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Broken Wings (AU,M/L,ADULT) (Complete)
Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:51 am
Round 4 Winner
Round 3 Winners
max and liz believer
Best Combined Author Fic
Most Improved Writer - max and liz believer
This beautiful banner was made by Destinee. Thank you so much, Sherry!!!
Titel: Broken Wings
Authors: Anais Nin
(a.k.a Stef) and max and liz believer
Up to ADULT
The characters belong to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims (even though he doesn't deserve them), the WB and the UPN. We are just borrowing them for a while...
Max and Liz vowed to stay best friends forever, and to never let each other down. Yet nothing ever lasts forever and feelings tend to change - develop. Max doesn’t want to lose his lifelong friendship; he doesn’t want to lose Liz. He thinks he knows her, but there’s more than what meets the eye…
Agonizing slowly, but surely, they drift apart, separated by their secrets – his feelings for her, and her home situation. Then, one night, Liz shows up at his window, sobbing uncontrollably, covered in blood. She begs him to come away with her, leave Roswell with him. And so they flee into the night, leaving everything and everyone behind…
Okay, so we decided to write a fic together It’s based on a challenge by Ripley
and was originally based on the song Concrete Angel by Martina McBride. The titel “Broken Wings” is from another one of Martina McBride’s songs. This fic is partly about abuse, and at some instances it can be pretty dark and depressing. When it gets really difficult, just remember that we are both big dreamers, and this fic is blessed with a definite lovely Dreamer Insurance. This is our first attempt at co-writing and we’d appreciate any form of feedback – long or short.
Second Author’s note: Due to busy lives, this story was put on a hold a while back and Stefanie is unfortunately unable to continue this fic. Hence, I will finish this fic on my own. Since it’s been so long since the last update, I’ve decided to repost this story and by the time I reach the end of the reposting process I will have new chapters ready. To old and new readers – thank you for reading. Jo
The night was stark and still, as if it was holding its breath; waiting in anticipation for something to happen.
The calm before the storm.
The small town had already been lulled into a peaceful slumber, its inhabitants shielding themselves from reality by choosing not to see. Not to hear.
Her shoes were clattering against the concrete pavement, the sound echoing off the walls surrounding her and ripping through the silence. The sides of her stomach were begging for her to stop, the high heels putting a painful leverage on her calves.
Where have you been?!
She didn’t feel the throbbing in her head. She didn’t acknowledge the blood on her hands.
I was at the prom, daddy. I told you... I was going to the prom.
She stumbled as her long red dress got caught under the sole of her black shoe. Her heart cried out in fear, her throat voicing it with a desperate sob.
Can I talk to you about something?
Sure, what is it?
Well, I was thinking... Would you go to the prom with me... since we aren’t going with anyone else and...
I would love to
She pulled off her shoes and continued her desperate travel, holding the shoes in one hand as she held the hem of her dress in the other. She couldn’t afford to stop. She didn’t notice as her bare, soft feet touched the rough, cold ground. She only heard the voices in her head, preventing her from forgetting.
Don’t you think I know what you’re doing, you little whore? Don’t you think I know what kids do at prom night?! You were with him, weren’t you?!
The chilly air whipped loose strands of her hair in her face. A stone cut into the unprotected sole of her foot, making her pace falter. But she still continued. Physical pain was to be endured. It was a part of life.
Daddy, please. I didn’t...
The light was beckoning her, tempting her to come closer. To safely relax in its warm flicker. But she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t relax. Not yet.
As her feet touched the soft grass, her legs gave away under her and she fell to the ground. Piercing whimpers escaped her throat as she crawled over the green carpet, her nails ferociously digging into the soft soil.
No one is ever going to look at you again. I’ll see to that!
Her feet moved under her body, and with the last strength they could muster, they pushed her upwards. She fell against the wall, and moved along it. Letting it support her.
No daddy, please daddy! I didn’t do anything! I promise. Please, daddy! Please.
Her hand moved against the cold surface, and the beating of her heart slightly decreased. Her knuckles rapped against the hard material.
”Liz, what.. Oh my God!”
Escape. Keep moving. Relief. Safe.
Max Evans removed his watch from his wrist, his eyes landing on the photo frame on the bedside table. He smiled at the memory of the night that he had just experienced. She had been so beautiful, and she had seemed so happy. Her eyes had been sparkling in that way that he had missed. Tonight she had seemed to enjoy herself completely. His smile broadened as his thoughts wandered to how she had danced with Maria, not caring at all how she danced as long as she danced and had fun.
His hands stopped in the act of removing his bowtie, as the sound of a frantic knock reverberated through his room. He frowned as he walked over toward the window. Who was knocking on his window at this time of night? He pulled away the curtains, and saw her.
With confusion written all over his face, he unlocked the window and started to open it. “Liz, what-“
The light of his bedside lamp shone over her face and he could literally feel his heart slowing down, beating irregularly and then increase with a fervent speed as his eyes took in her appearance, and his mind was frantically trying to understand what his eyes were seeing. “Oh my God.“
She was bleeding. His best friend was bleeding. Liz was bleeding.
She was already halfway through the window before his mind had gotten the opportunity to process what was happening. He caught her by the elbow as she tripped over the window ledge, and sagged against him. He grabbed her by the upper arm to help her, but he released his grip almost immediately as he saw pain cross over her face. He looked down where his hand had touched her skin and saw a big blue bruise. His eyes traveled to her other arm, which was covered in scratches, the wounds still raw and bloody.
“Liz...“ Her name echoed against the silent walls, as his eyes moved up to her face and met hers.
She was looking directly at him, as if she was seeing into his soul. Much like she always looked at him. But her eyes were not the same. They were painfully empty. He was hardly breathing any longer, as his hand moved up to lightly brush against the gush on her forehead. She closed her eyes, her brows pulling together in a wince at his touch.
“Who did this to you?“
The initial shock was slowly being replaced by a mixture of confusing emotions. Concern, hurt, helplessness, pain, and anger.
She squeezed her eyes tightly closed, a lonesome tear trickling down her cheek, leaving a black trail in its wake as it brought some of the residual traces of the dance with it.
“Please, talk to me.“
She sharply inhaled, a heartwrenching sob escaping over her lips.
His eyes fell on her bloody lip, which would be swollen the next day. He wanted to protect her. Stay here with her. But at the same time he wanted to run out into the cold night and kill whoever did this to her.
“Liz, listen to me. We have to call the police...“
His voice trailed off as she started to shake her head.
How could this happen? Merely thirty minutes had passed since he had taken her home. Thirty minutes. He had seen her walk into the house. He had watched the door close behind her. She had been with him the whole night. How could something like this happen? He softly placed his hands on her shoulders, afraid that he would hurt her with his simple touch, and then gently steered her towards his bed.
“We need to get you cleaned up,“ he mumbled, trying to push down the anger. A hatred that he had never felt before had sprung free in his heart. Someone had hurt Liz. “And then we’ll call the police.“
He turned around to walk to his bathroom and get some water and paper towels, when her hand on his arm stopped him. He looked down at her, now sitting on his bed. Her hair, her beautiful dark hair, had crept loose from the hairdo. Her cheeks were flustered, and streaked with black lines of her falling tears. Her eyes were shimmering with unshed tears. And her dress was... God, she was still in her prom dress. It was torn at several places, and he swallowed against the nausea floating up in his throat as he saw the dark stains on her dress. Blood. Liz’s blood. His eyes fell on her feet. Her tiny, perfect feet. Now marred by ugly cuts and scratches.
He fell on his knees in front of her and folded her in his arms. He was afraid to hold her too tight, afraid to hurt her. But she pulled him closer and clung to him as if he were her lifeline. Her anchor to pull her out of the dark devouring place she had ended in. He could feel tears stinging his eyes as he felt her tremble against him.
“Liz, please tell me what happened,“ he pleaded. His voice was cracking with anguish and helplessness.
“Get me out of here.“
Her voice was so soft he wasn’t even sure she had said anything. “What?“
She pulled out of his arms and looked him straight in the eye. “Come with me. Away from Roswell.“
He looked at her, puzzled. But everything he needed to know in order to reach a decision was displayed in her eyes for him to read. She had made up her mind. She was leaving Roswell. Max looked deeply into her eyes and nodded. She was hurt. She was trembling with fear, and she was asking him to get away with her. To leave Roswell. The decision was not a difficult one to make.
He leaned forward on his knees and brushed his lips over her forehead. The gesture was simple, but was filled with the promises of tomorrow. A safer tomorrow.
“Wait here,“ he whispered and got up.
He quickly moved around the room, threw some clothes in a bag and gathered some money that he had saved. He quietly moved out of the room and down to the bottom floor, careful not to wake anyone. He went into the laundry room, and found some of his sister’s newly washed clothes and took them. For Liz. On his way back to his room he took a paper and a pencil with him. As he returned he found Liz in the same position he had left her in; sitting on his bed and staring at the wall with unseeing eyes. He draped his jacket over her shoulders and gently pulled her up, letting her lean against him.
And so the two teenagers left in the middle of the still night, leaving only a short note behind them...
Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 9:53 am
I'm so happy to see so many old faces, and a big wave to new people!
Here's the second chapter, by Stef.
Chapter 2 (by Stef)
Miles of highway disappeared from his view, slipping under the car, the yellow lines guiding them to a new destination, a new destiny. Relentless raindrops pelted the roof, joining the lonesome sound of the jeep’s motor, accompanying them on their lonely journey.
Occasionally, he would tear his gaze away from the road, only to look at her; to study her petite form curled up in the seat next to him. She was so small, so innocent. How could anyone ever want to hurt her?
His mind was searching for reasons, motives, causes. ‘Who?’ and ‘Why?’ resounded in his head, their echoes just as persistent as their predecessors. The silence was close, nearly touchable as a solid, perhaps liquid blanket. It suffocated him. It was heavy, a burden to his heart, and when it became too much to bear, he hesitantly spoke up.
She didn’t answer, her face turned away from his. He knew she wasn’t asleep though; once in a while sighs and sobs escaped her lips, painfully slowly ripping his heart out of his chest.
Looking out of the window, she followed the trails of the raindrops. The sound of the rain falling on the roof drowned out his questions, his soft and caring voice.
She didn’t want to hear him.
She didn’t want to answer him.
Nothing existed any longer. It was just her and the rain. The rain was one with Liz Parker, and Liz Parker was one with the rain.
She couldn’t let him get through to her. She couldn’t let him break the high walls she’d build over the years. She couldn’t show him her true self. Her true self was nothing.
She was nothing.
Her father had told her so, and he had given her what she’d deserved. Her mother had thought so, and that was why she had left. She couldn’t let Max in. He’d despise her. He’d hate her like everybody else did.
“Stay away from him! Do you hear me, you little bitch?”
Another raindrop fell, helping the others wash the dirt off of the window. If only her tears could fall on her sinful soul and cleanse her like that. If only it were that easy.
If only her dad would let her.
After calling her name once more, he gave up, refocusing on the road. Her reflection in the window had shown him her face with a blank, lifeless expression. Her face, once so beautiful and flawless, now covered in bruises, dirt, and tear streaks. Her shoulders were so fragile, and she had folded her thin, slender legs under her body. It wasn’t her physical appearance that truly scared him; it was her inner appearance, which showed through the look in her eyes.
On the outside he stayed calm, but his inner self wanted to scream at her, demand her to tell him who did this to her. His inner self wanted revenge, wanted to protect her forever, wanted to make sure that this would never, ever happen again. Not to her. His emotions conflicted, collided with each other, nearly driving him insane.
He reached for the radio, determined to get rid of the silence that was mocking him, mocking his incompetence. Keeping his eyes on the road, he searched for a right station, but there wasn’t any song that sounded fitting. It was as if the music desecrated the brooding silence, the tense atmosphere in the car. Turning the radio off again, he incidentally brushed over her arm.
She flinched, involuntarily, his fingers raking over a patch of her bare skin where a bruise started to show up.
“I’m sorry…” he hastily apologized, mentally berating himself for hurting her, for touching one of her bruises. From the corner of his eye, he saw her shake her head, nearly imperceptible.
What did she mean? She was far, so far away from him, her mind somewhere else, anywhere else.
When they were younger, they’d been able to communicate without words, feel what the other meant as a result of their strong friendship. Their connection had watered down over the years, and became weaker, somehow less prominent. He’d let it slip through his fingers, had watched it happen.
He shot another look at her, her lips covered in dried blood, tightly pursed together. The water on the window distorted her face, altered the delicate features, but the bruises and blood were still visible. What had happened to her?
Her eyes fluttered close, her long eyelashes resting on her cheeks, hiding her soul from him.
Despite of the state she was in, she was still amazingly beautiful. Her long, dark hair was tangled, mud and grass mingled through the deep brown tresses. He had troubles with keeping his eyes on the road, the sight of her absolutely breathtaking.
All of a sudden, her expression changed, a little frown appearing on her forehead. Whimpering softly, she balled her hands, clenching them to fists, her knuckles pale.
Worried, he stopped driving, hoping she hadn’t caught a cold. He knew he shouldn’t have left so abruptly. He should have taken care of her wounds. He should have undressed her, bathed her. He should have warmed her cold, quivering body.
Another whimper spilled from her lips, her irregular breathing created warm, moist spots on the window. With his gaze shifting back and forth between her petite body and the road, he searched for a place to stop. He reached out for her, carefully placing his large hand on her tiny one, hoping that it would give her some support.
On the tips of her toes, she sneaked into the dark house, casting a last glance over her shoulder. Max was waving at her, a broad smile stretching from ear to ear. She cautiously waved back, her smile suppressed by dread for what was bound to come.
“Where have you been?!”
Her father’s harsh voice ripped through the silence, echoing in the dark hallway. The constant feeling of dread, the pit of fear in her stomach grew to unknown proportions. Angst’s familiar hand closed itself around her neck, its grip tightening when her dad appeared out of the living room.
Unconsciously, she took a step back, pressing her back against the wall, trying to blend into the shadows.
“I was at the prom, daddy. I told you... I was going to the prom,” she stammered, her voice trembling with fear.
He took a step closer to her, his dark eyes twinkling menacingly. His eyes already told her what he was going to do. A shiver ran up her spine as goose bumps appeared all over her body.
“The prom?!” he repeated furiously, spitting the words into her face. “Don’t you think I know what you’re doing, you little whore? Don’t you think I know what kids do at prom night?! You were with him, weren’t you?!”
Why did he have to hate Max that much? Why did he have to be so stern?
She winced, tried to make herself as small as possible. “Daddy, please. I didn’t...” she begged him, but he grabbed her hand and pulled her to him.
“Shut up…” he lowly hissed.
The alcohol on his breath penetrated her nostrils, the intoxicated stench making her want to hurl.
He had been drinking again.
“He won’t want you a second time…” he ominously said, his voice barely above a whisper. “No one is ever going to look at you again. I’ll see to that...”
He raised his hand above his head. Squeezing her eyes tightly closed, she pulled her shoulders up in a defensive manner. “No daddy, please daddy! I didn’t do anything... I promise! Please, daddy... Please!” she begged him, her voice thick with fear. She knew it was in vain. She knew he wouldn’t listen to her. He never did.
She fervently shook her head, trying to clear it from the abundance of voices. She didn’t want them anymore. She didn’t want to go on, not like this.
A hand on her shoulder.
Not a cold, hard one, but a soft and warm hand.
A caring hand.
“Liz, please, wake up!”
Struggling to open her eyes, she tried to recognize the voice. Max? Was it Max? What was Max doing here with her?
“Max?” she breathed out, every letter coming out all wrong. It felt as if a razor had slid over her tongue, cutting it open. Her throat was sore and her breathing raspy.
Finally she managed to look up, the image in front of her still a blur. She could make out the contours of his face, hovering above her, with a worried expression. Her hand trembled a little when she reached out to touch him. Her bones ached with every move she made, a constant reminder of yesterday night.
“Are you okay?”
His words barely managed to get to her, the fog in her head too dense, too thick for them to ooze through.
She was about to answer him when an intake of air reminded her of the little razors in her throat, so instead she nodded.
Which brought her just as much pain as answering would have.
He tenderly wiped some damp hair from her face. She looked panicked, distant.
He kept trying though, kept calling her name, asking her questions. She rarely answered, or even acknowledged his words. Her eyes told him all he needed to know. She was scared – terrified – and needed him to be there for her.
Carefully taking her in his arms, he carried her out of the jeep. She whimpered, softly protesting. “We need to sleep, munchkin…” he soothingly whispered, cradling her head in his arms. “No… le-leave…” she objected, her head shaking, moving against his chest.
