posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:21:55 PM
Title:Stumbling out of Darkness
Author: Carenicole
Rating: PG-13 for now NC-17 later
Category: M/L with snippets of the others, AU, no aliens
Summary: Liz and Max POV. Tragedy befalls Liz leaving her scarred and alone. Seeking a change, she befriends a blind Max's sister. Liz then moves in with Max to help him
out. Story goes through each of their struggles as they try to adjust their lives and give in to their attraction.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The characters belong to the WB..BLAH BLAH BLAH..... you know what I mean....Oh and all the songs belong to their respective artists. They're just being borrowed for their inspiring lyrics.
Distribution: Take it. Just so long as you let me know where it’s going, that way I can brag to all my friends and give them the address to look for it. (e-mail me at carenicole⊕hotmail.com)
Dedication: This is dedicated to Phae with special thanks because she let me e-mail her and gave me some really excellent input to help me keep this going. So THANK YOU PHAEDRA!


Stumbling Out of Darkeness
Chapter 1
The first time I saw the ad in the paper, I didn’t really think anything of it. I threw it away along with everything else, not giving it a second thought. I went on with my life. There was no need to go searching in places unknown when I had everything that I wanted right in front of me. But then things started spinning out of control. And like a beacon of light in the stormy sea of my life, the ad miraculously reappeared and seemed to reach out to me where I hid, engulfed in darkness.
I had been packing up their kitchen when it found me again. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting about the ad. It was just there, and I had seen it before. At the time it was so much more to me though. It was some kind of hope.

Wanted, live in resident to help with housework and cooking. Free room and board in exchange for services. For more details call 402-454-8986.

I stared at that phone number for hours on end. It was like some sort of link to salvation. It could take me away from all the pain. I dialed the number with trembling fingers. When the voice on the other end answered, I lost the ability to speak.
“Hello?” An uncertain voice asked.
“Hi,” I responded, “I’m....uhm...I’m calling about the ad..... in the newspaper.” My voice cracked embarrassingly as I spoke.
The woman on other end took over from there.
“Wonderful,” she said. “Now I know the ad wasn’t very specific, but we need to be able to weed certain people out and the only way to really do that is to talk with them. I’m sure you understand.”
“Oh, of course,” I respond. “I guess I just want some more information. There isn’t even a location given. I...” she cuts me off again.
“Yes, well, you’d be living in a house in Nebraska. It’s in a small town. My brother lives there alone. He needs assistance even if he doesn’t like to admit it. He’s... well... he’s blind.” Understanding begins to dawn as I continue to listen. I know that, more than anything, I want to do this. I could start fresh in a new place. A place where no one would know me or everything that has happened in my life.
I agreed to be interviewed and arranged to meet the woman at a small cafe nearby. As soon as I hung up the phone, I took the ad and carefully folded it into the pages of my journal. Like all the other newspaper clippings that had found their home there, this was significant in that it marked the start of many things to come. Of that much I was sure.
The next day I sat patiently in the cafe waiting for the woman. I had carefully fixed my hair, hoping to cover the majority of the bandages, making them unnoticeable to others around me. The woman would see them. It was hard to hide one’s face, after all.
When a tall, beautiful, blonde woman sat down across from me, I tried my hardest not to frown. It was difficult to be in the company of beauty while I sat there, quite obviously disfigured.
“You must be Liz,” the blond says as she smiles warmly. I nod, unable to force any sort of words out of my throat. She extends her hand to mine.
“I’m Isabel, Isabel Whitman. I can’t tell you how glad I was when you called yesterday. My husband and I had just about given up hope that anyone worthy would come along.”
I raise my eyebrows questioningly. ‘Worthy?’ What exactly did she mean? I am able to find my voice. “What make you so sure that I’m ‘worthy’?”
She appears to contemplate the question and then smiles again. “I don’t know. It’s just a feeling I have. I can’t explain it. Yesterday on the phone I felt I could tell you anything and you would understand.”
I am stunned. This woman sitting before me has known me less than five minutes. She knows next to nothing about me and yet she trusts me. I realize that I’m starting to feel the same about her. I am unsure what to say next, but Isabel has already decided that for me and we begin to discuss arrangements. She assumes that I’ve agreed to the job. It takes the pressure off me completely. I don’t have a decision to make. I don’t have to feel guilty about moving on and starting to let go of my past.
“I’ll go with you and stay for the first few days. That way you can get settled. It will help break the ice with Max. He’s....” She pauses, looking carefully for words to describe him without scaring me. “...he’s stubborn,” she finishes. “He doesn’t like people to think he can’t take care of himself. He’s really very capable, but he just can’t do everything. That’s where you come in. You can live there, in the house, free of charge in exchange for doing cooking, cleaning and laundry. Max works during the day, so maybe once your settled you’ll want to look for a job. It’s completely up to you.” I am once again in nod mode. Isabel must notice this because she studies me carefully.
“You’ll have to be a little more verbally expressive around Max. He won’t be able to tell if you’re nodding,” she says.
“How long has he been blind?” I ask suddenly.
For a moment Isabel looks sad. “About four years now. It happened the summer after his first year of teaching. He was 22. We’re twins actually,” she explained. “I’m not really even sure what happened. Max would never tell anyone. The police found his car wrapped around a light pole. He hit his head pretty hard. Hard enough to cause bleeding. The scar tissue is what keeps him from seeing.” The sad look was still haunting Isabel’s eyes. “What about you? Care to share about yourself?”
I shake my head and my hair moves away revealing the extent of the bandages. I hear Isabel’s intake of breathe. I can’t bring myself to look at her. Her words are whispered and shaky. “It was you......from the newspaper. I’m so sorry.”
I quickly wipe at the tears that start to form. “Let’s not talk about it, please,” I say. “I’m trying to move on and this is how I want to do it. A change of scenery will be good for me.” And your brother won’t have to see me so he won’t have to ask question or anything I add silently.
Isabel doesn’t push and I will be eternally grateful for that. Our coffee time ends and she invites me to dinner. “My husband will want to meet you and you have to me my daughter. She just turned three. I’ll let you in on a little secret now. She’s Max’s one weakness.” She laughed as she spoke. It was a laugh full of happiness and contentment. It was the laugh of a woman who led the kind of life that I’d once almost had. The kind of life I’d just started to really want but could now, never hope to have.
I walk away, unsure of how to feel. My heart is jumping into my throat, because even after everything, the thrill of adventure still has a profound effect on me, and this will be an adventure.
This brings me to the present. The moving van has since left. I’m not taking very much. Isabel said that she’d put my other things in storage for me. We became instant friends. She sort of just took me in and unlike others, she did it without pity or anything resembling it. It was just a fact that I needed someone to be my friend and she accepted that fact.
We’ve spent the last few days together. Her daughter Katia is the most precious thing in the world. She will be very beautiful, like Isabel. I no longer resent Isabel’s beauty. How can I after everything that she’s done for me? It isn’t her physical beauty that makes her who she is. She has a really big heart, one that she shares with a lucky few. I now feel privileged.
I ended up telling her almost everything, although I’m not sure I even remember it all. At first I was afraid to see her reaction, but when I had finally cautioned a glance in her direction, there had been tears in her eyes. She quickly wiped them away and hugged me. Then she said something that no one else had. “You’ll look back at this one day and see something good came from it.” At first I’d been confused. What good had possibly come from the now tragic circumstances of my life?
“I mean, if none of this would have happened, we never would have met and I’d be missing out on a very dear friend.” I realized then that she was right. I understood another part of Isabel’s beauty then. She could take an ugly situation like my own and make me see the good in it. Even if I didn’t want to recognize anything of the sort.
She’ll be here soon to pick me up. We’re driving from Chicago to this small town in Nebraska. Today is the first day I haven’t worn the bandages. I wonder if Isabel will say anything. She pulls up. Katia is already in the back, sleeping. Isabel is smiling her infectious smiles.
As we drive she tells me more about Max. “He used to play basketball. He was very good. It’s kind of hard now, though. He still tries to sometimes. It’s best if you don’t bother him or try to help him. He gets upset.” She glances briefly in my direction, looking for some kind of reaction. When she’s sure I’m still okay, she goes on. “ I should warn you now that I spoke with Max. He isn’t exactly thrilled about the situation. In fact he was very rude about it on the phone last night. I tried to smooth things over and told him that you really just needed a place to stay for awhile, but couldn't pay. He seemed to accept things then.”
“Did you tell him?” I ask, distress evident in my voice.
Isabel shakes her head, “No. I told you that I wouldn’t. If you feel like you can trust Max, then the decision to tell him is yours.” I look away in an effort to stop the tears from forming. I am saved by the sound of a voice from the back seat.
“Momma, are we there yet?” Katia asks sleepily. I laugh. It bubbles up from somewhere that’s long been hidden. A child can do that for you. They’ll take things you’ve long since buried and uncover them. Katia is uncovering a part of me that knew how to laugh and enjoy life. She reminds me very much of a future that I hope will come true one day.
Hours later we’re pulling into a rest stop. Isabel decides to call Max and warn him that we’ll be there soon. “Make sure your dressed,” she teases before she says goodbye. While she’s calling Alex, I take Katia with me to the restroom.
We’re standing there in front of the sink and I’m helping her wash her hands when her little face pops up. I can see her studying me carefully in the mirror. Her little hand moves to touch the glass and the face that exists in the mirror. Her finger traces the scar. I cringe even though she’s not actually touching me.
“Ouchie,” she says. “You got an ouchie too.” Then she smiles and proudly thrusts out her arm where a purple band aid has made its home. “Wanna see mine?” I can’t help but smile and nod. I realize that this scar will fade, slowly, but it will soon become less prominent. I wish I possessed the childlike quality of Katia’s that would allow me to make light of the ‘ouchie’ I’ve acquired.
Isabel finds us as we finish drying our hands. “We should go. Max is in a semi-decent mood. I would hate to have it pass before we arrive.” Her eyes twinkle as she speaks but the sadness soon trickles in. It’s as if she knows that I can see it because she turns away and begins her way back to the car.
Two hours later, the sun has set and we’re pulling into a quiet but friendly looking town called Seward. It isn’t big by any standards. A small suburb of Chicago is like a city compared to this. There is little traffic and the car seems to creep along through stop lights to its destination.
I can’t see the house very clearly in the dark, but that is the least of my worries. I get out of the car slowly. Isabel is holding a sleepy Katia in her arms. I follow her as she makes her way up the path to the door. She rings the doorbell and quite suddenly I’m paralyzed.

Chapter 2
When my sister called last week, telling me about this Liz woman, I was majorly pissed. I’ve been on my own for six years now. Four of those I’ve been sightless. I thought she understood that I don’t need a babysitter. But Isabel is relentless. All I ever hear about is how the house is too big to go unused and how I never take care of it even though I’m very capable..blah,blah,blah. I don’t really give a shit about stuff like that. I’m worrying about things like tripping on the sidewalk and losing my bearings completely. There’s also the little matter of my job. It takes twice as much effort to get things done. Does she not get that I’m busy? But it didn’t matter how angry I got, Isabel didn’t care. She said that it was her house too and she wanted it kept up. That’s why she hired Liz, Liz Parker.
The whole thing makes me uneasy. After all these years, it will be odd to have a woman living in the house again. I might just go crazy. It’s times like this that I’m thankful that I can’t see. I won’t have to see the pity in this Liz’s eyes when we meet. I won’t have to see her. At least this way, if she’s ugly, I’m spared the torture. I’ve shared this thought with my best friend Michael and his girlfriend Maria. Michael laughed and Maria promptly smacked us both for our rudeness. I can’t help but think that there must be something wrong with Liz to want to come here to the middle of nowhere and live with a blind man.
My biggest fear is that she’ll see me and after awhile try to seduce me and take advantage of me in my sightless condition. I won’t be able to tell if she’s ugly, so she probably figures that I’m easy prey. Images of a horny ugly woman pop into my brain and I cringe. I refuse to let this happen. I think these thoughts are all a direct result of my sister’s refusal to describe Liz for me.
She started to, but then stopped abruptly. “I can’t Max, you’ll have to see for yourself.” Once she realized what exactly she’d just said, Isabel had apologized profusely and started crying. It took me a good ten minutes to calm her down.
So I’ve resorted to enlisting Michael’s help. He’s here now, watching TV with me. I don’t watch it of course, but I listen to the dialog. Its all bull shit really. Most things are visual so I’m pretty out of the loop as far as that goes. Isabel called a couple of hours ago, saying they’d be here soon. Maria had promptly freaked out and ran up to the room where Liz will be staying. She’s up there putting the finishing touches on it right now. What the hell do I care though? Liz won’t be here long if I have anything to say about it. And believe me I have a lot to say.
The doorbell is ringing. “Michael, get the door,” I say. I’m not getting up. Let them come to me.
I can hear Michael’s chair rustle as he gets up. Meanwhile, Maria is noisily making her way down from upstairs to the front door. She beats Michael. I hear squeals from the hall and know that Izzy and Maria have once again been reunited. Michael groans loudly and mutters something. I make out the words ..”breathing would be good,” I can imagine Isabel hugging him to death. Then a tiny voice speaks. My ears perk up. It’s Katia. Izzy didn’t tell me that she was coming with.
“Aunt Mawia,” she says, “this is my best friend Liz.” She says it with a fair amount of possessiveness and I picture Katia clasping a faceless figure’s hand tightly.
So Liz has managed to win over Katia. That’s no small feat considering the she is her mother’s child is every way. Spoiled and stuck up just like Isabel. Sometimes it was endearing, on Katia that is, with Isabel it was just annoying. I start to get up to go join them, my stubborn demeanor losing its battle, all due to my niece. I’m not fast enough though because the others are making their way into the room. I pretend not to notice them and direct my gaze toward the sound of the TV.
A throat clears loudly.
“Max.....” Isabel says “Max, get your ass up and come meet Liz.” I glare in the general direction of her voice.
“Now now, Max, play nice,” she continues to bait me and I’m falling for it. I stand up and face Isabel, or at least the direction that her voice is coming from.
“Max Evans, meet Liz Parker. Liz, my brother Max.” Isabel says.
“Hi Max. It’s nice to meet you,” she says softly. I am floored. Her voice is enchanting. It’s warm and friendly, and even though she covers it well, I can still hear a hint of underlying sadness there as well. For a moment I am too enthralled to remember all my carefully laid plans to torture her and make her leave as quickly as possible. There is silence as everyone waits for my response. I know where Liz is standing and I turn towards her and then keep turning until I’m directly in front of Michael.
I stick out my hand, “It’s nice to meet you Liz,” I say. I wait for Michael to take my hand so I can continue. I’ve been waiting all afternoon to do this. I’ve even planned what to say, ‘wow for a woman you sure have large hands,’ She’ll of course be embarrassed and Isabel will be upset. But I don’t get the opportunity and my perfectly planned line is forgotten when suddenly a small, warm hand clasps mine. I wonder if my shock is written on my face. The silence that has occupied the room is dispelled when Liz speaks again.
“I know you were expecting Michael’s hand there Max, but really , could you relax your grip?” she teases. I hear Isabel snort back a laugh and once again I aim a glare in her direction. Then I lean down to the floor where I can feel Katia by me.
“I didn’t know that mommy did impressions of pigs Katia, did you?” Katia’s voice is one of an all knowing child.
“Momma makes all sorts of noises like that. ‘specially at night, when her and daddy are supposed to be sleeping.”
Suddenly Isabel’s laughter is gone. I can almost picture her face as it turns many shades of red. “And here I thought you were in a good mood,” Isabel bites out. I ignore her. Things have been this way between us for years now. Ever since the accident......
I can feel Liz’s body heat. She hasn’t moved away from me. Of course Michael has gone uncharacteristically silent which means that I cannot turn to him for help.
“Liz,” Maria says cheerily, “Why don’t I show you around the house. Then we can get you settled into your room.”
Maria has unwittingly done me a favor. I’ll have to thank her later.
Isabel leaves the room noisily and I catch my breath as Liz’s body brushes past me with only a millisecond of contact. It’s enough to let me know that I am in trouble. Once I’m sure they’re out of the room, I move back to my chair.
Michael starts to laugh. “Well , that went well,” he says. I only shrug and look towards the noise that is the TV. “So what’s your verdict? Is she ugly? Is it safe to say my efforts at being an ass are worth it?”
I’m met with silence. “Michael, if you’re shaking your damn head, how am I supposed to know the answer?”
“Maxwell, I don’t think that I can help you out with this. I ....” his words are cut off by another familiar voice.
“Uncle Max, Liz is real pretty. And she’s nice. She reads me stories and we showed each other our ouchies,” Katia says. I curse silently. I hadn’t realized she was still in the room.
“She’s pretty huh?” I say as Katia crawls into my lap. Children are well known for telling the truth. Maybe I can get some answers.
“yep,” Katia says. She’s playing with the TV remote now. The channels are switching rapidly. I don’t care. “So what does she look like?” I ask unable to keep the curiosity out of my voice. Before Katia can answer, I feel her being lifted from my lap. Shit Isabel. That’s great.
But it isn’t Isabel who leans forward. I can smell her now. She smells really good, just like ...lavender is it? Damn. “What do you want me to look like?” she whispers. I can feel her breath on my neck and I swallow hard. Her voice goes on. “Whatever your imagining now....” she pauses “...think of me as......the complete and total opposite.” With those words, she’s gone.
Michael is gut laughing. I can hear it and feel the vibrations of the chair next to mine. When he calms down he is able to speak. “So what did you imagine?” he asks.
I don’t want to reply. The image of Liz that I have in my head, fits the sound of her voice. How do you describe softness and warmth. That’s what I think of. I want to be surrounded by that. I shake my head and lie. “A tall, leggy blonde, with really big tits,” I say.
“Damn, she pegged you pretty good then, “ Michael says.
“ So that makes her....” I start.
“An average height brunette,” he mumbles something else under his breath and even with my enhanced hearing abilities I don’t catch it.
“What was that Michael? I didn’t hear everything you said,” I say. When he doesn’t respond I ask him more. “So, what does that make the rest of her like? Is she flat chested with stubby legs?”
“I’ll leave that for you to discover yourself. I’m sure you’ll think of some way to figure it out,’” Michael says. He’s still snickering to himself.
I know I’m in trouble now. It’s been a long time since anyone has made me feel anything, let alone what I felt in that one second of contact with Liz.
“You know, I do have a girlfriend, Michael. I’m not exactly sure she’d approve,” I tell him trying to set things in a new direction. I have to block out thoughts of discovering what Liz’s other ‘features’ are like.
“Ah yes, Tess. Where is the little vixen anyway? I’m surprised she didn’t want to be here to meet you’re new live in. You know maybe you should warn Liz about Tess. Things could get scary in the morning with both of them here,” Michael says.
“Why do you say that?” I ask, confused. Tess is completely aware of the situation. She knows this is all against my will. Or at least it was.
“All I’m gonna say is that if tonight is any indication, Liz on a bad day, could run circles around Tess. Which means that Tess will be a complete bitch to Liz no matter what. Especially if she feels that Liz is a threat and believe me when I say that she will be threatened.”
I contemplate Michael’s words carefully. He’s being honest as far as I can tell. The reality of the situation scares me. What Liz did for me in one touch, Tess has been unable to do in six months of ..... well many things.
I sigh dejectedly and realize that all my carefully laid plans are falling apart, right in front of me. Too bad I can’t watch it happen. I have a feeling I’d discover it was worth it.

Chapter 3
I surprise myself at my boldness with Max, but his attitude angers me a little bit. I’m not here to make his life horrible. I’m only here to make life easier for myself. I don’t feel sorry for him like I thought I would. He’s kind of a jerk. I have to admit though, I was intimidated by him. I wonder if he realizes how impressive he is. Physically, he out does the majority of men I’ve known. He’s got broad muscled shoulders, that aren’t easily masked by his clothing. He’s handsome. Not classically so but he is nonetheless. One could go on for days about his face, the chiseled cheekbones and well defined jaw. His eyes are what fascinate me the most though. They are really beautiful. Hazel is the term that most use but his seem to be flecked with gold. Their expressiveness is lost in his unseeing state. Its too bad really, it would have been a sight to behold those eyes lit up with emotion.
I digress though. I can’t focus on Max Evans or his amazing emotionless eyes. I’m here for one reason. And that is to heal, away from the queries and pity of others. I need this solitude and sanctuary. I need to be alone. I’ll just have to remind myself that Max is a nuisance, a huge pain in the ass, and get through it. Isabel has given me permission to put Max in his place wherever and whenever I can. I don’t think I’ll be having a problem with that.
The sun just rose and I can’t make myself go back to sleep. It must be the new surroundings. My things are supposed to arrive today so I’ll be able to unpack and have some familiar things. Maria, Isabel’s friend has agreed to come and help me. I can already tell that I’m going to like her. She’s really...cooky is the only word that comes to mind. Her boyfriend Michael is nice too. Although, he seems to be in cahoots with Max.
My room, as I discovered last night, has a window that opens out onto a large flat portion of roof. Isabel said that this used to be her room. She would put candles out on the roof and read. I think that if I ever decide to write in my journal again, that will be the place that I do it. I’m sitting here now a blanket wrapped around me, watching the sun come up. The neighborhood is quiet For the first time in awhile I feel some sort of peace. It is quickly replaced by guilt that I am able to go on with my life. I fall asleep on the roof, crying.
I’m not sure what time it is when I wake up again, but it’s obviously much later in the day. I check to make sure the bathroom is empty and then I go to grab my things. The warm shower feels good. As I feel the tension easing from my muscles, I try to ease my mind with a pep talk. Everything will be okay. I’ll get moved in and once things settle down I can start looking for a job. Once I’ve got enough money saved up I can look for my own place. I’ll still help out around the house, but I won’t stay here when I’m perfectly capable of affording my own place.
As I’m changing my clothes there’s a knock at the door.
“Just a moment please,” I say. I reach for my shirt and the door opens. There stands Max. “Didn’t you hear me say to wait?” I ask.
He merely shrugs. “Whatever. It’s not like I can see what you’re doing anyway. Breakfast is ready, so put your shirt on and come downstairs. There’s someone else you need to meet.” Max’s eyes are locked on me, or at least they appear to be.
He leaves the room gracefully. I can’t help but watch him. It’s as if he knows where everything is. There have been moments in these few hours that I’ve known him where I wonder if he really is blind.
I pull my shirt on quickly and make my way downstairs. Isabel and Katia are seated at the table next to Max and another girl. Katia’s face lights up when she sees me and my heart jumps. “Liz,” she squeals, getting out of her chair. Isabel is smiling now too. Max is frowning and the other woman is appraising me closely. She appears to be finished after a moment and scoots her chair closer to Max, if its even possible.
I realize then that this must be Max’s girlfriend. I’m disappointed but not surprised. Why wouldn’t he have a girlfriend? It seems fitting it would be someone like this woman. I decide to be friendly. After all, I don’t know many people and maybe my first impression of this woman will be wrong.
“Hi, I’m Liz Parker,” I say, extending my hand. She looks at it and then my face.
“Tess Harding, Max’s girlfriend,” she pauses. Max looks uncomfortable.
“Well, when they said you were leaving Chicago to come here, I though you were either crazy or desperate or something. Now I see that you’re here to hide.” She’s referring to the scar now. I”m happy to discover that my first impression was not wrong. This woman is a bitch.
“Tess, I really don’t think...” Isabel starts to say, but I hold my hand up to stop her. I can fight my own battles.
“I’m not here to hide Tess. I’m here to heal. Isabel and Max have been kind enough to give me a place to do that. I can assure you I won’t get in your or Max’s way. As soon as I can get on my feet again, I’ll be out on my own.” With that said, I put Katia back in her chair and go sit down. Breakfast is quiet. Isabel and I discuss plans for the day. Once the rest of my things arrive she’s going to show me around town. Max barely says three words the entire time and Tess just keeps glancing from me back to Max. We’re just finishing up when Maria breezes into the house.
“Ah, if it isn’t the gerbil. Must of gotten up early to sharpen your fangs and make your way over here,” Maria says when she sees Tess.
“Weirdo,” Tess says.
“Ooooh, good comeback. I’ll have to remember that one for later,” Maria says rolling her eyes.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Max trying to suppress his laughter.
“So, Max, you ready? I’m very sorry I have to take you from the clutches of the ghila monster but work beckons.” Maria smile brightly. “Wow, Liz, how do you get your hair to do that?” Maria asks.
I frown, “Do what?”
“Well, it’s so long and it just looks so thick and shiny. And well, as you can see, even Tess, who spends hours primping can’t get her hair to look like that.” I feel my cheeks turn red. “Oh, I...well, I didn’t do anything. I ...uh... just got out of the shower...” my voice trails off flustered.
Maria speaks up. “And it’s such a great shade too. Like dark chocolate. Yeah, that’s a good description.” Maria’s gaze rest on Max who is smirking. Now I’m a little pissed.
“Oh, Maria please, Max already got a good description o f me last night.” I pause for effect and continue. “He understands how I look perfectly.” The suggestiveness of my voice is not lost on anyone. Max appears to choke on something. Tess quickly hands him some water and then glares at me. Once he’s recovered he pushes himself away from the table quickly.
“I’ll be back later,” he mumbles. Maria grins at me. This is certainly going to be fun.
***************************
I’m fuming as I make my way out of the house. Mostly because I know that I’m ruined. Maria is laughing behind me. She comes up and takes my arm, steering me to her car. “I tried Max, but the girl is smart. She caught on,” Maria says. I can hear the laughter in her voice.
“Well, I appreciate the effort. “ I pause. “So what you were saying back there about her hair, are you for real?”
“Yep. It’s long and brown, but it’s not really a regular brown. It’s really sort of indescribable. Dark chocolate comes close.”
“So exactly how long is it?” I ask. I don’t know why I’m obsessing about this.
“It hangs down to her waist.” Maria mumbles something about a turn signal then as she drives.
“You were laying it on pretty thick back there,” I say.
“Yeah, well, I was just trying to piss Tess off. I needed a little entertainment this morning.” I try not to laugh at this. I really should defend my girlfriend, but for some reason I just can’t.
We arrive at the school and Maria tells me we’re in space 4A. So we’re about thirty-seven steps from the front door. My mind counts the steps automatically. We reach the door and then we’re fifty-eight step from my classroom. I teach fourth grade. I wonder if Liz knows this about me. What do I care? She’s not supposed to like me.
Once I’m at the door to my classroom Maria takes off for her own. She teaches the Jr. High music classes. The kids all think that she’s crazy. I have to agree.
I hurry around the classroom, making sure that everything is in place. It’s about two months into the school year. My students this year have adjusted to my situation quickly. They all seem to like me. It might be the games that we play for the first week of class while I learn their names and their voices so I can tell them apart. This job is really great, it’s just a lot of work. Even more so than if I could see. But I don’t let that stop me. There are still some things that I can’t do. It pisses me off to no end, but there isn’t a damn thing that I can do about it. The school has hired someone to help me. Mrs. Weston is about eighty years old. Most of the time she sits in the back of the room and knits, but she’s pretty useful. It took me some time to get over being stubborn and let her help. It makes my job a helluva lot easier.
For some reason, I’m exhausted by lunch today. So when Maria shows up to eat with me, I don’t say much. We’re sitting in the cafeteria eating what can only be described as mush. “So tell me,” I say, “Does it look as bad as it tastes?” Maria laughs even though she’s probably heard me say that a thousand times.
“That’s why you should bring your own lunch,” she says.
“Oh, and miss out on this, never,” I say sarcastically.
“Maybe if you ask nicely like a good boy, Liz will pack it for you,” Michael’s voice says as he sits, shaking the table.
“Nice of you to join us,” Maria says. Michael is, big surprise, the janitor here at school. He’s slowly but surely working his way through college, trying to get a degree in art history. We’ve got a little bet going worth a thousand dollars that he’ll end up teaching art here or in some nearby town.
I try to ignore Michael’s comment and shovel another spoonful of mush into my mouth.
“You know Max, I know you’re trying to work the whole ‘I’m an independent blindman’ angle here, but if you really want to get rid of Liz why don’t you just lay it on really thick. Have her do everything for you. That would piss anyone off,” Michael says.
I briefly consider his idea. Maybe it could work. Maria’s voice interrupts my thoughts. It’s taken on a higher pitch, a sure sign of anger.
“What do you mean, ‘get rid of Liz’? Oh! If you only knew everything that girl has been through, you would just leave it alone,” she says. Guilt rushes in. Isabel had briefly mentioned something about Liz being involved in some sort of tragedy. Then this morning Liz had mentioned coming here to heal.
“What happened to her? It that where the ..uh...you know came from?” Michael asks.
“Where what came from?” Now I’m really curious. I hear the sound of flesh hitting a clothed chest and Michael’s mumbled “owe”
“It’s nothing Max, really. You don’t need to worry about it...” Maria says. I cut her off though. “Just tell me dammit,” I say, my voice raising slightly.
“Alright, just calm down,” Maria says. She sighs and then starts in. “About four months ago, Liz’s family was in a car accident. Her parents were killed. She was the only survivor.” There’s a slight pause. “She didn’t come out of it completely unscathed though. Isabel had read her story in the paper and it said that the survivor had sustained minor injuries that included a broken wrist and a laceration to the face and neck.”
“So she’s got a scar,” Michael adds in.
“Is that why no one else would describe her for me?” I ask. Part of me wants to say ‘Aha, I was right. There is something wrong with her,’ instead another thought overrides it. “Is it bad?” I hear my voice ask softly.
“No, not really. It’s still pretty new, trying to heal and stuff.” Michael goes on, “Maxwell, the reason we didn’t describe her to you is because well, she’s sort of out of the realm of words. It isn’t just the way she looks either. There’s just something about her.” I wait to hear Maria say something about Michael ogling Liz but she doesn’t.
“Michael’s right. I mean we could give you a basic description but it doesn’t do her justice. She’s just....” Maria’s voice trails off.
“.......beyond,” my voice fills in.
They say nothing but I know they are shaking their heads in agreement.
Chapter 4
The afternoon wears on. The classroom has gone quiet as the kids concentrate on their reading assignment. This gives me time to contemplate the conversation from lunch. I try to pinpoint what exactly makes Liz so ‘beyond’ as I eloquently put it earlier. I have no idea. I’m not even sure where that comment came from.
A knock at the classroom door breaks through my reverie. I know the kids’ attention is now focused on the door instead of their assignment. I can hear their whispers and some giggles. They’re shuffling around and getting noisy with this break in concentration. “Back to work,” I say as I make my way to the door. I open it and feel someone wrap themselves around my legs.
“Uncle Max,” that someone says.
“Katia, what are you doing her?” I ask her. I hear Isabel’s voice then.
“We stopped by to see Maria. Liz is down there now. Maria talked her into singing with her.”
“To what?” I ask. All I can really think is that Liz is here, in the school. Is she going to come and see me? I push these thoughts away.
“Oh, Liz is singer. Maria’s going to play her guitar and they’re putting on a mini-concert for the whole jr. high. Those eighth grade boys really have a thing for Liz,” Isabel says with a chuckle. “You should bring your class down. I know how much you like music. It’s something you and Liz have in common.”
“So when does this little impromptu concert start?” I ask, ignoring the idea of common interests shared with Liz.
“In about five minutes. It’ll be fun. Even Michael’s coming.”
I turn toward my class of students. “Alright, guys, ladies, put your stuff away. We’re going down to Miss Deluca’s classroom for a little concert.” I’m rewarded with some small ‘yea’s’ and I hear desks slamming shut and chairs squeaking. The kids are noisily forming a line. I tell Mrs. Weston to take the kids down and I walk with Katia and Isabel. 117 steps later we’re at the classroom doorway. I hesitate momentarily, but Katia take my hand and pulls me through. She sits on my lap and whispers, “My Liz is gonna sing.” Katia’s continued possessiveness of Liz surprises me.
Above the chatter of the kids I can make out the faint sound of Liz and Maria. Isabel leans over to me, “They’re trying to figure out what songs to do. Maria wants to do that ‘Bitch’ song. She really gets off on performing that. Liz is shaking her head no, furiously.” I chuckle. That is Maria’s favorite song. I remember the first time she heard it, she immediately dedicated it to Michael. The kids continue to drown out the voices of Maria and Liz until I hear a shrill whistle that could only have come from Maria.
“Alright, quiet down will you? We want to get this show on the road. First of all, I’d like to introduce you to Liz Parker. She came all the way from Chicago to put on this concert for you, so do us a favor and keep your mouths shut while the music is playing.” The speech was delivered in true Maria fashion and the room is filled with giggles and I’m sure the guys are rolling their eyes at her. She’s so damn quirky, everyone loves her.
Now Liz speaks up. “I’m not sure what kind of music you guys listen to, so once we start if you have any suggestions, raise your hand and we’ll see if we know it.”
Maria starts to strum her guitar. Isabel leans over and whispers in my ear. “They’re both sitting on stools in the front.” As she speaks Liz’s voice fills the air.

God I feel like hell tonight
These tears of rage I cannot fight
I’d be the last to help you understand
Are you strong enough to be my man,

I’m blown away. Her voice has this throaty richness to it, and each note is coming together as if it’s telling a story, intricately weaving everything together. It’s amazing. More than that though, it’s beautiful. The kind of beautiful that pulls at you and makes you sort of ache when you hear it because its just so perfect in its own way. I think that Liz’s voice is a direct reflection of what everyone else has been able to see in her. And now I can hear it and know that all of my false presumptions about her and my obsession with the way she looks mean nothing. Everything that I want to know about Liz I can hear as she sings, weaving the story through the music and her spell through my heart.

Nothing’s true and nothing’s right
So let me be alone tonight
Cause you can’t change the way I am
Are you strong enough to be my man

Lie to me, I promise, I’ll believe
Lie to me, but please don’t leave

The song goes on and I’m lost in her voice, the words she sings and the emotion she them with. I'm barely aware when the song ends until the students start to applaud and then another song starts. This time Maria is singing and Liz is harmonizing. My mind tunes out Maria and listens to Liz only. I don’t know why but I know I’m a lost cause. The only thing that I’m even capable of comprehending is that Liz Parker managed to turn my world upside down in less than twenty four hours. I’m on the verge of being scared now. There’s no telling what will happen when it’s just the two of us, alone in that house. I’m afraid that if she doesn’t try and seduce me, I just might go crazy and attack her.
******************************
I didn’t notice Max and his classroom of fourth graders until Maria and I were on our fifth song. A little girl from his class raised her hand. “Do you know any Brittney Spears?” she asked excitedly. I saw Max grin and chuckle into Katia’s hair. He’s so different with Katia. My whole image of him changes when I see them together. He appears rough and closed off with everyone else. His attitude is a defense mechanism. I think that everyone recognizes that. He doesn’t want pity or help. We have that in common. I refocus on the anxious little girl.
“I actually do know a couple of her songs. What do you say Maria?” I ask, knowing I’ll regret this later if she says yes.
“Sorry chica, I can’t play her on the guitar and even if I could I refuse to pollute my music room. Can you think of anything else?”
I know another song. I haven’t done it in ages. Not since my parents 25th anniversary. It was their song. They had been so happy, dancing to it and smiling proudly as I sang it for them. If I sing it now, maybe I can get rid of some of my demons. My thoughts turn to Max as I try to see if I remember the words. No, he isn’t why I want to sing this. The words mean absolutely nothing to me. I whisper to Maria my choice and she grins widely. “Nice choice,” she says.
Maria gives the kids a look and they immediately quiet down. I turn back toward them and situate myself on the stool. Maria starts the intro and as I prepare to start my gaze lands on Max. His eyes are closed and his chin rests on Katia’s head. My heart starts to beat a little faster as I sing the opening lines, hoping that my voice isn’t shaking the way my insides are.

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
and the moon and the starts
were the gifts you gave,
to the dark and the endless skies
my love

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hands
like the trembling heart
of a captive bird
that was there at my command
my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
The first time
Ever I saw your face

I can’t stop the tears that run down my face as I finish the song. The kids are clapping loudly and I try to wipe away any signs of emotion. But it’s too late, Isabel has seen. She gives me an understanding look that breaks into a beaming smile. I smile back. My gaze falters though as I look over at Max. He’s still sitting there, eyes closed, his expression unreadable. I try desperately to convince myself that there isn’t anything I particularly care to see in his expression.
Maria thinks of another song and we launch into it. It’s the last one and as soon as we’re finished, she thanks them all for their attention and tells them to get the hell out of her classroom. They chuckle and obey. After they’ve all marched off, Maria and I stand there and talk. Max is taking his class back to their room, but Isabel, Michael and Katia come up and join us.
“Liz, I’m seriously impressed,” Maria says with a broad smile. I can’t help but return it. It feels good to be doing something I love again.
“Where did you get your set of pipes?” she asks. I laugh at this.
“My mother was a music teacher. I started taking voice lessons when I was young. I sang back up vocals for a couple of groups, but that really wasn’t what I wanted. So I have to fall back on my biology degree.” They laugh at my joke. It really is sort of funny to have that to fall back on.
“Well, if you want, I think we should get together and work on some stuff. You’ve got talent babe and with your voice and my music, we could have a hit on our hands,” Maria is starting to babble excitedly. Her voice has raised an octave and she’s making wild hand gestures.
“Maybe you should wait and see if any of your stuff is any good. Liz might not want to put her voice with what you write,” Michael tells her. Maria just rolls her eyes.
I’m glad for a reason to change the subject. Isabel brings up the idea of Michael and Maria coming over for dinner. “I’m going to take Liz around town and show her where things are at. Then we’re going grocery shopping. So you may present yourselves at the house sometime before 7pm. If you aren’t there by then, we’ll eat without you,” Isabel informs them.
“I’ll be there. I’m not one to turn down a home cooked meal,” Michael says. At this Maria hits his arm. “ I cook for you all the time,” she says as if to remind him.
“Maria, baby, it doesn’t count as cooking if all you did was open the box from the freezer and put it in the microwave,” Michael points out.
“I suppose. I retract my hit then,” I can only shake my head and laugh when she says that. This couple is something else. You can tell they love each other, but it’s like the only way they know how to express that love is to trade insults.
“Come on Liz, let’s go,” Isabel says, “before this breaks into a real fight.”
“Where’s Katia?” I ask. I just noticed that she disappeared. She’d been playing with her doll over by the door. Isabel’s face is immediately panicked. “She was just there a minute ago.”
“She couldn’t have gone far. I’m sure she’s close by. We’ll just split up and look around,” I say, hoping that Isabel can remain calm. We set off to find her, Isabel going one way and I another.
After five minutes, I find myself standing in front of a classroom peering into the window through the door. It’s Max’s class and sure enough, there is Katia, perched in Max’s desk chair while he goes over an overhead on the board. For a moment I stand there and just watch. He runs his finger over the overhead and I realize that there must be braille on it to help him. He says something and then his fingers trail over it again as he continues to talk.
I knock timidly on the door and an older woman answers it. She smiles at me. “Can I help you?” she whispers. I nod.
“Yes, Max’s niece, Katia. I’m here to pick her up.”
The woman ushers me into the room and I stand there nervously as twenty-five pairs of eyes turn towards me. Max stops what he is doing and tells the class to sit quietly for a moment. He makes his way over to me. Once again I find myself doubting that he’s really blind. He moves so easily, without any apparent hesitation. It’s beyond intriguing.
Katia jumps up from Max’s chair and rushes over into my arms. “Liz,” Max starts. If he could see the shock on my face, he would laugh. How did he even know it was me? I haven’t even spoken. I don’t let him go on.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your class. Katia ran off and Isabel and I have been running all around the school trying to find her. We should have know she would find you. We’ll just be going now. I’ll see you later at home.” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. I check Max’s reaction. His face gives away nothing. Good, I’m glad he didn’t think anything of my words. It was really just a slip of the tongue.
***************************
“I’ll see you at home,” Those words from her mouth had to be the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. It sounded so natural, so right, like something that had always been, that you didn’t question.
I had known, the moment someone new entered the classroom, that it was her. It was only confirmed for me when I approached her and could smell the lavender scent that had overpowered me the night before. Once she was gone it was a battle to reign in my senses and go back to finish teaching. I’ll have to tell Liz that she can’t visit me at school. She’s too distracting.....to the students.


Chapter 5
When the bell rings for the end of the day I’ve never been more relieved. Mrs. Weston leaves shortly after the kids do and I’m left alone. I don’t have any papers to grade, Thank God. I try to limit graded homework as much as possible. I usually can’t do it myself and the school has to find someone to do it for me because Mrs. Weston's eyes are bad and the papers end up wrong anyway. They’re trying to find another assistant for me but they can’t quite fit it into the budget. I feel like more of a pain in the ass than a help to the school. They would probably be better off hiring someone else for the job, but they can’t fire me just because I’m blind.
I wait for Maria to come and retrieve me. She shows up at four o’clock exactly.
“Alright, you ready?” she asks cheerily. She always so damn happy. Unless she’s having one of her panic attacks. That’s when I leave and Michael takes over. He’s the only one that can calm her down and get her to think rationally. Otherwise Maria’s just one perky, solid rock of a friend. I can only nod in response to her question . The drive home is filled with her chatter. I don’t pay much attention until she mentions Liz.
“ So I want Liz to try and sing with me. I think that it could work. She’s got a killer sound and if we put it with my music it’s a win-win situation. What do you think, Max?”
I’m not sure what to say. Any response I give will certainly be misconstrued as something other than it is because all I can think of to say is that Liz is incredible. And I don’t just mean her voice. Maria will pick up on that the minute I say anything. It’s less embarrassing to keep my mouth shut. Maria wisely changes the subject in response to my silence.
“So dinner tonight, your place,” she says.
This is of course, news to me.
“Is the barracuda invited?” By that she means Tess.
“This is apparently something that Isabel has organized, so that would be a no. Tess and Izzy don’t exactly get along.” That was an understatement. The situation is actually sort of odd. Isabel and Tess had been good friend for several years. That was until Tess and I started dating. That must have really pissed Izzy off because once that happened neither one could say anything nice about the other. I try to stay out of it. They can work out their problem with each other on their own.
Maria walks me to the door and bounces off with a quick later. I let myself inside. It’s quiet which means that Isabel, Liz and Katia are still out. I make my way upstairs to my room. For some reason today has left me exhausted. So I flop on the bed. I’ll just take a nap, just for a few minutes.
I wake up sometime later. I touch the clock next to the bed and the digital voice says that it’s six thirty. I was out for a couple of hours. I can smell food cooking downstairs and I hear laughter. I make my way down to the kitchen. The closer I get the louder the laugher is. Isabel’s laugh rings out loud and clear along with Katia’s innocent giggle. Then Liz’s own laugh joins the chorus. Like everything else about her, it’s mesmerizing, pulling me further into her trap. I want to be the one making her laugh.
“Oh, Max,” she says as her laughter subsides. “Did you have a nice nap?” I nod and then I feel her close to me. Her arm brushes mine and she’s touching my hair.
“It’s a little ruffled,” she says to explain her action.
“Oh, Thanks,” I manage to say. “So what smells so good?” I ask turning toward where I’d last heard Isabel. Her voice comes from the other direction and I adjust myself.
“I’m teaching Liz how to cook your favorite. That chicken marinated with that teriyaki stuff and the rice with the peppers,” Isabel answers.
Liz’s voice follows. “Max, I was thinking that maybe when you have time, we should sit down and talk. You can tell me what you want me to do and not do. Some general rules and stuff would be helpful. Do you think that would be okay?” She sounds hopeful like she really wants to make this work. Suddenly my stubborn side rears its ugly head. I don’t want her waiting on me.
“We’ll see,” is all I say.
The doorbell rings then and before we can answer it, Michael and Maria present themselves in the kitchen. They chatter. The conversation is light. I notice that Liz’s voice does not join in and I feel guilty. I should try to make this work, but I’m feeling so many things. Things like that if Liz is going to live with me, it should be as something more than just my housekeeper.
Dinner’s ready and we sit down to eat. The scent of lavender wafts toward my nose as she sits down next to me. She says nothing.
“Well, dig in, before all our hard work gets cold,” Isabel commands.
I wait patiently for someone to tell me what’s what. Usually Michael or Maria will say something but they don’t. I can hear Isabel arguing with Katia.
“ I don’t like ‘da red tings mommy,” Katia says.
“Well you can pick them out,” Izzy tells her.
I don’t want to fumble with the food and make Liz think that I’m incompetent. Her quiet voice finally permeates through the noise of the others.
“Rice at ten, chicken at two,” she says. It’s like she knew my dilemma. I only nod. Liz is just one big surprise. I would expect her to try to serve me, but no, she assumes correctly that I’ll do it by myself,
************************************
I watched him grip his fork anxiously, waiting for someone to help even if he didn’t want to admit he needed it. So I tell him what I think he wants to know. Once I do, he sets to work getting his food. His movement appears effortless but there are moments of brief hesitation. I am awed. I can’t think of another word for it. It’s amazing to watch him do things that I normally take for granted. It isn’t that he struggles with them, it’s just knowing that he doesn’t limit himself because of his blindness. I know that I can’t ever really understand what it’s like, but it has to be hard to rely on other people for simple things. But I guess, like Max, you learn to cope.
When dinner’s finished, I volunteer to clean up while the others go in to talk some more. Isabel and Katia are leaving tomorrow afternoon, so this is their last night. They should enjoy it.
I’m washing off the dinner plates when I feel him come up behind me. “You should come join us,” Max says. “Those can wait until later.” Forgetting myself I nod. Max smiles and my heart stops. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quiet catch that nod,” he teases. For some reason that makes me laugh. Now I apologize. I promise him to be better about that.
Max just shrugs. “Whatever. Listen, you were right. We should sit down and talk, lay out some ground rules. We can do that after Isabel leaves tomorrow if you want.”
I start to nod and then remembering, vocalize my response. “That sounds good.”
The night that passes is full of laughter as forgotten times are recalled. Katia falls asleep on my lap and I take her up to the room she’s sharing with Isabel. When I go lay her down, she stirs.
“Sing to me, my Lizzy,” she says softly.
“What do you want me to sing?” I whisper. She sighs, “Do you know the mermaid song from the movie?”
“Sure sweetie, I know that one,” I brush the hair away from her forehead and pull the covers up and around her. I start the song, singing softly.
Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat
wouldn’t you think my collections complete........

