|posted on 31-Aug-2001 10:14:04 AM|
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the show, actors, writers, producers, network, or characters in Roswell.
I only wish I did.
Summary: With everyone faced with important decisions about their future and where all their lives are
headed, Max fears he's made the wrong choice.
The glow from the desk lamp was the only light on in the Evans house. Max Evans sat upright in
front of the typewriter at his desk, hunched over and rereading the same five lines over and over. He rubbed
his eyes with the back of his hand and glanced over to the digital clock briefly. Two thirty. He had been
staring at this same passage, this same box for over an hour. His finger was poised over the X key on the typewriter, but he hadn't been able to push it, to check the box. His mind had been waivering back and forth all night. The University of Notre Dame. South Bend, Indiana. As far away from Roswell as he could get. He looked to the smiling picture of him and Liz taken the last day of Junior Year. It also meant being as far away from Liz as he could get. He knew what schools she was looking at and considering. But she hadn't nearly narrowed down her search as much as he had. She didn't even know Max was looking at Notre Dame. He had mentioned it in a conversation once or twice, and more often than not he wore a Fighting Irish hat atop his head. But Liz had no idea. He had thrown Georgetown and Providence around in his listing of colleges too. Colleges close to Liz, colleges often the same as Liz. And that's what she thought.
He knew it was binding. If he were to check the box on the application in front of him then his
future would be determined. It meant he was going to Notre Dame, but for him binding had more meanings
than one. It meant he was committing himself to a place where he knew Liz wouldn't be. And that he was
okay with it.
Max sighed loudly and ran his hands through his short dark hair and he pulled out the application
from the typewriter reading it over. His application was impeccable. Twelve straight quarters on the High
Honor Roll, two years of Varsity basketball - three if you counted the tryouts around the corner next week -
and the captain at that. Those would have been the only things on his record had it not been for Liz. Over the years she had encouraged him to do more and more. He drew the line at Student Body President -
although she had assured him he would win in a heartbeat - but as he looked down over his list of activities - he knew he owed all of them to Liz. Max sighed again and reread the sentence again. An Early Decision candidate may file regular applications to other colleges with the understanding that they be
withrdawn if he or she is admitted to Notre Dame under Early Decision. No one else was undergoing
the same stress that he was right now. No one else was thinking of applying early. And Max hadn't told
anyone that he was. So they thought it was merely the Senior jitters that everyone else was getting. The
shock and realization that their high school careers were ending. And sure, that was part of it. But he had thoughts in his head that he hadn't had since sophomore year. Confused and conflicted feelings. Ones that kept him up all night. And now it wasn't just feelings over where his relationship with Liz was progressing. Yes, that was part of it, but it wasn't everything. It was the fact that this decision determined the rest of his life.
She knew Senior year was going to be hard. The applications, the SATs, and the course load she
probably shouldn't have taken on. Liz knew it was going to be hard. She just hadn't imagined that it would be quite *this* hard. She should have taken the same route as Max. AP Bio with good 'ol Ms. Hardy. It would be like their sophomore year all over again, just like he had said, and he had tried and tried to convince her to take it with him. Things had changed since that incredible, life-changing sophomore year though. Biology no longer held the appeal it once did to her and it was chemistry that claimed the title of favorite subject. The wonder of it all. An entire world, a universe even, with its own laws and forces. A universe that for so long was undiscovered.
Liz put her pen down on the desk and sighed loudly. Enough AP Chem for tonight, as absorbing as
it all was to her, she could only read so much about Van der Waals forces and Hydrogen bonding . Knowing that the November air at eleven thirty at night would be chilly she grabbed her Polartec and crawled out through the window. Her eyes drifted up to the sky and the starry constellations. She knew every inch of the sky above her balcony. Together she and Max had learned them all, had wondered if maybe - past that one cluster towards the school, or that small grouping towards the highway was where he came from. Unlike Michael and Maria, Max's non-earthly status had brought he and Liz closer over the past two years instead of pulling them apart. The visions they shared and their hearts that beat in perfect synchronozation, the way Max was able to make her glow, literally. It all just heightened every minute they were together. She sighed loudly, wishing her friend could experience the things she felt with Max with Michael all the time. Not just every other month when they were together, but all the time. Every moment Liz was with Max she gazed upwards and thanked whoever was responsible for bringing him to her. And
she prayed with all her heart that nothing would take him away.
Max's eyes scanned down the list of Senior Superlatives and the answers he had written down for
them so far. MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: Liz Parker, MOST WANTED FOR BROTHER OR SISTER: Alex Whitman, MOST ATHLETIC: Kyle Valenti, BEST DRESSED: Isabelle Evans, CUTEST
COUPLE:_______. Max hesitated before penning in his answer. He wanted to put down Alex and his
sister, although they weren't actually a couple. He still couldn't believe his sister refused to let herself get involved with Alex. She had always had her guard up, but Michael had even moreseo and even he had given into his overwhelming feelings for Maria. Michael and Maria, he wanted to put down them too. So what if at the moment they weren't exactly together. This happened nearly every month. Max didn't even know
what it was over this time, but he knew they would end up in each others arms again like always. Maria would run to Liz and shed some tears and Michael would crawl through Max's window to vent. And the next day they would be together again.
"Max, you put you and Kyle down for best friends, right?" Liz suddenly teased, popping over
Max's shoulder as her eyes glanced down at the paper. He turned his head around to look at her, laughing
as well. It had been a long and rocky road to friendship with Kyle Valenti, but it seemed finally that Kyle had finally put the past behind him. When he had seen Max at tryouts this year, he had even walked over to him and struck up a conversation about his summer.
"Nah, I put you and Maria down" he shrugged and Liz continued to eye the paper.
"You didn't put you and I down for cutest couple?" she gave him a look of feigned hurt as she saw
the names Michael Guerin and Maria DeLuca scrawled in the blank.
"Gimme a break, Liz - it's not like the entire school isn't going to put you and Max," Maria suddenly stated flatly and Liz knew she was just upset over yet another one of Michael's oubursts, another one of his oubursts where he had insisted that they end their relationship. Poor Maria, Liz sighed to herself. She admired the fact that her friend had held so true to Michael over the past two years. He was a difficult person to deal with, especially some of the things that came out of his mouth. She looked over at Maria's tired face as the three sat in their English class-turned study hall. She knew their argument had probably been over applications. She had heard Michael talking to her yesterday in the back of the Crashdown and had only picked out bits and pieces and caught random phrases and sentences but one particular phrase continued to ring in her ears. It was Michael's voice sounding loudly to Maria. "I'm not the college type." She remembred hearing Maria plead to him to at least send in the application. She remembered Maria following him out of the Crashdown, all the while a sense of desperation in her voice that made Liz realize that maybe this argument between them was more serious than their past trials and tribulations. She remembered how Michael had thrown his hands up in her face and walked out. How he had left Maria standing there. All over those stupid applications. And the mere though made Liz stiffen up. She and Max hadn't talked much about that matter.
It was Novemeber and the stress of college was on everyone's shoulders and plaguing everyone's mind. But the topic had barely come up between them and when Liz had brought it up Max would quickly grow quiet. She figured it was simply stress. Max had college scholarships and offers coming at him from it seemed every school in the country and while she knew he had disregarded most of them his college plans were unknown to her. She knew he was most interested in the schools in the East, which coincidentally happened to be where most of the schools she was looking at were located. The Northeast. She had at least narrowed down her search to three schools: Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton. But she got a headache just thinking about the giant box underneath Max's bed, overflowing with applications and scholarships.
She looked over at Max's face now. His eyes were hidden beneath the brim of his faded Notre Dame hat. She wished she could find out what was going on in his head right now, what the look on his face meant. He looked confused and torn, almost in pain and staring blankly ahead. Seeming to realize that
he had been blanking out, that she was looking at him, he turned his head to face her. And with his eyes still shaded beneath the hat, he turned his head to her and smiled. She saw more in the smile though and the thoughts that creeped into the back of her mind tormented her. It was like he was hiding something behind it.
The group of athletes sauntered down the hallway in their matching blue and gold jackets, causing underclassmen and junior high students to scatter as they found themselves in the paths of the varsity athletes. Liz watched them slowly walk down the hall, finding it hard to believe that over the years Max was at the point where he could be considered 'one of them'. She watched as they plopped down into their Math room, Max right in the middle, laughing and talking amongst them, slouched deep in his seat, the Notre Dame hat lower over his brow He had decided against the purchase of a varsity jacket like the rest of them, knowing it was too much for him, although he had worn his blue and gold warmup jacket to school every now and then. Liz looked on as she observed Max's interaction with the group. It was all a facade. That's what she told herself. Seeing Max with them, gave her a troubling feeling in the pit of her stomach though. When Max went to college, wherever he went - he would be with all sorts of people. People like them maybe, people she didn't know. He'd be living a life she didn't know. The thought troubled her more than she would have liked and she glanced over at him again.
He stood out, sitting there in his khaki cargo pants and jean jacket, while the others sat donned in
backwards baseball caps, loudly smacking their lips together as they chewed a wad of bubble gum. He stood
out when all he could do was laugh and nod his head as they recounted the party that weekend at Scott
Shriftmans. He laughed and made comments here and there, but she knew the reason he hung out with
them was because it was easier than not hanging out with them. Not to say they weren't good guys, they
were just different. He could get along with them, talk with them and even blend in when he wore the
warmup jacket, but he kept himself at a distance. Because it was safer that way.
Her eyes remained on Max. He had that faraway look that he had been having lately. That one that made her think his mind was always somewhere else. Max didn't even see Liz standing by the door until he lifted his head and the brim of his hat revealed her slender frame in the doorway.
"Hey," he suddenly stood up from the chair and walked over. "I was heading to your Chem class
and I just...kinda ran into them," Max was quick to form an apology he didn’t even need.
"It's okay," she shook her head and waited for that faraway look to leave him. His face was still a bit hidden beneath his hat and she playfully pushed the brim higher up off his forehead, knocking it with the back of her hand. He managed to laugh slightly and leaned over to kiss her softly in welcome. That was the Max she knew. But the stares from the jacket clad boys made her uncomfortable however and she pulled away. Some of them hooted and cat called and Liz reminded herself that they were only Juniors and Sophomores. As good as they were at basketball and as smart as they were in all their advanced classes, they were still fifteen and sixteen. Max's ears turned a shade of crimson as he walked outside through the door, his arm around her.
"So, we're still on for tonight, right?" she asked casually, tugging on his shirt with a grin on her
face. Her uncomfortable feelings fading now that the class of boys was no longer there watching them. Now
that it was just her and Max.
"Tonight's Archie's game," Max suddenly said, a forlorn look crossing his face. "...I thought you -"
"Oh...oh yeah," Liz attempted not to appear too dissappointed.
"You going to come?" Max asked, his eyebrows sloped into a frown.
"Yeah, yeah - I - I said I would.." Their conversation last week outside the gym about The UNM
Lobos game began to creep back into her head.
"Do you *want* to go?" Max asked suddenly and the tone of his voice changed as that 'off' look returned to him. That was the only thing she knew to call it. Off. It was off from the Max she knew. She looked at him, a bit surprised by his sudden change in character.
"Yeah, Max I - "
"Archie thinks you’re gonna be there.."
"Yeah," Liz nodded her head. "Yeah, I'm - I'm still going. I mean - I -"
"It - means a lot to him..." Max persisted.
"Max, I'm going," Liz assured, an edge developed in her voice again and for a brief moment the two simply stood there and stared at each other. They argued all the time, like any couple. Over small
matters though, what movie to see, where to go to dinner Friday night. This was different. This had an
underlying tone to it that frightened her.
Max didn't treat it any different however, he just tightened his hold around her waist. The action at first startled her, and feeling his fingers grip around her so suddenly actually made her jump a bit and a shiver ran through her body at the action.
"Good," He responded shortly and Liz simply stared at Max. This wasn't why she had come to his
math room. She had wanted to talk to him. To be alone tonight. But the bell rang and the two slowly
broke away, leaving their problems unresolved as Liz journeyed down the hall and around to her chemistry
room and Max returned to the West Roswell basketball team waiting in the math room. The boys looked at
his pained expression as he stood in the doorway, almost seeming to be confused. That wasn't the way that
conversation was supposed to go! Max mourned as he slowly dragged his body over to the empty desk that
belonged to him. Cracks were made and they joked and kidded Max about things he didn't even hear. He
simply rested his head in his hands. This whole college thing was messing things up more than he could have ever imagined. He thought back to the envelope he had sent in weeks ago. The response was scheduled to come any day now. With all his friends worrying and stressing over the application deadline in January, Max was thinking only about the notification date that was days away. God, what had he done.
The players, his 'friends', sat around him not knowing what to do. He ran his hands through his
short dark hair twice, and while nobody could see his face they all could read his body language. They could
see it. Max was shaking.
"Max man, y'okay?" one of the boys asked worriedly and Max simply nodded his head several
"Yeah, I uh..can I -" he looked to the teacher at the front of the classroom and then motioned towards the door, his voice was wavering. No sooner had Mr. Wrensen nodded his head then Max immedietly got to his feet and quickly walked out the door. The period dragged on slowly for the fifteen and sixteen year olds and they simply stared at the open book and pencil of their classmate.
Max didn't come back.
For the second time in his life Max Evans was keeping a secret. Keeping a secret that his life didn't quite depend on, but it might as well. Thinking back to the terse conversation he had had with Liz last period, Max's hands began to shake again. What had he done? How could he have sent in that envelope without even his parents knowing? This was choosing a college. The biggest decision he would make in his life for quite some time. And he was already realizing that he wasn't ready to make decisions this big or this important. He was confidant that Notre Dame was where he belonged. Since he had stepped on the campus as an eight year old boy to visit his grandparents in South Bend he had known it. But Isabelle didn't know that. His parents didn't know that. Most importantly, Liz didn't know that. He had been so secretive in his interest with the college, well except for the hat atop his head that no on really seemed to pick up on, that he had even hidden the application and mail he received from the school. But secrets weren't the way to go at all. If he had learned anything in his four years of high school that was it.
Still he couldn't bring himself to tell Liz that he was looking at a school in Indiana. That he had applied early to a school in Indiana, not Pennsylvania and Massachusetts like he had been telling her. He had been leading her on. Hell, he had been lying to her. And that was the thought that triggered the trembling of Max's hand and the beads of sweat developing on his brow. And then he would suddenly be struck with an image next year out of his own imagination. Alone in his dorm room, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from Liz, who was probably already getting along comfortably with some Ivy Leaguer. And Max quickly jumped off the counter of the boys bathroom, attempting to shake the image out of his head. He suddenly began wishing that the envelope that was scheduled to come in the mail on Thursday would be one of rejection. He wasn't ready to be away from Liz. Or Michael, or Isabelle. Or Roswell.