“We can’t drive all day, sweetie…” he reasoned, and she reluctantly relinquished. Maybe she was too tired to care, maybe she’d already given up hope.
After securing the jeep was locked, he walked towards the motel. Somewhere in the east the sun was starting its long climb across the horizon, its first gentle rays illuminating her face. During the night, one of her eyes had swollen and was now surrounded by blackness.
A blackness that was not only on the outside; it had also worked its way to the inside.
If only he could be her sun and lighten that darkness.
Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:16 am
Since I won't have internet access in the next two weeks, I'm going to post three chapters now. I'll be back sometime after the fifth of December.
Thank you for reading
The key rustled in the lock, resisting its purpose of unlocking the door. He sighed, and put down the boxes on the floor beside the door. With both of his hands, he jiggled the key in the lock until the small click signaled his success. He pushed the door slightly ajar, picked up the small boxes and pushed the door open. He stopped at the sight of her lying on the bed. Her legs were pulled up to her chin, her arms were wrapped around her knees, as if she was trying to pull a torn and damaged body together. He quietly pushed the door closed behind him with his elbow and put the boxes on the small table by the door. She was asleep. She had been exhausted. The image of her fearful eyes as he told her that he was going to get something to eat was forever etched on his retina, burned into his heart. It had taken some convincing, but he had eventually made her realize that they needed to eat something. He had only been gone for about ten minutes, and she was already deeply asleep.
He slowly walked up to the double bed and lowered his tired body onto his knees. His eyes traced her face, and for the first time since they had left he could unrestrainedly take a closer look at her. She had been shielding her face from him in one way or the other during the whole time they had been on the road, and Max had soon realized that she was too embarrassed to show herself. She didn’t want him to see her.
The whole right side of her face had taken on a sickly yellowish black hue and her right eye was swollen and black. Max realized with a piercing sting in his heart that she had probably turned the right side of her face towards her perpetrator in a desperate attempt to shield herself. As his eyes moved over her face, feelings very familiar to him closely tangled up with feelings he rarely felt started to stir up under his skin. They were multiplying in his heart until it felt as though it was going to burst and fall apart.
It was not only anger towards whoever had done this to her, but also anger and guilt for himself, for not being able to protect her. The thought that she was in a lot of pain had haunted him every second since he saw her standing outside his window. He had never been able to see her in pain. Whenever she cried he could feel parts of himself dying, and the only thing that could revive them again was to hear her beautiful warm laughter. The laughter that made him feel warm inside. That made his toes tingle, and produced a goofy grin on his face. The laughter that was now silent in her.
His eyes drifted down her body but the jacket she clutched tightly to her chest, draped over her red dress prevented him from seeing whether she was hurt somewhere else. His eyes were instantly riveted back to her face as he heard her whimper.
“Liz,“ he coaxed, “It’s time to wake up.“
He watched the movements of her eyes under her eyelids, which were still shadowed with the remnants of the humble make up she had worn on for the night that she had looked forward to since the first time she had heard about it. She stirred, clutching the jacket closer to herself, her body trembling slightly.
Her eyes flew open so suddenly that he flinched in surprise. Her flickering gaze over his face was drenched with confusion and lack of recognition.
“Hey,“ Max said softly. Her eyes stopped moving, and she caught his eyes. He knew the exact moment she realized where she was. Her eyes closed, her chest rose with one shaky intake of breath, and then she opened her eyes to look into his again.
“How are you feeling?“ Max asked worriedly.
“Tired...“ she answered slowly, and as if to further demonstrate that, she yawned.
She squeezed her eyes tightly closed, and took another deep breath. If it had been under any other circumstances one might take her movements as just wakening up. It wouldn’t cross anyone’s mind that she was really trying to fight off the dark demons that plagued her sleep.
“Not really,“ she mumbled.
Max put his hand in her hair, gently stroking it. “You have to eat something, Liz.“
She gave him an almost imperceptible nod. “I know.“
“Chinese food?“ Max said with a soft smile.
“You know me far too well,“ Liz mumbled, trying to smile at him, but having the smile turn into a grimace instead. It was no secret between them that Liz had a soft spot for Chinese.
“I’ll get it,“ Max said and rose.
“You leaving?“ He stopped and looked at her. For as long as he had known her, Liz had been strong and independent. She always knew what she wanted, and when she had set her heart out to get something she usually did. The thing that scared Max the most was that the small, shivering form on the big motel bed was not that girl any more.
“I put it over by the door. I’m just gonna go get it.“
She visibly relaxed, and nodded. He took one more look at her, before turning around to get the food.
The meal was eaten in silence. Max occasionally watched Liz picking at her food, a distant look on her eyes. She was avoiding looking at him, her eyes glued to the content within the cardboard box and yet unseeing.
“I brought you some clothes,“ Max said, breaking the silence.
She looked up at him, strategically angling her head to the right so that most of the bruised right side of her face was hidden from him.
“I took some of Isabel’s. I hope that’s okay. She’s a little bigger than you, but at least they’re clothes.“
Liz nodded, and dropped her eyes to once again inspect the seemingly fascinating noodles.
“You should get out of those clothes.“ She was now playing with the edges of the box. Closing. Opening. Closing. Opening.
“Liz? Did you hear me?“
Closing. Opening. Closing. Opening. Max put his hand over hers, stilling her movements. She stared at his hand, as if she had never seen it before.
“Liz? Um...do you want me to run a bath for you...to get cleaned up?“
He waited for her reply, but she was as still as a statue. The only indication that she was still alive, was the rhythmic raising and lowering of her chest.
Max stood up. She didn’t react. He pulled his hand away from atop of hers, and said, “I’ll run a bath for you, okay?“
As he crossed the small room and switched on the lamp in the bathroom, his heart was pounding in his chest with the realization that his best friend might have actually died the night of her prom.
“I’ll be right here if you need anything,“ Max said standing in the doorway.
She nodded slowly and heard the door close behind her. She closed her eyes and tried taking deep breaths. She opened her eyes again and slowly turned towards the mirror to face her own reflection. The sight of the girl staring back at her made her gasp.
No one is ever going to look at you again.
She moved up to the mirror, and her eyes slowly followed the travel her finger made over her face.
No one will ever love you.
Her hand slowly wiped the steam off the mirror, making the reflection of herself sharper.
Not even your mother wanted you.
As if seeing the bruises, gashes and cuts in her face somehow made it more real, tears started to trickle down her battered cheeks and she could feel a dull ache spread all over her body.
No one will ever love you.
Tears slowly trickling down her cheeks, she bent her arms backwards, flinching at the pain shooting up from her elbow, and started to pull down the zipper.
You know why she left? She couldn’t stand us. We were a fucking disappointment to her.
She slowly pushed the straps of the dress off her shoulder, the once beautiful dress floating to the floor, billowing out around her black wrists. Her shoulders shook with repressed sobs as she carefully brushed her finger against the yellowish-black bruise on the side of her breast.
He won’t want you a second time... No one is ever going to look at you again. I’ll see to that...
Her hands shook as she started to pull down her panties, fighting the pain that exploded in every corner of every muscle in her body at the simple movement. Her body trembled as she walked up to the bathtub.
I’ve always taken care of you, and this is how you fucking repay me?!
Her breath caught in her throat as she lowered herself into the hot water. The heated water molecules clung to her skin, stinging like she was being pricked with needles everywhere where her body lacked the protective outer skin covering.
Was it good, huh?
I don’t know what you mea-
Oh come on, Lizzie! Did his cock feel good?!
Don’t you fucking lie to me!
The hot water enveloped her, turning the stinging into a dull, numbing ache. She instinctively folded her arms around her knees, pulling her knees flush against her chest. She barely registered the pain coursing through her as her knees pushed into her bruised breast, the pull to cover herself up too great. She wasn’t even aware of the heart-wrenching sobs that shook through her body, spilled over her lips and filled the small room until there was a soft knock at the door.
“Liz? Are you okay?“
His concerned voice made her cry even more, and the first feelings of guilt rippled through her. What had she done? How could she drag Max into this? The one person who deserved all the happiness in the world, but he would never be happy if he was trapped with her. God, what had she done?
She forced her heart to speed down, something years of having to suppress bodily expressions had taught her. She tried to stop the painful sobbing that was tearing inside of her.
“I’m fine...Max,“ she managed to say, her voice muffled and breaking with restrained sobs.
There was a second of silence. “Are you sure? Can I help you?“
“No!“ she cried before she quickly regained her composure. “No, I’ll be fine, Max.“
She was met with silence, holding her breath in anticipation as she waited for his reply. “Okay...“
She closed her eyes and burrowed her head in her knees, feeling the hopelessness and darkness wash over her.
She swallowed deeply, and lifted her head. “Yes?“
“I’m right here, okay? I’m right here.“
‘I know,’ Liz thought, ‘And that’s what hurts the most.’
“Come here.“ Max took her hand and led her over to the bed.
With a gentle tug on her hand, he made her sit down. She looked better after the bath. The black tear streaks were gone, and the mud was removed from her dark hair. She was dressed in one of Isabel’s halter-tops, which almost looked like a T-shirt on Liz’s petite form, and a pair of Max’s sweatpants hung loosely from her hips. The change in attire made it easier for him to see more of her. The scratches, and bruises on her arms, and the way the skin on two of the knuckles on her hand had been grazed, the upper layer of the seven layers of skin not holding together.
He pulled out a first-kit medicine box, and started to rummage through it in the search of the right utilities.
“What are you doing, Max?“
Her voice was sweet music to his ear. He had begun to long for hearing her lips just form the sound of one syllable ever since the eerie silence had seemed to become a second nature to her.
“I need to take care of your cuts,“ Max answered, picking out some bandages and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He took a piece of cotton and drenched it in the alcohol.
Liz flinched back from him as he moved the cotton to her face. He frowned at her reaction. “Liz, you have to let me take care of the wounds, otherwise they might get infected.“
She nodded reluctantly, her whole body bracing itself for the stinging she anticipated she would feel as the cotton touched her skin. They winced in unison as the cotton was placed against the deep cut in her forehead; Liz because of the immense pain, and Max because of the pain he was forcing her to experience. Max worked fast and efficiently as he put a Band Aid on her forehead, a bandage around the cut on her upper arm, and cleaned all of the small scratches on her arms.
“Liz... is there any place else?“
Liz ducked her head. She had a large bruise on her hip, her stomach was constantly aching and her breast was covered in bruises. But she couldn’t tell him that...
“My feet,“ she answered.
He moved down to her feet, and gently took one of them in his hands. He could feel small trembles moving through her foot as his hands touched her sore soles. He swiftly cleaned the wounds and then wrapped a bandage around it and repeated the procedure on her other foot.
“Lizzie, I need to ask you something,“ Max said quietly as he carefully placed her foot down on the soft carpet.
“What?“ She asked, fearing the question.
He didn’t want to push her about what had happened. He wasn’t sure she was ready for that. In some way he hoped that she would come to him and open up when she felt ready to talk. He was afraid of pushing her away if he didn’t give her the time she needed. But he needed her to tell him one thing. The one thing that was haunting his every thought and plaguing his mind.
“Did the person who...did this to you... um...did he take...advantage of you?“
Liz looked him into the eyes, holding his frightened eyes. Then she closed her eyes, and slowly shook her head.
Max let out the deep breath he hadn’t even been aware of holding, feeling a weight lift from his heart.
“Thank God...“ he sighed.
He had been so afraid that she had been raped. That someone had forced himself on her in more ways than what was visible to him through her bruises and cuts. He gently brushed away the tears that had started to flow down her cheeks with his thumbs.
“You should get some sleep,“ he murmured. She gave her agreement in a slight, barely noticeable nod. She watched him as he pulled away the covers and signaled for her to lie down. She got up from her position at the end of the bed and slowly laid down on the cool sheets. She winced as too much of her weight was put on her bruised hip.
“What’s wrong?“ Max asked, noticing her wincing.
“Nothing,“ Liz said, changing position so that she was instead lying on her stomach. “It’s just a bruise.“
“Let me see it,“ Max said.
“No, Max,“ Liz said.
“Just let me see it,“ Max said.
Liz looked at him. “It’s on my hip, and I don’t want to show it to you.“
“Oh,“ Max said, his ears turning red. He ducked his head and tried to hide it by pulling the covers over Liz. “Sorry.“
“It’s okay,“ Liz said softly.
She bolted upwards with a sharp gasp.
“Liz...?“ His voice was groggy and husky with sleep.
She turned her head to look down at him laying beside her in the darkness. She took some deep breaths, and tried to calm down her speeding heart. Without saying a word, hoping that Max would fall back into his peaceful slumber, she laid back down again, staring up at the ceiling as she pulled the covers up to her chin.
“Liz?“ His hand on her arm startled her, and her heart fluttered with fear. She turned her head, seeing that he was looking at her through semi-closed eyes.
“I’m fine, Max. Go back to sleep,“ she whispered.
“Does it hurt anywhere?“
She smiled sadly, her stomach aching because of a broken rib, although she had not realized the cause of it yet. “No… go back to sleep.“
His hand brushed against her cheek before it slowly moved to rest against her upper arm. She could hear his breathing even out and she knew that he was falling asleep. She stared up at the shadows dancing over the ceiling, and wondered if she would ever feel alive again.
Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:17 am
Chapter 4 (by Stef)
As she vaguely became aware of her surroundings, the pleasant rise and fall of her pillow assured her everything would be okay. A gentle drum held her under its spell, determined to keep her in a light slumber.
Her body felt broken, her bones shattered, her muscles stretched for far too long. As long as she didn’t move and kept perfectly still, she wouldn’t feel a thing. She’d survive, just like she always did.
‘What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger,’ her grandmother had told her countless times. It was a memory she desperately clung to, that she held on to whenever things would escalate. The thing was… she wasn’t sure whether it hadn’t already killed her… Never before had she felt this helpless, this alone. Never had he hit her in the face. Never had he lost control like this.
She didn’t want to wake up.
Waking up meant facing reality, meant feeling reality. Waking up meant solitude, abandonment. In her dreams, she was never alone. Maria and Max would be there with her, and they would know. They knew, and yet they accepted her.
In her dreams, she was loved.
She squeezed her eyes shut, simply refusing to open them. Her right eye felt somewhat heavier than the other, as if it had been glued to her cheek. She doubted whether she could open it if she tried. She didn’t care. She’d rather not see. After all, that’s what everybody else did. No one saw what was going on. No one cared. So why should she?
All she knew was that she never wanted to leave this place, to leave her dreams.
A blissful sigh escaped her lungs as she pushed her aching body further onto the pillow. It was warm, she realized, and though it was soft, it wasn’t as soft as it used to be. She couldn’t recall feeling more at ease in ages. The mild rhythm beneath her ear softly reverberated in her mind, mingled with her own heartbeat until both beat in sync. Allowing herself to relax, she drifted away on the peaceful sound; let it carry her to her dreams, her home.
Her soft, content sigh never reached his ears, but he didn’t need to hear it. He knew how she felt. Her emotions, her happiness over such a simple thing as a dream radiated off of her. She lay on top of him, her tiny hand splayed across his chest, her other hand tightly clutching his shirt.
He wanted to tighten his grip on her, to show the world that she was his, that he’d protect her, when a small whimper reminded him of her physical state. His arm hovered above her spine for a few seconds, slightly hesitating. Finally, he carefully let it drop onto her body until it was loosely draped across the small of her back.
He sighed. Only this, this feeling of belonging, of coming home, was worth leaving everything behind. Her velvet lips rested against his neck and her lovely nose softly pressed into his flesh. Warm puffs of her breath grazed over his skin, leaving a burning trail in their wake. Every now and then she’d snore a little, the sound vibrating against his neck.
Mindlessly, he let his hand drift upwards, reaching for her beautiful hair. He couldn’t resist burying his hand in the dark mass, the pull to feel it flowing through his fingers too strong. With his eyes still closed he caressed the deep brown tresses, relishing in the solemnity of the moment. His lips tingled with agony, longing to feel the silky texture of her skin, her lips. He knew that he couldn’t do that. He knew that that area was out of bounds for him, out of bounds for a friend. It didn’t keep him from yearning for it, though.
Peeling one eye open, he glanced at the clock. 8:43 AM. ‘Just five more minutes,’ he promised himself, reluctant to lose the pleasant weight of her body flush against his. He closed his eyes again, willing to concentrate on his feelings, on the sheer bliss being with her brought him.
He never noticed how the second hand approached the twelve. He never noticed how it slipped past the three, how it crossed the six. He was too lost in her to notice anything, consequently completely forgetting the promise he’d committed himself to a couple of minutes ago.
