Disclaimer: I give full credit to the folks at MCA Universal and of course Ren Pictures for the creation and characters of Xena, Warrior Princess.
In no way am I trying to steal from them any thunder and/or profit by the writing of this story. So basically I am saying, no copyright infringement was intended. Additionally, the lyrics to the song included in this story were written and performed brilliantly by Tracy Chapman and come from her newest CD, Telling Stories. Go buy it, its great.
Subtext Warning: I do not believe a friendship warrants having a warning assigned to it, but just in case someoneís imagination runs away with them, if you are under 18 or this is illegal in your state/country, or you may be offended by it, you may want to choose something else to read. Its your loss.
Acknowledgments: First, I want to thank Kam for all your help and encouragement in the writing of this story. I really needed it and greatly appreciate it. And second, I would like to acknowledge the person who gave me the inspiration to write this, you know who you are. I would have been just as happy to not be so inspired, but such is life. (Iíd say it in French but you know I can barely spell English correctly).
Michelle sat unmoving on the couch in front of the fireplace, transfixed by the dancing blaze. The crackling and hissing of the dried wood being consumed by the flames were the only sounds in the silence of the now empty house.
Tears that had flown freely throughout the evening, now lay drying on her face and upon the pages of the book she cradled in her lap. The emptiness of this house once filled with love was appropriately symbolic of the emptiness she now felt inside her. She sat watching as the flames lapped at another one of her pages, consuming it greedily until only charred remains fell to the ground.
Michelle turned and looked wantonly at the phone sitting on her desk at the far side of the room. It didnít ring. She couldnít hold back the deep sigh that escaped her lips and, with that, it took every last bit of reserve she had mustered out of her.
Hands trembling, Michelle lifted the book from her lap and placed it on the couch beside her. Running her fingers nervously through her short blonde hair, she shook her head in an attempt to clear her thoughts and walked over to her desk. The need to speak with Mae fluttered in her stomach. Tentatively she reached for the receiver and began dialing the number but before she pushed the last digit, she replaced the receiver back upon its cradle.
ĎI canít do thisí, she told herself, ĎWhat would be the point?í .
Michelleís strength left her and she could feel her knees begin to buckle. The trembling that had been confined to her hands, now dispersed throughout her until the whole of her body was weak. She made her way back to the couch and collapsed from the effort it had taken to remain in control all this time. No longer could she contain the emotions she had pushed down inside her. It came rushing out, tears and sobs racking her body and soul.
Slowly the waves of raw emotion dissipated and Michelleís spent body lay on the couch aching and wanting to recover. All feeling had left her and the numbness of exhaustion set in. She could not move, even the shaking had left and now she lay there, still.
The stillness only occupied her body, it was her mind that now had hold of her. Michelle allowed her thoughts to drift back to a time that was happier and full of promise. She envisioned her first encounter with Mae, in the computer lab. How they both had similar interests and made each other laugh with silly banter. She remembered her first impression of Mae and the strange excitement she felt when she entered the room. A slight smile tapered across her lips as she remembered the manner in which Mae carried herself, exuding confidence and assuredness, and her stature assisted her in pulling it off further.
Mae was a tease and knew how to elicit the desired shocked responses from Michelle and reveled in her ability to do so. Michelle now found her face flushing red with the embarrassment relived from memory. However she could not stifle the laughter that escaped as she recalled Maeís inopportune typos.
She remembered Mae leaving her a note declaring that she was capable of taking care of matters and that she was a "bi girl now".
"I donít think so Mae", Michelle whispered under her breath.
The loneliness began seeping back into her consciousness and replaced the warmth of her memories. Michelleís tears began to flow again. She picked up the book next to her and held it close, wanting to draw comfort from it somehow. Instead it was a painful reminder of what was once there and she ripped another page from her journal and laid it upon the flames and thought of the connection they both had declared to share, a common bond. They had gotten along so well and talked about everything, nothing was off limits.
"Where did it go?" Michelle spoke to the fire before her, hoping to understand and seeking an answer.