And suddenly Max felt his stomach lurch as he ran to the nearest open stall. And he was unable to
even attempt to stop the wave of nausea that quickly swept over his body.
The crowd at the college basketball game was larger than Max would have expected and as he
walked into the stadium with Liz he found himself holding onto her hand a little tighter. The day's events outside his Math classroom seemed to be forgotten, but the feelings in Max's stomach as he walked through the college arena remained. He and Liz might as well have had signs on their backs that prounounced them HIGH SCHOOL KIDS he felt so out of place, even Liz seemed to tighten her grip on his hand. Every guy that directed so much as a glance her way was met by a challenging stare from Max. The protectiveness that he felt towards her eventually began to take over him and those sickening feelings he had had earlier began to leave his body. He straightened up and broadened his shoulders, walking confidently towards their seats with Liz's hand in his. Liz looked wide-eyed around the crowded arena at the enthused college students and rabid fans.
"Who knew there were this many Lobo fans out there," Max mumbled softly what they were both
"Yeah, I thought New Mexico wasn't that good.." Liz whispered, careful to keep her words out of
earshot of any of the fans around her.
"They're not." Was Max's immediete reply as he scanned for a good seat for the two of them. He wanted to get close enough so that Archie could see that they were both there. Max's eyes rested on an
empty section close to the right of the pep band and snaking his arm around Liz's waist carefully walked
over with her.
No sooner were they in their seats, then a blonde-haired boy in a purple and gold jacket that read PI KAPPA PHI approached Liz.
"Hey, aren't you in my English Lit class?" he asked enthusiastically, while Max looked on unamused.
"Um, no. I - I'm -" Liz stuttered, uncomfortably brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Yeah - twentieth century English literature, Professor Hoffman." Liz opened up her mouth again
to protest, but the persistant boy continued. "We're having a mixer after the game, you should come by," he
offered with a smile. "I'm uh, I'm Jar-"
"I'm Max." Max quickly stuck his hand out before the boy could even finish his introduction. The
look on Max's face told him all he needed to know and Max moved his other arm around Liz's body so that
it rested comfortably around her shoulder. Liz looked down at the ground, seeming a bit embarassed, but the challenging look on Max's face remained.
"Jared," the boy replied meekly as he dropped his hand. After looking Max up and down from up
close, he quickly abandoned his quest. He had thought from afar that he could take the tall, dark-haired boy,
but his mind was quickly changing. Something about the look on his face and in his eyes told him to stay
away and Jared silently retreated to his seat. "I'll uh, I'll see you around." His voice rung with defeat as he backed away and Max simply stood there triumphantly with his arm around Liz.
Liz had been unnerved by the stranger's presence, but she seemed to be almost saddened at his
departure as she watched him climb up the stairs back to his seat.
"Prick," Max grumbled quietly to himself as the Greek letters on the stranger's jacket finally
disappeared from view. Liz quickly turned around to face Max, surprised not only by his choice of words,
but his behavior in general.
"I don't know, what if he really thought I was from his class.." she said naively and Max actually
"Please, he's probably going around to every other girl right now and saying the same exact thing,"
"You don't know that," Liz's tone grew angry and at first Max didn't say anything, he couldn't.
He tilted his head and looked at her, then back up to where Jared had gone to.
"You want to go find him?" he suddenly broke the silence, challenging Liz in almost the same way
he had challenged the fraternity boy. He wasn't sure why he said it. He wanted things to be right between
the two of them again. He didn't like this constant arguing and bickering, the bitter tone their conversations suddenly took on. And he didn't want to be angry at Liz, but seeing her even in the same five foot radius as all these college students was making him more than jealous. It was making his head spin. If he went to one college and Liz went to another. Another hundreds of miles away then he would have no way of fending of the 'Jareds' that approached her.
The look on her face seemed to challenge him as well, almost like she was about to go find Jared when suddenly players began to jog out onto the court. Max spotted Archie, but neither he nor Liz gave him too warm a welcome. The two simply stood there in silence watching the team warm up, her arms
folded across her chest and his arms down at his side. This wasn't the way this was supposed to go. It was just like their conversation outside his math room had gone. What had he done? Tonight was supposed to be fun. A real 'taste of college' like she had said on the drive down.
And that was what had his stomach in knots.
She was quiet for much of the game. More quiet than even he had been. He had made attempts at
reconciliation with her; making comments here and there about the game, about Archie and seeing him play in college. She had simply nodded her head awkwardly and kept her eyes locked on the game. He could see in her face though that she was just as troubled as he was, that she wanted to make things right again. That she didn't want this awkwardness and these arguments anymore than he did. But something was stopping her and something remained on her mind. And the more and more the game progressed, the more Max needed to know what it was.
The game was exciting and Archie came off the bench only a few minutes into the first quarter and
played for the duration of the game. One would never know it from the looks on Max and Liz's faces
however and when the buzzer sounded and the rest of the arena erupted joyously, Liz simply began to walk
towards the aisle. Max knew he couldn’t let her go like this and he grabbed her arm harshly and spun her
around, forcing his mouth against hers.
And for the first time in her life, Liz pushed away from him. She pushed away with all the strength
she had, tightly pressing her lips together and refusing his entry into her mouth as she wriggled away from his grasp, throwing her hands up in his face.
"No, Max!" she squirmed away from him, her voice a mixture between confusion and disgust.
Two sections above them and to the right, a blonde haired fraternity boy looked on at the young
couple arguing with a contended smirk on his face. *Not so in control anymore, are you?* He thought to
himself with a self-satisfied smug as he looked at Max, while his girlfriend threw her hands up in his face. He didn't like being pushed around by high school kids, especially not in front of his brothers, and looking down to the shouting couple he was happy to see that things weren’t going as well for Mr.
Tall-Dark-and-Handsome as he had probably planned.
"Liz, what’s the matter?" Max finally asked and she looked at him once with a troubled face.
"You tell me.." Was her soft reply and he simply stood there with his hands at his sides as she
walked away from him.
Max glanced down to a jubilant Archie on the court. He had been watching the entire time.
Choices - Repost II
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the show, actors, writers, producers, network, or characters in Roswell.
I only wish I did.
Summary: With everyone faced with important decisions about their future and where all their lives are
headed, Max fears he's made the wrong choice.
Hagerman was looking for revenge. Revenge for the past two years of being knocked out of the playoffs by
the West Roswell Comets. More importantly by Max Evans. They looked across the court at the young
West Roswell team warming up now. They were a different team now. A younger, quicker team that
resembled an inner-city team more than it did small-twon Roswell. Eminem was blaring out of the boom
box that was set up beneath the Comets basket as the team threw hard, crisp passes back and forth to each
other. It wasn't so much the team was different. Max Evans was different.
There was an angry look on his face now. Different from the innocent Max Evans who they had all
known the past three years. He looked angry at everything, at the world. *I don't mean to be mean, but that's all I can be is just me and I am whatever you say I am! If I wasn't then why would I say I am?* And if they had been scared of Max before, this sudden change in him only frightened them more.
The Comets were a young, rowdy and highly talented group now. Moreso than ever before. They
looked like they were here for one thing and one thing only. Not just to win, but to beat Hagerman. And
they followed their leader well. The Hagerman team watched as Max seized a ball underneath the basket
and dribbled back around. There was something different even in the way he dribbled the ball. He pounded it against the court, and he didn't pass the ball to his teammates, he threw it to them. Hard.
His teammates didn't question the real change in Max's behavior. He had come to practice one day
with the attitude he wore now and they hadn't challenged it. Whatever had come over him it made him play better. He played harder, fiercer. The type of basketball that West Roswell needed to go all the way this year. They couldn't rely on Max’s finesse skill and his outside shooting anymore. Coach Harvey had to
work with what he was given and he was given a team of scrappy and gritty freshman and sophomores. Max hadn't been able to adapt at first. That wasn't his style of play: juking under the basket, driving down
the center. He shot threes, he set up plays on the perimeter and he could still do that, but somewhere along the line his play needed to change. And whatever had happened to him days before had changed him. Now whatever defense a team attempted to work on him wouldn’t work. You want to force him outside - you'll pay the price, you want to make him drive to the hoop - you'll pay the price. Coach Harvey smiled to himself as he watched Max juke and maneuver around Sterling 'Silver' Harrison. He had created a
basketball machine. He watched as Max interacted with the rest of the Comets starting five: Theo Boyer,
Robert Kaiser , Sterling Harrison and Julian 'J.J' Jones. Two of them sophomores, two of them freshman.
They had been an unruly bunch at first, almost too much for him to handle. He glanced over at Max again,
who was now working with Theo down in front by the hoop; and to Kyle, who was working with Tim Tanner and Upshaw Shelton, two sophomores who were almost ordained to ride the bench the entire season. They were like Kyle, lacking the talent that players like Max and J.J had, but filled with heart.
Coach Harvey looked to Kyle with a broad smile. He was lucky to have two captains like the ones
he had. Max's talent gave him the respect he deserved, so when he told the young team to do something they did it. Kyle was different however. Maybe it was the fact that his father was the town sheriff, but something in his actions made all the players listen. He was a hard worked, the sixth man of the team - filling the spot Max had once possessed Sophomore year. Kyle was the type of leader all teams should have. He could see when something was wrong with a teammate, if something was bothering them. And right now, he sensed something wrong with Max.
Embarassing. That's the first word that came to everyone's mind when asked to describe the
Hagerman onslaught. Hagerman had been a challenge years ago, they had been better than the Comets, a
real threat. They didn't come within fifteen points all game however and the 70-54 score had surprised
everyone in the stands including Coach Harvey. But the Comets just nodded their heads and raised their
arms victoriously in there.
"That's right!!" Robert Kaiser, the star tight end on the Comet’s football team and center on the
basketball squad, shouted as he made his way off the court.
"Albequerque here we come!" Sterling echoed his sentiments, referring to the city where the State
Championships were played. Max didn't laugh at the comment as he walked off the court with them, nor
did he tell them to quiet down as Kyle was attempting to do. No, he raised his hand to slap them five.
"We got Dexter next," Max grabbed a towel off the bench and wiped his face with it, looking ahead
to their next game.
"Man, I want at Truth or Consequences!” Theo cried jubilantly, looking ahead to the team that had twice eliminated West Roswell from the state playoffs. "Can't be wastin’ my time with..." he looked over at the dismal Hagerman team staggering out the gym. "-them."
"Dexter," Max replied shortly again, slapping his four teammates five again before walking into the
locker room. And his eyes rested momentarily on a face staring down at him from the bleachers for a
moment. A face that used to look at him with so much love. Liz looked down to the court where Max had
gained thirty points, where he had not once eased up on the struggling Hagerman team. The love was still
there, it was pained and misconstrued, but it was there.
Liz sat upright atop her bed, tears streaming down her face as she gripped the pillow in front of her. Her relationship with Max was falling apart. And with that relationship, she knew her entire life was coming undone, as pathetic as that sounded. Max had been her life for the past three years. And now...now, when she looked down at him on the court with Kaiser and Sterling, Theo and J.J she saw a completely different person. When had that happened? Had it been going on for a while, had she just not seen it? The Vertical Horizon CD Max had bought for her only last month was playing in her CD player, and the depressing lyrics blared loudly out of the speakers. *Nothing's quite the same now. I just say your name now. But it's not so bad. You're only the best I ever had. You don't want me back, you're just the best I ever had.* The song only made Liz sob harder and the pillow in her hands was wet with tears as she looked to the picture resting on her bedside. The one that had been there since her Sophomore year. She and Max in Artesia. Smiling and carefree.
Then she looked to the stack of college catalogs and applications on top of her desk. Senior year had happened. College had happened. Suddenly the entire world was open to them. They could do anything they wanted, go anywhere they wanted, and they had the option to do it together. But where was
Max applying? What was he choosing to do with his life? No one knew. Not Isabelle, not his parents, and
the thing that was most troubling, not even her.
The Seniors of Roswell were all experiencing it now. Now they were all going through the stress
that Max had already endured. Maria and Liz had sent there applications away together, sending a kiss
along with each envelope as they plopped it into the mailbox. Liz had wanted to experience the moment
with Max. They had talked about it last year, doing their applications together, sending them away together. Now she didn't even know where he had applied, and he had only an idea of where she had. Now he sat next to Maria in English, the one class they shared this year. Now he no longer brought Chinese food to her fifth-period Spanish class, nor did he drop in on her A.P Chemistry class. And Liz went home every day after school and cried. She left first period English almost every day and locked herself in the bathroom stall to cry. This was worse than that horrible month back in Sophomore year. This was worse because she was just as much to blame for pushing him away. He hadn't done much to help the situation but at least he had attempted to bring things back to normal - whatever that meant. She hadn’t been able to though. She had pushed him away. And now he couldn't even bring himself to sit next to her.
It was disgust with himself, not with her. That was why he couldn't bring himself to sit next to her, to even look at her. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that of course, but that was what was plaguing him. He was throwing away a month of his life, he knew that. Doing nothing but playing basketball. He came home after practice an unrecognizable boy, even to his parents. Without so much as a word he would open up the refrigerator and would take a giant drink from the carton of orange juice, grab a light snack and lock himself in his room. Laying on his bed, staring out and facing the wall with the same depressing music playing out of his speakers. *So you stole my world? Now I'm just a phony. Remembering the girl, leaves me down and lonely. Send it in a letter. Make yourself feel better.* The reminders were all around him.
Reminders of Liz. So he turned his back to his room and stared at the wall until it simply became too much
for him. Until he picked up a stray piece of looseleaf paper and a pen and began scribbling everything down. Everything
I thought I wanted to go to Notre Dame. For almost ten years I grew up thinking that. I thought I had my life planned out. You would come along with me, or you'd be nearby, but now - life doesn't always go the way you planned, y'know? And that just sucks and I should be able to deal with it but I can't. I should have thought this out more, I should have talked to
you about it because you always seem to shed some light on the situation that I didn't. You offer perspective. I NEED that right now. I need you in my life. My application is in. And if I get in, then it's binding. Then I CANT go anywhere else. Everyone's been telling me that no college would not accept me, but I'm just praying to God that the admissions people in South Bend find something wrong with my application. I can't leave you. These past two weeks have been proof enough for that. I can't function without you, can't live, can't breathe. I need to at least SEE you every day, to look in your eyes and know that no matter what happens you'll
always care about me. Always love me. Because that's the way I feel about you. Have I made a bad choice? Have I made a mistake? I thought this was what I wanted? Play basketball for the Irish, go to school
in South Bend. But somewhere along the line my dreams became my reality and YOU came into my life. For real. You weren't just this imaginary person in my make believe world. You were mine. But now what have I done? I've pushed you away. The only thing that I've ever wanted in my entire life.
