December 31, 2002 - Roswell, New Mexico
"Liz, I absolutely insist. You are coming. No more discussion!"
"I am not," I snap, "Maria, I've told you ten million times. Sean said he'd call tonight, and I need to be here when he does."
Maria is sitting on a stool at the Crashdown's counter. "That is the lamest thing I have ever heard," she retorts. "You are honestly telling me that you are going to sit at home on New Year's Eve, waiting for a phone call from a guy you don't even really like, when you could be at the party of the year?"
I am behind the counter, running a cloth along its length, avoiding my best friend's piercing gaze. "That's what I'm telling you," I reply. "And I do too like Sean. I am dating him."
"Whatever." Maria waves her hand in the air. "You're dating him because Max is dating Tess. That's the only reason, and we both know it, so will you please just be honest with me." Her voice cracks slightly, and I look at her in surprise. She has tears in her blue eyes, and I feel a pang of guilt.
"Liz, I know you're keeping something from me. I know it. And I can't stand it. What is it? I know this is about Max, and he won't tell me anything either, and you're both driving me insane!"
I lower my gaze. Because, of course, she's right. I am keeping something from her. In fact, I'm keeping a lot of things from her. Like the fact that Max, Michael, and Isabel are aliens. She still doesn't know that, but it's not my fault. I want to tell her, but Alex says it's up to Michael to do it. That he's her boyfriend and it's not our place to go spilling his secrets to Maria unless he wants her to know. I sort of agree with him, but, on the other hand, Maria is whip-smart. She knows that something is up with Alex and me, and her hurt has been obvious since we've been home. It's even worse because I know she's already jealous that we're away at school together, and she got stuck in Roswell working for another year, so that she can afford college.
"Maria, I'm sorry," I say sincerely, because I am. ""I just can't get into it with you. What's happened with me and Max...…it's totally my fault. I want to tell you. I do. But I'm just worried you won't understand. You're going to be on Max's side and I just can't deal with that right now."
"Why are there sides?" Maria demands. "I'm your best friend, Liz. You can tell me. I just want you both to be happy. And neither of you is. It's like you're both going out of your way to make yourselves miserable when it doesn't have to be this way. Just come to the party and you'll see that."
"Go and see him with Tess?" I reply, more harshly than I intend. "No way, Maria." And this is the real reason I'm not going out, of course. No phone call from Sean would ever keep me hanging around my parents' apartment otherwise, which isn't really fair to Sean, but it's just what is. But I've managed to avoid Max and Tess the entire time I've been home, and I'm not going to spoil that now, particularly when I know that both of them will definitely be there.
You're probably all thinking that it's just what I deserve, having to see them together, after what I did to Max at Thanksgiving. After I brought Sean to Isabel's for dinner. And you're all probably right. But I did that for a very specific reason - I really felt like I had no choice - and I can't regret it. I mean, I knew that Tess's 'brother' was going to be there, and what better way to assure that he knew that I was staying away from Max then by bringing a date?
And it worked, didn't it? Max and Tess are together, and Max is now safe, and it was all worth it.
Of course, it also means that my heart is permanently shattered into eight million pieces. That it broke apart when I saw them kissing in the bathroom, and it won't ever be put back together.
And I can't tell Maria any of this either, because then I'd have to explain why I pushed Max and Tess together - which really didn't take that much effort anyway - and that can't be done without telling her about the alien angle. Which means I can't talk to my very best friend about my broken heart - which is just wrong. But it has to be worth it. It has to be. I have to believe that, or I won't survive it. I won't survive being alone. Because I am. All alone. I can't even go to Alex, who might be the only one to understand, because I can't trust him not to tell Max. They're better friends then Alex and I are these days.
Which is why I've been clinging to Sean like a life-line. Because at least he's all mine, and I can try to forget about the rest of it when I talk to him. He isn't wrapped up in any of it, and he's normal, and that's just what I need right now.
Maria reaches out and grasps my hand. I realize that I have been scrubbing at the same section of counter for over a minute. "Liz, it's clean!"