As if in response, the page was quickly consumed by the flames and now gone, its embers flew up into the dark recess of the chimney and away. Michelle again thought of the symbolism of that action as she began to tear yet another one of her writings from the book. She stopped to look at this one, reading it softly aloud:
In my entire life I have never been so unsure as I have been these last few months. Fear mixed with confusion and self-doubt has reigned, and I am exhausted from it all. The things I had known to be true have all dissolved into uncertainty and I am now beginning a new journey to seek out who I truly am, for I have been lost all too long.
I have buried questions deep inside me for some many years, not wanting to explore what may be true, afraid of what I might find. However, my unhappiness would no longer permit me to entomb these questions anymore. I began acknowledging there had to be something more for me, and with that acknowledgment came a need to search for the answers.
I have always lived in fear, fear of somebody finding out the truth about me, what I really am, and would I be able to live up to the expectations put upon me. Instead of being honest with myself first, and then those around me, I have been hiding, but I can no longer do this. I need to know who I really am.
I had to talk to someone, had to know I wasnít loosing my mind, and I had to begin to trust someone, but who? I found that someone almost by accident. I didnít know when I began talking to her who she was, what to expect, but I found her to be humorous and that gained my attention immediately. There is something unique about her, her strength, her wisdom, her heart all more than her years of life should allow any one person. Yet she was childlike at times, in her acceptance, beliefs, and energy, all seemed boundless.
Our first talks were not remarkable except it began the basis of our friendship. It is also where I began testing the waters to determine what would be most safe for me. She did not blanche, she pursued each subtle revelation and encouraged me to move forth. I felt myself being drawn out of the darkness that had encompassed me. I was existing but certainly not living, and with this realization new life began breathing in me again.
Those around me that had known me questioned if these small changes were genuine and would not accept what they saw. But I was no longer the person I once was. I was finding my way, and she encouraged me to continue.
My life began changing, but it was not easy putting the old ways behind me, years of practice and familiarity made it safe to remain the same. But I could not continue in that manner. Instead of doing what others expected, I began doing what I wanted and for the greater good. It was difficult for me, but she gave me the encouragement I needed.
As I revealed more of myself to her, I began learning more about me too. My thoughts and feelings for her became more than that of friendship. We had a connection, an understanding, although we were incredibly different people. I began to love her, and with that, the fear returned and brought along questions as companions. How could I love her because I wasnít worthy of her love? What gave me the right to ask more of her than I might be able to give? I was afraid of being loved by her nearly as much as not being loved by her, then what would I do if she didnít return it?
All these questions tormented me and the fear taunted me. I had her acceptance at this point, but what if I asked too much of her, more than she was willing to give? I was afraid of losing her and her friendship and therefore remained silent and again the silence shrouded me in its darkness. I had to tell her, for I promised to always be honest with her and keeping this part of me from her would be the deepest lie of all.
Fear had kept me away too long and now hope will give me the strength I need. I love her and can only dream that she can love me as well.
I will tell her
Michelle shook her head in disbelief as she read her own words, amazed by its prophetic nature and surprised she had written them so long ago.
Again she allowed her mind to wander, to the moment when she told Mae of her love for her and much to her relief, Mae had responded in kind. A smile crossed her lips at the memory of that and the warmth that had radiated her entire being at the thought of the love and acceptance she so desperately sought.
Mae had been putting in long hours at work and was becoming more irritable, questioning if this is what she wanted to be doing the rest of her life. Michelle listened. For a change it was Mae having doubts. The conversation had moved beyond these questions and ventured on to their relationship. Michelle relived the nervousness even now, remembering how she wanted to tell Mae her feelings but was afraid to let them go. Finally, not knowing where she summoned the courage from, Michelle told Mae, "I love you", and held her breath in anticipation.
Mae smiled And replied easily, "I love you to bits too".
Michelle felt the rush of excitement, or was it relief, as she drew air back into her lungs. She felt loved for the first time in a very long time and this person who loved her, also accepted her.
