Love By Any Other Name (AU,M/L,MATURE) (Complete)

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Love By Any Other Name (AU,M/L,MATURE) (Complete)

Postby max and liz believer » Mon Jun 02, 2003 12:37 pm

Winner - Round 7
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You are all glorious! Thank you so much for voting for me! Love you!!

Winner - Round 5
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Thank you from the bottom of my heart for voting for me!! *HUGS*

Winner - Round 4
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Thank you so much to all my readers who voted for me!!! I love you guys!!




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This amazingly beautiful banner was made by Talena. Thank you so much Jen!!


Title: Love By Any Other Name
Author:
Josephin
Category: AU M/L
Rating: MATURE
Disclaimer: These stories are works of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The characters of Roswell belong to is founder - Jason Katims, Twentieth Century Fox Corporation, Regency Entertainment, and Monarchy B.V.
Summary: Max Evans has been married for two years. He and his wife are blissfully happy and have a beautiful two-year-old, but this all changes one fateful night. Liz Parker has a serious heart condition and without an immediate heart transplant she will die. Max and Liz’s lives are about to change irreversibly by the actions of one drunk driver.
Author’s note: Okay, you can go ahead and kill me now! I’m already working on three fics, and I honestly wasn’t planning on starting any new ones, but when I read this challenge I just couldn’t resist. Oh, right. This story is based on a fantastic challenge by the even more fantastic Deejonaise. If you want to know what’s gonna happen :wink:, you can read the challenge at Deejonaise’s Challenge Thread, but sometimes not knowing just makes it all the more intriguing :roll:. I’ll have to warn you that this story takes on a very sad start, but I’m a sucker for happy endings and this will not be an exception (Actually, a happy ending is one of the conditions to be fulfilled in the challenge :D). So just hold on to that when it gets really difficult, okay?
A special thank you to Elizabeth (Gigo) for beta-reading. Thank you!! :D
Feedback: No objections there :D

Associated Fanart (I was inspired while writing the story :roll:)

http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sra ... ebbad5.jpg
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sra ... ebbb25.jpg

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Another Version of "Longing"
Warning! If you haven't read the story, this fanart could be seen as a spoiler. So don't click on this link if you don't want any clues... (Posted as a link due to size regulations)

<center>-----------------------------------------------</center>


Chapter 1


Mrs. Evans gave her daughter-in-law a light hug. “You sure you don’t want to stay any longer?“
“Yes, I need to get this little one in bed.“
Mrs. Evans smiled lovingly at the little boy dozing in her arms.
Max stepped up to his wife, handing her the coat and Josh’s jacket.
“Thank you, honey,“ she said softly.
He bent down and gave her a warm light kiss. “Drive safely, okay?“
She gave him one of those easy smiles. One of those smiles that told him that everything was going to be all right. “I always do.“

Max nodded and moved around his wife to say goodnight to his son. His head was resting against her bare shoulder, his eyes half-open. Max brushed the blond bangs away from the forehead to gently mark it with a kiss. “Good night, little guy.“
“Nite, daddy,“ the boy whispered, his mind already immersed in the world of talking animals and singing teddy bears.
“I’ll just stay for another hour,“ Max said, “I think I can catch a ride with Isabel.“
Isabel put an arm around Max’s shoulder. “Of course you can, little brother.“ She turned to her sister-in-law. “You’ll call me about our little project, okay?“ She said in a conspiratorial tone.

“What project?“ Max asked suspiciously.
“Oh, nothing you should worry your mind with,“ his wife taunted him.
“Yeah, Max. Let the missus have some secrets of her own,“ Isabel grinned. The smile lingered on her face as Max glared at her and she lightly wrapped her arms around her best friend, careful not to crush the little two-year-old. “Bye, girlfriend.“
“Bye, Iz.“ Pulling out of Isabel’s embrace, the young mother cast a quick glance at the clock beside the mirror. “We should probably get going. Mom, Dad, thank you for a wonderful dinner.“

“Our pleasure, honey,“ Mr. Evans answered, “It’s always nice to have you here.“
“Ditto,“ she grinned, and reached for the doorknob, “Bye everyone!“
“Bye,“ four different voices answered her in unison. The front door was opened, cool air flowing in for a few seconds before the door closed behind her.

<center>-------------------------------------------------------</center>

The small room was filled with the nauseous sounds of sickness. There was a faint rhythmic beeping sound mixed with the sound of air being compressed and then released. The air was heavy, clogged with impending death.

The activity was focused on the single steel bed, but the person lying there remained in a state of inactivity. The constant sounds of the heart and lung machines were occasionally surpassed by the soft whispers of the people standing in the room.
“I’m going to be honest with you, Mr. Parker. Her chances are not good. I think you should consider a LVAD. It’s the next best thing after a transplant.“
“What would a LVAD be?“
“It’s a mechanical heart pump that would assist her hearting in pumping the blood around her body.“
“Is this really going to help her?“
The doctor looked down for a brief second before looking up again. “Essentially, it’s only going to buy her some time.“ He sighed, casting a glance at the pale person lying on the bed. “Mr. Parker, I hate to tell you this, but she might not last the week.“

Mr. Parker dropped his eyes, tears burning his eyes. He and his wife had been preparing for this moment for ten years, but a large part of them had still clung to the hope that it would never happen. Countless heart specialists had been telling them of their daughter’s heart condition. They had been by her side through two heart attacks. They had spent hours in the waiting rooms of hospitals and endless hours in the Intensive Care Unit, and still their hope had not dwindled. Even when the doctors had told them that she probably wouldn’t live to see her 24th birthday without a heart transplant they had hoped. Hope was all they had.

He could feel the tears starting to spill down his cheeks as he looked down at what was left of his daughter. His baby girl was going to die. It didn’t matter that she had been stumbling on the brink between life and death for half of her life, he would never get used to seeing her like this. It wasn’t natural for parents to watch their child die, to whither away in a hospital bed with only the machines around her keeping her alive. It wasn’t natural for parents to have to arrange a funeral for their 23-year-old daughter.

He hadn’t noticed that the doctor had left the room. He couldn’t feel anything any longer. He was crying, his lip was trembling, and his shoulders were shaking with restrained sobs, but inside of him was an ever-growing black void. He sank down on the chair beside her bed and took her cold damp hand between his.
“Lizzie, baby,“ he whispered.
She would never get married, she would never have children, and she would never grow old. She would die while her dreams were still fresh and unexplored.
“Lizzie...“

She was so strong. Before they had put her on the respirator that prevented her from speaking, she had tried so hard to stay happy, to not let her illness drag her down. Her mother and he were so proud of her. She was such a remarkable person.
“Sweetie?“
She slowly opened her bruised eyelids and looked at him.
“Hey,“ he said softly and gave her a tender smile. She lightly squeezed his hand.
“You know how much I love you right?“
She gave him a slow nod and he could see in her eyes that she was concerned about his tears, about his upset appearance.
“I love you so much,“ he whispered brokenly.
Too tired to keep her eyes open any longer, she let her eyelids drift closed as she slowly squeezed his hand again. Mr. Parker slowly pushed some stray hairs from her forehead.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

The shrill ringing of the telephone reached Max’s ears as he started to ascend the stairs in front of his house. As the phone kept on ringing he quickened his steps while searching his pants for the house key. He swiftly unlocked the door and the door closed by its own force behind him as he hurried into the kitchen.
“Honey?“ he said into the darkness. Only silence answered him. She had probably fallen asleep. Before he reached for the phone a worrying thought flew through his mind.

Who was calling him at 2 in the morning?

The annoying sound echoing through the dark house was cut off as Max lifted the receiver and put it to his ear. “Hello?“
“Max Evans?“
He didn’t recognize the female voice and he could feel dread starting to seep into him. “Yes...“
“You need to come to the hospital. Your wife and child have been in an accident...“
And with just those few simple words, his whole world was ripped away from him.


---------------------------------

Please tell me what you think... :)
Last edited by max and liz believer on Fri Dec 29, 2006 8:45 am, edited 116 times in total.

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Chapter 2

Postby max and liz believer » Fri Jun 06, 2003 9:24 am

Hey everyone!

Wow :shock:, thank you all sooo very much for the incredible feedback! You really made my day (and many others as well :roll:).

So... pull out those tissues, because this chapter might be a little sad... :cry:



Chapter 2

Max Evans pushed the doors open in front of him and ran into the emergency room.
“Where’s my wife?“
The woman behind the desk looked up at him with an expression mixed with sympathy and the lack of interest years within the same job had left her with. She looked up into the young man’s terrified eyes. It wasn’t the first time she had seen that expression in someone’s eyes, and she was sure that it wouldn’t be the last one either.
“What’s your wife’s name, sir?“ she asked.
Max raked his hand through his hair, emphasizing his ragged appearance. “Tess.“
His attention was constantly drawn to the busy hallway to his left. The hallway where doctors in white coats, and nurses in green clothes swam, moving from one emergency bed to the next. In which one was Tess? And where was Josh?
“Last name?“ the woman in the reception asked him patiently.
“Evans. Tess Evans.“ He watched the woman type in the information on the keyboard. “And Josh Evans.“

Max waited as the woman finished typing and clicking at the computer, feeling his former life slip further and further away from him with every innocent clicking sound. He shouldn’t be standing here. He should be with his wife and his son.
The woman looked up. “They’re in surgery, sir. Please take a seat.“
Max barely heard the woman’s last words. They were buffered by the words that started crying in his head. This was bad. This was really bad. They were in surgery.
The woman watched the color drain from the man’s face. “Sir, there’s nothing you can do. Just sit down and a doctor will be with you as soon as there is any news.“

Max stared at her and then nodded mutely. He started to walk towards the waiting area, casting fugitive glances towards the hallway. There, somewhere among all of the crying children and irritated teenagers, was his family, and he could do nothing but wait. He had never felt so helpless in his entire life. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. The suffocating beating of his heart and the rushing sound in his ears prevented him from relishing in any such relief.

He sank down on one of the blue-coated plastic chairs and looked at the people around him. An infant was screaming at the top of its lungs, trying to crawl out of its mother’s worried arms. An old man with a washcloth against his head, it’s whiteness soaked with the dark red color of blood, looked at him with tired eyes. Max quickly continued on to the woman sitting beside him. Her eyes were downcast and she was wringing her hands in her lap, an occasional sobs escaping her lips. With an aching devoid of emotions, Max’s head turned in the direction of the entrance as ambulance men rushed inside with a man on a stretcher, his shirt soaked with blood. Medical personnel immediately rushed to the side of the stretcher making names of different medications and declarations of the blood pressure and the oxygen level adding to the noises in the room.

Max turned his head back to the people waiting with him and gradually tuned out the noises around him. The contours of the hurting individuals were erased and eventually all he could see was one bleeding, hurt mass. He didn’t belong here. What was he doing here? He was supposed to be with his wife and his son. How could this happen? He didn’t even know what had happened yet. This was the first time since the phone call that he had sat down and reality rushed to him with such intensity that he physically gasped. His wife and son had been in a car accident and they were in surgery. His wife and son had been in a car accident and they were in surgery.

Max head feel forward in his hands. “Oh my God,“ he croaked as everything kept hitting him at once. And it didn’t stop.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Isabel Whitman quickly marched into the emergency room, her eyes frantically scanning the place. At the sight of the reception desk, she quickly made her way up to it without any hesitation.
“Could you tell me where Tess and Josh Evans are?“ she demanded.

The woman behind the counter looked up into the flashing eyes of the beautiful woman in front of her. “Evans...“ the receptionist repeated slowly. That sounded familiar. “Yes. They are in surgery. Take a-“
“Isabel!“ Isabel turned around at her husband’s voice and her heart lurched in her chest at the sight of her brother.

“Max...“ she whispered. She was at his side within a fraction of a second. His head was buried in his hands, his elbows propped up on his knees. She lowered herself on her knees in front of him and gently threaded her fingers through his dark hair.
“Max?“ she asked carefully. She wasn’t even sure he had heard her. Her heart broke as she heard a restrained sob escaping the confines of his hands.
“Max, what happened?“

Isabel had received a phone call from her parents saying that someone had called from the hospital and that Tess and Josh had been in an accident. But she didn’t know any more than that. It all seemed to have happened so quickly. They had just gotten home and were preparing to go to bed when the phone rang. Since then everything had been chaos. She hadn’t been able to think one coherent thought since that phone call. She wouldn’t allow herself to think because she knew that if she let herself think about what really had happened she would break down. And then she would be of no use to her brother. She would be there for her brother and put her own feelings to the side.
“Izzy?“

Her heart broke at his voice. She had never seen him like this and it scared her. He was the calm, composed and stable one. He came out of every situation levelheaded and it wasn’t often that he lost his cool. Seeing him this beaten terrified her to the core.
“Yes, it’s me, Max. I’m here. I’m here.“
“They’re in surgery,“ Max whispered and looked up. Isabel swallowed down her own tears as she was met with his red and watery eyes. He looked so utterly lost that Isabel didn’t know what to do other than throw her arms around his neck and pull him into a tight hug.
“They’re going to be okay,“ she whispered as she felt his arms tighten around her waist, “We’ll get through this. They’re gonna be okay.“

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Max felt utterly numb inside. Empty. Like the living dead. He felt like the only thing that kept him sane was the small hand he clasped in his. The small and fragile hand of his beautiful wife, the other half of his soul. He swallowed back the tears as his eyes fell on the wedding band on her ring finger.

She laughed as he pulled her down in the green grass.
“Stop that! You’re gonna ruin my dress.“
He wrapped his arms around her waist as she tried to get up and pulled her down flush against him. “I don’t really care about your dress,“ he mumbled as he started to nip her earlobe.
“Hey! This dress cost me ten dollars!“
“Exactly,“ Max grinned, stopping as he caught her eyes which automatically wandered to his lips as he leaned in to seal their feelings.
“I love you,“ he said quietly before his lips melted with hers.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. “I...love...you...“ she said between heated kisses. He grumbled as he reluctantly pulled away from her.
“Aww,“ she moaned disappointedly, “Why are you stopping?“
“I need to talk to you about something.“

She caught the serious tone in his voice and propped herself up on her elbows, looking at him as he moved his body to rest his weight on his heels.
“What is it?“ she asked, a soft smile adorning her beautiful features.
“I need to ask you something,“ Max repeated, feeling his heart pump wildly in his chest. He had never been more nervous in his entire life. He could feel a cold sweat breaking out all over his body. The only thing that could calm him was the reassuring look in his girlfriend’s eyes. A look that once more convinced his heart that this was the most important decision he had made in his whole life.
“Tess. I love you so much-“
He could see her relax and she cradled his cheek against her hand. “I love you too.“

He slowly shook his head and gently removed her hand from his cheek without letting go of it. “Did you know that when we first started dating everyone warned me about you?“ She grinned at him, still somewhat unsure about how to react to his sudden seriousness. “They said you would break my heart and leave me without a second look over your shoulder. Isabel always said that if I fell for you everything would change. Everything
did change, but not as they anticipated.“ His left hand started to dig in his pocket after the valuable token while his right hand held onto the physical link between them. “They never saw you as you deserve to be seen. They never saw you. But ever since you let me see you, Tess, I was hooked.“
Tess smiled at his choice of words. “I realized that you are what makes me whole, Tess. You are what makes my life worth living and all the hardships worth enduring. You are what keeps me alive. Tess...“ he brought forward the small black velvet box and watched her eyes widen as her free hand moved to cover her mouth, “Will you marry me?“

Her expression of astonished shock turned into a sobbing smile, tears spilling down her cheeks. Wordlessly, she nodded.
“Yes?“ Max asked, the loud pounding of his heart almost drowning out his own voice.
“Yes...Yes!“ she cried and threw herself into his arms. With laughter, their lips and hands caressed each other, trying to convey their immense happiness.


