|Primary Characters:||Pretty much everyone|
|Description:||Max wants to get back with Liz, but can never get round to trying. Kyle’s alone and depressed. Now Isabel and Alex come back to Roswell for their wedding. But where are Michael and Maria? By the time Michael returns and tries to find her, it’s almost too late.|
Max heard the alarm clock ring, and he rolled out of bed to turn off the infernal sound. The first few disoriented moments, he thought everything was like before. Before his friends and family all left him. No, not his entire family, but the ones who counted the most.
His mom and dad were still around, as they always had, and though that was a great comfort to him, life without Michael, Isabel – and Liz was every bit as empty as he had feared. For the time being, enemy activities were nonexistent, and though that too was reassuring, Max couldn’t help miss the good old days, before Tess, before Nasedo, and most of all, before his so-called destiny.
He grabbed breakfast on his way out, rather half-heartedly, but he knew his mother would worry about him, if he didn’t go through the motions of normal life. And Isabel did call him, every weekend, if she and Alex weren’t busy doing something else. Max smiled wryly when he thought about what they were most likely busy doing. None of that for him.
Looking at his watch, Max concluded that he might as well get going. His work at the UFO center wasn’t much of a challenge. Even without a college degree, he ought to have been able to find something better, but he had thought, why bother? He might not be King anymore, but he would never be an ordinary guy. So why should he bother spending money and effort on a degree to become a doctor, a lawyer, an architect or whatever else he might choose to do with his life?
It was different for the others. Liz, Isabel and Alex were all brilliant, and Maria and Kyle seemed to be doing ok as well. Michael – But Max didn’t want to think about Michael. If the did he would be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and regret.
He had done what he had thought was best, but that was little consolation. His brother and best friend hadn’t understood, and even if he had, that didn’t change anything.
Max shook his head sadly and turned the ignition in his new car. When he had bought that, his parents had been happy that their son was getting back to normal. A job, a car – those were a start. Soon, he might be making new friends, and maybe start dating again.
They had never quite understood what had caused the breakup between Max and Liz and later, what had made his new girlfriend disappear without a trace, leaving everyone in such emotional turmoil. Neither one of their children had been inclined to explain, and as parents do, they had left their son and daughter to sort things out on their own. And Isabel really had seemed to get back to normal, especially after her boyfriend had so miraculously returned from the dead.
That was another thing the Evans’ and all of Roswell would never fully understand. Or at least who the other boy was, who had died in Alex’ jeep that night. Also, whoever had abducted Alex and kept him prisoner for such a long time, was now conspicuously absent. No amount of investigation had managed to turn up any evidence as to who this mysterious insane person had been.
At times, Max wondered about that too. Not who the mysterious person was, but where he’d gone. Max wasn’t naive enough to think that Nicholas had died in the cave-in caused by Isabel, anymore than he thought that Tess was gone for good. Those two, in league, would present a formidable enemy force. Yet, there had been no signs of their activities for so long, Max was beginning to fear a major offensive.
That was one of the reasons he had refused to leave Roswell, preferring to keep watch, rather than being caught unawares. Isabel had argued that she tuned in on his dreams almost every night, and would sense the first sign of trouble. They would be on their way the minute anything went down. Max knew that was just an attempt to reassure him. If he was attacked, in Roswell, while his sister and his friends were all in California, there would be nothing they could do to help. And he had no idea where Michael was.
If he had the chance to do things over again, Max told himself he’d change what had happened. He wouldn’t have pressured Michael so hard, and none of the later developments would have occurred. Too late. No use dwelling on it. But Max couldn’t help beating himself up over and over again, like you can’t help scratching a mosquito bite or tearing off a scab that itched.
There. The UFO center looked just the same it always had. Nothing had changed here. Except for the fact that Max was now the manager. Brodie no longer chose to put in an appearance every day, or even every week. The pay was slightly higher, but the work was much the same. It didn’t present any difficulties for Max, nor did it help distract his brooding. He had to turn to the internet for that, or books, or tv. During the long idle hours with no visitors, during the off-season, he’d use any distractions he could, to avoid dwelling on all his shortcomings.
At least it wouldn’t be long now, until the tourist season would begin again, and the visitors would start coming in. The beginning of the tourist season roughly corresponded with the return of the college students for their vacation. Isabel, Alex, Liz, Maria and Kyle would all be back for their summer vacation. That would mean less time on his own, but also more reminders and imagined or real accusations over his treatment of Michael. Maria almost certainly blamed him. Or maybe not.
Max had come to realize that the temperamental girl seemed to blame Michael even more than the real culprit. And that was the problem. If they could both have turned on him, it might have brought them closer together, instead of pushing them apart. Max fervently wished they could chosen the former.
He could take the blame. After all, he deserved it, and either way, he was getting used to being the one they all hated. Sometimes, he thought they all associated him with Tess and that he shared the blame for all their suffering, with that traitorous alien.
Max unlocked the door and turned on the lights, thinking that he was alone as on every other morning in the past three weeks. But when he entered the office, he found that Brodie was in there after all, looking like he’d been there for some time. At least this was Brodie, not some remote-controlled alien zombie.
“Good morning, Max. I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything from Maria, by any chance?”
“No. She doesn’t really keep in touch with me. But I guess she’ll be back along with the others any day now.”
“Yes. Well, it’s all yours.”
“This. I’m going home. To get some sleep. I just realized I’d been working since 11.30 or so last night. Maybe today, you’ll have some visitors.”
“Yes. I hope so too. Sleep well.”
“Oh. Yes. I hope so too. Bye.”
Max didn’t really think there would be any visitors, and that didn’t really matter one way or another. He’d still get paid, and Brodie had more money than he knew what to do with. At least it was something to do.
Though it would have been simple enough to get out early, Max conscientiously stayed until normal closing time, going through the motions again, checking the place over, putting the last paperwork away, and so on. Routine tasks that didn’t really need to be done every day, but why shouldn’t he? What else would he do? Hang out at the Crashdown café? What would be the point of that? His best friends were gone, and he hadn’t really kept in touch with any of the others. He certainly hadn’t bothered trying to make new ones.
On his way home, he couldn’t resist looking into the window of the Crashdown. It reminded him of better times. Liz – Actually, he couldn’t say that the day Liz was lying on the floor of the café, dying, had been a good day, at least not until his powers had brought her back, and started everything else.
But there were those other days. The memories of those came back to him, and for a brief moment brought a smile to his face. Liz. Isabel and Alex. Michael and Maria. Kyle – No. Kyle alone. And Max himself alone too. Tess didn’t belong in their memories. Sean might have had the right to be there, but never her.
Max ran into Sean now and again. It seemed the guy was keeping out of trouble these days, and still staying in touch with Amy de Luca, if not Maria or Liz. They tried to keep a civil tone in their interaction. But it was clear that neither guy liked the other. At least Sean was dating again. Max hadn’t been close to another girl in –
Best not to dwell on that. Life went on. For everyone, it seemed, except for Max Evans. King of some planet far away, or maybe a nobody right here. If only he could have remembered that he had no right to dictate to anyone else. Not their human friends, and not his brother and sister.
He got back at the usual hour, and sat down to dinner with his parents. They asked him how his day had been, and he assumed he gave them the replies they expected. And so another day had come to an end. Max hoped Isabel would dreamwalk and see him tonight. She had been gone such a long time. They hadn’t even been back for Christmas this year. Alex and Isabel had had such a good time, they hadn’t wanted to return to Roswell.
Next morning, Max didn’t think Isabel had been in touch, or maybe it was just that his sleep had been too shallow. But before he went to work, his mom called him back to tell him that Isabel was on the phone. He ran back inside, and grabbed the phone eagerly.
“Hey, Max. We’re coming back tomorrow night.”
“You and Alex?”
“Yeah, and I think Kyle and Liz are too. We’re not going together.”
It hurt to hear Liz’ name mention along with Kyle’s like that, but Max tried to tell himself that it was just the way it sounded. Still, if Kyle and Liz were dating, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
“Anyway, see you tomorrow night.”
“Yes. I can’t wait to have you back.”
