The Babe Magnet

I paced on the rooftop. It was two in the morning. Where was he?

Michael hadn't come to see me last night. Even after saying he would. Which he didn't say, normally.

It was cold. I pulled the blanket tighter around my shoulders. Maybe he wasn't going to show. Come on, Michael, I thought, rubbing my arms.

He wouldn't communicate with me either. I shouldn't be surprised.

This was ridiculous. I was losing precious sleep waiting for a man to show up at my window. Maybe something was going on with Max and Isabel, and Michael was helping out.

Or maybe it was Maria.

I bit my lip and tried to push the thought away. Come on, Liz, don't be jealous.

Fine. I was going to sleep.

I went through my bedroom window and locked it. It made me feel better. For about two seconds. Then I felt worse. Well, he could always just open the lock.

If he came over.

I sighed and got into bed.


"Okay, I just want to say this sucks."

"Chill out, she's just building suspense."

"Why didn't he show up? Is this still the whole 'she belongs with Max' thing? Can't she write something else?"

"She does belong with --"

"Would you just hush?"

"Wait. Something''s happening."


Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real, you thought it actually happened? And when you woke up, it took you a while to realize it was all a dream?

I was on the street. Wearing the new, dark blue silk pajamas I'd worn to bed. I'd bought them hoping Michael would like them. Of course, the way things were looking, he might not ever see them.

I was in front of a building with a neon sign that was flashing. The "Babe Magnet". It looked like a bar.

Well, I could use a drink. I pushed the door open and walked in.

The first thing I noticed was a long bar in front of me, against the opposite wall. It was huge, one of those long, ornate ones that's decades old. Several people were clustered around it. The second thing I noticed was that the room was dimly lit and filled with people.

And they were all looking at me. The room was completely quiet.

"Finally," one of them said. "We thought you'd never get here!"


Several people started whispering and pointing at me. "Um -- sorry," I said, squinting. "I must be in the wrong place -"

"Nope," the bartender said. She was native american, with long, black hair falling loose over her shoulders. "You're right where you should be. Have a seat." She gestured to a barstool.

"Um, I'm not 21." I said.

"Isn't she cute?" one of the women said.

"Most of them aren't," the bartender said, gesturing to the other people in the room and throwing a dishtowel over her shoulder. "What'll you have?"

Might as well, I thought. It's just a dream. I walked over to the barstool and sat down. They were still all looking at me. It was a little weird.

"So?" The bartender said. "What'll it be?"

"Uh -- what do you recommend?" I asked.

"Hm. For you --" She pursed her lips and studied me, then broke out in a huge grin. "A chocolate martini." She turned to face the wall of bottles. "Now where did I put that vanilla vodka?..."

"Nice p.j.'s," the woman next to me said. She was wearing an Ani Difranco shirt and a cool leather jacket.

"Thanks," I said. "Um, nice shirt." I put my hand out. "I'm Liz."

"We know," everybody said. The woman grinned and shook my hand.

"Here you go," the bartender said, putting down a dark drink in a martini glass. She raised a shot glass. "Everyone, I'd like to propose a toast -"

Every glass went up.

"To Michael and Liz," the bartender said, grinning. "And the warmth of polar love."

"To Polar Love," the whole room chorused. Everybody drank.

"Good one, Whiteotter," someone called out.

The bartender licked her lips and put the empty shot glass down. "Thanks," she said.

"Uh --" It's just a dream. Chill out, Liz. "- thanks. It''s nice to get some support." I took a tiny sip of the drink. It was delicious. I took a bigger sip.

"Oh, we totally support you guys," the woman next to me said. The one with the Ani shirt. "My name's Ivy."

"Ivy's a big fan," Whiteotter said, polishing a glass. "This is her bar. She made it for you and Michael."

"Oh, that's -- thanks, that's really nice," I said. "Um, how do you know about me and Michael?"

"Oh, everybody here knows you guys," Ivy said, waving her hand. "Everybody here likes you as a couple."

"Not everybody," someone muttered at the end of the bar.

"Sunnie," Whiteotter said. "hush." "Well I''m SORRY," the woman said, rising off the barstool and putting her hands on her hips. She was wearing a cheerleading outfit. A green outfit with ''Conventionals'' emblazoned in pink letters across the chest.

Wow, who picked those colors, I wondered.

"I'm just telling it the way it is," she continued. "You know I'm right. I -"

"Shush!" Ivy said, turning back to me. "Don't mind her. She really likes the two of you, even if she won't admit it," she called over her shoulder. "Now look," she said, turning back to me. "About you and Michael. We've decided you have to get together. We're starting a campaign."

