need a new girl and people will point and laugh at Maggie," Tess told me, waving her hand dismissively.
I stared at my sister incredulously. "Hanson was an idiot, sure, but he was our idiot. We knew exactly how to play him. If this new guy, Valenti, hears any rumours about you guys, we could be royally screwed."
"Alex," Liz began.
"No, he's right," Max said. "Valenti's father was put away for chasing aliens. He might just want to prove, once and for all, that Valenti, Sr. wasn't as crazy as everyone thought. And I'm willing to bet that he won't be as easy to fool as Hanson."
Michael sat up suddenly. "You said he worked for the government. What branch?"
Liz looked startled. "I'm not really sure. Maria never really mentioned it."
Michael looked at me, but I was already turning on Max's computer. "I'll do a search," I told him, all the while hoping that this would be nothing, that Valenti was just a bean counter for the tax department, but the feeling I've had that something was about to happen intensified.
A few minutes later, my blood ran cold. I had my answer. "He's FBI."
"We're screwed," Michael said.
Part Seven - Isabel
It seemed like hours later when I heard the soft knock at my bedroom door. I knew it had to be Mom or Dad – Mia never knocked, and Kyle always announced his presence verbally. I sat up and waved a hand over my face, erasing all visible evidence of my tears. "Yes?" I was proud when my voice didn't tremble.
"Honey, it's Mom. Can I come in?"
"Sure. It's open."
"Are you okay, baby?" she asked as she joined me on my bed. "I know none of you are really happy with the move, but you were really quiet at supper."
"I'm okay, Mom," I lied. I've become quite good at lying over the years. I should be an expert by now. My whole damn life is a lie. "It was just…a shock. I didn't really live in Roswell that long, so the only home I've ever really known is here in Albuquerque." I paused, deciding to tell her at least a partial truth. "No one knows I'm not your biological child here. They're not sure if it's you or Dad that's my biological parent, but no one questions that one of you are. People in Roswell…they'll remember how I was found. That no one really wanted me."
"Oh, honey," she whispered, pulling me into her arms. I rested my head on her shoulder as she stroked my hair. "It'll be okay. No one cares if you were adopted or not, and you know there's no real record of it anymore, since Dad joined the FBI and had your records sealed. No one ever really knew, anyway, outside Dad and me, how we found you. We want you. Your real family wants you, and we always will. You and Maria are closer than any sisters I've ever seen, honey, and Kyle is almost as protective of you as Daddy."
"I know, Mom. I'm just being silly, I guess."
"Isabel, no one has to know you aren't my biological child if you don't want them to. You and Maria look enough alike to really be sisters. No one will even question it." It was true; Maria and I did resemble each other vaguely, but only in the sense that we were both females with blonde hair, although I suppose I could pass as a biological relative. I smiled up at her anyway, and she kissed my forehead. "And if you want, we can tell people you're my sister's child, and we adopted you when your parents died."
I thought it over, rapidly coming to the conclusion that that was a good idea. If people ever connected me to the boys found in the desert, even if no one knew about their origins, it was too big a coincidence to ignore. It would bring unwanted attention. At least this would give me a cover story, a tie to my family that no one would doubt. And they would have to really pry into my background to disprove it.
I nodded, smiling at Mom. "I'd like that," I said softly, and she grinned at me, ruffling my hair the way she did when I was a little girl. Then she smoothed it back in place and gave me a hug.
"Okay now?" she asked softly.
"Okay, well, if you're sure, I've got to go. Daddy and I are driving down to Roswell tonight to make the final arrangements for the move. We talked to your sister and brother about it after you left, so they already know we'll be gone for a couple days. I know it's a shock, but everything happened so quickly, and we want to be settled in before school starts. It'll be easier for you kids that way."
"Sure," I nodded convincingly as she flashed a reassuring smile at me before she shut the door behind her. I collapsed back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling.
"Izzy? You okay?" Mia asked, cracking the bathroom door that adjoined our rooms. I could see Kyle peering over her shoulder.
"We heard what you said to Mom," he said, as he straddled my desk chair.
Maria climbed on the bed beside me, and I put my head in her lap. She started braiding my hair, the way she always did when she was worried and needed something to occupy her hands.
"I'm scared," I admitted, glad that they knew the truth, that for once in my life, I could be totally honest. "I don't want to go back there. I was paranoid after I realized what I was. And I'm scared that being back there will make Dad all alien-obsessed again."
"Izzy, Dad would never do anything to hurt you. If you tell him and Mom that you really don't want to go, they'll give up the idea. You know, we know it, they know it – you've got them wrapped around your little finger."
"What our idiot brother is trying to say," Maria clarified, glaring at Kyle, "Is that Mom and Dad are always worrying about you, even more than Kyle and me. They already know we're insane. They're concentrating on the kid they can still salvage," she joked. Then, seeing me smile, her expression turned serious once more. "They'd do anything to make you happy, Izzy. Mom's always asking me if you're upset or unhappy."
