That's interesting. I thought everyone was anti-Maria at this point, but I'm glad to know that's not the case. And you were close with the age. 21, not 20.But i have to say, being the biggest mariafan ever (i mean i stood by the girl in passion from the start to the end), I am still on team maria. She's a messed up 20(?) year old girl. I am not sayíng i am supporting her actions or that i am mad at her for hurting michael..but i still feel for her and with her. She's a messed up girl who in her own messed up mind thinks she's doing the right thing.
Best reaction.Oh God.
That was horrible. That's all I can say right now.
Yeah, that is pretty dorky.When Tess admitted to love Kyle...I pumped my fist in the air like a dork. What I am.
As long as the feelings are still involved, there's hope.At this point, it seems that nothing can save Maria and Michael...but there are still feelings involved so we keep the faith.
Maria has definitely shown some Isabel-like qualities lately, which is concerning. She's at the point right now where she could easily become Isabel if she doesn't stop what she's doing.Well after reading this I can't see how ANYONE can still be on Maria's side....she's as evil a bitch as Isabel is as far as I'm concerned
That was for Y-O-U!Ohh and by the way LOVED all the Kyle/Tess stuff and the fact she told Kyle she loved him.
OMGness is my new favorite word.OMGness.
I'll admit, for a brief moment, I considered having him sleep with her, but then I reconsidered, thinking it would be like character assasination for Michael and that everyone would just immediately stop reading. I think it made more sense for him to start down that road and then stop himself, considering the emotional state he's in.Just thank you for not letting him go all the way.
Thank you! I really struggled writing that fight for some reason. And I also struggled writing their break-up fight, which is weird for me. Fight scenes, especially fight scenes between M+M, are usually among my favorites to write, but with the M+M in this fic, knowing how happy they've been in the past . . . it's really hard to write them fighting.The FIGHT. I liked that fight much more than their break-up fight, however odd that makes me. You could feel the pain, the resignation, the regret, the love. It was beautiful, and painful and I COULD NOT LOOK AWAY.
LMAO! That has to be one of the strangest but most flattering comments I've ever received! After reading it, I actually went and Googled it, just to see what the heck does come up. Just a couple MySpace pages.P.S. April, I'm still wondering what went down with Isabel and Alex. If I had the time (or more like the talent, ) I'd make a siggie saying "I'm so hooked on 521 that I also want to Google "Alex Whitman Florida".
Oh, yeah. Unfortunately, Michael's little make-out with her just gave her a ton of false hope and made her super impatient.Isabitch just had a lesson in reality
Me, too.I don't hate Maria but I really would like to slap some sense into her.
It's not even 200+, actually. It's more like 120. So yeah, I'd say that's not long enough to cover Maria's pregnancy.Another thing that worries me is how few pages there are left. 200+ is not enough to cover the full term of Maria's pregnancy, is it? Is that a sign?
Yep, if he'd had sex with Isabel, it would have meant that things were hopeless. Luckily, he stopped himself.It was the last shred of hope I could have ever imagined....he didnt have sex with Isabel....thank god for that.
Max strolled out of the movie theater with Liz that afternoon, amazed that she had room for another hot dog after having a large popcorn, hot dog, hamburger, and Skittles. Of course, part of her hunger was probably due to having worked up an appetite with him. Movie theater sex was kind of cliché, but he’d enjoyed it thoroughly, enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he didn’t even know what movie they’d just seen.
“I really should be working right now,” he said to himself as they walked down the street. He’d parked in a parking garage a good distance away. Since he was mostly driving his Porsche these days, he didn’t want to take any chances that some ditzy fifteen year-old would park haphazardly and dent the side door in her rush to see Twilight.
“Oh, come on. It’s a figurehead position, remember?” she teased.
“Careful,” he cautioned, “you’re starting to talk like Roger.”
“Yeah, but I’m hot enough to get away with it.” She grinned and popped the remainder of her hot dog into her mouth. Watching her eat that thing instinctively made Max picture what she looked like when giving him head.
“I know it’s not a figurehead position,” she said, tossing her hot dog wrapper into the trash can at the corner. “You work hard.”
“Don’t say that word,” he warned.
“Yeah. Your thong’s been peeking out of your jeans all day. I’ve been trying to keep it soft.”
She laughed and pulled her jeans upward. “Oh, please. That thing’s never soft.” She playfully whacked him in the groin, but it was sensitive.
“Hey, watch it,” he said.
“Are you still nervous about having sex? Afraid we’ll conceive?”