“I love you too, Max. Got to go. Alex and I are getting -“
The rest of Isabel’s statement was drowned out in static on the line, and she didn’t wait to hear his reply. They were all coming home. At the moment, Max didn’t even notice that Maria’s name hadn’t been mentioned throughout the brief conversation. Isabel was coming home. So was Liz, and maybe this time –
“Isn’t it wonderful news, sweetheart?”
“What? Oh, yes. I can’t wait to see them all again.”
“Yes, and the -“
“Mm. I have to go now, mom. Or I’ll be late for work.”
“See you tonight, honey.”
On the day Isabel and the others were to return, Max couldn’t resist going home early. There had been no visitors at all for about five days, so he didn’t think he was cheating anyone. At home he found his mom in the middle of some elaborate preparations and he was a little confused.
Sure, it was great that Isabel was coming home, but why all the fuss? His mother didn’t seem to have much time for him so he retreated into his room. He had a feeling people wondered why he didn’t get his own place, but why bother? Who would he bring home at night? His own room at his parents’ house was good enough for him at the moment.
When it turned out there wasn’t going to be any dinner, he ventured out into the kitchen to grab a snack. His mother finally acknowledged his presence. He also learned that his father had come back from work a little while earlier.
“Could you get something for yourselves now? Good. Dinner will have to wait until Izz and Alex get here. And I think they’ll have to stop by the Whitman house on the way. Oh, isn’t this fantastic?”
Max’ dad gave his son a guarded look. Suddenly, Max realized that he was missing something. The fuss couldn’t just be about his sister’s return.
“Mom, I think I’m missing something here. What’s so fantastic?”
“Max, darling, didn’t you hear Isabel tell you about the wedding?”
“Wake up, dear. Your sister is marrying Alex. I thought you’d understood that.”
“No. There was some disturbance on the line. Oh. Well, that’s wonderful.”
Yes, wonderful. If it didn’t make him feel even more lonely and more of a failure. Liz and he could have been married by now. Or at least living together. It occurred to Max that if he was already married, how would he go about getting a divorce? But the way Tess had acted, there should be grounds for an annulment.
Unless the baby would make that impossible. No. Even if their other personas on that alien planet had been married, and Max was having more and more trouble believing anything Tess had ever said, that had nothing to do with their present reincarnations.
“Yes, but I wish Izz would have told me about this sooner. They’re planning on holding the wedding in less than two weeks’ time. Which doesn’t give me and Mrs Whitman much time to make the preparations. You will both have to help me out as much as you can.”
This was accompanied by a stern stare at her husband and son. Max’ dad immediately reacted by withdrawing a little, seemingly unconsciously.
“Well, dear, you know how busy I am at work. So, I’m afraid I can’t -“
“This is just typical. Your only daughter is getting married, and you’re too busy at work. Max?”
“Don’t worry about it, mom. I’m sure Brodie will give me some time off for this.”
“At least Max isn’t afraid to help out.”
“But darling, there’s a bit of difference between his career and mine.”
“Alright. We’ll see if mr Whitman will be saying the same thing.”
Personally, Max didn’t think mr Whitman would be inclined to give much help either.
“Is there any chance Michael might be back soon?”
“I have no idea. We – had a fight, and I haven’t heard from him in almost a year.”
“That’s such a shame. You used to be the best of friends. And you and Liz -“
“Yes. I know. But I don’t want to talk about that, mom.”
“I understand. When Isabel and Alex get here, we’ll have to start making plans.”
It got very late before Alex and Isabel finally arrived, and at some point, both Max and his mother began to worry. They shouldn’t have, though. It appeared that the happy young couple lived in a world of their own, where time passed differently than in the rest of the world. Max suspected they had to make frequent makeout breaks.
When they heard the car pull up in the driveway outside, Max ran to the door to meet his sister and Alex. Just as he had expected, they even took a long time getting out of the car. From a distance, it looked a whole lot like Siamese twins trying to move together.
He walked out to meet his sister and his friend. They had been gone for so long, he almost expected them to have changed physically, but they looked exactly the same as the last time he’d seen them.
It took Isabel a while to disentangle herself from Alex, but when she did, she seemed almost as happy to see her brother as he was to see her. They hugged briefly, then Max turned to Alex. He found that he was almost ridiculously pleased to see his friend too. After all, Alex had nearly been lost to them all. Without thinking, Max hugged Alex too. As he let go, Max noticed that Alex had a big smear of Isabel’s lipstick on his chin, and Max tried to point that out discreetly.
Alex didn’t seem to get his meaning at all, so in the end, Max rubbed the spot off with his finger, holding it out for Alex’ inspection.
“Oh. Thanks, man.”
“You’re welcome. Maybe I should have left it. I don’t think anyone’s in any doubt about what you guys have been doing on the way here.”
That brought a new color to Alex’ face, this time of the variety that didn’t rub off.
Their friendly exchange was interrupted by the voice of mrs Evans, calling them all inside.
“What are you doing out there? I’ve got dinner ready for you, and after that, we need to make plans.”
They all moved quickly inside, if only to avoid further nagging. Isabel didn’t look too thrilled at her mother’s suggestion. Max would have thought wedding planning was right up there on the list of a girl’s favorite things to do, right alongside shopping, interior decorating, and – well, ok, a guy’s favorite thing too – makeout.
“Mom. First of all, Alex and I are tired. We’ve been driving all day. And secondly, why do you need to go to all that trouble over the wedding? I’ve already decided the most important stuff. So you can just sit back and enjoy it.”
“We’ll see about that, honey. Now let’s just eat. But maybe you’re right. You and Alex look – tired. The plans can wait until tomorrow.”
Max was hoping he’d get a chance to ask about Liz, but for a while, his mom and Isabel were talking pretty much non-stop. He and Alex exchanged a look, but decided to wait. There would be time enough for questions later.
It turned out their mother had made Isabel’s old room ready for her and Alex. Finally, Max saw a chance to talk to his sister and Alex alone. Checking carefully, so he wouldn’t walk in on any intimate scene, he dared to step inside. He found Alex alone, trying to unpack. The sound of water running from inside the bathroom, told Max where Isabel was and what she was doing.
“Hey. Did Liz go back today?”
“Yes, I think so. She told us she would. I thought we could offer her and Kyle a ride, but Isabel wasn’t too thrilled about it.”
Now it occurred to Max that no one had had anything to say about Maria in a long time. What was happening with her?
“What about Maria?”
“Oh, she’s not coming. Didn’t Izz tell you? She’s engaged to this guy she met at college. A guy from her Anthropology classes. Matt Warnes. He’s nice. I met them a couple of times. With Liz.”
This hurt Max more than he had known was possible. Maria engaged to another guy? Impossible. She and Michael belonged together. And if it hadn’t been for Michael’s interfering brother, they’d still be together. It was all wrong. If Alex noticed anything odd about Max’ demeanor he didn’t comment.
Now Isabel seemed to be done in the bathroom, and she returned, wrapped in a towel.
“Oh, hi, Max.”
Alex disappeared into the bathroom, leaving brother and sister together. Again, Max was overwhelmed with happiness over having his sister back. He reached out and pulled her into his arms again, and while a bit distracted, Isabel appeared to be quite pleased to be back home.
“How’s life in this old ghost town? No new alien sightings?”
Max had a vague idea that Isabel was referring to Tess and frowned slightly at the reminder of his past mistakes.
“No. Nothing. You’d think that nothing ever happens here.”
“Oh, good. And you haven’t heard from Michael?”
This was said with a bit more emotion.
“No. I was hoping he’d have been in touch with you.”
“No. Not a word. Max -“
“You don’t think something’s happened to him?”
“Like what? He’s not exactly your average runaway teen.”
“I know that. But our enemies are still out there. If he ran into Nicholas -“
“Let’s hope you killed him the last time.”
“But what if I didn’t? You know the kind of powers he’s got.”
“Yes. But I’m sure Michael hasn’t run into him. You’d know, wouldn’t you?”
“I hope so. And wouldn’t you too? Or maybe -“
But remembering what Michael’s ex was in the process of doing, Isabel realized that Maria’s thoughts might not be tuned in on Michael anymore.
“Alex told me about Maria and that guy.”