"Yeah – after Maria, Mom doesn't know how to deal with normal kids like us!"
"You're one to talk, Chia!"
"Guys, really, I'm okay!" I shouted, laughing a little as Mia hopped off the bed and advanced towards Kyle, flexing her muscles threateningly. Kyle took the hint, and with a last grin towards me, took off running for the door. Then he stuck his head back in the door, just barely ducking the shoe Maria tossed at him.
"I'll see you later, Iz – I've got a date with Tracy, and there'll be hell to pay if I'm late. I've got my cell on if you need me."
"Are you going to tell her about the move?" I asked softly, noticing how he couldn't help but wince a little.
"Yeah." He walked back into the room and slumped on the bed next to me. I shot a glare at Maria, warning her to be nice, and she flashed a smile back at me before perching next to me.
"For once, I don't envy your relationships," I said sympathetically. I felt bad for Kyle; he really seemed to love Tracy, and they were great together. Mia, however, was another story all together. She and Jeremy were together more because it was what was expected. Cheerleader with the football player. That's partly why I avoided relationships. I didn't want to be pushed into anything I didn't want to do.
"Izzy? Don't you ever want anything more? I mean, you date half the football squad, but you never have more than a half dozen dates with anyone. Don't you want a boyfriend?"
"Sure," I said, sighing softly. I thought for a second, debating whether to give her my trusty 'I haven't found anyone worthy of being with me' excuse, or to tell her the truth. What the hell – Mia and Kyle knew all my other secrets already. Why not this one as well? "The truth is, I just feel like there's something else – someone else – out there, waiting for me. And I know I haven't met him yet, but when I do…I'll just know. He's the one, and until I find him, I'm just killing time."
"Iz, that's sweet and all, but how do you know that Bobby or Bill or Brian weren't the "one," and you just dumped them before you figured it out?"
Maria smacked Kyle's arm and gave him an annoyed look. "I, unlike our deluded brother, think that's romantic, Izzy. I totally agree with you. Jeremy's a doll, and some days I can even make myself think I love him a little, but I've got the same feeling – like there's a mystery man out there, just waiting for me to find him."
"Maybe he's in Roswell," I told her, giggling. She crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue before collapsing into giggles herself.
Kyle shot us both annoyed looks. "I'll see you two later," he said. I could hear him mutter "Sisters…" under his breath as he got up, and Mia and I exchanged glances. Simultaneously, we tossed pillows at him and hit him squarely on the back of the head as he left the room.
He just threw his hands in the air and continued on as our laughter chased him down the hall. He knew better than to take on the Valenti women when we were in a mood like this.
I flopped back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. Maria lay down next to me, and for a while, we just enjoyed the silence. "Do you really think he could be in Roswell?" She asked finally, trying in vain to disguise the hope that bubbled through her voice.
I smiled and shot her a look that asked her who she was trying to fool. "Why not? He's got to be somewhere, right? Why not Roswell?"
She nodded slowly. "I wonder what he's like…" she said dreamily.
I laughed again. "What about Jeremy? Don't you have a date with him? What are you still doing here?"
"I thought I'd blow him off, and we could have a Mia-Izzy bonding session."
"Mia, I'm fine. Go out and have fun. You know if Kyle tells Tracy, the first thing she'll do is call Jeremy, and he'll be hurt if he doesn't hear it from you, first." I paused. "Do you know what you're going to do about him yet?" I asked her quietly.
"I'm not even going to try the long-distance thing. We'd never last. Jeremy would be cheating on me before we were halfway out of town. I'll break up with him…but not yet. Not tonight. I need tonight – one last night where we can just be Jeremy and Maria, and I can pretend this is all a bad dream. I have this feeling everything will be horribly complicated pretty soon." She hugged me and got up. "I'll see you later, okay? Call me if you need me, and I'll come home."
I nodded, and tried to quell the feeling of foreboding that came over me. The thing that scared me the most is that I think she's right. Things are going to get complicated.
And I don't know if that's a good thing.
Part Eight - Alex
"Maybe not, Michael," Max said weakly, pulling Liz closer. "Did your parents say why he was taking back his job as sheriff?"
Liz shook her head. "They just said that he wanted to spend more time with his kids before they left home. And they said Amy Valenti's going to be the new vice-principal and English teacher at WRH."
By this point, Tess was hyperventilating. Liz passed her a bag and told her to inhale and exhale, but one couldn't help but notice my sister was beginning to look more and more like a Smurf.
"Breathe, dammit!" Liz told Tess, who pulled her head out of the bag long enough to glare at her. "You've got to calm down!"
"What if I don't wanna? I think I've got a damn good reason to get upset, don't you? Because the FBI's sending in another one of their little minions to watch us, hunt us down, capture us, test us, and oh yeah, how could I forget? Exterminate us!"