Max returned to cold reality. To the sounds of the machines that he now had to entrust his wife’s life to. His vision blurred as his eyes traveled over her torn body. As his eyes landed on her stomach his breath left him and a pain deeper than he ever thought bearable consumed him.

“Honey? Come here for a sec, would ya?“
Max closed the oven door and moved out into the living room. “What is it?“ he asked, drying his hands on a towel. He froze as he saw her sitting on the sofa.
Their sofa. Would he ever stop being amazed by the fact that he was married to the girl of his dreams and that they were about to share their future together? She was just so beautiful. The setting sun shone in through the window, illuminating her blond hair and making her glow like an angel. His angel.
“God, you’re beautiful,“ he murmured.
Her smile widened. “You said something?“ she asked innocently. But Max knew she had heard him.
“You wanted something?“ he retorted.
She nodded, and patted the place beside her on the sofa. “Come here. I’ve got the pictures developed from our honeymoon.“
“Now?“ Max asked, grimacing. “Can’t it wait a few minutes? Dinner’s all about ready.“
“No, it can’t wait,“ Tess said sternly, but her smile gave her away. Max narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her huge grin. What had she done? Had she taken pictures of him naked or something? She seemed utterly pleased with herself.
“Okay...“ he said slowly and sank down beside her.

Tess happily put the stack of photos in his lap and Max gave her one last suspicious glance before picking up the photos and starting to slowly sift through them. He could feel Tess’ eyes on him the whole time and his body unconsciously tensed in excited anticipation of whatever she was up to. His hand froze in the already familiar movement of putting the uppermost photo at the bottom of the stack when a black and white photo stared back at him. He could not see the contours of the photo and it wasn’t clear what it was supposed to be, and yet he knew.
“Tess?“ he breathed tentatively, “What’s this?“
“That, daddy,“ Tess said softly, “is your child.“
“What?“ he whispered, his voice breaking. His eyes were fixed on the photo in front of him.
“You’re gonna be a daddy, Max. I’m pregnant.“


His hand hovered over the blanket that hid her stomach. How was he going to tell her? How was he going to tell her that their child was dead?

“Maxwell Evans. Meet Joshua Christopher Evans.“
Max looked down at the little baby in his wife’s arms.
“Is he supposed to be so small?“ he asked.
His glowing wife smiled. “Yes.“
“Oh my God,“ Max whispered. He timidly stretched out his hand to touch the tiny fingers and his heart swelled with love when the fingers curled around his own so tightly.


“Mr. Evans?“
He was torn from his memories and found a dark-haired man standing beside him. Dr. Young.
“Yes,“ he answered. His voice sounded strange, foreign to his ears.
“I’m really sorry about your loss,“ Dr. Young said sympathetically.
“Thank you,“ Max whispered. He hadn’t dared to think about the fact that his two-year-old was dead. Not yet. He couldn’t deal with it yet. His eyes returned to his wife’s battered face. She was all he had left to cling to now.
“I’m really sorry to have to bring this up now, Mr. Evans, but I need to speak to you about something.“

Max looked up at the doctor and nodded, squeezing his wife’s hand more tightly as his body tensed in anticipation of what was to come.
“Did you know that your wife has signed papers stating that she didn’t want to be kept on life support?
Max felt sick to his stomach. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he was sure that it couldn’t be good.
“No…we never really discussed...those things.“ Every word was a struggle. He didn’t want to talk about this now. He wanted to grieve with his wife. He wanted to feel her hand return his squeeze.
“Your wife is...brain dead,“ the doctor said slowly.
Max felt like someone had just pushed him hard in the chest and all of the air rushed out of his lungs.

“What...what does that mean?“ he asked. But he knew. He knew. Brain dead. Her brain was dead. Dead. Her beautiful thoughts didn’t exist any longer.
“She will not be able to live without these machines. She can’t breathe on her own, but her heart is still beating. During operation she suffered cardiac arrest and she was...dead for eleven minutes. Her brain wasn’t receiving enough oxygen and....“
Why was he giving him all this scientific mumble? He could feel the anger inside of him ignite, being fueled with the helplessness and unfairness of the situation. Why was this happening to him? What had he done? What had she done? Nothing. Nothing!!
“What are you saying, doctor?“ Max cut him off.
The doctor took a deep breath. “She will never wake up, Max.“

Max turned his eyes on his wife as the words began to sink in. She would never wake up. She would never wake up. She would never smile at him. She would never laugh again. She would never giggle as he tickled that special spot under her armpit. She would never twirl their child around in the air. She would never cry in front of the TV. She would never tease him about his over-excessive care of his teeth. She would never kiss his lips. She would never fall asleep in his arms after they’ve made love. She would never think again. She would never wake up. She would never wake up ever again.

“She’s dead?“ Max whispered, his voice cold, yet emotional.
“Her heart is still beating, but she isn’t there anymore,“ the doctor answered, “Max, her heart is still perfectly fine.“
So? What did that matter? She was dead. What did it matter to them that her heart was still intact?
“I can’t do this right now.“
“Max, I’m very sorry to have to weigh you down with this right now, but time is an important factor right now.“

Under other circumstances Max would have snorted at the absurdity of the doctor’s statement. Time didn’t mean anything. Time hadn’t meant anything to them when his wife had lain dying on her operation table. But he didn’t have the strength to argue. He just wanted to be alone with Tess. Why couldn’t anyone understand that?
“There are many people waiting for heart transplants...“
Max head shot up at his statement. “Wait? Are you going to cut my wife open and take her heart?“
“Max, please. Just listen to me. Your wife has a rare blood type that matches a person who will die without a transplant. If she survives the transplant she will be able to lead a normal life. Think about this, Max. You will give another person a chance to live. Think about it.“

Max stared at the doctor for a few seconds before he nodded and turned his eyes back to his wife. “I’ll think about it.“
“Thank you, Max.“
Max slowly pushed away one blonde strand of hair from Tess’s forehead before leaning forward and placing a soft kiss on her forehead, one of his hot tears dripping down onto her cool, lifeless skin.


TBC...

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Chapter 3...

Postby max and liz believer » Fri Jun 13, 2003 3:35 am

Hey!

Thank you all so very much for the feedback!!!!! It’s wonderful!!

Thank you

Nicole (I never thanked you for leaving fb twice on chapter 1. Thanx! A girl can’t get too much feedback :wink:), marteloise, Rebecca (I’m so happy that you are reading this, Rebecca!), Lys, Lelle, Itzstacie, flohmac, Liz Parker Evans, scoobydoo4000, frenchkiss70, Eve, sweetygurl, Antarian Pixie, roswelluver, mareli, Ash_maxliz, Dee (Go ahead and borrow, Dee :D), Nettygirl, Lynn (Your feedback made me cry, hun!), Elc, qt4167013, LeighAnn, Blond_Shiri, SarahWhitman, Alien614, Lily, Limegreenli, Rachel (Hi Rachel! I’m so happy that you decided to read this story even though it is labelled ‘NC-17’. I just wanted to tell you that I often write (what I would call) “mild” NC-17 :wink:. But I will tell you when the part is NC-17 and then you can decide if you want to read it or I can send you a censored part instead :D), Elizabeth (Thank you for b-reading so quickly :))

Um.. So this part is fairly short (I think it’s one of the shortest chapters I’ve ever written :roll:), but I hope that doesn’t matter too much :D.



Chapter 3

When water evaporates off the face of the Earth, it ascends into the troposphere where it condenses back to water droplets. If the temperature is cold enough water droplets are formed and return to the Earth as rain.

Where there is rain, there are also clouds, which clutter the sky. The sun is covered and grayness spreads over the Earth, subduing life but bringing forward fragrances. The rain washes over the ground, ridding it of twigs, dirt and leaves. It wipes the surface clean.

It makes a clean slate.

On the day of the funeral the sun was shining brightly. The sky was bright blue and the birds were chirping. The world was full of life, taunting death. The sun was glaring at him, mocking his grieving. He wanted it to rain. He wanted to feel the rain pelt down around him, subduing his emotions. Subduing his thoughts. He wanted to feel the rain pelt down around him, the earth wailing in sorrow.

He could feel the weight of the others’ eyes on him. The grayness of rain would’ve been able to protect him from the intensity of their pity. It would have been able to shield him from their sorrow. But the sun was still shining. The birds were still singing. Life hadn’t stopped yet. It was continuing and he vaguely felt it pass him by.

Tess Kayla Evans
July 5, 1978
August 15, 2001


How could he stand here out in the sunshine while she was being lowered down in the damp and decayed soil? She had been making plans to take Josh to Disneyland. They had been planning to leave Josh at Isabel’s and spend some time alone. Now she no longer existed.

Joshua Christopher Evans
February 10, 1999
August 14, 2001


He felt numb. His heart had been ripped from his chest. He wasn’t really there anymore. He had stopped breathing the second his son had stopped breathing. His heart had stopped beating the second Tess’ heart had stopped. Except it really never had. A part of Tess now lived on in another person. Her heart was still living and beating. But it wasn’t beating for her son. It wasn’t beating for him. It wasn’t even beating for her. It was beating for a stranger.

He had tried to find peace with the fact that Tess’ death gave someone else life, but he couldn’t. How could he? Tess was still dead. She was still gone. Her breath was still gone. Her skin was still cold. Her body was still being lowered into the soil.

“Max, are you coming?“

He knew he was supposed to answer, but he couldn’t. Nothing mattered to him anymore. He wanted the sun to stop shining and the rain to fall. He wanted to hold his wife and son in his arms. But he couldn’t. Nothing mattered anymore.

“Take your time, honey.“

He slowly closed his eyes. The sun was burning his eyelids and all he could do was stand there. Wait for the rain to begin falling. Wait for something that would drown his feelings. Wait for something that would make it worth taking his next breath.

<center>------------------------------------------</center>

A week earlier

The first thing she heard as she started to wake up was the beating of her heart. She could feel it working inside of her. She could feel it living. She slowly opened her eyes.

“Liz?“

The second thing she noticed was the air that flowed into her lungs. It came so easily, so smoothly. As if it were no effort to breathe. No effort at all to pull oxygen into her air sacs.

“Nancy? I think she’s awake.“

“Lizzie, honey?“

Everything was muffled. It was like she had been lowered in a can of cotton, muffling all of the sounds around her. But even the bright light couldn’t stop her from keeping her eyes open and let it rest on all the smiling faces around her.

“Hi honey.“

Her mother came to stand beside her bed and she felt her take her hand. The anesthesia was slowly wearing off and feelings were beginning to spring to life within her.

Euphoria.

That was what she felt. A happiness greater than anything she’d ever felt before. She was still alive and she was breathing. She was thinking.

She squeezed her mother’s hand in response.

“How are you feeling?“

Her best friend came into view and she wanted to smile. She wanted to laugh. She wanted to jump up and hug everyone. But she knew that she would have a lot of time for that later. A whole lifetime. Something she had never been able to promise herself before.

She tried to lift her arm to reach out for her, but something was keeping it on the bed.

“Those are the wrist restraints, baby,“ her father’s voice told her, “You remember those, right?“

She remembered. Maria stepped up beside her mother and stroked a strand of hair away from Liz’s forehead.

“You look beautiful, girlfriend,“ she smiled gently.

Liz could feel the drugs pulling on her again, prompting her to continue resting her body.

“Go back to sleep, pumpkin,“ she heard her mother say as her eyelids grew heavier, “We’ll be here when you wake up.“

Before she drifted back to a peaceful sleep she heard Maria’s voice,

“Welcome back, Liz.“

And they were the most beautiful words she’d ever heard.


TBC...

________________________

A/N: Hi! Me again! :) Some of you might by now be wondering why they have wrist restraints on Liz. I was very surprised when I read that myself - going through my research notes. I guess it's so they won't hurt themselves or pull out the breathing tube (which they also have). Just wanted to clarify that.

Hugs,

Jo

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Postby max and liz believer » Tue Jun 24, 2003 3:45 pm

My b-reader is on a roll tonight (well, for her it's "today"... :roll:) and I'm updating like crazy (for those of you who are reading all of my fics are probably noticing that tendency...). But I love that!! :D :D To update... :roll:

Thank you all soo very much for the feedback!! It warms my heart here in cold cold Sweden (and they call this summer...brrr...)...

And hi to all new readers!! Image




Chapter 4

1983 – 18 years prior to the accident

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round...“

The world was spinning, the air playing seek and hide in her long dark hair. Her warm laughter filled the air as she watched her surroundings fade into a blur. She bit down the nausea. She wasn’t going to get nauseous. She was going to prove to Maria that she could ride this carousel without getting nauseous. She didn’t like it when Maria teased her for being a coward. She giggled as Maria stepped up to the carousel and she saw her flash by in a blur of colors.

The pressure over her chest took her by surprise and her eyes drifted closed as she leaned forward in pain.

“Lizzie? Are you okay?“

She heard Maria’s voice, but she couldn’t answer. Her chest was hurting, as were her left arm and her shoulders. She started to feel lightheaded and it didn’t stop even though Maria stopped the carousel from spinning.

“Mia...my chest hurts...“
“I’m getting Mrs. Parker. Okay, Lizzie? Stay here.“
But the little five-year old was already fighting to just stay conscious. She faintly heard her mother’s voice, but she just sounded so far away. So far away.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Present time - two years after the accident

“Hey sweetie. Are you hungry? You are hungry, right?“
She got a loud satisfied purr in response.
“Honey, what are you doing up here? You know what Kevin thinks about that. He doesn’t like that.“
She gently pushed the cat away from the can she was in the middle of opening. The cat meowed and looked up at her expectantly.
“Yes, you’re getting the food,“ Liz smiled.
As she pulled out the drawer to get a spoon, she heard the front door open.
“Honey, I’m home!“
“In the kitchen!“
Kevin walked into the kitchen with a big smile on his face.
“Hi honey,“ he pecked her on the cheek.
“Hey,“ Liz answered, “How’s work?“
“Good, good,“ his eyes drifted to the cat stroking against Liz shoulder, “Liz, you really shouldn’t let the cat walk on the counter. You don’t know what germs she could be carrying around. We have food on this counter-“

“Kevin,“ Liz sighed, “I know, she’s an indoor cat. Whatever she’s carrying can’t be that bad.“
Kevin watched her as she loaded cat food on the cat’s plate. “I’m just...looking out for you, you know?“
Liz forced herself to smile. “I know.“
She sighed inwardly as Kevin took a hold of the cat and put her on the floor.
“So, how has your day been?“ Kevin asked.
“Fine. I’ve been taking it easy and gotten pretty much everything done.“
“Have you taken your pills today?“
Liz grimaced. She had the sudden urge to pull off her arm and start chewing on it in frustration. That would’ve been more pleasant than for the umpteenth time hear that question move over her boyfriend’s lips. Like she would ever forget to take the pills that could mean the difference between life and death. But no matter how much she wanted to yell at him for being so overprotective it was almost suffocating her, she knew that he was only doing it because he was worried about her. He was looking out for her. But his “looking out for her“ was slowly driving her mad.