“Yeah? Well, if you ask me, it might be for the best.”
“How can you say that? They loved each other as much as you and Alex.”
“Oh. I guess you’re right. But what can you do about it now?”
“That’s just it. How could I be so hard on Michael? It’s not fair. This is all my fault.”
Isabel subjected her brother to an intense stare, before replying.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You know what Michael’s had to deal with. He’s a very difficult guy to get along with. And it’s not as if you meant to hurt them. Your arguments make sense. We should be more careful about calling attention to ourselves. It’s just that all this doesn’t necessarily mean calling attention to us. People do get involved in relationships, get married and go away to college. That’s the normal thing. In fact, you sticking around Roswell, working at the UFO center might be the unusual thing.”
“I know, but this is just terrible.”
“In a way. That guy Matt is a bit of a weirdo. And I do wish Michael all the happiness in the world. But for all you know, the relationship might not have worked for much longer anyway. Hank abused Michael. He’s had a hard time trusting people forever. But even before that, he was shy and wary. Remember when we walked out of the desert? He couldn’t bring himself to trust us even then. Whatever happened, it wasn’t your fault, Max.”
“No. Not that. But the breakup is my fault. If I hadn’t pressured Michael too much about this alien business, he would never have snapped and pushed Maria away. You know I’m right.”
“I’m not too sure about that. Let’s just hope he’ll be back in time for the wedding. I’ll try to talk to him. But you have to stop blaming yourself. Even if it was your fault, it’s done. There’s no way of changing what’s already happened.”
“I know. Well, I just want you to know I’m really happy for you, Izz. You and Alex, it’s so right.”
“I’m glad you think so, man.”
Alex appeared to have returned some time ago, and tactfully avoided interrupting the discussion.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m really happy for both of you. Anyway, I have to go now. Sleep well. It was good to have Isabel back, whatever else was bothering Max. And he knew he wouldn’t be able to resist going over to the Crashdown to look for Liz.”
As if no time at all had gone by since the first time they met, Liz was standing over by the counter, wearing her ridiculous alien antennae, silvery apron and waitress’ dress. She smiled almost as warmly as she used to, and for a second Max thought all the troubles had just been a bad dream.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Mm. What? Yes, why not? A shake.
“Ok. Good to see you again.”
Max didn’t think it was going to be this easy, but for a moment, he allowed himself to hope. What if she’d missed him as much as he’d missed her? In Liz’ absence, he looked around for Kyle, but couldn’t see him or any other familiar faces in the cafe. He seemed to have lost touch in the year he’d spent alone, buried in the basement of the UFO center.
Liz returned, bringing the shake, and sat down, facing Max. He couldn’t believe his luck.
“How have you been? I should have called more than I did, but the first year is so confusing, and I had so much work to do.”
“I’ve been ok. Lonely. But that’s ok. What about you? You look great. College life must agree with you.”
Liz made a face that seemed to hint that maybe college life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“In a way. But there are so many other things that take time away from what really counts. Like studying. And I could have done that better closer to home.”
“So you think you might transfer?”
“I don’t know. Right now, I’m just glad the first year is over and I’m back home again.”
“What about Kyle? Is he doing ok? I haven’t heard anything from him in all this time. At Christmas, I didn’t see him around at all.”
“I think he went home, but I didn’t see him either.”
“So, how is he? I’ve been a bit worried about him since -“
“Yes. Me too. Well, there’s not a lot to say about him. He studies, practices his karate, meditates and writes.”
“He writes? What – poetry?”
“No. Something philosophical and deep. For a while it looked like he was going to join a monastery.”
“Are you serious?”
“A buddhist monastery. Yes, of course I’m serious.”
“Did he shave his head and everything?”
That was an image Max had a hard time conjuring up in his mind.
Liz giggled and shook her head.
“No. In fact, he let it grow longer. It’s about shoulder length now, and he looks really good. So do you.”
This caused an awkward silence between them, and Max cast about in his mind for a change of topic. A minor one. He still wanted to find out if Kyle and Liz were going out again.
“Doesn’t he go out with girls at all?”
“No. Not once in the entire year. I mean, he doesn’t go out with guys either. Maria asked him about that a couple of times, because she knows these guys that are really – Anyway, he’s not into guys either.”
“I didn’t think so.”
Max had been telling the truth when he said he was worried about Kyle. And he knew more about what Kyle was going through than Liz did. At least he thought so. For all he knew, Kyle might have confided in Liz. But Max didn’t really think so.
After that incident between Tess and Kyle, Max had often thought what a bond that made between him and Kyle. Tess had used her powers to make both of them have sex with her, even if in Kyle’s case it had involved direct death threat. Though Max doubted if Kyle would see or acknowledge that bond between them. Not that Max would ever dream of discussing it with Kyle.
But since Tess had used her powers to confuse him, Max couldn’t stop himself from wishing against reason that the entire incident had been a hallucination. No sex, no child. Nothing. And now that Alex was back, everything could be the way it was. If only Liz would relent and let Max back into her life.
Now Max remembered the wedding. Would Liz be going? And more importantly, who would be her date? Maybe it would have been the simplest thing in the world to just ask her, but after all the detours their relationship had taken, Max was getting wary of that kind of directness.
“I guess you’ve heard about the wedding?”
“Yes. Alex invited me.”
“Oh. Are you going?”
“Yes. I guess you are too?”
“It would look a bit silly for me not to go. I mean, the bride is my sister and – You know. Is Maria coming, by the way?”
“I’m not sure.”
Maybe it was just his imagination, but it seemed to Max that this question had changed the atmosphere between them. The open, warm tone in their conversation had gone cooler and he thought he could guess why. Liz was Maria’s best friend. He had caused the breakup between Maria and Michael. Naturally, Liz would lay the blame on her ex for that. The companionable small talk was over. Max excused himself and got up to leave. Liz got up too, and they remained standing by the door, indecisively.
“I hope I’ll see you again soon.”
“Yes, me too. Back home, the wedding preparations went ahead just like Max had expected, and soon he was given assignments to carry out, errands to run, and there was no time for brooding.”
The next couple of days passed in much the same way. Max kept thinking he and Liz were getting closer again, but something kept them from crossing the final line.
Liz had a feeling Max had changed in the past year. He looked careworn and sadder than usual. Perhaps it was time to end their forced separation. By now she was beginning to forget why she had thought it was such a good idea to wait before getting back into the relationship. She was about to call out his name, to make him stay, but the moment was lost again. Maria’s mother and Kyle’s father walked into the Crashdown, and Liz had to get back to work.
That night, Liz was woken up by the sound of someone knocking on her window. Her first thought was about Max, but the face looking at her through the pane wasn’t his. Michael. What was he doing here? She’d better open the window and find out before her parents woke up and she had to explain why another guy was outside, asking to come inside.
“Sorry to disturb you this late.”
He had changed in the year or more that had gone by since she last saw him. Now he was thinner, and looked even more scruffy and unkempt. But far worse was the eyes. Liz didn’t think she’d ever seen him that intense, but at the same time so deeply unhappy.
“That’s ok. What’s wrong?”
“Is Maria here?”
“Why would she be here? No.”
“I went over to her house but she wasn’t there either.”
“Did you knock on the window and ask her mother?”
A small smile flickered around his mouth and went out as fast as it appeared.
“No. I knew she wasn’t there. Couldn’t sense her.”
“Oh. You’d better come inside.”
He swung one long slender leg over the windowsill, then let the other follow. Once inside, he dropped down on the nearest chair. Liz thought he looked exhausted.
“Well? Where is she?”
“She’s back in California.”
“Oh. When will she be back?”
“Michael. Have you come for the wedding?”
“What wedding? I haven’t been in touch for a while.”
“Oh. Isabel and Alex are getting married.”
“Great. Isn’t Maria coming back for that?”
“I – I hope so.”
“There’s something I need to talk to her about.”
“There’s something about Maria, that you need to know.”
“She’s ok, isn’t she?”
“Yes, that’s not it. Michael, she’s engaged.”
At first he didn’t seem to take in her words. Then he got up, though it seemed to Liz that he could use a day or two in bed, before he went anywhere.
