"I think we should have soup," Maryellyn's sister said as she picked up "21's" menu. "All those doctors who did research on it said chicken soup really does work. Why don't you try some of "21's" lobster bisque?"
Felicia was looking dazzling - as she could almost on a moment's notice, a legacy of her modeling days. Even Maryellyn, who in her distraught state was not up to noticing much of anything, couldn't ignore her sister's blazing red Ralph Lauren wool dress and matching long shirt-coat that set off her blonde hair. Felicia looked a lot like Jerry Hall, Mick Jagger's former wife. Her looks were one reason her multimillionaire husband, Stephen, had fallen in love with her and married her.
"I don't know that I need soup to comfort me," Maryellyn muttered. Having lunch with her sister was not really such a good idea, after all. The popular New York restaurant was making her even more nervous, although her alien visitor didn't seem to be with her. Or was he? "If I'm going crazy," she said out loud, "I need something more powerful than soup. Like a glass of wine. Or a gin martini."
Felicia shuddered. "Oh, really, Mel, you people who don't drink can make the most horrible choices! Believe me, a martini would kill you. I'd have to call old George, the waiter, to carry you out of here."
"I wouldn't mind a martini right now," the voice inside Maryellyn said.
At the sound of Sub Commander Targon's words, which apparently no one else could hear, Maryellyn dropped her menu on the table, overturning her water glass. "Oh God, he's back!" she cried. "Felicia, the alien is really here!"
"Martinis are one of the few good things Styrex Three has to offer," the baritone voice observed. "Make that vodka with a twist of lemon, not gin."
George the waiter hurried up with linen napkins to mop up the mess. "Oh, no, miss," he murmured as he hastily surveyed the clientele of "21's" upstairs dining room. "We don't have strange people in here. As far as I know, everyone having lunch today is a US citizen with the exception of the Japanese gentlemen from the Mitsubishi corporation."
"Not that kind of alien, George," Felicia corrected him gently. "But thank you, anyway. Give my sister another glass of water, and we'll both have lobster bisque."
"What about the damned martini?" Targon demanded. "Do you always let your sister order you around like this?"
That was too much. Maryellyn hissed, "Will you SHUT UP?"
Her sister looked startled, then quickly compassionate.
"Sweetie, I have a feeling I'm just making things worse," she murmured, putting her hand reassuringly over Maryellyn's violently trembling one. "I really hate to see you in this state. Do you want me to stop talking? I mean, I won't mention a thing about the you-know-what, we can just have a nice, silent lunch together. Just tell me what to do."
Before Maryellyn could reply, her sister opened her Hermes purse and shook a little white tablet into her palm.
"Melly, I wouldn't advise a martini, not in your present - ummm, over stimulated condition. And especially since you're going to see Dr. Dzhugashvili right after lunch. It certainly wouldn't do to come into your first meeting all boozed-up, not after asking for an emergency appointment - that wouldn't make the right impression and it would only confuse the issue. I have a better idea."
"I don't trust your sister," Sub Commander Targon interrupted. "She looks great, but she's a wacko. Don't take any pill she gives you. Stick with the martini."
Maryellyn wanted to scream for Targon to be quiet. But crying out right in the middle of one of New York's most elegant restaurants was not the way to handle a nervous breakdown. Still, her hand was wobbling as she took the tablet her sister handed her, and lifted her glass of water.
"Don't take that pill," Targon warned. "You don't even know what she's giving you."
"It's not as strong as Prozac, sweetie," Felicia was saying, almost as if she'd heard him. "But it will calm you down. It works wonders for my migraines."
Desperate, Maryellyn popped the tablet in her mouth and washed it down just as ancient George rolled up the cart with a silver soup tureen and proceeded to serve their lobster bisque.
They ate in silence for a while. George followed the lobster bisque with a light pasta jardin. Maryellyn hardly tasted the food. She was beginning to feel the effect of the little white tablet her sister had given her and Felicia was right - it was quite calming. So much so, in fact, that there was an ominous inactivity inside her where Sub Commander Targon usually made his presence known.
Felicia suddenly put down her fork and stared intently at Maryellyn. ?"Are you all right?" she whispered. "You look strange. I mean, I'm reacting, too. It's definitely traumatic when your own sister calls you up and tells you she's having a nervous breakdown because an alien has taken possession of her body. There's something positively spooky about it." She looked around the restaurant. "And then here we are, having lunch at Twenty-One."
