"I thought I'd find you here." Sly picked his way through the overgrown weeds and carefully stepped over bits of broken glass and old pizza boxes to reach his cousin. Moving his flashlight in front of him with each step he made, he was glad he'd had the common sense to change his fancy designer clothes to jeans and sneakers.
"Yeah, so." Lucky shrugged. He offered his cousin a brief glance before he shifted his gaze back to the beautiful murals Elizabeth had created in an effort to make his former digs -the boxcar- into a home for him.
"You don't have to get nasty," Sly told him as he pulled himself into the boxcar. He sat across from Lucky, and as he dusted his hands off on his faded jeans, his eyes followed Lucky's as he continued to look at Elizabeth's work. He then looked back at his cousin and remained quiet as he contemplated the situation.
"What?" Lucky asked. He could feel Sly's unwavering gaze and he wanted it to end. He wanted to be alone, so that he could sort things out. He didn't want his cousin to sit over there and stare at him as he thought up wisecrack after wisecrack about his personal life.
Sly wasn't affected by Lucky's tone of voice or apparent irritation with him. He had expected it. In fact, he would have been disappointed if Lucky had welcomed his intrusion with open arms. He crossed his legs, Indian-style, and rested his back against the rusty wall of the boxcar. And, without his usual sarcasm, he asked, "What's up with you?"
"No, man, you look," Sly said, sitting still as he watched Lucky rise to his feet. "What's going on, man? I saw Lizzie's face after the video was shown, and I saw you two go out in the hallway. What happened out there, man? Did you guys break-up?"
Lucky moved to the mural of the kitchen, wishing he could blot out Sly's questions. His hand reached out to lightly trace the outline of the fridge as he asked, "What do you care? Is this a joke to you? Something to make fun of?"
Sly frowned. He rose and moved to stand behind Lucky. His voice was hoarse with hurt. "You have to know me better than that. You're family. Of course, I'm not here to crack jokes."
"So, why are you here?" Lucky asked, turning around to face him.
"Because I care, man," Sly replied. "I don't say that kind of stuff often, but it doesn't mean I don't feel it. I saw your face when you were out in the hallway and you looked…like you'd been kicked in the guts. If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to, but I'm here, just in case you do."
Lucky sighed. Why did Sly have to pick now of all the times to show his sentimental side? Furiously, he blinked back the tears that had leapt to his eyes. Softly, he said, "Thanks, man."
"Sure," Sly shrugged. "So, um…do you want to talk or…?"
"Talking's good." Disregarding his expensive clothes, Lucky slid down the length of the wall until he was sitting on the floor of the boxcar again. With the glow of the full moon and the light from Sly's flashlight, he was just able to make out his cousin's sympathetic face and it provided him with encouragement to speak. As Sly moved to join him on the floor, Lucky drew a long breath, and then he began. "She didn't say it was over, but it almost felt like it was when she walked away."
Sly nodded. He knew the feeling. He'd been there a few times with Lark, and they'd only begun seeing each other a few weeks ago. It was awful. The emptiness, the loneliness, and the longing. Yeah, he'd been there. "Was it because you and Dawn kissed?"
"Nah…yeah…I don't know." He sighed again. "It's a lot of things. She said I lied to her."
"No, of course not! I swore to her that I'd never lie to her. She swore it me. It's a promise we made to each other and I take it very seriously. It's just that…"
"…yeah?" Sly asked. He rested his forearms on his thighs and leaned forward as he waited.
"I don't know, man," Lucky answered. He shook his head at his confusion. Running his hands through his hair, he added, "I don't know anything."
"So, what happened to all of your knowledge, Spencer? Why don't you know anything any more? You care about her, right? You want to work things out with her, right?"
"Yeah, of course, I do!" Lucky exclaimed, dropping his hands into his lap. "What the hell kind of question is that? You know how I feel about Liz. Why wouldn't I want things to work out between us?"
"It was just a question, dude. You don't have to get all bent out of shape. And, if what you're say-"
"I'm not all bent out of shape!" Lucky grumbled.
"Will you shut up a minute and let me finish?!" Sly's brilliant blue eyes narrowed to slits as he waited for Lucky to show some sign that he would comply. When Lucky gave him a slight nod of his head, Sly continued. "Well, since you're so adamant about working things out with her, call her up and apologize. Tell her you're sorry you lied-"
"But, I didn't lie!"
"What did you do, then," Sly asked, "besides, kiss her best friend?"
"You know it wasn't like that! Geez, Sly!" Lucky said, abruptly rising to a standing position. He began to pace as he continued to speak. "You know it wasn't a real kiss. You were there!"
"No, I wasn't," Sly said. "Ivan shot those scenes without me and Jordan. Remember? We didn't know about it until after the fact."
"So?" Lucky bit out through his annoyance.
"So," Sly repeated, drawing out the word as he moved to stand. "Was the kiss a result of Ivan's direction, or…?"
"Or, what, Eckertt? You got something to say? You think something is going on between Dawn and me? Don't beat around the bush! Just say it!"
"Nah, man," Sly shook his head. "I know you two are on the up and up."
Lucky stared at him in wonder and an expletive escaped his lips without warning. "So, why the interrogation? And, to answer your question, *Ivan* suggested that damn kiss! Not me. Not Dawn."
"Ivan was probably prompted by the Saintly One, herself," Sly muttered to himself. He turned his attention back to Lucky and asked, "Did you like it?"
"Like what?" Lucky asked, bristling.
"You know what. The kiss. Did you like kissing Dawn?"
"What the f* kind of question is that?! She's like a sister to me!"
"But, she's not your sister," Sly persisted. "Look, man. I'm not asking you this stuff to piss you off or start some crap. I'm asking you this because I think there's something you need to face."
"And, that would be?" Lucky asked, rolling his eyes.
"That, maybe, a teeny tiny bit, you have feelings for her. I'm not saying you want to get with her, but even you can't deny that you're attracted to her-"
"She's attractive," Lucky shrugged.
"-and that you sometimes go out of your way to hang out with her one on one."
"What?! That's bulls-"
"No, it's not!" Sly said, rushing after Lucky as he hopped down from the boxcar. He jumped down, too. He watched as Lucky took a few deep breaths. "It's not, man. I'm not even saying you do it on purpose…your living with her mom, well, some things you just can't help. But, what I am saying is that if you want things to get back on track with Liz, you've got to think about it."
Lucky grimaced. Maybe there was a smidgen of truth to Sly's words, but surely not more than that. He told himself he would think about Sly had said, and what Elizabeth had implied before she stalked off. But, even without putting too much thought into it he knew that he already had his answer.
But, Sly. He couldn't believe his cousin could be so thoughtful and so caring. It wasn't like him. Not at all. He punched Sly in the arm and his cousin immediately retaliated. Lucky laughed softly as he said, "So, um, when did you get to be so smart and so insightful about relationships?"
"Contrary to popular opinion, I do have a brain and a heart."
"Really? I never would have thunk it."
Lizzie stood on her grandmother's porch and waved her cousin and his girlfriend away. She thought it was sweet and wonderful of him to want to stay with her while she sorted through her relationship with Lucky, but the truth of the matter was, she didn't want to discuss it with him.
Tommy was great. She was certain he was the best cousin on the planet, and he was definitely more of a brother to her than Steven Lars had ever been, but she wasn't ready to talk and least of all to him.
She thought briefly about her family as she closed the front door behind her. Steven and Sara had been connected. They had an impregnable bond, which often times and many a day left her out in the cold. For most of her life she had resented them for it. Being older and a male, Steven Lars had been pretty much aware of her feelings, but Sara had known of her resentment. She just hadn't known what caused it. But, now after surviving the worst Valentine's Day ever imaginable, she realized that there were worse things than not being especially close to her siblings. And with that knowledge, she was rewarded-if you could call it that-with an amazing cousin and a loving boyfriend.
She double-checked the lock on the front door as she flipped on the light switch. Confident that she was safe and secure, she shrugged out of her wrap and moved to hang it up in the closet. Her mind and entire being was consumed with thoughts of Lucky and the direction of their relationship that she wasn't aware that she wasn't alone until she turned around.
"Oh! You scared me!" she cried as she took a step back into the closet.
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," Simone apologized. "I just came in to swipe a few cookies, and I heard a noise so I came out."
"It's okay," Lizzie replied after a couple of deep breaths to regulate her erratic heartbeat. She held her hand to her chest as she left the closet and joined her aunt by the sofa. "How's it going?"
"Fine," Simone said. She took a good, long look at the young girl and knew that something was wrong. She and Lizzie were always civil to one another. She felt that Lizzie was a little in awe of her and that prevented them from having a better, closer relationship. Simone should have made more of an effort with her, but she hadn't. She would like to change her blunder now, if Elizabeth was willing. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she nodded. Her bottom lip began to tremble as she fought for control and loss. She wiped blindly at her eyes and sat down on the sofa. "I'm sorry," she hiccuped as tried to swallow back the tears which ignored her attempts and continued to freely fall down her full cheeks.
"You don't look fine," Simone said, sitting beside her on the sofa. She wrapped her arms around Lizzie's shaking shoulders and hugged her to her. She murmured, "There, there. Let it all out."
Lizzie surrendered to Simone's suggestion and gave into her tears. She didn't know how long she sat there in Simone's arms, crying until the tears wouldn't come any more. When she was done, she sat up straight. She accepted the tissues Simone handed her and began to wipe her eyes and blow her nose.