"Perfect. Just great, Maxwell. They're planting another agent in the school." By this time, Michael was pacing and running his fingers through his spiky hair. Tess had to scurry out of the way to keep from being trampled. "There's no other choice. We've got know other choice."
"Michael, Amy's not an FBI agent," Liz told him, her voice sounding a little desperate.
"How do you know that? Who's to say that blondie and jock-boy aren't undercover agents, too? How well do you really know those kids, Liz? They moved away eleven years ago. They could be running the freaking Special Unit for all we know."
"Wait, Michael. What are you talking about? What choice?"
"Max, get your head outta your ass. You know exactly what I'm talking about. We've gotta get the hell out of dodge. You know it, I know it – hell, if you told her, the cafeteria lady would know it too!"
"Gladys wouldn't tell us to leave!" Tess said, sounding irrational. "Gladys likes me!"
"Who the hell is Gladys?" Michael asked, stopping mid-pace and pivoting to stare at her.
"The lunch lady!" Tess screamed at him, before throwing herself in Liz's arms and starting to sob. Michael and Max simply stared.
All this time, I had been searching for Valenti's personnel records. "According to this, he's been with the Albuquerque FBI Field Office for nearly eleven years. Most of his cases have been in the violent crimes division – they handle things like kidnappings – and he's done some drug cases. He was with the detail that guarded the Vice-President when he came to New Mexico a couple of years back. Some field work, but no mention of assignments that coincide with Special Unit activities – at least, none that we know about."
"But that doesn't tell us anything, really. The FBI isn't dumb. They're not going to just announce that someone's a member of their secret, alien-hunting Special Unit," Tess whimpered, actually wringing her hands.
I scrolled down the screen and glanced at the personal information. "Married twice; first wife Michelle, divorced, lives in Alabama, second wife Amy DeLuca Valenti. Children: Kyle James, 18, biological mother Michelle, adoptive mother Amy Valenti, father James Valenti, Jr. Maria Rose, 18, mother Amy DeLuca Valenti, biological father Brian, adopted father James Valenti, Jr. Isabel Jasmine, 17, mother Amy Valenti and father James Valenti, Jr." I paused, looking at that last line again. "Wait. Liz, didn't you say that Amy and Valenti got married eleven years ago?"
"Then why do they have a seventeen-year-old daughter? Under both Maria and Kyle, they have the biological parents listed. This girl doesn't. So where did she come from?" I asked.
"An affair?" Max asked.
"Maybe she's Valenti's daughter, but the biological mother is dead," Tess suggested.
"No. I remember Kyle, too, and he was an only child." Liz paused, chewing her bottom lip and thinking so hard you could almost see the gears turning inside her head. Suddenly, her head snapped up excitedly. "Wait! Now I remember. I never knew Isabel, because my granddad got sick and Mom and I went to stay with him and Grandma before everything happened, but Amy adopted her right after Maria's father left. By the time I got back to town, they had already moved away."
"Wait. She's adopted?" I asked. "So why don't I have a record of it? I've been searching adoption records for the fourth alien, but nothing's come up on her. She's even the right age." Somewhere, deep inside, I just knew. Knew that Isabel Valenti was the girl that we've been looking for. The girl I've been looking for. The girl I've dreamed of all my life.
"You're not seriously suggesting that the daughter of an FBI agent is the fourth alien, are you Alex?" Max asked, looking at me as if I'd suddenly sprouted an extra head.
"Why not? It would explain why it's like she fell off the face of the planet," Tess told him, apparently recovered from her hysteria. I had to grin at her. My little sister trying to defend me…it seems ridiculous, she's half my size, but she could hold her own against Max any day of the week. Hell, she could probably pummel him into the ground if she wanted to.
"They've got a point, Maxwell."
"But the real question is, if Isabel is like you guys, do they know? The Valenti's?" I asked.
Max stared at me, as if the thought was just occurring to him. He's become like a brother to me, over the past two years, but even I've got to admit that sometimes, the boy is slow. He sighed, and grabbed Liz's hand, pulling her back up onto his lap from where she was sitting on the floor next to Tess. "Alex, you dig up everything you can find on all of them. Liz, when they arrive, quiz them, ask them about Maria and Kyle and see if you can steer the conversation around to the other girl. Find out everything you can."
"When are they moving here?" Tess asked.
"Before school starts, I would guess, but I'm not really sure. I'll ask when they get here tonight."
"What about us, Maxwell? What should we do?"
"Right now, nothing, Michael. We stay as far away from them as possible. The last thing we need to do, if we're wrong and this girl isn't the one we're looking for, there's no reason to get a former FBI agent/soon-to-be sheriff on our cases. As far as he knows, we won't even exist. We're just normal kids. Got that?"
