Oh, go on then. But be warned you might not get another for a while.Michelle in Yonkers wrote: Does this mean we get a celebratory extra chapter?
A huge thanks to everyone who nominated me, I can't believe that I'm actually a nominee. Thank you.
I'd really love to respond individaully to everyone's fb but there's so much. I'm sorry. I'll try get to everyone eventually but not all at one time.
Behrlyliz Michael’s situation will be explained later in the fic.
Earth2Mama that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
Stargazer's Delight hmm, Michael bitter about his ex GF – you may have hit the mark there!!
touched by an alien it’s only sincerely sweet if he doesn’t have an ulterior motive.
LairaBehr4 No change with Grandma Claudia, I’ve sort of been neglecting her lately, but Liz hasn’t. She’s visiting everyday.
Jason's Lover No, Max is far in the debit column that it’ll be a long time before he’s actually earning points.
Michelle in Yonkers You can stay as long as you like. But if you think Michael needs coddling and Max is innocent then I’m doing something wrong.
JMoore Love that you think Michael is a bitch.
Tequathisy I promise I’ll get to the tape soon. Just be patient.
PSW2001 Max’s feelings for Liz are like him in general, ambiguous.
D2Tymes Isabel makes her own living from modelling and appearance fees and doesn’t need the parents money. Max on the other hand hasn’t got the same kind of career as Isabel so he still needs their money to keep himself in the lifestyle to which he is accustomed. And ok, Michael didn’t have to stay around for the baby (though that would have been nice) but he should have stayed to talk to the police who would be interested in what he had to say. The tape only showed that he was telling the truth about finding the baby, Kyle wants DNA to rule out a connection to Michael in case the baby was left under his car for a specific reason.
Shadowlynxbehr thank you, I know I’m doing something right when people want to bitch about my characters.
Paper I think you can guess what Max wants out of the arrangement!!
RhondaAnn Yes, Michael and Maria finally meet in chapter 11
“Honey, did you see this in the paper? Somebody abandoned a baby girl outside a diner yesterday. Isn’t it dreadful?” Diane Evans asked as she and her husband ate dinner in his office. As Philip was in the middle of important negotiations he couldn’t make it home for his evening meal so Diane had brought it to him so they could at least have one meal together. She had hoped that Michael would join them, but he was too busy.
“Poor kid.” Philip commented sadly after he had scanned the article.
“I wonder if there’s anything we can do. I’ll ask Sylvia to look into it.” Diane decided, referring to the woman who ran the company’s charity. She made a note in her palm pilot. “So how are things going here?”
Philip grinned. “Great, Isagi are trying to play hard to get but you should see Michael, he doesn’t give an inch. So far they’ve played right into his hands. I’m so proud of him. You know, he works hard enough that it’s like having two sons working here.”
Diane sighed, although she was delighted that Michael had given up his playboy ways and turned out to be a hard working, reliable man, she was beginning to think that it wasn’t all for the best. He had never been a happy go lucky type of person but at least he had once known how to have fun. She hardly ever saw him anymore and his dogged pursuit of money had already cost him his engagement to a lovely girl. “I wish that he didn’t work so hard. He needs a break.”
“When these talks are concluded I’ll make him take a couple of days off.” Philip nodded.
“And what about Max?”
“Max has already had enough days off.” Philip glowered.
“I meant, what are we going to do with him?”
Philip shrugged. “I don’t know, he has been turning up and looking after the Japanese business men everyday and apart from a few complaints the first day he’s done a good job. I think he’s coming around.”
To his surprise, Diane pounded her fist down on the desk. “Philip, we’re doing it again. He shows up for a few days and says all the right things and we buy it and believe that he’s finally going to grow up and let him off the hook for another six months. We promised that we weren’t going to put up with his nonsense anymore.”
“You’re right Diane.”
“This is his last chance. He doesn’t get to go back to his old ways after this. If he doesn’t accept a full time job here with you or go back to college to study then we’re pulling the plug. He’ll have to find his own way to make a living.” Diane was almost shouting when she was finished speaking.
“I agree. Furthermore, I’m not giving him another ultimatum. He has already got it so if he doesn’t come to me with his plans when these talks are over, then that’s it.”