“Not nervous, not afraid,” he denied as they continued on down the sidewalk. “I’m . . . cautious about it. Something Michael Guerin should’ve been.”
“Oh, I see.” She hopped down off the sidewalk and approached a car Max had never seen before. “Hey, what’s this?” she said, picking up a neon green flyer off the windshield.
“Junk,” he figured.
“No, look, there’s a party tonight at someone’s house,” she said, holding up the flyer for him to see. “We should go.”
“Why?” There was also a party in his pants, because even though he was being cautious about sex, he sure as hell wasn’t being abstinent.
“Because it’ll be fun,” Liz replied. “You do remember fun, don’t you? It’s the thing we don’t have at the wealthy/elite parties you drag me to.”
“The Smithsons’ was kind of fun,” Max mumbled. “The sex after was . . . funner.”
She blushed. “Come on. It could be a date.”
He usually didn’t do the whole college party scene.
“Max, I know you lead an accelerated lifestyle,” she acknowledged, moving towards him, “but this is still your junior year of college; you’re still a twenty-one year old guy. You should be able to go out and let loose and forget about work for awhile.”
He tucked her hair behind her ear and told her, “I always forget about work when I’m with you.” And that was pretty much the truth. Even though his company was still striving to stay out of bankruptcy, he often found that Liz occupied his thoughts much more than anything else did.
“So we’re partying tonight?” she asked hopefully.
He sighed. “Yes, we’re partying tonight.”
“Oh, thank you!” she squealed, throwing her arms around him. He hoisted her up and kissed her. Being in love with someone other than himself was . . . pretty great, and that never ceased to surprise him. He was to the point where he couldn't understand why anyone sane would push that feeling away.
Maria was just starting to fall asleep early that evening when she heard noise coming from downstairs. And not just a little noise, either, but a lot of noise. People were talking and laughing and saying something about a keg.
“Oh, crap,” she muttered, getting out of bed. She headed downstairs and found Billy helping one of his friends carry in a keg. There were two other guys setting up a sound system in the living room. Maria had a bad feeling about this.
“Billy?” she said, perched on the bottom of the staircase. “What’s going on?” It was pretty obvious, but she asked anyway. He hadn’t mentioned anything about having a party. Had she known about it, she would have gotten out of there earlier.
Billy set down the keg and said to his friends, “Hey, guys, this is the girl I told you about. This is Maria.”
The two guys working on the sound system stopped what they were doing and approached her. One of them was an over-tanned, tattooed hippie, and the other had pimples all over his face. The third of Billy’s friends just stood by the keg and reached his hand down his pants while leering at her. Charmers, all of them.
“Damn, she’s hot for a pregnant bitch,” the tattooed guy remarked.
“Hey,” Mr. Pimply said, “is it true you like it up the ass?”
Maria made a face at what was totally an intrusive question. “No,” she said. Not very many girls yearned for that kind of sex. Whatever kind of girl they thought she was, whatever kind of girl Billy had told them she was . . . she wasn’t that.
“Good luck fuckin’, man,” the tattooed guy said to Billy, giving him an encouraging pat on the back before he and Pimply went to work on the sound system again.
Billy chuckled. “Thanks.”
“Please tell me you’re not throwing a party tonight,” Maria begged. Maybe she was wrong and he was just inviting a few friends?
“Actually,” he said, “I’m throwing a party right now.” As if on cue, dozens of people flocked in the door, bringing with them more kegs, more noise, and more hormones. The sound system cranked up, and a feeling of dread coursed through Maria. She finally understood how Michael probably felt when she threw all those parties in his apartment.
“Yeah!” Billy yelled. “Get those girls some shots!”
“Billy. I’m tired. I’m pregnant,” Maria reminded him. “I’ve had a really bad day. I can’t deal with this right now.”
“Then go back upstairs,” he suggested.
“We both know it only takes a good party ten minutes to spread upstairs,” she said. “Since this is gonna be a bad party, we’ll give it fifteen.”
“You really are a bitch, you know that?”
“Please make these people go away,” she pleaded. “I just wanna get some sleep.”
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” he spat. “You used to be the life of the party.”
“Oh, thank you very much for these constant reminders of who I used to be, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not that girl anymore. Please, I’m asking you to make this stop.” Couldn’t he just be a decent guy for once and do that for her?
“Sorry, babe,” he replied, “but this is my house, and you’re a guest in it.” He shrugged and walked away from her, immediately gathering up a girl under his arm.
Maria grunted, not sure why she was surprised by his response. He wasn’t a decent guy. He never would be.
