posted on 15-Sep-2001 11:43:08 AM
Title: There’s Only Us (Rent Adaptation)
Category: M/L AU(and a little CC) Don't worry, they will get together. I
promise.
Author: Teddybehr783
email: teddybehr2001⊕yahoo.com
Summary: Max and the gang are a bunch of artists in NY dealing with issues
in the late '90s. Loosely based on the Musical Rent. No aliens.
Rating: R for Language/Content
Disclaimer: Don't own Roswell or Rent. If you would like more info about
Rent, its a wonderful musical written by the late Jonathon Larson.
Author’s Note: This is only my second fic. So please, be gentle. I LOVE
feedback, lol so if you have any and any at all please post it. Thanks! On
to the first part. It is kind of short, but I wanted to test it out to see
what people thought of it.

THERE’S ONLY US

It was Christmas time again. Max hated Christmas time. All the cheery songs,
the love, it made him sick. It made him feel guilty. It had been a year and
he still couldn’t get over it. He could barely eat and barely sleep. He just
kept on getting that flash in his mind of that day.

“Max, you coming?” Michael yelled as he grabbed his video camera and headed
out for the New York Street.
“No.” He looked down at the guitar clutched in his hands. He’d had writer’s
block for a year also. Considering all he went through, you would think the
words would just be piling onto pages. Max couldn’t write because he felt
empty. He didn’t have anything to say. “Why don’t you zoom in on my empty
wallet?” He never missed out on his chance at sarcasm though.
“You’re fucking ridiculous,” Michael said as he rolled his eyes. “You need
to get out of this apartment. You’re using that as an excuse and you know
it.”
“I’m not going.” Max looked over at the picture on the table and then bought
his dead stare back to Michael’s eyes. Max had extremely expressive eyes,
and when they showed nothing at all except extreme loneliness and despair,
they were even more effective.
“You can’t keep blaming yourself.”
“I have no one to blame but myself. Tell Maria I’m sorry I missed her
performance.”
“Whatever.”

Then the door shut. Silence. Max loved silence. He didn’t have to deal with
people asking him how he was doing or convincing him to leave the house. He
could wallow in his own self-pity. He could blame himself as much as he
wanted and no one would tell him to stop. He strummed his fingers along the
guitar and threw it on the mattress in frustration. He covered his face with
his hands, trying to massage the tears away from his cheeks. His life seemed
pointless, meaningless. He just wished he had something to prove himself. He
just needed to be able to write again. To write music, it was his passion
and ever since that one day, everything had just died. Including him. He
looked over at the picture again at the thought of death.

He had gotten home early that afternoon from a practice with his band. He
was the lead singer and he decided he wanted to end practice early to
surprise her with wildflowers. She loved wildflowers. They reminded him of
her name. He bought the bouquet of flowers and headed back to the apartment.
He called out her name, no answer. He smiled to himself thinking she must be
asleep. He walked into the bedroom to find it empty. And then the bathroom
door was open. A tiny note was slipped under the crack.

Max, I got tested. We have HIV…

The note looked like it wasn’t finished, the letters became erratic and the
handwriting almost illegible. It was wet, probably from tears. And the drops
of blood…

Max slowly opened the door to find April lying on the ground with slit
wrists. Her brown hair spread across the white tile. He dropped the
wildflowers to the ground, the wonderful array of colors being soaked with
blood. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t think.

He opened his eyes to find his apartment pitch black. The power must have
gone out. Either that or they didn’t have enough money to pay the bill.
Michael was his roommate and neither of them made much of a living. All they
really had was mattresses, a table, an old cruddy bathtub, a phone/answering
machine, hot pot, dirty refrigerator, and a rusty sink. So not being able to
pay the bill wasn’t surprising. He didn’t mind though, it allowed for some
self-reflection. Plus, a selfish person like him didn’t deserve to see.

Darkness and silence, his two best friends.

Knock.

‘Crap, of course that didn’t last long.’ Max thought to himself.

Knock. Knock.

“What did you forget now Michael?” he said as he opened the door. He was
frustrated and his tone of voice showed it. And when he actually opened it,
for the first time in a long time he stood there, in awe.


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

PART TWO

“What did you forget now Michael?”

“Got a light?” Liz said as she stared at the gorgeous guy in front of her.
She was wearing fish net stalkings, a short leather skirt, and a blue shirt.
She liked to live on the wild side. She lived in the moment, and she didn’t
let anyone stop her. That included her wardrobe.
Max opened the door and held it in his hand for a second. Something about
this girl was familiar to him. Maybe it was the way her long brown hair
cascaded to her shoulders or her infinite chocolate eyes. He couldn’t place
his finger on it.

“I know you…you’re shivering.” He managed to blurt out as he still held the
door.

“Oh its nothing they just turned off my heat. Would you light my candle?”
she said as held up the candle in her hands. Another long pause and then she
said confused, “What are you staring at?”

“Nothing…your hair in the moonlight…you look familiar.” His voice was
incredibly soft. She was about to melt. “Can you make it?” He said as she
watched her try to walk into the apartment.

“It’s ok. I just haven’t eaten much today and at least the room stopped
spinning,” she said with a little nervous laugh and then a smile. She looked
at him again, and he was staring. She gulped.
“What?” She had been with plenty of men before, but she had never seen a guy
with eyes like that. Eyes that she could swear could see right into her. It
made her uneasy.

“Nothing, your smile just reminded me of…” He looked away and lowered his
head as his voice trailed off.

“I always remind people of someone. Who is she?” She said as she leaned up
against his table.

“She died. Her name was April.” He said it in barely a whisper and his voice
quivered. She could tell it was a soft spot. She decided to change the
subject. She bought the candle to her mouth and blew it out.

“The candle’s out again. I’m sorry to hear about April. She must have meant
a lot to you.” She held up the candle once more for him to light it.

He did. It was nice to feel the heat in her hands and the heat of his hands
surrounding hers.

“Ow.” She said as she flinched when the wax dripped down to her hands.

“Oh the wax…” he said and was surprised when she finished his sentence.

“It’s dripping. I like it between my…” she said. A smile crept on her lips,
as she was about to finish her sentence. The sexual tension in the room was
really thick. Max just stood there, staring down at her hair, and her eyes,
her creamy skin.

“Fingers.” Another long pause, she looked up at him. “I figured.” He
finished and let out a breath. They stood there staring at each other for a
moment and something was definitely different about her. April couldn’t
leave his mind. He kept on thinking he was betraying April. “Oh well good
night,” he said as he withdrew his hands and looked away.

“Good night,” Liz said softly as she made her way to the door, turned around
and knocked again.

“It blew out again?” Max said as he opened the door.

“No I think I dropped my stash.” Liz began to look everywhere in his
apartment, searching for it.

“You know, I’ve seen you around.” He wasn’t sure if she heard him or was
even paying attention. “When I used to go out.” He pointed to her candle
“Your candle is out again.”

“I can’t believe this! I had it when I walked in. Is it on the floor?” She
was on her knees, leaning under the table to look for it. And as much as Max
wanted to, he couldn’t keep his eyes away.

“The Floor?” He said, trying to sound like he was still partaking in the
conversation in a nonchalant way.

Liz noticed his distraction and began to play along.

“You know, they say I have the best ass below 14th street. Is it true?” She
tried to hide the smile on her lips and didn’t look at him.

“What?” he said with a nervous laugh. She flipped back her hair over her
shoulder and looked at him, still in the same position. He tried to move his
eyes away, but too late, she noticed.

“You’re staring again.”

“Oh…I mean you have a nice…You look familiar.” Max tried not to sound like a
babbling idiot but that’s what he came off as. She smiled.

“Like your old girlfriend, April.” She finished her sentence. She moved over
to his side of the table where he was standing and leaned up against it
again, supporting her back with her hands.

“Only when you smile, but I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere else…” He looked
at her again; he let out another tiny smile. He hadn’t done that in so long.
He hadn’t felt anything in so long. He felt numb and the walls were just too
high surrounding him. For once in a year, he felt like they might just be
crumbling ever so slightly and it didn’t feel so bad.

“Do you go to the Cat Scratch Club? That’s where I work, I dance.” Liz had
wanted to be a dancer for as long as she remembered but she wasn’t into any
formal type of training. She just liked to have the rhythm take over her
body. She wasn’t a stripper, but the Cat Scratch Club was more risqué than
most dance establishments, so she had interesting costumes and props. The
owner convinced her that the only way to sell it was to sell it with sex.
She didn’t really care, as long as she didn’t have to be completely naked on
stage and she got to dance. The most she would go was a skimpy costume, but
that was about it. It was also a way to pay the bills. She saw the look in
his eye and immediately tried to change the subject. “Hey, help me look for
it…” She said as she pushed herself away from the table and started looking
for it again.

“Yes! They used to tie you up…” Max said.

“It’s a living.” She said as she darted her eyes up to his as she tried to
look.

“I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs,” Max said with a laugh as he
crossed his arms above his head. Was it true? Could it be? Was Max Evans
really laughing? He noticed she was still looking. “You know you really
should forget that stuff, you look like you're 16.”

“I’m 19. I’m older for my age. I’m just born to be bad.”

“I once was born to bad.” Max said. It was true. He was probably worse than
she was with all the drugs. He thought it went with the life of the front
man. All it ended up was giving him and April HIV. “I used to shiver like
that.”

Liz couldn’t look him in the eye. She looked off into space, and crossed her
arms, rubbing them to keep her warm. “I have no heat, I told you…”

“I used to sweat…” He moved in closer.

“I got a cold.”

He moved in even closer. Now they were centimeters apart, his amber eyes
staring into hers.
“Uh huh I used to be a junkie.” He said.

“Well now and then I like to…feel good.” Liz responded.

Max looked away and noticed the tiny plastic bag of powder on the floor. He
turned around and said “Here it um…”

“What’s that?” Liz said. His body was covering her view. Before she was able
to see, he kicked the package away. He wasn’t going to let it hurt her life
like it hurt his.

“Nothing, just a candy bar wrapper,” he lied as he dug his hands in his
pockets.

She peered again at her candle. It wasn’t lit. “Hey, can you light my candle
again?”

Max looked down at his pack of matches. He looked defeated. “That was my
last match.”

“Our eyes will adjust. Thank god for the moon,” she said as she turned to
look at the window.

“Maybe it’s not the moon at all. I hear Spike Lee is shooting down the
street…” Max let out another sarcastic remark.

She turned around to look at him, put her hands on her hips and raised her
eyebrow a little. “Bah Humbug to you too.” She walked over to where he was
sitting on top of the old table. She put her hands on the table and without
even noticing, covered his with hers.

“Cold hands.” He said softly.

“Yours too.” She said as she turned to look at him and then looked down at
their hands. His hands were clutching the table really tight. He was in his
20s and he felt like a scared little boy.

She grabbed his hand. “Do you want to dance?”

“With you?” He was so surprised she even asked to dance with a guy like him.
He didn’t deserve to be asked.

“Yeah, with me.” She said with a smile and grabbed the other hand. He hopped
down from the table.

They didn’t have music, and they didn’t have to. As she put her arms around
his shoulders and moved in closer, she looked up into his eyes and he looked
down into hers.

“I’m Max.” He said.
“You can call me Liz.”

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


PART 3

It felt like eternity having her in his arms. They danced for hours. Then,
he stopped. He backed off and he pushed her away. He told her he was tired.
But he knew all too well that she reminded him too much of April. Of all the
memories of what could have been, of all that he was responsible for. It's
not that he wanted to forget it all, he would never allow himself to do
that, it was just the fact that her smile...it made him feel. He didn't want
to feel. He enjoyed it but that was why he didn't want it. He had been
wandering along the depths of despair and self-loathing for so long that was
all he knew. He still couldn't forgive himself for April's death. He knew
being H.I.V. positive was not even close to the punishment he deserved for
his carelessness. He didn't deserve happiness.