“Wait. You look really tired. Where are you going?”
“There’s someone I have to talk to. Thanks for the information. I might go to the wedding. If I do, I’ll see you there. Tell Kyle I said hi, ok?”
And he was gone again into the night. Liz had a feeling he’d just jumped all the way down to street level, landed lightly on his feet, like a cat and disappeared into the darkness the way he’d come. She didn’t walk over to the window to look for him. He’d shut it on his way out. Now that he was gone, it was as if he’d never been there, if it hadn’t been for a certain chill in the air.
Liz wished she hadn’t been the one who had had to tell him. The pain in his eyes, when her words sank in had been heartbreaking. She knew how much Maria meant to him. Maria was his world, his life, his family – everything. It was a mystery why they’d ever broken up in the first place. Of course, only Liz knew how hard Maria had taken the breakup.
Liz got back into bed, pulling the covers up high. Despite the warm evening, she felt chilled to the bone.
Once again, Michael knocked on someone’s window. This time, he knew the person he was looking for was inside. And since that person was who he was, Michael just pressed his hand to the window and pushed it open. Seconds later, he landed silently on the floor. He tiptoed over to the bed, and turned on the lamp on the bedside table.
The startled look in his brother’s eyes, almost made him smile again, but he didn’t feel happy. It was a long time since he’d felt anything close to happiness, and even then, the pain hadn’t been far away.
Max’ voice held a warmth Michael couldn’t share. His brother was pleased to see him? Well, the feeling wasn’t mutual. Despite that, Max seemed about to get up and judging by the look in his eyes, he might be thinking about hugging his brother. Michael took a step back, and though he didn’t exactly hold out his hands defensively, his posture changed, and it was plain that he didn’t encourage any closeness.
“I just came from Liz’ place. She told me why Maria isn’t here. Do you have anything to say about that?”
“Michael, I want you to know how very sorry I am. If there was anything I could do to change what I did, I would. I love you, Michael. You have to know that I’d never willingly do anything to hurt you.”
“Yeah? But you did. And you made me hurt Maria.”
“I know. You probably never will be able to forgive me, but -“
“You’re right. How can I forgive you for ruining my life? Such as it is. You can’t have Liz, so you make sure no one else can have anyone they want. “
That stung. And it wasn’t true. The reason why he’d been so hard on Michael wasn’t the fact that he was madly in love with Maria. It was Michael’s volatile temper, and unpredictable ways. But in the end, that hadn’t made any difference. The result had been the same. Michael had broken under the pressure and driven Maria away.
Looking back, Max knew that Maria’s influence would have done exactly what he had been trying to achieve. Calming Michael, maybe even healing the pain from years of abuse in his foster home. And now it was too late. Maria was lost to Michael, and Max knew he’d never be able to reach Michael. Not the way Maria could. Isabel was too busy with her own life, and even she hadn’t been able to get through to Michael like Maria had.
“That’s not true. I never meant for this to happen. The problems Liz and I are having is nothing to do with this. If you and Maria could have had what Isabel and Alex have, I’d have been happy for you.”
“Really? While we’re discussing Isabel, let me tell you what I think of you as our leader. Izz is twice the leader you ever were.”
“Yes. She is. I’m not your leader. Now I realize that I never was. Michael, whatever our origins, we’re just humans. Nothing more.”
“Isn’t it a bit late to think of that now? Maria’s engaged to another guy.”
“I’m really sorry about that.”
“Yeah? You know what, Maxwell? Sorry doesn’t always make it right.”
“Michael, please. Where are you going?”
“Somewhere I should have gone long ago. If I’m not back in time for the wedding, don’t wait for me.”
And he was gone again. Max could have run after him, tried pleading with him again, anything. But what was the use? Michael seemed to have made up his mind already, and without unleashing their powers, Max didn’t think there was anything he could do to stop his brother.
What Michael had said wasn’t true, but he was right about one thing. All this was Max’ fault. Max wished there was something he could do turn back time and undo all the mistakes he’d made. With all his powers, that was something he couldn’t do. So what was the point of having powers if all you could do was hurt people, kill people? He stared down at his hands in disgust.
While he walked alongside the main road on his way to the airport, he pondered the new insights he’d come to while he was on his own. Not that there was anything new about them. Ever since he’d first let Maria into his life, he’d known she was special and not only that. She was his life. Everything he needed.
Why had he let anything get in the way of that relationship? Max could have nagged him until he was blue in the face, but that shouldn’t have changed his mind about what he deep down knew was right. And now he’d let the most precious thing in his life slip away. It couldn’t be too late.
He had been lucky. The money, including the small change he had jingling in his pockets were just enough for a one-way ticket. Though the lady behind the counter had stared in dismay at his appearance, she’d sold him the ticket and the attendants over by the gate had let him through. All the luggage he had was in the backpack slung over his shoulder. He didn’t need much.
When he stepped off the plane, the sunshine dazzled his eyes, and it seemed as if he’d gone from late spring to summer in just about an hour. That was ridiculous of course, and as soon as his eyes had adjusted to the glare, he forgot all about where he was. Even if he hadn’t kept in touch with his brother and sister, he’d memorized the address to Maria’s dorm. All the time he’d been walking around, trying to kill the anger inside him, he’d intended to go to her. Why hadn’t he made the decision sooner?
Hitchhiking in California? He wouldn’t have recommended it to Maria, but the sickos and perverts were welcome to try. After choking on his anger all this time, Michael couldn’t wait to let off steam somehow. Just let one creep lay as much a hand on him, and he’d teach him a lesson he’d never forget. One that would get into the tabloids. Ok. Maybe not a good idea. Someone would remember the way he looked and soon he’d have the vivisectionists after him again. But he was strong enough to defend himself with more normal means.
He got to Maria’s dorm, without anyone getting hurt. It was quite late. Students were coming through the doors, all dressed up, on their way to bars, clubs, concerts. What if he’d missed her already? One of the cars lined up in the street could contain the bastard who had bought her a ring. Any moron could buy a girl a ring. But did he love her like Michael did? That wasn’t possible.
Michael walked up the stairs to the third floor, and almost ran into a girl on her way out. She gave him a stunned, but appreciative look, taking in his clothes, his stubble, all of it. The final impression appeared to have been positive, because she gave him a provocative smile.
“Hello. Looking for someone?”
“Yes. Maria de Luca.”
Her face fell.
“Oh. Third on the right. Nice to meet you.”
He hardly noticed her and two seconds later, she was gone from his memory. Outside Maria’s door, he stopped, his hand raised to knock. What was he going to say? They had said all kinds of things on the night they broke up, and that hadn’t helped at all. Did he have anything to add, other than that he loved her and that his life was meaningless without her? Maybe love wasn’t enough. Love? Michael Guerin using the word love? Impossible.
But even more impossible was letting her go without making one final effort. She was everything to him, so how could he not try, no matter how hard it was? Before he should change his mind, Michael knocked on the door and waited, breathlessly.
She wasn’t in. The room was empty. But he was wrong. Now he could hear someone moving about in there. Too late, he realized that she might not be alone. What would he do if that guy was with her? He wouldn’t lose his temper. He wouldn’t kill anyone else. If the guy was there, it was over. He’d go and leave her forever.
Her face lost all color and she took a step back. Surely she wasn’t afraid of him? No matter what he’d done to her, he’d never hurt her physically.
“Maria. Can I come in?”
She was quiet for so long, Michael thought that was her answer. He was about to turn and leave, when he heard her draw in breath for a reply.
“Ok. But I’m on my way out.”
“To see that guy?”
“That guy, who happens to be my fiance, yes.”
This wasn’t how Michael had intended to start off. But now they had ended up right in the middle of the problem. She was involved with someone else. That was no one’s fault but his own. Not Maxwell’s, even though it had felt good to lash out at someone. No one had twisted Michael’s arm to push Maria away.
He had done that all on his own. Or almost. Max had contributed, just like Hank was behind most of Michael’s problems. It was only in the past year that Michael had forced himself to face that. Painful though it was, he knew it was necessary to dig deeper into his past if he ever wanted to be rid of it.
“Don’t do it. Please.”
“Don’t go to him.”
