Even though Amy isn't the answer to all
of Maria's problems, she can certainly help by trying to rekindle her relationship with her daughter.
Ernie is a cool guy, isn't he? You won't see him any more, but even he
knows Michael and Maria belong together.
P.S. Would it be too much to ask for a very short Christmas fic in the future? Think of it as the best birthday present for Krista ever.
Hey, you never know! Remind me to write one or post something as a challenge and just might take it. God, you must be really eager for Christmas, because we haven't even had Halloween yet!
At the rate Michael is living his life, it doesn't seem like he will tell Maria I love you any time soon.
It would be a really big thing for him to say. He's never said those words to anyone. He's never really even believed in love before.
Michael's far too stubborn for that and if Liz's phone call had made a difference I think I would have been disappointed that that's all it took.
Yeah, Liz is trying to help in any way she can, but she doesn't have any influence on Michael, so the best thing she can do is be there for Maria. The only person who can get through to Michael is Michael himself.
Hey, girl! Sorry to hear the computer is still giving you problems. I know how you feel. I'm glad you liked the line you quoted. I thought it was pretty funny, too!
Yeah, Maria needs all the comfort she can get, and surprisingly enough, that's what Amy is giving her right now. They've never really gotten along ever, so it's definitely a shock to both of them that they're managing to get along right now.
Why does he always put Maria second to something far less important?
Really, he doesn't mean to. But like you said, he always tries to do the right thing, which ends up being the wrong thing, and when he does that, Maria gets put second.
But in truth, she's first and foremost with him in all respects. He just needs to find a way to tell her that.
I didn't realize Amy could be so funny. What a subtle comment that Tess is the ditziest gal around. (But a fun kind of ditzy, not a stupid kind of ditzy.)
Yes, it's true, even Amy DeLuca can crack a joke. I'm glad you liked that line. And it's true, Tess is the ditziest girl around, but she's probably one of the smartest, nicest, funniest people in their entire group.
Yep, everyone can change, even Amy!
they are STILL mother and daughter, and STILL have that connection...now lets hope Michael and Maria have that connection too
Don't worry, Maria and Michael could never not
have a connection.
Thanks, as always, for the wonderful feedback, everyone!
Now, this is very cruel of me, but I'm not going to be able to update again until . . . hmm, it'll probably be late Tuesday my time, early Wednesday for some of you. My university is going on Fall Break, which I'm very excited for, but of course that means I will be home with no Internet. But I'll update as soon as I get back!
Max wasn’t expecting a knock on the door that day—he and Liz didn’t get many visitors. When there was a knock, he thought it might be Maria, that maybe she was feeling depressed and needed someone to talk to again; but when he opened the door and came face to face with Kyle, he wasn’t surprised. Kyle was always checking up on all his friends.
“What’s up, Evans?”
“That’s riveting stuff,” Kyle joked. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah, sure.” Max opened the door wider and allowed his friend to step inside.
“Wow,” Kyle remarked. “Pretty swanky place you got here, Max. Do I need to take off my shoes? Is this the kind of apartment where you take off your shoes?”
“You can keep ‘em on if you want,” Max told him. “So how’s it goin’?”
“Good,” Kyle said, taking a seat on the couch. “Hey, this is comfy, man.”
“Thanks.” Max sat down beside him.
“Tess and I just moved into our new place, you know,” Kyle said. “We’re officially neighboring you now.”
“Cool. You like the place?”
“Yeah, it feels like home. We keep meaning to unpack all our shit, but we always get sidetracked having sex, you know?” He laughed.
Max just smiled and shook his head. The day Kyle and Tess didn’t
get sidetracked having sex was the day hell froze over.
“I’m surprised you and Liz got all your stuff unpacked, you know?” Kyle said, grinning.
Max looked at his friend in confusion. He kept saying ‘you know’ as if Max really did
know, but . . . he didn’t. He wanted to change the subject, so he went ahead and asked, “So how’s Maria?”
“Uh, I’m not sure, really,” Kyle admitted. “I haven’t seen her since the night she got home. Have you?”
“No. I mean, I talked to her that night on the phone, but . . . I haven’t seen her, no. You think she’s alright?”
