Five days had passed slowly and quietly since their ship had taken off for Antar carrying a pregnant Tess. The remaining members of the Pod Squad and their human friends all retreated into their own worlds in an effort to process the events that had led up to the ship’s take off.
Kyle immediately took to packing up Tess’s belongings from his room to get any memory of her out of his space. When that didn’t work, he burned copious amounts of white sage to clear up the energy present. Eventually he got to the point where he could sleep in his bed again but images of her lying there clutching her expectant stomach still occasionally flashed through his mind. He was gonna need to meditate a few hundred hours to dispel all the memories of her.
Maria and Michael were the only ones to turn to each other after the ship’s departure. Him stepping out of the cave just before take-off was a solidifying event in their relationship. The days following they skipped school to spend time in each other’s arms in bed and rarely talked. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding between them for a change that no words were needed.
Isabel dove into her school work and volunteer activities. Whenever a thought of Alex entered her mind, she would shove it aside and throw herself back into whatever work she could find. Helping others and advancing her education were the only things that kept her sane and moving. She knew if she let Alex invade her mental territory she would absolutely fall apart and everyone would find her sprawled out on the bathroom floor utterly despondent. That was NOT going to happen to Isabel Evans.
Liz, on the other hand, had uncharacteristically barely functioned or spoken to Max since they parted that day in the desert. She skipped school and her café shifts claiming illness which, in a sense, was true. She was ill in her heart & mind. That moment, after they watched the ship spiral up into the blue sky, she relished being back in Max’s arms and hearing him say that he was right to get her into his life and to love her. However, returning home that day the sour feeling of betrayal crept back in. Tess’s betrayal of everyone, of Alex. And Max’s betrayal of sleeping with Tess. Liz spent hours out on her balcony writing in her journal the myriad of emotions that bubbled up to the surface like a boiling pot of water. She loved Max with all of her heart but at the same time her heart stung with an indescribable ache. How could something be so broken and full of hope at the same time? A twinge of pain shot through her as she had a flash of Max kissing Tess at the prom and then another from her imagination of him removing Tess’s top. “How could he do that? How could he ever sleep with Tess???” she questioned repeatedly on paper and more so in her mind. The idea of Max’s lips and hands on Tess sent Liz’s mind seething and her journal went flying onto the floor. Liz cried into her hands as the midnight stars looked down on her. She remembered the sky and looked up realizing that Tess was up there somewhere. Does Antar have the technology to see the surface of Earth? Could Tess be watching Liz cry her eyes out knowing very well why? Liz instantly jumped up and climbed through her window into her bedroom. That murderous slut was not going to have the pleasure of seeing Liz cry.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Max sat in his chair in his room rolling one of the Antar healing stones in his hand while staring out the window into the pitch black night. Counting Crows quietly played in the background since he figured everyone in the house was asleep. However he was mistaken because Isabel soundlessly walked up to his doorway and briefly watched her brother brood for the millionth time. The band music coming out of the speakers told her all she need to know about his mood. A part of her wanted to talk to him; to tell him to let it all go and move on with his life like she was trying to do, but when she considered what all Max had gone through in the past few months she decided against saying anything. She herself was desperately trying to hold it together since Alex’s death. And the thought that Tess was not only responsible for his death, but she had also put on such a good act at the Crashdown where they were all informed of his supposed accident, it was more than Isabel could handle. Tess played her part well and Isabel, at times, felt sick to her stomach when she thought of how she had considered Tess a good friend. Having another female alien-human hybrid living like any average teenage girl on Earth was something Isabel never knew she needed until she finally had it. But it was all a lie, a despicable ploy to become part of the group, befriend them, use them and eventually lead them to their deaths. Isabel nearly wretched right there outside her brother’s room and decided to walk away before he could see her. She felt more sympathy for Max now because at least she hadn’t given up her virginity to the bitch. It would take anyone eons to get over that.
