posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:37:12 PM
Let me fall.
This is a story based on an impossible love and the steel bonds of four sisters. Set in the rich countryside where one young girl will endure one of the hardest tests of growing up and be forced to decide which is more important to her. A new range of feelings she can’t comprehend or the love of one of her sisters and possibly the rest of her family.
-Author: Nicola Clarke
-Category: Max and Liz
-Disclaimer: This story is mine but the traitor Jason Katims owns the original characters.
-Rating: NC-17
~* Prologue *~
You know you’re nervous when perspiration gathers grotesquely on your forehead and above your lips. Your palms feel slippery and the ‘butterflies’ in your stomach flutter so insistently that you’re sure they’re trying to fly up your throat.
You know you look good and you’ve been through this more then a hundred times before but you never cease to get worked up and over excited.
"Elizabeth that dress is beyond flattering on you, I hope you agree," Isabelle, Is, Belle, Isabella, she represents everything that is proper in Elizabeth’s life. "If you don’t get noticed in that dress I don’t know if you ever will," she fixed the clip in her own hair and said, "Let’s do your hair now shall we?"
Elizabeth looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was the only brunette daughter in her family and she was shorter then her other three blonde sisters too. Isabel was a stunning, round faced, glowing, girl with all the makings of someone respected and important. She was the eldest of the children with an age of twenty-four. The next contribution to the family was Carmen; she was also blonde and though she was a little shorter then Isabel she matched her twin, Elizabeth’s other sister, Maria, perfectly. Carmen and Maria were very skinny with long fingers and toes like their mother and they both had white blonde hair… somewhat thicker and lighter then Isabelle’s. They were twenty-one and Elizabeth the youngest of them all… was twenty.
"My hair is done," Elizabeth explained to her sister, "I want to leave it down tonight."
Isabelle cleared her throat; "Uh right I’m sure you do but no one wears their hair down unless they are going to bed… it just isn’t proper. As pretty as it is, it isn’t appropriate for our festivities tonight I’m sorry."
Elizabeth was definitely the unique one of the sisters with her brown button eyes and her brown wavy hair. She was smaller in every way… bust, height, and just basic appearance.
"I’m leaving it down… I’ll just add this little black clip here…" Elizabeth put a little, black, butterfly clasp in her hair and nodded with approval, "I’m not changing my mind," she said. Obviously her mother and father would tell her off for pulling such a stunt; woman did not wear their hair down in public it just wasn’t done, end of story.
"But…" Isabelle tried to protest but Elizabeth wouldn’t even give her the time of day.
"No, I want it like this… I like it and it’s my opinion first, right?"
Isabelle shook her head and let go of Elizabeth’s hair, "This is Maria’s fault, she’s putting silly thoughts in your head."
Maria was a protester, she was trying to get woman the right to vote and the right to be able to wear and do whatever they want. Elizabeth agreed in some ways but not as forcefully as Maria, Carmen and Isabelle were happy to just be wives.
"Are you guys ready…?" Speaking of Maria… "Hey Elizabeth your hair is stunning."
Elizabeth beamed with pride, "Thank you Maria."
"She’s rebelling against society," Isabelle pointed out.
"Thank god somebody is, good for you Elizabeth," Maria opened the door fully and reminded them it was time to go downstairs again.
"Okay we’re ready… well I am anyway," Isabelle followed Maria out into the hall, "Are you coming Elizabeth?"
"I’ll be right there," She replied. She looked in the mirror again; she loved the dress she was wearing. It had a corset holding her upper half and had no straps; the skirt was attached to top and flowed down past her ankles. The color of her gown was burgundy but there was black stitching that was very noticeable and made it even more original.
Elizabeth left the room and made her way down the hall to the staircase where her three sisters and mother were waiting.
Tonight was a celebration for Maria and Carmen’s betrothals. It is tradition to get married when you turn twenty-one in the Parker family and tonight the announcement would be made as to who the two daughters would be marrying. Their parent’s picked the men they would marry, Isabelle was lucky to have had Alexander Whitman picked for her, he was the successful son of Charles Whitman and she claimed she couldn’t be happier with him. They shared a large and stunning house not far from the Parker residence. The girls were not allowed to meet the bachelors before the celebration night and Elizabeth hoped her sisters would be matched as perfectly as Isabelle had been.

When ever they had a party at the Parker’s estate the five woman of the family would meet at the top of the staircase in front of the ballroom. The music would stop so they could walk down in age order and have the main focus in the room, when they reached the bottom everyone greeted them and clapped as a sign of respect. The Parker’s were superior people and everyone knew of them, they were almost considered royalty because of their wealth and kindness.

When she reached the designated space at the top of the staircase Carmen opened her mouth to say something about her hair but before she could their mother instructed them to follow her now. The music stopped and they slowly walked into the view of all their guests, there were over two hundred people gathered in a group waiting for them.
They all smiled in unison and the guests clapped happily, Elizabeth thought this was such a corny thing to do. The ballroom was lit up with chandeliers and the music source was an orchestra and female singer whom were positioned in the left corner near the archway leading to the dinning room.
The ballroom was used more frequently then you would think, whether it be used during the day for the daughters dancing lesson’s or whether it be used for their social gatherings through the night. The floors were white marble and on either side of the room were a set of French doors leading out to the gardens. Large sets of windows were positioned on both sides of the doors and large cream drapes hung from them. The doors were frequently left open except for when it was raining and the main fire was lit to warm up the bedrooms.
Elizabeth looked around the room in search of her friends in the crowd but there were none in sight.
She saw parent’s friends and complete strangers but no one that she could escape to when she reached the bottom of the stairs.
If she knew what Maria and Carmen’s fiancee’s looked like she would have looked for them so she could point them out to her sisters. But since no one except their parent’s knew what they looked like tonight would be one big guessing game and conquest to find out which bachelor would be significant in their futures. There were many young men in the room but one that stirred Liz’s curiosity instantly was a strapping man with dark eyes. He was standing in the corner of the room surrounded by many people maybe twice his age. Elizbabeth would have moved on to look at something else except something in his gaze, that was directly focused on her, captivated her and urged her to keep looking. He noticed her replying to his looks with a stare of her own and they both blushed. When she was brave enough to look him directly in the eyes again she felt something move within her, move.
He was tall maybe a little taller then six foot and his short hair was stuck up at the front just a little bit… there was no mistaking he was good looking.
She was unable to tear her gaze away; she had never seen him before… who could this beautiful stranger be, she wondered. She reached the bottom of the stairs and her view of him was blocked, she almost cried out.
"Elizabeth Parker," her mother hissed with a fake smile on her face so her guests wouldn’t notice she was telling her daughter off. "What do you think you’re doing? Why isn’t your hair done!" she nodded to a lady and then looked back at her daughter, "Is this some kind of stunt? Are you trying to deliberately rui…."
"Nancy you look fabulous!" One of their guests came up and kissed her mothers cheeks.
"We’ll finish this later," Nancy mumbled in Elizabeth’s ear. She pushed past her and was soon lost in the mingling and dancing bodies.
Elizabeth could not have been less interested in her mother’s warnings all she cared about was finding the handsome man she had seen from the stairs.
One of her sisters crept up behind her, "You’re in big trouble now," she said. Elizabeth discovered it was Carmen, "You’re so silly you know that?" she whispered. She chuckled and kissed Elizabeth’s cheek.
Elizabeth was too busy searching the crowd to care what her sister was saying. She finally spotted the person she was looking for making his way towards her. Her heart missed a beat as she looked up to meet his gaze.
"But I do have a new respect for you. I didn’t think you had it in you, I think I may even love you more," Carmen tugged on her arm, "Come on let’s go and get a drink."
Before Elizabeth could utter a sound she was dragged away and out of his view again, she could have cursed she was so disappointed.
Carmen got a glass of wine off the waiter and handed it to Elizabeth, she then grabbed one herself. "What should we make a toast to?" She asked.
Elizabeth made a brief smile, momentarily forgetting all about the man she had seen, "Let’s toast to you and you’re soon to be engagement. May he be the man of your dreams like you so deserve."
Carmen smiled at her sister and they clinked their glasses; "Thank you sweet heart," Carmen kissed her cheek again, "You always were my favorite sister."
Elizabeth grinned, "I better be," she said.
Though all four sisters got on quite well Elizabeth and Carmen got on exceptionally well, they told each other everything and were like best friends. Maria and Isabelle just had too many differences to get on very well but that didn’t matter because Isabelle had a husband and many girlfriends that she had made in school. That was the same for Maria whose best friend was named Rose, they both had the same beliefs for woman and organized many protests together.
"Do you think my new husband be handsome?" Carmen asked.
Elizabeth nodded, "He will be, our parent’s know you won’t be satisfied unless he is."
Carmen rolled her eyes, "What is that supposed to mean?" she asked.
"Nothing, nothing," Elizabeth drank all of her wine and the waiter took it off of her when he came past again. "I’m going to go stand by the window and try and get some fresh air, go look for any possible fiancee’s for yourself and when you find the one you know is the one mother and father have set up for you come and tell me." Maybe Elizabeth could spot that handsome stranger from the window?
Carmen rolled her eyes, "Okay spoil sport, maybe I should find a fiancee for you while I’m at it?"
"That’s mother and fathers job," Elizabeth reminded her before going over to the window and looking out at the dark starry night.
Another importance in the Parker family was that the girls had to save themselves for their husbands. If a man was picked to be one of the husbands for Jeff Parker’s daughters it was considered a huge privilege.
Someone cleared his or her throat behind her and she turned around to see her father looking at her with disapproving eyes, "Elizabeth what are you thinking?"
"I was thinking it looked nice father," Elizabeth begged him to understand. "Why does it matter if our hair is up anyway?"
"I have never heard of a woman with her hair down in the presence of anyone let alone at a formal party, you have disappointed me," he shook his head.
"Father I…"
"No. Your mother and I will issue you a deserving punishment after the guests leave. I want you to think about what a mistake you have made," he turned on his heels and walked away.
Elizabeth huffed and with sad eyes turned back to look at the sky, maybe she could find enough tranquillity in the dark and shinny pool to drown out all her unpleasant emotions.
Not long after she was faced with yet another clearing of some ones throat except this time when she turned to face the intruder she was not presented with a face of disappointment but one of an intrigued male stranger.

~* I *~

He held his hand out to her, "May I have this dance?" he asked. His voice was warm and friendly like Elizabeth had expected it to be.
She nodded and lifted her hand to put it in his. When their skin touched Elizabeth blushed and looked away from his face, she was so glad he had come to her.
He led her out to the dance floor just as a new song was starting; they did not look at each other.
When they found a somewhat empty space on the floor he rapped his arm around her waist and she put her hand on his shoulder, their joined hands stayed at their side.
Unforgettable, that’s what you are,
Unforgettable, though near or far,
Like a song of love that clings to me,
How the thought of you does things to me,
Never before has someone been more.
Unforgettable, in every way,
And for ever more, And for ever more,
That’s how you’ll stay,
That’s how you’ll stay,
While swaying to the music he introduced himself, "My name is Maxwell Evan’s," he stared into her eyes.
"Elizabeth Parker," she replied looking right back at him. She would have smiled but she was too shy.
He had a slight smile on his face like she amused him, "nice to meet you," he teased.
Though she was shy it happened naturally, she finally smiled. "The pleasures all mine," she said.
That’s why darling, it’s incredible,
That someone so unforgettable thinks that I am, unforgettable too.
"If you don’t mind me asking why do you look so different from your sisters?" Maxwell leaned into her left ear so she could hear him over the music.
She sucked in a breath and in doing so inhaled his masculine, dreamy smell, "I guess I have more of my father in me," she answered, "I hate it."
"Don’t," he whispered back almost inaudibly.
Like never before, has someone been more,
In every way,
In every way,
And for ever more,
And for ever more,
They were so close their faces and chests nearly touched. "What do you want most in life?" Maxwell suddenly asked.
Elizabeth, a little flustered, replied, "What do you mean Mr. Evan’s?" She had already forgotten all about her rules for herself, not to want to get involved with anyone because whom she married was not her decision. She couldn’t hide the fact that this man intrigued her greatly.
He let out a husky laugh and then answered, "I learnt a little while ago that when you want to get to know someone you don’t ask them what their favorite color is, or how they like their tea or anything like that but what they want from life. After you have listened intently to their detailed description of their most important goal I am to ask why you have done nothing to get what you find dearest."
She was mystified by him, "And what if they have what they want so much?" she asked.
He stared at her with loving eyes, "Do you?" he asked.
"No," she whispered back.
That’s how you’ll stay,
That’s how you’ll stay,
That’s why darling, it’s incredible,
That someone so unforgettable thinks that I am unforgettable too.
Once the song ended Maxwell politely asked if Elizabeth would like to join him in a walk outside under the stars. She replied that she’d love to and he took her hand and led her out through the open French
Doors to the garden.
As they walked Elizabeth did not let go of Maxwell’s hand and he did not let go of hers either.
"You know what I want most in life?" Maxwell asked.
Elizabeth did not reply afraid he would tell her.
He waited a few minutes before saying, "To feel fulfilled in every way."
"You don’t feel fulfilled?" she asked.
He stopped walking and turned to look down at her, "No, not in every way."
Elizabeth suspected he had another meaning behind his words but she was too inexperienced to know what. She dismissed it and asked about his father, "I have never seen you at our house before, I suspect your father knows my parent’s?"
He let go of her hand much to Elizabeth’s disappointment, "I don’t know much about why I am here, I am sure my mother is an old friend of your mothers," he looked up at the sky, "It’s beautiful isn’t it?"
"Yes," Elizabeth wanted to sit down on the bench next to the fishpond with him but she was to shy to ask.
"Want to sit down?" Maxwell asked motioning to the bench. Elizabeth smiled to herself and wondered if he’d read her mind. They sat down quite close to each other, closer then you would with a stranger.
"How old are you Mr. Evan’s?" Elizabeth asked.
"Please call me Maxwell," he smiled. "I am twenty-two but in less then four months I will be twenty-three."
Elizabeth looked down at her hands in her lap; "Mr. Evan’s how…?"
"Maxwell," he corrected her.
Teasingly she cleared her throat and said, "Mr. Evan’s, how far away do you live?"
He rolled his eyes but his face showed blatantly that he was amused by her, "Not far," he pointed west from where they were sitting. "If you follow the bank next to the river straight down, the sixth apartment are my lodgings."
"That is about ten minutes on horse back?" she asked.
He nodded, "Yes."
Elizabeth sucked in a breath; "You live with your parent’s?"
"Until I’m married, yes," he looked down at her. They went silent and just stared at each other for some time.
"Elizabeth!" Isabelle called from the French doors at the house, "Where are you? It’s time for the announcement!"
"Oh no," Elizabeth stood up, "Oh no I completely forgot. I have to go it was nice meeting you Mr. Evan’s." She hurried back along the paths holding her skirt up with her hands.
"Elizabeth?" Maxwell called after her, "Will I see you again?"
She stopped and turned to look at him, "If you would like to see me again, it will happen most definitely," she smiled then turned and hurried back to the house.
"Where have you been?" Isabelle demanded, "Your sisters are about to meet their husbands and you’re wandering around outside?"
Elizabeth apologized, "I’m sorry I got distracted," she explained.
"By what?" Isabelle folded her arms over herself and looked out into the gardens. She noticed Maxwell approaching and her mouth opened in disbelief, "Oh my goodness you weren’t with…?"
Elizabeth blushed, "Shh, we were just walking. Let’s go inside shall we?"
Isabelle smiled at Maxwell, "Excuse me?" she said.
He smiled back; "yes?" he answered.
Elizabeth shook her head in embarrassment.
"What were you doing out here with baby sister? You have good intentions I hope?" she pinched Elizabeth’s arm.
"Definitely good intentions," he bowed his head to them both then walked into the house. Elizabeth rubbed her arm where she had just been pinched, "What is wrong with you?" she demanded, "Why do you have to embarrass me?"
"Oh wait till I tell your sisters you were out with a man!" Isabelle teased.
"You won’t do anything of the sort, let’s go inside now," Elizabeth lead them back in through the doors and over to their parents who gathered with Maria and Carmen in the corner.
"Where have you been?" Carmen whispered in Elizabeth’s ear.
"No where be quiet," Elizabeth smiled at her parent’s, "Are we going to meet them now? I am very anxious to meet my soon to be brother in laws."
"If you were so anxious why were you not here more promptly?" her mother asked.
Elizabeth apologized.
When Maria, Carmen, and Elizabeth had questioned Isabelle what it was like when she met Alexander in front of all those people she replied it was one of the most nervous but exciting moments in her whole life and that she did not regret it at all.
The music stopped and everyone knew it was time, Elizabeth squeezed her sister’s arms and wished them the best of luck. They had it to their advantage they could go through this together, Isabelle had to do it not only alone but also first! Elizabeth would have to do it alone and last.
Did that mean she would get the most attention? She hoped not.
Everyone turned to look at Jeffery Parker as he walked up the staircase so he was easily seen. "First of all," he started, "I want to thank all of you for making an appearance in our home tonight, this is a big occasion for me and Nancy, loosing two of our daughters at once. You being here is such a great support and we hope you are enjoying yourselves."
He glanced down at his four daughters; "It doesn’t seem to have been long since we were last here for Isabelle we were all pleased to find out that we had matched her well with Alexander…"
He noticed Alexander’s late arrival through the doors on the side of the room and smiled to himself. "Now it is time to give two of my three daughters left away to men that don’t even know themselves that tonight they will leave engaged," he chuckled. "I’m sure they will be satisfied though," he added.
Everyone laughed.
"Maria darling," he motioned for her to come and stand next to him, "You’re soon to be husband is in this room and is probably just being informed that he has been chosen for you."
"Oh father…" Maria shook her head.
"Michael Guerin," Jeff suddenly said. He motioned to a man with light brown hair and a big nose.
Elizabeth watched his shocked face as everyone turned to him including Maria. He walked up and stood next to her, "Nice to meet you," he muttered.
"You too," she said.
Elizabeth frowned; this should not be the way things were done. They really should be able to meet the man they were going to marry in a private place before this ceremony.
"And Carmen come here it’s your turn," Jeffery took her arm, "As I can see from here he has just been informed…" he smiled, "Maxwell Evan’s."
Elizabeth’s breath left her body so quickly she felt she would faint. Maxwell Evan’s, her Maxwell Evan’s?
He walked up and took Carmen’s hand in his, "Hi," he whispered.
Everyone started clapping and cheering with happiness.
Elizabeth paled and was sure she was about to be sick, she turned around and put her hands over her mouth. How could this be happening?
She closed her eyes she wanted to cry.
"Oh my god," Isabelle muttered behind her. "Elizabeth I’m so sorr…"
Elizabeth turned around, "I’m fine," she put on a fake smile. It was like she had been given a wonderful gift and then found out it was all a joke and it wasn’t hers at all. After she had been so excited….
"Oh Elizabeth…." Isabelle touched her arm, "He’s just a man, we’ll find you a new one."
Elizabeth cleared her throat, "No," she said.
All the guests went back to dancing so just the family and its new additions were left standing together. Elizabeth would not look at Carmen and Maxwell… no not would not, could not.
Was he looking at her? Did he care at all… or was he happy he was marrying her sister and had forgotten all about her?
The two new couples went out on the dance floor to dance and Nancy and Jeffery turned to Isabelle and Elizabeth. "What do you think," Jeffery asked, "Good match?"
Isabelle opened her mouth but she was too shocked and ended up just nodding and rapping her arms around Elizabeth.
"I’m going to get a drink," Elizabeth pushed Isabelle’s arms away and walked away from them.
"What is wrong with her this evening Isabelle?" Nancy looked concerned, "first she breaks rules then she disappears to who knows where and now…"
"Leave her alone mom, she’s having a hard night," Isabelle felt Alexander rap his arms around her waist and she smiled, "Your later then I expected," she said.
"I am deeply sorry," he smiled. "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I saw the men you have chosen for Maria and Carmen, nice work I’m sure they are wonderful."
"Why thank you Alexander," Nancy smiled.
"Let’s dance?" Alexander asked Isabelle.
She nodded and they walked out onto the floor together.

~* *~

When the night was over and everyone had gone home the family was in Elizabeth’s room… all for different reasons.
Isabelle because she felt the need to let Elizabeth know she knew she was hurt and she was here to help.
Carmen because she wanted to talk about how happy she was with Maxwell and about how handsome he was.
Maria because she wanted to bitch about the snotty man she was going to be forced into marriage with.
Nancy Parker because she wanted to make sure Elizabeth was sufficiently punished and talked to.
Jeffery Parker because he wanted to express his disappointment for her foul behavior this evening.
Elizabeth lay on her side away from them, away from it all. She was not in a good mood and she didn’t want to hear any of it, even if one of them was there to help with her situation. She wanted none of it.
She wanted this night to be instantly over.
"Elizabeth turn to us this instant!" Nancy growled, "Such foul behavior so disrespectful!"
"Mother you have to understand she is about to loose the only two sisters she has left here at home, who will she have to play with?" Maria said. Elizabeth heard her whisper something to her parent’s and their apologies towards her.
"I’m sorry Elizabeth but when things aren’t going your way you must not repel…"
"I don’t think it’s that," Isabelle was stroking Elizabeth’s hair, "I think you have every right to be upset my sister," she whispered in her ear.
Elizabeth shuddered.
"Are you going to reply…?" Nancy asked.
Isabelle turned to her parent’s, "In the morning you can talk to her, she needs to be left alone tonight. Please understand."
If Elizabeth had been up to talking she would have thanked her eldest sister for helping her. She did not how ever like her sympathy.
Her parent’s left the room and soon after her sisters did too. Unfortunately half an hour later Carmen returned in her night wear and climbed into bed with her, "Tell me what’s wrong darling," she rapped her arms around Elizabeth.
"Nothing is wrong," Elizabeth never lied to Carmen but she could not tell her what was really wrong. What was wrong was to do with her and if she told her she would be faced with no solution and an awkward situation. What she really wanted to say was, but I saw him first he danced with me. He held my hand.
Carmen sucked in a breath, "I am really happy with Maxwell," she whispered, "He is so kind and wonderful…"
"I’m glad," Elizabeth closed her eyes tight and begged for someone to take her away.
"And did you see how handsome he was?" Carmen drew patterns on Elizabeth’s stomach, "I think he may be the most handsome man I have ever met. I thanked our parent’s vigorously for their good choice…"
"As you should," Elizabeth muttered. But I will not, she thought.
"Is it possible to fall in love after one night?" Carmen asked.
Tears filled Elizabeth’s eyes, "I thought so…" she swallowed back a sob, "but no."
Carmen got out of the bed and went back to her own room. Elizabeth was left to face her own sorrows.
Breakfast the next morning was a joyous occasion for everyone except Elizabeth whom had not gotten very much sleep last night.
"I don’t like him," Maria was talking about Michael, "He’s completely different from me and I don’t want to marry him."
"Maria darling you must get to know him better, you will like him you’ll see," Jeffery glanced at his wife, "He is a good man…"
"Well I for one am ecstatic about the man you picked for me!" Carmen had a huge smile plastered on her face; "I can not thank you enough."
"We knew you’d like him, we thought he was perfect for you," Nancy smiled. "I knew his mother when I was younger and they only moved back into town a couple of months ago, when I heard she had a son…"
I knew that, Elizabeth thought shamefully.
"It’s meant to be," Carmen chuckled.
Elizabeth cleared her throat, "May I be excused?" she asked. She told herself she would get over this but if she had to see him every day with her sister how could she forget him?
He had smiled at her and they had held hands when they walked together… was that a lie? Was this the lie?
"You may leave," Jeffery said blankly.
Elizabeth left the table and went to the only place she could get sanctuary from.
"Why is she so glum?" Nancy asked saddened by her usually very happy daughter.
"I think this is a hard time for her mom, she’s loosing two sisters at once," Carmen explained.
"She still needs a punishment," Jeffery claimed.
Elizabeth had just gotten changed into her riding gear and went down to the stables to her horse. She loved horses and she was a very talented rider despite what people said about ladies and riding horses. They were supposed to have both legs on one side but Elizabeth could not imagine being unable to gallop along the banks of the river like she so frequently did.
After she had brushed her caramel colored horse and fixed it with a saddle she climbed on and started a slow pace out to the meadow not far from the house.
"Elizabeth!" Maria cried, "Come back for a second would you?"
Elizabeth rode back and asked what was wrong.
"We are going into town for the morning we won’t be back till after lunch, will you be okay here by yourself? Father said you couldn’t come because you needed to be punished…"
"I’ll be fine," Elizabeth bit her lip, she didn’t want to come into town anyway, "Are you going to see the Rose family?" she asked.
Maria nodded, "It’s likely."
"Can you say hello to them for me and tell Jennifer I have some nice shoes here for her if she wants them… they have hardly been worn and look brand new," Elizabeth stroked her horses mane.
"Okay… Elizabeth," she said, "You really should be wearing a helmet you know."
"I’ll be fine," Elizabeth rode away a little faster this time and Maria went back inside. She never wore a helmet, she liked to wear her hair down and have the wind fly through it… it was such a nice feeling of freedom.
She could spend forever flying around the meadows and riverbanks on her horse. It brought her so much peace and she was the happiest she ever was…
Elizabeth rode around for forty minutes before she was interrupted. She didn’t know that he had been watching her for ten minutes though. She saw him when was nearing the house and her heart stopped, what was he doing here?
Well obviously he was here to see her sister.
She climbed off of her horse and he walked up to her, he greeted her so warmly, "Good morning," he was smiling with all of his teeth.
She blushed and looked down at her boots, "Hello," she muttered.
"Pardon me?" he chuckled, "I can’t hear you with your face down towards the ground."
When she looked up Maxwell was looking at her with such–
"My families not here," she said, "They have gone to town, I’m sorry you came all this way."
"I didn’t come very far," he said.
"Yes… well," she brushed her hands on her pants and realized she must look a fright with her hair everywhere. She pulled a hair tie out of her pocket and quickly pulled her hair up into a pony tale, "your welcome to stay," she shrugged, "but there isn’t much to do… I have to put my horse away, excuse me?"
He followed her back to her horse, "What’s his name?" he asked.
"Your very observant," she couldn’t help but smile, "you knew he was a male straight away, do you like horses?"
"I love horses," Maxwell ran his hand along the horses side, "and this is a stunning horse."
"Thank you, I take good care of him. His name is Trigger," she undid the saddle and pulled it off the horses back.
"I’ve never seen a woman ride a horse like you just did," he sucked in a breath.
"You mean with one leg on each side? I can’t ride any other way," she lead the horse towards the stables, she needed to control her heart, suddenly it was beating very quickly. Maxwell had been on her mind since last night and she couldn’t hide that she was happy to see him. They had had something when they were alone during the dance and afterwards, she wasn’t lying to herself about that and she hoped he thought so to.
She felt bad about feeling for him but she did not wish she didn’t feel that way.
When they were in the stable Maxwell looked her right in the face and said, "About last night… I’m sorry ab…"
"Don’t worry," Elizabeth interrupted him. He brought it up that meant so much.
"No I had no idea and I shouldn’t have just…"
"It’s not your fault it turned out this way, you don’t have to apologize. My sister thinks your wonderful and you two will be great together," why did it hurt to say that?
She wanted to add that she was sad and she wished things were different but could not it would not benefit either of them they would just feel worse.
They looked at each other, their eyes filled with the time they had spent together dancing and walking…
How could such a short time with some one have meant so much?
Elizabeth cleared her throat, "Oh well…" she said quietly.
Maxwell reached out and touched her arm, "I wish things were different," his eyes were focused only on her, "I wish that so much."
Elizabeth returned his stare, "But they can’t be," she bit her lip and looked away from his intense stare, it was too much for her.
Maxwell took his hand away from her arm and stepped away, regret was in his eyes.

[ edited 9 time(s), last at 12-Aug-2002 5:12:32 AM ]
posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:38:19 PM
~* II *~

The first thing Elizabeth saw in the morning was Maxwell's face. She was trying to forget him, she wanted so much to let go and do the right thing for her sister, why was it so hard?
She had never been so interested in a man before, why did the one she happened to feel for have to be the one so wrong for her? Why was it so obviously not meant to be?
She wanted to cry, she wanted to talk to someone, she wanted to do something anything other then have to go through this every day. Elizabeth couldn't ring the hurt out of herself.
She tried to hide her sad face behind smiles and laughs but on the inside the flame in her heart was not bright and glowing beautifully it was weak and surrounded by dark and damp. The one thing not even she could understand was how she had connected with a stranger so fully and so quickly.
When she got dressed she thought of him, when she ate breakfast she thought of him but worst of all when she saw Carmen's face she thought of him. Elizabeth was tempted to step forward and tell her family about everything but her sister was too important to her and she would be hurt. Elizabeth knew her well and she would try to hide it but she would be hurt deeply.
I am hurt too, Elizabeth thought. I am hurting all day because of this and there is nothing I can do to stop it, but I will not put myself before my sister she vowed.

~* *~

Elizabeth sucked in a breath as her mother pulled on the strings at the back of her cosset. She tugged on them once more and Elizabeth clenched her teeth to stop from crying out, "Mother," she panted.
Her mother tied the ends up and apologized, "I’m sorry Elizabeth," her mom put her hand up to her mouth and stared down at the floor. " I’m worried about you," she said honestly.
"Don’t be," Elizabeth turned to face her, "everything is fine."
Her mother stared at her face as if she were expecting to find something wrong on it, she nodded her head and then said, "You’ve been acting a little strange lately."
Elizabeth could tell she was concerned and for a second she thought very seriously about telling her exactly why she had been acting different lately. That second passed and then so did another, Elizabeth did not tell her. Instead she looked down at her shoes and said in a quiet voice, "Have I?"
"Yes Elizabeth you have," her mother put her hand on her daughter’s cheek. "I’m your mother," she said, "and I can tell something is bothering you. You know you can always come to me with anything."
"I know," Elizabeth bit her lip.
When she had turned fifteen and woke up to discover she was bleeding down there she had been afraid to tell her mother. Finally her mother did found out and she was very supportive and hugged her. She congratulated her on becoming a woman and somehow made Elizabeth feel proud to get her monthlies. Elizabeth never had trouble talking to her since.
"Are you sure nothing is wrong?" Nancy brushed a strand of hair behind Elizabeth’s ear.
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and with a heavy heart said, "I am fine mother, I’m sorry for worrying you."
Nancy nodded, "Well I’m just glad your okay," she said. A small smile perked on her lips, "I want to apologize for over reacting the other night. Your hair does look lovely down but you know you shouldn’t wear it like that to big events…"
Elizabeth bit her lip, "Why?" she asked.
Her mother was silent for a little while. Finally she replied, "It’s just something woman have always done."
"But there’s no point in it," Elizabeth argued.
Her mother chuckled, "You sound like Maria," she said.
Elizabeth blushed, "I’m sorry."
They both laughed.
"It’s just more presentable and I admit it was probably a man that started it," Nancy rolled her eyes, "we have a certain appearance we have to attain next to them."
Elizabeth knew that complaining about it further would not do anything so she didn’t say anything else. After her mother did her hair up and she was dressed appropriately for church they went down stairs where the rest of the family was waiting. Carmen looped her arm through Elizabeth’s and whispered in her ear, "Tonight we are having dinner at the Evan’s house, I’m so excited."
"We are?" Elizabeth swallowed.
Carmen nodded.
"All of us?" Elizabeth asked horrified.
Carmen nodded.
The family boarded the carriage that was to take them to the church in town; Elizabeth got to sit next to the little window and stared out it at the passing trees and houses.
She spent the whole journey trying to decide whether she was happy she was going to see Maxwell again or whether she was annoyed she would have to spend a whole evening watching him with her sister. She decided it would be so much easier if she just never saw him again… she’d surely forget him then wouldn’t she?
It was raining when they reached the church and the family went inside speedily. Elizabeth sat with Isabelle and Alexander at the back, her family were up the front with the Guerins. "How are you doing?" Isabelle rapped her arm around Elizabeth’s waist.
"I’m fine," she smiled, "as I should be."
Alexander pinched her knee, "Isabelle told me about what happened, I’m sorry. You are allowed to be upset."
Elizabeth looked mortified, "You told him?" she said.
Isabelle looked at her with wide eyes.
"Please don’t tell anyone else," she begged.
Alexander chuckled, "Don’t worry we won’t tell anyone…"
"Elizabeth," Isabelle interrupted him, "why don’t you just tell mother and father, who knows maybe they will…"
"Oh my god Isabelle no," Elizabeth interrupted her before she could finish, "Carmen has fallen for Maxwell and talks about him constantly, it would upset her to know."
Isabelle and Alexander looked at her sympathetically.
"I will get over it, stop worrying about me," Elizabeth wished she’d never sat down there.
Church was as enlightening as usual and afterwards they all went home to a nice warm fireplace to sit in front of. Elizabeth sat down with a book and stayed there until it was time to go to dinner at the Evan’s house. Her father sat with her for a little while and he told her about the horse show that he had found out about. "We can go and spend the day in the next town over so you can see it," he had the newspaper on his lap. "Do you think you would like to see it?" he asked.
"I would love to see it Father, thank you." For just a second Elizabeth was so happy she forgot all about Maxwell and smiled.
"We can invite Maxwell and Michael," her father suggested.
Her smile disappeared so quickly you would have thought it was never there.
After a long time of arguing with herself she decided to let herself be happy she was going to see him again, there was no way out of this situation so she may as well get used to it.
When they got to Maxwell’s house the maid’s led them through to a lounge area where he sat in front of the fire reading the newspaper. When he looked up he smiled and Elizabeth’s heart missed a beat, he had such a stunning smile.
For a second his gaze hovered on her but it was only for a short time so when she thought back to it she realized it may not have happened at all.
"Good evening Mr. Evan’s, your house is as lovely as it was last time we were here," Nancy smiled, ‘I suspect all is well?"
"All is wonderful," Maxwell stood up and walked towards them. He shook Jeffery’s hand and bowed his head to Nancy politely. Everything about him was so proper and so magnificent, Elizabeth thought fondly. When they had danced he had not made one mistake and he stood strong and tall bearing all that was his. With every movement of his body he said this is what I have been given and I am proud of all I have been graced with. I did not ask for all that I have and not taking it for granted does not make me shallow.
"Nancy, Jeffery!" Diane and Philip Evan’s walked into the room gracefully.
While Maxwell’s parent’s were greeting their old friends Maxwell greeted the three daughters, he kissed Camen’s cheek but he did not touch Maria or Elizabeth. And so he shouldn’t, Elizabeth thought sadly.
They were all seated for dinner, Elizabeth between Maria and her mother and Carmen next to Maxwell.
How could she do this? Elizabeth was in such a weak position and she wondered did she have enough strength to be in the same room as them and not crumble into tiny pieces?
Half way through the meal when everyone was talking she noticed Maxwell glance at her. She had been watching him out of the corner of her eye and when he looked at her he looked at her with such longing. She was thankful for his discrete attention towards her.
They were silent but they shared a stare that let Elizabeth know that he did notice her and she was not the only one who was uncomfortable with the situation.
She was at a constant battle with herself, she was relieved when she thought about him wanting to be with her but she also knew it was wrong and she had to get over it, it was just selfish of her.
Elizabeth managed to get a hold of her self through out dinner but near the end of the night Carmen said she didn’t want to leave just yet and Maxwell’s parent’s said Maxwell could drop her off later if the rest of the family wanted to go home. Elizabeth had to excuse herself from the room and was so out of it she didn’t hear the directions to the bathroom.
She stumbled down the hallways with her hands clenched at her sides. She had to find a way to get over this! What would she do at their wedding? What would she do when they were living together?
The thought made her want to throw up.
She had to find a way to stop feeling, she had o find a way to become immune.
She was leaning against the wall in the corridor outside the room when she head his voice,
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Her eyes flew open and she stumbled backwards so her whole body was pressed up against the wall, "I’m fine… just couldn’t find the bathroom," her bottom lip trembled. She wasn’t really to talk to him yet she wasn’t strong enough.
She was so afraid of what he would say to her.
Her worst fear was what his reaction would be if he found out just how hopelessly obsessed she was with him. She was so afraid he would tell her she was being silly and that she needed to forget about what they may or may not have had when they first met. Though she was constantly telling herself that him telling her it too would destroy her.
Maxwell frowned at her, "let me show you where it is…" he motioned for her to come with him and she hesitantly followed. They walked in silence but when they reached the bathroom Maxwell turned to her and with a smile said, "you want to go horse riding tomorrow?"
"What?" Elizabeth asked shocked, "no I can’t, not with you."
He chuckled, "What?" he shrugged, "just as friends… you love horses I love horses, maybe we can teach each other something."
"My family will definitely frown upon me going somewhere alone with my sisters fiancee," her heart was fluttering in happiness that he had asked but she knew she couldn’t go.
"Don’t tell them then," he started backing down the hallway, "One-thirty down by the creek halfway between your house and mine, I’ll meet up with you."
"Wait… no I can’t," she said. She wanted to so much.
"See you tomorrow," she saw him smile before he disappeared from her view.
"Oh no," she mumbled, "Oh no, what are you doing?"
She couldn’t go and meet him; it was going way to far. Every bit of her fiber screamed for her to go meet him and have a great time but her innocence told her it was not okay.
She would have to tell him that it was not okay for him to ask her places and do that to her, they couldn’t see each other they just needed to deal with it. When would she tell him that?
She would have to go tomorrow and tell him that then leave.
They were just going to meet once and she will talk to him and everything would go back to the way they were before she ever met him.
Yeah right. Part of her mind said.

~* *~

"So…" Elizabeth muttered, "what time did you get home last night?"
Carmen smiled brightly, "only about two hours after you but they were the best two hours!" she held Elizabeth’s hands in her own, "he’s the one Elizabeth I’m sure of it," she said.
As much as Elizabeth wanted to put herself first she could not. Her sister was too important to her to jeopardize their relationship; Maxwell had been in her life for less then a week but Carmen had been in her life for over twenty years. She could do what was right.
She looked at her sister and saw how happy she was.
That should be enough to keep her going she decided. Knowing that what she was doing the right thing for the person she loved most would have to be extra relief.
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, "he better be the one! You are going to marry him," she said it with as much enthusiasm as she could conjure up.
Carmen chuckled, "wait till you meet the one for you, you’ll know what I’m talking about."
"Will I?" Elizabeth asked. But what if I know it now? She thought.
"Of course," Carmen nodded, "you won’t be able to think about anything else just like me."
Elizabeth looked down at their entangled hands, "let’s hope so," she whispered.
Carmen studied her face, "your so sad are you sure nothing’s wrong?"
"I guess I’m just tired," Elizabeth pulled her hand away from Carmen’s and stood up, "I’m going to go for a ride, I’ll be back later okay?"
"Why don’t I come?" Carmen stood up too.
"No!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "I mean no darling, I kind of want to be by myself is that okay? We’ll go for a ride together tomorrow."
Carmen frowned, "Um okay if you want to," she sat back down.
"I’m sorry I just need to free myself for a while," Elizabeth touched her sisters arm, "hey what about this when I get back we can strawberry smoothes to go with dinner?"
Carmen smiled, "Okay then."
Elizabeth nodded, "Okay, I’ll be back in a little while." She went up to her room and stared at herself in the mirror for a while, did she look okay?
Should she care what she looked like?
She was just going to tell him that it was wrong of him to put her in a position where she couldn’t say no and that it would never happen again.
She got changed anyway.
Instead of her normal riding gear she got put on a light blue, short sleeved, button down shirt and her black riding pants. It was very unusual to see a woman in pants let alone what she was wearing but she didn’t care, she couldn’t very well where a long dress and her riding top wasn’t very attractive.
She managed to get out of the house without being seen and quickly climbed on her horse and headed down the creek.
She wasn’t going very fast; in fact she was going at a very slow relaxed pace. Maybe he won’t come, she thought, and I won’t have to lie to my sister like that ever again.
She felt horrible.
Deciding she had gone far enough she climbed off her horse and sat down on the edge of the creek with her knee’s up against her chest. This afternoon her innocence was lost. The innocence of honesty was gone forever, for she knew she would have to live in deceit, every day in verse and prose, in the same quarters, every time she smiled laughed with Carmen, she would live in deceit. Because she felt for him.
But what Elizabeth felt for Maxwell was true.
Maxwell, my nights, my days, my every thought. You will fall away from me in just a little while, won’t you, and I’ll be whole again, and I will go on to feel for someone else, the way everyone does.
But my innocence is gone forever.
"Hi," Maxwell walked up behind her with the lead for his horse in his hand. She turned her head and looked at him, "hello," she said shyly.
"You didn’t wait long did you?" he smiled.
"No, not long," she answered.
He sat down next to her and looked out at the creek, "this is a nice spot isn’t it? A lot of the creek can be quite…"
"Smelly?" Elizabeth said.
He chuckled, "not the word I was looking for but yeah, you’re probably right."
She was trying to find the courage to tell him what she had come here to tell him. The quicker she got it over and done with the quicker she could leave—
"Before you say anything," Maxwell got up; "let’s go for a ride?" he held his hand out for her.
Her gaze darted from his face to his hand and uncomfortably she let him pull her up to her feet. They both climbed on their horses and rode quietly beside one another.
Elizabeth thought about telling him straight away and then leaving but she couldn’t bring herself to leave so soon, she struck up with a conversation instead, "what was your last home like?" she asked.
"My last home?" he said, "well… it definitely wasn’t as promising as this place is."
Elizabeth didn’t know what he meant but she blushed anyway.
"This place is stunning… right next to the woods," he gazed across the river at the tree’s. "I like it better here."
She stared down at her hands on the horse and tried not to think about how wrong this was. "How good at riding are you?" she looked up at him; "I’ll race you, ready?"
He was grinning.
"Go!" she kicked the side of her horse and was off very quickly.
Maxwell didn’t have a chance in the world.
When he finally caught up with her he said, "you are very talented in this department aren’t you? Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve?"
"What sleeve?" Elizabeth smiled.
He rolled his eyes.
"I am an artist," Elizabeth hated it how she was so shy, "I walk to the town hall a little while away from here on Wednesday mornings and Saturday evenings. I teach art to who ever wants to learn. To tell you the truth I do it more for myself then anyone else, it’s so much fun," she tucked her hair behind her ear.
"Art?" Maxwell said intrigued, "I am the worst drawer you’d ever meet."
"I’m sure your not that bad," she walked her horse under a big tree and reached up to hold one of the lower branches, "it just takes practice," she said.
Maxwell watched her stand up on the back of her horse using the branch for balance. She smiled at him, "what do you do with your time?"
She lost her footing and slipped, if it wasn’t for the branch she would have fallen to the ground. "Be careful," he said shocked and concerned.
She blushed and sat back down on the horse, "I was just pretending," she chuckled.
"Riiiight," he nodded
She laughed at him.
"I," he said kicking the side of his horse and walking away slowly, "work with my father in his office, we can’t all be as interesting as you."
She followed after him, "I’m not interesting, I’m just more interesting then you."
"No your interesting," he said. They were silent for a little while. The sound of the water flowing down the creak and the birds chirping and the tree’s moving in the wind were the only thing that could be heard. "Do they call you anything other then Elizabeth?" Maxwell asked breaking the silence.
"Who’s they?" she asked.
He never replied.
"Once," she said quietly, "someone called me Liz."
"Liz," he smiled. "Can I call you that?"
"Sure," she said. She could not think about her sister.
They didn’t speak for a little while and then Maxwell said, "I like writing," he admitted, "that is my hidden talent."
"Really?" she asked, "you’ll have to let me read something of yours one day." Why did she say that?
She regretted it the second she said it, she shouldn’t do anything that would make her feel for him more. If that was even possible…
"You can if you want to," he said. "Some day…"
"Magnificent author Maxwell Evan’s in the flesh," she said.
"Hardly," he muttered. He opened is mouth to say something but then shut it again. Elizabeth watched his face change. "If you want," he said, "you can call me Max."
"Who calls you that?" she asked, her heart beating a hundred times faster then usual.
"No one," he said.
When Elizabeth went home she realized that she had dug herself into an even deeper hole then before and she hadn’t even told him all the things she had needed to say.
~* III *~
Elizabeth lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Guilt was eating at her and she could not sleep, all she could see was Maxwell’s smiling face. She sucked in a breath and climbed out of bed, she needed to go see her sister.
She didn’t bother to pull on her nightgown she just hurried out of her room and down the hall to Carmen’s room. She opened the door and crept in quietly, Carmen did not move.
"Carmen," she whispered. Elizabeth walked over to the bed and climbed in, "are you awake?" she asked.
"Hmm what do you want?" Carmen sounded half-asleep.
"I just…" Elizabeth closed her eyes tight.
Carmen rolled over and rapped her arms around her sister, "What is it?" she asked.
"I love you," Elizabeth’s voice cracked, "you’re more important to me then anything, you will always come first. Always remember that okay?"
"Okay. I love you too, go to sleep," Carmen sucked in a breath and slowly drifted off to sleep.
Elizabeth could see the outline of her face even in the dark, even through her tears.

