A Different Kind of Alone
* * *
When the three aliens entered the Crashdown half an hour later they found Alex and Jenny waiting for them at their usual booth and Liz and Maria talking behind the counter.
Max and Isabel took the seats remaining in the booth and Michael pulled up a chair before Liz came over to take their orders.
“So what can I get for you guys this morning?”
“How ‘bout some sunglasses for that bright shirt Jenny’s wearing?”
Jenny blushed and Maria yelled, “Excuse me? Did I hear somebody talking about my favorite shirt?”
“No, nobody said anything.” Liz called back. “So what do you guys want?”
“The usual for me, Liz.” Alex said.
“Me too,” Michael said.
“The number two for me,” Max said and Isabel nodded at him. “Make that two number two’s.”
“Okay. Does everyone want orange juice with that?” Liz noted the nods before turning towards Jenny. “And you, Jenny?”
Jenny was staring hard at the menu. So many choices. She couldn’t remember a time that she had ever been given a choice before. “Um...I still haven’t decided yet.”
“That’s okay. I’ll come back in a few minutes.” Liz left to go place the orders.
“Anyway, Jenny. You were there for ten years, right?” Alex asked.
Jenny nodded, still staring at the menu.
“Max told us they found you in the desert.” Isabel said.
Jenny nodded again.
Michael rolled his eyes. “You could look at her when you respond instead of looking at the menu.”
Jenny snapped her head up and glared at him. “And you could learn to control your powers better.” She turned to Isabel agreeably stated, “Yes, I was found in the desert.” She turned back to the menu again.
Michael looked out the front window of the Crashdown, embarrassed. He was scowling on the outside but on the inside laughing. Few people got the best of him.
Jenny stared at the menu again. The words blurring from the tears in her eyes she struggled to hold back. She wouldn’t dare cry, especially over some stupid breakfast. And especially in front of Michael. She didn’t know what it was. Something about him just made her want to, well, that was the problem. She didn’t know how to react or what to do when he was around.
Liz returned with the glasses of orange juice and Tabasco sauce. “I brought you back some o.j., Jenny. Is that okay?” She nodded, secretly thanking Liz for not making her decide on a beverage. “Have you decided on what you wanted to order yet?”
Jenny started to shake her head again, but stopped. “No, that’s okay. I’m not really hungry. Orange juice is just fine.” Liz nodded and left. Jenny looked over for the sugar shaker, only to be me with a basket full of sugar packets. More decisions. She bit her lip, staring at the different packets. ‘Sweet ‘n low? Where was the plain sugar?’
Isabel reached over Jenny and grabbed a packet of sugar to put in her own orange juice. Jenny sighed and grabbed one of the pink packets as well. How could anyone eat with all the decisions they had to make? Like this morning when Maria had effortlessly chosen a t-shirt for Jenny from a whole array of clothes.
Max was taking all of Jenny’s actions in. She looked almost distressed whenever she had to make a decision, but why? “Are you sure you aren’t hungry, Jenny?”
“Yeah. I mean no. I mean yeah. I mean-” Jenny closed her mouth to keep from making a fool out of herself. “I’m fine, Max.” She grabbed the bottle of Tabasco sauce and started pouring it in.
“Back to the questions,” Alex started, “So what was it like living in the complex? Were there a bunch of FBI agents around carrying guns? Did they perform endless amounts of tests on you?”
Jenny smiled. “Well, I had a physical once a year. That was about it for the tests. But when I was little they did experiments on me.”
“Did they hurt?” Isabel asked.
“Oh no. It was basically just to test how strong I was with my powers and such. In a way, I’m glad they did all the experiments, other wise I would never really know the extent of my powers.”
“What kind of powers do you have?” Max asked. “I know that you can throw people across rooms and manipulate molecular structures-I saw that at the complex.”
Jenny shrugged, “I can go into people’s heads and figure out what they’re thinking. And I get visions, but most of the time the visions don’t really help. So I guess you can’t call them visions.”
“Visions of what?”
“Normally it’s stuff that’s already happened. But things that I couldn’t have seen. Like I’ll see a little kid getting a bike for his birthday and the next day Sharon will come in and-” She paused. “And tell me her grandson got a bike from his uncle on his birthday.” Figures. She’d been trying to avoid bringing up Sharon or Jerry all morning and now- “Excuse me.” Isabel stood up and Jenny quickly brushed past Liz to the bathroom.
“Whoa,” Liz said as she tried to keep her balance. Once steady, she set the plates down on the table. “Well, there you are.” She turned around to go wait on another table, but Max caught her by her elbow.
