Emily found Sarah waiting for her beside her locker. It was over a week since the big confession over lunch, and Sarah had been very friendly ever since. Emily was trying to feel excited about the prospect of a new friend, but the fact was, she was spiraling into a deep depression. It had been coming on for awhile, and today, perhaps because of the overcast weather, she was getting very depressed.
Forcing a smile, Emily walked slowly over to Sarah.
“Hi,” Sarah said, her voice light. “How was class?”
“I survived,” she said, spinning her combination rapidly.
“Are you ready?”
Emily frowned. Ready? The memory came back to her in a big wave. She and Sarah were supposed to go shopping or something. She felt so tired, she wondered if there was anyway to get out of it. She looked at Sarah out of the corner of her eye. Nope, she’d blown it. Maybe if she’d remembered the date in the first place she would have had a chance.
“Yeah,” she said, picking up her books. “Where do you want to go?”
“Well,” Sarah’s smile widened. “I’ve kind of got an idea. You know that dance on Friday?”
Emily felt immediately nauseous. A school dance. Hell in eleven letters.
“Well, Nikolas has never been to one, and I haven’t gone to any school functions since I moved here, so I thought that it would be fun to go. And I thought maybe we could get some neat new dresses to wear, or something.”
Emily’s eyebrows shot up
“Well, you’re going aren’t you?”
Emily turned to Sarah, her mouth open. Sarah was looking at her pleadingly.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Come on, Emily. Nikolas hasn’t made any friends since he’s been here. It would be so great if you were there.”
“He has you!” Emily protested. This was just above and beyond the call of duty. Surely Sarah could see that.
“Back in Colorado, we never went to dances in couples! Always a group, and well, Emily? You’re our group.”
Emily shook her head.
“Have you ever heard the saying ‘three’s a crowd’?”
“The thing is, I promised I’d tear tickets between 8:30 and 9:00 for the glee club, so you and Nik could hang out then. And You have other friends there, don’t you? I bet Lucky’s coming.”
I bet not, Emily thought. This was ridiculous. She shifted her weight, uncomfortably.
“You’ll be fine without me.”
Sarah looked at her sternly.
“Nik hasn’t socialized with anyone except me since he started going to school here. I just think he’d feel more comfortable with you around.” Sarah’s eyes were as big as saucers. Emily squirmed. She tired to focus on something besides Sarah’s Bambi impression. It was no use.
“Oh, alright.” She sighed. “I’ll go.”
Sarah grinned widely, and wrapped her arms around an uncomfortable Emily.
“Thank you so much!” She gushed. “You will not regret this!”
Emily laughed in spite of herself. Sarah had no idea how tall an order that was.
* * * *
Lizzie dumped the last of the plates from table eight into the sink. She hated this job more and more by the day, but at this point she wasn’t going to do anything to alienate any relative of Lucky’s. Beside, she never knew when he was going to make an appearance. It seemed to be a popular place for his family to congregate, despite the fact that they were almost all living under the same roof. Lizzie heard the bells on the door jingle. Another customer. She dried her hands on her apron, and dashed out to see who it was.
She was greeted by the sight of her sister, a shopping bag on one arm, standing in the middle of the restaurant. She gave Lizzie a wary look.
“What?” Lizzie asked bluntly.
“Grams is working late. She gave me money for us to have dinner here.”
Lizzie rolled her eyes.
“Great. Just what I want. More time around this food.”
Ruby passed her, and gave her a nasty look on her way into the kitchen. Sarah looked at her sister disapprovingly.
“Can you try to go five minutes without insulting someone please?” Sarah asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Am I embarrassing you?” Lizzie opened her eyes wide, mocking her sister’s innocent expression. “What’s in the bag?”
Sarah sat down on a stool at the bar, and crossed her legs.
“I went to Wyndham’s to get a dress for that dance on Friday.”
Lizzie rolled her eyes. A high school dance. How appropriate.
“Sounds charming. You and Gram have a nice grandmother/granddaughter trip to the department store?”
“I didn’t go with Gram,” Sarah said crisply. “I went with Emily Quartermaine.”
Lizzie stifled a laugh. What a perfect match, she thought to herself. She wondered if Sarah had any idea that she was hanging out with a drug-addict. Lizzie didn’t really care one way or another. In the past week or so, Emily had not been a problem. She and Lucky weren’t really speaking, and that was just fine with her. She hadn’t managed to get the story out of him yet, but that wasn’t really important. If Emily preferred to spend her time with Sarah instead of Lucky, that was her business.