“And why shouldn’t I do that?”
“I know I don’t deserve it, but give me another chance. Please, Maria.”
“I’ll tell you why not. When we were together, we had our ups and downs. Mostly downs. Even though the ups were – Never mind. But every time you let me down, every time you hurt me, it got harder and harder to try again. To trust you. In the end, I just gave up hoping that you’d ever change. I’m sorry, Michael. That’s how it is. It’s not that I want to hurt you back. I just can’t take it anymore. Can’t you understand that?”
“Yes. You’re right. I let you down too many times. But I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was scared to trust you too. When I used the alien business excuse to hold you off, each time you got too close, it was just because I was too afraid to commit, because every time I trusted, I got hurt. Even Max and Isabel hurt me sometimes. They didn’t mean to. It was just that there were two of them and just one of me.
And – Maria, this time it will be different. I’ve changed. Let me prove that to you. When I was on the road, I did a lot of thinking and I came to understand a few things about myself and you. I can’t live without you. You’re the first good thing that ever came into my life. The only thing that’s always been good for me.”
He could see her eyes lose their hard edge, then close to him again. She seemed to move away from him, if not physically, at least emotionally. A sharp pain lanced through his chest, and he knew that his words hadn’t been enough. Either she hadn’t believed him, or he’d just gotten here too late.
But he couldn’t let her turn away. Not without giving everything. Wasn’t there anything else he could say or do before the only girl he’d ever loved walked out of his life for good?
Because Michael knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if she left him now, he’d never see her again. And if that happened, he didn’t know what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He didn’t care about anything or anyone if he lost Maria.
In his desperation, he reached even deeper inside himself and cut through the layer of protective covers, right to the heart of his pain and his defence mechanisms that might have saved him from being hurt, but in the end caused even worse pain.
“Maria, please. Listen to me. I want you to know why I was so afraid to trust anyone.”
She didn’t say anything that could be interpreted as encouraging, but Michael wanted to see something in her eyes, and he really thought he did. At least she didn’t tell him to shut up.
“Maria – Remember when Nasedo first showed up?”
A barely perceptible nod. Her hurried on before he should lose his nerve, or she would change her mind about listening.
“I think he killed Hank. And I was glad. Because there were times when I wanted to do it myself. The only reason I didn’t was that I was afraid of unleashing my powers and what would happen to me if I did. Just before Nasedo showed up, Hank had hit me again, but this time it was on my face, so I couldn’t go to school. Max fixed it, but if Nasedo hadn’t come along, it would just have gone on.”
Again, he made eye contact, and it seemed to him that her face had softened a little.
“He’d been beating me ever since I came to live with him. You saw that, didn’t you? When I let you see those visions.”
She nodded again.
Now he had to pause to brace himself for what he had to tell her next. He knew what worried him wasn’t what her reaction would be. It was his own fears that stood in the way. But nothing less than total honesty would do. So he forced himself to go on. Just a little while longer.
“But that’s not all he did.”
It was a while before his meaning filtered through to her. She looked as if she was waiting for him to go on. But understanding hit her, and she knew she couldn’t make Michael continue with the story that was tearing him apart. Of course. That was the missing piece of the puzzle.
How often had she resented her own father for being absent in her life. Now she realized that maybe there were worse things in life than growing up without a dad. Not that Hank had ever been Michael’s dad, or even tried to.
Her silence told Michael that he had failed after all. Not even this outpouring of his heart’s blood had been enough. Without even thinking, he sank to his knees and reached for her hands.
“Please. Don’t go.”
His voice was barely more than a whisper. When he felt her hand under his chin, he almost flinched. But this was Maria. If he’d learned anything in his life, it was that he could trust her. Silently, he waited for what her next move would be. She tilted his face upward to make him face her.
His mouth was so dry he had cough to clear his throat.
“No, I not going to stay, and I hope you won’t either. We have someplace we have to be.”
Now her mind was moving too fast for him again.
He struggled to get to his feet, and Maria had to help him.
“Come on. We’re going to Vegas.”
“I don’t have any money. I used it all to get here.”
“That’s ok. I have enough. But I’ll have to call Matt and tell him it’s over. And you look really beat. Not to mention a bit -“
She cast about in her mind for something charitable to say about Michael’s appearance, but gave up.
“I know what you mean. Ok. Call him, and I’ll get into the shower. Fifteen minutes.”
Maria picked up the phone, and Michael vanished into the bathroom. When he was done, she was still on the phone, so he sat down her bed. Five minutes later, she still wasn’t done, and he felt his head begin to nod.
He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he became aware of was Maria’s face up close. For a moment he had no idea where he was or how he’d ended up there. This was too much like all those dreams he’d had of her for so long.
“Good morning, sleepy head. I thought you were in a hurry to get married.”
Married? Then it hadn’t been a dream.
“What happened? We were on our way to Vegas, weren’t we?”
“You were asleep, and I didn’t have the heart to wake you. But if you still feel the same way, I’ll call a cab. While you were snoring away here, I did my packing. So we can leave any time you’re ready.”
He tried to get up, but the fact that she was lying so close to him was distracting, and besides, she had put an arm over his shoulder.
“Not so fast. We’ll still make that plane. I called and made reservations. Right now, I’d like to get reacquainted with my fiance.”
Michael cringed at her choice of words. But it was just a word and this time it referred to him, not that other guy.
“Ok. No argument there.”
They made it to the airport with several minutes to spare. And running is good for you, right?
Max woke up to an uncomfortable feeling that he had failed Michael again. His brother had come to him, and if only Max had been able to say or do something right for once, Michael wouldn’t have run away from him again. Max debated with himself whether he should tell Isabel, but decided against it. Her big day was coming up, and she really didn’t need to worry over something else. Time enough to speak to her later, if Michael failed to return.
Today, Max felt he had to get away from all the wedding preparations. He didn’t have any immediate plans, but he wasn’t entirely surprised when he found himself outside the Crashdown café again. Where else would he go? It wasn’t open yet, and no lights were on inside, so he turned to leave, dejectedly. A knock from inside made him turn back again, a sudden hope flaring. Liz.
She was waving to him, and now she was unlocking the door.
“Come in. Have you had breakfast yet?”
“No. But that’s ok. I’m not really hungry anyway.”
“Don’t be silly. The waffles will be ready in a minute. Sit down. How’s the wedding preparations going?”
While she arranged the plates and cutlery on the table, she kept talking to him.
“Fine. I should be picking up the bouquet today. But I just felt I had to get away.”
“Oh. Max? There’s something I have to tell you. Last night, Michael showed up outside my window.”
“He did? What happened?”
“He asked about Maria. And I had to tell him. Then he just left.”
“I know. He showed up in my room, confronting me about causing their breakup.”
Max had spoken without thinking, but now that he had, he knew he wanted to know Liz’ opinion. Even if he wouldn’t believe her, it might be reassuring to know there was one more person out there who didn’t blame him for everything. Besides, what he had done to Liz was quite enough .
“That wasn’t your fault, Max. Whatever Michael’s going through, no one forced him to break up with Maria. On the other hand, she didn’t have to be so quick to take offense all the time. You only have to look at Michael to see how much he loves her – and that he’s in a lot of pain. I can’t believe you caused that.”
No, Max couldn’t either. But he wasn’t sure. Hadn’t there been times when he and Isabel had effectively shut him out? If only Michael had been able to trust them when they were children, then everything might have been different.
“Do you have any idea where he was going? I thought maybe -“
“Yes. He must have been trying to get to Maria. Have you heard anything from her today?”
“This morning? No. But there wouldn’t be time for that. I just got up an hour ago.”
Now Max wanted to ask Liz about who she was going to the wedding with, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to dare. What if she said Kyle? Or someone else? Even Sean. To his astonishment, Max found that he resented the thought of Sean more than Kyle.
On the other hand, he realized that Kyle was far more of a threat to the relationship than Sean was. As far as he could tell, Sean was no longer a part of Liz’ life. If he’d known what thoughts were going through Liz’ mind, he’d have felt a lot better.
