The last thing the Maxine expected to see when she got home Thursday night was Jeremy in bed. No, correction, the last thing she expected to see was Jeremy in bed with another woman. She had begged and pleaded with Jimmy to get the night off, she'd even enlisted Jill's aid, all so she could surprise Jeremy with a night of romance. Well, the surprise was on her it seemed.
The only reaction Maxine could offer was speechlessness. She stared at Jeremy and his blonde bed companion, mouth agape, eyes wide. His companion was not so speechless.
"I knew it," she grated out, "I knew you weren't telling me the truth. I'm so stupid to think you were actually going to be different this time. This is the last straw Jeremy, I want a divorce!" His mate screeched.
Divorce? In order to get divorced, one had to be married. Jeremy was married. All these months, he'd been married. Jeremy's panicked voice drew her out of her reverie.
"Maxine. Anna. I can explain," he stated.
"Oh, I would love to hear this," Anna ranted, "I'm sure there is an excellent reason why this woman has a key to my husband's apartment and actually is stunned beyond belief that I'm here."
Maxine finally found her voice, "Husband?" she repeated as Anna climbed out of bed and started getting dressed.
"Yes," Anna replied before Jeremy could. She extended her hand to Maxine, "I'm Anna and I'll be gone shortly." Seeing Max was still fairly stunned she smiled in sympathy, "Don't worry honey. You're not the first or the only."
Maxine remained silent again and studied Jeremy as he continued to plead with both women for a chance to explain his actions.
"Explain?' Anna repeated, after she finished dressing, "What's there to explain. You swore you changed, but you didn't. You had another mistress the entire time. You're second chance is over." She angrily declared before leaving Max and Jeremy alone as she slammed the door.
Jeremy cautiously got out of bed and pulled on his discarded boxer shorts before approaching Maxine, "Max, I was going to tell you. Honestly, I was."
"You don't know anything about honesty," Maxine hissed, "You were married Jeremy, you are married. All these months. You lied to me for months," she shouted, refusing to let her tears fall.
"It wasn't like that, Maxine. Anna and I separated, we were getting divorced…we just…"
Max held up a shaky hand, "Save you breathe, Jeremy. It doesn't matter anymore."
With those words, Maxine too left Jeremy alone in the apartment. She couldn't believe how stupid she'd been. She knew it was too good to be true that someone like Jeremy could love her. She wasn't good enough for someone like him. She was just a lonely old maid.
No, Max corrected herself. She was a lonely old maid with no place to live. She had no real money, she couldn't stay with Jeremy, and she'd have to go somewhere. She couldn't just drive around aimlessly. She had to go somewhere, and there was only one place she thought to go.
Kenny was not home when Maxine arrived at the apartment and she had given up her key when she moved in with Jeremy. She didn't know how late he'd be out, so she decided she'd wait awhile, she had no where better to go.
Kenny stayed out late that Thursday night. He had a lot of thinking to do. He didn't do anything to Jeremy that night; he decided to cut him the slack of letting him tell Maxine the truth. He'd given him a 24 hour grace period in which to do so. He didn't like this situation at all. Max was happy with Jeremy or so it seemed and he was loathe to do or say anything that would jeopardize that. Max was rarely happy in the relationships she got into, and would usually stay in them anyway because she was lonely. He was the opposite. He never stayed in relationships past a couple of days, weeks at most, because even with the women, he was still lonely.
Kenny remembered advice his father gave him years ago after the one really special relationship he'd had in his life disintegrated. His Dad had promised him that Liz was not the last woman he was going to love. When Kenny asked him how he knew that, his father replied, "Because she doesn't complete you, you were with her, but you were still lonely."
Kenny sighed and paid his bar bill. He didn't want to go home to the empty apartment still smelled like Max, but neither his liver nor his wallet could handle a larger stint at the Chuck Wagon. He had no choice but to go home.
"Night, Kenny," Joe called from behind the bar, "See you tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Kenny nodded, tossing some change into the tip jar as he left.
It had become a pattern on Kenny's nights off. Every time he'd go home and he wouldn't be able to stand the silence, so he'd come out to the Wagon, drink, and head for home after hours of nursing beers. Tonight was no different, except that what came after the self pity and the binging would change his routine forever.
Maxine had no idea how long she sat on the floor outside Kenny's apartment, minutes, hours, it didn't matter. All that mattered was Maxine finally heard familiar footsteps, which meant Kenny was finally home.
Kenny was usually prepared for anything, but nothing could prepare him for the sight of Maxine, sitting alone on the cool hallway floor, knees drawn to her chest, head in her hands. She lifted her face when she heard him.
When Kenny knelt in front of Max and saw her red eyes and tearstained cheeks, he felt like he'd been kicked in the chest. Carefully he took Maxine's hands in his, "Max? What happened?" he asked gently.
Max let out a long sob and weakly put her arms around Kenny's neck, "I was so stupid, Kenny," she cried into his strong shoulder, "So stupid."
Kenny remained silent and lifted Max up into his arms. Balancing her on one arm, he opened his apartment door, kicked it open and closed, and settled on the sofa with Max on his lap.
"Ssh," Kenny crooned, "It's all right. It's all all right."