~* *~

On Tuesday just before lunch Elizabeth went to her friend Erica’s house. Jennifer, Elizabeth’s other friend, was there too and they were all going to have lunch together. Erica lived with her husband that she had married when she was nineteen. She had not been betrothed and she did not have sisters, she chose whom she wanted to marry and did so when she wanted to too.
They weren’t wealthy but they got all they needed from Jim’s job in the timber industry and they had a small but very comfy house.
"I couldn’t find you at the betrothal last week," Elizabeth brought up, "where were you?"
She wondered if they had been there would she have seen Maxwell and would she have danced with him? Maybe if they had been there she would have spotted them first and gone over to them and not had the time she would have with Maxwell. Then she wouldn’t have been infatuated with him before she found out her sister was marrying him.
But, what if she had met him afterwards and felt for him then too? She didn’t know the answer but she did know that, either way, he would be stuck in her life.
"Will I couldn’t make it," Erica put a plate with tomato down on the table and then headed back to the kitchen to get another plate of food.
"I was there," Jennifer said, "but you went back upstairs straight after the announcement and I didn’t get to talk to you. I looked for you before then but I couldn’t find you anywhere… I stood with Maria."
"Oh," Elizabeth frowned, "I’m sorry, I was outside."
"Outside?" Erica asked as she re-entered the room. "What were you doing outside?"
"Oh…nothing," Elizabeth ran her hand along the wooden table and folded her legs, "just looking at the stars I guess… it was too loud in the ballroom."
She contemplated telling her friends but decided against it. Though they were more her friends they were friendly with Carmen and if they didn’t tell Elizabeth to tell her sister, which Elizabeth was certain they would, they would either accidentally or intentionally tell her sister themselves.
Elizabeth could not have that happen so she kept quiet about her own life.
"What were the men like that were picked for your sisters?" Erica sat down at the table and poured some water into the three glasses she got a few minutes before.
"Oh they were so handsome," Jennifer commented, "oh Elizabeth weren’t they just dreamy? Tell her, they so were."
"They were okay," Elizabeth said.
Jennifer shook her head and waved her hands around in the air, "they were better then okay! Especially… which one was it? What is his name, the one with Carmen?"
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, "Maxwell," she said.
"Yeah, Maxwell. He was very good looking… you have to admit that," Jennifer laughed at herself, "oh I sound so funny," she said.
"Your making me wish I was there," Erica chuckled.
Elizabeth paused her eating, "your married!" she cried with a smile on her face.
"So? I’m not going to do anything, I’m just going to look," Erica shrugged her shoulders, "you know… have a little perve," she giggled.
Erica was a middle-sized girl with big breasts and big thighs. Her hair was shoulder length and light brown she had blue eyes. If you looked at her you wouldn’t think she was stunning but she was fairly attractive. Erica was the same height as Elizabeth, which made Elizabeth feel better because barely no one was her height… she was so short. Jennifer on the other hand was tall with very long black hair, a freckle covered face, and broad shoulders. She was lanky and had no breasts, she was only fairly attractive too.
"Come on Elizabeth admit it, Maxwell was incredibly yummy," Jennifer picked up a piece of warm, freshly made, bread and bit into it.
"Okay," Elizabeth blushed, "Maxwell was and is very attractive."
The two other girls cooed with laughter, "Oh it’s so funny to hear you say something like that," Erica said, "you never even notice boys."
"I notice boys," Elizabeth said.
Both the girls shook their heads. "No you don’t," Jennifer said.
Elizabeth argued, "no, no I do all the time."
"Oh yeah? Well why don’t you ever point them out like we do? You’re always looking the other way at scenery or something boring like that," Jennifer rolled her eyes.
Elizabeth sipped her glass of water and then put her glass back down. "I look at scenery because I am a landscape artist," she said, "not a portrait artist."
"Yes and how boring," Erica said.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, "if it’s so boring why do you have one of my paintings hanging about your fire place?"
She didn’t say anything.
"Hey," Jennifer said, "when’s your sisters weddings? Erica will have to come to them so she can see the grooms."
"They are having a double wedding in four and a half months," Elizabeth sighed.
Erica nibbled on a little piece of cheese, "why that’s a long time away, why so late?" she asked.
Elizabeth didn’t want to talk about this she came here to get away from home and stop seeing her sister and stop thinking about—
"Because they want to have it in spring and it will take a long time to plan because it will be a very big event," Elizabeth stabbed the butter knife into a piece of egg, "the biggest event of the year apparently," she said.
"It is a big event," Erica said.
The front door to the small house shut and Erica’s husband Jim trudged into the room, "what’s a big event?" he asked pulling off his hat and coat. Jim was a short man, he was taller then his wife and had a round face and potbelly. His nose was round and his face was friendly.
"Say hello to my friends first darling," Erica rolled her eyes at her friends as if to say, I’m-sorry-he-can-forget-himself-sometimes and just-ignore-him.
"Hello Elizabeth, Jennifer," he smiled then kissed Erica’s lips, "now do you mind if I join you? I’m starving."
Elizabeth adored how in love Erica and Jim were; they were so lovely with each other. They never argued or bickered and if they happened to they couldn’t stay mad at each other and shared a loving hug filled with apology straight afterwards. They always kissed and didn’t care that they were in the presence of other people, Erica explained that they were in constant need to let each other know how much they loved one another and didn’t care if people saw.
Elizabeth had never kissed any man before but she longed to. Unfortunately (?) she was saving herself completely and fully for her husband.
Jennifer got up from her seat and moved to the other side of the table next to Elizabeth so Jim could sit next to his wife. "Help yourself," Jennifer said with a smile.
Erica picked up a piece of egg and plopped it in her mouth, when she had finished chewing she said, "it’s quite cold don’t you think?" she folded her arms, "do you think you could light the fire after you’ve finished eating sweet heart?"
"Of course," he said. "It’s very cold outside, it will be snowing in a month, maybe less."
"Hmm," Elizabeth sighed, "no more riding my horse near the creek then," she said.
No one said anything.
"So what were you talking about when I walked in?" Jim asked, he was piling up one of the metal plates with food.
"Elizabeth’s sisters double wedding," Erica answered, "its going to be next year when it’s spring time."
"Oh yeah?" Jim asked.
Elizabeth sighed. Would she ever escape all of it?
~* *~

Erica sat in on Elizabeth’s art class the next afternoon and afterwards asked if Elizabeth if she wanted to come dancing that night.
"I don’t know," Elizabeth said, "it’s not really my scene and my parent’s… they hate me going to places like that."
"You don’t have to, I just thought you looked like you needed to get away from your family and your house for a while. Yesterday you seemed kind of distant," Erica touched her shoulder, "there’s nothing wrong is there?"
Elizabeth sighed, "nothings wrong, I wish people would stop asking me that."
"Well if you start acting like your normal self again everyone will stop asking," Erica pinched her arm, "so you want to come tonight or what?"
"No I don’t think I should…" Elizabeth tidied up all the art supplies and put it all away in a cupboard. She didn’t really feel like doing anything her family would disagree with… she’d done enough of that lately.
Erica said that was okay and left, a couple of seconds later she popped her head back in the door, "There’s a tall dark man waiting out here for you, maybe you should hurry up," she blinked. "Is Elizabeth keeping secrets from her friends or is she not seeing some man?"
Elizabeth’s heart sped up, "There’s someone waiting for me?" she frowned.
"You’ll tell me what’s going on later, I will make sure of that. See ya later," she waved and hurried away again. Elizabeth quickly finished packing up and then went outside to see who was there.
Maxwell sat on the little brick fence at the bottom of the stairs and she sucked in a breath, he shouldn’t be there, she thought. She closed the hall door and locked it then walked over to him,
"Hi," he smiled warmly.
"Um hi," she frowned, "what are you doing here? You missed the art class…"
"I didn’t come for the class," he stood up and with a shy grin he said, "I came to walk you home."
The look of confusion did not leave her face, "Walk me home?"
"Yeah had nothing better to do," he chuckled, "no I thought you might like some company… come on." He headed off down the road and she walked after him with a small smile. He shouldn’t be there but she was glad he was.
In her hands she carried a sketchbook and his gaze hovered on it for a second, "can I see your work?" he asked.
She hesitantly handed it to him and turned bright red while he looked through it. "Your drawings are stunning," he commented, "Are all of your drawings of landscapes?"
"Hmm," she breathed nodding her head a little. She was so glad he liked them, she would have been embarrassed if he hadn’t.
"Do you paint like this too?" he asked handing the book to her.
She looked down at her feet as she walked, "Yes," she answered.
"I once drew a rabbit that looked like a duck," he teased, "my mother stuck it to her mirror, I think it’s still there."
She laughed, "that’s just wrong," she said.
"What? The fact that my mother still has it or…"
"That you managed to get a rabbit to look like a duck," she shook her head, "I would have thought it wasn’t possible…"
He laughed quite hard and afterwards he said, "thank you Liz."
She blushed, he called her Liz.
They walked in silence for a second and that was enough or Elizabeth to realize she was doing it again, she was betraying her sister. It was wrong was to break hearts and families.
"Do you want to walk along the road or…?" Maxwell asked.
"No let’s walk over there," she pointed to the grass down by the side of the road under the trees. They walked down there. You never loose what you want but in this case Elizabeth hopped she would. She wanted to say no don’t come and see me and please leave me alone but she was incapable of saying it, she enjoyed looking and talking to him too much.
She asked about his friends, "do you have a best friend…?" she asked.
She was sure she saw a flash of sadness cross over his face.
"I did have a best friend," he answered.
Did he just say did? Elizabeth swallowed.
There is an extent to what you can do wrong in your lifetime, you can be let off a certain amount of times and only you know when you've pushed that limit.
Elizabeth felt as if she had pushed that limit just by doing this one thing wrong. Thought she had never sinned before in her innocent life she felt that it all went down the drain just because she had been tested the one time and she was failing horribly.
It wasn't the test of friendship it was the test of family and that was worse test of them all because it would have the biggest effects.
"What happened?" Elizabeth asked Maxwell.
She shouldn't be asking him this because it would enhance her knowledge of his life therefor bringing her closer to him but she was sick of telling herself she shouldn't do things, she had to make. Right now she decided Maxwell Evans needed to tell someone about his past and she was going to be the one he told. She needed more stability, from this moment on she decided she would make up her mind and stop thinking about what she shouldn't be doing. She as torn between wanting him and doing the honorable thing, right now she was going to have some relief and do what she wanted to do. Be damned anyone else...but only for now.
Maxwell sucked in a sharp painful breath and without looking at her, he started his story. "My best friend was named Christopher and we did everything together, just like any best friends do," he paused, "You really want to hear this?" he asked.
"Of course," she answered.
He studied her face and her being the bravest she ever was stared right back at him.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm Liz," she said. Well to you I am anyway, she thought.
He smiled, "you are indeed," he said. Elizabeth knew so many thoughts were going through his head and she wished so much she could catch some of it and write it down, she bet it was very insightful. Was it about her, what did he think of her anyway?
So many questions, she felt her brain would combust.
Why did he want to keep seeing her? Did he feel the same way?
Oh how wonderful that would be, she thought sadly.
"Anyway," Maxwell continued. "As I was saying..." He picked a leaf off a tree they were passing by, he ran his fingers over the lines on it. Was he trying to find strength in distracting himself?
Elizabeth wanted to touch his arm and let him know she was there for him. She didn't though.
Maxwell was struggling with his words.
"You don't have to tell me," Elizabeth said, "if it is to hard."
"I need to tell you," he said. "To cut a long story short we were friends our whole life and when he died I was completely shocked... I thought I knew him so well but if I knew him so well why didn't I see it coming?" his voice cracked, "he killed himself and didn't even say goodbye or leave a note..."
Elizabeth gasped, "oh my god," she whispered. She clutched her hands together over her chest and waited for him to continue.
"I took it pretty hard, I just wish I could have seen it coming so I could have done something... it never even occurred to that he might..."
"Don't blame yourself," she said, "you couldn't have predicted it."
he shook his head, "but I was closest to him, no one else would have noticed if I didn't even, it was my job and I didn't," he sighed, "but it's too late now."
"Don't," she said, "stop doing that to yourself."
He looked at her and his eyes glazed over, he didn't say anything but he was staring at her with that undeterminable expression he always wore. Without warning he reached down and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, "You don't deserve any of this," he whispered.
All her breath left her body, 'what do you mean?" she asked. His hand remained on her face... "You," he caressed her cheekbone, "have too pure a heart..."
"How do you know?" she whispered. Their eyes were boring into each other’s and in this one second it felt it could make or break their futures, if one thing happened...
A sound a few meters away broke their moments and Maxwell let his hand drop from her face, Elizabeth stepped away. They stared at each other longingly for a little while then continued walking.
"Tell me more about Christopher," Elizabeth said, "what was he like? What did he look like?"
Maxwell smiled, "he was very silly, you know those people that are just continuously trying to make light of the situation... he was always cracking jokes." Elizabeth smiled and not even believing it herself touched his arm with her hand, "I know someone like that," she chuckled.
Maxwell looked down at her, "whose that?" he asked.
"Alexander my eldest sister's husband..." she laughed, "he knows when to be serious but he is always being silly, he is so much fun to be around. Opposites prove to attract when it comes to him and Isabelle, she is so serious and he is just so..."
Maxwell was hypnotized by the look of delight on her face.
She shook her head, "they are my home away from home when I need to escape," she took her hand away from his arm and crossed her arms over her chest with her book in-between them, "they are wonderful," she said.
"I'm glad you have a little haven," he smiled, "that must be nice."
Well not lately, Elizabeth thought. Isabelle wouldn't leave her alone about Maxwell and Carmen. "It is," she said nonetheless.
"Christopher was very tall and had red hair and freckles..." Maxwell looked up at the sky, "its such a waste," he said.
Elizabeth bit the side of her mouth; "well you can make new friends here now..." she grinned, "like me. Congratulations."
He laughed, "I'm honored, thank you," he patted her head, "let's see do you play... soccer?" he asked.
"Soccer?" Elizabeth scrunched up her nose, "no. But I'm up for anything, you'll have to give me a while to get used to it though. But I'll always be there to give you horse races," she said.
"Wonderful," he said.
They were nearly at her house so they slowed down their pace of walking. "What do you right about Max?" she asked, she was so happy she could call him that…
"What do I write about?" he thought for a second, "anything I feel like writing about. What’s going on around me…"
Elizabeth nodded, "kind of like a journal but different?"
"Yeah kind of like that I guess," he said.
"I'm home," she said quietly. "Thank you for walking me, the company was an unexpected treat."
He shoved his hands in his pockets, "it was my pleasure," he said. He leaned down and kissed her cheek, his lips were warm and soft against her skin... Before he pulled away he leaned his lips into her ear and said quietly, "may your heart be as beautiful as yourself."
Elizabeth blushed.
He smiled at her then turned around and headed back in the direction they had just come in.
Elizabeth could not take her eyes off of him as he walked, she knew she should turn and head towards her house but she couldn't. How silly she would look if he turned around and saw her gawking at him like a child, she would be so embarrassed.
All most on cue he turned around and with a little wave said, "bye Liz."
She looked down at the ground and slowly found the courage to look back up at him, "bye Max," she said.

~* *~

"I get to spend the whole afternoon with him, I'm so excited," Carmen looped her arm through Maria's and grinned at Elizabeth. "Maria has to spend the afternoon with Michael and she is grumpy," she explained.
"I have to spend the rest of my life with him and I'm grumpy" Maria pulled away from Carmen, "we can't all be as happy as you and Isabelle are."
"Why not?" Elizabeth asked. She crossed her legs on the bad, "Michael seems like a nice enough guy," she said.
"Seems is different from being," Carmen plopped down next to Elizabeth on the bed, "very different," she added.
Elizabeth stared at Carmen, "why are you so infatuated with Mr. Evans Carmen? What has he done to cause these great feelings you have for him?"
Carmen danced around the room in tiny steps; "Does he have to do anything?" She asked. "He is gentle and the way he focuses on nothing else when you talk to him... he is a wonderful dancer, he talks with such certainty and pride..."
I know, I know, I know, and I know, thought Elizabeth. " So you love him more so for what he is rather then for how he is when he is with you?" she asked.
"Both," Carmen smiled, "he is lovely in every way.
I know Elizabeth rested her head in her hands. But I knew it before you did.

~* IV *~

Doesn't it just suck when you have been telling yourself for the last few days that things could be a lot worse and then all of a sudden they turn worse?
You are certain some ones testing you and they want to see you fail and fall to the ground and you are very willing to let them have that, they are so good at making you feel ten times worse then before. Who ever they may be.
You want to, 1- lock yourself in your bedroom, close the curtains and never come out. 2- Dig a hole and bury yourself in it. 3- run away and never come back will they miss you anyway?
Elizabeth deserved a little bit of happiness didn't she? She was a good person she had always been the perfect daughter and done everything she was ever told to do. Why was she the one that had to have it come back and slap her in the face? Was it so wrong to be speared from listening to her sister go on and on and on about the one person she didn't want to hear about? Was this her punishment for having feelings, for having an opinion for once and not turning away and letting everyone have what they wanted first?
Why did she have to sit through her sister talking about her first kiss with her fiancee Maxwell? Why did she have to hear that it was passionate but soft and slow at the same time? She didn't need this, she didn't ask for this, and most of all she did not want this.
But was it just the feelings she didn't want? She wanted Maxwell, that was obvious to her now, she had admitted that to herself a while ago, but all the guilt and grief that came with wanting him... that was the part she could do without.
While her sister went into further detail about her dreamy kiss Elizabeth felt herself feeling more sick by the second. Maria seemed to be enjoying Carmen's satisfying description of her evening but Elizabeth... she felt like some one was stabbing blunt rusty kitchen knives into her chest.
"It was outside the front door, I looked up at him and he said goodnight then I leaned up and we kissed," Carmen bobbed up and down on the bed in happiness.
Maria laughed but Elizabeth did not.
"Excuse me," she stood up, "I just need to go to the bathroom."
"Aren’t you so happy for me Elizabeth?" Carmen asked.
Elizabeth nodded as she walked to the door, "I am so happy for you Carmen, you deserve this so much." As soon as she was out of the room she ran down the hall to the bathroom, she collapsed on her knees in front of the toilet and threw up. She threw up like she had never thrown up before…and when she looked up Maria was standing in the doorway frowning at her.
Maria folded her arms over herself, "are you okay?" she asked.
Elizabeth sat up and wiped her mouth with her hand, "I don’t feel well," her eyes welled up. She was trying so hard not to cry…
Did Maria think Elizabeth had thrown up because of what Carmen said? Elizabeth couldn’t let her think that because then she’d figure everything out and no, no!
"I haven’t been feeling well all day," Elizabeth lied, "I must be coming down with something."
Maria was silent for a minute, "why didn’t you tell us?" she asked.
Elizabeth’s lip trembled, "I was hoping it would just go away…"
"Oh Elizabeth…." Maria walked in and sat on the ground next to her, she rapped her arms around Elizabeth and though she wanted to keep it in she could not. She wept on her sister for a long time and when she didn’t feel like she had any left she wiped her eyes and pulled away.
Maria bit her lip and after a minute asked, "you don’t… have feelings for Maxwell do you?"
Elizabeth looked horrified, "No, what are you talking about? What a silly thing to ask… he’s Carmen’s fiancee!" her heart sped up.
"I just … since you… straight after…" she shook her head, "sorry it’s just me being silly. I’ll go tell mother to call the doctor okay? Do you think you’ll throw up again?"
"No," Elizabeth said.
Maria washed out the toilet with a bucket of water while Elizabeth cleaned her teeth. When they left the bathroom Carmen walked up to them and asked what was wrong.
"She’s just not feeling well Carmen, go tell mother and father would you? I’ll help her to bed," Maria had her arm around Elizabeth’s waist.
If only you knew the truth, a tear dripped down Elizabeth’s cheek. If only you knew that I can not stand to be around you because you have what I want and I can not forgive myself.
"There, there," Carmen wiped her cheek, "you’ll be fine in no time, no need to cry."
Elizabeth sniffled, "if only," she muttered to herself.
When she was in bed Maria dabbed her head with a wet cloth, "are you going to tell me why you’re crying?" she asked.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, "I don’t know why I’m crying," she whispered, "I just… everything’s too much for me lately."
Please don’t ask me again, she begged, please I can not take this.
"You should stay in bed for the rest of the day," Maria said, "and to cheer you up you should be glad you don’t have to marry Michael… think about how I feel."
Elizabeth opened her eyes, "why do you always complain about him? What has he done?" she asked. She felt they were in major need of a conversation change…
Maria opened her mouth to say something but stopped because she couldn’t think of anything. "Well he’s…" she sighed, "and he always…"
"What? Comes around here wanting to take you out and buys you flowers?" Elizabeth asked.
Maria blushed, "just leave me alone would you!"
"Not until you stop the act and admit you like him! I know you do Maria, maybe you should hurry up and accept it to," Elizabeth’s mouth tugged into a little smile, "go on admit it, I won’t tell anyone."
"I won’t admit anything," Maria said.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
Maria left a few minutes after because the doctor was there to look at Elizabeth. When he was done her parent’s came in and said he told them she was fine but she should rest for a while.
"Are you feeling okay now?" her mom touched Elizabeth’s cheek; "do you have any idea why you feel so sick?"
"No," Elizabeth had never lied this much in her whole life. This had to end.
When everyone was gone Elizabeth rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in her pillow. To imagine her sister touching Maxwell like that and to imagine him holding her and being loving with her...
Her stomach churned again she decided she better just stop thinking about it. This was a horrible day and not even her horse Trigger could fix her sadness.
~* *~
"That was your sister’s fiancee?" Erica laughed, "okay Jessica was right, he is definitely yummy."
Elizabeth shrugged, "doesn’t everyone just think so?" she said.
"Well, yeah!" Erica said. "So what was he doing waiting for you?" she asked.
Elizabeth crossed her legs, "I don’t even know, it was weird," she looked down at her hands, "he wanted to know stuff about Carmen…"
"He wants to find out all about her!" Erica said, "Oh that is so adorable,"
"Hmm," Elizabeth said, "isn’t it just?"
Was she a good liar, she wondered? She should be after how much she had been doing it lately… it was just lie after lie after lie.
"So," Erica got up off the couch, "what do you want to do for the rest of the day? I heard about you not feeling well yesterday, are you up for anything?"
"I don’t know," Elizabeth muttered.
They heard the front door open and Carmen’s laughter, followed by Maxwell’s talking. Elizabeth knew it was him, she knew it straight away and closed her eyes in pain. They came into the room holding hands with big smiles on their faces…
"Oh hi," Carmen let go of Maxwell’s hand and walked over to them, "what have you guys been doing?" she asked. Maxwell walked up behind her and greeted them. Elizabeth allowed herself one glance in his direction and everything she wanted to see in his face was there, the attention and that expression she couldn’t read, the smile…
Her breath caught in her throat.
"We haven’t done anything yet," Erica crossed her arms, "is anyone going to introduce me…?"
"Oh yeah," Carmen giggled, "Maxwell this is one of Elizabeth’s best friends, Erica. Erica this is Maxwell my fiancee."
They shook hands, "nice to meet you," Maxwell said.
"You too," Erica looked at Elizabeth who was still sitting on the couch, she had her eyes closed. "You still not feeling well?" she asked.
Elizabeth’s eyes snapped open, "no I’m…fine. Let’s go," she got up of off the couch.
"Go where?" Erica asked.
"I don’t know," Elizabeth had her back to Carmen and Maxwell, "anywhere… just out. I need to get out of here, please."
Erica shrugged, "Okay then," she smiled.
"Can we come?" Carmen asked, "let’s all go out for lunch or something," she smiled at Maxwell.
No, oh no, no, no Elizabeth thought, no please don’t.
"Won’t Maxwell feel a little left out since he’ll be the only male?" Erica asked.
Maxwell shrugged, "I’m fine with it. In fact I’m honored I’ll have the company of three wonderful woman…"
Oh crap, Elizabeth wanted to whack her head against the wall.
"Well then let’s go," Erica headed towards the door. Maxwell followed her and Carmen walked over to Elizabeth and rapped her arm around her shoulders, "I told you he was wonderful…" she whispered in her ear.
"Hmm," Elizabeth put on a fake smile.
~* *~
On Saturday after Elizabeth’s art class she walked outside found Maxwell waiting for her outside again.
She put her hands over her heart to keep it from exploding, "What are you doing here?" she asked.
He didn’t answer, "how was your class?" he asked.
"It was good," she said. They walked.
Why was he here? She wanted to know what his intentions were. "Why are you here Max-well?" she rapped her arms around herself. The sun was going down so the sky was orange and red; soon it would be black. It was nearing winter so it was very cold and happened to be very windy today.
Maxwell tilted his head to the side, "we’re just friends right? I like your company," he grinned.
Just friends, Elizabeth thought sadly. Is that all I am to you, just a friend? Well of course I am, you don’t feel the same way as I do, do you?
She didn’t want him to walk her home, she didn’t want him to talk to her, and she didn’t want him in her life… she wished she could believe that. There was no way out, she wasn’t strong enough to tell him to go away but she wasn’t strong enough to have him there either.
"These are the best times," Maxwell said, "when it’s not complicated and…"
Elizabeth interrupted him, "you call this not complicated?" she asked.
"No," he answered.
She found it very complicated. She was so confused, what were his intentions for her?
They walked slowly and close together, his arm accidentally bumped her arm occasionally and when it did this, her whole body would break out in goose bumps.
"I have to go away for a few days with my father tomorrow," he explained, "for work."
She rapped her arms around herself, "Carmen will be upset," she said. Even herself surprised her.
Maxwell swallowed but did not say anything in reply to her comment. After a few minutes of silence he said, "you know when I was younger my father used to take me to the stoke market building in our old town and he would always say, ‘I’ll make you into a honorable man.’"
Elizabeth wondered if he had told Carmen this.
When she didn’t say anything Maxwell stopped walking and stood in front of her. "Liz?" he waved his hand in front of her face, "are you in there today?" he asked.
"Yeah, um, I’m sorry," she swallowed, "I’m just tired." Now she was even lying to the person who was causing her to lie to everyone else.
He was studying her face and by his look Elizabeth knew that he knew why she was being so quiet. He sucked in a breath, "you need to stop thinking," he said, "stop worrying, we aren’t doing anything wrong I’m just walking you home. We can’t be together so we may as well be together as friends." He bit his lip and then quietly said, "I need to see you."
I need to be able to see your face."
She looked down at her feet, "You can see me when you come to my house for my sister and when you come around for dinner," she said. She rapped her arms around herself to keep some warmth in her, her hair was being whipped across her face and her lips were slightly blue.
"Not alone," he tucked some of her hair behind her ears, "come on let’s walk you need to get home it’s too cold out here."
They walked in silence for a long time and Elizabeth’s head was swimming with questions, did he feel the same way as she did? Was he only with her sister because if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be able to come around to the house and that meant they would not see each other any more? Did he want her more? And most importantly… did he love her?
"If you have any questions," Maxwell said, "yes is the answer to all of them. Yes, a thousand times…"
She looked up at him; he was staring straight ahead. "Really?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered.
They didn’t talk again for the rest of the way home but when it was time for them to part Maxwell put his hand on her lower back and leaned in to kiss her cheek, "see you later Liz," he whispered. He left his lips on her skin for longer then you usually would and then stepped away. They stared at each other longingly for a long time before leaving.
~* *~
A few nights later when Elizabeth was lying in bed thinking about only one thing/ person, Carmen came into the room and climbed into bed with her. She didn’t say anything for a long time and Elizabeth wondered if she’d fallen asleep.
She hadn’t. "I miss him so much," she said finally, "I wish he didn’t have to go away."
Me too, Elizabeth wanted to reply, I need to lie my eyes on him.
Instead she looked at her and said, "he’ll be back before you know it, stop worrying."
Carmen sucked in a breath, "do you think he misses me?" she asked.
As much as Elizabeth knew what she was about to say would hurt she said it anyway, her sister needed comforting and everyone always comes before her. "Yes," she answered, "probably just as much as you do."
Carmen smiled, "thank you for saying that," she ran her hand through her hair. "He’s so hot and cold sometimes, he never tells me about himself or his past… about his friends. I always ask but he always seems reluctant, I don’t know do you think maybe it’s just because he’s having a hard time opening up?"
Elizabeth closed her eyes, "give him time, he probably needs time to get used to the idea of marriage and a serious commitment."
Carmen propped herself up on her elbows, "your probably right."
"I am right," Elizabeth grinned, "I’m always right."
Carmen laughed, "yeah right," she said. After a few silent seconds she said, "we never talk any more, what’s happening? We never really talk about what we used to."
Elizabeth shrugged, "your too obsessed with a certain person."
"It’s not my fault is it?" she scooted in closer to Elizabeth, "you’ve been a little sheltered and I have been obsessed, it’s both of our fault."
"Okay," Elizabeth said.
Carmen sighed, "it’s just so strange to be engaged. I feel like I’m all grown up, well even more then before. It’s like my childhood is over kind of."
"Well it is," Elizabeth replied, "but it’s not a bad thing, we still have so much a head of us."
"You think?"
Elizabeth nodded, "of course. Do you remember when we were thirteen and I won that horse riding competition? You were so proud of me you went around school telling everyone and even go the head master to give me an award in assembly."
"Well you deserved one!" Carmen lay back down on the bed.
Elizabeth smiled, "you had so much faith in me and you told me all along I would win."
"That’s because I’m psychic," she replied, "and your brilliant."
"You’ve always been there for me," Elizabeth closed her eyes, "you’ve never done anything but love me and encourage me and I don’t deserve it."
"What do you mean you don’t deserve it?" Carmen asked, "you’ve always been there for me too, you still are even when all I talk about is Maxwell. We’re best friends right? What a best friends for."
Elizabeth rolled onto her side, "if I did something really selfish and not fair at all would you still love me?"
Carmen frowned, "knowing you selfish is probably a really little thing," she said, "but yes, of course I’ll always love you and I know you’ll never do anything to make me feel like I shouldn’t."
When Carmen fell asleep Elizabeth thought about what Maxwell said about needing to see her and needing to be alone with her. She realized now even more then before that she needed it too. She needed that little time they had when he walked her home from down the road, she needed him to focus only on her and talk only to her.
She needed her sister too. She needed her older sister that held her hand when she was nervous and climbed into bed with her so they could talk. She needed the sister that always stood up for her when she was being told off and always came out to join her on the horses even though she didn’t like them. She needed the sister that sat outside on the balcony watching her paint the sunset with a blanket around her shoulders.
What was she going to do?
Could she just pretend that her and Maxwell walking home together was completely harmless and wasn’t complicated? Could she do what he told her to do and just stop thinking? She would have to try that because right now she couldn’t give him or her sister up.

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:38:50 PM
~* V *~

It was amazing and very scary to learn how strong her feelings were for him once he was gone. He used to be around all the time and though she felt for him then, now that she was deprived of him she felt lost. These feelings scared her, she had never felt them before and she didn’t want to feel them for anyone else ever again. If she was going to feel them she only wanted to feel them for Maxwell.
On Wednesday after her art class she scrubbed her hands so there was no paint on them and she checked herself in the mirror, she didn’t even know if he’d be there but if he was she wanted to look good.
She wasn’t disappointed. He was there, with a smile on his face and his elbows resting on his knees.
She walked down the steps in her feminine boots, her long winter dress, coat and gloves and he watched her the whole time. She didn’t say hello and he didn’t either, he just stood up and they walked.
"How long have you been back?" she asked.
He looked ahead of them and said, "about thirty minutes."
Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile to herself, "so you haven’t gone and seen my sister yet?" she asked.
He shook his head, "no, not yet."
She sighed, "you should go see her, she has been missing you unbearably." I should know I’m the one she complained to.
"What about you?" he grinned.
She blushed, "don’t ask me that," she said.
He told her all about his trip for the rest of the way home, Elizabeth was just happy to see him again. At one point when he was talking her mouth drifted open and she was gawking at him without knowing. She couldn’t stop looking at him he was her air.
When they reached her house he came in with her because he had to go and see Carmen, "my duty," she thought she heard him whisper as they walked inside.
"Look who I found Carmen!" she lead him into the lounge and Carmen squealed with delight and ran up to him. What Elizabeth didn’t expect to see was her plant a big kiss smack on him lips, unfortunately it did happen and she felt herself pale. She had no idea how profoundly disgusting it was for her to see her sister touch Maxwell before that moment. She had to go and sit down before she fell down.
She had to do something about this, it was only going to get worse and she wouldn’t be able to take it. She had to tell him not to come and see her anymore, some how she had to. And then she would get over him surely. It wasn’t the best plan in the world but things couldn’t continue this way forever, what about when they got married? Did he expect to keep seeing her then?
Carmen and Maxwell went out and she was left with Maria and her parent’s.

~* *~
It was Thursday evening and the Parker family was sitting at the dinner table with a guest: Maxwell Evan’s. Carmen sat on his left and Nancy on his right, Jeffery at the head of the table and Maria and Elizabeth on the opposite side of the table. Elizabeth was directly in front of him.
She was smack dab one meter away face to face with him. If she wanted to she could lift her leg and stretch it out to touch his leg. She would not do that though.
"I’m entering the local art contest with the painting of the sun rise…" Elizabeth looked at her father and mother, "do you think that one good enough?" she asked.
"Yes, it’s stunning," Nancy answered.
"You’ll win like you did the last two years," Jeffery sipped his drink, "Maxwell did you know Elizabeth paints? Well of course you didn’t… well she does and she is very talented."
"Father…" Elizabeth blushed.
Maxwell grinned, "you paint?" he asked, "what kind of things do you paint?"
Elizabeth glanced at him, he not only knew she painted he had seen a lot of her work. She couldn’t believe the lies they held between them. "I paint landscapes," she answered. She turned back to her parent’s, "so you think the sunse…"
Maxwell cut her off, "who’s your favorite famous artist?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Elizabeth wanted to mouth No stop to Maxwell. She couldn’t because Maria was watching her… Maria why was she looking at her like that? She looked accusing, questing? Elizabeth did not know but it worried her anyway. "My favorite artist…" she said catching Maxwell’s eyes and ignoring Maria, "is Monet." She watched Maxwell eyes and the little smile he was trying to keep off his lips… he wasn’t having much luck. "I love Monet," his eyes were boring into hers.
"I also love," she looked right back at him with the same intensity, "Lean…."
"Enough about art," Carmen sighed cutting her off, "art is so boring."
Elizabeth broke her staring contest with Maxwell and looked down at her plate, "yes, never mind," she muttered.
After dinner when Elizabeth excused herself Maria went after her, Elizabeth didn’t want to talk to Maria and see her scary stare.
Maria grabbed her arm when they left the room, "I’m not blind," she whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. Elizabeth swallowed and clenched her hands into fists, "what are you talking about?" she asked.
Maria looked her in the eye for a long time and then walked away.
Elizabeth started to panic did Maria know something? Had she figured out that Elizabeth had feelings for Maxwell?
She sat down on the couch in front of the fireplace and stared at the bright flames, maybe they could warm her insides and get her heart pumping again?
While she sat there she wondered if anyone in the whole world had been in her situation before. Chances are that someone had but Elizabeth knew it would be rare, no sister would be as selfish as she was to let her feelings go this far for her sister’s man. She sighed and rested her chin against the palms of her hands, was Maxwell okay with living this lie?
Did he not mind that he would have to live with Carmen and never be able to be with Elizabeth? Well Elizabeth minded.
Would Carmen want to be with Maxwell if she knew he had feelings for Elizabeth? Would she continue to step in their way or back down and let them be together?
Elizabeth needed some answers and she needed them soon. It would be okay if Maxwell wasn’t going to see her every Wednesday morning and Saturday evening. If they hid their feelings and did nothing about them then Elizabeth wouldn’t feel as bad and things would get better.
Well for Carmen anyway, they would never get better for Elizabeth.
She would turn twenty-one in a few months and she would get married and her husband would be everything and more. They would fall in love and she would ask him if they could move away from her family so they didn’t have to stay in this town for the rest of their lives. They would go to some far off place and they would have four children and live happily ever after.
That’s the way she had always planned it but now she could only picture herself being depressed and lonely for the rest of her life because Maxwell would never be hers. She hated being depressed; she used to be such a jolly and optimistic person… she used to be the person people came to when they needed cheering up.
Now she was the girl who needed cheering up but couldn’t go to anyone. She couldn’t think of anything that would cheer her up anyway…
Maybe if she just ran away she could leave her sister to be with Maxwell and she wouldn’t have to have it rubbed in her face every day. Then she could go on and she could explore the world and forget about everything she had left behind. That way she would not have a sister or Maxwell but at least her sister could be happy without Elizabeth ruining it for her.
It wasn’t very good to run away from her problems but right now it seemed like the perfect thing to do. It was very appealing because on one side of the scale she had Feeling depressed and never being able to have Maxwell for the rest of her life. Or on scale two she had running away and being depressed for a little while but eventually getting over it and moving on to great things in life.
If only it were possible to just run away, things would be so much easier.

~* *~

The next day the Parkers were going to the next town over over the horse show Jeffery Parker had promised his daughter. They had to take two carriages, one for the daughters and Maxwell and Michael. And the other for Jeffery, Nancy, Isabelle and Alexander.
Elizabeth hopped into the carriage and soon followed her was Maxwell, he sat down next to her and Carmen sat down on the other side of him. Michael and Maria sat across from them.
The journey was going to be over an hour long and Elizabeth did not know if it was possible for her to last the whole ride with Maxwell so close but yet so unimaginably far from her reach. When she was staring out the window trying to forget he was there she kept feeling him gaze at her, she didn’t turn her head to look back at him but it was nice to know he was acknowledging her. Maria and Michael were talking quietly to each other and Carmen had her eyes closed and her head resting on Maxwell’s shoulder.
Elizabeth felt tired and she wanted to rest her head on his shoulder too but she couldn’t so she rested her head on the wall and closed her eyes, she pictured her and Maxwell riding together through the wind on their horses.
She must have fallen asleep because when she opened her eyes everyone was out of the carriage except Maxwell who had his hand on her arm and was whispering her name. She wondered if she was still dreaming.
"Liz," he said, "wake up we’re here everyone’s waiting."
She yawned and turned her head to look at him, "we’re here?" she asked.
He nodded, "come on," he said, "let’s go see the horses you love so much."
She wanted to touch him, "okay," she said. They climbed out of the carriage and walked over to her family and Michael, "poor you Elizabeth," Isabelle rapped her arm around her shoulders, "having to be stuck in that carriage with the two couples the whole way."
"She was asleep for most of it," Maria commented, "so was Carmen."
Elizabeth yawned again, "let’s just go see the horses can we?" she rapped her arms around herself.
"Very eager," Jeffery smiled, "good to see. Your right let’s go…"
They all walked to the audience seats. Maxwell walked with Carmen, Isabelle with Alexander, Maria with Michael, her parent’s together, and her… by herself.
She would not let anything ruin her day, she was here to see one of her favorite things and nothing would get in the way, she was determined to be happy for the first day in a while.
Through out the day she seemed to be the only one actually watching the horses. Everyone else was talking and drinking and eating…
She wanted to go out and ride so much; she really needed to feel the wind through her hair.
Maxwell and Carmen went up to the railing to have a better view of the fields. Elizabeth could see them out of the corner of her eye and giving up she turned her head to look up at them. She saw Carmen touch Maxwell’s shoulder and him turn to face her, she leaned up and kissed him and then pulled away and smiled. Elizabeth’s face dropped and she turned her head away and to her family. When she did she saw Maria and Isabelle’s eyes on her with the same sympathetic expression on their faces. One of them knew more then the other but they both had the same thoughts…
Elizabeth put on a fake smile and said in a cheery voice, "I’m going to go down and see if I can touch one of the horses, I’ll be back later okay?"
"Okay darling," Nancy said.
Isabelle and Maria did not stop looking at her until she was gone.
While she patted the horses she decided she was going to do it, she was going to tell Maxwell not to come and see her anymore. She had to and she would find the strength somewhere.
Her sister was the most important thing to her. Since she had known Carmen longer and she would always be there she was the one who deserved Elizabeth’s truth. She would just have to give up Maxwell.
She stared into the horse’s fur and let a single tear drop down; she would be okay. She would have to be.
~* *~
On Saturday night when she walked out of her art class he was waiting for her like he always was. He was smiling but she was not. She decided she was going to cut right to the chase and walk straight up to him and say what she needed to say.
Summoning up to her strength she approached him.
"Hi," he said.
She sucked in a breath and in the strongest voice she could find she said, "you can’t come and walk me home anymore."
~* VI *~

Maxwell stood up, "come on let’s walk."
They walked across the road.
"Now," Maxwell said with a very tender voice, "what’s wrong?"
Elizabeth knew she couldn’t get away with just saying that and having him leave, as much as she wished it were that easy.
"You can’t come and see me anymore Max," she started walking, "I can’t take this anymore."
Maxwell shoved his hands in his pockets, "can’t take what?" he asked.
Elizabeth swallowed, this was so hard for her and she knew that he would not make this easier. "I can’t take the guilt," she said, "we may have the pretense of not be doing anything wrong but please," she took a breath. "Why don’t we tell Carmen you walk me home?"
"Because it could confuse and upset her," he answered.
"Of course it would. It should!" Elizabeth said. "I know my feelings for you are not just friendly. I know that we are aren’t doing anything wrong but I have not been lying to myself about my feelings," she closed her eyes, "and I can’t lie to everyone else anymore. I can’t be this upset anymore."
Maxwell sucked in a breath, "how can I not come and see you?" he asked.
"Please find a way," she opened her eyes and looked up at him, "I can’t take all the lying, I have never lied this much in my life. I think it would be best if you just stayed away from me…"
"I can’t," he said.
Her heart swelled but that was exactly what she didn’t want to happen. "You can! You barely know me," she said, "why do you come here, you are marrying my sister. You can’t possibly believe that I can live with this when she is my best friend."
"Liz," he said, "look at me."
She turned her head away, "no," she said.
"Look at me," he said taking both her hands in his.
She raised her eyes to Maxwell. His big hands felt comforting.
"Liz, look at me and say, Max, I don’t want you to come anymore."
He did not let go of her hands, nor did she pull away.
"Max," she said in a whisper, "I don’t want you to come anymore."
He sighed, "you don’t want me to come anymore since when?"
"Since you started!" she said. "Since I started feeling this bad for my sister…"
He didn’t say anything and she knew he as thinking she could tell he was. What he said a few seconds later shocked her so much she nearly tripped over her own feet.
"Liz!" he exclaimed suddenly, "Let’s tell them!"
"What?" she thought she had misheard.
"Yes! Let’s tell them."
"There is nothing to tell them," she said her tongue suddenly full of frozen fair, "and that is why we have to stop this before there is."
"Liz please!" Maxwell’s eyes flashed at her. "Let’s tell them the truth and deal with the consequences. Let’s do the honest thing. Carmen deserves that—"
"NO!" she tried to pull her hands away. "Please, no. Please. You can’t she loves you. It will break her heart."
Maxwell shook his head, "No. She is in love with being in love," he said.
Elizabeth frowned, "how would you know?" she asked.
"I’m the one marrying her!" he said.
"Oh yes remind me a little more why don’t you? I’m not around people talking about it all day every day, no."
"She doesn’t love me she doesn’t know me," he said.
"You aren’t being very fair," she said. "Max," her nerves were raw. "please…"
"You please!" he said loudly. "I am sick to death of this—all because you want to do the honorable thing."
"You’re sick to death of this?" Elizabeth asked in disbelief, "you’re not the one who has feelings for her sisters fiancee and has to have their marriage rubbed in her face every day!"
"Oh you think it’s any better for me? I am the one who is only around for one person and that person," he brought his face right up to hers, "won’t even stand up for what she want’s."
"You never asked me to!" she cried.
"I shouldn’t have to if you cared enough!" he argued.
Elizabeth stepped away from him, "don’t you dare say I don’t care enough, you have no idea how I feel about you. YOU are making me the bad guy just because I wanted to do the honorable…" she raised her voice, "the HUMAINE thing for my sister." She shuddered, "you should be ashamed of yourself."
"I AM ashamed of myself," he said.
They didn’t speak again for a few minutes.
Maxwell broke the silence, "so I am not allowed to see you ever again?" he asked.
"You can come and see me again, just not alone," Elizabeth said, "I can’t sacrifice my sisters happiness for my own." She felt tears sting her eyes, "please understand."
"No," Maxwell said. "The only reason I’m still involved in your family is because of you. If you don’t want me around I’m going to tell your father I’m not going to marry Carmen."
Elizabeth’s head shot up, "What? No! Max we have to think of other people."
"Liz," he whispered, "what about us?" he asked, "what about you and me?"
She couldn’t take much more of this, any minute she was going to crumble to the ground and she would let him
Pick her up and she would let him have her. "You are hers," she said quietly, "I have no place in your world."
"I am only yours," he whispered cupping her cheeks, "what are we doing? Why are we fighting?"
"Because you need to stop coming to see me, don’t you understand that I am around my sister all day and all night and I cannot look her in the eye without feeling guilty." She wanted to move away from him but he would not let her, "Please don’t end it with my sister," she said, "that’s not fair on her."
He moved his hands from her cheeks to her arms, "you want me to keep seeing her but not you and you think that will make the situation better?" he asked.
"I will get over it, I…" she cut herself off and a tear dripped down her cheek, "this place and time is all wrong for us but it’s not for you and Carmen. Do you at least like her?" she asked.
"You think just because you won’t be walking with me anymore that you still won’t be guilty? You still look at me and you still feel for me, no matter what you’ll still be—"
"No!" she cried, "stop it please!"
"You stop!" he said.
She looked down at her feet, "you must like her a little so you will learn to feel for her," Elizabeth wanted to cry but she would not in front of him. She needed to be strong and she needed not to let him know she could live without him.
"And what if I say no to this and tell your father I don’t want to be with Carmen?" he asked.
Elizabeth sucked in a painful breath, "then you will never see my face again."
He shook his head, "Don’t do this," he said.
Elizabeth’s lip trembled, "it is the only way."
"No there is another way but you are not strong enough to want or fight for it," he started walking in the direction of her house. Elizabeth went after him, "I want it but it is not mine to have," she said, "you are making this so hard for me."
"Because I fight for what I want," he said.
Elizabeth couldn’t keep up with him; he was walking too fast. "Is that what you’ve been doing is it? Fighting for me? I couldn’t see it what with all the kisses you and my sister have been sharing!"
"What do you expect? We are supposed to be getting married," he said. "I had no way out of it, I haven’t wanted to get close to you because I feared I would scare you off!"
"So you stuck around getting all comfy with my sister just so you could see me?" she asked, "why don’t I believe that?"
"Because you are blind," he said.
Elizabeth panted, "what you just expected me to be your mistress while your married to my sister?"
"Of course not," he said.
"Then what?" she asked, "what was your plan once you had me?"
"I don’t know!" he said honestly, "we’ll work it out, Liz, I promise, somehow we’ll—"
Elizabeth grabbed his arm, "stop walking so fast!" she said. "If things did find a way they would end with Carmen not talking to me ever again."
"Not if we end this now, she will get over it," he said.
"I don’t think she will," Elizabeth said. They were nearly at her house so she stopped walking and waited for him to stop too. He didn’t till he was a meter away from her then he came marching back with big strides.
"If you be with my sister you’ll still see me when your over at my house," she said, "eventually you will get over me and I will get over you. With you coming here it isn’t benefiting your or my situation… it’s just making it harder."
"I want to see you more then that," he said full of love.
Her lip trembled and she lifted her hand over it to stop him from seeing, "I do to but can’t you understand that I have no where else to go! In the end I will still be in that house and if I am not I will always be the daughter that betrayed her family!" Another tear dripped down her cheek, "you wouldn’t give up your family for me."
"See that’s the difference between you and me," he said, "I would."
Elizabeth was shocked. She gasped and shook her head, "I don’t believe you," she said. She had been brought up to love her family and be respectful to her family in every way, giving them up was unthinkable. She couldn’t believe that he felt that much for her… was it even possible?
Knowing that all these feelings were new for her, she guessed it was.
"Well you wouldn’t would you?" he sighed.
She wiped her eyes, "there will be other boys but their will never be another family," she said, "there will never be another sister."
"I am not a boy," he said.
She ignored his comment; "I will be engaged not long after your wedding, there is no way for us. We need to forget each other."
"That’s so easy for you to say," he spat.
"Are you kidding?" she asked, "are you joking?" she yelled. "This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life!"
He put his hands on his head and sucked in a breath, "don’t do it then!" he said.
"ARGH!" she cried, "you never give up! I can’t do this! Don’t you understand? I will not give up my family for you. If you really cared for me you wouldn’t make me."
"Well that’s just perfect isn’t it?" he turned and walked away in the other direction. Elizabeth did not go after him and she did not go home, she went to her stables and sat with her horse and cried.