Diane took her husband’s hands in her own. “We’re doing the right thing. We’ve spoiled them long enough. Michael came around, even Isabel is working at the center. Max has to learn that we’re not going to pay for everything.” She stood up, kissed her husband goodbye and left his office. She stopped briefly at Michael’s door but he was busy on a call and could only blow her a kiss. Sadly she made her way outside where her driver had her car waiting.
Within minutes they were speeding away to Diane’s next appointment where she was due to give a talk at a charity function. Suddenly out of nowhere a silver SUV ran a red light and collided head first with Diane’s car. It spun 360 degrees before hitting a brick wall. Diane was vaguely aware that she would miss her appointment before she passed out.
Maria was changing a bag on the abandoned baby’s drip and singing gently to her. Despite the best care that she had been receiving, her condition had deteriorated over night and her breathing was becoming even more erratic. She was also in tremendous pain as her body began to suffer withdrawal symptoms from whatever drug her mother had been using while she was pregnant.
“I think she likes your voice,” A fellow nurse, Kate smiled.
The baby seemed to have stopped whimpering and appeared calmer as Maria sang.
“Poor little angel.” Maria sighed as she stroked the baby’s arm soothingly, she seemed to like it and soon fell asleep.
Kate shook her head as she read through the baby’s chart. “I’d love to string this bitch up; people like her should be thrown in jail.”
“Yeah, but I guess she has a lot of problems too,” Maria replied. She finished her tasks and she and Kate made their way out of the ward to the nurse’s station.
There were several nurses gathered around the desk talking excitedly, some were from other floors. “What’s going on?” Maria asked.
“You’ll never guess who has just been admitted to the ER.” One of the nurses declared. “Diane Evans.”
“Who’s Diane Evans?” Kate asked. Her question was met with surprise.
“She’s Max Evans mother,” Another nurse answered, bouncing up and down. “Imagine, Max Evans is going to be here, in this hospital. It’s so exciting.”
Maria laughed. “And maybe you’ll run into him in the elevator and he’ll fall in love with you and you’ll get married.”
“It could happen,” The red headed nurse defended.
“Max Evans is a jerk, trust me all the Evans are.” Maria told the girls.
“How would you know?” Jenny asked.
“You know my friend Alex and his center? The Evans are trying to force them out of the neighborhood because they say it brings down property value.”
“That’s not Max’s fault. He doesn’t wok for the company. I bet if Max knew he would try to help, he’s a great guy. I saw him on TV last month and he was doing charity work.”
“He’s a jerk, who doesn’t have a job and spends all his money in strip clubs exploiting vulnerable young women,” Maria said angrily.
The other nurses just ignored her rant and began to discuss ways of bumping into Max. Maria rolled her eyes and went back to work.
It was another busy night at The Dangerzone and Liz was rushed off her feet. As most of the other girls seemed to be entertaining customers either in booths or at their tables, she was one of the very few left to serve drinks. It was a job she far preferred, now that she knew how awful and humiliating it was to be ensconced in a booth with a customer. But she was tired, it had been a long day at college as she had classes, labs and studying to cram in before she came to work. And although she was now able to walk around on her monstrously high shoes with falling off them, they pained her feet.
So she kept a close eye on the door as she waited for Max to come as he had promised. When he came in, he looked so handsome in his suit that Liz had to remind herself that she didn’t like him. But that didn’t stop her body from reacting to his presence. She felt her nipples harden in the leather bound bra. He looked in her direction and smiled that beautiful smile of his. She couldn’t help but smile happily back.
He disappeared upstairs and a few minutes later a butler came to her to let her know that she was wanted in a private booth.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes.” Liz exclaimed as she entered the booth and flopped onto the luxurious couch. “Or sore feet.”
Max grinned. After the silent treatment he had received the night before, he was thrilled to see that Liz was talking to him again. “Busy night?”
“Yeah. Would you mind if I took my shoes off? My feet are killing me.”
Liz groaned in relief as she slipped the large shoes off her feet and rubbed her soles.
“I’d offer you a foot massage if I could.” Max told her. At that moment his phone rang and he pulled it out of his jacket to see who was calling, when Michael’s name came up he switched the phone off.
“Usually when guys do that, it’s because they don’t want to talk to their wives or girlfriends.” Liz teased.
Max poured her a glass of champagne. “I don’t have either. That was my brother.”
“Why don’t you want to talk to him?” Liz asked as she took a drink.
“Because he’s just calling to tell me how useless I am.” Max put the phone back into his pocket.
“I’m sure he doesn’t think that.” Liz said genuinely.