Max didn’t know how long he had sat there before he became aware the music was no longer playing. When he came out of his stupor he decided he couldn’t wait any longer; now was the time to talk to Liz despite the 12:30am hour. Since their return from the desert he could sense Liz’s standoffishness and kept his distance to give her space. But now he couldn’t contain his own questions anymore. He slipped out the window and started running out of the neighborhood in the direction of the Crashdown Café. The Jeep, still deep in the ravine, burnt to a crisp, was missed by Max right about now. However, the running woke his body up and filled him with more determination to have the future awkward conversation he knew they desperately needed.
In a little over 5 minutes he was at the fire escape ladder outside Liz’s balcony. Given the hour, he chose to climb up instead of calling out to her. Once over her balcony wall, he started walking to her window as he had done the last time several months ago. A memory flash of what he saw through the window that night long ago made him hesitate. Liz’s bare arms and shoulders, her naked leg over the sheet that also covered a bare chested Kyle next to her created a sensation two ton weight sensation in Max’s gut. The memory took the breath out of him. He reminded himself it wasn’t true; that Liz hadn’t slept with Kyle. But why did she insist numerous times that she had?! The question brought him out of his frozen stance and got him to press on to her window.
When he tapped on the glass, Liz looked up from where she sat on the floor, eyes filled with tears. Max’s heart wrenched at the thought that he was most likely the source of them. Liz quickly wiped her face and got up to open the window.
“It’s really late, Max,” she whispered trying to hide her sadness.
“I know. I’m sorry but I can’t wait. I have to talk to you now. But not here. Would you go for a walk with me?” he replied.
“I guess walking is all we can do since the Jeep is toast.” She grabbed her sweater and climbed out the window. Once they were down on the sidewalk, they started walking in the direction of the railroad tracks just a few blocks from the town’s main street.
They walked in silence for most of the way. Max reached out to take Liz’s hand, but she instead slipped it inside her jeans pocket. Feeling rejected, he put his in his pocket too. Quiet filled the night air until a distant whistle from a train made its call. Roswell was the type of small town where everyone was inside at this hour and usually asleep.
Finally Liz broke the ice sheet of silence between them. “Do you think she can see us?” she nodded up towards the sky.
“I don’t think so. She took me to the Roswell telescope one night and showed me a star that’s visible from both Earth and Antar,” he replied unassumingly.
“So, you two checked out the telescope together. That’s great. I’m sorry I asked,” Liz sarcastically responded.
Quickly trying to recover Max said, “I’m sorry, Liz. Your question caught me off guard. I didn’t think…”
“No, you didn’t think, Max!” Liz cut him off in a shout.
“Listen Liz, I’m sorry! I’m sorry more than you can possibly know!” he shouted back.
“Well, I’d be sorry too if I had slept with a murderer. How could you, Max? How could you have had sex with Tess?!” she continued to shout with tears welling up in her eyes again. She was immediately grateful to be outside of town now with no one living nearby to hear them yelling at each other.
“I’ve been asking myself that question everyday ever since she left. How was I supposed to know she had killed Alex?” he questioned in a huff.
Liz retorted quickly, “It’s not simply about her killing Alex, Max. Did you really stop loving me and fall in love with her? You barely knew her! Prom was just two months ago when you first kissed her, right? Or had you and Tess been…”
“No!” Max now cut her off. “We had never done anything but talk before prom night. But might I remind you that YOU had just told me to move on, Liz! On the dance floor, you said you were suffocating. What was I supposed to do after hearing that?”
“I don’t know, Max, I certainly didn’t mean for you to go running straight to her and kiss her and then knock her up two months later. I thought you were in love with me!” she spurted out in anguish.
“I was in love with you! I still am! Hell Liz, I always have been! But can you for one minute stop to consider what I was going through?” he turned around and kicked a rock that flew out into the desert.
“What YOU were going through? It was MY best friend who was murdered, Max. You didn’t see me running to kiss Kyle afterwards!” Liz said indignantly.
Max abruptly spun around and yelled, “No, I only saw you in bed with him!!!”
And there it was, the wave of raw emotion that came from Max in that second stopped Liz in her tracks. Her mind had choked on his anger, so Max continued.
“In fact, THAT’S why I slept with her!”
And with that accusation Liz’s mind was freed, “Wait a minute…are you blaming ME for you sleeping with Tess?” said incredulously.