Tess' head bobbed, her curls dancing, as we all stared at Michael. We all knew that Tess wouldn't be the one to break the rules. That was Michael's job.
Finally he nodded, albeit reluctantly. "But I want to hear what you find immediately." He paused. "And I'm keeping a bag packed."
No kidding. Michael Evans always keeps a bag packed.
The plan sounds simple enough. I do what I do best – surf the net – and Liz makes nice to the mother of an old friend. Easy, right?
So why do I have a bad feeling about all of this?
Part Nine – Isabel
I sighed and took a sip of my Tabasco-laced hot chocolate. It was a warm night, and a hot drink really wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had, but there is a method behind my madness. Hot chocolate's been my comfort drink ever since I was little. Every time I drink it, it brings back memories of camping trips with Dad on the odd weekend he could get away from work and cold winter afternoons curled up in front of the fireplace with Mom. And right now, I'm desperate for any comfort I can get.
Maybe that's why I have this need to stare up at the stars tonight. It's something I've done whenever something changes in my world, whenever I've felt lonely or scared or upset. The stars have been my constant. They give me something that not even my family can give me – a connection with home. My real home, a planet somewhere out there next to one of those stars.
I've never dealt well with change. It's probably a result of all my neurosis…god knows I've got enough of them. Moving to Roswell's going to be a big change, and like usual, I'm not coping too well with the idea of moving itself, not to mention the whole alien-going-to-live-in-the-UFO-capitol-of-the-world thing. But I know there's no use getting angry like Kyle or hysterical like Mia. It's my role to be the calm one.
Sometimes, I get so tired of playing the game, being the Isabel Valenti that everyone expects me to be. Sometimes, I want to scream, just to see if anyone would actually notice. They certainly don't have a clue who I am, and I'm sure they don't care, either. Except for Mia and Kyle, that is…if I didn't have them, I think I really would go crazy. They're the only people who see me for me. They accept me as I am and don't expect me to be anyone other than their sister and friend. But sometimes, even they don't notice I'm screaming silently.
And sometimes, I can convince myself that it doesn't matter.
So instead of getting mad like Kyle or searching for Cyprus oil like Mia, I just smile and pretend to be a perfect little princess with the perfect little life who isn't bothered by anything. It's what everyone expects, after all, and I wouldn't want to disappoint. Heaven forbid that should happen.
And usually, the feeling passes, and I'll wake up the next morning, and it'll seem slightly tolerable for another day, so I'll pull my mask back on.
Some nights, when I stare up at the sky and millions of stars twinkle down at me, I wonder if things would be different if I was with my real family - with the boys who left me alone in the desert. I would love to think that it would be different, but I doubt it. I'd still be the same person, right? Still the same girl who is scared to death people will find out the truth about her and run in fear. If I can't be myself around my family – undoubtedly the best family on the planet – I obviously wouldn't be any different around anyone else, even if they were like me.
Mia would tell me I'm crazy, if she ever heard me say that. My sister's always been an optimist, the glass has always been half-full. But I'm a realist, not a dreamer. I see the glass for what it is. And I know that dreams can only lead to heartbreak.
"What are you doing?" Mia asked, dropping down on the grass beside me. I pointed to the sky wordlessly, and she lay back and stared up at the sky for a few minutes silently.
"How was your date?" I asked softly, as I watched a single tear trickle down her cheek.
"He knows," she whispered. She looked so lost, so innocent, like she did when I first met her and she was trying to deal with the reality that her father had gone away and was never going to come back. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be all right, but I didn't. Because as much as I wanted to make anything better, as much as I wanted to wave my hand and fix everything, I couldn't.
Not even special powers can mend a broken heart.
"What happened, Mia?"
"Kyle told Tracy, and she freaked out. Started crying in the middle of the restaurant. Mindy and Dave were there, and they ran into us at the club and told Jeremy. He was so angry, Izzy. I've never seen him that mad. He wouldn't even let me explain…he just kept saying that I was lying to him, over and over again. Then he told me it was over." She sobbed the last few words, and I pulled her into a hug.
My heart was breaking for my sister. This was the real reason I never got involved with anyone while I was waiting for the guy I dreamed about every night. No matter how many excuses I made to myself and everyone else…I never got involved because I was scared…I know I couldn't deal with the kind of pain my sister was going through now, and she didn't even love him that much. I know myself, cowardly though I may be, well enough to know that when I finally decide to open up to a guy, I'll give him my heart. And I couldn't take it if he crushed it.
"It's okay…it's going to be alright…" I kept whispering as she cried brokenly. Tears dripped down my own cheeks as I cried for Mia, whose heart was breaking, for Kyle, who had to leave the first girl he ever loved…and for me and my entire screwed-up existence.
