Hi, Everyone:

In case you're trying to get all of this, I'm having trouble right now getting the last four parts up. As soon as I can, I will post them as well.

LOVE LOST, LOVE REGAINED

Category: (AU) M/T, to start; but mostly M/L later; with a little A/I and M/M sprinkled in, more by inference.
Disclaimer: I own none of the Roswell characters
Rating: Not more than PG13, if that

(Liz rents a guesthouse from A/I that Maria and Michael move out of because she and Michael went on concert tour, with Michael as her manager. Liz doesn’t know M/T and just met A/I. M/T are married and have a 10-year-old son, Josh.)

Chapter 1

“I want to thank you so much, Isabel, for renting me the guesthouse when Maria went on tour,” Liz said.

“It’s no problem at all. We really didn’t plan on renting it again It’s not like we need the money. But we’ve known Maria since high school. She’s talked about you so much
since she met you in college that we feel like we know you. And when she told us what a rough time you’ve had in the last couple years, we just felt that helping you out is like
helping out a family member.”

Liz responded, “I hope you don’t think I’m here looking for a handout. I have every intention of paying you whatever you tell me -- if it’s within my price range, that is. I can only afford a few hundred dollars a month, until I can get back on my feet again. I’ve already been able to get a waitress job nearby, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to make in tips. That’s all I’m certain of at this time. And I’m having to work all the awful hours so I can continue going to college, until I can get my degree. It’s going to take another year or more to do that, since I need to work to finish paying for the books and tuition.”

Isabel answered, “As I said, Liz, it’s not that we need the money. Whatever you can pay is fine with us. We’d let you have it free, but Maria told us how hard it is for you to ask
for help in the first place. So if it means that much to you, to pay anything, then just pay us what you can. If you feel you want to pay more when you’re in a position to, that’s up to you. Just remember that’s not an issue with us.”

“Well, under those conditions, if there’s anything I can do to help out in any other way -- that doesn’t include money, that is -- just feel free to ask. If I’m able to, I’ll be happy to do it.”

Isabel eyed her thoughtfully and said, “Well, now that you mention it, there is something I really need tonight, if you’re available.”

“Sure. What is it? I don’t start work until Monday.”

“Well, Alex and I were supposed to join my brother Max and his wife Tess for dinner tonight -- it’s their 10th anniversary -- but at the last minute, the sitter for their son became ill. So she had to cancel on them. We were just going to send them out together without us. But it would really mean a lot to us to share that with them.”

Liz thought for a second, and then slowly responded, “Well, I don’t know how good I am with kids, but I’d be happy to fill in, if it’s only for the evening; that is, if the child isn’t too much of a handful.”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. Josh is one of the sweetest boys you could ever meet. He takes a lot after his dad in that way. He’s a very sensitive young man, even
though he is only 10.”

“Well, okay. If it really means that much to you guys, I’ll be happy to do it.”

“Oh, thank you so much, Liz. I’ll just go call Max and Tess. They were planning to drop him off in just a few minutes. Since Alex and I don’t have much time to get ready, they
won’t have a chance to come meet you. Normally, they like to meet whomever they’re going to leave Josh with. They’re very protective of him in that way, especially his dad. But since you’re a friend of Maria’s, I’ll tell them they don’t have anything to worry about. I’ve met you, and I feel as though I’ve hit it off with you already.

“Oh, there’s one other thing. I hope you don’t mind, but I was planning to have Josh spend the night. Tess has to leave first thing tomorrow morning for a convention she
needs to attend dealing with the line of work she’s in. Max is planning to drive her to the airport, since she’ll be gone for at least a week. So they won’t have another time to be
together until she returns. That’s why I was going to have Josh stay. That way, they can leave for the airport fresh, and a few last minutes together as well.

“I hope that’s okay with you.”

“That’s no problem at all. I can just have him sleep in my bed. I’m used to sleeping on
the couch anyway, with all the late nights I’ve spent over the years pulling all-nighters for
tests the next day.

“Well, if you really don’t mind, that would be perfect. Thanks again so much for being
willing to help out on such short notice.”

“It’s no problem at all. Don’t worry about it. It really is my pleasure. It’s the least I can
do for all the help you’re providing me at this time.

“I hope you all have a great evening.”

TBC-???
Chapter 2

“So, Josh, I hope you don’t mind getting a last-minute replacement for your sitter,” Liz began.

“Well, when Aunt Isabel told me I was going to have someone different tonight, I was a little worried. Some of the sitters I’ve had are so lame. They really don’t know how to talk to kids like me. So it can get a little boring. But when Aunt Isabel said you’re a friend of Maria’s, I knew everything would be okay. Maria’s watched me a few times, and I always have a great time with her. In fact, she’s even told me stories about how you and she would pull pranks on some of your classmates in college. So I kind of feel like I know you anyway. If you’re anything like her, I know I’m going to really enjoy you being my sitter,” Josh replied.

“Well, I’m glad you feel that way. I hope I don’t disappoint you, though.”

“Don’t worry. You don’t have to entertain me like most kids my age. If you’ll just tell me some of the stories Maria didn’t get to, that’ll be great. I love hearing all those stories.”

“Well, if that’s all it’s going to take, I’m sure we’ll get along fine. Spending time with Maria is a time in my life that I always remember with laughter,” Liz responded.

“Great. So go ahead. Start telling me some of those stories. I want to laugh about it too.”

“Okay. Here goes........”

MEANWHILE......

“It’s so great that you were able to get a sitter, it being so last minute and all,” Tess said.

Max responded, “I wish we could have met her first, though. I don’t like leaving Josh with strangers.”

Isabel wanted to reassure her brother. “Don’t worry. He’ll be fine. I had a chance to talk with Liz for a while before you guys even called. You know how hard it is for me to take to anyone. But what with her being Maria’s friend and all, and then talking with her, I liked her right off. Josh’ll be in good hands with her.”

“Well, if you say so. I guess that makes me feel a little better.”

“Come on, Honey,” Tess said, “this is our 10th anniversary. We haven’t done much of anything with ourselves, let alone spending time with Isabel and Alex, since you’ve been working so much on that new court case.”

“I’m sorry, Hon. I know I’ve been really busy lately. You’re right. Let’s just change the subject and enjoy this time together, all of us.”

(Back at Liz’s)

“Did you and Maria really do all those crazy things she told me about?”

“Oh, yeah. We had so much fun together.......until I had to leave college so suddenly and all.”

“Why did you have to?”

“Well, that’s a long story. And it’s not filled with laughter like the times I spent with Maria.”

“So you don’t like talking about it, huh?”

“Your Aunt Isabel was right. You really are a sensitive child, and at such a young age, too.
“But you’re right. It’s something I really don’t want to talk about right now. Maybe some other time, if, and when, I run out of the fun stories about Maria and me.”

TBC-????

Chapter 3

(Next morning)

“Be sure to call as soon as you get there,” Max said, as he was leaving Tess at the airport. “I want to know you got there safely.”

“That’s so sweet, Honey,” Tess replied. “But don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

“Even so, I’d feel better hearing from you.”

“Okay. If it will make you feel better.
“Give Josh a hug for me. Tell him I’ll call home later, to say hi.”

“Okay. Just come back to us safely.”

“You act like I’ve never been away from you before. What’s brought all this on?”

Max reflected before responding. “I don’t know. We’ve just gotten so much closer in the last year. I guess I just didn’t realize how much until our anniversary the other day. And what with the nice little celebration we had last night, I’m just really going to miss you, I guess. Before, until we both matured some, it didn’t really dawn on me how much I care about you. But now that you’re leaving, even though only for a short time, I just want you to know I’ve come to love you so much in recent months. Of course, I always have cared for you. Part of me, though, I guess, realizes I’ve wasted so much time not realizing it until now.”

“Oh, Honey. That means so much to me. But you’re not the only one that’s had a lot of growing up to do. Remember, when I got pregnant, it was you who wanted me to go through with the pregnancy. At the time, all I could think of was how much a baby was going to interfere with my being able to party. I know we only got married at the time because we wanted the baby to have both parents. If it hadn’t been for you wanting to do the right and responsible thing, we probably wouldn’t have Josh right now.
“I know our marriage was not based on love when we were first married. And having sex so soon after we met was probably one of the stupidist things we did as teenagers, thinking getting pregnant would never happen to us. Again, we were only thinking of ourselves. Plus, neither of us realized what a low tolerance we had for alcohol. That was probably the biggest mistake. Because, if we hadn’t drunk as much as we had, we would have been able to realize how stupid we were being, not using protection in the first place. So don’t ever think I blamed you for a minute for what happened. We were both equally to blame.
“I know what. How about, when I get back, we take a week and go on a real honeymoon. After I got pregnant and we decided to get married, we really never had the chance to do that, what with still being in high school, having a new baby and needing all the help we could get from our parents, holding down jobs, and then going to college, and all.”

Max smiled. “You know, you’re right. That’s a great idea. I’ve accrued a lot of overtime, with all the time I’ve been spending on the new case. In a few weeks, we’ll be taking a breather before taking the case to court anyway. While you’re gone, I’ll make all the arrangements for the three of us. I’ll plan for us to leave right after we break, before we have to go to trial, and we’ll take a whole week off, just the three of us.”

Tess frowned a little and said, “Are you sure you want to bring Josh with us? I thought maybe it could be just the two of us.”

“Come on, Honey. Josh has never really known us to be a truly happy family until the last year, what with all the growing up we’ve had to do. There have been times when I’ve felt Josh has acted more like an adult than we have. I want us all to share that joyful experience together. We owe Josh at least that much. We’ve kind of had to use him as our experiment in learning what to do and not do as parents.”