The door shut and Max turned his attention back to the corner he was staring
at. He had posters, ads for some gigs for his band at the local club. What a
fucking joke. He couldn't even write a chord for a song.

"Hey, how was Maria's show at the lot tonight?" Max said, not moving his
head or wavering the solemn tone in his voice.

"Well, Kyle the grade A asshole of course stopped it before she really got
her point across." Michael said as he set his camera down.

Kyle Valenti had been friends with Max and Michael. They all used to live
together, along with Alex and Maria, in a big apartment. Kyle went off and
married Tess Harding, giving him a big estate and ownership of their
building. Their friendship slowly diminished when Kyle only cared about
getting money out of them. He was going to knock down the building next door
where all the homeless congregated. Max found it funny. Now that he was
asking for last year's rent that he had already told them they didn't have
to pay and that it was taken care of, they would be right along with the
homeless in the next building and their dear friend Kyle would be leaving
them with nothing.

Talk about friendship.

The phone rang. Max and Michael screened the call. Max and Michael always
screened the call.

“SPEAK.” They said in unison on the answering machine message.

“Hey guys, its Alex…” Michael quickly picked up the phone.

Alex had gone off to M.I.T. to teach computer technology. He had innovative
ideas of his own, project A.I.D.S. awareness in a whole new light. Of course
they didn’t agree, so he was back in NY now teaching for NYU.

“We definitely have to plan to do something tonight,” Alex said on the pay
phone. “Wait…don’t…please…” Click.

“What was that?” Max looked at Michael questioningly.

“I don’t know. I’m going to go out to look for him. I’ll be back.”

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

Liz stood in front of her mirror and traced the black eyeliner, put on some
lipstick and her leather mini skirt and was ready to go out. She couldn’t
sit around any more. She had to go see Max. She looked at her watch. It was
close to midnight. She was craving danger.

She was always searching for adventure. She said life was too quick to sit
down and watch it flash by you. She hated to sit around. She wanted to get
rid of all the scars, the scars of all the ‘nevers’ and ‘maybes’ of the
world. She liked to never know what was going to happen next, have you on
the edge of your seat. Money was never an issue. Nothing was ever an issue,
she always found a way around it. She’s the type of girl that would flirt
with a complete stranger, cause fights, or do something illegal just for the
thrill of it. She was spontaneous and she felt free. She looked down and
spotted the heroine needle. She figured she just needed one hit before she
went. It was ritual.

She looked at her reflection again, toying with her just curled hair and
diving neckline of her shirt. She smiled. She was ready. She eyed Max as a
challenge. He was different. Most guys would just go along with the flow as
long as there was some sex involved. But he was different. She could tell he
had been burned. Now she was ready to help heal him. He was sweet. She
wanted to turn him into a devil. She wanted to show him all of what life had
to offer instead of him moping around his room all the time. With that,
determination in her spirit, and confidence in her stride, she walked
upstairs to his apartment.


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

Knock. Knock.

“Come in,” Max said as he dried his wet hair with his towel. He was wearing
some worn pants and was shirtless. He figured it was Michael with Alex, or
Maria coming to bitch about the outcome of her performance.

To his surprise, it was Liz.

“Liz…uh…what are you doing here?” Thinking she found out about how he tried
to hide her stash, he was a little nervous about her being there. No, that
wasn’t it. The fact that he was shirtless and she was dressed to kill made
him nervous. The fact that his heart skipped a beat when she shut the door
made him nervous. The fact that he could feel the smile almost tugging at
his lips made him nervous.

What happened to taking responsibility for what happened?
What happened to withdrawal?
What happened to depression?
What happened to Max Evans?

“Max, I came by because you are going to take me out tonight…” She said as
she climbed on the table and began to crawl slowly over to him.

He sat at the chair on the other end of the table, too stunned to move. She
moved like a cat. So much grace and it looked as if she was zeroing on her
prey. When she reached his chair, she cupped his face with her hands and
placed a passionate kiss on his lips.

Catching him by surprise and his mouth was open, she ravished his mouth was
hers, darting her tongue into his mouth. The kiss showed so much hunger, so
much want. Almost forced. He began to raise his hands to grab onto her and
pull her on top of him, to enjoy this moment because ever since he laid eyes
on her he wanted to kiss her. But then, realization hit home. He didn't want
it like this, so fake. He didn't want this at all. He wasn't ready. What was
he doing? What was she doing? Who did she think she is? She began to run her
hands along his chest and down his stomach…and lower…and lower…

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. She deserved more than this, more
than him, more than a cruddy chair in a cold one room flat.

Finally as she made the top of his pants, he pushed her off of him. She
looked astonished. He was pissed.

“Who the hell do you think you are, coming in here?"

Long pause.

"Leave, just leave. Take your drugs with you. I don’t have time to
baby-sit.” Max got off the chair quickly and turned away from her, his hands
on his hips trying not to look at her. Her brown hair in the moonlight, her
silhouette were just too much for him. He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t even
look her in the face.

“Max, look I know you’ve been hurt but you can’t hold on to that forever.
You can’t blame yourself for what happened with April.” It just slipped from
her mouth. It was only after she said it did she realize she crossed the
line.

“You don’t know shit about me and April.” He moved farther away. And he
looked to the side, still not looking at her.

“If you keep living in the past, you are never going to be able to live your
life. Right now, there’s only us, Max.”

“There’s only us? There’s only us?” Max gave a cynical laugh. “Open your
eyes, Liz. Open your fucking eyes. You can’t just do whatever you want.
Things have consequences. LIFE HAS CONSEQUENCES. You affect people’s lives.
You can’t go around thinking you are the only thing that matters. If you
want to go out, come back another time because frankly, I can’t deal with
this right now.”

“This is your one chance, I’m not coming back.”

“Fine, don’t.”

“I can’t believe you. You’re acting fucking ridiculous.”

“Have you and Michael been comparing notes? I’ve been hearing that phrase
way too much lately.”

“What happened to the talking and dancing for hours? I thought I got to know
you, I guess I was wrong. Life is short, and I’m not going to spend it doing
something I regret.”

“Fine, then what the hell do you need Smack for? Huh? Talk about living
life, why not preserving it? Don’t fucking lecture me, because you are just
a little girl acting too old for her age.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, but at least I’ll live my life
knowing I lived it to the fullest. That I did what I wanted, that I enjoyed
it. That I felt something!”

“You call letting guys grope you feeling something?”

“You don’t know shit about me.”

“Then don’t tell me you know shit about me.” His voice wavered, he was
fighting back the tears now. “Just come back another day. Please.” Now he
was pleading with her. He was asking her to, he was begging her to.

“Don’t you see Max, there is no day but today. I am not coming back. I am
not going to sit around and wait.”

“Then don’t.” he said as he raked his hand through his spiky raven hair.

She walked up to him from behind.

“Max, please just give me a chance, give us a chance. Open up. You don’t
have to hide from me. You aren’t going to hurt me. I'm not going to leave
you. I promise.”

She touched his shoulder, and gave him a gentle kiss along the taut muscles
of his exposed back as she pleaded softly. He flinched and moved away.

“Just go.”

Click Click Click…her heels hit the cold floor.

Slam.

The door closed.

Now he felt like he lost more than April. That he lost more than his
happiness. That he lost more than his health and his life. He lost more than
his ability to write music. He felt like he lost everything. And that scared
him to death. Because never, not even with April, did he ever feel like she
was his everything.


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


PART 4

“You Ok?”

Alex was slumped against the telephone booth, his clothes in shambles and
body filled with fresh bruises from the mugging he just encountered. He
looked up to see a gorgeous blond standing in front of him, almost as if she
was a supermodel.

“’fraid So.” He tried to pick himself off the ground but was too weak to do
so.

‘Hell, it’s Christmas Eve.’ Isabel thought.

“Here, let me help you…” She said as she helped him up and supported him on
her shoulder.

“My maiden in shining armor,” he said as he finally got balance once he took
support on her. He wasn’t sure if he was weak in the knees because they were
beaten with the bat or the fact that he was holding on to such a beautiful
girl.

“They get any money?” She looked at him.

His newly bruised black eyes looked back at her and said quietly. “Had none
to get. But they took my coat. Hey! You missed a sleeve!” He screamed as he
raised his arm to find only the shred of a sleeve left on it.

“I’m Isabel.”

“Alex,” he replied.

“I’ll get a bandage for your knee, but I have a life support meeting first.”
Alex gave her a look. As if he was asking something. She knew exactly what
he was debating.
“Yes, this body provides a comfortable home for the Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome. I treat it well.” She laughed.
“As does mine.”
“Aren’t we a match made in heaven?” She continued. “I’ll buy you a coat.
We’ll go to the meeting. We’ll make a night of it. What do you say?”
“But my friends are waiting for me,” Alex replied with a slight flush on his
cheeks.
“You’re cute when you blush.” She said. “The more the merrier…and I won’t
take no for an answer.”
Alex gulped as she grabbed his hand and led him off.

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

“I can’t believe this,” Mike said into his own video camera. “Her equipment
breaks down and she calls me, after she fired me from being her production
manager to go fix it. Typical Maria. Why doesn’t she call that guy Brody to
fix it for her? Oh right, I forgot, she needs it for her protest.” He shut
off his camera and headed into her apartment.

He shivered. It was cold. Damn…even his apartment was warmer than this. Note
to self: Remind Maria to get an illegal wood burning stove.

“Hi,” Mike said as he set his stuff down and stood next to her. She was
toying with the microphone and he was leaning against the amp.

“Oh, hi.” She said as she narrowed her eyes and turned back towards the
microphone.

“So what’s the problem?” Mike asked, crossing his arms. She did look
absolutely adorable when she was stubborn and frustrated, and the way her
eyebrows furrowed and she made that expression. But he didn’t let his
amusement show. He just put on this cold, isolated, I-don’t-care façade.

“I don’t need you. I called an engineer, thank-ya-very-much.” Maria stepped
down from her little stage she had set up and moved away to take a swig of
her water bottle.

“Ok then…” Mike grabbed his video camera and was about to head out.

“Wait…he’s three hours late.” Mike hid the smile as he turned back around.
“The samples won’t delay, but the cable…” She continued as she let out a big
sigh.

“There’s another way,” he said as he crouched down to look at it. “Say
something, anything…” he pointed to the microphone. She stepped up. She took
a deep breath. Why was she so nervous? She was with Brody now. What happened
with her and Mike was so incredibly over. Or was it?

“Test 1…2…3…”
“Anything but that.”
“This is weird.”
“Yeah, fucking weird is more like it.”
“Figures I would get stuck in a situation like this with you of all people.”
“You could have called Brody? You know, your new production manager with
that soooo cute British accent of his,” Mike said mocking how Maria would
talk about him.
“Shutup.”
“So how long are you going to wait before you cheat on him too?”
“I said SHUTUP.”
“You are never going to commit and you never will. You are going to end up
alone because no one is going to be able to put up with your egotistical
bullshit.”
“I said SHUTUP.”
“Broken record much?”
“Showing a little animosity much?”
“G-d, I can’t stand you!” He said as he got up on the stage and yelled in
her face.
“Well I HATE YOU TOO!”
Right then, Mike couldn’t contain himself. He grabbed her hips and crushed
her body into hers giving her a passionate kiss. Maria lost her balance at
his touch and knocked over the microphone, making it screech loudly and
echoing the thud throughout the room. They stopped and looked down.
“Well I guess it’s fixed,” Mike said. Maria giggled.
Then they looked at each other and grew silent. What was to be of them now?

************************* The next day…*************



Liz slammed the door as she headed her way back in. Oh, she was so mad. No
mad wasn’t even the word. She was furious. She headed around her apartment,
throwing things to the side looking for her smack. She needed it in times
like this. Where she could forget everything that was going shitty with her
life and just relax. Ignore, deny. Sure it was the easy way out, but she
didn’t care. She just didn’t want to feel like crap anymore. She didn’t want
to deal with anything. She could escape, she could do anything.