She was wondering if it would be ok for a girl to ask the guy for a date. Of course it was. Maria would tell her she was being silly. But after all that had happened since she quite happily took her relationship with Max for granted, she was reluctant to open herself up for more pain. Still, if Max didn’t ask, shouldn’t she just go ahead and do it?
But the other waitress showed up, and Liz found herself busy again. A few minutes later, Liz returned to serve Max his waffles. Despite everything, they tasted better than anything had in the past year. Most of the time he didn’t pay attention to what he was eating.
When he’d finished his breakfast, he got up and left, after thanking Liz a bit more enthusiastically than strictly necessary. He noticed the other girl’s stunned expression, but decided to ignore it.
Since he was in town, he might as well drop by the UFO center. Isabel hadn’t been exactly happy about it, but Max had managed to secure an invitation for Brodie. It was sad to see how happy that made the poor man. Max had had to use all his powers of persuasion to make sure Brodie didn’t go overboard in his elaborate plans for wedding presents and other arrangements.
To his surprise, he never made it as far as the UFO center. On the street, he ran into Kyle.
“Hi. I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
At first it looked as if Kyle was going to beat a hasty retreat. But finally, he changed his mind and a slow, hesitant smile spread across his face. What Liz had failed to inform Max of was the weight loss. Had Kyle stopped eating entirely? But Max decided not to let on he’d noticed. The hair was exactly the way Liz had described it. Max wouldn’t have guessed that sort of thing would appeal to girls, but obviously he had been wrong about that.
“Hey. Well, you know how it is. I’ve been busy. Actually, I’m on my way to get a haircut. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the hair?”
“No. I did notice. And Liz told me what to expect. Why are you getting rid of it? It looks good.”
Kyle stared in confusion at his friend. Was Max making fun of him? It was hard to tell, but even if he was, Kyle realized that it felt good to be back home again and among his friends. Alex was a great guy, but these days he never went anywhere without Isabel. It came as a total surprise to Kyle how much he’d missed Max’ and Michael’s company in the past year.
“Don’t play with me, Evans. I’ll tell you why I’m getting rid of it.”
“How about we sit down somewhere and talk? The Crashdown?”
Kyle shook his head. Not with Liz present.
“Ok. The UFO center?”
“Why not? Seems fitting somehow.”
Max unlocked the door, looked around for his boss, but didn’t find him. The office was empty and he held out his hand towards the nearest chair by way of invitation. Kyle sat down, hardly aware of his surroundings.
“Right. When I got back home, guess what I found?”
Max could easily imagine that it was something totally embarrassing related to Kyle’s dad and Maria’s mom. But he was too tactful to voice his guess aloud.
“Not what you’d expect. Come on, I can see what you’re thinking. You can count your blessings, having parents who have been married for so long. Anyway, they were on the floor, meditating.”
“I thought that was your thing?”
“It was. But it was a bit much finding my own dad doing it. They were making that sound, you know. That humming.”
“Yes. You’re supposed to do that, right?”
“I know. But here, in Roswell? I had enough trouble explaining to dad that I was a vegetarian, when he and Amy tried to feed me turkey this Christmas. And now I come home to find that they’ve gone veggie too. That’s good. But the meditation and yoga and the rest of it, is just a bit too much. So I thought I’d get rid of the hair before one of my old buddies sees me.”
“Maybe that’s a good idea. In this town. So, I guess you’ve heard of the wedding?”
“Yeah. Alex invited me. I think Isabel didn’t mind too much either.”
Max hesitated. Should he take the plunge and ask Kyle if he had a date? Oh, why not? They were friends, and surely they could discuss something like this?
“So, do you have a date for the wedding?”
“No. How nice of you to ask. What about you?”
Max didn’t know what to make of Kyle’s tone, but he saw no reason not to reply truthfully.
“No. I was thinking – No.”
“Great. Then it’s a date.”
What? Was Kyle implying – He must be feeling a little better if he could make a joke like that.
“Great. Will you pick me up or shall I come by your house?”
At this point, both guys broke down in helpless laughter. Maybe it hadn’t been a very funny joke, but Max knew that afterwards he felt a lot better.
“Actually, I can’t believe it’s come to this. Me going to a wedding, with Max Evans as my date. And do you know something, Evans? It’s the best offer I’ve had for ages.”
“Oh. Me too. Really. Well, why not? I’ll meet you there.”
“Yeah, that’s probably for the best. If you showed up at my house, my dad would begin to wonder about me. More than he already does. Maria’s been trying to set me up with a few of her friends. Guys, I mean. She’s just doing it to joke around, but it was a bit like the final straw, you know?”
“Yes, I know. Sean said something like that to me a while back. But I think there was a little bit more spite behind that.”
“I can imagine. But jealousy will do that to people. He isn’t exactly fond of me either. I don’t have a problem with him though. Sean’s a better guy than people give him credit for. Not that it makes him any easier to be around.”
“No. I guess not. Look, if you’re going to get that haircut, I might as well go with you. Mom would want me to do something about my hair before the wedding.”
Kyle gave Max a disconcerting stare. What now?
“-If I were you, I wouldn’t. The ears. You look better like this. If you want my humble opinion.”
Max felt his face go red. Even Kyle had noticed his –
“Yeah. I guess I won’t then. But you don’t have to do it either. Forget about those jocks. No offense. Whatever makes you happy -“
“Appreciate it, Evans. But with a guy for a date to the wedding, I think I at least need to have a normal haircut. See you later, man.”
“Yes. And Kyle -“
“It was really nice talking to you.”
There didn’t seem to be any need for Max’ presence at work today, and Brodie had actually told him to close up until the wedding was over. Max decided to take his boss’ suggestion seriously. He followed Kyle outside, and locked up on his way out.
In the street, he almost bumped into Kyle. His friend was standing there, with a stunned look on his face. Max could understand why. On their way down the street, Maria and Michael were walking, hand in hand, as if the past year had just been a bad dream. The looks on their faces told everyone exactly what they wanted to know.
Max didn’t think he’d ever met any people who looked that happy. No. Isabel and Alex had those exact same looks on their faces. But no one else, except possibly Jim Valenti and Amy de Luca.
It seemed Liz had seen them too, because now she was running to meet her friend. When she caught up with them, she hugged first Maria, then Michael, then Maria again.
Now Max’ paralysis was broken, and he started walking quickly in the direction of his brother and Maria. And Liz. He could hear Kyle following closely behind him. Ignoring all prying faces, from behind every window on the street, Max pulled his brother into his arms and held him. Kyle did the same with his old friend, Maria. When they finally let go, they traded friends. Now Kyle was hugging Michael and Max found himself hugging Maria, even kissing her on the cheek.
Liz was virtually jumping up and down, impatiently.
“Come on, Maria, tell me everything. I want to know every detail. What happened with Matt?”
Michael was squirming uncomfortably, extremely aware of every watching eye.
“Can’t we go inside? All of Roswell doesn’t need to know our personal business, right?”
Max and Kyle began to usher their friends back inside the Crashdown, while Liz led the way.
“Marcia? Take a break. Close up and go, ok?”
The other waitress forced down her curiosity and nodded. Two minutes later, they were alone inside the cafe where everything had begun so long ago.
“Ok. Michael came to talk to me in my dorm. He – Well, I guess I don’t need to tell you guys how persuasive he can be. I decided to forget about Matt and give Michael another chance. And here we are.”
She looked at Michael with so much love in her eyes, he felt the need to lower his gaze. But why should he? There was nothing left to hide anymore and these people were his friends, his family. No need to keep any secrets from them.
“You forgot to mention the most important part, darling.”
“Michael, I don’t think they need to know about every kiss.”
To his surprise, Michael felt himself blush vividly. He couldn’t remember ever blushing before in his life.
“No that. I meant the wedding.”
“Ours. I took Michael to Vegas and married him.”
“You make it sound as if I tried to put up a fight. For the record, I didn’t. Oh. It just occurred to me. Izz might be upset with us for stealing the show for her and Alex.”
No one had thought about that until now. And now Maria was struck by another thought.
“Mom. She’ll kill me. I should have called from the airport at least.”
Everyone did their best to reassure her, that these days Amy de Luca didn’t seem to think about anything but her own boyfriend.