“I guess you’re right. Okay.
“Got to go. My flight is doing the final boarding. I love you so much. You know that, don’t you?

“And I, you. Remember, call me as soon as you get there.”

“Okay, my lovely worrier. I will. I’ll miss you too. See you when I get back. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

(Later that day, at Isabel’s)

“Is anybody home?” Max said, as he entered Isabel’s home.

“Oh, hi, Dad. Did mom get off okay?”

“Yeah, she did.
“What are you doing here? I went back to the guesthouse, and no one was there.”

“Oh, yeah. Liz had to go in to work today. She said she wasn’t supposed to start until Monday, but it was something about someone being sick.”
“That’s a shame. I was hoping to at least meet the person who watched you. You know how I hate leaving you with strangers.”

“Don’t worry, Dad. She’s really cool. I like her a lot. She’s as much fun as Maria.”

“Still, I would like to have met her,” Max pondered.
“Oh, well. Let’s get our week together started, shall we?”

“That’s great, Dad. We haven’t done any guy stuff together in a long time. I’m really looking forward to this week.”

“You’re right, son. I’m sorry we haven’t spent more time together. But that’s going to change after your mom gets back. We’re planning to take a whole week and go off together, just the three of us, and really have some quality family time together.”

“Oh, Dad, that sounds so cool. I can’t wait.”

“In the mean time, though, let’s get our own guy week started. Anything you want, let’s do it. I’ve taken this whole week off just so I can spend more time with you, son. I really do want to make up for not being around much in quite a while.”

“Okay, Dad. Let’s go.”

TBC-???
Chapter 4

(Josh and his dad have spent the last four days having a great time, doing all kinds of guy things together. Today, their day is going to start by having a nice, leisurely breakfast together before doing anything else. And guess where they’ve decided to have breakfast.)

“Hey, Josh, have I ever taken you to Joe’s Diner before?” Max asked, as they were leaving their house.

“I don’t think so, Dad. I don’t remember ever being there.”

“Okay. Let’s go, then. It’s one of the places I used to take your mom to when she was pregnant with you. There were just some days she didn’t feel like cooking. So, for a long time, we had the routine of going there on Saturdays, just so she’d get a break from cooking and we could spend time together, just relaxing.”

“I’d like that, Dad. You’ve never really told me much about you and mom before I came around. I’d like to hear more of those stories.”

“Well, let’s get going, then. Maybe we can start another family tradition right now.”

“Okay. Let’s go.”

(At the diner. If you’ve ever been to a Denneys or Carrow’s on a weekday morning when people are waiting to have the breakfast special, you have an idea how busy it is right now.)

“Finally, we get to order,” Josh said. We’ve been waiting so long, I’m starved.

“Yeah, I guess we should have started earlier. I forgot how busy it is on a weekday during breakfast.”

(Just then, the waitriess, without raising her head, walks up and says....)

“Good morning. I’m Liz. I’m your waitress this morning. May I take your order, or do you need a few minutes to decide?”

“Liz!!!!” Josh exclaimed. I didn’t know you worked here.”

(When she hears her name, she finally looks up, not realizing who’s talking to her). “Oh.......Hi, Josh,” (as she slowly looks over to Max). “What are you doing here this morning?”

“Well, my mom’s out of town this week. So dad and I are spending this week doing guy stuff. But Dad wanted to bring me here because he said he used to bring my mom here when she was pregnant with me. And” --

“That’s enough information, Josh,” Max said, with embarrassment. He wasn’t used to Josh sharing such personal information with someone who was, to Max, a total stranger. “I’m sure Liz has enough to do right now, what with trying to take our order as well as all the other people she’s waiting on.
“By the way, I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to meet you the other night. We really don’t make a habit of leaving Josh with strangers. I hope you didn’t get the wrong idea about that.”

Liz waved her hand in gesture and said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Isabel filled me in on what happened. Besides, Josh and I had a great time together. Didn’t we, Josh????”

“We sure did. I can’t wait for you to be my sitter again sometime.”

“Now, wait a minute, Josh. I don’t want Liz thinking we’re going to try to take advantage of her kindness in our moments of need.”

“Nonsense,” Liz said, surprising even herself. If she were really truthful, she would have admitted how worried she had been, since she had never watched children before that she’d never met. “Josh is no problem at all. When I was watching him the other night, I didn’t even feel like a sitter. It was actually quite a refreshing experience. You have quite a sensitive and sweet young man there. He’s going to be a heartbreaker when he gets older,” Liz said, thinking pretty much the same thing about his dad.
“Well, I really do need to get your order. It is pretty busy. If you need a few more minutes, I can come back when you’re ready.”

(While she’s talking, Max seems to be lost in thought.)

“Oh, I’m sorry. Of course. Please go ahead. We’re not quite ready yet anyway.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“No problem. Take your time.”

(After Liz walks away)

“Dad, are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m fine. I just got a little distracted, what with meeting your sitter from the other night and all. I wasn’t expecting to meet her quite like this.”

“Yeah, me neither. I had no idea she worked here. When she told me she had to start work last Sunday, she didn’t say where she’d be working.
“But isn’t she cool, Dad? She’s soooo nice. I’d really like to have her as a sitter again. Is that okay?”

“Just hold on there. I’d still like to get to know her a little better before I have her watch you again; that is, if I have her watch you again We’ll see.
“For now, though, let’s decide what we’re going to eat, so we’l l be ready when she comes back.”

“Oh, okay, Dad.”

Chapter 5

(It’s Saturday, and time for Max to pick up Tess from the airport.)

“Come on, Dad, please,” Josh pleaded. “Can I stay with Liz while you get mom?”

“Josh, I told you before. I want to get to know her better before she watches you again.”

“Please, Dad?”

“Josh, I said no. That’s the end of it.”

“Okay,” Josh said, halfheartedly.

“Besides, I already asked your Aunt Isabel to come over. Since Alex is out of town, she said she’d love to come over and spend some time with you.”

“Oh, all right.”

“Thanks, Sport,” Max said. “I’ll be back soon with your mom. Don’t forget. We’re going to spend a whole week together, just the three of us. See you when we get back.”

(Over at Max’s)

“So, Josh, how’ve you been this week?” Isabel asked. “We haven’t seen much of you.”

“Yeah, Dad and I spent the week doing guy stuff together. We went to a ballgame and played miniature golf and -- oh, yeah, I forgot. Dad met Liz.”

“Oh, really? Your dad never mentioned it. How’d that happen?”

“Dad took me over to Joe’s Diner. He was telling me how he and mom went there a lot before I was born.
“Anyhow, when we got there, Liz was our waitress. It was so cool that Dad met her. But he doesn’t think it was enough for him to let Liz stay with me again, at least not until he knows her better.”

“Is that what your dad said?”

“Yeah. He was really weird about it, like there was something wrong with Liz or something.”

“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean that. He probably just didn’t want to feel like he was taking advantage of Liz, not knowing her and all.”

“But Liz wouldn’t mind. I know she wouldn’t. We had a great time.”

“What is this with you? You’ve never been so eager to have someone watch you before.”

“I don’t know. I just really had fun with Liz. It’s just like having Maria back again, I guess.”

“Oh, okay. I get it. You miss Maria, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

(The phone rings.)

“I’ll get it!” Josh yelled, as he headed for the phone.

Thanks, Josh. My hands are all wet right now.”

(After a brief pause.)

“Who is it, Josh?”

“I don’t know. They just said they want to talk to an adult.”

“Okay. I’m ready now. Hand me the phone.”

(After a few minutes, Isabel slowly hangs up the phone, with tears in her eyes that she is trying to hide from Josh.)

“Is everything okay, Aunt Isabel? You look sad.”

After trying to compose herself, Isabel said, “Yeah, I’m fine.
“Josh, I have to leave for a little while. I know Liz is home right now, and I know how much you would like her to watch you. So I’m going to go call her and have her come over and stay with you while I’m gone.”

“Yippee! Thanks, Aunt Isabel! Oh, but Dad won’t be mad, will he?”

“No, Honey. I’ll explain that I had to leave for a little while.
“I’m going to call Liz upstairs. Why don’t you go watch one of your videos until she gets here.”

“Okay. And, thanks, Aunt Isabel.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie,” Isabel said sadly.

(Meanwhile, at Liz’s, thinking to herself.)

What is wrong with me? Ever since I met Josh’s dad the other day, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him. This is terrible. He’s a happily married man, for goodness’ sake. Come on, Liz. Pull yourself together. I know you haven’t been on a date in a while -- a long while, as a matter of fact -- ever since mom and dad died. And now all you can think about is a married man. You really need to get out and meet some more people, to get your mind off him. And as much as you enjoyed watching Josh, it’s DEFINITELY not a good idea to watch him again. You don’t want to put yourself in a compromising position, where you might do something stupid.
“Okay. That’s it. I’ve got to get out of here and clear my head a little,” she said to herself.
(Just as she was putting on her jacket and getting ready to walk out the door, the phone rang. Liz struggled with herself before finally deciding to answer it.)

“Oh, all right. If I don’t answer it, I’m going to be bugged all night wondering who was calling, especially since I know hardly anyone has my phone number anyway,” she muttered, again to herself.

“Hello?” she said, after the fourth ring.

“Oh, Liz, thank God you’re there. I was so afraid, when you didn’t answer right away, that maybe you’d gone out.”

“Well, I was just getting ready to walk out the door.”
Liz paused and then said, “What’s wrong, Is? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Is said, shakily. “But I need to ask you a huge favor.”

“Sure. I need to clear my head some anyway. Whatever I can do to help out. What do you need?”