Max dropped the pen in his hand and looked down at the words he had scrawled onto the page.
He looked to the written letter, then to the Notre Dame hat on his desk, then to the picture of Liz resting on his dresser. Suddenly the pen was hurled across the room and the letter was a wadded piece of paper in the bottom of his garbage can. And Max’s body began shaking as he turned face down onto the bed. He didn't hear the knocks on the door, he could only hear the lyrics sounding through his room. *And it may take some time to patch me up inside. And I can't take it so I run away and hide. And I may find in time that you were always right. You're always right.* Isabelle finally gave up her knocking on the door. She couldn't get through to him, nor could Michael or his parents, Liz simply sat and watched him go through the motions. There was only one person Max could talk to. The only person he had always been able to open up to. Max lifted up his head and oustretched his trembling hand for the phone on his bedside. The starting center for the New Mexico Lobos.
For the first time in months Max was opening up to someone. He was at least telling somebody
where had applied to college. Archie only had to hear a few words about Max's situation before he insisted
that they get together. So what if he was up in Albequerque, that he was three hours away. They would
meet halfway - at the 7-11 next to the Lowes Theatre outside of Vaughn. Max glanced down at the clock
on his table. It was already six o'clock. His parents woud be worried. And he grabbed the keys to his jeep
and raced outside.
He didn't bother to scribble a note out to his parents, or even to yell to Isabelle that he was going
out. He raced out the door to his jeep so quickly that he didn't even see Liz. He didn’t even realize that she was coming to see him.
"Max, where are you going?" Liz asked, and for the first time in months she was really able to see
his face as he brushed past her. It wasn't hidden behind that stupid Notre Dame hat, she could really see
him, see his eyes. And the look on his face almost made her legs give out underneath her. It looked like he was about to cry.
"I can't talk about it," Max’s voice wavered as he walked to the jeep.
"Max, please!!" Liz shouted desperately to him as the jeep sped away. And this time her legs did
weaken. She collapsed onto the curb and watched him drive away.
*What was it you wanted? Could it be I'm haunted?* That same depressing song was playing on
the radio and Max sniffled back the tears threatening in his eyes. Had he just done that? Had he run away
from Liz? Actually run away. Poor Liz had come to talk to him. The memory of her face was embedded in
his mind. Max, please!! He had seen her face in the mirrors as he drove away. But he couldn’t talk to her,
not about where he was going, about why he was running from her. That was the whole reason he was
driving away in the first place. He couldn’t help but think back to the last time he had been angrily speeding down the New Mexico Interstate. The last time he had been this angry at himself. And then he and Liz were tumbling down the hill, and then he was carrying her limp body through the night, and then they were in the hospital. Max quickly shook his head to dismiss the thoughts that still pervaded and haunted his dreams to this day. He ran his hands through his short dark hair. God, he had to get to Vaughn soon.
Dinner at the Evans household came, and Max’s absence wasn’t treated as anything too out of the
ordinary. Lately he went for drives more and more, or he went for a run, or to the weight room, or to the
courts to shoot around with J.J. His parents began to accept the fact that Max was growing away from
them. He was growing apart. They had to come to terms with it sooner or later, after all he and Isabelle would be going to college soon. So they sat at the table with Max’s empty place setting, careful to avoid
any conversation about him. Isabelle wasn’t as quick to dismiss her brother’s actions though. She knew
something was up. She had suspected it all year, but the game against Hagerman the other day had
cemented her fears. When a confrontation had arisen between Kaiser and an opposing player from the
Coyotes, instead of stepping between them to break up the fight, Max had joined in the fray. He didn’t
touch anyone, but Isabelle could see him shouting and defending his teammate from the outside. She knew
Liz could see it too. The anger in Max’s eyes.
The door-bell sounded and Isabelle rose to get it only to be met by a bleary-eyed and red-faced Liz.
“Is Max back yet?” she asked weakly.
“No, he’s still out,” Isabelle stated unhappily and she was about to close the door and return to her
dinner when something made her stop. Maybe it was Liz’s red rimmed eyes, or the tear stains still on her
face. “Want to come inside?”
Luck was on Max’s side, as he speeded down the interstate without being stopped or approached
by a cop once. He had a bit of difficulty finding the 7-11 Archie had spoke of, there being more than one in
the town of Vaughn, but eventually he spotted the Lowe’s Theatre and the place he was supposed to meet
the college sophomore. Max dragged his feet out of the car and walked slowly towards the building before
collapsing onto the curb. And resting his head in his hands he just sat there. Who knows how long he
stayed like that, the next thing he remembered was Archie’s voice calling worriedly to him.
“Max! Max, man - you alright?” Archie jogged over to his side and Max was slow to pick up his
“Hey,” Max offered a smile to him in greeting, but he immedietly saw past it.
“Come on,” he offered his hand to Max, speaking to him like he did to his inebriated college
friends. Like he was a child. “Let’s go,” he led Max to his car, popping open the passenger door for him.
Man, he was worse off than Archie had expected. His eyes looked dead. “You haven’t been drinking, have
you?” he suddenly checked.
“When was the last time I drank?” Max managed to laugh, despite the horrible memory of that
horrible night Sophomore year.
“Right, right - just checkin,” Archie grinned as he looked over his shoulder and backed out of the
“Where we going?” Max suddenly asked inquisitively.
“Just driving, man,” Archie dismissed. “We’re just driving..” Max turned his head to stare out the
window and Archie could tell that silence would prevail, if he didn’t say anything. “So Notre Dame, huh?”
Max was quiet. “You gonna take over Troy Murphy’s place next year?” he chuckled.
“Hope not...” Max muttered.
“You hope not? Max, what’s the matter with you? You have an awesome chance to play Division I
at a great school - you got a chance to get to the Dance - to -”
“To leave Liz,” Max said shortly. “To - to -”
“That’s part of college, man,” Archie shook his head. “Part of growing up, moving on - leaving
some people behind.” Max just shook his head.
“You leave your parents, your siblings, your hometown, your girlfriend - the long distance thing’ll
work. I mean it’s you and Liz, it’ll -”
“That’s not it!!” Max fired. “I don’t know if I want to go to Notre Dame. Not anymore.”
“I just - I can’t -”
“Say you get rejected,” Archie suddenly said, cutting off Max. “Say you get flat out turned down.
You going to tell her then? You going to tell her that you at least applied?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do get in, when are you going to tell her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where is she applying to school?”
“I don’t know.”
“You guys had sex yet?”
“I don’t - wait, what?” Max jerked his head up to see if what he heard was right. Across in the
drivers seat Archie was laughing hysterically at Max’s confusion.
“Had to ask, had to ask,” he shook his head, chuckling to himself. He had asked more to snap Max
out of the daze he was in, then to satisfy his own curiosity. But he did want to know. “So have you?” And
looking away from Archie, avoiding his laughing face Max shook his head. “No???” The car swerved to
the right as Archie took his hands off the wheel and looked to Max in disbelief. “Damn Evans! You two
have been going out since sophomore year!” Max continued to avoid Archie as the college sophomore
continued to laugh to himself. “You haven’t?”
“Yeah, uh - um - no,” Max stumbled. This was the one thing he didn’t want to get into with
Archie. The one important thing that he didn’t know about Max. The fact that he wasn’t even the same
species as Liz. It was the last time he and Liz had had a ‘fight’. Last year, while her parents had been away
for the weekend. She had asked Max, for once, to not think so much, to not worry. He told her that he
couldn’t not worry when it came to her. That they didn’t know what could happen, that he could put her at
risk. She had urged him, for the first time, to follow his heart. Pleaded even. But he had insisted that
following his heart meant keeping her safe. She wouldn’t be safe with him, they didn’t know. And he
couldn’t put her at that risk. No matter how much they wanted each other.
“I can’t believe it,” Archie looked over at Max. “What is she waiting ‘til she’s married -”
“You know, I don’t - I don’t really want to talk about it,” Max cut him off.
“’cos with you two, you might as well be married,” he continued.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Max insistead again.
“Hey, I wouldn’t either,” Archie chuckled and Max gave him a warning look.
“Okay, okay,” he raised his hands off the wheel in apology. “I’m sorry, you know - I had to ask,
I’m sorry..it’s just - I can’t believe..look, I’m sorry.” He knew he had touched upon a sensitive issue with
Max. He rarely grew that annoyed with people. “Notre Dame,” he went back to the whole reason they had
driven an hour and half to meet each other in the first place. “You know - if you’re worried about the long
distance thing, you two really won’t be missing much since you haven’t -”
“Cut it out!” Max shoved Archie in the arm before he could finish, though he couldn’t help but
laugh. There was something about Archie that always stopped Max from getting mad at him. If anybody
else had been riding him the way Archie was, he would grow angry, but that was just it. Archie kidded him,
because he knew he could. Because he knew Max, in some ways, better than anyone. They didn’t talk all
that much, especially not over the last year, but when things got too bad with Michael, or Isabelle, or
especially Liz he was always there.
“Last one, I promise - I couldn’t help myself,” Archie admitted. “I swear I’ll stop.” Max had to
smile at his mischievious friend. He must be having the best time at college.
“So is college all it’s cracked up to be?” Max suddenly asked.
“All it’s cracked up to be? I don’t know, depends on where you go - you know?” Archie replied
honestly, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve talked to different people, went to different schools. You know,
Mack’s over at Oklahoma State - he’s working it pretty hard.” Max nodded his head. “I mean it’s...harder
than high school in a lot of ways, but then it’s - it’s..it’s not easier, it’s just different.” Archie paused. “You
can’t screw around all the time.” Max listened intently. All this coming from Archie, who while not exactly
a slacker in high school, didn’t always work as hard as he should have. “You really figure out who you are,
where you belong.”
“I belong with Liz,” Max mumbled softly to himself more than to Archie. “You know, college is
supposed to - to shape you for the rest of your life, then I need her there because - “
“-because she is your - “
“-life.” Max grinned at the fact that they had finished each other’s sentences. They had always been
able to do that. “And I know that that sounds like some, completely pathetic...”
“-teenager who’s hopelessly in love.” Archie smiled at Max. That didn’t even begin to describe his
relationship with Liz.
“But if college is such an important part of your life, then I don’t want to do it without Liz.” He
finally stated, the pain evident in every feature of his face. Especially the tears that now glistened in his eyes.
“And it’s not up to you anymore,” Archie stated the brutal truth that Max didn’t want to hear.
“Your application’s in.”
The Evans enjoyed having Liz over for dinner, even if they knew things right now between her and
their son were far from perfect. Liz and Max would find a way back to each other, of that they were
confident. So they chatted with Liz about her school year, what schools she was applying to, how her
parents were. She had grown a bit quiet when they had mentioned college however, but had rattled off the
names of her schools nonetheless: Dartmouth, Princeton, Brown, Boston College, Northwestern,
Providence. Their eyebrows had raised at her ambitious list. Then again Max had done nothing but insist to
his parents that Liz would be the valedictorian of their graduating class since sophomore year.
“I think Max mentioned Northwestern a few times, they have a decent basketball program -”
“Phillip, Max is not going to college to play basketball!” Mrs. Evans said, the issue had obviously
risen more than once between them as Isabelle just rolled her eyes.
“He’s playing basketball in college, Diane - he has the God-given talent to -”
“But he’s not going *to* play, he’s going to get an education,” she argued.
“Liz, want to go upstairs?” Isabelle suddenly turned to Liz, who was awkwardly sitting there
between the two parents.
“Sure,” Liz nodded her head, a bit perplexed by Isabelle’s sudden personality change to her. Not
like Isabelle was her enemy, they just didn’t hang out much. Walking down the hall to Max’s room of all
places, Isabelle could still hear her parents bickering. They never argued before this year.
“My room’s a mess,” Isabelle explained as she peeked her head around to Max’s, of course, tidy
room. “Always so clean,” Isabelle mumbled, opening up the door as Liz walked in. It had been a while
since she had been in Max’s room. Everything looked exactly the same, there was his computer, his Moby
poster, his cd player, his mirror. Peeking out from under the bed, Liz saw the giant box overflowing with
“Maybe I don’t want him to play at a Division I school!” both Isabelle and Liz couldn’t help but
hear Mrs. Evans shout and Liz looked awkwardly to the floor.
“Are they always..”
“This year, yeah...” Isabelle admitted. “Max hasn’t...he hasn’t told anyone where he’s applying..”
“Not even your parents?” Liz asked in disbelief as Isabelle just shook her head.
“That’s why...that’s why they’ve been fighting so much - they’re just...frustrated,” she sighed. “We
all are.” Liz looked sadly around Max’s room, before kneeling down and pulling out the box from
underneath his bed. Isabelle just stood there quietly and watched. She had done that more than once,
looked through the dozens and dozens of envelopes and viewbooks, the letters begging him to come to their
university. But she never found anything, not a letter with slightly more wear around the edges, not a
bookmarked page, not even a brochure on the top to indicate which he had looked at recently. No, Max had
them all in alphabetical order. Arkansas, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Duke. When Liz got to the
Duke program, her mouth dropped open in shock.
“Duke..” she mumbled to herself. “I didn’t know they were really...I mean, there are rumors at
school, but...I didn’t think.” Isabelle just nodded her head and the reality of it sunk in for Liz. Max had been
an All-American nomination last year, but he might as well have been named to the honor roll he
downplayed it so much. Duke University. She might not be the world’s biggest college basketball fan, but
she was smart enough to know that Duke was the premiere basketball school in the country. That they
picked kids from all over the world. They wanted Max. Liz pulled out the letter personally addressed to
Max and scanned it over. Hand signed and everything. So much for just a rumor. Stuffing the letter back
into the envelope, Liz continued to go through the pile. Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State,
Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina, Notre Dame,
Oklahoma, Ohio State, Oregon State, Purdue, USC, Seton Hall., Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, UNLV,
Virginia, Wyoming. These weren’t schools that Max had ever mentioned in conversation with her. This
was just a giant list of the top twenty-five basketball schools in the country. At the end of last year he had
thrown around schools like Providence, or Holy Cross, Boston University, maybe Georgetown. Schools on
the East Coast, schools that had something in common. But this pile in the box, these were all over the
place - all different in size, all different in location, in makeup. No wonder his parents were arguing. Liz
simply sat there and looked through the pile again, again trying to find something to indicate to which school
Max was leaning. Meanwhile Isabelle was simply walking slowly about Max’s room, wanting to say
something to Liz, wanting to tell the poor shell-shocked girl that Max was going to end up with her, that
despite all that was going on now they would end up together and happy, but unable to lie. And then
something caught her eye. Something that looked to have just missed Max’s garbage can. Office of
Admissions University of Notre Dame the return address of what appeared to be a crumpled postcard
read. Isabelle bent down curiously and picked up the wad of paper. Smoothing it out and flipping it over,
she felt her heart stop when she read the first line on the back. Thank you! Your application to the
University of Notre Dame has been received.