“No he does.” Max sighed. “You know the way born again Christians are the most zealous? Michael’s like that. He used to be like me, good for nothing and then one day he just decided to start working for my dad and now he’s like a robot. All he does is work. And he thinks that he’s better than me because I don’t work so he never wastes an opportunity to let me know.”
“So you guys aren’t close? That’s sad. I don’t have any brothers or sisters but I always thought that it would be great.”
Max shrugged. “We used to be. When we were younger, the three of us, Michael, my sister and I, we were really close. We did everything together once but we just drifted apart.”
Liz faced him with a serious expression on her face. “Family’s very important Max. You should never forget that. You’re so lucky to have a brother and sister and parents who love you. Don’t mess it up.”
He frowned. “Is that why you’re here….problems with your parents?”
“No.” Liz shook her head, she didn’t want to talk to Max about why she was here. So she smiled. “I already told you, I’m here because I like to get naked in front of other people. It turns me on.”
“Right.” Max laughed.
“Max, this is Michael. Mom’s been in an accident. She’s been taken to St John of God’s. She’s ok but she needs surgery. Can you get over here when you get this message.” Michael hung up the phone and glanced at his watch. He had been trying to get hold of Max for almost an hour at this stage.
“Any luck?” Isabel asked as she handed him a cup of coffee.
“No, he has his cell switched off and he’s not answering any of his pages.” Michael sipped the coffee and grimaced. “This is awful.”
“It’s all they have,” Isabel sighed. She sat down in one of the chairs beside her father and laid her head on his shoulder. Philip wrapped his arm around her wordlessly. Michael sat down on the other side of Isabel and she took his hand in hers and held it in her lap.
Together they sat in silence, watching the door to the operating theatre where Diane had been taken forty minutes earlier. The doctor had assured them that the surgery was pretty routine and he was sure Diane would be fine, but until they saw her with their own eyes they would not be able to relax.
It seemed like weeks had passed before the doctor emerged from the OR and walked up to them. “I just wanted to let you know that the surgery went smoothly. We managed to stop the internal bleeding and repair the damage. She has damaged her spine but it's not as bad as we feared, although we'll have to wait until the swelling has gone down to get a more accurate assessment. She’s been taken to the ICU now and you’ll be allowed to see her in a few minutes. Nurse Carol will show you the way.”
“Thank you Doctor.” Philip shook the surgeon’s hand vigorously before brushing away his tears of relief. Isabel and Michael hugged each other.
They followed the nurse to Diane’s room, just in time to see her being wheeled in. After a few minutes it was ok for them to go in. “She’s unconscious at the moment, it should wear off in a few hours. But you can sit with her.”
They crowded into the room. Their mother was barely recognisable, her face and hands were swollen and bruised and she was covered in bandages with several wires and tubes coming from various machines were attached to her body.
Isabel burst into tears at the sight and rushed to her mother’s side. Philip blinked back tears and collapsed into a chair by the bed. He took Diane’s hand in his and gripped it tightly.
After some time with his mother, Michael excused himself to go call Max again. There was still no answer at Max’s apartment and his cell phone was still powered off. He was probably on top of some girl, Michael figured.
Not wanting to go back into his mother’s room yet, Michael wandered along the corridors of the hospital. It wasn't that he didn’t want to be with his mother, but he wasn’t very good when things got emotional and tried to avoid them at all costs. Seeing Isabel in tears was bad enough but having to watch his father break down was too much.
Eventually he came to a corridor that was blocked by security doors, a guard stood watching him to see what he was going to do. Michael blinked in surprise, not expecting to find an area of the hospital that was blocked to the public. He read the sign and saw that it was the postnatal unit. For the first time that night, he remembered that this was the hospital he had brought the baby too, the detective had mentioned she was here. He looked at his watch, it was late but he might be able to find out how that baby was doing and at least he could tell Valenti that he had come to visit the child.
“Do you have a pass?” The guard asked.
“No, why would I need a pass?”
“Only people with passes are allowed into this area of the hospital.”
“I was told my name was at the desk, Michael Guerin.” He handed the guard his ID and was admitted and directed to the postnatal ICU. Michael sighed, maybe if he paid her a visit he could stop the nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach.
A pretty blonde nurse was standing at the desk, reading some notes. She looked up as he approached and smiled. “Hi, can I help you?”