I keep singing until her eyes drift shut and her breath becomes steady and even. I can’t help but smile as I gaze down at her. Somehow in this new place, all those dreams that I’d once thought were impossible, don’t seem so far out of reach.
********************
I followed her up the stairs with Katia because I wanted to tell Katia good night, but I stopped outside the door listening to them talk. I would give anything to watch Liz with Katia. My heart aches to think of the display of beauty that I’m missing out on. Liz is singing to her now. Visions dance through my head, visions involving how I imagine Liz to be and what it would be like if she could love me and want to have a family with me.
I quickly shake my head. That thought is impossible. I hardly know her. What am I thinking? Why am I responding to Liz this way? I have a girlfriend, I remind myself. I make my way back downstairs before Liz finishes the song and finds me standing there stupidly.
Michael, Maria and Isabel are silent when I enter the room again. I say nothing to them. Isabel breaks the silence.
“Can I trust you alone with Liz after tomorrow?” she asks. Her tone is light but I can sense the seriousness of her question. She cares a great deal about Liz. It amazes me that Liz seems to have won over the hearts of everyone, including me.
******************************
Isabel finally left after a somewhat tearful goodbye. Katia cried and made me promise to come visit her soon.
“Bring my Liz with you,” she demanded of me. Isabel was sniffling as she gave me another warning not to do anything to Liz. I want to reassure her. I hear Isabel whisper something to Liz but can only make out the part about calling her if I’m an ass. I shake my head and wonder how long I’ve had this reputation of mine for being a jerk. Not that it isn’t well deserved.
I stand next to Liz on the sidewalk and listen to the car pull away. “Katia blew you a kiss,” Liz whispers. I smile at this.
“You know you have a nice smile,” Liz says. “You should think about doing it more often.” And then her presence is gone. I can no longer feel the warmth of her body next to mine. I turn around and make my way back to the house. I decide that Liz is dangerous. I’ve got myself disoriented and I walk into the porch railing. “Dammit!” I curse under my breath. I quickly adjust and make my way onto the porch and to the door.
I go into the kitchen where I hear Liz moving around.
“So, should we talk?” I say. I don’t hear an answer so I assume that she’s nodding. Her voice finally says yes and I sit down at the kitchen table. I hear her pull out a chair and sit down waiting for her to go first.
‘So, I guess we should lay down some ground rules,” she starts.
“Like what?” This is all new to me. I’ve been trying to be on my own for so long that I’m not sure how to go about any of this.
“Well, let’s start with the privacy thing. I won’t walk in on you if you don’t walk in on me.” I chuckle at this. “That really bothered you huh?” I ask.
“Sort of. I realize that it isn’t a big deal. I mean I could run around here naked and it wouldn’t matter. But what I’m trying to say is that I’ll respect your privacy. I don’t want to intrude on your life. I’m just pretty much a live in maid or something.” she pauses, “Is that okay?” For a moment I say nothing, my mind is still back aways, pondering a naked Liz.
“What exactly did Isabel tell you about this arrangement?” I ask her. Isabel never really went over anything with me. She just assumed. That’s one of those annoying traits of hers.
“Well, the deal was that I would cook, clean and do laundry. And anything else you need me to. Once I get into the routine of things, I’ll get a job somewhere,” her voice waivers slightly. “Max, I realize that you probably resent having me here, but honestly, I’m not trying to make your life difficult. I just........needed to get away from the past and make a fresh start.” I can hear the tears in her voice. I don’t want her to cry.
“Liz, I’m sorry I came off like such a jerk. It’s just that I don’t always appreciate my sister’s attempts at helping me out. I really can take care of myself. I’ve managed for quite a few years,” I try to explain.
Her voice is pleading when she speaks again. “ I realize that, but could we maybe just pretend that you need help? Let me do this. At least until I can find a job and pay rent, then once I’m on my feet I’ll be out of your way.”
The thought of her leaving actually scares me. Now that she’s here I don’t want her to go. I want to get to know her, spend time with her, maybe make her want to stay.
Now I’m the one doing the nodding. I hear a sniffle and a sigh of relief. Then she clears her throat. “Okay, so do you want to show me the ropes? We can start with laundry.” She sounds so excited and hopeful, like doing my laundry is the thrill of her life.
“As long as the clothes are clean, that’s all I care about,” I say. Suddenly she takes my hand and pulls me out of the chair, leading me up the stairs. For a moment I want to rebel, because I’m perfectly capable of getting upstairs on my own. But her gesture is so natural that I realize it’s not done to help me but rather drag me to where she wants me to go. In my head I’ve counted the steps and know that we’re at my room.
“Okay, so explain how you organize everything. I don’t want to mess it up and have you end up mismatched.” I can’t believe she’s even thought about these things. I explain my system to her and go on and tell her about other things. I stress the importance of not moving my things around if at all possible. After this she launches into a spiel about food and how she needs to know what I like to eat. She just keeps going, bringing up little things that I usually don’t even think about.
Over dinner later we have a sort of get to know you discussion. Both of us are careful not to disclose the details of our accidents. She is careful to avoid mentioning her parents. I could just be thinking that because of what Maria and Michael told me. If Liz wants to talk about it later, I’ll let her. She does tell me about college and her many jobs. For awhile we’re both laughing as she tells about her first public performance when she decided to go solo with her singing. She’d been doing really great until the shoes she’d been wearing had decided to become possessed and she fell right off of the stage. I tell her about walking into things and what a bitch it is to trip and lose my bearings. These really aren’t all that funny, but its easier to laugh at my misfortune with her there.
Our pleasant exchange is interrupted by the arrival of Tess. I will myself to be happy about her presence but it just won’t happen. She attaches herself to me quickly and then immediately tries to get her digs in on Liz. I’m starting to understand why Maria thinks she’s a monster.
“ So Liz, are you getting the hang of things?” she asks. Her voice is all sugary and sweet.
“Yeah, Max gave me the tour this afternoon. I think that I’m all set,” Liz says.
“That’s good. You know I noticed when I walked in that the front room is getting a little dusty. You might want to take care of that.” As soon as I hear her say this I wince.
“Tess, Liz is not a maid,” Tess interrupts me before I can finish.
“I thought that was the arrangement though, Max. She cleans and cook and in return you give her a place to stay.”
I start to protest. Tess is starting to piss me off. Liz is more than a maid and the way Tess is speaking of her is belittling.
Liz speaks before I can. “You’re right Tess, it did look a little dusty. I’ll get it tomorrow when I clean the rest of the house. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to clean up dinner.” Liz’s voice is sort of cold and flat. She grabs my plate. I’m very aware of her arm as it brushes against me. When I hear the clink of plates and glasses in the sink I turn to Tess.
“Damn, do you have to be so rude? She hasn’t even been here 48 hours. Give her a break. She’s really nice.” I hear a yelp of protest from Tess’ direction.
“Please Max, she’s only after one thing. She’s trying to take advantage of you. Stop being so damn naive. You need to be careful.” Tess’ hand moves from where it is grasping my arm to my thigh. I try not to visibly cringe at this action but I’m not in the mood for Tess or any of her games tonight. I leave Tess sitting there and get up to go check on Liz. The water is running, she’s probably doing dishes. The sounds I hear confirm this for me.
“Listen Liz, “ I start, but she doesn’t let me finish.
“Max, don’t apologize for her. You aren’t the one that did anything wrong. If she wants to be that way, let her. It doesn’t bother me. Just know that I’m not going to apologize to her if she makes me lose my temper.” There’s a pause while she shuts off the water. “Besides, I’m sure she’s just jealous. I mean I have the distinct pleasure of living with you and she just gets to visit. “ Liz’s voice is playful now. “She probably thinks that I’m going to take advantage of you in your sightless condition.” Liz laughs at this and I cough to cover up the strangled noise that escapes my throat as she says this. I immediately feel guilty for having ever thought that to begin with. Liz goes on.
“No offense, but just because your blind, that doesn’t make you an easy target for seduction. And besides, I’ve got other, more important thing to worry about than trying to get into your pants.”
That was an earful.
I’m a little disappointed.
“Okay, then,” Is all I can manage to say. Liz laughs again and I want to kiss her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to rant like that......” She goes on about dealing with her anger more productively and so on, but all I can think of is kissing the lips those words are bubbling out of. It would certainly silence her. Before I have the opportunity, reality in the form of Tess comes in through the swinging kitchen door. I hear her heels clicking on the linoleum floor.
“What’s this, a party and I’m not invited?” she asks, her voice laced with sarcasm and barely controlled anger. I sigh inwardly.
“Tess, let’s go upstairs. We need to talk.”
**************************
I’ve never been more relieved in my life than when he takes her away. I’m not usually so quick to make judgments. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and get to know them. But this woman is a bitch right down to the tips of her bottle blonde roots. There is no way around it.
Max is the real reason for my nervousness and unease. I wonder if he knows just how impressive he is. The whole time I was ranting to him about not wanting to get in his pants and so on, all I could think was what it would be like to be with him. I blush as thoughts of how he would touch me come through my head. I will my body to calm down but I just keep imagining how his hands would have to explore me.........
My thoughts are interrupted when I hear hurried footsteps coming down the stairs followed by the slamming of the front door. A moment later Max is in the kitchen again.
He leans against the doorframe and my gaze admires the way his shirt shows off the muscles of his chest.
“Tess probably won’t be coming around anymore,” he says. He doesn’t sound too heartbroken.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” I try not to sound too happy.
Max smirks, “Yeah, whatever.” he pauses slightly. “So you want to go for a walk? I’ll let you hold my hand so you can feel useful,” he teases. The idea though is mildly appealing. Who am I kidding? Mildly? Hell, it’s more than appealing. It’s almost arousing. I’d like to do more than hold his hand.
Oh, bad Liz, bad. I tell myself. But it’s too late, I’ve already corrupted my own mind.
*************************

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:29:09 PM
Chapter 7
After the thoughts that have been going through my head, I’m afraid to get to close to Max. I might have to eat my words from earlier. Our walk starts out normal enough. We get outside and Max jokes that he’s going to give me the tour of the neighborhood. So we start moving and we talk a little as we go. The first house we pass is the neighbors and Max tells me their names, adding something silly that they apparently do constantly.
“Their bedroom window is almost directly across from the room I had as a little boy,” he says. “So sometimes at night, I would hear these moans and this heavy breathing. I asked my dad what it was. I thought maybe they were sick or something. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he tried to explain it to me. He finally gave up and told me that one of them had the flu.” I can’t help but laugh at this. I’m still laughing as we approach the next house. We’re almost to the walkway before Max announces who lives there. Once again, another funny story is shared. We go on like this for four or five house before I finally make him stop.
“Okay, you have to explain something to me,” I say. He stands there patiently. “How do you know what house we’re at? Every time we get to a front walk up to the house you know who it is. How can you tell what is what?” I’m beyond curious. It’s amazing how he does this.
There is a pause and then he speaks. “I count steps. I know how many steps it takes to get from one place to another. It’s not completely accurate but it generally gets me where I want to go. Like at home. It’s about fifteen steps from my bedroom to the bathroom. Its twenty-seven steps from your room to mine. From your room to the kitchen it’s twenty six steps in the opposite direction and then thirty stair steps down. Once you reach the landing its another thirty four steps. I’ve gotten really good at counting,” he jokes. I don’t laugh, because it’s just too amazing to think that he does all this and that it has become such a natural part of his life.
There is more silence. I grab his hand and tell him to lead on. He hesitates briefly before doing so. I like holding his hand. It’s big and warm and completely encompasses my own. My thoughts drift briefly to other things his hands could be doing to me besides that innocent gesture. I have to remind myself that this is a job not an opportunity to get romantically involved. I just can’t help it though. He’s just so....... how do I say this? He’s the kind of guy that you see and think ohmigod take me now, let me be your love slave. It’s wrong and demeaning but oh baby would I let it happen in a heartbeat.
Max is asking me a question that I have obviously not heard because then he’s asking me if I’m all right.
“I’m fine,” I finally manage to get out.
“Are you sure? You got awfully quiet. I mean if I wasn’t holding your hand I wouldn’t have known you were still with me,” It comes off light as a joke of some sort, but the underlying message is that I can’t do that. Spacing off means sort of disappearing in Max’s point of view. Since he can’t have visual confirmation of my presence he needs to have something that is physical or audible. I’ll have to work on that.
After awhile, I lose track of time. I barely notice when it gets dark. But Max is aware.
“When did the sun go down?” he asks.
“Awhile ago,” is all I manage to say. How did he know that?
“Oh, well, are you cold?” he asks. That’s when I notice that with the disappearance of the sun, the warmth from the day has left.
“A little,” I reply.
He grips my hand a little tighter, “Let’s go back then.”
I look around to start back to the house but I stop. I have no idea where to go or where we’ve just come from. I was too busy paying attention to Max. “I hope you can get us home,” I tell him, “Because I’m lost.” He laughs and we keep walking. Twenty minutes later I can see the house.
“You went quiet again,” he says softly as we make our way up to the porch.
“I......you’re just......really amazing,” I blurt out. “I don’t know how you do all this, but I think that it’s great that you’re so self-reliant. It makes my presence completely unnecessary,” I tell him with a sigh.
“I thought we were pretending,” he reminds me. “I’ll act completely helpless, you can wait on me hand and foot. All in an effort to make you feel useful.”
“I’m going to have to draw the line somewhere though,” I tell him. He just laughs.
“We’ll just have to see what happens,” is his response.
The magic from the walk sort of disappears once we’re back inside the house. I still have unpacking to do and Max says that he’s going to go work on something. I don’t ask what. The privacy thing has to start sometime.
It’s almost midnight when I decide to give up for the night and take a shower. I get my stuff all together and make my way to the bathroom. Max’s bedroom door is closed and I hear music coming from the inside. He’s got good music taste I notice.
The shower feels good. I can’t wait until I can crawl into bed. I start humming to myself and the humming switches to a song. Max has his music on so he won’t be able to hear me. So I start at the top of my whole shower routine, consisting of a medley of about ten songs from random musicals. It’s stupid I know, but it works my voice and relaxes me at the same time. I start out softly, but quickly lose myself in the music and the way it sort of reverberates all around me as I sing. This bathroom has great acoustics.
*******************************************
So I was lying tonight when I told Liz that I had things to do. It was just weird. I don’t want her to have to feel obligated to babysit me and keep me occupied. So I thought that if I just started out by having things that I needed to get done, she would get the idea and do whatever it is she needed to. I don’t want her to worry about me.
So what have I been doing to occupy my time? Thinking about Liz and our walk. Congratulating myself on a breakup that was long over due. Daydreaming about Liz some more. Thinking of a new lesson plan for school on Monday. Back to Liz again. I can’t get over what it felt like to hold her hand. It just fit so perfectly in mine. And I know this is egotistical of me, but my heart sort of beat overtime at the awe she had in her voice when she talked to me. I was actually glad that I was blind for those few minutes because of the appreciation and warmth that came straight from her.
I loved making her laugh tonight. She’s got a great laugh and I hope that I get to hear it for a long time to come. Of course, I would hear her laugh and then my mind would wander to things like what other kinds of sounds she would make. Most specifically if I was making love to her. The minute I had that thought, I knew it was time to head back to the house. I was glad the sun had gone down. I needed the night air to cool down my overheated body. It didn’t really work because stupidly I asked her if she was cold, and when she said yes, I got this picture in my head of her nipping out. I’m such a horndog. Jerk is probably a better word. The girl hasn’t even been here more than three days and all I can think about is sex.
I wonder what Liz would say if she knew this. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about me just using her because she was beautiful. I mean, this attraction I feel toward her, isn’t physical. I mean it is in a chemical sort of way. It’s like my body reacts to hers even though I can’t actually see her. I don’t know what she feels like...........yet, and still I want her. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. That’s why I gave her that things to do excuse. Because I knew that if I didn’t escape from the little spell she was unconsciously weaving, I would do something that neither one of us is ready for. I need to respect that she’s here for reasons that go beyond anything my over-developed ego could comprehend.
I need a cold shower. I grab some sweats and head toward the bathroom. I’m ten steps closer when I hear the sound of the shower and singing. I don’t move, I just stand there and listen. But I can’t make out all of the words and before I can stop myself I make my way through the door and I’m inside the bathroom.
“Max!” she screams as I enter. Damn, I forget that she’s not used to me yet.
“Sorry, don’t worry, I promise not to look at anything you don’t want me to,” I tell her.
The shower is shut off and I hear some rustling around.
“So what were you singing?” I ask.
“Just some songs from musicals,” she answers. Her voice is muffled.
“Liz, listen I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. I’ll leave.” I feel bad for doing this to her. Though it’s not like she should be embarrassed or anything.
“It’s okay,” she says softly. “You just scared me, that’s all. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have you catch me singing like that?” She says it with a chuckle and I relax a little.
“You sing well. I was going to tell you that the other day.” This is met with silence.
“So, do you need to take a shower? Was I taking to long? I’m sorry, if you want we can make a time limit. It would probably be a good idea and all since, otherwise I could stay in there for a half hour, until I’m all prunie and ....” Her voice trails off as she realizes she’s babbling. I try not to laugh but she’s just sounds so cute when she gets flustered. I contemplate a prunie Liz.
“I’m gonna go to bed now. Goodnight Max.” I listen to her move and then hear the door click shut.
The cold shower feels......cold. It’s a good thing too. Maybe I’ll be able to get a little bit of sleep.
*************************
Chapter 8
Once I hear the shower running in the bathroom again, I know that it’s safe for me to finish getting ready for bed. It’s really stupid of me to be acting like this. I know that he can’t see me. It’s just that when he’s around and he’s got his gaze directed toward me, I feel sort of like he’s examining me. I can’t say he’s undressing me with his eyes because I know that’s impossible, but it feels that way. I get this weird tingling feeling all over.
I’m glad that he can’t see me. It would be different if this was before the accident. I can honestly say that my attitude then would have been similar to Tess’. I wasn’t beautiful the way that Isabel is beautiful, but I got noticed. It was to the point where I almost
expected guys to fall all over me. They were only after one thing, and once they realized that I was just a tease then they took off to find other girls that were a little bit more.....giving. I regret that it took my tragedy to make me start to feel again. I never wanted a family of my own before, but when the one I had was taken away, those dreams became something that I craved. The only problem now is that no one is interested in a girl that has her imperfections right there on display. Which is why I can’t fall into the love trap with Max. I can’t let myself fall for him, because I’m not how he imagines me to be. I’m sure they told him about the scar, and I’ll tell him myself eventually but in the meantime I have to keep my distance. I don’t want him to think that I’m trying to use him. It would be very easy to fall in love with him and let myself get comfortable in this situation, not having to worry about how I look. The real world doesn’t work that way, though. I can hear people talking now, saying things like....” oh, I know why she’s with him. He can’t see what she really looks like,” and other things along those lines. I don’t want that for Max.
That’s why I’m laying here in the dark, listening to the shower run and trying not to let my mind wander to inappropriate things. It’s no use though. The mind wanders, it’s a given when you’ve gone without physical affection for so long. I let myself continue on this path even though I know that it’s wrong, because if I don’t things like the sound of metal slamming into metal will fill my ears and I’ll start to feel what it was like to be crushed against the dashboard, seat belt tearing through my skin. My mind will see the flashing lights of the ambulance and police cars. Worst of all though, I’ll hear their screams. I’ll hear my father crying because my mother died instantly. I’ll hear him telling me to hang on, that help will come soon and that we’ll all go home together. He was lying and we both knew it. He gave up when my mother was gone. That’s why I’m all alone now and why I always will be.
The dreams come anyway and I wake up shaking and sweaty, with tears rolling down my face. I try to muffle the sound of my sobs with my pillow, but they are still painfully loud. I hope that Max cannot hear this.
***************************************

I can hear her crying in her room. Everything in me wants to go to her, to comfort her. But I don’t move because my brain is saying to stay put. Whatever’s wrong is none of my business. So I lay here wondering what her demons are. I know now that I can’t hurt her anymore than she already has been. So despite all my stubbornness, I really am going to let her help me.
I refuse to sleep until she does. So I’m laying here, wide awake, just staring at the ceiling. She’s stopped crying now, either that or I just can’t hear it anymore. I want to go check on her, but I’d have to touch her to make sure she was okay and I don’t want to wake her with my fumbling if she’s asleep.
I wake up sometime later, unsure of when I actually let myself sleep last night. I touch the clock and it tells me in its loud digital monotone that it’s after ten am. Well past time to get up and start my day. This is awkward though. What about Liz? Is she up? What’s she doing? I get up and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I can hear Liz downstairs. Her footsteps are light but the wood floors of the house let me know that she’s moving around.
I fight the urge to comb my hair and clean myself up. She’s got to get used to me the way I am. That’s the only way this will work.
I go down the stairs quickly and head for the kitchen. Liz isn’t in there so I just set to work. I can get myself a bowl of cereal or something. I’ve just gotten the milk out when the kitchen door swings open.
“Morning,Max,” she says somewhat cheerfully.
“Morning,”
“So do you want me to make you some breakfast or do you just want cereal?” Let’s see, a cold bowl of frosted flakes or actual food.....I think that operation ‘let Liz help’ has started.
“I’ll take some pancakes,” I tell her.
“Okay,” is all she says and she starts moving around the kitchen. After a moment she gets still.
“Max,” her voice says softly.
“What?”
“I.......I um...don’t know how to make pancakes,” she tells me. I try to hide my grin. She’s so cute.
“I guess I could tell you how,” I tell her. She must be nodding again because she doesn’t say anything.
“So what do I do first?” she asks eagerly. I go through the instructions and she asks a lot of questions. Pretty soon I can smell the pancakes as they cook.
“ So, you’re sister called this morning. They made it back okay. Alex said to tell you hi and Katia said to give you a kiss for her,” There’s a slight pause at that and I wonder if Liz will really do it. Liz goes on, “ I told her that maybe she should save up all her kisses and when they come visit for Thanksgiving, she can give them all to you then.”
“Thanks,” I tell her. I wish she would have just given me the kiss.
I’m about to say something else when I smell something. Something burning.
“Uh...Liz,” I say, “The pancakes,” I remind her.
I feel the table move as she jumps up from her chair. “Oh my God!”
She’s over by the stove muttering and I hear few curses and I try not to laugh.
“Max.....” she says. “I’m so sorry, I ....maybe you better just stick with the cereal,” she tells me.
I get up and start to work on the cereal while Liz cleans up the pan and the burnt pancakes.
“Maybe I should be in charge of breakfast from now on,” I tease when I sit back down at the table. I hear a little chuckle from her.
“That might be the better idea here. Maybe next time though, I’ll just pay a little more attention to what I’m doing,” she tells me. “ Do you want some juice or something? I think I can probably manage to pour that into a glass,” she jokes.
I’m relieved that Liz can take this little cooking fiasco and laugh at it. It shows me that she doesn’t take everything too seriously. That’s good. She comes back to the table and sets juice down. “It’s right above the bowl, slightly to the left,” she says as she sits herself down in the chair next to me.
“So, what’s up for today? Do you have plans? Or do you think that maybe we could spend the day together, getting to know each other? It might make me a little easier to live with, if I can explain all of my bad habits before hand. At least that way you won’t be surprised.”
“Sure, sounds good. Michael and Maria usually come over on Sunday nights to hang around and watch TV. We order pizza and I listen to them argue,” I explain to her. This elicits a laugh and I want to smile now because she’s laughing.
“Those two are so funny. I know I haven’t been here long, but I noticed that their entire relationship is based on who can insult who more,” I nod at this observation.
“Yep, I’ve known them since high school and it’s always been like this with them. They didn’t actually start dating until our senior year though. Then when we went off to college Michael came along and just sort of hung out with us. That’s when they got serious and by the time we were out of college, they were living together.”
“So are they going to get married?” she asks.
I shrug. “Who knows. I don’t really ask about those things too much. I think that Maria is waiting for him to ask. They’re common law married anyway. Michael probably thinks that that’s enough.”
“What about you? I mean aside from Tess has there been any serious relationships in your past?” So now we’re getting personal.
“I dated around a lot in high school. Then through most of college I was single. There just wasn’t anyone I was interested in. After the accident, I sort of stopped seeing anybody, literally and...” Liz is laughing and she’s trying to muffle it. I hadn’t realized that I was being funny, but she thinks I am.
“Go on,” she breathes out as she tries to control her laughter.
“Tess was friends with my sister and she just sort of kept me company and then one thing led to another and ...”
“Okay, that’s enough information about that,” Liz says. “You can leave out the details.”
“What about you?” I ask her. If she can ask, so can I.
She doesn’t say anything for awhile and when she does, her voice is thoughtful.
“I was pretty much a tease all through high school and college. I went out with a lot of boys but no one ever kept my interest for too long. I’ve had exactly one serious relationship with a guy named Doug Shellow. He helped me get into the music business and then I sort of......lost interest once I got there. I haven’t talked to him in over a year.” There’s a pause. “You must think I’m terrible, using people like that. It was how I was then, not now. Things are a lot different now. I ...you should know that. If old personality traits start to come out, you know, where I’m mean, you’ll just have to knock me down a peg or two.”
This surprises me. I can’t imagine Liz being mean. I can’t imagine her leading men on and using them for her own personal gain. She sounds sorry though. I guess we all make mistakes.

Chapter 9
I’ve been here four weeks now and I’m starting to get the hang of things. I’ve figured out how to get around town. The walk from Max’s house to different places gives me time to think. I’ve been looking into getting a car. I know that it would probably help me out a lot instead of constantly having to call Maria. I don’t like cars though. I would really rather not drive if I didn’t have to but it’s a necessary evil. I talked to Max about it and he seemed to think that it wasn’t important. So with that little brush off I decided to get Michael’s advice. He’s taking me car shopping this afternoon. Max doesn’t know yet and I’m not sure that I’ll tell him. He’s been pretty irritable the past couple of days. He doesn’t talk much and so I’ve tried to leave him alone. If he decides he wants to confide in me he can.
I’m a little upset with Max at the moment. I had almost come to a point where I thought we were getting to be friends and then *boom* he puts up this big wall and any time I do anything, I run right into it. So I’m just going to let it go and try and accomplish whatever it is that I need to . That’s why I’m sitting here, anxiously waiting for Michael to show up, hoping that Max won’t be back from where ever he went, anytime soon.
Michael honks his car horn and I run out to meet him. He’s taking me to a place he says owes him a favor. For what I don’t know, but he promised he’d use his favor to get me a good deal. I have the money from when I sold my other car and so that should be enough to get me something to go around town with. I feel silly doing this. I know nothing about cars. My father picked out the only one I ever owned. I hadn’t had it very long when the accident happened and I couldn’t bear to keep it. So it went, along with everything else. I got rid of everything. I didn’t want reminders. I’m starting to wish that I hadn’t done that.
“So, what kind of car are you looking for?” the salesperson asks eagerly. His fake smile and demeanor have already got me on edge. I don’t want to have the wool pulled over my eyes here and end up with something that I don’t want. That’s why I’m letting Michael do all of the talking. If I tried, he’d inevitably talk down to me and so on. If this was the old me, I would have flirted my way through things. But Michael’s being male will have to do. I don’t know why but car dealers respect guys more than females, so if Michael’s a pal, he’ll get me a good deal.
“We’re looking for something that Liz can drive around town, mostly for errands. So it doesn’t have to be fancy or anything like that. It just has to run and get good gas mileage.” Michael sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.
“What’s your price range?” the salesman asks. Michael looks to me and I tell them that its about four thousand dollars. This is of course a lie. I have more than that to spend for a car, but I want to be cautious and see what this guy comes up with.
“Okay, well let me show you.....”
An hour later, I’m in the office signing papers and writing out a check for thirty-five hundred dollars. The car is actually really nice. It’s an 1989 Toyota Corolla. Blue. It’s perfect. I think that we got a great deal. Michael checked it out for me and the dealer gave me a warranty so that if anything goes wrong they can fix it. I followed Michael back to Max’s place. I was so excited. My car fear has since worn off. It fees sort of good to be behind the wheel again. To have control. It’s sort of a metaphor for my life at the moment. Albeit a lame one, but analogous none the less.
Max is listening to the TV when I come in the door with Michael close behind me. I’m laughing and so is Michael. He doesn’t even glance at us hardly.
“Have fun?” he asks. His voice is a little condescending and I wonder again, what is wrong with him.
“Yeah,” is all I say.
“Liz got a car,” Michael tells Max. The room goes sort of silent.
“What for?” Max finally asks. His voice has a little bit of an angry edge to it. I don’t understand. This shouldn’t make him mad.
“I need it to get around town with and stuff. I can’t walk to get groceries and then carry them all back. Plus, this way if Maria can’t take you to school, then I can. It’s all....”
“Fine,” he says, not letting me finish. Michael gives me a questioning look and then motions to the door and mouths the word bye. I don’t want him to leave me alone with Max who is sitting in his chair doing a slow burn over something that I’m absolutely clueless to.
“Is there something wrong Max?” I ask him. I can’t go on like this, with him constantly pissed at me.
There’s a long pause before he speaks. “Yeah, stop leaving me notes to tell me where you’re at. I can’t read the goddamn things so it wastes both of our time. Second, you can’t change around the rooms anymore. I keep running into the damn coffee table. Your shoes, stop leaving those out for me to trip on.....” I’m sort of shocked. I realize that the note thing has to be remedied but the rest. I thought that if I told him that I moved something that it would be okay. It was okay. He told me it was and now this. And my shoes, okay, that was just plain forgetfulness on my part.
“Anything else, or can I go? I need to go finish the laundry,” I tell him softly. He’s mad and I feel like I’ve been taking things for granted with him. I forget that he has limitations.
He doesn’t say anything he just starts watching the damn TV again. Men are such bastards. They don’t even know how to fight right. They just sit in their chairs and pout if they get pissed. Well, forget it Max. I’m not going to give in and feel sorry for you over some petty things like this.
***************************
I tell her what she’s done that has me so upset and the thing is, I had to really think hard to come up with them. I’m not really mad at her, I’m just really damn frustrated. It’s like I can’t get rid of her. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by something that is her. At first I liked it. I would walk into the bathroom and smell her soap. Then that smell sort of lingered throughout the house. Now though, it’s there everywhere and all I can do is think about her whenever I’m in the house. School isn’t any better because even my shirts smell like her, because they smell like the laundry detergent she uses. Sometimes I wonder if she irons her perfume into the shirts because it’s all her. It confuses the hell out of me too. I mean I’ll be in the middle of a lecture and I’ll get a whiff of lavender and I always stop, thinking that she’s there in the room. But it’s never her it’s just the damn shirt.
The only room in the whole house that doesn’t smell like her is mine. This pisses me off because I want it to smell like her. I want my sheets to smell like lavender because she’s been sleeping in them with me. This is why I’m frustrated. I want her. It’s that simple. She is, of course, completely oblivious. It’s gotten worse these past couple of days. Then my sister called the other night and gave me this insanely long lecture on making sure that I don’t hurt Liz and making sure that she’s settling in okay. Then she told me that she knew I wasn’t with Tess any more and that I had better not try anything with Liz because she would personally come and castrate me if I did and it didn’t work out. That said, she’d dropped the bomb that she was bringing my parents along with her, Alex and Katia for Thanksgiving. I still haven’t told Liz. I know that she’ll freak out when she has to meet my parents. Hell, I’ll freak out when she has to meet them. I know it will be awkward for her. Isabel is worried that the holiday will be hard because it’s the first one without her family.
I asked Izzy about Liz crying at night and was again told to just let it be. If Liz wanted my comfort she would tell me everything and since she hadn’t then it was still none of my business. But it breaks my heart because I still hear her cry and I know that there is nothing I can do. I can’t go and hold her like I want to because it might confuse things. I don’t want to push her into something that she isn’t ready for. And being in a bed with her, in whatever she wears to bed, will be hell on my already strained libido.
It’s been a couple of days since Liz and I had our little talk and I want to hit myself......hard. I shouldn’t have gotten mad at her. She won’t talk to me now. If I ask her a question she gives me a one word answer. If she says anything her tone is clipped and unfeeling. I am a moron for being such a dick to her. I told myself I wouldn’t do that but do you think that I listened? No.
Today I got home from school and there was another note on the table. I think she’s doing this to purposely piss me off. Next to the note is something new. It’s small and sort of rectangular. I feel the top and it’s got buttons that push in. I push down on the one on the far right and that’s when I realize it’s a tape recorder.
“Max,” the tape player voice says. It’s Liz. “This is to make up for all the notes. I figure it would be easier this way. So, anyway, I went out with Maria for the night. I won’t be back until late. Michael is coming over with Chinese food for you both. He’s also going to fix the lock on the bathroom door. Don’t pout, I’m tired of having to fend you off while I’m in the shower,” her voice says. I can hear the laughter in it and I can’t help but smile. I’m such an idiot and Liz really is amazing. I can’t believe she even thought of this. Her voice goes on, ”Anyway, you should probably call Isabel and finish making arrangements for Thanksgiving. I need to know if your parents are still planning on coming. Oh and just so you know, I moved the coffee table back to where you had it before. It’s an eyesore where it now sits but as long as you don’t fall on your cute behind then all is well. I gotta go, Maria’s here. I’ll be home later. “
I just sort of stand there, holding the little tape recorder, contemplating Liz. This one little message seemed to solve all of my supposed problems with her. I am a little surprised that she knew about my folks already. It didn’t sound like she was too worried. The words ‘cute behind’ pop into my head. Does she really think I have a cute butt? And she said ‘home’. That’s the second time I’ve heard her say it and it gets better the more I hear it I think.
Michael’s coming over later. That’s good. I think that it’s time I tell him what’s going on and enlist his help. Only this time instead of trying to get rid of Liz, I’m going to try and keep her, indefinitely.
*************************
Chapter 10
So here’s the plan. As soon as Michael gets here, I’m going to sit down and tell him that I like Liz. It sounds easy enough. I mean, once I actually admit it out loud, maybe it won’t be so hard to figure out what to do about it. Right now, it’s all just in my head, thoughts of her running into more thoughts of her. But if I talk about it, get it out in the open then I can start to process what to do about it. We can maybe start off with a date of some sort. Yeah, a date would be good. I could take her out to dinner.
Now I’m getting carried away. A date with Liz would have to be special. My problem though, is that she would have to drive us. I’m not usually a chauvinist but in this case, I think that I’m allowed. I want it to be special for her. I want to treat her the way she deserves to be treated. I know that she’s had it rough and my only intention is to make things with me easier. If something big came out of this, like say, a future, well I’d be okay with that.
I hear Michael come in the front door.
“Maxwell, my friend, dinner has arrived,” he announces and I hear the sound of styrofoam boxes being set down on the table.
“Hey, what’s this?” he asks and then I hear Liz’s voice. “your cute behind then all is well.” He stops the tape.
“I....” I start to say, but Michael’s laughter interrupts me.
“You and Liz must have made up,” he manages to say. “cute behind....no wonder she always walks behind you when we go places,” he says.
“Shut up Michael,” I tell him.
I’m sure he’s probably just shaking his head at me. I don’t really care. I was going to tell him anyway, might as well plunge right in.
“Michael, I need your help with something,” I say.
“Whatever it is, the answer is no. Now I’m starving, can we eat please?” he says.
“What do you mean, no? You’re my friend. We’ve been best friends since grade school. You can’t just say no. You don’t even know what I need help with yet,” I point out to him.
“I don’t care either. The last time you asked for my help, it was with Liz and that turned bad fast. Especially when Maria picked up on things. It was frosty at home for awhile. I can’t deal when she’s like that Maxwell, so I’m not going to give her a reason to get upset.” Michael was talking as he shoveled food into his mouth.
“I understand. But this is different. Maria could maybe even help me. Look, Michael, you know me. You know that I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. This is important and so here I am lowering myself, practically begging for your help.” My impassioned plea does not fall on deaf ears.
“Fine, what’s do damn important? This better be good.”
“I need help with Liz, you see I have ........... I have............I’ve developed....” I just can’t bring myself to say it. What is wrong with me?
“Look, Max, I’m not going to help you do anything to Liz. I like Liz. I won’t be a party to hurting her in any way, shape or form.”
“Dammit, Michael, you’re not listening. I LIKE Liz and I want to be sure that she stays around for a long time. I need your help getting her to like me. I know I’m not the greatest guy in the world, but Liz and I are getting along pretty good and I want to try an actual relationship. I have no intention of hurting her. In fact I’d be the first in line to kick the ass of anyone who does. Blind or not. So will you help me?”
Instead of an answer I hear my voice as it plays back to me, “Dammit, Michael, you’re not listening. I LIKE Liz and I want......”
He taped it. He got my confession on tape. Bastard. “That’s really funny Mikey, now erase it and answer my question.” I tell him angrily.
“I’ll help you Max, don’t worry. I’ll just give this little tape here to Maria and then Maria can give it to Liz and presto, situation taken care of. Once she knows she’ll be jumping down your pants faster than you can count to one,” he tells me. I can hear the smirk in his voice. He thinks he’s so clever.
“That’s not why I’m doing this,” I tell him. “I’m not just out to get laid or something like that. It would be an added bonus, but that’s beside the point. The point is, I need a plan. I need to figure out how to approach this without making things awkward.”
“What exactly do you have in mind?” Michael asks. His mouth is full of food.
“I’m not sure. All I know is that I want her to realize that there’s something between us. I need what I’m feeling to be more than just a one sided thing. So, I guess your end of things would be finding out what she likes, what she’s interested in. Oh, and I was thinking that maybe I could leave little things for her around the house. Like presents or something.”
Michael interrupts me. “Hold on a second. You should find out what Liz is interested in. You have to show that you’re interested in her. Leaving her presents is good though. You should definitely do that,” I can almost hear the food falling out of his mouth as he’s talking. The guy has no manners. I don’t know how Maria puts up with him.
“Okay, so maybe you have a point with the getting to know her thing. I mean, I guess that’s all part of a relationship right? Learning new things about each other?” Those questions aren’t really directed at Michael, I’m just sort of thinking out loud. There’s some silence as I remember that there is food sitting in front of me. I start to eat.
Michael is probably mostly done by now. “So what are we gonna do tonight?” he asks. I shrug. “ I don’t know. What were the girls going to do?” I’m trying to be casual about this. It’s not that I want to spy on Liz and Maria or anything, but it could certainly be a coincidence if we show up where they do.
“Maria said that they’re going out to eat and then she was going to take Liz over to the bar for Karoke night. She’s trying to talk Tommy into letting her perform there one night a week. She thinks that Liz will make all the difference,” Michael explains.
“Liz is going to sing then?” I’d really like to hear her sing again. I hear her in the shower every once in awhile but her voice is always sort of drowned out by the sound of the water. “You know, Tommy and I go way back,” I remind Michael, “He’ll get us free drinks if we go in and maybe I can talk him into giving Maria her way. What do you say?” I wait for Michael’s answer.
“I don’t know Maxwell, Maria warned me that this was girl’s night. She said she was going to introduce Liz around to everyone so she could meet some more people. She didn’t want us to be there.”
“You’re right, we probably should leave them be.” I pause and then go for the kill. This gets Michael every time. “Doesn’t Doug Sohn usually hang out at the bar on Karoke night?” Doug is Maria’s ex. They sort of dated while Michael and Maria were on the outs. Michael had been having doubts. So Maria had been perfectly happy to turn to Doug at the time. As soon as Michael had found out though, he’d begged her for forgiveness, finally confessing that he loved her. Doug still has a thing for Maria, who isn’t above leading him on when she’s had a few drinks and Michael’s done something to piss her off.
“Max, you’re an asshole,” Michael mutters. “We’ll leave as soon as you finish eating. If we’re there by eight thirty we might beat him there.”
Fifteen minutes later Michael is helping me down the steps to his car. This is going to be good.
**************************************************
The night out with Maria turns out to be a good thing. The dinner conversation is spent relaying tales of Michael, Max and Isabel and their high school and college exploits. I laugh the most when she talks about Max and how he was such a lady’s man in high school.
“I swear, he had a new girl every week, and their breasts just seemed to get bigger and bigger as the weeks went by. That was a phase though, in college he had a thing for legs. But all the girls were constantly wearing pants so he could never tell, and he refused to ask them out unless he saw them in a skirt first.” I guess I can sort of picture him being that way. Tess is probably a pretty good combination of what he looks for in a woman. Once again, I’m glad he can’t see me. He’d be disappointed.
Maria moves on to Michael. “I swear that if I didn’t love him, I would have had him thrown in jail a long time ago,” she says with a laugh. “He was always in trouble in high school. Max and I were always trying to bail him out. There were quite a few times where I almost went down with him. “
“So what changed? How did you two hook up?” I ask.
“He found art and started taking it really seriously. He got really caught up in it. Then he asked to paint me because he said and I quote ‘when you’re not talking so much, you’re really beautiful,’ I laughed for days after that, but it was that lame ass line that won me over.” Maria sighs as if she’s remembering. A small smile plays about her lips.
She goes on to Isabel. She was everything that I expected. Most beautiful girl in the school, prom queen, head cheerleader, dated the quarterback, Ice Queen extrodanaire. She pretty much was a bitch to everyone. At least she was to those she deemed lower than herself. But Maria is quick to add that Isabel changed a lot once she met Alex in college. Once that happened, the ice melted and she was a completely different person. I’ve witnessed the way Alex brings out the best in Isabel. I think that her whole life revolves around making him happy and taking care of their daughter. It suits her more than anything else she could have chosen to do.
Once dinner is over we head over to the town’s only bar. It’s owned by some guy that Maria went to High School with. His name is Tommy. Maria says that he’d probably be a good date. I ignore her. I don’t want to date a guy named Tommy. I don’t want to date anyone. Well, maybe that’s a lie. There is one person that......never mind. Maria says she understands. We walk into the bar and there’s a tall blonde guy on stage introducing the first Karoke act for the evening. The bar is pretty crowded.
A short guy with dark hair and glasses immediately makes his way over to us.
“Hey, Maria, you singing tonight?” he asks eagerly, revealing a big toothy grin.
I hold back a smile and bite my lip to keep from laughing.
“Oh, hi, Doug, how’s it going?” she asks. “Yeah, I’m singing tonight. Hey, this is my friend Liz,” she says, gesturing to me. “She’s going to sing too.”
I give her a look. I didn’t agree to this so that I could get up on stage and perform. I don’t do that for public audiences any more. My performing career went out the window when my mother flew out the window of our car.
“That’s great!” Doug exclaims, his big grin is now larger than before and I wonder if it hurts him to smile like that. “So do you want to join me? I’ve got a table right up close to the front.” Maria starts to move towards the table so I follow. Doug heads off to get us drinks. I look around at all of the people. I see some that I recognize from different places. Tess is over in the corner all over some guy. It appears that they are sharing a tongue at the moment. That’s just great. I so did not need to see that. Maria sees what I’m looking at and starts to giggle. “Tess is the town bicycle,” she says, “everyone’s had a ride.” I can’t help but laugh at this. Although, that doesn’t say much for Max’s taste in women.
Doug comes back then and he starts asking Maria questions. “So are you still with that delinquent Guerin?”
“Yeah, we’re still together,” she tells him.
“Why?” Doug asks. I give Maria a questioning glance. What is up with this guy? Is he her stalker or something? Maria mouths the word “ex” to me and it makes a little more sense. This guy was probably jilted by Maria and replaced with Michael. I sort of feel sorry for him.
“What do you mean why? Do you want a whole list of reasons Doug?”
“Sure, what does Michael Guerin got that I don’t have? I know it isn’t money or a nice house or a decent hair cut...”
Maria cuts Doug off,” Let’s see, where to start........Well, Michael gives good back rubs and he’s a good cook, he’s great in bed, let’s me be on top and all, and he loves me. There’s a whole bunch of other things, but those are all I’m gonna say for now.” Maria winks at me and I can tell she’s just trying to get Doug riled up. “Look, Doug, you and I are friends. The second Michael and I split, I’ll give you a call,” she tells him.
Once again I’m repressing laughter. I turn my attention to the stage, where an older gentleman, probably mid-sixties, is doing a very poor Elvis impersonation. I turn back toward Maria and my gaze catches two very handsome gentleman walking in the doors. Max and Michael. I think that they’ve come to spy. Michael is looking around and when he spots us, I wave. He smiles and then his smile quickly becomes a frown. His gaze is focused on Doug who has decided that he needs to sit close to Maria. Michael grabs Max’s arm and drags him through the crowd. Once again the urge to laugh is overwhelming.
They reach the table and Maria stands up quickly. “Hi sweetie,” she says to Michael, “ I’m so glad you made it,” I watch this display with great amusement. Maria is giving Michael a look that says ‘Thank you for saving me.’ When Michael sees this he visibly relaxes. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he tells her.
Chairs are pulled up for he and Max to sit down. Max has yet to say anything. I wonder if he’s still mad at me. My question is answered when I hear him speak.
“Liz, I got you’re message. That was really clever. I never would have thought of that. And thanks. I appreciate you making adjustments for me, even if I’m an ass and don’t deserve your kindness.” I see the makings of a smile as he speaks and I can’t help but smile myself. He’s just so damn adorable. It’s a crime for anyone to be that good looking. It has to be.
“I’ll only fforgive you if you get your ass on stage and sing,” I tell him. He looks scared.
He nods, “If that’s they only way to win your forgiveness than I will. But I should warn you,” he beckons me closer to him and whispers in my ear, “blind men can’t generally read the word prompt, so it could be pretty bad.” I laugh at this and tell him that I won’t torture him, but he owes me big time.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pay up,” he says with that half grin of his.
The night goes on, Max and I talk and Michael, Maria and Doug take their turns on the mic. Michael tries to sing some Celine Dion song as a joke. Maria then embarrasses him with her rendition of that song ‘oh, mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey mickey.’ She was sitting on Michael’s lap while she sang this and the poor guy looked like he wanted to run and hide. I was describing this to Max and we were both laughing.
The highlight of the evening would have to be Doug and his tribute to Maria. It was truly........terrible. I felt so bad for him. He was up on stage singing this country song by Brooks and Dunn. ‘My Maria, don’t you know it’s been a long, long time. Just my thoughts about you bring back my peace of mind. Gypsy lady......’ I was trying so hard not to fall out of my chair from laughing. Michael was ready to pound Doug in. Maria just sat there smiling as if it was the sweetest thing in the world.
I thought that it was all over when the blonde guy, Tommy I guess, comes back on stage and says that there’s going to be one more song. He looks down and me and everyone starts clapping and cheering me onto the stage. I hate this. I don’t want to be in front of all these people. They’re going to see my scar and wonder. Questions will start getting asked.....Maybe I'm just paranoid.
There isn’t time for me to dwell on this because the music starts and I try to focus on the words. I realize that I’ve done this song before. This could maybe be a little bit fun.

The daylight's fading slowly
But time with you is standing still
I'm waiting for you only
The slightest touch and I feel week
I cannot lie, from you I cannot hide
And I'm losing my will to try
Can't hide it, Can't fight it

So go on, go on, come on
leave me breathless
Tempt me, tease me
Until I can't deny
This lovin' feeling
make me long for your kiss
Go on, go on, yeah
Come on

My gaze falls on Max as I sing. He's smiling. I wonder what he's thinking about.

***************************************
I think that I'm going to take Liz's advice, or at least the advice from the song. I'll make her want me. And when we finally come together, she will be breathless.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:32:54 PM
Chapter 11
I don’t remember much of what happened after that. Things got pretty blurry and I got pretty drunk. Michael and Maria were pretty much all over each other. They were like one person. Max and I kept telling them to get a room. Max had quite a few drinks too. We sat there laughing and talking. I don’t remember when I ended up in his lap but it happened and now I’m lying here with the worst headache in the world. My pillow is hard and it appears to be moving.
Wait a second, my pillow is moving. My eyes are wide open now and my head hurts as I sit up suddenly. I turn my head slowly and there’s Max, still sleeping. He muscular chest is naked for my viewing pleasure. I look down at my own form and realize that I’m not wearing anything either. Oh my God! What happened last night? What did we do? This is not good. This is worse than not good, this is terrible!
I’m not sure what bothers me more though, the fact that I slept with Max (which is apparently the case as far as I can tell) or the fact that I don’t remember any of it. I slide out of bed and leaving the sheet run out of his room to my own. Maybe he won’t remember anything either. And then when he doesn’t wake up next to me, well he won’t ever know.
I’m an idiot. How could I have let this happen? I need to call Maria. I need to see what she remembers and beg her not to tell Max. I don’t want him to think that I took advantage of him. Which is probably exactly what I did. He certainly wouldn’t have slept with me if he had been sober. Especially after everything that Maria told me about him and his taste in women. I’m exactly the opposite. He likes them big and blonde and beautiful and I’m small and dark and ............scarred.
This thought makes me stand up. I stare at the mirror, still naked. I pull my hair back and turn my neck, examining the scar. It isn’t bad anymore. I don’t cringe when I see it. It’s just the reminder. It’s what the scar symbolizes more than the scar itself. The physical scar is easy to cover up. With my hair down, it’s barely noticeable and I can forget it’s there. But it’s the emotional scars that inevitably do me in. I see my scar and then my head fills with pictures of that night and I want to cry out as I remember all of the pain that resulted.
I gasp as I see Max behind me in the mirror. He’s still got his pants on from last night. His hair is standing up wildly at different angles and he momentarily reminds me of Michael.
“Liz?” he asks.
“Yes Max?” All I can think is ‘please don’t ask about last night, please don’t ask about last night.’
“Where’s the Tylenol?” he asks as he brings his head up to hold his head.
I laugh and then we both groan as the pain registers. I grab my bathrobe and go off to get the Tylenol and Max goes downstairs.
I bring a glass of water and two pills with me and go to find him. He’s sprawled out on the couch, his arm draped over his face. Still no shirt.
“Max,here you go,” I say softly. I don’t want to raise my voice, my head will explode. He takes the Tylenol and downs the water. “Thanks,” he groans out.
I shake my head, stopping when it hurts. Men are such babies I think to myself as I collapse into the recliner.
I drift off to sleep sometime after I hear Max snoring softly.
The banging of the front door jerks me awake. My headache isn’t that bad anymore.
“Hey you guys, what are you doing?” Maria asks loudly.
Max groans again. “Shut up Maria, we’re sleeping off our hangovers.” he yells at her. I laugh and then immediately regret this as my headache returns.
“So you guys want to know what happened last night?” she asks.
Now I’m alert. Answers. I need answers.
I nod slowly and Maria smiles.
“First of all I’m not sure Michael will ever look at you the same way again, Liz,” Maria starts. “We got you two back here and you were both completely trashed I might add. We got Max upstairs and then we were helping you to your room when you just started stripping.” Maria’s laughing now. Max is still lying there looking like death warmed over. “Then you just started running around the house saying that it didn’t matter if you were naked because Max couldn’t see you anyway,” she’s still laughing. I catch a grin from Max which he tries to cover up with the arm over his face.
“You passed out on Max’s bed and we weren’t about to move you, so we left you there. Sorry if you got a little startled this morning. I was going to try and get over here early to prevent any misunderstandings.....” her words trail off as I sit there vigorously shaking my head no. She stops and then Max interjects his own thoughts, “Liz was in my bed, naked, and I didn’t even know?” he asks. Maria starts laughing again. I am profoundly relieved. I don’t even want to think of what would have happened if Max and I had slept together. Talk about disaster.
********************************
When I hear that Liz was in my bed, naked, I am immediately upset. How could this have happened without my being aware. Thoughts start to consume me as I recall a dream from last night. I remember rolling over and coming into contact with warm skin. My god, I probably touched her breast last night, and I can’t even remember. This must be some kind of punishment. I vaguely recall something from earlier this morning. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and it felt like there was something laying on my chest. After awhile it was gone. That something had to have been Liz. There is no other explanation. I wonder if Liz is embarrassed.
I wish I could have been witness to her little display last night. I’ll have to pump Michael for information. He can give me the dirty details. Of course Maria makes it sound like he was traumatized. Does that mean that Liz isn’t someone you want to see naked? I know that I shouldn’t dwell on this but I can’t seem to help it. I’m obsessed with what I’m not able to see. I use to be a hound in high school and college. I’m changing my ways all in an effort to gain the love of the perfect woman. That women being Liz of course.
We finally get Maria to leave and Liz decides that she gets the shower first. I complain. “I’ve still got some of your slobber of my chest,” I tell her, “I think that entitles me to the first shower.” She laughs and says, “Whatever. Fine, go first. I’m going to go pass out on my bed,”
I was just kidding but she heads to her room instead of the bathroom. So I go to take my shower. The warm water feels good and I clean up quickly. I grab for the shampoo and find the space it usually occupies empty. Damn. Now what am I going to do. I don’t dare grab something else. The last time this happened I tried to wash my hair with some kind of conditioner that ended up giving me a rash. I don’t want any repeats.
“Liz,” I holler out.
I hear a faint, “What?” come from outside the door.
“Do we have any more shampoo?” I ask.
The door opens and then her voice is louder.
“Oh we ran out. I was going to go get some more yesterday but I forgot. Can you just use mine?” she asks. I wonder if she’s looking at me.
“Where is it?” I ask.
“Here, I’ll just grab it for you,” she says. “Make sure you’re facing away so I don’t see anything,” she warns.
So I turn away and the shower curtain opens. “Okay, it’s in the spot the other shampoo usually is.” The curtain gets pulled back into place and I hear her mutter something.
“What was that? I didn’t quite catch it,” I say.
“Nothing, just come get me when you’re done,” I hear the door close a few seconds later. I try to suppress a grin. I could have sworn she said something about a ‘cute butt’ but then maybe that’s just my overactive imagination. I finish my shower and go get her for hers.
I head downstairs to find some more Tylenol. I ache all over. If I didn’t know this was from my hangover I would say that I’d participated in some very vigorous sex. And hell, maybe I did and neither of us remembered. Though I’d like to think that the first time Liz and I actually do it will be a lot more memorable than the last drink I had the night before.
Two hours later Liz is dragging me with her to the grocery store. “Liz, I really don’t want to do this,” I tell her.
“You have to. I’m not going by myself today. You’re coming with. We have to get some stuff for Thanksgiving next week. I’m not waiting until the last minute. Especially if your parents are coming. I don’t want them to think that I’m using you and that my presence is for nothing,” she says.
“You aren’t using me. I’m perfectly capable...” I start to say but she interrupts.
“Yes, blah, blah, blah, we’ve been over this a thousand times. You are capable. I know this. Everyone knows this. But didn't we have that little deal where you pretend, and I make myself useful? So let’s just keep it at that.” She sounds a little pissy. I bite my tongue to keep from saying something. She’s probably still not feeling well. I know that I still don’t feel the greatest.
So the grocery store it is. This is going to be fun.
***************************
Max and the grocery store was probably the worst idea I’ve ever had. But I don’t think that I’ve ever laughed so much in my entire life. He just kept doing things to piss me off. Most of the time they back fired and I couldn’t stop laughing. My sides hurt by the time we went to check out.
For awhile he took some kind of sick pleasure in running into things. People who were standing right there would feel so bad and then he would pretend to lose his walking stick and they’d all look on terrified and sad and not sure what to do for him. I would just stand there and laugh and people would glare at me until I grabbed Max and gave him his stick back and told him he’d better stop or we would get kicked out.
“They won’t kick you out. I always make them feel bad when they tell me that they can’t give out braille receipts. It gets them every time.” He says with a laugh.
When we finally leave the grocery store I am relieved and I think that Max is too. We take things back and he loses the stick immediately. He doesn’t like using it but he does in the really unfamiliar places. He told me once that it wasn’t manly enough for him. A real man’s cane would have been thick and long instead of skinny like this was. I had only rolled my eyes at him which he had eerily called me on immediately. He’s got this uncanny sense that tells him these things. It is sort of nerve wracking. I unpack the groceries and he goes and puts music on.
“Liz, come dance with me,” he yells from the living room.
“Just let me finish,” I tell him.
A moment later he comes through the kitchen door and is pulling me out into the other room. He takes my hand and twirls me around and then down into a dip.
The music is playing and we dance. I can’t help but admire him as we do this. He really is incredible. The fast dances are making me laugh. He has all these moves that would seem awkward for anyone else, but it’s that grace he always maintains even when he’s unsure that seems to help him carry them off.
“Liz, you have to copy me,” he says. “Besides, it’s not like I can laugh at what you look like.” So I join in and I know that I’m an idiot but just don’t care.
The slow song comes on. I think it’s called ‘Let me in’ by Save Ferris. He pulls me in closer to him and my movement is natural as I wrap my arms around his neck and rest my head against his chest. “Max,” I say his name softly on a sigh as I feel his fingers run through my hair. I feel content. Max Evans has managed to make me feel a way I’d never thought to again. He makes me happy.

