Let's Try This Again
When Lizzie got to school, decked out it what she believed to be her absolute most flattering outfit, she found Lucky talking to Emily at her locker. She'd expected as much. She couldn't hear the conversation, but Emily was laughing. She eyed her again, trying to see what he saw in her. She guessed that she was a bit pretty, in a little girl sort of way. While it appeared Emily was not posing an immediate threat, Lizzie had decided she could prove to be trouble in the long run. This called for action, she had to develop a plan of attack to assure clear passage. Lizzie had devoted the entire evening previous to figuring out her next move. The primary difficulty here was that she wasn't sure about what was going on with these two. If Emily was interested in Lucky, then she wasn't talking about it. She knew Lucky was interested in Sarah, but that was just an infatuation. When he finally got his head out of the clouds, she planned to be the one who was going to swoop in to pick up the pieces before his mind clouded up again. She decided to overlook the fact that she could be interrupting something, and walked up to them.
“Hi, guys!” she exclaimed loudly. They both turned to look at her. The smile faded immediately from Emily's face.
“Hi, Liz. How's it going?” Lucky's voice was ambivalent.
“Great. How’re you?”
Lucky looked her up and down.
“Aren't you a bit cold?”
Lizzie's face fell.
“No, actually. I'm fine.”
“Well, we've got to get to English,” he said, turning to Emily. “Are you going to be around later?”
“Definitely,” Emily rolled her eyes heavenward, “I have so much catching up to do, it's insane.”
“See you around, then.” Lucky touched her arm lightly, and looked back at Lizzie. “Coming?”
Lizzie smiled at Emily sweetly.
“Have a good day, Em.” She said, pointedly. Then she turned and walked down the hall with Lucky.
Emily watched them walk away, feeling a strange twinge inside her stomach. She didn't like Lizzie. And despite her overly friendly attempts at conversation, Emily was pretty sure she didn't like her either. She couldn't figure out why Lucky spent any time with her at all. The bell rang, breaking Emily out of her repose. She slammed her locker shut, and dashed down the hall to her first class.
* * * *
Lizzie slipped into a seat next to her sister in the cafeteria. Sarah, knee-deep in Great Expectations, barely looked up.
“Lucky's not coming to lunch, if you're looking for him. He's with his Dad,” Sarah murmured, turning the page. Lizzie scowled at her.
“What makes you think I'm here for Lucky?”
Sarah looked up at her sister. Exactly how stupid did Lizzie think she was? Yes, at first she'd thought her sister's nasty temperament had just been her way of testing Grams, but it hadn't taken long for her to put the pieces together. And Lucky was a great guy, he'd probably be good for Lizzie. The thing was, Lucky didn't seem to be interested. She couldn't really blame him. Lizzie was being clingy, and manipulative, and in Sarah's experience, there weren't many guys who went for that sort of thing. Especially not free-spirits like Lucky. In response, however, all Sarah said was “Whatever.”
Lizzie started unpacking her lunch.
“Well, I'm glad to see you're not eating with Nikolas. I was beginning to worry that you were going to start up with that guy again.”
Sarah repressed the urge to scream in her sister's face. She had tried her whole life to be a good person, to do what's right. And while she had messed up here and there, she couldn't come up with anything so bad that it warranted Lizzie's abuse. It wasn't like Lizzie didn't have all the same advantages she'd have. She was even the baby of the family, while Sarah held the dreaded “middle child” spot. She was not going to loose her temper, though. She buried herself in the book again.
Lizzie shrugged her shoulders, and began to unpack her lunch. She was watching the door like a hawk, waiting for Emily to make an appearance. She figured the girl should arrive at any time now. Unless she was with Lucky. Lizzie stomach dropped at the thought. No, no, she told herself. Lucky was with his Dad. However, she found the phrase “He's a family friend” ringing in her ears. Lizzie frowned, and picked up her sandwich, her mood suddenly foul.
It brightened immediately when she saw Emily Quartermaine come through the door to the cafeteria. She smiled, the glint coming back into her eyes.
“Emily,” she called, waving her arm. “Over here!”
Sarah looked up from her book, and glanced over her shoulder to see Emily standing in the middle room, looking prepared to make a run for it. She gave her a friendly smile, which Em immediately returned, thrilled to find a legitimately friendly face.
“Sarah. Hi,” Emily enthused, walking across the room to greet her. “I haven't seen you in so long!”
“Yeah,” Sarah said, pulling out a chair for her. “Gram told me you went to Italy with your mother! That must have been amazing!”
“It was,” Emily enthused. “Totally incredible.”
“It's got to be so strange being back here after spending a month in Europe.”
Lizzie stared at the two girls, amazed. This was unbelievable.
“You were in Italy for a month?” she said, pushing her way into the conversation. Emily glanced over at her and nodded. “What, are your parents, like, rich or something?”
Sarah looked at Lizzie disapprovingly.
“Emily's a Quartermaine, Lizzie.”
Emily cleared her throat. She hated this.
“My family owns Edward Lewis Quartermaine Enterprises,” Emily said, quietly. “But my parents are both doctors at General Hospital. My father is the Chief of Staff. He knew your grandfather really well.” she forced herself to smile.
“So basically, you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.”
Sarah glared at Lizzie. She couldn't believe how tactless she was being.
“Lizzie,” she warned. “Emily doesn't want to be given the third degree over lunch, Ok?”
Emily cast a grateful look in Sarah's direction. She was sure, however, that she could take care of this invasion of her privacy herself.
“It's Ok. Everyone else knows, I'm sure you'd hear from someone eventually,” She turned to Lizzie and leaned across the table. Over the years, Emily had found that she had one great weapon to get people to stop asking her questions: you just gave them an answer that made them uncomfortable. And no answer made people more uncomfortable than the one she was about to give. “I wasn't born a Quartermaine. My real mother died of cancer when I was eleven, and the Quartermaines adopted me.”
Sarah gasped in horror. The idea of that was so awful, she had no idea what to say. Lizzie just blinked.
“Wow. I guess that was a lucky break. I mean to be adopted by a rich family like that.”
Emily was floored. No one, ever, had reacted that way to finding out that she was an orphan.
“LIZZIE!” Sarah's face burned with embarrassment. Even she was surprised by the shallowness of her sister's reply. Lizzie widened her eyes, the picture of innocence.
“What? Isn't it? Otherwise she'd have been put into foster care, or something.”
Emily couldn't believe this girl. She had no emotional investment in her response, so she wasn't going to get upset, but she felt like Lizzie was being inconsiderate on purpose, that she hoped her remark was hurtful. It was like she was trying to tell Emily not to mess with her, but Emily couldn't conceive of why.
“You know, suddenly, I'm not hungry anymore. I'll let you two girls chat.” Lizzie looked at Emily with undisguised acrimony, and slide out of her chair. Emily watched her walk away, her head spinning.
“I am so sorry, Emily” Sarah said, a look of alarm on her face. “I don't know what's the matter with her.”
Emily shook her head.
“That's Ok. I just don't think she likes me much.”
Sarah laughed bitterly.
“Lizzie doesn't like anyone. Well, except for Lucky.”
“Lucky?” Emily's voice was hovering an octave higher than she'd intended it to. Not that the news was any surprise.
“Well, yeah,” Sarah said, simply. “How did you guys meet, anyway? Do you have class together or something?”
Emily reviewed her previous conversations with Lizzie, and realized that she'd been blind to the obvious. This had to be the oldest story in the book.
“Are she and Lucky going out, or are they just friends?” Emily asked, suddenly. Sarah looked surprised.
“No. They're just friends. But Lizzie....”
“Wants more,” Emily grimaced. “I see.”
Sarah looked at Emily and smiled knowingly.
“You and Lucky are pretty good friends, aren't you?”
Emily nodded, feeling a goofy grin creep onto her face. She looked down and studied the table top.
“Yeah, I guess we are. We've known each other a long time, but we'd kind of grown apart.”
“And now you're becoming friends again?” Sarah's voice was filled with amusement. Emily blushed in spite of herself. What's wrong with you, she chastised herself. This is Lucky, for God's sake. Sarah reached across the table and touched her hand. “I think it's really great that you two are getting close. Lucky's a sweet guy. Don't let Lizzie freak you out.”
