TITLE: Een Valentijn Verhaal
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of these characters, I'm not making a profit, blahblahblah.
RATING: PG-13 to R
PAIRING: Oh come on, guess.
NOTE: There were two things that made Popular great. The other one was the ability to blend drama with absolute absurdity. While lately there has been plenty of drama and seriousness, the absurdity aspects appear to be pushed a little to the background (save, of course, for Paul's heroic efforts). Therefore I have taken it upon me to write something completely ridiculous. So here it is. Also, I left the title in Dutch on purpose because of the alliteration, but don't worry: the English title should be obvious enough.
It was just another day at Kennedy High when Brooke found herself in the Novak touching up her lipstick. After she was done she looked critically at herself in the mirror and, pleased for the moment, turned around and promptly dropped her purse.
"What. how. I.?"
"I can see we're feeling very articulate," said Nicole.
And it was Nicole. Except for the fact that it couldn't possibly be Nicole. Because, while the pale look was definitely In this year, the ghostly translucent look was not.
"Who. who are you?" Brooke asked.
"I am the ghost of Nicole Julian," the apparition intoned ominously.
"That's not possible!" Brooke screamed. "Well. unless something really serious happened to you in the past five minutes."
The apparent ghost of Nicole Julian sighed, which was an impressive feat for something that didn't breathe. "OK, so I'm not the ghost of Nicole Julian. But really, we do need the ghost of somebody to warn you. Somebody both a complete bitch and familiar to you. It's standard procedure, you know."
"But why Nicole?" Brooke asked. "Why not Marley? I mean, she's dead and she was a bitch to boot."
The ghost of not Nicole Julian looked embarrassed. "Well. frankly, Marley's with the Christmas division and. well. their division and ours had a bit of a falling out two years back. It wasn't pretty. So. err. so I had to dress up as somebody you knew."
"Right. And I'm supposed to be delivering a message." The ghost of not Nicole Julian coughed and, suddenly, the surrounding Novak became blacked out and faded into the background, while the ghost of not Nicole Julian faded further into the foreground.
Brooke McQueen, tonight you will be visited by three spirits.
The words, apparently unspoken, drilled themselves into Brooke's brain and wrote their message in white-hot fire before her eyes.
Heed the words of these spirits lest you end up like. well not me, obviously, but like. someone who came to a very unpleasant end. Heed their words. Heed them I say!
And with that, the ghost of not Nicole Julian was gone.
It was the dead of night and Brooke couldn't sleep. Not because of the warning of the afternoon ghost obviously. After all, there was no such thing as ghosts and Brooke felt that any evidence to the contrary, like talking to one, could be safely ignored. No, she couldn't sleep because Mac was crying her lungs out. And it was because of that that she couldn't hear the clock strike twelve times. Actually, it was mostly because the clock was downstairs and Brooke wasn't. This, however, didn't stop the first spirit from appearing.
Brooke frowned. "Lily? What are you doing here?"
"I'm not Lily, I'm the first spirit. You did get the message about me appearing tonight, right?"
"Well. yeah," said Brooke. "But who are you anyway? I mean, there's something very familiar about this, but Christmas was two months ago."
Spirit Lily rolled her eyes. "Ah yes, Christmas. Everybody knows about Christmas. You know, you try to help a guy and next thing you know, he turns around and writes a book about the whole operation just for that extra bit of cash. Greedy bastard. Anyway, I'm the Spirit of Valentine's Past."
"Valentine's Day?" Brooke said. "You're the Spirit of Valentine's Day?"
"The Spirit of Past Valentine's Days thank you very much," Spirit Lily said. "Now come and join me in more innocent times."
It was a sandbox of to the side of a playground. Brooke could only vaguely remember it. She could remember she spent quite a lot of time in it, in preparation for the day that she could use the swings on her own. Brooke walked closer to it and saw a very young version of herself putting a lot of effort into building a sand castle, while only occasionally casting an envious glance at the other playthings. But little Brooke's only tool was a small plastic bucket, so her castle had a lot of towers, but little detail. Brooke saw a tiny hand tapping on little Brooke's shoulder.