"Oh." I stop. "Sorry.
Maria sighs heavily. "Liz, you're miserable. You always clean like this when you are. I want you to be happy. I want you both to be happy."
"Max is happy," I tell her firmly. "I mean, of course he is. He brought Tess home for Christmas, didn't he?""
"He so is not," Maria says. I look at her in surprise. "That's right, Liz. So you'll finally let me tell you? He's not happy. And you could have known this two weeks ago if you'd let me talk to you about it."
"What?" I stare at her, my heart beating too quickly. I feel tears prick my eyes. I just can't listen to this. He's not happy? After all I've done? Tess promised me she would make him happy. She promised!
But, on the other, hand, Maria might just be telling me this to make me feel better. I can't call her bluff on it, because I haven't seen Max since Thanksgiving. He avoided me like the plague at school, which I helped him do by dropping biology. He hasn't been in the Crashdown once since we all got back from New York either. I just took that to mean that he is happy with Tess, and that he knew that seeing me was just going to be awkward. Because it would be. How could it not be?
"Liz, it's true. If you'd come to the party - if you see them together - you'd see if for yourself. He doesn't want to be with her." I look at Maria, shaking my head firmly. She doesn't let me get a word in though. "You're both a couple of idiots. Don't you think I've figured out what's going on here? He's staying with Tess, because he thinks you're with Sean, and you're with Sean, because Max is supposedly in love with Tess."
This can't be true. If it was true, then Max would have come to see me. He would have. I know him. He would have come for an explanation.
Of course, considering that I've also been avoiding him, and managed to do so for close to a month before Thanksgiving too, maybe he's realized that might not be an option.
"Maria, it's not true. Max and Tess belong together. They have to be together." The words come out in desperation, just to get her to stop. I don't want to hear this. I need to think that Max is happy. I have to know he's happy, or I won't be able to stay away from him.
I grimace, realizing what I've said, and I quickly move away from her.
"What?" Maria demands. "What are you even talking about? See? This is what I mean. That is just crazy talk. Liz, what aren't you telling me? Is Tess blackmailing you or something?""
See what I mean about Maria being whip-smart? She's figured out as close to the truth as she possibly can without knowing the real truth. Not that Tess is really blackmailing me. I'm just helping her. But sometimes it sure feels like I'm letting the blonde alien play me. Because what proof do I have that anything Tess has told me is true, other than my gut instinct, and that silver book?
You have the proof that her brother shot you to keep you away from Max, a voice in the back of my head reminds me.
But she might have arranged that herself.
I blink. Now where did that come from?
They belong together, I tell myself firmly. If they didn't, he never would have kissed her. He loved me for ten years. He wouldn't have done that unless he felt drawn to her in a way he's never felt drawn to me.
I knew I shouldn't have spoken to Maria. This was why I've been avoiding her. She's put doubts in my mind that I'm doing the right thing.
There is a way to find out…the other, evil little voice reminds me.
"Okay," I say quietly.
"What?" Maria sounds surprised.
"Okay," I say more firmly. "I'll go to the party."
But only for one reason. To see Max and Tess together, and to remind myself that this is the right thing. If I see them happy - and, I mean, they have to be, or he wouldn't have invited her home to meet his parents, would he have? - I'll be able to go back to being miserable in peace. I can stop worrying about Max.
Because that's how I feel. Worried. Tess promised me that he would be happy if I helped them get together. If he isn't...…Well, I don't know what I'm going to do about it. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
"Woohoo! Who's the hottie?"
I wrinkle my nose at Alex, who is standing in my bedroom doorway. "Is it too much?" I ask, glancing at myself in the mirror again, reanalyzing my short skirt, black boots, and brick red halter top. I know that I should be dressing down. I'm not supposed to look attractive to anyone after all. Not only am I trying to keep Max away from me, I also technically have a boyfriend. Sort of. When I remember to think about him.
Yet, when I came in to get ready for the party, I just naturally gravitated towards a top I have a feeling might make Max drool. And I left my hair down, blow-drying it poker straight. I know he likes it that way, because Maria told me that he told her that once. So not a good sign.