Chapter 12
Trying to win Liz over has been tiring work. Michael sort of backed out of helping me for a few days. He said he couldn’t handle being in the same room as Liz after he’d seen her in her birthday suit. She must have heard him say this because after that if he was ever in the room with her, she would make a point of taking some article of clothing off. Michael would immediately take off in the other direction.
He calmed down a couple of days ago. He told me that Maria did her own little strip dance for him and now he just thinks about that. I teased Maria about putting on free shows and I think she hit Michael and yelled at him for about five minutes saying that what a couple does in the privacy of their own home is their business and no one elses. I’d gone into the kitchen during that little fight and found Liz in there laughing.
“I heard the whole thing,” she said. “And I just can’t handle it. I was either going to throw up or laugh, so I picked laugh.”
It’s Wednesday and that means that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which means that this afternoon we’ll be having guests. My parents will probably arrive promptly at three o’clock. They’re always on time. Never early, never late. Isabel will show up at five o’clock. She’ll say that she had trouble getting Katia ready and that she had to pack for Alex because he has absolutely no clue how to dress himself. Alex will make self-deprecating jokes and then we’ll all wait around for Michael and Maria to show up. We’ll order pizza and then sit around and play catch up with each other’s lives.
This year though, there will be the added strain of my parents having to meet Liz. I’m sure they will love her, but she’s been really nervous all week. Last night we were sitting on the couch watching a movie, or listening to it as the case may be. She was sitting next to me and she started talking. She just blurted out that she was wondering if maybe she should make herself scarce.
“Max, I just don’t know if I can handle things. This is my first Holiday without my family. What if I just break down and make a complete and total fool of myself?” She had started crying then and I just sort of sat there holding her. It was probably for purely selfish reasons. I like holding her. I like when she’s in my arms.
The whole story about her family came out then. She told me all about the crash. I think it hurt her a lot to talk about it. But she did. They had been coming home from one of Liz’s performances. She’d been singing at a club downtown Chicago. It had gone well. Her agent had promised that by the end of the week, she’d be signed with a label. She was so close. Then a drunk driver ran a red light and her whole world changed forever.
“If it wasn’t enough that my parents died that night, my agent dropped me saying that he couldn’t take the risk that the scar might not heal. Record labels don’t want flawed performers,” she told me sadly.
“Is the scar bad?” I found the courage to ask her.
“It isn’t any more. It looked pretty rough at first. If I wear my hair down you can’t see it. Even with my hair pulled back, it isn’t that noticeable. Here, you can touch it and feel for yourself.” She’d taken my hand then and traced the outline of the scar with my fingertips. It started just below her ear and went down and under her jaw. It wasn’t huge and it didn’t stand out. It was just a small, delicate line that barely marred the perfection of her skin. I’d never wanted to kiss someone so badly in my entire life. I cupped her face with my hand and she just put her own small warm hand on top of it and leaned her forehead against mine. I don’t know how long we stayed like that,but we didn’t pull apart until the phone rang and reality set back in. Damn Maria, she has the absolute worst timing. She’d wanted to know when everyone was coming today. I’d hung up on her and Liz had started laughing and called her back.
It’s two thirty pm and my parents will be here in half an hour. Liz hasn’t come out of her room since breakfast this morning. Every time I go up there she says that she’ll be down in a minute but then minutes pass and then the minutes become longer and she still hasn’t come out. At two forty-five the doorbell rings. If my parents are early, I’ll just have to deal with it.
I go to the door and open it.
“Good to see you Max, how are things going?” a male voice says. It’s Alex. They’re early. There is a God after all.
“Alex, you don’t know how glad I am that you’re here. Come on in, where’s Isabel?”
“I told her that if she insisted on packing that much clothes for a three day stay then she had to bring it into the house herself. She’s standing by the car just staring at the suitcase right now. It’s sort of funny. I’ll give in in a few minutes and go help her but she’s just so cute when she knows she’s stuck. Hey, Max, I’ve got Katia in my arms here. She’s sleeping. You wouldn’t want to take her upstairs would you?”
I tell Alex it isn’t a problem. So he goes out to help Isabel and I take Katia up to the room she’ll be in. Instead of going in there though, I count the steps over to Liz’s and knock on the door. This time she opens it and I say, “I brought someone to see you.”
“She’s sleeping,” Liz says.
“I know, but do you think you could get her all settled while I help Alex and Isabel?”
“Of course, I’ll take care of her.” Liz’s voice is soft and I know she’s no longer thinking about herself and the awkwardness of the situation today. “I’ll be down as soon as I lay her down,” she tells me and takes Katia from my arms.
I head back downstairs and am surprised to hear Michael and Maria’s voices coming from the kitchen along with those of Isabel and Alex.
“Max, hey buddy, how’s it going?” Michael asks. The underlying meaning is obvious as is the concern in his voice.
“Maybe Isabel and Maria should go and spend some time with Liz. She could maybe use the support right now. She’s been pretty nervous all morning.” I tell them, knowing that this is what we’re all worried about it. It’s silly really. Meeting my parents isn’t really that big of a deal. I just really want them to love Liz as much as I do.
*******************************
Once Katia is there I don’t feel quite so alone any more. Thanksgiving is a Holiday for families and I don’t have that anymore. That’s why I feel out of place and nervous. I know that I’m not intruding, Max has told me that about a hundred times, but it still feels that way. Katia just makes it all better. Being able to hold her and feel useful by taking care of her calms me and once I’ve got her all settled then I’m ready to join the others downstairs.
Isabel gives me a hug as soon as I enter the room. Alex cracks one of his incredibly lame jokes and we all laugh despite ourselves. Max’s parents are actually later then their scheduled arrival time. This surprises everyone. When they do show up it’s with a multitude of apologies and hugs and I find myself lost in the shuffle and then I’m hugging the woman that I don’t know. She appears to know me though and doesn’t pull away immediately. “You must be Liz,” she says. “I’m Diane Evans and I’m sorry to say that I’m responsible for Isabel and Max.” She’s smiling as she says this and then their father Phillip jumps in and gives me a hug as well and everyone else is standing around, watching and smiling. Except for Max. He looks more nervous than I feel.
Formal introductions are made and pizza is ordered and we all go sit down in the living room to talk. Max and I seem to gravitate to one another. We sit next to each other on the couch and the only reason we’re as close as we are is to make room for anyone else. That’s a lie, because even when no one else sits there we stay where we’re at. Isabel gives me a questioning look and I can feel myself blushing. Do I need to explain that Max and I have just become really good friends? I’ll just have to talk to Isabel later.
They all chat and they even include me in on the conversation. Things are going well and we’ve done our fare share of laughing. Then Diane asks me about my family.
“What will your family be doing for Thanksgiving?” she asks with a smile.
No one says anything and they all just sort of look away and down, anywhere but at me. “I.....uhm...... they.....my .... would you excuse me,please?” Is all I can manage to say as I quickly get up and leave the room, tears running down my face. I’m not ready to deal with all of this. For awhile I’d managed to forget, but it’s just too hard.
I go up to my room and passing Katia’s on the way, decide to check in on her. She’s awake. “My Liz,” she says as she jumps up from the bed. I smile through my tears and pull her into my arms. She sits in my lap on the bed and tells me all about their trip here. She smiles and I wipe away my tears and then I take her downstairs to be with everyone else.
I’m met with sympathetic eyes and Diane gives me an apologetic look. I feel bad for my behavior. She couldn’t have known. I don’t want her to be upset. I bring Katia over to the couch and she sits on both Max and myself. Crawling back and forth, not able to say in one place for longer than a minute. First she would think of something to say to ‘uncle Max’ and the something to ‘my Liz’ and everyone would laugh.
The night goes on without anymore of my emotional outbursts and we have fun. I fall into bed exhausted and hoping that I’ll sleep the night through. Isabel and I are getting up early to get the food ready.
When the nightmare comes, it follows an order that I’m familiar with and still fear. I wake up sobbing and I try to hide them in my pillow. I’ve done this before too, only this time I find myself enveloped in strong, comforting arms and I’m able to calm down a little. Max. He pulls me to him and I’m on his lap as he leans back against the headboard of my bed. I lean my head into him and my tears fall down my face and onto his chest. They won’t stop. He runs his hands through my hair and whispers that it’s going to be okay. He won’t let anything happen to me. I finally relax in his arms and after a while my tears subside and I feel like talking. Maybe if I tell someone, the demons will go away.
“It’s awful Max. I hear them in the car. I hear my mother scream as we get hit. And then there’s blackness. It’s like the actual accident all over again. I wake up in the car and the first thing I see is my mother’s vacant eyes. They aren’t looking at anything and I know that she’s dead. Then I hear my dad sobbing and I know that he knows. He tells me to hang on and that we’re all going to be okay. But I know he’s lying and then .......” I can’t help it, my tears start again.
“Shhh, Liz , you don’t have to tell me anymore,” he says. But I go on anyway.
“I can hear the paramedics and the firemen as they’re trying to get into the car. My dad tells them to get to me first. He says that it’s too late for him. They don’t even bother with mom. Dad just gave up. He just couldn’t do it without her. He didn’t want to live anymore, not even for me. He loved her that much. The paramedics tried to get him out of the car but he wouldn’t let go of her hand and he lost too much blood.....” It’s just too much, I can’t go on anymore. Max just holds me, making the cold empty feeling go away. I feel safe in his arms. I don’t want him to leave me alone. He doesn’t. And so that’s how Isabel finds us the next morning, me wrapped in Max’s arms, his chin resting on my head.

Chapter 13
I’m not sure if Isabel screamed or not when she found us. All I know is that Liz buried her head into my chest and mumbled something unintelligible. I didn’t really know what was going on until I felt myself being pulled away from Liz.
“What the hell....?” I started to say.
“Kitchen, NOW, both of you,” came Isabel’s response.
God, she acts like we’re just children instead of grown people. We go down to the kitchen and Liz is standing next to me holding on to my arm.
She whispers to me that Isabel is pacing back and forth in front of us. “Her nostrils are flaring,” she adds. We both start to laugh a little at this.
“This is NOT funny,” Isabel says. Her voice is still angry.
“Imagine my surprise when I come to wake you up this morning, Liz, and find you in bed with my brother.”
“Isabel, nothing hap....” Isabel doesn’t let Liz finish.
“Right, nothing happened last night maybe. But you two look awfully cozy together. And even if something hasn’t happened yet, it inevitably will.” There’s a pause. “Look, whatever is going on between you, it’s not that I wouldn’t be happy if you got together. I just don’t want either of you to get hurt. Max, you’re a dog. I always assume the worst when it comes to you. I don’t want you taking advantage...”
Now Liz is the one who interrupts Isabel.
“Max was a perfect gentleman last night. I had one of my dreams and he only came in to check on me. I leeched onto him and wouldn’t let him leave. I assure you, Izzy, that Max has not treated me poorly, or tried to take advantage of me at all. He and I are friends. If something else happens then I think that you need to let it because we’re both adults capable of making our own decisions. Now, if that’s all you wanted, I’m going to go upstairs to shower so that we can get started cooking.” Liz’s arm leaves me and I hear her small feet heading up the stairs, leaving me alone with Isabel.
“Dammit, Max,” she starts in again. “ I was afraid this would happen. You cannot get romantically involved with Liz. I won’t let you. She is too good of a friend. You’ll just hurt her in the end.”
“Izzy, I’m not gonna hurt Liz. I think I’m in love with her. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. I want to be with her, spend time with her. She makes me want to be a better person, as corny as that sounds. I need her, Iz, and I’ve never wanted to need anyone before. You have to let me try.” I plead with her. I want Izzy to understand the way I feel. My words must sink in because she starts to ask me questions.
“Does Liz feel the same way?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her honestly.
“You just have to be careful Max. You know the awful things that have happened to her. You know about her dreams. The ones she had, the ones for her future are all gone and she’s left with those nightmares. She’s just really vulnerable. Especially now, with all of this holiday stuff and no family around. It’s going to be hard for her. Promise me you won’t push things. That you’ll take your time with her.” Isabel sounds like she’s fighting back tears.
“I promise, Iz.” I tell her. She gives me a hug and then tells me to go find Katia once I’ve taken my shower.
So I go upstairs and go right into the bathroom. Liz’s smell engulfs my senses.
“Max,” she says. It sounds sort of resigned because I do this to her all the time, no matter how many protests she’s made.
“ So what did Isabel say after I left?” she asks. Her voice is a little muffled by the water.
“Oh, nothing much. Just that if I hurt you, she’ll castrate me with her bare hands.” Liz’s laughter echoes around the room.
“You think that’s funny?” I ask with mock hurt in my voice.
“No....no..” she sputters. “ I think that .....it’s just I can see Isabel chasing you around the house and.......” her laughter erupts again as the door to the bathroom opens
“Is there a party in here that I wasn’t informed of?” A voice asks.
“Alex, get out of here,” Liz tells him.
“Yeah, Alex, get out,” I say with a smile.
“Not fair, Max gets to stay. Everyone else has seen you naked Liz..” I can almost hear his grin as Liz groans loudly.
“I’m never gonna live that down am I?” she asks. “Okay, Alex tell you what, if you go get Isabel’s permission, you can see me naked.” She says.
“Ha ha, I think that I’d like to still be married after the day is over, thank you very much, “ Alex says. “I actually came to warn you that Katia is up and looking for both of you.”
The door shuts and Liz decides that she’s done with her shower. “You’re turn,” she says. I stand there and wait. She’s still in there, I don’t move.
“Max, I said, ‘your turn’ what are you waiting for?” she asks. I can hear the taunt in her voice. “You’re not actually shy are you? Are you embarrassed, you don’t want me to see you in the shower? I never would have thought...”
“Liz, go, before I wake up the entire house so that they see you in here with me,”
“Fine, you’re no fun,” I can still hear the teasing tone in her voice. I wait until I hear the door shut and take off my shirt. I reach for my sweat pants.
“Oooh, nice, Max, very nice,” Liz’s voice says.. I swear I probably jump three feet in the air and then Liz is laughing again. I move forward until I come into contact with her robe clad body and then I push her out of the door and then make sure it’s shut.
“Now stay away Liz,” I can hear her laughter as she goes down the hall to her room.
I would have actually loved nothing more than to pull Liz into a shower with me, but Izzy’s advice to take it slow and not push Liz echo through my head. I can show a little restraint. Maybe. I’m not sure how much longer I can wait to kiss her.
**************************
I’ve decided that I love Max’s family. His mother is wonderful. She pulled me aside this after noon while everyone was taking a nap after dinner and apologized for yesterday.
“Isabel told me about your parents dear, but I just assumed you had other family. I’m sorry for not being more considerate. Please forgive me.”
I had done something uncharacteristic then and hugged her and told her that I was sorry for my behavior and that she had nothing to be sorry for. We’d had a long talk in the kitchen about Max then. She made me laugh with stories about him from when he was little. My side hurt from laughing so hard. “If you’re ever looking for some cheap entertainment there are some old home videos up in the attic of the house. Go find those, and make Max sit through them with you. It will be worth it. I promise.”
I tell her that I’ll make time. Unfortunately our little gab session is interrupted by Katia who does not appear to be particularly excited about taking a nap any longer. I take her upstairs and we play together for awhile. We all go to bed early that night and then the next morning Isabel, Diane, Maria and I set off for the big city to do some Christmas shopping. Katia stays with Alex and Max and Phillip and Michael to watch football and eat the left overs.
I splurge big time and buy myself a dress. Of course to make up for my selfishness, when I should be buying for others, I go all out on Katia’s present. I find gifts for everyone, Maria, Michael, Isabel, Alex and even Diane and Phillip with Isabel’s help. The last person on my list is Max. I’m going to have to think about that for awhile. His gift will have to be perfect. Towards the end of the day Isabel makes me promise to help Max with his own Christmas shopping this year. “Last year was a disaster, because he let Tess do it all for him. I’ve never gotten a gaudier present in my entire life. It was awful. The girl is completely devoid of any taste.”
This makes me chuckle mostly because I really dislike Tess and anything that can be said to make fun of her makes me feel a hell of a lot better about myself.
Our girl’s shopping day ends and we reach home to find the house in a shambles. There is food all over the living room and the guys are completely oblivious to us. I am surprised that Max is even enjoying himself but he appears to be.
“They must have good announcers,” Isabel says. “Max likes football, if they’re good at giving play by play descriptions.”
I go upstairs and hide the presents in the large closet in Max’s room. He’ll never know they’re there.
Everyone takes off early the next morning, leaving Max and I alone in the house once again. I should probably clean up, but I don’t feel like it. Max must understand because he asks me to go for a walk. So we do and he holds my hand and I sort of feel like this is a mini-date. We don’t say a whole lot. It’s enough just to be together. I like that.
*****************************************
Chapter 14
Things with Max have been so great lately. We’ve been doing a lot of things together. I took him to do his Christmas shopping the other day and we had the best time in the toy store of all places. Before he would buy anything, he insisted on trying it out. He did draw the line at trying on the shirt we found for Isabel. I joked that it was probably a good thing being that pink wasn’t really his color That had given me the idea that maybe it was time to expand his own wardrobe. So I’d dragged him off to the men’s department and made him try on all kinds of clothes.
I did something a little bad though. Max pretty much just owns basic colors. A lot of dark things, black, gray and then white shirts. So I may have slipped some different colored things into his wardrobe. So for the past couple of days he’s been wearing things like a purple shirt with matching tie. He’ll kill me if he ever finds out. I already warned Maria not to say anything. We’ll have to see what happens.
Something went wrong today though. Maria dropped Max off after school and he slammed the front door and went straight up to his room like a child. Usually he’ll come and talk to me. Fifteen minutes after his very noisy entrance, he leaves and then I hear the sound of a basketball bouncing. I go out the back door and walk around the side of the house, coming up on the other side of the garage. I just stand there and watch him. He just dribbles the ball, nothing else. Isabel had warned me about one of these moods, but I’ve never actually witnessed one before.
“Go away, Liz,” he bites out.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I don’t want you out here watching me, that’s why,” he says angrily.
“Why are you so upset?” I ask quietly.
“Look, just forget about it. I’ll get over it. I don’t need you to babysit me,” he suddenly stops dribbling and shoots the ball. It’s a perfect shot, it goes right in the basket and then rolls away. I know why he doesn’t shoot more often, because it’s a bitch to find the ball afterwards. He doesn’t know where it is now. It stops rolling about five feet away from him.
“Ninety degrees to your right, take five step,” I tell him. He says nothing but moves for the ball. The phone starts ringing then. He goes back to dribbling and I go to answer it. It’s Maria.
“Chica, it’s me. I just wanted to give you a heads up on Max,” she says.
“Too late,” I reply.
“Just let him work it out. He just found out today that the school is making Mrs. Weston retire. So he has to get another classroom aid. Mrs. Weston is great but she’s just not cutting it. She can’t hear anything and she’s almost as blind as Max,” Maria informs me. “I think Max is feeling sorry for himself. He doesn’t like having help to begin with but once he gets used to the idea he’ll be okay. “ I can hear Michael talking in the background.
“Hold on a second, Liz.” I hear her yelling at him. “Would you shut up? I am on the phone in case you hadn’t noticed.” There’s a pause as he says something and then Maria squeals out and “oh goody.”
“Michael says to tell you to get dressed up because we’re all going out tonight, his treat,” Maria says excitedly.
“What’s the occasion?” I ask.
“He won’t say, but he told me that he’ll call Max himself in a half hour. So don’t answer the phone, let Max. Then Michael can talk him into dinner.” We hang up and I head upstairs and get ready for the evening. I’m just getting out of the shower when Max barges into the bathroom. I’ve given up on begging for the door lock. His answer is always no.
“Max, I’m naked,” I say, “That means leave.” But he doesn’t budge. He merely shrugs his shoulders as if to say ‘so’. We’ve done this many times now. It’s gotten to the point where Max gets ready in the mornings while I’m in here. The other day he was whining, “Come on Liz, help a poor horny blind guy out and describe what you look like naked.” I had only rolled my eyes. Of course when I didn’t give him a verbal response he had flung the shower curtain open and did a pretty good job of pretending to look me up and down. I’d squirmed under his false gaze and part of me wonders what would happen if he could really see me.
He interrupts my thought now by asking, “Why are you taking a shower now?”
I stand there, dripping water onto the floor. The towels are behind him.
“Because I’m going out tonight,” I inform him. He stands up a little taller.
“With who?”
“Oh, this guy that I know and his two friends. I sort of like him a lot.” He looks disappointed. The phone rings then.
“Can you get that?” I ask him. He nods and moves away and I reach for a towel. For some reason he steps back to where he was and now my naked, wet, cold body is pressed up against him. I stop breathing momentarily. God, he smells good.
“You are naked,” he says, his voice quiet at the discovery.
I nod and he feels it because my head is against his chest. Neither one of us had bothered to move away. His hands move from his sides to my shoulders. I feel the goose bumps forming from his touch. I life my head and look up into his face. He’s so close....
The ringing in the background shakes me from the haze I’m in. “The phone,” I remind him softly. He nods and backs away slowly. My knees are still shaky from our contact. I fight the urge to fall to the floor.
**************************
I barely make it to the phone. My senses are on overload. I can still feel the heat of her body as it pressed up against me. And the way her breast felt as my arm brushed it. My body’s response is only natural in a situation like this.
I grab at the phone . “Hello,” I bite out. I almost feel sorry for whomever’s on the other end.
“Maxwell, I’ve got news. Big news. And we’re going out to celebrate. So be ready by sic. Our reservation is at six thirty. Oh and Maria says to tell Liz to wear her new black dress,” Michael doesn’t even give me a chance to responds and he hangs up.
I go back to the bathroom. I know that Liz isn’t there but I can still smell her scent. I listen to her getting ready in her room for a moment before I go to take my own shower. The water is cold for a reason I remind myself as I try not to think about Liz being naked.
I hear the door to the bathroom open.
“Max,” Liz says. I hide myself behind the curtain. She does not need an up close and personal look at the kind of reaction she manages to get from me. Even the sound of her voice turns me on.
“What are you doing in here?” I ask her. She laughs and I try not to let myself get distracted.
“Paybacks are a bitch,” she tells me.
“Ha Ha,” is all I can think to say to her.
“Seriously though, did you talk to Michael?” I nod remembering what she said earlier and then it dawns on me that I’m supposedly the great guy she was talking about. I feel like a heel all of a sudden. I didn’t treat her very well earlier that afternoon.
“Oh, yeah,” I finally say, “Uhm, Maria said to wear your black dress.”
“Okay, we must be going somewhere really nice then,” she says a little absently. She leaves the room and I groan. Great, this is just great. I hate getting dressed up. I realize that I’ll have to ask Liz for help. This day can’t get any worse.
Twenty minutes later, I’m standing in my boxers in front of my closet.
“Liz,” holler. After a moment I hear quick footsteps.
“What? What’s wrong?” she asks as she hurries into the room.
“I need you to pick out clothes for tonight,” I tell her sheepishly. She responds with a very girlish giggle..
“Yay! This will be fun,” she says as she brushes past me to the closet. I stay where I’m at, feet firmly planted to the floor, just to she has to brush against me as she decides. I hear things come off the rack and she mumbles to herself.
“Do you want to wear black?” she asks.
“I really don’t care,” I tell her.
“Okay then, here’s black pants, one of your new shirts and a new tie. I’ll lay the jacket on the bed.” She finishes handing me thing and moves. I hear my drawer open.
“Socks,” she says answering my unspoken question.
“Anything else? Can I finish getting myself ready?” she asks. I can hear the amusement in her voice.
“I think that covers everything,” I tell her.
*********************************
The site of him standing there in his boxers just about did me in. He’s amazing to look at. He’s ripped for one thing. He’s got perfectly sculpted everything, arms, chest, abs. I can’t help but notice this. I’ve been trying to ignore the way I feel about him but it’s futile really. Not for the first time I wonder what things would have been like if we’d met under different circumstances. If he wasn’t blind and I wasn’t down on my luck would we still have been brought together.
I look at my scar in the mirror. I barely notice it anymore. But it’s still there, it’s still a reminder of what once was and can now never be. I”m glad that Max can’t see me. If he did, he probably wouldn’t like what he saw. He’s into big boobs and blondes. I possess neither of these traits. As contradictory as it seems though, I want to be beautiful for him tonight. So I’m extra careful when I fix my hair and with my makeup.
I reach into the back of my closet and pull out the black dress. It’s from the Christmas shopping spree. It’s backless with thin straps and a hemline that’s probably a little shorter than mid thigh.
I smile to myself as I remember Maria’s comment. “If Max could see you in that, he’d pass out,” she told me. The thought had made me extremely happy. So I’d gotten the dress. I finish getting ready and head downstairs early to wait for Michael and Maria. Max is sitting there on the couch waiting. I can’t help but gasp at the site of him. He’s so handsome that I forget to breathe for a second. Max’s sensitive hearing must pick up my barely audible gasp.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, quickly standing up.
“Oh, nothing,” I lie, “I tripped a little, that’s all.” I pause. “You’re tie is crooked. May I fix it for you?”
He nods and I move over to him, my hands moving deftly, but lingering a little when my fingers brush against his chest.
“There,” I say, “ All finished.” I start to back away but he catches my arm.
“Liz, wait. I...”
****************************
Her bare skin under my fingers feels like silk. I forget what I wanted to tell her.
“I.....want to apologize. For earlier,” I finally manage to say.
“For walking in on me in the shower?” she asks, her voice is confused.
I chuckle, “No, No, I’m never sorry about that,” I say it jokingly even though it’s actually the truth. “I meant for when I got home from school. I was upset and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. Can you forgive me?” My voice has gotten softer because she’s gotten closer to me. My wanders up and down her arm.
“It’s okay, I understand,” she says. “Maria explained when she told me about tonight,” she pauses. “I was wondering though, do you think that maybe it would be okay if I applied for the job? I need something else to do during the day and short of working fast food, this is really the only thing that’s been available,” she explains.
My first instinct is fear, not because she’d be helping me, but because she’d told me before that once she’d gotten a job she’s move out. I don’t want that. It’s been almost four months and I can’t imagine my life without her here now.
“I.....yeah, that would be great, Liz,” I tell her. I can’t be selfish. I have to think about what she wants and needs too. “If you want to, I don’t have a problem with it.” I guess at least I would get to spend the day with her even if she wasn’t here with me at night.
Her body seems to relax after that. I want to kiss her. But the sound of voices at the entrance stops me. Michael and Maria are here.
They find us standing there. Liz makes no attempt to move away. I imagine Michael raising his eyebrows at the site we probably make.
“Wow,” is all I hear from Michael’s mouth. I can feel Liz twitch nervously.
“Max, if you ever wanted to see, now would be the time,” Michael says. “Liz, you look incredible,” he goes on. I want to deck him. Does he not remember the girl standing next to him? His girlfriend?
“Maria aren’t you going to smack Michael?” Liz says with a nervous laugh.
“Nope. He’s only telling the truth. Besides, he’s already thoroughly convinced me that I’m beautiful,” Maria says. I can hear the smile in her voice.
Michael speaks again. “ I don’t know Maxwell, maybe we should just stay in. I’m not sure I want other guys admiring our ladies here.”
I can feel my mind slipping into its self-pity mode. I want nothing more than to be able to see Liz right now. My imagination is not enough. I want to drink in the site of every inch of Liz, memorize every curve, the color of her eyes. I’d give anything to see her skin flushed and glowing.
“They’ll just have to stay close to us at all times tonight,” I finally say and pull Liz closer to me. She’s going to stay at my side the whole night, if I can help it. Liz doesn’t protest and I wonder if maybe she’s feeling the same way about me that I feel about her.
“Agreed, Shall we go?” Maria says.
Liz’s yes is soft and it makes me hold her hand tighter.


Chapter 15
The restaurant is nice and Michael gives his name at the door and we’re quickly led to a table. Max asks for a braille menu and the hostess gets a little flustered, like no one has ever asked for one before.
He’s still holding my hand.
His head dips down in my direction and he says softly, for me to hear only, “I know they don’t have one. I just like to see their reaction. The time, we got a free meal.” I smile at this. “You’re mean,” I finally say. He shrugs and smiles his beautiful smile and my heart beats a little faster.
The hostess comes back apologizing profusely. I help Max order and afterwards the waiter returns with a bottle of wine, on the house. “See, I told,” Max says with a smug smile. This makes me laugh. Out of the corner of my eye, I see something that makes my laughter stop short. Tess is here and she’s draped herself all over some guy. I’m not sure if I should warn the others or not. I look to Maria who is seeing what I see. She shakes her no and so I don’t bring it up.
Max is sitting close to me. He keeps grabbing my hand to hold it under the table and I wonder if he’s nervous about being out of his comfort zone. My heart is hoping that it’s for another reason. I sneak a glance at him and he’s smiling his half smile still.
Dinner goes well and over desert we finally coax Michael’s good news out of him.
“Well, as you know, as of December 17th I’ll have my Master’s degree in Art History. This morning, the head of the Art Department at the College called and they have a job opening. They’re extending the offer to me and want me to start teaching classes this next semester already. I accepted without hesitation. So I am now gainfully employed. No more mopping or cleaning windows or vacuuming...”
Maria is the most excited of everyone. Even more so than Michael, maybe. She’s jumping up and down in her chair. Finally she just grabs Michael and kisses him hard. I turn my head away so I don’t feel like I’m intruding on the moment. My gaze falls on Max. He’s smiling. He turns to me and I swear he’s looking right at me. Our moment in interrupted by a very annoying voice.
‘Well, well, well. What to we have here? I didn’t know they let trash into these places,” Tess says. Max’s hold on my hand tightens.
“They must be into making exceptions. They did let you in after all,” I say. The words are out of my mouth before I can stop myself. I receive a glare and Maria gives me a thumbs up and a huge smile.
Max is chuckling slightly, “Tess, what brings you here?” he asks her.
“I’m having dinner with a friend,” she says. If that’s what she does with friends, maul them within an inch of their life, then I don’t ever want to be included in her circle.
“That’s nice,” Max says.
We’re all about to ignore her and return to our congratulations for Michael when Tess starts in again.
“So Liz,” I try not to visibly cringe at her voice. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. “It looks like your scar is healing. Although it’s a shame that it’s so visible in the dress. You almost would have looked attractive in it.” Damn the skanky bitch. I should let what she says get to me, but it’s like she knows what makes me vulnerable and she has to exploit it.
“Good thing she’s not wearing you’re dress then,” Maria says. “If she way, not only would it be visible, but she’d look like a slut too. At least Liz has taste,” she finishes in my defense.
I feel tears spring to my eyes. I’d felt beautiful earlier. Not anymore. Never again. I know the scar isn’t anything but the constant reminder is too much.
“Tess this is sort of a private dinner,” Max tells her angrily. I pull my hand away from his and refuse to look in Tess’ direction.
Michael speaks up. “Tess, I think Kyle’s looking for you. Why don’t you go before he decides to grace us with his presence as well.”
I barely register that she’s gone. I can’t sit here anymore.
“Would you excuse me?” I say politely and get up. I need to regain my composure and I can’t do it with Michael and Maria looking on with pity and apology.
****************************
When Liz lets go of my hand I will myself not to grab all of her. I want to yell at Tess for being so goddamn mean and self-centered. I don’t know what ever possessed me to be with her in the first place. Michael mentions something about Tess going back to Kyle. I should have know that was the ‘friend’ she was talking about. The guy is head over heels in love with her for some reason. He worshipped her and she used him when she didn’t think there was anything better around. I feel sorry for him.
Tess leaves with and indignant “hmfp” and I’m greatly relieved. But my relief is short lived because Liz excuses herself. My anger at Tess grows in leaps and bounds when I hear the hurt I n Liz’s voice. I want to go after her, to tell her to ignore Tess, that she’s just jealous. I don’t move though, because the gesture would be useless because I’ll have to get someone to help me find her.
When she doesn’t come back after five minutes I decide to hell with my ego and ask Maria if she’ll take me to Liz. She agrees and walks me towards what I assume is the ladies restroom. “Are you going to wait out here, or go in?” Maria asks.
I don’t answer. I just slide my hands along the door and push it in, plunging into the unknown. There is a startled gasp and I hear feet scamper and then feel the air move around me as someone hurries past me out of the door.
“Liz...” I say. She’s in here I know it.
“Go away, Max. You aren’t supposed to be in here,” her voice says. The echo in the bathroom makes it hard to pinpoint where it’s coming from.
“I know that, but.....”
“ Max, please, just leave....” I can hear the tears in her voice. She should never have to cry like this.
*********************
I try to hold back my tears once I’m inside the ladies room, but the come fast and are coursing down my cheeks, blinding me. I shouldn’t have let Tess get to me. I know this and yet it happened anyway. I’m not sure how long I’ve been in here but I move over to the sink and try to rid myself of the telltale signs of tears. Those wipe away easily, but my scar seems to stick out more than it ever has before. I run my finger along it. As I do this a tall figure appears behind me.
“Liz,” he says.
My heart is beating fast now.
‘Go away Max. You aren’t supposed to be in here,” I tell him. The site of him, the way he says my name brings forth more tears.
“I know that, but....”
“Max, please, just leave,” I beg him. I don’t want him to be with me when I’m like this.
He stands up a little straighter and starts to move forward. His left hand is sliding against the wall and he follows it carefully until he comes into contact with the tampon dispenser. He looks so funny, standing there leaning against that out of all things, for support. I feel myself smile before I know what’s happening. I move towards him now so he doesn’t have to move anywhere else. His coming to me like this says a lot. He never willingly leaves his comfort zone. He gave up the control he tries to maintain to come and find me.
He starts to speak again.
“Liz, there’s something you need to know,” he says softly. I move closer so that he can feel my body’s presence. His hands move and one rests on my waist while the other cups my cheek.
“No matter what anyone else says, especially Tess, you can’t believe that one insignificant scar is going to effect how you are viewed. I...I can’t see you but my heart, Liz, my heart knows you and it knows how beautiful you are. That’s all the matters Liz. You’re beautiful here,” he says and his hand moves slowly up from my waist skimming past my breast and stops, resting right where my heart is rapidly beating. More tears fall, unbidden down my cheeks.
“Max,” I whisper. No other words form. He’s made everything all better with a touch and some very well put words.
His thumb is rubbing gently across my cheeks and very slowly he leans his face down toward me. I can feel his breath against my face. I want him to kiss me more than I’ve ever wanted anything else in this life. His hand still rests against my heart. I wonder if he can feel it pounding.
His lips are so close. I let my eyes flutter shut so that I can just be caught up in feeling this moment. I wait anxiously for his lips to touch mine. But instead I feel a chaste kiss on my forehead. He moves lower and his lips brush my eyelids and then he rubs his nose against mine. He pulls away again and a trail of kisses starts at the top of my scar. He leaves warm kisses along it in a line that extends up to my mouth. His breath against my skin gives me goose bumps. Then his warm soft, amazing lips are making a path of light kisses around my mouth. A sigh escapes my lips. I feel his breath against my mouth.
I’m so caught up in Max that the faint sound of the bathroom door opening doesn’t register. But Max hears it and pulls away. I let my eyes open and after a brief look up into Max’s face, I look over at whomever has intruded on this moment. It’s a woman that I don’t know and before she can ruin the moment further, I take Max’s hand whispering “let’s go,” and pull him out the door of the rest room.
We make our way back to the table slowly. Maria catches my eye and raises her eyebrows questioningly. I glance shyly at Max and then give her a tentative smile to tell her that I’m okay now.
“So you two ready for some more wine?” Michael asks.
Would it be rude to tell him that I want to go home now and be alone with Max? Probably, so I just nod my head. Max pulls my chair closer to his and refuses to let go of my hand. I don’t mind. I feel like I have to be touching him. I close my eyes and I can still feel his soft kisses. Holding his hand is definitely the safest way to touch him right now.
Max and I both drink another glass of the wine. I wish I could say that the heady feeling and tingling in my body are from that but it wouldn’t be the truth. The truth would be that Max’s hand has abandoned mine in favor of rubbing my thigh. He’s going to drive me crazy.
********************
I can’t handle this anymore. It’s time to leave. I don’t want to be rude but I’m about ten seconds away from telling Michael that it’s time to get the check so we can get the hell out of here. I want to take Liz home and kiss her. Not the way I did in the bathroom. I mean really kiss her. And then I’ll tell her how I feel.
I feel her squirming a little. My hand is on her thigh. She’s shifting in her chair. Did she just open her legs wider? I move my hand toward the inside of her thigh and am rewarded with a small, barely audible sigh. That’s it, rude or not, we’re leaving now.
*****************

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:37:12 PM
Chapter 16
When we get in the car, Liz scoots herself over as close to me as she can get, rubbing her leg against mine. The radio is working against us. I swear that it is. The first song that comes on is loud and fast with this pulsing rhythm. Luckily Michael changes it, but the next song isn’t any better as the chorus screams out ‘lets talk about sex baby, lets talk about you and me.’ Maria changes it this time and it’s a country station.

Baby I’ve been drifting away
And dreaming all day
Of holding you, touching you
The only think I wanna do is be with you
As close to you as I can be

Let’s make love
All night long
Until all our strength is gone
Hold on tight
Just let go
I want to feel you in my soul
Until the sun comes up
Let’s make love

Well, that sounds like a good idea. Liz squeezes my arm a little tighter and I wish I knew what she was thinking. This song about sums up everything for me.
I feel her breath against my neck and then my name from her lips in a whisper.
“Max,” she says. I turn my head ever so slightly and I feel her lips brush against my cheek.

Do you know what you do to me
Everything inside of me
Is wanting you, needing you
I’m so in love with you