Kyle shrugged. “Hard to tell. Probably not. Tess is gonna go over there and invite her to dinner tonight, though, so she’ll give us the full report. And that’s part of why I came over here, to invite you and Liz out to dinner, too. It’s gonna be fancy. Chinese food, man.”
“Real fancy,” Max agreed sarcastically. “Well, yeah, sure, I think I can go.”
“Yeah, I’ll see if Liz can go, too. Any special occasion?”
“Just tryin’ to cheer Maria up,” Kyle replied. “Plus, I’m gonna pop the question to Tess, so . . .”
Max’s eyes bulged. “What, you’re-you’re gonna ask her to marry you?”
“No, no, the other question. The one where I ask her if she wants to get two pet gerbils and raise them together.” He laughed. “The marriage question, yeah. We’re ready for it.”
“Well, you seem really calm,” Max remarked. “When I asked Maria . . . well, I probably knew it wasn’t gonna work out. I had Amazon Rivers flowing under my armpits. That’s how nervous I was.”
“Sorry about that, man.”
“It’s okay.” He really didn’t want or need any sympathy any more. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t obsessing over Maria. He was really getting over his romantic feelings for her and hoping to rekindle the friendship.
“Yeah, so anyway, that’s why I came by. Dinner tonight, 8:00. We can meet at the house. You know, our old house.”
“Sounds good,” Max said. “8:00.”
Liz came out of the bedroom suddenly and asked, “What happens at 8:00?”
When Max glanced up at her, he couldn’t help but notice what she was wearing. She wore t-shirts to bed a lot, long enough to cover up every girly part of her, but still . . . she looked really great. He wondered why he had never viewed Liz in this sexy light until lately.
“A bunch of us are going out to dinner,” Kyle explained. “Me and Tess, Isabel and Alex, now Max. Hopefully Maria’s gonna come, too.”
“Oh,” Liz said. “Yeah, that would be nice for her.”
“And hopefully you’ll come, too,” Kyle added.
“Me?” She seemed surprised. “Um . . . I don’t know, I’m not really part of the group, am I? I mean, I realize it’s the same group of us who went on spring break together, but . . . I know the only reason why you guys were friends with me was ‘cause I was dating Michael. You don’t have to feel obligated to include me.”
“Oh, Liz, I don’t feel obligated,” Kyle assured her. “Look, if you wanna come, we’re gonna meet up at 8:00 tonight.”
“8:00,” Liz echoed. “Well, I get off work at 5:00, so . . . that’d be nice. Thanks for the invite, Kyle.” She smiled at him, then turned to address Max. “Do we have a flyswatter? There’s something crawling in the bedroom, and it’s kind of . . . fuzzy.”
“Um, you could check in the closet,” he said. “Otherwise I’ll come take care of it.”
“Okay, thanks.” She walked over to the closet, opened it up, and squealed in delight when she found a flyswatter. “Yea,” she chirped. “Time to kill.”
Max laughed and watched as she skipped off into the bedroom. Liz had a sweetness about her that had been absent within recent months. She was much better and more enjoyable to be around when she wasn’t pretending to be someone else.
“Wow,” Kyle said. “Who knew Liz Parker had junk in the trunk, hey?”
“Junk?” Max echoed. He knew what Kyle was talking about, but spoke questioningly anyway.
“Well, the girl’s got a body on her. I didn’t know that until now. I mean, sure, she’s wearing a huge t-shirt, but . . . that kind of attire’s sexy. Way to go, man.”
“Way to go? You think I’m . . . you think Liz and I are . . .” He kept trailing off.
“Oh, and you’re gonna tell me you’re not? You live with the girl, she walks around the house half naked, obviously has the hots for you, and you aren’t
gettin’ any?” Kyle grunted. “Yeah, right.”
“Yeah, that is right,” Max insisted. “Liz and I are . . . we’re just friends.”
“Oh, that was convincing.”
“We are. Sure we had that slight case of nudity that one time, but . . . that was then, and . . . this is now, and . . . now we’re just friends.” He was well aware how flustered and unconvincing he sounded.
