|"Happy Thoughts and Somersaults"
Disclaimer: Melinda Metz and Jason Katims own the rights. No infringement is
Summary: Future fic. Don’t let the title fool you though; it’s not a happy story.
Category: Unconventional Couples
|In the beginning, before Maria got too sick, we used to play this game.
She would think of something that made her smile, and I would have to
guess what it was. It was a stupid game. But it helped to pass the time
between the tests and the complicated doctor-speak. Like I said, that
was in the beginning.
We called our game the "Happy Thoughts" game, and often Maria’s memories would center on our wedding day.
"Umm? Are you thinking of the moment you stepped into the church looking absolutely ravishing with Mr. Parker leading you down the aisle?"
"Nope. And flattery will get you nowhere. Try again."
"How about when Liz cried giving her toast?"
"Come on. I give. What’s the happy thought of the day?" I would say tickling her.
"I was just remembering how you faked yawning, like, a hundred times at the reception saying how tired you were and how we had better get some sleep because we had a plane to catch in the morning. But you weren’t really tired at all." She would say giving me an exaggerated wink.
I smiled. She was right as usual. I remembered the night very well. If I had been all that tired, we wouldn’t have made love so long that we nearly missed our flight twelve hours later. It was certainly one of the happiest days of my life.
Most folks were against us getting married right out of high school. I guess some of them still didn’t believe we were in love. It was rather unbelievable, now that I think about it. Even on our wedding day, Liz still looked at us with wide eyes as if she was amazed by it all. And though it had been a roller coaster ride for us over the last nine years, we could both say the happy moments far out-numbered the sad. How many 27-year-olds could say that?
I actually remember the exact moment that I fell in love with Maria DeLuca. It was a flash, like white-lightening. I fell so hard, and she didn’t feel a thing. At first. But eventually, my magnetic personality won her over. "Yeah, right." She would say cackling and think of another happy thought.
For a while our little game worked like a charm. We’d smile, and she’d come home from the doctors’ offices with enough energy to make slow, lazy love to me in our squeaky bed. Other days, when the herbal root tea wasn’t helping, she would simply curl up in my arms and tell me about her childhood. Somersaults and pirouettes. Happy, magical thoughts because she would forget for a moment that her body could no longer do such things.
Every once in a while, when she was particularly introspective, Maria would tell a happy story about Michael, and I would listen and laugh. Mainly, because she could tell terrific stories, but secondly, because I can think about him now and actually smile. I guess maturity does come to all of us eventually.
She told me about the first night at the Crashdown during the infamous heat wave when she’d let Michael get to second base while lying on a dirty fork on the café floor. "Too much information." I would say, and she would smile as she drifted to sleep with her head tucked under my chin.
All too soon the medications began to take their toll on her. She was frail and her big green eyes seem to sink into her beautiful face a little bit more each day. It physically hurt me to see her in this state. But there was nothing that I could do. After all, I was just a man.
Some nights I would actually wish upon a star, hoping in vain it was their star, that Michael could come back and heal Maria just like Max had healed me. But, I knew that he couldn’t. After that night, when I was shot and everything seemed to explode into spectacular pyrotechnics, they all left. Michael immediately, and Max and Isabel shortly after. Tess disappeared too. Liz got a few postcards from them, the last one from D.C. They’d found a way back. And they took it. Liz was crying when she told us, but I caught something about destiny through the sniffs and hiccups.
Maria and I walked out of the Crashdown together that day. She picked up a rock and threw it at a random black jeep parked nearby. It left a dent. In that moment, I fell in love. Most people would think that I was a stud. Three-sport lettermen don’t normally have to chase after anyone, much less cooky new-age girls. But I did. The great Kyle Valenti.
Maria told me once that she fell for me because I kept healing the little cracks in her heart one by one. I pretended to gag and she smacked my ass. Well, then we made out until we were absolutely breathless. I would have kept going, but for the first time ever, she whispered my name. Full of passion and desire. I knew it was real. She was over him for good. We were 18.
The night after we found out that Maria was sick, Liz came over and cried with us. We sat around doing tequila shots, crying and recalling the past. Liz confessed that she only went crazy, um, dating other guys to hide the hurt of losing Max. She probably would never get over him, but at least she had found some peace. Alex helped her find that. She knew she would never feel fire for Alex like she did with Max, but at least she would never have to explain things to him. And vice versa.
That night, Maria told me to my face that she still loved Michael, but it was not even close to her feelings for me. Being in love with Michael was like being a piece of bacon sizzling in a frying pan, hot but painful. Instead, she compared our love to a cherry tree, constantly growing and producing more and more sweet fruit every year. I don’t know if it was her voice or her soft kiss on my cheek, but I believed her, and I somehow didn’t mind the comparison.
As for me, I finally had to admit that Max Evans had given me a gift. A second chance at life. A second chance for a relationship with my dad. A first chance with Maria. He’d sacrificed any hope of a normal life to save me. It was humbling for me to be so grateful. But, I knew I owed him my life.
That night was cathartic. We released the demons that had hold on our lives, and we prepared to face the new demons that had invaded Maria’s body. That was three years ago, to the day.
One day, shortly after that, I remember eating pancakes in our squeaky bed. Maria paused mid-bite and looked at me. Really looked at me.
"I love you."
"I know baby. I love you too." I said pouring a dollop of syrup on her neck and kissing it off.
"But I love you so much it hurts."
"Maria, what are you talking about?"
"I wish I could give you something more. Something that would last forever. So you won’t forget me."
"Baby, I’m not going to forget you. Never-ever. It couldn’t happen. So please, let’s not talk about this." And we didn’t. We never talked about it again, about what would happen when she was gone.
The funny thing about slow death, is that there is nothing slow about it. Each day seems to fly by without enough hours to hug or talk or just stare at each other. So you make sure you say "I love you" every time the thought even crosses your mind because it may be your last chance. And of course, you try to remember every happy thought you’ve ever had.
"What are you thinking about, Kyle?" It was Liz’s voice. She’d walked in the door behind me with her cat-like quietness.
"Happy thoughts." I replied.
"Oh yeah? What happy thoughts?"
"I’m thinking of an angel named Maria doing somersaults in the clouds right about now."
Liz smiled weakly, straightened my tie, took my hand and walked me slowly to the car that would take me to my wife’s funeral. And maybe everyone would think I was crazy or in shock, but that day I had a smile on my face, thinking only happy thoughts, of Maria.
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours