|"The Max Factor"|
Disclaimer: The characters and basic story idea are the creation of Melinda
Metz and the producers/scriptwriters of the TV show, "Roswell." I think I
can safely take credit for what's left. : )|
Summary: This is the continuing story of my version of "TEOTW"
Authors Note: This is, as usual, dedicated to all Roswellians. Feedback is always appreciated. Part Five has been conceived. : ) Textual notes: "Cypie" = Cypress Oil. "Lara Croft" is the animated heroine of a video game called "Tomb Raider". "Little Opie" was a character on "The Andy Griffin Show" (way before my time, I might add - LOL ).
|In Maria's bedroom, Liz sat on the floor, a little apart from her
friends, morosely staring at nothing. As it turned out, she didn't have the
heart to eat ice cream. All evening she noticed Maria's and Alex's covert
glances amid their animated chatter. She was beginning to feel guilty for
stressing them with her gloom and doom presence, although they hid it well.
They were both such great friends, and she knew she'd be going nuts right now
if it weren't for them. |
When Maria looked at Liz the next time, she found her crying silently.
"Liz!" Maria went over and cradled her, gently rocking back and forth. Alex stopped the video game and moved near them, propping his chin up on a fist, looking downwards and waiting.
"I just wanted to say, " Liz began with difficulty, "you guys are so special to me."
"We're family," Maria said, stroking her hair.
"We must be," Alex added, " 'cause your Mom is actually glad I'm here. She even asked if I was staying the whole weekend."
"See, I told you!"
"Maria. If I were Michael Guerin, would your Mom be asking me if I were staying in your bedroom the whole weekend?"
"Without spelling it out any further, that is my point. To the world, and one alien in particular, I am Little Opie - perky, dependable, but unexciting. It's a drag and it's lame."
Liz laughed a little, saying, "There's nothing lame about you. Come here." She hugged him. "Alex Whitman, you're a man among men."
"Well, thank you. I know this."
Maria yawned. "I don't want to be a party pooper, but it's like three o'clock and I'm still going through Cypie withdrawal. I need sleep."
"Me, too," Liz said, not meaning it.
"And me too. Lara Croft raided hundreds of tombs with me tonight. What's one more? I'm just glad tomorrow's Saturday.
Alex claimed the big heavily cushioned fold-out chair in the corner and Liz shared Maria's bed. Within minutes both were sound asleep while Liz lay awake, unsuccessfully trying not to let grief drown and dissolve her. Much later, she fell in to an emotionally exhausted sleep, with a hand under her pillow clutching two Gomez concert tickets.
----- ----- -----
Isabel Evans sat in her room struggling with a sense of foreboding. There was no way she could sleep now without doing something. She put a hand on the phone and chewed her bottom lip, deliberating. It was very late - or very early, depending. She snatched up the receiver and started dialing. It didn't matter; this was an emergency.
"Yeah?" answered a frog.
"Michael? It's Isabel."
He cracked open an eye open to look at the clock on the nightstand. "Do you not know the time? It's three in the morning."
"Come over here, please. Something's wrong with Max."
"You gotta be kidding me. What's the matter?"
"I don't know. He just came in. He's not saying anything and he looks terrible. It must have something to do with Liz."
"What's new? Are you sure he won't survive for an hour or two - like when the sun's up? Liz' Dad worked the crap out of me. I was sleeping."
"Well, I'm sorry flipping a few extra burgers was so traumatic for you, but if you ever cared just a little bit about Max or me, you'll make this sacrifice!"
"What about your folks, Isabel?"
"What about them? They don't bite. Besides, they're away for the weekend. Now are you coming or not?"
"Yeah, I'm coming. This had better be major." Click.
----- ----- -----
When Michael arrived at the Evans', Isabel was waiting and pacing behind the door. She immediately pushed him upstairs saying,
"He's in his room with the lights off."
"And the problem is…?"
She said nothing as she pushed him right up to Max's door then retreated to her own room. Sighing hard with annoyance Michael pushed open the door, walked into darkness and waited. And waited.
"Well, this is creepy, Maxwell. I can tell you're awake with your eyes wide open."
The only response was silence. Michael felt around for the sleeping bag, knocking things over noisily in the process. He was making himself comfortable on the floor, satisfied to sleep there if Max wouldn't talk, when he heard the latter say in a monotone,
"You actually came through the front door."