It wasn’t the nagging sound of the phone ringing that jerked him out of his sleep. It was Liz’s reaction, the way her body stiffened at the mere sound, the way she flinched.
“Liz?” he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep, his throat dry.
Her reaction enabled him to pinpoint the exact moment she realized where she was, with whom. Her rigid features softened a little as recognition flashed through her eyes. Her muscles visibly relaxed and a tiny sigh of relief spilled from her lips.
“Max?” she asked in a small voice, her eyes once more empty. She was still struggling to keep her right eye open, the blackness surrounding it hurting him more than a kick in the guts would have.
He weakly smiled, a kind but awkward grin stretching itself over his face. He didn’t want to smile. He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He wanted to whisper. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to do anything but smiling, and yet he did. The phone kept on ringing, the sound of it strangely disturbing, the threat of an unknown menace hiding just around the corner. Quickly reaching forward, he picked up the receiver and held it to his ear.
“Mr. Evans? We’re going to clean up the breakfast in a matter of minutes,” an emotionless voice informed him.
Liz listened curiously to their conversation, trying to find out what the voice on the other side of the line said. Max nodded, and she couldn’t suppress a little smile. He’d always done that, nodding while on the phone. More than once she had explained that the person he was talking to couldn’t see him, but he continued doing it.
“I’ll be down there in a few,” Max replied, not failing to notice her despair at that last statement. “Yes… No, thank you, that won’t be necessary. Okay. Goodbye.”
“Max?” she nervously asked when he put down the phone. “Who was it? What did they want?”
“Mmm… Good morning to you too, munchkin…” he jovially greeted her, burying his face in her hair. She giggled softly, despite the moment, and playfully slapped him.
“Good morning,” she obediently greeted, good-naturedly rolling her eyes at him.
He pulled back, looking at her face. She saw how he winced when his eyes raked over her bruised skin, her black eye. She saw how he swallowed, how he bit down. She knew she was ugly. Her father was one to do things thoroughly, to finish what he started.
‘You disgust me!’
Was Max disgusted by what he saw, by who she was?
She noticed his lips moving but missed the words coming out of his mouth. Struggling to catch them, she blinked a couple of times, concentrating on him.
“…get some breakfast, okay?”
Nodding her agreement, she watched as he got up from the bed and pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater. She didn’t want him to leave. She didn’t want him to stay. Or maybe she did.
She no longer knew anything. Not even what she thought, what she wanted. She wanted him with her, and yet she was afraid of what he’d say, what he’d think of her when he saw the real her.
He cast a glance over his shoulder before closing the door, carefully locking it. He was doing it for her safety, she realized, but she couldn’t help feeling caged, trapped. Trapped like her soul was inside her disgusting body.
Sighing, she leaned back against the pillows, closing her eyes. Her bruised hip was killing her, the throbbing pain tormenting her. It was nothing compared to her head though. Thoughts were tumbling in her mind, images and memories solidifying in front of her eyes and dissipating as quickly as they had appeared. Time slowly ticked by, her loneliness seemed without an end.
Then there was the sound of a key in the lock, of someone fumbling with the latch. Her eyes flew open, her attempts to calm herself dissolved. Max? Was it Max?
“Hey…” Max’s deep, reassuring voice filled the room. A few seconds later his face appeared in the doorway, swiftly followed by an arm and a tray with food.
“Hi…” she meekly replied, forcing herself to smile.
“Breakfast service, Ma’am…” Max joked, trying to relieve some of the tension in the air. She politely smiled, noticing how hungry she was when she eyed the abundance of food. The tray was loaded with scrambled eggs, toast, and bagels. A glass of milk was hidden behind a large pack of juice, reserved for him. She smiled a genuine smile this time. He hated juice and simply refused to drink it.
“Hmm…” she mumbled, crawling to the edge of the bed so that he could sit down next to her.
“Here you go…” he said, handing her the food and smiling at her hungry look. He was glad to see that there was still some life, some passion left in her body.
She took a sip of her juice and winced when the acidic fluid came in contact with the open skin just above her lip.
“Are you okay?” he hesitantly asked while hastily swallowing a mouthful of bread down. “Does it sting?”
Silently nodding, she placed the glass back on the tray and wiped the moisture off her lips with the back of her hand.
“You want my milk?” he softly offered his glass, a sweet smile lingering on his lips. She shook her head, knowing how much he hated juice.
“It’s okay. I’ll get some water…” he insisted, handing his glass to her. Smiling apologetically at him, she took it, while hating herself for it.
A silence fell over them, both immersed in their sorrow, guilt, and memories.
“Remember how Grandma used to bake us bagels?” he asked her as she took a bite of her toast.
Liz nodded absently, smiling at the memory. “Your grandma was such a great woman,” she answered, her voice low and pensive, thinking of all the times they’d shared together. “Remember when she took us to Florida?”
“How could I forget?” Max bitterly laughed, unsuccessfully trying to veil the joy he felt at the memory. “You kinda… imprinted that vacation into my mind. It was the most traumatic holiday I’ve ever had.”
She softly giggled and shook her head, ignoring the pain it caused. “You should’ve known better than to believe us,” she commented, lazily chewing her food.
“Hey, I was seven, okay? I thought you and Maria were my friends! I trusted you!”
“Please, Max, did you really believe what we said?” she asked, softly laughing, not really expecting an answer to her question.
“Well, you always knew everything. See, if Maria had told me sharks were related to bulls, I wouldn’t have believed her. But when you affirmed it, what was left for me to do?” He sighed dramatically, remorsefully shaking his head at his naiveté.
“When we said you should take your swimming trunks off you should have suspected something…” she chuckled, remembering Max’s stunned expression at their statement.
“Well, yeah, I did smell something fishy, but we were in the ocean! I thought sharks had already seen my red trousers, okay? I expected one to bite me in my ass any second!”
“So you pulled them off and threw them away… and when we had to go you didn’t…” Liz couldn’t finish her sentence, already uncontrollably laughing.
Max tried to keep up his offended expression, but seeing her laughing and so carefree made him happier than ever. So instead he joined her, their laughter and blissful memories chasing the darker ones away.
“We never went swimming again after that holiday,” he remarked, his jaws hurting from laughing that much. “Why? We used to have so much fun…”
When he noticed her smile falling, her eyes losing their sparkle and growing lifeless again, he wished he could take it back. He wanted to kick himself for asking her, for bringing her into her catatonic state again.
‘Because of the bruises…’ a silent voice in her head answered his question.
‘Because he wanted me to cover myself…’ another voice added, trying to drown out the former voice.
‘Because you’d know…’
She stilled her movements, her mind sifting through unsorted feelings and emotions. She wanted to tell him, really she did, but she was too afraid. She was a coward.
“I swear to God, if you ever as much as open that big, fat mouth of yours, I’m gonna hurt them. I’m gonna destroy them, destroy their families, their friends. I’m gonna kill them. You know I can. Besides, they’d never believe you. You’re a slut, a whore, and nobody believes sluts…”
Her father’s cold voice echoed in her mind, reminding her of how she’d endangered Max. If her father found her here with him, he’d be as good as dead. He’d have no chance for a happy future, for the future he deserved.
She owed him the truth.
She promised herself to tell him soon, but she already knew she was going to stall for as long as possible.
“I’m sorry…” he apologized shamefacedly, his sorrow audible in his warm voice, visible in his deep, loving eyes.
She shook her head, blinking back her tears. He was so sweet. He really cared for her. But she couldn’t trust anyone with her secret, not even him. She wouldn’t burden him with it.
She’d carry it on her own.
Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:21 am
Chapter 5 (by Jo)
The water was streaming down in the sink, whirling around in a circle before disappearing down the drain. The relentless stream of water was loudly begging to be turned off. The noise of the water was drowning out the sound of knocks on a wooden door. She was sitting on the floor, her legs spread out in front of her and her head back against the wall, with tears streaming down her face with the same turbulence as the water had, plummeting down toward the porcelain sink. Her eyes were closed, her mind strictly focusing on shutting out the pain in her chest.
“Liz, are you okay?“
No, she wasn’t okay. She would never be okay again. She wanted to curl into a ball and just lie down and die. Sink into the cold floor and disappear from the face of the Earth.
The door handle was pressed downwards, and then released.
“Liz, please open the door.“
No one would miss her anyway. No one cared if she would disappear. It would be one problem less for them to deal with.
There was a scraping sound at the door, and then the door flew open. She hardly registered as he walked into the bathroom, kneeling down beside her.
“Liz....“ he sighed, his voice cracking, and all she could do was to cry.
She hardly felt his thumbs brushing away her tears or threading through her hair.
“Liz, tell me what’s wrong. Please tell me what’s wrong.“
“It...hurts... it hurts... so much.“
“Where does it hurt?“
“My...my…chest...“ Her voice was pierced with her erratic and wheezing breath.
“Can you walk?“
She snuffled, the pain increasing along with her sobbing. “No...“
“You can’t sit here on the cold floor.“
“Max... I can’t... move…hurts…much…“
“I’ll help you, sweetie, okay?“
Her breath caught in her throat, and she winced in pain as an unrestrained cough built up in her throat. She fought against the reflex to continue coughing, and whimpered.
She didn’t care. If he wanted to move her he could. She didn’t care. The pain was too blinding, the mental scars twitching and stinging. She couldn’t think. She wanted it all to end. Now.
“Come here, munchkin.“
She felt his arm move around her back and pull her upwards. She let out a wail of pain as her chest moved due to the movement. Her surroundings started spinning, fading into a blur, as she felt the broken bones scratch against her internal organs. All she could do was cry and wail. And it only increased her pain. She wanted so desperately to fall into that black numbing haze, but something stopped her.
“Liz, stay with me... Lean on me.“
She didn’t know how she ended up on her back on the bed, but suddenly she was flooded with relief and an absence of pain. She felt the bed move and saw Max looking down at her, and for the first time she recognized an expression of utter devastation painfully etched onto every corner of his face.
“Max? Are...you o...okay?“
“Liz, you’re scaring me,“ he whispered, every syllable dripping with anguish.
He shook his head, and she felt him take her hand. “No, don’t apologize.“ She watched him bring her hand to his lips, and gently kiss her knuckles. “Can I... look at you?“
She answered him with confusion.
“Can I look at your stomach?“ he asked.
Automatically she took a hold of the hem of her shirt and pulled it downwards.
“Liz... you’re in pain...“
Max eyes were pleading with her to trust him. “Liz...“
It’s Max. It’s only Max. Max won’t hurt me. It’s only Max...
“Okay,“ she whispered brokenly.
“Liz, you have to let go off your shirt,“ Max said gently.
“Right,“ Liz said slowly, her voice trembling.
She felt his hands close around hers and gently remove them as she released her death grip. She felt Max’s fingers brush against her skin he pushed the shirt up. Shivers ran through her. Shivers caused by the cold air hitting her naked skin, and shivers that the light brushes of Max’s touch elicited.
Max slowly moved the shirt up, watching Liz’s face the entire time to stop when she felt uncomfortable. He stopped when he felt the soft skin of the underside of her breast against his fingertips. He felt the blood rush to his face and heat his body, her body scorching under his fingertips. She gasped at the contact and immediately her face contorted in a slight wince at the pain from the sudden intake of air.
“Am I hurting you?“ Max asked timidly.
“No,“ she got out, her breathing wheezing in her throat.
He hadn’t looked at her stomach yet, and when he turned glance down his breath caught in his throat. Her pale skin was discolored in blue, yellow, brown, and black.
“My God Liz,“ he breathed agonizingly. “Who did this to you?“
His fingers hovered over her abused skin, the sight piercing him over and over again.
She didn’t answer him, turning her head to the side with silent tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Why can’t you tell me?“ he asked, his voice filled with hurt and confusion. Why didn’t she trust him enough to tell him the truth? She sobbed, her lips pressed tightly together.
He swallowed down the tears that threatened to fall from his own eyes.
“Where does it hurt the most?“ he asked, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to concentrate on her and not on all the confusing emotions churning inside of him.
She silently took his hand in her own, and guided it to the lower part of her ribcage. Tensing her body against the pain she knew was to come she slowly placed his hand against her skin.
“There,“ she whispered, the strain of controlling her pain evident in her voice.
Max searched her face for something, anything. Approval. But she had her eyes closed, as if she were giving up her body to him. As carefully as he could he moved his fingers over the area. It was black, but there was something that wasn’t right. He pressed lightly on it, and barely heard Liz’s whimper over the crackle that pierced his ears.
“What...?“ she asked apprehensively.
“I think your rib is broken,“ Max said, “We need to get you to the doctor.“
Her objection was firm, and Max recognized some of the old Liz he used to know. The one with the stubborn streak, the one with whom there was no use arguing with because she never caved.
“It’s dangerous, Liz. It’s obviously already pressing against your lung.“
“It’s not that bad,“ Liz said.
“Yes, it is,“ Max said firmly.
Liz looked at him, the tears simmering in her eyes. “Please don’t...make me see...a doctor, Max. You know...ho...how much I hate doctors...“
“Liz,“ Max said, looking straight into her eyes, “Your lung could collapse. It could hurt your internal organs; your spleen, your liver.“
“When did...you get so...educated?“ Liz asked grimly.
“I’m taking you to the doctor, Liz.“
“No,“ Liz said shaking her head.
“You would rather have life-long injuries?“ Max asked, frustrated. Why was she being so damn stubborn?
“I don’t...want a... damn...doctor loo...looking at me,“ she got out through clenched teeth.
“Why? You know…why. You’ve never liked...doctors either.“
Max framed her wet cheeks in his hands, forcing her to look at him. “Liz, we are going to the doctor. If we don’t...then he has won.“
When Max was talking about her perpetrator, he had no idea that it was her father. Her only father was the one who had tried to break her, and he had ‘won’ years ago. The real Liz Parker had been dead for a long time.
“Why are...you...like this?“ Liz asked.
“You know why, munchkin,“ Max’s voice softened, “I care about you and I can’t bare to see you in pain. Liz, seeing you like this is killing me.“
“How...do you think...I feel?“ Liz asked in a weak attempt to joke Max’s concerns away, but it fell flat.
“I won’t ask you for anything else, Liz, if you let me take you to the doctor,“ Max said.
A sob caught in Liz’s throat. “I’m...scared...“
Max leaned down and gently kissed her on the forehead. “I know you are, but if you want me to, I can be by your side the whole time, okay?“
She nodded, fear mixed with relief on her face.
“We’ll get through this together, okay?“ Max said.
She nodded, but she didn’t believe him for a second.
“Last night Elizabeth Parker, daughter of the famous lawyer Devin Parker, disappeared from her home in Roswell, New Mexico. She is believed to be together with a boy of the same age, Max Evans...“
Max heart lurched into his throat as he heard the voice on the radio, describing him and Liz. He glanced down at the sleeping form of Liz in the passenger seat and turned up the volume.
“...in a black jeep. If you have seen these youngsters, or have any information on their disappearance, please contact us at this numb-“
Max shut off the radio and lightly pressed the brakes, slowing the car to a stop as he steered it off the road. With one last look at Liz’s sleeping form, he took his cell phone and jumped out of the jeep. He quickly dialed a number and put the phone to his ear.
“Hi mom, it’s Max.“
Liz slowly started to wake up, but it didn’t take her long to realize that she was alone. Her heart started to speed up in her chest until she finally heard his voice. She relaxed and unfastened her seatbelt. With winces and whimpers she climbed out of the jeep. It was far too high for her to move without being in pain. Max had his back to her and was looking out over the vast, desolated desert as he spoke on his cell phone. She didn’t quite know why, but seeing him and hearing him talking on the phone unnerved her, and it was with weary apprehension that she walked towards him. That’s when she heard the two words that made her world stop spinning.
Without a second thought she reached over his shoulder and snatched the phone away from him, quickly pressing the disconnect button.
Max turned around to find Liz standing behind him, his cell phone in her hand. She was not meeting his eyes.
“Liz, what did you do that for?“
“Who were you talking to?“ Liz asked, her voice trembling.
“How could you?“ Liz whispered with betrayal in her voice.
Max slightly shook his head, as if he were trying to get a hold of the confusing thoughts which immediately entered his mind and started tumbling around.
“What do you mean?“ He could see that she had started to tremble, and he instinctively reached out his hand towards her in an attempt to offer consolation. He felt coldness spread throughout his body as she recoiled from his hand. She had only done that once before and he had hoped that he would never see it again. Her face was contorted in hurt and disgust...for him. Tears were shimmering at the brink of her eyes, threatening to fall at any second.