“Oh my God...” Isabelle mumbled softly, and she noted a piece of paper crumpled up in much the
same manner that was in the bottom of his garbage can. I thought I wanted to go to Notre Dame. “Oh
my God,” Isabelle repeated and this time Liz heard her.
“What?” she asked from her spot on the floor.
“Nothing...” Isabelle replied quietly, though she hoped Liz couldn’t hear the crack in her voice as
she scanned the rest of the letter Max had obviously penned out. My application is in. If I get in then
it’s binding. He had applied early. Dear God, he had applied early to Notre Dame - a school already
recruiting him for their basketball team. She should have known Max would apply early, that was like him.
Get in as quickly as possible, get it over with. Isabelle’s head spun as she continued reading the personal
letter. She should show it to Liz, it wasn’t addressed to her, but Max had clearly written it for her. To her.
She should put it back into his garbage can, that’s where he had put it, but Isabelle folded up the crinkly
piece of paper and tucked it into her pocket. And she let out some sort of a combination between a laugh
and a sigh as she looked to the faded Fighting Irish hat resting on his desk. Notre Dame.
Six twenty-five Murray Lane was turning into quite the dysfunctional unit. Eating meals together
as a family was no longer such a common occurence, and at the meals they did eat together the Evans didn’t
even talk. Anything directed to Max was met by a low unintelligible mumble, or an indicepherable shrug of
his shoulders. Even Isabelle now appeared detached, and she looked at Max with a new sadnees in her eyes.
Attempting to make a nice breakfast for her family before school, Mrs. Evans rushed back and forth in the
kitchen preparing individual specially-made omelettes. Her husband sat at the table, reading the sports
section as he sipped a cup of coffee, Isabelle was pouring herself a glass of orange juice. They were just
waiting for Max.
“Honey, go make sure your brother’s up,” Mrs. Evans tapped Isabelle on the shoulder just as Max
bounced into the room in pressed khaki pants, a crisp white tee shirt and a tie - not yet tied - hanging loosely
around his neck.
“Max, you gotta game today?” Mr. Evans looked up from his paper to observe his son’s attire.
Max just nodded his head, unwrapping a package of Pop-Tarts and popping them in the toaster.
“Max, I’m making omelettes,” his mother told him as she sprinkled cheese and mushrooms into the
skillet. Max either didn’t hear his mother, or he chose not to respond because he silently went about fixing
his tie. Before Mrs. Evans could respond her husband suddenly butted in with what was obviously plaguing
“I thought we asked you to post your schedule on the refrigerator last week,” there was a mild
sense of irritation in his father’s voice.
“Sorry,” Max responded shortly as he finished tying his tie.
“Well is it home?”
“I told you last weekend we had a three game home stand,” Max’s voice sounded the slightest bit
annoyed as well. And there was something else in his voice, there was always something else in his voice,
that quieted his father. It quieted everyone. Mrs. Evans returned to her omelettes, Isabelle continued to sip
her juice and Mr. Evans returned to his USA Today.
“Oh look, looks like Notre Dame’s gonna make a Bowl game,” Mr. Evans suddenly commented
and the strap of Max’s bookbag fell from his hands as the black Jansport landed on the ground with a thud.
“They’re having a decent year in sports - looks like their basketball team’s off to a good start.” Max’s jaw
began to tremble ever so slightly as he bent down to pick up his bag and avoid looking at his father. “You
kids be interested at all in going to that? They make that Fiesta Bowl over in Tempe?” Silence took a hold of
the room for a few moments, broken only by the sound of Max’s Pop-Tarts popping out of the toaster.
“I gotta go,” Max mumbled, lowering his eyes as he grabbed the two toaster pastries and quickly
walked towards the door. His family stood there, used to his abrupt exits and his cryptic and secretive ways
by now and continued on with their morning. But breakfast was silent.
School was lonely now, with Max finding company only in Michael. And Michael had his own
share of problems to deal with. Word was that he hadn’t sent in any applications at all. He hadn’t even
bothered. So his time with Michael wasn’t really company, it was the two of them sitting miserably together
in the Quad. Max didn’t bother to ask Michael questions, he seemed to be tormenting himself, and that was
fine with Max. He had done that throughout all of high school, kept everything bottled up, never telling
anyone what was going on in his head. What Isabelle always told Max he did. Isabelle was an entire matter
altogether though. He hadn’t talked to her in ages and she spent her free period with Alex, who in fierce
loyalty to Liz couldn’t bring himself to socialize with Max, even to pick his head up to say hello. The same
went for Maria, although her heart went out for Max when she saw him walk through the halls. This wasn’t
right, the two of them being so miserable.
The same black bookbag Max had had through all of high school was slung over his shoulder as
Maria watched him and Liz walk right past each other in the hall, without so much as a glimpse to one
another. Instead of following after Liz though, Maria quietly followed Max around the corner. At first she
didn’t see him, she thought he had somehow dissappeared, but then she heard the loud sigh. Looking back
over her right shoulder she saw him. He was leaning against the wall, his head titled back with a pained
expression on his face, his hands were at his sides, but gripping the wall - almost as if in support - and she
could hear the slow and steady intake of breath. He didn’t even notice Maria’s presence and looking at his
tortured position one more time, she gave a satisfied smirk as she walked on. So that hadn’t been any easier
for him than she knew it had been for Liz.
The labs in A.P Bio were much the same as those that he and Liz had done together in the tenth
grade. Every lesson, every unit, every aspect of the class, of the room just reminded him of her. Even the
lab table, her empty stool. With thirteen people in the class, it broke into an even six groups and then Max.
Alone. God, why hadn’t she taken this class with him. Maybe then they wouldn’t be in this situation. He
would have talked to her. Maybe he wouldn’t have been up until two in the morning last night talking with
Archie, because he was the only one he could talk to now. Maybe his family could actually have a peaceful
dinner. Maybe. Just maybe. But now this was his fault. He had brought this all upon himself. Archie had
driven that into his head last night, as painful as it was for Max to hear. He knew that. He knew that deep
inside. And the thing he couldn’t bring himself to realize was why.
“Psst! Max!!” Max’s head jerked up as he heard his name called from the hallway. As Ms. Hardy’s
back was turned he glanced to the doorway only to see J.J and Silver, in their matching basketball jackets,
with matching mischievious grins on their faces. Max turned back to Ms. Hardy for a moment - sit in A.P
Bio and be reminded of Liz every second, he looked again to J.J and Silver - or go hang out with two
carefree underclassmen. He could ask for a bathroom pass to the nurse, or he could ask to go to his locker
claiming he had forgotten some essential bio material. The kind-hearted teacher continued to scribble notes
onto the board, her back turned to the class. Or he could just sneak out.
Basketball really was what took Max’s mind off of everthing, it was his escape. Not just playing in
games, but the practices, the people. They were about as far away from Liz Parker as he could get. Not
that he wanted to be away from her. He just wanted his thoughts away from her, but even as he, J.J, Silver,
Kaiser and Theo drove to nearby Gasden High School she occupied his thoughts like she always had.
It felt odd to have the jeep so crowded with people, to have Kaiser and Theo hanging out the back,
with Silver squished in the middle. It felt odd to have someone in the passenger seat besides Isabelle,
Michael or Liz.
“We gonna kick some ass today,” J.J nodded his head as they whipped along 285 North towards
Gasden and Max just nodded his head.
“Yeah...” Max mumbled. This didn’t feel right, going to visit the school they were about to play
against in a few hours. Going to taunt them. It beat being in class and looking at the M.E + L.P he and Liz
had carved into the side of the lab table sophomore year though. “So who’s Gasden’s best player?” Max
suddenly asked over the DMX blaring out of his speakers.
“Don’t matter - he ain’t as good as you,” Kaiser laughed, as did the three other passengers.
“No really...” Max insisted. “Who’s their best guy?”
“Man, Max - forget about it! We’ll worry when it’s game time - right now..” Silver reached into the
front seat and turned the music up even louder. “Right now...” And Max nodded his head. Right now just
For the first time in six league games, the West Roswell Comets trailed. Sure, they only trailed by
two baskets and the first half wasn’t even over, but they were losing. A new concept to the freshman and
sophomores on the team. Theo had gone out two minutes in and Kyle - usually a surefire sparkplug off the
bench - had taken his place, but the maneuver hadn’t done much. They seemed unable to close the margin.
Gasden was a good little team, gritty and quick. Kaiser had been right, they didn’t have a player anywhere
near as good as Max, no one with that natural finesse and ability. They had Trey Pierson though. Trey who
had an unnatural ability to get under Max’s skin more than anybody else. Last year when they had played
Gasden - and beaten them - Max had spotted Trey attempting to court Liz by the bleachers. The fair haired
boy had made more than one comment to Max about her and this afternoon had been no different. Hey
there, Max - how’s your girl? She sick of you yet? He had taunted, surrounded by his friends. It was Max
who had looked more intimidating though, with Kaiser standing a towering and solid 6’5 behind him. That
didn’t matter now though. The score was still in favor of Gasden.
Any spectator in the stands could see that it was an ugly game. Extra jabs under the baskets,
pushing and shoving from both teams, more trash talking than was necessary. Every free minute, Trey made
sure to make some sort of crack about him and Liz. Max was used to it though, the obnoxious boy had
done it last year too. And last year Max had just let it pass.
Wrestling the ball away from Kyle underneath the basket, Trey gave the Senior an extra jab in the
gut as the referee blew the whistle and called the foul on him. That wasn’t enough for the Comets however,
who saw it fit to defend their teammate and swarmed around Pierson. Max was among them, merely
listening to the comments being tossed back and forth though.
“What’s the matter, Evans?” Trey shouted to him over the din. “What’s up? You upset ‘cos you
can’t satisfy your girl?” he taunted and Max felt the willpower inside him slowly breaking. The last few
strands of self-control that he had snapping.
“Keep it on the court, man!” J.J shouted, knowing that the feud between Max and Trey stretched
off the court, but knowing that there were certain places you didn’t go with Max. Certain places where you
could only push your luck to a certain point. Liz was one of them.
“You upset ‘cos uh - ‘cos Liz Parker - “ her name came back to Trey, “was in my bed all last night?
She’s good, Evans - she’s real good.” And Max charged past his teammates and past the referees restraining
hands. His fist came so fast, Trey Pierson didn’t even know what hit him. A gasp went through the West
Roswell home crowd. Max Evans, known for his quiet and reserved nature, for his self-control on the court
and his shy ways, had started a fight. The Gasden team quickly jumped up and tore Max away from Trey,
giving him a piece of their mind and a shove or two, but Max seemed ready to take on the entire Gasden
Panthers team. The Gasden coach came off the bench then, as did Coach Harvey, but it was too late.
Kaiser, Silver and J.J had quickly rushed to Max’s defense, even Kyle had. And the crowd looked on in
shock. Max Evans had started a full-fledged brawl.
The benches cleared, and all the coaches and assistant coaches, and managers and referees got up in
an attempt to break up the pushing and shoving between the two teams to no avail. And right in the middle
of it all, where no one could get to them were Max and Trey, wildly throwing punches at one another. It
was like something short-circuited in Max’s brain, a fuse blew, because all he could think about was Trey.
Hurting Trey. The scraps he had gotten into with Kyle sophomore year were nothing compared to this. His
fist came furiously again and again against Trey’s face and into his stomach, calling upon a fury and an anger
Max didn’t even know he possessed. And then suddenly, the two were no longer in the mass of feuding
players, suddenly Trey grabbed Max and threw him into the glass West Roswell trophy case. A startled cry
went through the bleachers at the sound of shattering glass. Loudest of all was Liz’s as she immedietly saw
the blood. The blood on Max’s arms and shoulders. With bloody shards of glass on the gym floor, and
blood streaming from his right shoulder, Max took one last run at Trey, but was immedietly restrained by a
referee. The quarreling teams slowly halted their fighting at the realization that someone was seriously hurt.
Max didn’t appear seriously hurt though. All anyone could see in his dark eyes was absolute hate
and fury. Another referee stepped over to hold back Max, who still seemed to think he could take on Trey,
and as a trainer immedietly stepped over to help him, another ran to call the paramedics. The referees
attempted to divert attention to center court, where they were sorting out the teams and issuing technical
fouls to #15 Evans, and #33 Pierson. All eyes were on the far side of the court by the exit though, where the
trainer had peeled Max’s torn jersey over his head and was leading him away. There were cuts and slashes
everywhere, some big enough to be called gashes, others just minor scrapes. But he was hurt. And Liz’s
legs immedietly traveled down the bleachers to him.
|posted on 31-Aug-2001 10:16:09 AM|
|All she saw was the blood. Dripping down Max's arm in tiny rivulets, down his back, even across the back of his neck. It made her sick to her stomach and she could see some girls in the stands covering their mouths with their hands. Liz raced down the bleachers to the floor, forgetting that she and Max hadn't spoken in two weeks, that his last words to her had been - What's the matter? and that her reply had been - you tell me". Forget that Max had started the fight in the first place, all she saw right now was the pain in Max's eyes last Thursday. All she saw right now was that he was bleeding|
"Liz, what're you doing?" Maria asked as Liz made her way past her. Maria hadn't even known Liz was at the game, she had behaved today as if she wasn't going to attend. Something about not being able to see Max play like he was. So physically, so aggressively - knocking people to the floor after the basket, extra shoves and nudges in the paint.
"He's hurt, Maria," Liz stated firmly, as she weaved between people. Maria smiled to herself at her
friend's action. She wondered to herself if she would do the same if Michael had been lying hurt on the floor after a fight he started, after he had brushed her aside. Maria craned her neck as she watched Liz make her way towards Max.
