Melinda Metz

The Seeker

(Roswell High-003)

[version history]

*** 1 ***

'Hmm… I could wear this with those thigh-high tights I never wear,' Maria DeLuca said softly to herself. She held the short, lime green dress up in front of her.

But then, hadn't she stopped wearing them because nobody wore thigh-high tights anymore? She tried to remember if she'd seen anyone at school in them lately.

Maria shook her head and glanced at the clock. 'I am so late,' she muttered. She was supposed to meet her five best friends at Flying Pepperoni soon. At the rate she was going, she'd never be ready in time.

'Maybe I should wear something blue,' she murmured. It would make her eyes look even bluer. But Alex Manes, her best boy buddy, had told her that guys were lying when they said they loved a girl's eyes. She snorted. Alex would probably tell her she should show up in a teddy and high heels.

Maybe that's what it would take to get Michael Guerin's attention. Because admit it, she thought. That's why you've been staring at yourself in the mirror all morning. You're trying to figure out what will make Michael notice.

Maria's cat, Sassafras, nudged open the bedroom door and leaped onto her bed. 'Hey, Sass, you probably know exactly how I can make Michael realize I'm a g-i-r-l, right? Cats know everything- they just won't tell.'

Maria picked up her gold chain-the one holding the ring she'd found at the mall last night-and looped it over her finger. She swung the ring back and forth in front of Sassafras's smushed-in Persian face. Sassafras pretended not to be interested for a minute. Then she shot out one paw. Maria caught a glimpse of something wet and red smeared across the pads.

'You're bleeding!' she cried. Sassafras must have been stalking through the rosebushes again, hunting birds. She was always getting herself scratched up that way.

Maria fastened the gold chain around her neck to get it out of the way. Then she snapped a leaf off the aloe vera plant she kept on her windowsill and squeezed the juice out of the leaf. She hurried over to the bed and gently picked up her cat's paw.

'This will make you heal faster,' she told Sassafras.

The instant Maria's fingers made contact, it happened. The image of a robin flashed across her brain, making her want to chase it. The taste of milk flooded her mouth, delicious droplets running down her throat. She felt the sensation of warm sun on her back. And a hand scratching her under the chin.

Maria jumped back in surprise, releasing the cat's paw.

Sassafras leaped up onto the windowsill and sat there, tail twitching with annoyance.

Okay, that was totally weird, Maria thought. For a second there I felt as if I was Sassafras. As if we had some kind of cat-to-human telepathy going.

Maria sat down shakily. The feeling she'd gotten when she touched Sassy-it was familiar. It felt like… like the connection she'd had with her friends. The connection the aliens-Max and Isabel Evans, and, of course, Michael- knew how to form. One night, right after she'd found out the truth about them, Max had brought Maria, Alex, and Liz Ortecho together with the three aliens. He wanted them all to trust one another, so he'd formed some kind of group connection.

It was as if the six of them linked minds. No, not minds. It wasn't that they knew each other's thoughts, exactly. It was that they knew each other's essences. We linked spirits, she realized.

And that's what had just happened between her and Sassafras. Which meant her cat's soul was made up of stuff like the taste of milk and the feel of sun on her back.

Maria smiled. Liz would laugh so hard if Maria tried to convince her that she had made a connection with Sassy Her best friend would say it was just like the time Maria was convinced that she'd raised her IQ by taking ginkgo extract. Liz had finally done a chart for her, showing amount of ginkgo ingested versus Maria's test scores. The scores went up and down, while the ginkgo levels went up and up, proving that Maria had gotten a little carried away about the whole IQ thing.

It would be pretty cool if I really could connect with Sassafras, Maria thought. But the Liz Ortecho theory-that I have an extremely active imagination-is a lot more likely.

'Let's try this again, kitty cat.' Maria headed toward Sassafras with the aloe vera leaf. 'I just need to get a few drops on, and you'll be all set.' She picked up Sassafras's paw and turned it gently.

Wait. Had she grabbed the wrong paw? There wasn't any blood on the pads of the paw she was holding. Maria looked at the other paw-no blood. She checked both paws again. No scrape or anything.

I know I saw blood on her, Maria thought. That definitely wasn't my imagination.

Maybe I healed her! The idea exploded in her brain like a skyrocket. That would be so totally and completely cool. Maria had been fascinated with healing practically her whole life. She knew her friends had trouble taking her aromatherapy and homemade vitamin capsules seriously, but Maria was absolutely convinced that her treatments worked.

One of the powers that Max, Michael, and Isabel had was the power to heal. She'd seen Max heal Liz when Liz got shot, and he had started by making a connection with her. So maybe Maria had made a connection with Sassy and then healed her.

Except, hello, you're not an alien, Maria scolded herself.

She needed to step back and think like Logical Liz for a minute. Okay, maybe Sassafras didn't have a scratch at all. Maybe she just had something red smeared on her paw, something that was now on Maria's bedspread or windowsill. There, that was a nice, logical thought.

Maria leaned over and braced her arms on her dresser. 'You have now reentered the reality zone,' she told her reflection. At least she didn't look like an escapee from the loony bin. She looked perfectly normal.

Except… except there was something glowing through the thin material of her camisole. Right over her heart. Maria pulled the camisole down, fingers shaking.

It's the ring, she realized. She grabbed the chain and pulled the ring free. The stone set in the center was pulsing with purple and green light.

As she watched, the light faded. Maria sank down on the floor. She didn't think her legs would be able to carry her even one step. She held the ring up in front of her face and studied the stone. It looked sort of like an opal, with little shimmers of green and purple deep inside it.

Had she really seen it glowing? Or had that just been a trick of the light when she looked in the mirror? Or more of Maria's famous imagination?

But the glowing stone was the third weird thing in a row. First there had been the cat connection, then the disappearing blood. Even my imagination isn't that good, Maria thought.

Well, Liz would probably argue with that. She would be able to come up with a solid scientific explanation for everything that had happened.

Maybe getting all excited about seeing Michael gave me some kind of estrogen rush or something, Maria thought. I'll definitely have to ask Liz if rampaging hormones can cause hallucinations. Because that's all it was. A hallucination.


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