“Wait, Liz. Can you bring back a plate of waffles or pancakes or something for Jenny?”
“No problem, but I thought she wasn’t hungry.”
“Yeah, well, just in case.” Liz nodded and walked away.
“What was that about, Maxwell?”
“I think Jenny’s hungry, but I don’t think she could decide on what she wanted.”
Isabel looked skeptical. “Max...the Crashdown isn’t really big on selection. There’s only so much to choose from for breakfast.”
“But what if you’ve never chosen anything in your life, never made a decision. Don’t you think it’d be pretty hard?”
“Max, it’s not that hard. You just choose what you like.”
Jenny shut the bathroom door behind her. “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” She repeated again and again to herself. But it was useless. She crumpled to the floor, sobbing. A minute later she had somewhat calmed down and was no longer hysterical. ‘Oh god. What am I doing here?’ she thought to herself. She closed her eyes, relishing in the coolness of the floor. She almost laughed at herself. Here she was, lying on the dirty floor of a bathroom and relishing in its stability. Its comfort. As if it could some how protect her.
She heard Max and Isabel talking in the restaurant. So Max had figured out why she couldn’t decide on what to eat. Big deal. Still deep in her thoughts, she remembered watching television back at the complex. She had been watching some talk show. Not understanding why the girls on the show had been so depressed. She didn’t understand how anyone could be that unhappy. But now she did.
“Jenny? Are you okay?”
Jenny stood up quickly just as Maria entered the bathroom. She looked down at the ground while brushing herself off. “Um...yeah. I’m fine.”
Maria shut the door behind her. “Are you sure? I know we don’t exactly know each other, but I’d like to get to know you and become friends. And friends tell each other when something’s wrong.”
Jenny nodded. “Thanks. I think I’m just homesick, that’s all.”
Maria stared at her. “Are you sure that’s it?”
“Yeah.” Maria moved to leave the bathroom and Jenny yearned for her to stop. She didn’t know what it was that was holding her back. She wanted Maria to stay and she wanted to divulge all her feelings in her, but something was holding her back. She used to be so at ease with her feelings around the compound with her other friends. Constantly the chatterbox, she would talk up a storm to about anyone about anything. But outside the compound, in a new environment, it was as if someone had cut out her tongue. Even though Maria had been so nice to her, she still didn’t feel at ease with her.
After Maria left, Jenny left as well to go back to her orange juice. When she returned back to the booth she found a plateful of pancakes at her seat.
“Hey, are you okay, Jenny?” Max asked, concerned.
Jenny shrugged. “Yeah, I’m fine.” Isabel scooted out of the way and let Jenny in. She sat down and found that everyone was staring at her, waiting for her to eat her food. “Um...whose food is this?”
“It’s yours.” Max smiled. “I took the liberty of ordering you something, just in case you got hungry.”
“But I told you that I wasn’t hungry.”
“I know. I just thought that-”
“See, I told you she didn’t have a problem making a choice on the menu. She just isn’t hungry.” Isabel stated while smiling one of those ‘I’m always right’ smiles.
Michael stared around the table bored. He had finished his breakfast and the only person at the table who actually seemed interesting because she was a link to his past was sitting silent while Isabel and Max had a brother-sister fight. He decided that a small little white lie would be the quickest getaway. “Hey, I’d loved to stay, but there’s a really important hockey playoff game that’s on right now.”
Isabel and Max both opened their mouths to protest his departure, but Jenny spoke up first, “Impossible!”
Michael smirked. “What?”
“There’s no way that there are any hockey playoffs on at this hour.”
“How would you know? Are you some hockey buff or something?”
“You betcha. Dallas Stars fan, in the flesh.” Michael scoffed at Jenny’s comment and immediately Jenny’s temper flared. “You got something against my favorite team?”
“No, I just find it ironic that your favorite team just happens to coincide with where your from.” Jenny smiled. “Oh yeah, and they suck.”
Jenny’s mouth dropped open, “Excuse me? Last season they were Stanley Cup Champions.”
“Eh, they shouldn’t have been. Hull’s skate was in the crease.”
“Unbelievable. You realize that your looking at only one miniscule little detail when overall they were one of the best teams. And they’re also favored to win this year.”
“They’ll choke. No one’s been able to repeat a Stanley Cup win in over five years.”
“Well, then. I guess they’ll be making history this year.”
Michael waved his hand flippantly in the air. “They still suck.”
“And you swallow.”
Alex laughed, while Max and Isabel exchanged amused looks. “I’m sure they’ll be the best of roommates.”