"How am I supposed to know?" Alex demands, flopping down on my bed. "I'm a guy. All I know is, you look hot. And if that isn't your goal, then it's probably too much."
I roll my eyes. "Is this how you won Isabel's heart? By telling her she's hot? How romantic."
"No, Liz. I tell my girl friends they're hot, to bolster their self esteem," Alex replies, grinning. "I tell Isabel…other things."
"Ew," Maria says. She comes flouncing into the room, picks up a bra from on my vanity and throws it at Alex. It lands on his head, and he pulls it off, examining it with horror, before tossing it away. "We so don't want to know."
"And what are you saying exactly, Alex?" I ask, glaring at him. "That I'm not hot?"
He raises his hands in mock surrender. "Liz, I don't lie, babe. I said it because I meant it."
"You do look hot," Maria assesses, after giving me the once over. "Good."
I frown at her. "Not good. I'm supposed to just look normal." I look at Alex. "Get out. I need to change."
"Don't go anywhere, Alex. She's not changing," Maria snaps. "Put on some lipstick, and let's get outta here."
"No lipstick," I insist.
Maria grabs me by the shoulders, her expression no-nonsense. "Liz, put on your lipstick. Now."
"Now!" she bellows, making me jump, and I see Alex cringe out of the corner of my eye.
"Liz, you better do it," he says, sounding terrified. "Or we might not see 2003."
"Yes, ma'am," I whimper, because I'm really not in the mood to argue anymore. I'm all argued out. Glancing at the clock, I see that it's too late to change anyway. We're meeting Isabel and Michael downstairs at ten (because I so enjoy being the fifth wheel. Maria insists I won't be, but puh-lease). It's now five after.
And, so, I hastily apply lipstick, give myself one last glance in the mirror, and ten minutes later I'm sitting in the back seat of Isabel's parents' Volvo.
"Are you sure you don't mind driving, Iz?" Alex asks, from the seat next to her. I narrow my eyes in annoyance at the sight of his hand, because it's reaching out to gently cup Isabel's neck. Right, Maria, I think. I'm so not the fifth wheel. I would glare at her, but she and Michael are already making out next to me, and I'm trying not to look.
"No," Isabel replies. "You know I don't drink anyway." She smiles at Alex. "Plus, I want you to be able to have a good time."
"You're so good to me," Alex says. At first I think he's joking, because it sounds exactly like something he would say to either me or Maria sarcastically, but when I realize he's serious I almost ask Isabel to pull over so that I can throw up.
Sometimes I hate my best friends.
"Where's Max?" Maria demands, when she finally comes up for air. I roll my eyes, turning to stare out into the dark desert night. She is so unsubtle.
There's a pause, because Isabel knows exactly why Maria is asking too, of course. "He's bringing Tess in the Jeep," she finally replies, referring to the old vehicle Max and Isabel shared all through high school. I listen for a tone, but there's no tone. It's just a basic statement of fact, so I have no idea what Isabel's opinion is of my psycho behavior over the past two months. I remember the conversation we had in my room at school the night I was shot, and sigh. I wonder why I care that I've not only disappointed Max by bailing on him, but also his sister.
You had no choice, the helpful voice in the back of my head reminds me.
I close my eyes, leaning my forehead against the cool glass. What was I thinking coming out tonight? This is going to be hell. Not only am I going to have to witness Max and Tess together, I'm also developing a split personality.
Ten more minutes later, Isabel pulls up in front of Vicky Delaney's house. Maria, Michael, and I pile out, while Izzy and Alex pull away to find a parking spot. The street in front of Vicky's is already packed, so I have a feeling that it's going to take them a while. Plus, from the way Alex was eyeing Isabel, I have a feeling that he has other ideas that might make them take even longer. To quote Maria, ew.
"Hi, Liz!" Our hostess greets me cheerfully. "Welcome! Coats go in my mom's room. Drinks are in the kitchen."
I smile at her. Even though I'm as grumpy as hell, I do like Vicky Delaney. For a blond cheerleader type, she's pretty nice, and always has been.