Taken aback, Max shook his head, “No! No, I’m not blaming you. I… I accept responsibility for my actions. I’m just saying you made it possible. I never would have gone there with Tess had I not believed you had gone there with Kyle.” He stepped away from Liz feeling ashamed of himself.
“But I didn’t sleep with Kyle,” Liz softly cried.
Spinning around to her once more Max raised his voice a little less this time, “Yes, you told me that a few nights ago but what about the many times you said you had? Liz, you stood right in front of me in Copper Summit and told me that you made love to Kyle. And even though I didn’t want to believe you; even though it felt wrong in every bone of my body, I was left with no choice but to accept it as a fact and it broke my heart! Yet NOW, after EVERYTHING that has happened, now you tell me you didn’t? You gotta see how messed up that is, right Liz?” Finally, Max unloaded what had been swelling in his chest since they got back from Las Cruces.
Liz felt she was caught up in the center of a whirlwind and finally lost her strength to stand. She slumped down on a railroad tie and sobbed in her hands just like she had last fall when the older, future version of Max first started to fade. How could she have ever known his bizarre arrival would kick off the series of events like dominoes that lead to Alex’s death, Max getting Tess pregnant, and her leaving the planet. Max at first just looked at her with anticipated curiosity, but then started pacing with impatience knowing better than to speak again. At last, the frenzied twister of thoughts and emotions dissipated and Liz found her voice once more.
She shakily muttered, “I did what I did… because you told me to, Max.”
Now it was Max’s turn to freeze and stare at her. At last he spoke, “What in the world are you talking about?”
“Not you you,” she said pointing to him. “A future you did.”
Max stood there with a look on his face that could not be described any better than ‘what the fuck?’
Liz drew in a deep breath and started slowly, “Do you remember the night you sang to me with the mariachi band?”
Max nodded cautiously.
“Shortly before you showed up,” pointing to Max, “there was a huge flash of light out on the balcony and then an older looking you crouched down at my window, dressed all in leather with long hair and unshaven. I was scared to death and convinced it was a skin or another shapeshifter pretending to be you, he came in and proceeded to tell me that he was you from the future. To prove it me, he told me that you were about to show up with a mariachi band, which I thought was crazy, never thinking you would do something that cheesy.” She paused as Max blushed, then she went on, “But then the music started playing outside. He went on to say he…you had spent a week learning the lyrics from Mr. Delgado at the hardware store.”
“I never told you how I learned that song,” Max said shaking his head.
“Exactly, you never did,” once more gesturing to him. “But the future version of you did. He even explained that after you tossed up the red roses you remembered I like white better so you changed their color in midair.”
“How could he have been me? How did he managed to travel back, from what time?” Max said having a hard time absorbing this information.
“He was from 2014 and apparently the Granolith was capable of more than just returning you guys home,” explained Liz.
“But the Granolith is gone. It’s not even on the this planet anymore!” Max scoffed.
“In his timeline, things happened very differently than what we’ve experienced. According to him, Tess left Roswell because you & I became inseparable after the night of the Gomez concert. I imagine because her ‘mission’ to get pregnant and return you 3 back to Antar was foiled. So she gave up and took off. Which, in turn, left you, Isabel, and Michael vulnerable when your enemies, the Skins I guess, showed up. He said you four were stronger together which might explain how you were all able to defeat them in our timeline. But in his timeline, the battle waged on for years & years. And eventually the three of you couldn’t take them down. He said that Isabel and Michael were dead and it was the end of the world when he and the future version of me decided to make one last attempt to save the world by sending him back in time to stop Tess from leaving Roswell,” Liz stopped to catch her breath and waited for Max to digest what she had said.
He quietly looked at the dirt on the ground and waited for her to proceed.
“So first, I tried talking to Tess, to give her some tips on how to appeal to you. But you caught on outside the café and you saw me at the Senator’s office,” she continued.
“Was he there with you, in the office? The future me, I mean,” Max inquired.