“Right,” Kyle said, chuckling knowingly. “And Tess and I are just friends, too.” He slugged Max in the shoulder and said, “Come on, Evans, admit it. You’re gettin’ laid.”
“No, there’s no laying.”
“Then you’re wishing
you were gettin’ laid. Impure thoughts, my man. You’re havin’ impure thoughts.”
Max immediately denied that claim. “No.” He glanced in the bedroom and saw Liz swatting at the fuzzy bug on her wall. She was standing up on her tiptoes to reach it, and her t-shirt was hiked up, revealing most of her smooth legs . . . “Not all the time,” he added quietly.
“And they’re not impure,” he insisted. “They’re just . . . well, they’re not exactly, pure, but that doesn’t mean--”
“Oh, come on, own
your impure thoughts, Max,” Kyle interrupted. “Be proud of ‘em. It’s what differentiates men from women.”
Max sighed and glanced in at Liz again. Apparently the bug had dropped to the floor now, because she was bending down to swat at it. His impure thoughts began to get a little more impure as he imagined some of the things they could do in that position. He’d done them with Maria, but somehow he suspected he would feel more with Liz . . .
“No,” he said decidedly, shaking his head, trying to shake the thoughts away. “No, I’m not gonna risk the friendship I have going with Liz. It’s too good.”
“Wouldn’t it be worth it if it worked out?” Kyle pointed out.
“Wouldn’t it be horrible if it didn’t?” Max asked in response. “Dating a friend didn’t work out so well with Maria. Would dating Liz be any different?”
“Well, yeah,” Kyle answered simply. “She and Maria are different people. Plus, she’s not harboring feelings for a certain Michael Guerin.”
“Well, she did date him for four months.”
“But she’s over him. And you’re over Maria, right?”
“Well . . . yeah, actually, I am,” Max admitted, surprised by that. It hadn’t taken as long to recover from the heartbreak she’d caused him as he’d thought it would. Having Liz in his life had helped in that regard.
“So you and Liz are coming out to dinner with us tonight . . . make it official. Make it a date,” Kyle suggested.
, Max considered, glancing into the bedroom once more. Liz was standing up on the bed now, peering down at the floor. The fuzzy thing was probably running around, and she was scared of it. She looked adorable, and he knew that he definitely liked her. A lot.
Maybe a date wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Every time there was a knock on the door, Maria got her hopes up and stupidly thought it was Michael. But the first time there was a knock, it was only a Jehovah’s Witness. And the second knock was a door-to-door salesman. And the third knock was Tess.
“So,” Tess said the moment Maria opened the door, “I heard it on good authority from Isabel, who heard it on good authority from Max, who heard it on good authority from Liz that, not only is your mom in town, but she’s also staying here in your house. Is that true?"
“Shocking, isn’t it?”
Tess grunted in disbelief. “More like astonishing. Do you need me to rescue you?”
“No, actually, we’re kind of getting along right now.”
“Freaky,” Tess remarked. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” Maria stepped aside and let Tess into the house. It felt nice to have someone familiar there, even though it would probably be a brief visit.
“So Kyle wants to go out for dinner tonight at a Chinese restaurant. For some reason,” Tess explained as she made herself comfortable on the couch. “Alex and Isabel are coming, and Max and Liz might be there, too. You wanna come?”
“Uh, I don’t know,” Maria answered. It all sounded like Date-fest 2008. Tess and Kyle, Isabel and Alex, and Liz and Max. And then her by herself? One of those things just didn’t belong, and she knew exactly which one was the oddball.
“Oh, come on,” Tess persisted. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be like spring break, only summer. And we’ll have the whole gang together again.”
“Not the whole gang,” Maria mumbled.
“Well . . . yeah, we’ll be minus one especially screwed-up individual, but it’ll still be fun,” Tess promised.
“I don’t know,” Maria said again. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be Miss Down-in-the-Dumps.”
“Oh, no, I get it,” Tess assured her. “I you wanna be down and dumpy, go right ahead. You have every right and reason. But, if by chance you wanna lift your spirits and turn that frown upside down . . . even if it’s just for a few hours, the invitation still stands.”