Kyle plopped down beside us as Mia cried. He pulled both of us into his arms and rubbed our backs comfortingly as we cried on his shoulder. It's a side of Kyle we don't see often, but he really is a terrific big brother. Even though they fight, he and Mia share this incredible bond. They might scream and call each other names, but if anyone else dared to, they'd defend the other one to the death. I've seen the proof in all the schoolyard fights in our younger years.
The bond Kyle and I share is different…I've always been exempt from his and Mia's fights, partly because I'm the youngest, and partly because I'm a lot harder to bait then my fiery sister. But Kyle's the one who taught me to ride a bike when I was seven because Daddy was too busy. He's the one who cleaned my scraped knee after I fell off the monkey bars when I was eight and Mom was at school. He's the brother who defended my honour last year when Bobby Kendall was spreading vicious rumours about me. He's got a little bit of me in him, from when I healed him, and it makes me feel like he really is my brother in every way. I know Kyle would do anything for me, and I would give my life for him.
Eventually, Maria's tears turned into an occasional sniffle. By that time, my tears had ceased, thanks to the comfort of Kyle's arms, and I was simply enjoying being with both of them. They are my only true friends…the people I hang around with at school don't know me, not like they do. They are my family, no matter what genetics may say.
"Are you okay now?" Kyle asked both of us.
Mia just nodded, still too upset to talk, but I smiled at both of them. Relief washed over me as I realized that I was home, with the two of them. Maybe it's silly, and maybe it would be obvious to anyone else, but I finally realized the truth. My real home isn't somewhere out there in the stars. It's here on Earth with my family.
So why do I still feel like there's this empty spot in my heart?
Part Ten – Alex
I stared up at the stars and wondered if Isabel Valenti was looking up at the same night's sky.
It's silly, I know, to be infatuated with someone I've never even met. But after spending hours on my computer tonight, I've become more and more convinced that this girl is the missing alien.
And that she's the same girl I dream about every night.
Maybe I'm crazy. Who dreams about a girl he doesn't even know? Who would actually believe that the girl who haunts my dreams is a real person and not just a figment of my obviously overactive imagination? There's no logical reason to even think that the girl I dream about is the missing alien. Hell, there's no logical reason to believe in aliens, I keep telling myself, but they're real, so why couldn't this be real, too?
No matter what my head tells me, my heart tells me that she exists. And I believe my heart. I believe she's real…that the girl I dream about and Isabel Valenti are one and the same…and the thought that she'll be moving here soon is enough to make me float five feet above the ground and quake in fear at the same time.
How is it possible to be the happiest and the most terrified you've ever been simultaneously?
For as long as I can remember, she's been there when I fall asleep. This beautiful blonde girl with incredibly sad eyes. I've watched her grow up. I've felt her pain, her happiness. I've smiled with her and laughed with her and cried tears for her. I've watched her playing with two other children, talking with an older couple. Sometimes, I see her watching the night sky and crying quietly and feeling more alone than anyone else in the world.
She reminds me of me.
That's what drew me to the stars, I think. Because I know she's connected with them somehow, too. And ever since the first night I dreamed about her stargazing, I've been drawn to the night sky with some inexplicable force.
The same way I've been drawn to her.
"What are you doing?" Tess asked, dropping to the ground beside me.
"You ever wonder what's out there?"
Her brow wrinkled, and she nodded, clearly confused, but willing to let me go where I wanted to with the question. "Sure. I mean, I have a world out there somewhere. Maybe even a family."
I sighed, suddenly feeling the need, after all these years, to tell her about my dreams. Because Tess is my sister, my best friend, my family, even if she sometimes forgets she has a family here on Earth, too. "Tessie…I've been having these dreams."
"What kind of dreams?" she asked cautiously, now thoroughly confused.
"I've had them since before you even came to live with us. I've dreamed about this little girl, watched her grow up, for nearly twelve years now."
I slammed my fist into the ground in frustration. "I don't know! That's the whole problem!" My voice dropped to a whisper. "I'm not sure."
"Okay, so who do you think it is?" Tess asked, watching my face and knowing there was more that I wasn't telling her.
"This doesn't go any further than us, right? Not even Liz."
Tess' blue eyes widened. "But we tell Liz everything."
"Please, Tess. I think I'll go crazy if I don't talk about it, but if you tell Liz, she'll tell Max, and I don't want to do that yet."
Tess nodded slowly. "Okay."
"I think the girl's the missing alien. Isabel Valenti." Tess opened her mouth to say something, but I cut her off. "Please don't tell me I need to be committed. I can tell myself that. I know it sounds insane."
"Okay. Say I believe you. Why do you think your dream girl is the fourth alien?"
"That's just it! I don't know why I'm so sure, but I just know she is. I recognize her, Tessie. It's like she's a part of me that's been missing." I looked back up at the sky. "I don't know why this is happening to me. I just want some answers, Tess."
Tess wrapped her arms around me. "We'll find the answers, Alex. I promise. It'll all be okay. We'll find her, and everything will be okay."
I hope she's right.