“Yes. He ran to the back room because of some catastrophic quantum physics reason that I can’t explain meant that both of you would be destroyed if you two met. But he’s the reason I went over to your house that night and said I didn’t want to die for you.” She paused for a moment, then resumed and looked him deep into his eyes, “Max, you need to know that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say to anyone. I will never forget that you’re the only reason I’m still alive.” His eyes lingered on hers but then broke away to sit next to her.
They both sat quietly for a moment and a breeze blew through as if it knew to pull the stress out of the air. A coyote yowled off in the distance and Liz wrapped her arms around herself. Her sweater was not quite enough cover for the night’s temperature. For the first time ever, Max wasn’t compelled to comfort her because he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice.
“It almost worked though,” she went on staring down at the ground.
Max looked at her quizzically, “Worked how?”
“He started to disappear.” Liz went on to explain knowing his inevitable next question, “When the events in his timeline changed enough, then that version of him simply ceased to exist. But even though he literally started to fade away, he was suddenly all there again. What I had said to you that night didn’t push you away enough to change his history, and I was at a total loss of what to say or do that would work. He insisted it was critical that I get you to fall out of love with me, but we had no idea how.”
“Well, obviously you found a way,” Max said thinking of how torn apart his heart had been.
“Yes,” Liz spoke softly. “I saw Maria the next day, who was crying after she saw Michael at Courtney’s apartment. She claimed there was no way he could make up for it. That’s when I got the idea and asked Kyle for the favor.”
“Great, so Kyle has known about this all along?” Max said feeling jealous of that guy yet again.
“No, I never told him why. I simply asked him to be there to make it look like we had…you know. But I promise you, nothing happened between us. Kyle and I just talked until you showed up,” she pleaded hoping for his understanding.
“And you knew I would show up because the other future version of me had done the same thing?” Max quickly asked to which Liz nodded. “What I don’t understand,” he carried on, “is why would Tess leave Roswell? Just because I wouldn’t date her, she up and left in his timeline?”
Liz paused and said, “Maybe it wasn’t as simple as you not dating her. She probably realized there was absolutely no hope of achieving her mission because of what happened that night…of the Gomez concert.”
“What happened?” he prodded.
“In his timeline, he said that our relationship was cemented that night. That he…you…had a condom… and we made love and that’s why we were inseparable from then on. And when we were 19 we went to Las Vegas and got married at the Elvis Chapel,” she exclaimed.
Max shook his head slightly trying to keep the timelines straight in his head. Other versions of himself and Liz had gotten married in Las Vegas? “Is that why I saw what I did in front of the hotel?’
“Yeah, I think maybe it was an echo from that timeline. I don’t know. I understand biology way more than quantum physics.”
Max stood up and started pacing slowly while running his hands through his hair. He looked out into the desert and searched for comprehension of the past hour’s conversation. A future version of himself? The end of the world? Isabel and Michael dead? All leading to Liz pretending to sleep with Kyle, which as a result led to him actually sleeping with Tess? His head was ready to explode.
Liz eventually spoke, “Needless to say, it worked. He, future you, disappeared less than an hour after you left my balcony and I… never felt more alone. Seeing you the next day, so hurt and angry, having to lie to you, it was excruciating. Max, I NEVER wanted to hurt you. I had to constantly remind myself the fate of world depended on me convincing you. It was absolute hell. It nearly broke me. You are the love of my life, you have to know that.”
She reached for his hand but he wasn’t ready yet. He looked her earnestly in the eyes and said, “It did break me, Liz. You have to know that you’re the love of my life too but that night…,” he stopped a moment and turned away. “It’s funny… how that night so easily took two different directions. One when we united as a couple, and another when my heart was torn to shreds and started a path that resulted in Alex’s death instead of Isabel’s & Michael’s.” Max took another beat and then spoke, “It’s like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.” He looked up at the stars and thought about when they slept out under them after they dug up the communicator orb. Back then things seemed far simpler than now. He figured this was the price of getting older, things just get more complicated. He thought about this older, future self. What all must have happened to force him to manipulate the Granolith for time travel and leave the life he had with Liz. “I can see why he…I chose to come back to that week. Too bad he had no idea what it would lead to in the end. I reluctantly believed you had given yourself to Kyle instead of me…that’s what led me to sleep with her. That plus Alex dying and you going against me to investigate his death which yes, you were right to do so, but it created this chasm between us. I honestly thought I had lost you forever. I had even lost Isabel because I wouldn’t let her leave to go to college out of the state. I was alone too. Tess was the only one there for me, of course I see now, that was just part of her grand scheme. Damn, that bitch. She knew how vulnerable I was and she took advantage of it. I fell for her story they we didn’t belong here. She kept nudging and coaching me to remember our previous lives. And I did recall some things. I remembered being married and in love with her then. But none of it ever felt right in this life. It truly was another life and that one ended. I’m here now as someone new and try as I might, I didn’t love her. I thought making love with her would change that. Would help me love her, but I woke up the next morning realizing it was a huge mistake. Except before I could tell her that, she dropped the bomb that she was pregnant. After seeing you & Kyle together, I had taken that condom out of my wallet never thinking I’d use it. Tess showed no reservations when we together so I stupidly assumed she had some alien way of protecting herself,” Max kicked another rock into the desert in disgust.
Liz didn’t believe she had heard Max speak that much all at once in all the time she knew him. It was beginning to sink into her mind just how much she and Max had both been in hell only for different reasons. She walked up to him, grabbed his arm and circled him to her, and then wrapped her arms around him. She held him tight while he relaxed in her arms, and found himself hugging her in return breathing the familiar scent from her hair. This was where he belonged all along, with her. They stood there holding each other for a while until another train whistle interrupted their embrace.
Max took her hands and held them on his heart, “What I felt from that lifetime, those feelings for her never compared to what I feel for you, Liz.” She looked up into his eyes that were starting to water and she too felt tears grow in hers. Liz wanted the whole past year to unwind. While she was happy that Tess was off the planet, she wished everything that led to Tess’s departure was different. She wanted to unbreak Max’s heart from what she had done. She wanted her own heart to be whole again too after his betrayal even though he technically didn’t cheat on her. She wanted Alex back too. And all the mean words exchanged between them she wished could be unspoken. Liz realized that ultimately everything that had happened was a result of Tess’s manipulative agenda.
Even though part of Liz wanted to kiss Max, she couldn’t bring herself to do it yet. Instead she simply rested her head on her hands that were still being held to his chest. It was then her tears silently ran down her face and Max leaned his head down on hers. They stood there a little while longer in silence, neither knowing what to say.
Max eventually stepped back and took one of her hands in his and started walking back into town. This time Liz didn’t pull her hand away. The walk home was as quiet as earlier but the energy between them had softened. The tension, the anticipation, the awkwardness was gone and replaced with a peaceful, familiar ease. Their questions had all been answered. They both knew it was going to take some time to process everything that was said tonight. Their faint footsteps seemed symbolic of them walking on the path back to each other.
When they reached her ladder, she turned to him and merely gazed up into his soulful eyes which were clear now. He leaned down and gave her a soft, simple kiss. She then turned and climbed up to her balcony. Once at the top she looked down at him and said, “Goodnight, Max. I’m sorry. I love you.”
He looked up at her and replied, “Goodnight, Liz. I’m sorry. I love you.”
They gave each other a sweet smile and turned to go. She stopped just before her window and saw in her mind what Max had seen that night she laid in bed with Kyle. She took that image and exchanged herself and Kyle for Tess and Max and then she knew the true heart ache he must have experienced. The moment her eyes began to water again she changed the image once more, replacing Tess with herself. The picture of Max lying shirtless next to her bare body stopped the tears long before they could fall and warmed her heart, and another area. A smile spread across her face and she climbed in her window.
A couple blocks away Max was now strolling back along the same route he had taken earlier in the opposite direction. He mulled over everything that Liz had told him about the future version of himself. He wore all leather and let his hair grow long? He speculated that people must change a lot with age. He replayed the vision he saw in front of the Las Vegas hotel. Them kissing as he carried Liz dressed in a white wedding gown, him in a tux. So in a sense, that really happened…kinda. Maybe it still can. That put a smile on his face as he climbed into the window of his bedroom.