"Thanks, Vicky. Thanks for having us."
"Totally no problem at all," Vicky replies. "I just thought it would be fun to get everyone together. We're all so scattered these days."
"Yeah," I agree. I search my mind, trying to remember where she's going to school. I finally recall what Kyle told me at Thanksgiving. "How's Michigan?"
"Totally cool," Vicky exclaims. She throws her arms in the air, forcing me to take a step backward. "Go, Wolverines!"
"So, still cheerleading then?" I ask innocently. I hear Maria snicker beside me.
"Of course," Vicky says. "I couldn't live without it."
"Who could?" Maria asks sarcastically, linking her arm through mine. "Anyway, thanks, Vicky. We'll talk to you later."
"Totally," Maria agrees. As soon as we're out of ear-shot, she says, "Yikes."
"She's nice, Maria," I insist.
"I'm not saying she isn't, Liz. I was just a little concerned that our brain cell count was diminishing with every moment we spent with her."
I laugh despite myself. "You're mean."
"No, just honest."
As Maria and I leave the coat room, I realize abruptly that we've lost one of our number already. "Where's Michael?" I ask suspiciously. Because if there's one thing Michael Guerin isn't, it's social. I had expected him to be at Maria's side for the entire evening.
If he's not with us, and if Isabel and Alex are still 'parking the car,' there is only one other possibility for where he might be.
"Where you'd expect to find him," Maria replies.
"With Max." I wonder why my heart drops. After all, I did come to see him. I came to see him with Tess and convince myself once and for all that I have done the right thing.
"Maybe," Maria says, in a sing-songy way that sends a shiver down my spine.
"I think I need a drink," I mutter, getting more concerned by the minute that she has something untoward planned for me. And if she has somehow wrangled Michael into it, it has to be all bad.
"Ask and you shall receive." I stare at my hand in amazement, which is now holding a large, red plastic cup. When I look over my shoulder, I am staring at a grinning Kyle Valenti. "Long Island ice tea," he says. "Your favorite."
"Hey, Kyle!" I say, more pleased to see him than I can even express. This is great! I can spend the night with Kyle. Max won't come near me with Kyle around. I know my Max. Kyle scares him.
Oh, God. I just called him my Max. I'm hopeless. Completely hopeless. It doesn't matter if Kyle's attached to me like a second skin. I have a feeling that I'm doomed no matter what. If Max even appears in my general vicinity, with the way I'm presently feeling - all jittery and nervous - I might just jump him to make myself feel better.
Right, Liz, that's why you'd jump him.
Not that he'd come near you anyway, my helpful split personality reminds me. He's here with Tess. It doesn't matter what Maria has planned.
I drain the glass in my hand before I can reflect on this line of thinking any longer.
"What?" I say, forcing myself to focus on Kyle, who has said something.
"I said, whoa," Kyle replied, his eyes wide. "Liz…"
"Can I have another one?" I ask, batting my eyelashes at him. I need to get away from Maria, obviously. She is distracted at the moment, chatting with Tina Lesley, who used to work at the Crashdown with us, so now is a good time. The bar seems like a logical place to avoid her. Maria's dad was an alcoholic, so she doesn't drink.
"Okay." He shrugs, taking me by the hand. We wind our way through the throngs of our former classmates. Kyle has to pause a couple of times to do that weird hand thingy that guys do with each other. I feel my heart freeze at one point because I think I see Tess two people over. Those blonde curls are fairly hard to miss after all. I squeeze Kyle's hand so hard, he actually glances back at me.
When the girl turns, and I see that it's Amy Ryan, who also has blond ringlets (yeesh! How quickly we forget!), I nearly pass out from the relief of it. Although I shouldn't be relieved. I should be disappointed that I haven't been able to get my mission out of the way early, so that I can go home. After all, I am here to see Tess with Max. This is my goal, isn't it?
"Nothing," I reply. "Nothing," I repeat firmly.