"Don't worry about it. Isabel thinks you've snapped and made me come over. You sound okay to me. Mind if I crash?"
"She'll be in here soon. You'll need something to report."
"Okay, where have you been all night?"
The halogen lamp suddenly came to life directly in Michael's eyes and he bit back a curse. As soon as they adjusted, he scrutinized Max.
"Hm. Not pretty. So what's wrong with you?
"You're in bed, fully dressed, and you were just staring at the ceiling in the dark. Now you're staring at it in the light. I repeat, what is wrong with you?"
Max cut out the light and turned over.
"Fine," Michael said, more than ready to let it go, then Max got out of bed.
"Now what are you doing?"
"Taking a shower."
While he listened to the water running, Michael was thinking that he'd be snoring in peace and comfort right now if only he hadn't got his phone cut back on that morning. Just when the hum was beginning to relax him, Isabel walked in, abruptly flicking on the bright ceiling light.
"Well what? I'm working on it. Why don't you just go to sleep? I'm staying over." "Well, okay. But as soon as you know something, wake me, Michael."
"You will never hear the end of it if you don't."
After she left, Michael cut off the light, muttering to himself, and once again tried to relax. But the water kept running and running and running, until he could stand it no more.
"Yo! Maxwell!" he called, knocking.
When there was no reply, he walked in and unceremoniously yanked open the stall door. Max was standing still with his hands splayed against the wall and letting the water run over his downcast head. Then he slowly turned to squint at Michael.
"What are you doing?" he barked.
Michael grimaced. "Please. Don't flatter yourself. You wouldn't even be my type."
"What kind of shower is this? Are you washing or voguing?"
"Damn!" Max nearly pushed Michael out of the way as he reached for a towel.
"At least you took off your clothes before you got in. You look so spacey I wasn't sure."
Max dried himself off, threw on clean boxers, and dropped back down on his bed while Michael settled in again on the floor, saying,
"Look, man, I'm not going to bother you anymore, 'cause whatever's going on…it seems like you need to just sleep on it. But you better recover soon. We got Skins and whatever else coming for us. You need to be focused." He paused a moment. "By the way, thanks again for…you know. With Courtney."
Suddenly the room was dark again. Michael shook his head.
"G' night, Maxwell."
----- ----- -----
Liz parted her lips in dismayed disbelief as she sat in her English class two weeks later. Ms. McKenna looked concerned.
"I - I mean I - couldn't I just read another part? I've done this one a lot."
"Well then you can challenge yourself, and us, by reading it differently."
"I know you can do it."
The bell rang and Liz waited for the class to file out, especially one student in particular, the chosen Romeo. Keeping her eyes down, she could feel when he left the room, like the sun going down quickly. She approached Ms. McKenna anxiously.
"Ms. McKenna, I really don't feel comfortable being Juliet. I just really don't want to do it. I would happily do someone else. Even two other characters--!"
"Why are you so adamant about not playing Juliet, Liz? I need a better reason than that." She added with twinkling eyes, "It can't be that your co-star repulses you. Anyway, often in life we have to do things we don't want to do. Start practicing early. Anything else?"
"Then I'll see you tomorrow, young Capulet," she added blithely, leaving Liz standing there dejected.
At lunch she broached the subject with her friend. "Maria, have you talked to Michael, Isabel, or Tess lately?
Maria stopped in mid-chew. "And I would do that why? Or Tess?"
Liz was silent for a moment. "Or Max?" she mumbled.
"Please stop echoing me. I…thought maybe since you had Soc with him--"
"I've talked to Max--"
"What'd he say?"
"Well, he didn't talk back really. I said 'hi' and he kinda nodded. We haven't been connecting at all since you dropped the bomb on him."
Liz's eyes widened. "Then you know--"
"No, Liz, I don't know, but I can guess. There are a few common reasons for a guy in love with a girl to suddenly avoid her and her friends like the Plague. True, the guy is 'special', but love doesn't let go unless it's been super seriously burned by betrayal. Usually intimate betrayal. Right?"
"Wrong. And lower your voice."
Maria looked around them. "Actually, Liz, we're in a pretty secluded corner of the room. Most everyone else is enjoying the sunshine. So how about it? It's been two weeks of me watching you go down in flames. What is it you apparently intend to keep from me until the end of time? I think I know, but it is important that you actually tell me. You can trust me, your best friend, remember? I have no interest in changing history. In fact I have no interest in not changing it."
