Normal Complications
By Joy Elizabeth

"Think about who you are Isabel, and what's important in your life, and don't forget, there's nothing wrong with just wanting to be normal."

I've been thinking that I need to reorganize my closet. Right now, everything is divided by color. But really, I think that it would be easier to divide everything into short sleeved, long sleeved, sweaters, and so on. And then divide those categories by color.

In a perfect world, I would have every outfit, complete with makeup, divided out. My goal here is not to have to think about it. Just to have it there when I want it.

Is that normal? Do other girls do that? Does she do that?

Of course not. That would be silly. She is the most scattered person I have ever met. Now Liz on the other hand, Liz probably has every outfit in her closet labeled down to her underwear. But not my Maria. Maria is messy. Maria is never overly concerned with coordination. But then, Maria is far from normal.

I pull out my orange top. It's my favorite. I look good in orange. I find that's a statement that not too many people can make.

I want to look good for her. When did that start? I can't remember. Maybe this should scare me. I'm thinking that it should. But it doesn't, it never has.

I put on a lot of lip-gloss. It's one thing that we have in common, our lip-gloss. Shiny, pretty lip-gloss. Just waiting to get sucked off of our lips, of her lips. Liz doesn't wear lip-gloss. She wears chapstick. But Maria and I, we understand about lip-gloss. You have to have something to taste every time you lick your lips. It's just normal.

The Crashdown is crowded when I get there. I sit and I watch her waiting on people. The idea of waitressing is a strange one if you think about it. Something that probably won't exist in a couple hundred years. The idea of someone being ordered to bring you food. It seems slightly barbaric. "Please. Look, it's not for me, it's for Liz."

"Well, since you put it that"

I didn't want to do it for Liz. I wanted to do it for her. I wanted her to say, it's for me, Isabel. I need you.

I know now that it was for her. I even think I knew that at the time. And I looked at her and I couldn't stop myself. From that day forward I have looked at her and seen this strange paradox. My mother and my daughter, all in one. Someone who needs me, and someone to take care of me. Someone who is not afraid of me.

That's all far from normal, isn't it? Far from someone seeking stability and security. But somehow, Maria is my security. She's the one person that I know I can count on to act exactly as she is supposed to act in any given situation. Max and Michael keep surprising me. They keep reacting to things in new ways, in ways that show that they are growing up, that they are changing. And Liz, I can't figure Liz out. Sometimes I understand her and sometimes I don't. We're just different, I guess. And Alex, my sweet Alex, he just lets me walk all over him.

But Maria always acts flighty. She always acts in Michael's best interest. And she never, ever lets me walk all over her.

I respect Maria. She is the only person that I love that I respect. Well, love like this, anyway. I respect my parents and Max, but that's different. I love three people like this. Michael, who is not mine. I am not settling for Michael because I am not settling for being second best. And I'm not attracted to Michael in that way. Alex, who is mine. I'm not really attracted to Alex either. But Alex is sweet and kind and practically perfect. But I can't respect him because he lets me have my way. Always.

And Maria. Is Maria mine? I call her mine. I imagine that she's mine. I imagine a lot of things about her. And I respect her. But I have to share her with Michael.

"Hi, Isabel." Her voice startles me.

"Hey," I reply casually. I stare at her in wonder as she takes my order. It's still barbaric. I tell her what I want and then she goes and fetches it. I wish that I could tell her what I really want.

I stay at the Crashdown all night. I do this every night. I watch Michael watching her. I watch her pretending not to notice.

Alex comes in and we do the same thing.

Alex leaves after a while. Michael does too. Soon, I'm the only one left. She lets me stay.

She gets out a broom and starts to sweep. She looks dead tired.

"Do you want any help?"

I surprised myself as much as her. I walk toward her to take the broom from her. I intend to start sweeping. But my hand brushes against hers as I touch the broom. My eyes catch hers. They are full of ... innocence? No, not innocence. Trust. Concern. Lust.

I lean in closer to her lips. Her lip-gloss is taunting me. I lick my own lips.

"Maria," I whisper, in a much lower voice than normal. My hand is over hers on the broom. I move my lips closer.

She doesn't pull away. She lets my lips capture hers. She allows my lips to take control. Our lip-gloss mixes together. It tastes so sweet. So sweet I almost can't stand it.

Slowly she begins to dart her tongue in and out, teasing me. Her hand is on my neck. She begins to grip me harder. She is in control now.

"Isabel," she whispers. I smile and take her lips again.

Is this normal?


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