“I thought I could...trust you-“
“Liz. Stop it. You can trust me.“
She opened her mouth to voice the upsetting feelings inside of her, and then it struck her. Max didn’t know. She hadn’t told him. She hadn’t told him, because she couldn’t. It was not his fault. It was her who was deceiving him, not the other way around. She folded her arms around herself and stepped back from him, now disgusted with herself.
“I just spoke with my mom,“ Max said fleetingly, his eyes boring into her forehead as she stared at the ground. “She’s really worried...They all are. She said that your father was going out of his mind with worry and that I should call him too.“
“Did you tell them...where we are?“
Liz’s voice was so quiet that he barely heard her. With the beating of his heart hammering in his ears, he answered, “No. I told them not to worry and that we were coming home soon. We are going home soon, right?“
Liz looked away, staring out over the desert.
“Max, would you something for me?“ Liz asked him, her gaze fixed on the wasteland.
“Anything,“ Max answered without a hint of hesitation.
“Don’t call my dad again,“ Liz said. Her statement was firm, and Max didn’t miss her determination. But what unnerved him the most was how her voice trembled when she’d said ‘dad’.
“He’s worried, Liz, he has the right-“
“Max...“ she turned to look at him, tears spilling over her cheeks and slipping down her cheeks, “Please...“
The moment his eyes met hers he could feel the blood rushing in his ears and something hit him. Hard. His heart skipped two beats before it began again. Had her father done something to her? But that couldn’t be. Mr. Parker was an honorable man. Well known, not only in New Mexico, but in more or less every business circle in the United States. Mr. Parker was the one who always joked around with all the kids. He was the father many young boys wished they had. He drove a motorcycle and Max had seen him let kids take his motorcycle for a test drive on more than one occasion.
And then Max raised his eyes and looked into the face of the most beautiful person, inside and out, that he had ever known. He looked at the banged up eye, the black bruises covering her cheek and temple. His eyes momentarily stopped at the Band Aid on her forehead, covering the half-inch deep wound.
“Did your father do something to you?“ he whispered hoarsely, fear of what she might say stabbing into his heart with every heartbeat.
Liz averted her eyes, and took one step towards the car.
“Let’s...go, Max,“ she murmured. “We should get going.“
“Liz...“ She couldn’t fool him. Somehow he knew that his question had hit too close to the truth. He had seen it in her eyes before she had looked the other way. He had seen an intense fear.
“I’m tired and my...chest’s hurting,“ Liz said. She turned around and started to walk toward the passenger side of the car.
Max somehow got his legs working and moved up to her, grabbing her by the arm. The grip was not hard, but it was firm and had purpose.
“Liz, please answer me.“ She didn’t turn to face him, “I can’t protect you if you’re not being honest with me. Who hurt you, Liz?“
“I can’t,“ Liz sobbed.
Her heart broke as she heard the hurt in his pleading voice. This was killing him. She was killing him. But she couldn’t tell him. Then he would know. Then he would know what a failure she really was. She pulled out of his grip, her shoulder aching at the sudden movement. She swirled around and faced him. She gathered up all energy she could muster in trying to sound as firm and convincing as possible.
“I can’t talk about it now, Max. Please don’t make me talk about it now.“
“Don’t shut me out, Liz...“
“Leave me alone.“
It was meant to come out forceful and determined, but her emotional state and Max’s expressive eyes distorted it into a sobbing whisper. Max looked at her for a long time, his eyes tracing her tears as they flowed down her cheeks. Silently, he backed off.
“Let’s go and see that doctor. But after that I need answers, Liz.“
She nodded, but she wasn’t sure she would be able to provide him with what he wanted to hear. She didn’t want to weigh him down with the ugly nightmare that was her life.
Posted: Wed Dec 06, 2006 3:57 am
After 24 hours of travelling, I'm finally back home in Sweden. Yay! And as promised, here's the next part, written by Stef.
sprayadhesive, begonia9508, aussietrueblue, clueless, dreamerbabylioness - thank you so much for the feedback!!
Chapter 6 (by Stef)
The sun started to set, coating the desolate desert with a rainbow of colors. The cry of a falcon filled the air, chasing them on their long journey northward. A slow song played on the radio, matching the tense, sulky mood in the car.
Although it still hurt, her breathing came far more easily than it had before, the bandage on her stomach and ribcage hidden from view by one of Max’s large shirts. She nearly drowned in it, but it did make her feel more comfortable. His masculine scent filled her being, mingling with her soul. It was as if his warm, strong arms surrounded her, protecting her from everyone and everything.
She watched out of the window as, mile by mile, they came closer to their final destination for the day. A huge road marking indicated a small village whose exit was a quarter mile further down the road. She looked up as Max shifted the gear and slowly pulled over.
He looked thoughtful, his mind miles away. His light, pensive eyes were concentrating on the road while his lips were drawn into a grim smile. The wind softly played with his raven hair, brushing the bangs away from his forehead.
Suddenly, he looked up. As his gaze met hers she swiftly turned away, blushing. She didn’t know why she was blushing. She hadn’t even realized that she’d been looking at him. A hideous green board welcomed them to the town, insisting they’d have a nice and long stay.
“You’d better stay in the car,” he quietly stated, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. She nodded knowingly as she watched him leave, heading towards the local grocery store.
They knew people shouldn’t see her, not like this. The right side of her face was still bruised and there were large bags under her eyes. Even though she’d slept in the car she was still dead tired, her body demanding a peaceful rest so it would be able to heal.
Her gaze dropped to the pavement. A bottle lay on the ground, its previous contents still shimmering over its surface. Silently, she studied her reflection. Her image was broken, just like the glass of the bottle, tiny bits and pieces of her face staring back at her. The bottle didn’t just reflect her appearance; it reflected her very soul, which was just as - or maybe even more - broken than her face, her body.
Max wandered among the shelves, shooting agonized looks at the woman behind the counter. He didn’t know if the search warrant for him and Liz had already been on TV or whether their pictures had been broadcast. It was better to act a little bit inconspicuous so nobody could recognize him. Checking to see if he had everything he needed, he glanced out of the window. Liz was partially hanging out of the jeep, looking at something on the sidewalk. She was bound to draw attention like that.
He quickly paid for the groceries, carefully avoiding the inquisitive stares of the old woman and dodging her curious questions. “Thanks,” he muttered, flashed her a grateful grin, and swiftly exited the store.
“Hey,” he greeted Liz as he stepped into the car and placed the shopping bag in the back seat. “Where do you wanna sleep tonight?” She didn’t reply, or even acknowledge his presence, so he tried again. “Granted, we won’t find a Plaza or a Hilton here, but I thought I saw a nice motel ahead…” he chatted lightly as he took off his jacket.
She kept quiet, her gaze still glued to the pavement. Leaning forward, he followed her gaze, seeing a broken bottle on the rough surface of the road. “Liz?” he tentatively questioned, an awkward feeling growing in his stomach. She looked so distant, so out there. A light breeze rose, blowing a few strands of hair out of her face. The setting sun illuminated her tan skin and created a halo of soft amber light around her contours, giving her an otherworldly appearance. Even now, battered and bruised, she still managed to take his breath away.
The sound of falling leaves was joined by the rustling of a newspaper, its pages helplessly flapping in the wind. As if it were a sign from the gods above, it fell open to page 25. The missing person’s page.
Her reflection in the bottle was now accompanied by another image of her, the image printed in the paper. It was different, yet the same. The ever-present look of being haunted shone in her eyes in each of them. She expected it wouldn’t ever leave her.
“Not a motel,” she finally acknowledged Max’s question, meeting his eyes. “He’ll find us there. Let’s sleep in the desert tonight.”
For a moment, he looked as if he would object, his mouth already opening to give her an apt reason why they shouldn’t. However, something in her face, in her eyes, must have changed his mind, for he closed his mouth again, nodding slightly. “Okay,” he gave in, gracing her with a weak smile. Without uttering another word, they left the town, the green board and the broken bottle behind. But not her shattered soul; she still carried it with her, doubting it would ever heal.
Squinting against the glare from the windshield, sharpened and brightened in the evening sunlight, he turned off the motor and stepped out of the jeep. She moved to do the same, but he stopped her, slipping his hand under the hollow of her knees. “Max, don’t! I can walk! I’m not a baby!” she loudly protested as he took her in his arms, her tiny fists banging on his chest.
Max grinned down at her, her independent, stubborn behavior reminding him of the old Liz. It signaled that there was still some spirit left in a body that had already conceded defeat. He was glad to see that her spirit hadn’t relinquished, that she was still fighting, in spite of everything.
“You’ll always be my baby…” he teased her, giving her a quick peck on her cheek. Her skin was so soft, so enthrallingly soft…
“Max! Put me down!” she demanded, a rosy blush adorning her face, her voice commanding him to let go of her. Smiling, he asserted his authority by not putting her down for another couple of feet. He carefully placed her on a rock, her feet dangling in the air. Then he took the blanket he’d carried along with her and spread it out. Her eyes were on him as he laid it out on the dusty sand, removing the sharp stones and twigs that hid beneath it.
He straightened and picked her up from the rock. This time she didn’t protest and mutely wrapped her arms around his neck. She flinched silently as her ribcage came in contact with his chest. She hid her pain, not wanting to worry him. “Careful…” he mumbled as he lowered her to the blanket, her face a few inches away from his. Involuntarily, her eyes locked with his. For some odd, unknown reason, she couldn’t bring herself to break his gaze. His eyes were so caring, so friendly. They told her that he would stay with her no matter what. They displayed something she hadn’t believed in for a very long time.
“Thanks,” she whispered, and they both knew that she wasn’t just talking about carrying her to the blanket. “Any time,” he replied with his voice as soft as hers, his eyes still gazing into her soul.
He reluctantly pulled back and left her to get the rest of their stuff from the jeep. She followed his retreating figure with her eyes and looked at the abundance of red and orange that stretched across the horizon, creating silhouettes of arid trees and large rock formations. The soft fluttering of wings drew her attention. Her eyes searched the sky, finally landing upon a small, lonesome butterfly. It hovered in the air and slowly flew closer to her, its pearly white wings glistening in the last rays of the setting sun.
She reached out for it, her hand pointing at the sky. The tiny insect seemed to hesitate for a moment and then softly landed on her index finger, carefully folding its wings under her gaze. Her grandma had once told her a poem about butterflies. White butterflies. She tried to recall it, imagining that her grandmother was there with her, whispering the exact words in her ear.
‘Above the carnation park
A white butterfly flutters
Whose soul would it be?’
Would this butterfly also be the carrier of a soul? A soul of someone she’d known in her past? Her grandmother’s soul?
“Grandma?” she softly whispered, her voice faltering. Her vision was clouded with tears that had yet to be shed as a salty lump started forming in her throat. The butterfly remained motionless, the only movement of its wings caused by the light autumn breeze. It sat there for an unknown amount of time before it flew up, drifting off on an unseen stream of air, the wind slowly carrying it away from her.
A strangled whimper spilled from her lips as she watched the butterfly leave her, just like her grandmother had. But she wasn’t alone. She never was, although it surely felt like that at times. A part of her grandmother would always be right there with her, in a special place in her heart.
He hadn’t been able to take that away.
Max had watched Liz’s interaction with the butterfly from a distance. He was strangely touched by it; by the way her eyes desperately followed the gracious insect as it flew away. When he rejoined her, he could see the tears in her eyes, giving away how significant that moment had been for her. “Hey,” his voice cut through the silence as he sat on his knees, settling down next to her. She sent him a small smile, reaching out her hand for his. He was surprised by her action, but took the proffered hand anyway, interlacing his fingers with hers. As he smiled back at her, he showed her the items he’d bought.
“What will it be, Miss? We have a choice of sandwiches, or… sandwiches or… sandwiches,” he lightly joked, trying to get her to smile. And yes, an ever so small smile crept upon her lovely face, the corners of her lips rising slightly.
“How about brownies?” she challenged, suggestively raising her eyebrows. He grinned. He’d known she’d seen him placing them in the back seat. Brownies had always been one of her weaknesses…
“Brownies? Oh, but darling, I left those in the jeep! I intended to have them for dinner!” he playfully objected, folding his long, powerful legs under his body.
“What?” she quickly decided to play along, her smile broadening into a grin. Acting offended, she teased, “But love, I thought you were going to have me for dinner…”
He ignored how her joke affected him, how the mention of ‘love’ made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. He concealed what her implications did to him. After all, he’d had a close call before, just a couple of months ago. Luckily, they’d been interrupted before his lips could touch hers, before he could destroy their friendship. He had simply laughed his feelings away, trying to be content with having her as a friend.
“Liz?” he softly asked, his hand tightly clinging to hers. The stars shone down on them kindly, twinkling in the inky sway of the night.
He dropped his gaze so he could look at her profile. She was still watching the sky, her eyes searching for something, someone up there.
“You promised you’d tell me,” he started tentatively, playing with her fingers. He’d hoped that she’d tell him when she was ready, that he wouldn’t have to ask, but she hadn’t brought the subject up again.
She was quiet for a moment and continued gazing up at the stars. He started to doubt whether she’d understood his question when she turned her head to meet his gaze.
Taking a deep breath, she squeezed her eyes closed only to open them again and to look back at him. She knew she had to tell him. She just didn’t know where to start.
“When I was little, he…” She paused, deciding that this wasn’t the right way to begin.
“You know, he… he used to be the perfect father,” she started over, laboriously swallowing down the lump in her throat. She still remembered those good times. She still remembered how he used to play with her, how he gave her dolls and took her to carnivals. “Sometimes, he’d hit my mother, but not me. Never me,” she continued, her voice cracking.
Max bit down hard, clenching his jaw and biting on his lip to keep from screaming, to keep from crying out loud.
All this time, it had been her father. Unconsciously, he balled his fists, his knuckles white from the strength it took for him not to yell, to scream out in anger, unleashing his fury.
“For how long?” he struggled to get the question out, his voice strained and tense.
“It began when my mother…” her voice wavered for a second as she studied the expecting look on Max’s face. “When she died,” he softly finished for her, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. “When she… left us, yes,” she said with a slight nod, hating to keep things secret from him.
“It’s been going on for eight years?” Max asked, shaking his head in remorse and disbelief. He nearly drowned in self-disgust, in sheer guilt. How could it be that he’d never noticed the change? How could he have not noticed what had been going on? He should have known something was wrong when Liz became more distant. He should have known about it when she stopped swimming, when she started to come up with lame and predictable excuses for the bruises and burn marks.
“It started out fairly innocent. He would shake my arm or push me away, nothing serious. I mean, it was what I deserved. It was my fault mom left, I know,” she evaded his question, tears burning behind her eyes. “I told him I was sorry, over and over again, but it wasn’t enough.”
“Liz…” he tried to interrupt her, to tell her that her mother’s death wasn’t her fault. He never thought of the possibility that her mother wasn’t dead at all, that she hadn’t left Earth, but only Roswell. She hushed him with a quelling look, knowing that she wasn’t going to get it off her chest if he interrupted her.
“When I grew older, it became worse. He said that I reminded him of her,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper, the wind carrying the sentence away. She disgusted him, just as her mother had been disgusting. She’d leave him, just like her mother had.
“But your ‘father’,” he bitterly spat out the name, thinking with nothing less than absolute hatred of the man he’d admired for such a long time, “he loved your mother, didn’t he?”
She shut down as quickly as she’d opened up to him. She stayed quiet for a minute, just looking him in the eyes, wishing that he could know. Taking a deep breath, she turned away, looking up at the stars. He moved to say something, but she silenced him.
“Please, no more,” she softly begged, tears shimmering in the pale light of the moon. Her hand lightly squeezed his, beseeching him to be quiet, to stop asking questions she didn’t want to answer. He looked at her a little longer, his eyes staring into hers to reassure her, but he didn’t know if it helped. He could see her closing off again, rebuilding the high walls that shielded her soul from him.
For now, he’d let it go.
“No more,” he agreed unwillingly. He placed her tiny hand on his chest; content with the moments they’d been given. They fell silent again, gazing at each other and the stars until he spoke up. “We’d better get some sleep. I’d like to leave early in the morning, before the break of day.”
“Okay,” she answered, clumsily withdrawing her hand from his and placing it on the shared blanket. He awkwardly moved his hand, unsure of where to put it, of whether he could hold her or not. Softly giggling at their childish behavior, she scooted up to him, carefully tucking her head under his chin and draping her arm across his chest. He smiled happily, pulling her further up against him and tenderly placing his hand on the sensitive skin of her back.
“Night, munchkin,” he whispered, his words quickly followed by a yawn as he felt the sudden need for a long sleep.
“Night,” she softly replied, not quite managing to stifle a yawn of her own.
“Parrot,” he lightly teased, lazily caressing the long, dark tresses of her hair, brushing them off of her face. She didn’t reply to his remark, her body’s tiredness quickly claiming her as she drifted off into a well-deserved slumber. He joined her in sleep soon after, the stars above guiding them to their dreams.
“Max! I think I saw a shark over there!” she called out, unable to hide the mischievous grin on her face. The lukewarm seawater clashed against her legs and the lower side of her tummy as she watched Max near her, pushing the water away with his tanned arms.
“Really?” he taunted, his soulful eyes boring down on hers.
“Um… Yeah…” she answered, trying to ignore the fuss his warm eyes caused to well up in her stomach.
“Well, then you’d better take your bikini off,” he huskily said, pointing at her bikini. Her red bikini. Why was she the one wearing a red swimsuit? And how had they suddenly become adults?
Lightly blushing, she took a step back so she could get her brain to function. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she challenged, holding her breath for his answer. She didn’t know why, but it was important to her. It was important what he thought of her, how he felt about her.
“Oh yeah… I’d like that very much,” he broadly smiled, wading to where she was standing, her toes unconsciously curling in the sand. “You… you would?” she breathlessly asked as he placed his hand on her lower arm.
He didn’t answer her, instead choosing to lean forward, lower his head, and close his eyes. She gasped, unsure of what to do. Involuntarily, she followed his lead and let her eyes flutter closed, anticipating the feather light touch of his lips against hers.
She returned to reality with a lurch, her eyes flying open as she shot up. “Liz? Are you all right?” Max’s groggy voice penetrated the silence, reminding her of where she was. She whipped her head around, meeting his face, his eyes that were staring up at her. “Did you have a bad dream?” he asked, worry prominent in his voice, his eyes still semi-closed with sleepiness.
“No! Yes! I mean… I don’t know…” she lamely replied, falling back to the blanket, back into his arms. He embraced her a little tighter, his cheek against the crown of her head.
“You know that you’re safe with me, right?” he whispered in her hair, his lips evoking the fluttering of butterflies in her stomach. The fluttering of tiny little souls, she fleetingly thought, a small smile gracing her features.
“I know,” she answered and closed her eyes, inhaling the cool desert air that mingled with Max’s scent. She quickly decided to forget about the dream and the butterflies. She must have had it because of the situation they were in, she told herself. It was just a little crush that could easily be ignored and forgotten.
She couldn’t be falling for her best friend, could she?
Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 5:57 am
LegalAlien, aussietrueblue, begonia9508, ken_r - thank you!!
Chapter 7 (by Jo)
The small doll was quickly snapped from the shelf as the small feet of a little girl thudded against the wooden floor, her dark hair swirling in the air, her knees hitting the floor, and her small hands pushing back the blanket hanging as a shelter down the sides of the small white wooden bed.
The loud crashing sound of china hitting a hard wall, helplessly shattering due to its fragile material, vibrated through the air, making her small trembling hands clasp over the ears. The blanket was pulled back into position, offering her the illusion of comfort. The doll, with its sweet, smiling face, was pressed into her small heaving chest in an attempt to offer comfort and consolation to a lonely child.
Angry voices drifted through the cracks between the doorframe and the door, crawled over the floor, snuck up the walls, and infected the room with their menacing presence. Small hands pressed harder against little ears, but couldn’t stop the sound waves from reaching her delicate eardrums.
"Hush my sweet baby, Mother is here.
You’re safe in my arms, there’s nothing to fear.“
The small singing voice struggled to drown out the screams and the dull sound of flesh contacting with flesh.
“The stars shine above for your innocent delight,
They’ll guard you and keep you, all through the night.“
Sobs tore through the soft voice as the doll was pulled closer to her aching chest and tears quietly dripped onto the blond, hard, artificial hair of her small companion.
“Hush my sweet baby, there’s nothing to fear.
You’re safe in my heart, I will always be near.“
He could feel the anger build up inside of him, quickly reaching boiling proportions. Who the fuck did he think he was? No one had the right to take his baby girl away.
He got a disgusted feeling at the pit of his stomach as images of what that boy might be doing to his girl right this second invaded his mind.
He was snapped back to reality by a polite voice speaking up at the other end of the line. “Mr. Parker?“
“Yes. With whom am I speaking?“ His voice immediately returned to an acceptable business tone.
“My name’s George Mallard. I’m a private investigator.“
“I’ve been expecting your call.“
“I’m truly sorry to hear about your daughter, Mr. Parker.“
Mr. Parker clenched his fists, and he could feel the anger flaring to life again, like dying embers being teased with a lighted match.
“That’s why I want to speak with you. I want you to find my daughter and bring her back.“
“Certainly, Mr. Parker. I’m going to need some pictures, personal facts like what food she usually eats, what kind of clothes she wears, and so on.“
“Yes, yes. Fine,“ Mr. Parker replied shortly. “Do whatever you want, as long as you find her.“
“Yes, of course, Mr. Parker.“
Two weeks earlier
“Liz!! Over here!!“
Liz couldn’t help but roll her eyes at her friend’s antics. She made her way over to the bench and sat down beside Maria.
“Geez, Maria. You really know how to make a person the center of attention.“
Maria put an arm around Liz shoulders and didn’t notice as Liz flinched, smiling lightly. “I know you love me anyway. I was just worried you wouldn’t see us sitting here.“
Liz met Max’s eyes from across the table and saw the suspicious crinkle that had appeared on his forehead at Liz’s subtle flinch, making her uneasy.
She quickly looked away, smiling at Maria. “Maria. You always sit here. It’s not like it’s hard science to find you. So, has anyone done that history assignment?“
“Don’t look at me,“ Maria said innocently.
“No surprises there, Ria,“ Max said, still looking at Liz.
Liz sighed and met his eyes. “What?“
Maria jerked her head towards Liz at her irritated tone of voice.
His tone light, Max answered, “Nothing.“
“Do I have something in my hair? Toothpaste on my cheek? What?“
“No… you look perfect,“ Max answered.
“Then why were you staring at me?“
Dumbfounded, Maria eyed Liz. What was that all about?
“Liz. It’s nothing,“ Max answered calmly.
“Liz. Let it go,“ Maria said, “Max’s always looking at you, so why is now any different?“
Liz turned her head to look at Maria, making Maria instantly regret that she had said anything. “What do you mean?“
“Um… I mean…“ She shot a glance at Max, who was nervously shifting in his seat, his ears slightly red.
Everyone could see that Max was in love with Liz, that he had been for a long time. The only people unaware of that fact were Liz and Max.
They looked up to see Max’s sister, Isabel, approaching them.
“Oh no. Not her,“ Maria moaned quietly.
Max shot her a warning look and she forced herself to fire off a sugary smile in Isabel’s direction. “Hi Iz!“
“So…“ Isabel said, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial level, “Do you want to know who Paul is taking to the prom?“
Maria cringed. No, not really. “Please tell us,“ she said, not being able to hide the slight sarcasm in her voice.
“Pam Troy!!“ Isabel exclaimed, as if she had just announced the cure to cancer.
“Oh,“ Liz said without any greater enthusiasm.
“Come on, people. Don’t you see the fun in this?“
“Not really, Iz,“ Max said.
And please don’t tell us, Maria silently pleaded.
Isabel rolled her eyes at their ignorance of the intrigues at Roswell High. “You must know that Paul and Pam used to date, right?“
Liz, Maria and Max all shared a desperate please-get-me-out-of-here look.
“You remember that thing at Halloween last year when Pam came to the school without any make up-“
“Um, Liz. Can I talk to you?“ Max interrupted.
Liz cast one look at Isabel’s excited face and nodded eagerly in response, eager to get away from Isabel.
Maria looked up them with fear and accusation in her eyes. “Where are you going?“
“I just need to talk to Liz for a sec,“ Max answered, rising from his seat.
“Why right now?“
Were they just going to leave her here? With Isabore and her cheerleader gossip?!
“Sorry, Ria,“ Liz whispered to her, before getting up.
Maria’s eyes desperately begged Max and Liz to stay, but it was obviously of no use.
Isabel looked at her intently. “You wanna know what happened, or not?“
Inwardly, Maria released a desperate sob. What had she done to deserve this?!
Liz trailed after Max as they crossed the green lawn outside the school cafeteria. He seemed nervous about something. She could read his body language better than anyone else. His shoulders were pulled up to his ears, his back tense, his fists clenching and unclenching.
“So, what do you want to talk to me about?“ Liz asked as he stopped.
He turned around and faced her, absent-mindedly scratching his eyebrow.
Liz smiled slightly. “What’s wrong, Max? You seem a little nervous.“
“Umm...well, you know the prom is in three weeks.“
Liz shone up excitedly. “Oh, has someone asked you yet?“
Max looked at her, and for about the zillionth time wondered if this was the right thing to do. They were friends. Best friends. And he didn’t want to ruin that. But nothing stopped them from going as friends, right? Many people did that.
Liz watched the emotions play over his face, and her exuberant smile fainted. “You didn’t turn them down, did you?“
Liz sighed. “Max, what are we going to do with you? It’s your prom! And you are being far too shy to ask anyone yourself, so you should just be happy that someone breaks tradition and asks you!“
They hadn’t really asked him. They had basically thrown themselves at him.
“Liz...what about you?“
“What about me?“ Liz asked confused.
“Has someone asked you to the prom?“
Liz dropped her eyes, suddenly very interested with observing how the green tone of the grass matched her sandals.
“No, why should they?“
Max frowned. “Why shouldn’t they?“
Liz snorted. He could be so dense sometimes. “Why would anyone want to go out with me, Max?“
“Don’t be ridiculous, Liz. You know that isn’t true.“
“Then why hasn’t anyone asked me yet?“
“It’s in two weeks. No guy plans that far ahead.“
“Paulie’s already asked Pam Troy.“
“That’s a whole different story. Paulie’s been going after Pam ever since they broke up because of that incident with the-“
“Max. Stop it! You’re scaring me! You’re spending way too much time with your sister!!“
Max sighed. “That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.“
Liz watched the nervousness penetrate every feature of his face. “Max, tell me.“
“Well, I was thinking...“ God, just say it, man! “Would you go to the prom with me...?“
There, he said it. He quickly assessed Liz’s facial expression, and found his heart fluttering at the brink of cardiac arrest as he watched the emotions moved in her eyes. Was that disappointment? Fear? Surprise? What?
He hurried to continue, the silence being suffocating, painfully extended. “Since we aren’t going with anyone else and…“
“I would love to,“ Liz said softly.
Shocked, he stared at her. “Wh-what?“ he stuttered.
“There isn’t anyone else I’d rather go with,“ Liz said.
“What are you reading?“
Liz quickly snapped the newspaper together, and rolled it up, and put it behind her back.
“Nothing,“ she answered.
Max looked into her reddish eyes, and felt his heart lurch with pain.
Liz stood up from the bed, and moved over to the other side of the room, the newspaper still firmly shielded behind her back.
“It’s nothing, Max. Just news. They are quite upsetting.“
Max got a grim expression on his face. “You were reading the article about us, right?“
Liz averted her eyes, looking at the wall behind Max.
Yet another motel room. Yet another day in hiding. Yet another day living in fear, but still safer than she’d been in a long time. She was slowly accustoming herself to reality again, slowly building up walls around her. Slowly becoming the stubborn Liz Parker that Max was used to. But that didn’t stop him from wondering about all the things she hid away. All the things she didn’t deal with.
“You don’t have to read that,“ Max said.
“I can if I want to,“ Liz said.
Max sighed. “Liz...“
“Max...“ Liz taunted.
“Fine,“ Max muttered. He wouldn’t get anywhere with her in that mood.
Max sat down on the edge of the bed where Liz had just been sitting and patted the place next to him with the palm of his hand. “Come here.“
Liz pouted her lips and Max noticed that the swelling in her lips had gone down as she dragged herself over to him.
“You could at least try to act happy,“ Max smiled.
Liz rolled her eyes, flinching halfway through the movement as her eye protested.
Max grimaced at her pain.
“Bad move,“ Liz mumbled, and sank down beside him.
“Scoot up against the headboard,“ Max said softly.
“Why?“ Liz asked suspiciously.
“Just humor me, okay.“
Liz gave him a glare to warn him from trying something and then moved up the bed. Max could feel his heart quickening as he saw her move over the bed, her hair falling freely over her shoulders, her sweater riding up and revealing some creamy soft skin. His fingers started to throb with an ache to touch her.
He jerked his head up to her face, and forced himself to smile lightly, trying discreetly to swallow the burning yearning down his throat. He slowly crept up towards her on his knees.
Liz followed his movements, feeling heat rush to her cheek. She was oblivious to the quickening of her breathing, as her eyes were intent on watching Max move toward her. Max stopped at her feet, and after a quick glance at her, he started to pull her socks off.
A soft smile started to play in the corners of Liz’s mouth. “What are you doing?“
“I’m going to give you a massage,“ Max announced.
Liz responded by pulling her foot away from him. “You don’t have to do that, Max.“
What if she were sweaty, or something? She couldn’t let him massage her feet!
Max reached out and gently grabbed her foot and moved it back to him. “I want to.“
Max gave her a devilish smile. “I know.“
“Oh no,“ Liz said, once again trying to wiggle out of his grip, “That’s mean, Max!“
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tickle you,“ Max said.
He moved her foot to his lap. Liz gasped softly as her bare foot came into contact with his thigh. What was going on? Why did she feel so weird? It was only Max. Max for Christ sake! The boy she had thrown water balloons at. The boy she had traded sandwiches with in third grade. This was her best friend. Her pal. Her buddy.
Max eyes softly traced the contours of the underside of her foot. She still had some cuts from the stones digging into her soft flesh as she had been running barefoot to his window that night. He had never been more scared in his life then when he saw Liz standing outside his window, crying and bleeding.
He quickly shook the memory out of his head. His finger softly traced one of the scars on the underside of her foot, making her move her foot under his hand. He looked up at her with worry, afraid that he had hurt her somehow. But he found her glaring at him, her lips pressed tightly together, obviously trying to stifle a giggle.
“You said you wouldn’t tickle me,“ she said.
Max relaxed. “Sorry. Do your feet still hurt?“
“No,“ Liz answered softly.
Unrestrained, his thoughts wandered to her father, and he could feel the anger building up inside of him. But it wasn’t just anger against the person who had done this to her, but towards himself as well. He had let it happen. He had spent almost every day with her during the last eight years, and still he had never seen it. And he felt betrayed. Betrayed by a man that he had trusted. That he had indirectly trusted to keep Liz safe.
That was what parents were supposed to do. They were to watch over their children and keep them safe. The heat scorched under his skin as he thought of everything Liz had to endure because of her so-called father.
He looked up at her face. She was afraid. He could read it clearly in her eyes. “I’m sorry, I just…“
“Thought about my father,“ Liz filled in.
Max nodded, raking his hand through his hair, while his other hand was still gently kneading Liz’s foot.
“How could he do that to you, Liz?“
Liz looked down at her hands. She didn’t really know how to answer that. Even though common sense was telling her that there was no justification for getting beat up, her deeply scarred heart was nagging at her that she deserved it. She hadn’t been good enough. She hadn’t tried hard enough. No one got as mad as her father had over nothing. She had to have done something to provoke the violence. She wasn’t the daughter he wanted. She hadn’t met his standards.
She looked up at him, and found him sitting beside her. When had he moved?
“Don’t blame yourself. Your father,“ he practically spat the word out, “had no right to do that to you!“
“I know,“ she said softly.
She looked up into his eyes, and found her head nodding in answer. An automatic response. Imprinted in her with years of practice. Never tell a soul. Always lie. But at the same time hoping that someone would hear the screams inside of her. But no one ever did.
Liz started to move away from him. “I should take a shower.“
Max had to bite his lips to prevent himself from saying anything else. She wasn’t ready yet. If he pressed too hard she would retreat back within herself. He had to give her time, but he could see that it was slowly killing her...and him.
Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:22 am
Thank you so much for the feedback! You guys rock!!!
ken_r - I'm truly touched and honoured that you find my style of "flashbacking" good enough to learn from. Good luck with your own story!
Chapter 8 (by Stef)
One week earlier:
“Lizzie, girlfriend, don’t make me come in there!” Maria yelled, casting an impatient glance at the dressing rooms.
