A/N from Fae: LAST CHAPTER! This is it, you guys. The last chapter to end the new year. It's been a wonderful ride, and I cannot believe the amount of support and reviews we received. I never would have guessed it would turn out like this. Thank you a million times ten! And thank you, especially to PinkElf, there is NO Maureen without you. She would have never turned out as great if I worked with someone else. You've been a inspiration to work with. It's great to write with someone who has just as much dedication and devotion to the characters, to the story. It's been a thrill. Love you a million.
Everyone. Watch out for my next story in Alex's point of view. In this interpretation of the story, he is quite important and I feel that I've connected with him so much, that his story needs to be told. So please read it and you'll find out more about their relationship together, and more about Mark and Maureen that'll make your jaw drop.
Thanks again you guys. It's been amazing! You guys rock like there's no tomorrow!
Her eyes filled with a shiny gloss that made his heart swell with complete devotion. There was an arch on her brow that posed worry for him, for the both of them. Her lips formed a simple curl which urged him to move on. She wanted him to say it. But did he want to say it? She gave his hand a soft squeeze. Okay. This was easy. He could do it. It felt as if a thousand viewers were waiting for him to speak. It also felt as if they were encouraging him. Here goes.
"Maureen, would you…?" he swallowed. Just nerves. He licked his lips and started over. He took a deep breath. "Would you like to move in with me?"
She stared at him with a confused expression for a few seconds, but felt like hours for Mark. He hoped that he didn't say the wrong thing. He didn't want to let their relationship down by making the same mistake twice. She slowly scrunched her eyebrow as if expecting some thing more, but then smiled immediately afterward.
"I… really?" she asked, laughing a bit. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. Mark sighed of relief, and embraced her. "Of course I will."
"Yeah?" asked Mark grinning, and letting her go.
"Are you kidding? I'll die alone in this apartment." She laughed with excitement, and she pulled him in for another hug. He held her longer this time, pleased that she wasn't too disappointed with his offer.
She laid her head on his chest and he rocked her from side to side. "Thank God you said that," she said stifling a nervous giggle. "I thought you were about to… to…"
Mark looked at her, puzzled. Ask her to what? Oh… Oh. Oy veh. So soon? "What? Ask you to marry?" asked Mark a bit more confidently than he expected.
She eyes grew bigger, and she looked at him shocked. "Please, please don't say THAT!" she begged.
He laughed. Oh good. She didn't want to either. He kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly. "Sorry."
"I mean… I wouldn't say no," she continued, a bit fast. Mark looked at her strangely, unsure of what she wanted to say. She looked to her side, trying to avoid eye contact. "I mean, I would! Well, that is, say no… I… don't know what I'm saying. I'm rambling, aren't I?"
"Don't worry, I know a cure for that," he said kissing her softly. He turned her around and pressed her against the wall. He felt her inch him closer down the hall.
"Oh lovebiiirrrdddsss," called Collins nearby. "The kids are here, Marky. Reeney, hands off or the whole party's gonna be scarred if you go any further."
Their lips had parted during Collins little warning. Mark had his back turned to the crowd and Maureen buried her face in his shirt. Why the heck did they all decide to take a peek in the hallway? Did everyone need to go pee or something?
"Shit. When the hell did they get here?" whispered Maureen.
"What is going on in here, anyway?" asked Mimi. "Mark, don't tell me you just… Oh God, did you just-"
"Dun, dun, dun, dun! Dun, dun, dun duuuunn!" Alex hummed the wedding song loudly, happily conducting an invisible orchestra.
"No, no!" said Mark exasperated. He turned around quickly and saw fourteen pairs of eyes goggling at them. He shook his head, answering their silent questions. "No, I would never. Well, no, not that I wouldn't want to. Well, I…"
"Roger, Mark just proposed!" squealed Mimi. "He and Maureen are getting married!"
"What?" Roger emerged from the crowd with a bread stick in his mouth. "He what?" He looked at Mark surprised.
"No wait you guys," said Maureen trying to explain. She moved in front of him. He placed a hand on her shoulder.
"I just asked her to move in with me," Mark finished for her.
"Ohhhh," they said in unison. They mumbled their approvals to each other and congratulated them sloppily.
"Wait, move in?" asked Alex. "Again?"
"Yes, again," said Mark.
"Hold on, you didn't ask Roger if it was okay," said Maureen, gesturing to him.