"That's easy for you to say, Maria."
Maria sighed, resuming attention to her lunch. "I'm waiting." Then, she watched Liz slowly push her own tray to the side and said with a quaver she couldn't hold back, "You're still not eating right. You've got to eat and you've got to talk to me."
Liz rubbed her forehead wearily. "Okay. It doesn't matter now anyway--"
"Well, this is superior! You're going to reluctantly tell me something when it no longer matters."
"Hush. Future Max told me that Present Max was still going to choose being with me and pursuing me and that the future would still be the same whether I was with him or not. Present Max's actions would still keep the future the way it was. He said I had to hurt him more in order to alter his future actions."
Maria held her friend's trembling hand and Liz drew a deep breath, "Oh, I can't believe it all turned out this way."
"It's all right. I'm here."
"Well, to make this short, 'cause I can't talk about this much longer without…I got Kyle to get undressed with me in my bed, so that Max would see us and think that I had sex with Kyle…so that his future actions would change history and save eight billion plus lives." (Including you and Alex,) Liz wanted to add.
Maria just stared at her for a minute, then ate a french fry. "Okay."
"Come on. I know there's more."
"Well…you know how I feel about Future Max." She made a sour face. "You already know what I want to say. So I'll just add to it. I understand what you're doing, but Max Evans was your friend as well as your…and he would have understood, too."
"Because he's my friend, I'm saving him the trouble."
----- ----- -----
During sixth period Liz was sent to the eraser room for a folder that the substitute said she left in there. When she stepped inside, memories of her and Max assailed her like she knew they would. Taking two steps over to the grate, she remembered how a lifetime ago they stood there in the shadows, heads close together, spying on Topolsky. Topolsky who was dead now. Liz turned away. Everything had changed. The day Max saved her was the best day of her life because it led to a friendship and a love she'd only dreamt about, certain it would be years before she found it. But the best day had led to the worst. Looking back, how could it not? They were so different.
She grabbed some erasers, remembering the rather tattered ones the sub was using, and looked all around for the folder, not taking long to decide it wasn't there. She was about to leave when the door opened suddenly. Eyes widening, Liz dropped the erasers.
He came in slowly and locked the door behind him without taking his eyes off hers.
"Oh," she said, breathlessly, picking them up and shifting towards the door at the same time. "Ah, I just had to look for the sub's folder she thought she left in here. I'd better get back."
"Liz," he said, his body tense, "is there something you want to say to me?"
She looked down, both wanting and dreading this moment. But dread was dominant. "Max, I'm - I don't have the words to say how…" She faced him. "…sorry I am that you saw…" Liz couldn't finish.
Max looked away thoughtfully. "You're sorry that I saw," he said, enunciating each word. Then he pinned her with his eyes again. "What did I see?" "Please, Max, not here. Can we talk about this later?"
"I don't think so, 'cause here's the thing. I've done nothing but love you. And you said you loved me. And it felt like you loved me - every time. But you slept with Kyle Valenti. Right?"
Liz was hurt by the hint of bitterness that slipped into his tone, but there was only one answer she could give him.
"Yes," she said weakly. The word hung there, chilling the air and his eyes by degrees.
"Yes? So I can't imagine what you would say later." Liz was achingly relieved when he stepped out of the way as if dismissing her. But as she reached for the doorknob, she gasped with alarm and, heaven help her, pleasure when Max pulled her back and held her firmly at arm's length away from him, his eyes no longer cold but ablaze.
"So how about you just say it now. For two weeks seeing Kyle Valenti has made me ill. But I really couldn't bear to look at you, knowing every part of you had been taken from me and joined to him. I want to know right now, Liz, why the hell that happened!"
"I'm so sorry, Max! I was depressed about everything. He comforted me and one thing led to…I have to get back to class--" Max began to pull her closer to him. "I'll be missed and you're scaring me, Max." She was only scared that any minute, she would blurt out the truth about everything and beg him to forgive her, to still love her.
Still holding her, he glared at Liz, slowly damming up his feelings again, until her scalp pricked with sweat. Abruptly he let her go and unlocked the door. "Well, I certainly don't want that to happen. Because that would depress you. And we both know how everything becomes nothing when you are depressed. Good-bye, Liz." Then he walked out.
Liz closed the door again and leaned her head against it, gravity seeming to pull her insides down and out.
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