A shifting log brought her thoughts quickly out of its reverie and the coldness of reality returned. She shivered briefly and again placed her words to the flames, drawing them back as the edge caught, and then tossing it into the fireís gaping mouth. She continued to feed the ravenous flames page after page of her thoughts and feelings about their relationship. The cold numbness of the action allowed Michelle to continue with little thought or emotion. Hoping to finish in this manner, Michelle tried without success to keep her mind from wandering to those last talks with Mae. Try as she might, she could not stop herself and the tears began their trek again to the pages below.
Mae had become distant at some point, Michelle couldnít remember when it had begun. Their conversations became short, unfeeling. The humor that once made them both laugh had disappeared. Michelle remembered the creeping anxiety she had felt, it had replaced the excited anticipation that had once been there. The anxiety gave way to the fear that was mounting inside her, the knowing that something had changed.
ĎBut what?í Michelle felt the despair settling in again.
Mae seemed so callused during their talks and had become a stranger to Michelle. The comfort Michelle took talking with Mae had now become defensiveness. Attempts to discover what was truly happening were dismissed, but Michelle could not leave it alone. Something was wrong, she could feel it.
The anger welled up inside her, she felt the fury building. "Why couldnít you leave things alone?", Michelle screamed into the silence surrounding her.. "If you ...." her words trailed off.
In her heart Michelle knew the answer before she had even asked it. She remembered the apologies from Mae and how they sounded so hollow. The promises Mae had once made, offering her friendship, her acceptance, her willingness to listen all were gone now. That final conversation, Michelle could barely speak, fighting the tears that choked her words. Even now her throat tightened, continuing the same battle for control.
She so desperately did not want to say it, but there was nothing left said and uttered, "good-bye", and left.
Michelle held the last page in her hand and was unable to read the words through her swollen, tear filled green eyes. As if an internal struggle was taking place, her body shook with the aching pain she was living through. Using her already damp sleeve, she wiped at her eyes and read what she had written only hours ago:
Where to begin? It seems useless to rehash it from the beginning because it is the present that I must learn to deal with. All these emotions, this hatred of self, the blaming, all of it. How did this happen and why? I donít think I will ever really know the reality of that question much less understand it.
I am such a fool.
What made me trust her from the beginning? My need. I was blinded by my need. I needed to know the truth about me, explore all the questions I had been having. I needed acceptance and understanding. I needed to not be judged, and telling all these things to a stranger should have been the easy part of it. Who cares what a stranger thinks? But that became the problem didnít it? At what point did she stop being a stranger and became a friend?
I was so hesitant from the beginning, but I let myself go. Replacing doubt and uncertainty, and putting in its place trust. Reassurances were there then. I ignored the alarms from the others around me telling them and myself that I knew her, they didnít. What was even worse is that I deceived my self as well. I thought I was just fearful, unable to believe others for what they were. The doubts that arose, I blamed me for being so insecure. I betrayed me more than anyone in all of this. I lost my way in the wanting of it all.
I was willing to take the blame for all mistakes and insecurities. I wanted to please her, make her laugh because that made me happy. I went against my better judgment and my instincts because I was vulnerable and foolishly trusting.
I ignored the signs in front of me that things were changing. I continued to blame me because I believed she was telling me the truth. She promised to tell the truth and be honest. I believed her. Just because one person is honest, probably more honest than they had been with any one person in their entire life, that doesnít mean the recipient of the truth is truly worthy of it. What a painful lesson to learn.
I have revealed a part of me, opened my soul, my deepest secrets, given the real me to her and now I have been turned away. How will I trust someone again? In time....āmaybe. Isnít that what they say, give it some time? The time I am living in is this moment, and it is a horrible void to be in.
I sit here in disbelief, how could this have happened? I am numb at times, at others I berate myself for allowing this to happen. I should have known better. At times, the despair and pain of losing a friend is so completely overwhelming that I am engulfed by sorrow. The anguish I feel bears down on me, a constant reminder of my idiocy.
Who will I share these thoughts with now? This is the type of thing we would talk about; I opened up to her and revealed who I was. I did that with the everyday happenings as well. I gave it all to her and now what do I do with it?