“Damn it, I’m out. That prick. Probably took my stash too,” she said as she
stuffed some new cash she had made the other night into her tiny pocket and
headed out to the park.

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

“I still can’t believe we got you out of the house Max, are you feelin
alright?” Alex said as he was talking to Max and Mike. Isabel was with them.
Max and Mike had been a little surprised when they met Isabel, being she was
so sophisticated and Alex…well…was not. He was such a dorky goof. But oh
well, maybe opposites attract.

“Asshole alert 2 o’clock,” Mike said as Kyle approached them.

“Hey guys.” Kyle said in his new suit. “Look, I have a proposal for you.”

“What type of proposal?” Max looked at him with squinted eyes.

“How would you like your rent for free, you are completely off the hook?"

“What’s the catch?” Mike asked.

“I need you to convince Maria to stop her protest. Hey Bum…get AWAY from my
car!” Kyle yelled as he ran over to the homeless man and pushed him away
from his car.

“That’s EXACTLY what Maria is protesting tonight, if you haven’t noticed:
Mistreatment of the homeless. And you intend to knock down their only
sanctuary left in the area. Nice Kyle, real nice.” Max said.

“I’ll give you a penthouse interactive studio in the new Cyber Arts complex
when it's constructed, for free.”

“Why don’t you just get an injunction or call the cops?” Mike asked.

Alex and Isabel stood there silent.

“I did, and they are on standby. My investors would rather I handle this
quietly.”

“Don’t you fucking get it Kyle? You can't quietly wipe out an entire tent
city, and then watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' on TV! G-d, could you be more
selfish and greedy?”

“To be successful you HAVE to be greedy. You want to write songs and produce
films; you need somewhere to do it. You see it my way, or you pack.”

“Is this guy insane?” Isabel asked. “He could use some life support meeting
himself.” She said cynically.

“Which reminds me, anyone who wants to can join Isabel and me. We’re heading
to the meeting tonight.”

“You don’t have to stay too long, if you don’t want…” Isabel said as she
looked at them.

“First, I’ve got a protest to save,” Mike said as he ran off.

“Max?” Isabel turned to him.

“I’m not much company, you’ll find.”
“Max!” Alex interjected.
“He’ll catch up later, he’s just got other things on his mind. See you later
Max,” Isabel said as she grabbed Alex’s hand.

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

Max still sat on the empty bench staring at his empty note pad and guitar in
hand. He had taken it out with him when he went walking, hopefully to get
some inspiration. He had been sitting there for hours since Mike had left to
talk to Maria.

“Any luck?” he looked up to find Mike standing over him, looking at him
concerned and curious.

“Nope. Did you talk to Maria?”

“Yeah, protest is still on.”

“Good.”

“You’re coming right?”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“What’s wrong with you? No fighting me on this. Something’s up, what is it?”

“I met this girl. Liz.”

“Ah. Now I see where this is going.”

“She knocked on our door asking me to light a candle for her. We ended up
dancing for hours. I told her all about April. I’m such a fucking selfish
person. I talk about the girl I basically helped commit suicide with a new
girl I want to hit on. I’m a real hero.”

“Max, for the last time, what happened with April is NOT YOUR FAULT.”

Max looked away.

“So then what happened?” Mike asked.

“She came back later. She kissed me. She told me she wanted me to take her
out tonight. I yelled at her. I screamed at her. I blew up at her. I don’t
know why, she seemed sweet. It’s just that…I got mad and I had to get her
out of my sight.”

“Max, don’t you see? She’s the one that got you out.”

“Let’s just go eat, I don’t want to think about this anymore.” Max got up
from the bench. He turned when he saw Liz. “Oh my god, that’s her. Liz…over
there,” he pointed across the park.

“Whoa.” Was Mike’s initial reaction. “Go talk to her!”

“I don’t know if I should.”

“Max, just do it,” he said as he pushed him.

“You got any blow?” Liz whispered to the drug dealer. He nodded. She looked
around. As she was about to hand him the money and take it…

“Hey.” She heard from behind her.

She turned around and saw it was Max. “Oh, hey.”

“I just want to say I’m sorry that…”

“Just forget it, its over…” She walked away from the drug dealer and past
Max.

“…I blew up at you like that. Can I make it up to you?”

She turned around “How?”

“My friend Maria has a protest and then we’re going out to dinner after. How
about that?”

“That’s fine.”

“HEY!” the drug dealer ran up to him. Stuck his hand in the pocket of his
zippered hooded sweatshirt and pointed the pocket at Max. “You steal my
client, you die!”

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

PART FIVE

“Go ahead. Shoot. Shoot me.” Max said as he stepped in front of Liz. “Shoot
me in front of all these people in a park in daylight. Go ahead, I dare
you…” he said with clenched teeth.

The drug dealer looked at him astonished. But Max didn’t stop. He just let
it all out.

“It’s not like my life has any point to it anyway. It’s not like its worth
anything. It’s not like you’ve missed me or that you don’t have enough
people to sell your shit to. Do it, save me the favor of slitting my own
wrists and kill me right here. I’m not scared. Do it. DO IT!”

The drug dealer turned around to walk away.

“Yeah that’s what I thought. Fuckin’ Chicken!” He turned around and Liz was
looking him like he either had five heads or with great concern. Liz knew
there was more to what he was saying than to get the drug dealer off his
back. They both knew the drug dealer didn’t have a gun on him. It was just
an empty threat. But why did Max take it so far? Did he really mean all the
things he said? If he did, Liz didn’t realize how hard Max had taken
everything.

“Max…”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just drop it.”

“But--”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”

Max tightened his grip on his guitar and his knuckles turned white.

“So, are you going to introduce us or what?” Mike said as he came up with
his video camera.
“Liz…this is Mike, Mike, Liz…”
“Hi…” she said as she took his hand.
“Well I’m off,” Mike said and he left the two of them there in the park. He
had to go to a life support meeting, considering he had missed it the night
before.

Meanwhile, Isabel was walking along the streets with Alex trying to find him
a new coat before the meeting.

“Really you don’t have to do this…” Alex said.
“No, not this one, too dirty…hmmm…can I see that one?” Isabel spoke to the
vender.
“I mean it, this is really uncalled for. I don’t think I deserve you, Is.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said as she slapped his hand. “My father always told
me that ‘today for you, tomorrow for me.’ It never hurts to help someone in
need. Plus, helping with your fashion sense is highly needed. Oh that one!
That trench coat would look perfect on you!”

Isabel pushed Alex aside and nearly went running for the coat.

“Hey that’s my coat!” Alex screamed as he yelled after her. “It’s ruined.
I’ll take the leather one instead.”

Isabel nodded in agreement at Alex’s good choice. She looked up and smiled.
“Hey, it’s beginning to snow.”

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

“So….” Max’s voice trailed off and he dug his hands in his pockets.
“So…this protest, your friend Maria is putting on for the lot.”
“Yup.”
“Interesting…” she said as she nodded her head. There was a long pause.
She saw some flakes drop on top of the spikes of Max’s dark hair. His hair
was short, but just a little spiky. It looked amazing with snow in it. It
softened his features.
“Max…I think its snowing…” she said as she looked up with a smile.
“Yes, I suppose it is…” he said in agreement and smiled himself as he looked
up at the crystal blue sky.

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

“Tessie, honey buns, wish me luck the protest is on,” Kyle said into his
cell phone. “What? Which investor is coming? YOUR FATHER? Fuck! It’s
starting to snow I got to go…”

******************** *********************
“Ok, I would like each of you to go around the room and say your names,”
Paul said to the group.

“Steve.”
“Courtney.”
“Diane.”
“Sue.”
“Alex.”
“Isabel.”

“I’m Paul, let’s begin. Let’s read the excerpt from our sheets.”

They all said in unison, “There’s only us. There’s only this.”

“Pardon, excuse me, oops.” Mike said as he tried to make his way to the
empty seat next to Alex.

“And you are?” Paul asked.

“Oh I’m not here to. I don’t have…” he was about to say he didn’t have
H.I.V. but he looked around at the faces and just gave up. “Mike, I’m Mike.”

“Well, Mike join us.” He said as he handed him the paper.

“There’s only us. There’s only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to
miss. No other road, no other way. No day but today.” The group said. They
each looked up.

Steve spoke up. “Excuse me, I’m having a problem. My T cells are low and my
AZT medication hasn’t been really helping me lately. I regret that news.”

“Ok, but Steve, how do you feel today?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you feel today?”

“Ok.”

“Are you sure?”

“Fine, it’s the best I’ve felt all year.”

“Then why are you so afraid? What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m a New Yorker, fear’s my life! Look, I have a hard time trying to
believe in what you say because I’m used to taking everything so rationally.
I need proof. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of losing my dignity. Of
dying and no one caring. Of losing myself to a disease more powerful than
anything I have ever accomplished in my whole life. For me to be nothing
more than another number added to the number of deaths from AIDS. Reason
says I should have died three years ago.”

As Mike listened, it sounded as if his best friend and practically his
brother Max were speaking to him. Is that how Max felt? Was it more than
just about April? Was his fear consuming him? And what about Liz? Had she
changed him at all?

As Mike’s ideas swirled around in his head, the meeting was over and they
were heading over to Maria’s protest.

“So, what should I expect?” Isabel asked as they made their way to the lot.

“Believe me, you don’t wanna know,” Alex and Mike said in unison and then
laughed.

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

The audience was waiting in anticipation as Maria took the stage. No one
knew what to expect from Maria Deluca. Eccentric was an understatement for
her usual performances. Knowing this was a once in a lifetime chance, as she
took the stage, Mike turned on his video camera and began to shoot.

Sitting beside him were Liz and Max. Liz looked at Max and he seemed a bit
distant. She still felt kind of weird about the interaction with the drug
dealer before, Max seemed so upset over it and then just shut her out
without telling her why or explaining. The strain in his voice, the
seriousness in his eyes, he looked so afraid and so lost but so determined
at the same time. She reached out her hand to touch his, but he moved his
away. She quickly pulled her hand back to her side.

“Thank you for coming,” Maria said into the microphone. She nodded to her
backup band to let her know that she was ready and she had a cowbell in
hand.

“Oh god, here we go,” Mike uttered as he focused his eye into the camera. If
it meant she had a cowbell and a band, who knows what Maria came up with.

“Last night, I had a dream,” Maria began. “I found myself in a desert called
Cyberland. It was hot. My canteen had sprung a leak and I was thirsty. Out
of the abyss walked a cow - Elsie. I asked if she had anything to drink. She
said, ‘I'm forbidden to produce milk. In Cyberland, we only drink Diet
Coke.’”

She tapped the cowbell with a stick to make a ping noise.

Maria continued, “She said, ‘Only thing to do is jump over the moon’.” Then
Maria belted out with her singing voice, “They've closed everything real
down ... like barns, troughs, performance spaces ... and replaced it all
with lies and rules and (another ping of the cowbell) virtual life. But
there is a way out... Only thing to do is jump over the moon. I gotta get
out of here! It's like I'm being tied to the hood of a yellow rental truck,
being packed in with fertilizer and fuel oil, pushed over a cliff by a
suicidal Mickey Mouse! - I've gotta find a way…to jump over the moon.”

Maria moved her arms stiffly in an almost interpretive dance. Mike bit back
his mouth from laughing.

By this point, Maria had half sung; half recited her protest speech so far.
Everyone was just trying to figure out what exactly it meant. Surely, there
had to be some meaning besides a cow whining about only being able to drink
diet coke.

“Then a little bulldog entered. His name, we have learned, was Kyle. And
although he once had principles, he abandoned them to live as a lap dog to a
wealthy daughter of the revolution. ‘That's bull,’ he said. "Ever since the
cat took up the fiddle, that cow's been jumpy. And the dish and the spoon
were evicted from the table – and eloped ... she's had trouble with that
milk and the moon ever since. Maybe it's a female thing. 'Cause who'd want
to leave Cyberland anyway?... Walls ain't so bad. The dish and the spoon for
instance. They were down on their luck - knocked on my doghouse door. I
said, "Not in my backyard, utensils! Go back to China!" "The only way out is
up," Elsie whispered to me. "A leap of faith. Still thirsty?" she asked.
Parched. "Have some milk." I lowered myself beneath her and held my mouth to
her swollen udder and sucked the sweetest milk I'd ever tasted."