“Could you please come over to Max’s and watch Josh for me.”

Except that, she thought to herself, then said to Isabel, “But I thought you were looking forward to spending time with him tonight.”

“I was. But something terrible has happened.”

“What is it Isabel? I can hear you sobbing.”

“I just got a call. Max went to pick Tess up at the airport. Apparently, on their way home, someone ran a red light going 90 miles an hour, and hit them broadside. The officer told me Tess died instantly. Max was critically injured. They’re not even sure he’s going to make it either. I’ve got to get to the hospital right away. Please help me, Liz. I don’t know who else to call on such short notice.”

“Oh, Is, I’m so sorry. Of course, I’ll help you. I’ll be over as soon as I can.”

“And, Liz, please don’t say anything to Josh yet. I don’t want to say anything to him until I know what’s going to happen with Max.”

“Of course. I understand completely.
“I’m leaving right now. I’ll be there soon.”

“Thanks so much, Liz. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t even think that way. I know you’d do the same for me without even blinking.
“I’ll be there soon. Bye.”

On her way to Max’s, Liz is thinking, “I feel terrible. Here I was thinking of a married man. Now I just heard his wife died, and the first think I thought of was ‘Please, God, don’t let Max die.’ I’m such a terrible person, thinking such a terrible thing at a time like this.
“Of course, I know it’s not terrible not wanting someone to die. But it’s terrible to think that because I wanted so much to get to know him better... I’m not even making sense to myself right now.
“I’ve got to concentrate on Josh right now. He’s just lost one parent, for goodness’ sake. And now he might lose another. I’ve got to concentrate on that right now.”

Chapter 6

After Isabel left for the hospital, Josh came up to Liz, asking, “What’s wrong with Aunt Isabel, Liz?”

“What do you mean, Josh?”

“She was really sad when she got the phone call, but she wouldn’t tell me why.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s okay. She probably just has things on her mind right now.”

“Please don’t lie to me, Liz. I know I’m only a kid, but I know something’s wrong.
“You’re my friend; right, Liz?”

“Of course, I am, Josh.”

“Well, friends don’t lie to each other. So please tell me why Aunt Isabel is so sad.”

“I’m not lying to you, Josh. I know she has a lot of things on her mind right now. I know she’ll tell you what it is as soon as she can think things through more clearly.”

“Something happened to my mom and dad, didn’t it?”
“What makes you think that?”

“Because, when I answered the phone, the man said he was a police officer and needed to speak to an adult.
“It’s about my parents, isn’t it?”

Liz paused, and then said, “I don’t really know for sure what it’s about.”

“You said you wouldn’t lie, Liz, but I know you are. Your face is getting all red. Whenever mom and dad have lied to me when I’ve asked questions, their faces always get red too. That’s how I know you’re lying.”

Liz paused again.

“Please, Liz. Please don’t lie to me. I’ve trusted you right from the start. And I want to believe you so much. So please tell me what’s wrong.

Liz paused yet again, and finally said, “Josh, how did you become such a grown-up person for someone so young?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just always listen when people don’t know I’m around.”

“Come here, Josh.”

Josh walked up to her, and she pulled him into her arms and started crying.

“Your mom and dad were in a car accident, Josh, a really bad one.”

This time Josh paused. With tears in his eyes, he said, “They died, didn’t they?”

“Well, I think Isabel went to the hospital. So.....”

“Liz, don’t lie to me anymore. Didn’t they?” he screamed.

With tears in Liz’s eyes, she said, “Yes, Josh, your mom did die.”

“And Dad?”

“He has been taken to the hospital. He was very badly injured. It doesn’t look good, Josh. They’re not sure if your dad will make it.”

“I have to go. Please take me to the hospital, Liz.”

“Your aunt wanted me” --

“Please, Liz! If my dad dies, I want to at least say good-bye to him. I didn’t get to say that to my mom.”

Liz, remembering her own sadness over not being able to say good-bye to her own parents before they died, made a decision.

“Your aunt may never speak to me again after this, but you deserve that chance. Come on, Josh, let’s go.”

(Meanwhile, at the hospital, Isabel is talking to the ER doctor.)

“Is he going to make it?” she asked the doctor.

“It’s too soon to tell,”the doctor replied. “First of all, he’s in a coma right now. We have no idea how long that may last. And even if he does come out of it, he’s got a long road of recovery ahead of him.”

Hearing footsteps behind her, Isabel turned around. “Josh, what are doing here?
“Liz, I thought” --

“Please, Aunt Is. I begged Liz to tell me what happened.” With tears in his eyes, he continued, “Please, Aunt Is. I have to see him. If he dies, he’ll never know how much I love him. Please let me tell him that.”

The doctor started objecting, saying, “I’m sorry, young man, you’re too young” --

Before he could finish, though, Liz interrupted, saying, “This little boy has already lost one parent he didn’t get to say good-bye to. You’re NOT going to deprive him of the chance of possibly having to say good-bye to his dad. If he doesn’t get that chance, it will haunt him for the rest of his life,” Liz knowing that because of her own haunting memories.

Once Liz finished her tirade, the doctor spoke. “I guess it can’t hurt. It might even help, since he’s in a coma and all.”

“Thank you,” Liz responsded.
“Go ahead, Josh. Go see your dad.”

“Would you go with me, Liz?”

“I thought you’d want to have some time with him by yourself.”

“Please, Liz. I want him to know you helped me to come.”

Liz turned to the doctor, with a questioning look, and he nodded his approval.

“Well, if it means that much to you.....”

“It does.”

“Okay. Let’s go.”

Chapter 7

Meanwhile, although Max was definitely in a coma, his mind was struggling to make sense of things, blaming himself for what had happened. In the far reaches of his mind, he thought, “It’s all my fault. I didn’t love Tess as much as I should have all these years. Why did this have to happen now, just when we were finally becoming a real family? Please, God, let me die. I don’t deserve to live, not now that Tess is gone. It’s all my fault.”

Presently, Josh entered his dad’s hospital room and started talking to him. “Dad, please don’t die. I need you so much. I had such a good time with you this week. I want so much to have other days like this week. It was the first time I really felt like you were my dad. We did some fun things together. Don’t you want to do more things like that with me? Please, Dad, I love you so much. If you die, who will take care of me? I won’t have anybody -- well, I have Aunt Is. And Liz is with me. Liz helped me come see you, Dad. She knew how much it meant for me to see you....”

As Josh continued talking to Max, Max started seeing pictures in his head of the things he’d done with his son in the past week. It was as though Josh was putting into words the feelings Max was having in his unconscious state.

Max began to stir. Then Josh mentioned Liz, and Max had another picture in his head, the one of meeting Liz at the diner. He started feeling a shyness creep over him, remembering how embarrassed he had felt when he met Liz, hoping she wouldn’t notice how nervous he was -- feelings he hadn’t felt when meeting any women in a long time. Feelings he never really experienced with Tess -- then guilt. “I shouldn’t be having these feelings. I’m a happily married man. At least I have been recently.” Guilt that Tess is dead, guilt that he was alive.

“Dad, please don’t die,” Josh continued saying. “I need you so much.”

“Come on, Josh. I’m sure your dad hears you. He just needs to rest right now.”

“No, I won’t leave. I want him to be okay. He’s got to be okay. Please, Liz, let me stay. Please stay with me so we can be with my dad.”

The doctor, when he came to check on Max, heard the desperation in Josh’s voice. So he motioned that he would go get some chairs for them.

“Thank you, Doctor. This means so much to Josh.” And to herself she said, “and to me.”

After Josh and Liz sat down, Josh took his dad’s hand, and then said to Liz, “Liz, would you hold my dad’s other hand.”

“Josh, your dad doesn’t even know me.”

“Please, Liz. I don’t want him to feel alone.”

Hesitantly and shyly, Liz did as Josh asked.

As all the emotional drain of the day caught up with them both, they fell asleep, both holding each of Max’s hands.

Although Max was still in his coma, he could hear in the far recesses of his mind the interchange that had taken place between Liz and Josh. Then there was silence. But then he felt someone take hold of each of his hands, and then there was nothing.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, Josh felt something tugging on his hand. He awakened, realizing his dad’s eyes were open.

“Liz, wake up! Wake up!”

“Huh? What is it, Josh?” she asked, as she slowly came out of her fog.

“It’s Dad. He’s awake.”

Startled, Liz looked at Max. Sure enough, Max was wide awake, smiling at her sweetly as she looked at him. Embarrassed, she shyly tried to remove her hand from Max’s, but Max wouldn’t let go.

Josh was so excited, he ran off, trying to find his aunt and the doctor.

Meanwhile, Liz was still trying to free her hand from Max’s when he started talking to her.

“I want to thank you for bringing my son to me.”

Startled, she responded, “What are you talking about?”

“Although I was in a coma, I heard everything you both were saying. He was right, you know. I was feeling alone. But he doesn’t know I wanted to die. If he hadn’t come when he did, I know I would have given up, not knowing how desperately my son and I need each other. Thank you for helping him to save me.”

As Liz shyly lowered her eyes, once again embarrassed, Josh came running back with Isabel and the doctor.

While everyone was talking to Max, Liz quietly left the room, hoping no one would notice. And she was right, almost no one did, except Max, who was following her every move as she quietly left. When she was completely out of sight, Max turned his attention back to everyone else.

Chapter 8

(Several weeks have passed. Max is now well enough to leave the hospital. The only problem is, he’s still not well enough to take care of himself, let alone his son. Isabel picks him up and takes him home. Knowing beforehand the condition he’s in, she’s once again enlisted help from Liz.)

Earlier that day.....