This is ridiculous! Why am I scared of running into Tess? It's not like I hate her or something. Plus, this is my turf. She's the alien invader in Roswell. No pun intended.
The thought of Tess' alien status makes me reflect momentarily on the fact that I don't have any clue about how Max, Isabel, and Michael feel about the fact that there's another one of their kind around. One of the problems with avoiding Max is that I've been forced to avoid Isabel and Michael too. In fact, tonight in the car was the first time I'd seen either of them since Isabel's disastrous Thanksgiving dinner, so I have no idea how the three of them reacted to a new member of their otherworldly clique. It must have been kind of weird for them. I remember what Max told me that night on the roof - the best night of my life…Sigh…STOP IT!…that it had been just the three of them for so long, they were beyond close because of it. I hope it went okay, when she told them. I mean, I might resent the hell out of Tess, but, as stated, I don't hate her. And part of the reason that I went along with her was that I felt how lonely she was in the time we spent together before she and Max got together. I feel sad that I'll probably never know if Michael and Isabel have accepted her. I could ask Alex, of course, but then we'll just end up discussing Max no doubt, and I just really don't want to put Alex in the middle.
I guess I know that they've accepted Tess anyway. After all, Max has brought her home for Christmas. He wouldn't have if there was any tension between her and his sister or best friend.
I already know that there's no tension between Max and Tess.
Ugh. Stop thinking about it! I order myself.
Easier said than done, obviously. There is only way to permanently shut up the voices in my head. Alcohol, and lots of it.
"Let's do a shot," I say to Kyle, when we finally reach the bar.
Kyle looks surprised. "Really?"
"Yeah!" I exclaim. "It's New Year's!" I look at Vicky's boyfriend, Paulie Scott, whose manning the bar. "Two shots of tequila, please."
"Tequila? Oh boy," I hear Kyle mutter, but I ignore him.
Half an hour, and five shots later, Kyle is beginning to look a little bit like someone didn't color his edges in properly. "One more!" I insist.
"Liz, no," Kyle responds firmly. "That's enough."
I remember that he actually didn't join me in the last one and I scowl at him. "Party pooper!"
"Liz, what's going on?" Kyle demands. "You're not acting like yourself at all."
"I'm just trying to have a good time," I reply. I can't hear myself very well, over the load music, but I think I'm maybe slurring my words a bit. I can see the expression of concern on Kyle's face though, so I throw my arms around his neck. "I'm so happy to see you, Kyle!"
"Yeah, me too, Liz," Kyle replies. He grasps me firmly around the waist, steering me away from the bar. "I think we need to get you some fresh air."
The world has started to spin by the time Kyle and I find ourselves out on Vicky's back deck. I blink, wondering if I'm having hallucinations. But, no, there are actually people in Vicky's hot tub. Weird. I briefly consider joining them, until my stomach suddenly rebels, and I absolutely know that I am going to throw up.
"I don't feel so good," I tell Kyle.
"We better find you somewhere to lie down," Kyle says. I can hear the grim tone in his voice, but I don't know what it means. I can't focus on anything. I feel like I'm staring at him through a heavy fog.
Finally, I blink my eyes firmly, forcing Kyle's face to stop whirling in front of me. Quite obviously it's Kyle that is the problem. I need to get away from him for a while. If he can't stand still, how are we supposed to have any fun?
"I'm hungry," I announce to him. "I'll see you later."
And, with that, I stumble back into the house.
I am staring into Vicky's refrigerator when I feel a presence behind me. "Get your own fridge," I tell the person without turning around.
"Liz? Are you all right?"
I know that voice. I seem to recall that this is not a voice I particularly want to hear. If this is so though, then why does my heart start to beat more quickly? Odd.
You do not want to talk to him, a voice in my head insists.
Really? Okay. Maybe if I don't turn around, he'll just go away. If I pretend he's not here, he'll cease to exist. Hopefully, I grab some dip, and turn around, in order to look for the potato chips to go with it.
I find myself staring at a black sweater covered chest. So much for that idea. Tilting my head back, I squint up at Max, who is staring down at me. "Chips?" I demand. I mean, really? Doesn't he know that you can't eat dip without chips?