"Hey, baby!" Liz suddenly heard a voice call to her from the court. Spinning her head around, she saw Trey Pierson looking to her with a smirk. Liz was the one who smirked though. Max might be the one being attended to by paramedics, but it was Trey who looked like he was on his death bed. It was Trey whose face was battered and bloodied, it was his eyes that was swollen shut, his nose that appeared to be broken. "After the game," he nodded his head to her and Liz looked at him and just rolled her eyes and turned around to follow after Max and the giant crowd surrounding him, leaving Trey standing there - his
pride and ego hurt more than anything else.
Liz had trouble breaking through the mass of players still pushing and shoving a bit, and the people
surrounding Max as they rushed to whisk him off. Some of them were trainers, some of them were local reporters with cameras and tape recorders in their hands.
"Max!" Liz called to him, actually pushing a woman with a camera aside. "Max!" she touched her hand to his arm, to the wound on it, not minding that his blood collected on her hand. And then suddenly an image flashed through her mind, one she should have no recollection of because she was unconscious. Max carrying her lifeless body through the desert in a bloodsoaked t-shirt, Max holding her in his arms in the hospital, the giant slash down his left forearm visible. Liz lifted her hand off his arm and looked up to him. Max turned around to meet her eyes and Liz wasn’t sure what to make of the look on his face or of the images. She had no idea what they meant - was Max afraid to go the paramedics, afraid of what they might do to him? did she get the image because she had come in contact with his blood?
"Look, girly - get out of here," someone suddenly barked to Liz and giving the gruff man a look, Liz stayed right in step with them and she kept her hand on Max's shoulder as they led him out of the gym to the main hallway.
"Someone called the paramedics, right?" another man barked as the athletics trainer at West Roswell worked as best as he could to stop the bleeding from Max's shoulder. There were two men doing their best to push the reporters out of the way, as well as anyone who didn't need to be there, and Liz did her best to stay out of their way, though she remained by Max's side. They didn't say anything, with all the commotion going on all Max could do was look at her with an anguished, confused and apologetic
expression. As if everything that he had done, not just in the last ten minutes, but the last ten weeks, was finally sinking in. A siren sounded outside and the people huddling around Max pulled him to his feet and they moved him out the door to the ambulance that had arrived. Liz got to her feet as she watched them drag Max away and she took a few steps towards the open door where she could see Max facing her as they situated him in the ambulance. He opened up his mouth to call to her, but he didn't have to say anything. She ran to the ambulance and jumped into the back with him before anyone could protest.
"Miss -" one of the EMTs called to her, but Liz took Max's hand in hers.
"I love you," she simply stated what neither of them had murmured to each other in over three months. It used to be so common, so regular - so much so that it tended to make Isabelle sick to her stomach. A peck on the cheek, or a quick kiss on the lips and an I love you. Liz wanted that back, she needed it. Max's hand tightened around hers and the doors to the ambulance shut.
The last time Max had stepped foot in a hospital he had been checking out Liz. He had hoped he would never have to come in again. The Emergency Room just seemed so familiar to him, too familiar. Liz wasn't in his arms this time though, and his situation was nowhere near as urgent. He had time to give people his name and address, his parents names so they could be notified. All the while, Liz was at his side, keeping the giant piece of gauze over his shoulder to stop the bleeding that she hoped would soon begin to lessen. It wasn't the way being brought in by an ambulance was supposed to be, they didn't attend to him
immedietly. The EMTs who had brought him in in such a hurry, had instead, upon being notified by a colleague, quickly run past a closed door and into the full-blown chaos that was a hospital E.R after a six car pile up. The piece of gauze Liz was holding over Max's wound was now red with blood as she and Max sat and waited. Waited for someone to see him.
"What's going on?" Liz finally worked up the courage to ask one of the white-coated doctors who had walked back and forth in front of her and Max several times already.
"Bad accident on 285 South, already have one fatality," the doctor actually took the time to answer
Liz. She was quiet, but then not forgetting why she had even bothered to talk to the doctor she held up the bloody piece of gauze.
"Well, could we at least get..." she began to say and the doctor looked to Max's cut-up body and the blood-stained piece in Liz’s hand.
"Ask her," he motioned to the receptionist who had taken care of all Max's legalities, and then seeming to sense something in their faces, some odd familiarity he shook his head. "I'll uh - I'll try to get someone out here to help you as soon as I can." The doctor turned to leave and Liz just nodded her head. How the roles were reversed now. Max was the one who had brought her in last time, now she was tending for a silent Max.
Liz should have known that an E.R doctor's definition of soon was forty-two minutes. Max had gone through two more large gauze pads in the time it took for someone to come out and see to him and Max was actually beginning to wonder where his parents were. She and Max didn't say much in those forty minutes, they sat there with Liz's one hand over the gauze on his shoulder and her other clinched firmly around his. Hold my Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish, oddly enough was playing out of the tiny
speakers in the corner of the room and Liz wondered how they could be playing such uplifting music in a hospital E.R, where she had seen such miserable people come and go. With a little love, and some tenderness, we'll walk upon the water. We'll rise above this mess. The song was the only talking she and Max did. She hoped he was listening to it, listening to the lyrics and she kept her hand firmly locked around his, just looking at how small her hands looked compared to his, but at the same time looking at how perfectly they fit together. Yesterday, I saw you standing there. Your head was down, your eyes were red , no comb had touched your hair. The distant look that had occupied Max's face the past three months
seemed to be returning though, as much as Liz tried to pretend it wasn’t. The same look that had been there
that Friday night they had gone out to the movies when she had first sensed something wrong with him. That night when she had leaned over and kissed him on the neck and he hadn't responded at all. He had just continued to watch the movie. She remembered that night, the memory was embedded in her mind. She even remembered what movie was playing - it was that football movie with Keanu Reeves, The
The commotion of the E.R played out in front of the two as Liz continued to hold his hand and keep her hand and the bandage compressed over his shoulder and the joyful song played on. I wanna love you the best that, the best that I can.
"Max, please don't do this," Liz suddenly said in response to Max’s silent manner.
"What?" He whirled his head around to her.
"Don't..block me out," she asked of him what she had wanted to all year. Max looked to her pleading eyes. At how much pain they held because of him.
"I'm not," he dismissed. "I'm just.." his voice drifted as his eyes focused on a nurse walking by with a cartel full of vials of blood and she felt his hand grip hers firmly.
"Don't worry, Isabelle’ll be here," she assured him, knowing now what he was frightened of.
"Yeah," Max murmured softly. Truth was, he was actually beginning to grow concerned as to where his parents were. Sure, his relationship with them hadn’t been that great this year, but for goodness sakes, he was in the hospital. He had given the receptionists their names. They should be here. Isabelle should be here. Liz tossed the bandage on his shoulder into the garbage and applied a new one to his still bleeding shoulder.
"God, is it just me or do you...bleed a lot?" Liz actually laughed, but Max knew what she meant by 'you'. You meant aliens. Max chuckled too though. The only two times he had ever been in a hospital before he had bled onto the hospital floor. Liz looked down to the linoleum floor at their feet where two small drops of blood had collected. "You feel okay though, right?" Liz asked, her voice nearly a whisper and Max nodded his head. She lifted his hand up and kissed it softly.
Max's head was spinning. Maybe this was it, maybe this was their reconciliation.
"Max??" a voice suddenly sounded from down the hall and Max and Liz quickly jerked their heads up. "Max, it is you!" Max still couldn’t figure out who it was that seemed so excited to see him. "And Liz too, hey - nice to see you two again!" the man's voice sounded enthused and it took Max some time to register the face, that was slowly coming back to him.
"Dr. Hastings?" it suddenly registered in Max's brain.
"Yeah! Yeah, it's me," the doctor who had cared so well for Max, and for Liz too, during that fateful week two years ago answered. "Never thought I'd see you again," the broad smile was still on his face. "You don't call, you don't write," he laughed and Max let out a choked laugh as well.
"Yeah, I uh - I had some trouble..comin’ - comin' back here," Max looked around the E.R, where all too many painful memories were flooding back to him.
"That's fine, Max, you don’t have to explain," Dr. Hastings helped hoist Max to his feet. "Let's get you cleaned up," he smiled as he and Liz helped carry Max over to an examination room. Under normal circumstances he would have left Liz behind, made her go back into the waiting room. But this wasn't just a girlfriend, this was Liz. The girl, who whenever Dr. Hastings told the story to his colleagues, Max had risked his life for. "So what happened to you, buddy?" he looked at the cuts that covered Max's upper body. "What'd you fall through a window or something?" he laughed.
"Yeah, something like that," Max mumbled in response and Dr. Hastings did a double-take, and then he looked to Max’s face again. To the light bruise developing on his cheek, the fat lip.
"Ya get in a fight?" he suddenly asked, a bit more worried now than he had been moments earlier. Max was slower to nod his head and it was then that Dr. Hastings noted the shiny blue and gold basketball shorts that Max was still wearing. He looked to Max curiously, the concern in his eyes evident. He got a reply from neither Max nor Liz. "Max, what happened?" he asked, putting on a pair of rubber gloves. "Do I want to know what happened to the other guy?" the young doctor managed to laugh, further examining the large gash on his left shoulder. "Yep, gonna need stitches for that," he sighed, then continued to look over the rest of Max’s body.
"He - he doesn't have anything else that's as serious," Liz suddenly offered and she stepped up next
to the doctor and her hand graced over Max’s bare back, causing a shiver to go through him. "There's one on his right shoulder blade that looks like it might open up again," her hand coursed down his arm. "And there's one that won't close up on the back of his arm," Liz showed Dr. Hastings the open cut on Max's tricep and Max just stood there and reveled at her touch. So what if he was in the E.R, and it was his injuries they were talking about, just to feel her again. Feel her hands on him, how comfortable she was around him, how she used to be.
"Yeah, those might just need a butterfly though - it's that," Dr. Hastings lightly pressed the muscle
in Max’s shoulder, causing an even larger stream of blood to come from the wound. "That I'm worried about."
A voice suddenly commanded from outside the examination room and Dr. Hastings gave Max and Liz an apologetic look as he jogged out the door. Words were exchanged that neither Max nor Liz could decipher, but when the young doctor returned his face said it all. Their reunion would have to be cut short for now.
"Max, give me ten minutes," he looked over the slashes on Max’s body one last time. "Ten minutes and I'll come to patch you up - hang in there, okay?" Max just nodded his head, he had waited this long what was another ten minutes. Turning to leave, Dr. Hastings suddenly tossed something in Liz's direction. A box of band-aids. "Do what you can," he smiled to her and then he was gone.
Alone again, Max sat patiently on the edge of the examination table while Liz helped tend to the smaller cuts and scrapes on his back and arms. It wasn't so bad being alone now though, to have Dr. Hastings gone. He had already been cared for in the ambulance ride over by trained professionals, but somehow what Liz was doing to him made all the difference. She wet a washcloth and, though leaving the large gaping wound on his shoulder alone, gently cleaned out the rest and ran the wet cloth over the rest of his back and shoulders. After weeks of hardly speaking to each other, this was the point they were at now. She ran her hands across his back and felt his muscles ripple at her touch. And Liz began delicately applying the band-aids to all the smaller cuts on Max's body. She took his hand and careully wrapped a band-aid
around the tiny scratch on his ring finger. She paused slightly, seeming to sense the symbolism in the action and so did he as their eyes locked for a moment. Max wished he could freeze the moment in time, save it in his memory so he could always relive it. Her eyes drifted down to his hand again as Max rubbed his thumb over her hand like he always did when they held hands, over her ring finger; as if to say to her - someday.
They were going to work through this, of that he was confident. He couldn’t go through his life without her, she was as important to him as the oxygen he breathed in. Tonight's game, college scholarships, Notre Dame - all were pushed out of his mind as they sat there. Her hand traced it's way up his arm suddenly and she placed another band-aid over one of the tiny nicks that covered him. The silence reigned between them yet again, except this time it was a good silence. The type of silence he and Liz had
always shared, the kind of silence that existed only because they didn’t need words to express their feelings.
And then the silence was gone.
"Damn, Max what happened??" Michael stormed through the doors, but Liz and Max didn't immedietly seperate like they usually did. Max turned his head to the door though, expecting Isabelle and the whole entorage to come charging through. His eyes casted downward when he realized that it was just Michael.
"Where's Isabelle?" he asked, and even Michael could hear the dejection in his voice. Liz laced her
fingers in his.
"Isabelle...Isabelle couldn’t deal or something, I don't know - she...she - I didn’t see her," Michael confessed and his eyes were shifting nervously around the room. "I mean, I saw her at the game - but then...you know, all hell broke loose and I - I kinda lost her.”
"Well, why did it take you so long to get here?" Max didn't mean for the words to sound hateful, but he couldn’t help it. No wonder Liz had been the only person he had always gone to for comfort first. When the cards were on the table, no matter what happened, she always came back to him. That’s where she and his sister were so different.
"No car," Michael replied honestly with a shrug and Liz's eyes widened.
"You walked here?" she checked the bandage that Dr. Lowery had taped to Max’s shoulder, only to see that it was absorbing the blood as quickly as the ones she had applied did. God, he wouldn't stop bleeding. Michael nodded his head.
"Yeah," he replied with a shrug, as if it were obvious. As much as Max kept to himself, as much as Max didn’t tell him anything, he was still Max. And nothing would change that. "You kicked that guys ass," Michael finally laughed, trying his best not to look at Max’s injured form. Casually fetching another bandage from across the room, Liz sat down next to Max again and applied pressure to the covered wound like she had all afternoon. Except now, the action was met by a wince from Max and Liz looked over only to see both layers of bandages filling up with blood.
"Oh my God..." Liz mumbled and the blood began to stream out from underneath the bandage and onto her hands. "Michael!" Liz cried hysterically, as he hurriedly grabbed a handful of bandages from the pile where Liz had just gotten hers. Liz frantically held them over the gash that was oozing Max’s blood quicker than she could react and for the first time all afternoon, Max cried out in pain. "Go get someone!!" Liz yelled, "Dr. Hastings!" she cried out for the doctor just as Max’s father stepped into the doorway.
"What's going on??" he looked to Liz’s hands covered in blood, to his son sitting there in anguish
as blood flowed from his shoulder, in confusion. He had been notified that his son had been taken to the hospital by a group of students at West Roswell, but they hadn't made it seem to serious. He hadn't expected to see this.