I don’t know if it’s my imagination or what but I think that I hear Liz whisper “I am Max, I really am,” when those words are sung. My heart is beating double time. Please let us get home soon. I don’t think I can keep myself from kissing her for much longer.
The chorus of the song comes on again and thank god, we’re finally here. Liz is pulling me out of the car and saying a mumbled Goodnight and thank you to Michael and Maria. I swear that I can hear them laughing as I shut the door.
I don’t remember anything but the silence that now engulfs us as we stand here in the house. Can she hear how fast my heart is beating?
“Liz,” I say softly, “ I want to kiss you.”
I don’t hear an answer but I feel her body as she aligns herself directly in front of me. My hands move and find her waist, pulling her closer. I trail them up her sides to her shoulders. I leave one resting there, fingers playing with the strap of her dress as the other hand traces up her neck. I let my thumb explore her lips and then I move my head forward and pray that I hit the mark. That’s when I feel her soft warm lips against mine.
********************
I’ve been waiting an eternity for this to happen it seems like. It was definitely worth the wait. Our first kiss is gentle. A little tentative. When we pull away, a sigh escapes my lips. But it’s cut short when his lips find mine again, more urgently this time. I open my mouth as his tongue traces my lower lip. This is his invitation to deepen things and I’m happy to say that he takes it. This kiss is hot and hungry and I know what I want to happen tonight. I want to feel his mouth everywhere. I want to feel him everywhere.
“Liz, do you want to....” his voice is deep and husky. I feel myself shiver.
“Let’s just lie down Max,” I tell him even as I’m leading him over to the couch.
I feel a little giddy. I’m about to make out with Max Evans. Let’s hope the evening doesn’t end there though.
********************
We’re on the couch. I’m on top of her. I feel like I’m seventeen again. I’m nervous about my next move. Liz takes care of this for me though when she moves my hand from where it sits at her waist and she drags it slowly up to her breast.
“Max, don’t be so shy,” she whispers between kisses.
If I was hesitant before, I’m not anymore. My fingers work the soft mound of her flesh through the dress. But it’s not enough. I need to feel her skin. I move my lips from hers to leave a trail of kisses down her neck to the edge of the dress, kissing the curve of her breast as my hand works to remove it from the confines of the dress. Liz pushes me away momentarily and I hear the sound of a zipper as it slides down.
“That might work better,” she says as she starts kissing my neck and works to undo the buttons of my shirt. I pull back though.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I tell her and I disentangle myself from Liz and then wait while she gets up from the couch. I have to be touching her though and I move her in front of me. My hands slide inside her dress where she unzipped it and I let myself touch the warm skin of her back. I feel the sharp intake of her breath and smile as I lean in to kiss the back of her neck. We work together to get ourselves upstairs. It seems to take a life time but before I can even think about counting, we’re there. It’s my room, it has to be because it’s the only room that still doesn’t smell like her now. I think we’re about to remedy that situation.
When we make it to the bed, I have to stop myself from ripping the dress off of her. The rate of my breathing has been steadily increasing since we got into the house. It doesn’t appear that I’ll have a reprieve any time soon, because now her small hands and quick fingers are working the buttons on my shirt. As each button is undone I feel her lips kiss the exposed skin. When she’s finished with the shirt her hands move to my slacks, but I stop her. It’s my turn now.
******************
I’m hardly aware of anything but Max. I’ve had my eyes closed since we made it to the bedroom, because I wanted to experience this the way Max does, just all feeling. But I can’t keep them shut, I have to see him. I have to watch him as he moves. He amazes me so much. I sit up on my knees on the bed as he does the same. I watch as his hands move mine from his body and place them at my sides. He moves his fingers up to the straps of my dress. He hasn’t stopped touching me once. As his hands work the dress from my body his fingers are leaving a burning trail of fire in their wake. It’s like his touch is igniting every cell in my body.
Very gently he pushes me back against the bed and slides the dress the rest of the way off his hand moves to throw it out of the way and then they work their way up from my calves to my thighs and then up to my hips. I close my eyes again as his mouth kisses my stomach. The sensations he’s causing are overwhelming, I want to drown in them.
His mouth works steadily upward and I know that I’m moaning. I can’t control my bodies reaction and when I feel how much he wants me I arch into him. That’s when his mouth comes down on my nipple.
“Oh, god, Max,” escapes my lips. Why did we wait so long?
***************
Her moans and sighs are like music to my ears. I’m making her do this, I’m bringing her pleasure. As I bring my mouth up to one pebbled nipple my hands work slowly and knead at her flesh.
“Liz, I want to know you,” I tell her. “ I want to memorize every inch of you, the way you feel. I’m going to learn what you look like.” She whimpers again and I move my mouth over to the other hard peak. She tastes so good. I’ve wanted to do this since the first time she brushed against me. I know she can feel my response to her. My erection is tight in the confines of my pants and when she grinds up against me, it’s almost too much.
“Max, take off the rest of your clothes,” her voice is soft and commanding and so I obey because that’s what I want too. When I finish that task, I let my hands rediscover her body and the path they blaze is then followed by my lips. When my mouth reaches the edge of her panties she moves her hips slightly up and so, taking the hint I move them down and off. I nuzzle my nose against her abdomen. I can smell her heat. I want to be engulfed in it.
******************
When his mouth starts to move toward my center I can feel myself grow wetter. And when his lips start to kiss me there, I feel like I’m going to die.
“Max, please,” I beg. I want him to kiss me again. I need to feel his mouth on mine. So my hands move shakily to pull him up to my level. I’m panting and a little sweaty. The kiss is forceful. I thrust my tongue inside his mouth, stroking it the way I want him to stroke me. His hands trail down to my thighs and torturously slow he moves his fingers in small circles, higher and higher on my inner thighs. I spread my legs because I want him closer. I want him to ease the throbbing ache. My hands move from the muscles of his back down until I find his swollen penis. I stroke it gently and then move him to my entrance.
“Max....Now,” I pant out desperately. He starts to protest. He wants to hold off, he wants to make this last. But I can’t. I want him now. I need him to quench this ache.
******************
I moan as I feel myself sliding into her. She’s so tight, so hot, so wet. Oh God, she feels so good. When I’m fully sheathed in her I stop to let us adjust to each other.
“Max...” she murmurs and I lean down to kiss the first piece of her flesh that I find. After a moment her hips move and then I’m pushing myself in and out of her.
So good, so tight, I ......Holy God.
******************
As he moves between my thighs his hands are playing with my breasts, making the ache worse. I’ve never felt like this before. I feel myself pushing my hips upward to meets his thrusts. Each time, I feel him deeper than before and I find myself closer and closer to the edge. I try to set the pace faster but his hands move down to my hips, because I know he wants to build this up.
Oh, Jesus, his hand just found my clit. “Oooooaah, Max,”
Please don’t ever stop, don’t ever stop. I’m starting to lose it. I’m so close, so close. “Uuuuuh.....mmmmm.....MAX!” I can’t breathe as my body tightens in its release. His pace is still furious but I feel his own orgasm take hold when he stills his movement and I smile blissfully when he moans my name as he buries his head in my neck.
**************
I don’t ever want to move. I want to stay buried deep inside Liz Parker for as long as I can. Her arms are wrapped around me and her hands are rubbing slowly up and down my back. This is how it was meant to be. She nuzzles my ear and I kiss her collar bone and then bring my mouth up to meet hers in another kiss. This one resembles the first one that we shared. The one that led to all of this.
“Liz,” I manage to say as the kiss breaks off, “ Liz, I love you.”
For a second I can’t hear anything but her intake of breath. When she finally speaks her voice is a little shaky. “I....I love you too Max. I really do.”
*******************
Chapter 17
When I open my eyes sometime later I can hear him breathing next to me and I revel in the way it feels to have his arms wrapped around me. I don’t know whether this was wrong or not, all I know is that there is no use turning back. What happened is done and at this moment I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I feel Max shift next to me and then I feel his lips on my neck. I sigh and turn to face him.
“Liz,” he whispers almost reverently. I smile and press my lips to his in a lingering kiss. When we pull away he moves his hands and begins to gently trace small invisible patterns on my thighs.
“You know,” he says,” I never quite got to finish what I started last night,” he tells me. I’m trying to concentrate on his words, but the things he’s doing to me with his hands are making me incoherent.
“Mmmhhhmm,” is all I can manage to say.
“So I think that I had better pick up where I left off,” he says as his tongue darts out, licking at my collar bone.
“And where is that?” I breathe out as his fingers start moving inward. His thumb flicks my clit and I feel myself arching up into his hand. “Right there,” he whispers into my neck.
**********************
She’s so responsive to every move I make. Her little sighs and moans are driving me insane. I’ve been imagining this for weeks, always wondering what it would be like to make her writhe with pleasure as I learned what she looks like with my hands. Where to start though? That’s my dilema.
I bring my hands up from where they had been previously engaged and she groans out her protest. I move my lips to cover her mouth and our tongues quickly tangle together, fighting for supremacy. She gives in and lets me take control.
My hands start at her neck, gently touching her skin. Memorizing the angle of it as she arches under my touch. My lips leave her mouth and I let my tongue explore the hollow of her neck. With a small nip at the base of her throat I move forward and my fingers trace back and forth along her collar bone working out ward to her shoulders and then ever so slowly down her arms.
Her body is pliant and she lets me do what I will. I move her arms to rest above her head and then my tongue moves along the sensitive skin there and I hear another sigh. I smile into her shoulder and move on. My chest brushes over hers and I can feel her pebbled nipples as they rub against me. I’m gentle when I touch her breasts. Her back lifts up off the bed as I touch my tongue to her breast and she moans out my name.
“mmmmax” She’s rubbing her lower body against me. If she doesn’t stop that, I won’t be able to finish my exploration this time either. I call on all my reserves of control and am able to keep going. I let my mouth lick the undersides of her breast and then trail kisses down her stomach while my hands out line the curves of her hips. My tongue dips into her navel and once again, her lower body arches up into me and I can feel how wet she is.
“You’re making this difficult,” I tell her and my nose brushes against her hip as I work my way lower.
“Max, please, don’t tease,” her voice is strained and begging. My lips are leaving wet kisses on her inner thighs, I nip at them and then lick at her wet center. My mouth closes around her swollen nub and I ease two fingers inside her hot core. Her hands have left their position above her head and are now buried in my hair as she pushes my head towards her.
“Oh god,” she moans out. She’s shaking and I can feel her start to tense up. I move swiftly and pull myself up the length of her, thrusting into her body. I barely have to move before her inner walls clamp down on me as her orgasm washes over her. But we’re not done yet and as her walls tighten around me I start to move in her. “You feel so good. I’ll never get enough of this,” I tell her as I move in and out. She rocks her hips against mine and her hands clamp down on my shoulders as she cries out again, louder this time. Her muscle contractions surrounding me, put me over the edge.
As my body starts to come down from its high, her sighs of contentment surround me.
“I’ll give you a few minutes to rest,” she whispers into my ear, “and then its my turn.”
I don’t think I’ll even need those few minutes.
*************************
Something primal in me is working its way out. I can’t stop it. It wants to carry out every fantasy I’ve ever had regarding Max. Fantasy one is just about to come true.
I move so that I’m straddling his hips. His eyes are closed. I find myself wishing that he could watch me do this. I sigh out loud. I’ll just have to be sure that he feels this all the way to his core. It’s my turn to explore him. I close my eyes. I’ll do this his way. I need to know what it’s like for him, to have ones senses rule your actions without being able to see.
I run my hands slowly up his sides. First one and then the other. As I do this I move my head lower so that I can kiss his perfectly formed abs. My hair brushes across him. I didn’t do it on purpose but his reaction makes me want to repeat the gesture. Ever so carefully I kiss my way around his chest, letting my hair fall forward so that with each movement of my head he feels it sweep against him. I let my tongue linger over each facet of his muscular form. I’ve been wanting to do this since the first time I saw him in the shower. I trace the outer edge of one of his nipples and the outline of his pectoral muscle. My hands knead at the muscles on his shoulders, working down his arms, feeling the swell of his biceps. I reach his forearm and I can feel his hand clenching and unclenching. I let my hands wander back to his abdomen and follow each caress with a lingering kiss. I work lower until I brush against the coarse arrowing of hair that outlines his manhood. He’s hard. I can feel the heat radiating from him and I let my hands explore his arousal. I barely register the sounds he’s making. I’m too caught up in the way he feels, the smell of his arousal, the heat that he radiates. I’ve kept my eyes closed this whole time. I lower my head and his arousal brushes across my cheek. I feel him jump a little and smile as I bring my lips to touch him.
I barely register what’s happening next. He’s pulling at me, making me come up. I slide my body up the length of his and settle on top of him. My eyes are open now, examining his countenance. He looks tortured.
“Max, why’d you make me stop?” I ask him softly as I kiss and suck on his neck.
“I just.....I don’t want to lose control like that.....I....” I shush him with a kiss.
“Maybe I want you to lose control,” I tell him. I kiss him again and he deepens it. I can feel his need to be the one in control now. He needs to dominate. I don’t know why, but I want him to be happy so I leave things as they are.
I can’t stop kissing him. I still want to explore. So he lets me play for awhile. I feel his hardness brush against my thigh and I know that I don’t want to wait any longer. The ache has started deep within me again. Only Max can fill this emptiness. I position myself above him and slide down onto his erection. His hands grasp at my hips and he helps me move. It starts out gently. We set the pace slow and I move up and down, bracing my arms on his chest, using my legs for leverage. After awhile, it’s not enough though and I can’t seem to move fast enough. Max flips me over quickly and he’s immediately moving in and out of me, making me moan. He’s like some kind of mad man, his movements frantic. I can tell that his control is slipping. He slows down again, like he’s trying to wait for me. I thrust my hips upward trying to quicken his movement again.
“Let go, Max,” I pant out. I want him to lose control. I watch as his muscles tighten and with one hard, deep thrust he’s there. I can feel him cuming inside me and my own orgasm washes over me in waves. He rolls over, letting me rest on top of him. I can barely keep my eyes open now. I’m more than happy with myself. That one moment, the moment where he surrendered everything will stay with me forever. His face was a study in contrast. Sheer bliss and perfect torture. I’ll see it in my dreams.
************
I’m not sure what time it is when I wake up again. Liz is still sleeping on top of me. I carefully reach my hand over to the clock. The digital voice seems to scream out the time. It’s a little after six am. We don’t have to get up for awhile, so I just let myself relax and enjoy the way it feels to have her in my arms. I breath deeply, letting her scent fill my lungs. I run my fingers through her hair. I hadn’t realized how long it was. It’s so soft. I remember the way it felt brushing against me last night.
I think that I could handle waking up like this for the rest of my life. She’s certainly not going to be sleeping in that room way across the hall. Not unless I’m in there with her. And when she has her nightmares now, I’ll be right here. I’ll be able to hold her until she can go back to sleep, or I can make her forget in other ways. I briefly ponder what Liz would think of maybe accustomizing ourselves to all of the rooms of the house and each and every one of their features. We’ll have to start with the bathroom of course. I’m picturing the counter top and then the shower. Later we can put the kitchen to use.........because after all that love making one might be a little hungry. Once we’ve eaten though we can certainly try out the table, maybe test to see how sturdy it is.
The possibilities are endless.
Chapter 18
My well thought out plans for ways to ravage Liz are put on hold. Not by either of our doings either. Maria calls sometime after eight o’clock and says that she’s coming over because she needs help with something. I hear Liz tell her that she should wait until later because she has lots of work to get done around the house. Maria must not take no for an answer though because Liz gets off the phone and sighs as she tries to get out of bed.
My hands search her out and pull her back down next to me.
“What’s wrong?”I ask.
“I just wanted to stay here, like this, with you. But Maria’s having a crisis and she’s probably on her way over here right now.” She sounds dejected which elates me. I love that she’d rather stay in bed with me. I let my hand trace her cheek and then bring my lips to hers, kissing her like she’s water and I’m dying of thirst.
“Max, we can’t....” she breathes out unconvincingly. There are no more protests being made as I let my hands wander her body while I devour her mouth with kisses. I don’t know how long we let this go on, but I only register the sound of the doorbell once Liz starts to pull away.
“She’s here,” she says sounding disappointed.
She goes to answer the door while I fumble around the room looking for some sweat pants to pull on. I’ll be taking my shower alone this morning.
*************
I’ve never wanted to kill Maria before, but this morning I was there. All I wanted was to enjoy waking up in Max’s arms. But I was denied that simple pleasure when the ringing of the phone woke us up. And then of course Maria insists that there is a crisis that must be dealt with immediately. I try to deter her, but the girl cannot be stopped and comes straight over here. I love Maria to death. She’s probably one of the best friends I’ve ever had, but sometimes she’s just too much.
I hate leaving Max’s arms to go answer the door. I hear the shower start as I make my way down the stairs. I pull the robe around me a little tighter. I wonder if Maria will be able to tell when she sees me. Will she sense that something happened last night? I finally make it over to the door, but not before I notice the disarray of the living room. Max’s tie and jacket are laying on the floor. I can see one of my shoes peeking out from underneath the jacket. I better pick that up. I don’t want Max to trip on it. If Maria sees she might think that something happened...... who am I kidding? Let Maria find out. I don’t care.
I unlock the door and open it to find a very anxious Maria.
“Sheesh, took you long enough. Why was the door locked? You never lock the door. So anyway...” she pushes past me into the house and goes straight into the living room. She plops down on the couch. “Ouch, what the...” she sits up slightly pulling one of my shoes from beneath her. She shrugs and sets it on the seat cushion next to her.
She starts talking again, saying something about Michael and how he wants her to move into a bigger place. “I mean, he thinks that we should get a house together or something now that he’s got this job. It pays a lot more and he thinks that a house would be good. But I always thought that the whole house thing happened when you were married. So is that like his way of proposing or is he just being Michael and not thinking these things through? I......Oh my god! You had sex last night!” she’s looking at me now. Her face a mixture of shock and excitement. I’m speechless. How could she even tell?
“I....I ....uhm...” I can’t even respond.
“You and Max..... of course, that’s why there are clothes all over and why you look like you just crawled out of bed.....and why Max answered the phone this morning.” She stops suddenly and then looks guilty. “I interrupted the morning after didn’t I? Oh God! I am SO sorry Lizzie. I didn’t know. You should have told me. I.....I’ll leave right now. Oh geez! I have to tell Michael......” she’s talking even as she’s making her way to the door.
“Maria, no, don’t say anything to Michael. I....I don’t know if Max wants anyone to know.” I tell her.
She looks at me with disbelief. “Oh, please, Max has been, like, drooling over you since you moved in. He even recruited Michael to help win you over. Although it looks like Michael’s help didn’t damage things like I would have thought they could.” She stops talking and comes over, giving me a hug. “I’m really happy for you. Max is a great guy and I.... I sort of thought you’d be good together. You’ve just got something that you don’t see too often between people. You seem to sort of keep him centered. Okay, so that’s enough. I’m sure that Max might need help with uh.....finding things in the shower. Maybe you better go check on him.” She winks and then walks out the door giggling. I lock it behind her and race upstairs to the bathroom.
For once I’m glad that Max wouldn’t let me put a lock on that door. I sneak in as quietly as possible, although I’m sure he’s heard me. I let my robe drop to the floor and pull the curtain aside, stepping into the shower with him. I wrap my arms around him from behind and kiss his shoulder.
“Maria’s gone,” I whisper. “So that means that we’re all alone in the house.....”
He doesn’t give me time to answer because he’s turned around in my arms and his mouth quickly descends on my own. I let my hands drift up and down his wet body.
His mouth is all over me, running kisses up and down my neck, across my collar bone. He rakes his lips across the curve of my breast and I moan, holding on to him tighter.
“Maybe we should continue this in the bedroom,” he suggests. His voice is deep and I’m caught up in the way just the sound of it can make me feel.
“Be honest Max, how many times have you imagined doing just this? When you come in here and I’m in the shower, this is what you think about isn’t it? It’s what I think about,” I’ve suddenly become something that I don’t recognize, saying bold things, trying to provoke him.
My words must get to him because his hands move and cup the back of my thighs and he lifts me up, pushing me against the side of the shower. At the same time he’s pulling me closer to him and I wrap my legs around his waist. There are no preliminaries. He’s moving into me. I wrap my arms around him tightly, holding on, riding out the waves of sensation that he’s causing. I can feel the tension in my body building as he continues his deep thrusts into my body. I can barely contain myself and my moan reverberates throughout the bathroom as I let myself come. I can barely breathe. Oh, God, he feels so good. He’s still moving furiously. I register the dull sensation of my back moving against the wall. But that’s nothing compared to what he’s doing to me. I shift in his arms slightly, trying not to slide down the wall and he hits this spot inside me making me come apart in his arms. I’m gasping and clutching him to me as I feel his release.
We’re propped against the wall, and when Max starts to let go of me, I slide to the floor. I can’t stand. I’m too undone.
****************
I pull her out of the shower and take her back into my room and lay her on the bed, crawling in beside her. She’s immediately at my side, curling herself up against me. Nothing has ever felt this perfect before. I swear. She’s so amazing.
When we wake up hours later, she goes to get dressed and I do the same. I go sit on her bed in her room while she finishes up and then we go down to the kitchen together. She makes a huge brunch. There are scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, orange juice. With a big flourish she places a plate in front of me and I can hear the smile in her voice.
“I’ve been practicing,” she tells me. That’s when I smell the pancakes.
“You made these?” I ask. She must really love me. I mean especially to try pancakes again after the first debacle.
“Just for you. I talked to your mother over Thanksgiving and she told me what I’d been doing wrong. So now, I don’t burn them anymore. Okay, so eat up. I don’t want to feel like a pig all by myself,” she says.
We sit close together, always touching. We talk about Christmas plans. In a week we’ll be making our way to Chicago to Isabel and Alex’s. Michael and Maria will be coming later on to spend New Years with everyone. But for Christmas it’s just going to be my parents, Isabel, Alex, Katia , Liz and I. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. For the first time, I won’t be alone.
I can hear the sadness in Liz’s voice. This is her first Christmas without her parents. It’s going to be hard on her. Even harder than Thanksgiving was. Isabel and I spent last week trying to convince her that she wouldn’t be intruding on our family if she came to our celebration. Honestly, I don’t think I could enjoy anything without her by my side.
“So, are we done with all our shopping?” she asks. “What else do we need to get? I think that we’re finished with Katia. I’m still not sure about Isabel though...” she goes on. It’s sort of like she’s thinking out loud. It’s the way that she’s thinking though that I marvel at. She’s thinking in terms of us, we. Like we’re finally together as a couple. I can’t help but grin.
“What? What’s funny?” she asks, stopping mid-sentence.
“Nothing, I just.....we’re really together now aren’t we? I mean, you want to be with me don’t you? I want you to be with me Liz. Like my girlfriend, only that doesn’t seem quite right because it’s more than that....” she stops my rambling with a kiss.
“Yes, I want to be your girlfriend. I want to be with you,” she says softly.
“Good,” I tell her. I go back to finishing my pancakes. They’re better than my mothers. Although I will never tell either woman that. It could only cause trouble. Liz goes back to Christmas plans. I listen and add comments. This is going to be the best Holiday ever.
*************
Somehow the morning drifts into the afternoon. Max and I let ourselves be lazy. We lay on the couch all afternoon, listening to music. I sort of feel a little like a teenage girl. He makes me giddy. I can’t help it. He’s just so cute. For awhile we just made out on the couch. It sounds funny, because what I feel with Max is so much more than a high school crush. I think this is it. This is the real thing. I will never feel anything like this ever again. Max is the one.
He’s laying on his back on the couch and I’m laying on top of him, my head on his chest. I let my fingers wander and they draw invisible little circles over his heart. His hand closes over mine and he holds it against him and kisses my forehead.
I look up at him and then move so that I’m completely on top of him. I prop my chin up on my hands.
“So, what was yours and Michael’s big plan to win me over?” I ask him.
His facial expression is so funny. He looks guilty, like a little boy that got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“I....uh, we....” he stutters.
I laugh. “Maria told me that you recruited Michael to help win my affection. I think that it’s cute. Although, you did it all on your own, the first time you smiled at me,” I admit to him.
That same smile that won me over is now displayed on his lips.
“It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t go with Michael’s plan then. You might have left me,” he jokes. But my response is very serious.
“I wouldn’t leave you Max,” I say softly. I bring my lips up to his and kiss him gently.
“Good,” he tells me. “I’d be lost without you.”
************
Chapter 19
It’s Wednesday, December 22. The last day of school. I don’t know when I’ve ever been more excited about a Holiday. Liz came to our class Christmas party. She helped hand out all my gifts for the students. Of course I hadn’t realized I’d gotten them anything until she showed up. They were all excited. I was grateful that she’d thought of that.
When she left all the kids had to tell her goodbye and I had to keep myself from kissing her. When I get home. That’s what I told myself. I could have my way with her then. But it’s not to be because the tape recorded message that waits for me upon my arrival says that she went out to finish some last minute shopping.
I hope she hurries up. Our flight to Chicago is leaving tonight at 8:30pm. We need to leave for the airport in about two hours. I wonder if she’s got everything packed.
I make my way up to my room and sure enough, two of my suitcases sit on my bed. They’re both heavy so I know they’re full. I move them off the bed and lay down. I let my mind think about these last few days. They’ve been a flurry of activity. Sunday we went out with Maria and Michael to celebrate our newly found relationship. They’d both been happy for us. Sunday night we’d made love again and I got to wake up with her in my arms again. Monday night Liz had been on the phone with my sister most of the evening, but she’d apologized thoroughly for neglecting me later on. I can’t help but smile at the memory. The smile fades when I think about what Isabel’s reaction to our relationship is going to be. I think that she knew at Thanksgiving that it was going to happen sooner or later. It’s probably a little sooner than she would have liked. But time has no precedence where love is concerned.
I hear soft footsteps making their way up the stairs. Liz is home. I can almost feel her presence as she comes into the room. The bed shifts and then I feel her body next to me. I move and she curls up against my side.
“Did you finish what you needed to?” I ask.
I feel her nod.
“Are you ready to leave?”
This time she makes no movement and I don’t hear any words.
“Liz?”
“I....I’m just sad Max,” she says. “I was getting my last gift and I saw something in the store and it reminded me of my mom. And I thought, ‘oh, she’d love that.’ It was a little glass ballerina. Then I remembered that it wouldn’t matter if she’d love it or not.” I hear her tears start to come. I wrap my arms around her protectively and try to comfort her. After awhile she stops crying and I hear her sniffle a little.
“Max, I love you,” she says softly. “Thank you for being my family this Christmas.” Her words mean so much to me because that’s exactly what I want. To be her family.
After this Liz seems to be back in control and she starts to get nervous about making sure we have everything. She’s calls the neighbors again with last minute instructions for the house. We’re going to be gone for awhile so she wants to be sure that it’s all taken care of.
Michael and Maria drive us to the airport. Then they’re driving to Maria’s mothers’s for Christmas. Liz and I both know that Maria’s going to get one hell of a surprise on Christmas morning when Michael pulls out the ring her bought for her. Last night Liz and I had lay in bed laughing over the different ways Michael could propose. This was fairly romantic of him. Liz said she just hoped he didn’t mess things up by saying something stupid.
Liz grips my hand tightly as we make our way inside the airport. Michael and Maria are ahead of us and I can hear them arguing about something. “I’m not sure they’re going to make it to Christmas morning,” Liz whispers to me. I chuckle softly.
We check out luggage and then go wait at our terminal for them to call our flight. I usually hate this. I hate knowing that people are probably staring at me because it’s obvious that I’m blind. I had to bring the stupid cane. I wish Izzy had agreed to Christmas here. But she’s said that this way Liz would have to be there to help me. I’d started to protest but stopped when I realized the truth in that. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed Liz’s help for a lot of things. She’s made life a helluva lot easier.
After some goodbye hugs from Michael and Maria we get to board the plane. We’re the first ones and Liz makes some joke about how having me around is useful after all.
“Ha ha you’re so funny,” I tell her.
She kisses my nose. “I know.”
I smile and then she helps me get to our seats. We settle in and prepare ourselves for take off.
*****************
I let myself sleep most of the flight. Max seems pretty relaxed. There’s no reason that I should be. I have to admit though, telling Isabel that I’m in love with Max scares me to death. I can just picture the emergence of the ice queen. After Max started dating Tess, Isabel wouldn’t be friends with her anymore. I wonder if she’ll do the same to me? I hope not. I don’t want to lose her friendship.
Two hours pass and we’re getting off the plane now. Max has his hand wrapped around my arm as I lead him off the plane.
The first face I see is a smiling Katia. She runs forward and tries to jump into Max’s arms. “Uncle Max, you’re here!” she exclaims with barely contained excitement. “Guess what, Mama said that Santa would bring me lots of tings if I was good. And I was so he has to,” she announces to us. I smile and then I turn my head to find Isabel and Alex waiting there for us.
It’s getting late and so I’m sure they’re anxious to get home quickly.
Max puts Katia down and we make our way over to Alex and Isabel. They take turns giving us hugs. Max and I are both nervous. As we sit in the back seat of the car with Katia I can feel his leg moving anxiously. I grab his hand. We both need reassurance that things are going to be okay.
Katia falls asleep on the drive home and so Alex takes her off to bed as soon as we reach their house. Max finds a seat and plants himself there. He doesn’t like being out of his comfort zone. I can tell that these unfamiliar surroundings make him uncomfortable. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen him quite so unsure of himself.
I go and sit next to him and take his hand again. He looks in my direction and smiles gratefully. The smile on my own lips fades when I notice Isabel’s appraising look.
“So, spill, what happened? Are you together now or what?” she asks quite abruptly. I feel Max shift uncomfortably next to me. When he doesn’t say anything I realize that he’s probably more afraid of Isabel than I am.
I meet her gaze and answer her honestly. “We are.”
She just sort of nods. “I guess that’s good, since you’re going to have to share one of the guest bedrooms. Mom and Dad need one and then once they leave Michael and Maria need it. I hope that’s not a problem?” she asks innocently as she breaks out into a grin.
Relief rushes through me. She’s not mad. She even looks a little happy.
I tell Max that’s she smiling and he relaxes too.
“So, Izzy, describe every boring detail of the house to me so I can pretend to gush about how great it looks,” he teases. Isabel laughs and I know that everything is going to be okay.
Later on, when we’re in bed, I let Max in on my Isabel fears.
“I sort of thought that she’d hate me once she found out,” I tell him. His fingers are running through my hair. He likes to play with my hair I’ve noticed. I snuggle into him a little more.
“Yeah, I figured we’d get another lecture for sure. Let’s just wait to see what my folks say. They’ll probably be surprised too.” His parents. I’d almost forgotten about them. He must sense my newly formed anxiety. He squeezes me a little tighter. “Hey, don’t worry about it. They both love you.”
I let myself drift off to sleep then, taking comfort in the warmth of being in his arms.
The next day is filled with lots of last minute preparations. Max and Alex disappear for several hours. Isabel says not to worry. “Alex always waits to do his shopping until the last minute and so that’s probably where they went. If Alex knows what’s good for him, he’ll go straight to the jewelry store. There’s a necklace there that I’ve more than hinted about.” Isabel smiles as she speaks. I know that she could care less what Alex ends up getting her.
We spend the afternoon getting the house ready and wrapping the rest of the gifts. The tree is beautiful and surrounded by a mountain or presents. Most of them for Katia.
“You and Max really spoiled her this year. Alex and I are going to have a hard time topping your gifts,” she tells me.
“I know but she’s so special and I want to spoil her,” I tell Isabel.
She nods in understanding. “If you spoil Katia this much, I can’t imagine how much you’ll spoil your own kids.”
Her words sort of stop me in my tracks. I want children someday. I really do. Katia made me realize that. Hearing Isabel say that, like she knows its going to happen, sort of makes me think. I wonder how Max feels about that? Does he want kids? Would he want to have a baby with me? Katia interrupts my thoughts when she starts talking about her new boyfriend.
“He tried to kiss me but I told him that was icky,” she informs me. I can hear Isabel laughing.
“What did he do then?” I ask her. Her facial expression is one of delight as she speaks, “He started cryin’ then. I told him not to be a baby.” I let myself laugh when I hear this and glance over at Isabel who shrugs her shoulders.
“What can I say? She’s going to be a heartbreaker,” she states. Katia giggles and then runs off to play again. I watch and feel a little tug at my heart. That’s what I want, to be able to hear the sound of little feet and giggles in my own house. I wonder if it’s an impossible dream.
**************
Alex drags me with him on his last minute shopping trip for Isabel. He does this every year. Waits until he can wait no more and then rushes around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to find her something.
We end up at a jewelry store. At least that’s what Alex tells me as he leads me inside.
“I shouldn’t keep doing this to myself,” he tells me. “I should just let Isabel buy her own present. She always tells me that she’d be more than happy to do things that way. I should just let her. It would alleviate a lot of stress on my end. But no, I have to be a good husband and buy it myself.” He pauses momentarily. I assume that he’s looking at something. He calls the salesman over. “I want that one. I believe my wife picked it out awhile ago. Her name is Isabel Whitman.” There’s a brief pause.
“Aah, yes, Mr. Whitman. You’re wife came in last week. It’s all wrapped for you and everything. I just need payment and then you can take it home to her.” The salesman works with Alex and the transaction is completed. While we wait for him to come back with the wrapped present, we chat a little.
“So, you and Liz......how’d you manage that one?” Alex asks casually. I know that he’ll report everything I say back to Isabel.
“It just sort of happened,” I say, not wanting to reveal too much. This is all still new. I don’t want anything I say to get twisted along it’s dirty path to Isabel and then out of her mouth to others. “All I can say is that I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.”
“Well, you couldn’t have picked a better girl, Max. Liz is great.” Once again an awkward pause. “Listen, Max, Isabel wanted me to bring you along with me because she wants me to talk to you about something. Have you thought any more about going to see that eye specialist? Isabel and I have both talked with him and he seems to think that with the way we described your situation, there’s every reason to think that with surgery, your sight could be completely restored.”
“Alex, I appreciate your concern but I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve told Isabel in no uncertain terms to butt out when it comes to this. If I decide to do something, I will be the one who gets the information. I will take care of things. I don’t need her doing it for me. And when you go back and report to her everything you find out today you can tell her I said to keep her big fat nose out of my business.” Now that I’ve said my peace I feel foolish because I can’t just storm out of here like any other man would if they’d just been pissed off. No. I have to stand here and wait for Alex. Talk about humiliating.
I just want to get back to Liz.
********************
Max is not in the best of moods when he gets back from his little excursion with Alex. Alex immediately pulls Isabel inside his office. I hear the sound of raised voices and when Isabel comes out a few minutes later her eyes are red like she’s been crying. I go find Max in our room. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed his head buried in his hands. He looks upset.
“Max, what’s wrong?” I ask softly as I sit down next to him. When he doesn’t answer I ask him something else. “Do you know what Isabel and Alex are fighting about?”
“Liz, I really don’t want to talk about this right now. So can we please discuss something else?” His voice is angry and frustrated. I move away from him slightly.
“Hey, no, I’m sorry Liz. You don’t have to move away from me. I’m just upset. Isabel had Alex interrogating me about us today. It just bothered me, that’s all. I didn’t mean to take it out on you,” he says as he pulls me back over to him. I sit on his lap.
“So what did you tell Alex then?” I ask.
“Well, he asked how we got together and so I told him the truth. That you begged me to take you and so, being the man that I am, I put you out of your misery and relieved your sexual frustration.”
“You didn’t?!” I ask in embarrassed shock. I feel Max laughing in my neck.
“No, I didn’t,” he finally says. I look over at his face. He still looks troubled. Like he still has something else on his mind.
“Speaking of sexual frustration though.....” I start to say. Before I can finish the sentence his mouth searches out mine and I’m lost in a flurry of kisses. I can feel my bodies responses to him and I know we’re both getting carried away. A knock on the door pulls us from our haze and we hurry to fix any damage that’s been done. I’m smoothing down my hair when Katia comes into the room. I move off of Max’s lap and she immediately takes my place.
“Uncle Max, momma and daddy won’t talk to me right now,” she says sadly.
“I’m sorry angel, maybe we’ll just have to play together for awhile. What do you say? You and Liz and I can find something to do. I bet your mom and dad are just trying to keep a secret and if they talk to you, they’ll probably tell you. What do you think?” She nods her head and says, “Yeah, that’s right. I bet they know what Santa’s bringin’ me huh?”
I laugh at this. Seeing Max with Katia always has a profound effect on me. This time the ache I felt before is magnified as I watch them together, knowing that what I want to see is Max with our child in his arms. I wonder if that will ever happen.
Katia decides that she’s going to throw us a tea party so Max and I are occupied with that for awhile. We stay with Katia until Isabel comes and finds us. The look she gives Max is not lost on me. She’s obviously hurt about something. Maybe she’ll talk about it later, because I know that Max won’t.
Diane and Phillip arrive sometime after dinner that night and while there is still some underlying tension the mood for the evening is mostly enjoyable. His parents take our relationship news well, both giving me big hugs and wishing us well. Diane brags that she knew something was going on at Thanksgiving but she didn’t want to say. I laugh at this because I’m not sure even Max and I knew what was going on at Thanksgiving.
Later, when Max and I are in bed, I try to get him to talk to me about what’s wrong but again he says he doesn’t want to talk about it. So I drop the subject. I can’t help but feel a little hurt that he won’t share whatever’s bothering him with me. That’s what is supposed to happen in a relationship. You share these kinds of things. I move to the other side of the bed, facing away from him.
Immediately I feel him right up next to me. His front is to my back. I feel the heat coming off of him and fight the urge to curl up into him.
“Liz,” he says planting a soft kiss on my neck. I pretend not to notice. “Liz, it isn’t that I don’t want to tell you,” he finally says. “I just need to think some more before I can talk about it. Trust me. I’m going to share this with you. I just can’t, not yet.” His words are pleading with me and I realize that he needs me. This is the first time I think that I’ve really felt that with him. I turn over and lay my head on his chest, wrapping my arms around him. He kisses the top of my head. I listen to the sound of his heart beating and feel his deep and even breathing. Even after he’s asleep, I lay there awake unable to shake the feeling that things are going to change.
***********
Chapter 20
Christmas Eve Day comes and goes. Nothing really exciting happens. Liz is quiet. I know that I should tell her what’s bothering me, but I can’t until I’ve figured it out for myself. I keep thinking about the eye specialist. I should go and get answers. But a huge part of me is scared of what he might have to say. I can’t get my hopes up only to have them shot down. Another part of me is scared of what Liz will think. She says she loves me. I should just accept that. But is that enough? What if I get my sight back and she leaves. She might not think that I need her. The truth of the whole thing is that I’m scared that it will work. I’ll get my sight back and then I’ll be forced to see everything that I’ve managed to get by without for these last few years. And I know this is selfish but what happens if I see Liz and....... I can’t even say it. I love her. What she looks like doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.
It’s cold outside now and it’s getting dark.
“Max, will you go for a walk with me?” Liz asks softly. I don’t hesitate. I’d go anywhere with her. For awhile we’re silent and she’s leads us wherever it is she wants to go.
She speaks first. “ I know that you don’t want to talk about it right now, Max, but when you’re ready, I’ll be ready to listen.” Her voice is soft and I can hear a little quiver in it. Like she’s scared of whatever it is that I have to say. Her hand clasps mine a little tighter.
“Thank you , Liz. It means a lot to hear you say that,” I tell her.
We finish the walk and she tells me a little about when she lived in Chicago. Most of her stories are funny. We’re in fairly good spirits by the time we get back to the house. The rest of the evening we don’t leave each other’s sides.
Katia is a bundle of excited energy. She won’t go to sleep because she wants to stay up and wait for Santa. Liz tells her that he won’t come if she doesn’t go to sleep. We both take her and put her to bed. Liz sings to her and I sit there and listen. My folks are downstairs helping Alex and Isabel get out Katia’s presents from Santa. Liz and I have already said good night to them.
I want to give her the gift I got for her now. I had Maria go with me to get it. It was before we even got together. I know that it’s beautiful even though I can’t see it. Just like Liz.
I’m sitting on the bed, her present clasped in my hands. I can hear her moving around over by the closet. She’s humming to herself. It’s one of the songs that she and Maria have been working on together. Maria swears they’re going to get a gig soon. Liz told me the other night that she doesn’t think anything will come out of this but she likes to see Maria happy. When Maria and Michael come up for New Years they’re going to put on a mini-concert of everything they’ve worked up.
The humming gets louder as she comes over toward me. “What are you thinking about?” she asks. She’s at the other edge of the bed, I hear the sheets rustling. She must be pulling down the covers.
“I want to give you your Christmas present from me,” I say.
“Max, you didn’t have to get me anything,” she tells me softly as she comes to sit next to me.
“I wanted to,” is my immediate response. I find her hand and then place the small rectangular box in it. I can feel her shaking a little as she opens it. There’s a gasp....
“Max.....it’s...it’s beautiful,” she says, her voice is barely audible but I can still hear the tears. I’m glad the she likes it. I hope that it’s what Maria described. A gold chain necklace with a small diamond pendant. Liz doesn’t give me a chance to say anything. I feel soft kisses all over my face. They travel down my jaw and she nuzzles my neck, finally bring her lips to meet mine. When the kiss breaks I hear a soft, “thank you,” from her.
“No, thank you Liz. For putting up with me. For taking care of me. For......for loving me,” I feel my throat closing in and I take a deep breath. Men don’t cry. I won’t do this over some necklace. Now maybe when I propose and she says yes.....maybe then.
She kisses me again. “Thank you for letting me love you, Max.”
I let those words sink in. My heart races a little faster. It still doesn’t seem possible that she’s here with me now. That we’re together like this. She must read my mind because she kisses me and it becomes very real. The kiss starts to deepen and things get a little more heated as she slides herself onto my lap.
We pull apart, both a little breathless. I feel her lips on my neck as her hands move to the buttons on my shirt. The first one pops open.
“You know it’s been almost three days since we made love last,” she tells me as she pops open the next button.
“Yeah, I noticed.” I definitely noticed. Despite my preoccupied mind I was able to register the fact that I’ve been sleeping next to a very desirable woman. One who sleeps in very little clothing at night.
“Well, do you have any suggestions for remedying that situation?” her voice is teasing but I can hear the underlying desire there.
My shirts unbuttoned now and her hands slide inside and over my chest. Her fingers are warm and I bring her closer to me. “I know what I’d like to do about it,” I tell her. I let my own hands wander now and one tugs upward on her shirt while the other cups her face. I let my fingers trace the outline of her features and then bring my lips to hers. There is more silence in the room as our lips tangle together. Liz pulls away first, she’s breathing hard.
“Are you sure it’s okay to do this?” she asks.
“Is the door locked?” I ask.
I feel her nod.
“Then it’s more than okay.”
She gets off of my lap.
“What are you doing?” I ask her.
“Taking my clothes off,” she answers casually.
“Did you think that maybe I wanted to help with that?” I ask her. It’s meant to come out as a joke but the words are mumbled and choked because I need physical confirmation of her presence and she’s just too far away right now.
“Make yourself useful Max and undress yourself.” It sounds like an order. One that I am more than willing to obey.
I try not to trip in my haste to get my pants and boxers off. I hear a muffled giggle from Liz’s direction. “Liz, don’t make me come over there,” I threaten.
The I feel her small hands pushing me backward on the bed. “Ooooh, is that a threat Max?” her voice is low and throaty and I almost jump when I feel her skin come into contact with mine. She pushes me back further and I’m laying down now. I feel her thighs brush my hips and she straddles me. “Are you trying to make me lose control here?” my strangled voice manages to get out.
“Would that be a bad thing Max?” her tongue is on my skin, licking at my collar bone.
I’m making a decision right now. I’m going to buy Liz nice presents more often, especially when this is the result.
The sensation of our skin to skin contact heightens my arousal. I feel something cold and metal between our skin. “I put your necklace on Max,” she says as she continues to kiss me. The image of her wearing nothing but my gift does something to me. I want to claim her now. It’s like those words were a catalyst for this. She lets me take control now and I move so that I’m on top of her.
We started out playful and teasing but this is very serious now. Liz is mine and I want her to know and feel it with every fiber of her being.
**********
My little attempt to seduce Max has apparently backfired because he’s doing things to me now that I’ve only ever read about in trashy romance novels. The kinds of things that you think would never really happen. But Oh God it’s happening now and I never want him to stop.
At first I try to be casual about what he’s doing. He starts out placing light kisses on my shoulder and arm. He asks if I like it. “It’s okay,” is my response. He’d works his way down my arm and asks again, “What about that? Do you like that?” I try to respond just like before but my “it’s okay,” is a little choked and breathless. He leaves my arms and starts kissing circles on my stomach. Ever so slowly inching upward “What about now?” his voice asks.
“That’s pretty good,” my voice is still breathy. His lips move up and he licks slowly around the mound of my breast. I suck in a breath as I feel his mouth close over my nipple. He sucks on it and then his teeth nip at the hard bud. “And this?” he asks. His breathe against my wet nipple causes me to groan. “Yes,” I say.
“What was that? Yes? Yes what, Liz?” He teasing me, torturing me.
“Yes, that’s good. Really good,” I tell him. I give up on pretending he doesn’t effect me. It’s obvious that he does. Much to my delight his mouth returns to the other breast, laving the same attention on it as the other. I let my fingers drift up and sift through his hair. I love how soft and thick his hair his. His mouth moves away from me and I protest even as he moves down my body, his lips trailing kisses as he moves. I release his hair and my hands grip the sheets in anticipation. His nose nuzzles the insides of my thighs and then I feel his fingers as they move, opening me up to him. When he tongue touches me I arch upward. His hands move to my hip holding me down as he continues his assault. His tongue is working magic. He’s found this spot, licking and sucking on my clitoris. It feels so good. My body though, it wants release. I want Max inside me. The more he works his mouth the worse the ache gets. I unclench my fists and let my hands find his hair, pulling at it to bring him up to me. I hear him mumble something.
“Max, please,” I beg. My eyes have long since been closed, glorying in the sensations he’s causing. He slides up my body and into me, moving slowly. His thrusts are slow as he places indiscriminate kisses on any part of my body he comes into contact with. I can feel the tension in my body building. Max moves a little faster. His own mouth producing deep moans as I move my hips to meet each of his thrusts. As if by silent agreement we pick up the pace. I can feel the sweat dripping down my stomach. It mixes with his as our bodies slide together. I hear our flesh as we move against each other. The moans from my mouth are soft at first but with each thrust they get louder as he moves deeper. The thought crosses my mind that he fills me completely. He makes me whole. Not just in this physical way either.
“Liz are you gonna.....?” He asks breathlessly.
“I’m so close Max,” I manage to say. His hand moves down between our bodies and he finds my swollen nub, rubbing it quickly with small flicks. “Oh GOD!” I cry out arching up into him as my orgasm washes over me in waves of pleasure. I feel him coming and with final thrust he’s there. After a moment, coherent thought returns. We’re both still breathing heavily.
“We were kind of loud,” I say to him. He chuckles. “If anyone asks I’ll say we’re fighting over the covers and you fell out of bed,” he jokes.
I snuggle up next to him, laying my head on his chest and an arm across his abdomen. I place a light kiss on the skin by my mouth. “I love you, Max,” I tell him softly. I feel his fingers combing through my hair. “ I love you too,” is his soft reply. I let myself sleep then.
**********************

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:41:25 PM
Chapter 21
Christmas Day goes well. Katia wakes everyone up bright and early so Liz and I get up to go join everyone downstairs. We open presents. Liz cries a little when she gets a gift from my parents. Isabel and Alex get her something too. And of course there’s a gift from Katia as well. I open my gifts. My mother gives me shirts. Liz tells me that they’re white and gray and brown. Why do I think she’s lying? Maybe because I know how she tricked me with my other shirts. I should be mad I suppose but it really is kind of funny. My father gives me a book on tape. Isabel and Alex give me a new voice recognition program for my computer at school. Katia gave me socks. Liz told me that she wrapped them herself. I could tell. Only a three year old would use two rolls of tape for one present. Katia jumps into my lap and gives me a kiss before scooting over to be with Liz.
I get into a conversation with my dad and Alex about loading the new program. Isabel and my mother are talking about the blouse that I gave to her. I hear Izzy say that it’s the best gift she’s gotten. Alex hears this too.
“Hold that thought Iz,” he says. A few minutes later I hear the tearing of wrapping paper and a “Oh Alex it’s beautiful,” from Isabel.
“Wait a sec, that’s not what I picked out,” he says with confusion.
“I’m sure it’s not,” is Izzy’s response. “This is what I picked out when I went in to the jeweler’s last week. I told them to have it wrapped and waiting for you to pick up,” she informs him. As if realizing how this sounds she quickly adds, “I’m sure whatever you picked out was beautiful too.”
I tune them out then. I really don’t want to hear any more words from princess Isabel.
Katia is still talking to Liz. The phone starts ringing and Isabel asks Liz to answer it since its on the stand next to her. Liz says hello and then she tells me that it’s Maria. I hear her laugh. The conversation goes on for a few minutes. I realize that she must be calling to share her news.
When she hangs up Liz clears her throat. “That was Maria,” she tells everyone. “She just wanted to wish us all Merry Christmas and to share the news that she and Michael are getting married.”
Everyone is of course excited. Liz tells me how Michael proposed. “He wrapped the ring in ten different boxes. So she had to unwrap each box. She said that she was starting to get pissed when she finally got to the last box. When she saw what it was she didn’t even open it. She just jumped on him and said yes. Maria said she didn’t even look at the ring until about twenty minutes later when Michael told her she better check to see if he got a big enough diamond.” I laugh when I hear this. It’s about time things started to come together for them.
“Liz,” Katia’s voice says, “When Michael and Mawia get married will you be my aunt then?” she asks. Liz laughs. I jump in with the answer. “I think you’re confused. When Liz and I get married then she’ll be your aunt.” I say it like it’s a sure thing. It’s going to happen.
The room goes completely quiet then. Everyone must have heard me say that. I can just about imagine that Liz’s face is probably as red as mine is at the moment.
My father speaks first. “Son, is there something you and Liz would like to share with the rest of us?” he asks.
“Well, I.... uhm...... I sort of have to ask her first pop. And I can’t do that until I get the ring. Even then, she’s got to say yes. And of course I think it’s probably a little soon to announce anything like that,” I manage to fumble out nervously. I feel Liz take me hand and squeeze it.
“Okay, then,” is dad’s response. Everyone goes back to talking. I hear Liz tell Katia to go get the present under the tree from her and I. Katia runs off and Liz tells me what she’s doing. “She just grabbed the biggest one under the tree. She must know it’s for her.” Liz says. I can hear her smiling. I wonder if she’s going to say anything about my little announcement from a moment ago?
“She’s ripping it open,” Liz says. I hear her laugh then. “I think she likes it,” Liz tells me. I hear Katia’s voice giggle out an excited thank you. We got her one of those big doll houses. Liz says that its a three story house and each room is decorated. Katia can use it to play with all her dolls.
I hear Isabel talking to Liz and I. “Thank you so much for spoiling my child,” she says sarcastically. Liz only laughs and I smile.
Later on, everyone else is getting ready and we’re back up in our room doing the same.
“Max, I ...I didn’t give you a present downstairs because I didn’t really know what to give you. And this is kind of stupid but I worked on with Maria so here it is. She places the gift in my hands and I sit down on the bed to open it. It’s about the size of a CD. When I get the wrapping paper off I feel along the edges and come into contact with Braille writing. It is a CD. And the name of the artist is.....Liz Parker.
“This is yours?” I ask.
“Yes, I ....I took a couple of afternoons with Maria and we went and found a recording studio and did this. I’m sorry it’s not a very good gift....” she starts to say.
“No, Liz, this is perfect,” I tell her honestly. This is incredible. Her voice was one of the first things I fell in love with. “Now I can hear you whenever I want.” I hear her laugh.
“You might now be saying that once you hear it. The guy that owns the studio gave us a discount and so there are a lot of bloopers and mess ups on there. Of course most of the songs turned out. Anyway, you are now the sole possessor of my dream.” she says. Her words sort of hit me. She had said that before her accident she had been close to securing her recording contract. Somehow though, I’m sure that there’s hidden meaning in those words.
“Max,” her voice says softly. “What you said before......whenever you ask me, whether you have a ring or ......I just want you to know that, that I will say yes.” Her words are like music to my soul.
************************
It’s New Year’s Eve and Michael and Maria finally made it. Maria has taken every opportunity available to show off that ring of hers. She’s always flashing it around in my face. I can only smile. I’m happy for her. I’m happy for myself. The thought that Max Evans wants to marry me has made me giddy. I’ve walked around for the last couple of days is perfect bliss. My dream is going to come true. I’ve been trying to block the feelings of guilt though. Every time that happiness creeps in, the guilt comes too. I know it’s silly but I feel like I’m betraying my parents. Trying to replace them with Max and his family. It isn’t true. No one could ever replace them. Part of me is afraid though, that the hollowness I feel from my parent’s absence will be filled once Max is my family. I’m afraid that if that happens I’ll start to forget and I don’t want that.
I’ve tried to push this all away though. I mean Max has to ask me first. I’ve been sort of nervous thinking of how he’ll actually do it. Thoughts of the perfect proposal are drifting through my head. It would be incredibly romantic for him to do it tonight at midnight. He did go out today with Alex and Isabel. Maybe he went to get a ring. I don’t want to get my hopes up though. Honestly I’ll be happy whenever and wherever it happens.
This afternoon Maria and I practiced for our little concert tonight. Isabel and Alex have invited some of the neighbors over as well as some of their friends. It’s going to be a huge party and we’re the evenings entertainment. I’m a little nervous.
We’re practicing now and this song in particular makes me think of Max.

If I could grant you one wish
I wish you could see the way you kiss
I love watching you baby
When you’re driving me crazy

I love the way you love the way you love me
(The way that you laugh and breathe and smile
When you touch me, drives me wild)
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be
To feel the way I feel with your arms around me
(I melt and spin and fall again)
I only wish that you could see the way you love me
Whoa oh oh, the way you love me

It’s not right, it’s not fair
What you’re missing over there
Someday I’ll find a way to show you
Just how lucky I am to know you

You’re the million reasons why
There’s love reflecting in my eyes
I only wish that you could see
The way you love me

“Liz, that rocked. What do you wanna go over next?” Maria asks as she goes goes through her music. Our practice goes on for another hour before I tell Maria that I’m going to go rest my voice. This is going to be my first big performance since the accident. I want it to go well.
*****************
The party is in full swing. I haven’t had a chance to talk with Liz all day. This morning I went out with Alex and Isabel and overcoming my fear, went to the eye specialist. I was his only appointment for the day. I wouldn’t have even gone if he hadn’t called me personally to talk with me. He allayed some of my anxieties. He just wanted to take a look at things and talk with me a little. So I agreed to go and Alex and Isabel came along.
I need to talk with Liz now. This doctor seems to think that I could completely regain my sight. I can’t make this kind of decision without her.
She’s been busy running around talking to people tonight. Michael’s been keeping me company. I haven’t even had much of a chance to talk to her. She does manage to steal over to me and sneak a kiss or two every once in awhile though. “I’m getting nervous,” she confides. They’re going to start in about five minutes.
“Don’t be. You’re going to be great. I’m going to be right there in the back listening,” I tell her as I rub her back reassuringly. “Why are you sitting in the back?” she asks.
“I thought that if you got nervous at least it could appear like you’re looking at the audience even if you’re just looking at me adoringly,” I tell her. She laughs. “I love you. Thank you for making me feel better,” she says. She kisses me again and then takes off to start off their little show.
Their first set is great. They’re both having fun, you can just tell. They finish that set up and then I hear Liz’s voice as she talks to everyone. Between each song she and Maria have been taking turns talking about the song or something related to the song, or just about themselves. They work really well together, playing off of each other. I think Liz isn’t confident enough about their ability. They start their second set of songs. Maria tells everyone to dance. It’s a bunch of slow songs. I’m content to sit here and listen to Liz sing. I get lost in her voice. Michael tries to talk to me but I tune him out and tell him that I’m trying to listen.
“Max, this song is for you,” I hear float out over the sound of people dancing. I sit up a little straighter as she starts to sing.

I can feel the magic floating in the air
Being with you gets me that way
I watch the sunlight dance across your face and I’ve
Never been this swept away

All my thoughts just seem to settle on the breeze
When I’m lying wrapped up in your arms
The whole world just fades away, the only thing I hear
Is the beating of your heart

And I can feel you breathe, its washing over me
Suddenly I’m melting into you
There’s nothing left to prove, baby all we need is just to be
Caught up in the touch, the slow and steady rush
And baby, isn’t that the way that love’s supposed to be
I can feel you breathe, just breathe

In a way I know my heart is waking up
As all the walls come tumbling down
Closer than I’ve ever felt before and I know and you know
There’s no need for words write now

I can feel the magic floating in the air
Being with you gets me that way


The next thing I feel is her in my arms and she’s kissing me. I register the sounds of everyone else celebrating as the clock strikes midnight. “Happy New Year, Max,” she whispers.
“Happy New Year.”
**************************
Chapter 22
The New Year starts out well. Things with Liz couldn’t be better. She’s started working at the school. Our mornings now consist of breakfast together and she brings me to school instead of Maria. Unfortunately Liz was not hired to help me out. I got another one of those grandmother types named Ardella Hagemoser. She’s very nice. She brings me an apple everyday along with a candy bar. She says it’s to keep me healthy and sweet. So I work with Mrs Hagemoser while Liz works in the Library. They told her that she couldn’t help me because we were living together. I had tried to explain that she was helping me out around the house and therefore was very capable of helping me around the classroom. Nevertheless, the principle said that the nature of our relationship, while none of his business, was questionable. He couldn’t allow us to distract each other. I had to give him that. It was true. We’d get distracted and it would definitely be inappropriate to make out with your girlfriend in front of a classroom of fourth graders. Although Liz has an excruciating amount of control.
So she’s been put in charge of the library. The head Librarian, Mrs. Kimms, is going to have a baby so Liz will be filling in for her indefinitely. Needless to say, my class has suddenly had lots of assignments that require research. Liz makes fun of me at home because we’re in there at least once everyday now.
“I just think that it’s important that they know and understand all the resources that are available to them,” I had tried to tell her. She had laughed.
“I think that you just can’t stand to be away from me,” she teased.
“You’re right, since I can’t keep you in sight I at least need to keep you within touching distance,” had been my response. At that I had pulled her over so that she was on my lap. We’d enjoyed a particularly good round of foreplay followed by some pretty amazing love making. The details of which I can’t allow myself to remember when I’m at school standing in front of a bunch of ten and eleven year olds.
I’m relieved of my position at the head of the class when the PE teacher comes to pick the kids up. That gives me about a forty minute break. That’s plenty of time to go check out that book that I’ve been meaning to get from the library. I make my way down the hall and after 237 steps I’m at the library door. It opens quietly and I sneak in and stand by the door. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait until Liz comes and finds me otherwise I’ll run into everything. They’re constantly changing things around in here and I always run into something. At least now, Liz is there to feel guilty and she’s made an effort not to that as much.
“It must be PE time huh?” I hear her say.
I nod. “You would be correct. So, busy day in the exciting world of books?”
“There’s no one else in here if that’s what you’re asking,” she tells me. I can hear the amusement in her voice.
“In that case Miss Parker, I need some of your personal help,” I tell her. I can feel her now. She’s right next to me. She takes my hand.
“With what Mr. Evans? I don’t know how much help I can be. I’m still pretty new at this.”
“Well there’s this book...” I start to say.
“A book, gee Mr. Evans I’m not sure we have anything like that,” she says sarcastically.
“You think you’re so funny don’t you?” I ask. I hear her giggle.
“Yes,” she says and then she’s taking me, more like dragging me with her.
“Uh, Miss Parker?”
“Yes, Mr. Evans?”
“Where are you taking me?”
“Oh, well, I think I know what you’re looking for. It’s way in the back. In the stacks of books that no one else ever visits.” I can’t help the grin that spreads across my face. We’re slowing down slightly when I run into a table corner. I wince but keep going. Liz turns me left and pushes me backwards slightly. Then her lips are on my mine. I eagerly return the kiss and get lost in the feeling of the way she completely surrounds me. I can feel her, smell her, taste her, sense her. It’s absolutely incredible. And it keeps getting more so every single day.
Liz pulls away first. I lean my forehead down against hers. See, what did I say? Excruciating control. We’ll have to see what I can do about that later, at home. God, I love saying that. With her it really is home now.
***********************
Once Michael proposed to Maria, she got even quirkier than before, if that’s possible. Tonight Max and I are going over to their apartment. Max and Michael are going to watch or listen to the hockey game and Maria and I are going to start packing their things. They bought a house. I have to say that it fits their personalities well. It’s small and its got three bedrooms. To hear Maria talk about it, it’s her own private mansion.
We’re in the kitchen packing away their dishes. “You guys aren’t moving for a couple of weeks yet. Are you sure you want to pack all of this stuff?” I ask her as I wrap some of her glass bowls in newspaper.
“We’re packing everything we don’t use. So all of this cooking stuff can be boxed,” she tells me. “We’re on a TV dinner diet right now so it’s not like we’ll miss any of it.”
I can only laugh and shake my head.
She starts talking about the house and the greatness of the three bedrooms. “The first one is really big and it’s got its own bathroom. So Michael said that one’s ours. Then he said the other room could be the guest bedroom. The third room, this is the part where he got all flustered and mumbled something about any future additions to the family could have that room. I think I choked him to death when I hugged him. Can you imagine a little Michael running around? I’m so excited. I mean this relationship with Michael finally seems real. Before it was like just living in sin but now, now it feels right.” Maria’s babbling goes on. “The only problem now is my mother. I swear, if the woman calls me one more time to ask about floral decorations I’m going to reach through the phone and strangle her. That and drag Michael right down to Vegas and make Elvis marry us.”
Now I’m really laughing. I can just picture the wedding now. Michael standing there looking all nervous and uncomfortable, Maria being.....well, Maria. Which would only further Michael’s discomfort. Of course once they make it through the ceremony, well, I just can’t imagine little Michael and Maria’s running around. They will all talk incessantly and have unruly hair.
This image of their little family makes me think of Max and babies. Of course I’m still waiting for his proposal. After Christmas I thought for sure that he’d ask soon. Now I don’t know though. It’s almost February and he hasn’t mentioned it again. That and he still hasn’t told me what was bothering him. Maybe he hasn’t said anything because he’s forgotten about it. I don’t want to push him. But Isabel has been calling a lot lately. We talk but she always wants to talk to Max and he usually won’t take her calls. I don’t know what that’s all about and neither one has said anything to me.
My attention is drawn back to Maria when she asks me a question. “Liz, I wanted to ask if you would sing at the wedding. I’m going to hire a band that could be real backup for you instead of just my guitar. Just say yes please, because I have this song that I really want you to do. I found it the other day and it’s perfect. It is a duet but I figured that whoever we hire for the band should be able to help you out.” She goes on and tells me about the song. It really is perfect, although I’m afraid that I’ll crack up when I’m singing it. When I’ve assured her that my answer is yes she starts jumping up and down. In the process she knocks over one of the bowls still on the cupboard. It shatters into pieces and she yells out “Damn” really loud. I can’t help but laugh. I’m shaking I’m laughing so hard. Michael comes running from the living room.
“What the hell happened?” he asks as he tries to survey the scene.
“Maria got a little excited.” I try and explain as my laughter dies down.
“Honey, she’s gonna sing at the wedding. Liz, I hope you can start practicing right away because on March 15 you will have to be at your finest,” she informs me.
Michael looks confused. “What’s March 15?”
“The wedding dumbass,” she tells him with a smack.
“And when did we decide this?” He asks.
“The other night on the couch I asked you if March 15 would work, because it’s when the college has spring break and all and you said, ‘Yeah Maria, that’s great,’ So You and I are saying I Do on March 15.”
Michael sort of shrugs. He’s not stupid, he knows that this will be a losing battle for him so he does what any male would and leaves the room, going back to his hockey game.
I roll my eyes and then bite my lip to keep from laughing. Those two are just too funny. I tell Max about it later when we’re getting ready for bed and he laughs. His laughter is cut short when I crawl over him to get into bed. My leg bumps his and I notice his wince.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. I pull back the covers and look at where I’d touched him.
“Nothing, I just got a bruise from earlier in the Library. I ran into one of the tables on our way to find that book ” he says with a small smile.
“Oh, you poor thing,” I say and then lean in to kiss him. I move the rest of the sheets aside and then move down to where the bruise has formed, just above his knee. “I feel bad,” I admit to him. “Do you want me to kiss it and make it all better?” I had meant for it to sound playful, but my voice comes out sort of seductive as the idea excites me.
He nods and I lean down, pressing lips on the small bruise, gently. I let my tongue snake out and lick at it. “Feel better?” I ask, my voice still sort of low. I move my tongue upward and my hands to the elastic of his boxers. He nods his answer to my question. I smile and lick my lips. “Is there any other place that needs to feel better?” I ask him. His hands reach out and he pulls me up to him.
“I sort of ache all over,” he tells me between deep hungry kisses.
“Me too,” I sigh into his mouth.
“I guess we’ll just have to work together to take care of that,” his mouth moves and his tongue traces my collar bone with agonizingly slow strokes
“Mmmhhhmm,” is all I manage to say.
***************
‘Too many clothes,’ is the only thought that my brain is capable of processing at this point. Liz must be thinking the same thing because I feel her tugging on my t-shirt. When that’s off I feel her hand slide down into the front of my boxers. She’s stroking my erection.
“Is this helping?” she asks. Her voice sounds breathless already and we’ve barely started.
“A little,” I lie. She’s actually making it worse. I feel her tug on my boxers and I lift my hips so they can go the way of my shirt. She’s straddling my thighs. I feel her shift back a little.
“Is this better?” she asks as she brings her mouth down to my throbbing member.
I arch up off the bed and pull her away and up to my mouth. I kiss her deeply, sucking on her tongue. My hands move up and under her little night shirt. I move them gently across the skin of her stomach. She’s so tiny. I’ve marveled at that many times. My hands wander upward to cup her perfect breasts. I love every single part of her. I let one hand massage her hard nipple while the other one moves down to her little shorts. I tug downward and she moves to help me get them off. No underwear. Oh God, she does this to me on purpose. I kiss the exposed skin between the valley of her breasts and work my mouth to the peak that is currently being ignored.
I can feel Liz’s wetness against me. I can’t take this much longer. She keeps grinding her hips. She’s trying to make me lose control. I really want to. And just like that it happens. I take two fingers and slide them up into her welcoming center and then pull her down toward me, replacing my fingers with my erection and thrusting up into her. She moans loudly as I began stroking into her. I move her hips up and down. The ache has gotten unbearable. I move her faster. She starts to help me. I can feel the muscles in her legs as she uses the bed for leverage. Our pace becomes ferocious. I can’t control it anymore. There is no rhythm or finesse. It’s just me losing myself in the beautiful amazing woman. I can feel her breathe in my ear now as she whispers, “Come for me,Max.” At those words I lose it. I can feel myself spilling into her. She continues to impale herself on me and I feel her inner walls clamp down around me and her body sinks against me. Her breathing is heavy and I wrap my arms around her, kissing her bare shoulder and neck.
We lay there for awhile, talking before we can give into sleep. “Max,” she says. My arms are wrapped around her as my body spoons her back. Her hands cover mine and lazily move, touching my fingers and my arms. “ Do you ever think about being able to see again?” Her voice is soft, contemplative.
“Why do you ask?” My real question is, has she been talking to Isabel about this?
“I don’t know, I was just wondering. I mean, do you think it’s even possible?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her.
There’s a pause. “I’m not asking for any particular reason I just.......I want you to know, that it doesn’t matter. I mean even if you could see again, assuming you’d still want me, I’d want to be with you. I don’t ever want to be without you.” Her voice starts to drift off and I know that she’s giving in to sleep. There’s no way that I can sleep though. My head shifts into overdrive and I contemplate a whole life with Liz where I could see her beauty and not just feel it. I don’t want to be scared but I am.