“Yes,“ she answered, her tone a little shorter than she intended it to be.
“Did you call Dr. Stevens and make that appointment?“
“Yes,“ Liz answered and moved away from him to put the plate on the floor. Kevin, though, seemed oblivious to her distant and cool tone.
“Good.“
Liz straightened up and put the spoon in the dishwasher. “There’s dinner in the fridge for you.“
“Oh, thank you,“ Kevin said, “I’m gonna go and change.“
“Mmm.“ Liz put the can in the fridge.
Kevin stopped in the doorway. “Are you feeling okay?“
Liz looked up at him and immediately felt guilty for acting as she did. Softly, she answered, “Yes, Kevin. I’m fine, thank you.“
“You look tired. What have you been up to today? You haven’t exerted yourself too much, I hope.“
“No, Kevin. I’ve been working.“
“You’ve been working?“ The surprise was clear and Liz sighed despite herself.
“Writing,“ she answered.

Kevin didn’t consider her writing to be work. When she had been sick it had been the only thing she had been able to do and it had saved her mind on more than one occasion. Early in life, she had decided that she wanted to write. It was her dream. Her passion. But Kevin had never understood that. At first, he had accepted it because it had brought Liz some sense of peace and he had more or less considered it to be a hobby. He often asked her if she was going to start looking for a job soon. He couldn’t accept that her job was to write. That all she ever wanted to do was to write. His inability to understand that it was such a big part of her soul was getting on her nerves.

“Oh, that,“ Kevin said. “You know, I talked to Jennifer today and she told me that they were looking for a waitress at Sunset. I know that waiting tables is not much, but at least it’s a start.“
Liz had to bit her lower lip to stop herself from telling him what really was on her mind. “No, I don’t think waiting tables is my thing.“
“Okay then,“ Kevin smiled and disappeared into the bedroom.
Liz closed her eyes and tried to relax herself by taking deep breaths. It wasn’t working. She needed to get out of there.
“I’m going out!“ she yelled towards the bedroom as she grabbed her coat.
“Where are you going?“ Kevin asked.
“Maria’s,“ Liz answered shortly and the door slammed shut behind her.

<center>---------------------------------------</center>

“Hi girlfriend,“ Maria said as she opened the door and found Liz standing there, fiddling with her car keys.
“Hey Maria,“ Liz said, still not meeting Maria’s eyes.
“So, what’s up?“ Maria asked casually.
“May I?“ Liz motioned towards the living room.
“Oh, sure, sure,“ Maria stepped aside to let Liz enter the apartment. She frowned as she watched Liz’s fidgety behavior. She knew Liz well enough to know that she was upset. And it wasn’t really a difficult science to figure out what had made her so upset.
“Are you okay?“
“Yeah,“ Liz looked up and gave her something that was probably intended to be a smile, but the attempt failed miserably. “I’m great.“
“So... what are you doing here?“ Maria asked suspiciously.
“I just wanted to...you know, hang out,“ Liz said, “Do I need a specific reason?“
“Did you and Kevin have a fight?“

“No,“ Liz answered lightly and moved into the kitchen. Maria folded her arms over her chest and watched Liz as she opened the refrigerator door and started to rummage through its contents.
“That’s right. You and Kevin don’t fight. You quasi-fight.“
“Huh?“ Liz opened the freeze and asked distractedly, “Do you have any ice cream?“
“Oh yeah, you had a fight.“
Liz picked out the ice cream box and sighed. “No, Maria. We didn’t have a fight.“
“That’s the problem! You don’t fight!“
Liz frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?“
“You know exactly what I mean,“ Maria said, but decided to spell it out for her anyway, “Don’t you think it would be good for you if you cleared the air sometimes?“
“We clear the air,“ Liz objected, opening the drawer in the search of a spoon and held up a spoon for Maria in question. “You want some?“

“Sure,“ Maria answered, taking a deep breath. “Liz, you’re, like, the queen of avoiding arguments.“
Liz laughed nervously. “I am not. So, how did that lecture go today?“
“See, there you go.“
“What?“ Liz asked innocently.
“Avoiding an argument,“ Maria said. “If you can’t tell him what’s bothering you, at least tell me.“
Liz sighed. “There’s nothing to tell. Let’s just talk about something else. I need to talk about something else, Maria.“
Maria shook her head at Liz’s pleading eyes. “Nu-uh, you need to get this off your chest, Liz,“ She raised her eye-brows suggestively, “We have ice cream...“

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

“So, spill,“ Maria said, plunging her spoon in the ice cream box.
They were seated on Maria’s bed, the ice cream positioned between them.
“Umm...there’s really nothing special going on,“ Liz said evasively.
“Okay, I’ll go,“ Maria said, “Have you told Kevin what you feel?“
“Yes, I’ve told him,“ Liz said.
“Then tell him again and make him understand this time.“
Liz sighed. “I can’t do that.“
“Why not?“
“He’s only concerned about me, Maria. He’s concerned about my health.“
“But you’re fine now, Liz. He doesn’t need to be watching you every second any longer. And even if he’s doing it out of the goodness of his heart, it’s still tearing you apart. You need to tell him.“
“I’m gonna hurt him.“

“Liz,“ Maria put down the spoon and looked Liz directly into the eyes. “You are like the kindest and gentlest person I know and you have the biggest heart. But you can’t keep doing this to yourself. You can’t be so nice to other people that it comes at the expense of your own happiness. You have to do something for yourself once in a while. And let’s face it. You not telling him what you’re really feeling probably hurts him more than you telling him would.“
“You don’t understand, Maria. He doesn’t know anything else. We met when I was sick. He fell in love with me when I was sick. He lived with me for two years while I was sick. It’s all he knows.“
“Yes, I get that. But you’ve been healthy for two years. Shouldn’t he start to accustom himself to that instead?“
“He’s just worried about me.“
Maria sighed. “Liz, don’t try to convince me that he isn’t making you feel trapped. That he doesn’t make you feel guilty about doing something outside of the normal borders of your life. I know you, Liz. You are so afraid that you will hurt the people around you and so afraid that they are going to abandon you, that you settle for second best.“

“Kevin’s not second best,“ Liz objected weakly, but there was no longer any determination behind her words.
Maria looked at her best friend compassionately. “If you are not willing to yell at him to try to fix your relationship, is there really anything left to fight for?“
“What are you saying, Maria?“
“I’m not saying anything, Liz. This is your life, your decision. But I’m here for you. Supporting you in whatever you decide to do.“
“You think I should break up with Kevin, right?“
“I didn’t say that.“
“No, Maria. But you’ve been implying it for the last...um...three years,“ Liz said, putting down the spoon on the table.
“You want the truth?“ Maria asked.

“Please.“
“I don’t think Kevin’s the one. I don’t see sparks flying everywhere when you’re together,“ she set up her hand to quiet Liz as she opened her mouth to object, “and I’m not saying that there even have to be sparks. It’s just... When I look at you, I see two very good friends. Not lovers. Maybe even siblings.“
Liz scrunched her face in disgust. “Ew Maria, that’s disgusting.“
Maria couldn’t help but giggle. “Sorry. I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe you should start living again. For real. Break free of everything that has any relation to your old life. Well, me excluded.“
Liz smiled faintly. She knew what Maria was telling her. She had even thought about it once or twice herself. Kevin was stuck in the past. Or more precisely, he was stuck in the old Liz. But, as she had told Maria, she couldn’t blame him for it. It was the Liz he knew. He didn’t know anything else. But the fact that she was desperately trying to ignore was that he wasn’t even trying to get to know the new her. He wasn’t even trying to see beyond her condition.
“I’m scared, Maria.“

Maria gave her a comforting smile and put the ice cream on the nightstand. “I know you are, Liz. But you’re not alone in this. I’ll never abandon you and if you tell Kevin what you really think,“ she took Liz’s hand and emphasized, “what you really think, I don’t think that Kevin will hate you or think any less of you. He might be hurt to start with, but he’ll get over it.“
“What if I end up alone for the rest of my life? Who wants a girl with a bad heart? I’m damaged goods, Maria.“
“No, you’re not,“ Maria said adamantly. “Don’t ever think that about yourself. You are as good as anyone else, maybe even better. And any guy would be lucky to have you!“
A lonesome tear trickled down Liz’s cheek. Kevin wasn’t just her boyfriend. He was her first boyfriend ever. He had been her first kiss and her first lover. But he was also a security blanket. If she held on to him she wouldn’t have to worry about whether someone else would love her more, because at least she knew for a fact that Kevin loved her. It was safe. It wasn’t passionate. It wasn’t the love of her dreams. But at least it was safe.

Maria put her arms around her best friend and pulled her into a hug. “Liz, I’m not saying that you should scream and throw things at him, even though it might be good to vent your repressed emotions some... What I’m saying is just this. Talk to him, Liz. At least he deserves your honesty.“
Maria felt Liz nod against her shoulder. “Okay...“


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Thu Jul 03, 2003 3:03 am

Hi everyone!!

Thank you sooooo much for the great feedback!!

And Elizabeth, I meant "cheers" not "chorus" - I'm so stupid... :roll:




Chapter 5

2003 – Two years after the accident

At the ringing of the bell, Max clapped his hands together.
“Okay, guys. That’s it for today.“
He was met with cheers and the loud sound of chairs being pushed away from their desks.
“I’ll see you all on Monday. Have a nice weekend.“
“You too, Mr. Evans,“ the children answered in unison before they slipped out of the classroom to embrace the waiting weekend. It didn’t take long for the classroom to become empty of the laughing and talking voices of twenty little seven-year-olds.
“Mr. Evans?“
Max looked up in surprise from the notes he had sat down to go through and found the shy little Hannah standing in front of the desk, shyly looking up at him through her dark bangs.
“Yes, Hannah?“ he asked softly.
“I picked this for you during recess,“ Hannah answered and handed him a flower.
“Th-thank you,“ Max stuttered as the flower was placed in his outstretched hand. With a tentative smile, the little girl quickly skittered out of the classroom and the silence enveloped him.

Daisy.

It was a daisy.

She had loved daisies.

“It’s that for me?“
He looked up, not surprised to hear her voice. She was sitting on one of the desks at the back of the classroom. She wore the same dress as she had worn every time she had visited him. It was a long white thin dress that softly hugged her form and billowed out around her shapely legs. Those legs were now dangling over the edge of the desk. The soft curls of her honey colored hair were framing her face.
“A little girl gave it to me.“
“Hannah, right?“ She smiled.
Sometimes he wondered if she was just a figure of his imagination or if she was really there.
“Yes.“
“They are beautiful. You know how much I love daisies, right?“
“I remember.“
Mesmerized, he watched her hop down from the desk and slowly make his way up to her desk. She was glowing.
“You look like an angel,“ he whispered.
She smiled.
The daisy had fallen out of his hand and her delicate smooth hand was now reaching for it. He wanted to reach out and touch her, to feel her skin under his fingers.
“Max?“
His head jerked up in the direction of the sound.

Madison.

His head quickly turned back towards her, but she was gone. Vanished.
“Max? Are you okay?“
He could feel the tears burning behind his closed eyelids. Taking a deep breath he nodded.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you, Madison.“
There was a pause and then he heard her move into the classroom. “If you ever need to talk, I’m here.“
Max swallowed. “Thank you. I appreciate it.“
Sometimes he wished they would all go away. All the people with their caring eyes and pitiful looks. Sometimes he wished that he could just close himself up in a room and not have to deal with reality. That he could live in his own world with her and his son.
“Um...I’m gonna go now.“
There was a pause. She was probably waiting for him to answer, but he didn’t have any words to give her.
“You have my number, right?“
Max nodded.
“Right,“ Madison said. “I’ll see you on Monday then.“
Max nodded again.
“Bye Max.“
She was standing in the doorway, soundlessly watching him for a couple of seconds before walking away. He could feel her eyes on him. And he hated it. He knew what they thought about him. At first, right after the accident, everyone had given him time to grieve and had given him space. His loss had been accepted and respected.

But it had been two years.

Now his grieving wasn’t considered healthy anymore. So, he had started to hide it to bury it deep down inside of him, where not even he dared to access it. He had started going to work. He had started living again, but then she had started to appear and his whole foundation had shook. He could clearly remember the first time he had seen her. It was on the day exactly one year after her death. He had finally decided to start cleaning out her clothes and he had seen her in the wall mirror. When he turned around she had been gone. He didn’t know why she was visiting him. Was he going crazy? Was he seeing ghosts? Or was she just a figure his lonesome grieving existence was conjuring up? He had never removed her clothes from the closet. They were still there. Hanging next to his.

She had been everything to him. He didn’t know how he was supposed to go on without her. She had been his other half and they had just started their life together. They had just become parents and had started their own little family. And that drunk driver had taken it all away just by getting into the car with alcohol in his body. A single decision on that man’s part had changed Max’s life irreversibly.

Max had spent months trying to find scapegoats. At first it had been the drunk driver. Then it had been the doctor for not being able to save her during the operation, but most of the blame he had put on himself. Maybe he could’ve prevented it if he had gone with her that night, if he hadn’t decided to stay with Isabel and his parents. If he had convinced Tess that Josh could sleep in his old room and they could all stay a little longer. If he had just not given Tess Josh’s jacket, somehow pausing her in her departure. If she had left a little sooner, maybe she wouldn’t have been on the road at the same time as the driver. Maybe she would still be here with him today. Alive.

His son would have been four years old in two weeks. His son had never been given a chance to explore life. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair. And time couldn’t do anything to heal all the wounds inside of him. He was torn, destroyed inside. He felt hollow. He had died that day with her. Ever since then he had been a walking shell. Nothing inside. And the emptiness hurt. It hurt so much that sometimes he just wanted to lie down and go to sleep and hope that he never wake up again.

And yet, here he was, two years after the accident. He was filling his days with the laughter and entertaining questions of seven-year-olds. In the evenings, he corrected homework and planned for the next lesson. He kept himself busy. Anything to make himself believe that he could do this. That he could live again.

The dreams had disturbed him in the beginning, but then he had discovered the wonder of sleeping pills. They were like a switch to his brain. With them he could switch off his thinking and go to sleep and wake up the next day and go on pretending that nothing was wrong.