“Liz, I want to thank you so much for all the help you’ve been the last several weeks. If you hadn’t brought Josh to the hospital when you did, I probably wouldn’t still have Max today, let alone be able to bring him home.”

“I’m just so glad you weren’t upset with me, after what you’d already asked of me, to not tell Josh anything.”

“Well, at first, I was upset. But after seeing how Max responded after you guys came, I realized how wrong I was to ask what I asked. I hope you’ll forgive me for not seeing how important Josh’s presence would be for Max.”

“It’s okay, Isabel. I was just trying to do what was best for Josh.”

“Well, it was obviously the best thing for Max as well. I’m just glad you stood your ground, knowing I would probably be upset with you.”

“Please don’t apologize. I was just trying to comfort Josh, under the circumstances.”

“You know, my family has only known you for a short time. But already you’ve been perceptive enough to help us out in ways we had no idea we would need help with.
“I know you’ve been under a lot of stress yourself, trying to work as a waitress, besides going to school full-time, or as much as you’re able to handle. And then helping us as much as you have, I know you must feel so emotionally and physically drained.”

“It’s nothing, Is. I’m only too happy to help out in any way I can. I feel you’ve already done so much for me. I’m just trying to pay back your kindness to me.”

“Well, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I can lighten your load and, at the same time, find a way to help us further as well. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been doing that.”

“Hey, Is, I’m always open to any suggestions that may help me with my load -- as long as I can continue carrying my own weight around here as well.”

“I’m really glad to hear you say that, because I have a proposition for you.”

“What do you have in mind?” Liz asked, quizzically.

************

(It’s now time for Isabel to pick up Max.)

“Is, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea, me going home. I’m still going to be laid up for a few weeks. I can’t even take care of myself yet, let alone Josh.”

“I know, Max. That’s why I’ve made some arrangements to help you out for the next few weeks, or as long as it takes.”

“What are you up to, Is?” he asked hesitantly.

“I’ve arranged to have someone stay with you and Josh while you recover -- a live-in assistant, you might say. It’s only until you can get around on your own -- again, whatever time it takes for you to recover.”

“Is, I’m not an invalid,” he said indignantly.

“I know, Max. As I said, it’s only until you can start getting around on your own.”

“Well, I guess I have to face facts. For once, I have to admit, you’re right. But only for a few weeks. I hope you didn’t get an old battle-ax nurse like the ones that have been attending to me here at the hospital. They’re so obnoxious and unsympathetic.

“Don’t worry. The person I have in mind is nothing like those nurses.”

“You’re acting awfully cagey. Who is it?”

“As I said, you’ll see. It’s kind of a surprise.”

“Do I know this person?”

“I’m not giving you any hints. You’ll just have to wait until I get you home.”

(Meanwhile, at Max’s)

“Josh, are you ready? I just heard from Is. She’s going to be here with your dad soon.”

“Yeah, everything’s in place. Do you think he’ll be surprised?”

“Oh, I’m sure you can count on it.”

“I wish more people were here to welcome him home.”

“Remember what your aunt said, Josh?”

“Yeah. She said it would probably be better not to have too many here when he gets home.”

“Do you remember why?”

“Yeah. So he won’t think too much about mom not being here with him.
“I guess I can understand that. It probably will be strange for him, knowing mom will never be coming home. I don’t want him to feel more bad,” he said, in his slightly imperfect grammar (after all, he was still just a little boy).

“I know he’ll appreciate that you were thinking that way, Josh.”

TBC

Chapter 9

“Well, we’re here, Max.
“Okay, sir. Would you help me get Max inside,” she said to the cab driver.

(Once inside)

“What’s going on, Is? Why is it so dark? Isn’t anyone here right now? Where’s Josh?”

“I don’t know,” Isabel said with a sneaky little grin on her face that she managed to hide from Max. “Let me check. I’ll be right back.”

(A minute later, the lights go on.)

Liz and Josh, both talking at the same time, say, “Welcome home, Max!” and “Welcome home, Dad!”

(After Max hugs Josh, he looks at Liz questioningly, as if to say, “What are you doing here?”)

“Hi, Liz. Seeing you here is a pleasant surprise. Isabel didn’t tell me you’d be here.”

“Oh, I see,” she said with a grin on her face.

“Actually, Max, there is something I haven’t told you yet.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“I’ve asked Liz to stick around for a few weeks. Only until you’re more mobile,” she added.

Turning to Liz, Max said, “Are you sure you want to do that, Liz? You’re already working as a waitress, not counting your going to college and studying and all.”

“Well, actually, my motives aren’t as noble as you might think, Max. I’m benefiting from this arrangement as much as you. During the time I’m helping you here, I won’t be working the waitress job. It will give me more time for study and to take a few more classes, since I won’t feel as physically worn out and all.”

Although inside, Max felt somewhat disappointed, having hoped she was there more for him than for herself, he didn’t show that as he spoke.

“Oh. Good. I’m glad you didn’t let Is take advantage of you.”

“Well, in all honesty, Max, it was Is’s idea. (Of course, she wasn’t really competely honest. If she had been, she would have told Max she almost wouldn’t accept the arrangement because, deep down, she had a fear of her own -- that she was falling in love with Max. She had found it hard to believe that such a thing was possible. After all, she really hadn’t spoken to him at all, except for the night he’d come out of his coma, and that was only very briefly. But during the time Max had been in the hospital, Liz had heard so many stories about him from Isabel and Alex, as well as Josh, that she felt she already knew this man so well, perhaps too well. And being this close to him over such an extended time frame, it was going to be hard to maintain a professional relationship with him. But she also knew Max was in serious need of personal assistance.

She was especially concerned for Josh, though. He’d already lost a mother, and he’d already come to think of Liz as a friend. She didn’t want to leave too suddenly, and leave Josh feeling completely abandoned by yet another woman. So she rationalized her decision really would be a benefit for others as well as herself. She also knew, though, that she’d have to limit her visits with Max; otherwise, it would be hard to leave when the time came to do so.
***

Due to the length of time it was taking for Max to recover, what was supposed to have been weeks ended up turning into months. And during those months, a daily routine developed, with Liz always taking care to maintain an emotional distance from Max, which ended up not being too difficult. For the most part, Max’s medical needs were being taken care of by a home-care nurse -- who would give him a daily sponge bath; help him in changing his clothes; as well as helping him with physical therapy, helping him to get back the movement in his legs he had lost from months of disuse, due to being in casts and confined to bed. She did routinely go in to check on him, to see if he needed anything, almost always when he was sleeping, though, or so she thought.

Liz actually spent a greater amount of time with Josh, though, doing all the things for him that his mom and dad had done for him over the years. But it seemed he got more out of the bargain than he even realized. Day by day, with each loving gesture of kindness and attention Liz showed him, he came to realize on one of those days how much he loved Liz -- not as a friend anymore, but as the mother he never really had. Sure, Tess had always been his mom, till the day she died. But during all those years, she had never shown him the tenderness and genuine interest that Liz had been showing him in only the past few months. There were times when Josh even caught himself before he slipped and actually called her “mom.” In truth, he was afraid that to do so would scare Liz away. And he was afraid the day would come when she felt he and his dad no longer needed her, and she would leave to once again continue her own life, without them. Deep down, though, Josh secretly hoped that she would choose to stay. Because, when he was honest with himself, he would admit that he had grown to love her more deeply than he had ever loved his own mom.

Chapter 10

So life continued during those months with all three of them -- Max, Liz, and Josh -- each secretly dreaming that somehow they would perhaps one day become that true family that they all so desperately desired from one another, though no one ever verbally expressed such thoughts, each fearing to do so would upset their daily routine and destroy the pleasant dream they each had every night, in which Max and Liz were married, and Josh was “their” beloved son.

They continued in their dreamlike routine until one day, unexpectedly, the home-care nurse had a family emergency of her own and had to leave virtually without being able to notify this dreamlike family so that they could find a replacement. By the time they heard from her, she was at the airport, boarding a plane to go help her own family in crisis. Of course, by the time a call was made to the home-care agency, there was no one available or due to be available to help the family for a couple of weeks. Even Alex had unexpectedly been called away on business, having already arranged to have Isabel join him on this trip, which meant one thing, the thing Liz had secretly feared all these months. She would have to give Max his sponge baths and help him with therapy, or so she had thought. Fortunately, the nurse had had the foresight to teach Liz what needed to be done, just in case such an emergency came up. Liz had grumbled at the time, but had done what she was told, knowing the nurse was right.

And now the time had arrived that she had feared most. She’d actually have to spend personal time with Max, something she had prayed would never happen. And now, here it was.
To top it all off, she didn’t even have Josh there to help her. Max had given his permission for Josh to go camping with a friend for the weekend.

Of course, Max had his own thoughts on the matter. He himself had prayed back and forth, sometimes hoping this scenario would develop; other times, praying it wouldn’t. During all the time Liz had been there helping him and Josh, he’d still never really gotten to talk much with her. He couldn’t help wondering if, perhaps, Liz had been avoiding him all this time. She’d always had some seemingly legitimate reason why she was never available to visit with him for very long, all of them seeming to be related to supposed needs that Josh had.

As Max continued on in this train of thought, he actually started sensing feelings in himself he didn’t like. Was he actually feeling anger and jealousy toward his own son, because his son got to spend time with this woman who, although technically was supposed to be there assisting him with his needs, seemed to mainly be more concerned and more involved with taking care of his son’s needs, while he continued his recovery?

He also sensed in himself the feeling of guilt. It took a period of deep reflection before he was finally able to identify the cause of that guilt. It finally occurred to him, during all the years he and Tess had been married, he’d never been jealous of his own son over Tess’s attentions toward his son.