Maria thought about it. Even if it was Date-fest 2008, it was better than spending another evening at home. She used to go out all the time. Of course, she usually went out with Michael, but . . . she couldn’t spend the rest of her life agonizing about Michael. Could she?
Oh, she definitely
could. That was a scary thought.
“Sure,” she decided. “I’ll go.”
“Really? Oh, goodie,” Tess chirped, rising to her feet again. “It’s gonna be so fun having you there.”
“Even if I’m not my usual perky, funny, bitchy self?”
Tess gave her a look. “Maria, don’t kid yourself. You’re always bitchy.”
Maria laughed a little at that. It was funny because it was true.
“Alright, well, I’ve gotta go,” Tess said. “Some girl wants me to design edible underwear for her. I was going to, but then I decided I want me to have them.” She smiled a huge, excited smile.
“Well, then go,” Maria said. “Underwear cannot be left un-designed.”
“Alright, well, I’ll see you at 8:00,” she said as she headed for the door. “Is it okay if we all meet here?”
Maria pictured that in her mind, and it was a pretty picture. “Yeah, that’d be nice,” she said. It would almost be like old times, having the old house overflowing with people. It would almost
be like old times.
“Alright, I’ll see you later,” Tess chirped as she slipped out the door. “Bye!”
“Bye.” Maria felt the feeling of isolation return as the door shut. This was good, though, this dinner tonight. Spending time with her friends was going to be good for her. It would keep her mind off of . . . well, the obvious.
“Who was that?” her mother asked when she came out of the bathroom. “Was that Tess?”
“Yeah, she, uh, invited me to hang with the gang tonight. Apparently we’re going for Chinese food.”
Amy smiled and said, “I always liked that girl.”
Dinner at Yin Yang’s Chinese that night was . . . okay. It was fun, but it just seemed a little off somehow. Michael wasn’t there, and his absence was enough to throw their whole group dynamic out of whack. Maria found herself sitting back and taking on the unusual role of listener in the conversation instead of instigator.
“I can’t believe I ordered the duck,” Isabel remarked randomly. “Do you think it’s gonna come with the head still attached like it did in A Christmas Story?
“Oh, no,” Alex assured her quickly. “Headless ducks are the new cool thing.”
Isabel smiled at him.
“Hey, guys, think about this for a minute,” Kyle said suddenly. “At this time tomorrow, we’ll have graduated. Well, I mean, we wise, mature seniors will have graduated.”
“Old, wrinkly seniors is more like it,” Tess teased.
“Graduation’s tomorrow?” Maria piped up quietly.
“Yeah,” Kyle said. “What, did you forget?”
“Yeah, actually, I did.”
“Oh, well, I guess it’s not the most exciting event of the year,” Kyle said. “But it’s kind of neat, isn’t it? Four years all leads up to this.”
“Point of culmination,” Max said with a nod. “Now that sounded a lot less like an orgasm when I thought it.”
“You are gonna be there, right?” Alex asked her.
“Yeah,” Maria said. “Yeah, I’ll be there. I wouldn’t make Kyle walk alone. Unlike some people.” She thought of Michael and grunted in anger. Dumb-ass.
“Are you looking forward to getting your diploma?” Liz asked her. “I know I would be.”
“Not really,” she admitted. “I mean, it’s pointless. It’s a piece of paper that tells you you’ve graduated, which you already know. Plus, you have to sit through the boring speeches.”
Max cleared his throat.
“But of course this salutatorian address is gonna be the best ever,” she quickly added.
“Oh, well, don’t be too sure,” Max said.
“It’s kind of sad, really,” Tess put in. “In less than 24 hours, you guys won’t be Santa Fe undergraduates anymore.” Everyone at the table fell silent for a moment, considering that fact, and when the mood got too blue, Tess immediately piped up cheerily. “But this is a happy table. We’re happy people. Happy, happy.”
“Joy, joy,” Isabel added, clapping her hands together.
“Yes, I’m happy to be graduating,” Alex said, smiling.
“Graduation is a happy thing,” Tess agreed. “Boring, but happy.”
“Hey, look, here comes our food,” Kyle pointed out. “That makes me very happy.”
The waitress came up to the table and laid their meals down in front of them. Isabel shrieked and buried her face in Alex’s chest when she saw her duck. “Oh, it still has a head! Oh!”
“Oh,” Alex said. “Could we possibly just, you know . . . chop?” He made a chopping motion with his hand, but Isabel was resistant to even that idea.
“No,” she said shaking her head. “I can’t eat anything now. I’m too traumatized.”
“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay.”
“I’ll take it then,” Kyle said, reaching over and seizing the plate. “Looks good.”
“Honey, you’re disgusting,” Tess remarked. “And so adorable.”
Maria noted the uses of the affectionate words ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ between the two couples. Tess and Kyle were really in love with each other, and Isabel and Alex were so perfect together, too. And Max and Liz . . . well, maybe they weren’t together
together yet, but they would be soon. Maria was jealous of each and every single one of them.
“Mmm, I love crab ran goons,” Liz said as she began to chow down on her food. “You want one, Maria? I don’t think I’m gonna be able to eat them all, and your meal doesn’t look that extravagant. No offense.”
Maria glanced down at her plate and asked, “What’s wrong with rice?”
“White rice. Plain. Seems kinda bland is all,” Liz said.
“I feel like rice,” was all Maria said.
“Oh.” Liz smiled. “Okay.”
Maria stuck her chopsticks into her rice and tried to pick some up, but it didn’t really work out. Oh, well
, she thought. She wasn’t really that hungry anyway.
“Hey, who wants fortune cookies?” Kyle asked suddenly.
Tess gasped excitedly and said, “Ooh, gimme, gimme.”
“Alright, you go ahead and take this one,” he said, handing her a cookie. “The rest of you . . . uh, here you go.” He set the basket of fortune cookies down in the center of the table, and they all reached in and grabbed one. Max, Alex, and Kyle, all took one look at theirs and tossed them over their shoulders. Liz frowned and said, “Mine doesn’t even make sense. What’s yours say, Maria?”
“Branches shade the gravel road but sunlight finds the destination.” She frowned, wishing it was less ambiguous. “Is that a good thing?”
“Well, yeah, I think so,” Liz said. “I mean, sun pretty much gets a thumbs-up from everyone, except those who have skin cancer or, you know, a sun allergy.”
“There’s a sun allergy?” Maria shrugged. “Didn’t know that.”
“Mine says that three’s my lucky number,” Isabel chirped.
“Is it?” Maria asked.
“Oh, god no. When I turned three, my mom had these clowns come to my birthday party. I didn’t like them. Their balloon animals were crappy. And my great grandpa died on the third of July. And I always get my period the third week of the month. I say poo on the number three, but I still like fortune cookies.”
“At least yours makes sense,” Tess said. “Mine doesn’t even have a fortune. All it says is ‘will you marry me?’” She grunted.
Maria’s eyes widened in shock, as did the eyes of most everyone else at the table. That question didn’t register with her? The look on Kyle’s face didn’t register with her.
It took a minute, but suddenly Tess put two and two together. “Oh my god,” she said, meeting eyes with her boyfriend. “Kyle . . . did you do this?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Oh my god. So you’re . . . so you’re asking--”
She smiled and said, “Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say.”
“Well, just say yes,” he suggested, grinning. “You know you want to.”
“This is just so . . . I mean, expected, but at the same time unexpected because . . . fortune cookie!”
“Well, I figured I’d try something a little unorthodox. I know I risk you being outraged since I’m not down on one knee, but I’m banking on you finding it cute.”
“Cute? It’s beyond cute! It’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” Tess just couldn’t stop gushing and beaming.
“You like it?”
“So you wanna marry me and live a happy, silly life together?”
“Yes!” She giggled and threw her arms around him, hugging him. “Oh my god, Kyle! This is the best night of my life!”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Maria stared at the two of them enviously and clapped for their engagement when the others began to clap. Tess still looked shell-shocked and absolutely elated, and Kyle seemed just as happy as he took out a ring and slipped it on her left ring finger.
“I’m a future Valenti gal!” Tess exclaimed, gazing down at the ring with awe in her eyes. “Oh my god, I love it, Kyle! It’s so beautiful. This is so perfect.”