She sat down on the second to bottom step of the stairs and watched the party start to swirl around her. She didn’t want to be there, but she had nowhere else to go.
Max and Liz arrived at the house party about an hour after it had started. Max was disappointed right away. He’d expected to see half-naked girls, preferably bottomless, but they were all still clothed. And too drunk to be attractive.
“Huh,” he said. “Looks kinda lame.”
“Yeah,” Liz agreed. “I was hoping it’d be cooler. Oh, well. We can still have fun.”
He’d have fun knowing he was with the sexiest girl in the room. He put his arms around her and hugged her to his chest, looking around to see if he recognized anyone. And lo and behold, sitting on the staircase all by herself was Maria DeLuca.
“Look who it is,” he said to Liz, pointing out her former friend.
Liz turned around and said, “Huh, I wonder what Maria’s doing here.”
“I doubt she’s looking for a party,” Max mumbled.
“Give me a minute,” Liz said, heading over towards Maria. He followed her and stood aside as she sat down next to Maria and said, “Hey, I didn’t think I’d run into you tonight. Do you know the guy who lives here?”
Maria didn’t even look at her. “Sort of. I kind of live here right now.”
“Oh.” Liz frowned. “I didn’t know that. I thought you were still living with Tess.”
Liz looked as though she were struggling to come up with anything to say. “So I heard this guy’s a musician,” she commented randomly. “Is he any good?”
Maria rolled her eyes emphatically. “No.”
Holy crap, she looks screwed up, Max thought. He hadn’t seen her look this way since the night he’d taken advantage of her. “How you been?” he inquired, shocked that he even cared to ask.
She lifted her head to look up at him and replied, “Horrible and unethical.”
Max nodded slowly. So she’d started down the path of destruction he knew so well. Maybe she’d already had the abortion. Maybe not.
Maria got up and scurried upstairs, not even saying so much as a word of goodbye to Liz.
“What was that about?” Liz asked, looking confused.
Max shrugged, pretending he didn’t know anything.
Isabel sat in the nursery in the rocking chair, her hand on the side of the empty crib. She hummed “Rock-a-bye Baby” quietly, picturing what her baby would look like asleep in that crib. She was going to have the cutest baby ever; she was sure of it. What was strange was, she was actually starting to get excited about giving birth. Not about the actual labor itself, of course, but about seeing her son and smiling at him and laughing with him. What excited her most, however, was the family she and Michael would then share. It would be immediate, and it would be forever.
“Why’d you throw this out?” Michael asked, coming to stand in the doorway.
She looked up and saw him standing in the doorway with his drawing of Maria in hand, the same one she had tossed in the trash the night before. “Because you couldn’t,” she replied, “but you needed to.”
He looked angry as he bit out, “Don’t interfere with my artwork.”
She continued to sit there as he stomped off into the bedroom. His artwork, she thought. Michael was a great artist, but as far as she was concerned, there was nothing artistic about Maria DeLuca. Stupid Maria.
She pushed herself up from the rocking chair and walked into the bedroom, trying to seem as calm as she could. But ever since Michael had come home and put his hands on her, her skin had felt on fire for him.
“Michael,” she said. “What happened today?”
He sat down on the bed and opened up his nightstand drawer, setting the drawing down inside.
“Come on, sweetie,” she urged, “it’s time to hop off the merry-go-round of rotating avoidance and talk to me. Or ravage me. Whichever.” She grinned suggestively. She’d much rather prefer a good ravaging.
“Today was a mistake,” he said calmly and evenly. “It shouldn’t have happened. I’m glad we stopped.”
How could he be glad? “No, Michael . . . it’s fine,” she assured him. “I can still have sex. I want to.”
“I don’t,” he said. “I don’t wanna have sex with you.”
She wasn’t just upset to hear that. She was offended. Outraged, even. “Why the hell not?” she demanded. “Are you weirded out by the baby? Because that’s an advantage.” Even though some guys felt uncomfortable about sex with pregnant women, others found it to be a huge turn-on. Alex had. “You wouldn’t even have to wear a condom.”
He stayed seated on the bed, shaking his head in resistance. “When I came home today, I’d just gone to see Maria.”
Fucking bitch, Isabel thought, glaring just at the thought of the other girl.
“I was hurting, and I was in a bad place,” he said, “and I wasn’t thinking. I was using you to try to make myself feel better, but it didn’t work. I’m sorry.”
He was using her? It wasn’t her ideal, but if that’s what it took to get him in bed with her again . . . she was fine with being used.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I know you wanted it to be something more, but . . .” He let his sentence fade.
More than anything she’d wanted it to be something more, because she hated this. She hated being the one chasing after him. She was usually the chased. “So today meant nothing?” she growled. “You’re saying you’re still hung up on Maria?”
He didn’t say that, but he didn’t have to.
She huffed. “Unbelievable.”
“No, I don’t buy that,” she decided. “Today wasn’t about her. Today was about you and me.” She unzipped her sweatshirt, shrugging it off her shoulders. “You still want me.”
She reached down and grabbed the hem of her shirt in her hands. “And when I look less like a blimp,” she said, pulling it over her head, “you won’t be able to keep your artistic hands off me.” She threw her shirt at him.
“Put your clothes back on,” he said, finally standing up, trying to hand her shirt back to her.
She took a few steps back, still stripping. “You still love me,” she said, reaching behind her back to unclasp her bra. Her boobs were so huge now; he’d go crazy.
“I don’t,” he denied, pressing her shirt against her chest as she let her bra fall to the floor.
“Yes, you do,” she insisted. “I know you do.”
“Stop it!” he finally roared, causing her to flinch. “I quit loving you a long time ago, right about the time I found out you cheated on me.”
Isabel took her shirt back from him tucking it in beneath her arms. “So did Maria,” she pointed out. “Only it’s worse ‘cause she made a baby with that other guy! I made a baby with you. That should mean something.”
“It means we’re gonna be parents,” he said, “but we are not gonna be together.”
“But we should be,” she kept on. “We always have been, even when you were with her.” She reached out one hand and traced it over his heart. “You never stopped thinking about our last night together, when you put yourself inside me and left yourself there.” She moved closer to him, her breath coming in heavy pants now. “Bad boy. Do it again.”
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” he shouted, gripping both her wrists in his hands, holding her still in front of him.
“Maybe I’m just horny,” she said. “Or maybe I’m sick of pretending we’re not meant to be together.” They were meant to be together. She was sure of it. She jerked her wrists away from him and ground out, “Open your eyes, Michael. She’s your past. I’m your future.”
He shook his head and brushed past her, walking out the front door. Isabel frowned. Michael didn’t seem as excited about their future together as she was; but once she got skinny again, and once they had their family, everything was going to be better. It had to be.
“Whoa, okay, so that sounds creepy,” Kyle remarked after Michael told him about Isabel’s freak-out. “You gotta be careful, man. We all remember Fatal Attraction.”
“No, it wasn’t like that,” Michael said, but upon thinking about it a little more, changed his mind. “Actually, it was kinda like that. God, my life’s messed up.” Frank walked up to him with a rubber hamburger in his mouth, so Michael took, it squeezed it a few times, then tossed it down the hallway. Frank went running to retrieve it.
“So Isabel’s goin’ nuts . . . for your nuts,” Kyle concluded, sitting down on the couch beside him.
“Can you blame her?” Michael managed to joke. “Nah, she’s not the most stable person on the planet, but she’s not crazy.”
“Sounds like she’s crazy about you.”
Michael reached for the hamburger again when Frank returned. The dog was holding it just out of his reach, but he managed to get it away from him and throw down the hallway again. “I think she’s just desperate to rebuild our relationship before the baby’s born,” he said. “I mean, if you think about it, all her male attachments in life—her father, her brother, Alex, me—have all weakened or collapsed over the years. And as much as she hates to be at the mercy of men, she always seems to wind up that way. So she’s probably just trying to make sure I’ll stick around after the baby’s born.”
Kyle nodded in consideration. “Or . . . she’s nuts for your nuts.”
“Yeah, that’s a definite possibility,” Michael agreed as Frank came running out again. He set his hamburger down, panting, and when Michael threw it again, he just watched it roll down the hallway. “I don’t know, I messed up today, but I think I’ve made it pretty clear that the only thing we’re gonna do together is be parents,” he said.
“What if that’s not enough for her?” Kyle asked.
He shrugged. “It’s gonna have to be.” He didn’t have anything else to give her. Not his body, and definitely not his heart.
“Wanna play Whack-a-Mole?” Kyle inquired suddenly.
“Yeah, sure,” Michael replied. Anything to keep him from going back to his own apartment and having to spend time with fatally attracted Isabel.
“Hey, so, I’m sorry about Maria,” Kyle said as he took his favorite game out of the closet. “I know you wanted the baby to be yours.”
“How’d you know that?”
“You told me last night.”
“Oh, that’s right I was drunk.”
Kyle set the game down on the coffee table and before taking it out of the box asked, “Are you gonna be okay?”
