Broken Wings (AU,M/L,ADULT) (Complete)

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max and liz believer
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Post by max and liz believer » Sun Jan 14, 2007 7:43 am

Since this is a repost, I keep forgetting to update... I'm sorry. Hence, there'll be two chapters this time.

begonia9508
alizaleven
dreamerbabylioness
flyawayraven


Thank you!!



Chapter 11 (by Jo)


She could hear his footsteps now as they slowly ascended the wooden stairs. She pulled the comforter higher, until it reached her chin, closed her eyes, and started counting.

One...

Two...

Three...

Twenty-one steps. It would take him twenty-one steps to get from the first floor to the second.

Fifteen...

She pulled her teddy bear closer to her body. It still held that comforting smell. The fragrance of her mother’s perfume helped her feel closer to her memory.

Eighteen...

It would take him three steps to reach her door once he had reached the end of the stairs. She knew he was going to come into her room. She could hear it in his steps. Her fragile body tensed with fear. The second his foot had stepped down on the first stair, she had started to sift through her mind, trying to figure out what she had done wrong. Had she forgotten to wash the dishes? Had she forgotten to take out the garbage? Had she accidentally left one of her schoolbooks on the dining room table?

Twenty-one...

She took a deep breath and forced back the tears pricking the back of her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. It only made him angry when she cried. It was pathetic to cry. It was a sign of weakness and the Parkers weren’t weak.

Twenty-three...

Twenty-four...

Twenty-five.

He stopped outside her door and, with her eyes closed, she heard the doorknob turn, creaking quietly with the movement. As if on cue, she opened her eyes the second the door flung open. She straightened her shoulders and pulled down the comforter. She put on a face of relaxation. Putting on a mask that she had nothing to hide. Every little wrong move, every little hint of the wrong emotion crossing her face could provoke him and set him off.

“Elizabeth,“ he said. His voice was low, but powerful, like a growling dog.

She swallowed, struggling with the tears of fear. “Yes, daddy?“

“Who was that boy?“ he demanded. His voice was authoritative and cold.

“What boy, daddy?“ she asked.

“Don’t get smart on me, Elizabeth,“ he warned, speaking her name with a dangerous hiss.

“I’m sorry, daddy.“ Her mind was searching after the right answer. But there could only be one boy he was talking about. “It was Max, daddy. He’s my friend.“

“I don’t want you to spend any time with him,“ her father said.

Her lower lip trembled and she bit it to prevent her father from seeing her momentarily lapse of weakness. “But he’s my friend, daddy. I’ve known him since we started school.“

“He’s a boy,“ her father bit out as if it explained everything. “Don’t you know what boys do?“ His face was hard and indifferent. “Boys use girls for their own pleasure. They only have one thing on their minds and to get it they will lie. They will say anything to you to get what they want from you.“ He snorted, which made her pull further back against the headboard to which she was already glued. “I’m guessing that he’s been telling you that you are pretty and that he likes to be your friend.“

She dropped her eyes, one traitorous tear escaping her eyes and slowly rolling down her cheek.

“Hasn’t he?“ The angry tone of his voice made her force herself to look at him.

Quietly, she sniffed and nodded, already preparing to hear the truth from her father.

“Let me teach you something, Elizabeth. Boys don’t befriend girls just out of the goodness of their hearts. They are always expecting to get something in return. And since you aren’t all that pretty and not very smart, we can both figure out that they would only want you for your body.“

Her fourteen-year-old mind was dying. His words were slicing into her, breaking down her already weak self-esteem. She realized that he was right. For a second she had believed Max when he had ever so softly told her that she had looked pretty when they’d had picnic with Maria and Mrs. Deluca earlier that day. For a second she had actually believed that in Max’s eyes she was worth something. But she had been wrong. Her father was right. Why would someone want to spend time with her? She was just mousy, boring Elizabeth Parker.

“Have I made myself clear? You are not to see that boy - alone - again. You might tempt him into doing things to you. Teenage boys are not known for their self-control. Know this, Elizabeth,“ he stepped closer, looking her straight in the eyes and lowered his tone. His voice was that of seriousness, of a man that meant what he said. And his words crushed her world. All over again. “If he ever lays a hand on you, I will hunt him down and make him regret that he ever got to know you. After that I will come after you and teach you the consequences of not being able to control yourself. So, it’s better for you if you do control yourself, Elizabeth.“

His facial features started to blur together, the surroundings slowly fading and changing, and she found herself standing in her garden. She saw Max disappear between the bushes, after throwing a toothy grin in her direction. She smiled and waved at him, before reality clamped down on her. She slowly turned towards the house, its grandeur towering up in front of her. She took a deep breath and started to walk towards the front door.

Her heart started to beat faster in her chest when she noticed that the porch lamp was turned off. And so were the lamps inside the hallway. It made her hands tremble as she reached for the doorknob and turned, finding it locked. A fear slashed through her. Had he gone away? Had he left her too? The fear instantly mixed with relief. Relief because he might be gone. However, the feeling of relief was immediately replaced by one of panic and she started to fumble in her pocket for her house key. She could hear the faint sound of a car turning up on the main road a couple of blocks away. She could hear the low humming of the lanterns lining the street. The door creaked as she pushed it open. Quickly, she closed it behind her and reached for the switch. Her heart leaped in her throat as his face appeared just inches from hers and she cried out.

And the lights were turned off.

“Daddy...“ she whispered. Her body slammed into the front door and his hands tightened around her neck. Tears formed in her eyes as she gasped for air.

“You are quite the whore, aren’t you?“ She could feel his hot breath against her face.

“Plea...se...“ she croaked.

“I told you to stay away from him,“ he whispered.

The insides of her lungs were burning from the lack of oxygen. Panic started to fuel her body as black dots started to dance a death dance in front of her eyes. This was it. This was the end. He would finally kill her. This was how it was going to end. And then he released her. She started to slide down the door, but she only got halfway when he hit her. His fist quickly making contact with her nose. The loud slam of her head slamming into the door at the force echoed in the empty hallway. The cracking sound of her nose breaking pierced the darkness.

“This is what happens when you don’t obey orders!“

She slid to the floor with an agonized whimper and her arms automatically moved up to protect her face from any further blows. She knew that he wouldn’t stop. Not yet. She had done something wrong and she was going to be punished. He yanked her up by the arm so forcefully she let out a cry of pain. He pulled her arm behind her back. Her left shoulder cracked.

“This is for your own good, Lizzie. He is going to take advantage of you and since you are not smart enough to realize that on your own, I am forced to make you understand. And make you understand I shall.“

“I’m sorry daddy, please don’t daddy…“ she pleaded.

Her sign of weakness, not behaving like a good soldier, was rewarded with another fist connecting with her face. Warm blood spilled out from her tarnished eyebrow and spilled into her eyes, clogging her vision. With her good eye, she saw the rage and jealousy in his eyes and she knew by the fierceness and intensity of it that she would be staying at home from school the next day. Maybe two days. Maybe three. He raised his hand again and she closed her eyes, waiting for it all to be over.


She was awoken by the piercing sound of her own scream. A pair of warm, comforting and safe arms were wrapped around her, rocking her gently. Consolingly. His warm breath was against her cheek, his lips against her hair as he was mumbling soothing words in her ears.

“Shh, Liz. It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s over. I’m here...“

And she cried. The heart-breaking, desperate cry of someone who just discovered that it was all a bad dream. But it wasn’t just a dream. It was her life. Had been her life. It was as real to her as the arms wrapped around her body.

“I’m not going to let him hurt you again. I’m not gonna go away.“

And her thoughts rushed to her mother; the mother who had been terrified to see her, the mother who had left her with an abusive father, the mother who didn’t want to acknowledge her existence, the mother who didn’t love her. She felt utterly lonely. She never knew that she could feel so lonely, even with a pair of warm gentle arms holding her tightly and securely.


<center>-------------------------------------------------------------</center>


The light sifted in through the window, announcing the start of a new day. Max was standing in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, as the reflection of Liz’s stirring form in the mirror caught his attention. She was waking up. He quickly finished brushing and put the toothbrush away before walking out of the bathroom.

She was resting on her side and Max quietly knelt by the bed. Her eyes were a bit swollen from the crying and a troubled expression was plaguing her beautiful features. She slowly opened her eyes and looked into his. She blinked a couple of times before sighing and turning on her other side, turning her back towards him.

“Hey,“ he prodded softly, his hand automatically moving up to her T-shirt clad shoulder. He bit back the pang of hurt as she jumped at his touch and then slightly shifted, moving away from his hand. “How are you feeling?“

She didn’t answer. Max wasn’t sure what she had relived during the night, but her fear had been so tangible that he had wanted to give his life to take it all away. Whatever she had dreamt, it had been horrific.

“You wanna talk?“ he asked.

She took a hold of the comforter and pulled it even higher up her body, her tense shoulders providing him with the answer. He sighed as he leaned back on his heels. The last thing he wanted to do was to add to her distress, but they had almost kissed the other day and they really needed to talk about it.

“Liz, about the kiss-“

“Max, please. I’m tired. I want to go back to sleep.“

His heart slowed down to an agonizing speed at the unrecognizable sound of her voice. Flat. Dead. The guilt once again swept through him at what he had put her through. She had been through hell and the only thing she had wanted was to have him take her to her mother. He hadn’t been able to refuse her desperate plea. Never before had she asked him for anything. Never before had she needed him to do anything for her. He had never felt needed by her before. She had always been so independent, so strong. That had been the best disguise for her true emotional state of mind and it had worked perfectly. Any suspicions that she was being abused were quickly abandoned when faced with her strong and happy appearance.

During the endless hours spent on the road since they had run away, hundreds of events had rushed through his mind. To hear that her father had been abusing her, his Liz, had been like a harsh wake up call. And everything just started to make sense. Why she had spent so many days home from school. Why she gave of the appearance of being the biggest klutz on the face of the Earth. Falling down stairs. Bumping her head, eye, elbow, knee, thigh into the doorway, table, bed, desk, or washing machine.

Why she stopped going to the beach with them. Why she never stayed out late. Why her father called her cell phone every second hour, checking up on her. There had been so many signs and he had missed each and every one of them. A part of him was afraid that he had never wanted to see. Afraid of what would happen if he figured out that the person he cared most about in the world, the one person for whom he would risk his own happiness to make happy, for whom he would risk his own life, was being abused. His mind couldn’t comprehend how someone could do that to her. How someone who claimed that they loved her could do that to her and get away with it.

But the fact still remained that he should have resisted her request. He shouldn’t have taken her to her mother. He could have pretended to go somewhere and accidentally find out that she wasn’t living at the address that Liz had. Because then he would have saved Liz from that expression on her mother’s face; that slap of rejection she threw at Liz. She probably didn’t even realize that she was killing her daughter with her actions. He could see now that finding her mother had been one of the solid goals in Liz’s life. She could always escape to her mother.

“Liz, we need to talk,“ he tried again.

He could literally see her pulling inside of herself. Her legs were pulled further up to her chin and the comforter went higher, now covering half her head.

“I just want to sleep,“ her muffled voice whispered.

“I know you do, Liz,“ Max said. If he only knew what to say! He would give anything to know the right words to take her pain away. He took a deep breath before continuing. “But I can’t stand to see you like this, Liz. You are dying. You can’t go on like this.“

He received no reply.

He raked his hand through his hair and repositioned himself into a sitting position, leaning his back against the wall.

“Okay, if you’re not gonna talk, then just listen.“

She still didn’t answer him but she didn’t protest either.

“I was so worried about you last night. I wanted to comfort you, but... I don’t even know how to comfort you. You are not letting me in, Liz, and I don’t know how to help you...“

His voice trailed off, hoping to get some kind of response from her. Her body was still, as still as a dead body.

“And trying to kiss you when you were so upset was probably not the best thing... Liz, I don’t want to...“ he sighed.

How was he supposed to say this correctly? He couldn’t deny his feelings for her. She was more than a friend to him. She had always been...more. But she didn’t need all of his confusing feelings thrown at her right now. She needed a friend. “You are my best friend, Liz, and I don’t want to lose that. I just... I guess I got caught up in the moment and I’m sorry. I should’ve stopped before...“

“I don’t want to talk about this.“ Her weak voice made his head snap up from studying the patterns of the motel carpet to her petite form, buried under layers of covers.

“What do you want to talk about?“ he asked softly. When she didn’t answer, he continued, “We can talk about anything you want.“ Just as long as she talked to him. “The weather, the last football game, a movie...“

His voice trailed off and he leaned his head back against the wall, staring at the ceiling. He was reaching. Why would she want to talk about such trivial things as the weather when her world had collapsed around her?

“Do you remember that time I stayed home from school for one week and a half?“ Her sudden question caused his heart to flutter with life. “When I was home for the flu?“

“I remember,“ he answered slowly.

“It wasn’t the flu,“ she answered, her voice still cold. “You and I had been to the movies the night before. We had seen-“

‘Ten things I hate about you’,“ Max filled in.

“You remember,“ she whispered.

“Of course I do. You were so happy that night. So...free. You were laughing. You were practically glowing.“

His face took on a far-away expression as his thoughts wandered to that night. He would always remember that night, since it had been one of those nights when Liz had actually seemed genuinely happy. The ever-present sadness in her eyes had been pushed back to a secondary position as life had sparkled its way up to the surface.

“Well, he destroyed all that,“ she said, her voice carrying the first trace of emotion since she had woken up. Bitterness. “A couple of months before that night he had demanded that I didn’t see you anymore.“

“What?“ Max asked in disbelief.

“He said that you weren’t only interested in being my friend. That you were only going to take advantage of me.“

Disbelief mixed with anger and resentment bubbled up inside of him. He remembered how old they had been when they had seen that movie. They had been fourteen. Like teenagers didn’t have enough problems with puberty and identity crisis at that time. Having someone repeatedly tell you that you were worthless and preventing you from seeing your friends had to be hell.

“And you believed him?“ Max asked, fearing her answer.

Silence draped itself over them for a couple of seconds that stretched into an eternity.

“Why are you still here, Max? I can’t give you what you want. You deserve someone beautiful. Someone who is happy and intelligent-“

“No, Liz,“ Max interrupted.

“I want to thank you, Max, for being there for me, but there is no need to continue pretending.“

Max was swiftly on his feet and rounded the bed. His eyes caught hers. Her fearful, empty eyes. Max climbed onto the bed, and sitting back on his heels, looked Liz directly into the eyes.

“Don’t you ever think that, Liz! I’m your friend. You are my friend. You are the most beautiful, caring, funny, intelligent, loving girl I’ve ever met!“

“Stop it, Max!“ she cried, squeezing her eyes close and covering her ears with trembling hands.

“Stop what, Liz? The truth? You want to hear the truth? Because the truth isn’t what your so-called father has beaten into you ever since you were little.“

“He’s right,“ she sniffed, tears running down her cheeks. Her body was slowly rocking back and forth, but her tired hands had started to slip down from her ears. “I did everything wrong. I put too little salt in the food. I forgot to vacuum behind the TV. And I continued seeing you even though he had strictly forbidden me from doing it. I deserved it. I had broken the rules and I had to be punished.“

Her words sent chills hitting down his spine.

“Liz, do you really believe that?“

“I’m not worthy. I’m a failure,“ she sobbed.

“Don’t say that!“ Max cried. The guilt washed over him anew as she physically recoiled from the intensity of his voice. And he realized that she was afraid that he would hurt her.

“Liz...“ his voice softened as he moved closer to her. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, but also in apprehension. “Do you think that I’m going to hurt you?“

“Of course not,“ she whispered, but she failed to sound convincing. He reached out with his hand and his heart leaped in his chest when she didn’t pull back. She allowed him to thread his fingers through her beautiful dark mane. Her eyes drifted closed and Max carefully moved closer.

“Not everyone is like your father, Liz. And he had no right to do what he did.“ She opened her eyes and looked directly at him. “It was not your fault. It is your father that has a problem, not you. He is sick, Liz. He needs help. Everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to punish that person with physical or emotional violence.“ His fingers traced one of the silky tresses of her hairs back to her head and his fingers came to gently rest against her cheek, his thumb comfortingly moving against her skin. “I would never hurt you like he hurt you, Liz. And I’m not going to let anyone else do it either. Liz, I need to know. Did he punish you for being with me that day?“

Liz nodded, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “I couldn’t stop seeing you. You would know that something was wrong if I suddenly stopped seeing you...“

Max frowned. “Would that be so bad? If I had figured it out? Why did you protect him, Liz?“

She shook her head and stuttered in confusion, “I-I didn’t protec-protect him.“

“I would have helped you. You could have spoken with my dad. You could have spoken with the school counselor. You could have spoken with Maria. Just… anyone.“

“I couldn’t,“ her eyes dropped.

“Why?“ He was desperately trying to understand why she hadn’t sought help. Why had she endured that hell?

“I deserved it,“ she began and quickly continued as she saw Max shaking his head and his mouth opening to protest, “My mom left, Max. Without me. She left. My father never hit me before when she was living with us, but when she left... Something snapped and he started hitting me. Max, there must’ve been a reason that she didn’t take me with her! I was a bad girl and she was probably happy to not have to deal with me any longer.“

“I don’t understand why your mother didn’t take you with her,“ Max said quietly, “but I know one thing. It wasn’t because of who you are. Because if she couldn’t see what a beautiful soul you are, Liz, then she’s just as stupid as your father. They don’t deserve your love, Liz. They don’t deserve your understanding. You have so many people around you that care for you, people that love you. You are a great friend, Liz. You are always looking out for everyone else. You always listen and you always know the right things to say. If your father does not see that, it’s his loss. For just trying to destroy that within you he should rot in jail for all I care.“

“Max...“ Liz said weakly.

“Think about it, Liz. See it from my perspective. Just see it from someone’s perspective other than your father. You go to school every day. You get straight A’s. You are writing for the school paper. You spend time with your friends, lighting up their days. You remember that lady you found in the park?“

The start of a lost smile lingered in the corners of her mouth. “Betsy.“

“Yes, Betsy. She had no home. She used to collect loose change from the pavements and used it to buy alcohol so that she could sleep through the night and keep warm. And you just walked up to her and talked to her for two hours. Then you took her to a homeless shelter and now she has work and an apartment of her own. Don’t you see it, Liz? I’ve always admired you for your strength and your gentleness. Your care and love for others. And now, knowing about what your poor excuse of a father has done to you, I’m... speechless, Liz.“ He pulled away a part of the comforter and found her hand, lacing his fingers with hers. “You pulled through, Liz. You didn’t give up. You’re a survivor, Liz. And now you are not alone anymore. There are people who want to help you. You are not alone.“

“Yes, I am,“ she whispered, “My parents don’t love me-“

“Don’t Liz,“ Max said, lying down beside her and inching closer till they were sharing the same pillow. She had been told that she was worth nothing for more than half her life. It wasn’t going to just go away with a couple of simple words. But it felt like he had reached her. His eyes traced her face. “My beautiful Liz,“ he murmured.

She almost snorted. “Beautiful? I must look horrible and...“

He quieted her with a kiss on her forehead. She sighed sadly. “Max, I don’t think I can be your girlfriend...“

“Shh,“ he mumbled, dropping his eyes to look into hers, “I’m not asking anything for you. All that matters to me is that you are happy. Don’t worry about me. You’ll have time to worry about me later, because I’m planning to stick around for quite some time,“ he half-teased.

“What about my mother?“ Liz asked.

His eyes dropped to her hand that was shaking in his. “I don’t know why I’m saying this,“ the resentment he still felt towards the former Mrs. Parker for her reaction to Liz was strongly screaming at him to not let her within ten feet of Liz, but he knew that Liz needed a mother in her life, “but I think she deserves a second chance. I think she was shocked.“

“You think I should meet with her again?“ Liz asked. Fear mixed with hope in her voice. She wanted him to tell her what to do so the decision would be out of her hands.

“It’s up to you,“ Max answered.

She dropped her eyes and sighed. Max took a deep breath, fearing for what he had to tell her next, but knowing that she had to know.

“Liz?“

She looked up at him, her eyes misty with apprehension. He couldn’t help but smile a faint shadow of a smile. She knew him too well. She could read his every expression. Understand every change of tone in his voice. And he could almost see what she was thinking as she frowned at his smile.

“What is it, Max?“

He grew serious again and took another breath. “I have to tell you something.“

Her hand squeezed his more tightly as her eyes grew wider with fear. “What?“

When seeing her fear he really didn’t want to tell her. She had been through enough. He put on a light smile, and said, “Nothing. You should get some more slee-“

“What is it, Max?“ Liz demanded.

The smile slipped off his face, his eyes seeking refuge in the sight of their hands perfectly linked together. “I know you said that you didn’t want anyone to know. That it was better not to tell...“

“What are you talking about?“ Liz whispered as his voice trailed off.

