I'm finally back - sorry for the extended delay with such a cliffhanger!
It might be awhile between posts now... Work is absolutely taking over my life these days! As promised before, this chapter is quite long. Hope it sates your hunger for now
Thanks for reading, especially: yayaliens
, mary mary
, & kismet
The song for this chapter is "Gimme Sympathy" by Metric. Check out the youtube link below if you'd like to give it a listen. Once more - no infringement intended.
Chapter 3 – Gimme Sympathy
Get too close to the flame
Wild open space
Talk like an open book
Sign me up”
May, Five Years Earlier
Senior Prom –the clichéd epitome of every high school girl’s existence.
Maria has been trying to get me psyched up about it all week. Questions about who I’m going with, who’s still available to go with, should we go out to eat or just host a pre-prom party at Amy’s, what color is my dress, do my shoes match or did I just go for a neutral color, how am I doing my hair…
Meanwhile, I have been hiding out in the back of the school library, a place she avoids like the plague, so I can avoid her like the plague.
What do I care about some stupid dance? Michael isn’t going, and if my best friend isn’t even going to be there, why in the world would I want to spend time around people I could not care less about?
Nope – Michael and I are going to go to the pre-party at Amy’s to placate Maria and then we’re staying as far away from the high school gym as we can. This means watching old movies and snacking on popcorn at my house until the wee hours of the morning just like any normal Saturday.
Unfortunately, life has something a little different in mind.
It is while I am hidden in a back corner, propped against my backpack, reading Wuthering Heights for the umpteenth time when he finds me. I don’t see him at first; my hair is draped over my shoulder hiding me from the world and the world from me.
“Seriously, Parker? Wuthering Heights? You do know that we already covered that one, right? In fact – if I recall correctly – Ms. Hardy gave you an A on your paper for that one…”
His voice, smooth and deep, startles me. My body jumps, knocking over my backpack and spilling the stack of notebooks I had neatly piled beside me. Picking them up, I let my eyes glance up at the intruding presence to my otherwise quiet nook. Max Evans, the bane of my existence for the past four years – always around to catch me at my most embarrassing moments. And always happy to point them out to the world – stands over me with the most infuriating smirk donning his lips and filling his eyes. He’s been torturing me since we were children and he learned I was terrified of snakes. It all started with that stupid garter snake on my pink bike when we were five.
The only reason I even tolerate his presence in a normal social setting is the fact that he’s Michael’s closest guy friend.
“What do you want?” I ask, openly glaring at him. “And for the record – I actually enjoyed
reading this one, and since it’s a free country, I can read it as many times as I want.” My voice comes out snarky. He throws me a lopsided grin, running a hand through his brown hair and plopping down next to me.
“I need a favor.”
The snort I let out is hardly becoming. A favor? What a joke!
“You’ve got to be kidding. You need a favor? From me?” I look at him again, trying to gauge exactly how serious he’s being right now.
His amber eyes meet mine dead on.
He’s absolutely serious.
“What do you want, Max?” This has got to be good. And I’m going to milk this for all it’s worth.
His eyes leave my face for a moment, his gaze directed at the worn Converses on his feet.
He’s nervous! Oh, this is just priceless!
“You want to make this a little harder, Parker?” He snips sarcastically. Oops, did I say that last piece out loud?
I watch quietly as he takes a deep breath and then brings his eyes back up to meet mine.
“WouldyoumaybewanttogotoPromwithme?” He whooshes out in one breath. I stare at him, absolutely befuddled.
Did he just ask me what I think he asked me? No effing way.
“Wha…what? I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?” He guffaws at me, rolls his eyes, huffs and puffs. And then repeats it slower this time.
“Liz Parker, would you go to Prom with me?”
He did! He did ask me what I thought he asked me!
Oh. My. God.
I can’t hold it back. I try. Oh boy, do I try. But once the first giggle spilled out, I couldn’t hold the rest back. I quickly gather up my things, stuffing them into my bag, trying to keep the fact that I’m laughing from Max as best as I can.