Chapter 23
“Isabel called again,” I tell him. We’re sitting in the living room. He’s reading one of the braille books he got for Christmas. When he doesn’t answer, I say it again.
“I heard you the first time, Liz,” he snaps.
It’s been almost three weeks and I can feel him pulling away from me. He still won’t talk to me about whatever it is that’s obviously wrong. He’s been keeping his distance. The only thing I can think of that would have changed things is that damn question of mine. I should never have asked him, but I thought that it would be okay. I thought that I explained why I asked. This whole thing has made me realize that Max has yet to open up to me. I don’t know what’s wedged itself between us. Maybe it was always there though. He’s never told me about his accident or really anything without being asked. He never willingly reveals anything. Anytime I bring up Isabel or Alex or anything regarding his blindness he changes the subject.
Lately, these past couple of days especially we’ve only talked about surface things, like what we’re having for dinner or how work went that day. He hasn’t been to visit me in the library this whole week. Last week he just sent his class down with Mrs. Hagemoser. I’d tried to tease him about it and he’d told me that he other more important things for his class to do.
I sit here and watch him as his fingers run swiftly over the pages. He looks stiff and angry. He’s ignoring me. I can tell. Anytime I try and say something he pretends he hasn’t heard me or he just answers with a shrug or an unintelligible grunt. I feel my eyes fill with tears. Swiping at them I get up and go find my coat.
“I’m going for a walk,” I tell him. I don’t ask him to come. I just go. And he lets me.
Once I’m outside I let the tears fall freely. I don’t understand why he’s doing this. Things were so good. And now their not even close to where we were at before we moved into the relationship. At least then we were friends. We talked. Now, nothing. I just don’t understand, why the complete turn around? I was finally starting to feel like I wasn’t alone, that Max was my family. But he’s pulling away from me, almost like he’s regretting this now. Like it was all a mistake and if he ignores it, me, it will go away. And maybe it was a mistake and maybe I’ll......I’ll have to go away.
I shouldn’t have let myself get attached. I shouldn’t have fallen in love with him.
God, but I don’t want to believe that I was so wrong in trusting him. I don’t want to just give up. I want to be with him. I want to go back to feeling like I’m the only one that he’s ever loved. That I’m it for him. His everything. So maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s just this thing with Isabel, whatever it is.
I don’t know and I’m so confused.
I’m not sure how long I walk around. It just aimless wandering on my part. I’m barely paying attention to the streets signs as I keep walking. I need to put distance between us. I can’t be where he is right now. I can’t be there just so he can ignore me. I find myself, cold, and shaking in front of Michael and Maria’s new house. They’re all moved in now. I helped them last weekend while Max stayed at home, brooding and pissed. I knock tentatively on the front door.
Michael answers it. I try to blink back the tears. “Maria went out to get ice cream,” he tells me. I just sort of nod as he lets me inside.
“I....I j-just need some place to say tonight,” I tell him. He doesn’t say anything else. He takes my arm and steers me up to the guest bedroom. Inside the room he goes into the closet and pulls out a pillow and blanket. Handing them to me he says to let him know if I need anything. I nod and pull the blanket around me as he leaves. I shut the room light off and lay there in the dark staring at the ceiling. What’s Max doing now? Does he even care that I’m gone? Maybe he’s relieved.
I’m still awake when I hear Maria come in front door a few minutes later. I can hear Michael talking to her.
“Liz is here,” he tells her. Even Michael, someone who rarely shows his emotions, sounds concerned.
“Why? What’s wrong? Did something happen?” Maria is already going into panic mode. I want to laugh but I can’t, it’s a pathetic sob instead.
“ I didn’t ask her, but she looked pretty upset,” Michael says. I can tell he’s trying to keep his voice down. I hear the door to the room opening.
“Lizzie, babe, are you awake?” Maria asks softly. I sit up and she comes into the room, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.
I open my mouth, but before I can even get any words out, the tears spill down my face and the sobs start somewhere deep inside. This hurts so much. And it isn’t just Max. It’s everything. Every time I’ve managed to find happiness, real happiness, it gets ripped away from me. My parents, my future and now Max. Only Max has a choice, he’s making the choice. With everything I’ve lost, this has just become too much. Maria wraps her arms around me. “Shsh, Liz, whatever it is, it’s going to be okay.” She tries to comfort me. But her words are nothing. She knows that and lets me cry. The tears finally subside. Only momentarily though because a new wave washes over me and I cry myself to sleep.
***********
I hit the clock again and the digital voice screams out 11:30pm. She’s been gone for over three hours. Where the hell is she? I could hear how upset she was when she left. And because I’m a dumbass I let her go. I didn’t try to make her stay or try to apologize for my behavior. I know that I haven’t been the greatest guy to live with lately. Okay, that’s probably the understatement of the century. I’ve been snapping at her and pretty much avoiding her.
I’m afraid to talk to her. Afraid to have her ask me questions about Isabel. Afraid to have her bring up that question from that night three weeks ago. It all stems from fearing the unknown. I’m afraid of what will happen if she knew that it was possible for me to see again. Would she pressure me like Isabel? Would she leave me? Would she even understand why I’m not sure about this?
I hit the clock again. 11:43pm.
“DAMMIT!” I scream out to the empty room. I should have gone after her earlier. I should have told her I was sorry. Hell, I should have told her the truth, from the beginning. Maybe then there wouldn’t be this wall between us. At first I thought that I was the one that had put it there. But even though I started it by not telling her, she finished it. I could feel her pulling away from me. At night, she moves away from me in bed. When I kiss her, she doesn’t kiss me back. It isn’t making love anymore because I don’t feel like her heart is really in it. And it makes me wonder, does she think this is a mistake? Will she leave me?
I hear pounding on the front door and scramble out of bed. Maybe Liz forget her key. I know that this is a false hope. I didn’t even lock the door. I hurry down the stairs and to the door. I open it and feel myself being pushed backwards and a large body moves past me into the house.
“What the hell did you do to her?” Michael voice demands angrily.
Her. He means Liz. Liz. “Where is she Michael?” I ask.
“She’s at our place. Now answer my question Max, What did you do?”
I stand there, shaking my head.
“What do you mean, what did I do?” I ask him. “Did she say I did something? What did she tell you?”
“I don’t really know. She hasn’t said much of anything because she hasn’t been able to stop crying since she showed up. She walked all the way across town, Max. Now start explaining because she won’t say anything to Maria or I.” I can hear him pacing.
She’s crying. The thought makes my heart ache. She should never have to cry. Knowing that I’m the reason for this makes me loathe myself more than I already do.
“Oh, God,” I mumble. “I...I..dammit.”
“Tell me what’s going on Maxwell. I told you that this wasn’t a good idea. I told you that I wouldn’t be a party to you hurting her. So make me a honest man. I need to know that you didn’t do this on purpose Max. Start explaining.” Michael’s voice has softened now.
I hurt Liz. At this realization I feel my legs give out and I sink down to the floor against the door.
“Over Christmas Isabel and Alex brought up the eye specialist again. They pulled some strings and got me an appointment with him. He says that if he does the operation, there’s an eighty-five percent chance that I’ll regain my vision.” I pause.
“And this is what upset Liz?” Michael asks, sounding confused.
“No...I....I haven’t been able to tell her. About three weeks ago though, out of the blue, she asked if I’d ever wondered if it was possible for me to see again. I told her that I didn’t know. Isabel keeps calling. She won’t let up. She called again tonight and I snapped at Liz. She left then. I know that I’ve been awful to her for these past two weeks especially....” my voice breaks off. “This sounds so stupid,” I admit to him. “ I feel like an idiot, taking this out on her.”
“Why didn’t you tell her? I think that she knows you’re keeping something from her.” Michael says.
“I know she knows, but I just can’t......I’m scared. The whole thing scares the hell out of me, Michael. What if it doesn’t work? And then....what if it does? Everything would change.”
“Max, you’re being given a second chance. You can’t let it pass you by. Either way you’re one lucky son of a bitch to have Liz,” Michael tells me.
“ I know,” I pause. “There’s another part of me that’s afraid of being able to see her. I know that I love her. I know in my hear that everything about her is beautiful, but what if I’m still like before the accident. I was so caught up in physical beauty. I don’t think I could handle what would happen if I saw her and was disappointed. I don’t want her to have to see the disappointment either. I have this picture of her in my imagination that......”
Michael interrupts. “.......that couldn’t possibly do her justice. Max, what Liz looks like is the least of your worries. Admittedly she isn’t one of your typical blonde bimbos. Maybe that’s part of what makes her special. If you really love her Max, when you finally see her, it isn’t going to matter.” Michael’s words make sense.
“Is there anything else?” he asks.
I nod slowly. “The reason Izzy and I have been fighting. There’s no money to have the surgery done. That’s part of why I didn’t tell Liz. What if she got all her hopes up and then it didn’t happen because of this of all things. Its going to cost over one hundred thousand dollars. Even combining money doesn’t get us half way there.
“It’ll work out Maxwell. It has to. Now, lets go get your woman so you two can work things out. In a couple of hours the only thing you’ll be worried about it whether or not your going to survive after a whole night of make up sex.” He helps me up and then goes to find me some shoes and a pair of jeans.
“Maria would enjoy the sight of you in your boxers too much,” he tells me jokingly. “I’d have to hear about that for weeks. I’d rather not go there.”
I shake my head. I’d go over there naked if that was the only way to get to Liz. I just want to bring her home.
*************
I hear voices in the hallway outside the door again. Maria is arguing with someone. Max. He’s here.
“No, I think you need to leave her be. You’ve caused enough damage tonight,” she tells him angrily. I get up from the bed and make my way over, standing in the open doorway, watching the scene unfold.
His back is to me. “Maria, no....just....please. I need her to come home,” he says. His voice is pleading. He sounds upset. A small part of me starts to hope again, because maybe he still cares after all.
“You listen to me, Max Evans. You are a selfish, spoiled, little boy and I....” her voice is muffled when Michael steps up behind her and covers her mouth with his hand. I go back into the room and sit on the bed before they notice me. The door opens again and I hear Michael’s voice. “Maria, they need to work this out. Max needs the opportunity to fix things.” he says.
Max makes his way inside the room. His hands are out in front of him as he tries to get his bearings. I’ll be damned if I’m going to move to help him. Max’s shins come into contact with the bed and he slides his hands along the edge until he feels the slope from the dent where I’m sitting. He sits down next to me and I move away.
“Liz,” he whispers. “Liz,” he says again and this time his voice cracks. I feel tears forming again. “Liz, I...I want you to come home... I need you to come home. Please. I’m sorry. I know that I haven’t been the nicest guy and...” his voice breaks off. “God, I just .....I can’t lose you. Please, I LOVE YOU.” His words are muffled by my sobs as I throw myself into his arms. I can’t help it, he’s the only place that I’ve ever felt safe and comforted.
“Max,” I start to say.
“Shsh, baby, let’s just go home,” I can feel his tears on my neck. I move and our lips meet lightly, our tears mixing.
Michael takes us, despite Maria obvious disapproval. She’s shooting daggers at Max. If this were a different situation I’d tell Max and we’d both laugh about it. But I don’t feel like laughing.
“Lizzie, if you need anything, you call me okay?” I nod and grasp Max’s hand a little tighter and Maria’s words.
Max doesn’t let go of me during the the ride home. Not even when we get out of the car. We go inside and upstairs to his bedroom, our bedroom. He starts to undress me.
“Max, “ I say, my voice trembling, “you have to tell me what’s wrong,” I say, stopping the movement of his hands with my own. “You have to explain what’s going on.” My words are whispered and more tears escape down my face. His fingers move up and cup my face.
“Okay,” he says. I wait for him to start. “Isabel and I have been fighting since Christmas. I don’t even.....it’s not even. I don’t know why I was even fighting with her. And I took it out on you. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Liz.” His lips move down and over mine. It’s a desperate kiss. I can feel how sorry he is, how much he needs me, loves me. It’s all there. Everything else takes a backseat to the way I feel right now. I need to be with him. I need for him to prove to me that he feels all the things that I do. I need to feel him love me.
Our desperate kisses become less so. They are just deep and long. Unhurried. His fingers caress every inch of skin that is bared as he finishes undressing me. His mouth leaves mine to follow his fingers and I stand there, fingers entwined in his hair, letting myself feel. After a moment I pull him away from my body and bring his lips back to mine.
With each caress, each kiss, he’s worshiping me. He nuzzles his nose along every curve. His mouth moves along my throat. All the while, whispering out, “I love you, Liz,” He says it over and over. I give myself up to him because I want to believe him. Our movement is unhurried as we take the time to reexplore each other. His hands run up and down, from thigh to hip as he settles himself between my legs. More I love you’s escape his lips. I can’t stop the tears now either. Hearing him say it this way does something to me, something that hurts and heals at the same time. His movements are still slow. With each gentle thrust he says my name. He tells me he’s sorry. He says he loves me, that he’ll love me forever. Only me. Forever.
And I believe him now.
“I love you too, Max,” I whisper out as I feel the completion he’s brought me. It’s not even in the same realm as mere physical completion. Max is the other half of my soul. I open my eyes as I feel his own body tense and I see a tear escape down his cheek and he cries out my name. My name has never sounded sweeter than this moment. I wrap my arms around him tightly and he does the same. I don’t think either one of us has any intention of letting go.

Chapter 24
I’ve decided that over breakfast this morning I’m going to sit down with Liz and tell her everything. But my good intentions are thwarted when she wakes up and runs to the bathroom. I can hear her retching from in here. I don’t think that now would probably be the best time to bring this up.
“Are you okay?” I ask when I hear her footsteps entering the bedroom again. I don’t get a response, at least not a verbal one. I assume that she’s shaking her head no.
“I think it’s the flu,” he voice says weakly and I hear the sheets rustle and the bed shift as she crawl under the covers. I lay there next to her momentarily and rub her back. A few minutes later our alarm goes off. I kiss the top of her head and get up. As I get ready I feel bad. I wish that I could stay here and take care of her. But I won’t be able to get a substitute teacher on such short notice and I don’t think that I would be able to help much anyway. I shower and dress quickly. Before I head downstairs I kneel over by Liz’s side of the bed.
“I’ll call you in sick okay?” I say softly.
“Yeah....” she mumbles.
“Are you going to be okay? Do you need anything?” I ask and I run my fingers over her hair, brushing it behind her ears.
“I just need to rest,” she answers. “Have a good day,” she tells me.
“If you need me just call. I’ll come straight home. I mean I’ll make Maria bring me straight home.” I hear her chuckle softly and I kiss her forehead and get up, going downstairs. I make two phone calls. First to the principal to tell him that Liz won’t be working today and then to Maria. I beg her for a ride to work. It takes some persuasion because she’s still mad at me. I explain that it wouldn’t be a favor for me but rather Liz because she’s not feeling well. Maria agrees and when she comes to pick me up I endure a verbal bashing for the duration of the ride. By the time we get to school I can tell that she’s pretty much forgiven me. I thank her for the ride and we part ways at the classroom door.
The whole day seems to drag on forever. The ride home with Maria seems to take forever. She talks continually about wedding plans. Its about three weeks away. She sounds like she’s getting nervous. She finally drops me off with instructions for Liz to call her if she’s feeling better. I walk into the house and my senses are immediately overwhelmed with the smell of baking.
“Liz?” I holler out.
“I’m in the kitchen,” she calls back
I go in there and the smell sort of knocks me back. It’s like a bakery in here.
“You must be feeling better,” I say.
“Uh huh. A little after lunch time my energy came back. So I cleaned and then I got hungry for cookies. So I’m baking cookies now and your mother called earlier and gave me a new recipe to try so I started dinner too.” She sounds happy and excited and full of energy. Sort of like this morning never happened. Maybe now would be a good time to talk about last night and pretty much everything from the last few months.
“Liz, why don’t you sit down for a second, so we can talk,” I tell her.
“Okay,” her voice says softly, waivering a little. I grab a chair and sit down. I hear her do the same.
“Liz, I......I want to explain what’s been going on. The whole fight with Isabel, why I’ve been so distant......there’s a reason for it all.” She says nothing and so I go on. I tell her about the ambush from Isabel and Alex at Christmas time. I explain about the eye specialist and my appointment. My eighty-five percent chance to see again. I still don’t hear a response from her but I feel her warm body as she comes and puts herself in my arms. “Max, that’s wonderful,” her voice says softly as she wraps her arms around me. I hold her close, letting myself breathe in her scent. I relax as we sit there. Relief washes over me.
After a moment she pulls away slightly. “Why didn’t you want to tell me?” she asks. I feel like such a fool for keeping this to myself, for thinking that she wouldn’t understand.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell you. I just.....I was too unsure about the whole thing myself. Because if I decided to do it and it worked it would change everything. I was afraid that you might leave me, that you were only with me because I couldn’t take care of myself....” Liz stops these words with a finger pressed against my lips.
“I won’t leave you. I promise you. I love you Max, I’ll stand by you whatever you decided to do.” Her lips touch my mine after she says her words. I return the kiss.
“Thank you,” I tell her when we break apart.
There is some silence and then I speak. “I’ve decided to do it,” I tell her. “ I want to be able to see again. I want to wake up and look at you in the mornings. I want to be able to watch a movie with you and read a menu when I take you out for dinner. I want to be able to go to the library and have the legitimate excuse of getting a book to read when I want to visit you. I want to be able to see you playing with Katia when she visits us.” There are so many things that I want to see, but mostly I just want to be able to see Liz. I want to be able to watch her sleep and know that I’m looking at my future. I add one more thing. “I want to watch you walk down the aisle and look into your eyes when we promise ourselves to each other....” Liz’s lips find mine again and she kisses me again. More urgently this time. Her hands move and she starts to undo my tie and unbutton my shirt.
Before long we’re making love on the kitchen floor. I’m so caught up in her. I remember last night briefly as I hear Liz telling me she loves me. I don’t ever want to lose her. I can’ t lose her. That would be worse than not being able to see.
***************
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at the kitchen floor the same way again. During dinner I kept thinking about it and blushing. Maria calls while Max and I are cuddling on the couch. She’s gone back to interrupting our moments. It’s okay though because I’m positive that Max and I are going to have a lifetime of moments.
“Lizzie, babe, you have to come over to the house if you’re feeling better. The band is here and they want to practice a little. You can bring Max if you want. He and Michael can do something. I don’t know what. But we’ve got to go over the music. It’s only three weeks away and I know that you want to practice...”
I interrupt Maria and tell her that we’ll be there soon. I hang up and tell Max. I’m reluctant to leave the warmth of his arms though. We finally get up though and make our way over to their house. Inside we’re greeted by a group of men. In their early twenties probably. Introductions are made and then Maria shoves Max and Michael out of the room.
“Okay, so Lizzie, this is the band. Over there is Blake. He’s the lead singer generally but he plays guitar too so he won’t be left out. Next to him is Adam who is a master on the drums. Then we’ve got Marc on bass guitar and Leo on the keyboards. “ The guys all wave as their respective names are called out and I greet them. We talk about the set up and some of the songs that we’re going to do. Some will be done by me some by Blake. We’re going to switch off. We talk about the song that Maria wants done as a duet and we all laugh because even Blake who’s know Maria for less than a week knows that it’s perfect.
After awhile of talking we decide that some practice might benefit us. We just need to see how we work together. So we head out to the garage. It’s all set up.
“We’re using the garage for practice until the wedding. We don’t have anywhere else to practice,” Blake explains. “So Maria offered us this. She says it’s the least she can do. So when we practice we’ll do it here.” Okay whatever works.
We go through two songs. The guys seem impressed and I’m relieved. We agree to meet tomorrow and then whenever else we need to so that we can go over each song. It’s almost midnight when we finish up. I go gather Max and we say goodbye and head home.
The next morning I realize I must have overdone it the day before. I wake up feeling nauseous again. I lay in bed, hoping I don’t wake Max up. I slide out of bed carefully and make my way to the bathroom. Nothing happens. After about five minutes the nausea goes away and so I get up and take a shower. It’s Wednesday. There’s lots to be done. I have to go shopping with Maria this afternoon after work. We’re going to look for a dress for me for the wedding. Then tonight I’m meeting with the band to practice. Max knows all of my plans. He says he’ll just hang out with Michael.
I get out of the shower and go crawl back into bed with Max. He shifts and I watch him sleep. I can’t get over how beautiful he is. I could stare at him for hours. I move my arm and brush the hair off of his forehead. He moves into me. “You’re all wet,” he says when my hair brushes against his chest. “I took a shower,” I tell him. He smiles.
“Wanna help me take mine?” he asks innocently. “I suppose if I must,” I tell him with feigned disinterest. He laughs and then scoops me up into his arms.
When we finally make it downstairs, we’re running a little late.
“Liz, where’s my coat?” Max calls out from the hallway.
“It’s on the third peg from the left, on the coat rack,” I tell him as I finish packing our lunches. I grab the lunches and my purse and then go get my coat. I hand Max our food and then we make our way out to the car.
“How late are we?” he asks.
I smile despite myself. “You’re kids are going to be waiting outside of a locked classroom.”
“That’s pretty late,” he says but the smile on his face tells me he doesn’t mind being late.
I battle bouts of nausea the rest of the morning. I’m relieved to see Max when lunch time comes. He holds my hand as we walk to the cafeteria to eat lunch. The rest of the day passes by in a rush. Shopping is fun. I find the perfect dress. The thought crosses my mind that I want Max to see it. Then I smile because maybe he will.
When I finally crawl into bed later, I’m so tired that I just collapse. What a day.
By Friday, I’m still not feeling the greatest. The library always closes early on Fridays so I usually have to wait around for Max or come back and get him. Today I leave a message that he should go with Maria. I have a doctor’s appointment. I have this feeling and its scary and exciting and ...... I’m going crazy about the whole thing.
Max doesn’t know about my appointment. I debated on telling him, but decided against it. I’ll tell him tonight when we’re at home. That way it’s all over and done with and maybe I’ll have my answers.
I sit outside the office more than a little hesitant. When they finally call my name, I feel relieved. The doctor is very nice and asks me all sorts of questions. I tell her about the accident.
“The scar has healed very nicely. Whoever did you stitches did an excellent job,” she comments. This makes me feel better. “Now, we’re going to run these tests so we can see what’s going on in that body of yours. I’m sure that it isn’t anything to worry about.”
Once the exam is over I go home. They’re going to call later with the test results.
I walk in the door and hear that Max is on the phone.
“Izzy, I know......yes..........We’ll figure something out. ...........No.......don’t cry. I know that you’re doing everything you can. I appreciate it. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be...........No I’m not changing my mind, I’m just trying to be realistic. If we can’t get the money then I can’t have the surgery. I realize that.” He stops talking. He looks sad. My mind goes into overdrive. Something’s wrong. “Okay, Iz, I’ll talk to you later...........I love you too.......bye.”
He hangs up the phone and just sits there with his head in his hands.
“Max,” I say softly, so I don’t startle him. “Max, what’s wrong?” I can tell that he doesn’t want to tell me.
“I......We’ve been trying to come up with the money for the surgery. But it just doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to cover it. Insurance covers some of it but there’s still a lot left over. Isabel and Alex we’re going to take out a second mortgage on their house to help out but I can’t let them do that....”
For some reason I’m relieved. It’s only about money. That should be the least of his worries. “Max, don’t worry. We’ll work it out,” I tell him. I contemplate the best way to take care of this situation. I’ll call my lawyer in Chicago tomorrow morning. He can fix everything. There’s plenty of insurance money from my parents accident to cover everything. This reminds me that there are probably some other things that I need to talk to Max about. I hadn’t realized just how many secrets we’d been keeping from each other.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:44:49 PM
************
Chapter 25
I think that I’ve been pacing like this for more than an hour. It’s almost five o’clock and we’ve been home from school 3:30pm. Isabel was supposed to call at four on the dot. She’s supposed to have the information. First on whether or not we got the loan, second on when the surgery is scheduled for. I don’t know which bit of information I’m more nervous about. Liz had waited with me for awhile but she went upstairs to lay down after awhile.
She hasn’t been feeling well since last week. She was sick again this morning and after working all day despite that, she’s got to be tired. Another thing to be worried about. I hope that she’s okay.
I try to focus my mind on something else. There’s two weeks to go until Michael and Maria’s wedding. I think that maybe Liz is overdoing it with practicing. This weekend she spent all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon with the band working through music. I was on the phone with Isabel most of the weekend. And when I wasn’t on the phone I was over at the school trying to work through a new lesson plan.
The phone’s ringing. It’s got to be Isabel. I grab it and say an eager “Hello?”
“Hello, this is Karen from Doctor Stephen’s office. We’ve been trying to reach Miss Parker for most of the day today. Would she be available by any chance?” the woman on the phone asks. Doctor Stephens?
“Hold on, I’ll go see if I can get her,” I say. I’m already on my way up the stairs taking the phone into the bedroom.
“Liz, you awake?” I ask.
I can hear just how tired she is when she answers. “Yes, what is it?”
“It’s Dr. Stephens’ office.” She snatches the phone out of my hand.
“This is Liz Parker,” she says. Her voice sounds a little shaky. Something must be wrong. I listen carefully to her end of the conversation.
“Yes.......yes....okay. That will work fine. Yes......Thank you.” I hear the phone beep off. For some reason my heart is pounding like the hooves of a race horse. I move to sit down next to her on the bed. I take hold of her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.
“Whatever it is, you can tell me,” I say. I sound a lot more calm than I really am. Everything else that I was worried about earlier is now taking a backseat to whatever’s going on with Liz. She’s the only thing that really matters.
Her voice is shaky as she starts talking. “I....I went to the doctor because I wasn’t feeling well. So this last Friday, they ran some tests and I’m.......” The ringing phone cuts off her words.
“It’s probably Isabel,” I say. “I can have her call back,” I tell her.
I feel her put the phone in my hands. “No, talk to her. You’ve been waiting all afternoon.”
I answer the phone and it is Isabel. There’s good news. The surgery is all paid for. An anonymous donor is taking care of all the expenses. It’s been set for the first of June. I don’t know whether to feel relieved or terrified.
Liz is still holding my hand when I tell Isabel goodbye.
“Well, what did she say?” she asks anxiously.
“It’s all set. June first. They’ll do the surgery. So we’ll leave for Chicago the last week in May. It’s all paid for.....” My voice trails off as I remember Liz and whatever she needs to tell me.
“Now go back to what you were saying,” I tell her. It comes out as a command.
She squeezes my hand and her grip is almost painful. “The results from the tests.....I’m....I’m pregnant, Max.” Her voice is barely audible but those words ring out clearly.
I say the first thing that comes to my mind. “We’re gonna have a baby?” I wonder if she can hear the awe that I’m feeling at this moment.
“y..yes,” I can hear her relief. I don’t let go of her hand or even loosen my hold. My heart is beating fast with excitement now. A family with Liz. I’ve been thinking about it since I met her. This is completely incredible. No, its amazing, wonderful. I need a thesaurus to find more words to describe the way that I’m feeling. I pull Liz into my arms and hug her tightly.
“Thank you,” I hear her whisper into my neck.
“For what?” I ask, pulling back slightly.
“For wanting our baby, for being so incredible and amazing....” I stop her words with a kiss.
“No Liz, Thank you. I love you so much. Words can’t describe how happy you’ve made me,” I tell her then lean in to kiss her again. I can taste the happy tears she’s crying.
“This is going to be great,” I tell her. It really is.
****************
I could spend hours like this with Max. We’re just laying on the bed. He’s got his ear pressed against my stomach, like he’s going to hear the baby or something. Everyone once in a while he’ll plant tiny kisses there on my abdomen. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier than in this moment. I’m going to have my own family now. My own baby to hold and love.
“I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl?” I ask absently. I feel his smile through my shirt.
“If it’s a girl, I hope she has your voice,” he says. “She’ll sound like an angel then.” I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop smiling.
“Well, if it’s a boy, I hope that he looks just like you. Of course then we’ll have to worry about that killer smile of his making all of the girls swoon,” I tease. Max laughs.
“You know what?” I say, as a thought occurs to me. It’s sort of sobering and scary. “The first time you see me, I’ll probably be fat,” I tell him. Max really laughs now.
“No, honey, not fat,” he says, kissing my belly again. “As odd as this may sound, it is incredibly arousing to think of you, pregnant with my child.” His kisses begin to work their way north. My hands flutter through his hair.
“Really?” I ask uncertainly.
“Uh huh.” His mouth is too preoccupied to say anything else. His hands slip up and underneath my shirt. This feels really good. He pushes the shirt up and starts kissing the skin on my stomach. He undoes the zipper on my jeans and moves the flaps apart leaving wet kisses in place of the rough material. The sound of the door bell ringing halts his movement. Reluctantly he pulls away. I can hear feet coming up the stairs and he rebuttons my pants and lays his head back down on my stomach. “Whoever it is, tell them to go away.”
I look up just as Maria bursts into the doorway. “You know you’re treading dangerous ground bursting in here like that,” I tell her. “You could have walked in on something.”
She shrugs. “Did I?” she asks with a smile.
“Yes, it was a private family moment. Leave,” Max tells her. Maria just stands there and laughs. I don’t hear much of what she says. I’m too caught up in his ‘family moment’ comment. I sigh.
“So, Liz, the guys in the band want to know if you’re coming over tonight. They found another song they want to go over,” she says.
“Sorry, it will have to wait. Max and I are going to celebrate. We’ve had good news all around today,” I tell her.
“Really, do share, “ Maria says.
“Later,” Max tells her. “Now GET OUT!”
Maria laughs her way out of the room and the house.
“Locks,” I tell him. “We have to get better locks.” Max laughs and we work our way back to where we were before. Now this is what I call a celebration.
******************
Chapter 26
Making love to Liz like this has to be the single most satisfying thing that I’ve ever experienced. I relish every breathy moan and sigh that escapes her lips. I kiss the soft skin of her trim stomach leaving a trail of wet kisses up to her breasts. We’ve long since discarded our clothing. My hands knead her flesh eliciting another moan as my fingers work her nipples.
“You know one good thing about this pregnancy is that my breasts are going to get bigger,” she tells me. I bring my mouth down and suck one of her nipples into my mouth. After a moment I pull away. “I think that they’re perfect this way,” is my response. I feel her shiver beneath me.
“Max, when you see me do you think you’ll be disappointed? I mean you asked me when I first came here what I looked like and I didn’t tell you. But maybe, maybe you should know. I’m.....I’m not like the girls that you’re usually attracted to.” I pull back and away from her. Where are these thoughts coming from? How does she know what kind of girls I’m usually attracted to?
“What kind of girls do you think I’m attracted to?” I ask, confusion evident in my voice.
“Maria said that you’ve always liked tall blondes with large breasts. I’m pretty much the opposite. I’m short, I’ve got small breasts and brown hair. What if you aren’t attracted to me?” she sounds near tears and so I pull her up and into me, hugging her.
“Liz, I’m going to say this now. I love you. What I love about you doesn’t have anything to do with the way you look. I don’t care about that. I’m not the same person I was before the accident. I realize now that physical beauty isn’t all that relevant. I know that when I see you I’ll be seeing the woman that I love, the woman that’s going to be the mother of my child, my wife. And I’ll be happy to spend the rest of my life with you.” I can feel her tears as they fall onto my skin. Then I feel her lips on mine and I know that she’s reassured. Her kiss is passionate and hungry. She’s being demanding and it’s almost as if she wants me to back my words up with physical proof. She’ll get all the physical proof she needs if she keeps moving her hand lower like that.
“Max, make love to me,” she whispers between deep kisses. I’m more than happy to oblige. Pushing her back down on the bed I let my hands roam her body, taking up where they left off when she was asking her silly questions. Our bodies move together instinctively. She knows that if she shifts her hips a certain way that I can move more deeply into her. As our hips move against each other, unintelligible words of love are uttered. This very act of making love is a testament to our celebration. It’s what started this all. We made our baby. This thought does something to me and I feel myself crying. I don’t know where it even came from but it’s happening. Loving Liz like this touches some place deep inside of me and I know that without her I am nothing. Nothing worth being anyway.
I can feel Liz tensing as I move in and out of her small body. She tightens her legs around my waist and I push myself deeper, thrusting harder and faster. With a strangled cry she climaxes and I lose myself in her again.
I roll over quickly once I’ve regained my bearings. I don’t want to crush her. She places soft kisses on my cheeks. I hear her say I love you.
************
I opened my eyes tonight and enjoyed the sight of him as he made love to me. Usually I keep my eyes shut. I’ve always thought that I could experience our lovemaking just like he did. But tonight I watched as he cried and I realized that he experienced things in a completely different manner. My own tears were present then because his told me so many things. Just how much he’s affected by me and how much he loves me. I know now that nothing could change that. I have to believe that. Rational thought though was soon gone because what I was experiencing was something that only Max could do to me. Only he could ever affect me.
After our lovemaking we share soft kisses and I can’t keep myself from touching him in some small way. We talk and make plans. I want to start working on the nursery. He says he wants me to wait until June. I understand. We both want to wait to tell people about the baby. Right now it’s just too special to share with anyone but each other.
He says that he’s coming with me to my appointment this next Thursday. That makes me feel better about it. I was sort of nervous. We’ll find out for sure how far along I am then. This is all just unreal. I keep thinking that maybe it’s a dream. I want to remember this perfect moment forever. Lying in his arms happy and content. The only thing that could make this better. Food. I’m suddenly very hungry. Max laughs when he hears my stomach growl.
“And so it begins,” he jokes. I smack him. I can’t wait until he can see and then I can torture him by sending him on midnight runs for my food cravings.
**********************
So many thoughts have been running through my head since this afternoon. As we’re laying here in bed, the only thing that really registers is that I’m going to be a father. It just doesn’t seem real though. I’ve been touching Liz’s stomach all night and it seems impossible that there’s something that I helped create, growing inside her tiny body. I’d worried momentarily that Liz’s small frame might have trouble later on. She laughed my worry off and said that her body would accommodate for that. I’m still worried though. Of course other thoughts keep racing through my head too. Like what we’ll name the baby and which room we’ll use for the nursery. And in all these thoughts, another happy thought exists. A thought that I’ll be able to witness this all. I’ll be able to see Liz pregnant with my child and then I’ll be able to see my child and watch him/her grow. The thought is just mind blowing. Liz seems pretty happy too. Happy doesn’t seem like a strong enough word.
The next couple of days go by in a blur. We’re trying to keep our overwhelming happiness a secret. But it’s hard. I know that if I could see Liz than I would give it all away. Maria has already questioned me a couple of times. I held off for awhile but then I told her about the surgery. After talking to her about it I started to really think about it. I hadn’t done that since talking to Isabel. The whole anonymous donor thing is starting to bother me.
Thursday comes and we go to the doctor. They do an ultrasound and the doctor thinks that Liz is ten weeks along. I feel sorry for myself when the doctor points out certain things on the screen to Liz. Things that I obviously can’t see. The nurse gives Liz a copy of the picture and Liz says she’s going to start a baby book right away. That night we do the math and figure that ten weeks would mean the baby was conceived on Christmas Eve. Of course we had a lot of sex during that particular time period so it could really have been any of those other times. I’m going to be mean and tell Isabel that it was Christmas Eve at her house, just to gross her out.
I’d had a moment of guilt when I’d really thought about Liz being pregnant already. The truth of the matter is that we haven’t really been together all that long. Three months. So Liz has been pregnant for the majority of our relationship. I feel like a heel because that whole time I never once thought about protection or anything like that. When I’d said something to Liz she immediately chastised me. Then she’d added something about subconsciously wanting this to happen the whole time. I think that’s a pretty good explanation for my irresponsibility. No matter, our baby was created in love and I’d never want things to have turned out differently.
Liz has been taking everything in stride. The morning sickness doesn’t seem to phase her although it freaks me out and makes me feel bad. The doctor warned me about sympathy pains. Sometimes I feel sick just thinking of Liz being sick.
Liz has been walking around humming and singing under her breath. I’m just......so damn happy that it scares me. I keep waiting for the ball to drop so that I can trip on it. Happiness like this has to be wrong and there’s no way it can last. I just pray that it does.
These next couple of weeks are going to be very busy. Liz is a little bit worried about Michael and Maria’s wedding and I can sympathize. She’s had so much on her mind lately. She’s nervous. I suppose for good reason. The wedding has turned into a big deal, much to Michael’s dismay. It seems that Maria’s mother just sort of took over everything. Maria’s been sniffing a lot of Cyprus oil.
“Max, honey, we have to go. I have to practice and Michael needs help. He says Maria’s pissing him off and you need to calm him down. Maybe you two should go over and listen to Karoke at Tommy’s tonight. It could be fun. You guys haven’t done that for awhile. Then when I’m finished, I’ll get Maria and we’ll come join you.” Her voice is fading in and out as she runs around different parts of the room. I get most of what she’s saying. She’s right it would be fun.
When Michael and I get to the bar later Karoke is going full swing. It’s crowded. I can tell from all of the noise people are making. I block out random parts of people’s conversations that float by. I stand by the bar and wait while Michael goes to find us a table. Tommy comes and talks to me for a little bit.
“So, what are you doing for Guerin’s bachelor party? Got any plans yet?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Michael just wants to watch the hockey game. Besides, he says that Maria told him that if he has a stripper at his bachelor part she’ll withhold sex for a month. To make the whole thing worse, she got Liz to go in on it with her. So now, if I do anything short of sitting with him to watch the game then I won’t be having sex either.”
“Phew, tough ladies. Though, I have to say that I’d do whatever they said. If I were either of you I’d definitely want to keep the sex. Especially with such beautiful women.” Tommy pauses. “Don’t take this the wrong way Max, but damn, what I wouldn’t give to be in your shoes.”
I should be angry and possessive when I hear this but I’m not. I know that Liz is mine. I wonder if it’s wrong of me to be proud that Liz is beautiful? I know that I’m being egotistical when I say that there are probably a lot of guys who would kill to be in my shoes, blind or not.
Michael grabs me and leads me over to our table. Kyle Valenti is serenading the audience with a terrible version of a Backstreet Boys song. I try not to snicker.
“Tess must have given him the boot again. He only ever sings this badly when they’re not together,” I say.
Michael laughs. “Yeah and you won’t believe this but she’s here with .....Doug Sahn. She’s all over him.”
“Yeah,” Tommy’s voice interjects as he brings us our drinks. “The guy inherited some money from a dead aunt. As soon as Tess got wind of it she was all over him like a mosquito ready to suck him dry. Take all his money, I mean. Poor Doug doesn’t know which way is up anymore. “ All three of us burst into laughter as Kyle hits a particularly mournful note.
An hour of so later, Michael gets up to sing. Tommy stops by the table every once in awhile. He was still pulling for a good old fashioned bachelor party every chance he could.
I smell Tess’ cheap perfume before she even reaches the table. That’s really saying something in a smoke filled bar. I’m aware of her chair as she moves it closer to mine. I wish that I could get up and run.
“So, Max, how’d you manage to get rid of your little disfigured girlfriend? What’s her name again?” she asks. Her voice is sickeningly sweet.
“We both know she’s not disfigured Tess so you can stop with the insults. Her name is Liz and she’s going to be here soon. So why don’t you just scoot on back to Doug and let him buy you some more to drink.” I’m seconds away from getting up and leaving. I don’t care if I run into anyone.
“You know, I did a little background check on your little Miss Parker and I found out some interesting things. Did you know that she’s a millionaire Max? She’s got all of this money stashed away from when her parents died. Now why do you suppose that she would come all this way to podunk Nebraska to live like she didn’t have anything? You want to know what I think?”
“No, I don’t really care what you think,” I tell her.
“I’ll tell you anyway. I think that you’ve been had. You’re going to get stomped on Max. Just don’t expect to come crawling back to me.”
I say nothing. Tess makes no attempt to leave. That’s when I feel Liz’s presence next to me.
“Hey,” she says softly. “Sorry it took so long.” There’s a slight pause. “Hi Tess, how are you?” Liz asks politely. I grab for her hand. Her fingers lace with mine. We’re going to have to talk.
“Liz,” Tess says curtly. “You know, you look a little strange. Are you gaining weight? That must be it. And you look a little shiny....”
“Tess, that’s not shiny, it’s a little thing called an inner glow. Happy people tend to radiate that,” Maria’s voice interrupts. “And as for putting on weight, your ass is starting to spread from being on your back so much. Maybe you better take some time off from all that strenuous work.”
All I hear is an indignant “hmpf” from Tess as her chair clangs against the floor.
“God, could she be any skankier?” Maria asks as she sits down.
I’m not sure what to say. I need to talk with Liz. Tess’s being a bitch aside, I need to know if what she said is true.
Liz is silent next to me as we hear the rest of Michael’s song. This time it was Britney Spears. I have to say the guy is pretty funny. Maria doesn’t care what he sings, she’s just excited that he’ll get up and do it.
Tommy comes back over to the table. “Do you ladies want something to drink?” he asks.
“Yeah, I want a long island ice tea,” Maria tells him. “Liz?”
We both say No at the same time. “Okay, are you sure?”
“I’ll just have some water, Tommy, Thanks,” she says.
“Lizzie, come on live a little. You need to relax after all of the work you’ve been doing,” Maria tells her.
“No. I .....I haven’t been feeling well lately. I have to drive us home anyway....” she lists off about a million other excuses.
Michael joins us and I try not to listen to he and Maria’s noisy exchange of kisses.
Liz is still being quiet. I think that Tess probably got to her again.
“Liz, hey, babe, don’t let what Tess said get to you okay,” I say to her softly. I pull her chair closer so that she’s practically in my lap now. “Besides, even if it is true, it’s for good reason. And you’re not shiny you’re probably just glowing. And you’re not getting fat. Although, you know, an exploratory session might be needed to look for any physical changes.” When I hear her giggle I know that she’s okay. Thoughts of Tess have long since passed.
“Promise?” she asks.
“Oh, most definitely,” is my response.
Ten minutes later Liz starts to cough a little. “Max, maybe we should go. The smokes sort of getting to me,” she says.
“You’re right. It’s probably not good for you or the baby,” I say. Then I stop dead in my tracks. I just said that outloud. I just said that outloud in front of Michael and Maria. Liz grabs onto my arm. We’re both hoping that maybe they didn’t hear. This was supposed to be our secret for awhile.
No such luck. Maria of course, speaks first. “Pay up Michael, I told you,” she says loudly. She sounds completely unsurprised. How the hell did she even know? They bet on this? I’m thinking too many things to actually say a complete sentence at this point.
“Yeah, uhm.....We’ll just talk to you two tomorrow,” Liz says finally and steers me outside. I feel sort of bad.
“Liz, you aren’t mad are you?” I ask.
“No, it’s actually kind of funny. Let’s just hope we can trust Maria not to blab to everyone before we’re ready to tell your family.”
I have a feeling though, that the whole town will know by tomorrow night. This means that I’ll probably get a phone call from a very irate Isabel sometime tomorrow evening.
Right now though, I promised Liz I’d do a little bit of investigative work. The kind of work requiring some up close and personal attention.
************

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 5:47:59 PM
Chapter 30
School ended yesterday. I said goodbye to another year of fourth graders. The boys all shook my hand and the girls gave me hugs. One of them cried. She was the same one that cried when I announced to them that I was getting married this summer. There’s always one with a crush. There are times when I envy children and time when I don’t. I don’t envy them their childhood disappointments and heartaches as they grow into adulthood. But I envy them today, because at least when kids are scared of something they can turn to adults who can assure them that it’s all going to be okay. I’m scared and anyone, my parents, Isabel, even Liz, can reassure me until they’re blue in the face, but it won’t go away and be all better. I’m still going to be scared.
After school finished for the day, Liz and I went home and she started packing our things for Chicago. She cried the whole time.
“I’m.....I’m just so sad Max. I......I really liked working in the library and now I’m finished and I won’t be able to have lunch with you at school anymore and....” I pulled her into my arms at that point and held her, letting her cry while I tried desperately not to laugh. Holding her like that kept her from seeing my smile at least. And I was smiling because her little outburst was certainly hormonal. Another wonderful, although somewhat taxing, reminder of this pregnancy.
I had trouble sleeping last night. I was holding Liz, who couldn’t seem to stay still but wouldn’t let go of me either. I just kept thinking about what was coming. How things are going to change. Sometimes it’s scary to think of that change because right now, blindness aside, my little world is perfect. That’s why none of this has seemed real until now.
I don’t know how long it was before I finally drifted off, but I woke up this morning to a very.......frisky Liz. Her morning sickness has been replaced with horniness. Of course, who am I to complain about my beautiful, wonderful, pregnant, almost-wife, wanting to make love all the time? I’ll never tell her no. Which means that at the moment, I’m a little tired. Liz has of course been laughing at me since we got on the plane. I can barely stay awake.
“I really wore you out this morning huh?” she asks teasingly.
I chuckle and smile. “Oh, it was worth it,” I tell her. I’ve obviously said the right think because I’m rewarded with a very good kiss.
“I love you,” she tells me when she pulls away.
“I love you too.” She makes me feel better without even consciously trying to. Just knowing that she’s there, next to me, is more helpful than anything anyone else could try to do. I hold her hand for the rest of the trip. She reads to me. I like listening to her, whether she’s singing or talking.....it doesn’t matter. Even her voice is comforting.
Alex is waiting at the airport when we get there. It’s mid afternoon.
“I hope you don’t mind. I need to go pick up Katia from day care,” Alex tells us as he maneuvers the car out of the airport parking garage. Liz is suddenly very excited. I know how much she adores Katia. So when we get to the day care, Liz and I both go inside with Alex to get her.
“Daddy!” Katia’s voice exclaims. I’m able to hear her above all the noisy sounds of the other kids.
“There are kids all over the place,” Liz tells me. “And they’re all in little uniforms.” It would figure that Izzy would send Katia to a private day care. Good grief, kids should be allowed to be kids. I bet they’re not even allowed to finger paint or anything.
I know when Katia’s seen Liz and I because she starts screaming, “Uncle Max, uncle Max,” and “My Liz, aunt Liz.”
“Hey kiddo,” I say when I feel her hugging my leg. I touch the top of her head, ruffling her hair. She giggles.
“Momma will be mad. You messed my hair, uncle Max.”
Liz laughs. “Uh oh, you’re in trouble now,” she says. Katia lets go of me and goes to Liz.
“My Liz,” I feel Liz move as Katia speaks. I assume she’s leaning down. “You have a bump on your tummy.” Oh no. She didn’t. I wait for Liz to start crying. She’s still really sensitive about getting bigger. Which she is, more so than we’d both thought. I think it’s sexy but she yells at me for saying that. So I’m relieved when, instead of a torrent of tears, I hear laughter.
“It’s not a bump, sweetheart. I’m gonna have a baby. That’s where your baby cousin is growing,” Liz’s gentle voice explains.
“Oh,” Katia’s voice sounds a little awed. Then is a loud whisper she asks, “How does the baby get inside you?” Liz and I must be thinking the same thing, because we simultaneously call for Alex. He’d gone to get Katia’s daily report card from her teacher.
“What?” he asks, rejoining us quickly.
“Katia wants to know where the baby came from,” I inform him. “I think this is your job.”
*************
Katia looks up at me with her questioning eyes. I have no idea what to say to her. I look to Alex who looks embarrassed.
“Katia, that’s the kind of question you ask mommy okay, pumpkin?” Alex says kneeling down to her level. “Remember, mommy likes to tell you about things like that.”
I cover my mouth with my hand to hold back my laughter. I can’t look at Max because I can see from the corner of my eye his own unsuccessful attempt to repress his amusement over Alex’s uneasiness and his quick diversion. I hit him gently as a sort of reprimand. He’s the one that started this. Well, that’s not actually true, but if I think about my pregnant stomach I’ll cry and Max doesn’t need anymore tears from me right now. I need to be strong, not hormonal.
We get back to the Whitman home and Isabel is nowhere to be found. Alex has no idea where she could have gone. It’s unlike her to miss an opportunity to play hostess. I get Max and I settled into the guest room. He decides to take a nap despite my teasing.
“It’s probably a good idea for you to rest up,” I tell him. “You’ll need all of your energy for later tonight.” He groans and tells me to leave before I make taking a nap completely impossible for him. I leave him be and go to find Katia. She’s in her room coloring in her coloring books.
“Can I join you?” I ask. She smiles brightly and nods her head. As I sit down she gives me instructions.
“You hafta be careful and color in da lines,” she tells me. “or da pitcher doesn’t look right. Momma says so. And you hafta use the right colors.”
“Oh, okay. Well I’ll be careful then.” I shake my head. Isabel’s perfection has apparently been instilled in her daughter. I decided to see what Katia will do if I don’t follow the rules.
“My Liz, no,” she says looking down at my picture.
“What? Did I do something wrong?”
“Bears aren’t purple,” she tells me. I bite my lip to hold in my smile.
“Well, my bear is purple,” I say and I keep coloring. A little while later I look over at her and her picture now has a blue dog and an orange turtle and red grass. I don’t even try not to smile now. You have to love kids.
“Katia, let’s make a picture for Max,” I suggest. Her eyes light up and she happily agrees and we set to work. When we’re finished I tell her to save it for later.
I go back to our room and find Max gone. I’m worried about him. He’s been very quiet these last few days. I know he’s entitled to it considering what may or may not be happening here in a couple of days.
I don’t stay in our room long because I can hear Isabel all the way downstairs. She’s talking about shopping. I go down to join the others in the living room. She sees me and immediately turns to give me a hug. After which she steps back and looks me up and down. Her smile is reminicent of Katia’s a moment ago.
“Look at you! You’re getting so big!” she exclaims. I can’t help my response to that. My lower lip starts to quiver and tears fill my eyes. “I know,” I say as I start to cry. “I didn’t think I’d be this big already. And now when Max sees me for the first time I’m going to be big and fat and......” I can’t even go on. I sink down onto the couch.
Isabel tries to comfort me. She tells me that I’m not really that big and that it’s only because of the baby. I should be happy that things are progressing normally. She even bribes me when she tells me she’ll take me shopping tomorrow for maternity clothes and she’ll help me look for things for the baby. I calm down a little at this. I finally look up at Max who is shaking his head. Alex is on the other side of the room trying to avoid the display of female emotions. This actually makes me laugh.
Dinner that night is fun and we go for a walk to get ice cream afterwards. Max doesn’t want to but I drag him along. I’ve decided that my favorite craving food is going to be ice cream and French fries. When I tell Max this he immediately looks horrified. He says he’ll let me have the ice cream but he draws the line when the combinations start getting weird. After the ice cream we walk over to the park. Isabel says there’s supposed to be a jazz concert there tonight. When we get close we can hear the music. Alex finds us an empty patch of grass and we go sit.
“Liz, you can’t sit on the ground like that. It’s too hard, “ Max says. He’s gone into his new I’m going to worry about everything mode.
“No it’s fine really.” I try to tell him. He isn’t convinced and so he makes Alex move us to a better spot. This time its by a tree, so Max leans up against it and makes me sit on his lap. “Your legs will go numb, “ I grumble at him.
“Shush,” he says and kisses my neck. I sigh and let myself relax. Max is much more comfortable than the hard ground. He wraps his arms around my waist and his hands rest on my stomach almost possessively. I let my hands rest on his and lean back against him, nestling my head in the crook of his shoulder.
I don’t hear the flash until it’s too late. I turn my head and see Isabel grinning, holding a camera in her hand. “It’s for your baby scrapbook,” she explains. “You have to have a picture of you pregnant. That one will be good.” I smile and go back to Max. He kisses my forehead and I close my eyes. I want to hear what he hears. The music fades into the background quickly and I just enjoy him. I can hear his heart. I listen to it’s rhythm. Our breathing falls in sync and I feel so in tune with him in this moment. Like his heart beats for me.