Liz looked at her reflection in the mirror while zipping up her dress. “Just a sec!” she yelled back, fumbling with the zipper until it was up. She stared at the mirror to see the result. A pair of deep brown eyes stared back at her, emotionless, yet expecting.
The dress was pretty, but way too revealing, too exposing. Her father would have a fit if he’d see her wearing it. He’d forbid her to go to the prom, for sure. The strip lighting in the dressing room made her skin look pale and it enlarged the dark bags under her eyes, tell-tales for all of the worries she carried. Her skin was flawless, all signs of the past erased, but far from forgotten. Liz looked down at her arms. Unblemished. A little scar here, a small, nearly invisible burn mark there, but no ugly blue blotches, no dark bruises marring them. The bruises had faded, had disappeared, just like the itchy scabs on her elbow and lower arm. There was still a small scab on her right hand that looked red and angry, but she had a good excuse for that one. After all, she really had fallen on the glass table. Just not in the way others believed.
“Liz, I’m coming, ready or not!” Maria warned, brushing the curtains aside. She stopped abruptly, admiring the dress. “Wow…” she breathed, nearly stunned to silence. “Girl, this dress was made for you! Just look at how perfectly it fits!”
“Just look at the price tag,” Liz dryly replied, showing it to Maria. Maria’s eyes widened for a second, but she quickly regained her composure.
“Your father can pay that! He’s a freaking millionaire!”
“He could pay for it, but he won’t. It’s too skimpy,” Liz said, sadly smiling at her reflection, at the dress hugging her curves. It was a pity. The dress was indeed beautiful. Its deep red color matched perfectly with her hair and eyes while the soft fabric flowed down to the ground and swished with every step she took.
“Too skimpy?” Maria laughed. “It’s a long dress, for heaven’s sake! It’s less revealing than all those other dresses!”
Liz looked back at the mirror. She could never show it to her father. Her arms were uncovered, as was a large part of her back. The front had a low cut as well, showing off her cleavage. She remembered the last time she’d bought a summer dress that showed some cleavage. Her father had made sure she’d never be able to wear it; her arms, legs and chest were quickly covered in bruises.
“He won’t pay for it. You know how he is,” Liz sighed, pushing Maria out of the fitting-room so she could change. Maria didn’t really know her father, but she knew of his protectiveness toward his daughter. No man was allowed to touch her, to even look at her. It was one of the reasons why Devin Parker hated Max with such a vengeance. He believed that it wasn’t possible for a guy to be best friends with girls without any ulterior motives. Guys hang out with guys, girls hang out with girls. A guy hanging out with girls was either gay or after one of the girls.
“Then you’ll just pay for it yourself,” Maria insisted, refusing to leave the dressing room before having her way. “You haven’t been working for nothing, have you?”
Liz hesitated and looked at her friend. “You think I should buy it?” she asked, studying her reflection again. “Yes, of course! I wish it would fit me!” Maria answered, interrupting Liz’s little daydream. “Max is sooo going to faint when he sees you in it,” she smiled as she twirled her best friend around.
“What do you mean?” Liz wondered, taking a last look at the dress before pushing it down to the ground. “Why would he faint? I don’t look that horrible, do I?”
Maria smiled, amazed again by the density of both of her friends. “No, faint in the good way. He’ll be a goner.”
Liz pulled a long-sleeve sweater on over her head, muffling her voice “Max doesn’t think of me like that. We’re going to the prom as friends.”
“Whatever,” Maria muttered, smiling as she hung the dress on its hanger. “I’ll take it to the cashier, okay?”
Liz nodded, not even noticing that Maria had already left. Her gaze had drifted to a large bruise on her side. She’d totally forgotten about it. It didn’t hurt anymore, but it was still distinctly visible. She quickly pulled her sweater further down and covered it, grateful that Maria hadn’t seen anything.
She wriggled into her jeans and readjusted her hair. Now she had to make sure to stay out of her father’s way, to do nothing that could provoke his anger. She couldn’t risk getting any bruises or burn marks on her arms with this dress.
Her dress was perfect. Her partner was perfect. Her prom night just had to be perfect.
A couple of days later:
“Daddy, I’m going!” Liz yelled, the red dress secure in a plastic bag. She would change and apply her make up at Maria’s so her dad wouldn’t see her in her dress.
Her father looked up from his work and suspiciously eyed her. “Where are you going?” he asked, capping his pen, his brows knitted in a frown.
“The prom dad, I told you,” she impatiently sighed, anxious to get out of the house.
“Don’t give me that attitude, girl,” her father said, walking to her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t –” she apologized, but he cut her short.
“I’m sure you didn’t,” he said, his voice low and menacing. He grabbed her upper arm, his strong fingers digging into her tender flesh. His eyes shone with fire and he wore a grimace on his face. She knew that she’d have to watch her step.
“You’re not to go home with that boy, understand? You’ll head straight home after the prom has ended. You will not go anywhere else. If somebody tells me that you did, I will respond appropriately. You know what that means,” he threatened, his grip on her arm tightening even more, his fingers cutting off her blood circulation.
She nodded quickly and submissively. She wouldn’t risk Max or his family getting hurt. She would happily give up everything for Max’s mother, his father, and maybe even Isabel.
“Wow, Liz, you look absolutely breathtaking!” Isabel exclaimed, admiring the red dress. “It must have cost you a fortune,” she enviously said, drawing her finger over the silky fabric.
Liz smiled happily. “Thanks, Iz,” she said, gushing over her new dress.
Isabel smiled back and climbed the stairs. “Max! Liz and Maria are here!”
“Did Isabel just say what I think she said?” Liz asked, shaking her head and wearing a big smile.
“I think she did,” Maria replied, sounding just as baffled as her friend. “Be prepared, Max! Your date looks stunning!” she yelled, a pained expression crossing her face as Liz elbowed her in her side.
Max slowly descended the stairs, straightening his bow tie and fastening his watch. “Hey, you guys ready to -” he started, his gaze quickly raking over Maria before settling on Liz. “To go?” he finished, amazed by the beauty standing in front of him. Sure, Liz always looked pretty, but tonight… Tonight she was a fallen angel, or a replica of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. He struggled to catch his breath, a goofy smile growing on his face as he realized that she’d be his date for tonight.
“Put your eyes back into their sockets and we’re ready to go,” Maria commented, rolling her eyes at Max’s behavior. The guy was so obvious. But clearly not transparent enough for Liz to wake up and see what could be.
“Isn’t Isabel supposed to drive with us?” Liz asked, looking at the closed door of Isabel’s room. “Her date will pick her up.”
Max shrugged, shaken out of his trance. “You look absolutely perfect, Liz,” he observed, appreciatively letting his gaze wander over her body. “And you, too, Maria,” he quickly added, blushing as he saw Maria’s expression.
She knew about the not-just-friends thoughts he had been having. She knew how his heartbeat had sped up, how his stomach muscles had contracted at the sight of Liz. It was just a chemical reaction, he told himself. A simple, chemical reaction to the way she looked tonight, it was just hormones acting up. It didn’t have to change their friendship. Chemistry could easily be ignored.
Max watched her dance to the beat, her hair gliding around her beautiful face. Her arms were up in the air as she swayed to the music, her eyes sparkling with joy. “Dance!” she mouthed, waving her hands, her voice lost in the blaring music. He blushed lightly, happy that the disco lights changed colors so nobody would notice. She took his hand and twirled around, laughing when he pulled her close.
“Having fun?” he yelled, loving the contented sparkle in her eyes. She nodded enthusiastically, gyrating her hips as she twirled around a second time.
He glanced at Maria, who was having fun with her own date. Everything was so perfect. Liz was in his arms, his friends were laughing and dancing. Tess Harding, the most popular girl of Roswell High, glared at them. Funny. He wouldn’t trade Liz for any other girl in the room, no matter how popular or pretty they were.
A slow song started and couples began forming around them. Liz turned around and withdrew herself from his arms. Max looked at her questioningly, extending his hand but then pulling it back again. He didn’t really know what to do.
Liz smiled and stepped forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. Smiling happily, he pulled her closer to him, against his chest. Having her arms around his neck didn’t make dancing really easy for her. She had to stand on her tiptoes and dance at the same time so she quickly let her arms move down to his waist, slipping them under his arms, encircling their bodies. A sigh spilled from her lips as she tucked her head under his chin, as his hands moved higher over her dress.
“You look really pretty tonight, munchkin,” Max whispered in her ear, his breath warm and promising.
“Thank you,” she whispered back, and grinning, she continued, “You look really pretty yourself.”
“Funny, Parker,” he replied, his hands having a mind of their own as they drifted to the edge of her dress, to where the patch of her bare skin began. His eyes followed his hands, looking down at her petite figure. “Liz? What are these?”
She pulled back. “What are what?”
Max gingerly took her arm in his hands, pointing at the dark blotches there. “These bruises? What happened?” he gently asked, looking her in the eyes.
She paled a little. She hadn’t realized that her father’s tantrum had caused marks. “Oh! Those! Emm… I must have fallen or something…” she lied, avoiding his gaze.
“Liz, these bruises are symmetric. Someone else made them,” Max analyzed, his eyes trying to capture hers.
“Oh, right. I forgot,” she began, racking her brains for an excuse. If she had seen those bruises before now she would have been prepared to lie to him. “Emm… Yesterday, in the factory, I fell. Richard caught me by the arm. He must have grabbed it a little too hard,” she said, feeling incredibly guilty for deceiving him, the person who’d trusted her with his deepest and darkest secrets while she couldn’t even give him the smallest hint of hers.
Max nodded and took her in his arms. He felt that she wasn’t telling him the truth. She had avoided his gaze, something she only did when she was lying. He knew her too well to fall for her deception. He just couldn’t figure out why she would lie to him. He’d let it rest because obviously she didn’t want to tell him and he didn’t want to ruin their prom night. He’d ask her again tomorrow, and then he wouldn’t be satisfied until he got the truth.
Present time, in yet another motel room, in yet another city:
Happy sounds of a cartoon movie drifted into the bathroom, the notes of the tune just a little too bright and a little too high. Lying on the small, single bed, Max watched the TV show apathetically, his mind not really there. His mind was an empty, vacant space, cleared from all kinds of disrupting thoughts and feelings. It was wonderful not to think for a moment, not to feel.
Liz studied him while she dried her hair with a towel, a small smile on her rosy face. She was wearing yet another one of his shirts, one of the bigger ones. She used it as her nightgown, finding comfort in his scent telling her everything would be all right.
“You can use the bathroom if you want to,” she softly said, walking towards his bed.
She didn’t want to acknowledge the other bed’s presence. If she did, she’d have to sleep there tonight. She wanted to sleep with him, in his arms. She was too scared to sleep alone. She would feel just as lonely, just as abandoned as she had before.
Max smiled and moved to the edge of the bed. “I think I’ll shower tomorrow.”
He was dead tired. His eyes seemed unable to focus on anything, more or less expecting to see the scenery flying by. He’d been driving all day, with just a few pauses and lunch stops. They were far away from New Mexico now, nearly across the Canadian border, but Liz still wanted to go further northwards. Always further. He turned the TV off, feeling silly for watching a cartoon.
“Do you want me to sleep in the other bed?” he asked, ready to stand up.
She stopped him, but didn’t really know what say. Her eyes begged him to stay, but he needed her to say the words out loud.
“Can’t we sleep together?” she finally asked, dropping her gaze to the floor, embarrassed for no reason.
“Of course we can,” he answered, smiling widely. It was what he’d hoped she’d ask. He loved waking up next to her, with her soft, warm breath tickling his ear and the tender skin of his neck.
Together, they moved the nightstand and shoved the two beds towards each other, turning it into a large twin bed. Once they were done, he fell back onto the mattress and laughed as she did the same. She turned around so she could see his face and studied his expression. She started to feel funny, as if her stomach were doing somersaults, and swiftly turned back on her other side.
“The sun isn’t even down yet,” she lamely commented, looking out of the open window. Drizzly rain fell to the ground. It moistened the still dry, dark sand and watered the withered flowers.
‘Somewhere under that sand,’ she lazily thought, ‘hidden from view, seeds are greedily drinking that water. They’re so eager to come into a world they don’t even know, so eager to have a chance at life, not knowing how bad it can be.’
She shook her head, a sad smile creeping upon her lips. There had been times she’d wished that she’d never been born. There had been times she would have chosen not living above living. She’d endured those times, living solely from the memories of better times, times that made life worth the dark moments. Times like this one.
“Hmm… I’m tired,” he said, ending his sentence with a loud yawn.
“So I see,” she teased lightly, smiling as he made a funny face at her. They were quiet for a minute. Occasionally, she’d cast a glance at him, noticing how his brows ever so slowly turned into a frown and a pensive look took over his face.
“I think we should sell Bob.”
She whipped her head around to face him, shocked by his words. “What?”
He smiled and lazily stretched. “I think we should sell Bob,” he said again, looking into the big, dark eyes that were framed by her long, black lashes. “The police know the license plate. It won’t take them long to find us.”
Taking his words into consideration, she let out a long, sad, tired sigh. His eyes were serious, and she could tell that he meant it. He would sell Bob just to keep them safe. “You’re probably right, but sell the jeep? Sell Bob? You adore him,” she protested, her heart glowing from admiration for her friend.
“I adore you more than I adore my car, munchkin,” he countered, softly touching her nose with his fingertip. “Bob’s replaceable. You aren’t. You’re the most important thing in my life and I won’t risk losing you.”
She laughed, a warm, familiar feeling relaxing her still aching muscles. The funny feeling took over again, but she chose to ignore it. “Just wait until you have a girlfriend,” she replied, trying not to wince at the thought of Max with another girl.
Somehow, it didn’t feel right. She didn’t want him to love another girl. She wanted all of his love. ‘I just don’t want to share him,’ she thought, mentally nodding at how logically it sounded. Of course she didn’t want to share him. No friend liked to share her or his best friend with a boy- or girlfriend.
He didn’t say a word, and just stared at her. It was as if his eyes were trying to tell her something, but she couldn’t understand it. She didn’t want to understand, so she turned on her back, trying to avoid the inevitable by studying the ceiling. Sixteen stains. They were coffee, perhaps. Or coke. Maybe oil. Perhaps the sun had -
Now she would hear him say it. Now she couldn’t ignore what she already knew. She turned to face him, still avoiding his eyes. She looked down at his hands, which lay on the mattress in between them. Her hand reached for his and started to play with his fingers, moving them up and down.
She thought she could hear him smile, but she could have been mistaken. “We can’t go on living like this, Liz.”
He’d said it. He’d said the unavoidable. It had been one of the things she dreaded hearing him say, but not the one she’d expected. Trying to avoid identifying what she had expected him to say, she clasped her fingers around his hand. Why couldn’t they live like this? She had really liked traveling with him. Yes, there was always the fear of being discovered by the police, but they had fun. She was growing closer to him, and his mere presence made her feel worthy of living.
“Liz, why are we going north? Where are we going?”
After being silent for a while, she looked him in the eye and spoke up. “Newfoundland,” she said. Her voice was soft, but determined. “Newfoundland, Canada.”
“Newfoundland? Why?” he stammered, obviously puzzled.
As far as he knew, she didn’t have any relatives in Newfoundland. She sighed and tried to look away again, but he carefully held her gaze, his eyes asking her thousands of questions, none of which she could answer. She had to tell him the truth. Her mother had left. Because of her, her father believed. He was probably right. He was right about everything, after all. Her father was perfect.
“My…” she hesitated, her voice wavering. “Because my mother lives there…”
Meantime, at the Parker residence:
“The Evans’ jeep has been identified in several states, sir,” George Mallard said, marking the places where either the police or civilians had seen the two youngsters. “They’re driving north. Is there any place they could be heading? Relatives, friends?”
Mr. Parker shook his head. “I’m the only relative she has, besides an uncle in Hawaii.”
And as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t a lie. Nancy was as good as dead to him. Dead and forgotten. Of course, every month he still had to pay her quite a large sum of money so she’d keep her mouth shut, but she was out of his life for good. She wouldn’t contact the press. His position was secure. He wouldn’t bring up his ex-wife as a possible relative. It would blow his cover and wouldn’t be of any use to the private detective. Liz didn’t know where her mother lived. No, no one would ever speak about Nancy again…
Posted: Sat Dec 23, 2006 5:56 pm
Merry Christmas, everyone!!
Chapter 9 (by Jo)
“Liz, are you ready to go?“
He came out of the bathroom to find her on her knees in front of the suitcase he had hastily packed for them a couple of nights ago when they left Roswell.
Her silence unnerved him and he cautiously stepped closer to her to take a look over her shoulder and see what was capturing her attention.