Then realization hit him like a bolt of lightning. He’d never had to be jealous about his wife because she’d never shown the tender concern and affection for their son that Liz seemed to provide for Josh instinctively, without even a second thought. Although Max never saw Liz give Josh such tender affection, he knew he was right because of the conversations he’d have with Josh when he’d pop in at different times of the day, that and the fact that Josh seemed to ooze the boyish enthusiasm of one who just couldn’t seem to find enough positive things to say about a particular young woman who had obviously stolen his young heart.

In fact, during the months Liz had been caring for Josh, Max had noticed a slow, but steady, change in his son. Each day Josh visited his dad, he seemed to have more and more self-assurance and displayed a genuine happiness and contentment he’d never displayed when Tess was alive.

Could it be that Josh was falling in love with this woman as Max himself realized he was? Of course, Josh’s wasn’t a crush like he might have for a teacher, but it hit Max like a ton of bricks that it was possible Josh loved this woman more than he had his own mom.

And now he realized for the first time why he himself was falling in love with this woman he knew so little about personally. It finally occurred to him the source of his love. It wasn’t a primal, sexual lust (although, admittedly, he definitely found himself attracted to her). But he realized he loved her because she loved his son and cared for him in ways even his own mother had never displayed. After all these years, he finally was able to understand why it had been so hard for him to fall in love with the mother of his child. He also finally realized Tess herself would never have been able to fill the emotional needs Josh had been starving for all these years, even though Max was only now beginning to realize his son even had that need.

On the other hand, Liz seemed to know instinctively what Josh’s needs were and thought nothing of doing whatever it took to fill them. With that thought in mind, he was reminded that it was only Liz who seemed to know instinctively how important it was to bring Josh to the hospital that dreadful night so many months ago, when he almost lost two parents, not just one.

As these thoughts circulated in his mind, he felt his heart constrict. At first it frightened him, thinking he was possibly having a heart attack. But when the sensation subsided, he realized it had been replaced by a sense of awe, admiration, and deep, aching love and desire for this woman who had unknowingly saved two people in the hospital several months back -- himself as well as his son.

After having spent the last several minutes in deep reflection and coming to a profound conclusion, he reminded himself he would have to proceed slowly and carefully in his now well-defined mission, for he realized that to react too quickly and without a clear strategy in mind could destroy, not just two lives -- his and his son’s, but a third person as well, the object of his now yearning and aching heart, one Liz Parker.

TBC

Chapter 11

To implement his plan, Max decided to begin by making small requests of Liz. Since Liz had always conveniently been unavailable when it came time for his therapy, not to mention his sponge baths, he decided for the time being to continue with that on his own. After all, he had progressed far enough to be able to stand and take a few steps. Besides, he wasn’t quite ready to have her start thinking he no longer needed her help -- or, rather, they.

Instead, he decided to begin by requesting she bring in some breakfast. Up to now, that had always been cared for by the nurse, when she first got there, or by Josh, when he was home. He thought perhaps this way, he could at least begin by engaging her in smalltalk -- such as how she was doing in college, and how she was doing with her balancing act of that and helping with Josh. With these thoughts in mind, he decided it was time to begin “Operation Liz Parker,” and began by making his first reqeust. Pushing the button on the intercom next to his bed, he called for Liz.
***

When Liz finished speaking with Max over the intercom, she paused to take a deep breath, knowing she would now have to actually have more personal contact with him. Not that she was complaining. She didn’t mind the contact. She was just concerned that it would become more of a drug that would become habit-forming. Her biggest fear was the inability of purging herself of the need of it once it did become a habit. So as she prepared Max’s breakfast, she once again mentally reminded herself of the need to be as impersonal as she could when taking the breakfast in to him, which would prove to be more difficult than she had planned, for Max had his own hidden agenda.

So Liz busied herself in preparing Max’s breakfast, knowing from observing the nurse (and being pleased with herself for having paid attention), that Max especially liked bagels with cream cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, orange juice, and tea. Once everything was prepared, Liz carefully placed everything on a tray before taking it upstairs to Max. Even after everything had been prepared, she took a minute or two to steady herself, not quite knowing what to do or say to Max once she got there. Even so, she felt she’d dawdled long enough, and that Max was probably wondering what was taking her so long. So she slowly trudged her way up to Max’s room.

Meanwhile, Max had been waiting patiently for his breakfast, himself in a quandary, not quite knowing what he would say or do once Liz brought up his breakfast. But since Liz had, after all this time, not shown any indication of making any kind of effort to visit with him at any great length, he knew he would have to take the first step. He only hoped he’d be able to think quickly enough when the time came.
***

“Here you go, Max. Sorry it took so long. I was just trying to familiarize myself with the kitchen.” Of course, Max knew she was already well aware of everything in the kitchen, having prepared meals for Josh several times over the last several months. But he decided to just acknowledge her comment and go on to another topic.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure, after all this time, I’m not even familiar with it these days.”

“Well, if there’s nothing else you need......” Liz said, pausing, as she turned to leave.

“Wait......Liz?” Max said hesitantly.

“Yes, Max?”

“I was just wondering -- that is --”

“What is it, Max? Is everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah. Nothing’s wrong. I was just hoping.......maybe you could stay and keep me company while I eat?” he asked shyly.

Liz was touched by the almost boyish way in which Max had made his request and, against her better judgment, she paused, and then responded, “Well, I was going to finish tidying up downstairs and then head to the mall and catch a movie......but.......I guess -- sure, I’ll keep you company.”
Max let out a silent sigh he didn’t even know he’d been holding until after she responded. “Great!” he said, almost too eagerly sounding, even to himself.

“Why don’t you help me with all of this. You’ve prepared so much, I don’t know if I can eat all of it.”

“Actually, I already had breakfast.”

“Oh,” Max said, sounding disappointed.

At hearing the disappointment in his voice, Liz couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt that she had caused it. So, after a slight pause, she responded, “You know, on second thought, I do like bacon.”

Immediately Max’s face lit up as he said, “Great. Take it. I still have plenty.”

Max and Liz ate in silence for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say next. Finally, Max ventured a question. “So, Liz, how have you been doing in caring for Josh? Has he caused you any problems at all?” Of course, Max already knew the answer, but he had to start somewhere. He felt discussing Josh might be a safe place for him to start in getting Liz to open up.

“Oh, not at all! Josh is a joy to care for. He’s always so helpful. In fact, he seems to know what help I need before I even ask. Sometimes I almost feel.....” Liz caught herself before she completed her statement. She’d almost let it slip how she often felt like Josh was her own son, but stopped, realizing what an intimate comment it might sound like to Max, and how it might upset him that she felt so presumptuous as to possibly even think she could hold a candle to his late wife.

Liz had become silent in mid-sentence. Then Max noticed a sudden change in her face. He was hesitant to ask her to finish her sentence, perceiving that to do so might scare her into making a quick retreat. Instead, Max decided to change the subject.

“Have you been able to focus more on your schoolwork since you’ve been here?”

Realizing Max wasn’t going to pursue the reason for her long pause, Liz became noticeably more relaxed, and responded, “Oh, yes. In fact, I’ve been able to get a couple of classes out of the way that I would have had to put off for another several months.”

Liz continued telling Max more about her schoolwork and other subjects as well, not realizing Max had finished his breakfast at least 45 minutes earlier. The more she and Max talked (or, rather, she talked), the more comfortable she became in his presence. Max himself had tried being as subtle as possible in finishing his meal, not wanting to attract Liz’s attention to that fact and prematurely bring their visit to a close.

While Max tried with great effort to concentrate on Liz’s words, he kept finding himself drawn to her lips, wanting nothing more than to kiss them tenderly, and to just gently hold her in his arms.

As Liz was continuing in her conversation with Max, the clock in the room struck the hour of 11:00. Realizing she’d been prattling on and had lost all track of time, Liz began apologizing profusely as she stood to leave. Max surprised her by grabbing her wrist. Startled, she looked down at him.

“I just want you to know how much I enjoyed your visit today,” Max said, as he slowly and self-consciously released her soft, silky wrist. “I hope we can do it again.”

After a slight pause, Liz realized she too had enjoyed her visit. “Yeah, I enjoyed it too,” she responded shyly, already missing Max’s hand on her wrist.

When Liz didn’t respond that she would possibly visit again, he again spoke, this time more directly, “Will you come visit me again?” he too asked shyly.

Lowering her head so that Max couldn’t see her eyes, Liz said, “Yes, I’d like that.” With that, she picked up Max’s tray and was gone before he could ask her anything else that she might feel embarrassment over.

Although Liz hadn’t allowed him time to further pursue when that next visit might be, Max was content to just get a confirmation that he would indeed have the pleasure, and sat back in bed mentally forming ideas in his head for how to possibly make it a sooner event rather than a later one. Little did he know, though, that Liz started mentally formulating an idea of her own.
***

Having not realized how long Liz had spent visiting with Max, she hadn’t been able to complete the tasks she had in mind so as to catch the movie she’d been wanting to see in town. But after visiting with Max and realizing how much she enjoyed his company and how at ease she felt with him, somehow going to town didn’t seem quite as important now. Truth be told, she knew, if the clock hadn’t reminded her of the time, she would still be up there chattering away about anything and everything that came to mind. She actually found herself wishing she were still up there in his company. After all, she rationalized, the poor guy was up there all by himself. And she knew he wouldn’t be having any family visits for the next couple days, since everyone was out of town. Then she had an epiphany and decided she would act on it right away, before she lost her nerve and talked herself out of it.