“We're just friends,” Emily told Sarah, unconvincingly. Sarah shrugged.
“I think that's great. So,” she straightened up, putting her book into her bag, “Tell me about Italy!”
* * * *
Emily's mood had darkened considerably by the time she got out of her last period class. She had come to the conclusion that her science teacher thought she was an idiot. Actually, she felt a bit idiotic herself. She had mislabeled the nucleus in her diagram of the plant cell. She'd known it was the nucleus, too. She just hadn't been thinking too clearly. Every since yesterday afternoon, her head had been everywhere except where she needed it to be: school work. After class she'd gotten trapped going over extra assignments with the teacher, who then gave her a lecture about having the pay the consequences of missing so much school. He capped it off by stating that her record showed that she'd missing a considerable amount of school last spring, and if she didn't like the extra work, she should stop taking vacations during the school year.
The most maddening thing was that there was nothing she could say in response. “I'm sorry sir, but I guess you're the only person in town who didn't know I overdosed on heroin last spring,” didn't seem to be the way to convince the man that she was a responsible and intelligent young women. She clenched her fists as she rushed down the hall towards her locker. All she wanted to do was get her books, go home, and die.
She stopped dead in the middle of the hallway. Lucky was sitting on the floor, leaning against her locker, reading a novel.
“Um... Hi.” She said, not moving from her place. Lucky looked up and smiled at her.
“Hey.” He said simply, as if this was not unusual behavior.
“What are you doing here?” She asked.
“Waiting for you,” he looked at his watch, and whistled. “What happened to you, get caught by some brain-sucking homework beast?”
Emily didn't know how to respond to that.
“My science teacher,” she finally said, walking slowly towards him. “He hates me.”
“That sucks. Science is pretty lame anyway.”
“Says the computer freak,” Emily laughed.
“No, no, no. Computers are different. There's a relationship there. It calls for patience, caring, finesse,” he looked up at her, towering over him. “You want into your locker?”
Lucky slide back up the wall, so that he ended standing roughly two inches away from Emily. Em felt her heart begin to beat faster, and she looked down at the floor, side-stepping away from him. He leant his shoulder on the locker next to hers. He was still standing far too close for her liking. She opened the locker, placing the door between them like a shield. Emily shoved her books into her bag rapidly, and shut the door with a slam. Lucky was still standing there, looking straight at her. She ignored him, fiddling with her lock. She couldn't get it to shut. Lucky watched her struggle with it a bit before offering to close it for her.
“It's Ok,” she said, feeling a flush creep up her neck.
“No, really. I've got years of experience with this.” Lucky reached over for the lock, his hand brushing against hers. Em pulled her hand away, quickly, dropping the lock on the floor. She backed up, chastising herself under her breath. She didn't want to even look at Lucky. She felt like she was completely transparent. How had this happened? Two weeks ago, she was completely ambivalent about him. Now all of the sudden she had turned completely crazy. She looked over at Lucky, who was, it appeared, starring at the lock on the floor. He looked up and his eyes met hers. They didn't say anything a second, then Lucky gave her a crooked smile.
“I'll just get that, Ok?”
Emily covered her face with her hands.
“All right,” she said, her voice muffled.
Lucky picked up the lock, and clipped it onto the locker. With a bit of pressure, and finally a sharp slam against the locker it finally shut.
“Ok,” Lucky said, his voice a little shaky. “Umm... It's shut. I don't know if it will open again, but at least you know no one can get in there tonight.”
Emily giggled, then looked at the floor. Stop it, she told herself, this is insane. She slung her bag over her shoulder, and raised her head again, giving Lucky a big, purposeful smile.
Lucky ran his fingers through his hair a few times, his most prominent nervous habit, and smiled back at her. He then jammed his hands into his pockets, hunching his shoulders, and leaning a little towards her.
“Ok,” he said, firmly. “Look, do you have a lot of stuff to do? ‘Cause I was thinking, if you wanted, we could go to my Dad's place and play pool or something.”