“You wouldn’t tell the doctor, but I knew that she didn’t believe that you had fallen down the stairs-“

His words came to a halt as she moved away from him, their hands separating, the comforter falling off her body, as she pulled away from his body.

“You told her,“ she whispered, her voice cracking. His heart began to beat erratically in his chest as he saw her fear.

“Liz...“

“How could you tell her?“ Liz asked, clear betrayal in her voice as tears built up in her eyes.

He had anticipated that she would be angry with him and that she would be hurt that he had done something she had specifically asked him not to. But he had never anticipated how she actually reacted. She was trembling. The hurt in her eyes was cutting through him like a knife.

“I’m not going to let him hurt you again,“ he said, slightly confused. Why was she so persistent in protecting her father?

“I begged you not to tell her and you agreed. And then you went behind my back and told her anyway?!“

“Liz, this isn’t about me telling that nurse that your father is abusing you... Why are you protecting him? He has done nothing short of destroying your life!!“

“No Max!“ Liz cried, scrambling off the bed, “You had no right to tell that nurse! Did you report him?“

“Of course I did! He shouldn’t be able to get away with what he did! Even a life-sentence is too benevolent for him!!“

The anger was being ignited within him again. That scum had destroyed his daughter’s life and God knew what else he had destroyed in the process, and she was actually defending him! For the first time in his life he found himself not understanding at all what was going on in that head of hers. Her reasoning didn’t make any sense.

She stumbled over the floor with tears flowing freely down her cheeks. Max crawled out of bed and started to walk towards her.

“You have destroyed everything!! Why couldn’t you just stay out of it?!“ She reached for the handle of the bathroom door. “I never should have told you. I never should have asked you to take me away.“

Max reached out with his hands and caught one of her hands before she had the chance to disappear into the bathroom. Spinning her around, he asked, “You did the right thing, Liz! Would you rather that you had stayed there with him until he killed you?!“

At his choice of words and the harsh tone of his voice, she crumbled. Max felt the anger run out of him and he wrapped his arms around her to pull her against him. But she resisted. So he pulled harder. Under desperate, lonely wails she hit her fists against his chest, angry tears streaming down her face.

“Why are you so damn stubborn?!“ she cried, the tears catching in her throat, “You are ruining everything, Max! The police are going to go to his house and they are going to ask him questions and he will know! Why couldn’t you just let me protect you?! You don’t understand! You just don’t understand!“

“Let you protect me?“ Max asked incredulously. Suddenly she gave up and sagged against him, breaking apart in tears.

“He’s going to kill you,“ she sobbed, “Whoever I...I told, he was...was...going to kill. I can’t lo-lose you, Max.“

“Shh,“ Max whispered, his hand running through her hair. “You’re not going to lose me, munchkin. We are going to get through this. Together.“

She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him closer, burying her wet face in his shirt. “He’s powerful, Max. He’s going to crush you...like an irritating bug. If he can’t get to you directly...he will just see to it that your life is destroyed...forever. I’m so sorry, Max. I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.“

“It’s not your fault,“ Max said, “And your father can just bring it on. I’m not afraid of him.“

Liz shivered in his arms, because she knew first hand just how much damage Devin Parker could really do.


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Sun Jan 14, 2007 7:53 am

Chapter 12 (by Stef)


“Could you describe them, sir?”

“She was short, I think, brown-haired and he was… well, dark-haired as well. Well-built. He told me her story.”

“Aha. Well, it sounds like you’re describing the Parker girl. You said her father had abused her?”

“That’s what the other kid told me, yes.”

“Did she confirm his story?”

A silence ensued, and the sheriff’s pen hovered over his papers.

“No, sir, she didn’t. She didn’t speak at all during the treatment. Didn’t say a single word.”

“Okay. Hm... Yes, well, thank you for your information, Doctor Landers. I’ll see what I can do. I’ll call you when I know more.”


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



“Oh my God. Is she okay?”

An assumed expression of worry crossed Devin’s face. His insides were nervously squirming and writhing underneath the sheriff’s scrutinizing gaze, but his exterior remained cool and self-assured.

“Yes, she’s fine, Devin. A doctor took care of the fractures and he thought the bruises were healing quite nicely.” Sheriff Valenti took off his hat and paced around the grand hallway.

“Do you know where she is?” Mr. Parker avidly asked, all the while doing his best to seem surprised. “Did he tell you?”

Valenti hesitated, finally decided to ignore the question and instead counter it with other information. “Max Evans told Landers you were the one responsible for Liz’s injuries. That you’d abused her.”

“He said I did what?” Devin laughed scornfully, his stomach twisting and turning, but his face shocked and surprised. Sheriff Valenti frowned and sifted through his papers. “You heard me, Devin.” Devin nodded, trying to keep an amazed look upon his face. “Yes, I did, sir, but it’s just -- it just sounds so… so ridiculous… Why would someone make up such a story?”

Valenti looked up at Devin, scratching his eyebrow. “I’m not sure. Those bruises, the broken ribs, the scabs… They weren’t made up, Devin.”

Mr. Parker sighed visibly; his enormous belly rose a little, and his white shirt tightened beneath his dark suit. “Did you see them?”

While studying Devin’s reaction, the sheriff shook his head. “No, I didn’t. Doctor Landers did, though. He faxed his medical report to me and filed a complaint against you.”

Thinking as fast as he could, Devin walked to the living room and took a picture of Liz when she’d been five and was playing at the beach. “So, the Evans kid told him this, right?”

“Right,” Valenti replied.

“What makes you believe him? Did Liz say anything about it?”

After a small pause of hesitation, Sheriff Valenti shook his head. “No, she didn’t mention you.”

A mild wave of satisfaction washed over Devin as he turned to Valenti. She hadn’t told anyone. She would never tell anyone; he’d made sure of that. “So, the only source you’re relying on is the Evans’ kid, who’s currently on the lam with my daughter?”

The sheriff nodded, knowing it wasn’t a solid case. Devin smiled self-confidently. “See? That’s what I mean; your source isn’t really reliable, now is it? I never would have hurt her like that. I know that, you know that, the whole town knows that. Sheriff, I’m afraid you’re forgetting the main point here. We need to find my Lizzie. Max is the one you should be after, not me. He is the one who took her away from her father, away from her home.”

“But what about the bruises, or the fractures?” Valenti sputtered, unsure of himself and the given information, but still not willing to give up without a fight.

“That’s what worries me as well,” Devin nodded, feigning angst while an ingenious plan was forming itself in his mind, rapidly unfolding itself. “You don’t think that-- Nah. He wouldn’t have…”

“What?” the sheriff asked him, frowning. “What do you mean?”

Devin pretended to hesitate, his face doubtful and worried. “You don’t think that that… Max… could have had anything to do with her injuries, do you?”

The sheriff stood silently as he contemplated the suggestion. “Do you think he --"

With raised hands, Mr. Parker hurriedly defended himself, “I don’t know. This whole situation has made me rather suspicious of him, though. Why would he tell a doctor that, that I’m, you know, doing my daughter any harm,” he shivered for a dramatic effect, “when he could have just as well accused me here in Roswell? Why did he need to run away, why did he need to go to another state, or to another country? Why did he need to take my daughter? Why, sheriff?”

“I… I don’t know, sir,” Valenti said, surprised by this new view of the case, the different aspects. “I… I just came here to --”

“To tell me where Liz is? To let me help you find that kid and my daughter?” Devin finished the sheriff’s sentence.

The sheriff shook his head, confused, and finally nodded, knowing it wasn’t any use debating with Devin Parker, one of America’s best lawyers. Devin rubbed his hands together, satisfied with himself, as usual. He had to find his daughter before the police did. He had to.


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



“No way.”

“It’s true, my dad told me!”

“No way. Just… no way.”

“Maria,please, just face it. My father thinks that Max kidnapped Liz against her will and --”

“Wait, wait. Isn’t kidnapping always against someone’s will?”

“That’s beside the point, Maria, would you just listen to me, please?! The point is that Max is now considered to be a fugitive. A fugitive. F-U-G-I-T-I-V-E. The cops are looking for him, Maria!”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Fine, then don’t. I’m just telling you what I heard.”

Maria sighed and twirled the telephone’s cord around her finger. “Kyle, it’s just… Max would never do such thing, I know it.”

“My dad isn’t too sure about this either, but with Mr. Parker leading his deputies on, telling them where to look, he can’t really do anything.”

“Do you have any idea where they are?” Maria asked her friend, her voice tense and worried. “They were spotted somewhere up north, he said. Close to New York.”


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



“Close to New York?”

“That’s what the sheriff told me, yes. That was days ago, though, and if the information was correct, they should be heading northwards, towards Canada.”

The private investigator nodded and looked at his map of the USA. “Why would they want to go there?” he asked, more speaking to himself than to Mr. Parker. “If they have no acquaintances or fam--”

“There might be someone Liz went to see,” Devin interrupted him, as his cold eyes stared down into the detective’s.

He’d never told Liz where her mother was.

She couldn’t have known.


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



“Hmm… So, they’re heading northwards, right?”

Kyle and Isabel nodded, staring blankly at the map in front of them.

“Okay. Well, that’s weird. See, when I had Max on the phone, he told me he was searching a place to spend the night. You were there when he said that right, Isabel? You heard that as well, didn’t you?” Maria asked Isabel, who confirmed the story with another nod.

“Well, according to this,” Maria pointed at a time-zone table, “he can’t have been north of Roswell when he said that. So… where the hell are they?”

“Their jeep was seen up north?” Kyle asked, starting to pace the room.

Maria and Isabel simply nodded.

“Aha. But according to this,” he gestured at the papers that laid scattered across the table, “they can’t have been there, but they were seen there by this doctor Landers guy nonetheless?”

Maria and Isabel nodded again, curiously looking at Kyle as he contemplated further, his brows drawn into a pensive frown.

“Hmm,” Kyle said, tapping his fingers against his chin, rubbing an imaginary beard. “Yeah. Hmm… Aha.” He turned around and looked at his friends, a thoughtful look on his face. “Well, it’s rather easy for me to come to a conclusion.”

“What?” Isabel asked him tensely, hopefully. “What do you think? Where do you figure they are? What’s your conclusion?”

Kyle met her expectant gaze and sighed. “That I don’t have the faintest clue where they are. They could be everywhere by now.” Noticing the way her shoulders sagged and rain clouds settled upon her face, he added a sorrowful, “I’m sorry.”

“I say they’re in Canada, or close to there anyway,” Maria suddenly said. “He was lying to me. He had to be. I already thought he was acting very strange.”

“Stranger than usual?” Isabel asked, the smallest of smiles playing on her lips.

“Yeah,” Maria said while she made a funny face. “Even stranger. He really doesn’t want to be found, Isabor-” she quickly bit her tongue, preventing their nickname for Isabel to slip over her lips. “Iz. I just hate not knowing what’s going on with them, you know?”

“Yeah…” Isabel sadly agreed. “Why can’t he just trust us? This is killing mom and dad. And me, too,” she added a little while later. “It kills me, too.”


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



“You think she’ll come home soon?”

Max shrugged, his gaze never wandering from the house across the street. “I don’t know. We’ll wait as long as we have to.”

Liz nodded quietly, part of her silently praying her mother would never come home. It would be a hell of a lot easier. But running wasn’t the solution, as Max had told her. Running from your problems was never a solution. When you didn’t face them, they’d come chase you to the darkest corners of the world. No matter where you’d go, they’d come with you, memories of an unwanted past. She wasn’t running any longer. She would face her fears and solve her problems. He was there to support her, he’d said. She needed him there. She wouldn’t have been able to go through with this without him.

They were silent again, studying Nancy’s new home. It was a rather big house, with large windows and a big front yard, complete with a white picket fence and a freshly mowed green lawn. It was nearly too perfect for words. Just what her mother had always wanted; a perfect house, a perfect family, a perfect life. Sighing, Liz closed her eyes and tried not to see her mother’s face, not to hear her mother’s last words.

“Do you want to leave?” Max worriedly asked, his voice soft and caring.

Liz laughed softly, bitterly, while she fought the tears that were burning behind her closed eyelids. “Why would I?” She squeezed her eyes even tighter shut and sighed quietly. “I mean, things can’t get any worse than they are right now, can they? She could only reject me for the second, no, excuse me, third time in my life. That can’t hurt any more than it did the last time.”

He didn’t reply, his familiar voice didn’t ring through the air and instead, an awkward silence filled the jeep. She regretted her words - he was only there to help her, to support her like he’d promised to – and she felt even more horrible than before. Why was she being so mean to him? Why was she so bitter, so harsh? She suddenly felt his fingers lacing themselves through hers, forming an unbreakable bond as his hand held her hand. ‘I won’t reject you,’ his hand, his touch seemed to say. ‘I won’t let you down. Never.’

And even though she was hesitant, she believed him. She wanted to believe him, needed to believe his vows.

“Thank you for coming,” she whispered softly as she opened her eyes and looked at him. “Thank you.”

He smiled lightly and caressed her cheek with his thumb, brushing an escaped tear away. His eyes shone in the bright light of the afternoon sun and she saw herself in them, lost, small and lonely.

“I’d do it again,” Max softly said, knowing he was speaking the truth. Without skipping a heartbeat, he’d drop everything to be with her, to save her from the nightmares that came when the night was long and dark, to help her escape the memories she wished she didn’t have.

She smiled weakly, unable to keep her happy exterior up for long, and lightly squeezed his hand. Her eyes momentarily left his as they turned back to the house. “Do you think she remarried?”

“Maybe. The house seems a little too big for a woman on her own,” Max answered, not voicing all of his thoughts. He didn’t tell her about the basketball hoop he’d noticed above the garage, nor did he tell her about the bike he’d seen standing beside the front door. She had enough to deal with already.

“Can I help you?”

A boy their age was staring through their car window, his eyes coated in a friendly tint of blue. Liz hesitated, alternatively glancing at Max and at the intruder. “We’re looking for Nancy Parker,” Max finally said, holding Liz’s hand tightly. “You might know her.”


<center>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~</center>



Nancy Parker? Alex frowned pensively, unsure of whom they meant. “You mean Nancy Connor?” he finally asked, and was surprised when the dark-haired boy nodded eagerly. What could these two teenagers possibly want from his mother?

“That’s her maiden name, yes,” Max replied, mentally crossing his fingers. “Do you know her?”

“Well, yeah, I know her. She’s my mother,” Alex said, growing suspicious as he noticed a bruise on the girl’s cheek and her slightly swollen eye as it widened in shock.

“Your… your mother?” she stammered feebly, her face deathly pale.

“Yes,” Alex answered, growing worried. “What happened to your face?”

Taken back by his revelations and the blunt remark about her face, Liz looked at Max, pleading for support. Her mother had a son. A son that hadn’t been rejected, that hadn’t been unwanted. Her mother had kept him, embraced him. Her mother didn’t want her, but she had wanted this… this… boy… Why? Why him? Why not her? Why?! A strong feeling of hatred welled up inside of her, and she was aware of a distinct sense of jealousy, the feeling rapidly growing stronger and stronger.

“She fell,” Max said, and Liz nodded numbly, staring at the boy. “Do you know when Nancy will come home?”

The guy shrugged and ran his fingers through his jet-black hair. “Around five, I think. Possibly a little later. Her meetings tend to take longer than expected.”

“Oh. Around five. Is… um… is there a restaurant nearby? A cafe perhaps?” Max asked, not wanting to spend another futile hour in the jeep with an empty stomach.

Alex furrowed his brow in a frown, thought deeply and shook his head. “No, not really. Not any cafes I would recommend, anyway.” When they didn’t reply, he took the opportunity the silence offered. “So, how do you know my mother?”

Both teens looked at each other, and finally the boy said, “She’s an old… acquaintance of ours. We used to know her very well. We’re from Roswell.”

“Roswell?” Alex echoed, baffled. “You came all the way from Roswell, New Mexico, just to see her?”

They nodded, and he looked at them. They seemed nice. It would be okay if he invited them into his house, wouldn’t it? His mother wouldn’t mind; she loved it when he brought his friends home. “You know, I think you can stay at our place until she’s back. I’m sure she wouldn’t like it if I left friends of hers out in the cold.”

Technically, it wasn’t really cold outside – the sun was shining and there were close to no clouds – but it seemed wrong to leave them outside. The boy nodded; the girl was still staring at him. There was an emotion in her eyes that he couldn’t quite distinguish, but he knew it scared him. She looked familiar somehow, with those high cheekbones and small ears.

“That’d be great,” the boy said with a friendly smile, and Alex extended his hand.

“I’m Alex,” he introduced himself, “Alex Whitman.”

The boy took his hand and shook it lightly. “Max Evans,” he said, “and this is Liz Parker.”

Noticing the similarity between Liz’s last name and the name they’d previously given his mother, Alex asked, “Do you think she’s related to Nancy?”

Max seemed hesitant to answer him and looked at Liz, who silently nodded.

“Really? I didn’t know she had any family. She rarely talks about her past. Oh, I’m sure my dad will be thrilled to finally meet a relative of hers,” Alex said with a bright smile as Max helped Liz out of the car.

Liz managed to dredge up a smile and jumped out of the jeep, her hand lingering in Max’s. “I’m not so sure,” she quietly mumbled, her scared eyes meeting her friend’s. “I’m not so sure.”


TBC...
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max and liz believer
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Post by max and liz believer » Tue Mar 20, 2007 8:10 am

Chapter 13 (by Jo)


Moments.

Life is filled with them. Life is built up with them. They are like the bricks in a brick wall, holding up the house. There are moments that pass without leaving a trace, without even leaving a memory. Then there are moments which every other little seemingly inconspicuous moment has led up to.

When her mother left her, her moments changed. The majority changed from being significant into blurring into a mix of bland seconds.

And now, standing in front of a perfectly normal house, she felt as if time was catching up with her. As if she had lived through every moment, endured every moment, so that she would eventually end up here. Her hand was desperately clinging to the comforting hand holding hers, but not even the supportive touch and presence of her best friend, the one she had always been able to trust, was helping her now. Not when fear was making her body stiff, turning her heart into a hard ball of stone.

Because there was no turning back now. She had reached the moment. The moment. The moment when mere seconds would determine whether she would be handed acceptance or rejection.


Staring up at the white house, the innocent playing of the light breeze in her hair, the rays of the sun caressing her face, she knew that this was a turning point.

She was so afraid of what was going to happen if her mother rejected her - again - that she hadn’t even had the courage to think about it even once. Ever since Max had told her that maybe she should give her mother another chance, Liz knew that he was right. What did she have to lose? If she confronted her mother again there was a large chance that she would not be acknowledged, but if she didn’t try she would forever regret it. Either way she would be forced to return to her father. If her mother rejected her, she had to go back. If she didn’t try to meet with her mother again, she would be forced to return just the same.

But if she actually took the chance to see her mother again there was a chance, although slim in Liz’s opinion, that her mother would help her. Still the fear was racing through her, not letting her rest. She wasn’t nervous, not like the last time. Fear had crawled into every corner of her mind, body and soul and it was slowly suffocating her. She vaguely grew aware of a soft voice and looked up with unseeing and blank eyes. Pools of dark and raw fear. Max was looking at her, the concern on his face so evident it made the guilt rise in her throat. Noticing the guilt tracing his facial features made her sick once again. She was assaulted with the guilt of having pulled him into this. Of being the one to destroy his life.

”Don’t,” he spoke softly.

She jerked out of her dark thoughts and stared at him. When she didn’t say anything, he stepped closer to her and softly cradled her face between his warm gentle protective hands and forced her to meet his eyes again.

”I know what you’re thinking, Liz,” he said, ”I’m here by my own free will. There is no place I would rather be than with you. Wherever you may be.”

She dropped her eyes and swallowed back the overwhelming feelings. She couldn’t have looked into his intense eyes one second longer without her entire facade crumbling. She had to do this. She wanted to thank him for being there for her. She wanted to thank him for spending even one second with her. She wanted to thank him for taking her here, even if it was tearing her up. But she couldn’t get a sound to pass through her dry lips.

”Can you handle this?” Max asked, concerned.

His hands were still cupping her face and her eyes were still downcast. Unshed tears were stinging her eyes and she knew that if she looked up and met his eyes it would all be over. Her resolve would crumble and she wouldn’t have the strength to carry this through.

Max worriedly searched her face. She was so pale and her breathing was shallow and strained. He could feel the coldness of her cheeks seep into his hands and the trembling of her body vibrate against his warm palms. She shouldn’t be forced to go through this. She wasn’t strong enough to deal with this now. She had been through too much. He was worried about what would happen if her mother rejected her again. Max wasn’t sure if he would be able to stop himself from telling the former Mrs. Parker a thing or two if she did, but it wasn’t whether he could control himself that worried him. It was Liz. It had always been Liz.