“What, are you two going to the dance together? That will turn some heads,” Lizzie snickered. Sarah ignored her sister, and opened a menu sitting on the counter.
“I take it you’re too cool for this,” Sarah said, lightly. Lizzie narrowed her eyes.
“I take it you don’t want me to go,”
“It was just a question,” Sarah sighed.
“Sure it was.” Lizzie felt her omnipresent anger towards her sister rise a little closer to the surface. “And to answer your question, I don’t know what I’m doing Friday night. I guess it depends on what Lucky wants to do.”
Sarah raised her eyebrows, in surprise. Lizzie felt a certain amount of satisfaction. Her sister opted not to presume the topic, however.
“I’m going to order a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.” Sarah said, barely having glanced at the menu. Lizzie curtsied to her sister.
“Yes, Ma’am. Right away, Ma’am.” She said, turning on her heel, and dashing into the kitchen. Sarah opened her purse, and started fishing for some aspirin.
* * * *
Emily shifted her weight from one foot to the other, as she gazed at herself in the mirror. She couldn’t believe she’d been talked into this dress. It was beautiful, but she still couldn’t fathom that she was actually going to attempt to wear it. It was like something out of an Audrey Hepburn movie: black and very classic. It looked a bit too sophisticated for a high school dance. She wondered why Sarah was so successful at talking her into things. The door to Emily’s room opened a crack, and a knock came soon after. She rolled her eyes. Monica.
“Come in, Mom.” She said, heavily. Monica entered wearing her ‘she-called- me-mom’ beam.
“Hi, Sweetie. I heard you come in --” Monica stopped short at the sight of her daughter. “Oh my,” she breathed. Emily adjusted the hem of the dress self-consciously. “Oh, Emily. You look beautiful!”
“Really?” Emily cringed. “It’s for a dance. I think it might be a little much.”
“Oh, no,” Monica shook her head. “You look lovely! It’s perfect for you.”
Emily managed a small smile.
“So you’re going to a dance?” Monica’s excitement at that idea was unmistakable. Every time Emily did anything even remotely normal, her parents nearly did back flips.
“On Friday. Is that ok?” she asked, knowing the answer already.
“Absolutely!” Monica gave her a sly smile. “Will Lucky be there?”
Emily sighed, and sank onto the bed. Monica took the cue, and put a comforting hand on her daughter’s shoulder
“Lucky and I aren’t hanging out anymore. Again.”
Monica shook her head.
“Emily, I’m sure it’s not a permanent thing.”
“Why?” Emily said looking up sharply. “Because this has happened before? What if I want it to be permanent? I could be the one who doesn’t want to see him.”
Monica was taken aback.
“I didn’t mean to suggest anything, Emily. I thought you liked Lucky.”
“I do,” Emily said, grumpily. She really wanted to know why, if it had been so easy to get Lucky Spencer out of her life, it was so hard to keep people from bringing his name up. Monica sat down on the bed and took Emily’s hand in hers.
“Is there something you want to talk about?”
Actually, Emily thought, it’s something I don’t want to talk about. Emily hadn’t mentioned what had happened between her and Lucky to anyone. She felt like if she didn’t say anything out loud, it was easier to act like nothing had happened. She could pretend things were back at last year, when Lucky was the one insuring that they didn’t speak. And since Lucky had been keeping his distance, she didn’t have to face him very often. Every time she saw him he was with Lizzie. Emily didn’t want to guess what was going on there. The idea of them being together made her feel tense. She didn’t want to think about the feeling too much, because she was pretty sure if she did, she’d be able to define it as jealousy. Emily looked over at her mother. Monica was still looking at her suspiciously.
“Lucky just drives me crazy sometimes,” she said, vaguely. Monica nodded.
“Oh, I know what that’s like,” she smiled. “I guess in life, you have to figure out whether or not a person is worth going a little crazy for.” Monica stood up. “You look lovely, Emily. I’ll make sure to have my camera out on Friday night.”
Emily cringed inwardly, but smiled back at her mother.
“I’m going to get ready for diner.”
* * * *
Lucky didn’t find pool quite as fulfilling when he was playing solo. On the other hand, it was eating up time. He had way to much time on his hands these days, and very little to distract him. He noted that he hadn’t missed the 8-ball once since the day he and Emily had played. He guessed he was getting his touch back, but he didn’t find much comfort in that. He felt completely detached from everything in his life at this moment. He was trying to make his way through the days by being as completely flat as possible.
Lucky broke out of his repose when Luke rapped sharply on the door.
“I’m taking off. You coming?”
Lucky nodded slowly. His Dad cleared his throat.
“It’s probably a good time to call your mother.”
Lucky kept starring at the table top. His jaw tightened. So much for feeling detached.
“I’m not up for it tonight.”
“Lucky, come on. She’s stuck up there with all those Swiss people. She could use some American contact.”
Lucky was silent. He debated a moment whether or not to let this drop. The urge to say what was on his mind won out.
“If she misses us, Dad, there is a real simple solution.”
“Lucky, don’t be too hard on her.” The warning tone in Luke’s voice was unmistakable. Lucky felt his own ire rising.
“Why not?” He stared at his father, belligerently. “You won’t tell me what’s going on, she won’t tell me what’s going on, you said Grandma is doing fine...”
“She feels she needs to stay on a little longer.”
“What do you think I’m keeping from you?” Luke sputtered. “There’s not always some big conspiracy behind everything, you know.”
“Gee,” Lucky muttered “Where would I have gotten an idea like that?”
“X File reruns, I presumed,” Luke said, calming down a little. Lucky knew he should just let it lie, but he couldn’t pull himself away from the topic.
“Dad, look,” he said, forcing his voice to steady itself. “It doesn’t make any sense. Grandma’s fine. You’ve seen her. There has to be something else keeping her there.
“Lucky. I am telling you exactly what your mother told me. She feels that Lesley needs a little more time there.”
“Then she’s lying!” Lucky exclaimed, exasperated. Luke looked at him severely.
“Look, kid. She is your mother, and I am tired of you giving her such a hard time. You say you’re old enough to be treated like an adult, so start acting like one!”
Lucky faced his father, feeling the rage building up inside of him.
“I can make up my own mind about things, Dad, and if you’re not lying to me, than she is!”
Luke’s face turned red.
“Do not talk about your mother like that!”
“Can you prove I’m wrong?”
“I’ve known her a hell of a lot longer than your have.”
“And you still didn’t know about Nikolas!”
A terrifying silence fell on the room. Lucky knew he’d gone too far. He took a deep breath, attempting to sound reasonable.“I’m not saying it’s her fault Dad, ok? But something is wrong. Something’s wrong or she’d be back here.”
“Lucky, your Grandmother’s needs have to take precedence over yours right now. Your Mother can’t come running back here just because you insist on behaving like an infant!”
Lucky stared at his father coldly.
“Yeah, Dad. That’s what I’m doing.”
Lucky slung his backpack over his shoulder, and stormed out of the club.
* * * *
Lizzie was counting down the last few seconds left on her shift, trying to ignore Sarah, who was perched on the bar stool at the counter, reading Great Expectations -- or rather, rereading, since she’d finished the whole thing that weekend. Lizzie considered the fact that she was never going to get through the book in time for the test next Monday.
The second hand hit the twelve, and Lizzie happily untied her apron, leaving it in a crumbled mess on the counter. She sat down next to her sister, facing the door, and sighed heavily. The ploy didn’t work, and Sarah kept on reading. Lizzie made a face. Sarah spent half of her life ignoring her.
The bells on the door jingled, and Lucky came through like a bullet. Lizzie leapt off her stool.
“Lucky!” She knew her voice betrayed more than a touch of excitement, but at this point she would have been happy to have seen anyone who she wasn’t related to. “What are you doing here?”
Lucky was out of breath.
“Hi, Lizzie,” he walked over to the bar, where Ruby was stationed, cleaning glasses.
“Has my father called?” He asked, his voice uneven. Ruby shook her head, giving him a vexed look.
“Why?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at him. Lucky waved a hand dismissively.
“We’re not exactly seeing eye to eye,” he said, sliding onto the bar stool Lizzie had just been sitting on. He looked over at Sarah. “Hi,” he said, without enthusiasm. Sarah looked up from her novel, and smiled at him.
“Hi, Lucky,” she said smoothly. “How are you?”
“Me?” Lucky gasped. “Oh, I’m fine.” He looked at Lizzie. “Are you still on duty?”
Lizzie debated this.
“What do you want?” Ruby cut her off “Have you eaten?”
“My Mother’s in Switzerland.” Lucky said meaningfully. Ruby hustled off to the kitchen, a knowing glint in her eye. Sarah raised her eyebrows
“Does your Mother do all the cooking at your house?”
“My father’s domestically challenged,” Lucky said flatly. He didn’t feel like getting into anything about his parents. “I’m not much better.” His eyes fell on Sarah’s shopping bag. “New threads?”
Sarah looked instantly uneasy. Lizzie chimed in.
Lucky looked confused
“Already? Didn’t we just have one?”
“Last month,” Sarah said quietly.
“Huh. You going with anyone?”
Contrary to a month earlier, Lucky said this solely to move the conversation away from his parents and their domestic arrangements. Sarah looked uncomfortable all the same.
“She’s going with Emily Quartermaine,” Lizzie cut in, her voice containing an edge as she uttered her rival’s name.
Lucky starred at the shopping bag for a moment. Lizzie tried to read his reaction, but nothing was coming across.
“I didn’t think Emily was into school dances.” Lucky finally said, his voice betraying no emotion.
“I had to twist her arm a little,” Sarah told him simply. Lucky continued to stare at the shopping bag. He wasn’t going to ask. He was going to change the subject, he told himself. Nevertheless, he found his mouth forming the words.
“How is she doing?”
Sarah looked at Lucky out of the corner of her eye, as if this question struck her as suspicious.
“She’s fine,” she said finally. Lucky nodded, still not making eye contact with anyone. Sarah looked over at Lizzie, who’s expression had darkened more than a little. “So, what about you? Are you going to the dance?” Sarah’s voice sounded filled with forced cheeriness. Lucky shook his head.
“I have no idea,” he said, vaguely. Sarah bit her lip. She’s wanted a more concrete answer. If she was going to have to deal with both Lucky and Nikolas that night, she wanted to have a little warning. She cleared her throat. “I’m going with Nikolas.”
Lucky snapped to attention.
“Nikolas and I are going together. Emily too, but I thought you should know from me before you heard it from someone else, that we’re seeing each other.”
Lucky shook his head, smiling bitterly.
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Lucky,” Sarah said warningly.
“Yeah, I know. It’s your prerogative.”
“Yes, it is.” Sarah’s voice was clipped.
“When did you make this decision?”
Sarah folded her arms across her chest defensively.
“I don’t think I want to talk about this anymore,” she said firmly. Lucky shrugged.
“Fine,” he said, with obvious tension. “You brought it up.”
“I just thought you should know.”
“And now I do. Excuse me,” Lucky slid off the stool, and headed into the kitchen where his aunt was fussing after him. Lizzie furrowed her brow, trying to figure out what that exchange had meant. He’d gotten angry at Sarah, but he always gets angry where Nikolas is concerned. That wasn’t what worried her.
“I thought you were so over that guy,” she said to her sister, teasingly. “I thought you said it didn’t work out.”
Sarah shrugged and resumed reading. Lizzie glared at her back. Fine, if her sister was going to shut her out, that was fine with her. There was no way Sarah was going to get her little perfect night out. The thought of her and Nikolas mooning all over each other made Lizzie nauseous. She wouldn’t have cared much normally, but Emily was involved. If she was going to be hanging out with Sarah and Nik, then she’d obviously changed teams. All of them were acting like they didn’t have to choose sides, but Lizzie knew the truth. You were either with Lucky, or you were with Nik. There was no between with these two. That was what had disturbed her when Lucky had made what looked like a reasonable inquiry as to how Emily was doing. He still cared. That was to be expected, she told herself. It had only been a week since they’d stopped talking, for whatever reason. Still, she wanted to have Emily out of the picture for good, and she couldn’t help wondering what Lucky would think if he saw Emily out with Nikolas. She’d have to get him to go to that dance, somehow. Once he saw that the line had been drawn, and Emily was standing on the other side, then he’d have to forget about her for sure.
* * * *
Emily heard voices downstairs. She put down her pencil, and pushed back from her math homework. She had a head ache again. This was becoming a chronic condition. She drummed her fingers on the desk top. She was halfway done her work, another half hour still to go. She could probably finish it at lunch. The voices grew louder. It was a strange phenomenon. The longer she lived in the house, the harder it was to stay away from the arguments. She slid out of her chair, and headed to the top of the stairs. It only took seconds to determine that the fight was nothing cataclysmic. She sat down on the top step and listened to Edward and Alan go at each other. She found it strangely comforting for perhaps the first time. At least some things never changed.