Michael shrugged. “I’m gonna be a dad.” He’d meant it when he’d told Maria he was going to devote his entire life to his son from here on out. It was all he could see of the future.
“Yeah, but are you gonna be okay?” Kyle asked again.
Everyone kept saying that word to him, and he didn’t even know what it meant anymore. “Probably not,” he admitted. “I just hope Maria is.” As much as he was going to love his son, he’d never stop loving Maria, never stop wishing he’d been able to make his family with her instead of Isabel.
There was a couple fondling each other on the bed when Maria walked into the bedroom. “Get out,” she told them simply. They blushed with embarrassment, looked at each other, and slinked out of the bedroom. Maria then walked over to the closet, pulled it open, and revealed another couple inside there. “Go,” she said impatiently. What the hell were people doing making out in the closet anyway? What were they, eleven?
Once she had the room to herself, Maria shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief. She could hear the music thudding downstairs, but it was mostly still quiet upstairs. Thank God.
What am I doing here? she wondered, turning to look at herself in the mirror. She stood sideways and examined her profile. She wasn’t big yet. Her stomach was still flat. And it was never going to get round.
She lifted up her shirt and splayed her right hand across her stomach. She wondered what it would be like to feel her baby kick. She’d never know.
The door swung open and Billy stumbled in. Maria tugged her shirt back down quickly.
“What-what’re you doin’?” he stuttered.
“Better not be havin’ any second thoughts. ‘Cause I signed on to screw with Mike’s mind, not to be daddy dearest.”
“I just wanted to see if I’d gained any weight yet,” she said.
“Now that you mention it, you are lookin’ a little plump around the mid-section.”
“Gee, thanks.” She sat down on the foot of the bed, wishing he’d just head back down to his party and leave her alone. But instead of doing that, he shut the door and sauntered into the room.
“Here,” he said, holding out a glass of liquid for her, “I got you something to drink.”
“What is it?” she asked skeptically.
She sighed and took it. She supposed it was his futile attempt at making her feel better. When she brought the glass up to her lips and took a sip, though, she immediately spit it out all over her lap. “What the hell?” she shrieked.
He grinned and laughed.
“How much alcohol did you put in that?”
“Just a lot.”
She shot up to her feet and threw the glass down on the floor. “I’m pregnant, you dumb-ass!” she roared.
“So? You don’t drink alcohol when you’re pregnant.”
“Who the hell cares?”
She stared at him in disbelief. “I care.”
“No, you don’t,” he pointed out. “You’re gonna kill your kid.”
Upon hearing him say that, the rage boiled over, and she slapped him hard across the face. It was so easy for him and everyone else to stand there and pass judgment, but they didn’t know. They didn’t know what she was going through.
“Hey now,” Billy said, touching his cheek. “That was sexy.” He reached out and tried to grab her arms.
“Stop it,” she said, jerking away from him.
“You’re really turnin’ me on,” he said, gripping her hips as he tried to grind his pelvis against her.
“Ew, Billy!” She shoved him away, but he didn’t back off.
“Can I feel my fake fetus?” He laughed, reaching out to punch her lightly in the stomach.
“Stop it!” she shouted, feeling a sort of maternal instinct kick in.
“Come on, hop on my dick, baby,” he said, suddenly all over her. He pushed her down on the bed, and she squirmed beneath him.
“Billy . . . no, let go of me!” she cried, her heart pounding in fear now.
“Shh,” he said, slithering on top of her.
“Get away from me!” She pressed her hands against his shoulders, trying to push him off her, but he was too strong.
“I know you wanna fuck.”
He grabbed both her wrists and pinned them above her head with one hand. She screamed.
Max came out of the bathroom and heard sounds coming from down the hallway. His first instinct was to ignore them, but then he heard a girl cry, “Don’t! Please.”
Max frowned. That didn’t exactly sound consensual, and he knew a few things about non-consensual sex. He made his way towards the bedroom and opened the door just slightly. There was a guy on top a girl, and he was saying to her, “If you were drunk, you could pass out.”
“Stop!” the girl cried desperately, and Max recognized her voice. He didn’t have to see her to know it was Maria.
“Hey!” Max shouted, opening up the door all the way.
The guy on top of her looked over his shoulder, but he kept her pinned down on the bed. “Get outta here, guy,” he said.
Maria was just lying beneath him, whimpering. She looked helpless.
Max rolled his eyes and charged forward, getting involved despite his lingering desire not to. He grabbed Maria’s harasser by his shirt and pulled him off her, shoving him backwards. He glared at Max, then at Maria, and then stumbled out of the room.