His eyes drifted to the daisy and then back to the door, which Madison had left slightly ajar. He really liked Madison. She had become one of his friends when he had gotten the work as a teacher at the elementary school, but it was the time after Tess’s death that she had become a really close friend. She had been there to comfort him a lot of times when he had been prepared to let the sorrow drag him down, and she had pulled him back up again. The majority of his old friends he had shared with Tess and after the accident their sorrow was drowning him. Madison was like a new start, someone that didn’t know Tess, but whom he could introduce to her through his memories. She had been there when he had wanted to cry, comforting him.

But no one really knew the depth of his sorrow. How he was barely able to get up every morning. How the simple act of putting on clothes in the morning had turned into a decision between wanting to move on or not.

Some people went through their whole lives looking for that special someone who loved you unconditionally. Who shared everything with you. Who gave you everything, intellectually, mentally, and physically. That special someone. Your soulmate. But what if you already found that special someone? What if you found that person in someone everyone at first just had believed was a high school crush? What if this person made all your dreams come true? What if this person agreed to spend the rest of their life with you? What if this person was ripped away from you... What was there left to live for? Should you go on searching and hope that, against all odds, there was another soulmate out there for you? Should you settle for another person, one who didn’t make all your dreams come true but was a good second best?

Max could torture himself for hours about whether life was worth living without Tess. She had been his everything and when your everything is stolen from you. What do you have left?

Nothing.


TBC...

__________________

It's a little short, I know. But please tell me what you think :D

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Postby max and liz believer » Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:20 am

Hi everyone!! :D :D

Thank you soo much for the wonderful feedback!!! :D :D

About Max "seeing" Tess. Let me put it like this. This fic has nothing supernatural in it. It is very "normal" :roll:, so there are no ghosts visiting Max. The ghost of Tess is just something Max's mind has conjured up, because he is unwilling to let go off her. This is probably not healthy at all...but that's what we have Liz for, right? :wink:

And Elizabeth, thank you for your addition in the text. I didn't think of that! It was so great! Thank you!!

I also want to welcome all new readers. Welcome!!! :D :D




Chapter 6


“Hi Max,“ Isabel said with a warm smile and pulled her brother into a hug, “Where’s Madison?“
“Uhm... She couldn’t come,“ Max answered.
Isabel pulled back and looked him into the eyes. “You didn’t ask her?“
It was more of a statement than a question. Max dropped his eyes. Isabel sighed, despite herself.
“Max, I like Madison. You like Madison. Just because she’s not, like, the love of your life doesn’t mean that she can’t tag along.“
“She’s just a friend, Isabel,“ Max said.
Isabel ruffled his hair. “I know, little brother. But even though she’s just a friend, she does eat, right?“
“Uncle Max, Uncle Max, Uncle Max!!!“
A big smile spread over Max’s face as his niece came running towards him. “Oh! Who’s that?“
The little blonde girl giggled at her uncle’s tactics. “It’s me, silly. Michelle!“

Max squinted his eyes and tapped his finger lightly against his chin as he seemed to ponder whether he knew this girl or not. Then his eyes widened in surprise and recognition. “Right... Now I remember. You’re Michelle!“
Michelle rolled her eyes. “That’s what I said!“
Isabel just shook her head with a bright smile caressing her delicate features.
Max smiled and went down on his knees, opening his arms invitingly. Michelle easily slipped into his arms and he hugged her to him tightly. Isabel had to choke back a sob at the sight. The connection her daughter shared with Max was just amazing and every time she saw it she was reminded of everything that Max had been deprived of; not only his wife, but also his own son.
“Please, invite her next time, okay?“ Isabel said.
Max rose, with Michelle in his arms and he nodded obediently. “Your wish is my command, sis.“

Michelle scrunched her nose in confusion. “What’s a ‘domand’?“
“I do anything you tell me too,“ Max clarified seriously.
Michelle brightened and her forehead creased in deep thought. “Could you bark like a dog?“
“Uhm…well...“
Isabel winked at Max as his expression revealed that perhaps he shouldn’t have made such a promise. “Dinner’s ready soon, you guys.“
“Max!“
Isabel’s husband entered the hallway, saving Max from a rather embarrassing experience of ending up barking like a dog. He had a serious problem resisting fulfilling Michelle’s every whim.
“Alex.“ Max couldn’t hide the relief in his voice.
“How are you, man?“ Max moved Michelle to rest against his hip and took Alex’s hand.
“Good, and might I just say, Alex, that you better keep an eye on this young lady,“ Max turned towards Michelle and kissed her on the tip of her nose which elicited a giggle from the little girl, “because soon she’ll have all the boys running after her.“

Michelle scrunched her nose. “I don’t want boys runnin’ after me. They’w mean… and gross!“
Her father ruffled her hair, “Yeah, stick to that belief, honey. Let’s go into the dining room, Max.“
“You wanna know what I did today?“ Michelle asked.
“What did you do today?“ Max asked.
“I painted three pictures,“ Michelle proudly held up two fingers and Max smiled, “I made one special for you.“
Max’s eyes widened in surprise, “Special for me?“
“MmmHmmm,“ Michelle nodded proudly, “I’ll get it now.“
“Okay.“ Max put Michelle on the ground and watched her run towards the stairs.
“Everything’s going okay at work?“ Alex asked.
Max nodded. “Yeah, the kids are great. How’s the advertisement coming along?“
“It’s going really well,“ Alex said, “I think we’ll be able to finish it by the end of the week.“
“Here it is!“

Max and Alex turned to see Michelle running towards them as fast as her short legs would allow. Max pulled out a chair and sat down. Michelle immediately climbed up into his lap.
A little out of breath, but with a big smile on her face she gave him her drawing. It was a big round circle with a lot of different colors. Some had ended up inside the circle, others hadn’t been that lucky.
“Wow,“ Max said, trying desperately to figure out what she had painted.
“That’s a reino...ren..rino..“ Michelle sighed exasperatedly and turned to her father. “Daddy, what’s the word?“
“A rhinoceros,“ Alex smiled and turned to Max, “They’ve been reading about them in school.“
“Yeah, a rinosos,“ Michelle said, and proceeded with pointing out a sun, a flower and a sea on the picture.
“That’s beautiful, Michelle,“ Max said.
“And it’s a pwesent for you,“ Michelle said happily.
Max chuckled. “Thank you, sweetheart.“ His gaze flickered over the dining table. “Are we expecting more people?“
“Oh,“ Alex brightened up, “Yeah, Michael’s coming too.“

“He is? I thought he was out of town this week,“ Max said, surprised.
“Yeah, well he was, but there was a change of plans,“ Alex said cryptically. Max squinted his eyes at him. “What are you implying?“
“He’s bringing a date,“ Alex said, at which Max almost fell off his chair.
“Michael?“ he asked incredulously. “Michael Guerin?“
“Yep,“ Alex answered.
“As in he…” Max abruptly cut himself off and glanced down at the blonde bundle of innocence sitting in his lap, “heck-will-freeze-over-before-I-resort-to-something-as-unnecessary-as-dating Michael Guerin?“
“That would be him,“ Isabel answered as she walked into the dining room, putting down the bowl of salad on the table.
“You’re kidding me,“ Max said.
“No kidding,“ Michelle chirped in.
The doorbell rang.
“I got it!!“ Michelle slipped off Max lap and ran towards the door, her hair flying wildly in the air.

“That would be them now,“ Alex announced and started to walk out towards the front door.
“I told you to bring Madison,“ Isabel told him as she walked past him.
Max watched Isabel disappear out of the room, a myriad of emotions speeding through him. Michael had, up until now, been a safe card. He was something Max could always count on to be more or less single. Max knew that he was being ridiculous and selfish. It was only one date, but the whole thing had awoken a deep fear within Max. A fear of being the only one left, of spending his whole life alone. Despite the fact that he sometimes thought that he was only entitled to the memories of his life and the dreams of what his life might have been, he didn’t want to end up alone. He wanted to live on, with someone by his side. But he was scared. Scared of taking that step again. Michael’s inability to make a commitment to anyone had always offered him some sort of comfort. As long as Michael couldn’t do it, Max didn’t need to do it either. And now Isabel was afraid that he would feel like the third wheel, which wasn’t entirely untrue.

He took a deep breath and walked out towards the happy voices that reached him from the hallway.
“...no, that’s fine. Thank you.“
“Long time no see, huh?“ he heard Alex say as he rounded the corner. Michael just pulled Isabel into a hug, but Max’s eyes drifted to the person standing beside Michael.
“Max, hey man. She managed to drag you here too?“
Max turned his head towards the voice of his best friend. “Hi Michael. I didn’t know you were in town.“
Michael shrugged. “I wasn’t really, but Maria wanted to meet the infamous gang. Max, this is Maria.“
“Hi, Max,“ the blonde girl said with a smile and offered him her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you,“ Max said while shaking her hand.
“Well, let’s move into the dining area, shall we?“ Isabel, ever the good hostess, said, “You must all be starving.“

<center>---------------------------------</center>

“So, Maria. What do you do for a living?“
“I’m in the service oriented business,“ Maria smiled.
“She’s a waitress,“ Michael filled in.
Maria cast something towards Michael very similar to a glare. Max exchanged an amused look with Isabel. “Um... I’m actually not a waitress. I was when I was younger. My mom owned a restaurant. She still does, actually. But now we are partners, so I’m taking care of the money. I would consider myself an accountant.“
“And she waits on people,“ Michael filled in.
“I do not,“ Maria glared at Michael and then turned to the others with an apologetic smile. “I do not.“
Isabel laughed lightly. “Well, it sounds like an interesting job. Where are you from?“
“Roswell. Born and raised.“
“How did you guys meet?“ Alex asked. “Roswell’s pretty far from here.“
“Michael was in Albuquerque in business, as was I. And we sort of ran into each other,“ Maria explained.

“She took my suitcase,“ Michael clarified.
“What?“ Isabel laughed.
Maria smiled broadly. “We had the same suitcases, so I mistakenly took his. Somehow, he managed to spot me before I left the airport, or more exactly the suitcase. I was happy that he did. I wouldn’t want to come home and find a lot of men’s clothes in my suitcase instead of my usual clothes.“
Alex chuckled. “Especially not Michael’s dirty ones.“ He scrunched his nose to emphasise the statement and his daughter scrunched her nose beside him.
“Thank you so much Alex for sharing that piece of information,“ Michael said sarcastically.
“I don’t really know how, but somehow we ended up in a restaurant and then…well, here I am,“ Maria filled in.
“Typical you, Michael, to hook up with someone at an airport,“ Alex said with an amused grin.
“So, Max. What are you up to?“ Maria asked.

The dark-haired man intrigued her. He hadn’t said more than five words to her during the whole dinner. His silence interested her. The person he had shared most words with was the three-year-old Michelle. They seemed to have an understanding that went past words and if Maria had read Max correctly this far, she would’ve guessed that he was a man of few words and that he often conveyed his message in other ways. It was difficult to see where he fitted in the group. Isabel, his sister, was outgoing and talkative. Alex was pulling jokes every second minute and Michael... Well, Michael was Michael. Maybe Michael wasn’t the most social guy she’d ever dated, but he talked more than Max did.
“I’m a teacher,“ Max answered.
“Oh,“ Maria smiled, “which grade are you teaching?“
“First,“ Max answered. Maria could see him lighten up. Something in his eyes came to life and it hit Maria how much emotion Max’s eyes could express. Maria’s forehead momentarily frowned in contemplation as she studied Max’s face. What had put that blank expression in his eyes? That look devoid of emotions.

Maria’s gaze on him was making Max uncomfortable. For a year after the death of his wife, he had been forced to deal with lots of looks and patronizing whispers. People had started to accept that he wasn’t going to go back to the Max Evans he had been before. They had been forced to accept this new solemn and quiet and washed out version of his former self. However, he hadn’t experienced the deeply scrutinizing looks in a year, until now from a girl he had only just met. She was looking at him as if he were a puzzle she was trying to figure out. And it was unnerving him.

He dropped his eyes and unconsciously started to fidget with the edge of his napkin.
“I love children,“ Maria said, breaking the silence. She was obviously making him uncomfortable. That was not what she intended to do, “And especially at that age. The questions they ask and the things they say… they’re just hilarious sometimes.“
Max looked up at her, his eyes softening. “They’re great. They see so much of the world that we don’t see.“
Maria smiled, her fascination with this man growing by the second. “Yes, I agree. We could probably learn a lot from them.“
Max nodded.


The rest of dinner continued with more comfortable topics of conversation. It didn’t go unnoticed by anyone how eager Maria seemed to be to pull Max out of his shell. The others silently applauded her for having the patience. Max had always been closed off. Even before the accident. Isabel had caught herself smiling several times during the dinner. Maria reminded her of Tess in some ways, especially in her interactions with Max. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and she more or less discreetly forced Max to take part in her conversations with her honesty. It was fascinating to see.

<center>---------------------------------------------------</center>

“Are you ready to go?“ Michael asked.
“Yes,“ Maria answered, “I just want to say good-bye to Max first. You know where he is?“
Michael chuckled. “Upstairs, second room to the left. If I know him correctly.“
Maria shot him a look of confusion before walking up the stairs. Before she had reached the top of the stairs she could hear his voice. It was floating out of the door that was slightly ajar to her left. She stepped up to the door and silently pushed the door open a little. The inhabitants of the room were so engrossed in what they were doing that they didn’t notice her presence.
“The angry Captain Crook was skillful with the sword,“ Max voice was soft and low, but at the next sentence his voice became more forceful, “But Peter Pan was quicker and up on the rig Crook slipped and fell.“
A smile started to spread over Maria’s face as the little girl covered her eyes as if she already knew what Max was going to read next. Max’s voice grew softer, but still held a tone of anticipation.

“The hungry crocodile was waiting for the captain, who, with a splash,“ Max added a splashing sound, “fell into the water just in time for the crocodile’s dinner.“
“Will the cwokodile eat Cwook?“ Michelle asked in a small voice.
“Nah,“ Max said reassuringly, “I don’t think he tastes good.“
Michelle scrunched her nose. “I don’t phink so either.“
Max smiled lovingly at the girl and pressed a kiss to the top of her head before his gaze fell on the book in his lap and he continued reading.
“‘Help! Save me!’ Crook cried and swam as fast as he could towards the distant shore...“
Coming to the decision that the scene in front of her was too beautiful to destroy, Maria silently closed the door and walked down the stairs.


TBC...

________________________

So, I'm working on the next chapter right now and, ladies and gentlemen, we have a scene at the end with Max and Liz actually "bumping" into each other...

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Postby max and liz believer » Wed Jul 23, 2003 1:36 pm

Hey everyone!!

Thank you so much for the feedback and the patience!!! It means sooo much to me!

Here's the next chapter...