"Oh don't worry about it Maureen, it's fine," said Roger grinning. "We had a nice long discussion about it beforehand."
Maureen smiled. "So I guess I'm moving back in with you guys."
Roger raised his eyebrow and smiled. He chuckled and muttered something under his breath, leading the crowd out of the hallway. Roger could never keep a straight face even if he had it stapled that way.
"I guess we should head back to the party," said Mark to Maureen. They couldn't do anything else bedroom related anyway. Well, they shouldn't do anything else. He started to leave but she put a hand on his chest.
"Mark wait," she said. "Did you really mean that?"
"What?" asked Mark.
"That you would want to marry me?" she asked carefully.
"Maureen, there is no one else I would rather be with," he said. He looked into her eyes deeply, and held her hands gently. He just wanted to be honest. He knew it didn't get him anywhere the first time they tried this relationship, but hopefully it would do him some good now. "Yes. I would, I really would."
He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. That was harder than he thought. And he wasn't even proposing. He leaned against the wall, eyes still shut. He was sort of afraid that his response would scare her off.
"Good," she said softly. He felt her hand slide on his cheek. He opened his eyes and found hers gazing upon his. "I would want to marry you too." She smiled and he returned it. Honesty did him good this time. "But it doesn't mean we have to get married right away, right?"
"Not right now," he said. That was one thing he was sure of. He kissed her forehead. "Someday. I promise."
"I love you," she said hugging him. "Does that mean we're engaged… or something?"
Mark laughed. She always had to be so technical. Actually, that's me, he thought curiously. Hmm… that's funny. The roles really were reversed. "Unofficially," he answered doubtfully. "I guess. Or a step before that."
She frowned. "In other words, a step before the ring?"
Never mind. The roles weren't reversed.
"You just want to marry me for the ring, don't you?" he asked grinning. She shrugged and looked at him evilly. He picked her up slightly, and pushed her against the wall. He kissed her passionately, following her neck.
"What did I tell you?" Collins voice reentered the scene. Damn him.
"Can I shoot them?" asked Alex, a bit intimidating.
"No!" Maureen said laughing. Mark brought her down and released her. "No. Don't shoot us."
"Yeah, that won't be necessary. I brought this onto myself," said Collins. "I created two monsters. Monsters! Two very horny monsters!""If you made Maureen, can you make me one?" asked Alex.
"Correction Collins, Mark was horny to begin with," said Roger quickly slipping in the hallway, then out. Maureen shot them both a glare and Alex just blew her a kiss. One day, I'm going to kill him, Mark thought to himself. He smiled.
"Come on, Roger wrote me a goodbye song, and I know you don't want to miss that," said Collins grinning. He formed a way for them, making sure they would actually get out of the hallway this time. They headed out, Collins passing them by quickly, and settling everyone down.
"Okay, song time! Roger's going to sing us a little somethin' somethin'," said Collins taking a seat.
"Make sure it's original and not a cover version of Your Eyes," said Maureen rolling her eyes.
"He knows me," said Collins. "Besides if he does, I give Alex permission to shoot him." He signaled to Alex, who nodded his head enthusiastically.
"Considering, I've never heard Your Eyes," said Alex. "But you just give me the signal, and I'll get my rifle ready."
Mark caught Cindy's eye. She looked at him expectedly. "Find a seat, Maureen, I'll be with you in a second." She nodded and found an empty seat between Collins and Mimi.
"Hey little brother," said Cindy approaching him. "That's great news, about you and Maureen. Mazel tov."
"Thanks sis," he said kissing her cheek. "Are you sure you're okay with this? You've been kind of passive all this time."
"Passive?" questioned Cindy. "I was just trying to let you make your own choices. Isn't that what you want?"
He narrowed his eyes for a moment. He knew she didn't mean to be inquiring, but it felt as if a bit of Mom was in her. She was just protective… but she knew he was all grown up, and could take care of himself. She seemed to have noticed the way she was acting.
"I just don't want to see you get hurt again, that's all," she said.
Mark nodded, somewhat comforted. "I know. I really love her sis."
She smiled. "I know you do." Rebecca suddenly ran to her mother, a cry trembling on her little lips. She picked her up, trying to calm her down. As she was about to find a seat, she turned to her brother. "It's clear. I can see it in your eyes."
Mark groaned, ignorant for a moment that his sister didn't even know the song. She gave him an awkward look, and he gave her a reassuring one.