This might have convinced Maria, but Michael still had a look of horror on his face as he remembered certain threats Amy had made to him concerning his interaction with her daughter.
“That’s easy for you guys to say. And I know she wouldn’t kill Maria, but what about me?”
“She won’t lay a finger on you. I won’t let her.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll have my dad put in a good word for you, man.”
That might have been marginally reassuring, but Michael and Maria still did their best to put off returning to Maria’s home, until later that evening. They stayed at the Crashdown for so long, Liz was beginning to think they’d have to stay closed all day. Then the entire gang moved on to visit Alex and Isabel, and make their excuses for ruining their wedding. Not that Isabel would let anything stand in the way of her big day.
When they showed up at her house, Isabel was only marginally interested in their story. She was far too busy making arrangements. Her only comment was for Max.
“You. Weren’t you supposed to pick up the bouquet for me? I had to ask mom to do it.”
“Sorry about that. Something came up.”
“Yes, I can see that. Congratulations, guys. You won’t mind if I just get on with my stuff, right? Good.”
And off she went, totally absorbed in her own affairs. Alex, however, stayed and offered his well-wishes, hugged both bride and groom and generally did his best to make up for Isabel’s indifferent attitude.
After running out of more excuses, Michael and Maria finally agreed it was time to face Amy de Luca. Their friends offered to come along to offer moral support, but they declined. Michael knew it was silly to fear an ordinary human woman, and Maria knew that no matter how difficult this first encounter was going to be, it had to be done.
Outside the house, they stopped and looked into each other’s eyes, as if seeking reassurance.
“Don’t be silly, Michael. This is my mom. Not some monster. She’ll be happy for us – I think.”
“You’re right. Amy’s great. She’ll understand. I hope.”
Unlocking the door, Maria hoped that her mother would be over at the Valenti house. That would at least put off the confrontation a little longer. But she was disappointed. Her mom greeted her from the living room.
“Is that you, honey? It’s great that you decided to come back for the wedding. I’m a sucker for a romantic wedding. Alex is going to look so handsome and Isabel – she’ll be a dream.”
Hand in hand, the newlyweds slowly walked into the living room to face the new mother-in-law. Who didn’t as yet know who she was.
Amy looked up and found that her daughter hadn’t come alone. Her face lit up at the sight of Maria’s handsome boyfriend.
“Oh, Michael. How nice to see you again. No one could tell me where you’d gone off to. Glad to see you’re looking good. I think Isabel and Max were very worried about you.”
“I know. It was just something I had to do.”
“Then you’ll be Maria’s date for the wedding? That’s great. I mean – Honey? What about Matt?”
“Mom, it’s over. And there’s something I need to tell you.”
“Ok. Please tell me you weren’t expelled from school, because I couldn’t take that.”
“No. I’m doing great in school. Or at least ok. Anyway, it’s something else.”
Now Michael felt he’d been hiding behind his lover – no, wife – for too long.
“Amy – Maria and I got married last night. In Vegas.”
At first he didn’t think Amy had understood. She was looking at him with a dazed expression on her face. Then she got up and walked over towards them. This was it. He knew he had no reason to fear for his life, but he couldn’t stop the funny feeling at the pit of his stomach. Let this be over soon. Please.
“Are you serious? This isn’t your idea of a joke, I hope?”
“No, mom. No joke. We did it. I mean, we got married.”
“This is -“
Here it comes. Michael braced himself for the outburst. Without knowing it, he even closed his eyes. But no blows were raining on his face. No angry screeches pierced his ears. Instead, he felt himself being pulled into someone’s arms, and – No way. Amy was hugging him, kissing him on both cheeks and – Did the plane crash? Was he lying in a hospital bed right now, delirious?
“This is so wonderful. Vegas, did you say? Oh. I always had this dream about eloping to Vegas one day. And now my little girl and her gorgeous boyfriend beat me to it. Hm. Jim is such a square. I’m going to have to have a talk with him. Let me look at you. You look radiant. Both of you. But you’ve lost a bit of weight, haven’t you, Michael? Hm. It suits you.”
“Thanks, Amy. You don’t know how relieved I am.”
“About what? You didn’t think I’d make good on that threat I made ages ago? Maria was still in high school then, and so were you. This is totally different.”
“What threat? Mom? Michael?”
Amy and her new son-in-law exchanged a look, then shook their heads.
“Never mind. Just Amy’s idea of a joke.”
“Something like that. Now, let’s see. Have you had dinner?”
“No. But that’s ok. We’ll just grab something in the kitchen.”
“Please. There’s tofu casserole, and vegetarian minestrone.”
“You’re not a very convincing liar, Michael.”
“I mean it, Amy. After frying burgers for more than a year, I’d try anything different.”
“Don’t look at me, mom. You know I was always asking you about veggie food when I was younger. Since I saw that cow that had been run over on the road. I wish Max had been around then. He could have saved her.”
“Yes. If it had been today, I could have saved her -“
Too late, they realized that Amy was staring at them in a funny way. But she was too preoccupied with the novelty of meeting her daughter as a married woman for the first time.
“I’ll go make up your bed, honey. While you were gone, I didn’t bother keeping your room ready.”
“That’s ok. But I’m back now. And maybe – Well, Liz and I were talking about transfering so we could be closer to home. California is cool, but there’s no place like home.”
Michael became uncomfortably aware of the implication of that remark aobut the bed. For the second time that day, and probably the second time ever, he blushed all over.
“And I know this couch is really comfortable, so I’ll be ok out here.”
Now Amy stared at him as if he’d lost his mind.
“This is your wedding night, isn’t it? Are you saying you prefer to spend it on the couch? What’s this? Have you had your first fight as a married couple?”
“No. We’re fine.”
“Then what’s wrong? Don’t tell me the pressure’s affecting your performance?”
Michael and Maria cringed.
“Mom, please. You’re embarrassing Michael. And me too.”
“If it’s me you’re concerned about, don’t be. I’ll be over at Jim’s house. You’ll have the entire place to yourselves. But stay out of my bedroom. And if you plan on being inventive, tidy up after yourselves, ok?”
“I suppose we’d better discuss what you’re going to call me now, Michael. You could go on calling me Amy, or you could call me mom -“
“I appreciate that, Amy.”
If he decided to call Amy mom, it wouldn’t be long now, until he had to call Jim Valenti dad and Kyle – No, this was getting way too involved.
“Well, you guys can take care of yourselves. I need to get going. There’s a thing or two I need to convince Jim of. See you later. And congratulations. I know you’ll be very happy.”
Before leaving, Amy hugged her daughter and Michael. For some reason it felt great to have the tall, moody boy as a member of her family. The garbage disposal and the other household appliances had never worked as well as when he was around. It was a relief to finally be alone together.
In the end, they had to make up Maria’s bed themselves. Amy must have forgotten about that at the last minute. Michael had a pretty good idea of what she intended to convince Valenti of. Good luck to her. If they got married, maybe she’d move in with Jim. This house was way beyond anything Michael could afford, but maybe Amy would want them to house-sit for a while.
It was the day of the wedding. Kyle was having second thoughts about going. What was the point of seeing everyone else so happy and in love? He was beginning to think that kind of thing wasn’t for him. His own dad, his friends – everyone in the world seemed to be walking around, hand in hand, with that goofy look on their faces.
Everyone except Kyle Valenti. But he might as well get it over with. And not quite everyone was that lucky. Max Evans seemed to be going through the same thing too. Alone. Missing someone. Though in Max’ case, it was someone in particular. Kyle was over Liz by now, and would have settled for anyone, as long as she didn’t threaten to kill him all the time.
It was getting to be about time to go. Max would be waiting for him, and anyway, the others would count on him to be there. Kyle was happy for them. But it was a bit hard to take, all that happiness. On his way out, he ran into his dad, also all dressed up and ready to go.
“You’re looking great. Do you want me and Amy to take you, son?”
“Ok, thanks. No need for all of us to bring our cars. I guess Amy’s leaving hers behind too?”
“No. She’s picking me up, actually. But we’ll all fit into her car. So, did you get a nice date for tonight?”
Kyle thought he saw a way of dispelling his dad’s dazed bliss. The question had given him an idea.