Hugs,

Josephin





Chapter 7


“Alex, I don’t know if this is such a good idea.“
Alex sighed. “C’mon Max! You need to get out of that house!“
Max absent-mindedly scratched his eyebrow. “Actually, I have tons of homework to correct.“
“They are seven years old. How much homework have you been giving them?“
“I was planning on mowing the lawn,“ Max said evasively.
Alex chuckled. “You’re unbelievable. Well, I don’t want to be the one telling the little girl over here that you are not coming. Either you come along, or you’re the one who’ll have to deal with her tears.“
Max closed his eyes and sighed. “Alex, why do you tell her that I’m gonna come before asking me?“
“Because I know that it’s the only way to get you to agree to come.“
“That’s not fair play.“
“It’s for your own good, Maxie-boy. Come on now! It’s only one day at the mall. How bad could it be?“

“Oh, excuse me, maybe I misunderstood you,“ Max said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “Isabel isn’t coming along?“
“She isn’t that bad,“ Alex protested.
“Alex,“ Max said dead-seriously, “Take it from someone who grew up with her. She is that bad!“
“Then we can split up at the mall or whatever. I can go with Isabel, and you and Michelle can storm all the toy stores, because you are the only reason she’s going with us anyway. She has gotten this bizarre notion in her little head that her mother spends way too much time in shoe stores.“
Max face split up in a grin. “That’s my girl,“ he said proudly.
“Is that a yes?“ Alex inquired.
Max sighed in defeat. “I’m only coming along because I want to save Michelle from her own mother.“
Alex grinned triumphantly. “We’ll come by and pick you up at four.“
“Fine,“ Max grumbled, trying to come off as irritated, but truthfully he was happy to have found a reason to get out of the house. The house Tess and he had bought four years earlier.

<center>-------------------------------------------------------</center>

“...and den mommy tol’ me dat I can get a happy wheel-“
“A happy wheel?“
“At matdonalds,“ Michelle clarified with a duh-look.
Max smacked himself over his forehead in an oh-stupid-me gesture. “Right, right. So, you want that mermaid in the happy meal?“
Michelle nodded fervently. “Yup. And den mommy tol’ me dat you would take me to Toys a us...“
“What are you getting at Toys ‘R’ us, honey?“ Max asked.
“Michelle? Michelle? Are you going to say good-bye to your daddy?“
Michelle grinned at her father and gave him a wet kiss on the cheek as he kneeled down in front of her. “Bye daddy.“
Alex rolled his eyes. “See ya later alligator...“
“After ‘while cwocodile,“ Michelle added.
“Is that what you are teaching our daughter?“ Isabel asked behind her husband.
“Vital information,“ Alex answered.

Isabel shook her head with a smile and picked Michelle up to give her a hug.
“Whoa, honey,“ she groaned, “You’re getting way too big for me to carry.“
“I’m a biiig girl,“ Michelle said proudly.
“You sure are,“ Isabel said and nuzzled her nose. “Now, you have to promise me that you do everything uncle Max tells you, okay?“
“I pomise,“ Michelle said seriously.
“Okay, pumpkin,“ Isabel said, putting her daughter back down on the ground. She linked arms with her husband and looked at her brother. “Okay, little brother. We’ll meet here again in three hours.“
Max arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’ll be able to go through all stores in just three hours?“
“Haha, very funny,“ Isabel quipped, “You guys have fun.“
“We will,“ Max said and took Michelle’s hand. “Won’t we, Michelle?“
“Yup,“ Michelle answered, already tugging on Max’s hand to get him moving towards the first toy store in line. “C’moooon Max.“

“I guess I’d better get going,“ Max said hurriedly as he stumbled after Michelle. “Whoa, Michelle. Have you been working out?“
Isabel smiled as her brother and her daughter disappeared inside the mall.
“So, Mrs. Whitman, what is first on the list today?“ Alex asked.
“Shoes, definitely shoes,“ Isabel mused and took a forceful grip on her husband’s arm and pulled him across the mall. Alex started to understand where some of Michelle’s maneuvers came from.

<center>----------------------------------------------------</center>

“Wow, this place is big!“ Liz exclaimed.
“I told you so,“ Maria said cheerfully.
“Maybe they should make a map for this place, because I’m a little worried I’ll get lost,“ Liz said.
Maria scrunched her nose. “Yeah, with your sense of direction, I guess a map would be very beneficial.“
Liz punched her lightly on the arm. “Thank you, Maria.“
Maria laughed. “Well, you have to admit that forgetting how to drive back from my place is pretty sad.“
Liz rolled her eyes, “Yeah, whatever Maria.“ What she was about to say was interrupted as Maria took a firm grip on her elbow and pulled at her so quickly that Liz almost lost her balance. “Maria, wha-“
“Oh, look look look!!“ Maria said ecstatically, “There are those new flavored ice-creams. We just gotta taste those!“
Liz grinned at the sight of her best friend bouncing up and down, with the face of a child on Christmas Day plastered on her face.

“Maria, relax. It’s just ice-cream,“ Liz chuckled.
“C’mon now, Liz. Let’s get some,“ Maria giggled, pulling on Liz.
Liz smiled and gestured towards one of the few benches in the mall. “I think I’m just gonna sit down for a while.“
Maria instantly turned serious and asked concerned, “Are you okay?“
Liz waved her concern off. “Yes, I’m fine. I just need to sit down for a while. You go and get the ice-cream and I’ll just wait here.“
“You sure?“ Maria asked.
Liz smiled. “Perfectly.“
Maria gave her one last look and what she saw probably confirmed that Liz was okay, because the smile crept back on her face. “I’ll be right back.“
“Okay,“ Liz nodded.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>

The rays of the sun floating through the windowpanes lining the ceiling spilled over her honey-colored hair, making it almost glow. His legs had stopped moving, his lungs had stopped pulling in air. His whole body had been placed in a position of tranquility but his heart was completely alive in his chest. It beat with an energy that it hadn’t in years. His eyes didn’t even indulge in the relief of blinking, because then he might lose sight of her. Then she might disappear from him as easily as she had the last time. He wouldn’t make the same mistake again. He wouldn’t let her go. Some part of his mind, the rational part of his mind, was trying to tell him that it was only an illusion. That it wasn’t her. It wasn’t a possibility. She was dead. He had seen her still body in the hospital bed and had spent hours by her side, hoping that she would wake up and smile up at him. That she would call him silly for thinking that she would ever leave him. But she never had.

It was the deep longing to see her again. To talk to her, to hear her laughter, to see her smile. To touch her, to taste her. It was a longing for all those things that had been taken away from him that was clouding his brain. That was making him believe the unbelievable. It was the small hope inside of him that just never had died that flared to life, like dying embers waiting for the right wood to be fed with. She had her back turned against him, but she looked just the same. Her hair was billowing down her back. It was longer now, straighter. He watched as she tucked an elusive strand of hand behind her ear. She was adjusting the strap on her sandal.

He was so entranced with the image of her that he didn’t notice as the small hand left his, or the little voice excitedly telling him about a Teletubbie. The woman straightened up and flipped her hair over her shoulder, making it cascade down her back and turned around. Reality hit Max like a cold and hard slap in the face as his eyes roamed over her face. No, not her face, but the face of a stranger.

His head whipped around as he felt the absence of her hand safely tucked in his. “Michelle?“
His heart started to beat violently in his chest and panic crept up along his spine. “Michelle?“ She wasn’t there. He turned around, his voice getting louder, “Michelle?!“
People walking past turned their heads and looked at him. Some curious and some irritated. But he didn’t notice. Suddenly he was flung back to the emergency room, where people were crying and searching after a loved one.
“Michelle!!“ he yelled.
He spun around on his heels, but nowhere did he see the little fair-haired three-year-old. There were people everywhere. Their laughter melted into buzzing. Their mindless chatter increased and he started moving. His eyes frantically darted from one side to the other. He had lost her. He had promised himself to never lose sight of anyone he loved again and he had lost her.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

A faint smile graced her lips as she watched Maria disappear in the crowd. She had been having this headache all day. On some days the effects of the medication she took to prevent her body from rejecting her new heart were worse than on others.

The ringing of her cell phone tore her attention away from Maria and she started to search through her bag after the phone. She sighed as she saw the familiar number on the display.
“Hi,“ she answered.
“Liz? Where are you?“
“I’m at the mall,“ Liz answered, already anticipating where this conversation would be going.
“The mall?“
“Yeah, with Maria. In Santa Fe. I told you about that last night.“
“You didn’t tell me that,“ her boyfriend said.
“Kevin. If you are so concerned about my whereabouts, maybe you should listen to me when I’m talking to you. I told you yesterday that Maria and I would be spending the day in Santa Fe.“
“Isn’t that a little stupid?“ Kevin asked.
“Excuse me?“ Liz questioned incredulously. “What’s so stupid about shopping?“
“Think about your condition, Liz,“ Kevin pointed out.

Liz rose from the bench, closing her eyes as she tried to will herself to stay calm. He was only concerned. He was only concerned. He didn’t mean it like that.
“Why don’t you trust me enough to think that I can take care of myself? I’m an adult, for Christ’s Sake!“
“But sometimes you aren’t careful enough,“ Kevin said.
“I am careful,“ Liz bit out, “I’m so careful I’m suffocating!“
“Liz,“ Kevin lowered his voice to the one he used when talking to stubborn children, which only served to infuriate Liz even more, “You don’t have as much energy as others do, you can’t exert yourself to the same degree-“
“No, that’s where you’re wrong,“ Liz said, “I’m like anyone else! I’m just as normal! The person you are talking about is the person I was before the transplant.“
“Why are you getting like this?“ Kevin asked.
Liz sighed. “Like what?“
“I’m just looking out for you,“ Kevin said. Liz could hear in his voice that he was getting irritated as well. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, her eyes slowly wandering over the mass of people without really seeing anything.

“Let’s talk about this when I get home,“ Liz said.
“When will you get home?“ Kevin asked.
Liz opened her mouth to answer, but someone bumping into her stopped her. She turned around and found herself face to face with the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But what caught her attention were his eyes. They were moving frantically from side to side, as if he were searching for something. The panic streaming out from him was so tangible she could almost feel it ripping through her body.
“Kevin, I’ll have to call you back,“ she said quickly in the phone. She heard the beginning of a ‘but’ on the other end before she pressed the disconnect button.
The man was already walking away from her as she reached out with her hand and stopped him.

“Hey, are you okay?“ she asked softly, her hand on his arm making him turn his head and look straight at her. She mentally gasped as his panic-stricken eyes bore into hers.
“I-I’m sorry,“ he mumbled.
Something was very wrong here. “What happened?“
She didn’t know why she was standing here in the middle of a mall, talking to a complete stranger. But it was something about him. Her instincts were telling her that he would break down if he wasn’t helped quickly.
“I lost her,“ he said and turned to walk away again. Liz snatched her bag from the bench and started to walk behind him.
“Who have you lost?“ she asked.
The man stopped and turned around, his mesmerizing eyes meeting hers again. “Please. Help me find her.“
“Okay,“ Liz said without hesitation, “What does she look like?“
“Huh?“ he asked, his eyes returning to the never-ending task of scanning the mall with his fearful eyes.
“The one you’ve lost,“ Liz clarified, “What does she look like?“

“She’s... She’s blonde and has brown eyes. She’s three,“ the man answered.
Liz frowned. There were just too many fitting in on that picture. “What did she wear?“
“I have to find her,“ he mumbled, starting to walk away from her again. Her hand on his arm stopped him once again.
“Look at me,“ she said and as he continued looking around himself, she put her hand against his cheek and pulled his face towards hers. Her concern doubled as he practically jumped at her touch. What had happened that had made this man go so out of his mind?
“I need you to listen to me,“ she said slowly. His eyes were now on her face, looking into her eyes. To be in the center of his undivided attention like this was almost more than she could bear. His eyes were so intense and the way he was looking at her just made her even surer that she had to help him. He was looking at her like she was his last thread of hope and it made her heart shatter. She wanted to pull him into a hug and tell him that everything was okay. She faintly shook her head to clear it from those thoughts. What was she thinking? She had never met this man before. How could he have such big impact on her?
“You have to pull it together,“ she said, “You aren’t going to find her if you are in this state. You have to calm down, okay? And I will help you look.“

“Okay,“ he whispered.
Liz took a deep relieved breath. “Okay. What clothes did the little girl wear?“
His eyes closed for a second and Liz watched the erratic lowering and raising of his chest. She had never seen anyone as upset before. “
“A pink sweater and a checked skirt,“ he answered.
“Is her hair short or long?“ Liz asked as calmly as she could.
“Long, but she wears it in a ponytail,“ he answered.
“Have you talked to the security yet?“
A haunted look crossed over his face to quickly be replaced by one of guilt. “No,“ he whispered with agony in his voice.
“Okay, this is what we’re gonna do,“ Liz said, “I’ll go and talk to the security guards. And you should go through all the toy stores. Was there any place she specifically wanted to visit?“
His eyes were still holding on to hers strongly as he answered, “MacDonalds. She wanted a happy meal.“ Liz could hint the smallest hint of hope in his voice and it warmed her worried heart.

“You should look at MacDonalds. Let’s say we meet here again in half an hour, okay?“
He nodded weakly and she gave him a reassuring half-smile. “We’ll find her.“
She turned around to walk towards one of the security guards when she felt a strong warm hand against the skin of her upper arm. She turned around, with question in her eyes.
“Thank you,“ he said softly. So soft that she barely heard him. She removed his hand from her arm and gave it a squeeze. “Let’s find that little girl.“
“Michelle,“ he said.
“Michelle,“ Liz smiled, “Let’s find Michelle.“

Twenty-five minutes later, she had informed the security guards of the situation. They had put out a message in the loudspeakers and had promised to keep a watch for her. And she had been through half the stores of the mall. She had started to wonder if she was ever going to find that little girl and if she was even going to find her way back to the bench. She hoped that the man had found his daughter by now. Maria had called five minutes after she had left the bench and she had informed her what had happened. Maria had promised to help looking too and had started on the second floor of the mall. Liz had just asked one of the security guards for directions for the way back when she caught a little girl coming out from one of the stores. Her heart leapt in her chest as she took in her blond hair, neatly pulled into a pony-tail and her pink sweater and skirt. That was Michelle. It had to be.