”So, Roswell, huh? Isn’t that where the aliens crashed?”

”Uhm, yeah,” Max absent-mindedly answered the tall boy, who seemed oblivious to what was going on with Liz.

”Are you okay with this?” Max asked Liz again. ”Just say the word and I’ll take you away from here. We don’t have to meet her tod-”

”No,” Liz said and straightened up. Her eyes still directed at the ground, she squared her shoulders. Max just stared at her.
The transformation was breathtaking. She went from a quivering mass of limbs to a strong, independent woman in just a fraction of a second. Just as quickly Max realized how she had been able to hide her father’s behavior all these years, why no one had suspected anything. On the outside she was self-assured and strong. She was calm and aloof.

She gently removed his hands from her face, but one of her hands refused to let go of his. It was her deadly grip on his hand that betrayed what was happening on the inside of that calm and perfect exterior.

”I have to do this,” she momentarily glanced up at his bewildered face before turning her gaze towards the house where Alex was searching for a key in the pocket of his pants. What she murmured under her breath made Max’s blood run cold, ”How many more times can she kill me anyway?”

”Liz,” he whispered, but she was already walking towards Alex, her head held high, but without giving him a glance. She was shutting him out. Closing herself off. With every step she took towards the front door where Alex was unlocking the door, Max could see one wall after another snap back into position around her heart and mind.

Alex got the door open and stepped inside, smiling over his shoulder at Max and Liz. ”Come on in.”

Liz stopped just in front of the threshold but her hesitation only lasted for a moment and she crossed the threshold and pulled her hand away from Max’s. As she withdrew her hand, Max went cold. Something about that act made fear spring up inside of him.

”Liz...” he said, not thinking about what Alex might think. The only thing he could think about was to stop Liz from pulling away even more.

”Sorry about the mess,” Alex said and stopped in the kitchen.

”No problem,” Liz said lightly, not a single trace of the trembling person she had been earlier showing through. Liz slowly spun around on her heels and took in the surroundings. Max watched her easy manners with a growing feeling of dread.

”How long have you lived here?” Liz asked, interest in her voice.

”Almost all my life,” Alex answered.

Liz gave him a small smile and nodded, before turning her gaze towards the living room. Alex watched Liz walk further into the living room before turning his attention to Max.

”So, uhm...How well did you know my mother?” he asked.

Max reluctantly pulled his gaze away from Liz. ”Pretty well,” he answered vaguely.

”Aha,” Alex said with a thoughtful nod.

Max eyes drifted back to Liz. She was standing in front of the fireplace, her fingers tracing the photo frames there.

”My mom never talked about her past and after a while I didn’t even bother to ask. If she didn’t want to talk about it, then I guess there just wasn’t much to it. I didn’t think she had any ties to Roswell.”

”But she- She’s not your real mother, is she?” Max asked, turning towards Alex again, but keeping an eye on Liz in his peripheral vision. Alex seemed to be their age and Liz had been eight when her mother had left. There was really no realistic way that Alex could be Nancy’s biological child, but he had to ask.

Alex shook his head, ”No, but she has been around for as long as I can remember. She is like a mother to me.” He followed Max’s occasional glances towards the girl. ”Is she okay?”

Max jerked his head back towards Alex. ”Yeah,” he sighed and absently raked his hand through his hair, ”She’s just a little overwhelmed. We have tried to find Mrs. Parker for some time.”

Alex’s eyes widened in surprise, ”She must have meant a lot to you.”

”Mostly to Liz,” Max answered.

They both looked over at Liz who was still watching the pictures in the frames.

”Uhm... you want something to drink?” Alex asked.

”Yes, thank you,” Max said, relieved for the opportunity Alex unintentionally gave him to talk to Liz.

Alex disappeared into the kitchen to get some beverages and Max crossed the floor to Liz. Before he even had a chance to open his mouth, she spoke quietly, ”She looks so different.”

Max looked at the pictures lined up on the mantelpiece.

”Yes,” he agreed. Nancy no longer had dark red-hair. And she wore glasses. Her clothes were different, more relaxed and colorful. She looked more vibrant, more alive.

”It’s like she deliberately removed every trace of us from her life,” Liz whispered.

Max’s breath caught in his throat. The feelings of rejection and desertion he could hear in her voice made chills run down his spine. He wanted to say that Nancy hadn’t tried to do that at all, but he didn’t know what to say, because it seemed as if Nancy had in fact worked very hard to bury her past.

”She has new clothes, a new home, a new husband...a new child,” Liz said slowly.

”Liz, that’s not what-”

”Here you go,” Alex interrupted, stepping up behind them. Liz jerked away from the pictures and accepted the glass of cold lemonade Alex offered her. ”Home made. Mom likes to do all things on her own. She has a thing for that.” He chuckled at his mother’s habit, failing to notice how Liz tensed up.

”Taste it,” Alex urged. ”It’s good.”

Liz mustered up another smile, but this time Max could see a hint of forcefulness to the smile. She put the glass to her lips and took a sip.

Alex was looking at her expectantly, as was Max, his glass forgotten in his hand. ”Good, huh?” Alex asked as Liz swallowed.

Liz nodded, but her hand was already traveling up to her lips, the glass in her other hand starting to slip.

Alex reacted, but the reaction came too late. The glass fell to the ground and hit the hard floor. It exploded in a smash of pieces of glass and lemonade, spilling over the floor.

”Oh God, I’m sorry,” Liz murmured.

”It’s okay,” Alex said, looking at Liz apprehensively. She almost seemed on the verge of tears and Alex hurried to reassure her that everything was okay, ”Really. No harm done. I’ll just go and get a something to clean this up with.”

”Where’s the bathroom?” Liz whispered, her eyes glued to the yellowish fluid splashed over the floor.

”Down the hall, second door to the left,” Alex instructed, giving Liz a last confused glance before walking towards the kitchen.

”Liz...”

Liz stopped as Max’s hand closed around her upper arm. She didn’t look up and meet his eyes.

”Are you okay? Do you want us to leave?”

Liz swallowed back the tears and shook her head. She took a deep breath and forced herself to sound calm. ”I just got lemonade on me. I need to clean up. My mom can’t see me like this, can she?” She turned her head slightly towards Max and gave him a half-smile. But her attempt at reassuring him that everything was okay only confirmed how much she really wasn’t. She didn’t meet his eyes, but from the quick glance she gave his chest in avoidance of his eyes, he saw the raw fear in her glistering eyes, and that alone was enough to propel him into action.

”We are leaving,” he said firmly.

”Max,” Liz looked up at him briefly, surprised by the determination in his voice, ”We are staying.”

Max spun her around and his other hand closed over her other arm. He tried to get eye contact but she was stubbornly staring at his shirt. Crouching some he forced her to make eye contact and holding her wet eyes with his, he firmly said, ”We are leaving.”

Still, the only outside signs of her inner emotional turmoil were the trembling of her bottom lip and the tears brimming in her eyes, but Max was worried what would happen if she held that inside of her for too much longer. She couldn’t meet her mother in this condition. It would be too much.

He was about to tell her just that when the front door opened and a woman’s voice seeped into the sunlit living room.

”Hello? Alex? Anybody...” Her voice trailed off as her eyes landed on the visitors standing in the middle of her living room ”...home...”

”Mom, hi!” Alex came out from the kitchen with a big smile. His smile faltered some when his eyes landed on his mother’s rigid posture. His eyes briefly traveled to the visitors and he vaguely registered the shock on their faces before coming to his senses.

”Oh, sorry. Mom, we have company. They say that they are from Roswell and that they used to know you.”

”Alex, honey,” his mother said woodenly, her eyes never leaving the newcomers, ”Don’t you have homework to do?”

Alex frowned. ”Eh... yes...” he said slowly, ”but I can do that later.”

”Go and do your homework,” Nancy said.

”But...”

”Alexander!” She shot him a sideways warning look and after some quick consultation with himself, Alex started walking towards the stairs, hanging his head slightly. He was dying to get to know something about his mother’s past and she was ordering him to his room like some little boy. He was seventeen for Christ’s sake! Muttering under his breath, Alex disappeared up the stairs, leaving Max and Liz alone with the former Mrs. Parker.

As soon as the sound of Alex’s door slamming shut upstairs reverberated through the house, Nancy’s mouth opened and she hissed, ”What are you doing here?!”

Max and Liz were both so taken aback by the unexpected reaction that they didn’t know what to say. Max had expected her to be surprised, shocked, afraid, crying... He hadn’t expected her to be angry. Just to suddenly see Nancy again had been shocking enough, but having her almost snarling at them shocked them into silence. Before Max had a chance to respond, Liz spoke. Her voice was soft, but stable as she answered, ”We came to find you.”

”How did you find me?” Nancy accused.

Max could feel anger building within him. Why was this woman yelling at them. Accusing them, when it had been she who had left?

”Dad has your address,” Liz answered. Max shot her a glance and felt his anger rise at the expression on her face. She looked calm, but he could also see something else on her face. Retreat. She was retreating back into herself. Blocking all the things she really wanted to tell her mother. Ignoring all the questions she wanted to have her mother answer. Just so that she wouldn’t upset her mother and have her not accept her.

Liz was trying to be the good daughter. Under Max watchful eyes he could see her quickly transforming back to the sad lonely eight-year-old who had been abandoned by her mother and put into custody with an abusive father.

”God...” Nancy slumped down on the armrest of the armchair standing next to her. ”Is he with you?”

”No,” Liz answered.

”Does he know where you are?” Nancy asked, her accusing tone now bearing traces of fear.

Liz shook her head. ”We didn’t tell him.”

Nancy bolted up from her seat, her face flushed with newly-awaken anger. ”You ran away?!”

”Yes, we did,” Max answered coldly. Liz was standing so close to him that he could feel her body stiffen at his harsh tone. Max wasn’t going to let Nancy treat Liz this way, even if Liz would allow it. ”Which isn’t that much different from what you did. But, of course, we didn’t leave a defenseless child behind to fend for herself.”

”Max...”

Max ignored Liz’s soft plea for his silence. ”How could you just leave Liz when you knew what he was doing? When he had done that to you for years?”

His voice was quiet, but filled with venom. His loathing for the hurt and misery this woman had caused Liz was evident in his whole body, in the resolute set of his jaw, his tightly clenched fists and the hardness in his eyes.

”Don’t you dare come here and accuse me of things you know nothing about,” Nancy said venomously.

Max actually snorted. ”I know more about what’s been going on than you do. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the case if you had taken Liz with you. But then, we wouldn’t be standing here today, would we? Liz wouldn’t still be waking up screaming and crying in the middle of the night from nightmares of her own father breaking her arm. She wouldn’t have numerous of scars all over her body from the different kinds of punishment your ex-husband used to discipline her. She wouldn’t have residual pains from two broken ribs, several bruises, a cut right-”

”Okay, stop!” Nancy cried out and stood up, turning her back towards them. ”He would never do that to her. He wouldn’t.”

Max swallowed several hard replies, before opening his mouth to respond, but Liz beat him to it.

”But he did,” she said so softly that it was almost inaudible.

Max saw Nancy’s back stiffen.

”He did,” Liz said again and a disobedient sob escaped her tight control, ”Over and over again.”

Max reached out with his hand to take her hand, but she stepped away from his touch and his support, her entire attention focused on her mother.

”At first everything was okay,” a teary distant smile flashed over her lips, ”We did everything we usually do. And we had so much fun. It was just he and I. We ate ice cream. We went to the movies. He bought me a new Barbie doll.” Her smile slipped off her face as her memories changed and turned darker, ”But I could hear him yelling in the evenings after he had tucked me in and he thought I was asleep. I could hear him yell down in the kitchen. Throwing things. It scared me, but the next day everything would be okay again, because he would go back to being my dad.”

”He was always such a great father,” Nancy said, breaking through Liz’s voice. ”He never laid a hand on you. Never.”

”The first time it happened was not that long after you had left,” Liz continued. ”I had forgotten to turn off the stove. He screamed at me for forgetting. For almost setting the house on fire. And then he hit me. On the cheek. It wasn’t the physical punishment that hurt. It was that he was disappointed in me. I had let him down... After that I couldn’t do anything right.”

”No... he would never hurt you. You were his angel,” Nancy sobbed.

”Every night there would be something. Sometimes he would go easy on me. He would just slap me or pull my hair... Others were worse....”

Max closed his eyes at the onslaught of emotions. This was more than Liz had ever told him. He had understood that it had been bad. Really bad. But what was now coming out of her mouth was hell. Daily hell. Just because she existed.

”No... No....” Nancy began shaking her head fervently and turned red-brimmed eyes towards her daughter. ”You’re lying.”

Max and Liz both stared at her, their mouths falling open. Tears began to run down Liz’s cheeks, whilst Max’s cheeks flushed with anger.

”No, I’m not lying,” Liz sobbed.

”Do you really think I would leave my child there if I thought she would be abused?” Nancy asked.

”But that’s exactly what you did!” Max said hotly.

”I’m not lying,” Liz said, her voice stronger now.

”This is between Elizabeth and me,” Nancy said.

”When she came to my window, beaten up and bleeding and begging me to take her away. To find you, it became my business,” Max said.

”How could you just leave me there, mom?” Liz spoke up, her teary and hurt, but strong voice putting an end to the short dispute between Nancy and Max.

Nancy turned to look at her daughter. Her face was closed off, completely expressionless, as she answered, ”I thought it was the best for you. I did what I thought was best for you.”

”He hit you every day! How could you think that was the best for me? How could you think that it was for the best if you let him raise me? If you let me live with him? Alone.”

Nancy’s face hardened, ”He was always so good to you. You made him smile. You made him laugh.” Her face softened some when old memories floated to the front of her mind. ”He used to kiss your feet when you were little just to hear your laugh. You were so ticklish.”

Liz shook her head, choking on her tears. ”He hurt me, mom.”

Nancy’s face turned to stone again and she opened her mouth to answer, when the front door once again opened.

”Honey? Alex? I’m home!”

A tall man who looked like an older version of Alex walked through the door. Unaware of the tension in the room he put his briefcase down beside the door and started to take his coat off. His movements were halted when he lifted his head and noticed the strangers standing in his living room. He quickly took in their distressed appearances. The tear stains on the girl’s cheek and the hostile defensive stance of the young man at her side. His heart jolted with alarm when he noticed the closed off expression on his wife’s face.

”I didn’t know we had guests,” he said slowly, mustering up a smile. His voice seemed to jolt everyone back to reality. The girl quickly brushed the tears from her damp cheeks with the back of her hand. The young man took a hold of her hand and pulled her close to him. And his wife’s smiled at him. But there was nothing genuine about that smile.

”We were just leaving,” the young man mumbled and started to walk towards Mr. Whitman.

”Oh,” Mr. Whitman said, more than a little confused. The door opened and closed behind him without another word and Mr. Whitman turned to look at his wife, demanding an explanation.

But she was already walking away, towards the stairs.

”Honey, where are you going? Who were they?” Mr. Whitman asked.

”I don’t feel too good,” Nancy answered. ”I need to go and lie down for awhile.”

She disappeared up the stairs before he had a chance to ask her any more questions.

”Okay,” he mumbled as he heard the door to their bedroom slam shut.
<center>----------------------------------------------</center>


”I can’t believe she said that!” Max exclaimed, hitting his fist against the steering wheel. He was so riled up that he didn’t notice how Liz jumped. ”She couldn’t even admit that she had made a mistake! Did she really think that he would never hurt you? Well, then...” Max had to take a deep breath to force back his forceful emotions, ”...then she’s just plain stupid.”

”Max...”

”She had been living with that man for years and he had been abusing her for I don’t know how many years, and yet she actually believed that the same man who gave her black eyes wouldn’t hurt anyone else?!”

”Max...”

Max jerkily turned into the parking lot outside their motel and turned the engine off. His movements were hasty and snappy as he pushed the car door open and walked around to Liz’s side to help her out. He opened the door, already talking again, ”I bet she’s too damn afraid that her ex-husband will come back and destroy her perfect life right now that she doesn’t even care that she’s hurting yo-” his voice trailed off as her pale face broke through the red mist of anger that had infected his mind, ”Liz, are you okay?”

”Let’s just go inside,” Liz whispered, her voice strained. Max’s eyes darkened with worry, the anger quickly running off him. He put an arm around her waist and more or less lifted her out of the car. She sagged against him and the fear inside of him raced up several notches.

”Liz? Talk to me!”

”I’m okay,” Liz said breathlessly, obviously trying to sound reassuring, but failing miserably. As he pushed through the front door and they approached the door to their room he could feel her trembling. As he put the key in the door, her sobs were filling his ears. As the door closed behind them and the privacy of their hotel room enveloped them, Liz pushed herself out of his hold and ran for the bathroom.

”Liz?” Max cried, running after. The sound of retching filled his ears before he got to the door. He found her on the floor, crouching over the toilet.

”Sweetie,” Max whispered and fell to his knees beside her to hold her hair away from her face. Soon dry heaves mixed with desperate sobs broke the silence. She fell back against the wall, pulling her legs up to her chest. Max wetted a towel and gave it to her. Distantly, she accepted it and scrubbed it over her face.

”You want to talk about it?” Max asked gently.

”Just leave me alone,” Liz whispered.

He couldn’t deny that her cold whisper hurt him, but that wasn’t the point right now. Liz was in a bad place and he wasn’t sure he should leave her alone.

”Liz, we should really talk about this. What happened with your moth-”

”Leave me alone, Max,” Liz pleaded, her voice catching in her throat.

”Liz..”

”Please....”

Max searched her face, her downcast eyes, her red damp swollen cheeks, his eyes traveling to her trembling fingers clutching the towel in her lap, before he slowly stood up.

”Okay. I’ll be right outside if you need me. If you need anything, I’m here, Liz.”

”Please,” Liz whispered again.

Max took a deep breath, pushing back his own tears as he crossed the threshold. He stood there for a second, looking over her small shivering body, her loneliness hitting him like daggers, before he reluctantly closed the door.

”Leave me alone,” Liz whispered and buried her face against her knees. ”Just leave me alone.”


Tbc...
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Post by max and liz believer » Tue Mar 20, 2007 8:21 am

Me again.. Chapter 13 is on the previous page... That's all



Chapter 14 (by Stef)

She cried herself to sleep that night, her head resting upon her bruised arms as quiet sobs had slipped past her lips, filling the bathroom with their powerful presence.

She considered giving up on everything.

On her mother. Her father. Maria. Isabel. Max.

On life.

It had seemed so easy; the possibility of being relieved of all your worries, troubles and feelings had been alluring, tempting, almost beckoning.

She hadn’t had the courage, though, or the strength to do what she was thinking about, what she was yearning for.

She sighed. Her hand reached for her reflection in the stained mirror, hesitating when it came close to touching the glass, the cold glass through which her face looked back at her. The girl she saw staring back at her, wasn’t her. It couldn’t be her. The tousled hair, the dark streaks over her cheeks, the pale skin…

It wasn’t her.

She tilted her head slightly, attentively. Her muscles ached relentlessly, frozen and numb from the night she’d spent on the bathroom floor. Splashing some ice-cold water onto her face, she tried to banish the gnawing feeling of unrest and discord.

She rubbed her face dry with the rough towel, and stared at her red, puffy face in the mirror.

She’d made up her mind.
<center>***</center>


Five, seven, twelve dollars…

Twelve dollars would be enough to find a ride to nowhere. A ride to where no one would be able to find her, where no one would know her. A ride to oblivion.

She dropped the money back into her pocket and shivered. Max stirred restlessly in his sleep and turned around, his lips drawn into a pained grimace. She sat down on the edge of the bed and briefly touched his forehead. She brushed away his long bangs, feeling warmth on her fingertips. Her heart heaved a sigh at the thought of leaving him, but it would be better this way, she knew. She couldn’t keep pulling him down with her; it wouldn’t be fair.

Not to his parents, not to his sister and not to him. He had a family that loved him, and he should be with them. By doing this, she wasn’t just trying to find her own family; she was destroying his.

Her hand lightly caressed Max’s cheek and pulled up the blankets, tucking him in tightly. The lump in her throat made it difficult to breathe and she tried to swallow it down.

Would he miss her?

Leaning forward, her trembling lips met his in a silent moment of understanding, touching them briefly. She choked down a sob and hastily pulled back, standing up too fast. Her eyes swept through the room, quickly trying to analyze what she was leaving behind.

Not much, she bitterly thought.

A grimy motel room with dark coffee stains on the ceiling, a cold, hard bathroom floor and a creaky, shaky bed.

A creaky bed on which laid Max.

A sob threatened to break her determined demeanor, but she fought against the tears. She forced herself to turn around, and left the room, not daring to look back.
<center>***</center>


Charles turned in his sleep, oblivious to her intense stare. The sun had started to climb the sky several minutes ago, and beams of bright orange, yellow and red were stretched out across the horizon. It was early - too early to get up - but she couldn’t sleep. Last night’s dream was keeping her up, its echo bothering her.

Shadows danced upon her ceiling, fleeing from the light that was threatening to invade their bedroom soon.

Soon.

That’s what she had told herself.

Soon.

She sighed lightly, and swung her legs over the bed’s edge. Charles muttered something she couldn’t quite make out, and reached for her. It brought a slight smile upon her lips, but didn’t take away the thoughts that were gnawing at her conscience.

Soon, she’d said. Soon, she would go back for her.

Cold air blew along her legs when she opened the door and walked through the corridor, barefooted. She quietly opened Alex’s door and gazed down at his sleeping form, in his bed at the far end of the room. Smiling feebly, she closed the door as still as she could. She flicked on the bathroom’s light.

The house was quiet. Too quiet. Her memories threatened to come back to her.

The heartache, the pain, the worries.

The compunction.

The love.

She unbuttoned her nightgown and let it fall down, to where the silky fabric pooled at the floor. Stepping out of it, onto the cold tiles, she stared at her own reflection in the mirror. A large scar covered her hip; another one crossed her stomach.

Charles had seen them. He had asked, but she wouldn’t tell.

It was part of her past, and no one needed to know.

Her finger traced the scar on her stomach, all the way to where her breast began. He still wondered what could have caused it, she knew. She could see it in his eyes every time they made love, she could hear it in his voice when he asked about her life before they had met.

Would her daughter bear the same scars, she briefly wondered, would her daughter carry the same burden?

Pushing back the thoughts that smarted her so deeply, she reached for the tap and turned on the hot water. She sat down on the tub’s edge and listened to the streaming water, felt the steam circling upwards, a soft caress to her tired skin. Drawing her hand through the water, she watched the waves she was making, the small whirls. Finally, she turned off the tap and stepped into the tub, her cold body protesting painfully as it came in contact with the heated water.

She lowered herself slowly, and after a little while, she finally relaxed. The quiet lapping of the water at her skin, the peaceful silence in which the house was immersed and the flowery scent of her shampoo had a calming effect of her, and made her close her eyes.

Soon.
<center>***</center>


With a frustrated groan, she struggled with her small suitcase, trying to close it. It was time to leave. Devin wouldn’t come home until eight o’clock, giving her enough time to plan her escape. She’d only packed the necessary things; clothes, some food and Liz’s favorite doll.

Pain angrily flared up, tearing through her abdomen and lower body as she stood up, and – catching sight of her reflection in the mirror – winced slightly. She stood still for a moment, feeling the pain ebb away agonizing slowly as she fought against the tears that threatened to spill. The clock struck twelve times, and reminded her of Liz, who was still at school.

Without any remorse, she took her husband’s money and lifted her suitcase. It was time, she thought again; time to go.

The sudden ringing of the phone stopped her when she was in the process of opening the door. She held her breath and scared, watched how it rang. She had to answer the phone. It could be Devin calling her, checking up on her.

She didn’t know who else would call her. She didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any friends or even casual acquaintances. She had no one, no one besides him and Liz.

Her hand tremulously reached for the phone. “Hello?”

“Nance? You don’t need to pick up Liz, darling. I decided to take off early so I could spend more time with her. I want to take you both to Pinocchio; she loves the pizza’s there. Put some make-up on your face, okay?”

She was quiet, a despondent tiredness holding her in its grasp.

“Nancy? You still there?”

“Huh? Yeah, I… I heard you,” she stammered weakly as she regarded her face in the mirror.

It was time to leave.

“I’ll be home to pick you up in a minute,” he said, “after I’ve picked up Liz from school, all right?”

“In a minute,” she said blankly. “Sure.”
<center>***</center>


“Nancy?”

She bolted upright, gasping for fresh air. Tepid water dashed against her quivering body as she tried to retrieve her breath, her heart slamming painfully against her chest.

“Honey? Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes,” she answered, fearfully eyeing the bathroom door.

Charles was silent for a while, and she held her breath, waiting for him to go.

“Do you want toast for breakfast?” he asked, the earlier traces of worry in his voice now carefully hidden.

“I’d love some toast,” she said, and tried to sound genuine, tried to smile.

“Don’t be too long then,” he answered, and left.

She released the breath she’d been holding, running a trembling hand through her wet, drippy hair.

Soon, she had promised herself.

So she’d left. She’d left, with a bruised arm, a battered face and a bleeding heart.

Soon, she had convinced herself, soon, she would come back for Liz.

Soon.
<center>***</center>


Max’s fingers impatiently tapped at his steering wheel as he waited for the other cars to cross the juncture. “Come on,” he mumbled, casting a glance at his rear-view mirror. He accelerated fast, desperate to find her.

Liz had left. Why, he didn’t know. His guess was that she was trying to protect him, trying to keep him out of this. It was too late for him not to be involved. He was part of this. She’d sucked him into it, and he wasn’t planning on letting her solve this on her own.

He drove hard, the same building he’d seen the day before, flashing by. She shouldn’t make decisions for him. He wanted to stand beside her, face the storm and the heartache together. He was the one who should be protecting her, helping her through it.

The Whitman’s house loomed at the corner of the street, and he turned into an empty parking spot. He wasn’t sure that this is where she’d gone to, but it was the only place he could think of. If she hadn’t gone to her mother, she had run away to an undetermined, meaningless place in nowhere, and there would be no way for him to find her back.

With a heavy heart, he hopped out of his jeep and walked fast, quickening his pace until he noticed the blue car parked in front of the house.

Cold fear pulsed through his veins, and he took a step back. His heart beat erratically as he turned around and jogged back towards his jeep.

He had to find Liz.

He had to find her, and fast. If he didn’t, Devin would.


Tbc...
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Post by max and liz believer » Fri Mar 23, 2007 7:31 pm

Hello!

One week to go and then it's Eastern break. I can't wait. And I'm aiming to finish this story (and "Prodigal Son") in that break. Before then I have to get through surgery of a pig and an exam.

Until then, we still have a couple of chapters to go before I've posted all "old" chapters

begonia9508, flyawayraven, sprayadhesive and clueless - THANK YOU!!

Some Max and Liz scenes...


Chapter 15 (by Jo)


”...learn to just ask me before you borrow my stuff?”
Isabel’s annoyed voice seeped into the dark house as the Evans opened the front door.

”I was going to give it back to you tomorrow,” Max answered, swallowing a tired sigh.

”You know what, Max? The things in my room, are
my things!! You have no right to snoop around in my room!”

”You weren’t home! And I couldn’t wait until you got back-”

”Okay you guys. Calm down,” Mrs. Evans hushed her children, switching on the light in the kitchen.

”I think they have already woken up the entire neighborhood,” Mr. Evans said with a good-natured smile.

”But...” Isabel said indignant, ”You have to tell him not to take my stuff without asking! Tell him, mom.”

Mrs. Evans sighed. It was way too late for this. ”Max, please talk to your sister next time before you borrow something.”

”Thank you!” Isabel said with emphasis, her exclamation drowning Max’s groan. ”I’m just gonna go and get it right now.”

”Stay out of my room!” Max warned and took after Isabel up the stairs.

Mr. Evans shook his head before turning and wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist. ”So, did you enjoy dinner?”

”It was wonderful,” Mrs. Evans said, fatigue prevalent in her voice. ”But promise me that we skip this whole quality time thingy with our children next week and just spend some time on our own.”

Mr. Evans grinned. ”You’ve got my word.”


”Isabel!” Max cried, stumbling after Isabel up the stairs. She quickly opened the door to his room and froze. The abrupt halt to her movements caused Max to run into her, almost tripping her over.

”Hey, watch it,” Isabel cried out, but her voice was a little quieter than earlier. She turned around and gave Max a half-smile. ”I’ll just get that thing in the morning.”

Max stared at her. ”Huh?”

”You should get some sleep, Max. You know, you have that math test in the morning.” Max was now looking at her like she had just announced that she was an alien. Isabel walked past him in the doorway and putting her hand on the door handle to her bedroom she said over her shoulder,”Oh, and say hi to Liz from me, would you?”

”Liz? What are you-”

His eyes automatically drifted inside his room and stopped at the still form lying on top of his bed. A slight frown formed on his forehead as he, as quietly as he could, walked into the room.

”Liz?” he whispered, moving closer to the bed. When he moved around the bed and saw her face he stopped dead in his tracks. There were still tear stains on her cheek, which were puffy and red. His heart jolted in pain at the sight and he slowly crept up on the bed.

”Lizzie?” he tried again and stretched out his hand towards her face. Just as he was about to touch her, her eyes flew open. The look in her eyes was so haunted that Max physically recoiled from it.

”Max...” she sobbed.

Max’s heart started to beat erratically in his chest. ”Liz, what are you doing here?”

”Max...” she whimpered.

”Has something happened?” Max asked, fear piercing his heart.

”Max,” Liz said again, his name now floating together in a sobbing plea.

”Hey,” Max said softly as tears started to flow down her cheeks. He inched closer to her, his hand automatically moving to her hair, consolingly stroking it. He had never seen her cry before. And watching her now he wished that she would never have to cry ever again. ”Tell me, Lizzie.”

”I’m...I’m dying, Max,” Liz sobbed.

”What?!” Max burst out, his body going rigid. His hand stopped stroking her hair.

She started crying in earnest now. Powerful sobs rippled through her, making her whole body shake, as if voicing the knowledge had made it more real.

”I don’t understand,” Max whispered. ”What are you saying, Liz? You can’t be dying. How do you know that you are dying?”

”I’m...I’m...bleeding,” she whispered.

”You’re bleeding?!” The sound level of Max’s voice increased with the panic sizzling inside of him. ”Where? Let me see.”
In the midst of all hot tears, Liz blushed. Something that was very well hidden by her upset condition.

”No, no, you can’t see,” she answered.

”Why not?” Max asked, somewhat hurt that she wouldn’t show her. ”Is it your arms? Your legs? Stomach? Head?” As he enumerated the different places his eyes scanned her body for possible injuries. ”Where?” And then something struck him. What was she doing here? On his bed, sleeping, if she was bleeding and dying?

”You have to go to a hospital,” he said and took a hold of her arm, intending to pull her up.

”No!” she wailed. The pain permeating her cry made him drop her arm.

”Are you in pain?” he asked, the words stumbling out of him, with the quick rush of fear inside of him. He couldn’t lose her. He couldn’t lose her. He would die. He couldn’t live without her. She was his best friend. His everything. She couldn’t leave him.

”Liz! You have to get to a doctor,” he spelled out slowly, biting back the panic so that his mind could work on a more reasonable level.

”I’m bleeding...down there,” Liz whispered, mortification penetrating her voice.

”What?” Max asked in confusion. Bleeding down there? What did that mea-

Max could feel his face get hot when he realized what she was talking about.

”Oh,” he said, slightly embarrassed. But when got himself together and his eyes fixed on Liz’s fearful face, his heart almost shattered and he quickly regained his composure.

”Uhm...maybe you should talk to Isabel about this,” he murmured, not really being able to meet her eyes.

”I want to be with you, Max,” Liz sobbed. ”Am I dying?”

Max looked at her with a mixture of confusion and surprise. ”You really think that you are going to die?”

”I’m
bleeding, Max!” Liz cried out, clutching her stomach. ”And my stomach hurts.”

She didn’t know? Max squinted with his eyes as he watched her face. She didn’t know? Somehow, she had no clue to what was happening to her. Even he knew and he was a guy. He tried to remember if Liz had been on that class in school when they talked about those things - for about ten minutes - but anyway. Maybe she had been sick. How could she not know?

”Max, say something,” Liz pleaded. Max snapped back to reality and just stared at her in silence, unaware of the fact that his far-away staring was making the fear and trepidation in her triple in intensity.

”Max?”

”Munchkin, I’m gonna get Isabel, okay?” Max said, and began to move off the bed. But Liz snatched out with her hand and grabbed his wrist, shaking her head violently from side to side.

”No, I don’t want to talk to Isabel,” she said, her eyes begging him not to leave her.

”I can’t explain this to you,” Max answered, feeling embarrassment hit him again. ”It’s nothing dangerous, Liz. I’ll just get Isabel to explain it.”

”It’s nothing dangerous?” Liz asked hopefully. Her eyes were so scared and yet so hopeful that Max’s heart twitched in pain. He gave her a half smile, before leaning down and planting a soft kiss on her forehead.

”It’s nothing dangerous,” he confirmed. ”I’ll get Isabel.”


<center>--------------------------------------------------------------</center>


Max pressed the connect button on his cell phone, practically yelling into the phone, “Liz?!”

Fear, as black as the deepest parts of the oceans, was surging through him. She had been missing for six hours now, and that was only counting since he had woken up and discovered her missing. She could be anywhere right now. The fear that she was in danger - that she was dead - was enough to paralyze him. At the same time it was that same fear that kept him moving.

At first, only noise greeted him from the other end of the line.

He turned off the road and shut off the engine, certain now that it was Liz who was calling him. “Liz? Where are you?”

More noise. Talking voice, glasses clinking together, singing, music.

“Are you okay?”

Her laughter turned his inners to ice.

“Max! Heeey…” she giggled.

His hand slowly left the ignition key and came to rest beside his other hand holding the cell phone. “Liz?”

She laughed lightly. “Yes, silly. It’s me.”

He swallowed, her giddy happiness causing conflicting turbulent emotions come to life inside of him. Relief of hearing her voice again. Worry about where she was. Suspicion about her mood. But most prominent was fear. The fear of not recognizing the person at the other end of the line, even though there was no question that it was Liz Parker’s voice he was hearing.

“Are you okay?”

“Just wooonderful,” she giggled and another voice reached over the line. Her voice lessened in volume as she turned to address the other person, the words hitting Max like daggers. “Hang on, sweetie. I gotta take this call. I’ll be right with you.”

“Liz, who is that?”

“Oh, David? I met him a while ago. What was it, two hours…nah..five…how long…” Her voice rose as she suddenly yelled, “Hey David? How long have I’ve known you?”

A grunt was given in reply and Liz’s voice got clearer as she once again spoke into the receiver. She giggled. “Forever. He’s known me forever, Max.” She let out a loud dreamy sigh. “Isn’t that the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?”

Max’s hand tightened on the receiver. Sparks of jealousy were sneaking out from beneath all emotions, but he wasn’t letting it through. It was being effectively drowned with the fear of the danger Liz was in.

“Have you been drinking?” The question was merely rhetorical. There was really no doubt in his mind that she had been.

She laughed. Under other circumstances, the laughter would’ve warmed his heart, but not now. Not when she was confirming to him that she was somewhere where she didn’t know anyone, drunk and completely at the mercy of strangers.
“Oh, Max. Could you let me have some fun? You are way too…too… what’s the word… too… Help me out here, Max-“

“Liz, you have to tell me where you are,” Max said.

“Uptight. That’s the word. Oh, Max. You just have to meet him.” And she was back to discussing this David she’d met. “He has this really blond hair and these blue blue eyes. So blue-“

Max interrupted her. His voice rose with the fear of everything that could happen to her. “Liz, listen to me-“

She sighed, irritation flaring in her voice, “Max, lighten up for God’s sake! I’m just having some fun.” Her voice softening, he could envision the puppy eyes she was making, “Don’t you want me to be happy, Max?”

Taking a deep breath, he reached for the ignition key and the engine roamed to life. “I want nothing more,” he said softly. He wasn’t getting through to Liz. He had to shift gears, take another route. Try a different method. “How about I join you there?”

Liz laughed. “You? Max, please? Are you serious?” Her voice drifted again as she once again turned away from the receiver, “David, did you hear that? My buddy Max is coming. Do you believe that? But Max…” her voice drifted back to him through the receiver, “You have to promise me to lighten up then. Have some fun, ‘kay?”

“Whatever you say,” Max answered. “But Liz, I need an address. Do you know where you are?”

“Oh, I know the answer to that question. Just hang on a sec, Max, I’ll find out.”

She was gone and Max immediately wondered if he had made the mistake of his life to have her leaving the phone.

He listened to the noise in the background. She was definitely in a bar, but there were way too many bars around for him to have any clue where to start looking. She’d several hours on her hands to travel. She could’ve gotten far. Too far.

As the deafening absence of Liz’s voice at the other end of the line started to stretch, Max heart started to beat erratically. He had never felt more helpless than he did in that moment. She had called him. He was in her hands and she was drunk. Really drunk. There was no way for him to find her if she didn’t come back to the phone. Someone might notice the phone being off without anyone talking in it and hang up. His fingers tightened around the steering wheel as he strained to hear if her laughter or her voice could be heard in the background noise.

Nothing.

Unconsciously, his foot pressed down on the gas pedal. She could have gone in the other direction. She could’ve been in some bar that he had already passed before her call. But he had to go in some direction.

Then she was back in the phone, her voice light, telling him the address to where she was. Laughing as she asked someone next to her the name of the road leading up to the bar.

And for the first time in what seemed as an eternity Max actually thought that someone had decided to finally give them a chance. Pressing harder on the gas pedal, he continued down the road he was already driving on, the same road Liz had told him to follow.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>


He didn’t waste any time.

Nothing could get between him and finding Liz right now. The music was already surrounding him, the loud voices already making their slow apprehensive entry into his heart. The door opened in front of him as two people stumbled out. The man was grabbing the woman, her dark long hair shielding her face. He was laughing; she was trying to step away from his too intimate touches.

Acting on innate impulse, Max took a hold of the man’s arm, forcefully ripping him away from the woman. “Get the hell away from her!!”

The intoxicated man lost his balance at Max’s assault and he fell against the wall. Looking up at Max under half-closed eyes, his reply was just as slurry as his appearance. “Hey man, cool it.”

Max took a hold of the man’s collar, simultaneously reaching out towards the woman. “Liz, are you-“His voice was cut short as the woman looked up at him and he was staring into a pair of green eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?” she burst out hotly.

Somewhat dazed, Max’s hands left the man, who was staring at him with desensitized perception. The woman took a hold of the man’s arm, helping him to his feet.

“I’m sorry,” Max mumbled and before the couple could respond, he was through the door.

The unmistakable odors of cigarette smoke, mixed with alcohol and sweat assailed him. The heat from all the people crowding in the room washed over him. He saw her immediately. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one looking.

The middle of the dance floor was almost empty, leaving place to the dancing person. Liz. Her hair was flowing freely down her shoulders, as her body seductively swayed from side to side. Her cheeks were flushed with the heat, her mouth slightly opened, her eyes closed. To start with, Max didn’t move. He was as spellbound by the enigmatic creature taming the tones of the music swirling around her as the other men watching her. His heart stopped in his chest and it felt like time was standing still as he watched the girl he had known his whole life dance on the dance floor. Without any inhibitions, just feeling. Her hands were moving slowly over her head, her head softly moving along with the music. He had never seen anything more beautiful. It was when his eyes were slowly pulled away from her glowing face and drifting lower to discover her barely clothed body that the reality came back to him.

Air rushed back to his lungs, the volume of the music raised several decibels and he was abruptly pushed out of the timeless state. Pushing himself through the bodies of observing men, he finally reached Liz. Gently, he placed a hand on her bare arm. She stilled, but her eyes remained closed.

“Max,” she breathed, “You came.”

He couldn’t take his eyes away from her. Just a simple touch of his hand had revealed his identity to her. “Liz.” A soft whisper carrying the relief of seeing her again, along with so many hidden feelings that were so much more than just relief, escaped his lips.

She lowered her arms, before guiding them up his broad shoulders, her fingers trailing his strong protective arms. Max’s breath hitched in his throat and he looked down at her, looking straight into the dark deep warm pools normally called eyes, and it felt like his heart stopped in his chest. She had never looked at him like that. Happy. Content. Relieved. Longingly…

Her arms locked around his neck and she leaned against him. Automatically, his arms went around her, pulling her close.

“Dance with me.” Her soft request was not turned down. From the moment she put her head to rest against his shoulder, he had lost the battle. His arms tightened around her, pulling her even closer. With a barely audible sigh, his eyes closed. Her hair smelled so good. The bare skin between her sweater and her skirt felt so incredibly soft under his fingers. Her fingers threading through the hair at the back of his neck were scorching his skin.

“I didn’t think you would come.”

One of his hands traveled up her back, burying in her hair. “I’ll always come for you.”

“I wasn’t sure,” she whispered and he immediately felt the shift. When her mood changed from relaxed and contented to pitch dark sadness.

“I had to leave you.”

“Why?”

“You were getting too close.”

He pulled away from her slightly. Her head lifted from his shoulder and she looked into his eyes questioningly, her big eyes shimmering with unshed tears. The sight alone could break any man. Max could feel tears pricking the back of his throat and his hands moved to gently cradle her face, his fingertips brushing against her hair.

“Nothing could ever be too close when it comes to you. I can not get close enough.”

Liz looked up at him through the alcoholic fog, trying to decipher his message. Trying to decide if he really meant what he said or if it was pity talking. If he was only lying to her. As so many times before, the girl who had been beaten up, walked over, suppressed all her life, spoke up.

“I can’t get away from you.” There was irritation in her voice and Max hesitated slightly.

“Do you want to get away from me?”

Yes.” The emphasis on the one uttered voice was not lost on him.

Not letting her eyes drift away from his, he answered firmly, “I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that.”

Her mouth tightened in stubborn indignation. “Why not?”

“You need me,” Max said somberly and then spoke the truest truth in his heart. “I need you.”

Liz stared at him, her lips pressed together tightly. “You are just like my father.”

Her cold voice turned the blood in his veins into ice. As she took a step back, he felt like he was losing much more than just body warmth. “What?”

“You. And my dad. You are just the same. Trying to make my decisions for me. Trying to dictate my life. Well, you know what, Max? I’m through with having someone deciding over me. From now on, I’m making my own decisions!”

Her intended movement out of his arms was inhibited by the liquor tainting her sense of balance and somehow one of her feet ended up under the other and she tripped. Her legs folded themselves under her and she would’ve hit the floor, if she had managed to get a few more feet away from Max.

“No! Stay away from me, Max!” Her hands were trying to beat his supporting hands away from her body.

Max took the beats, which were missing the targets some. “Liz! Stop this!”

“You are so…” she clenched her teeth together and looked up at him with dark eyes, “…so…annoying!”

“Well, to be honest, you’re no picnic yourself either right now,” Max said, not being able to fully suppress the smile on his lips. She was just so beautiful and not even her liquor-induced anger could lessen the relief he felt over having her in his arms. Safe, a little disoriented, but safe nonetheless.

Liz blinked several times as she tried to read his expression and her mouth fell open in appalled offense. She let him know physically by smacking him over the chest. “Are you laughing at me?”

“Aw, that hurt,” Max complained, rubbing his chest.

“Do you think this is funny? Well, let me tell you something, Max Evans, I don’t have to take this kind of crap anymore. See, this is the new Liz Parker.” Spreading her arms out from her body, pushing off Max’s arms in the process, she gave him a typical ‘look at me’ posture, although swaying a bit on her feet. “The new improved Liz Parker. She doesn’t let anyone walk over her. Nah-uh. Not even you, my beautiful knight in shining armor.”

“Liz…” Max attempts to interrupt proved fruitless though.

“I can have much more fun with…what was his name again…something…”

“Maybe we should go some place else.” Max took a firm grip on her arm again, putting a halt to her slight imbalanced body.

Liz’s forehead was scrunched together in the most thoughtful expression. “You know his name,” clicking with her fingers in front of Max’s face as if it would help her remember, “something with an R…or was it a S?”

“David,” Max said tiredly.

Liz looked up at him confused. “What?”

“David. His name is David.”

“Whose?”

Max rolled his eyes. “Okay, we’re getting out of here.”


<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>


“It’s no use.”

Max turned his head and looked at her. She was curled up in the passenger seat of the car, dark shadows looming over her slight frame, causing deceiving light to play over her face. She had been quiet ever since they had gotten into the car. He could not see her facial expression in the scarce light, and the sound of her desolate voice made him crave to see it. Made him want to look into her eyes and assure himself that her voice was betraying her true feelings.

“What do you mean?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but he had to get her to talk. It was the only way he knew to keep her from sinking into herself. She had scared him when she had shut him out. It had started when they had stepped over the threshold to her mother’s house and the meeting had catapulted her into somewhere so dark that Max feared she wasn’t going to be able to find her way out.

He had been frozen from the second she pushed him away, both physically and emotionally, feeling raw terror when he had noticed her missing the next day. The panic-stricken search through their small hotel room was still fresh in his mind. The fear that he would find her dead on the bathroom floor was forever imprinted in him. The memory of the relief mixed with raw panic was still so new that he could still taste the bitter residue of it.

“He will find me anyway.”

Her blunt statement caused his heart to stop in his chest. His mind immediately sprung into protective position, trying to come up with something to say to keep the truth of her statement at bay. Liz pulled her legs up to her chest, causing the skirt to slide further up, but in her alcohol-induced mind she was too dazed to notice.

“He’ll do anything to find me. He’ll hire private detectives. He’ll bribe police departments. He has probably done all of that already. It’s only a matter of time now.” She turned to gaze out the window into the dark night. “You don’t know what he would do to keep his reputation clean. He would kill to stop this from getting out.”

“Maybe we should give him exactly what he fears then,” Max said.

Her head snapped back to him and he could see the fear in her eyes.

“We should tell the newspapers everything. It might not be of any use to talk to the police, but your father is a famous man and newspapers are always looking for scandals about celebrities. There must be someone who wants to write something bad about Devin Parker.”

He could feel Liz staring at him and he tore his eyes away from the road momentarily to glance at her.

“Stop the car,” she whispered.

He looked at her again, confusion apparent on his face. “What?”

“Stop the car,” she repeated, her voice bearing more force.

Max looked at her sideways. “No.”

“Damn it Max, just stop the car,” Liz said.

“Why?” he demanded. He wasn’t going to stop the car out in the middle of nowhere. All he wanted right now was to take Liz to a motel so that they could get some sleep. His plans were painfully demolished when Liz reached forward and opened the car door.

Max instantly let go off the steering wheel with one hand and threw himself over the shifting gear and Liz’s lap to pull the door closed before the wind got a hold of it.

“What are you doing?” he screamed, fear coursing through him. His foot was already pushing down on the brake, one of his hands steering the car off the road and the other holding a tight grip across Liz’s waist. The car came to an abrupt halt, and Liz tore the door open again. He felt her slide out of his grip as he fumbled to pull the handbrake and put the gear into neutral.

“Liz!”

But she was already out of the car. He ripped the door open and jumped out. She was walking along the side of the road, her walk very unbalanced, stumbling more than walking. The lights from the car, which was still running, brushed against her backside, unattainable in reaching her, the further away from the car that she got. He was a lot faster than her, and sober, so it wasn’t hard to catch up with her in a few her angry stride.

He reached out and took a hold of her elbow. “Liz! Stop!”

“Let go of me,” she warned.

“Liz, stop this!”

She swung around, burning angry eyes meeting his. “Don’t you understand, Max? You are going to get us killed!”

“I’m trying to keep you safe,” Max said, her stubborn refusal to let him help her igniting his own anger.

“Well, this isn’t the solution,” Liz shot back.

“We have to stop him. Otherwise you’ll live your entire life in fear of him finding you.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Liz asked incredulously.

“Destroying his reputation will just make him more dangerous. And even if we manage to get him arrested or something, I still have to meet him and witness against him. I’ll be an easy target! Besides, he has friends, Max. People who owe him favors. He knows people you wouldn’t even want to comb your hair. The things they can do. They things they will do…”
Her eyes welled up with tears and she stumbled when she tried to back away from him. But Max hold on her elbow was firm and he held her close.

“Then what are you going to do, Liz? Go back to him and let him kill you?”

Liz looked up at him, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears, but her gaze firm and determined. It was the look of a woman knew what she had lost and was acutely aware of what she could lose if she didn’t reclaim the control.

“At least, then he wouldn’t hurt anyone else. I can get him to leave you alone.”

“You’re sure about that? Liz, honestly, when have you ever been able to control anything your father has done?”

Her eyes dropped at this. He could almost hear the turning of tug wheels inside her mind and the dilemma she was being faced with became painfully clear to him. Her problems had always been hers to deal with. She had never confided in anyone, afraid that they would get hurt due to the threat from her father. She had been forced to grow up too early, to make it on her own. To calculate every next move carefully, because it could mean the difference between just being banned dinner and receiving a kick in the stomach.

The only one she could really trust had been herself. Had always been herself. Completely independent, it was frightening to just give up the control to someone else, even if it was Max. When she had knocked on that window of his that night a couple of days ago, she had just acted. For once, she hadn’t thought about the consequences, because she had feared for her life. She had followed her heart and it had led her straight to Max. She had begged him to take care of her, to take control and let her rest.

Now her mind was ruling again. Thinking, analyzing, and quickly reaching the decision that pulling Max into this had been the wrong choice. She had to push him away before anything happened. Before it was too late. What scared her, which prominently could be seen in her face, was the fear that it was already too late. Max was already too deeply involved.

“Liz, he already knows that I’m with you. There is only one thing to do now: get away from him. You and me. We are not going back to him.” He put his finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “If I have to chain you to a mountain to stop you, I will. I will not watch you go back to him.”

She blinked a single tear out of her dark big eye, and it slid down her cheek.

“I’d die if anything ever happened to you,” Liz whispered brokenly.

He brushed the tear away from her cheek and with serious honesty answered, “Ditto.”

The shadow of a smile graced her lips and then she did something that Max couldn’t even have predicted in his wildest dreams.

Liz Parker kissed him.


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:34 pm

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Thanks a billion for the feedback!

Let's get back to our deared couple right away, shall we?


Chapter 16 (by Stef)


Her lips brushed over his lightly, afraid to break the moment. He was warm and welcoming. Startled, too, she was sure, by her sudden action. She rose higher, on her toes, strangely desperate to feel more of him, to smell his familiar scent, to bury her hands in his hair. The dizziness she’d experienced earlier when she had attempted to run away from him came back with full force, making it difficult for her to remain balanced. She clung to him, her hands clutching his shirt, drawing him closer.

Her stomach flopped wildly and, through her alcohol induced haze, she felt the booze sloshing around in it as it tightened almost painfully.

Was this what it felt like to be in love? Was this what it felt like to be loved?

When Max’s tongue lightly ran over her lower lip, she lost her balance and slid down along his body. He barely managed to catch her and put her on her feet again.

The foggy mist in her head gradually wore off as a painful throbbing became more prominent.

Had she just… kissed him?

Peering up at him, Liz noticed how disheveled his hair was. There was a change in his stare as well.

She had.

“I’m tired.” Her voice was quiet and unsteady, and she could hear it waver slightly. In no more than several seconds, guilt had started to grow, gain in size and weight, heavily weighing down in her stomach. It had replaced the childish happiness of before and churned restlessly, determined to make her feel miserable and sick.

He looked down, the look of guilt in his eyes – what for? – mirroring hers. “Liz?” he asked her, unsure.

He wanted an explanation.

She could give none.

She shook her head, but the simple movement nearly brought tears to her eyes. Her head was heavy, its painful aching blurring her vision, until all she could distinguish were blots and stripes.

“Let’s… find a motel.” It was strangely difficult to string those four words together and form a coherent sentence with them.

“Liz…” he tried again, lifting her head as she continually dodged his gaze. When his hand let go off her shoulder, though, she swayed dangerously on her feet. He grasped her by her shoulders again, deciding it was no use to talk to her while she was in this stage.

“Come on,” he said, and wrapped his arm around her waist, supporting her as they walked back to his car.

A yawn that refused to be stifled disabled her of any verbal protest, and she quietly let him guide her. He placed her upon the car’s seat, carefully buckled her up and took a blanket from the backseats. “Get some sleep,” he told her, his heart aching when he saw her weak nod, the fatigue in her eyes. A few stray locks of her hair fell before her eyes, and he brushed them away, his fingers lightly skimming over her skin, her appearance, though tired and disheveled, painfully dear to him.
<center>***</center>


She awoke, cold sweat on her forehead, uncontrollably shivering. A mind splitting, dull pain throbbed in the back of her head, and it took her several minutes to remember what had happened.

After slowly opening her eyes, she took in her surroundings. Night had started to fall and the sky was coated in a darkish tint of blue. She was still in the jeep, she noticed, but the driver’s seat was empty, and Max was nowhere to be seen.

Along with nausea, panic rose to her throat, and she flung the car door open and threw up. A sour, acid stench invaded her nostrils as spasm after spasm tormented her body, until her stomach was completely empty. She straightened, still lightly swaying on her legs, and leaned back against the car. Her eyes closed momentarily, and she shivered again, feeling cold and warm at the same time.

Across the street, cool, bright lights of a gas station illuminated its surroundings, and she briefly wondered if Max had needed to use the bathroom, if that was why he had chosen to stop and leave her.

Feeling lonely and helpless, she sat back in the jeep, and laid her head back to the soft, rather smudgy fabric of the car’s seat. It was pretty ironic. She had tried to run away from Max, but now that he was gone, and she was completely, absolutely, utterly alone, she yearned for his presence more than ever.

She dozed off for a moment, and only came to again when something cold and hard was pressed against her lips, when she felt a warm hand cupping her cheek.

”Here, drink it,” Max whispered. His voice was soft and warm in comparison with the sounds of oncoming traffic and honking cars, which were far and far too loud.

She obediently opened her mouth and, swallowing the cool liquid down, flushed away the foul taste of her vomit. Prying her eyes open, she looked up at his face, the worry in his eyes.

“It hurts,” she complained, wincing at the sound of her own voice.

He nodded slowly, making her head spin. “I know it does,” he said, and wiped a drop of water from her lips. His fingers went to her hair, and he picked a piece of vomit out of it and threw it away. “It will get better.”

Knowing how much she was endangering him, ruining his future, she wanted to hurl, wanted to push him aside and attempt to run away once more. She should never have kissed him. It only served to complicate things further, and she could never be who he wanted her to be. The last thing she wanted to do, was to disappoint him, the one person who truly cared for her.

“Liz…” he started hesitantly, and for a split second, she feared that he would bring their kiss up.

He didn’t, however.

“We can’t sleep in a motel,” he told her. “It’s too dangerous.”

She nodded slowly, trying to come up with an alternative, but her sluggish mind wasn’t too cooperative. “Where are we?”

Reaching for the map he’d left on the dashboard, he pointed at Canada. “We’re here, in Ontario,” he said, “just past Moosonee.”

Expelling a long, deep breath, she closed her eyes. “Where do you want to go? West?”

“I was thinking about that,” he admitted. “We could see if we’re able to make it to Seattle with the money we have. We could get a job, find a place to live…”

“With twenty dollars and forty-five cents?”

“Forty-eight cents,” he corrected her. “We’ll survive, Liz. I promise you we will.”

She shook her head, ignoring the pangs of hurt that came with it, and met his gaze. “Your life could be so much better,” she whispered, her voice pained.

“Not without you. I could never live without you, Liz.”

“It would be better,” she persisted tiredly. “Better for you, and your family.”

Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, she shot a glance at the gas station. “Do they have bathrooms there?”

“They do, yes, but you have to have a strong stomach,” Max answered, scrunching his nose in disgust.

“My stomach isn’t very strong at the moment,” she said, “but neither is my bladder.” She swung her legs out of the car and held the frame of the jeep’s door for support. He grabbed her arm. She glared at him, not wanting him to help her more than he already had. “I can do it.”

His hand slipped from her arm, but when she, tottering on her legs, wanted to cross the street, his hand had found its way back to her arm again.
<center>***</center>


“Do you trust me?”

She opened her eyes briefly, just to look him in the eye while she nodded slowly. “I trust you,” she admitted softly, and closed her eyes again, half dreading what he had in mind. “Why?”

Max threw a hurried look over his shoulder as he made a turn to the left. “I have an uncle in Thunderbay,” he said, looking at her for a split second, just long enough to meet her eyes, before concentrating on the traffic again. “We could go there. It’s not too far away from here.”

“Max... no,” she drew out slowly, carefully, tired of fighting – fighting him, and the attraction she couldn’t ignore. “We can’t just--”

“I trust him, Liz.” He gave her a significant look and rubbed his eyes, obviously just as tired as she was. He'd been driving non-stop for hours, and his concentration strayed at times.

“He’ll make you call your parents,” she stated matter-of-factly, a bit worried, and she gazed out of the car’s window, at the cars that overtook them, at the trees and the scenery that flew by.

His voice was soft and delicate when he spoke up, meeting her eyes in the window’s reflection. “Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.”

Stunned into silence, she turned her head, regarding him with a mixture of remorse and guilt. “You can’t,” she said, and bit at the tender flesh of the inside of her cheek, trying not to cry. Guilt churned restlessly inside her stomach, searing heat scorching her insides.

“They need to know I’m okay,” he said, keeping his eyes on the road. “I won’t tell them where we are, or what happened… I’ll just tell them that we’re doing fine, Liz.”

When he peered at her through the darkness of the car, she noticed the dark circles under his eyes, the disheveled hair and hollow cheeks.

She wasn’t the only one suffering.

Silently, she studied the pattern of the jeep’s upholstery – the little, dark circles that were mingled with light, orange stripes and tiny red squares. Dirty streaks were smirched over the fabric, partially covering the pattern.

“Liz?”

She looked up reluctantly, and nodded. “Fine,” she whispered, strangely discomfited with the idea of him calling his parents. Maybe, she thought, it was because she was afraid. She was scared that, after having talked with his family, he’d decide that she wasn’t worth it. That he had to go back to his parents. That he needed to be with them.

“Thank you.” He sent her a quick smile, and, turning his attention back to the traffic, he brought his hand upon hers, giving it a light squeeze.

They both were silent for a while, and Liz looked longingly at the gray sky, wishing for it to break open, to have it release its heavy rain upon them.

“I hope my uncle’s home,” Max said suddenly, his fingers tapping impatiently on the wheel.

She shrugged, secretly hoping he wasn’t. “What do you want to tell him?” she asked, drawing patterns on the steamed up window – crossing lines, curvy shapes and small triangles.

His eyes sought out hers. “The truth.”

Aghast, she whirled around in her seat, her eyes wide open. “What?! Max, you can’t do this to me! You can’t --”

“Liz, hear me out,” he broke her off gently. “My uncle’s a good man. We can trust him. He won’t call your father or the cops.”

She shook her head feebly, her fingers fidgeting restlessly with the buttons of her jacket. “I don’t want him to know.”

“We can’t do this on our own, Liz,” he said, having troubles discussing with her and driving at the same time. His foot pressed down the car’s brake abruptly as the traffic light sprang to red, and other cars started to pull up. “He can help us.”

She stubbornly shook her head. “He can’t. No one can.”

“He can,” Max adamantly said, and, knowing that he could be just as stubborn as her, she didn’t respond and just watched him drive, watched him shoot her an occasional, doubtful glance.

She watched him, and wondered where they stood.


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Post by max and liz believer » Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:44 pm

Edited to add: Natz, you managed to read before I got the chance to post the other one. Thanks for the comment :D
-------

And since the previous chapter was slightly on the short side, I'm posting another one...


Chapter 17 (by Jo)


The curtains moved slowly in the gentle breeze from the open window. The night was black outside, covering the land below with its thick darkness. There was no moonlight spilling in over the windowsill into the bedroom. There were no stars twinkling in the heavenly vault.

The room was covered in darkness and silence, except for the whimpers coming from the girl in the bed and the occasional restless movements of her legs under the comforter.

Her screams cut through the silence as she bolted upwards in the bed. The boy resting next to her sat up quickly, his hands taking a hold of her and automatically pulling her close to his body, trying to give the trembling girl some comfort. Her hollow sobs echoed in the motel room, where they had been forced to stay because he had been too exhausted to drive any further.

Her whole body sighed in relief when she felt his arms around her and his scent filled her senses. The images from the nightmare had already begun to fade, but the feelings they had stirred were still coursing through her.

“Shh…Liz, it was only a dream. It was only a dream.”

“I’m so scared. So scared,” Liz whispered.

“I know,” Max answered softly, his hands moving soothingly through her hair. He placed a kiss on the side of her neck and a shiver went through her.

“Are you cold?” he whispered, his voice concerned. His lips were so close to her skin that she could feel them brush against her with every word.

“No,” she answered. She wasn’t cold. Not at all. She could feel herself warming up in his embrace. She could feel heat radiating from her stomach and she didn’t know what it was. All she knew was that she wanted Max to touch her again. With his lips. She wanted him to kiss her. She wanted to kiss him. She could feel his hands moving against her back. Moving gently up and down. She could almost feel the skin of his hands through the thin material of the T-shirt she was sleeping in.

“Max, I…” her voice trailed off, too embarrassed to voice what she was thinking.

“What is it?” Max asked, leaning back so that he could meet her eyes.

And his breath hitched in his throat. He swallowed. “Liz?”

