By Elizabeth

She's a black lace bra
kind of woman, the kind who serves
up suicide with every kamikaze
poured in the neon blue of evening.
--from "Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman" by Sandra Cisnero

I've always been aware of Isabel. You can't help but notice her; she draws gazes from your eyes, all eyes. They come to her as naturally as breathing. All the aliens are good-looking (What better way to insure alien survival than by encasing them in attractive packaging? Yes, that cynical thought has crossed my mind more than once) but her looks border on insanity.

Some people--most people--stumble into adolescence with pimples and bad posture. It's a crappy time and I don't know why most everyone is so eager to remember it once they've passed it. I spent a futile summer between eighth and ninth grade asking all the gods my mother has believed in over the years to grant me breasts and a round ass and then a boy (no, make that a man) who'd appreciate them. The gods turned their ears and eyes away from me that summer and poured all their love into Isabel Evans. I gave up religion after I saw what she'd been given and just drifted, believing in nothing.

Isabel came back to school on the first day of ninth grade with breasts and hips and clear skin and nice clothes to match her cool stare and bored drawl. In the days before I could articulate desire, I would watch her change for gym class with a burning stomach that I attributed to anger and fear. We all watched her change for gym class that year, row upon row of jealous and anxious girls. We watched boys pant after her with mingled amusement and envy. We accepted their lot and ours as fate. I wondered what it would feel like to have that power, her power.

I devoted my time to chasing boys who never noticed me and imagined that if only I could get outside Roswell that I would magically be made taller and brighter and prettier. I dreamed that outside of Roswell was a world that made sense and held things I could believe in.

And then the year I turned sixteen I discovered someone who was as messy and as complicated as all the nightmare men my mother had warned me about over the years and finally I had something I wanted to believe in. I decided I wanted drama; I wanted the orchestra and movements of a relationship full of twists and complications. I wanted to believe in painful, bruising love; I wanted to believe that an intensity of emotion could fill all the need that rested inside me.

And with Michael I had my wish. I had difficulties and lust and someone who had problems that made my own seem insignificant. I could only believe in someday, but it was finally something for me to believe in. I could barely keep my head above water with Michael and I liked it. I liked the rush of anger and bitterness he made me feel; I liked the hot tides of our reconciliations, carried out on the floor of the Crashdown or against the wall of a classroom. I liked pushing him and demanding that he give me something more.

I was a woman on the edge and I liked teetering on it. Would Michael love me more if I called him constantly? Would Michael love me more if I let him leave me and opened my arms when he came back? My prayer book--my statement of belief--was a notebook in which I wrote bad love poetry about waiting and sex that ended just short of completion.

Liz played at hanging off the cliff with me but Max was always waiting for her. She would haul herself up and he'd pull her in close. Her beliefs were rational and kind and I sometimes envied the serenity that radiated outward from her.

I played at wanting Michael back when he left me yet again and found out that I meant it. I needed the comfort of our pattern of fights and tenderness; I needed the pattern of delight followed by misery. I needed that cycle of happiness and sorrow and I was lost when he showed no interest in continuing it.

I sweated through a summer without him, worked on my tan in between fantasies of cracking Michael open like an egg to expose all the love that I imagined rested inside him. Liz wasn't around to stop me when I consulted magazines and books and other girls about ways to make myself irresistible, to find some alluring musky enchantment that would force him to his knees. None of it worked, nothing worked, and I felt hollow and empty. It occurred to me that maybe I was the one who was cracking.

And then one night I found myself alone inside the Crashdown. Michael had taken off as soon as his shift was over, disappearing into the night without a backward glance at me. Perversely, I was sure that was a sign: ignoring me meant he cared. I suppose I would have believed down was up if Michael had said so in his sweaty and earnest way.

Isabel knocked on the door as I was stacking chairs and I let her in with an outward sigh and an inward grimace. I had moved past my fear of her and had coasted into an area of mingled annoyance and worry. She was still gliding through high school as the gorgeous princess and tagging "from outer space" onto her title only increased her allure.

Alex spent his time gooey-eyed and on his knees around her. Max watched out for her and treated her like she needed protection from the world. Michael would send her oblique glances that reminded me that he'd put me in the category of stupidity when it looked like she might need him. If she could make human and alien boys crazy, where did that leave the rest of us?

I watched her warily as she came inside. She chatted easily about going back to school, about whatever alien discovery she and Max had made that week, about a pair of shoes she'd found for fourteen dollars at the mall. She watched me with bright and empty eyes and I wondered if she viewed everyone in Roswell as a series of interchangeable nodding heads capped with adoring eyes. I felt a surge of what my mother refers to as righteous anger as she began to talk softly about Michael and how he was very excited about discovering what being an alien meant. He was ready to leave Roswell behind. There was a little pity in her gaze, but not much. She thought I'd brought my life upon myself. She was right.

I shoved her. I walked up to her, put my hands against her shoulder and pushed. She stumbled back, the chair she was standing next to clattering to the floor. That small release of anger felt good and I shoved her again. She dropped to her knees, and I stood over her, breathing hard from exhilaration, from finally taking a stand.

The boring mythology book my Uncle Todd gave me for my birthday last year says that Athena, goddess of wisdom, sprung fully-grown from her father's head. The book tells of Aphrodite, goddess of love, who emerged one day from the sea, naked and gleaming and expecting adoration. Their births were unexplained and unexpected. I can relate to that.

I realized I wanted to kiss Isabel as I stood over her, wondering why she could move me to blows when Michael only ever moved me to tears. I watched myself form into someone strong and new as I touched her instead.

I knelt down next to her and unbuttoned her shirt and unhooked her bra and she let me, watched me with eyes that were cool and skeptical. She didn't believe in me yet. But she didn't stop me.

I am much better at unfastening women's clothes than Alex will ever be and I do not care that it gives me an unfair advantage over him. Goddesses have powers that make men cower.

Her eyes were cool but her skin was hot and feverish. Her nipples were stiff and rosy and I licked one slowly, liking the idea of the pink of my flesh against hers. I pulled one of her nipples into my mouth and she made a noise, a hum of satisfaction.

I let my fingers shape her other breast, my thumb and forefinger learning the outlines of her skin, tugging at her nipple. The air around us smelled like a sacrifice. I pressed my mouth over hers and kissed her.

I have no doubt that she whispers promises to others - at school, with Alex, maybe even promises of care and safekeeping to Max and Michael. I have no doubt that she means some of these promises. I thrust my tongue inside her mouth and stopped her from making promises to me. I don't need any more false words; I already have a million inside me.

I let myself burn signs into her flesh with my fingers, forming desire with my hands. When she pulled away to stare at me with hot and bewildered eyes I urged her back down and let myself be the goddess I've always wanted to be. I finally forgot all about Roswell with her head between my thighs, my clit rubbing against her lips and my fingers resting on the bones of her face.

I like my status in the universe just fine now. Michael plays at wanting me and I let him. I deserve it. It's due me. And when Isabel comes to me, her jaw clenched, her face worried with the strain of being in thrall to another, I feel a little pity for her. But every goddess needs her supplicants, and love and cruelty are second nature to gods.

Even mortal ones.


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