|"The Road Not Taken"|
Disclaimer: Don't own them, wish I did. If I owned Roswell, I'd be a happy
camper. So the day it goes up for auction, I'm there.|
Summary: Set in the future. Liz is put in a difficult position when Max Evans walks back into her life after 12 years. Liz's POV. Distribution: I don't care, really. Take it, but drop me a line so I know to add you to my mailing list.
|I've been wondering- can you ever escape from your past? After 12 years, I
thought I would have forgotten. Maybe not forgotten- you never can forget
someone like Max Evans- but at least repressed. You hear psychologists on
television talking about how if you suppress your emotions you can never fully
heal. But sometimes I think it might be harder to face your past.|
I never thought I would see Max Evans again. Here I am, a molecular biologist in the research department of Johns Hopkins. My line of work leaves little time for social activities. But I'm fine with that. The more I work, the better chance I have of forgetting, or at least suppressing. Like I said, you never can forget someone like Max.
I left Roswell the day after graduation. I didn't want to spend a moment longer there than I had to. Sure, it was hard leaving Maria and Alex, but they understood. It was Alex who found the summer internship at MIT. He passed it along to me. "Here," he said, as he handed me the booklet about the job, "Your chance to leave." So I took it.
I remember graduation vividly. The temperature was in the 100s and the auditorium was like a sauna. So the ceremony was held outside, on the front lawn of West Roswell High. Hundreds of fold out chairs were set up on the lawn, occupied by parents who fanned themselves to keep cool. Mothers kept a close eye on squirming children who were just dying to go play in the sprinkler that was running in the field.
I stood in a line, along with the rest of the members of the senior class. We were wearing identical blue gowns. The material wasn't that heavy, but it felt like being wrapped in blankets. Many students had opted to wear bathing suits, or nothing at all, under their gowns. The students filed up to the stage one-by-one to accept their diplomas. Most were nervous, but in an excited way. This was it. Our last days at Roswell.
I turned and looked behind me. Alex stood near the back of the procession, near Kyle Valenti. Alex smiled reassuringly at me, as if saying "We made it. We survived." How true that was.
Kyle caught my eye and, in a move that surprised me, smiled at me. Kyle had spent the last two years pretending I didn't exist. I guess it made it easier for him. But here he was, smiling at me. Maybe he didn't hate me so much. Or maybe he just didn't want to end senior year with hatred.
"Maria Nicole DeLuca." I watched as my best friend in the world bounded up the steps to the stage, and in a very Maria-like fashion, took her diploma, and then faced the crowd, fists raised high in a triumphant celebration. I almost laughed, but I bit back the smile.
And then, my eyes moved a few people back to where Max Evans stood. I couldn't help myself. I had done my best to pretend he hadn't existed over the past two years. It was easy to ignore the pain. And he didn't fight me. Easier for him. I guess we all take the easy way out sometimes.
Surprisingly, Max was looking at me. I squirmed uncomfortably. For some reason, Max's eyes always had a power over me. He smiled at me, almost cautiously. Maybe I should have smiled back. His eyes pleaded with me, begging me to forgive him. But I just turned away.
I couldn't see his face, but I could feel what he felt. I always was able to, after that day at the Crashdown. I felt Max's heart break slightly. I had inflicted that wound.
Regret washed over me, but I quickly suppressed that feeling. I had become quite adept at squelching my emotions. It was better this way. Easier.
I could almost feel Isabel sending me mental death threats. She never had liked me much, but now it was full blown hatred. She was like a mother bear, watching over Max, her cub. Whenever Max felt pain, Isabel was there to lick his wounds. I felt Michael too, but he was more indifferent. What did he care if I ignored Max? It wasn't his problem, it was Max's.
Well let her hate me. Why should it bother me? I wouldn't have to deal with Max's pleading looks, Isabel's hatred, or Michael's indifference for much longer. I had every intention of leaving them as far behind as I could.
I watched Isabel glide across stage and accept her diploma with a dazzling smile. Max walked behind her. As he took his diploma, he looked back in my direction. I wouldn't meet his eye. His shoulders slumped slightly, and he walked offstage. I didn't even feel sorry that time.
When my turn came, I walked up on stage. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I could feel everyone's eyes on me. Maria's eyes, Alex's eyes, my parent's eyes, Kyle's eyes and especially Max's eyes.
My shoulders tensed slightly. I couldn't see Max, but I knew he was there. I could almost feel him. "Liz," he seemed to say. But he said nothing.
I accepted my diploma and left the stage. Maria let out a whistle as I walked down. That was it. I had made it. I could see my future lying ahead. I didn't know what was coming, but I knew one thing for sure. My future did not include Roswell, New Mexico.