“Michelle!“ she shouted, making several people turn their heads and the little girl as well. Her eyes went big as she saw the strange woman quickly walking towards her. Liz could see that she had been crying. She was probably very scared by now.
“Are you Michelle?“ she asked as she got closer.
The girl nodded, dumbfounded. “I'm Liz. Your daddy is looking for you,“ Liz said. It just hit her that she had forgotten to ask for the man’s name.
“Daddy?“ Michelle whispered tearfully.
“Yes,“ Liz nodded, “He’s really worried about you.“
She reached out her hand for Michelle and smiled at her comfortingly. “Come here and I’ll take you to him.“

“My mommy has tol’ me dat I can’t go with stwangers,“ Michelle said, her eyes large with fear and mistrust. But also a small hope that the woman would be able to take her to her father.
“And your mommy is perfectly right,“ Liz agreed, “So this is what we are going to do. You see that guard over there?“ Liz pointed towards one of the security guards and Michelle nodded. “I’m gonna take you to him and you can wait there while I get your dad. Is that okay?“
Michelle frowned in deep concentration as she thought about what the woman had said. “K,“ she agreed.
Liz smiled. “Good. Let’s go.“
They started to walk. They had only taken a few steps when Liz felt a little trembling hand touch hers. Her heart warmed as she opened her hand and squeezed the little hand.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Their eyes met and Liz couldn’t contain a smile to spread over her face when she thought about the fact that she would be able to soothe him. Emotion flared in his eyes, so strongly that she could see it even at this distance. He started to walk towards her, never letting her go with his eyes. Her heart fluttered as he came closer.
“Did you find her?“ he asked breathlessly.
Her smile broadened and she nodded. His eyes drifted close as he inhaled deeply, his whole body sagging with the unloading of an invisible weight on his shoulders. She automatically reached out with her hand to steady him. Her smile slipped off her face. He looked as if he was about to faint. Before she had the chance to ask him if he was okay, his eyes opened and he was once again looking straight at her, straight into her.
“Where is she?“ he asked.

Liz smiled at the memory of the little girl. “She’s over at FAO Schwarz with a security guard. She informed me that she wasn’t allowed to go with strangers, so we compromised.“
A lop-sided smile broke out on his face, which made Liz’s breath caught in her throat. “She’s the most intelligent three-year-old around.“
There was such pride in his voice that the warm smile easily slipped back on Liz’s face. “That’s the impression I got too.“
He nodded, looking beside her in the direction of Michelle’s location, before looking back at her. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to thank you, to repay you-“
She smilingly shook her head. “You don’t need to thank me. You needed help and...“ Her voice trailed off as he took her hand. A jolt of electricity spread up her arm at the touch and her eyes swiftly rose from their now clasped hands back to his face.

“Thank you,“ he said with emphasis and his warm hand was so securely holding hers, like it was meant to be there.
She swallowed and smiled weakly. “You’re welcome.“
“Is there anything I can do to...“
She shook her head again. “Really, there’s no need. You should go to her. I think she’s scared.“
He nodded quickly. “Yes, you’re right.“
He let go off her hand and she felt the loss of the warmth immediately, making her wrap her arms around her waist to stop the chill from spreading in her body.
“Thank you,“ he said softly. And then he was gone. Liz realized too late that she didn’t even know his name and that the chance of meeting him again was minuscule. The weirdest aspect of it all, though, was the deep sorrow floating through her the instant she realized that she would probably never see him again. Like she had lost something she had never really had to begin with.


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Sun Sep 14, 2003 7:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby max and liz believer » Mon Aug 11, 2003 7:03 am

Hi fellow Roswellians!

How's life? :D I hope everyone's enjoying the summer! I'm here with a new update. I realized that it had been pretty long since my last update. Sorry for that guys! I just hope that you stick by me through this any way.

I just have one thing to say. It might seem like I'm really smothering you with the love between Max and Tess, and some of you are growing a bit worried that Liz will become secondary to Tess. Keep that faith in our beloved dreamer couple and everything's gonna be okay. Tess was the love of Max's life... up until now... You can probably figured the rest out :wink:

Thank you so much for reading and for leaving feedback!! I love you, guys!!




Chapter 8


“What the hell were you thinking, Max?!!“ a distraught mother cried.
“Isabel, calm-“ the husband tried.
“Don’t tell me to calm down,“ Isabel snapped, crushing her daughter to her chest. “I trusted you to take care of her! My God! You work with children! I would’ve thought that you would be better with children because of that. How difficult can it be to look after a three-year-old?!“
“Mommy, pwease stop yelling,“ a crying Michelle begged.
“Isabel, you’re scaring Michelle,“ Alex said.
But Isabel wasn’t listening. Her brother had lost her little girl and it was only a miracle that she hadn’t been abducted.
“What if someone had taken her?! Taken her to the woods somewhere and cut her up?!“
Isabel!“ Alex hissed as Michelle’s crying grew worse.
“I didn’t… I saw... I never meant to...“

Concerned, Alex glanced at his brother-in-law. Anyone could see that Max was close to a breakdown and Isabel bringing up every fear and feeling of guilt that Max had probably been beating himself up with since Michelle’s disappearance anyway didn’t ease the situation one bit.
“What did you see, Max?“ Alex asked, cutting through her wife’s ramble.
Max averted his eyes. Isabel’s eyes widened and she stared at him, her chin dropping, as realization hit her, “It was her. You think you saw her!“
“Who?“ Alex asked, confused.
Isabel sank down on the bench behind her, barely noticing how Michelle crawled out of her arms and into her father’s.
“This is it, Max. You need to go and see a therapist! You are sick!“
“They don’t help me,“ Max said, his voice stronger. He had been at a grief counselor right after their death, but it hadn’t helped him one bit. The counselor had only tried to pull out all the things he wanted to forget.

“Don’t you understand?!“ Isabel bit out between clenched teeth, tears of anger and fear running down her cheeks, leaving black streaks of her mascara in their wake. “You could’ve gotten Michelle killed, just because you thought you saw her!!“
Alex watched in horror as Max closed down in front of him. “Isabel, stop this! Let’s talk about this when we get home.“
“No, Alex,“ Isabel said without moving her eyes from Max’s face. “He needs to hear this. He wasn’t the only one who lost someone. I lost her too, Max! She was my best friend. But I moved on!! You have to let this go, Max! You almost sacrificed Michelle today, just because you can’t let go of her!!“
Isabel’s words were hitting him like thousand knives, cutting into his flesh, scraping against his bones. Ripping his heart and the walls he had started to build around himself apart. Her words hurt, because she was right. He could have gotten Michelle killed today just because he couldn’t let go of his dead wife.

“Isabel! Stop this now!!“ Alex yelled, making Isabel jump with the intensity of his voice. He had never raised his voice at her before. “Can’t you see what you are doing to him?“
Isabel bit her lips together. “What I’m doing to him?! What about what he almost did to our daughter?!“
“I think you should have a little more understanding for Max’s situation after today. Now you know how it feels to be terrified for the life of your child. Max has felt that too. Max’s son died, Isabel! Michelle is still alive! Do you really think that Max intentionally tried to hurt Michelle? He loves her, Isabel. He would never hurt her!“
Isabel could feel her anger dissolve and her tear-filled eyes floated to Max’s face. While the distorting clouds of anger dissipated, her eyes moved over her brother. His eyes were downcast, but she could read the defeated stance of his body like her own. Isabel’s heart stabbed with guilt. What had she done?
“Max...“ she said, her voice barely above whisper. He looked up. She could see that he was already trying to rebuild the withering walls around his hardening heart, but his eyes were always the last ones to hide his emotions. Some part of Isabel found the emotions she could now see in his eyes hopeful. They were the first real emotions she had seen in them since... since the day she had found him in the emergency room after they had heard that Tess and Josh had been in a car accident. He looked so lost and shattered. When she realized that, it that made the sudden, but ever-present feelings of guilt beneath the surface rise up and almost suffocate her.

“I’m so sorry...“ Isabel said, her anger being wiped out of her system and replaced with regret for putting that expression on his face.
Max just shook his head.
“Uncle Max?“ Michelle piped up. Her voice was filled with tears as she looked at her uncle from her position in her father’s arms.
“Yes, Michelle?“ Max said softly, his entire attention shifting to the little girl.
“I wuv you,“ she said.
Max felt the guilt crash into him again and he momentarily closed his eyes against the emotion before he reached out and took Michelle from Alex’s arms, holding onto her tightly while he was fighting the tears in his eyes.
“Let’s go home,“ he said, his voice short as he turned around with Michelle in his arms and began walking towards their car. The second his back turned against his sister and his brother-in-law, tears started to roll down his cheeks. He angrily brushed them away with the back of his hand.

“Why you sad?“ Michelle asked.
Max looked down at her tear-stained face and forced himself to give her a reassuring smile. “I was just so afraid that I lost you today. Don’t ever walk away like that from me again, okay?“ His voice was soft, pleading, defeated. Michelle pressed a wet warm kiss on his cheek and said with great seriousness. “I pwomise.“

<center>------------------------------------------------------------</center>

“...and then he pulled out this really sick newspaper and tried to tell me that what he had seen had actually been published in the newspaper... Liz, are you listening to me?“
Liz’s hand stilled while she was absent-mindedly moving her fork in her food and she looked up at her boyfriend, sitting across the table with a concerned look on his face.
“I’m sorry, Kevin,“ she said regretfully. “What were you saying?“
Kevin searched her face. “Is that headache still bothering you?“
“No,“ Liz answered, taking a sip from her water glass, “I’m just tired.“
Kevin sighed. “I told you it would’ve been better if you hadn’t spent so much time at the mall.“
Liz resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Now, you were saying?“
Kevin studied her face a few seconds before placing a hand over hers on the table. “Liz, I’m sorry. I guess my ramble would bore anyone to death-“
Liz smiled. “No, Kev. Continue. I want to hear about your day.“

“It’s not that interesting anyway,“ Kevin said, “I want to hear about your day instead.“
Liz quizzically raised one eyebrow. “You’re serious?“ she taunted.
“Hey, I always want to hear what you’re up to,“ he said, offended.
Liz raised the other eyebrow.
“Okay, most of the time I want to hear what you’ve been up to,“ Kevin corrected himself.
“Really?“ Liz asked.
Kevin searched her face and then grimaced. “Am I really that bad? Don’t I ever listen to you?“
Liz smiled. “Of course you do, honey.“
“I’m sorry,“ Kevin said with regret.
Liz rolled her eyes. “Okay, you want to know about my day?“
“Of course,“ Kevin answered.

Liz momentarily spaced out as her thoughts took a one-eighty towards a certain dark and handsome man she had met at the mall. The nameless stranger whom she would probably never meet again. But that didn’t stop her from thinking about him. He and his little girl had been on her mind ever since they had met at the mall. During the couple of hours trip back home to Roswell, while Maria chattered happily beside her about some new boyfriend, Liz’s thoughts had continuously been drawn back to the man and a small girl named Michelle. She had assumed that Michelle was his daughter. Was he married? Divorced? She hadn’t thought about looking for a wedding band. Maybe it wasn’t his child at all. Maybe it had been a child of a friend or just a relative. But why had he been so upset? Sure, terrible things could happen to a child on their own in a mall, but his behavior hadn’t been that of just a worried parent.

He had been utterly destroyed. As though he would die or even kill himself if he didn’t find the little girl. Then there were his eyes. There was something about them. She could read almost everything about him in those eyes. Every emotion. Like she knew him by just looking into his eyes. There had been so many feelings flickering in the depth of his amber eyes that she had almost felt smothered by the intensity. She got the deep instinctive feeling that he had lost someone dear to him. That he had lost a part of his soul, his reason for living. And it was as though Michelle had been one of the things that actually kept him moving forward. If that was the case, then his intense and overwhelming fear was more understandable.

He had fascinated her. Intrigued her. And the more she thought about it, she had to admit to herself that he had awoken something inside of her that had been buried for a while, something that might never have been alive. With just one touch of his hand and one look of his intense eyes, her legs had turned weak and she had felt more than when she had been the most intimate with Kevin. And that scared her. If the feelings Kevin stirred in her were that weak in comparison to the touch of a stranger, how strongly did she truly feel for Kevin? Should she really be with Kevin at all?

She had thought a lot about their relationship. She was a true romantic. A dreamer at heart. She wanted the passion she had read about in the books she had consumed when she was in the hospital. She wanted the soulmate kind of love. But reality had been hitting her over the head lately. Ever since she had gotten the transplant and her life had started for real, she had lost all reasons and justification for living in a dream world. It was time to get out in the real world and make a life of her own, outside the hospital walls. But was what she had with Kevin true love? How could she know?

She had nothing to compare it with. He had been her only boyfriend. There had never been anyone else with her. No one else had given her more than a second glance when she had told them about her heart condition. It had scared them off and, frankly, she wasn’t that disappointed at the time because she was too afraid to let anyone in. She didn’t want to be pitied or have them take care of her when she got worse. But Kevin had been there. He had stuck through. He had not given up and he had eased into her heart with his persistence and his loyalty.

But was it true love?

“Honey? Are you still with me?“
“Huh?“ She looked up at him in confusion.
He smiled at her. “You kind of spaced out on me there for a second. Did you buy anything today?“
Liz took a deep breath and forced all of her confusing thoughts to the back of her head.
I didn’t, but Maria...“

<center>-------------------------------------------</center>

The VCR whizzed with the familiar sound of a tape being started. The TV screen was filled with various images, replacing each other in a slow tempo. The unprofessional shaking of the camera memorizing the events told that it was a home video. The volume was turned on, the sound level gradually increasing until the poorly-lit room was filled with the laughter, chatter and clinking of glasses and silver wears against plates.
“Isabel! Isabel, say something!“
The bright and laughing face of the stunning Isabel came into view.
“Tess, girlfriend,“ she giggled as she caught sight of her brother moving towards her, “I don’t know what possessed you to marry my annoying little brother...“
“Hey, Max! Go away! This is a private movie shooting, man!“ the cameraman shouted.
“What are you saying about me?“ Max asked, walking up behind his sister. Isabel turned around and grabbed a hold of her brother and with an arm wrapped around his waist, she turned back to the camera, her expression now serious.

“Tess, I can’t tell you in words how happy I am to see you marrying Max. I know that you will be happy together. Max adores you, just look at him now,“ she pulled Max closer to the camera, his happy and smiling face becoming clearer to the viewer, “I’ve never seen him any happier. You know, he has had a secret crush on you since the first day he laid eyes on you.“
“Isabel...“ Max said softly. The camera caught the tears glittering in her eyes and her warm, though teary, smile.
“Just continue doing what you do best - love each other. And everything will work out.“
She put her arms around her brother and pulled him into a tight hug.
“I love you, little brother,“ she whispered, but loud enough for it to get recorded.
“Okay, enough with the mushy stuff,“ the cameraman said, but intense emotions cracked even his casual voice.

The scene changed to display a beautiful girl dressed all in white. Her cream-colored shoulders were left naked as the simply embellished dress clung beautifully to her soft feminine curves. Her otherwise wild and natural blonde soft curls were pinned to the back of her head, with soft curls escaping and falling down on the sides of her face. Softening her face. There were flowers in her hair. Daisies. They had always been her favorite.
“Oh, Michael,“ she smiled into the camera, her smile glowing, “You clean up pretty well.“
“You don’t look so bad either,“ came the reply from the person filming, the voice a little louder, yet muffled behind the camera.
“He always did have his way with compliments,“ the woman said, trying to sound sarcastic, but she was just too happy. Her eyes were tinkling with happiness and laughter.
“Yeah, well what can I say,“ he replied, “Do you have something to say to the camera, Tessie? Any last remarks as a free woman?“
Heartfelt laughter floated over her lips before she stepped closer to the camera and looked directly at whoever would be seeing the tape in the future, but directing herself to one person in particular.