Max frowns slightly, but turns away, and when he turns back, he hands me a bag of Lays.
"Thanks," I say. After scarfing down about half the bag myself, I realize that this is quite rude of me. "Chip?" I ask, offering him the bag.
"So, how's it going?" I ask. I am pleased that this sounds very casual. The tequila had not seemed like a very good idea a few minutes ago, but obviously it wasn't me it affected, but Kyle. After all, he was the one who wouldn't stop moving. Max is doing very well at staying in one place. And I am doing very well at sounding like I don't want to kiss him senseless.
Oh, yeah. This was why I didn't want to hear his voice. Oh, well. This seems to be going well so far. Apparently tequila is good, after all.
"Okay," Max replies, sounding a little strange.
I look at him, tilting my head. "What's wrong?" I ask.
"What do you mean?"
"You sound weird," I reply. I blink at him. "Oh, wait! It's because we haven't talked in like six weeks!"
Max just continues to stare at me. It's a little disconcerting. "It's okay, Max, really."
"That you and Tess…well, you know." I smile at him, setting the chips down on the counter next to him. "I mean, it was inevitable."
"What do you mean?" he asks.
"Well, you know. Because she's like you." I'm not so drunk that I don't remember that I can't call Max an alien in public. I am, however, apparently drunk enough to not find this conversation at all awkward. How convenient!
I can hear the small voice in the back of my head wailing at me to stop talking, because the expression on Max's face seems entirely too blank for him to have any idea what I'm talking about, but apparently alcohol also muffles my ability to heed my split personality.
Which means that more of it is probably a good idea. I notice a bottle of vodka sitting beside the sink, reach out and pour myself a large glass of it.
"Liz, is that a good idea?" Max asks.
"It is," I assure him. "Really. It shuts up the voices."
"Never mind," I say. "Want some?"
"I don't drink, remember?"
"Oh, right. You told me that once. On the roof…" Well, this is odd. Why are my eyes all wet? Oh, right.
It all comes rushing back suddenly. That this is Max, and he is with Tess, and he was with me on a roof one night, and I love him, and I can't ever be with him.
And, why oh why does he have to look so hot in that sweater? It's not fair!
I burst into tears.
"Oh my God! Liz!" Max is mortified. His hands are on my shoulders, and it feels good, but I know it's not good, so I pull away. He drops his hands, but I can tell he doesn't want to. I don't want him to either, but I do still remember that he's not mine. Even if I love him.
My tears stop abruptly. I didn't mean to make him feel bad. I love him. "I'm sorry," I say, swiping at my eyes.
But Max apparently thinks that he can still somehow make me feel better, because he says, "Liz, about me and Tess…"
"Max, it's okay, I'm telling you," I insist, grabbing him by the hand, so that he'll shut up. "You're meant to be with her. Didn't I always tell you that? Before? And now that you know she's like you, it just shows that I was right."
I take another swig of my drink, and he starts to swim before me again. It takes me a minute, but I realize that I'm still holding his hand. He has laced his fingers through mine, and if I try to get away again…well, that would just be insulting. I've already made him feel bad because I cried. Taking my hand back would just be mean.
Max's other hand reaches out and takes the cup out of mine. "Liz, I really think you've had enough." I follow the cup with my eyes, and I'm about to protest, when my attention is captured by something else.
Counting. Everyone's counting backwards.
Oh, right. It's New Year's. And I'm standing in Vicky Delaney's kitchen holding hands with Max Evans.
I glance up at Max, and he's looking down at me, his dark eyes smoldering.
Uh oh. This is not good.
But, the problem is, it really is.
Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!
I lift my face, close my eyes, and sigh, giving up. He's going to kiss me. I know he is. And I want him to. Because this is Max and, of course, he's supposed to kiss me. Because I'm Liz. And he loves me. Just like I love him.
I can't remember why I've been trying to stay away from him anyway. Alcohol is my friend. So kiss away, Max Evans!
It's my last thought before everything goes black.