I had made her a part of my life, part of my day, and a part of my routine. Now there is a gap that serves as a vicious reminder of what was once there and the emptiness I now feel. The reminders taunt me in the long run; it has only proven me right.
Should I have kept all my thoughts to myself, not explore the possibilities, kept my emotions safely tucked away? The pain of rejection makes me want to say yes, but even in that I hesitate, because despite my sorrow now, I felt loved then. Now only to heal from these wounds and maybe, someday, I will have it again with another.
She was a friend that I loved. I say it as if it were in the past only to further protect my injured heart. I am a fool and once again I am alone, but now it is even lonelier here.
Give it some time.
The words echoed in her mind uncomprehendingly. "Time....¶", she whispered, the sound barely passing her lips.
Michelleís green eyes were mesmerized by the firelight. The light flickered and the shadows danced, giving her thoughts refuge. She felt a calm quiet settle over her. Somewhere behind her, she heard a sound, it was speaking to her.
The sound became a voice and through the haze that clouded her mind, Michelle recognized it as being Maeís. Slowly, as if not to break the spell, she turned to look at Mae watching her. Maeís concerned expression evident in those searing blue eyes.
"Michelle, are you alright?"
She was unsure how to respond. Wanting to tell the woman before her she was fine, that all they shared was no big deal, that she was already feeling better and over her, would have been the easy and probably smart thing to do.. But the truth would haunt her with regret.
"No Mae, Iím not alright", the words did not sound natural to her own ears. Pain forced her on, "I trusted you, believed you, thought I mattered to you and somehow all that is gone now and I donít understand why. I deserve better than this." She took a deep breath and finished, "Mae... I, I will be your loss."
Michelle sat upright on the couch, startled. A sudden breeze had slammed the bedroom door shut and brought her back to stark reality. She looked about the room and found no sign of Mae. "It must have been a dream", she mumbled as she shook out the remaining shards of fantasy.
The darkness of the house had been replaced with the faint rays of sunlight dawning. The breeze washed over Michelle as if breathing new life back into her. She sat there thinking of all she had been through but this time, did not feel the crushing weight of despair. Still holding the last page in her hand, Michelle hesitated to let it go. Somehow it was the final link to Mae.. Reality had told her to expect never to hear from her again, but hope had held on.
"Did you know Mae... " the words choked in her throat, "how much you meant to me?"
The tears had finally stopped falling. The ache remained a part of her, but it was less now. Michelle read her words again and realized what she needed..
"Time", she told herself aloud.
With that, Michelle crumpled the paper in her grasp and threw it into the purging fire before her. She watched as the embers flamed up and took hold of this fragile representation of their friendship. There was no hesitation from the flames, no sentiment, only its single purpose. That page held the thought, emotion, and honesty she had given Mae, and now, in mere seconds all was gone. Michelle had been seeking solace in trying to understand, but what she now understood was, she needed... time.
Picking up the emptied book from her lap, Michelle walked over to the trashcan next to her desk and dropped it in. She took in a deep breath and turned to go, and at that very moment, the phone rang. The sound was deafening.
Michelle could only stare at it, unmoving. The ringing continued and brought her out of immobility. Hesitantly, she reached for the receiver.
"No, I wonít", Michelle told herself, turning away from the phone.
Instead, she walked over to the stereo and put on a CD. Drowning out the ringing, she moved to the music and listened to the words, taking comfort in them.
Thereís fiction in the space between,
the lines on your page and memories.
Write it down, but it doesnít mean
youíre not just telling stories.
Thereís a fiction in the space between,
you and reality.
You would do and say anything,
to make your life seen, less mundane.
Thereís a fiction in the space
between you and me
Thereís a science fiction
in the space between, you and me.
A fabrication of the grandest scheme
where Iím the scary monster
sometimes a lie is the best thing."
Michelle could still feel the dull ache of loss, but in her heart, she knew the truth,
"Damn it, I was too good for her anyway!"
She smiled, and headed to the kitchen. After all, there was a half-gallon of ice cream waiting for her...