Chapter 12

Max was still sitting back on his bed, trying to think of some lame excuse he might be able to come up with that would bring Liz back up to visit him. He didn’t have to think too much longer, though, as he heard a light knock on his door. Knowing no one else was in the house, he answered, “Come on in, Liz. Did you forget something?”

“No. Actually, I was thinking. Since I won’t have time to go to town to catch the movie I wanted to see, I thought maybe I could finish cleaning up downstairs and then possibly go rent a couple of movies and, if you don’t mind the company, I could bring them up here and share them with you.”

Max was so stunned by her invitation that he was momentarily struck speechless.

Liz, having mistaken his speechlessness as his way of not knowing how to decline the offer, silently started berating herself, chiding herself. “Of course, he doesn’t want to spend time with you. He already got an earful of you earlier, when you couldn’t seem to keep your mouth shut. He’s still mourning his wife. I’m sure he’d much rather just be left alone...”

As Liz was having her silent tirade, Max finally found his words. “That would be great, Liz. I’d really like that. The thought of being up here again all alone, especially since Josh isn’t here, wasn’t something I was especially looking forward to.

Now Liz was momentarily speechless. When she found her voice, she hoarsely responded, “You would?” with doubt in her voice.

“Yeah, I would. As a matter of fact, do you mind if I choose one of the movies?”

“Not at all. I didn’t have any idea what to get anyway. I just thought of it a few minutes ago.”

“Well, I’d really like to see ‘Pearl Harbor.’ The reviews I heard weren’t that great, but I’d rather see it and judge for myself.”

“Great. I’ll go finish downstairs and then go get the movies. How about I get a pizza on the way back? I know it’s going to be a littler early. But, hey, we’ve got to have some junk food with our movie,” she said, joking with Max for the very first time.

“You know, I haven’t had pizza in a long time. I think that’s a great idea. And could you maybe bring back some ‘Red Vines’ as well. They’re one of my favorite foods with a movie.”

“Really? They’re one of my favorites as well,” she said, surprised they had such a little thing in common, yet savoring the feeling of camaraderie it made her feel with Max. “Okay. I’ll be back up in a while.”

With that, she once again left before Max could say another word. This time, though, he felt this cozy warm feeling all over, almost feeling like a teenager anticipating his first date.

Liz was so excited about the prospect of visiting with Max again that she quickly ran through the things needing to be done downstairs and took off on her quest, wanting to get the evening started as soon as possible. After all, she didn’t want Max to have to be by himself any longer than absolutely necessary, she reasoned to herself.

TBC
Chapter 13

Liz hadn’t seen ‘Pearl Harbor’ either. If she had, she wouldn’t have agreed so quickly to seeing it. When she was at the video store and saw how long of a movie it was, she decided she’d just get that one (an idea which she’d later wish she’d given more thought to, not because of how long it was, but because of how she would feel as she watched it).

As hard as Liz tried to get the evening off to an early start, her efforts were thwarted by some construction work she had forgotten was being done on the road to town. It ended up taking a few hours to get to town, get the one movie she’d decided to get, pick up the pizza, and FINALLY be on her way back to keep Max company. She finally got back around 6:00 p.m.

Knowing Max would probably wonder what had taken so long, she decided to contact him by intercom to let him know she’d be up momentarily. “Hi, Max. Sorry it took so long. I’ll explain when I get upstairs.”

“I was beginning to wonder what happened,” Max responded. If anything, though, he had been as eager to get the evening started as Liz had been. So he had been feeling quite impatient for her return. But now that she was back, he could hardly contain himself as he waited for another several minutes before seeing her once again.
***

Liz had begun to explain her delay, but Max really didn’t care. He just wanted to spend time with her. Of course, he hadn’t told Liz he’d already seen ‘Pearl Harbor.’ So he already had an idea what to expect in watching it. He also knew, though, that it was lengthy, which to Max meant, hopefully, her visit would be longer. “You don’t need to explain. I’m just glad you’re back. For one thing, I’m really starved. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.”

Liz had expected Max to follow through with another reason for his eagerness for her return. When he didn’t continue, she commented, “You know, you’re right. It’s getting a little late. And I was noticing this movie is quite lengthy. If you like, we can postpone watching it until tomorrow.” Although she was disappointed at the prospect of not spending the evening in his presence, she didn’t want to wear Max out during his recovery either.

“Oh, no. I didn’t mean anything about the time.” He paused before continuing. “I’d really be disappointed if you left so soon after getting here. I was really looking forward to your company for the evening,” he said, hoping he didn’t sound too desperate.

Liz, although a little surprised he’d been so candid about wanting her to visit, didn’t think much more about it, except the fleeting thought of how lonely the poor guy must have been feeling. With that thought foremost in her mind, she responded, “Well, then, let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”

With that, she set out the paper plates, the pizza, the bottle of wine she’d picked up a few days earlier at Trader Joe’s, and, of course, the Red Vines they just happened to have in stock when she picked up the movie.

When they’d sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, each being so hungry from not having had lunch, Liz had finally taken the edge off of her hunger long enough to prepare the VCR and TV for the movie. “Well, if you’re ready, I’ll get this started.”

“Sounds good to me. I think I can concentrate, now that my stomach has stopped yelling at me.”

After Liz got everything ready, she went to seat herself in the chair near Max’s bed. To say it looked uncomfortable to relax in while watching a movie was an understatement, especially a three-hour movie. Of course, Max already knew that. So he nonchalantly offered to move over on his bed so she could pile some pillows up and get comfortable next to him.

Liz hesitated self-consciously, feeling a little uncomfortable about the suggestion. But she knew herself well enough to know it wouldn’t take long to feel physically uncomfortable in the chair. After all, she did like to relax when watching a movie at “home.” After mulling over the idea, she took him up on his offer and casually got herself comfortable for the next couple hours, not knowing she would end up doing a lot of squirming before the movie was over.

Chapter 14

As Max and Liz continued watching the movie, Liz frequently found herself extremely uncomfortable, especially during the love scenes and kisses among the characters. She wanted desperately to get up and leave the room, but she knew, if she did and Max asked her what was wrong, she wouldn’t be able to speak without turning every color of red imaginable. So she finally decided to nestle down further on the bed and pretend to drift off to sleep, knowing her excuse later would be how tired she had become in struggling with the traffic earlier in the day. Although she had initially planned on pretending to fall asleep, her body had a mind of its own, and she actually did drift off into a sweet slumber, with sweet romantic thoughts of Max in her dreams.
***

Max had discreetly watched earlier as Liz had pretended to fall asleep. He didn’t want to admit it, but he too could feel himself blushing during some of the scenes of the movie. He had forgotten how somewhat intimate some of them were. So he wasn’t surprised when Liz used this method of trying to avoid having to possibly endure any uncomfortable moments during the “filler” scenes of the movie. After about 15 minutes or so, though, he realized by Liz’s low, steady breathing, that she actually had drifted off into sleep. He couldn’t help but gaze over at her with longing. He wanted so much to cuddle up with her, hold her, and just fall asleep himself with her in his arms. But he was afraid she might take his actions as those of aggression, and he didn’t want to unwittingly offend her or cause her discomfort. So he opted to just maintain his self-control and try shifting his train of thought, which was hard to do, given some scenes that came up periodically in the movie (which, as he sat there thinking about it, served him right, since it was his idea for Liz to get that movie in the first place).

When the movie ended, it was about 9:00 p.m., not really a late time frame. Even so, he found himself growing weary and, as much as he would have relished being able to just sit there watching Liz endlessly, he could no longer fight his own need to close his eyes.
***

Meanwhile, Liz had been sleeping peacefully, probably for the first time in a very long time, dreaming about Max, herself, and Josh. It was always the same dream -- that of her and Max being deeply in love with one another, sharing brief private moments of intimacy before Josh would come in, needing something from his “mom” and dad. Always in the past, even during her dreams, Liz knew she was only dreaming. For some reason, though, this dream seemed so much more real to her than at previous times. This time she felt passion she didn’t even know she was capable of.
Although she’d only ever dreamed of kissing Max, this time it was so much more real to her than she’d ever been able to imagine before. His kisses were gentle and soft, but insistent, as though he couldn’t get enough of her. His caresses also felt so much more real than she’d ever been able to imagine before. She could feel his hand ever so gently caressing her breast as he continued to lavish kisses on her mouth, then trailing down to her neck. She could feel herself breathing erratically, moaning from the desire building up within. She also for the first time was able to even imagine gently caressing Max’s taut, muscular chest, and then snuggling up and inhaling his scent. As quickly as she had felt her passion arise, though, it almost instantly passed, leaving her to sink back into the deep slumber she’d previously been in.

The next thing Liz knew, she heard someone calling her name -- or, rather, someone calling someone named “Mom.” Of course, Liz, knowing she wasn’t a mother, imagined she was still in her dream fest about her, Max, and Josh. But she noticed something else was different as well. Although she was now sure someone really was calling her, as she came out of the deep sleep she’d been in, she noticed there was an arm wrapped around her, a heavy one at that. For that matter, she realized she wasn’t even in her own bed. At first, she was scared, not remembering where she was, until memories of the night before came flooding back. Because it was taking so long to get her bearings, it didn’t register until the machine picked up that it was Josh on the phone, leaving her a message. It was such a brief message, she wouldn’t have been able to get to the phone in time if she’d tried. But it was enough noise to get her to fully awaken, realizing the arm that was holding her down was Max’s. In fact, she suddenly realized she had turned over in her sleep and was now lying facing Max, with her two arms and hands snuggled up close to his chest. This precarious position didn’t really register with her until later, when she remembered Max had only had on his pajama bottoms and his robe.