Emily felt the weight of the school books pulling her down. She bit her lip.
“I'm really bad at pool,” she said, carefully.
“So you wanna stay bad, or practice with a pro?”
Em rolled her eyes.
“Do I have a choice?” she sighed “Ok. But I can't stay long. I have to label three cells diagrams."
“That'll take you fifteen minutes, Em. You can do it at the bar.”
This was true. Emily still had formidable quantities of work on top of that, but.... She shook her head, and groaned.
“Ok. I could use the time to let my brain breath a little.”
“Great. It'll be fun.” They starred at each other a minute, unsure of what to do next. Finally Lucky gestured towards the side doors of the school. “Shall we?”
She smiled again. They slowly began to walk towards the door, together.
* * * *
Emily let out a scream of anguish.
“I cannot believe I missed the 8-ball again!”
Lucky chuckled at her.
“It's just a game, Em. Don't sweat it.” He chalked the end of his cue, carefully. “Now, watch and learn.”
Lucky set up the shot, taking his time as he eyed the ball. His aim proved slightly off the mark, and slid just left of the ball. Lucky stared at the table in shock. Emily giggled despite herself.
“It's just a game, Lucky,” she mocked. She walked around the table to take her next shot. She was beginning to feel a little cocky. Somehow, despite not playing for at least a year, Emily was finding she was much better at this than she remembered. She suspected she was better at it than Lucky remembered, too. However, after three breaks she hadn't managed to even hit the 8-ball, much less sink it. She leaned over the table, and set up her shot carefully. She used every trick she knew to center her concentration on the ball, brought back the cue, and connected sharply with the cue ball. She loved the noise the balls made as they collided. She was reflecting upon that special little click, when it occurred to her that the cue ball had actually connected with the 8-ball, which was now banking off the far side of the table. It slowly rolled across the table, and slipped into the center pocket. Emily gasped. She looked at Lucky, her eyes wide.
“Oh my God!”
Lucky shook his head, a smile creeping onto his lips.
“You realize what this means,” he said, flatly. Emily gave him a quizzical look. “You can never leave this room again. I can't let this get out.”
Emily laughed, and did a modest victory dance, jumping up and down on the spot.
“I beat you! I never beat you!”
Lucky leaned across the table.
Emily shook her head.
“No, I think I'll let this sink in a while before you trounce me again.”
“I don't know if you noticed, Em, but I didn't exactly trounce you.”
Emily narrowed her eyes.
“You went easy on me, didn't you?”
Lucky groaned. He gave her a cub scout salute.
“Dip dip dip, I did not.”
“Don't ask. Weren't you ever a girl scout?”
Emily shook her head.
“I was in scouts for, like, five minutes when we were living in Canada. It's like being in a cult. They make you make these pledges that don't make any sense, and you have to wear this really ugly uniform. But my Mom wanted me to meet kids, so she sent me.”
“I ticked off the scout master for correcting him on some survival skills, knot tying, whatever. He told me to have respect, and I said ‘Why? You're wrong.’. So he decided to call my Dad. Things got a little ugly after that.”
“Lucky,” Em shook her head, “You have a really weird family.”
“You should talk.”
“Believe me, I know,” Emily lamented. She knew she should go find a clock, but she had an intense desire to loose track of time.
“All I know, is I get to eat when I'm hungry.”
“We risk it sometimes!” Emily protested, “If it's late, or she's running errands. It's not too bad if she can't figure out which one of us took something. Ned says there is safety in numbers.”
“Your family pays her to do this, right?”
Emily giggled, shaking her head.
“I think we should call a draw, here. Your family's strange, mine is crazy.”
“No. My family is eccentric.”
“Then my family is...”
“If you get to be eccentric, then I get to be.... Zany!”
“If you want to be zany, Emily, be my guest.”
Emily and Lucky, eyes locked in fierce competition, both cracked up in unison. Emily tried several times to get her some sort of comeback out, but she was laughing so hard, she could barely breathe. Finally, she bit down on her knuckle, to try and stop the giggling and took several deep breathes.
“This is fun,” she said at last, smiling at him.