"Is someone singing the song?" warned Collins, a bit maniacally. He looked around frantically. "Someone better not be singing the song… Who's doing it? Better not let me hear it. Alex, get ready."
Cindy was about to open her mouth when Mark stopped her. "Don't ask," he said. Maureen stood up for a moment to let him sit. He pulled her onto his lap, enjoying the fragrance of her strawberry scented hair.
"Okay, everyone," said Roger. He was the only one standing. "If Collins can pull himself together…" He picked up his guitar and winked at Adam and Jacob, who were on the floor in front of him. "I'd like to dedicate this song to a wonderful teacher and life-long friend. Prosperity and carpe diem!" He sat down on his chair and positioned the guitar on his thigh.
He strummed a chord. "This is to the great Tom Collins."
The melody sounded familiar as he hummed for the first few moments. Then he began the song, and Mark couldn't help but grin. He had ripped the music off from one of Collins favorite songs from one of Collins favorite musical. I'm Going Home from the weirdest musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
"On the day you went away. Goodbye,
was all I had to say. Now I, I…
I wish you would come and stay, and try, tra-ha-hi,
to smile, while I sit and pray
Cause I've got no dough, without you,
nowhere to go.
But, I know. Soon, you'll be coming home.
Oh, you'll be coming home…
to spot me again, that is.
Everywhere else, it ain't the same. Fee-hee-liing
like you're always goin' away. Healing
slowly, but you're not to blame. Stealing
a grasp of hope, a grasp of Coke.
No, I don't mean the drugs, Collins
Cause there is no family without you,
Nothing's free. And we'll pay the price,
Until you come home.
Til you come ho-oh-ome.
When you're coming home,
When finally you'll come home…
We'll be able to continue
To dream about
Santa Fe's nice, though it's no Rome.
Soon, you'll dream about your life out
in Santa Fe.
Where you'll finally be at peace
and safely home.
You'll be coming home.
Roger closed the song with a few more soft chords. Mark smiled at him, caressing the side of Maureen's arm. Collins had always wanted to retire there. It was his heaven. Applause rang forth once the song ended, and although Collins was grinning through the humorous remarks, tears began to form behind his eyes.
"Thank you Roger," said Collins, "that was really… wonderful. Man, you don't know how much I'm going to miss all of you. I don't want to leave. We've…" He looked around. He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "We've been through hard times, but we helped each other through it. I'll love you, always, all of you." He eyed Roger. "Yes, Davis, that includes YOU."
"You the man, Collins," said Roger. Cheers ensued right after.
"What about me?" asked Alex grinning madly.
"Will someone just… shoot him?" asked Maureen. They laughed. Mark wrapped an arm around her waist.
Alex glared at her, then smiled. He had that mischievous sparkle in his eyes, and that sneaky way he scrunched up his nose. "And a happy birthday to Maureen!" He said, lifting up his glass of champagne.
A chorus of "happy birthday!" boomed from different directions, and Maureen slid back into Mark, somewhat embarrassed. Mark intertwined his fingers with hers.
"How old are you?" asked Alex. "Fifty?"
"Didn't they teach you that you should never ask a lady how old she is?" asked Maureen.
"Maureen, he didn't even get passed the tenth grade," remarked Roger.
"Yet he was in high school for five years," commented Mark, throwing Alex a look. Alex wasn't bright when it came to school, but he was street smart.
"Figures," said Collins. "So now that I'm out of town, Alex, you are free to come back. We go our separate ways, and we may never meet again. But I know one thing. You'll never stop being the same compassionate jerk you took all your life to master." A few giggles arose, but everyone looked at Alex for his comeback.
Surprisingly, he just laughed. "But you still love me right?"
"You bet I do, sweetie pie," replied Collins, puckering his lips at him.
"Careful, man, I got a kid!" said Alex pointing his index at him.
"Yeah, the kid will need a father," said Maureen, pushing Collins back a bit so he could relax.
"Speaking of Jacob," said Roger, "Who wants to hear him play?"
A few eager mutters encouraged the offer. Mark started to clap and Alex whistled, giving his son a nice pat on the head.
"Please tell us you didn't teach him to play Your Eyes," said Mimi.
"Or Musetta's Waltz," seconded Maureen.
"No," said Roger sounding a bit offended. He tilted to Jacob who climbed up Roger's chair. "Ex the Musetta's Waltz." They laughed. Of course, Roger would teach him the tune. "Let's play your second song. You see," he turned to the audience, "that's why I taught him more than one song."
People laughed, but Mimi shook her head at his mock stupidity. She had a grin, however, gave him a playful look.
"Smart move, genius," said Mark to Roger, humoring him.
"SOMEONE finished high school," teased Alex. People suddenly shushed him, which Mark thought was funny. He made a remark and it was alright, but when Alex butted in, people told him to shove it. Alex shrunk back in his seat, beaming.
"Presenting Jacob Meyers doing Silent Night," announced Roger.
"In the middle of the year?" asked Alex.
"YES in the middle of the year. Silent Night," said Roger.
"Remind me. Is this the song about Jesus?" asked Mark jokingly. Only Collins laughed, shaking his head. He forgot only a few knew he was Jewish. Roger glowered at him, then turned to Jacob who was all ready to go. Roger handed him another guitar, a smaller one, and helped him positioned it. Jacob looked adorable. Roger took his own guitar to play the background chords.
"Ready?" Roger asked him softly. Jacob nodded. "One, two, three…" They started playing with Jacob strumming the simple chords. It was so cute. The song was a bit slow, but it was only because the kid's fingers were so small. Otherwise, he didn't miss a note. Once they were finished, a standing ovation came immediately afterward.
"That is amazing," said Maureen, after they settled. "We should send him to those competitions. He's gonna be a big star someday."
"Yeah, well he is my son," gloated Alex, as Jacob ran over to give him a hug. He whispered "great job" to his kid. "But I think we can wait on it." Alex really loved his kid, Mark knew. His voice was always different with him. Roger and Collins got up to congratulate Jacob as well.
Maureen leaned over to Mark. "You know this thing about 'like father like son'?" she whispered. "I think someone got it all wrong in this case because the boy's cute!"
Mark laughed. "Look at him though. He loves the kid to death." They watched as Alex picked him up and swung him around. He may never figure out Alex Meyers.
"He's surprisingly good with that," observed Maureen. "I mean I would never have imagined someone like Alex to be a good dad. My image of the ideal dad is different. It would be someone like… like…" Her hair swayed as she turned her head to him, "like you." He smiled and she turned back around to lay her head on his chest. He wanted to laugh, remembering the cussing fiasco earlier.
Roger stood up and started to approach the couple. "Maureen, make yourself useful and stand next to Collins. Mark?" He handed him a disposable camera. "Do you mind?" He grinned. Of course, he didn't mind.
"It'll be my pleasure," he said.
"Do I really need to stand aside? I'm good and comfortable right where I am," pouted Maureen. Mark tickled her sides and she giggled, and sprung up.
"Sure, let's have the great Mark Cohen take the picture!" said Mimi bowing, as if to praise him.
"He's the best photographer here," said Roger.
"And the cheapest," said Collins.
"May I remind you that you don't pay me a penny?" asked Mark standing up. "And throwing pieces of bread at me at the park as if I was some sort of pigeon does NOT count." He threw a look at Alex who quickly looked at the ceiling. He didn't even want to think about that time.
"Do you want to take the photo or not?" asked Roger.
"I do, don't be in such a hurry," said Mark laughing.
"Hey, wait a minute, Marky, you HAVE to be in this photo," pleaded Maureen.
"That's okay, guys, give me the camera," said Cindy walking to Mark. Mark raised his eyebrows, uncertain if he should give it to her. He would just feel a lot better if he took the picture.
"Come on Mark," she said sticking her hand out, "Pretend it runs in the family. Don't make me force you."
"I don't know…" he said hesitantly.
"Well if Mark's not in the picture then neither am I," said Maureen stubbornly.
"The girl's got a point, I want to remember all of you," said Collins. "Mark, give the camera to your sister, just this once."
Everyone looked at him anxiously. I know what they're all thinking, thought Mark, will the great Photographer give up his camera? He sighed. It was for Collins. He just loved what he did for a living.
"All right," he said handing her the disposable. "But I'm taking the next one."
"Good God, you and your camera," said Alex.
"Yeah, we'll see about that. Now come here," said Maureen pulling his arm. She dragged him over near the center where the television was right behind them. Collins was in the middle with Mimi wrapping her arms around his waist, and pressing her cheek on his chest. Roger was beside her, his hand resting on Collins' shoulder. On the other side of Collins was Mark, putting a hand on his back. Maureen was beside him, snaking an arm around his waist.
Mark quickly glanced at Collins. He had the brightest smile on. Even though he was leaving, maybe even for good, he never looked happier. This job could mean a lot to him, to all of them. The faces of the crowd chuckled and glowed at the group of friends who were fidgeting around, excited about their photo. Mark looked at Alex who set down his kid and put on a small smile when they met eyes. He was once a part of this group. But, things changed. Somehow, Mimi replaced his spot. No. No, wait, she replaced April. Something felt very wrong as he stared at Alex, who was watching them from a distance. He had his arms crossed, but he was still smiling. His eyes gleamed, telling a story they had forgotten long ago. He didn't know how, but Mark knew Alex missed being with them. He missed being a part of a friendship he had always been loyal to.
"You're thinking it too, huh?" whispered Collins. Mark looked at him. He, too, was staring at Alex. "Alex, come here."
"What?" he asked.
"Come here, you gotta be in this photo," said Collins. "A picture's only worth a thousand words, but with you, they're worth a lot more."
Alex smiled. He shook his head. "I don't know. This is your guys' thing."
"I want to remember you too, Alex," said Collins. Mark nodded. He made room for him beside Collins. Alex was reluctant at first, but soon even Roger was yelling at him to get over here. He ran next to Mark and wrapped his arm around him. He had his elbow on Collins' arm and grinned wildly.
"Someone's ready for his close-up," remarked Collins jokingly.
"Collins, get your hand off my ass this minute!" squealed Mimi.
"Yes, Collins, get your hand off her ass this minute!" said Roger.
"Sorry, wrong hand. Thought it was Alex," apologized Collins.
"Collins, don't you dare," warned Alex, trying to keep his best smile on.
"Someone sounds frightened…" said Roger.
"What's the matter, sweetie pie?" asked Collins, "You look so hot in those jeans."
"Mark!" said Alex.
"What?" Mark asked.
"Do something," he claimed.
"He's leaving tonight, let him have his fun," Mark replied.
"What?" inquired Alex.
"SMILE!" yelled Cindy through the noise. Everyone paused and looked forward, smiling brightly.
"Sis?" asked Mark through his teeth.
"What is it Mark?" asked Cindy, "Is the angle of the camera improperly positioned so that the perpendicular angle reflects the sunlight, which causes a white flash over the photo? Or am I not using the rule of thirds or something?"
"Can you speak in vernacular terms please?" asked Alex. They stared at him.
"Take off the lens," said Mark once he passed one of Alex's rare intelligent moments.
"Oh." Everyone laughed as she removed the lens. "Alright. One, two, three!" A flash blinded them. "That's it!"
"One, two, three, how unoriginal," commented Alex, teasingly. Cindy gave him a look and smiled. She complimented him about his son and they began to talk. They took a few more photos, but for some reason, they wouldn't give him the camera. Even when he wasn't in the picture, they wouldn't hand it over. Collins was the star of the night, taking some more photos with his other friends. Maureen kept close by, but she also hung around Mimi. As they continued their photo shoot, someone tapped his shoulder. He turned around.
"Do you have a minute?" asked Alex.
"Sure," said Mark. They walked away from the crowd near the front door. "What's up?"
"How was the present for Maureen?"
Ah, he should have known. "Good, it was good." He wanted to laugh, but he kept his eyes down.
"Has she, um… tried it on?" said Alex, pushing him for more information.
"She might have, to see if it… you know, fits."
"She packs a lot in front. So, does it fit?" Mark gave him a look and smiled mischievously. He was getting slightly embarrassed, and blushed a bit. Alex grinned. "Marky, you're killing me here. What happened?"
"Nothing. Nothing you'd be interested in," he said, but he had to walk away to keep from blushing some more.
"That's a damn lie, and I know it!" he said. "And I was going to encourage that you shoot the last photo."
"Wait-" started Mark, but drew back. Alex shrugged as Collins yelled "last photo!" and everyone began to chatter.
"Come on, give me the courtesy of shooting the last picture, at least!" begged Mark to Collins.
"Just give him the camera before he cries," said Roger.
"No let Collins take it," said Maureen trying to pull him away again. Collins grinned at Mark, who tried to grab it from him. Collins was definitely much taller than him, and he tried to hop around and reach for it, but Collins kept it in the air.
"Is that all you got?" he asked, laughing, raising it higher. Mark stopped. He was clearly making a fool out of himself.
"Give up, let him take it," said Maureen.