Even after the phone had rung and Josh had left a message, it didn’t seem to be enough to awaken Max. Liz was already extremely embarrassed about the compromising position she was in. To have Max wake up to see her this way just would not do. That’s all she needed, was for him to think she was some kind of a nymphomaniac or something. So she slowly lifted up his heavy arm and pulled herself silently away from him. As she quietly crept out of the room, she realized the buttons on her blouse had come undone while she was sleeping. So she was especially glad she awakened before Max saw her in such a predicament. She knew there was no way she’d be able to look him in the face again if he saw her this way.
***

After Liz quietly left the room, thinking she’d succeeded in not awakening Max, Max opened his eyes. Unknown to her, Max had been awakened by the phone as well, but he too had thought he was in the midst of one of the most realistic dreams he’d ever had, that he didn’t want to wake up from it. So he’d lain there, feeling comfortable in his dream, with his arm around the beauty he always dreamed about with such yearning and desire. He even realized how real the dream had been, so much so that he actually felt himself blush when he thought back to how real it had been. He actually dreamed how real his kisses with Liz had felt. It was so real that, even though he had never kissed Liz before, he felt certain she would taste just as sweet as she had in his dream. He had even gone so far as to dream about caressing her breast, with as much love and gentleness as he’d ever known himself to have, all the while freely lavishing her lips with kisses, and then trailing them down her beautiful neck. Although he immediately felt the emptiness when she left, he was really glad she had left thinking he was asleep. He knew they both would have been extremely embarrassed if they’d awakened to find each other in this position. Since Liz had been so quiet in leaving the room, he knew the only thing he could do was play along and pretend he had been asleep when she left.
***

After pulling herself together, Liz remembered Josh having called. So she went to listen to his message. She hadn’t imagined it. He actually had called her “mom” and didn’t even seem to realize he’d done so. He’d just been calling to let them know he’d be back home from his camping trip on Sunday afternoon, since the family he was with had a cell phone.

As far as Liz was concerned, that was fine with her. Waking up as she had, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to be in Max’s presence without blushing uncontrollably, and then having to explain why she was blushing. Not to mention having to try explaining things to Josh -- or Isabel and Alex, for that matter -- if any of them, for whatever reason, had chanced upon Max and Liz as they lay there sleeping.

Needless to say, it would be awhile before Liz spent any length of time visiting with Max again, always reminding herself how hard it would be to get so attached to him and Josh, only for him to give her her “walking papers” when he was finally able to take care of himself and Josh.

TBC
Chapter 15

After the night Max and Liz had spent watching ‘Pearl Harbor,’ Liz didn’t avail herself so freely to spend time again with Max, especially since Josh was back, and Isabel and Alex had returned from their trip which, again, was fine with Liz. She was still having a hard time facing him since the night they’d watched the movie. So it was left up to Max to find a way to get her to visit again.

All this time, without Liz knowing, Max had steadily been improving his ability to stand, even going so far as to walk all over the room. Of course, he hadn’t let on how much he’d improved because he didn’t want to think about the idea of Liz leaving once he was “back on his feet again.” He knew, though, that he couldn’t put off the inevitable too much longer. When Isabel returned, he knew she’d be relentless in trying to encourage him to do his exercises. Isabel couldn’t help but wonder why it was taking him so long to recover when he himself had initially balked at the idea of having someone live in the house to help him and Josh. Max also knew what a curious nature Isabel had, and he didn’t want to set it off.
***

By this time of the year, Josh had been in little league for the summer. Since Max hadn’t been able to take him to the games, Isabel and Alex had taken to doing it, so Josh wouldn’t feel so lonely for his dad’s presence. Of course, once again, that left Liz to take care of any needs Max might have while everyone else was gone. It occurred to Liz this would be the first time she’d been in the house alone with Max on a Saturday since the night they’d watched ‘Pearl Harbor.’ Every time she thought of that night, she felt herself grow hot, remembering how comfortable she’d felt awakening in Max’s arms, even though initially she’d only thought she’d been dreaming about that embrace.

She also realized it wouldn’t be much longer before Max was on his feet again and would no longer need her help with Josh. Even though she’d only enjoyed that one evening in Max’s company, she knew it was one too many times, because she was going to have a hard time breaking free from the invisible, vice-like grip this family seemed to have on her and, unknowingly, her heart.

Before she had time to dwell any further on her thoughts, Max requested her once again over the intercom. She knew it wasn’t for breakfast, since Josh and Isabel had taken it up before they left for Josh’s game. So she couldn’t help but wonder what he needed. She didn’t really give it much thought, though, before she went upstairs.

What she saw when she entered Max’s doorway, rendered her speechless. Before her eyes, she saw Max standing at the foot of his bed. Of course, at first, Liz didn’t realize he was only wearing his robe and briefs. She was too overcome with shock to notice.

After being speechless for several seconds, Liz finally found her voice. “I had no idea you were able to stand and walk around.”

“Well, with all the cruelty Ms. Jones enjoyed inflicting on me during physical therapy, I thought it would definitely be to my benefit to get moving as quickly as possible, so she’d finally stop torturing me. Unfortunately, because of her sudden emergency, I still haven’t had enough physical therapy to completely get my ‘sea legs’ back. So I thought I better ask for your help, at least to help me steady myself as I make it to the tub.”

“Of course. That’s a really prudent thing to do. Better to be safe than sorry, I always say.”

“I thought you might think so.
He paused before continuing, “I just want you to know, Liz, I’ve really appreciated your help for myself and Josh all these months. And I wouldn’t want to unwittingly do anything that would necessitate your having to prolong your stay here any more than you have to.”

Inwardly, Liz felt a little hurt, thinking Max perhaps felt she was overstaying her welcome. Trying not to show the hurt in her voice, Liz responded, “Yeah, I’ve been here quite a while now. I guess you’ll be glad to get back to your routine and have the privacy you haven’t had for quite some time now. So as soon as you’re ready, let me know. I’ll start packing my things so that, when you are ready, it won’t take me long to get my things out of your way.”

All the while, as she spoke, she was trying desperately to keep from shedding the tears that were threatening to fall at any moment. As soon as she helped Max to the tub, she found some lame excuse to go take care of some supposed housework she had left to come see what Max needed.

After Liz left his room, Max immediately began berating himself, knowing Liz had taken his genuine compliment and acknowledgment of appreciation as a hint she was no longer welcome in his home. He had tried so hard to subtly let her know of his deep regard for her, hoping she would read between the lines that he wanted so much for her to stay -- not as an employee, out of necessity -- but as something so much more, and because she wanted to.

Instead, he’d succeeded in doing just what he’d tried not to do -- pushing her further away. It had been a long time since he’d had to play the game of love, but he instantly realized he better brush up on his skills if he had any hope whatsoever of ultimately winning the game, because time was running out. Little did he know that the time “had” just about run out.

Sunday evening, after Josh had spent time with his dad, eaten, and gone to bed (all with Liz’s gentle assistance, of course), Max heard a light knock on his door. When he gave the okay, he was pleasantly surprised to see Liz come in. His immediate thought was that he could clear the air and explain to Liz about the previous day. But Liz didn’t give him that chance. She already had a speech of her own prepared.

“I just wanted to let you know, Max, I’ve had some time to think about what you said yesterday. And I finally realized I should have been out of your hair weeks ago. If I had paid more attention to the progress you’ve been making with your therapy, I would have realized you’ve been up and around for quite some time.”

“But, Liz, I” --

“Let me finish, Max. Otherwise, I might not be able to get this out.
“I just want you to know I’ve appreciated the time I’ve spent here. It’s helped me to get more accomplished with getting my degree than I could have otherwise. I’m also grateful that I was able to get to know Josh better” --

“Only Josh?” Max said rather sadly.

“What?” Liz asked, not realizing what Max was asking.
“Nothing. I’m sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.”

“I don’t know if you realize what an amazing young man you have in him. I’m just honored that I’ve been able to help him over the hurdles of getting over the loss of his mom. I’m pretty sure enough time has gone by that he’ll be able to carry on. He’ll still have his low points, but time will help him with that.”

Forgetting about his own needs and desires, Max asked, “Have you told Josh you’re leaving?”

“Well, no.”

“Why?”

“Because he won’t really understand right now. But he will, with time.”

“You don’t even realize what Josh thinks of you, do you?”

“What do you mean? What has he said?”

“Except for the fact that he slipped up and called you ‘mom’ on the answering machine the other day, there’s nothing else he’s said.

“How did you know about that message?”

“That’s not important right now. What is important is the changes he’s made. Haven’t you seen his transformation in recent months?”

“What are you saying?”

“Liz, Josh loves you like you’re his ‘real’ mother. For that matter, if I’m right, he probably loves you even more.”

“But that can’t be. That would mean” --

“It would mean what, Liz? That maybe he loves you the way you love him, as if he were your own son? Would that be so bad?”

But Liz couldn’t bring herself to respond. If she did, she was afraid she’d say things she couldn’t even really admit she felt, that she loved Josh’s father as though he and she were “both” Josh’s parents, and not just Max. Then she’d have to admit the real reason she was leaving -- because she couldn’t bear the thought that Max could never love her in the same way.

Instead, she responded.....

“Josh will have to find the rest of the way on his own. I have my own demons I need to face, and I too need to face them on my own. I can’t tell you where I’m going because I know you’d break down, just like I did in taking him to the hospital that night.
“Anyway, I’ll take Josh to school tomorrow, but I’ve made arrangements to have Isabel pick him up, until you’re ready to drive again and can do it.”

With all the plans Liz had made, Max was completely stunned into silence. He had so much to tell her, but couldn’t find even one word that would suffice to make her change her mind. So, instead, he just nodded at her words. Before he could think of anything at all to say, she said good-bye and quietly closed his door.