Part Eleven – Isabel
I sat on the end of Mia's bed and watched as she tore her room apart. The good that Kyle had done by just being there with us was destroyed entirely when she walked into her room and saw the framed picture of her and Jeremy in its position of honour on her bedside table.
And in true Mia style, she got angry. Really angry.
Luckily, the window was open when she tossed the picture, frame and all, on the front lawn outside. It was quickly followed with the stuffed bunny he gave her last Christmas, his class ring, two photo albums, a dozen CDs, two shirts she'd appropriated from him, his letterman's jacket, several books and her pompoms.
"Mia, why are you tossing your cheerleading stuff?" I finally asked. I had been silent up until now, knowing that she had to work out her anger on her own.
"Because I cheered for that moron, that's why!" she said as she chucked a few candles and some incense that I assumed Jeremy had given her through the window.
I finally stopped her when she was about to
toss the diamond earrings he got her for her birthday. "Honey, let me take those for you."
"Why? I don't want them. They're contaminated."
"Mia, diamonds are never contaminated."
That made her stop in her tracks and giggle. "Well, they do say diamonds are a girl's best friend. And it would serve him right if I kept them…"
I grinned as she laughed harder. It was good to hear her laugh again. "Do you want to talk about it?"
She shook her head and closed the window with a bang. "I think I need some time alone, to process everything."
"Are you sure?" She nodded again, and I stood up. "I'm going to bed, then, but if you need me, promise me you'll wake me up."
"I swear, Izzy."
I hugged her tightly before I crossed through the bathroom that separated our rooms. She was putting up a good front, but I knew this was killing her. And the worst thing was, for the first time in my life, I was helpless. I couldn't take away Mia's pain.
I didn't bother to turn on a light as I entered my room. It was bathed in silvery moonlight, but even without it, I could've found my way around. I know every nook and crevice of this room, but soon, it won't be mine. It'll belong to a stranger, who'll paint over my peaceful blue and cream walls. A stranger who won't know that there's a secret compartment under the window seat that I made with my powers when I first moved into this room, a compartment that I've tucked away everything that's ever reminded me of home. A stranger who won't understand that the bed has to be positioned exactly perpendicular to the window so you can see the moon as it traces its path across the sky and the stars as they twinkle down on you. A stranger who won't understand this room has been my sanctuary for over a decade – my place to hide when Mia and Kyle's arguments got to be too much, my place to escape when my parents worried about me. My place to dream and wonder about the boys like me.
Fighting a yawn, I pulled my shorts and top off and tossed them on a chair and hauled on one of Dad's old shirts. For once I didn't have the energy to put my clothes away properly, and even stranger, I really didn't care. It could wait until the morning. Hopefully, by then, I could shake off this feeling of melancholy. Maybe everything would seem better after a good night's sleep, like Dad always says.
But I've never slept well. I've been plagued with nightmares all my life, and tonight was no different.
It was almost five am when I woke up, fighting for breath and drenched with sweat. At least this time I didn't scream and wake up Mia and Kyle. Maybe I'm finally growing out of that stage. Maybe, one of these days, weeks and months will pass by and I won't need to run, crying, into Mia or Kyle's room.
And maybe the moon really is made of green cheese.
Panting softly, I glanced around the room, still half-expecting the monsters I feared as a child to pop out of my closet. It's strange how unfamiliar my room gets this time of night, how it goes from warm and comforting to strange and scary. It's always darkest before the dawn, and tonight is no different. Shadows darken and lengthen the corners of my room and I can't even see my constant companion - the stars - anymore.
It's like I'm the only person in the universe. I think that's what scares me the most when I wake up like this.
What was it I dreamed of this time? I can't remember. I can never remember. I can go into anyone else's head and visit their dreams, but I can't remember my own. How screwed up is that?
I gave into the tears that had threatened to trickle down my cheeks since that one terrifying moment when I was suspended between the nightmare and reality, in that moment when whatever images my subconscious dreamed up to torture me invaded the safety of my waking hours. Pulling my knees up under my chin, I slowly rocked on my heels and tried to convince myself that everything would be okay.
I hope I'm right. But why do I feel like I'm just kidding myself?
Part Twelve – Alex
I've been awake since five o'clock this morning, when the girl of my dreams, Isabel, woke up from a nightmare. I don't know how I knew, but I did. I always know. And I spent the next few hours watching the stars slowly disappear, one by one, until the sun chased away the last of the shadows that clung to the corners of my room.
Isabel. It's so good to finally be able to call her by name. In all these years, in all the times I've dreamed about her, I never knew her name. Sometimes, I wondered about that. Usually, I just shrugged it off, assuming that she either really was a figment of my imagination, or that I would find out her name when the time was right.
I guess the time is finally right.
I could feel her fear. I think that's what woke me. But even after I was awake, our connection was still there. I could feel her crying, feel her trembling.