Then Maria took a big slurp into the microphone. Mike shook his head. He
wasn’t sure whether he should be incredibly turned on, incredibly grossed
out, or incredibly confused. He gathered he was a mixture of the three.

“"Climb on board," she said. And as a harvest moon rose over Cyberland, we
reared back and sprang into a gallop. Leaping out of orbit!!! I awoke
singing,” then she went into her belting voice again, “Only thing to do…Only
thing to do is jump…Only thing to do is jump over the moon…Only thing to do
is jump over the moon…Over the moon - over the—“

“—Moooooooo”
“—Moooooooo”
“—Moooooooo”
“—Moooooooo”

“Moo with me. Come on Sir, Moo with me.”

“Moo.” Came from one of the audience members. In no time at all, everyone on
the lot was Mooing. As they got louder and louder Maria said, “Thank you.”
And got off the stage.

“Well that was interesting,” Liz said, as she looked dumbfounded at the
stage.
“Tell me about it,” Isabel added.
“That’s what you call a Bohemian.” Mike said as he shut off his video
camera.

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

“No. Not tonight, I said no. I can’t have a scene tonight. Important
customer!” The waiter said pretty much pushing Mike out of the Life Café.

“You can’t just ignore me like I’m nothing!”

“You never buy anything!” he said as he pushed the door harder.

“That isn’t true! I came in the other day to have a tea!”

“YOU COULDN’T PAY! OUT!”

“Whoa, am I seeing right?” Alex squinted his eyes. “Kyle Valenti, in the
Life Café? Now, we have to stay.”

“Oh no,” the waiter said defenseless as they pushed the door open and the
big group of them took the table to the side.

“What brings you here to this neck of the woods?” Alex said as they passed
Kyle.

“I wanted to congratulate Maria on her protest tonight. If anyone could have
understood it.”

“Go to hell Kyle.”

“Gladly,” he said as he took a sip of his drink.

“So why did your precious Tessie miss the show?” Max was filled with scorn
and contempt for Kyle.

“Our dog died.”

“My sympathies,” Max said sarcastically.

“Wow, Liz, I’m surprised.” Kyle said as he walked up to her. “A bright and
charming girl like you, hanging out with these losers and slackers? They
don’t adhere to deals by the way. I’m the only one attempting to accomplish
anything around here. Or would you rather live in a neighborhood where
people piss on your stoop every night, huh Liz?”

Liz snaked away from him. Max looked at Kyle to Liz back to Kyle and back to
Liz again.

“We better take our seats, we don’t want to sit next to this asshole,” Maria
said as she lead Michael, Max, Isabel, and Alex over to their table.

“Liz you coming?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“So, I guess your new boyfriend doesn’t know about us, huh?” Kyle pressed
his body close to hers as she stood outside the ladies room.

“There’s nothing to know Kyle. It happened three months ago and you are
married.” She tried to walk around him but he stopped her.

“You know, he doesn’t even treat you like you’re together.”

“We’re taking it slow, as if it was any of your business anyway.”

“Then where is he now, huh Liz?” Liz looked around at the table and found
him gone.

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

Max sat outside of the Life Café, cigarette in hand contemplating whether to
light it or not. Hey, if he didn’t die from an overdose, lung cancer was the
next best thing, right? He bought it to his lips and was about to light it.
Liz came up and snatched it out of his mouth, throwing it to the ground.

“Aren’t we a little health conscious today?” Max said as she stepped on it
with her high heels.

“Funny, Max. What did you expect, just invite me and then ignore me all
night long? Nice dating skills you got there,” she said with her hands on
her hips.

“Hey, I’ve been trying Ok? I’ve got baggage!”

“Life’s too short, babe. Time is flyin’. I’m looking for baggage that goes
with mine!”

“I really have to tell you…” He said as his voice trailed off.

“You know, I’ve got baggage too, and I don’t use that as an excuse!” She was
close to him now, their eyes locked, their faces were so close. Both of
their mouths hung slightly open. And then, something broke them out of their
trance.

BEEP. BEEP.

Was that my beeper? Max asked himself. He was corrected when Liz looked down
and shut hers off.

“Great. AZT break,” she said as she took out her bottle of meds and shot one
down, then taking a swig of her water bottle.

The cool December air sent a chill down her spine. Then realization dawned
on Max, he wasn’t the only one who was HIV positive. She was too.

“You?” was all he could ask, his voice soft, wavering, almost about to
break.

“Me.” She said as she looked up. Then she looked him over curiously, “You?”

He nodded slightly. “Liz…”


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

PART 6

“Liz…I…” he looked around, he couldn’t look her in the face. “There is so
much I have to tell you. I’ve been a complete disaster lately and I don’t
even know where to begin.”

He looked up and she was silent.

He stepped forward, raking his hand through his hair. It was cold outside,
so cold that the air coming from his mouth formed little clouds of white.
They were both oblivious.

“How can I explain this? I…I…” he darted his eyes to the ground, to his
hands, to the sidewalk, to the door entrance, anywhere but at her. He took a
deep breath. His eyes were beginning to water up. Maybe from the cold,
that’s what he told himself. But he knew that wasn’t the reason why.

“Max, you’re talking in circles. What are you hesitant to tell me?” She put
a hand on his arm but this time he didn’t flinch away. She walked up closer
to him. She lifted his head with her finger. She noticed he was still closed
off. She decided to start. “Ok, I’ll go first. That night, I came to your
door, I blew the candle out just to get back in…because of you.” She cupped
his cheek. He reached up and touched her arm.

“I haven’t smiled in a year. The first time I did was when the wax burned
me.” It looked as if he was staring right into her, right into her soul.
“You’ve made me feel more alive in the past couple of days I have in months.
You make me smile. It scares me. I don’t know…is any of this even making
sense?”

He walked away and sat on the curb. She sat down next to him.

“It makes perfect sense. I know what you’re going through.”

“Do you? You might have the same thing I have but you will never know the
guilt that I go through every day knowing….”

“Knowing what, Max?”

“Forget it.” He looked away.

“So, that’s it huh? You’ll open up and then just shut yourself out again? So
you have HIV. So do I! You think you’re the only one in the world going
through this? You don’t think I’m scared? You don’t think I wake up everyday
thinking I should have died a year ago? If I’m going to be with you, you are
going to have to talk to me.” She leaned over to look at him and her hair
cascaded over her shoulder, concern filling her chocolate dark eyes.

“So you want to be with me?”

“Yeah.” She smiled. “I mean, you are a sexy rock star and all.” She
playfully punched him. His face remained serious.

“I’m serious. You want to be with me even after…what…what I did? Who…I am?”

“You may be sick, Max, but you’re still you. I’m not going to desert you.
Not because of that. Plus, I’m just like you. You fail to see that.”

“Let’s get outta here.” He took Liz’s hand and led her off into the dark
night, only trusting desire and intuition.

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

“You guys!” Isabel came running to where Alex, Mike, and Maria were all
sitting. “They’ve padlocked your building and there’s a riot on Avenue B!”
she was gasping her breath from running. “Kyle, he called the cops…”

“That fuck!” Maria yelled as she got up. Mike quickly got his video camera
and as they walked they headed out to the riot.

“They don’t know what's going on,” Isabel continued. “The cops are sweeping
the lot, but everyone keeps on MOOing…”

After running a little bit, the group of them got to the scene and just as
it was explained, a mob of homeless people refused to leave while the cops
yelled at them.

“Merry Christmas, officer, smile For Ted Koppel!” Mike said as he zoomed in
with his video camera and captured the whole thing on tape. The officer
backed off from trying to hit the homeless woman with his club.

“Who the fuck do you think you are? I don’t need your goddamn help.”

“Take it easy, he was trying to…” Alex tried to jump in.

“He was trying to use me to fuel his guilt and make his name known. It’s not
that kind of movie, honey, let’s go” she got her friends together and left
as she said, “This lot is full of motherfucking artists!”

Then she stopped and turned around again.

“Hey artist, you got a dollar?”

Mike shook his head.

“Yeah, I thought not.”

The few of them left but the riot continued. Mike continued to use film
after film to document it all. The Christmas tree went up in flames, the
bright color dancing in the cold as the snow fell. It symbolized all the
rage and anger, all the disappointment.

Oblivious, in a secluded spot in the park, Liz and Max had been strolling
for a while in silence, hands intertwined and clasped, looking up at the
infinite sky, gazing at the stars. Max looked over at her, and despite the
voice telling him not to get involved, not to get sucked in, not to let
himself feel or touch or taste or love, he could not deny the acceptance in
her eyes. He walked towards her and stroked her cheek. Making a trace from
the scar above her eyebrow, over her nose, then over her lips, to the bottom
of her chin, and then traced her jaw line to cradle her face with his hand
behind her ear. He leaned in and gave her a slow, gentle, lovely kiss…their
velvet lips rubbing together, tongues dancing with sincerity, hope, and
purity. While their other kiss seemed forced and filled with passion, this
one was slow and nurturing. When it was over, their foreheads touched and
she searched for any regret in his amber flexes, but found nothing but
happiness and joy.


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

PART 7

“How long ‘til next year?”

“Three and a half minutes.”

Max paced around as they started to get the supplies. It had been a week
since Christmas Eve, a week since the kiss that completely twisted his world
upside down. His emotions were like a constant roller coaster, sometimes he
could look into Liz’s eyes and experience absolute bliss without a care in
the world, at other times those same eyes could send him into emotional
breakdowns. He wouldn’t let Liz see though. He would go hide in the bathroom
and just tremble, hoping she would walk away from the door and leave him be.

Max glanced at the padlocked door. New Year's rocking eve. The
breaking-back-into-the-building party...

“Hey Max, you ok?” Liz walked from behind him and wrapped her arms around
him.

“Yeah…I’m…I’m fine…” he said as he tried to fake a smile.

“Ok, coast is clear.” Mike said as he got back from double-checking the area
to make sure they were alone. “Hey, you’re supposed to be working…” he then
grabbed the champagne from Liz’s hands. “That’s for midnight. Where are
they? There isn’t much time!” He glanced at his watch again wondering where
the hell Alex and Isabel could be.

“Maybe they’re dressing. I mean, what’s appropriate for a party that’s also
considered a crime…” Liz said with a smile.

“Chips anyone?” Maria walked around the bowl in hand.

“You can take the girl out of Hicksville, but you can’t take the Hicksville
out of the girl…” Mike said with a huff before taking a chip and popping it
into his mouth.

“Oh shut up…if it wasn’t for my riot, your footage would have never gotten
on TV.” She gave him a smug look and turned off on her heel.

Mike smiled; she looked so adorable when she did that. It was in fact a big
surprise that his footage had made it on the news; it was his first real
taste at any type of success…well…ever. He had just moved towards
documentary filming, because the scripts he wrote were well…shit, as Max
tried to put it in the nicest way possible. And then everything in his life
seemed so convoluted and surreal that shooting about it made it seem like
some grade B movie.

“Be nice you two, or no god awful champagne…How old is this anyway?” She
said as she looked at the bottle.

“Any luck Max?”

Max looked over the door again. “Bolted plywood, padlocked with a chain. A
total dead end. Fuck! We’re screwed…”

“Not entirely.” Isabel said as she made her entrance with Alex. She was a
lawyer and did some detective work. “I did a bit of research with my friends
at legal aid. Technically, you're squatters, so you might have some legal
defense…”

“Well just in case, we have some rope, and we’ll break it down if we have
to.” Maria added.

Mike through the rope at Maria “Start hoisting, wench.”