"Here," said a strangely familiar voice, as another girl in the sandbox handed a blue shovel to Brooke.
"Thanks," said small Brooke. She then handed her own bucket to the other girl. "Here."
"Thanks," said the girl.
Little Brooke then refocused on her towered castle and, with as much precision as a brain surgeon, hacked into one of the towers with the shovel. Young Brooke smiled at the result.
Behind teenage Brooke, someone blew her nose rather noisily.
"Oh that was just so beautiful," Spirit Lily said, putting away her handkerchief.
"What? What do you mean?" Brooke asked.
"Young love. So pure and innocent."
"What are you talking about? I was four! I didn't know what love was back then. And besides, I'm not gay!"
"Who said anything about gay?" said Spirit Lily. "You know love comes in many forms and not all of them romantic."
"Yeah but Valentine's Day is all about the romantic kind of love."
"Is it? Dear me. My, my. And just yesterday you called it mere gross commercialism."
"Well, yes but. I mean. You know, originally. Now, look."
Spirit Lily patted Brooke's hand. "Don't worry, I know what you mean. And now, it's time to move forward."
It was a park, filled with rolling fields of green grass, trees lining the path and ducks quacking merrily in the nearby pond. And walking down the middle of the path, a pair of young lovers. They were both blonde, although there the similarities stopped. Brooke recognised them both instantly. One was her, the other was Josh. The Brooke walking down the path with Josh had her arm outstretched, and was looking at a ring with a smile on her face.
"This was two years ago, wasn't it?" said Brooke.
"Yes," said Spirit Lily. There was something odd about her voice, but Brooke couldn't quite figure out what it was.
"Josh bought me a ring," said Brooke.
Suddenly the Brooke of two years ago dragged Josh into the foliage and started making out with him.
Brooke chuckled. "Yeah, I remember that. We had spontaneous make-out sessions the entire day."
"Indeed you did," said Spirit Lily. "Such a terrible waste of a perfectly good Valentine's Day."
Brooke frowned. "Wait, wha-"
Brooke looked around. She was back in her bedroom. Mac was still crying and the alarm clock indicated it was still twelve o' clock on the dot. Brooke stared pensively at the ceiling. Why had that Valentine's Day two years ago been a waste? It didn't make any sense to Brooke. She'd been feeling very romantic back then. Well, grateful at least. And who was that girl in the sandbox anyway? Brooke had a nagging feeling she should be able to remember that.
Brooke turned onto her side. It probably wasn't important anyway. Besides, Spirits Of Holidays Past simply didn't exist. Just like ghosts for that matter.
Brooke closed her eyes, ready to get some sleep.
"I don't think so, missy."
Brooke groaned. She wanted to sleep, yes, but not have a nightmare.
"Come on, wake up."
Brooke turned around and, lo and behold, saw a white labcoat. Looking up slightly, she saw Miss Glass.
"Lemme guess. Spirit of Valentine Present."
"Right you are."
"Why do you look like Miss Glass?" Brooke asked.
"I'm the reification of an imaginary principle based on an abstract concept," Spirit Glass said. "How big do you think our budget is anyway? It's easier to cut corners on appearances. Now come, I'm going to show you today. That is, what would happen later today if we didn't interfere in your life."
"Do you have to?"
It was like looking into a mirror, Brooke decided. Granted, it was a mirror that didn't copy your every move, but a mirror all the same. Brooke of a few hours from now walked up to her Kennedy High locker and opened it. A stream of Valentine cards fell out and rattled onto the ground. With a frustrated sigh, Brooke of a few hours from now knelt down to gather up the cards.
"Aw man," said Brooke.
"What?" said Spirit Glass.
"Just that I'll have to clean up all those cards again. That's been happening for years now."
"You don't say," said Spirit Glass.
Brooke of a few hours from now jumped, spraying cards all over the hallway. She turned around with an annoyed look on her face. "Sam! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
"Like what?" said Sam. "I made plenty of noise walking over here."
"Yeah, well, now I have to pick up all those cards again."
"Oh yes, the terrors of being popular," said Sam. "Come on, I'll help."