"It's unreal, all right," Maryellyn said with difficulty. "Thanks to that pill you gave me I'm getting so ironed-out I can hardly see my plate."
She put her hand to her head. She felt strange, all right. The tips of her fingers were a little numb. The warmth of the lobster bisque seemed to be contributing to the effect of her sister's medication, whatever it was.
"What was in that pill?" she wanted to know. "I think it even put Sub Commander Targon to sleep."
Felicia frowned. "That's what I mean - it's so - well, convincing when you talk like that. I almost believe that thing has taken up residence in your body. Ugh, what a disgusting thought! It sounds like being pregnant." George was hovering over them with a silver coffee pot saying something about regular or decaffeinated. Since Felicia wasn't paying any attention, Maryellyn motioned for him to pour her a cup. She was feeling she needed the caffeine.
"There's definitely a sensation," Maryellyn said hesitantly, "although I can't exactly describe it. If I said well - sensuous - you'd laugh. But I feel it through my whole body when he decides to materialize some place outside it."
Her sister stared at her. "Oh, sweetie, this comes of working day and night and not dating, or taking any interest in men except those commercial artists you hang out with. There are all sorts of dynamic, success-oriented men in advertising, men who would be attracted to someone as basically good-looking as you, if you'd just give them a chance. Don't tell me none of them has even tried to date you up?"
"I'm not interested in advertising types," Maryellyn told her. "I spend enough of my time trying to sell them my art. And yes, they do try to hit on me. I've turned down my share of invitations to the company's suite at the Carlyle Hotel for a heart-to-heart chat after lunch."
"Well, then, there are models," her sister insisted. "Some of the best looking men in the world pose for Ralph Lauren and designers like that. You'd be surprised how many of my friends have really interesting encounters with male models. Not to mention those hunks who act on soap operas. They tell me you can't get a job on daytime TV unless you look like a combination of Pierce Brosnan and Mr. Universe."
"Felicia, I work for a living," Maryellyn protested. The coffee George had poured was beginning to revive her. "I'm not rich like you, remember? I don't have to chase male models and soap opera actors, I'm too busy trying to make it in a crazy business! Besides, after three years of George Parker, believe me, Ive kicked the habit."
"I didn't say anything about chasing them," Felicia replied a little huffily. "But when you start having sensuous feelings about some alien you think has taken over your body, I think that's a teeny bit indicative of some sort of sexual frustration, don't you? It's overwork, Melly, overwork and all sorts of lifestyle deprivation that's caused you to hallucinate."
"Felicia, please," Maryellyn began.
Her sister shook her head. "No, listen to me. You've cut men out of your life so much your psyche has given you one here, practically sitting on your ovaries so you can't ignore him!"
Maryellyn started to reply to her sister's version of her problems, but she was distracted by a humming sound. Not a mechanical noise that might have originated, for instance, in "21's" air conditioning system, but a vocal undertone like someone trying to carry a tune. It was coming from inside her, Maryellyn realized. And this time quite a few people heard it.
Felicia raised a beautiful eyebrow. "What is that noise? Are you doing that?"
"I think he's waked up!" Maryellyn blurted. The humming grew louder; it was definitely some kind of song in a baritone voice. "I think your pill put him to sleep, Felicia, and the coffee I drank to wake me up waked him up, too!"
Felicia gave a little cry of dismay. "Do you know what you look like when you tell me things like this? It gives me the creeps, Melly. An alien waking up inside you? Dear God, forgive me, I keep forgetting you may be seriously ill. You've got me so confused about this damned thing. Can't you make him shut up? People are staring!"
It was true. At nearby tables people were looking around them, trying to locate the hidden vocalist.
George had rushed up. "Ladies," he whispered, "no singing in the main dining room, please! Wouldn't you like to do it downstairs in the bar?"
But Felicia had gathered her coat and purse and was already out of her chair. "Mel," she cried, "since you can't make that thing shut up, we're going to have to get out of Twenty-One. Before they throw us out!"
"I told you it was an hallucination but you can see and hear it," Maryellyn explained, following her. "Don't blame me, I can't do anything about it!"
"Hum hum de dum," Sub Commander Targon rendered loudly as they reached the top of "21's" stairs. Old George followed closely behind, looking anxious. "Mum har de dar lum dar!"