Without either Max or Liz realizing it, though, there had been someone else listening in -- Josh. Both Max and Liz had forgotten that Max and Josh shared the same bathroom. And because they were so involved in the moment, neither one heard Josh’s bathroom door quietly open when he thought he had been hearing voices.

***
The next morning, Liz put on a show of this morning being the same as every typical Monday morning in the past, this time, though, knowing it would be her last for this family she had come to love and cherish so deeply.

Josh went through the motions, pretending this was a typical Monday morning like so many he had come to cherish in recent months, knowing, sadly, this was to be the last one that would be typical for him. He continued to pretend for Liz’s sake, not wanting to make her leaving harder on her than necessary. He’d come to love Liz so much as the mother he never truly had. It was with all this love he’d stored in his heart for Liz that he was able to let her go. For, again, as young as he was, he seemed to sense how important it was to let Liz think she had succeeded in hiding her actions from this young man she could only now think of as her son.

It was with these thoughts playing in both Liz’s and Josh’s minds that they both kissed each other and wished each other a good day, pretending that they’d welcome one another with love later that day, both knowing that it wasn’t going to happen.

TBC

Chapter 16

The weeks slowly slipped by for Liz and, although she didn’t know it, the same was true for Max and Josh.

Max had finally recovered well enough to get back to work. He didn’t realize how happy he was to be there until his first day back, when he’d actually gone a whole day without having time to mourn the loss, not of his wife, but of his beloved Liz, whom he’d missed achingly so since her departure.

Though Max and Josh never discussed it, Max knew that same loss was taking its toll on his once happy, vibrant, content young son. Over the weeks since Liz had left, Max had sadly seen Josh retreat back into the sad young man he’d been before Liz had so wonderfully transformed him, all the while, Liz never knowing how desperately the two men -- father and son -- yearned and prayed for her miraculous return.

But as the days slipped by, father and son fell further and further into an abyss of depression -- Josh finding solace in constantly running away, in search of Liz, though previously he’d thought he could let her walk out of his life; Max slowly beginning to find it in the bottle he had given up years before, when he made what at the time had seemingly been the biggest mistake of his life -- getting Tess pregnant with Josh. The fact was, Max had never abused alcohol as a teenager. But after only ever drinking alcohol that one night all those years ago, he’d sworn he’d never drink again. Now, though, it seemed the only way he could forget his sorrow over losing Liz

His fall back into the pit of the bottle had started innocently enough when his coworkers welcomed him back by taking him out for a drink after his first day back. Unknown to his coworkers, though, even after being back to work for two weeks, he continued following this routine every day after work, to the point that he finally one day went to work drunk. When his employer was made aware of this problem, Max was sent home that day to sleep it off, with everyone thinking his binge had been due to the fact that it was the first anniversary of the loss of his wife. Little did they know he was mourning the loss of someone else.
***

That same day, Josh had run away again, still looking for Liz. This time, though, Isabel had been able to track him down, finally figuring out what was behind his recent behavior and being able to determine where to find him. When she brought him back this time, finally understanding his motivations, she decided to contact Liz, hoping Liz cared about the boy enough to come talk to him. Little did she know the depth of Liz’s “care” for Josh -- or his dad, for that matter.
***

After getting off the phone with Isabel, Liz sat for a few minutes in tears before deciding what to do. Once she was able to pull herself together, she made the decision to go talk to Max about how she could possibly help him with Josh. Fortunately, Liz still had the key she’d been given to Max’s house when she’d been staying there. Not seeing Max’s car anywhere, she decided to let herself in to wait for Max’s return.

But she was not prepared for what she found inside. She was shocked to find the place was a wreck, with clothing scattered everywhere, along with the empty beer bottles, wine bottles, and other trash strewn around -- a scene she definitely had not anticipated, knowing the kind of meticulous neat freak she had come to know Max to be. She was also surprised about the alcohol containers because, when she remembered back to the night she had gotten pizza and a bottle of wine, Max had declined having any, saying he had sworn off alcohol altogether years before. All of these details finally helped her realize how Max and Josh had fallen apart when she left. But the biggest realization was that she too had fallen apart when she left.

In a daze, with tears running down her face, she wandered from room to room, remembering the wonderful moments she’d shared with Josh, finally ending up in Max’s room, where she remembered so many secret glances she’d stolen of Max asleep when he had still been confined to bed. The memory that stood out most in this room, though, was the most realistic dream she’d ever had that one night, of her and Max in an intimate moment, and then how she had awakened in his arms, and the feeling of contentment and happiness she’d felt. Those were her last conscious thoughts before her mind blanked out. What she did after that, she had no memory of.

TBC
Chapter 17

Even though Max had been sent home earlier that day, he had not gone home, the place where he felt most acutely the loss of his beloved Liz. After drinking what he did that day, somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, he had a faint memory of Josh. He didn’t remember how, but he somehow found his way back home and went to Josh’s room, only to find he wasn’t there. Not being able to have another clear thought in his head, he went to his own room and decided to sleep before looking for Josh later.
***

Meanwhile, during Liz’s slumber, pictures started flashing in her mind. She saw herself in her stupor, unconsciously removing all her clothing, then going to Max’s closet and taking his robe out, and wrapping herself in it. As she smelled the scent of the robe, all she could think of was Max.

She went to Max’s bed, lay down, and started crying again. As she continued crying, with her head buried in Max’s pillow, she was again reminded of Max, this time even more strongly. Again, she saw herself in her dream removing what she’d been wearing, this time Max’s robe, and then wrapping herself in his blankets, where her thoughts of Max became even more intense. As she nestled down into his warm, soft blankets, she felt her body relax and, in the dream she was already in, she drifted off to sleep. She lay there wrapped in his blankets the rest of the evening.

Later that night, she again had pictures flashing through her mind. This time, though, they were comforting and loving. She was dreaming of Max holding her, gently caressing her, whispering his words of love to her in her ear. By the time the pictures stopped flashing, she was filled with such a sense of love and contentment that she slipped into the deepest, calming sleep she’d had since first leaving Max’s several weeks before.

Meanwhile, Max was having the best sleep he’d had in a very long time as well. It was the first time he had felt a measure of peace and contentment since Liz had left. He started dreaming about Liz, which in itself wasn’t unusual. He’d dreamed of her almost every night since first meeting her, though he’d never shared that with anyone.

But this dream felt familiar somehow. It was the second dream he’d had in which everything in it felt so real. He could smell her hair and touch her skin. Her skin was so soft and smooth. It gave him such a sense of deja vu. He wanted so much to tell her how much he loved her. And for the first time, he sensed somehow she’d hear his declaration of love for her. He felt such a sense of peace overcome him that he slipped into the deepest, sweetest slumber he’d felt in a long time.
***

Gradually, Liz began awakening from her deep slumber and, without opening her eyes, she sensed it was morning. But she didn’t want to awaken. She’d been having the sweetest, loving dream of Max, and she didn’t want to lose it by waking. So she lay there, contentedly breathing in Max’s scent, willing herself to dream again. Almost as though on command, her mind obeyed. She could feel Max’s gentle caress, his arm around her. As he loosened his grip, Liz immediately felt the loss, but not for long. He gently put his hand under the blanket, feeling for her, wanting to touch more skin. As his hand wandered, he touched a part of her body that somehow felt familiar. If he hadn’t known he was dreaming, he would have awakened from the shock. Her breast was so soft. It felt so good in his hand, and shyly responded to his touch. But then suddenly it was gone. He immediately felt a sense of loss, but not for long.
In his dream, Liz was responding to his touch by turning over to face him.

In her responsiveness, Liz wanted to show her affection for him as well. So she turned over and gently kissed his lips. She remembered only once before having had such a vividly real dream as this. He responded to her kiss, gently at first. But then it became more intense and passionate for both of them. He began searching for her breast again as she began searching for more of his skin.

As Max touched her once again, they continued their deep, passionate, yet so sweetly loving kiss. Neither wanted the dream to end, because then they’d have to let go of what felt like the tenderest and most caring moment either had ever experienced. But the moment ended abruptly, because Max was awakened from the best dream he’d ever had by the sound of Josh’s voice and his sister Isabel.
***

Both Josh and Isabel started talking at once.

“Dad, you’re home!” Josh exclaimed.
“What’s going on here?” Isabel asked, in shock at what she saw.

Immediately, Max opened his eyes, realizing he was no longer dreaming. But instantly he realized he hadn’t been dreaming at all. Because, lying there next to him, staring at him, in shock herself, was Liz! Neither responded to Josh or Isabel, until Isabel again spoke.

Isabel repeated her question, “What’s going on here?”

Liz, at once realizing the state of undress she was in, could not speak at all, but could only hide herself in the comfort of the blankets.

Max, realizing how Liz must be feeling, got off the bed and led both Josh and his sister out of the room and closed the door.

“What is going on?” Isabel again said, this time yelling.

“Isabel, I honestly don’t know. The only thing I remember is that -- I remember somehow getting home.....drunk, and wanting to sleep it off a little before looking for Josh. If you two will stay here, I’ll go back inside and try to figure out what was going on.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. You two looked pretty cozy to me. Who knows what else you might have done in the next couple minutes.”

“Isabel, that’s enough. Liz looked as shocked and bewildered as I felt. I’m sure, once we talk, we’ll be able to figure out what happened. I don’t care how long it takes. Go downstairs and wait for us."

“Are you sure?”

“Do you really think we’d decide to do anything, knowing you two are waiting for us?”

“I guess not. Just don’t forget we’re still here.”









[ edited 4 time(s), last at 28-Jun-2002 10:02:50 PM ]