“Are you okay?“
His voice reached through the mist that surrounded her and with the familiar sound of the zipper closing she pushed her feelings back to the dark place where no one would find them, but not before he could see that she had been gazing at the torn remnants of her prom dress that had been placed in the bottom of the suitcase.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine Max,“ she answered and slowly straightened up.
She turned around to face him and offered him a brave smile as she brushed an invisible strand of hair behind her ear. Max watched those beautiful eyes look everywhere but at him and he mentally sighed. When was she going to let him in?
She nodded. “Let’s get going.“
Max caught the nervousness in her movements. “How are you feeling? Are you nervous?“
In a couple of hours, she would be meeting her mom for the first time in ten years. ‘Nervous’ was only the tip of the feelings coursing through her. She presented him with another brave smile and Max could feel his heart swell at her strength.
She had been through so much and now she was going to meet the person who had abandoned her. She was finally going to receive answers to questions that she had turned around in her head so often that they had left her head aching.
“A little,“ she answered.
Max reached out and took her hand. Her immediate response was to pull out of his grip again, but he just tightened the grip. He knew her. Probably better than she thought and he knew that she wanted to be strong.
She had to prove to herself that this didn’t affect her and that she could handle it. She had been able to handle everything else in her life and she would be able to handle this one little thing. The problem was that it wasn’t a little thing and Max had the feeling that she needed all the support she could get so for once he wasn’t going to let her stubborn side win.
“You’ll be fine, Liz.“
She swallowed and nodded. He could feel the slight trembles coursing through her cold hand as he tugged on it.
She took a deep breath but the air couldn’t fill her with confidence or remove the throbbing nervousness.
With a weak nod, she answered, “Yes.“
Maria breezed through the doors and gloried in the warm and familiar sound of the chime announcing her arrival. She looked around expectantly, hoping to find her best friends somewhere nearby.
She cheerily made her way through the semi-crammed restaurant where they spent most of their free time: The CrashDown Café. Sure, it was maybe a bit cheesy, filled with alien artifacts and waitresses in Star Trek uniforms, but what could she say? It was home.
“Where is everybody?“
Her voice was still cheerful but it had lost some of its bubbling strength. Where was everybody?
“Where are you guys hiding?“
Could it be that Max and Liz weren’t spending their day in the restaurant for once? She frowned as she went trough her mental calendar. Nope, it was Saturday. And on Saturdays, this was where they spent their time.
Honestly, Max and Liz were pretty predictable. Besides, they knew that she was returning today. So why was no one here? She paused in her steps and slowly twirled around. The restaurant was buzzing with activity even though it was only ten in the morning. But that was no reason for Liz not to be there.
Her best friend was so much of a morning person it was scary. Liz was way too cheery at seven in the morning for it to be considered healthy. Somehow, Liz had managed to drag Max into her routines, but Maria couldn’t claim that she was surprised.
If Liz was up at seven, Max would be too just so that he wouldn’t miss a second of her time. She smiled inwardly. Really, as funny as it was to watch how ignorant they were of each other’s looks, they could be pretty pathetic sometimes.
Glancing around the people in the restaurant, she sighed. Where could they be? The park? No. School? Uh…It’s Saturday, so no. Library? Hmm… Possible. A light turned on in her head and a grin began to form on her face. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? They were planning a surprise party for her! That must be it. It was the only logical explanation. With a new spring in her steps, she crossed the restaurant and walked out the door, heading to Max’s house.
Max glanced at the slip of paper lying on the dashboard. The address was burned into this mind, but he couldn’t help staring at it. It was the only piece of information Liz had about her mother. Her mother. He couldn’t even remember her. He had only been eight when she’d left, just like Liz.
As the engine of the car hummed around him his thoughts wandered to the person who had left Liz alone with an abusive father. When Liz had told him that she was going to see her mother, his first reaction had been no. He didn’t want Liz anywhere near her “mother“. What kind of person leaves a defenseless eight-year-old with an abusive man? Even if Liz’s father hadn’t been abusive, there was no excuse for a mother to just cut off all communication with her own child.
All this time, Max, along with most of Roswell, had just assumed Liz’s mother to be dead. One day she just disappeared and Liz hadn’t wanted to talk about it much. She had just said that her mother was gone. Max remembered the day he found out.
One week prior to that day, his grandfather had died and his parents had tried to explain it to him. Max couldn’t understand that his grandpa would never come back. His parents had told him that his grandfather had gone away, forever, to a better place. Perhaps it was because of that conversation with his parents that Max assumed that what had happened to his grandfather had also happened to Liz’s mother. And as the years passed, the misunderstanding was transformed into a truth that Liz had kept alive.
Max looked at Liz curled up in the passenger seat beside him. She was staring out the window, her body perfectly still. If her eyes hadn’t been open he would have assumed she was asleep.
“How are you feeling?“ The words were out of his mouth before he had a chance to stop them.
Without moving an inch, she gave him her automatic answer. “I’m fine.“
Max’s eyes moved between watching the road and Liz. A nervousness mixed with fear was vibrating through the air, making it thick.
“Do you know what you are going to say?“
He could see her tense at his question and sighed. “I have no idea. I...I just...I’m afraid to even think about it right now.“
Max nodded, even though he knew she wasn’t looking. The silence lowered itself over them again. He wanted to say something to her. To comfort her. To take away her fear. But he found himself desperately searching for words where there were none.
He wanted to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, even if they both knew that there was still a long way to go before everything would be okay. Words just seemed so useless. Whatever he would say would only be words of empty promises.
She’ll take one look at you and she will regret ever leaving you.
But that was the sugarcoated version. He had no clue to how Liz’s mother would react. There was a reason for Mrs. Parker to leave and Max was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be very happy to stand face to face with the part of her past that she had worked so hard to avoid.
She didn’t leave because of you.
But he didn’t know that for sure. What if Liz’s mother had panicked about raising a child and had suddenly just given up. But wasn’t it a bit late to be doing that when your child was already eight years old?
All this time she’s been secretly hoping that you would come and find her.
He forced back a frustrated groan. There was nothing he could say to remove her fears. But he was her best friend. There must be some words of comfort he could offer her. The thing was that he knew that Liz wouldn’t settle for empty promises. That was the last thing she needed.
The brutal reality was that neither he nor Liz knew how Liz’s mother would react and that fact alone was enough to make Max want to make a U-turn and drive in a completely different direction, letting mile after mile increase the distance between Liz and her mother and thus protect Liz from getting hurt. Mrs. Parker had the power to destroy the little streak of hope that Liz clung to and everything within Max’s being was screaming at him to prevent that from happening. But at the same time Liz needed some sort of closure. If she would let this go, unexplored, she would be forever haunted by what ifs.
So Max gave her the only promise he knew was true.
When he glanced at her, her head had still not turned towards him, but she let him know that he had her attention by nodding slowly.
“I’m here,“ Max said, putting deep emphasis on every word, “I’ll never leave you.“
He could see Liz tensing at his words and he vaguely wondered if she believed him.
His moved his hand from the gear and brushed his fingers against the back of her cold hand, hoping that she would let him give her some sense of peace. A deep intake of air and her fingers entwining with his was her only response. If he had known the depth of her fears and anxieties of being abandoned he probably would’ve forced her not to continue the search for her mother.
She didn’t believe him.
“All right! Calm down! I’m coming, I’m coming!“
Isabel opened the door and thereby cut off the annoying knocking. Only to be met by Maria’s face.
Isabel mustered up her best smile. “Maria, hey. So you’re back.“
Maria was trying her best to look past Isabel into the rest of the house. “Yes, I’m finally back.“
So, where was that surprise party? Wasn’t this the part where there would be a shout of ‘SURPRISE’ and people would emerge from different hiding places?
“That’s nice,“ Isabel said.
Why did she get the feeling that she wasn’t at the center of attention here? Sure, she couldn’t claim that she and Maria were the best of friends, but Maria could at least give her a second glance.
Isabel raised her eyebrows, and spoke with the cold voice that she usually used when she didn’t want her real emotions to slip through. “Did you want something? Or are you just checking out the furniture?“
Isabel had a fairly good idea about what Maria wanted. She was looking for Max and Liz, and Isabel wasn’t sure she wanted to be the one to break the news to Maria.
“Uhm...Well, I was just looking for Max and Liz. Are they here?“
“No,“ Isabel answered shortly, inwardly hoping that Maria would leave it at that and find out the truth somewhere else.
“You have any idea where they are?“
Isabel had the urge to tell her ‘no’, but she wasn’t mean. She just didn’t feel up to dealing with Maria’s freaked out emotions. But, once again, she had gotten the short straw.
“Actually, they ran away,“ she said calmly.
Maria snapped her head in Isabel’s direction and Isabel immediately regretted that she had ever wanted Maria’s full attention. The emerald eyes were now focused on her, wide with surprise and shock.
“Are you kidding me?“
“No, unfortunately not,“ Isabel answered.
“So..they...eloped? Why? To get married or something?“
Isabel snorted. Max Evans and Liz Parker, the most responsible people on the face of the Earth, running off to get married. Yeah, right.
“We don’t know that much about why they left, but Mr. Parker has put a private detective on the case to find them.“
Maria stared at her. “God, you’re serious!“
“Of course I’m serious,“ Isabel sighed.
“Oh my God,“ Maria breathed, still staring at Isabel in disbelief. “I leave for one week and my two best friends disappear?“
“That’s about it,“ Isabel said.
“Oh my God,“ Maria repeated.
Isabel couldn’t blame her. Her first reaction had been about the same as Maria’s. For once, she found herself having something in common with the over-energetic Maria DeLuca.
Things had been hell ever since her brother had disappeared, but she wasn’t about to let anyone know that. She had to put her family first. The people her brother had abandoned who where worried sick about him. She couldn’t worry about her own feelings.
Max cut the engine and the sudden removal of the comforting humming sound made Liz want to yell at him to start the engine and drive away. Drive far away. Away from all the troubles that someone had labeled as her life. Why was the air so dry and heavy all of the sudden? It was making it really difficult to breath. If she even could figure out how to get her lungs to work.
“Are you ready?“
She really hated those words. They always carried so many subtleties and she felt herself being crushed under their weight.
“Liz. We don’t have to do this today if you don’t want to. We can just find a hotel and try again tomorrow instead.“
That sounded really good. It was probably the best thing he had said in a couple of hours. But she couldn’t quit now. She needed to do this. She needed to know. There had always been so many questions concerning her mother’s departure and they were slowly taking control of her sanity and her will to function.
“No, let’s do this. I have to know, Max.“
His eyes met hers and he nodded. She knew that he was trying to understand her and trying to convey that he would always be by her side. But her mangled heart protested against trusting anyone too much again. She was on her own for this.
She took a deep breath and reached out for his hand. He took it and she was momentarily surprised at the small but still noticeable bit of comfort she got from the way his fingers laced with hers and offered her warmth. However, that tiny piece of comfort was quickly being smothered by the painful twitching in her heart.
“Which house is it?“
She looked across the street, pretending to casually scan the houses when she was really trying to get control over her unwanted feelings.
They were in a small community called Springdale, the supposed home of her mother. The sun was casting its bright rays over the streets and the air was humid but fresh from an ocean breeze. The beauty and calmness of the scenery was making Liz even more uncomfortable.
“It’s that one over there,“ Max pointed at a two story white house.
The lawn was neatly trimmed. The bushes were perfectly shaped. Everything looked so perfect, so homely. From the brightly colored flowers to the newly washed car parked in the driveway. Upon seeing this, the feeling that she shouldn’t be there became more insistent.
She didn’t belong there. Who did she think she was? She was supposed to be at home with her father, living the life the people around her had set out for her to live. She didn’t deserve any better. Who was she to come here and destroy the seemingly perfect life of her mother?
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.“
She could feel Max’s eyes on her, but she couldn’t get her own head to turn away from the beautiful house.
“Liz, you know that you don’t have to do this, but just think about it for a second. You will never be at peace until you find answers to your questions.“
“Maybe she’s dead. Maybe she isn’t living in that house.“
“Or maybe she is. I don’t want to push you to knock on that door, but knowing you, if you don’t do this you will never stop thinking about what could have happened if you had actually taken that step towards your mother.“
“I know,“ her voice sounded so thin.
Was she even living at all anymore? She felt dead inside. Empty. Cold. Why did she have to do this? Why couldn’t she just have a normal family? A normal mom and dad. A mom who she could bake cookies with and who would hug her when she had done well at school. A dad who was accepting, loving and didn’t hit her because she had forgotten to take out the garbage. Why couldn’t life just give her a break?
“Maybe I should write her a letter instead,“ Liz suggested.
“And if she doesn’t answer, you will go around wondering if she ever got your letter and if she did, what her reaction was and why she isn’t writing you back.“
Liz grimaced. Why did he have to be so logical? Couldn’t he just let her run away? Why was he insisting on bringing her back to reality every time she had found that peace in that dream world inside of her mind? Where love was eternal and unconditional. Where the smell of newly baked cookies met her after she got home for school and where she found her mother and father laughing together in the kitchen at some private joke.
“Okay,“ she said.
No, she would never be sure. But he had been so effective in putting forward all the reasons why she should knock on that door that she couldn’t really walk away now, could she?
He gave her damp hand a squeeze and then she found her legs moving to match his pace. They made it over the street. They crossed the pavement. She could now hear the crushing sound of gravel under her shoes as they walked along the path leading up to the closed door. And all too soon they were there. Outside the door. There was only a piece of wood away from a turning point in her life.
“Should I knock, or do you want to?“
She looked up at her best friend and gave him a small smile. She didn’t know where she had found the strength to muster up that smile. Of course, sometimes she couldn’t even understand how she found the strength to take her next breath.
“I’ll do it,“ she answered and inhaled deeply.
As she lifted her hand to knock on the door she found a deep fear of rejection settle in her heart. She didn’t even know what to say to her mother. What did you say to fill the awkward silence of ten years?
“What am I going to say?“
Why was her voice trembling so badly?
“Don’t think about that right now. I’ll be here. If you can’t think of anything, I’ll talk.“
She nodded and forgot to breathe as she watched her hand slowly move towards the door. Too quickly she heard the unmistakable sounds of knuckles rapping against wood. And the decision was out of her hands.
The voice that seeped through the creaks in the door was enough to get Liz heart to begin pumping again and air whooshed back into her lungs. She knew that voice far too well. It had haunted her dreams for years.
“Let’s go,“ Liz whispered.
But Max wouldn’t let her. He just tightened his grip on her hand. She found herself looking frantically around herself in an effort to find an escape route.
The opening of the door made her head snap back into the direction of the doorway where a smiling woman had become visible. But the smile slowly slipped off the face as her eyes met Liz’s.
“Hi. We’re sorry to disturb you, but...“
Liz heard Max’s voice, but she couldn’t understand the words. It was her mother.
Her hair was longer and straighter. It was now blonde instead of red and she wore glasses. But the eyes were the same. The mouth was the same and so was the nose. There was no mistaking that she was standing in front of her mother.
“...Evans and this is...um...Liz Parker.“
She could barely hear her best friend’s voice through the sound of her pounding heart. But she saw all the emotions play over her mother’s face. First confusion then utter...terror.
“We’re looking for Nancy Parker.“
Her mother was staring at her as if she was a ghost. And in some way she was. A ghost from the past.
“I- I...“ her mother stuttered.
Before she even knew how it had happened, her mouth had moved, forming that one word that had been missing from her vocabulary during her upbringing, “Mom?“
“I-I’m sorry. There’s no Nancy Parker here.“ Liz watched in slow motion as her mother started to close the door. “I’m sorry.“
The door closed and Liz’s world came crushing down around her. She didn’t notice as her legs gave away underneath her and she sagged against Max.
She didn’t notice as he helped her to the car and fastened her seatbelt. Her mother didn’t want anything to do with her. The hope that had kept her going for years had crumpled to dust in front of her with the bang of a door closing.
Posted: Fri Dec 29, 2006 8:33 am
Thanks a million for the feedback!!
Since I probably won't return with an update before New Year...
Happy New Year!!
Chapter 10 (by Stef, last part by Jo)
Liz didn’t say a single word on their journey back to the motel, even though Max made multiple attempts to get her to talk to him. He’d uttered her name a thousand times, but she’d merely acknowledged his words with a nod or a shake of her head.
She sighed and looked through the open roof of their new jeep. She stared at the quickly darkening sky and the clouds moving in front of the sun as the wind tore them apart and changed them into little dark fluffs. Strange. She’d always associated bits of fluff with something sweet, something like cotton candy or a cute little puppy, still covered in down. These fluffy clouds, however, were not cute, they were menacing. It was as if they were threatening her, as if deadly rain could pour down on her in sheets any second.