“Yes. You could say that.”
“Amy should be here any minute. That’s great, son. Anyone I know?”
“Yes. It’s Max Evans.”
It took the statement a while to sink in, but the stunned look in his dad’s eyes, almost brought a smile to Kyle’s face. But if he didn’t want to spoil the joke, he’d have to hold back a while longer. His dad closed his eyes, and seemed to be counting to ten silently before replying. Kyle could imagine what was going through his dad’s mind. He was trying to think of something to say that wouldn’t be too intolerant. At the same time he must be dying shake some sense into his weird son.
“Are you serious?”
That came out a little more harshly than Valenti had intended it, and he tried to smile reassuringly at his son. What if –
“Yes, of course I am. Why not? Max is a great guy.”
Then, taking pity on his dad, who seemed to be about to burst a blood vessel, Kyle hurriedly explained.
“Oh, you mean a date date? In that case, no. We’re just going as friends. Honestly dad, what did you think?”
“You – Were you trying to give me a heart attack, son?”
“What do you mean? Are you saying it’s not ok for me to date Max Evans?”
Finally, it dawned on Valenti what his son was doing, and he reached out and grabbed Kyle, pulling him closer, so he could ruffle his carefully combed hair.
“Dad. Let me go.”
“What did you do with all that hair?”
“I cut it off, obviously. Did you prefer it the way it was?”
“Yes, I always wanted a daughter. Of course not. But I hope you didn’t feel you had to change your hair on my account. Whatever makes you happy, son. And that, by the way, includes dating Max Evans, if you really had been serious about that. It would just have taken a bit of getting used to.”
“Ok. I knew that. But don’t worry about it. Right now, I don’t plan on dating anyone. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
“See, that’s what I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. I’m not saying you have to go out every single weekend. But if I’m not mistaken, you haven’t been out with a girl for more than a year. Is anything wrong?”
Kyle was trying really hard to think of an answer that wouldn’t alarm his dad too much. To his intense relief, they were interrupted by the sound of Amy’s car pulling up outside. And there it was. The look on his dad’s face. No more awkward questions that day.
After the ceremony was over, everyone made their way over to the Evans’ house for the reception. Later that night, there would be a dance for the younger guests. Kyle found Max over by the wall, staring avidly after Liz, who was walking arm in arm with Maria, their heads close together. Michael spotted his two friends and joined them.
“I’m so glad to see you guys. All this wedding talk and baby talk and so on is making my head spin. Poor Alex. He’s right in the middle of it.”
He waved to the latest groom, who grinned and nodded. After a few seconds of intense persuasion, not to say grovelling, Alex seemed to obtain permission to walk over to his friends. A new bout of hugging and back thumping ensued, after which the four guys managed to secure a few chairs for themselves. Kyle smiled teasingly at Alex.
“I see you had to talk Isabel into letting you out of her sight for a moment.”
Alex blushed and squirmed uncomfortably.
“Actually, she said that was only if Max and Michael would keep an eye on me.”
Tactfully, the other guys avoided laughing at this blatant display of hen pecking.
Now Maria caught sight of her husband, and walked over to join them, with Liz in tow. Possessively, Maria grabbed Michael’s arm and held on to him. Nothing more was said about the way wives treated their husbands.
In a minute, Isabel joined them. She took Alex’ hand and he stunned the rest of the group into silence, by raising his wife’s hand to his lips, raining kisses on it, continuing up along her arm, until the sleeve of her dress put a stop to his progress.
Maria shot Michael an imperious glance, which he chose to ignore, while still in public.
To Max’ astonishment, he watched Liz’ face turn a very pretty shade of pink, which deepened as she caught sight of his look. From then on, she seemed to be looking away every time he cast a glance in her direction. But on a few occasions, he thought he saw her look away quickly as he turned to face her again.
Liz began to talk quickly to cover her confusion.
“So, Kyle – Did I tell you that Maria’s mom is making a few new vegetarian dishes for the Crashdown?”
“No, you didn’t. Sounds good.”
“Yes. If they’re a success, we’ll expand that part of the menu. In fact, we’ve been thinking about getting rid of the burgers for some time now. Healthy food is so much better for your health -“
Realizing that she was now babbling, she broke off in mid-sentence. Kyle took pity on her and picked up where she left off.
“Yes. It is. Great idea. I’ll give you a recipe I tried out back in California.”
Small talk like that tided them over until they could all move over to the place where the dance was being held. It had an alien theme as just about everything else in Roswell, but no one seemed to mind. In fact, something told Max that it appealed to Isabel’s sense of humor. The guests were wearing normal wedding clothes, though the decor bore traces of Roswell’s specialty. By now, most of the Roswellians were blind to those reminders of their town’s special past.
Max overheard the end of a minor quarrel between Michael and Maria.
“I know. You don’t need to tell me, but I don’t care. We’re dancing together and that’s it.”
“Suit yourself. They’re your feet.”
“Yes. And they won’t get hurt tonight. Neither will you, if you watch where you put your feet.”
“Fine. But I haven’t had any practice for more than a year.”
“I should hope not. If I hear that you’ve been dancing with another girl anywhere on this world or another -“
With a slight smile on his face, Max drifted away from his brother and his new wife. He could see his sister dancing with her husband. It was amazing. Where had Alex learned to dance like that? Better not to dwell on that. Isabel would have seen to that as any other aspect of her fiance’s training in the past year.
He turned around to find Kyle standing behind him, a wistful look on his face.
“Hey. I was just wondering where my date had gone off to.”
“Here I am. Is your dance card full yet?”
They looked at each other and laughed delightedly at the feeble joke. Then Kyle shook his head.
“Better not. Some other time, ok?”
“Looking forward to it. Shall we find some quiet spot and have a soda or something?”
“Sounds good to me.”
They did find a secluded table, with a mostly uninterrupted view of the dance floor. To their dismay, they found Liz dancing with Sean. Kyle was surprised to find that he felt a sting of jealousy. Apparently, he wasn’t quite as over Liz as he had thought he was. Losing her to Max was one thing, but with Sean it was different.
Trying to find something neutral to discuss, both guys looked around the room to look for inspiration. Jim Valenti and Amy dancing together was no help at all. Kyle had a sick look on his face, as he watched his dad’s hands move across Amy’s ass and –
No. Wrong direction. Isabel and Alex looked great together as always and so did Michael and Maria. But that didn’t really make them feel a whole lot better. They were startled out of their brooding by a light touch on each of their shoulders.
“I finally got rid of Sean. It would have been impolite to refuse, but I didn’t really feel like dancing with him.”
That was a bit surprising, but also highly reassuring.
“Come on. Sit down and have a soda. Or some punch.”
“Ok. If you wouldn’t prefer to dance?”
Max and Kyle stared from Liz to each other and back again. Who was she asking? It took them much longer than it should have to realize that she was asking both of them. She couldn’t be serious. This was Roswell, not San Francisco or Los Angeles. On the other hand, why not? They could do what they wanted. Life was too short to worry about what other people would think.
Kyle had time to wonder if his dad would consider a threesome an improvement on the dating guys thing. But his dad had his hands full elsewhere, and anyway, he loved the idea of dancing with Liz, whoever else was involved.
Max knew Isabel and his parents would give him a piece of their mind later. In Isabel’s case, much later. She and Alex were leaving on their honeymoon and wouldn’t be back for nearly a month. They were taking a cruise in the Caribbean and would be incommunicado for most of that time.
As they moved out onto the dance floor together, their only thought was of each other. Liz. The guys. Depending on who was doing the thinking.
Liz thought she could get used to this. Two sets of strong arms holding her, the envious and scandalized stares following them around. Her parents would have opinions about that, and who knew what her behavior would do to business at the Crashdown. But she couldn’t really worry about that now. She was far too content with life as it was.
Maybe she would wait a while before deciding who she was going to date. Or – a new and stunning thought – was it really necessary to make up her mind at all? This was definitely the best experience she’d had. No contest. Would Kyle now get the visions too? Interesting. She’d have to ask him afterwards. Assuming –
The music played on, and most of the wedding guests were lost in happy bliss. Everyday life was a distant memory. If only life could be like this forever.