The subject of the argument appeared to be Emily’s brother, Jason. This was not knew. She could almost recite the dispute by heart. She was glad to see the attention had turned away from her. At diner, Monica had announced Emily’s plans for Friday night, and, as predicted, everyone was very enthusiastic. Except for Edward, who moaned that she was probably going to wear some monstrous outfit that would give him nightmares. This had led to a serious discussion about Emily and her lifestyle choices of the past year. She had sat there in silence as everyone bickered around her. To maintain her sanity, she concentrated on keeping her peas from invading the scalloped potatoes.
The argument had served to further cement the cloud of doom that was gathering over Emily’s head. She didn’t want to go to this dance. The various horrors of what could occur kept running through her mind. The last big function she’d been to like this was the General Hospital Teen Volunteer Barbecue, and that had been disastrous. There had been Lisa Whitesill’s verbal assault, and while that had been unpleasant, Emily found that in time, she’d really stopped caring what Lisa had to say about her and her life. What stuck with her more was Lucky’s behavior that night. She tried not to focus on it, but it kept sneaking back into her mind. He’d been so cold and distant that night. Make that cold and distant to her. To everyone else, he was perfectly friendly.
Emily shook her head violently. What was the point of exorcising Lucky from her life if she was still going to torment herself with memories of his past sins against her? She had to stop this. She had tried and tried to concentration on anything else in her life to ignore the fact that Lucky was all she could think about. It was like some shadow that followed her around everywhere. It was exhausting to try to keep her mind off of the one thing it was determined to focus on.
Emily was so tired of this. She just wished she could not care. That was what Lucky appeared to be doing. Despite the look in his eyes when she’d told him to get out of her life, he seemed to have rebounded quickly. That bothered her more than she wanted to admit. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him, but now that she was certain she hadn’t, a part of her felt betrayed. She’d over-estimated his feeling for her -- again. In the end Lucky only ever had one focus: his family. That was the be all and end all for Lucky Spencer. He’d do anything for them. Everyone else was expendable. She felt her anger at him returning. She’d made the right decision, she told herself. There was no room for this in her life. Speaking of which, an eerie silence had descended on the living room, which meant either they had blown themselves out or someone had been killed. She decided to go investigate.
* * * *
Lucky sat on the bench outside of Kelly’s, deep in thought. Lizzie watched him from the window. She wondered what was bothering him this time. She was quickly realizing that Lucky’s moodiness was not a product of his crush on her sister. This was a regular state for him. She pushed the door open, and strolled out into the courtyard.
“Aren’t you cold out here?”
“I’m used to it,” Lucky said flatly. “Beats going home.”
“Oh, I know that feeling,” Lizzie sighed, sitting down next to him. “Between Sarah and Grams it’s like I live in a doll house.” Lucky didn’t seem moved. She cleared her throat, and decided to cut to the heart of the matter. “So there’s a dance this week, huh.”
“Are you going.”
Lucky made a face
“I doubt it.”
“Really? Cause I know Deenie is dragging Vince and Tim’s probably going to go, too.”
Lucky looked up at her.
Lizzie looked at him innocently.
“So, what? You’re just going to hang out at home? You seem so anxious to spend more time there.”
“There is a fine line between a high school dance and hell, Lizzie. My home life isn’t that bad.”
“Hmm..” Lizzie took a deep breath. “I thought you were more tenacious than that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Admit it, Lucky. There’s just one thing keeping you from going to the dance.”
Lucky turned to face her.
“And what is that?”
“Nikolas,” Lizzie raised her eyebrows, challenging him.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Well, what other reason do you have?” Lizzie leaned closer to him. “I mean, you’re just letting him walk all over your life, here. He takes your friends, you don’t do anything. Now you won’t go to a dance because he’s going to be there.”
Lucky shook his head.
“Then prove me wrong.”
Lucky put both hands behind his neck, cringing as if he was in great pain.
“Let me guess. Go to the dance.”
“That would be a start.”
“But I’m not going to the dance because I don’t want to. It has nothing to do with Nikolas,” Lucky’s voice betrayed more than a touch of aggravation with her. Lizzie tried to suppress a smile.
“Lucky, one thing I’ve figured out since I’ve known you, is everything has to do with Nikolas.
Lucky screamed in frustration
“What are you talking about! I could care less about the guy. I don’t even waste time thinking about him.”
Lizzie rolled her eyes.
Lucky looked at her out of the corner of his eye.
“I know what you’re doing.”
“And yet, you’re still going to go,” Lizzie said, smiling. Lucky’s whole life was one big Achilles Heel.
“What the hell,” he found himself saying. “What else do I have to do?”