I thought I’d set the record straight on this. The dark haired pedestrian who stepped in front of Brad’s car was NOT Max. Max drives a silver Honda, which is in fact a sedan (a 2 to 4 door car with a front and rear seat).…Only to have the dark haired pedestrian that crossed in front of Brad’s car turn out not to be Max. Or was it? My uncertainty about this - because of Liz saying it wasn't - caused the coaster to take a downward dip but it quickly flattened out when the silver sedan pulling out from a parking space had me thinking maybe THAT was Max. But nope we found out later that Max had a silver Honda. So hmmmmmm. Had the pedestrian in fact been Max after all?
One more thing… I’m heading into a really busy time at work, and consequently, I probably won’t be able to update next week. I should be back in 2 weeks. Until then, here’s the next part…
An Imperfect Life
You could be happy, and I won’t know
But you weren’t happy the day I watched you go
And all the things that I wish I had not said
Are played in loops ‘til it’s madness in my head
Is it too late to remind you how we were
Not our last days of silent screaming blur
Most of what I remember makes me sure
I should’ve stopped you from walking out the door
You could be happy, I hope you are
You made me happier than I’d been by far
Somehow everything I own smells of you
And for the tiniest moment it’s all not true
Do the things you always wanted to
Without me there to hold you back, don’t think, just do
More than anything I want to see you, girl
Take a glorious bite out of the whole world
You Could Be Happy
Max stood behind the glass partition watching Liz as she monitored the procedure Evan was undergoing. Dressed in green scrubs, she looked just like any other doctor, perfectly at home in an operating room, as if she were born to it. He’d missed her all these years, but he was glad he hadn’t kept her from her dreams. It was the one thing he’d clung to all this time, the hope that staying out of her life would give her the chance to become what she was meant to be, without him there to bring her down.
He’d like nothing better than to go somewhere private with her, just the two of them, where they could talk, and talk, and maybe, if the universe chose to favor him, he might be able to touch her again. Hold her again. Those few moments when she’d been in his arms earlier had been a brief touch of heaven. But the timing was wrong. Right now, Evan had to come first. Would she understand?
As Max watched her, Liz patted Evan’s hand and turned away from the examination table, walking in his direction. He couldn’t help the quickening of his pulse, or the rumbling in his stomach he experienced, every time she looked at him.
“Evan’s doing fine,” Liz said, joining Max behind the partition. “The ‘hypnosis’ worked like a charm. Evan is relaxed and taking the procedure like a real trooper.”
“Good,” Max smiled, trusting her to tell him the truth. Evan couldn’t be drugged in the normal sense. His alien metabolism might not be apparent in his cells, but he was still his father’s son, and they’d proven years ago that hybrid aliens couldn’t tolerate ingesting alcohol. He’d found out later even the simplest of drugs could be just as bad.
“That was kind of ingenious,” Liz smiled up at Max, covering her nervousness. For years she had fantasized about finding him again, and now that it had actually happened, it all seemed so surreal. A multitude of questions swirled through her head, but now wasn’t the time to ask them.
“Ingenious?” Max said, staring down at her. Her scent filled the air, intoxicating him.
“Putting Evan into a light ‘sleep’ to mimic sedation,” she said. “I suppose you’ve had to learn to adjust over the years.” She paused slightly, not sure if she should even ask, but in the end she couldn’t hold it back. “Have you had to do this very often?”
“He’s always been . . . sick,” he admitted, “but usually I just heal him at night, it’s kind of a ritual we have, and then he’s okay for the next 24 hours or so. But lately . . .”
The way Max let the words hang in the air, it didn’t take Liz long to catch his meaning. Evan was getting progressively worse.
“Has it been hard?” Liz asked, keeping her voice low. Their conversation needed to remain private.
“Sometimes,” Max admitted. “I’ve almost lost him a few times, and Evan . . . Evan’s all . . . he’s all …”
Liz felt a tug on her heart, hearing the loneliness, the isolation in his voice; even though she could tell he was trying to hide it.
“What about your sister? And Michael?” she asked.
“I haven’t seen Isabel in 12 years,” Max told her. “When we left Roswell, well, Isabel and Jesse ended up going east. He had family that helped them get settled there. New names. A new life. Michael and I, we headed north, toward Canada. Evan and I got as far as Seattle.”