After the ceremony, I sat under a tree on the lawn with Maria and Alex. Alex pulled up blades of grass and dropped them. Maria watched the graduates milling about with their families. The three of us sat there in silence. There was nothing that needed to be said.
I stood up and set my gown beside Maria. I had long since changed out of it. Brushing the glass off of my skirt, I said "I'm going to say goodbye to some people." Maria and Alex just nodded.
I weaved my way through the crowd, hugging friends and saying my goodbyes. It was incredible. I was never going to see most of these people again. I only knew some of them, but I felt a sense of loss, even for those I had never spoken to.
But I couldn't afford to look behind, only forward. My past only contained memories, some of which I would like to forget.
The crowd finally got to me, and I pushed my way out, feeling claustrophobic. I walked over to one of the empty tables and sat down. I needed a moment to catch my breath.
"Hi Liz." I jumped slightly. I would know that voice anywhere. Max appeared beside me and took a seat. I should have felt him coming. I was amazed he had been able to sneak up on me.
I didn't say anything, but I was painfully aware of his presence. I was aware of the pressure of his leg against my thigh. I was sure he was aware of my thigh too.
My judgment told me to leave. No looking back, it was screaming. But I didn't leave. I couldn't.
"Liz, will you look at me?" I hesitated, debating whether or not to meet his gaze. Finally, I gave up and looked at him.
He didn't say anything for a moment. He only looked at me. His eyes gave away his thoughts. There were thousands of things he wanted to say to me. I saw them all running through his head. There were so many things he could have said. But all he said was "I'm sorry."
I lowered my eyes. "I know," I said. That was all we could say. In that one look, we had said everything we had wanted to say for two years. That left nothing else to say.
We sat there for a moment, watching the crowd thin out. Finally, I stood up and left. I didn't look back.
"Liz, would you come here for a moment?" My superior called me, snapping me out of thought. I was grateful to him for that. Whenever I thought, my thoughts turned to Max.
I followed my boss down the corridor. I slid my hands in the pockets of my lab coat. These buildings were always so cold.
My boss walked into the conference room. Five or six men in business suits sat in chairs around the table. "Have a seat, Liz," my boss said. I took a seat at the end of the table. "These gentlemen asked to see you especially."
"It's nice to meet you, Miss Parker," one of the men said, "We won't take too much of your time. Dr. Quiser?" the man said, turning to my boss, "If you will excuse us a moment."
"Certainly," my boss said, a twinge of surprise in his voice. He hadn't expected to be kicked out of his own conference room. He shut the door softly behind him. Now it was just me and the businessmen.
"I'm sure you're wondering why we called you here," the man said, "So let me explain. We've been following your work for the past couple of years. You are quite intelligent for such a young woman. We've come to ask for your assistance with a top secret government project."
Curiosity got the better of me. "Who is 'we?'" I asked. The men exchanged glances.
"Miss Parker," the man said, leaning across the table, "'We' are the United States Government. I represent the Biological Research Department of the CIA." My eyebrows lifted slightly. CIA? "We are in the middle of making an important discovery. Normally, we select our researchers from within the department, but in this case we are breaking protocol."
"Do you mind if I ask why?" The man shifted in his seat.
"I'm not at liberty to go into the details," he said, choosing his words carefully, "But I can tell you that one of the executive officials in our department specifically requested your assistance on the project. This official believes that because of your background, you are ideal to head up our research."
"My background?" Something in my mind began clicking, but I withheld my words for a moment.
The men exchanged glances once again. Finally, another man leaned towards me.
"Have you ever heard of Area 51?"
There I was, on a government plane, headed back to Roswell, New Mexico. I hadn't been back in years, not even to visit. Too many memories. And now, looking out the window at the desert, I began remembering why.
*We aren't meant to be together.* I still heard those words in my mind. *Don't say that.* I squeezed my eyes shut, as if trying to push the memory out. But the words kept coming back. *I just wanted to remember.*
I had been so angry at Max. So angry that he could just push me away and say we weren't meant to be. I knew he was lying. He couldn't even meet my eyes to say the words. *We aren't meant to be together.* That was crap. He was scared.
I didn't blame him for being scared. I was scared too. It was so hard not to be scared. But I had thought that we meant more to each other. I never would have pushed him away like that. I could never hurt him like that.
I was livid. For days afterwards, I wrestled with anger I never knew I had. I had actually considered telling his secret, just to spite him. I felt guilty for even entertaining the thought. But I kept thinking about it.
Ultimately, I kept my mouth shut. Too many people would have been hurt. Maybe at that time, I didn't care if Max, Michael, or Isabel were hurt, but others would get hurt. Like Max's parents. And Alex. Even Maria, even though she swore she was over Michael. So I kept my mouth shut. For their sake.