But then the tears start rolling down my cheeks, and a snort sneaks out.
“Oh… my…God…. Max…. I…. Did you just…. I can’t believe…. Michael isn’t going to believe…..”
Throwing my bag over my shoulder, I start backing away. I can’t see him too clearly with all the tears from my laughter clouding my vision. I wipe my eyes quickly, still half doubled over in laughter.
Then I see his eyes.
“Got no time to take a picture
I'll remember someday
All the chances we took”
The amber mirth that is usually dancing in them is gone. Instead he looks purely dejected. He’s hunched over, not even looking at me anymore - he’s staring off at the bookshelves at the side. My conscience decides at that moment to come bite me in the ass. I feel… bad for him? Here he is legitimately asking me to be his date – apparently there isn’t anyone else on the planet he can ask – and I, the last resort, instead laugh my ass off at him.
I let out a sigh, and walk back over to him.
“Yeah Max. I’ll go.”
* * *
I don’t know why I’m so nervous. It’s Max Evans for god’s sake. MAX!
But here I am at Amy’s, dressed in this slinky, low cut, form fitting, floor hitting red prom dress that Maria had apparently already picked out for me “just in case”. I’m standing by the bar nursing a coke while she and Michael smile at the camera.
He was surprisingly cool with me going to prom with Max. I, of course, explained to him that it was only out of the kindness of my heart and that I would much rather spend the night hanging out, watching movies with him. He just smiled, shrugged, and said he would find a date so he could go too.
His date? Maria.
And she is absolutely beaming.
I think she’d been secretly holding out for him to ask her. I know she turned down a couple guys who asked during the past month. They’d all saunter up to her in class, give her this spiel about how it would be their honor to escort her to prom, and she’d just smile politely and shake her head “no”. Then, they’d stalk off and start bad mouthing her to all their friends. She’d grin, turn to me and call them such “children”.
But she’d said yes to Michael.
No one had asked me. No one but Max anyway.
I think because they knew I’d say “no”.
But I’d said yes to Max.
Out of charity!
I absently mindedly twirl one of the loose tendrils of curled, chocolate brown hair framing my face. My hair is otherwise styled in an elegant coiffure piled on top of my head. As Maria and I had walked out of her bedroom, I had caught a glimpse of myself in her full length mirror and had to pause. I looked different.
There wasn’t a book in front of my face. And my hair wasn’t twisted into a bun with a pencil.
I looked… like a prom princess.
Oh God. That is so cliché!
“You look beautiful Liz.” I look up from my coke at Michael. He’s escaped Maria and Amy’s clutches, as mother and daughter are arguing over Maria’s curfew. The rest of the pre-prom party crowd is starting to file in, filling up the tables set up on the outside patio. I blush, not used to being called beautiful.
“Thanks Michael. You look good too.” And he really does. He’s rented a tux from a shop in New Bern, he looks… different too – just like me. For one night, it’s like we’re all grown up.
He blushes too, catching my eyes and then glancing away, back towards Maria.
She’s sauntering towards us, her eyes bright with excitement.
“I finally just told her I’m going to stay with you, Liz. Is that okay? She’s just all over my case about where I’m going after the dance, and with who… and well… you know how she can be….” Maria starts word vomiting everywhere. It’s the first time I’ve seen her look unsure. I give her a reassuring smile.
“Yeah, sure. My parents won’t mind. And they just told me to do whatever. I think they were just thrilled that I was actually going to this.” Michael and I share a chuckle at the last part.
When we’d told my mom that I’d decided to go to prom and that a boy had asked me, she’d almost fainted. Even after I’d assured her we were all going as a group, she’d still had this weird sparkle in her eyes – like she thought it was my first date or something.
As if. Max Evans – my first date?
Please. I’m saving that up for someone worthwhile.
Mom essentially gave me free reign to stay out as late as I wanted. Her only request?
“Oh look! There’s Max!” Maria’s chipper voice breaks me out of my reverie, and has my eyes immediately glued to the front entrance of Amy’s, where my prom escort (not date) has entered looking very good looking indeed (oh God, did that thought just enter my mind?).
“I can feel it in my bones
After all this is gone
Who would you rather be
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
You're going to make mistakes you're young
Come on baby, play me something
Like "Here Comes the Sun"”
He’s wearing a tux from the same shop as Michael – they’d gone together. His vest is a brilliant red that matches my dress. I shoot a horrified look at Maria. Did she do this? This is not a date, but the more I analyze Max’s entrance and dapper form – the more I’m starting to think differently. Not only are we matching, but he’s carrying a corsage for my wrist full of white roses, which coincidently are my favorite. I shoot an equally horrified look at Michael. He’s looking conspicuously away at the couples outside.
“Did you guys….” I start, but Michael cuts me off – his voice sounding oddly forlorn.
“Maria… let’s go outside for a bit. Liz, we’ll see you and Max in a few.”
They walk off, Michael never meeting my eyes and Maria looking absolutely delighted to be at Michael’s side, leaving me alone to face my date – er escort.
Max spots me immediately, a dazzling smile adoring his lips.
“Wow… Liz… You look…incredible…” He whispers the last bit, his eyes darting to my face. I feel my face flush.
“I got this for you.” Max holds up the corsage sheepishly. It’s beautiful. There is a single red rose among a bouquet of white ones. “You, um, don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to…” He trails off and I realize that I’ve been staring at it and him.
I flash a shy smile – doing my best to hide my nerves. Why in the hell am I so nervous around him?
“It’s lovely Max. Thank you.” He flashes me a grin back, clearly pleased by my acceptance. He wraps his strong fingers around my wrist and gently lifts my hand up, slipping the corsage onto my arm. Then, he shocks me, bringing my hand to his lips and kissing it.
“Thanks for being my date tonight Liz.” He says softly, smiling and looking up from my hand through his eyelashes. And damn it if my heart doesn’t flutter twice in my chest.
Butterflies? You have got to be kidding me!
I should have known then that this night was going to be the death of me.
* * *
Oh. My. God.
Max Evans is kissing me.
And I don’t mean some corny little chaste peck on the lips. No. I mean a full blown, his-tongue-is-totally-dueling-with-mine kiss. And worst of all – I actually like it.
Oh. My. God.
We’re sitting here in our prom wear on the dock behind his parent’s rental house. The house – a three story historical masterpiece with peeling paint, no air conditioner, and 200 years worth of gossip – is empty. The peak rental season starts in just a couple of weeks, until then, the house tends to sit empty except for a lone visiting family here and there.
The house is actually one of my favorite pieces of Pamlico. It’s why I suggested we ditch prom (it was absolutely lame) and come here. Unbeknownst to Max and his family or even Michael, I often sneak over here after twilight or just before dawn to watch the water. The house sits right on the river, the dock reaching just out into its depts. Sometimes, if I time it right, I can catch the porpoises swimming by for their morning meals.
I digress – Max and I ditched prom to come here because prom was an utter disaster of the lamest proportions. Michael and Maria had disappeared right when we arrived. The music was horrible. The food tasted disgusting. And everyone was staring at me.
Meanwhile, Max was weirdly the only part that didn’t suck. We danced. We laughed. He kept looking at me in this way that was completely different from any way he had ever looked at me before. It was like he really saw me.
Pam Troy – my arch-nemesis, and ever so coincidently Max’s ex-girlfriend – caught sight of us at one point and trailed me into the restroom, cornering me at the sinks.
“Who the hell do you think you are, Liz Parker?” She’d seethed at me, her red lips curled in a sneer. I didn’t even grace her with a response.
I think that just made her angrier. She continued her rant against me, the words absorbing into my silent façade.
“Mousy little Liz Parker – You do realize that you are just a pity date, right? Max Evans? Seriously? He only asked you to prom because I refused to go with him and thus none of my friends – everyone in the school but you that is – would touch him with a ten-foot pole. He’s clearly desperate; I’m surprised he even showed up. Having to choose between bringing you, coming dateless, or just not coming at all – if I were him I’d have gone with one of the last two options.” She started laughing. It was high-pitched, self-assured, and downright catty.
I took it in stride. It wasn’t my fault she and Max had broken up. It wasn’t my fault he asked me to prom. I was just here, doing him some random favor. I owed her nothing. I owed him nothing. There was no need for me to get involved.
But those words, those hurtful, painful words – they pierced through my skin, like the slightest paper cut. The damage didn’t show on the outside, but on the inside – I hurt like hell.
Still, I said nothing as I coolly brushed passed her and out of the restroom back towards Max, who was leaning against the bleachers in the gym. A few stray locks of his hair were lying loose against his brow. I fought the urge to brush them back and instead reached for his hand.
“Let’s get out of here.”
We slipped out the back doors and into the fresh May breeze, the air smelling faintly like the Neuse River. I knew where I wanted to be in that moment – and I for once, I didn’t want to be alone.
Stay with the all unknown
Stay away from the hooks
All the chances we took”
The water was calming beneath our dangling feet. My pedicured toes fluttered in the wind, making shadows against the waves with my red dress spilling out around me. We sat in silence for awhile. I needed a moment to let the emotions Pam had invoked roll off me like the waves below us. Max, completely oblivious to his ex-girlfriend’s intrusion on my evening, seemed to understand my need for a quiet reverie. Instead, I felt his fingers lace through my own. Every now and then his thumb would draw a gentle pattern against the side of my palm.
I suppose that’s how we ended up like this – with his lips trailing dangerously down my neck, setting fire to my skin. My free hand was clutching to his vest, my lips parted in ecstasy.
How is Max Evans of all people doing this to me?
Every malicious word Pam uttered flies out my mind. Instead, all I can think about are Max’s lips and how fabulous they feel against my skin. The only light around us is coming from the stars twinkling above. It is absolutely the most romantically cliché moment ever. And I’ll be damned if I ever want it to end.
One of his hands is cupping my face, his fingers now reaching around and tangling themselves into my hair. He falls backwards and pulls me with him, his lips still connecting with mine, his tongue still dueling gently with mine. I am lost in the sensations. I pull away and trail light kisses down his neck and then back up towards his earlobe, slightly nipping. He lets out a quiet growl of approval and begins taking control once more, pulling my lips back to his.
I don’t know how long we are like this – making out beneath the stars. We never notice the clouds rolling in until the first drops of rain, followed closely by a shattering bolt of lightning and roar of thunder. Max seems to gain his senses immediately and shoots up, pulling me with him. He scoops up my shoes and his jacket, throwing the latter over my shoulders to shelter me from the worst of the rain and we race towards to the house, Max’s fingers still laced through mine.
I can’t describe what I was thinking. All I know was that it felt nice. I felt wanted. I felt protected. And as much as I chose to fight it before – I felt something
The house shook around us as the lightning crashed and the thunder boomed. Rain pelted the roof above our heads – but we noticed nothing. We were focused only on one another.
It wasn’t until I awoke to the sunlight streaming in through the windows illuminating our naked bodies that I realized what I had done. Mortified, horrified, and confused, I quietly slipped out of the house before Max could wake up and have any regrets.
No. I wouldn’t let him look at me with regret in his eyes.
First date... First Kiss… Losing my virginity…
Guess I screwed those up.
As I stumbled away in dawn’s sunrise, I could hear the porpoises splashing. Suddenly, their magic had vanished.
“We're so close to something better left unknown
We're so close to something better left unknown”
* * *