The connection has always been there. I haven't always been aware of it, not at the beginning at least, but I've always been aware of her. And as we've grown up, the connection's only gotten stronger.
And I could feel it when she finally relaxed and fell back to sleep. This time, I knew from experience that her sleep wouldn't be plagued with nightmares, and I, too, relaxed.
I began a search on Isabel Valenti. I'm not sure exactly what I was hoping to find – something, anything, to prove that she was the fourth alien. Something to prove that she was the girl I'm hopelessly in love with.
If the computer gods are smiling down on me, maybe I'll even find a picture.
I got so engrossed in the search that I didn't even notice when Liz tapped on the window and swung in. It's a habit she's picked up from the Evans boy - sometimes, I swear their species is part ape. They never use a doorway when there's a window available.
"Hey," she said softly.
I jumped a little, startled, and then relaxed when I saw her familiar face. I swivelled my chair around to face her and she plopped onto my bed. "To what do I owe this early morning visit?" I asked, wiggling my eyebrows suggestively.
She gave me a tiny smile, which worried me. Usually, if I did something like that, she'd turn seven shades of red or, at the very least, chastise me.
And then she did something that scared me. She started to cry.
"What's wrong?" I asked, moving to sit beside her. I pulled her in my arms and rubbed her back in slow circles as she started to sob.
I'm not a typical guy – I'm not afraid of a girl's tears, growing up with Tess as a sister and Liz as a best friend has taught me better than that – but I fully admit that the sight of Liz crying as if her heart was breaking, terrified me. Liz didn't cry easily, and even when she did, it was something she usually did in private, or over a tub of ice cream with Tess.
"He-he's going to leave me," she wailed finally.
"Who? Is this about Max? I swear, Liz, if he did something to hurt you…"
She shook her head and sniffled. I passed her a box of tissues, and she flashed me a tiny, grateful smile. "I talked to the Valenti's last night. Amy and Jim. Amy was only too happy to tell me all about her kids. Maria, Kyle…and Isabel."
"And…" I prompted.
"I'm sorry about your shirt, Alex," she whispered, staring at my chest and refusing to look me in the eye.
I waved my hand dismissively. "It doesn't matter. Tell me what you found out, Liz."
"Amy said she was adopted, but claimed Isabel's biological parents were her sister and brother-in-law. She said they were killed in a car wreck, and then Isabel came to live with them afterwards."
I watched as she wrung her hands, knowing there was more to it than that. "What else, Liz?"
She finally looked up at me, and fresh tears glimmered in her dark eyes. "But they were lying, Alex. I know they were. I could see it on Amy's face. I couldn't read Jim's, but Amy's a lot like Maria – her face is an open book."
"So why does that upset you?"
"Because that's not all." She paused, and took a deep breath. "And Michael will make Max leave me when I tell them. I think he's Special Unit, Alex."
"Why?" I asked frantically, running my hands through my hair. If Valenti is a member of the damned Special Unit, then my sister, Max and Michael…and Isabel's…lives would be in danger. I would die myself before I let anything happen to my sister. It can't be true, it just can't. Fate wouldn't be that cruel – to give me the girl I've spent my life dreaming about, and then snatch her away.
"His reason for being sheriff." She laughed humourlessly. "He said he wanted to spend more time with his kids before they grew up and left the nest."
"And you think this makes him Special Unit because?"
"Alex, doesn't that seem a little too convenient to you? Give up an exciting, high-paying job – a job he told me he loved - to become a small-town sheriff, whose biggest excitement is doling out speeding tickets and breaking up the occasional barroom brawl? Especially when your kids are gonna graduate high school in another year?"
I nodded slowly. It did sound odd, but I couldn't reconcile the man I'd seen in my dreams – the man Isabel Valenti adored – as a member of the bloodthirsty Special Unit. It just didn't make sense.
But what did make sense, these days?
Part Thirteen – Isabel
September 2, 2001
"You wanna tell me again why we had to leave at nine this morning? It's the middle of the night! The freaking birds aren't even up yet!" Kyle complained from where he was lounging in the back seat of my jeep.
I glanced over at Mia, who was driving, and fought to keep a straight face. She was ignoring him completely and was instead belting out the lyrics to some 80s music that was blasting on the radio.
I twisted in my seat to face him. "Nine o'clock is hardly the middle of the night, Kyle," I told him, no longer able to suppress my smile. "And I'm pretty sure we passed a bird a few miles back."
"It is the middle of the night when you were partying until four am," he retorted. Then his eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Wait a minute. I saw you guys out by the pool when I stumbled upstairs to go to bed. How the hell are you looking so damn chipper? Did you use some alien voodoo?" he accused.
I laughed aloud at that. I couldn't help it – I was in an annoyingly happy mood. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing through my hair, we were speeding down the highway – life was good. Sure, we were headed to Roswell, but in the weeks since we first found out about the move, Kyle and Mia had managed to convince me that no one would find out what I was.