Working together, Sam and Brooke of a few hours from now quickly gathered up all the cards once again.
"So, who're you hoping to get a Valentine's from most?" Sam asked, as she handed over the last few cards.
"Harrison," came the reply.
"Harrison? Really?" said Sam. "Why? I thought you broke up?"
"Yeah, well." said Brooke of a few hours from now vaguely.
"The whole being alone thing not working out for you, is it?" said Sam.
"And besides, Harrison's stable and dependable. That's important in a relationship," said Brooke of a few hours from now with absolute conviction.
"Hmm," said Sam. "Aren't you forgetting something perhaps?"
Brooke of a few hours from now chuckled briefly. "Like what?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Sam. "Well, see you later Brooke."
Sam walked off, looked back at the Brooke from her timeframe once and shook her head.
"Now that, missy, is what we call one very pathetic display," said Spirit Glass.
"What?" said Brooke. "Come on, I'm a teenager. Relationships aren't about love when you're a teenager."
"Aren't they?" said Spirit Glass. "But doesn't adolescence shape who you're going to be?"
"Well, yes, but."
Brooke blinked. One moment she had been arguing with Spirit Glass, now she was standing on a deserted road in the dark.
"Oh yes," said Brooke at the universe at large. "Future is it? Trying to shock me are you?"
"Not particularly, no."
Brooke turned around and completely failed to recognise the girl leaning against a lamppost. She was in her early teens, wearing clothes designed for comfort, had shoulder-length brown hair and a pierced eyebrow.
"Who are you?" Brooke asked.
"The Spirit of Valentine Future, obviously," said the girl.
"Shouldn't you be some sinister, frightening figure?"
The girl laughed. "Nah. We only pull him out of the closet when we think the actual images aren't frightening enough."
"But. look, do I know you?" Brooke asked.
"Sort of," said the girl. "Right now, for example, I'm keeping everyone awake with my incessant crying."
"I look like her, certainly. The boys in the casting department calculate that there's a 96% chance Mackenzie McPherson-McQueen is going to look like this when she's fourteen."
"Oh," said Brooke.
"Yeah, it sounds farfetched to me too. I mean, come on, eyebrow piercings? I doubt anyone would still want 'em fourteen years from now. Anyway, come on. I got something to show you."
"Right you are." Spirit Mac pointed at a house on the other end of the road. Actually, "house" was an understatement. "Mansion" might have been more appropriate, although "castle" was certainly an option as well.
"That's where I'm going to live?" Brooke asked.
"Yep," said Spirit Mac. "Doesn't look too shabby, does it? Brooke, you're gonna be the golden girl of the family. You'll make it big. Wanna take a look inside?"
The inside of future Brooke future house were large and imposing. Beautiful works of art and sculptures of exquisite design littered the hallways. The very dark and empty hallways.
"Where is everyone?" Brooke said. "Or at least, where am I?"
"Oh, you let the staff go home early today," Spirit Mac said. "You always do that on Valentine's Day."
"I do?" said Brooke.
"Sure, you're generous enough," Spirit Mac said.
"What? You don't believe you're a generous person? Come on, you're OK and you know it."
"If I'm OK then why go through the whole spirit thing?" Brooke asked.
"Hey, we're the Valentine division," said Spirit Mac. "Christmas deals with all the bastards. Ah, and here we have the living room where we'll find future you. Won't that be nice?"
The living room, like everything else in the mansion, was huge and beautifully decorated. And, like everything else in the mansion, it was dark. There was only one faint source of light and, as Brooke approached it, it turned out to be a television. A very large, top of the line television, but a television all the same. An older, weary looking Brooke was sitting in a huge chair in front of the TV set, an open box of chocolates in her lap, empty boxes of chocolate littering the floor.
"I'm spending Valentine's Day watching TV and eating chocolate?" Brooke asked.
"Looks like it, don't it?" Spirit Mac said. "Actually, you'll be watching a bunch of NVDCs, which you easily managed to buy. Did I mention you're completely loaded in the unchanged future?"
"What are NVDCs?" Brooke asked.