"But I've got this perfect photo for you and him only!"
"But I want the perfect photo with you." She turned to Collins. "No offense, Collins."
"None taken," he said. "Besides, I would really like a photo with the couple I've been trying to get back together for so long."
Mark sighed, but agreed. He wrapped his arms around Maureen's waist, who in turn wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She pressed her face gently against his cheek. Now he could definitely smell the sweet aroma from her straight hair flowing beside him. She looked at the camera deviously, while he had a simple curl upon his lips.
"Alex, out of the way," said Collins, waving his hand.
"Sorry," he said and moved away. Mark kissed her neck lightly and bit the strap of her black tank top. She giggled. He fiddled with the back of her long white skirt, which was layered unevenly, like a Renaissance gown.
"Look here, Mark," called Collins. Mark turned and smiled again. Flash.
"Was it so bad to be on the other side for a change?" asked Maureen.
"We'll see when the photo comes out," said Mark. Suddenly, a guitar thrust in front of him. Roger smiled. He took the instrument slowly. "What do you want me to do with this?"
"I want you to wax it," replied Roger rolling his eyes. "You know what you gotta do." Mark nodded.
"WHOA, wait, he plays the guitar?" asked Alex sitting on the ground beside the other kids.
"And he sings," said Roger sitting beside Mimi. Everyone started taking their seats again.
"Wait a minute," said Alex. "The last time I heard Mark sing… not pretty. Let's just say I was shivering for a week."
"Then why didn't you just put on a sweater?" asked Roger. Everyone laughed.
"Like you can sing any better, Alex," said Maureen.
"Hey, I'm a good singer," said Alex, "or did you forget, I use to be in Roger's band?"
"You were the drummer," said Mark sitting and putting the guitar on his lap.
"Yeah, you banged drums throughout the songs," agreed Maureen.
"And drummers can't sing?" asked Alex. Mark shook his head. Alex smiled slowly. "Fine then, Romeo. Let's hear it."
"Romeo? How far did you get in that play?" asked Mark.
"It's a play?"
Everyone laughed again and Maureen rolled her eyes. "We already got that you didn't get passed the tenth grade, Alex, you don't need to brag about it."
"Come on, Mark, let's hear it," said Mimi.
Mark nodded again. He had been waiting to play this song for a while and since Roger interrupted him before, this was a way to play it through without any interruptions. Besides, it was the last part to Maureen's birthday surprises. He arched the guitar and strummed a few chords, checking if it was in-tune, and trying to grab a few moments to settle his nerves.
"BRAVISSIMO!" yelled Alex, clapping enthusiastically.
"God, Alex, you're such an ass, have some respect," said Roger.
He grinned and sat back down, his son plopping on his lap. Mark continued to warm up, and then waited a few seconds before starting. All that time, he kept his eyes on Maureen.
"I was back, behind the shadows
trying hard to hide from you
when a light beneath the stage filtered through
And you appeared beneath the light
and my world was on the edge
until those memories came back with thoughts of you
And I wished for a chance to hold you
A chance to live again
A chance to breathe and evade the end
I couldn't stop from wishing
the lights shining above you
how I longed for a chance to say I love you once again
And every moment, I prayed
that someday you'd be back into my world,
back into my life.
And every second, I knew
that if I held that much longer you'd be
back into my life.
There isn't a time set for us
No one gave us that chance to try
No one gave us a chance to take on flight
But as long we held on
As long as we held strong
We would forever be in that spotlight
Together, you and me.
Back into my life."
He ended the song and he wasn't sure how he sounded. When he was the center of attention, it was difficult to listen to himself sing. All he could concentrate on were the notes. There was silence for a second, the most uncomfortable silence he had ever experienced. I suck, I suck, I suck, he thought hopelessly. Then a roar of applause echoed the house. Mark grinned widely and put the guitar down. Whew. He caught a glimpse of Maureen sitting there silently. He frowned a bit, but smiled again as the praise rolled in.
"That was… Mark, I never would have figured!" said Collins. "Leave the camera and start a new career!"
"Now, I'm the worst singer of the group. Great job Mark," said Mimi.
"Mark, you can join my band," said Roger. "Every band needs some type of geek." Everyone laughed.
"Thanks a lot you guys," said Mark bashfully. Alex looked at him mysteriously. He expected a rotten comment.
"You rock hard Mark," he said.