“Uh, yeah….I’m Michael ...Guerin, I found a baby the other day and I was told that I could see her here. I know it’s late but I was hoping that it would be ok.” He scratched his eyebrow nervously.
“Oh, you’re the guy who found her?” The nurse exclaimed. She held out her hand. “I’m Maria, I’ve been looking after her.”
Michael shook her hand. “It’s probably too late for a visit so if you can just tell me how she’s doing.”
Maria waved her hand. “It’s fine, as long as you don’t make noise it’ll be ok. Come with me and I’ll let you see her.” She led him to a room and handed him what looked like a green plastic sheet.
“You have to put that on. It’s a sterile environment.” She helped Michael pull on the green gown, before handing him a pair of plastic gloves and a mask. “One last thing, these cover your feet.” She knelt down and pulled plastic covers over his shoes and then stood up and nodded in satisfaction.
“Let’s go.” Michael followed her into the next room. It was large, but dimly let. He could make out three incubators heavily surrounded by monitors and other paraphernalia. Maria led him to the one in the middle.
He gasped when he saw the baby inside. She looked even smaller than she had the day he had found her. She had even more tubes and wires attached to her tiny body than his mother had. As he gazed at her, the baby’s body spasmed as if in pain and she gave a short sharp cry. Maria adjusted something on one of the machines and made a note. She looked up at Michael expectantly, waiting for him to say something.
“She’s so tiny,” Michael said finally.
“We estimate that she’s about six weeks premature which would account for her size, but the mother was using while she was pregnant so that’s also a factor.
“Using? You mean drugs? Is that why she needs all this stuff?” He pointed lamely at the monitors.
Maria nodded. “Yeah, she’s suffering from withdrawals at the moment.”
Michael watched the baby some more, she seemed to be falling asleep again. He couldn’t get over how tiny and vulnerable she looked. The thought of leaving her alone in a car parking lot suddenly seemed like the most evil thing anybody could ever do. “What will happen to her?”
The nurse shrugged. “It depends, if they can find the birth mother she may be given back to family. If not, probably fostercare.”
“They’d give her back to the woman who dumped her?” Michael asked in outrage.
“Wherever possible, it’s thought best for children to be raised by their natural family. It might not be the mother, but another relative.”
“That’s crap.” Michael muttered.
“But unfortunately, that’s the way things are done. The other possibility is that the police find the mother and she’s given up for adoption.” Maria shook her head and smiled, wanting to change the subject. “I’m glad you came in, we haven’t given her a name and we thought you might like that honor.”
“You want me to give her a name?” Michael asked in surprise. “I don’t really have any ideas about names.”
“Do you have a sister that you’d like to name her after, or your mother maybe? Or we could call her Michelle.”
“No, don’t call her Michelle.” Michael shook his head. He was silent for so long that Maria wondered if he was going to talk again when he suddenly blurted out “Madeline.” He looked up at her, almost shyly. “That was my mother’s name, Madeline Diane.”
Maria turned to the baby. “How about that honey? Do you like Madeline?”
The baby gave no reaction and Maria laughed. “I think if she didn’t like it she’d let us know, so Madeline Diane it is. We have the same initials kid.”
“Will she be ok?” Michael asked, surprised at how concerned he felt.
A look of sadness washed over Maria’s face. “I don’t know. She’s very weak and in a lot of pain. We’re doing what we can for her but…There’s a program available to wean new-borns off drugs and I’m trying to get her admitted to it. If she could get on that, I think that she’d do really well. She’s a real fighter.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Who knows? The odds wouldn’t be in her favor, but like I said, she’s a fighter. It’s just such a pity; she has nothing going for her and her whole life is going to be hard and we can’t even do this one little thing to help make her better.”
“So what’s stopping her from being admitted to the program?” Michael asked, already guessing the answer.
“Money of course. I’m trying to find the name of an organisation that might be willing to pay for it. So fingers crossed.”
“I should go.” He leaned down so that he was at eye level with the baby. “Bye Madeline, I hope that you get better soon.”
Maria led him out and he removed his hospital garb. “It was nice meeting you, Maria.”
“You too, I hope we see you again soon.”
“Uh…I’m pretty busy.”
“Oh, ok.” Maria’s disappointment was evident, but she covered it quickly.
He nodded and left. As he walked back down the corridor to his mother’s room he was aware of a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had thought that coming to see that baby would appease the small nagging guilt he felt but instead it had made it a lot worse.