"The successors to the successors of DVDs, don't worry about it." Spirit Mac nudged Brooke conspiratorially. "Hey, wanna see what kind of movies the future holds? This is your one-time opportunity."
Brooke looked at the television, and then looked away really quickly. The only thing she'd managed to see was some blonde, naked bimbo going down on some other faceless girl, but it had been enough.
"That's porn," Brooke whispered urgently.
"Well spotted," said Spirit Mac. "But it's not just any porn. Take a closer look."
Brooke reluctantly looked back at the screen. The camera had moved somewhat so that only the hair of the blonde, naked bimbo could be seen. But now, the faceless girl wasn't faceless any more.
Brooke gasped audibly, while the older Brooke merely whimpered quietly and curled up into her chair.
"That's Sam!" Brooke exclaimed.
"Got it in one," said Spirit Mac.
"She's playing in a porn movie!?"
"I wouldn't exactly call it playing," Spirit Mac said. "And it's not just a porn movie. See that stack of NVDC cases next to the hi-tech TV set? They all have one particular actress in common."
"Sam's going to be a porn actress!" Brooke exclaimed, having great difficulty getting over this idea.
"A porn star if you want to believe it. She's gonna be a big name in the porn biz you know, even though she does focus on one particular genre. Did you know she's gonna be the winner of the Best Actress Without Surgical Enhancements Award five years in a row? Not that there's a lot of competition in that particular department, but hey."
"But that's Sam! She's not. she'd never."
Spirit Mac lay a friendly hand on Brooke's shoulder. "Don't worry about it. I mean, yeah, your stepsister has a lot of fun in her life and a nice lifemate to come home to, but she's the black sheep of the family you know. Not like you. Your future is much better than hers. You got money, a great house, you got status and a great reputation, you got it all. Sure, your future life might be lonely and loveless, but, if nothing else, will be safe and dependable and that's what really matters, isn't it?" Spirit Mac gave Brooke's shoulder a few pats. "Well, I'll be going now. Enjoy your future Brooke. You've earned it."
"Wait!" Brooke cried. "Don't leave me here all-"
It was morning. Brooke blinked a few times and wondered what happened. She got out of bed and walked into the bathroom to brush her teeth. Sam was already there and was already brushing her teeth.
"Hey Sam," said Brooke.
"Hrrm," said Sam around her toothbrush.
Brooke took her toothbrush and toothpaste, then paused. "Sam?"
"What do you think is important?"
Sam spit out the remains of her toothpaste. "Depends. Like, what're you talking about?"
"You know in life and relationships and. things like that."
Sam smiled. "What? You really have to ask that?"
"Geez Brooke, isn't it obvious?"
"Uhm, no?" Brooke hazarded.
Sam chuckled and shook her head once or twice. "Fine. Hey, if you want we can go to Croutons this afternoon or something and then I'll tell you all about what's important and what not. How about that?"
"Err. maybe tomorrow?" Brooke asked.
"Hey, it's Valentine's Day today. Personally, I can't think of a better day to talk about life and relationships and. things like that. So how about it?"
Brooke smiled. "Sure. Why not?"
"Great," Sam said smiling. "It's a date then."
It was a room that didn't exist. And it didn't exist because it was designed for ghosts and reifications, which don't exist either. But, like ghosts and reifications, it did have a kind of semi-meta-existence, because even abstract concepts need something to be abstract concepts in.
The abstract concept that still vaguely resembled a girl named Lily appeared in the room.
"OK guys, I think I found a good one," she said.
"It better be," said the one resembling Glass. "What is it?"
"Alien Sluts From Outer Space Volume 7."
"Ah yes," said the ghostly one sarcastically. "What greater quality could we possibly find in a movie library unconstrained by the rules of time?"
"Oh hush you," said the Lily-looking one as she popped the movie into the player.
Not long after, the television that didn't really exist either clearly showed two of the alien sluts from Outer Space. They weren't advancing the plot in any way and were visibly enjoying not advancing it. One was brunette, the other blonde.
The Spirit that looked like Mac leaned back in her chair with a satisfied smile on her face. "I love a job well done," she said.
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