"A campaign?" I said, taking another sip of my drink. "You mean like the political conventions?"

"Ah HA!" The cheerleader said. "Did you hear that? She said 'convention'! See?"

Whiteotter rolled her eyes. "Sunnie," she started, taking the towel off her shoulder, "- for the last time --"

"Alrightalrightalright," the woman said, sitting back down and sulking over her almost-empty drink. Whiteotter smiled and pushed a new drink over to her.

"Here you go," Whiteotter said. "You're gonna need it."

"Hmpf," the woman muttered.

"As I was saying," Ivy said, "We're starting a campaign. You know, bombarding the writers and all that."

"The writers," I repeated blankly.

"Ivy, she's just having a drink. Don't worry," the woman on the other side of me said. "It'll work out."

I know that voice. "I'm sorry --" I turned around to her. "Do I know you?"

"Well, I'm a DJ --"

"You're LadyJ!" I said. "I listen to you all the time! Like, every night I tune in to your show."

"Well, thank you, sweetie," the woman said, looking pleased. "I'm glad you like it."

"You play great music," I gushed. Chill, Liz, chill... "Some of it makes me think about me and Michael."

"Is that right," she smiled.

I smiled back. This was great. I picked up my drink and took another sip, looking around the bar. It was sort of rectangular in shape, and to my right there was a small stage and dance floor.

"You guys have live music?" I asked.

"Every night," Whiteotter said. "Mostly jazz. Some nights we have comedians, but that's a different installment."

Installment? Must be bar lingo. "So, what''s on for tonight?" I asked, taking another sip of my drink.

"I think Maria's gonna sing," LadyJ said.

I spewed my martini all over the place.

"Maria?" I said, coughing and wiping my mouth. I jumped off the barstool. "Maria's here?"

"Nonono. '*Maria*,'" Whiteotter said, trilling the 'r'. She started wiping up the mess. "She's French. Sounds totally different."

"Ah," I said meekly, sitting down again. "Sorry about that."

"S'okay," Whiteotter said, grinning. "I'll get you another one."

"It is not as if Max does not have other interests, non?" someone behind me said. I turned around and saw one of the most beautiful women I''d ever seen.

"Liz, this is *Maria*," Ivy said, trilling the r. "*Maria*, Liz."

"Ah, bonjour," she said. She was wearing a long black dress covered in sequins. "I am so pleased you are finally here. You will stay for the show, non?"

"Ah -- oui," I said. "Sure."

"C'est bon," she smiled. "I will sing something special for you."

"Thanks," I grinned. "Nobody's ever sung something for me before."

"And do not worry, this Michael --" she snapped her fingers. "You will be together in no time."

"She's right," Ivy agreed.

"Absolutely," LadyJ said.

"Here's your drink, *Maria*," Whiteotter said, placing it drink next to me.

"Merci, mon petit loutre," she said, lifting the drink. "After this, I will have to depart to -- how do you say? -- prepare for ze stage."

"How," Whiteotter said.

"By warming up, mon coeur," she said. "How else?"

"No," Whiteotter said. "How do you keep yourself away from him?"

She was looking past me. I turned around.

Michael was standing in the doorway, looking confused.

"Oo la la," *Maria* breathed.

I jumped off the barstool and ran over to him. "Michael!"

"Liz?" he looked at me. "What are you doing here?"

"You mean what are you doing here," I said. "This is my dream."

He looked me up and down. At my pajamas. "Ah, no," he said, clearing his throat. "No, I'm pretty sure it's my dream."

"I've been here twenty minutes, Michael."

"Whatever," he said.

"Hey, everybody --" I said, turning around, "This is Michael."

"We know," everybody chorused.

"Have a seat, Michael," Whiteotter said.

"Come sit next to me!" "No, me!" "Over here, Michael!"

Michael frowned.

"Shush," Ivy called out. "He's sitting with Liz."

Several people grumbled.

Michael squinted at the her and folded his arms. I knew that stance. "If you know me," he demanded, "what do I want?"

Whiteotter folded her arms and pursed her lips. "Rum 151 and coke, double shot of vanilla vodka, twenty drops of Scorned Woman hot sauce."

"Whoa," Michael said. "Let's sit down." He headed for the bar.

"I thought you liked tobasco sauce," I whispered.

"Scorned Woman's hotter," he whispered back. Was he salivating?

For the first time, I noticed everyone else had similar drinks. "Excuse me," I said to the dark- haired woman next to LadyJ. "What are you drinking?"

"An alien nipple," she said.

Michael stopped in his tracks and turned to her. "A what?" "Oh, now that's comedy!" *Maria* laughed, breezing past him and heading for the far side of the room.

"Alien nipple," the woman repeated. "You know - butterscotch schnapps, bailey's irish cream, melon liquor? It's delicious. Would you like some?" she asked me, holding out the drink.

I choked back a laugh. "No," Michael said.

"Oh, relax, Michael," I said. "Have a chocolate martini. They're delicious. You can even ask Whiteotter to put some of that stuff -"

"Scorned. Woman," he grumbled.

"- Scorned Woman in the drink." I stifled a giggle. 'Alien Nipple'. This place was great.

"You have wonderful hands," the woman next to Michael said. "Would you like me to read your palm?"

"No," he said tersely. "Hey, bartender, where's that drink?"

"Oh, come on, Michael," I said. "Let her do it. What was your name?"

"I'm Minnie," she said, taking his hand. "Alright, let's see. Well, you have no patience whatsoever --"

"Liz," he muttered. I ignored him.

"- you're always thinking about what has to be done, worrying about it --"

"Li-iz -"

"- and ooh, you hate disappointing people --"

"Here you go, stud muffin," Whiteotter said, placing it in front of him. Stud Muffin? "Compliments of the house."

"- and you're going to have to choose between what you think you should do and what you actually want."

He froze. "What's that mean?" he demanded.

She shrugged and released his hand reluctantly. "How should I know? It's your palm," she said. "Nice ring, by the way."

"Whatever," he muttered. She sighed. He picked up his drink and pulled me away from the bar. "C'mon."

"Michael -- I was having fun with them, Michael. Do you remember fun?"

"No," he said shortly, stopping and pulling me around to face him. "Did it occur to you that Isabel could dreamwalk and find us?"

My heart sank. Did we always have to be running? "No," I said. "But why would she --"

"We better get out of here," he muttered, looking for an exit.

"I don't think it's like that, Michael."

"Right," he said. "Well just to be safe, let's get outta here."

"You haven't even touched your drink," I protested.

"Fine," he said, raising the glass and downing it all in one gulp. He licked his lips and looked at the glass. "Wow," he said. "That's good."

"You're welcome," Whiteotter called out from the far end of the room.

"See?" I said, pulling on his shirt. "Michael, everybody here is so -- supportive, they're so nice," I said. "Can't we just stay for a little while? Please?"

He looked around and pursed his lips. "I don't know --"

"Besides, you didn't come to see me last night," I said quickly. "Would you like to go somewhere and talk about that?"

He looked back at me. "No," he said quietly. "I don't want to talk about that."

"So let's stay," I smiled. "Come on. Please?"

He looked around the room again. "Alright, but the first sign of weirdness, we leave. Got it?"

"Got it," I nodded. "Come on, I want to introduce you to some people."

"Ladies and gentlemen," someone called out. "I'd like to ask for a round of applause for our favorite couple --"

A blinding light was on us. A spotlight. People burst into applause. I held my palm out flat over my eyes and looked at the stage. LadyJ was holding a microphone.

"Friggin' fabulous," Michael muttered.

"- and invite them to open *Maria's* show with a dance!" LadyJ said.

"Maria? -" Michael asked, alarmed. "- we're outta here."

"No, Michael," I said, grabbing his arm to stop him, "it's *Maria*. She's french. Look." I pointed at the stage.

*Maria* walked out on stage. People kept clapping.

"Whoa," Michael said.

"Bonjour, mes amis!" she said into the microphone. "Welcome to Ivy's place, ze Babe Magnet. I am so pleased to see Liz and Michael here --"

"Okay, does this qualify as weird to you yet?" Michael hissed.

"- please, you two, come up and dance for our opening number. It would be tres bon, non?" Michael mumbled something. "What?" I asked.

"I. Don't. Dance," he said.

"Oo, he 'does not dance'," *Maria* laughed. "How very retro. We shall see."

She nodded once, and the spotlight disappeared, then came up again on the dance floor. Soft blue lights came up on the stage, illuminating musicians behind her. It was a small trio -- drums, someone on piano and her. That was it.

"Let's get out of here," he said, grabbing my hand and turning toward the door.

"No, Michael, wait --" The music started and we both stopped.

It was simple music. Brushes on the drums, making this soft, pulsing sound. The piano player played a few sparse notes, not even a chord.

It was haunting. Beautiful.

Michael and I both stared at the stage. It wasn't just slow - it was plaintive. Almost achingly, heartbreakingly slow.

"Maybe --" He paused and swallowed. "- okay, we leave right after this song, alright?"

"Okay," I mumbled, my eyes on the stage. She started to sing.

I flagged a taxi long before
you woke...

Her voice was so soft -- almost a whisper. Michael was still holding my hand.

...the sun had not yet risen,
morning not yet broke...

The dance floor was empty.

It lookes like rain,
it looks like rain...

"Maybe we should --"

"Shh," he said. I glanced over at him. He was staring at the stage. He squeezed my hand.

and every breath I ever took,
every tear I ever wept --
every star I wished upon seemed
nothing until now...
Every prayer I ever said seems
strangely answered now...
Could it be,
I''m in love...

His grip tightened on my hand and then he was pulling me. Towards the dance floor.

...could it be, I'm in love...

He reached the edge of the dance floor and stopped. He looked left, then right, then back at the floor. Agitated.


"I can't dance," he mumbled.

"Oh," I whispered. He'd never learned. When would he learn, Liz? "It's, um -- it's easy," I whispered. "I'll show you."

"Everyone's looking at us," he mumbled. I looked around. He was right.

"Michael..." I whispered, leaning in to him. "'s just a dream. Right?"

He looked up at me. There was a pause. "Right," he whispered.

"So it won't hurt to try," I said. "Right?"

He stared at me. "Right," he said. He licked his lips nervously and gestured toward the dance floor. "So show me."

I took a deep breath and a few steps out, still holding his hand. I stopped and turned around. "Put your hand around my waist," I whispered, putting my arms up around his shoulders.

He put his hand on the small of my back and I gasped a little.

That feels really good. "- or, you know, there's fine, too," I said, swallowing.

"Now what," he whispered, looking at me.

"Now we --" I loved the way he looked at me. "- we, you know, step. Together."

"Okay," he mumbled, and pulled me closer. Fast. I gasped again.

Michael didn't believe in space when he was dancing.

"Sorry," he whispered, his lips inches away from mine.

"Don't be," I whispered back. Maria started singing again.

...I took a drive along the coast
beside the sea
I gazed upon the fading dark
And slowly
Buckled at the knees...

His right hand stayed on the small of my back, but the other one was touching my face, my hair, caressing my fingertips. So much for being nervous about everyone watching us. I felt like the only woman in the room.

{You are the only woman in the room.}

I melted.

...the driver, drinking gladly
said "Here is to the day",
It looks like rain...
It looks like rain...

"You okay?" he whispered.

"Perfect," I said, a little breathless. I could feel his heartbeat pounding.

"It's just a dream," he said softly and leaned in to kiss me.

Was he saying that for me or for him?

...every star I wished upon seemed
nothing until now
every prayer I ever said seems
strangely answered now
Could it be,
I''m in love..

He pulled back from the kiss and looked at me.

...could it be, I'm in love...

"Good night, Liz," he said.

...could it be...


Everything was fading. "Michael!"

...I'm in love...

The last few notes resounded through the room. I looked around.

It was empty. No Maria, no band. The bartender and all the women I'd met were gone.

"Michael?" I called out.

That's when I woke up.


She came up to me at school the next day. Just waltzed right up in the middle of the day.

"I have to talk to you," she whispered.

"We don't talk during the day, Liz," I said, walking away from her.

"Michael --" she ran after me. "- did you have a dream last night about a bar?"

I stopped and looked at her. Did she just- "No," I said, walking faster.

"Are you sure?" she was right behind me. "It was called the Babe Magnet. Michael, come on --" she clutched my arm. "- please?"

I looked at her. "No. I didn't," I said. "No dream, no bar, no nothing. Just sleep. Okay?"

She looked hurt. "Okay," she whispered. "Sorry." She turned and started to walk across the courtyard.

Damnit, Guerin --

She was three steps away before I called out her name and she turned around.

I walked over to her. "You, uh --" I squinted up at the sun. She was just staring at me. I put my hands on my hips and looked back down at her.

"- you look good in blue," I finished. She smiled.

"You liked them?"

"Yes," I said. "I liked them. Now will you get outta here?"

"Will you come see me tonight?" Her hand was on my jacket.

I sighed. "Yes," I said, waving my hands. "Go, go, go."

She smiled again and let go of my arm, running across the courtyard, her hair flowing loose behind her. I walked in the opposite direction.

What are you going to do, Guerin?

I still didn't know, but staying away from her wasn't working. Last night was proof of that.

Maybe it was time to stop running.


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