“Yeah,” Lucky said. They looked at each other a moment. “I missed you Em. I don't think I really noticed how much until now.”
Emily didn't know what to say. She wasn't even sure if she felt it was a compliment. Lucky suddenly looked nervous.
“I mean, like... when you don't -- Ok. Have you ever just gotten used to someone not being around? And things are Ok, right? But they're not great. And then you see them again, and you realize that you've really been missing them, but you didn't know it was them?”
Emily shrugged. “I don't know if I've ever been away from someone that long to know. Like, I know I miss the people who aren't in my life the way they used to be. Like Jason, and my Mother....” she let her voice trail off.
“And Matt?” Lucky asked.
Emily looked up in surprise. No one had mentioned Matt’s death to her in months. She'd felt like they were all trying to pretend he'd just gone away. She hadn't expected Lucky to bring him up again. She reached out and spun one of the remaining balls on the table, watching the colors blur.
“I didn't even get to go to his funeral,” she said quietly. “His Mom hates me.”
“Why?” Lucky looked confused by this. Emily wasn't sure how to tell him about what Mrs. Reynolds had said to her when she'd found out Matt was dead. She was positive that she couldn't get it out without crying, and she didn't feel like getting sad right now. She took a deep breath.
“She ... blamed me.” That was as much as she muster the strength for. She felt the wound open up inside her. She hadn't thought about Matt, really thought about him, in a long time. She knew that was a stage of grieving from Alice and from all the pamphlets they'd had her read when her mother died. Denial.
Lucky didn't say anything. He just stared at the other wall, deep in thought.
Lucky let his words hang in the air, as if he wasn't sure how to explain exactly what he wanted to change. Emily felt raw inside already. The pain of all of that time, Dorman's murder, the diary, everything that happened, was suddenly tearing at her insides. She had to get out of here. She didn't want to fall apart in front of Lucky.
“Uh.... “ her voice shook. “What time is it?”
Lucky looked at his watch.
“I have to go,” Em said suddenly. She and Lucky stared at each other. She repeated herself. “I have to go, I'm sorry. I've got to get home.”
“Ok. I'll walk you--”
Emily cut in quickly.
“No, really. That's Ok. You'll be late for your Dad. You're having dinner with him, right?”
Emily knew Lucky and Luke didn't have the kind of relationship where punctuality was a big issue, but she hoped Lucky would let it slide.
Lucky studied Emily's face. She nervously let her eyes rest anywhere in the room except on him.
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up.”
“It's not that. It's just -- I can't be late for supper.” She gave him a weak smile. Lucky looked unconvinced.
“You can just tell me to back off next time.”
Emily shook her head.
“No. Most people just pretend it never happened. Or they think that if I miss him, it means I want to use again.” Her voice cracked. “Ask me again, sometime, Ok?”
Emily pulled her backpack out from under the pool table, ruefully recalling the still-untouched cell diagrams. Lucky opened the door of the room for her, and she murmured her thanks as she passed him in the doorway. The club was empty, except for Luke, who was on the phone at the far end of the bar. He stopped mid-sentence when he saw Emily, and gave her a friendly smile. She nodded her head, as he resumed the conversation. Lucky walked behind her to the front door. She pushed the door open, and leaned against it, turning to face Lucky.
“I really did have a good time hanging out with you.” she said. Her voice sounded formal, even to her, like she was trying to convince him of something she didn't really feel. “I guess I'll see you at school tomorrow,” she continued, with forced cheeriness.
“Yeah. Maybe I'll catch you at lunch,” Lucky said, his demeanor suddenly distant. Emily wanted to make some sort of gesture, to touch his hand, or something, to let him know that she was really all right, but it didn't feel right. He ran his fingers through his hair, casually. “Bye.” he said, finally. She felt incredibly small, like she had failed him somehow.
“Ok. Bye.” She slide out the door, letting it close behind her.
The air outside was incredibly cold, with a biting wind. She had an immediate desire to turn back into the warmth of the inside, and sit down somewhere with Lucky and explain all the things that were going on in her head. The thing was, she'd have to figure out what they were, first.