It was strange music, totally foreign to Maryellyn, who had taken Advanced Piano at Bennington. She tried to put her hand over her mouth, then her abdomen, but it didn't do any good.
"Am I confusing you?" the voice of Targon said cheerfully. "Roger then, I'll sing some popular Styrex Three thing. A little Al Jolson? No? Frank Sinatra? OK, I've got it - " he broke into an old Tina Turner song, "What's Love Got To Do With It?" in full voice.
The downstairs part of the restaurant containing the bar and lounge, was filled with people. Most of them put down their drinks and looked around, startled, trying to locate the source of the singing.
Maryellyn bypassed the bar and ran for "21's" front door, Felicia close behind her. "Mel, where are you going?" Felicia cried when they reached the sidewalk. She tried to grab her arm.
"You can hear it, can't you?" Maryellyn was distraught. "Everybody can. Look how the people on the street turn around and stare!" Her voice broke on a sob. "Or is this an hallucination, too?"
"No, people are looking," Felicia assured her. "Oh Melly, what in the hell happened?"
"He's drunk!" Maryellyn screamed at her. "Can't you tell a drunk when you hear one? It's that pill you made me take! First it put him to sleep, then he woke up and was still drunk and started humming." Targon had switched to a Beatles tune, which suited his not-unpleasant baritone better than the Tina Turner number, except that he was obviously slurring his words. "Now he's singing Golden Oldies," she cried.
"We've got to get you to Dr. Dzhugashvili right away," Felicia said. "The doctor won't mind if you're a little bit early. This is serious. I need the Twenty-One doorman to get us a cab."
But Maryellyn couldn't hold still. Some strong force, Targon, of course, was hurrying her down 57th Street, away from Felicia and "21." And embarrassingly, she was staggering. When Targon was high on Felicia's pill and booze it appeared that she was, too.
"I've got to be at the psychiatrist's by three o'clock," Maryellyn cried.
"Not a moment too soon, baby," a passing street person in a dirty raincoat and combat boots called to her. "Give your shrink my regards."
Maryellyn swept past him. Targon had stopped singing. Now he wanted to dance. Arms spread, she moved out into Fifth Ave. traffic.
Of course there was a very clear danger of getting run down by a bus or a taxicab. Maryellyn found herself in her plum velvet Donna Karan suit with miniskirt attempting something that must have looked to the New York lunch crowds who stopped to stare like a Russian Cossack dance, complete with dazzling high kicks.
"Will you stop this?" she screamed. She whirled, bounced off the hood of a limousine that screeched to a halt just in time, and reeled away. There were raucous whistles from the cabbies at the cab stand on the corner.. 'You're drunk," she wailed. "And now you're trying to kill me!"
A couple had stopped to watch Maryellyn, her hair flying and her long legs showing to good effect in Targon's exuberant dance.
"They're shooting some movie," the man observed knowledgeably. "They're all over Manhattan these days."
Targon allowed Maryellyn to throw herself on a blue-painted US Postal Service mailbox and hang onto it.
"I'm not trying to kill you," he managed to say huskily. 'I told you not to take that pill."
Maryellyn was choking back tears. If he continued to make her sing and dance in the middle of Fifth Avenue, the police would show up eventually. And she wasn't at all sure that the NYPD would listen to her explanation that she was already on her way to an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist.
"Listen," she cried as Targon tried to pry her away from the mailbox, "if you don't sober up the police are going to come and take me to jail. With what's going on, we'll never get out!"
Targon thought it over for a moment. "New York City jail is not, I gather, a particularly creative environment."
"It's the pits!" she cried. "It's where all the poor crazies go that the police pick up off the streets. Now if you don't want me to start screaming right here in the middle of Fifth Avenue, then you'll let me catch a cab so I can go to my appointment with Dr. Dzhugashvili!"
"Be calm," he assured her, "you can see the head doctor. I have no objection to that. It's what you Styrex Three people spend most of you time doing, anyway."
Maryellyn didn't have time to respond to Targon's latest slur. After a few tries she flagged down a cab and gave the cabby the psychiatrist's address on the upper West Side.
Then as she threw herself into the back seat and the cab took off with a head-shaking jolt, Maryellyn did what she'd been longing to do all day.
She burst into tears.
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