Everyone else laughed, while Maria started hitting Mike. They still couldn’t
figure out why they didn’t get back together, but the fact that the whole
situation with Brody was still lingering didn’t leave anything for them to
do about it. Max stood there, contemplating. He knew he should be laughing.
In fact, he wanted to laugh, but it was almost as if he had forgotten how.
He was at a crossroads. A week ago, he wanted to fall off the face of the
earth and his life meant nothing, he felt nothing. Now, it was like his life
had completely changed. He wasn’t sure if it was healthy for it to happen so
fast. Not to mention, the main reason it did so was because of Liz. And he
didn’t want to put all of his faith in someone. Not yet. He couldn’t bare
the loss if he did.

“Two minutes,” Liz said as she looked at her watch.

They affectively break down the door and make it into Max and Mike’s
apartment.

Mysteriously the power comes back on and plays a message on the message
machine.

“Mike, it's the wicked witch of the west, your mother. Happy new year from
Scarsdale…We're all impressed that the riot footage made the nightly news.
Even your father is proud of you. Honey - call him…Love Mom”

BEEP.

“Mikey G, Alexi Darling from Buzzline.”

“Ooh that show’s so sleazy,” Mike interrupted.

“Your footage on the riots: A-one…feature segment - network – dealtime…I'm
sending you a contract. Ker-ching ker-ching
Mikey give us a call 970-4301, or at home try 863-6754, or - my cellphone at
919-763-0090,or - you can e-mail me DarlingAlexi⊕Newscom.net, or - you can
page me at –“

BEEP.

“I think we need an agent!” Maria squealed as she took a seat.
“WE?!” Mike looked at her like she had four heads.
“That’s selling out.” Liz jumped in.
“But it’s nice to dream…”Mike said as he placed his camera down and sighed.
“It’s network tv! Oh I have such an idea!”
“Uh oh” Alex rolled his eyes. He knew this couldn’t be good.
“We can plan another protest. You can shoot from the start, you’ll direct,
starring the most wonderful Maria DeLuca!” Maria jumped up at her amusement.

“Having fun?”

They all turned around to see Kyle standing there in the doorway.

“How’d you know we’d be here?” Max asked.

“Let’s just say I had a hunch.”

“You’re not mad?” Mike was surprised. When Kyle had the opportunity to be an
asshole, he usually milked it for all it was worth.

“I’m here to end this.” Kyle looked at them smugly. “You know it’s a really
a shame that you destroyed the door…”

“What made you change your mind?” Liz squinted her eyes at him. She couldn’t
believe this.

“You. You made a good case.”

“WHAT CASE?” Max threw his arms up in frustration and he nearly screamed.

“Liz came to me and she had lots to say.”

Liz rolled her eyes at him.

“Well I’ve been thinking about this whole mess, Mike…you wanna get this on
film?”

“Sure.” Mike picked up the video camera and began to shoot.

“I regret the unlucky circumstances of the past seven days…” Kyle began.

“CIRCUMSTANCE? YOU PADLOCKED OUR FUCKING DOOR!” Max yelled.

“And its on great pleasure of CyberArts that I hand you this key…” he
reached over and placed it in Max’s hand.

“Ok, this doesn’t seem to be working,” he looked down at his camera puzzled.

“Reshoot,” Kyle demanded.

“So I see this is just a fucking photo op? Figures Kyle! FUCKING FIGURES!”
Max threw a chair in annoyance.

“So, the benevolent G-d ushers the poor artists back to their flats. Do you
plan taking down the barbed wire from the lot too?!” Maria was just as mad
as Max was.

“No, anything but that!” Max screamed in a mocking tone.

“Clearing the lot was a safety concern. We break ground this month but you
can come back…” Kyle refuted.

“That’s why you’re here instead of with fucking Tessie and her estate!” The
usually cool Alex joined Max and Maria in the anger department.

“I'd honestly rather be with you tonight than in Westport –“

“Spare us old sport with your little soundbite…” Max cut Kyle off.

Kyle couldn’t take it anymore…there was no way in hell he was going to let
this wannabe musician insult him like that, especially in front of Liz.
Speaking of Liz…

“Liz, since you were so seductive yesterday…”

“HE CAME ON TO ME!” She screamed and looked at Max, he just stood there.

“Persuade him not to be so counterproductive…why don’t you tell him what you
wore to my place?”

“Liar! You fucking liar!” Max screamed.

“I WAS ON MY WAY TO WORK!”

“In that lovely tight leather. My desk is a mess and I think I’m still
achy…” He massaged his back and pumped his pelvis in a suggestive manner,
which only made Liz give him the death stare.
Max looked at her like she'd betrayed him.

“Cuz I kicked him and I told him I wasn’t his whore!”

“Does your boyfriend know who your last boyfriend was?” He said as he walked
up close to Liz.

“I’M NOT HER BOYFRIEND AND I DON’T GIVE A FLYING FUCK!” Max said and then
punched the wall. Liz looked up at him with her mouth open.

“Stop it! Is this any way to start a New Year?” Isabel tried to jump in and
be the mediator.
“Champagne anyone?” Alex tried to lighten the mood by pouring a few glasses.

“To Kyle! The fucking asshole!” Max said as he took a big swig.

“Let’s make a resolution…” Isabel contined.

“I’ll drink to that,” Liz grabbed another glass and shot it down. She was
willing to drink to anything right now. Sure, Max was just like every other
guy, only saw her as a whore and nothing more…no attachments…no commitment,
no feeling, just fucking right? That’s what Max thought?

“Let’s always stay friends…Friendship is thicker than blood…”Alex said.

“That depends…” Max turned around.

“Depends on trust.” Liz chimed in.

“Depends on true devotion. Depends on loyalty.” Max replied.

Max walked away and Mike chased after him.

“What’s your problem, man?”

Max stared at him.

“You know she didn’t do anything, why are you doing this? I thought you were
over that.”

“Over that? I can’t just get over something like that Mike.”

“Can’t you just for once think positively? You know…this is probably going
to be a great year if you would allow yourself to think that…”
Another blank stare.
"You're unbelievable! Once something might actually work out for you, you
think of any excuse just to get out of it! Liz is waiting out there and I
haven't seen you this happy since...I don't even know when. So if you are
going to do this to yourself fine, but don't drag Liz along for the ride
unless you're serious!"
Mike stomped off and headed out the doorway.

“So, nothing happened with Kyle right?” Maria looked at Liz questioningly as
they stood outside.

“Of course nothing happened. Why does everyone second guess me?”

“Look, Max is really vulnerable right now. We are even surprised he let you
in to begin with. He hasn’t let us in in so long. I’m not sure if I can even
see him anymore. What he once was…but he opens up to you…”

“Yeah well if he wasn’t so damn jealous…”

“Give him time. He has a loss issue to deal with. Losing April wasn’t easy
for him.”

Liz looked up and saw Max standing by the main doorway by the stoop. She
dodged her eyes, looking away, only to have Max walk up to her and stare at
her. They stood like that for a moment and then she looked right into his
eyes again. Eyes she just couldn't resist.

“I’m sorry.” Max and Liz said in unison as everyone was making their way to
go out.

They both smiled.

“Coming?” Max said.

“In a minute…” He slowly let go of her hand and headed out with Mike.

“Fine, go…” She said softly as she turned away. She was still pretty pissed
off about the whole thing. Obviously Max didn’t trust her. She knew they had
just started out and everything, but still…She thought he was different.
Some tears ran down her cheeks and she pushed them away with the back of her
hand. She never cried. He made her cry. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea
after all.

“Well, well, well, what have we here?” She looked up to find her drunk drug
dealer. “There, there,” he said as he put his arm around her shoulder and
pulled out the packet out of his pocket.

“What the hell, I could use a hit right now.” Funny thing is, being with Max
made her forget about the drugs, but when he was gone, that’s all she
craved. She took the package and they headed off into the dark alley where
she didn't have to see or hear or feel anything. She could just be high and
that's all she wanted to be...
********************************

PART 8

It’s Valentine’s Day now. Everyone is with their respective partners. Alex
and Isabel are out and about somewhere. Max is at Liz’s, where’s he’s been
for the past two months. All is left are Mike and Maria, who aren’t
together, but rehearsing for another performance. That is, if they are
actually speaking and getting along. Mike and Maria had a very funny
relationship; they could be jumping each other, completely angry at each
other, or cordial. It was a toss up between the three, which one would win.

“I said once more from the top!” Mike screamed.
“I said NO!”
“The line is 'Cyber Arts and its corporate sponsor, Grey Communications,
would like to mitigate the Christmas Eve riots.' What is so difficult...?”
“It just doesn't roll off my tongue. I like my version!”
“You? Dressed as a ground hog to protest the ground breaking?”
“It’s a metaphor!”
“Not exactly brilliant!”
“That’s it!”
“What?”
“Ever since New Year's, I haven't said boo. I let you direct, I didn't stay
and dance at the Club that night, 'cause you wanted to go home...”
“You were flirting with that guy/girl, I don’t even know WHAT that was…in
rubber!”
“That's what this is about?! There will always be its in rubber,
flirting with me...Gimme a break. Not to mention, we aren’t even TOGETHER,
so I don’t know what you are talking about. I can flirt whoever damn well I
please. Wait! I wasn’t even FLIRTING!”
“Oh ok. So you know, you break up with Brody, come to me when you are
sexually frustrated and that means we’re not together?”
“I’m a 25 year old woman! Ok? I crave sex! That’s it. If you would like, I
can go to that it in rubber instead of knocking on your door. I’m doing you
a favor!”
“A favor? A fucking favor?” He let out a huff and then a snort. “I can’t
believe you sometimes!”
“People are going to be bound to look at me and flirt with me. That doesn’t
mean I’m going to flirt back. And this is exactly why we AREN’T together,
your freakin’ jealousy drives me INSANE!”
“I have a right to feel threatened. How do I know you aren’t going to walk
off with someone else just like you did Brody? I care about you and I want
to be with you, but you have to accept for who I am, who I am always going
to be.”
“Same here. You know I like attention. Live with it.”
“I don’t think I can. Not with that attitude.”
“FINE!”
“WELL FINE!” Mike screamed back. He had walked up to her now, and without
even thinking, again as if rage turned him on, he grabbed her and swooped
down and kissed her. She kissed back, hard.
She pulled away.
“Fuck you…”
“So does this mean we’re together?” He said with a smirk.

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

A little light drifted in through the window. Shadows danced along two
bodies, sending them this golden glow but at the same time, a dark undertone
surrounding them. Max held Liz in his arms as they lay down on the bed, only
sheets covering them. He held her as if his life depended on it, he couldn’t
take having her slip through his hands and leave him. Despite what he
promised himself he wouldn’t do, he had gotten extremely attached. He knew
any minute she was going to go leave him for Kyle. He just knew it. He had
this deep feeling inside. He was already thinking about selling his guitar
and heading out somewhere, away from the city. Where he could just forget
everything that had happened there. He was ready. First sign of trouble, he
was going to just leave.

He watched her as she slept. She looked so beautiful, without the rough
makeup, the tight clothes: almost pure, almost innocent, and almost safe. It
scared him the type of life she was in. Constantly running…but he didn’t
know from what. It was true; he was always hiding, always pushing people
away. But Liz, the way she did it…she could get herself into some real
trouble. He was worried about her. She would come in late, always in a
hurry. She would lie to him constantly. He could tell, the look in her eyes.
He didn't know what he'd do if he lost Liz too. He sighed as he looked at
her and planted a soft kiss on her forehead.

She squirmed under his hold. He let go a bit, and then he saw her smile as
she slept. She slowly opened her eyes.