"Help!!" Liz's voice sounded urgently again as she pulled off the jacket that was tied around her waist and wadded it up over blood-soaked bandages. "God, why won't it stop bleeding?!?" she cried out to no on in particular as she tried not to look at Max’s face. Max never complained about anything, not about being cold, not about being hot, nothing about minor cuts and bruises. His face was contorted in pain as he bit his lip though. "Just stop bleeding..." she pleaded as Dr. Hastings suddenly raced through the door.
"Jesus," he murmured to himself as he looked to Liz's hands that were covered in blood, and the sight in front of him. "What happened??" he demanded as Liz stepped aside and he took his place next to Max. When he had left the two, it had been merely a matter of needing stitches to close up the opening in his flesh.
"He just started bleeding." Liz wanted to stay calm, really she did, for Max's sake at least. But seeing him like that, seeing the concern in Dr. Hasting’s face.
"Just started bleeding like this out of nowhere?"
"Yeah, Michael walked in and then -"
"Then what? Did he - did he move his arm at all? Did -"
"No! God, no - we were just talking and it..."
"Okay, okay..." Dr. Hastings voice softened as he smoothed Liz’s hair with his hand for a moment, in an effort to calm her down. He pulled off the bandage for a moment to see if the wound had gotten any larger, but noted no change.
"This was just a couple scrapes and cuts," Liz shook her head in disbelief. "I mean he - he lost more blood last time." Dr. Hastings knew exactly what she meant by last time. She was right. The actual blood loss was nowhere near as severe. Still he looked to Michael, tempted to tell him to stick around because they might need him, but knowing that it would only upset Liz. "Could've burst a large vein, small artery," the doctor mumbled to himself, going over the possibilities in his mind.
"That sounds serious, what - what does that mean?" Two fat tears dripped down Liz's face.
"Can be. It's a....freak thing," there was anger in Dr. Hastings’ voice now, anger at why freaky things like this had to happen to Max. Again. "I just need to figure out where it is, Max," he called to the patient who was growing quieter by the minute. "Max!" his voice was urgent now. "Where does it hurt? You have to tell me..does it hurt here?" he moved his hand to Max’s chest cavity, to the area that would surround his heart. Max just shook his head. "That's good..that’s very good."
"What the hell is going on?" Mr. Evans suddenly shouted. "What about his brain? What if burst in the back of his head?" the proposed idea only made more tears drip down Liz’s face. Dr. Hastings looked up at the man irritably, biting his tongue as he moved his hand to the back of Max’s neck. He was worried about his son, that was all.
"Max, what about here?" Dr. Hastings inquired, but he was met by silence. "Max, here?" Liz dropped her hand from Max's shoulder and blood dripped onto the floor. His eyes were closing. "Dammit, Max!" Dr. Hastings grabbed the young man’s head in his hands. "Here! What about here?"
"What's the matter? What is he like going into shock or something??" Liz’s voice was dry now, as she looked at Max. It was like all the life, and all the air was sucked out of her, when his eyes had closed. A tremor had gone through his body for a moment, and she wondered to herself if maybe this was an alien thing. If maybe something had happened in his body that the doctor's couldn't help.
"Liz," Max murmured her name once and his eyelids shut.
"Dammit, no.." Dr. Hastings worst fears began to take shape as he looked to Max’s closed eyes. The worry his father had expressed might very well be true. "Someone run outside now, tell them I need a trauma unit, I need a team in the trauma unit now!" Dr. Hastings looked back down at Max and then ran outside to gather the team himsef. Liz leaned over Max and took his face in her hands.
"Max.." she whispered to him while Michael and his father looked on. She couldn’t bring herself to say all the things she probably should say - *don't leave me*, *I need you*. That all seemed too fake, like something you would watch on a television show. Besides Dr. Hastings hadn’t said anything about him...dying. "Max, I don't care where you go to college," Liz murmured to him, and it seemed a silly thing to say, but she pressed her face against him, against his heaving chest. For as motionless as he was now, his chest was still rising and falling. "I don't care where you go," Liz repeated again, and she realized she was apologizing to him. Apologizing to him for not even attempting to work things out sooner, for brushing him aside when he had tried to go back to 'normal.' Dr. Hastings returned with a group of individuals and a stretcher, only to see Liz thrown up against Max.
"Liz," he called softly to her and she immediately stepped aside as the men lifted Max onto the stretcher.
"Poor kid, can't get a break," Dr. Hastings mumbled to himself as they wheeled him out of the room, getting the strange sense of deja vu. Max and Liz were too good for this. They didn’t deserve to be in this hospital again, didn’t deserve to be in this situation. So Max had been in a fight, how many teenage boys hadn’t been in a fight once in their lives? God, sometimes he hated his profession. Sometimes he hated that he had ever been introduced to Max and Liz. To this love that was so strong and so pure. That existed between two high school students. Since that day Max had first carried her into this hospital, his life hadn't been the same. He spent time lying awake at night wondering if he would ever find what they had, if he would ever meet someone who he felt as deeply for as Max did for Liz. Here he was, halfway done with his life, and he hadn't even experienced anything close to what he knew the two shared. And here he was again, working to save it. It figures that something so sacred and so rare, something so pure would be threatened. It was like a flame that everyone was trying to extinguish, something that all the powers in the world wanted to end because they couldn’t have it for themselves. Obstacles would come, they would triumph over them. That's what this was, an unlucky obstacle standing in the way of the two, testing them. That's what it had been two years ago, a test. And from what he had seen of the two they had come out better because of it. He looked to Max’s still form. They would come out better because of it, or he would die trying.
He felt like their should be some sort of reunion. Having everybody back in the hospital: Max, Liz, Michael, Isabelle, the Evans, even the Parkers. Dr. Hastings was glad at the fact that Max’s tenure in the hospital would be shorter than the last time though, and that the agonizing time his family had spent waiting to hear the news on his condition was shorter. Liz was the only one who braved standing outside the room. She was the only one who peeked through the blinds to see what exactly they were doing to Max. Surgery of some sort, that’s all she could tell. They were going inside him. God, it all looked like an ER episode. An ER episode gone terribly wrong where she and Max were the main characters. Hadn’t that happened once before? Isabelle and Michael had come by momentarily, and the worry across their faces was for more reason than one. Surgery on an alien. That could have some frightful consequences.
But Dr. Hastings had stepped out only thirty minutes after he had gone in with Max and the rest of
the team. He stepped out and removed his blood-stained gloves from his hands, remembering how Liz's hands had looked much the same less than an hour ago. It was just her waiting at the end of this long hall. She was the only one brave enough to face the truth, whatever it may be.
"You can go see him," he told her with a tiny smile, and tears threatened in Liz's eyes for an entirely different reason now. "Only you," he added as he opened up the door for her to where Max lay. Local anasthesia was all, and some mild medication, he informed her. He should be just the slightest bit out of it, but remembering Max's last encounter with medication and sedatives, the doctor just laughed. Max was laying upright in a hospital bed, a large patch covering his shoulder the only evidence of what he had just gone through. No incision at the back of his neck, or in his chest cavity, just a large patch on his
shoulder that stretched down his back a bit.
He wasn't out of it, just the opposite. Max was looking about the room curiously and his eyes brightened on Liz’s entrance to the room.
"You gave us quite a scare," Liz laughed at the understatement and Max actually smiled. "You feel okay?" He nodded his head calmly, the smile still on his lips. "Do you remember what happened?" she asked.
"No," he grinned, shaking his head truthfully.
"You don't remember anything?" Liz looked to him unbelievingly, emphasizing the anything.
"Who are you again?" he scratched his head, hiding the smile threatening on his face and Liz moved her hand to his chest, in protest to his goofy actions. It sure was nice to see him smile again.
"Shutup," she giggled, but her hand remained over his heart. She rubbed his chest firmly, up and down, remembering how only an hour earlier she had rested her head on it after his eyes had shut. "I was so scared.." she confessed to him, her voice no louder than a whisper. She sat down in the chair she knew Dr. Hastings had set out for her and rested her head on his chest for the second time that day. He moved his hand to the top of her head, gently stroking her hair and taking it between his fingers. He didn't remember anything that happened to him in the last half-hour. He remembered Liz desperately applying pressure to the wound on his shoulder, she remembered her hands covered in blood, she remembered her calling for somebody. That was all. He lowered his head to kiss her atop her head once and smoothed her hair down
with his hand. He remembered Liz being frantic, worried for him. He knew what she had been afraid of. She had been afraid of all the things that had worried him those fateful days back in Sophomore year. And he assured to her the words he knew she needed to hear.
"I'll never leave you."
No basketball for at least a month. That's what Dr. Hastings had told Max. No physical activity at all, lifting up his arm to cup Liz's face in his hands was even difficult for him. Max and Liz had resolved their differences, they had made up. At least to the common observer that’s how it appeared. To Liz that was how it appeared also. She and Max went out that weekend for the first time since Archie's basketball game and they went to the two West Roswell games that were agony for Max to sit and watch. The team had battled back after Max had been rushed out of the Gasden game in an ambulance and somehow, even without him, they had eked out a three point win. And two more games without Max they managed to win by a total margin of seven points, but she only had to glance over to him to see that watching and not being in the game his Senior year was killing him. That's what the pained expression on his face was. That's what it had to be.
The response from Notre Dame was scheduled to have come days ago and the agitation in Max at it's lateness was clear only to Isabelle. She could see what her parents didn't when he sorted through the mail pile. And she could see in his face when he was with Liz what no one else saw. Absolute torture.
After more than a month of being in the dark about his friend's college selections, Max was finally caught up on a lazy walk home from school with Liz. Turns out Maria was banking on admission to the performing arts school at Arizona State, Alex was hoping to attend Pepperdine University in northern California and his sister, whom he had thought was almost a sure thing for the sites and sounds of Manhattan and NYU all the way across the country, it turns out was instead opting to go closer to home and looking at sunny California schools. Michael hadn't even scrawled down his name on a single application. According
to Maria he refused to even talk about, Liz told him. And Liz. His beautiful Liz had applied Early Action to Princeton. He had tried his best to smile when she had told him, and he prayed that she wouldn't ask him where his applications had gone. And she didn't. She steered clear of questions directed towards him about college, and at the same time that he was grateful of the gesture, he knew that she knew something was up. But she kissed him good-bye at his driveway and was slow to release her hand from his as they broke apart. And he knew why she didn’t ask where he had applied. She didn't want to know.
Not even dropping his bookbag to the floor, as soon as Max entered through the door he traveled to the kitchen table where the day’s mail always rested. He quickly flipped through the mail in what was now all-too familiar routine. There was a letter from UNLV updating him on the progress of the basketball team and a letter from Stanford that he was sure was the same, but nothing from Indiana. With no more than a sigh, Max turned to trudge back to his room and when he walked through the doorway, the envelope
he had been looking for was lying on his bed. Someone had put it there, someone had gotten to it before him. That was the last thing on his mind though. It was fat. A fat envelope. What did they say about fat envelopes? They were good, why would they send him a fat envelope to tell him that he wasn't in? Max stepped towards his bed and picked up the envelope. Hesitating briefly, Max slowly closed his eyes and carefully slid his finger in, opening up the contents.
As his mind quickly scanned the words in front of him and a thousand different feelings washed over him his mind drifted back to that night he had been huddled over the typewriter, pondering whether or not to apply early. He collapsed down onto the bed, his knees suddenly feeling weak. He was eight years old stepping onto the campus for the first time, walking into the football station, looking wide eyed at the Grotto. That would be him in ten months. Just as wide-eyed as when he had been eight years old. He was going to go to Notre Dame. God, suddenly it seemed like there wasn't enough oxygen in the room. He gasped for air and no sooner did he then a voice suddenly sounded from the corner of his room.
"You have to tell her, Max." His head flashed up only to see his sister standing there. She had been the one who planted the letter, she knew. Right now he didn't care about Isabelle knowing though, she would have to know sooner or later. What stuck with him was the words she had uttered.
"I can't," Max immediately shook his head. "I can't do it, Iz."
"Max, you have to!" Isabelle didn’t care that Max had kept this from her and from his parents. "That's not fair," her voice actually caught in her throat for a moment and even she was surprised at how she was pleading. "It's not fair to her not to know." Max shook his head again, and Isabelle continued. "Max, she loves you, she trusts you and she deserves to know."
"I can't do it, I can't tell her," Max shook his head emphatically. "Do you know how much this would kill her?" Do you know how much this is killing me? he wanted to shout.
"Do you know how much it’s killing her not knowing?" Isabelle challenged and Max closed his eyes slowly, almost like it hurt to do so. Isabelle wanted to say more, there was so much more she wanted to say. About why he hadn’t told Liz, about why he hadn’t told anybody? She just looked down to the second piece of paper that had fallen to the bed when Max had read the congratulatory letter. The second piece of paper calling for his intial deposit. "I won't tell mom and dad," she walked towards the door, "or Liz,” she added softly and she wanted to get on her knees and plead with him to tell her. She just paused in the doorway though and turned to him with a desperate look that said everything. "You have to. Soon."
Coach Harvey had assured Max he would be okay to miss attending a few practices to let his arm heal up, but when Max returned home after the bell for the first time in weeks something about it felt odd. These stitches in his arm, two games and one week out of the action...
Max quietly slinked into his room and locked the door behind him. There was so much frustration bottled up inside of him, but there was such a careful and methodical manner about him as he spread a towel on top of his bed and grabbed a handful of gauze bandages. Max looked only once at first as he struggled to get his fingers beneath the tiny and so carefully stitched taut black strings that held the torn pieces of flesh in his shoulder together. It took several tries before he lodged his index finger beneath one of them. And then he pulled. His eyes clinched shut in what he told himself was only temporary excrutiating pain as he yanked out another and another and another. His eyelids were closed but he could feel each stitch popping out and the blood quickly burst from the wound.
How Liz knew that he had not come to basketball practice and why she had come over Max wasn't sure, but her sickened shriek at the sight in front of her made his eyes quickly flash open as he looked across the room to the window where he stood. Before she could let out another horrified scream at the self-mutilating image in front of her and before anymore blood could stain the towel on his bed, Max quickly ripped out the remaining stitches, in an embarassed frenzy.
"God no, Max, no!!" Liz cried as she scrambled through the doorway and ran to him. His hand remained up by his bloodied shoulder and Liz grabbed his hand and attempted to stop whatever he was doing. "Max, stop it! You're hurting yourself!" she stated the obvious, the last statement one of shock more than anything. When she finally succeeded in yanking his hand away there was no longer a gaping cut. There was blood smeared on his shoulder, but now it looked like Hollywood makeup more than anything. She realized then what he had done. He had pulled them out and healed himself. Her eyes still looked to him in confusion though, desperate for some sort of an explanation as to why he had inflicted the temporary
pain on himself.