She could tell by the way her name got stuck in his throat that she was looking at him differently. She could feel it inside her. The longing. The craving. For him. Without a word, she moved her hand to his cheek, cradling it gently. Her eyes moved slowly over his face, tracing the strong forehead, the dark eyebrows, his strong jaw line, to come to rest on his lips. She unconsciously licked her lips, her mind remembering how he had tasted with utter clarity. Slowly, she leaned into him, holding his eyes the entire time. Her soft moan of pleasure traveled over her lips as they connected with his. He was insecure at first, but soon she felt his hand wander into her hair, pulling her face closer to his. His lips were devouring hers and his tongue demanded entrance into her mouth. Her body moved closer to his when his tongue brushed against hers. His low groan made her heart beat faster and her hand moved under his shirt, feeling the hardness of his back under her exploring fingers.

“God, Liz…” Max whispered against her lips, pulling at her bottom lip.

His hands moved down her cheeks, down the sides of her body and around her waist, pulling her even closer. The movement caused Liz to lose her balance and she fell backwards on the bed. Max, not letting their lips separate even for a second, fell on top of her. The new position made an ache come to life inside of Liz and her kisses became more demanding. More fierce. More passionate. She moved under him so that he naturally positioned himself between her legs. One of her legs moved around the back of his thigh and he groaned against her mouth.

God, he tasted good. The feel of his hands traveling over her body was awakening a hidden desire inside of her.

She was violently ripped away from him as she heard the sound of a door opening. She could tell that it was him before she heard his voice.

“There she is; the little whore!”

Her father.

Max scrambled up into sitting position, pulling Liz behind him. But it all happened so quickly. Suddenly Devin was up close to Max and Max fell backwards against Liz as he received a fist in his face.

“Get the hell away from my daughter!!” Devin bellowed.

Liz pressed up against the headboard of the bed.

“Max, go,” she sobbed. “You have to leave.”

“No,” Max said, blood seeping through the hand he was holding against his tarnished lip.

And suddenly there was a hand on her arm, pulling her away from Max.

“No!” Max yelled as Liz succumbed to her father’s pull and let herself be dragged away. It was either her or Max, and she wouldn’t let Max get hurt.

Max took a hold of her waist and tried to pull her back to him. Devin aimed a hit in Liz’s face, right above her eye, and her head fell back against the bed with the force of it.

“Get away from her!!!” Max cried out, letting go off Liz and instead getting off the bed and tried to reach Devin.

“Max, no,” Liz whispered, silently begging him to leave.

Everything seemed to go in slow-motion after that. She watched her father pull up his shirt and pull something out of the top of his pants. She couldn’t see what it was in the darkness, before it was too late. The loud sound of a shot being fired broke through the air and then Max was falling back against her. She wasn’t aware of her father’s presence any longer. She moved away from underneath Max, her hand sinking into a warm thick fluid as she tried to sit up beside him. She looked down at him in confusion and saw the blood starting to soak through his shirt. Her breath was coming out in irregular gasps as she tried to get air into her lungs. Her hands frantically flew over his face, his chest. His eyes looked up at her, so filled with sorrow.

“I’m…” he coughed, “…sorry…Liz.”

“No no no,” Liz begged, her tears dripping on his face. “Don’t…”

She felt someone take a hold of her arm and start pulling her away. A low keening sound started low in her throat and her fists clenched Max’s shirt.

“Nooo!” she cried.

“Liz!” The voice sounded different. Softer.

“He’s gonna die, he’s gonna die,” she sobbed, his regretful eyes burning into hers.

“Liz! Wake up!!”

And she realized why the voice sounded so different from her father’s. It was Max’s voice. She looked down at him, but he wasn’t saying anything. His eyes were slowly closing, his lips trembling with strained breathing.

“Liz, sweetie, wake up…”

The surroundings started to blur and panic started to spread inside of her at the thought of losing sight of him. Her hands took a hold of his arm, trying to stop herself from falling.

“Noooo!!”

She bolted upwards, violently ripped back to the world of the conscious. The first thing she saw when her eyes refocused were Max’s worried eyes.

“Oh my God,” she whispered, before lunging herself into his arms.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” he whispered against her ear as her tears soaked his shirt. Her breathing was erratic and his hold on her instinctively tightened.

“You have to leave,” she sobbed. “Please Max, leave.”

“You had a nightmare, Liz,” Max said softly. “It isn’t real.”

“He’s coming for us. He’s gonna kill you.”

“No, he isn’t,” Max answered.

Liz closed her eyes against his words. Why was he doing this? Why couldn’t he just leave before he got killed? She was slowly starting to realize that Max was still alive in her arms, not dying with blood pouring from his chest, his eyes unseeing. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. She didn’t doubt for a second that her father could kill Max if he wanted to. The guilt and fear made it almost impossible for her to breathe.

“What do I have to do to get you to leave?”

Her voice was so desperate and hollow that he pulled out of her arms and looked at her. His eyes were searching hers for answers as his hands brushed away damp strands of her hair from her face.

“Liz… I’m not going to leave you,” Max said slowly. “Liz, do you trust me?”

With tears dripping down her damp cheeks and the fear in her eyes so bright that it sliced right through his heart, she nodded.

“Then trust me to keep you safe. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize your safety.”

“If my father came through that door right now,” Liz nodded towards the closed motel room, “would you try to fight him?”

“Whatever it takes to keep you safe, I will do,” Max answered, his thumb brushing comfortingly against her cheek in repetitive motion.

Liz swallowed back at the nausea rising in her throat. He would do just what she had expected him to do. Just what he had done in the dream. Her eyes flickered to his shirt, her hand following the movement of her eyes as she traced her fingers along his shirt.

Max looked at her with confusion and then looked down at the journey her hands were taking over her shirt. They always came back to one place. Right over his heart.

“Liz, are you okay?” he asked, watching the emotions flicker over her face.

She licked her dry lips and without looking up, she answered, “I want him dead.”

Her words caused a shiver to go through him and he looked down at her in shock. But the girl in his arms was still the same petite girl that he had known for almost all his life. She still looked like the girl who would carry spiders out of the house into the garden instead of killing them. She still looked like the girl who always tried to be there for everyone else and who you could always count on. She still looked like the girl who would sacrifice her own safety to prevent someone else from getting hurt. He never thought he would hear those words cross her lips. Up until now, even after everything she had gone through the last couple of days, she had not said one hateful word about her father.

Looking up at him, he saw the guilt and fear in her eyes. “I want him dead, Max. What kind of person does that make me? I wish that my own father was dead.”

Max swallowed and then put two fingers under her chin and forced her guilt-ridden eyes to look into his. “After everything that he has done to you, he isn’t your father, Liz. He stopped being your father a long time ago.”

“I just… I didn’t care before. But now…” Her guilt-ridden voice trailed off, her eyes fixed on his chest, blank and unseeing. Now it wasn’t just her life. Max’s life was at stake as well.

“What changed?” Max asked carefully.

Her hands were trembling and she tried to will her breathing to calm down, but her fear was so strong that she could feel it as strongly as she could feel his shirt in her clenched fists. She turned her head, looking away from him.

“I’m still standing by my decision not to leave you,” Max said softly.

“You’re killing yourself,” Liz whispered, still turned away from him.

“If it comes down to your life or mine, know that I would do anything so that you will live.”

A repressed sob crawled up in her throat by his words. It just hit her how alike they were. They were both stubborn and goal-oriented. They had the same strong will. And they were both willing to sacrifice themselves for the other’s happiness. And for perhaps the first time, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to force him to leave. He was going to stay by her, whether she wanted it or not.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------------------</center>


One day earlier

The lock rattled as someone tried to unlock the door. The sound ended when the person on the other side of the door realized that it wasn’t locked. At the sound, Charles Whitman quickly rose and was by the door when it opened.

“Hi honey,” his wife greeted him, balancing groceries bags in the crooks of her arms.

“Hi,” Charles said quietly, mutely offering his help and freeing her from the bags.

Nancy frowned at his solemn behavior, but easily fell back into old patterns of not asking whether something was wrong, just ignoring it. Even if Charles was nothing like Devin had been, and they were as different as night and day, the adaptive behavior from that period of her life was still such a large part of her and she was still ruled by the same insecurities that had ruled her back then. She was still very careful not to start any arguments, ruled by the unconscious fear that it had the possibility to get out of hand.

“How was work?” she asked casually, picking out a cucumber and some lettuce from one of the grocery bags and began to load the refrigerator.

“Good,” Charles answered shortly.

Nancy smiled, but the smile never reached her eyes as she watched him with her peripheral vision, trying to spot warning signs or just any signs of how the best way to behave would be.

“That’s good,” she said lightly, placing the juice into the refrigerator.

“There was a man here before,” Charles said casually, a little too casually.

Nancy couldn’t help but react with an inbuilt fear response. Her heart skipped several beats and she had to support herself against the refrigerator door. It was all done very discreetly, hiding all the extreme outwards signs. Charles, never having seen the side of Nancy that she had worked so hard to hide, didn’t interpret the signs correctly. He took her tense shoulders and the flickering of her eyes as a sign of her being caught. That she had indeed hidden something from him.

“Really?” Nancy raised her eyebrows in false surprise before walking around her husband to get back to the grocery bag, starting to unload the second one.

“He said he knew you. From before.”

Nancy stopped. This was bad. She knew it in the core of her being. She had never told Charles anything about her past. She had intentionally avoided it, to avoid being seen as abnormal or being pelted with questions. The guilt of leaving her child behind had been too large. She didn’t have the strength to admit to someone else what she had done. All the mistakes. All the pain. It was too painful and distressing.

“He did?”

Charles walked around her at her casual retort and took the sugar pack from her hands. Putting it down on the counter, he took a hold of her upper arms and turned her towards him, forcing her to look at him.

“He said he was your husband.”

Nancy looked into the eyes of the man she had married out of love, the man she still loved, and she saw her whole life flash through her mind. It all had finality to it. This was the end. When he found out what she had experienced and done, he would leave her. All she could do was to try to figure out what Devin had wanted, without revealing things Charles didn’t know. She had to keep her past hidden. Charles couldn’t know. She wanted to save him from those facts.

“Devin?”

Charles hold on her arms tightened and he nodded; his jaw tight.

Nancy’s voice still held the façade of innocence and ignorance. “What did he want?”

“You’ve never told me that you were married, Nancy.”

“I guess there never was the right opportunity to tell you.”

”You got to be kidding me,” Charles said, releasing the grip on her arms and stepping back, looking at her with anger and confusion in his eyes.

“I never planned for you to find out this way-“

“Actually, Nance, I’m starting to think you did,” Charles said tightly. His mistrusting eyes caused her to drop her head. This couldn’t be happening. Why was this happening?

“I’ve been sitting here waiting for you for an hour, so I had some time to think,” Charles continued.

“Okay,” Nancy sighed, her weak legs suddenly unable to support her, she sunk down on the stool behind her. “What did he want?”

The fear and resignation in her voice stopped Charles from continuing to voice his anger, but his voice still held hurt. His wife had lied to him. Not only for a month or even a year, but for seven years.

“He wanted to see you. He said he wanted to talk to you about your daughter.”

Nancy shoulder fell forward and her hand flung up to support her head. It was all coming back to haunt her. She couldn’t escape her past. She had thought that she had, but she had been mistaken.

“I can deal with you being married before, but what about your daughter? Have you met her since your divorce? Or have you just been meeting her behind my back?”

“No…”

Her head was shaking in negative, as her mind was slowly disintegrating. She couldn’t remember anymore why she had done the decisions she had. Now, when she really needed to justify her choices, she couldn’t remember one single reason for why she left her child behind.

“Okay,” she heard Charles say. “You have a daughter and you haven’t met her in…” There was a pause as Charles did a quick calculation in his head, “…eight years? How is that possible, Nance?”

He couldn’t understand it. The information he had received from this ex-husband of Nancy’s, didn’t at all fit the person he had married. The person he thought he knew. The person he had married would never abandon a child like that. Never.

“You don’t understand-“

”Then make me understand!”

“I can’t.” Her voice was firm and unyielding. She wasn’t going to tell him. It was too humiliating. She had to stay strong. She was slowly being pushed back to where she could only count on herself for her existence. She could never fully trust anyone but herself.

“For God’s sake, Nance! I’m your husband!”

She quickly rose from the chair and took a couple of steps back from him, the intensity of his voice awakening fears inside of her.

“And why do you always do that?”

She looked at him, genuinely confused this time. “What?”

“Why do you always look like I’m going to hit you? Whenever we have an argument, you get this look in your eyes and you hide.”

“I don’t,” Nancy denied.

Charles slammed his fist into the counter, making Nancy jump. “Damnit Nancy! This is where you stop lying to me and tell me what happened to you!”

There were a million things going through her head during the seconds of silence that followed. The disadvantages of telling were weighed against advantages of telling. Old instincts and old behavior that had been conditioned into her with violence were slowly and painfully pushed to the side and she started to talk.

She told him everything.

She told him about Devin and the love which quickly turned into violence and fear. She told him about the fear of dying and the fierce will to survive. She told him about the times Devin had forced himself on her; raped her. She told him about every bone in her body that he had broken and every time he had pushed her down the stairs.

But mostly it was about Liz. Her little girl.

The one she had loved more than everything else. She told him about how she had never regretted having Liz, even though it tied her to Devin. How Liz had been her light and her motivation to live. She told him of how Liz had been the greatest part of her life. She told him about how cute Liz was as a baby, her first steps, and the first time she said ‘mommy’. She told him about how she had to leave to save them both. She told him of how things had gone wrong, so terribly wrong. And she told him of how she had left her child behind. How she had abandoned her child and left her in the mercy of Devin’s violent hands.

<center>-------------------------------------------------------------------</center>


Two days later

Liz closely observed her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes slowly drifted over her eyebrows, momentarily stopping at the scar over her eyebrow. It was the only lasting outward sign of her father’s abuse. Her father had thrown a plate at her face when she had put too little salt in the food. Her eyes drifted over her forehead, remembering every scratch that had been on that forehead. Considering all the beatings, there hadn’t been many. The most serious injury she had ever suffered in her face was the one that had left the scar over her eyebrow. His hatred for her had been out of control, but his beating had always been strategic. It wasn’t often that he hit her in the face; that would have been harder to conceal.

“Liz, are you okay in there?” Max’s voice drifted through the bubble around her and she nodded slowly, answering absently, “Mhmm.”

There was a pause, before Max answered. “Okay… Dinner’s ready. You should get something to eat.”

“I’ll be right there,” Liz answered, her gaze fixed on her blank eyes.

She could hear Max move away from the door. Her ears followed the sound of his retreating footsteps down the stairs until she couldn’t hear anything more and her full attention was back on the mirror. She tried to look inside herself. She tried to see herself like others saw her. And what she saw disgusted her. Because she could never see anything other than how her father must see her. Ugly. Disgusting. Weak.

A slut.

Her lips were dry. Her cheeks were white and lifeless. Her skin was dull and had the appearance of death. The dark hair, plain brown, was hanging in long stripes surrounding her face. She inhaled shakily, trying to still the feelings of self-hatred trying to take control. She desperately wanted to see what Max was seeing. The longing to understand why he was still with her was so strong her whole body ached. Her fingers brushed over her lips, remembering the feel of his against them.

She needed to know why he hadn’t pulled away when she kissed him. She needed to know his intentions. If she wasn’t prepared she could get hurt. She couldn’t take that. Her hand stilled against her lips when the meaning of what she was thinking became clear to her and she could feel the nausea building up in her throat. The disgust with herself instantly skyrocket and with shaking hands she turned on the faucet, and emotionally detached watching the water flow into the sink.

Max was her friend. He had been her friend for as long as she could remember. She remembered Max’s mom telling her how Max had given her his pacifier when she had dropped hers, so that she wouldn’t cry. They had only been babies back then, but they had always been together. She knew him inside and out. He told her everything. At least he had. It had all changed when her mother had left and the abuse had begun.

But he had never completely left her. They had just drifted apart, with her being the main instigator of their distance. She lowered her hands into the flowing water, feeling the soft and cold texture against her fingers. She could feel the water gradually heating up against her skin. It got warmer. Hot. Soon it was burning her hands, causing her skin to signal to her to stop turning red. She didn’t react. She deserved the pain. She needed to feel the pain to cover the pain inside of her. Physical pain was better than emotional. Her heart was too battered. Too bruised.

She brought her hands together, her palms facing upwards, and cupped them, filling them with water. Slowly, some of the water escaping her poor replica of a bowl, she brought the hands to her face and let the hot water hit her face. Her heart jumped, the nerve endings in her skin protesting loudly as the almost scorching hot water ran over her face. She repeated the procedure several times, trying to clean her face. She felt dirty and she could see it all in her face. All her mistakes and every bad thought she had ever thought. It was all displayed in her face and she had to wash it away.

She raised her head and looked at her reflection again, absently watching the water droplets run down her now-red face. Then she opened the medicine cabinet in front of her to which the mirror was attached and her eyes sought out the bottles there. Pills. Sleeping pills. Antidepressants. Pain killers. Her hand reached out for one of them, feeling the plastic texture against her trembling fingers, when there was a soft knock on the door. Startled by the sudden interruption her hand hit the bottle and it fell down into the sink, clattering against the hard porcelain, hitting at such an angle that the lid was forced open and some of the pills spilled out into the sink.

“Liz?”

She looked at the door and then turned her eyes back to the pills. It was so easy really. Those white small pills could so easily put a halt to all her vital organs, ending everything. Her hand reached out for two of the pills, soaking up the water at the surface of the sink. All she had to do was to eat them. As many as there were.

“Liz? Are you okay? Uncle John is wondering where you are.”

Her fingers grazed the loosened texture of the pill, her heart beating erratically in her chest.

“Sweetie?”

Just one simple word and she was ripped away. Just one word of affection, voiced with that soft and safe voice of his and she couldn’t do it.

“I’ll be right there,” she said, her voice trembling, ignoring her attempts to keep it steady.

“Liz…?”

She could hear the worry in his voice and her hands quickly started to gather the wet pills. She took a piece of toilet paper and wrapped the pills in it, before putting the wrapping into the bin. She picked up the bottle and put the lid back, and put it back into the cabinet and closed the door. With one final look at her face in the mirror she straightened her sweater and reached for the doorknob.

Max’s worried eyes met hers as the barrier was removed between them. His eyes moved over her face, with a look in his eyes that she couldn’t quite interpret. It made her nervous and she dropped her head, fixing her eyes on her feet.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” she answered.

Her eyes slipped shut when she felt his fingers under her chin, forcing her to look at him. She wanted to look away, but his eyes were digging into her soul, coaxing her to listen.

“Don’t leave me, Liz.”

She swallowed and she could feel tears of guilt building in her eyes.

“Please don’t leave me.”

She felt like he had been watching her. That he had seen what she had been about to do. Somehow he could read that in her face, in her body language.

“Of course not,” she answered, sounding more convincing than she felt.

He looked at her for a long time and then pulled her towards him, pressing a kiss on her forehead. She wanted to fall into his arms and have his arms sheltering her from all evil. But instead she pulled away from him, with a weak smile.

“Okay, what’s for dinner?”

After another look in silence, he grabbed her hand, his grip on her unusually tight.

“I think it’s some kind of meatloaf, but I’m not really sure. Uncle John was never really known for his good cooking.”

She smiled at him as they started walking, but along the side of her body, her fingers were rubbing against each other, not having forgotten the texture of the pills.


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:17 pm

Natz
clueless
- I think you posted you're reply when I posted the next chapter, so I'm just making sure that you didn't miss chapter 17...
begonia9508
sprayadhesive


My faithful readers and feedbackers, thank you!!



Chapter 18 (by Stef)


She could hear their voices – the low, rich timbre of Max’s, the even lower sound of his uncle’s – as they discussed her situation. It was impossible for her to hear the words they said, or to follow their conversation, but she didn’t need to. She didn’t want to.

In the bedroom, it was just her and the voices. There was more separating her from Max than the brightly flowered walls of the guestroom, she knew, much more. They both knew that.

Shivering lightly, she crept further under the covers, missing the warmth of Max’s body next to hers. Without him to concentrate on, there were so many things bothering her, nagging lightly, gnawing at the corners of her mind. Save for the voices, it was perfectly quiet in the room, only the sound of her ragged breathing shredding the silence into pieces.

It was quiet, too quiet – the lack of sounds to concentrate on wasn’t able to assist her on her quest to stop thinking, stop feeling.

She wrapped her arms around her waist and drew her knees up to her chest. Her much needed sleep seemed unwilling to take her in, to envelop her in its warmth, so she lay awake, simply existing. She tried her best to be oblivious to her surroundings, to dream with her eyes wide open. Maybe it was her fears that kept her from falling asleep. The complete surrender to her dreams, the nightmares that harbored visions of her father’s face, her father’s hands… they scared her.