“Hey…”
“Hey…”
“How’d you sleep?” She looked at him, dark circles under his eyes. It was
obvious he hadn’t slept at all. Maybe he still felt that last night he
disappointed her.
“Fine…just fine…” he looked off.
“Don’t feel sorry that you stopped. I’m glad you did. I didn’t want to go
too fast. Max, look at me.”
It’s not that he didn’t want to; it’s not that he wasn’t turned on, but as
they shed their clothes and started to kiss really passionately, for the
first time ever, he broke down in front of Liz. He just sobbed.
Uncontrollably. The image of April, the blood, the wildflowers, she looked
so pale. So pale. It flashed through his mind over…and over…and over. His
body quaked, and he grabbed onto her hair into a tight fist as he let his
tears flow into her shoulder. He couldn’t do it. He just…couldn’t.
He turned his face with pain filled eyes to face her.
“It was nice. Just feeling you holding me. No one usually holds me like
that.”
She lied a little. When she slept she squirmed because she almost felt kind
of suffocated. No guy ever held her like that. It scared her, immensely. She
cared about Max very deeply, but she wasn’t willing to give her independence
up. She wasn’t willing to give as much as he was. She started to clutch the
piece of the sheet in her hands, playing around with it.
“Time for breakfast?” Max asked as he got up.
It didn’t surprise her. Once he started to open up he would always change
the subject.
“Sure.” She got up from her side and put on a big t-shirt.
***********************************

PART 9

It had been two hours. He gave up. He sat on his bed, looking out his window
at the stars, guitar on lap. Another worthless try. He just needed one song.
That’s all he was in search of, just one song. Just to feel one blaze of
glory. Not fame, not that type of glory. But to be able to know that he can
actually affect someone else by using the one thing he knew more than
anything else. That wasn’t just it. It had been two hours. Two hours of not
waiting for lyrics and notes to escape his hands and make it onto pages, but
two hours of waiting for Liz.

He had decided that he would surprise her. He had made them a small dinner,
candlesticks on the table. He cleaned her apartment, got out of his normal
worn clothes and got new ones. He was trying to start fresh, or at least put
on the front of doing so even if his mind and soul wasn’t ready. She meant
too much to him, so he was willing to lie. Willing to lie to himself and to
her just to keep her. Because if he didn’t he knew he would lose her. But as
he looked out over the cold and lonely city on the April night, he realized
he already had.

The door shut and he heard her heels on the wood floor.

“Max, what—?” She looked at the apartment puzzled and then looked at him.

“Where were you?” He glared at her.

“I was…I was…I’m sorry I’m late.”

“I know. You lost your keys. No, you went for a walk; you had to help your
mother. And how's Kyle? I'm gonna work upstairs tonight.” He grabbed his
guitar and headed his way out the door to walk upstairs to his place. He was
sick of being lied to.

“Max…that’s not…it’s not like that. I should…I should tell you…never mind.”

“You should what? Actually tell me the truth? You are falling in deep. I
don’t think there’s anyway to pull you out. Happy Spring.” He said under the
threshold.

He shut the door behind him and halfway to the stairwell he leaned against
the wall and let silent tears release from his eyes.

Liz took the just bought piece of stash and flung it at the door as Max
leaves.

She looks around and sees all he planned, all he did. It looks great. The
apartment looks great. But it feels empty, because he’s not there. And she
now feels empty, because he’s not there. A part of her is angry. His
constant jealousy of Kyle and always mentioning him, always feeling
threatened. And the fact that he complains that she lies to him when all he
does his hide everything from her.

But then she looks around and realizes she loves him. Loves him for buying
the candles, and the wildflowers on the table. Little did she know what he
went through carrying the wildflowers, wanting to break down and cry right
when he bought them, then kicking himself for not getting roses.

And she loved him for cleaning her filthy department, even if he bought the
wrong cleaning materials and they left an awful stench, which he tried to
cover with cologne, and then only made it worse.

And she loved him for buying new clothes, even if she loved him more in his
usual attire, because it was him and not some version of him trying to
impress her.

And she loved him for kicking that package of stash out of the way when she
first met him, and then later on found it in his back pocket when they were
dancing and waved it in front of his face after he said he was tired and
that she should go. Because she knew he didn’t take it to use it, he took it
to take it from her. She knew she was falling too deep, but Max was her
salvation. She could always see him at the surface, even if she was
drowning. Even if she might die any day, because she would be happy knowing
that he loved her, if he did. He was so closed off sometimes she couldn’t
tell if it was just issues he was having with death and nothing more. She
had never told him that she did for the fear that he wouldn’t say it back.

She felt she could stay alive, that he kept her alive. Now that he was gone
and she felt empty, she felt defenseless. Like she would die any minute.

Max slid his back down the hall wall slowly, and then fell to the ground and
put his elbows on his knees. He had stopped the tears, but the feeling
didn’t stop. The feeling that the woman he now loved was going to turn her
back on him, and on herself. He hadn’t admitted it to anyone, or even to
himself yet, but he had not only gotten attached, he had fallen in love. He
wouldn’t say it out loud because he thought if he could ignore it enough it
wouldn’t be true. And if it wasn’t true, it didn’t have to hurt so much if
he lost it. But now as he was sitting against the wall, a part of him,
although not wanting to admit it, realized it wasn’t just going to go away
and it was true. He did love her. He loved her smile, and not for the reason
it reminded him of April. He loved it because it made him feel alive. And
her eyes, they had this sparkle that matched her spontaneous nature and her
overall attitude. The way she could dance and just let the music take over
her body, the way her body shook when she laughed, the feeling of her in his
arms that one night, just the two of them without expectations. Watching her
sleep with the usually not visible but underlying innocence and need to be
loved that just emitted from her. That entire year without her, he felt he
wanted to lift the razor and just slit his own wrists. Die right there, on
his terms. But when he was with her, those thoughts went away. He wanted to
live another day if only for the reason to see her for one more second.

He slowly got up and made his way upstairs, and pressed the play button on
the answering machine.

“SPEAK.”

“Mikey G. Alexi Darling. Labor Day weekend. In East Hampton.
On the beach. Just saw Alec Baldwin. Told him you say hi. Just kidding. We
still need directors. You still need money. You know you need money. Pick up
the phone. Don't be afraid of ker-ching ker-ching. Mikey G--sell us your
soul. Just kidding. We're waiting...”

“So I see you heard the message.”

Max almost jumped at the sound of Mike’s voice in the corner taking another
swig of his beer.

“Yeah.”

“And?”

“I think she’s a bitch from hell just trying to make money off of you, she
is asking you to sell your soul. The soul of your work. What about your
film?”

“Right Maxie boy, what film? Huh? Is there one I’ve actually finished? Maybe
its that same place where your song is…”

“You aren’t seriously thinking about this, are you?”

“She’s right, I do need money.”

“Since when are you about money?”

Then Mike passed out on the mattress. He would change his whole attitude by
the morning. He probably just had some fight with Maria.

Max sighed and once again, he couldn’t sleep. A little air could do him some
good. Maybe he would get lucky like Alex and someone would beat the shit out
of him. That would make him feel better.

He opened his door and made it out into the hall to see Liz step out from
the shadows at the end of it.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

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

PART 10

Max looked at her waiting for her to say something. Why else would she be
there if she hadn’t been there to say something? He stood there for a second
and fixed his collar, and shrugged into his jacket and just gave her a
curious stare.

In all honesty, she didn’t know what to say. She just had this incredible
urge to see him. She tapped her fingernails against the wall behind her and
she stood against it, just staring at him, knowing full well that she would
wear him down because he always gave up when she would stare at him like
that, no matter what.

“You aren’t going to be able to do that this time. You can’t make me
forget.” Max said and then stood against the wall opposite of her. “So what
are you doing here?”

“Max…”

“I don’t want some fucking excuse. I want the truth.”

She gulped. “Max…I…” she looked at him then. He had this childlike innocence
right then and she couldn’t sustain it any longer. She grabbed the collar of
his leather jacket, and pulled him into a soft feathery kiss, bringing her
hands up to his jaw line, starting from the back by his ears and slowly
tracing his jaw until his chin. She pulled back.

He gently put his hands on her wrists and dropped them away from his face.
She felt him kiss her back. She knew he did. And this time it wasn’t anger,
it was more of an understanding gaze he gave her but at the same time he
wasn’t satisfied.

“You can’t just kiss it and make it all better.” They stared at each other
intently. Liz opened her mouth to say something but then shut it again.

“Max!” Mike threw open the door and Max turned suddenly. “Something’s
happened.”

“What?” Liz was frightened. The look on his face showed so much fear.

“Iz. She’s in the hospital.”

____________________________________________________

Alex had his hand grasped with Isabel’s, she was lying on the hospital bed,
her face lack of color and her eyes red from dried tears. Alex looked like
he was about to die. They had just made love the night before, and now, now
Isabel was here, in this bed, looking so helpless. Normally strong and
confident, it looked as if all life had been stripped from her.

“Alex…” she mumbled softly.

“Iz? Oh my god!”

“Don’t leave me.”

“Never, I would never.”

“I feel so weak. Alex, I feel so weak…” she choked it out as another tear
left her eye.

“It’s ok. I’m here. You’ll get through this. I promise you, you will.”

Her eyelids began to feel incredibly heavy. She gripped the grasp on Alex’s
hand tighter turning her knuckles white, whiter than the skin on her face.

“Alex…I love you…”

“I love you…god, don’t leave me. Just don’t leave me….please…stay. Stay with
me. Iz, you can’t leave me like this. You are the only thing I know. You are
the only thing that makes sense. Oh god,” he choked out another sob and
lowered his head; the tears flowing like little waterfalls.

As she shut her eyes, she slowly mumbled the chant of the life support
meeting. “There’s only us. There’s only this. Forget regret, or life is
yours to miss. No other road, no other way, no day but today.”

He remembered back to the night when they first met. He had been stripped of
the little money he had and he felt alone. And then out of the blue, this
beautiful stranger, nurses him back to health. He smiles bitter sweetly at
the memory of how she put the mercurochrome on his knee, how he flinched
when it stung him and how all Isabel did was smile sweetly and then he
blushed. She once again pointed out he looked cute when he blushed which
made him turn an even deeper shade of red.

Then his thoughts drifted to their first kiss. They were out searching out
for that coat and when he had stated that it started snowing, the only
reaction from Isabel was asking him to kiss her. He did with no questions
asked, and then they embraced as the snowflakes surrounded them.

And the life support meetings…everyone else seemed so abandoned, but holding
her hand through it made the world to him.

He thought of how giving she was, how she was so supportive of anything he
ever did, how she had given all her time and money to help underprivileged
people when it came to legal issues. Not only that, she had done the most
she could to help Max and Mike with the whole building situation, they were
more like brothers to him than any blood family he had. They were his
family. And she had accepted them as hers too.

And then there was the night before, making love to her like he had done so
many nights before, but this time being different because he knew she was
getting sicker and knowing in the back of his mind as he held in his arms
and stroked her hair as she slept that it might be the last time he would
ever hold her like that again.

Early the next morning she had been coughing up blood and they took her to
the hospital. Her battle with AIDS was a dying one, and here he was, she was
breathing her last breaths, and he held her hand, hoping to give to her all
she gave to him.

He heard voices run down the hall to see everyone standing there. Max first,
his eyes aggrieved and indignant, for this illness taking one of their own,
Isabel.
Standing behind him, her hand on his shoulder was Liz. Mike and Maria were
behind them.

Then he remembered how Isabel was the only one that could bring them
together. Max and Liz were meant to be and everyone knew that. And when they
had fights and couldn’t get along with each other, everyone tried to jump in
and patch it up. Max wouldn’t even listen to Mike. But Isabel, she was able
to get through to the both of them when no one else could.

Mike and Maria ran up to Alex to see if he was Ok, taking one look at
Isabel.

Alex bought Isabel’s hand to his mouth and kissed it gently before letting
out more sobs.

Her breaths were short. Almost gasps.

“Al..Alex…”

“Iz…”

“Love you…don’t forget me…”

“Iz…no…you can’t leave like this…what about all those things you planned to
do with your life? Iz! IZ!!!!”

The flat line echoed throughout the room and everyone grew silent. Alex
bought his trembling lips to her forehead giving her a kiss.

