Here's the new chapter! I hope you all enjoy it.
“Are you sure you want to wear that?”
The critical tone in Tess’s voice made Liz roll her eyes in exasperation at her friend as she looked at herself in the mirror. Liz had decided on a simple black tank top and jeans for her movie date with Doug, which seemed fine to her since, as she continued to point out to Tess, her and Doug were just friends. But Tess still insisted on helping Liz get ready and had already made her change three times in the last half hour.
“Still don’t know why you won’t date him,” Tess continued she sat crisscrossed on Liz’s bed, scrolling through pictures of Doug on her phone. “The guy is hot!”
Liz snorted at that as she plopped herself down on the bed beside Tess. “Then you can date him?”
“Please, I already have my hands full with Valenti.”
Liz scrunched up her nose as she caught the meaning in Tess’s tone. Yes, she was completely over Kyle and was happy that her two friends found happiness with each other, but the image of them in bed together was not something she wanted in her head, even if Tess only implied it. The sound of knocking made both girls turn their heads toward the door as it opened, and Liz’s dad entered. “Hey, girls.”
“Liz smiled. “Hey, dad. What’s up?”
“Jim and I are going to be leaving for our fishing trip pretty early, so I wanted to say goodbye now.”
Liz hopped off the bed and gave her dad a hug. “Have fun on your fishing trip.”
Jeff returned her embrace as he gave her a quick kiss on her head. “I intend to,” he said with a smile as he released her.
As Jeff left the room, Liz turned to Tess. “Are you going to be okay without Kyle for a few days?”
“Yeah, I’ll miss him, but I’ll be fine.” Tess turned back to her phone, looking at the picture of Doug on her screen. “Now let’s talk more about Doug. Why exactly don’t you want to date?”
Liz sighed. “Why is everyone so interested in my love life?” She grumbled as she sat down at the edge of the bed. Tess was still eyeing her, waiting for an answer and Liz shrugged. “Doug seems like a good guy. My heart’s just not there.”
“What about that Max guy? Are you into him?” Tess asked and smirked when she noticed the way Liz’s eyes nervously darted away, confirming her suspicion. “I thought I sensed some tension between you two the other night. If you two like each other than just be together. What’s stopping you?”
“Maria,” Liz said, staring down at her comforter. “I think she’s in love with him.” Her eyes then went back to Tess, who was staring at her in confusion.
“Maria’s with Michael. Why would she care about you and Max getting together?”
“Max and Maria have history,” she told Tess. “A bad one. And I think she’s still hurt by it.”
When Tess didn’t say anything, Liz felt herself becoming defensive, already preparing for Tess to defend Maria like Isabel had, to remind her of the sanctity of the girl code and how a real friend wouldn’t even consider doing that to someone who’d been so good to them. Frankly, the thought of hearing it annoyed her. She was tired of having to defend herself against something that hadn’t even really happened. She was surprised, though, when Tess’s expression turned sympathetic and she reached forward and gave Liz’s hand a gentle squeeze.
“Have you talked to her?” She asked after releasing Liz’s hand.
Liz shrugged. “I’ve tried, but honestly, I don’t think would do any good. And I don’t want to hurt her.”
Tess continued to stare at her friend with sympathy, but her tone took on a slightly more exasperated note. “I get that. Maria’s my friend too. I don’t want to see her hurt, but I don’t want to see you hurt either.”
Liz immediately opened her mouth to argue, but Tess cut her off.
“Maria has a boyfriend. And you deserve to be happy. You two really need to talk.”
Liz didn’t say anything. A part of her new that Tess was right. Things between her and Maria had been so strained, and she hated it. Maybe if they got it all out, things would get better. Or maybe I’ll lose her,
another part of her worried. As annoyed as she was with Maria at the moment, she really did care about her and their friendship. She didn’t want to lose that.
After a while, Tess could tell that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with Liz and rolled her eyes in exasperation as she hopped off the bed. “Fine. I’m heading home. But will you at least think about it?”
Liz gave Tess a small nod and watched her leave before going over and sitting down in front of her vanity. As she put the finishing touches on her makeup, she tried to push her conversation with Tess out of her mind. Because the more she thought about it, the more annoyed she became. Not at Tess for pointing out the truth—well, at least not entirely, but more annoyed at the situation she was in. She really cared about Maria, and the last thing she wanted to do was lose her as a friend, but she feared that, with the way things were between them, that outcome was inevitable.