Not closing her eyes seemed to be a fruitless attempt to protect herself from him, though. She saw him anyway. She could smell his scent in the dark, could sense his presence in the room. He never left her, but when she tried to reach out for him, tried to look him in the eyes, he was gone. She knew he wasn’t real, but fear still made her heart beat faster, almost erratically, fear still changed her breaths into deep inhales and hurried exhaled gusts of air.

Max and his uncle had almost finished their conversation when she suddenly realized the truth, saw everything clearly, felt the pieces falling in their place.

Max would always be on the outside.

He would never see things the way she saw them, would never feel things the way she felt them. And she knew that he wanted to, that he tried to understand her, but the thing was that she didn’t want him to understand. She didn’t want him to experience what she had experienced. She had pulled him in far too deeply as it was, had allowed him to see too much of her miserable life.

He was on the outside, and that’s where he should stay.

On the outside.
<center>***</center>


Skipping the last step of the stairs, Isabel jumped to the floor, quietly humming Jewel’s latest hit. It was amazing. It was a miracle. Christian Walker had asked her out.

Christian Walker.

She still had trouble believing it, but the scribbled letters on her agenda told her that it was the truth, that she indeed had a date with him scheduled for next Saturday.

The door creaked slightly when she opened it, and she was about to close it when she noticed her parents, her mother with the phone in her hand. Tears were running down her mother’s cheeks, watery mascara streaks running down her skin. With Christian being the furthest thing from her mind, Isabel took some steps into her mother’s direction and shot a hesitant, questioning glance at her father. “Dad?”

Her father gestured for her to be quiet, and that instant, she knew it was about Max. It had to be about Max. Sinking down in the chair nearby her parents, she regarded her mother, who occasionally spoke up, addressing the person on the other end of the line, her words tear-garbled and difficult to understand.

Finally, after what seemed to take hours but in reality only took about ten minutes, her mother lowered her hand, the red light of the phone still flickering.

Philip almost immediately gathered his wife in his arms, his eyes concerned. “Diane… What did he say?”

Wearily pointing at the couch, Diane let out a tortured breath and wiped at her cheeks with the back of her hands. “Let’s sit down for a while,” she said. “There’s a lot to be told.”

Isabel nervously cleared her throat and fumbled with the zipper of her sweater. She prayed that whatever her mother had to tell her would be positive. She wished for Max to return. She longed to see him again, tease him, hug him. She missed his mocking remarks, their playful banter and the evenings spend together. She missed him.

Her mother was clearly unsure how to begin, for she was hesitant and still searching for the right words when she spoke up. “Iz… How well did you know Liz?”

“Liz?” Surprised, Isabel gave her head a light shake. “I… I didn’t really know her, I guess.” She bit on her lip doubtfully. “Max spent a lot more time with her than I did,” she told her mother. “Where she went, he went.”

And not much has changed, she thought silently.

Her mother nodded, some tendrils of her graying hair escaping the loose ponytail that rested on her back. “You didn’t ever notice anything… strange? Anything suspicious?”

Isabel shook her head slowly, a slight frown marring her features. “No… not really, no. Why?”

Sighing, her mother shifted in her seat, momentarily dropping her gaze to her own hands and the ones of her husband clasped around them. “Because,” she started, her eyes darting from Philip’s to Isabel’s, “there seems to be a lot we didn’t know about Liz Parker.”
<center>***</center>


“Uncle John said we could stay with him as long as needed,” Max told her, and she nodded, but did not feel exceptionally happy or sad. She hadn’t truly felt happy about anything lately. Instead of meeting his intent stare, she surveyed her surroundings.

A light autumn breeze was playing with some leaves that had decided to descend from the trees early. The wind lifted them up, whirled them around and finally blew them from the pavement onto the street. A car rushed by, but, other than that, the street was strangely quiet.

Forcing a feeble smile upon her lips, she stuffed her hands in her jacket’s pockets and let her eyes drift from the horizon to Max’s face. “That’s really kind of him,” she commented, feeling that he expected her to reply, to be grateful.

Max nodded, a half smile grazing his lips. “It is. I eh… I called my parents yesterday.” When she didn’t give him an immediate answer, his eyes sought out hers. “They’re worried about you, too, you know.”

She still didn’t know what to say. The knowledge that he had called his parents made her somewhat sad, and it made the truth even more evident. He shouldn’t be with her. He had a caring family that needed him. His parents loved him and he had a loyal, though at some times slightly annoying sister that probably cared for him more than she’d ever admit.

His steps faltered lightly, and he stood still. When she noticed that he had stopped walking, she did the same. It was warm for early in autumn, and yet, she shivered, coldness sweeping through her. “Did you tell them? About me… about my… father?”

Reaching out, he took her hand and nodded slightly, nearly indiscernibly. His rounded eyes were begging her to never look away, beseeched her to get lost in them. And she did. She did get lost in them. “I told them, yes. They love you, Liz. They love you.”

In her mind, she cried out loudly, but her eyes wouldn’t allow any tears to fall. Her gaze managed to resist the lure of his eyes and dropped to the pavement, to a brightly colored autumn leave dancing on the wind, brushing over her shoe and then, as expected, ending up on the street, where a car ran it over.

A crumpled, smirched heap of brown was all that was left.

She was looking down at her own mud stained shoes when the undeniable need to touch Max, to kiss him, to feel him kissing her, surged through her body. The second she looked up at him and found him staring at her, his eyes dark and mysterious, and still as open as ever, all logic thoughts fled her mind.

With trembling fingers, she reached out for his face. She caressed his cheek with the back of her hand, her skin grazing over the stubbles on his chin. His eyes burned hers with their intense stare, and she saw him swallow, licking his lips lightly. She saw it all, but wasn’t quite able to comprehend it. Then, without even realizing what she was doing, she laid her hand on his neck and pulled his face down, his lips upon hers. Her fingers tunneled in his hair as she pulled him down even further, desperate to get closer to him, to feel more of him.

She needed to feel him.

She needed to feel alive.

His arms wrapped themselves around her waist and briefly, very briefly, it seemed as if he was driven by the same need to be closer, for he drew her tightly against him in one swift motion, his lips never leaving hers. His tongue ran over her lower lip and she moaned, feeling inexplicably cherished and treasured at that very moment, the feeling rather unfamiliar to her. Dark thoughts fluttered in protest, but were powerless against the elevating feeling of love that invaded her mind.

Then, as sudden as it had started, it was over again. The feeling of love dissipated fast, too fast, and the dark thoughts returned. Max rested his forehead against hers and his eyes looked down in hers, but it was wrong. She shouldn’t be kissing him. She shouldn’t be ruining his life.

He must’ve seen the indecision, the guilt flickering in her eyes, for he laid his hand against her cheek and gave her a gentle smile. Hope for something more was evident in his look, and it made more guilt course through her.

She wasn’t ready for this. Max was her best friend, her buddy, her rock. He helped her survive, helped her make it through the hard times.

And sure, he was attractive, but that couldn’t and shouldn’t change the fact that they were friends, and nothing more.

Best friends.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her heart bleeding. With tears stinging her eyes, she turned on her heels and ran away from him.

She always ran.

Not because it was the easiest way out, because Lord knew how it killed her to run, how every step tore her heart out a little bit further. She ran, but not because it was easier than staying.

She ran, because she had no other choice.

She ran, because it was the only thing she ever learned to do.

<center>***</center>


It had been Ruth, John’s wife, who had opened the door for her. It had been Ruth from whom she’d hidden her tears as she had flown up the flight of stairs. How she had ended up at John and Ruth’s house, she couldn’t remember. Somehow, through the foggy panic and confusion, she’d managed to find her way back, regardless of her tear-blurred vision, regardless of the throbbing ache in her head.

How could she have kissed Max? Again? She’d kissed him again, despite how determined she’d been to not lead him on any further after their first kiss.

It had been stupid, but… it had been so good, too… It had been so invigorating to feel again – to feel something else beside the ever-present, numb sensation in her chest. It had felt good, but it had been wrong. She had to stop hurting Max and herself by doing this, by pretending that they could ever be anything more than friends.

Her hand lingered on the wood of the bathroom door when she closed it, her fingertips lightly brushing over the smooth material. She was alone. She deserved to be alone. She needed to be alone.

After closing the door, she locked it, but the clicking sound was unable to bring her mind to rest. Max would come after her. He always did.

Bracing herself on the sink, she stared at her reflection staring back at her. She looked worse than she ever had. The dark bags under her eyes had become large, black circles in which her eyes seemed to disappear. Her lips were pale and dry, slightly parched. Her hair had lost its shine. Her eyes had lost their sparkle. Her cheeks, hollow and white, gave her a sick appearance. She briefly wondered how Max could have kissed her back.

She looked horrible.

Breathing out slowly, she buried her face in her hands and rubbed her eyes, her temples. Nothing made sense. She wanted Max, but didn’t. She liked him, but didn’t. She loved him, but didn’t.

Had her mother felt the same confusion when she had shut her out, had closed the door for her? Had her father experienced the same desperation when he slapped her, striking her with the flat of his hand?

Her father had hurt her badly, but her mother… Liz let her hands slide off her face and stared into the eyes she called her own, but that belonged to her mother.

Her mother had hurt her more than her father ever could have.

“Liz?”

Max’s voice, laced with concern, reverberated through the bathroom door. She could see the doorknob turning as he tried to open it, and a muttered curse reached her ears.

“Liz? Are you there?”

Why did he follow her whenever she ran? Couldn’t he see that she didn’t want him to? Didn’t he know that she wanted to be alone, that that was the whole point of running away?

She hesitated, then jerked the shower’s curtains open and reached inside to turn on the water. A loud, almost slurping sound echoed in the little space and indicated the waterfall that was bound to come. Cold water rushed down and hit the floor of the shower stall. It soaked the sleeve of her sweater and straying water drops splashed onto her clothes and face.

Max called her name once more, but after that, she could hear his footsteps as he left the landing and descended the stairs. Apparently, he had deduced that she was just taking a shower.

The hollow ache inside her stomach doubled, cut through her, and she leaned back to the wall and slid down along its tiles. The sound of water hitting the floor of the shower stall was the only thing she could hear, and its monotone character managed to soothe and irritate her at the same time. Pressing her hand into her stomach, she tried to control the pain by pushing it back, but it was too much, she concluded. Too much.

She didn’t really know how her gaze happened to sweep through the bathroom, but somehow, she ended up staring at the mirror again. Behind it, in the medicine cabinet, was the solution to all of her problems.

It would be another way of running.

Max wouldn’t be able to follow her this time.

She scrambled to her feet and swung open the doors of the cabinet, the bottles with pills instantly drawing her gaze to them. One of them wasn’t closed completely, its lid slightly slanted. She recognized it to be the bottle she had dropped into the sink the other day. Picking it up, she turned it in her hands, a feeble feeling that resembled curiosity seeping through her shield of numbness.

Taking another bottle, she unscrewed the lid and shook it lightly. Three pills rolled into her hand, and she weighed them, turned them over with her thumb to study the symbols that were embossed in them. After hesitating briefly – what did she have to lose? – she threw her head back in her neck and let the pills slide into her mouth, one by one. She flushed them away with a large gush of water out of the glass that had stood upon the sink and then closed her eyes.

Three pills wouldn’t suffice, she knew. Three pills were too few, far too few.

With trembling hands, she took five more pills out of the bottle and swallowed them down.

Five.

Eight in total.

Would that be enough?

She decided to swallow four more, just to be sure, and, after taking them, she placed the bottles back into the medicine cabinet and closed the cabinet’s doors. Crumpling to the floor, tired and weary, she held her breath and waited, the glass still clasped in her hand. Only then she noticed how the glass was stained with toothpaste and lime. White, watery spots circled the glass and the bit of water that was still visible through its stained glass was hazed and lackluster.

A wave of nausea threatened to wash over her, and she choked. She succeeded in swallowing the nausea down the first time, but when the aches in her stomach increased, and she choked again, she couldn’t keep the pills down. As she threw up, she felt far more miserable than before. She had to be the most pathetic being on the planet, the biggest failure in the world. The last and only thing she could control – her own death – turned out not to be hers at all. She had been unable to bring it upon her.

Grasping the brim of the sink with her right hand, she pulled herself up, her in vomit covered fingers nearly slipping on the smooth porcelain. Staring right back at her was her mirror image, vomit on her lips, vomit in her hair. She was horrible. She looked horrible.

Worthless.

She had been beautiful once, she remembered. There were pictures to prove it.

She’d been beautiful.

Just like her mother.

A sudden surge of anger ran through her, and she screamed out loudly - to her father, to her mother, to Max; to everyone who was willing to listen. Her mirror image screamed back to her, and she choked again, emotions rising in her throat.

She slammed her glass into the mirror, the sound of breaking glass surprisingly satisfying. She cut her finger with a sharp side of one of the shards, and the stinging pain in her hand cleared her somewhat befuddled mind. Blood slowly oozed out of the wound, and she frowned in wonder at the feeling of pain ripping through her.

Somehow, the pain it caused her wasn’t nearly as bad as the pain she had experienced before. There was an insistent pounding under her temples, and she briefly closed her eyes. Below her, she could hear a door swinging open, hurried footsteps in the living room. Had they heard the mirror break?

She carefully picked up a shard of the broken mirror. It reflected the light that filtered through the small bathroom window. She turned it in her hands until the reflected beam shone into her eyes and blinded her.

The footsteps had reached the door to the hallway and climbed the flight of stairs, a loud stumble and curse filling the hall as the person on the stairs tripped and nearly fell.

Placing the point of the shard against her wrist, she looked up at the medicine cabinet, at the few pieces of mirror that were still fixed to the cabinet doors. Her mirror image was broken, different bits and pieces of her face being reflected. She pressed the point into her flesh, which resisted at first, but then gave way to the sharp point. Gasping at the sensations flooding through her, she watched as blood slowly trickled out of the cut. It dripped onto the tiles of bathroom floor that had been meticulously clean when she’d entered the room, but now were stained with her vomit.

“Liz!”

She vaguely heard Max calling her, but his words… she couldn’t comprehend them. The water of the shower was still pelting down on the floor, its steady rhythm drowning out Max’s voice just slightly, but it was enough.

“Liz? Open the door!”

A loud, banging sound and the shaking of the door told her that Max was trying to enter the bathroom.

He wouldn’t follow her this time.

With one, fast jerk, she drew the shard over her skin; through her skin, for it parted with ease. Her heart pounded in her throat as she watched as blood gushed out of the wound, as it covered her hand and lower arm before it fell to the floor. A wave of dizziness overcame her, and she stumbled backwards until her back hit the wall and she fell to the ground. Her fingers that had been holding the shard slowly loosened their grip. The shard fell to the floor with a light, dinging sound. She closed her eyes. For the first time in weeks, she felt peace and calm settling around her. The tears she’d been holding back for days fell, unbidden.

She would be free.


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Fri Apr 06, 2007 8:03 pm

HAPPY EASTER everyone!

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Thank you so much for the feedback!!


Chapter 19 (by Jo)


She barely heard the loud crack the door made when the hinges gave away under John and Max’s combined strength. Everything felt distant. Everything felt so good, so easy. She couldn’t feel her heart, she couldn’t feel all the guilt or the sorrow or the self-hatred. She focused her mind on the throbbing pain in her wrist. It felt real. The pain was real. It gave her relief. It let her mind rest and she gladly allowed it to.

She was vaguely aware that her upper body, which had been resting against the cold tiles, was pulled forward, away from the numbing coldness. The warm hands on her arms disrupted her sense of stability, the peace within her, and she screamed out in protest. Her hands flew out to push them away, to leave her alone.

They didn’t leave. She could hear them talking to her. At the back of her head she knew that they wanted her to respond. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t. She just wanted to be left alone.

She had let go. Why couldn’t they?

Drowsiness overcame her and it felt so much harder to fight them. Their worry and the alarm in their voices were suffocating her and the darkness at the fringes of her consciousness started to spread. A fraction before her body succumbed to the desired darkness, she could hear his voice.

“Liz, please. Look at me. Do you hear me? Liz… Liz…”


<center>------------------------------------------------------------</center>


She closed the door behind her as quietly as she could, her heart pounding in her ears. She hadn’t planned on being out so late, because she knew what would happen if he found that she was gone. Her whole body became paralyzed with fear with the mere thought of it.

She had lost track of time. She always lost track of time when she was with Max. She didn’t breathe as she crossed the floor as quietly as she could. She knew where the planks that creaked were. She knew which ones made the least noise and which ones made the most.

She took a deep breath as she came to a halt in front of the stairs, barely having the courage to look up, out of fear that she would see his face there. She didn’t. There was no one there. Her eyes were greeted with darkness and black luminous shadows. The stairs always creaked. There were only some inches that she was able to step on without making any noise. She had to put the right impact at the right place to prevent the stairs from revealing her presence.

The trip up the stairs was long and tedious. Her chest hurt from the fear and her lungs were protesting due to the lack of oxygen. But she barely noticed. Her whole attention was focused on discovering him before he discovered her. Her gaze repeatedly swept over her surroundings, as her feet, with practiced ease, avoided all the bad places to step on.

Her room was just to the left after the end of the stairs and when she left the last step behind her, she couldn’t help but relax. That was probably why it scared her so much more when she felt his hands encircle her throat from behind.

His hot breath scalded the skin on her neck as his voice hissed in her ear. “Where were you?”

“Please,” she croaked and she could feel his grip on her throat tighten. Her lungs started to burn with the lack of oxygen and the inside of her throat started to itch with the need to cough.

“You were with him, weren’t you?”

She strained to shake her head and she could feel the pads of his fingers pressing into her throat.

“Don’t lie to me. I know you were with him. Where did he touch you? Did you let him touch you?”

“Please daddy,” she choked.

“You lying bitch. Tell me what you did!”

“I didn’t-“

Her attempt to convince him that she had done nothing wrong was cut off by the tightening of his fingers around her neck. She could hear the whizzing of her own breathing in her ears and the light-headiness that had started to overtake her prevented her from feeling the hard slam in her back when her father spun her around and pushed her up against the door. She was certain that he could feel her tears run down over his fingers. She was certain that he could see the fear and pain in her eyes. She was certain that he could hear her desperate attempts at breathing and feel her fingers digging into his wrists as she tried to remove his fingers.

But the eyes that were staring into hers weren’t compassionate or understanding. They were dark, hooded by the darkness of the unlit hallway. They were angry and malicious. Vindictive. Black spots started to dance in front of her eyes and she started to feel very tired. Her hands lost their power to remove his hands and her legs lost their strength to hold her up. Her eyes drifted close, the dark face of her own father, the person who was supposed to take care of her and love her unconditionally, burned into her mind with his hard fingers forcing the life out of her.



<center>-------------------------------------------------------------------</center>


Pain shot up his arm as his fist connected with the hard wall.

“Fuck!!”

His teeth tightly clenched together, he lunged out for the object that was closest, which happened to be a chair. It went flying across the hallway when his foot connected with the wood. A pair of arms captured him from behind and at first he resisted them, but when he heard the soothing words in his ears, his legs sagged under the weight of his heavy heart.

“It’s okay, Max. She’s going to be okay.”

“That bastard,” Max croaked, tears springing up in his eyes. “That bastard has destroyed her.”

They sank to the floor, his uncle continuing to hold him steadily.

“She wants to die. She doesn’t want to live anymore and it’s because of that son of a bitch.”

“He’s going to pay, Max,” his uncle told him, but the reassurance didn’t help him. Max wanted nothing less of having someone execute Devin Parker, but he knew that it was already too late. That wouldn’t help Liz. That wouldn’t give back her will to live. He thought that she needed to get away from her father and that it would help with time.

Time heals all wounds.

But it didn’t. Time wouldn’t help Liz. Max never knew how dark it was in her world. He never knew how desperately she wanted to get away. His whole body ached with the fear of losing her – forever. They had been so close tonight.

He had been watching over Liz for hours, but she had remained asleep and when John had found him asleep in the chair next to the bed, he had told Max to go outside for a while. That’s when all the confusing feelings of anger and hatred had spilled over him, threatening to drown him.

“I don’t know what to do, Uncle John. I don’t know what to do.”

John looked at the confused young man and his heart went out to him. Max had been forced to grow up so quickly the last couple of days. John had always known how much Liz Parker meant to him. Every time Max came to visit, he mentioned Liz in almost every second sentence. Witnessing the anguish and helplessness in Max now proved to John just how much Liz really meant to Max. It was with fear that John had realized that Max probably wouldn’t survive if Liz died. She was such an integrated part of his life and he loved her so much that he would wither away without her. John just wasn’t so sure that Liz was ready for that kind of love. Considering the state she was in now, it would probably smother her.