Tool, Max thought, glancing down at Maria. She was still just lying there, looking shaken, stunned. Tears lined her face, and her bottom lip shook in fear. Max suspected she didn’t exactly feel relieved to see him there. He’d proven he could hurt her, too.
He held out his hand to help her up, but she just stared at him in confusion for a few seconds, then scrambled over to the other side of the bed and pushed herself up. She ran out of the room without a word.
“You’re welcome,” he said, though he hadn’t expected to hear a thank you. He didn’t care.
When Max headed back downstairs, he saw a rather alarming sight. The same guy who’d just been forcing himself on Maria was standing by the keg, talking to Liz.
“So, you’re a sophomore, huh?” he was saying, leaning in towards her. “That’s pretty hot. I’m a senior.”
She smiled politely, the kind of smile a girl gave when she wasn’t interested. “That’s nice.”
“So what do you wanna do first,” he asked, “get high or get laid?”
“How about you get away from her?” Max suggested, stepping up beside her. He placed one arm around her and led her away from his fellow rapist. “Come on, let’s get outta here,” he said, heading towards the door.
“That guy smells like feet,” she said as they slipped through the crowd. “Thank you for saving me.”
“I saved Maria a minute ago,” he told her.
She gave him a perplexed look.
“Yeah, I heard them in the bedroom upstairs, and when I looked in, that guy was on top of her.”
“The guy I was just talking to?” She sounded alarmed.
“Oh my god. Like . . . he was raping her?”
She looked horrified as they walked out the door. “Oh my god, that’s awful,” she said. “Is she gonna be okay?”
“No, Liz.” There was no doubt in his mind that Maria DeLuca was one of the biggest train wrecks he’d ever seen in his entire life. And he knew a thing or two about train wrecks since he was one of them, and so was his sister.
“Well, thank God you were there,” she said as they walked down the sidewalk to his car. “It was really good of you to help her, Max.”
“Good and ironic.”
“Max . . .”
“No, it’s true. Not long ago, I probably would’ve stood back and cheered him on, or maybe even waited my turn. And I was that guy on top of her once.” Hell, he’d been that guy on top of a number of girls. “You should never forget that.”
“I know,” she said, “but I don’t think you’re that guy anymore. In fact, I know you’re not.”
It meant a lot to hear her say that. “Thanks,” he said, pressing a kiss to the side of her head. They stepped down off the sidewalk once they were at his Porsche, and he swore under his breath. Someone had thrown up on the windshield.
“I’m so sorry I dragged you to this party tonight,” she apologized as she hopped into the passenger’s seat. “Although considering what happened to Maria, it’s probably a good thing we came.”
He climbed into the driver’s side, turned on the car, and put on the windshield wipers, but that only made it worse.
“Oh, sick,” Liz said.
He turned on the water along with them, and he was able to get the windshield semi-clean. “Losers, all of ‘em,” he pronounced.
“Oh, yeah,” she agreed. “I just feel so bad for Maria. Where’d she go afterwards?”
“I don’t know,” he replied as he pulled out onto the street.
“I think that’s the guy who owns the house,” Liz said as they started to drive. “She’s living there with him?”
“She should probably move out.”
“What’s going on with her? She seems really . . .”
“Pregnant,” he filled in.
“Yeah, I’m not supposed to say anything, but . . .” He shrugged. Maria probably didn’t care who the hell knew anymore.
“How’d you find out?” Liz asked.
“She told me.”
Her eyes bulged.
“Yeah, I was shocked, too,” he said. All he could figure was that it was sometimes easier to talk to someone you hated than to talk to someone you were close to.
“Oh my god, this is crazy,” Liz said. “She’s pregnant and she’s living with the guy who just assaulted her. Max, we have to go back and get her.”
“No, we don’t,” he said as he drove up to the corner.
“Yes, we do,” she insisted. “I don’t care if we’re not good people; I need to do something good for a change.”
“We don’t have to go back,” he repeated.
“Because she’s right up here.” He slowed down the car to a near stop and rolled down his window. She was walking down the sidewalk, arms wrapped around herself. What a weird night, he thought.
“Maria, are you okay?” Liz asked.
“Why are you being so stupid, Maria?” Max asked right after.
“Max!” Liz said in a scolding tone.
“What? Pregnant chick walking alone at night? That’s stupid.” He kept the car lightly rolling along as Maria walked, but she didn’t even look at him. He knew she could hear him, though. “What’s that, Maria?” he said. “Oh, yeah, I called you stupid. And you know what else I did? Told Liz you’re pregnant, broke my promise. So go ahead and let me have it, tear into me.”
