Reading Japanese
By Kate

After school, Michael had booked... normally he'll hang out with Max and me at the Crashdown for a while, or at least ride home with us. Today, though, it was just Max and I, and we basically sat in silence the whole way home. After Tess had walked out, we had all stood in shock for a few seconds before Michael stormed out, banging the door as he left. Max had stared hard at me and then wordlessly walked out. I was left alone in the dark room, my mind reeling. I had no idea what I was going to do then.

And I still didn't, not really. But here I was, hand poised to knock on Michael's apartment door. I could hear his music pumping from inside... Metallica, no doubt. I took a deep breath and knocked loudly.

Michael answered the door with a nod. He didn't bother to invite me in; he just turned and walked into the apartment. I took that as my cue to come in, and I followed to the couch. Michael didn't say anything; he just sat looking at his hands as the music blared...definitely Metallica. The distortion of guitars and the machine gun drumming were starting to affect my balance a bit. I couldn't think.

"Michael...we should talk about this... do you think maybe you could turn the music off?"

Michael still said nothing; he just grabbed the remote from the table and pushed a few buttons. The cd changed and the lush sounds of strings poured out. I puzzled at this, "What is this?"

Michael curtly replied, "Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Fourth Movement... You gonna talk or what?"

That was Michael, always full of surprises. Who would have guessed that Michael knew a damn thing about classical music? I didn't have time to ponder that though, I knew from his tone of voice that I'd better start

"Michael, God! Why are you so mad? I'm sorry, I had to tell them something! I'm sorry!"

Michael jumped up from the couch angrily, "Well you shouldn't have put yourself in the situation where you had to tell them anything! You can't draw attention to us like this, Isabel. Why don't you think about the rest of us before you air your dirty laundry at the Crashdown?!"

I got up then too, "Michael, what would you have me do?? I can't go back and change what happened. I made a mistake! And I'm sorry...but there's nothing I can do about it now! I was trying to make it better, ok? I thought telling people Tess was French was easier than explaining what is really going on!"

"And just what is that, Isabel? What are you, some kind of alien call girl?! I mean, first me, then Tess, what's next, Max?"

I felt like I had just been slapped in the face. My legs basically gave out under me and I collapsed back onto the couch. My eyes met Michaels' in a hurt shock for a second before he looked away. It was then that I read something on his face. Michael was really upset... angry? Yes, definitely...but also something else. Hurt?

I tried to collect myself, but my words still came out choppy. "This isn't just about me telling people Tess is French, is it, Michael?" He snorted a bit and shook his head, never looking back at me. I knew then that I was right...Michael was hurt.

God, I was just hurting everyone lately. I'd hurt Tess, then Alex, and now Michael too. I remembered Michael's face in the dream...him holding the baby, laughing and smiling. It was the happiest I'd ever seen him. Then I remembered how Michael handled everything. I knew he was there for me one hundred percent and that he was ready to take responsibility for whatever happened. He only had concern for me...but maybe it had been more. Maybe he was really happy and had wanted it to be real. Oh god! It was too much to think about.

I just didn't know what to do anymore. Last night and this morning there was not a doubt in my mind...I loved Tess...and it was that simple. But it had all suddenly gotten so complicated. If only...But I didn't even know if only what! If only Tess and I had never kissed? No! That was a "what if" I didn't even want to think about...If only we'd never fought at the Crashdown? Yes, but that was still only half the problem...I'd still have to deal with Michael. Michael...I never meant to hurt Michael in all this.

The music was reaching a heart-wrenching climax. It was the saddest, most beautiful music I had ever heard. Its gorgeous sorrow was too much to handle. I just barely squeaked out, "Michael, I'm sorry..." before I covered my face with my hands and started crying.

In an instant I felt Michael's arms around me, pulling me close. "Is...I'm sorry...I...shouldn't have said that, I didn't mean it..."

I looked up at him and saw the pain etched on his face. He really never meant to hurt me either. "I know...Michael, I didn't mean to hurt you...I...this thing with Tess...Michael, I don't know what the dreams meant..."

"I know...I guess a part of me thought they were true...maybe even...wanted them to be true..." He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head, "But...I have Maria...and I love her, I really do."

"And I love Tess..."

Michael nodded, "Ok." He pulled me close for another hug and I knew that we would be ok again.

"Michael...have you told Maria you love her?"

He shook his head, "No, I'm...not too good with that stuff..."

I nodded, "You should tell her."



As I left Michael's house, I thought about stopping by Alex's to talk with him. But the truth was, I just had no idea what to say to him. What do you say to a guy who loves you and thinks you're the one...and not only do you know he's not the one, you know who that one is...and it's a girl? I could practically hear his neurotic ramblings to Liz and Maria about how he "converted" me and on and on. I just wasn't ready to deal with all that. I decided to give Alex sometime to settle down, talk it over with Liz and Maria, which I knew was pretty much inevitable. My life was now an open book to them whether I wanted it that way or not. So much for keeping the thing with Tess secret...

So, I bypassed Alex's house and instead opted for a talk with Max. I knocked on Max's door before letting myself in. He was lying on his bed, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling...His "upset" pose...but at least Counting Crows wasn't playing...

"Max...we should talk," I sat down and looked him right in the eye as he sat up to face me. He looked none to pleased.

"Isabel, I don't understand...this thing with Tess. I just don't get it, why are you doing this?"