Max hung is head and shut his eyes, not willing to admit what obviously had
just happened. Liz stroked his back soothingly. Mike and Maria tried to
comfort Alex, who just pushed their arms away as he planted more kisses on
Isabel’s unmoving lips.

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


PART 11

“Max, where are you going?” Liz was chasing after him; he was already
halfway out the hospital on to the street.

“I need to think. I’m going for a walk.” He dug his hands in the pockets of
his long trench coat and began to walk faster.

“Stay with me. Please.” She shouted after him.

“Oh, so now you decide you want to be with me? Now you decide and you will
call and I’ll just come running? It doesn’t work that way. I’ve been waiting
for you to come around and you’ve just…I can’t…I can’t take this. Maybe we
just shouldn’t do this anymore.”

“But Max…” She was hugging herself trying to keep herself warm.

“No. I’m sick of being lied to. I’m sick of waiting for you. Goodbye Liz.”
He turned around and walked away, leaving Liz alone hugging herself to keep
warm.

Watching what happened, Liz now realized some of what Max had been going
through but she also realized that he wasn’t the only person who lost
someone that night. She had too. And to be able to witness Isabel and Alex,
two people who loved each other so much it almost encompassed their entire
being. She just wanted someone to be with, to talk with. Maybe he was right.
Maybe she didn’t deserve him. He was willing to do so much and all she did
was hurt and lie to him. That wasn’t what a relationship should be based on.

Max walked in the street, thinking about things. AIDS had taken a friend.
Another life stripped when it had so much potential. He couldn’t take it. He
couldn’t take getting deeper and then hurting more if he lost someone. He
wouldn’t allow himself to. It seemed everything he touched turned sour, and
he only seemed to bring disease and death. He had to start with Liz. No
matter what, he had to break free from her. Maybe that way she wouldn’t die.
Maybe that way if she did he wouldn’t have to hurt so bad.

“Liz?” She turned around, tears flowing from her eyes.

“Kyle!” she ran up to him and hugged him. She just needed to hug someone,
anyone. She just needed to be able to feel something, to be able to feel
loved.

____________________________________________________
Silence. It filled the room. And for once, it wasn’t comforting to Max, but
it plagued him. They all sat in chairs; Isabel’s funeral had just taken
place. They were all deathly quiet, too quiet. Max stole a gaze at Liz and
then looked away quickly. She was already sitting next to Kyle. Forget that
he was married, forget all that Max cared for her, she had moved on and she
had moved on fast. And here they were, a member of their family had just
died and no one could say anything.

“Is it true?”

All of their eyes shot up to seeing Liz staring at Max.

“What?” He blurted out.

“Is it true you’re leaving town? I thought you said you were leaving next
week.” Max had already sold his guitar and gotten a cheap car to get him
where he needed to go, the funny thing was Max had no idea where that place
would be.

“I thought you said he was the worst yuppie scum of the earth.” Max pointed
to Kyle and then got up from his chair, and as if everyone reacted off of
him, they all got up as well.

“You said you’d never speak to him again…” Kyle jumped in, possessively
holding Liz’s arm.

“Not now!” she screamed and forcefully withdrew her arm away.

“Who said that you have any say in who she says things to at all?!” Maria
jumped in on Liz’s defense, yelling at Kyle.

“You said you'd stick to your own problems.” Mike said to Maria.

“You said you’d give me some space!” She yelled back to him.

“Maria, we have this fight each night! Why can't you admit you need me?”

“He’s the same way.” Liz walked up to Max. “He’s always running away. Never
committing. Hitting the road. YOU’RE FULL OF SHIT!” She pushed him hard,
stumbling him back.

“Liz!” Kyle interjected.

“You’re in denial.” Mike said to Maria.

“He’s in denial.” Liz said regarding Max, and then looked at him.
“I’d die for a taste of what Isabel had. You know that Max? Someone unafraid
to say I LOVE YOU!” Liz was hitting him now. Trying to hit all of her
frustrations out on him but failing miserably, the tears almost flowing.

“Oh, your words are nice Liz, but love’s not a three way street. You’ll
never share in love until you LOVE YOURSELF…I should know.” He walked away.

“HEY!” they all stopped and turned to Alex who yelled. “You’d all said you’d
be cool today…at least for my sake. I can’t believe she’s gone. I can’t
believe you’re going like this…” He said as he looked at Max. “I can’t
believe this family must die. I can’t believe this is it.”


____________________________________________________
“I hear gas is cheap out there.” Mike walked in and set his camera down,
walking up to where Max was sitting.

“Yeah…” He was sitting on top of a table, his feet on his chair, holding his
heads in his hands. “How could she? How could she just move on like that?”
He looked up at Mike, his eyes full of sorrow, jealousy, loneliness.

“How could you let her go?”

“You just don’t understand. How could we lose Isabel?”

“Maybe you’ll see why if you try stop escaping your pain, and realize that
this is not your fault. Isabel was not your fault and April was not your
fault.”

“SHE WAS MY FAULT! AND NOTHING IS PROTECTING ME FROM THE SAME!” He bit his
bottom lip trying to prevent the sobs from escaping from it.

“But there is so much for you here. So many people for you to care about.
There’s me…there’s Liz.”

“Liz has got her own baggage.”

“Well you do too.”

“Who are you to tell me what I should be doing?”

“A friend.”

“Look in the mirror.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You live a lie. You immerse yourself in your work, when all you do is hide
in it. You never finished a film, you complain about Maria not caring when
all you do is shut yourself out from the world, and work. You always preach
not to be numb when it’s exactly how you live. You pretend to create and
observe when all you really do is detach from everyone and
everything…including Maria. All you care about is her attention, her praise.
You don’t want love, you want success.”

“Who doesn’t? How the hell am I going to survive if I don’t?”

“POOR BABY.”

“Liz loves you. Are you just jealous or afraid that she’s weak?”

“Liz did look pale.”

“Liz has gotten thin. Liz is running out of time, Max, you’re running out
the door…”

“I can’t take this. I gotta go. I’ll call.”

He turned around quickly to find Liz facing him.

“You heard?” he asked softly.

“I heard everything,” she said as she looked up to him, her chocolate brown
pools staring infinitely into his. “You don’t want baggage without lifetime
guarantees. You don’t want to watch me...You don't want to watch me die. I
just came to say goodbye to you…”

He looked down at her and hugged her, pulled her tightly into him, grabbing
a fist of her hair in his hand, stroking his hands through it, while the
other ran along her back. He was trying to memorize every feature of hers:
her hair, her smile, her eyes, her arms, her body against his. He pulled her
back and planted a kiss on her forehead. He touched his forehead to hers,
and she had already started crying.

“I have to go.” He said. She sobbed some more. He tried to kiss all the
tears away, then planted a kiss on her lips, not wanting to pull away but a
part of him yelling that he should. He pulled away, tried avoid looking into
her eyes, picked up his suitcase and headed out the door.
******************************************


"It's about finding someone that is pure, that is perfect for you, that defines love in all sense of the word for you..."
~Jason Behr


"For people to tell you nice things or compliment you is rewarding, but if you allow yourself to buy into the notion you are now a star then you stop being actor. I'm just going along with the notion that ... people who end up walking around like their shoes are bigger than anybody else's end up stepping on other people's
shoes."
~Jason Behr


Edited by - teddybehr783 on 09/16/2001 11:45:46
posted on 15-Sep-2001 11:48:55 AM
PART 12

Liz watched him as he walked out the door. Mike tried to reach for her hand
to make sure she was all right. She looked like she was about to collapse.

“Don’t touch me!” she screamed and swatted her arm away. She started to
shake. She was so scared. Now Max was really gone. They were really over.
And she didn’t know what to do. Finally she turned towards Mike. “I need to
get out of here.”

“I know a clinic…a rehab.”

“No money.” She looked at her hands. They looked so thin. She felt so weak.
Without Max, she was weak.

“I’ll pay.” Kyle stood in the frame of the door and Liz nodded. Then she
fell to her knees and began to sob into her frail hands.

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

“Hi. It's Mike Guerrin. Is Alexi there?...No, don't bother her.
Just tell her I'm running a little late for our appointment...
Yes, I'm still coming... Yes, I signed the contract...
Thanks...”

Mike put down the phone and looked around his apartment. Now it was only
his. No longer his and Max’s, just his. He started to think. How did it all
come to this? When did everything turn so convoluted, so extorted of what
life used to be? It was last Christmas Eve. One night. In one night
everything happened. He thought of why Liz knocked on Max’s door. Why
Maria’s equipment broke down. Why Alex was mugged right where Isabel was
walking. Had fate all dealt them a visit that night?

He started to think of how a night that was so bitterly cold could be so
scalding hot. How everything could change in an instant, like when Max left.
He hadn’t heard from him in a month. He was starting to get worried. No
phone call, nothing.

Then he turned his attention back to the phone and then the appointment slip
in his hands.

“Hi. Michael Guerrin here, reporting for Buzzline. Back to you, Alexi!
Coming up next, alien royal four who are compulsive bowlers...” he said,
trying to imagine what his job would be like. “Oh my God, what am I doing?”

What was he doing? Why was he doing this? He didn’t want to do this. Max was
right. His life was his work. And if he was going to be that way, he might
as well do what he wanted to do.

He picked up the phone.

“Alexi, Mike here leaving you a message. Call me a hypocrite, but I have to
finish my own film. I QUIT!” he slammed the phone down and then realization
dawned on him.

Isabel’s face filled his mind. He had gotten his inspiration. He would tell
Isabel’s story. That would be his film.

Then he picked up the phone again, knowing what he had to do next, who he
had to call.

“Hey…Maria?”
“What do you want?” she was half groggy; he must have woken her up. There
was a long pause. “HELLO? ARE YOU GOING TO SAY SOMETHING OR CAN I GO BACK TO
SLEEP?”
“I love you.”
“What? What did you say?” Even when they were going out in their on/off
again relationship, he never said those words.
“I said I love you.”

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


Max sat at the lonely booth in the diner, looking out the window. His plate
was still full with his food and he wasn’t hungry. He had been driving for a
month, just driving. Stopping here and there for rest, but otherwise just
keep on going, going as far as he could. At this point he was lost.
Geographically lost, but more importantly emotionally lost. It seemed ever
since he left NY, Liz, and his friends, his surrogate family, he was lost.
Funny thing was in this lost state everything made more sense than it ever
had.

He still couldn’t write, but he kept on seeing Liz’s face flash through his
mind. He would see the smile on her face the night they first met, he would
see the night of their first lovely kiss out in the park, the innocent face
of hers when she was sleeping, and then finally the face when she was
sobbing as he left.

He shut his eyes again as the image of her eyes flew over him again. That’s
what he memorized most. No matter how much he looked into them, there was
still mystery to them, still this infinite amount of questions in them. They
were what guided his soul.

Suddenly as if some spark of genius, he quickly grabbed a napkin and took
out a pen, writing frantically on it.

He had found his song.

He was writing his song.

The words just flowed.

And it was all because of Liz.

Now the only destination he saw was she. He quickly grabbed his napkin,
stuck it into his pocket and practically ran his way to his car. He was
going to go home, buy his guitar back and see Liz.
**********************************************

PART 13

Liz huddled herself and pulled her torn jacket tighter. She never did make
it to rehab. In fact, after Max left she ended it completely with Kyle. That
also completed her lease on her apartment. Even though he could physically
give her all the “love” she needed, she didn’t feel like she was the same
person. She felt like a shell of what she used to be. And then she realized
that what made her who she was, what completed her, what gave her the
essence of what her soul and life was, was Max. He filled her completely,
every emotion being heightened whether sadness and pain or ecstasy and joy.
Only he could have that affect on her. Only he could slow her down and make
her look around and see everything that was going on. He made her rational,
but at the same time irrational. She always said to live in the moment, but
when she was with Max, even though she didn’t show it or she was rarely
there, but she didn’t live life…she didn’t see life until Max entered it.
And for once it wasn’t about sex or fucking, it wasn’t about trying to wipe
away all the scars of her fucked up life, because she didn’t experience the
best childhood or adulthood for that matter. Max might have been running
away from seeing her die, but she was running away from painful memories,
and at the same time running away from the possibility of a future. Could
she even imagine a happy future? Did she deserve one? She was so used to
things going poorly, to feeling empty that the thought of being actually
content was driving her insane.