“Where’s Michael now?” Liz asked. “What happened to him?”
“He lives outside of Calgary,” Max said, looking down at his hands. “He wanted to go. I didn’t want to stop him.”
Liz knew that Max and Michael hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but they were brothers in every sense of the word. They loved each other. She knew they always would. “Do you ever see him?”
“No,” Max said wistfully. “The last time I saw him was over 10 years ago. He doesn’t want to cross the border. And with Evan . . . neither do I. With the heightened security and all, I’m not willing to take the risk.”
“How did you end up here?” she asked.
“That’s a long story,” Max shrugged, but he didn’t really want to talk about himself. He wanted to know about her, how her life had turned out, how she’d come to be here. “Tell me about you. Did you go to Harvard? Where did you study medicine? What brought you here?”
How did she know Brad Acker, and was it a story he wanted to hear?
“I did – go to Harvard,” Liz told him. “Not at first. I went to UNM for a year. I didn’t want to leave …”
“I thought you always wanted to get out of Roswell,” Max said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, well,” Liz hedged. “That was before you left. I kept . . . waiting. Hoping that . . .”
“Liz,” his voice broke, hearing the pain embedded in her words.
“I was afraid you wouldn’t know how to reach me if I left. So I didn’t. I stayed, but . . . you never . . . I didn’t hear from you. Eventually, I went east. I couldn’t stay there any longer.”
Max felt her words crushing him. “I – I thought I was doing the right thing. At first, taking care of Evan was just – exhausting. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby, and, he needed so much. One day just blended into another, with so many decisions to make, and by the time I came up for air, I’d convinced myself you were better off without me and the mess I’d made of everything. I didn’t want you to keep paying for my mistakes, so I vowed to stay out of your life.”
“I never thought that, Max,” Liz said, hearing the self-blame in his voice. “We were both under a lot of pressure. We both made mistakes.”
“No, I made mistakes,” Max said, turning away from her. “You’re the one who tried to clean up the messes afterward.”
Liz saw the way his back stood ramrod straight, how his arms hung stiffly at his sides, how his head dipped forward, weighed down by shame or guilt or sorrow. She felt the wall he was erecting, to keep from being hurt, to keep from hurting her. She walked up behind him, determined to prevent him from closing off. She might not have seen him for more than 12 years, but she still knew him well.
“Max,” she said his name softly, wishing the years between them would magically disappear. She hovered right behind him, her hand reached for his, stopping in mid air just before she touched him, hesitating for just a moment, before plunging ahead. The warmth of her fingers wrapping around his hand made his body sigh, a reaction impossible for him to hide. But still, the past stood between them.
He turned around, both of them falling into the natural closeness they’d always felt when they were together. Her face leaned into his chest, his lips pressed against the top of her head, their arms wrapped them together.
“I’m glad you went to Harvard,” Max whispered into her hair. “I would have only held you back.”
Brad came around the partition, feeling a twinge at the sight of Liz wrapped in another man’s arms. He cleared his throat to get their attention.
“Brad,” Liz startled, stepping away from Max.
“We’ve completed the test,” Brad informed them. “Evan will be ready to go back to his room in a few minutes.”
“Is he . . .?” Max asked. His hand automatically reached for Liz’s, neither of them even consciously aware of it. Their fingers touched, drawing strength from each other.
“He’s fine,” Brad smiled. “He’s awake and alert, and asking for his Game Wizard already.”
“That’s my boy,” Max smiled, relaxing a little. “He’s a level ten wizard.”
“Ten, huh?” Brad looked suitably impressed. “I just got my level six designation.”
“I’m a two,” Max admitted, mocking himself. He shrugged, adding, “I’m not much of a fighter.”
“Well your son is,” Brad praised the spirit of the boy in the other room. “He came through the test with flying colors. It’ll take a couple of days to prepare a full report, but the initial results look excellent. No evident scarring of the heart muscle. Everything looks normal for a boy of Evan’s age. Yesterday’s event was likely stress related, caused when the asthma attack failed to respond to treatment. Control the asthma, and you likely won’t see a repeat of the arrhythmia.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Max said, holding out his hand. He knew Brad’s assessment was simplistic, he didn’t know all the facts, but one thing left Max feeling reassured. This test gave him indisputable proof that his healing powers were able to restore Evan’s health, completely, even though only temporarily. Now if they could find a way to somehow prevent the condition that caused Evan’s problems, his son might someday live a normal, healthy life.