“Baby, I’m planning on making you just as happy as you’re making me,“ she said, “I will make all your dreams come true. I will spend my days loving you.“
“Why, thank you, Tess. I would really love to pursue this but it’s my duty as Best Man and everything to remind you that you’ll be married to Max in about thirty minutes. But we could always work around it somehow of course. What are your opinions on an affair?“
Her laughter could thaw any frozen soul. “In your dreams, Michael!“
Her laughing face froze along with the activity in the background as he pressed pause on the VCR.

His eyes were glued to her smiling face, his angel. So happy. So excited about their future. And it would have been a great future. If they had been given the chance to live it. Max picked up the remote control and pressed forward. The faces flashed before him. Every good wish, every happy tear. His mother’s happy face, his father’s laughing face. Tess’ proud parents. Alex goofy grin. He pressed play again. The wind was blowing in the loose tendrils of her honey colored hair. The air played with the white fabric of her wedding dress. On the screen, she was looking up at him, awe and love in her eyes. His hand lifted to her cheek. As he sat there in the darkness of their house, he could still remember how he could barely keep himself from touching her. How his hands had throbbed during the ceremony with the need and longing to touch her. How his eyes kept drifting to her lips, wanting to taste the sweet nectar of them. How waves of intense euphoric happiness had coursed through him every time the thought entered his mind that he was going to marry the girl of his dreams. The only girl he had ever loved. The only girl he wanted to spend his life with.
“You may now kiss the bride,“ the priest said in the background, a knowing smile on his lips as he watched the feathery touches of Max’s hand across Tess’ cheek. Max bent down to taste her lips and in that simple act sealing their promise to each other. The second Max’s lips were to touch hers, Max pressed the remote control and turned off the TV.

Tess Harding was the only girl he had ever loved. The only girl he would ever love. And now he had to let her go. Now he was forced to move on. The phone started to ring as he walked towards his bedroom. But he didn’t notice. With the incessant ringing in the background, Max took two sleeping pills to keep the haunting dreams at bay and went to sleep. On the other end of the unanswered line, Isabel put down the phone with a sigh.


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Fri Aug 15, 2003 1:09 pm

Hi! :D I'm baack! Well, I had another chapter ready (much thanks to my wonderful b-reader - Elizabeth, you're an angel!) so I thought I would just post it.

Thank you for the great feedback! I love reading your opinions and insights and...well...just anything you write :wink:



Chapter 9


Alex rubbed his eyes as he slowly walked out into the poorly lit kitchen. He could see the profile of his wife sitting in the darkness. She was slumped over the kitchen table, defeated, her tired head resting in her hands. The soft light of the full moon outside the large kitchen window illuminated her skin, making her blond hair appear silverish. However, an image that would have otherwise been beautiful and enthralling was made mournful by her sad composure.
“Still no answer?“ Alex asked softly.
Without looking up, his wife answered dully, “No.“
Alex scratched behind his ear before walking further into the kitchen. He knew his wife well by now and he knew that there was an emotional outburst to expect of some kind. Either she would explode in anger or she would break down in tears. Either way, there was going to be some strong reaction judging by the vibes she was giving off.
“You know,“ Isabel began, lifting her head from her hands but not looking at him. Instead she turned her eyes towards the window. Alex watched the moonlight dance over her face and he saw the tears glittering on her cheeks. “He could at least pick up the phone. Would it be so damn hard to just pick up a stupid phone?!“ Her voice was gradually picking up strength and Alex automatically winced against the impending outburst. Oh boy, here it comes.

“He just wants to be alone, Isabel. You got to give him space...“
“Space?“ Isabel asked calmly and turned to look at him. Alex swallowed audibly. Bad move. “You think I should give him space?“ Her voice was incredulous but very calm as she stared at him with one eyebrow partly raised.
“Max needs his space. He can deal with it. He just...“
“What?“ Isabel demanded as his voice trailed off.
“He needs time,“ Alex answered.
Isabel frowned suspiciously. “That was not what you were going to say.“
Alex sighed. “He misses her, Iz.“
Isabel took a deep shuddering frustrated breath. She opened her mouth and Alex mentally prepared for the onslaught. But it didn’t come.

“Have you noticed that there is no answering machine at Max’s anymore?“ Isabel asked, her voice softer.
Alex furrowed his forehead. “What are you talking ab-“
“Have you?“ Isabel interrupted, her voice sharper.
“Of course I have,“ Alex answered.
“And you don’t find that weird?“ Isabel asked.
Alex shrugged. “Why would that be weird? He probably just got sick and tired of it and decided to throw it away or something.“
Isabel looked at him as silence draped itself over the kitchen. Alex desperately searched her face. Her calmness was making him nervous. He could deal with an angry Isabel. He could deal with a crying Isabel. But this... He had no clue what to do. This wasn’t Isabel behavior.
“Iz, I don’t understand what you are trying to say. What does Max’s answering machine have to do with him not picking up the phone tonight?“
“Do you remember the message on his answering machine?“ Isabel inquired further.
Alex sighed and frustrated raked his hand through his hair. Why was she sidestepping the point of this conversation? “He made a mistake, Iz. He lost Michelle. But she is fine-“

“No,“ Isabel said sharply and rose from the chair. She stepped closer to him and answered her own question, “Max was going to record the message and when he came to ‘not home right now’ Josh jumps up on his lap and starts tickle him. Next you hear Tess trying to remove Josh. They all end up laughing and gasping out the message together during fits of laughter. They decided to keep it. I called Max a lot in the days after Tess and Josh’s deaths and whenever he wasn’t around to answer my call I would get that message. It always made me cry...“
“I remember,“ Alex said softly, putting a supporting hand on Isabel’s shoulder.
Isabel took a deep breath and Alex witnessed the struggle she was having with keeping her emotions in check.
“Then, the day after the funeral it was gone. But he didn’t just erase the message and put up another one. The answering machine was just gone.“
“I’m sorry honey,“ Alex said gently, “but I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me. It seems natural to me that Max would remove the message because it would be too painful...“
“That’s just it,“ Isabel said. “That’s the whole point. As a said, he didn’t just remove the message, but the whole machine. The thing is, he still has it.“
“Has what?“ Alex asked confused.

“The answering machine,“ Isabel clarified, “It’s up in her closet with all her clothes that are still hanging there.“ Isabel fought back a sob as she continued. “I was there one day last week to ask Max for that photo of Michelle as a baby that he and Tess borrowed ages ago. He wasn’t home so I let myself in. I knew that before they had kept their photos in shoeboxes on the top shelf in their wardrobe. I didn’t know, Alex.“ Isabel’s voice cracked and she swallowed hard, her eyes shining bright with unshed tears. “I didn’t know that he still had her clothes. I thought he’d removed them. But it was as if she was still living there. Still living. Like she would suddenly stand in the doorway, smile at me and ask if I was about to steal one of her skirts again. And they still smell like her. Two years. It’s been two years and they still have her smell. I found the answering machine beside the photos on the shelf.“

Isabel angrily brushed away a tear from her cheek and walked away from Alex, moving to the kitchen window and stopping there with her back towards Alex.
“I’m so scared, Alex. I’m so afraid that I’m going to lose him forever. I miss her so much.“ Her voice broke with the tears that were probably running down her hidden face at the moment. “But I can’t bring her back. I know that. Max doesn’t.“
“He knows that,“ Alex said softly.
Isabel slowly shook her head. “But he’s trying to keep her alive. Trying to keep the image of her alive. It’s okay to remember someone. I will never forget Tess, but...“
“Max’s way of dealing is wrong,“ Alex filled in.
“Yes,“ Isabel said without hesitation.
Alex sighed. “Maybe it isn’t completely healthy, but we all have different ways of dealing with sorrow. Of mourning. You know Max. He so...“ Alex raked his mind for the right word, “...intense. He’s calm on the outside but he feels so much. And when he loves, he loves completely. There’s no halfway for him. It’s all or nothing. That’s the way he loves you. That’s the way he loves Michelle. And that’s the way he loved Tess - all the way. And she died. He needs time, Isabel. To process it all.“

“But he isn’t processing at all,“ Isabel said turning around, “This is making him sick. He is losing his mind. I can hardly recognize him anymore. Only...only when he’s with Michelle can I see some semblance to the warm brother I once knew. He isn’t dealing, Alex. He’s treating the problem like with the answering machine. He puts it away and still keeps it, but he doesn’t touch it anymore. He doesn’t process it. Her clothes are still in the wardrobe. He sees them every time he get dressed. Every time he opens that damn door to the wardrobe he is reminded of Tess. What she meant to him and how much he loved her. And that she is dead. Or, maybe he is just fooling himself. You know, living in denial. Trying to make himself believe that she is just...just on a business...trip...or...“

With a painful sob Isabel slumped to the floor. Alex was by her side in an instant, brushing away the hair from her face, putting his arms around her and soothing her.
“Isabel, sweetheart, maybe he would be better off if he wasn’t pressured by everyone to let go. Maybe he feels pressured by the time frame everyone sets for him. There is no specific time set for how long a person is allowed to grieve.“
“But...he’s dying Alex. I can’t sit by any longer and just...passively watch him die.“
“Shh,“ Alex placed a gentle kiss against her hair, “You are helping him everyday. Making him a part of Michelle’s life as much as is possible. Inviting him over for dinner. Being there for him whenever he needs, not only a sister but, most importantly, a friend.“
“He has to let go,“ Isabel whispered. “He has to let go. Before it kills him.“
“Well...Maybe the incident today with Michelle scared him.“
Isabel sank into his arms and looked up at him. “It was his eyes today, Alex. It was the Max I knew. Do you know what I mean?“
“I know,“ Alex answered quietly, “I saw it too.“
Isabel covered her face against his chest, the familiar sense of safety wrapping around her as his arms held her tightly against him.
“Even if it was horrible emotions, it was Max. And it gave me hope. That somewhere inside of that...shell he has become, my Max is waiting to come out.“
“Then we just have to find something to bring him out,“ Alex said quietly.
They stayed quiet for almost twenty minutes. Sitting on the floor in the moonlight, wrapped up in each other’s arms, before heading off to bed.

<center>---------------------------------------------------------------</center>

Max pushed the door open. His hands were shaking, making the keys rattle in his hand. Stepping into the kitchen, he threw the keys on the counter. He could feel the strong shivers of coldness and warmth coursing through him. He had exerted himself. He had pushed himself too hard. He pulled the sweaty shirt over his head and threw it over the back of one of the chairs. Retrieving a glass from one of the cabinets, he moved to the sink and filled it with cold water. He closed his eyes as he struggled to get down the soft fluid against the suffocating nausea and the violent and erratic inhales and exhales his lungs were trying to perform.

Running had always been his refuge. While running, he could sift through all his thoughts undisturbed and he could either deal with them or push them away. But whatever the case, he would always feel better after a run.

It hadn’t worked today.

For once, the sleeping pills hadn’t helped. The pills that usually blessed him with a dreamless sleep had not been able to give him any relief tonight. His sleep had been plagued with all kind of dreams. But they hadn’t been about Tess. That was the main reason he was so upset right now. Why he went out running for an hour and a half in the middle of the night.

Tess had played a passive role in his dreams. She had been in the background, silently watching. The hair color of the person who had been in the focus of his dreams hadn’t been blonde, but dark brown. The eyes hadn’t been blue but dark brown.

His throat burned and a metallic taste in his mouth made the nausea rise in his throat. But shakily raking his hand through his dark hair didn’t remove her face from his mind. The guilt haunted him. Because it wasn’t her face that made him upset, it was that he didn’t want to forget her. For some strange reason a strong part of him wanted to nourish the memory of her face, of those comforting and consoling eyes.

He had promised himself that he would never love another woman - ever. Tess was the love of his life and no one would take her place. No one would be allowed entry to that part of his heart again. It was a sacred place for Tess, a place where he would cherish the memory of his wife.

He had been extremely distraught when he had lost Michelle. If something had happened to her he probably would have killed himself. She was the dearest person in his life. The light in his world and he couldn’t bear losing her too. He couldn’t lose another one. He wouldn’t live through it. But although he had been panicking, the comfort and warmth he had felt from the woman who had helped him at the mall had not gone unnoticed. It had just been pushed back in the turmoil of other emotions churning through him. But fact remained that she had helped him. They didn’t know each other and still she had promised him to help him find Michelle.

She had comforted him. Her words, even though the logical part of him knew that they had only been words of comfort and that she couldn’t have been certain that they were going to find Michelle either, had calmed him down. He had believed her. He had trusted that she would make everything right.

And that frightened him.

He didn’t even know this woman. He didn’t know her name and he would probably never meet her again. Still, she had, in the time span of a few seconds, managed to nestle her way into his warded heart. No one had ever done that before.

With a hard slam he put the glass down. The truth was staring him in the face. But the betrayal to Tess by admitting it was smothering. No one had nestled their way into his heart so quickly before. Not even Tess...

He raked his tired and still trembling hands through his damp hair and headed for the shower. He needed to forget this woman. He would never meet her again, so why obsess about her? Besides, he couldn’t risk forgetting about Tess. No one should replace Tess. Not even the dark-haired beauty that would continue to haunt him when he went back to bed after his shower.


TBC...

____________________

*Josephin heads back to her laptop to try to type down all the ideas floating around in her head before she falls asleep...*

:roll:

Please, tell me what you think. Anything will do :wink:...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Fri Aug 15, 2003 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby max and liz believer » Sat Aug 23, 2003 2:01 pm

mareli, flohmac, Eve, Itzstacie, Elizabeth, roswelluver, Lelle, Alien614, Lynn, Nora, gal, Liz Parker Evans

Thank you all soooo much for the feedback!!

Before I post the next part I would like to say something. Parts of the discussion in this part were inspired by a documentary I saw recently on premature births and the lives of the ones that did survive. It was a very upsetting documentary and it left me with many conflicted thoughts. As my beta pointed out, the discussion in this part might anger some, so I just wanted to ask you to not listen too much to the words, but more to what is behind the words of what Liz is saying. She’s trying to deal with her own situation and it really hasn’t got much to do with the question of abortion. This might sound confusing before you’ve even read the chapter. I just wanted to point that out.

Oh, and this part is for Lynn – a fantastic friend. Have a wonderful birthday, hun!! :D :D



Chapter 10


“‘If you are looking for a new love, this is the right week to do so. The love gods are shining on you.’ You hear that, Liz? Love is on my side this week.“
Liz plopped a piece of popcorn in her mouth, her eyes never leaving the TV-screen as she answered, “Do you actually believe everything they write in those horoscopes?“
Maria raised an eyebrow in warning towards Liz before dropping her eyes back to the magazine resting in her lap. “It’s written in the stars. Don’t mess with the stars.“
“Stars, huh? Journalists, I would call them. They must have a blast making up all these things.“
Maria frowned in disapproval, sneaking out a hand and taking a handful of popcorn and plopping them into her mouth while her eyes traveled along the letters on the pages in front of her.