“Just be there for her, Max,” John answered.

Max startled him by ripping away. Frustrated, he raked his fingers through his hair. “It isn’t enough, damnit. Didn’t you see what happened the last time I was ‘just there for her’? She tried to kill herself!!”

John opened his mouth to respond, when a frightened scream broke through the air. Max was on his feet before John even realized from where the sound originated. John scrambled to his feet and quickly followed Max into the bedroom. He found Max on the bed with Liz buried in his arms. He stopped short at the sight, feeling like he was intruding. With a heavy heart crying out in sympathy for the teenagers who had already been through more than he would wish upon his worst enemy, he stepped out of the room and quietly closed the door, just as Liz pushed out of Max’s arms.


Max felt his heart disintegrate into a thousand tiny needle-sharp pieces, spilling into his blood and slowly transporting the intense prickling pain out to his whole body. His lungs breathed her name in a prayer that seemed to escape him, a pleading for her to trust him. His eyes watched as she shrunk away from him, her wide-open eyes watching him dreadfully. Her words were ringing in his ears, ‘Go away’, and with bitter sadness he watched the tears tumble down her cheeks. The tears he was forbidden to remove, but wanted to wipe away, even though it wouldn’t help that he removed the tears. The holes in her heart were permanent; made permanent by years of suffering. He had never seen her so afraid before. Had never seen that fear directed at him.

“Why?”

Her tear-filled question chilled him. It wasn’t the words or even the simplicity of that one-worded question that frightened him to the bone. It wasn’t even the way she was clutching the sheet to her chest or the bandages on her arms, silent reminders of what she had done to herself that filled him with dread It was her eyes. Her once warm and curious eyes that had looked at him with such faith and trust were now looking at him with a look that made him want to turn around and run out of there.

Death.

That was what he was seeing in her eyes. He thought that he had saved her, pulled her back from whatever had happened a couple of hours ago, but now he wasn’t so sure that he had succeeded. It was as if death had marked her, tempted her with its effortlessness and cold numbness, the same numbness her eyes were trapping him with now.

“Why?”

Her voice came from deep within her, ripping out through her throat as if it had to pass through several sharp metallic nets to reach the external environment, making her voice sound rasped and hollow. Stripped of life.

He couldn’t answer her. He knew what she was asking, but he couldn’t give her the answer. His entire being was stunned into shock, his heart fluttering with fear of all the wrong things he could say. What if something he said made her want to kill herself again?

It was her face crumbling in front of him, shredding her into a naked vulnerable mass of emotions, that propelled him forward again, bringing his arms around her. She tried to fight him at first. He didn’t feel her nails digging in his arms or the way her fists hit him repeatedly in the chest. He didn’t care about the physical nature of her anymore. It was Liz Parker he wanted to reach. Behind all the words and thoughts. Behind the laughter and tears. He wanted to reach inside and bring her back. He was afraid that if he didn’t she would never return. Her voice was choked with tears as she screamed at him to get away. Her tears wetted his shirt, his arms, the side of his neck, before she collapsed. Her energy was gone, but he knew that she was still fighting him.

“Why wouldn’t you just let me die, Max?”

His voice was soft, marked with the tears floating down his cheeks, when he answered. “You can’t let him win, Liz. I couldn’t let him win. I can’t live without you.”

“What about me?” Liz sobbed. “What about me?”

His eyes closed, his hands moving deeper into the soft masses of her dark hair, as he tried to make any sense of all the pain and hurt in his mind, body and soul.

“I wanted it to stop,” Liz wailed. “I want it to stop. I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I just want to sleep and never wake up again.”

“He can’t hurt you anymore, Liz,” Max murmured. “He’s not here.”

“Yes, he is,” Liz whispered, “I will never get away from him. He will always be here. He will always be here to tell me how worthless I am and how…how…no one can ever…love me.”

“That’s not true, Liz, and you know it.”

“He’s in my mind, Max. I see him everywhere when I close my eyes. Every time I’m alone in a room and I hear someone open the door I want to die, because I’m so scared that it will be him. I’m so scared that he…that he…” she pushed the tears away and locked eyes with her oldest friend, “That he will hurt me again.”

“I know you are, sweetie,” Max murmured, his hand moving soothingly through her dark hair. “But he can’t continue doing this, Liz. There are laws against what he’s doing and we are going to use every single one of them to get him away from you.”

She started to shake her head in denial. She had lived with the fear and abuse for so long now, that all possibilities for a “normal” life seemed impossible. She didn’t deserve to lead a normal life. But she wanted to believe him. During all of the dark years of her life, Max had been her light.

He had been the only one to stop her from going insane. She knew that he would be waiting for her when she walked to school every day. She knew that she could call him after something had happened at home and it would help just to hear his voice, even though he had no idea then that she had just been beaten with a belt or burnt with the boiling water from a pan. She wanted to believe, to hope, that he could take the pain away. That he could save her. But just as quickly as hope crept inside her, reality washed over her like an ice-cold shower and she realized that this wasn’t a fairytale. Nothing had ever worked out the way she wanted it to in her life. Why would now be any different?

“You don’t believe me, do you?” Max asked softly, pulling her out of her dark thoughts.

When she didn’t answer, he sighed. “Please, Liz. You have to believe that everything’s going to be okay. You are not alone anymore. You have my dad to help you. You have Maria, Uncle John…me.”

“Do you promise?” Liz whispered quietly, staring down onto the sheet covering her.

“Scout’s honor.”

Liz frowned, looking up to meet his eyes. “You were never a scout.”

“Uhm…” Max scratched his head. “Right. But who says that you have to be a scout to make a promise according to scout’s honor?”

Liz looked at him skeptically.

Max smiled at her and then leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. “I promise, on one condition.”

“What?” Liz asked warily.

Max looked deep into her eyes then, his eyes twinkling with unshed tears, his features serious. “Don’t try to kill yourself,” Liz looked down at her fingers, “again.”

Max forced her to look at him by placing two fingers under her chin. “Deal?”

“You don’t know what it’s like-“ Liz whispered.

“Liz,” Max said more firmly, “Do we have a deal?”

She stilled, staring at his chest with unseeing eyes and answered with a voice so soft he almost missed it, “Yes.”

“Thank you,” Max whispered, pulling her into a gentle hug, careful not to cause her any harm. “Now, get some sleep.”


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Sat May 19, 2007 4:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by max and liz believer » Wed Apr 11, 2007 8:22 pm

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You know you rule!

Things are finally starting to look up for our dreamer couple...


Chapter 20 (by Stef)


The engine’s gentle roar – by now just as familiar to her as Max’s voice – tried to lull her asleep with its monotonous humming. She kept her eyes wide open, though, and fought against the sleep, watching but not really registering the rocks, planes of sand and cars they passed. The scenery flew by in a rush of blurred images – pretty much the way the last couple of months had flown by – and she blinked once, trying to see, trying to find what she was looking for.

Changes.

A change in the weather and the scenery.

The sky just had to be brighter, the desert sand’s orange had to be more intense, the rocks had to be more magnificent… surely something had to be different than before. Something had to have changed – because her own life had changed so incredibly much.

There still were times that she was afraid. She still had problems turning the lights off. She could hear her father breathe in the darkness of the night. She still dreaded going to sleep, knowing she would wake up, bathing in cold sweat, her father’s face burned onto her retina. Often, she swore she could see her father in a shop window, or in a throng of people, and when she would look closer, he would be gone, but the fear would remain deeply embedded inside of her.

All that visibly was left to remind her of her past, though, was the jagged scar crossing her wrist. It had healed slowly, and while the tissue was still tender and pale, it didn’t hurt as much as the scar that remained invisible, the one that ran a lot deeper than the one across her wrist.

Time heals all wounds, they say.

Time wouldn’t heal this wound - ever.

Her past was a burden she was going to carry with her for the rest of her life.

<center>***</center>


It was unbelievably quiet in the courtroom. All eyes were fixed on her – she could feel the stares, could hear the muttered comments.

Stan Donahue, her attorney, straightened and, while giving her a reassuring smile, buttoned the jacket of his suit. When he addressed her, his voice was drawling and somewhat sugar-coated, and though she knew he was trying to make her feel at ease, she couldn’t fight the awkward feeling of discomfort tightening her stomach. His words didn’t really get through to her until her father’s name was mentioned.

She stiffened immediately and her heart skipped a nervous beat. Her eyes sought out Max’s; the eyes that had gotten her through the darkest period of her life, the eyes that never failed to make her feel special, looked after and loved. With his gaze holding hers, with his eyes lending her the support she so desperately needed, she started to talk. Slowly at first, but as her story progressed, her voice gradually gained volume. And, even though everyone in the courtroom was listening, Max was the only person she spoke to, the only person she saw.

The pain in her voice was reflected in his eyes, and the intensity of his stare made her pause repeatedly. By the time she was done and her story was told, she had no more words, no more energy and no more willpower left. Drained, she tried to sit up a bit straighter. This had been the easy part, she knew – Mr. Baker, her father’s lawyer, still had to ask her his questions.

Baker got out of his seat and she studied his greasy hair with fascination. A comb-over, she noticed with distaste. As Mr. Baker fired question after question at her, Liz let his words slide right past her, trying not to feel hurt by his insinuations, implications and skepticism. She answered every question as honestly as she could, her heart thudding painfully within her chest. Baker’s “That was all, your honor,” were the most wonderful words she’d ever heard.


<center>***</center>


“What are you thinking about?”

Max was looking at her, genuine interest residing in his eyes. She nearly got lost in them, but in the split second he glanced at the road, she was able to pull herself together.

“Nothing,” she lied quietly, but at remembering she no longer needed to keep things from him, she added, “The trial.”

He nodded sympathetically, and his hand left the driving stick to momentarily cover and hers. He gave it a light squeeze. “Your mother?”

“No,” she said while giving her head a light shake. She glanced down at their joined hands, and briefly touched his hand, tracing his knuckles with her fingers – just before he pulled it back to shift the gears. “Just the trial,” she told him absent-mindedly. “And you.”

The crooked smile that curled his lips made Liz’s heart flutter in adoration, and a light, unbidden smile glimmered upon her own lips. “To me,” she confided him, “you were the only person in the courtroom that day. Did you know that?”

Max’s eyes briefly swept over her face before returning to the road, and he nodded lightly. He was quiet for a long time – she guessed he didn’t know what to say in answer to her confession – but his hand sought out hers again, and his thumb caressed the back of her hand in a gentle, loving gesture.

Laying her head against the window of Max’s jeep, Liz took a deep, relaxing breath and gave her search for changes up, contenting herself with just watching the desert. The world was draped in the orange hue of the setting sun, and she regarded it silently, fascinated with the magical view unfolding before her eyes.

A small sigh fled her lips. Tonight, she knew, everything was going to change again. Tonight, she was going to ban the demons of her memory for good.
<center>***</center>


Stan Donahue’s thundering voice filled the courtroom. The transformation of the man’s voice, face and entire stance amazed, if not startled, Max. Stan Donahue, the gentle and sympathetic man that had questioned Liz seemed to have disappeared, and the man that now stood before Devon Parker was threatening; a menacing, almost malignant smile plastered upon his face.

Unmoved, Devon answered all the questions Donahue had. The answers were calculated, and Max didn’t doubt that Devon and Mr. Baker had had a good, long talk about what Devon should and should not say.

“Occasionally?” Max heard Donahue ask, hatred seeping through in his voice. The attorney’s eyebrows were raised in despiteful sarcasm, and Max could feel his own blood starting to boil as he listened to Devon’s casual answers. He squeezed Maria’s hand tightly, until she let out a muffled yelp and gave him an angry glare.

Embarrassed, he let her hand slip out of his and returned his attention to his surroundings. Nancy Parker – or should he think of her as Nancy Whitman now? – sat in the back of the courtroom, her husband and stepson beside her. Her hair was lackluster, and darkness circled her eyes.

At least she cared enough for her daughter to come to the courtroom, Max thought, slightly bitter. Truth was, Nancy and Liz had tentatively taken the first step toward a cautious relationship, and after talking for hours, Nancy had even suggested she’d help Liz pay for the tiny apartment she’d bought.

Everything seemed to be falling in its place. The only thing left to fall was Devon Parker.



<center>***</center>


The last rays of sunlight stretched across the vast plain of the desert. The sand glistened like diamonds, and shadows grew quickly as the sun — now a golden, fiery ball — dipped below the horizon.

Max handed her the lighter, then enclosed her hand with his as a gesture of support.

“Thanks,” she said feebly, trying to smile but failing miserably. The wind tugged at the article in her hand. For a brief, terrifying moment, the breeze moved the slip of paper in a way that nearly made the black and white picture come to life. Liz took a firm hold of it with both hands, and it was as though her father froze immediately.

She clicked the lighter on. The small flame flickered wildly in the wind. She held it against the paper, watching in fascination as the flame grew and greedily ate away at the piece of newspaper. Her father’s face - and his piercing eyes, the disapproving lines around his mouth - gradually turned to ashes. The wind blew the ashes away, spreading them across the vast plains of desert sand, never to be found again.

Devon Parker Guilty – Sentenced for Eleven Years, the large heading said. She watched the flames lick at the letters until she had to let go of the article. The breeze immediately picked it up, and her eyes followed it as it drifted away from her.

Torn between laughing and crying, she let out a strangled sob and gladly accepted Max’s welcoming arms. She cried hard and long, her fingers tightly clenching the material of Max’s shirt. Max slowly moved his hands up and down her back, and his soothing, whispered words eventually calmed her down.

When she pulled out of his embrace, she felt freed, relieved and yet, she felt strangely lost as well. Embarrassed, she took in the tearstains on his shirt.

“Here,” Max whispered as he dug into the pocket of his jeans and fished a handkerchief out of it. For a moment, she thought he was going to hand it to her, but he reached out and tenderly wiped the tears off her cheeks, using the corner of the kerchief.

She let out a quiet, uncomfortable laugh, but it sounded morbid – even to her own ears. Ashamed, she dropped her gaze to the desert ground. “Thanks,” she murmured, trying to force a smile upon her lips.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t as difficult as she had expected, and the smile came rather easy.

“Any time,” Max smiled, and she could tell he meant it. His eyes shone in a warm hue of gold, reflecting the sunlight in a nearly magical, enchanting way. She looked at his eyes a bit closer, and was surprised to see her own face mirrored in them. In his eyes, she noticed, she looked different. Maybe it was the amber background of his irises, or the golden specks dancing in his eyes that made her look so different. Or perhaps, she pondered, perhaps it was something else. Something inexplicable. Something that wasn’t meant to be explained.

She saw Max swallow and hastily she took a step back, sending him an apologizing glance as she simultaneously tried to gauge his reaction to their proximity.

“So…” she started tentatively, flinging her arms back and forth before finally wrapping them around her waist.

“So…” he echoed, hesitant. Hearing his uncertainty made Liz feel a little bit better. “Are you hungry?” Max asked, his eyebrows raised in question. “We could go to Captain Cook’s.”

She nodded lightly, feeling truly warm and happy for the first time in years. “That’d be great.”

He laughed quietly – he was probably gloating over the fact he had known she wouldn’t be able to resist Captain Cook’s – and when they walked back to where he had parked the jeep, she grabbed his hand, out of the blue, weaving her fingers through his. His head shot up, and he looked at her, surprised.


She just smiled.
<center>***</center>


Dinner had been wonderful. It had reminded Max of times years ago – only this time, it had been even better. Liz’s smiles had been true, and her laughter had been rich, filled with genuine joy.

An old song was playing on the radio, and Liz was quietly humming along with the melody. Her arm rested against the car door – just below the window – and she had laid her head against the glass.

To him, she looked utterly beautiful, and he had troubles keeping his attention on the road. The last part of the ride, he deliberately drove a bit slower than normal; he didn’t want the evening to be over yet. As he pulled over and reluctantly brought the car to a halt, he noticed Liz lifting her head to look up at her little apartment.

A small smile grew upon her lips, intensifying her beauty. She took his breath away.

She quietly turned her head, her eyes meeting his admiring ones. He briefly wondered if she could see his love for her shimmering in his eyes. Was it as obvious as he thought it was?

“Thanks for tonight,” she said shyly, her hands fiddling with the clasp of her purse. “I had a wonderful time.”

“Thank you,” Max smiled and, embarrassed, he ducked his head. He wanted so badly to reach out and touch her cheeks… her lips… her chin… all of her. “We should do this again sometime.”

“Yeah,” she nodded in agreement. “We should.”

A comfortable silence fell over them, and as it stretched, Max looked down at his hands upon the steering wheel. The radio played on softly.

“Max?”

He slowly tore his gaze from the wheel and gazed up at her. She looked as though something was bothering her; something she really needed to get out. “Yeah?”

“I never wanted to die,” she professed quietly, her eyes averted. “I just… I just didn’t want to live – I… I didn’t want to feel. Or maybe I did. I don’t…” she glanced at him, tears glistening in her eyes. “I just… it hurt so much… and you were there, but… I couldn’t…” she broke the sentence off with a dissatisfied groan when she wasn’t able to say things the way she wanted to say them.

Frustrated, she ran a hand through her hair and bemoaned, “I was so confused… I still am. It’s just… I didn’t want to die, Max. I didn’t. Does that make any sense?” She looked at him, an abundance of tears swimming in her eyes, hesitance easily readable on her face.

“It does,” he nodded reassuringly, a comforting smile upon his lips. “Sort of, anyway.” He took her hand in his and turned it slowly, studying her long, slender fingers.

“What you said… about… us,” she spoke clumsily, “do you… do you still want that?”

He frowned in confusion, an anxious feeling uncurling inside of him. His stomach did a crazy dip, and, anticipating, he asked, “Want what?”

Us,” she stressed, the look in her eyes one of complete helplessness and uncertainty.

“Us?” he questioned, his voice hoarse. “As in… us?”

She gave her head a tiny nod, and he swallowed. “Yes,” he confessed, his voice hoarse. “I still want that. But I…”

Liz silenced him by placing her hand upon his in a shy, almost surrendering manner. “I don’t want to lose you, Max.”

“Liz,” he started uncomfortably, staring down at the steering wheel again, “You won’t lose me. Even though I know you don’t –”

She interrupted him, her voice quiet, but her words intense. “But I do. I… I want to give it a try.”

Max turned his head, slowly. “Are you sure?”

Shaking her head, she whispered, “No.” Her eyes were large and uncertain, and they carefully avoided meeting his. “I’m not sure if I can give you what you are looking for, Max. I just…”

His heart beat loudly within the confines of his ribcage. “You’re all I’m looking for,” he said thickly. “Liz…”

“You deserve someone better,” she lamented, and he swore he could see tears welling up in her eyes again. She blinked, and the tears seemed to have disappeared. “I have all this… this baggage… the past will keep haunting me, Max.”

He nodded quietly. “And I’ll be there to fight it with you. I don’t… I don’t want anyone else… It’s you, Liz,” he whispered, and he leaned forward to touch her cheek. “It’s always been you.”

Tilting her head, Liz gave him a wobbly, shy smile. “Can I kiss you?”

A chuckle escaped Max’s throat, and though it sprung from his amusement, his nervousness distorted it into something that resembled an uncertain cough. “Yeah,” he struggled to say, his stomach tightening in anticipation.

Liz bent forward slowly and, after tilting her head just slightly, she brushed her lips over his. He groaned softly, feeling somewhat dizzy. Her hands reached up to cup his cheeks and when she broke the kiss and pulled back, she caressed the corners of his lips with the pads of her thumbs.

“I don’t know where I’d be if it hadn’t been for you,” she whispered quietly. “I put you through so much.” She smiled crookedly. “I’ll spend the rest of my life making up to you.”

Lifting his hand to his face, Max reached for her hands and smiled. “That kiss was more than enough, Liz. I don’t want you to –”

“Kiss you again?” Liz finished, a hesitant but teasing smile curling her lips. Lips he had kissed mere seconds ago. Lips that were moving toward him, ready to touch his again.

“I never said that,” he murmured, and just before her lips stirred his, he closed his eyes. “I love you, Liz Parker.”

She briefly kissed him, then reared back and caressed his cheek with the back of her hand. “And I love you,” she whispered. “I love you.”


TBC...

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I'm having an author chat at Roswellian Chronicles on Friday (the 13th) at 8.00 P.M EST. For those of you that are European at heart (like me), that's GMT-4 hours. So, in France it is at like 2 a.m. on the night between Friday and Saturday (sorry about that :oops:)

I would love to talk to you :D

- Jo
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