Simone released her hold on Lizzie and moved to sit in Steve's old rocking chair. She watched the girl compose herself for a few seconds and then she decided to speak. "Would you like to tell me what happened?"
Lizzie shrugged. "If you wouldn't mind…"
"I don't mind," Simone smiled gently. "Did something happen between you and Lucky?"
"How did you guess?" Lizzie's laughter was void of humor. The sound offended her ears and she stopped. She swallowed hard and asked, "Am I so obvious?"
"No." Simone shook her head. "Not hardly. Just a luc- um, fortunate guess. Care to tell me what happened?"
"He kissed Dawn and didn't tell me about it." Her eyes were on the wet tissue paper as her fingers slowly shredded it into tiny pieces. When Simone sucked in her breath, Lizzie's eyes flew to her. She wasn't surprised to see disbelief there.
"They kissed? Elizabeth, I'm shocked. I never would have expected it of either of them. How did you find out? Did you see them together? Because if you didn't and someone told you-"
"No, Aunt Simone, I saw it, and it's not like you think. It was part of the video."
"Oh. I see." Simone paused as she contemplated her next sentence. She had to be gentle, but she had to say it. "If it was part of the video, don't you think you're over-reacting just a little bit?"
"Yes, I would be, if it was just that," Lizzie admitted, "but it's not. It's a lot of things and this…this is…"
"This is what?" Simone gently prodded. "What's really bothering you?"
"We promised we'd never lie to each other. We'd always be honest, no matter what, but this… Lucky told me, warned me, whatever you want to call it, about some suggestive dance he and Dawn were supposed to do. I thought it was kinda funny how he was so paranoid about it, and I thought it was sweet. Until…"
"Take your time," Simone said, gently patting Lizzie's knee as fresh tears poured down her cheeks.
"Thanks," Lizzie said through her tears. She sniffled and took another deep breath before she spoke again. "Until tonight when I saw them on that big screen, singing, flirting, and kissing each other… Well, so many things began to make sense."
"Like what kind of things?"
"Like the way he kept harping on about the dance. Now, that I think about it, why would he do that unless he felt guilty about it? It's not like I've never seen them perform together."
"Well, did you ask him about it?" Simone asked.
"I told him to think about why he lied to me. And do you want to know what he had to say when I said he had lied to me?" Lizzie asked, becoming indignant with the memory of her conversation with Lucky.
Simone noticed the changed and smiled to herself. Good, girl, she thought. Very good. Fight it. Aloud, she said, "Tell me. What did he have to say for himself?"
"He said that he *omitted* to tell me, and because of that, it wasn't a lie. Can you believe that?"
"Yeah. I can." Simone said, shaking her head. "I can believe it all too well."
"You can? Why? Did something like this happen to you?"
"Yeah, except I was married to the guy."
"Oh, no! Uncle Tom? What happened?" Lizzie asked. She pulled her legs underneath her and rested her arms on the armrest as she waited for Simone's side of the story.
"He had an affair. I suspected and started asking questions. However, according to him, they were the wrong questions and then later when I called him a liar, he said that he wasn't. He said that I'd never asked if he'd had sex with his lovely young assistant. I'd only asked him why he was spending so much time with her."
"Now, that's low," Lizzie muttered. "Men! They think they're so smart, don't they?"
"Yeah, they think that, but we know the truth, don't we?" Simone smiled.
"Yeah," Lizzie nodded. "We do." Overcome with finally connecting with the woman she considered a living legend and a true heroine, Lizzie leapt from the sofa and went to wrap her arms around Simone.
Simone hugged her back with equal fervor. She knew that Lizzie would be okay. She was in a family of survivors, and she would survive. As she and Lizzie parted and Lizzie moved back to the sofa, Simone asked, "So what's next?"
"You mean, with Lucky and me?" After Simone nodded, Lizzie said, "I don't know. Since the rape, he's been a constant in my life. I've leaned on him and went to him for…everything. I guess I never thought there'd come a time when I wouldn't or I wouldn't want to."
"You don't want to?" Simone asked.
"I don't think so, Aunt Simone," Lizzie answered quietly. "I've looked to him for so much. I've always looked to someone else in order to see who I am."
"No one else can show you that, Elizabeth," she said, her voice filled with emotion.
"I'm learning that, now. I don't know if you know this, but Lucky was one of the very first people to really see inside of me, but the sad thing is…the thing I like to forget…is that even he didn't really *see* me until after I was raped."
"Oh, Elizabeth." Simone reached for Lizzie's hand and held onto it tightly.
"That's not something I like to think about, you know? I pretend like that he was always a little interested before it happened, but right now, after talking with you, I know I can't pretend any more. I don't want to pretend any more."
"So, what does this mean for the two of you? Are you planning to stop seeing him?"
"I don't know," Lizzie answered. "I just don't know."