Chapter 31
Despite many protests on my part, Liz goes shopping with Isabel. I know exactly what’s going to happen. They’ll go and start looking at things. For awhile everything will be great and Liz will think it’s fun until Isabel decides she wants to clothes shop.
This is how I envision their afternoon going. Isabel will make Liz try on ugly maternity outfit after ugly maternity outfit. This will only make her cry about how fat and ugly she thinks she is. Isabel will then exhaust herself trying to make Liz feel better. Now we can’t forget to throw Katia into the equation. She will, no doubt, become tired and whiny as the afternoon wears on. This will only further tax Isabel’s patience. In the end Liz will be fine and probably come back happy. Isabel however will return and be crabby and poor Alex will have to try and appease her in some way.
Now I could be wrong. Everything could turn out fine. But the combinations of Isabel, the shopping Nazi, her four year old child, and a pregnant, hormonal, overly emotional Liz just does not bode well. I’m going to hide the second I hear the car pull into the garage. Alex says he has the perfect hiding place for both of us.
************
“I’m sorry Isabel, I don’t know why I’m so upset,” I tell her again as I try to stop crying. We’re in the dressing room at a maternity clothing store in the mall. “It’s just that.....” I pause and look at my reflection again. “These clothes are so ugly and they make me look huge.” More tears follow.
Isabel smiles at me sympathetically. “I know how you feel. And you’re very right. These clothes are completely awful. We’ll go somewhere else and try to find something.”
Slightly reassured, I sniffle a little and give her a watery smile and nod. I change back into my other clothes quickly. Black leggings and one of Max’s oversized work shirts. For the last month, this has been my standard apparel. I leave the offensive maternity outfits in the dressing room and go to find Isabel and Katia.
Katia smiles when she sees me. She lets go of Isabel’s hand to take mine.
“Are you hungry?” Isabel asks. “Maybe we should get something to eat now.”
I am hungry, so I agree and we go. This is why I’m so big. I can’t stop eating. Max laughs because he thinks it’s funny that I can out eat him now.
We get Chinese food and have a nice conversation. Isabel tells me all about when she was pregnant with Katia.
“I think everyone felt bad for Alex,” she says with a slight laugh. “ I was pretty demanding. Anything I wanted, I got, especially in the last couple of months. He knew that there would be hell to pay if I wasn’t happy.” I laugh when I hear this.
“Momma, you said hell,” Katia points out. Isabel apologizes. I smile at Katia as I watch her push her vegetables around on her plate.
“Would you do it again? Go through all that again?” I ask. Isabel doesn’t even hesitate with her answer. She smiles lovingly at Katia and nods. She blushes a little then. “Don’t say anything, but once Max’s surgery is over and things settle down, Alex and I are going to try for another baby.”
“Oh, Isabel, that’s so great!” I tell her excitedly. “That means the kids will be close together in age.” We spend some more time talking and laughing. Katia entertains us with some stories about why carrots are bad. I’m in a much better mood than before and we decide to risk shopping again. Things go well and I’m actually able to find some decent clothes to last the rest of the pregnancy. Max can have his shirts back now. We also look at baby clothes and I go a little overboard buying things. The baby things are so tiny and precious. I’m a little awed as I think about this baby growing inside of me. I’m actually going to be able to hold him or her.
By mid afternoon, we’re all exhausted and we go back to Isabel’s so Katia and I can take naps. We leave everything in the car and Isabel tells Alex to bring it in later. I head straight up to our room. I don’t know where Max is at or what he’s doing and I’m too tired to care in this moment. Hopefully they’ll come wake me up later.
***************
I hear Alex cussing as he goes outside and starts to carry in the bags from the shopping trip. I sit there, laughing as I listen to the shuffling of paper and plastic. A muffled damn is heard as a bag drops with a thud to the floor. I laugh some more.
“You think this is funny huh?” Alex asks. “Well, guess what? None of this is even Isabel’s. It’s all Liz’s stuff.” This shuts me up quickly. I wonder what it is. She’s never really splurged on anything for herself before. Maybe she decided to go ahead and start using the money from her parents. I wonder what made her change her mind.
Isabel informs me that Liz is tired and I should let her rest before I go interrogate her about her day. I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong about how their day would go.
I try to keep my mind occupied the rest of the afternoon. Anything to keep me from thinking about the surgery. It’s just two days away. The more I let myself think about it, the more I want to back out. But I can’t. All I have to do is think of Liz and our baby and everything that I would be missing out on. Everything that I’ve already missed out on. Then I know that I have to do this. It’s not just about me, it’s about my family.
After trying to concentrate on listening to a book on tape, I give up and head upstairs to our room. I need to hold Liz, to feel her next to me. She’ll make everything okay. I make my way up the staircase, counting steps as I go. I’m still a little uncertain in Izzy’s house. Not nearly as confident when I move around. I count steps until I reach the door to our room. Opening it quietly I go inside. I shut the door softly, not wanting to disturb Liz. I can hear her breathing. I go over to the bed and feel for the start of an indentation. When I feel it I move carefully to the other side of the bed and crawl onto it, next to her. She immediately moves into me, nestling her body against my chest as I wrap my arms around her. My fingers automatically weave through her hair, touching the soft strands. I wonder if her hair will look as soft as it feels. Her skin too. And her lips, when I kiss them, they’re so full........will she look like I imagine? Will my imagination even come close to the perfection I know I’m going to see?
One of my hands untangles itself from her hair and I move it to rest on her belly. My thoughts are possessive. My Liz. No matter what, I want it to always be that way. I kiss her forehead and continue to rub her stomach. Our baby’s in there. That still amazes me. My sigh is barely audible. Liz has another doctor’s appointment at the end of June. By then I hope to actually be able to see the baby on the monitor during the ultrasound. In two days it’s going to become possible.
*****
Today I’m supposed to go visit the doctor. He wants to go over everything he’s going to do tomorrow. This time Liz will be with me. Maybe she’ll be able to decipher the doctor language. The doctor’s also going to explain the recovery process. Liz says she wants to know what to expect.
We sit in the office’s lobby and wait. I don’t say anything . I just grip one of Liz’s hands tightly. With her free hand she flips through a magazine. When we finally get called back, Liz leads the way and we’re placed in another room to wait some more. After awhile Liz lets go of my hand and moves it to my thigh. I’m too nervous to even notice this familiar gesture until her hands starts to move up further. My body begins to react before my brain does.
“Liz, stop! What are you doing?” I finally ask when I feel myself responding to her touch.
“Sorry,” she says. I hear the mischief in her voice. She doesn’t sound sorry. “I was just trying to help you relax. Maybe if I rub your neck for you, you’d feel better.”
Yes. If she’s going to rub something, the neck would be safer than what she previously had in mind. I’m pretty tense. A neck rub will be relaxing. I just have to stop thinking about what she was doing with her hand a moment ago now. I let her fingers loosen up my tight muscles. It’s working pretty well and I’m starting to feel better. I let myself forget about everything except what her hands are doing. I feel the warmth of her breath next to my ear. “You know, maybe we should get a hotel room tonight” she says softly.
“What for?” I ask. My shiver is involuntary as her breath continues to tickles the skin by neck.
“Because, the things I have in mind for you tonight could be considered inappropriate behavior for guests in some else’s home.” As she says this I feel her lips against my neck. She’s doing this on purpose. She’s making me crazy.
“Liz....” I say. It’s supposed to be a warning.
“Max,” she mocks back. “I can’t help that I want you.” Her lips press against mine and I lose my struggle to stay in control. Before things go too far though, there’s a knock on the door. We pull apart abruptly. I manage to choke out a “come in.” I can’t begin to imagine what the doctor must think when he sees us. I wonder what we look like.
“Hello, Max,” he says and I stick my hand out for him to shake in greeting. He does this and then addresses Liz. “You must be Liz,” he says.
“Yes, it’s very nice to meet you doctor,” she says.
“I see congratulations are in order for both of you. When are you due Liz?” the doctor asks.
“The third week of September,” she answers. I can hear the smile in her voice.
“Well, Max, you are a lucky man,” he says.
“Don’t I know it,” I reply quickly. There could be lots of meanings behind that. I’m not sure which to pick at the moment. I’m certainly lucky to have Liz. I squeeze her hand and she squeezes mine back.
The doctor then starts in, explaining what he’s going to be doing. “Right now, the scar tissue that resulted from the head trauma of your accident is blocking any signals from reaching your optic nerve. We’re going to use a laser to disintegrate the scar tissue and then stimulate the nerve. The procedure will probably take about four hours. You’ll need to be at the hospital at about ten am tomorrow morning. We’re going to have to put you under anesthetic. We can’t have you waking up while we’re working with your eyes. They’ll prep you and then if things are on schedule we’ll start at about one pm. When it’s all done, you’ll be able to go home. Of course that’s if there aren’t any complications. I don’t foresee any problems though.” He gets through with that. It doesn’t sound too terrible.
Liz starts asking him questions about what comes after the surgery.
“Well, his eyes will be bandaged. Max will need to keep those on for about a week. After that, you’ll come back in and we’ll check to see how things are progressing. You might need more time to heal. Once the bandages are permanently removed you’ll be able to see again. You’ll be sensitive to light at first and objects and shapes will be blurry. I don’t believe you’ll have any problems with depth perception once you’re able to focus. It might take some time but I think you’ll regain your sight completely, as good as it was before your accident.”
“Go back there and talk about the depth perception thing some more,” Liz says.
“Well, if Max had been born blind or had been blind for a considerably longer amount of time, he probably wouldn’t be able to see the way that you or I do. His perception of objects and distances would be off, so to speak. It has something to do with the functions of the brain. We use different parts of our brains to process different kinds of information. Because Max could see before, this part of his brain has already developed and knows how to function. It will make this recovery and adaptation process easier. Then again, I don’t know for sure. I can only go by the results of previous cases. It’s all very promising though.”
Now that I understand, or at least Liz does I tune out and try to think of other things. Liz asks some more questions. I don’t want to pay attention. All I can think though is that even after the surgery is done, I’ll still have a long way to go.
I tell the doctor thank you and we go. Liz drives us back to Alex and Isabel’s. “Hey there’s a note for us,” she tells me when we get inside the house. “You’re parents’ flight is getting in tonight at eight pm. Alex and Isabel are going out for dinner before they go pick them up. We’re supposed to help ourselves,” she pauses. “Do you know what that means?”
“That one of has to cook?” I ask as I fall onto the couch.
“Well yeah, but it means.....that we have the whole house to ourselves. So we won’t need that hotel room after all.” Liz is now on my lap, her fingers touching the exposed skin above the collar of my shirt. “So, you wanna get naked?” she asks. Her fingers start to unbutton my shirt and she presses light kisses along my throat.
“Oh, Definitely,” is my earnest response.
Later we’re sitting in bed eating pizza that Liz had delivered. I have to say that I’ve never had pizza like this before. There are anchovies on it and peppers and olives. I drew the line when she wanted pineapple on it too. That was just too much.
“How many pieces have you had?” I ask her between bites. I’ve been able to stomach the first piece so far, I’m working through the second.
I hear a mumbled response. “What was that? I didn’t hear you,” I tell her.
“I said, I’ve had four. Okay,” her voice sounds a little indignant.
“Okay, I just wanted to be sure you were actually eating this concoction. Tell me, did they say anything when you ordered this?”
Liz laughs at this. “They asked if it was a joke pizza. I told them it wasn’t a joke and the kid on the phone said ‘ oh, you must be pregnant then.”
We’re silent some more and I listen to her chew. I can’t eat any more. I’ve had my fill of little fish.
“So you never told me about shopping yesterday. Did you have fun? What did you get?” I’m actually really curious about this.
“Oh, I got lots of stuff for the baby. They have much better stuff here than they do back home, so I went ahead and bought some things. This way I won’t have to worry about it later on. I even found a crib, but I didn’t get it because I think you need to be there when I pick it out. Plus, the last time I talked to your mom, she said we could maybe use yours from when you were a baby. Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that I finally got my own clothes, so I won’t have to wear your shirts anymore. Although, they are comfy, I’m sure you’d rather wear them yourself.” I listen to her talk and can’t help but smile. She’s so excited about our baby.
We talk a little more and Liz starts to clean up.
“You aren’t going to finish?” she asks, referring to my half eaten piece of pizza.
I shake my head, “You want it?”
I can hear the hesitation in her voice when she says no. She goes to throw the box away and comes back quickly, crawling back into bed next to me.
“You have pizza sauce on your face,” she tells me. I move my hand up to wipe it off. “No let me,” she says. I wait for the contact of her skin on my face. I feel wet tongue against the side of my mouth instead.
Her lips move over mine and I’m already geared up for round two of today.
“You taste good,” she says softly as we continue to kiss.
“You taste like fish,” I reply.
Liz laughs. “You sure know how to sweet talk a girl Mr. Evans.”
“Ah, Miss. Parker, I really don’t want to talk at all right now,” I say as I move my lips away from hers and to other previously explored regions of her soft, amazing, naked body.
******
Chapter 32
I don’t think I ever got to sleep last night. How could I possibly sleep when there were so many things to think about? I’m scared for him. I’m afraid for myself too. I know he says he loves me, but he could take one look at me and decide that.....I can’t think about that right now. This isn’t about me. It ‘s about him. And all I can do right now is sit here, in this damn hospital chair and wait while his life is changing. I wish I was with him. I wish I could hold his hand and kiss him and tell him that everything is going to be okay.
Right now I’m sitting next to his mother trying to draw comfort from her presence. Every once in a while she’ll look up from the magazine she is reading and smile as she pats my hand. I tried to smile back at her the first couple of times but I can’t anymore. It seems like we’ve been waiting forever. This wasn’t supposed to take that long. My hand makes it’s way to rest on my baby. I find comfort here, knowing that part of Max is inside of me.
My thoughts drift to earlier this morning. I sat with him while we waited for them to take him into surgery. He’d been quiet most of the morning. Only speaking when someone asked him a question. Getting by with one word answers. I didn’t push him because I understood. As we sat there he gripped my hand and it was like a dam burst. He started talking. He told me everything. About the accident, how he’d always thought it was his own fault. But it’s been so long that he doesn’t remember any more. Then he told me about being scared. He was afraid before that if he ever got to see again, he’d go back to being a jackass like before. That he would judge people for their looks rather than their intelligence or their other qualities. He told me a lot of things. He told me he loved me and that even if the operation didn’t work, it wouldn’t matter to him as long as he still had me and our baby and our life together. Up to that point I had been pretty strong, but when he’d said those words, I broke down into tears. A few moments later they took him away. I held onto his hand for as long as I could. I even protested when they tried to make me let go. “ I should be with him,” I kept saying. Isabel had finally taken my hand and made me sit next to her mother.
That’s where I’ve stayed now for the last two or three hours. It seems like time is a practical joker. When you want it to go slowly, so you can live in a moment, it passes all too quickly. But now, when I want nothing more than for the waiting to be over, time stands almost still, dragging out the wait , making it agonizing.
Isabel keeps asking me questions about the baby, trying to distract me. But she’s repeating questions I’ve already answered in previous conversations. So I start ignoring her. Then Diane is asking me questions and pretty soon Phillip. I love Max’s family, I really do, but if they don’t just let me sit out the torture of this wait, I won’t be held responsible for anything I say. I can’t have a rational conversation right now. My mind is full of about a million things that could go wrong and my heart, it aches for Max.
*******
“Mrs. Evans, “ the doctor says as he comes out to where we’ve been waiting. He’s looking at me but Max’s mother stands up. He smiles at Diane but speaks directly to me. “ I mean the other Mrs. Evans.” For some insane reason this makes me smile.
“I’m not an Evans yet,” I tell him. “But soon.” The doctor nods his understanding. “You can call me Liz,” I say to him. He shakes my hand. We met yesterday and were introduced but somehow that isn’t even important.
“Liz, I just came out here to tell you that we’ve finished. We managed to disintegrate the scar tissue and stimulate the optic nerve. They’re finishing up with the bandages right now. Max is still under the anesthesia and probably will be for awhile longer. One of you can go in and sit with him when they take him back to the room. We’ll probably keep him here until tomorrow morning, just until anesthesia has completely worn off. Then you can take him home.” He addresses some questions that Phillip asks him and then turns back to me. “Liz, I was going to tell you that Max made us listen to your CD while we were working on him. He said it would make him feel better. You’ve got quite a voice there. You wouldn’t want to make me a copy of that would you?” He smiles and I blush because I can’t believe Max did that. Sometimes he does the strangest things. I tell the doctor that I’ll see what I can do.
A nurse comes to get me a moment later and I go in to sit by Max in his room. When I see him I want to cry. I don’t think that he’s awake yet, but his body is shaking. The doctor said that would happen. And his eyes are covered. The bandages cover his nose. I pull the chair close to him and take his hand, kissing his palm and leaning my cheek against it. I stay like that for awhile before Diane comes in. She asks if she can sit with him for awhile. I agree because I need to use the bathroom. My bladder is going to explode. You should never try to hold it when your pregnant. It makes things that much worse.
After I use the restroom I go and have Isabel give me her cell phone so I can call Michael and Maria. I’m sure they’re waiting to hear what’s going on. Maria answers the phone and starts asking me about a million questions. I answer what I can before Michael takes the phone away from her and I have to repeat myself. I don’t talk long and promise to call them later after Max wakes up.
I try to go back into Max but Isabel says that she wants to see him now. So I let her go. I guess as long as I’m there when he wakes up, it won’t matter what I’m doing now. I take Katia with me down to the hospital cafeteria and I buy us both a candy bar. Isabel will probably get upset about it later. She doesn’t want her daughter to eat things with so much sugar. She’s says she’s trying to promote good eating habits. I think she’s afraid of dealing with the sugar rush that comes with snacks. This baby is going to come out of the womb begging for chocolate. I’m addicted. That could also be part of my insane weight gain.
After we finish our snack, Katia and I head back up to Max’s room. Isabel comes out of Max’s room and I hear her ask Katia what she’s got on her face. I sneak into the room before she finds out it’s chocolate.
I sit down next to the bed and take Max’s hand in mine.
“Liz,” his voice is barely audible.
“Yes, Max, I’m right here,” I assure him and squeeze his hand. He mouth curves up into the slightest hint of a smile.
“Good. I was getting tired of pretending to be asleep. Isabel wouldn’t go away.” I laugh when he says this.
He tries to say something else, but I stop him. He needs to rest. I talk to him instead. “So what’s this I hear about special music in the operating room?” I ask teasingly. Now he really does smile.
“It was my way of keeping you close,” he tells me.
“I’ll always be close,” is my response. I don’t know why I’m being so emotional. I’m getting all weepy again. Max brings our joined hands up to his lips and kisses the back of my hand.
“Could you sing to me now?” he asks softly. I agree and for some reason the only song I can even remember the words to is a lullaby. When I finish singing Max smiles again. “You have to sing that to the baby,” is the last thing he says as he drifts off to sleep.

********
Things were a little groggy when I first woke up after the surgery. I don’t remember much until later. I vaguely recall Liz singing to me. After that I must have gone back to sleep. I don’t really feel a whole lot different at the moment. It’s been three days since I was released from the hospital. The bandages are still on and I can’t open my eyes yet. Nothing has changed. Oddly enough, that’s comforting. It’s less scary this way. Liz has been doting on me since we got back to Isabel and Alex’s place. I think she and my mother even argued over who got to take care of me. Liz only won that tiff when my mother had to go back to work. I’m thinking that I might possibly milk this for all it’s worth. I won’t tell Liz that though. A pissed off pregnant woman probably isn’t something I particularly want to learn about right now.
Liz is insisting that we go for a walk this afternoon. She says she needs the exercise because she’s getting fat. I love her dearly but she’s right. Either she needs to lay off on the chocolate a little or there’s something else going on. Did we ever discuss the possibility of twins? I’m sure the doctor would have said something to us by now. She probably just seems to be big because she was so tiny to begin with. We’ll find out soon enough. She’s got another doctor’s appointment coming up. The bandages will be off by then and maybe I’ll even be able to see. Here’s hoping anyway.
It’s been a few days since Liz and I have....shall we say expressed our love intimately. I’m really damn horny right now and Liz just keeps sidestepping this fact. I pinched her on the ass today and she got all huffy about it saying that just because she was taking care of me didn’t mean that she was going to give into all my demands.
“You sure sound cute when you’re angry,” I told her. She laughed when she heard this and the result was a little action for both of us. We were interrupted by a very poorly timed phone call from my overly concerned mother. I can’t wait until Liz and I are home by ourselves and I can see her and have my way with her. Yeah, that’s definitely a reason to get better fast. Maybe some mental shoves will speed things up. They do say that most of the time illness is a mental thing. So maybe if I want it badly enough, I’ll heal fast and see the whole damn world again soon.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:14:16 PM
Chapter 33
I’ve been telling myself over and over for the last hour not to get my hopes up. They’re just going to take the bandages off today. The doctor already explained that my vision wouldn’t just be instantaneously perfect. It’s going to take time to adjust. I’m personally having a very hard time accepting this in the whole scheme of things. It just doesn’t seem right that I’m not going to see results right away. Liz has tried to be calm and rational and supportive, but that didn’t last very long. I made the mistake of mentioning that maybe she’d better lay off the chocolate for awhile. I had meant that in the most constructive way possible but she didn’t see things that way. I slept on the couch last night. My back hurts like hell now and she won’t talk very much. And seeing how I’m still blind, it kind of sucks. I bet she’s making faces at me and glaring. I’d laugh if I didn’t care about where I was sleeping tonight.
We’re sitting in the doctor’s office now. Waiting again. It seems like we’ve done this quite a lot recently. Liz can’t take any more waiting and gets up to go use the restroom. So now I’m here in the room alone. And I think that this must be what it’s like to be isolated from the world. I’m still in the dark. All I can rely on are sounds and smells and touch. And right now all I can smell is disinfectant. I feel the hardness of the seat beneath me. My feet shuffle nervously back and forth against the poorly carpeted floor. I can hear the resistance of the rubber from my sneaker as it comes into contact with my other foot. My shoes squeak. I wonder if I’ll always be this aware of the things around me, the things that I can’t see. Will my sight dull these other senses?
Will I even see? Now that is the real question that haunts me as I sit here. I hear the squeak of the door opening into the room. I smell Liz first. Lavender. Our whole house smells like this now. Every room is filled with her.
I hear a male voice as well and I know that it’s time. Here goes nothing.
“So Max, you ready for this?” the doctor asks. For some reason I’m incapable of speech right now. I finally nod as Liz takes my hand and squeezes it. The doctor guides me over into a different chair. Liz described it earlier as sort of a dentists chair without the tools. The bandages come off and I’m instructed to open my eyes. The light burns like a son of a bitch as I do so. But it’s light and I can see it. My heart skips a beat. It seems like it takes forever for my eyes to adjust to the light. I look around slowly and blurred shapes become apparent. I eventually bring my gaze over to where Liz is sitting. I can’t make out her features. But her shape, her amazingly small body is apparent. As is the bulge of her tummy when she stands up and moves towards me.
“What do you see Max?” her words are whispered. Not enough. I still can’t see enough. I want to be able to see all of her.
I finally find my voice and answer. “Shapes, forms, blurry images. It’s all a little fuzzy and out of focus,” I tell both Liz and the doctor.
“Good. That’s very good. Your eyes are going to adjust quickly. I can tell,” the doctor says. This makes me smile. Quickly. It doesn’t seem to be quick enough.
The damn light still burns. It makes me want to keep my eyes closed. Which I find to be ironic. They give me a pair of dark sunglasses. Liz leads me out of the office. It’s like sensory overload because before I know it I have a headache. It’s overwhelming, to the point where I want to just shut myself off from it all. But I can’t because at the same time it’s so amazing that this is even possible.
Out in the lobby Isabel has been waiting impatiently and I try to hide behind Liz when a figure comes at me from one of the chairs. I recognize a blurred mass of blonde hair. And tall, Isabel is taller than I remembered. She hugs me and starts asking questions. I answer her even though I really just want to be left to my own devices. Liz seems to understand this but Isabel does not.
The drive home is made up of Isabel’s chatter as I try to take in the scenery around me. It was a little hard to walk at first. My depth perception is a little stunted. I’ll have to work on that.
Liz has barely spoken since we left the doctor’s office. She just keeps holding on to me. I don’t think that it’s to help me either. I think that she’s afraid. I want to be able to reassure her, but this is all just so new and scary. I feel like a bastard right now because whatever I say or do isn’t going to make her feel any better.
We get back to the house and Isabel calls our parents immediately. Liz says she’s a little tired and I tell her to go rest for awhile. She goes up to our room. Shortly after that, Alex comes into the house with Katia.
She’s short. Her little form kind of reminds me of Isabel when we were kids. She keeps bouncing up and down in front of me, saying “Uncle Max” over and over. She’s sort of this little blur of excited energy. I’m amazed yet again. Maybe Liz had the right idea. I should take a nap or something. My brain is in overdrive, it needs to settle down.
I very slowly make my way upstairs to the room, still counting in my head. Not because it’s habit but because being able to see doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to recognizing things now. The door to our room is locked. I’m about to knock when I hear a noise from inside. My hearing is still in tact and it sounds like muffled sobs. My heart breaks. Right now I regret this more than anything. If I hadn’t had this operation things wouldn’t be changing for us, she wouldn’t be in there crying and I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. We’d be comfortably spending the summer afternoon back at home. Maybe getting the baby’s room ready. Please God, I hope that this is going to get easier.
*******
I don’t know why I’m sitting in the room crying. I should be happy. I just...... this is just......all so overwhelming. I can’t even begin to imagine how Max is feeling right now. It has to be so strange trying to take in everything. Having it all be so new. It would be like having to learn to walk again. I’m just overly emotional right now. I’m used to Max doting over me and these past couple of weeks its been different. He never seemed unsure before. He was always so comfortable the way he was. It was all effortless and despite being unable to see he seemed almost infallible, like nothing could effect him. But this, now.......he’s more lost now than I’ve ever seen him. He was so unsure and god, he was even shaking when we walked out of the doctor’s today. It just really hit me hard I guess.
I finally fall asleep. I don’t wake up until later when I hear knocking on the door. It’s Isabel, she tells me dinner is ready. I get up and try to make myself look presentable. As I stand in front of the mirror I realize something. Max is going to see me now. That’s just......wow.
***********
I’ve been laying here awake for hours now. Liz is in bed next to me. She’s curled up on her side. My eyes hurt. They’re tired. I need to give in and go to sleep. But I can’t. I want to watch her.
A audible sigh escapes my lips. The frustration I’m feeling right now is probably palpable. Liz has been pulling away from me all night. Dinner was the first example. She started to tell me where things were on the table. But she just stopped all of the sudden. And the closeness, it’s sort of faded. We used to be touching, always and now today, she’s just sort of not there. She’s close, but not nearly as close as I need her.
I shut my eyes. As I do so I feel the bed shift and Liz moves away. No. This is not happening. It has to stop now. I turn towards her and pull her to me. Wrapping her in my arms. “Liz,” I whisper. “Don’t do this. Don’t pull away.” I feel wetness on my arm and I know that she is crying silently.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “ I ......it’s just that, I’m so used to helping you and being close to you that it’s hard not having you need me for things.” And now I understand.
“Liz, baby, don’t cry. I still need your help. I still need you. I.......this is all so new. It’s going to take a lot of time and adjustment. We have to work through this together. I still can’t see very well. I still need help. I still need you to tell me to watch my step and I still need you to help me get my food. Did you not see me spill when I tried to pour my own drink tonight?” At this she chuckles softly and I know that all she really needs is a little assurance.
She moves in my arms and in the darkness I register the outline of her face. Her features are still blurred but the dark curtain of her hair is visible. One hand weaves its way through her long tresses while the other touches her face gently, seeking out and exploring each feature. I bring my lips to hers, kissing her gently.
We both pull away and I swear that I can make out a smile forming on her lips. When my eyes close, I can still see that smile.
******
It’s the end of June now. Slowly but surely, it’s all coming back to me. Each detail that I can make out makes life just a little bit sweeter. Liz and I have been back home now for awhile and we’ve been spending time working on the house. Liz thought that it might help me rediscover the house if I had to help clean it and paint and things like that. Cleaning proved difficult at first. The first time I helped, I moved a lamp off of the end table to dust it. When I went to put it back I sort of thought the table was closer than it was. We had to go buy a new lamp.
At first, for some insane reason, I didn’t pay much attention but as the days passed, Liz became clearer and clearer. Her features more prominent. I saw her ring the other day. Not up close but from across the room. It caught the light and startled me. But I could see it. The image of that moment will be forever implanted into my brain. Liz was standing there, her right hand on her back and her left hand resting on her stomach, on the baby. She was looking out the window, laughing at the neighbor kids. I’ve decided to buy a video camera to capture moments just like that.
Tomorrow we have a doctor’s appointment for the baby. Liz is going to have an ultrasound. She want’s me to see the baby. But I’m not thinking about that right now. The moonlight has managed to make it’s way into the dark of the room and it’s beams are highlighting Liz’s face. I can barely breathe. She’s so beautiful. I mean, I’ve known that she was. But this is the first time that her features have ever been so completely clear. And she’s breathtaking. I could stare at her like this forever. My eyes take in her face, the arch of her brow, the way her nose tilts ever so subtly. Her lips are parted slightly. I contemplate waking her up so that I can look into her eyes. Instead I settle for watching her sleep. Her chest rises and falls with each breath she takes and her hands are splayed protectively across her belly. I feel my heart constrict as I continue to look at her. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve this beautiful creature. I just hope I can always be worthy of her and her love.
She shifts in her sleep and reaches out for me. I pull her to me and she rests her head against my chest. Sleep evades me and I spend the night looking at her and running my fingers through her hair.

Chapter 34
When I woke up this morning, Max looked so peaceful I couldn’t bring myself to wake him. It’s still pretty early. Maria’s coming over this morning to go over new music. We’re thinking about doing an actual demo recording. I don’t know how well it will go over but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Although, singing, it’s not my dream any more. I’ve already got what I want in life. Max and our baby. Maria and I are going to work on music until lunch and then Max and I are going to go to the doctor. I think Max is really excited about today. He wants to see the sonogram. He keeps asking me questions about it. He’s so cute when he’s curious.
I think that we’ve managed to hold up pretty well. These past few weeks have been stressful for us both. But I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. Everyday, he says things are becoming clearer and clearer. And his depth perception is getting better too. It’s an adjustment. But one we’re both working at together.
He’s been helping around the house as much as he can. It’s getting harder and harder for me to do the things that I was used to doing before. Max puts up with my mood swings and teary outburts quite well when these things happen. At least he stopped giving me a hard time about the chocolate. He was even nice enough to go get me some double fudge brownie ice cream one day last week. He and Michael had been out doing errands so Max could start to relearn the layout of the town. He came back all smiles with a bouquet of daisies and the ice cream.
When Maria finally arrives, late I might add, I tell her that she has to be quiet because Max is sleeping still. She agrees and we set up to start practicing. Max let me move some furniture out of the basement so that I could use it as a practice room. Isabel is going to have my piano shipped to the house in July so it will be a real practice room. Right now it’s just some musty old furniture and some unpacked boxes.
We practice for a while and then Maria offers to go get us something to drink. She’s being silly and says that I shouldn’t be going up and down the stairs so much. Before I know it both she and Max are going to have me confined to bed rest. I hear voices in the kitchen and know that Max must be up now. Maria’s laughter is heard and then the sound of Max’s own laughter drifts toward me. I wonder what’s so funny. Maria tromps down the stairs a moment later followed by Max. They’re both smiling.
“What’s funny?” I ask as Maria hands me a bottle of water.
Max just shakes his head. “Maria came up behind me....”
“I was trying to sneak up on him, but Mr. I have super senses here knew it was me before I could scare him,” Maria finishes for him.
“Hey, just because I can see now, doesn’t mean that the rest of me has to shut down.”
“It’s still super freaky. I mean it’s like he has eyes in the back of his head.” Maria shakes her head and eventually shrugs. Max seeing again has affected us all. Even Michael. Now he and Max can sit and watch sports together. And Max is to the point where he can see a foul and yell at the TV and refs for bad calls. The first time that had happened I’d laughed for a good ten minutes I think. It was just so funny to watch him yell at the TV. Sometimes guys are so weird.
“Actually, Maria, I smelled you way before my third and fourth eyes saw you,” he jokes. Maria gasps pretending to be offended and I can’t help but laugh. “So what are you ladies up to?” Max asks. I’ve already told him about ten times why Maria is here. Sometimes I think that he stopped listening when he started seeing.
“Maria’s here to practice,” I remind him.
“Oh, that’s right. Do you guys care if I sit in on your session?” He asks. His eyes have been locked on me since he came down the stairs. It sort of reminds me of when I first came to live with him. How he would look at me, or at least look at me and it would feel like he was appraising me. Now it’s like he really is appraising me. I know that he’s starting to see more of me. At least a less blurred version of me at any rate. He hasn’t said anything to me yet though. I wonder what he thinks. Do I look the way he pictured me? Am I what he expected? He hasn’t pulled away physically from me. He’s still very affectionate. At nights he likes to rub my stomach. So at least he doesn't’ seem repulsed by me. But maybe I’m still a blur to him.
His gaze is intense. It’s like he’s trying to memorize and analyze what he’s seeing at he looks at me. I start to fidget with my glass and then I set it down. My hand unconsciously moves and I cover my scar. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. For awhile it didn’t even bother me, but now my self-consciousness over it has set back in. I wish I could put all of these insecurities behind me.
We go through a couple of songs while Max sits and listens. At first I’m nervous and my voice cracks a little embarrassingly. I get better though when I notice that Max has closed his eyes. He smiles while he listens. I relax a little.
We take Maria out for lunch and Michael meets us at the restaurant. Lunch is good. We talk and laugh and are generally very happy. Max and I leave Michael and Maria and head over to the doctor’s office for my exam.
“You know, maybe I should go and get my driver’s license again,” Max suggests as we drive.
“Can you?” It’s only been a couple of weeks. Can he see enough to even do that?
Max shrugs. “I’m not sure, but I bet it wouldn’t hurt to try. Then I can at least help out more. Besides you shouldn’t be driving anyway.” He’s right. It’s getting to the point that if I want to fit behind the wheel I have to scoot the seat back. And when that happens the pedals get further and further away.
“Okay, just let me know when you want to do it,” I tell him. Another step. It’s probably a pretty huge step for him. Especially if he thinks about his own car accident.
We don’t say much else but Max grips my hand as we make our way inside to wait for my appointment. I give them my name to check in and we go sit down. I notice Max looking at all of the other pregnant women that are sitting there waiting.
“This is a little intimidating,” he finally admits in a whisper.
“Why?” I ask him.
“ I just.....I mean wow, the idea of all of these emotional women in one room it’s just a little scary,” he teases. The big grin on his face earns him a very deserved smack on the arm from me.
We get called back into the examination room and Max starts opening drawers and looking and playing with everything. I sit on the table in a hospital gown that doesn’t quite seem to cover everything. When Max finally turns around his gaze is appraising. I wait self-consciously for him to say something. I’m probably just one big blob to him. He’s about to say something, probably about staying away from chocolate again, when the doctor comes in.
For awhile we are preoccupied by our chat with the doctor. After a quick physical exam the nurse comes in and they get me set up on the table and bring out the ultrasound equipment. Max looks a little overwhelmed. He was here for the last checkup but he didn’t actually see any of this. When the put the jelly on my stomach Max starts asking more questions.
“What is that? What’s it for? What does it do?” I roll my eyes as they answer his questions. He still looks nervous though.
A moment later and we hear it......the baby’s heartbeat. And it’s the most beautiful sound in the world.
*****
When I hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time my own heart almost stops. I can’t believe it. It’s so amazing. It’s beyond words. I clasp Liz’s hand in mine. At this her eyes lock with mine and I see her more clearly now than I’ve ever seen her before. More clearly than last night even. Her eyes are brimmed with unshed tears. We’re both in awe.
The doctor is mumbling something to herself at the moment. She looks a little perplexed and asks the nurse to turn up the volume on the monitor. After listening for a moment she smiles and then she moves that little thingy around Liz’s stomach some more.
“You see this here?” she asks as she points to a round fuzzy object on the screen. My eyes take this in.
“Is that the head?” I ask her. The awe in my voice is very evident.
“You’re right, that’s the head. And see this here,” she says pointing to lower half of the screen. “that’s another head.”
“Oh God, our baby has two heads?” This is out of my mouth before I can even really think. The doctor laughs out loud at this. After a moment she looks at me and shakes her head. “No, Max. Not one baby with two heads. Two babies, two heads. That’s what we were hearing earlier. Two heartbeats.” My mouth hits the floor. Two babies......twins. Oh God. This is just........ I look over at Liz and her beautiful eyes are large and full of tears.
“Max,” her voice sounds a little unsure. But the happiness I hear there only adds to my own joy.
“We’re gonna have twins!” I exclaim to the entire room even though they are more than aware of this.
“Well, this explains a lot, doesn’t it Liz?” The doctor says with a smile. “Now see, your weight is perfectly normal under these circumstances. And everything looks healthy. We’ve got two strong heartbeats and....” she goes on and points out legs and arms and even their little fingers and toes. Then she asks if we want to know the babies’ sexes. I look over at Liz and after a brief moment of hesitation she nods her approval.
“Okay, see this here....” the doctor starts to say.
“That’s a penis!” I interrupt gleefully. I’m gonna have a son.
The doctor chuckles and shakes her head. “Sorry that’s just an arm, Max. This...” she points to a spot on the right and I try to get over my disappointment “...is the penis.” Screw disappointment. I’m gonna have a son! Would it be wrong to dance around the room? I think I’ll wait a moment on that to see about the other baby first. Liz is smiling that beautiful smile of hers and I can’t help but lean over and kiss her.
“Ready for the other one?” the doctor asks. We both nod. She moves her little instrument again and there she is, our baby girl. Liz’s smile gets even bigger than before and this time our lips linger a little longer. After a moment I’m suddenly very anxious to get home and.....celebrate.
Liz arranges for another appointment in two weeks and suddenly I’m in protective mode. It’s like it’s just finally hit me. This is the most precious woman in the world to me and she’s carrying my children. I help her into the car and protest when she says that she’s driving. I really can’t argue much because as we discussed before, I don’t exactly have a driver’s license. Well now that is definitely going to be a priority. There is no way Liz is going to be running around. She’s going to need rest. And I’m going to make sure that things around the house get taken care of. I’ll get the groceries and clean and she can just relax and eat chocolate.
I can’t help but watch her as she drives. She’s so beautiful. Her eyes are sparkling and she’s smiling and damn near glowing with happiness. My own reflection reveals a big goofy grin and wide eyes.
“Who are we going to tell first?” I ask.
“I’m not sure. There’s so many people, I mean Alex and Isabel, your parents, Michael and Maria...” Her voice waivers a little bit at the end and I know that she’s thinking about her own parents. I shift in the front seat and scoot as close to her as I can and put my arm around her. I wish I could hold her. I will when we get home.
When we arrive at the house, Maria and Michael are there waiting for us. Liz is supposed to go shopping with Maria this afternoon and Michael was going to hang out with me. There’s a baseball game on TV I think.
“What’s up with the goofy grin Maxwell?” Michael asks when we’re all sitting in the living room.
“Michael, Max got to see the baby today,” Maria informs him, rolling her eyes. “Did I not tell you they were at the doctor’s today? God, I swear you have shit in your ears sometimes.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you just said,” Michael says. Maria’s nostrils flare up and then Michael quickly apologizes. “It was a joke honey. I’m sorry.”
I shake my head and then reluctantly get up from my comfortable seat next to Liz. “Do you want anything?” I ask.
“No I’m good,” is her reply.
“Are you sure?” Before she can answer I think of something. “Maybe you should put your feet up and rest. It’s been a long day and if your going to go shopping you should definitely rest first. Are you sure you should go shopping today? Maybe you should just stay home. Maria can pick up whatever you need...”
“Max, I’m pregnant, not an invalid. I’m fine. I don’t need anything right now. Maria and I are going shopping. We’ll be back before dinner. If you want to do something, you and Michael can take care of dinner for us, other than that.....just relax.”
She’s taking this all very well. Her eyes are still sparkling despite the fact that I probably just annoyed her.
I just nod and head off to the kitchen to get myself something to drink. I bring everyone something back. Liz gulps down her glass of water and looks at me a little sheepishly. See, I did a good thing. I knew she was thirsty. Okay, Max. Let’s not get carried away here.
The conversation is still on the doctor’s visit. Maria is asking Liz all sorts of questions. Michael looks a little panicked. Maria must notice this. “Relax cheese head, I’m just curious. We won’t be making any trips to that particular doctor any time soon,” she assures him.
Liz gives me a questioning look “Should we......?” and I know that she wants to tell them. I nod and we both smile. I notice Maria eying us suspiciously.
“Liz and I have some news about the visit. We’re going to have uhm, we’re gonna have a little boy and....”
“a little girl,” Liz finishes the sentences happily. The room is silent for a moment and then I hear the patented Maria freak out scream. Next thing I know are flailing arms attacking us both as we try to sit on the couch.
“OH MY GOD!” Maria yells. “ You’re gonna have twins. Oh wow! That’s just ....Wow! Michael? Did you hear that? They’re gonna have two babies....that’s going to be so.......so much work,” she finally finishes her rant. She’s really thinking about this now. After a moment of contemplation she’s all excited again. “Have you picked out names yet? I think you need to have something along the lines of Maria or Michael in the name. Don’t you think Michael? Michael? Say something!”
I roll my eyes and chuckle at Maria’s behavior. Sometimes she’s so funny.
Michael has been quiet but the smile on his face is rare. And he gets up and gives both Liz and I a hug. “Congratulations you two,” he says sincerely. He pauses. “I’d like to be bugging your phone when you call and tell Isabel. She’ll flip out. Maybe not like Maria but there will be definite freaking out.” I agree. Isabel will probably start crying. I prefer Maria’s version of the freak out.
“Oh, I’m so going to spoil them both. It’ll be worse than Katia. I’m just so happy for you guys,” Maria cannot sit still.
Michael eventually gets her to calm down and then Liz and Maria decide to leave. Michael says he’s going to cook dinner for Liz and I. Then he’ll take Maria and make her scarce. She’s still got a tendency to interrupt at inopportune moments.
So the evening is going to be all about celebratory alone time with Liz. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve actually been ‘together’ if you will. I’m not even sure why. It was just a huge period of adjustment for us both. We were more about comforting each other than anything else. I believe it’s high time for a little seduction and romance.
As I get things ready for our romantic dinner my mind drifts back to before, when I couldn’t see. That seems like a different lifetime all together now. It’s so strange the way things work. My mind though, my senses they remember things. Things like the way it felt to touch Liz, the way if felt to kiss her and not break apart even though we both needed oxygen. The way her hands felt when she touched me....her lips. I glance at the clock in the bedroom it’s a quarter til six. She’s supposed to be home at six thirty.
I change the sheets on the bed and change my clothes. Then I pick up the bedroom, straightening the furniture and hanging up clothes. I can smell Michael’s cooking coming up from the kitchen. The man is a genius.
I dig through the closets for a while. Candles. I want to fill the house with candles. Our bedroom more specifically. I find the mother load after going through some of Isabel’s old stuff that she’d left for some reason.
By six twenty, dinner is all ready and the candles are lit. Michael has vacated the premises and called Maria telling her just to drop Liz off. She’s wanted to know why and he’d told her that it had something to do with a present from me to Liz.
At six twenty-five I’m standing next to the dining room table looking at the picture of Liz and I that’s sitting on the stand. It’s from Christmas. We’re both smiling and while I appear to be looking at the camera her adoring gaze is directed at me. She’s so beautiful.
The front door opens and a moment later Liz comes into the room.
“Max,” her voice is a whisper as she takes in the sight of the room and the table set to the hilt with only the candles for light.
“Hey,” is my reply. Nothing else is said as I move towards her. A moment goes by and then she’s in my arms. My lips brush hers gently at first. I was right before. Her lips look as soft as they feel. And her skin. It looks as soft as it feels. Her hair looks like silk....it feels like silk as I run my fingers through.
As the kiss deepens I fight the urge to shut my eyes and get lost in this, our kisses, our passion , our love. I want to witness this all. I want to see her. I want to see her as I love her. And that’s what tonight is going to be about.