Another wave fell over her. She shook and trembled, sweat and tears mixing
into a salty liquid that fell to her lips. She could taste it. It didn’t
satisfy her hunger. She hadn’t eaten in days. Withdrawal was a bitch. But
she decided to quit, for Max. Cold Turkey. Bad idea.

She had left months ago, finding places to sleep on streets or anywhere that
was nice and warm. But as the months turned colder, and she felt weaker, she
wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to survive. And every day when she
woke up, she woke up from dreaming of Max and he made her live a day. He
gave her a reason to.

But a part of her felt that she had lost her chance. She had treated him
like shit and then gone to Kyle as soon as they ended. On her bad days, in
the dark side of her mind, she would wish death upon herself, until those
caramel colored pools with boundless devotion yearned her forward.


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

Max hung his head as he walked in his door. It seemed like he was never
going to find her. It was November already, and as time passed on he just
wished she were alive, safe, and healthy. He just wished she wasn’t gone for
good. No one had heard from her or knew where she was; Maria even said she
was getting phone calls at her old apartment from her mother.

He had already started a band, got his guitar back and found his song.
That’s what he thought he needed, a song, to give him the glory, to give his
life meaning. Then he realized all along it was Liz, she was his glory, she
was his meaning, she was his purpose, his everything. And the thought flowed
through his mind that losing her like that was ten times worse than losing
her in death. At least in death he could say goodbye, at least she would
know he loved her.

*************************CHRISTMAS EVE*******************************

It’s almost the same scene as a year ago. Max holds his guitar in hand, Mike
with video camera in his. He had already put the projector on, looking at
his final piece of work. “Today for You: Proof Positive, the Life of Isabel,
AIDS victim” splashes against their wall and Mike smiles. He turns to Max
who is strumming on his guitar.

“Can you believe a year went by so fast?” Mike says to
Max. “So my man,” he slaps his arm. “You found your song.”

“If only I could find Liz…” he put his guitar down and looked off into
space, imagining in his mind to see her stand there in front of him, to have
his lips on hers, to feel her touch him, for him to touch her.

“You tried. She’ll come back. She will.” Mike tried to reassure his roommate
but in all honesty he wasn’t too sure about Liz himself. Not a phone call,
nothing. Max even called Kyle and he hadn’t even heard where she’d been.

“Well at least you can screen your film tonight,” Max said as he tried to
lighten the mood. Then the power went out. “I guess you won’t be screening
tonight.” He corrected himself as he looked around in the dark.

“I wonder how Tess found out about Liz…” Mike queried. After Max called Kyle
he found out he had been pulled out of the East Village location after Tess
found out about his affair.

“Who knows.”

Then the door opened and they both turned to see Alex holding a flashlight.
“Don’t have enough money for electricity? I have some flow if you need it,”
he said with a grin and he held out his hand, which he held an incredible
amount of money in it.

“Tutoring again?” Mike asked. He got an answer when Alex shook his head.

“Back at NYU?” Max took his guess.

“No. I rewired the ATM to give anyone money who has the code,” he says as he
wiggles his eyebrows.

Max and Michael looked at each other curiously and then back at Alex. Was he
telling the truth? They studied him closely to realize that he was.

“Well?” they said in unison.

“Well what?”

“THE CODE!”

“I-S-A-B-E-L.”

“But…” Max tried to interject.

“Maxie boy, my man,” Alex slapped his arm. “Think of it as overcharging
wealthy clientele. It helps your psyche.”

Max smiled back and then they heard a shriek.

“MAX! MICHAEL! ANYONE HELP!” they don’t know where its coming from but they
know the voice. It’s Maria.

“Maria?” Mike asks. He prays to god she’s all right. Her scream seems so
helpless.

“It’s Liz…I can’t get her up the stairs!” she screams as she struggles to
hold Liz up from under her arms. Liz is shivering. Liz is cold. Liz is
dying.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Max screams as he runs to the door to open it. He helps
Maria and grabs Liz, using his body strength to pull her up. She’s so light,
too light, like a feather. He plants a kiss on her forehead and runs his
fingers through her hair. This can’t be happening. This shouldn’t be
happening. He didn’t imagine their reunion like this. He puts his arm from
under her legs, carries her into the apartment and lays her down on the bed.
He studies her, every inch, hoping to never forget her beauty…because even
in sickness she takes his breath away. He runs his hand along her cheek,
caressing it.

‘Please don’t let her die. Don’t take her to punish me. Please. Take me.
Take me instead.’ The thoughts swirl through his head, his eyes begin to
water.

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

PART 14

“She was huddled in the park and she was freezing, and begged to come here…”
Maria said as she answered Max’s questioning look. The only word that had
escaped from his lips was “no,” but she could tell he was thinking of
anything and everything in his head. She could just see him pleading for her
not to die.

“Over here? Oh god…” he says with his voice barely audible and trembling. He
looked back at her, touching her face once more.

Alex runs to get the phone to call 911.

“Got a light? I know you…you’re shivering…” she mumbled as she recalled the
night they met. Max didn’t know whether to smile at the memory or bawl his
eyes out.

“She’s been living on the street…” Maria added, as Max and Liz’s gaze never
faltered from each other.

“I’m shivering…” Liz said as she started to quake harder and more
frequently.

“Someone turn on the heat, she’s shivering!” Max yells, but it isn’t out of
anger, it’s out of desperation.

Mike pulls Max over to his side and whispers into his ear, “I’m afraid she
needs more than heat.”

Liz darts her eyes to them and says, “I heard that.”

“Alex will call for a doctor, honey,” Maria says as she strokes the sweaty
hair off her forehead.

“Don’t…waste…your…money…. on…me…” Liz mumbles, her voice is so soft. She
sounds so frail.

“Shit! I’m on hold!” Alex screams as he holds the phone in his hands. He
hopes to god she doesn’t die. Please don’t let her die.

Mike looks at Max and Liz. Max is holding her hands in his, kneeled beside
the bed next to her. They are staring at each other intently, both on the
verge of crying but not wanting to be selfish and use that last time
together to do that.

“Would you light my candle?” Liz says to Max as she brings up her wavering
hand to cup his face.

“Yes, well, oh god, find a candle!” He doesn’t care if it sounds stupid; his
plea is just to make her happy. He just wants to see her happy.

“I should tell you,” they both say in unison and then they stop. Liz goes
first.

“I should tell you Kyle wasn’t any—.” She tries to finish but is interrupted
when Max places his finger on his mouth. She wants to tell him that Kyle
means nothing to her, that he never did and never will. That she regrets
being so cold towards Max and never being there after all the stuff he did.

“Shhh…” he says softly. He caresses her cheek again, being as gentle as he
can with his fingers, but still hoping to leave some kind of impression,
some mark to say that she is his. “I should tell you why I left, it wasn’t
cause I didn’t—.” She interrupts him, he wants to tell her the reason why he
left and it wasn’t because he didn’t want to be with her. He wanted her to
know that he was the one who was fucked up and that’s why he left.

“I know…” she cuts him off. She brings his palm to her lips and kisses it.
It takes all of her strength but she doesn’t care. She looks deep into his
amber eyes. She knows there isn’t much time, but she needs him to know. She
wants him to know. “I love you.” She confesses her love to him, using all of
her strength to make her voice loud.

They share an intense gaze and she kisses his palm again. Max bows his head
and some tears release from his eyes, his bottom lip starting to quiver as
it furrows. He brings his gaze back up to hers.

He traced her features again with his hand, planting kisses on both her
eyelids as she shut them. She opened them again and they were only
centimeters apart. He bought a kiss to her lips, soft and gentle; he didn’t
want to hurt her. Another tear left his eye thinking this could be the last
time he was going to taste her like this.

He pulled back and finally spoke, still running his hand along her cheek,
nose, mouth, and entire face. His gaze was soothing; he spoke in a tender
tone.

“Who do you think you are, leaving me alone with my guitar like that? Hold
on, please hold on. There’s something you should hear.” His eyes begin to
water; his words are no longer smooth but now shaky. “Did I tell you I found
my song? I did. It isn’t much, but it took all year.”

It takes all his will power to break from her gaze and grab the guitar
sitting next to him. He moves as close as he can to her, puts the guitar on
his lap, and starts to strum on his guitar…never leaving his eyes from hers.
The beginning chords of the simple song give her melody as she tries to hold
on. They calm her down, and they make her happy. They are her lullaby.

He begins to sing.

Your eyes
As we said our goodbyes
Can’t get them out of my mind
And I find I can’t hide
From your eyes…
The ones that took me by surprise
The night you came into my life
Where there’s moonlight
I see your eyes
How’d I let you slip away?
When I’m longing so to hold you?
Now I’d die for one more day
Cause there’s something I should have told you
Yes there’s something I should have told you
When I look into your eyes…
Why does distance make us wise?
You were the song all along
And before the song dies
I should tell you
I should tell you

He drops his guitar and grabs her face with both hands, his eyes staring
infinitely into hers, his voice never wavering, his gaze never wavering, his
love never wavering. He finishes singing his song, his song to Liz.

I have ALWAYS loved you
You can see it in my eyes…

He kisses her lips again, smooth velvet rubbing against each other. He runs
his tongue along her lips to taste her. She slowly opens her mouth, using
all the strength she has as she holds on to the back of his neck. They can
both taste the mixture of their tears. They press their foreheads together
as Max sighs. She is still holding on to the back of his neck.

Suddenly her hand goes limp and falls from him. He head turns slightly and
her eyes close.

“LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!” he
screams in agony. He tries to touch her all over her face praying to god
she’ll wake up. She’s only asleep. He keeps telling himself that.

He had fallen to his knees now, burying his head in her stomach. Mike, Alex,
and Maria watch in wonder, they don’t know what to do. All they know is that
he doesn’t deserve this to happen to him again.

Max still holds Liz’s unmoving hand. He cries into her stomach. It seems
like an eternity, like he’s been crying for so long.

“I jumped over the moon…” they hear a mumble.

Liz’s head is slightly moving.

Mike has dropped the phone, astonished.

“What?” Max lifts his head, eyes filled with agony, hoping it wasn’t just a
dream, and that Liz was really speaking.

“A leap of…mooooooooooo!” she sits up abruptly.

“She’s back!” Alex says.

Max is thanking the heavens and just looking at Liz, love pouring out.

“I was in this tunnel, heading for this warm white light…” Liz said as she
tried to explain.

“Oh my god,” Maria gasps before placing a hand in front of her mouth.

“And I swear, Isabel was there,” she shifts her gaze to Alex and softens.
“And she looked good. And she said ‘Turn around girl, and listen to that
boy’s song…'” she turns her gaze back to Max.

“She’s drenched,” Mike adds.

“Her fever’s breaking,” Alex places his hand on her forehead.

“Thank god,” Max pulls her into a tight embrace and they break apart.

He plants a kiss on her lips. She feels alive. The electricity is seeping
through both of them. The kiss is full of so much promise, desperation, and
love. They open their mouths hungrily to each other, wanting to touch every
crevice of each other’s mouth, hoping to memorize it and savor it. Their
tongues dance, duel, and swirl around each other. They cradle each other’s
faces in their hands, gently stroking each other’s cheeks. Max places a hand
on the small of her back, bringing her closer, never wanting to leave her
side again.

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


"It's about finding someone that is pure, that is perfect for you, that defines love in all sense of the word for you..."
~Jason Behr


"For people to tell you nice things or compliment you is rewarding, but if you allow yourself to buy into the notion you are now a star then you stop being actor. I'm just going along with the notion that ... people who end up walking around like their shoes are bigger than anybody else's end up stepping on other people's
shoes."
~Jason Behr