"I couldn't not play anymore." Was all he said. "I need to play." Max quickly went about wiping the blood off his shoulder with the already blood-stained towel, but then proceeded to clean the towel with a wave of his hand.
"Why did you bother putting the towel down?" she suddenly asked and the random question caught him off guard. "If you're just.." she looked at the now clean towel and then to his hand. "Why didn't you just clean the bedspread?" Max was quiet. "That's the way you do things, right?" her words took on a different tone. "You do things without even..really thinking. You *think* you know what you're doing, but..." God, had Isabelle told her already? Max wondered.
"Liz," Max quieted her down with a soothing look, but at the same time one that said not to start anything up. He sensed where that conversation would soon head. Liz didn't continue and instead she just touched her hand to his shoulder. She seemed to be taking amazement in the fact that moments ago it was oozing blood. Max hardly ever used his powers, each time he did she couldn’t help but marvel at the feat. It was a necessary reminder to her and even to himself that he wans’t normal. That wasn't the reason her hand brushed over his shoulder though. She shook her head as she picked her head up to look at him, as if refusing to believe what he had just said. The excuse he had given her and yet she didn't question him anymore.
"What'll you tell the doctors?" she asked softly, the look in his eyes right now seeming to tell her everything. It was an uncomfortable moment, odd and peculiar, but at the same time strangely comforting. Comforting only because the look in Max’s eyes told Liz that he knew what he had done was wrong, one that begged her not to ask any questions as to why.
"That it closed up on it's own."
"Okay," Liz whispered as she nodded her head, moving her other hand to his shoulder where she rested her chin. Max sat there on his bed, staring out in front of him while Liz rested on his shoulder. He could see the folded Notre Dame acceptance letter in the corner of his desk, he could hear Isabelle's voice sounding in his mind telling him to tell Liz. And then Liz began to feel it. She began to feel the tremors that started to pass through Max's body. "Max?" she asked softly and she felt his entire body began to shake. "Max, are you okay?" worry quickly swept over her as even his hands began to tremble. "Max??" Liz moved an arm around his back as she tried to hold him, to stop him from shaking. It was as if he were shivering violently from a blast of cold felt only by him, and he continued to stare blankly out in front of him. "Max, talk to me? What's wrong??" The same fear that had come across her in the hospital again came back to haunt her with the thought that maybe what was happening to
him wasn’t human. But it was just the opposite.
"I lied to you..." Max stuttered and Liz moved her hand to his face.
"What are you talking about, Max?"
"I'm lying...everything I've said," he choked and if not for the absence of tears in his eyes Liz would have thought that Max was crying.
"Max, you haven’t said anything?" she crooned, smoothing back his hair in confusion. "You haven’t -"
"I haven't - I have - I -" his words were jumbled and Liz couldn’t even understand what he was saying.
"You're alright," Liz hugged his trembling body to her, thinking of how many times he had done this to her and struck at how it felt to be the one doing the comforting.
"You shouldn't - you should be..I lied," he said again and Liz shook her head.
"Max, you haven't lied," she laughed, her voice a whisper. She pondered going to get Isabelle for a moment, but opted to stay with him. "Come on, look - I - I came over to see if - if we were going to go to Alex’s concert tonight? Remember, his winter concert?"
"I lied," Max mumbled again and Liz could see he wasn' getting past it.
"What'd you lie about, Max?" she crooned and for the first time it looked like Max heard what she was saying.
"You'll never..." he shook his head, just imagining her reaction.
"Never what, Max?" she combed her fingers through his dark hair again, all the while wondering what he could possibly be talking about. "I love you, kay? Nothing that you said is gonna change that." His eyes finally flickered in response to her words and the trembling of his body slowly stopped as he turned to face her finally.
"I love you," he stated. "You know that, right?" Liz actually laughed at his simple words.
"Of course I do."
"You know that I would never do anything to hurt-"
"I know, Max," she assured him with a smile, glad that he was finally speaking in tangible sentences, but perplexed by his questions.
"Liz, I -"
"Max!! Max, your father’s home," his mother suddenly shouted from down the hall and behind Max’s closed door. "Whenever you're ready!" she called and Liz cocked her head to the side.
"We're..we're going to get the Christmas tree," he explained, getting to his feet. Now wouldn't have been the right time to tell her anyway. "Alex's concert," he mumbled to her.
"Yeah, the chamber orchestra concert," Liz nodded her head, and Max laughed to himself. He had practically forgotten that Alex played the stand-up bass in the West Roswell chamber orchestra. It seemed funny that the gawk boy with the baggy pants and wallet chain who played the bass guitar in his own rock band would be donning a tux tonight and playing classical music. No doubt Isabelle would also attend.
"It starts at seven, right?" Max recalled the flyers up around the school and Liz nodded her head.
"I'll pick you up...right before," Max proposed and she nodded her head. "And we can go...together." Liz smiled.
"Sounds good," she wondered what had just come over him, but kept the smile on her face.
"Max, now!!" Isabelle shrieked from down the hall and Liz actually laughed at her.
"Christmas Nazi," Max grinned as well, motioning out the door in the direction of his sister’s voice.
"Seven," Liz looked to him as he opened up the door and they walked slowly to the front hallway.
"Seven," Max nodded his head and they shared a soft kiss before their hands broke apart and she stepped out the door. And Isabelle, watching from the background, gave her brother a look as he watched Liz happily return home. "I know, Isabelle," he whispered in reply to the statement he knew she was about to make. "I know."
There was quite an audience present at the West Roswell Chamber Orchestra Holiday Concert and Max and Liz ended up with seats up in the balcony while Isabelle had maneuvered her way to the front row where she could see Alex better. They sat together quietly, the perfect picture of the perfect couple, their hands joined together as they listened to the music begin. When was he going to tell her? Max's mind raced as Liz sat and enjoyed the Handel that was opening up the program. How was he going to tell her? Liz glanced over to him and smiled, moving her other hand on top of his. The incident in Max's room earlier today seemed to be behind them and Max appeared fine now. Both their eyes were focused on Alex as they
listened to the beautiful overture and as the song ended and another began Liz suddenly began to feel Max's hand shake. She quickly turned her head around to look at him to see that he was staring blankly ahead of him like he had earlier today.
"I'm going to Notre Dame," he blurted out quietly and he immediately recognized the song as Pachabel's Canon. The song he had always thought would be the perfect wedding song. There was no response from Liz, who continued to look out at the orchestra playing. "I'm going to Notre Dame, Liz," Max repeated.
"What?" Liz still didn’t turn her head to face him and he could see a shimmer of tears in her eyes, she looked shell-shocked.
"I applied early and I got in yesterday," he whispered to her.
"What?" her voice creaked as she struggled to keep from shedding any tears or letting out so much as a sob and looked to him in disbelief. Her chin was trembling though and all he could do was swallow the lump rising in his own throat. This was why he had waited so long to tell her. Because he couldn't deal with this and from the look on her face he saw that neither could she.
"I'm...I'm going to Notre Dame," Max struggled to say the words a third time and no sooner had they come out of his mouth then Liz ripped her hand away from his and raced up the steps to the exit. Max didn't try to chase after her. He didn't even call after her. He just stood there and listened to the music play on. What had he done.
Max's words whirled through Liz's head as she leaned against the wall by the balcony door. She could hear the music playing on in the background and it only made her head spin more. Liz loved this song, she had always thought would play at her and Max's wedding. She rubbed her face with the back of hand, laughing at her foolishness. How silly of her to think that far ahead, to think that her and Max would end up together with everything that stood in there way. Who was she to think that college wouldn’t present a problem. Who was she to think about her own wedding day. And she laughed again. What girl hadn't imagined and planned her wedding day in her head? She knew Maria had. Max didn’t come racing out after her and for that Liz was glad. She didn't want Max to see her like this, gasping for breath, trying to be
brave and stave back the cries threatening in her throat. Trying her hardest not to cry for her, and for him and for what the five words he had just spoken had done to them.
He didn't expect her to come back. Max sat there and listened to the heartbreaking melody play on wondering where she had gone, who she had run to. When he saw her form standing in the aisle next to him he just looked to her with apologetic eyes that spoke more than any words he said than could have. And she couldn't fight it anymore, standing there, looking right into the face that she wouldn't be seeing next year, and the tears spilled from her eyes as she pursed her lips and tried her hardest not to cry. Not here, not here in front of everyone. Not here while this song was playing. But her chin just shook and she let out one choked sob and then another. Collapsing down onto the chair Max's arms enveloped her as she sobbed into his shoulder. And somewhere along the line he was unable to hold back the tears that had been threatening
in his eyes every day for the past three months. He didn't apologize and they didn’t speak another word all evening. They just held each other. And the song played on.
The year went by quickly, quicker than Liz would have liked. Before any of them knew, the night Maria and Liz - not to mention Isabelle - had been planning since the ninth grade was here. Prom night, every girl's fantasy. Max was dashing in his cravate and tux and Michael’s neatly combed hair turned more than a few heads. Liz smiled to herself, gently raking her fingertips along the back of Max's neck as they danced together. She could see over her shoulder Alex and Isabelle dancing innocently, the look on Alex's face one of sheer bliss. They would be going to school less than an hour away from each other. Alex in
Malibu and Isabelle in Santa Barbara. Michael and Maria would even be on the same campus. Liz glanced to the two whose arms were wrapped tightly around each other. In the end it hadn't been the group intervention that had made Michael send in his one application, it hadn't been their desperate pleas or anything any of them said. It was Maria. It was all Maria. She had convinced him to apply to Arizona State two days before the deadline. His pathetic excuse about not being the college type had gotten him nowhere and Maria had gotten him to send some of his artistry along with his application. With a little financial aid and a partial art scholarship he was in.
Maria lifted her head off of Michael's chest for a moment and just looked to him with an absolutely adoring look. Michael just returned the gaze. They had something to look forward to, they couldn't wait for the fall to roll around. Liz wanted to be happy for them, she really did. For them and for Alex and for Isabelle, but she couldn't find it in her to crack a smile when she thought about their situation. Because she was just the opposite. Max was being ripped away from her. She would be in New Jersey on the East Coast. He would be in the Midwest. Ripped apart seemed too strong a word when she first thought about
it, but that's what was happening. As Max went one place and she went another, she was being ripped apart. Divided into two parts, but where Max ended and she began she wasn’t sure. Liz pressed herself up against his chest as another slow song began to fill the air in the elegant ballroom. She still couldn't believe her Senior class had managed this, their Senior Prom in the ballroom of the Lovington Marriot and as she closed her eyes and allowed the beautiful piano music to take over the room she allowed herself to be transported. Right now she and Max were the only people in the room, gracefully gliding across the floor as Sarah Mchlachlan's 'Last Dance' played on. They weren't being seperated in two months, he wasn't going anywhere.
It had been an incredible year. And as she closed her eyes and rested her head against Max’s chest, feeling every breath he breathed in and out, feeling his hand rest so comfortably in the small of her back the memories of the year came flooding back to her. There had been the Senior Retreat. Together with Max, Michael, Alex, Isabelle and Maria they had been six of only thirty-five people who had chosen to spend the weekend camping rather than in sunny San Diego. Liz couldn't help the grin that spread across her face as she recalled the night Max had snuck into the tent she was supposed to share with Maria. Her wonderfully
loyal friend had climbed out of the tent thirty minutes after flashlights and lanterns were supposed to be out
and wandered about claiming to be looking for the restrooms. Pointing blindly into the forest and crying
that she had seen a coyote, Maria managed to distract the teacher on patrol long enough for Max to scurry out of the tent he shared with Michael, across the road and into Liz’s tent. She still got flushed recalling how he had burst into the tiny tent and flopped right on top of her in her sleeping bag. And she still couldn't help but chuckle each time she tried to picture Michael's face as Maria had described it when she had crawled into the tent and announced that she was sleeping there.
Then there had been Senior Cut Day, when all six of them had somehow piled into the jeep and trekked to a Six Flags in Arlington, Texas. She still had trouble figuring out how they had made it all the way to Arlington and back in one day and still managed to do so much. They had spent the entire day there, leaving only as the gates had closed behind them, arms full of souvenirs and pictures to remember the day. Liz still had the pictures she and Max had taken in the photobooth wedged in her mirror, and the stuffed toys he had won her at the game booths rested on her bureau. The day had been about the six of them though,
not about her and Max. She tried not to grow sad at the thought that 'the six of them' would be splitting up in a few months. It didn’t seem real, the fact that they were Seniors, the fact that they were graduating in a few days, the fact that they were going to college. None of it seemed real.
A shudder went through Liz's body at the thought and Max sensed it. His hand moved behind her head and he tenderly massaged the back of her neck as they continued to dance. She reveled at the feel of his strong and at the same time so delicate hands, looked up to him only for a brief moment then closed her eyes again as the memories of the year continued to spill over her.
Max had gotten his state championship. West Roswell's first ever. What a wild trip it had all been,
going all the way into March. She still could hear the stands erupt as Max sunk that incredible three point shot at the buzzer to launch the Comets into the State Final. She could still see the Truth or Consequences team, that had defeated them the past two years, fall to their knees as Max ended their season. She could still see Max and Kyle celebrating together at center court of the Pit, jumping up and down victoriously as if they were lifelong friends. The two of them both had remained on the court hours after the final seconds of that game ticked down and the celebration had ended. They sat at center court, realizing that their goal for the past three years had been achieved, and that their playing days at West Roswell had come to an end. And Max sat there and realized how paltry it all seemed in comparison to what he would be playing for next year. If he even had anything to play for next year.
Neither he nor Liz had discussed what life without the other would really be like. They didn't really talk about college at all. They each helped the other pick out their housing assignment and kidded around about the roommate from hell, but as far as actual life beyond high school, beyond each other they were silent. No sappy love song, no cheezy DJ, the wonderful dream night and the dancing came to and end with the simply music of a song aptly titled "Last Dance". Graduation was only days away, the departure of all her friends mere months. The real world and life outside of Roswell was quickly approaching her and the thought of it without Max almost made her heart cave in inside her chest. They danced on and on and Liz
never once lifted her head from Max’s chest. She didn't want him to see her crying.
Two months didn't seem enough. To Liz, two months to spend with your best friends before you all went your seperate ways across the country seemed like nothing. And it didn’t help the situation at all that Max was the first one to go.