~* *~

Things were even worse now that he wasn’t coming to see her anymore. She craved him all day long and all night, there was not a moment that went by she didn’t think about him.
She was relieved that he did not go to her father and end it with Carmen but she was not happy about the situation either. She just had to keep telling herself that she would get over this and she would move on eventually. It didn’t work, she felt like she would never stop feeling the way she did for him. And as the days turned into weeks and she walked home from her art classes alone and without him, she let herself realize that she was deeply in love with him. Before she would believe she just felt for him but she couldn’t anymore, she knew the extent to her emotions.
She never saw him even when he called on Carmen to go out, because he didn’t come inside anymore. The thing was he rarely came to get Carmen because he rarely called on her anymore. Carmen was worried about his sudden lose of his appearance but Elizabeth tried to calm her by saying he was probably just busy with work and things and that she just needed to give him time.
Carmen was reluctant but since she had no other choice she gave into Elizabeth’s opinion.
Finally about three weeks after their talk, Maxwell came around to the Parker’s house for dinner with Michael. Isabelle and Alexander came too.
It was the first time they had seen each other for three weeks and they barely acknowledged each other’s presence. Well why would they? Elizabeth thought sadly, they were not friends. He was probably still mad at her for doing what she did and she had to deal with that. She had to deal with the fact that he was getting over her like she had asked and now she needed to as well. It was time.
It was not that easy.
Neither of them talked much to anyone during dinner and though they never caught each other’s eyes they glanced at each other frequently.
Half way through the meal Maxwell excused himself to go to the bathroom and Elizabeth stared at his empty chair till he came back.
"So," Nancy said, "Maxwell we haven’t seen much of you lately," she said.
"Yeah," he said, "I’m sorry about that, I have been busy with work."
Carmen looked at Elizabeth and Elizabeth nodded as if to say, I told you so. Dinner was fast to Elizabeth because all she could think during it was; I’m not going to see him again for a really long time. She knew this was all her fault but that didn’t make her miss him less.
"Carmen can you pass me the potato please?" Elizabeth asked. Carmen handed it to Maxwell to pass to Elizabeth and when he handed it to her his hand accidentally brushed her hand. They didn’t look at each other but it meant a lot to them both.
Why was this so unfair? Why had things turned out this way? She wanted to throw a big tantrum at how unfair things were. In fairy tales there was always an obstacle keeping the soul mates from being together and then they would have their happy ending. This was not a fairy tale though and Elizabeth doubted there would be a ‘and they lived happily ever after’ forever. She could wish and pray all she wanted but that would not do anything, and she would not brake.
So as Carmen put her arm around Maxwell’s shoulders and nuzzled her face in his neck, she turned to Maria and asked her about the success of her latest protest. She would be strong and she would get through this.
It would just take a lot out of her…
After dinner Carmen went out to say goodbye to Maxwell and when she came out Maria went out to bid farewell to Michael.
"Well I’m so glad he’s acting normal again," Carmen walked up to Elizabeth, "and you were right!"
"Hmm," Elizabeth put on a fake smile. She went up to her room to get away from everyone but unfortunately Carmen followed her.
As soon as she entered her room she saw the little note with Liz written on the front of it. It was on her pillow and she sprinted over to grab it before Carmen could see it. She leaped onto the bed and grabbed it…
Carmen walked in and frowned at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth hid the note in her hands, "nothings wrong, don’t worry about me." Did she sound suspicious?
"Who’s worrying?" Carmen shrugged, "you are so weird. Any way about the wedding I was thinking maybe you should wear lavender?"
Elizabeth sat up and shoved the note in her hands under her pillow.
"Elizabeth?" Carmen asked. She sat down on the bed and folded her arms.
Elizabeth wanted to read the note but she was afraid what was in it.
"Elizabeth!" Carmen exclaimed.
"What?" Elizabeth asked shocked. Why was she yelling?
"I asked if you’d like to wear lavender to the wedding?" Carmen was frowning again.
"Oh yeah sure, what ever," Elizabeth nodded, "good idea."
Carmen sucked in a breath; "you don’t sound very convincing…"
Elizabeth wanted her to leave she needed to read the note—
"Don’t I?" she asked, "sorry… I think lavender is a great color."
"It’s go great with all the decorations and my dress and…" Carmen did not leave for forty-five minutes and Elizabeth was about ready to pull her hair out.
"Look I am really tired Carmen and I am so happy for you, the wedding is going to be wonderful. But I need to sleep now, please, please go away," it was her last resort, she had tried yawning and giving her hints but Carmen wouldn’t notice them.
"Okay," Carmen got up; "I’m just really excited, sorry. Good night."
"Night," Elizabeth smiled.
Carmen walked to the door and as soon as she was gone Elizabeth threw the pillow back and reached for the note…
"Elizabeth?" Carmen popped her head back in through the door. Elizabeth shoved the note behind her back, "Ah yeah?" she answered.
"I hope you’re not lonely what with being the only one of us without a man…" she said.
Elizabeth sighed, "I’m fine, it’s nearly my turn. I can handle the wait."
"Hmm, okay. See ya," she closed the door and Elizabeth sucked in a relieved breath, Finally!
She stared at the note and her name on the front. She knew it was from Maxwell, she knew it as soon as she saw it. This was the first time she was seeing his hand writing, it was neat and perfect.
She opened the note and inside it said, right in the middle:
I want to see you one last time alone, please meet me at two-am behind your horse-riding paddock near the creek.
She closed the note and sucked in a breath, should she go? She wondered.

~* VII *~

Elizabeth spent the rest of the evening and a lot of the morning sitting on her bed contemplating whether to go or not to go and see Maxwell. There were so many reasons not go but her longing to talk to him was strong.
He said he wanted to talk to her one last time, did that mean he just wanted to make sure they were parting on good terms? Did he want to give them both a little piece of mind before giving up all they felt for good?
If it was for those reasons Elizabeth saw no harm in going. But if he was going to fight with her again she saw no logic in going.
She knew that there was no point in sitting there re-reading his note and trying to find the meaning behind his words, she would have to go and meet him to know for sure.
At approximately one-forty in the morning she got into a long cream skirt and a white skivvie. She had boots on her feet and rapped around a scarf around her neck for warmth. She tied her hair up in a tight pony tale at the back of her head.
Sneaking through the house was the worse part of going to see him; she was so afraid someone would wake up and demand to know where she was going. Luckily she managed to get out through the French doors in the ballroom safely.
Outside the cold ate at her skin harshly. She hadn’t realized it would be so cold and wished she had put on more clothing. It was too late for her to go back now, she did not want to go back in that house and get caught.
She walked along the gravel paths out to the paddocks with her arms rapped around herself and her face buried in her scarf. Maybe Maxwell will have a jacket I can wear? She wondered. She decided no, he will need if for himself and tried to get a grip.
Maxwell saw her before she saw him. He was sitting on a bench waiting for her, and he had plenty of clothing on to keep him warm. Not far in front of him stood a magnificent black stallion chewing on some grass.
When she saw him she rapped her arms around herself tighter and stopped walking, this was going to be awkward, she thought.
He stood up and walked over to her, "hi," he said quietly.
She looked up at him and saw his face properly for the first time in a long time. At dinner she hadn’t had the chance to look him in the face with fear he would see the scars in her eyes.
It was a good thing she hadn’t looked because he did not look like the vibrant man he used to be. His face had less color and he had dark lines under his eyes. He looked… sad. He was like a little boy. His face was emotionless like there hadn’t been a smile on it for a while. She had to fight the urge to rap her arms around him and comfort him until he was better. Seeing him like this upset her and tore at her heart. She almost wanted to say, ‘be with me. Be with me if it will make you smile.’
Surely she couldn’t be the one that inflicted this pain on his face?
Did she look like that?
Maxwell sucked in a breath, "look, look what I brought for you to see," he motioned to the horse. "I thought you would appreciate seeing him."
She couldn’t take her eyes off his face.
His mouth twitched, "what?" he asked, "why are you looking at me like that?" His eyes started to glow with a little bit of life, "keep looking," he whispered.
She did.
But not for very long because she knew she was giving in to him. Instead she turned to look at the horse and said, "that is a stunning horse."
"Isn’t it?" he said, "a visitor to town is staying with us and he owns it."
Elizabeth turned to look at Maxwell again while he was looking at the horse. Gone were his bright eyes, gone were his smiling luscious lips, gone. Gone. Gone. Gone.
She wanted to touch him.
"Do you want to ride him?" Maxwell turned his head back to look at her.
Elizabeth bit her lip. Finally she replied with disappointment, "I want to but I can’t. I’m wearing a skirt," she shivered.
Maxwell pulled off his coat and handed it to her, "you’ll freeze out here in those clothes," he said, "put it on."
"What about you?" she asked.
He rubbed his hands together; "I’m fine I have heaps of layers."
Elizabeth gladly pulled on his coat and snuggled into its comfy, warm innards. It smelt like him.
She did feel rude taking his coat but she was freezing and she had felt like she was slowly turning into ice cream sludge.
"You’ll just have to ride him," Maxwell explained, "like a normal girl."
Elizabeth opened her mouth to say that she didn’t think it would be a good idea but he mentioned that he would sit up on the horse with her to help. She couldn’t say no then. If he was going to be on there with her that would mean he would have to touch her at some point. She needed to feel his hands on her.
They walked over to the horse and Maxwell helped her up by letting her use him to climb on. She slipped once and for a second was pressed up against him and the horse; it felt wonderful to have his body against hers. Embarrassed and flushed she quickly moved away and climbed on the horse. He joined her a few seconds later and put each of his legs on either side of the horse. She had no choice but to sit very close to him, there was no where else to go.
They didn’t know what to say once they were up there so Maxwell kicked the side of the horse and it started aimlessly wandering around the area in front of the creek.
Surprisingly Elizabeth was the one to break the silence. "Tell me what your thinking," she said.
He swallowed, "you don’t want to know what I’m thinking."
"Okay," she stared ahead at the little bit of light coming up along the horizon. They were silent again, but it was not that bad. Elizabeth cleared her throat, "look Maxwell I…"
"Suddenly I’m Maxwell again?" he asked.
She looked at him, "please stop," she said.
He looked down, "I know you said not to come and see you again but at least this time I asked you to come to me…" he said.
She rolled her eyes, "that does not make a difference."
"Why did you come then?" he asked.
"Because I wanted to know what you wanted," she answered, "you know I wish things were different…"
"I Do?" he asked, "how do I know this?"
He looked at her and she looked back, "you just do," she said.
He shrugged, "could have fooled me."
She recoiled in pain, "do you hate me?" she asked. He didn’t answer for a long time and when he did he wasn’t being rude and accusing like he had been for the last few minutes. "I don’t hate you," he said, "I can’t hate you… it’s impossible. I am mad at you for what you said."
She nodded, "If there was a way… just the slightest chance that we could…" she cleared her throat, "be together I would take it in a second, believe that."
"It’s not enough," he said.
She sighed, "I’m sorry I’ve hurt you." She turned away from him and looked at the sunrise, it lit their cold faces with orange light and it was a magnificent sight. "If we could go back," she said quietly, "to that ball night. I would change the way it turned out."
"How?" Maxwell asked in a quiet voice.
"I would," her voice cracked, "I would have told my parent’s and Carmen that we had and I had…" she buried her head in her hands. "You have no idea how much I want things to be different. I am so lost, I don’t know what to do."
Maxwell turned her around to face him and wiped the tears from her face, "what do you mean I have no idea? I have just had the hardest and most devastating three weeks of my life. To have the thought," he was having trouble keeping his emotions in tact too, "that I would never be able to share my life with you…" his voice cracked, "it’s the worst thing that could happen to me."
Her big eyes were glazed over with tears threatening to spill. "I love my sister," she said emotionally, "she may not be there much for me lately because she is to infatuated with you but she has always been there for me through my life. She..." the tears spilled down her cheeks, "she was always the one there for me when I needed her and she never asked for anything in return. Now whenever I want to be with you all I can think about is her and how much she talks about you and how much she needs you. I can’t imagine hurting her like I know it would... I am dying," she wiped her eyes, "to give up my family for you but you have to understand that you are not in my situation. You can say you would give up your family for me because you don’t have to do it. Your family will understand because you are the male and were forced into this."
Maxwell opened his mouth to say something but she shook her head, "let me finish," she said. "You probably think I don’t feel the same way for you that you do for me but that couldn’t be further from the truth," she was speaking quietly and her emotion showed that every word was coming from her heart. "I need to be with you," her lips trembled and she was clearly just about to break down, "and I can’t live with out you," she cried. "I have never felt this before and I am not sure what to," her face crinkled up because of all her efforts to stay composed, "please don’t think that I wanted any of this and that I am not lost without you because I am." She sobbed, "you are the most amazing and wonderful person I have ever met and when I see you with Carmen…" she wanted to get off the horse and run away, "I am slowly breaking," she whispered. "Every time you touch her a little bit of me is ripped out…"
"Shh," Maxwell put his finger to her lips, "stop don’t say anymore." A tear dripped down in his cheek; "I don’t need to hear anymore."
She coiled over and broke down on his chest. He rapped his arms around her and pressed his head in her hair, "shh," he whispered kissing the top of her head.
As the sun came up Elizabeth let it all out and it was in the best possible place: Maxwell’s arms. This was where he could breath it all in and share it with her. Finally she let herself let go and had someone look after her for once.
All the pain and all the emotion she had felt since she had met him just came out and as it did she slowly started feeling better. She knew that he wanted her and no one else and that helped. She did not know what she did to get his love nor did she know if she deserved it. All she knew was that she could not live without it.
And when she couldn’t cry anymore she stayed in his arms and rested her wet face in the crook of his neck. Maxwell did not loosen his grip on her and she did not move away. They needed this.
"That’s why darling, it’s incredible,
That someone so unforgettable thinks that I am, unforgettable too."
Elizabeth pulled away from Maxwell and wiped her red eyes, "what was that?" she asked.
He looked down at his hands on her leg, "that was the song we danced to the night we met," he said.
And when he looked up they couldn’t help it. They had no power over it. It just happened.
They kissed.
When their lips touched it was amazing. It was the perfect scene with the sun coming up in front of them and the horse underneath them.
They rapped their arms around each other’s waists and leaned into each other as far as physically possible. Maxwell parted Elizabeth’s mouth with his and he raped her off her first kiss. He had taken her innocence and neither of them cared. All they could think about was how right this was, to be in each other’s arms.
Elizabeth’s head was spinning; she had never experienced such a great thing in her whole life.
Not even horse riding could bring her such great feelings; not even painting the world like it was a perfect place. Nothing.
And all she wanted was more. She wanted to get closer to him in every way; she wanted to be inside of him so they would never stop touching. She shifted her body so her body was leaning back with him slightly on top of her.
The sound of squishing plop noises broke them apart and when Elizabeth realized what the noise was she laughed and said in a quiet, amused voice, "how appropriate."
Max laughed and looked down at the big brown pile of fresh waste on the grass. What a time for something like that to happen, Elizabeth thought.
Maxwell was somewhat glad for the interruption. He felt as if something had to stop him.
They didn’t talk about what had happened but Elizabeth leaned into Maxwell’s chest while they enjoyed the sight of the sun coming up before them.
~* *~

Elizabeth awoke late in the morning after her sleep deprived night. Maria came into the room dressed in her Sunday dress and when she saw Elizabeth was not yet up she screeched and demanded that she got dressed right that second or they would be late for church.
Elizabeth yawned and slowly got up of her big bed.
"Elizabeth!" Maria cried, "why are you so tired? You should have been ready to go by now!"
"I’m sorry," Elizabeth stumbled over to her wardrobe, "I didn’t realize what time it was."
They quickly got Elizabeth dressed and ready then went down stairs to the rest of the family. "What took you so long?" Carmen asked.
"Elizabeth decided to sleep in," Maria sighed.
Carmen rapped her arm around her sister, "oh well no harm done."
Elizabeth’s situation was not better and she did not know what was going to happen in the future but this morning she just wanted to be content because of her morning with Maxwell. After the sun had risen he had walked her back to the house with his hand in hers and before he had left he had said that they would work thins out some how. Some how they would be together, they just needed to have faith.
Elizabeth didn’t think faith was going to be enough to keep them together but she was too happy to care today. She didn’t care if Carmen went on about the stupid wedding because she and Maxwell had kissed and it was wonderful.
On the ride to church she wondered how it was possible for two people to only want one thing in life and that one thing was to be together. It was amazing how strong the bonds of love could be and as much as it fascinated and intrigued her it also frightened her to death.
What were she and Maxwell going to do? What lay ahead for them both?
There was no way of telling the future but Elizabeth knew that what was coming was going to be beyond hard and a great challenge for everyone.
Today she was ignoring it all though and she had a good reason to. She had stayed up all night and she had seen the sun rise, now she was going to float in its warmth for a while.

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:39:42 PM
~* VIII *~

"I saw you Elizabeth," Carmen said, "I saw you with him."
Elizabeth’s stomach dropped. "What are you talking about?"
They were sitting by the fire and Elizabeth was drawing while Carmen had a book.
"Don’t lie to me," Carmen said painfully, "I thought you were the one that would never hurt me. I thought that since we were such great friends that I would never have to worry about you deceiving me."
Elizabeth swallowed, "you don’t have to worry about me deceiving you," she looked down at her drawing of the sun rise and closed the book, "I don’t know what your talking about," she said.
"You do," Carmen’s face showed her hurt, "I saw you with Maxwell and I’ve seen the way you look at each other. Tell me how long have I been completely blind?"
"Your crazy," Elizabeth paled, "there is nothing going on between Maxwell and I."
"You’ve been lying to me for so long how can you possibly still be now?" Carmen started to cry, "I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner, it’s all so clear now."
Elizabeth was jolted out of her nightmare because of the front door slamming. She sat up quickly and looked around, Carmen glanced at her from the end of the couch, she was still holding her book.
She rubbed her eyes and looked at the front door where her father was taking off his jacket, "its going to be a very harsh winter," he commented.
Elizabeth slumped back onto the couch and stared at the dark ceiling lit slightly by the fire. What a horrible dream, she thought.
Isn’t it a shame that one day of content has to end and you have to go back to normal as soon as reality enlightens you? Elizabeth may have been happy for one day because she and Maxwell shared something that seemed more significant than just a kiss. But once she realized everything around her was still exactly the same and she was still in the same situation but worse she found it hard to stay happy for long.
Now she was not only haunted with guilt during her days but she was also haunted during her dreams. She found that very unfair.
Only one thing was better since that wonderful morning. She had more hope for the future.
She didn’t feel better about hurting her sister but to know Maxwell shared her feelings and he was optimistic things would work out—it just helped somehow.
Her father walked past the couch and patted her on the head, "I’m glad your both comfortable," he smiled.
Carmen chuckled, "the way it should be."
Their father nodded his head and headed up stairs in seek of his wife.
Elizabeth looked at Carmen, she was looking back at her, "Elizabeth I heard something from one of the girls in town," Carmen said.
Elizabeth put her pencil and pad down on the floor next to the couch, "what did you here?" she asked.
Carmen’s eyes glowed, "I heard that there is going to be a war," she said.
"A war?" Elizabeth asked.
"Between the confederacy and the Union," she cleared her throat, "the north and south. People are calling it the war of Southern independence."
Elizabeth swallowed. She only knew a little of the slavery down South but since she lived in the North where people did not agree with those ways, she hadn’t heard too much. "Do you think we’ll be safe here?" she asked.
"I don’t know," Carmen closed her book, "but it’s all just rumors for now. We don’t know if anything will actually happen."
Elizabeth sighed, "well it would be good for those slaves to finally be freed but in a war sense not so good."
"Yeah," Carmen agreed.
~* *~
Another night, another damn dinner party.
This time it was a larger gathering with not just family and extended family but friends as well. When the girls gathered at the stairs to walk down into the ball room Elizabeth looked at Isabelle and said with a slight smile on her lips, "when I get married I am going as far away from here as possible so I don’t have to do this anymore."
"It’s so embarrassing," Carmen giggled.
"I know!" Maria scrunched her nose, "maybe we she inquire about not doing it anymore…"
Elizabeth shrugged, "I don’t think it will help."
Isabelle laughed at them, "Elizabeth’s right, father enjoys watching all his girls come down the stairs. He takes great pride in us and being able to parade us around makes him happy. I say we give him that much."
"Let’s go," Nancy said.
Elizabeth sighed and followed her sisters. She knew Maxwell was in the room and that made her stomach churn with excitement. She hadn’t had a chance to see him before everyone arrived because she was too busy getting ready in her room. She had chosen an ivory colored dress tonight; she wanted to look her best. Her hair was up and she was wearing a diamond necklace around her neck.
She saw Maxwell straight away; he was standing in front of the window on the left-hand side of the room with a wine in his hand. She loved it how he was focusing on nothing but her.
At the bottom of the stairs Erica was waiting for her. "You look stunning tonight," she said.
"Thank you," Elizabeth blushed.
They made their way over to where her husband was and a group of his male friends. Jennifer was there too but she was on her way out to the dance floor with a man named Timothy.
While Elizabeth stood there talking with the people gathered around all she could think about was how much she wished Maxwell were at her side. Maybe in another world they could have been together in public but not in this one.
"Look there’s Jonathan," Erica pointed to their friend making his way over to them. "He always had the biggest crush on you…" she whispered in Elizabeth’s ear.
"He did not," Elizabeth smiled. Jonathan had just got back from being away at university down south.
"Elizabeth you look as stunning as you did when I left," he hugged her and kissed her cheeks, "let’s dance?"
Elizabeth nodded, "okay."
They walked out to the dance floor and Jonathan stood a little closer then friendly. Elizabeth did not feel comfortable at all.
After one song Elizabeth wanted to leave but her insisted they dance again, she gave in and danced with him for one more song. When it ended she looked up to see Maxwell with such a bank expression on his face that it hurt to breathe.
"Excuse me," she quickly walked away from Jonathan and straight to him.
When she reached him he leaned down and whispered in her ear, "meet me in your bedroom in five minutes."
She nodded, "okay," she breathed.
It wasn’t very safe for them to be talking in a public place like this. They looked at each other once before separating.
She was on her way up to meet him when she was asked to dance by a male she had never met before. She was too polite to say no so she danced with him one song.
"I’m Gregory," he introduced himself.
Like she cared. "I’m Elizabeth," she smiled.
As soon as the song ended she hurried out to the rare staircase and rushed up to her bedroom. When she opened the door she felt him grab her and pull her over to him. He closed the door and they stood facing each other next to the wall.
"Do you have any idea," he smiled, "how gorgeous you look tonight?"
She blushed and looked down at the ground, "I wanted to look my best," she said.
He brought his hand up to her cheek and she looked up into his eyes. "Practically every male in the room was drooling over you," he commented.
She rolled her eyes, "I’m sure it had nothing to do with my three stunning sisters in front of me?"
"It had nothing to do with them," he stepped closer to her and his eyes darkened, "your much more attractive then your sisters."
Elizabeth’s voice went husky, "It’s nice to have one person appreciate me," she said. They leaned into each other and shared a passionate kiss filled with longing and love. When they broke away Maxwell pressed his forehead against hers, "I want to be able to dance with you so much… it’s not fair that every other male gets to."
She bit her lip, "just know that I wish it were you…" she whispered.
He kissed her again, this time she leaned back into the wall and lifted one leg to go around his. She could not think about her sister.
"I have to get back down stairs," she panted. He was kissing her neck and behind her ears. "My family will notice I’m gone and come looking for me," she said.
He sighed and let go of her, "okay." In a quiet voice he added, "you’ll go and I won’t be happy…"
"Maybe I’ll see you later?" she asked.
"And I’ll be happy," he grinned. They shared another kiss and then Maxwell left. She had to go and re-do her make up before going back down stairs.
"Where did you disappear to?" Maria asked as soon as she saw her.
Elizabeth swallowed, "I just went to freshen up," she smiled, "where’s Michael?"
Maria eyed her suspiciously, "where’s Maxwell?" she asked.
Elizabeth frowned, "how should I know? Is he even here, I haven’t seen him yet?" she looked around, "oh look there he is dancing with Carmen." She pointed.
Maria bit the side of her mouth then said quietly; "I hope what I’m guessing is wrong."
Elizabeth looked at her with fake happiness, "what are you guessing?" she asked. Then, afraid Maria would tell her she said, "no don’t, come on let’s go mingle?"
Later on in the evening when everyone was dancing, Elizabeth sat in the corner watching all the happy faces. She was focusing on one in particular and that was Carmen’s. She was walking around with her hand in Maxwell’s and was introducing him as her fiancee to everyone.
It hurt Elizabeth to see them together. Even knowing that Maxwell wished it were her, he was so convincing to everyone that he was happy with Carmen. He treated her like a man about to marry a girl would.
She sighed and closed her eyes for a minute, when she opened them Isabelle was standing in front of her.
"Hi," Isabelle smiled, "how’s it going?"
Elizabeth smiled back, "everything is wonderful, I am wonderful. As I should be," she said.
"I’m glad," Isabelle took a seat next to her, "Christmas soon, excited?"
"Not really," Elizabeth answered, "it’s just going to be spent with a whole lot of people here having a huge dinner. Not very private at all." Elizabeth envied Erica’s Christmas’s because she spent them with her husband and some times their parent’s would come over.
Christmas may be a time for friends and family to get together but Elizabeth just wanted family and not the whole town.
"Well I am," Isabelle loved Christmas, "I have brought you a great present."
Elizabeth tried to be enthusiastic, "thank you in advance."
Isabelle got up, "why so glum all the time darling? There is so much to be happy about. Focus on the good things…"
"I am," Elizabeth said. I’m focusing on my one good thing every second, she thought.

~* *~

Christmas morning was the busiest time of the whole year at the Parker’s house. The maids were milling around setting up decorations and cooking. The daughters were busy getting dressed up and soaking in the bath. Music was playing joyfully and the person who seemed to enjoy this day the most was Jeffery Parker. He sung with the music and helped with the decorations and tasted all the foods the maids were cooking. He loved Christmas just like Isabelle.
Elizabeth lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. She was dressed and her hair was done and soon she would have to go downstairs and have to greet all the guests. All the guests.
Around fifty people would be seated at the long dinner table and gorgeous foods would be covering every inch of it. Elizabeth thought the food was the best part of Christmas.
"Elizabeth!" Maria opened the door with a smile on her face and missile toe in her hair. "This way," she explained, "if I have it on my head all the time every man will have to kiss me," she grinned.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, "you’re supposed to be getting married," she said.
"So? I’m not married yet," Maria laughed.
Getting up off the bed Elizabeth explained to her that when you are in love you are not supposed to want anyone else.
"Like you would know," Maria said. They went down stairs to where everyone was already arriving.
Michael came and took Maria away from Elizabeth and she was left to stand-alone and smile at everyone as they came inside. Carmen joined her a few minutes later; she was so much better at greeting people then Elizabeth was. With her huge smile and joyous voice… everyone loved her.
When Maxwell walked in the door after his parent’s Carmen swarmed around him so Elizabeth was yet again let alone.
Once everyone arrived Elizabeth went and took a seat, right at the head of the table on her fathers left. Nancy was on his right.
Through out dinner Elizabeth thought sadly about the decision she would have to make very soon. Maxwell wouldn’t wait for her to make up her mind much longer… he would tell her parent’s the truth if she didn’t.
Basically she was being asked to choose between Maxwell and Carmen.
Everything she had learnt as she grew up was telling her to choose her sister. But if she chose her sister Maxwell would leave Carmen and neither of them would have him. Was that better then just Elizabeth having him?
For Elizabeth it was not but for Carmen it might be.
Argh! This was so unfair!
She should just tell her family… they deserved to know the truth even if it would hurt them.
It was much easier to say it then do it.
"Just before we move on to have dessert," Jeffery interrupted everyone. "I have an announcement."
Everyone went quiet and turned to focus on Mr. Parker.
"Me and Nancy have been talking and we have decided to do things a little different than usual." He looked at Elizabeth and smiled, "Elizabeth…" he said.
She put her wineglass down on the table and looked at him, "yeah?" she asked nervously.
"I know your not twenty-one yet but it’s not too long away and because of that…"
"Oh no," Elizabeth mumbled.
"We are going to make the wedding next year a triple one," he studied her face, "we have chosen your fiancee."
Elizabeth’s eyes widened, "is he here?" she whispered.
"No, unfortunately he’s traveling here from the west and won’t arrive for another day or so," he put his hand on top of his daughters, "his name is Kyle Valenti and he has a wonderful kind father. From what I’ve seen and heard he is just as decent as dad."
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, all she could think was what is Maxwell thinking right now?
"That’s wonderful!" Carmen said, "Oh Elizabeth you won’t be the only one of us left! Don’t you think that’s wonderful?"
Elizabeth turned to her sister and with a fake smile on her face said, "it is wonderful."
Maria and Isabelle glanced at each other.
After dinner Elizabeth went and sat down by the fire by herself. Her mother came and sat down with her a few minutes later. "Shocked?" she asked.
Elizabeth nodded, "when did you decide this?" she asked.
Nancy stared at the fire, "about four days ago. You’ll like Kyle Elizabeth, he is a wonderful boy."
Elizabeth knew this was a good time to tell her mother the truth about everything but for some reason it just wouldn’t come out. She opened her mouth and tried to say what she needed to say but she couldn’t.
"I’m sure I will like him mother," she said instead, "you have wonderful taste in husbands."
Nancy nodded her head, "just wait and see okay?"
"Okay," Elizabeth sighed.
"Try not to be so down all the time darling. Why don’t you go and dance with one of the guests?"
Elizabeth shook her head; "no I think I’m just going to stay warm for a while."
Her mother got up, "well come and join everyone eventually will you? It’s Christmas! Everyone has to have a good time at Christmas."
Elizabeth was amazed that things could get worse then they already were. Some how they had managed to and she wondered if the world was out to get her and Maxwell. Were they just not meant to be?
She turned her head and looked around all the people. She spotted Maxwell standing with Maria and Carmen in the corner and when he turned her head he caught her gaze and they stared at each other for a moment. Yet again she was faced with the same question that she had had since she met Maxwell. What were they going to do?
~* IX *~

"Nervous?" Carmen rapped her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders and kissed her cheek, "don’t worry."
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, "I’m not nervous," she said.
Carmen giggled, "sure you are. I remember how nervous I was and now look at me. I am so happy, you have nothing to worry about."
"I know," Elizabeth sighed.
Kyle would be arriving any minute now and she would meet the man she had no intention in marrying.
A carriage pulled up but it was Maxwell’s, he was here to pick up Carmen. He walked up the steps in front of the house and approached them. He did not glance once at Elizabeth.
"Hi darling," Carmen kissed his lips.
He nodded his head, "hi. Let’s get going shall we?"
"No let’s wait I want to meet the man who’s going to marry Elizabeth," she giggled, "oh this is so weird, just think a triple wedding. How exciting!"
"Hmm," Maxwell muttered.
"And he’s traveling all this way for you," Carmen was so enthusiastic, "oh that’s so adorable."
Elizabeth grinned, "isn’t it just?"
"I’d really like to go…" Maxwell said, "I feel like I’m intruding."
"Oh don’t worry Maxwell your not!" Carmen smiled. "Elizabeth you don’t mind Maxwell being here do you? I mean he will be family soon anyway so your going to have to get used to him…"
"I don’t mind," Elizabeth looked at her feet.
"Oh look he’s here!" Carmen jumped up and down once, "Mother! Father! He’s here!"
Nancy and Jeffery hurried into the room, "oh wonderful, I’m so glad," Nancy smiled and rubbed her hands together.
They all waited anxiously for him to make an appearance and after a few minutes the carriage stopped behind Maxwell’s and the little door opened. Out stepped a woman, most likely his mother and then another man, Jim Valenti. Finally Kyle hopped out and took off his top hat. Carmen nudged Elizabeth’s side, "oh handsome!" she smiled.
Elizabeth finally caught Maxwell’s eyes and she wished she hadn’t. His eyes showed all that he was feeling- confusion, hurt, jealousy, and worry. She wanted to let him know she was only thinking about him but couldn’t very well do that here could she?
The Valenti family came up to the building and Nancy and Jeffery hugged and greeted them all. "How was your journey?" Nancy asked.
"It was quite pleasant," Amy Valenti smiled, "you look great Nancy, the same as you did last time I saw you."
Nancy laughed, "oh thank you Amy. So do you."
"Oh here we are and we haven’t even introduced the two love birds to each other," Amy rolled her eyes, "Kyle darling this is Elizabeth," she motioned to her. Elizabeth blushed.
"We’ve told him all about you," Amy nudged Elizabeth, "we know you’ll be perfect together. A match made in heaven."
"Hey Elizabeth," Kyle smiled and kissed her quickly on the lips as a greeting.
She smiled back; "it’s great to see you again Kyle."
"You mean you remember me? I didn’t remember you until my parent’s told me we had been friends when we were little," Kyle chuckled, "I apologize of course."
"Don’t," Elizabeth said, "I didn’t remember either."
Maria finally made an appearance. Kyle greeted her with a hug and the same for Carmen; he shook Maxwell’s hand and introduced himself.
"This is my fiancee," Carmen smiled.
"I guessed as much," Kyle smiled back.
They all went inside to have lunch apart from Carmen and Maxwell whom left together in Maxwell’s carriage. Kyle was such a gentleman; he pulled out Elizabeth’s chair for her and asked her if she was comfortable.
"I’m fine, thank you Kyle," Elizabeth felt sorry for him because she knew that she would not be marrying him. If she had never met Maxwell she wouldn’t have minded marrying him but Maxwell had her heart—as he all ways would.
Kyle was such a great guy, he was funny and through out lunch he kept seeking eye contact from Elizabeth and smiled when he got it. She would not look forward to turning him down.
She had to tell her parent’s the truth as soon as possible. She was going to… she was just building the courage.
After lunch Elizabeth and Kyle went for a walk around the house, it was too cold to go outside. "How was your Christmas Elizabeth?" Kyle asked.
"It was big and eventful as it always is," Elizabeth sighed.
"You don’t like Christmas either?" he smiled.
She chuckled, "I don’t know when it happened but yeah… I somehow started disliking Christmas a lot."
He nodded, "I know the feeling, it should just be family right?"
She stared at him, "yeah…exactly."
"So tell me," he nudged her side, "my parent’s were telling me you like horse riding, what’s your horses name?"
She grinned, "Trigger."
"Trigger huh?" he smiled, "nice."
"I think so," she said. "What’s it like to live near New York?" she asked.
He shrugged, "it’s okay… I’ll miss some things about it but not much. The tranquil life is good enough for me."
"It’s the only life I know," she said.
"I imagined it would be."
~* *~

"What are you doing here?" Elizabeth closed her bedroom door and locked it. "How did you get in here?"
Maxwell was sitting on the end of her bed, "I have my ways," he answered.
"So it seems," she walked over to him. He put his hands on her hips and brought her closer so she was standing between his legs. "I’ve needed to talk to you so much," she said.
She looked down at him and he looked up at her with adoring eyes. "I know what you’re going to say," Elizabeth said.
"You do? So why haven’t you done anything yet?" he asked.
She sighed, "me? I have to do it alone?" she shook her head, "I tried once I just… it’s so hard… it’s just such a hard decision…"
"I thought you’d already made a decision?" he asked.
She looked down at the floor and didn’t say anything.
"Liz?" he moved his hand to her face and she looked down at him, "you have made a decision right?"
She nodded, "this is so hard."
"What’s so hard?" he was getting worried.
"No don’t worry I’m talking about my sister… I’m just having trouble… I should be! I don’t want to hurt her," she bit her lip.
He took her hands in his and pulled her down so she was on her knee’s in between his legs, "of course you have the right to have trouble with this but the sooner we tell them the better it will be," he wanted to kiss her but he didn’t. He rubbed her knuckles with his fingers, "Liz I just… it’s so hard to be in the same room with you and have to pretend you mean nothing," his eyes showed how much he meant what he was saying. His heart was pouring into hers, "and now that you’re engaged to that man…"
"Kyle," she corrected him.
His eyes narrowed, "yeah," he frowned.
She could tell he was questioning her feelings towards him because of his expression. She moved in closer to him and pressed her body into his, "Kyle is a really, really nice guy Max and if I’d never met you I wouldn’t have minded being engaged to him at all. But you," she pressed her forehead against his. "You are who I want. I’m just thinking about the people around me too," she brought her lips up to his and she kissed him with so much love Maxwell had trouble sitting up. He moaned deep in his throat.
"I want to be with you. But do you understand that it’s going to take time for me to get up the nerve?" she said. "You’ve gotten a lot from me just by getting me to make the decision to tell them!" she chuckled.
"I know," he sighed.
She kissed him again and he pulled her up onto the bed so she was on top of him. Maxwell lay down on his back, "I can’t wait much longer," he said.
She tried to get up but he rapped his arm around her waist, "are sure you don’t mean… you don’t want to wait much longer?" she asked. This was all a bit much for her, she wasn’t used to be with a person like this and she was very shy.
He kissed her lips, "I hate not being able to come near you in public… and Carmen she’s just… she’s not you and I don’t want to be stuck with her while you’re out there…" he said.
Elizabeth’s heart melted, "how do we get relief from this?"
His eyes blazed, "Liz," he said quietly. "I want nothing more then to show you how we get relief from this."
How did she know he wasn’t talking about the same thing as her? She blushed. She was so inexperienced and had basically no idea what to expect from him. "I’m talking about in public!" she said. She tried to get up again but he would let her.
"Stop trying to get away from me," he grinned, "I don’t get to be near you any other time don’t I at least get to now?"
"We are in a house filled with my family and Kyle! I’m supposed to be freshening up," she said. "Someone will come and try to find me in a minute."
He sucked in a breath, "let them come… let them find us like this, I don’t care anymore. I never did! I don’t care about anyone or anything else anymore."
"How convenient for you," Elizabeth finally got up off him, "I really have to go Max I can’t stay in here…"
"That’s why we need to end this so we have unlimited time," he sat up, "except for when you have art classes of course…"
She walked over to her mirror and looked at herself, "what do you plan on doing with me when my family knows everything?" she asked. Maxwell got up off the bed and walked up behind her, she fixed the butterfly clip in her hair.
"I plan," he rapped his arms around her waist and lowered his lips to her ear, "to spend the rest of my life with you."
She swallowed.
"Elizabeth?" there was a knock at the door.
Elizabeth closed her eyes and smiled in satisfaction at the feeling of Maxwell’s lips on her neck, "Just a second Kyle!" she said back.
Maxwell rolled his eyes and spun her around to face him. He parted her lips with his and slid his tongue in her mouth teasingly…
She moaned and pushed him away, "you have to stop," she whispered, "hide or something!"
He rolled his eyes again.
She pushed him over to her wardrobe and closed the door… she left it slightly ajar so he would have light. After wiping her mouth she walked over to the door to let Kyle in.
He walked in, "are you okay you were taking a while?"
"I’m fine," she smiled, "I’m sorry to worry you."
He shook his head; "it’s okay. I was just leaving now…"
They had a short awkward silence.
"Listen Liz," he smiled, "is it all right if I call you that?"
She cleared her throat; she could practically feel Maxwell’s anger radiating from the wardrobe. "Um… sure? Why not?"
"I just want to say I am so happy that your parent’s agreed to having you be… chosen for me. I know we are going to have the best time together," he smiled shyly.
"I’m so happy you think so," she said.
He reached out and touched her cheek, "Is it all right if I pick you up tomorrow?"
She nodded, "sure."
"Great," he took his hand away and went to turn away but stopped. He turned back around and leaned into her face, "you’re very beautiful and I’m honored to know I’m good enough for you," he kissed her on the lips and tried to make it more passionate but Elizabeth pulled away.
"I’ll see you tomorrow," she said.
He nodded, "yeah… I’ll look forward to it." He left the room and closed the door behind him. As soon as he was gone she sucked in a breath and put her hand to her forehead, she knew Maxwell would have something to say about this…
The wardrobe door slowly slid open and Maxwell stood there with an intense expression on his face. He did not look happy at all.
She didn’t say anything.
"Tell them today," he said plainly, "today."
As much as she found his jealousy cute she wanted him to know he had no reason to feel it. "He was just being friendly…"
"Yes he’s kissing you wonderfully friendly," Maxwell stepped out of the wardrobe and closed the door behind him, "and you’re so convincing…"
"And you think you’re not like that with Carmen?" she asked, "at least you haven’t had to see it several times every day!"
"Liz…" he walked up to her, "let’s tell them now, it hurts too much."
"You get to feel what it’s been like with me for the last two months," she said, "it’s not nice is it?"
He was surprised by her attitude.
"Stop blaming me Max, it’s not my fault he’s doing what any man would do."
"I’m sorry," he kissed her forehead. "I’ve just had enough of not being with you. We have to tell them Liz, please soon I can’t take much more of this."
~* *~

Elizabeth and Carmen sat at the piano in the ballroom playing together. Maxwell was sitting near them watching.
"You play, I’m going to dance…" Carmen stood up and walked over to Maxwell. She took his hands in hers and pulled him to his feet, "let’s dance?" she smiled brightly.
They rapped their arms around each other and Elizabeth played, ‘unforgettable’ on the piano. In a quiet voice she started singing the lyrics...
That's what you are,
Tho' near or far."
Maxwell looked over Carmen’s head at Elizabeth singing. She caught his gaze once and smiled at him sheepishly.
"Like a song of love that clings to me,
How the thought of you does things to me.
Never before
has someone been more..."
When she finished playing the song Carmen skipped over to the piano, "What made you play that song?" she asked.
"It’s one of my favorites," Elizabeth glanced at Maxwell and he smiled. Carmen watched them both then shrugged and said, "let me have a go now?"
"Of course," Elizabeth got up off the seat in front of the piano and let Carmen sit down. "You two dance or something…" she waved her hand at them.
Maxwell walked over to Elizabeth and pulled her out onto the dance floor so they could dance. He put his arm around her waist and she mouthed, ‘no, not with her here!’
He took no notice and started to dance to the piano. As they danced they stared into each other’s eyes longing and didn’t even realize Carmen was watching them with confusion in her eyes. Maria was at the top of the stairs leaning against the railing watching them.
Carmen gasped and stopped playing. They didn’t even notice and kept dancing…
She watched them closely and saw the look in their eyes and quickly jumped up, "okay you can stop now!" she cried.
Elizabeth blushed and let go of Maxwell.
Carmen walked over to them and looked at Elizabeth with questioning eyes. "I’m just going to go… paint something," Elizabeth said quietly. She headed over to the stairs and when she saw Maria’s accusing eyes on her started to panic, "what?’ she asked.
Maria didn’t say anything she just kept staring at her.
"I wish you would stop looking at me like that," Elizabeth walked past her.

~* X *~

"Argh!" Elizabeth screamed, "I’m going to KILL you!"
Maria giggled and chucked another snowball at her. "Never!" she cried.
Elizabeth bent down and grabbed two whole handfuls of snow and leapt at her sister. She had grave difficulty catching her but when she did she slaughtered her with snowballs. "Argh!" Maria cried finally. That was exactly what Elizabeth had wanted to hear.
On the porch sat Kyle, Michael, Carmen, and Maxwell. They had just had lunch and Maria had challenged Elizabeth to a snow ball fight.
Elizabeth, not being able to sit near Maxwell any longer with out touching him, agreed and chased her off the porch.
Kyle chuckled at their games and turned to Michael, "aren’t they delightful?"
Michael nodded his head, "beyond," he said.
Carmen yawned and looked over at Maxwell. He was watching Elizabeth skip and chase after Maria with a small smile on his lips.
"Maxwell?" She put her hand on his arm, "Maxwell darling?"
He didn’t notice her. He found watching Elizabeth was like watching a light in the sky that turned into an angel. He couldn’t tear his gaze away.
"Maxwell?" Carmen repeated loudly.
Maxwell snapped out of his hypnotized state and turned to look at Carmen, "yes?"
Carmen groaned and stood up angrily. She stomped away and Maxwell didn’t even bother to watch her let alone follow her. The only reason he was keeping up this whole charade was because he respected his love’s wishes.
When Maria and Elizabeth came back onto the porch in their gloves and hats and scarves, all flustered and puffing, Elizabeth looked at Carmen’s empty chair with a frown, "where’s Carmen?" she asked.
"She went inside," Maxwell answered.
Elizabeth looked at him questioningly but Kyle rapped his arms around her waist and pulled her down onto his lap. With a smile on his cheeky face he said, "I’ll come help you bathe if you want."
Apparently everyone knew he was kidding except Maxwell.
He nearly choked on his own tongue, he coughed loudly and Elizabeth glanced at him then back at Kyle. "Very funny Kyle," she chuckled and got up off him, "I’m very capable of bathing myself."