“Oh, listen to this,“ Maria said, folding her legs under her, “This is your horoscope; ‘You will receive an invitation to an exciting party and why not accept the invitation? If you listen to your heart, you might find the love of your life-’“
Liz snorted. “Have you even noticed that they use the same words over and over again? They must say that you’ll meet ‘the love of your life’ every week. By doing that, the odds of the horoscope actually predicting you meeting the love of your life must be pretty high. They can’t lose if they are being that vague.“
“You are so pessimistic. Have a little faith.“
Liz rolled her eyes and cast Maria a glance. “I’m not pessimistic. I’m realistic.“
“Whatever,“ Maria shrugged, continuing to skim through the text.

Liz returned her eyes to the documentary on the TV, a soft smile on her face. Maria had always been into astrology and everything else that was somehow connected to New Age. She attended séances where she talked to the spirits of people that had, as Maria would call it, “passed onto another plane of existence“. She visited numerous different people working with alternative medicine. She once went to someone who could interpret all her physical weaknesses by looking into her eyes. This person informed Maria that she suffered from pollen allergy and that she had an iron deficiency. Maria started eating pills with iron and her health was actually improved. She had a person measuring energy waves in the ground come to her house when she was having trouble sleeping. This person found a center of energy where her bed was located. She was informed that the bed was not to be placed on top of such a center, so she rearranged the furniture and her insomnia disappeared.

It was not that Liz didn’t believe her. Maria had dragged Liz along on many of her adventures during her experimentation periods because she was adamant in finding a cure to Liz’s heart condition. But fixing a heart was a little more extensive problem than insomnia and iron deficiency. In fact, Maria’s fascination for the hidden and not so acknowledged and scientific things in life was one of the things Liz loved most about Maria because it connected with Maria’s spirit: wild, free, passionate, and alive. Maria was not afraid to speak her mind and not afraid to test different things which was quite the opposite of Liz. Liz often chastised herself for being so fearful, so careful and for not being able to live life as carefree, bold, and with as little abandon as Maria. While Maria loved to explore the unknown, Liz treasured the safe paths where she knew what to expect and where she could predict every move.

But even though the two friends might appear very different, their hearts were the same. They understood each other. There had been a silent understanding between them ever since Maria had defended Liz to two older boys on the playground when they had been just four years old. As all other of Liz’s friends sooner or later had turned their backs on her as she had spent most time being hospitalized, Maria had never left her side. She had been running all over town to get Liz her favorite book or a CD she wanted. She had been there through thick and thin, and the situation had not made their relationship any worse. On the contrary, it had strengthened it. Made it permanent.

“What are we watching anyway?“ Maria asked, staring at the TV-screen in confusion.
“Premature,“ Liz answered.
Maria scrunched up her face in a combination of disgust and disbelief when she involuntarily had to witness a child being taken out of a uterus by Cesarean Section, completely covered in a whitish thick substance.
“Um...why?“ Maria watched the small baby, who was barely bigger than a packet of butter, being carried to a respirator.
“It’s interesting,“ Liz answered, her eyes fixed on the TV.
Maria looked at Liz with a dubious expression on her face. “Uh-huh?“ She didn’t get it. What was so interesting with that? It was only depressing. There were parents crying and talking about their babies not surviving. And if they did survive they could suffer all sorts of diseases and handicaps.

“Did you know that they are able to save infants who were born in their 25th week, which is the same week that is the last week you are allowed to have an abortion?“ Liz asked, leaning back into the sofa.
“Really? That’s really...twisted,“ Maria said.
“Isn’t it?“ Liz shook her head with an expression of awe on her face, as she pointed on the screen where a small infant, barely looking human was trying to breath in a respirator, the workings of the heart showing through the thin skin and the not yet hardened ribcage. “It’s just amazing that they can save those teeny tiny babies.“
“It is,“ Maria agreed, taking another look at Liz’s awed facial expression.
Liz turned and met Maria’s eyes. “If you gave birth to a premature baby, Maria, would you want to save it, with the risks of it having handicaps for the rest of its life, or would you stop fighting for it?“
“I don’t know,“ Maria answered slowly, as she wondered to herself what was really on Liz’s mind.

“I’m not so sure I would want them to fight for my baby,“ Liz said quietly, lost in thoughts. Maria’s hand stopped in mid-air in the motion of plopping yet another popcorn into her mouth. She hadn’t expected that. Good, idealistic, create-peace-in-the-world Liz Parker didn’t say things like that.
“You wouldn’t?“ Maria asked.
Liz slowly shook her head. “Is it really worth it? Think about it. The risks of this child being impaired in some way are so large they outweigh the good outcomes by far.“
Maria’s mind was working fervently. Something was not right here. Liz was trying to tell her something, even if she wasn’t doing it consciously.
“Okay,“ Maria said, her voice shifting from confusion to determination. Putting down the bowl of popcorn on the floor she turned in her seat so that she was facing Liz. “Let’s forget about premature babies. If you were pregnant and you found out that your child was going to be born with Down’s Syndrome. Would you abort it?“
Liz dropped her eyes a few seconds, before raising them and without hesitation answered, “Yes.“

Maria bit her lower lip. Everything Liz was saying was working against everything Maria knew about Liz. This didn’t sound like Liz at all. She had always been the one to defend the sick and defenseless. That everyone had a right to live.
“If you found out that your child was going to be born with only one lung and be having difficulties breathing his or her entire life, would you abort it?“
Liz nodded, which deepened the frown on Maria’s forehead. “And if you found out that your child was going to be born with a fatal heart disease...?“
“I would abort it,“ Liz filled in.
Maria’s heart missed a beat as she looked into her best friend’s sorrow-filled eyes, and whispered the echo in her mind, “Why?“
Liz averted her eyes and looked at some point beside Maria’s face before sighing and rising from her seat. Maria watched Liz move up to the TV and shut it off.

“Maybe I’m being ungrateful, I probably am,“ Liz said as she picked up the bowl of popcorn from the floor. “I mean, I was lucky: I got a new heart. I’m alive. For the first time in my life I can climb a flight of stairs without getting palpitations and burning lungs from the lack of oxygen. I can laugh without immediately starting to cough. God,“ she raked her hands through her hair, putting the bowl down on the small table by the far end of the room, “there are so many things I am able to do now that I haven’t been able to do before, so many things that I only dreamt of. Every day is a wonder to me. It’s like I’m living in a dream... Sometimes I find myself holding my breath, just waiting for someone to yell in my ear and start shaking me. And I will wake up in a hospital bed. I will hear the beeps of the EKG and the sucking sound of the respirator. And I will once again be fighting for my life. I am grateful. Every day. Every second. Every breath.“

“I know you are,“ Maria whispered, watching Liz’s nervous movements. This was Liz’s way of dealing. Cleaning. Whenever she got upset and emotional she started to organize and clean up just so that she had something in her hands. Maria silently watched her fluff the pillows on the sofa and then move onto picking up a book Kevin had left on the small table beside the sofa. The deep inhalation echoed in the room as Liz tried to calm herself down. Her emotions were running amok and she didn’t even know why. Something about watching those tiny infants fighting for their lives had hit her. Hard.

“But what about my parents? They have spent 23 years of their lives taking care of me. Being there for me 24/7. They canceled dinner invitations. They lost contact with their friends. My relatives never came to visit. I don’t even know my cousins. It was as if I had leprosy and they would get infected with something lethal just by being around me. The parents of those premature babies just don’t know. When that tiny baby is pulled out of her, the mother will fight with everything in her for it to live. It’s her baby and she will not abandon it. But she just doesn’t know. They don’t know what it means to be a parent to a damaged child. They will never get a life of their own. I’ve destroyed my parents’ lives. I’ve destroyed Kevin’s life and I’ve destroyed yours-“

“Whoa,“ Maria exclaimed, shooting up from her seat. She wasn’t going to listen to this anymore. “What are you talking about, Liz? You are so contradicting yourself! How can you insinuate that your parents wouldn’t want you if they had known how much work it would mean one second, and the next describe how a mother would fight with everything in her body to keep her baby alive?“
Maria walked up to Liz, who was energetically trying to look everywhere but at her best friend.
“Have you asked your parents what they think? Do they think you are a mistake? That raising you was a mistake? Because that’s what you’re saying, isn’t it, Liz? That you would be better off if they had let nature take it’s course and let you die when you had your first heart attack?“
Liz raised her glimmering eyes to Maria’s eyes, her look pleading with her to understand her. “I hurt everyone around me. I scare everyone away. Even if I’m alive now, I’m not really alive, Maria. I’m still damaged. My heart is still damaged, even though it is, in flesh, someone else’s.“

“This is about Kevin, isn’t it?“
Liz sighed and aversively turned away from Maria, and answered with a tired voice, “No, this isn’t about Kevin.“
But her body language said it all. This was about Kevin.
“Don’t even try to hide it from me, Liz,“ Maria warned, “Tell me.“
“It’s nothing,“ Liz answered, moving into the kitchen with the popcorn bowl. “You want some more popcorn?“ she asked offering Maria the bowl.
“Have you talked to him yet?“ Maria asked, totally ignoring the bowl.
“I talk to him all the time,“ Liz said casually, throwing the popcorn into the garbage, before putting the bowl in the sink.

“I’m not talking ‘How was your day, honey?’ here, Liz,“ Maria said, “Have you told him about how you feel? That you aren’t too fond of him pampering you and treating you like a baby?“
“He must feel chained to me,“ Liz mumbled, putting a plug in the sink and turning the tap to fill the sink with water, “He deserves so much better. He deserves a normal relationship with a normal woman.“
Frustrated, Maria pulled the sponge from Liz’s hands, which caused Liz to look up at her in surprise.
“Don’t play that game with me, Liz! This isn’t about him and what he needs. You haven’t forced him into this relationship. He is free to leave by his own will, whenever he wants to. You aren’t keeping him her and neither is he. You can leave too. A relationship is a two-way agreement. You give and you take. If that isn’t working then you either try to work it out or you leave. It’s as simple as that.“

“No, it isn’t,“ Liz said, her voice taking on a little force as she snapped the sponge back from Maria and started to clean the bowl. “It’s not as simple as that. I may not be openly forcing him to stay here, but I’m emotionally forcing him. He feels responsible for me like he can’t leave me just because I have a heart condition.“
“That’s BS,“ Maria cried, “He’s a grown man. I think he can decide when he wants out. He knows that you are better now and some part of his brain must know that you wouldn’t die if he left you. Or he’s just very self-centered.“
“Why doesn’t he see that something is wrong?“ Liz asked, the hasty movements of the sponge in the bowl making the water splatter up on the walls of the sink, betraying her calm voice to the turbulent feelings on the inside.
“Because you don’t tell him!“ Maria said, throwing up her hands in the air in resignation. “He can’t know if something is wrong if you don’t tell him!“
“No, Maria,“ Liz said, taking up the bowl from the water and putting it down on the counter with a slam before turning to face Maria. “If he knew me at all he would know that something was wrong. He would notice that something was wrong when his girlfriend barely listens to him anymore. When his girlfriend doesn’t initiate kisses anymore! But he doesn’t even react!“

“That’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it?“ Maria asked.
“What?“ Liz asked with a tired sigh as she sank down on one of the kitchen chairs behind her.
“That you are practically screaming for him to see that you are not all right and he doesn’t see it,“ Maria said.
Liz went silent. That was it. If he really knew her, if he really knew her at all, he would know that something was wrong. Maria could just take one look at her and tell when something was wrong. Kevin had never done that. Maybe it hadn’t interested him enough, or he just didn’t notice. He might not even be paying any attention to it.
“But even if something is really off when your boyfriend of four years back can’t see when his girlfriend isn’t feeling okay, you can’t just put all the blame on him,“ Maria said, her voice softening as she took in Liz’s defeated expression and sat down on a chair opposite to her.

“You are both to blame. He might not listen, but you aren’t talking. And the perfect boyfriend should probably be able to read the vibes you are sending, but no one is perfect Liz, and maybe you are just so out of balance with each other that it’s not odd at all that he can’t read you anymore. You are closing up, Liz. I can see you pulling further away with every passing day. Something inside of you is dying.“
“What are you talking about, Maria?“ Liz asked, fear bubbling up inside of her.
“I remember the day when you first woke up after the transplant. You were so happy. You were glowing, so vibrant and alive. And you were like that for maybe a year afterwards. But then I could see it fading. It was like something was sucking the energy out of you again. Like the bad heart had done to you earlier. What was it, Liz? What changed?“
Liz looked at Maria for a few long seconds, before answering, quietly, “I don’t know.“ What Maria said scared her. Was she really pulling away? She didn’t want that. The first day she had woken up in the hospital, the first that day she could remember clearly, she had promised herself that she was going to live her life to the fullest, doing all the things she had missed out on and then some. And at the time it had not been a difficult promise to make. There had been so much life inside of her, so much energy just waiting to get out.

But real life hadn’t been easy. It was still the same world that surrounded her while she was sick. It was still the same harsh reality even though her heart had been replaced with a healthy one. Life still contained the problems and confrontations of everyday life. And she had been restrained. She had to swallow that energy that had so desperately wanted to get out. It had almost been somewhat disappointing to be going back to normal life. Life was going to be a party later. Well, not really a party. She wasn’t that unrealistic. But it was going to be easier. Physically, it had been. And a lot of worries had been removed. But the replacement of her old heart didn’t replace her old feelings.

Liz could feel her friend’s eyes on her as she stared at her hands on fingering on the edge of the table.
“Okay,“ Maria said, the determination in her voice making Liz tear her eyes away from the wooden table to Maria’s face, “I have a plan.“
Liz raised her eyebrows with an expression of confusion and curiosity, but remained quiet.
“I think you should meet my new boyfriend,“ Maria said with a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“Michael, was it?“ Liz asked, interest flaring in her eyes. Maria had talked about this Michael non-stop for a week and he certainly had Liz’s interest peaked. Maria was, as she called herself, a Teflon girl. If some guy hurt her, she cried and yelled and cursed for a couple of days to get the guy out of her system and then she just brushed it off because it just wasn’t worth the trouble. Life was about so much more and it was easier just to move on. But hearing Maria talk about Michael, Liz wasn’t so sure Maria would be able to brush Michael off so easily and Liz really wanted to meet the man who seemed to have pulled Maria in and had managed to keep her interest for more than a week.
“Yes,“ Maria answered. “His friends for dinner once a week and Michael isn’t able to attend them very often, but he’s going there this week and he asked me if I wanted to come. Would you like to tag along?“

Liz suddenly got a little doubtful. “Wouldn’t I be like the third wheel?“
Maria smiled. It was a smile that made Liz a little suspicious. “Oh no, Lizzie. You will not feel like a third wheel. Trust the horoscope.“
And with a wink, Maria got up from the chair and disappeared into the living room.
“When does Kevin get back?“ Maria yelled over her shoulder.
Liz rose to follow Maria. She knew that she had to talk to Kevin. But for now, it could wait. She would talk to him tomorrow.

Tomorrow.


TBC...


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