Max had tried to be friends with me again, but I wouldn't acknowledge him. And everytime I rebuffed him, I could feel his heart breaking a little more. I felt like Satan for hurting him, but I couldn't help it. I wanted him to feel my pain. 'See?' I wanted to say. 'This is what you did to me.' But I didn't say it. He understood that I was thinking it though. He always did understand my feelings.
I felt the plane touch down on the air force base. 'Welcome home Liz,' I thought.
After I got off the plane, I was led to some military barracks. The accommodations weren't much, but at least they had given me a private room. Oh well, I might as well make the most of it. I was going to be here a while.
I unpacked my things and changed into some different clothes. There was a knock at the door. A soldier stood there with a message. I had the rest of the afternoon to myself. I was to attend a briefing first thing in the morning. Until then, I had time to kill. So I went in search of one of the men. If I had some free time, I certainly wasn't gong to spend it here. I had some old friends to find.
I was able to convince one of the men to drive me towards Roswell. He dropped me off downtown, saying that he would pick me up in a few hours. I glanced at my watch. I didn't have much time. I had better make the most of it.
I hadn't been back in so long, but I still remembered where everything was. There was my old school. A few students milled about. A young girl, around 16, sat on the front lawn, engrossed in a science book. That was me a few years ago, I thought with a smile. I wondered if she had a Max too.
I walked a few blocks until I saw the familiar entrance of the Crashdown. I wondered who was working there now. I walked towards the door and walked inside.
The restaurant hadn't changed. The waitresses even wore the same blue uniforms. It was like watching my life all over again.
"Liz?" I would have recognized that voice anywhere. Maria ran up to me and engulfed me in a hug. "You bitch!" she yelled excitedly, "I haven't seen you in so long!" Maria was wearing the familiar uniform. Still waitressing here, after all these years.
"I'm so happy to see you!" I said. I hugged her again, then stepped back to look at her. She had changed little over the years. Her hair fell to her shoulders now. But other than that, it was the same Maria I remembered.
Maria pulled me over to an empty booth. "I haven't heard from you in months," she said, "We have so much to talk about. What brings you back to Roswell? I thought you were never coming here again."
I told her as much as I could. The fact was, I didn't know much myself. When the government says something is top secret, they go all out to keep it that way. "So, it's like a big mystery," she said, sounding intrigued, "Like James Bond."
"Well not exactly." I was about to say more, but I stopped when I saw the face peering in the window. Maria saw my face tense, and she turned to see what I was looking at. Michael Guerin stood at the window, watching me. Finally, he turned and walked away.
During my breaks in college, I tried to stay away from Roswell. I even spent a couple of Thanksgivings holed up in my dorm. But everytime Christmas and summer came around, I had no choice but to get on the plane and fly home.
During the breaks, I spent my time with Maria and Alex, or I lounged about the Crashdown. Part of me hoped Max would come in for lunch, and part of me didn't.
But I didn't have that option. He never came.
One time, I was possessed with the desire to going to the UFO Center. Maria tried to convince me against it, but I was decided. I knew it was a long shot, but you never knew. Maybe he would just stop in there, for old time's sake. I just wanted to give him a piece of my mind. I wanted to let him know just how over him I was. I mean, after all this time, why wouldn't I be over him?
I wandered around the Center for hours. I visited every exhibit numerous times.
Once, I thought I saw Max, but it was just some tourist, wandering around. I gave up around closing time and walked back home.
I later found out from Alex that Max had stayed in his dorm over the breaks when I would be home. Alex had found out from Isabel. I think Isabel only told Alex because she knew it would get back to me that Max didn't want to see me. Well fine, I didn't want to see him either. But even I knew that was a lie.
I was still mad at him. I hadn't gotten over that anger. I never had a chance to. Maybe that's why I wanted to see him so bad. Maybe seeing him would help me forgive him, and then I could let go of him.
I never saw him during those breaks. Well, that's not entirely true. I saw him once. The last day of summer break before I started my senior year of college.
It was a Sunday morning, and the Crashdown was closed. My family and a few friends all sat inside, having breakfast before going our separate ways. For old time's sake, I donned the waitress uniform and served my family breakfast. As I was pouring coffee at the counter, I happened to glance towards the door. There he was.
He was across the street, walking along the sidewalk. His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his pants. He had changed slightly. He was a bit taller, and more muscular. His face was tanned. But I would have known him anywhere.
He stopped there, in the middle of the sidewalk, as if sensing me. Then, he turned and looked across the road, in my direction. I don't know if he was able to see in, but I could have sworn that he looked right at me. He stood there for a moment, just looking at the restaurant. He seemed to be debating whether or not to cross the road. I knew he wanted to see me. I didn't know what I would do if he walked over here. Would I greet him? Or would I ignore him coldly?
I didn't have to decide. He walked away, and that was that.
To Be Continued.
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