She didn’t respond. What did he expect her to say? Did he want her to admit how stupid it had been to look for her mother? Did he want her to tell him how idiotic her decision to run away had been and why on Earth she’d made him drive thousands of miles for nothing? Did he want to hear her say that? Or did he want to explain why her mother hadn’t wanted her? Why nobody wanted her? Did he want to clarify it, to make her see what a failure she was?
Two small clouds merged into one, larger, cloud and together they completely shrouded the sun. The soft ticking sound the car made told her they were going to turn off the road, and her body was almost instantaneously pulled to the right, the small force enough to make her feel nauseous.
Max continued trying to reach her, calling her name time after time, hoping for an answer, an affirmation that she was doing okay. But how could she be okay? After all, the two people that were supposed to love her, to take care of her until she no longer needed them, had either abused her or rejected her. He feared the effect it would have on her. There was no way she could come out of this whole situation without scars. It would mar her for life.
Immersed in thoughts, he parked the jeep in the empty parking lot in front of their room and pulled the handbrake. He stepped out, but a nagging beeping sound reminded him to switch off the lights. Right. While he was looking for the button – he still wasn’t familiar with this new jeep – he heard Liz asking for the keys. Without a word, he fished them out of his pocket and handed them to her. He wanted to say something – anything – but was unable to speak. His vocal cords felt heavy, weighed down by the sorrow he felt for his best friend.
He tried to place his hand on the small of her back when they walked towards their apartment, but she quickly breezed past him, not giving him a second glance. He sighed and tiredly rubbed his temples, contemplating what to do. Liz practically ignored his presence and carefully avoided his gaze, keeping hers firmly glued to the ground, at her own feet.
Silently, she inserted the key into the lock and tried to turn it. Nothing happened, and she tried again, angrily pushing the key further into the lock. “You should turn it other way,” Max said, placing his hand over hers. “Like this.” With one swift motion, he opened the door.
“I knew that,” she bit out, tears of fury burning behind her eyelids.
He didn’t say a thing and just opened the door, his insides screaming, crying for her, but he knew she wouldn’t talk to him, no matter what he did. She had always been the most stubborn one, even when they had been kids. Trying to deny how much her silence was hurting him, he walked into the room and tried to start a conversation once more.
Her head whipped around at those words, her eyes wistfully looking into his, wishing for a different situation. Reminiscing the better times, remembering their closeness when they’d been younger. For a moment, he could have sworn that there were tears in her eyes, shallow pools of water reflecting the meager ray of moonlight in the room. A split second later, however, they were gone and he was staring into a burning void, a black, emotionless hole.
He saw her sigh, the slight raising and lowering of her chest, and watched as she reached for the curtains. Unable to help himself, he admired her beauty, the serene air that surrounded her, the bare skin of her stomach, her as she closed the curtains. She turned around and started undressing, tugging her shirt upwards. Not really comprehending what was happening, he remained in the same position for a couple of seconds, watching but not seeing, seeing but not registering. Then he quickly turned around, shocked by her actions. What had she been thinking, undressing right in front of him?
Swallowing laboriously, Max thought of what to do. Anything to keep his mind from the image of Liz imprinted on his retina. Obviously, she didn’t want to talk about what had happened. Was she trying to play ‘let’s pretend’? He couldn’t pretend. He knew how much her mother’s rejection had hurt her. The pain was nearly tangible, despite of her efforts to cover it up. “Are you… are you done?” he uncertainly asked, casting a quick glance over his shoulder. She was already dressed for the night, his shirt barely covering her thighs. Coughing nervously, he ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll… just… get dressed, okay?” He gestured quickly at the bathroom, took a clean shirt out of his suitcase and swiftly exited the room without looking back.
Liz sank down on the bed, the mattress sinking slightly under her weight. She was confused beyond words. She kept hearing her mother’s words over and over again. They tumbled and stumbled in the darkness of her mind, shortly flaring up before dimming to the background again.
There’s no Mrs. Parker here.
There’s no Mrs. Parker here.
She tried to drown out the voices by looking at the ceiling, by immersing herself in her thoughts. The stain was still on the same spot of the ceiling. It seemed as if its color had darkened, but it could be a trick of the light. A trick of the darkness. She was still debating on whether it was coffee or coke when she heard Max fumbling with a toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom. For the shortest of moments, she considered brushing her own teeth, but her mother’s face flashed in front of her eyes and she decided against it. Just out of rebellion, for she could still hear her mother’s soft voice, commanding her to brush her teeth.
If her mother didn’t want her, then Liz didn’t need her either. She’d do fine without her commands. She’d do fine without a mother. She hadn’t had a mother for years. With a soft sigh, she closed her eyes and pulled her knees to her nose, her feet feeling cold and numb, her bleeding heart betraying her furious, radical thoughts.
Max’s appearance stopped her train of thoughts and she shut her eyes even tighter, pretending to look sound asleep. He called her name, but she didn’t react and held her breath, lying perfectly still. She really did not need to talk to him now. She knew that if she did, she’d have to cry, and she couldn’t cry. She couldn’t be weak, vulnerable.
He slipped under the covers and laid down beside her petite form, switching the lights on to set his alarm clock. She wasn’t asleep; he knew that by the way she was breathing, by the way her eyelids had fluttered when he had switched on the lights. Pulling the covers up to his chin, he turned the lights out again and closed his eyes, deeply inhaling the lovely, sweet fragrance of her hair. His arm reached out for her waist, but paused when her body stiffened under his hand. “Liz?” he softly whispered her name into the darkness.
She didn’t reply – not that he’d expected her to – and he pulled his arm back to his side. Her breathing was still uneven, her body tense, and even though he couldn’t see her eyes, he knew they were filled with pain. A pain she wouldn’t show to anyone, not even to him. And it hurt him more than he would admit, than he ever could admit. It hurt him beyond description.
Max watched over her during the first hours of that night, studying her body’s silhouette in the darkness of the room, the way her neck became her shoulders, the feminine curve of her hips and her breasts, the glistening of her shiny, dark hair. He hadn’t really planned on falling asleep, but when he was awakened by her sobs, he realized he had dropped off sometime while watching her. “Shh… Munchkin… I’m here,” he softly soothed her, taking her small form in his arms.
Liz sniffed and buried her face in the crook of his neck, tears freely running down over her cheeks. The barrier of her determination that had kept them from falling earlier had been removed by her dreams, her nightmares. Max could hear her incoherent mumbling, but didn’t understand what she was saying. Every now and then he was able to distinguish a word that made sense. Mother, father. Hate. Love. Pain. His heart twisted and turned, seething with anger towards Nancy and Devon Parker and burning with love for his best friend. He wanted to make her forget so badly.
Crying until she was too exhausted to continue, Liz tried to wash her dark thoughts away; the nagging questions that kept playing over and over in her mind, the knowledge that she was a failure, the realization that she was an unwanted child. She cried until all that was left of her was a tired, emotionless, quivering shell, a weak girl without a backbone. And just when she thought she was completely empty, Max caressed her cheek and started whispering soft words in her ear.
While brushing her hair out of her face, he cupped the side of her face and softly wiped her tears away with his thumb. “I hate it when you cry,” he said, his voice barely above her whispers and slightly deeper than usual. His eyes caught hers, and wouldn’t let them go, keeping them locked in his heart. She wanted to come up with an apt reply, a light remark, something witty, like she used to do. Something like, ‘I hate it when I cry, too,’ or a grateful response, a simple ‘Thank you.’ But she couldn’t say a thing; her gaze was transfixed on his face, her eyes staring down in his. Why had she never noticed those light golden flecks? Or those dark swirls around his irises?
He smiled weakly and suppressed a tired yawn, not wanting to break a moment that was so fragile, so breakable, and yet so intense. Looking down at her soft, kissable lips, he unconsciously bent forward, unable to help himself. What was he doing? Didn’t he know what would happen? He so clearly remembered the last time he’d thought of her lips as kissable, the last time he had wondered – just out of the blue – what her lips would taste like. His eyes were just inches away from hers now and they reflected his own, expectant face. They slowly fluttered closed, and while his mind was chastising himself for coming onto her during such a distressful time, his heart was beating fast, jumping up and down with excitement. He wanted this, he suddenly realized.
A sudden ringing interrupted them and made Liz pull back, her features bearing a strangely shocked expression. His cell phone rang again, the sound shrilly and unfamiliarly cutting through the silence. He briefly wondered whether she was so shocked by what had almost happened, or by the creepy ringing of his phone in the darkness. Keeping his gaze on her face, he picked it up and answered it with a groggy, moody voice.
“Max? Thank God! Where are you? Are you okay?”
Max frowned and rubbed his temple. “Maria?” he asked, worriedly watching as Liz turned away from him and curled up into a little ball.
“Oh, so you do still know my name, huh?”
Sighing, he took the phone in his other hand and sank down on the bed. “Of course I still know your name,” he tried to soothe her. He raked his hand through his hair and smiled weakly at his friend’s indignant behavior. “Listen, I’m sorry for not calling you, okay? It’s just… Liz and I really don’t want to be found.” ‘Or be interrupted,’ he silently added.
“Oh my God! You guys didn’t elope, did you? Without me? God, I knew something like this would happen when I wasn’t there! I knew it! Why, Max? Why now? You’ve been into each other for years, and you decide to confess your love for her when I’m not there to see it! Why? I should have -”
“Maria, please,” Max tried to silence her, knowing it was close to impossible. Maria was acting weird, weirder than usual. “Liz and I didn’t elope or anything like that. We’re… Listen, you can’t tell anyone where we are, okay?”
Silence ensued, and when Maria spoke again, her voice was controlled and calm. “Okay. What are you running from?”
“It’s…” Max hesitated and looked down at Liz, at the new, fresh tearstains on her pillow. “It’s not my secret to tell, Maria. I’m sorry.”
Another silence fell over them, and for a moment, Max thought Maria had disappeared. Almost instantaneously though, he heard muffled voices discussing things on the background. Were they trying to trace their phone call? How could Maria do that to them? Of course, she was worried and didn’t know what had happened to Liz, but he had stressed the importance of not being found, hadn’t he?
“Maria, I gotta go now, okay?” he asked, talking as casual as he could. “It’s about noon over here, and I want to reach a motel before two o’clock. I’ll call you later, all right?” He racked his mind, trying to find more clues to drop, more wrong hints about their current position. “Bye!”
He immediately pressed the disconnect button and shut off his phone, but not before hearing a part Maria’s protests. “That was Maria,” he lamely informed Liz, knowing she’d already figured out that much. “She thought we’d eloped.”
Liz shook her head at the absurdity and avoided his eyes by staring at the ceiling. Coffee, she decided. Definitely coffee. It was dark, dark and bitter. But it was still not as dark as the shadow that had fallen over her heart, not as bitter as her shattered soul. Dark and bitter. A dirty stain, soiling the ceiling, soiling everyone’s life.
Her words were cold and emotionless; lifeless. He felt them slowly chipping away at his heart, every single letter, every single syllable tearing it further and further apart. “Yeah. Well, you know Maria…” he said and he fell back to the pillows, an agonizing, anxious feeling spreading in his stomach. A feeling of emptiness, he realized, emptiness without her here with him. Yes, she was with him, but not with him. Not with her mind, her laughter, her kindness, her love.
Not with her soul.
Liz didn’t reply and he wished he knew what she was thinking about. He wanted to reach out and comfort her, like in the old days, but was afraid to touch her, to see her recoil under his touch, to watch her flinch under his fingers. He feared rejection, but at the same time knew she’d never reject him.
Not after being rejected herself.
Clumsily, her feet stumbled up the stairs and she barely noticed the pain shooting up her leg as her toe connected with the hard wood. She quickly regained her balance, being seconds away from a fall towards misery. A fall closer to the emergency room.
”Stop fooling around, Nancy!”
His voice was cold and in fierce contrast to the scolding heat in her cheek where his handprint had been imprinted. It was in strong contrast with the throbbing pain in her back where the wooden bat had impacted with her flesh. The voice was strongly connected to her fate. Dangerously connected to the coldness of his voice. Danger. Death.
As her feet landed on the top stair, her sobs coursing through her body, she fell on her knees and desperately tried to move forward on her knees and stand up at the same time. Whatever it took to create a greater distance between her and her husband. She could hear his steps on the stairs and she knew that it wouldn’t take long for him to reach her. His steps were deliberate. Calculated. He could’ve moved quickly up the stairs and would’ve reached her by now, but for some reason he didn’t. It was as if his desire to inflict fear in her was greater than actually catching her. And by doing so he would probably catch her, because his method was working. The fear ripping through her was so forceful it could have immobilized a trained police officer and it would have brought her to her knees much earlier.
She would have if it weren’t for one little girl who lay sleeping on the other side of the wall. Her small daughter who she would protect at all costs. It was that little girl that was driving her forward. It was that little girl that made it possible for her fumbling shaking hands to reach the doorknob and push the door open just seconds before she heard the familiar creak of a plank, signaling that her husband had reached the top stairs.
The key turned in the lock and she stumbled backwards, folding her aching arms around her waist, as if she were trying to keep all her emotions inside, to prevent them from spilling out of her body. The room was dark, but the soft light of the Cinderella lamp on the nightstand made the difference between security and fear. She jumped as the door was hammered with his damaging fists. The same fists that would be the cause of the black eye she would have the next day. The same fist that had trapped some strands of her hair and ripped them out of her scalp.
A sob escaped her throat at the fearful voice, and she closed her eyes, trying to compose herself. She didn’t even know why she was trying. Her daughter might only be five years old, but she wasn’t dumb. She knew what was going on.
Nancy slowly turned around and looked at her daughter. The soft light was cascading over her dark hair and was making the fresh tearstains on her cheeks glisten. Her eyes. Her big beautiful warm brown eyes were now fearful. Mistrusting. Filled with horror, and Nancy had never wanted to crumbled down as much as she wanted at that sight. Seeing her five-year-old fear for her life. No child should be that afraid.
”It’s okay, baby,” Nancy choked.
The pounding continued on the other side of the door and Nancy’s body was instinctively jerking with every hard pound as if she was being hit every time.
”Will daddy come in?”
Nancy swallowed before quickly walking up to her daughter. She laid down beside her on her small bed and pulled the small frame into her abused arms. Holding her tightly.
”Daddy’s just angry, baby. He’ll calm down. He always does. As long as we leave him alone.”
”I’s scwared,” her daughter whimpered.
Nancy’s arms tightened around the little girl. ”We’ll be okay, baby. It’s going to be okay, just go back to sleep. Mommy will stay here with you tonight.”
The guilt of the position she was placing her daughter in when staying with her husband was drowning her and she tried to pull her daughter even closer. She would not let anyone hurt her. Not anyone.
And yet she had. She had broken the most important promise she had ever given her daughter. She had left her alone with her father. A father she knew was abusive. But he had always treated their daughter like his little princess. He had adored her. He had never laid a hand on her. Not once. So she had been telling herself that she had made the right choice. She told herself that every time the guilt became too great and it was the only way she was able to push away the guilt and shame.
The girl’s face flashed in front of her eyes again. The big brown expressive eyes filled with so much mistrust and sadness. The long brown hair. The nose that was so much like her own. The lips that were so much like her father’s. But it had been the eyes that had told her what she instinctively knew the second she opened that door earlier that day. Her daughter had found her.
It had been the bruises on her face and the band-aid on her forehead that had crushed all her hopes that she had been giving her daughter a better life by leaving. The truth had been staring her straight in the face. A part of her had known that it probably wouldn’t stop with her leaving. The beating, the name-calling. It would live on, only with another punching bag.
It had been the bruises on her face that had shaken Nancy to the core. It was the scars on her neck that had turned her blood to ice in her veins. And her reactions all held one common factor. Fear. Deep-rooted fear.
”Honey? Are you okay?”
The voice drifted through her thoughts and with the voice came the realization that she had been crying. And with that realization came the guilt. She had a whole new life now. A new family. A new husband and two beautiful children. She was happy and she didn’t want her past to haunt her family. But with that thought the image of her daughter’s face returned like a slap in the face. She turned her back against her husband in the bed and intentionally shut him out.
”Yes, I’m fine,” she answered.
But when she closed her eyes, her daughter’s face haunted her, especially her eyes, because they hadn’t only been sad and mistrusting. There had also been a hint of desperate hope. A hope that Nancy was certain she had destroyed the second she closed that door. She didn’t get any sleep that night.