Chapter 35
I can hardly believe my eyes when I walk into the house. There are candles everywhere and flowers....the table is set for dinner. It’s all just so amazing. I can’t believe that he did this. I barely have to time to register my surrounding before he’s here taking me in his arms, kissing me until my knees are weak. If he wasn’t holding me I’d be nothing but a big puddle of mush on the floor.
The gasp that escapes my lips is the result of something incredible. His eyes. The emotions that I see dancing in his beautiful eyes blow me away. I could drown in his eyes and the love that’s reflected there in this moment. And for the first time it really hits me. He can see me.
“Max,” I whisper again. He stops my words with another mind blowing kiss. I feel weak all over now.
“I love you,” he tells me when we break apart. He wastes no time and kisses the corners of my mouth. Then he presses feather light kisses to each cheek and the tip of my nose. He leans his forehead against mine. “I have something to tell you,” he says softly. I nod because in that moment I’m incapable of speech.
“Last night,” he starts, his voice low and soft, “I couldn’t sleep. So I was watching you and I was ....... awe struck is the only word that even comes close. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life. I was awake for hours just looking at you, trying to memorize your face. I always knew you were beautiful, but for you to be this beautiful......It made me wonder how you could possibly even love someone like me. Then today when we found out about the babies.....I could see you and everything around us so clearly and you looked at me and I knew that as unworthy as I am, you love me. I could see it when I looked into your eyes. Being able to see that love......that’s just the best gift I’ve ever been given in my life.”
Tears are flowing freely down my cheeks as he speaks. The adoration in his eyes is humbling. I feel like I don’t deserve him. His voice cracks with emotion as he goes on. “ I did this tonight because I just want to be with you....I need to be with you and make love with you and lose myself in seeing you, really seeing you.” His hands are now cupping my face and his thumbs wipe at my tears as they continue to fall. He leans forward and kisses those tears. When he starts to pull back my mouth seeks out his and I close my eyes. Then he pulls away. “No, keep your eyes open sweetheart,” he pleads softly. I open them and once again get lost in the intensity of his gaze. After a moment he smiles that heartbreaking smile of his and kisses my forehead.
“Michael made us dinner. Are you hungry?” he asks. I nod and slowly he starts to move away.
“Not for food though,” I whisper. I watch in fascination as his expression changes and his eyes darken quickly. I’ve always wanted to make that happen. I’ve always wanted to see his eyes come alive with emotions, especially desire. We stand there for a moment, not able to tear our gazes away from each other.
Max looks away first. I can see his control slipping. A minute longer and I have a feeling that we’d be tearing each other’s clothes off. He grips my hand in his and pulls me over to the dining room table.
“You need food. You’re going to need lots of energy for later,” I feel myself get even more flushed and he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, making me laugh. This takes the edge off of the intensity of the moment. After I’m seated Max goes into the kitchen and bring back two plates of food. He sits a plate in front of me and another in front of himself. I glance at his plate and then raise my eyebrows, giving him a look.
“What?”
“You’ve got more food than me,” I say. He laughs and switches our plates.
“I thought you weren’t hungry?” he teases. I try to glare at him but he only laughs more.
“I’m eating for three, in case you’ve forgotten,” is my reply.
“Nope, I’m well aware of that,” he says happily.
The rest of dinner is pretty much a blur of tension and frustration. I don’t even finish eating I’m too anxious for the next portion of the evening. Max seems unfazed even though he keeps squirming in his seat every once in a while. Good. Maybe he’s getting ancy too.
After dinner he refuses to let me clean up and leads me into the living room where he puts on music.
“May I have this dance?” he asks with another smile capable of knocking a woman off her feet. I’m more than a little unsteady at this point and more than willing to be knocked.....off of my feet and onto our bed. His eyes are dancing with poorly concealed happiness. Who in their right mind could resist?
So we dance and he makes me laugh and turns me on in the same breath even as he’s turning me around the room to the music. It’s all so natural to be like this. For him to be holding me. It’s like we’ve been doing this our whole lives. And for a moment I’ve even forgotten that things used to be a little different. I remember another dance of ours, how he moved so gracefully. He still does, only this time, his eyes are focused on me and nothing else.
As he brings me closer to him, I rest my head against his shoulder. After a moment I feel his lips brushing against my neck. It feels good so I let him continue. I have to bit my lip to keep from making any sounds. That doesn’t last long. A soft sigh escapes my mouth when I feel his lips touching the sensitive skin at the juncture of my neck and jaw.
He leans back, smiling. “ I don’t know about you but I think that it’s time for bed.” He start to lead me to the stairs.
“Are you tired already, Max? It’s only eight o’clock,” I tease.
He smirks. “Oh, no. I’m not tired yet. I said we were going to bed, I didn’t say we were sleeping.” He winks at me and starts to take the stairs two at a time. I follow behind, a little slower. This is obviously unacceptable to him because he picks me up and carries me the rest of the way up the stairs.
“Max, put me down. I’m too heavy. You’ll hurt yourself,” I protest.
He shakes his head. “You my dear, are lighter than a feather,” he says sweetly and then plants a kiss on my forehead.
“Fine, but if you hurt yourself, all your plans for tonight will be wasted.”
“Oh, nothing could stop me from carrying out my plans for tonight,” he tells me as he carries me into our room, depositing me on the bed.
“Now first things first. Let’s get you undressed.” He starts to unbutton my shirt. It’s actually his shirt. I never could stop stealing his clothes.
“I think that you look really sexy in my shirts,” Max says as he continues to unfastens the buttons of my shirt. His hands pause when his fingers graze my breast. His eyes look up and meet mine. I have to remind myself to breathe.
******
I decide that I had better let her undress herself. It’s too dangerous for me to do it. I could snap and lose the last shred of control that I’ve managed to maintain, thus ruining all my carefully thought out plans. While she does this I leave the room to begin the next phase of her seduction. I leave her with instructions to stay put until I come and get her. She looks so cute sitting there, half undressed, her eyebrows raised questioningly. I can see that she trusts me and it’s very obvious that her curiosity will eventually overrule any other hesitation on her part.
I head to the bathroom where I start the water in the bathtub and add a decent amount of Liz’s lavender bubble bath to the water. While the tub fills I light a few candles around the room to set the mood. Just enough light to be able to see her.....perfect.
I wait and watch the bathtub as it fills with water and bubbles. When I’m satisfied that it’s full I shut the water off and hurry back to the room. The door to the room is open and I see Liz standing by the window in her bathrobe looking out and up at the stars. I think I could die happy, remembering this moment and everything about the way she looks right now.
“Okay, follow me,” I tell her once I find my voice. She starts a little, surprised that I’m there but obeys and I lead her to the bathroom where I instruct her to derobe and make herself comfortable in the tub. She starts to undo the sash of her robe when I suddenly remember the towels. I go out and grab them quickly. When I return Liz is already settled into the bath of bubbles. I stand there and enjoy the sight in front of me. She’s pulled her hair back now and it’s in a loose knot on the top of her head. There are few strands that have escaped. Liz looks perfectly relaxed and her eyes are closed. She is the picture of perfection. And she’s mine.
“So now what?” she asks, not even bothering to open her eyes.
“Well,” I say slowly as I start to remove my own clothes. “We take a bath.”
She cocks an eyebrow, “We?” she asks, smiling.
“Uh huh.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think that there’s any more room in here.” As if to emphasize her points she moves and rests a leg on the side of the tub, taking up as much room as possible.
“You’ll just have to make room,” I tell her.
“I suppose, if I must.” The smile on her face is enough to entice any man into unthinkable acts just because she requests it. She surprises me when she stands up abruptly and pulls me towards her.
“You’re going to tease me all night, aren’t you?” she whispers before she kisses me. I have to say that I’m liking this aggressive Liz. It’s damn sexy. Speaking of sexy.....my god, she’s beautiful.
We get ourselves situated into the bath. She settles herself between my legs and I wrap my arms around her, touching her belly. I can’t help but smile.
“So....now that you’ve got me here, what are you going to do with me?” Liz asks. I can hear the amusement in her voice.
“Oh, I’ve got a couple of ideas,” I say as I run my hands up her arms and then trace her shoulders, leaning down to kiss the spots that I just touched.
She relaxes in my arms and lets me touch her, explore her. As I do this I start to talk to her about things like the house, and the babies’ room. At first she’s able to give answers in the form of a sentence, but as my hands continue to move lower and linger a little longer, her answers to my questions become one word and eventually, not even a word, just a sound that tells me she recognized the question but can’t form an answer.
My hands are kneading the muscles of her thighs, slowly, caressing every inch. I move upward at a snails pace and Liz’s breathing picks up its pace a little. Her thighs part without any preamble and by the way she’s moving I can tell what she’s waiting for, what she wants. With one hand still on her thigh I let the other move to the juncture between her legs. Very slowly, I touch her. As I do this she lets out a little moan. I kiss the side of her neck and move my other hand up her body to cup her breast. The other hand works slowly moving to the spot I know she’s aching for me to touch.
“Max,” she whispers. It’s more of a plea than anything.
“Yes?” I ask her, tracing the skin by her jaw line with my tongue. My hand moves a little faster and after a brief hesitation I slip my finger inside her swollen sex.
“Mhhm,” she sighs. I stroke her walls slowly as she begins to move her hips slightly against my hand. I thumb at the protruding bundle of nerves and listen to her moan.
This wasn’t exactly how I’d planned things. I can’t really see what I’m doing to her. I can’t see her face, I can just hear her responses. It’s driving me crazy. I pull away from her and she groans in protest. “I want to see you Liz and I can’t see you like this,” I tell her, referring to how she’s facing away from me. Very carefully I move her around so that she’s now looking at me, straddling my lap.
I’m suddenly extremely aroused. I mean I was aroused before, don’t get me wrong, but seeing her face all flushed and the way the candle light reflects off her wet skin, I’m just....let’s just say that my desire for her is now painfully obvious.
She wiggles her tiny bottom against my thighs trying to get closer to me. Her eyes are mesmerizing. They’re all clouded over and I watch in fascination as she licks her lips, tantalizing me. She’s evil. Her mouth descends on mine and I forget that I even had a plan. All that matters right at this moment is the way her lips feel against my own. I return her urgent kisses fervently and almost as quickly as the attack started she pulls back. We’re both panting for air when we break apart. All I can do is stare at her.
Our urgency tapers slightly and I muster up the last of my will power. My touches are light and slow. She watches every move I make. I know I probably look like I’m examining some sort of scientific specimen. It’s just that I want to be sure that I see everything. I want to see her reaction when I touch her arm and if it’s different from when I touch her calf. Or if kissing her breasts will produce a louder moan than merely touching them. Liz lets me explore for awhile, giving me free reign to touch everything I see. Sometimes it’s not enough to touch. I have to taste too. I wonder if I could bring her to orgasm by just looking at her. With the way her skin flushes as I stare, I’m sure that I could.
The water in the tub is cooling now, but I barely notice it. I’m too aware of the way Liz is squirming with anticipation. I decide that it’s time for this bath to become a little productive and I start to wash her. I spend some time washing her stomach, the babies. She smiles when I do this. Then I move upward to her arms and her breasts. This makes her squirming worse and my erection harder if that’s even possible.
“I can’t take this anymore,” Liz breaths out against my neck and her movement is quick and before I realize what she’s doing she impales herself on me. I gasp as I feel myself enveloped in her warmth. She’s still for just a moment and then begins moving. The water starts to splash and lap up against us as we set a slow rhythm. One of my hands snakes down to help her in her movement as she lifts herself up and then sinks back down. My other hand moves around to support her back. After a moment she moans, low in her throat as the pace quickens. The movement of her breasts against my own chest is exquisite torture. I can feel myself slipping out of control again. My hips move up to thrust into her. Her head falls back and I move my mouth to taste her skin, marking her as mine. When I pull back to look at her, she’s completely given herself over to what she’s feeling. Her eyes are closed and her lips are parted slightly allowing breathy moans to leave her mouth. Her arms snake around me, pulling me closer and she buries her face in my neck and sobs. “You have to finish this, I....I can’t......I want to but ......” Her legs have given out on her and I realize that I can’t keep this going in the bath tub.
I grab her and stand up quickly, attempting to keep my balance, in a hurry to take us to the bedroom. The fifteen steps from the bathroom to the bedroom seem more like a hundred, but we make it to the bed finally.
Control. I’m not even sure I know what that is anymore. We’ve barely gotten settled onto the bed before I feel myself moving into her again. Her hips buck wildly beneath me and we swiftly reach the edge, going over wholeheartedly as pleasure engulfs us. She cries out my name like a litany,saying it over and over, and I try to watch her as she experiences her release. I can’t though, her release triggers mine and I feel myself empty into her as her tight walls contract around me.
After a moment I pull out of her depths and when she groans at the loss, I feel a little guilty. I’d stay there forever if it wasn’t uncomfortable. But the bump of her tummy reminds me not to crush her against me. Laying to the side I pull her close and listen as her breathing starts to slow down. I watch as she opens her eyes slowly and then smiles. She tilts her mouth upward and I lean down to kiss it.
“Thank you,” she says softly.
“No thank you,” I tell her.
We’re silent for awhile. I watch her as she lays in my arms. I had thought that I was happy before, but being able to see her means more to me than anything ever has. The sight of her is just.....beyond words. Her deep even breaths let me know that she’s asleep. I lean down and kiss her bare stomach, whispering good night to the babies and then, kissing Liz’s forehead. I whisper, “Good night my love.” She smiles in her sleep and I smile too as I finally give in and let my eyes shut for the first time all evening.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:17:15 PM
Chapter 36
“Max, put the damn camera away! I’m serious! If you don’t.....”she holds her hand up as if to block the lens. Too late, she’s already been beautifully captured on video. Much to Liz’s great dismay I went out and bought a brand new video camera last week. Call it silly but I want to capture the rest of Liz’s pregnancy on film. She of course doesn’t think this is a good idea. But I’ve got it all worked out. Once I have enough filmed I’m going to edit the footage and set it to music. We’re going to have great home videos. Then when the babies are born I’ll start working on them.
Liz has put up with my venture into cinematography quite well up to this point. Except for today. I suppose she has good reason. My family will be arriving shortly. So she’s been running around trying to get things ready. We’re telling them the news about the babies today. So Liz is nervous about that. Why, I’m not sure. It’s not like they’re going to be unhappy about it or anything.
I’m trying to keep myself calm. Mostly because this isn’t just about breaking the news of the babies to everyone. My nerves are the result of a plan that I developed with Isabel. Liz doesn’t know this yet but tomorrow at 2 pm, she’s going to become Mrs. Maxwell Evans. Isabel has been taking care of all of the plans for me. I’d have done it but I didn’t feel like making Liz suspicious when I got calls from Heidi the wedding planner. Plus Isabel is like the best person to have take care of these things. And she knows what Liz would like.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty good. I don’t want to jinx things by having a bad day. Although it certainly started off that way. We had breakfast and I promised Liz that I’d make sure the living room got straightened up. So while I was doing that she went upstairs to finish getting ready. Everything was fine until I heard this loud wail from upstairs followed by crying.
Apparently Liz had decided to step on the scale. She’d gained five pounds since the last time she checked. This prompted some ranting and crying for a good twenty minutes. She kept telling me I shouldn’t love her because she was fat and ugly and scarred. She is none of the above of course. I’ve tried to point out many times that the only weight she’s put on is baby related. We even go for walks all the time. And aside from the chocolate she eats pretty decently. And she’s having twins. But logic is not something a pregnant woman acknowledges.
As for ugly, Liz is a modern day Helen of Troy. Her face could launch a thousands ships. Her beauty is unparalleled. She laughed when I told her this and her reply was that Helen of Troy probably wasn’t a pregnant cow and if she launched any ships today it would be soldiers trying to escape her mood swings.
The scar, however, took some more convincing. Quite honestly, it’s barely noticeable. But to her it stands out, thus making it a huge problem. Crying aside, I spent the morning........convincing her that she really is beautiful and that she turns me on.
Of course, now, she’s on the war path. Trying to clean and cook and straighten things up. I’m getting it all on video to watch and enjoy later. It’s really quite amusing to see her moving around. She looks so cute in her overalls. She’s been in the nursery at least three times now. She wants it to look perfect. She decided that she was going to show everyone the nursery now that it’s finished. That’s how we’re going to break the news. Everything in there is set up for two babies now. Liz is all about subtly telling everyone. That might work for my mom and Isabel but my dad and Alex are gonna need someone to just come right out and say it. Guys just don’t pick up on things that are supposed to be clever or symbolic. You can just tell it like it is and get as good of a reaction.
“Max, put the camera down and come help me move the couch.” I hear her say. Panic mode sets in.
“Liz don’t you dare,” I tell her as I set the camera down and practically sprint across the room. But she’s already trying to move it herself. I sort of push her aside. “Woman, go sit before you hurt yourself,” I command. She raises her eyebrows and smirks at me before going to sit in the recliner. From there she barks out orders on where to move the couch.
“Tell me again why we have to rearrange the furniture?” I ask as I push the couch to the right.
“No, that’s too far, go a little left. I told you it’s because it hasn’t been moved in years. Now that we can move it I think it would be a nice change for everyone. No, you went too far left, go back.”
I stop what I’m doing and stare at her. “It’s staying right where it’s at. It looks fine. Listen, you don’t have to be nervous about this. It’s good news,” I tell her as I walk over to where she’s sitting. I pull her up and then take her place, bring her down onto my lap.
For a second she won’t look at me. “I know,” she says. “It’s just that we’re telling your family today and I guess it’s just that.......I want them to be my family now too. I.....if I were telling my parents I’d be just as nervous. That’s what this is. I’m just excited and scared and sad all at the same time and I don’t know how to deal with it.”
“Hey,” I take hold of her hand, “My family is your family and you and I are starting our own little family now too. I know it’s hard not having your parents here to share this with you. But I’m sure that wherever they are they know and are happy for us. Now we both just need to calm down.” So we sit there like that for awhile. Liz’s breathing becomes deep and even as she drifts off to sleep. I smile and kiss her forehead. I try to move her so that I can take her up to bed but I’m stuck. She’s got herself situated in such a way that there’s no way I’m going to be getting up unless she does. With a sigh I decide to catch a nap with her. Might as well.
*****
I wake up when I hear the doorbell ringing. I shift a little and find myself sprawled out on top of Max. He’s sleeping, his mouth is open and his head is tilted back. I look at the clock. We’ve been asleep for about an hour. The poor guy’s legs are probably numb.
I try to get off of him as gracefully as possible. But it just isn’t happening.
“Max.....Max wake up. I need help getting up,” I tell him. His head jerks forward and his eyes open. He looks confused momentarily. The doorbell rings again. He helps me stand up and then I go to answer the door.
Isabel, Alex and Katia are standing there all smiles. I can’t help but grin. I see them look me over and all I can think is please don’t say anything about how big I am. Isabel must sense this because she puts a hand over Alex’s mouth as he starts to speak.
I feel Max come up behind me and everyone’s attention gets focused on bringing in bags and getting settled into their room. Max’s parents arrive shortly after and his mother starts to cry when she sees me.
“Oh, Liz....” she says. “Honey.....you look so happy....” Max and Phillip both leave the room quickly. Alex looks at us and then takes off after them. Chickens.
Isabel smiles and rolls her eyes. “Ignore her Liz. She cried every time she saw me the last two months of my pregnancy.” Diane nods and gives me a watery smile. And it hits me that I really am part of their family now. Now I’m going to cry.
Before I can I decide that I can’t wait to tell them. “Do you want to see the nursery?” I ask. “We just got it all finished,” I say excitedly. They both nod and follow me up the stairs. Katia is holding my hand as we go.
I open the door and can’t help but smile as I turn on the lights. I’m really proud of the way it turned out. We painted the walls a light blue and then Michael came in and painted clouds all over them for us. I put white curtains on the windows and we got new blue carpet to compliment the sky blue color of the walls. Max had been surprisingly vocal about all the decorations, wanting everything to match.
There are two dressers against the south wall along with a changing table. Two wood cribs sit in the center of the room. They’re really very beautiful. I had decided to use some of my parents money to buy them, knowing that they would approve. Max agreed. Of course he’d cursed a blue streak when he had to put them together. I wish I could have gotten that on video.
By the window there’s rocking chair and a small stand with a lamp on it. There’s other stuff still sitting out. Things that we couldn’t fit in the closet. Two car seats and one of those double strollers. If it’s not obvious by now that we’re having twins, I don’t know what it. I glance over at Isabel and Diane nervously, waiting for them to say something. Anything.
Katia breaks the silence. “You got two of everything? How come?” she asks.
I smile and then look up at Diane and Isabel and then back down at Katia. “Cause we’re going to have two babies,” I tell her softly. I hear an excited squeal come from Isabel. She hugs me and she’s crying. Diane is crying. I start crying. We’re all standing here hugging and crying.
“Oh, twins.....I never thought we’d have those in our family,” Diane says. “Are they going to be identical or fraternal?” she asks, smiling through her tears.
“Fraternal,” I tell her. “A little boy and a little girl.” At this I relate the details of our doctor’s visit, when we found out. I tell them all about Max and his reaction.
“He was looking for a penis the whole time. That was his main concern. Then he thought he’d found one and the doctor told him he was wrong. I’ve never seen anyone so disappointed. Then the doctor showed him a penis and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. Of course I was just as excited. We’re pretty excited about our little girl too,” I say.
We spend some time in the nursery and I show them everything that I’ve bought, even the clothes. I can’t even remember why I was so nervous about telling them before.
******
I’m sitting around with my Dad and Alex watching the game while the women are upstairs. I’m sure Liz is telling them about the babies now. I should probably tell Alex and dad.
“So it turns out we’re having twins,” I say when there’s a commercial break.
They both turn their gaze from the TV to where I sit in the Lazy Boy.
“Really?” Dad asks.
I nod. “Really.”
“You’re boys must be good little swimmers there Max.” Alex tells me with his big goofy grin plastered to his face.
I roll my eyes.
The commercial break ends. The baseball game comes back on.
I guess that went pretty well.
*******
Chapter 37
I wake up early this morning and find a note from Max that says he went running with Alex. I head downstairs to make breakfast for everyone but when I get to the kitchen Diane and Isabel are already taking care of it.
“Liz, honey, Maria called earlier. She’s on her way over. She wants you to get ready because she says she’s taking you and Isabel out for some fun and relaxation.,” Diane tells me. I slowly make my way back upstairs. I’ve decided that stairs are my enemy at the moment. Especially when I see Katia practically running up them in front of me. I sigh and continue my journey.
An hour later I’m just finishing up. I would have been done sooner, but Max comes back from his run all sweaty and of course we have to tell each other good morning. I finally managed to push him away.
“You stink, go take a shower,” I tell him. He only laughs and rubs his sweaty self up against me. But of course before things can get out of hand, Maria, with her wonderful sense of timing, decides to make her presence known, effectively killing the mood.
“Get your butt movin’ girl, we have lots to do this morning,” she informs me. So I leave my sweaty Max alone on the bed and follow Maria downstairs. Isabel quickly joins us and we’re off. And surprise surprise our destination is The Prairie Life Center Spa.
“I wanted to do this for you as sort of a partial payment for singing at the wedding,” Maria explains. “I figured you might enjoyed being pampered for the morning.” I happily agree and let myself be dragged off for facial and foot massage.
There’s a man named Carlos working on my feet right now. It feels pretty good, but I have to say that I prefer Max’s hands. He has......really amazing hands. Maria is next to me getting her own foot massage. She catches my smile and winks. If she only knew what I was really thinking about.
After the foot massage I get a pedicure and a manicure. But this is not the end of our little morning out. It’s almost eleven am and Maria drives us over to some beauty salon where they continue to pamper me to death with a shampoo and scalp massage. Have I mentioned that I love Maria? I’m so glad she’s my best friend.
I can’t help but smile as our morning continues. I’m sitting here in the chair while they cut my hair and laughing as Maria contemplates what to do with hers.
“Can you do the curly thingies, ya know with the little twisty things at the end and then maybe pull it back with those things....” The stylist looks confused beyond belief. Isabel’s stylist looks scared. “Now you may cut exactly one eighth of an inch from the bottom layer. The next layer only one tenth. Now the top layer......” These poor women. My directions are quite simple. “Just trim it please,” I tell my stylist who gives me a grateful smile after listening to Isabel and Maria. The woman chats with me casually while she cuts my hair. She asks about the babies, how far along I am, all things like that.
“So how long have you been married?” she asks.
“Oh, well, we’re not married yet. We’re planning on it. But with everything that’s been happening I guess we haven’t really had time to think about it. Now that we know we’re having twins it will probably have to wait. But I don’t mind I suppose. It will happen eventually. Anyway, I’d rather not look like an elephant at the time.”
The stylist nods and then we talk about other things. I notice a look that Maria gives Isabel. I shrug. You never know what Maria’s thinking. It’s too exhausting to even try and guess.
We finish with our hair and it’s after 12 pm now.
“You guys, can we please get something to eat? Really, I’m starving. I didn’t get to eat breakfast.” Isabel looks a little nervous all of the sudden.
“Well, we’d forgotten about the eating part of things. But we can’t deny you food. We’ll just grab you something on the way,” Maria says.
“Why don’t we just go sit somewhere nice? It will be good. We can just sit and talk,” I suggest. Isabel shakes her head at this. “We’ve just got one more place to go. We’ll get you something on the way okay? I’d love to sit down and eat but I want to get back to Katia.”
For some reason I don’t believe her.
They get me some food and I eat it quickly only to have heartburn rear it’s ugly head. This is so not good. I really don’t feel good. I should just go home now. Rest. I need a nap.
Isabel tells me I can’t. There’s just one more place. She shoves a pepcid at me and some water. Her and Maria both look nervous.
We pull up in front of a Bridal Shop.
“What are we doing here?” I ask.
“Oh, I need to go in and pay for something from the wedding yet. It’s the last payment on one of bridesmaids dresses. It’s overdue. Silly me for forgetting.” Maria is babbling. I’m not really listening. I’m sort of mad at them right now. They wouldn’t just let me sit in the car.
I go inside and grab the first chair that I see. I look around while Isabel and Maria are talking to one of the clerks at the counter. They look in my direction and nod at me. The woman looks over and smiles at me. I smile back. I’m starting to feel a little better.
She makes her way over to me. “Liz, I’m Judy. We’ve got everything all ready. We just need to have you try the gown on. Then we’ll make the adjustments for you. You’ll be out of here in half an hour tops.” I smile at her through my confusion. Then I see Isabel walking over to me carrying a dress.
It’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
I finally find my voice to ask questions.
“What’s all this for?”
“Well, this,” Isabel gestures to the dress, “is your wedding dress. Because, my soon to be sister, you are getting married today.” She smiles brightly. I feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
“How.....when ...what...?” I can’t even manage to get out a whole sentence. Maria hands me a tissue. She’s always prepared.
“Because you happen to have snagged one of the few good men in this world. And he planned it all. So now, you’re going to try on your wedding dress and then we’re going to get you back home so that you can walk down the aisle, or in this case the back porch steps.”
Max did this. I can’t believe him. Even with everything that has been going on he still managed to plan this all. I can’t believe I ever got so lucky. No that’s not right. It isn’t luck. It’s a blessing.
“Now, I know that you want to and it would be really easy to give in right now, but please don’t cry. We’re on a tight schedule here. We have to be back to the house in forty-five minutes so that Michael can walk you down the aisle,” Maria informs me. The idea of Michael walking me down the aisle seems appropriate. He’s been a good friend.
I’m able to control my hormones while they fit the dress. It really is very beautiful. And I didn’t know this was even possible but it sort of compliments my large stomach. It’s made of a pearl colored silk. The straps are thin and the neckline is low, accentuating the cleavage that I’ve attained with this pregnancy. The skirt is simple. Not tight or clingly but not to loose. It drapes over my stomach almost elegantly. I don’t know how they found this dress but if I have to get married pregnant this is definitely the perfect wedding dress. The have to take it in just a little in the waist and let out the bust a little more. This does wonders for my self-esteem. It obviously doesn’t take much to make me happy.
In a perpetual whirlwind I’m rushed from the dress shop and back home. They sneak me in the house and up the stairs where they refuse to let me look out the windows. I put the dress on last after they’ve fixed my makeup and hair again. It’s two thirty in the afternoon. I try to hold in the tears at the thought of what’s about to happen. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. Max is my dream come true.
******
When Maria called at one thirty I was in a panic. Things weren’t going well. We still weren’t finished setting up and I hadn’t had a chance to change yet. Everyone else was pretty much ready. Michael and I still had to get our Tuxes on though. My mother tried to rush me off saying she’d finish up. I agreed reluctantly.
The news that they were running late was a relief to say the least. We pushed the time of the ceremony back and hour.
In the extra time we had, things fell together quickly. The chairs got set up. The flowers were in place. The cake showed up and the minister came too. Everything was ready, including me. We just need the bride now.
I glance at my watch anxiously. It’s five til three. I know that they’re here now. I saw a flurry of movement through the upstairs window. But it was Isabel, not Liz. Still, she’s up there. And soon, she’ll be standing in front of me.
The minister smiles at me. Alex is smiling as Katia naps on his lap. My mother is already sniffling and my father has his arm around her in a comforting gesture. I see Maria at the back door. She motions for Michael. He goes quickly and disappears inside the house. That’s Tommy’s cue to start up the music and the video camera.
The music starts and my sister and Maria make their way down the aisle. It feels like this is taking a lifetime. I try to stand still. But the need to move nervously is almost too powerful and my feet shift. I look away momentarily. Not even a fraction of a second. When I look back, Michael is helping her down the porch steps.
I can’t breathe.
She’s breathtaking.
Stunning.
Her hair is pulled back loosely with flowers decorating the dark brown tresses. A few strands have managed to escape and the slight breeze toys with them gently. She looks up once she’s on solid ground and her eyes light up and the most beautiful smile is forming on her lips.
And it’s for me.
God, I’m so lucky.
No. Not lucky, blessed.
Time doesn’t seem to exist any more as Michael brings her toward me. And with each step she takes I love her more than the step before. I feel like my heart is about to burst. I never thought that this would be possible. I’m living my dream. I’m watching Liz become my wife. I’m seeing how much she loves me.
When Michael and Liz finally reach me I quickly lean over placing a kiss on Liz’s lips my hand automatically resting on her stomach.
“Max, they usually save the kiss for the end of the ceremony,” Michael whispers.
Liz blushes and pulls back. I shoot him a glare. But my gaze goes back to Liz. I return her smile and then we both direct our attention toward the minister.
Liz is gripping my hand tightly as he speaks. I glance over at her and see tears in her eyes. He’s talking about our loved ones sharing this happy day with us. Then he talks about those that aren’t with us. I can feel her hand shaking slightly. I squeeze it to try and comfort her, send her my love.
I can’t remember the rest of the ceremony very well. When we say our vows I fight back tears of my own.
“Liz,” my voice is soft as I speak. “Before we met Liz, I was sort of lost in myself. I was stuck in a dark place. I didn’t think I could get out. I didn’t want to. So I just pretty much accepted and lived with it. It was just about going through the motions. It probably wasn’t even living. Then you came along and everything changed. You wouldn’t let me get away with being stuck. You brought me out of that dark place, just by being there and being you. And now you’re making my life complete by becoming my wife and the mother of my children. I never once thought it could happen. But now that I’m this happy I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure that you are. I love you.” Tears spill over Liz’s cheeks and I feel them in my own eyes. Leaning down I kiss the tears away gently.
I pull back and Liz starts to speak.
“I never once thought that I’d be content to just settle down and raise a family. Then I lost my own and all those dreams I’d once had started to change. But it wasn’t until I came here, to you, that I realized that it was okay. You changed me. You made me love you and you made new dreams possible. I think I was in the dark too at first. And when you loved me you made that darkness go away. Now all I want is to spend my life making you happy and taking care of our own family. I....” she tries to go on but she can’t and I look at her with understanding and tears in my own eyes.
We exchange the rings and then the minister speaks.
“May I know present to you Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell Evans,” he says. I can hear clapping coming from our family. Alex’s distinct whistle is heard.
I can’t wait any longer I take Liz in my arms and kiss her.
In the back ground I hear the minister say something about jumping the gun on kissing the bride. But I don’t care. I’m just too happy.
********
The reception is held out in the back yard. Tommy, Alex, and Michael set up tables for us to eat at while Isabel Diane and Maria set the food up.
They take lots of pictures and Max and I cut the cake. He tease me and it looks like he’s going to smash it all over my face. But he’s nice and doesn’t . I give him a kiss and then lift some cake to his mouth. He gets it up his nose. I’m not as nice as he is. Everyone laughs as he tries to clean it up and grins at me. “I’ll get you for that later,” he tells me in my ear. I’m counting on it.
We’re all sitting around talking and laughing when Tommy says he has a surprise for us. A second later Kareoke is all set up and we’ve got our first volunteer by the name of Michael Guerin. He does his best Christina Aguilera. We’re all quite impressed. I don’t offer to sing. I’m perfectly content to listen to everyone else and enjoy them. Little Katia even has a go at it. Max insists that he get that on video camera.
After awhile Diane announces that it’s time for gifts. “It’s actually just one gift really. We all went in on it,” she tells us. She hands Max an envelope. He looks up at everyone. They’re all looking on with smiles on their faces. I lean over to watch as he opens it. What he pulls out makes us both gasp and look up at everyone.
Plane tickets.
To Hawaii.
“We thought you might like to have a honeymoon,” Maria tells us. “The trip is all set. You leave a year from this last Thursday. You can spend your first anniversary on the beach. It even includes free baby sitting courtesy of Michael. That’s his contribution.” Michael starts to comment but Maria puts her hand over his mouth. “He’s excited about it, really.”
I laugh at this.
Hugs are given out then and thank you’s said. This was so nice of them. I can hardly believe it.
“I have a present for Liz now,” Max announces. He hands me a large envelope. I look up at him questioningly as I open it. He just smiles. When I pull out it’s contents I gasp. It’s a mock up of a jewel case. It’s a cover for my cd. It’s absolutely beautiful. The colors.....the pictures......they aren’t just of me. It’s a collage of things. There’s me and Max, staring at each other adoringly. Then me with my parents as they hug me. Me and Maria and Michael. Me with Katia. Isabel and Alex. Let’s not forget the picture of me and my huge stomach. The love that went into making this fairly radiates from the page. I look up at him with tears in my eyes.
“Thank you,” I say softly. “It’s wonderful.” I lean over and kiss him. When I pull away I quickly wipe my tears.
“I....I didn’t have time to get you anything,” I say.
“It’s okay, Liz,” he starts to say. But I cut him off.
“But I have something that I’ve been working on.....” my voice trails off and I look at Maria. “Maria could you? Do you think we could......?”
She nods and goes into the house quickly returning a moment later with her guitar.
I look at Max. “ I’ve been working on songs with Maria. I wrote one for you. It’s not finished yet, but I want to sing you what I’ve got so far,” I tell him.
He smiles and the love that’s coming from his eyes makes me swallow hard. I love him so much. Will heunderstand what the song means?
She starts to strum out the chords.

I will strike the chord
That’s honey to your ears
All that’s sweet is yours.
I will hum a verse
Of melodies rehearsed
And all that’s sweet is yours

So here is my offering
Just a downbeat and a string
But to you it’s a beautiful thing
And here is what I bring
Only downbeats and a string
And to you
It’s beautiful

I will strike the chord
That’s honey to your ears
All that’s sweet is yours
Everything you bring
I can’t help but sing
All that’s sweet is yours

When it seems I’ve broken down
When these chords are frail
You look with a smile and you say it’s beautiful

I close my eyes while I sing. I will him to understand what it means. Everything is for him. My song, my heart, my life. It all belongs to him. And I’m willing giving it to him. I want him to have it. He makes everything in my life so much better, so much sweeter. That’s what this is about.
When the song ends I open my eyes and he’s kneeling in front of me. He clasps my hands tightly in his and looks up at me. I can see the tears trailing down his face. “Thank you, Liz. You’re my life, you make everything beautiful.”
And I know he understands because he feels the same way.


"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:23:03 PM
Chapter 38
School’s starting up again soon. Only about three weeks to go. I’ve been spending time rearranging the classroom and revamping my lesson plans. There’s no need for the braille overheads anymore. I can actually use my computer. I’ve even developed an affinity for typing. Liz thinks it’s funny.
She’s been a lot of help getting things ready. Although I’ve been hesitant to let her help. She’s at eight months now and she’s starting to have trouble moving around. For good reason. It’s hard to imagine that her small frame is even capable of carrying these babies. The doctor says things are fine and Liz will be fine as long as she doesn’t overdo it. She needs to stay off of her feet and rest. Which just about kills her. Especially since I won’t let her do anything by herself. Like going up and down the stairs.
Today I came home early from working at school. She was too tired to go this morning when I’d wanted to leave. Now I’m just standing here in the doorway watching her. She’s all stretched out in the recliner eating cheetos right from the bag, watching a soap opera. She looks so cute. There’s just something about her cheeto covered fingers that pulls at my heart strings.
I can’t help myself. I practically fly across the room and attack her where she sits. The kiss is hungry and demanding. When I pull away she looks more that a little pleased, not to mention dazed.
“Wow! What was that for?” she asks, flashing me a smile.
“Just because.......I love you,” I tell her.
Her smile brightens, only making me love her more, if that’s even possible. “Just because, huh?”
“Yep. Just because. Is that a problem?” I ask, teasing her a little.
“Nope. You can kiss me ‘Just because’ any time you want,” she says .
So I kiss her again. Just because.

With school starting soon I have to make a trip to Chicago. It’s for a follow up eye exam. Just to check everything over. Maria has graciously agreed to come and stay with Liz while Michael goes with me. I really don’t want to leave Liz but it’s only for two days. Just two days. Note even a whole two days really. We fly in early on Tuesday morning, my appointment is that afternoon and then we leave Chicago at ten on Wednesday.
Liz says she’ll be okay. That she and Maria will a have good time. Still, what if something happens and the babies come early. I can’t miss the births of my own children. Liz has assured me that the babies will wait for me. Besides we still have three weeks until her due date.
So now here I stand in our living room, saying goodbye and giving Maria last minute instructions.
“Max, we’re big girls, I think we’ll be okay on our own,” Maria says rolling her eyes.
I ignore her and turn to Liz. “I promise that I’ll call you tonight and tell you everything the doctor says. Then tomorrow our flight leaves at ten so I’ll be home by the afternoon,”I tell her. I lean in to kiss her. She eagerly receives and returns the kiss. But she pulls away first. “Go now. Before I start crying and don’t let you leave,” she insists. I nod, planting a kiss on her forehead, I’m out the door. Michael’s waiting in the car.
“Drive fast,” I tell him. “Before I change my mind and go back inside.”
He smiles at me and does as I say. He seems to understand why this is so hard. I haven’t been away from Liz since she first moved in. We haven’t spent a single night apart since the first time we made love. Plus, knowing that she needs my right now, that I should really be there with her, makes it worse. I sigh loudly. I just want to get this over with and get back.
*******
I’m actually a little relieved when Max finally leaves. It isn’t like I won’t miss or anything. But these last few days I’ve just felt smothered by all the attention he’s been giving me. I really shouldn’t be complaining. He fluffs my pillows and brings me anything I want. But he won’t let me get up to do anything but go to the bathroom. If this keeps up, the next three weeks are going to be pretty boring. Luckily, school starts and he’ll be gone during the days. The downside to that is that his mother is going to come and stay with me. Which isn’t really that bad either, but they just don’t seem to think that I can take care of myself. It’s really frustrating.
“Okay, so what are we doing first?” I ask Maria excitedly. “Can we go see a movie or something? Oh, I know lets go drive into Lincoln and go shop a little. There’s supposed to be a new baby shop there and......” Maria doesn't’ let me finish.
“Sorry, chica. Max gave me strict orders. You’re not to be out and about. I’m supposed to make sure you get lots of rest and take things easy.”
“Maria, you’re supposed to be my friend,” I whine. “Please, forget what Max said. I am fine. I am perfectly capable of doing things. Now, puh-leeeze, I really want to go to the new baby store. I just want to see what they have.” My pout works and Maria gives in. We spend the whole afternoon shopping. Then we grab dinner and head to a movie. I bought more baby clothes. Max will probably make fun of me. Our kids aren’t even born yet and they’re already spoiled. It’s really very pathetic. I can only imagine what will happen once they’re actually here. I’m sure all they’ll have to do is look up at me and stick out their lower lip a little and I’ll crack. Max does it and I give in every time.
We get home at around ten o'clock. The answering machine light is blinking. I hit the message button. “Liz, it’s Max. Where are you? It’s 11:30 am and we’re on our way to Isabel’s. I just called to check in. I’ll talk to you later. I love you.” Beep. Next message. “Liz, honey it’s me again. Uhm it’s almost 5:30 pm. Everything at the doctor’s office went fine. Where are you? I’ll try calling again later. Love you.” Beep. Next Message. “Liz...it’s almost 9 pm. Are you trying to give me a heart attack? I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all day. I hope that you and Maria are just being mean and not answering the phone. I would hate to find out that you’re out overdoing things. You call me this time.” Uh oh. He’s mad.
I dial Isabel’s number quickly and when Alex answers the phone he laughs. “You are in big trouble. You’re lucky he’s in another state. He’s been pacing around here the whole night. He won’t sit still.” I hear Max talking in the background. The phone is handed over.
“Hi,” I say softly, hoping to soften the blow.
“Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call since we got in this morning,” he tells me.
“I know. I’m sorry. Maria and I decided to do some shopping for the baby and then we went and saw a movie. I didn’t think you would call until later tonight,” I explain.
“Liz, you know you aren’t supposed to be on your feet like that...” he starts in.
“Max, I’m fine. Look, I just really needed to get out of the house. Stop worrying. I’m home now and I promise not to leave from now until whenever you say it’s okay.” My words seem to appease him somewhat. He tells me about his appointment. The doctor says that everything looks good. His eyes have healed nicely.
“Let me talk to the babies,” he tells me.
“Maaaxxx.”
“Liz, please, I always tell them good night.” Quite suddenly I miss him terribly. Hearing those words just made me realize that he’s not going to be home tonight.
“Okay,” I tell him and move the phone down over my very, very big stomach. I can hear his voice as he talks but I can’t make out what he’s saying. After a moment he stops and I bring the phone back up to my own ear.
“What did you say to them?” I ask.
“ I told them to be good for you and not keep you up all night with their kicking. I also told them to stay put until I get home.” We talk for a little while longer. The more we talk, the more I miss him and by the end of the phone call I’m crying. He says good night and tells me he loves me and he’ll see me tomorrow. It doesn't’ make me feel better.
Maria helps me upstairs to bed and I fall asleep holding his pillow. It smells like him. That’s sort of comforting. Not as much as he is though.
******
When Isabel’s phone started ringing at 3:30 this morning, I rolled over and pulled the pillow over my head. When it stopped ringing I tried to go back to sleep. Then Alex was pounding on the door. “Max, the phone. It’s for you.”
Liz. I hope out of bed and practically catapult myself over to the door. I yank it open and grab the phone from Alex’s hand.
“Hello?” I ask.
“M-Max. It’s me. Max, I think that the babies are coming. I.....you have to come home now. I need you,” Liz’s voice says. She sounds like she’s been crying.
“It’s okay, baby, I’ll be there as soon as I can okay. Where’s Maria?” I ask her.
“She’s still asleep I think. I called you first. I ....I....Max you have to hurry, I can’t do this without you.” She’s really crying now.
“Okay, Liz, sweetheart, you need to calm down. The first thing I want you to do is go wake Maria up. Then tell her where we put your suitcase. Have her take you to the hospital. Michael and I will be there as soon as we can. Do you think you can handle this now?”
“Yes. Okay. I love you Max. Please hurry.” Her voice has calmed somewhat.
“I love you too. I’ll be with you soon,” I promise.
Hanging up the phone, I decide it’s okay to panic.
“Liz is having the babies!” I say loudly. Alex looks fully awake now and I’m running into Michael’s room. Shaking him from sleep I tell him what’s happening. “We have to go. I have to get the first flight back. Maria’s taking her to the hospital now. Michael....Michael.....wake up. I’m not missing out on my babies being born just because you can’t get out of bed.”
The whole house is awake now. Even little Katia.
“Uncle Max, what’s goin on?” she asks sleepily.
“Aunt Liz is going to have the babies. I have to go back to be with her,” I tell her.
Katia nods. “Give them a kiss from me,” she tells me. I nod and give her a kiss on the forehead. Isabel gives me a hug.
“Uh....Izzy.......I’ll need to be alive to get there for the babies and I can’t do that unless you let me breathe,” I tell her.
“Sorry. Just hurry. Go. Tell Liz I said hi,” she tells me. We’re already almost out the door.
“Iz, call mom and dad, tell them what’s going on,” I holler from the car. She nods and then we’re leaving.
The airport is fairly busy for this early in the morning. The only problem is that the earliest flight doesn’t leave until 7 am. So we’ve got to wait two and half hours. There’s no way that I can just sit here though. I can’t believe this is happening. I knew it was a bad idea for me to come now. I should have waited. It doesn’t really matter though. Not now anyway. I just have to get back to her.
At 6 am the counter opens and I go and try to get my ticket switched.
“I’m sorry sir, but the flight is full,” the woman tells me.
“Can’t you do something? My wife is in labor. She’s having our twins as we speak. I have to get home to her.” I’m getting a little desperate here.
“Congratulations. But I still can’t.....” she gets cut off by Michael.
“Don’t you have procedures for emergencies or something? This is definitely an emergency. Come on. I mean I’m sure you’ve got that thing where people volunteer to be bumped. Just do that,” Michael tells her.
“I would. But we don’t have any volunteers and ....”
And I’m reduced to begging. “Please....you have to do this. You don’t understand. Do you know what I’ve been through this past year? I can’t have gone through all of this only to miss the births of my little girl and boy. I’m begging you.” And maybe it’s because I’m desperate or just completely out of my mind with worry for Liz but I tell them the whole story. Everything. About my car accident and how I was blind. Then about Liz’s parents getting killed in a car accident. I tell them all about how we met and how we fell in love and then how Liz helped me see again. She made me want to see again. “Now, please. Let me have this opportunity to see my children being born.”
I hadn’t realized how big of an audience I had until this older woman next to me started crying. “Oh, that’s just so beautiful,” she says weepily. Lady, if it gets me home to Liz faster, then it can be anything you want it to be. “You can have my ticket,” she says. “And your friend can have my husbands.” The man behind her starts to protest but she hits him and tells him to hush up.
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I tell her. Before I can stop myself I’m grabbing her and hugging. She laughs, a little embarrassed by my gesture.
“No need for thanks. Just get home to that wife of yours. She’s going to need to hold your hand and call you bad names,” the woman says. I laugh and thank her again.
We get everything taken care of and head to the gate. I glance at my watch. Just half an hour, then I’m on my way. I hope the babies wait.
********
Chapter 39

“Oh GOD! Maria, I can’t do this,” I tell her as I feel another contraction coming. “I need Max,” I say. I can’t talk anymore. I grip the bed sheets until my knuckles are white.
“It’s okay, chica, you’re doing great. Max is going to be so proud of you,” she tells me.
I smile through the pain as the contraction starts to recede. As much as I love Max, I really hate him right now. But I need him. I need to hold his hand. I need him to help me with my breathing and.....
“Hello, Liz. How are you doing?” the nurse asks.
“Okay. Is my husband here yet?” I ask, even though I know that the answer is no. Maria had talked to Isabel about an hour ago and she said that the last time she’d talked to Max they’d been on their way to the air port. I made Maria call Diane and Phillip. They’re a lot closer to us than Isabel and Alex. They’re going to drive here. They’ll probably even get here before Max. I hope he gets here soon.
I glance over at the clock. It’s almost eleven am. I’ve been having contractions since three this morning. I’m tired already and the doctor says I still have a ways to go. I don’t know how I’m gonna do this. I just keep telling myself that it’ll all be better when Max gets here. He’ll make it better.
In the mean time Maria sits next to me and talks to me. She talks a lot. Especially when she’s nervous. So right now, her lips are going a mile a minute.
“Do you want some more ice chips?” she asks, finally deciding to take a breath.
I nod. I need a moment to myself right now. A moment without nervous talking.
She gets up to go get some ice for me and I lay here. The TV is on. The Price is Right is playing. There’s a college student trying to guess the price of some spice or something. Right. Like she’s really going to know how much it’s supposed to be. I don’t even know how much it’s supposed to be. When she guesses wrong I try to keep myself from saying “I told you so” out loud. I’m in labor, that doesn’t mean I need to be talking to myself.
My attention is diverted from the TV to the doorway. There’s a commotion out in the hall. I hear fast footsteps approaching the room.
******
Where’s a police escort when you need one huh? They always seem to be around in the movies when the guy is rushing to rescue the girl. Not this time though. We get into the airport a little before ten am. Then we had to go get the car. After that we had to try and leave the airport without getting into an accident. Michael sped as much as he could to get to the hospital. It still ended up taking about forty-five minutes.
I ran inside before he even had the car parked. The woman at the front desk is sort of pissing me off now because I told her exactly what I was here for and she tried to direct me to somewhere else. I keep telling her that my wife is having a baby. She just keeps saying that I need to bring her inside. I try to tell her that Liz is already here, that I need the room number. But do you think she’s listening. Finally Michael steps in and we got everything straightened out.
When we get to the Maternity ward, Maria is walking through the hallway.
“Maria!” I holler out. “Where is she?”
Maria smiles. Her shoulders sag with relief. “Oh, Thank God you’re here! She’s down the hall, in room 314. You haven’t missed out on a whole lot. Just some contractions,” she tells me. I nod gratefully and take off for Liz’s room.
I’m practically running and I almost slide past it.
It’s almost like she knew I was coming. She’s looking at the doorway when I walk in and her whole face lights up with about a million emotions. She’s happy and relieved and scared all at once.
“Max, you’re here,” her voice is sort of shaky.
“Yeah, I’m here now,” I tell her as I make my way over to the bed. She looks tired and beautiful. I kiss her and lean my forehead against hers as I place my hand on her belly.
“I guess they didn’t listen to me when I told them to wait,” I say.
Liz laughs. “Geez, not even out of the womb yet and they’re already disobeying. What are we going to do with them?” I’m glad she’s able to joke about this.
“I was so scared that you wouldn’t make it in time. But the doctor keeps saying that it’s going to be awhile. She also said not to worry that the babies are early. It happens all the time with twins,” Liz’s eyes get a little dark then and her brow creases.
“What’s wrong?”
“Contraction,” she says, grabbing onto my hand and squeezing. She rides it out and then tries to relax. It hurts me to see how hard this is for her. She tries to smile, reassuringly but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
“Max....please, don’t get upset okay. I....this is all a part of it and when it’s all done, I’m not even going to remember the pain all I’m going to be thinking about are our two perfect little babies. You remember that too, okay?” she tells me. I give her half a smile and another kiss. I should be the one trying to comfort her, not the other way around.
“ I love you,” I tell her. Sometimes that just doesn’t seem like enough. The words just aren’t enough.
“I love you too. Now hold my hand and no matter what I yell at you, remember that I don’t mean any of it.” This makes me laugh. We’ve been joking about this. Liz swears that she’s going to try and be creative if she decides to bash and berate me. “Just don’t be too harsh. I’m fragile. My ego bruises easily,” I tell her. Her smile becomes a frown when she has another contraction.
“They’re getting closer together,” she tells me as grips my hand. Wow. She’s a lot stronger than I thought. Did I just hear something crack?

