|"Growing Up, Growing Apart, and Falling in Love"
Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and situations are owned by the WB. No infringement intended.
Category: After Hours
|"Geez, Liz, you look like shit."
"Thanks, Maria, I can always count on you to say something to lift my spirits," Liz commented sarcastically, stepping aside to let Maria inside.
Although Maria's comment might have seemed snide she was genuinely concerned about her friend. After removing her designer sunglasses she gave Liz a concerned once-over. Liz looked as if she hadn't slept in days. Her eyes were smudged under with dark bruises and her skin was a sickly pale. Her hair, which was pulled back into a loose ponytail, was dank and unkempt. She looked exactly as Maria described: like shit. Maria immediately wrapped her arms around Liz, who looked on the verge of tears.
"Oh, Lizzie, what's going on?"
Liz's tears spilled over even though she didn't want them to. She had cried buckets last night. Cried because Max hadn't returned home and not that morning either. Liz hadn't heard from him since yesterday afternoon. She didn't think she had any more tears to shed after enduring that hell. But she must have because her sobs came bubbling forth again, tearing from her chest.
Maria tried not to be alarmed at Liz's obvious distress but her panic alarm was sounding wildly. Oh why hadn't she remembered her cedar oils, Maria mentally scolded herself. She did what she could however, petting Liz's back, and comforting her as much as possible. "Liz, what happened?" she asked again, more insistently this time. Liz pulled away and wiped at her face with her hands, struggling to collect herself. "Max left me."
"What?" Her reply was half guffaw, half exclamation. Max leaving Liz was like chickens suddenly sprouting lips! It just didn't happen. But Liz looked like hell, so obviously something had gone wrong. "You're serious?"
"Maybe you should sit," Liz suggested.
"Yeah, maybe I should." She couldn't help but agree. Whatever Liz had to tell her, whatever had driven Max to leave; Maria knew it had to be huge.
Liz sat across from her own the sofa, rubbing her sweating palms on the legs of her jeans. She opened her mouth to start several times but kept snapping it shut. Liz felt too ashamed, too foolish, and too guilty to admit aloud what she had done. She could barely admit it to herself and so she took the easy way out. "You look really good, Maria," she began, studying her friend closely, "Did you dye your hair?"
"No, it's a wig," Maria declared as she ripped the dark colored hair from her head revealing her own blonde locks, "I had to travel incognito. I couldn't have my fans mobbing me, you know."
"So how does it feel to have your album go double platinum?" Liz asked her, genuinely interested. How many women could say that their best friend was a famous singer who's latest hit was number two in the country?
"I have no privacy. I have no life. I'm constantly doing publicity gimmicks. I'm in the studio twelve hours a day recording, and I go on tour in two months. So I guess you could say I'm absolutely loving it."
Liz watched Maria as she spoke and although she smiled Liz could see that a certain something was missing. Liz could recognize it because it was missing from her life as well. Liz wondered if Maria still missed Michael. She knew she could ask, but in all likelihood Maria would deny it. Maria had moved on with her life, after all. But Liz, on the other hand, didn't think she could move on without Max. To think of how badly she had botched things with Max caused tears to fill her eyes again, but she blinked them away. Crying wouldn't bring him back. It wouldn't change what she had done either. So Liz forced herself to smile, even though she really didn't want to. "I've been meaning to ask you something, Maria, how did you come up with your stage name? I mean, I think Majandra's a beautiful and unique name."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I stole it from some actress chick that did a sci-fi pilot," Maria explained with a dismissive wave of her hand, "Stop trying to change the subject and tell me what's going on with you. Why did Max leave?"
"I cheated on him, Maria."
Liz spent thirty minutes retelling the previous day's events and by the time she was done she was in tears again and Maria was holding her. Again Maria felt helpless, wanting to comfort Liz but not knowing what to say at all. "Oh my god, Liz, I'm so sorry," she whispered because it was all she could do.
"I haven't heard from him since yesterday afternoon, Maria," Liz sobbed helplessly, "I don't think he's gonna come home."
"He'll come home," Maria predicted, "He knows the two of you need to talk. But," she said, taking hold of Liz's chin so that their gazes met, "if he doesn't, why don't you come back to New York with me?"
"It'll be a blast. Alex will get a kick out of seeing you. He misses you. And he needs a break. He's been working his ass off at school."
"Speaking of Alex, how are the two of you?"
"Good, for now. Michael dropped by unexpectedly last month when I was home for the concert in Manhattan. Alex blew a gasket. I didn't think we'd ever get over it, Alex was soooo mad, but we did." Liz knew that Maria had added that last little tidbit for her benefit. But Liz wasn't comforted. It wasn't as if Maria had cheated on Alex with Michael. Michael was simply a sore spot for Alex. After things turned out so badly with him and Isabel because of Michael, Liz was sure Alex didn't revel in the thought of Michael coming around Maria at all. Especially when the two of them had such a history.
"So how did you end up hooking up with Cameron in the first place, Liz? It's been like five years."
"It's been three years," Liz corrected sullenly, "He said he lives here with his dad."
"Well, I think he's a jerk," Maria stated with uninhibited fury, "What kind of man takes advantage of a woman when she is so obviously vulnerable?"
Liz hadn't even stopped to consider it in that light. She hadn't thought of herself as a victim at all. But Cam had known the state of mind she was in; he had seen Max and Tess together. Of course, he would have known that she was confused and angry. And yet he had kissed her anyway. And she had let him. Liz shuddered as the memory washed over her. She couldn't bear to think of Max's tortured face when he had discovered them, but it was an image that was burned into her brain.
"So has Sugar Daddy called you?" Maria asked, snapping Liz out of her reverie. Liz knew without asking that she was referring to Cam.
"He's left seventeen messages on the answering machine. I haven't picked up."
"So then you don't want to be with him?"
"NO! I love Max. He's the only one I want."
"And you believe what Max told you about the whole Tess thing?" Maria asked skeptically.
"Maria, you didn't see his face. There was no way he could have been lying to me." Maria could see that Liz was about to start crying again and she wanted to avoid that at all costs. "Tell you what," she said, pulling a reluctant Liz to her feet, "why don't you get cleaned up and I'll make you some breakfast. I'm willing to bet you haven't eaten anything since Max left."
Liz attempted to protest. "Maria, you don't have to-"
"Liz," Maria interrupted, "do you think I caught the red-eye out here for nothing? I came to take care of you, for a change. Now shut up and go shower!"
Liz had to admit that she felt tons better after emerging from her long, steamy shower. She pulled on a pair of Max's sweatpants and one of his T-shirts because they smelled like him. For a moment she stood, enveloped in his scent, wanting to cry, but she didn't. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. She had made the mess with Max and she was going to fix it! There was no way in hell she was going to lose Max now. They belonged together. They had always belonged together.
When she finally crept into the kitchen she found a disaster waiting for her there. Pancake batter dripped off the sides of the counter. Flour was dusted across the floor and the kitchen table. But what was worse was Maria. She had flour streaked across her cheek and all over the front of her designer clothes, despite the apron she wore. She sang to herself softly as she stirred the bowl of pancake batter, most of it spilling onto the floor because it was so watery. Liz gasped.
"Maria, what have you done to my kitchen?"
Maria glared at her, propping her fist, which still held the batter spoon, on her hip. "Look, I never said I was Julia Child." Both girls looked at each other then started to giggle and then broke into full-fledged laughter. Maria flicked some batter at Liz. Liz threw flour back at her. In no time they were tossing food back and forth at each other from across the kitchen, laughing and screaming like mad women as they did. Their impromptu food fight was quickly cut short, however, when the front door suddenly opened.
Max stepped into the living room looking wrinkled, unshaven, and shaken. Maria and Liz stopped in mid-throw and stared at him in shocked amazement. He closed the apartment door softly behind him. Liz dusted her hands on her T-shirt and took a cautious step forward.
"Max, where have you been?"
His bloodshot eyes were weary and resolute when he looked at her.
"We need to talk, Liz."
TBC. . .
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