"Even when we were kids, you wouldn't sing," said Cindy hugging him. "Not even in the shower! You should have brought your camera." Alex handed him an ice tea and gestured to Maureen, who was standing still sitting in her seat. Mark said a quick thanks to Alex and walked over to her. He handed her the drink. "Tea?"
"Thanks," she said smiling. She took a sip and placed it on a nearby table. She looked at him for a second. Mark began to worry that there was something wrong. She then jumped up and hugged him tightly. Mark smiled and embraced her back. Oh good, he thought. Everything was okay.
"Here we go again," said Roger.
"Isn't that sweet?" said Alex, who then warned Collins. "Don't you even think about it, mister."
"Does this mean you liked it?" asked Mark pulling apart, looking at her softly.
"What do you think?" she asked. He didn't really know what to think. Girls were so confusing.
"You hated it, and I was off-tune," he replied.
She nodded carefully. "Yeah, that's right, you WERE off-tune." Tears began to fall from her eyes. Mark could feel the soft beating of her heart on his chest. It was beating faster and faster.
"What is it?" he asked softly, pulling her closer.
"I love you so much," she whispered so softly that it was only to him. She tiptoed and kissed him tenderly. Mark could taste the salt from her tears. He wiped them away gently.
"Maureen, I love you too," he said.
"Announcement everyone!" said Roger.
"Now what?" asked Collins.
"You'll see," said Mark grinning.
"Hey, how is it that you know about it?" asked Maureen, taking her seat on his lap as soon as he hit the cushion.
"I know everything," said Mark, kissing her once more.
"Everyone please take a seat," said Roger, through the chitchats.
"Try this," said Alex with a spoon in his mouth, holding up his champagne glass. "Take the silverware." Roger took the spoon from his mouth and tapped the glass. It made a loud clinging noise and everyone sat down again.
"Thanks Alex," Roger said shoving the spoon back into his friend's mouth. Alex muffled a quick you're welcome, and sat down. "I have some important news," he continued, taking Mimi's hand.
"What's going on?" asked Maureen to Mark.
"Shhh," he said.
"I would like to take this opportunity to say that there is no other girl I would rather spend a lifetime with than with Miss Mimi Marquez," said Roger.
A roomful of "awws" resonated from the room. Mimi stared at him wide-eyed, almost shocked. Maureen turned her head to Mark giving him a "is this what I think it is?" look. Mark merely smiled and looked back at Roger.
"When Mimi was in the hospital, I prayed to God to take me instead. A life really isn't worth living without you, Mimi," he said, squeezing her hand. "I'm so happy that I'm standing beside you here right now." She smiled, but bit her lip in embarrassment. Roger bended over on one knee to do the traditional proposal. "Mimi, will you marry me?"
Silence. There wasn't a response for the longest time. No one made a sound. It was as if time froze. Mimi looked at him silently, and Mark feared that the worst thing that could ever happen to Roger was actually happening.
"No," she said silently. She turned away. It must have been unbearable for her to meet his eyes. And it was.
Roger stared at her with a horrified look in his eyes. The prominent hurt showed flawlessly, as the rejection sunk in. He had a heartbroken expression on, still trying to devour what she had just said. "No?" he said croakily. She turned slowly and shook her head, remorsefully.
"What do you mean… no?" asked Collins, quietly.
"I mean… no…" she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. Mark wasn't sure what to do. He was so confident that Mimi would say yes. He was almost positive that she would accept.
"No?" asked Mark.
"Mimi… no?" asked Maureen, shocked herself.
"Boy, this is a fun game," whispered Alex.
Roger stood up and looked at her, moving a bit closer. "Why?"
"I… I'm sorry, Roger, I just… can't," said Mimi bursting into a new waterfall of tears. She ran into the hallway, into Maureen's bedroom. A door slammed shut.
"Shit, what just happened?" whispered Maureen, particularly to Mark.
Mark couldn't believe this was happening. "Mimi Marquez just turned down Roger Davis." It was unbelievable. Maureen scooted so Mark could get up. "Roger."
But he quickly glanced at Mark and left hastily out the front door. Alex approached Mark, looking at him seriously in the eyes. He, too, remembered how hurt Roger was the last time a girl rejected him so. Only that time, she committed suicide.
The room remained silent. Mark could only think of one thing, and it was a question he didn't know the answer to. What happens when the perfect couple does fall apart? Mark rested his forehead on Maureen's back, wrapping his arms around her, clueless of what was to happen next.