I couldn't believe my ears. Max was truly unbelievable. He could do whatever he wanted, put our lives in danger, all in the name of love and Liz Parker, but god forbid I should have love! How dare he? He broke a sacred pact when he healed Liz, sent our lives into a spiral, got us hunted by the FBI, made my life a must-know for two humans I didn't even really like. The safe, quasi-normal life I'd once known was completely gone because of his "love." Well, what of my love? Was Liz more special than Tess? Why did Max always have to have his way? Just for once I'd like to be in charge, be the one to call the shots, to say what goes. And so I did...

"What right do you have to ask me that, Max? Why am I doing this? Why do you do anything with Liz?"

He broke in immediately, "That's different..."

Before he could defend his relationship with Liz any further, I jumped in, "No Max, it's not. Why is it any different? Do you think you feel any more for Liz than I feel for Tess?"

"'s just...different. You and Tess are..."

Angrily I cut him off, "What, the same sex? Yeah, maybe, but at least we're the same species!"

I knew that had hurt him. And I didn't feel bad this time. I wanted to make Max feel bad...and he looked like he felt pretty bad...I started to feel a little twinge of regret...

"Isabel...I...what about the dreams you were having with Michael...don't you think that means..."

"Max, we don't know what those meant."

"Yeah, but the book... you guys were paired together...and me and Tess..."

I pictured the book in my head. The picture that looked just like me, right next to a picture that looked just like Michael...and a picture that looked like Tess...

"Max...what if we're looking at it all wrong...what's not read like English...but like to bottom?"

A change came over Max's face. His brow furrowed as he contemplated what that would mean. He didn't say anything; just sat there looking disturbed and dumbstruck. I raised my eyebrows and walked out. As I went, I couldn't help but wonder if the thought had ever crossed Max's mind...had he ever...thought of Michael? I shook my head. It was too weird to think about, so I dismissed the thought, just happy to have gotten Max off my back for the time being.


I had been back in my room for no more than five minutes when a soft rap came at the window. I already knew what I'd find there, but even so my heart still skipped a beat when I saw Tess' slender form slink through the window.

She raised her eyebrows and said, "Well, what happened?"

But I was tired of talking about it, tired of thinking...what I wanted now was to just simply feel. I pulled her away from my window and towards my bed in a passionate kiss. It wasn't like the gentle brushing of lips from the previous night. I wanted to know every detail of her... I let my tongue explore her soft pouty lips. They were full and smooth and tasted so sweet. She responded by deepening the kiss with a passion that matched my own desire to know her intimately. My stomach did was like hundreds of butterflies batting their wings against my insides. I felt like I was on a mini-roller coaster...and I loved it.

She broke our kiss and playfully pushed me onto the bed. She stayed away, teasing me, until my body was aching, screaming for her touch again.

"Close your eyes," she whispered. I did and felt her sit next to me. I resisted the urge to pull her on top of me, instead letting my excitement mount. She trailed her cool hand lightly across my stomach, making my insides begin to throb with desire for her. Still, she took her time, as if savoring every square inch of my stomach. Now her hands moved higher, cupping my breasts and lightly circling my erect nipples.

I had always thought the whole breast thing was overrated. From the couple of guys who had tried to grope me to the one time Alex had awkwardly laid a hand upon them, it had never done much for me. But this was like my breasts were hot-wired to my groin. With every light brush over my nipples, I felt the heat flare there. While her hands had been fondling my breasts, she had been placing light kisses on my stomach, moving ever northward. Finally her mouth found its way, replacing her hands and giving rise to another heat surge, accompanied by an ever-increasing moisture.

I had put one hand over my face, trying to control my breathing and the intense desire I had to call her name out. With my other hand I caressed her back, feeling her soft, smooth, cool skin under my warm hand. Her skin felt like flawless perfection.

Her own hand had gone back to my stomach. Now she darted one finger under the elastic waistband of my pajama bottoms, touching an entirely new area of skin. It was all I could do not to push her hand further down to that area that was now swollen with throbbing and wetness and begging her to come explore there too.

My breath quickened and I could barely contain myself from making any noise. She could sense this and placed her mouth on mine to keep me from calling out. I hungrily kissed her, no longer taking it slow. I couldn't fight back my desire for her any longer. He hand was still moving slowly down and each time it moved further down to an unexplored region of skin, a little gasp escaped my throat. Even the passionate kisses couldn't keep my little noises of pleasure from moaning out. The agonizingly slow pace that Tess' hands were traveling had my entire body in a frenzy of desire.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, her hand found the source of all that frenzied desire. I bit my lip, but my vocal cords would just not obey me. No one had ever touched me like Tess was touching me... no one had even been close. The intense pleasure was raining over my body like a warm June shower. My heart was pounding in my chest. I had my eyes pressed closed tightly. Against the backdrop of my eyelids was the brightest display of colors I'd ever seen. They exploded on the scene in brilliant blues and vibrant reds. It was a vision like none I'd ever seen before. I could actually feel my body basking in their light; I could actually hear their explosions. In a blinding flash of white light accompanying a spasm that rocketed through my body, the fireworks were over and I was left with sunspots on my eyes and my chest heaving, completely out of breath and totally spent.

After a few gasping moments, Tess snuggled up next to me, carefully placing her hand on my cheek and slowly lowering her lips to mine in a gentle kiss through my panting. I stroked her cheek with my hand. I had never felt anything, I couldn't even think of the words. My world had been absolutely rocked. God, she was so beautiful. My heart ached from her beauty. I pulled her close to me and we just laid like that for the rest of the night.


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