She didn’t even look at him. Max knew she’d just been through a traumatic experience, but she hardly ever passed up a chance to be a raging bitch to him. He was actually starting to feel sorry for her, and he much rather preferred their usual mutual hatred.
“We should get her in the car,” Liz mumbled quietly.
He pulled the car to a stop in the middle of the road. “Oh, being the bad guy was so much easier.” He and Liz both climbed out of the car, and while Liz helped Maria into the backseat, Max took out his cell phone and dialed a familiar number.
“Who you gonna call?” Liz asked.
“Ghostbusters,” he replied in a sing-song voice.
She gave him an impatient look.
“Who do you think?” he said, raising the phone to his ear.
When Tess got a phone call from Max that evening, she knew it could only be bad news. When he mentioned the words ‘Maria’ and ‘assault’ in the same sentence, she realized just how bad it was, and she hurried to Liz’s apartment where they said they were taking her. She knew exactly where to go since Marty used to live there, but she felt as though she couldn’t get there fast enough.
Tess knocked on the door frantically, and when Liz opened it, she said, “Where is she?”
“She’s in my bedroom,” Liz replied. “She’s asleep.”
Tess barged in the door, going right past both Liz and Max. She went down the hallway and peeked in at Maria. She was curled up on her side on the bed, and she looked small. “Oh god, Maria,” Tess whispered. She hated to think that she’d been hurt tonight.
“Before you even ask, no, she’s not gonna be okay,” Max said as he came up behind her.
Tess whirled around. “Why would you say that?”
“Because it’s true,” he replied simply.
Tess walked back out into the living room so that she and Max weren’t having that conversation right outside the bedroom door.
“You’d have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to realize that girl’s hangin’ on by a thread,” Max continued, walking out behind her. “She’s more messed up than all of us combined, and that’s saying something.”
“That doesn’t mean she’s not gonna be okay,” Tess pointed out.
“She’s not, if the only person in her corner is tonight’s attempted rapist.”
Tess grunted. Max always thought he was so all-knowing. “You know, I have a really hard time hearing those words from you, the successful rapist.”
“Hey, no one’s denying what Max did to Maria back then,” Liz jumped in, defending her man, “but what he did for her tonight deserves some credit.”
“I don’t care about that,” Max said flippantly. “I don’t even really care about Maria.”
“Then why are you helping her?” Tess asked critically.
“Why are you?” he returned.
What a stupid question to ask, she thought, but answered anyway, “She’s my best friend. Unlike you, I do care about her.”
“Fine, there’s that,” he acknowledged, “but you also care about you.”
She frowned, not understanding what he was saying.
“I don’t know what went down between the two of you, and honestly I don’t give a rat’s ass; but you obviously let her move out of your place, and she shacked up with that Billy guy. You know you should’ve been there. In fact, you know she shouldn’t have been there. So when you came rushing over here, it was partly because you were worried about your friend, but it was also in part to alleviate your own guilt.”
As Tess let that little speech sink in, she was reminded of what a jerk he was, and why she’d always been so miserable dating him. “Oh, you think you know me so well, don’t you, Max?”
“But if that’s what I’m doing, what the hell are you doing?”
“Alleviating my guilt,” he replied with a shrug. “What else?”
Tess was about to say something more, but Liz interjected again. “Guys?” she said softly. “This really isn’t about either of you. It’s about her, and like you said, Max, she’s hanging on by a thread.” She turned to Tess and said, “I know I’m not her friend anymore, but you still are. You’re her best friend, and she needs you.”
Tess sighed heavily. “I’m not so sure. Things have been pretty strained between us lately. I’ve been trying to talk her out of some things and talk her into other things, and we’ve had some really bad fights and--”
“Oh, somebody shoot me,” Max groaned, cutting her off. “I’ve had about as much of this Hallmark card crap as I can take. Just bring her home with you.”
“It’s not that simple, Max,” Tess told him. “Maria wants to have an abortion without telling Michael. She’s pretending the baby’s Billy’s. I think that’s really wrong. I told her I was gonna tell him everything.”
“It is this simple, Tess,” he insisted. “Quit making it harder than it is. Would you rather do the right thing or save your best friend? It’s your choice.”
Tess glanced down the hallway at the ajar door to the bedroom. Maria was still asleep, and in her heart, she knew there was no choice to be made.
When Maria opened her eyes in the morning, it took a moment for her to realize where she was. She was back in her bedroom in Tess’s apartment. She wasn’t even sure how she’d gotten there.