Brad slipped his hand into Max’s and the two men shook. When their palms touched, Max’s eyes opened wider, unable to cover his initial reaction. He shot a look at Liz, and then back to Brad, before burying the image he had seen.
“Is – can I see my son now?” Max asked, stumbling to regain his composure.
“Of course,” Brad released his hand. “He’s waiting for you.”
Max hastened around the partition, leaving Brad and Liz alone. Brad watched him go, saying, “So he’s the one? The Max?”
Liz looked at Brad curiously, with one eyebrow raised. “THE Max?”
“You used to whisper a name in your sleep sometimes. His name.”
“You never told me that,” Liz said softly. The look on his face made her wonder if she’d said Max’s name at other times. More intimate times.
“Well,” Brad shrugged. “It’s not exactly something a guy likes to admit. That his girl is dreaming about someone else.”
“God, Brad, I’m sorry,” Liz said, at a loss for words.
“I always knew there was someone between us,” Brad admitted. “Now I have the face that goes with the name.”
On the other side of the partition, Max fussed over his son, with his thoughts churning over things better left unspoken.
“You ready?” Max asked, encouraging his son to sit up.
“Dad?” Evan sat half way up on the exam table and leaned back on his elbows. “What’s wrong?”
Max held out his hand to help Evan off the table and into the wheelchair that would return him to his room. “Nothing’s wrong. Your test, it turned out fine. Everything’s fine. Just fine …”
Evan stared at his father knowing everything wasn’t “just fine”. He knew when his dad was trying to deny the obvious, and this was one of those times. Putting his small hand inside his father’s only confirmed it. Mercifully, the images remained hidden, but the emotion that accompanied the flash came through loud and clear. If only his father could see what he did.
“Dad,” Evan said, but Max busied himself by helping him from the table and into the wheelchair, wrapping a blanket over his legs, adjusting the foot rests, making his son comfortable.
Anything to keep busy so he wouldn’t think about the flash he got from Brad.
“Dad,” Evan said again. When his father continued to ignore him, Evan grabbed his hand. “She loves you, Dad. I can feel it.”
Max froze, at eye level with his son. “Evan, you know – I told you – It’s not right –”
“I know. I’m not supposed to probe other people’s feeling, but this is different. When she touches me, I just know things. I don’t do it on purpose.”
“Know things?” Max shot a look toward Liz, standing on the other side of the glass partition talking to Brad. “Like what?”
“Like she cried for days after you left,” Evan said, following his father’s gaze. “Like she thought about you all the time, wondering where you were, where you went. Like she was afraid she’d never see you again. Things like that.”
“Things are different now.” Max looked away, disengaging the brakes on the wheels. His hands paused on the cold metal, reliving the flash. “There are other people she cares about. Other people she loves.”
“Not like she loves you.”
Max slowly lifted his eyes to meet his son’s. Evan’s face showed the innocence of youth, pure and honest, untainted by the years. His view of life was simple and uncomplicated, something his own life had never been.
“Evan, there are things you just don’t know.”
“I know what I feel,” Evan said. “It’s so strong I can’t block it out. She loves you.”
Max looked toward Liz once more. Her conversation with Brad looked intimate, the touch of her hand on his arm something more than just friendship, until she turned her dark eyes in his direction, making his breath catch in his throat.
“See?” Evan smiled, sensing his father’s emotions. “I told ya.”
Max rose to his feet and stepped behind the wheelchair. “Let’s get you back to your room.”
The look Liz had given him had brought back a rush of memories; of a first kiss on her balcony, of strawberries and steam, of starlight reflecting in her eyes. Emotions came with it; the nervous rumble he felt in his stomach every time he looked at her, the way his breath caught every time he was near her, how his world was always brighter with her in it.
The memory of how much she once loved him, of how much he still loved her, never left him, but a new emotion filled him now, something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
Hope for himself. Hope for his son. Hope for a future that didn’t have to be bleak and lonely.
Only time would tell if he was justified in believing in hope again.