The sound of the doorbell downstairs broke Liz out of her thoughts, which she was extremely thankful for. Quickly, she dabbed a little lip gloss on and grabbed her black leather jacket off the edge of the bed before rushing down the stairs. She made it down to the foyer just in time to see Jeff opening the front door and letting Doug in.
Jeff glanced up just as Liz hit the bottom step. “I was just about to come get you.”
“Thanks, dad.” She turned her attention to Doug. He stood there in faded blue jeans and a grey t-shirt that successfully showed off the muscles in his arms and she had to admit that he looked hot. And Liz could tell by the excited look on Doug’s face that he was happy with her appearance.
“Wow! Liz, you look great.”
“Thank you,” she said, feeling a blush spread on her cheeks. She turned to her dad, who looked amused witnessing these two kids gawk at each other like nerds. “Goodnight, dad.”
Jeff let out a little chuckle. “Goodnight, sweetie. You two have fun.”
As soon as he went upstairs, Liz turned her attention back to Doug. “Are you ready to go?”
With a smile, Doug stepped aside, allowing her to leave the house first. “After you,” he said and the two of them headed towards his car.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Two and a half hours later, Doug pulled his car into Liz’s driveway and turned the engine off. Liz shift awkwardly in her seat, unsure of what to do next. Despite insistence that she and Doug were just going out as friends, the entire evening had felt very date like. When she turned to Doug and caught the nervous and slightly eager look in his eyes, she knew he was hoping for something more.
“So, I had a really great time,” he said, nervously fiddling with his keys.
“Yeah, I did too,” Liz replied, and she meant it. After the movie, Doug had taken her to a tiny ice cream shop where they spent the next 45 minutes talking about anything they could think of. She was surprised by how much they had in common. As the night came to an end, she found herself not wanting it to end. And, if she had to be honest with herself, she was attracted to him. And that made her even more uncomfortable, so she tried to keep the conversation light. “I can’t believe I’ve never been to that ice cream shop before. Their food is amazing.”
Doug chuckled as he looked at Liz. “I could tell when you scarfed two bowls of ice cream and then went after mine.”
Liz smiled. “Hey, you offered your ice cream to me. How’s a girl supposed to say no?”
The both laughed, but soon the silence returned and when Doug started leaning in towards her, she froze. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for this, but she couldn’t deny that she was curious what it would feel like to kiss him. She didn’t do anything at first when his lips connected with hers, but after a moment, she found herself giving in to it. His lips were soft, warm, and she knew that she liked it. But as they continued to kiss, that spark that she was looking for just wasn’t there. Not like it had been with Max. The image of Max’s face made her abruptly pull away from Doug, which he noticed.
His face fell a little at the way Liz awkwardly avoided his gaze, but he brushed it aside. “Goodnight, Liz.”
Liz quickly got out of the car and gave him a little wave before he drove off. She sighed to herself in disappointed as she watched him leave, hoping she hadn’t just ruined a potential friendship. But she knew there was nothing she could do about it if that happened. She wouldn’t lead Doug like that. Turning, she walked towards the house, pulling her keys out of her pocket as she made her way up the steps. She stopped at the front door when she noticed movement in the corner of her eye and glanced over to see Max sitting on the wicker bench.
“Max,” she gasped in surprise. “You scared me.”
Max didn’t respond and when she came over to sit next to her, he didn’t look at her. He just continued to stare off at nothing and that worried her.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his voice flat. “I didn’t want to intrude on your date.”
Liz felt the urge to assure him that there was nothing between her and Doug but decided against it when she took his appearance. As he sat there, staring off into the distance when an almost lost expression, she that whatever was bothering him, it was bigger than her and Doug.
“Are you okay?” She asked gently. “You seem upset.”
After several moments of silence, he turned his gaze to Liz, and her heart broke when she saw the tears forming in his eyes.
“My mom left,” he said, unable to contain the tears that were now sliding down his face.
Immediately, Liz pulled Max into her arms, holding him close as he started to cry. Max didn’t resist. He just clung to her tightly, taking comfort in the only good thing he had left in his life.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Max and Liz sat on the porch, holding each other for awhile before Liz released him. She then grasped Max’s hand and led him into the house.
They were unaware of Pam Troy’s car parked across the street. Pam sat in the driver’s seat, gripping the steering wheel as she watched Max and Liz go inside, rage boiling inside of her. After a moment, she started the car and drove away, promising herself that she was going to take care Liz. That bitch wasn’t going to get away with stealing her man.