“Nothing less for my girl.”
Maria smiled. Those two were definitely going to live a happy, silly life together. They had years and years and years ahead of them. They had a lot to look forward to, so much love and devotion.
Must be nice
, she thought.
“Congratulations, you guys,” Max said.
“Yeah, congrats,” Isabel chirped. “I know that sounds a little weird coming from the ex-girlfriend, but . . . you guys are so great together. It’s about time you got a rock on your finger, Tess.”
“Oh!” Tess squealed and hugged Isabel. “Be my maid of honor?”
The girls giggled excitedly.
“Oh, I sense a Bridezilla comin’ on,” Kyle muttered under his breath.
“Shut up, Kyle!” Tess snapped. “I love you!”
“I love you, too, baby.”
Maria winced, remembering how Michael would call her baby. Or babe. He had a certain tone to his voice when he said it . . . god, she missed him.
“Kyle, I gotta hand it to you, that was pretty innovative, with the fortune cookie,” Alex commented.
“Well, I thought I’d try something more exciting than the traditional get down on one knee and pop the question thing,” he said.
Maria glanced at Max out of the corner of her eye, and he blushed. Kyle noticed it and quickly added, “But that’s also a valid proposal approach. Whoa, ‘proposal approach.’ Try saying that ten times fast.”
“Proposal approach, proposal approach, proposal--” Isabel started in. “Uh, I can’t. My tongue’s all twisty.”
“Maybe a winter wedding,” Tess said out of nowhere. “I know it’s risky what with the weather and all, but I could be, like, your little snowflake.”
Kyle shrugged. “Well, you will be dressed in white.”
“That’s right!” Tess gasped. “Oh my god, I’m finally gonna get to put some of my wedding dress designs to good use! I’m gonna make my own dress. I’m gonna make all the bridesmaids’ dresses, too. I’m gonna be a busy little beaver. Oh, I can’t wait to get started!”
“Whoa, Tess. Breathe,” Maria instructed. “I heard grooms like a girl who can breathe.”
“Oh, I’m breathing,” Tess assured her. “Just very rapidly and heavily. Getting engaged, it’s . . . it’s really a wow-moment.”
Maria smiled, supposing that if Michael ever asked her to marry him, she’d be just as breathless.
“What made you decide to propose with all of us here?” Liz asked Kyle.
“Well, I wanted all our friends to be here for the moment Tess and I decided to spend the rest of our lives together.” He smiled and put his arm around her, squeezing her shoulders gently.
Maria looked down at her bland white rice again, hoping her friend wouldn’t notice her blatant reaction to that statement. But of course Kyle noticed and amended his words. “Well, five-sixths of our friends, anyway. The vast majority.”
“Yeah,” Tess said, the tone in her voice indicating that she noticed Maria’s sadness, too. “So, Maria . . . how’s work?”
Maria sent her friend a look. She just got engaged, and now she was asking about work? Uh-uh. “Don’t you dare
, Tess. This night is about you and Kyle. Now let me see the bling.”
Tess smiled and laid her hand out on the table.
“Wow,” Maria said. “That’s beautiful.” I wish it was mine.
“I’m so happy for you guys.” And she was. Happy and jealous.
“Thanks,” Tess said. “Will you be a bridesmaid, too?”
“Great. Liz, you wanna be a bridesmaid.”
“Um, yeah, sure, if you want me to be.”
“I do. And my sister can be a bridesmaid, and my cousin. And my best friend from elementary school, Emma . . . she can be a bridesmaid as long as she’s not prettier than me. I’m gonna have lots of bridesmaids.”
“I can tell,” Kyle said. “I’ll probably have lots of groomsmen.”
, Maria thought suddenly. He can be a groomsman. I can see him at Tess and Kyle’s wedding.
Of course, that would be months away, possibly even later. And what was she going to do when she actually saw Michael again, just go up to him and say ‘hey?’
“I have a small-boned cousin who can pass as a flower girl,” Tess told Kyle. “She’s thirteen, but she looks seven. Unless you have someone else in mind.”