Two hours later, Liz is propped forward and I’m rubbing her back. The doctor thought it might help. The contractions are coming faster but the doctor keeps saying, not yet.
“OOOOOHHHH GOD! Max......it hurts.....so bad...” Liz cries. The contractions are a lot worse now. She’s crying. I feel helpless. I wish I could take away all this pain but I can’t.
“Sweetheart, you’re doing good......you’re being so strong and brave and I love you so much,” I tell her. She just nods her head, but doesn’t say anything, gripping my hand tighter. My hand is pretty much numb by now so I barely notice. I brush the damp hair back behind her ears. Her eyes are bright with pain and it hurts me to see. I kiss her forehead. I try to distract her. “So we never did finalize names. I was thinking about it on the plane ride. What do you think of the name Betsy?” Liz scrunches up her nose and I’m not sure if she’s having another contraction or if she doesn’t like the name.
“Our list is in the suitcase. Get it out,” she says. She must not have liked the name Betsy. I obey and go get the list. By the time I get back to the bed from across the room, she’s having another contraction. Tears are streaming down her face and she’s gripping the arm rail on the side of the bed.
There’s a beeping sound from the baby monitor. Liz’s face turns deathly pale and my heart stops. Seconds later there’s chaos as the room fills with several nurses and Liz’s doctor. I hold Liz’s hand. They try to pull me away but I refuse to leave her side. The doctor finally looks at us.
“Liz, your little girl.......her heart beat is slowing down. We need to get her delivered. Quickly. We can’t wait for it to happen naturally. We’ll have to do a Caesarean,” the doctor says. Even as they’re speaking the nurses are prepping Liz.
Terror. In it’s purest form. I’ve never felt anything like this. Our little girl.........god, please don’t let anything happen. I don’t want us to lose her before we really even have her.
“What’s going to happen?” I ask when I find my voice. “Can I be in there with Liz?”
The doctor shakes her head. “We don’t have time. We just have to go in and do this. I’m sorry Max. Liz, we’re getting you ready right now. I know this is scary but you need to relax okay. It’s going to be okay. Once we get into the operating room. It will actually only take a few minutes to get the babies out.”
I don’t know what to do. My whole world is askew at the moment. I hadn’t been prepared for anything like this. Liz looks as terrified as I feel. Her eyes are full of tears. “Max, our little girl......oh god!”
“It’s gonna be okay. The doctor said it will be okay,” I try to reassure her. My voice sounds more convincing than I feel.
It doesn’t seem like very much time before they’re taking Liz away from me. I hold her hand as long as I can. I refuse to leave her side before I have to.
“I love you,” I keep saying it over and over. “It’s all going to be fine, it really is.” Now I’m trying to convince myself.
She tries to smile. But it doesn’t reach her eyes and barely reaches her lips.
The doctor says I have to wait out here, but I can’t seem to let her go. I can’t let go of her hand. “Liz....” I ... they’re pulling her away from me. She’s moving away from me and I can’t be with her. I stand there, watching as my whole world, my Liz, disappears through the swinging doors.
I collapse into the nearest chair. I don’t know how long I sit there. I’m praying. I ask for Liz to be safe. I ask for our babies to be okay. I ask, I plead, I beg. I’m about to get down on my knees and bargain when I hear someone saying my name.
I look up and my eyes meet those of my mother. My dad is close behind her.
“Max, what’s going on? Where’s Liz?” Mom asks.
And I lose it. I break down. I cry in my mother’s arms, because suddenly I’m like this little boy that wants her to make it all better. But she can’t. I tell her that they had to do a caesarean to get the babies out, because our little girl... her heart....I can’t even finish the sentence. “I can’t lose Liz, mom,” I say. “She’s my life. I don’t think I could go on without her....I....and the babies....if something happens it will devastate us both.”
“Shhh, baby, I know. I know. It’s gonna be okay,” she tells me as she hugs me to her. After a moment I pull away and am surprised to see tears in my own father’s eyes. He gives me a hug. I decide it’s time to pull it together. Liz is brave. She’s the one in there right now with no one to comfort her. I can be strong for her. I have to be strong for her.
My parents sit here while I wait. Michael and Maria join us and Maria hugs me and then goes to Michael. She’s upset too. We all are. I guess it’s just sort of thrown us for a loop. Everything about this pregnancy has been normal and healthy and then to have this happen.....
“Mr. Evans?” I look up. It’s the doctor. She’s smiling. I’m thinking, that didn’t take as long as I’d thought. And at the same time it took forever.
“Everything’s fine. Your wife is fine. Your little girl is fine, as is your little boy. We’re going to monitor your little girl though. Just in case. But if you want to come in and see your wife and hold you son....”
Does she even need to ask? I nod and she lets me in through the doors where she instructs me to put on a mask. I’ve got scrubs on from earlier when I was supposed to be in the delivery room with her. Then they lead me through and I see Liz. Her eyes are closed but she’s holding our little boy in her arms. I guess she was awake for the whole thing. I look at our little boy. He looks so tiny and perfect lying there in her arms. I’m incapable of speech.
“He’s perfect don’t you think?” her voice says, breaking the silence. I nod. The nurse comes over and helps Liz put him in my arms. She opens her eyes and I can see the remnants of worry there. “Our baby girl, Max....she’s going to be okay too. They’re just checking her out. They said that she’ll be fine.” The tears are back in her eyes. But instead of pain I see joy, happiness. I tear my eyes away from Liz and look down at our son. I’m in awe. We created this little person. He’s little pieces of Liz and me, together. Liz smiles, like she knows exactly what I’m thinking.
“He’s amazing isn’t he?” her small voice asks. It’s not really a question because we both know that he is. Ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes.....my god, his ears are big. I should feel bad about passing that on, but I can’t. It makes him seem even more a part of me. He’s got dark hair too. His little eyes are just slits, he hasn’t really opened them for me yet. “His eyes are just like yours,” Liz tells me with a smile. I finally notice that she sounds really tired. Our attention gets drawn to the nurse carrying a very vocal bundle in her arms.
“Someone wants to meet her mommy and daddy,” the nurse says. I hold my breath as she places our daughter in Liz’s arms.
“Hi baby, it’s mommy,” Liz says as she looks down at the face of our little girl. She stops crying, like she knows. “Oh, you’re so beautiful,” Liz whispers.
“She looks just like you,” I tell her. Liz laughs a little. “I don’t know, she’s got my nose maybe but I think she got your ears too.” I look a little more closely and sure enough.
“So names...” Liz starts to say. She stops though. She’s so tired. I kiss her forehead and then lean down to kiss our little girl’s forehead. “You need to rest now. We’ll talk about it later. I should go tell mom and dad, Michael and Maria...they’re outside waiting. I need to call Isabel and Alex too.” She nods.
As much as I hate this I let the nurses take the babies away to the nursery. I follow with Liz as she’s taken back to her room. She’s asleep by now.
I go and find everyone, tell them that everything’s fine. Tell them that our little girl is okay and perfect. That our little boy is perfect.
“She’s so pretty mom,” I tell her. “She’s going to look just like Liz. Except...she’s got my ears. They both do. And dark hair. They’ve both got dark hair. Liz says his eyes are like mine. I don’t know though. Don’t babies’ eyes change? I thought I read that once. That they change? Anyway.......They should be in the nursery by now.” I jump up. I need to go see them. I have to see them. Our babies.
I’m standing here now, face pressed against the glass looking at the two little hospital cribs. Baby girl Evans, Baby boy Evans. That’s what their little cards say.
My mom is crying. My dad looks proud. Michael looks a little like he doesn’t know quite what to say. “You’re a dad,” he finally tells me. Like it’s just sinking in to him. That’s when it hits me. I’m a dad. I’m a DAD. This is just...WOW.
“Oh, they are just the most precious things in the whole world,” Maria tells me. I can see how amazed she is by these tiny little babies. And I have this feeling that everything she’d said before to Michael about having their own babies is going to be soon forgotten.
We stand there for a long time, looking at them. They start to fuss. The nurse comes to check on them. She smiles at me. I’m grinning like a fool. If it was possible, I’d be walking on air.
*****
I wake up when I hear little tiny baby cries in the room. It’s instinctive. They’re just bringing both babies in. Max follows closely behind the nurses.
“They’re hungry, mommy,” the nurse tells me with a smile.
I must look panicked because the nurse chuckles and tells me not to worry.
“You can feed them one at a time,” she says quickly. She hands me our little girl first and helps me pull down my hospital gown. As I feed her, this bond forms, binding me to her completely. Max watches as he holds our son in his arms.
He’s sitting right next to me. He smiles. “She’s really hungry huh?”
I nod.
“Does it hurt?” he asks.
I shake my head.
“I’m jealous.” At this I look up and see the twinkle in his tired eyes.
“They need names,” I say as I watch her eat. I touch her face lightly. Tracing her profile down to her finger tips. Her fingers are so small.
“ I was looking over the list. What about Lelaina? We could call her Lainey for short,” he says hopefully.
“That’s perfect,” I pause. “Where did that name come from?”
“I’m not sure. It was in one of those books, although I don’t remember writing it down. It just.....when I look at her, it fits. As for this guy here.....I was thinking maybe we could name him after your dad if you wanted. Or maybe Parker. I sort of like that.”
I smile at Max as he reminds me again why I love him so much. Lainey is done eating it seems and has fallen asleep. Max takes her and I switch little Parker over to the other side. I can’t stop touching him either. I glance over at Max. He’s smiling down at Lainey, holding her little hand. It’s all just so amazing and unreal. Our family. Finally. Our wonderful, perfect little family. I love this......I love our babies.....I love him
Chapter 40
Ask me how many hours of sleep I’ve gotten in the last week. Go ahead, ask me. In the last six days I’ve gotten a total of maybe twenty-four hours. That’s probably fours hours every night. That’s all. And Liz....well, I think that she’s gotten even less. I can’t imagine what would happen if my mother weren’t here. She’s stayed with us to help since we brought the babies home two weeks ago. Lainey is so quiet, she only fusses when she’s hungry or tired or needs her diaper changed. Parker fusses when he wants attention, which is all the time. And it seems like they’re always hungry.
But I wouldn’t trade being tired and hearing them cry for anything else in the world. Sleep is nice and all but holding these perfect little babies is just about the best feeling in the world.
School starts tomorrow. That means it’s just going to be my mom and Liz all day. I’m pretty sure they’ll be okay. I just hope I will be. I’ve barely left Liz’s side since the babies were born. Now I have to be away for a whole day. So I kiss the babies goodbye, I give my mother a hug and then I kiss Liz. I tell her she can call me at work if she needs anything. I can have Maria watch my classroom for me if I have to.
She tells me that they’ll be okay. So I go. This is actually kind of exciting for me. I don’t really want to leave Liz and the babies but this is my first day teaching without needing other help. I’ve got everything set up and ready. No more overheads or voice recognition programs. Just me and my lesson plan. It’s going to be good to do this again.
******
Diane and I get along fine with the babies all day. Things go well. I feed them, we give them baths and play with them. We both sound silly when we talk to them. Baby talk. Who can resist when you’re looking down at their little angelic faces? I shouldn’t brag about my kids like this but they are really cute. You can just tell that they’re only going to be more so as they get bigger. I’m in love with their ears because they remind me of Max. Of course Parker looks a lot like Max. Lainey is a little more like me I think. They both have dark hair and these cute little noses. Their eyes match too. Diane and I can’t help but gush over them.
“You know Liz, you seem to have things pretty under control. Maybe you don’t need me to stay any longer? I’d hate to leave my precious little grandbabies but you and Max need to get yourselves adjusted with out me around.” When Diane says this I go into panic mode. She can’t leave me. I....I won’t know what to do. What if I mess up? There’s still so much that I don’t know about the babies and...
“NO! I mean....I want you to stay as long as you want. I mean I understand if you want to leave but don’t think that we don’t want you here with us. You’ve helped me so much. I think I would have been a wreck if you weren’t here. Really, I love having you here,” I tell her earnestly. I’m sitting here trying to get Parker to burp. He’s usually pretty good at that. Sheesh, not even three weeks old and he’s already displaying typical male traits. Max thinks its funny and always praises him when he does this. I can only roll my eyes and laugh at his antics.
Diane smiles at me and finishes changing Lainey’s diaper for me. “I’ve loved being here Liz, but it is time for me to go. Phillip needs me too. He called again this morning because he wasn’t sure what to have for breakfast. He wanted me to tell him what to have. He misses me and I miss him and you and Max need to be alone with your babies now.”
I bite my lip, I don’t want to start crying. “When will you leave then?”
“Two more days. Phillip will come pick me up. He wants to see the babies again,” she tells me.
It’s okay. I tell myself. She’s right. I can handle things on my own. It won’t be that bad. Besides Max will only be a phone call away.
Can you imagine my relief when Isabel calls and says she wants to come stay for a few days so she can get to know the babies? Diane leaves and Isabel comes. That will make the transition a little easier.
Maria has been coming over a lot too. She says she wants the babies to know her. She’s offered Michael and herself as free babysitters whenever Max and I feel the need to go out and be by ourselves. She confided in me the other day that she wants a baby now. But she doesn’t want to say anything to Michael yet. I understand. It’s a big deal.
Phillip comes and enjoys playing with his grandkids. They smiled at him. Parker sort of smacked his nose and I’ve never seen anyone so thrilled before. Of course play time came to an end and Phillip took Diane away from us. I cried. Max tried to console me, but he wasn’t fast enough because it wasn’t five minutes after they were gone before there were three crying people in the house. Poor Max. My own sniffles subsided while we tried to get the babies to stop crying. It was actually kind of funny.
Isabel brought Katia along with her. She was so excited to see the babies. The other day I went up to check on them and Katia was in the room, standing between the cribs, holding on to their hands through the rails. She was talking to them.
“And when you come and visit, you can sleep in my room. I’m a big girl. Mommy said so. And you have to do what I say cause I’m oldest. But I’ll be nice and take care of you,” she told them. It made me smile to see her with them like that. I went in there with her then and sat down on the floor, pulling her into my lap. We had a long talk about how she was excited about preschool starting and how she had a new boyfriend name Danny. “He kissed me aunt Liz. He said I was real pretty. And I told him I knew that already ‘cause daddy tells me I look like momma and she’s real pretty. So I let Danny kiss me and he picks up all my toys for me too.” I laughed at this. Four years old and she already has+ boys at her beck and call. I wonder if my Lainey will be like this? I can already guess that Parker’s going to be a ladies man. Every woman who lays their eyes on him is immediately in love. Who could resist with those ears and those little toothless smiles he gives?
Today is Isabel’s last full day here. We’re taking the kids for a walk. Just a short one. Then she’s going to watch the babies while I try to do the stair master. Max has been getting touchy feely with me and I know what he wants. But I’m holding out a little longer to get rid of some more of this baby weight. It won’t make him very happy, but I know it will be so much better if I can at least enjoy making love to him without being self-conscious about how I look. He swears he thinks I’m sexy like this. I sure don’t feel sexy though.
Isabel helps me pull the double stroller down the stairs. We take it outside and instruct Katia to stay put while we go and get the babies. Isabel takes Parker and I take Lainey. We get them strapped in and start walking.
“I wanna push,” Katia insists. We amuse ourselves by watching her try but I’m right there making sure she doesn’t jerk the stroller around too much. She’s doing pretty good considering she can’t even see over the top of the stroller.
“Being a mommy suits you,” Isabel tells me as we walk. She’s helping Katia push now.
I can’t help but smile at the compliment. “Thank you. I think it suits me too. I like it,” is my response. “I suppose that I could maybe do without the 3am feedings but it’s not all bad. I can take naps when they do.”
“Yeah, I know how that goes.” Isabel smiles brightly. “Alex and I started to try for another baby,” she finally says her cheeks flushing at the admission. “He wants a boy. He’s even been reading up on things that are supposed to help determine the sex of the baby. I try to tell him that it’s pretty much up to nature. He insists though that if I eat more of one thing or another that he’ll get his little boy. He’s really too funny.”
I laugh because I can just see him reading diligently trying to find the wives tale that gives him the full proof way to make sure your baby’s a boy.
“I want a sister,” Katia’s voice says interrupting us.
“A sister huh? Well, you’ll have to share all of your clothes and your toys then,” I tell her.
She shakes her head. “Noooooo. Mommy will buy the baby new clothes. We can’t share. I’m bad at sharing.” What is they say about children telling the truth? I think Katia has that down. She certainly doesn’t hold back.
The afternoon wears on and I get my work out in. I feel better. I have a little more energy. Enough to feed the babies and then take a nap. Yeah, that sounds really good. That’s how Max finds me later. Taking a nap.
“Hey, how was your day?” I ask when I feel him sit on the edge of the bed.
He smiles. “It was good. I talked to the principal today and he wants me to start coaching the jr. high boys basketball team. I said yes of course. It’ll be fun. What about you? Was Parker good today?” he asks.
“Yeah, he was good. Aren’t you going to ask about Lainey?”
“Nah, she’s always good. She’s my little angel,” he says with a smile. “Speaking of which they must be sleeping huh? I noticed Isabel and Katia were making dinner. I’m gonna go check on the babies.” He kisses my forehead and heads off down to the nursery. I get up and follow him. They’re both still sleeping. Max seems a little disappointed at this. But he turns his attention to me.
The kissing begins. His hands start to roam. I give in. It feels really good when he touches me. It seems like it’s been forever since he last touched me. “Liz...do you think...” kiss “that maybe Isabel” kiss “could watch the babies for awhile tonight.....” kiss. I pull away.
“Oh, no.....well I......” I want to make love to my very sexy husband. I really do. I just....not yet. And I’m saved by the sound of babies crying. It’s Parker.
“Little man, you have bad timing,” Max tells him as he lets me go and goes to pick up Parker. Once Parker cries, that means Lainey will soon follow. She doesn’t want to be left out. I pick her up quickly and follow Max down the stairs to the kitchen where Isabel is working with Katia making dinner and a big mess.
Because it’s Isabel and Katia’s last night with us we stay up with her and talk about maybe taking a trip to visit during November. “You can have Thanksgiving this year,” I tell her. “We’ll have Christmas.” Max laughs.
“Oh, but Christmas is my thing. You have to let me have Christmas,” Isabel insists.
“Didn’t I tell you last Christmas that Isabel is like....the Christmas Nazi?” he asks, teasing evident in his voice.
“The Christmas Nazi huh?”
Isabel glares at Max for a moment before her face relaxes into a smile. “I just .....really like Christmas.”
Max goes on to tell me about all the years they had to put up with Isabel’s Christmas organization. “She used to give me a chart with exact measurements and specifications for the tree. Of course in college she was even worse. She single handedly decorated her sorority the one year because she didn’t like the ideas that other girls had...” The stories go on and I laugh along with Isabel who takes her teasing good naturedly.
“I guess you’re having Christmas then,” I finally say. With a yawn I kiss Max good night and give Isabel a hug. Then I make my way upstairs, checking on the twins before I head off to bed.

*****
I wait until I can hear Liz’s footsteps in our bedroom before I say anything to Isabel.
“Can I ask you something?” I say.
Isabel smiles. “Sure. What do you want to know?”
For a second I almost lose my nerve because this is kind of personal but....I really need to know. “After you had Katia, how long before you and Alex.....?”
She looks at me blankly for a second and then it’s like a light bulb goes on in her head because her face lights up with understanding. “Oh. I see. Well ....I think it was almost a month before I let Alex touch me again. How long did the doctor say you should wait?”
“He told Liz I guess but she hasn’t said anything to me and uh....earlier I said something about being alone with her and she said no pretty quickly. I mean .....do you think she’s mad at me about something? Did I do something wrong?”
Isabel laughs. “First, how you can doubt that the woman is crazy about you, I’ll never know. She gave birth to your babies. She loves you. Now as for this others. She’s probably just feeling self -conscious. I know that I did. She’s been trying to take off the weight she gained from the babies.....plus she had a C-section. I’m sure she’s self conscious about that. I mean you know how she was about the scar from the accident. Throw another one in there and then add in all her hormones and making the adjustment of having the babies, it’s a lot to deal with. It isn’t you, Max. You just need to give her some time okay. I doubt she’ll keep you waiting too long.”
I feel somewhat relieved by Isabel’s words. Although my first instinct is to go to Liz and tell her how silly she’s being about the whole thing if she really is self-conscious. She has nothing to be worrying about. But I won’t push. I’ll let her come to me. That’s going to be.....hard. I won’t be able to just stop touching her and holding her though. I could never do that. And she doesn’t seem to mind that. In fact I know she likes it.
With a resigned sigh I tell Isabel thanks and give her a hug before heading upstairs to sleep. I check on the babies first and then fall into bed next to Liz. She immediately moves over to me in the bed, snuggling up against me. She’s still sleeping. It makes me smiles because I know that being with me and touching me is as instinctive for her as it is for me. It reassures me and lets me know that I just need to be a little patient.
Isabel leaves with Katia. Liz cries but tells me she’ll be okay. I hate to go to school when she’s upset like that. I worry the whole day. But when I get home, Liz is all smiles. She’s got a blanket spread out on the floor and the babies are laying on their backs and she’s laying there on her side next to them, watching them, playing with them.
I join her on the other side and we spend some time bonding with them. Parker kicks his socks off. I put them back on. He kicks them off again and then it’s almost like he’s laughing at me. Lainey is just all smiles. It’s hard to believe it’s been five weeks since they were born. Five weeks of watching them grow and taking care of them. It’s been amazing.
I look over at Liz, her eyes meeting mine and her own smile lighting up her face. I know that this is what I’d always been waiting for. All those years that I was afraid to let someone in, afraid to be more than superficial.....I’d been waiting for her. For this.
We get into a routine as the weeks go by. Every morning at six thirty I get up and get ready for work. While this happens Liz feeds the babies, because they always seem to wake up with us. Liz makes me change diapers then while she makes breakfast. She says its my bonding time with the babies since I have to be gone all day. Yeah right. She just doesn’t want to do it. It doesn’t really matter. I actually don’t mind all that much. It’s all part of it.
Things are good. Things are great. Before we know it September is over and October is here. But I miss my wife. She’s still self-conscious. I can tell. But I think that I’m wearing her down. The other morning we were so close. She woke me up like she used to. Kissing me until I was conscious and it was just starting to get good when we heard crying over the baby monitor. And it isn’t just one little voice, it’s a duet of course. I’m wondering if they’ve gotten Liz’s singing talent because they seem to cry with perfect pitch. I think I’m imagining that. I was just a little upset at being interrupted. Again. Liz just laughed and gave me her ‘I’m sorry’ look before going to check on the babies. I had laid there for awhile, thinking about dirty diapers just to dampen my arousal.
It has been way too long. I think this is even longer than after the eye surgery. I wonder if I should try to plan for a night alone for us. Maria said she would watch the babies. I mean.....we wouldn’t have to be gone that long. Long enough to make it count. No interruptions. That is, if Liz would even want that.
I come home today to a sight. Liz is sitting on the floor in the living room. She has both babies in her arms and they’re all crying. I just sort of stand here, not knowing what to do. Liz is practically sobbing and when she sees me she starts to cry even harder. I can’t figure out what’s wrong for the life of me.
“Liz, honey what’s going on?”I ask her, finally coming to my senses. She just looks up at me and shrugs. Okay. Shrugging. That tells me a whole lot.
I take Lainey from her arms and she fusses a little before settling down. Parker continues to wail. I leave him with Liz and take Lainey upstairs to her crib. She cries a little but eventually her eyes close and she drifts off to sleep. I go back to Liz who hasn’t moved. Parker is no longer crying though. I take him and put him to bed too before returning to Liz. She’s still on the floor. I crouch down beside her.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong? What happened?” I ask pulling her into my arms. I settle her onto my lap and wait for her to answer while her tears subside.
“Everything was fine. We were having a good day and....we went for a walk and I started the laundry and then they were hungry so I fed them and then they just started crying. And I tried to put them to bed but they kept crying and I couldn’t just leave them there to cry so I brought them down here and I tried to play with them but they didn’t want to play and they didn’t need their diapers changed. They just kept crying so then I called your mother but she was in a meeting and then I called and got Alex and Isabel’s answering machine and I was going to call you but it was almost time for you to come home and by then I just gave up and started crying with them because I’m a terrible mother if I can keep my babies from crying,” she ends with a sob and clings to me more tightly.
I run my fingers through her hair. Trying to calm her. I know that just hearing it won’t be enough but I have to try. “Liz, you’re a great mother. They just didn’t know what they wanted. It isn’t your fault. I don’t know why they kept crying, it just happened and now they’re fine. They’re asleep. And I’m here and I’ll take care of everything the rest of the night, okay? You can just rest.” She has calmed down considerably by now. She doesn’t make any attempt to move from her spot on my lap and I don’t try to move her either. If this is where she wants to be then that’s where I want her to be.
So I hold her and eventually I even make her laugh as I tell her about my day and how it was a new experience for me to have to teach the unit on sexuality in health class. It was easy before because I couldn’t see how embarrassed the kids were and I just sort of plowed right through it. “One of the little girls raised her hand and started asking me questions,” I tell her.
“What did she ask?”
“ I believe her first question was ‘Mr. Evans didn’t you have two babies before school started?’ Of course I told her that I personally didn’t but that my wonderful wife did. Then she asked ‘Does that mean you had sex?’ You can probably imagine how embarrassed I was. I mean what was I supposed to say to answer that?” As I go through this, Liz is laughing and smiling. The rest of the evening gets better. I make sure that I change the babies’ diapers and I make dinner and I do the dishes. Liz still has to feed them but she’s okay with that. I watched her tonight. She sat in the rocking chair in the nursery and she just sort of hummed and rocked while she fed them. They fell right back to sleep then.
After that Liz practically smothered me on the couch and we watched a video and ate popcorn and tickled and teased each other. We had actual fun together. Not that the babies aren’t fun, but this was just me and Liz kind of fun. Eventually Liz falls asleep against me on the couch. I carry her upstairs and put her into bed. Then I go check on the babies before joining Liz.
*****
Sometime in the middle of the night I wake up. At first I’m expecting to still be on the couch but I register that my pillow smells just like Max. And since it isn’t actually him that I’m sleeping on then I must be in bed. For a second I listen to the silence in the room. Max isn’t in bed. I’m not sure where he is. I hear a faint noise come from the baby monitor on the night stand. It sounds like Lainey. I start to get up when I hear Max’s voice.
“Hey sweetie,” he says softly. I hear a noise and it’s like Lainey is trying to talk back to him. I get up and go down the hall quietly standing just outside the door, watching him in the moonlight as he holds Lainey.
“Can’t sleep huh?” he says, still talking to her.
“Yeah, me neither. I was in their watching your mommy. She’s beautiful you know? Just like you. You’re going to look just like her I think. Except for my ears. You did get stuck with those. But that won’t be so bad. If you grow your hair long like your mom’s you can always cover them up. No one will ever notice. Even if they do, they’ll love you. Because you could never be anything less than perfect,” and my heart is just mush as I stand there listening and watching him bond with our little girl. It’s just the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen. My love for him just seems to grow with each word that he speaks to her because his love for her, for all of us is just so tangible.
“ I know I’m not mommy, but maybe if I sing to you, you’ll fall back asleep. Let’s see, what songs does daddy know?” He pauses. “Well, I know James Taylor, but I’m not sure if mommy would approve or not. It’ll have to do though.”
He starts to sing softly then. I never knew he could sing, but he can and it’s just......magic watching him with her.

Hey girls, gather round
Listen to what I’m putting down
Hey baby, I’m your handy man

I’m not the kind to use a pencil or rule
I’m handy with love
And I’m no fool
I fix broken hearts
I know that I truly can

If your broken heart
Should need repair
Then I am the man to see
I whisper sweet things
You tell all your friends
They’ll come running to me

Here is the main thing
Than I want to say
I’m busy twenty-four hours a day
I fix broken hearts
I know but I truly can

Come, come come
Yeah, yeah, yeah
They’ll come running to me

That’s me
I’m your handy man

The song ends. I swipe at the tears in my eyes. This is just...wow.
Max starts whispering softly again. “I know you aren’t gonna remember this little talk and that’s okay but I just want you to know that I already love you and your brother so much. You guys and your mom mean the world to me. I’m going to try to always be what you need me to be and I hope that you’ll always feel like you can come to me. You know with any problems, like .....boys. But you know....not to soon with the sex stuff. I’d like to live in denial as long as possible where that’s concerned. And ...you know the other female stuff, that’s probably gonna be your mom’s thing so....yeah. Anyway.....” his voice trails off and he kisses her forehead resting his cheek on top of her head for a moment before laying her back down in her crib.
He turns around and sees me in the doorway then. “Hey,” I manage to get out.
“Hey, I thought you were sleeping,” he says coming towards me.
“I woke up,” I say. He’s right in front of me now.
I just kind of gaze up at him. I love him so much. I need to tell him....show him.
“Let’s go to bed, Max,” I say softly as I lean myself into him, wanting him to understand what I really mean.
“Yeah, sleep....” he starts to say but I stop him with a finger to his lips.
“No. Not sleep. Not until you let me love you,” I tell him as I lean up placing a kiss on his lips.
I don’t say anything else and he doesn’t either. He just sort of wraps his arms around me, picking me up and carrying me back to our room. We need this. We’ve needed this for a long time. It’s time to find Max and Liz the lovers again, not just Max and Liz, parents or friends or teacher or whatever roles we’ve been put into lately, letting us stray from each other. It’s time to get us back.

Chapter 41
For purely selfish reasons I want this to be slow. I want to reacquaint myself with Liz....with every little curve and crevice. But her mouth on mine is demanding and urgent and I know that we could be interrupted by crying babies at any moment. I say a silent prayer that the babies will sleep through....I don’t know....just an hour of uninterrupted togetherness would be really good.
“Max, hurry,” Liz pleads against my lips.
I comply. I really am desperate to feel her like this again. Clothes are removed rapidly and we stand there in front of each other, waiting for one of us to make the first move. I drink in the sight of Liz like this. I’ve only ever seen her pregnant with my children. And the sight of her completely bared to me as she is now.......she’s so small and for I second I think that if I give in to the way my body wants her, I’ll break her. I make the first move though because I realize that she’s embarrassed under my scrutiny.
“You’ve never seen me naked and not pregnant,” she says aloud, like she was thinking that same thing I was. Her voice is uncertain though, like she thinks that I don’t like what I see. Which is far from the truth. But seeing is only a small part in my wanting her so badly. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I get aroused a whole lot faster when I see her. Especially when she changes clothes or when she’s bending over to pick up things from the floor....but this is about more than just visual stimulation. It always has been. I have to touch her now. So I do. Her sharp breath lets me know she approves.
“It’s been so long,” she whispers, her hands reaching out, touching my shoulders. I nuzzle my nose against her neck then leave a trail of kisses there until I reach her mouth. “Too long,” I whisper back.
We make it to the bed and despite being in a hurry, I take the time to kiss and touch everywhere that I’ve missed kissing and touching lately. I get lost in the way her skin feels beneath my fingertips and how she’s so soft and my lips burn from kissing her. It feels really good. After while Liz pulls me up from where I’m currently tasting her. “This was supposed to be about you,” she says. “ How did you turn the tables so quickly?”
I smile against her skin. “This is about me,” I tell her softly. “I’ve wanted to be able to do this for a long time,” I pause. “Do you know how hard it’s been, trying to keep my hands off you? I didn’t want to pressure you or make you feel uncomfortable.....” She cuts me off. “I’m sorry I made you wait. I just didn’t want this first time like this to be...I wanted to be beautiful for you and I haven’t felt that way for a long time and ....” Now it’s my turn to interrupt her.
“Liz, you’d be beautiful to me no matter what. My heart loved you first. The rest is just a.....very nice bonus.” She laughs and this and I decide we’ve talked enough and I don’t want to wait to have her any longer.
Kissing her, loving her has been this place of safety and comfort for me. This feeling of completeness, like I know that no matter where life takes us in these next few years, this will always be home. With her.
Let’s not forget the mind blowing passion though. Because that is definitely there and it definitely needs to be released right about now.
I continue my exploration of Liz, moving to revisit her breast. I just can’t get enough of her taste right now. Her breasts are really sensitive too because all she can do is moan as my lips pull a taut pink nipple into my mouth, suckling on her. Her body arches up off the bed slightly.
She’s ready, I’m ready. And as I slide into her warm depths I feel relief that this is finally happening, that we’re getting to be together like this again. The relief is short lived though as Liz starts to rock her hips against mine. I start to move, finding a rhythm with her, watching as her face displays a whole series of emotions, settling with rapt pleasure. I have to watch. Liz’s own eyes are closed as we get closer and closer. I want to hold out until she’s right there with me, but I’m just so close and she just feels so good.
My pace becomes frantic and I realize that Liz is right there with me suddenly. My eyes slips shut as she cries out my name, her own release triggers mine. She wraps her legs around my hips pulling me closer as her body continues to clamp down as I give myself up to her. I collapse on top of her and she hold me to her, her fingers sifting through my hair.
“I love you Max,” she tells me as her breathing slows. I lift my head to look into her eyes.
“I love you too. So much,” I lean in and kiss her, enjoying the way her lips feel against mine.
We lay like that until we hear a baby cry. It’s Parker this time. Liz goes and brings him back to our bed to feed him. We’re propped against the head board and I run my fingers through her hair as she rocks him back to sleep. When she takes him back, I lay there waiting for her. Then I pull her against me under the covers kissing her forehead and drifting off to sleep.
****
So this morning I was in the shower and Max comes in. I didn’t really think anything of it. I was used to him walking in on me in the shower even if it hadn’t happened in a while. And he threw open the shower curtain like he always did before and he did his thing where he looks me up and down and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively while I stand there pretending to be upset that he’s interrupted my shower. I’m about to scold him as is the usual routine when it hits me that he hasn’t done this since before the surgery. He used to just pretend to look but now....he really is looking and I can’t help but get a little bit excited.
“So....like what you see?” I ask him.
He has this glint in his eyes and that smile of his is making my knees feel like jelly.
“Oh. Most definitely.” He is an evil man.
It’s my turn to look him over now because he’s standing there as naked as I am.
“So did you need something?” I ask with a raised eyebrow. He shrugs and there’s that damn grin again. And while I’m recovering from that he’s getting into the shower and pushing me back against the tile.
“Do you know how long I’ve wanted to do this?” he asks. “To see you like this?” He’s kissing my throat, my collar bone, working his way downward and all I’m thinking is that I need my legs to hold out.
“How long?” I ask him.
“Since the first time I heard you taking a shower in here. Then after that one time....after we first started making love. I just always wanted to be able to really see you like this. All wet, with beads of water pelting down you soft skin and....” he pauses to lick the drops of water from my throat. I don’t let him go on. I grab him and pull him to me, kissing him. We go on like this, kissing and petting for a few moments before a thought briefly crosses my mind. “The babies?” I ask, hoping they’ll be good for just a few more minutes.
“They’re sleeping. The monitor’s by the sink just in case,” he manages to say between kisses. My mouth is on his again then, demanding the he deepen our kiss, begging to be plundered.
I just want him inside of me. Now. I’m practically panting with want for him. I ache. He’s got his arms all around me, holding me close. He leans his forehead against mine, water from the tip of his nose drips down onto mine. “ I didn’t come in here to ravage you,” he says with a half smile. I grin up at him.
“Maybe I want to be ravaged,” I say pulling his bottom lip into my mouth, biting on it before gently sucking it. When I pull away his eyes are dark and dangerous looking. I feel myself shiver with anticipation.
In a flurry of movement he’s got me propped against the wall, lifting me up. I wrap my legs around his waist and he thrusts into me. “Oh God, Yes!” I cry out. This is what I wanted. He moves in and out of my body hard and fast. His own moans reverberating off the tiles with mine. I want more, I need more and he’s certainly doing his best to give me that. But he slows down. I can’t help the whimper that escapes because I was so close. As if to console me he lowers his head and his lips capture one hardened nipple, sucking and biting it, laving attention to the peak before moving to repeat the same pattern with the other. The water in the shower has gotten luke warm but it doesn’t really matter.
But his mouth on my skin isn’t enough and I try to rock my hips against his. His pulls away and looks up at me. “I’m not used to this much physical activity,” he tells me looking a little sheepish.
“Well, we’ll just have to work together to get you back in shape,” I tell him.
After another moment he picks up the pace of his thrusts again. “If you stop this time, I’ll scream,” I tell him as I grip his shoulders tightly.
“Oh, you’re gonna scream anyway,” he whispers in my ear.
And I do just before I collapse in his arms.
We’re both standing on shaky legs as we wash each other off later. My legs are still a little shaky when I step out of the shower and Max laughs at me. I wish I could give him a dirty look but I just feel too good. I’ll get him back for this later. He won’t know what hit him.
Michael and Maria come over this afternoon to watch football. Well, Max and Michael are watching football. Maria and I are working on music. I’m trying to write a lullaby for the babies. SO we go down to the basement to work with the piano and Maria’s guitar. Max says that he and Michael can handle Parker and Lainey.
We’ve been working for about an hour and have come up with a rough first first of the song. Michael comes downstairs with Lainey in his arms. She’s smiling at him. I see Maria’s whole face light up at the sight. I think that before too long, they’ll be expecting their own baby.
“Max says you need to come feed Parker. It’s half time so now would be a good time,” Michael informs me.
I roll my eyes. Good grief.
I leave Lainey in Michael’s care and head upstairs. Max is sitting on the couch holding a crying Parker. “He’s hungry,” Max says.
“So I gathered.” I sit down next to him on the couch and open up the front of my blouse. Michael decides to come back into the room just then.
“Oh, geez, Liz,” he says turning around quickly. “Do you have to do that out in the open like that?”
I just shrug. “It isn’t anything you haven’t see before, Michael,” I tease.
Max chuckles. “Yeah, if I recall, you got to see them before I even got to cop a feel.”
“Ha ha very funny.”
“You can look now, Michael. There’s isn’t anything to see, “ I tell him. Parker’s mouth is greedily sucking away and I’ve got his little blanket draped over my shoulder in an attempt to cover up a little. I guess I never really thought about making people uncomfortable with this before. You sort of lose most of your modesty regarding things like this when you’ve had a baby.
Maria comes into the room with a sandwich in her hands. “ I got food out, so if you guys are hungry...” Before she can finish talking Max jumps up from the couch and heads to the kitchen. Michael puts Lainey in her little seat and follows Max. They proceed to make about as much noise as humanly possible.
“Daddy and uncle Michael are funny,” I tell Parker. “Food is definitely the first step to winning them over. Of course I can see you’re pretty much the same way.” Parker stops sucking momentarily and pulls his mouth away to smile at me. Then he’s right back to sucking. I can’t help but chuckle.
“I don’t mind the food thing,” I tell him, “but you better not be a typical guy in other ways. Most me only have three things on their minds. Food, Sports and Sex. You are going to learn to enjoy other things.”
It’s almost like he’s disagreeing with that little statement because he chooses that moment to bite me. “Ouch!”
Max and Michael are coming back from the kitchen just then.
Maria chuckles. “Uh oh, someone’s got a mouth like a barracuda,” she says.
“I think it’s genetic,” I say with a wink at Max who promptly turns bright red. He sits down and looks over at Parker. “That’s my boy.”
Michael speaks up then. He’s standing in the doorway looking a little disturbed. “Liz...could you please not say things like that. There are certain things I really don’t need to know about.”
I can’t help but laugh.
The game is about to start back up now. “Don’t let Parker fall asleep,” he tells me. “He’s gotta watch the rest of the game.” For a moment I can’t tell if he’s being serious or just weird. It turns out he’s being weird. I come to the conclusion that it must be an Evans family men thing. Because Phillip calls later to find out if Max and Parker watched the game. For goodness sake, Parker’s three months old. He’s too young to be corrupted.
“We’ve got to get him trained while he’s still young, Liz,” Max insists after I give him a little speech on child development and such. I can only roll my eyes. Although I have to say that I’m certainly not worried about Max taking an active role in raising our kids. He’s going to be very involved. And I suppose if part of that is making Parker watch football with him, well, that’s okay.
*****
It’s November now and basketball season has started at school. That means that I have to stay after classes for practices. There’s another teacher from the sixth grade that’s helping out. It’s been pretty fun so far. Of course I get home later than Liz likes. And now I have to grade papers at home. She really doesn’t like that. The other night she went out of her way to help me finish quickly because she wanted to.....go to bed early.
The babies are getting bigger every day it seems. Liz started them on cereal now and we’ve been giving them bottles so that she isn’t breast feeding anymore. I believe my mother was the one who told Liz that cereal was the way to go. I myself am not particularly thrilled about this new stage of development. Liz made me help feed them the other morning. And Lainey, my beautiful little angel, she spit it out at me all over my shirt. Liz just sat there and laughed while she fed Parker who seems to actually like the cereal. “Lainey isn’t sure she likes it yet,” Liz told me between laughter. Of course she could have warned me beforehand that our daughter had an affinity for spitting.
In other news we bought a new vehicle about two weeks ago. I can’t quite bring myself to be excited about it. I mean a mini van just isn’t something that I ever saw myself driving. But Liz insisted that we needed it. Which was true. The old clunker she’d been driving around probably wasn’t the safest vehicle for her to have. So now that I’m the proud owner of a driver’s license the clunker is mine. Liz gets to drive the van. She convinced me that it was the best choice. Especially if we have more kids someday. I stress the someday part. We had ourselves a little scare around the beginning of November and have taken to be extremely careful now. We’re not ready for another baby in the house yet. Lainey and Parker are hand fulls enough.
Liz is going to try and come to the basketball game today with the babies. It’s our teams first home game. The boys are all very excited and even I’m excited. It feels really good to be able to be a part of things like this. The gym is packed. There are a bunch of proud parents lining the bleachers waiting for the game to start. For a second I remember the adrenaline rush from when I played basketball in high school. I think about Parker and Lainey and wonder if I’ll ever be sitting in those bleachers with Liz, watching them play.
I spot Liz by the gym doors. She’s got a diaper bad and she’s pushing the double stroller. She stops just inside the door and I watch and smile as she looks around for me. She waves when she spots me and I make my way over to her. I saved her a seat near the door just in case she had to leave quickly. Luckily Maria said she’d stop by and help Liz out if she decided to come.
“Hey, you made it,” I say as I walk up to her. I kiss her in greeting and she returns the kiss. It’s funny how even with all the noise around us, everything just sort of fades into the background. I lean down to tell the babies hi. Parker is drooling and Lainey is sleeping. “You need to take spitting lessons from your sister so you don’t drool all over the place, pal,” I tell him.
“Don’t give him any ideas Max,” Liz says. I take her over to her seat. Give her another kiss and then head back over to the boys to give them a pep talk before the game starts.
I notice that Maria and Michael have joined Liz. The game starts though and I turn my attention to the center of the floor.
*****
“So, how does it feel to be the most hated woman in this room?” Maria asks as she sits down next to me. She immediately takes Lainey and holds her while I try to occupy a squirming Parker.
“What are you talking about?” I ask her, confused. “Hi Michael,” I say before she answer. He grunts. His attention is focused on the game. I think he’s here to critique Max’s coaching techniques. Guys are so funny sometimes.
“I mean, do you realize the looks the women in this gym have been giving you? Michael and I came in the side door before you got here and I saw you come in and how Max rushed right over. I wasn’t the only one watching you two. Everyone is interested in the devastatingly handsome fourth grade teacher/basketball coach. He’s been such a mystery to them. I swear all of the mothers in the school drool over him. And now, he’s very taken and he’s even got kids of his own, thus ruining their delusional fantasies,” Maria says.
Where does she come up with this stuff? “Maria, I highly doubt that. And anyway, why would they hate me then?”
“Because you’re the reason he’s no longer single and mysterious. Plus, you’ve just had two babies. That’s two not just one and you’re as skinny if not more so than before you had the babies. It pisses them off. They’re jealous. So am I as a matter of fact. Tell me, what’s your secret? How did you get so this so fast?”
I sigh. Maria is so.....Maria. “The stairmaster. Everyday, even Sundays. As soon as I felt better from the surgery I started doing it. It has become my post prized possession. Plus, taking care of these two has be constantly on the go. I can just about imagine what will happen when they start walking. Parker’s going to be in everything. See so it’s not like I did anything special,”
“Yeah right. Of course it probably helps that Max is like the energizer bunny right? I mean.... do you two ever stop?” she teases. I feel my face flush.
“Maria!”
“Would you two stop? God, I’m going to be permanently scarred with all the shit you’ve been talking about lately,” Michael whines loudly.
Maria smacks him. “Watch your damn mouth. There are children present you know,” she says equally as loud. I can’t help but laugh. Those two are about the funniest people in the world.
The game is going pretty well as much as I can tell. It appears that our team is ahead. I try to pay attention but between watching the babies and Max and listening to Maria I miss a lot of things. Max though, is in his element. He is clearly enjoying himself. And it’s not about winning either. You can just tell. When something goes wrong he doesn’t get upset right away. There was one little boy who missed a shot and someone said something not so nice. Max pulled the boy aside and the frown on his face was gone by the time Max had finished talking to him. I can’t help but be proud of Max as I watch this. It’s so amazing that any of this is even possible.
When the game ends our team is up by six points and there are a bunch of cheers coming from the bench and Max is smiling and each of his players are giving him hi-fives and he looks really happy. He should be.
Maria helps me get the babies back in the stroller and I make Michael push them for me. We go over to where Max is standing. He immediately kisses me. When I pull away I can feel some of the stares coming from the direction of the bleachers but I don’t really care.
“Good game, Max,” Michael tells him. They talk ball and I tell Max that I’ll meet him at home. He’s supposed to bring home pizza for all of us.
As I’m driving it just sort of hits me that life is good. Really good.
Chapter 42
Thanksgiving is in two days and I decided to clean the house from top to bottom. Max has baby duty tonight while I work uninterrupted. I start with the rooms, changing sheets, dusting off the stands and dressers. I’ll worry about the twin’s room later. I have to get the guest rooms done first. At the moment I’m trying to clean the room that used to be mine when I first moved in. It’s so funny being in here now. The times I spent in here seem like lifetime ago.
It’s funny how I never really got settled into this room. I’m not sure why it just didn’t happen. I’m just sort of sitting on the bed, remembering now. My eyes wander the the window and the roof. I make my way over towards it and before I can stop myself I’m sitting out on the roof. Just sort of watching everything. I just can’t get over how much my life has changed since the first time I sat in this exact same spot. I remember being sad because I was alone.
That’s not true anymore. I’m not alone. I’ve got this incredibly beautiful family now. Something that I’d always dreamed of and never really hoped for. But I have it and it’s the most incredible thing.
I sit out on the roof for awhile just kind of watching the sky. It gets a little too cold and I make my way back inside. It’s time to get back to work. If I don’t finish now I won’t get to. I finish doing everything I’d wanted to and I’m about to leave the room but something stops me. I turn back around and head to the closet. Reaching up to the top shelf I pull down a shoe box. I sit myself down on the edge of the bed and open it up.
My journal. The one that I had every intention of continuing when I got here. It was how I was going to keep myself sane. How I was going to vent about everything, my frustrations, fears, sadness......everything. Only it turns out I didn’t need it. What I really needed I found in Max. I open up to the last entry. A piece of paper falls out and onto the floor. Reaching down I pick it up. It’s a newspaper clipping.

Wanted, live in resident to help with housework and cooking. Free room and board in exchange for services. For more details call 402-454-8986.

Isabel’s ad. I remember saving it, thinking that it marked another turning point in my life. I didn’t realize how right I was about that. I place the little want ad back between the pages of the journal and then my eyes go over my last entry. I bite my lip as I read it, holding in tears.

I met Max today. It’s strange how you can meet someone and just instantly be connected to them. That’s exactly what happened. He shook my hand and it was like everything that has happened to me up to this point has led me to this exact moment. To this exact place. I can’t think about things like that though. Not right now. I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I have to go on without my parents. Sometimes I wish I could have taken their places. That maybe it should be me that’s gone right now. It’s silly I know, because that can’t happen. But that night, I saw my father, I saw how much he loved my mother and how his whole heart broke when she died. I sort of always figured that kind of love deserved to go on. I don’t have that. I didn’t think that I could. But there’s something about Max.....he makes me want to believe in that for myself. And I feel so ......confused. I mean I just met the man and he was an asshole if the truth be told. But I think it’s just an act and I’m going to see just what he’s really got underneath that semi-gruff exterior of his.....


I stop reading. That was more than a year ago. Now look where I am. In love beyond reasonable comprehension and happy......so very happy. The kind of happy that gets scary. I abandon thoughts of cleaning and make my way downstairs. I have this sudden urge to be with Max and our children.
The house is actually very quiet. This surprises me a little. I hear voices though, in the TV room. They must be watching TV. I go and stand in the doorway. Max is sitting on the couch, a propped up on each side of him.
I hear “Max, put the damn camera away! I’m serious! If you don’t.....” My eyes flicker to the screen where I see a very pregnant me holding my hand in front of the camera.
“Mommy didn’t like when I videotaped her very much. She thought she looked fat. But she didn’t. You can see.....she’s beautiful. Besides, she’s got you two in her tummy.” Max’s voice says. He’s talking to Parker and Lainey. Who are actually looking with wide eyes at the screen.
The video changes and you can hear music and then there’s me again, walking down the back porch steps in my wedding dress. The camera goes from Michael helping me down the steps to Max’s face. And I catch my breath at the love that I see there. It’s just.....mind blowing. I never saw that before. He looks so happy and.......I look over at him now as he sits on the couch talking to the babies. His face is sort of lit up the same way as he looks back and forth between them, talking to them.
I stand in the doorway and keep watching. There’s me shoving cake in Max’s face and then there’s Michael doing Kareoke.
“Uncle Michael’s weird. But aunt Maria loves him that way. They make a weird couple,” Max tells them with a chuckle. The video goes on and then I’m sitting there singing while Maria plays her guitar. I’m sort of awed by what I see because I love Max so much and you can just see it as I sit there singing.
“See how beautiful mommy is? And she sings like an angel. Hopefully she passed that on to one of you. Well maybe just Lainey. Parker you’re going to play basketball. I already decided.” This is where I stand there and roll my eyes.
“What are you guys doing?” I finally ask from the doorway. Max looks up from couch and over at me. He smiles a little sheepishly and pushes pause.
“Just watching videos. How is the, uh, the cleaning going?”
“It’s going. Do you care if I join you or is this a private party?” I ask with a smile.
“Well, I suppose we can make room,” he tells me. He lifts Lainey up and onto his lap and I take her place next to him. Parker starts to protest, wanting to be held. Max hands me Lainey and pulls Parker into his lap. He pushes play again and I lean my head against his shoulder.
It’s no longer our wedding day but sometime after the babies are born. Max must be filming because I can hear his voice but can’t see him. The camera focuses on two tiny babies bundled into blue and pink blankets. “Meet Lelaina Phae Evans and Parker Nathaniel Evans. Kids.....wave for daddy.....or just do something.....” Max voice fades off as he gets a close up shot of Parker yawning. After that there’s some footage of the babies as they’re sleeping. It’s amazing to watch as they get bigger. The scene switches again. This time Max has the video camera propped up and he’s trying to get Lainey and Parker to sit up on their own. “Lainey.....can you smile for daddy? Come on baby smile for daddy. Look Parker’s smiling.....” I look over at Max.
“We got bored earlier,” he tells me with a smile. I laugh. Then I lean up and give him a kiss. I don’t really hate his little video camera anymore. I turn back to watch the video and Parker is now sitting up on his own. Max sits Lainey next to him and she promptly leans to the side, knocking Parker over like a domino. I look from the Lainey on screen down to Lainey in my lap and see that she’s sleeping. Looking over at Max, Parker’s out too.
Max shuts off the video and we both head upstairs to put the babies to bed. Then we make our way to our room. Max holds me and we both drift off to sleep. And I’m thinking that things have sort of come full circle. It’s hard to imagine that things could get any better than this. But this is far from the end. It’s more of a beginning and I can’t wait to live whatever happens next.
“Goodnight Max, I love you,” I whisper as I rub the arm he’s got wrapped around me.
“I love you too, Liz. ‘night.”

Yeah....just the beginning.
The End

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau