Multiple Choice

It was two days since Michael left me standing in the eraser room.

Two days, six hours and eighteen minutes.

Whoops. Nineteen.

This was ridiculous. I'd been dumped by my boyfriend and his best friend within 24 hours, wooed and dumped by the latter in the same time-frame. Not to mention the face that they were both aliens, never mind the aforementioned best friend had nearly died of some sort of toxic sweat-lodge fever, and I'd hesitated to save his life because I was afraid he'd know that I liked him.

Max left me because he was scared and needed space. Michael left because he needed a different kind of space, and because he was scared that Max needed me.

I was choking on the mammoth amounts of space.

My life was so simple before Max Evans, and even simpler before Michael Guerin.

My self-esteem had hit rock bottom. On a whole myriad of levels.

Today I went to the music store and asked the girl behind the counter, who had short green hair and a nose ring, if she could direct me toward some good female singers.

That is what I've come to.

She grinned and told me she could "hook me up". I'm learning all sorts of new things these days. I left with ten CDs.

Maybe they knew something I didn't.

Maybe they could help.

I got home, went into my room, put the first CD in the player and flopped down on my bed.


Tonight I feel so weak
but all in love is fair
I turn the other cheek
and I feel the slap and the sting
of the foul night air
and I know you're only human...

That was ironic, I thought.

...and I haven't got talking room
but tonight, while I'm making excuses
some other woman is making love to you...

The bass and drums kicked in and someone said my name. I sat up and my eyes flew to the window.

He wasn't there.

"Liz?" Behind me. I turned my head.

My dad was in my doorway. "Oh," I said, trying not to sound disappointed. "Hi, Dad."

"Hey," he said, looking uncomfortable. "Is, um - is everything OK?"

"Yeah, Dad, everything's fine." I fell back on the bed and crossed my arms over my face. "Thanks."

"I just, um -" he gestured to the hallway. "I was just walking by, and I heard your new music."

My music. My arms flopped down by my sides. "Dad," I said. "I'm fine. Really."

"Good! Because I would hate to think that something was going on - you know, at school, or maybe, you know, with - boys or - something, and you didn't talk to me about it."

Maybe, if I concentrated hard enough, I could make myself spontaneously combust.

"You know you can talk to me about anything," he said.

I stared up at the ceiling. I couldn't possibly be considering this.

Yeah. I was.

I propped myself up on my elbows. "Well, Dad -"

"Good! Good, good, good, good, good," he said, backing out of the doorway. "I'm glad we had this talk. Bye, sweetie." He smiled and closed the door.

He even waved.

What was it with the men in my life?

Wait. Technically, Max and Michael weren't men.

That didn't make me feel any better. I fell back on the bed.

...Somebody bring me some water
can't you see I'm burning alive
Can't you see my baby's
got another lover
I don't know how I'm gonna survive...

I picked up the CD. Melissa Etheridge. "Oh, yeah," the girl at the music store had said, green hair bobbing up and down feverishly. "You can't get through a breakup without listening to this. I highly recommend her first album. It's her best work."

I sighed and tossed the case on the bed. I couldn't tell if she was making me feel better or worse.

I pushed random and fell back on the bed.


I'd listened to almost a dozen CDs and still didn't feel better. Empowered, maybe, but not better.

I glanced at the window. Nothing. Just darkness and the string of lights.

OK, Liz. Time to do something else.

I stood up and headed to the bathroom to wash my face. On my way I saw my copy of Ulysses on my bedside table and picked it up.

"You know," I said to the book, "Just a little punctuation, now and then, would that be too much to ask?"

I dropped it in the trash and kept going.


I didn't stop. "Okay, Dad, I'll keep it down -"


It was him. I spun around.

Michael was climbing into my room. Through my window. "Hey," he said. He walked over to my bed and picked up a couple of CDs.

"Tori Amos?" he said. He flipped the case over and looked at me. "You're listening to Tori Amos?"

"Michael -" I snatched the CD back. "what are you doing?"

"Jeez, relax," he said, hands up. "Didn't know you were so advanced in your musical taste."

"I just -" I looked down at the CD. "I'm sorry - why, again, are you here?"

He tossed the book up with one hand and caught it with the other. Ulysses.

"You can't be serious," I said.


"You want to keep - studying? Reading that book?" I hissed. My parents were still awake.

He rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah," he said. "We did have a deal. Right?"

I shook my head. He was so - impossible. Incorrigible. Infuriating.

I'd feel sorry for Maria if I didn't envy her so much.

"Michael," I started, "I don't know how much you know about women -"

"Less every day," he muttered.

"- but you can't break up with one of them, in the eraser room, and then just show up to do a book report!"

"What's your problem?" He hissed. " 'Break up'? Liz, we were never going out!"

"What?" I yelled. "What was that 'we've got to tell them,' that whole 'We have to tell them we're dating' part?"

"You know what your problem is, Parker? You don't -"

I saw the door move.

Michael fell like a ton of bricks.

The door swung open. My dad stood in the doorway.

"Everything alright, honey?"

I tried to say something. The only thing between Michael and my dad was my bed.

I skipped the Freudian reference.

If my dad walked in -

"Honey?" he said, leaning in further. "Are you alright?"

Michael's hand hit my foot.

"I'm fine! Fine." I said. "I'm just, uh, singing along with the album."

"Singing?" he said, frowning. "That was - singing?"

"Spoken word," I said quickly. "Ah, feminist - spoken - word. You know -" breathe, Liz, breathe - "um, overthrowing the oppressive patriarchal paradigm, and all that?"

"Ohhhhh," he said. "That."


"Has Maria's mother been talking to you about this?"

"Dad." I said. "Please."

"Alright, alright," he said, closing the door. "Just - sing a little quieter, okay?"

"Okay," I whispered. He was gone.

I looked down.

Michael looked like he was having convulsions.

"Get out," I said, reaching down and pulling on his shirt. "Michael, I'm serious, get out!"

He rolled over onto his back, hands trapped over his mouth. When he moved them he was grinning. "Singing," he said, choking back a laugh. "Oh, that was worth it. That was so worth it."

I kicked at him. "Get out, Michael! I don't want you here."

He stood up. "Look," he said, still smiling. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your feministic -spoken-word-" he picked up a CD. "What is this? Is this Ani? What is up with people today?"

"Get out, Michael."

"I see she's having an effect."


"Oh, please, Parker..."


"Want to make out?"

My jaw dropped. "Wh -"

"Make out. You know. Kissing," he was walking toward me. "Hands, lips, all that."

I backed up. "You're sick," I said. "You are sick. You know that?"

"That's not an answer, Liz."

Several CDs suddenly kicked in.

"Here's your answer, Michael," I said, walking toward him. This time he backed up. "How about you take your grammatically-impaired little novel of Irish pop culture -" I said, grabbing the book and throwing it out on the rooftop - "and take a flying leap off my roof."

He stared after the novel, open-mouthed, then looked back at me.

"That's a library book, Parker."

I gritted my teeth and kept backing him up. "How about you go make out with whoever you want, Michael." His back hit the wall. "I'm tired of playing games, I'm tired of being left, and I'm tired of you showing up in my room, whenever you feel like it!"

He pursed his lips, sighed deeply while rolling his eyes, and looked at the window. "You done?"

I didn't care. I folded my arms. I was very happy with myself.

"Yes," I said. "I'm done."

He nodded, looked down. "Well," he said. "If that's what you really want."

My smugness faltered.

I thought about Ani. Melissa. Tori.

Stand your ground, Liz.

"Yes," I said. "that's what I want."

"Okay, then," he said. He moved toward the window and I turned to watch him go.

He tackled me, a sharp left, and our bodies hit the bed.




"Um - what are we doing?"

"I think the current colloquilism is 'making out'."

"No, Michael," I said, sitting up and pushing him away, "you know what I mean."

He sighed.

"What do you want to be doing, Liz?"

"Well -"

"Do you want to read? 'Cause that's fine with me," he said, flipping on his back and reaching for Ulysses. "Where were we -"

I grabbed the book and threw it on the floor.

"If I get fined, you're paying for it."


He groaned and covered his face with his hands.

"Michael," I kicked him. He muttered something unintelligible.

Michael was in my bed. In. My. Bed.

"You have to tell me something, Michael."

"What do you want me to tell you?"

"I want you to tell me what you think about this!"

"Oh, please let there be a God." He groaned.


"So he can kill me, and put me out of my misery!" he snapped.

I opened my mouth to speak. Nothing. I took a deep breath. "Okay," I said. "I'll take the lead on this."

"Great," he muttered.

"I - wait. Okay. I'm here with you, and Max has broken up with me, and you broke up with me today -"

He nodded vigorously.

"- and now you're back here, in my room, in my bed, making out with me."

"Mm-hmm." He reached for me. I dodged.

"Why, exactly, is that, Michael?"

He exhaled deeply and rolled over.

"Michael, really, did you think I wasn't going to ask?"

"I was hoping -"

"Well, get over it." I said. "So, you, um - you don't want to be here with me?"

"Liz, please -"

"What? I just, I -" I took a deep breath. "Michael. Look: this is not like me, Michael."

He rolled over on his back and looked at me.

"I mean, I don't -" Another deep breath. Any more and I'd start to hyperventilate. "I don't make out with guys. Guys that I'm not dating. In my bed."

"You wanna leave the bed?" he said, sitting up.

"No!" I said, arms out. "No, because that's - that's not the point, Michael, see, the point is that we're doing this in secret. Behind everybody's backs."

He looked at me blankly.

Some crickets chirped outside.

"I mean -" I waved my hands. "Nobody else knows about this, Michael."

Blank as a sketchpad.

"Right," he finally said. "They can't know."

"Ah," I said. "See, earlier today, when we were talking? I was under the distinct impression that we were, you know, not going to date."

"Right," he said. He made it sound like I was being stupid.

"'Right'," I repeated. I brought my hands up. "So why are you in my bed, Michael?"

Crickets chirped.

He shrugged. "We're not dating," he said.

"We're not."


Well, that was helpful.

"So, what are we doing?"

"We were making out."

I folded my arms and took in a deep breath of air. I think I really could spontaneously combust.

"So, you want me to be your little hootchie-mama, is that it?"

"My - what?" He sat up again. "What the hell is that?"

"It's the relatively current slang for slut, Michael."

He sighed and put his head in his hands.

"Look," I said, my voice rising, "I'm sorry! That's what it sounds like to me. You're with Maria during the day, you're telling me to 'go back' to Max, I mean, God, Michael, that's like - like you're my pimp or something! Like you're my interstellar, alien pimp!"

"I. Am not. Your pimp," he said into his hands.

"Well, then, what are you, Michael?" I demanded.

His hands were on my face. He nearly snapped my neck pulling me to look at him.

"I am the Best. Friend. Of your boyfriend."

He paused. "And I am more or less with your best friend. I am stranded on this stupid planet, with no family, no parents, no home and no friends. You know that."

He paused again. I nodded.

"I have to find out who I am, find out the reason for all of our existences, me, Max and Is, because they don't care about going home anymore, all they care about is keeping their lives here safe, I can't control my powers, and all I can think about," he said quietly, "is you."


"I didn't plan on coming here tonight," he said, his hands dropping. "I was just walking, and - then I was on your street, and -" He shook his head. "This is so screwed up," he whispered. He brought his hand up to rub his eyes.

"It's okay, Michael -"

"Riiight," he said, dropping his hand and looking down at the quilt. "It's okay. Of course. Look, Liz," he said, shaking his head. "Of course you have questions. I understand that.

"I just don't have any answers for them."

I watched him for a second.

"Well," I said. "maybe it's not True or False."

He looked up, squinted. "What?"

"Maybe it's multiple choice."

He shook his head. "Sorry, you lost me."

I took a deep breath. "Well - what if we just - didn't tell them."

His eyes widened. "Liz Parker."

I rolled my eyes. "Don't tell me you weren't thinking it."

"Well, I've been thinking about it all day, but -" he looked at me closer. "Are you sure you can do this?"

"I'm not some complete innocent, Michael."

"Um, actually I was referring to your ability to keep a secret."

"Michael, of course I can -"

"Since the last time we told you a secret, you kind of went directly to Maria."

"Oh," I said. "Right." I paused. He waited.

"I think I can," I said.

"I think we need better than 'I think'," he said.

"Okay, yes," I said. "I can."

"Good. Can we stop talking now?"

I answered him the best way I could.


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