But he knew it wasn't. Kenny knew why Max was so upset. She must had discovered Jeremy's little secret or he must have disclosed it to her as promised. Part of Kenny wanted to leave Max with Jill or Linda and go over to the apartment and do the son of a bitch great bodily harm, but more of him cried out to hold Max and comfort her himself. That part won out.
"Oh, Kenny," she sobbed, after a few minutes, "I should have know it was too good to be true. No one like Jeremy would ever love me."
Kenny held her tighter, "You shouldn't' want someone like Jeremy to love you, Sweetheart. If he'd hurt you…"
"He's married, Kenny," she cried, "and I walked in and apparently I'm not the first one or the only one he…" She trailed off and began to cry again.
Kenny remained silent, knowing nothing he could say, no phrase of comfort or meaningless platitude would help Max now. All she needed was his strong arms around her, her delicate nose buried in his neck, as she calmed herself down.
Finally, Max settled down and lifted her face to see Kenny's eyes, "Why do men do these things Kenny? Why can't men commit to a woman and stay with her?"
Kenny sighed and squeezed her a little, "Not all men do that, Max."
"Yeah, they do," Max countered, pain turning to anger as she rose from Kenny's lap. "After this, I'm convinced Kenny, no man is ever really faithful to his wife. I mean, if a guy like Jeremy or Jimmy cheats, what can a girl expect from a guy like you?"
Kenny rose from the couch with that remark, "Whoa, Max," he protested, "you can't lump all guy in with…"
"Oh, come on, Kenny," she argued, "when I lived here, you had a different woman every night."
"Exactly!" Kenny exclaimed, "I made not pretenses. I gave no promises, no false testimonials to any of those women, because I knew I'd never be faithful to any of them in my heart. You can't group me in with guys like Jeremy who has the best woman in the world and still isn't satisfied. I couldn't have what I wanted, so I had what I could get."
"Either way, Kenny," Max scoffed, "Men leave you. Either after a night or a year, or five, or ten, or twenty, they still leave you. A woman is like an animal to them, once they've sampled you, it's out to pasture with Bessie, they just toss you aside like a used rag," Max declared tears once again spilling out of her eyes.
Kenny knew it was now or never. Max was upset at the male population in general, so the timing was not the best, but it was now or never. He couldn't just blurt out, "I love you," though. It had to be careful, easy.
Kenny closed the gap between them and grabbed Max's wrists in a firm grip, "Max," he said in a commanding voice, "Stop it. Just stop it. Listen to yourself. Men do leave sometimes and Hell most of us are jerks and as commitment phobic as rats, but all men don't leave Max, no when it's the right girl."
Max began to cry harder, shoulders slumping, "I know that. Jeremy did go back to Anna, and Jimmy stayed with Jill," she sobbed, "and you never stayed because…Kenny, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry about…"
Kenny released her wrists and pulled her into his arms, pressing her head against his chest, "It's all right, Max. You were upset, I know you didn't mean it or even believe it," he consoled.
Max took a deep breathe and pulled back to look in Kenny's eyes, "I have to believe it, Kenny, because if I am wrong, and all women don't' get left…then…" she trailed off with a breath, "then they only leave me. What is wrong with me?" She cried burying her face again.
"Max," Kenny said huskily, his heart breaking at the tears and the pain in her eyes, 'there's nothing wrong with you. You are smart and funny. You are a great friend, a great cop. And,' he lifted her chin so their eyes could meet, "even when you're face is puffy and your hair's all askew, you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." She smiled a bit at that, "And I promise you, Max," he told her, "Jeremy is not the last man you are ever going to love."
Max sniffled and searched Kenny's face for signs of obligatory best friend patronization, but all she saw was sincerity and dare she think it, unconditional love.
"I know that," she said in a throaty whisper, reaching up to trace Kenny's lip with the pad of her thumb, "I just hope, maybe, that man will love me back."
Kenny studied Maxine's eyes and saw mirrored in them all the love he felt for her in his heart. Gingerly, he cleared his throat, "Maxine, I've tried so many time to tell you, but I never…"
"Ssh," she hushed him, with a gentle finger over his lips, "I all ready know. And I love you too."
Kenny smiled then and took Maxine's lips I the gentlest of kisses, yet it was filled with all the passion of his heart and promises of things to come.
"It's not going to be easy," Max said when they were finished kissing, "we've both been alone for a long time."
Kenny nodded, "But it'll work out, Max. We'll just go slow, let us be ready and feel sure. For now, you can move into the blue room if you want. That is, if you still want to be here, sharing expenses."
Max smiled, "Not just sharing expenses, Kenny,' she corrected, "Sharing lives."
This time she initiated their kiss and started walking hi towards his bedroom door. They both knew once they crossed that threshold , there was no turning back, they'd be toghet for the rest of thei lives, yet each too that step willingly.
Later, as Kenny lay holding a sleeping Max in his arms, knew his father had been right all those years ago. Maxine was the one he felt complete with from the second he had met her. There was a lot of work to do, for the both of them, because of all the years they spent alone, they'd learned to be lonely. There were a lot of walls to break down so they could fully open their hearts to one another and finally learn to be loved.
A/N: I hope you've enjoyed Sharing Expenses. Look for it's sequel, Once You've Learned to be Lonely coming the week of July 19, 2004.