Tess opened the door and seemed surprised to see Maria’s eyes open. “Hey,” she said, “you’re awake.”
“Yeah. How did I get here?”
Tess sat down on the side of the bed and said, “Um, do you remember going with Max and Liz to Liz’s apartment?”
“You fell asleep there. I came and got you. Max carried you out to the car and up here. We didn’t wanna wake you.”
Maria squirmed. Great, Max’s hands on her again.
“I know you probably don’t like the thought of him doing that,” her friend said as if reading her mind, “but I’m not strong enough to carry you. Not that you’re heavy. I mean, you would be heavy in a few months if you . . .” She trailed off and muttered, “I should just shut up now.”
Maria pushed herself up into a sitting position and said, “I slept really well last night.”
“Good,” Tess said. “That’s . . . really good, Maria.”
It was really good. She hadn’t slept well in a long time. “Did Max tell you what happened?” she asked.
Tess cringed. “Yeah. I’m so sorry, Maria.”
Maria hung her head, staring down at her lap as she mumbled, “I wish he hadn’t saved me.”
Tess frowned in confusion. “What?”
“I just . . . wish I’d been able to save myself.” She heard the cloak of sadness on her voice. She felt very, very sad.
“You could’ve,” Tess assured her.
“No.” She shook her head, looking her friend right in the eye as she made a difficult admission. “I gave up. I fought back for a minute, and then I just . . . quit fighting, and kept crying.” She knew she could have fought harder. She knew there was something more she could have done. “When Max . . . did what he did to me, I couldn’t stop it,” she acknowledged. “I was drunk, probably even drugged. But last night, I wasn’t either of those things. I was just weak.”
“No, you weren’t.”
Maria appreciated her friend’s attempts to make her feel better, but she knew what she knew. “I wasn’t strong,” she said. “I felt . . .”
“Afraid?” Tess filled in.
That wasn’t it. She had felt afraid, but there was something she’d felt more. “Empty. It was like every ounce of . . . passion and will and determination just vanished from my body, and for a split-second, I thought . . .” Her bottom lip trembled as she said, “I thought I was dead. Because I didn’t feel alive anymore.”
Tess looked horrified to hear that. Her eyes were filled with tears, and for a few seconds, she didn’t say anything in response. When she finally did get any words out, her voice cracked with emotion. “Maria . . . I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for everything that’s happened to you, and I’m sorry I was so pushy. But you are not empty. You’re not dead.” She began to cry. “You’re here, and I’m here, too, and I’m gonna be a better friend this time.”
“No, you’re the most amazing friend ever, Tess,” Maria assured her. She knew she’d made Tess feel like a bad friend lately, and she regretted that, because Tess was the greatest friend everyone could ever ask for. But she still didn’t seem to believe that.
“I was so focused on being right that I was insensitive to what you’re going through. You’ve got a huge decision to make . . . although I guess you’ve already made it.”
“Wednesday, March 18, 3:30,” she blurted. “That’s when I’m scheduled to have my abortion.”
Tess raised her eyebrows. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Maria swallowed hard, glancing down at her stomach. She felt certain words percolating, but she couldn’t believe she said them out loud. “I’m kinda having second thoughts.”
Tess looked shocked to hear it, too. “What?”
“Yeah, last night when . . . when I felt that empty feeling . . .” She rubbed her stomach gently. “It was this baby that reminded me I’m still alive. I’m literally not empty.” She laughed a little, and Tess smiled. “I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t expect to feel . . . attached to this little girl. Or boy.”
“You think it’s a girl?” Tess asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. But if it is, I think she’ll have her daddy’s hair.”
Tess laughed. “Yeah?”
“Oh, yeah.” She could just picture it, a little girl with a lion’s mane she could braid and put in pigtails. “But if I get an abortion, I’ll never see her hair. Or her eyes. Or her toes or her smile.” She felt herself starting to get choked up. “I just didn’t think I’d care about seeing those things.”
“But you do.”
She dabbed at the tears that finally spilled over onto her cheeks. “I wish I didn’t,” she whimpered. “I don’t know. I really don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’m not sure if I can have an abortion, but I’m not sure if I can have this baby, either. So it’s kind of confusing.”
“Well, whatever you decide, I hope you’ll stay here while you’re deciding it,” Tess said. “Because I’m not letting you go back to Billy. I’m just not.”
Maria felt so relieved to hear that. “Thanks,” she said, reaching forward to hug her friend. It felt good to know she wasn’t alone. She had Tess, and at least for now, she had her baby, too.
TBC . . .