She didn't mark the date down on her calendar, frankly she wanted to erase August tenth from her memory. She only had to hear the day once before it was embedded in her mind forever. August tenth, the day Max would leave her. The summer was much like the ones of years past, with Max dropping in the Crashdown twice a day, staying late to help her close up, all little things that Liz knew she would miss more than she could even think about. Dropping off Max's cherry coke and his tabasco, not to mention Michael's and Isabelle's, waitressing with Maria - God, she was going to be leaving her best friend. All summer long
she tried not to think about the weeks when they would all split up, when Alex would go to one side of the country and she would go to the other, when Michael and the DeLucas would head over to Tempe, Arizona. But that would all come later. Right now August tenth was only hours away.
She had been waiting tables all day, a decision she had made in an attempt to keep her mind off of the obvious. Taking orders and handing out food she hoped would somehow make everything easier, make the fact that this was her last night with Max a little more easy to bear. When he walked through the doors at seven thirty though, for what she knew would be the last time in a while, she knew nothing would make this easier.
He slid into the booth he had always chosen to occupy these past four years of high school, the booth that enabled him to always see her no matter where she was, without so much as a word to her. Just a glance, a look that spoke volumes to her. Liz stepped behind the counter and filled up a cherry coke and plopped it down in front of him. There were still people drifting in and out of the restaurant, but there were other employees there to take care of them. Tonight after all, would only come once.
"You all packed up?" Liz broke the silence between the two, bringing up the matter neither really wanted to discuss. She knew the answer, she had been helping Max pack all week long.
"Pretty much," Max emptied half the bottle of McIlhenny’s tabasco into his cherry coke. "You know, I uh -" he cleared his voice for a moment. "I keep worrying that the dining hall won’t have any tabasco sauce," Max tried his best to lighten the moment.
"Yeah, we'll have to send you a whole case of it," Liz tried to smile as well, but was ultimately unsucessful and silence prevailed. "You want anything from the kitchen?" she suddenly stood up. God, this wasn't how she wanted her last night with him to be.
"Um, no - I uh, I just ate actually.."
"You sure? Not even some dessert or something? Mrs. DeLuca just brought in a whole batch of pies - there’s coconut cream and key lime..." Liz wanted to slap herself, why on earth was she blathering on about pies on tonight of all nights?
"Maybe later," Max dismissed softly and he reached out for Liz's hand, indicating that he wanted her to stay there with him. Her lip began to tremble at the gesture. How could he leave her? How was she supposed to get along without him? He didn’t say anything, he just tugged at her arm and she sat back down in the booth across from him, their hands joined at the center of the table. They were both quiet and he tenderly ran his fingers across the top of her hand. God, his hands were like ice. "I don't know how I'm gonna do it," he suddenly mumbled, his eyes not once leaving her hand. A family of five, complete with
screaming children, walked through the Crahdown doors and a loud clatter sounded behind the counter, but that didn't even seem to matter to the two. Max’s eyes still focused on the top of her hand, that hand that would no longer lovingly caress over his body, the hand he would no longer be taking in his. "God, I'm so scared, Liz," he suddenly whispered, raising his forlorn eyes to her face. "I'm so scared." The comment surprised Liz more than anything. Of all of them, it was Max who seemed the most prepared for college, the one who seemed ready for it, his face right now was saying just the opposite though. She wanted to tell him not to be scared at the same time she wanted to tell him she was just as scared as he was. Her tongue
knotted in her mouth and instead of fumbling with words that would be lies, she opted for silence. She couldn't lie to him and tell him not to be scared, because how could he not be? And she couldn’t tell him the emotions running through her head because why make this any harder for either of them?
"Coconut cream?" Max suddenly cleared his throat.
"You said that um - that Maria’s mom brought in some coconut cream pie?" Liz nodded her head, confused by his sudden change, but Max’s mouth just raised slightly at the corners. "You know, I'll have a slice," he shrugged and his thumb so gently rubbed agains hers. They weren’t quite so cold anymore and the smile was clear now. She had wanted tonight to be something special, their last night, she wanted it to be different from every other night he had come into the Crashdown. Suddenly that no longer seemed like such a bad thing though and as she got to her feet to retrieve the slice she detected a brightness in Max's eyes as well, seeming to be thinking the same thing. "Two forks."
The college basketball season began in December, Liz didn't see why tryouts were in the middle of
August. She remembered how Max had so patiently explained to her that the season started in December, but practice and training went all year long. She still had trouble coming to terms with the fact that Max was going to be playing college basketball. Who would have thought that back in the tenth grade that those innocent pickup games with Archie and Kyle would turn into a collegiate career? Who would have thought that the shy and reserved boy who had tried so hard to blend into the background, would quite possibly be playing games on national television. Liz smiled when she thought about it all, about Max’s journey these past four years, about the man he was turning into.
A smile played across her lips as she turned her head to Max's dozing form. The two of them had fallen asleep in the couch in the back of the Crashdown watching television. Her parents hadn't seemed to mind however. In fact when Nancy Parker walked down the stairs that morning a tear had actually come to her eye at the sight. At Max and Liz tangled up on the tiny couch, at Liz crushed against his chest and his arms draped around her. Though Liz didn't let onto it, it didn't take very much to realize that this was killing her and that Liz was breaking inside a little more each day Max’s departure from Roswell drew
nearer. Even Nancy would miss the boy. She knew even her husband would. Because when Max left Roswell, so would a large piece of their daughter.
Seven o'clock Max had told Liz last night. Seven o'clock the Evans family was scheduled to drive across the country, the car loaded up with most of Max's possessions, South Bend, Indiana the only destination in mind. Seven o'clock the only All-American West Roswell had ever known would depart from his school and his town to move onto bigger things. Seven o'clock Maria DeLuca and Alex Whitman would bid goodbye to one of the most steadfast and loyal friends they had ever known. Seven o'clock Michael Guerin would lose the closest thing he had to family. Seven o'clock Liz Parker would watch the love of her life drive away. The clock on the wall read six thirty-two. Liz let him sleep.
The Evans lawn was crowded with all the faces of Roswell, those people who had become such important parts of his life who Max would soon leave behind as he and Liz arrived from the Crashdown. Their hands were linked together, faces somber and melancholy, knowing what impossible task stood before them. Good-bye.
His father was wedging a television into the stuffed backseat of the Chevy Tahoe and his mother tried to smile as she saw him. She knew the words she was about to say weren’t words Max or Liz wanted to hear.
"The car's all packed...you just have to grab your bookbag." They might as well have been a death sentence for the look on Max’s face.
"Yeah." The word came out a mixture between a sob and a whisper as Max’s hand broke apart from Liz’s and he trudged to the front door. The moment Liz had been dreading for weeks, for months, and unconsciously for years was rapidly approaching. How was she supposed to go about doing this? How?? the word just rung in her head. She looked around to the eight people gathered on the lawn.
Isabelle and her parents were waiting by the car; Michael, Maria and Alex were clumped together on the lawn; Kyle was aptly standing beneath the basketball hoop, fidgeting with a paper bag in his hands; and her parents were standing next to the Evans with a look of dread that was almost equivalent to Liz’s. When Max came plodding out the front foor, bookbag over his shoulder and the Notre Dame hat appropriately resting atop his head, there was hesitancy as to who was to say good-bye first. Alex bravely stepped
forward first, and Max made a crack to him about Malibu and California, ordering him to check the Pepperdine Men’s Basketball schedule for any visits from the Irish. Maria was not-surprisingly teary-eyed as she embraced Max and whispered a comment into his ear that caught him off guard.
"Thank you for the past three years," she managed to tell him, laughing at her own tears, embarassed by how emotional she was, but the comment made Max hug her a little tighter. A firm handshake from Mr. Parker and a sincere 'good-luck' told Max that the past between them was behind the man, and the same went for the hug and kiss on the cheek he received from Liz’s mother. Michael and Liz
were hanging in the back, trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible, when Kyle walked out from underneath the basketball hoop. Before either could say anything, Kyle presented the bag in his hands to Max. Max had been surprised at Kyle’s presence to begin with, to say the least, the gift was a shock. Letting the bag drop to the pavement, Max pulled out a flat rectangular shaped object, haphazardly wrapped in newspaper. Max looked to him curiously as he slowly peeled off the paper.
"I thought maybe you could put it up in your room," he offered sheepishly and Max was hit with a sadness he wouldn't have expected in saying good-bye to Kyle as he looked to the gift in his hands. It was a collage of newspaper clippings and articles tracking the incredible basketball season the two had captained. FINALLY! The large headline in the middle declared, accompanied with a picture of Max and Kyle triumphantly raising the State Trophy over their heads in a mass of frenzied Comets fans. Max’s eyes scanned over all the articles. Kyle must have gone through a good amount of trouble assembling this. There were articles from the preseason, articles that had seeded Roswell sixteenth in the state, that had declared
they wouldn’t get past the Regional Championship. Most were articles about their win in the finals though,
about how the ultimate victory had finally come for the two Seniors.
"Kyle, this is great..." Max mumbled in disbelief, running a hand across the glass Kyle had framed it in.
"Thought you might wanna...remember," the athlete mumbled, his voice trailing off at the end.
"Kyle, that was so nice of you," Mrs. Evans stepped forward to look at the carefully arranged collage and Kyle just shrugged.
"I'll keep my eyes out for you, Evans," Kyle slapped Max five in an action and statement that symbolized so much more. Mr. Evans glanced down at his watch, which already read 7:10, but he kept his mouth shut as he
watched his son slowly walk over to Michael, who was now practically hiding behind his daughter.
This was going to be harder for him than it probably would be for Max. In the twelve years they had known each other Max had been the only brother Michael had ever known. He wanted to thank Max like Maria had done moments ago. Thank Max for putting up with him, thank Max for introducing him to a world and a life he would have otherwise never entered.
"Try not to piss too many people off, Maxwell." Was all Michael could utter to him and Max nodded his head with a tiny smile.
"You too." He glanced over to Maria and grinned. "You take care of her."
"Yeah," Michael managed to laugh, turning his shoulder to back away from Max his eyes cast downwards so no one could see just how hard this really was on him.
"Take care of yourself," his voice cracked unusually with emotion and Max nodded his head. He wanted to say something to lighten the mood, especially because he knew what was coming, but at this point he could hardly even form words anymore. Michael had turned around and his eyes were fixed on the cracks in the pavement, embarassed at
how choked up he had gotten. That had been hard enough for Max and he swallowed the lump rising in his throat as he turned towards Liz.
They slowly stepped towards each other and for moments didn't even say anything. Mr. Evans hated to be bothersome, and he was aware of how difficult this was going to be for his son, but he shouted out a warning to his son. They were already fifteen minutes behind schedule.
I didn't hear you leave. I wonder how am I still here
"You call me when you get there," Liz's voice was raspy and hoarse as she straightened out a button on his jacket and Max just nodded his head slowly.
"I'll call you tonight," he assured and paused as Liz saw him bite his lip, seeming to be holding back the emotions threatening to spill over. "I'll write, Liz," he whispered. "All the time." The words seemed too fake to her and all she could do was nod. Letters and phone calls. God, this was really happening.
And I don't want to move a thing...it might change my memory
He knew his family was waiting on him, he knew they couldn't get too behind schedule, but Max didn't know how to go about doing this. How to go about saying good-bye to the person that got him out of bed in the morning. That had gotten him out of bed for the past twelve years. Max’s last words were ringing in his ears and he awkwardly picked the by now faded and tattered Notre Dame hat off of his head
and plopped it onto Liz’s.
"Max, no," Liz shook her head, pulling the hat off her head, but Max put his finger to her lips and pressed the hat to her chest.
Oh, I am what I am
I'll do what I want
But I can't hide
"Take it," he murmured softly and standing there, both realizing that they only had a matter of minutes left together, Liz threw her arms around Max's neck and his arms enveloped her. And gripping him so tightly, Liz did something she hadn't done in the ten months that she had known Max would be leaving. With her face buried into his shoulder, she begged him not to go.
And all Max could do was stand there and listen to her desperate and muffled cries.
"Don't go, Max. Please, don't go. Please stay, don't go," she pleaded like a child, her arms holding him so tightly. It was the only thing she had left to do. She had been holding onto that for so long, not once had she asked Max to stay or to reconsider his options. Mainly because he couldn’t, because the moment he had sent away his Early Decision application he had committed to Notre Dame, but she didn't know what else to do. Max gently smoothed her hair down, Liz continued to beg for him not to go, Mrs. Evans and Parker covered their faces with their hands and Maria began to cry at the raw display of emotion.
And I won't go, I won't sleep. I can't breathe
Until you're resting here with me
"I have to, Liz," he mumbled quietly.
"No, Max. Please," she murmured into his shoulder. "Please, stay," she knew that begging him like
this was childish , but she couldn't help herself.
"Liz," he rocked her body away from his for a moment and moved a hand up to softly brush her cheek.
"Don't go, Max," she whispered desperately one last time and he was wondering where he had summoned this strength inside of him that allowed him to look like he was so okay with this. Like this wasn't breaking him.
And I won't leave, I can't hide.
I cannot be, until you're resting here with me.
"I love you." He said the words that took no courage at all, the words that so naturally rolled off
"I love you," she murmured back as he lowered his head and tenderly brushed her lips with his. Not one of the eight people standing in the Evans driveway turned their head away. Not even Kyle. Max was slow and deliberate, wanting to memorize every thing about her and about the way she kissed him, the way she tasted, the way her mouth molded against his. He wanted to commit to memory exactly how her face felt in his hands, how her skin seemed to burn at his touch, how he could always feel a shiver run through his body when he did touch her. He toyed with a tendril of her silken hair, wanting to memorize the feel of that too, wanting to recall exactly how it felt when he buried his face into that hair. He wanted to memorize how it felt to hold her so tightly in his arms it felt like if he let go one of them was sure to die.
And somewhere along the line he knew he couldn't release her from his arms and neither could she. Somehow he did though. Somehow he took a step back towards the Tahoe that Isabelle had already boarded from the other side. Somehow he crawled into the car. Liz opened up her mouth to shout to him, but all she could do was murmur his name one last time as he took his seat behind the closed door. This was really happening.
And I won't go, I won't sleep. I can't breathe
Until you're resting here with me
"Max," she took a futile step towards him as the car pulled out of the driveway. She stumbled down the driveway after it and stood in the middle of Murray Lane with his Notre Dame hat in her hands. She called out his name again, to no one in particular. Somehow he managed not to look back.
And I won't go, and I won't sleep, and I can't breathe until you're resting here with me.