~* *~
Now not only Maria and Isabelle were watching Maxwell and Elizabeth, Carmen was too. Elizabeth guessed she was just trying to be certain nothing was going on...
On Sunday evening Isabelle, Alexander, Michael, Maxwell, and Kyle were all around for dinner and it was going fine for everyone except Elizabeth. She couldn't do so much as to ask Maxwell to hand her the salt without Carmen, Isabelle, and Maria all eyeing the whole exchange closely.
Kyle was talking to Jeffery and Michael so they didn't notice any of it but Elizabeth knew Maxwell was very aware of how everyone was watching them. Nancy had noticed the girls watching them both but she didn't have any idea what was going on. Taking a chance Elizabeth glanced at Maxwell and he glanced back... she knew he was going to say something any minute if she didn't.
She could tell he was beyond tired of pretending and was about to burst a seam if he didn’t have what he wanted/ needed very soon.
Carmen cleared her throat and looked across the table at Elizabeth, "Elizabeth," she said in a not so joyful voice. "I'm going to ask you a question. Will you do me so much as to give me the complete truth?"
"Of course," Elizabeth's voice cracked.
Oh no, she thought her heart beating rapidly, this is it. I didn't even have to bring it up myself Carmen's done it for me. She put down her knife and fork and wondered if she should go get some kind of shield in case people started throwing things.
This would be horrible but the situation would be over. It would over.
She had no idea how her family would react; they wouldn't kick her out of the house would they?
Her heart was beating so loud and so hard she could feel it all over her body and she was sure everyone in the room could hear it. She tried to calm herself down but she could not, tomorrow was so indeterminable right now. Nothing in her whole life had prepared her for this.
She had been hoping that when it happened it would only happen in front of the people that needed to hear it. She was not lucky at all. It was going to be in front of everyone.
Carmen put down her knife and fork and in a shaky voice said, "is there something going on between you and Maxwell?"
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and felt tears sting her eyes. What could she answer? Was she ready for this?
She knew she wasn't but then again she never would be.
She looked around the room and noticed that her father, fiancee, and brother-in-law-to-be had stopped talking and were looking at her. Every person in the room was looking at her.
She turned her head to look at Maxwell and he swallowed and looked straight back at her.
Everyone was waiting, if she didn't answer soon would someone demand it?
She sucked in a breath and somehow sucked in some of Maxwell's strength, "yes," she answered. Her voice came out breathy and shaky and if everyone hadn't been completely silent they may not have heard her reply.
In that second all the air in the room was sucked into the lungs of her family who gaped at her wide eyes. Elizabeth suspected they had expected her to say no. Huh, she thought, you got what you wanted and now you are going to have to deal with it like I am.
Carmen whimpered and buried her face in her hands. That broke Elizabeth's heart the most. More then any of the mean comments her family started throwing at her, more then Kyle's shocked face, more then her fathers mad eyes. More than anything.
"What the hell do you mean yes?" her father demanded.
Elizabeth knew there was no escaping now and on the spot decided that if she really loved Maxwell, like she did, she would be proud of her love for him and stand up for herself. She wanted to show him she felt the same way, "I mean yes," she looked around the table, "yes there is something going on between Maxwell and I."
She looked at him and saw him smile slightly at her. She smiled back.
A tear dripped down Carmen's cheek and she looked at Maxwell, then Elizabeth, and then back at Maxwell. "Is it true?" she asked with a hurt voice.
Maxwell nodded, "yes. It's true."
Nancy looked beyond shocked, she put her hands on her cheeks and closed her eyes. No one knew what to say they just sat there staring at each other for a long time.
Jeffery finally sprung up from his chair, "Elizabeth, Carmen, Maxwell, my office right now!" he yelled.
Jeffery was a man that rarely lost his temper and if he was going to he did it in his office so he could pretend to himself that it was business.
Elizabeth was first to stand up, she was ready for this, it was time to get this done and finished.
Maxwell stood up after her and then a half-crying Carmen followed. They all walked behind Jeffery to his office with out saying anything; everyone at the table sat still and didn't say anything either.
Once they were in Jeffery's office he closed the door and walked over to stand in front of his desk where he could be in charge. "Now," he said madly, "tell me what the hell is going on. Right now."
"Don't ask me," Carmen tried to get as far away from Maxwell and Elizabeth as possible. "I know nothing about anything," she said.
Maxwell put his hand on Elizabeth shoulder and squeezed it for support. She opened her mouth to say something but before she could utter a sound Carmen's loud voice said, "no, wait. Everyone get out, I want to talk to my sister!"
"Carmen please," Jeffery shook his head.
Carmen walked over to the door and held it open, "please get out."
Maxwell was very reluctant to leave but Elizabeth motioned for him to go and he went. Jeffery left straight after him.
When the door was closed, it was the two sisters left. Alone.
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and backed into her father’s desk, "Carmen, please let me explain…"
She had pictured this scene played out in her head more than a million times but she had no idea what to expect. Would her sister be hurt and just cry and admit her disappointment, or would she be mad and scream and scream until her throat was raw?
Elizabeth knew her sister better then anyone and yet she was still shocked by her response.
Carmen walked straight up to her and with bright red eyes asked, "how much do you love him?"
Elizabeth stammered and tried to move away from her but there was no where for her to go. The desk was in the way.
"Tell me," Carmen looked about ready to pop a seam herself.
Elizabeth looked down at the ground and opened her mouth; she had no idea what was going to come out. She let her heart do the talking. "He is my world," she said quietly. "I can’t live with out him."
She looked up ready to see Carmen’s upset and hurt eyes but she was shocked to find her departing figure at the doorway. Elizabeth went after her of course.
She followed her out to the dinning room and that’s when she saw Carmen look at Maxwell and say in the loudest voice Elizabeth had ever heard her speak in, "leave! I want you GONE."
"What?" Elizabeth stepped forwards, "Carmen, please…"
Carmen spun around, "You have humiliated me and you have betrayed me. I don’t want to see you!"
Elizabeth’s face crinkled up and she tried not to cry, "you said you would still love me if I did something really selfish and…"
Carmen cut her off, "I also said," she spoke quietly, "that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me so much. Meaning I trusted you."
Elizabeth held her hands over her heart and in effort to try to stay composed cut herself with one of her nails. She winced and looked down at her bleeding hand. When she looked up again she looked into the hurt eyes of her sister and said in the calmest voice she could master:
"You have every right to hate me and you have every right to want to never see me again. BUT before I leave I want you to know ONE thing." She looked at Maxwell and then back at Carmen, "I have tried and I have tried to do the best thing. I didn’t want to hurt you and I put my feelings aside for you. I have felt the hurt you are feeling right now but in a different way. I have been sick in order to make you not feel pain. I have wanted to run away and never show my face again because I felt so so bad. I have been the best sister I can be." Tears dripped from her eyes, "and I have wanted to stop my feelings so you wouldn’t have to get hurt. It had to stop Carmen, he want’s me.
I am doing YOU a favor by stopping this from going any further. You have to know before you dismiss me that I love you more then you will ever imagine and I have done the best I can without dying inside. I told you just before that I can not live with out him, hoping, praying, you would show the same courtesy and feel bad for me like I have been for you. I need both of you and I just hope you will let me have this."
Elizabeth walked over to Maxwell and he took her hand.
They left the room, leaving behind a shocked and speechless family.
Once they were out of sight Maxwell asked where they were going. Elizabeth asked if she could stay with him until her family cooled down and he replied of course.
She felt bad about leaving Kyle in there but what could she do? She would have to go and talk to him at his house later. She needed to apologize to him.
Maxwell held the door to his carriage open for her and she hopped in and took a seat on the far side. He got in after her and closed the door. "Liz," he pulled her into his arms and hugged her, "you did the best you could okay? You are a good sister."
Elizabeth tried not to break down, "she’s never going to talk to me again."
Maxwell shook his head, "yes she will, she is just upset right now."
He held her until they got to his house and then they both got out of the carriage and walked hand-in-hand up to the house. Elizabeth was very aware that Maxwell’s parents were going to need an explanation now. She hoped Maxwell would have the honor.
They walked straight in and Maxwell led her through to the dinning room where his parent’s were sitting eating dinner.
"Maxwell? Elizabeth?" Philip Evan’s frowned, "what are you doing here?" He eyed their linked hands and Elizabeth’s upset face.
"Just thought you should know," Maxwell said, "I won’t be marrying Carmen, I will be marrying Elizabeth."
"What?" Philip, Diane, AND Elizabeth said in unison. Elizabeth stepped away from him with a shocked face.
Maxwell grinned, "what you didn’t think I’d take you away from your family and not marry you did you?"
Elizabeth was going to cry again.
He chuckled at the sight of her she was so emotional. "You will marry me right?"
Elizabeth couldn’t answer; she just bit her lip and nodded her head.
He pulled her close to him again and forgetting all about his parent’s placed a sweet kiss on her lips.
"Excuse me?" Diane interrupted with wide eyes, "what’s going on here?"
Elizabeth rapped her arms around Maxwell’s waist and he sucked in a breath and said, "me and Elizabeth are going to get married."
Philip stood up, "well yes you’ve told us that much. What about Carmen, does she know about this?"
"Yes…" Maxwell, said. "Carmen and I are not meant to be. Liz and I on the other hand…"
"Oh my," Diane said, "what a surprise! Elizabeth do your parent’s know?"
Elizabeth nodded, "most of it…"
"Well, well. My word," Diane said.
"Liz do you want to go up to my room and wait for me please? I want to talk to my parent’s," Maxwell looked down at her. She nodded and pulled her arms away from him.
After she left, Elizabeth wandered down the hallways remembering only now that she did not know where his room was because she had never seen it before.
She thought about her sister and just leaving her like that. She didn’t know if just leaving like that was the right thing to do but if they wanted to talk to her they could come to her, right?
Her sister’s mad voice and upset face cut Elizabeth deep in the heart. She had been so upset and though Elizabeth knew she would be it didn’t make her feel any better at all.
What was going to happen now?
A small smile graced her lips when she thought about marrying Maxwell. Less then a month ago she thought it would only happen in a fantasy and nothing more. If only she could go back to the past and tell the sad little lonely Elizabeth that the future would be brighter. Maybe she could erase some of the agony she felt.
She meant what she said to her sister about being in pain for her but she could not take it anymore. She would have ended up running away and escaping to a new place. That way she could leave Maxwell and Carmen to be together without interruptions.
That was before she found out Maxwell didn’t want Carmen. It wasn’t fair to let him marry her when he didn’t want her. Elizabeth was trying to convince herself that telling Carmen was for the best. It was so hard to believe it though… Carmen’s face had showed how much she was hurt and Elizabeth would remember that face until the day she died.
What was her family going through right now? What was happening?
A part of her knew she should have stayed and talked about everything but another part of her believed she needed to leave them to think and take it all in. Elizabeth knew what Maria must have been thinking I knew it!
She wanted to be happy about her upcoming wedding but she couldn’t feel happy so soon after telling her family the truth. Telling them was a huge thing and it was not over yet. It was far from it.
"There you are," Maxwell walked towards her, "you have no idea where to go do you?"
She shook her head.
He smiled and took her hands, "this way." Was it going to be strange finally being with Maxwell now? She was so used to being able to look and not touch but now he was hers for the taking and she would be around him whenever she wanted. It all seemed a little bit easy, like all of a sudden everything was fine. An impossible love just happened to break free and now they could be together.
It was a little too convenient and Elizabeth felt uneasy that something would happen soon to set them off again.
She, of course, hoped nothing would happen.
Maxwell stopped walking in front of two joining doors and looked down at her. "Are you okay?" he asked with all his heart.
She sucked in a breath, "I could be better," she whispered.
He leaned down and kissed her forehead, "I know everything seems strange and upsetting right now but I promise I will make it better. I just want you to be happy okay?"
A tear dripped down her cheek, "what did you say to your parent’s?"
"I told them the truth, about everything," he let go of her hands and opened the doors. "This is my room," he explained.
He walked into the dark room and lit a small oil lamp near the door, it’s manly but comforting designs appeared in front of their eyes. The room was very large with an adjoining little room for a bathtub. It had a large set of windows that looked out at the gravel driveway and trees, the curtains that hung from it were large and a very dark blue. His huge bed was positioned on the left-hand side in the middle of the wall; it was covered with a very dark green colored blanket. His room had a fireplace! Elizabeth found this especially delightful and spent extra time running her eyes over its white marble mantle. The room was warm because a fire had already been lit and its orange flames glistened warmly.
She stepped inside and sucked in a breath, was it possible for the room to smell like him? Well in this case it was. Elizabeth smiled slightly; she could definitely get used to that smell.
"It may not be as decorative as what your used to…" Maxwell said. He pulled off his coat and hung it over the back of a chair near the doorway. He then pulled hers off her shoulders and placed it in the same place.
"Are you warm enough without that?" he asked.
She nodded and walked over to the fireplace and stood in front of it warming her hands until he came up behind her and placed a gentle kiss on her neck. They needed to talk and Elizabeth was glad she wouldn’t have to start the conversation.
She took a seat on one of the sofa chairs in front of the fire and crossed her legs. Maxwell sat down next to her and put his hand on her knee, "I owe you a huge thank you," he said. She stared at him with adoring eyes. "You handled tonight so perfectly and I know I could not have done better. I know how hard it has been for you and with me pushing you to tell them wouldn’t have helped much…"
"It’s okay," she uttered.
He shook his head, "you see, I don’t know how to control myself when I am around you and obviously you are so much stronger then me because you put up with Carmen and I for so long and…" a small smile spread across his lips. "I couldn’t even handle you and Kyle together from the beginning!"
Elizabeth blushed.
He rubbed his hand up and down her knee soothingly, "what you said to Carmen just…" he sucked in a breath, "thank you for caring for me so much to do that for me."
Elizabeth turned to look at the fireplace, "I meant it," she said.
He brought his other hand up to her face and brushed a stray piece of hair away from her eyes, "I feel the same way," he said.
Elizabeth moved her hands to his on her knee and in a very shy and scared voice said, "Max? Are you…in love with me?"
Maxwell laughed, "Liz are you kidding?" he leaned into her face, "I’m crazy in love with you. What I feel for you seems more then any word could describe." He brought his lips up to hers and kissed her passionately.
When he pulled away she brought her hand up to his cheek and wiped away the one tear that had dripped from his eye. "I never thought I’d hear you say that to me," she whispered, "I didn’t think it was possible."
He pressed his forehead to hers, "get used to it," he said, "because I plan to spend a whole life time saying it to you."

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:40:28 PM
~* XI *~

Although Maxwell protested for a long time, Elizabeth went to see Kyle that night. She couldn’t stand just sitting around thinking about how bad he must feel.
"Where am I sleeping?" Elizabeth asked before she left, "in your bed with you? Only if you have nothing but good intentions for me… we aren’t married yet." She pulled on her coat and Maxwell laughed.
"Why do you have to go see him?" he got up off the sofa chair in front of the fire and walked over to her, "when will you be back?"
"I’ve explained to you a hundred times why I have to go and I won’t be too long," she said. "Hey I know, why don’t you go and talk to Carmen?"
"If you ever plan on seeing me again I don’t think that is a very good idea," he opened the door for her, "she would kill me."
Elizabeth didn’t smile, "Max don’t," she said.
"I’m sorry," he shrugged, "I just don’t think she would mind much if she never saw me again. She probably wants to beat me to a pulp."
"You’re not making me feel any better."
He touched her shoulder, "she will forgive you," he said, "just give her time." They walked through the lounge room and out to the front door, "why don’t I come?" he asked.
Elizabeth thought about it for a second and then shook her head, "I think it would be better if just I talked to him…"
Maxwell sighed.
She left in his carriage and thankfully the cold, windy; journey to Kyle’s house was short. She thought about what she was going to say to him and just hoped his reaction would be good. One of the maids led her through to his room and she knocked on the door and waited patiently.
"Come in!" he yelled after a few minutes.
She opened the door and walked in shyly, "hey Kyle," she said quietly.
He looked up, shocked, and stood up from his desk, "Elizabeth? What are you doing here?"
She walked over to him, "I came to apologize," she said.
Kyle motioned for her to take a seat and he sat back down in his chair.
"I really didn’t want that to have to happen in front of you tonight and it was unfair of me to pretend with you when Maxwell and I…" she looked down. "If I had never met Maxwell I would have been honored to be marrying you… you’re so funny and charming." She looked back up at him, "what I’m trying to say is, I hope I didn’t hurt you by doing this. As you know my parent’s set this whole thing up and I didn’t mean to fall for Maxwell, it just happened."
Kyle bit his lip and stared at her.
"Can you forgive me and be my friend? I really need one of those right now considering my families probably disowning me right now," she let out a little laugh/ cry and wiped a tear from her eye.
He reached out and took her hands in his, "they won’t disown you Liz."
Her lip trembled and she tried not to cry, "you think so?" her voice cracked. "I’m sorry I didn’t want to get all teary again."
"It’s fine," he said. "Look obviously this whole family thing is tearing you apart and the least I can do is cut you some slack. I’ll get over it and it would be great if we could be friends. Can I come to the wedding?" he laughed.
Elizabeth laughed, "of course."
Kyle smiled slightly and after a few seconds of silence he said, "I’m disappointed we won’t be getting married anymore."
"You’ll find someone who will respect you more then me," she bit her lip, "I’m so sorry Kyle…"
He shrugged and pulled his hands away, "don’t apologize. You must really love him to risk your relationship with your family for him."
"I do," Elizabeth said quietly, "I love him beyond words."
He sighed, "then there is no point in me being another burden in the way of true love. I just hope he’ll respect you and give you what you deserve."
Elizabeth stared at him; "he will… thank you for caring for me Kyle."
He nodded, "it’s my pleasure."
When she stood up to leave she leaned down and kissed his cheek, "I plan on seeing you around if you’ll let me."
He looked up at her, "sure."
He walked her to the door and before she left he said, "if it makes you feel better to know… Maria and Isabelle were standing up for you when you left."
Elizabeth’s eyes widened, "they were?" she asked.
Kyle nodded, "yeah they were. Maria told Carmen that at least you had the decency to try and give up your happiness for hers…things like that."
Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile, "thank you for telling me that."
"Agh well you know," he shrugged.
When Elizabeth got back to Maxwell’s house she found him sitting in his dark room in front of the fire. It only lit the area he was in and she could see he was just staring at the flames, thinking obviously.
"Don’t tell me you’ve been nothing since I left," she teased. He turned his head to see her pull off her coat and put it down on the chair.
"You were gone to long," he raised his eyebrows.
She shook her head; "you’re kidding right? I was gone for less then an hour."
She sat down next to him and placed her hands on her lap, "what now?" she asked.
He chuckled, "sleep. Then in the morning I trust you’d like to go see your family again?"
Elizabeth nodded.
"Ah I thought so," he stood up and held his hands out for her, "come on."
Elizabeth was nervous about sleeping in a bed with him. This would be the first time she was in a bed with a man and she didn’t know how to act. She bit her lip and tried to control her heart rate.
He squatted down in front of her, "I’ll sleep somewhere else if you want me to?" he caressed her knuckles.
"No, you don’t have to," she said.
He kissed her palms, "are you scared of me? I promise sleep is all I plan on doing."
She chuckled, "stop making me sound pathetic."
"Your not pathetic," he stood up, "come… I’ll turn around while you get undressed if you want?"
She stood up and followed him over to his bed; "Max this is just all new for me? Do you understand?"
"I understand completely," he answered.
Elizabeth bit her lip; "I’m being silly."
Maxwell chuckled, "I’ll sleep some where else," he decided, "I want you to be comfortable… such a lady of importance should not have to worry about missing needed sleep."
Elizabeth stepped into him and looked up at him, "I barely know you," she said.
"What do you want to know?" he asked.
"But I feel like I know everything about you."
He leaned down and pressed his lips to her forehead, "you know what you need to know about me for the time being. We’ll learn the rest later."
"Hmm," she mumbled. "Will you unbutton my dress for me?" She turned around and started unclipping her hair.
He swallowed and with slightly shaky hands undid every last button going down to her lower back. When he was done he untied her corset and loosened it for her.
"Thank you," she said. She undid her hair and handed him the clips and clasps; he went and placed them on his desk on the other side of the room. While he was away getting into his night wear she pulled off her dress and her corset and looked down at herself. She was wearing a see through tank top with a ribbon along the top and bottom. She took off her garters, stockings, and shoes and was left in nothing but her locknit bloomers and tank top. She ran her fingers through her hair and then pulled back a corner of the blankets on the bed and slipped under the covers. Her hair was in lockets from being curled up all day and she made sure she looked okay before he came back in.
Maxwell knocked on the door and after she summoned him in he opened the door and came in. Elizabeth could barley see him in the dark room… the only light was coming from the fireplace.
He came over to her and hopped into the other side of he bed, "you know," he said, "you get undressed surprisingly quicker then most ladies."
She raised her eyebrows, "you would know?" she asked.
He grinned but she couldn’t tell in the dark.
"I don’t have my hair brush here or any of my belongings so you can just be quiet," she lay down on her back and looked up at him, "my sisters should kill me right now."
"They should," he lay down next to her, "but they aren’t here."
They stared at each other in the dark and Elizabeth moved closer to him, "can I ask you something?"
He nodded against the pillow, "of course."
"Have you…" she sighed, "…loved many girls before?"
"No Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzie…" he kissed her, "I have not loved many girls before."
She sucked in a breath, "how many girls have you…" she blushed, "made love to?"
He sighed, "do I have to answer this question?" he chuckled.
"Yes," she answered.
He rapped his arms around her waist, "not many at all my love, not many at all."
Elizabeth bit her lip.
"You want something from me?" he asked.
She sucked in a breath, "I just…" she swallowed back tears, "did you love my sister?"
"I don’t know what answer you want. The truth or…"
"Give me the truth," she whispered.
He pressed his lips to her hair, "how could I be in love with your sister when I was, am, to infatuated with you?"
Elizabeth had tears in her eyes, "I love my sister," she whispered.
"I know you do," he said, "and she will realize that soon enough."
They fell asleep with their heads tilted into one another and content smiles on their faces.

~* *~

When Elizabeth woke up she was in bed by herself. She rolled onto her back and looked around the room, the fire was re-lit and but the curtains were still pulled. A few minutes passed that she spent staring at nothing, where was Maxwell? She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, she wondered if she should get dressed?
Maxwell entered the room a few seconds later carrying a dress, he noticed she was awake and smiled. He was dressed and done up suitably for the day, she could smell his clean scent from where she was.
"Good morning," he walked over to the end of the bed; "my mother gave me this dress of hers for you. It’s too small for her so it should fit you. I had the maids boil some water for a bath for you. It’s all ready if you want to hop in now?"
She had her knees drawn up to her chest and the blanket was up to her chin, "thank you," she smiled.
"It’s the least I can do," he put the dress down on the bed and straightened it out. "When you’re out of your bath, breakfast will be ready and you can eat…"
Elizabeth was smiling at him.
He smiled back and couldn’t help a little chuckle escaping his lips, "what?" he asked; "it’s so nice to see you smiling."
"He has," she said, "I know not what. Of greatness in his looks, and of high fate… that almost awes me."
Maxwell raised his eye brows, "Who’s talent did you steal that from? Let’s see a poetic man—Dryden?"
She nodded, "yes."
He laughed, "stop or I’ll have to come over there and ravish you like I so muchly want to. I’m going with my father to work for an hour… my mother is here for you. I will be back in no time."
"Ah see I will not kick up a fuss like you did last night when I went to see Kyle," she said.
"That’s because you are a better person then me," he couldn’t help it, he came over to the side of the bed and kissed her lips. She pulled away and shook her head, "I haven’t even brushed my teeth," she explained.
"Oh well," he headed to the door, "what a shame."
He stopped walking near the door and turned around, "doubt thou the stars are fire! Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love."
Elizabeth blushed.
"I’ll be back soon," he blew her a kiss then left the room.
Elizabeth got out of bed soon after Maxwell left and went to have a bath. The room was warm from the fire and it wasn’t too cold getting out of her clothes. She scrubbed her body until it glistened pink and then she got out of the tub and headed into Maxwell’s room to dress.
She couldn’t do up her own corset so she got one of the maids who was in the room making the bed to do it. She had pulled back the curtains and explained to Elizabeth that her clothing was washed and drying next to the fire in the kitchen.
"Thank you," Elizabeth smiled.
"It’s my pleasure."
"You wouldn’t know where I could get some make up or a hair brush?" Elizabeth blushed, "or a tooth brush?"
The maid chuckled, "of course, I will go and get you them now."
Elizabeth finished dressing and just after she had put her shoes on the maid came back with the items she had requested. By the time Elizabeth was done with getting ready and was just taking a seat in the dinning room, Maxwell was just getting back with his father. He came inside, took off his coat and then went and took a seat opposite her.
"Nice and clean I see," Maxwell grinned.
Elizabeth blushed, "yes."
Her food was brought to her a few minutes later and she ate it uncomfortably with Maxwell watching her. "Are you going to eat?" she asked.
"I’ve eaten," he explained.
"Are you going to watch me?" she asked.
He chuckled, "I can’t take my eyes off of you, you’re enlightening."
She blushed again, she hated that about herself, she was so shy.
After she finished eating the maids came and removed her plates and she stared at Maxwell across from her, "what’s your favorite quotation Max?"
He thought about it for a second, "I’ll get back to you on that, I love so many. One of my favorites is:
Grace was in her steps, heav’n in her eye, In every gesture dignity and love. By Milton."
She loved the way he spoke, his lips moved so sensually; she could watch them forever. His voice was so manly and charming; she could drown in it…
"What time do you want to go and see your family?" he sighed.
She noticed his disappointment in her wanting to go back there. It was obvious he wished they could just be together and forget about all the troubles back there but that was not possible. Surely they couldn’t just run away together?
"Are you going to come?" she asked.
"Do you want me to?"
She bit her lip.
"I won’t come, I’ll drop you off but I think it will be best if you can try and reason with them before sending me in there again," he stood up.
"Where are you going?"
He walked around to her side of the table, "I’m coming near you, do you have a problem with that?"
"Of course not," she answered flushed a little bit.
He sat down next to her and turned her chair to face his. He intertwined his fingers through hers, "what are you thinking?" he asked.
"I’m thinking," she said, "that this is heaven, being able to be here with you…"
He smiled, "I’m glad." He leaned into her and kissed her lips, "is it all right if I tell you I love you?"
"Yes, that’s fine," she answered.

~* XII *~

Elizabeth stepped into the house she had been living in for twenty-one years feeling like a complete stranger in an all-new place. That amazed and scared her.
"Elizabeth!" Maria entered the room from the lounge and ran up to her, "are you okay? We have been so worried about you!"
"You have?" Elizabeth frowned.
Maria hugged her and kissed her cheeks, "of course!"
"Are mother and father mad?" Elizabeth asked.
Maria led her into the lounge, "at first they were but now they are just frantic with worry."
In the lounge her parent’s were standing together by the fire. "Elizabeth!" Nancy hurried over to her daughter, "where have you been? We have been so worried."
"I was at the Evan’s house," she looked down at her feet, "how’s Carmen?"
Her father walked up; "she’s hurt like she should be."
"She will get over it," Maria said, "Maxwell was Elizabeth’s, first…"
"Maria…" Elizabeth shook her head. "I haven’t done anything wrong, I didn’t go through with anything with Maxwell because I couldn’t do that to Carmen. When I answered yes to something going on between Maxwell and I, I was talking about my feelings."
Her parent’s sucked in a breath.
"Mother, father, please don’t be mad at me for feelings I have no control over… it’s not fair on me at all," Elizabeth looked up, where was all this confidence coming from she wondered?
"It’s not fair on Carmen either," Jeffery said, "it isn’t fair for her to have to give up her fiancee to you."
"I know!" Elizabeth said, "I would have backed off had he not wanted me… but he wants me father. He want’s to marry me."
"Oh good grief," he muttered.
"Father!" Maria cried, "why are you being so mean? Can’t you see she has been tearing herself apart over this? Carmen will marry another but Maxwell and Elizabeth are in love."
Elizabeth couldn’t believe how much Maria was standing up for her. It was so nice to know she would be there for her, it felt like some of her burden was lifted away.
"I love Maxwell too," Carmen said from the doorway.
"Carmen…" Elizabeth walked over to her but Carmen put up her hands, "don’t come near me," she said.
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and tried to fight tears, "Carmen, don’t hate me."
"If you didn’t want me to hate you, maybe you shouldn’t have done anything with my fiancee."
"I haven’t done anything with your fiancee…" he’s my fiancee now, "I have been putting my feelings aside for you! You can be upset that he want’s me but you can’t be mad at me for doing everything in my power to stop it. I told him, I said: ‘No, be with Carmen she’s the one you’re marrying’ but I can’t stop his feelings." She bit her lip, "and I can’t stop mine."
"What about me?" Carmen’s voice cracked and she started to cry, "what about me?"
Elizabeth reached out and touched her arm but she flinched away.
"Wouldn’t you rather be with someone who loves and respects you? Not your sister."
Maria walked up, "Carmen, darling, don’t you want to find your own soul mate? Let Elizabeth have hers."
Carmen burst into tears and left the room quickly. Elizabeth went to go after her but her mother stopped her, "I think you should leave her be," she said.
"You can’t expect her to take this lightly," Jeffery said, "or anyone. Our reputation! Oh what have you done…" he turned around and walked back over to the fire, "what are people going to say?"
Elizabeth followed him, "our reputation? You’d rather our reputation stay in tact then have your daughters be happy?"
"You would have learnt!" he exclaimed, "you would have learnt to love Kyle!"
"But I wouldn’t stop loving Maxwell and I will marry him, even if it is with out your blessing."
"You have my blessing," Nancy stepped up, "you should marry him if he is the one you want."
"What?" Elizabeth and Jeffery said in unison.
Nancy sat down on the couch and crossed her legs, "Jeffery do you not know Elizabeth at all? She would not disrespect Carmen if she weren’t serious about Maxwell. Carmen and Elizabeth have been best friends since they were little… she hasn’t done this to deliberately hurt Carmen. She would never do that."
"That doesn’t make it okay."
Nancy shook her head, "Elizabeth, come here, sit with me."
Elizabeth sat down next to her mother and Nancy put her hands on her knee, "Darling," she said, "how long have you been hiding your feelings for Maxwell?"
"Since…" Elizabeth swallowed, "before I found out he was hers."
"You poor thing," Maria said.
"And you plan on marrying Maxwell now?" Nancy asked.
Elizabeth nodded, "we want to get married, yes."
Jeffery shook his head.

~* *~

Elizabeth leaned her head against the door and closed her eyes. "Carmen, please talk to me. Please."
It was around eleven-thirty in the evening and Elizabeth refused to go to bed until Carmen talked to her. She was sitting on the floor outside her room talking to her through the door. Though it was only Elizabeth talking, Carmen wouldn't say anything.
"Understand the things I say, don't turn away from me. Cos I spent half my life here, you wouldn't disagree," Elizabeth sang some words that just came to her in her distress. "Darling," She said, still with her eyes closed, "do you remember when you were sixteen and I was fifteen and it was Isabelle's birthday party? Father made us sing together while Maria played the piano... when we were finished Isabelle bawled her eyes out she was so happy."
Carmen didn't reply, Elizabeth didn't think she would.
"I remember," Elizabeth whispered, "I remember everything."
She heard footsteps behind the door and it sounded like Carmen was taking a seat on the other side. She heard her head make a little knock noise when she rested it on the wooden door.
"I love you Carmen, my best friend," Elizabeth yawned, "you know I do. How can you possibly stay mad at me?"
She heard a sob.
Elizabeth pressed her forehead into the door; "on the night of your betrothal when I met Maxwell and we danced I was so happy because I knew that I felt for him straight away. Then I found out he was your fiancé and I felt like the best night of my life had suddenly turned into the worst night of my life. Do you remember how sad I was that night in bed? Everyone wanted to know why I was acting so depressingly and it was because I knew that I could never be with him because I could never do anything to hurt you." A tear dripped down Elizabeth's cheek, "I wanted not to love him, I tried to do what was right and tried to hide the fact I felt for him. I tried to go on and let you be happy with him; you deserve that so much. But I was in so much pain, I saw you with him and kissing him and I wanted to die, I wanted to not feel for him so much." Her eyes were blurry and there were tear streaks down her cheeks, "when he told me he felt the same way for me and he wanted me to tell the truth I couldn't... I've tried so many times to tell you but to hurt you..." she sobbed, "it's unthinkable."
Elizabeth wiped her eyes and put her hand on the door, "I am going to be with him Carmen, if you’ll let me see you it will be better but if you will not…"
Carmen started to cry.
"Carmen!" she cried sitting up, "please stop this! Please let me in."
She heard Carmen get up and walk back into the room.
Elizabeth shook her head and buried head in her hands. Would she ever have the same relationship with her sister again? "I have done all I can… I can’t sit here anymore. If your not going to forgive me I’ll wait for a time when you will. I don’t think your being very fair at all." She got up off the floor.
There was no reply.
With a heavy heart Elizabeth turned and walked away.

~* *~

The next morning Elizabeth packed some bags and went to Maxwell’s house. There were many reasons for her departure, the main reasons were because she didn’t think she’d ever be able to sleep in an empty bed without Maxwell again and second, she couldn’t be in the same house as Carmen, it hurt too much.
Her parent’s asked how long she would be gone and she replied, "I don’t know, I think it will be a while."
Maria hugged her and said she will miss having her around.
When she left she didn’t think she wouldn’t be living there again, she would either stay with Maxwell at his house or they would get a house of their own. She couldn’t go back there.
As soon as she reached his house she searched for him, she found him standing in front of the fireplace in the lounge with a little glass of vodka in his hand. He looked at her and she walked straight into his comforting arms where she cried for the obvious loss of her sister and the hard times she knew were coming. He put his vodka glass on the mantle and rapped his arms around her back, he didn’t say anything, and he was just as wonderful as usual and comforted her when she needed it.
Maxwell and Elizabeth spent the day not leaving each other’s sides. The only time they parted was in the evening when Elizabeth had to go and take her art class, Maxwell suggested with a grin that he sit in on the class and gain some tips since he was so much less then talented in the art department.
Elizabeth shook her head and said she wouldn't be able to concentrate with him there so he had to stay home.
However he came and got her as soon as the class ended and they went home together.
While they sat together in front of his fire, Maxwell wrote and Elizabeth read a book, they were very comfortable with each other by now.
"What are you writing about?" Elizabeth asked.
"What are you reading about?" Maxwell smiled.
"Love," they both answered.
Elizabeth blushed and held her hand out for his writing book, "may I?"
He handed her the book and she sat back and started reading. She had a small smile on her face as she read and Maxwell watched the emotions in her eyes and took them in as his feedback. She read several pages before putting his book back down on the little table in front of him next to his ink pot, "get it published, " she said supportively.
He tilted his head to the side, "it's just a hobby."
"What stops you from making it more?" she leaned into him and looked him straight in the eye. He touched her cheek with his hand, "I've never considered publishing..." he leaned in to kiss her but the door opened and his mother walked in.
"Pardon the intrusion," she said, "I was just wondering if either of you would be attending church tomorrow?"
Maxwell cursed himself and vowed they were either going to move out or buy a lock for that door.
"I will be," Elizabeth answered his mother, "most definitely."
Diane Evan's smiled, "and you Maxwell?"
He nodded, "of course."
Diane bid them goodnight and left the room, closing the door behind her. As soon as she was gone Elizabeth pulled her hair over her shoulder and asked Maxwell to untie her dress for her, she was very tired and she would love some sleep.
He undid her dress happily and then got up off the couch, "I think it is best if I sleep in the guest room tonight," he said.
"Oh yes?" she pulled the shoulders of her dress down her arms shamefully exposing her corset and lace under clothing. "Why is that?" she asked.
He swallowed, he couldn't control himself when he was around her and he didn't want to get stuck in a situation Elizabeth didn't want to get in until after marriage.
"I want you to sleep in here," she stood up and held her dress to her body, "please?"
He bit his lip, "if you wish," his voice came out husky.
"You can even stay in the room while I get changed if you want," she blushed. She walked over to the bed and let go of her dress so it fell to the floor. She bent down and picked it up then walked over and handed it to him, "will you put that it a safe place for me?" she asked.
While he was doing that she took off all the things she was wearing except for the little under dress she was going to sleep in. When he was getting changed she went into the bathing room to brush her hair in front of the mirror.
She came back when he was in bed and she walked up to the side he was on and climbed in. He cleared his throat, "this is my side."
She shrugged and tried to push him over to the other side, "I want it to be my side," she chuckled.
"And you think your just going to get away with pushing me over?" he asked.
She nodded, "of course."
"Think again," he grabbed her and tried to push her off the bed.
"Ahh!" she cried, "I'm going to fall off!"
He laughed, "that's the plan." She grabbed at his arms and tried to keep holding but she wasn't doing very well and was slowly slipping off the bed, "you wouldn't!" she said.
She fell on the floor and puffed her hair out of her face, "I hate you," she said, "what kind of a man does that to a lady?"
"A lady?" he held his hand out for her, "A lady wouldn't try to steal someone else’s side of the bed."
"I'm so sure," she pounced on him, "move over, come on," she whined.
He leaned up and kissed her, "what will you give me if I do?"
She thought for a second and then rested her forehead on his; "I will forgive you for such a silly proposal."
He laughed, "I didn't propose, I told you were going to marry me. It's the way it should be."
"Riiight," she tried to move away from him but he wouldn't let her.
"Stay," he whispered staring into her eyes.
She sucked in a breath and looked back at him. Not even believing her courage she leaned down to kiss him and let her propped up body drift down to rest snugly on top of his. She kissed him open mouthly and knew it was mean to give him the wrong idea. She just wanted to kiss him, she couldn't let herself go any further... as much as she wanted too.
He caused this magic sensation that tingled through her body when his lips glided across hers. It ignited the fire in her lower stomach like nothing had before in her whole life.
His hands moved to her arms and he broke their kiss, "you are mean," he whispered with his eyes still closed, "stop testing my limits."
She slid off him and lay down on her side facing him, "I can't help it, it's so much fun."
He opened his eyes and smiled at her, his heart was in her hands. "I'm in love with you," he reminded her.
"Thank you," she blushed, "I like the reminders, it makes me feel special. How many times a day are you going to tell me when we're married? Or are you just courting and going to be a complete ass to me when you've de-flowered me?"
"Don't give me that," he shook his head, "I have never heard you say it to me."
She opened her mouth, then shut it again, then opened it again, "how is that even possible? I've thought it so many times."
He grinned, "I'm waiting..."
Elizabeth propped herself up and cleared her throat, "do we need a drum roll?"
He laughed.
Becoming serious, she said in a sweet, quiet, affectionate voice, "I love you Mr. Evan's."
He lay down on his back and looked up at the ceiling, "Okay I'm going to go sleep in the guest room!" he sat up, "I can't take this, men everywhere would shoot me for being so decent!"
She laughed and tugged at him to lie back down, "no stay, please, control yourself, I'll be good."
He lay back down, "why don't I believe you?"
She snuggled into his side and closed her eyes; "I'm not going to dignify that with an answer. I'm going to sleep. Good night."

~* *~

It’s hard to be upset about one thing and be ecstatically happy about another. You know you should be grieving about your misfortune but you can’t stop smiling about your gain. You fight with yourself and you try to feel bad but you can’t see how much of a loss you have faced yet because it hasn’t sunken in. Later you’ll realize you can’t live without the thing you lost but you’ll have your gain there to support you right?
Elizabeth was too happy with Maxwell to worry about her sister too much. She knew it was selfish but he wouldn’t let her get upset… when ever she was quiet and looked like she was thinking he would come and kiss her or say something so adorable she had no choice but to laugh.
When they walked in to the church together nearly everyone in the room’s eyes were on them. They tried to ignore it but it hit Elizabeth deep within her because she knew what they all thought. Maxwell could stop her from feeling a lot but he couldn’t stop it all.
"Let’s sit at the back shall we?" Maxwell linked his hand through hers and led her away.
"Elizabeth!" Isabelle came up to her and hugged her, "how are you doing?"
Elizabeth bit her lip, "I’m fine," she said, "how’s Carmen?"
"She’s doing okay…" Isabelle glanced at Maxwell, "are you going to be going back home soon? Mother and father are worried they’ve lost their daughter."
"Tell them they haven’t lost me… they never will."
"Okay," Isabelle kissed her cheeks, "I love you remember, I’ll always be here for you."
Elizabeth nodded, "I know you will."
"I’ll see you later okay?" Isabelle kissed her one more time then walked away.
Maxwell smiled at her, "everything will be fine," he said, "remember I promised I would make you happy?"
She took a seat and he sat down close beside her, "can I tell you something?" she whispered in his ear.
"Of course."
She smiled, "you’re halfway there."
When they went home they went straight to his room to the fire place where they could have privacy and warmth. Maxwell took off her coat and pressed a kiss to her lips, "it was hard for you at church today?" he asked.
She nodded. He sighed and looked down at his feet.
She took his hands in hers, "when do you want to get married?" she asked.
He looked her straight in the eye, "Soon."
"Me too," she sucked in a breath and her eyes lit up, "let’s leave… let’s go somewhere where no one knows us and buy a little house and…"
"Liz," he said, "I would love to."
She smiled, "let’s go tomorrow and never look back…"
He chuckled with disbelief, "tomorrow?"
"Yes!" she kissed his hands, "I’ve never done anything spontaneous in my life! Please… let’s just run away."
"What about money, work?" he asked.
She shrugged, "we have plenty of money, I have some in the bank and you have some saved up for a house don’t you?"
She jumped up and down with glee, "let’s do it then! We’ll catch a train to god knows where…"
He studied her face, "are you serious?"
"I’ve never been more serious," she let go of his hands and rapped her arms around his neck, "let’s do this… I’ll write to my family when we get to where we want to be and tell them to look after Trigger for me. I can’t take art classes forever."
"You’re sure?"
"Yes!" she smiled. "What do you say?"
He thought about it for a second then smiled and said, "okay."

~* XIII *~

"You do realize that we would be basically running away from our problems?" Maxwell was lying on the end of his bed with his feet on the ground.
Elizabeth stood looking down at him, "Of course," she said.
"And you still want to go?"
She nodded, "of course."
"But what about your family? You love and adore your family, will you last two minutes out there without them?" he propped himself up with his arms.
She shrugged and sat down next to him, "probably not but I still want to go." She put her hands on his thigh and looked down at him, "I need this... I need to learn how to live without them."
"Is this after yesterday?" he asked.
He sat up properly, "in church."
She moved her hands away from his leg and placed them on her lap, "and if it was would you still want to go? What's wrong with running away from problems?" She looked at him, "no, wait, this isn't running away from problems it is simply moving to another town, I wanted to do that when I got married anyway. This has nothing to do with my family or Carmen... this has to do with you and me."
"Really?" he asked.
She nodded vigorously, "yes really," she answered. "This is so we can have privacy without the whole town watching us and judging us like we are doing something wrong. Which we aren't."
"Right. So let’s go," she stood up.
He didn't move, "are you even going to go see your family before we leave?"
Elizabeth sighed, "your going to make me aren't you?"
"Yes," he smiled.
~* *~
Elizabeth stood in front of her parent’s with Maxwell at her side. "We’re going to move away," she said.
"Move away?" Nancy frowned, "where?"
"Somewhere east," Maxwell answered.
Jeffery did not approve, "you don’t even have any idea where you are going? A job set up?Anything?"
"We don’t need anything," Elizabeth explained, "we’ll be fine. We just thought we better say goodbye before we go."
"You can’t just leave," Jeffery said.
"Father, we need this, it won’t be forever, it’s just for a while until we can get some of our own stability. So we can become independent. I think it would be best if we were on our own."
"We both do," Maxwell corrected her. She glanced at him and smiled.
Nancy swallowed, "I don’t understand why you can’t just buy a house together here… and be married here." She looked back and forth between them, "with family and friends."
Maxwell took Elizabeth’s hand in his and rubbed the back of her hand comfortingly. "We want to travel and see new places. Please understand."
Maria and Isabelle cried and hugged Elizabeth when they found out she was leaving. Carmen stood at the top of the stairs looking down at her family with a sad face. She wanted to go and hug her sister goodbye and tell her not to leave but she was still so upset and angered about everything that had happened.
"I’ll write to you both once a week," Elizabeth buried her face in Isabelle’s neck.
Maria’s sobs were put on hold for a second so she could say; "you better."
"I’m not saying goodbye for good," Isabelle wiped her eyes, "I will come and get you myself if your not back in a year."
Elizabeth wiped her own eyes and smiled, "okay."
She looked up the staircase at Carmen and saw her tears on her face. Carmen bit her lip and raised one hand to give a little wave but made no signs of coming down any time before Elizabeth left.
Elizabeth would not leave without saying goodbye so she quickly turned to Maxwell whom stood at the door with her jacket in his hands. "I’ll be right back," she said.
He nodded understandingly.
She ran up the stairs quickly and walked straight over to Carmen. Not giving Carmen any time to object or move away, she just rapped her arms around her and hugged her tightly. "I will miss you Carmen, I love you."
Carmen didn’t say anything nor did she make any attempts to comfort Elizabeth back.
"Goodbye," Elizabeth kissed her damp cheek then ran back down the stairs and over to Maxwell. He looked up at Carmen with apology in his eyes for a minute then looked down at the floor. Elizabeth didn’t know if it was possible to love him more but she did after he did that kind thing for her sister, she rapped her arm through his and quickly pressed a soft kiss to his neck.
Maria and Isabelle stood together with their arms around each other’s waists, both with tears dripping down their cheeks. Jeffery walked over to Elizabeth and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, "you’re always welcome to come home," he said. He must have realized that she was going to leave with or without his blessings and decided he didn’t want her to leave on bad terms. He turned to Maxwell and said in a very serious voice, "take good care of her or else…"
"You have nothing to worry about," Maxwell said cut him off before he could finish.
Nancy hugged Elizabeth and cried, "don’t be away to long, we need you here."
"Thank you mother," Elizabeth whispered, "thank you for everything… for being so understanding."
She stepped away, "I want what’s best for my daughters," she said.
They said their final good-byes then went to Maxwell’s carriage and headed to the railway station. It was very hard for Elizabeth to say goodbye to them all but what had helped her was the knowledge that she was doing this to be with Maxwell.
"Are you okay?" he asked with his lips pressed to her forehead, "you know your allowed to change your mind whenever you want?"
She smiled lightly and looked down at her glove-covered hands. He intertwined his fingers through hers and kept his face in her hair. "I would never change my mind about leaving with you," she whispered, "I just need to know that you want this and aren’t just doing it for me."
"I want this," he closed his eyes, "it’s like a dream."
She squeezed closer to him and brought his hand up to her mouth, "I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too," he replied.

~* *~

Elizabeth stared out the train’s window at the countryside passing by. She was flooded with many emotions but one was more obvious then the rest. Excitement.
Her hands were clenched at the side of the chair and as she and Maxwell departed their homes she found herself having to take deep breaths to calm herself. Maxwell noticed this and thought it must have been because she was leaving her family and was nervous. He was wrong to think that because Elizabeth did not have butterflies of worry but she felt as if she was embarking of an adventure with someone she couldn't wait to get to know in every way possible. They had ended up traveling straight up north instead of East, there was a train heading to a town in Minnesota and they decided to get on it.
Maxwell thread his fingers through hers and interrupted her thoughts by saying, "we need rings."
Elizabeth turned to face him, "we don't have to get them," she said. "They aren't important."
He raised his eye brows, "I think they are," he said, "we'll have to find a jeweler and a church."
She turned her head back to the window, "okay."
They were on the train for three days and when they got off they were in desperate need of a good bed to sleep in and a bath. After collecting their small amount of luggage they walked out of the station and into their new home (?) Duluth, Minnesota. It wasn't a large town but they heard from a local man that at end of the road there was a family that would have them to stay for next to nothing.
The family took them in without question and greeted them so warmly it was almost like they were family.
"You two look exhausted. We have a nice clean room for you and we will fill a bath…"
The lady who greeted them was beyond lovely, name was Christina and her husband was Jeremy; they had a daughter named Tessa who was fifteen years old. Though they weren’t exactly proper and weren’t high class like Elizabeth was used she loved their home and their family and knew she would get on well with them.
"Would you like to eat first, or bathe?" Christina said they could stay with them as long as they helped out with work around the house.
Maxwell and Elizabeth glanced at each other then Elizabeth said, "I would love to bathe first if it is okay?"
"Of course," Christina nodded, "Tessa will get you some towels and I’ll fill the bath, follow me."
While Elizabeth bathed Maxwell rested in their new lodgings. He had his hands behind his head and his eyes closed as he thought sweetly about how lucky they were to find such a nice family.
When Elizabeth was finished Tessa helped her with her corset and dress ties before she went back into the bedroom to see Maxwell. He opened one eye when the door opened and she smiled, "your turn," she said.
He yawned and sat up and watched her fluff around the room, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her she was so stunning.
When she caught him watching her she blushed and put her hands on her hips, "what? Why are you looking at me like that?"
He scratched his head, "no reason," he lied.
"Go have your bath you smelly man," she opened the door, "or I’ll never go near you again."
He got up off the bed; "I don’t believe you."
"So Elizabeth where have you traveled from?" Christina and Elizabeth set the table for dinner.
Elizabeth was not used to this but it was all so exciting, not at all annoying yet, "Near Cape Girardeau in Missouri."
"Really?" Tessa cut into the conversation, "what made you travel all the way here?"
Elizabeth swallowed, "we wanted to get away from where we were living because of family," she decided she didn’t need to tell them anymore and they noticed she didn’t want to talk about it and didn’t ask anymore.
Elizabeth cut vegetables and helped cook food on the stove for the first time in her life and when Maxwell came out into the kitchen he couldn’t hide his obvious interest and attraction in her. He found it profoundly arousing to watch her fluff around with food. He had no idea why but he guessed it was because it was such a feminine thing to do and he loved the fact she was preparing the food he would eat.
He sat at the table with Jeremy and while Jeremy went on about Lincoln being elected in government he watched Elizabeth dance around the kitchen with an apron around her waist.
"It was a bad move, if he wins there will be a war with the South, I know it," Jeremy got up and went and put the paper in his hand in the fire.
Finally Elizabeth came over and placed a pot of stew on the table, Maxwell watched her every move intently. When she turned to look at him he grinned with all his teeth and had to contain his emotions before he jumped up and dragged her away. He wanted to get married soon. One more night in the same bed as her without being able to touch her would surely drive him insane.
He knew that the physical part of their relationship was not as important as their communication and being able to stand each other for long periods of time but he needed he couldn’t help his need for her.
Tessa came and sat down at the wooden table and placed a big loaf of fresh bread in front of her father. While he cut it into pieces the steam and delightful smell wafted into Maxwell’s nostrils and his stomach grumbled.
The train did not have fresh or nice food at all; this would be an appreciated treat. Elizabeth came and sat down next to him and poured some water into every ones cups. Maxwell leaned into her ear, "the average life agrees with you."
She blushed, "you think?"
"Hmm," he put his hand on her thigh, "most definitely."
She turned bright red and would have told him to move his hand away had the family not been staring at them both. Christine took a seat at the table and held her hand out to her husband and to Elizabeth who sat beside her. Elizabeth took her hand and held her other hand out to Maxwell who had to remove his hand from her thigh to take it. Once they had all joined hands Jeremy asked if either of their guests would like to say grace. They both decided they would rather not and let Christine do it.
"Are you in the family way?" Tessa asked Elizabeth whilst they ate.
Elizabeth nearly spat up her food.
"Tessa!" Christine hissed, "what a question!"
"Well I was just wondering because she left her hom…"
Elizabeth cut her off, "no I’m not Tessa. Maxwell and I are not married yet."
"Oh okay," Tessa nodded.
Maxwell asked if they knew of somewhere Elizabeth and him could get married and purchase rings.
Christine cooed with joy, "oh you can get married at our church! You’ll love it there; it’s so beautiful. As for rings we have a jeweler in this area but he has no gold. You’d have to travel a little bit closer to Lake Superior…"
"Oh," Maxwell sighed.
"It’s not very far away, only about fifteen minutes."
Elizabeth sipped her drink, "rings aren’t important."
"They are and we will go," Maxwell said.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
After dinner Maxwell and Elizabeth excused themselves, they were so tried from their journey and desperately wanted some sleep.
Elizabeth got changed into her night wear and then climbed into the bed, "I’m so tired," she moaned, "I’m going to fall asleep any second."
Maxwell turned hopped into bed and blew out the candle on the bedside. It was very dark in the room except for the moonlight shinning in the window and the little amount of light coming from the cracks in the door. Maxwell rapped his arms around Elizabeth’s waist and closed his eyes, "goodnight Elizabeth," he whispered.
She turned her head and placed a loving kiss on his lips, "goodnight Maxwell. I love being here with you."

~* *~

"I can’t believe your dragging my along with you, I don’t care about rings," Elizabeth adjusted her hat and then pulled on her little leather gloves.
"You should care about rings," Maxwell closed the carriage door and took a seat next to her, "they are important."
"Why?" Elizabeth frowned, "we don’t need something that symbolizes our love, we know how we feel… we have nothing to prove."
He shook his head, "stop. We need rings."
"If you really want them…"
"Yes I do," he grinned.
"Then okay," she finished.
He blinked, "I should think so."
When they had woken up in the morning Maxwell had insisted they go and get their rings today. The sooner they could get their rings the sooner they could get married and they could have a permanent seal to each other, declaring that she was his and he was hers.
Christine had offered to go to the church and organize a time for their small wedding and Maxwell had had thanked her and said that would be very convenient.
They would be married in no time.

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:41:34 PM
~* XIV *~

As much as Elizabeth would not admit to Maxwell that she missed her family, she did and it depressed her at times. She wasn’t having too hard a time with it, but her family had been a vast part of her life and to suddenly not be surrounded by them was uncanny.
"Come out with it," Maxwell said.
"I beg your pardon?" Elizabeth stared at him.
"I am waiting anxiously for you to enlighten me with your exultation towards our wedding bands. Something along the lines of: ‘Max I’m elated you made us purchase rings symbolizing our love. Your choice and eye for design and elegance leaves me breathless.’"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but smile at the ring he had chosen for her. It really was lovely.
"Say it," Maxwell whined.
She sighed and, almost in duty, said, "the ring is stunning Maxwell, thank you for buying it."
"It was my pleasure Elizabeth, darling," he chuckled, "and now say how I was so morally excellent."
Elizabeth groaned, "you’re just… uncouth! If I had anywhere to escape, I would shift away from you." The carriage bumped her into him and Maxwell couldn’t hold in his laughter. "What? Do you like praise? Do you want to hear me worship you and tell you how consequential your mere being alive is to me?"
He stopped laughing, "that would appreciated, yes."
Surprising even her self she slapped him playfully on the arm, "stop, stop, please. I will go back home and unfortunately since I would rather be with you, I will mourn over you for the longest time. So long, in fact, I may die from emotional distress."
"No, you are not having misgivings are you?"
She touched his arm; "I may soon if you do not start to show a woman of such high caliber more respect."
He leaned down to kiss her, "express your plain views towards wedding rings and I will leave you alone my young bride. For I am so intrigued as to learn your opinion."
"You are not saying my views are plain?" She leaned away from his hungry, red mouth.
He shook his head, "certainly not. I was merely saying that you should express them but in the simplest of forms so I may understand your so complex mind."
"You sound teasing but I will excuse your foul mouth for a kiss from it. Surely I will not last much longer if I do not feel them splendor lips on my own," she blushed even as she was saying it. Her breathing was as rapid as her heart beat and her eyes alighted in a blaze as rough as the flames in her lower stomach.
"First," he whispered, "wedding rings, truth, now."
Elizabeth slumped back into the velvet chair; "you heard my opinion on the way to get these rings must I make it be known on the way home too? I have no reasons, I would love you to kiss me now."
Maxwell did not kiss her, "why would you like me to kiss you Elizabeth?"
"I traveled away from my family just to have you kiss me, I would run across a war laden field for your lips, so please, don’t torture me with unimportant questions," she leaned into him again.
"After much thought…" Maxwell smiled, "I have decided. Your reasons are adequate," his lids slipped down his eyes and he leaned forward as to brush his lips along Elizabeth’s own. A moan of joy escaped both of them and though it was not the most satisfying form of affection it was all the soul-ridden couple would let themselves endure for now.
Elizabeth let her face drift away though she left her eyes closed. "Will a kiss not dampen the fire?"
"Most definitely not," Maxwell answered, "only one pleasure will."
Elizabeth shuddered and rapped her arms around herself, "to be so hot inside but so frozen to the eye."
"Yes," Maxwell stared out the little windows of the carriage.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and glanced over at him, "when I have been declared Mrs. Evan’s you’ll treat the flames, no?"
Maxwell reached out and took her hands in his, "yes," he whispered, "but what if they will not die down?"

~* *~

Elizabeth was going with Tessa and Jeremy into town because they would be going on horses. Elizabeth wanted to ride again she felt deprived.
While Tessa and Elizabeth waited for Jeremy Tessa talked about her schooling that she received in a small school with a group of other students her age. "There’s this boy," she blushed, "he’s hopelessly attractive and charming. He said he want’s to be with me."
Elizabeth smiled at the young girl, "and? Do you desire to be with him too?" She nudged her arm teasingly.
Tessa opened her mouth to answer but her father approached them both and instructed them to follow.
"You can tell me later," Elizabeth whispered.
Tessa nodded.
"Jeremy what will Maxwell entertain himself with whilst we’re out?" Elizabeth fastened her hat on her so it would not blow away with the wind or because of their speedily pace.
"Christine will set him to chopping wood for the fire. She may even entangle him in woman’s work such as washing clothing," they both chuckled.
"How silly he would look up to his elbows in bubbles and soapy water!" Elizabeth put her hands on her hips, "let’s hope she does not un-man him."
Jeremy shook his head with a smile of delight plastered to his lips, "she has not succeeded in doing so to me, so if she shall break him, it will have depended on how manly he already was."
Elizabeth giggled, "I’d be shocked to learn otherwise."
The stables had two horses, one small female horse, and one large female horse. "Their names are Dour and Doll," Tessa explained.
"Which one is Dour? And why on earth did you give her that name?" Elizabeth patted the larger horses nose.
"Dour is the smaller horse," Tessa giggled, "because she is unfriendly and wears a gloomy face."
Elizabeth studied Dour’s face, "I think you are right. She is rather sour in appearance isn’t she?"
Tessa nodded vigorously.
"Come, come, we need to get to reach town before noon," Jeremy saddled up Doll and Helped Elizabeth up onto her back. "You must read Doll for Dour takes time to let people ride her."
Inopportunely Elizabeth had to ride with two legs on one side but she did not let that put a damper on the fact she was on a horse again.
Jeremy walked beside the horses for the ten minutes it took to reach town. They didn’t talk much but when Jeremy lift to go get some supplies from the store Tessa came over to Elizabeth and continued their conversation from earlier.
"Tell me," Elizabeth said, "his name."
Tessa blushed, "it’s Heath."
"Heath," Elizabeth rested her hands together on her lap, "would you marry him?"
Tessa was bright red, it was obvious no one knew about her infatuation and this was a big thing for her to be telling someone. Elizabeth was honored that Tessa had chosen her to tell.
"I am fifteen, I’m not supposed to get married yet. I have conflicting feelings for Heath, he just sticks out…"
"From the rest?" Elizabeth nodded, "I have relate to that more then you would know."
Tessa looked around them then looked back at Elizabeth, "Maxwell?"
Elizabeth nodded, "if I tell you something will you promise to keep it a secret?"
"If you keep mine," Tessa smiled.
"Okay," Elizabeth smiled, "we have a deal. Maxwell and I came here because I couldn’t be around my family anymore."
"Why not?"
Elizabeth looked down, "because Maxwell was supposed to marry my sister."
Tessa gasped, "really?"
Elizabeth bit her lip and nodded.
"Did your family find out?" Tessa asked.
"Well I was trying to tell them but before I could Carmen came out and asked me," Elizabeth sighed.
"Carmen? Is she the sister that he was supposed to…"
Tessa was silent for a little while, "what did your family do?"
"My family wasn’t the problem it was Carmen…" Elizabeth sucked in a breath, she decided she wasn’t ready to discuss this just get, it cut too deep.
Tessa noticed this and decided to change the conversation back to her, "what are your suggestions as to what I shall do about Heath?"
Elizabeth contemplated on what to say for a few seconds, "you are an adolescent fifteen," she finally said. "My opinion, it would be best to wait, though… it’s your decision only."
Tessa nodded, "marriage though a grand event…I fear I am not ready to undertake such a…"
Jeremy interrupted their discussion by chucking a bag of dry food products in a sack over the larger horses behind. Elizabeth jumped and put her hands over her heart, "you startled me," she breathed.
"I apologize," he studied her face.
Elizabeth’s hands dropped from her chest and she nodded at him, "that’s fine," she said.
"Let’s move on shall we?" Jeremy motioned for them to move on.
Before heading home Jeremy collected a substantial amount of produce and supplies and packed them on the back of the horses.
Elizabeth found it very amusing when she approached the house to find Maxwell cutting firewood. She walked past him giggling to herself and he looked up teasingly and flicked some sawdust in her direction.
She gasped and with a slight smile said, "what kind of a man are you?"
"Yours," he muttered in reply.
That afternoon before she begun her duties for dinner, Elizabeth wrote a letter to her family. She wrote,
Dearest family,
I trust you all will be relieved to find that both Maxwell and I are unscathed and praiseworthy. I pray all is the same for you and the family home is far from doleful.
Unlike what was planned, Maxwell and I traveled further north rather than east. We found ourselves in a town right near a stunning pond that I know you are acquainted with. Yes, we have rested our roots here in Duluth, Minnesota.
Here we are very lucky to have found a generous, warmhearted, and affectionate family of three that brought us into their house as their friends and in no way treated us as strangers like we were. Life here is quite different but intriguing as much as it is unusual.
I trust you are taking care of my darling Trigger?
The train ride here was long and as comfortable as you could expect; at least I can say it was worth it.
We traveled for three days and when we arrived in Duluth we exited the train station with not an idea of where we would be resting that evening or where we could bathe. I imagine father would know the feelings I endured considering he was in a similar situation when he left home. I can not explain how frightening it was to know we were completely independent and had no where to go. I admit though, as much as it was frightening, the excitement topped any other feelings.
Back to my story, Maxwell and I wandered down the road holding everything we had traveled with and ran into an elderly man whom asked if we were new to town. I suspect it was obvious considering how many bags we held.
Maxwell answered that indeed we were new and were wondering if he could suggest a place for us to stay. This was when we first heard of the Parkinson family. He explained that they were a kind family that would be more then willing to take us in temporary.
Having no other choices, we headed down the road to their small home and immediately they greeted us, fed us, bathed us, and made us feel at home. We couldn’t have asked for better.
This is where we are now and we are being taken care of wonderfully. Today I was informed of a small house that is now for sale. It is not far from here so Maxwell and I are going to inspect it tomorrow and consider buying it together. We will be married in time, I suspect it will not be much longer. I am blissfully content and I will be waiting anxiously for your reply.
I love you all and I miss you gravely,
Yours truly,
~* *~

"I hope that does not put a damper on the house?"
Maxwell and Elizabeth glanced at each other. They had just learnt that the house they were standing in was now for sale because the little old lady, whom used to occupy it, passed away two weeks ago.
It was a suitable house that they could see living together in but Elizabeth mentioned that knowing a woman had died under it’s room unsettled her a little bit.
"It was a natural death," Maxwell mentioned, "surely that must make you feel better?"
Elizabeth thought about it for a little while, then she shyly turned to the reverend that was selling this house. "Was she a nice woman?" she whispered.
The reverend smiled, "she was a lovely woman. She loved this house and would like to see it in good hands."
Elizabeth turned and walked around the one-roomed house in fifty little steps. They didn’t need a lot of space; it would just be the two of them and there was already furniture in place. "What do you think Max?" she asked.
The fire place had a bar on the top, this was for pots to be hung off of. Positioned not far from the fire place was a bath, this was convenient so when the water was boiled above the fire, it could be poured straight into the bath.
Maxwell walked up behind Elizabeth and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I want it."
She turned her head so she could see into his eyes, "okay then."
They both smiled and turned to look at the reverend. "When can it be ours?" Maxwell asked.
The reverend smiled at them both, "whenever you want, all it’s doing is gathering dust right now."
While Maxwell discussed details Elizabeth went over to the one window in the room and stared out at the trees. The house was very secluded from the road, for it was surrounded by tree’s that blocked its view to the public. You had to follow a path around the side of the house to get out to the road and Elizabeth liked that, she liked knowing they would have privacy.
When Maxwell was done talking he came over and rapped his arms around Elizabeth. He wanted to kiss her so he made sure the reverend was not looking he placed a passionate kiss on her lips, "I love you," he whispered.
She broke away and smiled, "I love you."
When the Parkinson family found out that Elizabeth and Maxwell would be moving out, they were saddened but still happy for them. "And guess what?" Tessa grinned.
Elizabeth looked at her with questioning eyes.
"Momma and I asked at the church if the priest could marry you two, and he said he could tomorrow if you’d like."
Maxwell and Elizabeth stared at each other. Elizabeth was the one to break the stare, she laughed and put her hands over her mouth, "oh I can’t believe how lucky we are," she cried.

~* XV *~

"To think," Elizabeth whispered climbing into bed next to Maxwell; "on the morrow we will be wed."
He smiled, "a grand thought."
He was propped up on the headboard and Elizabeth leaned into him so her head was on his chest. "I can hear your heart," she whispered.
"It beats for you," he kissed the top of her head.
"As mine does for you," she kept her head to his chest.
Maxwell was silent, finally he said, "Elizabeth if something ever happened to me…"
Elizabeth pulled away from him like she had been burnt, "no. Please, I don’t want talk about this," she looked away and stared straight at the door, it must have looked like she wanted to escape. Part of her did.
"Liz," he whispered, "Liz, sweetheart," he reached for her. She turned to look at him and he noticed the red lining under her eyes, how could he not?
"I was just thinking of," he ran his hand down the smooth skin of her cheek, "till death does us part."
Her lip trembled, "please. Stop."
He leaned into her and placed a kiss on her forehead, "there are worst things then death," he whispered.
A sob escaped her lips, "are there?"
Maxwell studied her face; he was surprised by her actions. She stared back and in his eyes she saw that he was thinking about his best friend and his death. She expected him to let the conversation end, but being strong for her he said, "yes, there are."
Elizabeth wiped her eyes and turned away from him, she needed to go to sleep, now.
She lay down and Maxwell’s voice soothed her, "I will not leave you," his hand brushed along her hair, "you make me feel alive. How could I ever," his voice cracked, "die, when you make force me to be immortal?"
Elizabeth rolled onto her side away from him; she did not want him to see her cry.
She heard him suck in a breath and then his shaky voice ask, "are you afraid of me?"
She bit her lip and scrunched her eyes up tight. It took her a couple of long seconds to reply, "I’m afraid of loosing you."
~* *~
Elizabeth stood next to Maxwell staring straight a head at the cross hanging on the wall. Would the minister arrive or would he leave them to stand here for another twenty-minutes?
If he did not arrive it would be a bad sign. Elizabeth was quite superstitious.
She thought back to this afternoon when she had been getting ready, Maxwell had walked into the bedroom and placed his hands on his hips, "what do you think? Am I most definitely the handsomest man or being you have ever seen?"
Elizabeth came into his view shyly, exposing her wedding dress.
He sucked in a breath, "I am not marrying you," he said.
Her face dropped.
"It must be illegal to marry an angel," he held his hands over his heart, "no words can describe my feelings."
She ran her hands down her stomach and stared at herself in the mirror. She was not wearing white like a woman traditionally would. She wore cream silk with long sleeves and lace lining.
Elizabeth’s headdress was made with wax orange blossom for it was a symbol of chastity and fertility.
When Maria and Carmen had been measured for their wedding gowns earlier last year Elizabeth had been measured as well. Their dresses had been made and sent to them a few months ago and before Elizabeth packed to leave home, she remembered hers and packed it.
Today Elizabeth wore her hair in locks and around her neck hung a silver necklace set with amethysts, seed pearls, and green garnets.
Maxwell removed his hands from his chest and did not remove his eyes from her, "you will kill me," he whispered.
Now they were here, in the small chapel, in a town hundreds of miles away from her family, marrying each other because they were in love.
They were just a couple that met and now they were getting married, it was almost like there had been no heartbreak in between, there had been no betrayal.
She turned to see Maxwell standing beside her waiting impatiently, his chin was straight and strong and his face was set and determined. She loved that about him, he was so manly and had such a strong appearance, he was so sure of himself. At the back of the church sat Christine, Jeremy, and Tessa. All with smiles on their faces.
Everything about Maxwell and her love was against her childhood teachings. They were so unordinary and stood out in many ways.
When they were together it was not about duty like most marriages were, it was about fulfilling their desires and understanding their needs. Most relationships were set up and the wife was supposed to be a man’s companion and was supposed to tend to the males every need. It was nothing like that when it came to Maxwell and her. Maxwell respected her opinions and conversation.
Today she stood side by side with the man she loved. They were here to commit themselves to each other and confess their love for one another. Marriage was a bond between a man and woman, confessing to the world that she was his, and he was hers.
In this era marriage tended to trail away from those reasons. To Elizabeth Marriage seemed to be more about image and money rather then love.
"Betrayed!" she suddenly cried out.
Maxwell turned to her.
"I betrayed the bonds between my sister and I, for you and you are showing your gratitude by marrying me," she said.
He swallowed, "I am marrying you for no other reason other then loving you."
Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears and she sighed, "my innocence is lost," she whispered. "I…I gave you everything already this is the only thing you do not have."
Maxwell opened his mouth to say something in reply but Elizabeth raised her fingers to his lips. "It goes both ways?" She said staring up into his eyes, "have you given me everything in your power of giving? My…love."
Maxwell put his hand on her arm, "our love is not about giving," he said. "it is about breaking away from all we have been taught so that we can be together. It is about you, me, and god making an agreement to always be one."
"Have you?" Elizabeth repeated.
Maxwell frowned, "of course, you know I have."
"Then I shall marry you," she turned back to the front.
Maxwell and Elizabeth broke all the rules yet here they were still loving and growing and that was enough for them. It was enough to get through the day without guilt heavy on their hearts and tugging at their shoulders. It was enough to let them be happy.
"I love you," Elizabeth whispered.
"I love you too," Maxwell replied, also in whisper.
Does he promise to cherish me and take care of me? Elizabeth wondered. Does he know that he will treat me right and will be able to fulfill my needs?
Will he watch over me like an eagle and it’s conquest? Will his hand grasp mine when he suspects my need for comfort? What will he do when I am broken and crumpling, will he let me fall?
Elizabeth asked him.
"I will give you want you need from me," he whispered.
He will give me what I need I need, Elizabeth smiled to herself. He is worthy of all.
The priest entered the room and apologized for his lateness. Maxwell sighed and entangled his fingers through Elizabeth’s. She glanced at him quickly and noted the look of him in all his glory. She wanted to remember this moment and how he looked for the rest of her living life.
Maxwell noticed her watching him out of his periphery and turned to her questioningly. His eyes were asking if she was okay.
"I’m just taking a picture," she said.
He sucked in a breath and turned back to the front, he was nervous, Elizabeth could tell. Or was he anxious?
She squeezed his hand. He squeezed it back.
Love changes everything, Elizabeth thought summoning up all her nerves and turning them into strength. And that it okay.
"Dearly beloved," the priest began, "we are gathered here today to witness the joining of two souls. His so gracious god has made us pairs and he has said, they together will be whole. Maxwell Evan’s and Elizabeth Parker are one of those pairs and wish to let the world know that their souls are intertwined. Do you both understand that those whom goad had joined no man can put asunder?"
"We do," they said.
"Most gracious holiness," the priest said. "Look with favor upon this man and woman living in a world for which your son gave his life. Take care of them and watch over them and let them not be parted." He turned to Elizabeth and noticed the tears dripping down her cheeks. Maxwell did not notice them.
"Elizabeth, will you repeat after me?"
She nodded, biting her lip.
"I, Elizabeth Parker, take this man to be my husband—"
She repeated him.
"To live in the convenient of marriage—"
"To live in the convenient of marriage." She squeezed Maxwell’s hand and heard his sharp intake of breath.
"I will love him, honor him, comfort him, and keep him—"
"I will love him, honor him, comfort him, and keep him—"
"And forsaking all others be faithful to him until death does us part."
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and with blurry eyes and a pounding heart repeated, "And forsaking all others be faithful to him until death does us part."
Maxwell removed his hand from hers and placed it on her back comfortingly. Elizabeth closed her eyes and licked her lips; they tasted salty from her tears.
Now it was Maxwell’s turn.
"I, Maxwell Evan’s, take this woman to be my wife. I will love her, honor her, comfort her, and keep her. And forsaking all others be faithful to her until death does us part."
His voice cracked near the end of his declaration and his fingers gripped her back until they were white.
"With all the power vested in me and my church, I now pronounce you husband and wife," the priest smiled and dropped his hands to his sides. "You may not kiss the bride."
Elizabeth wiped her eyes and turned to Maxwell, he brought his hand up to her cheeks and he leaned forward and modestly placed a simple kiss on her lips. Elizabeth kept her eyes open the whole time, wanting to see the emotion in his face. Everything she wanted to see and more was obvious in his features.
The Parkinson’s stood up and clapped, Christine had tears in her eyes.
Before leaving the spot they were standing in, Maxwell linked his hand through Elizabeth’s.
Outside the church he couldn’t keep his hands off of her, he picked her up and spun her around happily. When he put her down she kissed him, "I can’t believe we’re married Max."
He smiled, "finally."
She rolled her eyes and slipped her hand back into his.
"Oh congratulations!" Christine smiled, "that was so beautiful, oh Jeremy wasn’t it beautiful? It reminds me of our wedding."
"Yes, Christine. It was beautiful," he said.
Tessa hugged Elizabeth, "even though you have your own house now, you will come and see us won’t you?"
"Of course!" Elizabeth kissed her cheek, "when ever you want me to."
Elizabeth raised her eye brows, "everyday?"
"Yes, come whenever you like," Christine put her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, "we’ll make bread."

~* XVI *~

Maxwell and Elizabeth walked hand in hand along the path to their house. Elizabeth walked backwards in front of her new husband with a smile on her face, "when Tessa, Christine, and I came here this morning we lit the fire so it would be nice and warm for us this evening. We made the bed up with clean sheets and I put all our clothing in the draws and cupboard…"
"So it’s all ready for us to live in?" Maxwell asked.
She nodded and didn’t notice that they were at the front door, she backed straight into it, "ow," she rubbed her head, "I don’t think I can walk now, you’ll have to carry me."
He laughed, "I have to carry you over the threshold anyway, milady." He scooped her up into his arms without any trouble and kicked open the door. Inside it was toasty warm for them, the room was dark but the embers in the fire lit a small area around the fireplace.
Maxwell set her down in front of it and turned around, "where are the candles…?" he wondered.
"There’s one by the bed, and yes… one over there…" Elizabeth turned around to look at the fire and warmed her hands on what was left of it. Deciding she could save it before it went out completely, she grabbed some of the wood she had gathered earlier and put it on the fire, it slowly started to flame into life again. When she stood up she felt Maxwell’s arms rap around her waist… she knew this time would come and she had tried to prepare herself for it but she was still nervous.
He placed a gentle kiss on her neck and she closed her eyes, "Max, will you…take care of me?"
She heard his sharp intake of breath, "don’t be afraid, I would never hurt you," he whispered.
She turned around to face him and quickly took his hands in hers, she walked backwards towards the bed pulling him with her. When they reached the side of the bed Maxwell raised his hand to her hair and unclipped her hair dressing and put it down on the wooden bedside table. Elizabeth closed her eyes when she felt his fingers run through the long brown curls in front of her face, her mouth opened slightly and she eased into his touch. "Max?" she whispered. The heat in her stomach burned to life like the fire with the new wood on it. "Will you undo my dress?" she asked.
She opened her eyes and when he nodded his head slightly she turned around so he could unbutton her. With each button he undid her heartbeat grew faster. Once they were all done he pulled the shoulders of the dress down her arms and she clenched her hands so they could be pulled through the hand holes. The dress fell to the floor and she turned to face him, slowly she pulled off the two petticoats, her eyes never leaving his.
"Cage…" she whispered motioning to the cage she wore to keep her dress from hanging off of her. He nodded and undid the tie and helped her to step out of it, "you wear far too much clothing," he whispered.
She giggled and undid the front of her corset, "will you loosen the back?" she asked.
He walked around her and loosed the ties at the back of her corset. Once that was off she was left in a pair of bloomers and a see through tank top. She sucked in a breath, "Max I…"
"Shh," he stepped into her and kissed her cheek, "I know. I’ll take care of you."
She looked worried; "I don’t know what to… I’ve never…"
He wanted to soothe all her fears, "Elizabeth Parker," he smiled running his hand along her waist, "it’s me. Max, we have met."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"I know you are… well, inexperienced," he looked down at the floor then back up at her, "that’s one of your best qualities. Your so pure and I am so honored to be the only one…" his voice cracked.
"Who else would there be?" she brought her hand up to his cheek, "you’re the only person I have ever wanted."
He looked down in shame, "I wish you were my only…"
"Tell me the truth," she blinked, "how many times have you…?"
He swallowed, "guess."
She shrugged, "I don’t know… is it more then five?"
He looked her straight in the eyes, not wanting to lie to her, "just."
She bit her lip, "oh."
Maxwell brought his hands up to her cheeks, "I was young and naive once… this doesn’t change anything does it? None of them meant nearly as much as you mean to me," he kissed her nose and then moved his lips to her ear. "I have loved only you…"
"Is that true?" she covered his hand on her cheek with her hand.
He nodded, "of course. I never thought it could be possible for me to love and depend on someone as much as I do you… I would die if I didn’t have you."
"One more question," she undid the top button on his jacket then looked down at the floor. "Where you ever…" she choked on her words, "with my sister?"
He sucked in a breath, "why do you do this to yourself? Do you like hurting yourself?"
She looked up at him.
"No, Liz, I was never with Carmen. I told you, I was too in love with you! I could never… after I met you."
She blinked away tears.
"Oh Liz," he kissed her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, her everything. "You do not know how much you mean to me obviously. What can I do to let you know that never in my life have I felt like this or will I ever again for anyone else…?"
Elizabeth closed her eyes.
"I love you more then life itself," he held her to him, "you do believe me?"
She nodded, "I’m just scared…"
"Don’t be," he tucked her hair behind her ears, "what can I do to make it better?"
Elizabeth gathered up all of her courage and led his hands to the hem of her tank top, "I’m just going to put myself in your hands…" she whispered.
Maxwell breathed in loudly and then slowly lifted her shirt up to reveal her stomach, then the bottoms of her breasts… she lifted her arms so he could pull the top off completely. When it was gone she looked shyly at the ground, what did he think of her?
He ran his hands over her shoulders and over her ribs, "you are more stunning then I ever thought possible," he whispered.
Elizabeth blushed and tried to cover herself, "Max," she said, "can you take off you clothes?"
He nodded, "yeah." He unbuttoned his shirt and removed his waistcoat. Elizabeth sat down on the bed and watched him intently.
After he removed his shirt he pulled the tank top he wore underneath over his head. "Good god," she muttered to herself. This was the first time she had seen his chest exposed, it was tanned and he was very muscled.
Next he pulled off his shoes and then unbuttoned his pants. He wore white briefs underneath and Elizabeth had a pretty adequate view of him…
He stopped and looked up at her, she bit her lip and rapped her arms around herself to hide her breasts. "Let me…" he stood her up and removed her bloomers, she was left in nothing but her silk panties. Maxwell sucked in a breath hoping that would help him control his emotions.
"Your blushing," Elizabeth smiled, "I thought you’d done this many times?"
"Not with you," he said. He motioned for her to lie back and once she had he sat down on the side of the bed and reached for her panties. Her hooked his fingers under the material and leaned down to kiss her hip bones, "hmm I love the way you taste," he whispered.
"How do I taste?" Elizabeth wondered.
He moved his kisses lower, moving the underwear lower with him, "you taste… like nothing else in this world." He removed her last remaining clothing completely and gazed down at her in admiration, Elizabeth looked away in embarrassment. "No, no, don’t tell me your embarrassed?" he ran his hands up the skin on her stomach, "how could you be embarrassed of exposing such beauty?"
"For the first time," she reminded him.
She focused her eyes on the flickering candle on the bedside table, her lips slightly ajar. She felt his weight as he climbed onto the bed and when she turned back to look at him, he had removed his briefs. She sprung up, "oh my god, Max," she said. She shifted backwards…
"What?" he laughed, "where are you going? Get back here." He reached for her but she shook her head, she was in complete shock. "No, Max I’ve never seen a… well a… you know, before," she turned bright red, "that will not fit," she said.
Why was he laughing at her? "What?" she frowned, "what is so funny?"
"You," he answered, "okay, I’m sorry. I apologize," he composed himself. "It will fit, I promise you." He reached over and lay her back down, "I love you, you funny girl."
"I do not feel very funny," she looked away.
He touched her cheek, "no, look at me, I want you to feel okay? Feel." He nestled his lower body in between her legs and brought his mouth down to kiss her left breast. He started off gentle and innocent but slowly his mouth opened more and he let his tongue dance along her skin and nipple. His hands rested on her hips and his lower body moved against her and rubbed her but did not enter her.
Elizabeth opened her mouth and let her ragged breaths escape her lungs. She couldn’t take it; she had to close her eyes. How could something feel so wonderful? She didn’t know what to do with her hands; she rested them on top of his head and moved her fingers to weave through his dark hair.
He moaned slightly and moved his kisses in between her breasts, slowly he made his way up to her throat. He paused for a second to ask if she was okay. As an answer she cupped his cheeks and brought his mouth up to hers, she kissed him as passionately as he had been to her breasts.
"Okay…" he slipped one of his hands down in between her legs and forced them to open more. When his hand moved to cup her, her eyes snapped open and she jumped. He smiled at her response and moved his lips to kiss the soft skin near her ear, "I love knowing I am the only one who has ever done this to you," he whispered. His fingers opened her up and started to rub her nub gently, Elizabeth started to experience the most pleasant feeling she had ever felt in her whole life.
"Oh Max," she moaned her mouth open in a silent scream.
His lips landed on her parted ones and he thrust his tongue into her depths, "Liz do you feel that?" he moaned sucking on her lips.
She cried out, "yes!"
"Are you ready?" he whispered.
All she could do was nod.
Slowly, careful not to inflict as much pain as he had to, he started to push himself within her. Elizabeth scrunched her eyes up tight and tried not to faint, it was the most exquisite pain she had ever endured.
He stopped when he was fully within her and placed a warm kiss on her lips, "there," he smiled to himself.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and looked up at him, "Max… are you…?"
He nodded and looked straight back down at her, "yes love, I’m in you," he kissed her, ‘are you okay?"
She gasped, "you mean your actually…?"
He chuckled, "yes."
She raised her hand and ran it through his hair, "I can’t believe it," she whispered.
"I find it hard to believe it myself," he placed gentle kisses along her jaw, "tell me your okay."
"I’m fine," she breathed, "better then fine."
He looked into her eyes for a long time; so long Elizabeth started to worry. "What’s wrong? Is that it?" She did not feel relieved.
"No… It’s just… this moment will never come again," he whispered. Trying to make her understand he said, "I’m taking a picture."
Tears filled her eyes.
"Don’t cry babe," he kissed her eyelids.
"I’m not crying." She whimpered.
He buried his face in his neck and tried to control his emotions, this was all too much for him, "you’re going to turn me into a crying baby," he wiped his eyes.
"I’m a cry baby," she said, "we can’t both be one."
"Then stop being so… wonderful!" he moved so he could look into her eyes again, "can I continue now?"
"I’m not going to stop you."
He kissed her, "what a blessing," he whispered. He sucked in a breath and slowly pulled out of his new wife, just as slowly he pushed back in. Elizabeth moaned.
He repeated his movement and she gripped the blankets beneath her until her knuckles were white.
"Is it to much for you?" he panted.
"Yes," she kissed him, "slower…"
He frowned, "I’m going as slow as I can."
She cried out, "faster then!"
He slipped out of her and thrust back in with more force, they both groaned. He repeated his movement once more then he said, whilst panting and trying to catch his breath, "this is it, Liz, darling, are you…?"
She nodded and motioned for him to kiss her, he did. "Again," she whispered against his lips.
He knew this would be the last… he gritted his teeth and led his body out of her, quickly he thrust himself back within her and cried out when he emptied himself within her.
He collapsed onto Elizabeth and buried his face in her neck; she ran her fingers through his hair and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead.
"Darling," she whispered, she was not relieved, and the throbbing still existed within her.
He sucked in a breath and lifted his head, "yes, sweetheart?"
She blushed and looked away, "was it…" she swallowed.
He chuckled, "yes, yes Liz it was wonderful," he kissed her cheek and went to move off of her.
"No, stay where you are," she pouted.
"I’m too heavy," he said.
"You’re warm," she buried her face in his neck.
He got up off her anyway and lay down on his back, he instructed Elizabeth to curl into his side. She did and he took her hands in his, "oh Liz do you feel that?" he closed his eyes. "Hmm your chest against mine..."
"Yes," she kissed his shoulder.
She wanted to touch something but she was too afraid to ask, she cleared her throat and opened her mouth but shut it again. Maxwell noticed this and frowned, "you have a question for me?"
"More like wanting permission," she stared into his eyes.
He raised his eye brows, "to do something?" he asked.
She nodded.
He smiled and rolled onto his side, "are you going to tell me what?" he asked.
She blushed, "it’s too embarrassing."
"How about you, show me?"
She sucked in a breath, "okay."
Maxwell lay down on his back again and watched as she sat up and positioned herself on top of him. "I have no idea what I’m doing," she kissed him, "so tell me if I’m doing something wrong okay? Tell me if it’s okay if I do this thing."
She kissed his chest and very shyly she let her hand slip down in between them. Gently she took a hold of him and started to rub him up and down.
"Ohh," Maxwell smiled kissing her forehead, "yes that’s fine."
Elizabeth watched his eyes drift shut in satisfaction and she kissed his lips, "Max, do you like that?"
"Mmm hmm," he nodded.
She bit on his bottom lip and sucked on his tongue, "Max?" she moaned, "do you like that?" She couldn’t believe what she wanted to do but she had to ask…
"Yes," his breathing speed increased and he opened his eyes.
"Is there perhaps… somewhere else you’d like me to do that?’ she rubbed her lips against his.
He gaped at her in shock. She turned bright red.
"I think there might be other place I’d like you to do that, yes."
Her lips peaked into a smile, "okay."
Maxwell held his breath when he watched her open his legs and slide down his body so her face was right in front of his arousal. She stared at it for a second, her hands all over it, "you’ll tell me if I’m doing something wrong?"
He nodded.
"Are all men this… beautiful, or just you?" she lowed her head…
"Oh no," Maxwell said watching her, "just me. All men are repelling."
She didn’t know what to do; did she put it in her mouth whole? She decided she’d just get used to it first… she put her lips at the head and felt him jump. Slowly and enticingly, completely unaware of how much havoc she was wreaking on Maxwell’s body, she opened her mouth over him and slid her tongue out to taste him.
Maxwell moaned and clenched his hands on the blankets beneath him; he had to fight the urge to arch into her touch. She brought more and more of him into her mouth and licked her tongue up and down.
She moved her mouth up and down and continually wiped her tongue over his head. "Liz," he moaned, "stop, darling, I’m going to…"
She pulled her mouth away and brought her body up and down on him. Almost as soon as he entered her he came… Elizabeth smiled proud of herself. She loved the idea that she had caused that.
Maxwell breathed in deeply and raised his hand to wipe it across his forehead. Elizabeth stayed on top of him and attached to him, "did you like that?"
He nodded. "I liked that very much." He kissed her lips and rolled them over so he was on top, "now darling," he grinned teasingly, "I do believe we need to satisfy you, don’t you think?"

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:42:42 PM
~* XVII *~

Elizabeth lay on her back watching Maxwell as he detached his body from hers and propped himself up on his side. He hovered over her slightly and placed a kiss on her lips, “I love you,” he whispered.
“Hmm me too,” she mumbled not even thinking about what she was saying. Her eyes were half-open she was very relaxed. He smiled and leaned in to kiss her neck and behind her ears, slowly he kissed his was down to her breasts where he stopped and opened his mouth over her nipple, she let out a relieved breath. Teasingly he nibbled and prodded her with his tongue and teeth; she let out a small moan.
Maxwell moved his left arm down in between her thighs and his fingers touched her very wet, very sensitive nub. He paused his lips on her chest, “are you sore?” he mumbled.
“A little,” she answered whilst motioning him to continue, she could feel a tightening in her lower body…
He pressed his rippled stomach into her and moved his free right arm to go around behind her shoulders, she gazed at him dreamily. His lips touched the skin in between her two molds again and his fingers started to rub her up and down, pressing in…
Elizabeth groaned, “Max don’t stop.”
“I won’t,” he kissed her neck and her shoulders…
“Oh goodness!” Elizabeth felt as if she would burst, she started panting and clenched her hands at her sides, “Oh Max!” she cried.
Maxwell rubbed her nub slower and slower as she went over the edge, she cried out once more and then heaved back in shock, “oh my god,” she panted, “what was that?”
“That my love,” Maxwell kissed her lips, “was relief.”
“Oh my god Max,” she closed her eyes and buried her face in his neck.
He smiled to himself and rapped his arms around her little trembling body. Elizabeth didn’t know how to describe how exciting and wonderful the feelings she had just endured were. She rapped her arms around Maxwell’s waist and kissed his neck, “oh Max,” she whispered before drifting into a peaceful, content slumber.

When she awoke she did not open her eyes for many blissful minutes. She could feel Maxwell’s chest rise and fall against hers as he slept; his breathing was even though his arms gripped her with loving strength.
His bare body against hers sent shivers through her, it largely added to her arousal and she craved the feelings she had experienced last evening. Last evening? She wondered, what was the time?
She opened her eyes and glanced around the room: the fire was barely existent anymore, it would have to be re-lit. That indicated to Elizabeth that she had been sleeping for only a couple of hours and that it must be around one in the morn.
She shifted against Maxwell and a yawn escaped her lips, she was too restless to sleep again and wondered what she could do to pass her time? After contemplating with her options for a while she decided she would get up and write another letter to her family.
Once she had managed to de-tangle her naked body from Maxwell’s she slid of the bed carefully not to wake him. What wasn’t so apparent before quickly became painfully obvious, it was freezing and she was starving!
She quickly leapt over to where she had tucked away her clothing and searched for something to warm her cold limbs. A robe was not the warmest of coverings but it would do for now, maybe she could re-light the fire? She had learnt how whilst at the Parkinson household so it was not too difficult for her to get it blazing again. Back at home with her parent’s she would never be assigned to such a task, it were a job for the servants and if not them a male. Never a woman of such importance.
Elizabeth did not mind doing it, in fact though the jobs she had to undergo lately were tiring they were part of every day life and she enjoyed knowing she was taking care of herself and not depending on the people around her.
She scrunched up several newspapers and chucked them into the fireplace, following them were small branches and wood chipping. She had managed to light a spark and the paper all caught aflame quickly.
Once the wood was blazed and glowing with flames Elizabeth relaxed herself and warmed her blackened hands on the warmth drifting out onto her.
Several minutes passed before she got up and went outside to wash her hands, she was lucky to find patches of snow, which she rubbed her fingers against. It was nearing the spring thaw and there would be no snow at all soon, they should take it and use it for water as much as they could. The house main source of water came from a fresh water creek leading along behind the house, it led straight from the fresh water pond that attracted so many to the city. Another source of water was a large barrel under the gutter that collected rainwater.

Elizabeth hurried back inside and closed the door behind her. She was very numb after stepping out there; she was only wearing a thin robe after all. She pattered back over to the fire and warmed herself further; it did not take long until she was no longer chilled.
Finally she gathered up an ink pot and piece of paper and wrote a quick note to her family:

Dearest family,
Maxwell and I are ecstatically happy to inform you of our recent marriage. The twenty-seventh of February around six-forty I became the long awaited Mrs. Elizabeth Evan’s. All is well and we are now living in a small but lovely and very comfortable home together. Spring is nearing and you must let me know of Maria’s scheduled marriage date, maybe we will be able to travel back and stay for a short while?
I am missing you and thinking of you always,
Yours truly,

She put aside her paper and ink and glanced at Maxwell to check on him. She was shocked to find him awake and watching her lazily with his face in one of the pillows. “What are you writing?” he asked.
Elizabeth got up off the floor near the fire and approached him slyly, “a note to my family informing them of our marriage,” she untied the tie around her waist.
Maxwell’s eyes widened and he rolled over onto his back to prepare himself for her. He watched as she slipped her robe off her shoulders and it fell to her feet in a silky bundle.
“Max,” she said seductively climbing onto the bed, “I need you to promise to show me everything you know, because now I have had a taste of you I have become addicted…”
“Not so shy anymore?” Maxwell pulled her on top of him.
She shook her head and rested both of her legs on either side of him, “no, it’s disappeared into thin air…”
She kissed his lips and lowed herself onto his new erection, “I love you,” she whispered.

“In this moment right now…” Elizabeth smiled at Maxwell, “I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time and had pre-marital relations with you.”
Maxwell laughed huskily, his chest moved up and down underneath Elizabeth’s head. “The wait made it more desperate when it came though…”
“Hmm,” Elizabeth leaned up and kissed his lips, “what time do you think it is?”
“Who cares,” Maxwell linked his fingers through hers, “I want time to stop moving forward.”
Elizabeth stared at their hands; “do you think we’ll ever have to leave here?”
“No. We are going to stay here forever like this and never move,” Maxwell kissed her nose, “why would we need to go anywhere anyway?”
“I don’t know, maybe to buy food?” Elizabeth nibbled on his bottom lip, “to bathe…”
Maxwell suddenly sat up, “what a good idea, you need to bathe.”
Elizabeth frowned and snuggled back into the pillow, “have you just realized I smell?” she asked.
“No, no, no… anything but! I wish[ to bathe you for my own delight.” He got up off the bed and stumbled over to their wooden chest of draws to find some pants.
“So much for staying in bed forever,” Elizabeth rapped the blankets on the bed around her body to replace the extra body heat she was suddenly deprived of. Maxwell pulled on clothes and then walked over to the door, “stay right there my love, I will get your bath ready.”
“Oh really?” Elizabeth shivered.
He nodded, “most certainly.”
She watched as he came inside with buckets of water and heated them on the fire. “You don’t want my help?” she asked.
“No, no, you stay comfortable,” he sucked in a breath when he glanced at her. “Look at you,” he said in awe.
“What?” she looked down at herself, “I must look a fright.”
He shook his head, “no you look stunning,” he couldn’t tear his eyes away, “your long hair over your shoulders and that complete look of ravishment on your face. How can you be mine?”
She blushed, “how can I not be with all the worshipping you bid me.”
It took Maxwell a long time to finally have the bath ready for her, steam elevated from its deeps and Elizabeth licked her lips in anticipation. She didn’t even need to walk over there; Maxwell took three large strides over to the bed and swooped her up into his arms. He took her right over to the bathtub and let her down next to it, he then removed the blankets from her body and left them on the floor. “Max,” she said as she climbed into the water.
“Yes my love?” he grabbed a stool and positioned it in front of the fire right next to the tub.
Elizabeth soaked into the water and closed her eyes in delight, “when springs finally here, do you think it would be possible to… well,” she opened her eyes, “go to Maria’s wedding?”
Maxwell looked at her with sympathy, before replying he leaned down and placed a loving kiss on her eyebrow. “Very possible,” he whispered.
She smiled up at him and completely unannounced flicked a little bit of water at him. His eyes widened in shock, “I thought you were a lady? Now that we’re married you’re showing signs of improper…”
She cut him off, “now that we’re married? I was as rude before yesterday,” she giggled. “Now are you going to wash me or shall I do it myself?”
“Thou must not bathe thyself,” Maxwell went and grabbed the new bar of soap of the dresser. “You thought of everything yesterday, no?”
“Almost,” Elizabeth sat up properly and rapped her arms around her bare chest, “food, I forgot food and I don’t know about you but I am starving.”
Maxwell took a seat again and tenderly pulled her arms away from her chest, “I get something while you dress.”
She shivered, “I re-built the fire, did you see that? Impressed? I am,” she grinned up at him, “I’m capable of being a big man too.”
“Oh you are?” he dunked the soap bar under the water and ran it up her thigh, “I think your missing a few vital bits,” he prodded lower area with his finger. She gasped and stared at him with evil eyes, “yes well if we were both equipped with the same tools certain tasks would not work so well, would they?”
He laughed, “they certainly wouldn’t.” He rubbed the bar of soap against her stomach and then left a trail of bubbles up in-between her breasts to her throat.
She closed her eyes and leaned back again and in a quiet voice sang, “that’s how love goes, don’t ask me why, only love knows what you’re feeling inside…”
Maxwell joined in, “the more I see the more I believe that nothing is certain…”
Elizabeth grinned to herself and then began singing another song, “Unforgettable, that’s what you are,
Unforgettable, though near or far…”
“Like a song of love that clings to me, how the thought of you does things to me,” Maxwell filled a cup with the water in the tub and tilted Elizabeth’s head back to pour it over her.
“Never before has someone been more. Unforgettable, in every way,” Elizabeth did not open her eyes.
Maxwell finished with, “and for ever more, and for ever more, that’s how you’ll stay.”
“You have a beautiful voice my husband.”
Maxwell kissed her shoulder, “you have a stunning voice my wife.” He lathered her chest in soap, “both you and Carmen could play the piano, did the Parker daughters learn as they grew up?”
Elizabeth opened her eyes and watched his loving hands cleanse her skin, “Yes. It was compulsory… I learnt the piano and chose horse riding as my other extra curricular task… Carmen did the piano and ballet, Maria, piano and singing. Isabelle, piano and cooking… she loves cooking.” She lifted her chin so he could smother her neck, “it was also important that we took dancing lessons too.”
Maxwell kissed her jaw, “what about your art? When did you do that?”
Elizabeth smiled at him; “I rarely had a chance. It has only been these last two years I have really developed skills and as my sisters say… talent.”
Maxwell looked down at his hands, “you love them so much,” he said.
A wave of pain crossed Elizabeth’s face so quickly Maxwell missed it, “I love you so much,” she said. He looked at her and leaned in to kiss her lips, “I know you do.”
She bit her lip and raised her arms up to go around his neck. Drips of water got all over his shirt but he didn’t notice, he stood up pulling her with him and then carried her back over to the bed. “What about your bath?” he asked as he lay her down on her back.
“We’ll finish it later,” she kissed his lips and quickly unbuttoned his pants, “quick Max…”

While Maxwell hovered about her placing tender kisses all over her face, Elizabeth could swear she saw tears in his eyes. She was right, one dripped down his cheek and hung from his chin. She lifted her hand and wiped it away, “shh,” she hugged him to her, “its okay, love. I’m here. I know…”

~* *~

“That was good,” Elizabeth fought the urge to lick her fingers, “that was so, good.”
Maxwell laughed, “you really have a big appetite don’t you?” he eyed the empty food plates in front of her and shook his head, “I never knew a lady could eat so much.”
“We’ve been over this,” she said, “I am not a lady.” She stood up, “well when I’m with you I’m not,” she nudged his shoulder.
“What do you want to do today?” he stretched his legs out blocking her path, “maybe we should just go back to bed,” his eyes twinkled.
Elizabeth laughed, “it’s been two days and all we have done is make love, eat, sleep, bathe, make love, and make love.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“We need fresh air, let’s go for a walk. We should go see Tessa and…”
Maxwell sighed, “must we? I like staying here and pretending no one in the world exists except us.”
Elizabeth picked up his plate and headed outside to clean them, “yes we must. And besides I want to post a letter…”
Maxwell watched her departing form with an unreadable expression on his face. Once she was out of sight he got up and headed over to the desk where he had left this mornings paper… with fear and worry evident on his face he read the main headings:
Lincoln elected as new president , south expresses worry and disgust… War inevitable?

~* XVIII *~

“You must inform me of what your sister has said,” Maxwell leaned over Elizabeth’s shoulder while she quietly read the first of many letters received from her family.
“It is from Isabelle,” Elizabeth held her hand up to her mouth, “the double wedding is still to be held on the same date without interruption.”
Maxwell looked shocked; “well who shall she be marrying?”
Elizabeth read on, “my parent’s inquired a marriage between Kyle and Carmen but were sadly disappointed for they have no interest towards one another.”
Maxwell placed his hands on his wives shoulders, “so who must the fortunate bachelor be?”
Elizabeth turned to look at him with questioning eyes.
“Oh you can not seriously be questioning me? I was merely presenting forward that though Carmen does not hold my heart that does not make her any less captivating. She is a delightful girl but in my eyes does not stand close to the woman I relinquished her for.”
Elizabeth smiled to herself, “how adorable you are when you fear you have done something wrong.”
Maxwell gritted his teeth and motioned her back to the letter, “you must finish reading, I am intrigued to find out who has your sisters hand in marriage,” he added, “so quickly.”
Elizabeth picked up the letter and did as she was instructed; “she is to marry… Gregory!” Elizabeth gasped. Her thoughts drifted back to one of the dinner parties before Christmas… Gregory had asked her to dance and she had accepted in deep annoyance. She had been too busy trying to find an escape to her room to meet Maxwell.
Maxwell rubbed his chin, “who is Gregory? It is unmistakable that you know him.”
Elizabeth looked back at him, “I met him once, we shared a dance.”
Maxwell’s jealousy was evident.
“Now who’s questioning me?” Elizabeth teased.
His face softened.
“You are a queer man,” Elizabeth shook her head at him, but she could never succeed in trying to hide her amusement. She finished reading the rest of the letter and put it back in its envelope. “She says that the family would love to see us at the wedding and look forward to a reply.”
“That’s nice,” Maxwell took himself back to the fireplace and removed his jacket. They had just come in from church where Christine had brought the letter for them both. Elizabeth frowned at his sudden change in emotion, “tell me what’s wrong.”
He contemplated lying but decided he should not. “The naked truth is,” he bit his lip, “I do not want to go.”
Elizabeth’s face drained and she turned away from him, well that’s just wonderful, she thought sadly.
“But we will go,” Maxwell clenched his fists with annoyance, he knew he shouldn’t have said anything. He was displeased with himself now. “It will make you happy and that is all I care for.”
Elizabeth rested her head in her hands, “that is not fair on you,” she said. “If I were to go my departure would be near the end of this week…”
“If you go I will go with you,” Maxwell marched back over to her, “and you will go so we shall purchase tickets.”
“Why do you not wish to go?” Elizabeth turned to him; “do you not like my family?”
“I have nothing against your family,” he said.
“Why must you do this to me?” she stood up, “must I guess what is wrong? Will you not just tell me? You haven’t been the same lately and you worry me, I am your wife!”
“You are my wife,” he agreed, “and my world and I do not wish you have to share my precious time with you.”
She tilted her head to the side; “We have our whole lives to be together Max darling. We have many years filled with content to come… do you fear we don’t? Do believe life has been to good to you?”
“Life has been to good to me, I found you didn’t I?” he didn’t want to talk about this, he walked back over to the fire and stared down at it’s blooming flames.
Elizabeth followed him and as an act of comfort she rapped her arms around his waist, “I will always be here my love, we will always be together… this is obvious isn’t it? We love each other to unbearably to let each other go.”
“That is what I’m afraid of,” he mumbled. She didn’t hear him and asked him to repeat his input. “You’re right,” he said turned to her, “your right. I am worrying over nothing, shall we make dinner?”
Elizabeth pursed her lips and looked up at him with scrunched eyes, “I refuse to even think about dinner until you prove your undying love towards me, several times.”
Maxwell looked down at her large dress she was wearing; “you’re wearing too many clothing I’m afraid.”
“Remove it then,” Elizabeth demanded.
“You’re so bossy,” Maxwell chuckled delighted. “Your clothing takes to long to remove, by the time it is gone you will no longer be in the mood. I’d rather not go through all the hassle.”
Elizabeth whacked his arm, “do it!” she cried trying to hold in her laughter.

~* *~

Elizabeth lay on her stomach with her head facing the fire. She was turned away from Maxwell who lay on his side with his head resting on her bare back. They were lying on several quilts to soften the hard wooden floor; Maxwell had placed them there earlier before their lovemaking.
He was tenderly stroking her long hair behind her ears and massaging her neck on occasion. “Why are you crying my love?” he whispered.
Elizabeth sniffled, “I miss my family.”
“I know you do,” Maxwell closed his eyes. Quietly he said, “I’ll go anywhere you want Elizabeth, even if it is back home.”
There was a thickening pause before Elizabeth asked quietly, “have you ever wanted two things so much but had to choose between them?”
He nodded.
“I want to stay here… I love this house so much and I love our privacy but I also want to move back home to my family,” she looked down at the blanket beneath them. “We’d still be together if we went back and though that is the most important thing, everything will be different there.”
“I know,” he kissed her shoulder.
“Don’t think I don’t feel fulfillment when I am with you because I do, I feel whole.” She closed her eyes and buried her face in the blanket.
“I know,” he repeated.
She sobbed; “I don’t know what to do, if only there was something to help me make the decision.”
After s short silence Maxwell got her attention. “Liz,” he whispered, “I didn’t want to tell you this but…”
Elizabeth wiped her eyes, “what?”
He sucked in a breath, “you know all about the fight with the north and south about the slaves?”
“Yes. My father and mother used to attend meetings with groups of individuals against it. What has that got to do with anything?”
“If there is a war you know what that means…”
“No I don’t. What does it mean?” Elizabeth finally rolled over so she was facing him. Maxwell found it very hard to say this while she was looking up at him with those big beautiful eyes.
“It means I would have to go away to fight in it,” he said.
Elizabeth didn’t say anything; she just stared at him with her mouth open and her eyes filled with emotion.
Maxwell had to look away; he couldn’t take that look of pain. “It’s not certain, so don’t worry yourself yet…”
“You have!” she sat up and rapped the blanket around herself, “you’ve been worried about it and you didn’t tell me! You obviously think it’s going to happen other wise you never would have kept it a secret!”
Maxwell winced.
She got up off the floor and walked over to the bed, “I think I would have rather done without some knowledge to help my decision! I didn’t want this.” She crumbled onto their bed and buried her face in the pillow. She started to sob with abandon, her tiny body shook and shuddered…
“Oh Liz,” Maxwell got up and went over to her, “don’t cry, please. I can’t stand to see you upset.”
“Get used to it.”
He sat down on the side of the bed and reached out to touch her, “Liz we have no idea if it’s going to happen okay? We don’t even know for certain that I would have to go…”
“Why have you been so worried then? Why would you waste your time worrying about this if it wasn’t going to happen?” Elizabeth sat up with the blankets rapped around her shoulders. “You aren’t stupid Max, you wouldn’t let yourself get worked up over nothing… I know you.” She bit her lip, “that’s why you want to stay here and spend as much time together as possible, because you are worried we don’t have much longer.”
“No, Liz, no…”
“What, Max then? What?”
Maxwell sighed and ran his hand up her leg, “yes I am worried about it but I’m just paranoid. I have no reason to be worried.”
Elizabeth shook her head and lay back down with her back towards him, “stop trying to make me feel better, I know.”

~* *~

Elizabeth sat outside watching the sun go down, the sky was bright with stunning colors. Maxwell joined her soon and she said in a defeated voice, “I’m not leaving here. I will not go o my sisters wedding.”
Maxwell looked up into the sky; “you have to.”
“No I don’t, Max,” she looked over at him, “and I’m not going to.”
Maxwell looked down at his hand and moved it to take hold of hers, “I would rather not argue for I see no point in arguing for an event that I do not wish to take place. It is your decision but I think you will regret not going.”
“I will regret going if two days later we find out you are leaving,” Elizabeth bit her lip to fight tears, “luck does not seem to be on our side.”
Maxwell leaned over and kissed her cheek, “we have to have faith my love. We have to pray and have faith.”
Elizabeth rested her head on his shoulder and stared up into the sky. Several moments passed before anything was said between either of them. “The sky is beautiful isn’t it?” Maxwell offered.
“It’s as if God accidentally stood on paint bottles and squirted color everywhere,” Elizabeth wiped the tears that had fallen from her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. “You’re right you know, we should be as if nothing is going wrong and there will be no war. We should be our normal gay selves… but,” she lifted her head, “I will not go back.”
Maxwell did not say anything; he just glued his eyes to the beautiful colors in the sky and glued his body to the beautiful emotion in Elizabeth.
“You’re inspirational Max.” Elizabeth turned to Maxwell and stared him in the eyes; “do you believe it is like that for many couples in love? They feel inspired in ways you wouldn’t think possible.”
Maxwell swallowed, “I don’t know about everyone else,” he said. “But I know it is like that for me.”

Elizabeth’s soul was so confused, she wanted to crawl into a deathbed and never go through this pain again but she could not do that for it was not certain that misfortune would be near. This was the second time in her life she was going through conflicting emotions and both times they included her darling Maxwell. She did not mind but she did. She realized that love comes with strange consequences and in order to truly have it you have to have heart ache too. Another consequence of love is, it helps you grow in ways you’d never think of.

Maxwell’s eyes raked over Elizabeth’s fingers in his own, “where is your wedding band?” he asked.
Elizabeth looked down at her hand; “it is inside, I was cleaning clothing and did not want to loose it.”
“If you take it off again,” Maxwell warned, “I will divorce you.”
Elizabeth frowned, “is that right? Well I’m sorry Maxwell but there is no getting away from me now… marriage is a form of consolidation and you’re apart of me so you won’t get rid of me that easy.”
Maxwell chuckled, “just wear the damn ring.”
Elizabeth smiled and rested her head on Maxwell’s shoulder, “do you wish me to go and get it now?”
“No, stay right were you are for now.”
They sat outside staring at the sky for a long time, spring was upon them and the snow was all gone so it was not deathly cold. It was chilly but nothing that you would worry over.
“What are you thinking of?” Elizabeth asked.
Maxwell’s lips perked into a teasing smile, “you in the nuddy.”
Elizabeth gasped at him and elbowed him in the stomach, “you grotesque little man! I will not have you thinking of me in such an improper way. You can not abuse your privileges of bathing me or I will do it myself.”
“That is not the only time I see you nude,” Maxwell smiled and brought her head back down to rest on his shoulder.
Elizabeth hissed.
“Anyway,” Maxwell said, “you can not take away my bathing privileges… I won’t let you.”
Elizabeth swallowed, “is that right?”
“Yes well I’m tired of bathing myself, your much more interesting,” Maxwell chuckled.
Elizabeth growled at him and stood up, “that’s it I’m going inside to sleep. AND NOTHING MORE, yes that’s right, nothing for you this evening,” she stomped in through the front door and Maxwell stood up.
He followed her inside and mumbled under his breath, “we’ll see about that.”

~* *~

“Oh Elizabeth you look so radiant today,” Christine eyed Elizabeth’s stunning dress. It was a two piece floral silk brocade with black silk fringing and black velvet trimming. She wore a scrolled gold brooch with cameo on her chest and her hands were covered with black net mittens.
“Thank you Christine,” Elizabeth smiled at Maxwell whom had been the one to suggest she wore it. He said that he hadn’t seen her in more a flattering dress and wished her to wear it as frequently as possible.
Elizabeth sat down and waved her paper fan in front of her face, one disadvantage of dressing so prominently and having such a tight corset was the heat got the better of her. Tessa popped her head out from behind the wall to the dinning area, “Elizabeth,” she said, “can I talk to you a minute in private?”
Elizabeth nodded her head and slowly got up off her chair, Maxwell removed his hand from hers before she walked away. Tessa sat down on a chair at the table and Elizabeth joined her.
“Elizabeth,” Tessa whispered leaning into her, “I did something…”
Elizabeth frowned, “you did something?”
Tessa bit her lip; “you know how I told you about Heath…?”
“Oh,” Elizabeth nodded, “yes I remember. What did you do?”
“I kissed him,” Tessa blushed. “I didn’t mean to… I went to him strictly to tell him no but… it just happened.”
Elizabeth couldn’t keep the smile off her face, “and you’re worried about?”
“Did I do something wrong by my parent’s?”
“No darling,” Elizabeth reached out and placed her hand on top of Tessa’s, “you did not wrong sweet thing.”
Tessa’s face relaxed, “I didn’t know… I thought they would be mad at me.”
“Why don’t you tell them you have feelings for this boy and see how their reaction is? I dare say it won’t be as stressing as you imagine…”
Tessa nodded, “I wanted to check with you first.”
“Oh okay,” Elizabeth smiled, “you have nothing to worry about. Now let’s go make bread with your mother shall we?”

While Elizabeth was bringing plates in and out of the kitchen she heard tidbits of Jeremy and her husbands conversation. They were talking about war.
She bit her lip and tried to hear as much of what was being said but it was very difficult to eve’s drop when two other people were talking to her. She never heard any sentences in full and in the end she gave up and decided she’d ask Maxwell about it on the walk home.

He was reluctant to tell her anything. “He was just expressing his opinions on the matter,” Maxwell looped his arm through hers.
Elizabeth frowned, “and?”
“And what?”
“Are you crazy? And his opinion is! What does he think?” Elizabeth hissed.
Maxwell shrugged, “well he thinks… he thins…”
“He thinks there will be war,” Maxwell finally admitted.
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, “oh.”
“Do not worry,” Maxwell tried to reassure her, “we will be fine.”

~* XIX *~

Maxwell walked in the front door and pulled of his top hat. “I got you something,” he said.
Elizabeth was making the bed, “you did?” she asked without turning around. Maxwell walked up behind her and rapped his arms around her waist. She looked down and gasped, “paints?”
“Yes,” he placed a kiss on her neck.
She took them out of his hands; “you brought me paints?”
“Yes I did,” he spun her around, “why are you crying?”
She hugged him, “thank you!”
“That’s fine…” he wiped her eyes.
She sat down on the bed and opened the small box, inside was twenty-five tiny tubes of oil paint. “What shall I paint on?” she asked.
“I don’t know… paint on the wall!” Maxwell motioned to the opposite wall, “anything, it doesn’t matter.”
She bit her lip, “I can’t believe you got me paints.”
“Why not?” Maxwell squatted down in front of her, “you know what else I got? Two train tickets… we leave this evening. I will not let you miss your sisters wedding…”
Elizabeth pouted and started to sob. Maxwell shook his head, “you are so emotional,” he said.
“I’ll stop,” she said.
He stood up, “don’t you dare.” He walked over to their chest of draws, “what do you need to pack?”
Elizabeth sniffled, “not much, I have most of my things there.”
“That’s convenient,” he smiled, “so do…”

They boarded the train at approximately eight-pm and traveled the three days back home. When they got there they took a carriage back to Elizabeth’s house and were greeted excitedly by her family.
“Oh Elizabeth I’m so glad you came!” Maria hugged her, “I need you here, I’ve been missing you so much.”
“The feeling is mutual I assure you,” Elizabeth pulled off her gloves.
Nancy gasped at the sight of her, “you look radiant my daughter. You look older by a year not months, in a good way of course…”
Jeffery hugged his daughter, “It’s good to see you again, your mother is right, you look exceedingly well.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth blushed.
Carmen walked into the room and straight up to her sister. She did not hesitate in hugging Elizabeth and squeezing her tight.
Elizabeth was shocked but of course was happy…
Carmen did not say anything but when she pulled away she had tears in her eyes.
“I was so shocked to hear Gregory was going to become my brother-in-law. How surprising!” Elizabeth looked around her family and tried to fight her own tears, “I can’t believe I’m home…”
Maxwell smiled to himself.
“And you Maxwell I trust you are well?” Jeffery looked him over.
“I am very well indeed, thank you,” Maxwell shook his hand, “I hope all is the same for you?”
“Yes, yes,” Jeffery nodded. Nancy hugged him and then Maria; Carmen stepped up shyly biting her lip. Maxwell glanced at Elizabeth then looked back at Carmen and embraced her; “you look good,” he smiled.
“Thank you,” she said in a quiet voice, “so do you.”
They all walked into the lounge, Maxwell and Elizabeth trailing slowly behind. Maxwell rubbed his hand soothingly on Elizabeth’s back and she smiled up at him, “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too dearest,” he wanted to kiss her but it was not appropriate when everyone had their eyes on them.
Isabelle arrived several minutes later and ran up to Elizabeth with a big hug. “Oh Elizabeth you’re home! You’re home!” she sobbed, “thank god!”
That set Elizabeth’s tears off and they both hugged and sobbed, “we’ve all missed you so much. What a part you play in this family! We are no good without you. Aren’t we Maria… we are incomplete, no?”
Maria nodded, “yes, we are incomplete without you Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth was so glad to be home.

Later that evening Elizabeth sat on her bed with Maria, Isabelle, and Carmen. Maria and Isabelle were bombarding her with questions… Carmen just sat there mutely. She had barely said anything the whole night.
“Oh and what did you wear?” Maria asked.
“The dress I had made for my wedding!” Elizabeth answered. “I remembered to take it…”
“Oh that was lucky,” Isabelle said, “so what’s your house like?”
Elizabeth glanced at Maxwell whom was sitting reading a book waiting for them to leave so he could sleep. She noticed his continuous yawning but he would have to wait, she hadn’t seen her sisters in nearly two months.
“It’s tiny,” Elizabeth smiled, “it’s nothing like this place, coming back here I now realize my whole bedroom alone is big enough to hold the entire place.”
They all giggled, “how romantic,” Maria commented.
Maxwell yawned.
“Oh all right Maxwell!” Isabelle got up, ‘we’re leaving we’re kept you up long enough, we apologize.”
Maxwell stood up, “no, what… wait? You don’t have to leave I’m fine…”
Maria snorted, “yah right. Come along Carmen we must leave them to sleep. Or other things…” Maria winked at Maxwell.
“Maria!” Elizabeth hissed, “nothing of the sort! Will you stop?”
Isabelle hugged her once more, “I have to be getting home anyway. The wedding tomorrow and I need my beauty sleep so I out-shine the brides.”
“Oh how mean of you,” Elizabeth chuckled.

As soon as they left Elizabeth leapt on Maxwell, “oh Max I’m so happy! I can’t believe how happy I am!”
He kissed the top of her head, “and I am happy you are happy.”
“Oh please say you are having a fine enough time? It would disappoint me to find you were missing home…”
Maxwell removed his jacket and soon afterwards his shirt; “I am enjoying myself enough. I was just a little worried when your mother and father wondered whether we would need separate rooms or asked if I were to go home tonight…”
“Oh they are just not used to it… they have separate rooms as most married couples do. Their shock will fade. It is uncommon for them but not unheard of,” Elizabeth turned around, “will you undo my dress?”
Once they were changed and ready for bed they discussed Carmen. “She is making further progress and she will be talking to me again in no time, you think?” Elizabeth climbed into her bed, as did Maxwell.
Maxwell nodded, “it won’t take long, she has missed you too much.”
Elizabeth rested her head on Maxwell’s chest, “she looks happy enough don’t you think? Gregory will be good for her?”
“I imagine so,” Maxwell rapped his arms around her, “all in time…”

~* *~

“I have butterflies and I’m not even the bride,” Elizabeth played with Maria’s hair, “when Maxwell and I got married I was so scared.”
“What about the wedding night? Were you scared about that too?”
“Are you kidding? I was petrified! Though once it was over I couldn’t imagine my life without it.”
Maria chuckled, “that good huh?”
“You’re just a little pre-occupied with it I think,” Elizabeth shook her head, “I know it’s scary to think about but it is beyond wonderful and you will soon scowl at yourself for being silly.”
Maria stared at herself in the mirror; Elizabeth looked at her reflection too, they didn’t say anything for a few minutes. “Carmen has been missing you,” Maria finally said.
“I have been missing her,” Elizabeth stepped away and looked at the floor, “do you think she has forgiven me?”
“Oh not at all,” Maria said. Elizabeth’s face dropped. “But she will!” Maria quickly added, “soon too, she can’t stay mad at you forever.”
“Jee thanks,” Elizabeth plunked down on Maria’s bed and stared up at the ceiling, “I wish you could see our little cottage, Maria. It’s so wonderful, I love it so.”
Maria spun around, “I’m sure it’s delightful.”
“It is,” Elizabeth closed her eyes.
Maria did her final touches, “I’m done,” she smiled.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and looked over at her, “you look stunning, there is no way Isabelle will be able to top that…”
Maria beamed, “no way.
The maid came over to her and fixed a stray piece of hair that had fallen from the bundle on top of Maria’s head. Maria thanked her and motioned for Elizabeth to come now, they were to go down stairs.
As they were walking out of the room Carmen came out of hers too. She blushed and looked down,
“Oh wow Carmen!” Elizabeth approached her; “you’re an angel… I always thought you were the most beautiful of us all.”
“Hey!” Maria cried.
“Oh you be quiet,” Elizabeth rolled her eyes, “oh Michael and Gregory are going to be knocked down!”
Maria and Carmen chuckled.
Quickly they descended down stairs escorted by two female maids. Nancy was waiting for them and quickly ushered Elizabeth to go take her seat, “you aren’t a bride, you’ve had your wedding… though no one attended it,” she quietly added.
Elizabeth frowned.
“Mother leave Elizabeth alone,” Carmen said. They all looked at her shocked, but no one was as shocked as Elizabeth was. Before she left she quickly kissed her cheek and thanked her.

The wedding was being held outside in the gardens, seats, silk decorations, and flower arrangements were set up everywhere. It was perfect weather for such a grand event, the sun shined down from the blue sky heating the heads of the guests. There was next to no clouds in the sky.

Many eyes were on Elizabeth as she walked up front to take her seat. Whispers soon followed but she did not take it to heart, she didn’t live here, she didn’t have to care.
She took her seat next to her husband at the front, Isabelle sat on her other side and Alexander sat next to her.
“How are they?” Maxwell leaned into Elizabeth’s ear.
She smiled, “nearly as nervous as I was,” she whispered.
“I find that unlikely,” Maxwell checked no one was watching then slipped his hand into Elizabeth’s at their sides. She grinned at him then turned her head to watch Nancy walk down the isle and take her seat next to her parent’s, Elizabeth’s grandparents.
“Why have I never heard of them?” Maxwell asked.
“They are horrid cruel people,” she answered grimacing, “thank goodness they live a far way from here.”
Isabelle turned her head to face Elizabeth; she smiled and reached for Elizabeth’s free hand that had been resting on her lap. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered kissing her cheek.
“I’m so glad I’m here,” Elizabeth whispered back. Isabelle beamed and turned back to the front, leaving her hand in Elizabeth’s. Maxwell smiled at Elizabeth as if to say; I knew you would never forgive yourself if you missed today.

The piano started to play and the guests rose to his or her feet at once. Maxwell removed his hand from Elizabeth’s and so did Isabelle.
When Maria and Carmen walked down the isle each on either side of Jeffery, they all looked so happy it brought tears to Elizabeth’s eyes. She had to bite her lip to keep from letting a sob escape.
They reached the minister and the bachelors so Jeffery stepped away and took his seat next to his wife, the music stopped and everyone sat down.
As the minister spoke Elizabeth recalled the words her priest had said at her wedding, she could practically feel herself seeping down recent-memory lane. She wanted to rest her head on Maxwell’s shoulder but could not for fear it would be viewed as inappropriate.
When it was time for her sisters to say I do, Elizabeth had tears dribbling down her cheeks. Maxwell smiled at her and whispered, “you okay?”
She bit her lip and nodded.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” said the minister and everyone stood up and clapped happily. Elizabeth wiped the tears from her face and then clapped too, imagine if she had missed this event!

Following the ceremony there was a big reception in the ballroom. Food had been prepared by the chiefs and servants all morning and was now lined out on trays to be served; everything was spectacular and beautiful.
“Let’s dance shall we?” Maxwell asked.
She nodded and followed him willingly out to the dance floor, “do you think that was a beautiful ceremony? I think it was a beautiful ceremony.”
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” Maxwell rapped his arm around his wives waist and took her hand in his. “And you look better then the brides.”
She shook her head; “I do not, liar.”
“I am not a liar, it is my opinion,” Maxwell spun them around suddenly, “will you be able to leave again when the time comes.”
Elizabeth looked down at the ground, “I will somehow… I don’t want to think about it right now.”
Maxwell was sick of being proper he didn’t care if everyone saw, he needed to comfort his wife. He released his hand from hers and brought it up to her chin, “my offer still stands… if you want to stay.”
“No,” Elizabeth shook her head, “no I want to go back, just not today.”
Maxwell leaned down and kissed her, “I want you to be happy.”
“I know,” she put on a smile, “and I am…”
“Maxwell!” Diane interrupted their ‘talk’ and hugged her son, “your back! Oh your back!”
Maxwell was pulled into a hug with his mother while Elizabeth was left awkwardly staring at his father, “how are you?” he asked.
“I’m wonderful, thank you. And you?”
He smiled, “fair,” he turned to his son and shook his hand, “how long are you back for?” he asked.
Maxwell glanced at Elizabeth then back at his father, “just a few days I’m afraid.”
“Oh why do you live so far away?” Diane cried, “if only you lived here, it would be so much better.”
“Ah Diane we knew we would loose him one day,” Philip stepped out of the way of a dancing couple.
“Come… let’s go talk off the dance floor,” Maxwell led his wife and parent’s over to the staircase. “I’m going to go congratulate my sisters… I’ll be right back,” Elizabeth excused herself, glancing at Maxwell before her departure.
“Congratulations!” she walked straight into Maria’s arms; “everything is beautiful, I can’t believe we are all married now.”
“I am having trouble with that also,” Nancy commented, “the house will be so empty.”
Elizabeth also hugged Carmen, “I’m so happy for you both.” She whispered, “finally we have all gotten away from mother and father.”
“Elizabeth Parker!”
Elizabeth sighed and turned around, “Grandmother Francis,” she put on a fake smile, “how wonderful it is to see you again!”
“Don’t lie,” Francis hugged her in duty, “I have heard all about your activities and I plan to have a stern talk to you this evening.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Elizabeth lied again.
While Francis was hugging Carmen, Maria whispered in Elizabeth’s ear, “she’s such a burden.”
“You’ll b sorry when you loose her,” Nancy interrupted over hearing Maria.
Elizabeth scrunched up her nose and when Nancy had gone she whispered back, “I doubt that!”
“So do I!”
Maria linked her arm through Carmen’s, “excuse us we have to go dance with our husbands, we’re glad you’re here Grandmother Francis.” They quickly departed leaving Elizabeth alone with her Grandmother.
“So where is the man that caused you to ruin your friendship with your sister?” she asked.
Elizabeth opened her fan and waved it over her face, was it suddenly hot in here? “He’s talking to his parent’s… which reminds me I have to go join him, I’ll see you later…”
“I’ll come with you,” Francis smiled.
Elizabeth’s face dropped but she tried to hide it with a smile, “okay, I’m sure he’d love to meet you.” Or not.
They walked together over to Maxwell and his parent’s and Elizabeth introduced them all. “Maxwell, darling,” she linked her arm through his, “this is my grandmother Francis. Grandmother this is Maxwell and his parents…”
Francis shook hands with Diane and Philip then with Maxwell, she gave him the evil eye and he looked at Elizabeth with wide eyes.
“Didn’t I tell you?” Elizabeth whispered in his ear.

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:43:58 PM
~* XX *~

“Maxwell, we’ll catch up with you later all right? It was nice to meet you Francis,” Diane smiled at the three of them then departed with her husband close behind.
“Ah do I have a lot to say to you,” Francis glared at Maxwell, “and just how can you have done such a thing to my Carmen? How indecent of you! This is not a pleasant meeting at all, long awaited but surely not joyful.”
Elizabeth and Maxwell shared a glance, how could they get away?
“Elizabeth?” Jennifer interrupted, “you’re back? I am very mad at you still for not saying goodbye but my happiness to see you over powers those feelings.” They shared a hug; “we have so much talking to do, don’t we?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth smiled, “let’s do it now, come along Maxwell. Excuse us Francis, we’ll see you later.”
As soon as they had escaped Elizabeth laughed, “oh thank you for rescuing us Jennifer, we are forever in your debt.”
Jennifer chuckled, “have I done a good deed without realizing it? How neat.” She hugged Maxwell, “we’ve never met but I’ve seen you before… though it was at the betrothal party for you and Carmen…”
Elizabeth blushed, “about that…”
“Yeah I’ll say, about that,” Jennifer shook her head, “we have a lot to talk about.”
“Don’t be too mean to my wife, we were following our hearts…” Maxwell kissed Elizabeth’s forehead, “I’m going to get a drink… would you like one?”
“No thank you,” Elizabeth answered.
Maxwell left and Jennifer pulled Elizabeth over to some seats in the corner, “I’ve heard all about your running off with your sisters man, but what I want to know is… how this all came to be?”
Elizabeth sighed, “It all started at the betrothal party…”

An hour later Elizabeth had explained all the events and goings on in detail up to that moment.
“Well, I must express how shocked I am…” Jennifer said.
“Yeah,” Elizabeth blushed, “I would love to stay here and talk to you all night, but I have to go see people and check on things… I’ll try and see you before I leave again, but just in case I don’t…” she hugged her quickly, “it’s wonderful to see you again.”
“Okay then. You better come and see me I don’t want to have to explain this to Erica by myself…”
Elizabeth laughed, “I’ll do my best.”
Once they parted Elizabeth searched out her husband and found him talking to two men outside. All three of them were smoking cigars and drinking vodka.
“Ah my lovely wife…” Maxwell put his hand on her back, “men, this is my wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth this is Charles Herbert and Richard Robert’s.”
Elizabeth smiled and shook both of their hands, “it’s nice to meet you,” she said.
“The pleasures all ours,” Charles said.
“So Mrs. Evan’s you are Mr. Parker’s daughter?” Richard asked.
Elizabeth nodded, “I am, yes. I’m the youngest.”
“And the second married,” Maxwell said, “mind you she’s much prettier then her sisters…”
“Maxwell…” she glared at him.
Richard chuckled, “she’s telling you off for paying her a compliment how un-called for,” he said. “Not to worry miss, we think highly of your family…”
“Yes Elizabeth I think you should thank me more for the compliments I pay you, instead of treating them as an insult don’t you think?” Maxwell smiled at his friends.
Elizabeth bit her lip; Maxwell was acting strangely… maybe if she was alone with him he would not be as irregular. “Max,” she whispered in his ear, “can we go inside and dance?”
She was shocked to hear his reply, “no, not right now. I’m busy…”
Had he had too much to drink? She decided she didn’t want to be around him when he was like this. “Okay,” she frowned. “I’m going inside,” she turned around and headed back in through the doors sadly, that was unusual, she thought.
She wandered around the room then stopped and leaned against the wall with a glass of wine. She watched Carmen dancing with Gregory. He said something and they both laughed, she looked happy. Elizabeth hoped that she was and no longer grieved over Maxwell.
“Hey you,” Maria stepped up with Michael at her side.
“Hey yourself,” Elizabeth smiled, “look at you two! I thought you’d be out of here by now.”
Maria blushed, “we were just leaving… I wanted to see if you were okay. You look sad.”
“I’m fine! This is your wedding night go enjoy yourself.” Elizabeth winked at Michael, “go you two have fun! Maria I’ll see you later.”
“Okay if you’re sure you are okay,” Maria kissed her cheek, “bye!”
“Bye!” Elizabeth called after their retreating figures.
When she looked back at Carmen she was shocked to find they too were just leaving. She smiled to herself and hoped all went well for her sisters, they did deserve it.
Elizabeth wasn’t alone for long, much to her disappointment; Grandmother Francis quickly approached her and said, “now… for our little talk…”
Elizabeth sighed, this evening wasn’t turning out well for her.

~* *~

After her long lecture from her Grandmother Elizabeth felt tired and went to tell Maxwell she was going to bed. He was too preoccupied to acknowledge her properly and that hurt her feelings, she had never seen him like this. There was nothing she could say to him in front of his ‘friends’ so she got a servant to accompany her upstairs. Once she was changed into her night wear and was comfortably in bed she asked the maid to leave one candle going on the bedside and set out Maxwell’s night wear for him. She did so and then wished Elizabeth a good sleep and left the room.
As much as Elizabeth wanted to sleep she would not, she waited up for Maxwell to come and join her. To fill her time while she lay there she thought about her little cabin that she shared with the man she adored. Tonight his behavior had shocked her to say the least and she hoped he had an apology for her when he returned.
Nearly two hours later the sound of the door opening jerked her out of her thoughts. The light from out in the hall and the laughter from downstairs seeped into the room briefly and then slithered away just as quickly when the door closed. She could hear Maxwell’s breathing as he made his way over to the bed and she opened her eyes and stared at the unoccupied pillow beside her. For the last half an hour she had been thinking about what to say to him but still no idea…
She could see him removing his clothing out of her periphery, once he was naked he did not put on his night wear he just climbed onto the bed and reached for her. “Liz…” he whispered.
She did not answer him, but rolled over so her back was to him. He smelt strongly of Vodka and cigar smoke…
“Liz…” his hand came up to her shoulder and he pushed the lacy night dress to the side. Seductively his fingers caressed her skin and slowly moved down her arm under the blanket.
Her breathing stopped, “Max,” she murmured.
His body pressed into her back and she could feel his prominent arousal even through the duvet that covered her body. She did not want to make love tonight, not after his earlier performance…
He pulled back the blanket and slid his hand down in between her thighs…
“No Max…” she reached down and shoved his hand away, “not tonight… I am not happy with you.”
He kissed the back of her neck; “I have done nothing wrong…”
“You’re acting strangely,” she tried to move away but there was no where for her to go. His hands continued to head down south…
“No I am not my love,” surprisingly he heaved the blanket away from her body and ran both his hands over her stomach, “turn to me,” he instructed licking his lips.
“No, Max… I don’t want to…” she felt tears sting her eyes.
“Oh come on,” Maxwell muttered.
Elizabeth couldn’t believe how different he was being. Obviously he had had too much to drink and was no longer sober. He continued to finger and play with her body but when his hand moved to cup her breast Elizabeth rolled over and said in a stern voice, “I said, no, Max.”
Maxwell sighed and ran his hand up her thigh, “I don’t need you to turn to me,” his fingers reached up under her panties and he gently stroked her.
Elizabeth whimpered, “stop…”
She felt him climb on top of her and press his arousal into her, “I know you want me,” he said as he kissed her behind her ears, “your wet…”
Elizabeth moaned, “I don’t…”
Maxwell didn’t seem to hear her because he heaved her underwear down quickly and thrust himself deep within her. A tear dripped down Elizabeth’s cheek and she buried her face in her pillow…
“You can’t punish me,” Maxwell breathed in her ear, “I own you.” He pulled out of her and thrust back in roughly. Elizabeth cried out. “I married you so you would be mine.”
Elizabeth whimpered, “stop, Max… why are you doing this?”
Maxwell nibbled on her ear, he didn’t seem to want or need to hear what she was saying. He thrust into her again and moved his hand down under her to touch her breast. He stroked her and as much as Elizabeth pleaded for him to stop he didn’t, it seemed to arouse him more.
Finally he thrust into her one last time and emptied himself within her. A moan escaped his lips and he buried his face in her hair.
Elizabeth was disgusted with him and wiped the tears from her eyes, she then shoved him off her; he rolled onto the mattress tiredly and closed his eyes. It did not take long for him to fall asleep and when she was sure he was, she sat up and rapped her arms around her legs. She watched his sleeping figure with confusion and worry… she didn’t know what to think of his behavior tonight and prayed to god it would not be repeated.

The next morning she asked for breakfast to be brought up to the room. While she was waiting for it to arrive she went and sat on the side of the bed near Maxwell’s sleeping form. He groaned and moved so his head was resting on her lap, his eyes did not open but they twitched as he slowly woke up.
Elizabeth watched him intently and brushed his hair behind his ears soothingly, she caressed his skin until finally he woke up. His eyes opened and a gasp escaped his lips… he looked down at his body and then looked up at Elizabeth’s beautiful face. She wanted to be mad at him but that face…
He blinked as the thoughts from the previous evening entered his mind. “Oh my god,” he muttered. He turned so he was on his back looking up at her and that’s when his eyes filled with tears and his face crinkled with hurt, “please tell me it was a horrible dream.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked away.
A big puff of air escaped his body. “Liz? Liz please tell me it was a horrible dream… I didn’t do that to you.”
She shook her head and she fought tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks.
“Oh god,” he whimpered, “oh god… I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Elizabeth wiped away the tear that had managed to escape her eye.
Tears ran freely down Maxwell’s cheeks and he did nothing to wipe them away, nor did he try to stop them. “What did I do?” he asked.
Elizabeth sniffled, “why don’t you just tell me what you remember and I’ll be so kind as to tell you the rest.” Her voice was harsh and was filled with hurt.
“I can’t,” he said, “I can’t… I couldn’t have done that. I… I… I love you too much to do such a thing. It must have been a bad dream.”
“I wish it had been too,” her voice cracked.
She finally looked back down at him; the hurt he had inflicted on her was evident in her eyes. She cleared her throat and said, “not only did you embarrass me and treat me rudely but you violated me when I said no.” She whimpered and tears spilled down her cheeks, “I hope you are satisfied with yourself.”
“I was drunk,” he said, “I had no comprehension of what I was doing…”
Elizabeth sniffled, “oh so that makes it okay? Maybe I should be the one to apologize.”
Maxwell sobbed, “how can I expect you to forgive me when I can not forgive myself?”
Elizabeth wiped his eyes; “I have already forgiven you. I can not stay mad at you because I love you too much.” She brushed the hair off his forehead, “but you took that for advantage last night and I want you to apologize. You need to realize that your behavior was impertinent and insulting.”
She spoke quietly and sternly, she had been thinking about this all morning and most of the night.
“No words can express how sorry I am,” his lip trembled, “how can you forgive me so easily?”
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, “I don’t know.”
Maxwell sat up and folded his legs; the sheet was covering his lap. “Liz, I can tell you a thousand times that I was drunk and had I known what I was doing I never would have even thought of being such a… disgusting ass, but I can promise to you that there is no way that will ever, ever, happen again. I was drinking so much last night because we were talking about the war and I found out they were all ready gathering men to fight at Fort Sumter… I know it’s not an excuse… but the truth is, I needed to get rid of the thought that I would have to leave you to be on your own.”
He wiped the tears from her eyes, “I love you more than life itself and last night… while I stood out there and they were talking about war, I just drowned myself in alcohol so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I may have to leave you. I am terrified, that I will not have the life I need with you.”
Elizabeth buried her face in his chest.
“As I drank I got angrier and angrier at how unfair this all was and I ended up taking it out on you and I am so sorry. I just need you to know the reasons for my ill-behavior.”
Elizabeth sobbed, “what is going to happen to us?”
Maxwell lifted her face to his and rested his forehead against hers; “we love each other so much we won’t let anything happen…”
Elizabeth moved away just as the door opened, she walked over to greet the two maids with their breakfast. “Thank you,” she sniffled, “would one of you be able to prepare a bath for m husband in ten minutes?”
“Of course,” one of them replied as she was leaving.
The other maid asked if she had everything she needed. Elizabeth replied, “yes… can I ask you a favor? Can you stand by the door and make sure no one comes in?”
The maid nodded, “of course.”
Elizabeth closed the door behind her and then went back to Maxwell who sat on the bed with his head in his hands. She sat down beside him and put her hand on his shoulder, “Max?”
She kissed his neck, “will you make love to me properly?”
He lifted his head to look at her, “I would have thought after last night…?”
She shook her head; “I don’t want to spend the day knowing that was the last time we made love.”
Maxwell bit his lip; “I don’t understand why you’re not mad at me.”
She pushed him back onto the bed with her hand; “we’ll just dismiss it okay? You were really stressed out last night… with my grandmother saying what she did to you, and being around my family again, and the whole war thing.”
“Your going through exactly the same and you are able to handle it.”
She lay down on top of him; “I handle it in different ways.”
“Yes like bottling it up and pretending its not happening,” Maxwell watched her pull her nightgown over her head. “Why are you always fine with things?”
“I’m not, I just don’t talk about them until the time gets here,” she kissed his lips and pulled the sheet from his lower body. Her tiny feminine hands reached down to take a hold of him and stroke him…
There was a knock at the door and they could hear the maid explaining that Elizabeth had requested privacy and that she could not go in there.
“Oh,” Nancy’s voice replied, “well I guess I will talk to her later, thank you.”
Elizabeth did not hesitate at what she was doing; she sucked on his lips and his tongue and stroked him roughly. Maxwell emitted a small moan.
“Are you secretly holding a grudge?” he asked.
Elizabeth shook her head; “I did a lot of thinking and decided that an apology from you was adequate enough for my forgiveness. Last night however I was ready to run away from you but I have cooled down now.”
Maxwell closed his eyes, “I still can’t believe I was such a…”
“Bastard?” Elizabeth offered. She couldn’t believe herself; it just came out…
Maxwell raised his eyebrows.
“Well you were last night but you are never ever going to be again so you can move on just like eventually will,” she trailed kisses down his chest.
“Well yes the memory is still fresh in my mind,” she said, “and as long as it is I’ll still be disappointed in you a little bit.”
Maxwell sighed, “I guess I should consider myself being let off easy.”
“You guess?” Elizabeth frowned, “you know you’re getting off easy.”
Maxwell nodded, “okay I know.”
Elizabeth rolled off him and instructed him to lie on top of her, “now the only reason I am allowing you the pleasure of making love to me is for my sake and mine only. I can not go the whole day with that as my last impression of you touching me.”
Maxwell bit his lip.
“So don’t enjoy it,” she said reaching down to take hold of him.

~* XXI *~

Elizabeth stared out at the sunset with a fluttering content heart. The golden yellow and orange colors seeped along the grass nearing her quickly; she had been watching it so long she was almost thirsty to soak herself in its rays.

She had not invited Maxwell on her little outing; she had just slipped out of bed careful not to wake him and went down to her stables. Now she sat on her beloved horse Trigger basking in the first light of the day.
Today Maxwell and her would be catching the train back home and she wanted to enjoy some of her best past times before departing. This, sitting in front of the new sun, was one of them.
She had been doing this since she was little and no one knew of her secret destination. Of course she would have to sneak back inside soon for her family would wake and if she wasn't there they would panic. Especially Maxwell whom had been over protective of her ever since his ‘mistake’ on the wedding night. Elizabeth suspected he was tearing himself up about it enough so she didn’t have to rub it in his face, for now.
Elizabeth allowed herself a few more minutes of 100% tranquillity… she ran her hands up and down her horse’s neck and put her head back in delight. The breeze felt so wonderful on her face, it wasn't cold and it wasn't muggy but cool and satisfying.
Realization hit and she knew she really had to be getting back or her husband would question her. Hesitantly she cast one last glance over the land then turned her horse around and trotted back to the stables.

She climbed back into bed satisfied she had not been caught but that feeling was quickly dismissed when Maxwell rolled over and looked at her with questioning eyes. “Where did you go?” he asked.
She snuggled into his chest; “I went to watch the sun rise.”
He sucked in a breath and buried his head in her hair, “I trust you…” he whispered. “But next time can I be invited along?”
“We’ll see,” she answered closing her eyes. She hoped to get a little bit more sleep before she had to rise again for the day.

~* *~

“Thought I never actually had a conversation with Carmen, I know we took a big step towards being friends again. She just seemed to have excepted the situation and was focusing more on other things, like Gregory. She looked really happy with him, I think she really is in love with him. I hope so, I hope it is true everlasting love and he makes her blissfully happy.There was only one situation I felt she seemed distant and that was when I was talking about our wedding. You’d expect her to be a little uncomfortable during a conversation about that anyway.
“Didn’t you think Michael and Maria were so comfortable and cute together? I know Maria will be happy with him. Do you remember when she continuously tried to convince us to think she disliked him? Well she didn’t fool me for one second you know.
“Oh hey I forgot to tell you I saw Kyle for a while yesterday, he looked good except he seemed to be quite pessimistic. Quite down and dull you know? When I asked him if anything was wrong he looked at me as if he was contemplating whether he should say anything and even opened his mouth to speak about it but then he just closed off and said it was nothing. I said to him, ‘a pessimist never expects anything to turn out right,’ and he laughed and finally told me. You know why he’s been down? It’s because of the war, he was thinking about it and says he fears he’ll have to go fighting. I said I completely understand his situation and then explained about you and how much trouble we are having dealing with it. He said was sorry things didn’t seem to be turning out well for us now but he was positive in the end we would b okay.
“Do you think they will make Jeremy leave his family? They can’t possibly make my father go he is nearly fifty-seven, what could they make him do? I don’t know he’d even be able to hold a…”
“Elizabeth,” Maxwell put his hand on her shoulder, “take a breath, stop talking for two seconds before you make yourself have a head ache.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes at him, “talking is making me reduce my stress and worry, maybe you should find a way to release some of yours too.”

Right now Maxwell and Elizabeth were on their way back home on the train. Elizabeth was having trouble coping with leaving her family again and hadn’t calmed down since saying goodbye. Maxwell had tried to ease her as much as he could but there was nothing he could do, he hoped she would calm down by herself eventually.

By the third day on the train she had completely talked herself out and was beyond exhausted. Maxwell linked his arm through hers not only as a gesture of love and comfort but also to hold her up while she walked. “I’m tired,” she panted as they walked down the path to their front door.
“Well I would be too if I were you,” Maxwell kicked open the door and led her inside. “Do you want to bathe or sleep first?”
Elizabeth climbed onto their bed and closed her eyes, “bathe…” she muttered.
Before Maxwell had finished filling the tub for her she was already fast asleep and he hadn’t the heart to wake her so he just bathed himself. When he was done he went and joined her under the covers and neither of them awoke till the next day around noon.
The first thing Elizabeth said when she woke up was, “I smell,” she rolled onto her back, “unbearably bad.”
Maxwell buried his face in one of their pillows, “and I” he groaned, “need to shave.”
Elizabeth chuckled and ran her hand along his stubble covered cheek, “you look like a pirate,” she said.
“I do?” he lifted his head and looked at her, “that bad, huh?”
She rubbed her nose against the roughness, “I like it,” She smiled. As he rested his eyes and let his body wake up she ran her fingers up and down his stubbly chin, “maybe you should grow a beard,” she said.
“Really?” he mumbled.
She sucked in a breath, “nah.”
They lay there without moving for another half an hour then got up and prepared warm water for a bath. While Elizabeth sat in the tub she held the small square mirror above her chest so Maxwell could shave himself. “Why do you keep cutting yourself? Is the blade blunt?”
“It’s not the blade,” Maxwell glanced at her breasts.
“Max…” she shook her head with red cheeks, “lean the mirror on the desk and got do it over there…”
“No don’t worry I’m fine,” he chuckled.
She put the mirror down for a minute, “you’re going to kill yourself. I’ll do it then,” she took the blade off him and quickly finished the rest of his face.
“Thank you,” Maxwell splashed his face with water from her bath and stood up, “I’m going to get some food so we can eat when you get out of there. I’ll be back,” he kissed her lips then departed the house.
While he was gone Elizabeth allowed herself some relaxation and closed her eyes as if to rest. Her thoughts were mainly centered on her husband and she couldn’t tear them away to focus on anything else. She soon realized why when the aching in her lower body lit up.
She didn’t waste much longer in the water, she got out and rapped blankets around her body before going outside to the porch chair to wait for him. When he came back a while later he asked why on earth she was outside and she had not dressed.
She bit her lip and blushed.
Maxwell had bread and soup that needed to be heated and was about to head inside when Elizabeth grabbed his arm and pulled him down to squat in front of her. Her eyes raked over his face and then his body and stopped to stare at one particular place…
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” his lips twitched upwards, ”you’re not… you don’t want to…?” he laughed.
Elizabeth whacked his arm; her face was bright red.
When he had stopped laughing he leaned up and kissed her lips, “come… let’s go inside.”
She shook her head and rapped her arms around his neck, “Max,” she moaned, “please… I need you to…” She deepened the kiss he had given her with her tongue and slowly she slipped her crossed legs apart and spread them down to rest on either side of his body.
Maxwell moaned and ran both his hands up her bare legs, “inside…” he panted.
She started rubbing herself up against his newly arriving arousal, “you’re going to have to carry me,” she groaned. Her lips were swollen from kissing and her eyes were glowing with want. Maxwell sucked in a breath to try and get a grip but it didn’t help; he stood up pulling her to her feet and walked forwards with her body still glued to his. The blanket slipped down to the ground and she lifted one of her legs to go around his waist, the other stood on his foot. She couldn’t believe the power of want and found it hard to believe just how little control she had. Right now she absolutely no control over what she was doing and couldn’t care less… she wanted, craved, one thing.

Maxwell ran his hand up and down her nude back and summoned up enough strength to walk in the front door and close it behind them. The bed looked so so far away and he knew there as no way he could make it over there. Elizabeth didn’t seem to mind where it happened just as long as it happened soon so he pressed her back into the back of the door and reached for the top button on his pants. They both ripped at it furiously and anxiously trying to get it undone and then finally it undid and Elizabeth reached inside to grab his rock hard…
“Max,” she cried panting, “please…”
She rapped her other leg around his waist so she was completely off the ground and her wet center was as close to him as possible. Her petite hands led his arousal into her and she rubbed her perky breasts up and down the rough material of his shirt.
Maxwell was holding her up by one hand on her ass and one on her on her hip. Roughly he pulled out of her and thrust back in quickly; they both panted and moaned together. “Oh god,” Elizabeth sucked on his bottom lip and tried to keep from screaming out…
Again, and again Maxwell thrust into her before they both shot over the peak with bliss over taking all their senses. Elizabeth pressed her forehead to her husbands and whilst trying to control her breathing said, “thank goodness…”
Maxwell smiled sexily and liked her lips with one big swipe of his tongue…
“Bed,” Elizabeth instructed, she was far from done with him.
Maxwell turned around and carried her how she was over to the bed; he nearly tripped over several times and tumbled onto the bed with his body still glued to Elizabeth’s.
When they made love again they didn’t take their eyes away from each other’s and when they came together for the second time it was like they had brushed souls.

~* *~

Elizabeth walked out the front door to their little house and found her husband sitting on the porch chair with his head in his hands. She walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder, “what’s wrong love?”
Maxwell sucked in a breath and looked up at her, his eyes were glistening wet. He didn’t say anything but he took her hands in his and pulled her down to sit on his lap, he rested his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes.
“I’m here,” she kissed the top of his head, “you can talk to me I’m not going to scowl at you.”
His lips perked into a smile and a little chuckle escaped his lips, “I can’t be around you,” he said.
She frowned, “this is something to smile about?”
He shook his head, “no.”
Was he going to talk to her or further confuse her? She wanted to help but he was having a hard time with talking to her lately. She looked down at ground and noticed the newspaper rolled up next to the chair leg, she leaned down and picked it up. If he weren’t going to tell her what was wrong she would read and find out.
She unrolled the paper and gasped at the headline, ‘WAR HAS BEGUN! Fight at Fort Sumter over, North surrenders!’ The date read April twentieth.
“Oh,” she whispered, “I see.”
She read on and brought her knowledge of the war up to speeds. War had broken out at Fort Sumter because the South was trying to take it over and kept sending the supply ships from New York away. Finally they had attacked each other and the north, where they lived, had been beaten.
She heard Maxwell’s deep breaths and closed the paper; she didn’t want to read anymore. Maxwell put his head back and rested it against the wall behind the chair. Elizabeth looked at his distressed face and noticed his tense body, she didn’t know what she could do to help but she snuggled into his chest and buried her face in his chest, “it’ll be okay,” she whispered.
“You know this for a fact?” he snapped.
Elizabeth sighed, “I know that we’ll make it through it for a fact,” she muttered. “I know that you need to stop reading the paper for a fact.”
Maxwell didn’t say anything nor did he move. His body remained hard and his face still pained; no comfort drifted from his normally welcoming body. There would be no one to calm Elizabeth… there was only her to comfort him. And she would be strong.
She would not allow herself to feel pain, her husband felt enough for the both of them. She quickly allowed body to swallow her fears and she shoved them aside. Other peoples feelings always came before hers, they always would.

“What’s all this about you not being able to be around me?” she placed a kiss on his jaw line. “I’m screwed now aren’t I?”
Maxwell emitted a small groan, “how can you be so calm about this?”
“How can you not?” she shook her head, “I didn’t mean that.”
He opened his eyes and looked at her questioningly, “do you not care about any of this at all? Do you not realize the seriousness of this? There is a war on Elizabeth… you may not be able to see it from here but blood has been shed and there will be a lot more. The government will send out a proclamation in the next couple of months that will demand up to 75, 000 militia to be gathered to fight and people will die. I will have to be one of those men to leave whether I like it or not. Do you not understand at all?”
Elizabeth got up off him, “oh I understand perfectly,” her voice cracked and she went back inside. Maxwell did not follow her.

While Elizabeth lay in bed that night with her eyes to the wall and her body faced away from the door she allowed herself to shed a single tear and nothing more. Maxwell was sitting by the fire smoking a cigar and watching her. His eyes were glued to her tiny form under the covers and though Elizabeth was not turned to him she could feel his eyes burning her back and digging holes in her heart.
She wiped her eyes and sucked in a breath, again she was asking herself a question she had not so recently asked him, what is going to happen to us?
“Get up,” Maxwell finally said, “come here Liz…”
Elizabeth didn’t know if she had enough strength to go near him, she needed to put up a brick wall around her.
Maxwell repeated himself when she did not emerge from under the covers, “come here darling.”
She sighed and sat up.
She was going mad she could feel it, she could feel her body wanting to give up. She was under so much emotional distress she would make herself sick. With much warning Elizabeth suddenly felt Very light headed and her stomach lurched, quickly she leapt off he bed and ran outside as fast as she could. The food in her stomach made an escape up her throat and down on to ground before her. Maxwell quickly came outside, “Liz?” he reached for her, “oh my god are you okay?”
Elizabeth wiped her mouth and her eyes then turned to face him, “I’ll be okay,” she whispered. Her legs gave out beneath her and Maxwell caught her before she could hit the ground, “let’s go inside, come my love…” he said.
He decided he didn’t think she could walk and carried her inside and sat back down in front of the fire with her in his arms. Elizabeth buried her face in his chest and didn’t move she didn’t want to feel anything.
Maxwell stroked her hair and after a long time he whispered, “I’m sorry about before. It’s just…”
“Don’t,” she whispered, “don’t I don’t care, I don’t want to hear anymore.”
Maxwell didn’t listen to her; “I am loosing it. I can’t be around you knowing that I will have to…”
Elizabeth shifted, “you think you’re the only one? Are you that completely oblivious? Just because I don’t go around moping and getting mad all the time doesn’t mean I don’t have any idea what’s going wrong. I know as much as you do!”
Maxwell was shocked at what she had said. He didn’t know what to say.
“You can’t keep taking this out on me,” Elizabeth whispered, “I have enough trouble copping as it is. This is all pushing me into sickness, I am ill from distress.”
“What can I promise you?” Maxwell asked.
“To at least try and realize I am here too and you’re not the only one who’s going to have to go without!” Elizabeth felt her head start to spin and she gulped back the foul tastes in her throat. She bucked forward and Maxwell realized she was having trouble being upright so he carried her back over to the bed and tucked her under the covers.
Sweat gathered on her forehead and above her top lip, “Max?” she mumbled.
“Shhh,” he was trying very hard not to start panicking. “I’m going to get a warm cloth for your head okay?”
She nodded and tossed and turned to get comfortable. When he came back a while later her placed a seat beside the bed and draped a warm towel over her forehead. She seemed to be better now, with many thanks from Maxwell whom was very worried.
“I love you Max,” she stared up at him, “please spent this time with me happily and not worried and mad. I need to keep pretending that nothing is wrong for now.”
Tears filled his eyes, “okay,” he said. His voice cracked and he groaned, “just get better, I can’t handle you being sick on top of everything else.”
He pressed his forehead to her neck and closed his eyes; Elizabeth lifted her hand and ran it through his hair. Her other hand was at her side entangled with both of Maxwell’s, he was running his fingers up and down her wedding band.
A cough escaped Elizabeth’s throat, “you know what Grandmother Francis said to me?” she asked.
Maxwell swallowed, “what did she say?”
“When you are sinning in bed with your husband, I want you to think about what you’ve taken from Carmen.” Elizabeth giggled, “I couldn’t believe how far Carmen is from my mind when we are in bed.”

~* XXII *~

Maxwell had been right. On the fifteenth of April 1861 Lincoln issued a proclamation that called up a total of 75,000 militia from the states. Every man in Northeastern America between the ages seventeen and forty-five were to gather together in six days to begin basic training for fighting. Posters were plastered on every wall and pamphlet’s showered the mail. It was impossible not to come across his vital piece of information for it was slapped in every ones face at every corner. There was no escape.
Maxwell didn’t want to tell Elizabeth.
She was still quite ill. The local doctor had said she had a fever and inflammation of the lungs and needed to stay in bed but
Elizabeth refused to sleep and would not stay in bed. She was so stubborn and Maxwell was having trouble controlling her. At night when she was lying in bed he watched over her from his seat at the fire and thought about how to take care of her from a distance. Knowing that he would not be able to sufficiently tend to her needs while being away he came to a decision that he would not let her squirm her way out of. He made a decision that no matter how much she may protest and argue it would happen and she would do as she was told.
He needed to do what was best for her and only her; she was all he cared about and all that was dear in his life. He would not loose that.
So one morning several days before his departure he sat her down in a chair in front of the fire and told her that he had to leave in six days. It was very hard for him to do and he feared for her health but he could not keep it from her, she would learn of his upcoming departure some how whether or not he was the one to tell her. After his announcement she did not say anything she just stared at the floor and clutched her blanket’s to her chest, she was having trouble sitting up right.
“I have decided that it will best for you if you go back home. You will not stay here by yourself,” he paced back and forth not looking at her.
Elizabeth’s pale and tired face did not leave his moving body. “Why can’t I come with you?” she asked.
Maxwell spun around suddenly, “what! Are you completely mad? There is no way in hell you are going anywhere that isn’t bed!”
Elizabeth leaned back into the straw chair so it squeaked. “I am perfectly fine Max, stop being so over protective of me. I can take care of myself.”
“No you can’t!” he exclaimed, “what did you do when the doctor told you to rest and be tranquil? Do you need a reminder because I certainly don’t I am still maddened by it!”
Elizabeth closed her eyes, “stop yelling! STOP YELLING WOULD YOU?”
“You are going home where your parent’s and family can take care of you.”
“I am staying here if I can not come with you,” Elizabeth wanted to be in the place where he would be a constant reminder. His things were here and this was their home together, nothing would make her feel closer to him then this place.
“This isn’t something we are discussing, I am telling you that you are going home. That is it. Don’t bother arguing and somehow persuading me like you always do it won’t work. I will not leave you here by yourself.”
Elizabeth started coughing; “you aren’t being very fair.”
“Oh I’m not?” Maxwell tried to calm down, he sucked in several deep breaths then approached her. He squatted down in front of her and took her hands in his, “you will be safe at home,” he said.
“Why wouldn’t I be safe here?” she asked.
He sighed, “you have no one here to look after you. You are not well, you know you aren’t so don’t try to convince yourself or me otherwise.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Why would you possibly want to be here by yourself anyway? I know you miss your family don’t you want to be near them for comfort?”
Tears filled her eyes, “I feel closer to you here,” she cried, “at home there is nothing to remind me of you. This place is ours, it has your smell and your things…”
Maxwell enveloped her in a big hug, “what can I give you of mine to take with you?” he wondered. He placed kisses along her forehead insistently and ran his hands up and down her back.
“You,” she whispered, “you can give me you to take with me.”
Maxwell closed his eyes, “you have my heart,” he said. Elizabeth shuddered as she sobbed, she hated being so weak and not being able to do anything. If she were strong maybe she could have gone with him, there were many things woman could do to help like sewing uniforms or cooking…
She placed an innocent kiss on the material of his shirt near his heart and trembled when she felt his breath on her neck. They didn’t speak for a few minutes and during that time they were both deep in thought. Elizabeth wondered if she could make herself well so she could follow him, Maxwell wondered if he should…
“Elizabeth,” he asked, “we have six days, I can use those to travel with you on the train or we can spend them here. The thing is, if we use them here you will have to travel back by yourself.”
“Here,” she whispered, “we will spend them here. If you travel with me we will only have three days and no privacy. Honestly.” There was no way she would allow him to waste their vital time together on a train.
“Okay,” he kissed the crown of her head, “come you need to lie down again…” He picked her up and carried her back over to the bed. Once he had tucked her in and made sure she would not get up he made dinner of vegetable soup over the fire. Once he was done he brought it over to her and helped her sit up against the bed frame. A small smile despite her exhaustion crept to her face, “will you feed me?” she asked.
Maxwell chuckled, “anything for you milady,” he said.
“Don’t lie,” she teased, “it’s as much for your pleasure as it is mine.”
He lifted the spoon to her lips, “I can admit that it is,” he said. Elizabeth watched him blow on the hot liquid then she opened her mouth to except it within her. It was so nice, she could feel it warm her body from inside to out.
“Good?” he asked.
She nodded, “yes, very nice.” She motioned for more and he eagerly fed her another spoonful. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for everything.”
“Why does you saying that worry me?” he allowed himself a kiss on her lips, “it’s like you are giving up and you are thanking me for my efforts.”
“It’s nothing like that,” she wanted him to kiss her again, “I’m thanking you for loving me.”
He stared into her eyes for a long moment. She looked straight back.
“You need not thank me for that,” he finally said, “it is beyond a pleasure.”
“Even now?” she asked, “even now that we are doomed for disaster?”
He fed her another spoonful of soup, “we are not doomed for disaster,” he said.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, “tell me, when I am gone will you remarry? Will you move on to love your children more then you could ever love me?”
Maxwell stared at her shocked, “what are you saying? You will not be going anywhere and the only children I will be having will be with you.”
Elizabeth opened her eyes that were glazed with tears; “it would be so much easier if I were to die at this moment. I would leave with your hands on me and those deep amber eyes touching my soul… it would be the perfect time.”
Maxwell was having trouble breathing, “better for who, you? What about me? How could you dare do such a thing to me? There is enough talk of death, that is enough!”
Elizabeth studied his face, “promise me that when I leave this existence it will be like this, with you holding me.”
“I will make no such promise!” Maxwell turned away from her, “stop talking! Stop this, this is not a valid conversation.”
“It is,” tears dribbled down Elizabeth’s cheeks, “promise me you will not die out there stained in battle. Do not leave me to be sent a letter announcing I am a widow. Please out live me and when I die hold me in your arms and let you be the last thing I see.”
Maxwell wiped his eyes, “I will not leave you when there is still time left for me to spend with you.”
Elizabeth licked her dry lips, “you are strong and you are worthy. You will not let yourself be taken in an insignificant manner! Do not let me be a burden of distraction when you need to shine and save your soul. I will not take your significance from you!”
Maxwell let his head drop to her lap, “no, no, no! We have many years to live together, tell me we do!”
Elizabeth did not say anything; she ran her fingers through his hair and closed her eyes. Maxwell sobbed, “war will not separate my life from yours!”
“But sickness will,” Elizabeth whispered, “for when you leave I will cease to be. I will wait until you have returned to me so I may die with you in my view but in the end it will be I who is the weak one.”
“You are strong,” Maxwell lifted his head and pressed his forehead to hers, “you will outlast anything. Please god make my wife immortal so I shall never see her leave!”
Elizabeth cried out, “stop, my heart can not take anymore of this. I will not go on in such pain. Let me fall Max, let me leave now so I may not have to feel heart ache again.”
“I will not,” he clutched her against his body, “I will not. I will not.”
Elizabeth passed out but woke several minutes later when Maxwell was stroking her hair. She did not open her eyes, “knowing that you have loved me is my solace. Knowing that you will love me through eternity…”
“And to heaven and back,” Maxwell added.
“Is enough for me,” Elizabeth finished. She opened her eyes and stared up at him, “come and lie with me, I wish to be held in your arms my love.”
Maxwell granted her wish and removed his clothing before climbing under the covers with her. Elizabeth marveled at his muscular toned body, next to his beauty she felt bland.
He rapped his strong manly arms around her tiny petite frame and pressed his face to the side of hers.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too,” he pressed his lips to her cheek and left them there, even when he drifted off into a restless sleep they remained unmoved.

~* *~

Elizabeth was sick of being in bed; she got up and went outside where Maxwell was chopping wood for the fire. She stood not far behind him and said in a defeated voice: “how strong you are, you hold yourself with such strength and surety. Do you feel sorry for me being so weak and ill?”
Maxwell spun around slightly startled by her appearance, “Liz! What are you doing withdrawn from the sheets of our bed? Come, you must go back inside.”
Elizabeth shook her head, “I can’t feel the sunshine on my face whilst being locked in there in the dark. I need to breathe some fresh air into my lungs, I want to ride Trigger so much!”
Maxwell swung her up into his arms, “and as much as I wish I could give him to you right now I can not. You may sit outside on the chair for a while but not too long, it isn’t very warm and I don’t want you to get a chill.”
He sat her down on the porch chair and hurried inside to gather her blankets for her. When he came back out her rapped them around her body and kissed her lips, “call me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” she nodded.
Maxwell returned to his work and she watched him intently. She watched his muscles flex and bulge as he swung his ax down onto several pieces of wood. She wanted to run her fingers along them and place kisses along his skin but Maxwell would not come near her while she was ill. These were their last days together she wanted to spend them entangled in their sheets sweaty and full of passion. Not coughing and spluttering away with a fever.
Two days to go and the hours moved on so quickly she felt as if they were mere seconds. The faster the sixth day approached the less believable this all became. But at the same time it became as real and as heart breaking as death.

Maxwell continuously checked over his shoulder to see if she was okay. Every time he would catch her watching him and every time she smiled brightly and waved with her white hand.
Finally he gave in chopping wood and joined her on the seat. He rapped his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder, “if you knew how unbearably and hopelessly attractive you are you wouldn’t push me away from having a moment of lust with you.”
Maxwell chuckled, “is that right?”
Elizabeth nodded, “yes that’s right.”
They sat for the rest of the afternoon staring into the sky and their surroundings, occasionally at each other. These were the times they would forever remember, when they could sit comfortably not talking and just needing each other’s presence to be near. They felt they were connecting on levels they could not reach at any other time, not even when they were making love and were physically touching in every place. This was even more satisfying in a different way; both of them could walk away feeling as if they had rode a bright red feather to the moon and left their souls up there to glow with the stars. They could walk away feeling as if their fiber had been painted gold and pampered, making them immortal and ready to stand up to anything.
These would be the times they missed the most.

~* *~

“Max, please will you make love to me? Please?”
He looked down at her lying in bed with loving eyes, “you are sick my love, I do not wish to cause you further discomfort. I’m sorry”
She pouted, “just once more, you can not leave me to face death without loving me again. What if I never see you again?”
“You WILL see me again,” he said sternly, “not even death will make me leave you. We share the same soul, you are me.”
Elizabeth pulled him in for another heart wrenching kiss, “once, please. That is all I ask. I can not leave you without it.”
Maxwell sat down on the side of the bed, “you need to bathe and dress and get read for the train,” he said.
Elizabeth closed her eyes; “I don’t care.” She removed his jacket and skirts then moved down to unbutton his pants. He stood up and removed them from his legs then slipped into bed with her, Elizabeth wore a lazy night gown that was easily removed and tossed aside.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this I am the worst husband in the world, you are not well!” he shook his head.
Elizabeth rapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips, “you are the best husband in the world for granting your dying wives last wish.”
“Stop talking like that!” Maxwell said, “you are not dying and this is not your last wish. You will live to be a very old lady.”
She looked at him with sympathy and buried her face in his neck, “if you say so,” she whispered.
Maxwell very gently opened her legs and dove into her depths. Elizabeth placed her kiss on his lips and while he made love to her carefully she never removed her mouth from his.
When they both came they moaned together and Maxwell turned away from her to hide his tears. Elizabeth did not hide hers; she let them dribble down onto the pillow.
“Max,” she whispered, “look at me, don’t hide your face.”
He wiped his eyes and looked down at her, he didn’t say anything, he didn’t need to, his face showed everything he was feeling. His despair, his agony…
Elizabeth knew what he needed to hear and in a loving voice she said, “there will be more times like this.”
He buried his face in her neck and she held him while he sobbed, she knew what he was feeling and hoped they would get through this.

After having a bath and dressing for the train Elizabeth packed her things and Maxwell carried them out to the carriage. They traveled to the train station in silence, slinging to each other.
When they reached the train station Elizabeth climbed out slowly and coughed in pain. Her face was very pale and her lips were very dry, she looked sad.
Maxwell followed soon after her and took her luggage over to the compartments on the train. Elizabeth watched him wondering how she could say goodbye. How was it possible to say goodbye to your other half? Could it be done?
Elizabeth didn’t think so and she was so sure her heart would break further.
Once Maxwell had secured her things in place he came back over to her and led her to the small door leading to the inside of the train. Steam filled the air around them and hurrying bodies were scurrying back and forth but neither of them noticed, all they saw was each other.
Their eyes were filled with emotion and couldn’t touch each other for fear of being burnt.
“You’ll come and see me when you get furlough?” she asked.
Maxwell nodded, “of course.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, letting the world slip away from them. Elizabeth thought back to their walks from her art classes and their glances at each other across the dinner table at family’s dinners. Maxwell thought of their wedding and their laughing and their silly consistent teasing towards each other.
He lifted his hand and punched her very gently on her arm, with a teasing smile he said, “if Grandmother Francis gives you any further trouble write me and I’ll come home with my army guns and kill her for you.”
Elisabeth didn’t smile; she couldn’t find any happiness within her. She felt dead.
“Max,” she raised her hand to his cheek and stroked her fingers along his little bits of stubble; “you will be the best soldier. I’m sure they’ll make you a General in a day.”
He put his hand on top of hers; he could barely hear her over the whistling of the train. “You think?” he asked.
She nodded, “I know.”
Tears filled her eyes and looked down at the ground, “this is so hard.” She lifted her free hand to her mouth and coughed roughly. Maxwell stepped closer to her still, so close they could feel each other’s breath on their face. Maxwell wiped the tears from her cheeks, “do you remember on our wedding night when I dragged you out of bed so we could dance?”
Elizabeth nodded, “I said, ‘where? We have no room to dance.’”
“And I said that there was plenty of room and we danced next to the fire,” he held back a sob and tried to keep the tears in his glistening eyes from spilling down his cheeks. “Then you said, ‘but we have no music.’”
Elizabeth kissed his chin, “and you started singing for me.” She looked up at him, “oh Max,” she cried falling into his arms. Maxwell rapped his arms around her and buried her face in her hair; sobs wreaked both of their bodies.
“This is the final boarding call!” A man called as he walked past, “board now or don’t board at all.”
Elizabeth cried, “no, no!” And held clung to Maxwell harder, “no.”
Maxwell placed kisses all over her face and her hair clutching her so hard he hurt he slightly, “oh god,” he cried. “I love you okay? I will write to you as soon as I can and you will write back.”
She nodded and looked up at him with big red eyes, “don’t forget me.”
He sucked in a breath, “it would be easier to forget myself,” he said. He stepped back and clutched her hands in his; “there is no goodbye only I’ll see you later.”
Elizabeth stepped up into the trains doorway her heart shattering and falling to the dark concrete floor, “I’ll see you later Mr. Evan’s,” she whispered.
Maxwell rapped his arms around himself and looked up at her with tear stained eyes, “I’ll see you later Elizabeth Evan’s.”
What they must have looked like, Elizabeth thought, with tear stained faces and shaking bodies with despair. She couldn’t turn around and walk away, she couldn’t, and she wouldn’t…
She HAD to.
This was her moment to be strong. “Go,” Maxwell said, “go now or we will never part.”
The train moved slightly and she had to hold onto the railing to keep still, “let me fall Max,” she cried.
“Never,” he said, “never.”
Elizabeth sobbed and turned around, Maxwell watched her as she walked inside and took a seat next to the window.
She placed her hand on the glass and stared out at him, “I love you,” she said.
“I love you too,” he mouthed back. The train started to move and Elizabeth rested her forehead against the glass, she did not take her eyes away from his and while she slowly drifted away from him he walked along the boardwalk with her.
She watched him and smiled at her soul standing beside him. She would not be leaving him; she was joint to him.
Maxwell noticed her smile and smiled back. There was hope for them yet.

~* XXIII *~

When Elizabeth’s train reached home she could not get up, in fact she was so ill she was barely able to stay conscious. The conductor came past all the seats making sure everyone was out and when he saw her he helped her up. “Long journey?” he asked, “where did you come from?”
She opened her mouth to speak but ended up just shaking her head and looking at the ground.
“Hey you’ll be better in no time I’m sure, you just need a good bed and some decent food,” he walked with her to the door and helped off the train, “can you see your family?” he asked.
Elizabeth looked around and saw Maria running up to her. “Yes.”
He nodded, “well good luck to you, bye.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth looked after him.
“Oh Elizabeth!” Maria was sobbing when she got to her, “I can’t believe they are gone, they are all gone!”
Elizabeth was having trouble standing up and didn’t have any more strength left to cry. She put her head on Maria’s shoulder and closed her eyes, “it’s so good to see you,” she whispered.
Maria ran her hands through her hair, “Maxwell wrote to us about your illness, I’m so sorry, this must be so hard for you.”
Elizabeth looked at her with red eyes, “can we go home?” she asked.
“Of course,” Maria rapped her arm around Elizabeth to help her walk, “father! Father here she is!”
Jeffery had her bags from the train and was ready to go, “Elizabeth!” he smiled as he approached them. His smile faded when he saw how ill she was. Her lips were chapped with little dry bits of blood stuck to them, she was so pale and her eyes were so red. He was amazed she was still standing.
He rapped his arms around her and hugged her, “we are so glad you came home. Your sisters have all moved back home for the time being too,” he kissed her forehead, “we’ll get you a good doctor and take care of you my love.”
Elizabeth wanted to cry her face showed how pained she was, but she just could not. They climbed into the carriage and Jeffery sat on the opposite seat so Elizabeth could lie down with her head on her sister’s lap.
Maria stroked Elizabeth’s hair for the short journey, “everything will be okay,” she said supportively, “they’ll come home in no time, North will win this war.”
Elizabeth had her eyes closed and though she had no hope of that her sister made her feel a tiny bit better. It must have been being able to be touched by her again.
She wanted to ask about Carmen and she wanted to ask about Trigger but she did not have the strength. She wanted to put a smile on her face for her father but instead she fell asleep and didn’t wake up for three days.
When she awoke she was in her bed with a nurse fluttering around with a wet towel. Elizabeth was very confused as to where she was and started panting and sweating and rolling around.
“Elizabeth!” The nurse hurried over to her, “it’s okay, calm down. You’re at home in bed and every ones worried about you. Take deep breaths, okay?”
Elizabeth tried to but she couldn’t get enough air and started whooping with cough, the nurse gave her some oxygen and she finally calmed down. She coughed up some blood onto the pillow next to her and clenched her eyes shut in pain.
“It’s okay Elizabeth,” the nurse sat on the bed next to her and stroked her hair, “you’ll be okay.”
Elizabeth cried out in pain and fell back onto the bed, “Max,” she sobbed.
The nurse grabbed a warm towel and wiped Elizabeth’s mouth with it, then placed a different one over her forehead.
Elizabeth closed her eyes and tears ran down her cheeks, “who are you? Where is my family?” she demanded.
“My name is Charlotte and I’ve been hired as your nurse. Do you want me to go and get your parents?” she asked.
“Please,” Elizabeth whispered, “can you go get Max?”
“Max?” the nurse frowned, “there is no Max here.”
Elizabeth sobbed.
The nurse jumped up and ran out of the room to get her parent’s. Elizabeth lay there staring at the ceiling with foggy eyes; her heart ached as much as her sore chest did.
Her mother and father ran into the room minutes later, “oh Elizabeth thank god you are awake!” her mother started to cry, “we were so worried.”
“You must be starving,” Jeffery took a seat next to her on the bed and turned to look at Charlotte standing in the doorway, “will you go get one of the maids to bring up Elizabeth egg and tea with bread?”
Charlotte nodded and hurried away.
Nancy tried to compose herself; she had to be strong for her daughter. “You have a little bit more color in your cheeks, thank god,” she pressed her face to Elizabeth’s hair. When she had first set her eyes on Elizabeth she was so white she could have been a corpse. The doctor had been by twice to check on her and he said she wasn’t looking to good and tried not to tell them that there was a chance she could to die. He too said she had inflammation of the lungs and a very bad fever and suggested they hire a full-time nurse to be at her side if they wanted her to get better.
Her parent’s said they would do anything to help her get better and did as they were told.
Elizabeth closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of her mother hugging her, “I’m okay mother, really.” She knew he mother was trying to be strong for her. Her father was too.
Elizabeth didn’t know if she was okay, she didn’t feel okay. She was very worried for herself but couldn’t let them know that.
“Can we come in?” Maria, Isabelle, and Carmen stood at the door anxiously with wide eyes.
Jeffery motioned for them to leave, “soon but only one at a time. She has only just woken up and we don’t want to overwhelm her.”
Nancy kissed all over Elizabeth’s face, “we are doing everything we can to help you get better okay? You will be running around outside in no time.”
Elizabeth couldn’t even think about running around, she felt as if she couldn’t even sit up by herself. Jeffery hugged and kissed her when Nancy would give him a chance, “we love you to death and there is no way we are going to let anything happen to you, okay?”
Elizabeth nodded and fought back tears, “I know,” she whispered, “thank you father.”
He smiled slightly with tears in his eyes.
The nurse came back with two servants. She and one of the servants helped Elizabeth to sit up and the other servant set up the tray in front of her. “Do you need anything?” Charlotte asked, “is there anything we can get to make you feel more comfortable?”
Elizabeth looked down at the food, she didn’t know if she could eat this.
“Darling,” Nancy put her hand on Elizabeth’s arm, “eat it all up, it will help you gain a little bit of strength.”
Elizabeth nodded at her mother and then looked back at Charlotte, “thank you, this is fine.”
Her parent’s and the two servants left the room and closed the door behind them. She was left with Charlotte whom asked if she would like her to leave as well.
“No you’re okay,” she croaked. Her throat hurt when she talked.
She did her best to eat as much as she could but didn’t finish it all. When she was done Charlotte took the tray away and she lay down and rapped her arms around herself. She felt like a dead weight at the same time as feeling empty.
She fell asleep again and when she woke up towards the evening she woke up with someone stroking her face and brushing her hair out of her face. She enjoyed it for a little while before opening her eyes to find out who was doing such a thing.
It was Carmen.
She sat on the bed in her night wear with her hair down and her eyes red with tears. When Elizabeth saw her she said in a quiet creaky voice, “hi.”
“Hey,” Carmen smiled slightly.
Elizabeth closed her eyes again, “what time is it?” she asked.
“Around eleven,” Carmen answered. She sucked in a breath; “listen Elizabeth…”
Elizabeth opened her eyes, “yeah?”
“I want to apologize,” Carmen looked away from her, “I shouldn’t have let you leave without talking to you first. I was just so upset…”
“I know,” Elizabeth couldn’t believe she was finally talking to Carmen about everything! After so long! “You had every right to Carmen. You did.”
“You must love him so much,” Carmen wiped away the tear that dripped from her eye, “I thought I loved him so much. Just… tell me the truth were you ever with him while he was with me?”
Elizabeth coughed, “no Carmen, I couldn’t do that to you.”
Carmen closed her eyes, “how long were you… hiding it from me?”
“Since the beginning,” Elizabeth looked away in shame; “I didn’t deserve to say anything. He was yours not mine.”
“You could have told me,” Carmen whispered, “right from the beginning and I would have let you have him.”
Elizabeth recoiled in pain. Her thoughts drifted back to how much hurt she went through when Carmen was with Maxwell and how much agony she felt. That could have been prevented? She didn’t want to think about it.
She started to cry, “I couldn’t tell you,” she sobbed, “I was torn between a feeling I couldn’t comprehend and the love of my best friend and sister.” Elizabeth wiped her eyes; “I wanted so much to do the right thing.”
Carmen looked down at her with red eyes, “you should have told me sooner.”
“I know.”
Carmen moved her hand down to wipe away some of Elizabeth’s tears, “I’m sorry I caused you so much pain. I didn’t mean to.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. That meant so much. “I’m sorry for falling in love with your man.”
“He was never mine,” Carmen said letting out a little sob, “he was always yours.” She leaned down and hugged her, “I’ve missed you so much, I can’t believe,” she buried her face in her neck, “I need you to get better so we can make up for the time we lost.”
Elizabeth sobbed into her sisters hair, “have you forgiven me?”
“Have you forgiven me?” Carmen asked.
“Yes,” Elizabeth cried.
“Yes!” Carmen cried back.
Elizabeth held her hand over her mouth and coughed, when she pulled it away there were little speckles of flood on her fingers. “Tell me about Gregory, tell me if you love him.”
“I love him,” Carmen kissed her cheek, “I love him like I can’t describe. It’s nothing like how I thought I felt for Maxwell… It’s true and I miss him so much.”
“This isn’t fair on any of us,” Elizabeth whispered.
“I know,” Carmen closed her eyes, “Isabelle barely leaves her room, Maria never eats, you are deathly sick.”
Elizabeth sighed, “what about you?”
“Me?” Carmen asked, “I’m holding myself together. But we are all such a sad bunch aren’t we? Pining over our men.”
Elizabeth chuckled, “yeah we are.”
“Was Maxwell sad when he left you at the train station?” Carmen asked, “does he love you as much as you love him?”
“I think so,” Elizabeth thought sadly, “yes, he may even love me more then I love him. I don’t know how that’s possible because I can not live without him.”
“Is that why your sick? You can’t handle being away from him?”
“I don’t know.”
They were silent for a little while before Carmen asked, “what’s going to happen to them?”
Elizabeth’s lips trembled, “I don’t know but I hope to god they are okay.”

~* *~

Jennifer and Erica came to visit her a few days later and Elizabeth got the nurse to wheel her outside to the gardens so she could sit with in the sun. She needed some fresh air on her face; she didn’t like being bed ridden 24/7.
“Only for an hour,” Charlotte helped her up, “you can’t stay away from your bed for to long or you won’t get better.”
“Will I get better at all?” Elizabeth mumbled.
Erica was very quiet and sad because she missed her husband. Elizabeth hugged her and said that he would come back to her in no time because he couldn’t stay away from her, he loved her too much.
She didn’t know if what she said helped but it gained a smile on her friend’s face and that was enough for her.
It made Elizabeth somewhat uncomfortable to be with her friends and have them keep looking at her. She knew they were worried about her and feared for her life, everyone did.
Elizabeth was sick of people feeling sorry for her.
“I’m fine,” Elizabeth put on a fake smile, “I’ll be fine.”
“I know you will,” Jennifer looked at her sympathetically, “and when you are well again we’ll throw a big party to celebrate.”
Elizabeth smiled, “okay.”
When they left Charlotte came to take her back inside but Elizabeth begged her to leave her outside for a while longer.
“You shouldn’t,” Charlotte said.
“Please? Please?” Elizabeth sighed.
Charlotte bit her lip, “twenty minutes! That’s it!”
Elizabeth smiled, “thank you Charlotte.”
She sat outside the ballroom at the French doors for a long time thinking about her husband. She had been trying not to think of him because it upset her too much and she missed him too much. But not thinking about him was like the sun rising in the morning. It was impossible to stop.
Everything reminded her of him; everything she did mimicked something she had done with him. Taking a bath was one of the most depressing times in her life now. Maxwell was no longer there to clean her back, Charlotte was.

She wondered what he was doing right at that very moment. Was he thinking of her? Did he miss her as much as she missed him?
She remembered the way his hands felt on her skin and wondered if she’d ever experience such passion with him again. Would she ever again feel his hands touching her in such an exquisite way that it caused her to combust with joy?
There was no way to answer that, but she could pray.
She had his face in her mind and if she tried hard enough she could hear him talking to her like he had been doing ever since they met. He said he loved her and said how much he missed her.

One good thing that had happened to her since she returned was talking to her sister again. Words could not describe how happy Elizabeth felt about making immense with Carmen. There had always been that weight on her shoulders a hole in her heart that Carmen caused and now that it was gone Elizabeth felt a great relief.
She was doing her best at feeling happy and allowing herself to get better but she didn’t know if she wanted to. A third proclamation, dated May 3, called for 42,000 three-year volunteers for the regular army and for 18,000 volunteers to serve one to three years in the navy. Three years! They panned for this to go on longer then three years?
Elizabeth couldn’t believe it and she didn’t know if she wanted to be around for it. Three years without Maxwell did not seem like an option. Getting better and going to join him was.
If only she was healthy and well she could join the army and follow the men everywhere while they fought. She could be with Maxwell! They wouldn’t have privacy and they probably wouldn’t get much time together but at least she would be able to set her eyes on him. That would be a thousand times better than this.
She needed to get well and she decided she would do all she could to improve her condition. There was only one down side to that, what if she didn’t get better and she had gotten her hopes up for nothing?
She needed to see Maxwell.

Charlotte walked past her and fixed the blankets on her lap, “I think you should go back up to your bed now, don’t you?”
Elizabeth went to reply but was suddenly struck with a huge wave of dizziness and her breath caught in her throat. She started coughing and spluttering and nearly fell off her chair.
Charlotte called a maid and asked them to get a bowel and water quickly. Elizabeth started to panic she couldn’t breath! She held her hands over her chest and tried to stop coughing but she couldn’t.
“Try and take deep breaths Elizabeth,” Charlotte instructed.
Elizabeth tried but blood filled her mouth and she spewed it out just as the dish was placed on her lap. Her chest stung in pain…
“What’s wrong with her?” Maria cried running up.
Charlotte spun around, “quick go get her mask from her room would you?”
Maria ran off past Carmen who was standing at the bottom of the stairs with a worried face. Elizabeth continued to cough and splutter, there were little specks of blood all over the blanket on her lap, “help,” she cried, “Charlotte!” she sobbed. “It hurts! Charlotte!”
“Hold on two seconds Elizabeth!” Carmen cried coming up closer.
Maria came running down the stairs with Elizabeth’s mask in her hand, she handed it to Charlotte and she held it up to Elizabeth’s face. Elizabeth tried to take deep breaths; she closed her eyes and focused on nothing but her breathing. It didn’t work, another excruciating coughing fit over took her and she cried out in pain. When her coughing died down she started taking deep breaths again and slowly got her body under control. Her whole body hurt but not as much as her chest. Her throat felt raw and her mouth was sticky and tasted like blood.
“You’re okay now Elizabeth,” Charlotte had to take deep breaths herself; she was still in shock. Carmen and Maria stood together staring at their little sister with worry, they were so scared for her and it was very hard to watch her be in so much pain.
Charlotte asked for them to gather some flannels and then turned back to Elizabeth, “are you okay?”
Elizabeth couldn’t talk, she closed her eyes and let her head drop forward. She was so scared, she didn’t want to die. She couldn’t die with Maxwell so far away. She said that and Charlotte shook her head, “you aren’t going die,” she said.
Carmen came back with some flannels and helped Charlotte clean up Elizabeth’s blood off her hands and blanket. They then carried her back upstairs to her room and the whole time all Elizabeth could think was, things can’t get much worse then this.

~* *~

Elizabeth sat next to the window in her bedroom staring out at the world and thought sadly about how she couldn’t join it. She felt like everything was passing her by and there was nothing she could do about it.
There were men out fighting and slaves being freed and she was sitting in her room doing nothing but waiting to see her husband again. She hated it, she hated being bed-ridden all day, she had such a free spirit and she used to gallop through the wind and feel like she was flying. What had happened to that? Why couldn’t she do it anymore?
Now all she could do was watch the sun come up into the sky and then leave again, she couldn’t feel it’s warm on her face. She couldn’t feel anything.
“Elizabeth?” A maid walked up beside her; “there’s a letter for you.”
Elizabeth looked down at the envelope on the silver plate being held in front of her. “Who is it from?” she asked not removing her gaze from the window. If it wasn’t from Maxwell she didn’t want to read it.
“It’s from Maxwell Evan’s,” the maid answered.
Elizabeth’s heart stopped, “will you open it for me?”
The maid broke the seal and unfolded it, “do you wish me to read it for you?” she asked.
“No thank you,” Elizabeth still did not move her gaze from the window, even when the maid put the letter down on her lap and walked away. She couldn’t bring herself to look down, what would he say? Where was he?
Several minutes passed before she finally summoned up enough strength to read his letter. She picked it up and looked down at it, it read…

Dearest Elizabeth,
Are you getting better my love? I hope you are well by now and riding Trigger around the paddocks like I know you love doing. I can just picture you galloping into the sunset with your long hair being blown around by the wind.
All is not as glamorous here I admit.
I miss you more then you can imagine and my heart is broken from being away from you. You are stronger then me so I hope you can at least find happiness from being with your family.
How are your sisters? You can tell them that Michael and Alexander are fine I see them every day because they are in the same camp as me. I’m sorry I haven’t seen Gregory but Kyle is here. We have become quite good friends all of us have, we always eat our meals together and we always talk about you ladies and how much we wish we were at home with you. I remember a while ago you were telling me about how funny Alexander is. He is very amusing to be around indeed, whenever we are all glum it’s always him that says something to bring light to the situation. I hope we are all stuck together while we’re away, it’s quiet comforting to be around people we know slightly.

Through out the whole day and night I am thinking of you. Sleeping on the ground with nothing but one blanket is hard and even worse considering I don’t have you to hold in my arms. You are in my dreams though, am I in yours?
Soon we will start blockading southern forts so I will be very busy and won’t be able to write. Don’t worry about me just look after yourself. I will be waiting for a letter from you that will have to be my solace for now.
Tell me about how happy you are so I can be happy while I read it.
I love you; I’ll talk to you soon,

posted on 5-Jul-2002 7:45:31 PM
~* XXIV *~

The door to Elizabeth’s bedroom opened and Carmen popped her head inside, “heaven help me I am clumsy today,” she said.
Elizabeth sat numb at the windowsill with Maxwell’s letter still in her hands. Tears dripped down her cheeks and she did not turn to greet her sister. Carmen approached her, “I have bumped into a maid bringing tea up to you and this morning I spilt my powder all over the floor!”
Elizabeth dropped the letter to her lap and closed her eyes briefly.
“I should be locked up in case I cause more havoc to unleash it’s self,” Carmen reached her and as she walked to the seat next to her she accidentally bumped the letter from Elizabeth’s lap,
Elizabeth cried out, “no!”
“Oh my,” Carmen bent down to pick it up, “is it from…?”
Elizabeth took it from her and nodded. She clenched it to her chest and took deep breaths to contain herself, “it is from him,” she whispered, “it is.”
“Well you are lucky,” Carmen opened the window in which Elizabeth was looking out of and sucked in the crisp delicious air. It was an absolutely stunning day, the air was cool and the sun was boiling. “Oh can you feel that air on your face Elizabeth? Feel it, surely it could cure you in a second it’s so magnificent.”
“How can I feel it with you standing in the way blocking it?” Elizabeth teased.
Carmen rolled her eyes and took a seat next to her; “can you feel it now?”
Elizabeth closed her eyes and nodded, “it is wonderful. I wish I could be riding Trigger… do you think it is warm enough in the pond to swim yet?”
“Oh it is!” Carmen cried, “yesterday several young children had flocked to it and swam gaily all day long.”
Elizabeth’s face saddened, “I wish we might go,” she said. “We have gone there every year since I can remember. When we were little we all used to have races across the water.”
“I remember,” Carmen reached out and touched Elizabeth’s hand, “there will be other times. And this time I will beat you, you cheater.”
“Not this year,” Elizabeth coughed, “maybe next year? I can bring Maxwell and you can bring Gregory.”
“It’s a date,” Carmen smiled hopefully, “and we can have a picnic with delicious food and wine.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes, “yes, yes! And we shall make jam!”
“Of course.”
They both giggled to themselves.
Carmen was very satisfied with herself for making Elizabeth have a short smile on her face. That is the first she had seen while Elizabeth had been here. “So what did Maxwell say to you in your letter?”
Elizabeth sighed sadly, “he wants me to write about how happy I am and how I’m not sick anymore. If I write either of those things I will be lying.”
“Maybe you should lie,” Carmen said, “it will keep him alive.”
Elizabeth stared at her with tears in her eyes, “I will lie.”
They were silent for a few minutes and in that time Charlotte brought up Elizabeth some tea and some medicine. “Take it now,” Charlotte instructed.
Elizabeth sighed sadly, “what will it do to help me? It does not help me any other time. And drinking tea makes me sick.”
“It will help you,” Charlotte fussed, “I insist you take it.”
Elizabeth did was she was told grumpily then handed the cup back to Charlotte. Charlotte buzzed away and Elizabeth turned her attention back to her sister.
“We will all turn ill like you if we are forced to live in such a depressing state,” said Carmen.
Elizabeth agreed with her, “but what can you do to change this? How can you make everyone morally content again?”
“Is it even possible do you think?” Carmen asked.
“I’m not sure,” Elizabeth covered her mouth to cough. “I am done for,” she closed her eyes, “you can try and make everyone else happy but how can I be happy when I do not have either of the two things I love the most? Maxwell or trigger?”
“Why that’s it!” Carmen cried.
Elizabeth frowned, “what’s it?”
“Well we can make everyone happy again! Isabelle just needs to start cooking again and Maria singing!”
“And you dancing?” Elizabeth added.
“Well yes,” Carmen nodded, “we need to preoccupy ourselves.”
Elizabeth nodded, “that’s a good idea sister.”
“It’s an excellent idea and it will work,” Carmen stood up just as Charlotte was heading back into the room.
“Elizabeth it’s time to go back to bed now, you have been sitting up for too long,” she wheeled her back over to the bed, Elizabeth looked at the sheets glumly.
“Goodbye Elizabeth! Sleep well and get better my love!” Carmen skipped out of the room while Charlotte helped Elizabeth into her bed.
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked up at Charlotte, “do you know what’s wrong with me?” she asked.
Charlotte blushed, “not even the doctor knows.”
“Truthfully… what do you think?” she asked.
Charlotte tucked the blankets around Elizabeth’s body, “I fear it may be consumption.”
Elizabeth sighed and closed her eyes, “thank you.”

~* *~

Elizabeth wrote back to Maxwell and told him she was much healthier and she was happy to be around her family. She wrote about how beautiful the weather was and how much she missed him and how dreamt of him not only during the night but during the day too. She told him how she was waiting for him and when she rode Trigger she wished she could ride into the sun so she may be able to look down on him from the sky and make sure he was okay. And if he got hurt she could mend him with her angel powers.
She tried to be as hopeful and joyful as possible and when she read through it to make she that there was little negativity in it she almost convinced herself she was happy.

Now more then ever Elizabeth was convinced Carmen was one of the strongest people she knew. She was constantly doing everything in her power to make everyone around her happy. She dragged Maria and Isabelle down to the ballroom one day and demanded Maria play the piano and sing while she danced with Isabelle. Of course all that Elizabeth could do was sit in her wheelchair with her blankets rapped around her and watch. It brought a slight smile to her face to see her sisters having fun.
Isabelle finally loosened up and started dancing playfully with Carmen. She even laughed when Carmen spun her around like a male would.
Elizabeth coughed, “hey Maria,” she said. “Maxwell wrote to me.”
“He did?” Maria continued to play the piano.
“He told me that,” she coughed and wiped the blood from her lips, “that Michael and Alexander are in the same camp as him and they have all become good friends. He said that he hoped they were stuck together through this war because it was nice to have someone they all find familiar.”
Maria raised her eyes brows, “really?”
“What about Gregory?’ Carmen called, “did he say anything about Gregory?”
Elizabeth bit her lip, “he said he hadn’t seen him, that he isn’t in the same camp. I’m sorry Carmen.”
Carmen frowned and stopped dancing; “do you think he’s okay?”
“I’ll bet he’s fine,” Isabelle rubbed her arm up and down, “he’s tough and wouldn’t let anyone lay a finger on him.”
Carmen sighed.
Elizabeth glanced at Maria and mouthed, “play, on the sunny side of the street.”
Maria smiled and started playing the song on the piano; she then started to sing:
“Get your coat and your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep.
Just take your feet to the sunny side of the street.”
Isabelle and Carmen chuckled and started dancing.
Elizabeth watched them with glowing eyes and was relieved to find them making the most of things. She wished she had the strength to join them and enjoy herself too but she couldn’t get up.
“Come on Elizabeth sing with me!” Maria cried.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to join in singing but her breath caught in her throat and she passed out. When she came to she was on the floor with her sisters kneeling beside her. “Charlotte!” Carmen was crying, “Charlotte come quick!”
Elizabeth opened her eyes halfway and rocked her head back and forth, “what happened?” she gurgled. Foam gathered at the sides of her mouth and her back bucked upwards, “why do I hurt so much?” she cried.
“Oh Elizabeth!” Isabelle cried trying to stop tears from falling from her eyes, “are you okay?”
Elizabeth couldn’t answer, her eyes rolled back into her head and she passed out again. This time when she woke up she was in bed and the doctor was talking to her parent’s in the corner of the room. She could hear what he was saying but wished she couldn’t.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, “there is nothing we can do for her, I’m afraid there isn’t much hope...”
Her mother was sobbing, “what do you mean there isn’t much hope? there has to be! Are you mad? She is going to be twenty-one in a week! She is too young to die!”
“There isn’t a hundred percent chance she will die but it is likely. It’s up to her; all I am saying is there is a higher possibility of death then recovering.”
“Mother!” Elizabeth screamed out in pain, “Father!”
They were at her side in seconds. “Elizabeth?” her mother caressed her cheek, “we’re here, are you okay darling?”
Elizabeth closed her eyes, “I want Maxwell,” she cried, “please bring him home, please.”
Her parent’s shared a look, “Elizabeth we can’t,” Jeffery said, “I’m sorry.”
“Please,” Elizabeth sobbed, “please, I need him!”
The doctor came up closer, “I don’t think it would be best for her to see someone that would inflict too much excitement. I fear it would end her,” he said.
Elizabeth cried out, “I am not going to die!” she sobbed, “I am fine! Let me be!”
Her mother was sobbing, “Elizabeth calm down, please clam down.”
“Bring me Maxwell!” she cried, “I need him here!”
The doctor said, “wouldn’t you wish to get better then see him?”
Elizabeth sprung up and stared at him with evil eyes, “get out of my room! Get out I don’t want you here!”
She broke into a coughing fit and Charlotte hurried over, “leave, it is best if you all leave! Can’t you see she is in hysterics?”
Her parent’s stumbled to their feet, “help her Charlotte please,” Jeffery said. He led his wife out of the room and the doctor followed. Once they were outside the door the doctor turned to them, “keep her away from too much excitement it triggers further break outs. This… Maxwell? I suggest you try your best to clear her mind of him too. She needs to be calm and relaxed and this person obviously causes her to be upset.”
“He is her husband!” Nancy cried, “she needs to see him so we shall try and get him here.”
“I don’t think it would be wise,” the doctor said, “it may overwhelm her…”
Jeffery pursed his lips; “we will do our best to keep her tranquil. Thank you doctor.”

~* *~

Nancy sat with Isabelle in the lounge, in her hand she held a letter from Maxwell for Elizabeth. “I want to give it to her,” she said.
Isabelle shook her head, “you can’t. You know what the doctor said.”
“But what if she does not get better either way? She deserves to be around Maxwell, it will make her happy.”
“But what if it makes her illness worse?” Isabelle took the letter from her mother; “we must get rid of it.”
Nancy rubbed her forehead; “this is horrible! We shan’t do this!”
“We have to mother,” Isabelle started to cry, “I will not let Elizabeth die. I will not! She is too young.” With trembling hands she ripped up the letter and chucked it in the fire.
Nancy stood up and walked away. She was trying her best to do what she could for her daughter but she was torn between her being happy and her living. She was very tempted to do what she could to get Maxwell home back here for Elizabeth but everyone in her family demanded that she should leave him be.
She climbed the stairs and wandered down the hallway to Elizabeth’s room. When she entered Elizabeth was propped up in her bed with Charlotte, Carmen, and Maria all sitting around her.
“What about you Charlotte?” Elizabeth’s voice was husky and raw, “is there a man in your life?”
Nancy stood in the doorway watching them; she wiped the tears from her eyes and closed the door.
Charlotte blushed, “no there isn’t but I’m glad because I do not have to face heart break through this war.”
“I think I would rather not, too,” whispered Carmen, “it’s too sad to be parted from Gregory.”
Elizabeth turned her head to look at Nancy, “mother,” she said, “has the mail been checked today?”
Nancy sucked in a breath; “yes it has Elizabeth.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth’s face dropped, “and there were no letters from Maxwell?”
Nancy shook her head, “no. I’m sorry Elizabeth.”
Maria’s eyes roamed over her mothers face, “what about Carmen and I? Is there anything for us?”
“No,” Nancy said, “there was only one for Isabelle from Alexander.” She approached them, “I have news though,” she sat down on the edge of their bed, Grandmother Francis is coming back to see you all.”
The three daughters groaned.
“Wonderful,” Carmen muttered sarcastically.
“Now there is no need for that,” Nancy said, “Grandmother Francis can be nice.”
“Liar,” Elizabeth said, “she can not.”
Nancy smiled, “okay maybe she can’t. But we have to put up with her so we may as well enjoy her company.”
“Maybe I should just die now,” Elizabeth muttered.
The entire group of woman glared at her with mad eyes.
“What?” Elizabeth said, “we all know it’s going to happen and none of you will do what you can to bring my husband home so don’t expect me to be happy about it.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Carmen said, “you are going to be fine.”
Elizabeth sighed, “I’m tired, can I please be left alone?”
Once everyone had left Charlotte helped Elizabeth get comfortable under the covers, “you shouldn’t do that to your family,” she said.
Elizabeth started to cry, “I know.”
Charlotte tried to comfort her, “there is a lot of chance that you will get better,” she said, “you need to believe it though.”
“I am trying,” Elizabeth sobbed, “I want to be happy but I can not when Maxwell is not here. He is everything to me and to be parted from him is like having a part of myself missing. No one seems to understand that he is what I need to get better, not sleep, not medicine!”
“Can I give you my opinion?” Charlotte asked.
Elizabeth nodded.
Charlotte wiped the tears off Elizabeth’s cheeks, “you need to stop thinking about your husband and just think about yourself and getting better.”
“You make it sound easy,” Elizabeth whispered.
“You aren’t trying,” Charlotte sat down on the side of the bed, “you should at least be a little more joyful when your family is around. Even if you don’t mean it. They are taking this very hard and it doesn’t help them to hear you continuously saying you are going to die. They all love you unbearably and this is horrible for them. Did you know your father spends all his time going through medical books to find what is wrong with you so he may be able to help? Well he does because he can not loose you. I know this is none of my business I am just hired to be a nurse… but I want you to live too.”
Elizabeth stared at her, “do you think I want to die?”
“Well no one wants to die do they?” Charlotte asked.
“I never wanted to be sick in the first place,” Elizabeth’s bottom lip trembled, “my plan was to live happily ever after with my husband.”
Charlotte laughed, “well that’s every ones plan isn’t it?”
Elizabeth sucked in a breath, “am I a bad person? Is that why this is happening to me?”
“Oh darling,” Charlotte said brushing her blonde hair from her face, “you aren’t a bad person, no.”
“I must be,” Elizabeth whispered, “I stole my sisters man and now god is getting back at me. Well wasn’t the war enough? Wasn’t that enough to make up for my wrong doings? Why must he make me ill to?”
Charlotte sighed, “are you honestly telling me that you think the civil war is happening because god wants to get back at you for something your sisters forgiven you for?”
“You make me sound crazy,” Elizabeth coughed.
“You are crazy, you are rambling for no reason.”
Elizabeth wanted to lie on her stomach but her chest hurt too much, “I don’t want to die,” she said, “not without knowing my husband will be okay.”
“Well he won’t be will he?” Charlotte stood up, “not if you leave him. So maybe you should try a little harder to get better so you won’t break his heart.”
Charlotte left the room and Elizabeth stared up at the ceiling. Under her pillow she clutched her first and only letter from Maxwell. She confused herself, she had decided a while ago she would do all she could to get better but here she was being annoyingly negative. She found it so hard to want to live when she knew she would have to spend three years without having the one thing she wanted.
She was completely confused but only one thing was clear. She didn’t want to break Maxwell’s heart by leaving him. She couldn’t do that.

~* *~

Two weeks later and no improvement on Elizabeth’s health but it had not gotten any worse and that was something her whole family clung onto.
Elizabeth was thinking positively but she wanted to write something for her family just in case things turned for the worse. She wanted to leave them something just in case she was to leave them. She had to tell them how much they meant to her. So when she gathered enough strength she wrote them a letter.
It included a note to each of her sisters about how much they meant to her and how much she loved them. She expressed to her parent’s about how thankful she was for everything they had done for her and so much more.
She put it in an envelope and wrote dearest family on it and then put it safely in her draw.

Carmen walked into the room, “Elizabeth, would you like to come down stairs for dinner tonight? Do you think you have enough strength?”
Elizabeth shook her head, “I would like to but I do not think I can. I am very tired and wish to sleep now.”
Carmen nodded, “okay then. Do you need anything?”
“Can you help me back into bed? I already told Charlotte to go and have dinner.”
“Of course.”
Once Elizabeth was back in bed Carmen placed a kiss on her forehead, “get better soon,” she said.
“I’m trying,” Elizabeth said.

Carmen went back downstairs to her family who was just sitting down at the table. “She said she isn’t up for it,” she announced.
She sat down at the table and stared sadly at her father, “we have to do something to help her, she is in so much pain.”
“There is nothing we can do,” Jeffery said, “except be here for her.”
There was a knock at the door and the maid who was pouring wine in Nancy’s cup stopped what she was doing and went to answer it.
“How could be so rude as to come here at dinner time?” Isabelle asked.

~* Conclusion *~

Two minutes later four handsome soldiers dressed in their army blue coats, sky blue trousers and kepis came marching into the room. Isabelle, Maria, and Carmen screeched and ran to their husbands as fast as their legs could carry them.
Maxwell looked around the room looking for his angel but she was no where to be seen.
“What are you doing here?” Nancy wiped her mouth with her napkin, “not that it’s not a pleasure to see you all, of course it is. But what a shock!”
Maxwell the poor guy still stood there wondering if anyone noticed him. He was puzzled.
“Oh Maxwell,” Nancy got up and walked over to him. She started to cry and hugged him, “how much we’ve wanted to tell you! They wouldn’t let me I wanted to write!”
Maxwell’s heart stopped, “tell me what?” he asked.
Jeffery wandered over, “Elizabeth she’s…”
“She’s what?” Maxwell was very pale by now. His hands were shaking, “she’s what?” he repeated.
Maria looked at him with tear stained eyes, “she’s taken a turn for the worst,” she explained, “the doctor says she won’t make it.”
Maxwell turned around to head for her room but Jeffery grabbed his arm. “We can’t let you go up there,” he said.
Maxwell spun around, “what do you mean you can’t let me go up there?”
“It is dangerous for her health!” Isabelle cried, “she won’t be able to take it!”
Maxwell looked at Isabelle clinging to Alexander, Maria clinging to Michael, and Carmen clinging to Gregory. When he had walked in that door he had prepared himself for Elizabeth who was supposed to be clinging to him. He was greatly disappointed. “In her letter she said she was better,” he frowned.
Carmen bit her lip; “she lied. I was with her when she wrote it.”
“Maxwell come and sit down, all of you come and sit down. We shall finish eating okay?” Jeffery motioned for everyone to take a seat and ordered the maids to set up places for their four guests.
“I’m going up to see my wife,” Maxwell didn’t travel this far to sit down and have dinner with his wives parent’s. He traveled here to spend two days with his soul mate.
“No Maxwell!” Maria leapt in front of him; “we can’t let you! Please don’t jeopardize our sisters life for your own benefit.”
“You can’t expect me to ignore the fact she is upstairs and dying,” his voice cracked.
“We don’t,” Jeffery said, “but we can’t let you see her. It’s the doctors wishes.”
Maxwell cursed under his breath.
“You must fear for her life too,” Maria said. She walked back over to Michael and took his hand in hers; “don’t you wish for her to get better?”
“Surely seeing me will do nothing towards her heath situation, I would think it would improve it rather then anything else.”
“She is forgetting you,” Nancy said.
Maxwell frowned, “I find that very unlikely.”
“Sit down,” Isabelle instructed, “everyone sit down will you?”
Charlotte entered the room and gasped at the sight of them all, “what’s going on?” she asked.
“Mr. Evan’s this is Elizabeth’s nurse Charlotte. Charlotte please tell Mr. Evan’s it would not benefit Elizabeth’s situation for him to go and see her,” Jeffery motioned to Maxwell.
Charlotte looked at him and noticed his clenched fists and the tears in his eyes. She could practically feel the terror and anxiety pouring off of him. She decided she would do what she could to help him and shook her head; “I don’t see how him seeing her would do anything but delight her.”
He thanked her and zoomed out of the room before anyone could stop him. Everyone gasped at Charlotte and Jeffery yelled at her for being so irresponsible.
“I don’t know how you can wish her to be parted from him even now!” Charlotte cried, “I may only be her nurse but it is blatantly obvious that the only thing she needs is to see him! She does not have much time left.” Charlotte rapped her arms around herself, “and you need to let her be with him while she can.”
The sisters all started crying.
“She’s not going to die,” Carmen sobbed, “she can’t,”

~* *~

Elizabeth could hear someone enter her bedroom but she did not open her eyes. She figured it would be Charlotte.
Maxwell stood in the doorway staring at Elizabeth's sleeping figure with tears in his eyes, how could he go to her? How could he handle being around her when she was like this?
He understood why she had lied to him in her letter. He had said to her that he wanted her reply to be filled with how happy she was. She had lied for him and that made him love her even more, if it was possible.
He sucked in a breath and wiped the tears from his eyes before approaching her. When he reached the side of the bed he collapsed to his knee's in front of her white face and clenched his fists on his pants, she looked so disturbed, not happy at all. He wanted her to be happy, she deserved to be happy and not to feel pain.
He reached out with one of his hands and gently ran his thumb down her cheekbone. Her breath stopped, his breath stopped, she opened her eyes.
Her face filled with... Pain? Delight? Shock? Exquisite relief? Maxwell couldn't tell but he could tell she was lost for words and she didn't know what to do with herself. She started to cry, "what a cruel dream for me to have to endure."
When Maxwell found words he said, "you aren't dreaming my love."
Her eyes widened and a smile of excitement spread across her face, “I’m not!” she sprung up and before she even had a chance to leap at him he buried her in a fierce embrace. Tears filled Maxwell’s eyes, it was beyond wonderful to be able to feel the love of his life in his arms again!
“Oh Max you’re really here!” Elizabeth placed hundreds of kisses all over his face, “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!”
Maxwell smiled and kissed her right on the lips, “believe it,” he whispered, “I traveled so far to see you!” He pulled Elizabeth up out of her covers and she rapped her legs around his waist.
“Oh Max!” she held him as tight as she could in her fragile condition.
Maxwell buried his head in her hair; “you’re so tiny, you’ve lost so much weight!”
“I am fine,” she pulled back and looked at him, “you look so handsome in that uniform! I can hardly believe it’s you! I have longed for this since we parted!” she hugged him to her again. “What are you doing here? The war hasn’t ended has it? We aren’t that lucky!”
Maxwell kissed her forehead, "I told you in my letter did you not get it?"
Elizabeth thought for a second, maybe she had forgotten? "I only got one letter," she whispered.
"I sent two," Maxwell frowned, "I explained that every man volunteering for the one-to-three year navy service got two days off this week."
Elizabeth sobbed, "three years," she exclaimed, "no wonder I am dying!"
Maxwell shook his head, “don’t talk like that.” He sat her back down on the bed and put his kepi on the nightstand. He also pulled off his boots and jacket and left them on the chair beside the bed. Elizabeth then pulled him back onto the bed so he was sitting in front of her. He intertwined his fingers through hers and kissed her knuckles.
“Why did you volunteer for the navy?” Elizabeth asked pulling the blanket up to cover her bare legs.
Maxwell sat as close to her as possible, “I explained this all in the letter. I sent it a long time ago I don’t know why you didn’t get it.” He ran his lips over her wedding band, “it’s much better to be in the navy rather then being just a union forces solider. It’s probably safer too… more soldiers are dying every day.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth looked down at the blanket.
“Also for the two days absence we all got,” Maxwell leaned into her and kissed her lips.
Elizabeth looked up at him, “two days? That isn’t very long but it’s something I guess…”
Elizabeth bit her lip to keep from coughing; Maxwell was looking at her with such—
“If you could have anything right now what would you have?” he asked.
She smiled at him; “you’re already here.”
He smiled back just as dreamily and placed a passionate kiss on her lips, “I love you,” he said. “Actually… I love you doesn’t seem to express just how much my feelings for you are.”
Elizabeth pressed her forehead against his, “I know exactly what you mean, big man,” she kissed him, “do you realize you missed my twenty-first birthday last week?”
“I did know, yes,” he stared into her eyes, “happy twenty-first you oldie.”
“Huh! At least I’m not twenty-three,” she pecked his nose, “grandfather!”
Maxwell closed his eyes and leaned into her for another passionate kiss, when he pulled away he said, “tell me how much you have missed me.” He let got of her hands and rapped his arms around her sickly fragile body. His lips descended to her neck and he ran them up and down her skin.
“Well,” Elizabeth tiltedher head back against the head board to allow him moe room, “I missed you more then I miss riding Trigger,” she sucked in a breath, “I missed you so much I feel deprived…”
Maxwell nibbled on her ear, “and?” he whispered.
“And? Are you kidding me?” she rolled her eyes, “and I want you to understand how much you mean to me so I’ll say… I love you?
“Ah ah,” Maxwell shook his head.
“No?” Elizabeth coughed, “what about I adore you?”
“Nah,” Maxwell muttered.
“I feel physically neglected?” Elizabeth chuckled at herself. “How about… you are my fire and my desire and even though we feel like we are two worlds apart I know in spirit you’re with me?”
“Better,” Maxwell kissed her lips, “and now that I’m here you’re…”
Elizabeth shoved him, “what do you want from me? Do you want me to worship the ground you walk on?”
“You don’t already?” Maxwell asked.
Elizabeth’s eyes suddenly widened and she turned away from him and coughed into her hands. Maxwell saw the little splatters of blood on her fingers and grabbed a cloth off the night stand to wipe it away. “How long has that been happening?” he asked.
Elizabeth lay down on her side and Maxwell lay down behind her. “Since I got here,” she answered.
Maxwell tucked her hair behind her ears, “is it painful?” he asked.
She nodded.
He rapped his arms around her waist and intertwined his fingers through hers on her stomach, “are you trying to hide how sick you are from me?”’
Elizabeth didn’t answer his question; instead she changed the subject of conversation. “I like your uniform, especially your jacket. Does everyone have the same one?”
Maxwell released one of his hands from her and reached over to pick up his kepi. “Well the General’s uniforms are distinguished by the two stars on their kepi and eqaulette straps.” He put the kepi on her head and she grinned up at him. “Also their buttons are grouped in three’s and they have a epaulette silk sash.”
She nodded, “oh right, so why aren’t you a general yet?”
He chuckled, “I will be in a little while,” he said, “if I keep doing my jobs as well as I do.”
“I knew you’d be an excellent soldier,” she kissed his lips.
“Well I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he laughed and sat up. “Now tell me about you, what’s all this I hear about you being very ill? You big baby.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened, “I know I am but if there was anything I could do to stop it don’t think I wouldn’t do it!”
Maxwell’s face turned serious, “I know you would.” He looked down at his hand in hers, “have you talked to the doctor?”
Elizabeth rolled over and rested her head on his lap, “I heard him talking to my parent’s.”
“Oh,” he bit her lip. He couldn’t forget what her family had said while he was down stairs, “and what did you hear?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she closed her eyes, “we’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”
Maxwell leaned down and kissed her forehead, “I do,” he whispered.

~* *~

Charlotte knocked on the door to Elizabeth’s room later that evening and Maxwell called her in. Elizabeth was fast asleep tucked into his lap and he sat up watching her in the candlelight.
“Did you have any problems?” Charlotte bit her lip, “with her…breathing?”
Maxwell nodded, “a couple of times,” he ran his fingers through her hair, “but she said they weren’t too bad.” He looked up from Elizabeth’s sleeping face and said in a defeated voice, “is she going to…” his voice cracked, “die?” He couldn’t sleep he was so worried about her.
Charlotte picked up the things she needed to take with her to her room then stopped and looked at him. She sucked in a breath, “I hope not,” she said.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” his voice was laden with burden.
Charlotte rapped her arms around herself, “she’s got a very bad case of TB and we don’t have the resources we need to help her.”
Maxwell felt tears sting his eyes, “thank you.”
Charlotte looked at him sympathetically, “hey if it makes you feel better to know…” she smiled, “she raves about you to me all day long. She never talks about anything else.”
Maxwell smiled slightly.
“Goodnight,” Charlotte walked over to the door and stepped out. Once she was gone Maxwell removed his trembling hand from Elizabeth’s cheek and rapped his arms around her waist. She sighed and rolled over so she was snuggled into his chest and Maxwell let tears drip down his cheeks into her hair. “Oh Elizabeth,” he whispered.

The next morning Elizabeth woke up and had one of the worst coughing fits she’s ever had. Charlotte knew that Elizabeth had bad coughing in the morning and hurried into the room straight away to help out as best she could. Maxwell sat by being as supportive as possible but feeling hopeless. Elizabeth was so exhausted and sore afterwards she went into a fever and passed out for a lot of the morning. When she woke up Maxwell was sitting on the chair next to the bed stroking her hair.
“Hey,” she whispered creakily.
Maxwell looked down at her with loving eyes, “hi.”
Elizabeth tried to roll over but winced in pain and tried to hide it from Maxwell. He saw it and linked his hands through hers, “don’t try and hide it, Liz,” he sighed sadly, “it’ll only hurt you more.”
Elizabeth bit her lip; “it’s not this bad every day… some days I have good days with hardly any problems at but some times I have bad days… like today.” She closed her eyes; “I don’t like you seeing me like this.”
Maxwell sucked in a breath and tried to stop tears from spilling down his cheeks, “I spoke to Charlotte last night…”
Elizabeth opened her eyes again, “oh.”
“I know,” he rubbed his fingers up and down her knuckles and tried to hide the hurt he was feeling. A tear dripped down his cheek, “how long do you think you…have?”
Elizabeth looked at him shocked, “how can you… how can you ask me that?”
He didn’t say anything.
Tears filled Elizabeth’s eyes, “not long,” she whispered.
Maxwell sucked in a shuddering breath.
Elizabeth knew it would be today. If she was going to leave she had vowed she would do in his arms, this was the only opportunity she would get to do it how she wanted. Tomorrow afternoon he would be leaving and she couldn’t wait for him for three years, she was ready. Even if there was suddenly a way they could help her she didn’t want it, she saw no point in going on when she wouldn’t get to be with Maxwell for so long. It was wrong of her because her family needed her and Maxwell… well he would be devastated but she knew she wasn’t going to last long anyway.
She stared at him through pools of water and with trembling lips said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry for killing myself."
Maxwell sniffled back some of his own tears, "you haven't killed yourself," he said. He lifted his gaze to her and she saw the tear streaks down his cheeks and the burden in his eyes.
He cried out and leapt onto the bed in front of her, "you can't leave me here," he sobbed, "you can't." He rapped his arms around her and lifted her flimsy body up to lean against his chest. Elizabeth sobbed against his army coat, "I'm sorry," she repeated over and over, "I'm so sorry Max."
Maxwell buried his head in her hair and rocked them both back and forth as they cried, "angel's can't die," he said, "they are supposed to live forever!"
"Will you forgive me?" her voice cracked.
He clenched his teeth; “none of this is your fault,” he said. But after few emotional minutes he sobbed, “you promised me your life, this is not a life time, you weren't supposed to end it now!”
Elizabeth held him tighter, she gripped his jacket in her hands and clenched and unclenched her hands, "death will not part me from you," she whispered, "I will haunt you."
Maxwell placed kisses all over her face and when he finally reached her lips he kissed her with such force Elizabeth thought she would pass out. "I shall never forgive my god for doing this. He shall forever be hated," Maxwell panted, "I shall rather go to hell then believe in someone who could do such a thing."
Elizabeth silenced him, “don’t speak like that,” she whispered, “be happy that I will leave with you here with me. I couldn’t ask for more…”
“How about a life?” Maxwell said, “you could ask for a life. You are twenty-one! This isn’t supposed to happen to you.”
But it has,” she looked into his eyes.
Maxwell shook his head; “we still have hope.”
Elizabeth shook her head doubtfully. She showed him the dry flecks of blood on her lips and her swollen chest and said in a little voice, “I want to go.”
Maxwell couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I can not wait for you for three years,” her eyes drifted closed and her breathing evened, “my heart can not endure it.”
She was so tired; she couldn’t fight it anymore. She didn’t want to…
Maxwell got up off the bed and stood turned away from her. He couldn’t take this.
“Max,” she bit her lip, "when I am gone will you remarry?" she repeated a question from a while ago, "how many years do you plan to live after I am gone? How many times will you think of me?"
Maxwell spun around to face her, "what damned things you say! Are you not aware that all you say will be branded in my mind and eating deeper eternally after you are gone? Don't torture me until I am as mad as yourself!"
"I wish I could hold you," Elizabeth said trying to stay upright, "till we were both dead!" She panted tiredly, this was all too much for her.
"You will," Maxwell said, "for when you leave me I will die of a broken heart. What kind of living will it be when you— Oh god!" the torture he was enduring was evident in his eyes, "how can I live without my life? How can I live without my soul?"
In her eagerness, Elizabeth slipped to the side of the bed and rose to her feet. She supported herself on the bedside table and when she let go she sprung at him. He caught her and enveloped her in his arms, "oh Elizabeth! Oh my life! How can I bear it?" his voice did not hide his pain.
He held her tightly not caring about how it may be hurting her in her condition. He was too overwhelmed with despair to care about anything. She lifted her hand to his cheek and looked up into his tear-stained eyes, "I will always be with you Max, my heart is yours and our souls have switched places! No god nor Satan could separate us!"
He kissed her more times then he had ever given in his life and she groaned. Her legs gave out and he picked her up, her pale face flashed with emotion. "Take me to my windowsill Max, I wish to see the sun go down."
Maxwell carried her over to the window seat and sat down with her on his lap. The sky was red and purple as the sun went down behind the hills; it was a beautiful sight.
Elizabeth was having trouble breathing, short spasms of air came in and out of her mouth and her brow crinkled.
Maxwell noticed, “open your eyes!” he started to panic, “open your eyes right now!”
Elizabeth couldn’t, wouldn’t, “I can’t Max…” she sucked in a deep breath, “I love you.”
“No!” Maxwell shifted so she was sitting up in front of him, “no! Open your eyes, Liz!” he shook her flimsy body, “Liz!” he sobbed, “open your eyes.”
She lifted her hand to his cheek, “let me fall,” her head dropped forward and she collapsed onto his chest, “I want to die in your arms.”
“You will not die at all!” he pressed his lips to her forehead, “I can not live without you.”
“Promise me,” Elizabeth’s voice was breathy and soft, “you’ll live the good life you deserve.”
“How can I?” he cried, “how can I go on?”
Elizabeth forced her eyes open and she looked up at him on the brink of death, “I’ll be waiting for you.”
“No!” Maxwell shook his head, “no! I… You can’t leave me here. You will be fine, you’re going to get better and not be in pain anymore.” He kissed her, “are you in pain?”
A slight smile spread across her lips and she leaned into his face, “not anymore.”
And she was gone.

~* *~

Charlotte ran upstairs and inside the room when she heard Maxwell’s howls for her. She burst through the door and over to where they sat next to the window ready to attend to Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s eyes were open but she was not blinking and no breath came out of her parted lips. Charlotte gasped and looked at Maxwell, whose face was buried in Elizabeth’s hair, his sobs were loud and filled with agony.
Elizabeth had a sweet smile on her face and she looked satisfied. Charlotte muttered Christ’s name and reached out to close her eyes. “Maxwell,” she said trying to be comforting, “I’m so sorry.”
Maxwell lifted his head to stare at her, “she will wake soon! She is just tired!” his voice cracked, “May she wake in torment! As long as she wakes!”
Charlotte shook her head, “I’m sorry… she’s… she’s…”
“NO!” Maxwell jumped to his feet with Elizabeth still in his arms.
Charlotte started to sob.
“She will not leave this abyss where I cannot find her.” Maxwell walked over to the bed and lay her down on the blankets, “wake Elizabeth,” he sobbed, “wake now… please. Do not leave me here where I can not feel your eyes on me.”
He climbed into the bed with her and rapped his arms around her body, “she’s so cold,” he placed kisses all over her cheeks.
Charlotte rapped her arms around herself and walked towards the bed, “Maxwell you need to leave her…”
“NO!” Maxwell screamed, “leave us be! Leave us be!”
Charlotte ran from the room and slammed the door behind her. Once she was out she broke into tears and quit thinking about being professional for two minutes… she had been very fond of Elizabeth and she had failed in her goal to keep her alive.

Maxwell sobbed on Elizabeth’s chest and did not cease for many hours. Nor did he leave the room all day until finally the family could not give him any more time in there and barged into the room. As this point Maxwell was sitting at the side of the bed with his hands in Elizabeth’s lifeless ones. Her head was tilted to the side and her hair covered half of her face.
The family stared at their dead daughter and sister with devastated eyes.
“You killed her!” Maria cried.
“Maria!” Nancy shook her head, “no he didn’t.”
Maxwell closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. “She’s right, I did,” he said. “She died today because she wanted to,” his voice cracked, “she wanted to die with me here.”
Maxwell did not sleep that night, nor did her ever peacefully ever again. The next day he boarded his train with the other men and went back to the war. He remembered Elizabeth’s saying every day for the rest of his life, Promise me, she had said, you’ll live the good life you deserve.
He wanted to give up, he truly did. Every morning he woke up and he wanted to end his life but he never did because of those words. He didn’t want to disappoint her. When he stared at the sky he wondered if she was watching him like she said she would? He trusted her and when she said something she did it.
Finally on May 26, 1865 the civil war ended. Maxwell didn’t know how he had survived it when 600,000 lives were lost, he guessed he must have a little angel watching over him.
When he was released he went home to his very relieved parent’s and eased their minds. He didn’t stay there long though, two days later he traveled further up north to his other home, one that held so memories that as soon as he walked in the door he burst into tears. He couldn’t believe someone else didn’t occupy the house by now, it was dusty and dirty and when he opened some of the draws he found the things he and Elizabeth had left behind when they left.
He spent a whole night cleaning everything up and then the next day he went to the Parkinson’s family who didn’t even recognize him. He explained about Elizabeth’s death and said the house could be sold. They were as lovely as usual and both Tessa and Christine cried over his loss.
Now that that was done he didn’t know what to do with himself. He could go back to his family or he could travel? He decided to travel like Elizabeth had wanted to.
Five years later after he had traveled everywhere and had seen everything he returned to his family and continued working. He stayed that way for fourteen years before he passed away. After all the loneliness and yearning for he finally joined her.

~* *~

Dearest family,

I fear that if my time is to run out I won’t have said I all I wanted to say to you all so I decided to write you a letter in case. Don’t think I am being depressing, I am just thinking a head.

Father, I don’t think I could ever express my thankfulness to you in full extent because my gratitude is beyond what I can comprehend. You have done everything and more for your daughters and me and I feel I never let you know just how much it means to me. I am what I am because of you and Mother and I hope that in the end you are proud of me and what I managed to accomplish.
Carmen, I was beyond relieved when we put our troubles aside and managed to forgive each other for all that we did. You are my best friend and you always will be. Through out my whole life you have been here for me and always been supportive and loving and I have tried to be so in return. Please remember me not for these times but for the ones we shared in our earlier years. They were the best times.
Maria, you are my shinning light. You always made me feel wonderful about my decisions and told me to stick up for what I believe in. I never would have discovered my talent in art if it weren’t for you and your persuading to do things differently for a change. I trust you to look after trigger for me because you always respected him as much as I do. I love you, thank you for everything you have always given to me.
Isabelle, you have always been a role model for me. Do you remember when I was ten and I said to you that I wanted to be just like you and mimicked your every move? I still think that way even today. You are so strong and vibrant every day and you always stand out. You were always available for me to go to when I had problems that I could not talk to anyone else about and I will always be thankful for that.
Mother, the truth is I do not know what to say to you. How is a daughter supposed to say goodbye to her mother in a short paragraph? I could go on forever about everything you have you done for me and how thankful I am but I will not. I will though, bring up one thing you always did that allowed me to know just how much you love me. You constantly bragged about my accomplishments and achievements and made me feel like a star. You always reminded me that you were there to talk to when I needed it. You always were what I needed and more from you.

If I am unfortunate enough to be separated from you all I hope this will let you have a brief glimpse of how grateful I am of being allowed to share my life with you. Forever remember me as someone who loved you all unbearably now and until the end of time. All I wish is at least once every year you come and visit me at my grave and put some flowers down. I will be watching you all; a thousand times thank you.

posted on 7-Oct-2002 10:02:40 PM
I'm in the process of editing this, so hopefully the better version will be up soon!!!! *big*