Besides, I suddenly felt drawn there. It was almost like what I told Mia was actually real, and not wishful thinking – that the man of my dreams was waiting for me there, in the alien capitol of the world.
How's that for irony?
And Mia reminded me about my other brothers, the ones who left me. She said that maybe I could find out about my past, about what happened to them. That possibility alone was enough to convince me to pack my bags.
"No, no alien voodoo," I told him. "Just a lot of caffeine and sugar."
"Yeah, right," he grumbled.
"Relax, Kyle. You know you had fun at Paige's party last night."
"Well, they don't call her Party Hearty Paige Hanson for nothing."
"Did you see Janice Simms push Steve McHenry into the pool? I thought he was going to kill her!"
"Nope – but I'm not surprised. She did the same thing at the Fourth of July thing at Susan's. It's becoming her MO – the guys on the team are plotting to take her down at the next one."
I couldn't help but laugh. "I'm so happy Mom and Dad let us spend a couple of extra days with our friends before we joined them in Roswell. I've got to admit, I never thought they'd go for it, but this time, they really surprised me."
"It just sucks they insisted on taking Mia's and my cars down to Roswell along with theirs."
"Kyle," I scolded. "Most kids don't have their own cars. The only reason we got them is because Dad saved his bonuses."
"That's what I don't get. The FBI gives him a free car every year, on top of a really big paycheque, and he gives it all up to become a small town sheriff? It just doesn't make any sense."
I shrugged. It didn't make any more sense to me than it did to Kyle, but I was in too good a mood to contemplate that now. Besides, we were only about ten miles out of Roswell – we really didn't have the time to debate it.
"Izzy! Oh my god! Listen!" Mia cried, tugging on my arm excitedly. The jeep swerved as she bounced in her seat.
I grabbed the wheel frantically and returned us to our lane. "Have you lost it?"
"Damn it, Maria, in America, we drive on the right side of the road!"
"I come home in the morning light/ My mother says when you gonna live you life right/ Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones/ And girls they want to have fun/ Oh girls just want to have fun," Maria belted out, singing along with the radio.
Kyle groaned and covered his face with his hands, slumping down in his seat. The song has become Mia's mantra in the last few weeks, ever since we found out about the move. She's been determined to make the last few weeks we had in Albuquerque the best she's ever had. And she's dragged Kyle and me along for the ride.
"Come on, Izzy!" Mia demanded. "The phone rings in the middle of the night/
My father yells what you gonna do with your life
Oh daddy dear you know you're still number one/ But girls they want to have fun/ Oh girls just want to have –" she sang.
I threw up my hands and laughed as she tried to bop along, sing and drive at the same time. "That's all they really want/ Some fun/ When the working day is done/ Girls - they just want to have fun/ Oh girls just want to have fun," I chimed in. Mia grinned back at me and Kyle whimpered a little.
"Some boys take a beautiful girl/ And hide her away from the rest of the world/ I want to be the one to walk in the sun/ Oh girls just want to have fun/ Oh girls just want to have," we sang.
A sad look flashed on Mia's face as she sang that verse, and I knew she was thinking of Jeremy. They'd had another fight at the party last night, and it had taken me nearly twenty minutes to convince her to come out of the bathroom. Everyone was shocked to see them screaming at each other, to say the least – Mia and Jeremy were the picture-perfect couple. Kyle and I knew she really didn't give a damn about each other, but no one else did. They were the king and queen of the school – two of the beautiful people everyone envied and loved at the same time. Seeing them as anything less than perfect – seeing them as human – was a real shake-up for most people. I just hope that my sister will find someone in Roswell who will make her happy.
And I hope I will, too.
"That's all they really want/ Some fun/ When the working day is done/ Girls - they just want to have fun/ Oh girls just want to have fun/ They want to have fun/ They want to have fun," we finished, and Kyle let out a sigh of relief.
"That's enough out of you two," he told us,
leaning forward to snap off the radio.
Mia shot him a disgusted look, and was about to argue, when we spotted the 'Welcome to Roswell' sign. I couldn't help it – despite all my brave talk about being ready to go back, I turned a little pale.
"I guess this is it," she whispered, pulling over.
"Are you okay, Izzy?" Kyle asked, looking at me closely.
I nodded, trying to ignore the sudden dryness in my mouth. I took a deep breath and flashed them both a smile that we all knew was fake, but close enough to the real thing that they could ignore it. "I'm fine. Now, are the Valenti's ready to take Roswell by storm?"
Mia looked at me closely, and then grinned back. "Hell yeah!"
Kyle wrapped his arms around me from behind and gave me a quick hug. "Roswell, look out!"
"Then let's do this," I told them firmly, hoping to quell the butterflies in my stomach. "We'll be fine."
I hope I'm right.