“All I care about is the food,” Kyle said. “And professing my eternal, undying love to you, of course.”
“Aw,” Tess cooed, “of course.”
, Maria thought, no one’s ever gonna profess his eternal, undying love to me
. “Congratulations,” she practically whispered, fighting the nagging pangs of envy. “Really.”
Michael got off work that night and headed straight back to his hotel room. No more nights out at the strip club. It hadn’t been fun by any means, and all he’d had to show for it was a killer 24-hour hangover. Maybe he wasn’t an intellect, but he knew enough not to do that again. At least for awhile. Hell, he didn’t even want strippers. He wanted Maria.
He took a shower and ordered pizza. Pretty much standard behavior for a bachelor. When he thought of himself as a bachelor, he momentarily contemplated going on that stupid reality TV show The Bachelor
just to see where the hell he would end up. He quickly put an end to that idea. He didn’t want twenty-five lucky bachelorettes. He wanted Maria.
He took a bite of his pizza and wrinkled his nose in distaste. Some fifteen year-old kid must have concocted it, because it tasted like road kill. Plus, it was cold. He didn’t really want pizza anyway. He wanted Maria.
I wonder what she’s doing right now
, he thought. Is she out with some guy?
He hoped not. But then again, he kind of felt bad, like he was holding her back or something.
Maybe I should call her
. The thought popped out of nowhere. It wasn’t exactly a novel idea, calling a girl on the phone, but it freaked him out somehow. Maybe she doesn’t even wanna talk to me.
He picked up his phone and started dialing her number. He actually didn’t remember it at first, because he could count on one hand the number of times he’d called her on the phone. He was so used to seeing her face to face. This would be weird . . .
Before he could dial the last number, his phone rang. The caller ID said it was Kyle. He figured it was a sign. He wasn’t supposed to call Maria.
“Hey,” Kyle said. “Been awhile since I talked to you.”
Michael shrugged, picking up another slice of cold, disgusting pizza with his free hand. “Couple of days.”
“Feels like a lot longer, though,” Kyle said. “Man, it feels weird without you here.”
It definitely felt weird being in L.A. It wasn’t home, and it never would be. “How’s Maria?” he asked.
“Not good. Apparently you’re not doing so good, either,” Kyle remarked. “I heard you got wasted last night.”
Michael shook his head. Liz had run her mouth. “It was nothin’.”
“No, by all means, if you wanna drink up, drink up. I’m just sayin’, maybe you shouldn’t do it when you’re in this frame of mind.”
Kyle shot that claim down right away. “Like hell you are. I can hear it in your voice. You miss, Maria.”
Well, he wasn’t going to deny that. “Of course I miss her.”
“You left her, and then you let
her leave you. That’s some messed up logic, man.”
“Kyle . . . it’s not that I don’t like hearing from you, but I’m kinda tired, so . . . what’s your point?”
Kyle sighed. “No point. I was just making a last ditch effort for you and Maria. The real reason I called was to tell you, uh . . . Tess and I . . . we got engaged.”
“Whoa,” was Michael’s response. “You’ve been wantin’ to do that for . . . hell, two years, right?”
“Yeah, since I met the girl. Finally got the balls to do it.”
“Well, congratulations.” He wished he could have sounded happier for them. He was happy, but nothing was going to penetrate his current pissed off mood.
“Yeah. It’s kind of a nice feeling when you finally work up the courage to do something you’ve always wanted to do.”
Michael frowned. Was that some kind of hint?
“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know,” Kyle said again. “Yeah, everyone was there, too. Max and Liz. Isabel and Alex, even. And Maria. Everyone saw it happen. We kinda wished you could’ve been there.”
Man, I wish I could’ve been there, too
, Michael thought. But he couldn’t go back there now, not after the way he’d fucked up his relationship with Maria. Going back would probably cause more harm than good. Wouldn’t it?
“God-dammit,” he swore, tossing his pizza back into the box. “I’m so fuckin’ confused.”
All Kyle said was “You should be,” before he ended the call.
Michael shook his head and closed his phone. He knew he was the typical guy who just didn’t get it. For the first time in his life, he wished he were someone else.
TBC . . .